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Volume 25 No. 155

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Ramos is reportedly comfortable with his performance in the U.S. Open final, despite the controversy
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Tennis' top umpires are "considering forming a union because they believe Carlos Ramos was 'hung out to dry'" by the authorities during and after the U.S. Open women's final despite "upholding the rules in sanctioning Serena Williams," according to Sean Ingle of the GUARDIAN. Many officials were angry with the fact that the ITF "took nearly 48 hours to defend Ramos," by which time the WTA and USTA has "supported Willams' claims of sexism." Umpires are "not allowed to speak out publicly under the terms of their contracts." However, a source said that there was "widespread concern" about how the USTA and WTA had "rushed to support Williams -- which had led to vitriol and abuse on social media for Ramos." This has led to several umpires "pushing for an officials' union, an idea that has floated around on and off for years" (GUARDIAN, 9/12). In London, Stuart Fraser reported some umpires are "considering refusing to officiate matches" involving Williams. The support for Williams from the WTA and USTA "further riled some umpires, who were already unhappy with the haphazard" organization of this year's U.S. Open. A source said that there was a "growing consensus that umpires were 'not supported'" by the USTA on several occasions, and that Ramos was "thrown to the wolves for simply doing his job and was not willing to be abused for it." Fraser noted umpires are discussing whether they could "take action to stand up for their profession." One suggestion being floated is to "refuse any match assignments involving Williams" until she apologizes for "vilifying Ramos and calling him a 'liar' and a 'thief'" (LONDON TIMES, 9/11).

TWO SIDES OF THE STORY: CBS' Norah O'Donnell said it "doesn't seem like the right reaction" by tennis umpires to "further escalate this." O'Donnell: "This is the time for conversation and discussion about where both sides went wrong." CBS' John Dickerson: "Especially if you believe the ump's job is to de-escalate" ("CBS This Morning," 9/12). ESPN's Pablo Torre: "I don't mind the idea of unionizing on principle. I do feel like this voice, the umpire's voice, is what's been erased here." Torre said Ramos called Williams for a rule she "broke by the book." Torre: "If the umpires want to stand up for themselves, I understand why they want a seat at that table" ("High Noon," ESPN, 9/11). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "You don't need a chair umpire, you don't need line people. Everything is done electronically. You don't need humans out there in tennis because the ball is either in, or the ball is out and that is determined electronically" ("PTI," ESPN, 9/11).

NOT ALL ON RAMOS: USA TODAY's Josh Peter noted Ramos spoke to Portuguese newspaper Tribuna Expresso and said that he has "received hundreds of messages of support" from family members and "current and former players" after Saturday's incident. Ramos is "sure of his performance" in the match, though he declined to say more because of tennis umpires being "prohibited from talking publicly about match specifics" (USATODAY.com, 9/11). Peter also notes the ITF issued a statement Monday "supporting" Ramos' handling of the match because he "followed the rules" (USA TODAY, 9/12).

FOLLOWING THE LETTER OF THE LAW: USTA President Katrina Adams said Ramos followed the rules "by the code," though she thought he "could have done it a little bit differently as far as maybe giving her a soft warning with the coaching to start if he had seen something in the box." Adams did say there is gender bias in tennis "right now," and there "probably always has been." Adams: "We shouldn't have to carry that extra weight on our back in anything that we do, and that's probably the context of the conversation" ("CBS This Morning," 9/11).

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman yesterday "downplayed the significance of entering mediation" with former players in a bid to settle a concussion lawsuit, according to John Wawrow of the AP. Bettman said that the league is "simply following a judge's order." Bettman noted that he had "nothing to add" when asked if there has been progress and reiterated that the NHL's "position on the lawsuit hasn't changed." Bettman: "We also think the lawsuit doesn't have merit." Attorney Stuart Davidson, who represents the players in the suit, "disputed Bettman's assertion on the merits of the lawsuit," while confirming that the two sides were "asked to enter mediation" by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson. Wawrow noted more than 100 former NHLers are part of the lawsuit in "accusing the NHL of failing to better prevent head trauma or warn players of such risks while promoting violent play that led to their injuries." Nelson in July "denied a bid for class-action status" for the suit, which would have "created one group of all living former NHL players and one group of all retired players diagnosed with a neurological disease, disorder or condition" (AP, 9/11).

