Monday Morning Quarterback’s Tim Rohan wrote an in-depth look at what it’s like to go through an NFL disciplinary hearing under commissioner Roger Goodell. It’s a great read and it covers players like Tank Johnson, Donte Stallworth, Anthony Hargrove, and Ray Rice- and it paints Goodell exactly how you would have expected after following DeflateGate.
Rohan asked these players to share their stories about interacting with Goodell in the hearing, and some of the conversations are eye-rolling. Johnson was called in to visit Goodell in 2007 after having gun charges against him.
“Tank, how many games do you think you should be suspended?” Goodell asked.
Johnson looked Goodell in the eye. “None,” he said.
“In this case, I agree with you,” Goodell said, according to Johnson. “But I have to suspend you to uphold the integrity of the National Football League.”
Now I’m sure this is a recollection from Johnson and it’s not a verbatim response from Goodell, but the other player interactions support the notion that Goodell is all about optics in the media.
Ray Rice’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, shared his thoughts about meeting with Goodell. Ginsberg also represented Jonathan Vilma in BountyGate. Ginsberg says, “Goodell is cold and judgmental,” according to Rohan. “He believes the commissioner is swayed by public opinion and has his mind made up before the meeting starts.”
This sentiment is supported with both the BountyGate and DeflateGate hearings.
“It became clear to me,” Anthony Hargrove said about his BountyGate hearing, “it was going to be difficult for me to prove myself innocent because they were going to conjure whatever truth they needed to make it believable to the public. That was the hardest thing to swallow. You feel like you’re screaming at the top of your lungs, and no one’s listening.”
When you read the transcript from Tom Brady’s hearing over DeflateGate, the one the NFL wanted buried, it becomes clear that Goodell ignores all evidence brought in front of him with regards to science. It’s also evident that Goodell incorrectly recollected or blatantly disregarded Brady’s testimony when issuing his punishment.
“What Roger looks for is somebody to agree with him. Or to beg forgiveness,” Ginsberg said. “It’s very difficult to have a genuine, authentic disagreement with Roger.
Ginsberg went on: “If you’re not willing to do a mea culpa and get down on your knees and cry a little bit, and convince Roger you’re a better person for having been through the experience … it’s difficult to walk into one of those meetings feeling very optimistic.”
And because Goodell has his mind made up before a player enters the hearing, any sort of disagreement with the narrative he’s created is taken as dishonesty. “Goodell seemed to take personal offense when he felt a player was being dishonest with him,” Rohan noted, which just adds to why he came down so heavily on Brady.
Goodell and the NFL paid for a law firm to go through an investigation and he clearly did not internalize any rebuttal from Brady’s camp. It would actually seem that these rebuttals served to antagonize Goodell and make the situation worse for Brady.
We heard throughout the appeals process that the only way the NFL would settle with Brady would be for the quarterback to accept fault that he did something to the footballs. Brady has been adamant since day one that nothing happened to the footballs and gave a sworn testimony that he was innocent. Goodell would take that declaration of innocence as a challenge, and react in a Dolores Umbridge I WILL HAVE ORDER or Joffrey Baratheon I AM THE KING type of way.
Rohan offers a great look into the disciplinary process. I recommend giving it a read.