Roger Goodell continued to show that he’s inept in handling numerous scandals that are inflicting the National Football League during what was a disastrous press conference with the media on Friday.
Speaking publicly for the first time in 10 days, the commissioner continued to skirt the issues that has placed the league under the microscope of the general public, the White House itself included.
While announcing he “didn’t get it right,” Goodell decided to focus on the future without even really attempting to broach what has gotten the league in the hot water that we see today.
We know you didn’t get it right, Mr. Goodell. That’s not really the point of contention here. We want answers to the questions, most of them legitimate, about exactly where and how the league failed.
At our best, the NFL sets an example that makes a positive difference. Unfortunately, over the past several weeks we have seen all too much of the NFL doing wrong.
Why did it take nearly three weeks for Goodell address this simple point and make a public statement about how the NFL continues to respond to the growing controversy? Does he believe he is held to a higher standard than executives of other multi billion dollar companies who would have been thrown to the wolves had they acted with the same impropriety we have seen from Goodell himself since the beginning of August and quite obviously before that? Silence was never your friend here, Mr. Goodell.
Instead of addressing the common issues that many have brought to light in the previous few weeks, Goodell continued to expand on the rhetoric that came with the start of the press conference.
That starts with me.
Again Mr. Goodell, you are the commissioner of the league. We already know that the issues that have surrounded the league office start with the commissioner of the league itself.
I said this before, back on August 28 (one of the few dozen times he brought up that date). And I say it again now. I got it wrong in the handling of the Ray Rice matter. And I am sorry for that. I got it wrong on a number of letters. From the process that I led, to the decision that I reached.
You mean to tell us that suspending Ray Rice two games for knocking his fiancee out was the wrong decision? You mean to tell us that having the victim in this case testify to the league in the same room as the defendant was the wrong process? Go figure, Mr. Goodell.
But now I will get it right. And do whatever is necessary to accomplish that. First, I don’t expect anyone to just take my word. Last week, I asked former FBI Director Robert Mueller to conduct an independent investigation to answer the questions raised about our process in reviewing Ray Rice’s conduct.
First off, why are we to believe that Goodell will get it right after failing at every possible turn since Rice was charged with domestic violence? Secondly, Goodell seems to use the term “independent” relatively loosely here, as Turner Sports’ Rachel Nichols suggests later in the press conference when confronting Goodell about Mueller’s involvement in the matter.
RN: “Commisioner you mentioned Robert Mueller’s investigation as key to solving all of these issues. I’m not gonna sit here and discuss the integrity of the ex-director of the FBI, I can leave it as a given that he’s a man of integrity, but the law firm that he works for and will help him carry out that investigation is a law firm with extremely close ties to the NFL. You guys paid that law firm recently to help you negotiate some television deals, the president of the Ravens who will be key in this whole investigation worked at that law firm for more than 30 years. Why hire someone with even the appearance of impropriety and how do you expect this to affect everything?”
RG: “Well Rachel, I would respectfully disagree because you now are questioning the integrity of the FBI. But part of the idea of this, I guess, is to restore public trust. So even if he does a flawless investigation isn’t there an element here of your leaving the door open to doubt?”
So let’s get this straight. Goodell is convening an independent investigation headed by a member of a law firm that has financial and legal ties with the National Football League. That’s kinda like an oil lobbyist testifying in front of the Congress to indicate it’s safe to drill. What can we really expect here? Not accountability and a full report of the goings on at the league office in New York City. That’s for sure.
And it’s also important to note that the great Rachel Nichols wasn’t calling into question the integrity of the FBI, as Goodell would like us to believe. No sir, she’s calling into question your integrity as a central figure in what looks more and more like a cover-up from the top down.
Goodell’s press conference continued at a feverish pitch that included nothing more than platitudes and admission of past mistakes…mistakes a five-year old child could point out while reading Where’s Waldo.
By indicating that the league will help the National Domestic Abuse Hotline and National Sexual Violence Resource Center by “providing financial, operational and promotional support” the league took a step that was only prompted by an extensive public backlash directed its way.
Where was the league on this situation five years ago, 10 years ago? It’s been a long-standing problem in American society. And only now, when the proverbial crap has hit the fan, does the NFL decide to offer a little something to those afflicted by this growing trend in the United States.
If the league was so serious about this and not as tone deaf as it seems right now, it wouldn’t have forced Janay Palmer to testify in front of the man that assaulted her. A meeting that very likely took place after some within the NFL new full details of the situation. A meeting that acted as a primer for Janay herself to conclude publicly, with Rice on the stage at the Baltimore Ravens facility, that she somehow played a role in the attack, even as a victim.
