SBD/April 27, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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  • NFL Lockout Watch, Day 47: Players Want NFL To Post $1B Bond If Stay Is Granted

    The NFL should have to post a $1B bond if a stay is granted to reinstate the briefly lifted lockout, players suing the NFL contended in court papers this morning. As the football world awaits to see if U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson stays her Monday injunction lifting the lockout, players say the bond is necessary to compensate players for irreparable harm suffered in the period between the stay and the 8th Circuit ruling if it favors the players. The NFL has also suggested it would seek a bond from the players if the stay is not granted, though it has not said how much. The $1B request represents one quarter of last year’s compensation for players. The players in their brief this morning largely talked about the same issues as in the injunction effort: that there is no new legal ground here because since the union decertified the league cannot lockout the players. The players also contend it would be simple for the league to institute a new economic system and one that does not violate antitrust rules, though whether that includes a draft or any free agency restrictions, is unclear. “If the NFL Defendants are faced with a dilemma, they put themselves in that position by repeatedly imposing rules and restrictions that violate the antitrust laws,” the players allege. It is unclear if Nelson will rule today. If the NFL does not get the stay, it will almost certainly immediately seek one with the 8th Circuit, where it has already filed a notice of appeal of the injunction ruling.

    NFL WAITING UNTIL DECISION ON STAY: NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash late yesterday afternoon said the league will wait to implement work rules until Nelson decides whether to stay her decision lifting the lockout, and clarifies her ruling. The NFL by 5:00pm CT is scheduled to file its request for clarification of the judge’s ruling. The players did so the night she ruled, on Monday. The issue is while she wrote 89 pages, she did not say when the league year should begin or if there was a preferable economic system. The players in their lawsuit contend most free agency restrictions are antitrust violations. Pash made clear if ordered so by the court, the league would act quickly to start the league year. “We would be prepared to move promptly and ensure that all the clubs have the necessary information and make sure that we acted in a way that was orderly and businesslike and consistent with the court orders.” Pash said the league would comply with any court order, but said if the league did not get the stay from Nelson it would almost surely seek one from the 8th Circuit court of appeals. He also reiterated the league’s belief that it will win on appeal (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

    STOP ME IF YOU'RE CONFUSED: In N.Y., Judy Battista notes the NFL was "stuck in a state of confusion Tuesday, one day after an injunction to stop the six-week-long lockout was issued." In the "courts and in meeting rooms, the question was when -- or if -- the NFL would reopen for business, and there seemed little agreement about what to expect in the next few days" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/27). Also in N.Y., Bart Hubbuch notes team owners are "holding out thin hope" that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals "will overturn Nelson's ruling entirely, although that wouldn't happen until June or July" (N.Y. POST, 4/27). An official with the 8th Circuit Court indicated that "even if expedited, the case probably will not be argued until late May at the soonest." A panel of three judges "will be selected randomly from a pool of 11 active and five senior judges to hear the NFL's case," and only one of those is based in St. Louis. Once the judges are assigned, the "two sides will be given time to file briefs with the court." The judges then will "have time to review the information before the hearing, which will be completed in one day" (Stu Durando, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/27).

    FORECASTING THE OUTCOME: Former National Labor Relations Board Chair William Gould said that the 8th Circuit is "widely viewed as one of the more conservative federal appellate courts, with a tendency to side with business on labor issues." He said, "This has been a very conservative court for a number of years. ... If the owners cannot win in this court, they cannot win anywhere" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/27). Pash yesterday said, "We believe our legal position is meritorious and will be upheld upon appeal" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/26). Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy: "We think, from a legal standpoint, we’re in a very strong position, particularly as it relates to the injunction" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 4/27). SI.com's Peter King wrote although there is "going to be a contentious period between players and owners until a bridge is built between the two sides, Nelson's ruling is probably a good sign for people worried that the season wouldn't be played in its entirety this year." Free agent G Logan Mankins said, "I think there's going to be a full season now, and that's good for fans" (SI.com, 4/26).

