Go to China? Count us out: Chicago Bears refuse to play ‘home’ game overseas as NFL expansion finally becomes a reality

Push to expand global reach takes another step forward with regular-season game to be played in China in 2018, with the Los Angeles Rams as the likely host team

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 March, 2016, 10:12am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 March, 2016, 10:12am

The NFL’s push to expand its global reach took another big step forward this week. But it won’t come at the expense of a Chicago Bears home match as chairman George McCaskey, a prominent member of the league’s international committee, asserted on Wednesday that a regular-season game will indeed be played in China in 2018, with the Los Angeles Rams as the likely host team.

The size and the influence of China in the global marketplace is obviously something that you can’t ignore
Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner

In addition to the league’s continued presence in London, with three more regular-season games on tap there this season, the Raiders and Texans will face each other in Mexico City on November 21.

Still, the venture to have a presence in Asia registers as a significant development for the league and its long-term vision.

“The size and the influence of China in the global marketplace is obviously something that you can’t ignore,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday. “You can’t ignore that as a sport or a business or as a nation. We know we have lots of fans over there, and more importantly, potential fans over there.”

McCaskey spoke openly about the China initiative at the conclusion of the owners meetings.

“We had a great presentation from the commissioner about how we need to take the game global,” McCaskey said. “It’s an ambitious undertaking. You’re seeing it (in) London with a measured approach, seeing if we can build fan avidity. China specifically and Asia generally is a huge market and something we feel that we can tap into.”

NFL could stage a regular season game in China as it seeks inroads to a new frontier

All that said, McCaskey has also made it clear he is not interested in forfeiting any Bears home games at Soldier Field to serve as the host team for any of the league’s International Series games.

“We want to play home games in Chicago,” McCaskey said. “We think Bears fans deserve that.”

McCaskey also asserted that his involvement on the international committee didn’t open him up to feeling obligated to volunteer the Bears for an overseas game.

“The commissioner wants various points of views on the various committees,” McCaskey said. “And just because you’re on the international committee, that doesn’t mean you take whatever the international agenda may be lock, stock and barrel.”

Earlier Wednesday morning, Bears coach John Fox offered his lighthearted reaction to the news that a game would be played in China.

Quipped Fox: “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? We’re going to go to China, and we can’t get full-time officials?’ ”