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SBD/October 22, 2012/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The NFLPA “might challenge former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue replacing Roger Goodell as the appeals officer in the Saints' bounties case,” according to Barry Wilner of the AP. A source said that the players' union has “concerns about ‘ethical and legal issues.’” Tagliabue is “scheduled to hear the appeals” of Saints LB Jonathan Vilma, Saints DE Will Smith, Browns LB Scott Fujita and free agent DT Anthony Hargrove on Oct. 30 after being appointed by Goodell on Friday. Tagliabue “works for the law firm that is defending the league in U.S. District Court in Louisiana in the bounties case,” and the NFLPA “believes that’s a conflict of interest.” The union also “might contend that such ‘pay-for programs’ existed when Tagliabue was commissioner, with his knowledge” (AP, 10/21). In N.Y., Judy Battista wrote Goodell’s decision to recuse himself from overseeing the appeals was an "unexpected twist to a long-running drama.” Goodell in a statement said he made the decision in order “to bring this matter to a prompt and fair conclusion.” Battista noted Goodell has “designated others to hear appeals before, but he has been the face -- and the iron fist -- of the seven-month controversy that has surrounded the bounty case.” The NFL said that Goodell “consulted with” NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith “before making the decision to let Tagliabue take over” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/20).
SURPRISING MOVE: ESPN’s John Clayton said he was “stunned” that Goodell picked Tagliabue to rule in the appeals case. When Goodell "changed his ruling the last time, he said he had the ability to appoint somebody, but I don’t think anybody anticipated it was going to be Paul Tagliabue." The move makes it clear the NFL wants the issue "moving," and by the "end of the month, they pretty much want to at least have everything heard.” By selecting Tagliabue, Goodell “is trying to move this thing along quickly” (“NFL Kickoff,” ESPN2, 10/19). The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan said, “This is a major symbolic retreat. ... This is a step back from his aggressive posture from the moment we became aware of it” ("PTI," ESPN, 10/19). NFL Network's Albert Breer said, "This is a move to encourage the players to participate in the appeals process. Tagliabue is seen as a neutral arbitrator in this so the hope is that this can drive us towards a conclusion and that means the legal side of this too” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 10/19). In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote of the move, “In other words: ‘Fine, we’ll give you the neutral arbitrator that you think you’re entitled to (that’s up for debate) to stop your incessant yapping. Let’s get this over with.’” Tagliabue “has a spotless reputation for being an independent thinker.” In New Orleans, he is “almost revered,” having “played a huge role in keeping the Saints in the city after Hurricane Katrina.” Still, any decision by Tagliabue that is "less than a full vindication of the players and public shaming of Goodell will be ripped by the Players Association and taken to court”(BOSTON GLOBE, 10/21). Meanwhile, GRANTLAND.com's Bill Simmons wrote Goodell “might be wearing the ‘Most Dangerously Incompetent Commissioner in Sports’ belt.” He added, “Can you remember another commissioner having his objectivity questioned so vociferously that he had to enlist his former boss to clean up his mess? Me neither” (GRANTLAND.com, 10/19).
DO THE RIGHT THING: In N.Y., Gary Myers wrote Goodell “did the right thing,” as he has “too much invested” in the Saints bounty case. Goodell’s selection of Tagliabue “will be watched closely.” Myers: "Tagliabue may cut back the suspensions ... but I can’t see it being drastic.” If Tagliabue “rules for the Saints, the league will be humiliated.” Myers: “I think he finds a compromise” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/21). In New Orleans, Mike Triplett wrote bringing in Tagliabue is “the best move the NFL has made in this whole sordid saga.” A skeptic "might label this as a shrewd move by the NFL to work around the player lawsuits.” Still, it would be “hard for the players to complain about this move since it's exactly what they've been demanding -- that their appeals be heard by someone other than Goodell.” Tagliabue is a “brilliant choice for a number of reasons.” He "won't be completely unbiased," and he "obviously has the best interests of the NFL in place, above all else" (NOLA.com, 10/19).
NOT SO FAST: YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote bringing in Tagliabue “makes almost no sense for Goodell or the NFL.” If Tagliabue reverses or reduces Goodell's decisions on the suspensions, it "looks like the league needed to bring back its old, wise leader to clean up the mess of the young brash one.” If Tagliabue “just upholds Goodell's judgment, the decision will be seen as an inside job, the old boss covering for the new one." Wetzel: “Fair or not, Tagliabue will struggle to be seen as fair if he sides with the man he groomed to replace him.” Goodell and the NFL “will regret not finding a true independent mind here” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/19). In Seattle, Danny O’Neil wrote the '12 NFL season has "demonstrated a limit to Goodell's stubbornness.” He “showed that when the league brought back the regular referees after three weeks of increasingly problematic officiating from the replacements.” O’Neil: “Now that Goodell has given up trying to impose his interpretation of the case, it's impossible not to wonder just what took so long?” (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/21).
