NFL commissioner Roger Goodell broke his silence Friday, taking responsibility for mishandling allegations against former Ravens running back Ray Rice, vowing to change the league’s investigative approach, and announcing initiatives on domestic violence education and awareness.
“Unfortunately over the past several weeks, we have seen all too much of the NFL doing wrong. That starts with me,” Goodell said at a New York press conference, his first since TMZ released the
full tape of Rice punching his fiancée on Sept. 8.
Saying he “got it wrong’’ in handling the Rice investigation, Goodell apologized and announced that all NFL personnel — players, coaches, executives, employees, and owners — will participate in educational sessions on domestic violence and sexual assault within the next 30 days. He also announced new partnerships with the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
However, Goodell’s hourlong press conference didn’t quell calls for him to resign.
Former Patriot Tedy Bruschi, one of several current and former players to criticize Goodell, said on ESPN, “Roger Goodell needs to step down and move on.’’
NOW president Terry O'Neill repeated that she believed Goodell should go.
‘‘NFL commissioner Roger Goodell today did nothing to increase confidence in his ability to lead the NFL out of its morass,’’ O'Neill said in a statement. ‘‘What Mr. Goodell doesn’t seem to understand is that he should be aiming to make fundamental changes in the organization.’’
Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who has voiced support for Goodell, declined a request for comment Friday.
The NFL lost a corporate sponsor Friday when Procter & Gamble canceled an initiative between its brand Crest and the NFL during the league’s Breast Cancer Awareness campaign next month.
Rice was initially suspended two games by Goodell in July, but was promptly cut by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely shortly after the full video’s release Sept. 8.
Goodell has said he had not seen the full video until TMZ posted it. However, the Associated Press reported last week that a law enforcement official says he sent the video to a league executive five months ago.
“I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter. I am sorry for that,’’ Goodell said Friday. “I got it wrong on a number of levels — from the process that I led to the decision that I reached.”
“But now I will get it right, and do whatever is necessary to accomplish that.”
The NFL has had several high-profile domestic violence incidents over the past several months, in addition to Rice. The Minnesota Vikings placed star running back Adrian Peterson on paid leave this week after he was indicted for allegedly causing injury to his 4-year-old son. The Carolina Panthers also placed star pass rusher Greg Hardy on paid leave this week while he appeals a guilty conviction for a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend. The San Francisco 49ers have allowed defensive tackle Ray McDonald to keep playing while authorities decide whether to charge him with domestic violence stemming from an arrest three weeks ago. And Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested for alleged domestic violence Wednesday and won’t play this weekend.
“These incidents demonstrate that we can use the NFL to help create change not only in our league, but in society with respect to domestic violence and sexual assault,” Goodell said. “We will reexamine, enhance, and improve all of our current programs — and then we’ll do more.
“Our standards, and the consequences of falling short, must be clear, consistent, and current. They must be implemented through procedures that are fair and transparent.”
Goodell also authorized the NFL last week to launch a full investigation into the handling of the Rice case by the league office, to be led by former FBI director Robert Mueller. Goodell promised Mueller “full cooperation and access.”
“We all look forward to his report and findings,” Goodell said. “I promise you that any shortcomings he finds in how we dealt with the situation will lead to swift action. The same mistakes can never be repeated.
“We will do whatever is necessary to ensure that we are thorough in our review process and that our conclusions are reliable. We will get our house in order first.”
On Aug. 28, Goodell announced expanded programs for domestic violence counseling and resources for NFL personnel and families, and stricter punishments for domestic violence offenders — a six-game suspension for a first offense, and an indefinite suspension for a second offense.
And earlier this week, the league created an advisory committee of domestic violence experts to help the league shape its policies and programs. The committee included Lisa Friel, the former head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County district attorney’s office; Jane Randel, cofounder of NO MORE; Rita Smith, former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; and Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s vice president of community affairs and philanthropy.
But, in his press conference, Goodell still left many questions unanswered. He sidestepped some important questions, such as:
■ Why was he unable to see the Rice video before it was released by TMZ?
■ Did someone in the league office receive the tape, as reported by the Associated Press?
■ What did Rice tell Goodell in their meeting on June 16? How was it “inconsistent” from what was in the video?
Goodell said he couldn’t answer specifics about Rice and the video because Rice and the NFL Players Association are now appealing the suspension.
“This is a matter of appeal, so without getting into any specifics on this one, I’ve got to respect the appeal process right now,” Goodell said. “It’s inconsistent with what he told us, what we saw on that video when we saw it roughly 10 days ago. That information will come out another time.”
Goodell said he also plans to overhaul the league’s personal conduct policy, which governs the players’ off-field behavior. Goodell said he will form a committee to draft the new rules, with input from the NFLPA, and hopes to have the new “clear and transparent” policy completed by the Super Bowl in February.
Already, Goodell created tougher punishments for domestic violence, and the NFL and its union agreed Friday on stiffer punishments for DUI arrests — an automatic two-game suspension for a first conviction, and an eight-game suspension for a second conviction.
One of the key elements of the new policy will be a reduction of Goodell’s power; no longer will he be the sole decider on punishment and off-field issues, and instead a third-party arbitrator will be used to settle matters.
“We do not have a clear and consistent policy that will allow us to deal with all of the issues that are arising,” Goodell acknowledged. “That’s why we talked last month that we need to change our policies.”
Goodell, whose only other public comments came last week on an interview with CBS News, said he has not considered resigning and said, “I believe I have the support of the owners. That has been clear to me.”