By Michael Spencer

(CBS4) – NFL commissioner Roger Goddell addressed the Broncos ownership issues at his annual Super Bowl week press conference on Wednesday. Goddell reiterated that the NFL hopes to follow the wishes of late owner Pat Bowlen when deciding the future of the team, but also stressed the need for one owner, a sentiment that Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis hinted at in late December.

Roger Goodell

Roger Goodell (credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

“It starts with what Pat Bowlen’s wishes were,” said Goodell. “He established the trust to make sure there was an orderly transition of the franchise if something should happen to him. Unfortunately that did, and Pat wanted to make sure the franchise was in good hands, in good management.”

The dispute over the next owner has turned into a public family feud involving both the three-person ownership trust and the seven Bowlen children. While Joe Ellis has made it clear that Brittany Bowlen is the only one of the seven children being considered as a successor to Pat, A court case between Pat’s two eldest children and the trust is set to begin in September.

“I don’t think he’d be happy about the public disputes that are going on,” said Goodell on Wednesday while stressing the need for one controlling owner.

“Unity is something that I think as an organization in the NFL, you have one person who makes a decision on behalf of an ownership group,” said Goddell. “That is a vital and principal point in our ownership policy, and that is what Pat understood. He wanted that, and we need to have that in the case of all franchises. So that, at some point in time, will have to develop in the context of the Broncos.”

At his last press conference Ellis hinted that if the seven siblings can not all agree on Brittany as the controlling owner, a sale of the team is possible.

How Did We Get Here?

Beloved Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen died on June 13, 2019, at age 75 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. His death took place two months before he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Pat Bowlen

(credit: CBS)

The team and the Broncos family held a public celebration of life for him at Mile High on June 18, 2019, and a private funeral was held in Denver six days later. Bowlen had stepped down from his duties as owner five years ago; since 2014 the team has been run by a group of trustees including CEO and President Joe Ellis. Those trustees bear the responsibility of determining if one of Bowlen’s children will succeed him in running the team. In late November the team announced Pat’s daughter Brittany, 29, would rejoin the team in an executive role. Ellis released a statement saying she is “working towards earning the right to succeed her father and this is the next step in that process.” Other family members have challenged the validity of the trust.

Michael Spencer

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