Aug 5, 2022; Canton, OH, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at the Centennial Plaza. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Commish: ‘Evidence’ begs longer suspension for Deshaun Watson

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the “evidence” showing Deshaun Watson’s “predatory behavior” was behind the league’s appeal of a six-game suspension and their push for punishment of at least one year.

Goodell made the comments in Bloomington, Minn., where a special league meeting was held to vote on the sale of the Denver Broncos.

Goodell was asked why the league last week appealed the six-game suspension handed down by former judge and appointed NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson.

“We’ve seen the evidence, she was very clear about the evidence, she reinforced the evidence,” Goodell said. “There were multiple violations that were egregious and it was predatory behavior. Those are things that we always felt were important for us to address in a way that’s responsible.”

Robinson wrote that “the NFL carried its burden to prove … that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault.” However, she said the league “is attempting to impose a more dramatic shift in its culture without the benefit of fair notice to — and consistency of consequence for — those in the NFL subject to its policy.”

Goodell tabbed former New Jersey attorney general Peter Harvey to hear the league’s appeal. Goodell said Tuesday he had no timetable for a ruling, which will represent a “full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,” per the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

Goodell was also asked about the punishment handed down to Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, suspended and fined $1.5 million for “tampering violations of unprecedented scope and severity.” The Dolphins forfeit a first-round pick in 2023 and a third-round selection in 2024.

Ross and the Dolphins were cleared of tanking, per ex-coach Brian Flores’ allegations. Instead, the league found that Ross and his executives were kidding.

“Integrity of the game’s critically important,” Goodell said Tuesday. “I think the finding was very clear on the tampering charges. While tanking clearly did not happen here, I think we all have to understand that our words and our actions have implications, can be interpreted and we have to be careful.”

NFL owners approved the $4.65 billion sale of the Broncos to Walmart heir Rob Walton and the Walton-Penner Family Ownership Group.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland quarterback Deshaun Watson received a six-game suspension from former judge Sue L. Robinson.

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New York lawyer chosen to hear NFL’s Deshaun Watson appeal

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday tabbed former New Jersey attorney general Peter Harvey to hear the league’s appeal of the six-game suspension of Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Earlier this week, former U.S. district Judge Sue L. Robinson, picked by the league and the NFLPA as an independent disciplinary officer, ruled Watson should be suspended six games without pay for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct.

He played for the Houston Texans at the time.

Two Texas grand juries decided not to indict Watson on criminal charges, and he has denied any wrongdoing. Still, he has settled 23 of the 24 civil suits brought against him by the women.

On Wednesday, the NFL appealed the decision, reportedly contending Robinson’s recommended suspension wasn’t lengthy enough. Goodell had the option to rule himself on the appeal or appoint a designee.

He chose Harvey, who isn’t a stranger to NFL issues.

Harvey is a partner at the Paterson Belknap firm in New York and previously served as a federal prosecutor. He also has experience in domestic violence and sexual assault cases and has advised the NFL and other pro leagues on creating and implementing workplace policies, including the NFL’s personal conduct policy.

He also serves on the NFL diversity advisory committee.

Goodell has called on Harvey in the past to preside over arbitration cases, and the attorney was part of the committee that suspended Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys for violating the personal conduct policy in 2017.

The league reportedly is seeking an indefinite suspension of at least one year for Watson.

–Field Level Media

Feb 14, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks flanked by Vince Lombardi trophy during Super Bowl LVI winning coach and most valuable player press conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Six state AGs warn NFL to fix ‘hostile’ workplace culture

Six state attorneys general sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday, outlining their “grave concerns” over “overtly hostile” workplace culture for women and warned the league to do better.

In a letter penned by New York State AG Letitia James and co-signed by five others, the AGs warned that the NFL could be subject to “the full weight of our authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation.”

Attorneys general from Illinois (Kwame Raoul), Minnesota (Keith Ellison), Massachusetts (Maura Healey), Oregon (Ellen F. Rosenblum) and Washington (Bob Ferguson) also signed the two-page letter.

The letter began by citing a February report in The New York Times in which 30 women spoke to the newspaper about treatment in the eight years since the Ray Rice scandal rocked the league.

