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The NFL has announced a "second option" for the approximately 400 fans "who didn't have seats Sunday in Super Bowl XLV," according to James Walker of ESPN.com. The league has offered the displaced fans two options. They can choose "one free ticket to next year's Super Bowl game plus a cash payment of $2,400 (three times the face value of the Super Bowl XLV game ticket held by the individual)." The ticket to Super Bowl XLVI is "transferable." The other option is selecting "one free ticket to a future Super Bowl game of the fan's choice, including next year's if so desired, plus round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations provided by the NFL." That ticket "will be personalized in the ticketholder's name and is not transferable" (ESPN.com, 2/8). The AP noted if fans choose the second option, they "will not get the $2,400." They can "wait until after the conference championship games each season to see whether their favorite team reaches the Super Bowl." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said Commissioner Roger Goodell "thought it was the right thing to do to give those fans more options" (AP, 2/8).
WORKERS RAN OUT OF TIME: Arlington Fire Chief Don Crowson yesterday said that inspectors "found numerous safety problems during the monthlong project to construct temporary seats at Cowboys Stadium before things took a bizarre turn and the contractor walked off the job just hours before Sunday's Super Bowl." In Ft. Worth, Susan Schrock reports the issues included "removing seats that made pathways in and out of the stands too narrow and questions about the stands' structural integrity." Crowson: "Problems were found. They were told to correct them." Workers with N.Y.-based Seating Solutions "walked off the job ... just hours before kickoff," leaving "approximately 1,200 temporary seats in the west end zone and the north and south main concourses unsafe for fans." Crowson: "I witnessed it. A guy came up to me and said, 'We are done. We can't do any more. We're out of here.' I called the NFL and told them." Seating Solutions VP Scott Suprina Monday said that "snow and ice prevented workers from getting to the stadium for two days and that they ran out of time to get the seats done." Suprina: "It was just too much to overcome at the end of the project. And this was a daunting project. I don't think there's been another Super Bowl where they've added half this many seats." Crowson noted that the Cowboys' contractor, Manhattan Construction, "stepped in Saturday and Sunday to try to finish the project, but time ran out." Meanwhile, Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck is "confident that neither the ice storm nor the seating debacle will hurt North Texas' chance of landing a future Super Bowl." Cluck: "I don't feel like our reputation is tarnished. I don't think this is going to impede our success with other bowls. We were awarded this event because of our stadium. Sure we'll have some things to correct -- we'll do that" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/9).
CONFLICTING ACCOUNTS: Suprina said that Seating Solutions "lost four days' worth of access to the stadium because of snow, ice and cold weather." Suprina: "There were many things that went wrong. I accept some responsibility." But Suprina said that he "did not abandon the job well before the Super Bowl began, despite earlier reports" from Cluck and Manhattan Construction. In Dallas, Tom Benning notes WFAA-ABC reported that Arlington city records "show there may have been concerns with the temporary seating setup as early as three weeks ago." Those revelations "have only further upset fans who were affected," and "at least two law firms have publicly announced they are signing up clients who encountered trouble with Super Bowl XLV tickets" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 2/9).
TOO MANY THINGS WENT WRONG: ESPN's John Clayton noted the NFL is looking into the seating situation because "too many things went wrong on game day." In addition to the 400 fans left without seats, there were four entrances to Cowboys Stadium "that were closed," resulting in "two to three hours of wait to get in." Clayton: "If this were any other city, any other stadium, there probably never would be a Super Bowl that would come back there. But the fact that this is such a great venue for a game, a great stage and you have a great host like Jerry Jones, they'll get another chance" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 2/8). ESPN's Jim Rome called the week in North Texas a "disaster." Rome: "The city was not prepared for the elements and the necessary infrastructure was not in place. In short, it was one of the worst Super Bowl efforts I've seen in quite some time. I put it right up there with Jacksonville" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 2/8).
