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Volume 25 No. 110

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Warner said he wasn't aware of the letter and that his signature was mistakenly attached to it
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Kurt Warner and Jerry Rice have "distanced themselves" from the group of Pro Football HOFers who are threatening to boycott future induction ceremonies unless they receive health insurance and an annual salary, according to Sean Wagner-McGough of CBSSPORTS.com. Warner in a statement said that he "wasn't aware" of the letter sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith and Pro Football HOF President David Baker outlining the group's stance and that his "signature was 'mistakenly attached'" to the letter. Meanwhile, Rice in a separate statement noted that he is "not a member" of the HOF BOD, which was responsible for the letter. Both Warner and Rice indicated that while they "support the issues that the group raised, they will not be participating in a boycott" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/18). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio noted Eric Dickerson, the Chair of the HOF BOD, posted a statement on Twitter "accepting responsibility for a miscommunication" with Warner and Rice. However, Dickerson's acceptance of responsibility was "hardly unconditional and unequivocal." He said this is "typical NFL pitting players against each other." Dickerson: "The NFL's strategy is simply to take attention away from the major issue at hand, which is that the NFL is past due on doing right by the players" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/18).

SPECIFICS OF THE PROPOSAL: TMZ notes Dickerson is "demanding Hall of Famers get a respectable salary." He said, "If it was up to me, I think every Hall of Famer would get about $300,000 a year. I think that would be a proper number." He added he eventually wants all former players -- "not just the NFL legends -- to get a 6-figure salary and health care" (TMZ.com, 9/19). Dickerson: "We want all players to have health insurance, not just Hall of Famers" ("OTL," ESPN, 9/18). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith notes Dickerson "complained that NFL player pensions aren’t big enough and said $300,000 a year for each Hall of Famer would supplement their pensions" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/19). Dickerson said that the "intent is ultimately to win benefits for all retired players, but the Hall of Famers have leverage." He said, “If I had just started with the retired players, I wouldn’t have gotten their attention. But when you start with the Hall of Fame guys, you get their attention. Those names are recognizable" (L.A. TIMES, 9/19).

UPHILL CLIMB: USA TODAY's Tom Schad noted Dickerson and the group will "likely face an uphill battle given the financial heft of their request" -- about $60M annually -- and the fact that the NFL, NFLPA and HOF "all operate as independent entities" (USATODAY.com, 9/18). FS1’s Jason Whitlock said there are some "good ideas in this and what (Dickerson's) proposing and what these players are striving for." However, they have "come out really hard and some of the language in this letter is a little over the top." Former NFLer DeAngelo Hall agreed with what the HOFers are trying to achieve, but said, "This is the time to say, ‘Let’s start with all players. Let’s not just start with the Hall of Famers.’" FS1's Marcellus Wiley: "Sometimes you just need a spokesman, spokesmen. You need the ones that are going to have the most powerful voice in your message" ("Speak For Yourself," FS1, 9/18). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon: “Somebody has to leverage something to get anything out of the NFL. I'm not saying this is the way, but somebody always has to leverage something” (“PTI,” ESPN, 9/18).

NOT ABOUT THE HALL: In Canton, Todd Porter in a front-page piece reports the HOF has "increased appearances for Hall of Famers and fees for those players" since Baker took over. The HOF, while "working closely with the NFL, is not a part of the league and operates independent of the league’s revenue." The NFL’s contributions "amount to less" than 5% of the HOF's revenue. More than $4.5M was "paid out to Hall of Famers for appearance fees" in '17, and a long-standing emergency fund is also "available to Hall of Famers." HOFer Joe DeLamielleure, an "outspoken critic of the NFL and the players union, said the Hall of Fame is caught in the middle and 'the beef isn’t with the Hall or the people of Canton.'" DeLamielleure: "I don’t blame the Hall of Fame. I blame the league and the union. We have a corrupt union." HOFer Dave Robinson said that he "did not have a chance to see the letter and declined to comment on the specifics of it." Robinson said, “I see where the frustration is coming from. What the guys went through in the early days to make the league what it is today -- a lot of people feel we have not been adequately rewarded" (Canton REPOSITORY, 9/19).

MISSED OPPORTUNITY? The AP's Barry Wilner wrote there are questions about "how well-organized the group" is. One name on the list of 22 signees was Carl Ellard, but "no one by that name has played professional football." Carl Eller was inducted into the HOF in '04 (AP, 9/18). In N.Y., Carron Phillips writes the HOFers behind the letter had "good intentions with this letter" as they "wanted to force the league’s hand." However, good intentions "become null and void if they are followed by bad execution, and that seems like it could be the case here." If all living HOF members "weren’t at least notified that this was coming, then it’s impossible to believe that they will now all be on the same page" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/19).

