I just got off the phone with NFL Executive Vice President of Business Operations Eric Grubman. He called to talk about the league's reaction to the political meltdown of the Vikings' stadium plan, which was defeated 9-6 in a House panel on Wednesday.
I won't attempt to filter his words for this blog, but I will add that this is the strongest amount of concern I've heard from a league official when it comes to the Vikings' stadium situation. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken to Gov. Mark Dayton today and is scheduled to talk with him and Art Rooney II, Steelers owner and chair of the league's stadium committee, by phone Thursday morning.
Here's what Grubman had to say:
NFL Executive Vice President of Business Operations Eric Grubman
Q: What is the league's reaction to the news?
Grubman: "There's a lot of concern from the league. The ownership and league staff have been working with the Vikings and from the league's standpoint, the Vikings have been patient, they've negotiated in good faith, they've been responsive to doing all they can do to get this resolved. It's reached a point where there may be a stalemate. So I would say it's very serious at this point. You have to remember this was portrayed as having support and likely to pass as recently as a couple of weeks ago when we were at the league meetings. So this will come as quite a blow. This is quite a blow.
Q: I know the Commissioner talked to Gov. Dayton today. What is the Commissioner's feelings right now?
"I was not on that call, but what he was likely to have asked the governor, `Why is this not moving forward?' He probably told the governor that the rest of ownership is quite concerned. I know that he invited the governor to have a call with him and Art Rooney, who is the head of our stadium committee. Often when we reach such a critical juncture on anything and we get an owner and a head of a committee directly involved, that's pretty serious. I think what the commissioner told the governor is that this is going to cause the Vikings to step back and reassess, and it will likely cause the rest of ownership to do the same."
Q: What was your reaction to the governor saying the Vikings will move if this isn't done by 2013?
"I don't like to speculate as to what they will do and what they won't do. I've watched franchises trade hands for 20 years. The fact is you have to have a willing seller. There are plenty of willing buyers. I think the Wilfs do not want to sell the franchise, but I think there is a point where they probably would be open-minded to listening to alternatives. To my knowledge, they have not been willing to do that at this point.
I think they're running out of options and running out of patience. I doubt the commissioner would put probablilities or threaten or anything like that. But I would not be surprised if the commissioner tells the governor, if he asks, what other cities are interested in the Vikings because we are aware of that."
Q: Will the Wilfs be on the call?
"I do not think the Wilfs will be on it. From our perspective, the Wilfs have done everything they can. And they've jawboned and tried to convince people to move forward to at least give people their day through a vote. And when they've failed to achieve that, now it's sort of time for the league to assess. I just think it's a case of the Commissioner, the governor and the head of the committee needing to put their heads together and say, `OK, this is where it could go.'"
Q: It sounds like you're preparing for the probability that they'll move?
"I don't want to get into probablilities. I'll go back to what I said before. In the 20 years that I've watched teams change hands, a lot of things get talked about. But until things are really ripe, nothing happens. This is getting ripe. You have a very dejected ownership. They've run out of options. They feel like they've done everything they've been asked to do and they can't get a vote. No one will answer the question, `What is it going to take?' The Vikings have said, `Give us A, B and C, what would you like us to do?' They've been told A, B and C, and they've done that. And they still can't get through. So what makes anyone think it's going to be any better or different next year or the year after? If that's the conclusion that the Vikings and the league come to, then things are pretty ripe."
Q: If the Vikings don't get it done this year, do you consider this starting all over at Square 1 again next year?
"I don't think there's any question that if this doesn't get done this year, the league's standpoint is it starts back at Square 1 next year. What's going to change? And if nothing is going to change, you are going to have political dynamics changing. You're going to have lots of different people nominating different sites. You've seen this thing play out over the past couple of months. These things cost millions and millions of dollars just to get it to this point. What would be the justification for doing it again on the part of the Vikings?
"I don't mean to speak for the Vikings, but I say that just to point to the fact that things are getting ripe. The Vikings ownership is really dejected. They just do not understand what more they can do. No one can give them an answer and no one can give them a vote. What would you do?"