NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held his annual state of the league press conference on Wednesday and in case you missed it, below is a transcript of what he said as provided by the league. Pay close attention to his comments on the Rooney Rule, CBA negotiations, International games, possible punishment for the New England Patriots and former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
“Good afternoon, and welcome to Super Bowl LIV. We are thrilled to be here in Miami for the grand finale of our 100th season, and one of the best in NFL history. This season, and this week, we are saluting players past, present and future, and celebrating our great game that continues to captivate, to inspire, to surprise and to unify. The 100th season had it all and represents why the best days of the NFL are ahead of us. Two points underscore this optimism: the game and the competitiveness of our league. Nearly 70 percent of all games this season were within one score in the fourth quarter. Incredible young players. Eighty percent of the games in 2019 featured at least one starting quarterback under the age of 27, the most in our history. This great play on the field has translated into record levels of support from the best fans in the world. In fact, a record 187.3 million fans who can’t get enough football. We continue to grow our fanbase and become even more popular with a new generation of fans as well as our diverse set of fans. These fans watch games and NFL content on TV, on mobile devices and other platforms with a total social media reach of over 800 million viewers.
The Super Bowl LIV matchup is a fitting celebration and culmination of our 100th season. Two storied franchises, exciting players on both sides of the ball, who captured our imaginations and who will inspire current and future fans for years to come. But the teams, they took different journeys to get here. The 49ers epitomized the hopes of all NFL fans. The 49ers’ appearance in the Super Bowl comes just one year after they went 4-12, a great turnaround. In fact, of the eight teams that advanced to the Divisional round this year, seven of those eight were new teams from last year, including the 49ers. The one team to repeat, the Chiefs, were only one game away last year from going to the Super Bowl and went on to win an impressive fourth-straight divisional title this season.
We say football is about family, and we have two of the best in sports in this Super Bowl. They happen to be led by women, the first matchup of its kind. The Chiefs are guided by the Hunt family – Norma and Clark – who carry on the legacy of team founder, Lamar, who famously coined the term, ‘Super Bowl.’ Norma has attended every one of the 54 Super Bowls when she gets here this week, and she hopes to leave Miami with her first Super Bowl trophy – the Lombardi Trophy – in 50 years, when the Chiefs last won the Super Bowl.
And we have the 49ers back in the Super Bowl under the leadership of Denise, John and Jed York. The 49ers won the Super Bowl after the NFL’s 75th season here in Miami and are hoping to win on Sunday to cap off our 100th season. It should be a very fun and exciting day for all of us. I know you have some questions, so I’ll be happy to take them now.”
With as much effort as the NFL has put into limiting injuries, an AP study yesterday shows concussions are up and the players injured most overall are at the speed positions – wide receiver, cornerback, safety. With player safety in mind, does it make sense to add a 17th regular season game to the schedule as has been discussed in labor talks?
“Safety has been at the forefront and our number one priority, and that of our players, and over the last 10 to 15 years in particular, I think we’ve had over 50 rule changes to make our game safer. We’ve made changes in equipment, particularly with the helmet. We have six new models coming out this year, all of which will raise the quality of the helmets that our players are wearing. In addition, obviously we are working on research. We have data that proves which techniques should be taken out of the game, so it effects how we change our rules. And of course, for us, the data is the key component to what we want to do. It’s changing the season. We don’t look at it just as do we have a 17th game. We look at the entire season, the offseason, obviously training camp, how we prepare our players to get ready for the season, how we practice during the season. So those changes and taking techniques out of the game have made our game safer. As you point out, the number one injury are the lower extremity injuries. We have continued to apply the same model as we have done with concussions to reduce them by 30 percent. You mentioned that concussions are up, but they’re up only slightly and statistically insignificant from a low last year of close to 30 percent. So, we have what we think is a new baseline, and with all of our changes will continue to work to try to reduce that further. We believe we have made the game safer, we’ve made it better, and we believe that we can restructure the season in a way that will be smart for the future of the game, but those discussions, as you point out, are in the context of our labor negotiations. They’re in the context of working with our medical people and we’ve shared all that. We’ve continued to have that kind of dialogue with players and we’ll continue to have that.”
As you know it’s been a decade since the game was played in South Florida. How would you say Miami and the Miami Dolphins are doing as hosts? And what is the potential for the game and future games to be returning here?
