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The $765M proposed concussion settlement between the NFL and 4,500 retired players "ended up in court-ordered mediation only after the judge told players' attorneys that the bulk of their case was in 'real danger of being dismissed,'" according to a source cited by Fainaru & Fainaru-Wada of ESPN.com. The source added that while NFL attorneys "confidently indicated that they would take the case to court," U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody in the same discussion told league attorneys that "at least part of the case was likely to survive, a possibility that would expose the league to potentially embarrassing disclosures and a continuing public relations nightmare." The source said that once in mediation, the players "demanded slightly more" than $2B. The NFL indicated that it "was unwilling to offer more than a token settlement and said it was prepared to try the case." Brody had "signaled that she was going to side with at least part of the league's argument" that some players covered by the CBA should "not be able to sue the league." That would have "gutted the lawsuit in two ways." First, it would have removed many of the former players who appeared in the league from '94-'10, "the controversial period at the heart of the lawsuit." Second, those who "remained would have faced a major hurdle proving fraud," given that the NFL's concussion committee was not formed until '94. It "became clear that the NFL was potentially facing years of litigation, even if many of the plaintiffs were to be tossed out." If a "significant number of players were to exercise their right to opt out of the settlement agreement, Brody has the option of not accepting the settlement overall or issuing a ruling on the league's motion to dismiss the lawsuit" (ESPN.com, 9/1).
AVOIDING DIRTY DETAILS: THE MMQB's Peter King cited a source as saying that a "large majority of NFL owners approved the details of the settlement" in conversations with Commissioner Roger Goodell. For about $16M per team over the next three years and $12M over 17 years, "nuclear winter was averted." If players are "unhappy with the amount of compensation and want to file claims, they’ll run into some of the best litigators in America, the NFL’s, and it’ll take years and millions of dollars to fight the fight." King: "So for now, most experts feel the crisis has been averted, and the game will go on." From the NFL’s side, there was "no way it wanted the dirty laundry of stories of team doctors ignoring or minimizing concussions during games aired in depositions before the trial, or in testimony at trial." One "rogue doctor or ruthless trainer would have been enough to turn all public sentiment against the league." The attorneys for the players "felt they got as much as they could from the NFL before the two sides would have had to appear in front of Judge Brody ... at which point the players knew the case could have been weed-whacked if Brody removed all the players who had played" since '94 (MMQB.SI.com, 9/2). NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that all teams "will contribute equally to the overall fund." PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote teams contributing will include "those that have been in the league since the 1920s" as well as those that have "existed for less than 20 years." For a $32B business with "billions more already guaranteed to be generated over the next decade through TV contracts, it's a hiccup" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/30).
THE COMMISH SPEAKS: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Under Armour Founder, Chair & CEO Kevin Plank today appeared on "CBS This Morning," with Goodell first discussing the concussion settlement. CBS' Charlie Rose said, "Some are saying that the NFL got off easy." Goodell said the "most important thing to us was to be able to resolve the differences and get relief to the players as soon as possible and their families. What we were able to do was all compromise on our positions. There was no admission of guilt. There was no recognition that anything was caused by football, but the reality is we want to help our players … and if we litigated this, it would have been years of litigation and the help wouldn't have been given to the players at an earlier date." But Goodell added that "one thing I've learned in this business is litigations are never over." Goodell said of recent rule changes, "It's made the game safer because as we see techniques, we change the rules to take those out of a game. Our focus in recent years has really been how do we protect the 'defenseless player.’” Plank also discussed the GE-UA-NFL partnership to develop ways to prevent head injuries. Plank said, "What we want to do is put the smartest minds around the world at the table” ("CBS This Morning," 9/4). Goodell also appeared on CNBC's "Squawk Box" and said the game of football has never "been safer" and the NFL is "better and more exciting." Goodell: "The changes that we're making at the NFL level with rules and equipment by pioneering research have worked its way all the way down through college football to high school football to youth football" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 9/4).
