SBD/September 18, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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  • NHL Lockout, Day 3: Donald Fehr "Puzzled" By League, Owners' Bargaining Tactics

    NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr "have spoken informally since the lockout began, and may do so" again today, though no formal talks are scheduled, according to John Kekis of the AP. Nothing "official will resume until at least Wednesday" between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr. The two sides have not "met for face-to-face talks since last Wednesday" (AP, 9/17). Daly said, "I would hope we get together this week." In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes at last week's negotiating session in N.Y., the NHL "presented an offer the union flatly rejected" (OTTAWA SUN, 9/18). Donald Fehr yesterday said that he "was puzzled by the owners' bargaining stances." He said, "When you look at their original proposal, it was essentially to say we know players made enormous concessions last time, billions of dollars over the life of the agreement, and then they say we still have some trouble. Then they say everything is perfect except for the players' share numbers. And those two don't go together." USA TODAY's Kevin Allen notes Donald Fehr also "doesn't buy the NHL's stand that NBA and NFL players' acceptance of a reduced share is evidence his members should do the same" (USA TODAY, 9/18). Donald Fehr said that the union "hadn't modified or withdrawn any of its positions." Donald Fehr: "We haven't changed anything. The cap is still on the table. What I said in response to the commissioner's statement that their position might change and might get worse if a lockout began is that first of all, everybody always understand that, and secondly, that the players reserve that right, too. But no decision has been made in that regard." In L.A., Helene Elliott notes Donald Fehr also "disputed the NHL's statement Sunday that it 'has been, and remains, committed to negotiating around the clock,' saying the league rebuffed Steve Fehr's suggestion to talk until the lockout deadline." Donald Fehr said, "I just took it as complete and utter spin and not otherwise serious" (L.A. TIMES, 9/18).

    PLENTY OF SUPPORT FOR FEHR: USA TODAY's Allen notes while the players "aren't sure what will happen next," they are sure Donald Fehr "is the right man to lead them." Sabres G Ryan Miller said Fehr is a "big reason why we will be much stronger than we were in the lockout situation (in 2004-05)." Players say there is "a 'wow' factor about Fehr, partly because of the reputation he gained in the baseball world and partly because he can handle any question that is thrown at him" (USA TODAY, 9/18). In Minneapolis, Rachel Blount writes the NHLPA "finally has an experienced, brilliant and fearless negotiator at its helm, one who understands both his constituents and his adversary." That is "good news for the players and potentially very bad news for those who just want the puck to drop." While the players "want to play," they also "want a fair contract, and they feel confident in Fehr's ability to secure one." That "unity, cultivated by Fehr's openness and clarity of purpose, gives the players a far stronger hand than they've had in past labor negotiations" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 9/18). Red Wings D Niklas Kronwall said of Donald Fehr, "He's amazing. ... He's done a great job making sure that everyone is informed." Red Wings G Jimmy Howard: "He always sends out a mass e-mail, or he sends a note to our app that we've all downloaded to our phone. ... He breaks it right down into layman's terms for us" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 9/18).

    OWNERS CONTRADICTING THEMSELVES: In St. Paul, Ben Goessling notes it has "struck many as strange that Wild Owner Craig Leipold would bargain for reduced player salaries" after signing LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter to matching 13-year, $98M contracts this summer. But Leipold has "defended the moves by saying he was trying to work within the current rules to grow his business, rather than standing pat as the team lost money." Wild COO Matt Majka said he does not believe Leipold or GM Chuck Fletcher "were making decisions on what (the landscape) might be in the future" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/18). But in Denver, Adrian Dater wrote the "biggest Catch-22 part ... is this: the owners' utter hypocrisy leading right up to the lockout." More than $200M "worth of contracts were signed in the three days prior to the official start of the lockout." Owners "inked a great number of players to deal six years or longer just days before the lockout -- all the while Gary Bettman was telling the NHL Players' Association that owners wanted to limit all future contracts to five years maximum" (DENVERPOST.com, 9/17). Canucks D Kevin Bieksa said, "The problem isn't with us making too much, it's with them overpaying guys and creating their own problems. They can fix themselves without asking for rollbacks and concessions from us" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 9/18).

