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Day 1 of NFL owners meeting features Iger presentation

SportsBusiness Journal/Daily’s Daniel Kaplan is in Houston for this week’s NFL owners meeting on possible franchise relocation to Los Angeles. He filed this report on today’s activities.

Covering an NFL owners meeting is never easy: chasing after owners, being restricted on where you can go, getting people to talk (or not). But this week’s NFL owners meeting in Houston on Los Angeles relocation — it’s unique in its own right.

First, the media is not even allowed on the same floor as the owners, so the usual news-gathering techniques are out the door. Second, more than 200 media representatives were credentialed for this meeting. To give an idea of how big that is, that’s more than for an annual meeting, and far and away more than other meetings through the year.

Many outlets sent multiple reporters, ranging from local newspapers whose hometowns may lose a team to ESPN.

Bob Iger is surrounded by reporters on Tuesday.
Photo by: DANIEL KAPLAN / STAFF
Perhaps the highlight of the day for the media was when Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger, who would run the Carson project proposed by the Raiders and Chargers, chose to go to the media level Starbucks for a cappuccino. He was swarmed by dozens of media members — and conducted an interview at the Starbucks counter (see picture).

“You guys are desperate,” he said jokingly as he left. (For the record, he also said he thinks momentum is behind the Carson effort and that owners are ready to make a decision.)

Most meetings also don’t come with Dr. Death outside holding up signs, something that is surely bewildering motorists passing by the Westin Houston, Memorial City, where the meetings are being held. (For those not familiar: Dr. Death is the 28-year-old Raiders superfan who has been at almost as many league meetings this year as Raiders games). In all, there were a dozen fan protesters on-site today: nine Raiders fans, two Rams fans and one lonely Chargers fan.

How do I know this is a special meeting though? Easy. Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen is here. By my count, it’s his third meeting in 10 years, with there being on average four or five meetings a year. The first was in August 2006, outside Chicago, when owners voted in Roger Goodell as the league’s new commissioner. The second was in July 2011, in Atlanta, when owners approved a new collective-bargaining agreement after a 4 1/2-month lockout. And then there’s now, January 2016, in Houston.

Of course, there’s been news today as well. SportsBusinessDaily was the first outlet to report that the league’s Los Angeles committee voted to approve the Carson project over the Inglewood project. (Sources said it was 5 to 1 in favor, with the one being Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt).

As for Iger, we knew he would be here for the presentation but not that he would take the lead role on Carson’s behalf. No knock against Rams President Kevin Demoff, who made the presentation for that franchise’s desired new home in Inglewood, but it must not have been easy to go up against the man who runs arguably the top entertainment brand in the world.

What’s next? There’s a lot of talk about whether this could all end tonight, even with the meeting scheduled to run through tomorrow. That’s doubtful, though: 24 votes are needed for approval, and more politicking is necessary — and with more time comes pressure and leverage.

The L.A. committee vote is important, and in all the years I have covered the league I have never seen full ownership reject a committee recommendation. That said, this is an unprecedented situation, so if there were to be a first, this could be it.



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