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Volume 24 No. 117

Leagues and Governing Bodies

There is a "growing belief inside league circles" that the NFL and NFLPA "will have an agreement in place that can be ratified during the July 21 league meetings in Atlanta," according to Mortensen & Schefter of Sources close to the talks "think an agreement in principle will be put in place in the next seven to 10 days, a handshake deal that would allow each side to ratify the deal" to start the '11 season. An NFL team owner this weekend said there is "no reason to believe it won't get done." One member of the players' negotiating committee contends that negotiations Wednesday and Thursday "will be the most telling days on whether an agreement indeed will be finalized within the July 21 time frame." Mortensen & Schefter note the "level of overall confidence in reaching an agreement also is evident in a document known as 'The Transition Rules' that NFL teams would follow if and when both players and owners ratify a new labor agreement." Those guidelines "spell out an actual timeline for roster transactions under the July 21 deal scenario, including the start of the new league year during which free agents would become eligible for the open market on July 28." If a deal is in fact ratified July 21, "all training camps would be able to open on time," and sources indicated that it would "assure that almost all preseason games would be played" (, 7/11).

: In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch reported U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan on Saturday ordered NFL owners and players "to meet with him July 19 in Minneapolis if they haven't been able to work out a settlement in the meantime." The NFL and players "would seem to need an agreement by around Friday to save the entire 2011 season as scheduled, but there was so little urgency exhibited by both parties that they recessed talks between the key figures over the weekend and won't resume until Tuesday at the earliest." News of the break in talks "didn't appear to go over well with Boylan, who made his announcement as he was departing on a previously-scheduled vacation." Boylan said that sides "were welcome to reach an agreement between themselves before July 19, a not-so-subtle hint to both parties that they should get back to the bargaining table" (N.Y. POST, 7/10). Boylan's date for the next mediation is "four days after the self-imposed deadline to start the preseason on time." He also ordered attorneys from both sides "to be ready to meet with him on the evening of July 18 'for an in-person agenda-setting session' that presumably would set the stage for meaningful, fruitful talks the following day." If the league and players "have not reached a deal by the time they are scheduled to meet with Boylan in Minneapolis, it could be bad news for training camps and perhaps even preseason games" (, 7/10).

NOT MUCH FRIDAY PROGRESS:'s Albert Breer reported owners and players "wrapped up a frustrating couple of days in Manhattan with 10 hours of talks Friday that didn't produce much." Sources said that there "was little to no progress on the core issues the parties had hoped to break through in constructing a new labor deal." There was scheduled to be some "communication between the parties over the weekend -- it's not considered a 'weekend off' -- but the next set of face-to-face labor talks won't occur" until today. Legal teams and staff from each side will meet today in Manhattan, "with the owners and players expected to join them Tuesday or Wednesday." Breer noted "adversely affecting Friday's talks was the late-morning ruling" from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which "overturned U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's April decision to issue an injunction to lift the lockout" (, 7/10). In N.Y., Judy Battista cited a source as saying that the "timing of the court’s opinion -- issued in the morning -- was 'awful' and 'not helpful' to the talks, unsettling them just as the sides hoped to finish discussions on the revenue split, the heart of the dispute." The source said that the court's decision "emboldened the hawks among both parties," even "inspiring some owners to want more concessions from players, and some on the players’ side to want to press their case, with the prospect that the court could allow antitrust damages" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/9). Shortly after the ruling was announced, the two sides "issued a joint statement saying they were committed to resolving the labor impasse at the bargaining table" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/9).

Rookie compensation system slowing down
negotiations in NFL CBA talks
HIT THE BRAKES: In DC, Mark Maske cited sources as saying that "differences between the two sides on how a rookie compensation system would work contributed heavily to the talks slowing Friday during a negotiating session in New York." The league "wants to significantly curb the amount of guaranteed money in the contracts of players selected early" in the NFL Draft. Sources said that the players are "willing to agree to a system that diverts money from rookies to veterans," but they are "resisting a system as restrictive as what the league is seeking" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/10). The N.Y. TIMES' Battista reports the "rookie wage system, once thought to be a secondary issue to the overall division of revenues, emerged in recent days as a significant stumbling block, bogging down talks last Friday." The disagreement "centers on the amount of money and the length of the contracts given to players selected in the first round, who sign the biggest contracts with the most guaranteed money" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/11). But YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole on Friday reported there were some "positive notes to take away from the past couple of days." NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler "expressed cautious optimism during a call with his clients on Thursday." Also, sources indicated that Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones, "like Kessler, is also suddenly working toward resolution after long being perceived as a hardliner by the players." Cole noted the "vast majority of owners look" to Jones and Patriots Owner Robert Kraft "for guidance." Last week, the players were "happy to see Jones and Kraft in lockstep over getting a deal done." Cole: "In many respects, Jones and Kraft are more powerful than NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. ... It’s Jones and Kraft who really have the ear of their brethren" (, 7/8).

