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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The "most telling theme" of NBA Commissioner David Stern's 30-minute state of the league address with reporters Saturday was that the "system is broken and needs to be fixed," according to Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. TIMES. Stern earlier this season said that owners "were projecting losses of about $350 million, and though he didn't provide updated figures Saturday," he said that the "losses were palpable." Stern: "The numbers are real, the losses are real, and the need from our perspective for a different business model, that's what's governing our decision." Bresnahan noted NBA owners and the NBPA "met amicably Friday in Beverly Hills, though the sides still seemed far apart as the current collective bargaining agreement moved closer to its June 30 expiration." Stern: "I would say what gives me hope is the fact that a lockout would have huge negative consequences for everybody" (L.A. TIMES, 2/20). Stern Saturday indicated that the union "no longer disputed the league's financial statements, which are at the root of their conflict." In N.Y., Howard Beck noted the NBA has said that it is "losing more than $300 million a year and is pushing for a fundamental overhaul of the labor deal." Stern said that he "detected a slight shift Friday afternoon, during a two-hour bargaining session that involved a majority of the owners and two dozen players." Stern: "I think that there's no disagreement about the numbers." However, NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter later "issued a statement that contradicted Stern." Hunter on Friday reiterated that he is "advising players to prepare for a lockout." Beck noted the two sides "essentially have the same stances they have been for the last 13 months." Each side "has rejected the other's initial proposal in its totality," and there "have been no counterproposals and no meaningful negotiations, although several meetings are being scheduled for the coming weeks" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/20).

SLOWLY BUT SURELY: Stern said that the two sides on Friday "made some progress, but nothing tangible." Stern: "It's fair to say that we and the players each made proposals to the other. We have each expressed to the other our dissatisfaction with each other's proposals. In a very positive vein, we each agreed, the union and the teams agreed that everything was available to be discussed." Stern "mentioned that contraction is 'not currently on the table' but that the teams are looking for ways to fix the current economic structure" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/20). Lakers G and NBPA President Derek Fisher said of Friday's talks, "The dialogue was constructive. There definitely was a commitment to trying to get this process done in this room" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 2/19). In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote the NBA is "more popular now than it was even in the Michael Jordan era, with a renaissance of talent and a wealth of young players." And while the "fiery Hunter has taken verbal shots at Stern in the past, he appeared exceptionally understanding of the delicacy of the next few months of negotiation." Hunter said a lockout would "hurt all of us." Hunter: "The impact is going to be significant. Maybe we don't publicize it as much as the NFL has, but we'll be spending some time over the next couple of months getting that message out." Stern "paralleled Hunter's comments by saying the difference between negotiations now and in 1998, when owners shut down the league for 32 games, was that neither had ever endured the consequences of a work stoppage." Washburn wrote that is "something that should serve as encouragement to NBA fans" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/20).

IS HUNTER THE RIGHT GUY? YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojarowski cited several NBA player agents as saying that they have "grave concerns about Hunter's ability to spare the union unprecedented givebacks in these negotiations." One agent said, "Do I feel comfortable with Billy Hunter at the table with David Stern? No, I don't. We're so overmatched that it isn't funny. And the players don't have the (courage) to hang in there very long without a paycheck. The only thing that the league fears is decertification. They don't want to go down that road. They just want to negotiate as long as they can because they believe the players will crumble. The owners want to destroy the players in this deal. They want the whole system to change. We have one bullet and it's decertification." Wojnarowski noted "within the agent ranks, there's much criticism on Hunter's ability to rally players and take the fight to the commissioner." There is "criticism of Hunter's willingness to use the most powerful agents to get their players on board, to share the burden of uniting a union that's never matched the fortitude of the NFL's and Major League Baseball's players" (, 2/18).

COULD NBA MISS THE WHOLE SEASON?'s Chris Mannix said he believes the two sides "are lightyears apart" and that it would be "shocking at this point if there was not a lockout in July." Mannix: "Right now, from what I'm hearing, I think there's a groundswell of support from owners for not having a season altogether. I think if we get to Thanksgiving or towards Christmas, then maybe we'll see these owners decide we're just going to scrap this season, start again fresh next year." ESPN's Bob Ley: "It could be Armageddon" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 2/20).

