SBD/March 16, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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  • NFL Lockout Watch, Day 5: Roger Goodell Calls For A Return To Mediation

    Goodell says both sides need "get away from rhetoric," return to negotiations

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league and the decertified NFLPA “need to get back” to mediation in order to agree to a new CBA, and that issues are “resolved at the negotiating table” instead of rhetoric coming from both sides. Goodell, appearing on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access” last night, said, “I couldn't get off this show fast enough to get to mediation. We didn't push away from the table. We were still at the table when they walked out on mediation. So for us to go back to mediation, you call me, I'll be there. It's a decision the mediator has to make, but we would certainly be there and I expect we will be there." Goodell added everyone did a “very professional job" despite allegations by the former NFLPA that they were "disrespected." He said, “The players and the owners and the negotiators in representing their parties, their interests and listening to one another -- I think that's why we made some progress over the last couple of weeks. The proposal that was made on Friday was, frankly, a culmination of not only the period of time we were in mediation, but discussions that happened outside that process over the last several months. … The owners put together a very thorough, fair proposal that the players should really take serious consideration over." Goodell did say both sides need to “get away from rhetoric.” He said, “I don't think because you disagree with somebody it's appropriate to call anyone a liar. We all made an agreement that we were going to work through the mediation process because we thought it was the fastest and fairest way to get to a collective bargaining agreement” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 3/15). Goodell noted he was unsure when the two parties would return to negotiations. He said, “Uncertainty is not good for anybody, and that's what we're in. We're in a period of uncertainty. We need to get issues resolved" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/15).

    OWNERS VOICE OPTIMISM, DETERMINATION: Giants President & CEO John Mara yesterday said that he is "optimistic that a deal can still be reached between the NFL's owners and players without affecting" the '11 season, but he also has "made preparations in case he's wrong." During an interview on ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y., Mara said, "We are well prepared for it. It is certainly not going to be easy. And it is certainly not the preferred route. But if we have to go that way, I think most of the clubs are going to be able to deal with it." He also "reiterated his statements from last week, when he said that he thought the players were intent on decertifying their union during negotiations in Washington and were therefore not fully committed to the process." But Mara said that he "does believe that it will get done." Mara: "I still am trying to retain an optimistic view about this, because as I have said repeatedly so far, there is a fair deal out there to be negotiated" (NEWSDAY, 3/16). Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy yesterday said that the owners "want to continue negotiations" for a new CBA "while the sides wait for an April 6 hearing on an antitrust suit filed by a group of players." Murphy said, "The proposal we made was not a full collective bargaining agreement. It was the basis for future discussions." He added that the league is "willing to do whatever is necessary to assure players it won’t bring up continued negotiations in any hearings on the claim that decertification is a sham" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 3/16).

    PLAYERS GETTING FRUSTRATED: Steelers S and player rep Ryan Clark is "upset that the owners have accused the NFL Players Association of deliberately walking away from the negotiating table and having a premeditated plan to decertify." Clark sarcastically said, "That's exactly what we wanted to do -- not have a union. C'mon, that's ridiculous. It's kind of hypocritical for owners to say that when you have a plan with the TV networks for when the games aren't even played. If that doesn't show that was your plan all along, I don't know what does." He added, "Decertification was a reactionary measure, something you have to be forced into doing. If that's what we wanted to do, if that was our first choice, why haven't we done it all along? I think that's the owners just trying to form public perception" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/16). Bengals OT and player rep Andrew Whitworth said, "So many people on both sides are pointing fingers right now that I don’t get the point. The fans don’t like any of us at the moment. Eventually both sides are going to have to negotiate again. We all want that and have to work together" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 3/16).

    DOESN'T CHANGE ANYTHING: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell reports the NFL players' group, decertified as a union or not, "might still be subject to action by the National Labor Relations Board, stemming from a charge by the NFL of unfair labor practices." As the former NFLPA "disclaimed its interest as a collective bargaining agent when labor talks collapsed Friday, effectively becoming a trade association, the NFL amended its previous charge by filing with the NLRB's Region 2 office in New York." Bell notes the "gist of the NFL's charge is that the NFLPA has unfairly used decertification as a negotiating strategy for securing a better labor deal." Players' group leader Kevin Mawae: "We're not a union anymore. So any case before the NLRB is trumped by our decertification. So it doesn't matter." But NLRB spokesperson Nancy Cleeland said, "It doesn't change what (allegedly) happened. The charge is still being investigated." Cleeland said that there was "no definitive timeline for completing an investigation of the charge, originally filed Feb. 14" (USA TODAY, 3/16).

