Roger Goodell met with the media on Thursday to provide his annual assessment of the NFL just a couple of days before the league is the center of the entertainment universe. The NFL commissioner addressed numerous issues in the league, including minority hiring, social justice initiatives, and how the league successfully navigated the pandemic during the 2020 season. During the question-answer portion of the press conference, there was an awkward moment when the commissioner slipped up with an offensive remark, was reminded of his mistake, and he immediately apologized.
Roger Goodell’s State of the NFL address
After an NFL season like no other, Roger Goodell made it to Tampa Bay this week, taking part in the limited pregame activities leading up to Super Bowl 55 on Sunday, featuring the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs.
To Goodell and the league office’s credit, they made it to this point. The doubters were plentiful before the 2020 season started as many questioned whether or not the NFL would be able to safely make it through the season during the middle of a worldwide pandemic.
Goodell addressed the pandemic and mentioned how proud he was about the effort all 32 NFL teams collectively made to successfully complete a full season schedule. He also discussed the social justice issues the league tackled both before the season and during it, as well as the hot-button topic in recent weeks, minority hiring.
Roger Goodell working with Washington Football Team this year
The Washington Football Team had a successful season on the field in 2020. Despite finishing with a 7-9 record, the team won the NFC East and earned a berth in the playoffs, where they were ousted in the wild-card round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, losing 31-23.
However, prior to the start of the 2020 season, there was turmoil in the nation’s capital. The Washington Post published a story in July with allegations of sexual harassment from 15 former female employees. As a result of the troubling accusations, team owner Dan Snyder announced shortly after the hiring of Beth Wilkinson from the D.C. law firm Wilkinson Walsh LLP. She was tasked with reviewing the organization’s culture, policies, and allegations of workplace misconduct.
A month later, and after the Post published a second story with additional allegations, the NFL announced it was stepping in. Wilkinson would continue her investigation, but she would report the findings to Roger Goodell instead of Daniel Snyder.
Makes offensive remark and immediately apologizes
In addition to the sexual harassment investigation this offseason, the Washington Football team made off-the-field headlines for another reason with the changing of the team name. The team dropped the offensive “Redskins” moniker after years of Daniel Snyder resisting and would be known as the Washington Football Team for the 2020 season. As recently as late 2020, team president Jason Wright said the name will likely remain in 2021, and could potentially be a long-term replacement, or permanent.
During Thursday’s press conference, Roger Goodell proved and even admitted old habits die hard when he was asked a question about the team’s investigation on the harassment allegations.
“We do expect that Beth (Wilkinson) – I have not met with her yet – so I don’t have any of her recommendations,” Goodell said. “She is nearing the completion of her phase of work, so she’ll be sharing that work with me in her review at some point in the future. And, of course, we’ll share it with the Redskins and others.”
“Washington Football Team,” NFL Network reporter and moderator Steve Wyche interjected, correcting Goodell off-camera.
“Excuse me, Washington Football Team. I apologize,” Goodell paused. “That’s a bad habit.”
Roger Goodell continued on with his explanation on the Washington Football Team and the changes it has already made. One obvious change that has not yet been made is a new nickname where fans, media, and the NFL commissioner will have yet another name to associate with the club. But until that time, as evidenced by the very top of NFL leadership, it’s going to be a constant challenge to remember the current name until it’s etched into memory for at least a few more seasons.