RISKING IT ALL:'s Bill Reiter wrote, "While owners and players reportedly dig in their heels and prepare for a protracted battle, they risk forfeiting all the good will and excitement generated by the storylines that have arisen this year: The Big Three in Miami. The Boston Big Four. The renaissance of the point guard. The greatness of Blake Griffin and the rejuvenation of the monster dunk. The growing relevance of big-market teams" (, 2/20). The GLOBE's Washburn writes, "No one wants to see this fun end, which is why the current labor negotiations are more amicable than they've been in the past. ... The question is whether Commissioner David Stern is comfortable with the NBA being a top-heavy league run by only a few power teams." Smaller markets such as Salt Lake City, Milwaukee and Oklahoma City "can only hope their standout players stay after free agency," and teams such as the Bucks and Grizzlies "can draft well and cultivate their players, but they are not as likely to retain those players as, let's say, the Lakers" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/21).

WILL WORK FOR FREE: In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence reported Stern "won't take any salary if the league shuts down." Stern: "Last time, I didn't take any salary. I think a dollar would be too high in the event of a work stoppage." Lawrence noted Stern's comment was a "subtle swipe at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who said he'd take a dollar if the NFL locks out its players" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/20).

Trevor Bayne won yesterday's Daytona 500 in just his second Sprint Cup start, and if the "most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., wasn't going to win," Bayne's victory was the "next-best scenario for NASCAR," according to Scott Fowler of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Bayne "hits an ideal demographic for NASCAR," and the circuit's "next major star might have been born on Sunday." The 20-year-old Bayne is "God-fearing, apple-cheeked and personable," and he "likes to play the guitar, wear T-shirts, snowboard and use Twitter." Fowler: "You will be hard-pressed to miss Bayne this week as his publicity machine revs from 0 to 200mph" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/21). In Miami, Greg Cote wrote, "Next to Junior winning, this was the best thing that could have fallen into the lap of beleaguered NASCAR, which strives to reverse recent declines in TV ratings, attendance and sponsorships" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/21). YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee wrote, "This race was exactly what NASCAR needed. A new face in victory lane, new enthusiasm in the nearly-filled stands, new hope that maybe we've seen the bottom and are on the upswing once again. For one perfect Daytona afternoon, Trevor Bayne gave NASCAR what it desperately needed: hope that tomorrow will be better than today" (, 2/20). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote, "This entire crazy afternoon may have been the shot in the arm NASCAR desperately needed. The sagging racing circuit is desperate for new stars, new drama and new excitement, and what was the wildest, strangest and, in the end, most compelling Daytona 500 in years delivered just that." The race "won't solve all of NASCAR's issues," but there is "simply no way it didn't help" (, 2/20). In L.A., Jim Peltz writes, "For a sport hoping to reverse recent declines in attendance and television ratings," yesterday's race "in front of an estimated 182,000 seemed the compelling remedy" (L.A. TIMES, 2/21).

HOLLYWOOD STORY: In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes under the header, "Not Even NASCAR Could Have Scripted Trevor Bayne." Bayne is "one of the sport's most uplifting winners." Bianchi: "For all of the NASCAR naysayers who say this sport doesn't have enough good story lines, how can you not love this one?" Bayne "has everything the critics say the sport is missing." Bianchi: "He has personality. He has pizzazz. He has loads of humility but no fear. He has the faith, fun and family values that NASCAR fans crave" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 2/21). In Las Vegas, Mike Smith wrote, "This story reads as if a team of Hollywood scriptwriters had been airlifted to Daytona to create the perfect story for the 53rd Daytona 500" (, 2/20). In Charlotte, Jim Utter writes of Bayne, "What a refreshing personality and incredible story" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/21).'s Holly Cain noted most of Bayne's fellow drivers "declared him 'the next big deal' before the 500." Cain: "It was the prevailing opinion that he is exactly what NASCAR needs to sustain its popularity -- a combination of youth, charisma and talent" (, 2/20). USA TODAY's Nate Ryan notes "Trevor Bayne" and "Wood Brothers," his team, were "trending on Twitter after the race." Driver Carl Edwards, who finished second in the race, said of Bayne, "A new winner, up-and-coming guy that's tied to so much history. This is as good as it gets. If people aren't watching, that's their problem, because we got some great stuff going on here" (USA TODAY, 2/21). More Edwards: "The world's going to like him a lot. I think he'll do a good job of representing the sport in whatever he does this week" (, 2/20).

