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NFL Creates Team of Four Women to Combat Domestic Violence

The league has put a female executive in charge of "social responsibility" and hired three women who are domestic violence and sexual assault experts.
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The NFL has tapped one of its female executives to run a "social responsibility" team and hired three domestic violence and sex crimes experts — including a former New York City prosecutor — as advisers.

The initiative — announced as the league faces a public-relations nightmare from the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson scandals — will be headed by Anna Isaacson, a community affairs vice president.

She will be assisted by three outsiders: Lisa Friel, former head of sex-crimes prosecution for the Manhattan district attorney; Jane Randel, co-founder of NO MORE, an advocacy group focusing on domestic violence and sexual assault; and Rita Smith, the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

A leader of the women's group UltraViolet called the move "too little too late."

"Advisers are a fine first step," said Nita Chaudhary. "But they NFL still has an incredibly long way to go before it proves to the public it takes domestic violence and sexual assault seriously.

"This just looks like Crisis Communications 101," said Chaudhary, who is pushing for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to get the boot.

In a statement Monday, Goodell said Friel will play a key role on the team: looking into allegations of domestic and sexual violence and advising him and his staff on discipline.

She spent 28 years as a prosecutor and was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit for a decade. She was featured in a 2011 HBO documentary about the unit.

Friel abruptly left the DA's office during a turbulent period in 2011 and joined a private investigation firm, where she has worked with a string of universities on sexual abuse probes and policies.

"If you asked me who on earth you should get to advise the NFL on sex crimes, I would have said her," said Matthew Galluzzo, a Manhattan defense lawyer who worked for Friel in the DA's office.

"I think she's smart. I think she's tough. I think she's fair," he added. "She's very dynamic in a courtroom. She's one of those people who is charismatic but not flashy. She's all business when she gets out there."

While Friel will be involved in individual cases, Randel and Smith will have a broader role — focusing on policy-making and education.

"We are continuing to develop our organization to strengthen our ability to address the wide range of issues we face and other changes in our office will be announced soon," Goodell, who is facing calls to step down, said in a statement on Monday.

"Our goal is to make a real difference on these and other issues. We know that we will be judged by our actions and their effectiveness."

University of Notre Dame professor Clark Power, who specializes in moral development, said it's clear the NFL needs advice, but noted that the "social responsibility" plan comes as the Vikings decided to let Peterson play next weekend and team owners expressed support for Goodell.

"I’m tempted to say this is window-dressing," Power said of the initiative. "But I hope it isn’t."