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Volume 24 No. 156

Leagues and Governing Bodies

NBA players are scheduled to meet in Las Vegas today to elect a new NBPA Exec Dir. Three candidates -- Mavericks President & CEO Terdema Ussery, Information Technology Industry Council President & CEO Dean Garfield and Skadden Arps Partner Michele Roberts -- each will have 45 minutes to give a presentation and take questions from players this afternoon. The players will then break for dinner, during which they will be able to deliberate among themselves and ask additional questions, if they would like, of the candidates. The vote is scheduled to take place at 8:00pm PT. It takes a two-thirds majority of player reps from the 30 teams and the Exec Committee to elect a new Exec Dir under the NBPA constitution. Each team has one vote and there are nine NBPA Exec Committee members. Originally, the union was planning two days of meetings. But in an e-mail NBPA President Chris Paul sent to players Friday, it was stated there are no meetings scheduled for tomorrow. Meanwhile, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson on Friday informed NBA player agents he would no longer be part of the process to find a new Exec Dir. He had been chairing the search committee. Sources said that disagreements had been brewing between Johnson and some members of the Exec Committee for about a week. One source said that Johnson wanted to hold the election tomorrow and the members of the committee wanted to hold it today. Other sources said there were multiple issues that arose recently after Johnson worked collaboratively with the NBPA player leaders for months. The NBPA has been without an Exec Dir since Billy Hunter was fired during the ’13 All-Star weekend (Liz Mullen, Staff Writer).

A DIFFERENCE OF OPINIONS: YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski noted Johnson left the search process after he "lost a power struggle" with the NBPA Exec Committee. Sources said that Johnson "wanted to play a larger controlling role in the Monday meetings to present three finalists for the job, and executive committee members balked at the idea, citing U.S. Department of Labor regulations and NBPA bylaws." Sources added that Paul had "a strong relationship with Johnson, but there was less support of Johnson within the executive committee" (, 7/25). USA TODAY's Sam Amick cited a source as saying that the decision was "sparked by a philosophical difference in how the search was handled in its later stages" (, 7/26).

NFL VP/Labor Policy & Government Affairs Adolpho Birch this morning appeared on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" to explain why the suspension given to Ravens RB Ray Rice was for just two games. He said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell elicited a "number of perspectives" before announcing the suspension, which is the "way that we determine discipline in all of these types of cases." Birch said, "He doesn't sit in a vacuum when he's making these types of decisions, but instead consults with people, listens to the perspectives of the players' association and others at the league office and ultimately makes a decision that he thinks is appropriate based on both the conduct and the importance of making the right message for the league and others going forward.” He added, "The discipline that was taken by the NFL is the only discipline that occurred with respect to Mr. Rice in this case. I think that were he not an NFL player, I don’t know that he would have received any punishment from any other source." ESPN's Mike Golic noted it is Goodell's job "to protect the shield" and he asked Birch, "Can you understand why people have said the shield has taken a dent because a man hit a woman and was only suspended two games for it?” Birch: “The league's response to it demonstrates that we don't condone the behavior." ESPN's Mike Greenberg: "Can you understand where the optics of that are causing people to question how seriously the National Football League takes the matter of domestic violence?” Birch: “I can understand that as an initial reaction. But I think, on balance, when you look at the entirety of how we address issues of domestic violence, how we address issues related to the integrity of our game, it’s fair to say that we believe that they're all important and we treat them all in a way that reflects what we believe to be the values of the league." Birch later added, "In terms of sending a message about what the league stands for, we've done that."

JUST COMPLICATING MATTERS: Following the interview, Greenberg said, "I started that interview taking notes, and at one point, I just gave up. He told us that they wouldn't discuss comparative cases; he said that the Ben Roethlisberger one was a totally different case. But then that's exactly how they came to the two games, comparing it to other cases. I just found myself more and more confused as that conversation went on, to be completely honest. I do not feel that most people listening to that discussion feel they got an adequate explanation of how they arrived at two games." He added, "The problem is they've now set a bar of two games. The bar has been set at two games. For them to say, ‘Any player who thinks that he's going to get involved in the case of domestic violence and the league doesn't take that seriously’ -- you take it half as seriously as you do taking the wrong cold medicine or taking the wrong over-the-counter supplement. This is a mess and I don’t think that just made it any better" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 7/28).

: THE MMQB's Peter King writes if he was Goodell, he would "take time this week to explain" why the suspension was not longer. Goodell likely will not that this route "because it will extend an ugly story for another couple of news cycles, because whatever he says he’ll get bashed over the head for it by people who think he went far too soft on Rice." But even if the criticism continued sharply, Goodell "needs to come out and explain himself." Too many people, especially women, "feel outraged over this" (, 7/28). ABC News consultant Donna Brazile said, “It's time for the men who run the NFL ... to understand this is a huge problem. By slapping a small penalty on him, it sends the wrong message to kids." She added, "They should have really made him pay a price. I think the NFL should have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to domestic violence.” Former U.S. Labor Sec. Robert Reich said, “The NFL has a domestic-violence problem. We all know this. … This is less than a slap on the wrist. This is less than almost any kind of penalty they've given for almost anything else” ("This Week with George Stephanopoulos," ABC, 7/27).

