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Volume 25 No. 27

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NFL today announced the latest step in its "commitment to players’ social-justice issues, forming a committee of five players and five owners to further advance" the league's effort to "assist players in trying to make improvements in education, relations with police, and the criminal-justice system in the league’s communities," according to Peter King of THE MMQB. The committee includes Jets OT Kelvin Beachum and QB Josh McCown, Redskins CB Josh Norman and former NFLers Anquan Boldin and Aeneas Williams. On the owners side are the Cardinals' Michael Bidwill, Falcons' Arthur Blank, Jaguars' Shad Khan, Dolphins' Stephen Ross and Browns' Jimmy Haslam. The owners were "appointed by the NFL; the players were appointed by the Players Coalition." The 10-member committee will "combine on a campaign called 'Let’s Listen Together,' with media spots on the NFL’s TV and digital platforms" (SI.com, 1/23). USA TODAY's Nancy Armour notes the campaign will have videos "showing the players educating themselves and others, giving real-life context to complicated and uncomfortable issues." The first, debuting Thursday on the NFL Network, features Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins sitting down with Upper Darby (Philadelphia) police Superintendent Michael Chitwood, whose officers "now undergo training in racial bias, social and emotional intelligence." There will be letters from players and owners such as Blank and Eagles' Jeffrey Lurie, "explaining what they’ve learned, why it’s important and what they hope to accomplish moving forward." Patriots S Devin McCourty said, "Now, for the owners to come into the locker rooms, hear the players and just say, `I’m interested in this, too. This bothers me and I want to help out,’ I think overall will have a huge impact" (USATODAY.com, 1/23). ESPN.com's Rich Cimini notes while not a member of the committee, Jets Chair & CEO Christopher Johnson is "involved in the effort," as is LB Demario Davis (ESPN.com, 1/23).

Impact coach Remi Garde said that the team's signing of Serie A club Bologna MF Saphir Taïder is an "example of the growing prestige of MLS among European players," according to Pat Hickey of the MONTREAL GAZETTE. Garde said, "The image of MLS is changing in the eyes of European players. Until a year or two ago, it was easy to convince older players at the end of their career to come to MLS to play, (just) for fun, a last season. But the view of MLS is growing fast for this kind of player who’s 25 or 26 and says: ‘I’m a good player in Europe but if I go to MLS, I have a good chance to discover something else, a new challenge" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/23). YAHOO SPORTS' Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote Atlanta United's signing of MF Ezequiel Barco "feels like a watershed moment" for MLS. The $15M transfer fee for Barco "smashes the league’s record" of about $9.2M. Barco is 18 and "won’t turn 19 until a few weeks into the season." He is a "bona fide megaprospect." He is "young, he plays a prized position and he’s Argentine." He could have "gone anywhere." Barco is the sort of player who "would have been on the radar of even the very biggest clubs." With time, Barco "could have more or less chosen his destination from any number of reputable European suitors." Schaerlaeckens: "But he chose Atlanta. He chose MLS." He decided that the place he would "like to continue his maturation is a league that many still consider a cut or two below the top circuits in the world." And by that gesture alone, this is a "win for the league" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/19).