Have any of these smart individuals with college degrees in the confines of the league office heard of battered woman syndrome? Or even just the possibility that Janay might have been afraid to tell the complete truth in front of Ray Rice? A truth that the league most likely already knew existed.
When posed with the question as to why he believes he should remain commissioner, Goodell responded…
Because I acknowledged my mistake. August 28th, I said we didn’t get this right. We are going to make changes. We made those changes (are making those changes). We have a lot more work to be done, but we are moving in a very important direction by getting expertsise to say ‘how are we doing this better?’ We are all as a society having difficulty being able to deal with this. The NFL has got to take care of this house. And that’s what my focus is. How do we do this better in the NFL? And make sure that we keep everything on the table.
You could paste this comment into a presidential debate and probably not know the difference. Acknowledging a mistake simply won’t do it, Mr. Goodell. Ignorance is not a defense in the NFL, as you stated during BountyGate. Something that Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith pointed out on Twitter.
NFL Media’s Judy Battista then raised the question about Goodell’s previous statement that Rice was ambiguous in his comments about what happened in the elevator. If you remember, Goodell indicated that only after seeing the video did the league come to the conclusion that Rice should be suspended indefinitely.
…First off, as I said, we got new information from the first time I met with him to my initial discipline, which three weeks later I acknowledged was not sufficiant. That it was clear there was an act of domestic violence, but it was inconsistent with the way he described that it happened. When we had that new information, we had the ability to say we are going to interject and we are going to take additional action.
Is the new information different than what ESPN is reporting the Baltimore Ravens received immediately after the incident in question? Does Goodell seriously believe that the public is so ignorant that we won’t question whether that piece of information wasn’t made available to the league office from the Ravens organization?
After all, Outside the Lines ran a pretty damning report about cover-ups and false media statements in a lengthy investigative piece on Friday afternoon.
Just hours after running back Ray Rice knocked out his then-fiancée with a left hook at the Revel Hotel Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the Baltimore Ravens’ director of security, Darren Sanders, reached an Atlantic City police officer by phone.
While watching surveillance video — shot from inside the elevator where Rice’s punch knocked his fiancée unconscious — the officer, who told Sanders he just happened to be a Ravens fan, described in detail to Sanders what he was seeing.
So we are to believe that the Ravens engaged in a cover-up from the National Football League itself? That’s akin to Richard Nixon telling the American public that the Republican National Committee engaged in a cover-up from him during the whole Water Gate scandal. Mr. Goodell, we are not that ignorant.
Outside the Lines continued in its report by indicting not only the Ravens organization but the league itself.
Most sources spoke with “Outside the Lines” on the condition of anonymity, citing the NFL’s just-launched, self-described independent investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the former FBI chief, which is being overseen by John Mara, the New York Giants’ owner, and Art Rooney II, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ co-owner. Mara and Rooney are close confidants of Goodell’s.
The interviews, viewed together, paint a picture of a league and a franchise whose actions — and inaction — combined to conceal — or ignore — the graphic violence of Rice’s assault. When evidence of it surfaced anyway, the NFL and the Ravens quickly shifted gears and simultaneously attempted to pin the blame on Rice and his alleged lack of truthfulness with Goodell about what had happened inside the elevator.
Isn’t this exactly the picture that Goodell unintentionally painted in the press conference? New information (which potentially wasn’t new to the NFL) was made public, at which point the league (indicating it was the first time they knew what really happened in the video) made the decision to suspend Rice indefinitely?
There is no love lost here between the media and Ray Rice. He committed a disgusting act of violence against a woman he supposedly loves. But Goodell’s comments on Friday attempt to paint Rice as a liar when all evidence points to the league itself covering up what it knew prior to TMZ releasing the video.
And for that, among many other things, Goodell has shown gross incompetence as the commissioner of the National Football League. An incompetence that threatens the very things that he spoke about on Friday. Even if Goodell didn’t knowingly mislead the public, it’s this incompetence that could very well doom the commissioner.
While Keith Olbermann and others continue to call for Goodell to resign, the commissioner himself may very well be signing his own resignation letter by continuing a tone deaf mentality that has become all to prevalent around the league over the past several weeks.
Goodell indicated on Friday that the same misakes can never be repeated. If this is true, those responsible for those mistakes must be held to account. And this doesn’t include pleading ignorance or admitting that mistakes have happened. Instead, those who committed egregious errors should be outed as the frauds they are and removed from their roles in the league.
It’s that simple. It’s gotten to that point.
And that’s my unfiltered take.
Check out Goodell’s entire press conference below.
Photo: Screen cap from press conference