MORE TO COME? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote the settlement "does not rule out other lawsuits." It does "not close the door on the information" that former NFLPA President Kevin Mawae wants. More challenges "are sure to come" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/3). ESPN.com's Gregg Easterbrook wrote, "Preventing disclosure of team finances was a major goal on the NFL in this settlement." For plaintiffs' counsel the outcome is "marvelous." The NFL is "covering their legal fees," which means the "lawyers get their payday upfront, rather than waiting for years." If the NFL "offered the players' lawyers a pretty penny to settle, they may have had incentive to sell their own clients short -- an issue the supervising judge may explore" (ESPN.com, 9/3). In Toronto, Steve Simmons wrote the settlement "might help the desperate in need of treatment money, but more than anything, it buys the NFL some time to try and understand and grasp what has happened here but determine how to prevent the next generation from living equally painful lives" (TORONTO SUN, 9/1).
WINNERS & LOSERS: In Boston, Ben Volin wrote the settlement "appears to be a victory for both the NFL and the retired players -- but with a capital 'V' for the league and a lower-case 'v' for the retirees." The sum of $23M per team is a "drop in the bucket for the owners, especially when considering they have 20 years to pay out" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/1). In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell wrote the settlement was the "perfect strategy to make the whole embarrassing mess just go away quietly." The NFL "needs this story to go away as quickly as possible because it doesn’t want to end up looking as cold-hearted as big tobacco executives." So now it "gets to close the door on this one, and move on, make us believe they care." Burwell: "And maybe they do now, but we know this religion is an all new thing to them" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/3).
ON THE DEFENSIVE: In L.A., Ken Bensinger cited California workers’ compensation data as showing that NFL DBs are "more likely to file injury claims than any other position." Since '90, DBs "have filed nearly 1,100 claims in California" against their former NFL teams for injuries suffered on the field. DBs also "led all position groups in claims for head and brain injuries with more than 820 filings." California, because of "several unique aspects of its law, has over the last six years become a venue of last resort for such filings by injured former athletes who cannot make such claims elsewhere." The claims "can be costly for all professional sports teams, which must pay them out of pocket or carry pricey workers’ compensation insurance." But no league "faces more financial risk for the injuries than the NFL, which faces some 4,000 pending claims in California" (L.A. TIMES, 9/2).
NORTH OF THE BORDER: The CP's Donna Spencer noted CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon "wouldn't comment Monday on the NFL's settlement ... saying the CFL has been proactive in addressing concussions." Cohon: "What we’re essentially doing is making sure we’re focused on player safety. What we’ve been doing for years now is putting the right protocols in place. We actually had protocols in place on our sidelines well before the NFL had them" (CP, 9/2).
Given the "way the American civil-justice system works," odds were that many of the former NFLers involved in the concussion lawsuit against the NFL "would be dead by the time the case was resolved," according to Chris Mondics of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. Anapol Schwartz attorney Sol Weiss, who served as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said that the settlement "was the better way." Weiss: "I felt that we were duty-bound to get people the money that they needed now rather than waiting five to 10 years" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 9/4). In N.Y., former NFLer Scott Fujita in a special wrote, "I expected a settlement to come at some point. What I didn't expect was to feel so oddly conflicted about it." Fujita: "I’m guessing there were not-so-subtle reminders that causation -- proving a plaintiff’s current health problems were directly caused by a head injury sustained while playing in the NFL -- is a heavy burden to meet in a court of law." But the settlement is a "huge win for the former players." Fujita: "We must not lose sight of that. It’s easy to tell someone to hold out for more when it’s not your livelihood at risk." These deals are "complicated and multilayered, and they affect everybody differently." It is "easy to feel conflicted." It is "not always easy to declare a winner or a loser" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/2). Colts S and player rep Antoine Bethea said, "On one end, it's good for some of the retired players to get that money. On the other end, the league isn't going to be up on the stand. And that's what we wanted" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/4).
