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Volume 24 No. 133

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Fourteen players and 11 owners met this morning at NFL HQ in N.Y. to discuss a way forward in the anthem-related controversy that has engulfed the league in recent weeks. Owners were scheduled to travel to lower Manhattan later in the day for the start of their owners’ meeting. Player attendees included some of the more outspoken players on the issue of using the anthem period to protest, including 49ers S Eric Reid and Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins. Others included former NFLer Anquan Boldin, Colts S Darius Butler, Chargers OT Russell Okung, Dolphins WR Kenny Stills, TE Julius Thomas and S Michael Thomas, Giants LB Mark Herzlich, Jets OT Kelvin Beachum, Jets LB Demario Davis, Eagles DE Chris Long and Redskins CB Josh Norman. NFLPA officials in the meeting included Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith, player President Eric Winston and Senior Dir of Player Affairs Don Davis. Owners in the meeting were the Cardinals' Michael Bidwill, Falcons' Arthur Blank, Bills' Terry Pegula, Texans' Bob McNair, Jaguars' Shahid Khan, Dolphins' Stephen Ross, Patriots' Robert Kraft, Giants' John Mara, Steelers' Art Rooney, Eagles' Jeffrey Lurie and 49ers' Jed York. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Troy Vincent also attended. The league is expected to offer support to players for their social justice efforts. The big question is whether any agreement would include a concession by players that they must stand for the anthem (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer).

ANTHEM LIKELY AN ISSUE AT MEETINGS: ESPN's Chris Mortensen cited some NFL owners who said that it would "be a surprise" if a mandate comes from the league at the owners' meeting that "all players must stand for the anthem.” There are "hawk owners who are going into this saying that they want a mandate." But there are others who "don't want a mandate." ESPN's Jim Trotter said there are a number of owners who "do not share the same vision or belief" as the Cowboys' Jerry Jones on this issue. It could get "really messy in those rooms in terms of these owners going back and forth on this issue because there are a number of owners who ... don't want it to appear that the employees are telling the employer how to run his business." That is a "major issue with these men who are used to defining what the work terms are” ("OTL," ESPN, 10/16).'s Judy Battista wrote NFL owners "feel the league simply can't continue with the current situation, because it is angering too many people." Several are upset with Jones for "taking a very public hardline stand that he would bench any player who does not stand for the anthem." Other owners have "advocated that the anthem should be played while teams are still in the locker room." And still others "worry about capitulating to the president's demands at all" (, 10/16).

Walker believes players are showing disrespect for the flag and veterans
EXAMINING THE ISSUES: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said that he thinks NFL players "should stop protesting during the national anthem and instead speak out against domestic violence." The AP's Todd Richmond noted Walker yesterday sent a letter to Goodell and Smith, saying that he "believes players are showing disrespect for the flag and veterans." Walker wrote the protests during the anthem are a "divisive political sideshow." Walker: "My request is simple: stand for the American flag and the national anthem out of respect for those who risk their lives for our freedoms, and then take a stand against domestic violence to keep American families safe. That's something we can all agree on, and that just might help the NFL reunite with many of its devoted fans" (AP, 10/16). THE HILL's Cristina Marcos noted U.S. Rep. Cedrick Richmond (D-La.), who also serves as the Congressional Black Caucus Chair, urged the NFL yesterday in a 1,842-word letter to Goodell and league leaders to "support athletes who are kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality" (, 10/16). President Trump yesterday said that kneeling during the anthem is the "same as sitting, a show of disrespect." He said that there is "'plenty of time to do lots of other things' outside of the anthem, and that the protests had sparked nationwide anger with the NFL" (, 10/16).

READING BETWEEN THE LINES: The NATIONAL REVIEW's Rich Lowry wrote Trump "isn't exactly on a winning streak, but he is beating the NFL in a rout." After Trump got involved, the polling on protests "showed the public more evenly divided." This "doesn't have equal significance: If you're Donald Trump and at 40 percent or below in the polls, a 50/50 issue works for you; if you are the NFL and trying to appeal to a broad audience, a 50/50 issue is a disaster for you." The NFL "misunderstood its own nature." It is "not just that it is a game that should be a respite from political and social contention; as a quasi-national festival, it should be identified with a certain baseline of patriotism" (, 10/13).

