To those critics who have spent the last week decrying NFL chaos and calling for the commissioner to resign, Roger Goodell has finally provided a clear public reponse.
In a 43-minute news conference Friday, he proved them all right.
Goodell showed up late, and his leadership never showed up at all. He professed contrition, but showed no remorse. He welcomed questions, but offered few substantive answers. Shortly after promising that he would “get our house in order,” he then contributed to the NFL’s further image erosion with hollow promises, shallow platitude and evasive explanations.
How could he not see a tape of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an elevator, even though that tape was reportedly sent to NFL offices? He never said. What did Rice say to convince him to originally suspend him for only two games for the domestic violence? He never said. Why did he choose former FBI director Robert Mueller to run the investigation of the NFL offices even though Mueller works for a law firm with close ties to the league? He actually scolded the questioner for questioning Mueller’s integrity.
The only thing he said that sounded even remotedly decisive was the one thing that many fans don’t want to hear. He said he was not resigning.
“We will get it right,’’ Goodell kept repeating, even as the news conference went very, very wrong.
The event was interrupted by a prankster from the Howard Stern radio show who was carried out screaming while folks wondered, all this Goodell talk about increased NFL security and this guy still gets in the door?
The event abruptly, mercifully ended when an NFL p.r. guy suddenly shouted, “All right, thank you, we’re good,’’ as if dragging Goodell away from smoking wreckage.
No, in terms of its image, the NFL is not good, it has never been worse. When Goodell stepped to the podium, he was fighting a reputation of arrogance. When he stepped down, he had confirmed that reputation while adding cluelessness and helplessness.
Yes, he talked about implementing a new conduct policy and organizing a new conduct committee. But it was Goodell’s conduct that drew all the attention, as he ducked and danced and ultimately just sunk under the weight of a crisis that is clearly too large for him.
It is difficult to imagine any of the 32 NFL owners watching the news conference without thinking, “We’re paying this guy $44 million a year for this?”
It is hard to believe that Goodell has made them so rich that they can afford such humiliation.
On this day, instead of protecting the NFL’s revered shield, its commissioner was carried out on it.