LAS VEGAS — The NFL will stage its first-ever game in Brazil on the Friday of the opening weekend of next season, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday.
The Philadelphia Eagles will be the host team, Goodell said, in the Sept. 6 game at the Corinthians Arena in São Paulo. The league did not announce the Eagles’ opponent.
The NFL still plans to play its traditional Thursday night season-opening game on Sept. 5, Goodell said. The reigning Super Bowl champion generally hosts that game.
The league’s team owners voted in December to play a game in Brazil next season as part of the NFL’s efforts to expand its international popularity.
“We are just incredibly enthusiastic about our growth on a global basis,” Goodell said Monday at his annual news conference during Super Bowl week. “We are convinced we can be a global sport in the near future. Our ownership is committed to allow more [international] games to be played on an annual basis. … I think this is a great opportunity for the league.”
Goodell spoke to reporters in the home locker room at Allegiant Stadium ahead of the media night activities by Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers players and coaches. There were 23,823 fans in the stands and more than 2,000 reporters on the field for media night, according to the NFL.
Goodell addressed a variety of other topics Monday, including:
Taylor Swift:The relationship between the pop-music superstar and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has been extremely positive for the NFL, Goodell said. He credited Swift’s presence at Chiefs games with bringing a new set of fans to the league.
“I think this is just about welcoming people into the game,” Goodell said. “It’s giving people a different perspective of the game. It’s giving them an opportunity to say, ‘Wow, that’s exciting.’ … People are talking about the game that weren’t talking about the game yesterday. Whatever that reason is, I’m good with it, as long as they get exposure to our game. Taylor is obviously a dynamo. Everything she touches, there are people following.”
Sports betting: The first Super Bowl to be played in Las Vegas has intensified the scrutiny on the NFL’s evolving relationship with gambling.
The league has embraced new revenue streams through gambling partnerships since the 2018 Supreme Court decision that struck down the federal ban on sports betting, allowing states to legalize it if they choose to do so. Meanwhile, the NFL has imposed a series of suspensions on players for violating its gambling policies.
“The integrity of our game is critical,” Goodell said. “So we spend a lot of time focusing on that, making sure that all of our personnel are aware of our gambling policies. … Ultimately, that’s our primary job.”
Goodell said Monday that in addition to the disciplinary measures imposed upon players under the gambling policy, the league has taken action against approximately 25 team or league employees. That has included suspensions and, in some cases, job terminations, he said.
“If they were betting on [the] NFL, you’re terminated automatically,” Goodell said.
Kickoffs: The NFL must “innovate,” Goodell said, as league leaders consider major modifications to the kickoff this offseason.
The league said last week it has been analyzing the XFL kickoff model and will consider it this offseason. The NFL attributed a 60 percent drop in the number of concussions suffered by players on kickoffs this season to fewer returns, under a temporary measure allowing touchbacks on fair catches of kickoffs inside the 25-yard line.
“We need to innovate,” Goodell said Monday. “We need to work with our coaches and our competition committee and those across the league to find a way to keep the kickoff in the game. It’s an exciting play. It’s important for us. … But when you see the higher injury rate of that play, you can’t ignore that. And we haven’t yet found that solution. … I’m confident we’ll get to that. It’s going to take a little work.”
Minority hiring: The NFL is encouraged by the diversity gains it made during a hiring cycle in which four of the eight head coaches hired were minority coaches, Goodell said, while adding that the league must remain focused on the issue.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” Goodell said. “We’re not satisfied where we are. We think that diversity is very good for us and the league. It’s made us better. … I think the hiring cycle was obviously encouraging from the head coaching standpoint.”
The NFL is not ready to scrap its minority interviewing requirements for teams with vacancies at head coach, general manager and other key positions, Goodell said.
“Not having it be necessary would be a wonderful world for us,” Goodell said. “I personally believe that it’s still necessary. … I see it for the foreseeable future. I think it’s been beneficial.”
“I think our officials do a great job,” Goodell said. “They are superior. But at the end of the day, no one is perfect. … We have use to use technology where we can to try to improve their performance. … We’re going to keep working to get better.”
49ers’ practice field: Goodell dismissed reports that the 49ers are displeased with the playing surface at their practice facility this week at UNLV.
The league installed a natural grass field at the facility, Goodell said.
“That work is being done every single day,” Goodell said. “We’ve had 23 experts out there. We have the union out there. All of them think it’s a very playable surface. It’s softer than what they practice on. But that happens. It’s well within all of our testing standards.”