NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell spoke to the media at the end of the league’s 2011 Spring Meeting, held in Indianapolis.
With Super Bowl XLVI set for Indy’s Lucas Oil Stadium next February, one of the early questions was on the preparations for the game, and how the current labor battle between the NFL and the NFLPA might impact the game.
Goodell remains hopeful that the two sides can get back to both mediation and negotiation soon, and noted the league has suffered effects from the lockout from lower traffic on NFL.com and lower ticket sales figures due to the uncertainty of the 2011 season.
What follows is the transcript of Goodell’s remarks to the media on May 25, courtesy of NFLLabor.com.
COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL PRESS CONFERENCE
NFL SPRING MEETING IN INDIANAPOLIS
May 25, 2011
Opening statement: We finished two days of meetings, our normal spring meeting. I think they were very productive. We discussed a variety of issues. Obviously the labor issue, but also several competition committee issues which you are aware of from yesterday.
On whether the Super Bowl in Indianapolis is threatened: We were at a reception last night with the governor and the mayor and several people that were doing all the planning in the host committee and the business community last night. We made that very clear to them. It is our intention to be here and play a full season. We look forward to concluding the 2011 season in Indianapolis.
On whether the league has cutoff dates for holding events: We don’t have a date, but obviously that time is coming. We cancelled our rookie symposium as you are all aware. We are getting close enough now where those will have to be considerations. Obviously we prefer to get a negotiated agreement so that we don’t have to make those decisions.
On finding compromise and being open to negotiations before the resolution of litigation: Absolutely. We’ve said it before. This is going to be resolved through negotiations. The ownership knows that, the ownership believes that. It is imperative on all of us to get back to negotiating, to figure out ways in which we can compromise our positions so that we can reach an agreement that’s fair to everybody.
On whether it’s harder to reach a settlement once events are missed and money is lost: I think it becomes much harder. The uncertainly is bad for us in several ways because of what it does to the game and what it does to our fans. Also, when there is uncertainty that may be a good opportunity to get a resolution because there is risk to everybody. That is what we should be doing, taking this window of opportunity to resolve our differences. The longer it goes, the more damage that’s done to the game, the more revenue is down, the less money to be divided amongst the parties. Obviously, we made this point back in March. It becomes more difficult when you get into litigation. That’s proven to be true also.
On damages being felt already: Well there are several. We had a discussion about it this morning. I think it has clearly had an impact on our fans already. You see that in our various metrics that we have, whether they are ratings, or traffic on NFL.com. We see that. And that is a reflection of the uncertainty and the frustration of our fans. And we all understand that. That is why we think it needs to get resolved. There are also financial consequences of that. That is, clearly, if we’re not successful, that’s clearly to come.
On the effect on ticket sales: It currently has an impact. Fans want certainty. I don’t think you can ever underestimate that fans are still going through difficult challenges just in the general economy. Those challenges continue to impact on their decisions and rightfully so. That is something they have to balance when they are making a decision to put down money for a season ticket or a club seat or whatever else. So we have to keep that in mind. I know the ownership has been reminded of that over the last couple of days and they don’t need reminding because they are on the front lines.
On ticket sales metrics at this point year over year: I’d have to get it for you, but it’s a noticeable change. I think you all are aware that our ratings were down at the Draft as an example by roughly four million people. That’s a pretty significant decrease, about a 10 percent decrease as I recall.
On employee cutbacks at the league and teams: We communicate with our employees and we have been for over a year. They all understand the circumstances we are going through. Clubs have to deal with their employees. Everyone has a different approach. We told everybody, this is a collective sacrifice. We are going through a difficult period of time and we do it together. We are all going to feel that impact. And that is the unfortunate circumstance of where we are. Hopefully we can still get it resolved and we’ll all be fine.
On teams increasing cutbacks as the lockout continues: I think that people are taking different approaches. Whether it is cutbacks or furloughs or salary reductions, I think everyone is looking at it differently and taking a different approach, and that is what they should do. We have to do it with our employees. Obviously the longer it goes on, the worse it gets for everybody.
On the Raiders’ decision regarding employees aiding in ticket sales: I thought it was very innovative. I thought it was creative. I think it sends the right message. We are in this together. This is collective. We all have to work to sell tickets. We all have to work to continue to keep our organization successful. My hat’s off to the Raiders. I thought it was very creative.
On the likelihood of a long-term deal given litigation strategy: The litigation doesn’t affect my perspective on having a long-term deal. I think it probably makes it more important to have a long-term deal, from my perspective. So I don’t see it changing that landscape at all. I think it is important to get the right deal, a fair deal and one that is long term. Unfortunately we’re not negotiating, so I can’t tell you the players’ perspective on that. I believe the owners continue to have that perspective.
On having other sessions with DeMaurice Smith outside the courtroom setting: I would welcome that. Anytime you are talking is a positive, so I would welcome any communication. The more we can be doing that face-to-face, the more productive we can be. Anytime you are sitting down talking about issues that is a positive.
On the length of time needed for a window for free agency: The longer that period, the better for the players, the better for the clubs. That’s why this uncertainty is a disadvantage to everybody. We need to get back to negotiating and get this settled so we can get to that.
