Roger Goodell hosted a press conference today at 3:00 Eastern on the NFL’s handling of domestic violence and player discipline. He admitted that he fumbled the issue, saying “I got it wrong on the handling of the Ray Rice matter, and I’m sorry for that.”
In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a recap of the situation. Ray Rice, running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was caught on video dragging his unconscious fiance from an elevator. It spurred a nationwide debate on domestic violence in general, with Janay Rice, nee Palmer, marrying him and continuing to defend him publicly in a sad display of what often happens when a woman is in an abusive relationship.
The league then suspended Rice for two games, less than the typical punishment that players receive for lesser crimes, such as marijuana use. A furor erupted and a second video was released showing the knockout punch Rice delivered to Palmer in the elevator. The Ravens then released Rice and the league suspended him indefinitely. Goodell maintains that the second video was not seen at that time. Goodell then appointed a task force and changed the rules regarding domestic violence and drug use.
Today the commissioner decided to address the press and the public in the latest chapter in the saga. He accepted much of the blame, saying “I got it wrong on a number of levels, from the process I led to the decisions that I reached. But now I will get it right.”
The press conference itself was interrupted by a spectator raising a ruckus near the stage around 3:45. He was shouting “don’t take me to an elevator!” as security hauled him away. Goodell looked on and said he had nothing to do with that.
For his part, Goodell has dropped his defensive stance and is saying that he is going to take as many steps as possible, which include partnering with the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
He still was unwilling to admit that the league saw the second video before it went public, stating only that they did not have access and did not want to interfere with a criminal investigation.
It seems the league is finally taking some positive action, though it will do nothing for those who wish to stay in the abusive relationships as Janay Palmer has done. Ray Rice will pay the price professionally, and will be a pariah in many circles for years to come. But as other celebrities, like Chris Brown and Doctor Dre. Even current and former players, though they have served their time, have seemingly been welcomed back into the league despite the awful things they did, such as Ray Lewis and Michael Vick.
It’s a step in the right direction, Mr. Goodell, but the league has a long way to go.