RETIREES REACT: In Syracuse, Chris Carlson reported plaintiff Floyd Little was "seething" about the terms of the settlement. Little: "Now all this can go away, right? That's s---. It's not good for me. It's not good for the players over 50." Little believes the deal "forces NFL veterans to sacrifice self-respect," and "doesn't think players should be forced to prove how bad their life has gotten to earn the best payout." Little said that he "doesn't plan to participate." Little: "You have to prove it? What the heck is that? I have to go humble myself? How can you prove that you've suffered? Guys aren't going to do it" (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 8/30). Pro Football HOFer Harry Carson, though not a plaintiff, said, "When you look at the dollar figure, it appears to be a large dollar figure. But when you look at the fact that it’s over a 20-year period, it doesn’t seem quite as large. I had mixed emotions about it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/1). Plaintiff Lomas Brown: “Why that amount? Why did we settle now? It seemed like we had a stronghold on this thing. ... It seemed like more and more every day things were coming out against the NFL. And in all my dealings with the NFL owners, the one thing I know is they don’t bow down to anyone. They fight you tooth and nail.” Brown added, "I know that’s a big number, but it’s not a significant amount of money. I’m not downgrading the players who need it, but it’s not life-changing money" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 9/3). Plaintiff Forrest Gregg: "I'm glad to see it happen. It serves a lot of purpose, and the people who really need to be taken care of will be taken care of." Plaintiff Thomas Jones: "Everybody looks at the money -- not the actual issue. There are family members dealing with these players that have problems walking, that don’t even remember their names" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/31). Mike Duerson, the brother of late NFLer Dave Duerson, said, "I don't think there's enough money ... going toward research." He added of the settlement, “You look at the fact that it’s going to be divided up by 4,500 or so players and their families. I personally think that they should have held out for a court action" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/3).
FAMILY MATTERS: In N.Y., Rohan & Belson noted some plaintiffs, like Eleanor Perfetto, the widow of the former NFLer Ralph Wenzel, "were more torn" when reacting to the settlement. She said that she "felt relieved that the suit was ending ... but also disappointed that there would be no admission by the NFL regarding a link between the players’ concussions and their illnesses" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/31). In a special to SI, Mary Ann Easterling, the widow of former NFLer Ray Easterling, wrote settling the lawsuit “was the best outcome.” Easterling: “When we sued the NFL, our goal was to force the league to set up a medical monitoring program for former players.” The “key part” of the agreement “provides clear access to medical care and testing independent of the NFL and its doctors.” Easterling: “Sure, we could have held out for billions, but at what price?” Easterling writes the settlement “means one of the NFL wives I’ve befriended will be able to hire the help she needs on the two days per week she can’t make it to the nursing home to make sure her husband is bathed and groomed.” Easterling: “There is no price I could ever put on my pain, but we can assign dollar signs to the doctors’ visits and brain scans” (SI, 9/9 issue).
CASH GRAB FOR PLAYERS? Former NFLer Eddie George on Friday said that he "thinks the lawsuit might have been more about a cash grab than about finding real solutions for former players who are genuinely suffering." George: "Was the motive from the players’ side finding a real solution to concussions, or is it about receiving the money? Because if you have symptoms as a player, and you’re going through issues, with the post-career, and you’re having issues with concussions, what is the money going to solve? What is $100,000 going to solve for you? Is it going to provide the care, are you going to find solutions to your problems? That’s what kind of bothered me about the whole situation" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 8/30).
NEW SUITS: The AP's Janet McConnaughey reported four former NFLers on Sunday -- Jimmy Williams, Rich Mauti, Jimmy Keyes and Nolan Franz -- "sued the league and its helmet maker" Riddell, claiming the two parties "hid information about the dangers of brain injury." They want "medical care for past, current and future NFL players." The players filed the federal lawsuit in New Orleans. Riddell "isn't part of the proposed settlement." Three wives -- Chandra Williams, Nancy Mauti and Billie Keyes -- "also are plaintiffs." They said that brain injuries "have deprived them and will deprive other NFL spouses of their husbands' 'services, society, and companionship'" (AP, 9/3). Meanwhile, Anapol Schwartz' Weiss, who served as co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the settled case, yesterday said that he "anticipates the complaint of Mauti, Williams, Franz and Keyes will be made part of the settlement" (Baton Rouge ADVOCATE, 9/4). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole also tweeted this morning, "3 former college football players file lawsuit vs NCAA over concussions."
