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SBD/February 17, 2014/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
The findings of Ted Wells' investigation into alleged abuse in the Dolphins' locker room were issued Friday, and the life of players was "depicted in extraordinary and often unseemly detail, evoking 'Lord of the Flies' more than the highlight reels that saturate autumn Sundays," according to a front-page piece by Ben Shpigel of the N.Y. TIMES. The piece, which ran under the header, "A Classic Case Of Bullying Seen In An NFL Team," was 1,560 words long (N.Y. TIMES, 2/15). Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross issued a statement saying, "I told Ted Wells personally during my visit with him that we are committed to addressing the issues outlined in this report. We must work together towards a culture of civility and mutual respect for one another. ... We are committed to a positive workplace environment where everyone treats each other with respect" (Dolphins).
ACTION TO FOLLOW: In Miami, Greg Cote wrote repercussions "likely will follow in the form of punishments levied by the club or the NFL," and lawsuits "might yet be filed related to a workplace environment fraught with harassment and taunting." Offensive line coach Jim Turner, who was identified as a key figure in the case, "must be fired." Cote: "Just terrible, all of it. Over-the-top and inexcusable. ... The NFL will formulate an official new code of conduct arising from this, but isn’t it sad there need to be written rules for not harassing a teammate? For treating others with basic respect?" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/15). ESPN.com's James Walker wrote, "What we didn’t know was the degree of oversight -- or the lack thereof -- within the Dolphins' organization." The Dolphins as a franchise "deserve just as much criticism as the players involved in this scandal" (ESPN.com, 2/14). THE BIG LEAD's Jason Lisk wrote under the header, "Ted Wells Report Goes Curiously Easy On Joe Philbin, Jim Turner, And Other Dolphins Coaches" (THEBIGLEAD.com, 2/14). In Miami, Armando Salguero wrote under the header, "Wells Report Shows Jim Turner Will Be Fall Guy, But Makes Clear Miami Dolphins Job Is Too Big For Joe Philbin" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/15). In Orlando, Chris Perkins wrote the report "heaped praise" on Philbin. The report said Philbin promoted "integrity and accountability" in the organization (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/16). But in Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes the report is "144 graphic pages of how far a once-proud franchise has fallen" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/17). Meanwhile, Kenny Zuckerman, the agent for Dolphins OT Jonathan Martin, said that the "Martin camp will be meeting with Dolphins officials at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis next week." Zuckerman said, "We're going to meet with the Dolphins at the Combine and see what their plans are. Right now they have his property, they have his rights" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 2/15).
TIME FOR CHANGE? THE MMQB's Peter King cites sources as saying that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the past 60 days has "met with more than 30 players, asking them how to make the locker room a more tolerant, more professional place." When the NFL "adopts a locker-room and meeting-room behavior policy, it’s going to be for adults." King offers his takeaways from Wells' "thorough job" and adds, "Goodell can't let this moment get away" (MMQB.SI.com, 2/17). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell wrote Martin's case "should be hailed as a game-changer affecting the NFL's cultural landscape" (USATODAY.com, 2/15). In L.A., Sam Farmer wrote Wells' report provides an "unflattering snapshot of a locker room culture where off-color remarks about sexual preference and race are commonplace." It is "unclear what the NFL will do next, but sensitivity training is likely to be a point of emphasis at the league's annual rookie symposium, which is mandatory for every incoming draft class." Stanford law professor William Gould, a former NLRB Chair, said that the NFL is "facing an image crisis over its handling of concussions and health issues," the controversy surrounding the Redskins nickname and the "coarse culture of locker rooms." Gould said, "All of these things suggest that the game is insufficiently sensitive to both civility, good manners and fair treatment. This is something that's going to become increasingly important" (L.A. TIMES, 2/15). In DC, Kent Babb wrote the "culture of intolerance" found in the Dolphins' locker room is "precisely the kind of image the league has been trying to put in its past" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/15).
