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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The future of the Pro Bowl and “structural changes to the financial awards and selection of teams are on the table” at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix this week, according to a source cited by Albert Breer of The source said that the NFL is “considering breaking up the compensation structure for the game by halves, or even by quarters, in order to ratchet up the in-game intensity.” Rewards for “big plays also are a possibility.” The source added that the "draft" concept -- which the NHL once used in its all-star game -- is "not a done deal." But the source added that it is “closer to being implemented than the other elements.” Breer reported the league is “considering having captains select teams and is working on the mechanics of the proposed change, which would include the timing of the draft, the opportunity to televise the draft, uniforms, team names and rules.” An NFL official said that the league “will have an announcement in the coming days about future locations for the game, and it's possible it could move from Hawaii and rotate to different sites.” However, the one thing that “won't change, at least in the short term, is the date of the game.” It has been played on the Sunday before the Super Bowl for four years (, 3/19). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Darin Gantt wrote part of the reason the quality of play has dropped in recent years is "too many players took the check and the resume line and didn’t bother playing.” With a number of “deep alternates becoming all-stars, some of the novelty was gone.” Choosing sides “might restore some of that, and give more people reason to watch” (, 3/19).

The NFLPA lashed out yesterday at the NFL over comments made by 49ers co-Owner & Chair John York that suggested the union made up a survey of players that showed them overwhelmingly mistrusting team doctors. The union in a statement said, "Coming from an organization that denied Joe Montana's workers compensation benefits for years we are not concerned about the remarks about our player survey. The day the NFL commits itself to taking care of players who have been injured at work is the day we begin to take these types of comments seriously." NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah on Twitter wrote the union had only Monday received a letter from the NFL asking for details of the survey. But NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello followed that up on Twitter, responding the letter detailed the numerous attempts by the NFL to get the survey. York said the survey, which he called nonexistent at one point, had muddied what were fine relations between players and team doctors. The NFLPA touted the survey at the Super Bowl, and Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith, when asked during the press conference if the survey and methodology would be made public, replied it would. That has not happened so far. During York’s briefing with reporters yesterday, Aiello added the league knows of no player surveyed about their feelings toward team doctors. The CBA requires the league and union to jointly survey the players about their attitudes toward team doctors. York said he does not believe that can be done anytime soon because the reports of the survey will cause players to question their relationship with team doctors (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). In N.Y., Judy Battista writes the “fight over the player survey would seem to be the latest tiff in the fractured relationship between the union and the league.” The union “offered a blistering response to York’s remarks” (N.Y. TIMES, 3/20).

OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE: NFL Exec VP/Business Ventures Eric Grubman appeared on CNBC yesterday to discuss the league's deal with Providence Equity Partners. The deal forms a new investment partnership that, according to CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, will hand out $300M “to invest in start-ups that focus on sports, media and technology.” Grubman said the NFL “is a big business” and “lots of opportunities go by us." Grubman: "We tend to take advantage of them, historically, when we have a partner and we sign a long-term contract. It’s always been a licensing deal, and there are a lot of opportunities with the changes in media and technology for people to invest. So we wanted to have that opportunity to try to get into the investment business and that’s what this is all about.” He said the NFL partnered with Providence because media and technology are a “lot of the things we see,” Providence is “very good" in that investment area and “has been for many, many years so." Grubman: "This seemed like a natural fit for us to get started.” He said the partnership now is in effect and the league will not have to “have a start-up ourselves to be able to do this," and instead can use the infrastructure at Providence. Grubman: "It’s not to say we’ll never hire anyone but we’re going to walk before we can run. ... It’s really an investment partnership so that simplifies it and demystifies it” (“Closing Bell With Maria Bartiromo,” CNBC, 3/19).

MLB owners are “moving toward eliminating the pension plans of all personnel not wearing big league uniforms,” according to sources cited by Adam Rubin of ESPN N.Y. The first “attempt to do so, initiated last year by a small-market owner, never came to a vote” after White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf “chastised his brethren for being petty with the lives of ordinary people given the riches produced by the sport.” A vote is now “scheduled to take place at owners meetings” on May 8-9 in N.Y. A source said that a “majority of owners now favor the abolition of the pension plan.” The impact would affect “front-office executives, trainers, minor league staff and scouts.” Twenty-six of MLB's 30 teams “participate in the Non-Uniformed Personnel Pension Plan.” Four teams that opted out -- the Cubs, Brewers, Twins and Blue Jays -- are “required to offer plans comparable to or better than what NUPPP offers.” Those potentially affected by the scheduled May vote “hope the prevote exposure will spur some owners to flip back to support continuing the pension.” Existing pension commitments “should not be affected, so promised money would not disappear.” However, Univ. of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business Pension Research Council Exec Dir Olivia Mitchell said that any promised future contributions “likely could be eliminated immediately” (, 3/19).