    LOOKING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL
    : In Edmonton, Jim Matheson notes hockey agent Steve Bartlett "has been through three lockouts," but this one "has a far different feel to Bartlett from the last one." Bartlett said, "My gut tells me this is going to [be] weeks we're out, not months. I think the tipping point is (the American) Thanksgiving. That's six weeks or so after the season (is supposed to start)" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/18). Meanwhile, in Toronto, Joe Warmington notes former Maple Leafs Assistant GM Bill Watters "feels if a labour deal is not worked out with the players by Jan. 15, 2013, the NHL hiring non-union players could be the owners' prerogative and very well their next logical move." Watters: "There are enough free agents around and players under contract in junior, on reserve lists and in the AHL to ice a team in every city. It is conceivable. It wouldn't be a long-term thing but a union breaking move." But he added, "This is not my idea and I am not saying I like any of this" (TORONTO SUN, 9/18).

    PLAYERS FLOCKING OVERSEAS: In DC, Katie Carrera reports several star players are "exploring their options overseas, an indication they don't expect the labor dispute to be settled anytime soon." Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin yesterday told Russian magazine Sovetsky Sport that he "believes the NHL lockout could wipe out the entire season." Ovechkin: "If the League (NHL) continues to insist on their (demands), then it will take a full year. That's because we are not going to cave in. Then I will spend the entire season in the KHL. It's an absolute reality." Capitals G Michal Neuvirth said that he would "have a contract to play in the Czech Extraliga" by today (WASHINGTON POST, 9/18). In N.Y., Pat Leonard cites sources as saying that Rangers LW Rick Nash is "close to a deal with Swiss A-League hockey club Davos." Sharks C Joe Thornton yesterday "announced his intentions to return as well to Davos, where he and Nash were teammates during the work stoppage eight years ago" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/18). Also in N.Y., Jeff Klein noted the KHL yesterday on its website announced that Devils RW Ilya Kovalchuk has "signed an agreement to play for SKA St. Petersburg" during the lockout. Stars RW Jaromir Jagr "will play for HC Kladno, the club he owns in the Czech Extraliga" (NYTIMES.com, 9/17). CAA Hockey co-Head Pat Brisson yesterday said that Kings C Anze Kopitar "will be playing for Mora IK of the Swedish league" (LATIMES.com, 9/17). Oilers RW Ales Hemsky is "preparing to return to the Czech Republic by the end of the week" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/18).

    BEFORE YOU GO...: ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun noted for "so many of these high-end players, insurance is such a factor" in playing abroad. A source said that KHL-bound Penguins C Evgeni Malkin will "need to pay about $250,000 per year for two years' worth of coverage on his $9 million salary, although it's believed the premiums will be paid monthly and can be cancelled without penalty once the NHL lockout is over." Still, it is a "huge chunk of change and that's why NHL stars will tread carefully before heading over" (ESPN.com, 9/17).

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  • Blowing The Whistle: Shoddy Officiating Mars Broncos-Falcons Game Monday Night

    "MNF" lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours due to constant delays for refs to discuss plays

    The first half of last night's Broncos-Falcons game "was a comedy of errors, starting with a pair of reversed calls," according to Chris Burke of SI.com, who wrote under the header, "Replacement Refs In Over Their Heads On 'Monday Night Football.'" The "real officiating travesty" took place late in the first quarter, on a fumble by Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno. After both teams "scrambled for the loose ball on the ground, one of the Broncos player came away from the pile with it." But the officials "already had signaled an Atlanta recovery, which stood" (SI.com, 9/17). In Atlanta, Mark Bradley writes the officiating in last night's game "was awful." The first half "lasted one hour, 48 minutes, and the inaction was largely due to the replacement refs ... having little idea what was what" (AJC.com, 9/18). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith wrote the refs in last night's game "are an embarrassment." In an "ugly first quarter that lasted a full hour, the officials showed themselves to be completely incapable of keeping a game moving and keeping up with the fast-paced, stressful job that is officiating in the NFL" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/17). The AP's Rob Maaddi notes the officials in the second half of last night's game "got mixed up on where to place the ball" after a defensive holding penalty on Broncos CB Champ Bailey. The crowd "booed while the officials conferred, finally moving it a few yards forward to the proper spot." It was "those sort of delays that helped the game drag on for nearly 3 1/2 hours" (AP, 9/18). In Denver, Woody Paige writes, "A nation tuned in for a marquee football game and, instead, got WWE and Amateur Night." The NFL "should be ashamed, embarrassed and distressed." Broncos coach John Fox called the game, "Controlled chaos" (DENVER POST, 9/18).