TAKE IT TO THE COURTS: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Thomas Korosec reports the NFL, the Cowboys and Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones yesterday "were sued by season-ticket holders who say they were promised prime Super Bowl seats and were instead given folding chairs with obstructed views." According to the complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Dallas, Mike Dolabi said that he "paid at least $100,000 for seat licenses at Cowboys Stadium" and was "promised seats at Super Bowl XLV with 'the best sightlines in the stadium.'" On game day, the fans "found their seats were 'temporary metal fold-out chairs' installed in an attempt to break a Super Bowl attendance record, according to the complaint" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 2/9). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Kevin Armstrong notes L.A.-based Eagan Avenatti, LLP has "launched an investigation into claims that the Cowboys deceived season ticket holders into buying $1,200 seats with obstructed views." Attorney Michael Avenatti: "We will get to the bottom of this. And when we do, I expect we will find that greed and ego had a lot to do with what happened" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/9). Avenatti added, "We think that this is a pretty straightforward matter. People did not obtain what they were told they were going to get" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/9).
The NFLPA is asking a federal judge to issue a decision on its appeal of the Special Master case by March 3, the day before the NFL can lock out players, according to a source familiar with the situation. The union did not receive the injunction it was seeking to prevent the NFL from receiving more than $4B in TV contract money if games are not played this year. U.S. District Court Judge David Doty has set a hearing for oral arguments on the case for Feb. 24 in a federal courtroom in Minneapolis, the source said. The source requested anonymity because this person was not authorized to speak publicly about the case. The NFL CBA expires March 4 at 12:00am. Special Master Stephen Burbank ruled last week that the NFL did violate the Reggie White Settlement agreement, which governs the CBA, with respect to its negotiation of what the union has called "lockout insurance" in its contracts with ESPN and NBC. But Burbank did not grant the union the injunction it was seeking and, instead, awarded damages. The union filed an immediate appeal of Burbank's decision, but that appeal was filed under seal. Although details of the case have been kept secret, the Feb. 24 hearing is set to be heard in open court. If Doty was to reverse Burbank's decision, and grant an injunction stopping the NFL from receiving TV revenues even if ‘11 NFL games are canceled, it could give the NFLPA more leverage in the ongoing CBA negotiation, labor experts say. The NFLPA won a damage award of about $6M, which NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash at a press conference last week called "modest" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).
TIME TO GET TO WORK: In an op-ed piece for the DETROIT NEWS, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell writes, "One of the best NFL seasons in history is over. We salute NFL players for their talent and we appreciate the fan support. The hard work to secure the next NFL season must now accelerate in earnest." Goodell writes the NFL "must reach a new" CBA by March 4, and "if we as a league fail to fulfill our shared responsibility to the fans and game, everyone will be worse off." Goodell: "If both sides give a little, everyone gets a lot, especially the fans" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/9). ESPN's John Clayton noted to "watch for more meetings" between the league and the NFLPA on the CBA as the two sides "try to at least resolve some of these major issues, and then at some point get somebody to break to make some kind of an offer that gets things moving in a positive direction" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 2/8).
WEIGHING IN ON THE ISSUES: Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver yesterday said that he "thinks an 18-game regular season schedule is what the fans want." Weaver: "Fans don't see the value in paying for preseason games." Weaver added he believes two regular-season games is "one of the bridges" toward a new CBA "because there's a huge amount of money from the television package that helps bridge the gap to get where we need to go." He added, "The data shows that it's not going to add to the injuries because you do have four preseason games (under the previous system). You do have those, starters play in those. People get hurt in training camp. People still get hurt in OTAs." Meanwhile, Weaver said that he "does not anticipate layoffs" to the Jaguars' staff in the event of a lockout, and that the Jaguars "need to have season-ticket sales grow by 4,000 to 5,000 each year" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 2/9). Weaver said that the current CBA "allots 65 percent of the revenue for player costs." Weaver: "That only leaves you 35 percent to run your business. It's hard to invest in your business and do other things you need to do. We need to fix that balance so that every club can invest in itself" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/8).
