SBJ/March 19-25, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Clinton to speak to NFL owners at annual meeting

Former President Bill Clinton will speak to NFL owners on Sunday to kick off the league’s annual meeting, sources said last week.

The league has long had high-profile speakers at its annual meeting — including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein — but Clinton may have the highest standing to date. The former president earned about $11 million in speaking fees in 2010, according to CNN, and presumably, he is charging the NFL owners a speaking fee.

The speech plan came at the request of Clinton’s representatives.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
A Clinton representative did not respond for comment. The presentation, at the request of Clinton’s representatives, a source said, will be a closed event, for league and team personnel only. Media in the past have, on occasion, been invited to listen to the guest speaker.

What the former president will talk about could not be determined, but there are a number of areas close to Clinton that would be of interest to the league — from his Clinton Foundation, which focuses on various health issues, including childhood obesity, to his knowledge of global markets and politics.

The NFL’s Play 60 initiative aims to get children active. The league also is trying to expand its international footprint and is working to launch a venture capital fund, which the NFL hoped could be set to begin operations by this meeting.

Guest speakers at the league meeting often do not speak directly to NFL issues but instead address overarching themes.

There are several other pressing issues for the league with labor strife now in its rearview mirror. At last year’s annual meeting, the players had just been locked out, and a spring and summer of legal filings and negotiations toward a new collective-bargaining agreement were just beginning.

One of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s significant initiatives for the league is to improve the in-stadium experience. That topic is expected to draw significant time at the meeting, which runs through March 28.

The league also is facing, as of last week, 36 lawsuits from former players alleging that the sport hid the dangers of concussions. More recently, the league is confronting a public relations challenge with the revelation that New Orleans Saints players apparently had a bounty pool paid to defenders related to injuries for opposing players.

The meeting is at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., and marks the return after a one-year hiatus of hosting these meetings at resorts. Last year, in the midst of the lockout, the meeting occurred at The Roosevelt hotel in New Orleans.

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