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Volume 24 No. 181

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NFL "won't try to stop players protesting during the national anthem" this season, according to Kent Somers of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday addressed the issue with about 200 Cardinals fans. After being "asked if the NFL could do anything about the protests," Goodell "used a bunch of sentences to basically say no." He said, "We have to understand there are people who have different viewpoints. The national anthem is a special moment for me. It’s a point of pride. We also have to understand the other side of it. People do have rights and we want to respect those" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 8/15). Goodell said that he had a "similar discussion" with a Jets player during another fan forum a couple weeks ago. Goodell said that the player was "asked about the ongoing silent protest." Goodell said the player said there was "a time and a place" to engage in protest. Goodell added that is "one of the key components for players to recognize." Goodell: "That's what we all have to, sort of, understand -- the responsibility of doing it at the right time and in the right way. Protest to progress is what I call it. We all have to recognize that people want to see change. Let's go out and try to make that happen in a peaceful and an important way" (, 8/14).

MESSAGE GOT LOST:'s Nick Wagoner reported 49ers S Eric Reid, who knelt alongside Colin Kaepernick last year, "does not intend to resume kneeling during the national anthem this season." Reid said, "The anthem thing went so sideways -- it kills me that it went the way it went because that's not how we intended it to be. You guys know what we were trying to get accomplished with that." Throughout the '16 season, Reid said that he "hoped the protest would spark conversations that would lead to change at the highest levels of politics." After the season, Reid said that he "believed those conversations had started and that he intended to stand for the national anthem" in '17 (, 8/14). Reid "reiterated he wouldn’t kneel ... despite recent racial unrest in Charlottesville." He said, "It doesn’t change my plans. It’s important to discuss the issues that we have in our country. I think it’s becoming more and more apparent" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/15). Meanwhile, Browns coach Hue Jackson said that while he "understands the reasons behind NFL players protesting during the National Anthem," he "hopes it won't happen with his team." Jackson: "Everybody has a right to do, and I get it, but the National Anthem means a lot to myself personally, the organization and our football team. ... I would hope that we don't have those issues." Jackson said that he "prefers to address those issues internally" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/15).

MORE TO COME: Seahawks DE Michael Bennett and Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins have indicated that they plan to protest throughout the season, and in N.Y., Thomas Lipe notes more protests "may be following" after last weekend’s events in Charlottesville and President Trump's response (N.Y, POST, 8/15). ESPN's Amin Elhassan said he was "surprised there weren't more big guys sitting" after Charlottesville. While Bennett and Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch "are big names," Elhassan figured there would be "bigger-named guys sitting for this" ("SportsNation," ESPN, 8/14).'s Ray Ratto wrote there will be "more players willing to consider such a protest because ... numbers matter." It is "easy to isolate one person and try to ruin him or her, either through career damage or reputation damage." Bennett and Lynch could be "part of a vanguard of players who are speaking out against the clear injustices that undermine what the nation can and should be." Ratto: "The message may resonate" (, 8/14).

DOESN'T END WITH KAEPERNICK: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes Bennett and Lynch "served notice that the league can hardly distance itself from the nation’s social turmoil by merely refusing to give" Kaepernick an opportunity. Kaepernick "may have been the one who raised the level of consciousness" about issues of "inequality, racism, social justice and police brutality last year." However, he "isn’t the only player with whom such issues hit home." Bell: "It’s hardly a surprise that Bennett -- he's an established, ninth-year veteran who has long been outspoken on matters or race and social issues -- would pick up the virtual baton left by Kaepernick" (USA TODAY, 8/15). In S.F., Ann Killion writes if the NFL was hoping the Kaepernick issue was "going away soon, it seems to have badly miscalculated" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/15).

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is about to "enter the most politically murky stretch of his career" as he has now "pissed off two of the most powerful people in the league over the past two years" in Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones and Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, according to Kevin Clark of THE RINGER. If Jones’s ire toward Goodell regarding RB Ezekiel Elliott's suspension is "real and lasting, the commissioner will be tasked with managing a room at league meetings where the most vocal people are shooting him daggers." Goodell "isn’t going to lose his job" and most owners are "going to support this particular decision." The broader point is that in "every previous scandal, most of the rank-and-file owners listened to some combination of three power brokers" -- Kraft, Jones and Giants President & CEO John Mara -- and "pretty much fell in line." If Goodell "loses two of those three as fervent backers in the next heated crisis, his power could eventually be threatened." Jones' attack against the league office is "going to be acrimonious," and if it "becomes Jones vs. Goodell and it gets ugly, that’s going to considerably weaken Goodell" (, 8/14).'s Alex Reimer noted a Kraft-Jones partnership "would likely wield a lot of influence." Kraft "sits on multiple league committees and Jones is often credited with orchestrating the Rams' return to Los Angeles and the Raiders' move to Las Vegas." There is a "lot of time for this saga to play out," as Goodell's contract does not expire until '19. He will "probably need it [if] Kraft and Jones set their sights in his direction" (, 8/14).

