NFL's Involvement With DFS "Very Limited," Goodell Says
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NFL’s Goodell: League Taking “Cautious Approach” to Daily Fantasy Sports

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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says his league is “taking a cautious approach” to its relationship with daily fantasy sports, tamping down expectations that the NFL might sign a deal with a DFS site in the near future.

Slow your roll

Goodell specifically addressed daily fantasy sports for what appears to be the first time, with his comments coming at the annual meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors.

Here in the full quote from Goodell, per SI.com:

“This has been a source of a lot of discussion internally and also with our ownership and committees in making sure we understand that fans are doing this, but we do not want to cross the line we think is inappropriate and moving more towards something that we think is prohibitively gambling. That’s not the case here, but we are taking a cautious approach to it and making sure that we observe how it involves (sic, we’re guessing he said “evolves”). Our involvement as clubs is very limited and preferably limited … Our relationship is more limited to an advertising-driven relationship.”

While that’s far from a touchdown for the DFS industry, hearing that Goodell and the league are not going to move fast on the issue of daily fantasy sports is hardly a surprise. Of the four major North American sports leagues, the NFL is the most conservative when it comes to anything that resembles sports betting.

The Associated Press story also included this added quote, which did not appear in the SI story:

“Other leagues potentially are investing in these. We are not.”

He also addressed legalized sports betting in the same meeting, and predictably came out against it:

“We’ve been very open about our position that we oppose legalized sports gambling. We haven’t changed our position on that, and I don’t anticipate us changing that going forward at all. We think the integrity of the game is the most important thing, and we believe that our current position is the right way to be able to handle that, but on the other hand, if changes happen, we’ll be prepared for those.”

At the same time, Goodell made it clear he does not equate DFS with sports betting with his comments. Of course, NFL and industry observers surmised that as soon as the first NFL team was allowed to sign a deal with a DFS site.

Baby steps for the NFL

Even though his fellow commissioners have embraced DFS, it seems obvious from Goodell’s comments that the NFL still harbors some reservations about DFS moving forward. (Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NHL have all signed deals and/or have equity stakes with either FanDuel or DraftKings.)

But, for the NFL, which generally handles issues at a glacial pace, things seem to be moving quickly. FanDuel recently announced a slew of team partnerships that give it a relationship with nearly half of the league’s 32 teams; a 16th deal with the Chicago Bears appears to be pending, still. And the NFL actually took an official stance on how teams deal with DFS sites earlier this spring.

Parsing out Goodell’s words

Since these few sentences are all we have from Goodell on the subject of DFS, let’s take a closer look at what he actually said:

  • “…a lot of discussion internally…”: This is certainly interesting to hear, if not entirely surprising. Any time half of your teams want to do advertising deals with a certain type of company, it’s probably on the commissioner’s radar.
  • “…we do not want to cross the line we think is inappropriate…”: Again, this is just the NFL being the NFL. This sounds mostly like the NFL dipping its toe in the DFS water, and taking the temperature. The NFL might be waiting to see what happens with DFS on a legal front, as more and more states consider legislation dealing with the industry.
  • “Our involvement as clubs is very limited and preferably limited…”: Again, just the NFL being conservative. The NFL just wants nothing to do with something that even has the appearance of sports betting. The use of the word “preferably” might be a bit concerning to those hoping to see more movement in the future from the NFL.
  • “Other leagues potentially are investing in these. We are not.”: Goodell presumably is referring to equity stakes that the MLB and NBA have in DraftKings and FanDuel, respectively. Does that mean the league won’t do a deal with a DFS site? It sounds like any sort of deal would be an advertising/marketing deal, with no equity stake.

It doesn’t appear like the NFL will be doing a deal with a DFS site before the upcoming season, from listening to Goodell. But in 2016 and beyond? That doesn’t sound like it’s off the table.

Photo by Matt McGee used under license CC BY-ND 2.0.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.
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