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The NBA has confirmed that it has cut 114 jobs, or about 11 percent of its workforce, at its league office.
NBA spokesman Mike Bass said the layoffs are part of a $50 million cost-cutting effort by the league. "The layoffs are not a direct result of the lockout but rather a response to the same underlying issue, that is the league's expenses far outpace our revenue," Bass said.
The cuts are across all areas of the NBA's business, but not all departments had layoffs. The league has also shut its Tokyo and Paris offices and shuttered a studio at its Secaucus, N.J., offices.
The NBA last had a layoff in 2008 when the league office cut about 80 jobs.
NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter this week told players that "playing abroad would keep the pressure on owners while allowing union members to continue making a living," according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. In a letter sent to players, Hunter wrote in part, "This lockout is intended to economically pressure our players to agree to an unfavorable collective bargaining agreement. It is important for owners to understand that there may be significant consequences to their decision to put their own players in these difficult economic circumstances." He added, "If the owners will not give our players a forum in which to play basketball here in the United States, they risk losing the greatest players in the world to the international basketball federations that are more than willing to employ them." Beck notes NBA Commissioner David Stern has indicated that the league "would not stand in the way of players who want to work overseas." However, FIBA "has yet to say whether it will clear players who are under contract" to NBA teams. A statement from the sport's international federation is "expected soon." In his letter, Hunter said that he "believed there was no impediment to NBA players working abroad during the lockout, while contracts are suspended." He said that he "also believed that neither the NBA nor FIBA would block such a move." Hunter did advise that "foreign contracts should contain a clause that would allow players to return after the lockout was lifted." Hunter suggested players "secure appropriate protection," notably insurance, "to guard against any injury or unforeseen circumstances" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/14). A source indicated that there "are still unresolved legal issues regarding players with NBA contracts signing overseas during the lockout" (ESPN.com, 7/13).
PLAYERS WEIGH IN: Magic C Dwight Howard told a Spanish newspaper this week that "he'll consider playing overseas if the lockout continues." Howard, while on a promotional tour in Malaga, Spain, made reference to the city's professional basketball team, saying, "It would be fun to play at Unicaja, it sure would be a great experience for me. If the break does not stop I would come to Europe to continue to improve on a great team." Howard in a Twitter post later added the chances are "pretty high” he will play overseas and he has “something up my sleeve" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 7/13). Heat G Dwyane Wade, who last week indicated he would consider playing abroad, said yesterday, "At the end of the day we get that itch as a basketball player where you want to play the game of basketball. So I won't rule it out, but I have no idea when I will get that itch" (PALM BEACH POST, 7/14). Mavericks F Dirk Nowitzki "gave an optimistic outlook in regards to the NBA lockout." He said, "I really can't see this going on too long. I think that the game is at a great stage -- I think The Finals having been watched by so many people as it has been in a long time. I just think both sides have to come together. It's always a little give and take, not one side is going to get everything. So hopefully we're going to get by this period and both settle in and get a deal done. I just can't see us having another long lockout" (DALLASNEWS.com, 7/13).
POKING FUN AT THE SITUATION: Last night's ESPY Awards featured several members of the Mavericks taking shots at the lockout policy preventing players from having contact with team officials. Nowitzki was named Best Male Athlete of the Year, and said during his acceptance speech, "I want to also thank Mark Cuban, but since I can’t talk to him, you guys say ‘hello’ to him.” The Mavericks were later recognized as Best Team, which prompted the Mavericks owner and several players to walk onto the stage together. After Cuban took the award, he motioned for the players to come over to the microphone, saying, “Come on, come on. ... Oh yeah, I’ve got to stand over here, right?” Cuban moved a few feet away as Mavericks G Jason Kidd walked toward the microphone and said, “Well, you do have the checks, so you can pay the fines.” Cuban, Kidd and the audience laughed, and Kidd followed it by saying, “That’s just a million dollars" ("2011 ESPY Awards," ESPN, 7/13).
The NFL and the NFLPA are “still quarreling over the precise composition of the all revenue pie that would be split between them,” contrary to reports that a "disagreement over the rookie wage scale is the only remaining roadblock” to a new CBA being reached, according to two sources cited by Michael Silver of YAHOO SPORTS. The sources added that owners "still insist that a 'legacy fund' for retired players come out of the salary cap, meaning current players would bear the entire burden." There are "additional arguments over how many right-of-first refusal devices each team will be allowed via franchise and transition tags." The owners' "desire to increase the regular season from 16 to 18 games hasn't been addressed in recent weeks, and players are unsure whether the subject will be revisited or tabled for discussion in future years." There also has been "no official negotiation on issues relating to health care and player safety, largely because the decertified NFLPA technically is prohibited from handling such matters for the membership." Saints QB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Drew Brees yesterday appeared on a San Diego radio station and said, "We're very close to a settlement. We're at that point in the negotiations where there's just a few more details to be ironed out." But another NFLPA Exec Committee member said, "Are we close? I wouldn't say that at all. Drew is the eternal optimist, and yeah, it's closer than it was a week ago. Could it happen quickly? Yes. But I'd be extremely surprised." Another players source said of Brees' comments, "Don't read too much into that. We're not there yet, and there are still a lot of issues in play" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/13).
