After a week of unprecedented bad publicity, the NFL has hired four women to shape new policies on domestic violence and sexual assault.
The announcement was something of a mixed message, coming just moments before the Minnesota Vikings announced that Adrian Peterson, who was arrested Saturday for recklessly or negligently injuring a child, was cleared to play Sunday.
Commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement in a letter to owners, writing that the goal is “to make a real difference on these and other issues.”
Anna Isaacson, currently a league vice-president of community relations and philanthropy, assumed the additional title of vice-president of social responsibility. She will oversee initiatives aimed at raising awareness about the issues and decreasing the instances of violence. Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith were hired as senior advisers because of their experience with the issues. Friel is the former head of sex-crimes prosecution for the Manhattan district attorney; Randel is a co-founder of NO MORE, an advocacy group focusing on domestic violence and sexual assault; and Smith is former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“Anna has devoted considerable attention to these issues in recent years and has developed strong relationships with both outside organizations and your staffs,” Goodell wrote (via ESPN). “… We will work closely with your community relations, human resources and player engagement teams to implement programs in a way that is effective and beneficial for your own employees, their families and your communities.”
Here is the text of Goodell’s letter to owners (via USA Today):
From Commissioner Goodell to teams and NFL staff:
Last month, I wrote to you and our staff that our organization will continue to evolve to meet our challenges and opportunities. We are committed to developing our talent and putting the best people behind our most important priorities.
Within our office, I am pleased to announce that Anna Isaacson, currently our Vice President of Community Affairs and Philanthropy, will take on a new and expanded role as Vice President of Social Responsibility. Anna has been leading our internal work relating to how we address issues of domestic violence and related social issues. In this new role, she will oversee the development of the full range of education, training and support programs relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, and matters of respect with the goal of accelerating our implementation of the commitments made in my letter of August 28.
Anna has devoted considerable attention to these issues in recent years and has developed strong relationships with both outside organizations and your staffs. Along with Director of Player Engagement and Education Deana Garner, Anna will lead our cross-organizational teams of employees in implementing these programs. We will work closely with your community relations, human resources and player engagement teams to implement programs in a way that is effective and beneficial for your own employees, their families and your communities. Needless to say, our entire office will be accountable for the success of these efforts and Anna and her team will have my full support.
In addition, because domestic violence and sexual assault are broad societal issues, we have engaged leading experts to provide specialized advice and guidance in ensuring that the NFL’s programs reflect the most current and effective approaches.
Specifically, we have retained the services of three senior advisors – Lisa Friel, Jane Randel and Rita Smith – to help lead and shape the NFL’s policies and programs relating to domestic violence and sexual assault. Each brings special knowledge and experience in these issues and will ensure that our efforts reflect the professionalism that should characterize everything the NFL does.
Lisa Friel was the head of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit in the New York County District Attorney’s Office for more than a decade, where she investigated and prosecuted cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, human trafficking, and other similar forms of misconduct.
Jane Randel is the co-founder of NO MORE, a national initiative to raise the profile of and normalize the conversation about domestic violence and sexual assault.
Rita Smith is the former executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Friel, Randel and Smith will work closely with me, Anna Isaacson, Deana Garner, and others in our organization on the development and implementation of the league’s policies, resources and outreach on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Friel’s emphasis will be on the evaluation process of incidents of alleged domestic violence and sexual assault. She will advise me and our staff on disciplinary matters involving violations of law or of the Personal Conduct Policy.
Initially, Randel and Smith will focus on:
- Overseeing the development and implementation of the NFL’s domestic violence/sexual assault (DV/SA) workplace policy;
- Building on existing training curricula and education programs for all personnel, including players and non-players;
- Disseminating and executing completed training programs for all 32 teams, including executives, coaches, players and staff;
- Identifying and managing DV/SA resources to enhance current services such as NFL Life Line and the NFL’s Employee Assistance Programs for league and club employees and their families;
- Identifying and disseminating information to employees and families regarding resources outside of the NFL and clubs, including local advocacy and support organizations in each NFL community.
Other leading experts, including Kim Gandy, president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence; former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey; Esta Soler, founder of Futures Without Violence; and Kim Wells of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, are working with us to provide guidance on DV/SA education and policy, conduct our policy review, and identify state and local organizations throughout the country that can serve as resources for your clubs and your personnel.
The NFL also will continue to work with former NFL player Joe Ehrmann and his organization, Coach For America, and Tony Porter and his organization, A CALL TO MEN, to expand the scope of life-skills training and education for those associated with the game of football at all levels. Ehrmann and Porter, both of whom have met with clubs as part of our annual professional development sessions, will continue to educate your personnel and communities about character, respect and professionalism.
Biographical information on Lisa Friel, Jane Randel, and Rita Smith is attached. Anna Isaacson will reach out to clubs with next steps and additional resources, including contact information for our advisors. Please contact us should you wish to discuss anything related to these issues.