The Minnesota Court of Appeals "declined Tuesday to block the NFL's long-fought suspensions" of Vikings DTs Kevin and Pat Williams for using StarCaps, "leaving the players to decide whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court," according to Simons & Zulgad of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. The court said that because the StarCaps ingredient for which they tested positive does not fall under the state's workplace drug-testing law, the NFL's "failure to follow that law's worker-notification requirements does not give state courts a basis to prevent the league's punishment." But the court also said that the NFL is "subject to state law when testing players for other, covered drugs, such as anabolic steroids." The Williamses "tested positive in July 2008 for bumetanide," an "unlisted ingredient in the over-the-counter weight-loss supplement StarCaps." The players' attorney, Peter Ginsberg, said that he would "consult with his clients before they decide in the next couple of days whether to appeal" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 2/9).
GIVING UP THE QUEST: In St. Paul, Brian Murphy reports Pat Williams is "ready to accept the league's punishment and miss the start of the 2011 season." Williams, an "imminent free agent," said that he "does not expect to" challenge the court's ruling. Williams: "Right now, I want it to be over because it's cost me so much money, close to $1 million (in legal fees). It ain't cheap. ... The only person getting anything out of keeping on fighting is the lawyers." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello "declined to say whether the NFL would suspend the players next season," along with Saints DE Will Smith, "whose similar punishment league Commissioner Roger Goodell deferred until the Williamses' case was resolved" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 2/9). In N.Y., Ken Belson writes the ruling is an "apparent victory for the NFL," as the decision "makes it less likely that other players will make similar legal challenges if they are suspended by the league for taking banned substances" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/9).
The NBA CBA is set to expire on June 30, and NBA Commissioner David Stern said he hopes the nearly five months until a possible lockout would go into effect gives "people of goodwill a lot of time to get their dancing and prancing and posturing out of the way and hopefully sit down and do their best to make a deal." He said of the threat the NBPA will dissolve and file an anti-trust suit, "That's something that they're entitled to do. I understand that threat and that weapon. It doesn't eliminate two facts. One, that we ultimately are going to have to make a deal, no matter what they do, so they would be better off spending more time making a deal. And two, I think they may, as they approach that time, realize that when this deal expires we have $4 billion in guaranteed contracts that will not be guaranteed if the collective bargaining agreement under which they exist is one where the union has disappeared and with it the collective bargaining agreement." Stern said the "key" to reaching a deal is the players "realizing that it's been a great run." Meanwhile, Stern asserts the league is losing money despite franchises selling for record sums. He said, "We do have a limited number of franchises and people want to get in, but ... most of those purchases are based on the assumption that the model will be changing and that's what is going on in the marketplace. The reality is that there has been some historical run-up in franchise value, but these are different times with new normals and what we need is something that not only works economically but allows all of our teams to be competitive and all of our fans to have the opportunity to root for a contender. That's very much a part of this negotiation as well" (Bloomberg TV, 2/8).
THE KING IS HERE: Heat F LeBron James yesterday reiterated that he will "be part" of the CBA talks later this month during All-Star Weekend in L.A. James: "I'm not just going out there for the game. I'm definitely going out there for business. I will be a part of the labor talks. Even though it's a huge game going on Sunday, there's a lot of business that needs to be taken care of, too." Heat F James Jones is the team's player rep, but James "said he will not think twice about speaking up if needed." James "has attended meetings in the past, and says he stays as current as he can on the behind-the-scenes goings-on toward a new contract" (AP, 2/8).
FRANCHISE TAG? CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger noted TNT NBA analyst Reggie Miller said that a "franchise tag to curb player movement will be 'tough' to implement in collective bargaining." But "if that's what it takes to keep stars in small markets ... he's all for it." Miller: "It's good to have superstars in smaller markets because it helps the brand." NBA TV's Kevin McHale called the franchise tag an "interesting concept." Berger noted "depending on how it's implemented, a franchise tag would either give teams cap relief to help them retain a star player, further restrict star players' movement, or both." McHale: "I agree having the talent distributed throughout the whole NBA is much better for the game as a whole" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/8).