    LOSING PUBLIC SUPPORT: In N.Y., Steve Serby writes the longer the labor battle between owners and players continues, the "smaller both sides become in the eyes of a penny-pinched public that isn't paying obscene prices to endure this unsightly game of public relations tackle football." The longer the lockout lasts, the "more America wakes up to the sorry fact that its only national pastime is Greedball" (N.Y. POST, 4/27). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote, "The NFL now stands for Nonstop Frantic Lunacy. It is the owners, without question, acting like children and the players, fresh off an impressive court victory wondering what the hell just happened" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/26).

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  • NFL Lockout Watch, Day 47: Class Counsel Letter Says Free Agency Should Begin

    The Class Counsel for the Brady Plaintiffs yesterday sent out a letter to all NFL players, stating that the NFL must comply with the lockout being lifted, and players who are not under contract can negotiate and sign with NFL clubs. "Unless and until Judge Nelson or the Court of Appeals issues another order, the lockout has been ordered to end immediately, and if the NFL does not comply, it would be in contempt of the court order," said the letter, which was sent to NFL players and player agents yesterday and signed by James Quinn and Jeffrey Kessler, counsel to the players in the Brady v. NFL case. The letter explained U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson's order in a Q&A format and gave guidance for how NFL players and agents should proceed until there is another order, including for players who are and players who are not under contract to NFL clubs. "If you are under contract and you choose to go to the team’s facility, class counsel believes that the club must allow you access to the facility and staff or the club will be in violation of Judge Nelson’s order," the letter stated. "Please inform class counsel immediately if you have any problems from your club with access to the facility and/or staff," it said. For players that are free agents or not under contract, the letter said, "Class Counsel believes that you and your agent can contact teams and shop your services to the clubs. Judge Nelson’s order is in effect as of 6 p.m. EDT on April 25, 2011, and unless and until that order is stayed, the clubs are not allowed to refuse to negotiate with you" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

    Rosenhaus says teams are telling him that
    they can only talk to agents about players
    TIME TO SIGN: Multiple NFL agents told SportsBusiness Journal that they were attempting to talk to execs at NFL clubs to negotiate NFL contracts for their free agent clients and other clients who are not under contract. "I am calling teams on behalf of my free agents & working them as normal," said agent Drew Rosenhaus in a text-message interview. Asked if teams were responding, Rosenhaus said, "Can't comment on their reaction…Don't want to get anyone in trouble. I'm sensing that free agency is on the verge of starting and my adrenaline is pumping with that possibility," he said. Other agents, who requested anonymity, said yesterday they were trying to contact teams about signing free agents and not having much success. Asked if free agency had started, one said, "From our side it has. From their side it hasn't." Another said he was "getting delayed" in talking with clubs about free agent signings, adding that club officials were "Not really talking ... not sure what they can do" (Mullen). Rosenhaus said, "I want to get these deals done. The lockout's over." The teams are taking his calls "but they're telling me, 'Drew, we're not allowed to negotiate with you, we can't talk to you about veterans, we can talk to you about rookies and that's it'" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 4/26). NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reports the NFLPA's letter "seems to be laying the foundation ... for perhaps a collusion case." La Canfora: "I spoke to several agents who contacted teams and they say no one has taken their calls to this point. Of course from a league perspective, the feeling is there are no rules to operate with yet and the league is obviously waiting for further clarification from the judge and a decision on the stay to decide whether the league year will open" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 4/26).

    FREE AGENCY BEFORE DRAFT? NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash told reporters on a conference call yesterday he "just didn't know" if NFL free agency could begin before the NFL Draft on Thursday. In a lengthy conference call, he said the league was seeking guidance from Nelson on a number of issues. "I think both sides need to have clarity as to what the court’s order is, whether a stay is in effect and the like," Pash said. Asked whether the injunction against the lockout meant the new league year, which historically heralds in the free agent signing season, had begun, Pash said, "We have not asked Judge Nelson to determine when the new league year will begin. That is something we will have to decide once we have an understanding of the scope of the order and the status of any motions for stay pending appeal." One reporter asked if it was possible that the new league year could begin, and then end after a two- or three-day period. Pash said, "The point you’re making, I think, is a very powerful reason for getting a stay because what it suggests -- whether it's 48 hours, or 72 hours, or three weeks, whatever -- that you can well find yourself in a situation where a team and players have made decisions and taken actions that are very difficult to undo" (Mullen).

