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Volume 24 No. 133

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Colin Kaepernick has "filed a grievance under the CBA" against NFL owners "for collusion," according to Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman. Kaepernick has retained attorney Mark Geragos, who has "represented numerous high profile clients" (, 10/15). Geragos "sent a copy of the complaint to the NFLPA, as well as the NFL and all 32 teams." He said in a statement that Kaepernick filed the grievance "only after pursuing every possible avenue with all NFL teams and their executives.'' A source said that Kaepernick's grievance will be "overseen by Stephen Burbank, the NFL's special master, who will likely hold a conference call with both sides this week" (, 10/15). NFL Exec VP/Communications Joe Lockhart said that the league had "no comment." USA TODAY's Mike Jones notes Kaepernick chose not to file the grievance with the NFLPA and "let the union's lawyers engage in the legal fight for him." However, a source said that "despite that move -- which isn’t unique to Kaepernick -- the NFLPA remains in support of Kaepernick’s decision to file the grievance using his own lawyer because he is within his rights to do so." If the arbitrator "finds there was collusion, Kaepernick would receive at least twice the amount" he would likely have been paid. Any club found to have to colluded would be fined $5M -- money that would "go to the NFL player pension fund or similar fund --- and the team’s cap room could be impacted" (USA TODAY, 10/16). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith wrote it is "unclear why Kaepernick and his advisors did not inform the union about the grievance, but the union still seems to think it has a role in helping Kaepernick fight to get back on the field" (, 10/15).

: In N.Y., Ken Belson writes the move "threatens to escalate a billowing dispute that has galvanized many players who believe the owners are penalizing Kaepernick, who began kneeling to raise awareness of social injustice, including police brutality against black Americans" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/16). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Andrew Beaton notes the action is likely to "inflame an already delicate situation in which the league has tried to publicly support its players’ right to protest while also avoiding alienating many fans who find the demonstrations unpatriotic." The Kaepernick matter also "presents another headache for a league that is already battling sagging ratings, mounting concerns about concussions and injuries to several of its most high-profile players" (, 10/16). Meanwhile, PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio cites a source as saying that Kaepernick "wants to trigger termination" of the current CBA. A section of the CBA "allows for the agreement to be terminated prematurely in the event of proof of collusion." Termination can arise from "only one incident of collusion involving only one player if there is clear and convincing evidence of a violation" (, 10/15).

COULD BE TOUGH TO PROVE:'s Kevin Seifert wrote Kaepernick and his reps "face a high bar to prove that NFL owners have colluded to keep him out of the league this season." The CBA "makes clear that the failure to sign a player is not in itself enough to prove collusion." Instead, it "must be combined with evidence that teams entered into an agreement, express or implied, to bar the player's employment." Kaepernick's grievance "does not provide any specific evidence of an agreement to collude." It "vaguely references" NFL GMs who have "cited 'directives from NFL owners to not let Kaepernick so much as practice with an NFL team.'" It also "accuses owners of submitting to the demands" of President Trump, whom it "terms 'an organizing force' in squashing what has become a weekly protest among at least some NFL players" (, 10/15). ESPN's Ryan Smith said it will be "really tough" for Kaepernick to prove collusion. Smith: "He's got to prove either two teams or a few teams or a team in the NFL got together and tried to keep him from employment, and he's got to prove that by clear and convincing evidence, so he's going to produce something actual. E-mails, something in writing ... and that's very difficult to do" ("GMA," ABC, 10/16). THE MMQB's Peter King writes he is "skeptical" Kaepernick's attorney will "find any evidence to prove that multiple NFL owners, or the league office, colluded to deny Kaepernick employment." This also "may not be the best thing to get Kaepernick on an NFL roster, but the more noise that’s made about Kaepernick not being given a chance to play the better" (, 10/16). 49ers S Eric Reid, Kaepernick's former teammate who has continued to demonstrate during the national anthem, said, "It sure does seem like he’s being blackballed. I think all the stats prove that he’s an NFL-worthy quarterback. So that’s his choice and I support his decision" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/16).

PACKERS COULD USE KAP: Packers QB Aaron Rodgers could be out for the rest of the season after breaking his collarbone against the Vikings yesterday, and THE MMQB's King writes the Packers should call Kaepernick to "see if he’d be willing to come in as a backup" to QB Brett Hundley. If the Packers are "impressed enough with his approach and his condition, they could sign him and groom him to be Hundley’s backup." King: "Maybe Kaepernick can be a fit. Maybe he can’t. And this grievance Kaepernick filed could complicate things too. I just know that if I were the Packers, I would want to feel very good about my quarterback situation when the rest of my team is a solid playoff contender" (, 10/16).

