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SBD/September 19, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher may "currently have the worst sports job in America, but it's exactly where he belongs," because he is "more than the union president, he is the calm face and reasoned voice of negotiations," according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. Fisher said, "There have been moments when it's been draining. But it's not draining me of my overall energy and passion for playing this game I love to play." He added, "My experience with the Lakers plays a part in my ability to fill a leadership role, absolutely. There are many similarities between making executive decisions and leadership roles in athletics." Plaschke noted this is "not an NFL-type lockout where the only issue was the number of slices to be shared from an enormous pie." Rather, the NBA owners "want to bake an entirely new pie, and are willing to spend an entire season behind locked doors while it cooks." Fisher said, "I have the pressure of 1,000 families relying on this agreement getting done, an agreement that could set the foundation of the NBA for the next six to 10 years. I knew it would be tough, and it is." He added, "We view what we bring to the brand of NBA basketball as the league's most valuable and important asset, one that helps generate millions of dollars. We just want to share in a fair part of the game as it grows; we're not asking for anything in addition, no raises arbitrarily, just a fair share for the players." More Fisher: "I don't believe the model is broken, and our players don't either. We respect the fact that team owners don't want to feel as though they paid a contract and the player does not 'perform' up to that level. But our position is simply that they have ability to manage assets in ways to run a successful business, and that shouldn't be something that becomes the employees' responsibility" (L.A. TIMES, 9/17). NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter said last week, "We know the owners are dug in ... they've seen what has happened in hockey; that you can break the will of the players. We spent three years preparing these guys for this. I'm convinced they'll hang in there." Hunter added, "I haven't heard one guy yet say anything about their financial strain. They say they're prepared" (L.A. TIMES, 9/19).
DOLLARS AND SENSE: In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence noted in the "next ten days, owners and players have to reach a new labor deal or else training camps will be canceled, as will the start of the regular season on Nov. 1." Players have "come down" to 53%, from their initial request of a 57% share of basketball-related income. Suns F and player rep Jared Dudley said, "Let's say we went down to 52% or 51%. If that gets it done, I guarantee you we would have the season, if that's what it takes." But Lawrence noted it will "take even more, which is one reason we're still a ways from an agreement." Sources said NBA Commissioner David Stern "is looking in the end for a 50-50 split." The union has said that Stern has been "asking for a 55-45 split in favor of the owners," but he "knows he will never get that much, and will eventually come up to where he'll agree to an equal split" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/18). In Boston, Gary Washburn noted some believe that the players' "offer to lower their share of basketball-related income from 57 percent to the 52 percent range was paramount to negotiations." Such a move "encouraged positive vibes," particularly when NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver "intimated that economic progress had been made over the past two weeks." Former NBPA Exec Dir Charles Grantham said, "I saw this week as a sign of progress, not one of dismay. This is sort of a concessionary negotiation because the owners have obviously made timeless claims that they are losing substantial sums of money and the union has settled in on the fact there [are] teams that are facing losses." But the owners "responded to the players' offer of decreased BRI with insistence on an NHL-like hard salary cap, something the players are soundly against." Grantham said, "I think these next couple of weeks are important, as long as they don't get derailed through a legal strategy which is flawed. This whole concept of decertification, at this point in the game, makes no sense" (BOSTON.com, 9/18).