GOODELL'S CHANCE: SPORTS ON EARTH's Tomas Rios wrote the report is a "damning document." This is Goodell's "opportunity to do right by Martin's bravery." The "most Goodell can do now is make sure the change actually happens" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 2/14). SI.com's Michael Rosenberg wrote under the header, "Goodell Needs To Send Message And Eliminate Culture Of Harassment" (SI.com, 2/14). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote the NFL "needs to stand up for Jonathan Martin and more important, the next Jonathan Martin" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/15). In Chicago, David Haugh wrote, "Character now threatens to make a comeback in the NFL. One can hope. A violent game on Sundays need not be vile the rest of the week" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/16). In Illinois, Barry Rozner wrote the report is the "advent of forward thinking for a league that's been culturally stuck in a different millennium" (Illinois DAILY HERALD, 2/16). In Miami, Fred Grimm wrote, "The brand has been damaged. Something must be done. Tough new workplace rules are surely coming. And soon" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/16). In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan wrote under the header, "Exposing Bullies Could Change NFL For The Better" (Bergen RECORD, 2/15). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote the NFL's growth "mandates more formal boundaries for workplace behavior" (ESPN.com, 2/14). In Chicago, Rick Telander wrote it is time the NFL "stopped tolerating" bullying (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/15).
THE NEXT STEP: YAHOO SPORTS' Eric Adelson wrote the NFL "must be made safe for work." Goodell "needs to strongly convey that the NFL is a workplace of employees" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/15). In Ft. Worth, Gil LeBreton wrote Goodell is "all about messages, and there’s a profound one to deliver" in this case. The "juvenile culture inside of NFL locker rooms must change" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/16). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote, "Look for the league to quickly focus on these big-picture realities, finding a way to craft new policies, to teach them to players, and to hold them responsible for complying" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 2/14). In N.Y., William Rhoden wrote if Goodell is the "law-and-order sheriff he claims to be, Incognito’s career should be over, or at the very least, he should be suspended for a season" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/16). Rhoden said of Incognito, "This guy should never play another down of football in the National Football League. If Goodell does anything short of that, it probably invalidates almost everything he's said and done about being the sheriff in the NFL behavior" ("CBS This Morning Saturday," CBS, 2/15). Meanwhile, ESPN's Pablo Torre said Ross "has to clean house," and anybody who was "involved in the executive structure that allowed this to fester and rot should probably be out of a job." Columnist Kevin Blackistone said he felt "sorry" for NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith because he is "probably going to have to find some way to defend Incognito's right to continue his labor as a professional football player, and I just don't see how that's going to be possible" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/14)
HOW WILL SPONSORS REACT? In N.Y., Juliet Macur wrote under the header, "NFL Sponsors Need To Act." The "best way to effect real change would be for the league’s corporate sponsors to take a stand." Companies like Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch and Visa "hold the only lever that really matters -- the purse strings." The sponsors, "more than two dozen of them, should recognize that they are promoting a workplace in the NFL that instills fear in some of its employees, while mortifying others." Macur: "Does any CEO whose company already pours money into the league want to change the league for the better?" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/15).
The NFL paid Commissioner Roger Goodell $44.2M in the 12-month period that ended March 31, 2013. That figure includes $9.1M of deferred pension and bonus earned the previous year. The league expects to file its tax return, which will include the pay figures, with the IRS tomorrow. That return will show Goodell earned a $3.5M salary and a $40.36M bonus, though $5M of the bonus was earned the prior year. Prior to the '11 labor deal, Goodell’s top pay was $11.5M. The league stressed that $9.1M of Goodell’s pay came from deferred bonus and pension from the ‘11 lockout period and that his true pay is around $35M. “Goodell’s compensation reflects our pay-for-performance philosophy and is appropriate given the fact that the NFL under his consistently strong leadership continues to grow,” NFL owners Arthur Blank, Robert Kraft and Jerry Richardson wrote in a letter to their fellow owners. The three comprise the league’s compensation committee.
