Sen. Gillibrand: If NFL Doesn't Police Itself, Congress Will Be Looking More Into It

Melanie Arter | September 15, 2014 | 11:25am EDT
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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) (AP File Photo)

( – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) signaled on Sunday that Congress may hold hearings on the NFL’s handling of domestic abuse in light of the Ray Rice case,  if the league does not “police” itself.

“If the NFL doesn't police themselves, then we will be looking more into it. We will -- I wouldn't be surprised if we have hearings,” she said in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice was fired from the team and suspended indefinitely by the league after a video surfaced showing Rice punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in the face in an Atlantic City casino elevator in February. After the incident, Rice was charged with 3rd degree aggravated assault but avoided jail time by entering a pretrial intervention program.

Video first surfaced showing the aftermath of the incident – Rice dragging Palmer from the elevator. At the time, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell only suspended Rice for two games, but then changed the league’s personal conduct policy regarding domestic abuse or sexual assault, saying the first offense would mean a six-game suspension, and the second offense would mean an indefinite ban.

After the second version of the video surfaced last week – showing the assault inside the elevator, Goodell said he did not see it until last Monday, after TMZ Sports released it. The NFL announced last week that former FBI Director Robert Mueller will lead an independent inquiry into the league’s investigation and how it gathered evidence in the case, CNN reported Thursday.

Goodell told CBS that what he saw on the video was “inconsistent” with what Rice told him happened on the elevator. Several unnamed sources said Rice told Goodell he punched Palmer, according to ESPN.

Gillibrand, one of 16 senators who have called on Goodell to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on domestic violence in the NFL, said the way the league handled the incident was “awful.”

“It was outrageous. They had all the facts they needed. They had a player who admitted to beating his wife. They had video of him dragging her out of an elevator,” she said, adding that there was nothing left to determine. “That player should have been fired immediately. So, we are now looking to the commissioner to enforce a zero-tolerance policy.

“But the broader issue, Bob, is this institutional support, this chronic institutional support, whether it's the NFL, whether it's the U.S. military, whether it's the college campus, where the institution gathers and surrounds their star player, their golden boy, whomever it may be, without any regard for the victim and survivors, without any regard for women,” she said.

When asked whether Goodell should step down, Gillibrand said, “Initially, I want him to lead the reform to actually create and enforce a zero-tolerance policy. But the given recent debate, if he has lied, if he lied to the American people, then he has to step down, because he won't have the force of authority to change how they address these issues.”

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