NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is concerned that comments made by President-elect Donald Trump about women will only make the league’s attempts to curtail domestic violence more difficult.
At The New York Times’ DealBook conference — a meeting of CEOs and leading figures in finance — Goodell was asked several questions about the impact of Trump’s presidency on the NFL. Near the end of the conference, Goodell was specifically asked by host Andrew Ross Sorkin about Trump’s comments on women during and prior to his presidential campaign.
Trump once boasted about being able to grab women inappropriately because of his fame and used words like “nasty,” “pig,” “dogs,” and “slobs” to describe women.
“It makes my job harder at home too,” Goodell said. “I have twin daughters and a wife so I have to explain that to them. So yes, on that front. Does it make it harder publicly? Listen, I think our country has to have more respect for one another, and we have to unite.”
Goodell then changed course a bit and said that the best path for the country is to unite under Trump.
“I saw some very positive signs of that yesterday with our current president and Hillary Clinton’s comments publicly and others coming together and saying, ‘We have to get together. We have to unite. We have to address some of the issues and work together.’ President-elect Trump is our president so we have to get behind him.”
Trump previously made attempts to become an NFL owner, pushing to purchase the Buffalo Bills in 2014 and passing on a chance to buy the New England Patriots in 1988 despite having a “real interest” in buying the franchise.
At the DealBook conference Thursday, Goodell laughed off comments made by Trump that the NFL is responsible for him becoming president by blocking his purchase of the Bills. He also laughed off Trump’s assertion at a Massachusetts campaign rally that Goodell would be fired if he was president.
But Trump’s comments on women were taken more seriously.
The NFL’s handling of domestic violence has been a hot-button issue during Goodell’s time as commissioner, with high-profile players like Ray Rice and Greg Hardy casting it into the spotlight. On Thursday, Goodell said that higher education not only for players, but also children and college athletes is the best way to prevent future cases of domestic violence. He also said that the league’s recent efforts have made an impact.
“We re-did our personal conduct policy two years ago and we saw a 40 percent drop over the next year in our player arrests,” Goodell said. “This year, we’re at a 30 percent reduction off of that. So we’re seeing a very significant impact on educating and helping players deal with situations. Coaches, league office executives, team executives, we want to teach them how to handle situations so they avoid getting into problems.”
Still, the NFL has dealt with harsh criticism in 2016 for its handling of former New York Giants kicker Josh Brown. The kicker was recently placed on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list and released by the Giants after documents revealed Brown admitted to the abuse.
“I don’t think people understand the complexity of these issues like domestic violence,” Goodell said. “People hold the NFL to a very high standard.”
Brown was suspended just one game by the league after an arrest for domestic abuse. Under the league’s personal conduct policy, the minimum suspension is supposed to be six games. The NFL later defended the light punishment by alleging that the police didn’t cooperate with the league’s investigation. King County (Wash.) Sheriff John Urquhart disputed those claims.
Goodell reportedly donated to the presidential campaign of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, but stayed quiet during the race between Trump and Clinton.