Goodell, Blank try to calm fears of season ticket holders

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. They are facing an uphill legal battle, according to one attorney. Players could be back at work as early as Monday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. They are facing an uphill legal battle, according to one attorney. Players could be back at work as early as Monday. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/DLedbetter@ajc.com)

BIRDLAND — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Falcons owner Arthur Blank discussed several topics in a conference all with some of the franchise’s season-ticket holders on Monday.

Goodell is reaching out to fans to try and explain the labor impasse. He’s spoken with the fans from eight teams so far.

Here’s the transcript from the call:

COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL

FAN FORUM with ATLANTA FALCONS SEASON TICKET HOLDERS

Monday, May 2, 2011

Arthur Blank opening statement:

“This is a unique opportunity for our Falcons fans to speak directly to the Commissioner and I want to thank Roger again for taking time to join us tonight. The call obviously is very timely [due to] the draft last weekend, and the Commissioner can probably give you some perspective on the overall draft and his viewpoint. Certainly the status of the new collective bargaining agreement and we’ll go from there. Roger as many of you may or may not be aware has been Commissioner since 2006 and has been connected to the league for almost 30 years now in a variety of roles. He’s uniquely qualified to lead the National Football League, and you should also know that he’s one of the great listeners and decision makers in my business career that I’ve ever worked with. [He] has given great counsel and wisdom to the club in a variety of ways. So, right now the focus is on our collective bargaining agreement. Two, I think the Commissioner would

Falcons owner Arthur Blank has to open back up the facilities tomorrow at 8 a.m.  (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

Falcons owner Arthur Blank has to open back up the facilities tomorrow at 8 a.m. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

also tell you that first and foremost along with all of these other issues and opportunities, player health and player safety is always critical to us and to the Commissioner. Fan engagement, both in the stadium and in terms of the technology beyond the stadium experience, and growing the business on a national basis. This is all a part of the Commissioner’s viewpoint of doing the right thing for the National Football League from a long-term [perspective]. To have a sustainable winning formula, as we try to do on a local basis here with the Atlanta Falcons. To sustain a winning team, the Commissioner is trying to steer our boat to the sustainable winning league as we’ve had for many, many years. So without further adieu, let me turn it over to the Commissioner and give you as much time to ask your questions of him and have him respond directly to you.”

Commissioner Roger Goodell opening statement:

“Well Arthur, thank you very much for having me tonight. I think this is a great opportunity for me to be able to talk to the Falcons’ season-ticket holders and the fans that are so important, not only to the Falcons but to the NFL in general. I appreciate this opportunity. Second, let me just say that as Arthur points out, obviously labor is on everybody’s mind. I know that. I know how important it is to make sure that we continue to bring great football to the fans. And I guess I would say broadly that we need more negotiations and less litigation. This is going to get solved through bargaining and talking, and the faster that we can get back to the table and really start the serious negotiations which we got into during the mediation process back in February. I think the faster we’re going to come up with a fair agreement for the players, for the clubs, and most importantly all of you the fans.

In the meantime, we continue to prepare for the season. We had our draft this past weekend as all of you are aware of and Arthur mentioned. Over 42 million people watched that draft, which is the second-highest ever, and we’re thankful for that interest in the game and we continue to build the draft as a very important offseason event. Not just from a club standpoint as far as building their teams, but also from a fan standpoint, and we appreciate the support and interest in that draft.

Obviously also we continue to prepare from a Competition Committee standpoint. Arthur mentioned that Rich McKay is the chair of our Competition Committee. We have a call tomorrow and we’re continuing to look at some rule modifications that we think will make our game better and safer for the people who play it, and for you the fans who watch it. We’re continuing to make all of our preparations for the 2011 season and I look forward to taking your questions.”

