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Volume 26 No. 5

Leagues and Governing Bodies

The NHL has "reached settlements in its concussion litigation with at least 137 former players," according to Rick Westhead of TSN.ca. There were 318 former players, including 146 named plaintiffs, who were "eligible for a settlement." Players who accept the settlement will "receive at least $22,000," and the league also "agreed to fund neuropsychological testing and reimburse up to $75,000 in medical treatment expenses for players who qualify." The NHL, which "denied any liability in the settlement, also promised to create a 'common good' fund" worth more than $2.5M. The settlement is "expected to cost" the NHL a combined $18.9M. Former NHLers Dan Carcillo and Nick Boynton and the families of the late Todd Ewen and Steve Montador have "not agreed to a settlement and have said they are moving forward with individual lawsuits against the NHL" (TSN.ca, 5/6).

BACK TO COURT: The ATLANTIC's Nicolas Pollock noted Kelli Ewen, Todd Ewen's widow, last week "filed a lawsuit against the NHL in relation to his death." Todd Ewen believed he had CTE prior to his death in '15, and Kelli after his death had his brain sent to neuropathologist Lili-Naz Hazrati to be "analyzed for evidence of the disease." Hazrati found CTE was not present, but a re-examination last year by a different doctor "concluded that he in fact did have CTE." In the three-year interim between diagnoses, the NHL "employed Hazrati in its defense of the players’ ongoing head-injury class-action suit." Hazrati in her '15 report "cited Todd’s negative CTE diagnosis to refute a causal link between hockey and CTE." Kelli Ewen’s new lawsuit "could set a precedent for players who don’t accept the settlement and instead pursue their own suits." The NHL "used Ewen’s initial negative diagnosis as a shield during one of its most public confrontations with the demons circling hockey." The league now "might have less to defend itself with in a looming next round of court battles, when players and their families could again press" NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and his colleagues to "reflect on the possibility of hockey’s danger -- and to do more to guard against injury (THEATLANTIC.com, 5/6).

LEAGUE SPEAK: A HAMILTON SPECTATOR editorial states that Bettman continuing to deny a link between hockey and CTE "is offensive." By denying the evidence, Bettman is "hoping to keep the teams' owners, the people he represents, from having to pay out in the future." Lawsuits "settle with the past" and they are "less concerned with what is to come." It is the "league's job, not the courts, to effect appropriate, helpful change to improve" the game. All athletes, from "highly paid pros to impressionable young amateurs, deserve better from someone who claims to be an expert in his sport" (HAMILTON SPECTATOR, 5/7).

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver believes the league and the NBPA need to consider whether 82 is the "right number of games" for the regular season with more players sitting out due to load management. Silver was in Houston for last night's Warriors-Rockets Game 4 and noted the NBA has "changed in dramatic ways, especially over the past decade." He said, "If players can barely play in all those games, maybe the schedule's too long and maybe we've got to take a fresh look at how we structure the season." The league has played an 82-game schedule since the '67-68 season. Silver said a potentially shorter season would be considered because the "fan has to be first." Silver: "The fans vote every day by deciding whether to listen to your telecast or watch us on television or buy a ticket. I have to be very careful -- this is a fragile ecosystem. Ultimately, the fans are saying, 'We're not going to pay for those games and we're not going to watch those games where your players aren't playing'" ("Warriors-Rockets," ESPN Radio, 5/6).

MLB has made it clear it wants players like Anderson to have fun and enjoy the game
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

White Sox SS Tim Anderson is "determined to find a place in baseball's public consciousness" by adding some personality to the game, and one of his "staunchest allies to tear up the unwritten rules" is MLB itself, according to Peter Abraham of the BOSTON GLOBE. The league has "made it clear: Enjoy the moment." MLB Senior VP/Marketing Barbara McHugh said that feedback from fans on social media to the league's "Let The Kids Play" campaign has been "positive." Red Sox P Rick Porcello said that he "finds it 'tricky'" that MLB is trying to take baseball "in a certain direction." Porcello said, "You can say they are guys having fun or guys are showing up the guy on the mound and showing poor sportsmanship. There's no right or wrong answer." He added, "Be honest, the game's not about pitchers anymore. It's about the ball getting hit over the fence" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/5). MLB Network's Joel Sherman said, "The players need to get together amongst themselves and decide what the culture of the game is and what is allowed. ... Do I love it? It doesn't matter if I love it. This is what guys today want to do. Let them do it." MLB Network's John Hart said Anderson is a "guy who is going to have fun." Hart: "Maybe he won't taunt but if he wants to throw his bat and flip his bat, it's okay if that's his style and the way he wants to go about it" ("MLB Now," MLB Network, 5/6).

