Roger Goodell gave his “State of the NFL” press conference yesterday in the run-up to Super Bowl LI. Reporters asked difficult questions, and he gave mealy answers. If you’re looking for a tutorial on how to not answer questions, this is your chance to learn a lot. I’ll translate for you. (Based on the NFL’s transcript, with meaningless platitudes in bold italic, passive voice in italic, and weasel words in bold.)
Will the Oakland Raiders get to move to the capital of sports gambling, Las Vegas?
[Answers to two separate questions]
” . . . [W]e hadn’t made a determination about Las Vegas as an NFL market. That’s part of the relocation process. The Raiders submitted an application. It’s one that we’re considering carefully, but there is a great deal of work to be done and there are several elements of that. Financing of the stadium is just one. Obviously, the stadium project itself, the depth of the market, all of those are things that we’ve studied over the last several months, but that will increase in intensity over the next month or so as we move forward in that process. A second, as it relates to whether gambling can coexist with the NFL. In fact, it does. It’s happening today. It’s sponsored by governments. It exists throughout our world. What we have always said is we need to make sure that there’s a fine line between team-sports gambling and the NFL. We want to protect the integrity of our game, and that’s the line we will always do.”
“[W]e are confident that our process is thorough, that it will examine all of the issues that need to be examined to make the best possible decision from the ownership. . . . I’ve said it many times before, relocations are painful, and you want to be intelligent, you want to be thorough and you want to make sure that we do it with a great deal of sensitivity. We want to make sure that we’re doing what’s in the best, long-term interest of the NFL.”
Translation: If Las Vegas pays us enough, sure. Gambling makes the league popular, but I’m going to pretend it’s got nothing to do with us.
Is it a problem that the Chargers are leaving San Diego?
[Answers to two questions]
“Listen, and I’ve made this clear before, we were disappointed to have to leave San Diego. We couldn’t get a stadium done. As you know, we had a referendum just last November that did not pass by the voters, and I think for any team to relocate to San Diego at this point in time, we’re going to have to find a solution to that stadium problem, one that we couldn’t do after probably 15 years of effort.”
“The NFL owners did something that was unprecedented, which they gave another $100 million on top of the $200 million, so a total of $300 million, to help build the stadium in San Diego. That had never been done before, never been offered before. So, I think we worked very hard as a membership and as a league, and as Dean Spanos and his family in San Diego, to try to get that done, to try to be creative and try to learn solutions to getting the stadium built. . . There were a lot of other efforts in addition to that, but that’s disappointing for all of us, because we didn’t get it done. The answer to whether we can do things better and different – absolutely, always. . . . This is probably 15 years of an inability to get a stadium done, and we will all take a share of responsibility of that.”
Translation: You don’t build us a stadium, we leave. That’s how blackmail works, folks.
Did you get bad advice about handling Deflategate?
“No, we had a violation. We went through a process. We applied the discipline in accordance with our process. It was litigated as you know, extensively, and validated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. So, we’re moving on from that. That’s part of our history, but it’s something that we’re comfortable with the process, the decision, and as I said, we’re focusing on the game now.”
Translation: Let’s see . . . two years of fighting over deflated footballs with me backed into a corner and unable to compromise, having to penalize the league’s most popular player and testify in court . . . well, yes, that was a bit of an annoyance.
You didn’t go to the Patriots’ stadium during the playoffs. Was that awkward?
[Answers to two questions]
“I would tell you that it is not awkward at all for me. We have a job to do. We do our job, as I said, there was a violation. We applied a process and discipline, and we came to a conclusion that was supported by the facts and by the courts. So from our standpoint, we understand when fans who are loyal and passionate for a team object and don’t like the outcome, I totally understand that. That’s not an issue for me. I was in Boston two seasons ago for two consecutive playoff games, the same way I was in Atlanta this year. So that happens. From our standpoint, this is just about making sure that we take care of business and do it the way that is right to uphold the integrity of our teams and our rules for all 32 teams. If I am invited back to Foxboro, I will come.”
“[W]e have a disagreement about what occurred. We have been very transparent about what we think the violation was (and) it went through a very lengthy process. We disagree about that. But, I continue to respect and admire Robert (Kraft), Jonathan (Kraft), and the entire organization. They are an extraordinary organization, and they’re extraordinary people. I have a very deep and close relationship to them, but that doesn’t change that we have to compartmentalize things that we disagree on. . . . it’s about making sure we do what’s right for the league long-term.
Translation: I love Bob Kraft, but he was mean to me. So until I get an engraved, hand-delivered invitation with roses, I’m not going to his house.
Now that marijuana is legal in some places, will you change the NFL policy?
“[T]he labor agreement we have has worked incredibly well for the players, for our clubs and for I think the game in general. . . . [W]e sent the union last spring, several pages or lists of issues that we wanted to address as the league and as ownership and I expect – and we put on that list drug policy as one of those issues – so we would love to engage, but I think what we’re seeing is a reason why we should all sit down and get at the table, begin negotiations so that if we want to reach a different policy on either the drug policy or any other matter, we can all begin that earlier and do it in a way that’s responsible.”
Translation: No way I’m going on the record about that!
What are you doing about falling ratings?
“What we’re trying to do is to make our product as exciting and our games as exciting and as action-packed as possible. So it comes on various different levels for us and we have not dismissed any theories about how we can continue to engage our fans more extensively either on television or in the stadium. That’s what we do and that’s what we work towards all the time. . . . [W]e want to look at should we have the same number of breaks? We have five breaks per quarter. We think we can do it in four breaks per quarter. That is something that we’re leaning very heavily into. We think less is more in this area and we can do it with the right balance that will improve the quality of the experience in the stadium or also on television. That’s what we’re focusing on so I expect to see a lot of those changes this offseason.”
Translation: It’s a problem, so rather than change the game, we’ll take out commercials. I won’t talk about how this might reduce our revenues from outrageously obscene to just massively obscene.
Do people on longer trust the NFL?
“The thing that you have to always do every day is earn that trust, earn that credibility and it’s by how you act and how you do things. Be transparent, making sure people understand the decisions you make. I don’t expect for one second for people to agree with every decision I make or we make as a league. Those are always difficult, sometimes contentious, and sometimes less than perfect decisions, but you do them in the best interest of long-term health of the game and the NFL and I think we do that. We always seek to do things better, I will always seek to do things better and that’s how we’ll continue to operate and if we can do if differently, we’ll do it differently.”
Why were all reporters’ questions and players’ answers about Donald Trump deleted from the interview transcripts?
“I am not aware of anything being deleted from transcripts or anything else, so that’s not a . . . I must tell you, that’s one thing I am not responsible for around here is the transcripts.”
Translation: I delegated that to Sean Spicer.