Roger Goodell dishes on Oakland Raiders' situation in press conference

By Art Spander, The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 2, 2017 at 12:52 AM
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HOUSTON -- The Raiders still are in Oakland and may be for a while despite attempts to move to Las Vegas, San Diego or Los Angeles. That is one way to interpret the words of the man in charge, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, at his annual Super Bowl news conference.

Goodell, for the first time tieless but certainly not clueless, at a session held on Wednesday instead the traditional Friday, said there is work to be done before the Raiders plan to shift from the East Bay to Vegas could become a reality.

Everything pointed to a Raiders move when billionaire Sheldon Adelson agreed to pay $650 million toward $1.9 billion stadium to be constructed in Las Vegas, with the state of Nevada forking over $750 million and the Raiders a half million.

Then a few days ago, Adelson, owner of the Sands Casino, withdrew as partner. On Wednesday, Goodell did a sidestep on whether the NFL, long opposed, would consent to have team based in a state where gambling is legal.

"We need to make sure there is a fine line between team sports gambling and the NFL," said Goodell. "We want to protect the integrity of the game, and that's the line we will always do ... but there something from our standpoint that we have rules that are in place. The Raiders have not asked us to compromise those rules as it relates to our policies. We will continue to have that separation going forward.

"I don't see an ownership position in a team from a casino. That is not something consistent with our policies. Not likely a stadium either."

That could be the reason, Adelson, a pal of Raiders owner Mark Davis and supposedly the guiding force in the proposed franchise shift, suddenly backed away. Or was told to back away. He's not going to get out of the casino business.

While Goodell said he and the league are considering "carefully" the Raiders' application to leave Oakland for Las Vegas, he insisted there "is a great deal of work to be done. There are several elements of that. Financing of the stadium is just one."

Another certainly is television, the lifeblood of sports. The Bay Area, where the Raiders started in 1960 and to which they returned in 1995 after the L.A. sojourn, is the sixth largest TV market. Las Vegas is 42nd. Even San Diego, which lost the Chargers to L.A. and has been mentioned as possible new home for the Raiders -- a doubtful one -- is 28th.

"The depth of market," was something Goodell mentioned.

And alluding to San Diego, where the Chargers played for 56 years, as well as Oakland, Goodell called relocations "painful." For the fans, he meant. For the owners, they are wonderful, providing more income.

Wherever the Raiders play, they and the other 31 NFL franchises apparently will continue to appear on Thursday Night Football, despite poor matchups, shrinking TV ratings and questions of whether players are not getting enough rest after Sunday games.

"Thursday Night Football," said Goodell," is something we are very committed to. Thursday Night Football ended up being the No. 1-rated show on all of primetime this year on NBC and No. 4 on CBS, so we see our fans reacting positively to that."

There was a positive reaction to the Raiders-Houston Texans Monday Night game in Mexico City last season, and so the Raiders will return to the Mexican capital in 2017 to face the New England Patriots, date and time -- it probably will be a Sunday -- to be announced in April.

The Patriots, owner Robert Kraft, quarterback Tom Brady and Deflategate were large in Goodell's conference, not surprisingly. Goodell defended the team fine and Brady's four-game suspension, at the same time insisting he respects the Patriots organization.

Well prepared for most questions, Goodell was taken aback when told questions from the Monday Media Night relating to President Donald Trump were deleted or redacted from the transcripts and official videos.

"Is the NFL or you not comfortable with the idea of President Trump," the questioner wondered?

Responded Goodell: "I must tell you that's one thing I'm not responsible for around here is the transcripts."

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