    SORTING IT OUT
    : On Long Island, Bob Glauber reports NFLPA attorney Mark Levin "told unsigned players they should solicit free-agency offers." But since the league "hasn't issued rules governing free agency, it is not considered feasible to sign players" (NEWSDAY, 4/27). Meanwhile, Cowboys COO, Exec VP & Dir of Player Personnel Stephen Jones said that if the NFL were to announce that free agency has begun, the team "will be ready to move even if the draft is upon them." Jones: "If it were to start tomorrow, we'd be ready to go. We certainly wouldn't sit on our hands and say we've got to draft before we start" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 4/27).

    UNDRAFTED PLAYERS IN A LURCH: SI.com's Don Banks wrote "of all the people affected by the NFL's offseason of turmoil, nobody's future is more in limbo than the hundreds of players who normally enter the league via the collegiate free-agent route." There will be "no jockeying for collegiate free agents unless the league is ordered by the courts to resume pre-lockout rules as soon as this weekend," meaning that undrafted prospects "might wind up being one of the more obvious casualties of this year's labor battle." Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik said, "It's going to be tough on those 300 to 400 kids that aren't going to have a contract when the draft ends. ... It's going to be a different process at the end of the draft. A different feeling." Banks noted last year "more than 480 undrafted players reportedly were either signed by NFL teams or brought in for a post-draft tryout, compared to the 255 prospects who heard their name called in the seven rounds of the 2010 draft." Multiple league execs speculated that "without the traditional collegiate free-agent signing spree to conclude draft weekend, trade activity in the sixth and seventh rounds on Saturday could spike" (SI.com, 4/26). Agent Bruce Tollner: "It'll be quiet. Post-draft, we're accustomed to experiencing a couple hours of serious activity on the phone. ... But this year it's going to be silent" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/27).

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  • NFL Lockout Watch, Day 47: Players Mostly Rebuffed In Return To Team Facilities

    Batch (l), Clark were only Steelers players to report to team facility

    U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson's injunction to lift the NFL lockout Monday "led to one of the most bizarre days in a bizarre offseason -- with teams and players, and franchises just 30 minutes apart, operating yesterday under divergent interpretations of whether the league was truly open for business," according to Garafolo & Vrentas of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. Most teams in the NFL "went the way of the Jets, who told the six players who reported that the workout and training facilities were closed and shielded their coaches from interacting with them, pending the league's request to stay" Nelson's ruling. The Giants "were an exception, as coach Tom Coughlin embraced the trio of players who showed up." However, the Giants last night said that they "had decided to close their workout and training facilities moving forward, until the pending actions in court are resolved -- but would still permit players to come into the building and converse with staff and coaches socially" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 4/27). Giants DT Chris Canty "worked out in the team's weight room and spoke to" Coughlin and other staff members. The coaches "told Canty to return Wednesday," but he will not be able to work out again. Most players "weren't as fortunate and left in a matter of minutes after arriving on a strange day with more questions than answers" (ESPN.com, 4/26). In N.Y., Gary Myers wrote it was "not quite as chaotic as the striking players throwing eggs at buses carrying replacement players in 1987, but Tuesday was not a proud day around the NFL" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 4/26).

    CLOSED FOR BUSINESS: In N.Y., John Branch notes Jets players yesterday "entered the building and were told that they were welcome, but that they could not use the facilities without the supervision of trainers or coaches, who were nowhere to be seen." Jets G Brandon Moore: "It's kind of weird, kind of awkward, not to have access to the facility like we normally do. ... It was uncomfortable, like I shouldn't be there" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/27). Moore added, "I don't think I'll be wasting gas going back and forth to see if they'll let us in the building to work. This is getting silly now" (N.Y. POST, 4/27). In DC, Maske & Jones reported Redskins LB Lorenzo Alexander was "at the door of Redskins Park headquarters shortly before" 9:00am ET yesterday. He was met by Redskins Exec VP & GM Bruce Allen, "who sent Alexander home after one of those brief, matter-of-fact conversations that took place at NFL team facilities across the country" yesterday. Meanwhile, Redskins WR Anthony Armstrong said that he "asked if he could pick up some cleats and Allen ushered him to his locker" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 4/26). Bears Senior Dir of Football Administration & General Counsel Cliff Stein met players "in the Halas Hall lobby and told them they were not allowed to work out." Bears K Robbie Gould said that Stein "informed players official workouts have not started." Gould "has no plans to show at Halas Hall" today. Gould: "There is no reason to go there. They made it very clear ... when official workouts have started they'll let us know" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/27). But Gould said he and several other players were greeted by Bears execs who "were very nice, they were very genuine, to the point to say, 'Listen, obviously because of certain clarifications that need to be taken care of, obviously you guys will not be able to work out today'" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 4/26). 

