SBD/Issue 31/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • Stern Talks Contraction, Says NBA Is Committed To Small Markets

    Stern Notes No Specific Teams
    Tagged As Contraction Candidates

    NBA Commissioner David Stern during a conference call Friday said the league is "committed to small-market teams," and added he hopes a new CBA will result in more "robust revenue sharing," according to Don Walker of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Stern said that "any talk of contraction has to be discussed in the context of contract negotiations with the players association and whether there are markets that 'cannot make it in the current environment.'" Stern did not single out any franchises and added, "We are working hard to maintain all of our teams and add a few." He indicated that the "issue of a new revenue-sharing model was being discussed internally" and with the NBPA. He noted that one possibility would be a model that "establishes performance standards in terms of sales and sponsorships, and profitability" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 10/23). Stern said the idea of contraction "has to be discussed in the context of collective bargaining." He added, "I'm not spending a lot of time on it. ... But I think that’s a subject that will be on the table with the players as we look to see what’s the optimum way to present our game, and are there cities and teams that cannot make it in the current economic environment" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/23).

    DON'T YOU WORRY 'BOUT A THING: Stern during his conference call discussed the Kings' ongoing search for a new arena and said, "My optimism on there being a new building (in Sacramento) has faded completely. We really tried hard, the Maloofs spent a good deal of money.... And frankly, it wasn't meant to be. I don't have any more good ideas." In response, Kings co-Owner Gavin Maloof said, "We're not contracting. That's not going to happen. No way we'll fold -- and no way we're selling" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/23). Stern also noted Memphis "shouldn't be" worried about NBA contraction when asked specifically about the Grizzlies' future. In Memphis, David Williams noted despite the Grizzlies' "attendance struggles and reported financial losses over the years, the team is widely considered on sound financial footing because of owner Michael Heisley" (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 10/23). Meanwhile, Stern was asked by ESPN's Jim Rome how many franchises could be considered "failing enterprises" right now, to which Stern said, "None." Stern: "There are some losing money, and we're hoping that this season will show a turnaround in many of them, if not all of them. But the overall sum of money that the league is losing is not going to be eradicated by one successful season" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 10/22). 

    Hunter Claims Owners' Current Position Will
    "Inevitably" Result In A Lockout

    JUST THE BEGINNING: Stern indicated that "murmurs of eliminating teams and a lockout will persist in the coming season" as the NBA "tries to find ways to trim salaries by $750 million to $800 million while getting the players union to somehow sign off." In Denver, Benjamin Hochman noted the new CBA "likely will change the way teams play their players -- and keep their players." NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter in a statement said, "The players and the union would prefer to work towards attaining a fair deal that addresses concerns raised by both sides and improves the game. But, if the owners maintain their position it will inevitably result in a lockout and the cancellation of part or all of the 2011-2012 season. The players and union will prepare accordingly." Stern responded to Hunter's comments, saying, "I don't believe that Billy wrote that because he wouldn't threaten me with a lockout. All I can say is -- that's what negotiations are for, and we're looking forward to our next negotiating session. It's classic negotiating rhetoric" (DENVER POST, 10/23). When asked if the NBA's current business model is viable, Stern said, "I would say the league is viable as long as you have owners who want to continue funding losses. But it's not, in the long term, a sustainable business model that we're happy to be supporting" (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 10/23).

    FIRING BLANKS? In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote NBA players are "not going to be responsible for owners controlling their own spending, and with his latest attempt to paint the owners’ situation as destitute, Stern simply fired another public relations missile." Industry insiders contend that the NBA "can’t be foolish enough to institute a work stoppage after one of its most successful seasons in history" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/24).'s Ray Ratto wrote the "contraction myth is particularly laughable, even by a commissioner's standards." Ratto: "Do we doubt that contraction has been discussed? No, especially since revenue sharing is being discussed, and any rich owner will tell you that the fewer hands that are out, the less cash must be paid." But no NBA owner "has the scratch to pay off two, or four, or six owners enough money to make them whole again, let alone satisfy them." This is "rich owner-poor owner politics and has nothing to do with the players at all, except in using it as a Wiffle bat to ineffectually club the other side" (, 10/23). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote Stern's talk of contraction is "mere posturing and applying pressure on the Players Association as talks for a new collective bargaining agreement heat up." Eliminating teams is "not even a remote possibility" (, 10/22). On Long Island, Alan Hahn wrote contraction talk is "rhetoric from the league." Still, Hahn noted "fewer teams means fewer jobs," and that is "not something the NBPA ... should prefer over the alternative: the same amount of jobs, just less money to go around" (NEWSDAY, 10/24). In N.Y., Peter Vecsey: "How dare Stern undermine the league's commencement exercises with scare tactics about shutting down operations June 30 and liquidating financially failing franchises" (N.Y. POST, 10/24).

