Bucs' Bryan Glazer talks about NFL, fans, current issues
Bucs co-chair Bryan Glazer joined the Tampa area's other two pro owners -- Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg and Lightning owner Jeff Vinik -- on Monday night for "The Business of Professional Sports," a panel discussion at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg. The audience was mostly a large group from the Associated Press Sports Editors' winter meetings, which are in town this week, as well as fans in the general public who paid $75 each to listen to the three men talk about key issues in today's sporting world.
Glazer doesn't speak publicly very often, so it was a rare insight into his thoughts on many relevant topics facing today's NFL owners. Here is are his answers transcribed:
What is the biggest challenge facing your franchise?
"The biggest challenge we're facing obviously is people sitting at home vs. the going-to-watch-the-game experience. It's very comfortable to be home on your couch, high-definition television, the refrigerator's a couple feet away, the bathroom's a couple feet away. We want to make sure the in-game experience is better than that. There's nothing like watching a professional sporting event in person. You don't get the feel, the smell of the game, the camaraderie of the fans around you. We have to make it a great experience. We've brought in video screens in our stadium, state of the art. We have to make it easy for fans to get in and out of the stadium. We have to make the food good. These are all the things that need to be done to make the fans want to come back. You want it to be an experience that, whether you win or lose, they've had a good time. I can control everything but the end result of the game. I've tried. I'd like to win every game. At the end of the day, if you have a good tie, you'll come back."
On whether cord-cutting is a concern as more people get away from cable TV:
"Live sports is the greatest content for anybody out there, any media companies out there. ... I think there will always be a place for live sports. You can't download a live sports episode. You generally can't DVR it and get home and watch it without finding out who won. It's one of those things that has commercial breaks and it has to be watched generally live. It's something where if there's a shift in the landscape, whether it's ESPN or it could be Amazon in the future or could be Netflix in the future. I think there's going to be a great opportunity for all of us. It will not be hard to find any of our sports on TV, either today, tomorrow or in the future."
On public financing of stadiums, as Raymond James Stadium was built with tax dollars:
"Speaking for Raymond James Stadium, we've hosted two Super Bowl there. We're about to host a college football national championship game. These events wouldn't be here but for the great facility that exists in Tampa. ... We're running a three to four-hour commercial showing how great the weather is down here. Everybody sees it. People travel down here. We bring a tremendous amount of tourists down from the other parts of the country. We're blessed down here with great weather. Who wouldn't want to be here? They come here, especially in the fall for our games. They come, they put room nights, restaurants, they go to the beach, they spend money and it's all coming back to the community."
On the threat of concussions and what it means for the NFL and its future:
"Obviously, player safety is the most important thing in our game. The league in the last year, it's been highlighted across the country. We work tirelessly at the league level in research and also education and rule changes. There have been a lot of rule changes, the way tackling is made. It's education, it's changing. There's a ways to go and it continues to get better. Helmets have changed. We're trying to make the game safer every way we can."
Could concussions set up shorter careers and more change for teams trying to keep players around?
"I think as the game continues to get safer and safer for the players and they learn the different types of tackling, those careers will be just as long as they have been in previous years. Injuries will go down and things will change over time."
On the globalization of the NFL and its importance:
"The commissioner has made a conscious effort. London is one of his focuses. You see (the NFL) play multiple regular-season games in London right now. We're returning to Mexico City, where the NFL hasn't played in a number of years. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have played on three continents. We've played in Tokyo, in the United States and London also. There's thirst for the NFL and thirst for sports across the world. It's just a matter of making faster planes so we can get around quicker."
On the growing trend of gathering data from fans to create more personal experiences at games:
"It's going to be up to the fan to let us in, to let us know who they are, let us know they haven't given a ticket to somebody else. You've all seen Google Glass and those things. You'll have ushers who know when a person walks up, when a car is driven into the parking lot, when they should bring the food because the food has been pre-ordered. The more we know about the customer, the more the customer lets us know who they are and are willing to do that, that's the biggest problem, I think, the privacy issue, people being comfortable letting us who they are. Once they see the benefits that come with that, they'll be helping."
On extending the Rooney rule to make sure female candidates are considered for front-office positions:
"This past year was the first year we actually had a woman official on the field, and the great part about that is that we didn't talk about it. It was just another official on the field. That's what it should be. Same thing with front-office positions. We're going to get to a point where we look back on this 10 years from now and everybody will be hiring many front-office people: look at the resume and hire the best person possible, regardless of who it is. You see women break into the league -- the Arizona Cardinals had an intern last year and the Buffalo Bills have a full-time coach this year. It's an exciting time, the start of an exciting time."
On creating an environment where an openly gay person would be comfortable in the front office or as a player:
"I think the world has changed. Even in the last year with transgender, whether it's a gay player or anything like that, I think the world is a different place today. I don't think it's a matter of saying if but a matter of when you'll be hearing more players come out I think. I think as a society we are becoming much more accepting, openly accepting."
On his favorite player growing up ...
"I grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and was actually a Miami Dolphin fan growing up. I had a Mercury Morris jersey as a kid, 22. I had a Dan Marino jersey when I was a little older. But when I was young, it was Mercury Morris."
On taking domestic violence seriously, vetting draft prospects, "specifically about a player like Jameis Winston, who had allegations."
"I'm not going to answer that case specifically, but I'll talk in more general terms about any player we've drafted in the last 20 years. We do the best due diligence we can about anybody. We look into their background, talk to as many people as possible. That's what every team does. We take domestic violence very seriously. The entire NFL does. I would say if we were ever considering a person that had even an allegation, we would do our due diligence, we would look into that incident as best we can. I stand behind our players, 100 percent. Every player we've drafted, we've done the best we can to look into everything about them. I'll leave it at that."
On what he'd like to see changed in his league if he could change something:
"For me, one thing I'd like to see if I could, I don't know if it's possible. We changed divisions at some point about 15 years ago. Scheduling, and to be able to play some of those teams that we don't play so often in the Packers, and the Bears and the Vikings. Some of the rivalries. It's been written up, some of the regional rivalries don't play as often, anomalies in the scheduling. If we could find a way to schedule differently, regional rivalries, old-time rivalries more often than we do, I think the fans would really enjoy that."
On his plans about Manchester United and oft-maligned manager Louis Van Gaal:
"A funny story, when I agreed to do this, I said 'I'm not going to answer any Manchester United questions.' Which I'm not going to. I tell you that as an honest response. Owning two teams in different places, we were involved in this one for many years before the other one, but it's been fun. Sports is fun. It's been fun in two continents. People say who do I like better, and I like all my children equally."