On being a part of the NFL Draft:

Falcons owner Arthur Blank welcomes safety William Moore to last season's mini-camp, May 8, 2009.  (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

Falcons owner Arthur Blank welcomes safety William Moore to last season's mini-camp, May 8, 2009. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

“It’s not only an honor and a privilege for me to be there but you recognize how important this day is to the young men that are being drafted and their families. You recognize all of the hard work they’ve put in to becoming an NFL player, and this is really the start of their NFL careers. It’s the moment that they’ve all dreamed about and when they get to that point where they are now selected in the NFL Draft and they walk across that stage, it’s very emotional for them and in turn for me, because I know that I’m privileged to be a part of that. These young men are fantastic. I got to spend a lot of time with them last week and I know they’re all going to be just terrific additions to the NFL and I wish them all well.”

On when there will be football:

“That’s a good question and that’s exactly what we’re all working towards. I know as a fan, that’s the number one issue that I hear from you, and I know how important football is to you. It’s important to everybody in the NFL, including Mr. Blank and the Falcons, and of course all of us in the league. And I know [it’s important to] all the players. So, we need to get back down to negotiations so that we can get to an agreement that makes sense for everybody. That’s the only way it’s going to happen. We have time and we should remove the uncertainty and get the issues resolved.”

On the inability to come to an agreement given the state of the economy:

“Well, you make several very good points and let me start off with the first one, which is just what is going on in the world and the general economy. I couldn’t agree with you more about the pressures that are impacting on our fans. We hear it from the fans, we hear it from the clubs who hear it from their fans. And they have worked very hard to reach out to the fans and try to help them through what I think has been a very difficult few years in the general economy. We recognize there’s still a lot of uncertainty in the economy today and going forward. People are still worried about the price of gas, they’re worried about their jobs, [and] they’re worried about how they provide for their families. They love football and they want to be a part of it, but they also recognize the rising costs, not only in their own households but also the rising costs of being involved in the NFL. And we have to be sensitive to that. It’s one of the things we’re trying to do is to make sure that we’re controlling our costs. Player compensation has doubled over the last 10 years. I want to see the players get paid well. It’s important for them to get paid well, but it also has to work in the overall system. We can’t continue to push the costs off to our fans, and that goes for all of us. We’re all going to have to be responsible. We don’t need this uncertainty. The NFL doesn’t need this uncertainty and clearly the fans don’t need this uncertainty. So hopefully, we can get to the core of the issues, sit down and resolve them. We had some very productive dialogue going back into March and the mediation process. We had 17 days of mediation and an offer that I think fairly represented a proposal that could work for everybody. It’s not that it didn’t need additional negotiations on certain areas, but there are things that we should be sitting at the table working on from that proposal.”

On why the decision to lock out the players was made in March as opposed to allowing the teams to come in, prepare as they normally would and then lock out in the fall:

100509 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons team owner Arthur Blank checks out the arm brace of outside tackle # 72 Sam Baker during day 3 of minicamp in Flowery Branch on Sunday, May 9, 2010. Baker, drafted by the Falcons 21st overall in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, has been battling injuries.    Curtis Compton  ccompton@ajc.com

100509 Flowery Branch - Atlanta Falcons team owner Arthur Blank checks out the arm brace of outside tackle # 72 Sam Baker during day 3 of minicamp in Flowery Branch on Sunday, May 9, 2010. Baker, drafted by the Falcons 21st overall in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft, has been battling injuries. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

“Well a couple of things. One is we were going through mediation and did not lock out . The players terminated the negotiation and decertified as a union, and at that point in time said that they were going to sue us under antitrust law. That is when the ownership determined to lockout. The general view is the faster that we can get back into that mediation and discuss issues, the faster we can get back onto the field. I would argue that we would have a better opportunity to solve those problems right now and get back in time for training camp, which is probably the most valuable time, and certainly minicamps which are starting to come up now. So, the time is to have completed our negotiations. Unfortunately we spent the last six or seven weeks in litigation that I don’t think is doing anything but delaying the ultimate solution so that we will potentially have to miss valuable offseason time, and I think that’s a big mistake for everybody.”

