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Volume 24 No. 112

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NFL has extended Commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract another five years to March '19, a development that comes at the conclusion of perhaps the most successful season in NFL history. His contract had been due to expire on March '14. In the last year, he negotiated a new 10-year CBA that triggered an economic shift to the owners, and recently completed lucrative new TV deals that mirror the length of the labor deal. Twenty-three of the top 25 rated TV programs in the current TV season have been NFL games. “I speak on behalf of 32 NFL club owners in saying we are fortunate to have Roger Goodell as our commissioner,” said Falcons Owner Arthur Blank, who chairs the league’s Compensation Committee. “Since becoming commissioner in 2006, the NFL -- already the leader in professional sports -- has gotten even stronger. As evidenced by this contract extension, we have great confidence in Roger’s vision and leadership of the NFL. Our clubs, players and fans could not ask for a better CEO.” The owners authorized the Compensation Committee in December to begin contract renewal talks. Before the CBA talks concluded, most viewed that deal as the defining moment of Goodell’s tenure, no matter how long he stays in the job. He secured a 10-year, no opt-out deal that saw owners get a better percentage of revenues and a long sought after limit on top rookie pay. Prior to taking over as commissioner in September '06, Goodell managed a wide array of football and business operations during a 24-year career in the NFL that started with an internship in the league office in '82 under former Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Rozelle served as commissioner from '60-89, and his successor, Paul Tagliabue, served from '89 -06. Presuming Goodell reaches the end of the new contract, the NFL will have had three commissioners in 59 years.

CHALLENGES AHEAD: Goodell has been a target for criticism, whether it be for his player safety measures, fines for hits deemed unsafe, and his personal conduct policy. His future challenges include striking a deal for an HGH testing system with the NFLPA, improving the in-stadium experience so fans do not stay home, and generating new revenues to meet his lofty financial expectations. Two years ago, he challenged the owners to hit $25B in revenue by '27. In '11, revenues were $9.4B. Revenues would need to surpass $16B by the end of his current contract to be on pace for that goal.

Capitals VP & GM George McPhee said that LW Alex Ovechkin "will not participate in the NHL’s All Star game, which is scheduled for later this week in Ottawa," according to Katie Carrera of the WASHINGTON POST. The NHL on Monday suspended Ovechkin for three games following his hit on Penguins D Zbynek Michalek during Sunday's game. Ovechkin said that he "didn’t feel comfortable attending the All-Star game and did not want to be a distraction." McPhee said that he "supported Ovechkin’s decision to pull out" of the game. Ovechkin: "My heart is not there. I got suspended, so why I have to go there? I love the game, it’s a great event, I love to be there but I’m suspended. I don’t want to be a target. I feel I’m not deserving to be there right now." Carrera notes Ovechkin "was disappointed in the length of his suspension and said he didn’t believe his check on Michalek ... was a dirty hit" (, 1/25). McPhee said, "He really doesn’t want to be a distraction up there, either. You know what the questions are all going to be. And so it’s a great event and he doesn’t want to (be) a distraction, and we don’t want it either" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 1/25). USA TODAY's Mike Brehm notes Ovechkin "has been a staple at the All-Star Game since joining the league in 2005-06 and has injected humor into the proceedings." Under NHL rules, Ovechkin "could have gone to the All-Star Game even with the suspension" (USA TODAY, 1/25).

PUNISHMENT PROTEST? YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski noted the Capitals and Ovechkin "didn't explicitly say that the decision was made to protest the suspension, but it's not exactly a Grand Canyon-sized logical leap when Ovechkin says he 'loves the game' but that 'his heart is not there' due to the supplemental discipline." Wyshynski: "It's true that Ovechkin's participation in the 2012 All-Star game wasn't based on merit. He's had an underwhelming season. ... Ovechkin is there as a gate attraction, as a star to trot out at sponsors' parties and as a walking billboard for the business interests he's paid to represent. It's a three-day informercial for the NHL, and Ovechkin has chosen to cancel his cameo. If the NHL wanted to punish him for that decision ... we'd have no problem with it" (, 1/24).  ESPN's Barry Melrose said, "If you want all the glory of being great, if you want all the great things that happen when you're a well-paid superstar in the NHL, you should be at the All-Star Game. That benefits the NHL and benefit their partners” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/25). The GLOBE & MAIL's Sean Gordon writes while Ovechkin’s decision "may be chalked up as an act of defiance (or petulance) from a man who feels wronged by the league, his comments hint at a deeper truth." He has gone from being the NHL’s "most-feared goal scorer to a bubble all-star candidate" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/25). Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said, "He's sticking it to the National Hockey League" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 1/24). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "This is the act of a selfish baby, to take your puck and go home. You go to the All-Star Game. You don’t say to the NHL, ‘See what you did to me? Now I’m doing this’” (“PTI,” ESPN, 1/24). The GLOBE & MAIL's Eric Duhatschek writes in the "aftermath of his suspension for a head shot," Ovechkin's decision "just comes across as more spoiled-brat behaviour" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/25).

