National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday defended the league’s handling of misconduct allegations involving players off the field, including recent assault allegations against former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt.
Speaking to the media after the league’s annual winter meetings in Irving, Texas, Goodell said the league is doing an “extraordinary” job.
“We have I think some of the highest standards of any organization,” he said. “We take this seriously. We have zero tolerance for violence against women, and as a league, I think we’ve responded very quickly.”
The Chiefs released Hunt and the league placed him on the Commissioner’s Exempt List on the same day surveillance video surfaced of Hunt shoving and kicking a woman. Hunt apologized for the incident.
The league has come under fire for not acting before celebrity website TMZ posted the video. No arrests were made, and Hunt has not been charged with a crime. The league previously said that it began investigating immediately after the February 10 altercation, but was unable to get access to the hotel video.
“We don’t pay for video evidence. From our standpoint, we think that is not appropriate for a league, organization to do that,” Goodell said.
NFL Senior Vice President and Special Counsel of Conduct Todd Jones reiterated on Wednesday that the league requested the video “upfront.”
“We were aware that it was there and couldn’t get it,” Jones said. “And somebody made the decision for monetary reasons to sell it to TMZ, and that’s unfortunate. Once it’s released, then of course we reopened the investigation and it’s ongoing. There’s been no discipline imposed yet and the investigation is not complete.”
Hunt told ESPN the league did not interview him – but he admitted to lying about the incident to the Chiefs. Jones defended the decision to not speak with Hunt.
“You don’t sit down with the suspect until you have a little fuller handle on the facts, because you’ve got to be able to ask intelligent questions of them beyond, ‘Were you there and did you do anything?’” he said.
“I think that the sequencing of the interviews was appropriate given the level of the information that we had at the time then.”
Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill, who is the chairman of the league’s conduct committee and a former federal prosecutor, added that the NFL does not have subpoena power.
“The NFL, the security folks don’t have arrest powers or anything along those lines. They can only take so many steps.”