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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The performance of the NFL replacement referees so far has done "little to dissuade visions of an impending disaster,” according to a front-page piece by Sam Borden of the N.Y. TIMES. Concerns about the replacements “vary depending on the interested parties.” Some coaches “have wondered about consistency from the officials from game to game.” NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said that the union was “worried about safety.” But NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson “called the union’s worries a stretch, and defended the replacements’ abilities.” Anderson said, “At the end of it, we are very confident that this group of current officials will be credible.” Meanwhile, players continue to speak out against the replacement refs. Giants WR Victor Cruz said, “I actually overheard one of the refs saying he only refereed glorified high school games. I don’t even know what that means.” Bears K Robbie Gould on Twitter wrote that one crew of replacements “was ‘clueless,’ and that was before he saw the officials in Friday’s game between the Giants and the Bears incorrectly give the Giants an extra play at the end of the first quarter.” Vikings P Chris Kluwe also took to Twitter, writing that the “regular officials need to ‘kiss and make up’ with the NFL because the replacements are embarrassing.” This came after a game in which the officials “deemed that a runner had been tackled when he was still standing and ruled that a pass had hit the ground when it never was close” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/28). Gould after watching the Cardinals-Titans game Thursday night wrote, "@nfl when did you stop caring about the integrity of the game. …I understand there is a fine line in negotiations To get the refs back on the field. But I hope both sides can reach a deal soon." Titans coach Mike Munchak after the game said there had been "some confusion" on timeouts before halftime. Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray reportedly “walked away from an argument with replacement officials and called them ‘The Three Stooges’ on the field” (, 8/24).

GLASS HALF FULL: Anderson said that the NFL is “training the replacement officials and seeing improvement.” Anderson: “We went in not expecting that they’d be up to snuff with the regular officials. But we went in knowing that with training and repetitions and preseason games that when we get ready for the regular season, we felt they would be credible, and they’re proving week in and week out that they’re getting better. So we think that when we kick off a week and a half from now, we’ll have very credible crews across the board.” In Chicago, Sean Jensen writes, “Credible, though, isn’t the most encouraging word.” Bears CB Charles Tillman: "I know they’re learning on the fly, but at the same time, they’ve got to make the right call” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/28). In DC, Matt Brooks wrote, "The chorus of complaints from coaches and players continues to grow louder as the ongoing contractual dispute between the league and the NFL Referees Association drags on." Brooks: "Never have more players, coaches and fans longed to be re-united with Ed Hochuli's biceps and Mike Carey's straight-as-an-arrow first down signals" (, 8/27).

WEIGHING IN: In Chicago, David Haugh writes, “Figure it out, fellas. Consider your legacy, Commish. Roger Goodell's $9 billion enterprise pinching pennies with NFL officials smacks of hypocrisy from a league that has identified player safety as its No. 1 priority.” Haugh: "For rules changes intended to protect players to work, they need to be enforced. To be enforced, they have to be identified. How can the NFL trust replacement refs to identify illegal hits they can't see?” Former NFLer Jerry Markbreit said of the replacements, “I know they're working their fannies off. But these people are not schooled in professional football. They don't know the rules. They can have supervisors on the sideline, they still can't officiate the game. The integrity of the game is everything” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/28). In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik writes Goodell is “paid a lot of money to run the NFL,” and he has to “find a way to get the real NFL officials on the job for the start of the season” (, 8/27). YAHOO SPORTS’ Doug Farrar wrote the “simple fact [is] that the NFL's replacement officials are turning the nation's most popular and visible sport into a complete and utter joke” (, 8/25). However, YAHOO SPORTS’ Jason Cole writes while the replacement refs are “currently a far cry from their counterparts, they will get better with experience.” Cole: “When was the last time you went to a game and said, ‘Boy, that officiating was great?’” The argument that NFL owners are “messing with the integrity of the game in their negotiation with the NFL Referees Association is laughable” (, 8/28).

