ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The third fan forum for Broncos season-ticket holders was held on Friday, featuring NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Team President Joe Ellis, who worked in the league office with Goodell as vice president of club administration and stadium management before rejoining the Broncos in 1998, introduced the commissioner before he began fielding questions.
"Having worked for him directly I can tell you that he loves the game, he loves the National Football League and he looks forward to a sensible resolution to the current labor situation," Ellis said.
More than 5,100 season-ticket holders participated, including the daughter of original Broncos owner Gerald Phipps.
"It's definitely cool what the NFL is doing for fan outreach to try to make us feel more at ease," said Matt, a season ticket holder since 2007 from Pueblo West, Colo.
Goodell thanked the fans and then opened the floor for questions.
"These fan forums give me an opportunity to hear directly from you and hear what's on your mind and in addition it gives me a chance to try to respond to some of your questions directly," he said.
Below is the transcript of every question asked to the commissioner.
On whether teams will be allowed to contact undrafted players until there is a new collective bargaining agreement:
"Right now, the undrafted free agents, there's not allowed to be any contact with them. We will not do that for the foreseeable future. Right now player transactions are not permitted."
On whether a fan should expect to be able to go to Week 1's Monday Night Football game against the Oakland Raiders at INVESCO Field at Mile High with his son:
"Nobody wants you to attend that opening Monday night game with your son more than I do. We'll continue to be focused on getting an agreement. One of the things that frustrates me, which I'm sure frustrates every fan, is that not enough negotiation is going on. That's how this is going to get resolved. Unfortunately, the attorneys for the players association have pushed a litigation strategy. The sooner we get back to discussing these issues at the table, the sooner we can assure the fact that you're going to be sitting at Mile High on Monday night with your 11-year-old son."
On why the owners and players don't split the 'pot of money' evenly:
"The issues here are not just about a pot of money. It's about how you grow that pot of money, how you grow the league, how you grow the opportunities and a variety of system issues including a rookie pool and figuring out a better way to compensate rookies and provide for the players that have proven themselves on the NFL field. So I think while it is an oversimplification, the core of your point is correct, though. The parties get together and they engage in sincere negotiations and we all work towards what we need rather than what we want, you realize a compromise is going to be necessary, then I think you can get to an agreement that can work for everybody."
On teams with new coaches being at a disadvantage during the lockout:
"You point out why it's so frustrating and disappointing that we're still in this litigation phase and really haven't had serious or productive discussions and negotiations since March 11. The reality of it is you need to remove that uncertainty by getting an agreement, having each team understand what system they're operating under. It's not just Coach Fox's new system that has to be implemented, but there has to likely be a new rookie compensation system, there's going to have to probably be potentially modifications to free agency and other rules. Those things need to be agreed to between the parties. All 32 teams have to have the opportunity to avail themselves of those same rules at the same time so we can keep the competitive integrity of the game. The answer is the sooner you can get this uncertainty removed by negotiating an agreement, the faster everybody can get back to doing what they do best, which I know Coach Fox wants to do is get back on the field and start coaching players."
On fans wanting to turn in their tickets and give up football if games are cancelled this year:
"I understand your frustration, and I think your frustration is not held by you alone. I hear this from fans all the time. This is what we have said to the union for the last year. What we have described as value destruction is that people will move away from the game. The partners will have to move away from the game if there is still this uncertainty, if there's still not this agreement. We need to have an agreement, we need to have a system that works for all parties, but if you're not successful in getting that agreement, the frustration level is going to be extensive. I understand exactly where you are. I understand the impatience and the disappointment with where we are and that's why we want to get back to that table and get this resolved. Because I think we can still be successful in playing a full 2011 schedule and we should be if we're all sincere in getting to the table and getting to work."
