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Volume 24 No. 178

Leagues and Governing Bodies

It was thought the NFL would be "filled with images of players kneeling or otherwise protesting during the national anthem" during Week 1, but many current and former players have "reached the conclusion that the period of mass anthem protests is likely over," according to Mike Freeman of BLEACHER REPORT. One player said, "The anthem protests are basically dead." Players said that some will "still make their feelings known," like Seahawks DE Michael Bennett, but overall the movement has "slowed to a crawl." Freeman noted while a "large faction of older players wants to organize the anthem protests so they last through the season, they are meeting great resistance from younger players who don't seem to care." The players are "not unified enough to keep the anthem protests going" (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 9/13). THE UNDEFEATED's Jesse Washington noted as player activism becomes "more widespread, the NFL is caught in a tightening vise of boycotts from both sides of the political spectrum." Browns TE Randall Telfer supported his kneeling teammates by "standing next to them" during an Aug. 21 preseason game. When the "backlash hit, Telfer and other players met with team owners and executives," including coach Hue Jackson and Exec VP/Football Operations Sashi Brown, to "try to chart a different course." The result included a video that was aired on the FirstEnergy Stadium scoreboards before the anthem at Sunday's Steelers-Browns game, "meetings with local police and plans for more community engagement." Telfer "hopes the outcome can help lead the NFL out of its political pickle." He said, "The idea of unity and equality in our video is something that everyone can get behind. ... I think that message will resonate with a lot of people." Browns VP/Communications Peter John-Baptiste said that more players are "realizing they have the platform to make a positive difference." John-Baptiste said, "The attention that the league gets, people see the power that it has, they know they can have an impact on society. So people are going to take advantage of that. It's a really powerful thing" (THEUNDEFEATED.com, 9/13).

USING THEIR PLATFORM: Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin said athletes "have a platform" and an "opportunity to speak up about social issues that we feel dearly about." Baldwin said, "I know that some fans can say, 'Oh you're getting paid to put on this product' and I agree with them wholeheartedly. But they're not getting paid to stand in the stands. They're actually paying to come to the games. They don't necessarily have a platform in that instance and to make a social topic relevant, so why is it difficult for fans to understand that and follow suit as well?" Baldwin touched on the Browns' display on Sunday and said, "I wish there could be more of that. However, we do have owners in this league, we do have managers, we do have organizations that you know just operate differently. Sometimes it doesn't lend itself to players being able to do those type of things" ("PFT," NBCSN, 9/13).

WHERE'S THE FIGHT? In West Palm Beach, Joe Schad notes Dolphins WR Kenny Stills is "frustrated more NFL players are not supporting" Colin Kaepernick. Stills "took to Twitter to ask athletes why, and the lack of response only added to his exasperation." He said, "I feel like the league is majority African American and you would think more people would come to have one of our guys' back." Stills said that he "wants to learn more about why players aren't speaking out." He added that he has engaged Bennett "about social issues." Stills also has "thought about if he should kneel again during national anthems, as he did last season." Stills: "It's definitely something that I've thought about but I continue to think that the protest has been really divisive" (PALM BEACH POST, 9/14). Stills said that he was "proud" of the 12 Browns players who "knelt in prayer during the national anthem" in the preseason. Stills and Dolphins S Michael Thomas "knelt all last season, but neither did so" during the team's four preseason games. The Dolphins kick off their season Sunday against the Chargers (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/14). FS1’s Skip Bayless said, “What more can be achieved or accomplished that Colin Kaepernick didn't already achieve? ... As far as a football player goes making a statement, Colin Kaepernick won. I'm going to say it again -- he had dramatic national impact” (“Undisputed,” FS1, 9/14).

