SoFi Stadium loomed large behind Roger Goodell, but the challenges before the NFL commissioner are even bigger.
At his annual state-of-the-league news conference Wednesday, Goodell was peppered with questions about the lack of diversity among head coaches, only two of who are Black.
Last week, former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed a lawsuit accusing teams of racism in their hiring practices, and alleging Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him money to intentionally lose games in order to obtain a better position in the draft.
“We won’t tolerate racism,” Goodell said. “We won’t tolerate discrimination. I found all of the allegations, whether they were based on racism or discrimination or the integrity of our game, all of those to me were very disturbing.
“They are very serious matters to us on all levels, and we need to make sure we get to the bottom of all of them.”
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Although he didn’t offer specific solutions, Goodell said the league will explore all avenues to improve the processes in hiring practices, including the possibility of further changes to the Rooney Rule, which requires that minority candidates be interviewed for coaching and executive openings. Approximately 70% of NFL players are Black.
“I think that’s the core of the message that we’ve been talking about here is, ‘OK, we’re not having this success we want with head coaches,’” he said. “How do we evolve that rule, or do we have to have a new rule? Do we need to figure out some other way of being able to achieve that outcome?
“And I think we’re not going to rest until we find that and we get those kind of outcomes that I think are mandatory for us. That just has to be the way we’re going to move forward inclusively.”
The Goodell news conference took place on the miniature football field at the new NFL Media building, in the shadow of SoFi Stadium, which Sunday will play host to Super Bowl LVI between the Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Assn., took the stage after the commissioner and said the league is controlled by “31 billionaires who virtually have no oversight” and that the union will do its part to hold the NFL accountable.
“I’m not worried about our ability to protect our players,” Smith said. “I’m worried about our ability to protect our game.”
On the accusation by Flores that Ross offered him $100,000 for every game he lost, Goodell said: “We will look into that. If there were violations, they will not be tolerated. I couldn’t speculate on what they’ll be, because we’ll have to find out what the facts are. What’s the outcome? And when we know what those facts are, and the impact it has on our game, we’ll deal with it very seriously.”
Goodell said the league has met twice with media mogul Byron Allen, who is Black, about his interest in buying the Denver Broncos.
“I have been personally involved with this for about three decades now, attracting minority owners, particularly Black owners, into the league in an ownership position,” Goodell said. “We have met with Byron a couple of times, both myself personally as well as people on our staff. He is not the only individual that’s interested in buying a team who is Black.
“We have worked hard to make sure we have as many candidates as possible and put them in a position to succeed.”
Los Angeles is already planning to bid to host a second Super Bowl at SoFi, the one that will be held in early 2027. That would be between a bid for the World Cup finals in 2026 and the Olympics in 2028.
As for SoFi Stadium as a Super Bowl site, Goodell said: “I’d be hard pressed to think that it won’t be at the top of everybody’s list, every opportunity we can.”