NFL Commissioner on 49ers’ Super Bowl practice field issues

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LAS VEGAS — Amid his hour of expert political sidestepping that the NFL called a press conference on Monday, league Commissioner Roger Goodell had a singular moment of off-script honesty.
He told the 49ers, who have raised complaints through the media regarding the unsuitability of the team’s practice field at UNLV, to suck it up and deal with it.
In so many words, of course.
The 49ers’ complaint, as first published by CBS Sports Monday, is that the new grass turf, laid over the typical artificial surface at the Fertitta Football Complex, is unseemly — as in you can see the seems in the grass.
It’s also alleged to be far softer than the natural surface on which the Niners are used to practicing. Apparently, there are exact scales for that sort of thing.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, have access to not only established grass fields at the Raiders’ practice facility in Henderson), but also an indoor field. The Niners have no such option to escape the rain, which drenched Las Vegas Monday.
This game might be a neutral site contest, but it doesn’t seem as if the 49ers are receiving the same pre-game consideration as their opponent.
It’s a big, wet, soggy mess — the kind of story that puts a damper on the league’s self-congratulatory celebration.
But Goodell didn’t want to hear about it.
“We had 23 experts out there. We had the union out there, all of them. It’s a very playable surface. It’s softer than what they practiced on, but that happens,” Goodell said. “It’s well within all of our testing. And this is something that we think all our experts have said… unanimously.”
So, no, the Niners will not be allowed to deviate from the established plan.
But when you consider that the NFL has been under fire from players for years regarding the conditions of playing surfaces — NFL Player’s Association President JC Trotter has called for the banning of artificial surfaces — Goodell’s dismissiveness of the Niners’ complaints — “You mean [with] the natural grass surface we put down?” the commissioner snipped — is a bad look for the league.
Viva Las Vegas
There is a downright absurdity to the NFL having their biggest game in the sports betting capital of the United States.
Not long ago, the NFL spent years in court trying to stop New Jersey from legalizing sports gambling.
“I do not think gambling is good for professional sports,” Goodell testified in 2012.
“The NFL cannot be compensated in damages for the harm sports gambling poses to the goodwill, character, and integrity of NFL football and to the fundamental bonds of loyalty and devotion between fans and team that the League seeks to maintain,” Goodell added in court documentation, per ESPN.
But in an America where sports gambling is now legal in 38 states, the NFL is fine looking like a hypocrite — so long as they don’t welsh on the No. 1 rule: make that money.
The NFL is now in bed with four sports betting companies, per the Associated Press — you’ve seen the commercials. And now they’re celebrating all things Sin City.
Goodell cleverly diverted all questions of this ilk away Monday:
“People used to say this was just a gambling town. This is an entertainment town. This is a sports town. This is an event town.”
Sure. Just be sure to stop by the tables on your way to the game Sunday.
International flavor
The NFL will take the show to Brazil next September, and according to Goodell, that game will be the first Friday Night Week 1 game in NFL history.
The Eagles will host that game, which means the Niners will not be heading to São Paulo.
The Niners could, however, end up in London. The Vikings are one of the teams heading overseas this season, and they are slated to host the Niners at some point in 2024.
Raider Nation
There were, naturally, a ton of Raiders fans at Super Bowl Opening Night at Allegiant Stadium Monday night.
You wouldn’t catch me celebrating my two biggest rivals coming into my home to play a game, but we might have different values.
Then again, Las Vegas fans must be pretty used to feeling like the visiting fans in their own stadium.
Letting the Peacock fly
I lost count of how many Taylor Swift questions were asked to the commissioner (I wish I was kidding), but there were two regarding the NFL putting a playoff game exclusively on Peacock, NBC’s streaming app.
“We have to fish where the fish are…” Goodell said.
“This is developing a platform that a lot of consumers are on,” he continued. “A lot of our fans are going in that direction.”
“They’re not just getting an NFL game, they’re getting a value… That’s where people are going; they’re looking for opportunities to expand on the amount of content they can acquire through those platforms.”
You hear that, folks? The NFL is doing you a favor by forcing you to pay for another subscription to watch their product.
So don’t expect the league to stop anytime soon.

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