Commissioner Roger Goodell broke his public silence yesterday by apologizing for the National Football League's handling of recent incidents of domestic violence involving several players and vowed to do better moving forward. Goodell also said he has not considered resigning amid the controversy.
"I'm not satisfied with what we did," he said at a Manhattan news conference that capped a week of harsh public criticism of the league, its teams and its players.
"I let myself down. I let everyone else down, and for that I'm sorry. We can't continue to operate like this."
Goodell announced several initiatives aimed at improving the NFL's performance, including the implementation of a new personal conduct policy before the Super Bowl in early February. Goodell did not offer many specifics about how policy would change.
Goodell said he did not consider stepping down during the firestorm of public outcry over the behavior of NFL players. He also said he believes he has the support of the league's owners, who employ him. "That has been clear to me," he said.
After Friday's news conference, the National Organization for Women reiterated the call it made last week for Goodell to resign, saying Goodell "did nothing to increase confidence in his ability to lead the NFL out of its morass."
Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton said in a CNN interview that the league is trying to cover up a wider problem while protecting its star players.
"[Fans] should start writing letters, writing emails, and stop going to games," said Tarkenton, who called Friday's news conference "the most whitewashed press conference I've ever seen."
During a lengthy opening statement, Goodell said, "Unfortunately, over the past several weeks, we have seen all too much of the NFL doing wrong. That starts with me."
On Sept. 8, TMZ released a video that showed Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancee (now wife) Janay Palmer in the face and knocking her unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator.
Rice originally was suspended for two games, a punishment Goodell admitted in late August was too light. He reiterated that stance Friday, saying, "I got it wrong on a number of levels -- from the process that I led to the decisions that I reached."
After the video surfaced, the Ravens released Rice and Goodell amended his punishment to an indefinite ban. He would not say whether any women were involved in making the original discipline decision, but he acknowledged, "We didn't have the right voices at the table." Rice appealed the NFL's suspension.
That Friday, Adrian Peterson, a star running back for the Minnesota Vikings, was indicted in connection with injuries his 4-year-old son sustained while Peterson was disciplining him. He since has been placed on a special commissioner's list, allowing him to continue to be paid while he sits out.
The NFL hired former FBI director Robert Mueller III to conduct an investigation of the Rice affair, including an Associated Press report that someone inside the NFL received a copy of the Rice video. Goodell has repeatedly denied that neither he nor anyone at the league office saw the Rice video before it was posted by TMZ.
When asked by a TMZ reporter why the NFL could not get the video, Goodell did not answer. "We got it with one phone call," the reporter said. "You have a whole department."
The commissioner vowed the league will be a positive force in addressing domestic violence and sexual assault, including new partnerships with the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. But he acknowledged the league faces "complex issues" surrounding discipline as players' cases work their ways through the legal system. "Everyone deserves a fair process," he said.
Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer have been sidelined by their teams after alleged incidents of domestic violence while San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald continues to play while being investigated on suspicion of domestic violence.
A number of prominent league sponsors -- Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Visa, Nike and McDonald's -- have expressed their concern in recent days. On Friday, Procter & Gamble's Crest toothpaste brand pulled out of a planned on-field promotion with the league for breast cancer awareness.
Goodell said no sponsors have left the NFL altogether, but he said he has had discussions with them this week to reassure them the league will take action.
"I disappointed our fans, our partners," Goodell said. "We need to do better."