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SBD/October 24, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today announced that the Cowboys, Dolphins and Lions will take part in the league’s ’14 Int'l Series. Next year’s series includes Cowboys-Jaguars, Lions-Falcons and Dolphins-Raiders. Dates for the games will be set at a later time (NFL). ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones has "wanted to play in London, and it's the most attractive game" on the Jaguars' schedule next year. After this season, in which the Jaguars are 0-7, the NFL wants to match them "with a marquee franchise such as the Cowboys" (ESPN.com, 10/23). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes the league has been “itching to put” the Cowboys in the Int'l Series because they “remain one of the most popular teams in the NFL.” However, most teams “don't want to give up a chance to host the Cowboys, and the guarantee of a big ticket draw” (STAR-TELEGRAM.com, 10/24). Meanwhile, in Detroit, Dave Birkett writes when the Falcons agreed earlier this month to host a ‘14 home game in London, the Lions “seemed like a strong candidate to be their opponent.” Only seven of each team’s home games “are known so far … and the league has never scheduled a division game to be played internationally.” That left the Falcons with “four likely opponents for London” -- the Lions, Bears, Steelers and Browns. The Steelers “played there earlier this year,” while the Bears played the Buccaneers in London in ’11. The Lions, with WR Calvin Johnson, DT Ndamukong Suh, RB Reggie Bush and QB Matthew Stafford, “have more star power than the Browns” (FREEP.com, 10/24). NFL Network’s Steve Wyche said, “I guess they are trying to make it competitive, but if you look at the opponents, these are national." NFL Net’s Jeff Garcia: “Three games next year, how many games the following year? When is the team just going to land in London and we have eight home games actually out there?" (“NFL AM,” NFL Network, 10/24).
TWITTER REAX TO GAMES: The Guardian's Paolo Bandini tweeted, "Lions-Falcons has potential to be a great game, but Dolphins-Raiders might be most exciting to UK fans. Both teams v well supported in UK." S.F.-based KGMZ-FM show host Dan Dibley: "The @NFL announces the #Raiders will play the #Dolphins in London next year. I think it's a great move for the globalization of the #SHIELD." London Independent's Nick Szczepanik: "So Jerry Jones has been persuaded to bring the Dallas Cowboys to London - a coup for Wembley." Miami-based WPLG-ABC anchor Jason Martinez: "Dolphins vs Raiders in London. Blah. The NFL overseas was cool the first year. Pointless ever since. Do we really expect a London NFL team?"
CRAVEN MELON: Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan said that he "had thought about playing a game" at EPL club Fulham's Craven Cottage in the future. SKY SPORTS' Paul Higham noted with the Jaguars scheduled to play a game at London's Wembley stadium each of the next four years, they will "become pretty well known in London." Khan said that an NFL team based in London "is still a long way off and would not put his team's name forward as a possible option." Khan said that he "could envisage staging a Jaguars home game" at Craven Cottage "even if the venue is a lot smaller than the usual NFL home." Khan: "Anything is possible. We're playing here once a year at Wembley, and maybe we end up playing here. That's what I was talking to with our media from Jacksonville, this is like a high school game setting, so personal, so up close, it might be kind of fun" (SKYSPORTS.com, 10/23). Khan added, "This would be the Friday Night Lights of the NFL and it would be so unique, you have people in the U.S. who would want to come here and see an NFL game like they had never seen one before" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 10/24).
PANNING FOR GOLD: In San Jose, Cam Inman notes 49ers DT and London native Lawrence Okoye "played the role of media darling" yesterday in preparations for 49ers-Jaguars Sunday at Wembley, even if he "won’t play a snap this season" due to injury. A '12 London Games discus thrower, Okoye "is an example of how the NFL can grow internationally." Okoye said, "The NFL’s made it clear they want to make this a global sport, and to do that, you need to make it global by getting athletes outside the United States -- i.e. myself -- and obviously by playing outside the United States.” While he is "excited to get back on the field next spring, he’s also encouraged by the NFL’s potential beyond the U.S. borders." Okoye: “All my teammates are excited about coming here. They want to see it grow, too. The British public wants to see it grow. The NFL wants to see it grow. If you have the players, the NFL and the country in unison, that’s a good thing. I really do feel the NFL will become more and more of a global brand as the years go on" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 10/23). ESPN.com's Bill Williamson wrote the 49ers are "embracing this midseason jaunt over the pond," and they "could be considered darlings of the local media." Okoye is a "star attraction despite not playing," while defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, a former NFL Europe coach, is "a downright media star here." Coach Jim Harbaugh and QB Colin Kaepernick also "shined under the spotlight at the first media session" yesterday (ESPN.com, 10/23).
PROBLEM SOLVED? In California, Michael Lev writes it is "no secret that the NFL’s owners would like to mine the London market, where American football has proved to be a popular pastime." A possible plan to increase the brand in London would be to add a "17th game to each team’s schedule and stage said games in London and L.A." Lev: "Obviously, any sort of fundamental alterations to the league’s schedule would require collective bargaining. The owners sought an 18-game schedule. ... You know what would be more tolerable for players than adding two games? Adding one" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 10/24).
