SBD/Issue 20/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • Steelers Say League Tried To Sway Them Before Vote To Decertify

    Batch Complained To The NFLPA About
    Tuesday Meeting With NFL Delegation

    The NFL has "hit back at several Steelers players, accusing them of distorting what happened during a mandatory Tuesday meeting on the eve" of the Steelers' unanimous vote Wednesday to "decertify the union," according to Prine & Brown of the Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW. Steelers QB Charlie Batch, S Ryan Clark and other players complained to the NFLPA that a delegation led by NFL VP/Player Development and former NFLPA President Troy Vincent and NFL Alumni Association Exec Dir George Martin "sought to mix mandatory 'life skills' teaching with lobbying for the owners." The players and the NFLPA said that the league "tried to manipulate players before they took the vote to scrap their union." Clark: "Doesn't matter what the meeting was for, players around the league know what this is about." But NFL officials said that Clark and the union "made inaccurate conclusions about the session," and that Steelers Dir of Player Development Ray Jackson "set up the Tuesday panel ... months before the union threatened to decertify" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 10/8). NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith alleged that the NFL was using Vincent and Martin to "divide players." He said, "Sending two former union members who are now on their payroll to talk about 'life skills,' talk about a strike instead of a lockout and avoid the whole issue of the NFL canceling player health care is insulting." Batch added, "It was confusing to me and my teammates as to why they would send NFL employees in to talk about life skills during this time." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said neither Vincent nor Martin represented the NFL in "contract negotiations or in any aspect of collective bargaining" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 10/7). Lions players were "expected to meet Thursday" with NFLPA leaders and "vote on whether to decertify the union in the future" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 10/8).

    WILL GAMES BE LOST TO LOCKOUT? Former Chiefs President, GM & CEO Carl Peterson, who spent 19 years in the role before resigning in '08, said he thinks there is "going to be a work-stoppage." The following is part of a conversation Peterson had with the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS' Paul Domowitch:

    • "I think there will be some regular-season games in 2011 that (won't be played). The question then becomes how deep into the season do you go before you have to say the season's over with? Is it 3 (weeks) or 6 or halfway? I don't know." 
    • "What I know, and what the owners know, is that you really don't make players start to feel it until they start missing regular-season game checks. There's no financial downside for them until then. They don't lose anything in the offseason. They get something like $1,200 a game in the preseason, which is nothing for a 10-year veteran. But when your wife comes to you in September and says, 'Honey, where's that 1/17th of $3 million? It didn't come this week. And how about next week? Are we going to get that second 1/17th?' And they have to say, 'Honey, it's not happening,' then you find out how much resolve they really have."
    • "DeMaurice competed with other people for that job and got it. I just don't see him stepping up initially and saying, 'OK, guys. I'm your leader and we're going to take a step back. We're going to take it down to 56 percent.' I don't see that happening."
    • "When push comes to shove, it's going to be interesting. Because Jerry Jones and Steve Tisch and John Mara and Woody Johnson, they've got some nice new stadiums on line and they don't want them going dark in the second year. ... How much debt service can you swallow for how long? And can you get the banks to push it off without killing you with interest rates into the future?" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/8).

    PLEA TO KEEP PLAYING: In Green Bay, Scott Williams reported Green Bay Alderman Thomas De Wane has "introduced a resolution calling on the NFL and players union to avoid any disruption of the 2011 season." De Wane said that he hopes the measure, if approved by the Green Bay City Council, "will cause the two sides to 'think twice' before allowing a labor disagreement to cancel any games." Aiello Wednesday said that he was "not aware of another NFL city where local political leaders had issued a plea to negotiators" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 10/7).

    OTHER ISSUES: In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz notes the "understandable concern" from players regarding an 18-game regular-season schedule "centers on the physical toll two additional regular-season games would take, especially when it comes to their long-term durability." But NFL data released Thursday found that since the league began playing 16 regular-season games in '78, 10-year veterans have represented 8.93% of all NFL players, up from 7.49% when the league played 14 games from '62-77. Kravitz: "Today's players fear that going from 16 to 18 will dramatically shorten their careers. History suggests otherwise" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 10/8). Meanwhile, in L.A., Sam Farmer writes if the NFLPA "makes good on its threat to decertify as a union and the labor fight gets dragged into the courts, that pushes back the NFL-to-L.A. timetable at least five years and maybe 10" (L.A. TIMES, 10/8).