    WHO TO BLAME? In Michigan, Tom Kowalski wrote, "It's really tough to blame either side for this mess because of their philosophical stand. ... The players don't trust that the owners are delivering the right numbers and the owners don't trust what the players would do with the information if they got it" (MLIVE.com, 3/15). In Miami, Armando Salguero writes, "Dismiss them both. Be disgusted by both. Disagree with both. In a tug-of-war over -- what else? -- money, I say fans should collapse the middle of the rope and make them both pay" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/16). In DC, Sally Jenkins writes, "What right do owners have to padlock stadiums that taxpayers helped pay for?" If the fans "don’t get a fair return on the public funds and favor lavished on owners, here’s what they should do: sue." Attorneys general in "every state that houses an NFL team should draw up suits to force the league to play, or repay what they owe us." Jenkins: "Where is it written that owners are entitled to the lion's share of revenues from structures we help build and support?" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/16).

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  • NFL Lockout Watch, Day 5: Players Allege NFL Draft Is Illegal

    Players' lawsuit claims NFL Draft with entering player pool is unlawful

    While speculation over the past few days has centered on whether top NFL Draft prospects will attend the NFL Draft in N.Y. next month, players in the antitrust case filed Friday have alleged that the NFL Draft is a violation of antitrust laws and is illegal. It is not expected that the players in the Tom Brady v. NFL case would try to get an injunction preventing this year's draft. There is an April 6 hearing on the players’ motion for an injunction against the NFL lockout, but the NFL Draft is not specifically mentioned in that motion. However, the second legal claim in the class action complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota Friday by the Patriots QB, eight other NFLers and NFL prospect and former Texas A&M LB Von Miller, alleges that the NFL Draft “with Entering Player Pool” is a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. The phrase “entering player pool” refers to what would be a rookie pay system for drafted players. The complaint asks for a number of things, including a judgment “declaring the NFL defendants imposing of the anticompetitive draft with an ‘Entering Player Pool’ violates Section 1 of the Sherman Act and enjoining such restriction.” In addition, the complaint notes that a draft being held even without a pay system in place has been previously held to be an antitrust violation: “Indeed, a less restrictive draft system, which did not contain an entering player pool price fixing restraint, was previously held to be an antitrust violation and that finding is binding on the NFL.” Lawyers representing the players, and the NFL players' group that is now operating as a trade association, did not immediately return phone calls or answer e-mails regarding whether the players were seeking an injunction to stop the April 28-30 Draft. "The imposition of the Draft ... is an anti-competitive, horizontal agreement between competing NFL teams, which allocates the right to negotiate with and sign rookie professional football players and fixes their wages," the lawsuit states. "The Draft with Entering Player Pool is per se unlawful." Even though the NFL CBA expired on March 11, it allows for an ‘11 NFL Draft to be held in April. The NFL has maintained it can hold a draft, even though it has imposed a lockout (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

    PEER PRESSURE: SI.com's Peter King noted the players' group is "looking into getting veterans from every team to show up in New York, so that when the college players are drafted, they'll all have a future teammate," not NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, greet them. That comes after reports the former union is planning to hold an event the same night as the Draft at a different location than Radio City Music Hall. An agent who reps several top draft prospects said, "What is the first round of the draft for the NFL? It's a TV show, a show that makes the league a lot of money." King noted fans "probably won't hear the real sentiment from prospective high draftees when and if they stand in solidarity with their future teammates and opponents," but you "can bet that a bunch of them will feel deprived of a moment they've dreamed of for a long time" (SI.com, 3/15). George Atallah, spokesperson for the players' group, yesterday posted on his Twitter feed, "The NFL Draft is special. Players and their families will be in NYC. It just maybe different. We will provide details when we can." He also wrote, "Let me also correct the record: the NFLPA is not asking anyone to 'boycott' anything. NFL Draft in particular" (TWITTER.com, 3/15). In DC, Mark Maske cites sources as saying that there are "no plans for veteran players to picket outside Radio City Music Hall during the draft" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/16). ESPN's Adam Schefter: "It doesn't sound right now as if they know what form it will take other than the fact that it is severely in question whether or not any of these players will be in attendance (at the Draft)" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/15).

