Less than a week after President Bush gave his State of the Union address, U.S. National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell has given his so-called annual State of the League Address. He spoke to the hundreds of reporters in Phoenix, who are in the western state of Arizona for Sunday's Super Bowl Championship game in nearby Glendale between the New York Giants and undefeated New England Patriots. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer reports.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell opened his remarks this way. "If numbers are any indication, with the number of credentials we've authorized this week, it certainly is one of the games that has the most interest in our history," he said.
He said the competition was excellent this season, television ratings were high and there was record attendance, signaling that the NFL continues to grow.
He announced that once again next season a regular season game will be played in London's Wembley Stadium.
A number of reporters asked him about so-called Spygate, which involved one of the two teams in this Super Bowl, the New England Patriots. In the first game of the regular season they were caught videotaping their opponent's defensive signals, a violation of league rules. The team was fined 250-thousand dollars and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was assessed a huge fine of half a million dollars.
Goodell said he does not think the incident has tainted the Patriots' accomplishment this season, becoming the first team since 1972 to go undefeated. "I think the action we took was decisive. It was unprecedented. And it sent a loud message not only to the Patriots but to every NFL team that you should follow the rules, and you better follow the rules," he said.
Commissioner Goodell also addressed drug testing in the NFL, particularly Human Growth Hormone (H.G.H.), which has been a recent topic in Congressional hearings on drug use in Major League Baseball. "We've invested just recently three million dollars with the United States Olympic Committee to develop a test for HGH. It's not at the point where there is a valid test widely distributed that we can use, that we would be comfortable with. When it does, we certainly will evaluate that. And in fact, we're investing to try to develop that test," he said.
Goodell added that, while he has no factual basis, he does not think there is a significant amount of HGH use in the league. He says he believes NFL players do not want performance-enhancing drugs in the game. "I think that's why our drug program has been so effective, and the gold standard in sports, because our union supports it, wants these (drugs) eliminated from the game because it's good for all players," he said.
As for player conduct, Commissioner Goodell says while there have been a few incidents of poor behavior off the field since a new policy went into effect last year, he believes progress has been made. He says NFL players and everyone associated with the league understand they must be held to a higher standard.