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SBD/June 25, 2012/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith has written to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asking him to "reopen the investigation" of the Saints' bounty program, according to ESPN.com. Smith during an interview with "Pro Football Talk Live" said, "Frankly, I believe that the investigators let the commissioner down. Our hope, and certainly it will be a message from me to the league soon, is that given all of the recantations and all of the contradictions and, as exemplified by the video, all of the things that are clearly not clear, shouldn't we be taking another hard look about where this investigation failed the commissioner?" In his letter to Goodell, Smith said the league's investigation "has come under question for being unprofessional, unsubstantiated and incomplete." NFL Exec VP/Labor & General Counsel Jeff Pash said, "I wish that (Smith) would have come to the hearing on Monday because he would have seen how earnest an effort the commissioner personally made to have the players comment and tell him what their side of the story is." He added, "If De had been able to be here Monday and participate in the hearing, he would have a different view perhaps than what he has today" (ESPN.com, 6/22). NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah in response to Pash's comments said that Smith "didn't attend the hearing because he didn't have a role in it." Atallah added, "Whether or not De was there is irrelevant to the players. He got to see the documents over the course of three days and didn’t see any other evidence since March. In short, small pieces of sh-t pieced together might be a mosaic, but it just amounts to one big mosaic of sh-t" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 6/23).
SMEAR CAMPAIGN? Suspended player Scott Fujita said that he "sees elements of a 'smear campaign'" in the league's investigation. Fujita said, "I'm not saying the NFL is intentionally lying. ... It's their cavalier interpretation of everything that's been way off. They clearly proceeded with a public smear campaign with very little regard for the truth." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said, "The process gave all of the players every opportunity to raise arguments and provide any mitigating information. Scott Fujita unfortunately chose not to avail himself of the process. Nothing that he has asserted in his various public statements undermines the findings of the investigation" (AP, 6/24). Fujita said, "I saw [Goodell] in the (appeal) hearings and he offered to shake all of our hands. Some of the other players didn't, but I went ahead and shook his hand, and I just said to him, 'What the hell are you doing, Roger?' He had nothing to say. His face sure turned red, though" (SI.com, 6/22).
REAP WHAT YOU SOW: In Boston, Greg Bedard writes under the header, "NFL Painted Itself Into A Box With Bounties." Bedard asks, "Did it have to get to this point? What the NFL should have done, after its investigation revealed evidence that would be scandalous, was to go to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and ask for cooperation for the benefit of the accused and also all players." The NFL should have "asked the NFLPA to hire a joint independent counsel to go through the evidence and interviews and do whatever else was warranted to establish a statement of facts in the case." Bedard: "That way, no one could accuse the NFL of playing fast and loose with the facts (for reasons we still can’t fathom). Of course, the NFLPA probably would have balked. God forbid it ever does anything real with the NFL for the betterment of the game. It won’t agree to hip pads, for crying out loud." In the end, the NFL "didn’t attempt to go the independent counsel route, and now it has left itself open to have every piece of evidence challenged" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/24).
T-SHIRT TIME: In New Orleans, Jeff Duncan noted a "cottage industry of anti-NFL/pro-Saints T-shirts has arisen across town." They are "ubiquitous, from the treasured tourist hot spots in the French Quarter to the trendy shops along Magazine Street." Apparel store Dirty Coast Head of Operations Patrick Brower estimated that his shop "has sold more than 4,000 shirts since they went on the market, making it the fastest-selling shirt in the store's 7-year history" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 6/24).
DE SMITH’S TEN THINGS: Smith fills in for SI’s Peter King and writes this week’s “Monday Morning Quarterback” column, listing his “Ten Things I Think I Think (Plus One).” No. 2: “I think the Nats are for real, and that I need to work Bryce Harper's 'That's a clown question, bro' into my next press conference.” No. 3: “I think members of the media think that I don't like them for some reason.” No. 8: “For the 1,645,934th time, I think my relationship with Roger Goodell is my relationship with Roger Goodell. Our friendship doesn't prevent us from doing our jobs. If we weren't strong we couldn't fight” (SI.com, 6/25).
The NBA's overall revenues "did not increase enough" in '11-12 to push the league's salary cap and luxury tax "significantly beyond current levels" until '13-14, according to sources cited by Ken Berger of CBSSPORTS.com. The '13-14 season is the first "under a more punitive luxury tax designed to rein in big-spending teams." While NBA officials have "lauded the presence of so-called small-market teams in the playoffs," this season was "simply more of the same." League salary data indicated that three of the four teams to reach the conference finals "were in the top five in the league in payroll: Boston (2), Miami (3), San Antonio (5) and outlier Oklahoma City (17)." Of the "top five teams in average payroll for the past five seasons, all made the playoffs: Dallas (1), the Lakers (2), Boston (3), New York (4) and Orlando (5)." Only Memphis (27) and Oklahoma City (28) "made the postseason from the bottom five in average payroll over the past five years." League execs "expect the spending gap between the top and bottom to narrow as the effects of the new CBA kick in, beginning in 2013-14 with vastly more onerous luxury-tax provisions." Some of the financial reset "is expected to phase in during free agency this summer as teams position themselves to comply with the new guidelines and new player contracts begin to converge with old ones on teams' salary books."