TOP OF THE HEAP: The pay almost assuredly makes Goodell the highest-paid sports exec. MLB in recent years changed its tax status to for-profit, so it no longer is required to make public its return, but when Commissioner Bud Selig signed his latest two-year contract in ‘12, ESPN reported the final year would pay him $22M, though other sources placed the figure north of that in the $30M range. “Bud Selig has historically been the highest-paid commissioner,” said SportsCorp President Marc Ganis, a consultant with strong ties to both leagues. “These numbers put Roger and Bud in the same league. A number of NFL owners feel Roger should be the highest-paid commissioner based on performance.” Among other leagues, the NBA has never publicly disclosed exec compensation, and with Adam Silver now at the helm, it is unlikely a new commissioner would make more than a long-standing commissioner in a richer sport. The NHL paid Gary Bettman $8.3M in the FY ended June 30, 2012, according its most recently available tax return. “Based on performance and success, it is logical to pay our commissioner competitively relative to other commissioners,” Kraft, Richardson and Blank wrote. The compensation information sent to owners on Friday showed outgoing NFL Network President & CEO Steve Bornstein with pay of $26M for the year-ended March 31, 2013. The trio of owners also wrote in the letter that Bornstein's pay includes “a one-time final contractual payment” of $19.6M related to the long-term appreciation in value of the NFL Network. Bornstein is scheduled to leave the NFL this spring (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer).
THE TAX-EXEMPT ISSUE: In N.Y., Ken Belson wrote Goodell's pay "exceeds the amount paid at far larger businesses and highlights the tax-exempt status that the league’s head office -- though not its teams -- has had for decades." NFL outside counsel Jeremy Spector in November wrote that the NFL "paid taxes on every dollar of income it earned." Spector: "Claims that the NFL is using a tax exemption to avoid paying the tax due on these revenues are simply misinformed. The confusion arises from the fact that there is one small part of the NFL, unrelated to all this business activity, that is tax-exempt: the NFL league office.” He wrote that the league office "acts no differently than a trade association that promotes its member companies, and has never claimed to be a charity" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/15). The issue hit Twitter on Friday after the story broke, with the N.Y. Times' Tom Jolly tweeting, "Nice paycheck for a guy who runs a nonprofit." NFL Senior VP/Communications Greg Aiello responded to Jolly, tweeting, "All NFL revenue goes to the teams, who pay the tax. The teams (owners) pay the commissioner. All NFL revenue is subject to tax" (THE DAILY). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted taxes "are indeed paid" by the NFL, and the league "felt compelled to point this out on Friday" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 2/14).
FURTHER DETAILS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Kevin Clark noted NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash netted $7.8M in the same pay period, while league Exec VP/Business Ventures Eric Grubman made $4.2M. Meanwhile, NFL Ventures, the league's for-profit arm, "shot up in profitability" to $3B in '13 (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/15). Ganis said NFL owners decided that Goodell's performance was "worth a little more" than $1M for each of the teams -- "a very rational decision based on the extraordinary results Goodell has delivered for them" (AP, 2/14). PFT's Florio: "Ultimately, anyone is worth precisely what someone else will pay them." Goodell earned his salary "because that's what the 32 teams are willing to pay him to preside over the sport." Florio: "Considering the billions that are being generated on his watch, it’s hard to fault them for it" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 2/14). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert noted Goodell's average salary over the past two years is $36.5M, which is "more than triple the highest annual total he received in any year" before the NFL's '11 lockout. This "should tell you how pleased team owners are, both with Goodell's performance, and by the new leverage he delivered them in the CBA" (ESPN.com, 2/14).
TWITTER REAX: Panthers TE Greg Olsen tweeted, "Don't understand why everyone is surprised to learn Goodell earnings? He's made the owners and league big money. That's his job= BIG $$." But Octagon Hockey Dir Allan Walsh added, "Thinking of all the permanently disabled fmr NFL players+sham $760M concussion lawsuit settlement while NFL pays Goodell $44.2M annually." Forbes.com's Darren Heitner: "Why so many ppl up-in-arms about Roger Goodell making $44M? It's the fruits of a capitalist society."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave his first news conference during All-Star Weekend, and "kept his focus on the game but hinted at some changes to the business" of the league, according to Brian Mahoney of the AP. From the "look of the draft to the look of the uniforms, Silver touched on a number of topics," standing at a podium on Saturday "instead of sitting at a table." Silver: "This is a fabulous league that has its best years still ahead of it." Among his ways to improve the league include the "length of the season." Silver "likes the current 82 games, but will look at the idea of longer break at midseason." He added of adidas' sleeved jerseys, "From a fan standpoint, the greatest indicator is how are they selling, and I'll say we're having trouble keeping them in stores." Silver also said the league is "not close at the moment" on jersey ads but he believes "ultimately it will happen in the NBA" (AP, 2/15). Silver said that he plans to "revisit implementing a 20-year-old minimum age requirement to improve the quality of basketball in the NBA and in college." Silver: “It is my belief that if players have an opportunity to mature as players and as people for a longer amount of time before they come into the league, it will lead to a better league" (L.A. TIMES, 2/16). Silver also addressed the idea of teams tanking to improve draft position and said, "There's absolutely no evidence that any team in the NBA has ever lost a single game, or certainly in any time that I've been in the league, on purpose. ... I think what we're seeing in the league right now is there's no question that several teams are building towards the future. And I think their fans understand that as well. If there was any indication whatsoever that players or coaches somehow were not doing their absolute most to win a game, we would be all over that. But I don't believe for a second that's what's going on" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 2/16).
