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U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson has told the NFL and NFL players that she "will impose forced mediation on them early this week," according to sources cited by Schefter & Clayton of ESPN.com. The league "had wanted more mediation" in DC, while federal mediator George Cohen and the NFLPA "wanted mediation in Minnesota." Nelson will decide "what she feels is best and announce her decision early this week." Schefter & Clayton noted "one of the keys to any type of mediation is whether NFL owners are willing to not use a meeting with members of the NFL Players executive committee or members of the decertified NFLPA against the plaintiffs" in the Tom Brady v. NFL lawsuit filed in Nelson's federal court (ESPN.com, 4/10). Nelson "could appoint a mediator for the talks or opt to preside over them herself" (USA TODAY, 4/11). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch notes Nelson forcing mediation is "potentially good news for fans," because the owners are "thought to be eager to avoid the costly antitrust case being mounted by the 10 players and their decertified union." The "big question now, however, is where that mediation will be held" (N.Y. POST, 4/11).
MR. SMITH GOES TO THE NEGOTIATIONS: The AP's Dave Campbell reported the NFL players "have made a move to allow" NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "to be present if court-supervised talks take place between the two sides." Lawyers who "practice in a different state must file for approval through the court," and the move "allows Smith to participate in any mediation sessions that might take place under Nelson's supervision" (AP, 4/8). Court documents filed late Friday reveal that the NFL also has "added another attorney," Robert Cooper. NFL.com's Albert Breer noted "antitrust and sports law are among the areas of expertise for Cooper," who is a partner in NFL outside counsel David Boies' DC-based law firm. Meanwhile, sources said that Friday's conference call between the NFL and players "to discuss how and where -- and under whose authority -- they are willing to resume mediation" lasted more than an hour. (NFL.com, 4/9).
MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? SI.com's Peter King predicts there "won't be any real discussions toward a settlement until Nelson rules, and until the loser in that ruling appeals it to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and that three-judge appeals panel rules." King: "There is risk for both sides in that happening, but I don't see either side being motivated to throw out an olive branch now. By the way, I'm glad to see the two sides practicing what Judge Nelson has ordered -- public silence, in effect. Nothing good came of the tit-for-tat Twitter and Internet games the players and league were playing during mediation in Washington, and since then" (SI.com, 4/11). Steelers President Art Rooney II said that he "remains 'optimistic' the 2011 season will not be interrupted by the league's first work stoppage since 1987." Rooney: "It's only April, so there's certainly time to get it done. But the other side of the coin is sooner or later we've got to get serious, and I hope it's sooner" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/10).
NFL GM feels teams could be conservative
at Draft due to uncertainty over wage scale
NOT IN THE GAMEPLAN: In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino wrote the lockout "hasn’t gone as smoothly as the owners had hoped." The owners "figured they would outlast the players because they thought the players would cave when they started missing regular-season checks." But U.S. District Judge David Doty already has ruled against the owners in the NFL media fees case, and owners "have also had problems in court with their argument that they can lock out the players even though the players have decertified as a union." Stellino wrote the owners "could still win even if Nelson lifts the lockout because it could be overturned by what is generally considered a conservative appellate court in St. Louis." But if the courts do lift the lockout, the owners "will regret even more" agreeing to the last CBA in '06 "because they would be unlikely to get what they want if they can’t make the lockout stick" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 4/10).
Charl Schwartzel's victory at The Masters yesterday means "no American holds any of the four major titles" in men's golf for the first time since '94, and if "anyone still thinks that golf is dominated by the good ol' USA, then you haven't been paying close attention to the sport's shifting global tide," according to Gene Frenette of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. During the final two hours of yesterday's final round, a golfer from "six of the seven different continents was at least tied for the lead at some point" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 4/11). Just three of the top 10 finishers in The Masters were American (THE DAILY). In Charlotte, Tom Sorensen wrote under the header, "U.S. Lags Behind World At Masters." Europe "has beaten the U.S. in five of the past seven Ryder Cups," and only "four of the top 10 golfers in the world are from the U.S." Australia native Jason Day, who tied for second at The Masters, said, "It just shows how strong golf is worldwide" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/10). In Alabama, Bill Bryant wrote this year's Masters is a "microcosm of what appears to be on the horizon," as the "last three majors ... have been won by players from outside of the U.S." Schwartzel, a South African, said, "America is big, but the world is bigger. Who knows? It's just a bunch of really good players coming through" (HUNTSVILLE TIMES, 4/10). The AP's Jim Litke wrote when Tiger Woods began "taking his act to the farther-flung corners of the world, it changed golf." Courses "popped up and equipment became accessible in places where once they were as scarce as McDonalds." Litke: "The reasons for the emergence of the internationals are many. But as Schwartzel pointed out, the sheer number of people playing the game beyond these shores predicted that days like this -- and many more -- were on the way" (AP, 4/9).
