Inside the NFL’s Domestic Violence Punishment Problem

During the Ray Rice scandal, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell drew a line in the sand. B/R Mag investigates what’s happened since

By Mary Pilon

January 31, 2017


endra Scott says that she hid at home. That she concealed her bruises with makeup. And that she avoided telling many of her friends, family and colleagues about what really happened between her and her fiancé, the NFL star.

Scott says that Ray McDonald—at 6’3” and nearly 300 pounds—body-slammed and kicked her 120-pound frame. That he dragged her out of bed in the middle of the night. That he kneed her in the stomach when she was pregnant with their child.

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Photos of injuries Kendra Scott says she suffered in the summer of 2014.

There had been the black eye from a fight earlier that summer. Another bruise, a month later, spanning the bridge of her nose. By the end of August 2014, after an incident left her with choke marks on her neck and bruises on her arms, the San Jose police arrived at McDonald and Scott’s home regarding a fight they’d had. McDonald told responding officers he “felt Kendra blew things out of proportion,” but they arrested the San Francisco 49ers’ starting defensive end.

Just three days earlier, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had announced a new league policy: “Effective immediately,” Goodell wrote in a letter to owners, “violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant.” A player did not have to be charged by police or prosecutors to be suspended, and a second offense for domestic violence, the commissioner declared, would result in a lifetime ban. This was an issue of “respect,” he wrote, and underlined the word.

But the NFL never announced any suspension of Ray McDonald for domestic violence. That November, prosecutors said they did not have enough evidence to press any charges, largely because Scott was a reluctant witness who had made a “decision not to cooperate.” McDonald said in a statement at the time that he had cooperated fully with the investigation and could “appreciate the seriousness of the situation” but was “relieved that the DA’s office has rightfully decided not to file charges.”

Scott Rosenblum, an attorney representing McDonald in active criminal defense proceedings, says McDonald “categorically denied” all of Scott’s allegations, including that he ever physically struck her.

“Every case and every situation has a context,” Rosenblum told B/R Mag in a phone interview. “In this case, this individual has become very vocal lately and I think the context of that is significant because a custody case is coming to fruition. There’s a lot of maneuvering going on to better her position.”

The 49ers allowed McDonald to play, until allegations of rape involving a different woman emerged in December 2014 and they cut him. The Bears picked up McDonald as a free agent, only to release him, too, after a second alleged incident involving Scott in May 2015, when McDonald was arrested for an argument they had about their newborn son, according to a police report. Two days later, McDonald was arrested again and charged with violating a protective order obtained by Scott. That case is still pending.

That’s when Scott says she got the letter. Concerned for the career of her child’s father, Scott says she’d felt reluctant about cooperating with the NFL and the police in the nine months since she first called police. So it was “random,” she says, when the two-page letter arrived in her mailbox, from Deborah Katz, a consultant hired by the league to focus on sexual misconduct and investigations:

“It almost felt like a joke,” Scott tells B/R Mag in an interview. “A letter? Really? This is how you guys handle this?”

Scott says she called the number on the letter and soon grew frustrated: “When I did reach out to them, they didn’t even know what I was talking about.” The NFL’s conduct policy calls for providing assistance to victims of domestic violence when appropriate, but Scott says “it seemed useless” to follow up any further on the letter, or with anyone else at the NFL.

The 49ers “cooperated fully with all NFL investigations,” Bob Lange, a spokesman for the team, said in a statement, adding that the 49ers also offer support programs for players’ significant others and family. When approached by B/R Mag for comment, Katz said, “I can’t discuss that,” and hung up the phone.

“It's such a hush-hush thing in the NFL,” Scott says of the league’s handling of domestic violence allegations, three seasons after Ray Rice was suspended two games for punching his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, in an elevator. “There’s always an excuse.”



he allegations against McDonald are just one part of the intricate web in which domestic violence allegations intersect with professional football. Indeed, the NFL was forced to confront its standards in public again this season when Giants kicker Josh Brown received a one-game suspension and later admitted to physically harming his then-wife, Molly, several times. (“I have abused my wife,” he wrote in a journal, and circled the sentence.)

“We made changes to our discipline,” Goodell said at a rare press conference in September 2014. “We acknowledged the mistake—my mistake—and we said we’re going to do better going forward. We have a set of very complex issues that we have to deal with. That’s no excuse.”

