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Volume 24 No. 116

Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA Commissioner David Stern yesterday declined to comment "about the assertion that Stern did not tell the truth in describing the events prior to his decision to disallow the three-team trade involving the Rockets, Lakers and Hornets," according to Jonathan Feigen of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Stern told reporters last week he had only been "generally informed about the discussions with teams" before he was presented with the proposed trade. Stern also said that Hornets GM Dell Demps "never thought the deal was complete." But sources said that Stern "was kept informed throughout the process and that Demps and other Hornets officials believed the deal to have been completed before Stern chose not to allow it to go through" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 12/19). In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote Stern "has never been a commissioner who cares about perception, but his delicate treatment of the situation in New Orleans is definitely worth noting." While some NBA observers "suggested contraction may be the best method for solving the league’s financial problems, the commissioner has made it clear he plans to ensure the Hornets thrive, even if that means widespread criticism from other owners" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/18).

BUYING LOCAL: A New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE editorial stated in return for trading G Chris Paul to the Clippers, the Hornets "are getting great assets to build for the long-term." The editorial: "There's no denying, though, that in Chris Paul the Hornets are losing their biggest fan draw and an electrifying player. ... Hornets fans made a strong commitment to the team this offseason, buying more than 10,000 season tickets. Mr. Stern cited that show of support as he vowed to pursue what's best for the team. The commissioner has proven his commitment to our region. He was instrumental in the Hornets returning after Hurricane Katrina and in bringing the 2008 All-Star Game to New Orleans. Mr. Stern also got the NBA owners to buy the team when then-Hornets owner George Shinn wanted out a year ago" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 12/16). In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence wrote the NBA "never should have bought the Hornets," it should have "folded the franchise." Stern has said that the Hornets "will be sold in the first half of next year." A source said, "The way they're marketing it, they definitely want to keep the team in New Orleans. But finding a local buyer will be tough. There are not that many people in New Orleans who can afford it. More likely, you'd have to go to Houston to find someone. Maybe there will be someone from overseas" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/18).

The NHL has a "concussion outbreak on its hands," as the "sheer number of players with concussions is disturbing enough, but what is perhaps equally disturbing is the news that at least three players passed Impact concussion evaluation tests yet were still suffering symptoms," according to Klein & Hackel of the N.Y. TIMES. The NHL "seems to be taking the stance that the current epidemic is an unfortunate statistical coincidence and that no policy changes are warranted" (, 12/17). In Boston, Kevin Paul Dupont noted no matter what the statistics "might tell us, the optics are bad and getting worse." The NHL has "something wrong with its head, specifically the concussed brains of its rank-and-file stick carriers, and no one is sure what to do about it." To its credit, the NHL has "paid attention for a while, implementing baseline testing and return-to-work protocols that were ahead of, or at least in lockstep with, other professional leagues." And Dupont noted things are "improving under" NHL VP/Player Safety & Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan, at least from a "penance-and-pay standpoint." But there are "numerous other ways to dial back on the concussions" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/18). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, “For once the league is finally identifying and treating and enforcing recoveries from concussions, which they have to do” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 12/16).

SOMETHING MUST BE DONE: In N.Y., Pat Leonard wrote it is "difficult to avoid calling it an epidemic." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "defended the league on his weekly radio show Thursday, reminding listeners that the NHL is fully aware of how serious the concussion issue is." Bettman: "We’re doing our best to be very proactive in terms of diagnosis and treatment." He cited the softer Plexiglass boards, concussion treatment protocols and stricter rules governing hits to the head. Bettman added, "It’s important, and people are working on it every day." But Leonard wrote Bettman is "missing the point." No one is "saying the NHL is doing nothing, and if they are, it's not true." What is "clear, however, is that the league's current measures to prevent concussions are not good enough" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/18). In DC, Tarik El-Bashir noted when "so many stars are sidelined simultaneously" -- including Penguins C Sidney Crosby, Senators LW Milan Michalek and Flyers D Chris Pronger -- the issues "need to be reexamined and serious questions must be considered" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/16). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said, "This is a huge problem they seem to be dragging their feet on in the NHL." ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said, “In hockey, the speed at which you are hit is amazing at this point. As Ken Dryden suggested today in Grantland, you can’t wait for the science on this. Your eyes should tell you that there is a real problem.” Wilbon: “You have to treat this like an emergency and it doesn’t seem like the league is” (“PTI,” ESPN, 12/16). The WATERLOO RECORD editorial stated hockey "can't be played without some risk." Professional players "understand that." But Crosby's concussion, its "lasting effects and the head injuries that continue to be suffered must prompt a more careful review of the game" (WATERLOO RECORD, 12/15). In Pittsburgh, Dejan Kovacevic lists his remedies for concussions in sports (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 12/19).

