Roger Goodell was in full damage control mode Friday afternoon, as the embattled commissioner made his first public comments in more than a week on the NFL’s domestic violence controversy that has overrun the league the past few weeks.
“Unfortunately, in the past few weeks, we have seen all too much of the NFL doing wrong, that starts with me,” said Goodell. He pledged that he would take steps to ensure this wouldn’t happen again. Next week, Goodell said he plans to meet with player union representatives, NFL Players Association executive director Demaurice Smith, coaches, owners and outside experts to examine the league’s personal conduct policy.
Among the topics that will be discussed are due process rights and Goodell’s own role as the sole decider of punishment. “There will be changes to our personal conduct policy,” he said. “Nothing is off the table.”
During the question portion, Goodell was hammered by the media on a number of fronts, from the league’s lack of transparency to its seemingly slow and reactive responses to the issue of domestic violence. The league’s media partners have been put in a precarious situation: trying to remain objective on a very serious subject, while at the same time depending on the league for ad revenue and ratings.
With each answer, Goodell tried to steer the conversation back to his talking points, which included numerous statements that he got the Ray Rice issue wrong and that the league is establishing a committee and seeking help from outside experts on how to best deal with these issues.
“We’re moving in a very important direction,” he said. “The NFL has to take care of its house.”
Goodell was especially taken to task for his handling of the Ray Rice controversy, where the former Baltimore Ravens running back struck his then fiancée Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator, knocking her unconscious. After the second tape that showed Rice striking Palmer emerged, Goodell said the reason for the increased suspension – which the NFL Players Association is appealing – was due to discrepancies between what Rice told Goodell had happened and what the tape showed.
Goodell was asked multiple times what exactly did Rice tell him that was different from the footage, Goodell wouldn’t elaborate, arguing he couldn’t because of the appeals process. That prompted numerous media members in the audience to audibly groan and even shout their own questions at the podium.
When a TMZ Sports reporter asked how they were able to obtain the Ray Rice elevator video “with just one phone call,” while the NFL, with all its legal prowess was reportedly not able to, Goodell got defensive: “I can’t explain how you got the information, only you can.”
Goodell again defended his job and said he hasn’t thought about resigning. “I understand when people are critical of my performance.” When he was asked why he should remain as commissioner – at a time when numerous public officials have called for him to step down – he said, “Because I acknowledge my mistake.”