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April 2, 2015 10:09 AM
We asked each of the 40:
If you could build your ultimate tailgate, who would be in that dream group of people at the tailgate with you?
Michael Allen: We would need representation from each of my favorite childhood teams: Drazen Petrovic (Nets), Don Mattingly (Yankees), Bill Parcells (N.Y. Giants) and Larry Johnson (UNLV), and I would throw in Larry David for comic relief.
Chris Allphin: My first instinct was to name some of my sports idols: Steve Young, Terry Steinbach, Joe Thornton, etc. But upon consideration, we’re talking about a tailgate party. I think having fun trumps being starstruck, so I’d probably take five or six of my best friends from high school. We all still keep in touch, and we’re guaranteed a good time. Maybe add Matt Leinart just to be safe.
Renie Anderson: I would combine all my best friends from growing up in Kentucky and those I now have as an adult along with my family. They are all hilarious and would hit it off. It would be a tailgate full of shenanigans and belly-aching laughter. Kentucky meets NYC: It would be perfect.
Lyle Ayes: The cast of “Entourage,” Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, and probably Terrell Owens and Donovan McNabb for kicks.
Nick Baker: My family, of course; buddies from Denver; ASU crew; and a collection of characters from Muhammad Ali, Abraham Lincoln, John Elway, Alan and Baby Carlos from “The Hangover” movie, Warren Buffett — and maybe a doctor for safety purposes.
Tom Brady: Making the assumption that they would all be sports fans (and that I can span decades), I’d want to learn, debate and have fun. Here it goes: Jim Brown, Tom Colicchio, Lewis & Clark, Bono & The Edge, Queen Elizabeth, Tina Fey, Spike Lee, Vince Lombardi, Joe Namath, George Patton, Teddy Roosevelt, and my mother — because she always did a brilliant job getting everyone talking at parties.
Sashi Brown: Jim Brown, Gregg Popovich, Bill Walsh, Bill Russell and Michael Jordan.
Nicholas Carey: My father, Arnold Palmer, Will Ferrell and a few buddies.
Justin Connolly: A mix of friends from high school, college and graduate school.
Juan Delgado: I’m not really into celebrities — I think they’d be uncomfortable, as would I — so, my best buddies from college, and two of my current colleagues, Rich Routman and Oliver Slipper.
Ray DeWeese: My wife, Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and my staff.
Jennifer Duberstein: My CAA Sports colleagues.
Janet Duch: Current family and friends.
Rosalyn Durant: George Rogers, Darius Rucker and other passionate Gamecock fans.
Colin Faulkner: Rob Manfred, Roger Goodell, Adam Silver, Gary Bettman and Don Garber.
Tom Griffiths: My high school buddies, girlfriend, LeBron, Shaq, Peyton Manning, Michael Strahan, Dave Grohl, Tony Robbins and Will Ferrell.
Eric Guthoff: The GlideSlope team, along with my family and friends.
Flavil Hampsten: I’d have a few of my favorite athletes/artists/actors and some of my good friends. A cross-section of this would be: LeBron James, Jimmy Fallon, Vince Vaughn, Hulk Hogan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jay-Z and Kate Upton.
Seth Jacobs: Some core friends, Jalen Rose, Bill Simmons, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Eddie Vedder, and maybe a few others.
Dave Kaval: My family, close friends — and Charles Barkley.
Chris Klein: My family.
AJ Maestas: My family. I don’t get to see them often given the distance and pain of getting to Alaska. My brothers in particular are fun, funny and love football; one even played at UW. This would obviously take place at Husky Stadium or the Rose Bowl.
Paraag Marathe: My family and friends; people I care about.
Chris Marinak: Steve Jobs, Mark Cuban and Warren Buffett.
Stephen McArdle: David Chang for the food and drinks; a Southern rock cover band for the music; my UVA tailgating buddies so we can forget for a day that we’re almost 40; and my wife and sons so I can start the UVA brainwashing early.
Scott Milleisen: Bono, Stephen Colbert, Peyton Manning and my wife — who adores Bono, Stephen Colbert and Peyton Manning.
Dan Reed: Muhammad Ali, Barack Obama, Bill Simmons, Dave Chappelle and Harvey Reed (my dad).
