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Volume 24 No. 155

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NFL’s lead attorney repeatedly argued this morning during oral arguments in the league’s effort to dismiss a lawsuit brought by more than 4,000 retirees for concussions suffered in their playing days that the NFLPA is also a party to the system that the players are now attacking. The NFL’s core argument is that CBA deals cover the disputes brought by the retirees, and thus the disagreements should be brought under the dispute-resolution mechanisms of those deals. Because the CBAs were agreed on with the union, the players have a role, the NFL lawyer said. "The union also has certain rights and responsibilities under the CBA,” said Paul Clement, the former U.S. Solicitor General who spoke as the league’s counsel this morning. “The league can’t unilaterally change the roles.” U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody questioned each side at even length, though she sounded skeptical of NFL claims that players who competed when there was no CBA should have their claims pre-empted. When Clement conceded that this was his hardest argument, Brody quickly agreed with him. She also seemed to have some trouble with the league’s contention that just because the CBA mentions player health and safety it would negate any claim being brought into a court rather than through the CBA process. “The thing that concerns me, Mr. Clement: You say [the CBA] talks about it all [regarding player health and safety],” Brody said. “That is the problem for me.” Brody said she would wrestle with how specific the language of the CBA needed to be to pre-empt the retirees’ charges the NFL misled them about the risks of playing football. The retirees’ lawyer, David Frederick, said the CBA should not immunize the NFL. “Just because there is a CBA does not mean the NFL can harm players,” he said. Brody wrapped up saying, “I will rule when I sort this whole thing out for myself.”

Augusta National Chair Billy Payne yesterday announced the start of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship, with the event finals to be "held next year" at the club the Sunday before The Masters, according to David Lee of the AUGUSTA CHRONICLE. The free, nationwide junior skills competition "is open to boys and girls ages 7-15, with four age classifications." Augusta National will allow "several thousand ticketed patrons to watch the finals." Part of the event will be held "on the tournament practice range, and the final competition will be a putting event on the 18th green." The championship will "air on the Golf Channel." There will be "qualifying events nationwide, with 88 finalists coming to Augusta." Meanwhile, PGA of America President Ted Bishop said that more than 100 PGA facilities "will play host to qualifying events" (AUGUSTA CHRONICLE, 4/9). Bishop added that he expects "more than 100,000 kids will enter, though there is a limit of 17,600 who can compete." If the entries "exceed 17,600, there will be a lottery system to determine who gets to play." The AP's Doug Ferguson noted if it "sounds like the 'Punt, Pass and Kick,' that's not an accident." Payne said that research "led them to football's popular competition for kids." Payne: "Different sport, different way of qualifying, different everything. But yeah, I think the success which they have been able to achieve inspired me" (AP, 4/8).

GROWING THE GAME: In Atlanta, Chip Towers notes the competition was the "brainchild of a coalition" of the Masters Tournament Foundation, the USGA and the PGA of America in its continued effort to “grow the game” of golf among America’s youth. USGA President Glen Nager said that there has been a 30% "decline in participation in junior golf" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 4/9).