The National Football League was battling an image problem over domestic violence issues long before the security video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his then-fiance unconscious came to light.
The graphic video thrust the NFL's lack of meaningful action on domestic violence into the national spotlight. After a public backlash to the league's policy, the NFL updated its personal conduct policy to make harsher punishments for domestic violence.
With the NFL Draft coming up on Thursday in Chicago, the league will continue its public effort to improve conduct, starting with the most high-profile players making the jump from college to the pros.
USA Today reported that the 28 players who accepted invitations to attend the 2015 NFL Draft will view a 45-minute presentation, intended to raise awareness on domestic violence and sexual assault on Tuesday. This is the same video presentation NFL players and coaches saw in the second half of the 2014 season, following the backlash and subsequent rethinking of how domestic violence issues would be handled.
"It is a different NFL, but we think it's a stronger and better NFL for it. I think we have learned a lot and implemented some new plans that will make us stronger and make us better," Anna Isaacson, the NFL's vice president of social responsibility, told USA Today. "I think the draft is an exciting time, it's an exciting week and it's a great place to get a lot of these practices and programs really started and in place for the new crop of players coming up."
After the draft, every single rookie will be required to attend the NFL's annual rookie symposium where the same domestic violence presentation will be made. So why give these 28 rookies an extra presentation?
NBC Sports' Mike Florio says the answer is obvious:
"Providing the training to the players at the draft creates an opportunity for a little more positive P.R. as the league tries to continue its recovery from last year’s debacle that forced positive changes, like, for example, the creation of a 45-minute presentation ..."
The league also plans to provide some financial advice to incoming players, some of whom will become millionaires upon signing their first pro contract.
A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that 16 percent of retired NFL players are bankrupt. The paper cites causes like being taken advantage of and a lack of sound financial advice given to athletes since they are so young when they make their peak earnings and retire.
Former receivers Michael Irvin and Cris Carter will address the 28 players at the draft about the difficulties that come along with fame, according to USA Today. Both Irving and Carter struggled with alcohol and drugs at points in their careers – Irvin pleaded guilty to drug charges in 1996 – but both players put their demons behind them and went on to have stellar careers.
"You've got to be real with these kids, and you've got to be transparent — be willing to share your situations, your issues, things that you've gone through — because if you don't do that, you will definitely lose them," Irvin told USA Today.