The NFL holds several meetings for its ownership group throughout the year, with the March meetings drawing the most attention. Most of the NFL’s business for the year is concluded in those March meetings, held most recently in Arizona.
But the NFL is scheduled to meet on May 22 in Minneapolis and has a number of items on its agenda that weren’t resolved in March. There are still important elements of NFL business that need to be conducted, including how fans will watch games.
What To Watch for at the 2023 NFL Spring League Meeting
Will the NFL Approve Flexing Thursday Night Football Games?
After a lackluster season of Thursday Night Football games in 2022, the first year that Amazon streamed the primetime games, the NFL put forward a proposal to flex Thursday Night Football games. That would allow networks to pick the games during the season that would be moved from Sunday afternoon to Thursday night and improve the matchups after seeing part of the season play out.
The NFL already has flexing in place for primetime games, allowing games on Sunday afternoon to be moved to Sunday night and now Monday night — theoretically improving the quality of games for their marquee events.
The proposal to allow Amazon to move games didn’t pass when put up to vote in March, but it also didn’t reach the vote threshold for the matter to be considered closed. Owners opposed to the change were vocal, including influential voices like John Mara of the New York Giants.
Mara called the proposal “abusive” to fans, arguing that the proposal was inconsiderate to those who planned out specific games to travel to, sometimes weeks in advance. There could be a compromise proposal that extends the length of time between the decision to flex a game and the game date itself.
In either case, it’s a proposal that could change how fans view football, with fans of high-profile teams funneled to Amazon for streaming.
Updates on the Washington Commanders Sale
Early indications are that the NFL will not be making a final decision on the sale of the Washington Commanders from Dan and Tanya Snyder to Josh Harris and his group, but it is something to consider. The Snyders officially accepted the Harris offer, and both parties have released statements indicating their excitement about the transaction.
Last year, the Minneapolis meeting — then held in August — was used to approve the ownership sale of the Denver Broncos to the Walter-Penner group, so there was a reasonable expectation that with another sale would come another vote to approve.
Should the NFL actually hold that vote, they will need approval from 24 teams to make the sale official. As it stands, however, it looks like NFL owners will need more time to look into Harris and the involved financials before they’re comfortable enough to hold a vote.
Changes to NFL Streaming and Media
The NFL has several issues to resolve around streaming on platforms that are independent of the vote on Thursday Night Football flexing. YouTube recently suffered an outage in the final minutes of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. This comes shortly after they announced that they were taking over the rights for NFL Sunday Ticket.
Previously, the Sunday Ticket product was served through DirectTV, which suffered its share of problems but doesn’t have the perception of instability that may come with online streaming. On top of that, the NFL has approved a proposal from NBC to stream one of its playoff games exclusively through the broadcasting company’s Peacock TV platform.
The NFL Wants To Be a Voice for Social Justice
The NFL has made an effort to make the public aware of its approach to diversity in coaching and in the front office, and it’ll continue to tout its efforts during the Minneapolis meetings, which will occur concurrently with their NFL Coaching Accelerator Program. The NFL has long struggled with diversity and how white its leadership looks, implementing a number of approaches to resolve this issue.
One barrier to seeing black coaches enter the league has been a lack of networking opportunities, a problem the NFL hopes to solve with its Accelerator Program, which allows diverse coaching candidates to be put in direct contact with executives and owners at the Spring League Meeting.
The NFL has also invited members of search firms often used by NFL teams to identify coaching or front-office talent to the Accelerator Program.
The league has been proud of the recent hire of Ran Carthon, general manager of the Tennessee Titans, and the promotion of Brian Johnson to Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator, both of whom are program alums.
The NFL has also been happy to tout its investment in social justice initiatives, pouring $300 million in funding into various grants, programs, and nonprofits. The league stressed that it has emphasized key pillars like education, economic advancement, police-community relations, and criminal justice reform.
This messaging will likely be countered with any new updates to the lawsuit former Miami Dolphins head coach and current Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores filed, alleging racial discrimination on the part of at least one NFL team. Other coaches have joined the suit.
Updates on NFL Expansion and Europe
The NFL will not be making any decisions regarding international expansion at the Spring League Meetings, but there will likely be talk of it outside of the voting chambers. Goodell has indicated that it’s possible to add one, two, or even four teams to the league in an “international division” that would compete with the rest of the NFL.
With most of the serious league business out of the way after the Arizona meetings — or not on the docket, in the case of the Washington Commanders sale — exploration about the future of the NFL may happen in the form of speculation regarding their plans to expand internationally.
It won’t happen immediately, but Goodell implied that the timeframe might be quicker than many of us expect, and as a result, we may see news on this front.
Roger Goodell Contract Extension
There had been some speculation that Goodell would retire after his contract expired, having successfully negotiated multiple bargaining agreements with the NFLPA while securing record media deals multiple times. Now, it looks increasingly likely he’ll stay on for at least one more term.
Goodell hasn’t had a new deal approved by the ownership group yet, but the owners did approve a proposal to allow their compensation committee to begin talks back in October. It was a contentious affair, but if Goodell wants a new deal, he’ll likely get one worth millions, and it may be announced at the Spring League Meeting.