Sen. John McCain: 'Cloud' Over Super Bowl Because of 'Slow' NFL Scandal Response

PHOTO: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., center, speaks during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, March 15, 2014. David Azia/AP Photo
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., center, speaks during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, March 15, 2014.

With his home state set to host the Super Bowl this weekend, Sen. John McCain said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s plodding response to scandals and diversions have contributed to a “cloud” over the biggest sporting event of the year.

“There's a cloud. It’s a diversion,” McCain, R-Ariz., said on the ABC/ESPN podcast “Capital Games.” “It's unfortunate that this whole issue of 'deflate-gate' is overshadowing it. And I believe that the NFL. in particular. has been very slow in assuring those of us who pay close attention that they are taking enough action to find out what happened.”

Listen to the “Capital Games” episode HERE on desktop, and HERE on a mobile device. Or subscribe to the “Capital Games” podcast free via Apple’s podcast store.

McCain and some of his colleagues have been critical of Goodell all year for not being more proactive in addressing the league’s various challenges. It’s been a bumpy year for the NFL, from the Ray Rice domestic violence incident through substance abuse allegations, head-injury lawsuits, and growing questions about the Washington Redskins’ team name.

McCain said Goodell has done further damage to the NFL in the aftermath of allegations that the New England Patriots used partially deflated footballs in their AFC Championship win, the game that got the team to the Super Bowl.

“Every question and every allegation that remains unanswered hangs out there and does damage,” he said. “Any objective observer is saying that Roger Goodell was either in over his head or did not understand the gravity and the importance or both the Rice thing and 'Deflate-gate.'”

“They gotta get their act together. They gotta get this issue behind them as quickly as possible,” McCain added.

McCain said the "Deflate-gate" scandal, in particular, has been a big item of conversation on the Senate floor.

“Maybe this means that we don't have enough to do," he said. "Or maybe it means that the people we represent are deeply concerned about this issue.”

McCain added that he’d like to see congressional hearings on expanded legalized sports gambling, given the proliferation of casino-style gambling throughout the country and the enormous sums that are bet on events like the Super Bowl through illegal channels.

McCain shared his Super Bowl pick -- the Patriots, he said, citing his “mixed emotions” about the Seattle Seahawks’ star cornerback Richard Sherman, as an Arizona Cardinals fan.

Regarding the 2016 presidential race: Would he choose his former running mate, Sarah Palin, or his good friend Sen. Lindsey Graham?

“Dark horse -- watch them coming up. Lindsey Graham,” McCain said. “I have the greatest affection and appreciation of Sarah Palin. But I think in this time of great national peril, with the rise of ISIS and the challenges that we face worldwide, I think Lindsey is best equipped to address the challenges to our nation’s security.”

Palin's office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Also on “Capital Games,” ESPN NFL analyst Andrew Brandt said the league has been in “reactive mode” all year, a situation that was highlighted by "Deflate-gate."

“It’s been a question of credibility all year long,” said Brandt, a former NFL executive.

And Geoff Freeman, the president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, talked about the billions being wagered illegally on sporting events. He said he doesn’t sense movement in Congress toward expanded sports betting, but noted that pushes by states, including New Jersey and Delaware, are moving the conversation along.

“The discussion is beginning, and that’s a good thing,” Freeman said.

You can listen to the complete “Capital Games” episode HERE on desktop, and HERE on a mobile device.

“Capital Games with Andy Katz and Rick Klein” is part of the ESPN Perspectives podcast series. The program explores the intersection of sports and politics with interviews with political figures and sports insiders. It can be downloaded free as a podcast on Apple devices.