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Volume 25 No. 131

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Some WNBA players have voiced concerns about equal pay and travel issues
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that the league's support of the WNBA "remains firm" after the WNBPA's decision last week to opt out of the current CBA, noting that addressing the issue now will have the "potential for positive results on both sides," according to Mechelle Voepel of ESPN.com. Silver said of the union opting out, "I wasn't disappointed at all. ... My sense from talking to players and listening to what they're saying publicly is that we seem to be missing a connection, a real engagement between the players and the league. It's something I know we can do." Silver noted opting out "isn't just about compensation." Silver: "Listening to what they're saying -- it's also about how the league is operated, their working conditions, how we're marketing the league, how we're connecting with their fans. So, I'd rather fix this sooner rather than later." Meanwhile, the WNBA is still searching for a new president and COO, and Voepel noted while the two jobs are "not necessarily being filled in tandem, it provides the opportunity to hire people with complementary skills at around the same time." That "conceivably could leave an avenue to the president's job for a former WNBA player." Silver said, "The hardest thing would be if you had to fix the product; I don't think there's any fixing needed here. ... The question is fixing sales and marketing." Travel has also been an issue for WNBAers, but Voepel noted a complete charter program for the WNBA now would be "cost-prohibitive." Silver: "It would cost more than the value of every single ticket sold in the WNBA last season" (ESPN.com, 11/7). YAHOO SPORTS' Ryan Young wrote under the header, "Adam Silver Committed To Working With WNBA, Players Ahead Of CBA Negotiations" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/7).

ISSUES AT HAND: The WNBA Las Vegas Aces in August were forced to forfeit a game against the Mystics after the team decided not to play due to health and safety concerns following almost 26 hours of traveling, and Aces C Carolyn Swords, who is the team's WNBPA rep, said the incident is an "example of something that happens every couple years." Swords: "One team or another has to face some sort of travel delay issues. (It was about) recognizing that we could solve what happened with some sort of provision that were to put protocol in that place if it would happen. It's not just charter planes. It's traveling multiple time zones in a day." Swords said the WNBA has "become incredibly competitive" in recent years. Swords: "You've seen rivalries develop and new teams come to the top ... (It's about) just enhancing that growth and (making) an investment in a really elite league" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 11/8). Meanwhile, in Boston, Gary Washburn wrote the "sticky part" about the WNBPA opting out of the current CBA is that the league is "without a permanent commissioner" after Lisa Borders' resignation. NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Mark Tatum is serving as interim president of the WNBA and "handling negotiations with the WNBPA." One "suggestion for a potential commissioner" is Basketball HOFer Lisa Leslie. The WNBA has had "issues retaining commissioners long term, having had three in the last 13 years" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/4).

A total of 12 teams this season are averaging at least 27.5 points per game, with three above 33
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NFL at the midpoint of this season is "on pace to set records for most points, touchdowns and touchdown passes in a single season," following the "lowest-scoring season this decade" last year, according to Rob Maaddi of the AP. Last year, teams "averaged 21.7 points per game," which is "up to 24 points this season." A total of 12 teams this season are "averaging at least 27.5 points per game led by the Chiefs (36.3), Saints (34.9) and Rams (33.2)." There are "several reasons scoring has soared," including that there has been an "influx of innovative, offensive-minded coaches." Five QBs -- the Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes, Rams' Jared Goff, Falcons' Matt Ryan, Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger and Packers' Aaron Rodgers -- are "on pace to throw for 5,000 yards" (AP, 11/8).

RUNNING THE FAST BREAK: In N.Y., Benjamin Hoffman notes NBA teams this season are also "putting up offensive numbers that have not been approached in years." Raw scoring is at 111.5 points per team per game, its "highest level" since the '70-71 season. The scoring increase has "been a result of pace," as teams are "averaging 100.8 possessions a game through Tuesday, the highest mark" since '88-89. The open question is "whether this increase in pace is sustainable" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/8). ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst wrote the NBA is in the "midst of a glorious offensive revolution." In the past two seasons, teams "reached 140 points eight times each year," but in the first month of this season, it has "happened six times, and there's no end in sight." The scoring is "fantastic for the entertainment value of the game," and there "aren't a lot of complaints from the fans" (ESPN.com, 11/7).

