Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 24 No. 216

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones in a letter Thursday "requested a special league meeting to discuss commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension negotiations," further "stoking his bitter conflict with the NFL’s leadership," according to Andrew Beaton of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Jones sent the letter addressed to Goodell one day after the league warned him to "drop the issue." Jones "cited a laundry list of problems facing the NFL as justification for his actions." The NFL compensation committee late Thursday "rejected Jones’s request," saying an already-planned meeting on Dec. 13 in Irving, Texas, "will provide 'ample opportunity' for the owners to discuss the issues Jones raised." Beaton notes Jones' letter "provides a window into his thinking amid the high-stakes clash that seems likely to roil the league for the near future." Jones "cited the 'severe threats of retaliation' against him that 'demonstrate the dysfunction of the current process' -- a reference to discussions among some owners to potentially remove him" from the league (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/17). ESPN.com's Archer, Mortensen & Schefter cited sources as saying that next month's meeting will be an "owners-only session that will deal with the impending extension" for Goodell. Jones in his Thursday letter had "requested a special meeting in front of the full ownership group" on Nov. 28 in N.Y. (ESPN.com, 11/16).

PEAK BEHIND THE CURTAIN
: ESPN THE MAGAZINE's Wickersham & Van Natta write Jones vs. Goodell is a "battle few saw coming, with the league's membership teetering on an all-out, unprecedented civil war." Goodell and Jones' relationship "seemed strong" for years, but it has "gotten nastier" following Goodell's suspension of Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott. Jones' trust among owners and senior NFL execs now "has all but evaporated." The "turmoil that seems new" actually "began years ago in a shadow war waged inside the cloistered world of NFL offices, owners' suites, private meetings and conference calls, rooted in very different visions, mostly by Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell, about what the NFL's future should be." Almost as soon as Goodell became commissioner in '06, the NFL "plunged into" several crises. But what "troubled Jones more ... was the way Goodell had responded." Jones in recent years "felt that owners were being relegated to the role of mere 'suggesters'" to the league office. Meanwhile, the "frustration of Jones and other owners continued over issues big and small," including declining TV ratings. Most owners expect Goodell's extension to "land in the range" of $40M a year. But if owners "decide to squeeze him too hard, he might walk away." Goodell "knows that there's no clear successor," a "failing on his part and a source of leverage." However, owners "have considered other successors." A "confidant of one owner reached out to gauge whether" NBA Commissioner Adam Silver "would be interested." Silver "immediately said no." Owners have also considered looking to the IOC for "someone with global experience to grow the game -- or even installing the 76-year-old [Paul] Tagliabue for a year while a committee searched for the ideal successor." If Goodell "does re-sign, nobody knows exactly how long he will serve" (ESPN THE MAGAZINE, 12/4 issue).

YEAR IN REVIEW: In DC, Mark Maske writes the Jones-Goodell power struggle over the past month has "served to further splinter the sport during a tumultuous season in which divisions already were readily apparent." Sources said that they "consider it a long shot that Jones will sue the NFL and other owners over Goodell’s contract and an equally long shot that the league and owners will take meaningful disciplinary steps against Jones." One source described the situation as "one giant bluff versus another giant bluff." The source added, "But it has upset people, and it has united them. You put this log on what’s been a bonfire of a season. When you do that, you give people the right to say, ‘We didn’t need this.'" Maske writes this NFL season has, at various times, "pitted owners against players, owners against the White House, an NFL sponsor against the NFL, and owners against other owners" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/17).

THE BIG PICTURE
: In N.Y., Joe Drape writes under the header, "A Fight Breaks Out In The NFL's Billionaire Boys' Club." Jones "wants to put the squeeze on Goodell’s guaranteed pay, and he has doubled down on his threat to sue the NFL and some of its owners if they, as expected, extend Goodell’s multimillion-dollar contract in the coming weeks." What "makes this little tiff obscene, though, is that this same group of owners, and this same commissioner, are accused of slow-paying -- and in some cases no-paying -- former NFL players from an estimated" $1B concussion settlement agreed to in '15. NFL owners are "not talking about how, of the 1,400 claims filed so far, only 140 have been approved." They also "aren’t eager to talk about how the remaining" 90% of those claims are in the process of "being evaluated, or why many have been sent back to the players and their lawyers to amend before they can be approved." Instead, the owners "talk about their free-floating anxiety, and about how the NFL is under siege." Drape: "But they have no one to blame but themselves. They are the ones who put chronic traumatic encephalopathy into the NFL lexicon alongside special teams and prevent defenses" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/17).

