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SBD/August 1, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
Heat F LeBron James is "mulling a bid for the union's presidency," according to a source cited by Jason Whitlock of FOXSPORTS.com. The source said, "It’s something he has talked about with a small group of people. He was very vocal at the meeting during the All-Star Weekend about the need for the union to dramatically change." The NBPA "could elect its new president as early as late August when it holds its summer meetings in Las Vegas." However, the source "cautioned that he thinks it’s 'unlikely'" James will seek the presidency. James' potential presidency would "provide a huge star-power dynamic that has been missing from the union since Patrick Ewing was president" from '97-'01. Since Ewing, the union has "been led by role players." James would be the "first in-his-prime union president since Isiah Thomas ran the association while leading the Pistons to back-to-back championships" in the '80s (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/1). ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst writes the "biggest consideration for James will be the time commitment being the union president would require." James has "limited time to give because of sponsorship and charity commitments in addition to playing." Deep playoff runs with the Heat the past three seasons "have also been taxing" (ESPN.com, 8/1).
NOT ENOUGH SPACE: NBCSPORTS.com's Brett Pollakoff wrote demands on his time "is the core issue, and the reason someone like James could never successfully handle the duties of union president while flourishing as the game’s best player simultaneously." In addition to his team "regularly playing into June each season, LeBron’s schedule is packed with other engagements representing the league, as well as personal endorsement deals that require various trips and appearances." There is a "reason guys like Derek Fisher and Maurice Evans were so prominently involved in union issues recently, with Jerry Stackhouse handling things so far this offseason." To "put it bluntly, they don’t have a whole lot going on outside of their regular team responsibilities, which are fairly limited at this late stage of their respective careers" (NBCSPORTS.com, 7/31).
MLS Commissioner Don Garber last night during a halftime interview at the MLS All-Star Game announced the league is "going to expand by four teams by the end of the decade." Garber said, "A lot of cities are interested. Expansion's been a big driver in the success of our league, the diversity of our ownership groups, lots of new energy. So we've got some work to do (with) four teams by the end of the decade." ESPN's Kasey Keller said to Garber there is a "fear about maybe diluting the product when you are going into a big expansion." Keller asked, "Is there also a case to move maybe some underachieving franchises, because you're talking about a single-entity ownership and if you want the game to rise, the big teams get dragged down by the small teams." Garber said there is "no plan whatsoever to move any club." Garber: "We don't look at some of the challenges we have and think that we can solve it with moving. We've got to figure out what we need to do to solve those teams and then add new markets so we can have new fans and new excitement" ("MLS All-Star Game," ESPN2, 7/31).
GROWING THE GAME: ESPN FC noted MLS will have "added 10 new teams since the 2005 season when New York City FC begins play" in '15. Garber said that this has "helped to spearhead a significant growth in the game in the United States." Garber: "These expansion clubs have contributed to the vitality of our league, bringing passionate fans, new traditions and committed owners with new ideas" (ESPNFC.com, 7/31). The league said that it "already was in exploratory talks 'with multiple markets and potential owners regarding future expansion'" (L.A. TIMES, 8/1). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dieter Kurtenbach notes David Beckham is "expected to partner with billionaire Marcelo Claure ... to create an expansion franchise in Miami." The USL Orlando City FC "is expected to be another expansion team" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 8/1). In DC, Steven Goff reports, "Orlando is a clear front-runner and prospective investor David Beckham is flirting with Miami." Minneapolis and Atlanta "might try to tie new NFL stadiums into MLS bids," while San Antonio, Detroit and Sacramento "seem eager." St. Louis has "been in and out of the mix for years." The process of "determining future sites is not as simple as unfolding a map and pointing to areas of the country without a first-tier club nearby." MLS' criteria for landing a team include "committed and engaged" ownership, a "comprehensive stadium plan," and "demonstrated fan support for pro soccer." They also include "support from sponsors, TV partners and other constituents," plus geographic location and a "strategic business plan" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/1).
