SBD/Issue 245/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • Tour De France Remains Cautious Of Lance Armstrong's Return

    Tour De France Organizers Open To Allowing
    Armstrong To Ride In Next Year's Race
    Tour de France Race Dir Christian Prudhomme "did not rule out inviting" cyclist Lance Armstrong, who recently announced his intentions to return to racing, to ride in next year's Tour, but Prudhomme added that "much can happen between now and then," according to William Fotheringham of the Manchester GUARDIAN. Prudhomme: "You have to remember we are in mid-September and that a lot of water will run under the bridge before the Tour de France depart in Monaco [next July]." Team Astana GM Johan Bruyneel, who worked with Armstrong while serving in the same position for Team Discovery, yesterday said that "he was ready to work with his old leader once again if the chance arose." Bruyneel: "He won't have a problem finding a team. But it's clear that the relationship we have means that I can't allow him to go to another team. For me it would be nice to be a part of this." Team Astana cyclist Jose Luis Rubiera added, "Armstrong has got the character to do it and he would draw in millions in supporters again. At a sponsorship level, I can't see it doing anything but good" (Manchester GUARDIAN, 9/11).

    OBSTACLES IN THE ROAD: Prudhomme "cautioned that anti-doping rules had become stricter since Armstrong last raced in 2005." USA TODAY's Sal Ruibal writes Prudhomme's comments are an "indication that Tour organizers are still suspicious that Armstrong circumvented doping rules during his seven-year win streak." Those suspicions "might also be an obstacle for joining" Team Astana, which was "banned from this year's Tour because of past doping offenses when it was under different management." Prudhomme has not indicated whether the team's ban would be lifted for the '09 race (USA TODAY, 9/11). The AP's Jerome Pugmire noted Armstrong's comeback plans "aren't being met with sweeping enthusiasm from the cyclists he hopes to race against." Team Astana cyclist Levi Leipheimer, who rode with Armstrong for one Tour while on the U.S. Postal Service team, "seemed soured by talk of riding with Armstrong again." Leipheimer: "I don't want to talk about it." Team QuickStep cyclist Tom Boonen: "Why is everybody so impressed? I'm surprised in a way that I don't know what he's got to win from it. If somebody feels like racing just let him race" (AP, 9/10).

    Armstrong Hopes Comeback Will Boost
    Ability To Raise Money For Cancer Research
    WHAT'S THE MOTIVE? The WASHINGTON POST's Sally Jenkins in an online chat said Armstrong with his comeback is "interested in multiplying the money that can be raised to fight cancer on a very large scale, and his best platform for fundraising is aboard a bike, it's the best way for him to command attention." Jenkins, who has co-authored two books with Armstrong, said Armstrong has a "new lifestyle website that he's rolling out, on which he issues dares to his readers to compete in their every day lives, and he may want to put his own body where his mouth is. And he feels like he's fit enough and still viable enough to make a run at the thing" (, 9/10). But in St. Louis, Dave Luecking wrote while Armstrong’s "stated reason to return is to turn his LiveStrong brand into an international cancer-fighting juggernaut, I figure he could have done that without returning to the bike" (, 9/10).

    TO RIDE OR NOT TO RIDE: The BBC's Tom Fordyce writes for "those who see Armstrong as one of modern sport's great heroes, it's the best thing that could possibly happen to a sport that has lacked household names and good news since he retired." If Armstrong "rides the Tour and loses, it might tarnish his proud record," and if he wins, it "throws an unflattering light over every other rider in the sport" (, 9/11). But in Baltimore, Childs Walker writes, "I wish Lance Armstrong would stay retired from professional cycling." Armstrong is "fighting a battle that goes beyond his competitive legacy, and it's one he cannot win." If Armstrong in the Tour "rides poorly, critics will say he's incapable of greatness under stricter drug testing." But if Armstrong "wins, they'll say he's still a master at beating the system." If journalists "dig up more dirt, true or not, his legacy will be further tarnished" (Baltimore SUN, 9/11).

