SBD/October 19, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NBA owners and the NBPA will resume labor negotiations led by Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service Dir George Cohen today following yesterday's "16-hour session that generated minimal progress," according to an NBA source cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. The source said that the league and players union "emerged from their longest labor meeting of the 111-day lockout 'still not anywhere near a deal.'" Reps from both sides "refused to comment publicly on the nature of talks, citing a gag order" from Cohen. Asked if the sides had closed any gaps between them, one source said, "On small stuff. Hard to see where this is going." The two sides were scheduled to resume talks today at 10:00am ET, and NBA Commissioner David Stern left yesterday’s meeting -- which "began about 10 a.m. and stretched past 2 a.m. Wednesday -- without making any additional cancellations to the league’s 2011-12 schedule" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger reported the two sides "rehashed the issues they've been wrestling with for more than two years." But a source said the difference yesterday was that Cohen "took the emotion out of it." No topics "were excluded from the mediation session, including the biggest obstacles in the way of a deal -- the split of revenues and a revised luxury tax system that would replace the hard team salary cap" sought by the owners (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/18). In N.Y., Howard Beck notes both sides "brought their full negotiating committees" yesterday. Stern, NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver and "twelve owners, all members of the NBA’s labor-relations committee," represented the league. NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter, Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher and "eight players from the union’s executive board" appeared on behalf of the union (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19). Meanwhile, the NBA BOG will meet today and tomorrow at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan as owners discuss the league's labor issue as well as a new league-wide revenue sharing plan. The entire BOG will begin meeting later today and tomorrow as the league and the union continue negotiations this morning. Owners also will be briefed on other league business matters (John Lombardo, SportsBusiness Journal).
READING THE TEA LEAVES: The N.Y. TIMES' Beck notes there was "no outward hint of progress -- other than the length of the meeting and the agreement to continue the talks" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19). In N.Y., Marc Berman writes, "Judging by the length of talks, it appeared to be a success and they will go at it again later this morning." But sources said that there was "minimal progress made in the negotiations" (N.Y. POST, 10/19). In Boston, Steve Bulpett reports there were "differing sources -- some saying progress was being made during the marathon, others that nothing should be read into the length of the proceeding." One source said, "They're still talking, so that has to be better than not talking" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/19). On Long Island, Alan Hahn notes the fact that more regular season games have not been canceled "is, at the very least, a positive sign" (NEWSDAY, 10/19). ESPN's Chris Broussard: "I really can’t say that they’re much closer to an agreement than they were before they went into that marathon session. ... If the meetings with the players don’t go well today, I guess it’s possible David Stern could talk with the owners and then come out and cancel another block of games" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 10/19). But in Boston, Gary Washburn writes, "At this point in the NBA labor negotiations, even a lengthy meeting seems to carry little significance in terms of progress" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/19). ESPN's Mike Golic said, “I don’t know if they’re any closer to it, but you know why they’re closer to it? Because they were in a room talking, and they’re going to get in a room again today and talk about it. So from that standpoint it has to be looked at as somewhat positive.” ESPN's Mike Greenberg said Cohen "at this point should be the Sportsman of the Year if he gets this thing worked out." Greenberg: "Might have saved two sports” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN Radio, 10/19). Hornets G and NBPA board member Chris Paul after the meeting tweeted, "WoW, 16 hours...I PROMISE we are trying!!!" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/19). Meanwhile, former MLBPA COO Gene Orza said he was “betting” that Stern has a “date in mind at which he will play the same card he played at the last negotiation.” That “worked successfully” when Stern he threatened to cancel the season if the NBPA did not agree to a deal by a certain date (“Cavuto,” Fox Business, 10/18).