CALIFORNIA LOVE? The two groups who hope to bring an MLS team to Sacramento recently said that they are "willing to work together" to make that happen. In Sacramento, Tom Couzens reports USL Pro Sacramento Republic FC Owner Warren Smith, who heads one of the two groups, "believes the best way to lure the MLS is to first prove that the region can support a minor-league team." The other group wants an MLS team to play in Elk Grove, Calif., and Couzens notes whether to play there or in Sacramento is the "one big issue" that "separates the groups" (SACBEE.com, 8/1). SI.com's Brian Straus notes the league's CBA with the MLSPU and its broadcast contracts with ESPN and NBC "conclude after the 2014 season." MLS now "enters both re-negotiations from a position of strength" after the expansion announcement. MLS is "offering loads of new jobs" to the union, and to "potential TV partners, it can promise an expanding national footprint" (SI.com, 8/1).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Pop Warner Exec Dir Jon Butler in a special to USATODAY.com write that they have launched a partnership between the two entities "to endorse USA Football's Heads Up Football program." More than 20,000 Pop Warner coaches "will be trained to teach the latest techniques and make the game safer for hundreds of thousands of young players." Heads Up Football, developed by USA Football with the support of the NFL in '12, "provides a better, safer way to teach and play the game." More than 200 Pop Warner leagues will "adopt Heads Up Football immediately, and hundreds of additional leagues will follow suit in 2014." Pop Warner has "been a leader in youth sports" in the area of concussion awareness "by introducing a dedicated concussion rule, limiting contact in practice and banning head-to-head contact, and this partnership is a logical next step." Goodell & Butler write, "With this program, and many other initiatives, we are collectively creating a new culture of safety at every level of the game (USATODAY.com, 8/1). Meanwhile, the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association this month announced that it has "endorsed USA Football’s Heads Up Football program." In Michigan, Bill Broderick notes the association "joins the Indiana and Minnesota Football Coaches Associations as the first three such organizations to endorse Heads Up Football for all youth and high school football programs in their respective states" (BATTLE CREEK ENQUIRER, 8/1).
SENDING THE WRONG MESSAGE? THE MMQB’s Don Banks noted Bengals Owner Mike Brown last week in an interview with Cincinnati-area media summed up “any potential link between football-produced head injuries and later-in-life brain damage as nothing more than ‘merely speculation,’ citing ‘our statistics’ as substantiation of his claim.” Brown said that he himself “suffered his share of concussions as a high school and college athlete, and ‘I can still count to 10.’” Banks wrote the NFL has “endured more than its share of cringe-worthy headlines in recent weeks, but Brown taking center stage to play science skeptic and quasi-concussion expert had to give the league office a headache.” At a time when the NFL is “leaning so far forward on the matter of brain injuries and player safety that it seems it could tip over, along comes Brown to frame the issue in the hazy light of the past, with a shrug and a ham-handed attempt to dismiss the whole concussion issue as guesswork that hasn’t led to any meaningful conclusions.” That is the “wrong tone, at the wrong time, by the wrong guy.” Banks asked, “Does the NFL really want Brown of all people to be messenger when it comes to handling the question of whether repeated concussions increase the risk of dementia?” (MMQB.SI.com, 7/30).
Golfer Inbee Park attempting to win her fourth straight major of the year at this week's Ricoh Women's British Open is as "compelling a storyline as golf has had since Tiger Woods was in his pomp," or at "least it should be," according to Robert Lusetich of FOXSPORTS.com. The reality is there is "more buzz about Hunter Mahan bailing on the lead at the Canadian Open last weekend to be with his wife for the birth of their first child." A reporter at Tuesday’s press conference for Park "tweeted a photograph of too many empty chairs." Golfer Stacey Lewis said, "I think for what Inbee is doing right now, she's not getting the credit that she deserves." Part of the reason for Park’s relative anonymity "lies in the fact that women’s golf ... gets no respect." The other "stumbling block lies with Park herself." She is the "anti-Babe Zaharias." Park is "shy, humble and a tad portly, friendly by everyone’s description but not a player who stands out in the crowd." Her victories "aren’t built on daredevil brilliance but on a metronomic consistency" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/31). USA TODAY's Christine Brennan writes under the header, "Park Deserves Better." Golf HOFer Annika Sorenstam said, "This hasn't been discussed enough and covered enough. It's mind-boggling why it hasn't caught on." Brennan: "How is it possible in our sports-crazed, record-obsessed culture that a quest of this magnitude could fly so under the radar, even if it is women's golf, not men's, and a South Korean athlete, not an American?" For an American audience, it "doesn't help that the athlete in question isn't an American." It would be "wonderful if this weren't so, but nationalism is a powerful force in sports, and likely always will be" (USA TODAY, 8/1).
ATTENTION-GETTER: In DC, Barry Svrluga writes Park’s pursuit could help "draw attention to a tour that has struggled to support a full schedule in recent years." Park is just 25, and following her win at the U.S. Women’s Open on Long Island, she did a "full-fledged media tour of New York, something not afforded LPGA stars in recent years" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/1). YAHOO SPORTS' Shane Bacon wrote the LPGA has done an "incredible job at rebranding what they do, and most of that can be attributed" to Commissioner Mike Whan. But it "still seems that the tour doesn't get the respect it deserves" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/31). Whan said of what Park's run this year means for the Tour, "Attention is probably the first word. What she's doing is so historic that it's impossible to ignore whether you're a fan of the tour or not. It's making even the casual fan want to watch" (GOLFWEEK, 8/2 issue).