“It only took the second question for that to come out. Listen, Miami, there’s a reason why it’s hosting its 11th Super Bowl, the most in NFL history. They are a great community. They know how to put on big events. With a new stadium in Hard Rock Stadium, and I call it a new stadium because I think the work that’s been done here by Stephen Ross and his team have made it into a high quality stadium that I think everybody here is anxious to showcase, as well as this great community. So, they know how to do this. They have an experienced team that is hosting, the Super Bowl Host Committee, and we believe that we’ll be back here many times into the future. It’s just a great spot for the Super Bowl, and we thank the people here for all the work they’ve done.”
It’s been five years since the Ray Rice incident and your pledge to get it right regarding cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. In that time, what have you learned about the challenges of investigating these cases and adjudicating them, and related to that, what is the status update of the investigation into Antonio Brown?
“The first one, I think we’ve learned a great deal. It’s a complex set of issues that are involved with domestic violence. There are things that we have learned as a league. I think there are things that we have learned along with our experts in the field to try to understand how we can educate our players, our coaches, our executives. All of us in the NFL go through training every year to understand better how we can handle ourselves better, how we can look for signs if these types of things are happening around us. I believe as a league, we have been incredibly responsive. I think we’ve made changes in our league that have been very, what I would call, productive in trying to make sure that these incidents don’t occur. But, we live in a world where unfortunately they do, and what we have to do is continually stay ahead of our policy and try to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to prevent these terrible situations from occurring, and I think we’re leading the way. And I hear that from experts in the field, that the NFL has stood up and done the right thing knowing that it’s a very complex issue.
I think that with Antonio’s situation, the first thing for all of us is to think about the well-being of Antonio, to understand what Antonio’s going through. We don’t talk about the wellness of our players publicly, but I would tell you that you can be assured that the NFL and the NFLPA have a tremendous amount of resources that are available to all players. They are going to be made available to Antonio, and we want to help get him on the right track and get him in a position where he is in a zone where he thinks he can be successful in life. We are confident that can happen, and we want to work to do that. From our standpoint, that’s the first step, and the first step is making sure that we’re doing everything to help Antonio.”
It’s been a frustrating hiring cycle for minority coaches. What do you see? I know there’s the Rooney Rule, there’s different initiatives that the league has taken, but what’s it going to take for minority coaches to actually have more legitimate opportunities to climb those ranks and grow as head coaches, coordinators and front office officials?
“Yes, it’s clear we are not where we want to be on this level. We have a lot of work that’s gone into not only the Rooney Rule, but our policies overall. It’s clear we need to change and do something different. There’s no reason to expect that we’re going to have a different outcome next year without those kinds of changes, and we’ve already begun engaging in those changes, not just with our diversity committee, not just with the Fritz Pollard Alliance, but others and trying to figure out what steps we can take next that would lead to better outcomes. It’s clear we’re all committed to doing that and we have to make those changes. We will have a series of meetings which we’ve already scheduled, clearly, over the next month to get that kind of dialogue going, to continue the dialogue and try to determine what are the solutions so we can have those better outcomes.”
There are new stadiums opening this fall in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. My question pertains particularly to Los Angeles. The league departed from tradition this season by opening with Packers vs. Bears in honor of the 100th season. Has there been consideration to kicking off the season in Los Angeles? If so, how might the NFL mitigate the traffic nightmare of a 5 p.m. kickoff midweek considering a half-filled stadium would not be a great look.
“From our standpoint, we look at not only celebrating the Super Bowl champion, but as you point out, we are relaunching two teams in Los Angeles and one in Las Vegas in addition to celebrating our 100th birthday on September 17. When we are looking at the schedule for next year, our hope would be to create the biggest and best platform for all those events. They’re significant to the future of the league. We are thrilled to be back in Los Angeles with two teams and thrilled to have a new stadium that will set a benchmark in stadiums, same with Las Vegas. We are launching the Raiders in Las Vegas. I was out there a week ago, and the stadium is extraordinary, and I think it will be a great new home for the Raiders. We have to put together the biggest stage for all those teams at that moment. The way we do that is through scheduling. We do have the flexibility to move the Super Bowl champ to either Thursday or Sunday. But we are required by policy that it be one or the other. We could very well start in Los Angeles on a Sunday to avoid that problem. We’re going to be playing primetime games in Los Angeles at some point in time. The likelihood around the first event, as you know there is an acclimation for everybody getting in and out of the stadium. I think it is going to be such a huge event, I’m not worried about a lack of fans there.”
Could you tell us about the experience of the NFL going back to Mexico? Estadio Azteca gave good luck to the Chiefs. Number two, does the NFL have plans for Mexico to host more games in the future?
“Yes. We had a great experience this past November down in Mexico. It was just a great event. We love being there and look forward to being back. We are proud to say that we’re going to be there for two more games over the next two years. Our fan base there continues to grow and be more passionate. Our partners have been extraordinary, and we want to continue that and build on that. We look forward to being there the next two years and I assume we will be announcing our schedule in the next 60 days.”