PIECE OF THE PIE
: YAHOO SPORTS' Charles Robinson cited sources as saying that Colin Kaepernick's legal camp is "maneuvering for a deeper dive into the relationship between" Jones and Papa John's President & CEO John Schnatter. Jones "owns a stake in 120 Papa John’s pizza stores," and the sources said that Kaepernick’s legal team wants to "know whether the Cowboys owner played a role in motivating Schnatter to take a thinly veiled shot" at Goodell on a Nov. 1 earnings call. During that call, Schnatter "blamed sagging pizza sales on the NFL’s response to protests." If Jones "played any part in shaping that original message, it could put him in a precarious spot with other NFL team owners." Particularly after Wednesday, when Jones was accused of “conduct detrimental to the league" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/16).

The NHL had "preliminary discussions about the potential viability of an NHL team in Houston," according to Katie Strang of THE ATHLETIC. Sources said that there was a meeting "within the past few weeks" between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta at the league's offices in N.Y. However, Bettman "refuted the notion that the NHL was actively looking for relocation options." Bettman: "We're not relocating any clubs right now." Asked if Houston would be considered if that changes, Bettman said, "If Houston were to express an interest in having an NHL franchise, under the right circumstances, it's something we might want to consider." Strang noted Fertitta "previously expressed interest in bringing the NHL to Houston." Toyota Center, built in '03, is "outfitted to hold 17,800 for hockey" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/15). NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that the meeting was "not dissimilar to meetings the league engages in regularly, and that it 'does not change or alter anything related to expansion or relocation.'" Daly also "emphasized that the NHL has no plans to expand" (USA TODAY, 11/17). Fertitta on Thursday wrote via Twitter, "As I've mentioned before, I'm very interested in the possibility of bringing the NHL to Houston, but it will have to be a deal that works for my organization, the City, fans of the NHL throughout the region, and the NHL Board of Governors. We are in the very early stage of evaluating what opportunities may exist but look forward to a thorough process" (TWITTER.com, 11/16).

PROS & CONS: THE HOCKEY NEWS' Jared Clinton wrote when it comes to the viability of a team in Houston, it would "seem that the city checks many of the major boxes that would make the NHL intrigued by the possibility." A facility "is in place, with Toyota Center acting as a more-than-suitable home." Houston, with "nearly 2.3 million people, is the fourth-most populated city" in the U.S., and the television market is the "eighth-largest in the country." However, one "hangup for Fertitta and the NHL ... may be what portion of the population would turn up or tune in to watch an NHL team based in Houston, especially with the sports fan's dollar stretched" with the Rockets, Astros, Texans, Dynamo, NWSL Houston Dash and several minor league teams (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 11/16).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA Exec Dir Michele Roberts on Thursday "met with the new Commission on College Basketball" in DC to discuss the "one-and-done draft entry rule," according to sources cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. Silver and Roberts "delivered the league and union perspectives on issues facing the basketball industry, including ways that changing the dynamics of the NBA draft could impact the pro and college games." The meeting was "described as informational in nature, although the NCAA ultimately has no formal say in rules governing the league's early-entry rules." There is a "growing belief within the league that Silver's desire to end the one-and-done ... could be pushing the sport closer to high school players having the opportunity to directly enter the league again." However, for that change to happen, the NBPA would "probably need to cede the one-and-done rule and agree to a mandate that players entering college must stay two years before declaring for the draft." The union has "long wanted" players to be able to "enter the NBA draft out of high school, but they ceded that" in the '06 CBA (ESPN.com, 11/16). 

ANOTHER SET OF EYES: In L.A., David Wharton notes the Pac-12 "held the initial meeting of a task force designed to address systemic issues facing all college sports." The 12-member group will "focus on a variety of subjects including recruiting, agent relationships, shoe company partnerships and the 'one and done' trend." The group will "hold a series of meetings with the goal of issuing recommendations in March." Its findings "will be shared with the NCAA" (L.A. TIMES, 11/17).