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Volume 24 No. 112

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Four current and former NFLers "campaigning for racial equality and criminal justice reform wrote a lengthy memo" to Commissioner Roger Goodell officially "seeking overt league support in their effort, including an endorsement for an activism awareness month," according to Charles Robinson of YAHOO SPORTS. The 10-page memo was sent to Goodell and Exec VP/Football Operations Troy Vincent in August, "requesting wide-ranging involvement in their movement from the NFL." The memo "seeks an investment of time and education, political involvement, finances and other commitments from the league." It also sought to have the NFL "endorse the month of November as an activism awareness month, similar to the periods of league calendar dedicated to breast cancer awareness and military recognition." It was endorsed by four players: Seahawks DE Michael Bennett, Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins, Eagles WR Torrey Smith and former NFLer Anquan Boldin. While Bennett and Jenkins have each taken part in protesting during the playing of the national anthem, all four players have had "strong voices in a growing platform of players speaking out on a variety of social issues." Sources said that the communication came on the heels of Goodell "talking directly with several players in August -- including some who have protested on game day -- in an effort to move player activism into a progressive direction." Robinson noted the memo included a "potential timeline for the execution of wider-ranging NFL support," starting in late August '18. It is "unknown how Goodell responded," but he and Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie recently "attended a 'listen and learn' tour in Philadelphia on Sept. 12," organized by Jenkins, Boldin, Smith and attended by Eagles DE Chris Long and S Rodney McLeod. The focus of the meeting was to "talk with Goodell and Lurie about work the players have been doing in the Philadelphia community to revamp criminal justice reform in the city" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/20).

WORTH A LISTEN: ESPN’s Max Kellerman said it is in the NFL's "best interest" to create an activism awareness month. He said, "You have an ongoing and growing problem, and now the players who are involved in protests are bringing you this idea that enables you to directly confront the problem in the best possible way.” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith: “Even though I agree and applaud the players from presenting this request to the league office, I also don't like it. I don't like its limitations. It's not about a month, it should be all the time. I don't want the NFL to be in a position to say, ‘Well, we gave it to you this particular month, but for the rest of the months we need to you shut the hell up and we don't need to hear anything from you’" (“First Take,” ESPN, 9/21).

The issues NFL owners had with Commissioner Roger Goodell's contact extension have been "resolved and the deal is 'getting papered right now,'" according to a source cited by Adam Schefter of ESPN.com. The source said that it could take "days or maybe weeks to finalize, but the contract is 'getting done.'" A source confirmed Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones had "raised issues about the deal and wanted to open up the search during the process." Jones reportedly demanded a pay-cut and a "radical change in the formula that compensates the commissioner, as well as other employees of the league office." A source said, "That's what he tried to do, but he got shot down." A conference call yesterday of the compensation committee "helped seal the deal" (ESPN.com, 9/20). In DC, Mark Maske notes Goodell's extension is "believed to be for five years and will keep Goodell under contract" through '24. The current CBA runs through '20 and the extension, if completed, would "ensure that Goodell would lead the owners" through the next set of labor negotiations with the NFLPA (WASHINGTON POST, 9/21). ESPN's Michael Smith said, “It’s not like there’s a viable candidate we’re aware of right now. His contract wasn’t due to be up until 2019, so it sounds like it was just a matter of Jerry Jones trying to tighten the purse strings in a lot of areas." ESPN's Jemele Hill said Goodell is "perfect person" for team owners to have working for them. Hill: "He's okay with being a villain. As long as he’s there, that shields the owners from a lot of criticism. ... When there’s a bad investigation, when there’s criticism of the product, he stands in and takes the hit” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 9/20).

STAGE IS SET: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell notes NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith’s re-election "probably ensures that the same chief figureheads will still be at the head of the negotiating table for their respective entities" when the next CBA is negotiated. Goodell's likely extension would run through '24 and now Smith has "at least three more years," beginning in '18. NFLPA President Eric Winston indicated that the union "could offer a lengthier pact that would extend into the next labor deal." He said Smith's extension "wasn't a quick decision." Winston: "This is the result of a process that extended over a period of time. Am I surprised? No. But it’s hard to get a unanimous vote. ... This speaks to the vision of what we see going forward." Meanwhile, Bell notes DC-based attorney Cyrus Mehri, who wanted to challenge Smith in this election cycle, "won’t concede that his campaign is over." Mehri "aims to get the NFLPA’s constitution amended again to revamp the election process." Winston defended the recent NFLPA constitutional change as a "desire of player leadership for a more efficient election process." Winston also "maintains that the NFLPA drew from methods" applied by the NBPA and MLBPA (USA TODAY, 9/21). Meanwhile, CBS Sports Network's Adam Schein said, "If you heard the collective laughter late (Tuesday), that was all 32 NFL owners and Roger Goodell laughing. De Smith's negotiating will go down in history as the worst and most lopsided CBA ever." Schein: "De Smith is not very good at his job, and whether or not you know it, it impacts us as fans” (“Time to Schein,” CBSSN, 9/20).

MLB has partnered with North Carolina-based Game Theory Group Int'l Inc. to provide post-playing career transition services to minor and major league players through the company’s Game Plan platform. The league will fund access to Game Plan for players to obtain mentoring services, assessments and on-demand learning modules to develop career options after leaving baseball. The platform will also be available to club personnel and other employees within MLB. The deal follows another one MLB struck in June with Northeastern Univ. to provide access to undergraduate and graduate academic programs through that institution. The MLBPA was not involved in the creation of the MLB-Game Theory partnership, but union officials met earlier this week with league and company officials to discuss a potential involvement.