Commissioner Goodell holds conference call with Giants fans

On the first of two fan conference calls today, Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke with New York Giants season-ticket holders this afternoon. Commissioner Goodell will speak with San Francisco 49ers fans tonight.

In addition to the NFL labor negotiations, the Commissioner discussed yesterday’s release of the 2011 schedule which includes the first Sunday of games on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

“All of us that live in the New York area, Washington area, or western Pennsylvania as well as everyone across our great country knows the impact 9/11 had on us,” Commissioner Goodell said. “We want to honor that 10-year anniversary in a way that’s appropriate. We thought putting the schedule together the way we did, where we can have a game in New York and a game in Washington — the Jets playing in New York and the Giants in Washington – would be an appropriate way to do it. We will also have a proper recognition in western Pennsylvania.

“It’s the right thing to do. Our country should be recognizing the tragedy that occurred 10 years earlier. We know that we play a big role in doing that appropriately. We think we played an important role in not playing the week after the 9/11 incident so that the country could properly deal with the issues we had to deal with. We want to make sure that we do this respectfully, so we’ll be announcing plans on that front in the coming weeks.”

Following is the transcript of the Commissioner’s conference call with Giants fans:

 

NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL

FAN FORUM with NEW YORK GIANTS SEASON TICKET HOLDERS

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

On New Meadowlands Stadium:

It is a terrific stadium.  There is so much for the fans to enjoy about that stadium.  Obviously, the seating bowl itself is terrific.  It is a great place to watch the game.  All of the amenities that are in the stadium are terrific for the fans.  The Giants and the Jets did a terrific job building the facility.  I know they are going to continue to do everything they can to create great value for their fans.  The stadium is a big part of it.

On message for Giants fans regarding the work stoppage:

We are hard at work.  I am here in mediation in Minnesota.  I stepped out for a few minutes to be able to talk with you.  We are somewhere in the neighborhood of 24-plus days in mediation.  That is good because the only way these issues are going to get resolved is through negotiations.  We have to be talking about these issues and finding the best solutions.  Fans want solutions, I want solutions, I think the players want solutions and the teams want solutions.  That is why we have to be working at it in negotiations, trying to figure out how to get to that point.  We have four owners with us here today.  We had four owners with us last week.  We are working very hard at doing that.  I hope these discussions will continue.

On expected ruling from Judge Susan Nelson:

I don’t anticipate any specific ruling.  That is the judge’s decision.  She will make that ruling when she is prepared to do it.  At that point in time, we will all obviously respect the ruling and hopefully, we will get back to the point where we are negotiating.

On the current work stoppage compared to past labor disputes:

The lockout and the uncertainty that we have right now, obviously, the judge is making a decision on it initially.  No one wants to have a lockout.  The lockout is part of the labor dispute as well as strikes are part of labor disputes.  They are designed to get the parties to negotiate and to reach a fair settlement for all parties.  What we are trying to do here is get a fair resolution for all parties. 

On player safety in respect to a restructured season:

We are playing a 20-game format with four preseason games and 16 regular-season games.  The concept that we have been discussing with the union is making that 18-and-2.  In addition, we would make significant changes in the offseason, training camp and even potentially the regular season to reduce the exposures to injuries because that is important.  Player health and safety is a priority for us.  We have got to make sure we do it responsibly or else we wouldn’t do it.  In the negotiations, we said that we would implement those changes in the offseason, training camp and the regular season immediately and spend the next two years studying it, making sure we have made the game safer.  Making a move to 18-and-2 would be done jointly with the Players Association after consideration of the changes we are making.  We are approaching it in a responsible fashion and making sure that we can reduce the overall exposure to players.  We are going to continue to make all of the changes we have made in the playing rules, equipment and other areas that will make the game safer. 

On the probability of the season starting as scheduled on September 8:

We released the schedule yesterday and we’re planning to start the season on time. We’re planning on playing a full season and we’re going to negotiate as hard as we can to get that done.  You obviously have to be prepared if you’re unsuccessful. But I don’t like to focus on that.  I like to focus on being successful.  There’s a lot at risk for everybody involved, most importantly for you as fans.  And we know how much you want football. So we‘ve got to identify the solutions and get it done. But it is tough for me to project other than we‘re going to continue to make the preparations for the season and work as hard as we can to solve those issues in advance so that we can play every game and every down of the season.