    STUCK IN THE MIDDLE: One agent who reps several top draft prospects said, "I advise players not to go and do whatever the union says. Any leverage that will help your side and hurts the other, use it." In N.Y., Gary Myers writes the idea of boycotting the draft is "ludicrous, but so was the idea that the billionaire owners and the millionaire players couldn't find a way to split the $9 billion a year in revenue the league produces." Myers: "Walking on that stage is a memorable moment. Why take it away? Because this fight started off ugly and it gets uglier each day" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/16). Giants President & CEO John Mara believes that a "boycott is a bad idea." During an interview on ESPN Radio 1050 N.Y., Mara said yesterday, "These young men, it's a special time in their lives, they only get one opportunity to go up on that stage and be announced as a first-round pick in front of their friends and families and I think it's an unfortunate decision on the union's part" (N.Y. POST, 3/16). In Illinois, Barry Rozner notes draft prospects have "no one in their corner during this fight and have no say in this battle." Yet the NFL players "suddenly want the rookies to be a part of their fight by boycotting the draft and embarrassing Commissioner Roger Goodell on national TV." Rozner: "This is what the NFLPA wants, and any draft pick ignoring the edict risks being ostracized by his new teammates when he gets to camp" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 3/16). In St. Louis, Bernie Miklasz wrote, "This attempt to bully draft picks is pathetic on many levels" (STLTODAY.com, 3/15). But columnist Kevin Blackistone said, "You're about to join a union. You're about to be part of a bigger brotherhood. That's what you need to think about. This is just something that's going to happen now. This isn't about the long-time future. So it should behoove you right now not to participate" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 3/15).

    ANOTHER PR NIGHTMARE: FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez wrote the draft boycott "has the makings for an even bigger mess than the CBA negotiations." Goodell would "face the brunt of public outrage," and would "assuredly be booed, cursed and embarrassed by derogatory chants when announcing the first-round picks." Marvez: "The NFL shouldn't risk exposing its leader to such abuse" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/15). ESPN's John Clayton noted the NFL is being "very quiet" and not responding to a possible NFL Draft boycott "because I think you can see that the publicity of what was at least said to be a boycott did not go over well" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 3/15).

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  • NFL Lockout Watch, Day 5: Cowboys Deny SI Report Of Jones Walk Out

    SI reported Jones stood up, threatened to leave March 2 CBA talks

    The Cowboys denied that Owner Jerry Jones walked out of a critical collective bargaining session earlier this month. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday a key moment in the break down of the talks was when Jones tried to stage a walkout. “It wasn't as dramatic as Trotter made it sound and Jerry never left the room as some might infer,” Cowboys VP/PR & Communications Rich Dalrymple said in an e-mail, referring to the SI reporter Jim Trotter. “A lot to do about a little.” Dalrymple said Trotter did not call the Cowboys for comment on the story. Trotter said he e-mailed the league for comment but did not hear back. Trotter’s report states that at a March 2 bargaining session, Jones said he needed to get the players' attention, banged his knuckles together and stood up to leave, and began to leave, apparently hoping the other owners would follow. The story does not specifically say he left, though that inference has been widely reported. Trotter said he should have made clear that Jones did not leave, and instead, according to Trotter’s sources, the Cowboys owner stood in the corner of the room for 30 minutes. Dalrymple, who said Jones would not speak about the incident, said of the report in another e-mail, “Just one side of a closed door meeting from a guy who wasn't in the meeting. Jerry's not going to get into it. Knuckles or no knuckles.” Trotter said the story was based on four sources in the room. The NFLPA did not return a query for comment on the incident. After the March 2 incident, the sides ultimately agreed to two extensions of the CBA expiration deadline. However, a third extension could not be reached and the union decertified and the league locked out the players (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

