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Volume 25 No. 177

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Eric Bieniemy was initially thought to be a head coaching target for many NFL teams
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The Bengals are nearing a deal to hire Rams assistant Zac Taylor as their coach, leaving the Dolphins as the last of eight NFL teams changing coaches this offseason "to prevent the shutout" of minority candidates, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. The "lack of diversity in these hires is striking" ("Get Up," ESPN, 1/11). In Miami, Armando Salguero reports the Fritz Pollard Alliance has been "surprised" that no minority coach "has been tapped during the current hiring cycle." FPA Chair John Wooten is not necessarily "happy with how things have transpired so far." Wooten said, "I'm very much surprised at some of the hirings that have been done so far. Like anything else, different people like different things." Salguero notes the FPA annually "supplies the NFL with a list of minority candidates it believes worthy of consideration for open jobs." Wooten said, "We thought there would be probably four (minority) possibilities particular teams would go for. The surprise, if you could call it that, was the Arizona hiring. That was a little bit surprising." However, he does feel comfortable that all of the coaching searches have had a "diversity of interviews" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/10). The Undefeated’s Jason Reid acknowledged the hiring cycle has not been “very good for the Rooney Rule.” Reid: "The rule is just saying that you have to have an open mind, have an open process in bringing these people in. But eventually if they're not getting hired, that's a problem" (“OTL,” ESPN, 1/10).

SHAME GAME: USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes it is time to "call what's going on in the NFL for what it really is." Armour: "Over the last two weeks, we've seen certain coaches get jobs and interviews while others are given a once-over -- maybe -- and told better luck next time. The only difference being the color of their skin." NFL owners are "due every bit of criticism and condemnation coming their way." Owners are "fine having black and brown men on their teams," but it rarely gets to the point where they "would hire someone of color to run those teams, be it on the field or in the front office." Armour: "Year after year, the problem persists, and it's shameful" (USA TODAY, 1/11). The AP's Tim Dahlberg notes just one black coach has been hired in the last two years, which is a "troubling trend in a league dominated by black players." Dahlberg: "Cyclical or not, that’s not the number envisioned by the NFL when the Rooney Rule was put in 16 years ago" (AP, 1/9). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Darin Gantt wrote the problem "remains systemic." With the "majority of head coaching hires going to offensive assistants, and the vast majority of those jobs being held by non-minorities, the lack of options in the pipeline will only exacerbate what is already a significant problem" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 1/10).

The NHL and NHLPA each have the option this September to terminate the current CBA
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The NHL and NHLPA will continue their labor negotiations next week after meeting for "more than two hours Thursday to talk about a CBA extension that could pave the way for a World Cup of Hockey" in '20, according to Stephen Whyno of the AP. The current CBA runs through '22, but the NHL and NHLPA "each have the option this September to terminate it effective Sept. 15, 2020." Because a World Cup of Hockey would take place prior to the '20 season, the NHL has "linked labor peace to the ability to put on another version of the tournament." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly have stated that a new CBA would "need to be in place by around the end of January to begin planning a World Cup," though it is "not clear if enough progress has been made to make that a realistic objective." The World Cup of Hockey, where "revenues were split evenly" in '16 between owners and players, would "seem to be a subject of agreement." However, because of "escrow, the Olympics and other issues" in CBA negotiations, there is "no simple path to a solution" (AP, 1/10).

HOLD THE LINE: MFive Sports' Anton Thun said that the union engaging in CBA talks linked to the World Cup of Hockey deadline is a "massive tactical error." The longtime agent said, "It's a travesty. For an international hockey calendar or a World Cup of Hockey in 2020 to have any impact at all or be the reason for hastening CBA talks does not make any sense. The World Cup of Hockey in 2016 did not advance hockey to the world." Thun also questioned whether or not NHLPA Exec Dir Donald Fehr has "received a mandate from the union to conduct preliminary CBA negotiations." Thun: "Until the players themselves have defined specific goals, and each player has insight as to what those goals are, I do not think there should be any CBA negotiations taking place" (TSN.ca, 1/10).

HELD IN ESCROW: Octagon's Allan Walsh said the "primary issue for players is escrow and finding a way to ease the burden." He noted players are currently seeing 13.5% of their paychecks "withheld, and that's off the top." The agent added that players in Canadian markets are in the 50% plus tax bracket in some places, meaning 63.5-68% of their pay checks are "gone." Walsh: "That's the biggest issue. ... Clearly any new deal going forward has to in some way address the escrow burden on players." SPORTSNET.ca's Mike Johnston noted participation in the '22 Beijing Games "could be another point of contention in negotiations" (SPORTSNET.ca, 1/10). SPORTSNET.ca's Elliotte Friedman wrote escrow issue is "complicated," as capping or re-working the formula "will take major concessions from the NHLPA." There is "really not much wiggle room because there is little incentive for the NHL to budge." Friedman: "If I were in the union, I would work backwards, knowing that the league would probably want to decrease the length of the maximum contract and limit the amount of signing bonuses on contracts" (SPORTSNET.ca, 1/9).

