NFL officials, legislative leaders meet at State Capitol

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

National Football League Commissioner (NFL) Roger Goodell left a meeting with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders this morning (April 20)  at the State Capitol talking about a productive meeting and dismissing the idea his presence served a threat.

“No, there was not,” Goodell said of the NFL issuing an ultimatum to legislative leaders on the Vikings’ stadium issue.

“No implied threat, or any threats at all,” said Goodell in brief comments to the media about the visit.

Instead, Goodell said the presence of Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II and himself “signaled” how import it was to the league that a stadium resolution be found.

They believed that after many years the time had come to pass stadium legislation “and move forward,” he said.

Rooney said he realized how important the Vikings’ stadium issue was to the commissioner after suggesting the two delay their visit to Minnesota until after the NFL player draft.

But Goodell indicated the matter was too important to wait, said Rooney.

Goodell expressed hope that there was a “general commitment” among state leaders to address the stadium issue this session.

Legislative leaders disagreed on whether the NFL officials mentioned Los Angeles — one Vikings’ scenario is that unless the stadium issue is quickly resolved the team will end up on the West Coast — with Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, Senate stadium bill author, indicating the Los Angeles was mentioned.

Indeed, Rosen styled the visit by the NFL officials as a “reality check.”

Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, in his comments outside the Governor’s Office indicated he didn’t remember the subject of Los Angeles coming up.

Senjem thought the NFL officials were “clear and loud” that their emphasis was on keeping the Minnesota Vikings competitive and in Minnesota.

But Dayton suggested that NFL officials have made plain that the stadium issue cannot go on indefinitely.

“The writing is on the wall,” said Dayton.

“They’re talking reality,” he said.

Both Senjem and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, styled the Vikings’ stadium issue as complicated.

“Things will have to be moving a little more quickly,” said Zellers.

The House Vikings’ stadium bill is “essentially dead” in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee, said Zellers.

But there are ways of reviving legislation, he said.

Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, House Vikings’ stadium bill author, noted that it was first time NFL officials and all the legislative leaders and stadium bill authors had met together.

“To me that’s very significant,” he said.

The Senate is expected to hold a hearing on three Vikings’ stadium bills today in the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, indicated Senate Democrats on the committee will vote to move the bill out of the committee where it is now tabled.

But that depends, he said, adding a note of caution, on what ends up in the bill.