HOLTHUS: “I think this call is another instance – you know from the very inception of this franchise to start the decade of the 60s when Lamar Hunt started this franchise – it has always been a franchise that accentuated the fans: the fan experience, the importance of the fans and this call is just another example of that of trying to reach out to all of our season ticket base to see what’s on your mind, of course, during this unique time in the National Football League. We just completed an exciting weekend. Many of you were at our NFL draft night celebration Thursday night at the New Arrowhead. We had several thousand that attended. I’ve had a chance to be throughout the Kingdom over the last several days in Hays, KS last week, in Lincoln, NE and Omaha, NE the last two days and people are excited especially with our 2011 draft. That will segue into our first introduction. Again two very special guests. The first, as we talk about the Hunt family, we’re biased, but we think it’s the best ownership group in professional sports, we have the Chairman and CEO of the Kansas City Chiefs, Clark Hunt. Clark, it was an exciting weekend. There are nine new Kansas City Chiefs, but the excitement of Thursday night carried through the weekend. Good Morning.”
CLARK HUNT: “Thank you very much, Mitch. First let me say it’s a pleasure to be on the phone this morning with so many of our fans and partners. Without your passion and support, it would be impossible for us to pursue our goal of building a championship team. The draft is always so exciting for us and this year was no different. Scott Pioli, Todd Haley and our entire football staff did a tremendous job. We were able to acquire a number of players who should be able to contribute in 2011 and beyond. It was a great weekend in helping the Chiefs builds the right 53-man roster.”
HOLTHUS: “We also have a very exciting guest with you this morning and, Clark; I’m going to let you introduce the commissioner.”
HUNT: “It really is a great honor to have the commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, with us this morning. Roger has spent almost his entire 30-year career with the NFL, including the last four and a half years as commissioner. During his tenure, Roger has worked diligently to ensure that our great game becomes better. Key areas of emphasis have included player safety, the integrity of the game, improved benefits for retired players, and an enhanced fan experience, both at the stadium and through the media. Most recently, he has had the challenging task of pursuing a collective bargaining agreement with the players that will allow the game to continue to grow. Roger, thank you for taking the time out of our busy schedule to be with us today. It’s a pleasure to have you here.”
ROGER GOODELL: “Well, thank you Clark. I’d back up. It’s an honor and privilege to be with your fans and take their questions and hear what’s on their minds. So, I’m looking forward to the morning. As you know and you’ve mentioned, I did spend my career in the NFL and part of that, which you didn’t mention and you know very well, was being assistant to the President of the AFC and that was Lamar Hunt. So, I understand the importance he had to pro football, to the Chiefs and the community and all he’s done for pro football. It’s been an honor. I salute you in the sense of what you’ve done with the organization and putting your own stamp on it. You brought in great people including Scott Pioli and a great new coaching staff and you’re doing everything to make sure that the fan experience is great for your fans and I know how important that is to you. To the fans, I know that this is a difficult period and we all share your frustration with the inability to get a new labor agreement done and the uncertainty that’s there. I’m more than happy to take your questions, but I would tell you up front, the sooner we can get back to negotiations, the sooner we can get to a resolution. In the meantime, we’re doing everything to focus on football and getting ready for the season. This was mentioned by both Mitch and Clark, we had the draft last week and it was a great event. And we’re focusing on making sure that we have a great season. And you, as Chiefs fans, should be excited, because you’re being recognized on several national games – I believe it’s three and one preseason game this year. I think that’s great for your community and it’s great for the Chiefs and I think it’s great for the NFL. That’s recognition of the tremendous passion of the fans, the kind of quality organization and team that is being put together in Kansas City. We all look forward to a great season and we look forward to celebrating some big events in Kansas City this season.”
HOLTHUS: “Commissioner Goodell, we have thousands of Chiefs fans on with us right now and the ‘Commissioner Karma.’ You were in the booth with us during the Dallas game in 2009 and within just a few minutes of your visit we scored a touchdown. I was hoping you would visit during the Baltimore playoff game, but you didn’t get there, so you’re invited anytime to be with Lenny and me.”