A majority of NBA franchises going into the '11 lockout "wanted protections to prevent their superstars from being poached by the rich big-market teams," but now there is a "sense of dread among the small markets that their problems may be worse under the new deal," according to Ian Thomsen of SI. Six teams -- the Nets, Knicks, Heat, Bulls, Lakers and Clippers -- are "on track to pay the luxury tax this season." Five of these franchises "reside in the nation's three largest markets." The Nets and Knicks alone are "paying more in taxes ($122 million) than the combined payrolls of the 76ers and Suns." The one "expensive team that isn't in a major market is the Heat, who could test the repeater tax when it goes into effect next summer." Because the Heat are "on track to pay taxes this year for a third straight season, owner Micky Arison will be confronted with penalties that begin at a rate of $2.50 for every dollar spent above the tax level." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said, "The system is far from perfect from the league's standpoint. It was a compromise in terms of the harsher tax, to get closer to a hard cap than what we had before. But we're going to see how it works in operation." A GM from a non-taxpaying franchise said of the Nets, "The agreement was supposed to be about competitive balance and controlling spending -- and then you have a team that's defecating on the agreement and laughing at it." The GM predicted that the new strategy for "megafranchises like the Nets, Knicks and Lakers will revolve around bursts of contention followed by brief windows of cap space enabling them to 'scoop up everyone's players again'" (SI, 10/28 issue).
PASSING THE BATON? ESPN.com's Henry Abbott noted head injuries in football are "among the most tragic personal stories in sports media," and NBA Commissioner David Stern should take notice because it also is the "biggest sports business story in ages." Basically, the "biggest force in the history or sports business -- the NFL -- has had a kind of 'black swan' event -- a permanent change nobody could have seen coming." All the while, the NBA is "decades into a strategy to nip at the heels of the NFL, in terms of global popularity." Growing the NBA has "been the top duty of Stern, who has often been called the best commissioner in sports -- and who will happily explain why there is every reason to think the NBA's future is sunny, no matter what happens to the NFL" (ESPN.com, 10/23).
Several GMs said that the aversion to NBA teams signing free agent C Jason Collins "isn’t over concern about how his sexuality will play in the locker room, but over the relentless media attention it will generate," according to Ric Bucher of BLEACHER REPORT. One exec said, "If it were just an initial blast and you knew it would settle down after that, it would be one thing. But you know this is something that he and his teammates are going to be asked about everywhere they go, all season long, and all it takes is one guy to say something a little off and it could really blow up." Bucher noted Collins is unsigned "despite the paucity of big men willing to play defense and practice hard without knowing if they’ll get minutes or touch the ball when they do." The exec admitted Collins is "still good enough to play in the league" but added, "When you throw in the ongoing media frenzy, most teams are going to decide it’s just not worth it” (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 10/22). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said the view of GMs "doesn't really surprise me," but noted he was surprised Collins is "not on a team." Kornheiser: "I thought that (NBA Commissioner) David Stern would move heaven and earth to make sure that [Collins] was on a team." He added, "What surprises me about this is that it makes it seem like it's discouraging to come out until your career is over, because he did this and everybody received it well and the NBA was proud of it and now he's not on a squad." ESPN's Michael Wilbon said there is that "historic moment" and then there is the "practicality of playing and running a basketball team, and I'm not surprised at this view being expressed at all." He said of basketball players, "People have individual personalities -- strong ones. They're bigger than the coach and they say what they're going to say. It's an issue" ("PTI," ESPN, 10/23).
WOULD IT BE THAT BIG A DEAL? FS1’s Trevor Pryce said, “If it’s a Miami, where you have LeBron James and you have this really solid ownership group and solid core players, if it’s L.A. or these big metropolitan cities, this is a two-day thing. If it is Cleveland or Milwaukee or any of these small market teams, it will drag on for a while because there’s not much else to talk about." The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Gay said, “Anywhere he goes in the NBA this is, at maximum, a week or two long story." He added, "I also feel the kind of attention it might get is going to be incredibly positive. You're never going to get more good press.” FS1’s Michael Kosta: “GMs and owners are afraid of the unknown, but why look at the negative side when there could be a positive side?” (“Crowd Goes Wild,” FS1, 10/23). CBSSports.com's Bruce Feldman said, "If it was in the NFL or in baseball, I think I’d be more skeptical that people would buy in because I think the NBA is about as tolerant a place in sports, in a locker room, that you're going to get." However, he added the "publicity angle of it, you have to deal with every week, every day, when you get into a new city. He’s the novelty story” (“Rome,” CBSSN, 10/23).
GOOD FOR HIM, BUT NOT WORTH THE HEADACHE: SLATE's William Saletan wrote that line of reasoning is "what we hear every time an athlete challenges a social barrier." Saletan: "The team executives who shy away are good people. They believe in fairness and progress. They just don’t want the headache." He added, "If Collins’ on-court value is being weighed against social factors such as 'media attention,' teammates being 'asked about' him, and the risk that a controversy will 'blow up,' then that’s not just a basketball decision. That’s a decision to duck the perils of breaking a cultural barrier. It’s a decision to let other people’s discomfort with a certain kind of athlete dictate whether that athlete gets a job" (SLATE.com, 10/23).