U.S. Fans Abound For WWC Final LeBron Praised For Role In Apatow's "Trainwreck" MLS Eyeing St. Paul For Expansion Club Angels Bad PR Continues With Dipoto Exit NBA Free Agency Begins With Money Flying Expectations High For NASCAR On NBC NBC Lands New Advertisers For Race Coverage Going Off The Grid Steelers Exploring '23 Super Bowl Bid GT To Benefit Financially From Ireland Game
SBD/November 18, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The new five-year CBA between the MLB and MLBPA is "done and will be announced Monday," according to sources cited by Ken Rosenthal of FOXSPORTS.com. The deal will "ensure labor peace for 21 straight years," making MLB the "model for labor relations in professional sports." Rosenthal notes it might be MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's "proudest accomplishment." The new agreement will "not be perfect; several GMs already are livid over the new restraints on draft spending." Other details, "including the creation of two additional wild-card playoff berths, also are certain to spark debate." But while "reasonable people can disagree over parts of the deal, the players and owners at least understand that no issue is big enough to bring down the entire sport" (FOXSPORTS.com, 11/18). Following MLB’s quarterly owners’ meeting in Milwaukee Thursday, MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations & HR Rob Manfred said that he "was 'really confident' of an agreement being reached -- the most either side has said about the progress of a negotiation that, unlike some of those in the past, has played out almost entirely out of view of the media." In DC, Sheinin & Kilgore note the "critical negotiating point this year has been changes to the amateur draft, with Selig pushing for a cap on signing bonuses and the union resisting." It now "appears the compromise will be a financial disincentive for teams to exceed a specific ceiling on overall draft bonuses -- similar to the 'luxury' tax for teams exceeding a set payroll threshold." In exchange for the union "dropping its opposition to a restraint on draft bonuses, management reportedly has agreed to a change in draft-pick compensation for signing free agents, reducing the number of 'elite' free agents to whom the compensation is attached" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/18). Baseball writer Murray Chass noted the reality is that Selig "doesn’t want a work stoppage." He has "lived through eight stoppages (five strikes, three lockouts), and he doesn’t want a ninth that would wreck his legacy on his way out of the door next year" (MURRAYCHASS.com, 11/17).
MORE IS BETTER: Selig in Milwaukee Thursday announced that MLB will "add another wild-card playoff team in each league as early as the 2012 season." The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair notes the teams with the "first and second-best records among non-division winners will meet in what Selig said would most likely be a one-game playoff, with the winner advancing to the best-of-five division series." Selig "felt moved to make the announcement even before the formal conclusion of negotiations won a new" CBA with the MLBPA, because the union "has long supported" the initiative (GLOBE & MAIL, 11/18). Selig: "The greatest thing this sport has going for it is its history and its tradition, and the more you’re around the more you understand that. You try to disturb that as little as you can. But I think this is great for the long term" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/18). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale notes the MLBPA "helped bring about" the change by agreeing to expanded playoffs if teams "had a more even chance to win a berth" (USA TODAY, 11/18). LHB Sports Entertainment & Media President & CEO Lee Berke said that "given recent increases in media rights, the extra tier of playoffs could help MLB achieve a 25%-50% increase in annual rights fees after its current contracts with Fox and Turner expires following the 2013 season" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/18).
ONE AND DONE? In Boston, Nick Cafardo notes one of the "biggest points of contention has been a one-game playoff vs. a three-game playoff for the wild cards." Networks "tend to favor the one-game, sudden-death format because in instances when there have been one-game playoffs to determine postseason spots, they have been exciting." Selig said, "We haven’t come to a final decision, but if I had to guess today, it would be the one game" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/18). On Long Island, Ken Davidoff notes TV execs "prefer the drama of a one-game setup; some baseball people don't like the idea of their playoff run lasting only one game." But others "didn't like the idea of the division winners sitting idly during a three-game series" (NEWSDAY, 11/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Danny Knobler wrote, "We'll accept the idea of two wild cards in each league, and we'll come to love the idea of the one-game wild-card playoff that will launch each October of playoff baseball." Knobler: "Some critics are calling it 'manufactured drama,' but seriously, what's wrong with manufacturing a little drama?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/17). MLB Network's Chris Rose said of a one-game playoff, “I love it, but you can understand it: The pundits are going to be beating their chests saying this is not the way baseball was intended to be” (“Intentional Talk,” MLB Network, 11/17).
