SBD/Issue 192/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • MLBPA General Counsel Weiner Popular Among Players, Owners

    Weiner Popular With MLB Players, Owners,
    But His Fan Reception Remains To Be Seen
    MLBPA General Counsel Michael Weiner, whom outgoing Exec Dir Donald Fehr recommended as his successor following his retirement next March, is "popular among the players he represents and the management side he negotiates with," but whether he "resonates with fans will be learned after he is elected and has to call a news conference someday, perhaps to deliver bad news," according to Alan Schwarz of the N.Y. TIMES. Tigers VP & Baseball Legal Counsel John Westhoff, who "dealt with Weiner during two decades as a lawyer in the commissioner's office," said, "When I’ve had issues to be resolved and needed assistance from the other side, he’s the guy I would pick up the phone and call. He’s not so dogmatic where every issue had to go to arbitration. When you try to reach an amicable settlement, he’s the guy to go to. I’m very hopeful that that will translate in his new position." Schwarz notes Weiner was hired as a union lawyer in '88 and over 20 years his role "has grown to the point where he was the primary negotiator with ownership over the labor contract in 2002, when a work stoppage was narrowly averted for the first time in decades, and 2006, when a strike was never a discernible threat." Many MLB observers, from team execs to players, have credited Weiner and MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations Rob Manfred with "easing longtime tensions between the sides." But Weiner "brushed off any credit for the change." He said that the "personalities of the negotiators still would not have averted work stoppages like those" in '90 and '94. Weiner: "But over my 21 years at the association, I would say there has been a greater acceptance by the owners and by the commissioner’s office of the role the union has in the game and in the business. ... At this point, there is a respect or an understanding that the union is a part of the picture and a part of the picture that can be positive" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/24).

    LEAVING MIXED LEGACY: SI.com's Tom Verducci wrote Fehr "did his job too well," as he "used his 'freedom' to help preserve the status quo, which was to allow baseball and its record book to be decided by which great ballplayers used the best chemists and the best drugs, and to push the clean players of his union to either cheat or be competitively disadvantaged." The problem for Fehr's legacy is that the era was "too corrupt and his responsibility too great for steroids not to diminish his brilliance as a director and negotiator" (SI.com, 6/23). In San Diego, Tim Sullivan writes under the header, "Fehr Assessment: Guy Did His Job." Fehr "filled the role for which he was hired with spectacular success, lifting the average player salary more than tenfold." When he "caught the owners colluding, Fehr clobbered them in court," and in a period "marked by the decline of organized labor, Fehr led his members through three work stoppages without an appreciable loss of solidarity or the concession of a salary cap." Sullivan: "Judged by his job description, then, Fehr was fabulous. History, however, may not be so flattering." His legacy includes a "record book that has been rendered almost meaningless and a Hall of Fame that could be hollowed by conspicuous omissions." Sullivan: "That's a high price to pay, no matter how much money you're making" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 6/24). Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice: "The first paragraph of his career obituary right now is going to be steroids, but in the larger scheme, those of us close to the industry, it's remarkable that he got his group to always speak with one voice" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 6/23). Washington Post columnist Mike Wise: "I hate to look past a person that's preserved labor peace for 14 years and some of the things he's done. Bottom line, I'm going to remember him as a guy who helped put the national pastime into no longer the national pastime" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 6/23). Fanhouse.com's Kevin Blackistone: "If there's one guy who's tied to this whole nastiness in baseball for the last quarter century ... it's Donald Fehr and the poor leadership that he's had for the union" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 6/23).

    Writers Praise Fehr And His
    Dedication To The Players
    FOCUS ON THE GOOD: The GLOBE & MAIL's Stephen Brunt writes under the header, "Fehr's Legacy Is Stability, Despite The Drama." Fehr was "acting only in the best interests of the players, and that's a very different thing" than acting in the best interest of the game. The fact that Fehr "did it extremely well, that he evolved on the job and that he has now presided over a long stretch of prosperity and labour tranquility tends to get lost in the shuffle." Blue Jays interim CEO Paul Beeston: "He always wanted to do what was right for the game. I don't think a lot of people understood that." Beeston: "He was prepared, smart, tough and he listened to his constituents. ... He never got ahead of the players." Brunt writes MLB owners and players all "prospered together" under Fehr, and the "business of the sport still seems to be in very good shape, despite the moral theatrics of the drug scandals." Brunt: "Baseball, declared dead more than once, is alive and kicking in the 21st century. That's also part of Don Fehr's legacy" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/24).

    BLAST FROM THE PAST: Former MLBPA Exec Dir Marvin Miller, who preceded Fehr, said, "Don has faced some problems that I never had to. When I say that, people immediately jump on the drugs and steroids question, but that's not it at all." Miller: "During the time of my tenure, I always had a significant number of players who had played major league baseball before there was a union. And the point is these were people who knew first-hand what the union had done. ... Don's tenure, after a short while, had not a single member who played one day of major league baseball before the union. That's a tremendous handicap, because people have a tendency to think the conditions we find were always like that." But SI.com's Ted Keith wrote it is "clear from his comments that one thing Miller does not think Fehr has handled particularly well has been the game's Steroid Era." Miller: "I would not have allowed for so-called universal testing. I am aware the Constitution of the United States does not prohibit private management from doing such testing, but I do know that the founders of this country wrote that the government can't do that" (SI.com, 6/23).

    STAND BY YOUR MAN: ESPN's John Kruk Monday gave Fehr a "C" grade for his tenure, but Rays P Joe Nelson said, "I don't know how many meetings Kruk went to. I don't know how active he was. The players of today and for the last 10 years, we make the money we make, we have the deals we have all because of Donald. ... Donald has always done what the players asked." Nelson added that it is "unfair to blame Fehr for the players' use of steroids." Nelson: "I heard (ESPN's) Buster Olney say that Donald's legacy is going to have steroids. Donald never showed up and injected anybody. He fought for our rights" (MLB.com, 6/23). Mets P and player rep J.J. Putz: "I don't think he really failed the players all that much. I think in the media and the fans he may have failed them. But his primary job was to make sure that we were taken care of. I think as an entire group of players, I think we're better off for having Donald Fehr as our Executive Director" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 6/23).

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  • Judge Rules NHL Has Been Underfunding Players' Pension Funds

    An Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that the NHL has been "underfunding its players' pension plans by millions of dollars, shortchanging widows over a number of decades," according to Paperny & Shoalts of the GLOBE & MAIL. The judge's decision "means the league will have to top up its pension fund by as much as" $30M, and "may have to make retroactive payments to the widows of deceased players." The suit, brought forward last year by the NHLPA, "charged that errors in the calculation of pensions for players who died before 1986 meant their widows received as little as" 10% of the funds entitled to them. NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly yesterday said, "We're very pleased the court has ruled in favour of the position we advocated. ... We are still studying the decision. We will get together with the trustees from the league in a week or so to see how we will implement this." Paperny & Shoalts note teams now will "have to provide the money to top up the pension fund." The NHL "will have the opportunity to appeal the decision" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/24).

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  • Does IndyCar Series Need Prominent American Drivers To Succeed?

    Rahal Says Series Must Capture American
    Audience Before Expanding Internationally

    The IndyCar Series is "faced with a quandry," as the drivers in the series are from throughout the world, but the "vast majority of races [are] contested in America," according to Shawn Fenner of the RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH. It begs the question as to whether prominent American drivers being in "contention for wins and in league promotion efforts" is needed. Driver Scott Dixon, who is from New Zealand, said, "Open-wheel racing has been more of an international series in the U.S. as compared to say NASCAR. ... It's great to have American drivers, as this is an American-based series, but the diversity in drivers, types of tracks and so on is what gives this series its identity." Brazilian-born driver Helio Castroneves added, "Open-wheel racing was always an international series. In America, there's a lot of international people, too. You can select from a lot of drivers and become a fan of somebody." But driver Graham Rahal, who was born in Ohio, said, "It's obviously important to promote American drivers. We want to be international, yes, but first you have to capture the American audience." IRL Commercial Division President Terry Angstadt: "Promoting American drivers, it's very important. Counterpoint to that is diversity. ... We really embrace diversity, not only male/female, but it's the international mix of our drivers" (RICHMOND TIMES-DISPATCH, 6/23). The following is a list of the top 10 drivers in the IndyCar standings and their home country (THE DAILY).

    DRIVER
    HOME COUNTRY
    Ryan Briscoe
    Australia
    Dario Franchitti
    Scotland
    Scott Dixon
    New Zealand
    Helio Castroneves
    Brazil
    Danica Patrick
    U.S.
    Dan Wheldon
    England
    Tony Kanaan
    Brazil
    Marco Andretti
    U.S.
    Graham Rahal
    U.S.
    Hideki Mutoh
    Japan

    NATIONAL HONOR: Driver Paul Tracy's No. 15 KV Racing Technology IndyCar entry will be sponsored by the Ontario Honda Dealers Association and will support Wounded Warriors.ca in the Honda Indy Toronto on July 12 (IRL). In Toronto, Norris McDonald notes Tracy's car is "red and white in colour and sports the Wounded Warriors.ca logo on the side pods." Tracy, a native of Toronto, said the sponsorship is the "coolest thing I've ever done in my whole career." Tracy: "For a proud Canadian to race in support of our Canadian troops is one of the proudest things I think I've done in my life" (TORONTO STAR, 6/24).

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  • HBO's Gumbel Praises Roger Goodell For Leadership Qualities

    Goodell Defines Leadership
    In Sports For Gumbel
    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is the only leader of the four major pro team sports that "seems to understand the concept" of leadership and "not run from it," according to HBO's Bryant Gumbel. The final segment of HBO's "Real Sports" last night was devoted to the concept of leadership in sports. Gumbel said, "In 1964, Justice Potter Stewart famously said he couldn't define pornography, but he knew it when he saw it. Well the same could be said for leadership in that it defies easy definition." Gumbel: "Unlike his predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, who couldn't lead a two-man parade, Goodell seems determined to not only lead the NFL, but redefine the nature of its character. His conduits to do so right now are a pair of troubled wide receivers named Donte Stallworth and Plaxico Burress, both of whom would seem to have successfully circumvented the judicial process." Gumbel added, "Thankfully, Goodell seems determined to act where the judicial will not" ("Real Sports," HBO, 6/23).

    TOO HARSH ON TAGLIABUE? PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Mike Florio wrote Gumbel’s characterization of Tagliabue’s leadership skills "seems to be unfair” even though “many of the current problems with which Goodell is wrestling were created and/or ignored by Tagliabue” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 6/23). FANGSBITES.com's Kenny Fang wrote, “I like this particular commentary although I feel Bryant’s words on Tagliabue are a bit harsh” (FANGSBITES.com, 6/23).

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