NFL owners are "hopeful" that the NFLPA will "lend its support this week to a measure by which players would stand for the national anthem before games," according to sources cited by Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Owners are slated to meet tomorrow and Wednesday in N.Y., and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith and player reps are "scheduled to attend the meeting, at which the raging anthem-protest controversy is to be discussed." Such a step of players agreeing to stand for the anthem potentially could "come in conjunction with the league officially supporting community-related activities important to those players who have had a role in the protests." It is "not clear if such support from the union will be forthcoming." It also is "not clear if the owners will take action to require players to stand for the anthem if the NFLPA does not support such a measure" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/16). On Long Island, Bob Glauber noted NFL owners had "hoped the controversy surrounding player protests during the national anthem would have gone away by now." The debate surrounding the issue "remains intense and the stakes are exceedingly high" (NEWSDAY, 10/15).

GATHERING THE FELLOWSHIP: THE MMQB's Peter King writes this could be a "seminal moment for the tenure" of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. There is "no sense his job will be in trouble if he doesn’t come out of this meeting with a strong proposal the players and clubs will adopt." However, if there is "no significant progress toward an endgame here, I believe some owners could ask by meeting’s end, 'Are we sure we want to extend Goodell’s contract five years?'" Goodell "doesn’t have the kind of political capital with the players, or the players union, to call in any favors to get a deal done." It is a "fractious issue with both owners and players." Usually, Goodell can "get the owners at least mostly on the same page," but "not this time" (, 10/16). In N.Y., Gary Myers wrote, "It’s the first time I can ever remember anybody from the NFLPA being invited to an owners’ meeting." But the league "has a crisis." Its business is being "adversely impacted by the national anthem protest." There is "nothing that brings together sides that hate each other as much as the league and the union like the loss of revenue" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/15). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted the NFL "hopes to resolve the anthem issue" tomorrow, and in order to "ensure that the parties will have enough time to find a solution, the attendance at the meeting will be restricted." A source said that each team will be "permitted to bring two representatives" if they are members of a family that owns the team. Otherwise, "only one will be allowed to attend and participate" (, 10/14).

PROTEST IN DECLINE: In DC, Richardson & Paras note the number of on-field protesters is "in decline." After nearly 200 sat or knelt three weeks ago in response to criticism from President Trump, "fewer than a dozen did so on Sunday, an indication that even the players may be ready to move on." 49ers S Eric Reid "signaled Sunday that he was ready to make a deal." Reid: "My hope is that the NFL will be progressive and utilize their platform to bring awareness to these issues for us so we don’t have to protest anymore. That would be the ultimate goal for me going into these meetings" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/16). In DC, Valerie Richardson writes, "You know the NFL take-a-knee protests have lost their oomph when even the San Francisco 49ers can only muster seven kneelers" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/16). In New Orleans, Amos Morale III notes fans "booed" the Saints players who "knelt before the presentation of the American flag and the singing of the national anthem Sunday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 10/16).

KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES: In Dallas, Jon Machota notes Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones' concern surrounding protests is that "too much attention could ultimately turn fans away from the NFL." Jones on Friday said, "We have a chance of damaging not just the game, but in this particular case, the Cowboys franchise. Let's come up with ways that we really can give a message about police brutality or we can give a message about disparity. We can give those messages, but we won't be able to give it if we're not as substantive as we are, and this flag issue is taking away from how substantive we are" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/14).'s Jason La Canfora noted players were "surprised Jones became the voice of the anti-protest movement, considering they had been standing, and when Jones intimated he was taking cues" from Trump, "emotions began to boil." One agent said, "This wasn't something that was dominating conversations in that locker room up until this week" (, 10/15). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel cited a source as saying that the morning after the Cowboys locked arms and took a knee before the national anthem in Arizona, they were "overwhelmed with phone calls from irate fans." The source said that there were phone calls "numbering in the thousands" and they were in "excess of 2,000 the first week." The angry calls "continued last week, but the number was decreasing" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/14). 

: In Seattle, Geoff Baker writes there is "mounting evidence the league's brand is taking a significant hit." N.Y.-based consulting firm Brand Keys last week "conducted its own survey of roughly 1,200 avid NFL fans in nine major markets nationwide to gauge the impact" of protests. The results showed about 50% "felt the NFL should make players stand," about 21% "said it’s OK." The remaining 29% "didn’t care" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/16).