TAKE A LETTER: In Boston, Bob Ryan writes what both sides "must realize is that the sports world will get along very nicely without the NBA." America grew "very antsy as football training camp time approached and there was no deal." But the NBA "cancels a portion of its regular season and in many locales the news isn’t even reported on the first sports page." Ryan writes, "Memo to the NBA: There is only one league this country can't live without, and it isn't yours" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/19). In Indianapolis, Matthew Tully writes, "Memo to the NBA: I speak for many fans when I offer this warning: We're not coming back." Tully: "I haven't heard one fan this fall voice concern, from a sports perspective, about the potential loss of the upcoming season" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 10/19). ESPN NBA analyst and former NBAer Bruce Bowen said, "It's time. It's time for both sides to come together. Both sides have to give." He added, "My biggest fear is those season-ticket holders will find something better to do with their money" (MYSANANTONIO.com, 10/18). In Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes, "Living and working in Sacramento, one of the smallest of the NBA's small markets, I want the owners to win." Breton: "I want the owners' desire for spending controls to prevail. I want the league to combine real revenue-sharing between big teams and small teams, along with restrictions that would make it harder for big-money teams to spend smaller ones into oblivion. Some have feared a long NBA lockout will hurt Sacramento's efforts to build a new arena, but actually the exact opposite is true: The longer the lockout, the better for Sacramento." Breton adds, "You can build all the arenas you want, but unless the NBA fundamentally changes the way it does business and tilts its financial rules, small markets such as Sacramento will always be in trouble" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 10/19).
GARNETT'S NOT THAT INTIMIDATING: Yahoo Sports earlier this week reported the two sides were making progress until Celtics F Kevin Garnett joined the negotiations on Oct. 4 and thwarted the work was had been achieved. Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said, “There’s no way, if they were that close to an agreement, one player coming in staring -- no matter who they are -- cannot mess up an agreement.” ESPN’s Bomani Jones said if Garnett “scowling at people would have had that much if an impact, this lockout would have been over long ago." Jones: "He’d be in charge of the union, not Derek Fisher.” Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "I can’t imagine that would affect what the owners want to accomplish” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 10/18). ESPN’s Dan Le Batard said the idea that Garnett would “come in and he’s glowering at somebody and everything would fall apart, that seems ridiculous” (“Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable,” ESPN2, 10/18).
CONSPIRACY THEORY: The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER's Lauren Schutte reported Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert's new video dealing with the NBA lockout "comes out on the side of the owners, who the ad says are on the fans side." Colbert in a voice-over says that the fans are "the number one employers of 'our nation's blimp pilots.'" He adds, "They're working hard to save the season, so Americans don't have to watch hockey." The Super PAC "attempted to run the ad" on Dallas' WFAA-TV. Colbert later addressed the attempt on his Comedy Central show, saying that "despite purchasing airtime, the TV station did not run the ad, which he calls an elaborate conspiracy" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 10/18). Colbert said of WFAA not airing the video, "According to the letter I received from their sales manager, ‘Here's an explanation of what happened…I can't explain why it happened.’ I can. They're trying to silence you, nation. Are you going to take it? WFAA, I call on you to air our ad tomorrow on a prime spot like ‘Good Morning America.’ It’ll be a dose of hard truth between segments on keeping your pet happy and cocktails inspired by ‘Dancing With The Stars’” (“The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central, 10/17).
HBO’s Bryant Gumbel closed last night's episode of "Real Sports" by calling NBA Commissioner David Stern a “modern plantation overseer” while discussing the NBA lockout. Gumbel said, “If the NBA lockout is going to be resolved any time soon, it seems likely to be done in spite of David Stern, not because of him. I say that because the NBA's infamously egocentric commissioner seems more hell-bent lately on demeaning the players than resolving his game’s labor impasse.” Gumbel: “To any and everyone who’d listen, he has alternatively knocked union leader Billy Hunter, said the players were getting inaccurate information and started sounding Chicken Little claims about what games might be lost if players didn't soon see things his way. Stern’s version of what’s been going on behind closed doors has, of course, been disputed. But his efforts were typical of a commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys. It’s part of Stern’s M.O., like his past self-serving edicts on dress code or the questioning of officials, his moves are intended to do little more than show how he's the one keeping the hired hands in their place.” Gumbel added, “Yes, the NBA's business model is broken, but to fix it maybe the league’s commissioner should concern himself most with the solution and stop being part of the problem” (“Real Sports,” HBO, 10/18). NBCSPORTS.com's Kurt Helin notes this is "not the first time Gumbel has willingly strode into controversial race waters," as he did the "same thing talking about the NFL when Paul Tagliabue left office" in '06 (NBCSPORTS.com, 10/19).