PERSONAL TOUCH: CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger wrote Silver added a "personal touch" to the news conference. Silver "spoke from the heart about how he grew up with the game, and how it helped him bond with his father after his parents were divorced." He spoke about "being a student at Duke, and having his relationship with basketball grow from there." When asked what innovations he plans to bring to the league, Silver "mentioned two key words: technology and transparency." Silver: "Transparency in how decisions are made at the league office, transparency in how we deal with our players and the players' association. That's one of my guiding principles coming in." Asked about int'l expansion, Silver said, "It's not on the top of my list right now, and I tell you that goes for domestic expansion as well -- largely because I want to ensure that we have a healthy 30-team league. As powerful as the gains were that we made in the last collective bargaining agreement, we still don't have a league that has 30 teams that are financially viable" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/15). Silver added of the sleeved jerseys, "I happen to like them. ... The idea behind them was that presuming there was a large segment of our fan base, especially older males like myself, who weren’t going to be comfortable wearing tank‑top jerseys but would feel comfortable wearing a sleeved jersey to work out or play basketball in" (SI.com, 2/16).
NEED FOR SPEED: BLEACHER REPORT's Howard Beck cited sources as saying that Silver's priorities "include speeding up the game and improving officiating." He also is "particularly focused on streamlining the final minutes, which too often become a grinding series of fouls and timeouts." Another possibility is "cutting overtime periods to two or three minutes from the current five." Meanwhile, a team exec said Silver “cares about our jobs in a way that David Stern didn’t. He actually cares that, if they make a rule change here, it’s going to make people’s lives miserable there.” The exec said if Silver makes a change, “He’ll also explain why he’s doing it. David had his reasons; he never felt we were worth his time to tell us" (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 2/14). In Chicago, Mark Potash writes Silver's "mandate as David Stern’s successor is pretty clear: Just don’t screw it up." Silver said, "My priority right now is the game ... from the youth level through college to the pros" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 2/17).
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND: Silver said that next year's All-Star Weekend in N.Y. "likely won’t have the traditional Jam Session for fans." He added that the league "intends to holds clinics for students at schools in all five boroughs leading up to the weekend." In N.Y., Frank Isola noted Silver also called the NBPA's lack of a full-time Exec Dir a "'hindrance to a certain extent' in trying to settle several 'B-list' issues that were parked as the two sides hammered out the current" CBA in '11. Among the issues Silver "wants to take up with the new union head is the league’s desire to have the minimum age for players raised from 19 to 20." He also said that the league was "considering a change in its replay system wherein a command center would handle all replays, similar to the NHL" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/16). Silver: "Several members of the Knicks and Nets are in town studying everything that they're doing here in New Orleans. One of the ideas we have talked about, and it's consistent with a focus on the game, is to expand the All-Star experience to all five boroughs through programs for kids, a series of clinics throughout the New York area. As opposed to one focused Jam Session, taking the game to the schools and having a program involving coaches and kids leading up to All-Star Weekend, that's one of my primary focuses" (NEWSDAY, 2/16).