HELPING HOF CHANCES? Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio said Pro Football HOF voters “will be paying attention to how Tagliabue handles this unexpected final act of his career in professional football” and if it helps his HOF candidacy. Florio: “Lately, his candidacy has been sluggish to say the least. If he’s the one who provides the voice of sanity and reason and can issue a written opinion that is regarded as fair and probing and practical and impressive, he could -- he could! -- revive that chance to get into Canton” (“Pro Football Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 10/19).
With just days remaining for the NHL and NHLPA "to strike a new collective bargaining agreement and preserve an 82-game schedule, deputy commissioner Bill Daly indicated that he felt there was a deal to be made," according to Chris Johnston of the CP. Daly yesterday was asked "whether there was a chance for the sides to get something in place by Thursday’s deadline." He said, “That’s more of a question for the union than it is for me. ... We think there’s a framework of a deal on the table." Johnston noted at "worst, the sides remain about US$550 million apart in the division of revenue over a five-year deal -- depending on which of the union’s three proposals is used and at what rate the business ends up growing." They could be "separated by as little as $320 million." NHLPA Special Counsel Steve Fehr said, "There are multiple frameworks for a deal on the table" (CP, 10/21). The AP's Ira Podell noted reps from "both sides of the lockout had telephone conversations" yesterday. Daly in an e-mail wrote, "We had a conference call today to answer some of their questions. No bargaining. And no bargaining meetings scheduled." Daly said that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr "didn't take part in Sunday's conference call" (AP, 10/21). In Toronto, Kevin McGran noted Donald Fehr has "outlined his latest three proposals in a letter to players." In his letter, Fehr "reminded players of the flaws as he saw them in Bettman's 50-50 proposal, which includes a lower salary cap (about $60 million) and a reduction in players' rights regarding free-agent status and length of contract." In addition, Fehr said that Bettman "told him that if the players accepted most of the NHL's last offer, he could make changes to the so-called 'Make Whole' provision, a controversial idea that ensures players get every penny of contracts they signed before the CBA expired" (TORONTO STAR, 10/21).
DEADLINE FOR A DEAL: In Buffalo, John Vogl noted if a new CBA is not reached by Thursday, a "larger portion of the schedule is expected to disappear." That "could include the New Year's Day Winter Classic" between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings (BUFFALO NEWS, 10/20). ESPN N.Y.'s Katie Strang cited a source as saying that the NHL is "expected to make much more significant cancellations by the end of next week if a deal is not reached." The players "will be receiving some payment soon, though, as the NHL and NHLPA have made official last season's escrow payable to NHL players" (ESPNNY.com, 10/19). In Philadelphia, Frank Seravalli noted the funds "will be released to teams on Oct. 23 and must be distributed to players before Oct. 30." Players were "supposed to receive their first of 13 twice-monthly paychecks for the season on Oct. 15." The second one "was slated to arrive on Oct. 30" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 10/20). ESPN.com's Scott Burnside wrote, "So it comes down to this: a week, maybe less, to not just save a season but a game's reputation." What has been "most striking as this lockout lurches into its sixth week now is how precious little true negotiating has been done." Burnside: "Far too much time has been spent pontificating for the cameras, spinning and bad-mouthing and complaining and quiet sulking, and far too little time getting to work" (ESPN.com, 10/21).
FEHR EXPLAINS UNION'S STANCE: In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch noted during a one-on-one interview Friday, Donald Fehr explained "why it might be a long lockout." Fehr said of the way talks broke off Thursday, "It's clear the players are really disappointed. Here we are after massive concessions (in 2004-05) in the billions of dollars, followed by revenue growth that Gary and the owners have taken a lot of credit for, that the response is to say, 'We should have another round of concessionary bargaining and you should give us back more billions of dollars.' That oversimplifies the negotiations a little bit but not very much." Asked if the league's first offer in July galvanized the players, Fehr said, "The first offer, in our judgement and the players, was so over the top, so backward and so in your face, if you're asking me, 'Did that create a mood?' Sure. Of course it did. Couldn't be avoided. And, the movement away from it has been slow and grudging." Fehr said of players being called "greedy" after the NHL's 50-50 offer, "It's pretty hard to treat seriously the notion that the athletes, who are the only people who anybody comes to watch, that they would be greedy in the face of a 24% reduction in their pay last time; billions of dollars went to the owners, not the players; seven years of record revenues that was more than anybody thought" (OTTAWA SUN, 10/20).
