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Volume 24 No. 181

Leagues and Governing Bodies

DC-based attorney Cyrus Mehri, bidding for NFLPA Exec Dir, will "hold his first town hall meeting with NFL players" tonight in Dallas, according to Charean Williams of PRO FOOTBALL TALK. It is "part of his attempt to win over players in his challenge" to NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith. Mehri said, "Every day we’re going to be fighting for players to have a choice, and to be able to determine their own destiny. There’s so much at stake in this election, because whoever wins gets to decide the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Having a choice really matters when you can compare visions and platforms." Mehri "insists he can get a fairer CBA without a work stoppage through consistent communication" with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/12). In Dallas, Kevin Sherrington notes Mehri has 25 years of experience in labor and was a "driving force behind the 'Rooney Rule.'" He also has the "chops for such a tricky job." Mehri wants to "provide players a weekly social issues forum that educates instead of dividing." He plans to "implement something called an 'owner accountability campaign.'" Mehri said, "It puts all the pressure on management and will not require players to miss a single game. This gives the players leverage." Mehri's supporters include Pro Football HOFers Jim Brown, Kellen Winslow Sr., Harry Carson, Joe Greene and Fritz Pollard Alliance Chair John Wooten. Wooten said, "The NFLPA sets the tone for what the players should be about and what the league should be about. This man, Cyrus Mehri ... is the key to what we've accomplished and the key to what we're asking" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/12).

There was a lot of "bad football" on the opening Sunday of the NFL season, which "featured one of the most dreadful, one-sided slates in recent memory," according to Jerry Sullivan of the BUFFALO NEWS. Counting the Chiefs-Patriots NFL Kickoff game on Thursday, only two of 13 games "were decided by a TD or less" and "six of the losing teams scored in single digits." There was some "horrid offense played around the league on Sunday." Sullivan: "This might be a one-week blip, but it has to be a slight concern to the league" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/12). SI.com's Jacob Feldman writes when the Chiefs' Alex Smith, Rams' Jared Goff and Vikings' Sam Bradford are "leading passing categories, you know something has gone awry -- even if we are just one week into the season." Despite Bradford's "sterling" showing in his team's 29-19 win against the Saints last night, QBs "put up the worst combined Week 1 passer rating" since '12. QBs also "tallied the fewest touchdowns per game for an opening group" since '10. Some "truly putrid performances brought down those numbers," and even QBs such as the Panthers' Cam Newton, Packers' Aaron Rodgers and Seahawks' Russell Wilson were "mediocre at best" (SI.com, 9/12). NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal notes the Rams were the only team last year to average "under 300 yards per game on offense." Rosenthal: "So roughly half the NFL in Week 1 resembled the 2016 Rams offense" (NFL.com, 9/12).

NOT A GREAT START: THE RINGER's Danny Heifetz writes Chargers K Younghoe Koo’s "disappointing blocked kick" in his team's 24-21 loss to the Broncos last night was a "perfect cap to an oddly dissatisfying slate of Week 1 games." Just one QB threw "more than two touchdowns on Sunday," and only one RB delivered "more than one rushing touchdown." Many teams "looked rusty." Heifetz: "Whether this week’s diminished quality is due to reduced practice time in the offseason, the jettisoning of experienced veterans for younger and cheaper talent, or merely chance is tough to say" (THERINGER.com, 9/12). In DC, Adam Kilgore wrote when teams failed to "reach 10 points in fully half of Sunday’s games, it represents an epidemic." NFL teams "flailed in attempts to form an offense," and not just with "unproven" QBs. Kilgore: "NFL football is too dangerous to responsibly prepare for, and the preseason is broken because of it." Offenses "require more full-speed repetition than defenses," WRs and QBs "need to hone precision and timing, and offensive lines require cohesion and coordination." Despite an "industrial complex of OTAs and minicamps throughout the offseason, the risk of injury and collectively bargained practice constraints deter teams from full-speed, full-contact practices" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/11).

PRACTICE REALLY DOES MAKE PERFECT: NBCSN's Chris Simms said fans complain there is "not enough practice time and not enough reps to get around to players -- the young players, the vets -- to make it all work." Simms: "We saw some sloppy play, we saw some busted coverages, busted blocking assignments." NBC's Mike Florio said, “A lot of these teams are going to get better as September unfolds and into October because now they’re getting the reps on game day they may not be getting them in practice" (“PFT,” NBCSN, 9/12).

The NBA’s competition committee "meets to discuss lottery reform later this week," but adopting a new proposal is "not a slam-dunk," according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY. Some mid- and small-market teams believe a rule to discourage tanking "will hurt their chances of acquiring a franchise-altering player through the draft." NBA owners "voted on lottery reform" before the start of the '14-15 season, and it was a "similar proposal as the one up for discussion now." While 17 voted in favor of lottery reform, it "requires three-quarters of a vote to pass a proposal." There were "mitigating factors" in '14. The league "knew a new TV deal and new collective-bargaining agreement would impact team decisions and was hesitant of adopting lottery reform before those two things were in place." But lottery reform has "remained a topic since then." In general, the NBA "dislikes the notion of a team starting the season with the viewpoint that the best outcome is being the worst team, and there is disdain for the perception of tanking." By flattening the lottery odds, the league "believes it is removing the idea that a team has to be the worst of the worst to improve." Supporters of the proposal "reason that bad teams in need of help can still improve through the draft without 'tanking.'" The league’s proposal is also "aimed at reducing mid- and late-season tanking" (USA TODAY, 9/12).

