WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Women’s advocacy groups on Thursday excoriated NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s changes to the league’s personal conduct policy, saying it does not do enough to help victims and hold players who commit domestic violence accountable.
National Football League owners voted on Wednesday to accept Goodell’s revised program, hoping to stem criticism that has tarnished the league’s image.
“It’s an exercise in public relations,” National Organization for Women President Terry O’Neill told Reuters. “Roger Goodell’s idea of leadership is to fake out the public.
“And he thinks if he can fake it long enough, the spotlight on this issue will go away. That’s his whole plan.”
Under the new policy, Goodell will no longer make initial ruling in misconduct cases but will remain in charge of appeals.
Goodell’s toughened disciplinary guidelines announced in August for domestic violence were maintained: six games for a first offense and a lifetime ban, subject to review after one year, for a second.
O’Neill wants economic support for the victim and a system to correlate the danger of the offense with the length of the suspension.
“This is not one-size-fits-all,” she said. “The automatic six-game suspension might be dangerous. Where’s the commitment to the victim and the dangerousness of the situation?”
The NFL has been criticized in the past four months after being seen as soft on domestic violence following the case of Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens star who knocked out his then-fiancee and was suspended for two games. Only after video emerged of the punch, did Goodell suspend him indefinitely.
Anti-sexism group UltraViolet said Goodell “has proven time and again that he is willing to sweep domestic abuse under the rug.”
“While the (new) policy itself may be a step in the right direction, leadership matters,” it said in a statement. “And Roger Goodell is no leader.”
But USA Today national sports columnist Christine Brennan said the NFL should be applauded for the steps it has taken.
“Is there any other business on Earth focusing on domestic violence like the NFL now is?” she said to Reuters. “It’s been messy and there have been mistakes and embarrassments but the NFL is doing more than anyone to combat domestic violence.
“While it seems everyone wants to string up Roger Goodell by his fingernails, I prefer to look at what they are doing and I see a lot of positives compared to what they were doing four months ago.”
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Bill Trott