Broncos president Joe Ellis recently said that Bowlen family unity is not required by the league, but is necessary in his view for Brittany Bowlen, presumably, to become the next controlling owner. What’s your stance on unity being a requirement for the trustees? As a follow up, at what point is it best for the team just to be put up for sale?
“It starts with what Pat Bowlen’s wishes were. He established the trust to make sure there was orderly transition of the franchise if something should happen to him. Unfortunately, it did. Pat wanted to make sure the franchise was in good hands, good management. He understood the importance of the league policies, and he supported that. He was one of the best league men I knew. I talked to him probably every day, both as commissioner in my earlier years and also as chief operating officer. He wants his franchise, the Denver Broncos, to continue to have that success. That’s why he set up the trust the way he did. So, for us, we want to make sure that his wishes are followed. I don’t think he’d be happy about the public disputes that are going on. Unity is something that I think as an organization in the NFL, you have one person who makes a decision on the behalf of the ownership group and that’s a vital and principle point in our ownership policy. That is what Pat understood, he wanted that, and we need to have that in the case of all franchises, so that at some point in time we’ll have to develop in the context of the Broncos.”
As you know, Los Angeles is mourning the death of Kobe Bryant, there are tributes all over the world. I have the statement from the NFL on Kobe Bryant’s passing. I wonder if you would expand on that a little bit. Have you met Kobe personally? Then secondly, is the league planning on doing a tribute during the Super Bowl?
“Well first, I don’t think just Los Angeles is mourning the loss of Kobe Bryant. Kobe was a special person. I did have the opportunity to meet him. He obviously brought a lot to our world, and I think all of us, not only feel for the tragic events to his family, but as well as everybody else who was a passenger in the helicopter. It’s hard to understand, and it’s hard to process. I’m proud of, as the story unfolded unfortunately on Sunday, the way our players, the way our league responded including a moment of silence during the Pro Bowl game with Kobe’s picture up and the way the fans responded to that. We did that again when we started here on Monday night. So, we as a league have been very responsive and I think respectful of somebody that contributed so much to sports. We also lost one of our own legends last night, Chris Doleman, who I personally was very fond of and meant a great deal to me and the league in general. I think both of those individuals will be seen on Sunday in some fashion in a respectful way.”
With the NFLPA having a meeting tomorrow with the player reps, what is your level of optimism that a deal will be completed in the coming weeks, and along with that, from the view of the league and ownership, does 17 games have to be part of the deal for it to be done?
“As I mentioned before, we are not going to negotiate here in a press conference, so that is not something that I am going to take a position on. We have been having incredibly productive dialogue. I think we have made a lot of progress. It is now seven or eight months since we have begun discussions more formally. In each of those discussions, it has been open dialogue and has been thoughtful. I think we have addressed difficult issues that face our league going forward and looking forward. I think the players, management, everyone in the negotiation have to work to try to find creative solutions to make the NFL better, and that is what you want. The process will close when the process closes, when all of us feel comfortable that we reach an agreement that we want to go forward with. I do not know when that will be, but I think it is more important to get it right.”
You have been at this since 2006 as commissioner. Have you given any thought into how much longer you want to continue and along those lines? Do you feel like once the CBA is done and the new set of television contracts are signed that your work is done?
“Well, one thing I learned from this job is that your work is never done. I believe there are always challenges that this league will have to address. And I want to put our league in the best possible position. I do believe that leadership is important and that consistent leadership in some fashion is critical for the league. And so, succession will be an important part of it. But I have not thought about retiring. It is not on my agenda. We have too much to do, and I think too many great things are happening in this league right now. But at some point, I am going to retire. That day is probably closer than it was yesterday. But I am not focused on that. I am 100 percent committed to this job.”
About a year ago, the ownership of the Buffalo Bills commissioned a study about what to do with its stadium situation, either new construction or another upgrade of the circa-1973 New Era Field. What’s your understanding, the league’s understanding, of where that stands from the study, if you could shed light on that, and also, what is your and the league’s position on what should the next steps be for a facility in Buffalo?
“Well, as you know, I’ve been involved with negotiations in Buffalo going back into the ’90s. Consistently through that time period, we have focused on the stadium and the importance of the stadium in the context of that, and the need to continue to renovate and/or look to see whether a new stadium is a better answer for the long term. This has been contemplated in the leases right up until, I think, the most recent one, which I believe was 2016, but that is coming to a close. At that point in time, I am hoping that it will continue, and I expect that it will continue to be a collaborative process between the public sector and obviously the Bills. We all want the Buffalo Bills to continue to be in Buffalo, to be successful. A stadium that is going to be competitive with other stadiums around the league is going to be important in that context, and I think everyone is committed to that, whether it is new, significant renovation or whether it is a completely new facility in a new location. I think those are things that the group has to settle collectively and to address over the next several months, if not sooner.”
