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Volume 24 No. 132

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NFL for now will "continue to let players kneel or sit during the national anthem without a penalty, capitulating to demands by the athletes for free expression but potentially further alienating fans who object to the protests and feel they are disrespectful to the flag and the military," according to Belson & Draper of the N.Y. TIMES. After a meeting yesterday with union reps and players, the league "did promise to help support some of the causes targeted by the protesting players, including reform of the criminal justice system." Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross said that the league had "made no changes to its policy and that players would be free to protest again this weekend." But Ross said, "I can’t really tell you what people are going to do." Belson & Draper note by leaving the rule alone, the NFL has "chosen to avoid more internal strife with its players and to potentially weather more criticism from fans and President Trump" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/18). Trump this morning wrote, "The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!" (, 10/18). But SI's Albert Breer writes, "So the hope of many here at the league meetings is that tweets like this have lost their shock value, and teams/players can ignore them" (, 10/18).

PLAYERS NOT ASKED TO STAND: ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reported NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league "did not ask" that players commit to stand for the anthem. Goodell said the meeting was spent "talking about the issues that our players have been trying to bring attention to, about issues in our communities to make our communities better." Goodell: "We all agree there’s nothing more important than getting back into our communities and trying to make our communities better. That was the entire focus" (ESPN, 10/17). Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins, on whether players kneeling during the anthem will continue, said, "None of that was talked about" (, 10/17). ESPN's Dan Graziano noted players at the meeting "didn't want to talk about if they're going to continue to kneel for the anthem." Jenkins indicated that the anthem was a "very small part of what was discussed." Graziano: "They want to talk about those important causes that are the root of what the anthem demonstrations have been about" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 10/17). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell reports the anthem protests "did not drive the dialogue." Instead, the conversation "revolved around ways the NFL can support players, in a league where more than 70% of them are African-American, and their social concerns, which include police brutality, social injustice and racial inequality" (USA TODAY, 10/18). NFL Network's Steve Wyche noted there was "progress toward a solution, but maybe not necessarily in the direction a lot of people thought" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/17).

: USA TODAY's Lorenzo Reyes writes upon the conclusion of the meeting, the reaction "was positive" across the board. 49ers S Eric Reid, who has been protesting since the start of the '16 season, said, "What we hope is that we execute a plan moving forward that is done well enough so that the players protesting don’t feel the need to protest anymore" (USA TODAY, 10/18). Ross said, "We heard what they had to say and they heard us. It’s open talks and that’s a good thing." Ross said the NFL’s policy on the anthem “did not come up” (, 10/17). The AP's Barry Wilner reports from the way NFL owners, Goodell and players reacted, the discussions were "informative, enlightening and potentially impactful." Jenkins: "We felt like the meeting went really well." Goodell said that the owners "basically were all-in on any such initiatives." Just how they will get "involved is uncertain." Goodell was also "extremely vocal in praising the players' advocacy, if not how they have gone about it" (AP, 10/18).

: USA TODAY's Reyes writes the outcome of yesterday's meeting was "progress but no resolution" regarding player protests. Jenkins said that Goodell "unveiled a plan to address social issues." Reid said a subsequent meeting had been "tentatively scheduled" within the next couple weeks (USA TODAY, 10/18). Colts S Darius Butler said, "It's ongoing, it's not going to be a resolution overnight. ... I'm happy about it and I think it will be even more positive going forward." Butler said that the "most important thing was for the league and owners to hear the players' perspective." ESPN's Paolantonio cited a source as saying that after yesterday's players meeting, Goodell and his staff "made a presentation at the NFL owners meeting similar to the one made earlier to the players in an attempt to resolve the national anthem demonstration issue." The source said that the players and owners have "agreed to meet again soon to hammer out specific steps and actions that can be taken jointly to resolve the issue" (, 10/17).

