The topsy-turvey ATP leader search at long last concluded Thursday with the announcement that long-time insider Brad Drewett will take over as Exec Chair & President. He has a three-year deal. The board Wednesday was still deciding between Drewett and ATP CEO of the Americas Mark Young. The incumbent, Adam Helfant, announced in May he would not renew his deal after he was unable to come to terms on a new contract. The ATP search, conducted without a search firm, immediately focused on Drewett and Young, but players balked at what they saw as management insiders. The focus then turned to Ian Ritchie, the CEO of the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, but he dropped out after his name was leaked. Former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek then became a top contender, but tourneys balked at his lack of experience. Players were split over his candidacy, with Roger Federer, president of the Player Council, opposed. Krajicek pulled out earlier this month. That left the board with either the two original candidates or hiring a search firm to go outside the sport. Drewett, a 53-year-old Aussie who reached a career-high rank of 34, will be based in London. He has run the ATP’s Middle East, Asia and Pacific region.
Leagues and Governing Bodies
The NFLPA Exec Committee "voted to give" Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith his $1M bonus, according to Mike Freeman of CBSSPORTS.com. An NFLPA statement read in part, "The Executive Committee of the NFLPA stands firmly united behind Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and what has been accomplished under his leadership." There had been "some concern among some NFLPA leaders that Smith might not receive the bonus and he could depart" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/21). In DC, Mark Maske notes the bonus "is in addition to Smith’s salary, estimated by several people knowledgeable about Smith’s compensation to be about $2.5 million annually." Smith "did not receive his salary during the 4 1/2-month NFL lockout and previously had not received any bonuses during his tenure as executive director." His contract with the NFLPA "expires in March" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/22). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted the the Exec Committee "doesn’t have the exclusive say" on whether Smith's contract will be renewed, as the Board of Player Representatives "also will have input." Florio: "Any of the player representatives who already had concerns about Smith possibly will be even more concerned by the appearance that he strong-armed the Executive Committee into paying the $1 million bonus by threatening to quit" (NBCSPORTS.com, 12/21).
NFL HEADACHE: In Atlanta, Angel Brooks reports four former NFLers "are suing the league over long-term injuries they say were caused by concussions they suffered as athletes." The lawsuits were filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on behalf of Jamal Lewis, Dorsey Levens, Fulton Kuykendall and Ryan Stewart. The plaintiffs allege that they "suffer from memory loss, headaches and sleeplessness as a result of multiple traumatic brain injuries during their careers." The suits argue that the NFL "was negligent in its research of head injuries and concussions and downplayed the link between concussions and brain damage." The league also is "accused of fraud for materially misrepresenting the risk to players, failing to warn them and not adequately protecting them" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 12/22).
NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter "has no plans of stepping down and wants to continue his job through the life of his contract," according to Gary Washburn of the BOSTON GLOBE. Hunter said, "I’ve got like five years remaining on my contract, and that probably will be enough." There has been "speculation that Hunter would no longer serve as executive director" after he received his "share of criticism from players and agents during the intense labor negotiations that resulted in a lockout that delayed the start of this season." But Hunter said, "I think (criticism is) just part of the process and it can’t be avoided. We had the same issue in '98 and that a lot of our guys didn’t follow it and a lot of times they react because someone else is giving them misinformation and they really don’t understand the deal." He added, "I never did (believe there would be no season), I knew there would be a deal" (BOSTON.com, 12/21). Hunter said of "remaining stubborn" during the 149-day lockout, "We had no choice, we had to do it. Keep in mind, the union is comprised of a diverse group of 450 players, so depending on who you talked to at any given moment, the players had different ideas and reactions of how you should play it. We got to the place where the owners thought they had us cornered and that we had to take the deal, and we just said no way." Hunter said that the union "was committed to pursuing its two class-action lawsuits, filed in San Francisco and Minneapolis, until learning that each was assigned to what the union perceived to be a conservative labor judge, and that encouraged the union to restart negotiations on a deal that likely saved both sides millions of dollars in legal costs, and saved the sport from further embarrassment." He said that "one of his goals was to preserve the NBA middle class, and so far it is getting paid." Hunter: "Guys will continue to earn millions of dollars and be the highest-paid group of athletes on the globe, and that’s what we’ve historically been. What we said was we would not agree to any deal where players would take a cut, and they haven’t taken a cut" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/22).
STAYING OVERSEAS: ESPN.com's Chris Broussard noted former Nuggets F J.R. Smith "would like nothing more than to follow Kenyon Martin out of China and back" to the U.S. However, a source said that "we shouldn't expect other NBA players -- Smith, Wilson Chandler or Aaron Brooks -- to follow Martin's example and make an early exit from the Chinese Basketball Association." All the NBA players who signed to play in China during the lockout "did so with the understanding and contractual obligation to stay throughout the entire CBA season." There "has been talk that NBA players can buy out of their contracts for $500,000, but even that sum isn't going to move CBA officials to clear guys to play in the NBA" (ESPN.com, 12/21).
The '12 Izod IndyCar Series schedule was released Thursday with 15 races confirmed for next season. The year will begin with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 25, with a debut race in China and returns to Detroit Belle Isle and Fontana highlighting the schedule. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard in a statement said, "We are exploring adding additional events to the 2012 schedule. We're in the process of confirming a 16th event, while also considering adding a 17th race to the calendar." The television lineup and start times will be announced later (IndyCar).
|March 25||Streets of St. Petersburg|
|April 1||Barber Motorsports Park|
|April 15||Streets of Long Beach|
|April 29||Streets of Sao Paulo|
|May 27||Indianapolis Motor Speedway|
|June 3||Raceway at Belle Isle Park|
|June 9||Texas Motor Speedway|
|June 23||Iowa Motor Speedway|
|July 8||Streets of Toronto|
|July 22||Edmonton City Centre Airport|
|August 5||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course|
|August 19||Streets of Qingdao|
|August 26||Infineon Raceway|
|September 2||Streets of Baltimore|
|September 15||Auto Club Speedway|
FEWER OVALS NEXT YEAR: SPEEDTV.com's Robin Miller reported the IndyCar Series is down to four oval tracks next year becuase “those were the only four tracks willing to make deals that were sensible for both parties.” However, Bernard is “working to get that number back up.” Bernard “wanted to promote Milwaukee but not without a title sponsor so the legendary one-mile oval is likely off the books.” IndyCar also has “made contact with Phoenix International Raceway about the possibility of returning in 2013, as well as Richmond's short oval.” Bernard had Project Manager Tony Cotman “research a street race in Las Vegas near the end of the Strip with a possible partnership” with the American Le Mans Series, but it is "only exploratory at the moment.” Bernard reportedly is “also trying to put together a street race in Fort Lauderdale for late September but it hasn’t been finalized.” The '12 schedule as presently constructed “will be the smallest schedule since 14 races were held in ’06” (SPEEDTV.com, 12/21).