HOUSTON (Reuters) - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reaffirmed the league’s goal of building bridges, not walls in announcing a Mexico City game next season but steered clear of taking a stand on President Donald Trump’s immigration policy.
At his annual state of league address on Wednesday, Goodell danced around questions about Trump’s temporary travel ban on citizens from seven mainly Muslim countries, saying Sunday’s Super Bowl is an event that brings the world together not pull it apart.
“We are aware of the conversations that are going on and as commissioner of the NFL I am singularly focused on the Super Bowl,” said Goodell. “We have a unique position to have an event on Sunday that will bring the world together.
“We feel good about what we’re doing.”
While many in the sporting world have spoken out against Trump’s controversial travel ban in recent days, the matter has largely been off limits around the locker rooms of the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons.
When Goodell was asked why transcripts of player interviews supplied by the NFL had been scrubbed clean of any references to Trump, he brushed the question aside by saying that handling transcripts was not one of his job duties.
There was no talk of walls, only building bridges as Goodell announced the NFL will hold a game in Mexico City for a second straight season in 2017 with the Oakland Raiders hosting the Patriots at the Azteca Stadium.
The Mexico games are part of the NFL’s increased commitment to growing the game beyond U.S. borders.
“One of the things we truly believe in our hearts is that the NFL really does bond communities together and it can be a bridge in that way and unite people,” Goodell told a standing-room-only crowd.
“By having the Patriots and Raiders play in Mexico next year we hope that is a very positive experience to show we are reaching out to our fans in Mexico, reaching out to our Hispanic fans here in the United States.”
Goodell spent a large part of his one-hour news conference defending his handling of the Deflategate saga and the four-game ban handed to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for his role in the scandal that took place more than two years ago.
Rocky television ratings, Thursday Night Football and the league’s domestic abuse policy, particularly as it concerns an investigation into Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, were all fielded by Goodell.
Noticeably missing were any questions about concussions, a topic that has become a hot-button subject in recent years and often dominated Goodell’s state of the league address.
Editing by Frank Pingue