The NFL’s annual May meetings are typically a chance to clean up any unresolved issues from the more substantial gathering of team owners two months earlier. But this year, there are several significant topics on the table, among them sports gambling, the sale of the Carolina Panthers, the potential modification of kickoffs, and the awarding of two future Super Bowl sites.
Last week’s historic Supreme Court decision to lift the federal ban on sports gambling and hand over that decision to the individual states figures to have a considerable impact on the NFL and how people watch games.
The league has pushed for sports gaming to be governed by federal law and, in a statement Monday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated the league’s desire for Congress to enact “uniform standards” for the states that choose to legalize sports betting.
Goodell said those standards should include, at minimum, four core principles: substantial consumer protections; the ability for sports leagues to protect content and intellectual property; fan access to official, reliable data; and tools for law enforcement to protect fans and “penalize bad actors here at home and abroad.”
For the first time, the Carolina Panthers will be represented by an owner other than Jerry Richardson, who founded the club in 1993. The franchise was sold to billionaire David Tepper for $2.275 billion. Owners will vote to ratify the sale.
The two major safety items on the agenda at the meetings this week involve a new rule prohibiting players from lowering their heads to initiate contact with their helmets, and making major changes to kickoffs, among them eliminating the running start for the kicking team, and wiping out all wedges. Injury statistics show that kickoffs are the most dangerous play in the game.
Although it’s not on the official agenda, the highly controversial topic of player protests during the national anthem figures to fuel a lot of conversation among owners at these two-day meetings as they contemplate what role the league has in compelling players to stand when the song is played before games.