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SBD/February 14, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The U.S. Department Of Justice is “investigating the authenticity” of an NBPA contract that “authorized future payment of more than $3 million to an investment firm that employed the son of executive director Billy Hunter,” according to sources cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. Sources said that one of the focuses of the probe “centers on the legitimacy of the signatures on the union's document with the company, Prim Capital, including those of the NBPA's late general counsel Gary Hall and NBPA director of player services Purvis Short.” The agreement called for a "five-year term, stretching from the date of execution, that cannot be cancelled or revoked while in effect for any reason by the NBPA." The NBPA, under terms of the deal, “would pay Prim $602,000 per year.” Two days before the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison released its Jan. 17 report on the NBPA, it said that Prim Capital “sent its investigators a copy of the five-year agreement signed March 2, 2011.” The report said Paul-Weiss had previously been "informed repeatedly by union employees over the course of the investigation that the 2005 Agreement was the NBPA's most recent document with Prim." The report said that Hunter “had told Paul-Weiss investigators that the union's 2005 agreement with Prim had been extended orally from year to year, and said that he was ‘not aware,’ of a written contract in existence.” The report said NBPA Finance Dir Theresa Messer told Paul-Weiss investigators "although she had raised with Prim the need for a written contract on multiple occasions, and had been told one would be prepared, she never received a new agreement" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/13).
CALLED INTO QUESTION: SI’s L. Jon Wertheim writes whether Hunter, a former prosecutor, was “indifferent or ignorant of the most basic professional standards, the report, at a minimum, calls his judgment into question.” Still, one “wonders if the players realize the potential damage of Hunter’s ethical shortcomings.” Wertheim: “Be assured that next time the NBA owners negotiate with [the NBPA], they’ll recall the current state of the union.” If this history of “mistrust and distrust costs the players 1% of their leverage, that’s a $450 million swing over the course of a 10-year CBA.” Wertheim: “Certainly, the players would do well to find a labor leader who won’t hurt the cause with his own ethical shortcomings and shortcuts, someone who can make compromise while remaining uncompromised” (SI, 2/18 issue).
THE END OF THE LINE? The AP’s Brian Mahoney noted the report on Hunter has “given players plenty of reason to fire him,” and some will “go to Houston for All-Star weekend with that intention.” Thunder F Kendrick Perkins said, “I just feel like it’s time for a new leader.” Some other notable players “agree, and plenty more could follow if they take the advice of their agents, many of whom have long disliked and disagreed with Hunter.” His future is “expected to be the focus of the players’ meeting, unless there’s a resolution beforehand” (AP, 2/13).
With the LPGA about to enter its 64th season, Commissioner Mike Whan discussed issues facing the league with Ron Sirak of GOLF WORLD. Whan said of the Tour's growth, "The word I come up with is 'rising.' I've started a lot of sales presentations with the guy on the other side of the table going, 'Gee, are you guys OK?' That hasn't happened in a year and a half." Whan said of the LPGA schedule moving from 23 events in '11 to 28 this year, "The smartest thing I do is get prospective sponsors to experience it -- play in a pro-am, sit on the 18th green, come into the TV tower. Our product delivers." Whan, on the positives of the Tour, said, "We now have a sponsor pool that is worldwide ... And I really think we are playing a major role in growing the game worldwide for women." Whan said of the negatives, "We don't want to burn players out at 26 or 27. Lorena Ochoa leaving to have a family was a bit of a wake-up call." Whan, on whether he had to rebuild strained relationships left by his predecessor, said, "I had to listen more than I thought I would in my first year. ... The best decision I made was, in early 2010, re-pricing the LPGA to make it less expensive to be a sponsor and, like a lot of other businesses, we just made a much thinner margin. We haven't really made any money since the day I got here. I'm not proud of that and I'm not embarrassed by that." Whan said of the Kraft Nabisco Championship continuing to be a "major" tournament after '14, "They had a contract that said if they wanted to exit they had to give us a five-year warning, and that's what they did. It doesn't require them to exit. I see Kraft getting more involved, not less" (GOLF WORLD, 2/18 issue).
WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS: Sirak notes, "Missing when the LPGA released its 2013 schedule last month was the Sybase Match Play Championship, contested the last three years at Hamilton Farm GC in Bedminster, N.J." Reading "between the lines, the tour was probably not all that pleased that the sponsor waited until so late in the game to make decisions about this year's event." Whan said, "When Sybase was purchased by SAP, we believed they would pick up the sponsorship extension that was available to them. Unfortunately, we were informed in late 2012 that SAP would not title sponsor the event, at which point it was simply too late to find a new sponsor for the 2013 tournament." Tournament Dir Harry Hardy of Octagon said that his company "would also work to find a new sponsor for an event" in the N.Y/N.J. area. Whether the Match Play Championship "comes back is a more dubious call" (GOLF WORLD, 2/18 issue).