On why Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption doesn't apply to the NFL:
"There is a full antitrust exemption that baseball is operating under that the NFL, nor any other league, does not enjoy. So we are subject to antitrust laws like any other business. We do have an exception as it relates to pooling of our television revenue, which has I think been one of the fundamental aspects of our league that has allowed each team to be successful because they have the financial resources. So the same money that is generated by the New York Giants in media revenue is generated by the Denver Broncos. That's part of the structure that I think has allowed us to have a very competitive league and we owe to our forefathers. The reality of it is it's something that has grown out of history. It was something that was granted to baseball early in the last century, and it's something that we're continuing to address. It's one of the reasons why this antitrust challenge that the union's attorneys have directed towards the NFL is so troublesome, because it's attacking the very essence of our game. It's attacking the draft and the ability to have a draft that I believe helps lead to that competitive balance. It's going to attack the salary cap, free agency restrictions and a variety of other aspects that have made our game so great, so competitive, and allow every season-ticket holder, every fan to come into a season thinking their team is going to win the Super Bowl."
On whether the league would use replacement players:
"There are no plans for replacement players. We have not focused on that at all. It's not part of our strategy. Our objective here is to get an agreement with our current players and get them back to the field and continue to play the great NFL football you expect."
On the players going on strike versus a lockout:
"In this case, they're not asking to go on strike. This is not something that they are taking as their initiative. The owners and the clubs are initiating a lockout to force a negotiation to get a new collective bargaining agreement. What is happening is that unfortunately the lawyers for the union seem to be taking over and pushing this litigation strategy. What that's doing is delaying the ultimate resolution, the ultimate negotiation, because I believe in my heart that the concepts that the union's attorneys have put forth are not good for the vast majority of players. The vast majority of players wouldn't support many of the changes that they're asking for. As an example, I don't think a lot of players would benefit without having some kind of a minimum team spending, which is part of a collective bargaining agreement. That wouldn't occur in the system that the union attorneys are proposing. They wouldn't have minimum salaries. They wouldn't have collectively bargained benefits that would benefit all players. I don't believe in the vision of the union's attorneys, the way they're proposing this and the way they're pursuing it in court that it would be beneficial for the vast majority of players. A very small number of players (would benefit). That's why a collective bargaining system that is fair to everybody and give everybody a chance will benefit more people including all the players, all the fans and the 32 clubs."
On the possibility of rescheduling games to the end of the season if a new CBA is agreed upon late:
"We're going to go into this with the objective of playing every one of our scheduled games for the 2011 season. If by chance we have to cancel any games because we're unsuccessful in getting an agreement, and then we obviously become successful by getting an agreement, we will try to reschedule every possible game. It's not entirely possible though to have the flexibility of adding all those games at the end of the season. The Super Bowl is a major event and obviously takes a great deal of planning and commitments. We're very sincere in our efforts to work with the Indianapolis community to make sure that it's a great Super Bowl. We don't have all the flexibility to reschedule all games. That's why we need to get the resolved sooner rather than later."
On all parties losing credibility in the eyes of the public, and whether the league will mandate certain pads:
"I don't take it personally, and I think you're absolutely right. People just want football, and I've made that very clear. That's our responsibility. On your first point on mandating equipment, it's actually been a very big focus of mine since becoming commissioner. I believe we should go back to mandating hip pads, thigh pads, knee pads. These are things that we proposed to the union last spring. They were reluctant to mandate them, they wanted to go through studies, we agreed to do that and once again earlier this year when we went to our competition committee meetings, the union was reluctant to do that. I think it's very important for several of the points you made. One, just player safety. The more protection our players wear, the more likely they are to avoid injuries. Second of all, it does send a very good message to other levels of football to protect yourself, to make sure you're wearing the proper equipment, that it's fitted properly, that you're wearing all the appropriate pads to make the game as safe as possible. So we're going to continue to pursue that. I do believe it's something we should do as a league."
On season-ticket payments:
"We're preparing for the 2011 season. That's our objective and that's what we're intending to do. We've scheduled the season as we normally do, we've gone through the draft and we want to obviously remove the uncertainty by getting a negotiated settlement with the players. But in the meantime, we're ready to play football. That's going to be the objective we have. As a league, we adopted a policy that any missed games would be refunded to the fans. Our teams are working hard to work with their season-ticket holders and other ticket holders to make sure that we help our fans through this period of time of uncertainty and make sure that we get through this in a way that you all will be proud to be season-ticket holders of the Broncos."