JUDGE & JURY: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio reported Goodell did "not personally attend the most important meeting" regarding the Elliott investigation. The NFL "acknowledged that Goodell was not present" for the June 26 hearing that "preceded the issuance of discipline." With credibility being such a "critical aspect of this matter, it’s difficult to make a conclusion about Elliott’s credibility without personally attending the June 26 hearing." While the independent advisors "serve as a bit of a buffer, their assessment of Elliott’s overall credibility is no substitute for the credibility assessment made by the person making the decision." A source said that Goodell also did "not meet with Tiffany Thompson," Elliott's ex-girlfriend, whose "credibility also is at issue" (, 8/14). FS1's Skip Bayless said, “I'm a little lost because now the commissioner again looks foolish and incompetent. He's handed down a six-game suspension to Ezekiel Elliott without even interviewing him or the accuser, seriously? Let me get this straight. You are judge, jury and executioner! The buck stops with you, yet you didn't even look into the eyes of Ezekiel and his accuser? You didn't even study the body language as they testified to you before you handed down the suspension?” (“Undisputed,” FS1, 8/15).

BURNED BY THE PAST: ESPN's Pablo Torre said one thing observers have "always asked for is transparency" from the NFL with its investigations. Torre: "At the very least, we know how long this investigation took, about a year. We know all the people they interviewed and they consulted. ... It's hard to see fault with their reasoning because they laid it out so clearly.” But ESPN's Bomani Jones said it is “fair to ask questions whether they did this the right way, even though they were transparent, because they've done this wrong so much” ("PTI," ESPN, 8/14). The Washington Post’s Kevin Blackistone said he wished there was "some way that the league could let the judicial process play out and react to that, because I’m a little bit more skeptical of the NFL’s own investigation into these situations than I am law enforcement.” The N.Y. Daily News’ Frank Isola said what people "want to see is the NFL be more consistent” in the way they handle these cases. Isola: "Maybe that’s going to start with Ezekiel Elliott.” The Dallas Morning News' Tim Cowlishaw: "The league is acknowledging, ‘We’ve done a terrible job on the domestic violence front’” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/14).

UNWANTED CONSEQUENCE: In Dallas, David Moore writes the "notion that the NFL has it in" for Elliott is "comical." That "doesn't explain why the NFL would want to tarnish the reputation of one of its brightest young stars." Moore: "Present a rationale as to why it makes sense for the NFL to go out of its way to assess Elliott a six-game suspension when Columbus prosecutors declined to file charges on domestic violence." This "isn't the outcome the NFL wanted." This "isn't the label the league wants to hang around the neck of a player who currently ranks fourth in jersey sales" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/15).

The NBA released its '17-18 schedule last night, which places a focus on "player rest and health," according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. By starting the season one week earlier, the NBA "eliminated scenarios in which teams play four games in five nights." Four seasons ago, there were "70 such scenarios." The NBA "protected 22 'marquee' national TV games in which participating teams will not be involved in a back-to-back or five games in seven nights scenarios and no team will have traveled more than 3,500 miles in the seven days prior to the game." These 22 games "include the five Christmas Day games, all Saturday and Sunday ABC games and the three Martin Luther King Jr. Day games" (USA TODAY, 8/15). In DC, Tim Bontemps writes after "multiple nationally televised games on ABC last season were marred by all-stars sitting out for resting purposes, the NBA made it a priority this season to try to prevent that from happening once again." If players are "healthy, they will be playing." The league is "never going to tell a hurt player that he has to play," but the point was to "eliminate nationally televised games from becoming nonstop conversations about rest." Bontemps: "This change in the schedule should do that" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15). ESPN's Tom haberstroh said, "If you look at the nuts and bolts of the schedule, the big thing that stands out to me is none of the ABC games for the Golden State Warriors this year are coming in a back-to-back and that's huge.” Haberstroh: “Last year, four of their five ABC games were in back-to-back sets in this season" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/14).

