Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: NFL's handling of Ray Rice was "outrageous"

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, discusses the domestic violence controversy facing the NFL and her new book, which has sparked a discussion about sexism in the workplace
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, discusse... 03:56

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said the way the NFL handled a case of domestic violence by former Baltimore Ravens' running back Ray Rice was "outrageous."

Rice was released by the Ravens and suspended indefinitely by the league after a video surfaced last week showing him punching his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer.

"I think the way the NFL handled this was awful. It was outrageous," Gillibrand said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday. "They had all the facts they needed. They had a player who admitted to beating his wife. They had video of him dragging her out an elevator. There was nothing left to determine. That player should've been fired immediately."

Gillibrand is one of 16 female senators who wrote to Goodell last week saying the NFL needs a "zero-tolerance" policy for players who commit violent acts against women.

"We were shocked and disgusted by the images we saw this week of one of your players violently assaulting his now-wife and knocking her unconscious, and at new reports that the NFL may have received this video months ago," the senators wrote in the letter. "Tragically, this is not the only case of an NFL player allegedly assaulting a woman even within the last year."

Asked whether Gillibrand believes that Goodell should step down, she said she initially wanted him to "lead the reform to actually create and enforce a zero-tolerance policy."

"But, given the recent debate, you know, if he lied, if he lied to the American people, then he has to step down because he won't have the force of authority to change how they address these issues," Gillibrand said.

Goodell told CBS News' Norah O'Donnell last week that the NFL had never seen the video of Rice punching his wife, even though they had seen an earlier tape of him dragging her unconscious body out of an elevator. But Goodell's claim has raised doubts because a law enforcement official told the Associated Press he sent the video to the league five months ago.

Gillibrand said that if the NFL "doesn't police themselves," Congress will look into the issue and possibly hold hearings on it.

She said that beyond the Rice incident, there is a broader issue of "chronic institutional support, whether it's the NFL, whether it's the U.S. military, whether it's the college campus, where the institution gathers and surrounds their star player, their golden boy, whomever it may be, without any regard for the victim and survivors."

She recently authored a book, "Off the Sidelines," that she describes as a "call to action" for women to speak out on issues that are important to them. She cites as examples her own mother, who was one of just three women in her law school class, and her grandmother, who was very involved in politics.

"I cite those examples because I want to use them as a way to bring in the reader to understand that their voices matter. The way they see the world may be different. And if they're not being heard, whether it's the halls of Congress or at the PTA meeting, outcomes won't be as strong. And if they do speak up and are heard, they can make things better," she said.

She also addressed some passages she included in her book where she detailed an endless string of comments from her fellow politicians after she gained weight following the birth of her second son in 2008.

"I want that young reader to say, 'Huh, well, that happened to me,'" Gillibrand said, recounting other comments that were made about her haircut rather than her work when she was a young lawyer. "And I want her to say, 'Well, you know what? I'm going to push on. And not only am I going to, you know, make partner, but I'm going to change the way this company does business and change their climate.' I want women to feel empowered and to have that sense that they're not alone. These things happen everywhere."

  • Rebecca Kaplan On Twitter»

    Rebecca Kaplan covers Congress for CBS News.