Still, Goodell’s proclamation of a six-game suspension was his line in the sand: He said in his letter to owners that enhanced and appropriate discipline was key for the league to “publicly embrace a leadership role” on domestic violence. Its 2014 conduct policy had built-in legal flexibility for a suspension of six games without pay. Subsequently, the policy was made even more flexible in a 2016 update—provided to B/R Mag by the league last week upon request—that gave the commissioner final disciplinary power. But the NFL touted “a fair and consistent process for player and employee discipline” and continues to promote “setting a higher standard” of six games for a first policy violation and a lifetime ban for a second.

Now, a B/R Mag investigation—spanning four months and including interviews with accusers and the accused, a review of police reports and court documents, plus an analysis of accusations and the available results of subsequent inquiries by the league and law enforcement—reveals Goodell’s punishment quandary. The NFL’s disciplinary unit appears to be learning what law enforcement and relationship-abuse advocates have long known: Investigating and punishing allegations of domestic violence can be challenging in practice—and even more difficult under the pressure of high-powered stakeholders. 

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Ray Rice's case led to scandal. Josh Brown's led to renewed scrutiny. Allegations against Ezekiel Elliott led to questions about league investigators “dragging their feet.”

The NFL appears to have enforced its “baseline” six-game suspension against just two of 18 players publicly linked to domestic violence allegations since Goodell announced the new policy, according to a B/R Mag examination. Of the two NFL players known to have actually received six-game suspensions linked to abuse claims since August 2014, one was already a free agent and the other was former Lions offensive lineman Rodney Austin. 

“The NFL is definitely inconsistent,” says Austin, who was found guilty on domestic violence charges after a fight with his girlfriend, though Austin disputes her account of events. Austin says he thinks the league’s ongoing investigation of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott—who faces domestic violence allegations which he denies—remained conveniently incomplete as Dallas marched into the playoffs. “They want to protect their investments. They want to protect their stars who are either coming into or are in the prime of their career. Zeke is out there playing and I’m not.”

It remains unclear how many players have been found by league investigators to have violated the conduct policy based on allegations of domestic violence, with few disciplinary decisions announced by the league. Statistically speaking, however, Goodell’s standard for sanctions has been the exception rather than the rule: Two known decisions have resulted in six-game suspensions, at least four decisions remain unannounced or unclear, and at least two NFL inquiries are ongoing.

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Atlanta’s Ra’Shede Hageman made a key sack in the NFC Championship Game. In March 2016, he faced domestic violence charges that remain under investigation.

Another player receiving scrutiny from NFL investigators for alleged domestic violence, other than Elliott, is about to play in the Super Bowl.

Falcons defensive end Ra'Shede Hageman is currently “under investigation” by authorities for battery family violence, cruelty to children and interfering with an emergency call, the solicitor general’s office in DeKalb County, Georgia, confirmed to B/R Mag last week. On March 21, the mother of Hageman’s son told police that Hageman threw things around her apartment, ripped her phone out of the wall, pinned her in a corner, pulled her hair and then pushed her down in a parking deck, the police report said, after which she had cuts on her arm.

“The NFL has reached out to our office,” the solicitor's general spokesman tells B/R Mag, “and we will be in communication.”

Deborah S. Ebel, who represented Hageman’s accuser at the time in a paternity proceeding, which includes and is not limited to getting a mother child support and other benefits in order to raise a child, says “the NFL reached out” to her as well. She says Kia Roberts, the NFL’s director of investigations, “was in touch quite frequently” and “very responsive to my client, who was suffering.”

“She talked to me and my client several times, which meant her flying from New York to Atlanta,” Ebel tells B/R Mag. Of the criminal proceedings continuing more than 10 months later, Ebel adds: “Now we’re in January of 2017? It’s shocking to me that it’s gone on and on.”

When asked about the matter Monday night by B/R Mag in Houston, Hageman, surrounded by teammates, reporters and fans, said, "It’s pending, so I can’t really talk about it." His agent declined to comment. Falcons head coach Dan Quinn told reporters in September, when reports of the allegations surfaced, that the Player Conduct Policy prevented team officials from commenting on any investigation “until the league comes to a final conclusion.”

For the seven players known to have been suspended after domestic violence-related allegations since late August 2014, it has taken an average of 11 months from the time of allegation to a public NFL conclusion. In some cases, the league's independent inquiries have taken longer to conclude than associated criminal proceedings.

