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Volume 24 No. 158

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NFLPA is "prepared to make one other attempt via federal court" to challenge NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's powers regarding the player suspensions related to the Saints bounty case, according to sources cited by Jason La Canfora of If Goodell "ends up upholding his own previous decisions" on suspended players Jonathan Vilma, Anthony Hargrove, Scott Fujita and Will Smith, the NFLPA "has a legal strategy in place to attempt to limit Goodell's powers via the court system." It plans to "make the case that he should not have full authority in this matter," as former NFL coaches Ted Cottrell and Art Shell were jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA to review fines and suspensions levied for on-field misconduct. The CBA gives Goodell "wide berth here, and thus the court challenge may prove fruitless, but the step is likely to be taken to exhaust all legal means with frustration growing in union circles regarding the league's bounty investigation and subsequent penalties" (, 6/25).

FAIR OR FOUL? NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah said, “For the players to have been disciplined before they got an opportunity to see evidence presented to them, that is unfair by any standard.” Atallah said the “whole process has been conducted” by the NFL “in a way that has been, quite frankly, sloppy.” But Atallah added, “Despite the rhetoric back-and-forth, one thing that’s lost on people here is that we want to work with the league to find out what actually happened.” NFL Senior VP/Law & Labor Policy Adolpho Birch countered and said the NFLPA “has itself to blame.” Birch: “The commissioner started from the beginning by offering to get input and information from the union. They declined to do that.” ESPN’s Andrew Brandt said, “I talked to NFL union officials and players that said the commissioner has jumped the shark on this stuff. He is arbitrary and capricious on conduct discipline. It’s got to be stopped” (“OTL,” ESPN, 6/25). ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said, “The NFL is confident that it did a thorough investigation and that it proves that the bounty program existed. ... I think (the NFLPA’s) feeling is by not participating in this appeal process, they don’t want to acknowledge that this appeals process is, for lack of a better term, legal and they’re going to challenge that Commissioner Goodell went outside the purview of his powers” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 6/25).

: USA TODAY's Robert Klemko notes in a seminar titled "Are You Bigger Than the Game," held during the NFL's Rookie Symposium yesterday, Eagles QB Michael Vick "told rookies to manage their own money, cherish their opportunity, and not to count on second chances." Vick said of Goodell, "If he asks you a question, answer with honesty. Tell him the truth. If you get into some trouble, be honest, truthful, forthright. Don't play with this man. He'll love you to death, but the minute you cross him, he'll be all the way turned up" (USA TODAY, 6/26). 

NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr yesterday said that negotiations on a new CBA "will begin 'very quickly' -- perhaps as early as this week -- and didn't rule out talks stretching into the season," according to Andrew Seligman of the AP. Fehr, who was in Chicago for three days of union talks, said that negotiations "will begin after Wednesday's meeting of the NHLPA's executive board." When asked whether a work stoppage was inevitable, Fehr said, "None of that is coming from our side. That's the first thing. Secondly, we have not made a proposal. We haven't heard an owners' proposal." He added, "There's nothing magic about Sept. 15. The law is that if you don't have a new agreement, and as long as both sides are willing to keep negotiating, you can continue to play under the terms of the old one until you reach an agreement." Fehr said that he "expected 40 to 60 players to attend the meetings" in Chicago this week (AP, 6/25). In Chicago, Chris Kuc notes some NHLers yesterday arrived at a downtown hotel "in a sign of solidarity for their union and also to become informed about the issues as labor negotiations with the league loom." Fehr said, "From our standpoint, the starting place is the players made enormous concessions the last time around. Also, the game generates a lot more revenue than it did before. You put those two things together and it ought to point you in a direction as to where this negotiation should go." Kuc notes the "likely biggest negotiating point will be revenue sharing, with realignment and participation in the Olympics among other issues" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/26).