: In Oakland, Marcus Thompson II wrote for a league "so concerned with keeping its shield shiny, the NFL really dropped the ball on its discipline" of Rice. The "soft punishment is at best a public relations blunder and at worst a sign of the league's lack of respect for women" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 7/27). In New Jersey, Barry Federovitch writes under the header, "Goodell Fumbled Rice Decision" (TRENTON TIMES, 7/28). In Boston, Chris Villani wrote the NFL has "been severely lacking when disciplining certain off-field transgressions, including violent crimes." The "sad part of Rice’s suspension is that it actually does have a strong basis in precedent" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/27). Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom said, "This is a problem. They don't really have a domestic-violence policy in place, although, if you look at the statistics, they are alarming over the years. I think they should have very, very harsh penalties for both that and sexual assault" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 7/27). In Edmonton, Jason Gregor writes, "Maybe we shouldn’t expect the NFL to be better than us." But when the NFL "suspends players for fewer games for domestic abuse than for drug use, it sends the wrong message" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 7/28). In Pittsburgh, Joe Starkey wrote under the header, "Goodell's Gutless Ruling Sign Of Times" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 7/27). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick wonders about the "NFLPA’s position" on punishments for domestic violence. Mushnick: "It’s as important as the NFL’s, no? Shouldn’t the NFLPA provide the public with what it feels is the proper internal punishment -- some sentencing guidelines -- for players given to domestic violence and/or sexual assault?" (N.Y. POST, 7/28).

MESSAGE TO WOMEN: In Boston, Ben Volin wrote Rice's punishment "seems especially hollow given how the NFL salutes women throughout October." What should be "nothing but a positive deed now looks like empty pandering by the NFL -- the league cares about women, but only when there’s profit to be made" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/27). In Dallas, Tim Cowlishaw writes there is "nothing difficult about sending a message that violence against women is unforgivable." Goodell "chose not to do that in the Ray Rice case." Cowlishaw: "Who knows, maybe he was busy trying to pick a city for the 2015 draft" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 7/28). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi wrote maybe it is time for the NFL and other sports leagues that wear pink apparel in October to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Week "to start doing the same with the purple that represents Domestic Violence Awareness Month" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/27).

:'s Jim Trotter wrote under the header, "Is Roger Goodell Getting Soft?" Trotter cites people close to Goodell as saying that he "hasn't changed, that he's as vigilant and committed to protecting The Shield as the day he took office." But he is "certainly going about it differently" now. Goodell "might not be Roger the Merciful, but he's no longer presenting himself as THE ENFORCER" (, 7/25). In N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote Goodell's job of disciplining players has "become too big and too complicated, even for him." His rulings have "become increasingly inconsistent, and it shows now with Ray Rice" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/27).

Race Team Alliance Chair Rob Kauffman yesterday said that the rest of NASCAR's "full-time teams should soon be added" to the nine teams that formed the organization, according to the AP. Kauffman, who also is the co-Owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, this weekend met with other team owners and "says they are on board." Kauffman: "The stuff on the RTA side is actually going quite well. We're just focused on doing what we said we were going to do. Get organized, get things done and try and be productive. Don't expect a lot of PR and excitement" (AP, 7/27). ESPN analyst Brad Daugherty, who is a co-Owner of JTG Daugherty Racing, said the team has had "conversations with the powers that be with the RTA ... and we’ve been invited to be a part, as well as every other full-time race team." He added, "We're looking at it, trying to figure what the landscape is going to look like going forward, what their mission statement is and the bylaws and those types of things. Trying to figure out if it's going to be better for us to be a part. It’s going to be a collaborative effort to get the business leaders who are on the ownership side together, to create better processes so we can all save money and put money back into the sport” ("NASCAR Countdown," ESPN, 7/27).

INSIDE PERSPECTIVE: ESPN’s Andy Petree noted he has been "involved in the initial discussions with the teams about forming" the RTA and said it "became pretty clear through those discussions that it's never been more challenging than it is right now for these teams to operate and to do it without losing money." Petree: "Most of these teams have been losing money for six or seven years. ... These teams have figured out now that a lot of the problems they have are common to all of the teams. It makes sense to bring them together, start cooperating a little bit and start trying to solve some of these problems together and see if we can’t strengthen the sport that we love." He added, "They’re just at a stress point right now. It's a time that we need to see our sport grow, so to do that I think this alliance makes a lot of sense. These guys can start working together and cooperating with each other because they have the same common goal. They want to race each other on Sundays. When they're off the track, they can help each other to make sure they're around and that they’re healthy." ESPN's Rusty Wallace: "You go to the garage area and you talk to these owners, all they're talking about how much money it costs. ... Right now the sponsors are hard to get. The dollars that are coming in, there’s more going out. There's been a lot of rumblings that they want to do something about it. They're in a situation where they need to do something. They need NASCAR to help them some way, and I think these guys will work it out” (“NASCAR Countdown,” ESPN, 7/27).

The NBA "is poised to turn the All-Star break into All-Star week this coming season ... providing teams with a full week off at midseason," according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. A source said that the move, which "would give players seven days off between games in mid-February, would result in an increase of one or two back-to-back sets per team for the coming season." The release of the '14-15 NBA schedule "has been pushed back into August to allow the league's television partners to adjust for the dramatic shakeup created by free agency," including LeBron James moving back to the Cavaliers. With the "elongated All-Star break, the possibility of then starting the 2015-16 season a week earlier also has been deliberated recently" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 7/26).