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Days after news broke of an Izod IndyCar Series team owner wanting CEO Randy Bernard ousted, he "opened up about his trying week at the helm of America's most dysfunctional racing series," according to Marshall Pruett of SPEEDTV.com. Bernard said, "I have addressed issues this week, and I'm moving on. I am here because of the board of directors, because that's who I answer to, and I am confident they support me." He added, "I didn't say 'attempted coup.' If you read my tweet, I said 'team OWNER'. Singular. And I said, 'disappointing.' I didn't want to be negative. I wanted to be factual. And I wanted to get out in front of the problem. My mentality is, if you back a kitten into a corner, you come out fighting like a tiger. That's how I operate. If I see an issue, I want to head it off." Pruett noted Bernard "also admitted to holding off on publicly admitting the power play that was going on behind the scenes -- something that had been taking place since April -- until after the Indy 500 had concluded." Bernard said, "I felt like a dead man walking for seven days. I had seven days to think about how I wanted to put it out. I didn't want to take anything away from the Indy 500." Pruett noted despite the "semi-unified efforts that existed to remove Bernard, he reminded everyone that he does not indeed work for the team owners." Bernard: "You're going to make people mad along the way. But you have to do what is in the best interest of the sport" (SPEEDTV.com, 6/3). Bernard said that he "wants to work with owners on solutions to address complaints such as controlling cost certainty and believes progress was made during a meeting with them Saturday" (AP, 6/3).
WORDS FROM THE WISE: In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz wrote his advice for Bernard is "get over it." He added Bernard "sounds like a desperate soul on borrowed time" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 6/3). Also in Indianapolis, Curt Cavin wrote, "Personally I think it was a lot about nothing." A couple of car owners "don't like him, and that's fine." Bernard "needs to avoid responding to things like that." Cavin: "I know he wanted to sound the truth as he sees it and cultivate fan support, which is fine, but now everyone knows what only a few need to know. I'm still not convinced this needed to be a public debate. It looks bad for the series, especially to companies out there considering sponsorship of IndyCar" (INDYSTAR.com, 6/1).
NO COMPARISON: IndyCar driver Paul Tracy said there “isn’t anybody who can replace” Bernard and “I don’t think there’s anybody that wants to replace him.” Tracy: “At the end of the day, he’s jumped into a tank of piranhas and he’s got a couple of nips on him now and he’s got some blood flowing. They’re starting to eat away at him and once that started I think it’s going to be hard to stop.” Speed’s Tommy Kendall said of the idea Bernard is being forced out, “It’s as unsurprising as it is disappointing. Him shining the light on it was a masterstroke and might just get them to back off a little bit.” Kendall said Bernard is “far and away the best they’ve had in a long time” (“Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain,” Speed, 6/3).
EFFECT ON TITLE SPONSOR? Cavin also wrote, "I don't know what the ad buy is for Izod, but I can tell you there's been a reduced presence." Cavin: "I believe Randy told me there was five years left on the contract...One side tells me Izod is negotiating its way out, another is saying all is well. So, I guess we'll have to see which side is telling the truth" (INDYSTAR.com, 6/1). Cavin wrote, "The fact of the matter is, Bernard's future is more linked to IndyCar's financial picture than disgruntled team owners." He asked, "Does Izod stay as designed? Does China work as it is supposed to? Does Lotus remain as an engine supplier?" These "are the things to watch" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 6/3).
Golf HOFer Jack Nicklaus, who hosted this past weekend's PGA Tour event, said that the “preponderance of cell phone cameras that may have contributed to Phil Mickelson's withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament on Thursday is nearly impossible to police,” according to Bob Harig of ESPN.com. Harig noted Mickelson “was clearly agitated by the number of spectators using their cell phones to take photos,” which is “in violation of PGA Tour policy.” The tour began allowing cell phones at tournaments a year ago at the Honda Classic, “with the stipulation they must be placed on vibrate.” Phones can be used “in designated areas or to check email or data, but may not be used to take photos or videos, a policy that is constantly violated, leaving volunteer marshals all but helpless.” Nicklaus on Saturday said, "There is no way in the world you could have a tournament police that policy. What do you want, the Gestapo out there? It's kind of ridiculous. You've got 30,000, 40,000 people out there. How are going to go out there and do that? That's crazy, you can't do that.'' He added, "It's either guys have got to get used to it and just expect it, or the tour has to adjust their policy. We don't control that. Whatever the tour wants us to do and thinks is right, then we'll work on it” (ESPN.com, 6/2). CBSSPORTS.com’s Steve Elling wrote the tournament “cracked down on cellphone use on Friday.” But Nicklaus still “insisted that the PGA Tour needs to handle the policing, not the volunteer marshals” (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/2).
