The following is an edited transcript.
City & State: In the spirit of Joe Namath, do you have any bold predictions about the Jets this season?
Woody Johnson: My bold prediction is that we will try and give it everything we have and leave nothing on the table each week, because that’s what the fans deserve, and that’s the way we’re going to run it.
CS: During the Olympics that just passed, did you have any regrets or feelings about what might have been had the West Side Stadium been approved?
WJ: I think the Olympics would have been a total winner for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut—the whole region, really. Having just gone to London and watched a large urban area hold the Olympics so successfully, I think it would have been great for us here. Maybe we’ll consider it again in the future.
CS: Do you think that New York City is doing a good job promoting professional sports?
WJ: I do. We have more professional sports in New York City than any place in the world, so [we] must be doing something right.
CS: What is the importance of professional sports to our city and its economy?
WJ: I think it gives us something to root for. It’s a way to take your 15-year old daughter to a game and have something to talk about besides the things that she’s doing wrong. [Laughs.] It’s an outlet for people—and it has been, going back through history, so I think we have to have sports. New Yorkers love their teams, and the teams are providing something for them.
CS: What is your evaluation of the job that Mayor Bloomberg has done in office?
WJ: I think he’s done a great job. I am a Bloomberg supporter 100 percent. It’s a very complicated job and he has to appeal [to] and appease many different constituencies, but overall in terms of a place to go or a place to set up a business, it’s remained very, very attractive. We still have many, many people that want to come into the city, and that’s the major test—and that’s what a mayor’s job is, really. It’s to have a well-run city that is attractive to both people in town and out of town.
CS: Like Mayor Bloomberg, you are a philanthropist. What should our government do to help charitable causes and to promote nonprofits amid the recession?
WJ: I think that government can be a catalyst in encouraging the private sector to do its job in supporting charitable causes. Mayor Bloomberg’s done an excellent job. Personally, he’s one of the most generous people in the country, and we’re lucky to have him for that reason. But it’s kind of unique in America, from what I gather in my travels, to be as philanthropic as we are. It’s truly American. And I think that’s part of our DNA. Americans, if they see someone in need or some institution that needs help they believe in, they’re very, very generous.
CS: You [are] deeply involved in disease research, particularly to help those affected by lupus and juvenile diabetes. From a policy standpoint, what should we be doing to combat these terrible ailments?
WJ: I’ve been the chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, I’m currently that at the Alliance for Lupus Research—two very, very important autoimmune diseases—and our approach to those diseases is research. We want basic research or biomedical research that yields results … that really focuses on a patient both on the long-term solution or a cure, and short-term, alleviating pain and suffering or inconvenience. So if I can, for example, for someone with juvenile diabetes … alleviate their having to take a shot every day or every four hours for one day, that would be a huge accomplishment in my book. Or if I can alleviate the pain and suffering for a woman who has lupus for one day, one hour, one minute, that’s also huge. That’s where we’re starting, because I know hundreds of people who have these diseases now, maybe more, this is what they want us to do and this is what I want to do. … If you want to make a difference with diseases, you can’t hope—you’ve got to do.
CS: You have endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Is this because you believe that President Barack Obama has done a poor job managing the country, or is it just because you believe that Gov. Romney will do better?
WJ: As Coach [Bill] Parcells used to say, you go by what you see. The fact that we still have over 8 percent unemployment after all these years and the fact that we spend 5 trillion dollars—over a trillion dollars each and every year—to create jobs and we have nothing to show for it, that speaks for itself.
CS: Are you as interested in local and state politics as you are in national politics?
WJ: Yeah. Everything starts with local politics. My grandfather was the mayor of Highland Park [New Jersey] when he was in his early 20s, and he said it was the hardest job he ever had. He did it for two years and said, “This is too rough.” But that’s where it all begins, and it’s extremely important to get bright, motivated young people to enter politics for the right reasons and work hard and be good servants of the people.
CS: Would you ever consider running for office yourself?
WJ: No, I love what I’m doing now. I have two small boys, so I’m committed.
CS: As a native of New Jersey, were you disappointed to see the Nets leave for Brooklyn?
WJ: To me where a team plays is up to the owner and up to the league. So I think that the new ownership of the Nets, they decided that for their fans the best thing would be to move. I would never second-guess an owner. They’re making decision based upon a lot more data than I have.
CS: Which member of the Jets playing or coaching staff do you think would make the best politician?
WJ: I can tell you that from the players’ standpoint, most of these players have been pretty amazing leaders in their communities. … They all are so special. … We have 53 people on the active roster on the varsity, eight people on the practice squad, and I think that most of them, if not the majority of them, would make good politicians, if that’s what their life’s desire was to be, because they’ve got something incredible inside of them to get to this level—and if they can transmit that enthusiasm and that willingness to work and focus, that’s really what you need.
CS: Can you see a Senator or a Governor Tebow?
WJ: I can see a lot of them achieving the highest level. There’s probably 10 guys that could do it—or more, if they put their mind to it.