If the players are no longer a union and they are successful in court, what does that mean and what will the system be for the teams and players?

That’s something that’s troubling to me a little bit because in the hearing, some of the lawyers for the players association talk about their vision of what would happen with the NFL and the types of things they would be challenging in court – everything from the draft to free agency rules. I think it would have a tremendously negative impact on the game of football and what everybody loves the game of football for and what has made us successful.  I get concerned when I hear how the lawyers want to approach this and how they want to change the game for the players association.  I think we have a great game that’s competitive.  I think that the balance we have amongst teams is all part of our system. Aspects of those systems are always modified and changed and I’m willing to engage in that.  But I think eliminating some of those aspects that I think have made our game — and frankly other sports, they are all part of other sports. The NFL has got an incredibly competitive and attractive game.  We’ve got to make sure that we continue to make modifications.  We’ve got to make it stronger, not weaken it.

On what is being done for retired players of 1940s and 1950s:

We’ve identified that we are going to make changes for retired players, any players that played before 1993.  So that would fall under the category of the players you’re referring to. I think it’s important for us to go back and make improvements to their benefits.  In fact in the March 11 proposal that the owners made, they proposed a 60 percent increase in the pensions to those players.  We continue to look at other ways to modify our medical benefits including providing programs to our players that may have injuries such as hip replacement or other joint replacements.  We have programs set up for that. We have an 88 Plan that we would increase the funding for players or their families that are dealing with dementia. So I think that there are a number of things that we need to continue to do.  We’ve made proposals on that. We need to work together to improve those benefits for those players that helped to build this great game.

On possibility of NFL using replacement players & fans being required to purchase tickets to retain status and PSLs:

Fans and media have asked me that question recently. We have not had any focus on replacement players, it’s not part of our strategy. It’s not part of our thinking. We’re not pursuing that, our focus is entirely on trying to get an agreement with this union and with these players. We obviously were unsuccessful in getting that, we have created some league-wide policies on ticket refunds if any games aren’t played, but using replacement players is not part of our strategy.

On the significant of the Giants-Washington opening weekend game in relation to the event 10 years ago on September 11:

All of us that live in the New York area, Washington area, or western Pennsylvania as well as everyone across our great country knows the impact 9/11 had on us. We want to honor that 10-year anniversary in a way that’s appropriate. We thought putting the schedule together the way we did, where we can have a game in New York and a game in Washington — the Jets playing in New York and the Giants in Washington – would be an appropriate way to do it. We will also have a proper recognition in western Pennsylvania. It’s the right thing to do. Our country should be recognizing the tragedy that occurred 10 years earlier. We know that we play a big role in doing that appropriately. We think we played an important role in not playing the week after the 9/11 incident so that the country could properly deal with the issues we had to deal with. We want to make sure that we do this respectfully, so we’ll be announcing plans on that front in the coming weeks.

On Commissioner’s role in bargaining process becoming a more assertive one if an agreement is not reached soon:

It’s a good question. I understand your frustration and I share your frustration, we went through 17 straight days of mediation back from February into early March and at that point in time the players pushed away and pursued this litigation strategy. I’m a firm believer that this will not get resolved through litigation it will get solved through negotiations. That fact that we are here negotiating is a positive thing, but there has to be a commitment by everyone to get a deal. It’s not just about meeting it’s about addressing the issues, being responsible, recognizing we have a shared responsibility in this game to continue to make it better and to be fair in what we’re doing. My role specifically will be to do anything I can to bring the parties together to reach an agreement that works for everybody; that keeps our game great. My number one responsibility is the game of football and making sure it continues to stay strong. That’s what I’m going to continue to do. Anything I can to make sure we promote the NFL and make the NFL better for everyone participating and most importantly our fans.

On lack of agreement with players on restructured season:

I hear from fans consistently about the quality of the preseason and that they really don’t believe that it meets the standards of the NFL.  I think the player health and injury issues that they have raised are legitimate and they need to be addressed. That’s why we’ve made the changes in the proposal. I don’t know the reaction because before we really got a full reaction, they pushed away from the table and we haven’t had much discussion about it since.  I think through those discussions, the players that were engaged in that felt that the changes we were making would make the game safer and would be responsible changes. We’re going to continue to push that and make sure that we get this done responsibly.  And if we can’t, we won’t do it. But I think there is a way to do it if we work together.