SELLING THE DRAMA: MLB Network’s Sean Casey said a one-game playoff concept is "awesome." Casey: "It adds more to all the cities, it gets more people involved, gets more teams involved, gets fans excited. I think it’s going to be great for baseball” ("Intentional Talk," MLB Network, 11/17). SI's Tom Verducci said, "One game, knockout game, sudden death. Unbelievable. …Great drama built in every year” ("Hot Stove," MLB Network, 11/17). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said, "One other city is going to be more excited about the end of the season because their team looks like it’s going to have a chance to get in, and that's what Major League Baseball wants, excitement” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 11/17). The Chicago Tribune’s Brian Hamilton was asked whether a one-game playoff is fair, and he said, “Fair is probably not going to be part of the discussion. It’s what’s going to get people excited and frankly, if people think it’s unfair and are arguing about it and talking about it and screaming at each other, it’s just going to keep more people interested. It’s fodder for talk. That’s all they’re going to look for with that” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 11/17). SportsNet N.Y.’s Adam Schein said, “I hate the one-game playoff. It is just too arbitrary. I liked it as is.” The N.Y. Daily News’ Frank Isola: “I don’t mind adding more teams. Here’s my thing though: The first round though should be four out of seven” (“Loud Mouths,” SportsNet New York, 11/17).
BIG MOVE: MLB.com's Adam McCalvy noted after the announcement that the Astros will move to the AL "many questions" concerning scheduling remained unanswered. Among them were "just how many extra Interleague games each team will play." Selig said that MLB's scheduling committee is "working on a series of options." That group is "headed by" Phillies President & CEO David Montgomery and MLB Senior VP/Scheduling & Club Relations Katy Feeney. Selig "urged patience while that group works out the best solution" (MLB.com, 11/17). In L.A., Mike DiGiovanna notes the Astros' move will "result in a more balanced schedule in which teams probably will play 72 games in their division, 60 games against teams in the other two divisions in their league and 30 interleague games" (L.A. TIMES, 11/18). NBCSports.com's Chris Calcaterra said, “I don't like the fact that we're going to have constant pervasive interleague play. Beyond the first weekend and a couple of marquee series, it's boring now. Having it all year, it's less of a thing and less of something we're going to fixate on" (“NBC Sports Talk,” Versus, 11/17).
DAY OF CHANGE: ESPN.com's Jayson Stark notes the announcement "doesn't merely unleash a ripple effect." It "unleashes a tidal wave of change in this sport." Stark: "And this, you realize, is just the beginning. Once the new labor deal gets finished, there's a whole lot more coming -- changes that will affect big-league payroll disparity, revenue sharing, the draft, free agency and the broad scope of the business of baseball" (ESPN.com, 11/17). In N.Y., Tyler Kepner writes the addition of an extra wild-card team in each league "seems more risky because it opens up the possibility that a third-place team could win the World Series." This would "further dilute the importance of excellence over a 162-game schedule." Kepner: "But that is modern sports. ... Business is better when consumers stay interested as long as possible, and baseball would still have fewer playoff teams than any of the major sports" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/18). The Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham said, "The interleague play is really going to change how some teams look at things. National League teams could say we need a player who could be a good DH for those 15 games where they play in American League parks, and American League teams could start to look at players who are primarily DHs ... as to how much value those guys have if you can’t use them for 15 games a year” (“NESN Daily,” NESN, 11/17).
