With Haslam embroiled in a legal scandal involving his family-owned truck-stop business, Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed his confidence in Cleveland’s owner and said the league has no plans to intervene or discipline him at this point.
Goodell visited Cleveland’s training camp on Thursday to launch a program between the league and Pop Warner with USA Football’s Heads Up Football Program. Following a clinic with young players, Goodell said he’s satisfied with Haslam’s handling of the federal investigation at Pilot Flying J, and said the league is proud to be associated with its newest owner.
“Jimmy Haslam is a man of great integrity,” Goodell said. “We’re proud to have him as an owner in the NFL and think he’s going to be a great owner for the Cleveland Browns and their fans. He’s as disappointed as anybody in what happened at Pilot J and he’s working hard to fix it and correct those issues, both from a structural standpoint and to make amends.”
Goodell added that the league has no plans to intervene at this time.
“I don’t think it’s a matter for us at this moment,” Goodell said.
Haslam has been in the crosshairs of controversy since April 15, when the FBI and IRS raided Pilot Flying J’s headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn., seizing documents and as part of a probe into wide-spread fraud at the company. Haslam has maintained he did not know about a program within his sales staff to cheat customers out of rebate and discount money. Seven employees have pleaded guilty to defrauding customers.
“He’s been very clear that he’s had no knowledge of that and he’s been clear publicly and clear with you all,” Goodell said. “He doesn’t need any pushing. This company means a lot to him and he’s obviously not happy about what has happened and he’s determined to fix it. Jimmy is more disappointed than anybody.”
“We’re not going to play the hypothetical game,” Goodell said. “Right now he’s addressing the issues. We’re confident he’s going to deal with it properly. You’re dealing with a bunch of hypotheticals. We’re not going there.”
“This was a surprise to him and to his senior-level management,” Goodell said. “From that standpoint, I don’t think he was aware of it and I don’t know any way we could have been aware of it. It was not disclosed to us.”
Goodell has a well-earned reputation as being a tough disciplinarian with players. He promised to be equally firm with any owner who breaks the law.
“We actually hold ownership to a higher standard and management,” he said. “I think we’ve proven that in what we’ve done. It’s not just accused. As you know, in our policy, oftentimes we let the criminal process unfold because you need to do that to find out the real facts. Sometimes we don’t have all the facts and we need to do that. What we look at is multiple offenders. As you know, that’s a real focus for us.”