UFC co-Chair Lorenzo Fertitta in a decade has "helped transform the sport of mixed martial arts from a niche contest dismissed as the activities of hooligans to a major television network deal and a monthly flow of millions of dollars with pay-per-view events in usually sold-out arenas," according to Lance Pugmire of the L.A. TIMES. Fertitta sits for a Q&A with Pugmire to discuss MMA and how it can continue to grow.

Q: Your sport has risen to the prominence of mainstream sports attention moreso than any other over the last 10 years. What are your plans to continue to grow MMA?
Fertitta: It all starts with this Fox deal, creating this new layer of fans. We're starting to see that happening and we're just really getting started to expand into international markets like Brazil, Asia, Europe, Mexico. The challenge is what to prioritize. We've added infrastructure -- offices in London, Toronto, Beijing. It's a challenge, but why we're bringing in real smart people to deal with it. Five years ago, we had 25 to 30 employees. Now we have 250.

Q: The most valuable player of baseball is dealing with a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs. Your sport has been affected by use. How do you address this in a firm way?
Fertitta: We urge commissions to adopt random testing -- at anytime within 48 hours, they have to provide a sample. If a guy knows he's only getting tested before and after a fight, it's easy to manipulate. To me, that's the weakness of other sports, like with the NFL players running from HGH testing. If you encourage testing, embrace it, there's significantly less perception that you have a safety or credibility issue.

Q: What stands between your sport and full mainstream sports acceptance?
Fertitta: Sports media -- newspapers -- have been late to the party. It's a bit like what happened with NASCAR. This is what people want. So it's just a matter of time before these editors realize we have the attention of Generation X and Generation Y. We are the main sport online. That said, I do believe we're completely accepted as a major sport in the U.S. I still get the past stigmas when I go to other countries, but we're past that here now (L.A. TIMES, 12/19).'s Richard Justice wrote MLB Commissioner Bud Selig's "most remarkable accomplishment is one almost no one talks about anymore." Selig "got the owners to speak with one voice," and it was Selig who "decided baseball people needed to be doing baseball negotiations." Justice: "Selig's fingerprints were on everything. Baseball's 16-year labor peace has come about, in part, because he insisted the lines of communication remain open" (, 12/17). Meanwhile, MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner appeared on SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio Friday and said of Brewers LF Ryan Braun's positive drug test, "Our process contemplates that any appeal that a player [has] will occur before there's a disclosure of the test. In this case that didn't happen and I'm not going to get into why it didn't happen. ... It is unfortunate. It really is a shame for Ryan that he did not get the benefit of the confidentiality agreement or provisions that are in our agreement" (, 12/18).

UPHILL BATTLE: In L.A., Jim Peltz writes IndyCar and its CEO Randy Bernard "must overcome several issues still weighing on their effort to boost the sport's popularity." The series "is rolling out a new race car whose ultimate performance is yet unknown," and the job "of series race director remains unfilled." IndyCar is "grappling to find a financially viable balance of races on oval tracks and those on twisty street and road courses." Bernard said, "We need to take a step back and truly understand what our fans want to see on those ovals, because the product we were providing -- besides the Indy 500 and Texas and Iowa -- we've had marginal success at best." IndyCar has not replaced President of Competition & Racing Brian Barnhart, but Bernard said a successor "has to be in place before the first of the year. ... We're very close to selecting one" (L.A. TIMES, 12/19). 

HEIR TO THE THRONE: YAHOO SPORTS' Jonathan Wall wrote with each passing event, the LPGA's Lexi Thompson "continues to look more and more like the real deal." Thompson won the European Tour's Dubai Ladies Masters Saturday, and the LPGA "has been waiting [for] a young star to come along and shake up the tour." Wall: "For the longest time everyone thought that was Michelle Wie. But after watching Thompson hoist the trophy on Saturday in Dubai, maybe we were wrong all along. For the moment it looks like a 16-year-old with an extremely bright future is the tour's heir apparent" (, 12/17).