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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues and Governing Bodies

In some of the most provocative language of the six-day NFL lockout, free agent LB Kevin Burnett called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a “liar” during a radio show yesterday. Burnett, who played for the Chargers last season, appeared on San Diego's XX Sports Radio and was asked about the letter to fans that Goodell sent out over the weekend discussing what transpired before the league locked out the players. Burnett said, "Goodell’s full of it, if you ask me. He's a liar. You are a blatant liar." When asked what Goodell was lying about, Burnett said, "'It's our league. It's we. We love the players. We want the league.' But what have you done for the players? What have you done, in all honesty, to improve the game, besides fine guys, besides take money away from guys, besides change a game that you never played? …He has done nothing to improve the game" (XX Sports Radio, 3/16). The comments came one day after Goodell appeared on NFL Network and said, "I don't think because you disagree with somebody it's appropriate to call anyone a liar" (THE DAILY). 

INSIDE THE FINAL PROPOSAL: In N.Y., Judy Battista reports Goodell yesterday said that NFLPA leaders told him that they "found some parts" of the owners' final proposal "attractive, specifically the health and safety changes that would have reduced the off-season training program by five weeks, cut organized team workouts from 14 per off-season to 10 and limited full-contact practices in the preseason and regular season." That proposal "would have allowed current players the chance to remain in the player medical plan for life." But the "economics remained the sticking point." Last Friday, the owners "lowered their demand for additional money off the top of the revenue pool" to $320M per year, "half of where it was at the start of the day." However, Goodell yesterday said that he "would not guarantee that the proposal would remain on the table" when negotiations resume because it was "crafted specifically to avoid a work stoppage." He said that his "contact with player leaders had been minimal since Friday, and he had no timeline for when a deal must be completed to avoid missing regular season games." The commissioner also "defended the demeanor of owners, some of whom were criticized by players for acting in what they perceived as a heavy-handed manner." Goodell: "Things owners said, I’m sure people didn’t necessarily agree with, and there were things players said that owners didn’t agree with. That’s part of negotiations" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/17).

GOING FOR THE BLOCK: The AP reports the NFL asked a federal judge yesterday to deny the NFLPA's "bid to release details in a $4 billion TV revenue dispute, saying information should be kept confidential because it is commercially sensitive." The players' group last week "requested that all exhibits, testimony and transcripts be unsealed" from the case, in which Judge David Doty ruled that the NFL "illegally secured the money from TV contracts for 2011, money the players contend was arranged to fund a lockout." The league "filed its response and included redacted versions of exhibits cited in Doty's decision totaling more than 800 pages." Much of the information was "blacked out to protect information the NFL considers sensitive, harmful to future negotiations if revealed and damaging to business relations." NFL attorneys argue that the court's "previous denial of local media's request to unseal all the documents should apply to the players association's request as well to satisfy the public's right to know and to provide context that 'will be the basis for rulings to come.'" The league's argument "cited Doty's suggestion in court to Paul Hannah, an attorney representing the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Star Tribune of Minneapolis in the Feb. 24 hearing, that the papers 'try to focus on what it is that they are looking for' rather than making a sweeping request for all the information" (AP, 3/17).

PLAYERS GETTING ANTSY: In Nashville, Jim Wyatt reports free agent DE Jason Babin is "entertaining thoughts of jumping" to the CFL or UFL "if those leagues build some momentum during the lockout." Babin, an alternate player rep for the Titans, indicated that both leagues "have extended 'feelers' to him and other free agents." He said, "I know those leagues would love to grow their awareness, and if they got a certain amount of high-profile guys to join in, the money would go from the NFL pool to the CFL or UFL pool and maybe they could negotiate a TV deal. Now that would scare the (stuffing) out of the NFL owners, you know?" UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue said that his league "isn't necessarily recruiting NFL players, but acknowledged that some teams have put out feelers" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 3/17).

JERRY JONES UNDER FIRE: In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway writes about the SI report of Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones during a March 2 negotiation session with the players under the header, "Jerry Jones Plays The Role Of Villain In The NFL Showdown." Galloway: "Funny thing is I once thought Jones would be the best owner of the NFL lot in helping negotiate some sort of an agreement, mainly because negotiating is what Jerry does best. Now we're told, at least in SI, that Jones is the worst of the worst in this dispute. And the hits just keep on coming" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/17).

