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Volume 24 No. 112

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NFL is “moving toward suspending the Pro Bowl, possibly this year,” according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. The game is "on the calendar for the week before the Super Bowl, but there’s no game site that is listed." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and other league execs "and even some of the players are basically saying … that there’s no reason to play the Pro Bowl.” Meanwhile, the NFL likely will "instruct teams to continue to put Pro Bowl incentives in contracts." Mortensen: "If players have Pro Bowl incentives, go ahead and pay them so they don’t have a problem with the union in going with this action" (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN Radio, 4/26).’s Mike Freeman reports both the league and union officials have privately indicated that “while this year's game might still be played, it's highly unlikely the concept would last beyond that.” NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello in an e-mail said, “We have been in discussions with the union about the future of the Pro Bowl. No determination has been made yet about this season's game." Freeman notes Goodell was not “happy with last year's Pro Bowl which was widely viewed as a joke as players refused to even make basic tackles.” Most players “have long believed the game was a tremendous waste of time” (, 4/26). ESPN’s John Clayton said the NFL sees the Pro Bowl as a “damaged game,” but part of it is a “negotiating ploy to try to get players to be more committed to make it a better game and salvage it” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 4/26).

NOT EVEN CLOSE TO THE REAL GAME: ESPN’s Bill Polian noted, “It’s gotten to be a joke among football people." Polian: "Players pull out of the game, then you have players you would never consider Pro Bowlers playing in the game and being advertised as Pro Bowlers. Then the play on the field has gotten to the point where it’s a flag football game. It’s not surprising, it’s something that’s been bandied about for quite a little while. In the end, depending on what it’s replaced with, it maybe is the right move” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 4/26). ESPN’s Mike Golic said, “You can’t control how guys are going to play. ... So I guess it wouldn’t shock me because the way it was played last year there would be no reason to play.” ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said, “Name a Pro Bowl team, or call it whatever you want, but don’t play the game” (“Mike & Mike in the Morning,” ESPN Radio, 4/26). YAHOO SPORTS’ Matthew Darnell writes the NFL “is a violent game," but what happens at the Pro Bowl “is that the violence goes away, as the one true goal for any player in Hawaii is to walk away healthy.” Darnell: “If there's no violence, the game is not the game -- the intensity and effort are not there, and it's impossible to play this game in an entertaining way without intensity and effort” (, 4/26).

TWITTER REAX: Syndicated radio host Jim Rome wrote on his Twitter feed, "'Suspend' the Pro Bowl? Take that thing out back and bust a cap in it. This dog should have been put down a long time ago." The Charlotte Observer's Scott Fowler wrote, "Good -- game has become embarrassment." ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote, "So what if they don't play a Pro Bowl this season. They didn't play one last season, either." Sportscaster Bob Brainerd wrote, "If the NFL Pro Bowl goes away, can it please take the NBA All Star Game with it...?" The St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Joe Strauss wrote, "If NFL kills Pro Bowl, Big 12 will then corner the market on flag football exhibitions."

At the crux of Thunder G and NBPA President Derek Fisher's push for a review of NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter and the union's business practices is Fisher's concern over the "network of Hunter family members in positions of potential conflict and influence with NBPA business," and new information from an in-depth investigation by Wojnarowski & Getlin of YAHOO SPORTS indicates that Hunter in '09 "sought union investment” for a bank with “ties" to his son. In the aftermath of the U.S. banking crisis in '08, former NBAer and NBPA Treasurer Pat Garrity "had grown increasingly suspicious of an investment bank project that Hunter had been pitching" to the union's Exec Committee and player reps. For Garrity and "some peers in the NBPA, the investment made no sense." Sources said that Hunter had sought a $7M-$9M investment “from the union into Interstate Net Bank of Cherry Hill, N.J., a financial institution that federal and state banking regulators had slapped with debilitating 'cease-and-desist' orders." Garrity discovered information online that "left him feeling obligated to confront” Hunter, as Hunter's son, Todd, had a seat on the board of directors of Interstate Net Bank. Sources said that during the union's '09 meeting at the All-Star Game, Garrity asked Hunter several times, "Why didn't you disclose any of this?" Garrity did not receive a response and shortly left the NBPA board. Garrity "confirmed the description of events." Wojnarowski & Getlin wrote the potential conflicts "were far deeper and connective than Garrity realized at the time." A '10 ISN Bank letter to stockholders indicated that Cleveland-based Prim Capital, where Todd Hunter is a partner, "controlled 200,000 shares of ISN Bank stock." Before Fisher recently confronted Hunter and "demanded a review of the union's business and financial practices, Garrity had been the last player in a position of power to truly challenge the union's executive director." Labor filings from July 1, 2010-June 30, 2011 indicate that as NBAers "lost $400 million in salary during last summer's lockout -- and $3 billion over the course of the new 10-year collective bargaining agreement -- Billy Hunter, his family and the entities that employed them made approximately $3,430,953" (, 4/25).