The NBA held a 20-minute conference call Thursday "to update its owners on the state of the labor situation," according to a source cited by Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. The source said that the owners' "strategy going forward was not discussed and no further meetings or calls were scheduled, either among the owners or with the players' attorneys." The source acknowledged that the two sides "need to resume negotiations in order to save the 2011-12 season," but added that his "gut feeling is that the season will be lost." The source said, "There's just not enough time. I imagine that another effort (at negotiating) will be made toward the end of December." Sources have previously said that a "hard-line group of owners was hoping the players rejected the deal." The ownership source said that after Thursday's call, "that was still the case." The source said, "No one wants to miss the season, but about half of the owners are willing to miss the season if it means fighting for a better deal" (ESPN.com, 11/17). In N.Y., Howard Beck writes after months of "dithering and prodding, bluffs, ultimatums and flimsy deadlines, the stakes are now abundantly clear, for players and owners alike." They either "reach a deal in the next six weeks, or forfeit the 2011-12 season, at a cost of about $2 billion to each side." That threat has "always existed, but it was mostly wielded by the owners, who were better positioned to withstand the loss." But Beck notes the scales "may have tipped in the players’ favor with the filing of their antitrust complaint." If the owners "lose the case, they will face treble damages -- perhaps $6 billion, based on a tripling of the players’ earnings for one season." Legal experts "disagree on whether the players can win on the merits, but they generally agree that the risk to the owners is not worth taking" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/18).
ANY SHOT FOR A SEASON? In DC, Michael Lee notes while many legal experts "believe NBA players may be in a better position to succeed in the courts than their NFL counterparts ... few think this labor dispute will be settled in a courtroom." New York Univ. Tisch Center sports business professor Robert Boland said that the "danger in trying to have the labor dispute settled by antitrust law is that the case could be appealed many times before it is finally resolved." He added that all three lawsuits "could eventually be merged and argued in New York." For that reason, Boland "believes that the 2011-12 season will most likely be lost" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/18). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote there is "still time to salvage some degree of reason and sanity before the attorneys fully take control" of the NBA. But Berger added, "Given the lack of reason and intelligence that we have witnessed for months, we cannot ignore the possibility that the owners and players will continue to choose ego over reason, bravado over compromise, and thus will continue down the path toward mutually assured destruction" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/17). Pacers F Danny Granger said, "It really has come down to the justice system. When that is involved, you have lawyers and litigation and what not. That's a whole different world compared to what we were doing with the negotiations. So we just leave to the lawyers to handle it” ("NBC Sports Talk," Versus, 11/17). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said, "I believe there will be a deal within two weeks. It’s not so much that they are so far apart on issues. It’s two billion dollars on the table and Christmas is coming and the bill collectors ain’t stopped coming.” ESPN’s Skip Bayless: “I believe the players -- the superstar players -- will cave by Christmas because that is the unofficial start to the season.” But ESPN’s Chris Broussard said, “I don’t think we will see NBA basketball at all. Both sides have really dug in” (“First Take,” ESPN2, 11/17).
WHAT'S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE...: NBCSPORTS.com's Kurt Helin noted during the NFL lockout, the sides "met for 16 straight days and hammered out a deal," ensuring the NFL season started on time. Helin wrote, "For all the legal wrangling ... that is how the NBA lockout will end. ... Somebody needs to take charge, be rational, put Stern and the hardliners to the side, and just make this happen. The problem is, who can be the NBA’s Robert Kraft?" Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban "has the personality, but would the hardliners really accept the deal from one of the biggest spending owners?" Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan is a "hardliner that the players don’t trust right now so he will not work." Helin: "Maybe a moderate such as Peter Holt (San Antonio) could, although he has been in front the whole time and nothing. It’s the same on the players’ side -- who could be their Jeff Saturday? Derek Fisher, Chauncey Billups, maybe even Etan Thomas?" (NBCSPORTS.com, 11/16). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said of that league's lockout, “The key moment for us was when we got the principles back in a room ... and we were able to talk and listen to one another, understand each other and structure something that works for both parties.” Kernen asked whether he speaks with NBA Commissioner David Stern and Goodell noted, “I talk to David a little bit.” Kernen replied, “Are you hoping he's Tivo-ing this?” Goodell: “I’ve said before David is the dean of commissioners. I don't have any advice for him. He's been through this.” He added the “unfortunate circumstances happening in the NBA right now is that it's getting back to litigation, and these things are resolved through negotiation and through collective bargaining" (“Squawk Box,” CNBC, 11/18).