FREEDOM OF SPEECH: The CP's Chris Johnston notes with "talks set to begin as soon as this week, players are free to speak publicly about the negotiations." Fehr said that he "has no problem with his membership discussing the issues." He said, "From my standpoint, I've never believed in gag rules. ... It won't be at my recommendation that we get into that." Regarding the league's policy on the matter, Fehr said, "I would ask why they would do that and then the second question that I would ask is: What is it they're afraid (owners and team executives) will say?" (CP, 6/26).

TOO MUCH PARITY? The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes, "The trouble is the NHL still has the same over-riding problem it did seven years ago -- the 10 or so teams at the top of the revenue chart make all kinds of money while teams in the middle struggle to break even and the 10 teams at the bottom lose millions of dollars a year." Introducing a salary cap based on revenue "only exacerbated the problem in the case of the poorest teams." The players, though, "see the solution through more revenue sharing." It was introduced in the current agreement, "albeit in limited fashion, but the Coyotes and Panthers et al are still swimming in red ink." Toronto-based player agent Anton Thun said, "The players had their salaries rolled back by 24 per cent but somehow none of that (money) got into the hands of the small-revenue owners. The reason for that is the revenue redistribution model didn't work." Since many small-revenue teams "feel the current revenue-sharing system is too restrictive because they need to hit certain growth targets or they lose part of their share, any labour disruption could be as much about squabbles among the owners as it is between them and the players" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/26).

SPLIT DECISION: The GLOBE & MAIL's Roy MacGregor wrote there is "one area of potential conflict that gets little talked about," and that has to do with the salary cap the owners "fought so hard for last time around and the players eventually capitulated on in what was widely considered a triumphant romp for the owners." However, the owners' concern "isn't at the top end," but instead, "at the lower end, the bare minimum teams must spend." There is "a movement to go after the minimum" and some clubs "would like it abolished outright" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/23).

WORKING TOGETHER: In Pittsburgh, Dejan Kovacevic wrote, "Bottom line: There's no intelligent reason for a shutdown" as the owners "are fine." Meanwhile, the average player salary "has nearly doubled" from $1.46M to $2.4M, so the players "are fine, too" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 6/25). YAHOO SPORTS' Nicholas Cotsonika wrote, "The system doesn't seem headed for a complete overhaul." Blues C David Backes said both sides are entering talks "without looking for sweeping change." But Cotsonika wrote, "This will not be a simple haggling over the owners' and players' shares of the pie." The bottom line "is that no one knows until the sides actually sit down to the table." Backes said, "Taking advantage of [NHLPA] membership is something that I don't think happened in the past. It was a few guys that had that ability, and when the deal was done, they brought it to the rest of the guys. Without disclosing everything, I think the organization and the inclusion of really everyone in the union is something that is important moving forward and something that Don's really instilled. You can't have 20 guys making a deal for 700, because it just doesn't work" (, 6/25).'s James O'Brien wrote, "The players seem serious about being more involved this time around, which is probably mostly a good thing" (, 6/25).

The WTA has created a “broad plan to help curb excessive noise in the sport” that will include “technology, rule changes and education,” according to Douglas Robson in a special for USA TODAY. The “umbrella scenario" includes the “development of a handheld device for umpires to measure on-court grunting levels.” It also includes a rule “quantifying acceptable and unacceptable noise based on acoustical data gathering and analysis” and “education at large tennis academies, national development programs and all levels of junior and lower-tier professional events.” WTA Chair & CEO Stacey Allaster acknowledges that the plan “will take time to research and implement,” but she “is determined.” Allaster said, “It’s a collective effort of the sport, and we need everyone to buy in” (USA TODAY, 6/26). Robson writes Wimbledon has “long showcased women’s tennis’ best players as well as its noisiest,” which is why the International Tennis Federation and the WTA players council are taking “broader steps to quiet that excess noise.” Allaster said that the WTA “consulted experts in the field of sports science and psychology” in developing the plan. An acoustic consultant “will be hired to conduct tests in various conditions, venues and surfaces to develop a cost-effective instrument for umpires.” The WTA has been “forced to deal with grunting after continued negative fan and news media reaction” (USA TODAY, 6/26).