CHAUTAUQUA - National Football League Commissioner, and Jamestown native, Roger Goodell was on hand Wednesday morning with Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive to talk about the ethics of cheating with NBC television personality Luke Russert, at the Chautauqua Institution.
As a part of the 2012 lecture platform, the commissioners' discussion on cheating and ethics in sports could not have come at a better time. Both men have had their fair share of chances to deal with ethical dilemmas over the course of their careers. Wednesday marked the sixth anniversary since Goodell took over as the NFL's top administrator while Slive has been the head of the SEC for the past 10 years.
"It seems like a lot longer than six years," Goodell said. "I think we've made progress. We've gotten the collective bargaining structured the way we feel is beneficial to all parties and there are probably things we all want to change. I think it's a very positive agreement. We have long-term television agreements. We've made significant progress on a lot of our stadiums. There is still more work to be done, particularly in player health and safety."
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib Snyder III
Pictured from left to right are: NBC?television personality Luke Russert, Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell. The trio was at the Chautauqua Institution on Wednesday morning to talk about the ethics of cheating.
With the New Orleans Saints' Bounty-gate scandal still at the forefront, Goodell had a chance Wednesday to elaborate on why he chose to suspend Saints' head coach Sean Payton for the entire 2012-13 NFL season.
"I certainly hope it's not the norm," Goodell said. "This was a serious infraction of our rules. I've told (the head coaches) for the six years that I've been commissioner, 'you are responsible for what goes on and how your team plays the game.' We all want to win. There is a pressure to win, but there is a lot to say about how you win and how you do things. That says more to me than actual victories. You have to win the right way. And that includes (playing) within the rules and making sure you respect the people you're playing with and coaching against and take responsibility for what goes on on your team."
One of the main areas of concern, besides getting the owners and NFLPA to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement, Goodell has faced has been player safety and the Saints' bounty system for hurting opposing players was a direct slap in the face to Goodell's efforts.
"The fact that in today's day and age that we would encourage our players or reward our players for injuring other players, it's just not what sports is all about, or what it should be all about," Goodell said. "I believe the game of football is obviously a tough game, but to target individuals, or to reward players for being carted off the field is not what football is going to be about."
With the recent passing of former NFL great Junior Seau, the issues of concussions has become a primary concern for the NFL, and sports in general.
"This is not just a football issue, this is a sports issue," Goodell said of concussions. "And it's beyond sports. It's also a big problem in our military. What the NFL is doing, is we're not waiting for science, we're going out and we're going to make changes to our game, which are affecting every other game."
"I played high school football in Utica, New York, where I grew up in the 1960's," Slive added. "And the theory then was that you could not drink any water during practice and that's about what we knew about concussions at the time. I think what you've seen and come is obviously the more information that we get and the more data that we get - and Roger's right - we need to protect our student athletes and protect our game if we value the game."
Goodell also mentioned the ability of people within the game, and outside the game to come together to change the game to make it safer, as well as more exciting at the same time.
"In 1905 President (Theodore) Roosevelt, at the time, was concerned about the future of football," Goodell said. "This was pre-NFL and he brought some of the major college coaches into Washington and they changed the game.
"The took the wedge out which was a dangerous play," Goodell continued. "But they also put the forward pass in which made our game more exciting. So you can make the game safer and more exciting and we've been very open about the fact that we have to do more and we have to take a leadership position and we think that we're going to continue to make those changes going forward."
As time has gone on, players have become bigger, faster, and stronger. Unfortunately some of those players have gotten that way through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Despite the ability to test for steroids, the NFL does not possess the ability to test for Human Growth Hormone (HGH), a substance that still worries Goodell.
"I think it's in the best interest of the sport and the integrity of the sport (to test for HGH)," Goodell said. "But more importantly, I think it's important for the safety of our players. HGH is not available except on the Black Market for the purposes of which (the players) are using it. They're putting things in their bodies that they have no idea of what the long-term consequences of that is. We believe it's a safety issue, as well as an integrity issue."
When comparing football to other sports, it easier to compare the contact the players receive to the contact they might receive if they were involved in a sport such as boxing. Goodell and Slive are two men who are not ready to accept that comparison.
"I think that it's completely irresponsible (to compare football to boxing), Goodell said. "The game of football is a tough game. People have played it for generations, they've played it safely and they've gone on to be very successful in other careers. I believe the game of football teaches tremendous values. It teaches teamwork, it teaches hard work, it teaches working for an objective."
"In boxing, your goal from which you are rewarded, is to hurt somebody," Slive said. "And obviously the harder you hit them, and the more you jar their brain and you knock them out, then you're going to be a more successful fighter. That's not what football is about and that's why Roger has done what he's done. Football is about playing a great team game, it takes great skill, it takes an enormous amount of energy and provides a lot of lessons. The game is too valuable for us not to make the kind of adjustments we need to make. It really isn't boxing."
Players have the ability to change to outcome of the game on the field by the way they play. Goodell, however, does not see much difference if players are trying to change the outcome of the game by intentionally hurting another player, or if they are changing the outcome of the game to further their own gambling endeavors.
"I don't know if I would put them into categories," Goodell said. "I would say that we are very concerned about gambling. There is more and more gambling ... and we want to make sure that when (the fans) are watching and NFL game, there are no outside influences to that game."
No matter the infraction, Goodell made it clear that his best means of getting his point across to the players is taking them off the field, away from the game and their teammates.
"To be honest, that is really where discipline becomes very effective," Goodell said. "When you take away the ability for them to play or to participate and support their teammates and be a part of that effort, they think they are letting themselves down, but more importantly, they think they are letting their teammates down. And you take that away from them, it's much more impactful than a fine.
"When we see hits that can lead to an injury of another player, that's when we're going to aggressively pursue (those players)," Goodell continued. "We're going to discipline them on the field and off the field."