As you might expect, the Raiders relocation bid was a hot topic when Roger Goodell took to the podium Wednesday for his press conference in Houston leading up to Super Bowl LI. Along with the relocation questions, there was also the announcement that for the second straight season, the Raiders would relocate one of their home games next season to Mexico City.
Here are all the questions for Goodell and answers from relevant to the Raiders:
Q: The Raiders started the approval process to move to Las Vegas, though the latest news seems to put that situation in peril. Is the NFL confident that Las Vegas remains a viable location for the Raiders? And after decades of avoiding or opposing gambling, do the owners and league officials believe that legalized gambling and the NFL can coexist?
Goodell: “In your first question, we hadn’t made a determination about Las Vegas as an NFL market. That’s part of the relocation process. The Raiders submitted an application. It’s one that we’re considering carefully, but there is a great deal of work to be done and there are several elements of that. Financing of the stadium is just one. Obviously, the stadium project itself, the depth of the market, all of those are things that we’ve studied over the last several months, but that will increase in intensity over the next month or so as we move forward in that process. A second, as it relates to whether gambling can coexist with the NFL. In fact, it does. It’s happening today. It’s sponsored by governments. It exists throughout our world. What we have always said is we need to make sure that there’s a fine line between team-sports gambling and the NFL. We want to protect the integrity of our game, and that’s the line we will always do.”
After the great success that the NFL had this season in the game in Mexico City between the Raiders and the Houston Texans, will the NFL go back next season to Mexico?
“Yes. We had a great experience last year. The Texans and the Raiders, we couldn’t have asked for a better reception from our fans in Mexico. We always envisioned that it would be more than a one-year commitment. We’re going to come back next season. The Raiders and the Patriots will be playing there next season.”
For the past 20 years, I've asked the question, ‘When will Los Angeles be getting an NFL team?’ And now, I'm tempted to ask, ‘When will Los Angeles stop getting NFL teams?’ Just following on Barry’s question, though, you detailed the process in the coming weeks about evaluating the Las Vegas market. Are you confident that you can complete that evaluation in time for the vote in the March meetings, and I’d also ask, if Las Vegas were to fall through, could San Diego be the viable option for the Raiders?
“Well, a couple things. One, we are confident that our process is thorough, that it will examine all of the issues that need to be examined to make the best possible decision from the ownership. If for some reason, we can’t complete that by March, we’ll deal with that, but the ultimate objective here is to the make the right decision. I’ve said it many times before, relocations are painful, and you want to be intelligent, you want to be thorough and you want to make sure that we do it with a great deal of sensitivity. We want to make sure that we’re doing what’s in the best, long-term interest of the NFL. So, we will see on timing, but we have been working on this over the last couple months, analyzing this, but we have now more information, and we’ll have to get more information to go forward. The second part of your question, just so I’m clear? (Reporter: San Diego.) San Diego. Listen, and I’ve made this clear before, we were disappointed to have to leave San Diego. We couldn’t get a stadium done. As you know, we had a referendum just last November that did not pass by the voters, and I think for any team to relocate to San Diego at this point in time, we’re going to have to find a solution to that stadium problem, one that we couldn’t do after probably 15 years of effort. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the future. In fact, there is a history of markets that get these projects done once a team leaves. That’s unfortunate, because I think it’s a painful way to do it, but this is something that we obviously would work toward, but we’re moving forward at this point.”
You noted and said several times relocation is a painful process. I think you said a couple weeks ago in Ingelwood that we’re all hurting over the Chargers leaving us. I’m hoping you could reconcile that with how enticing you made it for the Chargers to go to Los Angeles. The owners, a year ago, made it pretty easy. Is there anything the NFL can do better to have prevent the Chargers from leaving, or any other team?
