SBD/Issue 200/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • LeBron, Wade Help Kick Off Long-Awaited NBA Free Agency Tonight

    James Will Host Six Teams In Ohio Including Heat,
    Who Are Looking To Pair Him With Wade

    NBA free agency officially gets underway tomorrow at 12:01am ET, beginning the "most highly anticipated and significant free-agency period in NBA history," according to Jonathan Abrams of the N.Y. TIMES. Soon-to-be free agents LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, among others, can "meet with representatives from imploring NBA teams" after midnight, marking a "spectacular convergence of talent and salary-cap space." With it comes the "potential to reshape the NBA's power structure for the next decade." Six teams have "created substantial cap space for themselves," and five of them "have James at the top of their wish list and will meet with him" in Ohio starting tomorrow. LRMR Marketing CEO Maverick Carter, James' business manager, said that CAA's William Wesley "will not be at those meetings," despite speculation in recent months that he would "play a big role as James decided where he wants to play basketball." Carter said, "All the Wes rumors are untrue, and he will not be at the meetings. Wes has nothing to do with where he goes." James is expected to be joined at the free agent meetings by his agent, CAA's Leon Rose, and Carter (N.Y. TIMES, 6/30). In L.A., Mark Heisler notes the "real insiders remain James' old friends" often referred to as the "Four Horsemen," a group of advisors that includes Carter. When James' camp "pulled the plug on plans to visit teams, it pointedly left Wesley dangling, all but formally renouncing him." James will host representatives from six teams -- the Cavaliers, Bulls, Heat, Knicks, Nets and Clippers --“at an undisclosed site, reportedly near his hometown” of Akron, Ohio. The Nets and Knicks are expected to "go first Thursday afternoon in presentations expected to last about two hours each" (L.A. TIMES, 6/30). In N.Y., Frank Isola writes Wesley's exclusion "could be a bad sign for the Bulls, the team believed to be the one Wesley is trying to convince James to join." The Knicks also "have a relationship with Wesley" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/30).

    GANGS OF NEW YORK: In Newark, Steve Politi notes Nets investor Jay-Z, James' close friend, will "try to appeal to LeBron, the businessman, with their talk about a 'global vision' for the franchise and how he can turn James into an international superstar." It makes for a "nice pitch, but James is already known from here to Siberia." The surprising departure of Nets President Rod Thorn "casts doubt" about new Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov, and Politi writes, "Ultimately, James is an athlete first, and if he's a smart one, he has to ask" the question, "Who, exactly, is running this team?" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/30). James recently was seen dining in N.Y. with Jay-Z and his wife, Beyonce (N.Y. POST, 6/30). Meanwhile, the Knicks' entourage is expected to include Cablevision Chair James Dolan, Knicks President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh, coach Mike D'Antoni and Special Assistant Allan Houston (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/30). Walsh yesterday confirmed that he "underwent neck surgery to remove bone spurs two weeks ago and is using a wheelchair until his rehab is completed." Walsh still will "make all of the Knicks' free-agent recruiting trips" (N.Y. POST, 6/30).

    ALSO GETTING SOME PLAYING TIME: In Chicago, K.C. Johnson cites NBA sources as saying that the Bulls' traveling team to see James is expected to include Chair Jerry Reinsdorf, Exec VP/Basketball Operations John Paxson, GM Gar Forman and possibly new coach Tom Thibodeau. A rumor that former Bulls F Scottie Pippen also "would attend couldn't be corroborated, though there has been contact between the organization" and the Basketball HOFer. The sources indicated that the Bulls "plan to discuss global business and marketing opportunities off the court with James" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/30). Meanwhile, in Dallas, Eddie Sefko cited an NBA source as saying that when Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban "begins meeting with free agents on Thursday, one of the selling points he'll make will be that the possibility exists of playing multiple games per season at Cowboys Stadium." James is a "huge Cowboys fan and while the odds are stacked heavily against him coming to Dallas, any extra incentive that the Mavericks can supply is like gold" (DALLASNEWS.com, 6/29).

    Might Dan Gilbert's Success In Business Convince
    James To Re-Sign With The Cavaliers?