    SPONSOR LOYALTY: The WASHINGTON POST's Jenkins said of Armstrong signing with a team, "I'd be extremely surprised if he did anything that conflicted with his loyalty to Nike and to Oakley, because they were there when no one else was. Extremely. However, if he got the okay from them to go in a different direction, he's a cool enough businessman to do it" (, 9/10). A Portland OREGONIAN editorial stated despite the "close relationship" between Armstrong and Nike Chair Phil Knight, the brand "never quite managed the art of marketing cycling shoes or apparel," and "few in the bike biz were surprised when, soon after Armstrong retired, Nike backed out of the cycling business altogether." However, Nike does produce a "Livestrong line of off-the-bike clothing from which all profits go to Armstrong's foundation for fighting cancer" (, 9/10).

    LANDIS NEXT? In London, Brendan Gallagher reports Floyd Landis, who was suspended two years following testing positive for testosterone during his '06 Tour de France win, "intends to resume competing in February." Landis is "reportedly on the point of announcing details of a contract to ride with a team formed by the Momentum Sports Group." Momentum Team Dir Mike Tamayo: "We are in negotiations for 2009, but as of yet we have not signed a contract" (London TELEGRAPH, 9/11).

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  • Bivens Surprised By Criticism Of LPGA's English-Proficiency Policy

    Bivens Says English-Proficiency
    Plan Was Not An Official Policy
    LPGA Commissioner Carolyn Bivens yesterday said that she was "surprised by nationwide criticism" of the LPGA's plan to suspend players who fail to pass an English language proficiency test, according to the Mobile PRESS-REGISTER. Bivens: "Of course I was (surprised) because it wasn't a policy, it was not ready for prime time, and it spun out of control. ... It was a private conversation, a private meeting. It wasn't intended to be an announcement at that point." The plan has since been rescinded, but Bivens added, "The average fan actually understands the actual intentions of the program better than others do. We get feedback from our players, our tournament directors and our sponsors. Some of the media misunderstood aspects of all this." Bivens noted that the LPGA's sponsors "are 'global sponsors,' and as such the aim of the program and any new policies is an attempt to address international attention and branding for the LPGA" (Mobile PRESS-REGISTER, 9/11). Bivens added, “Without players able to speak a common language, to be able to at least communicate who and what they are, our international players get lost in the media" ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 9/10).

    PLAYERS REACT: LPGA golfer Se Ri Pak, a South Korea native, yesterday defended the LPGA, saying that learning English "can benefit rising international stars." Pak said that it is "important for young players who don't speak English to learn it so they can discuss their successes on the course." Pak: "They're like hiding behind a shadow because they just can't talk and can't really get attention for it." Golfer Johanna Head: "When a player has won, they should be able to speak good English so they can communicate." Golfer Alena Sharp said that the policy "isn't to 'single out players,' and it was 'silly' for the LPGA to backtrack on it." Sharp: "Something needs to be done. I don't want to lose any more sponsors." But golfer Stacy Lewis said of the original policy, "I don't think it's fair because I think you should be out here based on your play, not what language you speak" (AP, 9/10). Paula Creamer said the penalty for players not learning English was “way too harsh” (Golf Channel, 9/10).

    OUT OF BOUNDS: GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Baldry notes the LPGA "calmed the storm by removing the teeth of its policy, but the story is far from over." The tour "has yet to disclose how it will evaluate players' English and what, if any, penalties might be assessed." Baldry: "It's yet another example of poor execution from [Bivens], who has ruffled more than her share of feathers in her three-year tenure" (GOLFWEEK, 9/13 issue). GOLF WORLD's Ron Sirak writes the "outrage since the LPGA revealed its plan for the English-proficiency requirement clearly was not what the tour expected, which raises the question: Why not?" Sirak: "There is no question language at times creates problems for the LPGA. But this matter could have been handled on an individual basis. ... Foreign money has played a major role in the LPGA's growth, and part of the price is cultural respect. That's the lesson here" (GOLF WORLD, 9/12 issue).

    MOVING ON: In Boston, Jim McCabe writes the LPGA owes golfer Michelle Wie a "huge thank you." Wie in two weeks will attend LPGA Q-School for the first time, which has "led to talk about something other than the 'English proficiency' issue that was a public relations nightmare" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/11).