“We all watched in horror in 2014 when the video of Ray Rice striking, knocking out, and spitting on his fiancé was made public,” the letter read. “In the aftermath, you promised to take gender violence seriously and improve the institutional culture for women at the N.F.L. These recent allegations suggest that you have not. Female employees reported that they were subjected to repeated viewings of the Rice video, with commentary by coworkers that the victim had brought the violence on herself.”

The Times reported cases of unwanted touching, parties where prostitutes had been hired and women being pushed out for complaining about discrimination.

“The N.F.L. must do better — pink jerseys are not a replacement for equal treatment and full inclusion of women in the workplace. Our offices will use the full weight of our authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of harassment, discrimination, or retaliation by employers throughout our states, including at the National Football League.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy issued a response via email to the letter.

“We share the commitment of the attorneys general to ensuring that all of our workplaces — including the league office and 32 clubs — are diverse, inclusive and free from discrimination and harassment,” McCarthy wrote. “We have made great strides over the years in support of that commitment, but acknowledge that we, like many organizations, have more work to do.”

–Field Level Media

Jan 22, 2022; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell during a AFC Divisional playoff football game at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Goodell to NFL teams: Head coach diversity ‘unacceptable’

Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL will re-examine policies regarding head-coach diversity in the league, saying its efforts have yielded “unacceptable” results.

In a memo sent to all 32 teams Saturday morning, he also said matters involving “the integrity of the game” must be addressed.

Goodell’s memo comes days after former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores sued the NFL, charging an interview he had with the New York Giants was a “sham” intended to meet diversity hiring rules. Flores also alleged he had been offered money by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to intentionally lose games to secure a better draft position.

Both teams have denied the allegations.

Flores’ lawsuit got the attention of Goodell, however, even though a league statement said Tuesday that the NFL said the suit was “without merit.”

“Racism and any form of discrimination is contrary to the NFL’s values,” Goodell wrote. “We have made significant efforts to promote diversity and adopted numerous policies and programs which have produced positive change in many areas, however we must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches the results have been unacceptable.”

After the January firings of Flores and David Culley with the Houston Texans, the NFL has one Black head coach – Mike Tomin of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Of the nine head-coaching vacancies, five have been filled so far, all by white men.

Goodell said the league will examine existing policies and initiatives relating to diversity, equity and inclusion and will hire outside experts to help in the review. Current and former players and coaches will be among those asked for input.

“Our goal is simple: make our efforts and those of the clubs more effective so that real and tangible results will be achieved,” Goodell said.

Goodell also said the league will examine “integrity” issues, without directly mentioning Flores’ pay-to-tank charges.

“These matters will be reviewed thoroughly and independently. We expect that these independent experts will receive full cooperation from everyone associated with the league or any member club as this work proceeds,” Goodell said.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden looks on from the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Las Vegas won 26-17.  Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Raiders coach Jon Gruden sues NFL, contends emails ‘selectively leaked’

Former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden is suing the National Football League and commissioner Roger Goodell, with his attorney contending emails that led to Gruden’s resignation were “selectively leaked” to “force him out of his job.”

Gruden resigned Oct. 11 after the emails revealed derogatory comments he made about Goodell, players union chief DeMaurice Smith and various team owners as well as statements categorized as racist, misogynistic and homophobic. The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal reported extensively about the content of the emails, which were uncovered as part of the league’s investigation into the operation of the Washington Football Team.

“There is no explanation or justification for why Gruden’s emails were the only ones made public out of the 650,000 emails collected in the NFL’s investigation of the Washington Football Team or why the emails were held for months before being released in the middle of the Raiders’ season,” said Adam Hosmer-Henner, who is representing Gruden, in a statement.

The NFL responded with a statement of its own.

“The allegations are entirely meritless and the NFL will vigorously defend against these claims,” the league said.

The emails were sent from 2011-18, when Gruden was the analyst on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”

Gruden signed a 10-year, $100 million contract in 2018 to return to coaching. He had a 22-31 record over the past three-plus seasons in his second stint with the Raiders, including 3-2 this season. He coached the Raiders from 1998-2001, then moved on to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002-08. Overall, he has a 117-112 NFL coaching record and led Tampa Bay to its first Super Bowl win in 2002.