INJURY BUG: In Ottawa, Ken Warren writes Ovechkin's decision is the "latest embarrassment for the league when it comes to drawing all-stars to the game." Ovechkin is the "latest in a long line of original all-star selections who won't be coming, but most of those were based on injuries." Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews "has an upper body injury" and was replaced yesterday by Flyers LW Scott Hartnell. Meanwhile, before the selections were announced this year, Red Wings D Nicklas Lidstrom and Ducks RW Teemu Selanne "asked the league to not consider them because they would prefer to take the time off to rest and spend time with their families" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/25). Also in Ottawa, Wayne Scanlan writes, "It's not that the Ottawa ASG lacks stars. The entire NHL is missing its marquee mojo at the moment." Penguins C Sidney Crosby will not be at the All-Star Game "because his head is still not right after his latest concussion." Also missing the game due to injury are Oilers C Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Wild C Mikko Koivu, Jets D Dustin Byfuglien and Stars C Jamie Benn. Scanlan writes just a "few years ago, Sidney and Ovie were the young faces of the game, poised to carry hockey for the next decade or more. ... Good to great players are all around us. But let's not pretend that [Penguins C] Evgeni Malkin and [Red Wings C] Pavel Datsyuk, as skilled as they are, can capture the imagination of fringe fans while the league hitches its wagon to them" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/25).

As the PGA Tour is going forward with its "controversial plan to eliminate Qualifying School by merging it with the second-tier Nationwide Tour to create a three-tournament run for the roses with 50 cards on offer, players were given their first formal rundown of the far-reaching new plan in a mandatory meeting at Torrey Pines on Tuesday night," according to Steve Elling of The plan "represents the most comprehensive change in tour policy since the FedEx Cup series was adopted six years ago." Q-school is about to be "sold down the river in an attempt to prop up the value of the satellite Nationwide, a tour property that needs a new title sponsor after the insurance company's contract expires later this year." A tour official said, "No doubt, it is a divisive issue." The tour is saying that it is "blowing up Q-school after this fall for two primary reasons: Money-list data convincingly demonstrates that the 25 players promoted after a full season of Nationwide play have a higher card-retention rate than have the 25 or so alums from Q-school." The second reason, and one "not broadly cited in the spin control to date, is the tour badly needs a new umbrella sponsor." As part of the pitch to "attract a replacement for Nationwide, the new plan is for the PGA Tour to run a wraparound season, a la the NBA and NHL, starting after the FedEx Cup series ends in mid-September." The new qualifying series will be "contested in the same time frame, at different venues, with tour cards at stake" (, 1/24).

NOT PAYING FOR PLAYING: The PGA Tour does not allow for players to collect appearance fees, and Tour Exec VP/Communications & Int'l Affairs Ty Votaw said, "We understand why other tours around the world may feel it's necessary to allow for appearance fees. We feel our job is to make our tournaments as attractive as possible for our players to compete. Other tours may feel the need to do it. We don't." Tiger Woods yesterday said he is playing this week in Abu Dhabi instead of the PGA Tour Farmers Insurance Open in part because of an appearance fee, but Farmers Tournament Dir Tom Wilson said that he "agrees with the PGA Tour rules." Wilson: "Essentially, one person is playing for the same thing as everybody else. It eliminates guys just showing up for the big check. They do have a pretty good field in Abu Dhabi, but not that many American players." Votaw explained, "A player with the fee misses the cut, for example, there can be the perception, the possibility, that the player just came for the fee. That's something the PGA Tour is concerned about. We've never felt that was appropriate" (L.A. TIMES, 1/25).

In London, Doug Gratton writes tennis player Maria Sharapova “has reacted fiercely to questions over her loud shrieking today after being singled out for criticism as the high-decibel issue returned to the top of the agenda at the Australian Open.” Sharapova said, “You’ve watched me grow up, you’ve watched me play tennis. I’ve been the same over the course of my career. No one important enough has told me to change or do something different.” The WTA said that it “was looking at ways to stop young players [from] developing the habit.” The WTA said, “Everyone who watches tennis knows grunting is a part of the game, and we are aware that some fans find it bothersome. We are currently in the process of exploring how to reduce excessive grunting ... without adversely affecting players who have developed their game under the current training, rules and procedures” (, 1/25).

UPHILL BATTLE: ESPN DALLAS' Jeff Caplan reported Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban "said he will continue the uphill battle to make international basketball off limits to handsomely paid NBA players" after G Rodrigue Beaubois got hurt playing for France and F Dirk Nowitzki is now “nursing an injury and out of Dallas' lineup after playing for Germany.” Cuban has argued that NBA owners "should not be saddled with the full risk of their players suiting up for their countries in the offseason, and he said other owners agree with him but aren't as vocal in their opposition.” Cuban: “It's just the epitome of stupidity that we would allow ourselves to be used so other corporations … can make tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars.” Cuban said that he “tried to make it a topic of discussion during the collective bargaining agreement negotiations over the summer, but that attempt also failed” (, 1/24).

SETTING IT STRAIGHT: Richard Petty Motorsports Owner Richard Petty yesterday said that not re-signing COO Robbie Loomis “was a business decision.” Petty said that Loomis “was not fired, that his contract simply expired, and he still maintained a ‘personal’ relationship with the organization that has struggled financially the past few years.” Petty added that “all of Loomis' responsibilities at the track and shop have been re-assigned to other people.” He “did not rule out Loomis returning at some point, if it is financially feasible” (, 1/24).

RUMOR HAS IT:’s Alex Kennedy wrote there “have been rumblings that this year’s [NBA] Rookie-Sophomore game won’t pit the two draft classes against each other, but rather feature two teams with a combination of rookies and sophomores.” Kennedy: “We’re hearing that two TNT personalities -- possibly Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal -- will assemble the teams from the pool of selected players and coach the squads, as well.” An official announcement detailing the changes “could come in the next few weeks, as All-Star Weekend approaches” (, 1/23).