Nearly one year after L.A. officials approved AEG's downtown Farmers Field plan, there has been "rekindled optimism in local political and corporate circles that one or two teams could be playing" in the market when the '14 NFL season begins, according to Scott Reid of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. Those developments "include AEG’s talks with NFL franchises about relocating; a more active role by [AEG Chair] Phil Anschutz in those discussions; favorable exit clauses in stadium leases of four franchises; and the support from key NFL owners" such as the Cowboys' Jerry Jones. AEG Vice Chair and Chief Legal & Development Officer Ted Fikre said of Farmers Field, "This project is ready to go, ready to be built, which differentiates from other sites, including Dodger Stadium." L.A. City Council President Herb Wesson said of having Anschutz involved in talks instead of former AEG CEO Tim Leiweke, "Having Phil involved is ... a game-changer. Now you have a billionaire in the room with other billionaires." However, Reid wrote NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has "long been fascinated by the thought of a stadium on the hill, an NFL venue overlooking downtown Los Angeles and beyond from Chavez Ravine next to Dodger Stadium." L.A. City Council member Tom LaBonge said, "Today the National Football League builds shopping centers around fields and dining halls around fields. I love L.A. Live but it’s putting (Farmers Field) between the back cleat of the left guard and the left tackle. It is very tight down there. I look at Dodger Stadium and there’s a lot of land around it" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 9/1).
CNBC’s “Squawk Box” dedicated a large portion of its three-hour broadcast this morning to the return of the NFL, as guests included Commissioner Roger Goodell, Patriots Owner Robert Kraft and QB Tom Brady, Jets Owner Woody Johnson and Giants Treasurer Jonathan Tisch. Goodell noted he was just in Silicon Valley meeting with tech leaders, something the league does every year in order to "broaden our partnerships." Goodell: "We have great relationships with our current partners that have made NFL football more popular because of the way that they use technology to present our game. What we want to do is continue to look to the future. How can technology help the NFL reach more fans?" Goodell said there are many companies “in the Valley that are doing wonderful things with technology, and our content can play a huge role in that effort.” Goodell: “We heard that loudly from all of the different partners that we met with." CNBC’s Joe Kernen told Goodell to be "careful with that digital" because "everybody has traded analog dollars for digital nickels, and it'd be nice to expand your fan base, but you are made for network TV." Kernen: "It just scares me to think of that you could see any game you want to on some stupid little iPhone or something. Don't do it!" Goodell said the league is "proud of the fact that we continue to be on network television." But he added the NFL has tried to “take technology and complement that." Kraft added, "We don't want to dilute our content. We want to keep it special."
SUNDAY FUN DAY: There were reports last month the NFL talked with Google regarding the Sunday Ticket package. Goodell said, "We want to make sure that that continues to be available to a specific audience … and it will complement our broadcast audience. We're not trying to drive eyeballs away from the broadcast partners, we're trying to use that content in a very isolated fashion to create a premium experience that our fans love. That's why the Sunday Ticket package has been so successful. We have to figure out how to continue that as technology is changing ,and as mobile continues to develop there are new opportunities for us to be able to reach those fans and that's what fans demand."
