Goodell addresses Haslam situation
BEREA, Ohio-- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in Berea as part of the Heads Up youth football program promoting Pop Warner football and to make the game safer. Goodell met with the media for about six minutes and addressed a number of questions, mostly surrounding the ownership of Jimmy Haslam and the criminal investigation into his company Pilot Flying J.
Here are some of the topics covered:
Q: What can you tell the fans of the Browns regarding the investigation at Pilot Flying J and how it affects Jimmy Haslam?:
Goodell: "Jimmy Haslam is a man of great integrity. We're proud to have him as an owner in the NFL. We think he's going to be a great owner for the Cleveland Browns and the fans here. He's as disappointed as anybody as to what happened at Pilot Flying J and he's working hard to fix it and correct those issues both from a structural standpoint and to make amends. He's kept me very much involved. He tells me I was one of the first to inform once he learned about it and he's been great at keeping us informed."
Q: How have you stay informed on the subject?:
Goodell: "Just an update, mostly, what's happening. What he's doing and to make sure he addresses the situation from a satisfactory standpoint. He doesn't need any pushing. He's a man who this company means a lot to him and his family. Obviosuly, he's not happy about what's happened and he's determined to fix it."
Q: How do you look at the process now?:
Goodell: "Right now, this is an issue where he's had some people in his organization obviously, not conduct themselves in ways consistent with what he wants. He's fixing it and he's got to do that. Those things happen in big organizations. Jimmy is more disappointed than anybody, but I don't think it's a matter for us at the moment."
Q: What would happen if Haslam is indicted or convicted?:
Goodell:"We're not going to play the hypothetical. Right now, he's addressed the issues and we're confident he's going to deal with it properly."
Q: Was this something that could have been discovered in the vetting process of him becoming an owner?:
Goodell: "No, I don't think (so). This was a surprise to him and to his senior level management. From that standpoint, I don't think he was aware of it or anyone else and I don't know how we could be aware of it. That was not disclosed to us."
Q: Are you happy with the way Haslam has kept you informed?:
Goodell: "He's been very proactive. He's made numerous statements about it and he's taken responsibility for it. he's spoken up and as i've said before, he's a man of integrity and his company has meant a lot to him and his family. He's more determined than ever to make it right."
Q: Was the vetting process any less since Haslam was already the part owner of the Steelers?:
Goodell: "No. We go through the same process in any circumstance. When you're going through a controlling ownership process that's a big step up and we just don't pass that off. We do the same vetting process. Obviously, he knows people in the league after being an owner so there were certain aspects of it that which were easier, but we didn't short circuit anything."
Q: How important are the Browns to the NFL?:
Goodell: "The Cleveland Browns are an important part of the NFL, probably no one knows that more than I do from my experience here. When Jimmy Haslam came into this, he came into this with a mindset to get this franchise turned around in a positive direction and have a team that the community would be proud of and not just in any single year, but consistently and create a winner. He's brought in great talent. He's brought in great talent and set the organization obviously in a different direction. I think that's all positive and good for the fans here and ultimately good for the NFL."
Q: Are you concerned the Browns will be distracted this season?:
Goodell: "I don't believe it's distracting anybody in that building because none of that matters at the end of the day. Jimmy is focusing on that and he's hired a lot of great people he's hired to do that job. He always intended to stay at Pilot Flying J."
Q: Are you concerned that Haslam's first year of ownership has gotten off to a rocky start?:
Goodell: "You never want to see this kind of thing happen, particularly to a partner in the league. Obviously, his partners care a great deal about him and as partners they want to see him getting off to a good start. This is not what anybody intended or anybody anticipated but he's a man that I think is truly respected in the NFL."
Q: Are you as optimistic about a positive outcome for Haslam?:
Goodell: "Most of my reports are coming from Jimmy. He does shares that with me also. I have every reason to believe him."
Q: Did you ask him if he knew about the fraud?:
Goodell:"Yes, absolutely and he's been very clear that he didn't have that knowledge."
Q: Does the league hold the owners accountable, similarly as the players?:
Goodell: "We actually hold ownership to a higher standard and management. I think we've proven that in what we've done. It's not just accused as you know, we often let the criminal process unfold because you need to do that. You need to get all the facts. Sometimes, that's a real focus for us."