SBD/February 11, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
With the "threat of a lockout looming," neither NFL owners nor the NFLPA "appears to have made headway in the dispute over how to divide the league's $9 billion in revenue," according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. All-day meetings scheduled for Thursday "were abruptly canceled, raising doubts that the two sides were any closer to reaching a compromise." A source involved in the talks said, "We certainly don't want to have another meeting like [Wednesday]." Ravens CB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Domonique Foxworth on Twitter said he was "sorely disappointed" that Thursday's meeting was canceled. Belson notes the NFL also "canceled an owners meeting planned for next week," and NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said Commissioner Roger Goodell "did not see a need for it right now." Both sides "continue to talk in smaller groups or by phone." Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "have met privately even when full meetings were not scheduled" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/11). In N.Y., Gary Myers wrote there are "plenty of legitimate issues here: player safety and health, retired player benefits, a rookie salary cap that will control the ridiculous amount of money going to unproven players, Roger Goodell's controversial plan for an 18-game season." However, it "all comes down to one thing: finding a way to split the $8.9 billion." The owners "already are allowed to take $1 billion off the top before the players get their nearly 60% share," and "now the owners want to take another $1 billion off the top." Myers: "Clearly, there is a compromise in here somewhere, but first there is a game of chicken that must be played. ... The sense of urgency to avoid a lockout begins March 1. The next sense of urgency isn't until Aug. 1" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/11).
MAKING SOME PROGRESS? ESPN's John Clayton said there likely will not be a deal by March 3, but he reiterated his belief there is a "reasonable chance they can get something done by March 15." Clayton: "I know it seemed to be a little bit doubtful when all of a sudden both sides broke apart on Wednesday, but when you look at the idea that the players are willing to make a 50-50 cut, that's progress. Is it the final deal? No. But in the end, it gives something that now the owners can contemplate on, come back with a counter, get a re-counter coming back from the players" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/10). However, ESPN's Marcellus Wiley, who played 10 seasons in the NFL, said, "We all know about players who have been suspended for violating the personal conduct policy. How about some owners get suspended right now for violating the business conduct policy? To walk away from negotiation this important at this point at this juncture shows that they have, not only confidence in their leverage point, but arrogance in their leverage point" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 2/10). Comcast SportsNet's Ray Ratto said, "The NFL doesn't want a quick solution to this because they still think they've got leverage over the players, and they also don't have all their ducks in a row as regards to the high-revenue owners versus the low-revenue owners. They need the players to capitulate so badly that the guys who want total revenue sharing would be willing to give that up for a deal in which the players get crushed. So they're not ready to negotiate on this" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 2/10).
ALL ABOUT THE MONEY: FANHOUSE.com's Dan Graziano wrote issues such as the 18-game season and rookie-wage scale "can't be dealt with until the sides agree on the framework of the revenue split." And "as long as there's such dramatic disagreement on that issue, it's practically impossible to imagine a deal getting done before the current one expires March 4." The owners' insistence on "increasing the amount of revenue they don't have to share with the players serves as more evidence for the union's claim that their intent all along has been to lock out the players and squeeze them in an effort to secure a deal very favorable to the owners' side" (FANHOUSE.com, 2/10). The AP's Jim Litke wrote the "early deal-breaker appears to be the owners' demand to take $2 billion from the pot -- instead of the $1 billion set out in the last deal -- even before discussions start on how to split the rest of the economic pie." The owners are "smart enough not to plead poverty," so they are "arguing they need the extra billion or so to set up a rainy-day superfund to cover the rising costs of everything, from buying and improving stadiums to supplying chalk for locker-room bulletin boards" (AP, 2/10).
SOMETHING ELSE TO WATCH: ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported he has been told by "more than one management person that this current CBA has to expire because they want it out of the jurisdiction of the Minneapolis court where Judge David Doty has presided because of that Reggie White anti-trust lawsuit case." He also noted there is a "lot of resistance" from the NFLPA regarding an 18-game schedule ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 2/10).
