NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admits that the league's recent failures start with him, but has no plans on resigning. In his first public appearance in more than a week, Goodell vowed to improve the NFL's personal conduct policy as it relates to domestic violence and win back the credibility that the league has lost.
"Unfortunately, over the past several weeks, we have seen all too much of the NFL doing wrong," Goodell said on Friday. "That starts with me."
With the NFL facing perhaps its most public crisis ever, Goodell had remained conspicuously absent until addressing the media in New York City on Friday. At the start of his prepared remarks, he again admitted that the NFL mishandled the domestic violence case involving former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
"I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter, and I'm sorry for that," Goodell told reporters. "But now I will get it right."
The NFL's mishandling of Rice's domestic violence case as well as its inaction in cases involving Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers and Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers has drawn widespread criticism in recent weeks. The scrutiny increased after Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted in a child abuse case. As the Vikings stumbled in their attempts to discipline Peterson, the 2012 NFL MVP, throughout the week, Goodell remained silent on the matter.
"We strongly, strongly condemn and will punish behavior that is totally unacceptable: Domestic violence, including child abuse, sexual assault, irresponsible ownership or handling of fire arms, the illegal use of alcohol or drugs. These activities must be condemned and stopped through education and discipline," Goodell said on Friday. "Our standards and the consequences of falling short must be clear, consistent and current. They must be implemented through procedures that are fair and transparent."
Acknowledging the league's failure to adequately deal with these issues, Goodell announced that changes will be made to the NFL's personal conduct policy, including the implementation of a set of transparent rules for teams and the league to follow. Goodell hopes to have these new personal conduct policies in place by the Super Bowl and will meet with NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith next week on the topic. He intends to establish a "conduct committee" to develop procedures for conduct problems.
"Nothing is off the table," Goodell said, indicating that his role in player discipline may be limited or altered going forward.
Named commissioner in 2006, Goodell became synonymous with the phrase "protecting the shield," a reference to the NFL logo, during the early years of his tenure and toughened the league's personal conduct policy in 2007. His reputation as well as the league's have been significantly tarnished since the release earlier this month of the explicit video of Rice punching his then-fiancee in an elevator at an Atlantic City casino in February. In a move widely viewed as responsive more to public outrage than player wrongdoing, the NFL upgraded Rice's initial two-game suspension to an indefinite ban just hours after the video became public. Rice has since appealed the indefinite suspension and the NFL has brought in former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III to investigate the matter, notably Goodell's contested claims about the league's access to the elevator video.
Less than a week after planes carrying "Goodell Must Go" flew over NFL stadiums, Goodell struck a defiant note when asked if he had considered resigning.
"I have not. I’m focused on doing my job, and doing the best of my ability,” Goodell responded. “I understand when people are critical of your performance, but we have a lot of work to do. That’s my focus.”