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O'Brien on NFL: 'There's no punishment'
05:19 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

A women's rights group calls for the NFL commissioner's resignation at a Giants game

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom: The 49ers should bench Ray McDonald

Reports: Ray Rice is expected to appeal his indefinite suspension Monday

The NFL recently enacted tougher punishments for domestic violence

CNN  — 

With a slew of domestic violence cases permeating the NFL, some football fans are benching America’s favorite fall pastime.

Even after the league enacted tougher punishments for domestic violence and three accused players sat out during games Sunday, the Twitter hashtag #BoycottNFL and calls for Commissioner Roger Goodell’s removal are running rampant.

“No football for me today. Fire Goodell and I may return. #BoycottNFL @nflcommish @nfl #FireGoodell,” Scott Allen tweeted.

And the women’s rights group Ultraviolet flew a banner over the New York Giants-Arizona Cardinals game Sunday, saying Goodell must go.

According to a USA Today database, at least 84 NFL players have been arrested and accused of domestic violence since 2000.

But the recent cases of four players – Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson and Ray McDonald – have hurled the topic into the spotlight.

Newsom: Sideline McDonald

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is publicly asking the San Francisco 49ers to bench McDonald pending the outcome of his felony domestic violence investigation.

“(T)he 49ers’ continued insistence on playing Ray McDonald during his ongoing criminal investigation is a painful affront to every victim of domestic violence and sends a troubling message to our community and especially our children that ‘zero tolerance’ are empty words, not real actions,” Newsom and his wife said in a message on Facebook.

McDonald was arrested on August 31 on suspicion of felony domestic violence after he allegedly got involved in an altercation with his fiancee, who was 10 weeks pregnant, a police source told The Sacramento Bee.

The fiancee showed police minor bruises on her neck and arms, the newspaper said.

After McDonald posted bail, he said he couldn’t say much about the case.

“The truth will come out,” he told CNN affiliate KTVU. “Everybody knows what kind of person I am … a good-hearted person.”

Last week, San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York said the team was awaiting the outcome of the criminal case against McDonald before determining whether to punish him.

“I think it’s very important that we do let due process take its course,” York told KNBR-AM.

Rice could appeal

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was videotaped in February punching his then-fiancee in an elevator and dragging her unconscious body out, could appeal his indefinite suspension from the NFL.

ESPN and Pro Football Talk said Rice will appeal Monday.

But the NFL Players Association said Sunday that it could not confirm whether an appeal decision has been made.

“We don’t know yet if or when our filing will come,” said George Atallah, assistant executive director of NFLPA external affairs.

Rice’s attorney has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.

Ray Rice case: Did NFL execs know the truth earlier?

The NFL’s actions

After public outcry over a two-game suspension for Rice, the NFL established a six-game unpaid ban for personnel who violate the league’s policy on domestic violence, Goodell said Thursday.

A second incident would be punished by a lifetime ban from the league, Goodell said in a letter to the owners of the league’s 32 teams.

Other players have been disciplined over the past week.

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was deactivated after he was indicted by a grand jury last week on a child abuse charge. He allegedly whipped his 4-year-old son repeatedly with a “switch.”

But his attorney said Peterson is “a loving father” who was disciplining his son.

“He used the same kind of discipline with his child that he experienced as a child growing up in east Texas,” attorney Rusty Hardin said.

And on Sunday, the Carolina Panthers announced just before game time that defensive end Greg Hardy would not be playing against the Detroit Lions.

In May, authorities say, Hardy choked his then-girlfriend, dragged her by her hair and threatened to kill her. He was sentenced in July to 18 months of probation and a 60-day suspended sentence for the misdemeanors he was charged with.

Hardy said he is innocent and has appealed a guilty verdict.

In his post-game remarks Sunday, Panthers coach Ron Rivera alluded to the controversy looming over not just Hardy, but over the entire league.

“The climate has changed,” he said. “We really do have to get this right. Believe me. I understand that.”

Tough questions

ESPN anchor and “life-long fan” Hannah Storm deplored the abuse cases in an emotional sign-off on Sunday.

“On Monday morning, I was genuinely excited to come to work and break down what I thought was a fascinating first weekend in the NFL,” Storm told viewers. “Instead, I kicked off ESPN’s coverage of the horrific Ray Rice elevator video.”

She described trying to answer her daughters’ difficult questions over the weekend – “Mom, why did he do that? Why is he in jail? Why didn’t he get fired?”

Storm said she has some lingering questions of her own.

“What does all of this mean for the future? What does it mean for female fans whose dollars are so coveted by the NFL (and) who make up an estimated 45% of the NFL’s fan base?”

“What exactly does the NFL stand for?”

CNN’s Steve Almasy, Rachel Nichols, Michael Martinez, Priscilla Riojas, Mayra Cuevas and Kevin Conlon and CNN Sports’ Kevin Dotson contributed to this report.