Commissioner Goodell continues series of fan conference calls

Commissioner Roger Goodell concluded this afternoon his third conference call of the week with fans.  Following calls earlier in the week with Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns fans, Goodell jumped on a call today with fans of the San Diego Chargers.  Goodell is slated to make calls next Wednesday with fans of the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers.

While NFL labor negotiations are top of mind with fans, the calls also provide the Commissioner the opportunity to thank fans for supporting their team and the NFL.

I want to thank you for your support not only for the Chargers but also the NFL.  We know how important you are to the NFL,” Goodell said this afternoon. “We’re going to continue to work hard to get this collective bargaining issue resolved and continue to bring great football to you all.  We appreciate your support in every way you give it to us so thank you very much.”

COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL

FAN FORUM with SAN DIEGO CHARGERS SEASON TICKET HOLDERS

Friday, April 15, 2011 

On his location:

I happen to be in Minneapolis at the airport and I am about to fly back to New York.  We finished two days of mediation in Minneapolis trying to resolve our differences with the Players Association to get a labor agreement so that we can have a full and exciting 2011 season. 

On mediation in Minneapolis:

We adjourned today and we are going to resume next Tuesday.  We have some work to do over the weekend, both sides.  We will continue to focus on this over the weekend and work on it as we have been.  It is a positive sign that both sides are continuing to communicate.  We said from Day 1 that this is a labor dispute that needs to come to a negotiated resolution.  We are going to work hard to understand one another’s issues, identify solutions, and hopefully, reach that agreement because we know the uncertainty is not good for anybody, most importantly our great fans.

On HGH testing as a part of a new collective bargaining agreement:

It is part of those discussions.  The collective bargaining agreement is very broad in the sense of all the issues that need to be addressed.  One of the very important parts of that is the integrity of the game and the drug program.  We need to make sure our drug program is the best in sports and frankly, the best in the world.  We are focused on always improving it.  We believe that HGH (testing) is a big part of that.  We always spend a great deal of time on that.  It has been part of these negotiations.  It has not distracted us from the broader point of trying to get an agreement. 

On fans responding negatively to a work stoppage as seen by the MLB players strike in 1994:

We are fully aware of the fact that our fans are frustrated now.  Certainly, if we are unsuccessful in coming to a resolution and we do miss games, I certainly understand the frustration the fans will have with all of us.  It includes the commissioner, it includes the clubs, and it includes the players.  I would understand that.  It is our job to find solutions and to work towards an agreement.  We know how important it is to our fans.  We are going to continue to work as hard as we can to identify those solutions and reach that agreement.  You can be sure that the fans are foremost in our minds and our focus in making sure that we are going to do everything we can to protect this great game we have.

On league-wide procedures for approving a team’s relocation:

We know there are great fans in San Diego.  The Spanos family and the entire Chargers’ organization wants to continue to be in San Diego.  They are working and have worked over the past eight years or so to make sure they find solutions on the stadium front.  Everyone wants to continue to have the Chargers be a big part of the San Diego community and continue to be successful there.

Any team that cannot continue to operate in its market has to apply to the league.  It is formally approved by a vote of the 32 clubs, and 24 of the 32 clubs would have to approve it.  They would consider under our relocation policy different factors about the support of the team in the community, the stadium issue and a variety of others. 

It is important for all of us to recognize it is the objective to keep the team in San Diego and continue to have it be successful and find a stadium solution.  I know the Chargers right to the top with Dean Spanos and his family are committed to doing that. 

On the average NFL player’s career being three years:

There is a little bit of a misrepresentation or a misunderstanding on that.  Frequently, it is said that the average career is about 3.5 years.  In fact, if a player makes an opening day roster, his career is very close to six years.  It is slightly under six years.  If you are a first-round draft choice, the average career is close to nine years.  That 3.5-year average is really a misrepresentation.  What it adds is a lot of players who don’t make an NFL roster and it brings down the average. 

On employing replacement players as the NFL did in the 1980s:

I joined the league in ’82.  It was a strike year for the NFL and ’87 was another strike year.  That was the year when replacement players were used.  I will tell you that it has not been a part of our discussions or strategy.  We have not at all considered that alternative.  Our focus has been on trying to get a collective bargaining agreement.  That is the best solution for the game, for the fans, for the players and for the clubs.  It has been our entire focus and it will continue to be.  We are not going to consider other strategies until we are unsuccessful or unable to get that agreement.

On stadium funding:

We are the only professional league that contributes on the league level to stadiums by working with the local clubs and the local community to finance these stadiums.  As you point out, they are increasingly more expensive.  They are very difficult to make pencil out.  That is one of the big challenges that we have.  Frankly, it is one of the reasons why we are addressing many of these issues in our collective bargaining agreement to allow the owners and the clubs to be able to make the investments that are necessary to build the great stadiums, keep those stadiums operating and keep them up to date and competitive against other facilities.  We as a league work with the teams and work with the communities to help reach that agreement but also help in the financing of that.  We have had a G3 program that would allow league-level loans; we have had club seat waivers that have gone back a couple of decades, all of which help make those agreements pencil out.  We are working with the Players Association as part of the collective bargaining agreement to make that work.  When we are able to get stadiums built, the biggest beneficiaries from that from a financial standpoint, quite frankly, are the players. 