Those timelines have frustrated player representatives looking to keep allegations out of the limelight and negotiate for lower suspensions on appeal. And that entanglement of law enforcement with NFL discipline proceedings has left the league trying to evaluate claims methodically. All the while, outsiders skeptical of the NFL’s commitment to the new policy since it was announced have continued to demand answers and question the credibility of the league’s leadership on domestic violence.

Helen A. Drew, a professor at the University at Buffalo School of Law who has studied the NFL’s policies extensively, says the Rice backlash “should have been the wake-up call of a lifetime.” She continued:

Your credibility to your fanbase and employees is suspect if you aren’t transparent. Whether rightly or wrongly, people are going to question what is going on behind the scenes. If you’re doing what you say you do, why don’t we see it?


NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined Monday night to comment for this article, after B/R Mag sent multiple lists of detailed questions. The NFL did not make any league officials available for comment, including high-profile attorneys and former law enforcement officers brought on by Goodell to investigate allegations of domestic violence and abuse by NFL players.

“In the context of the real world being complex, it’s hard to have a one-size-fits-all approach in these situations,” says Stephanie Stradley, a Houston-based attorney who also writes about legal issues in football. She said that for victims, there could be fear of financial loss or unwanted media attention or retaliation that could deter them from getting help. It's “the unintended consequence if you make a policy of: ‘This is how it’s going to be.’”



wo months after Ezekiel Elliott signed a $24.9 million rookie contract with the Cowboys, a woman, Tiffany Thompson, said that Elliott “struck her several times leaving bruises on her arms,” according to a July 22, 2016 police report in Columbus, Ohio. Elliott told police at the time that “he never touched [Thompson] in a harmful manner and that the bruises on [Thompson’s] arm were from a bar fight she was in.”

Due to the “conflicting variations of what had taken place,” police said, Elliott was not charged. Thompson did not respond to requests for comment for this article, but she initially posted images of bruises on her Instagram account before making the account private.

In February of last year, Thompson said she and Elliott got “into a verbal argument that turned physical,” according to an Aventura, Florida, police report, and that Elliott “pushed her up against the wall” during an argument in his apartment, causing her left shoulder pain. Police noted “no visible sign’s of an injury” [sic] and Thompson declined to go to the hospital and was advised about how to file charges, if she chose.

“This is one of the weakest allegations I’ve been privy to,” says Rosenblum, Ray McDonald’s attorney who is also on Elliott's defense team. “Not only did she make a false allegation, but by text message had reached out to her friends to encourage them to make a false statement to the police to implicate Ezekiel.” 

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“The police did a very thorough investigation,” Elliott told reporters after the Cowboys’ season-ending loss. “Who knows, man? I just want it to end.”

Elliott has faced no criminal charges stemming from either claim. “If there was something to find, which there’s not, they would’ve found it by now,” he told reporters after Dallas lost in the playoffs. No disciplinary decision is expected until after the Super Bowl.

The NFL did not respond to any of more than 100 questions for this article, including detailed inquiries as to why some investigations have taken longer for the league to conclude than others and whether certain players who were released from their teams amid criminal proceedings were also suspended by the league—or even banned from it—without those decisions being made public. (The NFLPA did not respond to questions about suspension settlements or policy renegotiations.)

Taken together, however, the league’s disciplinary responses to allegations against 18 players made public since late August 2014 paint a complex picture:


In August 2014, Roger Goodell announced what the NFL now defines as a “a baseline suspension without pay of six games, with consideration given to any aggravating or mitigating factors” for one offense related to domestic violence and a lifetime ban for two, even if there is no criminal charge or conviction. How has the NFL responded to known claims since then?

*The NFL did not confirm suspensions it has issued involving allegations since August 28, 2014.

“For the suspensions we have seen, we’ve seen less than six games, too,” says Daniel Werly, a sports attorney who has represented professional players and leagues. “We don’t know why the NFL is doing that—the application of the new policy has been almost nonexistent.”

The season-long Elliott inquiry has prompted critics to accuse the NFL of playing favorites and even Elliott himself to accuse its investigators of “dragging their feet.” Among Elliott and the 17 other players, the four suspended for three or more games after domestic violence-related allegations all made under $50,000 per game on average, while at least half of the six players who apparently weren’t suspended made more than that.

There is no evidence that salary or star power are factored into disciplinary decisions, but according to Lee Igel, co-director of New York University’s Sports and Society Program, “when you strip away the sports, it’s really a human resources issue.”