The NFLPA's controversial plan to stage an alternate event for top prospects during next month's NFL Draft in N.Y. "has added to fallout from the labor dispute," according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY. NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah said, "The prospective players are locked out. That's the business reality they face. They can't negotiate a contract. So it strikes me as odd that they would attend an event organized by a group of people that locked them out." Lions DE and player rep Kyle Vanden Bosch: "Once these guys are drafted, they're not college kids anymore. They're one of us. As NFL players, the big thing right now is we're all unified as a group. ... It's a difficult decision." Player agent Eugene Parker said that the NFLPA, which no longer regulates agents after decertifying last week, "had not specifically advised boycotting" (USA TODAY, 3/17). Agent Tom Condon, who reps potential No. 1 pick QB Blaine Gabbert, said, "It wouldn't be that they're not going to the draft, it's that potentially they'd have an alternate event. Much of it would be the same, except instead of going across the stage and getting a man hug from the commissioner, who of course has locked you out, you'd go through the draft and maybe get a handshake from DeMaurice Smith, who is fighting a (rookie) wage scale and fighting for you not to be locked out" (NEWSDAY, 3/16).

Rahim Moore says he would attend NFL Draft
in N.Y.
NOT ON BOARD: In L.A., Sam Farmer notes NFL Draft prospects may be forced to "begin their careers with a weighty decision of which invitation to accept," the "latest example of a labor fight turned toxic." But former UCLA S Rahim Moore, a potential first-round pick, said, "It's not a choice at all. I'm headed for the draft. It's the only thing I really care about. To be honest, I don't know what the NFLPA is doing. … They have to let us young guys get ready for our dreams" (L.A. TIMES, 3/17). In a special to the NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST, former NFLer Matt Bowen wrote, "I want the NFLPA to get what they deserve when it comes to the ongoing labor battle with the NFL. ... However, I can’t stand behind the NFLPA when it comes to the current discussion towards the NFL Draft in New York City. The idea of asking (or telling) incoming rookies to 'boycott' the draft itself (or go to an alternate event) is off-base and irrational." The first night of the NFL Draft is the "one day -- the only day -- when they get to hear their names called in front of a national TV audience." Bowen: "Has it really gotten to this point -- already?" (, 3/15). ESPN's Todd McShay said, "The players should be able to decide whether they want to be in New York and whether they want to be there for the Draft. It's ultimately their moment, and for the NFLPA ... to try to use them as a bargaining chip, a negotiation chip -- I think it's unfortunate." ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. said, "Why should this draft class not have that chance? It would be terrible if kids that were invited to be in New York were prevented from having that opportunity" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/17).

GO BIG OR GO HOME: YAHOO SPORTS' Michael Silver noted compared to the "tactics employed by dispossessed (or, in this case, decertified) unions, suggesting to soon-to-be new NFL employees that they turn down an invitation to Radio City Music Hall is remarkably tame." While "currying public favor is a positive for workers in such situations, sometimes it’s even more important to cause a disruption that illustrates the intensity of their struggle." Silver wrote, "If I were advising players, I'd try to get popular quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees -- all the plaintiffs in the antitrust suit filed last Friday against the league -- to join menacing defenders such as Ray Lewis, Troy Polamalu and Jared Allen in a show of force outside Radio City during the three-day draft" (, 3/16).

PLAYERS LOSING THE PR BATTLE? In Ohio, Bob Frantz writes if the "first full week since the union decertified is any indication, the players have a lot to learn about public relations if they expect to win fan support." What are NFL players "hoping to accomplish by depriving top draft picks of the chance to walk across the stage to thunderous applause, accepting their first NFL jersey, and shaking hands with the commissioner?" Frantz: "Are they expecting to hurt the owners with such a move? Will a draft boycott cause Jerry Richardson or Jerry Jones to suddenly cry 'uncle' and give in to union demands?" (Willoughby NEWS-HERALD, 3/17).

