NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell opens up about league’s growing popularity, Taylor Swift’s impact

We all know Thanksgiving is about turkey, family and football, and the National Football League is working hard to satisfy the nation’s appetite for the latter. A busy NFL lineup is slated for the next few days — with three games on Thanksgiving day, the first-ever game on Black Friday and a full set of match-ups on Sunday.

“I think people want more football, but I think it’s all calculated,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who spoke exclusively with “CBS Mornings” ahead of the games.

“These are calculated, strategic, and they’re intentional to give people bigger events, more events, and to gather around football,” Goodell said. “That’s why it goes so well with Thanksgiving. It’s people coming together.”

Overall, ratings and revenue are up for the league, which is seeing rising popularity thanks in part to an unusual source off the field: Pop star Taylor Swift, who recently took her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce public. Swift has attended some of Kelce’s recent games, even sitting with his family, and fans have been eager to spot her in attendance.

Goodell said Swift is an “unbelievable artist,” and that Kelce is an “unbelievable player.”

“Listen, they’re happy. They seem to be enjoying their relationship. That’s great in and of itself. But it has connected more fans of Taylor’s and more fans of the NFL in some ways,” Goodell said. “To see that they have a connection, now they have a connection to our game and to Taylor…I think it’s great for the league to have that kind of attention. So we welcome it.”

The attention comes ahead of a major event for the league: the Super Bowl, which will be held in Las Vegas early next year and broadcast on CBS. It also comes as the league is likely to expand to a new overseas market in 2024, Goodell said.

“We’re going to expand our regular season games series next year. We’ll play in a new market next year, either Spain or Brazil,” Goodell said.

Another hot topic for the NFL is player safety.

“I don’t think our game has ever been more physical, faster, strong. Our players are more athletic than they’ve ever been. What we want to do is take the techniques out that are leading directly to injuries,” Goodell said.

One thing that Goodell said is of paramount importance is making sure parents know what they’re doing to improve the league’s safety, so that young football players can play safely.

“What we want parents to know is what we’ve done to make the game safer, the techniques we’re taking out, how we’re coaching the game, how we’re using our platform to make all of sports safer,” Goodell said. “I think those are the positive things. There’s been tremendous transformation that I think is incredibly positive, whether it’s in equipment, or whether it’s in rules, whether it’s in techniques and coaching, whether it’s in the research that we’re bringing back…That is something that we’re incredibly proud of, and we’re going to continue to do that.”

Goodell said he hopes at the end of his career he’s remembered for everything that he’s done for the NFL and the effort he’s made to leave the sport in a better place.

“I came to this as an intern in the NFL. I love it more than I did when I came in,” Goodell said. “I just, I believe it has so many positive attributes. You see how it brings communities together. I think we’ve made the game better for our players, our clubs, our partners and for the fans, most importantly. I think we see that in the numbers. And that’s what drives us every day to continue to try to get better.”

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