    Cribbs says team's action shows
    that lockout is not over
    STOPPED AT THE LINE: Bills CB Leodis McKelvin said that he was "stopped at a security desk" at the team's practice facility and "then was approached by Bills CEO Russ Brandon." McKelvin said that he was "denied entry and that Brandon told him coach Chan Gailey would contact him and his teammates to inform them when they would be allowed to report." Bills S and player rep George Wilson: "If I said I wasn't expecting it, I'd be lying to you. There's all kinds of ways around and loopholes" (AP, 4/26). Several Seahawks players "attempted to enter" the team's practice facility yesterday. They "were allowed past a security gate into the players' parking lot, but were reportedly rebuked by security and denied access into the team's Renton headquarters" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 4/27). Five Cardinals players who reported yesterday "were directed to a conference room and politely told they couldn't work out or visit the locker room." They "were given a short letter of explanation and all left immediately afterward." There was "minimal contact with anyone from the team" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/27). Three Browns players reported yesterday and "received a letter from the Browns asking them for their patience during the labor dispute." Browns WR Josh Cribbs: "Legally, the lockout is over. But, officially, the lockout is not over, and we just witnessed that today" (OHIO.com, 4/26). Four Cowboys players showed up yesterday and "received an organizational cold shoulder: no weight room; no time with coaches; no workout." Within an hour, "all four were gone, off to a nearby golf course" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 4/27).

    KEEPING THEIR DISTANCE: In Atlanta, D. Orlando Ledbetter reported Falcons players "elected to stay away from the team's facilities." Falcons LB and player rep Coy Wire: "There are no plans to return to the facilities of which I am aware." A team spokesperson said that "no one showed up and nobody was expected to report" (AJC.com, 4/26). Chiefs G and NFLPA Exec Committee member Brian Waters Monday said he would tell teammates not to report until there was some clarity, and Chiefs players "appeared to be following the advice" yesterday. Chiefs S Jon McGraw: "We just recommended that guys wait until we have a chance to speak with the team. ... We didn't want to put strength coaches and trainers in a bad position this morning where they had to tell us, 'Hey, you guys can't be here right now.' We wanted to avoid that whole situation" (K.C. STAR, 4/27). Patriots DT Vince Wilfork said, "I won't head to Foxboro until everything's over. I don't think that's the right play in this situation." In Boston, Ian Rapoport notes with the Patriots' weight room "still closed to the players, many don't see the point" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/27). Patriots OT and player rep Matt Light: "What I've been telling the guys is 'give it a little time'" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 4/26). Colts C and player rep Jeff Saturday said that the Colts "will continue to work out away from team headquarters." Saturday: "I don't think it does anybody any good -- at least from our team's perspective -- to rush back in" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/27).

    FRIENDLY CONFINES: Saints S Malcolm Jenkins was the "only player to show up at the team's Metairie complex" yesterday, and he was "barred from using the weight room or other facilities." But Saints Exec VP & GM Mickey Loomis, who met briefly with Jenkins, said, "We didn't turn him away. He came and picked up his mail, and I visited with him for a few minutes -- and he wanted to know what he could and couldn't do" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 4/27). In San Diego, Kevin Acee writes the "mood was relaxed at Chargers Park, where eight players showed up." A few of them described their intentions and what they did as "hanging out" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 4/27). Steelers S Ryan Clark and QB Charlie Batch "were allowed into the building, and Clark chatted with Steelers president Art Rooney II and coach Mike Tomlin" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/27).

