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By Tanae Howard

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came out swinging Thursday, announcing sweeping changes to the punishment for players involved in domestic violence cases.

Players face a six-game suspension after the first offense and a lifetime ban from the league for a second offense. They could petition for reinstatement after a year.

The changes follow harsh criticism of Goodell’s decision to suspend Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games after he beat his fiance, now wife. Meanwhile players accused of using drugs saw tougher punishment, like the four-game suspension for Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis.

Domestic violence advocates say this move sends a strong message.

“This tells them that it’s not all right. Just because you’re a big man on campus. Just because you’re good at sports that doesn’t mean you can treat people any way you want to,” said Beacon of Hope President, Jackie Ponder.

Butler sports marketing professor, Dr. Daniel McQuiston, says this could also change the image of the larger-than-life athlete who appears to be above the law.

“It is an opportunity to change the image of the athlete because for many years team ownership, the media and the public in general has sort of turned a blind eye to a lot of player indiscretions. (The attitude is) they’re athletes so that’s OK that they do these things,” said McQuiston.

Goodell even wants to address the issue of domestic violence with younger athletes. In a statement sent to NFL team owners he says, “We will expand the educational components in our college, high school and youth football programs that address domestic violence and sexual assault. We will seek to create and promote programs that develop the character of the young men who play, coach or manage our game, emphasizing respect for women and appropriate ways to resolve conflicts.”