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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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What the NFL’s Billionaires Will Focus on at This Week’s League Meetings

  • The future of the Washington Commanders and owner Dan Snyder are not on agenda at the annual league meeting.
  • Roger Goodell’s next contract and allowing flex scheduling for ‘Thursday Night Football’ will be discussed.
Goodell
Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

Tanya Snyder will once again represent the Washington Commanders at the second set of league meetings since it was announced in November the Snyders were “exploring” a potential sale of the franchise.

There are no agenda items among the many committee meetings that will take place at an upscale Phoenix hotel that pertain to the sale, the ongoing outside investigation of the Commanders or anything else that deals with the future of the embattled club.

That doesn’t mean, however, that Snyder and the Commanders won’t be a topic of conversation at these owners meetings in private this week — especially as it pertains to the sale process that delayed efforts to remove Snyder.

“This is an extraordinary situation,” one team executive told Front Office Sports.

Since the Commanders selected Bank of America to handle the potential sale 144 days ago, the team has remained mum. In fact, owners have largely been in the dark on the Commanders bidding process, and even Snyder’s intentions to sell part or all of the franchise he’s owned since 1999.

Bidders were told near the start of the sale process that Snyder aimed to sell at least a controlling interest, FOS reported in January. In the months since, more contenders emerged.

Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils owner Josh Harris has built a would-be ownership group that now counts industrial firm co-founder and art patron Mitchell Rales and NBA legend Magic Johnson.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the third-richest person in the world, hired a banking firm to assist his effort. Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has reportedly bid around $5.5 billion. Canadian real estate and venture capital exec Steve Apostolopoulo’s interest in the Commanders was first reported on Wednesday.

For weeks, it’s been expected that the Commanders wouldn’t be an official topic at the league meetings. There are, however, a lot of items that will be discussed and voted on this week. 

Roger Goodell’s Next Deal

A closeup of Roger Goodell
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Roger Goodell has worked for the NFL for more than 40 years, and served as commissioner since 2006. 

He’s in line for his fourth contract extension, one that the compensation committee is expected to approve this week. ESPN reported that a three-year deal has been discussed, but the length of what could be his last contract was not finalized.

Goodell’s salary was easier to figure out when the NFL operated as an unincorporated nonprofit, where annual tax forms spelled out his pay. Before the NFL gave up its tax-exempt status in 2015, the last publicly available tax form listed Goodell’s salary as $30 million.

The New York Times reported in 2021 that his total annual compensation under the current deal that expires next March paid out nearly $64 million for each of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years.

Goodell has remained in the good graces of the owners — who are effectively his bosses — this long for several reasons, including his efforts in making them a lot of money though media rights deals. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has, however, taken issue with Goodell in the past.

When Goodell took over as commissioner, the NFL’s total broadcast deals were worth nearly $4 billion annually. Counting the most recent deal with Google to stream NFL Sunday Ticket on YouTubeTV, the NFL will haul in more than $12 billion each year when all those deals fully kick in later this year.

“There are a lot of changes that are gonna come that I think are gonna be incredibly beneficial to our partners, but more importantly our fans in these new media agreements,” Goodell said before last month’s Super Bowl. “Revenue growth is a part of that story, but it’s not the driver. When we do our media agreements — and, really, any partnership we look at — how is that going to advance the growth of our game ultimately?”

The deals with NBC, CBS, Fox, ABC/ESPN and Amazon are locked through 2033. Goodell’s management of negotiations with the NFL Players Association — which included a lockout 2011 — has also won him praise by ownership. The current collective bargaining agreement expires in March 2030.

At age 64, there are reasons to believe that Goodell’s successor will be in place when those media rights and CBA deals run their course.

More Flexing Ahead?

NBC has benefited from flex scheduling since 2006.

NFL owners already approved flex scheduling for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” starting in the 2023 season, and there will be discussion and a potential vote to allow flexing for Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football.”

The proposal would allow the NFL to flex Sunday afternoon games to Thursday nights starting in Week 14 with 15 days notice — a similar setup as “Monday Night Football.”

Amazon became the exclusive home of “Thursday Night Football” last season, but the matchups that looked great on paper when the schedule was released last May didn’t look so hot later in the season. 

Eight of the 15 games Amazon broadcast during 2022 season had margins of victory of 10 points or more. Five of the eight teams that appeared on TNF from Week 14-17 had losing records.

Amazon’s deal was the NFL first where streaming was the only option to watch, minus the markets for the two teams featured each week where local TV affiliates broadcast the games. 

Last season, ESPN+ also had its first exclusive game, a Week 8 contest played between the  Denver Broncos and the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.

“We look at the digital platforms that our partners currently have and how we can continue to help build that,” Goodell said before Super Bowl LVI. That will be an extraordinary opportunity [for ESPN] to grow that platform and to grow subscribers. … We look to support the digital platforms as well as the traditional linear platforms, which have been great to us and will continue to be great to us.”

Clock Is Ticking

Phoenix-Super-Bowl
Joe Rondone / USA TODAY NETWORK

There will be league rule changes — including five proposals that would alter instant replay — discussed at the owners meetings. Forums where diversity and player health and safety are talked about will also take place. Coaches from each team will meet with the sports media on Monday and Tuesday.

There are multiple league meetings each year, but this is the big one — the annual league meeting — that, coincidently, takes place miles from where the last Super Bowl was played. This gathering is more relaxed than the others at a time in the offseason where training camp is still four months out.

If Snyder doesn’t pick a new Commanders owner soon, the timetable to approve a new owner before the next owners meeting in May could be in jeopardy. It took 64 days between Walmart heir Rob Walton being tapped as the winning bidder of the Denver Broncos before owners voted to approve the deal at a special meeting in August.

There will be only 54 days between when this week’s meetings conclude and the next one begins.

If Snyder decides to keep the team or hasn’t picked a bidder, the next NFL billionaire quorum could be where the process of removal will be the topic of conversation — whether the effort has started or not by then.

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