THE PR WAR CONTINUES: Kings RW Kevin Westgarth said that his opinion "was that the NHL was following 'the script of what the NBA and NFL did' last year." He said, "It's not surprising to see the tactics used again and (Bettman) has done this for years -- try to force pressure with the lockout, which is unnecessary, and then basically try to sweat us for as much as they can. It was a good PR move and we all saw they have great PR people. ... They're using great people but there's not a lot of substance behind the style" (NEWSOBSERVER.com, 10/19). Westgarth added, "If Gary wants to treat this like the sky is falling, I'm very disappointed. He vastly overstated the difference between the sides, but I suppose he gets his good PR" (L.A. TIMES, 10/20).
PLAYING THE BLAME GAME: In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote Bettman is "threatening to blow all of the NHL houses down over a difference of about $3 million per team per season over the life of the six-year CBA proposal offered on Thursday by the NHLPA." The players are "asking the league to guarantee 100 cents on the dollar of all existing contracts when the players never had that protection in the expired CBA." So it is "there to be negotiated." It is "there for the league to propose paying 92 or 94 cents on the dollar, for the union to counter by asking for 96, for the parties to reach an agreement under which the owners live up to the spirit of a signed contract and the players don’t wind up paying deferred money to each other." Bettman "loves to cite the NBA and NFL within the context of the 50-50 split he now seeks." But it is "worth repeating again and again and again." The value of "existing contracts in those leagues remained untouched even as the players agreed to take smaller cuts of revenue after being locked out" (N.Y. POST, 10/21). In St. Louis, Jeff Gordon wrote if Bettman "allows a handful of strident owners to dictate the negotiating tone from his side, there will be no season." The owners "must realize, once and for all, that they must take responsibility for running their own franchises." They "can’t expect a stricter CBA to protect them from themselves." On the "other hand, if Fehr overplays his tough stance, there will be no season" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/20). YAHOO SPORTS' Ryan Lambert wrote, "All the PR spin in the world can't change the fact that it's the league, not the PA, that refuses to negotiate" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/19).
FEHR BRINGS A CERTAIN PRESENCE: In N.Y., Pat Leonard wrote while "no one from the league will say it, Fehr's presence at the NHL labor table is considered by some as much of a hurdle to a new collective bargaining agreement as any of the items being negotiated." The league "appears offended by Fehr’s reluctance to respond to details within the framework of the NHL’s proposals, opting instead to make counteroffers that recast the landscape under the players’ own terms." Finally, Fehr’s "slow dictating of the pace has irked the NHL." One reason Fehr is "ruffling so many feathers, though, could be that his tactics are working." Fehr’s "patience paid off and the NHL caved and made its 50-50 proposal on Tuesday, bringing a resolution closer even if it still feels so far away" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/21). ESPN.com's Craig Custance wrote there have "been times during negotiations where Donald Fehr's motivations have been questioned, which is natural when an outsider steps into a tight-knit sport and immediately holds so much power." There has to be "some reassurance in those offers to the NHL that Fehr is serious about a deal." But the owners "have to show more give" (ESPN.com, 10/19). In N.Y., Jeff Klein writes last week "was a dismal one" for Fehr and the NHLPA. Fehr said, "Players understand that this is something in which they all have to hang together." Klein notes Fehr has been "remarkably accessible to reporters, and he has kept his cool after difficult negotiating sessions with Bettman." Fehr, discussing his evolution as a negotiator said, "I'd like to think I am wiser, more measured" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/22).
STILL THE RIGHT MAN FOR THE JOB? In Toronto, Damien Cox wrote the dismissal of former NHLPA Exec Dir Paul Kelly "set in motion a series of events." Fehr took over in December 2010, 16 months "after Kelly had been fired." From that point "until last month, a period of 20 months, Fehr declined to engage in any serious collective bargaining." On Thursday, he "walked into a significant meeting with several NHL owners 90 minutes late, plopped down two single sheets of paper, each with a different skeleton proposal to the owners that didn’t include any ideas on systemic issues, then verbally delivered a third proposal with no accompanying paperwork." For all three proposals, he "acknowledged to the owners he hadn’t actually 'run the numbers.'" This from "the leader of a union in a $3 billion business." The "intriguing question, more than three years after Kelly’s dismissal, is whether this entire episode in NHL-NHLPA bargaining would have unfolded differently had Kelly remained as executive director" (TORONTO STAR, 10/19). But the GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair wrote, "Finally the players are getting precisely what they need. Somebody who is a technician; a professional negotiator first and lawyer second, who works only for them." NHL players will "have the best deal possible, and a more educated, involved players association with professional self-governance." That is "all Donald Fehr cares about." It is "all he should care about" (GLOBE & MAIL, 10/20).
