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NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith yesterday said that the union “would be agreeable to HGH testing if the NFL mirrored the plan” announced last week by MLB, according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY. HGH testing has been “at a standstill in the NFL, despite the announcement by the league and players union more than 18 months ago that it would become the first U.S. pro sports league to test” for HGH. Smith said, "The day when the league simply says it is willing to adopt a system similar or identical to what Major League Baseball agreed to, that's a day that we'll have HGH testing in the NFL." Smith said that the union “wanted HGH testing but he was unconvinced by the science to produce reliable tests.” Smith said he likes MLB's plan because a player on appeal "has the ability to file his case to a neutral arbitrator and challenge the underlying science" of the test.” Smith said the move is "something the league has steadfastly opposed." NFL Senior VP/Law & Labor Policy Adolpho Birch said that the league “already had agreed to third-party arbitration” (USA TODAY, 1/16). Smith also discussed a “wide range of topics” with Bell in a recent Q&A. Below are excerpts from the interview:
Q: There's still no testing for HGH in the NFL. Are you concerned there are players who are doping but are not being exposed?
Smith: If someone were going to tell me they knew of a player in the NFL taking HGH and it's going undetected, yes, I'd be concerned. So far, no one has said that. Our players want a clean game more than (Commissioner) Roger Goodell wants a clean game. The only people who put themselves at risk on the football field are members of this union. The last time we checked, not one owner got hurt at a game. And when you talk to every one of the players, they want a clean game. But they also want a system that is fair and transparent.
Q: This season has included off-the-field tragedies with the murder-suicide involving Jovan Belcher and a DUI manslaughter case with Josh Brent that cost the life of Jerry Brown. How can the union get players to take better advantage of resources available?
Smith: Last year we started a program that we don't talk about publicly, because it could inhibit a player's desire to remain confidential, but virtually any player who needs help can get help confidentially, paid for by the union. I don't know who (the player) is, nobody on staff knows who it is. It's a double-blind system. They call an 800 number, they can be in any treatment center in the United States within 24 hours. If you need help, as a man who has obligations, it's your duty to seek that help.
Q: The league has resisted the union's push for sideline concussion experts. Why?
Smith: They've said this person would get in the way of the evaluation by the team doctor who knows the player better. That really doesn't make sense. If you have two doctors to make sure the player is safe, it seems to me that that's a better system (USA TODAY, 1/16).
There were not any signals earlier this week "that the NBA was about to descend" on London's O2 Arena outside of a sign featuring several players from the Pistons and Knicks, but the scene will change tomorrow when a sell-out crowd watches the "16th regular-season game in a foreign market," according to Vince Ellis of the DETROIT FREE PRESS. The NBA is "seeking to increase its global reach," with Commissioner David Stern earlier in January "predicting ... that multiple franchises will be in Europe within 20 years." NBA Europe Senior VP Ben Morel said that "there is demand for the NBA overseas." He cited "how tickets were gone in four days and the popularity of basketball during last summer's London Olympics when Team USA won the gold." Players like Lakers G Kobe Bryant and Heat F LeBron James are "internationally recognized, and with the growing popularity worldwide, there is a thought that Europe is a natural fit for the league." Morel said of tomorrow's game, "Because there's no game during the regular season physically happening on the ground ... it's just something that gets the authenticity and real experience to our fans." Ellis noted Morel "promised a lively atmosphere," but the question is "what happens after Thursday?" Ellis: "Can the NBA grow to be more than an entertainment novelty in Europe?" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/15). Knicks F Steve Novak said, "We understand the future of the NBA and future of basketball. It’s hard not to think one day the NBA won’t expand overseas. Obviously, there’s a ton of NBA fans in London and pretty much everywhere in Europe.’’ In N.Y., Marc Berman notes the Knicks "arrived at the team hotel in downtown London without fanfare." No one was "staked out seeking autographs" (N.Y. POST, 1/16).
SHARING THE GLOBAL SPOTLIGHT: The FREE PRESS' Ellis in a separate piece noted Palace Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Dennis Mannion "relishes the global spotlight" tomorrow's contest against the Knicks provides. Mannion said, "It shows how big this game is. It's become a worldwide game with significance. To go over and play a game in London, undoubtedly to a sold-out arena, it's just very special and unique." He added, "To me the extra branding you get from that and NBA TV is a big deal for the franchise." Ellis noted PS&E used the game "as a branding opportunity in Detroit." Media outlets were used to "promote membership in the team's fan clubs with a possible trip to London as a reward." Mannion said that the "clubs' growth reflects that effort" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 1/13). Meanwhile, in Detroit, Vincent Goodwill reported tomorrow's game will "come with all the bells and whistles of a normal NBA game, possibly down to the music that's played during timeouts and halftime." The Pistons' normal "score crew, renowned announcer John Mason and some of The Palace's in-house entertainment" will make the trip to London because it is a Pistons home game (DETROITNEWS.com, 1/15).
Although some issues still need to be worked out, there "will be an LPGA Tour event in the Portland area this year," according to Mike Tokito of the Portland OREGONIAN. The tournament, "known as the Safeway Classic since 1996, will for now be called the 'Portland Classic presented by Safeway,' and will start in the final week of August." Tournament Golf Foundation, the organization that has run LPGA events in Portland since '72, "committed to running an event this year, even though it continues to negotiate with Safeway on sponsorship." Safeway "has been title sponsor" since '96. TGF President Tom Maletis said that Safeway still is "deciding if it wants to maintain the costlier role of being the title sponsor ... or take on a lesser role." The '13 LPGA schedule, released yesterday, "does not list a course for the Portland event." But Maletis said that he "expects the tournament will return to Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club." He said that TGF "needed to finalize dates and have a better idea of sponsorship before coming to an agreement with Pumpkin Ridge." The Portland event is the "longest-running regular tournament on the LPGA Tour" (OREGONLIVE.com, 1/15).
DESTINATION UNKNOWN: In Florida, Greg Hardwig reports the site for this year's LPGA CME Group Titleholders tournament still is "to be determined." LPGA Dir of Media Communications Mike Scanlan said the location of the tournament "will be announced early this year." The event moved to the TwinEagles Club in Naples last November "after being played at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando in 2011." The tour "did announce an extension through 2016 with title sponsor CME Group, an increase in the purse to $2 million, and in the first-place prize to $700,000, the highest on the tour." The '12 tournament "had a $1.5-million purse, and $500,000 first-place prize." Octagon Senior VP/Global Events Jeff Kleiber indicated that the "length of the extension tied into the tournament's site" (NAPLES DAILY NEWS, 1/16).