NFL denies contacting Donald Trump about schedule clash with debates

WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump says he doesn't like that he'll be going up against NFL games when he debates Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton this fall.

Trump also says the league complained to him about the debate schedule in a letter.

A spokesman for the NFL, however, said the league did not send a letter to the billionaire businessman.

The independent, nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates serves as the debate sponsor and sets the participation criteria, dates, sites and formats of debates. The sites and dates for the 2016 debates were announced in September 2015.

The commission "did not consult with any political parties or campaigns in making these decisions," according to a statement issued Saturday.

In an interview with ABC's Sunday show "This Week," Trump was asked whether he would accept the commission's schedule.

He replied: "Well, I'll tell you what I don't like. It's against two NFL games. I got a letter from the NFL saying, 'This is ridiculous. Why are the debates against -- because the NFL doesn't want to go against the debates. Because the debates are going to be pretty massive, from what I understand, OK?"

Asked about Trump's assertion, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tweeted: "While we'd obviously wish the Debate Commission could find another night, we did not send a letter to Mr Trump."

Two of the three debates scheduled in September and October will be televised during NFL games. On Sept. 26, the night of the first debate, ESPN will carry the Monday night game featuring the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. On Oct. 9, the second debate will air opposite the Sunday night game featuring the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers on NBC.

"I don't know how the dates were picked. I don't know why those particular dates," Trump told ABC.

The commission issued another statement on Sunday clarifying how it chooses debate dates.

"The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) started working more than 18 months ago to identify religious and federal holidays, baseball league playoff games, NFL games, and other events in order to select the best nights for the 2016 debates," the statement said. "It is impossible to avoid all sporting events, and there have been nights on which debates and games occurred in most election cycles. A debate has never been rescheduled as a result.

"As a point of reference, in a four-year period, there are four general election debates (three presidential and one vice presidential) and approximately 1000 NFL games.

"The CPD selects the debate dates a year in advance in order for the television networks to have maximum lead time and predictability in scheduling these extremely important civic education forums. The CPD believes the dates for the 2016 debates will service the American public well."

Trump did say three debates were "fine" and that he'd rather have three than one.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.