Bill Clinton Calls Out NFL for Diminishing Importance of Ray Rice Scandal

Former president says players shouldn’t be able to get away with abuse because of their positions during town hall discussion moderated by CNN’s Erin Burnett

Last Updated: September 24, 2014 @ 11:34 PM

During a town hall meeting moderated by CNN’s Erin Burnett, former president Bill Clinton spoke on a wide variety of topics, including the recent domestic violence scandal rocking the NFL. He chided the organization for diminishing the importance of the issue early on when the Ray Rice incident first came to light.

He compared it to when the NFL minimized the impact of concussions on the players, and even suggested that concussions may have increased incidents of domestic violence among professional football players. He was quick to point out that he wasn’t saying this was the situation in Rice’s case.

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“I think that people who are rich and popular because of athletics or entertainment or any other thing like that, they shouldn’t be held to an impossible standard, but they shouldn’t be exempted from the general rule that we can’t get away with abusing people because of our positions,” Clinton said.

He did say that he believes the NFL is trying to “get it right” now, and he’s rooting for them to do so. Ray Rice has been indefinitely suspended and the league has put together a task force to address their internal domestic violence policies. The NFL is taking additional steps, including funding a national domestic abuse hotline and presenting mandatory programs on domestic violence and sexual assault.

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Clinton was quick to jump to the defense of all the other players in the league, reminding people to not judge the whole based on the actions of a few. ” I know a lot of those players who are good husbands and good fathers and who do a lot of the work that we do here,” he said, referring to his work with the Clinton Global Initiative. “I think it’s really important that people not judge the whole league based on this and that we wait to see what happens in this case.”

He pointed out, albeit carefully, that the country needs to find a way to make something good happen as a result of this. The video brings home the reality of what those who’ve suffered domestic violence are all too familiar with, while perhaps shedding an uncomfortable light on it for those who do not have first-hand experience with it.

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He emphasized that good people can lose their self-control and that there are options for them to seek help as well. “We should be trying to help people get beyond this,” he said of those who have lashed out. “And then if they can’t, there should be consequences.”

Watch President Clinton’s entire discussion on the subject with CNN’s Erin Burnett in the video above.