As DEMAURICE SMITH nears the end of his second year as NFLPA Exec Dir, he "pushes forward in what is sure to be his most challenging fight," according to Jim Trotter of SI. The NFL is facing its first work stoppage in 24 years, and whenever Smith is "asked why the owners would close their doors when revenue and ratings are at alltime highs, his answer is always the same: because revenue and ratings are at an alltime high." To look at Smith's past is to "see someone who knows what he wants and doesn't stop until he gets it, someone accustomed to combat, who sees little virtue in backing down." That is "one reason his presence in these negotiations makes people in the league office, and even within union headquarters, uneasy." Smith said, "I just don't walk away from fights. You either believe in your ability to get it done or you don't. Walking away from a tough fight where everybody thinks you might get your ass kicked -- who's going to blame you for it? Staying and fighting when you know you might get your ass kicked, that's hard. I can't trick myself into taking the easy way out." But Trotter notes as "much as Smith relishes a fight, he also knows he'll have to make concessions to strike a deal." Colts C and player rep JEFF SATURDAY: "De is a very intense guy, but he's also a realist. He's not just a hype man. He's telling you there are going to be things we're going to have to compromise on, and here's why. You have to be up front and honest. Not everything is going to go the players' way. He's done a good job of balancing that, so the guys understand that we're in this to get this thing finished and to get a new agreement in place."
READY FOR A FIGHT: One of the ways Smith "tries to determine the power players in the league is by 'poking the elephant' to see the reaction he'll get." Patriots Owner ROBERT KRAFT said, "The union has so many legal people who aren't business-oriented, in my opinion, that I hope it doesn't prevent us from being able to get a deal done before March 4. I've had some sense that De is a dealmaker. I understand there's a lot of posturing going on, but in the end I hope his strong business instincts come out." Trotter notes Smith's "willingness to challenge the NFL publicly and keep the sides in litigation is considered a breach of protocol within league circles." But while some "wonder if he's simply trying to make a name for himself on the way to political office," others believe that he "should not be taken lightly" (SI, 2/21 issue).
Photo by: Mark Sluder Earnhardt's death sent shockwaves through the industry.
Some Manufacturing Of Dale Earnhardt Collectibles To Stop The Dale Earnhardt "rush is on," according to Paul Newberry of the AP, who reports, "Anything and everything with his name on it became the hottest sports merchandise a day after his death." Critics Differ On Whether Fox Handled Tragedy Appropriately "Earnhardt's death put a heartbreaking final touch on a race that for [a] few fleeting moments was better than anything the network could have scripted for its first Daytona 500 telecast." -- Prentis Rogers, Atlanta Constitution, 2/19 Critics Claim That Fox Finds Its Footing In NASCAR Debut Fox "turned in a Super Bowl-worthy effort" for its inaugural broadcast of Sunday's Daytona 500, according to Barry Horn of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS, who wrote that the net "known to push the envelope in its sports productions instead opted for a more conservative approach." NASCAR Turns To Safety Issues After Death Of Earnhardt As the country "mourned the loss" of Dale Earnhardt, the question of driver safety "was once again brought into sharp focus" as a preliminary autopsy showed Earnhardt died Sunday from "blunt force injuries to the head," according to Godwin Kelly of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. After Tragedy, Media Calls On NASCAR To Improve Safety With four racing deaths in the past year, "critics say NASCAR needs to be as vigilant with safety issues as it is with the competitive ones," according to Aaron Brown in the lead story of ABC's "World News Tonight" on Monday. "Now it is the sport's biggest name who has died and critics wonder if that will be what causes NASCAR to move safety up to the sport's front row."
PAUL LAWRENCE, a respected NFL player agent who worked for major NFL player representation firm Maximum Sports Management and interacted with NFL players like Cardinals WR LARRY FITZGERALD, died suddenly yesterday. "He has passed," Maximum Sports Principal EUGENE PARKER confirmed in a very brief interview late last night. Lawrence, who was in his mid 40s, died suddenly after being stricken playing basketball near his home in Everett, Wash. The news sent shock waves through the agent community, where Lawrence was well-liked, despite the cutthroat culture of the business. The news spread through Twitter and many agents and others in the business tweeted condolences about his passing. "We are devastated by today's news and our hearts go out to Paul's family," Maximum Sports said in a statement. "Paul was an important part of the Maximum family and all of us will miss him dearly. His ability to work with our athletes and the relationships he built over the past decade has had a direct result in the success of our company. We will miss Paul's vision and his daily enthusiast approach in an industry where he had such a positive effect."