DEFINING A SLAM: In N.Y., Karen Crouse writes what "constitutes a Grand Slam in women’s golf is unclear at the moment." The LPGA announced two years ago that the September event in Évian-les-Bains, France, "would be elevated from a regular tour stop to become the fifth major beginning in 2013." At the time, Whan said that the "motivation was to give the women’s game added exposure." But instead, it has "put a wrinkle in an otherwise potentially historic moment for the sport." Whan said, “I find it strange that we are struggling not to call this a Grand Slam if Inbee Park wins this week. If a player had won all four global majors in 2011, we would have declared her the Grand Slam winner and she would be posing with all four trophies. If Inbee wins four majors this season, why wouldn’t we call it the same thing?" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/1). In S.F., Ron Kroichick writes Whan is "spinning his way out of this self-made predicament by suggesting Park could accomplish the 'Super Slam' by winning all five majors." Kroichick: "That sounds suspiciously like another blatant and misguided marketing ploy, but we'll let it slide" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/1). Park in a special to SI writes, "Officially the LPGA says there are five majors: the four we've been talking about plus, this year for the first time, the Evian Championship, to be played in France next month. If I don't win the British but do win the Evian, I'm going to count that as the Grand Slam." Life is "hard, and I think you have to be nice to yourself where and when you can" (SI, 8/5 issue). Park carded a 3-under-par 69 in the opening round today, three shots behind leader Morgan Pressel (THE DAILY).
The MLB trade deadline saw just three trades completed and there "wasn't even any great expectation of any huge deals," according to Danny Knobler of CBSSPORTS.com. The introduction of a second wild card last year "certainly tempts some teams into thinking there's still a shot to make the playoffs." However, the "bigger issue is that the game's overall financial health makes it easier for teams to hang onto even high-priced players." Also, teams that "sell plenty of tickets ... aren't anxious to tell their fans that the rest of the season doesn't matter." The "feeling among some executives is that a later deadline would make it easier for some teams to decide to sell, allowing better players to get to the market." The argument against moving the deadline "will be that starting pitchers dealt in August would make so few starts for their new team that the prices could actually come down, and inhibit selling" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/31). ESPN's Tim Kurkjian said the trade deadline was a "pretty big waste of time for a lot of us," as the second wild card "has kept a lot more teams in the race." Instead of "selling off players, they're all looking to buy players and there simply were not very many good players available." In addition, teams are understanding that the "best way to build your team is to keep as many of your prospects as possible, go through the draft." Kurkjian: "The days of the four-for-one trade, they're not over, but they're pretty close to being over." He added a lot of teams "have money where they don't have to unload salary" ("PTI," ESPN, 7/31). Reds GM Walt Jocketty said yesterday "was completely dead -- nothing." Jocketty: "This was the quietest deadline day I've had" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 8/1).
INDICIATIVE OF CURRENT STATE OF MLB: In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes, "Everything you wanted to know about the major leagues in 2013 was revealed in how the market played out." Even smaller-market teams "have enough cash coming in now to lock up a core player or two," so fewer situations "arise where non-contenders have players getting too expensive in arbitration or heading to free agency, forcing dumps to get something in return before losing them for nothing or draft picks" (N.Y. POST, 8/1). In Buffalo, Mike Harrington writes GMs "need to push the deadline back, from July 31 to perhaps Aug. 15, because of last year's addition of the second wild-card." Only eight teams entered today "as many as 10 games out of that final playoff slot." With 55-60 games games to play "for basically everyone, there were simply too many teams not willing to sell" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/1). S.F. Chronicle columnist John Shea said MLB should "push it back a couple of weeks, because there are a lot of teams that just don't know if they're going to contend." Shea: "It was really a dead trade deadline. There should have been more action" ("Yahoo Sports Time Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 7/31).
ALL EYES ON ME: MLB Network's Peter Gammons said the trade deadline is "almost like a holiday." Gammons: "People kind of get used to it, 'Okay, what's going to happen, what's going to happen.' Players talk about it incessantly. It is fun. It's another sort of promotion. ... It's a great day for the game for people to be focused on what's going to go on" ("MLB Tonight: Trade Deadline," MLB Network, 7/31).