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Volume 24 No. 176

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones "sees some measure of victory in the structure of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s new contract," in which 90% of the five-year, $200M deal through March '24 is "tied to performance-based incentives," according to Jarrett Bell of USA TODAY. Jones said, "If Roger comes in and knocked it out of the ballpark, he’ll really be rewarded. You’ve got to hope that he has that kind of performance. There are no easy layups here on his bonuses." Jones added, "In a word, it’s accountability. Not suggested accountability, but real accountability." One NFL owner said that Jones "spoke for about 40 minutes" during the morning session at yesterday's owners' meeting in Irving, Texas. The owner: "There was a lot of bluster" (USA TODAY, 12/14). Meanwhile, Colts Owner Jim Irsay said Jones was a "Texas gentleman" yesterday (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/14).

BLANK SHEET
: In Ft. Worth, Clarence Hill Jr. writes while Jones "didn't get his way, he did get to walk away with some feelings of accomplishment over how the commissioner's contract will be handled going forward." The "biggest win in the process is that the commissioner will no longer get to hand-pick the chairman of the compensation committee in charge of negotiating his contract." The league in March is "expected to change the bylaws, giving the owners power to vote on the compensation committee." Jones and Falcons Owner Arthur Blank -- who currently serves as the committee's Chair -- "shook hands and made some peace" at yesterday's meeting. Blank said, "We were not necessarily connected totally on how this process should have been handled. I don’t know that there’s a rift going forward" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/14). Blank said Jones' role in Goodell's extension was "not a factor." Blank: "We had committed to doing that last November when we first called the owners" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/14). USA TODAY's Bell reports some owners "disputed the notion that the new features of Goodell’s contract are linked to Jones’ opposition, contending that the wrinkles have been under consideration for some time." Some owners also "see Jones as eating crow because there was no full-blown airing out of the contract this week" (USA TODAY, 12/14).

LAST HURRAH: NFL Exec VP/Communications Joe Lockhart confirmed that Goodell's new deal likely "will be his last with the league." Goodell said, "On the subject of this being my last contract, I haven’t made any determinations." In N.Y., Gary Myers cites sources as saying that this is "indeed Goodell’s last contract, but it was bit of mystery why he didn’t want to go public with it." One possibility is that he "doesn’t want to be perceived as a lame duck for the next seven years." He also had "doubts about even signing this contract" a year ago (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/14). Goodell said, "There is a limit to how many years you should serve in this position" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/14).

WHO WON THE BATTLE? YAHOO SPORTS' Charles Robinson writes Goodell's paycheck will be a "year-to-year bonus bonanza completely resting in the hands" of the compensation committee, which he "can’t influence." With only 10% of his contract guaranteed and the rest relying on proving his "worth, that’s a massive deal." It is "exactly what gives Goodell the incentive to listen and implement whatever Jones and his fellow owners want." It is also "exactly what Jones wanted" and means he "won the battle" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/14). In Dallas, David Moore writes yesterday "qualifies as a good day" for Jones. He "chose his words carefully to avoid the appearance of taking credit for any specifics in the structure of Goodell's extension" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 12/14). In N.Y., Ken Belson writes Goodell is "hardly the perfect leader" for the NFL, but he has "worked for the league for 35 years, and he knows, better than anyone, the owners, their ancestors and their progeny." Belson: "That is no small thing." Goodell "knows which ones he must listen to, and which ones he can pretend to listen to, and how to finesse them." One owner said of Goodell, "People tend to focus on the things he did wrong. But who’s going to replace him? That’s when things bog down." Meanwhile, Jones and several of his allies "continued to quietly complain about the deal, Goodell’s leadership and a league office they believe is filled with too many meddlesome executives" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/14). NFL.com's Judy Battista reported owners emerged from the meeting with their "dirty laundry mostly back where they like it -- behind closed doors." They "insisted that they were again unified behind Goodell." Meanwhile, Goodell and the owners have to "identify and begin to groom a successor sometime soon." Battista: "Finding Goodell's replacement may not be easy" (NFL.com, 12/13).

HUG IT OUT
: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Charean Williams wrote in a "show of unity," Goodell and Jones "entered the post-meetings press conference together." They "exchanged a man-hug" as Goodell left the podium. Williams: "By appearances, all is well" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 12/13). In Toronto, John Kryk notes Jones "said nice things about Goodell, but spoke mostly in high-minded generalities about the future" (TORONTO SUN, 12/14). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel notes what has "become clear is that unlike" former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle or former NBA Commissioner David Stern, Goodell is "not a visionary, so he needs to lean on those who are." Jones' concerns were "never invalid but his timing undercut his message; he looked like a pouting brat when he challenged the NFL over some of its handling regarding his star running back, and there was no way to separate the two" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/14).

CHANGES AHEAD
: YAHOO SPORTS' Robinson wrote there could be some "cuts" coming in the league office, with senior-level positions being "eliminated by the dozens." A source said that the NFL has "already extended more than 80 retirement packages to a swath of highly paid employees in an effort to cut back a bloated balance sheet in the league office." The source added that the movement for a "slimmed-down executive branch is expected to continue in the coming years," while portions of the disciplinary budget "could also take a hit." The league is also "expected to review the NFL’s role in player investigations -- with special emphasis on the commissioner’s involvement -- and potentially curtail some of the efforts in hopes of beating back the massive legal billing that has mounted in recent years" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 12/13). Meanwhile, with all the issues the NFL has had this year, Patriots Owner Robert Kraft said, "We lost our focus. I don't think we've talked about the game on the field" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 12/14).

