NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday vowed to deal with future domestic violence issues in his league “firmly, consistently, quickly.”
“This is a societal problem,” Goodell told NBC News in an exclusive interview. “People in society are dealing with this, and, unfortunately, it’s a hidden secret.”
The commissioner — who came under fire in the media for the way he handled the Ray Rice elevator assault incident — added that going forward, the league will internally investigate domestic violence allegations itself, as opposed to waiting for the criminal justice system.
“We would like to prevent these incidents from occurring,” Goodell said. “When they do occur, they have to be dealt with firmly, consistently, quickly. And we also need to make sure that we’re doing the right things for the victims and the survivors.”
That change is part of a larger league policy shift, which was also announced on Wednesday.
Part of the tougher disciplinary policy approved by the owners calls for a suspension of six games without pay for violations involving domestic violence or child abuse, which was announced in August.
Under the new system, Goodell will retain authority to rule on appeals, with the option of consulting a panel of experts. The NFL players union released a statement on Wednesday saying it had been denied the “professional courtesy” of seeing the new policy before it was announced, according to NBC.
“Their unilateral decision and conduct today is the only thing that has been consistent over the past few months,” the union said.
In addition to Rice punching out his fiancée in a casino elevator, an even bigger star running back, Adrian Peterson, was charged with child abuse this season.
Goodell had suspended Rice for two games after his arrest, then indefinitely after the security footage became public. An arbitrator ordered Rice reinstated last month. Peterson is currently suspended, though he expects a ruling on his appeal this week. Unlike Rice, Peterson is still under contract with his team, the Minnesota Vikings.
In the NBC News interview, Goodell admitted that “of course” he had made mistakes in handling the Rice scandal. He also stressed that the problem was bigger than the NFL, NBC News told the press ahead of the conversation’s airing.