Jason Robins: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Vince Lombardi, Babe Ruth, Gordie Howe, Wilt Chamberlain, Sandy Koufax, Carlos Slim, Jonathan Kraft, and my best friends and family.
Frank Saviano: The 1986 New York Mets, the original “SNL” cast, and my friends; should be guaranteed entertainment.
André Schunk: My wife, Sarah; Jerry Seinfeld; Jon Stewart; Dirk Nowitzki; Roger Federer; Pelé; Bo Jackson; and Michelle Obama
Chad Seigler: My wife, Kelly; George W. Bush; Jimmy Buffett; Dale Earnhardt Jr.; and Blake Shelton.
Dan Shell: Definitely my siblings and their families, since we aren’t all together often. From there, probably just some of my close friends and the mentors I have been lucky to have in my career. Then just throw in Clayton Kershaw maybe.
Brad Sims: The best party I’ve ever been to, by far, was my wedding. I would invite everyone who was at my wedding to this tailgate and try to recreate that day, which was the best day of my life. My friends and family are extremely important to me, and if I could only choose one group to be with, that would be it.
Jared Smith: Harry Carey (I’m a lifelong Cubs fan), Michael Jordan, Arnold Palmer, Stephen Hawking, Hayden Fry and Eddie Vedder.
Teri Patterson Smith: My husband, my parents, my brother and Oprah Winfrey.
Meredith Starkey: Friends, family and Clemson University football legends.
Mike Tomon: Family, college roommates, Plato, Dan and Margaret Duckhorn, Sugar Ray Leonard, John Coltrane, any member of the Navy Seals, Black Crowes, Kobayashi, Coach Chuck Kyle, and Jay-Z.
Danny Townsend: My wife and two daughters. They never come to sporting events with me, so if I could get them to the tailgate, it would be a treat!
Jennifer van Dijk: The five girls from Mount Holyoke that I didn’t miss a minute with in college and who have now spread all across the country.
Nicole Jeter West: Family and close friends.
April 1, 2015 03:36 PM
ESPN’s Jason Whitlock said of the Indiana religious freedom law, “You hear that silence? That’s silence from current athletes all over the country who have said nothing about this” (“PTI,” ESPN, 3/31). ESPN’s Howard Bryant said, “The entire country is hitting a critical mass on these issues and when you look at sports leagues especially … that I don’t think they’re going to be able to stand on the sidelines, especially when their players aren’t standing on the sidelines” (“Olbermann,” ESPN2, 3/31). CSNBAYAREA.com’s Ray Ratto said of the law’s impact on sports leagues, “This creates a public relations problem for them that I think they had already thought they had put behind them” (“Yahoo Sports Talk Live,” CSN Bay Area, 3/31).
FLIGHT PATTERN: PFT’s Mike Florio, on Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff’s role in the team’s front office: “Dimitroff still has some authority, but not nearly what he used to have. Now it’s going to be about building consensus, getting everyone on the same page and trying to keep it all together from a big picture standpoint” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 3/31).
PUNCH DRUNK: MLB Network’s Kevin Millar said of fans being able to buy hard alcohol at Citizens Bank Park, “They’re an angry scene already and now you’re going to add alcohol? I used to go into the Vet and they led the league in fights. … I don’t know if this is a great idea” (“Intentional Talk,” MLB Network, 3/31).KRAFT WORKS: PFT’s Florio, on Patriots Owner Robert Kraft testifying at the trial of former NFLer Aaron Hernandez: “On a day when we saw wall to wall network coverage on ESPN and NFL Network of the Jameis Winston throw-the-football in t-shirt and shorts pro-day workout, the testimony of an NFL owner in a murder trial was largely ignored” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 3/31). ESPN’s Whitlock: “I feel bad for Bob Kraft. Who thought being an owner would put you in the middle of a murder trial?” (“PTI,” ESPN, 3/31).
RUSH HOUR: ESPN’s J.A. Adande said of Knicks President Phil Jackson having a plan in place to improve the last-place Knicks, “Well that makes me run out and want to buy the most expensive ticket prices in the NBA” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 3/31). ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said of the video Jackson sent to season-ticket holders asking for their support, “It’s ridiculous, absolutely asinine. Nobody in New York should buy anything (from) the New York Knicks right now” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 3/31).