Is there a minimum amount of time for free agency: I haven’t thought about it in that context.
On the worsening economics that you suffer, revenue losses over time the longer this goes, has that already been reflected in the proposals to players: No, we have made it very clear that that is occurring and will continue to accelerate. That will obviously impact on the ability of the ownership to make proposals that they find attractive.
On Super Bowl planning in Indianapolis: Very positive. The people here have been extraordinary. They have been very cooperative. We think they are incredibly well organized and prepared. We had the chance to be with them last night. You see so much passion behind what they are doing. We are excited about being here.
On the commissioner considering more direct communication to players: I don’t have one in mind, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
On Brandon Marshall: We are aware obviously of the incident. For the first part of your question, I have not spoken to him. We are aware of the incident and certainly we will follow that incident.
On Plaxico Burress: I have not spoken to him.
On confidence of playing a full 16-game season: That is fully our intention. We spent the last two days making plans including going through our Kickoff and 9/11 plans with our clubs. We are approaching the 2011 season as we would any other season as far as making plans. That is our intention.
On how much he will fine teams who violate the “flagrant foul” policy: Flagrant foul? It is about player safety. I assume you mean the club remittance policy. It is primarily focused on player safety violations. The objective is to have club accountability to make sure that if there are a significant number of violations in the player safety area, that they have some accountability in the way it is coached and the way it is managed to make sure that everyone is doing everything they can to make sure the game stays safe.
It is an accountability issue. We are all responsible for making this game as safe as possible, whether you are coaching the game or enforcing the rules or playing the game. We all have to take that responsibility and do what we can to make the game as safe as possible.
On fines being monetary or are you considering other discipline such as losing draft picks: I haven’t contemplated that. It is possible, as we have done in the past, we would bring the teams to New York though. We did that last year. We’ve done that in the past and we’ll continue to do that.
On the league having backup plans while planning for a 16-game season: I would say we have contingency plans for our contingency plans (laughs).
On the personal side of the CBA that goes beyond business: I’m a fan at heart. I love this game and I want to see this game. That is the primary motivation for me. I think it is the best thing for the game. I think it’s the best thing for the players and the clubs. And I know it is for fans. They want to see the game of football. It is incumbent on us to reach an agreement that is fair and that needs to be a comprehensive labor agreement. That’s why we say, ‘let’s get back to the negotiating table.’ That’s where it is going to get resolved eventually.
On mediation: We come into every session hopeful and optimistic that we can make progress. That’s how we are going to approach it again. The fact that you are talking is a positive step and it’s what is going to be required to get us there.
On positive impact of Judge Arthur Boylan: Judge Boylan has asked us not to comment on the whole mediation process. I’m going to respect his wishes on that one. But again, any time you are face-to-face, that’s a positive.
On mediation as the setting: I’m not sure I’m troubled by the setting, as long as it ends in a collective bargaining agreement that addresses the issues we need to address.
On negative player comments impacting how he will act in the future: Absolutely not.
On his reaction to negativity towards him from players: I don’t have a reaction because I don’t follow every comment.
On the court process: The issue about litigation is that there is no end. That’s why I don’t believe that’s ultimately going to resolve the issue. There is always the ‘search for leverage.’ At some point that has to end and you have to negotiate. That’s where we are. It’s time to negotiate. It’s time to reach an agreement. And we have a period of uncertainty. That’s a good thing so let’s take advantage of that and get something done.
On a player failing to cooperate with law enforcement being a violation of NFL policy: It’s a hypothetical, but I would tell you that we do expect anyone who is involved with a legal issue to cooperate with law enforcement.
On possibly suspending the blackout rule: The blackout rule has been in existence for three or four decades now. It has been through work stoppages. It has been through economic downturns. We continue to try to address the issue of selling tickets through various policies and give teams as much flexibility as possible in getting tickets sold. It’s been a balance of trying to keep our game on free television with making sure that we have full stadiums. Last year 26 games were blacked out. That was a high in the last three years. We had much more significant blackouts as early as the ‘90s. I think we have done a pretty good job of balancing our policies, including our broadcast policies, in a difficult time. As I have said before, it’s challenging getting people into stadiums now. The experience is great at home. I mentioned the economy earlier. You have to work harder to get people to come into your stadium.
Impact of labor situation on coaches: I’ve talked to the coaches. That’s what coaches do. They want to coach and they want to win. They want to get in and work with their players. I understand that and I respect that. I want them to have that opportunity as soon as possible. I do believe that the uncertainty is something that we have to consider as it relates to getting players ready to play obviously, one, from an injury standpoint and, two, from making the proper evaluations. We have talked about different concepts that depending how long it goes, we may have to implement.
Preparing rookies for life in NFL without rookie symposium: We have discussed that and the rookie symposium is just the start of that program. We have several other educational programs that we implement on a year-round basis. We will try to make sure that we supplement in some way to make up for that.
Increasing rookie orientation efforts at the club level: We have a staff in New York that is focused on these efforts and they work with the player development directors at the club level. That is something that we will continue to do.