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Volume 26 No. 47

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Drake was seen massaging coach Nick Nurse during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked to rapper Drake about toning down his courtside antics during Raptors games following criticism of his actions during the Eastern Conference Finals. Drake, who serves as an official ambassador for the team, was animated during all three games at Scotiabank Arena, including giving Raptors coach Nick Nurse a brief massage during Game 4. Silver, during an appearance on Yahoo Sports' "Posted Up" podcast yesterday said, "We appreciate how big a fan he is, and I know the Raptors do. ... He's a global star, so it's a huge deal that he's so engaged with the team and loves the NBA so much. Obviously there are some lines that ambassadors shouldn't cross." Silver added, "Drake understands that as excited as he is and as appreciative as we are of his support, that there's got to be lines drawn, and you don't want to end up touching a coach. There's a line, too, in terms of sitting on the floor and in terms of engagement, whether it's with the referees and players of other teams. ... There's conversation that's taken place but it's more just 'Alright, let's just find where the right line is.' But Drake's great" ("Posted Up," SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/29).

GIVEN WARNINGS BEFORE: USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt notes this "isn’t the first time the league stepped [in] to address Drake’s sideline antics." The rapper during the Raptors' playoff series against the Cavaliers last year got into a "shouting match" with Cavs C Kendrick Perkins. The two "had to be separated," leading the NBA to issue Drake a "warning." The Raptors in '13 gave Drake the "official title of global brand ambassador, and the Raptors have partnered with Drake’s OVO brand (record label, apparel, music festival) on multiple initiatives." The team’s practice facility is called the OVO Athletic Centre (USA TODAY, 5/30). ESPN.com's Michele Steele noted Silver "issued a memo earlier this year reminding the league's franchises to state and enforce their fan-conduct policies." Meanwhile, the Warriors have "downplayed Drake's presence" ahead of the NBA Finals (ESPN.com, 5/29).

NONSTOP: THE RINGER's Lindsay Zoladz writes under the header, "Drake Is The True Villain Of The NBA Finals." It is "perhaps the only thing we can all agree upon as a nation, if not an entire species existing within an interconnected biosphere: Drake needs to cool it when sitting courtside at basketball games." Massaging Nurse "wasn’t an isolated incident, of course," as Drake has spent the Raptors' entire playoffs run "springing to his feet at random like an oddly emotive jack-in-the-box." Zoladz: "I'm all for celebrities ... having fun at basketball games. But what Drake has been doing this season feels different, more disruptive, more About Him" (THERINGER.com, 5/30). THE GUARDIAN's Aaron Timms writes Drake has "exploited every avenue possible to make the story of this exceptional Raptors postseason about him rather than the team." Timms: "We’ve come a long way since the days of Jack Nicholson in his shades at the Great Western Forum. ... Today’s celebrity fan is ... the type of person who does not simply want to appreciate great feats of athleticism from a respectful distance but be right there in the thick of things, firing the troops up, goading the enemy, living the highs, suffering together through the lows" (THEGUARDIAN.com, 5/30).

WHAT'S WRONG WITH A LITTLE FUN? The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes Canadians "seem mildly embarrassed by the whole thing." Kelly: "Why does Drake have to be so, I don’t know, garish?" Though Drake gets an "outrageous amount of press, very little of it is devoted to how much good he does on behalf of the side." Drake is an "unironic example of how boosterism should work in a place that gets itchy at the thought of self-promotion." Kelly: "Drake is a mirror, reflecting the best part of the city back at the rest of us. The one that believes in itself and isn’t afraid to say so. ... Everyone’s welcome into the tent that Drake is helping erect. All you have to do is show up and agree that having fun is fun" (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/30).

THE TALK OF THE TOWN: Drake's presence and antics were a big topic during the opening panel yesterday at the ’19 Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit. See THE DAILY's recap of the panel to see what top execs from AT&T and BMO Financial said about the rapper.