TELLING A DIFFERENT STORY: In DC, Mark Maske cites sources as saying that an "agreement in principle" on a new CBA is "likely to be completed between Friday and next Tuesday, barring further complications." Individuals "not involved in the negotiations but familiar with them" said that they "did not expect a handshake deal to be completed" yesterday. But they added that an agreement in principle was "possible in coming days." Sources said that "deadline pressure may force the two sides into a compromise by Tuesday, when they are scheduled to meet in Minneapolis with their court-appointed mediator," Judge Arthur Boylan (WASHINGTON POST, 7/14). In N.Y., Kevin Armstrong reports "revenue-sharing splits and a rookie wage scale remain issues being discussed, but both sides maintain they would like to have a deal ready for league meetings" next Thursday in Atlanta. The latest round of talks yesterday "lasted throughout the day and into Wednesday night" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/14). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes under the header, "Rookie Wage Scale Overdue." Graney: "If we are down to the minor detail of whether a rookie class becomes free agents after four or five years, flip a coin and end this thing" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 7/14).
HIGH-PROFILE STATEMENT: In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch reports after "feeling rushed by numerous unsourced stories in the national media claiming a deal was imminent, the players finally struck back yesterday with a joint statement" by Brees, Patriots QB Tom Brady and Colts QB Peyton Manning, all of whom are plaintiffs in the Brady v. NFL antitrust suit. The statement read, "We believe the overall proposal made by the players is fair for both sides and it is time to get a deal done. ... This is the time of year we as players turn our attention to the game on the field. We hope the owners feel the same way." The league "quickly followed with a statement of its own that was seemingly designed to lessen the PR hit in the eyes the fans." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello in the statement said, "We share the view that now is the time to reach an agreement so we can all get back to football and a full 2011 season. We are working hard with the players' negotiating team every day to complete an agreement as soon as possible." Hubbuch notes the "heavyweights in the 4-month old lockout returned to the negotiating table" yesterday in N.Y. and "met for nearly 11 hours in a bid to work out a settlement in time to salvage the entire season" (N.Y. POST, 7/14). On Long Island, Bob Glauber notes the antitrust suit "must be settled" as part of a new CBA. It "sounds as if the quarterbacks are ready for that to happen, but only if they get a CBA that is to their liking" (NEWSDAY, 7/14).
Brees says players want to make sure money
saved from rookie wage scale goes to veterans
REACHING OUT TO FANS: CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman cites an NFLPA source as saying that he "would like to do some sort of acknowledgment to the fans, with or without the league's cooperation," should the lockout come to an end. The "ideal gesture would be players wearing a patch on their uniforms dedicated to their fans." He said that owners and players also could "combine to give 1,000 fans free tickets for each game, or give a small number of season-ticket holders refunds for one game." Freeman: "That will never happen, but hell, what a gesture that would be." Several team and league officials also indicated that they "believe some type of apologetic gesture to the fans should be made." But one exec said that the problem is the league "fears such a gesture might leave the NFL vulnerable to some type of lawsuit" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/13).
Steelers LB James Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, yesterday "tried to downplay the severity" of his client's comments to Men's Journal, according to Gerry Dulac of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Harrison's comments about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell were among his "more venomous directives." But Parise said, "A lot of it is bravado. I think people have to be careful not to read that and think those statements are anything more than expressions of feelings, particularly in regard to the commissioner. The commissioner fined James $100,000 last year. What do you want him to say, he's my best friend? James is a tough individual, and that's the type of language he uses" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/14). NFL.com's Steve Wyche reported Harrison, who made the comments to the magazine in May, is "not singing solo in the choir of NFL players." Plenty of players "view Goodell as Public Enemy No. 1." Wyche noted of Goodell, "He's the face of the owners in the lockout. He's not liked for that." One player this summer said, "Don't even mention (Goodell's) name around me" (NFL.com, 7/13). Men's Journal Contributing Editor Paul Solotaroff yesterday said, "Since the story broke this morning, I've been getting calls from NFL players blessing James Harrison for saying what they don't have the stature to say about Roger Goodell" ("SportsCenter," ESPN2, 7/13).