The 24-year-old Sung Hyun Park is one of the many bright young talents on the LPGA
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The LPGA is in the midst of a level of "parity not seen on the circuit since the early 1990s," as there have been "at least 18 different winners for four seasons running," according to Jeff Shain of the N.Y. TIMES. There have been 20 different winners of the 25 events so far this year, and the past 14 majors have been "captured by 12 different players, including 11 in a row" since the start of the '16 season. Golf Channel's Kay Cockerill said the parity shows the tour's "ever-gaining depth." Cockerill: "I like the fact that you see proven winners keep popping up every so often, and then brand-new winners like Annie Park and Pernilla Lindberg. ... It keeps it exciting.” Shain notes the LPGA this season has had "seven first-time winners," and since the beginning of '16 has "crowned 40 different winners in 91 tournaments." Lydia Ko had "showed signs of becoming the LPGA's next megastar by winning 14 times as a teenager," but she has "just one since turning 20" in April '17. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan said, "I would rather have a bunch of players at the top, in a perfect world, from a bunch of different countries. That engages fans all around the world.” Whan also said that "having one powerhouse star has a tendency to downgrade any event they don’t play" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/12).

THE FRENCH CONNECTION: GOLFCHANNEL.com's Randall Mell noted the Evian Championship tees off tomorrow in France, and "since Whan unilaterally declared" it a major in '13 and moved it to September, there has been "something of a meteorological curse on the event." Rain has caused two of the first five championships played as a major to be "controversially shortened to 54 holes." The weather issues have "brought scrutiny over the LPGA’s priorities in the governance of its majors, and whether the decision to upgrade Evian was more about creating a major showcase" for Paris-based food-products corporation Group Danone, which owns Evian, than "creating a major championship." That is why "so many players were excited when Whan announced that Evian will be returning to July next year, the spot it held on the calendar before it was declared a major" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 9/11). In N.Y., Graham Parker notes Whan "sees the long-term ambition of the Evian Championship as part of what will capture the imagination of players, fans and sponsors." With its new July home and changes to the PGA Tour schedule, Evian "will still be the last major of the year." The LPGA schedule will now "include the Scottish Open, British Open and Evian in rapid succession, with plans for a fourth event to add to that sequence" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/12).

NASCAR teams are putting special playoff decals on their cars to promote both playoff-related social media engagement and to help the Race Team Alliance figure out the media exposure value of the contingency area, which teams now own. The move will see the 16 drivers who qualified for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff get individual Twitter emojis and social media hashtags put on their front-side panels. All other drivers will have a decal that says “#NASCARplayoffs,” which also has its own special emoji starting today on Twitter. The Twitter emojis for the playoff drivers will be intact on the social media site until those drivers are eliminated from the postseason, which begins with this weekend’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. For the RTA, the move will help it evaluate the exposure gained from the front-side panel area, a part of the cars that used to be owned by NASCAR but was transferred to the teams’ control as part of the charter system’s enactment in ’16. The RTA, the coalition of 14 NASCAR teams, is weighing selling the space collectively.

Top anglers likely will now have to choose between B.A.S.S., FLW and the new Bass Pro Tour
Photo: MAJOR LEAGUE FISHING

Major League Fishing "shook up the professional bass fishing world" yesterday by announcing the launch of a new Bass Pro Tour in '19, according to Kelly Bostian of the TULSA WORLD. The move "likely means big-name anglers will have to choose between existing tours" like B.A.S.S. and FLW and the new tour. MLF in '19 will have the "top market for televised bass fishing and, possibly, 80 of the profession’s top anglers for programs to air on Outdoor Channel, CBS, CBS Sports Network and Discovery Channel." There will be eight events and a championship with expected payouts "larger than those now available" in B.A.S.S. and FLW due to corporate support from Bass Pro Shops and Outdoor Sportsman Group. MLF GM Jim Wilburn said that the expansion also "means the staff of 20 at MLF offices" in Broken Arrow, Okla., will "add another 40 or 50 people." Wilburn added that the 80 anglers on the roster and the "format and payouts are details to be announced in coming weeks" (TULSA WORLD, 9/12). Bass Pro Shops Founder Johnny Morris said that the company's title sponsorship of the BPT "will not impact its sponsorship interests related to B.A.S.S. or FLW." Bass Pro Shops "currently serves as the presenting sponsor of the Bassmaster Opens and the Bassmaster College Tour as well as FLW’s high school fishing series" (BASSFAN.com, 9/11).