GOODELL: “Well, I appreciate that Mitch. It was so much fun to be at Arrowhead. It’s just an incredible scene. The fan reaction there and that sea of red and, as you mentioned. I’ve been fortunate to be there a lot, including the playoff game last year, so anything I can do to bring Karma is good, but remember, I’ve got 31 other teams I have to worry about.”
Q: I know you can’t discuss details, but are we making progress in the negotiations?
GOODELL: “Deb, it’s a good question. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re making much progress in negotiations, because there really aren’t negotiations happening. Right now, it’s in a litigation phase. The union is pursuing that. We are obviously defending that. Right now, it’s in a series of hearings and they’ll be another hearing in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on June 3. Unfortunately, there’s not enough negotiation, which it’s ultimately going to come back to and where this will get resolved in a CBA, which is the right thing. It’s the right thing for the players; it’s the right thing for the clubs and most importantly, the right thing for you and all our NFL fans.”
Q: My question is for Commissioner Goodell. I have been a season ticket holder for 47 years. Now, the majority of the Kansas City area is under Time Warner Cable domain. At what point can we expect to see some kind of resolution of this dispute between TWC and the NFL so we can watch games on NFL Network?
GOODELL: “Well, George, thank you for the 47 years of support. We are well aware – this New York market is also a Time Warner market, and we recognize how fans want to have the NFL Network on a year-round basis. It’s proven to be incredibly popular with our fans. It’s one of the issues we’ve raised with the distributors and why we believe every distributor should carry it. We’re in over 62 million homes. We would like to be fully distributed and have every home have access to it. We have not been able to reach an agreement with Time Warner. We continue to negotiate with them. We’re in negotiations with them and we just haven’t been able to reach an agreement. They’re the largest of the distributors that have not signed up, in fact, I believe they’re the only among the top five distributors that have not signed up. We think that’s wrong for the fans. We also think it is wrong for Time Warner Cable customers. The customers want this content. They want this channel and we think it should be there. We’ve already established a market with other cable operators and satellite operators are carrying it and we think it should be with Time Warner. We are going to give up and we’re going to continue to work to make it available to everybody.”
Q: This question addresses the offensive line. Most of the pundits that I’ve been reading have said prior to the draft, the Chiefs needed offensive line help. That did not occur through the draft. I was wondering what the club’s plans are to shore up the offensive line.
HUNT: “First, let me say how much we appreciate your support, especially coming from Colorado. As we went into the draft this year, there were a number of areas that we felt we could improve the football team. In fact, our general manager felt there was an opportunity at practically every position. In the second round, we did take an offensive lineman from Florida State –
Q: Why am I paying full price for the preseason games?
GOODELL: “It’s a question I get from fans frequently. It’s one of the reasons we’ve have been focused on the potential of moving to an 18-two schedule format. The fans have said the quality of the preseason, particularly when the players I want to see, I don’t see, and they’re not competitive games in the sense that they don’t have a standing the overall record. It’s one of the things we have to figure out and we believe that the 18-two season format is one way of doing that. You’ve got to do that responsibly and you’ve got to make sure you do it with the first consideration being player health and safety. We’ve made some changes to the off-season in the context of the negotiations, which would limit the contact in the off-season, including in the spring and into training camp and the regular season. We think we can do that successfully. We want implement that immediately and then make that decision with the players at a future time. In the meantime, we’re going to look for every way to improve what we do in the preseason. We’re looking at different concepts and policies with respect to comp tickets to make sure we get more people in during the preseason period. We’re going to continue to focus on that and I think Jim is on a point that I hear consistently from fans.”
Q: Mr. Hunt, first I’d like to say thank you for the renovation at the stadium. What happens if all these games are pushed to the very limit, will we be able to get reimbursed somehow or be able to get some money back?