MONEY MEN: FS1’s Petros Papadakis said of MLB salaries averaging more than $4M in ‘15, “God bless America and that great baseball union that’s so old” (“Fox Sports Live Countdown,” FS1, 3/31).
April 1, 2015 09:43 AM
We asked each of the 40:
What advice would you give to students who are hoping to work in the sports industry?
Here are their responses.
Chris Allphin: Networking for the sake of networking is transparent and annoying. Make real, genuine connections to people by asking them questions, caring about their responses, and following up regularly — all while not expecting anything in return.
Renie Anderson: Find something you are passionate about and become an expert in that craft. You can apply that expertise to any industry; added bonus if it is sports.
Lyle Ayes: Make sure you have a true passion for the “business” of sports and not simply playing/watching sports. Very few of us are going to be the point guard of the Knicks or the quarterback of the Giants.
Nick Baker: Find a way to get your foot in the door but make certain it is the door you want to enter, and then take full advantage of all learning experiences, good and bad, and become indispensable. Focus on opportunity and learning more than money and title while finding great mentors.
Tom Brady: Never say in an interview, “I want to work here because I really love sports.” Yeah, you and millions of others like you. Have a point of view, truly do your homework on every bit of the company that interests you, and explain how your story/experience provides a unique point of view to the company.
Sashi Brown: Don’t go to law school if you want to work in sports; not enough jobs. You’re overqualified and probably over indebted.
Nicholas Carey: Get your foot in the door somewhere. That’s the most important thing. From there, just be creative, listen to smart people, and work like hell.
Justin Connolly: Take any job available, prove yourself, and then build a path to where you want to be.
Juan Delgado: Make up your mind and focus on either being a seller, buyer or content producer — the only three jobs in this industry.
Ray DeWeese: Your first couple of jobs will be for low pay and a lot of hours. You will do all of the jobs that no one else wants to do, but you will learn how the business works. Volunteer for more hours and build your network. You will look back on it, if you stay through the weeding-out years, and think of that time as some of the best you had.
Jennifer Duberstein: Be confident. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.
Janet Duch: Work with people you like, in a field you are passionate about, and volunteer for projects above your job responsibilities.
Rosalyn Durant: Apply at ESPN (if they’re great)!
Colin Faulkner: Get your foot in the door by being willing to work a lot for not very much.
Tom Griffiths: Differentiate yourself by showing entrepreneurial initiative from an early age; start something by identifying a problem, create a smart solution, then find customers to validate it. Once you have that differentiation, don’t be shy in reaching out to execs or company founders to tell them about it and that you want an internship. They’ll listen if you’ve proven yourself as different.
Eric Guthoff: Find the ways that you are unique and communicate them.
Flavil Hampsten: Get as many internships as you can and make sure that at least one is in ticket sales.
Seth Jacobs: Be hungry, be aggressive and build your network.
Dave Kaval: Follow your passion.
Chris Klein: Work in a sport that you have a passion for.
AJ Maestas: Spend 40 percent of your time networking; 40 percent of your time doing internships; and 20 percent in the classroom.
Paraag Marathe: Don’t just ask for a job or an internship. Solve a specific problem that clubs are dealing with, and then reach out to folks in the industry by showing them your solution.
Chris Marinak: Develop a unique skill or set of experiences that separates you from the pack.
Stephen McArdle: Be creative and open to different paths into sports. The range of industries intersecting with sports — be it media, technology, sponsorship, finance, advertising or legal — is expanding every day. Narrowing a job search to only team or league positions unnecessarily closes a lot of doors leading to this industry.
Scott Milleisen: Focus on creating a skill set and network — which will prepare you to be a leader in your respective field or profession, whether it is marketing, finance, law or media. And then, find a way to marry those skills with your passion for sports.
Dan Reed: Understand that it is an industry and understand how companies make money in sports. It’s not enough to just be a fan and have passion.
Jason Robins: Try to figure out a way to disrupt the way things have traditionally been done. Sports have been around in some form since the beginning of time, yet there is innovation and change that is continuing to occur today. That’s the great thing about sports: There’s always something new and amazing happening.
Frank Saviano: For law students hoping to work in “sports law,” seek out the field within the law that interests you first (e.g., corporate, litigation, labor), become well trained in that field, and then apply that expertise to the sports industry.
