In his first press conference since a flurry of domestic violence allegations cast a shadow over the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell said he believes he has the “support of the owners” and has no intention of resigning.
Goodell also took full responsibility for his widely criticized handling of the Ray Rice case and acknowledged that the NFL needs get its “house in order.”
“We’ve seen all too much of the NFL doing wrong, that starts with me,” Goodell told reporters. The embattled commissioner sought to assuage critics by highlighting the formation of new Personal Conduct Committee, which will be tasked with evaluating the league’s policies on domestic violence and sexual assault. “I don’t expect anyone to just take me at my word,” Goodell acknowledged.
Despite his best efforts to steer the conversation to his efforts to reform the league, Goodell was peppered with pointed questions about how he initially addressed the Rice scandal.
“I let myself down and I let everyone else down, and for that, I’m sorry,” Goodell said with regards to his original two-game suspension of Rice for abusing his then-fiancee Janay Rice (née Palmer). “I’m not satisfied with the way we handled it from the get-go,” he said. Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely from the league last week.
When asked if any women played a role in Goodell’s first punishment of Rice, the commissioner conceded “we didn’t have the right voices at the table.”
A journalist from TMZ claimed the gossip news site was able to obtain the now infamous footage of Rice punching his now-wife with one phone call. To which, Goodell said, “I would have loved to have seen that tape,” and he reiterated his previous claims that Rice’s version of the events was “inconsistent” with what he saw last week. Goodell refused to go into further detail about what Rice told him, citing an ongoing investigation by former FBI Director Robert Mueller and an appeal of Rice’s suspension by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA).
An Associated Press report has claimed that contrary to Goodell’s public statements, an NFL executive received the full tape back in April.
Goodell did say that he regretted interviewing Rice and his current wife together in the aftermath of their February altercation, acknowledging that there are “certain proper ways of having these discussions.”
According to Goodell, in the past the NFL has relied entirely on law enforcement to procure information on player-inflicted violence and abuse. This tactic, among others, will be reconsidered by the Personal Conduct Committee, which Goodell promised to have fully staffed and functional by the upcoming Super Bowl.
Despite the fact that Proctor & Gamble officially cut ties with the league on Friday, Goodell brushed off questions about sponsor defections from the NFL. “They’re not looking for talk, they’re looking for action,” Goodell said.
The action Goodell is taking, in addition to the formation of the Personal Conduct Committee, is a new partnership with the National Domestic Violence Hotline and National Sexual Violence Resource Center and a joint effort with the NFLPA to better educate athletes on the issues.
“I’m proud of the the opportunity we have to try to make a difference here,” Goodell told reporters.
Not everyone was impressed with Goodell’s press conference.
“This press circus did nothing to change Goodell’s long history of inaction on and blatant mishandling of domestic violence in the NFL. The facts are the facts: 57 domestic violence cases saw little to no action under Goodell’s ‘leadership.’ We know what happens when no one is watching: Goodell ignores domestic violence. He has made it clear he will not even consider resigning, bringing into question his basic judgement,” said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a women’s rights organization.
“So now, we call on all of the NFL’s sponsors to take a stand against domestic violence by withdrawing their support for the NFL until Goodell is out of office. One in 4 women experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and it is clear that Goodell doesn’t yet understand the appalling nature of that simple statistic,” she added.
More than 20,000 UltraViolet members have signed on to a petition calling for Goodell’s resignation. Meanwhile, fans of Rice’s former team, the Baltimore Ravens, were encouraged to return their jerseys en masse to the franchise. Fans were able to get a free, brand new jersey for the player of their choice. According the NFLPA, Rice’s jersey was the 28th highest seller last year.