NFL owners are gathering in N.Y. this week for their fall meetings, and whether by "action or inaction on the anthem conduct policy, the NFL will be telegraphing a message," according to Charles Robinson of YAHOO SPORTS. The anthem policy "doesn’t appear to be a priority at these meetings," which is "interesting, given the league passed the policy last May but then shelved it in July -- effectively sending the rule into purgatory." This has "given NFL players freedom to continue kneeling" or protesting in other ways during the anthem. A lot has "changed in the past three months." The NFL has "seen a TV ratings rebound, as well as a swath of excitement tied to young quarterbacks," all amid an "unexpected streak of silence" from President Trump. What all this means for the "future of the league’s anthem rule remains to be seen," but it is "notable that there has been little fervor over the few players who continue to engage in social justice protests." The NFL’s quandary over the anthem policy "appears to be right where some owners hoped it would land." The league is "engaging and promoting public works efforts with the Players Coalition," while a few players are "continuing to exercise their voices without getting fined for doing so." That is a "very tenable situation when ratings and excitement are up, while controversy and political scorn has withered" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/15).
ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE: NBCSN's Mike Florio said there is a "positive vibe" ahead of the owners meeting because "ratings are up, and that means money eventually will be up when the current broadcast deals are up if the trend can continue." NBC Sports' Peter King noted the ratings "certainly are better, but they've been helped by some incredible games and they're also better compared to a real dip in the ratings last year." Florio: "When the ratings nosedived two years ago and went down again last year, of course they're going to be rebound again. You can't thump your chest too much until you get back to where you were in 2015" ("PFT," NBCSN, 10/16).
TALKING THE TALK: The owners were scheduled to hear talks from PepsiCo Chair Indra Nooyi and Verizon Chair Lowell McAdams at the end of today's meetings. The two companies are NFL partners. High level CEO presentations have been staples in the past of the annual March NFL meeting, not the Fall meeting, which is scheduled to end at noon tomorrow (Daniel Kaplan, THE DAILY).
The arrival of MLS in Austin "appears more likely than ever" despite the Crew potentially remaining in Ohio, as there is "certainty" that a club is coming no later than '21, according to a source cited by Chris Bils of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. The source said, "The only thing (being discussed) is what's the optimum time to launch the club in Austin. I don't think it impacts what's been agreed to in Austin or the league's excitement or enthusiasm, or the stadium, or anything like that." Another source said a '19 launch for the Austin club has "not been ruled out yet." The source said that it has "not yet been determined" if the players and technical staff of the Crew will "remain in Columbus, the most likely scenario if an agreement is completed" with the group led by Browns Owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam to buy the Crew from Precourt Sports Ventures. In August, the Austin city council approved a deal for "construction of a 20,000-seat, privately funded stadium" for the Austin MLS club. City officials "remain in negotiations to finalize the deal" with PSV, with talks "on track to be completed" in December (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 10/16).
USWNT MF Megan Rapinoe is "dismayed by what she sees as ongoing issues of inequality in soccer" ahead of the '19 FIFA Women's World Cup, according to Anne Peterson of the AP. From uncertainty about the "use of video review and the amount of prize money, to scheduling other tournament finals on the same day as the championship game, equity issues are getting more attention." Rapinoe said of FIFA, "They obviously do things for the women's game. But in the way that they truly care about the men's game, they don't truly care about the women's game." FIFA has been "criticized for scheduling the Women's World Cup final on the same day as the men's Copa America final and the CONCACAF Gold Cup final." FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer Sarai Bareman "responded to some of the criticism last week when the organization released its first-ever global strategy for women's soccer." FIFA seeks to "grow the women's game overall -- and one aim is to get more women involved in the decision-making processes at all levels." Bareman confirmed that World Cup prize money "would be increased but did not reveal a figure." SI reported last week that the "prize pool would be doubled," to $30M. Rapinoe wanted to know what metric was used in "determining the amount -- especially in light of the disparity with the men's." Rapinoe: "They're probably looking for pats on the back for the increase. They're not getting any from here. I mean, until they're really going to take meaningful steps to truly show that they're caring about the women's game in a sort of deeper way, I don't know. $15 million is nothing to them. ... If they wanted to just sort of arbitrarily do it, they could increase it by $100 million" (AP, 10/15).
Canada tomorrow will become the "largest country in the world to legalize recreational marijuana," but the NHL and NHLPA are planning "no changes to their joint drug-testing policy" as a result, according to Stephen Whyno of the AP. Under the current policy, players are "not punished for positive marijuana tests," which is the "most lenient approach to cannabis" by any major North American league. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said of the league's current policy, "Based on the education level and what we do test for and how we test, at least for the time being, we're comfortable with where we are." Whyno noted while the NFL and NBA can "suspend and MLB can fine players for multiple marijuana infractions, only a significantly high amount of the drug found in NHL/NHLPA testing triggers a referral to behavioral health program doctors" (AP, 10/15). SPORTSNET.ca's Chris Johnston noted Canada's legalization of marijuana will not have a "fundamental impact on the NHL until or unless every U.S. state eventually follows suit." No NHL team physician will be "able to prescribe cannabis products for pain relief" without players "frequently crossing borders into regions where it's still prohibited," which would be illegal (SPORTSNET.ca, 10/14).
UNKNOWN TERRITORY: In Winnipeg, Jeff Hamilton noted the CFL "doesn't currently test for cannabis and, as recent history suggests, nor does it seem to care all that much when its players are arrested with the drug." Hamilton: "Given the CFL’s lax cannabis rules what, if anything then, is expected to change for the league once legalization sets in? The answer is, not much." A CFL spokesperson said the league is "working to assess the potential impact of the legalization of marijuana." The spokesperson said, "This is uncharted territory, of course, but at this point it appears the effect on the CFL will be minimal" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 10/13).