MLB is "requesting the return of its $5,000 donation" to the campaign of U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), which has been "roiled in recent weeks by revelations that she made a controversial allusion to lynching," according to Felicia Sonmez of the WASHINGTON POST. MLB Chief Communications Officer Pat Courtney in a statement said that the donation "'was made in connection with an event that MLB lobbyists were asked to attend' and that MLB has requested that it be returned." News of the donation was "first reported Saturday by the political newsletter Popular Information" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/26). In N.Y., David Waldstein writes the donation is "embarrassing to MLB, which has several initiatives to promote diversity and inclusion in its sport." Many of Hyde-Smith's comments "appear to contradict baseball's mission." The Hyde-Smith campaign "reported its contributions" to the FEC on Nov. 23, which was "almost two weeks after the public hanging comments were made." But MLB said that the donation was made "earlier in the month at a political event by MLB lobbyists who were unaware of her remarks." MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred's office has its "own political action committee and donates to politicians on both sides of the aisle to help promote its causes in Congress, like protecting MLB's antitrust exemption and other legislation, like how teams pay minor league players" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/26).
NOT A GOOD LOOK: Popular Information's Judd Legum, who originally reported the donation, tweeted, "The only reason why MLB is asking for a refund is because people noticed." The Athletic's Eno Sarris: "Donating *yesterday* to this specific candidate given what she’s said and what has come to light does not the seem the same as their garden variety r and d donations." The Atlantic's Jemele Hill: "Please MLB, do continue to tell us how much people of color matter and the importance of Jackie Robinson’s legacy." The Nation's Dave Zirin: "Their efforts to get the donation returned is pure 'cover your ass.'" ESPN's Keith Olbermann: "@mlb and Commissioner Manfred have caused themselves a titanic problem. ... Their donation was made after 7 major corporations recanted similar donations." Former MLBer Brandon McCarthy: "Criminals and racists should get no donations- regardless of their chances of winning." Podcaster Patrick Monahan: "In MLB’s defense, if your lobbyists get the chance to pay $5K to stand around and eat mini crab cakes in the general vicinity of a junior senator from a state without a franchise who’s most prominently known for doing and saying a bunch of racist stuff, you gotta take that chance" (TWITTER.com, 11/25).
AWKWARD SITUATION: In S.F., Henry Schulman noted Giants co-Owner Charles Johnson and his wife Ann "each donated the maximum $2,700" to Hyde-Smith's campaign last Tuesday, "nine days after her 'public hanging' comment surfaced." Meanwhile, election filings from last month also showed Charles Johnson "donated $1,000 to a Super PAC called Black Americans for the President's Agenda, which created a racist robocall used during an Arkansas congressional election before the midterms" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/24). YAHOO SPORTS' Ryan Young wrote not only can Johnson's donation "make it awkward for Giants fans -- considering San Francisco is one of the more diverse and liberal-leaning cities in the United States -- but it could make for an awkward situation for the entire league and baseball fans across the country" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/24).
The CFL and Mexico's Liga de Futbol Americano Professional are "officially partners" after CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie and LFA officials Oscar Perez and Alejandro Jaimes "signed a letter of intent Friday to work together on several projects," according to Dan Ralph of the CP. There had been "talk of a CFL regular-season game being played in Mexico City as early as next year." But a league official said that due to logistics, a "more likely scenario is for that to happen" in '20. The letter of intent was officially signed "following Ambrosie's annual state of the union address" (CP, 11/23). POSTMEDIA NEWS' Dan Barnes reported pending the signing of a new CBA between the CFL and the CFL Players Association, "at least one and as many as two Mexican players will suit up for each of the nine CFL teams next year." The potential regular-season game in Mexico in '20 will "most likely involve teams representing the CFL's so-called 'international cities' of Montreal and Toronto." Jaimes said that the Mexican government will "help defray some operational expenses." Barnes noted what will "most definitely happen right away is a scouting combine in Mexico City." In January, about 40 or 50 Mexican players will "run through traditional combine drills in front of 18 CFL scouts ... and 10 CFL head office officials." The goal is to "identify players who will be signed as free agents by CFL teams and will attend training camps after the LFA season wraps in early May" (POSTMEDIA NEWS, 11/23).
QUESTIONS BEING ASKED: In Edmonton, Terry Jones wrote although last night's Grey Cup game was broadcast in Spanish on Mexican TV, the CFL-LFA partnership is "all pretty vague stuff and didn't seem to move the dial with anybody." It is "hard to get excited about a few Mexican kickers and a place for Canadian college grads to play and possibly develop when the three biggest markets in the CFL -- Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal -- all have major attendance issues" (EDMONTON SUN, 11/24). In Vancouver, Ed Willes wrote under the header, "CFL's Deal With Mexican League Smacks Of Desperation." Willes: "Maybe this can work. In his short time on the job, we've seen Ambrosie doesn't discourage easily." Mexico also "offers a market of 120 million and the game has a following there." Maybe it "won't be a home run for the CFL but a standup double would be helpful." There is a sense, after all, that the league has "maxed out its revenue streams in Canada, that any future growth in our country would be incremental at best." But Mexico "can't be seen as a magic bullet" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 11/25).
LONG OVERDUE: SPORTSNET.ca's Eric Francis noted the CFL is "finally promising to move its schedule up a week" in an "effort to attract more spectators and enjoy better weather for more of the season." Ambrosie said the league already has an "agreement to move the Grey Cup game in 2020 up one week earlier." Francis noted the move has been "afoot for a while to make the CFL playoffs more palatable for those hoping to attend games, especially in the west." Next year's schedule, which will culminate with the championship game in Calgary, will be "unaffected by the schedule change" (SPORTSNET.ca, 11/23).
PIVOTAL MOMENT: TSN.ca's Dave Naylor wrote the past 10-15 years "represent a period of relative stability" for the CFL, but that "relative calm is about to give way to a wave of challenges and opportunities that will test the league's leadership and have a significant impact on its future." Ambrosie has been on the job for 16 months and is "popular with the fans and the media and apparently well-supported by his board of governors." But he will "need that kind of backing in order to steer the league through some considerable obstacles and capitalize on potential opportunities." One "opportunity for the league" is expansion into Halifax (TSN.ca, 11/23).
The NLL and Professional Lacrosse Players Association have "finalized a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement, ending the bitter labor dispute" that forced the league to "cancel the first two weeks" of the '18-19 season, according to Matt Dasilva of US LACROSSE MAGAZINE. The new agreement is for a "five-year term." Former NLL player and Major Series Lacrosse league Brooklin Redmen GM Brad MacArthur tweeted that the compromise is a "'mid-length deal with (an) opt-out provision,' with both sides committed to continue negotiations on a long-term CBA." The NLL had previously "stood by its seven-year proposal tendered Oct. 31, rejecting one- and two-year counteroffers by the PLPA before arriving at this agreement." With a new deal in place, it "paves the way for players to report to training camps" this weekend, with the season starting Dec. 15. There were "no reports indicating the NLL would reschedule the seven games that were canceled as a result of the impasse" (USLAXMAGAZINE.com, 11/24).