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  • Roger Goodell Appears On Showtime's Debut Of "Inside The NFL"

    Goodell (r) Discusses NFL Issues In
    Sit-Down With Brown On "Inside The NFL"
    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appeared on the season-debut of Showtime's "Inside the NFL" and participated in a one-on-one interview with Showtime's James Brown, discussing a variety of issues affecting the league. Brown asked, “Commissioner, I guess by design or not, certainly one of the hallmarks of your tenure as commissioner has been your very firm policy against player misconduct. … Does (the Bengals re-signing WR Chris Henry) undermine your stance about player conduct?” Goodell: “I don't believe so, JB. I think all of our personnel, including players, coaches and everyone involved with the NFL understands what is expected with them when they're involved with the NFL. Chris obviously made some mistakes. Young people make mistakes. Our point is, don't make critical mistakes repeatedly, and I think Chris understands this is his last opportunity, and I'm rooting for him. I hope he will succeed. But he also needs to understand he has run out of rope with respect to future mistakes.” Brown noted the NFL recently hired a gang expert and asked, “What was the genesis of that, commissioner?” Goodell: “We’ve long had a policy that when you’re on the field in the NFL you’re there to represent the NFL and you’re not there to send personal messages, and we consider (flashing gang signs) a personal message. ... Since we're not aware of all of the gang signals, we thought we needed to get some expertise in the area.”

    CBA NEGOTIATIONS: Goodell touched on the passing of NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw and the impact that will have on future CBA negotiations. Goodell: "We're working with our clubs right now to focus on what are the priorities for the ownership. What’s happened right now is our system is 60% of the gross, but the cost of generating that revenue continues to grow at a rapid rate and there’s no recognition of that. Second, there are a number of system issues that need to be addressed. Of course, into that falls the rookie pool. I think that’s something that we’ve been quite outspoken about. I think the last thing would be our retired players. We do believe that the retired players’ needs (have) to be addressed in a responsible fashion. They're the men that helped build the game and we owe a debt of gratitude and should be responsible to them.”

    CUTTING PRESEASON GAMES: Brown noted preseason games are a "pretty profitable center" for team owners and asked if the owners agree on "reducing the number of preseason games." Goodell: “It’s something that we’re evaluating. I think everyone recognizes that the preseason, the quality of the preseason, is not up to NFL standards and that has been the focus that I’ve had with the ownership over the last year. I think there’s a recognition of that within the ownership. On the other hand, it’s something that I think we need to address for our fans. I think it’s not meeting those standards and our fans are asking us to address that, and make sure that it’s higher quality football" ("Inside the NFL," Showtime, 9/10).

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  • NHL Insurance Plan Covers Player Contracts For Seven Years

    The NHL's insurance plan insures player contracts for seven years, and "beyond that, if the player gets hurt, the team is on the hook for the full amount of his contract," according to Luke DeCock of the Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER. As part of the plan, which the NHL purchases through New York-based insurance broker BWD Group, NHL teams are "required to insure a handful of players through a 'temporary total disability' program administered by the league." Each team "pays a premium based on the salaries of its five highest-paid players, but is free to allocate that coverage how it wishes." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that "typically, a team will extend coverage to as many as seven players." Insurance coverage "kicks in when a player misses at least 30 games," and insuring a player under the league program "costs about 5[%] of his salary." But Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said, "When you get to a certain dollar amount, the premiums keep skyrocketing. I wish it was easier to get each (player) insured, but we can't do that." DeCock noted individual teams "are free to pursue additional coverage, but the heavy premiums make it a losing proposition." Rutherford said that "seeking private insurance to cover a longer deal is prohibitively expensive." The Hurricanes this season "will pay almost $1[M] for $19[M] of coverage through the league program, but even that process isn't simple," as insurers "may balk at something as specific as an individual body part." Rutherford said that the Hurricanes "were able to insure [RW] Justin Williams last season despite a previous injury to his right knee." Williams missed more than three months with a knee injury and the team received insurance payments, but they "wouldn't be able to insure that knee again this season" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/10).

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