NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to teams responding to criticism and speculation surrounding the Ray Rice suspension and the video showing the running back striking his wife in a casino elevator.
Goodell says in the memo the league had not seen the video from inside the elevator of an Atlantic City casino, which shows Rice knocking then-fiancee Janay Palmer off her feet with a punch to her head, because it legally couldn't obtain it.
"First, we did not see video of what took place inside the elevator until it was publicly released on Monday," Goodell says. "When the new video evidence became available, we acted promptly and imposed an indefinite suspension on Mr. Rice."
Goodell says the league, on numerous occasions, asked various different law enforcement authorities for the video, but was denied because those agencies were not permitted to share the video.
"The requests were first made in February following the incident, and were again made following Mr. Rice's entry into the pre-trial diversion program," Goodell says. "As is customary in disciplinary cases, the suspension imposed on Mr. Rice in July was based on the information available to us at that time."
According to Goodell, the league didn't ask the Revel Casino -- where the incident took place -- for the video because it would not have been allowed to share it anyway and would have put anyone who shared the video with the league in legal trouble.
"Moreover, our longstanding policy in matters like this -- where there is a criminal investigation being directed by law enforcement and prosecutors -- is to cooperate with law enforcement and take no action to interfere with the criminal justice system," Goodell says in the letter.
"In addition, in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation, information obtained outside of law enforcement that has not been tested by prosecutors or by the court system is not necessarily a reliable basis for imposing league discipline."
Goodell reiterated that the league has since installed significant penalties for domestic violence and sexual assault offenders and will continue to treat these matters seriously.
"As always, we will continuously examine our procedures," Goodell said. "I also know that we will be judged on our actions going forward. I am confident that those actions will demonstrate our commitment to address this issue seriously and effectively, and will reflect well on the NFL, all member clubs, and everyone who is a part of our league."
The National Organization for Women (NOW) has asked Goodell to resign and started an online petition for visitors to sign in support.
NOW president Terry O'Neill said in a statement, "The NFL has lost its way."
"It doesn't have a Ray Rice problem; it has a violence against women problem," she said, also pointing to the conviction of Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy for assaulting his former girlfriend and to a lawsuit accusing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of sexual assault.
"The only workable solution is for Roger Goodell to resign, and for his successor to appoint an independent investigator with full authority to gather factual data about domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking within the NFL community, and to recommend real and lasting reforms,"
The political website TheHill.com quoted Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) as saying Goodell should resign.
"I think he should consider it seriously," Heitkamp told the website.
Goodell has been commissioner of the NFL since Sept. 1, 2006.