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Volume 24 No. 158

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Less than three months after MLB objected to the overturning of Brewers LF Ryan Braun’s 50-game suspension "for a positive drug test, Shyam Das, the arbitrator in that case, was fired, "according to a source cited by Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. Das was the longest-serving arbitrator in that role, a position that "serves at the discretion of the league and the players union." Either side had the power to "terminate his contract." Das said in an e-mail, "I had the distinct privilege to serve as Chair of the MLB-MLBPA Arbitration Panel for almost 13 years. I have the greatest respect for the representatives of both parties I worked with during that period, and I wish the parties well in their ongoing relationship." A source said that the Braun decision was "only one of several factors" that led to Das' dismissal (N.Y. TIMES, 5/15). The AP's Ron Blum noted MLB and the union "will now try to select a successor." If the two sides cannot agree, the CBA "calls for them to ask the American Arbitration Association for a list of 'prominent, professional arbitrators.'" The sides would then "alternate striking names from the list until one remains" (AP, 5/14). USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale notes Das has "drawn the ire" of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig before. In '00, Das reduced MLB's suspension of then-Braves P John Rocker "from 45 days to 14, and also cut his fine from $20,000 to $500 for controversial comments" Rocker made to SI. Five years later, Das ruled Selig's punishment of then-Rangers P Kenny Rogers, who shoved two cameramen, "was too harsh, trimming Rogers' suspension from 20 games to 13." Das also is arbitrating a hearing between the NFL and the NFLPA "regarding the New Orleans Saints bounty case." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello in an e-mail said MLB's dismissal of Das "has no impact on us. We will withhold comment until there is a ruling" (USA TODAY, 5/15).

: The AP's Mike Fitzpatrick noted MLB also dropped the 100-game suspension imposed on Rockies C Eliezer Alfonzo "for a positive drug test because of the same procedural issues that came up in the Ryan Braun case." In both cases, a dispute arose "over the storage and shipment" of the urine sample. A source said that Alfonzo "is eligible to play immediately." Alfonzo became the "first player suspended twice for performance-enhancing drugs under the MLB testing program when the commissioner's office announced the 100-game penalty last September" (AP, 5/14). 

Injuries in the NBA Playoffs "always garner great attention, but it has been amplified this year, coming off the lockout-shortened, compressed regular season," according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. Although doctors are "slow to make a direct link between the serious injuries piling up and the wear and tear of playing 66 games in 124 days, even NBA Commissioner David Stern backed off his initial position that there was no connection." What happens during the rest of the playoffs "could make this season memorable in ways the league had not envisioned." Heat F Chris Bosh, who strained an abdominal muscle during Sunday's win over the Pacers, is "out indefinitely" as the second round has just begun. Zillgitt notes every team at this time of year "gets hit with injuries." But the injured list, from the "battle of attrition that began April 28 with the playoff openers, is especially dense." Bulls G Derrick Rose, Knicks Gs Iman Shumpert and Baron Davis "were lost for the season with knee injuries in playoff games." Bulls F Joakim Noah, Clippers G Mo Williams and Thunder C Kendrick Perkins have also been limited by injuries during the playoffs. In addition, the injuries have had "significant impact on USA Basketball's potential roster for this summer's London Olympics." Rose and Magic C Dwight Howard "are out," as are Trail Blazers F LaMarcus Aldridge and Clippers G Chauncey Billups. Now Bosh's "availability is in question" (USA TODAY, 5/15). In L.A., Elliott Teaford asks of the injuries, "Is the lockout-compressed schedule to blame?" Lakers coach Mike Brown said yesterday, "I probably shouldn't say this because I'm not a doctor and I don't know, but you'd have to think so. Some of the injuries that have happened to these high-caliber athletes, running down the floor or jumping in their air or getting back in transition defense without getting touched, you know? Rose makes that play a million times a season" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 5/15).

The NBPA is "asking an arbitrator to clarify certain free-agent rights in a case that could immeasurably benefit the Knicks this summer," according to sources cited by Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. The case concerns “Bird rights,” which allow a player to “re-sign with his team without regard to the salary cap." At issue is "whether a player retains his Bird rights when he changes teams through a waiver claim,” as was the case this season with Trail Blazers F J.J. Hickson, Clippers G Chauncey Billups, Knicks G Jeremy Lin and F Steve Novak. The league contends that those rights "are lost when a player changes teams through waivers." The union is "challenging that interpretation." If the NBPA prevails, the Knicks would be able to re-sign both Lin and Novak, “their top free agents, despite cap constraints." The union filed a letter yesterday seeking arbitration, and it "hopes to have the matter settled by the time free agency opens July 1." Both sides "must first select an arbitrator." The union contends that a player "claimed on waivers should retain all contractual benefits, as he does when he is traded." The league "disagrees, citing a specific clause in the labor agreement that indicates Bird rights are lost when a player is waived, even if another team claims him." Although the Bird rules "have been in place for years, this specific dispute had not arisen" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/15).

Vancouver, Calgary and Quebec City are "on the radar screen" as the Izod IndyCar Series "looks to expand its pedal-to-the-metal footprint from 16 races to 19 next year," according to James Christie of the GLOBE & MAIL. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said that some towns on the existing schedule "will disappear and some will be added -- depending on the projected viability and potential size of the event -- but the overall strategy will be growth" in Canada. Bernard: "It would be great to have another race in Canada, but we want to concentrate on making Edmonton and Toronto the two best races we could have." His comments came yesterday as the Honda Indy Toronto race was renewed through '14. Christie notes "it is important to the series" for IndyCar to schedule downtown races in large markets. The 150,000 fans around the course caught Bernard "off guard." He said, "I'd forgotten how many race fans there are in Canada" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/15).