One potential "side benefit" to President Trump's attack on the NFL over the anthem is that one owner at yesterday's meeting with players over the issue called it the "best dialog he'd ever experienced with players," according to Peter King of THE MMQB. Falcons Owner Arthur Blank said, "I thought this was one of the most open and productive meetings I’ve been in, maybe ever, in any business I’ve been involved with. And I’m 75 years old. The players we met with today were deeply emotional and knowledgeable about the issues they’re passionate about. The owners listened, and I thought the owners responded with the same kind of passion." King noted the owners "made it clear on the first day of the two-day meeting that there won’t be an anthem policy set forth by the league." Blank: "The owners were very clear about the platforms we’re discussing with the players. This is not doing three media events and we’re finished. This is a long-term commitment that we have to make. These issues have to pass from one generation to the next. It’s hard work and it will take time" (, 10/17). ESPN's Dan Graziano noted the players in attendance yesterday left "very encouraged by that meeting and the way they were received and heard by their bosses." They will "continue to have these conversations" and they are "encouraged by that as well." Graziano: "A big day for the players and the NFLPA to be able to facilitate this kind of conversation in a forum where in the players, who feel strongly about these social issues and causes, can come together and express those opinions” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 10/17). NFL Network's Judy Battista said a person in the room called it the "best communication there has ever been between owners and players." NFL Network's Ian Rapoport: "It certainly sounds like, for the first time, players and owners (were) on the same page, and the players really sounded like they were encouraged just that the owners were listening" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/17).

York (c) said the NFL needs to be above petty attacks that have been levied against it
TIME TO RISE ABOVE: 49ers CEO Jed York said people understand "we're going to get baited, whether it's from the President or whether it's from other detractors." York: "We need to be above petty attacks from anybody, because racial and socioeconomic inequality has existed in this country for too long. We need to get the focus on that, and we need to make sure that we make progress there." York also had a "message for fans who have turned off the sport because of the protests." He said, "If the message gets distorted, then I understand why there is controversy and I understand why people are upset. But if we can work together, we will get back to football but we will also make our country a better place, and I hope everybody is for both of those things." York, who spoke the most at the end of the day yesterday, said, "Honestly, this is one of the proudest days I've ever felt being part of the National Football League" (, 10/18). York said that the owners should "resist forcing players to stand for the anthem even if there are economic repercussions for the league and teams." York: "Our country is more important than a slight economic impact. And I think if we can come together and we can work together in this front, you’re going to bypass any economic downturn that you can possibly see because this issue is more important than economics" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/18). NFL Network's Steve Wyche said it was a "very profound statement” with York stating “they could withstand a slight economic impact.” The owners are "more unified in making this country better and that the NFL needs to lead that way” ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 10/17). Bills Owner Terry Pegula said of the meeting, "We agreed to work on some social issues that the players have brought up. It's something we're working on. Very good meeting, very amicable. A lot got done between us" (BUFFALO NEWS, 10/18). 

TACKLING THE ISSUE: noted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith were in the same room for hours yesterday, the commissioner having "conveyed a sufficiently open league mind on the topic du jour and Smith having positioned his union as a consolidating force for getting and holding the attention of the league and its owners in a way players might find productive." A source said that it was "more than symbolic" that Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones was "not among the 11 owners in attendance at the midtown morning meeting." York said, "Jerry's name wasn't brought up." He added, "It's important that we understand and that people understand that our players are not trying to be disrespectful to the flag or disrespectful to their country. They're trying to bring awareness to issues that people who look like me don't understand. And I hope people will give the owners the benefit of the doubt that it takes time to get up to speed on these issues. We aren't there yet" (, 10/18). In Dallas, David Moore writes Jones "wasn't part of that group" because his comments last week where he threatened to bench players who did not stand for the anthem would have "made for an awkward gathering" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/18).

Jenkins (c) said that Colin Kaepernick was invited to the meeting but did not attend
CONFLICTING REPORT: SNY’s Willie Colon said he spoke with several people who attended yesterday's ’ meeting and they "flat out said nothing got done." Colon: "It was pretty much a waste of a Tuesday. ... They felt like nothing was accomplished.” He said, "The owners just want this to go away, but they don't know how to … put out this fire, so the players are sitting back and right now it's a standstill. Even when they brought up the topic of Colin Kaepernick, I was told it went straight to a bathroom break and it wasn’t even talked about." He added Goodell was "actually reading" the Boston Globe on his computer (“Daily News Live,” SNY, 10/17). Meanwhile, in DC, Mark Maske notes Kaepernick was "asked by fellow players to attend" the meeting. Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins said, "He was invited, actually. He was invited." Asked why Kaepernick did not attend, Jenkins said, "I can’t answer that question" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/18). 49ers S Eric Reid said of Kaepernick's absence, "Even though he wasn't in the room, his influence was definitely present" (USA TODAY, 10/18).

