SBD/Issue 56/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • NFLPA Files Suit To Overturn Suspensions In StarCaps Case

    Suspensions To Vikings DTs Pat (l) And
    Kevin Williams Part Of NFLPA's Suit
    The NFLPA today filed suit on behalf of Vikings DTs Kevin and Pat Williams, Saints DEs Charles Grant and Will Smith and Saints RB Deuce McAllister to block the four-game suspensions they recieved from the NFL "for violating the league's anti-doping policy," according to Steve Karnowski of the AP. The positive tests were derived from a "banned diuretic that can be used as a masking agent for steroids" that was not listed as an ingredient on a supplement. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, alleges NFL-appointed personel "breached their duty to the players and endangered their physical well-being" (AP, 12/4). ESPN's Chris Mortensen cited a source as saying that the action will "ask the federal court for a ruling" by tomorrow. The basis for the NFLPA's action is "founded on many of the same arguments that resulted in a temporary restraining order" issued yesterday in Minneapolis district court that allows Kevin and Pat Williams to immediately "return to the team" (ESPN.com, 12/3).

    BATTLE IN THE TRENCHES: In Minneapolis, Olson & Zulgad report both Kevin and Pat Williams yesterday returned to the Vikings training facility after Hennepin County (MN) District Court Judge Gary Larson granted them a "temporary restraining order to rejoin the team." Larson acknowledged "leaving the case in limbo after he issued his ruling," but said that he is "poised to conduct a full hearing as early as today, if that's what the NFL wants." As a result, Larson could "still issue an order" before Sunday's Vikings-Lions game that would make the Williamses ineligible to play. NFL attorney Dan Nash: "I'm not sure what our next step will be." Nash added that if the NFL "doesn't try to move the case to federal court, he will want a hearing today." Attorney Peter Ginsberg, repping the Williamses, said that the players would "fight a move to federal court" from the district court. The NFL, in response to the ruling, said in a statement, "The NFL policy on steroids and related substances is a collectively bargained program between the league and the NFL Players Association. The program and the collective bargaining agreement expressly bar precisely this kind of lawsuit."  Larson issued his ruling after an "hour of vigorous debate from both sides." Nash, following Larson's ruling, "pushed the judge hard against allowing the players to return to the team even for a short time." Nash: "You'd have ESPN all over the place. This is going to be a sideshow" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 12/4). Larson yesterday acknowledged that he was "not familiar with the NFL or its" CBA with the NFLPA. Nash, after the hearing, said that the league has "not decided how to proceed" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/4).

    STATE OF AFFAIRS: Hamline Univ. professor David Allen Larson and Minnesota-based attorneys Wayne Kenas and Marshall Tanick yesterday indicated that the state of Minnesota's drug-testing statutes give Kevin and Pat Williams a "fighting chance to beat NFL-imposed suspensions." Kenas: "Minnesota players are employed in the state of Minnesota. As such, they've got protections that the rest of the players in the league don't have." Larson: "Minnesota has a lot of details for drug testing, and I doubt that was done by the NFL, because these are specific to Minnesota." Kenas indicated that there are "several violations by the NFL" of the Minnesota Drug & Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act, and noted that there "cannot be discipline for testing positive for a drug not outlined by the state." Kenas: "They can ban it in 49 states, but they can't ban it in Minnesota" (Sean Jensen, ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 12/4).

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  • Union Plans To Appeal Giants' Punishment Of Plaxico Burress

    NFLPA Planning To File Grievance
    Over Giants' Punishment Of Burress
    The NFLPA is planning "to appeal the Giants' decision to punish" WR Plaxico Burress, which "could be the first step toward helping the troubled receiver recover some of his lost money," according to Ralph Vacchiano of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. An NFLPA spokesperson said that the union "intends to file a grievance that will claim the Giants somehow violated" the league's CBA Tuesday when they suspended Burress for "four games without pay, fined him an undisclosed amount and ended his season by placing him" on the team's non-football injury list. The move cam after Burress was charged with two counts of felony gun possession after accidentally shooting himself Saturday morning. An NFL source indicated that Burress' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, has "already been in contact with union officials about finding a way to lessen" Burress' financial hit (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/4). On Long Island, Tom Rock notes it is "not clear which rights the union plans on contesting" (NEWSDAY, 12/4).

    DISPUTED CALL: In N.Y., Katie Thomas notes the Burress incident has placed NFL Security, the league's "low-profile investigative unit, in the unusual position of clashing with the local police." N.Y. Police Department (NYPD) officials and N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this week criticized NFL investigators, as well as the Giants, for "not promptly reporting the shooting to the authorities." But NFL VP/Security Milt Ahlerich yesterday "disputed the police account of events and said his unit had cooperated fully with law enforcement." Ahlerich: "We spoke to very senior levels in the NYPD and said we have this situation that we believe to be true with Plaxico Burress -- by name -- that ... happened in a nightclub of some sort, and he is in a hospital in New York with a gunshot wound." Thomas notes while NFL Security, with a staff of just 13, "rarely makes headlines, the department has played a role in many of the NFL's most prominent news stories in recent years" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/4).

