Roger Goodell announces changes in NFL to address domestic violence

NFL takes steps after Goodell's most turbulent week as commissioner after release of Rice video

Roger Goodell, coming off his most turbulent week as NFL commissioner, sent a memo to the 32 teams Monday outlining steps taken at league headquarters to address domestic violence issues.

The memo, obtained by The Times, announces the new position of vice president of social responsibility to "oversee the development of the full range of education, training and support programs relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, and matters of respect."

In addition, Goodell wrote, "we have retained the services of three senior advisors ... to help lead and shape the NFL’s policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault. 

This comes on the heels of the release of the Ray Rice video, which shows the since-fired Baltimore Ravens running back striking his wife-to-be in an elevator and knocking her unconscious. The league came under heavy criticism for initially giving Rice a two-game suspension before suspending him indefinitely, but only after the video surfaced.

The memo from Goodell reads:

From Commissioner Goodell to teams and NFL staff:

Last month, I wrote to you and our staff that our organization will continue to evolve to meet our challenges and opportunities. We are committed to developing our talent and putting the best people behind our most important priorities.

Within our office, I am pleased to announce that Anna Isaacson, currently our Vice President of Community Affairs and Philanthropy, will take on a new and expanded role as Vice President of Social Responsibility. Anna has been leading our internal work relating to how we address issues of domestic violence and related social issues.  In this new role, she will oversee the development of the full range of education, training and support programs relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, and matters of respect with the goal of accelerating our implementation of the commitments made in my letter of August 28.

Anna has devoted considerable attention to these issues in recent years and has developed strong relationships with both outside organizations and your staffs.  Along with Director of Player Engagement and Education Deana Garner, Anna will lead our cross-organizational teams of employees in implementing these programs.  We will work closely with your community relations, human resources and player engagement teams to implement programs in a way that is effective and beneficial for your own employees, their families and your communities.  Needless to say, our entire office will be accountable for the success of these efforts and Anna and her team will have my full support. 

In addition, because domestic violence and sexual assault are broad societal issues, we have engaged leading experts to provide specialized advice and guidance in ensuring that the NFL’s programs reflect the most current and effective approaches. 

Specifically, we have retained the services of three senior advisors – Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith – to help lead and shape the NFL’s policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault.  Each brings special knowledge and experience in these issues and will ensure that our efforts reflect the professionalism that should characterize everything the NFL does.

Lisa Friel was the head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney’s Office for more than a decade, where she investigated and prosecuted cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, human trafficking, and other similar forms of misconduct. 

Jane Randel is the co-founder of NO MORE, a national initiative to raise the profile of and normalize the conversation about domestic violence and sexual assault.

Rita Smith is the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Friel, Randel and Smith will work closely with me, Anna Isaacson, Deana Garner, and others in our organization on the development and implementation of the league’s policies, resources and outreach on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Friel’s emphasis will be on the evaluation process of incidents of alleged domestic violence and sexual assault.  She will advise me and our staff on disciplinary matters involving violations of law or of the Personal Conduct Policy.   

Initially, Randel and Smith will focus on:

1)    Overseeing the development and implementation of the NFL’s domestic violence/sexual assault (DV/SA) workplace policy;

2)    Building on existing training curricula and education programs for all personnel, including players and non-players;

3)    Disseminating and executing completed training programs for all 32 teams, including executives, coaches, players and staff;

4)    Identifying and managing DV/SA resources to enhance current services such as NFL Life Line and the NFL’s Employee Assistance Programs for league and club employees and their families;

5)    Identifying and disseminating information to employees and families regarding resources outside of the NFL and clubs, including local advocacy and support organizations in each NFL community.

Other leading experts, including Kim Gandy, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence; former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey; Esta Soler, founder of Futures Without Violence; and Kim Wells of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, are working with us to provide guidance on DV/SA education and policy, conduct our policy review, and identify state and local organizations throughout the country that can serve as resources for your clubs and your personnel.

The NFL also will continue to work with former NFL player Joe Ehrmann and his organization, Coach For America, and Tony Porter and his organization, A CALL TO MEN, to expand the scope of life-skills training and education for those associated with the game of football at all levels.  Ehrmann and Porter, both of whom have met with clubs as part of our annual professional development sessions, will continue to educate your personnel and communities about character, respect and professionalism.

Biographical information on Lisa Friel, Jane Randel, and Rita Smith is attached.  Anna Isaacson will reach out to clubs with next steps and additional resources, including contact information for our advisors.  Please contact us should you wish to discuss anything related to these issues.

We are continuing to develop our organization to strengthen our ability to address the wide range of issues we face and other changes in our office will be announced soon.  Our goal is to make a real difference on these and other issues.  We know that we will be judged by our actions and their effectiveness. 

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