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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's reputation again "stands to take a potential hit" following his Thursday decision to allow former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor to take part in Monday's supplemental draft but also "suspend him for the first five games of 2011," according to Don Banks of SI.com. Goodell said that he based the suspension on Pryor making "decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL Draft." Goodell "tried to send a message to any future collegiate players who might try to follow Pryor's lead and attempt a similar path to the NFL, and in the same breath he was probably sending a message of solidarity with the NCAA and Ohio State, which had suspended Pryor for the first five games of 2011 for taking improper benefits." Banks: "It's dangerous ground in that Goodell has now set a precedent with the Pryor ruling, and his judgment and decisions on punishment had best be in line with that standard going forward. Will he hand out discipline to every college player -- or head coach (hello, Pete Carroll?) -- who attempt to enter the league even while the cloud of alleged NCAA violations or illegalities still hang over their head? If not, it's only going to add to the charges that Goodell has wielded his considerable power too arbitrarily and inconsistently in some high-profile cases." The NFLPA opted to "not appeal or contest the suspension, perhaps knowing that Pryor's immediate future in the league was not likely to include much game action anyway." The union "got him draft eligible, and the only price was a slap on the wrist that amounts to much ado about nothing" (SI.com, 8/18).
THE FUTURE IS A MYSTERY: In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch writes Goodell "opened up quite the Pandora's box yesterday." His "bizarre decision" was accepted by Pryor and the NFLPA "only because the league was threatening to exclude him from this year's supplemental draft entirely." An NFL source said that the union was "prepared to fight the move on the grounds NCAA violations have never had any official bearing on a player's status, but Pryor's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, convinced the NFLPA to back down" (N.Y. POST, 8/19). FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez noted the five-game suspension "was a condition given Pryor" for entry into the supplemental draft, and NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah said that the union "consented to allow Pryor into the draft with restrictions." But Atallah added the decision "does not set any sort of precedent for future situations." He said, "There is no formalized plan or agreement between us and the league to do this in the future." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said the league is "enforcing our own rules" rather than carrying over the NCAA's original five-game suspension. Aiello: "Pryor made decisions that undermined the integrity of our draft eligibility rules" (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/18). In Cleveland, Doug Lesmerises writes Goodell "didn't suspend Pryor for his NCAA violations," rather he suspended Pryor "for messing with the NFL system." The supplemental draft "is for players who lose their college eligibility after the January deadline to declare for the regular draft." The league "clearly didn't like the way Pryor tried to twist his case, and emphasize his NCAA rule-breaking, to fit the supplemental draft rules" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/19).
RULING CALLED "HYPOCRITICAL": ESPN’s Mark Schlereth said the NFL was "hypocritical” with the ruling. He said, "They talk about him violating the eligibility of the draft rules. Then guess what: Don’t make him eligible for the draft” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 8/18). ESPN's Jackie MacMullan noted the NFL has "underminded the integrity" of the supplemental draft. MacMullan: "To me, there’s a little bit of hypocrisy there. ... To say that this has nothing to with the NCAA is crazy. They’re absolutely in bed together on this ruling” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 8/18). ESPN's Mike Golic said, "He shouldn't be eligible for the supplemental draft." Golic added, "This is a horrible move. ...They dropped the ball on this one. To say the line, 'You made decisions that undermine the integrity of the supplemental draft,' and then let him in the draft is wrong" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning, ESPN Radio, 8/18).
A DANGEROUS PRECEDENT: An NFL source said that the Pryor decision sets a "dangerous precedent" and puts Goodell in a position "to punish future college players." The source added, "What if Goodell decides certain guys in the regular draft can be subject to conditions prior to entering the NFL? It breaches a wall where you're going to be punished at the next level for things done in college" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/19). In Chicago, David Haugh writes under the header, "NFL Has No Business Disciplining Pryor." Haugh: "Explain how the NFL can justify enforcing the NCAA's five-game suspension of Pryor one year after welcoming Seahawks coach Pete Carroll into the league with a shrug." Goodell "means well by policing college renegades." But it is "hard to see how the NFL improves its product -- every commissioner's top priority -- by penalizing players retroactively for breaking another body's rules" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/19). In Jacksonville, Jeff Elliott writes, "Think of some of the ramifications that could come from this. ... What will be interesting is to see how the NFL picks and chooses which penalties to impose on which players" (FLORIDA TIMES UNION, 8/19).
HELPING THE NCAA OUT? SI.com's Chris Burke wrote under the header, "NFL's Terrelle Pryor Decision A Head-Scratcher." Burke: "The problem with Thursday's ruling is that it created a gray area. If, instead of waiting until June to leave OSU and start thinking about the NFL, Terrelle Pryor had just, say, skipped class from January to April, he'd apparently be just fine in the eyes of the NFL. It seems like the league wanted to put its foot down here, either for its own dignity or to throw a bone to the NCAA, which is getting hammered with high-profile issues right now" (SI.com, 8/18). ESPN's Mike Greenberg, on the Pryor suspension: "This is Roger Goodell and the NFL saying, 'Hey NCAA, we got your back. This guy was going to be suspended five games for you, we're suspending him five games for us'" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 8/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote what Goodell did "in suspending Pryor is get the NCAA's back." Freeman: "But this opens up an incredible Pandora's box. What Goodell did in suspending Pryor, I believe, is unprecedented in American sports. ... It opens up so many ethical and legal questions my head is spinning" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/18).
But NFL Network’s Rich Eisen said if the NFL “did this to try and clean up the NCAA’s mess for them .. I say, bravo. Somebody’s got to do it” ("The Dan Patrick Show," 8/19).
