I took notes on Roger Goodell’s press conference Friday afternoon, but I did it quickly, so they are a little sloppy. I may have gotten the transcription wrong. This is what I have:
Q. Do you get it?
GOODELL: No. No, I don’t get it. I appreciate the question, Rachel. But I am wearing a black suit, and black suits are serious. I had a committee pick the suit, and I will have a committee look into domestic violence, because domestic violence is a problem we need to address, and it’s a problem in the NFL and throughout society and also in other countries, but I take full responsibility for my mistake, and, really, there may even be domestic violence on other planets, because I mean, ya never know, but I made a mistake and we need to be better, and August 28th, August 28th, August 28th.
That is what I kept writing down: August 28th.
Goodell uttered that date over and over again. It was clearly calculated, and it is proof that he still doesn’t understand the scope of what he did wrong. August 28th is when he announced that he didn’t “get it right” when he suspended Ray Rice for two games. If you don’t keep your Roger Goodell Calendar of Mistakes updated, please understand: that was before TMZ released the video of Rice cold-cocking his fiancee (now wife) Janay in that casino elevator.
It was before Goodell insisted that the NFL had never seen the video, and before the Associated Press reported that a law-enforcement source had shared it with the league.
It was before Goodell insisted that Rice’s account of what happened in the elevator was “ambiguous,” which has been contradicted by, among others, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome.
Not long after Goodell's press conference, ESPN released a detailed, damning and unambiguous account of how deeply Goodell failed. Goodell will likely pretend that report is irrelevant. After all, it was released after August 28.
Goodell seems to think the real story here is that he suspended Rice for two games based on “ambiguous” evidence and should have suspended him for more. And so much of his press conference was built on that assumption. He thinks this is about the process of player discipline, because he went with two games instead of eight or 16 in one case. But it isn't about that. It’s about him and his failure to lead.
It’s about Goodell’s arrogance, and that was on full display after August 28th. It’s about his lack of interest in the truth. Even after that punch video was aired, Goodell kept spinning. He only hired an independent investigator when it was clear most people weren’t buying his spin.
Goodell’s news conference was such a mess, you had to wonder if he was getting PR advice from Daniel Snyder. Good guess! Professional spinner Frank Luntz, who is helping Snyder desperately try to keep his beloved “Redskins” nickname, is indeed helping advise Goodell, according to a league source. Behind the scenes, the commish supports Snyder’s nickname-propaganda campaign and that’s why Snyder issued a statement last week declaring that “Roger Goodell has always had the best interests of football at heart, both on and off the field ... We are fortunate to have him as our Commissioner.”
For his part, Luntz tweeted a few weeks ago: “Roger Goodell's apology today was perfect. Plainly state past mistakes, then how you'll correct them moving forward.”
Guess when he tweeted that.
Yup. August 28th.
This is your NFL commissioner, everybody. He thinks that if he and two buddies agree, then worldwide opinion is unanimous. Hey, if you don’t buy this line, maybe you’ll buy that one, along with your team jersey and NFL Sunday Ticket package.
The TMZ punch video hit the Internet on Sept. 8. Goodell waited more than a week to hold a press conference, and even then, he pulled the old twin PR tactics of a) holding it on a Friday afternoon, when people start losing interest in the news for the week, and b) giving the media only a few hours notice.
Goodell could have done this last week. He could have done something more sincere than offering platitudes like “getting it right,” and “mistakes happen, and I’m sorry for that,” and promising to form committees and telling everybody the NFL would donate some money to fight domestic violence. Donations are nice, and important, but that is the easy part for a league that brings in billions.
The hard part, for Goodell, would be showing some humility. He dodged and ducked more questions than he answered Friday afternoon. How could he tell the Saints that “ignorance was not an excuse” for their bounty scandal, then claim ignorance here? Dodge. Why did he appoint an independent investigator, Robert Mueller, who works for a law firm that does business with the league? Duck. Why didn’t the NFL work harder to get a video that TMZ got so easily? Dodge.
And again: Why, after that video came out, did Goodell so brazenly insist that nobody in the NFL had seen it, without even investigating?
Goodell continues to defend his decision to let Panthers star Greg Hardy continue to play with no penalty after being found guilty of attacking his girlfriend, on the grounds that Hardy is appealing. Hardy played the season opener before being placed on the inactive list, and then the exempt list, because of public pressure.
So what if Hardy is appealing? We have a verdict. Why doesn't that mean anything to Goodell?
Hardy wanted to delay, avoid responsibility and hope people forget what actually happened. I guess I understand why Goodell was okay with that -- after all, it's his favorite trick.