JUST THE BEGINNING: In N.Y., Gary Myers notes the league and the players will "continue to have discussions about implementing programs for social change." The owners are "not expected to take a vote of strengthening the language in the policy that players 'should' stand for the anthem to they 'must' stand. The "unspoken gentleman’s agreement is it appears there ultimately will be a tradeoff: The players will stand for the anthem in exchange for the league and the owners taking an active role with the players in jointly using their platform to promote equality and positive social change." Part of the agreement could be something along the lines of a "social awareness week or month and public service announcements." Giants Chair & Exec VP Steve Tisch said, "Roger’s report to full ownership was very positive and very optimistic. There are a lot of proposals and ideas that were discussed, all of them addressing the issue quickly, which it needs to be addressed sooner than later" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 10/18).

WHERE IS EVERYONE AT? In Boston, Ron Borges notes only "about a dozen of over 2,100 players under contract to NFL teams" showed up to yesterday's meeting even though "this was their day off." Borges: "All this Sunday afternoon angst and presidential prevaricating (not to mention fulminating) and barely 25 people show up? What would the owners’ reaction have been if 2,500 showed up?" NFL players now have to "find a way to get their movement back on message." If 2,100 of them had shown up to the meeting instead of 12, it "would have been a start" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/18).

SPEAKING LOUD: Seahawks CB Richard Sherman said the meeting "says a lot about [owners] caring about their players. ... They are looking for solutions and we can appreciate that and that’s a big step by them." In Seattle, Bob Condotta notes Sherman also had "strong words" for Jones. Sherman said Jones' threat to bench players "wasn’t necessarily the best way to put anything or the best way to say anything or the best way to get your message across" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/18). Sherman when asked if he is surprised that Kaepernick remains unemployed said, "No, I’m not that surprised. This league is odd in that way. They had a point to make. And they made it" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 10/18).

DIVISION IN THE AIR: In DC, Cindy Boren writes, "Although the controversy is rooted partly in the divisiveness that roils the county, there’s also a power struggle going on here." Of course, owners "own the league and will be there long after individual players have gone, but there’s a new awareness among players in the NFL that they have a platform and a voice." They are taking the "first halting steps toward using both and, in the process, hoping to be recognized at least as partners in the business of football." That "doesn’t sit well with all owners" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/18). Also in DC, Jennifer Harper notes a national poll from CBS reveals that only 26% of the nation is "'comfortable' witnessing or participating in discussions about politics, race or religion come up in the middle of a sports broadcast." The poll also found that only 16% of Republicans, 27% of independents and 38% of Democrats are "at ease when sports, entertainment and politics are tumbled together with 'complex issues'" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/18).

The NFL has completed a major five-year extension of its official ticketing relationship with Ticketmaster, moving to a new open model based around the company’s new Presence system. In the deal, which begins next year, Ticketmaster will be the league’s preferred primary ticketing partner while retaining rights to power the league’s official NFL resale marketplace. But Ticketmaster will also open up its platform to other licensed marketplaces to participate in authorized NFL ticket resale, with the league overseeing the process to incorporate third-party resellers. The NFL has not yet detailed precisely how additional resale outlets will be folded into the new system. Ticketmaster also has committed to deploy its new Presence identity-based digital ticketing system across the league, with installation at 30 of 31 current NFL stadiums likely done by the start of the '18 regular season. The Lions remain a client of AXS for primary ticketing. The broad rollout of Presence will allow NFL clubs to obtain a wealth of new data on their ticket holders, transfer and resale transactions, and ingress patterns. Ticketmaster President of North America Jared Smith said, “We’ve been aligned with the NFL for a long time, and we both wanted to do something here that was really unique and progressive and helped move the industry forward. This is a big opportunity to establish a new model for the league, and do it with everybody at the same time.” Financial terms were not disclosed, but NFL Senior VP/Club Business Development Brian Lafemina said it was a “fair assumption” the deal surpasses the more than $200M Ticketmaster paid during the prior five-year term. NFL owners unanimously approved the deal earlier yesterday at their fall meeting in N.Y., and the agreement will take effect beginning next season. “We’re looking to get the broadest participation possible [from other resellers],” Lafemina said. “We’ve done something here that is good for the fan, good for Ticketmaster, and good for ticketing broadly.”

