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NBA Commissioner David Stern Friday said that the league's owners, during an "exhaustive two days of meetings" with the NBA BOG last week, "agreed to submit a new proposal" for a CBA to the NBPA, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com. It "wasn't made clear what changes would be in that proposal." Stern Friday "continued to hammer home the point that the NBA is bleeding cash." He "revealed that after losing $370 million in 2008-2009 and $340 million in '09-10, the league was projected to lose $300 million this season, a number Stern said could increase if a lockout is implemented on July 1." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said, "The labor uncertainty is beginning to have an impact on our business. We are in discussions with sponsors and other partners about relationships for next year and we can't assure them that we are going to have games. They, as you might imagine, (have begun) to pull back some of their spending on the NBA." A source briefed on last week's meetings said owners are "more resolved than ever" to implement a system that makes the league profitable "not just next year, but 10 or 15 years from now, too." Mannix wrote "unless the league makes significant concessions in its next proposal -- which multiple league sources call 'highly unlikely' -- the NBA will continue on its path toward a work stoppage" (SI.com, 4/15). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger cited a source familiar with the owners' strategy as saying that they are "willing to budge on a key aspect of their January 2010 proposal by 'transitioning' to some of the hard-cap elements they are seeking in a new system." The owners also "want to deduct certain expenses off the top of gross revenues before calculating basketball-related income," of which the players receive 57% in the current deal. The players "already have proposed allowing owners to deduct construction and debt expenses from new and renovated arenas, so there would appear to be at least a starting point from which to negotiate." Berger noted 22 teams are "projected to lose money this season, while eight will be profitable" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/15).
THINGS LOOKING UP? ESPN N.Y.'s Chris Sheridan wrote, "If you thought a lockout was a certainty, you may want to reconsider." Stern indicated that "movement is coming ... in announcing that NBA owners had authorized the labor relations committee to make a new formal proposal." Formal proposals "move the needle, and this will be the first one the owners have given the players" in nearly 16 months. Sheridan wrote, "When attendance is up for the seventh consecutive season, when television ratings are up 38 percent on ABC, 28 percent on ESPN and 42 percent on TNT, when video views on NBA.com are up 140 percent from a year ago, when global merchandise sales are up 20 percent in the past 12 months, there can be no question that business is booming. And we are all supposed to believe they are ready to take out the dynamite and blow that up? Sorry. It just doesn't pass the smell test" (ESPN.com, 4/15). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote under the header, "NBA On Fast Break Toward NFL's Foolish Path." Frenette: "Take heart, NFL, you're not the only league stupid enough to threaten killing the golden goose and turning off a fan base. The NBA is on a similar track" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 4/16).
MIXED MESSAGES: SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL's John Lombardo notes the NBA regular season was "so compelling" that it "pushed leaguewide revenue to an all-time high of $4.3 billion, delivered a record television audience for its network partners and brought higher than anticipated gate revenue." Overall, the NBA "drew 21.3 million fans" this season, the "fifth-highest attendance in NBA history." Nineteen of 30 teams "saw an average attendance increase, compared with 13 teams last season." Leaguewide team sponsorship revenue "hit record levels, though league executives would not disclose specific figures." NBA Exec VP/Team Marketing & Business Operations Chris Granger: "Revenue generation hasn't been the problem; it is the cost of generating revenue that has been the issue." For example, Granger said that "many teams have added ticket sales and service staff while investing in more sophisticated marketing and digital efforts in an effort to drive revenue" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 4/18 issue).
LOSING ITS WAY? The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin notes the NBA was "boasting record TV audiences as it began the playoffs this past weekend," but there is a "palpable sense that, on the verge of an almost certain lockout of its players this fall, the NBA has lost its way." The "bruited Miami Heat merger of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh was something less than the artistic and promotional success it was hoped to be." Also, the "tarnishing of James's star, the aging of Kobe Bryant and the tacky Carmelo Anthony auction in midseason took much lustre off a league driven by its star names," and the "atrophying of the Boston Celtics and the ugly move of the Sacramento Kings to Anaheim ... also dimmed the glow in the wake of a nasty lockout" (GLOBE & MAIL, 4/18).
