Roger Goodell solution to NFL domestic violence: 'Everything is on the table'

In his first public appearance in nine days, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell listed several measures the league is implementing to improve the way it handles cases of sexual assault and domestic violence. 

Jason DeCrow/AP
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday that the NFL wants to implement new personal conduct policies by the Super Bowl. The league has faced increasing criticism that it has not acted quickly or emphatically enough concerning domestic abuse cases.

More than a week after a notable public silence from National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell, he spoke to reporters Friday afternoon to address the cases of domestic violence currently plaguing the NFL and ways the league is planning to improve the way it handles such cases. 

In his first public appearance since the video surfaced of ex-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee Janay Palmer, Mr. Goodell was expected to unveil a new league-wide personal misconduct policy. There was also speculation this week about his possible resignation, but when asked if he had ever considered resigning, he said no. 

"I have not," Goodell said. "I'm focused on doing my job to the best of my abilities."

The conference was uneventful for the most part, though at one point the event was interrupted by protesters who yelled at Goodell and complained loudly when removed by security officers from the premises.

For his part, Goodell was apologetic about the NFL's handling of the recent epidemic of cases, saying the league has made mistakes and that he is "not satisfied" with how things have played out. 

"I'm not satisfied with what we did. I let myself down. I let everyone else down," he said. 

But he mainly reiterated talking points from a letter he had sent to league owners Thursday evening. For example, in both the letter and the press conference, he said the NFL would start supporting the efforts of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. In the letter, he noted that the week of Sept. 8, following the release of the Ray Rice video, the Domestic Violence Hotline received 84 percent more calls, more than 50 percent of which went unanswered. He said the NFL will support both organizations "to help more people affected by domestic violence and sexual assault." 

In addition, the league is launching educational programs for all 32 teams to teach sexual violence and domestic-abuse prevention. 

As expected, during the conference Goodell said the NFL will make changes to its personal misconduct policy. But he did not specify how the policy would change nor did he say what changes would be added to the existing policy. He also said the NFL would establish a conduct committee to ensure accountability for its teams and players.

Still, throughout the conference, a main theme of Goodell's speech was that the NFL is not equipped in its present state to deal with the current string of domestic violence cases. When pressed with questions, he repeatedly stressed that the league is bringing in "outside experts" to inform how the league makes decisions moving forward. 

"Everything is on the table," he said. "We want to make sure we look at every aspect of how we make decisions." 

The past week, while Goodell remained silent, the NFL has seen an unprecedented public-relations nightmare. Coming on the heels of Ray Rice's indefinite suspension from the league, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, facing child abuse charges, was banned from all team activities until his legal proceedings are resolved. Then, Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy, who was convicted this summer on domestic violence charges but has appealed, was also suspended. Both Peterson and Hardy have been put on what's known as the commissioner's exempt list, meaning they are suspended with pay.

Finally, the Arizona Cardinals deactivated running back Jonathan Dwyer on Thursday and placed him on the reserve/nonfootball illness list – meaning he could still be reinstated – after being charged Wednesday with aggravated assault against his wife and young son stemming from alleged events that happened in July. 

The past week has also seen several corporate sponsors either sever ties with or criticize the NFL's handling of the domestic-abuse cases. Procter & Gamble most recently pulled its brand of Crest toothpaste out of the league's campaign for breast cancer awareness month. That came after Anheuser-Busch, McDonald's, and Visa all issued critical statements of the league and Nike suspended its endorsement contract with Peterson.

The NFL incidents have ignited a national conversation about domestic abuse and violence against women, causing even White House officials to weigh in on the situation. 

"I think everyone would agree that the most recent revelations of abuse by the NFL players is really deeply troubling," a senior administration official told The New York Times. "And the NFL has an obligation not only to their fans, but to the American people, to properly discipline anyone involved in domestic violence or child abuse, and more broadly gain control of the situation." 

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