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Volume 24 No. 181

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NFL is "close to extending Commissioner Roger Goodell's contract through 2024, and an announcement may be coming as soon as this week," according to sources cited by Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. A source said that the 32 team owners "do not need to vote on the renewal because they unanimously agreed at their May meeting to give that authority to the six-owner compensation committee." Goodell's current contract runs through March '19. The new term is for "five more years, which means Goodell will oversee the next round of labor and media negotiations." Goodell annually earns in the mid-$30M range, which drew "withering criticism from many quarters." A source said that it is "not necessarily a safe assumption" that Goodell's salary would be different with this new deal. Another source said that the compensation structure would be "similar to the current contract: a few million dollars annually in salary, with a much larger bonus determined by the compensation committee." Kaplan reports for the "many criticisms leveled at Goodell over the years, the owners like him for two main reasons: Business has boomed during his tenure and he shields them from the brickbats hurled at the league." The new renewal "marks his third" since taking over for Paul Tagliabue in '06 (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/21 issue).

KEY DECISIONS LIE AHEAD: In DC, Mark Maske notes news of Goodell's prospective extension comes as he relationships with Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones and the NFLPA are "back under scrutiny." Jones is said to be "upset about Goodell’s decision" to suspend RB Ezekiel Elliott, while NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith believes a work stoppage in '21 is a "virtual certainty" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/21). YAHOO SPORTS' Frank Schwab notes the owners "didn’t extend Goodell because of the threats of the union head, but it ensures continuity on the NFL’s side as it gets ready for that fight." For all the "misplaced panic about a dip in television ratings last season," the preseason HOF game "still drew more viewers than almost all" NBA and MLB playoff games. The NFL is "doing very well, and Goodell is going to reap the rewards." The NFL is a "financial powerhouse, and Goodell is a big reason for that" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/21).

WHY MESS WITH SUCCESS? In Newark, Joe Giglio writes the status quo "wins the day for the NFL" with Goodell's extension. Goodell has taken on "two of the most powerful owners in the sport" in Jones and the Patriots' Robert Kraft in recent years, and while it was "easy to assume that two big-time allies among owners would turn on Goodell, it hasn't done enough to ruin his standing." If Goodell remains in the position through '24, he will have "accrued 19 years at the top of the sport." That would "push him past Paul Tagliabue and into position as the second longest-tenured NFL commissioner ever," trailing only Pete Rozelle's 29-year run (NJ.com, 8/21). BLEACHER REPORT's Tyler Conway notes while there has "been criticism of Goodell's job performance, NFL owners have historically preferred stability at commissioner." The league "has had just three commissioners" -- Rozelle, Tagliabue and Goodell -- since the AFL-NFL merger in '70 (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 8/21).

DEALING WITH CONTROVERSY: In N.Y., Mark Sanchez writes if Goodell has "proven bulletproof" over the last few years. He "stared down" Patriots QB Tom Brady during Deflategate, and he has "presided over the domestic-violence problem in the NFL." Goodell has "tried to weather the concussion and CTE crisis," and to his credit, "appeared to admit the link" between playing football and CTE (NYPOST.com, 8/21). Also in N.Y., Jake Becker notes Goodell’s tenure has seen "no shortage of issues, ranging from the league’s evolving stance on players accused of domestic violence to its handling of player safety, such as concussions and head trauma." Goodell has also been "criticized for his handling of team scandals, such as the Patriots’ Spygate and Deflategate, as well as the Saints’ Bountygate" (NYDAILYNEWS.com, 8/21).

TELL US WHAT YOU REALLY THINK: Brady this morning made his weekly appearance on WEEI-FM's "Kirk & Callahan," and he was "asked if he had any thoughts" on Goodell's extension. Brady's response: "Nope, I don't have any thoughts" (WEEI.com, 8/21).

TWITTER REAX
: Bleacher Report's Jason Cole tweeted, "Avg NFL franchise was worth $1B in 2011. It's $2B+ now. If your biz doubled in value in 6 yrs, would you keep your top employee?" The MMQB's Andrew Brandt: "NFL owners have a ten-year, team-friendly CBA; franchise values are skyrocketing and Goodell takes the heat so they don't have to. Extended." ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides: "Goodell made $212.5M from 2006-15. A-Rod & Kobe were only major-sport athletes in North America to earn more in salary over that span."  CBS Sports Radio's Damon Amendolara: "Extension underscores EVERYTHING broken w/ NFL leadership. Massive public distrust, but owners say, 'Hey, he makes us cash.'" ESPN.com's Ian O'Connor: "I'm afraid to stare at this new Roger Goodell contract for fear it will cause retinal burn."

Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones is "taking a measured approach before firing a shot at the NFL over how the league handled" its investigation into RB Ezekiel Elliott, according to Drew Davison of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. Jones said, “I don’t have anything to say about anything with [Commissioner Roger Goodell] or with anything to do with Zeke at this particular time. Still making my plans.” He added, "I just want to get my thoughts together, see some more cards played and just see kind of how this thing turns out. I know that they’ve got a real important date set and want that to have every opportunity it can to have things in its best light. But we certainly are in support of Zeke.” Davison noted Jones would "like to see" what decision arbiter Harold Henderson comes to "before saying too much" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 8/20). In Dallas, Kate Hairopoulos writes the "acidic events of last week" between the NFL and NFLPA served as "just the opening salvo as both sides responded" to the NFL's decision to suspend Elliott. The fight will "only intensify -- publicly and behind the scenes -- as Elliott's appeal hearing Aug. 29 nears" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 8/21).

NEEDING TO SHOW DISCIPLINE?
 Goodell is expected to have his contract extended through the '24 season, but FS1's Jason Whitlock said Goodell "needs to repair his image with the players to avoid a work stoppage." Whitlock: "He needs to remove himself from these disciplinary cases that have made him this polarizing figure. He's got to work on his relationship with these players, or we're going to have a work stoppage and that will cost Roger Goodell his job.” FS1’s Kristine Leahy: “Right now he's picking and choosing where he wants to get involved, and when you have a young guy that's going to be a star in the league (in Elliott), you have to be involved with that before you can take the risk.” FS1’s Greg Jennings, who played 10 years in the NFL, said players "don't look at him as a buddy." Jennings said, "He's going to continue to be an adversary to the players, because the players look at him as he works for the owners. When you are a player in this league, you're not looking for Roger Goodell to be buddy-buddy with you because you know whose side he gets his check signed from. He's going to be who he's going to be. I just feel like be consistent. Completely remove yourself, or just say, ‘You know what, I'm going to continue to make every decision, I'm going to bring down the hammer any time I get a chance,’ because that's what he's doing” (“Speak for Yourself,” FS1, 8/18). In Houston, Brian Smith wrote under the header, "For Sake Of NFL Fairness, Roger Goodell Must Be Taken Down A Notch." No one should "hold this much untouchable, God-like power," especially a sports league that still "hasn't figured out how to properly protect the bodies and brains of its own millionaire athletes." Smith: "King Roger Goodell has been judge, jury and executioner for far too long" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 8/20).

THE BATTLE IS BREWING
: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell notes the stage is "seemingly being constructed for a nasty battle" between Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith after Smith last week said a lockout or strike is a "virtual certainty" after the current CBA expires in '21. Issues "will surely include how revenue is divided" and Goodell's "disciplinary power." Jones said another work stoppage "doesn't make sense to me." Jones: "At all. I'm looking at it, not for us, but I'm looking at it if I'm players. If they want to get some changes, then obviously, you can have some remedies" (USA TODAY, 8/21). Smith will appear on HBO's "Real Sports" tomorrow night, and CBSSPORTS.com's Will Brinson noted a teaser for the episode shows Smith taking the "proverbial blowtorch to the other side." He blames the owners for opting out of the previous CBA "because they are 'greedy.'" Smith also "believes Goodell 'lied' to him" about finding ways to change the commissioner's "power in personal conduct matters." Smith will be "up for re-election" at the beginning of the '18 season (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/20).

Seahawks DE Michael Bennett again "sat during the national anthem prior to Seattle’s preseason game against the Vikings Friday night," and C Justin Britt stood next to Bennett with his right hand on Bennett’s left shoulder, according to Bob Condotta of the SEATTLE TIMES. Britt said, "I want to support him. I want to support what he’s standing for and his beliefs. I’m not foolish. I’m from Missouri. I get things are different in that area than it is in some other areas. I’m not against what the flag means and veterans. My dad was in the Army. I’m not putting any disrespect to them. I’m just trying to understand the issues, trying to educate myself more in that regard and showing support." He added, "I wanted to take a first step tonight, and that's what I felt I did." Condotta noted Britt became the "second white player in two days to show support for a black player protesting the anthem" -- Eagles DE Chris Long "stood with an arm around" Eagles CB Malcolm Jenkins on Thursday night. Bennett said, "It was very touching for me, a very emotional moment to have that kind of solidarity from someone like Justin Britt who is a very known leader in our locker room, who is from a different part of America from me. ... I thought that was a very special moment and an emotional moment for me." Condotta noted Seahawks CB Jeremy Lane stood "in front of Bennett with his back to the field," and as the anthem ended, DEs Cliff Avril and Frank Clark "broke from the rest of the team -- standing with arms locked on the sidelines -- to then sit by Bennett on the bench" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/19). Britt said that he will "continue to support Bennet's protest." He added, "I might sit with him if things don't get better, if things don't improve, but right now I'm just gong to continue what I'm doing." He added that he "encourages his teammates to join as well" (SEATTLEPI.com, 8/19).