    LOSING CONTROL: Before the Falcons ran the next play following the Moreno fumble, there was a six-minute, two-second real time delay in the game. After the play, players began pushing and shoving, almost escalating to a fight. ESPN’s Mike Tirico said, “As we mentioned, yesterday the officials lost control of the Philadelphia-Baltimore game, among others, and a similar situation here after the controversy with this fumble.” He noted that as the officials tried to make the call on the fumble and the ensuing penalty for the altercation, there were “a lot of Broncos players crowding around the officials.” Gruden: “It’s taking a long time to organize justice here. ... The officials have to take control of this. They have to be emphatic about clearing these players off the pile, finding out whose ball it is. That one got out of hand. That could have gotten really ugly.” Tirico said the players after Week 1 “figured out what the parameters are with substitute teachers, and now they’re taking advantage of them whenever they can.” Tirico: “For all the people over the years who have complained about the officials in the National Football League, you gain a great appreciation for how good a job they did relative to what we’re seeing here over the last couple of weeks” (“MNF,” ESPN, 9/17).

    CONFLICTING INTERESTS: ESPN’s Steve Young following last night's game said there are a "lot of people in the league that would rather break the union" than take care of the on-field product. Young: "There’s a lot of people who don’t feel like officiating is an on-field personality, they feel like it’s a commodity. But more importantly … there’s nothing that they can do to hurt the demand for the game, so the bottom line is they don’t care. Player safety -- doesn’t matter in this case. Bring in Division III officials. Doesn’t matter because in the end you’re still going to watch the game.” He added, "We’re going to all complain and moan and gripe and say there’s all these problems ... but it doesn’t matter. Go ahead, gripe all you want, I’m going to rest. Let them eat cake.” Young said if using replacement refs "affected the desire for the game,” the NFL would “come up with a few million dollars.” ESPN's Trent Dilfer said he was concerned about player safety and “it’s such hypocrisy by the league to make such a push for players safety the last four or five years and then allow this to happen.” Young: “If they cared, they wouldn’t do it.” ESPN's Bill Polian: “It’s a labor situation and when that occurs, all bets tend to be off” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 9/18).

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, NFL
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy: Replacement Refs Ripped By Media, Coaches, Players

    Redskins players, coaches among those voicing frustrations with replacement refs

    Using replacement referees during the first week of the NFL season "was one thing," but now in Week 2, "we've seen just how incompetent these officials are," according to Ashley Fox of ESPN.com. Players and coaches "gaining an edge over the underqualified and overmatched officials has led to problems on the field." Players are "griping on the field," while coaches are "getting frustrated." The overall product is "taking a hit." Fox: "No one should have to pay money for speaking out about the train wreck that the performance of replacement officials has become" (ESPN.com, 9/18). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy asks, "What gets settled first -- the NFL dispute with its officials, or the NHL lockout? I’m betting the NFL resolves its labor problems with referees after Monday night’s Denver-Atlanta debacle." Last night's game was "truly unwatchable" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/18). In DC, Tracee Hamilton writes the officiating "is not watchable," and the replacement refs' performance in Sunday's Redskins-Rams game "was a travesty." With the "weekly gaffes and blunders, the league's image is taking a real hit" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/18). The AP's Rob Maaddi writes, "While some of the mistakes on Sunday were judgment calls ... the more egregious errors appear to be misinterpretations of rules." Feisty play also was "a common theme around the league." Players are "seemingly getting away with being more physical, especially after the whistle" (AP, 9/18). In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes, "Hey, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. We beg you to stop this madness before there's a riot on the field among angry, 300-pound men in helmets." The NFL is "too dangerous to be policed by officials without a clue" (DENVER POST, 9/18).

