NEW YORK – Other than the fact that they are both playing in the Super Bowl, what do the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos have in common?
They both play in states that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.
But the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with its players forbids the use of marijuana for all of its players – including the ones playing on the league’s biggest stage on Sunday, despite where they call home.
Could the recent legislation in Washington and Colorado cause the league to revisit the issue, especially since there is some evidence of its benefits as a pain reliever?
“I’ll try to be as clear as I possibly can,” NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell said during his annual State of the NFL address at the Ross Theater, Jazz at Lincoln Center. “It is still an illegal substance on a national basis. It is questionable with respect to the positive impact, but there is certainly some very strong evidence to the negative impacts, including addiction and other issues.
“So, we’ll continue to follow the medicine. Our experts right now are not indicating that we should change our policy in any way. We are not actively considering that at this point in time. But down the road sometime that is something we would never take off the table if it could benefit our players at the end of the day.”
Goodell touched on a number of topics during his question-and-answer session with the media. Among them:
On whether the apparent success of this week’s Super Bowl – Sunday’s forecast puts temperatures in the mid- to upper-40s – could open the door to other cold-weather sites; sites like Philadelphia:
“There’s such a demand for Super Bowls right now. I believe we need to get to as many communities as possible, and give them the opportunity to share not only in the emotional benefits, but the economic benefits. It helps the NFL, it helps our fans, and it helps grow our game."
On the NFL’s stand against legalized sports betting despite its endorsement of Fantasy Football:
“As you know, we’ve fought legalized gambling, sports gambling, for a long time – most recently here, in New Jersey. And I would see our position in the same vein going forward. We don’t put Fantasy Football into that category at all. I like to say my favorite story about Fantasy Football is a father who had sort of disconnected with his young teenage daughter, and Fantasy Football brought them back together again, and now he’s playing in a father-daughter league with other fathers and daughters. Fantasy has a way of getting people to engage with more with football, and they do it in a fun, friendly, and in this case, a family manner, and I think that’s great for families, I think it’s great for friends, and I think it’s great for football.”
On taking instant replay away from on-field officials in favor of league officials at a central location determining the outcome of reviews, much as the NHL does:
“We created the replay system back in the early ‘90s for all of professional sports. We always make changes to our replay systems and we’re not afraid to try to learn from others who may be doing it differently. Our system is unique. It will be different than the NHL’s system in any case. We have replay that probably deals with a lot more plays than the NHL does. We have to modify this for the NFL. It has to work for us. Again, we’re going to go out and we’re going to learn from anybody and try to understand the technology better, but at the end of the day this is going to be a system that is unique to the NFL.”
On expanding the regular season or the postseason:
“We always look at our season structure, from preseason to regular season to postseason. There has been a great deal of focus over the last year on if we would make any modifications to our postseason. We currently have 12 teams qualify for the playoffs, as you know. We are looking at the idea of expanding that by two teams to 14. There’s a lot of benefits to doing that. We think we can make the league more competitive. We think we can make the matchups more competitive towards the end of the season. There will be more excitement, more memorable moments for our fans. That’s something that attracts us. We think we can do it properly from a competitive standpoint. This will continue to get very serious consideration by the Competition Committee and then the ownership will have to vote on it.”
On the controversy surrounding the Redskins name:
“I’ve been spending the last year talking to many of the leaders in the Native American communities. We are listening. We are trying to make sure we understand the issues. Let me remind you, this is the name of a football team, a football team that has had that name for 80 years, and has presented the name in a way that has honored Native Americans. We recognize that there are some who don’t agree with the name and we have listened and respected them. But if you look at the numbers, including in Native American communities, in a Native American community poll, nine out of ten supported the name. Eight out of ten Americans in the general population would not like us to change the name. So, we are listening. We are being respectful of people who disagree, but let’s not forget this is the name of a football team.”
On moving the Super Bowl to a Saturday night:
“We actually thought about moving the game to Saturday night this year (laughs). Not because we wanted to necessarily, but because we wanted to be prepared for the weather. You know, there’s discussion about that from time to time. Our network partners and the NFL believe that we’ve created a wonderful Super Sunday, and that the timeframe that we’re playing this game, at 6:30 on Sunday night, is really the best way of sharing it with the broadest audience on a global basis. So, I don’t see that changing in the very near future. It hasn’t been something that our network partners have asked us to do. Again, we were prepared to do that this year, but I don’t see that changing in the very near future.”