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Goodell Says He Has Not Made
Decision In Roethlisberger Case
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today said he is “trying to protect the integrity of the game” regarding a possible suspension of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, as well as “make sure that our fans understand that this is not an acceptable standard and make sure that people understand what the proper standard is." Goodell: “I think everybody in the NFL understands that is the privilege of playing in the NFL. You have a privilege to play in this league and you also have a responsibility. There are a lot of people that follow you. You're a role model, whether you like it or not, and you have to conduct yourself with a high standard, and that is what I mean about protecting the shield and protecting the integrity of the game. You have a responsibility when you play in this league and you have to live up to that standard." The NFL tonight is releasing the ’10 schedule and Thursday is holding the first round of the Draft, but Goodell said he “would probably announce” any discipline of Roethlisberger once he came to a decision. Goodell: “We do have a busy week, but these are all priorities. … I've learned enough in this business: When you've reached a decision, you need to communicate that to everybody and make sure everybody understands it. There are a lot of people that are interested obviously, including all of our clubs and every player in the league and coach. So I think it's important for everyone to know when you've reached a conclusion and do it" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 4/20).
GOODELL NEEDS TO ACT: In Philadelphia, Stephen A. Smith writes Goodell needs to announce the NFL is suspending Roethlisberger "immediately, without compunction, and without any input from Roethlisberger’s employer, preferably before the NFL draft on Thursday night, specifically to avoid the appearance of any preferential treatment.” Roethlisberger “may not have sexually assaulted a 20-year-old student from a Georgia college,” but “none of it sounds innocent.” It “isn’t necessarily guilt, but it stinks to the high heavens.” It leaves a “stench on the NFL brand” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/20). In Columbus, Rob Oller writes Goodell “must act, likely with a multiple-game suspension that sends the message that poor judgment -- a euphemism for idiotic thinking -- might not be a crime but it is a punishable offense” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 4/20). Meanwhile, CBSSPORTS.com’s Gregg Doyel wrote, “Goodell scares the hell out of me.” When Goodell unveiled his personal conduct policy in ’07, it was “new, needed, even noble.” But in recent weeks, he has “moved that line.” It is “no longer necessary that there be enough evidence of ‘violent and/or criminal activity’ for police to make an arrest or file charges,” as now an “accusation is enough” (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/18).
NASCAR Is Seeing Its Attendance Drop As It
Struggles To Appeal To Two Types Of Fans
NASCAR is "wrestling with an identity crisis," as it is unclear if the sport can "appeal to both the chardonnay corporate crowd whose trackside condos at fancy new circuits fueled NASCAR's recent growth and the diehards whose unabashed passion for racin' and wreckin' built stock-car racing in the first place," according to Sean Gregory of TIME. Most sports "would love to have NASCAR's problems," as it "still routinely draws more than 100,000 fans for races." But '09 attendance fell around 10%, and empty seats "have pockmarked this year's races in Atlanta; Fontana, Calif.; and even venerable Bristol, which saw its 55-race sellout streak, dating to 1982, end in March." Since '05, average viewership of Sprint Cup races on network television "has fallen a remarkable 25%." The economic downturn "has hit hard" for NASCAR, as corporate sponsorship "has tailed off, car manufacturers have pared support, and a chunk of NASCAR's blue collar fan base can no longer afford a weekend at the track." But perhaps "worse than the bad economy, NASCAR has managed to make auto racing a little boring." The "feuding, aggressive drivers who gave NASCAR its personality seem to have lost their edge, blanded by their loyalty to corporate sponsors and by NASCAR's not unreasonable focus on safety." Driver Clint Bowyer: "I've got Cheerios for a sponsor. I have children at home who are buying our products in the stores and watching us race. I can't go out and act like an idiot on the racetrack." Gregory notes NASCAR also is "clearly suffering from Johnson fatigue," as driver Jimmie Johnson has won four consecutive Sprint Cup Championships. Meanwhile, NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France indicated that NASCAR is "considering changing its points system, which currently rewards sustained excellence over the 36-race season rather than giving huge bonuses to drivers who win races" (TIME, 4/26 issue).