NO END IN SIGHT: Indiana Univ. School of Law Dean Gary Roberts, Editor-in-Chief of The Sports Lawyer, said, "These types of labor negotiations in any industry, nine times out of 10 they don't get done until the last minute. I figure the deal won't get done until early September. That's when the season is at risk. Neither side wants to blink first" (USA TODAY, 2/11). NFL Network's Jason La Canfora said, "Until we get closer to March 4, we don't know what's posturing, we don't know what's bluster and we won't know what's truly on the table" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 2/10). Former NBA Deputy Commissioner and current ESPN legal analyst Russ Granik said, "The real, real deadline is a few weeks before games would start so that teams could train and get ready to actually play" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 2/10). In Jacksonville, Scott Kendrick wrote, "Until both sides shackle themselves to a conference room table and get something done, both sides will, and should, feel a tremendous amount of heat" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 2/10).
SUGGESTION BOX: NFL player agent Don Yee "believes 18 games mean more bodily punishment," and he had several suggestions for "making the change more acceptable." First, "increase the roster from 53 players to 58, and make all eligible to play on game day; currently, only 45 can play." Also, "institute a rule that prohibits any player from appearing in more than 16 games" (AP, 2/11).
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said in a memo to union player leaders that the rookie wage scale proposed by the NFL owners in CBA negotiations amounts to "a veteran wage scale," because it would impact players with three to five years of experience, "the core of our membership." The NFL made this proposal to the players in late January in response to a proposal by the NFLPA in which it offered concessions, including limits on the amount of money in incentives and salary escalators in the rookie contracts. The NFLPA had proposed a maximum length of four years for players drafted in the 1st-3rd rounds of the NFL Draft and a maximum limit of three years for players drafted in the 4th-7th rounds, according to union memos. But the league proposed that contracts be five years for 1st round picks and four years for all other draft picks. “This wage scale would have a very dramatic effect on league salaries when you consider the number of players that would be subject to its terms," Smith wrote in a letter to the NFLPA Exec Committee and board of players reps. Noting the number of players that the league’s proposal would impact would likely exceed 60%, he wrote, "This is a VETERAN WAGE SCALE." Additionally, the NFL is proposing reductions in minimum salaries for their first four years in the league. Under the current CBA, the minimum would be $405,000 for '11 and under the owners proposal it would be $285,000, the memo states. Under the current CBA, the minimum salary would be $575,000 in '13. Under the NFL's proposal, that salary would drop to $460,000. The NFL proposal also includes the following: "No individual negotiation of contracts at all; A ban on all guarantees for salary, including injury guarantees, and; does so for the longest part of an average player's career" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).
MORE ON THE MEMO: In DC, Mark Maske reported the memo also indicates that the "amount of bonus money in contracts also would be set by the rookie wage scale under the league's proposal." The memo said that a "defensive tackle taken with the ninth overall selection in this year's draft would receive a five-year contract worth $8.6 million, provided that he reaches certain playing-time benchmarks in the deal." The memo indicated that the "same player would receive $18 million over four seasons under the union's proposal for a rookie wage scale, if the player reaches a playing-time benchmark" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/10). ESPN's Chris Mortensen noted players also "would not be able to renegotiate their contracts or agree to extensions until three years after they were drafted." Smith wrote signing bonuses "would be fixed, paid over the length of a contract and subject to forfeiture 'if the player does not toe the Club's line in every way'" (ESPN.com, 2/10).
The NFL Thursday further addressed the seating fiasco at Sunday's Packers-Steelers Super Bowl XLV by offering a "face-value refund or a free ticket to a future Super Bowl" to 2,000 fans whose "seating experiences weren't super," according to Gary Mihoces of USA TODAY. The NFL said that the 2,000 fans "added to the compensation list were 'significantly delayed' in getting to their temporary seats." The league added that "about 860 ticket-holders from the temporary seats were relocated to other seats in the stadium." Mihoces notes the league "earlier offered the 400 ticketholders it said got no seats two options: a ticket to next year's Super Bowl in Indianapolis plus three times the face value of their Super Bowl XLV ticket ($2,400 for an $800 ticket), or a ticket to a Super Bowl of their choice plus airfare and hotel" (USA TODAY, 2/11). In Dallas, Mede Nix noted Thursday's announcement was "separate from the one offered earlier this week" to the 400 displaced fans. The NFL said that "senior staff members so far have personally contacted 260 of the 400 fans to explain their options." Meanwhile, the NFL for the first time Thursday said that there were "about 13,000 temporary seats installed at Cowboys Stadium for Super Bowl XLV." Arlington's fire marshal "inspected and cleared for use 11,740 of those seats" (DALLASNEWS.com, 2/10). In Milwaukee, Don Walker notes the announcement "came as a second lawsuit was filed in Dallas County" on behalf of two Packers fans, who allege that they were "sold tickets to seats that did not exist" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 2/11).