On replacement players:

“I would tell you that our sole focus has been on negotiating an agreement with the players. We have not been considering any kind of replacement-player strategy. That’s not something that we would like to do and we’re not even considering that. Our thought here is how do we get the players back on the field that we know you want to see and that’s what we’re focused on entirely.”

On getting a long-term deal done to erase uncertainty:

“I would hope that we can get an agreement that’s responsive to the issues on both sides. I’ve said frequently the status quo is not acceptable. The game is going to change, aspects of the agreement are going to change, and they should change. But we should be responsible enough to address those far enough in advance to avoid getting into this kind of a position. We shouldn’t be where we are right now. We should address these issues far enough in advance and gotten an agreement that makes sense that can address the issues that I think both sides want to get done.”

Arthur Bland and former President Jimmy Carter embrace before kickoff. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

Arthur Bland and former President Jimmy Carter embrace before kickoff. (CURTIS COMPTON/AJC).

On a drop-dead date for an agreement to avoid missing games:

“It’s an excellent question. The direct answer to your question is we do not have a drop-dead date. My concern is the uncertainty right now; so much has to happen still to get ready for the season. The shorter that timeframe, the less opportunity to deal with all of those issues. Whether they’re training camps, minicamps, signing of players; all of that needs to get done sooner rather than later. That’s why we need to remove this uncertainty and get an agreement done quickly.”

On the two sides stepping into the fans’ shoes and if the NFL plans on doing anything to help the areas devastated by tornadoes:

“Let me first say that I hope you and your family are safe. We recognize the devastation. As you know, prior to the draft we had a moment of silence for all of those that either lost lives or loved ones, or their homes. We are considering the right steps of what we can do to be responsive to the people that were devastated by this, and we’ll be making announcements in the future on that. On the first part of your question, we certainly recognize what our fans are going through. I think that the offer that the clubs made back in March represented a 14 percent increase in compensation from this year going forward until 2014. That’s a significant increase for most people, and that’s on top of essentially doubling compensation for players over the last 10 years. Player compensation has grown dramatically and I’m glad to see the players do well. But the system has to work for everybody. It has to work for the clubs, it has to work for the players, and most importantly it has to work for you all as fans. As I said before, the rising cost of attending these events and the rising costs of other aspects of the game, we have to be sensitive and smart, and I think our teams have. A majority of the teams — approximately three-quarters — didn’t raise ticket prices again this year. We recognize what the fans are going through and we want to be responsive to that.”

On making interpretation of the rules more consistent from game to game:

“You touched on the right word which is ‘consistency.’ That’s what we strive for in officiating. The rules are complex every year; that’s one of the things that Rich McKay and the Competition Committee do and come back with changes that will clarify, simplify, make it easier to officiate but also make it easier for everyone, including the fans, to understand those rules. I think our officials do an outstanding job. But I understand that officiating is not perfect and that there are always going to be some of those inconsistencies. We grade every play, every down. We look at every single penalty and what we call a ‘no call,’ to see how we can improve the consistency. And making sure that the officials all see a rule the same way and understand it, that the coaches all understand it and the players all understand it. Our officiating is outstanding. But they’re not perfect, like the rest of us.”

Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Fox Sports Laura Okmin. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC).

Falcons owner Arthur Blank and Fox Sports Laura Okmin. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC).

On the plans for a new stadium and bringing the Super Bowl to Atlanta:

“One of the things that I said last fall to Falcons fans and some of the partners, and Arthur knows this, that you have a great community and I think the stadium that Arthur is talking about is going to be a great stadium. That’s the biggest change with the Super Bowl is the outstanding stadiums that are coming onboard. And I know the Falcons under Arthur’s leadership are really talking about a terrific stadium that I think is going to be great for that community and great for the NFL. Hopefully it will be a great host for a Super Bowl in the future.”