POWER PLAYER: USA TODAY's Nate Ryan in a sports-section cover story profiles ISC Vice Chair & CEO Lesa France Kennedy, who is "nearing her one-year anniversary" as ISC CEO. Forbes in October named her the most powerful woman in sports, but she "doesn't wield that clout publicly," as she is "reticent to discuss her personal success." France Kennedy "took the helm of ISC at a difficult time," as annual revenue last year dropped $94.1M and profit fell 95% to $6.8M. Meanwhile, there has been a "groundswell of support in the industry for France Kennedy taking a bigger role as the sport has cooled during the economic downturn." NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick said that France Kennedy is "well suited to lead a planned restructuring of NASCAR's licensing and merchandising." Hendrick: "She's had some really good ideas and sees where the market is going. She's as sharp as any CEO I've seen." Just Marketing Int'l Founder & CEO Zak Brown: "Don't underestimate her influence within NASCAR. ISC is the business card she carries, but she certainly has sway in NASCAR." But France Kennedy said that she is "mostly leaving the NASCAR stewardship to her brother," Brian France (USA TODAY, 4/20).
IRL Sought To Find New Fans,
Like Wahlberg, In Hollywood
Izod is bringing a "new way of thinking" to the IndyCar Series, as it is focused on "reintroducing a sense of glamour to the sport," according to Bruce Martin of SI.com. There has "always been an element of glamour connected with IndyCar, and Izod plans to highlight that connection with some innovative and ambitious marketing plans." A section of Hollywood Boulevard last Thursday was shut down so the Izod IndyCar Series "could throw a Hollywood street party" called "The Race to the Party." While the drivers "may have been the main attraction, Hollywood brought along its own contingent of star power, including actor Mark Wahlberg, who served as the grand marshal" of last Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, "hip hop mogul P. Diddy and rock group Camp Freddy, which features Dave Navarro." Phillips-Van Heusen Exec VP/Marketing Mike Kelly "sensed genuine interest from Wahlberg, who wants to get more involved in IndyCar." Kelly: "Mark loves this. I think we have a new fan, no question. When you think of Paul Newman, a guy like Mark Wahlberg could get involved in our sport and be today's version of that." Driver Graham Rahal said of Izod, "The activation that Izod is putting into this is pretty impressive and it's a lesson for all the other sponsors. I hope we can really make it big." Martin noted aside from the street party, a "pit stop competition was also held on Hollywood Boulevard featuring the Indy Racing Experience two-seaters," and Guillermo Martinez, a regular on ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live," was seen "changing tires on an Izod IndyCar Series car" (SI.com, 4/19).
NEED TO CREATE STARS: IRL CEO Randy Bernard feels the IndyCar Series does not do a "good job at showing the stars we have.” Bernard noted he had “several meetings” after last month’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where he “talked about showing the legends in our sport and attaching that to the up and coming stars we have in the series.” Bernard: “With the intros what we need to do is showcase them in a huge fashion, coming onto that stage.” With the circuit in Long Beach last weekend, Bernard wondered, “How many producers and Hollywood people are going to come down? ... Why not take advantage of that? Here we are in the number two market in the United States. If we are going to spend a significant amount of money on a promotion, let’s do it in one of the biggest cities in the United States” (AUTORACING1.com, 4/20).
FULL WEEKEND IN LONG BEACH: Grand Prix Association of Long Beach President & CEO Jim Michaelian said there were "more activities on and off the track than ever before" around this year's Grand Prix of Long Beach last week. Michaelian: "We got started with that huge crowd on Tecate Thunder Thursday on Pine and it just kept on growing right through race day." In Long Beach, Karen Robes Meeks notes "at least 170,000 people attended Grand Prix [events] over the three-day weekend, with 65,000 people on Sunday." Michaelian: "Those numbers are comparable to where they were last year, but the fact that we had the benefit last year of the reunification, it was important for us to try to get to that level again this year" (Long Beach PRESS TELEGRAM, 4/20).
COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin reported some IndyCar teams blamed series officials "for not communicating the allowance" of an "advantageous ride control system," and other similarly approved parts, as far back as '08. Some team owners are "so upset with the Indy Racing League's lack of communication that they submitted a written complaint this weekend," noting that "continuing development raises the cost of participation." Bernard said that the ride control system "will remain eligible for use," but that "controlling costs remains a priority for the series" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/18).