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How will the NFL move forward following the Ray Rice scandal?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took the heat for the Ray Rice incident at a Friday press conference. But amid mounting public pressure to answer for multiple accusations of domestic-violence incidents that have spread throughout the league, how can NFL officials move forward? Kevin Clark of The Wall Street Journal joins Hari Sreenivasan in New York City.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell once again fell on a sword late yesterday afternoon when he told reporters that his response to the Ray Rice incident had been inadequate. In the meantime, the league is coming under increasing pressure from advertisers to crack down on criminal behavior among its players.

    For the latest we're joined by Kevin Clark, he's a sports reporter with The Wall Street Journal. A Friday afternoon press conference that often gets buried in the news cycle. What was the most newsworthy thing – they created another commission?

  • KEVIN CLARK:

    The most newsworthy thing is there was no news. He came out and sort of had the crisis management playbook, he had a committee that he was ready to form, he had launched an investigation previously – sort of hid behind that, so I can't answer specific questions there's an investigation going on.

    He came out with not a lot of specifics. He was prepared to say the right things about 'it starts with me and I'm to blame' but he didn't have anything real and tangible that people can point to and say here's what he's doing to address these problems.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    At the same time there was a pretty significant report ESPN detailing how the Baltimore Ravens organization knew about what happened inside that elevator hours after it happened, how they obfuscated the investigation even by the NFL.

  • KEVIN CLARK:

    What this does, it takes the scandal and broadens it to levels we didn't even imagine. Initially this was a Ray Rice, Roger Goodell scandal, now it involves the NFL club, it involves owner Steve Bisciotti, owner Dick Cass, the president of the Ravens.

    Apparently he had some conversations with the lawyer that came off pretty poorly in that story. So, now you've basically got three entities in that story, the league office on Park Avenue, the Baltimore Ravens, and Ray Rice, and they're all looking quite bad right now. It's going to be amazing to see the fallout from this. Now it's almost like a league-wide scandal at this point.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Speaking of fallout, what is the momentum, where is that momentum among sponsors, who actually have a pretty enormous influence on what happens to not just these specific incidents but in the NFL in general.

  • KEVIN CLARK:

    As we speak right now, the NFL doesn't have much to worry about. There are kind of rock solid deals with these sponsors. They're not going to pull out. They can't get 17 million eyeballs on a random Sunday with anything else. They can't invest that in basketball or hockey, the viewers just aren't there. They're going to wait until the last possible second.

    Did Goodell order a cover up? Did he see that newly emerged video tape? That's the sort of thing they're going to want to know. Rob Mueller, the ex FBI chief is investigating. They're probably going to wait for the results of that. See if Goodell had some really tangible, awful things that he did and then they'll pull it.

    I don't feel like they're going to pull it just because of social media pressure, or whether it's hurting the brand to be associated with it, because that's short term. These deals are six to seven-year deals worth over a billion dollars in a lot of cases. They're going to wait and see.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    A lot of these owners, especially even the two that are helping with the investigation have profited handsomely under the Goodell years.

  • KEVIN CLARK:

    Yeah. It's a $9 billion a year business. Franchise values are at an all-time high. One thing that helped Goodell was last week the Buffalo Bills' mid-tier market, mid-tier team sold for $1.4 billion.

    That helps Roger Goodell because if you're in San Diego, you're in Oakland, you don't have one of the marquee teams, and you're saying whatever happens, happens, I'm still going to get $1.4, $1.5 billion out of this deal.

    So, they like Roger Goodell. Do they think he's worth $44 million, which is his most recent salary, I don't know. But they don't want to find out. They don't want to experiment and find out that he was the glue that was holding it all together.

    They're going to take the wait-and-see approach just like the advertisers, because so much is at stake. They're not going to do it based off social media, or external pressures.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Is there any evidence that merchandise sales are declining at stadiums, or in stores because of this?

  • KEVIN CLARK:

    No and the most recent Sunday ratings were either stagnant, or up from last year. They didn't dip at all.

    The Sunday night game last week was up eight percent from the year before. So, there really is no evidence hurting the league on the field. Fantasy football, office pools, and getting together with your friends, those are the reasons people like football, and those haven't been affected throughout this whole thing.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Alright, Kevin Clark, reporter from The Wall Street Journal, who covers football, thanks so much.

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