AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Facing criticism about the handling of recent abuse cases, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spent three hours Saturday night visiting the headquarters of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and getting an up-close look at the realities victims face.
Hotline CEO Katie Ray-Jones, whose organization has received a multiyear, multimillion dollar pledge of assistance from the NFL, described the private meeting as "emotional" for Goodell.
"At one point he was physically moved to tears as he heard stories from our advocates about what women were encountering, that we took today," Ray-Jones said.
Hotline officials had invited Goodell to visit the facility, which is housed in a non-descript, unmarked building in suburban Austin.
"Doing the work, as they say," was all Goodell would say when as he and several league officials walked into the building. He gave a brief wave to cameras when he stepped out of his limousine.
When he left, Goodell was flanked by two hotline staff members and refused to answer questions.
Goodell and the league have been heavily criticized over how they handled the recent suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who punched his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in the face in an elevator.
The league was criticized as not acting quickly or emphatically enough when handling domestic violence cases and Goodell has said he mishandled the Rice case.
Goodell met with 11 former players this week and was told the league must act immediately when someone is accused of domestic violence.
The hotline was created in 1996 and receives about 70 percent — just over $3 million — of its budget from the federal government and the rest from private donations.
The hotline web page said that as of 2013, the service had helped more than 3.4 million people on issues of domestic violence or dating abuse.
Ray-Jones said the hotline has seen an 84 percent spike in calls since the Rice video punch video was made public, but also noted that tens of thousands of calls go unanswered because the hotline doesn't have enough staff.
Goodell didn't listen to specific calls, but heard the stories related from the victim advocates.
Ray-Jones said Goodell did not discuss any specific policies the NFL may put in place for domestic violence.
"He mentioned they are very committed to understanding the issue further, and that he has a team of advisers who will continue to inform him on those policies," Ray-Jones said.
Initially, Goodell suspended Rice — who has since married Palmer — for two games. After criticism, Goodell announced new stiffer penalties for future domestic violence cases. After video of the punch was released, the Ravens cut Rice and Goodell suspended him indefinitely.
League and Ravens officials said they requested the video from law enforcement but were denied. ESPN and others have reported that the Ravens had a detailed description of the video shortly after Rice was arrested.
After the AP reported that the video was sent to NFL headquarters, Goodell announced that former FBI Director Robert Mueller would lead an internal investigation. That probe is ongoing, and there is no timetable for its completion.