SBD/March 25, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NFL VP/Law & Labor Policy Adolpho Birch Thursday said that the league is "insistent upon HGH testing" when a new CBA is reached with the NFLPA, according to Alex Marvez of FOXSPORTS.com. Birch: "We want it. We think it's necessary. We're going to ensure that it's done. ... At this point, it's proper for it to be an active part of our program." Birch said that the NFL "had discussed the matter with NFLPA representatives before labor talks ended March 11 and a work stoppage began." An NFLPA source said an agreement for HGH testing "would have to be part of settlement discussions with the class," referring to the attorneys representing 10 NFL players in an antitrust lawsuit against the league. Marvez notes testing for HGH "could become a contentious subject among NFLPA members," and it also "could become a bargaining chip for the NFL in CBA negotiations." There currently is "no reliable HGH urine test although medical and scientific research is being done to create one." The NFL "formally requested the implementation of HGH testing from the NFLPA in January 2010," but the NFLPA "declined the request because it believed the issue should be part of CBA negotiations" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/25). ESPN's Doug Gottlieb said, "I don't think the players are going to win on this one. They're just not. Public perception is, 'All these guys are on it, everybody's on HGH, we want to get it out of our sports.' And the only way to do so is to allow testing. It may not be full disclosure but it's the appearance of fully disclosing exactly what you're taking" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 3/25).
RULES GO OUT THE WINDOW: In DC, Mark Maske notes the NFL's drug-testing program for players is "no longer in effect" during the lockout, and "some question whether the league can punish players for violations of its personal conduct policy committed during the lockout." Also, because the players have decertified their union, the NFLPA "no longer polices agents." Sports attorney David Cornwell, who represents players on a variety of issues, said, "It's all uncharted territory from here on out. Everything that emanates from the Players Association regulating agents is suspended. And everything that emanates from the NFL regarding the regulation of players is suspended." But CBS analyst Charley Casserly said that the "lack of testing might not be quite as alarming as it sounds because the program will return well before games are played." Maske notes "one suggestion quietly being contemplated by some agents is phasing the drug-testing program back into operation, with an initial grace period, once the lockout ends." But Birch said that "there is 'no basis' for anything other than putting testing for steroids and other drugs back into effect immediately" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/25).
PLAYER'S PERSPECTIVE: Free agent CB and Ravens player rep Chris Carr said that he "considered it 'disingenuous' when owners suggested the players walked away from the negotiating table -- and a good offer -- in Washington two weeks ago." Carr: "It's been very clear that we're the ones who want to negotiate. Every single player on the executive committee was at the mediation every single day. We always had people with influence there. They had nobody with decision-making capabilities until after we won the court case." Carr said that the owners' final offer was "not one the players could accept." Carr: "If we want to screw over the players who get in the league when we're done, we could sign this and I'll be happy. But it was just not a good deal at all" (Baltimore SUN, 3/25).
FANS GETTING INVOLVED: In Cleveland, Pat Galbincea reports Consolidated Graphics Group Chair & CEO Ken Lanci "sued the NFL, the Cleveland Browns and the league's 31 other teams on Thursday, aiming to save the upcoming football season." Lanci claims that the NFL lockout "violates his private seat license contract with the Browns and jeopardizes his right to watch a full season of home games" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 3/25).
The '11 Izod IndyCar Series season begins Sunday with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and "under the leadership of Randy Bernard, IndyCar is finally showing signs of re-emerging as a major player on the American sports landscape," according to John Oreovicz of ESPN.com. Bernard said, "We still have work to be done. But what excites me the most is that we have a solid financial foundation, and we're not trying to take shortcuts to accomplish our goals. I want to see us continue to grow and keep up this feeling of momentum and improvement." Oreovicz noted with the unification of open-wheel racing "now three full years in the past, IndyCar's focus is firmly on the future," and there is the "tantalizing prospect of three engine suppliers and a new chassis with multiple body kits in store for the 2012 season." But "in the meantime, the series hopes that minor tweaking of the competition rules -- mainly side-by-side restarts during all races -- will increase interest and excitement in 2011 in the final year of the Dallara-Honda spec formula." The involvement of U.S. drivers "is growing, with highly touted rookies J.R. Hildebrand and Charlie Kimball earning a promotion from the Indy Lights championship," and an effort is "being made to attracted United States Auto Club short-track stars to Indy Car racing instead of NASCAR." There also is a "fascinating subplot involving female drivers, with Danica Patrick fighting off challenges from Simona De Silvestro and Ana Beatriz." But Patrick is "tipped to switch her full-time focus to NASCAR in 2012," and "prolonged contract negotiations could adversely affect her focus this year" (ESPN.com, 3/23). In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote, "By midseason, all eyes will be on Danica Patrick to see if she re-signs with Andretti Autosport or chooses NASCAR" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/23).
BREAKTHROUGH YEAR? USA TODAY's Nate Ryan notes the changes to IndyCar this season include all races featuring "double-file restarts" and a $5M bonus for any non-IndyCar driver if he or she can win the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Ryan: "For a sport that has held tradition as sacred, the changes have been met with derision by some who fear creating a gimmicky vibe." But Bernard said that the "proof is that preseason ticket sales are up across the board." He said, "The three things I promised fans this year were entertainment, competition and value. It's very important to bring in the new fan. We have to bring new elements to showcase it" (USA TODAY, 3/23). When asked if this is the year that IndyCar "makes a big splash," Bernard said, "It's going to be a bigger splash than last year, I'm confident of that, and we're setting ourselves up because next year with ... Chevy, Honda and Lotus coming into our game it's going to make much more competition for 2012." Bernard added the series must " differentiate ourselves from NASCAR ... and every other genre of motorsports by being the fastest, most versatile race car and race car driver in the world" (Fox Business, 3/23).