    COURTING THE KING: Allen & Co. Managing Dir Steve Greenberg talks to CBSSports.com about James' future. Greenberg, who has relationships with both Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert and James, said, "The irony about this whole media circus is that, if you look at what LeBron has done in Cleveland and what Dan has accomplished in Cleveland with the Cavs, I believe had they won even one championship -- let alone multiple titles over the past two or three years when they really were deemed to have a shot -- we probably wouldn't be going through this exercise.” Greenberg: “I imagine that Dan would want to have a multi-decade relationship with LeBron James. That's how he's thinking, and that will go for as long as Dan owns that franchise. That's going to be his approach. I know it's been his approach the last five years." He added, "From a long time hanging around the sports industry, I've seen all kinds of owners; the good, bad and ugly, the smart and the not so smart. And over a period of time, the quality of ownership does tend to affect the way an organization thinks, acts and performs on the field or on the court. Dan is one of those guys. He's a winner, a winner in life, a winner in business, and he's going to be a winner in the basketball business, as he has been" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/29).

    A SMART GENERATION: In Portland, John Canzano writes the "level of sophistication from the NBA players in the run-up to free agency is notable." They are "meeting, and plotting, and interviewing prospective teams." Canzano: "What we're about to witness is a fascinating study in basketball management brought to you by the league's high-flying personnel themselves. ... What we have on July 1 isn't so much free agency opening but the beginning of an exercise in careful manipulation. And I'm not sure the general managers and owners in the league aren't risking being marginalized" (Portland OREGONIAN, 6/30). NBA player agent Lon Babby said, "We begin every free agent process long before free agency actually takes place by preparing our clients and meeting with our clients and giving them a set of materials that lay out what their options are, what the rules are, and among the most important pieces of paper that we go over with them is a list of priorities. What do you care most about? There are maybe 10 or 12 or 13 things on the list and we ask them to prioritize. Often at the top of the list is compensation, and there's nothing wrong with that. But there are other important things, like the opportunity to win championships, the coaching, the style of play, the livability of the city, marketing opportunities, tax implications, all of those things" ("Mike and Mike in the Morning," ESPNews, 6/30).

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  • CFL Unveils New Drug Policy, Will Begin Testing For HGH Next Year

    CFL's New Drug Policy, In The Works
    For Three Years, Will Go Into Effect In '11

    The CFL has "instituted a first-time drug policy that surpasses any other in professional sports and will soon test its players for human growth hormone," according to Allan Maki of the GLOBE & MAIL. The policy, unveiled yesterday as part of the league's new four-year CBA, "will take effect in 2011." Blood and urine samples "will be collected from 80 to 100 players and testing will be done year-round, with only a 24-hour notification." The league "will be checking for a wide variety of performance-enhancers from ephedrine to stanozolol to HGH." No other pro sports league "tests its athletes for HGH." The CFL plan, "three years in the making, will work as follows: Twenty-five per cent of the league's almost 400 players will be randomly tested in 2011; 35 per cent will be tested in 2012 and 2013." A player "caught the first time using a banned substance ... is subject to mandatory testing and provided with counselling." A player "caught a second time gets a three-game suspension and will be publicly identified." A three-time offender "will receive a year's suspension, while a fourth offence will result in a lifetime ban." Calgary Stampeders player rep Wes Lysack said, "As a union, we were 100 per cent in favour of drug testing. As players, we listen to the community and the community has been pushing for this a long time." Maki notes testing players out of season is "going to be tricky business." Once the season ends, the "majority of import players return to their homes, some in remote patches" of the U.S. It "will be up to the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports to conduct the testing on behalf of the CFL" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/30).

    WEAKEST LINK: In Toronto, Robert Cribb writes there are "weaknesses" in the CFL's drug-testing plan, including the fact that the first violation "will not be made public." Also, while the CFL's banned substance list "includes more than 130 drugs, it falls short" of WADA's list. CFL COO Michael Copeland said that the "secrecy is designed to help the league educate players on how to stay clean -- a process best conducted outside the public spotlight."  (TORONTO STAR, 6/30). In Winnipeg, Paul Friesen writes, "The CFL isn't even instituting any part of the policy this season, calling it a chance to educate players about the pitfalls of doping." Friesen: "So you're going to educate and warn them for a full year, and if they still decide to cheat, and get caught, they'll only be encouraged to get counseling? That makes the CFL's new drug policy the weakest of them all where it counts the most: as a deterrent. So they can puff out their chests and celebrate all they want in the league office. This is no touchdown, though" (WINNIPEG SUN, 6/30). Stampeders DT DeVone Claybrooks said, "You don't want sponsors to back a league and then some big name lets you down and it's a blow to the whole league. We want to eliminate that before it starts" (CALGARY HERALD, 6/30).