LOST IN TRANSLATION: ESPN.com's Ashley Fox wrote Harrison's tone toward Goodell "overshadows the fact that Harrison does have a valid criticism, shared by other players in the NFL, of how Goodell went about fining players for illegal hits last season." There are players like Harrison "who think Goodell unfairly targeted African-American players and fined certain players more than others." There are players like Harrison "who think Goodell issued harsher fines for illegal hits on white players than for hits on black players," and that Goodell "had it out for certain players" (ESPN.com, 7/13). In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik writes, "Harrison has a grudge against Goodell, as we all know. That doesn’t give him the right to take off on the commissioner the way he did and it certainly weakens any comment he made that might have had some merit" (POST-GAZETTE.com, 7/14). Also in Pittsburgh, Scott Brown writes beyond the "insults, Harrison makes some serious points about what he believes are the league's misguided attempts to increase safety." He explains how "non-guaranteed contracts make players more likely to hit high, because in the short term, a torn knee ligament is more costly than a concussion" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 7/14). In K.C., Pete Grathoff writes, "Unfortunately, Harrison's outlandish statements will overshadow some seriously good points he made later in his chat with the magazine. ... I hope that the good things Harrison said about reducing head trauma won't get lost in all the negative talk, but I fear it will" (K.C. STAR, 7/14).
GUNS A-BLAZIN': In Boston, Ron Borges reports NFL officials are referring to the photo accompanying the Men's Journal article of Harrison as "The Picture." The shot reveals a "shirtless Harrison with arms folded over his chest." In each hand he is "holding a handgun, one a Smith & Wesson 460V revolver" and the other a FN Five-seveN pistol (BOSTON HERALD, 7/14). ESPN's Adam Schefter said of the picture, "That is not the image that the NFL nor the Pittsburgh Steelers want to portray to its fans” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 7/13). Radio personality Sal Licata: "Not sure the image of him holding two weapons is one the NFL needs -- especially with the lockout. What is Harrison thinking?" ("Loud Mouths," SportsNet N.Y., 7/13). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "An NFL player, in this era of gun control and the NFL worried about guns, he’s posing with two guns. ... This guy’s an embarrassment to himself, to his team, to the league" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/13).
IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard said that he is "going nowhere" despite comments he made last month that he would resign if the Oct. 16 race in Las Vegas "doesn’t triple the TV ratings" from last year's season finale, according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Bernard's comment gained “much attention in the open-wheel world, with some IndyCar team officials and insiders wondering if Bernard is planning his exit strategy." But Bernard indicated that he made the statement because he "is 'very confident’ he and his staff will draw a much stronger TV audience than last year’s finale" in Miami. Bernard said, “I have a five-year contract, and I’m here for the long term. … I want things to happen sooner rather than later. And I think I should be held responsible for the job I’m doing.” Still, Bernard indicated that he “has several aces up his sleeve to make good on his Las Vegas promise.” ABC has said that it “will promote the race,” and Bernard intends to leverage his “relationships with Las Vegas tourism officials from his days as CEO of the Pro Bull Riders circuit.” Bernard also said that IndyCar “may have to take over operations and marketing of some of the series races” to "shake things up." Schoettle noted dealing with “weak promoters is nothing new for Bernard, and he has a history of taking over when he thinks he can do better.” Bernard: “We had the same problem with the (Pro Bull Riders) in ’95, so we took over most of the events by 2000.” Bernard saw “attendance and TV ratings skyrocket” during his time at PBR. He said that it is “clear IndyCar officials either have to find strong promoters or take over races." But he noted it is “premature to say which direction we’ll go with that” (INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/11 issue).
In Buffalo, Jerry Sullivan noted WPS "has suffered its own growing pains" in three seasons, but there is "no calculating what a U.S. win in the World Cup and a surge in popularity" could mean for the league. The U.S. women's run to Sunday's final against Japan "has stirred memories of 1999," when momentum from the U.S. women's team winning the World Cup "gave rise to the WUSA." WPS Western New York Flash coach Aaran Lines said, "It's massive for the women's game here in the U.S. ... If they can go all the way, it'll be fantastic for the sport, and for a league in its third season. Hopefully, we'll flourish from that" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/13). CBS' "Evening News" examined the WPS, and CBS' Mark Strassmann noted the WPS is “short of sponsors, fans and money,” as “three teams in three years have folded.” WPS Atlanta Beat D Cat Whitehill said, “A lot of people are unfamiliar that there's even a league around. Any chance that we can get in the public eye is huge for us.” Strassman said, “This sport's elusive goal: Attract the general sports fan. It just has to move beyond its core followers -- pre-teenage girls brought to games by their soccer moms" ("Evening News," CBS, 7/13).
CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG? In S.F., John Shea notes MLB's CBA expires in December, and "nobody seems to think there's any chance for a stoppage, even a short one." MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner this week spoke "about a new deal by the end of the World Series, if only so labor talks don't stall free agency." Weiner said, "The opportunity that our bargaining presents in contrast to what's happening in the other sports is one that both sides recognize -- an opportunity to keep the game going, improve the game and improve the institutions through collective bargaining." Revenue sharing and the draft "will be re-examined, but nothing is expected to put off a new CBA" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/14).
PICKING A FIGHT: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Andy Fixmer reported former News Corp. President & COO Peter Chernin is "investing in the Hong Kong-based mixed martial arts promoter Legend Fighting Championship." CA Media LP, the Asian division of Chernin Group, and Diamond Ridge Ventures LLC said that they are "making the investment." LFC, founded in '09, "will vie for fans" with UFC and WWE (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 7/13).