    Ford Believes Neither League
    Nor Union Wants A Lockout

    CAUSE FOR CONCERN: In Boston, Mark Murphy wrote Stern's comments about a lockout and contraction "are eye-opening, even if he may simply be setting the playing field" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/23). Wizards G and player rep Kirk Hinrich believes that the threat of a lockout "seems real." Hinrich: "From the sound of it, it is. Right now, as players, we're just trying to stay together. Me, personally, I'm trying to go about my business like I always would." Wizard G Nick Young: "It's most definitely nerve-racking because you don't know what's going to happen next year" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/23). Pacers G T.J. Ford: "It's a major concern for both parties: the athletes and the owners. I feel the NBA is at its peak right now. I don't think either party wants a lockout" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 10/24). Celtics C Shaquille O'Neal said that he "perfectly understood the concerns" Stern expressed. O'Neal: "I can tell you there are some franchises that I know of that are not making money because they don’t have the players, and in the economy that we’re living in, I understand. But also general managers have to start taking responsibility, too" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/24). However, Jazz G and player rep Ronnie Price said, "Nothing's final yet. We'll be able to discuss these things and go over what we feel is right and what we feel is fair and hope that we can come to some type of agreement" (DESERET NEWS, 10/23). Hornets F David West also said that he "is not buying into all the pessimism." West: "I know what type of excitement that is going on now, and it’s not just involving the elite teams. The NBA is going to have one of their most successful seasons in a long time" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 10/23).

    STILL FAR APART, BUT PLENTY OF TIME LEFT: Stern said the league and the union are "nicely far apart" in terms of labor issues, but he noted the two sides "had a good meeting, I thought, this past Tuesday." He said, "We've got one scheduled for the middle of next month. There will be a bunch before All-Star. It's too early to really say how far apart we are. I think we're going to hopefully start narrowing the gap in the next several sessions" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 10/22). 

    AROUND THE WORLD: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Steve Moore sat down with Stern for the paper's "Weekend Interview" feature, noting that China is "basketball's next frontier." Stern said, "If you read the newspapers in China, each day's discussion is about LeBron James going to the Heat, Amare Stoudemire to the Knicks, will Carmelo (Anthony) leave the Nuggets or won't he?" Stern noted the league has signed a partnership with and is "talking to Dongfeng, the second-largest auto maker in China, that wants to use the NBA brand the same way car companies here do it." He added, "In five years, the retail sales of merchandise in China will be the equal of the retail sales in the United States for the NBA." But when asked about placing an NBA franchise in China, Stern said, "No. It's too impractical unless there is going to be such a thing as hypersonic transport. But I do think we could have teams in Europe" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/23). Stern said of the globalization of the NBA, "The next step is only playing a couple of regular-season games in London in March and continuing to play what we call ... 'friendlies.'" Stern: "What's next for us is really more about grassroots, especially in China, as 300 million basketball fans get an opportunity to play the game more than they ever had" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 10/25).

    MAN IN CHARGE: In St. Paul, Charley Walters reported NBA owners at a recent meeting in N.Y. re-elected T'Wolves Owner Glen Taylor as Chair of the NBA BOD (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 10/24).

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  • Bears Chair McCaskey Says New CBA Not Imminent, But "Possible"

    McCaskey Feels Agreement That Maintains
    League's Prosperity, Appeal Can Be Reached