TIGER RESPONSIBLE FOR INFLUX OF INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS? Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee said the world of golf "has gone global, and due in large part I think to Tiger Woods." Chamblee: "He certainly has made it popular around the globe and brought other athletes to the game that might have taken on other sports. You start to look at a Rory McIlroy, maybe he would have taken up soccer, or maybe a Charl Schwartzel would have come up and taken up some other sport" ("Live from the Masters," Golf Channel, 4/10). ESPN's John Saunders wondered if golf has "become more global because of Tiger," as people around the world "started following golf and wanting to excel at it." N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said the sport became more global "because of a very ill guy who celebrated his 54th birthday yesterday," Seve Ballesteros. Ballesteros "really made it a global game back in the '80s and expanded the possibilities of international players to do well by winning the Masters when he was 23 years old" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 4/10).
GOLF NOT DEPENDENT ON WOODS ANYMORE: On Long Island, Mark Herrmann writes Woods "didn't win ... and golf goes on." The sport is "not going out of business just because it is no longer a sure thing that he ever will match Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 career major championships," and golf "will endure even if Woods never wins another title." Herrmann: "Golf will keep rolling. There might never be another Tiger Woods, but there never was another Bobby Jones or Jack Nicklaus, either. There will be someone else" (NEWSDAY, 4/11). In DC, Thomas Boswell before yesterday's round wrote under the header, "The Silence Around Tiger Woods Is Deafening." The fans at The Masters "still like him very much," but "when Woods is 'merely' in the middle of the leader board, a few shots out of the lead, but not shooting the lights out, he is often accompanied by almost total silence" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/10).
SOLUTION FOR SOUTH AFRICAN OPEN: Golfer Ernie Els said that several tour officials "have agreed to change the dates of the South African Open this fall so that it won't be held on the same week as the Presidents Cup in Australia." The AP's Doug Ferguson reported PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem, European Tour Chief Exec George O'Grady and other tour leaders met last week at Augusta National "to figure out a solution." Meanwhile, Els said that there is a "five-year deal" for South Africa to get a WGC event, although he "did not mention when or where, or who would be the title sponsor." The only WGC tournament now held outside the U.S. is the HSBC Champions in Shanghai in the first week in November. Els: "Whatever happens, that's great for South Africa. It's validation of the tour and the efforts of guys who have spent their careers playing around the world" (AP, 4/9).
The NHLPA has told agents that the union "projects a salary cap of approximately $62.2 million next season if the players vote to trigger the 5-percent escalator," according to Larry Brooks of the N.Y. POST. That represents an increase of $2.8M from the current $59.4M cap, or approximately 4.7%. It means that the NHL's "'record' revenues have not increased by the 5 percent the players voted to bump the cap for this season," and the cap "would remain flat or even decrease slightly for the first time if the players opt not to adopt the inflator for next season." This is a "preliminary number recently given to the agents in the union's 'marketplace' assessment that could change slightly depending upon the revenue generated in the playoffs." There is "no guarantee that the union will vote to adopt the 5-percent inflator, given that doing so leads to increased escrow as a tradeoff for additional dollars in the system that benefits free agents and high payroll, powerful teams seeking to keep their rosters intact." But with '11-12 being the final year of the CBA, the 7.5% "bonus cushion that allows clubs to defer up to that amount in performance bonuses on entry level and over-35 contracts will disappear." Sources said that that "will be an important consideration that is expected to prompt [the] players to vote for the escalator." Brooks noted a $62.2M cap would mean a floor of $46.2M (N.Y. POST, 4/10).
EUROPEAN VACATION: The NHL this morning officially announced it will open the ’11-12 season in Europe as part of 2011 Compuware NHL Premiere and NHL Face-Off. The Ducks will play the Sabres in Helsinki on Oct. 7, while the Rangers and Kings will play in Stockholm. Berlin will host the Sabres and Kings on Oct. 8, while the Ducks will stay in Stockholm to play the Rangers. Seventeen of the league’s 30 teams will have participated in regular-season games in Europe since ’07 (NHL).