HUNT: “Well George, first of all, thank you for your nice comments about the New Arrowhead. We’re very, very pleased with how the project turned out and perhaps the most gratifying thing for our family has been the fans’ response to it – it’s really been tremendous. We certainly understand the concern that our season ticket holders have in regards to the season and the possibility of missing games. Our policy, like many of the teams in the NFL, is to repay our season ticket holders on a per-game basis in the event that we miss games. That includes the preseason as well as the regular season. I should mention that we do have a little bit of flexibility built into the schedule in the event that we have to start the season later in the hope that we can get in a full season. Our customers will either have the benefit of getting to see the games that they paid for or those games will be refunded.”
Q: How do you expect the players to be ready to play during the season if they cannot practice right now?
GOODELL: “You are absolutely right. What we have been focusing on is strength and conditioning versus the contact drills. We are trying to find the right balance to make sure the players are in the best possible condition. Also, make sure we structure things in a way to avoid having too much contact which in the long term can have a negative impact. We want to make sure that we get the players in shape, have them in a program where they feel like they are physically ready to go for the season, but not worn down. It is always a balancing issue. I think our players do a great job of taking care of themselves, preparing themselves physically for the demands of the season. I want them to be rewarded financially for that. The game has changed a lot from 1963 and when your husband played. The game has changed an awful lot. We have to change with it and that is why we have to change the collective bargaining to make sure we are doing things differently, doing things better and making sure we are taking into consideration everything that has changed in our game and everything that should change going forward to make it and continue to make it America’s great game.”
Q: What is the latest date a deal can be reached on the CBA and the season still be salvaged? Are you going to use replacement players?
GOODELL: “Mitch, let me start with your second point. We have not had any discussions and Clark Hunt is on our Labor Committee, CEC. We have not had any discussions about replacement players. It is not part of our strategy or our thinking. We have been focused on getting a labor agreement.
“The second issue on the latest date. We don’t have a specific date as Clark mentioned. There is some flexibility if you took away some bye weeks or reduced the week between the championship game and the Super Bowl. We would like to avoid all that. We would like to get this uncertainty resolved and make sure we play the season as scheduled with all games on the dates we discussed and they’re scheduled. We do not have a specific date that we are going to be making those decisions. I hope we don’t have to. I hope we can get this resolved sooner rather than later.”
Q: What is the mood of the players during the negotiations and their desire to play if this is not settled for another month or two?
GOODELL: “Gary, I think the reality is I think NFL players want to play football. They want to be back on the field and I think they will be anxious to get back on the field. I think it is frustrating for the players just as it is frustrating for the club and frustrating for the fans. We need to get an agreement that addresses the issues they want to have addressed, that the clubs want to have addressed and can take a great game forward. I think they will get back with all the passion they have for the game and play hard and play their great football that they play as soon as we get this resolved.”
Q: Can you speak on the pat downs on entering the stadium and the price of parking at Arrowhead Stadium? What can you do to show you share the fans concern?
HUNT: “Ryan, first of all, thanks very much for your feedback. Last year being the first year we had the new stadium open it was definitely a learning experience for us. One of things that I noticed is how much our fans enjoyed being in the Time Warner Cable Hall of Honor before the game. Clearly the fans were arriving early for the games so they could spend time there. We definitely have some kinks to work out. You mentioned access to the stadium. We will be working at ways to improve that as we go into the 2011 season, for example, on the Sunday night and Monday night games, it is a relatively new experience for us since we had not had a nighttime game in quite a while until we got to the Monday night game last year. But anyhow we will be looking at opening the stadium earlier, opening the parking lots earlier to help get fans into the complex and then to the stadium because we do understand that is an important part of the experience.
“With your comments regarding pricing, we have tried to be very sensitive to our fans. We have gone through a very difficult time economically. We know a lot of people are struggling financially and it is something that we have paid attention to both in the stadium with the ticket prices as well as in the parking lots. There will be a bump in parking prices this year. It is largely driven by a surcharge from Jackson County that is adding to our parking prices which is something that is required in our leases when they were negotiated in 2006. Other than that, we have tried to avoid raising parking prices just because of the point you make. I appreciate your feedback. Our executive team will discuss and take it into consideration.”
