SBD/October 10, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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  • NHL Lockout, Day 25: Long Work Stoppage Could Lead To Unrest Over Salary Cap

    NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "expressed some hope that collective bargaining talks this week will help lead to some resolution," but he also "made it clear ... that the longer the NHL lockout lasts, the less happy the players will be playing under a salary cap," according to Kevin McGran of the TORONTO STAR. Fehr said, "If this goes on for an extended period of time, I don’t know what they (the players) are going to do. But I think it’s safe to say, they would be exploring all options." He added that the players "can live with a salary cap if an agreement can be reached quickly." Fehr "fell short of calling for the salary cap to be scrapped outright -- something that would put the NHL and the players further apart." But it was a "reminder to commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners -- on the eve of new talks with the league on non-core economic issues -- that things can get ugly in a hurry." The NHL has "publicly said it wants the players to return to the bargaining table with a new proposal, but Fehr is not happy that [the] league wants the proposal on its terms: that the union must accept some kind of rollbacks in Year 1 of the deal." Fehr said that he "has 'ideas' regarding a new proposal, but none include rolling back salaries." He said that he "hoped the season would start soon." But McGran notes Fehr declined to "predict when he thought the NHL season might begin." Fehr: "In basketball, they played 75, 80 per cent of the season starting as late as Christmas. I do hope we start many weeks before Christmas" (TORONTO STAR, 10/10).

    MEET THE FEHRS
    : In Philadelphia, Sam Carchidi writes Fehr and his brother, NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr, are "heavyweights in their feisty labor battle with the league's owners." Those "supporting the players say the Fehrs have not been ineffective." The players "remain united." They speak "reverently when describing the work Donald Fehr has done since he was named to head the NHLPA nearly two years ago." Flyers D Kimmo Timonen said, "I think the union is much better this time around. We're more informed, we're more open. We know what's going on" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/10).

    THE DALY SHOW: In Edmonton, Jim Matheson noted NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was on CBC radio with former Maple Leafs GM Bob Stellick and said that outside mediation "isn't needed at this point." Matheson: "Daly thinks mediators can stay away for now because both sides do understand each other's position. Immediate cuts in salary for the players by the NHL; revenue sharing by the strong clubs to help the weak teams from the union" (EDMONTONJOURNAL.com, 10/9). In Nashville, Josh Cooper spoke one-on-one with Daly, and asked him how the league's proposal helps "smaller markets." Daly said, "We instituted as part of our last collective bargaining agreement a pretty comprehensive revenue sharing program. That program will produce about $150 million in revenue sharing this past season. Our proposal that’s on the table now would increase that pool fairly significantly up in the neighborhood of $190 million, and depending on how the negotiation ultimately plays out, probably more than that" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 10/10).

    READING BETWEEN THE LINES: ESPN's Barry Melrose yesterday said his glass has "always been half-full" when it comes to whether there will be a labor settlement. Melrose said, "When this happened five years ago, when there was a lost season, they didn't talk for three months. They're talking every day right now. We didn't have the outdoor game five, six years ago. That is a huge thing for the NHL. I still think it's going to be a thing like the NBA. We're going to come back in December ... and I think we will have a season." He added, "You got to do this it seems like now in sports, you've got to do this song and dance. But at the end of the day, I just think this thing will get straightened out." ESPN's Steve Levy said, "But not every five (years). You have to do it, you have to go through it. Can't you make a longer deal?" ("Lev-Dynamo Moscow," ESPN2, 10/9). In Detroit, Helene St. James writes in what "seems to be a dire sign for the Winter Classic, the NHL Operations Department does not have plans to visit Ann Arbor this month." Were the '12-13 schedule "under way as normal -- were the Winter Classic not at risk -- operations people would have had a great opportunity to see Ann Arbor at its busiest this month" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 10/10).

    JUST LIKE HOME: Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin, who is playing for his hometown KHL Dynamo Moscow, yesterday said that he was "prepared to remain in Russia if the NHL lockout continued." Ovechkin: "I enjoy playing here. I feel the trust and I feel comfortable." In N.Y., Brian Pinelli notes Ovechkin reportedly earns $6M with the Dynamo, which is $3M "less than what he would have made with" the Capitals (N.Y. TIMES, 10/10). Levy noted there are 100 NHLers "that are playing elsewhere right now." Melrose said that "number is going to go up as the NHL players start thinking this lockout is going to start going longer." Melrose said of comments that Russian players competing in the KHL may stay there even when the NHL resolves the lockout, "I think they're using that as a threat to the NHL owners. If you consider yourself a great player, you're going to want to play in the best league in the world, and there's no doubt, no matter what anyone else says, the NHL is the greatest league in the world." The players are not going to "say anything in the press right now that isn't a message to the owners. They're told that by their agents" and Donald Fehr. Melrose: "There's a lot of stuff going on in the press that's designed for the owners more so than fans" ("Lev-Dynamo Moscow," ESPN2, 10/9).

