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As the NFL continues to deal with an ongoing domestic-violence scandal, league commissioner Roger Goodell apologized Friday for how he dealt with past incidents and vowed “the same mistakes can never be repeated.”
He also outlined plans to bring in outside experts to review the NFL’s current policies and establish a conduct committee, hopefully by the Super Bowl, that would lead to the implementation of new personal conduct policies.
The beleaguered NFL commissioner has stayed mostly silent this week despite news cycles dominated by detailed accounts of abuse.
At a news conference in New York carried live by several news and sports networks, Goodell apologized for how he dealt with the Ray Rice incident, repeating that he got that wrong and saying he’s “sorry” for both the process that he led to the decision he reached.
“Now I will get it right and do whatever’s necessary to accomplish that,” he said.
He added, “the same mistakes can never be repeated…we will get our house in order first.”
He said the league will strongly condemn and punish unacceptable behavior, including sexual assault, child abuse, irresponsible firearm handling and ownership and the illegal use of alcohol or drugs.
“These activities must be condemned and stopped, through education and discipline,” he said. “Our standards and the consequences of falling short must be clear, consistent and current.”
With respect to changes in the way the league deals with unacceptable behavior, Goodell said “nothing is off the table.” He later indicated that that could include creating more checks and balances with respect to his power over player conduct.
Still, amid calls for Goodell to resign, the commissioner said he hadn’t considered doing that and feels like he should continue in his role because he admitted that he made mistakes and is working to make changes and correct the league’s system.
“I believe in accountability. I understand the challenges before me and I will be held accountable,” he said.
Goodell also talked about the NFL’s partnership with the National Domestic Violence Hotline and National Sexual Violence Resource Center, something he announced in a letter to all 32 NFL teams on Thursday, according to reports by the Associated Press and other outlets. The league is set to provide financial, operational and promotional support to both organizations.
He said that the problems the NFL has had shows how the league can create change in society and he hopes they will be able to do that.
“We can make some changes that will be beneficial to the league long-term, and I think we can make some changes that will be positive in the domestic violence and sexual-assault areas,” Goodell said.
He closed his remarks, before taking questions from reporters, by saying, “Today I urge everyone who is part of the NFL to join me in making positive and significant changes going forward.”
In the next 30 days, all NFL and team personnel are set to participate in education sessions on domestic violence and sexual assault.
The commissioner also noted the investigation into the league’s handling of the Rice incident being conducted by former FBI director Robert Mueller and said any shortcomings Mueller finds in how the league dealt with the situation “will lead to swift action.”
Goodell was asked several specific questions about his handling of the Rice incident and other developments that have occurred over the past two weeks, including the extent to which the NFL was aware of what was on the video of the former Ravens running back punching out his then-fiancee that TMZ posted last week. But he didn’t offer many specific answers. He did continue to insist that, to the best of his knowledge, no one in the league saw the video ahead of time but that NFL reps did try to obtain it from the casino where the incident occurred.
He also said that what Rice told him about what happened between him and his fiancee in the casino elevator and what was on the video were “inconsistent.”
During the lengthy question-and-answer portion of the press conference, a brief commotion occurred with Howard Stern Show writer Benjy Bronk appearing to be escorted out of the room as he shouted that he didn’t want to go.
Goodell’s last major TV interview about the scandal, with Norah O’Donnell, aired Sept. 10 on CBS, the network that previously acquired the rights to air several Thursday Night Football games.
Less than a day after the interview, the Associated Press published a report that seemed to contradict Goodell’s claims that the NFL hadn’t seen the elevator video depicting Rice punching his then-fiancee. Things got worse for the league from there.
Since that time, media attention has shifted from Rice’s domestic violence scandal to accusations of child abuse perpetuated by Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson, domestic violence charges leveled at Cardinals’ Jonathan Dwyer and Panthers’ Greg Hardy.
Top NFL advertisers have weighed in, including Anheuser-Busch and PepsiCo, which issued strongly worded statements expressing disappointment with the league. With respect to the league’s sponsors, Goodell said Friday that he’s made it clear to them that the NFL will do better but he doesn’t think they’re close to losing a sponsor.
Despite increased media and advertiser scrutiny and calls for Goodell to resign, most in the U.S. don’t agree at this point that the commissioner needs to step down, according to an NBC News/Marist poll released on Thursday.
The poll found that 29 percent of Americans think the NFL commissioner needs to resign and 85 percent responded that the scandal “has not changed the amount” of NFL football watched.
4:46 p.m.: Update identifies Howard Stern Show writer Benjy Bronk as the man who caused a disturbance during the press conference.
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