President Obama spoke critically Friday of the NFL’s handling of a recent domestic violence episode.
During an interview with ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd, Obama acknowledged that league was slow to do the right when it came to disciplining former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. But Obama also said that the incident brought much-needed attention to domestic violence.
“I think the most prominent example, obviously, was the Ray Rice situation,” he told Cowherd. “I’m so glad we got more awareness about domestic violence. Obviously, the situation that happened in the Rice family was important, but it did lift up awareness that this is a real problem that we have to root out and men have to change their attitudes and their behavior.”
Rice was initially suspended only two games by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, a punishment that was assailed for its leniency. Goodell eventually responded to public pressure and instituted a tougher policy for domestic violence incidents.
The league then pulled a quick about-face in September after TMZ published surveillance footage showing Rice knocking his wife unconscious inside an Atlantic City hotel elevator.
Within hours after the video’s release, the Ravens released Rice and Goodell handed down an indefinite suspension, which was overturned by an independent arbitrator late last month.
If it seemed like Goodell and company were making it up as they went along, Obama thought so, too.
“The way it was handled also indicates that the NFL was behind the curve, as a lot of institutions have been behind the curve, in sending a clear message,” Obama said. “You don’t want to be winging it when something like this happens. You want to have clear policies in place. The fact that policies have now been established I think will be helpful in sending a message that there’s no place for that kind of behavior in society, whether it’s in sports or anyplace else.”