BETTER TOGETHER: In Seattle, Larry Stone wrote he "liked" what he saw with Britt's gesture and that he "liked what I heard afterward from Britt and Bennett -- sincerity and compassion as they grappled with some heavy issues that are roiling our country." There are "going to be many who reject out of hand any sullying of the anthem," but peaceful dissent is "about as American as it gets." Now, more than ever, there needs to be "genuine, heartfelt dialogue -- even if it’s not easy -- about race relations, inequality, injustice and the like." The inclusion of a white player like Britt "adds poignancy and power to the movement." To have Bennett sit during the anthem "sends a message." To have Britt "embracing Bennett sends a deeper one" (SEATTLE TIMES, 8/20). In Pittsburgh, Ron Cook wrote under the header, "It's Tough To Argue With Michael Bennett's Reasons For Protest" (PITTSPURGH POST-GAZETTE, 8/20).

TAKE MY HAND: In S.F., Vic Tafur notes Raiders QB Derek Carr and DE Khalil Mack performed "subtle actions during the anthem" before Saturday's game against the Rams, as Carr "placed his right hand on Mack's left shoulder as a show of solidarity." Carr after the game said, "We’re not protesting. We’re not doing anything like that. What we wanted to do was show all the kids that look up to me, look up to him, that white kids, blue kids, brown kids, blue, green, doesn’t matter, can all be loving to each other." Mack said he wanted to "show unity" between "different races." Mack: "It’s discussed a lot. It’s one of the things I feel passionately about, but I just don’t like the attention, the attention that comes with it. But at the same time, just using my platform for positivity is what’s important for me." Tafur noted people are "watching what players do now during the national anthem." While Bennett sits to protest social injustice, Carr indicated that he and Mack "wanted to go about it a different way, together." Carr: "We wanted to show them that it’s OK for a white kid and a black kid that come from two different neighborhoods (to) grow up and love one another and be best friends" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/21).

DEAFENING SILENCE: Raiders RB Marshawn Lynch "once again sat" during the anthem, and Raiders S Shalom Luani also "kneeled during part of the anthem" (AP, 8/19). In S.F., Ann Killion wrote if Lynch’s anthem statement is political, we are "still waiting for him to own it." It "seems quite obvious that it is," but Lynch last week "clowned his way through a brief news conference" when given the opportunity to explain things. Protesting during the anthem is a "serious issue that raises passions on all sides" and "requires a conversation" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 8/20).

LET'S TRY THIS AGAIN: In Sacramento, Matt Barrows noted 49ers GM John Lynch got a "second chance to discuss his view of anthem protests on Friday morning." His comments earlier last week "drew criticism after he said the protests can be 'divisive' and that he’d always seen the national anthem, and the game of football, as a way to bring disparate groups of people together." Speaking on KNBR-AM, Lynch said that he "regretted the word divisive."  Lynch said, "If I could take one thing back, I would have changed that word. Because of the negative connotation. But I was really trying to make the point that our game should be a beacon for what can be" (SACBEE.com, 8/18). In San Jose, Cam Inman wrote Lynch is "among those truly appreciative for the scene that unfolded during Thursday night’s national anthem" involving Long and Jenkins. Lynch said, "When I saw that picture of Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins, that’s exactly what I was speaking to and what I think is so great of football. ... It is an example of how our society can be and should be of people coming together" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/19).

HOW MANY MORE WILL COME? On Long Island, Barbara Barker wrote the question that remains is whether "more white athletes stand up and do the same" as Britt and Long. Barker: "With the images of white supremacists marching through Charlottesville, Virginia, no longer a daily news story, will white athletes continue to risk their careers to support their black teammates?" (NEWSDAY, 8/21). In DC, Adam Kilgore writes the acts by Britt and Long "stood out, in part, because of how many sidelines remained void of anthem displays" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/21). FS1's Skip Bayless said the gestures from Britt, Long and Carr were "more about Charlottesville than it was about white cops shooting unarmed black men." Bayless: "It's touching white hearts in a way that Colin Kaepernick's initial theme didn't touch white hearts.  A lot of eyes and ears and minds were closed, and I think they have been opened. You're still not going to touch the white heart always in the way you can unless the white heart feels shame over white groups preaching hate" ("Undisputed," FS1, 8/21).