Gimelstob was one of the main drivers behind the rejection of a contract extension for Chris Kermode
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

ATP Player Council President Novak Djokovic said that former ATP BOD member Justin Gimelstob made a "'wise decision' to step down" from the board, but also "suggested he might make a return in the future," according to Rohith Nair of REUTERS. Djokovic said, “It’s unfortunate because I think he has been probably the biggest asset that players had in the last 10-plus years that he’s been on the tour." Tennis players Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer have both "welcomed Gimelstob’s resignation." Federer said that he "thought Gimelstob’s exit could pave the way" for ATP President & Exec Chair Chris Kermode to stay in his position beyond '19. Gimelstob was "one of the main drivers behind the rejection of a contract extension" for Kermode in March and was at one stage "spoken of as a potential replacement for Kermode." Djokovic, the most prominent player to back Kermode’s ousting, said that he was "not opposed to Kermode applying to stay on if he got enough support" (REUTERS, 5/7).

NADAL ALSO SPEAKS OUT: METRO's George Bellshaw notes Rafael Nadal believes that Gimelstob's decision to step away was the "'ideal' scenario" while he also "defended his silence on the situation." Wawrinka last week "wrote a scathing letter" in the London Times about Gimelstob. He wrote, "This is a situation where silence amounts to complicity." While Gimelstob's exit was "welcomed" by Nadal, he "clearly does not subscribe to Wawrinka's viewpoint." Nadal: "I just believe that we don't need to add more things about the problem. I don't think or speak in public or in the press about this stuff. ... The last couple of months have been a lot of things going on in our sport, so I don't want to create more stories or more negative stories about our sport. We have a great sport and what we all want is to keep having a great sport and speak only about the negative things in our sport is something that probably is not my job and is something that I don't want" (METRO, 5/7).

The AAF ceasing operations will allow its former players to seek opportunities in the new XFL
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The same potential audience that may be interested in the XFL "just watched another start-up league go down in flames" in the AAF, which makes Vince McMahon's league's sell "that much harder," according to Dan Greene of SI. XFL Commissioner & CEO Oliver Luck said the AAF folding in April is a "bit of a double-edged sword." Greene notes on the plus side, more players and coaches are "available and looking for work." But Luck said on the other hand, "It casts a little bit of a pall over spring football. It's number whatever in the litany of failed spring leagues." Luck added, "It gives us a chance to explain why we're gonna be different." Greene notes the first iteration of the XFL "represented the most ballyhooed pro sports league launch the U.S. has ever seen, yet it petered into oblivion." Luck said, "We want everybody to remember: We flopped the first time around. We gotta do it different" (SI.com, 5/6).

NETWORKING SKILLS: In L.A., Arash Markazi writes it "makes sense to compare the start of the XFL next year to the ill-fated" AAF, but it is "hard to see the league folding after it announced its TV deal" with ESPN and Fox. Every XFL game will be "nationally televised" starting next February. Markazi: "Say what you will about the league, but it's probably going to be easier to watch an XFL game than a Dodgers game next year in L.A." (L.A. TIMES, 5/7). In Chattanooga, Jay Greeson wrote the "winning piece of the XFL's TV deal" is that it will be on ESPN. That is "so huge," just "ask NASCAR." Gleeson: "Take less money and get on the four-letter network -- as well as ABC occasionally -- means the most powerful platform in sports will be talking about and covering your sport" (TIMESFREEPRESS.com, 5/6). ESPN's Mike Ryan Ruiz said Fox and ESPN are "great media partners for the XFL to have," whereas the AAF had CBSSN, which "didn't have great reach." Ruiz added the AAF did have network television on CBS but "no real cable network to promote it" ("The Dan Le Batard Show," ESPN Radio, 5/6). 

LEARN FROM OTHERS' MISTAKES: AD AGE's Anthony Crupi wrote the success of the XFL will "depend almost entirely on the quality of football it can muster up," though its "big-reach schedule offers the league a greater pool of potential converts than the AAF could expect from its own distribution scheme" (ADAGE.com, 5/6). CBS Sports' Boomer Esiason said the XFL's TV deal will "help sustain some sponsorships and hopefully sustain a league where the guys don't have to worry about whether or not the league is going to fold." Esiason: "That was part of the problem with the AAF, they said they had these TV deals. You were paying to be on TV, TV wasn't paying you to be on TV" ("Boomer and Gio," CBS Sports Radio, 5/6).