NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held press conference on Friday to address the league's ongoing problems with domestic violence, but expertly avoid giving any new information to a blitzing media.
It was the first time Goodell faced reporters since the Ray Rice video surfaced last week, showing Rice brutally punching his wife, then fiancée, Janay Palmer. Goodell suspended Rice indefinitely and the Baltimore Ravens terminated his contract. Since then, three more players (Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, and Jonathan Dwyer) have been investigated and faced suspensions for domestic violence incidents.
Though Goodell did have a one-on-one interview with CBS News and has offered several written statements since the news broke, this was the first formal press conference he has given. It is expected he will discuss the NFL's move to sponsor two domestic abuse aid organizations and the future of those four players, as well as take questions from the media.
A number of organizations have called for a zero tolerance policy for domestic abuse within the NFL. The policy was changed in late August so that a first offender is suspended for six games and a second offense is a permanent ban.
"At our best, the NFL sets an example that makes a positive difference," said Goodell as the conference began (fifteen minutes behind schedule.) "I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter," Goodell stressed once again. "I don't expect anyone just to take my word."
Goodell noted that he fully supports the independent investigation of NFL's handling of the Ray Rice debacle, which is being lead by former FBI director Robert Mueller. "We will do anything necessary to be sure we are thorough in our review process and that our conclusions our reliable. We will get our house in order first."
As expected, the Commissioner then went on to explain the domestic violence education program he announced earlier today in a statement to ESPN, "We are taking a number of steps. On August 28th, I said the entire NFL would receive comprehension information and resources...Everyone will participate in education sessions starting in the next month."
“It affects all of us,” the Commissioner said of domestic violence. “These are problems we are committed to addressing and we cannot solve them by ourselves,” Goodell said, adding that the NFL will rely on the support of law enforcement agencies and players families. He then continued once again with the information from the earlier released statement, noting that they will support the Domestic Violence Hotline to be sure they have the staff necessary to handle phone calls. (There was a major jump in calls since the Rice video was released, and 50 percent of them went unanswered due to understaffing.) The vast majority of his prepared speech was directly from the statement press received earlier today.
"There will be changes to our personal conduct policy. I know this because we will make it happen. Nothing is off the table. We will implement new conduct policies. We will have set, clear, transparent rules. My goal is to complete this by the Super Bowl," he continued. Goodell will establish a conduct committee "for years to come."
"I understand accountability," the Commissioner said before he began taking questions. The first question Goodell took from media members was if he would be satisfied with the NFL's response, had it been his family member who was abused. "I am not satisfied with the way we handled it. I made a mistake. I'm not satisfied with the process, I'm not satisfied with the conclusions...I'm not satisfied with what we did, I let myself down, I let everyone down," he replied.
Goodell was asked if he was willing to give up some of his decision making power when it comes to punishments: "All bets are on the table." He was also asked if he has considered resigning and said, "I have not. I understand when people are critical of our performance, but we have work to do...I am proud of the opportunity we have to try to make a difference here. We have acknowledged that we need to change what we are doing." He believes that he should not resign because, "I acknowledged my mistake." He was asked about stepping down several times by reporters, but replied that he has the support of the owners.
CNN's Rachel Nichols asked Goodell why the Atlantic City police department says they do not have a record of the NFL requesting the full Rice video from inside the elevator. Goodell replied that, "Our security department works with law enforcement, we gather almost entirely all of our information through law enforcement. That is something we are going to look at." When pressed once more, he said, "Should all of our information be gathered through law enforcement? There are some restrictions they would need to be under. We asked for [the tape] on several occasions. According to our security department. I am confident our people did that."
Another reporter asked about the inconsistency with the handling of abuse claims, as some players were terminated, whereas others are on the exempt list. "We need to change our policies and our procedures, and we need some help in our to do that. State laws are different state to state, and even local. We need to know how much reliance we should have on the law enforcement. We do not have a clear, consistent policy that will allow us to deal with all of the different issues that are arising. We need to change our policies, we need to go and get some experts."
Nichols also asked Goodell to explain what exactly Rice told him about what happened in the elevators, since Goodell has previously said that was he was told was "inconsistent" with what appeared on the second video tape. Goodell did not explain, only repeating that "It was inconsistent. There was new information that developed. That was not consistent with what he said." Goodell also recognized Rice's attempt to appeal his suspension, saying he would "respect the process." Because of this appeal, Goodell said he could not discuss the exact inconsistency from Rice's statement to the video.
Another question dealt with the voicemail given to the Associated Press that appears to prove that at least one NFL executive had seen the Ray Rice tape, contradicting Goodell assertion that no one had. "That's exactly why we hired Robert Mueller," the former FBI director who is leading the independent investigation of the NFL's handling of the Rice tape. Goodell declined to say whether Mueller had already interviewed him for the investigation.
"Do you still believe that, to the best of your knowledge, no one had seen the full video before it appeared on TMZ?," asked Sports Illustrated reporter Peter King. "Yes," Goodell replied quickly.
A number of sponsors have put out warning and disproving statements about the NFL's conduct, but have not withdrawn support yet. When asked about this, Goodell offered little information, once again dodging a question at the press conference he organized. "I have communicated with sponsors," said Goodell said, but when asked about losing specific sponsors, he said, "You'll have to speak to the sponsors about that." He avoided a question about Procter & Gamble backing away from a campaign for NFL's Breast Cancer Awareness Month. "Several sponsors have promotions in the marketplace inconsistent with what is going on here. We have said, we are going to clean up our house...They want to see us achieve that. They aren't looking for talk, they want to see action. To do the things we said we are going to do, and get it right."
And in the press conference's weirdest moment, at one point strange screams were heard off camera. They were coming from The Howard Stern Show's Benjy Bronk who was being pulled out of the press conference room, apparently after trying to interrupt the proceedings. He screamed "Don't make me get into an elevator," as he was removed from the press room by security, alluding to the Rice case. Here's Bronk getting dragged out: