SBD/Issue 87/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • SI's King Says Work Stoppage Likely To Delay/Cancel '11 NFL Season

    Smith Tells Players That Owners
    Want To Cut Compensation By 18%
    It will be an "upset if there isn't a work stoppage that either delays or cancels" the '11 NFL season, according to Peter King of SI.com. The "total lack of progress over the nut issue in 11 bargaining sessions" indicates that "unless there's a sea-change by one side or the other, you'd better savor the 2010 season because it could be the last football we see for a while." At the "core of the problem is ownership's demand for players to bear an equal part of the cost for stadium construction, debt service and upkeep -- and the players saying it's not their problem." NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith in a recent e-mail to player reps "startled player leaders by saying ownership wanted to cut player compensation by 18[%] per year in the new CBA." King: "I thought the 18[%] number might be an exaggeration, a scare tactic to get players' attention. It's not." An NFL source said that owners "have asked that the players' pool of revenue against which the salary cap is calculated be reduced" by 18%, and a union source said that the players are "not prepared to take a penny, or a percentage point, less." King: "I wouldn't be surprised if there is some give-and-take in the owners' demands, because this is collective bargaining, but I would be surprised if the owners drop this as a demand altogether. ... But from the players' perspective, it's got to be a tough sell to union leaders." More King: "Imagine Smith going into a union meeting at a team and telling the players that the average compensation to the men in this room is about $1.8[M] this year in salary and bonus payments, and explaining to them in a time of bountiful success for the NFL, each of the players is going to have to take, on average, a $324,000 pay cut. The players will never go for that" (SI.com, 1/18). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro wrote the NFL could see the "most traumatic work stoppage in sports history, and there's no need to even argue the point" (N.Y. POST, 1/17).

    UNION AGAIN PUTS ONUS ON LEAGUE: Smith said of the current CBA, "We signed this deal in 2006 so every player thought this was going to be an agreement that lasted until 2012. So the players want to play. We didn't walk away from the deal at all; the owners did. ... What our fans should know is what the facts are, and that our players want to play and our fans should know it's the owners who have taken these steps, not the players" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 1/19).

    IMPACT ON ASSISTANT COACHES: In Milwaukee, Greg Bedard reported the group "set up to take the hardest hit" from a possible work stoppage is assistant coaches. Most coaching staffs "run with contracts through the next season, so nearly all have contracts through '10." However, negotiations "have been going on since the end of the season about contracts for '11," and assistant coaches typically are "getting a raw deal." Owners are "putting language in new contracts that not only calls for up to a 50% wage reduction in the event of a lockout, but the right for the team to terminate the coach without further payment past 60 days." NFL Coaches Association Exec Dir Larry Kennan: "It's horrible. We're not involved in the work stoppage. The club is telling us 'we're not going to allow you to work, therefore we're going to cut your pay.' You don't like it, it's not right" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 1/16).

    Juniors Declare For '10 NFL Draft 
    As Fear Of Lockout Looms
    STRIKE WHILE THE IRON'S HOT: The NFL today announced 53 college underclassmen declared for the NFL draft by Friday's deadline, up from 46 last year and even with '08. In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz noted the increase from last year could be due in part to both the "fear of an NFL lockout" and a "rookie wage scale beginning" in '11. Schultz wrote it "seems implausible that the NFL and players won't come to terms on a new CBA," as there are "too many billions on the table." However, the "most absurd concern of all is this projected rookie wage scale, which likely would have a significant effect on only the top half of the first round (16 players)." The scale would "have minimal effect on the other 250 players taken" (AJC.com, 1/16). But SI's Stewart Mandel writes the 53 underclassmen is not the "massive rush as some feared" (TWITTER.com, 1/19).

    BAD TIMING: The INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL's Anthony Schoettle reported the Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee and the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association said that planning for Super Bowl XLVI in '12 is "proceeding at full speed in spite of the labor issue." Central Indiana Corporate Partnership President & CEO Mark Miles, the host committee's liaison to the NFL, "thinks there is little to worry about." Organizers "have already agreed to hold open the weeks" of February 5 and February 12, but an "extended labor dispute could easily push the game to late February or even early March" (IBJ.com, 1/16).

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  • NFL Alumni Exec Dir Backs Off Comments About Rookie Wage Scale

    Martin Clarifies Recent Statement
    About NFL Rookie Wage Scale 
    NFL Alumni Association Exec Dir George Martin yesterday stepped away from a public statement he made Friday calling for the NFLPA to consider a league proposal to institute a rookie wage scale for this year's NFL Draft and give some of the savings to retired NFL players. "I am told this increase would be $100[M] starting out," Martin said in the statement issued Friday. "I hope the union will consider this proposal, as it will benefit retired players immediately, while not impacting their task of negotiating a new long term labor agreement for active players." The statement was sent along with an SBD story describing the league's proposal to institute the rookie wage scale this year -- a full year before the expiration of the NFL CBA -- and use some of the savings to improve benefits to retired players. Martin, who became NFL Alumni Exec Dir in October, yesterday said he wanted to "clarify" some of his statements. "I did not comment on labor negotiations," he said. "I am absolutely, vehemently not implying there should be a rookie wage scale." Martin added the "amount told to me would be roughly $100[M]" to be added to retired players benefits, but did not say who gave him this information. The SBD article did not report the $100M figure. Martin: "I am commenting on the aspect that alumni, former players, can derive a benefit. It's a wonderful thing and how it is derived, I don't care whether its from a taxation or a direct contribution or a cap, I would like to see it."

    INITIAL COMMENTS DRAW NFLPA REBUKE: Martin's initial comments brought a sharp rebuke from a group of retired players who were meeting with NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith on Friday. Smith in a statement said, "We want to know why the teams contribute nothing to retired players and why $31[M] profit per club isn't enough. The simple fact is the teams sell the legacy of retired players, but pay nothing for it. Every fan should know that as they look at their stadiums ring of fame, none of those players have received a dime from the teams since their last play. George Martin knows that better than anyone." The statement was signed by nine former NFLers -- Andre Collins, Jean Fugett, Clark Gaines, Nolan Harrison, Charles Mann, Mike McBath, Brig Owens, Isiah Robertson and Ray Schoenke. The letter also questioned why Martin has not attended retired players meetings Smith has held since he was elected NFLPA Exec Dir last year. Martin said he has not been able to attend NFLPA retired players meetings because of scheduling conflicts, but said he met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell three times since taking on his new job and has met up to twice a week with other league employees since taking the reins of NFL Alumni. The organization is funded in part by a $1M, interest-free loan from the NFL.

    MARTIN RESPONDS TO NFLPA, RETIRED PLAYERS: Martin this morning responded to the letter from Smith and the nine former players. The letter in part stated, “Since the day I was selected to this position in October, I have attempted to meet with Mr. Smith but unfortunately he has not been able to free his schedule to sit down with me. Fortunately, I have had numerous other conversations with leaders in the player Alumni community around the country, Commissioner Goodell, and NFL owners. ... My recent statements regarding increasing pension and medical benefits for NFL alumni was not a comment on the current CBA negotiations; rather a call to both the union and the owners to keep the best interests of retired players in mind as they negotiate the latest labor agreement for active players.”

    CBA BARGAINING CONTINUES: Meanwhile, the NFL is meeting with the NFLPA today for another formal CBA bargaining session in DC, where the league could respond to the NFLPA's counter-proposal to change rookie deals this year. Under the NFLPA's proposal there would be no wage scale, but rookie deals would be limited to three years and some savings would go to retired players. But the NFLPA's plan is conditional, based on the league agreeing to extend the current labor deal two years and for NFL owners to match any contributions active players make to retired players benefits. It is not expected that the league will accept that offer, as a league source last week said that the union was tying its offer "to extraneous proposals that they know are unacceptable." A union source responded that the NFLPA was asking owners to match the contribution to retired players that active players are willing to make.

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  • NASCAR Pleasing Fans With Plans For More Leniency On The Track

    Newman Feels NASCAR Allowing Drivers
    To Police Garage Will Be Good For Sport
    NASCAR plans to be a "kinder, gentler governing body this season and let the drivers police the garage more," and as a result the circuit is "giving the fans what they want," according to David Newton of ESPN.com. NASCAR officials intend to be "more lenient when it comes to on-the-track issues without letting things get out of control." Driver Ryan Newman yesterday during the first day of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour said, "That would be great for the sport. I've seen Kenseth and Harvick go at it. I've seen Robby Gordon and a lot of people go at it. Jimmy Spencer-Kurt Busch. All of those things have had a positive effect." He added, "That's been a part, a very staple part, of NASCAR. Taking those things away is not good." Newton noted the stricter governance of driver conduct "started with NASCAR and team owners not wanting to present a product that might embarrass the sponsors." However, the sport "became so corporate that it became vanilla." But with declining TV ratings and "constant complaints from fans and many drivers, officials are ready to go back to the future." Crashes and "controversy are to NASCAR like what big hits are to the NFL." Fans should see "more aggression, maybe even some popping off at the mouth, that will provide much-needed energy." Newton noted NASCAR officials spent the offseason "talking to drivers, owners and fans about ways to improve." Newman: "We're not getting more control. We're just getting back what we had, which is important" (ESPN.com, 1/18).

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  • League Notes

    In Providence, Bill Reynolds writes, “These are not the best of times for the NBA, not when the last week has been about lawyers, guns and money, as much as it’s been about slam dunks.” Suspended Wizards G Gilbert Arenas is “all over the news for bringing four handguns” to Verizon Center following a gambling dispute with teammate G Javaris Crittenton, and it is the “latest example of conspicuous consumption in the NBA.” Reynolds: “The last thing the NBA needs is another image problem” (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 1/19).

    GETTING CLOSE TO A DEAL? In DC, Steven Goff wrote, “I’m getting positive vibes about the negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement between MLS and the players’ union.” The current deal expires at the end of the month, and a “work stoppage in preseason, which for many teams is scheduled to begin in two weeks, wouldn’t be catastrophic.” However, “any delay to the start of the league schedule in late March would be a public relations setback for the league and sport in this country” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/17).

    Players Laud Whan For Setting Up Sponsor
    Event While Solheim Cup Members Were In DC
    MIX & MINGLE: LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan and several golfers had a chance to “mingle with sponsors” last Tuesday at an event to honor the Solheim Cup team at the University Club in DC. LPGA player Nicole Castrale said, “I believe Mike Whan orchestrated that. Then there was a question-and-answer period of 30 or 40 minutes with the team. It was a great experience. (Whan) had the whole audience, the sponsors, the players laughing. It was really a great move by the LPGA.” She added of Whan, “He is fantastic. He grabs the attention in the room when he speaks, you listen and you want to listen” (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 1/17).

    SUING FOR DAMAGES: Former Renault F1 Managing Dir Flavio Briatore said that he is “suing Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, for the loss of income to his driver management business incurred after he was given a lifetime ban from the sport.” Briatore: “We lost [Fernando] Alonso, we lost [Heikki] Kovalainen, we lost several drivers. We will sue the FIA for the money we lost” (London TELEGRAPH, 1/18).

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