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SBD/January 13, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NFL outside labor counsel Bob Batterman yesterday said that he believes NFLPA leaders "want team owners to lock out players when the sport's labor contract expires in March," according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Batterman contends that NFLPA officials are "focused on litigation strategies and lobbying on Capitol Hill rather than attempting to negotiate a labor settlement with franchise owners." He said, "If you want to litigate, if you want to get Congress involved, you want a lockout to occur and you want the clock to run out (on negotiations) so your decertification and litigation strategy can come into play. This is not a union eager to avoid a lockout. This is a union waiting for a lockout to occur." Batterman was an outside labor attorney for the NHL during the '04-05 lockout season, and NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah yesterday said Batterman's comments "come from the person that effectuated a year-long lockout for the NHL." Atallah said, "These comments are irrelevant to the process." He also "renewed the union's call for more financial information from the owners." Batterman declined to say "whether owners will initiate a lockout in March, barring significant progress in bargaining by then." Batterman added that a "settlement by early March remains possible," but only if "both sides are intent upon reaching a deal" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/13). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio writes the "presumption a lockout will be implemented automatically by the NFL at the moment the current labor deal expires, as of midnight on March 4. But that’s not the case. Just as the players can work without a contract and opt to walk out at a moment of heightened leverage, the league can do the same" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 1/13).
GROWING PAINS: The AP's Tim Dahlberg noted the NFLPA has said that it is "worried about injuries" should the NFL expand to an 18-game regular season, and "on this, the most vital issue of all for a professional athlete, the union is right." More games "mean more wear and tear in a sport that already is bruising," and that "means the average NFL career of less than four years could be cut even shorter." Penn State Univ. Dir of Athletic Medicine Wayne Sebastianelli said, "Any time there's more exposure there's more risk for injury. I worry about it even for the non-paid athlete in the sense of what they're exposed to." Dahlberg noted both the NFLPA and the league are "vying for the sympathies of fans who can't bear even the suggestion that their favorite league might not open for business on time next season." But there is "not nearly as much talking going on behind closed doors, with no formal talks between the league and the union in weeks" (AP, 1/12). ESPN.com's Bomani Jones said there is "no way that anyone is going to convince me that 18 football games are a good idea because 16 doesn't look like such a great idea either. The owners want to make more money, they want to stretch this out, but my concern is really going to be those last two games when we get there. ... Physically, how healthy are teams going to be if they just keep playing?" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 1/12).
Former manager Joe Torre last night said he is "definitely interested" in a front-office role with MLB that could include the post of Exec VP/Baseball Operations. Torre, at the MLB owners' meetings in Arizona as a member of the league's Special Committee for On-Field Matters, added he expects further discussion on the topic with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig while here, schedule permitting. Several talks about Torre joining the league office have already occurred in recent weeks, he said. No formal job offer, however, has arrived yet from Selig, and it is not known whether one will be made to Torre. "I think he's also still talking to other people. ... It's a two-way street here." The league's top baseball operations job had been held until last June by Jimmie Lee Solomon, who was reassigned to a baseball development role. For the past seven months, MLB Exec VP/Administration John McHale has been running baseball operations on an interim basis, aided by Senior VP/Major League Operations and HOFer Frank Robinson. A significant issue that will need to be addressed is one of locale. Selig works primarily out of Milwaukee, but the Exec VP/Baseball Operations job has been based at MLB's N.Y HQs, and Torre said last night he would prefer to stay in L.A. Torre added he had declined two offers to return to broadcasting since retiring as Dodgers manager at the end of the '10 season, but remains on the hunt for a "significant" challenge within baseball that does not involve managing (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).
STILL WORKING OUT THE DETAILS: While Torre prefers to stay in L.A. instead of moving to N.Y., an MLB source said that the Exec VP/Baseball Operations job is "one that couldn't possibly be done from long distance" (ESPNLA.com, 1/12). In N.Y., Madden & Thompson note if Torre "gets the job, he would be responsible for hiring a replacement for Bob Watson, who resigned in December" as VP/Rules & On-Field Operations. Selig is "believed to be discussing the job with other candidates but is known to want a baseball person of high stature to run the operation" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/13). Torre last night noted that "no job offer has been made and he thinks Selig is talking to others." Torre said, "I'm not sure he's totally made up his mind, either" (AP, 1/12).
In San Diego, Bill Center writes NASCAR's mandate allowing drivers to compete for a title in only one series is a "good first step," but is "not enough." NASCAR is "hesitant to ban Sprint Cup drivers" from participating in the Nationwide Series altogether. But Cup drivers should not "be allowed to dominate the series below their talents while developing drivers scramble to find their niche." NASCAR should "limit every Sprint Cup driver to, say, 20 to 25 starts a season on the Nationwide Series," and at the same time "guarantee that dedicated Nationwide Series drivers have a certain number of spots on every grid" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 1/13).
HOT OR COLD? The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Joseph Schwerdt wrote the NHL's new All-Star Game format is a "good change," because "at least some people are talking about" the league. But the L.A. Times' Helene Elliott contends the new format, under which fans select only some of the All-Stars and designated captains pick the teams, "creates no emotional ties for fans and just seems like a thrown-together solution until someone can think of something better." The Baltimore Sun's Chris Korman added, "The NHL is still -- and probably always will be -- in the position of marketing itself whenever possible." The new concept "offers intrigue for diehard fans, who will be anxious to see how the respective captains go about building a team" (LATIMES.com, 1/12).
PICK YOUR BATTLE: In Montreal, Randy Phillips writes European golfers are "between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the PGA Tour, thanks in large part" to Commissioner Tim Finchem. While Finchem said that he "supports a strong European Tour, he won't let them play more than 10 or 12 tournaments" on the PGA Tour "if they are not members." The PGA Tour does offer "considerably more prize money per event, but the European Tour to a degree makes up for that by extending promotional or appearance fees." Phillips: "It's something the PGA Tour should consider reinstituting in an effort to allow its tournaments the ability to attract not only the biggest names from Europe on a more regular basis, but even toward drawing on its own marquee lineup of players" (Montreal GAZETTE, 1/13).
A LITTLE TOO SOON: In Orlando, Jeff Shain writes the LPGA's decision to host an event with the purse going entirely to charity "is a groundbreaking idea," but given the "economic hole from which the tour's trying to emerge, it may be a concept ahead of its time." Golfer Cristie Kerr said, "It's a hard economic backdrop. It's a reality that the bottom half doesn't make as much (as before)." Shain suggests the Founders Cup event "might be better on a gradual charity path" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/13).