DIGITAL WORLD: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Cohen & Beaton wrote under the header, "The NBA And NFL Have Become Videogames." The way the NBA "reflects 'NBA Jam' is uncanny but not unusual" because so many of the "innovations that have revolutionized professional sports in recent years are the same intuitive strategies that people have been using for as long as arcades have existed." NBA teams are "playing faster and shooting more 3-pointers." NFL teams are "passing more." MLB batters are "trying to smash as many home runs as possible at the same time MLB pitchers are trying to rack up as many strikeouts as possible." Pro sports have "become videogames." Passing in the NFL "now accounts for an all-time high 60% of plays," and that is "still lower than the 69% of Madden users." The passing boom in the NFL has "coincided with a scoring explosion in the NBA" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/7).

MVP candidate Mookie Betts was only made available to the media three times during the playoffs
Photo: getty images

MLB’s "difficulty in creating stars" is among its "greatest foibles" heading into the '19 season, according to Jeff Passan of YAHOO SPORTS. Baseball is facing a "pair of quandaries without a clear solution: How to make the players bigger and how to make the game better." But it is "not clear whether this is a chicken-and-egg thing." If MLB "somehow can figure out how to leverage players into stardom, does the game improve?" Conversely, would a "new-and-improved version suddenly draw more people and organically create stars?" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/5). In Boston, Peter Abraham notes Red Sox RF Mookie Betts over the course of the team's 14 playoff games was made available in the media interview room just "three times either before or after the game." Abraham: "Imagine if over the course of the NBA playoffs LeBron James or Steph Curry were made available in the postgame interview room just three times. You can’t imagine that. The NBA would never be that stupid." Baseball does an "awful job of promoting its best players when compared with the NBA and even the NFL." Betts, a finalist for MLB's MVP, is "arguably the best player in the sport right now and on its biggest stage he went into the interview room three times over a span of 23 days." The tradition in baseball is to "make the stars of the game from the winning team available with, perhaps, one player from the losing team." That is "antiquated thinking," because certain players "should always be available regardless of how they play, or certainly more often than once in a series" (BOSTON GLOBE, 11/8).

The group looking to bring a CFL team to Halifax has launched a "season ticket drive" on Ticketmaster, according to Keith Doucette of the CP. Season-ticket deposits are $50 (all figures C) per package, and "place fans on a priority list for season ticket membership and seat selection on a first-come, first-served basis." CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said that the league has "no minimum number of season tickets it wants to see." Former Coyotes President & CEO Anthony LeBlanc added that it is "important to get a 'nice base of season ticket holders' to help fill a proposed 24,000-seat stadium" (CP, 11/7). TSN.ca's Dave Naylor noted those "putting down deposits can vote for one of four proposed team names -- Atlantic Convoy, Schooners, Storm or Admirals -- or submit their own suggestion." The team name will be "selected by the ownership group, with fan input and response being a significant consideration." The winning entry will be announced on Friday of Grey Cup week in Edmonton (TSN.ca, 11/7).

NEED TO BUILD: LeBlanc said, "For this to become a reality, we have to have a stadium. We have started those conversations with Halifax Regional Municipality, with the province. We have been working an enormous amount of time on finding the right location. It took us longer than we expected but we couldn’t be happier with where we are right now." In Halifax, Francis Campbell in a front-page piece notes the group is looking to "secure an eight-hectare piece of land in Dartmouth’s Shannon Park on which to build" a $190M, 24,000-seat stadium. The ownership group "plans to contribute a significant amount of private capital toward the purchase of the Shannon Park property and has approached HRM with a tax increment financing proposition in which the new stadium would provide a catalyst for other development in the park." LeBlanc said that he will have a more "concrete financial proposal to bring to city staff in the next three or four weeks." He said that a stadium will "take about 18 to 22 months to build" and that it is imperative it be "used 12 months of the year." He added that the goal is to field a team by '21, with the "possibility of starting a season in Moncton while the Halifax stadium is under construction" (Halifax CHRONICLE HERALD, 11/8).