NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Press Conference Transcript

Below is the full transcript of the press conference given by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at the New York Hilton Midtown regarding the recent abuse issues with Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson as well as overall player conduct. Questions from the press are in both with Goodell’s response immediately after…

If any of these victims had been someone you loved, would you be satisfied with the way the league has handled this crisis and what would you say to them?

I’m not satisfied with the way we’ve handled it from the get-go. As I told you, and this statement indicates, I made a mistake. I’m not satisfied with the process we went through, I’m not satisfied with the conclusions. And that’s why we came out last month and said: we’re going to make changes to our policies. We made changes to our discipline. We acknowledge the mistake, my mistake. And we said we’re going to do better moving forward. We have a set of very complex issues that we have to deal with. That’s no excuse. What we need to do is go and get some experts to help us. How do we do this better? How do we restructure our personal conduct policy? To make sure that we educate, we train, we do everything possible to kick that mark for all of us. And when don’t’ there’ll have to be consequences for that. So I’m not satisfied with what we did. I let myself down, I let everybody else down. And for that I’m sorry as I mentioned earlier. That’s what we’re going to correct and that’s what we’re going to fix.

Roger you’ve had pretty extreme unilateral power in deciding discipline. But as you’ve said a few times you’ve gotten it wrong in a few cases and that tends to happen when there’s not checks and balances. How willing are you to give up some of that power and do you think that that would be the right thing to do?

Rachel as I said in my statement, everything is on the table. We’re going to make sure that we look at every aspect of the process of how we gather information to make decision, how we make that decision and then the appeals process. All of that is on the table and all of that is important information that we want outside experts to give us some perspective on. And see if there is a better way to do it. We believe there is and we believe we need it. We can’t continue to operate like this.

Also you’ve mentioned on TV last week that you guys checked and tried to get the Ray Rice video and any information. The AC prosecutor’s office in an open records check says that they don’t have any electronic communication from the NFL asking for those kinds of documentation or the video. Can you give us sort of the trail of how you guys did that investigation so that people can know really what you put into it?

Certainly our security department works with law enforcement. They are fully cooperative. We gather almost entirely all of our information through law enforcement. And that’s something else we’re going to look at, Rachel, is that the right process? Should all of our information be gathered simply through law enforcement? We understand and respect what they go through and what job they have to do. And there are certain restrictions that they may be under.

But they’re saying they don’t have a record of you guys asking for it.

We asked for it on several occasions, according to our security department. We went through it. We asked for it on several occasions over the spring all the way through June. From February through June. So I’m confident that our people did that and so that’s something that we’ll have to discuss directly with them.

I was in Minnesota on Sunday and I saw a mother with her two kids, both wearing Adrian Peterson jerseys. And she said, “I’m conflicted about this, I don’t know what I should do. He’s their favorite player.” Obviously we had similar situation in Baltimore with Ray Rice. We’ve heard from the sponsors, they voiced. What is your message to the mother with the two kids who has Peterson jerseys and doesn’t know what to tell them?

The first thing is that we’re like the broader society in several ways. We’re like a microcosm of society. We have a lot of young men, a lot of individuals that play or coach or executives. Other individuals in the league that – they make mistakes. And that is something that, while I’m disappointed in what Adrian Peterson was involved with, we want to see the facts. But I think what we’ve seen so far is tragic – it’s hard to look at. I have two daughters who are 13. It’s very difficult to see and I think what we have to do is allow those facts to proceed. But the important message, I think for all of us as parents is that our children are going to make mistakes. They need to learn how to take responsibility and be accountable for those mistakes and deal with those. That’s something that I and my wife Jane, we work very hard on with our kids. When you make a mistake, be accountable for it.

In 2012 after Bounty-gate, you suspended Sean Payton for a year. You said “ignorance is not an excuse.” A lot of people think you’re not holding yourself to that same standard. Have you considered resigning at any point throughout this?

I have not. I’m focused on doing my job to the best of my ability. I understand when people are critical of your performance. But we have a lot of work to do that’s my focus. We’ve been busy in the last couple of weeks, we have results to show for it. We talked about some of them in my statement. But I’m proud of the opportunity that we have to try to make a difference here and do the right thing. We’ve acknowledged that we need to change what we’re doing, now we have to get to what are those changes going to be?

