SBD/November 12, 2013/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith appeared live on ESPN's "Monday Night Countdown" last night to discuss the ongoing Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito situation, and he said the union's mission is to "protect the interests of all players," so it will "insist on a fair investigation and we'll do our best really to improve the professionalism in our locker rooms." ESPN's Stuart Scott asked Smith about his comfort level with hazing in the locker room, to which he answered, "The real goal of our union -- and really for our player leadership -- is to make sure that our players and management is aware of the obligations about creating and maintaining a professional locker room." Smith: "I know that hazing takes place, I know that ribbing takes place. ... But when those things are taken to an extreme where it is either hurtful, where it is non-constructive, the goal of our player leaders and the goal of our union will be to make sure that our locker rooms are professional places to play." Smith noted the "goal would be we should ban anything where there is hateful/hurtful language." He said, "You know our position on the language that was used. There's no place for that in our locker rooms." Scott asked, "Why is behavior that is generally considered unacceptable in most work places allowed ... in the culture of an NFL locker room sometimes?" Smith: "When you look at that word 'culture,' it's one where our player leads and the union have to make sure that we are always striving to be better and whether something is allowed in a locker room that is unprofessional and hurtful, there's no place for it." ESPN's Cris Carter said some people might believe the NFLPA has a "conflict of interest because they are representing Richie and Jonathan, but if any player was wrong, Jonathan or Richie, if any player in the locker room was liable, they're going after them" ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/11).
THINLY VEILED SHOT AT IRELAND: ESPN's Scott during his interview with Smith asked how much he blames the Dolphins' "coaches and management with what's going on down there now." Smith replied, "This investigation obviously has just started. But the union will be looking at whether or not management at the Dolphins either encouraged or allowed a workplace to become unprofessional. Certainly, we know the history of the GM in this case with other issues. Those actions were unacceptable then. If there were actions that were taken or not taken to allow this unprofessional environment to fester, if there were things done to either intimidate another player, those are issues that the union is going to look at" ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/11). In Ft. Lauderdale, Steve Svekis writes the "one made-public incident that Smith was surely referencing came before the 2010 NFL Draft, when it was reported" that Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland had asked WR Dez Bryant "if his mother was a prostitute" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 11/12). CBSSPORTS.com's Will Brinson wrote Smith's interview "makes it clear -- if you somehow didn't know -- that all eyes remain on Miami and that the heat is squarely turned up on Ireland" (CBSSPORTS.com, 11/11).
MORE ON UNION'S STANCE: NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah was the subject of a Q&A with USA TODAY's Tom Pelissero, and when Atallah was asked what role the union had in the appointment of NFL special investigator Ted Wells to look into the situation, he wrote in an e-mail, "It is difficult to call an investigator 'independent' if he is hired by one of the involved parties. We did not have input into the decision to choose the lead investigator, but we will have a strong role in monitoring the full scope of the investigation." Atallah noted no grievances have been filed on behalf of either Martin or Incognito, but noted, "We have been in touch with the agents for the players in connection with potential actions." He said the decision for Incognito to file a grievance if he has a paycheck withheld is "up to Richie and his representatives." Atallah: "If they decide to file a grievance, we have a responsibility to represent him, and we will do so." Meanwhile, Pelissero notes Martin is being repped by David Cornwell, who has been a "vocal critic of NFLPA leadership." Atallah said, "In the important work the union does for players, there is simply no room for responding to personal agendas and petty criticism. We care only about the best possible representation for our players" (USA TODAY, 11/12).
LOCKER ROOM CULTURE HAS TO CHANGE: The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay said there "needs to be some change in sort of the baseline expectation of workplace behavior in the NFL." Gay: "I know that sounds crazy in the locker room environment, but it just needs to change. Behavior is tolerated there that isn’t tolerated in any other kind of workplace” ("Crowd Goes Wild," FS1, 11/11). ESPN's Chris Berman said the NFL has "always regarded itself as leaders in a bigger picture." However, they have to "clean up" the workplace environment and how to proceed "moving forward (because) it is the 21st century." They also need to "be a leader for all workplaces" ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/11). CBSSN’s Allie LaForce said, “There can be investigations into teams and maybe you assign someone who checks in in the locker room here and there. But these are grown men interacting with one another and I don’t think any sort of policy put in place is going to change things” (“Lead Off,” CBSSN, 11/11).
IS ADDITIONAL TRAINING NEEDED? ESPN's Carter said there "needs to be some education" for players coming into the NFL about how to act professionally. Carter said he "never had a real job," as his first job was in the NFL. Carter: "There was no type of on-the-job training. Typically a Fortune 500 company, a Fortune 1000 company, for all the other employees, they have some type of on-the-job training, how you get acclimated to this. So we're taking these kids from college and we expect them to act a certain way. What happens is, a lot of times they adopt some of the culture that's already going on, and now with the money, it seems like they just add a little yeast to some of the stuff that was going on." ESPN's Mike Ditka noted the NFL is "putting some programs together" along those lines ("Monday Night Countdown," ESPN, 11/11).