You mentioned that in celebration of the 100th anniversary that you have focused on players past and present. I’m wondering why there was not more done to recognize the 12 years that African American players were effectively banned from the league, and does more need to be done to address that part of the league’s history?
“Well, it’s part of our history. We do not walk away from that. It is not necessarily something that we look back at with pride. We look at what we have done since that time period and what we have tried to do to make sure that our league is diverse. Over 70 percent of our players are African American. As we have talked about earlier, we are trying to make our front offices diverse, we are trying to make our coaching staffs diverse. There is always going to be more work to be done, and it is necessary work and it is important. We believe that diversity makes us better as a league, and that is something we are focusing on going into the next 100 years. How do we continue to be not only a more diverse organization, but how do we celebrate and make sure that people do have the opportunities that we believe are important as an organization.”
I know the Patriots aren’t here, but we can’t go a year without a Patriots question. I am curious about the videotaping incident that they had with the Bengals. What is the status of the investigation, when do you expect it to be complete, and why is it taking so long? You have the video, the Patriots admitted wrongdoing. Shouldn’t it be relatively open-and-shut?
“Well, the answer to that question is no, it shouldn’t. Our responsibility is to make sure we are being extremely thorough. We have the responsibility to 31 other clubs, we have responsibility to partners, we have responsibility to fans to understand all of what happened, and make sure that something that we don’t know happened, didn’t happen. And so, from our standpoint, we want to make sure that we are being thorough. Our team has been on it. We have been focused on this. I think it has not been that lengthy a period of time. We have obviously put focus on it, but we are going to get it right, and when we come to a conclusion, we will certainly make sure people are aware of it.”
Jim Brown, the Hall of Fame running back, wrote an op-ed piece in our newspaper recently calling for increased pensions for players who retired before 1993. Do you support increasing their pensions so that they are equivalent to the pensions of players who retired after 1993?
“That is a collective bargaining issue. I think the players, current players and NFL management and owners believe firmly that we should address pensions of our retired players. Again, as you know, we have addressed retired player benefits in each of our last, I believe it’s five Collective Bargaining Agreements, but we are committed to doing that again. There has been a lot of discussion about that, a lot of focus on that, and I am confident that when we reach an agreement that there’ll be improved benefits for retired players once again.”
With 14 months still on the current union contract, what is your personal sense of urgency to get a deal done sooner rather than later, and why in particular might it be beneficial to you and the League to get this done sooner rather than later?
“I think it starts with the fact that if you reach a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the benefits that will be negotiated in that context will immediately go to, not only the current players, but as just raised, the former players. There are changes to the system that I think can be beneficial. There are changes to the system that potentially could be beneficial to our clubs, we could begin on that process immediately, and the impact could be felt by our players and clubs immediately. That’s the process of a collective bargaining. It’s a negotiation. It’s trying to make sure you’re reaching agreement on issues that are very complex, but also are good for the future of the game. If that future can be moved forward and everyone can benefit by that, that’s a positive. That’s the number one reason and the second and third reason, by the way. We obviously have a lot of things that we would have to put in place, both the union and the NFL once we do reach an agreement, and I think we’re all sort of anxious to get to that place, but we’re also going to be careful and make sure we get to the right place.”
Just wondered if there was an update on where we’re at with a London franchise, and whether any timeline had been set?
“No, a timeline has not been set in London for a franchise. We have grown incredibly quickly in London, as you know. The support there has been extraordinary, both the public sector, the private sector, our fans, our clubs. I think we now have 31 of the 32 teams that have been to London. All of them come back raving about the experience. We look at our job as to make sure that London can continue to grow, and we can continue to build on the fans that we have now, and that’s something that is our number one priority. Our second priority would be, could we have a franchise-ready market? As you know, we played in a new stadium in Tottenham this year. It was a great experience for the four clubs that played there. I was in attendance at one of those. It was terrific. We also have Wembley Stadium, so the flexibility of scheduling with two stadiums has been a huge plus for us, but I think we still have to get back to the point of, can we do it in a competitive way? Can we do it so that all teams, all 32 teams, not just a team, if there was a team in London, are playing there in a competitive fashion? That’s number one for us.”
