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Roger Goodell addresses his 2012 comments on legalized gambling creating "allegations of . . . game-fixing"

Roger Goodell addresses his 2012 comments on legalized gambling creating "allegations of . . . game-fixing"

Roger Goodell's Super Bowl-week press conference was a far cry from what it used to be — the Commissioner alone at the podium with anyone and everyone possessing a game-week credential potentially getting a microphone and asking a question.

It's now more like a talk show that takes questions from a hand-picked audience. And, yes, some of the questions felt (and perhaps might have been) planted. Monday's format included an effort to address potentially sticky subjects pre-emptively with moderator/host Tracy Wolfson.

Still, some pointed questions were asked. As gleaned from the 408-page transcript of Goodell's deposition in the lawsuit over whether the NFL's insurance carriers will pay for the concussion settlement, the league works hard to prepare Goodell for those press conferences, with briefing books and talking points and practice sessions that may or may not be recorded for critique and feedback. It was clear that he was ready for some of the questions. It was clear that he was not ready for others. It was clear that, in most cases, he remains very adept at saying something while saying nothing before waiting for the next question.

The good news is that, even though I wasn't invited to attend (my spot went to various others who apparently spend even more of their lives covering and in turn promoting the sport Goodell runs), Charean Williams was. And she asked the question I would have asked.

"You said in 2012, 'If gambling is permitted freely on sporting events, normal incidents of the game such as bad snaps, dropped passes, turnovers, penalties, and play calling inevitably will fuel speculation, distrust, and accusations of point-shaving or game-fixing.' Fast forward to now, do you see that speculation happening, and what is the NFL doing to counter or prevent it?" Charean said.

"That's exactly what I was talking about before is protecting the integrity," Goodell said, referring to his opening back-and-forth with Wolfson. "Making sure that our fans understand that what they see out there does not have any undue influence. We have to educate our personnel. That goes from owners to players to coaches to everybody in the organization to everyone at the league level to our partners. Making sure that they understand while people can speculate, people can have perceptions, we have to hold that standard as high as we possibly can.

"I haven't heard an awful lot of that, but you do hear it. There are people out there that say those things, whether they're irresponsible or not. I think we've proven it in the way we enforce those rules. We have suspended a number of players for betting on the NFL or involvement with gambling activity. We have suspended a number of personnel both at the club level and the league level for the same. We've actually terminated employees. So we will do that. We take this incredibly serious. So we understand the risk. We did not make the decision. Ultimately, the decision was a decision by the Supreme Court, when they legalized sports betting.

"We have to adapt. We have to embrace it. We have been cautious. We have been very thoughtful I think in our approach. But we know the risk, and protecting the integrity is number one."

Still, his comment from 2012 wasn't about the ensuing threats to the integrity of the game. It was about external speculation, distrust, and allegations of point-shaving or game-fixing, if/when gambling is legalized.

Basically, his warning was that, if the Supreme Court allows the nationwide gambling floodgates to open, the NFL will be inundated with claims of chicanery when it comes to "normal incidents of the game" that occur accidentally. Nothing Goodell said yesterday addresses that core concern.

Earlier today on 670 The Score in Chicago, I was asked what I wanted him to say. Which is actually an excellent question.

Here's exactly what I want Goodell to say on the subject:

"The only way to counter allegations of suspicious activity is to give fans and media nothing to be suspicious about. We vow to be completely transparent regarding the things that we as a league can control. Just as players and coaches must answer to the media for mistakes they make during games, we will do the same. Our replay-review discussions will be fully transparent and televised in real time, so that people can see and hear the deliberations and have faith in the process. We will make the referee from every game available to be questioned by reporters regarding any calls made or not made during the game. We will make our V.P. of officiating available throughout the season for interviews from any and all media outlets in order to demonstrate that nothing is being hidden and that any bad calls, which are inevitable, are the result of human error and nothing more. We also will work diligently, and spend the money necessary, to incorporate all available technologies into our officiating process, in order to keep bad calls to the absolute possible minimum. Even if we cannot eliminate all bad calls, we will always strive to do so."

None of that is currently occurring. All of it should be. Educating employees and punishing employees is aimed at preventing bad things from happening. That doesn't prevent people from believe that bad things are happening.

In that regard, the league is doing nothing to push back against the mushrooming notion that games are fixed — other than to periodically lean in to the joke that the entire NFL is scripted.