On derogatory player comments:

We are in a negotiation.  Everybody is trying to reach an agreement.  I am not much for public rhetoric.  I do not think these issues get resolved by saying things publically.  I have great respect for our players and want to get an agreement that is fair to them.  I sympathize with some of the issues they have raised.  We have tried to be responsive to those.  We want to work to try and make an agreement that makes sense for them and makes sense for the clubs and allows the game to grow.  I do not think it is appropriate to be making comments publically about others’ comments.  I have always said this has to be resolved as a labor dispute in negotiations.  Rhetoric is not going to get you to that point. 

On the enhanced season:

The fans speak to me on the issue all of the time that the quality of the preseason is not up to NFL standards.  Part of our proposal to the players was a consideration of 18-and-2.  It has a lot of merit.  It is still on the table.  What we did in our March 11 proposal is say we would guarantee 16-and-4 for the next two seasons – the 2011 and 2012 seasons – and we would immediately implement the player health and safety changes so that we could demonstrate that we could make the game safer, reduce the offseason, reduce some of the contact in training camp and address the injury issue that the players have raised.  It is a legitimate issue, it is something that we spent a great deal of time on and it is reflected in our proposal.  That would give us the ability then to make the correct decision about increasing the value for the season ticket holder, for our other business partners, including our television partners, to reach other fans in making sure we bring more football and better quality football.  Improving the value of what we are doing for fans has to be at the top of our list.  We are going to continue to try and find solutions on that with the players. 

On players being exposed to injuries during the preseason as they are in the regular season:

I make that point all the time.  I agree with you 100 percent.

On the most critical points of negotiations with the players:

The key issues in these negotiations are really focused around, No. 1, economics.  It comes down to how much of the revenue pie is going to go to player compensation.  Included in that is the rookie pool concept, which I personally feel firmly that we need to restructure.  The amount of money that is being committed to unproven rookies needs to be restructured and that money should go to proven veterans and retired players.

Second of all, the owners made a proposal in March that reflected consistent pay levels from the 2009 and 2010 level – in fact, slightly higher – and then it increased 14 percent over the next four years, which is a pretty significant increase for anybody.  All of us recognize what’s going on in the economy.  People are having challenges being able to afford NFL tickets and NFL merchandise.  We have to be responsive to those issues.

The other issue is retired players.  We have to do more for our retired players. Player health and safety, which I’ve mentioned before, is critically important.  For the first-time ever, the owners offered players the opportunity for lifetime medical coverage for them and their families that they have the opportunity to buy into for the remainder of their lives.  Those types of issues are responsive to what we’ve heard from the players over the last couple of years.  All of us as citizens, recognizing what’s going on, think some of those things are pretty attractive as individual employees.  I hope that we’ll be able to bridge any gaps and find the right solution.

On the possibility of expansion:

Expansion is not something we’re focused on right now.  We think there are opportunities to grow the league.  We want to continue to make our 32 teams successful but we have not ruled that out.  When we get the proper collective bargaining agreement, it is one opportunity for us to continue to grow and build the league. 

On a team in Los Angeles:

We recognize the fans that we have there in the Los Angeles area and Orange County area.  We would love to get back into that marketplace but it’s going to take the right solution for the community and for the team.  We really need to focus on a stadium solution.  That’s more and more challenging in today’s environment but that is going to be the focus of what we do.  The second piece of that is obviously addressing the team.  Expansion could be part of that solution. 

On the possibility of future Super Bowls in San Diego:

We have a great history of Super Bowls in San Diego.  It’s a great community for the Super Bowl.  What’s really happened with Super Bowls around our country is there are other great communities but there are also great stadiums.  This is one the issues.  The competitiveness for the Super Bowls because of the great impact it has on those communities, both from an economic standpoint and from a social standpoint of uniting a community, there is a lot of competition for these Super Bowls.  The stadiums, which are our stage for these Super Bowls, are a critical component of that.  Communities have made great investments in those stadiums and it’s just made the competition for these games even greater.  That’s one of the issues that has to be addressed in the San Diego effort.  We know how great the fans are and the community is for the Super Bowl.  I hope it’s one of the benefits of hopefully getting the stadium issue resolved and we can get back there for more Super Bowls. 

Closing remarks:

I want to thank you all for your questions today.  You guys had great questions and I always get a lot out of these types of forums when I can hear from you all.  Your voice is important.  More importantly, I want to thank you for your support not only for the Chargers but also the NFL.  We know how important you are to the NFL.  We’re going to continue to work hard to get this collective bargaining issue resolved and continue to bring great football to you all.  We appreciate your support in every way you give it to us so thank you very much. 

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