The Raiders are 2-1 under interim head coach Rich Bisaccia and have a 5-3 overall mark, tying them with the Los Angeles Raiders for the best record in the AFC West.

–Field Level Media

Feb 4, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; NFL football commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press conference ahead of Super Bowl 55, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Tampa, Fla.  Mandatory Credit: Perry Knotts/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

Report: NFL’s Roger Goodell paid nearly $128 million in past 2 years

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was paid nearly $128 million in salary, bonuses and benefits over the past two years, the New York Times reported.

The Times, citing four unnamed sources who attended the owners meetings in New York this week, reported Thursday night that Goodell’s compensation during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years was about 90 percent based on bonuses, with his pay tied to helping negotiate a new labor deal and lucrative media rights contracts.

Last year, according to ESPN, he voluntarily requested to the league’s compensation committee that his base salary be reduced to zero due to the pandemic.

NFL players and owners reached a new collective bargaining agreement to keep the peace with players through at least 2030, in March 2020. This March, the NFL reached agreements reportedly worth more than $100 billion with CBS, ESPN/ABC, Fox, NBC, Amazon and NFL Network that will run through the 2033 season.

Goodell, 62, was elected to replace Paul Tagliabue as NFL commissioner in 2006.

The league declined comment to The Times on the report.

–Field Level Media

Sep 19, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden looks on from the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Las Vegas won 26-17.  Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Gruden admits disparaging commissioner Roger Goodell in email

Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden confessed he disparaged NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and criticized several team owners in a series of emails 10 years ago, an admission made during an interview with his former employer, ESPN.

Gruden acknowledged sending the emails in 2011 amid a labor dispute that led to a lockout. The emails, sent at a time he was the game analyst on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” are being scrutinized following reports Friday that he made a racial comment to describe DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, in one message.

“I was in a bad frame of mind at the time [in 2011], and I called Roger Goodell a [expletive] in one of these emails too,” the Raiders coach told ESPN on Friday night for a report that aired Sunday. “They were keeping players and coaches from doing what they love with a lockout. There also were a lot of things being reported publicly about the safety of the sport that I love. I was on a mission with high school football during that time, and there were a lot of parents who were scared about letting their kids play football. It just didn’t sit well with me.”

Gruden did not identify the owners he criticized in regard to the labor negotiations. Regarding Goodell, ESPN said Gruden referred to him with a “vulgar description.”

ESPN reported Raiders owner Mark Davis and team executives were in possession of the disparaging emails, and Gruden said he knew there were at least five of them. Davis said Friday that the content of the email that referenced Smith was “disturbing.”

Gruden has acknowledged he insulted Smith, saying he “ashamed” but “never had a racial thought” at the time he wrote the message.

The NFL is weighing possible disciplinary actions against Gruden, even though he was out of the NFL at the time.

Rod Graves, the executive director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, told ESPN that Gruden’s words about Smith, who is Black, warrant punishment.

“The insensitive remarks made by Jon Gruden about DeMaurice Smith are indicative of the racism that exists on many levels of professional sports,” Graves said in a statement Sunday morning. “Furthermore, it reveals that the journey for African Americans and other minorities in sports, is riddled with irrepressible mindsets at the highest level. It is our hope that the League and team ownership will address this matter with a remedy commensurate with these painful words. This is yet another inflection point in a society fraught with cynical social blinders, absent of respect for the intellectual capacity and leadership of minorities. When will it end?”

Gruden, 58, worked in the ESPN booth from the 2009 through 2017 seasons. Prior to ESPN, he coached the then-Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, leading the latter to their first Super Bowl title following the 2002 season, before rejoining the Raiders in 2018.

He has a career 117-111 record, including 3-1 this season. The Raiders host the Chicago Bears (2-2) on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell watches the Lions during a team practice at Ford Field on Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021.

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Roger Goodell: Bills need new stadium

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell believes the Buffalo Bills need a new stadium funded by a public/private partnership.

“You’ve got to think long-term here,” Goodell told the media on Monday at Jim Kelly’s celebrity golf tournament Monday in Buffalo. “This has been going on for decades, and it’s time to get a new stadium done that we can make sure the Bills are here and successful for many, many decades going forward.”