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  • NFL Reduces Some Suspensions In Bounty Scandal; Vilma Still Must Sit Entire Season

    Vilma will be paid for time spent on the physically-unable-to-perform list

    The NFL yesterday “reduced many of the original penalties levied to the four players involved in the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal,” but the concessions are “unlikely to end its ongoing feud with the players, their union and Saints fans,” according to Larry Holder of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Saints LB Jonathan Vilma has been “suspended for the season, but will be paid for his time on the physically-unable-to-perform list.” Saints DE Will Smith was the “only player who received the original penalties” as he is “suspended for four games.” Browns LB Scott Fujita “had his suspension reduced to one game after originally being barred for three games.” Free agent DT Anthony Hargrove's suspension “was reduced to seven games and receives credit for missing the first five weeks of the season” and so would be “suspended for two more weeks.” The four players will be “able to appeal the league's rulings and will have three days from Tuesday to file an appeal to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.” Goodell “wrote letters to each player,” released by the league yesterday, “spelling out his thoughts on why he re-issued the punishments” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 10/10). USA TODAY’s Jim Corbett reports player appeals of the suspensions “could take weeks to hear, and players could ask a federal judge in Louisiana to revisit their earlier pursuit of an injunction blocking the suspension.” Tulane Univ. Sports Law Program Dir Gabe Feldman: “Essentially, we’re back to square one. … We could still be talking a matter of weeks if not months before this is decided” (USA TODAY, 10/10). NFL Network’s Albert Breer said there is "almost no question this is heading right back to the courts” ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/9).

    HARD EVIDENCE: In N.Y., Judy Battista reports the NFL for the first time “released the evidence it gathered during its investigation, including handwritten notes of who contributed to the pools and e-mails” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/10). In New Orleans, Mike Triplett writes the league and Goodell “finally deserve some credit for being so detailed and thorough with all of their findings.” Triplett: “For the first time, the league has truly laid all of its cards on the table -- dissecting most of its key testimony from former coaches Gregg Williams and Mike Cerullo and current coach Joe Vitt, as well as the rebuttal testimony from suspended players.” That action “should finally put to rest all of those theories about whether the evidence is fabricated, whether witnesses were coerced into their testimony or whether Goodell lacked the authority to discipline players, etc.” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 10/10).

    MAKING A STATEMENT: USA TODAY’s Jarrett Bell writes, “Regardless of the league’s sloppy investigation, questionable evidence, legal battles and the tremendous hits on Goodell’s credibility in recent months, the NFL commissioner could not back down now.” Bell: “Sure, penalties for Scott Fujita and Anthony Hargrove were reduced. But in banning Jonathan Vilma for the rest of the season and keeping Will Smith’s four-game suspension intact, Goodell did what he had to do to save face -- and reiterate the statement that the NFL is no place for bounty hunting" (USA TODAY, 10/10). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "I thought Roger Goodell would cut the suspensions in half, and he hasn’t done that. He’s basically doubled-down on the same length. ... It's a stronger position that Goodell takes than I thought he would take.” But ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said the Saints “are simply not the story now they were five weeks ago” (“PTI,” ESPN, 10/9). ESPN’s Herm Edwards said the NFL “gets a break in this sense: no one is really concerned that much about this.” Edwards: "Most of the people right now are focused on football” ("NFL Live," ESPN, 10/9).

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  • UFL Players Still Seeking Paychecks For First Two Games Of Season

    Players are “starting to quit” the Sacramento Mountain Lions as “mounting money troubles are plaguing the United Football League,” according to Steve Large of Sacramento's KOVR-CBS. Players said that they “aren’t getting paid as promised.” One player yesterday said, “We had a meeting yesterday. We tried to hammer out a solution as far as the whole pay situation, things like that. We really didn’t get anything resolved.” Mountain Lions players heading into their third game of the season today “haven’t been fully paid for the first two games and describe a cash shortage creating poor practice conditions with no weight rooms and meals of hot dogs and stew.” Mountain Lions Owner Paul Pelosi “issued the first payroll checks Tuesday, but for only $1,000.” The players are “owed $3,500 per game.” A game is “still scheduled” for today at Raley Field (SACRAMENTO.CBSLOCAL.com, 10/9). In Omaha, Steven Pivovar noted the Omaha Nighthawks “skipped their regularly scheduled practice Monday to meet with team officials concerning questions about the league and its commitment to them.” Players have “yet to be paid their full checks for their first two games,” although Omaha GM Matt Boockmeier said that the players “did receive a small portion of their first check last week.” Both Boockmeier and Nighthawks S Stuart Schweigert said that there was “nothing contentious about Monday’s players meeting in Omaha.” Boockmeier said, “Our players are on board. They understand the nature of any kind of start-up business and that there are going to be struggles” (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 10/9).

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  • MLBAM Claims Initial Adoption Rates Of Passport Ticket Delivery Above Expectations

    MLBAM said during the final two weeks of the regular season 1,500 people opted for ticket delivery via Apple's new Passbook mobile delivery system, with initial adoption rates far above company expectations. Apple created Passbook in its new iOS 6 mobile operating system as a central portal for users to store boarding passes, event tickets, brand loyalty programs and other similar materials, with relevant items automatically uploaded to iPhone and iPod Touch lock screens at the appropriate time and place using geolocation. The 1,500 ticket deliveries through Passbook represented 12% of the online ticket sales at MLB.com in that period for the Giants, Mets, Royals and Red Sox, the four clubs that initially offered mobile ticketing through Passbook. "The early adoption rates were fairly shocking and speaks to how quickly the technology has been accepted by fans," said MLBAM VP/Communications Matt Gould. Overall, MLBAM this season saw nearly 70% of MLB.com ticket purchasers choose some type of digital delivery as opposed to a traditional ticket stub, up from 45% in '11. The percentage is expected to grow to 90% next season. Meanwhile, a recent ranking by Business Insider found MLBAM to be the eighth most valuable private technology company in the world according to a recent ranking by Business Insider. The list placed a valuation of $3.1B on baseball's digital arm. Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba topped the list with an estimated value of $40B. Vox Media, parent of SB Nation, ranked 100th at $140M.

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