CANTON, Ohio — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reacted Friday to critics who suggest he was too lenient toward Ray Rice, saying the two-game suspension levied against the Baltimore running back is consistent with league policy.
Speaking near the front steps leading into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Goodell said Rice has shown contrition following a February incident in which Rice was charged with aggravated assault against his then-fiancee.
Security cameras caught Rice pulling an apparently unconscious Janay Palmer out of an elevator. The couple has since married. Rice avoided a trial by entering a pre-trial diversion program in May.
“Our policy is clear on this,’’ Goodell said. “We have a very firm policy that domestic violence is not acceptable in the NFL and that there will be consequences for that. I think what’s important here is that Ray has taken responsibility for this. He’s been accountable for his actions. He recognizes he made a horrible mistake, that it is unacceptable, by his standards and by our standards.
“The criminal justice system put him in a diversionary program with no discipline, and we felt it was appropriate to have discipline, and to continue counseling programs and to continue our education work. And I was also very impressed with Ray in the sense that Ray not only is accepting this issue, and saying how it was wrong, but he’s saying, ‘I want to make a powerful difference in this area.’ He is a young man that really understands the mistake he made and he is determined to make a positive difference.’’
Goodell’s decision generated harsh criticism from some observers who suggested the league should have punished Rice more severely.
“When we make decisions we always get reactions,’’ said Goodell. “We understand that, we listen to it, and we use it to make ourselves better. We have to remain consistent. We can’t just make up the discipline. It has to be consistent with other cases, and it was in this matter.’’