It is not clear if there is much support from the players to expand the season to 18 games
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Some NFL owners "favor revisiting the possibility of an 18-game regular season or an expanded playoff field" amid "intensifying negotiations on a new labor deal," according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Many owners seem "willing to make concessions to the union on the commissioner's disciplinary authority and the sport's marijuana policy." A high-ranking team official said that there are "some owners who would like to expand the season" to 18 games, adding that it is "not clear 'if there is much support from the players on that.'" The official also said, "The commissioner discipline and marijuana policy will come up at some point, and I suspect the owners will be a little more flexible on both subjects." Maske notes NFLPA leaders "warned players and their agents to be prepared for a potential work stoppage." However, the league and the union recently have "begun to forge a more cooperative relationship after years of combativeness." That "spirit of cooperation has sparked hope within the sport that a new labor deal could be struck in advance of the expiration of this CBA and avoid a work stoppage." Maske notes it is not clear "how many owners want an 18-game season or how hard they would push on the issue if the players remain firmly opposed." For some owners, one potential "revenue-boosting alternative to the 18-game season" would be "increasing the NFL's playoff field from 12 to 14 teams" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 5/29).

EARLY STAGES: ESPN's Dan Graziano said it is still "very early" in the CBA negotiations, and the two sides are "sketching out where each other stands on key issues, what the priorities are going to be." Graziano said, "You'll see it talked about in terms of, can the players get back some of the revenue share that they gave away last time? Can the owners get fresh stadium credits for new construction, renovation on the stadium projects they want to do?" He added players will bring up "issues like the franchise tag, and how long rookie contracts are and how long it takes to get to free agency." More Graziano: "I don't know that there's going to be major movement on those kinds of fronts, but you already see some of the ancillary stuff, some of the non-economic stuff coming to fruition" ("OTL," ESPN, 5/28).

FRIENDLY DIALOGUE: PFT's Mike Florio said for now, "everything is friendly and collegial" between the NFL and NFLPA in their CBA negotiations, despite the NFLPA's letter warning players to "save money and prepare for a work stoppage that would last at least one year." Florio said, "This is an obvious reaction because you can't have anyone with their guard down, especially from the players' perspective. You can't have players just assuming, 'Oh, we'll get a deal done,' because the owners will see that and they will see it as weakness and they will pounce." NBCSN's Chris Simms said it is "smart" for the NFLPA to prepare for a work stoppage, because when it "shows you're prepared to do something, the other side loses a little leverage in their negotiations." He added, "But it doesn't seem like it's going to an ugly fight this time around" ("PFT," NBCSN, 5/29).

Little is known about Stewart's role, partially because the exact nature of her work hasn't been determined
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

The WNBA's decision to make Seattle Storm F Breanna Stewart a league "ambassador" for this season after her injury while playing overseas has left WNBA players, GMs, coaches and agents with "many questions about it -- including how and when the agreement came about, what it entails, and what it means for the future," according to Mechelle Voepel of ESPN.com. Too few details "have been shared by the WNBA, in part because the exact nature of Stewart's work for the league still hasn't been determined." Voepel: "Is this really the start of a program that the WNBA will use to compensate players, specifically when they are hurt?" NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Mark Tatum: "The conversations that we've been having with the players' association is that in the future, there will be many more of these." But the WNBA "didn't say any of this last week when the news was reported." The league also said that it "made agreements in the past with some players like Tamika Catchings and Swin Cash to do promotional work in and out of season for a lump sum." But this is "believed to be the first time an injured player will get a contract to work for the league during the season and receive a salary that's in excess of her projected base salary had she played" (ESPN.com, 5/29).

FOLLOW THE MAMBA: In L.A., Arash Markazi noted Kobe Bryant's support of women’s basketball is "invaluable for a league still dealing with negativity from some men." L.A. Sparks F Chiney Ogwumike said, “People need to follow Kobe’s lead, and I’m not just talking about NBA players. I’m so glad the players come and support us, but just men in general. ... But you will have a daughter, and I bet you would want your daughter to play in the WNBA if she’s good at basketball. So follow his lead" (L.A. TIMES, 5/28).

IN-DEPTH: In Minneapolis, Kent Youngblood noted "much has been made recently of the need for the WNBA to expand, citing the quality of players who have been unable to make rosters." But the "big pipeline created by having more women playing the sport continues to elevate the league’s level of play." Minnesota Lynx C Sylvia Fowles said that the depth of talent in the league is the "most impressive she’s seen in her decade-plus career" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/29).