National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that he and his league made mistakes in handling the recent spate of domestic abuse issues, and he announced several initiatives to make sure these errors are not repeated.
"The same mistakes can never be repeated," he said. "We will get our house in order first."
The NFL will improve and enhance its programs to combat issues of domestic violence, Goodell added. The league will ask for the assistance of the players union and outside experts to aid the new programs, he said.
Goodell addressed the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy and domestic abuse issues from New York City on Friday. Women's groups and disappointed fans have been pressuring the league for weeks to take more serious action.
"These incidents demonstrate that we can use the NFL to help create change, not only in our league, but in society with respect to domestic violence and sexual assault," Goodell said.
He pledged to change current policies related to employee and player conduct and discipline so that there are "a set of clear and transparent rules." He added that he will have a committee established to oversee these changes by the Super Bowl this coming February.
The league has come under fire over the past several weeks for the actions of some of its players. As the commissioner admitted, "I'm here now because our rules, policies and procedures on personal conduct failed to ensure that this high standard is met." Still, Goodell said he never considered resigning—as some had demanded.
The commissioner said he takes personal responsibility for these changes moving forward, saying that "I believe in accountability. I understand the challenges before me, and I will be held accountable for meeting them."
Goodell, who has acted as the sole judge and jury for all disciplinary issues, would not say if he will be ceding this role, only repeating that "everything is on the table" moving forward.
In a press release response to the speech, Terry O'Neill, the president of the National Organization for Women, said that Goodell "did nothing to increase confidence in his ability to lead the NFL out of its morass."
"What Mr. Goodell doesn't seem to understand is that he should be aiming to make fundamental changes in the organization," O'Neill said. "Glaringly absent from Mr. Goodell's remarks is a commitment to conduct an independent investigation into all of the incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking on his watch."
TMZ released a video earlier this month showing former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his then-fiancee in the face while in Atlantic City in February. After news of the incident first surfaced—but there was no public visual record—Goodell punished Rice with a two-game suspension.
But after the publication of the video depicting Rice's punch, the NFL responded by banning Ray Rice indefinitely.
Goodell described an earlier Rice video—that showed his fiancee unconscious, but not the actual punch— as "horrifying," but blamed the fact that NFL policies "had fallen behind where we need them to be" for the league's original response.
In a separate incident, star Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson came under national scrutiny amid allegations of child abuse. Peterson's team suspended him until the case is resolved, and Nike has suspended his sponsorship contract.
Major sponsors, including Anheuser-Busch, have expressed their displeasure with the league's handling of the situations.
"We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season," the company said in a statement. "We are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code. We have shared our concerns and expectations with the league."
Procter & Gamble said Friday that it would be pulling its cancer initiative due to the NFL's problems.
"We've been in contact with our sponsors—several of them have promotions in the market place that are inconsistent with obviously what's going on here. And we understand that," Goodell said, answering a question from CNBC about the P&G news.