Predators GM David Poile yesterday said that the NHL implemented its "new concussion protocol in NHL games starting" last night, according to Scott Burnside of Speaking at the conclusion of the NHL GM meetings, Poile "described the new protocol that will include a 15-minute break from the game in the dressing room for a player who may have suffered a concussion during play." The protocol is "aimed at keeping players who might have suffered a concussion from doing further damage by continuing to play." Poile acknowledged that players' symptoms "may arise after 15 minutes, but this is an important start." NHL Senior Exec VP/Hockey Operations Colin Campbell noted that the league was "still working out some details on the mechanics of the proposal." Meanwhile, other issues discussed by the GMs before the conclusion of their meetings yesterday "included expanding the role of video play at some point in the future." Video replay currently "applies only to whether a goal is legal or not," but there is "some appetite for looking at other issues like whether a puck hit the mesh above the glass but play wasn't whistled dead and a goal was scored on the ensuing play." Burnside noted it is "believed the issue will be discussed again at the June GMs meetings during the Stanley Cup final" (, 3/16). In Toronto, Damien Cox reports the final day of the meetings was "largely about rules for the shootout ... and potential ways for the league to expand its video review system, possibly including a coach's challenge." There "was also discussion about miscellaneous topics," but the "elephant in the room continued to be head shots and concussions" (TORONTO STAR, 3/17).

COMPLICATION OF PROTOCOL: Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said that he "believes only one team travels with a team physician during the regular season," which means that under the league's new protocol away teams' players would be "examined by the home-team doctor, the opponent." The concern is that an "opponent's employee is making personnel decision for another team." Yzerman: "That's something we have to consider." However, he added, "These doctors are professionals. I trust their integrity. Until it becomes an issue, I'm going to give the process the opportunity to work." Yzerman did note traveling with a team physician is "something we're definitely going to discuss." Yzerman: "These doctors also have day jobs. It would be tough for them to go on a seven- or eight-day road trip" (, 3/16).

GMS SPEAK OUT: In Pittsburgh, Shelly Anderson reports Penguins GM Ray Shero yesterday "made it clear his support of what he calls 'zero tolerance' for hits to the head was not formed because of the concussion that has sidelined" Penguins C Sidney Crosby for 10 weeks. Shero: "People think since January my view has changed. That's not the case. It's probably changed over the last year and a half." Shero is "hopeful that more GMs will gravitate toward zero tolerance on hits to the head." Shero: "Some guys might be on the fence, and some guys might never change their stance because that's the way they believe the game should be played. I think we all respect each others' opinion" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/17). Shero acknowledged a ban on head hits would bring about an NHL "with less hitting, though not one without hitting" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/17). More Shero: "I'd like to see how the game is going to be played with the tightening of the rules -- maybe next March we have a different stance on things." Hurricanes President & GM Jim Rutherford added, "Let's see what this step does now to maybe limit a lot of these hits that we've seen." Sabres GM Darcy Regier said that he "was 'optimistic' that next year more of his colleagues would want to outlaw all head contact" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/17). Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk, who has been named to a committee to study safety issues, said, "We all want to make the game better and safer, and we're going to do that. But it is a process. We're just not seeing the effects of the rule changes that were made back in 2005, and we're seeing that the game has more speed and the collisions are more intense. So, we have to adjust, but the adjustments take time" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 3/17).

Clutterbuck fears NHL may take physical
aspect out of the game with new rules
PLAYER REAX: Wild RW Cal Clutterbuck said he would "just hate to see" the league "take the physical aspect out of the game by making new rules every year." Clutterbuck: "Concussions are going to happen. ... If guys started going to the dressing room every time they got hit in the head, there'd be five guys in the dressing room at one time" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 3/17). But Lightning C Steven Stamkos said, "We need to make a change because this year we thought we were going to prevent it at the beginning of the year with some of the changes. But it's been worse. It's scary" (, 3/16).

TOO REACTIVE? The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor writes the NHL's GMs on head hits are "indeed going slowly, and there is undeniable support for caution, but there is also a sense that the sands have shifted in the league as much as along the beach just a few steps from where they met." NHL VP/Hockey & Business Development Brendan Shanahan said the fear is "about being too reactive and having to adjust constantly" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/17). In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino wrote, "It's clear to me the league is walking a fine line. Reducing the number of serious head injuries/concussions is something it clearly wants to do, but not at the expense of the sort of hard-hitting action its fans have come to expect" (, 3/16). But in Pittsburgh, Joe Starkey writes the GMs wound up "whiffing on the equivalent of an open net by refusing to recommend a full ban on head shots in a league where 1 in 10 players has been concussed this season." Starkey: "This was their chance" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/17).