Wade said he can't see himself sitting out
a full year and not playing basketball
WADE WEIGHS IN: In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman reports Heat G Dwyane Wade "plans to play competitive basketball this season, even if it means playing overseas amid the lockout." Wade said, "Some way, some how, I'm going to be part of a team. I can't see myself sitting out a full year, not playing basketball, at some kind of high level." Wade also said that he "would not allow the lockout [to] get in the way of his marketing relationship with Michael Jordan," despite Jordan's "hard-line stance against the players." Several players "vowed to shun Jordan's merchandise." But Wade said, "I can't let that affect me. I have my own things to run, my own stuff to think about what I'm doing with my own shoes" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/18).
AROUND THE RIM: Agent Aaron Goodwin confirmed a report Thursday that Thunder F Kevin Durant "is in talks with BBC Bayreuth about playing in Germany during the ongoing NBA lockout." Goodwin said that talks between the teams "are 'ongoing' but said the deal is not in the final stages as described by SPOX.com" (ESPN.com, 11/17). Agent Bill Neff, who currently has 15 clients playing abroad, said, "If the NBA cancels its season entirely, then I think Kobe will probably go overseas, but not until then. I could also see Kevin Durant heading somewhere if the entire season is canceled. But the real big stars won’t go if there’s still a chance of a settlement" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/18). Magic C Dwight Howard said that it is "unlikely that he would play overseas" if the lockout continues. Howard said Thursday, "I doubt it" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/18). YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojanrowski cited sources as saying that Suns free agent G Aaron Brooks "has agreed to a one-year deal with Guandong of the Chinese Basketball Association." Brooks had been "talking on and off with Chinese teams for several months, and finally agreed to a deal believed to be worth more than $2 million for the season." CBL rules obligate Brooks "to play the full season in China without an opt-out clause should the NBA lockout end" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/17). Agent Jim Tanner Thursday said that his client, Magic F and Turkey native Hedo Turkoglu, is "weighing and considering opportunities with European franchises" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/18). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser, on the prospects of a '11-12 season: “I think people are pessimistic. I think they’re beginning to scramble right now. Not the stars, other players” (“PTI,” ESPN, 11/17).
FRANCHISE NOTES: In Ft. Worth, Dwain Price notes the raising of the Mavericks' "first championship banner has been placed on indefinite hold" due to the lockout. Mavericks F Corey Brewer said, "I wouldn't say the lockout has put a damper on it. But we really want to get the rings, we want to have the celebration, and we'd like to be playing and trying to defend our title right now." Mavericks G Jason Terry "acknowledged that while the average fan may view the lockout as putting a damper on what the Mavericks accomplished last June, that's not the case 'here in Dallas'" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 11/18). Meanwhile, in Orlando, Josh Robbins reported the Magic Thursday "sent out a letter to its fans -- including season-ticket and partial-plan buyers, people who have purchased single-game tickets in the past and merchandise buyers." Magic President Alex Martins signed the letter, which read in part, "We continue to share your frustration and we understand the impact this has had on you, and all of our fans, our employees and those who work in the Amway Center." The letter also stated, "We remain committed to keeping you informed as developments unfold with the current work stoppage. Your patience, loyalty and support are truly appreciated during this time" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 11/17).