GOING TOO FAR? VMW Communications Owner Vince Wladika wrote on his Twitter feed, "HBO and Bryant Gumbel looking for cheap publicity by pulling out the 'racist' card on Stern. What a total lack of class on their part.” Turnkey Sports & Entertainment Senior VP Steve Seiferheld wrote, “B.Gumbel labels David Stern as a 'modern plantation overseer'. It's 2011; slavery rhetoric insensitive & rude. #sportsbiz #NBA #FAIL.” USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt wrote, "I'm sure this went over well w/Stern." Bleacher Report's Dan Levy wrote, "I can't wait until David Stern calls Bryant Gumbel 'some kind of sports media pharaoh.' #letmypeoplego."
The Memphis City Council “approved a resolution Tuesday asking the council's attorney to ‘explore all options’ -- including a lawsuit against the NBA -- to recover revenue that may be lost due to the lockout,” according to a front-page piece by Amos Maki of the Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL. Council Chair Myron Lowery, who sponsored the item, said, “Everything is on the table to recover the funds, if any are lost." Maki reports a yearlong lockout “could send the fund used to pay off FedExForum bonds into the red by 2022, forcing the city and county to make up the difference.” The shortfall “could reach $10.6 million by 2029, or about $600,000 annually for each government.” City Council attorney Allan Wade said that the “likelihood of the city filing suit against the NBA will rise with every missed game” (Memphis COMMERCIAL APPEAL, 10/19). Wade said that this “is the first city he’s heard of considering this type of action.” Wade: “If it gets to be half a season that’s a big problem. If that thing sits idle for a whole season that’s a big problem.” He added, “I think that goes against the spirit of our agreement because our arena is built with revenue, not guaranteed money ... as you know, these stadiums and arenas are built with public revenue and revenues from these games so [we’re] very dependent on that revenue, so if we lost it, I’m surprised other people haven’t used other options to try to recover their money” (MYFOXMEMPHIS.com, 10/18).
IndyCar yesterday said that an investigation has been launched into the crash that resulted in the death of driver Dan Wheldon Sunday at the Izod IndyCar World Championships in Las Vegas, promising “insight into the causes of the accident even as questions about the safety of the event are raised,” according to Bachman & Berzon of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. IndyCar said that “as part of its ‘standard safety protocol’ it would examine the circumstances surrounding” Wheldon’s death. The league added that other racing organizations “would assist in the investigation,” including the Automobile Competition Committee of the U.S., the sport's governing body domestically, and Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, the international governing organization. IndyCar in a statement said, "We hope to have preliminary findings to report within the next several weeks." Bachman & Berzon report the statement is “among a few public comments IndyCar has made since Sunday's crash.” Sources said that IndyCar was “risking relationships with its sponsors by remaining largely quiet in the wake of the crash.” IndyCar “hasn't made officials available to talk with the media since Sunday and has issued only brief public comments.” Steve Sudler, a former team owner “who is now in car-racing consulting and marketing,” said that “one of his clients, which is looking to become an IndyCar sponsor, is now nervous about entering the sport.” Brazil-based trade-investment promotion agency Apex-Brasil USA COO Silvia Pierson, whose company in an IndyCar sponsor, on Monday said that her group “would continue to support" the league (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/19). Meanwhile, the GUARDIAN’s Giles Richards notes IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard has “come under fire amid accusations of sacrificing safety in a bid for popularity.” Bernard has “aggressively marketed IndyCar since taking over almost two years ago, including the $5M prize for driving from last place to first, which Wheldon was attempting to win on Sunday” (GUARDIAN, 10/19).
