Fans got a chance to ask NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell questions at a forum event
Multiple questions came up about the collective bargaining agreement, which expires in 2020
In years’ past, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would field questions from the media at a press conference on the Friday before the Super Bowl. This year, the Q&A session with the media happened on Wednesday instead.
And on this Friday before the big game, it was the fans’ turn.
Goodell and the Walter Payton Man of the Year finalists – New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olson – took on a wide range of topics at an NFL fan forum at the House of Blues in downtown Houston.
The mood was mainly light-hearted among what appeared to be a mostly pro-Houston Texans crowd. There were, however, plenty of questions on current NFL issues as well.
Inquiries, for example, on international expansion, the possibility of having a team in Las Vegas or respecting the flag during the national anthem.
And then there were multiple questions concerning the collective bargaining agreement, which expires in 2020.
Covered in face paint, a wig, a Texans visor and a jersey with the name “WARPAINT” on the back, a man named Dan asked the commissioner about the potential of extending the NFL regular-season schedule to 18 games.
“You guys want to take that first, or do you want me to?” Goodell cracked to Manning, Fitzgerald and Olsen.
It was evident the players weren’t in favor of that.
“It’s hard enough getting through 16 right now,” Fitzgerald said.
“You’re asking the wrong group,” Manning said.
“You’ve got to get some young guys up here, Roger,” Olsen said. “They might be all about that.”
Goodell said the league wouldn’t expand to 18 games unless the players’ association agreed to it.
“Will it get discussed? Possibly. I don’t see a big movement that way though. Certainly, I’ve got three ‘no’ votes here.”
Another question related to the agreement was about whether the league’s position on marijuana will change one day. Currently, the league does not permit use of the drug.
Goodell said the league’s medical experts have not recommended the NFL to change its policy, but Fitzgerald got laughs from the crowd when he pointed out that players only get tested for illegal substances twice a year.
“The guys that are getting caught, it’s not using common sense,” Fitzgerald said with a smile and then shaking his head from side to side.
“I’m with you, buddy,” Olsen said.
For the third question about the bargaining agreement, a fan asked if Goodell would ever consider giving up his authority on player discipline.
“We’ve often said that we would modify the way we would do our discipline,” Goodell said. “There’s no perfect way to do it. The only thing that we feel very strongly about is handing off the ultimate decision as it relates to personal conduct to somebody who has no affiliation with the NFL. …Giving that to somebody who has absolutely no equity or no stake in the NFL, I’m opposed to.”
Goodell added that one of the groups the league has discussed as potential arbiters is retired players.
Other inquiries were fun, like when a woman asked Manning how to change the default language option on her phone to Chinese, referencing one of the Giants quarterback’s pranks.
“I was at a Saturday Night Live deal, and Kevin Nealon was there, and he wanted me to take a picture of him and (brother) Peyton (Manning),” Manning said. “I thought, ‘Well that’s kind of insulting.’ So when he gave me his phone, and I go to take the picture, I’m like, ‘Hey, let me look at it.’ It took like 5 or 6 seconds.”
There was one question that notably wasn’t asked, and it was a question that came up repeatedly in Goodell’s Wednesday session with the media: Deflategate. There, Goodell was hit with multiple questions from reporters about not attending a New England Patriots home game in the last two years.
In the crowd at Friday’s fan forum, at least one fan wearing a Tom Brady jersey was spotted, but he elected not to raise his hand to ask the commissioner a question.
The Patriots fan who did ask a question directed it to Manning, who has won two Super Bowls against New England. He asked Manning if he had any advice for Brady, while referencing that the Giants quarterback had recently been texting with Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Manning said he didn’t give advice but had wished Ryan luck.
“Keep throwing it to Julio,” Manning joked.