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Volume 25 No. 6

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Kraft, a longtime friend to President Trump, offered a harsh assessment of his presidency
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

An audio recording of the "roughly three hour meeting" involving 30 NFL owners, players and league execs in October to address protests during the national anthem reveals how they all "confronted an unprecedented moment -- mostly by talking past one another," according to a front-page piece by Belson & Leibovich of the N.Y. TIMES. The players during the confidential meeting at NFL HQ in N.Y. "sounded aggrieved." After "discussing a proposal to finance nonprofit groups to address player concerns," the players "wanted to talk about why Colin Kaepernick ... was, they believed, being blackballed by the owners." The owners "sounded panicked about their business under attack, and wanted to focus on damage control." Meanwhile, Patriots Owner Robert Kraft "pointed to another 'elephant in the room.'" Kraft: "This kneeling. ... The problem we have is, we have a president who will use that as fodder to do his mission that I don’t feel is in the best interests of America. It's divisive and it’s horrible." Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie, who "called Trump's presidency 'disastrous,' cautioned against players getting drawn into" his tactics. Bills co-Owner & CEO Terry Pegula "sounded anguished over the uncertainty of when Trump would take another shot at the league," while Jaguars Owner Shad Khan "countered that the worst was behind them." However, Texans Owner Bob McNair was "more direct." He "urged the players to tell their colleagues to, essentially, knock off the kneeling." McNair: "You fellas need to ask your compadres, fellas, stop that other business, let's go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we'll help you." Belson & Leibovich noted over the course of the discussion about kneeling, the owners "kept returning to one bottom-line issue: Large numbers of fans and sponsors had become angry about the protests" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/26).

TELL ME WHAT YOU REALLY THINK: USA TODAY's Gleeson & Perez cite a source as saying that neither the players nor the owners were "aware they were being recorded, though it is not clear who did the taping." Meanwhile, former NFLer Chris Kluwe "sees significance in the owners' positions" after hearing the recording. Kluwe said, "It was clearly obvious all along that the owners are just interested in making more money. That's been clear for years, whether we are talking about concussions, prescription pills or not letting a player peacefully protest." He added on the comments of Kraft, Lurie and Eagles DE Chris Long, "Kraft and Lurie say they don't agree with Trump, but they had no answer when Chris Long asked why Kaepernick hasn't been signed. Their words don't match their actions. The owners' actions, in fact, show they are willing to support Trump by their silence" (USA TODAY, 4/26). In S.F., Ann Killion writes the "description of the meeting details absurdities," like Pegula "suggesting the league find a spokesman in the same vein as the late Charlton Heston's NRA role." It took Eric Reid, who "wore a Kaepernick shirt over his dress shirt, to bring the conversation back to the man who originated the protest." The NFL "would like you to believe" Reid and Kaepernick's "lack of employment is pure coincidence." Killion: "It's not" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 4/26).

TRYING TO MAKE SENSE OF IT: ESPN's Clinton Yates said Pegula's comment about Heston shows how "out of touch" the owners are "with America." The reason why ratings are down "is because people aren't as interested in watching guys bash their brains in on a dangerous level in America as they once were." ESPN's Bomani Jones said the owners do not sound like they are "grounded in any amount of principle whatsoever and they just seem like, 'How do we make this thing go away?' And it's going to be hard for them to find a way to make it go away with the players if it doesn't seem like they actually care about these matters." The L.A. Times' Bill Plaschke said the owners "look terrible." ESPN's Jemele Hill added, "The word I would use is spineless. That's how they came across ... and it's very interesting to me that they're more than willing to capitulate to one crowd, to one type of fan versus the other" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/25).

Texas' Mo Bamba is one of the more higher profile one-and-done players entering this year's Draft
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The NBA and NBPA's conversations on eliminating the one-and-done entry rule have "centered on lowering the minimum age requirement no sooner" than the '20 Draft, according to sources cited by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and NBPA Exec Dir Michele Roberts have "discussed scenarios to end the requirement for American players to wait one year after high school graduation to enter the NBA draft, but no formal agreement could be reached before the NBPA's executive committee, including president Chris Paul, gather for a meeting at the end of the NBA playoffs in June." Silver and Roberts have both "expressed a desire to change the rule, but it remains to be seen how the process of negotiating a rule change between the league and players will unfold." The Commission on College Basketball yesterday made a recommendation to "allow college players who declare for the NBA draft to retain their eligibility should they go unselected in the draft" (ESPN.com, 4/25). USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt cites a source as saying that there is "no guarantee a new rule goes into effect" in '20, only that it "won't happen" in '19. The issue "needs to be collectively bargained and agreed on" between the league and NBPA. But the NBA and NBPA "do not have to wait until the current CBA expires to negotiate a rule change" (USA TODAY, 4/26). 

ALL ABOUT THE MONEY: In DC, Tim Bontemps writes the NBA's reason behind wanting to eliminate the one-and-done rule has "little to do with the commission's findings or the state of college basketball." It is because it "makes business sense." The G League has "grown to 26 teams, each tied to an NBA parent club." Next season, that number will "increase to 27." If the NBA has a "fully developed minor league, the best way to make money on it is to increase the talent pool." Bontemps: "The best way to do that? By having more talented collegiate players decide the G League is a better career path" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/26). ESPN's Brian Windhorst said the NBA will "find a way with the union to establish a new rule and I expect the NBA to fill the vacuum that college is leaving in the high school ranks." Windhorst: "The NBA is very powerful, they've been a backseat partner with college basketball for a long time. They're getting ready to move into the front seat" ("OTL," ESPN, 4/25).

WEIGHING THE BENEFITS: Potential Draft lottery pick C Mo Bamba on whether he would have gone straight to the NBA out of high school if it was allowed said, "I could have had a year of that NBA development and had a year head start at it, obviously I would love to have that opportunity if it was there for me." But he added, "I don't want to take away from anything at my time at Texas, I thought it was actually pretty darn special" ("The Jump," ESPN, 4/25).

NASCAR has featured Suarez in TV ads and B-roll on features even though he has not won in the Cup Series
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NASCAR is making a "real push for Latino fans," as the rise of Mexico's Daniel Suarez "presents the sport ... with a chance to get its foot in the puerta of America's fastest-growing demographic," according to Roy Bragg of the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS. NASCAR Multicultural Marketing Dir Edwin Gotay said, "Car culture, along with soccer, has always been a big part of Hispanic culture. NASCAR has not been. We don’t get covered by Univision. The reality is we’re responsible for getting them interested." Bragg notes NASCAR is "already making its moves elsewhere." Besides several diversity initiatives in this country, the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series is "trying to gain traction in a country where Formula 1 and other open-wheel variations do well." NASCAR is "more than happy to stock its commercials and content with Latinos and African-Americans." That is why Suarez and Bubba Wallace Jr. "show up in television ads or B-roll on features, even though neither has a win on the circuit." More tracks "are advertising in Spanish." And NASCAR is "always on the lookout for new faces to tell its story." The next goal is to "land a global icon of Latin descent -- a soccer player or musician -- to promote the sport" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 4/26).