THE OVAL DEBATE: USA TODAY’s Nate Ryan writes Wheldon’s death has “sparked renewed debate over the diversity of the Izod IndyCar Series schedule,” though economic factors were already "driving the circuit away from high-banked ovals” such as LVMS. The ’11 schedule “originally featured a split of nine road and street courses and eight oval tracks,” and while the ’12 schedule has not been released, races on ovals tracks in Milwaukee and New Hampshire are “expected to be dropped because of poor attendance.” Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach President & CEO Jim Michaelian said, “It’s not incumbent upon the series to have an equal number of oval and street races.” He added, “Safety and commercial success should be the primary determinants of choosing venues.” Ryan notes others said that the series “was built on a foundation of versatility that highlighted the abilities of drivers” (USA TODAY, 10/19). In California, Tim Dutton writes under the header, “Are Oval Tracks Good For IndyCars?” (Riverside PRESS-ENTERPRISE, 10/19). But in Long Beach, Bob Keisser writes under the header, “Don’t Blame Tragic Death On Oval Track.” NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson earlier in the week said that IndyCar should “discontinue racing on ovals.” Keisser: “It's a bit disingenuous of Johnson to say that, since open wheel racing was born on ovals. … I have to believe Wheldon would be the first to disagree with Johnson” (Long Beach PRESS-TELEGRAM, 10/19). ESPN.com’s Terry Blount said the "call for getting away from ovals entirely” for IndyCar is a "big mistake.” Blount: “This series has to race at oval tracks if they are going to be a viable series in the United States. ... If they go just to streets and road races, they’re just going to be nothing more than a niche sport” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 10/18).
KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT: USA TODAY’s Ryan notes former IndyCar drivers A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti “condemned” Johnson and others for calling on IndyCar to stop racing on ovals. Foyt: “I don’t think Jimmie Johnson knows what he’s talking about. He’s never drove one, and he’s pretty stupid to make a statement like that.” Andretti said that Wheldon’s crash was a "'fluke, freakish accident' that would be addressed next year with a new chassis designed to keep cars on the pavement by preventing wheel-to-wheel contact” (USA TODAY, 10/19). But ESPN.com's John Oreovitz said IndyCar team owner Sam Schmidt claiming he may leave the sport following Wheldon's death is "pretty stunning when you hear a guy who was a racer who would make an admission like that" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 10/18). Meanwhile, in London, Martin Samuel writes if IndyCar officials “had an equivalent of 'first do no harm' in their charter, Dan Wheldon would be alive today.” Samuel: “This is what happens when sport loses sight of its duty of care. IndyCar forgot that its first responsibility is not to the owners, the sponsors, the television companies, the promoters; it is not even to the fans.” IndyCar's “primary mission is to ensure -- as much as is possible in a sport with inherent danger -- that its drivers compete and finish safely.” Everything else “lines up behind” (London DAILY MAIL, 10/19).
HONORING WHELDON: SPEEDTV.com’s Marshall Pruett noted Supercar Championship Series Gold Coast 600 promoter Brett Murray is “having special t-shirts made using the custom helmet design Wheldon had done" for this weekend's race in Surfers Paradise, Australia. The shirt features Wheldon "in his suit and Lionheart character, surfing the waves.” The V8 Supercars series is “renaming the Gold Coast 600 trophy -- the Dan Wheldon International Driver Trophy -- that's awarded to the International driver with the best overall performance during the weekend in Dan's name.” Alex Tagliani, Wheldon's teammate with Sam Schmidt Motorsports/Bryan Herta Autosport, will “wear the belt from one of Wheldon's race suits around his sleeve as he races at Surfers Paradise” (SPEEDTV.com, 10/18). In Australia, Laine Clark reports Tagliani, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves have “all confirmed they will contest” for the Gold Coast 600, but Tony Kanaan yesterday withdrew “out of respect for Wheldon” (CANBERRA TIMES, 10/19). Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Matt Baker reports Italian racing company Dallara announced yesterday that it “would name its new car-frame design after Wheldon.” Wheldon debuted the new machine in August in Ohio and IndyCar VP/Technology Will Phillips said that Wheldon's testing “was crucial in developing the new car that will memorialize him and protect drivers in the future” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/19).