    TO EACH TEAM, THEIR OWN: ESPN's John Clayton reported that each NFL team is "pretty much going on a certain guideline from the league, and then each team is taking their own kind of changes just to make sure that they can comply with the judge's order" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 4/26). On Long Island, Rock & Barker note the Giants, like every NFL team, "received guidelines from the NFL on how to handle players who showed up Tuesday," and their "interpretation of those guidelines apparently was very different from other teams'" (NEWSDAY, 4/27). But NFLPA President Kevin Mawae said, "It sounds like to me that the NFL and all the general managers and owners collectively agreed to come up with individual reasons as to why their facility wasn't able to provide work-outs for the players" ("The Scott Van Pelt Show," ESPN Radio, 4/26).

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  • NFL Lockout Watch, Day 47: Goodell Reiterates Negotiations Over Litigation

    Goodell says he is concerned litigation could hurt future of NFL

    NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday again stressed his belief that the “way the new collective bargaining agreement is going to be reached is through a comprehensive and full negotiation” and not litigation. Referring to U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson’s decision to lift the lockout, Goodell said, “We need to see what the judge's rulings are. We obviously are going to pursue all our legal remedies. But it's really not about the litigation. It's about the future of the game.” He said the league wants to "make sure we protect the game, make sure our game continues to grow." Goodell: "There are a lot of things in the litigation that concerns me about the future of the game, and I've been very clear about that: The challenges to the draft, the challenges to free agency restriction, all of those things threaten what we have built and that everybody loves." Goodell noted he is "extremely concerned" the players' litigation could affect the future of the game (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 4/26). Goodell also appeared on NFL Network and reiterated that he does not believe “litigation is ultimately going to lead to any conclusion here” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 4/26).

    READING BETWEEN THE LINES
    : CBSSPORTS.com's Gregg Doyel wrote under the header, "Goodell Plays Us For Fools In Letter To WSJ." With Goodell's op-ed for the Wall Street Journal yesterday, "all he did was muddy the waters." Doyel: "Instead of lifting the level of discourse in this conversation, Goodell sent it toppling from the gutter, where it already was, to whatever level lies beneath the gutter." He added, "What Goodell did in that letter was use the union's words against the union, which isn't necessarily a dirty tactic -- but it is in this case, because he's using the union's words against the union ... when he knows full well that those words aren't realistic in the first place" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/26). ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski writes Goodell's "latest propaganda effort is as smooth as driveway gravel." Wojciechowski: "It feels more calculated than sincere. It feels spinny" (ESPN.com, 4/27). In K.C., Sam Mellinger wrote, "Goodell's Chicken Little routine comes across as condescending, patronizing, insulting, and perhaps even dishonest. The spin and leaps in logic made [in the] editorial are big enough to erode credibility in the matter" (KCSTAR.com, 4/26).

    PLACING BLAME: In DC, Sally Jenkins writes under the header, "NFL Owners Are Wrong, And Don't Get It." The owners "don't get it, and haven't from the beginning," but they "better get it fast, or the entire structure of the league may come down around their ears." Jenkins: "They had no right to lock out the players, they are in violation of antitrust law, and what's more they are repeat, recidivist offenders. They are guilty as charged, and this is the trouble with their hope for relief on appeal. ... The owners have now placed themselves in the ludicrous legal position of arguing strenuously against free market principles before conservative judges" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/27). In Minneapolis, Jim Souhan writes, "In the court of public opinion, this battle should already be over. The NFL players ... have whipped the owners" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 4/27).

    IN OVER HIS HEAD? SI.com's Joe Posnanski wrote, "While watching this NFL labor mess ... it has occurred to me that Roger Goodell might [be] about 20,000 leagues over his head. It has occurred to me that while Bud Selig is destined to be underestimated because of the way he carries himself, that Roger Goodell is destined to be overestimated for exactly the same reason." Posnanski wrote Goodell's op-ed yesterday "screamed of desperation and, frankly, it felt a bit incompetent, too. If Bud Selig ever wrote a column like that, people would be pulling out their torches and pitchforks" (SI.com, 4/26).

