The NFL will deal with domestic violence cases “firmly, consistently, quickly,” Commissioner Roger Goodell pledged Wednesday in an exclusive interview with NBC News just minutes after league owners approved a tougher disciplinary policy.
Goodell said that the league would investigate domestic violence allegations itself — without waiting for the criminal justice system.
“We would like to prevent these incidents from occurring,” Goodell said. “When they do occur, they have to be dealt with firmly, consistently, quickly. And we also need to make sure that we’re doing the right things for the victims and the survivors.”
The NFL has struggled this year with the gravest scandal in its history. One of its stars, Ray Rice, was videotaped knocking out his fiancée in a casino elevator, and another, Adrian Peterson, was charged with child abuse.
Goodell himself has been widely criticized for holding too much power in the disciplinary process and for applying it inconsistently.
He suspended Rice for two games after his arrest, then suspended him indefinitely after the video became public. An arbitrator ordered Rice reinstated last month, ruling that Goodell had abused his discretion.
The tougher disciplinary policy approved by the owners Wednesday calls for a suspension of six games without pay for violations involving domestic violence or child abuse. Goodell had announced that step in August.
Goodell will retain authority to rule on appeals, with the option of consulting a panel of experts. The NFL players union quickly put out a statement Wednesday saying it had been denied the “professional courtesy” of seeing the new policy before it was announced.
“Their unilateral decision and conduct today is the only thing that has been consistent over the past few months,” the union said.
In the NBC News interview, Goodell said that “of course” he had made mistakes in handling the Rice scandal. He also stressed that the problem was bigger than the NFL.
“This is a societal problem,” he said. “People in society are dealing with this, and, unfortunately, it’s a hidden secret.”
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