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SBD/June 2, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
A small group of NFL owners were spotted "gathered in a western suburb of Chicago" for a "secret meeting," according to Brad Biggs of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. Sources said that Patriots Owner Robert Kraft was seen yesterday afternoon "boarding his private jet at DuPage Airport, a little less than 24 hours after arriving." Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones' jet was present, and sources said that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "also arrived in West Chicago via private jet Tuesday." In addition, sources noted that Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson "was believed to be present." The meeting comes before tomorrow's hearing on the lockout in front of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. The owners reportedly "are confident they will prevail" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/2). ESPN.com's Mortensen & Schefter report Goodell and the owners met with NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith, and the "two sides worked into the night." A source said that a potential deal for a new CBA "still was a ways away," though the "hope would be that the two sides could get something done sooner rather than later, potentially even later this month." The meeting was "so secretive that ... there were other NFL owners that didn't know what was taking place" (ESPN.com, 6/2). NFL Network's Jason La Canfora cited sources as saying that Steelers President Art Rooney II and Giants President & CEO John Mara "were also in attendance." A league source said that "several players were also scheduled to be present." The idea of the meeting "came together last week with the intention that the meeting in the Chicago suburbs be kept secret." Sources on both sides "continue to estimate a deal gets done sometime in late July or early August" (NFL.com, 6/2). The Washington Post’s Mark Maske cites a source as saying that mediator Arthur Boylan "participated in Wednesday's meeting between the league and players” The talks "began over dinner Tuesday," though it is "not clear if any formal bargaining took place" (TWITTER.com, 6/2).
POSITIVE SIGN: ESPN's Adam Schefter said the secret meeting is an "admission on both sides that too much time has passed without any talk, and that both sides need to get together to come together to see if they can bridge any of their differences to try to come up with a settlement that would bring about football and a new collective bargaining agreement." Schefter: "The fact that they're meeting is a very encouraging sign." If the two sides are “going to wait for the hearing on Friday and for the judges to weigh in -- and they may not do that until July -- we're threatening to miss training camp and if you miss training camp, then you're obviously putting at risk preseason games that generate revenue for both sides. I think that right now is why both sides were able to get together.” While it is "not as if a deal is imminent today," what the league and the NFLPA are doing is "laying the foundation to try to see if they can get a deal done at some point this month, by the end of the month before the judges would weigh in" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/2).
PATIENCE IS FADING: In Atlanta, D. Orlando Ledbetter notes ahead of tomorrow's hearing, NFL players are "starting to get a little edgy about possibly missing part" of the '11 season. Falcons QB Matt Ryan said, "The longer that it goes on, the tougher it becomes. ... We’ll see what happens on June 3 with the ruling. We still have time to get this thing done. I think we’ve got the right people on both sides to get it done. We’ll be playing when we need to play." FB Jason Snelling, who could become an unrestricted free agent when a new CBA is reached, said, "We kind of wonder at some point, what are we really fighting for? Do we want to play, do we want to just keep these things through the courts?" Ledbetter notes the "time is getting closer to where valuable free-agency time, training-camp dates and exhibition games may get sliced off the calendar" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 6/2). After tomorrow's hearing, the losing side "could appeal to the full Eighth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court," but legal experts believe that "both would be long shots." U.S. District Court Judge David Doty's ruling on damages in the NFL TV rights fees case is pending, "but that decision also could be appealed, leaving Friday's hearing and eventual decision as the focal point" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/2).