LIFT AND PLAY: Johnson and Tisch appeared together live via satellite from Tiffany’s in N.Y., where the Lombardi Trophy was on display, and Kernen told Johnson to turn around and grab the trophy. Johnson said, "You can't just grab it. You need gloves. You have to have white gloves now." Tisch told Kernen that "you can't see how many security people from Tiffany's are here guarding the Super Bowl trophy behind us." Kernen, referencing Kraft giving one of his Super Bowl rings to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “gift,” said, "Woody, we've seen Super Bowl rings disappear. I don’t know why you just can't walk off with that trophy." In the background, Kraft could be heard saying, "Touché. That was good." Johnson added, "Ask Bob, he was good at that" (“Squawk Box,” CNBC, 9/4).
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s salary and benefits "climbed to more than" $8M for the '11-12 season, the most recent full season prior to the '12-13 lockout, according to tax documents cited by Christopher Botta of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Bettman received more than $8.3M in "salary and benefits during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012." His "total compensation the previous year" was $7.98M. Bettman’s "base salary" for the '11-12 season was $6,395,521. Payment "defined as other compensation" was $1,816,628. He also received $65,795 in "deferred compensation and $28,800 in benefits." Bettman’s salary has "more than doubled over a period that has seen the league’s total revenue increase" from $2.1B in '03-04 to $3.2B for '11-12. In the lockout-canceled season of '04-05, Bettman made $3.7M. The annual tax filings "cover the NHL’s central business operations and do not include the team-level and other businesses that play a part in totaling projected league revenue each season." On the whole, the league "posted a loss for its business" of $3.6M for '11-12, versus a loss of $14.8M the previous season (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 9/2 issue).NHL EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION DURING '11-12 SEASON
EXEC TITLECOMPENSATION* Gary Bettman Commissioner$8,306,744 Bill Daly Deputy Commissioner$3,263,004 John Collins COO$2,917,751 Colin Campbell Senior Exec VP/Hockey Operations$1,684,698 Craig Harnett CFO$1,230,034 David Zimmerman Exec VP, Chief Legal Officer & General Counsel$833,987 Joseph DeSousa Exec VP/Finance$733,490 David Proper Exec VP/Media Strategies & Distribution$714,302 Michael Murphy Senior VP/Hockey Operations$628,534
NOTES: Figures are for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2012 and come from Form 990, Department of the Treasury and IRS. * = Total includes base compensation, bonuses, other reportable compensation, deferred compensation and nontaxable benefits.
The KHL opens its sixth season today, and the league has "regained its confidence and momentum, moving markedly closer to its goal of creating a competitive, international alternative" to the NHL, according to Steven Lee Myers of the N.Y. TIMES. The KHL "may not yet be a true rival," but the league and its teams "enjoy the lavish patronage of Russia’s industrial giants and the political support" of Russian President Vladimir Putin. With teams also in Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the league has "grown beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union, challenging, at least in part, its reputation as simply a glorified rebranding of the defunct all-Russian Superliga." The KHL’s "most spectacular coup of the summer was luring" Ilya Kovalchuk from the Devils to join SKA Saint Petersburg after playing for them during last season’s NHL lockout. Kovalchuk’s signing "hardly signaled an exodus of NHL players to the KHL, but it demonstrated the league’s increasing attractiveness ... and the deep pockets of at least some of the teams’ owners." KHL President Aleksander Medvedev said, "Our aim is not to make a barrier -- or iron curtain -- between the KHL and the NHL. We would like that players, depending on their circumstances and vision of the world, can play everywhere. It will make hockey better if more North Americans will come to play here, and vice versa" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/4).
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME: In DC, Katie Carrera noted while "no other top-tier Russian players appear ready to walk away from their NHL careers, that doesn’t stop the speculation and the KHL’s attempt to lure players home." Dynamo Moscow General Dir Andrey Safranov last week said that he would "explore the possibility of trying to bring" Capitals LW Alex Ovechkin back to Russia. Safranov said, "Right now all Russian national team players want to come back to their homeland. KHL shows its force and credibility. And finances are important too. Taking taxes in account, playing in Russia has become way more attractive for players." Ovechkin has eight years and $79M remaining on his current contract with the Capitals and there is "no reason to believe he wants to end his NHL career in order to return to Russia and the KHL" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/2).