YOUTH MOVEMENT: GOLF WEEK's Beth Ann Baldry writes it would be "incredible to think that Whan could do anything other than green-light" a Lydia Ko petition to join the tour in '14. Baldry notes for the 17-year-old Ko to play on the LPGA Tour next year, she would "need to petition the tour to compete in LPGA Q-School at 16." If she were to "finish the equivalent of top 40 on the LPGA money list in official tournaments with cuts, Ko could" ask Whan to allow her "to skip Q-School." She also could "win another LPGA event and petition to join the tour, skipping Q-School, much like Lexi Thompson in 2011." Ko's schedule this year is "enviable to many pros." It is a "professional's schedule without the professional's paycheck" (GOLF WEEK, 2/15 issue).
IN ANY LANGUAGE: The LPGA yesterday announced a multiyear extension with Indianapolis-based Language Training Center as the official language provider of the Tour. LTC as part of the agreement will continue to host cross-cultural seminars, provide translation and interpretation services, and offer language training programs to LPGA players and staff. The LPGA first partnered with LTC in '10 (LTC).
UFC parent company Zuffa “scored a big win" in their lawsuit against the state of New York yesterday, "paving the way for the organization to legally hold a UFC event in the state almost immediately and regardless of whether or not the ban on professional mixed martial arts is lifted by the legislature,” according to Jim Genia of FIGHTLINE.com. In what was “supposed to be a day of oral arguments pertaining to the State Attorney General's most recent motion to dismiss, attorney John M. Schwartz -- representing the Attorney General's office -- acknowledged unequivocally that the law prohibiting pro MMA did not apply to amateur versions of the sport, and that as per the statute, a pre-approved third-party sanctioning body could oversee MMA events in the state.” The admission of the latter “prompted the counsel representing Zuffa's interests to say that if that were truly the case, then there'd be no further need to pursue the lawsuit -- which in turn prompted the presiding Judge Kimba Wood ... to push both sides to immediately settle.” Whether or not a “settlement is reached, the door is now open for Zuffa -- or any other MMA promotion -- to circumvent the ban by utilizing one of the pre-approved sanctioning bodies enumerated in the statute.” Zuffa and UFC Senior VP & Associate General Counsel Timothy Bellamy said, “We’ll take it. We'd rather have the state lift the ban and we go that route first, but we'll know in the next two months if that's going to happen." Bellamy added that “if it doesn't, then the UFC would use the third-party-sanctioning option” (FIGHTLINE.com, 2/13).
FAR FROM PERFECT: In N.Y., Marc Raimondi noted most MMA shows in the U.S. are “under the watch of state athletic commissions," while the UFC has “had to be its own commission in other countries that don’t have regulating bodies.” An organization other than the New York State Athletic Commission “would have to sanction” a UFC fight in New York. Raimondi wrote, “Not ideal, of course. But progress, for sure.” UFC President Dana White has said that the company “wants to bring a massive show to Madison Square Garden in November for its 20th anniversary” (NYPOST.com, 2/13).
In DC, Steven Goff reported the U.S. Soccer Federation’s “exhaustive” 990 tax form for the period of April 2011-March 2012 shows the federation “reported $56.5 million in revenue and $59.6 million in expenses for a shortfall of $3.1 million.” USSF Secretary General & CEO Dan Flynn “earned $611,478,” while USSF President Sunil Gulati serves in “an unpaid position.” U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann “collected $1,047,172 -- a portion of his $2.5 million salary.” Former U.S. national women's soccer coach Pia Sundhage, who served for the entire tax period including the ’11 Women’s World Cup, “earned $299,190.” Goff noted the USSF “receives $8.5 million annually from Soccer United Marketing.” Nike last year “directly compensated” the USSF for $12.6M “in funding and equipment” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/13).
ICE HIKE: ESPN Chicago's Jon Greenberg cited a Team Marketing Report study as showing that NHL teams “instituted the largest ticket percentage increase among the pro hockey league, the NBA and the NFL for the second consecutive season.” The ‘13 MLB ticket average “will be released at the start of the season.” None of the averages “includes club, premium or suite tickets.” The Team Marketing Report Fan Cost Index shows that NHL season-ticket prices for the current season “went up 5.7 percent,” with the average season ticket for non-premium seats costing $61.01. The Maple Leafs have the “most expensive average ticket at $124.69,” followed by the Jets “at $97.84.” The top U.S. teams “in terms of average ticket price” are the Capitals at $79.25, the Rangers at $72.04 and Flyers at $71.59 (ESPNCHICAGO.com, 2/13).
NET PROFIT: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Tom Perrotta writes the dispute over prize money between the BNP Paribas Open and the ATP World Tour BOD has “become a catalyst for change in a sport known for a complex management structure, heavy bureaucracy and conflicts of interest.” There are “two tours, the ATP for the men and the WTA for women.” There also is the Int'l Tennis Federation, which “governs the Grand Slam events, and dozens of other federations and management companies that both represent players and manage tournaments.” All of them have “competing interests when it comes to the season's length and total purse.” And now “more than ever, players are saying they've had enough -- and that they want a union just for them” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/14).