NFL

When pressed on lack of diversity, Roger Goodell says NFL ‘won’t tolerate racism,’ but has little in the way of concrete solutions

Brett Carlsen
Roger Goodell is taking questions.


NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated multiple times on Wednesday that if the league finds its policies and practices are inadequate in recruiting and retaining people of color into high-profile roles, that it will change how it does business.

But he had very few specifics in the way of how that might work.

Goodell took questions for about 40 minutes in his tradition “State of the League” press conference days before the Super Bowl.

Under the bright Los Angeles sunshine, with the gleaming new SoFi Stadium in the background, Goodell dodged addressing any specifics of the lawsuit filed last week by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who alleged the NFL’s hiring practices are discriminatory.

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Goodell said that he did not want to “throw out any conclusions” about the hiring processes.

“We don’t take anything off the table until we have people look at it and help us independently [understand] if there is something flawed with our process,” he said.

Goodell has met with a number of civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, since the lawsuit was filed.

Goodell also said that if he knew there was a problem with how NFL coaches were hired, that he would do something about it.

“I knew something was wrong with our process in any area, we would be addressing it.”

Goodell lauded the changes that have been made in recent years, saying they were trying to “address things that we thought could be helpful.”

Goodell said that in recent years, there have been a record number of coaching candidates who are people of color.

One reporter asked: If these coaches have been getting interviews, and only two coaches of color were hired during the most recent cycle (and none last year), then how will the NFL address its bias?

“Well, again, I think it’s very clear and I tried to say it up front,” Goodell began. “We won’t tolerate racism. We won’t tolerate discrimination. If there are policies that we need to modify, we’re going to do that.”

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He again offered no concrete plan.

Other news made during the press conference:

The NFL is going to Germany

The NFL will play one game in Munich, in Allianz Arena, home of the Bundesliga’s Bayern Munich, during the upcoming season.

It will also play one more game in Munich within the next four years (also at Allainz Arena), and two in Frankfurt in the next four years.

The NFL also intends to return to Mexico for more international games at some point, Goodell said.

Goodell thinks Buffalo needs a new stadium

“We have to get a new stadium in Buffalo … It has to be a public-private partnership,” Goodell said.

Los Angeles will likely host a Super Bowl again sometime soon

The last time the big game was played in the LA market was in 1993. Now, with SoFi Stadium complete, Goodell said it was likely the game would return again much sooner. The next game to be awarded is Super Bowl LX.

NFL didn’t cut deal with Snyder, Goodell says

Goodell was asked: Is it accurate that the NFL struck a deal with Dan Snyder to not release a report on workplace harassment until Snyder signed off on it?

“We did not make a deal with Dan Snyder to have his approval before releasing that information, no.”

Here’s how the press conference unfolded:

Roger Goodell was first asked questions by a host employed by the league’s own network, and touched on the lack of diversity among head coaches in the NFL.

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Two Black head coaches — Lovie Smith in Houston, and Mike McDaniel in Miami — were hired in the most recent cycle, which had eight openings.

Goodell noted that once again, he was talking about the same subject — the lack of diversity — that he was last year.

“That’s part of the frustration all of us have.”

Goodell was asked if the hiring process itself is flawed.

He said that he did not want to “throw out any conclusions” about the hiring processes.

“We don’t take anything off the table until we have people look at it and help us independently [understand] if there is something flawed with our process.

Goodell also said that if he knew there was a problem with how NFL coaches were hired, that he would do something about it.

“I knew something was wrong with our process in any area, we would be addressing it. And we’ve made a lot of changes in the last few years to try to address things that we thought could be helpful.”

Goodell was asked if he can understand why it was confusing for fans that the NFL said Brian Flores’s claims were without merit, and then told owners on Saturday that it would be investigated.

“I think the initial reaction was regarding the legal claim themselves,” Goodell said. “And really what we would say the experiences of Brian Flores, that’s what I’m more interested in.

“Legal claims, putting the legal process to the side, that’ll be handled by by lawyers.

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“To me, it’s more important for us to sort of listen to Coach Flores to understand the points he and other coaches are going through … and also again, re-evaluate everything we’re doing.”

Goodell was asked why the NFL and its owners have such a difficult time hiring Black people into high-ranking positions.

Goodell responded to the question by saying that the NFL works “really hard” and “believes in diversity.”

“We just have to do a better job,” he said.

Goodell was asked if owners can vote out other owners.

“I do believe the owners have the authority to remove an owner from the league.”

Goodell was asked about the latest Deflategate allegations

“It’s been a long time since I thought about Deflategate,” Goodell began.

Goodell was asked if Tom Brady and the Patriots deserved the opportunity to learn what the NFL found when it began its spot checks of balls in the wake of the allegations that New England was under-inflating balls.

“We were very clear that we were going to do spot checks to make sure that people were following the policies; that is something that we engaged in and I don’t know what happened to the data. We just made sure there were no violations. That’s the purpose of this — are there violations and violations we need to look into?

Goodell has been commissioner of the NFL for 15 years. He was asked: “Do you not fear some personal responsibility for the lack of diversity?”

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Goodell: “Yes I do.”

Goodell was asked by CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones: If these qualified Black coaches can get in the room, as you say, and in record numbers, but you as a collective group are falling short, there’s only sort of one conclusion: What’s the league’s plan to address bias, prejudice, and racism among the NFL teams?

Goodell: “Well, again, I think it’s very clear and I tried to say it up front. We won’t tolerate racism. We won’t tolerate discrimination. If there are policies that we need to modify, we’re going to do that.”

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