With an intense year of criticism about his job performance, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he and the league are focusing on how they can do better.
Goodell has come under scrutiny for the league’s mishandling of the Ray Rice suspension, is involved in a lawsuit from Adrian Peterson’s suspension and has come under fire about questionable information stemming from the DeflateGate scandal involving Tom Brady.
“We always set a high bar for ourselves. That’s important for us and when we don’t hit it, we admit it and we do better,” Goodell said this week. “I think what we have focused on is, ‘How do we continue to do better?’ We’ve made changes to the way we operate, our personal conduct policy, brought in expertise that have helped us make better decisions, and we continue to operate our league. We try to do that with getting better, growing and trying to address matters that are important to our league. Time doesn’t stand still on us.”
With all the criticism that comes with the job – and Goodell can find plenty of critics in all corners of the football-loving country – fans appear to be losing trust in his decision-making and players have been critical of his authority.
However, Goodell feels emboldened by the authority ownership around the league has given him.
“When the ownership instills in the commissioner, and he negotiated that with the union and the collective bargaining agreement, the authority of the commissioner is to protect the integrity of the game and in particular the personal conduct policy outside of that,” Goodell said. “So those are very important initiatives. That’s my job, it’s my responsibility. I take it seriously, the ownership knows that. We have rules in place to protect the integrity of the game and all 32 teams and we enforce those.”
Brady’s role or knowledge of balls that didn’t meet inflation standards by the NFL rulebook in the AFC Championship Game is just the latest highly publicized controversy surrounding the NFL and Goodell. The league’s report on DeflateGate has been met with skepticism.
Judge Richard L. Berman pressed NFL attorneys on Wednesday to provide proof that Brady had direct knowledge of the footballs being deflated in the conference championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. But the information the NFL provided with its investigation by Ted Wells has also been called out, leaving Goodell to either defend the process or deflect the criticism this week.
“First and foremost, we went to an independent investigation that week following the AFC Championship Game. All of that focus was put to Ted Wells at that point in time, in supporting him, cooperating with him fully and making sure he had any information we had. And there was no more public discussion about anything – it was Ted Wells’ investigation,” Goodell said. “He had complete discretion on the timing, the scope, the amount of time that was necessary for him, who he spoke to and we fully supported that. So we went along with that and that was ultimately the decision that he gave in May and we issued our discipline shortly thereafter and we’re in the middle of a CBA process now and now litigation.”
That litigation process started Wednesday with Brady and the NFL in court. Settlement talks were encouraged, but so far nothing – more than six months after the Patriots were crowned Super Bowl champions.
Goodell suspended Brady for four games, concluding that Brady “knew about, approved of, consented to, and provided inducements and rewards” to Patriots employees to deflate footballs. Brady claims he knew nothing about it.
No matter what happens in the Brady litigation, it’s clear the pressure and criticism is pointing more brightly on Goodell over the last year than it had previously.
And, yet, television contracts are worth billions each year and fans continue to fill stadiums and tune into games from their homes in record numbers. A Hall of Fame Game on Sunday night that didn’t feature the Pittsburgh Steelers’ four best players on offense and only one drive of the Minnesota Vikings’ starters still drew the highest preseason rating of any NFL game in five years.
“I think people expect an awful lot from us and we want to deliver that,” Goodell said. “The most important thing is the fans want to see football. That’s the best news about the time period we’re in right now. It’s all in front of us.”
Goodell can only dream his professional ratings would be that high.
Pressure, criticism mounts for Goodell
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