Roger Goodell defended the NFL's two-game suspension of Ray Rice, saying that domestic violence is "not acceptable" but emphasizing that the length of the ban is "consistent" with other punishments issued by the league.
Goodell spoke Friday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, addressing the media for the first time since the NFL announced Rice's controversial suspension last week.
"We have a very firm policy that domestic violence is not acceptable in the NFL, and there are consequences for that," the commissioner said. "Obviously, when we are going through the process of evaluating an issue and whether there will be discipline, you look at all of the facts that are available to us."
Goodell also fielded multiple questions about the widespread public reaction to the length of Rice's suspension, which has been criticized as lenient compared to other NFL suspensions for substance abuse and off-field incidents.
"We have to remain consistent," he said. "We can't just make up the discipline. It has be consistent with other cases, and it was in this matter."
Goodell was asked about the length of Rice's suspension in contrast to the four-game ban that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger received in 2010 for violating the league's personal-conduct policy.
Citing Rice's previously unblemished track record, Goodell reiterated that the NFL considers a player's history when determining the length of personal-conduct suspensions.
"If it's their first offense, someone who has had a strong background of being very responsible in the community and doing the right things and not violating either policies or anything else that would reflect poorly on the NFL, then we take that into account," Goodell said. "When there's a pattern, we also take that into account on the other side."
Goodell also dismissed the idea that Rice's ban was short compared to drug-related suspensions, which he attributed to the league's collective bargaining agreement.
"You've got to deal with the facts, OK?" he said. "Now when we have a drug program that's collectively bargained, and it has a step process, it takes four incidents before you actually reach a suspension in a drug-related case. So you have to respond to facts here.
"You know, you have a lot of people voicing their opinions, but I think it's important to understand that this is a young man who made a terrible mistake. [Rice's actions are] inconsistent with what we're all about and we've dealt with it in a serious manner and we're very confident that this young man understands where he is and what he needs to do going forward."
Rice was arrested on Feb. 15, when he allegedly struck then-fiancée Janay Palmer unconscious during an altercation at an Atlantic City hotel. Video surfaced online showing Rice dragging an apparently unconscious Palmer out of an elevator. The couple has since married.
Rice pleaded not guilty to a third-degree charge of aggravated assault and avoided trial by being accepted into a pretrial intervention program in May. The NFL announced last Thursday that Rice would be suspended for the first two games of the upcoming regular season and fined three game checks.