André Schunk: Make sure you learn how to write well.
Chad Seigler: Build your network early; be willing to do anything to get started; and, most importantly, make your friends before you need them.
Dan Shell: Find a specialization and develop a skill set that interests you, and then apply it to work it sports — not the other way around.
Brad Sims: 1. Be open; 2. Be mobile; 3. Be social. Be open: to all kinds of opportunities. The minor leagues are a great place to get a start and hone your work ethic. There are more jobs in sales than anywhere else. Be mobile: The universe of opportunities is much larger if you’re willing to live anywhere. I’ve genuinely enjoyed living everywhere that I have lived throughout my career. It’s all what you make out of it. Be social: It’s not just what you know but who you know. The sports industry is small. Keep in touch with people. When I was coming up, I hand-wrote hundreds of holiday cards each year to just about everyone I had met in the industry.
Jared Smith: It’s a business where there’s a line of people out the door willing to take your job. Get in and pay your dues and be willing to take what they give you and go where they ask you.
Teri Patterson Smith: Think broadly and creatively. Don’t confine industry aspirations to just teams and leagues.
Meredith Starkey: Be willing to work long hours for low pay and have a passion for the industry that won’t quit.
Mike Tomon: Be as specific as you can be when identifying what you’re most passionate about in business, and then pursue it with everything you have.
Danny Townsend: You may not earn as much money as you might in other sectors but you will enjoy your working life, and you can’t put a price on that.
Jennifer van Dijk: Be proactive and follow your curiosity. You will be successful with these two things.
Nicole Jeter West: Be humble; get your foot in the door through sales, game-night staff or grassroots marketing; and give 110 percent. Be consistent, reliable and a solution-provider. Learn how to manage up; it’s a valuable skill.
March 31, 2015 10:42 AM
We asked each of the 40:
What is the biggest challenge facing the sports industry in 2015?
Here are their responses.
Chris Allphin: The live event improving as fast as the broadcast product.
Renie Anderson: Retaining and growing fan avidity and drawing big audiences within a fracturing media environment.
Lyle Ayes: Convincing fans that the at-home experience is not a substitute for the in-stadium/arena experience.
Nick Baker: The impact of fantasy sports and potential legalized gambling in the United States.
Tom Brady: Ensuring, more than ever, that the athletes of our great sports know and embrace the fact that they are role models for younger generations. It seems more important than ever, and so much good can come of it.
Sashi Brown: The ability of teams to truly connect with their fans directly given all the entry points now.
Nicholas Carey: The increasingly fragmented media landscape and the ongoing competition for the sports consumer’s time, attention and disposable income.
Justin Connolly: Effectively using consumer data to increase the amount of time fans consume sports content.
Juan Delgado: The threat of more content going over the top. Not that this will impact the incumbents in 2015, but the decisions and bets they make this year will be critical.
Ray DeWeese: Growing rights fees and deals that create a wobble in the marketplace. The balance of local, regional, national and international market cap will continue to be stretched.
Jennifer Duberstein: The impact of technology on how we distribute our product to the fans and, in turn, how the fans are able to consume it.
Janet Duch: The evolution of the season-ticket product and finding the unique angle for fan communication among all the numerous social platforms.
Rosalyn Durant: To continue to surprise and excite fans while maintaining their trust.
Colin Faulkner: Sports betting and gaming, and how the leagues are going to handle that. The daily fantasy thing is interesting to me. At its core, the integrity of the game is so important; that’s the foundation for our games. But on the other side, you’re trying to continue to drive interest. Those things get people to pay attention to the games.
Tom Griffiths: Declining stadium attendance rates.
Eric Guthoff: Fans are now in control of how they consume and interact with sport. Rights holders and brands must keep this top of mind as they build their marketing plans.
Flavil Hampsten: The cost of attending a live sporting event. Between tickets and the consistently increasing prices of food and beverage, teams need to be more creative to get people to attend while still generating revenue.
Seth Jacobs: Social media. It can be such a positive tool but it can also lead to an increasingly negative and divisive public sentiment.
Dave Kaval: Pricing out the passionate fan.
Chris Klein: Keeping up with the constant technology changes.
AJ Maestas: Figuring where TV fits into a changing media landscape.