Just wondering if you could shed some light on a possible timeline for the Super Bowl coming to Las Vegas. And then also your thoughts on the progress that the Raiders have made in their new endeavor and also the level of embracement that Las Vegas has shown both from fans and the business community to the NFL’s presence there.
“Well, as you know, I was just out there within the last two weeks. You can feel the excitement. You can see the excitement by the stadium. It’s a great facility. I’ve had a chance to go through it on multiple occasions in the last several months. I think it’s going to be great for the community. I think we’re going to be great for the community, and I think the community’s going to be great for us. Las Vegas is growing and I think becoming a much more diverse city than it has in the past, and we are anxious to be part of that. The reception has really been tremendous. You can see it with the fans and their reaction not only in ticket sales, but you see it from the business community and how they’re wrapping their arms around this team. We think it’s going to be a great success. We’re anxious to be there. As you know, we’ll be having the Draft there which will be a good start. As I said when I was out there, I think we should get through the Draft before we focus on the Super Bowl, but that is coming quickly, and our attempt to move to the next Super Bowl probably will be done before the calendar year here in 2020.”
What are the advantages for the league in having a superstar like a Patrick Mahomes in a market like Kansas City as opposed to a New York or Los Angeles?
“Patrick Mahomes anywhere in the NFL is good for me. I have to tell you that not only is he an incredible player, but he is an incredible young man. Wherever he plays in the NFL, he’s going to have an impact and I’m proud to have him as a Kansas City Chief. I would guess there’s 31 other teams that wouldn’t mind having him either, but the reality is he’s just made us better and he’s made the Chiefs better as evidenced by the fact that they’re here in the Super Bowl. And as I mentioned up front, when we think about the future of the NFL with people like Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson and some of these great young players – we like to tease around the office that Jimmy Garoppolo doesn’t fit into that 27 stat because he’s 28 – but this is the future of our league. Not just with quarterbacks, with great young players at every position, and we’re happy to have him as a Kansas City Chief and happy to have him here in the Super Bowl.”
When it comes to potentially relocating an NFL franchise to a different country, London, England, often is discussed. But you, and maybe others, have maybe forgotten that there’s a city in North America, Toronto, Canada, that has six million people that live in a one to two-hour flight of half the NFL teams. You wouldn’t have any of the logistical concerns or blockades from sending a team as you would anywhere overseas to Europe. So, my question is where is Toronto on the NFL’s radar, if anywhere, and why wouldn’t Toronto make the most sense of any city to move a team to?
“Well, it seems you already came to that conclusion. You said it’s off my radar screen, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I have great admiration – I’m from Western New York, I spent a lot of time in Canada as a young kid, and I have nothing but admiration for Toronto. I think it’s a great city that continues to evolve, continues to grow. It certainly could be a great city for an NFL team. The one thing, and I’ve said this openly over the years, you may not be aware of it, but a stadium that is up to NFL standards is going to be a certain requirement. That is going to be an important element. It’s going to have to be focused on. It’s not enough to just have a great city, which you have. You have to have the facility also.”
Today was NFL PLAY 60 kids’ day, and there are a number of other community events throughout this week. Why is it important for the league and its players to give back to communities across the country?
“Well, I think it’s who we are. The National Football League is community, and I mentioned that earlier. We believe that nothing brings a community together better than an NFL team or an NFL event, like we’re seeing here today. We can make a difference in communities, and we can do that in particular by sharing what’s authentic to the NFL, and one of those is well-being. It’s exercise, it’s proper nutrition. That’s how our athletes get to become world-class athletes. Not every kid is going to become a world-class athlete in the NFL or in professional sports, but there are healthy lifestyles that you can learn from our players in the NFL, and I think that’s why we chose PLAY 60 as our initiative because we knew it’s authentic to who we are. We believe that – whether you play professional sports or not – you will live a more productive life, your school will be better, your work will be better, if you embrace a healthy lifestyle, and that includes exercising and that includes nutrition. Those are all very important to us, so it’s a good question, and I hope you had a good time today.”
“Before you go, I’d like to just thank this community once again. I’ll start with our host, Stephen Ross, and the whole Miami Dolphins organization. The owners put their trust in their fellow partner when they select a Super Bowl city, and Stephen has demonstrated, not only was that well placed, but what he’s done with Hard Rock Stadium. I know we’re all anxious to put it on the stage that it deserves. We salute the community, the leadership here, the local leaders, the public officials from across this region and the Super Bowl task force – as I mentioned, the 11th time that they’ve hosted this game, their experience is unmatched. And the way they get things done in this community is extraordinary. So, we’re grateful to everybody here, the thousands of volunteers that have made this such a great event that is bigger and better every year, as you all look around and see, and Miami has done its part, and we thank you for that.”