NFL owners OK flexing of Thursday night games


EAGAN, Minn. — The NFL will have the capacity to flex a limited number of late-season “Thursday Night Football” games on the Amazon Prime streaming platform, according to a resolution approved by NFL owners Monday in a close vote on the first day of their spring meetings.

The resolution passed with approval votes from 24 owners, the minimum required to enact a new rule, and will be in effect on a trial basis for the 2023 season only. If no Thursday night games are flexed, the resolution will carry over to the 2024 season.

An earlier version of the proposal was tabled at the league meetings in March with strong opposition from New York Giants owner John Mara, who called it “abusive” to fans whose schedules would be disrupted.

The resolution will allow the league to flip a Sunday afternoon game into Thursday night and move the originally scheduled game to Sunday afternoon during Weeks 13 through 17. The NFL must file notice no later than 28 days before the game, an increase of nearly two weeks from the earlier proposal. No team will be required to flex to a Thursday night game more than one time, and the maximum number of Thursday night games will remain two per team.

The NFL said the Thursday night flex option can be applied no more than two times during the season.

The games scheduled for Thursday night in Weeks 13-17 are:

The NFL now has flex options for all of its prime-time games, having previously added a flex option for a window of “Monday Night Football” games this season. It has had the authority to flex “Sunday Night Football” games since 2006.

Hans Schroeder, the NFL’s executive vice president and chief operating officer of NFL Media, noted that the league has averaged 1.8 flexed games per season on its Sunday night programming over that span. Brian Rolapp, chief media and business officer, said that Thursday night flexes are “not something we expect to be commonplace.”

Mara said in March that the league needed to prioritize fans who buy tickets to games and could face significant changes to travel plans if a Thursday game was flipped to Sunday or vice versa.

Mara, asked Monday about the flex proposal passing, said, “I stand by my comments in March. I still feel the same way.”

Those who supported the resolution have noted that the NFL also has a responsibility to prioritize fans who watch games only on television.

“This should show our fans and the media industry that we’ll do everything we can to make streaming on Thursday nights successful,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

Mara was one of eight owners who voted against the resolution despite the increase of required notice from 15 to 28 days. Other teams that voted against the resolution, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter, were the Jets, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Raiders, Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals and Steelers.

“We’re going to have an even higher bar for Monday night and an even higher bar for Thursday night about the type of game we think would merit real consideration for flexing,” Schroeder said.

ESPN’s John Keim contributed to this report.

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