TAKING RESPONSIBILITY: NFL Exec VP/Business Operations Eric Grubman Thursday appeared on the "PFT Live" podcast and said there are "two levels of responsibility" for the fiasco. Grubman: "The way we look at it is, we're the National Football League, we're presenting the game, these are our fans, and a lot of them are heartbroken and they're mad. We accept the responsibility for that, and we've got to figure out how to get them to give us a second chance." He added, "When it comes down to figuring out how to make sure this never happens again, we'll be looking at our internal processes, and how we work with contractors, and how we work with host clubs and so forth and so on. ... This is a tough situation, a lot of people probably could have done things better or differently" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 2/10). Grubman on ESPN Radio 970 Pittsburgh added, "We screwed it up. I can't change that. I'm a football fan and before I worked at the Super Bowl I took my young sons and my father ... to see the New York Giants and if that would have happened to me, I would be furious" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 2/10). Grubman said the seating issue was a "mistake of monumental portions." Grubman: "The facts are that we just didn't get the temporary seating finished in time." Meanwhile, Grubman said the only condition on the two offers to the 400 displaced fans is that they "accept the offer and that they agree that that's it." Grubman: "In other words, we don't want a fan accepting the offer to be part of some sort of litigation" ("The Call," CNBC, 2/10).
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series "gets rolling this weekend with somber reflection, added uncertainty and cautious optimism," according to Jim Peltz of the L.A. TIMES. The season gets underway with Saturday's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona Int'l Speedway and next weekend's Daytona 500, and drivers and NASCAR officials are hoping that the opening week "launches a rebound year in the popularity of the 36-race Cup Series." While it is "still among the most watched of sports, NASCAR's overall attendance and television ratings have been dropping." NASCAR this offseason "installed a simplified championship points system to help boost interest in the series" (L.A. TIMES, 2/11). SCENEDAILY.com's Bob Pockrass, in the first part of a six-part series, wrote NASCAR "still has tremendous value and appeal." But the "profound decline" in TV ratings and attendance "begs for answers." For those "who thought the racing was better than ever" last season, "looking up in the grandstands at about half the races was downright depressing." Reviewing TV ratings "proved perplexing." No one "expected the incredible growth of the 1990s and early 2000s to continue at the same pace," and "saying that NASCAR teeters on the verge of collapse would, frankly, be overly dramatic and imply that sponsors shouldn't invest in the sport." But "sitting still and saying that NASCAR will return to prominence when the economy gets better does not spark change." The issues "have been analyzed, dissected and debated for the past three years," but "few have laid out any concrete plans for how to address them." Michael Waltrip Racing VP & GM Ty Norris: "There's no silver bullet. You can't say one thing stopped the ratings and one thing stopped the attendance so you can't say one thing is going to fix it" (SCENEDAILY.com, 2/7). Read parts two, three and four of Pockrass' series.
TURNING THE CORNER: ESPN.com's Ed Hinton wrote the "sun is breaking through on NASCAR." Hinton: "I'm talking about the pulse of the garages and shops, and the brightening skies about money. All across the media tour, we heard teams announce renewals of contracts with existing sponsors, and additions of new ones. ... We saw promise of variety in winners." The grandstands this season "still won't be jam-packed," and the ratings "may remain in the doldrums for a while." But "all in all the financial gloom is lifting" (ESPN.com, 2/7). In Daytona Beach, Clayton Park noted NASCAR and ISC officials are "cautiously optimistic the new year will bring more fans, television viewers and net earnings than last year." The officials "believe they have done their part," including "reducing overall ticket prices, offering a wider selection of ticket-package options to appeal to all income levels, improving track amenities, and implementing both rules changes and an altering of the Sprint Cup Series points system to increase interest among fans." NASCAR and ISC also "have stepped up efforts to attract first-time fans and the so-called youth market." ISC Senior VP, CFO & Treasurer Dan Houser said that corporate sponsorship sales, a "significant source of revenue for ISC," have "stabilized." He added companies are "spending with us, but not necessarily back to pre-recession levels" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 2/7).