The European Tour in an effort to "appeal to sponsors" has approved an "'encouragement incentive' for players to commit to at least one native event," according to Alex Miceli of GOLF WEEK. If players do not compete in a native event, the "mandatory minimum number of tournaments for membership jumps from 13 to 15." The move comes "just one year after the tour, fighting an outflow of talent to the U.S., raised the tournament minimum from 12 to 13." European Tour COO Keith Waters called it a “commercial reality” to attract sponsors by retaining top players. Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who is on the 15-man tournament committee that "OK’d the incentive, likely will swap the Memorial Tournament next spring for the Scandinavian Masters." Sweden's Jonas Blixt: "I know they're trying to protect the tour. Hopefully, they'll play it anyway, but it's kind of unfair to the guys to have a tournament in their home country and the guys that don't have one because it doesn't affect them at all." British golfer Lee Westwood: "I didn't see the point in doing it, to be honest. It was making a rule just for the sake of it." Miceli noted for the "numerous South Africans" on both the European and PGA Tour, the "stakes will be doubled." Because South Africa "hosts seven tournaments, they will be asked to play at least two." South African golfer Charl Schwartzel: "I don't get why they want to force a guy to play somewhere. Guys are going to give up their memberships" (GOLFWEEK.com, 9/2).
CONVERSION RATE: In Scotland, Martin Dempster reported a "record number of Americans have entered this season's European Tour Qualifying School." The 86 U.S. players entered is "double last year's total." The decision by more Americans to "turn their attention to Europe in an attempt to get a foot on the ladder is also likely to have been influenced by changes to the PGA Tour Qualifying School." It no longer "offers instant promotion to the money-spinning main circuit, with the developmental Web.com Tour now being the primary path to get a PGA Tour card" (THE SCOTSMAN, 9/4).
MLB Commissioner Bud Selig discussed various MLB issues in a Q&A with Tom Verducci of SI.com. Selig talked about whether he "intends to follow through on retirement this time, about charges of being slow to respond to steroids in baseball and then overreaching when confronted with the Biogenesis scandal, and about how his commissionership should be judged." The following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: Your contract ends after the 2014 season. Can you say with certainty that it will in fact be your final season as commissioner?
Selig: Yes, I can. ... I am convinced -- I think it's Jan. 24, 2015 that is the actual date -- that I will be done. I believe that and I think everybody now understands that I will be done.
Q: Are you aware of any search committee or process that is underway to find a replacement?
Selig: There isn't, but there's time for that. Those things don't really take all that long, and I will set up the right procedures at the right time. There's really no need for that right now.
Q: Your last year-and-half to two years have been especially busy. You added the second wild card, decided on expanded replay and of course the Biogenesis investigation. ... Is there any validity in the charge that you were overreaching in the investigation?
Selig: Not in my opinion. Not in the opinion of anybody around me. No. In fact, I think that's so bizarre I'm not even sure I want to comment. ... I did what I thought was in the best interest of the sport. And for somebody to think that's overreaching, they don't know what the facts are, they don't know what the evidence is, so how would they know? How would they know?
Q: How would you describe your office's relationship with the union these days?
Selig: I think it's okay. Rob [Manfred, MLB Exec VP/Economics & League Affairs] assures me that it is okay and I believe that it is.
Q: Are you happy with competitive balance?
Selig: I'm proud of it. Very proud. ... I think all the economic changes, everything in life that we've done ... so you have Oakland today and Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and St. Louis and on and on ... Yeah, we're doing great.
Q: How would you like people to remember your tenure?
Selig: It's hard for somebody to say about themselves, "Well, this is what I hope people remember." But I would say this to you: if you look at where we were in 1992 in terms of attendance, revenue, popularity, game itself, competitive balance, labor peace, go on and on, I think the last 21, 22 years of baseball have been really remarkably good. But I've got to let others draw those conclusions (SI.com, 9/3).