The National Football League on Wednesday unveiled a tougher
policy for disciplining players for off-field misconduct
including violence against women in the wake of high-profile
domestic violence cases involving Rice and 2012 NFL Most
Valuable Player Adrian Peterson.
During an interview with ESPN Radio, Obama said he hopes the
NFL's new guidelines send a "message that there's no place for
that kind of behavior in society."
"When you have a privilege of playing in a sports league and
people looking up to you, you've got responsibilities to the
fans and your employers and you've got to be treated the way
other people are treated when you do make mistakes," said Obama,
a big sports fan who periodically offers his views on events in
the sports world.
"And some of those mistakes are ones that are very serious where
you're breaking the law," Obama added.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell faced sharp criticism for the way
he dealt with Rice. Goodell initially suspended Rice for only
two games after the running back was charged with aggravated
assault for knocking unconscious his then-fiancée and now-wife
Janay in an elevator in Atlantic City.
Only after a video emerged showing Rice punching her did Goodell
suspend him indefinitely from the NFL.
"Obviously the situation that happened in the Rice family was
unfortunate but it did lift up awareness that it’s a real
problem that we’ve got to root out," Obama said.
"The way it was handled indicates that the NFL was behind the
curve, as a lot of institutions have been behind the curve, in
sending a clear message," Obama said. "You don't want to be
winging it when something like this happens. You want to have
clear policies in place."
Obama said there was a "little bit of an old boy's network" in
the NFL and elsewhere allowing bad behavior to be tolerated.
"There have been some blind spots that are rooted not just in
professional football but dating back into college football and
certain behaviors have been tolerated historically that really
should not have been tolerated," Obama said.
"Hopefully this has been a wakeup call and people start thinking
about this a little more systematically."
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Will Dunham)
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