ONE BIG MESS: TRUE HOOP's Henry Abbott asked, "If this is an effort to oust Hunter, is that on behalf of somebody?" No one "seems to know anything solid about that, other than to speculate that Hunter ... will be tough to dislodge." Sources said that Hunter "will not step down anytime soon, even if holding on to his job requires a massive battle" (, 4/25). Meanwhile, Clippers G Chris Paul yesterday briefly addressed the power struggle between Hunter and Fisher, saying, "I don't have any perspective on it right now. I'm so locked in on the playoffs. ... I haven't been able to talk to anybody or know really too much what's going on."'s Ken Berger noted as the "most prominent member of the committee that voted 8-0 last week that Fisher should resign as president amid his efforts to have an independent review of the union's business practices, Paul's voice matters." Fellow committee members have "mentioned Paul as a possible replacement for Fisher," and Paul said, "I'm honored, but I don't even think about that." As to what he would "like to see happen next in the battle for control of the NBPA," Paul said, "Not a clue. I just feel like it's messy right now" (, 4/25).

As the NBA Playoffs get set to begin this weekend, the league has “made most people forget there even was a lockout” that shortened the season, according to John Smallwood of the PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. Unlike the ‘98-99 lockout, which shortened the regular season to 50 games and “wiped out the All-Star Game, the season's 66-game schedule was granted legitimacy by the fans.” The success of this season “is testament to the old saying that the only bad publicity is no publicity.” NBA Commissioner David Stern said, "There was no social media to speak of in 1999. In some ways, the bloggers, the social media, everything that was going on, our fans were out there. … In some ways, our community, through social media, was staying engaged." He added, "I would just say that the season has gone better than we could have hoped for. Our fan response across everything we do has been terrific -- from television to attendance to social media” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/26). SPORTING NEWS’ Sean Deveney wrote, “Remember the doom-and-gloom lament that the NBA would curtail the momentum it had built up last year by engaging in labor strife that interrupted the regular season? The ratings don’t bear that out, and neither does attendance.” NBA TV posted a record audience for its 96 broadcasts, "reporting a 33 percent increase in viewers.” ABC also “claimed record viewership for the 15 games it aired.” Attendance was “up or steady in 18 of 30 markets.” There were six teams last year that “averaged crowds of 100 percent of capacity or better -- this year, there were nine” (, 4/25). ESPN NBA analyst Jon Barry said, “I think you look at our ratings, I think it didn’t miss a beat. Attendance, I’m not positive, but I think it’s fine. I think the strike has had no bearing on anything that’s happened this season. I think the league is in a great position” (THE DAILY). 

LOSING BATTLES TO WIN THE WAR: In Boston, Bob Ryan writes “all over the league, players are being held out of games when they could play as coaches are choosing to risk losing battles in order to win the upcoming war.” Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said, “Teams always have the right to do that. I don’t think it’s unprecedented." Ryan writes neither the players nor the coaches “are villains,” but the villains are "the negotiators on both [sides] of the infamous season-delaying labor/management brouhaha who fiddled and diddled all summer and fall, failing to produce a new CBA until December.” The result was a compressed schedule that “has turned out to be a nightmare of epic proportions.” Ryan: “It’s not a schedule. It’s a battle of attrition, nothing more, nothing less.” Media and ownership “might find games featuring auxiliary players intriguing.” But “all a fan knows” is that the Celtics-Heat game on Tuesday that did not include Celtics F Kevin Garnett and Gs Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen, and Heat G Dwyane Wade and Fs LeBron James and Chris Bosh “might as well be played in some high school gym in Chicopee or Ocala. For free” (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/26).

THE BLAME GAME: SPORTING NEWS’ David Steele wrote under the header, “Stern, Owners Responsible For NBA’s Miserable Season.” Last Saturday night’s “marquee game” featured the Wizards-Heat game with James and Bosh on the bench “because, as star players across the NBA have been doing for a month, they needed the rest, playoff position be damned.” Wade dislocated a finger early, sat out the rest of the game and “probably will miss a handful more.” The Wizards won “to cap a week in which they beat the Bulls in Chicago" without G Derrick Rose or F Luol Deng.” Steele: “This is what you get for your money this season. Well done, David Stern and owners” (, 4/22). In S.F., Scott Ostler writes other sports “have goosed the excitement of their seasons by expanding the playoffs.” The NBA has “done that, too, but its lottery system also turns the last couple of weeks of the season, for several terrible teams, into a grand demolition derby.” For Warriors fans there will be “genuine excitement as the team goes for its 43rd loss.” Ostler: “I'm not mocking the Warriors, I'm saluting them. Seriously. This is NBA reality, and if you ain't tankin', you ain't tryin'” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/26).

While the atypical Wednesday-Saturday schedule used during last week’s LPGA Lotte Championship in Hawaii "may not become typical anytime soon, the tour is exploring the possibility of [using] alternate scheduling more often in the future," according to Randall Mell of GOLF CHANNEL. LPGA CMO Jon Podany said, "It gave us a feature telecast on Wednesday night when we were totally on our own and not competing against any other tours. We certainly like that spotlight telecast on a Wednesday night, and we’ll see if our fans kind of figured out that we were finishing on Saturday and if we get the kind of final-round numbers we usually get on a Sunday." Nielsen data "shows the Lotte’s final round was watched by more viewers this year than any LPGA event outside the year’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship." Podany said that the tour "wouldn’t want alternate scheduling every week, but it is discussing possible future opportunities with Golf Channel." He added that the LPGA has been "exploring possible Monday finishes with the network." Podany: "We haven’t gone there yet, that’s a little more operationally difficult for tournaments, in terms of volunteers and title sponsors having their guests there on Monday and so forth, but I don’t think the Saturday finish presents the same kind of challenges" (, 4/25).