Arthur Blank closing statement:

“Thank you for hosting this call for us, and again a special thanks to all of our fans who’ve been loyal, committed and supportive of our franchise. We’ll continue to put a product on the field and off the field that you’re proud of.”

Commissioner Roger Goodell closing statement:

“I’d just like to second that if I could, just a thank you to the fans for not only supporting the Falcons but the NFL. I hope tonight’s call was helpful in answering some of your questions, but also I know that it was helpful for me to understand what was on your mind. I think you have a lot to look forward to with the primetime games and an organization that’s doing everything it can to get better both on and off the field. I know Arthur Blank believes the same thing I do which is we believe in better, and he’s doing everything he can to put the best product on the field and make sure you have great experiences when you come to the stadium. I hope that all of you recognize the importance of what he’s doing for you all, but more importantly what I think he’s doing to contribute to the success of the NFL overall. Thank you for everything you do for us and we appreciate your support.”

–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

35 comments Add your comment

B

May 4th, 2011
1:00 pm

Blah, blah, blah. Say something, lawyer man!

Falkin Phraud

May 4th, 2011
1:02 pm

If Ar-fur Blank wants a new stadium, then he should pay for it himself.

Reid Adair

May 4th, 2011
1:03 pm

Wow, nothing like having the Commissioner himself communicating directly with Falcons’ season-ticket holders to push the view of the league and the owners. Sure, player compensation has increased. What about profit margins for the owners and the league? Funny how Roger Goodell didn’t address that.

Denver Falcon

May 4th, 2011
1:09 pm

I hung up after a few minutes because it was so mind-numbingly fake and political. like was said earlier, “blah blah blah”…

Nik

May 4th, 2011
1:20 pm

Millionaires vs. Billionaires

joe white

May 4th, 2011
1:38 pm

NFL is full of shiiiiiii i mean really is, the players go out and risk there bodies for you as a owner and u dont want to pay them retirement so they can afford to feed there families? Some do blow there money but still u owe them that little bit, message to blank I am a 16 years season ticket holder, why should i pay you and we dont have a product. once i know nfl is one again, i will pay you the $2250.00 for my seats

coachx

May 4th, 2011
1:43 pm

Bla,….. bla, bla,…. bla,bla.

Then close with you need to build a new stadium.

?

coachx

May 4th, 2011
1:45 pm

Season ticket holder who also hung up after a few seconds due to the stich of politically correct BS.

I would prefer a meeting with Dimitroff to talk about the draft like they have done in past years.

bruce mac

May 4th, 2011
1:47 pm

So, how much more do all of you want to pay for tickets so we can have football again. The owners are only trying to keep the game affordable for us to watch. I guess you all want it to go the way of MLB which will be bankrupt within 10 years. The Dodgers already are.

UGASlobberknocker

May 4th, 2011
1:51 pm

If Goddell hadnt spoken people would be on here bitching about that. You just cant please some people.

UGASlobberknocker

May 4th, 2011
1:53 pm

Im not a season ticket holder, but have been a Falcons fan since 1966. Even so, if they cancel the season ,. so what? we still have college football.They will just move some top games from Sat to Sunday and everyone will be fine for the short term. I hope the NFL realizes that they wont be missed near as much as they think they will be.

GEOFalcon

May 4th, 2011
1:56 pm

I ALSO (16 year season ticket holder) hung up after a few minutes of BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.
WHAT kind of PRODUCT are we going to be PAYING for ($2480) if OTAs, Strength/Conditioning, Mini Camp and Training Camp are all SERIOUSLY cut short??? (OR WORSE??)

sick of it

May 4th, 2011
2:01 pm

Somebody really needs to call Blank out for continuing to try to con the taxpayers into paying for a new stadium for him. The Georgia Dome is in terrific shape and still attracts many marque events. A new stadium would do nothing for the community and the Super Bowl benefits are grossly overstated.

