President Barack Obama on Friday said that the Ray Rice domestic violence incidence should be a "wake up call" to the NFL and other organizations, saying that the league had been “behind the curve” on domestic violence policies. But he lauded NFL leaders for putting forth new behavioral guidelines reflecting that there is "no place for that kind of behavior in society."
“Obviously, the situation that happened in the Rice family was unfortunate, but it did lift up awareness that this is a real problem,” he said on an interview on ESPN Radio. “The way it was handled also indicates that the NFL was behind the curve as a lot of institutions have been behind the curve in sending a clear message.”
“You don’t want to be winging it when something like this happens. You want to have clear policies in place,” he added. “The fact that policies have now been established, I think, will be helpful in sending a message that there’s no place for that kind of behavior in society, whether it’s in sports or anyplace else.”
The interview was one of three scheduled Friday to promote the Affordable Care Act.
Host Colin Cowherd asked Obama about instances of athletes weighing into political debates; most recently, basketball star LeBron James and his teammates donned “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts before a game to express solidarity with protests against the Eric Garner grand jury verdict.
Obama did not mention the Garner verdict specifically in his response but said that athletes should recognize that they have a platform to advocate for change.
“When you think about some of our greatest sports heroes – Mohammed Ali, Bill Russell, Arthur Ashe – they spoke out on issues that mattered at pretty critical times,” he said.
“There’s times where there are important issues out there, and for athletes to recognize that they’re citizens as well as entertainers and they’ve got a voice that’s legitimate, I think is important. I think it’s useful.”