Offseason tweaks to NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship seem to have done "exactly what it wanted with a two-driver title fight heading into Sunday’s season finale,” according to Jenna Fryer of the AP. Carl Edwards enters Sunday's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a three-point lead over Tony Stewart, and "both drivers have been at the top of their game the last month.” The competition has “brought out the best in NASCAR, which heads into its championship weekend with some healthy momentum and exciting story lines that have boosted interest” (AP, 11/14). In Grand Rapids, Steve Kaminski wrote NASCAR “has gotten its wish” as the championship “is coming down to the final race, and chances are we still won’t know who is going to win it all with a lap to go.” It is a scenario that “has been NASCAR’s goal all along, dating to when it first introduced the Chase” in ’04. Fans have “a Game 7, winner-take-all race in which the points leader is in no position to play it safe.” The championship race “pits two of the sport’s great personalities, and right now, they are the best drivers on the track” (MLIVE.com, 11/17). USA TODAY’s Nate Ryan writes Edwards and Stewart “are the equivalent of the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers in a winner-take-all situation” (USA TODAY, 11/18). Stewart said, “This is as exciting as it gets -- to have two guys who are down to three points (apart) with one race to go. It’s the perfect storm, so to speak” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/18).
EVERYBODY LOVES COUSIN CARL: In Miami, Gary Long writes many NASCAR fans "concur that it’s high time for a fresh face at the top,” and “none is fresher” than Edwards. Long: “He’s affable. He’s charming. He’s clever. He has an infectious grin big on teeth. Oh, and he’s ripped, with a sculpted upper body.” The camera “loves him, and he can mix conversationally with Regis and Kelly.” Ford Racing Communications Dir Kevin Kennedy said, “He’s the face of our NASCAR program not only on track but in our marketing.” He added, “We have plans for Carl to be involved in future product launches. Female fans like him. Male fans like him. Kids like him. He fits what Ford is looking for in a spokesman” (MIAMI HERALD, 11/18).
The Galaxy play the Dynamo Sunday for the MLS Cup in what could be Galaxy MF David Beckham's final game in the league, and while his "marriage" to MLS has "failed to live up to its overblown hype, both sides say it has been a worthwhile union, one that has gone a long way toward achieving its goal," according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. TIMES. MLS Commissioner Dan Garber said, "Without him, the league wouldn't be where it is today." Since Beckham's arrival, the expansion fee for an MLS franchise "has quadrupled to $40 million." The league, which "once paid to have its games broadcast on television, next season will begin banking $10 million a year from NBC in addition to rights fees from Univision and ESPN." The Galaxy, the league's "marquee franchise, is estimated to be worth more than $100 million, and attendance around the league is way up." AEG President & CEO Tim Leiweke, whose company owns the Galaxy said, "That's all David. From a financial standpoint ... he's been undeniably successful. Show me one measuring post that hasn't increased significantly." Baxter wrote if Galaxy F Landon Donovan is the "unquestioned face of the U.S. national team, Beckham has just as clearly become the face of pro soccer in this country." Garber: "David coming to MLS ... was a statement to a really broad global audience that MLS was serious, that we were a legitimate business." Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said, "He's helped make this team better, he's helped make the league better and there's a great awareness of MLS around the world because of David" (L.A. TIMES, 11/16). Beckham said, "I have definitely achieved what I wanted to off the field. I wanted this game and this league to grow, and I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. ... Attendances now rival NBA and NHL -- all that in a country where soccer is not the No.1 sport. That is something I am proud to be part of" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/17).
SUSTAINED SUCCESS: Leiweke Wednesday night on Bloomberg TV’s “Sportfolio” said the MLS is successful and will continue to be regardless if Beckham returns next season. Leiweke said, "Look at the league, the expansion, the success we’re having in places like Seattle, Vancouver, Portland and now Montreal. ... When you see people writing a check for $50 million to buy expansion teams, it is a good indication of the trust that investors have in buying franchises and investing in our league.” Leiweke added the “whole world now is amazed at the success” of the MLS. He said, “I don’t see any time in the future that we get out of it or lose our passion for it.” The success of the Galaxy is a “huge credit” to Beckham. Leiweke: "That experience and that experiment worked” (“Sportfolio,” Bloomberg TV, 11/16). Leiweke Thursday said that he "plans to sit down" with Beckham after Sunday's MLS Cup "to discuss Beckham's future with the club" (ESPNLA.com, 11/17).
