One week following the Chargers‘ rally celebrating their move from San Diego to Los Angeles, the franchise’s change in address is still the talk of many in the NFL community, from fans up to executives.
Ahead of his Super Bowl news conference next Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell went on The Herd, hosted by Colin Cowherd, on Wednesday to discuss multiple league issues, including the Bolts’ move up the coast.
As he has in previous interviews, Goodell expressed disappointment that the Chargers and the city of San Diego were unable to reach a deal for the organization to stay in its home city of 55-plus years.
“We’re all disappointed and we all worked very, very hard with local officials, with the Chargers, with the Spanos family, with all of our clubs and we did some unprecedented things to try and keep the Chargers in San Diego, which was our first priority,” Goodell said. “That’s why all of our relocations, these are painful processes. They’re painful for our fans, they’re painful for the communities in general, they’re painful for the NFL, and so we always work to avoid that and we did that in San Diego.
“We worked very hard to try to avoid it, to make sure that we went not just the extra mile but the extra three or four miles, including the Chargers had the opportunity to move, frankly, a year ago,” Goodell continued. “They stayed. (Owner) Dean (Spanos) wanted to try and give it another shot. He went for a referendum. Unfortunately, that did not pass, and then the consequence where everybody in that community recognizes a new stadium has to be built. They have for several years. They recognized there have been many failed attempts at getting that done that all of us bear responsibility for.
“So for us it is disappointing. We would have loved to have the Chargers in San Diego. I think Dean Spanos would be the first to tell you that. But we have to look forward, we have to look long-term and we have to ultimately make sure we’re doing what’s best for each of our franchises but with a very, very strong consideration to making sure we’ve done everything possible for our fans.”
When pressed by Cowherd about whether the NFL’s owners would have put in more of an effort to prevent the relocation of a more “entrenched” franchise, like the Dallas Cowboys, Philadelphia Eagles or Chicago Bears, Goodell explained that the league has crossed that bridge before.
“I don’t think you’re being cynical, but I think if you go back and look at the facts over the period of time, we’ve been very successful in getting stadiums built in those communities,” Goodell offered. “Each of the franchises you mentioned have had stadium challenges, but they were able to work through them. They were able to get them done with the local community leadership and the team and we are the only league in sports to my knowledge in the world that contributes league money into each of the stadium projects.
“In the case of San Diego, NFL owners put not just the $200 (million) that we put into each community, but we put $300 (million) into it as the effort of the league to try and see if we could bridge the gap. I think the NFL owners, I think the Spanos family, and I think the community gave it all a really great effort. But are we disappointed? Of course.”
Here are some other interesting selections from the commissioner’s interview:
» If the New England Patriots are to win Super Bowl LI in two Sundays and Goodell is tasked with handing the Lombardi Trophy to Tom Brady, the commissioner said he wouldn’t feel uncomfortable, “not for a second.” Goodell clarified, “Tom Brady is one of the all-time greats. He has been for several years. He’s on the precipice of at least potentially winning his fifth Super Bowl ring. He’s an extraordinary player, great performer and a sure-fire Hall of Famer, so it would be an honor.”
Speaking of the Patriots, Goodell clarified that there is no reason why he did not attend either of New England’s postseason games at Gillette Stadium. “I try to get to as many stadiums as I can,” the commissioner said. “But you know we have two great games and you gotta choose and frankly the focus should be on the players, the coaches, and the great game and that’s where it was this weekend and where it should be.”
Asked if his role in Deflategate has affected his relationship with Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Goodell responded, “Listen, I wouldn’t be doing my job if somebody wasn’t unhappy with a decision that you make or the way you’re doing it. Robert and I can disagree about things, we have a healthy respect for one another. But that’s true with any owner. That doesn’t affect my relationship or the fact we work together to try and make the NFL better.”
» Goodell explained that the league’s approach to Thursday Night Football is an multi-faceted, ever-changing one. “We started off with eight games then we built it up, and it’s something we’ll continue to look at: how do we do the scheduling as an example?” the commissioner continued. “Should we have people flying on Sunday night returning and then playing away on Thursday? We try to do whatever we can to make sure we give those players an opportunity to recover from injuries or the normal contact you’re going to have in a game.
“But also we hear a lot — and this came up in our negotiations in 2011 — that a lot of the players really like it because you have 10 days afterward before the next game. So it acts as a sort-of mini bye was the term that was used. There are a lot of things you have to balance.”
» With the Raiders applying to move to Las Vegas, many see that as a sign that the league’s stance on gambling is evolving. Goodell noted that the league is taking note of American culture’s destigmatization of gambling, but wouldn’t commit to a full support of the industry.
“We’re gonna evaluate the Raiders‘ case on the relocation application and what’s in the overall best interest of the league,” Goodell concluded. “But also one thing we can’t ever do is compromise on the game. And that’s one of the things we’ll do is make sure that the policies we’ve created, if we did in any way approve the Raiders, I don’t see us compromising in any of the policies.”
» Regarding an NFL Players Association’s proposal for a more relaxed penalty on marijuana use among players, Goodell said that the two sides have had “several conversations about this issue” and the proposal will be “one of the subjects that we’ll have in our collectively bargaining process.”