    CBA DETAILS: The GLOBE & MAIL's Maki notes under the CFL's new CBA the league "will have a salary floor and cap system." Gone is the players’ "ability to receive 56 per cent of the league’s gross revenue in salaries." The floor in '10 will be $3.9M (all figures Canadian) while the cap will be $4.25M. By '13, the floor will be $4M and the cap $4.4M. The players' minimum salary will increase from $42,000 in '10 to $45,000 in '13. There also will be "increases to player benefits and insurance." The NFL option window, "which allows CFL players to head south before the option year of their CFL contract, will be phased out by February of 2012" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/30). In Vancouver, Lowell Ullrich notes with owners "now in a position to both fix salary costs and profit from the next round of television contract negotiations, which will take place during the course of the new deal," the new CBA "came at a price" for players. Cap and minimum salary increases were "marginal, and a provision linking wages to revenues was eliminated, a key union concession." Players "now face the prospect of signing a deal that will bind them to teams for a minimum of two seasons as a result of contract language eliminating the option-year NFL window." Agent Dan Vertlieb said, "The formal closing of the NFL window is the most significant change to the new CBA, with the exception of the drug-testing policy" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 6/30). CFL Argonauts RB and player rep Bryan Crawford said that the players' "biggest win in the negotiations wasn't the marginal bump in minimum salary, or the boost in the players medical-coverage plan but managing to fight off a proposal that would have seen the CFL work day bumped from four hours to six hours" (TORONTO SUN, 6/30).

    LOOKING AHEAD: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's Daniel Kaplan notes with the CFL's 100th Grey Cup championship game scheduled in '12, the league is "building marketing plans around that date and expects to announce several big sponsors in the coming months." Meanwhile, on the TV front, the league is "talking to the NFL about putting games on the NFL Network and also is talking to ESPN." There currently is "no deal to televise games in the U.S. this season" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 6/28 issue).

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  • LPGA Jamie Farr Classic Inks Three-Year Extension Beginning In '12

    Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic To
    Take One-Year Hiatus From LPGA

    LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan last night said that the LPGA has "officially inked a three-year extension with the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic," according to FOXTOLEDO.com. The deal is "for the 2012, 2013 and 2014 tournaments"  (FOXTOLEDO.com, 6/30). In Detroit, Tom Markowski notes there "will be no Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic next year." The U.S. Senior Open "will be held next year at nearby Inverness Club in Toledo, July 28-31." The Jamie Farr is "traditionally held the July 4 weekend, and holding two tournaments so close regionally and in close proximity would be ill-advised considering the economic climate." Whan said that "what is happening to the Jamie Farr for next year is an example of the LPGA working within the new global economy." Whan: "We have a senior major coming. We don't think we can hold two events like the way Toledo wants to put them on. I went to my players and said this is the way it is.'" Jamie Farr Tournament Founder & Dir Judd Silverman credits former acting commissioner Marty Evans for "keeping tournaments like the Farr in operation." Silverman said that if it "weren't for Evans and Whan, chances were good last year would have been the final Jamie Farr." Silverman: "These events just don't happen. With the change in leadership, that was instrumental in us surviving." Markowski notes Jamie Farr tournament officials "trimmed $400,000 from last year's purse of $1.4 million to keep the tournament in operation for a 24th consecutive year" this year, marking the "smallest purse on the 2010 schedule." Meanwhile, the contracts of eight LPGA stops "expire at the end of the year," though Whan said that "five already have agreed to renew," but he would not name them. Whan is "confident the others will, too, and there are plans to add two or three more, but no more than that" (DETROIT NEWS, 6/30).

