The National Domestic Violence Hotline announced Friday that the NFL has committed to providing “significant resources” to their organization amid reports that calls to the hotline have risen 84% in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal.
According to NDVH, before the Rice scandal dominated the headlines, the hotline received an average of 700 calls or online chats a day. That number is reportedly now approaching 1,300 a day, nearly two weeks after graphic footage became public of the then-Baltimore Ravens star knocking out his then-fiancee Janay Rice (née Palmer) in an Atlantic City elevator this February. The NDVH has been unable to answer nearly half of the messages they have received.
“That must not continue,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter to all NFL teams and personnel on Friday.
The NFL has pledged to make it possible for the NDVH to answer every “call, chat and text from domestic violence victims, survivors, their loved ones and even abusers for the next five years,” according to the NDVH.
“We have never had the funding needed to meet the demand for our services from those seeking help with domestic violence and dating abuse. Last year, because of this lack of resources, more than 77,000 calls went unanswered. Recent domestic violence incidents involving NFL players pushed the capacity of our organization to unprecedented levels,” said Katie Ray-Jones, president and chief executive officer of the National Domestic Violence Hotline. “Because of this long-term commitment by the NFL to provide The Hotline with much-needed resources, our services will finally be accessible to all those who need us when they bravely take the first step to find safety and live a life free of abuse.”
Goodell addressed the new partnership between the league and NDVH in his letter on Friday. Reiterating the principles he put forward in an August 28 letter, which instituted harsher penalties for sexual assault and domestic violence committed by NFL employees, Goodell outlined what he called “significant steps” to improve the league’s commitment to the issues.
“Starting within the next 30 days, all league and team personnel – including executives, coaches, players and staff – will participate in education sessions on domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Goodell.
The embattled commissioner championed this new initiative and other personnel moves during his first full-fledged press conference following in weeks. “I’m proud of the the opportunity we have to try to make a difference here,” Goodell told reporters.
The NFL is also throwing its weight behind the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Loveisrespect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle, which serves as a resource to help young people to prevent and end abusive relationships.
Goodell didn’t provide a specific figure in terms of how much the NFL was willing to financially commit to these organizations, but a NDVH spokesperson told ESPN.com that the commitment is a “multiyear, multimillion dollar deal.”
“These are by no means final steps. We will continue to work with experts to expand and develop long-term programs that raise awareness, educate, and prevent domestic violence and sexual assault both within the NFL and in our society in general,” Goodell said.
Meanwhile, Crest has announced that they canceling their “on-field activation” with the NFL in the wake of its controversial handling of domestic violence issues. The toothpaste brand has provided pink mouthguards for players while promoting Breast Cancer Awareness. This move is yet another blow the league’s image and to Goodell.
The NFL commissioner has been under fire since July, when he suspended Rice for only two games for his assault on his then-fiancée. When TMZ released a clip of Rice knocking out his now-wife, Goodell suspended him from the league indefinitely. Goodell has claimed that he never saw that footage until two weeks ago, but an AP report has suggested that NFL officials had viewed it as early as April. Former FBI director Robert Mueller is currently conducting an investigation into how the NFL dealt with the Rice case.
The public has largely disapproved of the way the NFL has handled the issue of domestic violence and lawmakers have weighed in, some of whom have raised the possibility that Goodell should step down.
Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said on “Face the Nation” that Goodell should resign if he lied about what the NFL did and didn’t know. Gillibrand was one of 16 female senators who previously sent a letter to Goodell calling on him to institute a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence. She added that the way the NFL handled the situation was “awful” and that it could lead to congressional hearings.
However, one prominent politician has broken with the chorus demanding Goodell’s resignation. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called Goodell “a good, honest, decent man that has great integrity,” on New Jersey’s 101.5 FM’s “Ask the Governor” program.
“He’s admitted he made a mistake in the Rice case … we have to be a society that considers the totality of somebody’s work and their life. In my mind if I were an NFL owner, I’d be voting to keep Roger Goodell,” said Christie.
In the wake of the arrest of not only Rice, but NFL running backs Adrian Peterson and Jonathan Dwyer on abuse-related charges, Goodell has made a number of personnel moves which elevated women into larger positions of power within the NFL, including hiring Cynthia Hogan, former chief of staff for Vice President Joe Biden, to serve as senior vice president of public policy and government affairs. At the DNC Women’s Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C., Biden praised Hogan and took a jab at the league.
“By the way, the NFL ain’t seen nothing yet. They got her coming as their counsel! I’m glad they hired her,” said Biden with a smile. “They have no idea what they just bought onto!”