The NFL's "extreme parity this season leaves us without even one great team," something that is "great" for the league's overall product, according to Frank Schwab of YAHOO SPORTS. The fact that "everything changes from week to week" is not a "knock on the league." It means that every game has "intrigue." Schwab: "If you prefer parity, the NFL in 2017 is your league. ... But if you're looking for your Golden State Warriors of this NFL season, you’ll be looking for a while" (, 10/17). However, THE RINGER's Kevin Clark wrote the '17 season so far has been "defined by widespread mediocrity." No one "is perfect, no one is even great, and it may stay that way." Clark: "Could it just be a blip and might we be watching the same old faces come January? Sure, but what’s more likely is that a number of on- and off-field factors have converged to push and pull more teams toward the middle." Whether or not the NFL "genuinely wants it is another question altogether." The NFL has "long held the view that parity is a good thing and that 'anything can happen on Sunday' is the reason fans tune in every weekend. However, there is "no clear consensus on what fans across sports prefer." MLB's ratings "tend to dip when the Yankees aren’t involved." The Bulls of the '90s "brought in record Finals ratings," while the current Warriors have "brought with them ratings not seen" since the early-'00s Lakers (, 10/17). In Seattle, Bob Condotta notes this "might be the most parity-driven NFL season ever." Condotta: "Exhibit A might have been the victory by the previously-winless New York Giants ... at what was a one-loss Denver team, a win in which the Giants simply dominated from the start in what ended as a 23-10 drubbing of the Broncos" (SEATTLE TIMES, 10/18).

Rodgers' likely season-ending injury sapped the NFL of yet another marketable star
INJURY REPORT: THE RINGER's Robert Mays noted Packers QB Aaron Rodgers' likely season-ending broken collarbone "capped a brutal stretch of injuries to some of the NFL’s most visible personalities." Over the span of eight days, Rodgers, Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. (fractured ankle) and Texans DE J.J. Watt (tibial plateau fracture) were all "presumably lost for the season." With that trio gone, the NFL now "faces the strange reality of marketing itself as a league largely devoid of stars." Patriots QB Tom Brady and Steelers WR Antonio Brown are still competing at high levels, but the league's list of superstars "doesn’t go much deeper than that." The recent group of players lost also are some of the league's "most transcendent, the ones who managed to break through the relative anonymity." They are the ones "featured in commercials for shampoo, car insurance, and headphones." Mays: "Losing so many players in that tier presents yet another challenge for a league already facing questions about its appeal" (, 10/16). In Charlotte, Brendan Marks wrote injuries "seem to have gotten out of hand this NFL season." Injuries were "always a part of the game, but not with this severity, not with this consistency, not with this longevity." In addition to the aforementioned three players, other stars injured right now include Cardinals DB Patrick Peterson, Bills DT Marcell Dareus, Chiefs S Eric Berry and Panthers LB Luke Kuechly. That is "a lot of injured stars." Marks: "When you look at the NFL this season, a league with almost more injuries than some others have players, it’s difficult to cope with the current state of that risk" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/17).

FC Dallas President Dan Hunt said U.S. Soccer needs to "do a better job of producing American talent" in the wake of the U.S. failing to qualify for the '18 FIFA World Cup, according to Rick Gosselin of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Hunt said of the USMNT, "We were missing a gigantic core group of players in that 24-29 range -- players in the prime of their careers." He added, "This is absolutely personal for me. I don't like it at all. It makes me sick. I'm sick for everyone -- the players who worked so hard, the coaching staff, and I'm sick for fans of the game in this country." Hunt said if he and his brother, FC Dallas Chair & CEO Clark Hunt "don't take it personally, then maybe a lot of folks will blow this off and say, 'We'll shoot for four years from now.'" Dan Hunt: "The process starts today. We're going to have to really continue to push the envelope. We have a great generation of players coming up -- kids that are 15-20. What are we going to do to accelerate their development to get them ready for 2022? That's incumbent on all professional leagues -- the MLS, USL, NASL -- to play a part in this exercise. We need to make sure we're in the tournament for 2022 and, hopefully, if we host it again in this country (in '26)" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/16).