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. 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.
About Lisa Friel
Lisa M. Friel joined T&M Protection Resources in October 2011 as Vice President of the Sexual Misconduct Consulting & Investigations division following a distinguished 28-year career as a Manhattan prosecutor. Since joining T&M Protection Resources, Ms. Friel and her team have developed policies and procedures, provided training workshops and conducted sensitive investigations into issues of sexual misconduct (both sexual assault and sexual harassment), harassment, hazing and bullying for primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, athletic teams and leagues (collegiate and professional), non-profit organizations, corporations and private individuals. Ms. Friel began her professional career at the New York County District Attorney’s Office. Hired by District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau in 1983, Ms. Friel specialized in sexual assault cases for the majority of her career at the District Attorney’s Office. She was the Chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit for nearly a decade and its Deputy Chief for 11 years. Supervising more than 40 assistant district attorneys, support staff and investigators, she typically managed 300 cases and investigations at any one time. Since her first days as a prosecutor in 1983, and continuing in her tenure at T&M Protection Resources, Ms. Friel has directed thousands of investigations into allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct and has trained hundreds of law enforcement personnel throughout the world. Lawmakers in Albany and Washington repeatedly called upon her expertise to toughen laws against sexual predators, combat human trafficking, create DNA databanks and establish laws and protocols to eliminate the backlog of untested rape kits on the shelves of police departments’ evidence rooms around the country.
An instructor, educator, lecturer, and former Division 1 varsity basketball and tennis player and basketball coach, Ms. Friel has connected with diverse audiences ranging from seasoned detectives to school children, doctors to volunteer sexual assault advocates, as well as athletes and athletic personnel at all levels. She has headlined legal, sports and education conferences, has provided training to all types of audiences and has participated in numerous interviews and films addressing sexual harassment and assault, rape, stalking and domestic violence.
Ms. Friel earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Dartmouth College, graduating cum laude. At the University of Virginia School of Law, she finished in the top seven percent of her class and was awarded the Order of the Coif upon receiving her Juris Doctor. She lives in New York and is a mother of three.
About Jane Randel and NO MORE
Currently Chair of the Board of Directors of the Fifth & Pacific Foundation, Randel is a co-founder of NO MORE, a national initiative intended to raise the profile of and normalize the conversation about domestic violence and sexual assault. She is a member of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape/National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s Honorary Board and the immediate-past President of the Board of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence. In 2005, Ms. Randel was named one of 21 Leaders for the 21st Century by WomensEnews; in 2006, she was included on the Crain’s New York Business list of “40 under 40;” in 2009 she was honored by the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York for her work on teen dating abuse; and in 2012 she received the Hero with a Heart Award from the Joyful Heart Foundation. Ms. Randel also co-authored an award winning paper, “Coming into the Light: Intimate Partner Violence and Its Effects at Work” with Anne O’Leary-Kelly, Emily Lean, Carol Reeves of the University of Arkansas School Department of Management at the Sam M. Walton College of Business. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and lives in New Jersey with her husband and three sons.
NO MORE has been in the making since 2009 and was developed because despite the significant progress that has been made in raising awareness around these issues, they remain hidden and on the margins of public concern. Virtually every domestic violence and sexual assault prevention organization in the U.S. is behind NO MORE, along with corporate leaders, branding experts, celebrities, athletes and advocates nationwide. NO MORE was designed to unify everyone working to combat these issues in an unprecedented way – whether their focus is women and girls, men and boys, teenagers, children, minorities, rural or urban communities – as well as corporate leaders from a variety of business sectors behind one, powerful brand created to transform awareness and action. www.nomore.org.
About Rita Smith
Rita Smith began working as a crisis line advocate in a shelter for battered women and their children in Colorado in 1981. She has held numerous positions in Colorado and Florida since then in several local domestic violence and sexual assault programs and the state coalitions, including Program Supervisor and Director. She was the Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence for nearly 23 years. She has been interviewed by hundreds of newspaper reporters, appeared on many local and national radio and television news shows, including the Washington Post, USA Today, People Magazine, NPR, The Today Show, Good Morning America and Oprah Winfrey Show. She has co-authored several articles or chapters for books including a manual for attorneys working with domestic violence victims in Colorado, and an article on child custody and domestic violence published in the fall of 1997 in The Judges Journal (an American Bar Association publication). In December of 2011 she was named Distinguished Alumnus of Polk State College, and in November of 2013 she was chosen by the Association of Florida Colleges for the LeRoy Collins Lifetime Achievement Award. She believes that advocacy and social change are intricately connected, and cannot be done separately. She graduated from Polk State College in 1974 with an AA degree in Psychology. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Michigan State in 1976. She lives in Denver, Colorado.