Goodell talks to fans about labor issues

NEW YORK — “This is the first time all weekend I haven’t been booed,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told a group of about 60 fans gathered on the Radio City Music Hall stage before Day 3 of the 2011 NFL Draft. “Go ahead. Doesn’t anyone want to take a shot at me?”

Perhaps a fan forum with the commissioner wasn’t the place to boo, but Goodell was asked about the current labor situation during the hour-long session Saturday.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talks to fans during a forum before Day 3 of the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall.

Goodell reiterated there is no date by which the 2011 season will be shortened if the labor dispute isn’t settled.

“Obviously we hope that doesn’t happen,” he said.

Goodell explained to fans that there is some flexibility built into the schedule — eliminating bye weeks and using the extra week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl — to accommodate playing a full season.

Goodell was asked about new player safety rules, fines for illegal hits, the proposed 18-game schedule and other peripheral issues pertaining to the collective bargaining agreement, but the commissioner agreed with one fan who said it all comes down to money.

“It does seem to come right down to economics,” Goodell said. “And the players have said just that, too.”

The building of new stadiums was brought up, and Goodell explained why that’s a big part of the labor disagreement as well.

“It’s one of the issues we’re dealing with in the CBA,” he said. “We cannot continue to have these rising costs.”

In the past, teams relied on public funding for new stadiums, but — as Goodell pointed to some fans in Jets gear — New Meadowlands Stadium is one of many newer facilities that has not been built that way.

“That’s an obligation we never had before,” Goodell said. “We have to invest private money to keep these stadiums up.”

Goodell posed for pictures with all the fans in attendance before the forum. Most of the fans were at Radio City as part of a promotion with all 32 teams in which they got to announce their teams’ draft picks in the fourth round.

– Craig Ellenport

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