Obama says NFL was 'winging it' in Rice domestic violence case

Fri Dec 12, 2014 4:22pm EST
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By Steve Ginsburg

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Friday the NFL appeared to be "winging it" in dealing with former Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice's domestic violence case but praised the league for later putting in place a new policy to handle such incidents.

The National Football League on Wednesday unveiled a tougher policy for disciplining players for off-field misconduct including violence against women in the wake of high-profile domestic violence cases involving Rice and 2012 NFL Most Valuable Player Adrian Peterson.

During an interview with ESPN Radio, Obama said he hopes the NFL's new guidelines send a "message that there's no place for that kind of behavior in society."

"When you have a privilege of playing in a sports league and people looking up to you, you've got responsibilities to the fans and your employers and you've got to be treated the way other people are treated when you do make mistakes," said Obama, a big sports fan who periodically offers his views on events in the sports world.

"And some of those mistakes are ones that are very serious where you're breaking the law," Obama added.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell faced sharp criticism for the way he dealt with Rice. Goodell initially suspended Rice for only two games after the running back was charged with aggravated assault for knocking unconscious his then-fiancée and now-wife Janay in an elevator in Atlantic City.

Only after a video emerged showing Rice punching her did Goodell suspend him indefinitely from the NFL.

"Obviously the situation that happened in the Rice family was unfortunate but it did lift up awareness that it’s a real problem that we’ve got to root out," Obama said.   Continued...

U.S. President Barack Obama answers questions at a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing