NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Tuesday at the conclusion of the Spring League Meeting that he expects the sale of the Washington Commanders to be approved, but he gave no timeline for when the deal could be finalized.
Commanders co-owners Dan and Tanya Snyder announced on May 12 they had entered into a purchase agreement to sell the franchise to a partnership led by Josh Harris, who co-owns multiple professional sports teams. The agreement is subject to NFL approval by a vote of at least three-fourths (24) of the league’s 32 owners.
“I think we will get it to a place where it will be approved,” Goodell told reporters following the league’s two-day meeting in Minneapolis. “The committee, really, just had their first in-person meeting yesterday on the matter. We got the documents last week. So, we’re hard at work as a staff, looking at that as we do every transaction. There’s a lot of due diligence as well as compliance issues. All of that’s happening, working full speed. We will be in contact with the finance committee, and when they’re prepared to make a recommendation, we’ll alert the media as well as the membership.”
Asked how important it is for the league to finalize the sale ahead of the 2023 season, which kicks off for the Commanders on Sept. 10, Goodell said the league will work “as quickly as we can.”
“We’ll do the thorough job that we need to do in the committee,” Goodell said, “and we’ll make a recommendation and we’ll approve it when it’s ready.”
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on May 12 that owners are expected to reconvene in the coming months to eventually approve the sale of the Commanders from the Snyders to the Harris group.
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Amid the sale discussion, Snyder and the Commanders remain the subject of an internal league investigation led by former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White concerning allegations of workplace misconduct and potential unlawful financial conduct.
Goodell said there is no rush for White to release her report, noting she’s an “expert” and has been “incredibly thorough.”
“When she’s concluded the investigation, she will let me know,” Goodell said. “We have pledged to make sure we tell our ownership and we pledged to make sure that the findings are made public, so we will do that.”
From a real estate standpoint, Goodell was asked about a potential Commanders move from FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, back to Washington, D.C., where the franchise had played for decades until their move in 2000. Washington’s lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027.
“I’ve had conversations with the mayor. I’ve had conversations with others in the Washington, D.C., region,” Goodell said on Tuesday. “As you probably know, I grew up in Washington, D.C., going over to RFK Stadium, so I understand the passion of the fans in Washington.
“I think that’s something that the new ownership is going to have to address. It is not something we’re requiring in the context of the transaction, but I know that the new ownership will be focused on it, just from the limited conversations I’ve had with them.”
In addition to the anticipated Commanders sale, Goodell touched on a number of other subjects at the Spring League Meeting:
- With Goodell’s contract set to expire in March 2024, there were reports that he and the owners were nearing an extension. Goodell told reporters that as of Tuesday, no deal had been reached, but he intended to continue as league commissioner. “When it’s extended, we’ll let you know. It’s not extended today, that’s for sure,” Goodell said. “I have a year left. … I love the job. I have no doubt that we’ll reach to that point at some point, but when we do, I will let you know.”
- In light of recent player suspensions for gambling, Goodell addressed the league’s stance on growing concerns over gambling policies and enforcement. The commissioner defended the league’s openness to partnerships with betting companies, but noted the league still has to improve in ensuring integrity of the game (“No. 1, 2 and 3 for us”), including better educating NFL players and employees on its gambling policies. “You educate, you try to make sure that people understand our policies, you have mechanisms in place. If people do violate the policy, I think the fact that we have people that have violated that, obviously that we know that education’s not fool-proof,” Goodell said. “We’re dealing with a lot of personnel. This isn’t just about players. It’s coaches, league office, everybody in the NFL. We all have to be vigilant on that. So we’ll continue to do that, but if we see someone that violate it, you’re gonna know about it. And I think that’s the most important thing is to enforce it consistently and make sure people understand that is ongoing.”
- Goodell discussed a rule change, approved Tuesday at the Spring League Meeting, that places the ball at the 25-yard line following fair catches on kickoffs. “The data is very clear about the higher rate of injury on that play. … We have not made a lot of progress on this play,” Goodell said. “This is a step that we think was appropriate to address that.”
- Goodell said the approved flexing of Thursday Night Football games on 28 days notice will be “used judiciously, if at all.” Goodell further defended the resolution, which allows for games to be moved in and out of TNF between Weeks 13 and 17 this season, telling reporters, “it’s a very limited time period and it’s also something what we would consider high bar.”
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