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SBD/January 7, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
If ESPN winds up paying the NFL $1.8-1.9B per year for the rights to "Monday Night Football," it could have major implications for the league's labor situation. Some, like sports agent Drew Rosenhaus, believe the big rights fee increase "severely reduces the chances of a lockout at this point," as the deal "clearly shows the NFL is at an all-time high." Others, like NHL agent Ian Pulver, believe ESPN's record-high payout will have little effect. "I think the news of the TV deal confirms what we already know, economic times are vibrant for the NFL," Pulver said. "However, it won't have any impact on whether the owners will lock the players out, so long as the owners believe they can get what they want, and not what they need." SportsCorp President Marc Ganis said the new ESPN numbers could help make the NFL's case that, as required by the CBA, it is maximizing revenue. Ganis also said that the new ESPN numbers reinforce the NFL's position that if revenues grow, players will not be hurt by a reduction in the salary cap. There is a Special Master proceeding underway in which the union is arguing the league took in low amounts of TV money from CBS, NBC and Fox when they signed extensions in '09 to lock in payments during a work stoppage. But National Football Post’s Andrew Brandt, a former Packers executive, said of ESPN's potential deal, "You would certainly think they are maximizing revenues with that" (THE DAILY).
GIVING PLAYERS FIREPOWER: In N.Y., Starr & Tharp cite experts as saying that ESPN's new NFL deal "could give the players more firepower as they push for a greater share of the revenue pie -- but at the same time make the rancorous labor talks with management even more bitter." One source said, "It's a good news/bad news situation for the owners. The owners are crying poor and it's going to strengthen the Players Association's stance that the owners aren't as bad off as they say they are." Another source familiar with the contract talks said that the ESPN deal is "just another sign of 'double dealing' by owners." The source: "On one hand, the owners have been claiming economic hardship, and then to turn around and do a record TV deal -- it's a slap in the face to the players" (N.Y. POST, 1/7). FORBES' Kurt Badenhausen wrote the NFLPA "has to love seeing TV contract extensions at huge increases," as it "gives less credence to the owners' position that they cannot make things work under the NFL's current financial structure" (FORBES.com, 1/6). But Mediatech Capital Partners Managing Partner of Corporate Finance Porter Bibb said the deal "diminishes the threat of a strike, as far as I'm concerned" ("Taking Stock," Bloomberg TV, 1/6). NEWSDAY's Neil Best wrote, "The net effect of all this is more of your dollars landing in the pockets of NFL owners and players" (NEWSDAY.com, 1/6).
STATING THEIR CASE: In a special to ESPN.com, NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah wrote the NFL is "at the height of its popularity and success," and "all signs and indicators point to extraordinary success and rapid growth for the business of football." Yet the league and team owners have indicated the "economic model in the NFL doesn't work." Atallah wrote, "By the way, in a league with no guaranteed contracts, revealed dangers of the game and injury concerns at their peak, they want players to play two extra regular-season games. The players maintain that one fundamental question needs to be answered in earnest if there is to be an agreement before a lockout: Why is the current deal so bad? ... Our repeated requests for detailed financial information that would help us answer the quintessential question have been denied." Atallah added, "The NFL players have asked me to share a simple request on their behalf: Open the books and let us play" (ESPN.com, 1/6).
The LPGA "unveiled a 25 event schedule for 2011 on Thursday which features a brand new 54-hole, stroke-play event known as the Founders Cup as well as the resurrection of an event known as Titleholders, which will close out the year," according to the GLOBE & MAIL. The new season tees off in February with events in Thailand and Singapore before moving to Phoenix for the March 18-20 RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup, which "will feature 132 players who will forgo a tournament purse with the money going towards charity." The season "will close with the inaugural Titleholders, a season finale with a field made up of three qualifiers from every official LPGA Tour tournament, which will feature the LPGA's richest first-place prize of $500,000." The March 31-April 3 Kraft Nabisco Championship, the season's first major, "will celebrate its 40th anniversary and follows the Founders Cup and the Kia Classic." Following the Kraft Nabisco Championship is the Tres Marias Championship in Morelia, Mexico, though LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said that the event "may have to be postponed due to security concerns in the region due to the ongoing drug wars in Mexico" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/7).
HIT THE ROAD: In L.A., Diane Pucin notes 12 tournaments will be held outside the U.S. this season, "one more than last year." The list includes two tournaments in Mexico and seven in Asia. The tour "will offer $43.65 million in prize money, $3 million more than a year ago." Whan: "We are a lot like a lot of the business partners that sponsor us. A lot of times they'll say, 'Mike, in the last 10 or 15 years we used to have all of our business in America and not a lot overseas. Now we have a lot of overseas and a little bit in America.' I'm a lot less worried after a year in the job. I've seen an interest in domestic title sponsors" (L.A. TIMES, 1/7). He added, "If your goal is to stimulate, generate and enhance women's golf worldwide, you don't do that with a fax and an e-mail, you don't do that with an occasional telecast. If you want to excite golf in China, go to China. … I really believe that what we've created on the LPGA is worldwide interest" ("Golf Central Pre-Game," Golf Channel, 1/6). Golfer Christina Kim said, "I'm a fairly positive person, and we will have to take advantage of the situation and expand the brand of women's golf worldwide. Obviously, I'd love to have 30, 35, 40 events on our schedule this year, but we won't see that for a few years. The economy just won't let us right now. It's going to be tough for the rookies and those outside the top 50 on the money list, but where we're at right now is we have to follow the money. We just have to do whatever we can to stay afloat" (USA TODAY, 1/7).
