U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) on Thursday "threatened congressional intervention ... if the NFL can't implement [HGH] testing this season after more than two years of delays," according to Tom Pelissero of USA TODAY. Cummings said, "After two years of negotiations, the NFLPA is now holding HGH testing hostage because of matters wholly unrelated to testing. Continuing to block HGH testing in this way essentially will force Congress to intervene, which nobody wants." NFL Senior VP/Labor Policy & Gov't Affairs Adolpho Birch "raised the possibility of renewed congressional intervention Thursday," hours after NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth reiterated in an e-mail that the union "wants to end Commissioner Roger Goodell's authority over appeals of punishments triggered by something other than a positive test, such as an HGH-related arrest." Birch countered that the union "accepted the commissioner's authority on such matters as part of the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, which included a deal to begin HGH testing, and the league does not 'feel it appropriate for him to abdicate that responsibility.'" Cummings in December "accused the union of trying to back out on an agreement to blood test for HGH" that was included in the CBA. A source said that there have been "conversations but no formal meetings between the sides" since NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith signed a letter Aug. 8 "authorizing the HGH population study the union wanted." Birch said that it was "possible HGH testing could begin later in the season if that's when an agreement came, but it would be better to start in Week 1" (USA TODAY, 8/23).
TWO SIDES TO A STORY: NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah said that players have "been asked to vote twice on whether to allow Goodell 'to keep his appeal authority for violations of law, and two times the players have said, 'No.'" Atallah: "I don't expect the players' position to change on that" (ESPN.com, 8/22). FOXSPORTS.com's Mike Garafolo wrote the NFL and union are "basically doing the collective-bargaining equivalent of flicking each others' ears instead of resolving the remaining issues." Birch has said that he "believes the population study itself is a stall tactic." It now seems he believes it is "being deflected from the main issue, which is the overall agreement on testing." Birch believes that the NFL has "made all of the concessions during negotiations." With the "clock ticking, the odds of having HGH testing in the NFL for the start of the 2013 season are dwindling." And the NFL clearly "is getting impatient" (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/22).
Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy this week said that plans to reduce the NFL preseason "by two games and increase the regular season to 18 games is all but dead," according to Mike Vandermause of the GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE. Murphy said, “I think with all the concerns about the health and safety of players, it’s hard to justify. To go from 16 to 18 regular-season (games) would be a lot more wear and tear. It would be additional games for your starters.” Murphy added that "cutting two preseason games from the schedule and keeping the regular season at 16 games also doesn’t seem like a viable option." Murphy: "You’ve got loss of revenue -- you don’t have much TV revenue from that, but you do have ticket revenue. And then the other big issue is being able to really evaluate and develop young players. Taking away those two game opportunities." Murphy said that "one idea that has been discussed at the league level is giving all teams a bye between the end of the preseason and start of the regular season" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 8/23).
TIME TO RE-THINK: In Las Vegas, Ed Graney wrote, "This just in (for the 10,000th time): The NFL’s preseason needs an overhaul the size of Texas." But the "good news is, it appears the league is on board with reducing the number of preseason games." The preseason schedule "should have been cut in half years ago," as fans pay "full price for two glorified exhibitions." It is "one of the greatest shakedowns in sports. It’s a total fraud." Graney: "Yet more than the NFL ripping off those who support and play the game remains the fact that four preseason games is damaging the product. It’s making our country’s most popular sport less than it should be" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 8/21).
IndyCar is targeting a "move outside North America by 2015 with a series of off-season races around the world that could form a winter championship," according to Gary Watkins of AUTOSPORT.com. The races would give IndyCar teams "new revenue streams over an off-season that looks likely to grow from next year, when the calendar could climax as early as the end of August." IndyCar President of Operations & Competition Derrick Walker described several possibilities, including "non-points races, a winter or regional championship and even the possibility of the IndyCar Series starting overseas in January or February." Walker: "Our teams need income and an international component to their season would strengthen their financial position. ... If there are races in January or February leading into the domestic series, then it might make sense to include them in our championship." Watkins reported Europe-based World Series Operations is "known to have put forward plans for a winter series under the IndyCar Global Challenge banner" and has proposed a "five-event schedule starting at the end of 2014" (AUTOSPORT.com, 8/22). NBCSPORTS.com's Chris Estrada wrote an int'l series would give the fans something to look forward to and would give teams "something to work on -- and perhaps a means to try out prospective drivers for the season to come." It also would make it easier for IndyCar to "end their official year in time to get out of the way of the all-conquering" NFL. However, one of IndyCar's "biggest problems remain at home," and it might need to "settle those issues first before taking on other, more 'global' projects" (NBCSPORTS.com, 8/22).
Street League Skateboarding, whose championship will be broadcast live on ESPN2 on Sunday night, "has elevated street skating contests to dizzying new heights," according to Jed Lipinski of the N.Y. TIMES. The last of the seven events in the '13 will "take place on a custom-built, 10,000-square-foot concrete course inside Prudential Center." Eight skaters "will compete for a grand prize of $200,000." Street League Founder Rob Dyrdek said that there previously was "no easy way to follow the contests as a fan or to know what was required to win as a competing skateboarder." To fix the problem, Dyrdek fixed the problem by introducing "the concept of instant scoring, in which points are awarded on a trick-by-trick basis and are visible on an arena’s Jumbotron." Dyrdek "persuaded 24 of the world’s best street skaters to sign with the Street League, but he still allowed them to participate in another contest of their choice each year." As a veteran pro, he "gained other skaters’ trust" in a way the Maloof Cup and other corporate entities could not. Meanwhile, there is "the prize money, which has more than doubled in the last three years." The league in March "became the official sport organizer for all men’s street skating competitions at the X Games in Brazil, Germany, Spain and Los Angeles, expanding the Street League tour to seven stops, from four, in all." A month later, it announced a "multiyear partnership with Nike." The deals "pushed the total prize purse for this year’s tour" to $2.095M, up from $1M when the league launched in '10. However, "not everyone is happy." Street League's "embrace of corporate sponsorship, trick-based scoring and mainstream media exposure rubs many professional skaters the wrong way" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/23).