Republicans push for NFL hearing

 

The calls for Congress to examine domestic violence in the National Football League (NFL) grew louder on Friday as several Republicans on the House Oversight Committee joined the chorus of Democrats urging a public hearing.

Oversight Chairman Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaDuncan Hunter to plead guilty to campaign finance violations Why the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy Elijah Cummings, native son of Baltimore, gets emotional send-off from Democratic luminaries MORE (R-Calif.) has been in discussions with several panel Democrats pressing the issue — including Ranking Member Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsTrump request for Ukrainian 'favor' tops notable quote list Impeachment can't wait Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings MORE (D-Md.) — but has so far declined to weigh in on whether Congress has a role in the hot-button debate.

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 Friday, Reps. Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Conway spars with Wallace on whether White House will cooperate with impeachment inquiry after formal vote Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' MORE (R-S.C.) and Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdMembers spar over sexual harassment training deadline Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Lawmaker seeks to ban ex-members from lobbying until sexual harassment settlements repaid MORE (R-Texas), both members of the Oversight Committee, weren't so silent. They said the panel should take up the issue, if only to shine a brighter light on a national problem that extends far beyond professional sports.

"Congress should most assuredly get involved in anything we can do with respect to domestic violence," said Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor.

"Ordinarily, I'm not a huge fan of Congress having hearings on whatever happens to be the issue of the day, whether it's human growth testing or the NFL's antitrust status," he added, referring to several topics Congress has examined in the past.

"[But] domestic violence is an area where I would make an exception, just because in my state we lead the nation in men killing women. So there's no amount of attention that can be brought to that issue that I would not support." 

Farenthold was quick to agree. 

"I think it would be a great hearing to have just to raise national awareness of the problem of domestic violence and some of the resources that are available to the victims," he said.

Congress is scheduled to be back in Washington for only a few weeks following the Nov. 4 elections, leaving even hearing supporters doubtful the committee would have time to squeeze it in this year, even if Issa endorsed the idea. 

"I doubt if they'll do it in the lame duck," Cummings said Friday. 

Still, both Cummings and Gowdy said the sooner Congress addresses the issue the better. 

"I'm ready to go," Gowdy said. "We can have it this afternoon, as far as I'm concerned." 

Issa's office did not respond Friday to requests for comment.

The focus on domestic violence in professional sports has grown exponentially this year in the wake of several incidents involving star NFL players.

In the most high-profile case, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was cut from the team last month after the gossip website TMZ posted video footage of him punching Janay Palmer — then his fiance and now his wife — unconscious in an Atlantic City elevator in February.

The NFL, which had initially suspended Rice for two games, quickly extended the punishment indefinitely after the release of the video. League officials said the lesser punishment had been based on a separate video taken outside the elevator.

Some reports, however, contend the NFL had seen the more graphic footage before it applied the two-game suspension, leading to accusations that league officials had attempted to whitewash the incident to protect one of their stars. 

In response, a number of women's rights groups, and a few lawmakers on Capitol Hill, called for the resignation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Gowdy on Friday said he has no insights into which video the league had seen or when. But, he quickly added, "I just know the punishment was totally insufficient."

In the House, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) led the charge, quickly asking Issa for a domestic violence hearing in the Oversight Committee. 

Cummings, who was also a part of that discussion, said Friday that while Issa hadn't ruled it out, he also didn't commit.

"I told Issa that I would love to see hearings on that," Cummings said. "It sounded like he was open to it."

Not everyone is on board. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.), another member of the Oversight Committee, said Friday that Congress has no business examining the NFL.

"Why do they need to get their hands into everything?" Bentivolio said, referring to the federal government. "I don't think we should really get involved in something like that."

Yet others have argued that the NFL's unique antitrust status puts the league squarely under Congress's dominion.

"Because of the limited monopoly status the NFL has, I think they're subject to more congressional oversight than a normal company would," Farenthold said. "We've got jurisdiction to do it."

Cummings had another reason he thinks Congress should play a role.

"We cared about fairness of the game, we cared about drugs," he said. "Why can't we care about some players who are beating up women?" 

Gowdy, who said he "spent 16 years [as a prosecutor] watching the havoc that domestic violence wreaks in people's lives," echoed that message.

"If we're going to get involved in antitrust, if we're going to get involved in having movie stars and Stephen Colbert come to Congress and testify before committees," he said, "then I would like to think that we could carve out a little bit of time for something that is as serious and, frankly, in some quarters an epidemic, [as] domestic violence."