CHARITABLE CAUSE: GOLF WORLD's Ron Sirak wrote the Founders Cup that "kicks off the U.S.-based portion of the LPGA schedule in March is either a great idea, a dangerous precedent or a desperation move, depending on how you look at it -- or all three." All of the $1.3M purse is "going to charity," specifically the LPGA Foundation's LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program. The players essentially are "doing a benefit for the tour." The Founders Cup "will provide complimentary hotel rooms for the players, rooms for caddies to share and a stipend to help with caddie fees." Players "will get points for the Rolex World Ranking, Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and the dollars won will count on the money list," but there "will be no direct deposit made into the player's checking account." Sirak: "Now the fact the Founder's Cup will raise money to help with a grow-the-game program is a good thing -- in fact, it is a great thing. ... But the dilemma for the LPGA is that with so few full-field, U.S.-based events, having one in which there is no prize money is extremely inconvenient, to say the least" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 1/6). GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Baldry cited several players as saying that they are "on board with the concept." But "not everyone who finished near the top of the money list in 2010 shares that enthusiasm, though they're unwilling to share those views publicly" (GOLFWEEK.com, 1/6).
LENDING A HELPING HAND: PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said Whan "has consistently reached out to me and our team on a number of fronts: sponsorships, scheduling, tournament management." Finchem: "He came into the job wanting to learn, and I think he's done a good job of that. You know, the LPGA has its own set of challenges that they're dealing with. They've got a reliance on a lot of tournaments outside the United States. They have a heavily international field of players every week, so they've got to maintain their support in U.S. markets with that internationalization. It's not easy. On the other hand, they have the advantage of being able to stage and market their product very much on a global basis. So I'm confident they'll work through this" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 1/5). Whan said the biggest challenge facing the LPGA is "getting our product on display more often because when we're on, we win." Whan: "The product sells itself. … Our players get it. They really understand that they do more than just play golf. They connect with the fans, they connect with the sponsors, and so all we really have to do is just put it on display" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 1/7).
Stern says "The Decision" interview increased attention for the NBA
Q: What did you think of LeBron suggesting the league would be improved by contracting a couple of teams and grouping more stars together?
Stern: As soon as I saw that commentary, I said, "This young man is going to wish he hadn’t raised the subject," and I felt badly for him. I actually agree with those who argue as a competitive-talent matter our current number is fine. And I distinguish that from an economic matter, if you get my drift. To me, I’m acutely and positively aware that with 85 or so players that have come from outside the United States -- and more on the way, no doubt -- that we basically have eight more rosters of teams than we had when the league was at 24. (The addition of foreign players) enormously enriched our game. ...
The issue where contraction has been raised in the past and might be raised again is when you watch teams struggle in the economic sense and they are partners of and they’re included in what I would call shared revenues, where in a couple of years we will have developed in the near future, where between licensing revenues, network television revenues and revenue sharing, where certain teams at the bottom end were getting $50 million a year from their partners from the group effort whether or not they sell a piece of merchandise or whether or not they appear on network television, then the issue gets raised among owners would it be economically sound for us to consider contraction. That’s a subject that will be fully aired after the season is over.
Q: LeBron is being booed in arenas across the league. Is it good for the league that its best player is a villain?
Stern: (Long sigh) I don’t like it. I think that it’s theater. I don’t think he’s really viewed as a villain. I think people love to either love or boo the Yankees. You either loved or booed Kobe and the Lakers. People used to love or hate the old Celtics. I think it will morph into the Heat being one of our really elite teams. And people boo the elite teams when they come into town to beat up on the hometown team.
Q: Can you clarify that answer?
Stern: I don’t mind it if he’s booed in the context of the dominant team he’s playing for. I think that I’m not sure people know exactly what they’re booing. Are they booing because he left Cleveland? Certainly they’re doing that in Cleveland. Are they booing him because it took 18 minutes for "The Decision" to say where he was going? Yeah, probably. Are they booing him because he’s part of a team that people think is too strong for their home team to compete with? Probably more so. And that will fade, and then they’ll boo him because he's a member of the high-performing Miami Heat.
Q: Final question, and it’s a curveball. It’s my pet issue -- tattoos. … Have the players gone too far with the tatts?
Stern: I guess what I would say to you, as diplomatically as I can, is when somebody invents a painless way to remove tattoos, there is going to be a lineup of our players saying, "Thank heavens! What was I thinking when I did this to myself?" And then I step back and say be careful because it depends upon your (perspective). It used to be afros and earrings and a whole lot of other things that were just expressions were viewed as something that was not desirable. And we stood back and said, "Come on, let’s relax." So you and your anti-tattoo thing, I say, relax, this too shall pass (FOXSPORTS.com, 1/6).