The ATP BOD begins meeting this weekend in London to possibly choose a successor to outgoing Exec Chair & President Adam Helfant. The board may choose Richard Krajicek, a former Wimbledon champion and current director of the Rotterdam tournament, whom top players including Rafael Nadal back, sources said. Tournament reps, however, favor elevating ATP Chief Legal Officer Mark Young or ATP CEO of the Asia-Pacific region Brad Drewett. There has been some talk of a dual role, given that Krajicek's business background is limited. In fact, sources said Roger Federer opposes the former player’s ascension for that reason. If the board is unable to select a winner, it may need to hire a headhunting firm to find new candidates, ensuring the tour goes into '12 without a new leader. The ATP is an unusual grouping of management and labor interests, and it has existed uneasily side-by-side under the same roof since the inception of the modern ATP in '90. However, recent leaders have found it hard to not be seen as aligning with one side. Helfant’s predecessor, Etienne de Villiers lasted four years and was seen as pro-tournament. Helfant has the opposite reputation and he will have lasted three campaigns. If Krajicek and Young were to have a power-sharing venture, the question would then be which one gets the vote on the seven-member board. There are three players reps, three tournament reps, and the leader of the ATP. One source said the only given this weekend is to expect fireworks in the meeting room.
FIFA President Sepp Blatter Thursday said that he is "sorry for causing offence with his controversial statement on racism," according to BBC SPORT. Blatter "appeared to suggest on Wednesday that racial discrimination could be settled with a handshake." Blatter said, "It hurts and I am still hurting because I couldn't envisage such a reaction." Blatter insisted his "fight against racism and discrimination will go on." He said that he would "not resign, despite calls for him to quit by numerous British players, managers, administrators and politicians." Blatter: "I cannot resign. Why should I? When you are faced with a problem you have to face the problem." EPL club Manchester United D Rio Ferdinand accused Blatter of "ignorance," while MLS Galaxy MF David Beckham described Blatter's remarks as "appalling" (BBC.co.uk, 11/18). In London, Ashling O'Connor notes companies that pay "billions of pounds to sponsor the World Cup have failed to condemn" Blatter for his comments. Of the six such sponsors contacted, "each paying between $24 million and $44 million a year to FIFA, only two addressed the matter." Dubai-based airline Emirates "hinted it was considering its sponsorship beyond the 2014 World Cup in Brazil." A company spokesperson said, "Emirates continues to closely watch developments within FIFA ahead of discussions on the extension of our partnership beyond 2014. However, we have no role in the management of the organisation." Hyundai Kia "made the distinction that it was a 'partner of the World Cup and not FIFA.'" Visa, Coca-Cola and adidas all said that they "were opposed to racism or discrimination but made no mention of FIFA or Blatter in brief statements" (LONDON TIMES, 11/18).
TIME TO GO? In London, Gabriele Marcotti writes after his comments, FIFA "went through the trouble of depicting Blatter embracing Tokyo Sexwale, a tireless anti-apartheid campaigner who spent 13 years imprisoned at Robben Island." It "appeared to be the age-old and somewhat tacky 'Some of my best friends are black' defence." FIFA's PR "flacks made this worse by not identifying Sexwale ... which prompted Rio Ferdinand to tweet 'FIFA clear up the Blatter comment with a pic of him posing with a black man'" (LONDON TIMES, 11/18). The GUARDIAN's David Conn wrote amid the FIFA "charm offensive mounted to repair the Sepp Blatter charm offensive bungled the day before was a reminder of all the good things FIFA has done to counter racism and discrimination in football." One of those reforms, "said to be 'at the proposal of president Blatter,' itself demonstrated how wrong and misguided he was to even think of talking about racism victims shaking hands with their abusers" (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 11/17). In London, Matthew Norman writes Blatter has been "getting away with murder for a long time." If an "unwitting offence born of arrogance and stupidity does for him now, it would perhaps be rough justice." But "better that than no justice at all" (London TELEGRAPH, 11/18). Also in London, James Lawton writes Blatter, who "understands everything about the value of money and how it can shape people, and apparently absolutely nothing about the meaning of racism, should be driven out into the wind and the sand" (London INDEPENDENT, 11/18).