GUNNING FOR THE THRONE: In Boston, Stephen Hewitt notes the U.S. failing to qualify for the World Cup was "further confirmation" of what local attorney Steve Gans "has long believed: Change is needed at the top of the U.S. Soccer Federation, and he’s the man for the job." Gans last month "officially announced his candidacy" to replace Sunil Gulati as U.S. Soccer President. He played soccer at Brandeis Univ. before a "short stint professionally for a Baltimore indoor club," and he "believes his background makes him suited for the U.S. Soccer presidency." He has "confidence he can unseat" Gulati. Gans: "People have to imagine a world without him leading U.S. Soccer, and I think after Tuesday night, as terrible as it was, the feedback I’m getting is that people surely can imagine a world without him, so I think the chances are very good" (BOSTON HERALD, 10/18). Meanwhile, BLEACHER REPORT's Leander Schaerlaeckens reported NBC soccer analyst Kyle Martino "seriously considered" running for USSF President before deciding against it. Gulati was not the "biggest hurdle standing in Martino’s way," as the "far bigger issue is the salary paid" to the position: zero. Martino also would have to "leave NBC to kick off a presidential campaign" because one of the "key points of his would-be platform is to root out the conflicts of interest within the federation, which mingles its business" with MLS and Soccer United Marketing. Martino "can’t afford not to bring home a paycheck." He could potentially "convince the federation’s board to make the presidency a paid position if he were to win," but the uncertainty is "too great for him" (, 10/17).

SHOULD HE STAY?'s Grant Wahl spoke to former U.S. Soccer Presidents Alan Rothenberg and Bob Contiguglia and former Real Salt Lake Owner Dave Checketts about Gulati's future. Rothenberg said, "Where matters stand now, I don’t see any better candidate even remotely extant. Therefore, (Gulati) should run. If somebody from the outside with tremendous credentials should appear, I might have to take a second look at it." Contiguglia said that he "thought Gulati had done a good job overall running the U.S. Soccer board and that he should continue." Checketts said, "Sunil should remain involved. I hope he does remain involved. But I would challenge him now to consider stepping aside so that someone else could give it a try. I think (U.S. Soccer) needs a different direction" (, 10/17).

The NHL and some of its 31 teams are "fielding pitches from companies offering to install high-definition cameras and facial recognition software in league arenas," according to Rick Westhead of A senior exec with one NHL club said that he "expects facial-recognition technology will be adopted by his team and others in the league within the next two years." Westhead noted the technology has "improved as professional sports leagues come to terms with being terrorist targets." That prospect has left the NHL in recent weeks "discussing a league-wide security review that would potentially help to limit the league's financial exposure if terrorists targeted an NHL game." California-based FaceFirst CEO Peter Trepp, whose firm sells facial-recognition technology, "confirmed he has met with the NHL in recent months." Trepp said, "They're looking to keep out the really bad guys and the technology has improved dramatically in the past few years. We can identify someone literally as they walk through the door." Trepp "declined to say when he met with the NHL or whether any teams are already using his company's technology." But he said that his company has targeted clients in the sports sector "only in the last six months." Florida-based technology company Colosseo USA VP Matt Bocko said that the company has "also met with the NHL" and the Capitals to "discuss its products." Trepp said that FaceFirst is "creating its own 'watch list,' using data obtained from a number of local U.S. and European police forces and agencies such as Interpol." Meanwhile, a source said that NHL execs, including Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and Exec VP/Security Dennis Cunningham met Sept. 13 with N.Y.-based security firm Prevent Advisors to "discuss a possible review of NHL rinks" (, 10/17).'s Jerry Crasnick reported after "setting a record for long game times during the regular season, MLB has continued the trend into October." Entering yesterday's LCS games, the "average time for a nine-inning playoff game was 3 hours, 35 minutes -- up 10 minutes" from '16 and 21 minutes from '15. Playoff games "typically run longer because of lengthier commercial breaks and liberal use of bullpens." However, this year, the effect has been "more pronounced than ever." Of the 24 postseason games before yesterday, ALCS Game 2 "was the quickest" at an even 3 hours (, 10/17).

 BASEBALL AMERICA's Tracy Ringolsby wrote there seems to be a "building consensus that baseball will soon be headed to a 32-team configuration." It will lead to "major realignment and adjustments in schedule, which will allow MLB to address the growing concerns of the union about travel demands and off days." One proposal is to "geographically restructure into four divisions, which would create a major reduction in travel." Two key elements of this alignment would be a 156-game schedule that would include "24 total games against the eight teams in each of the three other divisions -- three games against each opponent." Also, the schedule would include "12 games -- six home and six road -- against each of the seven divisional opponents" (, 10/16).

RIP CITY: In Portland, Andy Giegerich noted a new group that includes former Trail Blazers announcer Mike Barrett is "looking to bring" MLB to Portland. The group also is "developing plans" for a ballpark. Group spokesperson John McIsaac said, "There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative." McIsaac emphasized that the group is a "management group, not an ownership group." Talk about a possible Portland MLB team has "heated up recently," following comments from MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred last month that Portland is a "[viable] expansion city" (, 10/17).