I’m not a season ticket holder but I love the Falcons and go to 1-2 games a year. If they get a new stadium on the taxpayers’ dollar, I won’t be going to anymore. This is infuriating bullcrap.

Ideas

May 4th, 2011
2:02 pm

What is wrong with having the Season Ticket holders vote on indoor versus outdoor stadium. I know at least 30% will cancel if he moves outdoors, I am one of them. Who in their right mind would hold a Super Bowl outside in Feb. I mean afterall, if that were good, then Detroit would not have built an indoor stadium. Come on Arthur, WISE UP MAN. Who runs the Falcons you or that Tampa Bay reject…..

UGASlobberknocker

May 4th, 2011
2:17 pm

Im no fan of govt spending on anything..but the reality is that the convention business is huge in Atlanta, benefiting many Ga residents, and WCC people need a large indoor arena as part of the package they are selling. They use the dome all year long. So it does make sense for the state of Ga to pay part of the cost of the stadium IF it is an indoor stadium with proximity to the WCC. If Blank builds an outdoor stadium, he is on his own for sure and should be.

Why not build a retractable roof stadium and please everybody? Whats the diff between $550 mill and 600 M at that point?

And as a UGA season ticket holder, I will say it is HOT til mid Oct. ..there really is only about 6 weeks of good football weather every yr. we all know how crappy Dec and Jan weather is even tho the Dawgs are done by then..so I dont get the passion for an outdoor stadium..most of the time indoors is much more comfortable.

GOLDMAN SACHS

May 4th, 2011
2:23 pm

… … greed … … Greed … … GREED!

Matt Ryan's Illegitimate Son

May 4th, 2011
2:34 pm

blah, blah, blah is right….

doc hollywood

May 4th, 2011
2:45 pm

Have you seen King Arthur’s house, beach house , ranch house, jet ,etc,etc,etc ? I think the taxpayers should build him a new stadium and the players take a pay cut. I mean look at all the superbowls he has won ,oops I mean promised to win.

ozzfest

May 4th, 2011
3:03 pm

The NFL is run by attorneys…you know…THE ONES THAT BILL YOU $425 an hour…and sit around calulating that you will probably be willing to pay $9 for a beer.

I’ll stick with THE DOGS.

SECTION 334

May 4th, 2011
3:20 pm

DOL, Your blog made that phone call seem less-painful than it actually was. Well done. What were the phone screeners doing? Between Bubba, not understanding why “we cant just play Footaball with all of the money dem players and owners are gettin”, and Barbie asking Arthur if it was a good idea to move up and draft Julio Jones. C’mon people seriously?

The two things that should have been addressed were not.
.
1. Money is the only hold up with the new CBA. Rookie wage scale, free agency and all that other stuff can be worked out in half a day. Owners now want 2 billion off the top instead of 1 billion to put in their piggie banks for stadiums and other expenditures. The 51% the players get has to be reduced and even the players admit that. How close to an agrement were you in negotiations?

2. Why does Goddell talk out of both sides of his mouth about a new stadium and a Superbowl in Atlanta? How has he tricked Arthur into thinking it is a good idea to build a new outdoor stadium. It is exactly like the 18 game schedule that Goddell lied about. Fans don’t want 18 games they just don’t want to pay full price for preaseason games. Falcon fans dont want an outdoor stadium. They would only prefer being outdoors on the two Sundays in October when it is 70 degrees and sunny. They talk about building a new stadiums with a bunch of suites, when you can see the half of the one’s in the Dome are empty. You would have to build a 55,000 seat outdoor stadium that would be able to fit a soccer pitch on the playing surface, for Arthur Blanks 2016 MLS franchise.

Good try on the conference call Falcons, but poorly executed.

SECTION 334

May 4th, 2011
3:48 pm

Does anyone remember Laura Oakman from when she was assigned to the Hawk’s games about 5 to 6 years ago? She has had more work done than the Downtown connector in the past couple of years. I must say it is good work. She doesnt scare my dog anymore.