The CFL and CFLPA yesterday announced an "immediate ban on full-contact, padded practices during the regular season" and an additional bye week for teams, moves aimed to "reduce injuries and boost the league’s quality of play," according to Morgan Campbell of the TORONTO STAR. Teams are "still permitted fully-padded practices during training camp, but must discontinue them when the regular season begins." Toronto Argonauts DB Matt Black said, "The more hits we can (avoid) the better it is for (players’) long-term health, and their longevity outside of football. It’s the cumulative hits. That’s what the science is saying" (TORONTO STAR, 9/14). TSN's Dave Naylor noted teams are currently allowed 17 days of full-contact practices "during the season," in addition to training camp practices. Football at all levels has "reduced and restricted the amount of collision permitted during practices in recent years as research has pointed toward a direct correlation between the number of collisions players experience and long-term brain trauma," but no other league is known to have "eliminated padded full-contact practices" (TSN.ca, 9/13). SPORTSNET.ca's Donnovan Bennett wrote CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie is "listening to the players," something he "vowed to do when he took over as commissioner." He said of making the changes, "The credit for this should go to our friends and partners at the player’s association" (SPORTSNET.ca, 9/13).

REACTIONS FROM PLAYERS, EXECS: Edmonton Eskimos GM Brock Sunderland said player safety is "at the forefront of what we’re trying to do." Sunderland: "The commissioner made a loud statement about how we’re trying to protect all the guys out there on the field. With so many injuries coming to light lately, I think the biggest thing is to protect our players" (EDMONTON JOURNAL, 9/14). Hamilton Tiger-Cats C Mike Filer said that the decision "makes a lot of sense to him." Filer: "A lot of it is just unnecessary hitting. If you don’t have to hit and be in that situation, why put your guys in (harm’s way)?" Tiger-Cats WR Brandon Banks said that the league and the CFLPA are making this move for "all the right reasons." Banks: "At the end of the day I think the league is looking out for guys’ bodies and health so it’s going to be a good thing" (TORONTO SUN, 9/14).

GETTING NFL'S ATTENTION?
In N.Y., Fran Kilinski writes the CFL's move to improve player safety "may have raised the bar for other competitive football leagues like the NFL to follow suit and protect its players in the near future" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/14). ESPN's Michael Smith said this is "something they have got to consider." Smith: "Moving forward, they’ve got to consider whether they are playing too many games. ... All of that is on the table if you want to preserve the health of the players like you claim you want to do." ESPN's Jemele Hill noted coaches often blame injuries on the fact they "are not able to practice as much, or practice as physically as they once did." Smith: "The way that the NFL used to do things (is) not necessarily the answer either. There’s got to be a happy medium" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/13). YAHOO SPORTS' Shalise Manza Young wrote the "biggest gains" the NFLPA made in the '11 CBA were in "player-safety areas like padded practices." Two-a-days during training camp were "eliminated, and there is also a cap on padded practices in-season (14 total, with 11 allowed in the first 11 weeks of the season)." Young: "While it seems an easy thing to convince owners that fewer padded practices are in the best interest of player safety ... you can bet that if the NFLPA broached it, the league would want something (read: more money from players) in return" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/13).

TOO MUCH AT THIS POINT: ESPN's Mike Golic said going "no hitting at all during the week ... is a step too far at this point." He said, "We have done the right thing in football in limiting repetitive hits, but there is a point of limiting the hits to not doing anything at all. ... What we're trying to do is find a water level, find the line.” ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said, “The impossible challenge of finding the line is you’re shooting at a moving target. No one knows where we're trying to get. We're so far away from having meaningful data on exactly what we should and shouldn't be doing to minimize the risks and exactly what the risks are” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 9/14).

Blizzard Entertainment has "sealed the deal with Comcast Spectacor" to own the Overwatch League franchise based in Philadelphia, according to sources cited by Jacob Wolf of ESPN.com. The deal with Comcast Spectacor, which also own the Flyers, is for $20M and comes as the company also finalized its deal for a team in Houston. A source said that Blizzard is "currently pursuing" Bucks co-Owner Wes Edens -- who is "likely to participate -- and has offered him a slot with Chicago on the table, but no deal has been finalized and the location is subject to change." Regardless of location, Edens' team will be "operated by his esports franchise, FlyQuest." Owners of OWL franchises will "need to create new brands." But sources said that the names for the geolocated brands have "not yet been determined." Sources said that Blizzard has "now recruited 13 teams, with 14 to be the total number for Season 1" (ESPN.com, 9/13).