Paraag Marathe: Integrating technology and innovation into the experience of attending games.
Chris Marinak: The evolution of the cable TV model.
Stephen McArdle: Striking the right balance between traditional content distribution and emerging OTT and direct-to-consumer alternatives.
Scott Milleisen: Maintaining high standards of ethics and integrity of professional athletes.
Dan Reed: How new technology impacts the industry. I think it’s more of an opportunity than a challenge, but it can be a challenge if not managed well.
Jason Robins: Continuing to keep up with rapidly advancing technology.
Frank Saviano: Finding the appropriate balance for the regulation of personal conduct, on both the player and management side.
André Schunk: Maintaining relevance for brands, as other platforms (music, entertainment, gaming, culinary, travel, etc.) start to attract more marketing investment.
Chad Seigler: Creating a compelling in-venue experience for fans.
Dan Shell: In the college space, the changing financial model placing so much emphasis/need on new revenue streams and attendance at games.
Brad Sims: Technology. It’s the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity at the same time. Too many kids are playing video games instead of sports. More and more people prefer watching games on huge flat-screen HDTVs, and the technology is only getting better. We have an opportunity, and an obligation, to make the fan experience at our games so much more compelling than what technology will allow fans to get at home. The trick will be threading the needle between giving that truly unique and compelling in-arena/stadium experience while still providing a best-in-class experience for fans consuming our content in each and every possible medium.
Jared Smith: Pricing efficiency; getting better at understanding yield management, not just in pricing, but in mix of pricing and distribution channel.
Teri Patterson Smith: Protecting the health and safety of collegiate and professional athletes. ALS in particular is on the rise in younger former players, and it’s scary how little we know (or seek) to protect against such a debilitating disease.
Meredith Starkey: For properties to protect categories for their sponsors from competitors. In the World Series, the two competing teams had affiliations with Sprint and AT&T, and it wasn’t easy for us.
Mike Tomon: The continued merging of technology and the fan experience.
Danny Townsend: How to better monetize the changing media landscape to ensure sustainable revenue growth beyond linear broadcast.
Jennifer van Dijk: Keeping up with the myriad technology advances to continue to provide fans of all sports new and exciting ways to consume the games they love.
Nicole Jeter West: How to continue to entice fans to attend live sporting events. The proliferation of media, access to big data insights, and Wi-Fi connectivity can be seen as barriers or opportunities to enhance or detract from the on-site fan experience. The challenge is finding the balance and being able to adjust and respond based on how the fans interact with the team, league or event.
March 30, 2015 02:23 PM
Here’s a further look at the makeup of this year’s SportsBusiness Journal/Daily Forty Under 40.
12 — Have a master’s degree
5 — Have law degree
Away from the office
15 — Were college athletes
25 — Work out at least 4 days a week
20 — Sleep less than 6 hours a night
How they vote
11 — Republicans
12 — Democrats
17 — Identify themselves as Independent or declined to share a political affiliation
Leading the way, from an early age
19 — Are oldest siblings
When the day begins …
15 — Check email as their first interaction with media
9 — Go first to Twitter
The farthest they’ve traveled from home
7 — Australia
3 — China, South Africa
2 — Brazil, England, India, Italy, Singapore, Sweden
• Additional destinations: Bora Bora; The Okavango Delta in Botswana
Note: Information based on surveys completed by the 40 executives.
March 30, 2015 10:10 AM
They join this group of previous three-time Forty Under 40 honorees.