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  • NBA Owners Plan To Submit Revised CBA Proposal To Players By Friday

    NBA owners "intend to submit a revised collective bargaining proposal to the players by Friday and are hopeful the document will 'get the conversation going' in the wake of NFL players' significant anti-trust victory in federal court," according to a source cited by Ken Berger of CBSSPORTS.com. The source "declined to divulge details of the new proposal." There is "no dispute among basketball officials" that the NFL ruling "puts the onus on the NBA and its union to negotiate a new deal rather than have the process hijacked by the uncertainty of the courts." A source said, "We're both going to give it our best shot and try to avoid the courts." Berger noted the NFL "faces the difficult burden of imposing work rules under which business can be done in the meantime." But legal sources said that "if the NBA, facing a similar legal outcome, attempted to impose rules that were more restrictive than those in the expiring CBA, it would open itself up to further legal action." The risk to NBA players' future salaries is "greater than for their NFL counterparts because NBA contracts currently on the books contain more guaranteed money." If the NBA "decided that going to court would provide a better outcome than negotiating, its trump card would be the belief that no federal judge or appeals court panel would force a sports league to operate at a loss." But "if it goes that far, some outcomes are more appealing to both sides than others" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/26).

    OMINOUS SIGNS? In L.A., Mike Bresnahan reports the Lakers "will not offer new contracts to about 20 key employees on their player-personnel side, planning to go into the looming NBA lockout with skeleton crews in several branches of the franchise." On Monday, "both members of their video department were told they would not receive contracts after this season." Last weekend, four of five members on the training staff "were told the same thing." Most, "if not all, of the Lakers' scouting staff (about six employees) will not be retained after their contracts expire" (L.A. TIMES, 4/27). USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt writes the "impact of a labor stoppage is mounting" in the NBA. Some NBA head coaches and assistants, "especially those hired in the past year or two, have lockout language in their contracts that potentially could prevent them from getting paid." In addition, the league "did not schedule 2011-12 preseason games in Europe or Asia." Many of the NBA's "big-name international players" are scheduled to play in Olympic-qualifying tournaments this summer, though that "could be in jeopardy if national teams don't have access to the NBA's insurance broker during a lockout" (USA TODAY, 4/27).

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  • Laurel Richie Formally Introduced As WNBA's New President

    Laurel Richie formally introduced
    as WNBA President

    NBA Commissioner David Stern formally introduced new WNBA President Laurel Richie via a media conference call yesterday afternoon. “We think Laurel is going to be a person who will not only bring marketing skills but bring team building skills and be able to move the W to new heights,” Stern said. The WNBA begins its season on June 3 and Richie will begin her new job as WNBA President on May 16. She joins the WNBA after working as Girl Scouts of America CMO since '08. Prior to the Girl Scouts, she spent more than 20 years working at Oligvy & Mather. She has no previous professional sports background. “My eyes are wide open to the challenges ahead, but I don’t feel daunted by it,” she said. “I have been a viewer of games, not necessarily an attender of games. That’s something as I take on the marketing portion of this work I think we are going to have to address, converting the interested to the actively engaged.” Stern said that he expects the WNBA to break even this season. “Our teams are doing better than they’ve ever done” (John Lombardo, SportsBusiness Journal).

    TAKING THE REINS: In Hartford, John Altavilla notes Richie will try to "use her business initiative and acumen to take the league to more secure financial ground," and she is "expected to lead the effort to secure more corporate sponsorships." Richie said, "Working with iconic brands has been a passion of mine. And I have a track record of re-energizing and revitalizing them. I love to wrap my brain around complex businesses, as I would characterize the WNBA." Altavilla notes Richie is the "first African-American, male or female, to assume the presidency of one of the nation's premier professional sports leagues." She was "first identified as a candidate after serving as a keynote speaker for an event in Seattle in February" (HARTFORD COURANT, 4/27). Stern yesterday said, "We found somebody who was ... culturally adept at understanding what impact the game and the players could have on the community, the global community. My own basketball background was ripping up my ACL in a lawyers' league. So I don't think it's essential to have played the game at a high level at all" (TULSA WORLD, 4/27). In Connecticut, Joe Perez notes with an "eye toward increased ratings and attendance as well as international growth, the WNBA wants to forge its own identity, one that’s not seen as the NBA’s pet project." Stern said, "I think that for the early years, the women’s game was measured against the men’s game. That was something we struggled against. What we have here is the best women’s basketball in the world." He added, "No one usually compares (tennis’ Caroline) Wozniacki against Rafael Nadal. She wouldn’t do that well" (NORWICH BULLETIN, 4/27).