PreyDawg

May 4th, 2011
3:55 pm

If Blank hugged Carter before the Packers game, it is no wonder we lost. I am amazed we didnt also pay the Packers for beating us and then issue an apology and give them our stadium. Sickening seeing the most incompetent President in US history is a Falcon fan. I was assuming he wasnt a football kind of a guy. Much too aggresive for his ilk. Thanks Jimmy for all YOU contributed to the war on terror.

Freshmaker

May 4th, 2011
3:56 pm

Well, I for one would LOVE an outdoor stadium. The GA Dome is almost 20 years old. Bring on the new one!

falconsnut

May 4th, 2011
4:22 pm

I’m another long time season ticket holder that will not renew ($2500) to sit out in the 90 degree August heat or the 35 degree and rain December cold. Last years away Panthers game was a perfect example of why it is not a good idea. The Dome is SO much better than the Panthers stadium. A retractable roof would be good.

Beano Cook Fan Club

May 4th, 2011
5:59 pm

Let’s just stick with college football.

Dawg A

May 4th, 2011
6:04 pm

Already have given up my tickets this year because Arthur was going to make us pay for something that might not happen. The ultimate selfish act!!!! Arthur …… you won’t get anymore of my money!

Gregory Moundine

May 4th, 2011
8:22 pm

Mr. Blank, I love you as an owner, but you look better on NFL Play 60 Bus with players, than in court with Owners!

Sam What Am

May 4th, 2011
9:55 pm

The Owners have given NO evidence whatsoever that they NEED another $ 1 billion. They won’t issue financials because the very profitable teams don’t want the less profitable teams to know how much they make, No Owner wants the fans to know how much they pay their family members for do-nothing jobs.
I’m usually NOT pro-labor and pro-union, but in this case, I’m pro-players all the way !
My guess is the Owners are doing fine on football, but losing money in their other businesses, and don’t want to cut their personal spending.

jeff

May 5th, 2011
7:47 am

I gave up my seats….Aurther your a joke!

Remi

May 5th, 2011
8:51 am

All of you are idiots, for 1, being on that call, and 2 for following like mindless sheep this man who is ripping all you off. I go to the falcons games only when i get free tickets, via my job or friends who dont go that day. Get a life, those players have millions and you can barely fill up your tank.

rc35

May 5th, 2011
11:00 am

OK…they couldn’t reach an agreement in a year as the months counted down. Then, a judge ended the lockout and the NFL appealed and got it reinstated. So, the only movement in the deadlock was caused and ended by courts, not by players or management. But, at least there was motion until the owners/league appealed to get it stopped. So, in my world, the league and owners are mostly at fault, and given their addiction to brinkmanship, there is no reason to assume that NFL football will be played–at least not a full season–this Fall. If some eccentric billionaire could revive the USFL or WFL, it would be amazing how quickly the NFL would resolve its problems, however.

Keith Mercer

May 5th, 2011
4:35 pm

I am sick of the season holders bitching and complaining about paying higer prices for tickets to watch the Falcons. The owners and players are both taking a risk, shut up and pay, they choose the venue whether it is indoors or outdoors, you do not have any say in that manner. If all you are going to do is bitch about nothing then give up your tickets. Bunch of Cry Babies.

Stadium

May 5th, 2011
9:14 pm

When is blank going to start building that new outdoor stadium? I’m tired of the Ga dome—too old and outdated. Hopefully, the new stadium sells better quality beer and food than the dome. Also, they need to get employees who know what they are doing instead of the morons that work the dome during games.

yogi

May 5th, 2011
10:53 pm

Ypu are right. Arthur is a friggin JOKE

Wednesday NFL Wrap

May 6th, 2011
6:58 am

[...] Blank try to calm fears of season ticket holders (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Falcons owner Arthur Blank discussed several topics in a [...]