There’s been a lot of high-profile, high level calls for your resignation. Following up on that question, what would you say to those people? Why do you feel that you should be able to continue in this role?

Because I acknowledged my mistake. August 28th I said: “we didn’t get this right.” We’re going to make changes and are making those changes. We have a lot more work to be done but we’re moving in a very important direction by getting expertise to say how do we do this better? We’re all as a society having difficulty being able to deal with this. The NFL’s got to take care of its house as I said. That’s my focus is how do we do this better as the NFL and make sure that we keep everything on the table. We’re going to make sure that we look at every aspect from the collection of evidence to how we go through the process, to who makes the determination and what the appeal process is. We’ll make those changes that I feel will be beneficial to the league long-term. In addition, I think we can make some change and I think they’ll be positive in the domestic violence and sexual assault areas, child abuse areas. Those are things that we think we can make a big difference on at some point in time. But we’ve better get our house in order first.

You mentioned due process in your statement. Right now there is a lot of inconsistency. Ray McDonald is playing, Greg Hardy is not, Adrian Peterson is not, Jonathan Dwyer is not. You’ve got some guys on the exempt list, you’ve got some guys on the non-football illness list. Again I know you mentioned that you want to take a look at due process and when to act. That’s a bit of slippery slope. How do you plan to handle that and do you have a list of what these guys are?

You’re highlighting exactly the point, Mike. That we need to change our policies and our procedures and we need to get some help in trying to identify how to do that. We have state laws that are different from state-to-state, and even locally. We need to make sure that we have looked at when the NFL should be involved in the investigative process. We need to know how much reliance we should have on the law enforcement information. And so you’re highlighting exactly this issue which is that we aren’t – we do not have a clear and consistent policy that allows us to deal with all of the different issues that are arising and that’s why we talked last month about ‘we need to change our policies.’ We need to go and get some experts to help us deal with some of those issues that are very complex about due process and making sure that we allow our employees the opportunity to be able to defend themselves but also make sure we’re maintaining the integrity of the league and what we’re doing. We have an obligation there and we’re prepared to do that and we are going to do that.

In your interview with CBS News almost two weeks ago you said Ray Rice was ambiguous about his description about what happened in the elevator and that is why you went back and suspended him further after the video came out. What exactly did Ray Rice tell you happened in the elevator? And how did what you thought in your mind happened differ from what we saw on the video?

A couple of things. 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 sufficient. It was clear there was an act of domestic violence, but it was inconsistent with the way he described what happened. When we had that new information, we had the ability to say ‘we’re going to object and we’re going to take additional action.’ And that’s what we did. There was new information that developed because we had not seen that second tape that became public roughly 10 days or so ago and that was not consistent with what he said.

Commissioner what did he say? What did he tell you?

The one issue with this is this is now a matter of appeal. As you know the NFLPA has appealed this. So it’s a matter that is going to be taken up in the appeal. So without pre-judging or without getting into any specifics on this one I’ve got to respect the appeals process right now.

But what about transparency? You keep talking about transparency. Why not say what he said?

I’m telling you right now that it’s inconsistent with what he told us, what we saw on that video that came out roughly 10 days ago. But we have a process right now. We have an appeals process. That information will come out at some point in time.

The appeals process is not about those details, the appeals process is about multiple punishments for the same crimes. So given that fact that what he in fact did is not what the question is about.

Peter, I’m going to have to disagree with you then. That’s something that the appeals officer is going to have to determine. We had not seen all of the papers on appeals. It is a fact that there is an appeal and they may be able to raise several issues in the context of that appeal. That’s a decision that they have to make. I can’t make that.

Commissioner, you mentioned the two women’s groups that NFL will be working with, can you tell how you will be assisting them. And to follow that up, if the 32 owners had a vote today about whether or not you should keep your job, what do you think the results would be?