MORE REACTIONS: ESPN's Michael Smith said, "I'm appalled at this. This is worse than not allowing him to (the) draft. We always knew the NCAA was a free minor league system for the NFL. Now, it's out in the open. ... This is ridiculous. Do not do the NCAA's dirty work for them." ESPN's Jemelle Hill: "Since when did the NFL become the NCAA's henchmen? ... This is an awful precedent. Since when do you care about NCAA violations?" ("First Take," ESPN2, 8/18). In Chicago, Jeff Hughes wrote, "Joke. No other word for it. Absolute joke" (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 8/18). ESPN's Bomani Jones said, "This is the NCAA and the NFL running a tag team on Terrelle Pryor. ... I can’t believe that anybody can say that this is possibly okay. This is ridiculous.” But L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said the NFL's decision was "brilliant." Plaschke: "It’s fair. It’s saying, ‘You know what? You want to come into our league, you come into our league our way'" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/18).
WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE....: YAHOO SPORTS' Michael Silver wrote he hopes Goodell "is prepared to whip out his cattle prod and mete on an even harsher punishment to the next non-athlete who flees the league amid the backdrop of NCAA punishment." The "same Draconian logic should apply" should former OSU coach Jim Tressel land a coaching job in the NFL, and in those "of so many other collegiate coaches." Silver: "I fully expect Goodell to make the connection and to avoid being called a hypocrite by punishing them for their transgressions upon their acceptance of NFL employment contracts. Yeah, right. ... Goodell seems to apply wildly different standards when it comes to disciplining players as he does punishing coaches and other team employees" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/18). In S.F., Gwen Knapp writes Pete Carroll "left a burning house at USC for a $6.5 million salary in Seattle, and the NFL said nothing." Browns LB Scott Fujita wrote on Twitter, "That's EXACTLY what guys are asking in our locker right now, 'Well what about Pete Carroll?'" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/19).
The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) on Friday announced that it will restrict NBA players "to play in its domestic league" this season, which is scheduled to begin Nov. 20, according to XINHUA. CBA League Office Dir Bai Xilin said that NBA players under contract "would not be allowed to join in CBA clubs for next season." However, he said, "We welcome free-agent players of the NBA to play at least a full season in the CBA." The league will "adjust the form of contracts between the clubs and the players to prevent foreign players from leaving early during the season with excuses like fake injuries or family problems." More restrictions "will be followed before the start" of the season (XINHUA, 8/19). On Long Island, Alan Hahn cites Chinese sports sources as saying that the CBA "is opposed to players using their league as a temporary landing spot if the NBA lockout leads to the cancellation of games." The CBA's decision is "considered a significant blow to NBA players, especially stars, who were looking to play overseas (and recoup some potential losses in salary) during the lockout." Hahn notes while players still have the "option to sign elsewhere in the world," China is the NBA's "strongest international market and there was a great financial opportunity there if the CBA had allowed teams to sign players with NBA out-clauses" (NEWSDAY, 8/19). CBSSPORTS.com's Matt Moore noted the CBA's decision "closes off one of the most attractive options" and "hurts the players' efforts to provide leverage" in collective bargaining negotiations by signing overseas. Not only is China "like no other country on Earth, but the marketing potential is through the roof due to the companies and population." With recently retired NBAer Yao Ming "out of the picture, China represents a wide-open market" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/18).
MAYBE IT'S BETTER THIS WAY: The Georgetown men's basketball team and a Chinese pro team got into a brawl during an exhibition game Thursday as part of a goodwill trip organized by Nike. L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, “It really makes you wonder now about the future of basketball in China now as far as the Americans are concerned. A lot of NBA players talked about playing in China because it worked for (former NBAer Stephon) Marbury. I think a lot of them are going to see this and say, ‘You know what? I’m not going over there now’” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 8/18). Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears wrote on his Twitter feed, “After seeing G'Town brawl with lack of security, China players hurling chairs & fans tossing objects, NBAers should think twice about China” (TWITTER.com, 8/18).
WE'VE GOT YOU COVERED: USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt notes in a "normal year, through an agreement between the NBA and the International Basketball Federation, insurance is provided at an affordable cost for national teams participating in summer events." But because of the lockout, NBA player contracts "are suspended and the same insurance is not available." As a result, it has "become expensive for national teams to insure NBA players for important 2012 Olympic qualifying tournaments this summer." Great Britain Basketball Performance Dir Chris Spice said that it would "cost nearly $140,000 to insure" Pistons G Ben Gordon to play with its national team, "almost triple the cost of what it would be in a non-lockout year." Zillgett notes Suns C Marcin Gortat "will not play for Poland in Eurobasket, but not because Poland was unwilling to spend the money to insure his NBA contract." Poland and Gortat "could not find a provider to cover it" (USA TODAY, 8/19).
MONEY TALKS: In Australia, Mark Hayes notes Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan "insists" small-market teams "will never be able to compete while the system allows clubs such as the Miami Heat to effectively pounce on free agents with blank cheques." Jordan said, "The model we've been operating under is broken. We have 22 or 23 teams losing money, (so) I think that we have gotta come to some kind of understanding in this partnership that we have to realign." He added, "I can't say so much ... but I know the owners are not going to move off what we feel is necessary for us to get a deal in place where we can co-exist as partners. We need a lot of financial support throughout the league as well as revenue sharing to keep this business afloat." Jordan also indicated that small-market teams would "benefit greatly from a 'hard' salary cap" (Melbourne HERALD SUN, 8/19).