    NO RESPECT FOR OFFICIALS
    : ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser noted there was "thuggery on the field from the opening kickoff" in a lot of Week 2 games, and the referees "cannot control the athletes.” ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said players and coaches "don’t have respect for the guys calling the games” ("PTI," ESPN, 9/17). SB Nation’s Bomani Jones said the “biggest problem” the replacement officials have is “no one respects them.” ESPN’s J.A. Adande noted the regular officials "are prone to making mistakes, but they’re still not going to lose control of the game to the degree that these replacement refs have done.” Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said the current refs are "letting them do too much” and compromising player safety. Cowlishaw: "Players have figured out after Week 1 we can do things after the whistle. ... Something is going to happen badly for some player as a result of this” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 9/17). In San Antonio, Buck Harvey writes the NFL "has escaped national embarrassment in its first two weeks," but "it's coming." Sunday "showed there is a tipping point, which is why the NFL needs to fix this." Players also are "reacting with a wild-west approach, and this might be the most dangerous aspect." The refs "don't command the respect to stop a game from turning into a bench-clearing brawl" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 9/18). ESPN’s Trent Dilfer said of the replacement officials, “The whole thing’s out of control” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/18). ESPN’s Cris Carter: “You always talk about ... the NFL shield, the logo. ,... They're not doing that because there’s no way that these guys should be reffing an NFL game" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 9/18). CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto asked, "If it’s so hard to reach the NFL why is it so easy to be exchanged for day-workers, fan boys, railyard hobos and accordionists?" Ratto: "Why do the owners ... insist on replacing the irreplaceable and calling the new ones just as good?" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 9/17).

    FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH: Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said that the Rams "should have been penalized" for DE Robert Quinn's helmet to helmet hit on Redskins TE Fred Davis in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game. Shanahan: "Well, obviously, the flag (needed to be thrown), there’s no question about the flag. It’s helmet to helmet. So there’s no question about the flag, but there wasn’t” a penalty called (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/17). Ravens LB Ray Lewis said, "The time is now. How much longer are we going to keep going through this whole process? I don't have the answer. I just know across the league teams and the league are being affected by it. It's not just this game, it's all across the league. And so if they want the league to have the same reputation it's always had, they'll address the problem. Get the regular referees in here and let the games play themselves out." He added, "We already have controversy enough with the regular refs calling the plays" (AP, 9/18). Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall said of Sunday's game against the Rams, "I had never been part of anything like that before. I’ve played a lot of football in my years, and I’ve never been part of a game that was that chippy, just so much extracurricular things going on after the play" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/17).

    MISDIRECTED HOSTILITY? In Newark, Steve Politi writes, "Refereeing is a thankless job under the best of circumstances, and clearly these are not." Every single call is "scrutinized, and even if the majority of them are good, the ones that aren’t (and there have been plenty) instantly find themselves on an endless loop on ESPN." Politi: "The bigger villain is Roger Goodell, who would diminish his multibillion-dollar industry and put his players at risk to save a few million, and not guys like [replacement ref Jim] Winterberg (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/18). USA TODAY's Kevin Manahan in a front-page piece writes, "The outrage after these chaotic games -- marred by blown calls and unpoliced cheap shots -- has led many players and coaches to call for an immediate end to the three-month lockout" (USA TODAY, 9/18).

    BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Mason Levinson reported the NFL is "investigating the behavior of its replacement officials on social media websites" after the league pulled Brian Stropolo from Sunday's Saints-Panthers game (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 9/17). ESPN.com's Katie Linendoll wrote, "Fans are turning to the Internet in droves to express their discontent -- to put it kindly -- about some of the questionable calls." Twitter, Google and Yahoo! each "report a pretty staggering increase in NFL/referee chatter and searches." This week, Yahoo! "reports that popular searches include 'NFL referee salary,' 'NFL referee replacements' and 'replacement refs'" (ESPN.com, 9/17). 

    WHAT ABOUT THE REAL REFS? In L.A., Sam Farmer reports "there are no meetings scheduled" between the NFL and the NFLRA. The L.A. Times "obtained a memo sent Friday to the locked-out officials from their union, detailing -- from the officials' perspective -- the negotiating positions of both sides." The document "urges the officials to 'remain calm even in the face of adversity' and reminds them they are 'committed to doing what's right and fair.'" The memo "goes over the financial terms of what the officials are seeking, and what the NFL has offered to this point." The document indicates that the "last negotiations took place Sept. 1, and the NFL offered to add $1 million annually to total compensation over seven years" (L.A. TIMES, 9/18).