LOCAL INTEREST: In Toronto, Norris McDonald noted IndyCar driver and Ontario native Paul Tracy "has not raced in the series this season and said during a TV interview ... that he'd pretty much given up on IndyCar." Bernard said, "I would really like to have Paul Tracy in this year's race." He added, "I would like to be able to promote the fact that Paul Tracy will drive his last (Indy car) race at the Honda Indy Toronto this July." McDonald noted as much as Bernard "might like to land" Tracy for the July 8 race, Bernard knows "he's got an ace" in driver James Hinchcliffe, also an Ontario native. Bernard: "What a great representative of Canada and Indy car racing he’s turned out to be. He’s third in the standings going into the Indianapolis 500 (May 27) and he’s doing a great job representing one of the major sponsors in the series, Go Daddy" ( 5/14).

CHARM CITY: Andretti Sports Marketing President John Lopes said that by tomorrow the racing group "will have already checked off many of the tasks necessary to run" the '12 Baltimore Grand Prix. In Baltimore, Jack Lambert noted tomorrow is "when the company is expected to get approval from the city to manage the event for the next five years." Lopes said that the group "has signed a vendor to sell tickets, as well as a construction company to build this year’s race track." Lopes said that he "understands why some people are skeptical that Andretti Sports Marketing can organize a race by Labor Day weekend." Lambert noted the group "has less than 110 days to organize the event and Andretti will become [the] third organizing group for the race in the last six months." Lopes said the Andretti organization has “parachuted in” over the past to take charge of floundering races. Lopes said that the Andretti team is not willing to “undercut the price” of a title sponsorship just to get a deal for this year. He said that the group "hopes to attract a large number of presenting or lower-level sponsorships to this year’s race to build up a future foundation for the event" (, 5/14).

UNDER THE HOOD: In Toronto, Dean McNulty writes, "Bernard did admit all is not perfect for the IndyCar Series that is still trying to right itself after more than a decade of uncivil war." One of the issues facing Bernard this season is "a return to multiple engine manufacturers to the series." Chevrolet and Lotus joined Honda this season, and Lotus "has underperformed while Chevrolet and Honda are in a battle over the legality" of each other's turbo chargers. Bernard rejected concerns that there will be "fewer than the historic 33 cars on the grid at the start of the Indy 500" because of the lack of engines. Bernard also "pointed to the balance sheet of the IndyCar Series as a reason to be confident that all is well." Bernard said, "We have hit our budgets -- in fact we have bettered them the past two seasons -- and I am thrilled with that." He added, "In the first four races this season we are up on attendance by 12 to 20%" (TORONTO SUN, 5/15).

NFL Referees Association Exec Dir Tim Millis said Friday that he is "hopeful the organization and the league will complete a new labor deal before the upcoming season." In DC, Mark Maske noted the current agreement "expires at the end of this month." The NFL has "taken a first step toward identifying possible replacement officials who would work games if an accord is not completed." But Millis said that there are "no insurmountable issues in the negotiations," and he is "optimistic a deal will be struck." Maske noted talks on a new deal "began in October." Millis said that he "expects another negotiating session to take place this month." NFL Exec VP/Labor & General Counsel Jeff Pash is "in charge of the negotiations for the NFL" (, 5/11). 

POLITICAL PUSH: In New Orleans, Ed Anderson notes the Louisiana Legislature wants the NFL to “reconsider the sanctions it imposed on the New Orleans Saints, its coaches and players in the wake of the bounty scandal." A resolution proposed by state Rep. Cameron Henry "urges the league to reconsider the penalties imposed.” Henry's resolution states the suspensions "will likely have a negative economic impact across the Crescent City and the state as a whole" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/15).

SOUTHERN CHARM?'s Cary Estes noted while NASCAR has "branched out in recent years to glistening new facilities in such distinctly non-Southern locales as Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Chicago, NASCAR still keeps one foot planted firmly in the South." However, the place where NASCAR has "lost much of its Southern accent is on the racetrack." There are a "handful of Sprint Cup regulars from North Carolina, Virginia and Florida," but drivers seemingly have "disappeared from the Deep South states -- Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky -- that once produced many of the sport's stars." There currently are as many full-time Sprint Cup drivers “from Tasmania (Marcos Ambrose) as there are from those five states combined" (, 5/11).

DOUBLE STANDARD:'s Greg Couch criticized PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem’s recent stance on playing at Augusta National under the header, "Finchem Can't Have It Both Ways." Finchem was asked last week “how golf views Augusta National’s 'discriminatory policy' of not having women members." Finchem "explained it away by trying to justify why it was OK to throw away the tour’s morals and ethics for the Masters,” at one time saying, “They are not doing anything illegal.” Couch: "Illegal? Who said anything about it being illegal? The PGA Tour’s policy wasn’t about following the law, but rather about following a conscience. What a statement that was from Finchem. The tour has taken a moral stance since 1990, when it made that policy not to play at clubs that exclude. And Finchem says it is followed 'carefully.' Except at the Masters” (, 5/14).