Grousbeck (r) is reportedly in favor of NBA adopting a hard salary cap
FROM THE BEAT: ESPN.com's Henry Abbott wrote there is "no word yet on when the next round of talks will be, but it's a good bet it will be very soon." With the "money issue apparently close, and the league ready to think creatively on the only other 'blood' issue, there is the chance things could progress quickly" (ESPN.com, 9/16). ESPN.com's Larry Coon wrote if a CBA "isn't hammered out soon, then it's not good news for the players." Coon: "The longer this lockout lasts, the stronger the owners' position becomes. The players can make it tough on the owners in the meantime, but they can't prevent the inevitable. In a game of tug-of-war, the bigger side wins. In this dispute the owners are the bigger side" (ESPN.com, 9/16). In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman wrote of reports that Caviliers Owner Dan Gilbert and Sun Owner Bob Sarver was negatively impacting the negotiations, "I can't fathom Dan Gilbert or anyone else who hasn't been around for decades driving Stern's agenda." Winderman: "We're not talking about the late Abe Polin here. If David Stern wants a deal, Dan Gilbert and Bob Sarver will have to deal. But I do find it somewhat surprising that owners such as Jerry Buss, Micky Arison, James Dolan, Jerry Reinsdorf and more of that ilk aren't seizing control of the situation. Has David Stern truly sold that much of his soul? Do these new owners possess compromising pictures?" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 9/17). In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes it is "hard to imagine that the second-year owners at Golden State and the incoming ownership groups in Detroit, Philadelphia and Atlanta aren't frustrated with the pace of events and itching for the season to start." But throughout the negotiations, the tone "has been respectful, which suggests that both parties really want to get a deal done soon." Hunter "has kept the power agents at a distance, at least for now." Voisin: "There will be a season, and I might be crazy, but I don't think the lockout will last beyond the opening weeks of the preseason" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 9/19).
PLAYERS' PERSPECTIVE: ESPN’s Howard Bryant said NBA stars are missing in the labor talks and "think about how different this would look if you saw” NBPA President Derek Fisher speaking with Lakers G Kobe Bryant and Heat F LeBron James “standing behind him." Bryant: "That message would be, ‘Look, we’re together, we’re unified, we’re not going anywhere, we’re not backing down.’ But right now the way it looks, if I’m ownership I’m thinking, ‘These guys aren’t taking this very seriously. They’re too busy clowning around on Twitter’” (“Jim Rome Is Burning,” ESPN2, 9/16). Wizards G John Wall said, "We're going to have to have guys like Kobe, LeBron, the face of the NBA, to step up and say something." Thunder F Kevin Durant said it "could help" if the NBA's premier players took a more prominent role in the negotiations. He added, "Everybody knows all the top-tier guys in the league want to be involved in it, they want to be locked into what's going on, but because of what we have going on as players, throughout the summer, we can't be in some of the meetings." Meanwhile, Wall indicated that "more would have to be done to reach an agreement" before training camps open on Oct. 3 (WASHINGTON POST, 9/18).
Lexi Thompson became the youngest winner in LPGA history with her five-shot win at the Navistar LPGA Classic yesterday, but the LPGA's "rule that tour members must be at least 18 years old" is at the "heart of Sunday's fallout," according to Randall Mell of GOLFCHANNEL.com. Because of the age restriction, the 16-year-old Thompson "can't claim tour membership for the Navistar victory," meaning she must "file a petition for a waiver of the age rule." The LPGA earlier this year allowed Thompson to attend Q-School "with the understanding that she would be granted a waiver of the age restriction should she earn member status through the three-stage process." But following the win, Thompson's camp "doesn't want her to have to continue through Q-School." Thompson said, "Hopefully, this win will change things, but it's not my decision and I'm not really worrying about it right now." Bobby Kreusler, Thompson's agent, said that he "will be filing another petition seeking a waiver" of the age restriction. Kreusler: "We will now be seeking full membership based on winning this tournament." Mell reported LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan "released a statement congratulating Thompson and pointing out that she was eligible to gain tour membership advancing through Q-School." However, a tour official "sent a followup to Whan's statement Sunday acknowledging that if Thompson filed a separate petition for waiver off the Navistar win, the commissioner would review it" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 9/18). Golfer Juli Inkster said, "It's kind of silly, isn't it? I think it makes us look bad, too. Now, you have to go to qualifying school? To me, that's silly" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/19).