EYES ON THE CLOCK: Steelers S Ryan Clark after a conference call with other player reps on Friday said that he is "optimistic the longest labor stoppage in NFL history is close to getting settled." Clark: "People on the outside are getting more optimistic the more the media talks about it, but for those of us on the inside, for those of us in the know, we've been excited" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/9). But free agent LB Hunter Hillenmeyer, an alternate player rep for the Bears, said, "We are not on the cusp of a deal. The sides have gotten closer and we're continuing to talk and we're taking less breaks between talks. All of those things are good signs, but we don't want guys to think, 'Good, a deal is going to get done next week so I can start spending money like I would if I was going to be getting a paycheck in a month'" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/10). In Boston, Greg Bedard noted when negotiations resume today, "both sides will be up against a real deadline." If the lockout goes past Friday, the preseason "would be in jeopardy." This week's talks are "not expected to include" Boylan, who went on vacation this weekend (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/9). In Denver, Jeff Legwold wrote under the header, "Clock Ticking For NFL To Get A Deal" (DENVER POST, 7/10). Agent Pat Dye Jr. on Friday said, "It serves as a real impetus in negotiations when there’s a chance you’re going to start losing money. There’s a golden goose out there. They have to figure a way out of this" (, 7/9).

Nets G Deron Williams believes that if the NBA owners "break the players and get" the new CBA they are pushing for, "some stars could opt to play overseas long-term," according to Chris Broussard of Williams, who plans to play next season in Turkey if the NBA misses games, said that any CBA that "would leave stars such as Kobe Bryant making only $11 million a year -- the owners have proposed cutting players' salaries by roughly a third -- could open the door for an unprecedented exodus to Europe." Williams: "If the proposal (the owners) have, if that's what they're sticking with and that's what they want, then I think it would be hard for a lot of guys to come back to the NBA." He said that he "spoke with the union before agreeing to play in Turkey to make sure he wasn't damaging its cause," adding that NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter "was in favor of the move." Williams estimates that he has "heard from 10 to 15 other players, some of them superstars, since his decision to play overseas became public." He said that "many players are willing to follow his lead." Williams: "I don't want to sit around. That's what the NBA wants us to do right now. They locked us out of our gyms, they locked us out of facilities" (, 7/9). The AP's Andrew Seligman reported Heat G Dwyane Wade "could see himself and other NBA stars eyeing an overseas contract if the lockout drags on." Wade on Friday said, "If there's an opportunity there, I'd consider it" (AP, 7/8). Knicks G Landry Fields "thinks more players -- especially superstars -- may follow" Williams and play overseas during the lockout. Fields said, "It's more applicable to superstars, but I'm sure there will be other guys who are not necessarily All-Stars who will do something like that." On Friday, former NBAers Sonny Weems and Darius Songaila both signed deals to play in Europe (, 7/8).

NOT SO FAST: In N.Y., Fred Kerber noted some NBA players will go to Europe, "but that doesn't mean there are teams waiting with opens arms and checkbooks." Agent Mark Bartelstein said, "We're talking to a number of teams but it really is a case-by-case basis for individual players, where is he in his contract, where he is in his career." Agent Marc Cornstein, whose client Nenad Krstic signed a deal overseas, "does not foresee a long list of players flocking to foreign teams." Cornstein said, "I wouldn't say it's going to be an exodus, especially for the higher-end players. For starters, there are not enough overseas teams with the resources to afford a superstar of Deron Williams' caliber." Another agent said that his "main concern for any player who left to play for a foreign team would be regarding insurance" (N.Y. POST, 7/9). In Chicago, David Haugh wrote under the header, "Playing In Europe A Foolish Risk For NBA Stars." One agent "scoffed at the notion Williams was setting a trend other stars would follow," referring to Williams "as the exception, not the rule." Another agent "questioned whether the advice Williams was getting benefited the person as much as the player" (, 7/9). Knicks F Amar'e Stoudemire on Saturday "put an end to any rumors that he would play basketball in Europe if the NBA's labor issues persist." Stoudemire on Twitter wrote, "Europe teams are calling, I think I'm going 2 stay here in the states" (N.Y. POST, 7/11). In Akron, Jason Lloyd writes, "Don’t expect too many stars to head overseas if this lockout extends to the regular season. There is simply too much money at stake in the NBA to risk injury elsewhere" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 7/11).

Evans believes David Stern does well
to present owners as a united group
PLAYERS WEIGHING THEIR OPTIONS: In N.Y., Howard Beck noted decertification, "coupled with an antitrust lawsuit," remains a "weapon in the basketball players’ arsenal should negotiations fail." NBPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler said, "It’s not off the table in any way. There’s no immediate urgency to that issue. It’s an option the players are actively considering. But they have time to decide whether it makes sense to end the union or not." He added, "One option available to NBA players is to end their union and seek an injunction against the NBA's lockout for all free agents and rookies. And that’s something that the players will consider in the future, with all of their other options, as things proceed.” Beck noted if the NBA players "do pursue an antitrust lawsuit, they are likely to use the NFL's case as a guideline and file in another jurisdiction, probably the Ninth Circuit in California, which is considered more liberal" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/10). Wizards G and NBPA VP Maurice Evans last week "candidly spoke about the labor situation" with's Sam Amick. Evans said, "The owners are very intelligent. Most of them own businesses, and they're very unified, and David Stern does a great job of making sure they keep a united front. It's easier for those guys to kind of manipulate the public to make their concessions seem bigger than they really are." He added, "It's unnecessary for us to be in this situation when a resolution is staring us right in the face. There's no reason we shouldn't be able to sit in a room and come up with a way to divvy up a pie that's worth more than $4 billion. It just doesn't make any sense" (, 7/8).

