On Wednesday, December 10th, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL General Counsel Jeff Pash presented the league’s new personal conduct policy. Here is the full press conference, thanks to the NFL.
NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL & EVP JEFF PASH
PRESS CONFERENCE ON PERSONAL CONDUCT POLICY
Goodell: We just completed the meeting. I know you’ve had a chance to get a briefing on the personal conduct policy. We did have a pretty full agenda. We spent most of the morning on the personal conduct policy and some of our other initiatives – social responsibility – and then spent the afternoon on a variety of matters.
On the timetable for hiring the disciplinary officer:
As soon as possible. We want to be thorough. We want to make sure we get the right individual. We will embark on that immediately and hopefully be able to do that as soon as possible.
In the new policy you maintain final say over discipline –
On an appeal.
On why he was opposed to a neutral third party arbitrator:
Several factors. One is there is no system that we found that was better than the system that we announced today. We felt that what we have created now is a process where there are multiple inputs. We are going to allow a new individual to make the initial disciplinary decision. If there is an appeal, I can hear it, I could assign a designated hearing officer or I could appoint a panel. What we were looking to do was bring more voices to the table, more perspective so that it was a fair, transparent, open process, and that we would have consistency. Mr. Kraft mentioned it well this morning. We want to make sure that we do what’s in the best interest of the NFL long-term and we are able to have a system that reflects the values, the standards of what we’re all about and that’s why we’ve put a lot of focus over the last four months asking ‘what’s best for the NFL?’ We’re creating those standards, making sure that we have resources, programs in place, to make sure we can do what’s necessary to help people make better decisions. When they do violate the policy then we’re going to take action and we’re going to keep in mind the victims and the survivors as part of that. A big part of our program is making sure we have services and resources available to them.
On whether or not he will have input in initial discipline and his role during investigations:
I don’t plan to have any role in that. The concept here is to have a disciplinary officer that also oversees the investigation, makes the right determinations, oversees the process, and makes sure all of the information is shared with all policies. They’ll also look at exactly what they relied on to make the decision and then when the appeal process comes, we’ll have to make some decisions if necessary.
You will have absolutely no input up to that point?
I don’t plan to because I think it’s the right way to handle the process. The fair, the right way to do this is to have someone in here that has an expertise in these areas, that brings a law enforcement background that can help us navigate through all of the issues that they have to navigate through from a legal standpoint. They will make sure we collect all the information, make sure the record is clear and make sure that it’s shared with everybody and a make a decision with input from whomever they feel is appropriate.
On the potential backlash from the union:
I can let Mr. Pash answer that if you’d like.
Pash: I think what was laid out today is entirely consistent with the collective bargaining agreement. I don’t know whether the union will challenge it or not. But we’ve given it a lot of thought and I would hope they don’t challenge it. This is a policy that really is to the benefit of players and to the entire league. It’s one where we’ve repeatedly solicited their input. We had numerous meetings and discussions and exchanges of correspondence. We’d be happy to sit down with them again tomorrow if they wanted to have some further conversations about it so I don’t think there is any need for legal challenges.
On the questions of hiring an outside person is really an outside person:
We’re happy to get input and would be happy if DeMaurice would like to discuss the types of people who might be appropriate for that. I’m open to hearing those suggestions. As as Jeff said, we’re happy to continue the dialogue, have more dialogue and see what we can do to improve the policy. We would welcome that from the NFLPA. We’d welcome that from any source that can make sure we have the best possible policy. One other point to emphasize is that we said that we have a conduct committee that’s overseeing this. One of the roles that’s important there is to make sure they continually evaluate that, determine if any changes need to be made, anything that would keep us consistent with best practices. That is something that we’re going to take very seriously going forward under the leadership of Mike Bidwell and the committee.
On if not having the first say on discipline is a loss of power or if having final say on appeals is good enough.
I don’t look at it either way. I know you’re giving me a choice there, but what we’re looking for is the best process. We’re not looking for this process or that process, we’re looking for the best process. It’s a process that has multiple layers, has multiple inputs, has expertise where we need the expertise so that we could come up with the right decision. So that was the focus. There was a lot of discussion here about the discipline itself – but really to us this policy’s more about setting the standards. It’s about the resources that we can provide to our players, our coaches or to other personnel. We want to make sure that we’re preventing these violent acts from happening. That’s the most important thing to us is deter violent acts and to respect the rights of the victims and the survivors.
On if it’s a burden taken off of him because there have become so many layers to it:
No, I don’t think it is. There’s a lot of legal maneuvering here and so those are things that people who have a greater expertise should be dealing with.