The Jaguars yesterday became the latest NFL coaching staff to reveal that they "weren't informed the NFL Coaches' Association was filing a brief supporting the players' bid to end the lockout," according to Vito Stellino of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio said, "I checked with our guys and not one member of our coaching staff had knowledge of last week's brief filed by the Coaches' Association prior to the news breaking. None were consulted or involved in any way. This action was taken without approval. Heck, it wasn't even mentioned to any of us." The Redskins and Saints previously said that they were not aware of the NFLCA filing. NFLCA Exec Dir Larry Kennan said that it "must have been an oversight because all the staffs were supposed to be notified" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 6/2). Chiefs coach Todd Haley yesterday also sought to "distance himself and his staff" from the NFLCA filing. Haley said, "In talking to all of our guys, there was a great deal of surprise this was filed on their behalf. Nobody was aware that it was going to happen. This was not on behalf of the coaches" (K.C. STAR, 6/2). Rams GM Billy Devaney noted that his coaching staff "knew nothing about" the NFLCA brief. Devaney: "They were surprised by this being filed. They assured me that they weren't informed or consulted about it" (STLTODAY.com, 6/1). Texans coach Gary Kubiak: "The brief didn’t reflect the views of our coaching staff. We support our organization" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 6/2).
The NBA and NBPA "expressed hope the league can avoid a lockout" when its CBA expires at the end of this month following a four-hour meeting yesterday in Miami, according to Marc Spears of YAHOO SPORTS. The two sides said that "progress had been made," and league and union reps plan to meet again in Dallas June 7-8. NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said yesterday's negotiations were "much more fluid than we've had in some time." He added, "I’m hopeful. We know the pressure is building. And if anything is going to happen, it’s going to have to happen between now and June 30." NBA Commissioner David Stern said that while the sides "are still 'quite far apart,' there is also enough time to hammer out a deal." Heat Owner Micky Arison, Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban, Celtics Managing General Partner & CEO Wyc Grousbeck, Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert and Lakers Exec VP/Business Operations Jeanie Buss attended yesterday's meeting as league representatives. Hunter was joined by NBPA Exec Committee members Keyon Dooling, Roger Mason Jr. and Maurice Evans (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/1). Both Stern and Hunter said that "more substantive talks are just beginning to form." Hunter: "We talked about our respective positions, something that we hadn’t done before. I think it was productive for that reason. ... The issues are so complex that it just takes time to work through them" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/2). Stern said, "It's still our hope that there may be a deal here to be done. We're going to test it to the limits. If we're wrong, we're wrong. I think Billy feels the same way. On paper, we're quite far apart. The question is whether we're closer than we say we are or whether we can get closer." Dooling said, "It's not going to be a situation where one side just triumphs the other one and just destroys everything. ... We need each other" (NBA.com, 6/1).
HOPE FLOATS: CBS SPORTS' Ken Berger wrote there are "two subtle, but potentially important" reasons for optimism. First, yesterday's session "was in addition to two meetings previously scheduled" for next week, and after a smaller meeting last week in N.Y. during which the players "proposed some new 'concepts' for bridging the enormous gap between the two sides, the dialogue was deemed positive enough to accelerate the talks." Additionally, the "substance of what the players proposed -- though closely guarded by the two sides -- may have opened the door for a breakthrough in the talks." Sources indicated that the players' approach "was designed as a two-pronged solution: 1) an alternative to a hard-cap system that would give the owners another path to reach their goals while maintaining some elements of the current soft-cap system; and 2) a revised split of basketball-related income that would do the same" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/1). Hunter yesterday "wouldn't say if the owners showed any willingness to move off their desire for a hard salary cap, which the players have called a nonstarter." That is "only one of numerous changes owners want to the league's salary structure, and the union has resisted most of them" (AP, 6/1).
NHL Senior Exec VP/Hockey Operations Colin Campbell is relinquishing his duty as the league's "chief disciplinarian" after 13 years to VP/Hockey & Business Development Brendan Shanahan, "who has been appointed as the head of a new department of player safety," according to Eric Duhatschek of the GLOBE & MAIL. Shanahan will "develop rule changes, work with equipment and safety concerns and most importantly, administer supplementary discipline on behalf" of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Bettman said that the "revamped process, which will include input from the players’ association, will likely stiffen the penalties for egregious acts of violence in an effort to make the game safer." Bettman also acknowledged that he "hadn’t wanted to make the announcement about Campbell’s future" until after the June NHL BOG meetings, but added that "reports of his deputy’s job change had circulated all day and thus, it didn’t make any sense to keep the decision under wraps any longer." Bettman indicated that Campbell "came to him and suggested the job change himself." Duhatschek noted it "had been a difficult year for Campbell, given the new focus on developing concussion protocols." He also became "embroiled in controversy after a series of e-mails involving his son," Bruins LW Gregory Campbell, indicated that Colin "was asking for favourable rulings from the rest of hockey operations" (THEGLOBEANDMAIL.com, 6/1). Campbell said he recommended the switch "four months ago." He will "remain the head of hockey operations and concentrate on league dealings with team managements." Campbell issued "more than 500 suspensions" since '98 (N.Y. POST, 6/2).