NHL players in February will compete in the Sochi Olympics but NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday at the Prime Time Sports Management conference in Toronto said that a World Cup of Hockey "would be a better option going forward," according to Kerry Gillespie of the TORONTO STAR. However, Hockey Canada President & CEO Bob Nicholson argued that the "global reach of the Olympics makes it an important part of hockey’s future and the best players should continue to take to the Olympic ice every four years." Nicholson said, "NHL owners are involved in the game because they want to make money and we have to understand that but ... we shouldn’t pick off the Olympics." He added, "We should use the Olympics so we can all benefit, make dollars and promote the game in a lot of different ways." Int'l Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel said that the NHL "needs the Olympics to open up new markets and grow its brand, particularly in Asia." He added that growing the game globally "should be a concern for everyone, including the NHL, at a time when hockey participation among young people is declining in North America." Gillespie notes even though NHLers "love the chance to play for their country, team owners have long argued that they face significant risk and don’t see any real benefit from suspending their season." Fasel said that if the gate revenue from the '10 Vancouver Games, estimated at $150M, was "given to the NHL teams as compensation," it would only amount to $5M a team. Fasel: "What is $5 million for an NHL team? For me, it’s a lot of money, for them it’s zero, nothing, maybe petty cash. Before we speak with owners about the money, we should speak with them about how to promote the game" (TORONTO STAR, 11/12).
DROPPING THE GLOVES: The CP's Stephen Whyno noted NHL GMs today will "discuss potential changes to fighting rules" during their annual meeting. Bettman, referencing a fight instigated by Flyers G Ray Emery, said, "I think the level of dialogue gets sparked by an occasional incident, and an incident of this nature when you look at everything else that is going on in the season was really a small pebble relative to a beach full of sand, which is seeing an incredibly entertaining season. I think sometimes an incident, as rare as it might be, tends to get focused on disproportionately." Bettman called fighting "a 'thermostat' in hockey that helps cool things down when tensions run high." He expects "a 'general discussion' but does not think any rule changes will come about just yet" (CP, 11/11). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont wrote the NHL "bends over backward to retain fighting" because the league "clearly lacks faith in its game's ability to be mainstream." Rather than "just get to the right answer, the NHL dithers away by adding layers of rightness, displaying both a lack of faith in its game's marketability and, most of all, a void in vision and leadership." Fighting is "obviously a safety issue," and is, "without a doubt, a marketing issue." The NHL's main competition -- the NFL, NBA and MLB -- all "survive quite well without it" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/10).
NASCAR driver Travis Pastrana yesterday announced on his Facebook page that he "will leave NASCAR" after Saturday's season-ending Nationwide Series Ford Ecoboost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, according to Jeff Gluck of USA TODAY. He "cited a lack of sponsorship, disappointing results and the long NASCAR schedule as reasons for the decision." Pastrana wrote, "Unfortunately my results were not good enough to get the sponsors I needed to appropriately fund next season. ... I hate to quit and I hate to fail, but sometimes things work out as they should." Gluck writes Pastrana's departure will be a "disappointment for the sport after he arrived with high hopes that the 18-to-24-year-old male demographic would follow the 'Nitro Circus' star to NASCAR" (USA TODAY, 11/12). USA Today's Nate Ryan in a series of tweets this morning noted Roush Fenway Racing President Steve Newmark said that "results mostly drove" Pastrana in his decision to leave the sport. Newmark said, "I don't view it as he failed. We view it as he had the talent, it was just a timing issue." He added that RFR believes Pastrana "could have become competitive in #nascar but just needed more time." Newmark added that Pastrana was "frustrated by rough late stretch and his struggle to maximize results as he did in other series" (TWITTER.com, 11/12).
CIRCUS ACT: Nitro Circus yesterday merged into one entity its two main businesses: the Nitro Circus Live touring company and Godfrey Entertainment, which owns the intellectual property of the action sports franchise. The transaction was facilitated by an investment from The Raine Group (Nitro Circus). In N.Y., David Gelles reported The Raine Group investment is valued at about $25M. Nitro Circus with a "unified team and a new infusion of capital ... hopes to extend its reach around the globe." The company is "planning a permanent live show in a still unknown site in Las Vegas, and another permanent live show in Macau" (NYTIMES.com, 11/10).
NBA Commissioner David Stern, who is retiring in February, yesterday said of his 30-year tenure, "I think it's fair that you look at the body of work, rather than one thing." Appearing on CBS Sports Radio's "The John Feinstein Show," Stern added, "For reasons that are not personal to me, but are because of various developments in our industry, I can tell you when I joined the NBA in 1978 ... the revenues for those teams closing their books ... was $78 million all in. And this year they'll be five and a half billion." Stern said of the league's progress changing perceptions and overcoming stereotypes, "Our players in the early 80s were supposedly too black, earned too much money with their $250,000 salary and were clearly thought to be the only people in the world that ever used drugs. Of course that turned out not to be true." Stern said of the toughest crisis he faced as commissioner, "The brawl that involved the Pistons and the Pacers provided the opportunity for much of the media in the course of that weekend to use the words 'thugs' and 'punks' with respect to all of our players which to me is freighted with respect to what they're really saying and brought up visions of the way the media treated us a decade or more earlier." Asked if he was implying the media was racist in handling the incident, Stern said, "Yeah, mildly." Stern, on what he would say to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell regarding the Redskins' name controversy: "I'm not going to give him any advice on that one. That's too freighted as well. But I've been quoted as well as saying that an expansion team I'm sure would not get that name today. And so that's where I'll leave it and let Dan Snyder and Roger Goodell work that out themselves" ("The John Feinstein Show," CBS Sports Radio, 11/11).