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Chris Jones

Goodman's Desire to Sue NFL Renewed After 'Serious Attacks'

11 February 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Angered by his opponent's latest plays in a heated game that never seems to end, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has renewed his call for local tourism officials to take legal action against the National Football League over its perceived anti-Las Vegas policies.

During Tuesday's Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board meeting, Goodman told his fellow board members he believes the NFL's recent actions to halt several planned casino Super Bowl parties, as well as its ongoing efforts to block Las Vegas television ads from airing during game broadcasts, were "serious attacks" to the city's economic well-being and warrant legal action.

"This year, I believe the NFL treated us so poorly it's actionable," Goodman said. "We have to do something about it, and I believe this is the time the discussion has to start."

Goodman last year led an ill-fated attempt to sue the league after it declined to air a "Vegas Stories" ad during the 2003 Super Bowl. At the recommendation of an outside attorney, plans for any lawsuit were dropped last fall.

Still, Goodman said the NFL's latest actions showed "unclean hands" and came as retaliation for the convention authority's placement of Las Vegas-themed Super Bowl ads on national television in the weeks leading up to the Feb. 1 game.

Local tourism officials and their contracted advertising agency, Las Vegas-based R&R Partners, later surprised the league by buying in-game ad time from local affiliates in five major U.S. media markets. The NFL responded two days later, saying it would prevent similar ad buys in the future.

"The casinos spent a lot of time and a lot of money inviting valued guests; that's what makes Las Vegas special," Goodman said of the canceled game parties. "The NFL put a damper on it and should be ashamed of itself."

Goodman went on to mock the NFL's approved Super Bowl ads, calling everything from a flatulent horse to a man exposed while wearing a kilt "embarrassing to anybody who has any sensitivity as far as the youth are concerned."

Goodman urged his fellow board members to create a formal policy that would determine how their organization would act in the face of future challenges from the NFL. Board Chairman Jim Gibson also said it would be useful to clarify how the league is "getting away" with what it does.

Legal counsel Luke Puschnig declined comment on Goodman's remarks. But Manny Cortez, the convention authority president and chief executive officer, said his organization's legal team is already looking into the NFL's avowed stance to block network affiliates from selling air time for Las Vegas-themed ads. Cortez said the casino party issue is best handled by local resort operators, though the convention authority would support those efforts.

Board member Don Snyder, whose Boyd Gaming company operates one of Las Vegas' most influential race and sports books at the Stardust, took a measured approach to Goodman's call to arms. Snyder said it makes more sense to try to improve what he described as the city's "important partnership" with the NFL.

"I would hope that the destination Las Vegas and the NFL could come to an understanding that this (relationship) is really good for both parties," said Snyder, president of Boyd Gaming. "The bettors we have here create an interest in the sport, and that is extremely healthy for the NFL."

Snyder said there may be too much emotion involved in both parties' current dialogue. Goodman's criticism could only exacerbate the existing problems, Snyder said. And the NFL's last-minute attempt to shut down local parties may have also indicated its unwillingness to seek a compromise.

"When you get a letter two or three days before an event, it's not meant to encourage dialogue," Snyder said. "It's important to get the emotion out of the conversation and get some rationality back into it. ... I think there is some middle ground here we hopefully can find our way to."

Reached by telephone in New York Tuesday afternoon, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league did not single out Las Vegas-linked Super Bowl parties, adding similar events were blocked in other areas of the country.

"This is not a new issue for us and had nothing to do with a particular city," said Aiello, who cited copyright protection as the NFL's primary motivation for halting the local events.

Aiello said he did not know how the league would respond to requests to work with Las Vegas to develop future nongaming ad content for use during its games, adding city officials must make a formal request before the league could provide such an answer.