That’s a hypothetical which I can’t deal with. We had 20 owners in the office this week for pre-scheduled committee meetings in preparation for our league meeting next month and we are just focusing on getting our work done. We had very productive meetings with them. The first part of your question was about the different organizations. What we saw in our contact – because of the attention that was brought by the Ray Rice matter and potentially other issues coming to light – this is something that became a need for what our experts tell us was happening in the community. What is happening is that it is clear there is a need for people to seek help in all communities. That’s why they saw a spike in this. What we want to do is provide assistance to them and that was something we could do. We said to them that we want to be involved. We want to help and we will provide resources and assistance to be able to make sure that you can get the personnel there so that you can be able to answer those questions. We’re pleased to be able to do that and we should be providing that type of assistance.

The AP report about the video being sent to your office cites a voice mail where someone confirms receiving it. With that in mind how do you explain the leagues denial that they had the video?

That’s exactly why, as I mentioned in my statement, we hired Robert Mueller, the longest-serving FBI director, to make sure that Mueller and his staff go through and find as many facts as they can and they will report. It’s independent. I don’t know where he is on that. But all of that information will be something that Director Mueller will be dealing with.

You’ve been clear throughout your tenure that you would be hard on people who committed crimes. Why do you think that the domestic violence crimes, such as Ray Rice, gave you such a difficult time and maybe weren’t treated as harshly as some other crimes?

I said early on that we made a mistake in letting our standards fall below where they should be. We should have had our personal conduct policy reviewed more frequently to make the changes necessary to deal with the issues of change. We last changed that policy on a broad perspective in 2007. It’s had a positive impact on the overall number of criminal activity. But what we need to do is go back and say, ‘Okay. We are in a different age now, with different issues and different challenges. Let’s go back and figure out how to do that again.’ And then do it in a consistent and fair way.

Was there something about the domestic violence crimes – these specific ones – that made it more difficult to adjudicate them?

I think the policy itself was, again, not up to standards. The standard discipline for that was way below what it should be. When we saw the first video it was horrifying. We went through the process and we disciplined it consistent with that policy. That wasn’t sufficient, as I said. That was a mistake. We have to go back in our policy to say this isn’t sufficient discipline. We met with a variety of experts on this. We came to a conclusion of what the discipline would be, at least as a standard, with aggravating circumstances, that could allow us some flexibility. Also, we would banish on a second offense. We took a strong position saying this is not acceptable. Now we have to get back into the more difficult work. How do we understand when the NFL should get involved in a particular situation with law enforcement with the criminal justice system? And how do we make sure our policies will give us the flexibility to deal with state laws that vary from state to state and to give us the consistency so that is more simple to make those decisions on a fair consistent basis.

Do you still believe, to the best of your knowledge, that no one in the NFL office has seen the Ray Rice video before it surfaced on TMZ?


Do you believe that right now, you have the full support of all 32 owners in the NFL, backing you in what you’re doing right now?

I believe I have the support of the owners. That has been clear to me. They obviously expect us to do a better job. As I said to several people, I don’t’ like to let down anybody. It starts with myself. I hold myself to the highest possible standards. So when I make a mistake or I don’t get something right, it bother me more than anybody. I think the owners have seen that in me. I think they know that we have always tried to do the right thing. Mistakes happen and I’m sorry for that. We’re going to get this right.

You’ve announced a new personal conduct committee. What will your role be with that? Are you reducing your role or your power in these kinds of cases by having that committee?

We will have to develop it further to see who will be on it and whether we will have outside expertise that will join that. It’s really about what are the standards and what’s the conduct we want in the NFL. How do we want to represent ourselves and what’s important to us as a league? We want to make sure that we are holding ourselves to that standard and maybe exceed it. That’s the right thing, we want to exceed every single standard we set. That’s what I expect this conduct committee to do. Similar to the competition committee, how do we improve everything we are doing? Evaluate it on a regular basis. If our personal conduct policy needs to be changed and updated we need to do that and I expect that the conduct committee would do that.

A number of corporate sponsors have put our disapproving statements in the last week. How many difficult conversations have you had with your business partners and how many have suggested that if things did not improve they would pull out and did you specifically talk to Anheuser Bush. Who put out a specifically disapproving comment?

