The National Football League, upended by a series of domestic violence cases involving some of its players, said on Monday it had hired three women and designated a senior NFL female staffer to help shape domestic violence policies.
In a memo to the league's 32 teams, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league had retained Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith as senior advisers to "shape the NFL's policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault."
Friel was head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney's Office for over a decade. Randel is the co-founder of No More, a campaign focused on domestic violence and sexual assault. Smith is the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Friel, a 28-year prosecutor who since 2011 has been a vice president at T&M Protection Resources, will focus on the process of evaluating incidents of domestic violence or sexual assault, reported Bloomberg. Randel and Smith will oversee the development of new workplace policies and programs, and identify resources the NFL can use to address related issues.
Anna Isaacson, who served as the NFL's vice president of community affairs and philanthropy, added the role of vice president of social responsibility. She'll oversee education, training and support programs relating to domestic violence, sexual assault and "matters of respect," Goodell said.
"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," Goodell said in the memo.
"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."
The move to create an all-female squad to tackle an ongoing problem in the league comes as Goodell has been under fire for how he handled the case of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. A security camera caught Rice punching his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator, knocking his now-wife unconscious. Released by TMZ, the video went viral.
On Sunday, UltraViolet, an online community of over 500,000 women flew aerial banners calling for the resignation of Goodell at an Arizona Cardinals–New York Giants game.
Earlier in the day, President Obama's top adviser weighed in on the issue.
"The president was shocked by what he saw," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I think we all know that Ray Rice being suspended indefinitely seems to be exactly the right thing."
And last week, Goodell heard from Capitol Hill. Sixteen women senators signed a letter sent to him urging a “zero-tolerance” policy on domestic violence.
Twelve Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Goodell questioning his handling of the Rice incident, saying the NFL's high profile demands "the highest level of transparency" concerning how the league investigates allegations of misconduct.
Goodell admitted he "didn't get it right" in July when he banned Rice for two games after he knocked out his then-fiancee with one punch to the face. Only after a video of the blow surfaced last week did Baltimore release the three-time Pro Bowl running back while the league suspended him indefinitely.
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was left out of his team's game on Sunday after being arrested a day earlier and charged with injuring a child after using a switch to spank his son. The team has since reinstated Peterson.
The Carolina Panthers deactivated defensive end Greg Hardy for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions in a reversal of an earlier decision to let him play while he appeals a domestic violence conviction.
Meanwhile, Ray Rice is expected to appeal his indefinite suspension from the NFL.
Rice was released by the Baltimore Ravens this past Monday, just hours after TMZ released the video. The NFL suspended Rice indefinitely shortly after.
"We are expecting to appeal before the deadline on Tuesday night," NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah told The Associated Press.
Rice must file the appeal by 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday — three business days after the NFL officially notified the players' union of the suspension, according to ESPN.
Al Jazeera with wire services