FANTASY LAND: In Edmonton, Jason Gregor wrote if NHL execs are "that arrogant and naive to believe fans will automatically come rushing back next season, then they are completely delusional.” For many fans, “their passion and love for the league will erode into a state of indifference” (EDMONTON, JOURNAL, 10/21). In Vancouver, Matthew Fisher wrote, "No matter how hard it tries -- and it is trying very hard -- the KHL will never by any measure best the NHL.” The KHL is “fatally hamstrung because too many of its rinks are small, ugly, faded glories and too many of its teams are in smallish one-horse towns hours away by air from their nearest rivals.” As a "consequence, only two or three of the KHL's 26 teams may break even." Most of the rest of them "lose tens of millions of dollars every year.” But the KHL is “not the only league in Europe.” While the NHL “bickers with its players and is stuck with half a dozen teams that appear to be terminally ill, hockey across much of northern Europe is flourishing.” The NHL is “totally missing opportunities in Europe and elsewhere because its leadership lacks imagination and continues to avidly pursue an American dream that few believe will ever happen” (VANCOUVER SUN, 10/19).
The Teachers’ Retirement System of Texas (TRS) has "reached a preliminary deal to acquire a 3% shareholding in F1 from the estate of Lehman Brothers, the investment bank whose collapse in 2008 helped to trigger the global financial crisis," according to Mark Kleinman of SKY NEWS. It is a "$200m deal." Talks between the Texan pension fund and the Lehman estate are "understood to have been brokered by CVC Capital Partners." If an agreement is reached, it would "be the first reduction in Lehman’s 15% stake in F1 since the Wall Street bank went bust in September 2008." Sources said that further placements of its remaining shares "are likely to be made in [the] future because the estate is in wind-down mode." Under the shareholder agreements governing F1’s parent companies, other shareholders "are not allowed to sell part of their stakes without CVC’s consent." Sources said that given it "brokered the Texan investment ... CVC’s consent for the latest deal was not in doubt" (SKY.com, 10/19). REUTERS' Simon Meads noted the deal "follows a string of powerful investors that have bought into Formula 1." BlackRock, Waddell & Reed and Norges Bank Investment management "invested in the company when public markets shunned a planned initial public offering of the Formula 1 business" (REUTERS, 10/19).
GETTING THE GREEN LIGHT: In Austin, Doolittle & Maher note former IndyCar driver Mario Andretti yesterday "officially opened the Circuit of the Americas ... breaking in the $300 million racetrack with a few laps in a vintage Formula One ride, a Lotus 79 Cosworth." Organizers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony that "featured Andretti, actor and race driver Patrick Dempsey and local and circuit officials, including Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell and state Comptroller Susan Combs" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 10/22).
WAITING GAME: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Heather Haddon reported the "first Grand Prix to be held in the New York metropolitan area will be postponed a year" from '13 to '14. Organizers said that the "postponement was due to 'ongoing construction issues' in building the 3.2 mile course." Grand Prix of America Exec Chair Leo Hindery in an e-mail said, “We promised [N.J. Governor Chris] Christie, the towns, the sport and its international fans the best possible experience, and unfortunately we need additional time to ensure that happens." Organizers said that additional time is "needed to build a second pit and a garage at the Port Imperial site." Progress has been made "in constructing the first garage, track engineering and hiring" (WSJ.com, 10/19).
The UFL on Saturday announced that it has suspended the ‘12 season “amid mounting financial woes,” and the league plans to “return in the spring to conclude the final four games of the current schedule and then return to a fall schedule” next year, according to Joe Davidson of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Many players this season “were not paid despite repeated promises by league owners that their contracts would be honored.” Players receiving delayed payments was “a common theme last season, though players were eventually paid.” The UFL “insists it can work and that it will pay its athletes" (SACBEE.com, 10/20). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith reported the UFL has told players that they “will be paid for the games they've already played, and that if they don’t live in the city where they've been playing, they’ll be given money to fly home” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 10/20). In Omaha, Steven Pivovar wrote, "Saturday’s development hardly came as a surprise." The UFL "lost $120 million in its first three years of operation, and its fourth season seemed almost doomed from the start." The league "also saw its 2011 season come to a premature end as it canceled the final two games of a planned six-game season." The UFL's statement on Saturday was "one of the few issued this year by a league that has no commissioner or central office." Mountain Lions Owner Paul Pelosi "cited the high cost of obtaining workers’ compensation insurance as a reason for the league’s 2012 financial problems." In addition to salaries, the UFL "pays to house and feed players, coaches and staff members" (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 10/21).
IT'S PERSONAL: SI.com's Peter King reported Las Vegas Locomotives President & head coach Jim Fassel "paid $30,000 out of his pocket to place ads for the current season." Fassel said, "It's really disappointing. I've poured so much of myself into this league. I put four years of my life into it. It's not about the quality of play on the field. ... It's the business model. It's the funding. If they weren't sure we had the funding, why'd we start the season?'' (SI.com, 10/21). Fassel said, "We have no marketing money. You can have the best hamburger stand in the state but if you don’t have money to advertise that fact, it’s hard to get people to take notice of you” (OMAHA WORLD-HERALD, 10/21).