NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said today he will not resign, but will implement new policies of conduct for team players, and mandate education and training of players and staff for all of the league’s 32 teams about how to prevent domestic violence and child abuse – for those in the NFL who do not yet know it’s wrong to punch women in the face and knock them out, or whip children with a switch.
“We will get our house in order,” Goodell said, in his first public appearance since giving an interview to CBS This Morning more than a week ago — back when this was “just” a story about Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and TMZ’s release of a video showing Rice knocking his then-fiancee in a casino elevator.
This afternoon’s news conference comes as word surfaced that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has asked his staff for detailed information about the U.S. military’s relationships with the NFL in the wake of the scandal over how the league is handling domestic abuse allegations against players. The Army spends $10 million a year buying advertising from television networks broadcasting NFL games. Meanwhile, a senior Obama administration official has decried the NFL’s domestic abuse scandal, saying the league needs to “get a handle on” the situation, CNN reported.
This morning Procter & Gamble announced it was canceling an on-field breast cancer awareness promo it had been planning with the NFL. Earlier in the week, a cacophony of complaints could be heard coming from the general direction of advertisers and sponsors looking to protect their brands — without severing extremely lucrative ties with domestic-abuse scandal-plagued NFL. The growing list included Anheuser-Busch, McDonalds, Visa, Procter & Gamble, FedEx, Nike, and Campbell Soup Co. The NFL responded to all all the scolding with its own statement: “We understand. We are taking action and there will be much more to come,” the league promised. Same day, Sen. Cory A. Booker (D-NJ) introduced a bill that would KO major professional sports leagues’ tax-exempt status.
Speaking at a Manhattan news conference this afternoon, Goodell tried hard to quell complaints the league had not done more, or acted more quickly, in handling the pile-on of domestic violence incidents across the league that are being added to coverage of the story — about 14 players have been arrested for violence against women in the past two years, according to news reports.
In a news conference described by several news outlets as an elaborate kicking of the can down the road, Goodell said that, despite mistakes, he believes he has the support of team owners. He said he has not considered stepping down “because I acknowledged my mistakes.”
He vowed to have a new policy in place — by the time of the Super Bowl. Or maybe it was a vow to have the committee that would do so in place by the time of the Super Bowl — Goodell seemed to say both in the course of his long, deliberate news conference.
The tightly controlled media experience briefly went down the rabbit hole when a man began screaming “Don’t take me to an elevator!” — a reference to the Rice video — as he was being hauled off by security. Reports from the event identified the man as Howard Stern prankster Benjy Bronk.
Among his comments, Goodell said he now knows that when questioning a player he knows struck his fiancee in an elevator and dragged her unconscious body out of the elevator before the questioning, not to have the victim give her side of what happened while the man who beat her also is in the room.”We learned from domestic violence experts that we shouldn’t have them in the same room, or give them the chance to speak separately,” he said.
Goodell said he’d reached out to advocacy and support organizations including the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center to help the NFL do a better job with situations involving these particular sorts of crimes on which he said the NFL’s policies had lagged behind the way it handles other crimes — drugs and such. We should’ve had our personal conduct policy reviewed more frequently,” he said, adding, “The policy was not up to our standards.”
The hotline, meanwhile, had reported an 84% spike in domestic violence reports since TMZ released the video of former Baltimore Raven running back Ray Rice clocking his wife in a casino elevator, but did not have resources to answer all the calls. An exec with the hotline told CNN after Goodell’s news conference the league had committed to giving the hotline multi-millions of dollars over several years to beef up the hotline and its response capabilities.
Goodell said the NFL needs experts to help figure out due process for players accused of these acts of violence. And though he stayed on-contrite-point during the news conference, leaving it to pundits afterwards to note that, as USA Today has documented, that the rate of domestic violence arrests in the NFL actually is lower than society at large, Goodell several times talked about the NFL turning this into a teachable moment for society in general. “If affects all of us,” he explained.
Goodell continued to maintain that no one at NFL HQ had seen the second Rice video before its release by TMZ, though a TMZ reporter at the news conference said they’d gotten the the video with “one call.”
Inconsistencies in the law for various states in which NFL teams are based has led to much of the NFL’s inconsistencies in handling domestic abuse charges, Goodell suggested. He was asked about Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy continuing to play football for the league, despite a guilty conviction, and he said that, based on the legal system, the guilty conviction is “wiped out” on appeal. Among the inconsistencies, this past Wednesday the Minnesota Vikings reversed Monday’s decision to reinstate running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson had been suspended after being charged with a felony in Texas for using a wooden switch on his 4-year-old son. The reinstatement had come one day after his team’s 30-7 loss to the New England Patriots. The reinstatement would have enabled Peterson to play against the New Orleans Saints this weekend. Concurrent with his short-lived reinstatement, a Houston TV station had reported Monday that Peterson has been accused of abusing his other 4-year-old son in a separate incident. Putting Peterson back on suspension coincided with Nike’s announcement it had suspended its endorsement contract with Peterson, and issued a statement saying the company “in no way condones child abuse or domestic violence of any kind and has shared our concerns with the NFL.”
During today’s news conference, Goodell also promised the NFL would evaluate the way it collects information about domestic violence charges, in response to a question as to why he didn’t go to the casino to get the Ray Rice video. “In the past, we have been completely reliant on law enforcement,” he said, though one reporter noted the local law enforcement has said it had no electronic record of the NFL having requested the video.
Goodell ducked many questions, saying the information would come out when the independent investigation being conducted for the league by former FBI director Robert Mueller is concluded. He was asked about possible conflict of interest with the firm for which Mueller now works conducting that investigation into the league about the Ray Rice tape: “Yes that firm has represented us in the past, but has also been on litigation on the other side against the NFL,” he said.
In August, after the hue and cry went up over Goodell’s two-game suspension for Rice, the commissioner announced that the NFL had established a six-game unpaid ban for personnel who violate the league’s policy on domestic violence. A second incident would result in lifetime banishment from the league.