Gretzky was in Shenzhen this weekend to open a youth hockey school
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Recent moves by the NHL show the league is "determined to play catch-up" in China "decades after the NBA began building a following" in the country, according to Mike Ives of the N.Y. TIMES. The Bruins and Flames concluded the '18 ORG NHL China Games with a game today in Beijing, and Wayne Gretzky this weekend was in Shenzhen, the location of the first Bruins-Flames game on the trip, to "open a youth hockey school." NHL Exec VP/Media & Int'l Strategy David Proper said that if hockey "grows in China over the next decade 'to a point where it’s not NBA level but something significant, well then we may reassess not just growing the sport but how to build our business.'" Analysts said that the league’s China development strategy is "loaded with opportunities to attract new fans and talent but also deep uncertainties about what sort of growth is possible." Ives notes the NHL has broadcasting and streaming deals with Chinese companies CCTV and Tencent, respectively, though league officials "declined to provide viewership figures or specific revenue targets." In a "sign of how much the NHL trails the NBA in China," it only has "about 290,000 followers on Sina Weibo, a popular Chinese social media platform," compared to the more than 37 million for the NBA (N.Y. TIMES, 9/19).

OVERSEAS SUCCESS: The GLOBE & MAIL's Nathan Vanderklippe writes Gretzky in China was a "moment straight out of an advertiser’s pitchbook: The Great One walking near the Great Wall, as hockey tries to make inroads in the world’s most populous country" (GLOBE & MAIL, 9/19). THE ATHLETIC's Eric Duhatschek writes under the header, "Despite Logistical Hurdles, China Games Experience Largely Beneficial For Teams That Make The Trip" (9/19). THE ATHLETIC's Fluto Shinzawa goes with, "In China, The NHL Sees A Market For Growth -- And A Pipeline For Players."The short-term odds of a Chinese-born player "advancing to the NHL through his country’s development model are not high." The infrastructure, from "rinks to hockey stores to full-fledged minor and junior programs, is in its infancy." But if there is "anything the Chinese like to do, it’s build things" (THEATHLETIC.com, 9/19).

TRYING TO REACH THE YOUTH: The Kings, in conjunction with Beijing-based ORG Packaging and the NHL, will launch the Beijing Jr. Kings youth hockey program, the first youth development program for any NHL team in China. The program, which will be based in the new Beijing A.Z. Ice Sports Club and coached by former NHLer Todd Elik, will be geared for players 8-10 years old and is expecting to have two or three teams. The Kings, who last year played in the first preseason NHL games played in China, will support the new team by sending current and alumni team players to China each year for development camps, and will also take part in coaches training programs, player exchange programs and international tournament development opportunities. AEG Global Partnerships brokered the agreement with ORG Packaging (Ian Thomas, Staff Writer).

The PGA Tour and Jordan Spieth have come to a resolution after Spieth "violated a tour policy by failing to play in 25 events this season," according to Bob Harig of ESPN.com. PGA Tour Exec VP & Chief of Operations Andy Pazder yesterday did not "discuss a potential fine or what specifically Spieth will be required to do." However, the "insinuation was that he will add at least one, and possibly more, tournaments to his 2018-19 schedule." Pazder said, "You will see it next season. I think it will be good for the tour, for fans and for golf in general." Harig noted by not qualifying for this week's Tour Championship, Spieth "came up one tournament short of a policy that requires players to either add one tournament they have not played in the past four years or compete in a minimum of 25 events in either the previous or current season" (ESPN.com, 9/18). Ian Poulter also violated the schedule policy this season, and Pazder said, "We've come to a resolution on how he is going to address that." Spieth and Poulter are the "first players to violate the policy" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 9/18).

The AP's Ronald Blum reported MLBPA officials "met last month with management" of the four MLB teams "accused of improper spending of revenue sharing money." MLBPA General Counsel Ian Penny and Senior Advisor to the Exec Dir Rick Shapiro met with officials from the Marlins, A's, Pirates and Rays. An economist "also was among the union officials who attended" the meeting. Sources said that MLB Senior VP & Deputy General Council for Labor Relations Patrick Houlihan, MLB CFO Bob Starkey and "additional staff from the commissioner's office" also attended the four meetings. The next step in the process "is unclear," as a hearing before an arbitrator "has not been scheduled" (AP, 9/18).

SOUVENIRS OR SAFETY? In N.Y., Joe Lemire wrote one of baseball's "cherished rituals" of players tossing balls to fans in the crowd has been "disrupted by the expanded protective netting now in all 30 major league parks." But more than a dozen players all "praised the changes in the safety netting, which as of this season stretches to at least the far end of every dugout." Players have "seen too many fans, including young children, hit by screaming foul balls and flying broken bats over the last few years." Players "welcomed the change and gladly adapted their methods of distributing souvenir balls" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/17).

NUMBERS GAME: In N.Y, Joel Sherman wrote part of the "decline in passion" for MLB is "mixed into how we view" statistical numbers. Sherman: "We keep telling one generation of fans they are dumb for caring about 20 wins or .300 batting averages or 100 RBIs, and the next generation of fans doesn't care about them. But what has risen in its place to keep interest in players and teams and seasons?" Sherman believes statistics "have been the backbone" of baseball, and between the "Steroid Era and the Metric Generation, we have weakened that backbone" (N.Y. POST, 9/16).