(HOUSTON) — Before Super Bowl LI, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the “Deflategate” scandal at a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Houston.
Goodell started by congratulating the two teams that will play in Sunday’s game — the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons — then took questions from reporters, including a number about the highly publicized scandal involving the Patriots.
Quarterback Tom Brady and the team were accused of having knowledge of or being involved in the deflation of footballs during 2015’s AFC Championship Game against the Indianapolis Colts, which the Patriots won handily, 45 to 7.
As a result of the scandal and after some back-and-forth in court, Brady was suspended for four games at the start of the current season, and the team was fined $1 million.
When asked whether he believed the NFL handled the scandal well, Goodell stood by the league’s investigation and ultimate decision.
“We had a violation. We went through a process. We applied the discipline in accordance with our process,” he said. “It was litigated extensively … validated by the 2nd Court of Appeals, and we are moving on from that.”
The Patriots won three games and lost one during their stretch without Brady, finishing the regular season at 14 wins and two losses.
“We are comfortable with the process, the decision,” Goodell reiterated Wednesday.
Later, he was asked whether he has been avoiding Foxborough, where the Patriots play, since he was not present at the team’s stadium for its AFC Championship win two weeks ago.
“I would tell you, it’s not awkward at all for me,” he said. “We have a job to do. There’s a violation. We came to a conclusion supported by facts and courts … We understand fans who are loyal and passionate for a team object and don’t like the outcome … I was in Boston two seasons ago for two consecutive playoff games, the same way I was in Atlanta this year.”
He added, “If I’m invited back to Foxborough, I’ll come.”
Goodell emphasized that he’s had disagreements with all 32 NFL teams. “It’s not all personal in nature, which I know people like to make it,” he said, adding that the Patriots are an “extraordinary organization” as a whole.
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