Dear Jim: I am compelled to respond to your column today because it is not only unfair but also inaccurate and misleading in many respects.
Steve Ross’s stadium renovation proposal called for Mr. Ross to pay for 70 percent of the costs, as well as to bring Super Bowls and other marquee events to South Florida or pay a substantial financial penalty (in excess of $100 million) if he failed to do so. Your column neglected to mention those facts and inaccurately said that he wants “taxpayers to foot the bill,” implying the entire bill.
Mr. Ross’s proposed investment is consistent with stadium development throughout our league. There are 13 stadium projects in the pipeline now with 74 percent ($3.2 billion) of the costs being privately financed by NFL owners. Your column says that new NFL stadiums are “largely publicly-financed stadiums.” That is not true. You completely overlooked the extraordinary amount of private money that is going into NFL stadium projects. Specifically, private investment accounts for 100 percent of the cost of the Jets/Giants’ MetLife Stadium, more than 60 percent in Dallas, more than 90 percent in San Francisco, more than 70 percent in Atlanta, and more than 50 percent in Minneapolis.
NFL owners have awarded Super Bowls in part to recognize and thank communities and taxpayers for their investments (both financial and emotional) in our clubs and their stadiums. How is it arrogant to take the nation’s top sports event, which indisputably brings with it significant economic benefits, and hold it in communities all over the country?
On the league calendar issues, let’s start with the NFL Draft. It has to be moved next year because of the spring Easter show that Radio City is going to run in late April. You stated that “it’s likely to stay there in following years, too.” Contrary to being “likely,” Commissioner Goodell said this in his press conference yesterday: “Beyond (2014), if we want to move the draft back into the April period, we are going to have to look at other alternatives, which means other cities or other venues. We will begin that process.”
You stated that if the NFL Draft is held in May, it will conflict with Mother’s Day and the NBA and NHL playoffs. Mother’s Day is on a Sunday (the NFL Draft is Thursday-Saturday). Other sports play games on Mother’s Day. The final day of the U.S. Open golf is played on Father’s Day. Is the PGA, MLB, NBA and NHL “conflicting” with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? Plus, our draft in April already runs opposite the NBA and NHL playoffs. Your statement is unfair and misleading. It also ignores the very substantial – and growing – fan interest in the draft.
How would delaying the Combine create “more hype”? It would simply shift the timing of coverage of the Combine, which runs over several afternoons on NFL Network and would not conflict with any evening sports programming.
Have you protested so vehemently when other sports have expanded their calendars? Every other league runs longer than it did 10 years ago. The NFL has always had the shortest playing season calendar among the major professional sports leagues.
Why do you object to the possibility of having more meaningful games and fewer preseason games? Don’t fans and the media prefer games that mean something?
If the demand from fans was not there, we would not be considering these changes.
Our approach is to listen carefully to fans, players, teams, and others and look for ways to intelligently improve the game and the league. We have, in fact, been somewhat conservative, and definitely thoughtful, in all aspects of our business, including making changes to our calendar.
Thanks for listening.