Talk of a "cooperative arrangement" between the PGA Tour and LPGA "has resumed -- and this time, the idea is not likely to face the same resistance" it did when it was first discussed a decade ago, according to sources cited by Ron Sirak of GOLF DIGEST. While the "joint-effort concept is most tellingly being bounced around at PGA Tour headquarters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., it is also gaining traction with television executives who are looking for innovative ways to package golf on the small screen key, as well as some market-minded LPGA players who fear the current business model for their tour is unsustainable." Sirak noted the LPGA "could benefit from both the big pockets of the PGA Tour and from the ways in which it could structure added-value title sponsorship deals." Some PGA Tour sponsors "could take on LPGA events for a little more money, and the fact the PGA Tour would use its various promotional platforms to market the LPGA would help get the message out about how much talent there is in women's golf." Also, both tours have "long-term TV contracts with Golf Channel," and right now "that relationship hurts the LPGA." Because it is "down the pecking order behind not just the PGA Tour but the Champions Tour and Nationwide Tour as well, at least 35 LPGA rounds will be shown on delayed tape this year." Also, sources indicated that under a TV contract negotiated by former Commissioner Carolyn Bivens, the LPGA "picks up 100 percent of the cost of the Golf Channel production -- about $540,000 a week." Half of that total is "passed onto the tournaments, meaning the sponsor starts out down $270,000 for what, in many cases, is a delayed-tape broadcast." For the PGA Tour, partnering with the LPGA offers it a product with "enormous growth potential." In addition, the men's tour could gain "control of the scheduling of a tour that is, albeit a minor, competition for fans." Also, it is "another bargaining chip in the TV negotiations with CBS and NBC for the contracts that expire" after next season (, 3/15).

HELPING EACH OTHER OUT: Former LPGA member Annika Sorenstam said of the potential partnership between the tours, “It's something that's been swirling around for really the last 10 years. Just thinking, 'Hey, how can the LPGA get to the next level? What does the Tour need to grow and to get bigger purses, et cetera?' I don't think it's anything new." Sorenstam added, "I wouldn't be totally against it. I think that we can really help each other in a lot of ways, especially now with the economy." She said she "would love see some tournaments" that feature men's and women's fields. Sorenstam: “Not against each other, but kind of like tennis where they have the same venue. You can make it a smaller field and I think there's so much you can do to just kind of change it up a little bit" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 3/17).

YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski analyzes NBA Commissioner David Stern's standing throughout the league under the header, "Fear And Loathing Of David Stern." Teams "tremble over retribution from Stern and fear it in the form of officiating," but "respect has eroded for him, replaced with fear and loathing." One longtime league exec said, "Do you have to be mean and a bully to be a commissioner? As he’s gotten older, he has become more mean-spirited, and it shows in how he deals with his own staff, coaches and with the new-age owners." Wojnarowski added, "Don't push Stern too hard because there will be a price to pay. ... Anything goes in Stern’s NBA, except challenging the emperor" (, 3/15).

: Red Bulls F Thierry Henry is the "on-field leader for far lesser-paid soccer players, a few of them earning the MLS minimum of $40,000 per year," but the French star said that "such inequities will not stand in the way." Henry: "When I hear the amount of money (other MLS players make), it does slap me in the face. Where I'm from, everybody on the team will earn good money, and rightly so, because there's so much money in the game." But he added, "MLS reminds me of a young version of the English premiership" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/16).

BUILT TOUGH: NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson yesterday during a conference call with reporters said that he "will continue to crack down on illegal hits and won’t hesitate to issue suspensions to repeat offenders." He also said that "coaches and clubs will be held liable for the actions of their players." Anderson: "There is a clear acknowledgement that we need to be aggressive in disciplining, and we will give very clear advance notice to all players and all clubs to what that could potentially entail" (, 3/16).