It starts with myself. I am disappointed in myself. I disappointed our fans, our partners and we need to do better. I made that clear on August 28th to our ownership. And I’ve made it clear since. I made it clear to sponsors directly that we are going to do better in this area. There are things that we need to clean up in our house and make sure that we get right and we will. And we will make a difference in this area. Now we have to deliver.

Were you close to losing a sponsor?

You’ll have to speak to the sponsors about that. I don’t believe so. No.

Just to piggy back off of that question. What are your thoughts that Procter and Gamble pulled its sponsorship plug today?

We’ve been in contact with our sponsors. Several of them have promotions in the marketplace that are inconsistent with what’s going on here and we understand that. What we said is that we are going to clean up our house. We are going to get this straight and we are going to make a difference and they want to see us make that difference. That’s up to deliver on that. They want to see us achieve that. They are not looking for talk they want to see action. That’s what we are looking for. That’s why we’ve been focused over that couple weeks so hard on getting it right. Doing the things we said we were going to do and get it right and do the hard work. This is not a quick fix this is something we’ve got to work hard at and we will.

You talked about establishing a personal conduct committee and you said the goal was to be completed by the Super Bowl. What is to be completed by the Super Bowl? Because aren’t these issues constantly evolving personal issues?

Yes and that’s why we want to get to work immediately. The conduct committee is not the committee that I would expect to make the changes in the personal conduct policy. What we have to do, and I spoke to De about this, is reach out for experts in the area. Some may be in law enforcement, some may be in the criminal justice system, some may be experts in the domestic violence or sexual assault or child abuse areas and bring all of those experts and their views on this of how we can improve the policy. Everything from how we collect information to when the NFL is involved with law enforcement or do we have a separate investigation? And those are all difficult issues to ensure them due process. Anybody is involved but also make sure we are maintaining the integrity of the NFL.

So the idea is to have the committee in place by the Super Bowl or to start making some of those decisions?

I expect I will have the committee in place by the Super Bowl, yes.

I wondered if you personally have ever been involved in n abuse situation in any capacity and then secondly if you anticipate any personnel changes if not change in commissioner, how can you bring meaningful change and credible change and change the culture and change the attitude without a change in personnel?

The first answer to your question is I have not. The second answer to your question is we are making personnel changes. We announced several of them over the last week. We have more to come. We’re looking to see how do we strengthen our team in this area, how do we bring the right voices to the table to make changes not only to what we do, but more broadly. And so I expect personnel changes will continue, that’s part of how we get better, that’s part of how we evolve and learn from our mistakes and do a better job going forward.

Two things, one is when you made the original suspension two games were any women advising you? And second, in the personal conduct policy that you’re revising, are you willing to put that into the CBA?

On the first one I think you are pointing out exactly what we’re concerned about. It’s that we didn’t have the right voices at the table. We need to get better expertise. Some of you know, we announced earlier this week that Lisa Friel is joining us as a former chief of sex crimes in downtown New York. I think she is going to be able to provide a very valuable perspective for us – an understanding of the criminal justice system, particularly in this area and those are the types of people we want to have as part of our organization, as part of our decision making process.

There’s a lot of confusion from fans out there about the mistake you say that you made. You talk about your investigative department at the NFL, regardless of what Mr. Rice said on June 16, regardless of what was on that second video tape, on the initial summons, it clearly says that Mr. Rice struck Janay Palmer with his hand rendering her unconscious. Why wasn’t it enough then to put this right?

Well it was, and we saw obviously the original video and it was clear that a domestic violence violation had occurred. That was clear to us and it was horrifying and that’s why we took the step we did. We did the two-game suspension and a fine of $500,000. It was not sufficient and that’s because our policies, as I indicated earlier, had fallen behind where we need them to be. We needed to get those policies in a position where the standard for that kind of violation has to be much higher. And that’s why three weeks later we raised that standard and said this is not going to be acceptable behavior and when it occurs, it’s a minimum six-game, or the standard six-game, with aggravating circumstances that we could consider and have additional penalties if necessary.

You mentioned Robert Mueller’s investigation as key to solving all of these issues, I’m not going to sit here and discuss the integrity of the ex-Director of the FBI, I could leave it as a given that he’s a man of integrity, but the law firm that he works for and that 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 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?