A federal appeals court yesterday declined to overturn a drug suspension of Broncos LB D.J. Williams, agreeing with a lower court that labor law gave the judiciary few options to overturn an arbitrator’s decision within the context of the CBA. The ruling comes as a New Orleans federal court is deciding whether it should overturn multiple arbitrator decisions in the Bountygate cases, though that court is currently shuttered because of Tropical Storm Isaac. Williams's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, also represents Saints LB Jonathan Vilma, who is suing the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell for his year-long suspension. In the Williams case, the NFL suspended him for six games last season, but the suspension was stayed while his case made its way through the courts. Williams argued the drug collection protocols were violated when he was tested. While the arbitrator agreed the NFL and NFLPA should tighten their collection procedures, he did not overturn the suspension. A lower court then ruled it could not step in because labor law largely prevents courts from interfering with CBA matters. “In doing so, the court noted that the narrow standard of judicial review applicable to labor-arbitration awards limited its analysis,” the appeals court ruled, which denied a request for oral arguments. It is unclear how this case might affect the Bountygate cases.

Years after “internal strife sent open-wheel racing into a protracted civil war,” IndyCar shows “few signs of regaining the stature it held when names such as Andretti, Unser and Foyt were known to even casual sports fans,” according to Korman & Walker of the Baltimore SUN. Television ratings “remain paltry, as does attendance at many events,” and the race schedule “always seems in flux.” Former driver and current team owner Bobby Rahal said, "I don't think there's anyone working harder than [IndyCar CEO] Randy Bernard. A lot of what he's doing behind the scenes, trying to get the sponsorship deal worked out or the TV deal fixed, just hasn't come to fruition yet." Owners are asking Bernard to “push NBC Sports for more aggressive televised promotion.” Rahal said of NBC, "They've done, frankly, a terrible job." Korman & Walker noted with a split contract, owners "believe that neither ABC nor NBC is strongly committed to helping the sport grow.” NBC officials noted that ratings “increased in the first four years of the deal before dipping this year.” They attribute the drop “in part to unlucky scheduling conflicts with NASCAR races and NBA and NHL playoff contests.” Though the net has “faced grumbles about a lack of promotion, NBC launched a news series of driver profile shows” called "IndyCar 36" this year. Bernard said, "I think NBC is going to do what they have to do, because our growth is tied to theirs. We have to give them better programming" (Baltimore SUN, 8/26).

RUMOR MILL STOPS HERE: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin noted Indianapolis Motor Speedway President & CEO Jeff Belskus “put an end to speculation that a group of car owners is interested in buying the series.” Belskus said that IndyCar “isn't even for sale.” Belskus: "The story is (fictional). We have had no meaningful conversations about anyone wanting to buy the series. The series is not for sale." Cavin noted if there are "indeed 'four or five car owners' consolidating to force a leadership change, they couldn't be counted Saturday” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/26). Meanwhile, Cavin in a separate piece noted Bernard “wants to have two races per weekend at some road courses and street circuits next season in an effort to give the series more exposure.” Bernard said that both races “would be televised, although he admitted there are many details to resolve before the plan becomes a reality.” IndyCar team owners “want to know how the additional costs -- for engines, tires and spare parts -- will be offset.” Team owner Bryan Herta said, "It feels pretty minor league to me." Team owner Dale Coyne said, "We have to build up our Sunday show, not dilute it" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/26).

RESOLUTION LOOMING: Dallara’s U.S. GM Stefano Deponti on Sunday said that a “resolution to IndyCar’s pesky and divisive car parts issue is expected this week.” Deponti said that the deal “will reduce the cost of parts to teams by as much as 20 percent, although details are still to be resolved.” The length of the agreement, which at “present is targeted for the end of the 2013 season,” also remains to be finalized (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/27).

A group fronted by ESPN NFL analyst and AFL Philadelphia Soul co-Owner Ron Jaworski was in Beijing yesterday to announce that the AFL is "working on building a bridgehead in China," according to Dusty Lane of CHINA DAILY. Jaworski said, "They will pick up on football very quickly. I watched the Olympics and watched those weightlifters, and I think I'd like to have some of those guys on my offensive line." Lane reported the group will stage a series of exhibitions next fall, "then launch what it hopes" will be a six-team, 10-game schedule in Oct. '14. Games will be held in the fall and winter "to allow AFL coaches and trainers the freedom to come to China during their offseason and teach their Chinese counterparts how to build teams on their own." The league will begin as a mix of Chinese and U.S. players, "with the goal of converting to all-Chinese rosters as quickly as possible." Soul co-Owner Marty Judge said, "Our goal is in China, for China." Former NFL coach Dick Vermeil also is "backing the project" (CHINA DAILY, 8/27).