“The implementation of the six-game suspension policy is all over the map,” Igel says, “because a star player is more difficult to come by than a second-string or practice player.”



odney Austin remembers that his cellphone battery had run out. The Lions guard had been running errands near his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, and by the time he plugged in his phone around 8 p.m. on April 16, 2015, Austin says that he found a flurry of concerned text messages from his mother, his agent, the Lions head of security and local police. They pointed to one thing: He was in trouble, and there was a warrant out for his arrest.

Austin’s agent says a warrant was issued when Austin’s then-girlfriend told a magistrate judge that she and Austin had gotten in a fight that culminated with him hitting her, endangering their child and breaking her cellphone.

Confused and convinced of his own, different account, Austin turned himself in to authorities the next day and was charged with four crimes: assault on a female, assault on a child under 12, misdemeanor larceny and interfering with emergency communication. 

“There’s no eye on the nitty-gritty of the decision-making process,” says Rodney Austin.

“I knew I was innocent,” Austin says now, “and I thought, ‘There’s no way they can send me up the road because of something someone said. They can’t show them I’ve done anything.’” (Austin’s ex-girlfriend, with whom he shares custody of a daughter, did not respond to requests for comment.)

Austin pleaded not guilty to the charges, but a judge found him guilty on all four counts at trial. He agreed to complete a domestic violence intervention program, and his charges were retroactively dismissed.

Austin became the first known player to be given a “baseline” six-game suspension by the NFL since the league instituted its new domestic violence discipline in December 2014.

But Austin pointed to a basic inconsistency with the NFL’s investigation of his case: He says nobody from the NFL ever called him, his agent or his attorney—until a call to say he was suspended.

“There was no conversation,” Austin says. “[The NFL] didn’t talk to anyone. I was extremely surprised.”

“Then I looked at it from a different angle,” Austin tells B/R Mag:

They have invested millions in these guys. Before they throw those millions out the door, they’re going to do whatever they can to keep those guys around.


News of Austin’s suspension became public on September 8, 2015, when it was announced that he had violated the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. The 2016 version of the policy includes new language about disciplinary notification, including that “the Commissioner, either directly or through a member of his staff, will communicate his decision to the player regarding any disciplinary action to be taken.” The updated policy also clarifies that “counseling, treatment, or therapy” or “facts” offered by the player may help reduce discipline after it is decided.

The NFL has "disciplinary officers" provide reports to players and the union—and then provide a recommendation to Goodell, who makes the final decision.

As a private league, however, the NFL is not obligated to provide players with “due process,” even if investigators are working with law enforcement on the league’s own parallel investigation. The league and its experts, Goodell promised in 2014, would “address how to balance due process rights for those accused with the need to hold our personnel to the highest standards.”

“There’s a lot more going on that people can’t see,” Austin says. “There are no cameras in Roger Goodell’s meetings or in the NFLPA. There’s no eye on the nitty-gritty of the decision-making process. I can speculate all I want, but there’s no way for me to know exactly why I was handled the way I was.”

One public window into the league’s relationship with law enforcement opened at the five-bedroom home of Molly and Josh Brown, the former Giants Pro Bowl kicker.

On a recent morning in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville, Washington, lights at the house were out, mail and packages piled up, and no car was in the driveway. (Property records show a sale was completed in September.) A light snowfall dusted the property, and a neighbor walking a dog, when asked about the family, shrugged.

But on May 22, 2015, Molly had told officers responding to a complaint at their home that her husband had grabbed her wrist tightly, causing her pain and bruising. It had scared her, she said to police in a statement; Josh Brown had “been physically violent to her on more than 20 different instances over the past several years.” The police report continued:

Brown was arrested on allegations that he assaulted his wife. “He certainly admitted to us that he abused his wife in the past,” Giants owner John Mara said on a WFAN radio show in October, three days before the team dropped Brown. “What’s a little unclear is the extent of that.”

Former Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask says the league’s expanded domestic violence team, in determining how much to discipline players such as Brown, had forced itself to walk a fine line.

“It’s pivotal that the league balance the rights of an accuser to have her accusations taken seriously and the right of an accused to a presumption of innocence,” Trask tells B/R Mag. “If the league is going to step in and conduct its own investigations and reach its own conclusions, and impose its own punishments prior to law enforcement investigating and punishing, that’s a very, very big responsibility.”