Well, Rachel I would respectfully disagree because you now are questioning the integrity of the Director of the FBI. Yes that firm has represented us in the past, but they have also been on the other side in litigation against the NFL. So, this is a highly respected individual that served as Director of the FBI, the longest-serving Director in the history of that position. His credentials are unparalleled and unquestioned.

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 that you’re leaving the door open for doubt?

Well Rachel, unfortunately we live in a world where there’s a lot of litigation. There’s a lot of law firms a lot for people that had maybe some interaction with us in the past. Robert Mueller has not. Law firms may have, but we were hiring Robert Mueller and his credentials, his credibility to do an independent investigation reporting to the owners and I am confident that that will be the case.

Has Robert Mueller interviewed you? It’s been a week since you announced it.

That is something that Robert Mueller is going to have to announce. We are not disclosing or involving, he’s running an independent investigation. He will meet with anybody he wishes whenever he wishes. He will get full cooperation from me or anybody else in the building. I am not making any comments specifically on the investigation. He has full access. If he feels he wants to speak to anybody, he will do that.

I have to go back into the video and your curiosity to see the video. You suspended Ray Rice after our video, why didn’t you have the curiosity to go to the casino yourself?

Two things. We suspended Ray Rice originally after seeing the original video that was disclosed back in February. When the second video came out last week, that’s when we increased our discipline because that was inconsistent with the information we had, it was new information. One of the things that I said in my statement, and I’ve said it repeatedly here, is that that is part of what we want to do with all of our experts, outside, internal, is try to figure out how should we investigate these issues? In the past, we have been almost completely reliant on working with law enforcement and cooperating with them. We do not want to interfere with a criminal investigation. In particular here, when you’re dealing with a casino in New Jersey, there are even more restrictions because it’s overseen I believe by the Attorney General. So, we have to be very cautious in not interfering with a criminal investigation, but we’ll evaluate that. Should we do more to get that information? I would have loved to see that tape. Should we get more to do that information in the future? That’s a question I want these experts to do.

We found out by one phone call, you guys have a whole legal department. Can you explain that?

I can’t explain how you got the information, only you can do that.

Do you regret having Ray and Janay Rice in the same room together when you met with them and secondly, have you decided who will be hearing the appeal for Ray Rice in your office?

I have not on the second part of your question. I’ll be making that decision shortly. Someone else will be hearing that case. On your first part is, yes. Its part of the learnings that we’ve had throughout this is that there are certain proper ways of having those kinds of discussions when couples are going through domestic violence issues and we have learned that. And we have learned that from our experts, they said we shouldn’t have them in the same room or we should give them the opportunity to speak separately also. And that’s something that we have learned from this and we will correct going forward.

What do you say to the one individual in the NFL right now under scrutiny who has been convicted of attacking his girlfriend? What’s your language that you would say to him if he were standing in front of you?

We’re disappointed in where he is. We think what he did and what he was involved with, at least what’s alleged in the court records – he was convicted and then what happens when he appeals that is it’s wiped out until he goes to a jury trial. Again, you’re highlighting exactly the issue that we’re concerned about, which is when do we engage? There was a conviction, it then gets removed until the jury trial and then should we let that go all the way through?

It’s obvious when you look out on the field, a lot of these players, it’s a diverse crowd, a lot of the players that have been highlighted recently are African American. Can you justify not having an African-American as part of that group of women that you hired to look into sexual assault and domestic violence?

That’s not true. We have internal experts that have been working on this that are people of color, that are women and men and they have been involved in this process from the beginning. In, addition, as I’ve said in my statement, is that we will continually evaluate. Do we need other resources, do we need other individuals, do we need other organizations?

Can you talk about that organization that’s supposed to be the forefront of domestic violence and sexual assault, was there any consideration talking about the women who are at the forefront advising on those issues?

Those three women are advising us, as well as we have full-time staff including an African-American woman who has great experience in this area and has been involved in this for several years with the NFL and has been on the NCAA level. So, we understand the need for diversity, it’s important for us and we will always look to do whatever we can to improve on that.