The Bills’ lease at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., ends in 2023, and Goodell said renovations to the stadium would not be sufficient. It is the fourth-oldest stadium in the league.

A $1.4 billion proposal for a new stadium has been submitted by Buffalo’s ownership, headed by Terry and Kim Pegula.

The Bills have not threatened to leave if a new stadium has been built, but they have been putting the pressure on local governments to help them build the stadium.

“You can’t really do plans and designs on things until you have a deal, and right now the city of Buffalo and the state (of New York) are going to have to decide if they want a team,” Pegula Sports and Entertainment spokesman Jim Wilkinson told WIVB-TV on Aug. 17.

The Bills have been in Buffalo for its entire history and in the Orchard Park stadium since 1973.

–Field Level Media

Apr 29, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announces the final pick of the 2021 NFL Draft for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at First Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: NFL loosens COVID-19 protocols for vaccinated players

NFL players who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will face far fewer restrictions and requirements as they head into the 2021 season.

The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a set of more relaxed guidelines for vaccinated players to follow while keeping things stringent for those not fully vaccinated, multiple reports said Wednesday.

Fully vaccinated players no longer will be tested for COVID-19 daily, will not need to wear a mask while inside their teams’ facilities and will not face travel restrictions. They will not be required to quarantine if exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Other “perks” are included, too, including regaining access to cafeterias and saunas at team facilities. While traveling, vaccinated players will be allowed to see and interact with family members and friends who are also inoculated.

For non-vaccinated players, however, none of these guidelines apply. That group of players is still subject to mask-wearing, daily testing, physical distancing inside the club facility, travel restrictions and a required quarantine period if exposed to a COVID-positive person.

On a conference call Wednesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell did not reveal what percentage of NFL players have gotten fully vaccinated yet, but he said that more than 90% of Tier 1 and Tier 2 staffers on 30 NFL teams have been inoculated, reports said. The other two teams have reached at least 85% vaccinated for those groups of staffers.

–Field Level Media

Feb 4, 2021; Tampa, FL, USA; NFL football commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press conference ahead of Super Bowl 55, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in Tampa, Fla.  Mandatory Credit: Perry Knotts/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

NFL memo details vaccination expectations for staff, players

The NFL on Tuesday issued a memo to all team personnel that announced the league’s plans to move forward with COVID-19 vaccination education and accessibility and encouraged all players and staff to get vaccinated.

ESPN broke news of the memo, which came from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, John Mara, chair of the league’s executive committee, and John York, chair of NFL’s health and safety committee. It was addressed to all team chief executives, presidents, general managers and head coaches.

“In light of expanded vaccine eligibility, it is appropriate now to take further steps to educate about and promote vaccine availability and acceptance within the NFL,” said the statement, which outlined a five-point plan for teams to implement the new league guidelines.

Steps include using each team stadium or training facility as a vaccination site for club staff, players and eligible family members; scheduling and participating in vaccine information session for staff, players and family; educating employees and promoting communications regarding the benefits of vaccination; and weekly reporting of the number of employees who have been vaccinated.

The memo goes on to say that the league is “actively discussing with the NFLPA a set of protocol changes that would apply to clubs where vaccination levels reach a certain threshold and would give vaccinated individuals significant relief from requirements relating to testing, PPE use, physical distancing, travel and other subjects.”

The league does address exceptions for individuals who forego the vaccine based on “bona fide medical or religious ground,” but notes that any staff member who refuses vaccinations without such reasons will be restricted from “football only” areas and may not work directly or in close proximity to players.

Less than two weeks ago, Goodell said he anticipated packed stadiums across the league when play resumes this fall.

“All of us in the NFL want to see every one of our fans back,” Goodell said. “Football is simply not the same without the fans and we expect to have full stadiums in the 2021 season.”

One of the faces of the league, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, is on board with vaccination education. He and his wife, entertainer Ciara, will host “Roll Up Your Sleeves,” a TV special aimed at raising awareness about vaccinations against COVID-19.

It is scheduled to air Sunday at 7 p.m. ET on NBC.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday that 36.4 percent of Americans 18 and older have received one dose of the vaccine, with 22.3 percent fully vaccinated with two doses.

–Field Level Media