This morning, in advance of the NFL Draft tonight, I spoke with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on “Squawk Box.” Here’s what the commissioner had to say on some key topics.
On Ben Roethlisberger’s six-game suspension: “There are a lot of disputed facts about what happened. But one thing that’s not disputed is that it was conduct that we don’t find acceptable and it doesn’t meet the standard of the NFL and it brought a negative image to Ben himself, his teammates and everyone in the NFL. Our personal conduct policy sets a very high standard of which everyone is expected to meet, whether you are a player, a coach or a commissioner. You have to look at all of the independent facts. You want to treat everyone fairly and consistently but you are trying to change behavior – trying to get people to understand that responsibility and be held accountable to it and recognize that our fans expect to support people that they want to support.”
On the Draft going to primetime for the first time ever and how big the property has become: “Well, it really talks about our fans because it’s the fans renewed hope in their team and how the fortunes of that team are going to change because of who they draft and young men are starting their careers tonight in the NFL. It’s a life-long dream for them. It has really captured everyone’s imagination. There’s a tremendous amount of drama and excitement that is created by this and it has become a huge event for the NFL.”
On the fact that $600 million was guaranteed to the draft class last year: “We want our players to be paid appropriately. When you come in as a rookie, there’s a question about whether you are going to have the ability to play at the NFL level. What we would like to do instead of having extraordinary money guaranteed -- $600 million will be committed over the next couple days, some won’t make it and the money goes out of the system. We’d like to keep the money in the system and make sure it goes to veteran players because they already prove that they can play on the NFL level. It’s a matter of re-allocating and shifting our economics so that all of us can be successful and hopefully these young men will all be successful, but we know in this business some people won’t make it.”
On convincing the public to side with the NFL over the players in the labor negotiations: “I think we have proven that we know how to manage our business. What we’re trying to do is manage our business appropriately and the economics of football and professional sports have changed for us. It requires a tremendous amount of investment to build these stadiums. Just across the river in New York, we’re building a stadium for $1.7 billion in private money. The two teams have to pay that down. They have to pay down that debt. The extraordinary amount of debt that is created to grow revenues, of which players get 60 percent. So what we have to do is get a better economic system that will allow us to continue to invest in the game, grow the game and players will benefit from that. That’s what we’re trying to do by sitting at the negotiating table and figuring out a new structure.”
On satisfying the fan who wants the TV experience at the game: “It’s important to remember what our customers want, what our fans want. I’m very supportive of making the experience in the stadium more exciting. That goes with everything from making it more accessible to having better facilities to making it safer. When you come to a stadium, you feel safe with your family and make it a positive experience. Technology is going to play a huge role for us because as you point out, it’s very attractive to sit at home in with your high definition screen. We now have to make sure that experience in the stadium has similar capabilities and we’ve seen that with our new stadium in Dallas with the Cowboys that has a huge scoreboard that has made a different experience for our fans. These devices are going to be critical because when we come to the stadiums and our fans come to the stadiums, we want to make sure they have content, whether it’s video or other types of content that makes the experience more exciting for them.”
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