    Print | Tags: Leagues and Governing Bodies, NFL
  • IndyCar Seeks Boost In U.S. Market From New American Champion Hunter-Reay

    Ryan Hunter-Reay is the first U.S. driver to win the IndyCar title since ‘06

    The Izod IndyCar Series “got the U.S. driver champion it wanted” when Ryan Hunter-Reay won the sereis title Saturday night, but the question for the racing circuit is "now what," according to Jeff Pappone of the GLOBE & MAIL. Hunter-Reay is the first U.S. driver to win the title since Sam Hornish Jr. in ‘06, and “many in the paddock think that the series can use its newly crowned homegrown champion to drum up the ‘we only cheer for our own’ American fans.” Whether that will happen “is another question altogether and the future of IndyCar may hang in the balance.” Pappone: “If it can’t attract a following and better television coverage with Hunter-Reay as its poster boy, perhaps it never will.” The lack of TV coverage for IndyCar in the U.S. and Canada is “a shame,” because “there’s no doubt the racing this season was better than anything NASCAR had to offer." The fallout from the lack of exposure is sponsors "won’t touch the series and the ones who are involved spend most of their time screaming about wanting more exposure.” Other sponsors, like Verizon, are “likely only around because they’ve been shut out of NASCAR due to its Sprint deal” (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/18). USA TODAY's Jeff Olson notes the question IndyCar faces going into the offseason is whether it has the "weight to override a virulent political battle among the series' team owners and its leader, one that threatens to unseat the boss and throw a struggling form of racing back to where its difficulties began." Bernard succeeded Tony George, who was removed in '09, but there is a "fear among some that George is planning a comeback." Rumors "persisted throughout the series finale last weekend ... that Bernard is about to be fired." Bernard on Saturday said, "I was told after I started this that (NASCAR co-founder) Bill France Sr. once said, 'You're not doing your job if at least 50% of the paddock isn't mad at you.' That really struck me. I think we've made progress, and I think we showed it with this race" (USA TODAY, 9/18).

    ATTENDANCE FLAT
    : In L.A., Tom Hoffarth wrote, “You couldn't fault the IndyCar Racing League if it just decided to give up on trying to make Auto Club Speedway in Fontana a regular spot on the circuit.” An estimated 25,000 “showed up in the stifling heat” Saturday, watching Hunter-Reay “clinch the series title in a wreck-filled event.” That is “about the same number who came when the track had an IRL race some seven years ago.” Meanwhile, NASCAR “regularly draws 80,000-plus to the track” (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 9/17).

    SMALL CHANGE: In Charlotte, Jim Utter noted there are “no major surprises” in the Sprint Cup Series schedule expected to be released to the public this week. The schedule “remains 36 points-paying races, beginning Feb. 24, 2013 at Daytona and concluding Nov. 17 at Homestead, Fla.” The only “notable change is a swap of the fall Kansas and Talladega races,” with the fall Kansas race “now Oct. 6, 2013 and the fall Talladega race on Oct. 20, 2013.” There are “no additional night races added to the schedule” (CHARLOTTEOBSERVER.com, 9/16).

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  • USSF President Gulati Meets With Potential Investors Regarding New Women's Pro League

    Gulati says the new league may be 8-10 teams, could include Canada markets

    U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati yesterday said that there is still a "chance" there will be a new women's soccer league in the U.S. "as soon as next spring," according to Andrew Das of the N.Y. TIMES. Gulati yesterday met at MLS HQs with "a group invested in becoming investor-operators in a new women’s league." The group included "a variety of parties representing U.S. Soccer, former WPS owners, the United Soccer Leagues, the Canadian Soccer Association and newcomers who were not part of previous failed leagues." Some MLS owners "have also been involved in the talks." Gulati said that the discussions "at this point are about a league of eight to 10 teams, 'with a team or teams in Canada.'" Das wrote the "preference is to begin play next year in a spring-summer-early fall league, though that could be optimistic." Gulati said that the USSF "would be more involved in creating the league than it had been in the past, but that a new financial formula -- pro? semi-pro? a hybrid? -- was the biggest stumbling block to moving forward." Das: "The inclusion of Canada’s national association in the discussions is intriguing since -- as the host of the 2015 Women’s World Cup -- it has much to gain from a high level league that would include teams on Canadian soil (NYTIMES.com, 9/17). In L.A., Nick Green writes, "The consistent level of fan support a professional women's league needs to survive just doesn't exist." Even with "all the financial backers in place," the soccer culture needed to support the women's game "isn't there" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 9/18).

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