The commissioner said he has been closely reviewing research about head injuries in football and has seen first-hand the impact concussions have made on the lives of the league's retired players.
"I couldn't in good conscience continue to keep selling this sport and encouraging its growth, especially not among young people," said Goodell. "So at the Super Bowl I called all of the owners together and we put our status as business men aside and decided to take it upon ourselves to shut down the game. We did the right thing morally. I'm proud of us and I think history will show that what we are doing is right."
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones later took the podium and echoed the commissioner's statements.
"I simply couldn't look at myself in the mirror if I continued to make even one dollar of profit from a sport that does this sort of damage," said Jones. "Who could? After all, I am a human first and a businessman second."
Goodell and the owners said they hope their decision makes it easier on parents who may have been agonizing over whether to allow their sons to play football.
"With no professional football league to aspire to, we expect that the entire sport at every level will soon wither and die," said Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney. "Parents won't have to worry about their kids playing a sport that doesn't exist."
President Obama, who recently expressed concern about the violence and injuries in football, said he fully supported the decision of the NFL.
"I know how hard it can be to make tough decisions like this, but I admire that they did what they think is right," said the president. "As a sports fan, I will miss football. But as a Chicago Bears fan, this will save me from a lot of disappointment."