CELL PHONE FATIGUE: In N.Y., Karen Crouse wrote Mickelson “quietly seethed about the clicking cellphones," but withdrew from the event citing mental fatigue. Golfer Rickie Fowler on Friday said of the cell phone situation, “The tournament did a great job today. We had a few guys out there following us kind of managing the situation. I really didn’t hear very many today. They were on top of it, and the tour and the tournament did a great job with that.” He added, “Yesterday it was probably one of the worst I’ve seen, but obviously, at every tournament, cellphones have been around, so it wasn’t something new that just happened this week” (N.Y. TIMES, 6/2). GOLF WORLD MONDAY’s Geoff Shackelford writes with all due respect to Nicklaus, “Fan behavior improved markedly once marshals and security officials began confiscating the phones of blatant users.” But it was “a day too late” for golfer Bubba Watson. Watson Thursday said, “Ever since they made that rule that cell phones are allowed, it’s just not fun playing” (GOLF WORLD MONDAY, 6/4).
WEIGHING IN: Golf Channel’s Jay Townsend said of allowing spectators to use cell phones, “It's a great rule. Welcome to the 21st Century.” Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard: “The Tour did this to try to bring people out to the tournament. … They were hoping that people would learn, ‘Look, don't take pictures when guys are swinging, go to the designated areas.’ We're two years into this experiment now. It's not going to happen. It's turned on the Tour and now it's gotten ugly." Hoggard: "Fifty phones were confiscated, that’s ridiculous. Now you’re trying to get people to the tournament. Now, you’ve alienated them. Now they're mad because you took their phone!” Townsend said of Watson complaining about the cell phones, “Bubba, you're making millions, man. What do you mean it's not fun playing? Come on. Get over it. If you look at the practice tee and you're on the practice tee all the time talking to guys. … Unfortunately for guys like Bubba, the marquee players that are playing in front of the largest galleries, it’s more of a problem” (“Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 6/2).
NFL arbitrator Stephen Burbank turned aside a union appeal of Commissioner Roger Goodell’s suspension of four Saints players for their alleged role in the bounty scandal. The NFLPA plans to appeal the decision to a three-member appeals panel, one each from NFL, NFLPA and an independent arbitrator, as provided for under the CBA. The NFLPA contends Goodell overstepped his authority in assessing the penalties because the central issue the union maintained was an alleged “pay for performance” violation, which would dictate different penalties within the CBA. But Burbank agreed with the NFL that pay for performance, meaning bonus money paid to players for particular plays, was only one element of Goodell’s thinking. Also, conduct detrimental to the game animated his decision, Burbank said. Burbank did make an exception for Packers DT Anthony Hargrove, and asked for more information from the NFL. Burbank’s decision is only one step toward resolving the bounty scandal, which the players contend did not exist. Another arbitrator, Shayam Das, is hearing an appeal from the NFLPA over whether an onfield appeals panel instead should mete out any punishment; the union contention being the conduct is for onfield behavior. The NFLPA is alleging that the league cannot punish players for behavior predating the signing of the CBA on August 4, 2011. In this case, the appeals panel now hears the case. And each of the four players can appeal their suspension individually to Goodell, assuming his authority is upheld. That authority seemed to have caused Burbank some hesitation. “The NFLPA is understandably concerned that the commissioner’s claims of powers to discipline for conduct detrimental not be permitted to subvert protections for players won in the collective bargaining process,” Burbank wrote. He noted that during the May 30 oral hearing, an NFL lawyer’s response to the limits of the commissioner’s authority was measured. The lawyer, according to Burbank, in response to probing on the issue of the limits of the commissioner’s powers, said, “[My] own view is that … the commissioner could not discipline a player for exercising free agency rights to which the league had agreed in the [CBA].” That would seem to leave a wide area open for the commissioner to exercise his authority over player conduct.