NEW YORK – More defiant than contrite, Roger Goodell on Friday announced no sweeping changes in his first public statements in more than a week of turmoil surrounding the NFL’s handling of players accused of crimes.
The commissioner was definitive about one thing: He has not considered resigning.
Goodell was short on specifics as he discussed how he would address the rash of domestic violence incidents in the league. He said the NFL wants to implement new personal conduct policies by the Super Bowl.
“Unfortunately, over the past several weeks, we have seen all too much of the NFL doing wrong,” he said in his opening statement. “That starts with me.”
The league has faced increasing criticism that it has not acted quickly or emphatically enough. The commissioner reiterated that he botched the handling of the Ray Rice case.
“The same mistakes can never be repeated,” he said.
Goodell said he would meet with NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith next week, and they would work with outside experts to evaluate the league’s policies.
Among the areas that will be examined is Goodell’s role in discipline. The commissioner now oversees all personal conduct cases, deciding guilt and penalties.
He will establish a committee to review NFL personal conduct, seeking experts in the area of domestic abuse and violence to serve on it. Goodell’s role with such a committee was not directly addressed.
“Nothing is off the table,” he said.
One of the key questions is how to balance the league’s desire to take a stance against violent acts with the due process requirements — and the sometimes slow pace — of the legal system. Goodell indicated the league is considering becoming “engaged” in the investigation process while law enforcement is still handling its probes.
Goodell said he believes he has the support of the NFL’s owners, his bosses.
“That has been clear to me,” he said.
The commissioner and some NFL teams have been heavily criticized for lenient or delayed punishment of Rice, Adrian Peterson and other players involved in recent domestic violence cases. Less than three weeks into the season, five such cases have made headlines.
Vikings star running back Peterson and Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy are on a special commissioner’s exemption list and are being paid while they go through the legal process. Arizona running back Jonathan Dwyer was placed on the reserve/non-football illness list, meaning he can’t play for the team again this season. Ray McDonald, a defensive end for San Francisco, continues to practice and play while being investigated on suspicion of domestic violence.
Groups such as the National Organization of Women (NOW) and league partners and sponsors have come down hard on the NFL to be more responsive in dealing with them. Congress also is watching to see how the NFL reacts.
NOW president Terry O’Neill reiterated her calls for Goodell to resign.
“NFL commissioner Roger Goodell today did nothing to increase confidence in his ability to lead the NFL out of its morass,” O’Neill said in a statement. “What Mr. Goodell doesn’t seem to understand is that he should be aiming to make fundamental changes in the organization.”
Rice was initially suspended for two games. Goodell admitted more than a month later that he “didn’t get it right” and announced tougher penalties for future domestic violent incidents.
After video emerged of the assault, the Baltimore Ravens cut the star running back and the league banned him indefinitely.