The Orange Bowl Committee elected LUIS BOUE Second Vice Chair and SHAUN DAVIS Treasurer. The committee also announced the following additions to its BOD: MICHAEL CHAVIES, SEAN PITTMAN, DOUGLAS WILEY and ALBERT DOTSON SR. Boue, PEYTON LUMPKIN, JOHN SEILER and J. HAYES WORLEY JR. were re-elected to the BOD (OBC).
EXECS: USA Boxing named veteran Olympic sports exec ANTHONY BARTKOWSKI as the organization's next Exec Dir. Bartkowski had been serving as the interim Exec Dir since October (USA Boxing)....The Bruins and TD Garden promoted the following: ELIZABETH D'ENTREMONT to Digital Marketing Manager, COLE PARSONS toCreative Marketing Manager and RACHAEL MARKOVITZ to Strategic Marketing Manager. In addition, CHRIS DIPIERRO will now lead digital marketing initiatives as part of an expansion of his current role as Dir of Marketing(Bruins)....Jacksonville State Univ. AD OVAL JAYNES announced that he will retire later this spring (JSU)....Front Row Marketing promoted VP/Project Management ERIC SMALLWOOD to Senior VP (Front Row Marketing)....The NHRA named MICHAEL PADIAN Dir of Social Media. The former Dir of PR will be responsible for overseeing the creation, development and management of the NHRA's social media strategy (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal)....WPS named KAT GALSIM Digital Manager & Web Producer. Galsim previously served as Online Marketing & Advertising Coordinator with The New Republic (THE DAILY).
Magic Senior VP PAT WILLIAMS yesterday "conveyed optimism and hope" about his fight against multiple myeloma, an "incurable but treatable blood disease." Williams said, "I've tried to live a life of faith for years, and in a moment like this, I think you really get to put your faith in action. ... I've always felt that there was another chapter in my life, maybe a grand finale to all of my years in baseball and basketball and all the years of speaking and writing. I wasn't quite sure how it was going to play out, but perhaps we're seeing that now." ROBERT REYNOLDS, Williams' oncologist and hematologist, said that there is a 70-75% chance that the disease "will go into remission" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/17).
PAYING A PREMIUM: An insurance company sued by Oklahoma State Univ. booster T. BOONE PICKENS and the school's athletic fundraising foundation claims that OSU "breached its contract and has no right to recover $33 million in premiums." Lincoln Life Insurance Co. alleges that OSU officials "waited too long to cancel the insurance policies and are not entitled to a refund." At issue is the school's "Gift of a Lifetime" program, which "involved taking out $10 million insurance policies on 27 supporters with the university as the beneficiary" (AP, 2/16).
YOU CAN CALL ME SUPERMAN: Magic C DWIGHT HOWARD is "playing host to a party for NBA All-Star Weekend" on Friday night in L.A., with admission costing between $100-20,000. The most-expensive package to the party "includes 40 admission tickets, 12 bottles of premium liquor or six magnum bottles of premium liquor and five bottles of Ace of Spades Champagne." The event's website claims the party will have "video vixens" and the "finest females Hollywood has to offer" (ORLANDOSENTINEL.com, 2/17).
NAMES: Yankees RF NICK SWISHER has switched representation from JOE BICK to DAN LOZANO, not SCOTT BORAS as had been rumored (NEWSDAY, 2/17)....Actor ROB MAYES has been cast as one of the lead characters in RON SHELTON's minor league baseball-themed pilot for TBS called, "HOUND DOGS" (VARIETY.com, 2/16)....Former NBAer DENNIS RODMAN reportedly owes "more than $42,000 in delinquent taxes to the state of California," though Rodman's business manager "disputes the debt" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/17)....Broncos CB CHAMP BAILEY has put his home in Littleton, Colo., on the market. Bailey purchased the estate in '07 for $1.6M (DENVER POST, 2/17)....Blackhawks LW PATRICK SHARP is featured on one of two covers for the March issue of "Chicago Magazine," which names him one of the city's "50 Most Beautiful People." The issue hits newsstands today (THE DAILY).