    TIME STAMP: Giants officials yesterday admitted that they knew Burress "accidentally shot himself minutes after it happened -- but the team didn't report the incident to police for at least eight hours." The Giants also acknowledged for the first time that LB Antonio Pierce, who was with Burress on the night of the shooting, called Giants VP/Medical Services Ronnie Barnes "moments after his teammate's illegal gun accidentally went off." Giants officials have said that they notified NFL Security about the shooting, which happened at around 1:50am ET, "sometime after 10 a.m. and that the league told police." But Bloomberg has "contradicted that, saying the NYPD did not learn about the shooting until seeing TV reports" Saturday afternoon (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/4).

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  • NHLPA's Paul Kelly Could Be In Tough Spot Over Avery Situation

    Avery's Contract With Stars 
    Includes Morality Language
    NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly "would be put into a difficult spot" if the Stars take the "unprecedented step of trying to fire" LW Sean Avery for cause, according to Eric Duhatschek of the GLOBE & MAIL. Avery, who has been suspended indefinitely for controversial comments he made Tuesday, this morning was scheduled to meet with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at league HQs in N.Y. Avery signed a four-year, $15.5M deal with the Stars in July, and his contract requires him to "conduct himself on and off the rink according to the highest standard of honesty, morality, fair play and sportsmanship." But did Avery cross a "legal boundary line and if so, could the Stars void that rich payout on the grounds that Avery breached a contract that the two sides agreed to, in good faith, only five months before?" The NHLPA "would almost certainly need to run to his defence, because of the dangerous precedent it might set," but there is "no way [Kelly] could defend Avery's words." Duhatschek writes Bettman was "perfectly within his rights to suspend Avery for conduct detrimental to the league" (GLOBE & MAIL, 12/4). Avery yesterday apologized for his comments, saying, "I should not have made those comments and I recognize that they were inappropriate. It was a bad attempt to build excitement for the game. ... I apologize for offending the great fans of the NHL, the commissioner, my teammates, my coaching staff and the Dallas Stars management and ownership" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 12/3).

    ANY PUBLICITY GOOD PUBLICITY? In Calgary, Randy Sportak writes under the header, "Avery Hurts The Game: Lewd Public Talk By Notorious Pest Shines Negative Light On NHL." The NHL "needs media attention" in the U.S., but "attention on the PerezHilton and TMZ websites isn't what the league had in mind." Sometimes negative attention "isn't better than no attention at all." Flames C Craig Conroy: "This is a great sport, great guys in it, and when you have one guy make comments like that, it makes the league look bad" (CALGARY SUN, 12/4). SI.com's Michael Farber said, "I think it's terrible for the league. It's demeaning, it's misogynist. I'm not of the school that believes all publicity is good publicity. ... It's in the spirit of protecting the image of the game that Bettman acted" (SI.com, 12/3). CBSSPORTS.com's Ray Ratto: "The league stepped in to say, without actually saying it, 'There really is something we won't tolerate no matter how much notice it gets us.' ... Until this, we were sure they would do literally anything to get someone to pay attention to them" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/3). The CBC's Don Cherry: "This is worse than a guy hitting from behind because there is something creepy about the whole thing. ... To think that somebody would say (it is a good thing) just because we're talking about the National Hockey League because the guy would say a creepy thing like that -- that's just nonsense" ("The Jim Rome Show," 12/3). ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun wrote in an online chat, "We need characters to sell the game in the U.S., but not guys who cross the line" (ESPN.com, 12/3). But FOXSPORTS.com's Jason Whitlock writes, "I just can't fathom the Sean Avery controversy. This has to be some kind of desperate publicity stunt for a terrific sport that is being ignored" (FOXSPORTS.com, 12/4).

    Writers Support Bettman's Decision
    To Suspend Avery Following Comments
    MOVE STOPPED VIGILANTE JUSTICE: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ryan Dixon wrote the decision to "immediately suspend Avery was a good one, partially because it curbed the possibility of Clint Eastwood-style vengeance on Dion Phaneuf's part." But Dixon wrote the "indignation some people showed in the wake of the comments made me fear I was going to drown in a sea of hypocrisy" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 12/3). MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann named Avery one of his “Worst Persons In the World” in his regular segment on MSNBC’s “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” last night. Olbermann: “There is a conspiracy theory out there now that Avery did this deliberately in order to get suspended because (Phaneuf) might have beaten the Shinola out of him during their game” (MSNBC, 12/3). The CBC's Cherry said there is "no doubt somebody would get him" if he was not suspended. Cherry: "It’d be pretty tough on his own club because it would be too obvious, but somebody, but somebody else would get him in the league.” When host asked him to clarify if one of Avery’s Stars teammates may try to hurt him, Cherry said, “I wouldn’t be surprised (to hear that something happened) in the practices” (“The Jim Rome Show,” 12/3). ESPN's Matthew Barnaby said the league "should have made him play in that game like the … rest of the Dallas Stars wanted. Make him pay the price for what he said.” But ESPN’s Brian Kenny said, "You’ve got to be careful of frontier justice though too” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 12/3).