Dan Beckerman, AEG
David Berson, ESPN
John Brody, Major League Baseball
Paul Brooks, NASCAR
Zak Brown, Just Marketing International
Peter Carlisle, Octagon
Brian Cashman, New York Yankees
Bob Cramer, MasterCard International
Bill Daly, NHL
Mark Dowley, Momentum Worldwide/McCann Erickson World Group
Damon Evans, University of Georgia
John Galloway, Pepsi
Todd Goldstein, AEG Global Partnerships
Wally Hayward, Relay Worldwide
Wayne Katz, Proskauer Rose
Sam Kennedy, Boston Red Sox and Fenway Sports Management
Mark Lazarus, Turner Sports
Rita Benson LeBlanc, New Orleans Saints
Michael Levine, Van Wagner Sports Group/CAA Sports
Jon Litner, ABC Sports/NHL
Lawton Logan, IMG
Greg Luckman, GroupM ESP/CAA Sports
Mike McCarley, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics/NBC Golf Media
Kevin McClatchy, Pittsburgh Pirates
Howard Nuchow, Mandalay Sports Entertainment/CAA Sports
Sarah Robb O’Hagan, Gatorade
Scott O’Neil, NBA
Jon Oram, Proskauer
Alan Ostfield, Palace Sports & Entertainment
Merritt Paulson, Portland Timbers
Bea Perez, Coca-Cola North America
Doug Perlman, NHL/IMG Media North America
Kevin Plank, Under Armour
Ed Policy, Arena Football League
David Preschlack, Disney and ESPN Media Networks Group
George Pyne, NASCAR
Brian Rolapp, NFL
Kris Rone, Los Angeles Dodgers
Chris Russo, NFL
Greg Shaheen, NCAA
Eric Shanks, DirecTV
Mark Shapiro, ESPN
Jeff Shell, Fox Sports Net/Fox Cable Networks
Daniel Snyder, Washington Redskins
Mark Steinberg, IMG
David Sternberg, Fox Cable Networks
Jennifer Storms, Turner Sports
Mark Tatum, NBA
Shannon Terry, Rivals.com
Heidi Ueberroth, NBA Entertainment
Casey Wasserman, Wasserman Media Group
Russell Wolff, ESPN International
Brett Yormark, NASCAR/Nets Sports and Entertainment
Peter Zern, Covington & Burling
Note: Companies are listed as they were at the time the honorees were selected. Multiple companies are noted when the honorees held different jobs during their Forty Under 40 years.
March 30, 2015 10:00 AM
March 25, 2015 10:00 AM
Among the comments:
■ "Since they signed (the Rogers deal) the value of the Canadian dollar has dropped precipitously. That means it’s more expensive for the NHL to make payments in U.S. dollars, which is how they have to pay the players. The NHL said, ‘No, this is not a big deal. It’s not a problem. We’re not going to have to do anything about it.’ Maybe they’re right, but it’s hard to see how this isn’t going to affect teams going forward."
■ "For teams north of the border … it’s going to be a bigger impact. Most of their revenue comes in Canadian dollars, whether it’s sponsorships or tickets or concessions. So if they have to pay their players, which is 50 percent of their costs, in U.S. dollars, and the value of the Canadian dollar is dropping, it’s going to have a big effect."
■ "The attitude of the NHL appears to be basically like with the stock market, stocks go up, stocks go down and you just ride it out. So for their sake, they better be right that this isn’t going to be a continued downward trend. … I’m just really surprised that they would not have hedged the Rogers deal, given that it’s the most lucrative contract the league has."
March 18, 2015 11:24 AM
Among the comments:
■ "When Rogers acquired these rights, one of the things they really wanted to do was expand the digital footprint that they have and give consumers something they can’t get anywhere else. … There are a lot of networks and broadcasters that are trying to figure out what they can do digitally on top of existing internet and TV subscriptions, continue to drive business, to offer consumers that their rivals are not getting. For Rogers, this is a big win."
■ "This was where a lot of their hopes that revenue would continue to drive out of this property. That $5.2 billion (Canadian) was a lot. There was a lot of discussion that they overpaid for those rights for the NHL. For that deal to eventually make sense for them financially, as well as for the future of the company, these sorts of things are exactly what they’re going to need to continue to do. So for the CRTC to say this is all kosher and they can continue to do what they’re doing, that’s a huge deal for them."
■ "It’s hard to argue that getting these calls right would be a good thing. It’s just a matter of whether it will interfere with the flow of the game. It’s about finding that balance. MLB, when they expanded instant replay last year, seemed to have done a pretty good job by the end of their first season, of minimizing the delay."
March 16, 2015 01:35 PM
Nine candidates vying to be executive director of the NFL Players Association each gave 40-minute presentations to 81 of the union’s player leaders in Maui on Saturday, as the NFLPA moves toward Sunday’s election.
Player reps are expected to vote Sunday night on whether to re-elect NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith or replace him with one of eight challengers.