TIME WAS RIGHT FOR A CHANGE: Bettman said, "The thinking on this discipline change is as follows: First, I know this is one aspect of Colie's job that he hates. It could be the most thankless and worst job in hockey, particularly after enduring it for more than a decade. Two, both Colin and I believe that it is time to take a fresh look at the standards that we use, and if we're going to move to harsher discipline, that change needs to send a clear message, and we think it would probably be best to do it on a clean slate." Bettman added, "Having Brendan, who only recently came off the ice after a wonderful career, will give us the adjustment and the focus and the credibility that this change will bring about. ... It would be unfair, inappropriate and simply wrong to suggest that this reorganization in any way is a diminution of Colin or his role" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 6/1). SPORTING NEWS' Craig Custance writes under the header, "No Debate This Time: Campbell Makes Right Call." Custance: "It was the right move and long overdue. Campbell's job is one that would wear down even the most resilient league official. Doing it for well over a decade is too long. For anyone" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 6/2). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote as "much as Campbell needed a break from one of the least pleasant, most demanding jobs in all of sports, in truth, the sport needed a break from him." By the end of his 13-year run, Campbell's "curious take on what constituted supplemental discipline and his persistent inability to articulate the league's vision on supplemental discipline had left the league open to ridicule from the media and a persistent sense of bewilderment on the part of players, coaches and GMs." The challenge for Shanahan "will be to bring order to the Byzantine world of NHL discipline" (ESPN.com, 6/1).
STEPPING OUT OF THE SPOTLIGHT: In L.A., Helene Elliott notes Campbell, who had recused himself from making rulings in the Stanley Cup Final due to his son's involvement, "has been a lightning rod for criticism concerning his often confusing formula for imposing suspensions and fines that seemed to favor superstars." He has "presided over some tumultuous times, including a recent swing toward punishing blindside and deliberate hits to the head" (L.A. TIMES, 6/2). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont notes Campbell in recent years "became very inconsistent in meting out discipline, especially concerning head shots." In two "high-profile cases, in which severe concussions were sustained" by Panthers LW David Booth and Bruins C Marc Savard, Campbell "opted not to punish the perpetrators" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/2). In Boston, Steve Conroy notes Bruins fans "were outraged when Campbell did not suspend" Penguins LW Matt Cooke for his head shot on Savard. That incident "did spark a midseason rule change, however, that outlawed blindside hits to the head" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/2). In Vancouver, Ian MacIntyre writes Shanahan "seems capable of regaining public respect that was finally exhausted in March when Campbell ruled Boston Bruin Zdeno Chara deserved no suspension for running Max Pacioretty's head into the turnbuckle in Montreal" (VANCOUVER SUN, 6/2). In N.Y., Mark Everson notes Campbell's "sometimes pointed disciplinary decisions and opinions have often proven controversial" (N.Y. POST, 6/2).