On June 3, 2016, police said that Molly Brown called them “panicked,” because she told them that she had received a phone call “from some woman stating that she was representing the NFL and investigating Josh’s arrest.” She feared it was a reporter posing as an NFL representative, Molly Brown told police, and that “if it truly was someone from the NFL calling her, she would not trust them to really be having her or her children’s best interest in mind. Molly stated that the NFL would only be looking to bury this whole incident and protect Josh.”

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Josh Brown, pictured above at left with Molly Brown, was suspended for one game.

The King County Sheriff, in turn, called the NFL consultant, Deborah Katz—the same person who had written to Kendra Scott—and said it was Molly Brown’s wish not to be called by the NFL again. “Deborah started pressing [me] for information on this case,” a reporting officer said. “I told Deborah that I would not discuss any part of this investigation as it was an open and active investigation, and to do so could jeopardize the investigation, along with the fact that it would be highly unprofessional.”

Katz called police “several” times, according to the report, and the police officer continued to not discuss the investigation: “When that didn’t seem to be getting the NFL anywhere, they had a detective from another local law enforcement agency, who apparently also works as a representative of the NFL, call me and try to get information from me on my investigation.” Police declined to speak with him, as well.

When asked for an interview about her work for the NFL, Katz declined to comment and hung up. But Richard J. Gelles, a sociology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has advised NFL representatives on league personnel policies, says they navigate “a lot of constituencies,” similar to how many workplaces and college campuses are re-establishing best practices following sexual assault allegations.

The commissioner is still “the judge, jury and executioner” when it comes to deciding outcomes, Gelles says, adding:

Goodell is a CEO of an office, not the whole operation. As much as he’s paid and looks like he’s running the thing, his power is constrained.


To investigate and advise Goodell on discipline, the league hired two former leaders of a New York City sex crimes investigations unit, the former police chief of Washington, D.C., and the former director of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (The NFL did not make any of them available for comment.)

Together, based on the available evidence, they formulated a one-game suspension for Josh Brown, for the 2016 season opener. Two months later, amid public outcry after police reports surfaced that Molly Brown had told law enforcement of the pattern of abuse and that Josh had admitted to it in his journal, the Giants dropped him.

“We are supposed to believe those investigative reports are totally objective,” says Roger Abrams, a law professor at Northeastern University. “I can’t believe that’s the case. Who makes the ultimate decision? Roger Goodell is not neutral on domestic violence. He runs a $13 billion-a-year business.”

The NFL did not respond to questions about whether it had ever leveled a more severe formal penalty against Brown. (Prosecutors declined to file, “as further investigation” into the case was warranted; Molly Brown told them she was “ambivalent” about the case continuing, citing concerns about implications for her family.)

Speaking to a New York sports radio station upon his return from a Giants game abroad while the Brown domestic violence scandal emerged back home, the commissioner said: “What you see here is a policy that’s evolved. ... We’ve learned a lot, but these are complex matters.”

Goodell added: “I think we’ve made tremendous progress. Can we make more and will we make more? Of course.”



endra Scott says she started dating Ray McDonald in 2013, two years into his $20 million, five-year contract with the 49ers. The two were engaged in February 2014, and that, Scott recalls, is around the time the relationship became abusive.

McDonald would call her names, she says, or get upset if she didn’t want to clean up after he had company over or make him food late in the evening. He would “tell me I was an ignorant bitch or things like that,” she says. Also, a “fucking whore,” according to a statement she made to police.

In multiple alleged incidents involving Scott in which police were called, McDonald disputed her account to officers, telling them “Scott was the initial aggressor” and that “he was being mistreated in his own apartment.” 

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Prosecutors said they did not find sufficient evidence to charge McDonald for domestic violence, citing Scott’s “significant lack of cooperation.”

During an incident in July 2014, Scott says McDonald confronted her in her car when she was trying to leave their home: “Eventually, he just grabbed me and body-slammed me on the ground and kicked me in my back and my stomach and my head. He picked me up, punched me in my face, dragged me through the streets basically.”

Feeling ashamed and with bruises, Scott says she stayed in the guest room of their home for three days and avoided contact with anyone who would ask questions about her visible wounds.

Then, on August 31, 2014, police were called regarding a conflict between Scott and McDonald. She had gone to bed early at a party he’d been hosting at their house when, according to the police report, a woman in attendance woke her up and told her another woman was being flirtatious with McDonald. Scott went downstairs and, police wrote, “McDonald stated that his girlfriend confronted a random female that had no idea what was going on.”