LEARNING CURVE: While revenue-sharing "enhancements ostensibly are in place to redistribute the NBA's $4 billion of wealth and help low-revenue teams, many executives are unfamiliar with the criteria and are having difficulty factoring that into their long-term payroll and roster planning." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said, "So far based on this agreement, [Mavericks Owner] Mark Cuban's behavior seems to have been altered by the new collective bargaining agreement. The Lakers' behavior has been altered. It's very difficult to predict. It's an extraordinarily harsh tax once it fully kicks in." But Silver added, "Because it's a soft cap, a team has the ability to spend more money than other markets and it puts small markets at a disadvantage. ... The question is whether big-spending teams or large-market owners are willing to spend to go significantly into the tax" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/22).
ATP Exec Chair & President Brad Drewett on Saturday announced that blue clay courts will not be permitted at ATP World Tour events in '13. Drewett in a statement said, “While the blue clay may have offered better visibility on television, there were clearly issues with the quality of the courts in Madrid this year, which were not acceptable at an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, one of our top events worldwide” (ATP). The AFP reported that the decision was a "major slap in the face" for Madrid Open Owner Ion Tiriac. Tennis player Rafael Nadal's only loss on clay this season came in Madrid and Nadal said, "The ATP and the tournament can do what they want. ... If things continue like this, it will be very sad. Next year this will be one less event for my calendar." Tennis player Novak Djokovic said, "If the ATP has protection for the players in mind, there is no way that Madrid is going to keep the blue clay. There is no discussion in my mind -- no blue clay for me" (AFP, 6/23).
With IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard reaching the midway point of his five-year contract, Bob Kravitz of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR wrote under the header, “Give IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard Some Credit -- And Plenty Of Blame, Too.” Kravitz wondered if Bernard “is really the right man for this difficult and often thankless job.” Bernard in recent months “has dealt with the Dan Wheldon tragedy, the unfortunate tweet, the Belle Isle mess, the mixup in Milwaukee, the bogus Justin Wilson win in Texas, the loss of the China race and several other issues.” But Bernard is “pretty accurate in his self-appraisal.” Bernard said, “I’d give myself a C. Until we’re hitting more home runs, that’s the highest I could give myself.” Kravitz: “Who could disagree with that?” But when Kravitz described Bernard’s path as “one step forward and two steps back,” Bernard was not “even willing to concede there’s been one step back.” Bernard: “I don’t think that’s fair. In any business, there are going to be setbacks. You build your character and image by the way you handle them. What I’ve learned about racing is, there’s criticism around every corner.” Still, Kravitz wrote, “IndyCar has had a credibility problem in recent months. Give it high grades for transparency. Give it higher grades if it stops making these same mistakes in the first place. A ‘C’ will stand halfway through this season, but it’s not good enough, not nearly good enough, and Bernard knows that all too well” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 6/24).
WHO'S GOT NEXT? Also in Indianapolis, Curt Cavin noted IndyCar is “believed to be asking for upwards of $1 million from promoters” to host the cancelled China race. Several tracks “have said no, including Texas Motor Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and, in a roundabout way, Watkins Glen International.” Road America President George Bruggenthies said that the track and IndyCar “are six figures apart.” Bruggenthies reportedly wanted a decision “by Sunday night.” Cavin noted Bruggenthies’ offer “apparently was well short of IndyCar’s number, and it’s difficult to argue with that” (INDYSTAR.com, 6/23).
The BBC's Andrew Benson reported, “Fresh doubt has been cast over whether next year's Grand Prix of America will go ahead as planned in New Jersey.” When asked if the New Jersey race would happen, F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone said, "No. Definitely, no." He later said that “it would [happen] if the track were ready in time.” Race President Tom Cotter said that the track "was ahead of schedule” (BBC, 6/24). Ecclestone said, "I need to go and have another look. What I've seen up to now, and what's been going on, I'm not quite as sure as they are. If they can get it completed, and confirm to us it will be done, for sure they'll be on the calendar" (EUROSPORT.YAHOO.com, 6/23). Speed's Leigh Diffey said of Ecclestone's responses during interviews this weekend at the European Grand Prix, "He's an 82-year-old man and his answers ... were like an 82-year-old man. He was just gibbering. I think it's a classic Bernie Ecclestone stunt." Diffey said he spoke with F1 Grand Prix of America Exec Chair Leo Hindery and noted the “event is completely funded." Diffey: "They have put up the money, there are no financial worries. Bernie was talking about the road and resurfacing. That will be handled, not a problem” (“Wind Tunnel With Dave Despain,” Speed, 6/24).
ROOM TO GROW: In Akron, George Thomas reported officials from the USFL will visit the city this week "to discuss putting a franchise in the Rubber Bowl.” USFL President & CEO Jaime Cuadra and VP Fred Biletnikoff Jr. will meet “with representatives of the University of Akron, potential investors and the mayor’s office.” USFL Advisory Board member Jim Bailey said, “It’s the first trip the group is making to a particular city.” Cuadra and Biletnikoff are to meet “with members of the Greater Akron Chamber, which might be the key to finding investors, and eventually representatives of the mayor’s office” (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 6/23).