A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote Shanahan is an "all-around good guy who has spent a career building up a great public image, but we’ll have to see how long that lasts and whether or not it will survive his first suspension." What was "most encouraging about the news was the public acknowledgment that the NHL needs to do a better job when it comes to handling on-ice discipline." The league has been "alarmingly slow to react to the increased danger in the game and, for the most part, has been astonishingly limp-wristed when it comes to protecting its assets by imposing harsh, and sometimes unpopular, suspensions." Campbell wrote, "If all of this does indicate a change in the culture of the game, then you’ll hear nothing but applause from this corner." But the NHL is "going to have to show us it means what it says by imposing a stiff suspension the next time a player acts with complete disregard for the safety of his opponent" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 6/1).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman during his state of the league address before Game One of the Stanley Cup Final last night confirmed that "realignment will wait another year and Winnipeg will play in the Southeast Division next season before moving to the Western Conference for 2012-13," according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. Realignment will be a "hot topic at the next few board of governors meetings, including June 21 in New York, but the lengthy discussion will more likely take place at the annual meeting in September." Bettman said, "We have a number of clubs that would like to address specific issues on realignment. All those clubs need an opportunity to be heard." Bettman hinted that if he "had to guess, part of the realignment solution might include a more balanced schedule." LeBrun noted Bettman "would not confirm it, but another reason for delaying realignment undoubtedly is to see what transpires" with the Coyotes. Bettman: "The city of Glendale stepped up and said they want the team to stay another year while they try to complete the sales process with us and will be funding the losses. Any suggestion that the league is funding this club or carrying the burden is not true. Last season, the city of Glendale did it. ... You have a city in Glendale that built the building and has invested in it and wanting the club to stay there. As long as they're prepared to carry the burden of doing this while we try to effectuate a solution, there's no reason to move" (ESPN.com, 6/1).
DON'T GET YOUR HOPES UP: The AP's Greg Beacham noted Bettman "avoided comment on the possibility of putting an eighth Canadian team in Quebec City," where Quebecor Media President & CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau is "eager to land a franchise." Bettman: "I am not going to raise expectations. I'm well aware of Mr. Peladeau's interest, and that is gratifying. I am well aware there are plans to build an arena, although we have made no promise of what will happen after that. At the present time, since I don't have a franchise we're looking to relocate, and we're not planning on expanding, I don't want to get people's expectations in Quebec City raised" (AP, 6/1). When asked about reports of a group in Seattle being interested in an NHL franchise, Bettman responded, "There are no shortage of places that continue to express interest in having a team. ... We're hoping not to do relocation. You all know that we don't believe in doing that, except as a last resort. We do everything possible to avoid it, and we're not planning on expanding. The interest is flattering, but I don't want anyone in any market that doesn't have a team to get their hopes up yet" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 6/1).
OTHER LEAGUE ISSUES: Bettman yesterday indicated that he "plans to let the labor impasses in the NFL and the NBA play out before hammering out hockey's next collective bargaining agreement" with NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr, who attended the commissioner's press conference. Bettman also touted the league's "roughly $3 billion in revenue through record-setting sponsorship deals and television contracts." NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that the league's salary cap for next season is "likely to be between $60 million and $63 million, bolstered by the new television contract" with NBC and Versus (AP, 6/1). Bettman also reiterated his "desire to make drug testing, and a tougher policy, a topic of conversation in the next" CBA talks. Fehr said, "If that's a topic we need to revisit in collective bargaining, we will." He added that he "expected talks to begin with the league sometime next winter" (ESPN.com, 6/1).