WAS RACE GOOD FOR NASCAR? WQXI-AM's Ryan Stewart said Bayne's win was "very good for NASCAR because parity, to me, is very important." Stewart: "This was one of the most exciting races I've seen." But WQXI's Doug Stewart said it is "terribly bad" for NASCAR because it "shows that more so in this sport than any other sport luck becomes involved." ESPN's Skip Bayless said Bayne "won by default" because all the "big names wrecked." Bayless said with the record number of caution flags, the race became "unwatchable after a while" ("ESPN First Take," ESPN2, 2/21).

Federally mediated negotiations toward a new NFL CBA "lasted about eight hours Sunday, the third consecutive day the sides met to try to find common ground before the current contract expires," according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. The NFL and NFLPA "have met for a total of more than 20 hours since Friday" in front of Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service Dir George Cohen. Both sides are "abiding by Cohen's request that they not comment publicly on these negotiations," so it is "not clear what, if any, progress is being made." But NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash said, "We are working hard, and we're following the director's playbook, and we'll see what we come up with." Fendrich notes NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler, General Counsel Richard Berthelsen, former NFLer Pete Kendall and Exec Committee members including Browns LB Scott Fujita, Steelers QB Charlie Batch and former NFLer Sean Morey were among those representing the union Sunday, and they "began arriving before" 9:00am ET (AP, 2/21). In N.Y., Judy Battista noted a news blackout "designed to lower the volume and reduce the public posturing" was one thing the owners and players "did agree on" at Friday's meeting. Many people, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith, "declined to comment as they entered and left the building" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/19). NFL Network's Albert Breer reported he received a text from a player "who's pretty high up in the union who said they're talking and that's better than it has been." Breer: "That should tell you where things are right now. This is the beginning, and not the end, of serious talks. At least that's what they hope" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 2/18).

: Lions DE and player rep Kyle Vanden Bosch said "all signs are probably pointing toward a lockout." Vanden Bosch: "You hope that at this point there's a serious sense of urgency and that some progress is being made. But it doesn't seem that through negotiations or through meetings that any progress has been made" (, 2/20). ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack said, "I don't see much coming out of this. ... I think they're prepared for a lockout. It really doesn't hurt them to lock those players out until maybe October or November or something like that. I just believe that we're in for a long one here" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 2/18). In New Orleans, James Varney wrote under the header, "Need For Mediator Reveals How Far NFL, Players Have To Go" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 2/20). But in Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan wrote, "Maybe, with a grown-up in the room in Washington, a fair deal can be struck without a labor stoppage. Let's hope so, because the alternative just isn't as funny as the jokers who started this." Sheridan added it is "often said that this labor battle pits billionaires against millionaires, and that is partly true." But most NFL players "are not, and never will be, millionaires" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/20).

ASSISTANT COACHES TO UNIONIZE? In Boston, Greg Bedard noted since the NFL "allowed teams to opt out of the previously mandated pension plans two years ago, the NFL Coaches' Association has talked about becoming a union." The NFLCA "took a step in that direction five months ago when its executive committee formally voted to explore the union route." NFLCA Exec Dir Larry Kennan said of the CBA negotiations, "It just feels like they're taking a lot of stuff away and they're not giving us any love in return. What I've suggested is, after the CBA gets settled, whenever that is, a couple months later they need to sit down and do something with the coaches because we're valuable, too. They need to treat us that way. I know this: There are a bunch of coaches out there that are angry" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/20). Meanwhile, in DC, Mike Jones noted assistant coaches "across the league could face significant financial losses if the standoff between owners and players drags on for an extended period of time." The rules "differ from team to team, and in some cases from coach to coach," but officials said that most assistants "could suffer a decrease in pay or even lose their jobs in the event of a lengthy lockout." Kennan: "Of 32 teams, 20, 21 really treat their coaches fair and with respect. There are about 10 or 12 that do not" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/18).