Saturday was the first day of a two-day process for player reps to get to know the candidates before the vote. The presentations began at 8:05 a.m. Maui time and finished about 4 p.m., or about 10 p.m. Eastern.
The 81 player leaders in Maui include the team voting reps, some team alternate reps and members of the 13-member union executive committee. A candidate must receive at least 17 of the 32 votes to be elected to the union’s top executive position.
The NFLPA’s executive committee on Friday determined the order of the presentations by drawing the candidates’ names from a hat. The candidates presented their platforms to players in this order: former NFL defensive lineman Sean Gilbert; Jason Belser, NFLPA senior director of player services and development; DeMaurice Smith; Philadelphia lawyer Andrew Smith; former NFL safety Robert Griffith; sports entrepreneur Rob London; former NFLPA counsel Arthur McAfee; and retired Navy officer and former NFL punter John Stufflebeem.
Gilbert kicked off the presentation by introducing what he said was evidence of collusion that could overturn the collective-bargaining agreement. Of all the candidates, Gilbert has been the most public, putting out a book in 2013 harshly critical of Smith’s leadership of the union and his negotiation of the 2011 CBA.
In Maui on Saturday, Gilbert said a mechanism in the CBA known as the “Funding Rule” is the reason NFL players are not getting fully guaranteed contracts, as players are in the NBA and MLB.
“When we’re done here, I want you to give your agents a call and ask them about this rule,” Gilbert told the player leaders, according to a transcript of his speech that was distributed to members of the media. “What they will confirm for you is that the Funding Rule is the excuse all the teams use to say they can’t fully guarantee your contracts.”
“This is collusion,” Gilbert said. “It’s illegal. And it’s a violation of the CBA.”
Gilbert told the reps they now have 90 days to file a collusion case against the NFL.
An NFL spokesman did not respond to an email seeking comment on Gilbert’s statements.
SportsBusiness Journal requested interviews with all the candidates after their presentations. Gilbert, Belser, DeMaurice Smith and McAfee all declined to be interviewed, and Acho made his presentation by video and was not on site to give an interview. Andrew Smith, Griffith, London and Stufflebeem agreed to short interviews.
Andrew Smith said he knew only about six of the reps in the room where he made his presentation. Therefore, he said he decided to divide his time by speaking for about 25 minutes and devoting 15 minutes to a question-and-answer session with the representatives, to enable more interaction between himself and all the voters.
“I was certainly impressed by the level of involvement by all the player reps,” Smith said. “Certainly, there is a significant concern among them that they are there to represent players who elect them.”
Andrew Smith said that he fielded 10 to 15 questions from player reps and members of the executive committee on topics ranging from the CBA to how to protect players’ rights to how to audit the revenue coming in from the NFL. Smith’s main campaign position is to provide a greater level of transparency between the NFL and the union and the union and its players, as well as to make sure players are getting all the revenue they are entitled to under the current CBA.
Griffith, who was both an NFLPA player rep and an executive committee member during his career, said he believes a former player should lead the union.
“They are hiring a man to lead, and the man who leads has to have a vested interest,” Griffith said. “I believe he should always be a former player. How can you tell someone what the Grand Canyon looks like if they have never been there?”
London formerly worked with agent Adisa Bakari at law firm Dow Lohnes, representing players including running backs Matt Forte and Maurice Jones-Drew in their marketing efforts.
London is not an NFLPA-certified agent and he said he faced questions from the player leaders about whether he had taken the union’s agent test. London said he had taken the test to find out more about representation but declined to say whether he had passed.
London said he wants to “re-engineer” union operations. “There is value to be had currently that is not being realized,” he said.
Stufflebeem, the last candidate to present, said that he used his entire 40 minutes to tell player reps about himself and his platform. In an interview, Stufflebeem said, “I wanted to give them an alternative to litigation and confrontation.”
Stufflebeem is running on a campaign of having a more cooperative relationship with the NFL, but one that involves the league treating players more like equals rather than workers. Asked how he was going to do this, Stufflebeem replied, “A general does not give away his battle plan before the war starts.” He said he would reveal more of his plans when he meets with player reps Sunday morning.
He said that he was able to give player reps something to think about and that he was lucky to be the last presenter.
“I told them this, in my view, is going to cement their legacy as player leaders in the future,” Stufflebeem said. “This vote is going to define who they are.”