McDonald told police “she had ‘punched’ him several times. He admitted grabbing her by the arms in order to avoid getting hit”—which, police noted in their report, left Scott with “visible minor injuries to the neck and both arms.”

“I was really scared,” Scott says. “I was pregnant. I was worried about the baby. I was worried about everything.”

McDonald was arrested. By morning, his mugshot was on the local news.

I think domestic violence is hard by itself, but to have it so public and for the world to see and have an opinion on what little is out there is really hard.


Acknowledging expectations that “were created by the Ray Rice domestic violence case,” Santa Clara County prosecutors declined to charge McDonald on November 10. They cited “mutual fighting between two parties, each party blaming the other” as well as that they had “no verifiable eyewitnesses, no one with significant injuries, and no allegation of prior domestic violence by McDonald”—and the only documented prior incident between the two of them was Scott “possibly firing a gun” earlier in their relationship.

Her “decision not to cooperate further with the investigation,” prosecutors wrote in their conclusion, “left critical gaps in the evidence.”

Within hours, the 49ers released a statement about their defensive end: “Based on the information available to us and the District Attorney’s decision not to file charges, there will be no change in Ray’s status with the team.” The NFL’s special counsel for investigations eventually said that after finishing its investigation of the incident, the league “didn’t find sufficient evidence to say that he violated the personal-conduct policy.”

A month later, on December 17, 2014, police said they were investigating McDonald for a rape accusation by a different woman. The 49ers released him the same day, but the Bears signed him to a one-year contract three months later.

“The choice to terminate Ray is not a reflection of any judgment about this particular matter,” 49ers CEO Jed York said in a statement at the time, “but reflects my belief that our team must be made up of individuals who are accountable for their decisions and the consequences of those decisions.”

On May 25, 2015, police were called regarding an argument Scott was having with McDonald. He was taken into police custody on suspicion of domestic violence and child endangerment for allegedly causing Scott physical harm when she was holding their infant son. As a matter of practice, police issued a protective order that prohibited McDonald from coming in contact with Scott. 

McDonald was arrested again two days later for allegedly violating the order. Rosenblum, the attorney now representing McDonald against the pending charge, said his client “was given advice by his lawyer that he could make that visit” and says that McDonald never struck Scott. The Bears released him within hours because “he was not able to meet the standard” of “second chances.” (The Bears declined to comment.) He has not played pro football since.

McDonald was indicted in August 2015 on one count of rape of an intoxicated person. Rosenblum said his client is not guilty. He added that it was his understanding that the woman in that case “made it abundantly clear that she no longer wishes to go forward.”

“The facts of that case in my view not only support the very difficult task the state would have in obtaining a guilty verdict, but the facts support to the contrary that Mr. McDonald was not remotely guilty of what he was charged with,” Rosenblum said. (A lawyer who represented the woman who accused him declined to comment.)

“Once an allegation like that is made,” Rosenblum said of the rape allegation, “it’s difficult to unring the bell and unring the consequences that it has on the person who is accused, in this case Ray McDonald.”

Before the indictment, the NFL’s special counsel for investigations told a gathering of reporters that the league investigation into the rape allegation was “ongoing.” Rosenblum said McDonald has never been suspended by the NFL.

Of Scott speaking out, the lawyer told B/R Mag: “Mr. McDonald and this individual had basically reconciled and were continuing in an intimate relationship and these allegations did not start becoming this vitriolic and public until Mr. McDonald ended the relationship a few months ago.”

He said it is McDonald’s intention to play football again.

The NFL did not respond to any questions for this article, about McDonald, or about whether its domestic violence policy had been overhauled based on learnings from investigating allegations against him and at least 17 other players it has employed. A league official forwarded a 2016 update of the Personal Conduct Policy without further explanation, and declined to comment Monday night at a Super Bowl event in Houston.

For her part, in Northern California, Kendra Scott says she has been working and going to therapy. In addition to raising her son, she might go back to school. 

“They don’t want the negative publicity,” Scott says of the NFL. “They don’t want the attention. They don’t want to be associated with that. But it is such a real issue. It happens all the time.”  ◼

Mary Pilon is a contributing writer for B/R Mag. She is the best-selling author of The Monopolists and the forthcoming The Kevin Show and a former reporter at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Send her private, encrypted story tips by clicking here.

Cole Louison contributed research to this article. Max Blau contributed reporting. Video production by Brittany Carr, Amir Ebrahimi and Hunter Hanson. Graphic design by Dylan Lathrop.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233 or by clicking here.

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