OWNERS VS. OWNERS: In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence reported the NBA lockout "isn't just a fight between billionaire and millionaire owners and millionaire players," but also one that "pits small-market owners against their big-market counterparts." The owners' "central case to the lockout -- that 22 of the NBA's 30 teams are losing money and that players should have to take an annual $800 million pay cut to help stop the flow of red ink -- has shifted some of the spotlight to the league's underfinanced, if not out-dated, revenue-sharing plan, along with the growing disparity between big-market and small-market clubs." Owners remain "divided on a new revenue-sharing plan." NBA Commissioner David Stern has promised a "more robust" revenue-sharing model. But Lawrence noted "who puts in what and how the money is divided is still being worked out." One league source said, "Small-market owners are watching how it plays out very carefully." League sources indicated that the Knicks, Lakers and Bulls "don't like the idea of having to contribute more money." But in his league of "have and have-nots, Stern sees the need to take care of small-market teams, more than ever before." Stern said, "We're going full-speed ahead with revenue-sharing. There are certain issues that have to be vetted. There will be spirited debate. But everybody knows there is going to be much more robust sharing" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/10).

SPORTS GUY’S SOLUTION:'s Bill Simmons offers an extensive solution to the NBA lockout and wrote the lockout “will stretch into November, then December, with the players panicking a little more each day." Simmons: "By the end of January, the players will cave: You'll see a 50/50 BRI split, four-year deals (none longer), a slightly harder cap (thanks to the abolition of midlevel exceptions and Larry Bird rights), the end of the luxury tax and a 50-game season that blows just as much as the last lockout season did. Team Stern's concession will be a five-year deal through 2016, right when the NBA's television deal expires, preventing it from getting screwed if the league rakes in more TV money than anyone expects.” Simmons added, “David Stern will always be my favorite commissioner ever, but his lack of resourcefulness during these past few years has been somewhat appalling. He's starting to resemble Larry O'Brien. ... The league can't fix its small-picture issues unless it's addressing the big-picture ones, too. Can Stern even see that anymore?” (, 7/8).

NEXT IN LINE? In Orlando, Brian Schmitz noted Bucks G and NBPA VP Keyon Dooling "would be a terrific choice to succeed" Lakers G Derek Fisher some day as NBPA President, but Dooling insists that he "doesn't have interest in the job." He said, "I don't have any plans to replace Derek Fisher." He jokingly added, "He might play longer than I will" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/10).

MLB over the weekend faced a historically large flurry of All-Star Game roster substitutions, some injury driven and others resulting from the league’s new rule that pitchers throwing on the Sunday before the game are no longer eligible. A total of 84 players, more than 11% of all MLB players on active rosters, have been named an All-Star initially or been designated an injury replacement. Among the players dropping out from the event over the weekend was Yankees SS Derek Jeter, who will not play despite drawing more than 4.5 million fan votes and recording a five-hit game Saturday as he surpassed the 3,000-hit mark for his career (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner indicated that this year’s “mass All-Star exodus is more about ‘circumstance’ than an indication that players don’t care about the All-Star Game.” Weiner: “By and large, I think players are excited to participate in the game. I think we happened to have a series of circumstances this year, including a lot of Sunday starters, that have led to this situation.”'s Jayson Stark noted what “raised eyebrows around the sport" was the fact just four players who requested injury replacements were "on the disabled list” as of yesterday. The withdrawal of “three marquee names for the Yankees" -- Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera -- has been a "source of consternation among executives for other clubs and among fans.” But Rodriguez is scheduled to have knee surgery today and Jeter "just came off" the DL. Players who withdraw from the All-Star team “after being selected still qualify for their bonuses, regardless of whether they play in the game or show up for the festivities” (, 7/10).

DOES MLB LOOK BAD? ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" last night featured a discussion about the number of All-Stars pulling out of the game, and ESPN's Karl Ravech said, "This is not a good for ... Major League Baseball. The attendance is down a little bit, the sport needs to be relevant and this is your summer showcase. You’ve got ‘This Counts’ and players kind of telling you, ‘No, it really doesn’t. We’re not going.’” ESPN’s John Kruk said the players who elected by the fans “should be at the All-Star Game, whether they can play or not,” because that’s “what the fans wanted to see.” ESPN’s Barry Larkin said not going to the All-Star Game “just because it’s a little uncomfortable -- I think everybody has a problem with that” ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 7/10).