U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan adjourned NFL mediation talks between owners and players until 10:00am CT tomorrow, "following nearly 10 hours of negotiations Thursday and another four Friday at the federal courthouse," according to Albert Breer of NFL.com. A source said that the "break is happening this early partly because of the sensitivity of the negotiations and the need for the judge to be methodical and deliberate." Another source said that "all parties appear to be 'serious' about these talks ordered by U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson and the potential consequences if they break down." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "led a league contingent" including Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson, Chiefs Chair Clark Hunt, Steelers President Art Rooney II and Falcons President Rich McKay. NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith, Chiefs LB Mike Vrabel and free agent LB Ben Leber represented the players. Sources said that Thursday's 10-hour session "brought 'tough' negotiations, and some 'fence-mending' from prior events was necessary" (NFL.com, 4/15). Lawyers for the players said that Boylan "has given them homework and at least a half-dozen significant questions to answer when they return next week." Pro Football HOFer Carl Eller, who is representing retired players, "characterized the talks as 'productive' and added that the sides have made progress in their discussions" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/16). SI.com's Peter King writes, "I think the NFL-NFLPA talks were very quiet Thursday and Friday, the way they should be. They should be leakproof if the two sides are serious about getting something done" (SI.com, 4/18).
PLAYERS WEIGH IN: Saints QB Drew Brees said he is "excited" about the resurrection of mediation sessions between owners and players. Brees "hasn't taken part in the current phase of mediation, though he was on hand for several negotiating sessions in February and March." He said that he "likely will attend future sessions." Brees was "critical of the owners' 'media blitz' after the first round of mediation ended in early March with the players deciding to decertify their union and take the battle to federal court." Brees: "The minute that mediation ended, the NFL went on a 48-hour media blitz, talking about a lot of issues that were supposed to be confidential. And not only that, 95 percent of it was false information" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/16). Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald said that the NFL lockout "will end before any games are missed." Fitzgerald: "There is too much money at stake, too many jobs on the line." He added, "I think both sides are going to need to move a little on their points, but that's negotiations, that's bargaining" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/17).
The "dominant thing in baseball so far this season" has been the "rows of empty seats," according to SPORTING NEWS' Greg Couch, who wrote under the header, "Declining Attendance Could Signal Deeper Problems For Baseball." It is "too early to draw conclusions," but MLB "has some serious, fundamental problems here." As families try to "figure out where to spend and where to cut, baseball is being marginalized." MLB "has had a few years in a row of falling attendance," though Commissioner Bud Selig "seemed to think this year wouldn't change." But April baseball this year "isn't drawing as well as April baseball last year," as "six teams have already had the worst single-game attendance in their stadiums' history." The Indians have been "surprisingly hot and hopeful," yet six games at Progressive Field "have already drawn fewer than 10,000 fans" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/17). In Cleveland, Bill Livingston wrote under the header, "Time To Fill Up The Cleveland Indians' Bandwagon." The first homestand after the team's eight-game winning streak ended was "supposed to be big." But the Indians drew only 16,346 fans "on a cold, blustery evening" for their 8-2 win over the Orioles Friday. The "walk-up sale was 5,511," but the crowd was "swollen in part by the lure of ... Dollar Dog Night" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/16). In S.F., John Shea noted the Indians' attendance "slipped to 10,714" for Saturday's game against the Orioles (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/17).
ROCKY SEAS: In Seattle, Larry Stone wrote the Mariners' attendance trends are "as gloomy as the April weather." But it is "not like all the empty seats and record-setting low crowds at Safeco Field" two weeks ago "sneaked up on the organization." Mariners officials "had braced themselves for just that after sluggish season-ticket sales and a poor start to the 2011 season." Mariners President Chuck Armstrong: "We expected crowds like that, from our internal projections. Losing 101 games like we have (in two of the past three years), we expected lower attendance and are projecting lower attendance." Stone noted the Mariners "aren't revealing the figures, but it is believed they have sold fewer than 10,000 season tickets for the first time at Safeco Field." They sold "nearly 24,000 season tickets in 2002" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/17).
DODGING THE DODGERS: In L.A., Ben Bolch reports the announced crowd of 27,439 for yesterday's Cardinals-Dodgers game was the "smallest at Dodger Stadium since Sept. 29, 2004." The Dodgers "averaged 32,405 fans for the four-game series against St. Louis, 15,729 fewer than they did for their season-opening series against" the Giants. The attendance of 129,623 for the series against the Cardinals was the "smallest for a four-game series at Dodger Stadium since the Dodgers drew 124,392 for a series against the Colorado Rockies from July 21-24, 2003" (L.A. TIMES, 4/18).