Sepp Blatter yesterday was "reelected to a fourth term as president of FIFA" after the governing body's 208 member countries gave him a "new four-year mandate in a lopsided 186-17 vote," according to Grahame Jones of the L.A. TIMES. Blatter said prior to the vote, "I am the captain of the ship and we are weathering the storm. Our ship is in troubled water and this is why we need to put the ship back on course -- and for that we need a leader." Following the vote, Blatter said, "We are going to put FIFA's ship back on the right course, in clear, transparent waters. We will need some time; we cannot do it from one day to the next." Jones notes Blatter's supporters "successfully rebuffed a last-minute attempt by England to postpone the vote." The delegates "reacted with what appeared to be an orchestrated attack on England by Blatter supporters that was remarkable for its ferocity." Meanwhile, the "only substantive" change announced by FIFA yesterday "was that future World Cup hosts, starting in 2026, would be voted on by the 208 members of FIFA, not the 24-man executive committee." But "even that concession had a catch," as the Exec Committee will decide "the list of candidates" (L.A. TIMES, 6/2). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Futterman & Revill note the election "caps a bizarre week of charges and countercharges that climaxed with Mr. Blatter promising to revamp an organization he has dominated since becoming president in 1998." But IOC member Dick Pound, who led the investigation into Salt Lake City's bid for the '02 Games, said that FIFA's statements "showed it wasn't prepared for serious reform." Pound: "It's like dealing with an alcoholic. The first thing they have to do is admit they have a drinking problem, and I'm not sure we're really seeing anything like that at the moment" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/2). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Roger Blitz notes measures proposed by Blatter yesterday included strengthening FIFA's Exec Committee and "using consultants from outside FIFA." Blatter also said that the organization "should call a one-day extraordinary Congress to tackle the corruption issues and 'to stop the ugly insinuations'" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/2). Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger will "help investigate problems within" FIFA. Blatter said that Kissinger "has agreed to be on a 'committee of wise persons' to advice FIFA's new corporate governance and compliance body" (AP, 6/1).
STANDING BY THEIR MAN: In N.Y., Branch & Longman write FIFA "may be a dysfunctional family -- or even a corrupt one, according to some members -- but it is Mr. Blatter's family." FIFA's members "resoundingly stood behind him" in the vote yesterday. Former U.S. Soccer Federation President Alan Rothenberg said, "With everything going on, it's hard to step back. But if the measure of FIFA is the progress of the sport, as president Sepp has been nothing short of extraordinary" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/2). The FINANCIAL TIMES' Blitz writes FIFA "mounted a concerted fightback ... rounding on politicians, journalists and others for interfering in its business" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/2). The GUARDIAN's Matt Scott notes Blatter "loyalists mounted attacks on English press, parliamentarians and football politicians before celebrating his new mandate with a standing ovation" (GUARDIAN, 6/2). In London, Owen Slot writes "all things England were the popular villains" at the FIFA Congress (LONDON TIMES, 6/2).
WHAT ABOUT BLAZER? The L.A. TIMES' Jones notes U.S. FIFA Exec Committee member Chuck Blazer yesterday was fired, then "reinstated, then fired again, and his true position was uncertain Wednesday night" (L.A. TIMES, 6/2).
MCDONALD'S VOICES CONCERNS: In London, Damian Reece reports FIFA sponsor McDonald's has joined Coca-Cola, Visa, adidas and Emirates airline "in expressing concern following the emergence of corruption allegations." McDonald's in a statement said, "We continue to encourage FIFA and its leadership to reform and strengthen the game of football around the world and expect that the current issues will be resolved in the best interest of the game" (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 6/2). Blatter yesterday said that he "spoke to two" of the concerned sponsors (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 6/2). Reece writes, "When hard-nosed businesses such as these are embarrassed into public comment, the alarm bells should really be ringing in FIFA's Swiss HQ" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/2).
SAME OLD PROBLEMS: In London, Paul Kelso writes the proposed changes put forth by Blatter yesterday are "partial solutions to the major issues that FIFA faces." Kelso: "With the entire reform process kept in-house there can be little cause for confidence" (London TELEGRAPH, 6/2). In London, David Aaronovitch writes, "This week's crisis is welcome. The Blatters of this world are under scrutiny and can no longer do as they please" (LONDON TIMES, 6/2). In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes the "overwhelming vote proves FIFA is broken." Kelly: "It must be burned to the ground, and built again" (TORONTO STAR, 6/2). Meanwhile, the FINANCIAL TIMES' Blitz noted UEFA President Michel Platini is "seen by many in the game as the most likely successor" to Blatter. Blitz: "In the maelstrom of FIFA political intrigue this week in Zurich, there has been little opportunity for the governing body's bruised members to devise a road map towards respectability. But in the genial Frenchman there lies perhaps FIFA's best hope" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 6/1).