NFL faces public backlash and unresolved media deals at fall 2021 league meetings

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the NFL football game between the Miami Dolphins and the Indianapolis Colts on October 3, 2021 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida.

Andrew Bershaw | Sportswire icon | Getty Images

Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis sat in the lobby of a New York hotel on Wednesday and was quickly bombarded by members of the media.

Davis was one of the few National Football League owners who didn’t rush out of the InterContinental hotel after the league wrapped up its fall 2021 meetings. He even smiled as he answered about 20 minutes of questions. on the state of pro football.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held the first in-person meetings with team owners in over 600 days this week, and the sessions took place as numerous scandals revolved around league ownership. There is the public backlash over the leaked emails containing racist and homophobic remarks, which led to the sacking of Raiders coach Jon Gruden. Meanwhile, Congress is examining how the NFL deals with Washington football team misconduct in the workplace.

As for revenue, some media rights remain on the table, and the pre-offseason pre-draft NFL combine may be heading to a new location.

As the NFL enters week eight of its season, Davis was asked to describe the state of the NFL.

“I really can’t describe it,” Davis said. “I know where the Raiders are at.”

Davis confirmed that the Raiders had agreed to a financial settlement with Gruden, who signed a 10-year, $ 100 million contract to coach the team in 2018. Gruden resigned earlier this month after the emails were leaked from its part containing racist and homophobic language.

Davis said if the NFL knew about the emails it could have fixed the issue before the season.

“We all have demons in our lives,” he said. “You have to understand that. And then you have to consider redemption as well.”

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The emails were discovered as part of an investigation into the Washington football team.

The NFL has obtained over 600,000 emails from a survey on workplace culture at the WFT, which is owned by Dan Snyder. Last July, an investigation into the team revealed that the club presented a “very unprofessional” workplace, especially for women. The NFL fined the team $ 10 million and Snyder agreed to step down, handing day-to-day control over to his wife, Tanya.

The NFL believed the case was resolved until the New York Times reported that Gruden used offensive comments in emails to WFT President Bruce Allen for seven years. It was then that Gruden was employed at ESPN.

Former WFT workers crushed NFL meetings to demand that documents on the investigation be made public. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform also sent a letter to Goodell requesting that the records related to the inquiry be turned over by November 4.

Goodell addressed the issue on Tuesday. He said it would be “difficult” to provide further details, citing the league’s pledge to protect the anonymity of the more than 150 respondents. He said the NFL will cooperate with Congress.

Regarding the WFT investigation, Davis said he favored a more detailed report, “particularly with some of the things that have been charged.”

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tried to escape the media scrum, but was not entirely successful. He threw away his bag and briefly said he “approved of the way the league had behaved”, without answering further questions.

Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis watches before a game against the Chicago Bears at Allegiant Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Chris Unger | Getty Images

The Future of the NFL Sunday Ticket

On the money side, the NFL struck a media rights deal worth more than $ 100 billion in rights over the next decade. Davis was more than happy to bring up this topic.

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“We got to talk about the collective engagement agreement and the new TV deal that gives the league stability – that’s really important to us,” he said. “And we also have a lot of other things to work on.”

But there is one unsolved case – the NFL Sunday Ticket. AT&T holds the rights through its ownership of DirecTV. The deal, which pays the NFL more than $ 1 billion a year, expires in 2023. After that, it could switch platforms.

On Tuesday, Goodell called Sunday Ticket a “streaming product” that the NFL wants satellite to take off and digital.

“I think it’s best for our fans to make it accessible on a digital platform,” he said.

Goodell said the NFL has not identified a new partner. Amazon is a target for rights, but in league circles rumors suggest the NFL ultimately wants to lure Apple into taking it over.

Apple has the distribution with iPhones and iPads and can put games on its streaming service. Longtime athletic director Andy Dolich called it a “railroad track” when discussing the demise of regional sports networks.

A person familiar with the NFL’s reflection on Sunday Ticket told TBEN that several tech companies are showing interest, but did not reveal any names. The person discussed the matter on condition of remaining anonymous as the interviews are private.

DirecTV has a streaming service and tries to build brand awareness by sponsoring ESPN shows. This service has not received stellar reviews.

The NFL is considering several ways to experience the Sunday Ticket, including giving consumers the option to purchase individual team games. It could also mimic the broadcast TV package by letting the streaming services broadcast a specific conference. And to increase the value of Sunday Ticket, the NFL could also include media properties like NFL.com and the NFL Network.

Last August, the NFL hired Goldman Sachs to seek out property investment partners.

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The league has yet another season with DirectTV, but the NFL likely wants a new deal in place before the 2022 season begins.

Ohio State defensive back Jeff Okudah prepares to run the 40-yard scorecard during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 29, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Joe Robbins | Getty Images

Combine moving to Dallas

Another property the NFL plans to discuss is the future location of its annual combine.

Another potential media highlight is the pre-draft event as it airs primarily on the NFL Network and catches the interest of die-hard football fans. On Tuesday, NFL executive Troy Vincent said the combine will attempt to return to normal in 2022 and will be held in Indianapolis after going virtual during the pandemic.

But there is some uncertainty surrounding the 2023 event.

The NFL opened the bid for teams to host the combine, which has been held in Indianapolis since 1987. The event is helping to attract $ 10 million in economic impact to the city, according to the Visit Indy tourism website. But that’s well below the more than $ 200 million the NFL is helping to pull off.

Location is key, which is why Dallas and Los Angeles entered the mix. A source told TBEN that Frisco, Texas (outside of Dallas) would more than likely get the winning bid for the 2023 event. It’s home to the Cowboys’ training center, the Ford Center.

TBEN visited the entertainment grounds last September, which sits on 91 acres of land controlled by Jones. The more than $ 1 billion, 12,000-seat sports complex opened in 2016 at The Star. The Ford Center is attached to the luxurious Omni Hotel and is surrounded by a shopping mall, restaurants, car dealership and attracts football fans.

“The focus has been on improving the athlete experience,” said Vincent. “We have to do things differently.”

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