NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared on "NFL Total Access" Tuesday to discuss where things stand in the ongoing labor dispute between players and owners. Below is a complete transcript of Goodell's comments.
On the NFL Draft and the possibility of a competing show by players trade union (formerly the NFLPA):
"One of the things that makes the NFL Draft so great is that it's an opportunity for these great young players to realize their hopes and dreams. Anyone that would interfere with all the hard work that they've put in to walk across that stage and become an NFL draft choice -- I just don't think that's in the best interest of the young men and their families that have worked so hard to get to that stage and get to that opportunity. And clearly that is not something the fans are going to want. They watched the draft in great numbers, as you know 45 million people watched the draft last year. The fans want to see the reaction of these young men when they do realize that dream. I think it's a great event because it's a reality show. It's an opportunity for those players to share that experience. It's one of the things I take greatest pride in as commissioner, being a part of that opportunity for them to start their NFL careers on that kind of stage."
On the NFL opening its books to the players:
"That's exactly what we did last week in the mediation process to make sure the players had asked for a certain amount of data. We as the NFL agreed last week we would share information with them that was audited financials over a five-year period that would show them profits on a league-wide basis and a club-wide basis that was information that they had asked for several times before. They had to sign a waiver, and it was audited results. And most importantly, it was information we don't even share with our other 32 teams. So it was information that we thought was responsive to what they were asking for, but also something that if they really did feel this was going to help move the ball they would have accepted, taken that information and we would have been able to reach an agreement."
On the NFLPA calling NFL negotiator Jeff Pash a liar:
"I'm not much for rhetoric. These things are resolved at the negotiating table. I don't think because you disagree with somebody it's appropriate to call anybody a liar. We all made agreement that we were going to work through mediation process because we thought it was the fastest and fairest way to get to a collective bargaining agreement. We need to get back there, get away from the rhetoric and get to an agreement."
On the players saying that the league's final offer Friday came late:
"I couldn't disagree more. We all agreed to make a commitment to the mediation process. A lot of that mediation process is you sit and you wait. You're in rooms by yourself, you're in rooms with the players., and negotiations are going on. Sometimes you're just sitting and waiting for negotiations to happen. We're at the instruction of the mediator. They're the ones who determine as professionals what are the right steps to take, when are the right times to have meetings. And I think everyone did a very professional job, both the players and the owners and the negotiators in representing their parties, their interests and listening to one another, and I think that's why we made some progress over the last couple of weeks. The proposal that was made Friday was frankly a culmination of not only the time we were in mediation but discussions that happened outside of that process that occurred of the past several months. You want to make sure when people walk away from mediation, that they understand what they're walking away from. And that's one of the things the mediator told us right from the beginning. I think the owners put together a very fair, thorough proposal that the players should really take serious consideration over, and I hope they will."
On returning to mediation:
"I couldn't get off this show fast enough to get to mediation. We didn't push away from the table. We were still at the table when they walked out on mediation. For us to go back to mediation, you call me and we'll be there. It's a decision the mediator has to make but we would certainly be there and I expect we will be there. Any contact with the trade association or any discussion, for lack of better phrase, about trying to put this genie back in the bottle? There's unfortunately been very limited contact. I think we're in a period where litigation and the litigation strategy, as you know I proudly say I'm not a lawyer, but that litigation strategy is ongoing. That will have to play out for the next couple weeks. I've said repeatedly that this will come back to negotiations, and the sooner that happens, the sooner we'll all get that resolved."
On April 6 as a negotiating threshold:
"I don't think it's a negotiating threshold, I think it's a litigation threshold. I think it's something that again they've chosen to pursue this strategy. I think that the sooner we can get back to the table and negotiate, the better off we're going to be. Get out of the court rooms, get out of the litigation and get back to the table and get through to mediation."