GOODELL: “Mitch, if I can just jump in because I think Ryan raises a point that I have heard in several of the calls with our fans this year. First off, let me say that I think that the job the Chiefs did on renovating the stadium is outstanding. It is just spectacular the work that was done there. Two is, at our annual meeting we recognized the Chiefs as one of three teams that have greatly improved their fan experience. Their focus on doing that, their work to be responsive to fans’ concerns are at the top of the list. Third would be, the final point you raised and Clark has just addressed is we are sensitive to the cost of attending our events. We know what the fans are going through from an economic standpoint. We are trying to find every which way to create value. That is why Clark talks about all those things they are doing around the stadium. But also, that is one of the reasons we have looked at the 18 and two concept of trying to create value for our fans. That is what we need to do as a league and make our game better, make our experiences at the stadium better, do everything we can to make your interaction with the NFL better.”
Q: What insurances can both of you give that the league will not be damaged?
GOODELL: “Well Jack, let me respond quickly and Clark can add in his perspective to this. I agree exactly where you are in the sense fans just want football. And they want to continue to make sure they continue to get the great game we have. I do agree with you that if we are unsuccessful in getting this done, it can produce damage. Fans don’t want to be bothered with the details of this. They look to football and NFL football in particular as being an escape from all of these issues to go enjoy, to rally behind their teams and to really enjoy an experience with their family and friends. That is what we have to keep delivering on. It is our intent to do that. There are several issues that need to be addressed just beyond the economics in the collective bargaining agreement that are important to you as fans in making sure that the game you want to support and the game you want to be part of continues to be a great game, continues to be competitive. That the Kansas City Chiefs have the same economic ability to be competitive against the N.Y. Giants or the Chicago Bears or any other large market. Those are systems we got to make sure we maintain and a system where when you come into the season every fan thinks their football team has the chance to win the Super Bowl. That is what I believe the 32 clubs are working towards and Clark could add his perspective. There are several issues that need to be addressed properly in this collective bargaining agreement.”
HUNT: “The only things I would add on top of what the commissioner said is that the ownerships of the clubs are very interested in getting back to the bargaining table. Ultimately this is going to get decided at the bargaining table. It is not going to get decided through litigation. We know it is a very tough period for our fans, for our employees and for the players as well. We want to see a deal that is fair to everyone involved. That includes the players, that includes the clubs and most importantly it includes the fans. The commissioner touched on it, it is incredibly important for a team like the Kansas City Chiefs that we have a collective bargaining agreement that is good for all 32 clubs. We don’t want a system that heads in the direction of baseball. We have some concerns it has the potential to go that way. We want a deal that allows our great game to grow.”
Q: Is there a middle ground where coaches and players can start working together while the business side of the labor situation gets worked out?
GOODELL: “You know that is a great question. The issue gets back to we have got to have a system that all 32 clubs operate under the same system. That is the difficulty with it and why we don’t want to scramble the egg. We need to find a system where the Chiefs are operating under the same rules that the N.Y. Giants are operating under. That is what has made our league successful and it is why we need to make sure the integrity of the game is the first priority to make sure we do everything to protect the game, to make sure it stays competitive and every team has the same ability to compete. We are going to make sure we operate on that basis; we will be responsive to various court decisions if it is necessary. It still gets back to what Clark said, the best thing for game is to get back to negotiating and get out of litigation – to get back and solve our problem at the table. There are ways of addressing the issues in a fair and reasonable way so that everyone benefits.”
HOLTHUS: Well thank you Commissioner Goodell and thank you Clark. Chiefs fans, thank you. We’ve literally thousands upon thousands who have been on-line with us. On behalf of the entire Chiefs Kingdom, I would like to thank NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Chiefs Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt for their time today. And most importantly, the Chiefs organization would like to thank the fans that took time out of their day to join us for this call. If you stay on the line, you still will have an opportunity to provide additional comments or feedback. Go Chiefs. Thanks for participating.