TO THE VICTORS GO THE SPOILS: In Oakland, Darryl Matsuda notes a "franchise record" 31 of the Warriors' 82 regular-season games will be televised nationally on ESPN, ABC and TNT. That includes the Christmas and Martin Luther King Day games against the Cavaliers (ABC and TNT, respectively) (EAST BAY TIMES, 8/15). The WASHINGTON POST's Bontemps notes the Warriors will have a "whopping 43 games" on national TV when including NBA TV. Everyone will get "plenty of chances to see the league’s most popular team play whether they have NBA League Pass or not" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15). Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Joe Vardon notes the Cavaliers have 39 games slated for TNT, ESPN, ABC or NBA TV. However, the Cavs only play "two Saturday games on ABC." This will mark the "third consecutive season the Cavs and Warriors will play each other on both Christmas and MLK Day" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/15).

LONZO EFFECT: In California, Bill Oram notes the Lakers and rookie G Lonzo Ball are "scheduled to appear on national television an astounding 35 times" this season across all four rights holders. The national attention the Lakers are receiving is "significant even by their own standards, and much of it can be attributed to Ball." The team on the original schedule last season was "slated for just 14 such appearances." Only the Warriors (43), Rockets (40), Cavs (39) and Thunder (37) have more national appearances this year (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 8/15). The league is "betting on the curiosity factor surrounding Lonzo and LaVar Ball to drive a lot of attention to the league’s flagship franchise." Despite the fact the Lakers are "coming off a fourth straight dismal season, they will be one of the most prominent teams on the national television schedule" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15). ESPN's Michael Eaves said, "It's more about the league investing in Lonzo Ball to get this attention early, then cover them the next couple of years as they get good. Those fans stay with them. You also have Magic there, so it’s like, ‘Jeanie, you did so well getting this team back to respectability, here's some more games to get you on national TV’” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/14).

: In Boston, Adam Himmelsbach writes the Celtics were "given an extremely high-profile slate," as the team will have 25 of its 82 games televised by ESPN, ABC or TNT. The club last season did "not appear in any of ABC’s national Saturday prime-time games, but this season they will play in two of the eight" (BOSTON GLOBE, 8/15).'s Chase Hughes noted the Wizards last season "had five nationally televised games guaranteed when the initial regular season schedule was released." This season they have 18, a "clear indication their profile as a franchise took a major step" in '16-17. The schedule "doesn't include NBATV games ... and they could have more flexed into national TV slots throughout the season" (, 8/14). 

THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM: In N.Y., Stefan Bondy writes ESPN, ABC and TNT "took a hard pass on one of the league’s marquee franchises" -- scheduling the Knicks for just eight games next season, including zero after New Year’s Eve. The "implication" being the Knicks will be out of the playoff race "early" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/15). The eight games is "down from 22 last season." The team is in "rebuilding mode" after G Derrick Rose signed with the Cavaliers and F Carmelo Anthony "could be out the door" (N.Y. POST, 8/15). ESPN's John Anderson said, "New York City is less interesting than Oklahoma City and the Twin Cities" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 8/15). Meanwhile, in Atlanta, Michael Cunningham notes the Hawks have zero games on national TV (outside of NBA TV) this season, "another indication of the low expectations surrounding the team" (, 8/14).

Scott Boras, the agent for Nationals RF Bryce Harper, said that MLB "needs to take steps to ensure that wet, slick bases aren't a safety hazard for players during periods of inclement weather."'s Jerry Crasnick noted Harper stumbled over first base in the first inning of his team's game against the Giants on Saturday, and the injury stemming from the incident will "keep him out an undisclosed amount of time." Boras said, "This injury was directly related to inclement weather and a player putting his cleat on the bag and it slipping across because the surface was slick. ... In baseball, we have no one cleaning the bags between innings during inclement weather" (, 8/13).

WHAT'S IN A NAME? In Chicago, Paul Sullivan wrote MLB's Players Weekend is a "laudable effort" by the league in a sport where "many of the biggest stars frequently hide from the media during clubhouse access hours when presumably they could give fans a glimpse of their personalities through interviews." From Aug. 25-27, players can wear their nicknames on the back of their jerseys. They seem "enthused about the idea, the uniforms are being sold for charity and it never hurts to inject some life into the dog days of summer, especially when half of the division races are decided." Sullivan: "The tricky thing with next weekend's mass-marketing idea is baseball's presumption its players all have nicknames, or at least ones they care to display in public" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/13).

NOVEMBER RAIN: In St. Paul, Brian Murphy wrote baseball "should not be played in November," though MLB has "insisted on pushing the envelope into the year’s 11th month for the better part of a decade." Weather "should not play a role in determining your champion, especially if the decision-makers insist on playing chicken with the odds." Murphy: "How about owners and players genuinely reciprocate by having Doubleheader Sunday once a month during the regular season?" Monthly doubleheaders would "shave a week off the regular season and allow baseball to start its postseason the last week of September and guarantee a seven-game World Series would wrap up with a week to spare in October" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 8/12).