    THE ORIGINAL REPORT: SI's Trotter in the original report notes on March 2, for the "first time in 13 meetings" with Cohen, the 10 owners on the NFL's labor committee were "sitting across the negotiating table from the players on the union's executive committee." Several players in that meeting recount Jones saying, "I don't think we've got your attention. You clearly don't understand what we're saying, and we're not hearing what you're saying. So I guess we're going to have to show you to get your attention." Jones then "tapped his fists together for emphasis -- the players interpreted it as a sign that a lockout was coming -- then stood and walked toward the door." As he reached the end of the table, Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson, "another labor hawk, began to rise, but Robert Kraft of the Patriots, who was sitting next to him, put a hand on Richardson's forearm and kept him from going." Trotter notes if Jones' "intention was to intimidate the players, he failed." One player said, "I think everybody in the room thought it was overly dramatic, almost hilarious. It was like a Jerry Maguire moment. You know, 'I'm leaving. Who's coming with me?' I know it didn't scare any of us" (SI, 3/21 issue).

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, NFL, Football
  • NFL Lockout Watch, Day 5: Could Von Miller's Participation In Lawsuit Affect Draft Position?

    Miller's agency, Athletes First, volunteered him for antitrust suit

    NFL Draft prospect Von Miller "put himself in the middle of a storm … before his first NFL snap" by joining nine active players "as lead plaintiffs in a class-action suit alleging antitrust violations by the NFL" that also seeks an injunction against the lockout, according to Gerry Fraley of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. The NFL players' group "wanted a high-quality draft-eligible player to argue against a rookie wage scale." The agency Athletes First "volunteered Miller, whom it represents." Athletes First agent Andrew Kessler is the son of players outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler. Athletes First's Jody Branion said, "Von felt honored to be asked to join the select group of players who are now the named plaintiffs in the case." However, Fraley notes NFL owners and execs "have never been fond of player activists." Fraley: "Could Miller be branded a disruptive force, a locker-room lawyer, for his involvement in the suit? Could there be retaliation in the form of lower draft status?" Miller said, "I'm looking forward to the draft and everything else. I'll take it day-by-day and deal with whatever happens. That's been my formula all along." Fraley writes any teams that "consider Miller's participation in the suit as a mark against his character will be making a big mistake," as he is "involved in the suit because of his strong character and his football talents" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/16).

    KEY TO GETTING BACK TO TABLE: In N.Y., Judy Battista notes the antitrust case, Tom Brady v. NFL, is about something "elemental: lifting the lockout to create more leverage for players in negotiations." On page 48 of the suit, the "first item listed under Prayer For Relief asks the court to declare the lockout a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and asks the court to block it." U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson is "scheduled to hear arguments on that request April 6," and "whichever way Nelson rules after the hearing next month -- and even more critically, whichever way the Court of Appeals goes since Nelson's decision will surely be appealed by whichever side does not prevail -- could help determine how soon negotiations will resume." Legal experts said that if the players "do not get the injunction, the sides will most likely negotiate much sooner" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/16).

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  • Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk Advocates Lifetime Ban On Headhunters

    Melnyk says league cannot afford for players to miss time due to concussions

    Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk yesterday on Toronto's The Fan 590-AM said that the NHL "needs to ban players found guilty of headhunting," according to Bruce Garrioch of the OTTAWA SUN. Melnyk: "You hit a guy in the head: You're gone and I mean gone. A deliberate hit, you don't play hockey anymore. That's the way you're going to do it. You're gone. ... If it's an accidental hit that could have been avoided -- just because you're stupid and you just skated the wrong way but you hit the guy, fine, 20-game suspension." Melnyk said that the league "can't afford to lose star players like" Penguins C Sidney Crosby and Senators C Jason Spezza, both of whom have been sidelined by concussions this season (OTTAWA SUN, 3/16). In Toronto, Damien Cox writes it "certainly sounded like Melnyk," like Penguins co-Owner Mario Lemieux and Canadiens Owner Geoff Molson previously, was a "governor looking for a much more drastic approach to the problem." That is "hardly standard procedure" for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's administration, "which desperately wants to control the message on all NHL matters." Cox: "Suddenly, it seems Bettman's grip over the league's owners, a major reason why he has been able to stay in power for 18 years, doesn't seem quite as tight" (TORONTO STAR, 3/16).