    COURTING FANS: ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel noted Richie "did not attend WNBA games" before taking this job, so as president, "one of the types of people she'll be looking to attract to the league is … someone a great deal like herself." Richie said, "What I want to think about is, how do we reach out to people and engage them? Versus assuming or putting the burden on them to come and grab us." The "methods that Richie might implement to better reach potential fans are likely similar to things that need to be done for current fans, too." Those who "buy or have bought WNBA tickets don't need to be sold on the product, but do need to be cared for as consumers." Richie's "highest priority is helping the bottom line of the league and every franchise by increasing sponsorships and ticket sales." It seems "unlikely that Richie, at least this year, will have a great deal to do with the overall administration of the league from a strictly basketball perspective, leaving most" of that to WNBA Chief of Basketball Operations & Player Relations Renee Brown (ESPN.com, 4/26).

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  • MLB To Donate $4M To Phoenix Charities In Lead-Up To July All-Star Game

    MLB over the next two months “will donate about $4 million to charities before the July 12 All-Star Game" at Chase Field, according to Emily Gersema of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. MLB Exec VP/Business Tim Brosnan said that “for the first time, MLB will host a dance-a-thon as part of its All-Star Game events to raise money for cancer organizations.” The fundraiser will be led by “Glee” Choreographer Zach Woodlee, who “also will be one of the competition's judges.” The winning dancer “will get a free visit to the ‘Glee’ set to meet the cast” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 4/27). MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert noted the “three major recipients of the money” will be the Boys & Girls Club Renovation Project, Foundation for Blind Children Vision Technology Center and Rebuilding Together. The All-Star Game festivities “promise to leave a lasting legacy in the Phoenix community and throughout the state” (MLB.com, 4/26).

    TO EXPAND OR NOT TO EXPAND? ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark noted despite MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's “comments that baseball was moving ‘inexorably’ toward adding two wild-card teams to the postseason field” in ‘12, MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner said that the union and the league “have so far to go in negotiating expansion that ‘it's just too early’ to predict anything.” Weiner “made it clear that the players are open to the possibility of adding more playoff teams.” But “any change would have to be part of” a new CBA. Weiner: “Part of the complexity here is that we've got to bargain the entire schedule -- the structure of regular-season play, including interleague play" (ESPN.com, 4/26). In N.Y., Joel Sherman noted what “remains in doubt is whether the wild card vs. wild card round will be a one-game play-in to the Division Series or a best-of-three.” Those advocating a one-game showdown “essentially do so for two reasons.” One reason is while MLB's TV partners “are not looking for many extra playoff games,” they do “like the ready-made, dramatic storyline and potential ratings of a sudden-death game.” Another reason is there are “concerns that adding extra playoff games will stretch the postseason calendar later, notably into November, which elevates the chance for bad weather.” Sherman wrote both arguments “collapse against doing what’s right, which is making the wild-card round a best-of-three” (N.Y. POST, 4/24).

    GAME-CHANGER: MLB.com’s Hal Bodley wrote Selig is the “most innovative Commissioner baseball has had.” He “considers himself a passionate purist and a devoted historian of the game.” But he has “never backed away from making dramatic, if not controversial, changes.” Selig's legacy “will be all about improvements he's made,” and baseball “has grown tremendously during his reign.” Bodley: “Interleague Play has been enormously successful. Adding Wild Cards and expanding the playoffs has made down-to-the-wire September baseball exciting and more meaningful. Teams that previously would have been eliminated now have hope. Video replay has worked and, according to Selig, it's about to be expanded” (MLB.com, 4/25). SI's Joe Posnanski writes, "Nothing that Selig has done has come with trumpet blasts of celebration. It seems as if every advance, every change, every slight shift in baseball was stumbled into. But think about it. When Selig took over in 1992, baseball had 26 teams; now there are 30. Four teams made the playoffs; now it's eight. The players and owners were at each other's throats; now there has been labor peace for 16 years." Selig has "indisputably turned the game upside down" (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 5/2 issue).

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