MONDAY NIGHT SPECIAL? The INDY STAR's Cavin reports Bernard has "talked to Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage about staging a special" Izod IndyCar Series race at the track on a Monday night if the NFL "doesn't have a resolution" to the ongoing lockout. Neither Bernard nor Gossage is "ready to commit just yet, and Bernard said it might be mid-summer before a decision to move forward is made." Bernard: "It's all pie in the sky at this point, but I'm a firm believer that when one door closes on someone another one opens for someone else. We're ready to do anything and everything we can do to reach more mainstream, and I know the press will be hungry for more to cover if they're not covering football." Cavin notes there have been "exploratory conversations with television executives," and Versus "would have the right of first refusal" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/25).
SPREADING THE WORD: Bernard and several IndyCar drivers have been making the media rounds this week in advance of the season opener at St. Pete. Two-time defending IndyCar points champion Dario Franchitti appeared on CBS' "Late Show" Wednesday night and Helio Castroneves has been a guest on Fox Business and NBC's "Today" (THE DAILY). The AP's Michael Marot noted Bernard believes the fact that Versus is now run by NBC Sports "will create better promotional opportunities with NBC," such as Castroneves' "Today" appearance. Bernard: "It's an instant credibility in the sports world. They understand what they want to grow the network, and that's exciting to me" (AP, 3/23).
Allaster says WTA on firm financial
footing despite losing title sponsorship
SAFETY CONCERNS: The WTA “does not believe the radiation leak following the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan and severely damaged a nuclear plant will pose a health or safety risk to players attending the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo in the fall.” Kim Clijsters on Tuesday said that she “would not play in the event getting underway Sept. 25 or in another tournament in Beijing because of fears about radiation.” But the WTA on Thursday in a statement said, "At this time we do not have reason to believe that there is or will be a health or safety risk to our players or others participating in or attending the WTA's events this autumn in each of Tokyo and Beijing" (MAINICHI DAILY NEWS, 3/25).
The Rockies and D'Backs "have enjoyed the largest spring training attendance increases in baseball" at their new 11,000-seat, $179M Salt River Fields at Talking Stick facility, but "all but one of the remaining 13 Cactus League teams have suffered a decline," according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Cactus League attendance is "down 3.2% compared with the same number of games a year ago, but 10 of the 15 teams have suffered double-digit losses and four teams have dropped more than 20%." Perhaps "most alarming is that the attendance declines have hit the Cactus League's marquee teams." The Dodgers and Angels "have each plummeted by 19.5% this spring," while the Cubs, "who traditionally have been the strongest draw in Arizona, have suffered a 21% decline, the third-biggest drop in baseball." In addition, the Indians are down 22% and the Mariners have dropped 20%. Nightengale writes the Cactus League "has essentially been divided into the haves and have-nots, with nine of the 15 teams located on the economically troubled west side of Phoenix." Fans in Arizona are "choosing to watch games on the Valley's east side," where the Giants, Rockies, D'Backs and Cubs are "responsible for more than one-third of the Cactus League's draw." Meanwhile, the Grapefruit League's attendance "has been steady, down 0.8%," as only the Marlins (-17.4%) and Cardinals (-10.6%) "have suffered double-digit declines." Both teams train at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Fla. Despite a "slight overall spring training attendance decrease of 2.1%," MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said that he is "optimistic baseball will surpass 2010's regular-season attendance of 74 million" (USA TODAY, 3/25). The figures do not include six games rained out on March 21 that have yet to be made up. Meanwhile, the Rockies and D'Backs have seen an increase in average attendance of 104% and 58%, respectively, at Salt River Fields (David Broughton, SportsBusiness Journal).
The UFC will make its Toronto debut next month with an event at Rogers Centre, and the city represents a “key piece of the UFC’s longer-term strategy,” according to Grant Robertson of the GLOBE & MAIL. UFC 129 on April 30, the MMA promotion's first stadium event, is “more than just a payday” for the organization; it is a “proving ground." UFC “has only ever staged fights in arenas built for boxing or hockey," and if the Rogers Centre event "works, it will pave the way for even bigger fights at venues like Cowboys Stadium.” On the other hand, if “fans in Toronto leave unhappy -- due to bad sightlines, lacklustre fights or a mismanaged show" -- UFC officials "could end up eating their words for a long time to come.” Canada is home to the UFC's "most fervent supporters.” It took "just minutes for the UFC to sell 55,000 tickets ... to the April 30 fight.” White said, “I always talk about how big Canada is for us, and how crazy Canadians are for the UFC. Every time we go up to the Bell Centre (in Montreal), we sell that thing out. We got 23,000 there, but the question is, how many more people were really looking for tickets?” Robertson notes the "second reason Toronto really matters" is because "New York will be watching." N.Y. remains the "one major North American market the UFC hasn’t cracked," a place where UFC co-Owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and President Dana White "desperately want to be: the world’s most prestigious sports town.” If the UFC can "pull off a successful show in Toronto, proving to skeptics that the young sport is ready for the big-time, then maybe it stands a chance of playing the hallowed Madison Square Garden or, better yet," Yankee Stadium (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/25).
A FIGHTING CHANCE: The West Virginia Legislature Thursday passed a bill regulating MMA, becoming the 45th state to approve the sport. Only New York, Vermont and Connecticut remain unregulated, while Alaska and Wyoming lack the necessary regulatory bodies to oversee the sport (UFC). SHERDOG.com’s Tristen Critchfield noted the West Virginia athletic commission “must write the rules and regulations” before the bill is processed again through the Legislature, meaning that spring ’12 is “likely the earliest that a local fight card could take place.” The UFC “will wait until all the proper parameters are set” (SHERDOG.com, 3/24).