HAS THE POINT BEEN MADE? Asked about owners discussing the protests this week, Broncos LB Brandon Marshall said, "It’s just a money thing. They don’t want [to] lose sponsorships, potentially lose money from TV ads, I don’t know, the military, all of that. That’s really what it is. They’re trying to protect their business, which is one thing I do understand." Marshall said if players were not allowed to protest, they would likely work more visibly in the community instead, but "how much an impact would it have attention-wise?" Marshall: "The anthem has gotten everyone’s attention in the whole United States, if not the world maybe. Every time we do something in the community, you guys (media) might tweet it out, might say something, but it doesn’t get national attention. The anthem protest is very controversial. That’s what sells newspapers, the controversy and the drama. Which is why [Colin] Kaepernick thought it was the perfect platform, which it was" (DENVER POST, 10/14). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick writes fans are the "indisputable, irreplaceable source of the NFL’s life and blood." And if players continue to "disenfranchise them with preposterous statements and conduct, that lifeblood is going to run dry." Protesting players have "made their selective points." But now they are "attacking the fair-minded sense and sensibilities of their best friends and benefactors -- the fans" (N.Y. POST, 10/16).

U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said that he "understood American soccer fans were angry and frustrated -- infuriated, really" -- at the USMNT's failure to qualify for the '18 FIFA World Cup, but does "not plan to follow" recently resigned coach Bruce Arena out the door, according to Andrew Das of the N.Y. TIMES. Gulati said, "I take full responsibility. No, I don't plan to resign." The full cost of the USMNT's failure to qualify "may not be known for years." But Gulati said that everything was "up for review: player development programs, coaching education, facilities, the role of college soccer in development." Gulati, in response to a question about whether he deserved a new term as USSF President, said, "I don't think that's a decision you or I get to make. That's a decision that people who get to vote make." Gulati added that he would "decide 'in the coming weeks' about a potential candidacy." Asked if he understood why fans might prefer someone else to lead the USSF, Gulati said, "I can understand the frustration of people, sure." But in a "steady voice during a 39-minute conference call on Friday, Gulati also gave clear hints that he planned to be a part of that future." Gulati said on why he was not resigning, "We've got a lot of things on our agenda, including a World Cup bid that is due in the end of March, and a decision in June. And so I don't plan to do that" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/14). In Houston, Corey Roepken noted Gulati also "referenced his overall resume when asked to explain why he should keep his job." Gulati: "If I look at the totality of where we've come from and where the game is generally now with our professional leagues, with player development and with our economic resources, those things didn't happen overnight, and they didn't happen on their own" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/14).

NEW DIRECTION NEEDED: In San Diego, Mark Zeigler wrote during Friday's conference call that "amounted to a campaign speech," Gulati "refused to resign and sheepishly admitted he has asked federation members to nominate him for a fourth four-year term in February's election." Gulati has "always fancied himself as the smartest guy in the room and let you know it" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/14). ESPN FC's Jeff Carlisle wrote Gulati's comments during the conference call were "littered with contradictions." Carlisle: "Clearly, it's time for someone else to run the federation." Without question, the process by which the USMNT coach is chosen "needs to be revamped." Gulati "sounded like a man trying to find a justification for his continued role at the USSF." He also "sounded dreadfully out of touch at times" (, 10/14). In L.A., Kevin Baxter wrote Gulati "made clear he's not going anywhere -- at least not willingly." It is "not so much that Gulati's time has passed as it is that Gulati has spent too much time in charge." It is "not so much that Gulati's ideas are bad as it is that many of them have already been tried." Baxter: "And some of them have failed. Now it's time to give new blood and new vision a chance" (, 10/14).

NO REAL PROGRESS MADE: In N.Y., Brian Phillips wrote the "kind of progress Gulati seems to value most is corporate, institutional, political." He "cares about sponsorships, shoring up organizational foundations." He has "done wonders" for U.S. Soccer's standing within FIFA. But he has had "less success improving quality of play, both at the top of the game and at the youth level" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/15). YAHOO SPORTS' Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote under the header, "Sunil Gulati's U.S. Soccer Will Assess Everything But Gulati Himself." If not now, when do fans "ask how key hiring decisions are made -- that the president of U.S. Soccer signs off on by himself?" If not now, when do fans "question such a top-heavy governance?" Or the process by which the "steady decline of a national team is rationalized for year after year?" (, 10/13). In San Jose, Elliott Almond wrote after two decades with a "growing domestic league," the U.S. "remains a middling soccer country" (, 10/13).

There is a possibility that the NHL could stop holding the All-Star Game in favor of some sort of "event overseas," according to Sportsnet's Chris Johnston. The league feels there is a "real way to make an impact over in Europe." For the "first time, there's a real push to try and create a bigger vision, to do something all at the same time instead of one event here, one event there in China and Sweden." The NHL has "followed up on this" by recently hiring Jaka Lednik as Group VP/Int'l Strategy, where he will oversee the league's "European growth strategies." Johnston: "There’s a lot of different balls in play and more meetings are expected soon" (“Hockey Night in Canada,” Sportsnet, 10/14).'s James O'Brien wrote the league "might just want to bring some sort of modified All-Star weekend overseas." It seems like this is "all in an early gestation period" (, 10/15).