Q: There are a lot of questions right now about the future of the Bills franchise and lots of people have talked about how the franchise is going to leave. What can you tell the fans of the Bills who are nervous these days?
COMMISSIONER GOODELL: What's happened by going to Toronto for a game is actually helping to support the team in Buffalo. It's actually had the effect that we wanted it to have. By allowing the team to regionalize and to broaden its fan base in a market that has become smaller, as you know, I firmly believe that this has actually been good for keeping the Bills in western New York. It allows them to generate the kind of revenues that are necessary to continue to be successful. They're an important part of the National Football League and I've pledged and I believe very firmly as long as we keep that team successful, it will be in western New York.
Q: What does the league define as keeping the team successful?
It just has to be financially successful, competitively successful and I think it has the ability to do that right now. I think the way Ralph has managed the team has proven it.
Q: We've been reading stories about the Dallas Cowboys' new stadium and the money they can get down there and the Giants and Jets getting millions of dollars by selling the corners of their new stadium. Keeping the Bills successful…. how hard is it? Is it possible they can maintain some kind of revenue level so that they don't get priced out and that there's not too big of a disparity to keep the team in western New York?
That's the beauty of our system. We have two things that counter that. First, we have revenue sharing so that the money that's created in Dallas and in New York is also shared in markets like Buffalo. That's why a franchise like the Green Bay Packers has been successful for so many years with no owner, as the community actually owns the team. So that's one issue. The second issue is that we have a salary cap and there's only so much money that can be spent on players. That again levels the playing field to some extent and we think it is why Buffalo continues to have competitive football teams.
Q: From the big market perspective … Jerry Jones, Bob Kraft …. the guys in New York, Washington, Dan Snyder… Do the big-market teams really care about whether or not the Bills of the world have a spot in the NFL?
Absolutely. I think all of our owners understand what the Buffalo Bills mean to this community but also what they mean to the NFL in general. I think when you see the Green Bay Packers and the Buffalo Bills continuing to be successful both on and off the field, that's a demonstration of why the NFL has also been successful because it can be compelling in all markets. It's where a franchise can go from last to first in any given year. That's what makes it exciting and I know that our ownership understands that and respects that and I think that's one of the core principles and they've demonstrated that with the way that they share revenue.
Q: How do you balance the desire to always get bigger, whether it's playing games in London, playing games in Prague? I mean there's going to be a game a year overseas outside the U.S. So, how do you balance the desire to grow and continue to grow but also be true to and respect the parts of your league that kind of got it to where it is? The Green Bays, the Buffalos and the smaller markets that may have more of an intrinsic value than necessarily financial value.
That's always a balancing act. You want to continue to grow and to expand and that's what our job is. To try to find ways to do that. When I took over as commissioner there were three things that I focused on. We have to do everything to strengthen the game, we have to do everything to strengthen our 32 teams, and we have to continue to innovate. We cannot rest on our laurels and accept that our past success will dictate our success in the future. It won't happen. So growing is important and we're going to continue to go after pro-growth strategies. It's one of the reasons we play our international series. But that doesn't mean that you want to weaken your domestic market or your 32 franchises. That's a key point for us.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the labor situation and the owners opting out of the CBA. Are you concerned about your labor situation?
The labor deal that we entered into two years ago isn't working as we expected it would work. It has become a financial problem for all of our clubs and as such we opted out. That still means for the fans that even if we are unable to get an agreement that there will be football for three more years guaranteed. This is not going to effect any playing of the game until 2011. But I want to make a distinction. There's a distinction between a labor CBA and revenue sharing. The league has shared over 80% of its revenue for a long time and that is what has allowed it to be successful and what continues to make it successful. The collective bargaining agreement is a separate issue. What's happened is that the labor costs are so extraordinary at this point in time as well as the players' share of gross revenue. As we create gross revenue, they don't share in the cost and what's happened now is that our system is more expensive to maintain. When we build stadiums, when we put money into stadiums, and when we operate stadiums that's a tremendous cost.
Q: But it's also a concern of some smaller teams about what exactly is shared and what isn't shared. That's been one of main problems when it comes to the revenue sharing system in the way it is built. How will the league broker a deal allowing smaller teams to share from larger teams going forward?
We just did that two years ago and we did it a year ago with supplemental revenue sharing where we shared even more revenue than we have before. The league has continually gone back and shared more revenue. That is not the issue here. It is labor costs.
Q: Is the Marshawn Lynch matter a league matter? How closely have you been following it?
It is a league matter once it's been resolved locally. I think right now at this stage we want to see what the facts are and see if there are any charges. We want to understand the facts and then we'll deal with it in relationship to our personal conduct policy.
Q: What types of messages are you trying to send to the public with the personal conduct policy?
I believe that our players are doing great things in their communities and unfortunately what you have is a few individuals that have engaged in behavior that I do not think reflects well on the NFL or other NFL players. So, we have been aggressive with the players' support because they don't want to be branded as people that aren't doing the right things in their community. So, they're disappointed when their teammates or other people on teams get involved with things they shouldn't because it just paints everyone with a bad brush. The personal conduct policy that we put together with the players' support is designed to make sure the players understand there are consequences to actions that reflect poorly on the NFL or on your club. I think it's been received extremely well by our players, by our clubs, and most importantly, the thing that struck me the most, is by college and high school coaches. I have gotten more letters and more comments from them indicating that when you do this at the NFL, you've set a standard. That means our players at the high school or college level that are seeking to become NFL players currently understand how they have to behave.
Q: You are developing some kind of fan conduct policy. What are you trying to accomplish with that? What might be in effect for this season?
The key issue for us is that we want every fan to be able to come to an NFL stadium and enjoy the game. They can have a beer, they can have two, they can have three, but they just have to act responsibly. It is important when people come to a game that they feel comfortable, that they feel safe, and that they're not put in a situation where they're embarrassed with a young child or another family member. They should come and be able to enjoy the game in a responsible fashion. That's what we're asking our fans to do. Come, have a good time. You can scream as loud as you want to scream, just make sure that you do it in a way that will not make the experience a negative one for others.
Commissioner Goodell Interview
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