ROGER GOODELL PRESS CONFERENCE -- NFL FALL MEETING, NEW YORK CITY
October 18, 2017
Roger Goodell: Good afternoon. Before I get to your questions, I'm pleased to announce that Dallas will be the host of the 2018 NFL Draft. I think you have a release on that. This is the first time we will be hosting the Draft at a stadium complex. We are excited by that. I want to take moment to thank both Chicago and Philadelphia for really doing an extraordinary job to raise the bar. They have set a new standard for the Draft, created a new experience for our fans that was extraordinary, and we are confident that Dallas will raise that bar even further. I'm happy to introduce Charlotte Jones Anderson who is going to give her view of what to expect in Dallas. Again, the ownership is very supportive and we are all very excited to be going to Dallas next April for the Draft.
Charlotte Jones Anderson: Thank you. On behalf of the Dallas Cowboys, the city of Dallas, the city of Arlington and the city of Frisco, we are so excited that the NFL has given us this opportunity to host the Draft in April of next year. We have had so many great civic leaders in Dallas, and across the area, from Arlington and beyond, that have really done a lot of hard work here, hopefully giving a lot of ideas to the staff at the NFL, to Peter and his team. We really think we have come up with an incredible idea and concept that will really make AT&T Stadium shine, but also will deliver a unique experience that is unlike anything that you have seen thus far at the NFL Draft. I think this is what the draft process is all about, it allows the cities to show their unique personality and hopefully invite not only fans from all over our region, in Dallas and the metroplex and beyond, but from those out of state. We welcome them to come to Dallas, to Arlington, to AT&T Stadium, to show their fandom and be a part of the Draft in April. You'll see a little bit of a different variation of it when you get there. A lot of those surprises are in store and will be released throughout the next few months, but again we would like to thank all of those who worked hard on this, but most importantly the NFL for giving Dallas, the city of Arlington and AT&T Stadium the opportunity to host the Draft.
RG: We had a very productive set of meetings here in New York over the last couple of days. We had reports from various committees including the competition committee. We are very excited about the season that we have going on right now. We talked about the six weeks that we have played to date and the margin of victory. We talked about the penalties per game, game presentation and the changes that we have made and we also talked about officiating. There was a lot of very positive feedback on the game.
We also spent a great deal of time talking about our partnerships. We extended and expanded our partnership with Ticketmaster – which we think will be very fan-friendly and give our fans a better opportunity to buy tickets on a secure basis and on a greater platform, which I think will be very positive.
We had a report on our health and safety initiatives and the impact they are having on our game.
Lastly, we had a special visitor today, the commissioner of the NYPD, Jimmy O'Neill, and his chief of police, Terry Monahan. I have been in conversation with them for several months, so this has been quite a while in the making. We are trying to understand how we can continue to expand the relationships between our clubs, our players, our communities and the NFL. He was very helpful in giving us insight into what their initiatives are with the NYPD and the initiatives that are going on in other parts of the country. I saw those initiatives firsthand in Miami last week and in Philadelphia recently. The relationship between the players, our communities and law enforcement is very important to us. That was very helpful.
Yesterday I made a brief comment, but I'm sure there will be more questions about the meeting with players and owners. We also spent a great deal of time with our owners alone today discussing our efforts with our players. There is a great deal of support for the efforts that our players have identified. They not only support but recognize that these are important issues for our communities. They are American issues and certain things that we want as clubs and as the league that we want to support and be a part of and help lead with our players. I think those are the key issues.
I will tell you though, another issue we spent a great deal of time talking about this morning was how much we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem. That is an important part of our policy, it's also an important part of our game that we all take great pride in. It is also important for us to honor the flag and our country – our fans expect us to do that. That is something that we continued to focus on this morning. We are really talking about the opportunity that exists with our players to try to go and really make a difference in our communities in a positive way.
In response to your statement yesterday, the president this morning tweeted that both you and the league have disrespected the country – is he wrong about that? And if so, why?
RG: Like I said – we respect our country, we respect our flag and we respect our national anthem. I think if you look at our clubs and what they do on a daily basis, I think if you look at our players and what they did and how they participate in that. We all feel very strongly about our country, have pride and we will continue to do that.
How can you allow the president to bully the NFL when he has expressed support for flag burning?
RG: We are focusing on what we can do and we should be doing as the NFL. I think that we have a great opportunity here with our players to really work together and to try and make differences in our communities. There are things we all believe are necessary to do and that is what we are going to continue to do.
Citing the anthem protocol in the game operations manual – it's not a rule but it's a policy, why not make it a rule since fans seem to want it and the ratings seem to be down.
RG: We need to keep the focus on the fact that we believe that our players should stand for the national anthem. That is an important part of our game and an important moment and we believe in that. We also have to focus on the fact that we have six or seven players that are involved with the protest at this point and what we try to do is deal with the underlying issue and understand what it is they are protesting and what we can do to address that. The important thing for us is to be able to do that and take that opportunity to make real differences in our communities. That is really what will ultimately be the important aspect for us long-term. This is a long-term issue and we need to be sure that we do that in the right way.
Is the NFL image suffering?
RG: I understand the way our fans feel about this issue and we feel the same way – about the importance of our flag and the importance of patriotism. I also think our players feel the same way, they will state to you and they will state it to everyone publicly – they are not doing this in any way to be disrespectful to the flag. However, they also understand how it is being interpreted and we are trying to deal with those underlying issues.