    STRONG FIRST IMPRESSION: In Toledo, Ryan Autullo writes it has been "almost six months since Michael Whan took over as commissioner of the LPGA, and his mid-year review reflects numerous positives." Whan yesterday made the rounds at Highland Meadows ahead of this week's Jamie Farr, and he "stayed visible, chatting it up with players, caddies, media members, and pretty much anyone else who stopped by." World Golf HOFer Nancy Lopez: "I love Mike Whan. He's a good guy. He gets it. I think the sponsors like him, and of course that means they'll open the door for him. I think that he's got a lot of work to do, but he knows that. I think he'll do what he needs to do to help us bounce back." Silverman said Whan "truly wants to understand how our business operates and what (the LPGA) can do to make us sustainable." Silverman: "That's extremely important to the way he's conducting business. Before (the LPGA) wasn't all that interested in what your business model was all about" (TOLEDO BLADE, 6/30).

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  • WTA Sees Fewer Young Phenoms; Serena Only Star In Wimby Semis

    The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour "has long thrived on a steady pipeline of pigtailed prodigies," but the "stream of teenage phenoms has slowed," according to Douglas Robson of USA TODAY. So far this year, 10 of 12 Grand Slam semifinalists "have been 25 or older," and "whether the trend is good or bad for tennis -- or the players themselves -- is open to debate." USTA Player Development GM Patrick McEnroe said that the women's game is "merely catching up." He said the men's game "has been that way for a while." Robson notes "another factor is the WTA's age-eligibility rule," which restricts the "number of tournaments women under 18 can play" (USA TODAY, 6/30).

    Pironkova Says Tennis Is Popular Sport In
    Bulgaria, Lots Of Kids Are Starting To Play

    UNDER THE RADAR: Bulgarian tennis player Tsvetana Pironkova, who defeated Venus Williams yesterday to advance to the semifinals at Wimbledon, said tennis is a "really popular sport" in Bulgaria, and "lots of kids are playing." The country also boasts a 19-year-old "up-and-comer" on the ATP World Tour, Grigor Dimitrov. But Pironkova indicated that there are "no academies grooming potential young stars in Bulgaria," rather the "feeder system remains clubs and coaches, with limited help from the country's tennis federation." Pironkova: "If a kid is good, the coaches start paying a lot of attention. That's pretty much it." But Pironkova added that Bulgaria's tennis federation is "doing more to promote the game these days" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/30). In Miami, Linda Robertson writes women's tennis "needs new challengers, new rivalries," as "contenders, many from Eastern Europe, have ebbed and flowed, but none has stuck" (MIAMI HERALD, 6/30). In Daytona Beach, Michael Lewis wrote, "Let's say you're the head of NBC's Wimbledon coverage. ... You look up Tuesday night and your semifinalists are Serena Williams, Vera Zvonareva, Tsevetana Pironkova, and Petra Kvitova. Oy. I don't think ratings records will be set, let's just put it that way. But hey, that's one of the fascinating parts of tennis" (NEWS-JOURNALONLINE.com, 6/29).

    WORKING TOWARD THE SAME GOAL: Patrick McEnroe discussed his brother's John McEnroe Tennis Academy, opening in N.Y. in September, and its relationship with the USTA Player Development program. Patrick McEnroe: "We want to be on the same page. I'm happy that he put his hat in the ring. We've got our program, and he's got his, but at the end of the day, it's all about trying to help tennis. Specifically, to help American tennis. More specifically, to help tennis in New York. There's absolutely no reason we can't coexist" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/27).

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  • Women's Sports Foundation Upbeat Despite Loss Of Revenue, Staff

    Olson Expects WSF To
    Raise $5-6M This Year

    The Women's Sports Foundation "has cut more than half of its staff in a time of dwindling revenue," according to Erik Brady of USA TODAY. The foundation last year received about $4M in contributions and grants, down from about $8M in '08 and about $16M in '07. WSF CEO Kathryn Olson "expects the foundation to raise" between $5-6M in '10. Former CEO Karen Durkin last fall said that the "number of WSF full-time-equivalent employees had dropped from 74 to 28 in about nine months." She called it "right-sizing." Olson, who succeeded Durkin on April 1, said that the "number of employees remained 'in the range of 25 to 28' and she did not anticipate further cuts." Olson, who has experience working for Shutterfly, Wrigley and Quaker Oats, "hopes to use her corporate background to raise more money." She said that the WSF has already secured a $1M grant from "another foundation this year, with details to be announced soon." Olson also said that a "leaner WSF plans to announce a new vision this summer, including plans for an enhanced website and digital platform" (USA TODAY, 6/30).

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