For years, one of the knocks against NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been his stiffness in front of the media. Unflattering comparisons have been made to his media-friendly NBA counterpart, Adam Silver, and are often cited when discussing the league’s problems.
But the NFL’s new PR hierarchy, led by Jocelyn Moore, executive vice president of communications, may have discovered a solution: Answer the media’s questions before they get to Goodell. This was the way things were handled at last week’s NFL meetings in Dallas, where there were four separate media briefings with league executives, leaving Goodell to field only a handful of questions at his regular end-of meeting press conference. His session lasted less than four minutes. Typically, they go for at least 20 minutes.
“No more questions?” Goodell asked with surprise when it was clear no more reporters’ hands were aloft. “Jocelyn, you did too good a job, they got all their information. That’s good.”
Moore has largely stayed behind the scenes since being named to her post in the summer. She has declined to talk about how she will handle PR compared with her predecessor, Joe Lockhart, so this meeting was one of the first times to see her approach in action.
“For this particular meeting, we thought it might be helpful to provide ongoing media updates throughout the day, instead of waiting until the end,” she emailed. “The feedback we have received from the press thus far has been very positive.”
Earlier, when asked if this was an attempt to shield Goodell from the media, she replied that was not the point.
The briefings handled by the other executives were: on-field play (Rich McKay, Falcons president and the chairman of the competition committee) and concussions (Jeff Miller, executive vice president of health and safety); the NFL’s player misconduct investigations (Todd Jones, special counsel); the league’s diversity efforts (Robert Gulliver, executive VP for human resources and chief diversity officer); and the announcement of the 2020 draft in Las Vegas (Raiders owner Mark Davis).
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Owners voted to allow clubs to charge higher prices on a greater number of stadium seats. League rules had required that only 2,500 main stadium seats could be priced higher than the base price for a club seat or suite ticket. That figure is now 6,000, which will allow teams to offer more and higher price points. The reason for the core rule tying club-seat base prices to stadium seats is somewhat complicated but involves ensuring a proper balance between the core club-seat ticket price and premium, which funds stadium debt in many cases.
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How to make the Pro Bowl more interesting is a recurring issue for the NFL. In the last few weeks the league has begun discussions with Your Call Football, a league in which fans can call plays through an app. The discussions are early and it’s too late for the 2019 game in January, but the possibility of fans calling some or all of the plays is something to watch for in 2020.
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■ Speaking of events, the 2019 draft in Nashville will feature the largest outdoor stage ever used in the state, a structure that will be on the city’s main strip. The league also expects to book A-level musical acts for the draft, which has become a three-day football festival.
■ The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will give up a home game next year for an international game. There are five international games scheduled: four in London and one in Mexico City. The Jacksonville Jaguars annually play a home game in London, and league rules require teams in temporary stadiums — in this case the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, and the Oakland Raiders — to give up a home game to be played overseas. It’s not clear whether the Bucs will play in London or Mexico, but the Raiders’ popularity south of the border suggests they will play in Mexico City, sending Tampa Bay across the pond.
■ Of course, the big question is where the Raiders will play their seven other home games in 2019. Their lease is up later this month, the city of Oakland is suing them over their relocation to Las Vegas, and the Vegas stadium will not be ready until 2020. Team President Marc Badain declined to offer a deadline for deciding, noting that the schedule does not come out until April. Team owner Mark Davis ruled out only San Antonio as a possible home for next season, because of what he called bad field conditions at the Alamodome. That was ironic given that the previous Sunday Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell slipped while attempting a game-tying, 40-yard field goal at the Raiders’ current home, the Oakland Coliseum, which is notorious for its poor field conditions and was criticized anew following the Raiders’ 24-21 win.