The '18 LPGA schedule will "once again feature 34 events" along with a "record" $68.75M in total purses -- up from $65M from this past season, according to Randall Mell of GOLFCHANNEL.com. Three events from '17 have been replaced with new tournaments -- "two of those on the West Coast and one in mainland China." An "expanded West Coast swing" will include the Hugel-JTBC Championship in L.A. in April. The host course will be announced later. The tour will "make a return" to S.F.'s Lake Merced Golf Club the following week" with a new event sponsored by South Korea-based skincare company L&P Cosmetics. The China event will be held in Shanghai "as part of the fall Asian swing." The title sponsor and course also will be announced later. The Manulife LPGA Classic in Canada and Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Mexico "are not returning" to the schedule, while the McKayson New Zealand Women's Open "will not be played next year as it prepares to move to the front" of the '19 schedule (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 12/13). The AP's Doug Ferguson note the LPGA will hold tournaments in 14 countries, but there is a "distinct flow between domestic and international events." The season begins in the Bahamas in late Janaury, then "three weeks later goes to Australia for one week and Asia for two." The Founders Cup in March is the first American event and "kicks off 16 consecutive tournaments in the United States over four months" (AP, 12/13).

NAME GAME: GOLFWEEK's Beth Ann Nichols noted the addition of L&P Cosmetics means 23 new title sponsors "have been added to the LPGA portfolio in the last six years" (GOLFWEEK.com, 12/13). In S.F., Ron Kroichick noted the official name of the new tournament at Lake Merced "will be announced early" in '18. The course hosted the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic from '14-16 before the title sponsor, a Taiwan-based non-profit, "seeking to grow the game worldwide," opted not to renew. The group "now sponsors an LPGA event" in Taipwan (SFGATE.com, 12/13). 

MARKET WATCH: The '18 schedule features tournaments being played in a mix of both major markets and smaller outposts. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, "It probably frustrates some of the media -- and certainly my players -- that I don’t sit in my office and go, ‘L.A., there is a market.’ We typically go to where we make the biggest impact for our title sponsors and their business." Whan said he realizes the "bedrock of the LPGA" is markets like Toledo, Portland and Williamsburg, Va., as well as newer markets like Green Bay and Indianapolis. Whan: "When you think about our tour, we’re televised in 175 countries, we're diverse. We will come at you from 33 countries. When you think of L.A., San Francisco, Shanghai -- those markets are similar. They’re big, they’re golf fanatical. But there are also people from all over the world that live in those markets. When we show up in San Francisco, Shanghai, L.A., we are a pretty good fit. You’re going to see fans who look like they came from all over the world that live in those markets, seeing players that came from their home markets as well. So it's a really nice mix” ("Golf Central," Golf Channel, 12/13).

The Bucks this morning announced Bucks Gaming will be the name of its NBA 2K League team, as the NBA "begins a big publicity push to support" the new endeavor, according to a front-page piece by James Nelson of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. The Bucks "plan to hype and celebrate this new team of gamers." Team officials "envision live audiences gathered at the new arena who will watch their team battle other teams." Bucks President Peter Feigin said that the team saw a "tremendous opportunity" when the NBA announced it would "form a league around the video game." Feigin said, "We want to be on every platform as a brand, and this is the emerging platform" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 12/14). In Milwaukee, Rich Kirchen reports Bucks Gaming "revealed a team logo inspired by the Bucks' existing logo with what the Bucks call 'an edgier twist.'" Bucks Gaming is one of 17 teams in the 2K League, which launches in May. League franchises "began unveiling their names and logos this week" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 12/14).

OTHER LOGOS REVEALED: The 76ers today revealed the logo and identity of 76ers Gaming Club. The logo reflects the number "76" fused into the shape of a bell in tribute to the city's iconic Liberty Bell and 1776 signing of the Declaration of Independence (76ers GC). In Utah, Jody Genessy notes Jazz Gaming's logos were created to "pay tribute to the state of Utah" as well as the Jazz. The primary logo is a "3D shape of Utah, with a white U and gold J outlined in navy blue." The secondary logo "features the team's name and includes a pair of eighth notes in place of the A in Jazz" (DESERET NEWS, 12/14).

TRADITIONAL SPORT PARALLELS: In DC, Scott Allen notes Monumental Sports & Entertainment hired Grant Paranjape as its Dir of Esports in August to "oversee Wizards District Gaming." The 24-year-old views serious gamers such as the ones he and Monumental Sports Network VP & GM Zach Leonsis "will be responsible for drafting in March as athletes in their own right." Paranjape said, "It's as athletic as basketball or hockey, just in a different way. The physical dexterity needed and the mental fortitude needed to play League of Legends or 2K at a competitive level is the same as playing a traditional sport." Allen notes that is why future members of the Wizards District Gaming team will have "access to a sports psychologist and nutritionist, and they'll train in a state-of-the-art practice facility being refurbished near Capital One Arena" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/14).

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