Roger Goodell Grilled In Congress About Jack Del Rio Fine From Washington Commanders

The House Oversight Committee’s session, in which NFL commissioner Roger Goodell testified, is over and there was some news and some interesting exchanges.

The news is committee chairwoman Carolyn Maloney announced she will subpoena Daniel Snyder next week to compel him to testify before the committee, something the Washington Commanders owner has so far avoided.

The Committee on Wednesday did get testimony from Goodell about the Commanders’ toxic workplace environment situation of years ago and the NFL’s investigation of the matter. Another NFL investigation of Snyder and the Commanders is also ongoing.

And representatives from both sides of the political aisle took their turns cross examining Goodell with sometimes equal vigor about the Commanders’ workplace.

But it was Ohio congressman Jim Jordan (R) who went after Goodell for matters of first amendment and free speech relative to the recent $100,000 fine of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.

This is how it went:

“Commissioner, you believe in the first amendment, don’t you?” Jordan opened.

“I do,” Goodell said.

“I mean all parts of it, all the rights we have, the right to practice your faith, your right to petition the government, freedom of press, freedom of speech, you believe in all of that?”

“Yes I do, congressman.”

“Do you agree with the Washington Redskins decision to fine Jack Del Rio $100,000?” Jordan asked.

By the way, the team changed its name to Commanders, so there’s that. Anyway …

“That was a decision that was made by coach [Ron] Rivera,” Goodell said. “Again, as I stated earlier, they are responsible for monitoring and managing their own workplace. He made that decision on his own. I did not speak to him. I have great respect for coach Rivera. He made his decision for reasons I’m sure he thought were …”

Jordan interrupted and noted that wasn’t the question.

“I asked you if you agree with the Washington Redskins decision to fine Jack Del Rio $100,000?” he repeated.

“I don’t think,” Goodell said, “it’s my position to be able to state whether it was the correct decision or not.”

Jordan persisted.

“Coach Rivera in his statement when he fined the assistant coach $100,000 he said, Del Rio ‘does have the right to voice his opinion as a citizen of the United States and it’s most certainly his right to do so.’ I don’t think if that’s actually accurate anymore because if you do voice that you end up getting fined and have to write a check for $100,000. Does that concern you?”

Goodell responded: “I, again, I have great respect for coach Rivera. I presume he had reasons for doing what he did and I’m sure he took a lot of factors into consideration there.”

Again, doesn’t answer if the fine concerns Goodell or not, but moving on …

Jordan read to Goodell his own statement from the start of the 2021 season which read in part that he encourages everyone to speak out about civil matters in the country and peacefully protest.

“Did you really mean that when you said that, Mr. Goodell?” Jordan asked.

“Yes,” Goodell said. “I think people are always responsible for what they say and what they do, but yes.”

“And when you encouraged all to speak out you meant all, not just some?” Jordan pressed.

“That’s correct, congressman,” Goodell responded, “but you’re responsible for what you say. There are consequences for what you do and say in life.”

And now Jordan was finally getting to his point but not before he interjected the idea the NFL banned Barstool Sports president Dave Portnoy from attending NFL events.

“The NFL encourages all to speak out unless you’re Dave Portnoy and not allowed to a game, unless you’re Jack Del Rio, you get fined. That is, I think, a concern not only I have but a lot of your fans across this country have, this standard. Does that concern you at all?” Jordan asked.

Goodell responded: “It always concerns me what our fans think and how they react but we try to make sure we’re responsible in all our comments.”

So Goodell stayed on message that words come with responsibility. And Jordan then continued to dig by quoting Del Rio’s tweet, which has since gone dark because Del Rio shuttered his Twitter account.

“Would love to understand the whole story of why the summer of riots, looting and burning of personal property is never discussed but Jan. 6 is?”

What part of that tweet, Jordan asked, warranted a $100,000 fine?

“Again, congressman, I didn’t issue the fine,” Goodell said. “I wasn’t part of the decision-making process. Coach Rivera obviously had reasons which he believed were substantial to do that. I have great respect for him.”

It should be noted Del Rio also called the events of Jan. 6 at the Capitol “a dust up.”

Anyway, Jordan then made the point the entire purpose of the hearing was about the NFL’s role in overseeing the Washington workplace environment and then something happens within the Washington workplace environment the last few weeks and Goodell has nothing to say about it.

“I am not going to interfere with the workplace decisions a club makes on a matter like that,” Goodell said. “That is not something that rises to the occasion such as the subject we’re talking about today when you have a workplace that is obviously toxic and unacceptable or unprofessional.”

You didn’t think Jordan was going to let Goodell have that as the last word, did you?

“No one supports that but we do support the first amendment,” Jordan responded. “And I understand this is a private organization but the chilling impact when speech is curtailed like this and you get fined for a tweet you put out, I think that is a concern to all of us. That’s why I raise it in the committee meeting today.”

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

 

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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