    GRAY AREA: ESPN.com's Damien Cox wrote, "This is the reality that professional sports leagues confront when they attempt to legislate against words or thoughts. Without the benefit of a public vote to tell them what their constituents believe is a proper code of verbal conduct, these organizations rely on reflexes or gut feelings when it comes time to decide what is lively trash talk and what crosses the line into untoward politicization of their sport, a hate crime or simple crude and boorish behavior." Never mind that the NHL "does little or nothing to stop the words that athletes exchange on the ice, mostly because there's little it can do about attempts to get the other guy 'off his game.'" But after Avery's comments Tuesday, the NHL "suddenly felt compelled to act." Cox: "This is an imprecise science at best, and Bettman's heart is probably in the right place" (ESPN.com, 12/3). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, “The thing I have trouble with is (the NHL) promotes goonery, they promote thuggery, they want players who will get under the skin of other players and then get into fights, but they don’t want bad language?” (“PTI,” ESPN, 12/3).

    MORE IMPORTANT ISSUES: SI.com's Allan Muir wrote, "Real threats to the game ... have been boiling over for the past month, and yet Bettman chooses to assert his authority over a schoolyard-level incident with a zinger so lacking in impact that it was rebroadcast verbatim on the NHL's own network." If Bettman had "any real understanding of the game, he would have left this to be addressed on the ice by the Flames." Maybe Bettman is "just doing a favor for his buddy" Stars Owner Tom Hicks (SI.com, 12/3). In Ft. Worth, Jennifer Floyd Engel writes Bettman suspended Avery "because he's a reactionary wussy who probably had to look up the term [sloppy seconds] in his urban dictionary" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/4). In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes, "This is, in truth, an historical time: The first NHL player to get a lengthy suspension ostensibly for being an ass. This is all very serious -- but also it is ridiculous." This is not like NFL Giants WR Plaxico Burress shooting himself in the leg, as there was no gun, "nobody got shot" and "nobody is going to jail"  (TORONTO SUN, 12/4).

    NO SURPRISE: In Dallas, Tim MacMahon wrote, "So Avery being an obnoxious, immature jerk surprises Hicks?" The Stars "decided that class wasn't a priority when they signed Avery." They knew "what they were getting, and it wasn't a guy who could be held to a higher standard off the ice" (DALLASNEWS.com, 12/3). A DALLAS MORNING NEWS editorial states, "We can hope that Stars owner Tom Hicks, his co-general managers and their coaches have the good sense to make the current separation with Mr. Avery permanent." The editorial: "Whatever part of Mr. Avery's ... contract the Stars must eat to make him go away, it's money well spent." Hicks has "shown before that he'll pay what it takes to do the right thing," and it is "hard to see that he has any other choice this time" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/4).

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  • Brandon Jennings' Struggles In Italy May Impact Future Players

    Jennings Averaging Just 4.9 PPG In Europe
    When high school basketball player Brandon Jennings this summer elected to play professionally in Italy rather than in college, some observers "dubbed Jennings the pioneer of a new era," but a month into Jennings' "European experiment, the reverberations of said 'revolution' have given way to deafening silence," according to Barker Davis of the WASHINGTON TIMES. Jennings, who is averaging 4.9 points and 3.0 assists in 17.3 minutes per game for Italian club Lottomatica Roma, has "all but vanished from basketball's collective conscious." While Jennings is being "well-compensated for his spot duty," earning a reported $3M-plus this season from his contract and an endorsement deal with Under Armour, the "long-term wisdom of his career choice remains questionable." Jennings is expected to enter the '09 NBA Draft, and if he "slips below the lottery level," his experience playing in Europe could have a "profound impact on future prep superstars considering the most practical path to the NBA." If Jennings "falls out of the lottery by virtue of his season in Europe," then the NBA's age limit would have had its "intended impact -- protecting NBA franchises from making a mistake on a prospective draftee." That logic will be "reinforced if Jennings' stock continues to drop." Davis notes not only is the NBA "unlikely to drop the age requirement, it's likely to push for a second-season and 20-year-old age restriction in the next" CBA negotiations in 2011. NBA Commissioner David Stern, when asked if he was concerned about U.S. talent defecting to Europe, said, "We are not concerned. We are confident that the world's top young players will continue to choose to play in the NBA because of both the level of competition and because they can make more money in the NBA" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 12/4).

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