Bryce Harper is entering the prime of his career, but only several teams have shown interest in him
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MLB has developed an "off-season problem" the last couple years, as "nothing interesting happens for huge stretches" during the free agent signing period, according to Cathal Kelly of the GLOBE & MAIL. The winter has become a "protracted staring contest as everyone strings matters out" until the start of Spring Training. What should be "months of news is crammed into a few days." MLB seemingly can "only create tension for two months of the year -- September and October" -- and it "can’t manufacture interest during the off-season, it has badly failed" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/11). USA TODAY's Gabe Lacques wrote it is "hard to escape one thought as the game takes what’s usually its most abundant season for free publicity and turns it into a death march: Baseball is screwing itself." It is "fair to wonder at what point this inertia -- and dozens of teams’ unwillingness to compete in earnest for the greatest players -- will have a drag on fan enthusiasm" (USA TODAY, 1/8).

JUST DO IT: THE ATHLETIC's Jim Bowden wrote the "most disappointing part of this offseason" has been that "more clubs aren’t in" on either Bryce Harper or Manny Machado. Just about every team "should be bidding ... regardless of their major league payroll." It is understandable some teams "don’t want to go 10 years" with the offers, but both Harper and Machado "will still only be in their age-35 seasons" at that point. It is "astonishing" that someone like Harper, who "could be one of the greatest offensive players of this generation, only has a handful of teams competing for him" (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/9). THE RINGER's Zach Kram wrote, "Every team should want Machado and Harper because they are young and talented and available just for money, with no prospect demands or tricky trade fits needed." Some 10-year deals "prove vast overpays in the long run, but that’s typically a reflection of those deals going to older players rather than long contracts representing sour investments in and of themselves." Machado and Harper are "special" (THERINGER.com, 1/10). In DC, Barry Svrluga writes 10-year contracts cause owners and front offices "to get queasy" because they are "tying up an inordinate amount of payroll in a player whose performance five years from now, eight years from now, a decade from now is nearly impossible to project." Svrluga: "None of that really applies to Harper" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/11).

NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE: In Philadelphia, Corey Seidman wrote the "'middle class' of baseball players is no longer getting paid like it was" from '07-'16. Front offices are "smarter now and more shrewd with their investments," which means "fewer albatross contracts and probably more profits for owners." However, does that "benefit the common baseball fan in any way?" Phillies RF Andrew McCutchen is the only "position player who has signed a contract guaranteeing more" than $10M over at least three years. That is a "decline from even last offseason, which was a bad one for players" (NBCSPORTSPHILADELPHIA.com, 1/10).

More than half of the NWSL '19 schedule will be played after the Women's World Cup this summer
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The "heightened focus and interest" around women's soccer this year due to the FIFA Women's World Cup taking place in June is something NWSL Managing Dir of Operations Amanda Duffy "hopes to capitalize on while she continues to lead the growth" of the league, according to Alicia DelGallo of PRO SOCCER USA. More than half of the league's games this season "will be on the backside of the World Cup, which concludes July 7, and the schedule will allow for more Saturday-night games." Duffy said, "As players that are coming out of NWSL will be playing in the Women's World Cup ... we feel like we're going to have a strong showing and there will be a lot of conversation and attention that will be put specifically on NWSL for that reason." Duffy added that she has seen "increased interest in the league from various potential partners" for '19. DelGallo noted the NWSL has a "plan for expansion, but anyone who expected new teams to join the league immediately will have to wait." Duffy said that the "timeline for expansion" is '20, and that the league is "focused on finding smart expansion markets with the infrastructure to support and lift the quality of the league." She also said that she "expects NWSL to continue working closely with MLS and USL." Duffy: "We see that there are MLS teams, MLS markets that would be a real benefit to our geographic footprint, and there are some USL markets that would be a great addition to our geographic footprint. ... Some markets where there's some crossover there that could make some sense" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 1/9).

INCREASE TO ROSTERS, SALARY CAP: In Portland, Jamie Goldberg noted the NWSL has "increased its roster size and salary cap" for the '19 season. Rosters will "expand to a minimum of 20 players and a maximum of 22 players." The salary cap will be $421,500, as the "minimum player salary will rise to $16,538, while the maximum salary will rise to $46,200." The league is adding "four supplemental roster spots" for teams that will be comprised of players making the league minimum and "will not count against the salary cap" (OREGONLIVE.com, 1/10).