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Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig stripped Dodgers owner Frank McCourt of financial control of the club today, saying he would appoint a trustee to oversee the team's business affairs while investigating the "operations and finances of the Dodgers and related entities," according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. For more on the story, visit latimes.com.
A group of about 70 mid-tier NFL players as soon as this week may intervene in the Brady v. NFL antitrust case to ensure they get a seat at the mediation table, sources said. These players are on the verge of formally hiring the law firm they have been working with for several weeks, and the sources describe them as upset that mediation broke off last month in DC, before the NFLPA decertified as a union. Many of the named plaintiffs in Brady et al v. NFL are high profile, well-compensated players. (The total NFL pay in their careers is north of $400M). The players who would intervene are considered far lower in the pecking order and perhaps would have more to lose from a protracted standoff. The NFLPA and class counsel for Brady could not immediately be reached for comment. Several hurdles remain for the players -- who could not be identified -- who are seeking to intervene in the case. One, the law firm has a minor conflict that needs to be resolved, sources said. The firm also does not wish to go forward unless it has at least 75 signatories to the intervention, so a handful more players would need to sign. Legally, the new players would not be contesting the legal positions in the Brady case. The Brady class is seeking to have the lockout lifted and free agency restrictions lifted. If the mid-tier players file, the motion would seek to give the players a seat at the mediation table and lay out their position. By securing a seat at the table, these players could then push perhaps for a compromise that to date has not been acceptable to player leaders. A source said if the issues are cleared, the mid-tier players could file by the end of this week, presuming a settlement is not unexpectedly reached. All sides are awaiting a decision from Judge Susan Nelson on whether to lift the lockout. If she does, the league is expected to appeal the decision to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The NFL and the players "met for seven hours Tuesday, their third day of court-ordered mediation before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan," and it was a "tough day of talks, with the sides largely spending time separately, but 'some progress' was made," according to sources cited by Albert Breer of NFL.com. Hanging over this week's talks is the "prospect of a ruling from U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson, who ordered this mediation, on the players' request for an injunction to lift the NFL lockout." When the sides resumed mediation today at 9:30am CT in Boylan's chambers, it will have been two weeks since Nelson said she expected to rule in "a couple weeks." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday was joined by Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash, outside counsel Bob Batterman, Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson, Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy and Falcons President Rich McKay. The players were led by NFLPA outside counsel Jim Quinn and local counsel Barbara Berens, as well as Chiefs LB Mike Vrabel and free agent LB Ben Leber. NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "didn't participate in Tuesday's proceedings while dealing with a family medical emergency," and NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler was "in Japan handling a prior commitment with another client." The retired players also were represented yesterday, and the group's lead attorney, Michael Hausfeld, "took exception with the idea that the sides involved in Minneapolis aren't taking this round of mediation seriously." Hausfeld: "This is no charade, this is no illusion. This is going to come to a resolution, either by the parties compromising and agreeing or by a judgment" (NFL.com, 4/19). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch notes there are "expectations" that Nelson "could rule on the lockout as soon as today." Sources on both sides said that they "expect it any day now" (N.Y. POST, 4/20).