    Bears Chair Michael McCaskey said it is "possible" that a new CBA will be reached before the start of the '11 season, adding "surely there is a way to divide the economic pie and decide on work rules in a way that continues the prosperity and appeal of the game," according to Philip Hersh of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. McCaskey: "All of us -- players, coaches, fans, sponsors, TV networks -- get so much out of it and benefit so handsomely from it, and that stands to continue." He noted a new CBA "will not be reached soon," but added, "It is entirely possible to do it, and if both sides will come to the table with a will to continue what has made the NFL so special, we can get an agreement" (, 10/23). NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported everyone is “guardedly optimistic” about reaching a new CBA before next season. Wyche: “There are subcommittees trying to broker things such as health issues, sponsorships, player safety, and I was told that there is slow progress in that regard. Even though we've seen players vote to decertify in case there is a lockout, it seems that things are moving slowly in a positive direction" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/23). Meanwhile, in Denver, Mike Klis reported the Broncos met with NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith last Wednesday afternoon. Broncos QB and player rep Kyle Orton: "We talked over all the scenarios and why we feel the way we do. And we showed what [the owners'] actions have been in the last year-and-a-half. And to us, all signs are pointing toward a lockout" (DENVER POST, 10/23).

    DELAYED, BUT STILL INEVITABLE? An NFL exec said "nothing is going to happen" in regard to the NFL in L.A. "until the CBA gets taken care of." But in L.A., Vincent Bonsignore reported "despite the league's labor problems, there is momentum for the NFL to return to L.A." Majestic Realty and AEG "carry the necessary clout to make good on their promises" for stadiums in City of Industry and downtown L.A., respectively, though it "would seem the NFL is more favorable to the downtown location and might eventually focus all its attention on that project." Bonsignore: "The questions are, which team -- and potentially teams -- will eventually move here and when will it happen?" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/24).

    FAVRE LATEST: Fox’ Jay Glazer cited a source as saying that Vikings QB Brett Favre admitted “to leaving voice messages” on Jenn Sterger's voicemail when they were both employees of the Jets in ’08, but he “denied sending pictures that were not appropriate to her.” The NFL “was hoping to have the entire thing wrapped up this past week,” and the league is now trying to get the issue “wrapped up by this coming ... week.” Glazer: “Right now it all depends on whether or not Jenn Sterger talks or not, and her manager saying her silence cannot be bought" (“Fox NFL Sunday,” Fox, 10/24). Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Judd Zulgad reported the NFL "will begin educating its players more" on workplace conduct following the Favre situation. The NFL in a statement said, "We are making progress on the development of our workplace conduct training program for all teams that will be rolled out as soon as possible but no later than the end of the season" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/23).

    DON'T MESS WITH PERFECTION: In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro wrote the current NFL schedule is "perfect." Vaccaro: "It is an immaculate blend of numbers and logic, a product of 32 teams broken up into eight four-team divisions and two 16-team conferences. Every team plays a schedule that can therefore be as close to symmetrical as possible. ... It is by far, the fairest and most logical schedule in any sport." Playing 18 regular-season games "would have an obvious effect on the owners' bottom lines," but changing the current format makes "little sense." Vaccaro: "The men who operate sports forever are searching for reasons to upgrade and improve their games. So why would you even think about changing something that already makes this much sense?" (N.Y. POST, 10/24).

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  • Velasquez' Title Win Could Open Doors For UFC In Latino Markets

    Velasquez Has Been Open About Wanting
    To Represent Latino Fans In The Octagon

    Cain Velasquez won the UFC heavyweight championship Saturday night in a first-round TKO over Brock Lesnar, and with the UFC attempting to "make inroads into Mexico for at least half a decade," Velasquez "could be the key to getting that done," according to Josh Gross of Velasquez was born in California and "considers himself American but he also grew up paying respects to his Mexican heritage." Velasquez: "I feel great being the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the UFC. I'm going to keep representing. This belt I dedicate to the Mexican people in the United States and Mexico." Gross reported the "push by UFC appears to have been a huge success, as the nearly 15,000 people inside the Honda Center, many waving Mexican-flag colored garb, were clearly behind Velasquez." UFC President Dana White: "Cain winning the title and holding the title is a big deal for the Latino market" (, 10/24). In Las Vegas, Adam Hill reported Velasquez is UFC's "best opportunity to date to further its popularity in Mexico and the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, a market with a rich tradition of boxing fans that has been somewhat slow to latch on to mixed martial arts." Velasquez has "embraced the role of unofficial UFC ambassador to Mexico." MMA fighter Tito Ortiz: "The UFC is a marketing machine, and they're right on target. Cain fits the demographic well. It's nice to see another Latino be successful in this" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/23). MMA blog BLOODY ELBOW's Luke Thomas noted UFC "needed something of a Trojan Horse to begin meaningfully engaging Latinos, in America and Mexico, and Velasquez's title shot was the best available option." While he was neither born in nor a native to Mexico, Velasquez is "very legitimately part of the vast diaspora of those in America who identify themselves as having a common identity or ancestry connected to Mexico" (, 10/24).