On an update on a team moving to Los Angeles:
We did have an update on Los Angeles this afternoon. We continue to work to see if there is a solution for us. I’m not at the point where I would tell you that anything is imminent or that we have a solution identified at this point in time. There is progress, but we’ve all heard that before. What we’re all looking for is the solution and when we have a solution we’ll certainly tell everybody about that.
On if there will be a solution for 2015:
I don’t know. I can’t identify one right now and I don’t know that.
On the biggest lesson he’s learned this season:
Any time you go through this it’s a chance to reflect and to learn an awful lot. We’ve met with a lot of experts in this area. I’ve obviously learned a great deal about domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse. I’ve been getting an education from our experts of the things that you need to do. The big core issue, which I always try to keep in mind, is to make sure that you’re getting the right input and that you have the right people around you giving you expert input that can be helpful in trying to get to the right place. I have also learned that you can never let your guard down on our policies and procedures. We have to make sure that you always do what’s right to keep those up to date and to make sure that you’re in a position to be able to try to prevent acts from happening that don’t reflect well on your organization and provide the resources when they do and, more importantly, make sure there are consequences.
On getting push back, negativity from the public view:
No, I’ve said this before. People hold the NFL to a very high standard and we welcome that. We embrace that. That’s something we think is a very positive thing, but when you don’t hit it, you’re going to get that kind of push back. That’s something we accept and understand. We’ll learn from and move forward.
On ensuring players that they will not be penalized if falsely accused of domestic violence or abuse:
That is part of the process. That is part of the investigation. That is why we’ll have experts that have a specialty in that field. Lisa Friel has done that for close to 30 years. She understands this world a lot better than I do and we’re going to bring that expertise to the table and we’re going to have a process that is rigorous that is going to be formal to make sure that we get to the right conclusion.
On if there was any particular group or person that he listened to that help strengthen or change this policy in a certain way:
There are several. I wouldn’t want to leave anyone out. We noted at least over a 150 people or organizations that we consulted with. They were incredibly insightful and gave me terrific advice as did also our former players. Our former players have a stake in this game. They believe they built the success of this league and I believe in that also. They are people that care very much in the league and care very much about the reputation of the league and of the players. Their input was very influential to me. I’m proud of our players. The vast majority of our players are great men. They’re great sons. They’re great husbands. They’re great fathers. They’re people who do right things in the community and they’re people we should look up to. We have nearly 3,000 players in any given year and we’re going to have people that make mistakes. We want to make sure that we do everything to prevent that from happening and that we do everything we can when they do happen to deal with it seriously and make sure they know that it is not acceptable so we’re raising that standard.
On the contentious relationship on a lot of issues between the NFL and the NFLPA:
You have labor management and you have different perspectives. I think it is a shame it becomes so contentious. We can disagree. We can have a different point of view, but we have shared interests – in the game, a shared interest in the players, in the growth of the game and a shared interest in making sure that what we’re doing collectively reflects well on all of us. That’s the basis in which we should continue to operate. I don’t think it needs to be this contentious as it has been, but that is something we’ll have to try and work through.
On the Fifth Amendment and being able to assure a player that what he tells you in an interview will not be used against him and if he doesn’t talk, it will not be held against him:
Pash: The Fifth Amendment is a very important principle in our country, but it is also a limited principle. It only applies in the context of where someone has criminal jeopardy. If somebody were to sue you – even though the lawsuit was based on an act — maybe beating them up — that could be a criminal violation. But if it’s just a civil lawsuit, you have no privilege not to testify. You could be compelled to give a disposition. You could be compelled to show up in court and the Fifth Amendment wouldn’t apply. The same is true in workplace investigations. It’s very common in workplace investigations and I’m not aware of any workplace – whether it is a law enforcement, a college, the military, a private company, government agencies – where someone who is believed to have violated a workplace policy can refuse to participate in an investigation on Fifth Amendment grounds. If someone were to refuse to participate, one possible response would be to say, “Well, fine. We obviously cannot waterboard or something like that, but we will go ahead and make the best judgment we can based on the information made available to us. If you have chosen not to participate and not give your side of the story, then we’ll have to make the best decision we can on the evidence that we have.”
On the reference to confidentiality:
Pash: I think the reference to confidentiality applies to people giving reports and to victims that we would try to give them reasonable assurances of confidentiality and try to make sure that they didn’t face retaliation.
On if they talked at all about the proposal of expanding the playoffs and if it is on track for next season:
We didn’t. I think it may have come up in the context of the Competition Committee report that they would be studying that further. That’s something we will likely address in March, but not before.