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Volume 24 No. 116

Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello yesterday argued with a report last week by ESPN that indicated that the NFLPA "had taken a compromise position on the revenue split issue before talks were cut off last week," according to Hank Gola of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Aiello in a post on the NFL's labor website wrote, "Saying they want 50% of this new revenue base, is the same thing as saying they want 60% of the existing revenue base. It is a status quo deal." Aiello: "Any interpretation that this was a new proposal and a move toward the clubs is not accurate. This was an offer to keep things where they are, to simply extend the status quo. It is consistent with what the union has been saying for two years -- just keep the current deal in place. As (NFLPA president) Kevin Mawae has acknowledged, the players got a great deal in 2006." Gola writes Aiello's comments continue to "illustrate how little the sides agree" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/17). In St. Petersburg, Rick Stroud reports the NFLPA "held a conference call with union reps of all 32 teams Tuesday to revisit the possibility of decertifying in the event of a lockout" when the CBA expires March 4. Buccaneers C and player rep Jeff Faine said decertifying is "our last resort," but is "an action we will take." Faine: "There's a sense we're all still on board and want to do that." Faine "describes himself as a 'hopeless optimist'" in regard to the negotiations, but he "fears that NFL owners do not view March 4 as a hard deadline, particularly since players don't get paid their salaries until the regular season." Meanwhile, Faine said that "not only will the owners proposal of an 18-game regular season shorten players' careers, they'll earn less money for more work." Faine: "I still feel like it's a bargaining chip. If it is, I'm sure that's something we may go to. If it's something they're stuck on, I think it's a terrible idea. There's nothing good in it, except for the owners" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 2/17).

Bucs' Faine says decertification
is a "last resort"
STILL AT THE TABLE: Ravens CB and player rep Domonique Foxworth said of the talks, "We haven't left the table. We're sitting at the table by ourselves. ... We've presented a proposal and now we're just kind of waiting." Foxworth noted NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith called the negotiations "a war, but the battle lines need to be re-drawn." Foxworth: "It's not as clear as Republicans vs. Democrats. Some people on their side really want to have football. ... It feels like the majority of owners want there to be football next year. But I think a small minority of owners -- and unfortunately they have a great deal of power -- are willing to take us to the mat on this one and put on the pressure." Foxworth noted that he "sees a big market vs. small market break along league lines." Foxworth: "The small-market teams realize how lucrative the league is. They see the disproportionate amount of money going to larger-market teams. Their solution, rather than figure it out amongst themselves, is to take more from the players" (Baltimore SUN, 2/17). ESPN's Mark Schlereth said the frustration that comes from players he has talked to is the "feeling that regardless of what we do, regardless of what we present, it falls upon deaf ears. I think that's the real part of negotiation. Do you want to negotiate? Do you really want to settle this? Or do you just want to win?" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 2/16). Meanwhile, Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy said, "I've been involved in bargaining and I've seen it from a players' perspective and now, obviously, I'm looking at it from a different perspective. But our goal is to reach an agreement and hopefully, with my background maybe I can be helpful in finding another round" ("Closing Bell," CNBC, 2/16).

IMPACT ON TEAMS: The Raiders yesterday signed DT Richard Seymour to a two-year deal worth $30M, but National Football Post President Andrew Brandt said more teams are not signing players to extensions because they are "sort of taking shelter in the fact that it's so uncertain." Brandt: "We don't know if there's going to be a cap. We don't know what the cap's going to be. We don't know what the rules are going to be. We don't know how many years towards free agency. That seems to be holding it up. Also, the rules of the uncapped year are still in place" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 2/16). Meanwhile, Eagles President Joe Banner said of the ramifications of a potential lockout, "There's opportunities in all challenges, so whether that's personnel opportunities, because there's a shorter window, so maybe a team that has better preparation in terms of evaluating the players, maybe a team that has multiple people capable of negotiating difficult contracts at the same time, when most teams only have one, maybe the fact that we will have more flexibility probably than most teams from a cap perspective (will be a plus) -- so we're trying to look at it as an opportunity." In Philadelphia, Les Bowen notes there is a "possibility of organizational layoffs during the anticipated lockout." But Banner said, "There will be an extended period where everybody here will be paid" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/17).

: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman writes the "larger question behind this entire labor fight is a notion that's familiar to investors, but that represents a radical notion in professional sports: the idea that a sports league, like a giant company, must show steady growth over time." Futterman: "And more radically, a slowdown in the rate of growth, even without actual losses, is sufficient grounds to ask labor to make concessions." The NFL "earned a record $9 billion in revenues this season," and it "bears no resemblance to other major U.S. sports leagues that have faced labor Armageddon." Every NFL franchise is, "by most accounts, profitable and competitive." But owners are "about $1 billion short of the growth in real dollars they were projecting the last time labor negotiations came down to the wire" in '06, and "newer forms of business, like digital media, don't show the obvious potential for huge returns." NFL Exec VP/Business Operations Eric Grubman acknowledged that the "loss of public funding for stadiums has forced owners to put up more money for 'capital costs.'" Grubman added that it is "going to be 'difficult' to push ticket prices higher, though he is optimistic that broadcast fees will rise" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 2/17).

The LPGA begins its season today with the Honda LPGA Thailand, and the tour “faces many challenges, from a limited U.S. schedule to spotty TV coverage,” but a “dominant player certainly would help rekindle interest,” according to Edgar Thompson of the PALM BEACH POST. Golfer Angela Stanford said, "We need one player ... it would help if it was an American ... to win six or eight tournaments a year, one [of] them being a major. Someone who is right there every week and dominates -- someone to pound it at them and just keep winning. That's what it's going to take." Michelle Wie is the “most obvious candidate,” and golfer Stacy Lewis said, "Everybody has just been waiting for her to break out." Lewis: "When she plays well, it moves the needle for sure." Thompson notes the LPGA this season “again will play only 25 tournaments -- 11 fewer than five years ago, for example" -- with only 13 in the U.S. Golfer Beth Daniel said, "There are a lot of good young players right now; there are some great personalities out on tour. But the schedule just puts a damper on the whole thing and doesn't allow you to see LPGA golf enough for an average viewer." Lewis: “We need to get better coverage on TV and get it live. Until we get there it's going to be hard for anybody to become something other than just a 'golf star'" (PALM BEACH POST, 2/17). GOLF DIGEST’s Ron Sirak noted with the season opening in Thailand and continuing next week with the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore, both events are “illustrative of the obstacles the LPGA needs to overcome to get back on track as a thriving tour.” That the tournament coverage will “be shown in the United States on tape delay is a problem for fans trying to connect with the tour" (, 2/16).

FEMININE TOUCH: Golfer Blair O'Neal appears in this year’s SI Swimsuit Issue wearing a bikini, which was a topic of discussion on Golf Channel’s “Morning Drive” today. Golf Channel's Erik Kuselias asked retired golfer Annika Sorenstam how she feels “about these kinds of photos, and do they help or hurt the LPGA and their mission to provide publicity for their tour and get more people watching?" Sorenstam said, "I've only seen a few photos of Blair, but the ones I've seen are very good. I would be proud of them. She is very respectful. It's classy. I think sex sells. … It brings attention to the tour and a little femininity doesn't hurt the tour.” Sorenstam did note no one talks about male golfers using sexuality to sell themselves. She said, “Some of them dress very well but it's not really part of who they are. It's all about sports, it's all about winning majors. Unfortunately, on the women's tour and women's sports it's a lot more than performance. You have to look a certain way, you have to be very feminine, you have to have long hair and nice nails. But then you have to hit it 300 yards. Sometimes it's a little hard to live up to all those standards” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 2/17).