“When you say we made it enticing for them to move to Los Angeles, I would actually argue the exact opposite. The NFL owners did something that was unprecedented, which they gave another $100 million on top of the $200 million, so a total of $300 million, to help build the stadium in San Diego. That had never been done before, never been offered before. So, I think we worked very hard as a membership and as a league, and as Dean Spanos and his family in San Diego, to try to get that done, to try to be creative and try to learn solutions to getting the stadium built. So, obviously, when we made our decision on the Rams relocating back to Los Angeles last year, the Chargers made the decision, despite having the option to move to Los Angeles, to say, ‘We want to stay one more year. We want to try to make this work. Let’s give this another shot.’ The referendum failed. There were a lot of other efforts in addition to that, but that’s disappointing for all of us, because we didn’t get it done. The answer to whether we can do things better and different – absolutely, always. We will always strive to do that, and if there is a better way we can accomplish these, but as you know, this is not a new issue. This isn’t something that came up a year ago or three years ago or five years ago. This is probably 15 years of an inability to get a stadium done, and we will all take a share of responsibility of that.”
You recently said on a national radio show that if the Raiders move was approved by owners, you would not compromise any of the League’s values. Were you referencing gambling and would you or the ownership be opposed to a casino having partial or full ownership either in a team or a stadium?
“We’ve always said we are going to maintain the integrity of our game by making sure there is a separation between sports, gambling and the NFL. That is something we think is imperative for us. We want our fans to know the game they are seeing unfold on the field does not have any undue influence. We recognize gambling occurs out in marketplaces. I said that in the first answer. But this is something from our standpoint we have rules that are in place. The Raiders have not asked for us to compromise those rules as it relates to our policies. We will continue to have that separation going forward. I don’t see an ownership position in a team from a casino. That is not something consistent with our policies. Not likely a stadium either.”
From prominent players within the league, to fan bases in San Diego, St. Louis, New England, to the media, there seems to be an erosion of public trust in you and your office, do you acknowledge that and is there any way you would go about repairing that if you would even seek to do so?
“The thing that you have to always do every day is earn that trust, earn that credibility and it’s by how you act and how you do things. Be transparent, making sure people understand the decisions you make. I don’t expect for one second for people to agree with every decision I make or we make as a league. Those are always difficult, sometimes contentious, and sometimes less than perfect decisions, but you do them in the best interest of long-term health of the game and the NFL and I think we do that. We always seek to do things better, I will always seek to do things better and that’s how we’ll continue to operate and if we can do if differently, we’ll do it differently.”
For decades, the NFL has helped families from Mexico and the U.S. bond together, watch the games. I grew up watching NFL games with a Mexican father and American mom. Nowadays, what can the NFL do outside the field to help build a better relationship between Mexico and the U.S., and not necessarily build other things?
“One of the things that we truly believe in our hearts is that the NFL really does bond communities together and can be a bridge in that way. It unites people. We’re going to see it this weekend with the Super Bowl, where millions of people are going to tune in and they’re going to celebrate and they’re going to all forget about other things for at least a short period of time and really focus on having fun and being entertained by the Super Bowl. That’s something that we’re proud of, and by having the Patriots and Raiders play in Mexico next year, we hope that that very positive will show that we’re reaching out to our fans in Mexico, we’re reaching out to our Hispanic fans here in the United States. We’re going to continue to do those things. We think they’re positive and they can be helpful overall.”
(Inaudible follow-up question on the date of the 2017 Mexico City game)
“We haven’t decided that. I think right now we’re leaning toward a Sunday game on the basis that playing on Monday night on a holiday weekend – it was Thanksgiving week – it was difficult for the teams getting home that late at night on a short week. So, we’re reconsidering that and seeing if there’s a better alternative for our teams.”
What kind of message do you think the league is sending its fans that the Chargers were allowed to leave after 56 years in San Diego of great support, largely because the owner was not able to finance his own stadium and was relying on lots of public money and money from the league?
“As I said before, these are painful processes. It is hard on our fans. We understand that. It is not the outcome we were hoping for. We hoped to get an outcome where we could keep the Chargers there for another 50 years. A stadium, and I think you live in the community, it has taken quite a while to recognize a new stadium was needed, but I think every party in San Diego recognized a new stadium was necessary. The Spanos family, the NFL as a collective 32 clubs, all worked very hard. So it is a process that has to identify a solution that is good for the community as well as the team, so that they can obviously not only coexist, but benefit long term. We weren’t able to do that. I think it’s something that is a collective disappointment and a collective responsibility on all of us, and we have to work harder to try to avoid these things from happening in the future.”