SILENCE IS GOLDEN: In Minneapolis, James Walsh writes, "Is no news good news? ... The fact that the parties left the ninth-floor chambers of U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan after seven hours of talks without red faces, bloody noses or fingermarks around their necks has to count for something, right? Maybe." The sides "aren't talking, as per court gag order," but Goodell, Jones and Leber "all confirmed they are scheduled to meet in Minneapolis again" today. So the process is "at least continuing" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/20). However, ESPN's John Clayton notes there was "not much progress" in the mediated talks. Clayton: "You can still see that both sides are kind of battling and almost as if they're looking forward to seeing if there's going to be a ruling eventually by Judge Nelson and then try to move on from there." Clayton: "They don't seem to want to be at the bargaining table right now, and Judge Nelson is trying to make sure she can get this out of the court" ("SportsCenter Special," ESPN, 4/19).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday "struck an optimistic tone" in an interview with NFL Network after the announcement of the '11 regular-season schedule, saying that the season "would be played as intended," according to Albert Breer of NFL.com. Goodell: "We're doing all we can to prepare for the 2011 season. We're announcing the schedule as usual, around this time of year, because we know that is an important point where fans start looking forward to the season, and I think there's every reason for them to do that. We have every intention of playing a full schedule, and that's why we're releasing it as we normally do." When asked if Week One would be played as planned, Goodell said, "We've set the schedule up to play the full 16-game schedule, and that's certainly our intention, that's how we put the schedule together, and we certainly are working towards that" (NFL.com, 4/19). NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said, "If and when it becomes clear that we cannot play the schedule as it was announced today, we will make the appropriate adjustments with an eye toward minimizing changes" (USA TODAY, 4/20).
CONTINGENCY PLANS: In Houston, Jerome Solomon wrote it is "more likely that if the lockout erases only the season opener, that everything wouldn't be pushed back a week, just that the season openers would be played in Week 18, after all other games are played" (CHRON.com, 4/19). In Philadelphia, Paul Domowitch writes the league has "a little bit of flexibility." The Super Bowl is scheduled for Feb. 5 in Indianapolis, but the NFL "has asked the city's Super Bowl Host Committee to leave open the following week, so the Super Bowl could be moved back to Feb. 12." The league also "could eliminate the off week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl, which means the start of the season could be delayed until the week of Sept. 25 and a full 16-game schedule could still be played" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/20).
COULD BE ALL FOR NAUGHT: FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez wrote NFL fans "couldn't ask for a much sexier opening to the 2011 regular season" than Week One's schedule, but there is "just one catch: None of this matters if the NFL work stoppage doesn't end." Marvez: "The NFL schedule release is usually akin to a kid peeking inside his parents' closet in December. They'll learn what presents will be waiting under the tree but still can't open them until Christmas morning" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/19). In Philadelphia, Bob Ford writes "getting excited about the release of the actual schedule" this year is "more difficult than usual" (PHILADELPHIA ENQUIRER, 4/20). ESPN's Michael Smith said, "This lockout has just completely taken the buzz away from everything" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 4/19).
F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone said that “there are no plans to sell the car racing competition to media company News Corp. or Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim,” according to Tariq Panja of BLOOMBERG NEWS. A source yesterday said that News Corp. “may make a bid with partners” for F1. But Ecclestone said majority owner CVC Capital Partners is “not in the slightest bit interested in selling.” Ecclestone: “A lot of people approach them but they are there for the long term.” Ecclestone said of Slim and News Corp. Chair & CEO Rupert Murdoch, “If they were interested for sure they would have called me and they haven’t.” Ecclestone said that “though CVC is committed to owning the series, he couldn’t rule out a sale if an ‘enormous’ bid was tabled.” He said, “If someone was to come along with an enormous offer, a lot more than it were worth, then they have to look at it. They have never talked about selling, though” (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 4/20). In London, Kevin Eason reports News Corp. is “formulating plans to buy” F1. News Corp. last night was reportedly “negotiating with Carlos Slim ... and a leading international carmaker to make a bid.” Speculation is “mounting that Ferrari is the carmaker.” Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo is “known to be disenchanted with Formula One’s financial structure and only last week threatened that his company may walk away from the sport unless it is changed.” The bid would be a "powerful alliance" and one that CVC Capital Partners “might find difficult to resist” (LONDON TIMES, 4/20). SKY NEWS’ Mark Kleinman noted JP Morgan is “advising News Corp. on the situation, which is at an embryonic stage.” News Corp. “could decide not to acquire a direct stake in F1’s owner but instead attempt in future to buy the rights to broadcast the sport across its TV platforms.” News Corp. Deputy COO and Int'l Chair & CEO James Murdoch “has had a long-standing interest in F1, and is involved in the company’s discussions with prospective partners” (SKY.com, 4/19).