On whether a new agreement will include a salary cap:

I think both sides have indicated an interest in continuing to have some type of salary cap system.  I think it has been beneficial to the game.  It is part of the discussions we’ve had about what is the appropriate salary cap level and how would it grow.  The proposal on March 11 had the salary cap consistent, slightly increased, from where the spending was in the uncapped year and the spending was in 2009 under the last capped year.  Then it grows 14 percent over the next four years so it’s a pretty significant increase. I think the question really will be if we have a capped system — which I think benefits the game and that we should have — then what’s the growth rate of that cap and what’s the starting point of that cap?

On whether a player who injures another player should miss the same number of games as the player he injured:

The old eye-for-an-eye or tooth-for-a-tooth type of penalty. . . players get injured for a number of reasons.  When there is an illegal tactic used, we do punish that obviously, with a penalty on the field.  Then we review each of those plays later in our office and determine whether there should be some type of a fine or even potential suspension.  It is very difficult because there’s so many factors that go into why a player may be out for a longer period of time and you get into competitive issues about whether a team would keep a player out longer and hurt another team.  You have to be very careful in making a decision about the availability of a player on another team. So we’ve chosen to treat it seriously in making sure there are consequences when there is a specific violation and make sure that the player understands what the violation is and that there are consequences for that.  And I think it’s been effective.  We obviously look at that every year to figure out what we could do differently, what would be more effective. I believe that players out there playing as hard as they can, they obviously will make mistakes and use tactics.  But hopefully their intention is not to injure another player.

On if the NFL has considered hosting future Super Bowls on President’s Day weekend:

We have.  It has actually been brought up mostly in the context of the restructured season of 18-and-2.  If you started the season roughly when we do, which is the week after Labor Day, and you run that out for 18 regular-season games and the playoffs at the same length, you would end up on President’s weekend.  We think that is of interest.  It is compelling.  We have some other factors that you would have to consider.  Obviously, you would have potentially more games in northern climates that you would have to think about.  The idea of having the Super Bowl on a three-day weekend is very attractive, particularly to fans.  We have heard that consistently from them.

On fans of the team that hosts the International Series game in London losing a home game:

Obviously, they do not have to pay any money if they do not want to attend the game.  They have the opportunity if they would like to attend the game but we do not require that.  The teams do not require it.  It is the hardest part about playing the International Series because it does mean one less regular-season game for those fans. 

We don’t require a team to do it.  We seek out teams that are interested in doing it.  Several times, they have their own reasons.  They may be going through stadium construction or other issues.  It is something that we have to balance. 

The growth of our game overseas has great potential.  Clearly, playing regular-season games that the fans get a chance to experience, which you experience back here in the United States, has been very, very popular.  We want to continue it.  It is another reason why the 18-and-2 would be popular because we would have two more regular-season games.  If you had one less (home game) if it was your team, it would be more than what we are getting now.  It is one of the reasons why we want to continue to try to create greater value in our regular season and in everything we do. 

You are absolutely right.  (Losing a home game) is the only negative that we have to taking games overseas.

On New York Giants owner John Mara’s role in labor negotiations:

John Mara is a very respected owner.  He does serve on our CEC (Management Council Executive Committee), which is essentially our labor committee.  He has participated in many of the negotiations, including a large part of our mediation in Washington.  He has always been there.  He is respected by all parties.  He has high integrity.  He is a very good sounding board for me.  He understands the game of football, obviously.  He knows what is best for the game.  He wants to be fair to all parties.  He will continue to play a crucial role in our labor negotiations.

On the owners’ incentive for resolving the labor situation quickly:

Not playing football and shutting your business down has a dramatic impact on your business.  There will be a tremendous amount of lost revenue to the teams.  There will be a tremendous amount of lost revenue to the players.  A strike or a lockout has significant financial impact on all parties.  It is one of the reasons why they are used.  People usually get serious and they resolve their differences because the damage is significant. 

I worry not only about the financial impact to all parties but also the damage to our game and what it does in the eyes of our fans if we are unsuccessful.  That is why we are looking for solutions and why we want to continue to negotiate to get it resolved before any of that occurs.  Make no mistake about it: It will have significant financial impact on the clubs.

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