NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated Friday there’s a misunderstanding among those who criticize the league for the perceived problems with punishment when it comes to issues such as domestic violence and touchdown celebrations.
Richard Conway of the BBC spoke with Goodell about the backlash the league has received in the wake of the Josh Brown domestic-violence controversy. The commissioner doesn’t believe it’s easy for those on the outside to understand how the NFL handles things on a case-by-case basis.
"I understand the public’s misunderstanding of those things and how that can be difficult for them to understand how we get to those positions," Goodell said. "But those are things that we have to do. I think it’s a lot deeper and a lot more complicated than it appears, but it gets a lot of focus."
Brown had been originally suspended for a single game after the league’s investigation into his case despite a league mandate from 2014 calling for six games for a first domestic-violence offense.
The New York Giants kicker was moved to the commissioner exempt list on Friday after further evidence emerged in the case, per NFL.com. He’s not allowed to participate in any team activities until he’s removed from the list.
Meanwhile, the league has dispensed a steady stream of fines during the first six weeks of the regular season for touchdown celebrations. Just this week, Mike Jones of the Washington Post reported Redskins tight end Vernon Davis was fined $12,154 for merely shooting the football like a basketball.
CBS Sports’ Evan Washburn even reported the NFL threatened to eject Pittsburgh Steelers superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown earlier in October if he wore Muhammad Ali tribute cleats during a game (h/t Sporting News).
Goodell told Conway those types of situations and the league’s much swifter action in such cases comes down to creating a professional environment:
You have to dress in a certain way, you have to perform in a certain way and within certain rules. And what anyone does on that field reflects on everybody. And off the field. And that’s why we all focus so much on ‘these are the standards we want to meet’ and lets meet them.
There’s always a healthy balance there of exuberance from a big play. You want to see that type of thing. But it can quickly get out of hand if it gets to taunting where it can lead to someone retaliating and you get an escalation of issues on the field that are not professional in any way and not sportsmanship.
Ultimately, it comes as no surprise that player discipline is a hot-button topic as the league and its Players Association begin conversations about a new collective bargaining agreement. ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano reported last week the owners have already reached out despite the current deal going through 2020.
NFLPA president Eric Winston told Mark Maske of the Washington Post last year that it’s "hard to imagine" a new CBA getting done unless the discipline process, including Goodell’s extensive involvement in it, is changed moving forward.