SBD/September 27, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Not All NFL Players Content With Idea Of A Full-Time Franchise In London

Smith thinks a London-based team would be at a competitive disadvantage
The NFL having a franchise in London full time is "an idea that needs to be slow-walked," according to Don Banks of THE MMQB. The idea is again being talked about in advance of Sunday's Steelers-Vikings game at Wembley Stadium, but Banks wrote, "Call me a skeptic when it comes to the far-fetched notion of the NFL ever being successful full-time in a market five hours and many time zones removed from the East Coast of the United States." Two "well-attended regular-season games doesn't sway me into the 'it's inevitable' camp." The league would be "wise to continue a testing-the-waters-as-you-go approach." Why is the NFL "not more interested in football-rabid Mexico City?" The Mexico capital is seen as "a built-in sellout every week, if the NFL would ever look its way." Perhaps the NFL's "realistic hope is to get one or two teams to play half their home games at Wembley, and that would be enough of a stake in the ground to claim that Europe was conquered and that football without borders was now accomplished" (MMQB.SI.com, 9/25).

PLAYERS' PREFERENCE: Eagles C Jason Kelce called the idea of playing full-time in London "awesome" and said, "The biggest thing the league has been trying to do is globalize, to spread to other countries." But Panthers WR Steve Smith said, "If it was a complete league out there, that's a different animal. But to live in London and travel to the United States to play, whomever that team is, they're at a disadvantage every time they hop on a plane." He added, "If that happens, it's a clear vision that they don't really care about the players' safety." Eagles CB Cary Williams said, "It's cool to go across the water and all that. It's cool for a trip, but you don't want a franchise out there." Dolphins CB Brent Grimes: "It's cool for one game, but I can't see it just being all teams in America and one London team. How long of a flight is that? What if they have to play the Raiders?" (ESPN.com, 9/25). Steelers S Troy Polamalu: "The trip is going to be really tough. It's going to be unlike anything we've ever experienced. It's not like going from Oakland to New York. It's just not the same" (ESPN.com, 9/26). Meanwhile, CBSSPORTS.com's Ryan Wilson noted Fox analyst and Pro Football HOFer Terry Bradshaw "hates the idea that teams now are forced to play in England." Bradshaw during an appearance on WFAN-FM said, "It's the most disrespectful thing you can do to these teams, to make them travel over to London to promote our NFL product." He added, "Nobody cares anything about that game. The players don't want to go. You can't enjoy it" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/24).

JUST A BLIP ON THE RADAR? In Pittsburgh, Alan Robinson notes huge banners promoting Sunday's game "stretch for blocks along fashionable Regent Street" in London, but as "hundreds strolled by Thursday, not one person could be seen glancing up at the banners" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 9/27). Also in Pittsburgh, Dejan Kovacevic noted Regent Street is "draped in banners boasting of the game, with sports bars there promoting the cause and even a few locals decked out" in Polamalu or Vikings RB Adrian Peterson gear. But at the "bloke-in-the-pub level, the reaction is an almost universal shrug" (TRIBLIVE.com, 9/26).

COVERING THE COVERAGE: Stateside print coverage of the latest U.K. game has been present but limited in Pittsburgh and the Twin Cities leading up to Sunday's matchup. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Kovacevic made the trek overseas and has a piece Friday morning about the lack of excitement among Londoners. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette features a Steelers notes column that focuses on the two head coaches' differing approaches but makes little mention of the contest's off-the-field significance. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune focuses on on-field issues for the Vikings, with the exception of an anecdotal piece about backup QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson's connection to London. The St. Paul Pioneer Press features a short piece in which Vikings DE Jared Allen discusses playing overseas, with little else on the fact the game is in the U.K. Throughout the week in London, the Daily Mail, Guardian and Evening Standard have offered some coverage of the game, with the Evening Standard posting the most recent story on the game's impact. Other London outlets, including the Telegraph and Independent, have offered very little coverage (Preston Bounds, Staff Writer).
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