The NFL is "partnering with EA Sports to create a nationwide 'Madden NFL 18' tournament involving all 32 teams, and the NFL says a bigger commitment to an esports league is coming," according to Fisher & Fischer of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. The newly formed Madden NFL Club Championship will "begin with local tournaments in each NFL market to determine which player gets to represent the team in the championship rounds." Each team will "organize and market their own tournaments, which may be hosted at NFL stadiums and other team facilities." The championship-round events will be "held at the Pro Bowl in Orlando and Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis." The effort "builds upon two other, smaller tournaments that EA Sports operates around its 'Madden NFL' franchise out of its Competitive Gaming Division, formed nearly two years ago." The NFL-EA Sports alliance "does not involve the formation of a new league, team franchises or some type of equity transaction." However, NFL execs said that the creation of the Madden NFL Club Championship is an "initial step toward a much more expansive presence in esports." Financial terms for the creation of the Madden NFL Club Championship were not disclosed, but EA Sports and the NFL "branded it a multimillion-dollar initiative." Media distribution is "still being finalized, though each of the 32 local tournaments will be "streamed on NFL and EA Sports digital platforms, including ones EA Sports operates in partnership with YouTube and Twitch." There also will be "coverage of the final-round competitions" on NFL Network (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 8/21 issue).

FOOTBALL FOR THE PEOPLE: The AP reports the partnership "makes the NFL the first pro sports league in the U.S. to commit all of its teams to a competitive gaming program, and the first esports competition of this scale taking place this year." The Madden NFL Club Championship is "open to any player with an online account." Players will "pick their favorite team, then compete online against that team's other fans" with an "undetermined number of top players advancing out of that round" (AP, 8/21). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Sarah Needleman notes the Madden tournament is "open to players at any skill level aged 16 and older." Residents of North America, the U.K. and Germany are "eligible." EA is sidestepping "some costlier parts of setting up a full-fledged pro league." Since the Madden tournament is open to anyone, EA "expects pro gamers will participate." The company said that it could "still create a pro league down the road" (WSJ.com, 8/21).

F1 LAUNCHES ESPORTS SERIES
: ESPN.com's Nate Saunders notes F1 has launched an esports series which will "culminate at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November." F1 has teamed up with games developer Codemasters and esports specialists Gfinity to "create the championship," which will launch in line with the F1 '17 game in September. The two semifinals will be "held at Gfinity Arena in London on October 10 and 11, with 20 drivers -- the number of cars on this year's grid -- progressing to the final" (ESPN.com, 8/21).

MLB umpires have "ended their one-day protest against alleged mistreatment after the commissioner’s office agreed to meet with them," according to Paul Sullivan of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The World Umpires Association tweeted that MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred "agreed to meet with union reps after several umpires wore white wristbands during Saturday’s games to show support" for Angel Hernandez. Tigers 2B Ian Kinsler last week said that Hernandez "needs to find another job” and “just needs to go away.” Kinsler was "fined by MLB, but not suspended." That came after umpire Joe West was "recently suspended three games" for naming Rangers 3B Adrian Beltre as "one of the biggest 'complainers' in baseball." The umpires "believe a double standard exists if West can [be] suspended while Kinsler received only a fine." Umpire Bill Miller after Saturday's Tigers-Dodgers game said Kinsler was “not the focus of the situation” and there have been “several instances where umpires have been called out" by players and managers (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/21). USA TODAY's Gabe Lacques noted Cardinals manager Mike Matheny on Wednesday was "ejected after arguing with home plate umpire Chris Segal, noting, 'It's not your show, man.'" Cubs 2B Ben Zobrist recently "advocated for the use of automated umpires" (USATODAY.com, 8/20). 

A "PETTY" DISPLAY: In Michigan, Evan Woodbery noted Tigers manager Brad Ausmus "didn't notice the white armbands worn by two umpires on Saturday," though after the game he "was furious, summoning reporters back into his office to call out the Major League umpires for what he called a 'petty' display." Ausmus: "To single out one player as a union is completely uncalled for." Ausmus said that Kinsler's punishment was "anything but lenient." Ausmus: "It's the biggest fine I've ever seen Major League Baseball give a player. So I don't want to hear that he's not being punished." Ausmus said that umpires can "give as good as they can take, and he's 'shocked' by their sudden sensitivity" (MLIVE.com, 8/20).

POINT OF NO RETURN: YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote the relationship between umpires and players has "degraded to unfortunate levels." Players regard umpires as "impediments -- and, in plenty of cases, incompetents -- whose mistakes warrant repudiation." Meanwhile, umpires see players as "increasingly disrespectful toward those whose duties should grant them deference and authority." The "ugliness manifests itself almost daily," but it shows a "staggering lack of self-awareness that umpires would take their gripes public as if doing so would engender some kind of sympathy or public backing." To stage a protest with "any chance of working, an air of moral authority must exist." The umpires "died long ago of self-inflicted wounds." Every time an umpire "weaves himself into a game’s fabric," the "argument in favor of them dictating change dies another death." That is a "shame, because the umpires do make some legitimate points." Progress is "made through actions, not symbols, and protest without substance invalidates the very improvement they seek." Umpires have done "nothing to tamp down the behavior of the worst in their ranks, which is a bad look when that’s exactly what they’re calling upon players to do" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/20).