On the league's response if a team disciplines a player for taking a knee:
RG: We just had two days of conversations with our owners and this was a fair amount of the conversation. I think our clubs all see this the same way – we want our players to stand and we are going to continue to encourage them to stand and we are going to continue to work on these issues in the communities. I can't deal with hypotheticals right now, we will deal with those issues if they come up. But right now, that is our focus.
On the effect this is having on your sponsors and networks:
RG: We know how important this is to our sponsors, our partners and our licensees. It's important to us also, so we all share that and we certainly are in great contact with them. They understand the issues. We want to make sure they understand what we are doing and if they can help us, we want them to help us in those issues. All of this is part of the ongoing effort and the understanding of one another, and making sure that we do the right thing in our communities and the right thing to support our players, but also do the right thing to make sure we get back to football. In the meantime, we hope people understand how important our country is and how important it is to make sure that we are doing things the right way to honor our country.
On your reaction to the lawsuit filed by Aaron Hernandez' legal team and the accusation that the NFL is not informing its players about the risks of concussions:
RG: This is a matter of litigation, so that is something that is going to work its way through the litigation. There has been a great deal of focus on this issue of brain trauma. We've been through a great deal of litigation on this issue, and settled a major case on concussions. We will let the lawyers handle that.
When you talk about supporting your players, what form will that take? Some people think that if players really felt that the league is behind them, they would not take a knee. How is this going to manifest itself going forward, because you are putting the shield on the line when you get into sticky political and social debates?
RG: We are not afraid of the tough conversations. That is what we are having with our players. That's what we had yesterday to make sure we understand one another and understand where they are coming from. Out of those discussions, they understand that the owners and the NFL really do care about their issues and what we can do to make their communities better. That is what dialogue is all about, listening and understanding so we can get that kind of understanding between different parties. That is what is complex about this, but that is why it's really important to do because that is where real change happens. That is the opportunity for us in our communities.
Did players ask for anything in these meetings from league or ownership?
RG: We have had discussions with them for over a year. We have a very good understanding of the types of things they are interested in and how they can get support from the NFL to do that, and we want to do that. That could be in legislative matters, that could be in the community participating in ride-alongs to try to make sure we understand what is going on in different communities across the nation. The problems in one market are different than the problems in another market. That involves clubs and players getting together to make sure we truly understand what is going on in those markets. That is where we see a real impact.
One thing we have seen in the polling this week is that there is a big political divide: Republicans identifying as pro football fans are down 50%, Democrats only 3%. What is your reaction to that?
RG: We believe doing the right thing is what you ultimately have to do. Listening to our players and understanding our players, trying to address those underlying issues, and making our communities better is where the real opportunity is. That, long-term, is going to benefit us. That is what our focus is, and that is how we will deal with that.
What about that split between parties?
RG: I don't think that surprises anybody. We are trying to stay out of politics. We are not looking to get into politics. What we are looking to do is continue to keep people focused on football.
You've been in discussion for over a year, more over the last two days – can you tell us how closer you are to resolving this today?
RG: The fact is, we have about half a dozen players that are protesting. We are hoping to continue to try and work and get that to zero. That is what we'd like to do. We want to make sure we are understanding what the players are talking about, and that is complex. I have personally taken the time to go on those ride-alongs, to go and figure out what are the things in our communities that our players are expressing. Our clubs have a much better understanding of that from the meetings over the last several weeks. To hear directly from those players and do the tough work, to try to understand what it is we need to accomplish together, that is where I think the real opportunity is with what is happening.
Did you come out of the meetings with an understanding that teams that have disciplined their players for not standing will not discipline them?
RG: No. We did not discuss that. It was not necessary. We had a real focus on making sure that all of our teams understood the kind of dialogue that took place, the kind of things that they were interested in getting support on, and there was complete support from the NFL, each club supporting their players, and continuing the dialogue we've had on the club level. I will tell you there is unprecedented conversations and dialogue going on between our players, between our owners, between our club officials, between the league, and that is a really positive change for us. We think that ultimately will pay dividends.
Do you understand what they are protesting and can you explain your understanding of that?
RG: Yes. They are very clear about it, and actually incredibly knowledgeable and articulate. They have spent the time to go out into their communities and talk about it. They truly understand it., whether they are talking about criminal justice reform, bail reform, mandatory sentencing. They are talking about changes that will make our communities better, where there is bipartisan support for across our nation. It is need-focused. They are talking about what we can do to support them to effectuate that legislative change. That is very positive. They are talking about equality issues – making sure we are doing everything we possibly can to give people an opportunity, whether it is education or economic, and what we can do to effectuate that. We believe that, with the players, we can help them and support them. Those are our issues – national issues, American issues – that are all important.
On whether you have communicated with President Trump or have plans to do so, and on pace of play -- are you happy with it so far?
RG: On your first question, I have not. To the second question, we are very pleased with the pace of game changes. We have seen, in-particular what we call the double-ups, the thing that bothered me so much with the commercial format, we've seen a 90% reduction in that this year, which is good for our fans and good for the experience of watching an NFL game – whether you are in the stadium or on the television or on another platform. We said all along, this was not about reducing the length of games, it was the pace of the game. The 40-second clocks is an example of something we put in after the point after touchdown, and after the touchdowns, and had a real impact. Centralizing replay and bringing the surface tablets to the sidelines so the official can see it, all that has sped up what we consider down time. We don't believe that this down time is attractive to our fans. We are happy with it, it's only been six weeks so we have a ways to go, but we are continuing to see what we can do to keep pushing that and we believe that is good for the fan experience.
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