TECHNICALLY SPEAKING: In Virginia, Dustin Long wrote NASCAR fans, "like much of society, are immersed in the technology evolution." Fans "can watch races on the computer," and "most drivers and teams are hooked into Twitter and Facebook, tightening the bond between fans and drivers." Fans are "seeing more of what's going on than ever, from lap times to the measurements of sensors hooked up to a race car." Fox, which will broadcast the Feb. 20 Daytona 500, "will debut a TV graphic that shows how much a driver turns the steering wheel, providing another clue to how well a car is handling at that time." It is "that type of technology that gives fans more information and, NASCAR hopes, greater enjoyment of the sport." Long noted "one of the next key areas for the sport will be how many Cup races fans can view on their computers," and to date, it is "not many." All six TNT races "are shown on NASCAR.com," as "both the network and website are owned by Turner Broadcasting, which has all the sport's online streaming rights." But Fox Sports Media Group Chair & CEO David Hill said that he "doesn't plan to put his network's races online," and ESPN "has not announced if it will make Nationwide races available online" (ROANOKE TIMES, 2/9).
UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue Thursday confirmed that the "financially troubled organization will kick off its third season in August as scheduled and that its creditors will be paid," according to Steve Carp of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. Huyghue said that the UFL lost $45-50M last year, after losses of $32M during its inaugural '09 season, and owes approximately $6M to creditors. Among those owed money are the Las Vegas Locomotives players, "who have yet to receive their $20,000 bonuses for winning the UFL title game Nov. 27." Huyghue: "The owners have appropriated the money to pay the existing $6 million in expendables. We anticipate paying everyone within the next two weeks." Locomotives Owner Bill Hambrecht said that "part of the problem was with the UFL's Jacksonville, Fla., headquarters, which oversaw the dispersal of funds." Hambrecht: "You didn't know who was owed what. But that's all changed. Now the teams will directly pay their bills." Huyghue said that the league, "faced with mounting losses," briefly considered "suspending operations for this year." But the owners "decided to stay the course, sensing an opportunity for increased national visibility should the NFL fail to strike a new labor deal and suffer a work stoppage." Hambrecht: "We could be the only game in town. It's potentially a great opportunity for us to showcase our product." Huyghue said that the "key to turning things around financially will be a revised business model that calls for a reduction in costs, an increase in TV revenue and corporate sponsorships and identifying new investors for possible expansion in 2012 and beyond." Huyghue: "The owners are still probably going to lose $7 million each this year. But they are prepared for that and they're committed to seeing this venture through" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 2/11).
FIVE FOR FIGHTING: The UFL Thursday announced that it will remain a five-team league this year. Huyghue said that a sixth team will not be added for '11, but that the league continues to actively seek suitable expansion markets and investors. Huyghue: "At this point in time, making a financial commitment to fielding a sixth team would be irresponsible." The third annual UFL Championship Game will be played at a venue to be determined (UFL).
Galarraga, Joyce co-author book
slated to be released in May
LPGA CHALLENGES: In New Mexico, Mary Armstrong writes the LPGA has "some challenges that the PGA doesn't have." The "problem of marketing foreign players" is "foremost on most people's minds." Other sports "have to deal with a wide ranging international field," and the LPGA "could take some pointers from the WTA." LPGA member Hee Young Park, a South Korea native, "appears confident, fun and outgoing" in a golf lesson video posted online, "even though the lesson is totally in Korean." Armstrong: "And yet, I didn't recognize her name. The LPGA just isn't doing enough to publicize the personalities on tour" (Las Cruces SUN-NEWS, 2/11).
ANY COURT WILL DO: In N.Y., Frank Isola reports Lakers G Kobe Bryant "may be willing to return to his Italian roots if he doesn't agree with the terms" of a new NBA CBA. A Lakers player said that Bryant "recently threatened, 'I'll play in Europe' when they were discussing the potential of an NBA lockout this summer and the ramifications of a new CBA" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/11).