OPEN TO IDEAS: Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban said of Silver, “I think Adam’s more consensus right now and learning, so he’s wide open to suggestions. You know me and the referees, I think in the past David’s attitude was, ‘One team wins, one team loses, doesn’t matter how they get there.’ And he doesn’t care. Adam recognizes if fans don’t perceive the officiating as being transparent or fair, then some fans turn off to the game, and I think it will have a positive impact when he starts increasing the transparency" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/16). SI.com's Ian Thomsen wrote Silver on Saturday introduced himself to a "global fan base that had grown used to their commissioner of the previous 30 years, for better and for worse." He "presented himself and his views with the energy of a fresh perspective, as if he were seeing the game and its league for the first time and taking none of its strengths and ideals for granted." His perspective "may be surprising, because he is new, and also because his constituency of owners and players is expecting him to show more respect than they claimed to receive from Stern as he and they grew accustomed to each other over the decades." Silver is going to be "under pressure to grow the league commercially without expansion ... and especially without doing harm to the game." This was the "main point that he was seeking to make, and by making it he held himself to the highest standard: That he shall make money without doing harm" (SI.com, 2/15).
STAYING THE COURSE: In Toronto, Mike Ganter wrote Silver's address was "equal parts plans for the future and to stay the course" (TORONTO SUN, 2/16). TRUE HOOP's Henry Abbott wrote, "A couple of weeks into the Silver Age ... what's emerging is that there's a lot more to the new commissioner than the mere fact that he's not the old commissioner." The early "evidence is that he'll be making his mark profoundly and quickly." There is "almost no chance the NBA will look in five years like it does now" (ESPN.com, 2/15). SPORTS ON EARTH's Shaun Powell wrote Silver "in many ways is a Stern clone, with the exception being Silver appears less egotistical and confrontational." When it is "all quiet on the NBA front, the commissioner is invisible, and that’s the appropriate word to describe Silver right now" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 2/16).
CHRISTMAS PRESENT? Silver appeared on TNT's "NBA Tip-Off" prior to last night's All-Star Game, and responded to a question from the net's Charles Barkley about possibly moving the start of the season to Christmas Day. Silver said, "I'm not sure if we could go that far before starting. ... But we've looked at it and looked at it with your bosses at Turner about what's the optimal time to play the schedule. So we'll continue to look at it. It may not be, for national television, the best property in November and December, but in terms of local television, in terms of attendance in the arena, we're still very popular." Silver added of changing the minimum age requirements for players, "I think it is in the interest of the current players. I've never quite understood why they don't think it is in their interest. It's a zero-sum game. For every young player coming in, obviously another player goes out. ... I also think it would help the college game. And a better college game is going to be a better NBA game" ("NBA Tip-Off," TNT, 2/16).
LOOKING BACK ONE MORE TIME: In S.F., Bruce Jenkins bid farewell to the Stern era under the header, "The Error And Terror Of David Stern's Reign" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/16).
SAG-AFTRA Exec Dir David White has "emerged as the frontrunner to replace" former NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter, according to sources cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of YAHOO SPORTS. Sources said that NBPA President Chris Paul and the Exec Committee have "interviewed White about the position" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger reported the Exec Committee "met for 2 1/2 hours on Saturday to interview finalists for the job of replacing Hunter." The meeting was "attended by about 30 players," less than 10% of the union membership. Sources said that there "essentially are two leading candidates," with White "being the strong front runner." The other finalist is Skadden Arps trial attorney Michele Roberts, who if selected would be the "first woman to lead the union in any of the four major North American sports leagues." The NBPA "recorded the sessions with the two finalists and their interactions with committee members and other players in the room." The videos "will be burned on DVDs and delivered to all 30 player reps." Certain "powerful" player agents have been "frustrated with the search," overseen since September by Chicago-based exec search firm Riley Partners. Heat F and NBPA Secretary-Treasurer James Jones said that the firm has "considered more than 200 candidates." Multiple agents said that they "have candidates in mind who have not been considered." A source said that at least one player on the periphery of the search "believes the search should be started over and a new list of candidates should be developed, to be voted on at the NBPA's summer meeting -- when players are not in the middle of a season" (CBSSPORTS.com, 2/15).
A WHITER SHADE OF PALE: In L.A., Richard Verrier noted the NBPA is "said to be interested in White in part because of his success in bringing stability" to the SAG after the '09 firing of his predecessor Doug Allen, who formerly served as NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir. White's departure "would be a blow" to the SAG (L.A. TIMES, 2/15).