The NFL has found itself in the middle of yet another off-the-field controversy this week, surrounding the league’s growing problem with domestic violence. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave his first interview in the wake of a video that showed former Baltimore Ravens running back striking his then-fiance Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino in February.
CBS’ Norah O’Donnell asked Goodell point blank if the league has a problem with domestic violence. “Absolutely. We're saying we have a problem,” Goodell told O’Donnell during an interview that aired on CBS This Morning. “We have one incident, that's a problem.”
The NFL commissioner has found himself under the white-hot light of media scrutiny ever since his initial two-game suspension of Rice for knocking Palmer unconscious at that casino. That light only burned brighter on Goodell when TMZ released a video on Monday that showed Rice striking Palmer in the elevator of that hotel.
O’Donnell asked Goodell if anyone in the league had seen the tape before Monday, and the commissioner reiterated the league’s stance that nobody had seen it until TMZ posted it. “We were not granted that. We were told that was not something we would have access to.” When O’Donnell followed that, considering the league’s numerous resources, many find that hard to believe, Goodell stated: “Well, that's a fact.”
The league has been taken to task for its perceived light stance on the very serious issue of domestic violence; two other players – San Francisco 49ers’ Ray McDonald and Carolina Panthers’ Greg Hardy – have also been arrested and could face discipline for domestic violence.
“What we have is young men that are going to be unfortunately involved in this if we don't provide the right resources,” Goodell stated. “One case is too many.”
He pointed to the league’s newly implemented policy on domestic violence that calls for a six-game suspension for first offenders, followed by a lifetime ban (though the policy has a few loopholes for ‘mitigating factors’ and the length of suspensions can be altered for various reasons).
The NFL – and professional sports in general – is known to give out second, and sometimes third, chances to athletes who have run afoul of the law. The most notable example of that is Michael Vick, who returned to the league following a two-year prison sentence for his role in a dog-fighting ring. Vick is still employed by an NFL team.
O’Donnell asked Goodell whether or not Rice would ever be afforded the opportunity to play the NFL again. “I don't rule that out,” he said. “But he would have to make sure that we are fully confident that he is addressing this issue.” When asked what exactly it would take for the suspension to be lifted, he said that was not a priority for him at the moment.
“I think the focus is he's got a lot of work to do, the family has a lot of work to do,” he said. “We're going to obviously provide whatever resources we can to help them work through that.”
O’Donnell ended the interview by asking the commissioner if he feels that his job is in jeopardy; this week numerous media personalities including Keith Olbermann have called for Goodell to resign his post. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) told political website The Hill that Goodell should “consider it seriously.”
“No,” Goodell responded when asked if he felt his job is on the line. “I'm used to criticism. I'm used to that.”