Goodell has been under fire since the NFL's slow and fumbled
response to the domestic violence incident involving Baltimore
Ravens star Ray Rice, whose knock-out punch to his then-fiancee was
captured in a video that went viral last week.
"I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter," Goodell
told a packed news conference. "And I'm sorry for that. I got it
wrong on a number of levels, from the process that I led to the
decision that I reached."
It was the embattled commissioner's first public appearance in more
than a week, after the number of domestic violence cases involving
players grew to five, teams bowed to public pressure and major
sponsors criticized the league.
Doubts about Goodell's leadership had spiraled due to his failure to
address the issue in public earlier. But Goodell said he never
considered resigning from the post he has held since 2006.
Rules governing personal conduct for players and other employees
will change, he said, and experts from outside the league will help
it shape that new policy.
A "conduct committee" will be established by the NFL to review
policy, a significant concession for an organization known for its
top-down, fortress-like approach to management.
"We will get our house in order," Goodell said."I know this because
we will make it happen," he said. "Nothing is off the table. Let me
say it again, we will implement new conduct policies."
Players often criticize Goodell as being "judge, jury and
executioner" on disciplinary matters, as he hands out punishment and
rules on most appeals.
While Goodell offered no specifics on what the future would be like,
it was clear he was preparing to cede a measure of the near-absolute
authority that had made him one of the most powerful and well-paid
figures in all of sports.
Although the committee could make the NFL punishment process more
democratic, it also allows Goodell to distance himself from future
controversies in how the league metes out discipline.
Goodell said he will discuss many of the pending changes with the
union but NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith
was not at the news conference, raising some eyebrows.
'TOOK THE BLAME'
The domestic violence issue emerged when Goodell suspended Rice for
two games after he knocked out fiancee Janay Palmer, who is now his
wife, in a New Jersey casino elevator in February. Many saw the
commissioner's penalty as too light.
Only when a video of the punch emerged on the website TMZ on Sept. 8
did Goodell decide to suspend Rice indefinitely. The Ravens then cut
him from the team.
ESPN said on Friday the Ravens knew about the second video within
hours of the assault and later sought leniency for Rice. The Ravens
said the report contained "numerous errors" which it will address
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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, the NFL's most
valuable player in 2012, and defensive end Greg Hardy of the
Carolina Panthers have been placed on the league's "exempt" list
until their domestic violence cases are resolved.
Sponsors who have billions invested in the NFL were unusually
critical of the league this week, including brewing giant
Goodell, normally stoic but on Friday apologetic, spoke slowly and
in a halting voice. He said personnel and staff will be required to
undergo training on the prevention of domestic violence and sexual
assault starting within 30 days.
He said the league will partner with the National Domestic Violence
Hotline and National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
"I feel passionately that working in the NFL in any capacity is a
privilege, something that we must earn every day and never take for
granted," Goodell said. "The vast majority of players, owners and
coaches it the NFL, stand tall."
He said the league will work with players, their union, coaches,
owners and outside experts to set the right standards for changing
the league's policies for domestic violence. He said the panel will
examine the commissioner's role in determining punishments.
Since the controversy erupted, Goodell has strengthened the league's
penalties for domestic abuse.
Goodell's long-awaited appearance got mixed reviews in the football
world and some like former NFL coach Tony Dungy said they had hoped
for more answers.
"It was a step in the right direction," Dungy tweeted. "He
definitely took the blame."
But calls for Goodell's resignation did not stop.
"The big reset button needs to be pushed on the NFL right now and it
starts by Roger Goodell stepping down,” former New England Patriots
linebacker Tedy Bruschi said on ESPN, where he now works as a
(Additional reporting by Eric Kelsey in Los Angeles and Daniel
Wallis in Denver; Writing by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Mary
Milliken and Bill Trott and Simon Cameron-Moore)
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