NFL owners will hold their annual spring meeting in Charlotte this week amid continuing controversy in North Carolina over the state’s LGBT law known as House Bill 2.
League officials in April confirmed their commitment to keeping the meeting in Charlotte, saying the city and the Carolina Panthers had made their positions on non-discrimination clear.
PayPal scrapped plans to bring a new operations center to Charlotte and several big-name musical acts have canceled concerts in the state to protest HB2, which pre-empted a Charlotte ordinance and requires people in government facilities to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.
Owners or representatives from all 32 teams will gather Tuesday at the Ballantyne Hotel, although it’s unclear whether Panthers owner Jerry Richardson will attend the meeting a few miles from his SouthPark home.
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Richardson, 79, is recovering from his second rotator cuff surgery in a seven-week span.
Richardson missed the NFL’s annual meetings in Florida in March to prepare for his first surgery, and perhaps over lingering resentment that his Los Angeles stadium plan was defeated by the other owners.
A look at three items of interest that will be voted on and/or discussed at the Tuesday meeting:
Future Super Bowl sites
Every NFC South city besides Charlotte is in the running for the three Super Bowls that will be awarded – for the 2019, 2020 and 2021 games.
It’s long been said and reported that Charlotte’s weather in early February and its need for more high-end hotels have kept it from hosting a Super Bowl.
But the chief criteria now seems to be getting taxpayers to help fund shiny, new $1 billion stadiums in which to play the games. (The NFL’s not going to Minneapolis for the 2018 Super Bowl for the Scandinavian restaurants.)
As such, Atlanta and L.A. are considered the favorites the land the 2019 and 2020 games, respectively.
Spending about half a billion to improve your city’s stadium also gets you in the running, which is why the Super Bowl will be in Miami in 2021.
Despite its pedestrian-friendly downtown (some might call it a safe stumbling distance to hotels) and a proliferation of said hotels and restaurants (read: bars), New Orleans is a dark horse to get the 2019 game.
New Orleans should never be a dark horse for a Super Bowl. Here’s hoping Saints owner Tom Benson can convince his fellow owners of that.
Raiders to Vegas?
The NFL has softened its stance when it comes to the potential of putting a team in Las Vegas, with commissioner Roger Goodell recently saying, “All of us have evolved a little on gambling.”
The league’s evolution may have something to do with self-awareness as well. The NFL this year will stage regular-season games in London (again) and Mexico City, both of which have legalized sports betting.
The Raiders, left behind in the Rams’ move to L.A., have latched on to Vegas. And their interest appears to be genuine, not just a flirtation to gain leverage for a new stadium in Oakland.
Raiders owner Mark Davis was in Las Vegas last month and pledged $500 million toward a $1.4 billion stadium project.
“We’re not using Las Vegas as a bargaining chip,” Davis said. “This is real.”
Expect Davis to have similar conversations with his colleagues between sessions Tuesday in Ballantyne.
Possible bylaw/rule changes
Several proposals were tabled at the March meetings in Florida, including one by Washington that would eliminate the first wave of roster cuts from 90 to 75 players in August.
Teams now make two rounds of cuts – from 90 to 75 after the third preseason weekend, and from 75 to 53 before the start of the regular season. Washington thinks keeping more players around longer will help keep them healthy (it might) and allow players to more fully develop (doubtful).
Cutting 37 players in one fell swoop would flood the market with nearly 1,200 players when teams are preparing for the start of the season. Even the best personnel departments would struggle sifting through all the available players, a number of whom would certainly get lost in the shuffle.
Owners also will consider a proposal by the competition committee to modify the replay system.
The Baltimore Ravens had proposed overhauling replay and making more types of plays and penalties reviewable. Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay said in March the committee liked the Ravens’ idea of simplifying what plays can and can’t be reviewed.
Owners also will consider the use of tablets for players and coaches to look at replays on the sideline. Currently coaches pull up still photos of plays and alignments on the tablets, although Pro Bowl coaches experimented with replays on tablets this year.