    COMPLETE BAN UNLIKELY: SPORTING NEWS TODAY's Craig Custance notes NHL GMs at their meetings "have taken strong steps this week to make the game safer." Suspensions "will be longer, starting next season," more "boarding and charging calls will be made, and more questionable hits will result in supplemental discipline." But the "belief that the NHL is ultimately headed down a road to completely ban hits to the head is fading." Blues GM Doug Armstrong: "If we felt we were going to get there eventually, I think we'd get there today. I don't think there's a sentiment that we have to get to that level" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 3/16). Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke said that there "was no appetite for 'a blanket ban' as such hits can also come from a perfectly legal body check." The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor notes the league "maintains most concussions this year have come from legal hits, though there is much public debate over what should be legal" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/16). However, in Montreal, Pat Hickey writes the GMs "had a chance to make a statement about head shots at their annual general meeting, but instead came up with a series of proposals to tighten enforcement of the existing rules" (Montreal GAZETTE, 3/16).

    CAN'T TAKE VIOLENCE OUT OF HOCKEY
    : In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino writes, "Concussions? Sure, the NHL wants to reduce them, but not at the expense of good, clean, violent, ticket-selling fun." NHL VP/Hockey & Business Development Brendan Shanahan: "We're fooling ourselves if we say there aren't going to be any injuries in hockey or anything like that." Burke: "We've got to take out the more dangerous hits, make it safer for the players, but keep hitting in the game. ... Players are still going to get hurt. Players are still going to get hit" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 3/16). Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson believes that concussions "cannot be ruled out of a game where physical contact is part of the play." Wilson: "You don't have to hit your head to get a concussion. ... We can ban fighting, but there's still going to be fighting in the game" (TORONTO STAR, 3/16). Also in Toronto, Steve Buffery notes a group of "concerned fans" protested "on-ice violence outside the Bell Centre" prior to last night's Capitals-Canadiens game. Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said, "You don't like it, don't come to the games. I think the players realize that they can get hurt." Buffery: "Amen to ... Boudreau for putting these hypocritical 'fans' in their place" (TORONTO SUN, 3/16).

    NEW DEAN OF DISCIPLINE?
    ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote under the header, "Now Is Time To Replace Colin Campbell." Burnside: "If indeed this is a brand-new day for the NHL when it comes to getting tough on its dangerous players, isn't it likewise time for a new sheriff to preside over this new landscape." GMs "have asked for stiffer suspensions, especially when it comes to blows to the head and repeat offenders," and that "dovetails nicely with Bettman's announcement Monday that teams, along with executives and possibly coaches, will be fined if they breach a threshold in terms of number of suspensions." But Burnside wrote while the proposed changes are "laudable, they reflect significant flaws in the system and how the job was carried out under Campbell," the league's Senior Exec VP/Hockey Operations. Burnside: "In general Campbell has been seen as too soft on players. ... Is it not a natural break point for someone new to come in for next season and preside over these new guidelines?" (ESPN.com, 3/15).

    Print | Tags: NHL, Hockey, Leagues and Governing Bodies
  • MLB, Union To Begin Second Round Of CBA Talks In Coming Weeks

    MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said that the second round of CBA talks between MLB and union officials "will occur sometime during the next few weeks in the Phoenix area," according to Barry Bloom of MLB.com. The two sides had an "amicable meeting in Florida on March 2," and Weiner said that he "hopes that regular sessions occur once the season begins on March 31." Negotiations for the last CBA in '06 were "conducted under the radar, ending without rancor and the signing of the current Basic Agreement" that expires in December. Both sides "want that atmosphere to continue," resulting in the "public non-specificity of a date for the next session" (MLB.com, 3/13). MLB Commissioner Bud Selig during a stop at the Brewers' Spring Training facility in Scottsdale Saturday "talked about the NFL's labor problems and baseball's peace." He said that there is "nothing he could offer" NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Selig: "When you have substantial differences, this is what happens. It's a sign of the times in sports as it is in everything else." He added, "When I think about my earlier days in baseball and the public posturing that went on, it was a pretty accurate barometer of what happened. Owners ripping owners, owners ripping the union, commissioners in the middle getting ripped. I'm glad we stopped that. It's good to have a constructive atmosphere" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 3/13). 

    HISTORY LESSON: MLB has formed a Baseball Origins Committee, which will be led by league historian John Thorn. Selig will be part of the 10-member panel that will also include filmmaker Ken Burns, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and syndicated columnist George Will. The panel will seek to determine the origins of baseball and will explore the sport's evolution (MLB).

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, MLB
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