WAITING ON CHANGE: In DC, Tim Bontemps wrote the most "egregious examples of tanking in recent years involve teams going out of their way to be as awful as humanly possible." Under the current system, it "makes sense for teams to deliberately tank." With the difference between the odds of winning the top pick varying from 25% for having the worst record to the 4.3% for the seventh-worst record, it is "logical for teams to increase their odds as much as possible." That is why the Suns put G Eric Bledsoe "on ice for the final month of the regular season, which is exactly the kind of action the league is trying to prevent." The proposal being examined by the competition committee, which would "even out the odds among the top teams contending for a lottery spot, will make moves such as the Suns' unnecessary." It also is a "creative way of implementing what has long seemed like the most obvious way to fix this problem -- going back to the flat lottery system, when all 14 teams that missed the playoffs had the same chance to jump into the top three -- without making teams think they might be better to avoid making the playoffs to have a chance to jump to the top of the heap and get a stud in the draft instead" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/11).

MLB will begin its ’18 season on Thursday, March 29, with all 30 teams in action, the first time since ’68 that every team will begin on the same date. It also will be the first time Opening Day lands on a Thursday since '11. The new schedule represents the earliest start ever for a season, not counting games played abroad. The new CBA calls for more off days in the schedule. The minimum number of days to play the regular season increases from 178 to 182 beginning in ’18, prompting the league to veer from its recent tradition of starting each season with ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball.” The ’18 season will cover 186 days and will end Sunday, Sept. 30. The interleague division pairings next year are AL East-NL East, AL Central-NL Central, and AL West-NL West. The All-Star Game will be July 17 in DC, with the All-Star break remaining at four days. The ’18 Draft will be June 4 at a location to be determined. Other special events, such as a potential return to Williamsport, Pa., for a game during the Little League World Series, as well as most international games, have yet to be slotted. The league previously announced plans for a two-game set April 17-18 in Puerto Rico between the Indians and Twins. The CBA also includes a multiyear plan for international play that contemplates ’18 regular-season games in Asia and Mexico.

The NLL today announced Comcast-Spectactor will acquire an expansion franchise in Philadelphia. The league plans to release full details -- including the franchise name, when it will start playing and where it will play -- Thursday at a news conference with NLL Commissioner Nick Sakiewicz and Comcast Spectacor President & CEO Dave Scott. Financial details of the expansion fee were not immediately available, but recent expansion fees have been in the low to mid seven figures. Both Comcast and the NLL are based in Philadelphia, so the move will give the league a team in its backyard, along with a new partnership with one of the country's leading media conglomerates. The NLL recently announced that Alibaba Exec Vice Chair Joe Tsai will be the owner of the league's 10th franchise in San Diego, making Philadelphia the 11th team (Adam Stern, Staff Writer). In Philadelphia, Marc Narducci notes the city has been a "major player in indoor lacrosse," as the Philadelphia Wings played for 28 seasons before moving to Mohegan Sun Arena in '14 and becoming the New England Black Wolves. The NLL has "publicly stated in the past its desire to have a team in Philadelphia." Additionally, Sakiewicz previously served as MLS Union CEO from '08-15 and is "very familiar" with the market (PHILLY.com, 9/12).

ADDING MORE CONTENT: BLOOMBERG NEWS' Scott Soshnick notes the new NLL team will give Comcast "another sport to stream via its new paid streaming service, NBC Sports Gold." The outlet is "designed for fans of niche sports." Comcast and NBC Universal are "trying to adapt to a fast-changing media landscape where more consumers watch TV over the internet and sporting events are one of the few types of programming that people still watch live." Meanwhile, Comcast is an "attractive owner for the NLL, which describes its media strategy as digital-first" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 9/12). 

USA TODAY's Kevin Allen polled 31 high-profile players at the NHL/NHLPA's media tour, and 21 (67.7%) chose Quebec City's Videotron Centre as the "venue the league should next embrace." Seattle "finished second in the survey with nine votes, and Houston totaled one vote." More than 90% of players polled said that they "believe that NHL players’ right to compete in the Olympics should be included" in the next CBA (USA TODAY, 9/12).

SOCIAL SETTING: In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote the NBA "continued to show why it is unquestionably the most progressive league in American pro sports," as Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA Exec Dir Michele Roberts "sent out a joint statement encouraging the players to be socially active and speak freely." Silver said that he "follows all the league’s happenings via social media." Silver: "As to why we’re so popular in social media, one reason is we embraced it, we embraced it early on. We went out to our players and encouraged them to actively participate in social media" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/10).

NEW STRUCTURE
: Major Arena Soccer League Digital Content & PR exec Jeff Husted said that the league Friday voted to "grant a license to a newly structured ownership group" for the K.C. Comets. In K.C., James Dornbrook wrote gaining a license "clears the team to sign player contracts and compete in the league this season." Brian Budzinski "remains an owner." The team "lost its franchise license in July, when it was uncertain whether the team could find new partners in time for the coming season" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 9/11).

LEADERS ABOUND: Huntington Beach-based holdings company Compass Creek Capital President & CEO Jerry Craig has become a majority shareholder in Major League Football, as well as its President & CEO. MFL will debut in eight non-NFL cities in spring '18. Craig said the league later this month will appoint team GMs and coaches, as well as the restructured executive management team in the league front office (MFL).