By Andrew McLemore
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, facing widespread criticism for his handling of several recent domestic violence incidents among players, spent a couple of hours Saturday evening speaking with staffers at the National Domestic Violence Hotline just west of Austin.
The embattled leader of the NFL declined to answer questions on his way into the call center, and the center didn’t allow reporters inside.
A spokeswoman for the center said Goodell was there to observe and learn about how the organization helps victims of domestic violence by connecting them with shelters and other local resources.
“This is not something that’s been in the works for months and months,” spokeswoman Lisa Lawrence said of the visit.
Goodell pledged last week to provide long-term financial support to the hotline, where calls shot up 84 percent the week that the now-infamous video was released showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancée in an elevator.
More than half of those calls went unanswered due to a lack of staff.
The national hotline, based in West Lake Hills, has long been short-staffed — but that’s changing with the new NFL funding.
In a letter sent Friday to league executives and team owners, Goodell said the NFL’s recent donations allowed the National Domestic Violence Hotline to hire 10 full-time staffers, with 10 more to be hired by the end of next week.
“Recent domestic violence incidents involving NFL players pushed the capacity of our organization to unprecedented levels,” said Katie Ray-Jones, the hotline’s president and chief executive officer, in a statement.
“Because of this long-term commitment by the NFL to provide the hotline with much-needed resources, our services will finally be accessible to all those who need us when they bravely take the first step to find safety and live a life free of abuse.”