Embattled NFL commish promises tougher domestic violence policies

NEW YORK - Embattled National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday, September 20 promised to put the sport's "house in order" amid a firestorm over the NFL's handling of off-field violence involving players.

In a bid to shore up wavering public trust after allegations of domestic violence and child abuse by players, Goodell said the league plans to set up a new personal conduct committee and draft new rules.

He said he hoped to have those in place by the season-ending Super Bowl, which takes place in early 2015, and insisted "nothing is off the table."

"We will get our house in order," Goodell told a news conference.

"The policy was not up to standard. The same mistakes can never be repeated."

Goodell accepted some personal blame but defiantly added he has not considered stepping down over the problems that have outraged NFL fans and worried sponsors – even while admitting the response by the league and individual teams had been less than ideal.

"I have not. I'm focused on doing my job," he said, insisting he had the continued support of team owners.

"Mistakes happen. I am sorry for that. We are going to get this right."

'Horrifying'

Goodell also promised transparency and accountability Friday but it has done little to lessen criticism over his handling of charges swirling around Ray Rice, the running back who helped the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title in the 2012 season.

The comments made at Friday's news conference were Goodell's first in more than a week about the crisis, and come after being bombarded with criticism over the league's slow response to the abuse cases.

The commissioner initially banned Rice for two games over a February incident in a casino elevator in which Rice knocked Janay Palmer – then his fiancee and now his wife –unconscious.

After a video showing the actual punch was posted online last month, Rice was promptly cut by the Ravens and banned from the league indefinitely by Goodell – a punishment the players' union is appealing.

"I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter," Goodell said. "So we had to go back and fix our policy."

Goodell reiterated that no one from the league had seen the Rice video when he handed out the initial punishment, which was slammed by groups working with victims of domestic violence.

"I would have loved to have seen that tape," Goodell said. "When we saw the first video, it was horrifying."

"We suspended Ray Rice originally after seeing the original video that was disclosed in February," Goodell added.

"When the second video came out last week, that's when we increased our discipline because that was inconsistent with the information we had. It was new information."

Goodell admitted errors but he also dodged a number of probing questions during the 45 minute news conference. Asked by a reporter why he didn't personally go to the casino to see the tape, Goodell avoided a direct answer, saying he didn't want to "interfere with an investigation."

He added the NFL will try to work closer with law enforcement in the future without stepping on anyone's toes.

'Tragic'

Goodell said he plans to meet with NFL Players Association director DeMaurice Smith next week to discuss the new conduct policy.

The furor over Rice was followed by similar NFL vacillation in the cases of Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy – convicted of assaulting a former girlfriend and threatening to kill her – and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who has been charged with child abuse in Texas after allegedly whipping his four-year-old son with a switch.

Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse for hitting his son with a 'switch.' File photo by Larry W. Smith/EPA

Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse for hitting his son with a 'switch.' File photo by Larry W.

Smith/EPA

The cases have put fans of the quintessentially American sport – and sponsors – on edge.

Hardy played the first game of the season for the Panthers after launching an appeal of his conviction.

The Vikings had planned to welcome Peterson back to action after he missed one game.

But amid a growing public uproar, both teams negotiated deals with their players to place them on paid leave as their legal cases proceed.

Goodell called the Peterson case "tragic," saying he was "disappointed" in the Vikings star and acknowledging: "Individuals in the league make mistakes."

In the latest case, Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested Wednesday on charges he assaulted his wife and was deactivated by the team.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller will lead an independent investigation into the NFL's handling of the Rice case, and Goodell previously announced the hiring of three domestic violence experts as senior advisers to the league.

Forbes magazine estimated in August that the average worth of the 32 NFL teams is $1.43 billion – the highest in 17 years. - Rappler.com