Colin Kaepernick may have "trouble" winning his case against NFL owners, as collusion claims such as his "depend heavily on documentary evidence," according to Michael Hiltzik of the L.A. TIMES. Unless he has "turned up a piece of paper, email, or recording in which owners have explicitly talked about keeping him unemployed or reached such an agreement implicitly, he may lose." If the neutral arbitrator "finds in Kaepernick’s favor, the next step would be to estimate the value of any contract he would have received and then triple it to accommodate punitive damages." Kaepernick may "get his payday, but even if he loses in arbitration, his treatment has been a shame and an embarrassment for the NFL" (L.A. TIMES, 10/17). Former National Labor Relations Board Chair and Stanford professor William Gould said Kaepernick “will have to show some kind of communication, some kind of meeting” to prove collusion. He added that collusion "might be inferred if Kaepernick’s lawyers could show that 29 or 30 of the 32 NFL teams had turned him away, and that there was a 'common thread' to their actions." City Univ. of N.Y. sports law professor Marc Edelman said Kaepernick “needs to find an agreement between at least two of them, not just 32 NFL teams making separate decisions not to sign Kaepernick based on dislike of his behavior” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 10/17). NBC SPORTS BAY AREA's Ray Ratto wrote if Kaepernick has "paperwork proving that the owners conspired to keep him out of football, he wins." If he "doesn’t, he almost certainly loses." Kaepernick and/or his lawyers have to "produce the smoking gun." Without proof, Kaepernick’s case is an "excellent example of well-constructed circumstantial evidence that will amount to little." Ratto: "The bar for this is high, and like everything else in life, it requires receipts" (, 10/16).

TOUGH TO PROVE: ESPN legal analyst Ryan Smith said it is a "really high bar" for Kaepernick to prove collusion. Smith: "He's got to present that case, the burden is on him. He's got to show a clear preponderance of the evidence. ... Doesn't mean he doesn't have it, but that's what he would have to prove. ... It's a very hard case to prove." Smith added it would be "really shocking" to see an actual case of collusion by owners, but it "doesn't mean it doesn't occur." Teams "have the right to say they don't want to sign a guy." They can make these decisions "even if they don't like him, even if they're making them for the wrong reasons, or reasons that seem offensive" ("OTL," ESPN, 10/16).

 In N.Y., Manish Mehta writes Kaepernick's filing will "effectively end his NFL career." Desperation and frustration might have "prompted his collusion grievance against the league stemming from his continued unemployment, but this much is clear: The polarizing quarterback will never take another snap under center again." Kaepernick’s transition from signal caller to "social justice advocate is now complete." His NFL life is "over" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/17). YAHOO SPORTS' Charles Robinson wrote, "To breach it, and effectively speak out against the shield, was to concede that the league’s door had closed forever." By all accounts, Kaepernick's NFL career "is over." But his opportunity to "challenge the league, and to step far over the line that few have gone near, has just arrived" (, 10/16). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes, "Count me among those who believe Kaepernick has been blackballed because he had the gall to ignite the league's social movement and strike such a nerve." The message is "obvious and not new: Stir up trouble, and you’re out" (USA TODAY, 10/17). FS1's Jason Whitlock said the grievance by Kaepernick has "been part of a shakedown of the NFL." Whitlock: "I've always felt like his play was turned into an extortion play. ‘If you don't sign me, I'll create chaos in your league.’ He has done that. He thought they would sign him to tamp down come some of the chaos and now that he doesn't see that, he has gone the lawsuit route" ("Speak for Yourself," FS1, 10/16).

Esports franchise OpTic Gaming will join the North American "League of Legends" Championship Series as one of the "newest franchise owners in the league," according to sources cited by Jacob Wolf of The longtime and popular esports organization "received an investment" from a group led by MLB Rangers co-Owner Neil Leibman in the summer. With that investment the team "obtained" a Houston-based spot in the upcoming Overwatch League for a reported $20M and "applied" for the League Championship Series (LCS). OpTic will be "obligated to pay" $13M in franchising fees for the LCS. That includes a $10M "standard expense" -- with $5M of that "due up front -- that each team accepted into the new league will have to pay, as well as an additional" $3M for being a new team in the league. OpTic's "entrance costs for both" the LCS and Overwatch League will total $33M over the next few years (, 10/16). Meanwhile, Wolf cited sources as saying that esports franchise Team Dignitas will "not participate" in the '18 North American LCS season "following its franchising application being declined" by game developer Riot Games. Sources said that Team Dignitas was "not the only existing team in the league to be notified of its removal." Reasoning behind the declination has "yet to be disclosed." Team Dignitas will be "entered into a pool for compensation for an exit fee." Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Devils and 76ers, "acquired Team Dignitas and Apex Gaming" in September '16. Team Dignitas was the "first esports organization to be acquired by a sports team ownership group" (, 10/14). Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob recently purchased a franchise in Riot Games' new esports league (THE DAILY).