As the Buccaneers and Bears prepare to play in London Sunday for the fifth game in the NFL International Series, the “next big steps -- expanding past the U.K. and, at some point, finding a way to put a team in Europe permanently -- aren't close to happening,” according to Albert Breer of NFL.com. NFL VP/International Chris Parsons said, "It's definitely working. All the metrics point to that. From a total international perspective, we've doubled our international business. That's incredibly positive." But when asked about having a team in London, Parsons said, "We're certainly not putting a timeline on having a team there.” He added, “We're focusing the revolution on the U.K." Breer noted here is “where you stop.” On one hand, Parsons said "it's definitely working." On the other, he added it "has to work" in London for the league to grow further. Parsons: "We want to play more than one game a season there, that's an important success criteria for us. We want to establish that we can build fans for a team that goes over there and participates. Right now, we've had great growth, but we need to keep moving toward being a top five sport in the U.K. That's our ambition. That's what we have to prove we can do." Parsons “hopes the next step is building loyalty and pockets of followings with individual clubs.” Germany would appear to be “next in line to get a game.” Parsons: "Germany is an attractive market, we have a residual fan base from NFL Europe, and they like the game, which is demonstrated by their support. When you look at merchandising and Game Pass (Sunday Ticket, in essence, overseas) sales, you see we do well in Germany. But we're not looking elsewhere now. We want to get right what we're doing in one market" (NFL.com, 10/17). Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg, Rick Stroud notes the Buccaneers are in London for their game against the Bears Sunday and the team was “visiting British schoolchildren and taking in the sights with crews from Sky Sports and Fox television.” Players yesterday visited the Harris Academy South Norwood in southern London “to teach American football drills” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/19).
The AFP's John Weaver notes tennis chiefs have "played down fears that the Asian swing will become the perennial victim of player pull-outs at the end of the gruelling season after high-profile absentees at the Shanghai Masters." The question "of burnout was bubbling away again in Shanghai, missing a clutch of top 20 players" for the tournament which finished Sunday. ATP World Tour Int'l Group CEO Brad Drewett said, "Top players consistently say how much they enjoy playing here and they mean it. Players are very well treated here and that's part of what makes playing these events so attractive." He added that withdrawals were "not unique to Asia and it was important not to draw sweeping conclusions from just one tournament" (AFP, 10/19).
CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH: In L.A., Nick Green wrote despite the "stuttering economy MLS is thriving with big crowds watching gifted players in soccer appropriate venues." MLS still has a "long way to go in the U.S.," as it is "not even the most popular soccer league in the country." But in the "bigger picture, MLS has never been healthier than it is now." Green noted there are three reasons for that -- soccer "is cool," it has "unprecedented visibility" and MLS also has put "a better quality product on the field" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/18).
UP AND DOWN: ESPN.com’s Michael Cox wrote although it is in the financial interests of EPL owners to “scrap relegation, even supporters of those clubs threatened by demotion wouldn't wish to see the concept thrown out.” The chance of “guaranteed survival for next season would appeal, but a couple of years of pointless games would quickly become tiresome,” as attendances “would fall; no one would care.” The move is “highly unlikely to happen in the short term because the Premier League would require approval from the Football Association, which would strongly oppose the idea.” Still, the more the EPL's global appeal “widens, the less influence the FA has” (ESPN.com, 10/18).