LPGA NEEDS SOMEONE LIKE THOMPSON: In N.Y., Karen Crouse notes Thompson is "young and attractive and American, making her a coveted commodity on a tour that has been dominated in recent years by foreign-born players and that has struggled to maintain sponsorships and a full schedule." Thompson has blonde hair and is nearly 6 feet tall, and Crouse writes she "could be a cover girl for Golf magazine or Glamour" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/19). GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Baldry noted Thompson "walked out of the scoring tent on Sunday drinking a Red Bull, one of her sponsors." Baldry: "She's making grown-up money for that kind of product placement, and this week proved she's worth every penny. ... Those who don't want to see a 16-year-old compete on the LPGA full time need to start looking at the big picture. Whan can't afford to turn away someone who attracts sponsors and draws a crowd" (GOLFWEEK.com, 9/18). Golf Channel's Phil Parkin said, “She’s got a great smile. She’s just going to be wonderful for ladies’ golf. It’s great for America to have a young superstar like this” (“Navistar LPGA Classic,” Golf Channel, 9/18). Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee: "It certainly gives them a big shot in the arm and a lot of buzz” (Golf Channel, 9/18). ESPN.com's Farrell Evans wrote the LPGA "should quickly grant her membership." Evans: "Women's golf -- and specifically LPGA commissioner Michael Whan, should embrace youth -- as teenagers like Thompson could spark new interest in the game. Thompson should be on all of Whan's promotional materials" (ESPN.com, 9/18). Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte said, “There’s nothing that the LPGA could use more right now than an infusion of American talent and firepower” (“Golf Central,” Golf Channel, 9/17). Thompson's win gain front-page sports section coverage in several top newspapers, including the N.Y. Times and USA Today (THE DAILY).
COULD PROVIDE BIG BOOST TO TOUR: GOLF WORLD's Ron Sirak wrote the "emergence of Thompson as a star would be a big boost for the LPGA, which has expanded greatly in Asia as players from Korea, Japan and ... Taiwan, have dominated." The tour has lost several U.S.-based events, and Thompson "could be a crowd favorite" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 9/18). SI's Stephanie Wei wrote there has been no question that Thompson "was going to be a huge star," and she is hopeful Thompson "keeps winning consistently because the LPGA could really use a marketable American star." Golf.com Senior Producer Ryan Reiterman said, "Hopefully she's the next superstar because a dominant American is something the LPGA really needs." SI's Gary Van Sickle said, "The LPGA is out of its mind if it doesn't exempt Lexi. ... She's already the next big thing the tour has to an American star." However, SI's Rick Lipsey said, "I don't think she'll generate very much interest. Nice player, but unless she wins many majors, not a Q-rating maker." Golf Magazine Senior Editor Mike Walker said Thompson "can only be a marketing machine and attendance/ratings draw if she's promoted as the female Tiger Woods, but those expectations are impossible and can be damaging" (GOLF.com, 9/18).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last Thursday “had a confidential meeting with the most vocal leaders of the retired players groups,” including George Martin, Willie Lanier, Bruce Laird, Ron Mix and Carl Eller, according to CBS' Charley Casserly. Mike Ditka was “not at the meeting, but he had input.” Casserly called the meeting "historic," as it is the "first time the retired players have been able to meet with the league and have a voice in how the hundreds of millions of dollars will be distributed to the players in the pension fund.” The "next step" is for Goodell to meet with the NFLPA, which “was invited to the meeting and did not attend, to make a final determination on how the money is going to [be] split up.” The meeting with Goodell comes after a group of 28 former NFLers filed a lawsuit against the NFLPA and Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith (“The NFL Today,” CBS, 9/18).
HGH TESTING COMING SOON: ESPN.com's Chris Mortensen cited sources as saying that the NFL is "expected to have HGH testing within five to 10 days on a marginal level." There is still "no agreement reached yet between the two sides." However, both the NFL and NFLPA "have received pressure from politicians, the latest being Sen. John McCain, who has joined those urging the league and union to commence testing" (ESPN.com, 9/18).