On players sharing in revenue but not in costs:
"Right now, the way the system works is it's not a profit-sharing system, it is a revenue-sharing system. So what the players share in is a percentage of the revenue, not the cost. One of the issues that we're addressing is that those costs, those other costs -- even besides player costs that are rising -- are rising dramatically. The players don't share in that. The reality of it is we want recognition of those costs because that will cause us all to invest more in the game. It will cause us to make our stadiums better, it will cause us to find new growth opportunities, which will be good for the game. All of that is critical to having a system that is going to lead to growth. That's good for everybody, including the players. You touch on exactly the core point that the clubs have been raising -- allow us a system where revenue can continue to grow and we can recognize that it's more and more costly to grow that revenue. We have to invest more to grow that revenue, and while you want to share in that revenue, that's great, but also recognize the cost of doing that."
"No Jeff, I don't. I happened to be in Denver at the Broncos facility when Von was in meeting with the coaching staff prior to the draft. I went out of my way to go over and say hello to him. He's a great young man, obviously a great player and I know the Broncos are excited about what he's going to do for the team, and you as fans should be excited. I have great respect for Von. I think he's an outstanding young man and I look forward to him having many, many productive years in the NFL."
On whether the league will open its books for the players:
"I'm glad you raised that, because that has been something that you've heard the union raise. The reality of it is they know every penny the NFL makes in revenue by the agreement we currently have. In fact, they have audit rights to that. That's an extraordinary amount of financial information. Beyond that, they also have an extraordinary amount of information on our costs, including the fact that when we said we would like to have our costs recognized, we demonstrated all those costs, and there was not one argument to those costs. The final point, when we were in those 17 days of mediation, we actually offered to show them several of our financial indicators -- in fact, some financial information that we did not even show our 32 clubs -- that would indicate to them where profits have gone and how they've gone. All they had to do was sign a confidentiality agreement, which they were unwilling to do. So I know they have enough information to make these decisions. We've offered to give more financial disclosure so they can make these decisions. I'm sympathetic to that, but they had an opportunity to do that, and they didn't take that."
On whether he would consider a rule that bans players from the league after a felony conviction:
"This is a balance of people making a mistake and having the opportunity or the right to earn an opportunity to recover from that. It's a difficult issue, and it's one that I gave a great deal of consideration in the past with, as you know, some of the high-profile discipline issues. I think if an individual who makes a mistake has served their time, they have demonstrated a willingness to overcome that mistake and to earn their way back not only in respect but also in making sure that they're going to conduct themselves in a positive way going forward, I think we owe somebody that opportunity. But I think they have to demonstrate that willingness to recognize a mistake. I've said this several times before -- it is a privilege to be a part of the National Football League, it is not a right. Any of us who are so privileged to be a part of it have a responsibility back to our fans to conduct themselves in an appropriate way. We're all subject to making mistakes, and when we make this mistakes, we have to recognize them, acknowledge them and overcome them and demonstrate to people that we're willing to do that. I'm supportive of people who do that, and if people are going to demonstrate that you can overcome mistakes and live a very positive life, I think that's a good thing for our society in general, much less the NFL."
On the possibility of an 18-game schedule:
It's something that is actually part of our collective bargaining negotiations. As you know, and I hear from season-ticket holders in particular, they don't like the quality of our preseason. We have talked about a variety of ways to address that, but one is we believe we can still have great, quality NFL football by having just two preseason games and by switching those into regular-season games. That increases the value of what you as season-ticket holders get. I think there's a great deal of interest from our season-ticket holders in that. At the same time, you have to be considerate of what that does to the game, and we have studied this for a couple of years. We've worked with our players. There are player health and safety concerns that need to be addressed responsibly, and I've said before if we do the 18-game season, we won't do it unless we can do it right. We have made a proposal back in March as part of the overall proposal to the players that would have significant changes to the offseason, to the training-camp period and to the regular season that would reduce contact and hopefully can make our game safer. We proposed implementing that immediately, making a judgment about whether those are positive effects on the game, and then whether we should engage in an 18-game schedule, we would do that together with the players. Let me emphasize one more time, we will not do this unless we can do it right."
"Thank you to all the fans. I know this is a frustrating period and we appreciate your support and we're going to continue to work as hard as we can to get this agreement resolved as quickly as possible. Thank you all for your support, and I look forward to seeing you next season."