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  • NHL Finally Gets Sell Out In Finland Despite High Ticket Costs

    Ticket Prices For Hurricanes-Wild Game Were
    More Than Double What Finnish Team Gets

    Friday's Wild-Hurricanes NHL Premiere series game in Helsinki "finally sold out this week," but Thursday's game between the two teams "attracted 12,355 to the 13,349-seat Hartwall Areena," according to Bruce Brothers of the ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS. Hannu Jortikka, who coaches the Finnish league Jokerit team that plays at the arena, said that with the top tickets costing "more than $140 apiece and the cheapest going for about $70, prices were more than double what Jokerit gets for its game." He added the prices were approaching those "for a Lady Gaga concert." Local sports journalist Heikki Miettinen called the ticket prices "very expensive." But NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly Thursday said that "despite the occasional game that doesn't sell out, he anticipates that the league will play more games in Europe next season as it continues to try 'to grow our brand, grow our presence'" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 10/8). Meanwhile, ESPN's "PTI" graded the league's Opening Day. ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "It's an opening day in Helsinki, Finland, on a Thursday at noon between the great rivalry of the Carolina Hurricanes and the Minnesota Wild. So that's bad. But you know what, it's an international league. There are so many more Finns than there are people from North Carolina that I'm going to go B-." ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "I'm going to go F, and this is easy for me. The defending champions in this league are the Chicago Blackhawks … and they should open the season. The NFL gets its right" ("PTI," ESPN, 10/7). ESPN's Linda Cohn on her Twitter feed wrote, "Why does the NHL feel the need to open up it's season out of North america! And why was it on at Noon et and why Car. vs Minn. Really?”

    ALMOST A DONE DEAL: Versus’ Darren Dreger reported it “seems a foregone conclusion” that Don Fehr will be the next NHLPA Exec Dir, and he is “jumping in with both feet.” Fehr is “on the fall tour right now,” trying to visit "as many NHL teams as possible.” Dreger: “He's meeting with players. He's feeling them out. He's talking to them about what their concerns are with the existing collective bargaining agreement. So a decision ultimately in a full membership vote is expected to take place at the end of October or very early November. I have yet to find a player or an individual that does not believe that Fehr will be the next boss for the Players Association." Meanwhile, Dreger noted the NHL “will fight hard for a maximum length on contracts” as part of the league’s next CBA ("Hockey Central Pregame," Versus, 10/7).

    DON'T GIVE UP: ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote the Penguins' new Consol Energy Center is a "gleaming reminder that sometimes sticking it out is the best way." It is a "reminder that no matter how attractive it might be to say 'forget it' and move on, sometimes it's better to take the path of most resistance." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman: "You don't run out because there are issues. You try and address those issues. I believed in the city and the fans in the city. We believed in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a classic example of why you don't run out." Burnside wrote, "Whatever criticism is leveled at Bettman -- and there's a lot of it, both fair and unfair -- he got this one right. Can you imagine for a minute an NHL without the Pittsburgh Penguins?" Consol Energy Center "isn't just a gift to the fans of the Penguins but also a reminder to fans everywhere that their loyalty is not taken for granted." For a league that "struggles on some levels for relevancy in the United States, that is powerful currency" (ESPN.com, 10/7).

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  • League Notes

    Stern Indicates The NBA May Seek
    Shorter Contracts Under New CBA

    In N.Y., Howard Beck notes "lengthy contracts and guaranteed salaries can make it tough for teams to recover from bad decisions" in the NBA, and Commissioner David Stern "wants to remedy that in the next collective bargaining agreement." Stern said he wants the owners and players' union to "come up with a system where teams are not doomed by their past mistakes for inordinate lengths of time, so the fans can have hope." Stern "declined to offer specific mechanisms but mentioned 'shorter contracts or less guaranteed money' as potential solutions." The NBPA likely "will resist both measures" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/8).

    UPON FURTHER REVIEW: BROADCASTING & CABLE's Ben Grossman writes despite the first two days of the MLB postseason "producing a series of beautiful pitching performances, major sports outlets on Friday are talking about the umps." Giants C Buster Posey in a postgame interview "came out and said he was thankful there is no instant replay right now" after a close play when he stole second base during Thursday night's Braves-Giants NLDS Game One. Posey would later score the game's only run. Grossman: "If MLB really wants to recapture its role as America’s Pastime, it has to become a sport of the fans once again. ... If tomorrow Bud Selig came out and said he is putting in instant replay, making umpires more accountable and for good measure adding asterisks to the home run records of every player busted for steroids, suddenly baseball would be on the road to new popularity just like that" (BROADCASTINGCABLE.com, 10/8). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said, "Every bad call that was made in yesterday's games turned out to lead to critical moments -- game-changing, game-deciding moments. If you are Bud Selig, you've got to be thinking, 'I just don't get a break'" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 10/8).

    CIRCLING THE GLOBE: In Palm Springs, Larry Bohannan notes the "next six weeks of LPGA play will demonstrate a reality of the LPGA today." The tour is playing in Alabama this week and Sacramento next week before playing "official events in Malaysia, South Korea, Japan and Mexico." Bohannan: "The next month and a half may also show fans what the LPGA is going to be, at least in the short-term. ... Should the LPGA go where the money is, even if American fans aren't paying attention, or don't go to Asia and struggle to find American tournaments and sponsors to fill the void" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 10/8).

    NOTHING TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT: In DC, Steve Goff reported the MLS Players' Union said that "language in the new collective bargaining agreement, which was reached last winter, is still in the process of being finalized and won't be available for public review for several additional months." The delay "will not jeopardize the pact" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 10/6).

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