The ongoing sale of the Carolina Panthers has raised questions as to whether the NFL would allow a new team owner to relocate the team out of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Speaking at his annual Super Bowl news conference, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that the league prefers keeping the Panthers where they've been since their inception more than two decades ago.
"I think all of us and the owners believe Carolina is a great market," Goodell said. "It's a market we would like to stay in and we hope that the franchise owner that is eventually selected will have that view. As you know, that is subject to review by the ownership ... and I'm sure that will be a question that many owners will ask, and I think that will clearly be the intent of our ownership."
The Panthers were officially put up for sale following the team's playoff exit in January, less than a month after majority owner Jerry Richardson announced he would sell the team amid an ongoing investigation into allegations of workplace misconduct against him. Richardson ceded day-to-day control of the team in December to Tina Becker, a 20-year employee of the team who was promoted to chief operating officer.
Goodell said the NFL's investigation into the allegations made against Richardson is ongoing.
"Mary Jo White, who has terrific experience, has been hired by us as an independent investigator," Goodell said. "As she has begun that process. She will do her work. The Panthers have given us full cooperation, given her full cooperation and when that process is concluded, we'll report at that point in time."
Here are some other topics Goodell addressed Wednesday:
Goodell spoke about the efforts the league has made in trying to create more coaching opportunities for minorities but added that work needs to be done.
"What we need to do is continue the work on developing that pipeline, getting the right kind of coaches with the right kind of experience that teams want to hire as head coaches is a lot of our focus," Goodell said. "As an example, the trend now is offensive coaches. We need to work to get more offensive coaches in the position, and African Americans that have offensive coordinator or quarterback coach experience that we'll see them as the right kind of candidates."
Goodell's comments come weeks after the Fritz Pollard Alliance, an advocacy group that promotes diversity in NFL front offices and coaching staffs, criticized the NFL for finding the Oakland Raiders complied with the Rooney Rule during the process leading to Jon Gruden's hiring as head coach. Goodell, who said he was confident in the league's finding in the case, said the NFL remains committed to the values bestowed by the rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and team front-office positions.
"We have to make sure we continue to get exposure for them and make sure they get the opportunities," Goodell said. "And that's where the Rooney Rule really works in the sense of making sure that every club is required to not only interview but also consider seriously candidates with diverse backgrounds and make sure that they're hiring the best people. I think that served us well but there's still a lot more work to do outside of the Rooney Rule."
Goodell said the joint committee of players and owners that initially met in October to discuss social issues important to players, will meet again in the next 30 days to continue to talk about issues important to players. He did not say whether owners or players will specifically address whether the national anthem will be part of those discussions.
"I think our focus is going to continue on building the platforms that the owners and players spend a great deal of time with unprecedented dialogue creating those platforms all season long. I think we're excited by that," Goodell said. "Make the platform effective and [pursue] what the players were really interested in, which is making our communities better."
Goodell added that he has not spoken to President Donald Trump about players' actions during the anthem. Trump has repeatedly criticized the league for its stance on the matter.
Goodell said the decision on whether Kaepernick plays in the NFL again rests with the teams, not the league.
"I've been very clear on this before that all the clubs, individually, have to make their own decisions about who's on the roster, who's not on the roster," Goodell said. "Colin, as you know, has filed a grievance, so I'm not going to talk specifically about that case. But I think that's something that the clubs have to make -- that decision. We as a league, do not get involved in that in any way. So I don't anticipate that in any way."
Goodell reiterated the league will take a close look at the catch rule this offseason in an effort to provide more clarity for the players, coaches and fans.
"Clearly catch, no-catch has been a lot of discussion and a lot of disagreement ... and I think we can clarify this rule and I think we can do it with a lot of hard work [and] focus and get to a place where -- I'm not going to tell you there won't be controversy, but I believe we can get to a much better place."
Goodell's comment comes after he told Colin Cowherd of FOX Sports earlier this week he wasn't "just somewhat concerned, I am concerned" about the state of the catch rule.