CHAUTAUQUA - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came home Wednesday to Chautauqua County.
But instead of some R&R around the lake, the Jamestown native was asked early and often regarding the future of the Buffalo Bills in Western New York.
By his response, support remains steadfast in keeping the Bills tied to the Queen City. However, questions are lingering about the team's 93-year-old owner.
NFL commissioner and Jamestown native Roger Goodell speaks Wednesday at the Chautauqua Institution as part of the week-long series focusing on ethics and cheating. Goodell was joined by SEC commissioner Mike Slive and NBC correspondent Luke Russert, who moderated the lecture.
P-J photo by Eric Tichy
"I think the fans ... need to do everything they can to support the Bills, and we're going to work hard to make sure they continue to be successful here," Goodell told reporters before a panel discussion at Chautauqua Institution. "There's no reason why they can't be."
"We have a new collective bargaining agreement," he added. "We have new revenue sharing. All of those will be beneficial to making sure the team continues to be successful right here in Western New York. And that's where we want to see them."
The Bills are currently negotiating a new stadium lease, which expires in 2013. The NFL commissioner said he has been given updates on the progress, but noted he is not involved in talks between the team and the county-owned stadium.
"As far as the negotiating is concerned I'm not directly involved," Goodell said. "I get updates from various parties, most specifically the Bills. I know they're working hard on it and hopeful they can get something done in the near future."
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, spoke Wednesday in Orchard Park, calling on the league to modify its loan program that helps teams renovate their stadiums. The loan program, known as G-4, allows a team to generate revenue by receiving matching funds by the league.
However, the league states that if the team is sold the loan must be paid back in full. Schumer asked that an amendment be made that would allow an owner of over 20 years to be exempt from the rule. Another possibility, he said, would be to exempt any sale of the team of paying back the loan where the purchase is the result of an estate sale.
"Either of these exceptions would still protect the program from those looking to turn a quick profit while allowing teams like the Bills to take advantage of the programs benefits," Schumer said in a letter to Goodell.
Goodell, who favors the G-4 program, noted Wilson's age and uncertainty regarding his successor.
"The succession plan, Mr. Wilson has made it clear that he is not going to sell the franchise while he's alive," he said. "Once he passes on the franchise will be sold."
Goodell did not speak much on rumors that two NFL franchises are being eyed in Los Angeles. The commissioner said having a lease in place is the No. 1 priority for the Bills long-term future in Buffalo.
"I don't think it has anything to do with Los Angeles," Goodell said. "Everybody wants the Bills to be here in Western New York and Buffalo. They want to do it in a successful way.
"The (stadium) lease is up, so it's important to get this done and have a long-term lease that will address the short-term stadium issues and the long-term stadium issues and make sure the team is successful here."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also got into the fray Wednesday, announcing that Irwin Raij, a nationally-recognized professional sports expert, has been tapped to advise the state in efforts to keep the Bills in Buffalo.
"New York State is committed to doing all we can to keep the Bills a part of the Buffalo community, while also protecting taxpayer dollars and seeing that the team can thrive in Western New York for years to come," Cuomo said in a news release. "Irwin Raij has years of experience working together with sports franchise owners, local communities, and government in sports development projects, and he will be a valuable addition to the state's efforts to keep the Bills right here in New York."
Goodell, along with Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive and NBC correspondent Luke Russert, were at Chautauqua Institution to participate in an "Ethics of Cheating" seminar.