    REPRESENTING AN ENTIRE CULTURE: In Las Vegas, Ryan Greene noted Velasquez "could theoretically wear a heavier crown than Lesnar or any other previous UFC heavyweight champ." UFC "pulled out all of the stops in promoting the fight as the chance for there to be a Mexican heavyweight champ for the first time in any combat sport, in turn catapulting him to iconic stature among his people" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 10/24). In L.A., Lance Pugmire notes Velasquez "wants his first defense to be the first major UFC card in Arizona, or the main event of a card in Mexico or in California." He gives UFC "footing in its quest to widen an audience too often stereotyped in the U.S. as a group of white, 20-something beer drinkers" (L.A. TIMES, 10/25).

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  • WTA Rolls Out New Logo At Season-Ending Event In Qatar

    The New WTA Logo Incorporates Subtle
    References To The Sport With Oval Shape, Ball

    The WTA yesterday launched a new logo designed to be more distinctive and modern. The new mark, created by Chermayeff & Geismar, places an emphasis on the letters W, T and A. The symbol incorporates subtle references to the sport: the oval shape of the mark is a reference to both the imprint a tennis ball leaves on the court and to the shape of a racquet, while the yellow circle as the crossbar of the “A” recalls a tennis ball. The new core brand identity will be fully integrated throughout the WTA and women’s tennis, including in TV graphics, print materials, tournament branding, advertising, promotion and digital and social media throughout the ’11 season (WTA). The WTA debuted the logo yesterday at the season-ending WTA Championship in Qatar, and the new mark is designed to "shift attention from sponsors to the tour itself." The logo until now "has included the WTA name along with main sponsor Sony Ericsson and a small graphic of a tennis player" (CP, 10/24). In Montreal, Stephanie Myles wrote, "We're presuming that 1) this redesign and the accompanying explanation cost the Tour a whole bunch of money and 2) that the yellow circle is a tennis ball, although it would be helpful if it had a few seams on it to make it actually look like one" (, 10/24).

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  • League Notes

    In Orlando, Brian Schmitz wrote the NBA "blew a chance to really clean up the slippery mess" at St. Pete Times Forum after the league "canceled Friday night's preseason game between the Magic and Heat." All the NBA had to do was "send out players to sign autographs and pose for pictures for unhappy fans who were still in the building." The league had their "four biggest stars on the premises" -- Heat G Dwyane Wade and Fs LeBron James and Chris Bosh and Magic C Dwight Howard. They "missed a great P.R. opportunity" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/23).

    ALL OR NOTHING: In N.Y., Larry Brooks reported the message that presumptive NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "has been presenting to the players during the autumn tour preceding union balloting" is, "Hire me to lead or don't hire me at all." Sources said that this is the "ultimate condition of employment for Fehr, who has been selling nothing more than himself and his collective bargaining accomplishments as leader of the MLBPA throughout this low-key campaign." The NHLPA "will not operate as a democracy in collective bargaining." Brooks: "It can't. It must give its leader the same authority as the NHL has given Gary Bettman. If not, the league simply will wait for the players' house to divide and fall, as it did the last time." Bettman "has invited the last two union leaders, Ted Saskin and Paul Kelly, to address their partners" at the NHL BOG. Brooks: "Surely, the commissioner would grant the same courtesy to Fehr, who, when the time is right, would then have the opportunity to present his vision for the league to the owners without interference or accompanying propaganda" (N.Y. POST, 10/24).

    KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET:'s LZ Granderson wrote the "feeling that the tennis season never ends is just one of the reasons the tour should stop shortly after the U.S. Open." Granderson: "Keep the year-end tournament in which the top players face off as a tennis all-star game (in September), but eliminate this ongoing jostling for ranking, which is too exhausting for anyone other than a die-hard to keep up with." Granderson added, "I applaud the ATP Board of Directors for considering shortening the season by two to three weeks in 2012." Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick "have all lobbied for such a move for years because of the mental and physical strain caused by an extended season, and corporate sponsors have also expressed concerns about the duration" (, 10/22).

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