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Roger Goodell indicates NFL may get involved in Broncos ownership dispute

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But the NFL commissioner deflected a direct question about his view of the situation, citing the focus should be on Pat Bowlen’s candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Press Conference Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Roger Goodell publicly weighed in on the Denver Broncos ownership debacle today (Jan. 30) at his annual “State of the League” news conference during Super Bowl Week. The NFL commissioner said he was “limited” in what he could say, indicating the league could eventually be involved.

The commissioner was referring to a request by the Pat Bowlen Trust that the NFL arbitrate the rather messy fight over the future of the franchise’s ownership. The Pat Bowlen Trust comprises a group of three trustees, including CEO Joe Ellis, who are charged with running the franchise until a Bowlen heir is named.

He added it is “sad when disputes like this occur.”

“It’s not something Pat Bowlen, who I knew [sic] very well, would have wanted,” Goodell said. “The Broncos meant a great deal to him and to his family. The best thing we can do this week is focus on Pat Bowlen and his contributions and his viability to become a new member of the Hall of Fame.”

In response to Goodell via a statement to Mike Klis at 9News, Bill Bowlen said he “completely” agrees with the commissioner to not talk about this dispute at this moment.

“There is no place for my actions with the trustees this weekend. This is about Pat’s contribution to the NFL,” he said. “It’s time for his family to hopefully celebrate his accomplishments.”

Bowlen, who is one of the two Contributor’s Committee nominees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, should be named as an inductee during Saturday night’s Hall of Fame Class of 2019 announcement.

An interesting side note to Goodell’s comment at his news conference — but not surprising given the NFL’s possible role in the issue now — this year the commissioner did not specifically praise the Trust’s management of the ownership issue as he has in the past.

Last year, Goodell applauded the “terrific job” of the Trust in keeping the team “in the right hands with the right kind of leadership.”

Mile High Report completed an exclusive interview with Beth Bowlen Wallace in late December and reached out to Brittany Bowlen two weeks ago to request an interview. She declined our request earlier this week, saying she wanted to keep the focus on her dad and his contributions for consideration to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

While Pat Bowlen’s incredible accomplishments with this franchise since taking over in 1984 must be the focus this weekend where he is concerned, the ownership debacle falls squarely on the current leadership — and they are not being considered for the Hall of Fame.

In honor of Pat Bowlen and the winning culture he cultivated in Dove Valley as the Broncos’ beloved owner, we will kick off the three-part series on Thursday (Jan. 31), culminating with Bowlen Wallace’s favorite Super Bowl XXXII memory with her father on what is, hopefully, a very special Saturday (when Mr. B should finally be announced as a Hall-of-Famer).

The future of the franchise could be decided in the courts or by the NFL — two scenarios Mr. B surely did not envision when he worked with Ellis and others to set a path to eventual ownership to one of his seven children.

After stepping down from day-to-day responsibilities as owner in 2013 due to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Ellis and his fellow trustees have been charged with running the team until an heir is named.

Two daughters have indicated their interest in becoming controlling owner. Brittany Bowlen was officially anointed by the Trust after Beth Bowlen Wallace announced in May that she was interested. The Trust issued a statement in response that Bowlen Wallace was not qualified.

The dispute found its way to court in October when William “Bill” Bowlen filed a petition arguing that the Trust isn’t doing as his brother Pat Bowlen had asked.

The Trust filed a counter suit and also asked the court to delay the case so the NFL could arbitrate and decide if the case is an “ownership/team” issue or a “family” issue. Bill Bowlen claims that since he does not own a part of the Broncos, this should not fall under the NFL’s purview.