Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 26 No. 210

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Playing surface issues were minor this time compared to last year's complications that forced a venue change
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Playing surface issues were minor this time compared to last year's complications that forced a venue change
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Playing surface issues were minor this time compared to last year's complications that forced a venue change
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Chiefs' win over the Chargers on "MNF" in Mexico last night was a "competitive and captivating game on a night in which the NFL wanted to showcase what it hopes is its broadening international appeal," according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. There appeared to be "some issues with the playing surface," but they were "minor compared with last year's complications that forced the change of venue" for Chiefs-Rams. The NFL's return to Mexico "came at a time when the league is putting a particular emphasis on international games." The NFL and NFLPA currently are negotiating the next CBA, and there are "burgeoning hopes that the deal will be completed in the coming months with a 17-game regular season as part of the pact." If so, that would possibly "leave each NFL team playing one international game per year in future seasons." The NFL "hoped to be able to stage an entertaining and glitch-free game" last night, and "for the most part, it seemed to do so" (WASHINGTON POST, 11/19). The AP's Greg Beacham notes Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday met with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, with the league and federal government "considering extending the Mexico game series beyond its current deal" through '21 (AP, 11/19).

SURFACE LEVEL CONCERNS: ESPN's Scott Van Pelt said going into the game, there was "concern given the field issues last year," and before the game began "we noticed some of the turf was coming up, but it appeared over the course of the game that everything was fine" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/19). PFT's Mike Florio said the turf was "torn up and they had a small army of grounds crew out on the field at halftime, but the reviews were mixed." Many of the players were "fine with the field." NBCSN's Chris Simms said, "There were some chunks of sod coming up during the game, (to the point) where I was going, 'Man, if a superstar gets hurt out here on this field tonight, the NFL's never going to hear the end of it'" ("PFT," NBCSN, 11/19). ESPN's Lisa Salters said she spoke to players who all said they were "pleased with the way" the field played. Salters: "They like how it feels under their feet" ("Chiefs-Chargers," ESPN, 11/18).

The broad language in the NFL's waiver would have given the league certain legal protections
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The broad language in the NFL's waiver would have given the league certain legal protections
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The broad language in the NFL's waiver would have given the league certain legal protections
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NFL ahead of Colin Kaepernick's workout on Saturday presented a waiver that "reached beyond the injury protections that are typically afforded to the NFL and its teams" and "contained language that, had Kaepernick signed it, could have given the league footing to argue that he'd signed away some of his employment protections," according to Charles Robinson of YAHOO SPORTS. The workout was a "Trojan horse," and the NFL's "weapon was the waiver planted inside it." Given the "broad language of the waiver, the NFL could have altered any agreements made with Kaepernick, regardless of how damaging those changes or actions might have been" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/18).

THE WINNER BY DECISION...: YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote Kaepernick had "two chances to tip the scales in his favor Saturday." One was to "improve the perception of his talent." The other was to "decrease the perception of his liabilities." It "doesn't appear it went well" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/18). In S.F., Ann Killion writes the "NFL -- unprompted -- created its own bizarre media circus" surrounding Kaepernick. Killion: "We know what Kaepernick's motives are. But what exactly are the NFL's?" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/19). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay writes what "seems certain is that this whole situation is now worse." If the NFL was "hoping for a shot of positivity from this -- praise for an olive branch extended -- that is kaput" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/19). THE UNDEFEATED's William Rhoden wrote Kaepernick "outmaneuvered the NFL." No matter what the league "had in mind, it failed." Kaepernick can "win with his mind" and that is "what he did Saturday." That is what "frightens the NFL" (THEUNDEFEATED.com, 11/18). Former NFLer Donovan McNabb yesterday said the NFL "tried to control everything" with Kaepernick's workout, and it "really made them look bad" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 11/19).

STAYING ON THE SIDELINES: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio notes several reports last week "suggested that Jay-Z had influence over the decision to stage a workout" for Kaepernick. But others connected to the workout "insist that Jay-Z had nothing to do with it, suggesting that he may be simply trying to claim partial credit in order to undo some of the damage done when he partnered with the NFL." Florio: "Whatever Jay-Z's position, why won't he say what it is?" For a guy who "wore a Kaepernick jersey on 'SNL' in the early months of Kaepernick's still-lingering unemployment, the silence over the past week has becoming deafening" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 11/19).

Next summer's 100th anniversary of MiLB in Daytona Beach "should be a happy occasion," but with MLB contemplating eliminating or relocating 42 minor league teams by the end of '20 -- including the Single-A Florida State League Daytona Tortugas -- next summer "could be one long goodbye," according to a front-page piece by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean of the Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL. Tortugas co-Owner Rick French said of MLB's possible overhaul, "We're going to do everything humanly possible to keep that from happening." Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry also is "ready to put up a fight" to keep the Tortugas. He said the club is an "integral part of Daytona Beach." Henry: "They're part of our economic system. It'd be devastating to downtown to lose them." The Tortugas have the second-highest attendance at games among the Florida State League's 12 franchises, averaging 2,116 fans per game (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 11/19). FSL teams averaged 1,255 fans per game in '19. The next-lowest average for a full-season MiLB-affiliated league was the Single-A California League, which averaged 2,342 fans (David Broughton, THE DAILY).

BLUEGRASS BALL: In Kentucky, Musgrave & Desrochers note Single-A South Atlantic League Lexington Legends President & CEO Andy Shea and his family, who own the club, are "still trying to figure out why the Legends were targeted for closure" as part of MLB's overhaul plan. The Legends, who are coming off back-to-back SAL championships, have "just received an award for best Class A minor league team." Shea said, "We have no idea how we ended up on the list." He added that attendance figures have "remained the same over the past few years," but from what they have been told and read in news reports, it "does not appear that attendance or ticket sales were part of MLB's decision-making process" (LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER, 11/19).

POLTICAL SUPPORT: In Rochester, Freile, Lahman & Spector note the Single-A New York-Penn League's Batavia Muckdogs and Auburn Doubledays also "could have their ties to a parent club eliminated" under MLB's plan. U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) in statement said, "America's favorite pastime should not become part of Upstate New York's past." He added, "It's no secret that New York's minor league teams are institutions within their communities, which is why I implore MLB to reconsider any such plans and will be reaching out to them directly to advocate for our New York teams." Schumer said he plans to call MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and "make a strong push" on behalf of the minor league teams that would be affected by this proposal (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 11/19).

SAD STATE OF AFFAIRS: In Daytona Beach, Ken Willis in a front-page piece writes MLB has been on a "slow drip," departing the "collective national consciousness for a couple of generations." Perhaps MLB's leaked plans are "just a first salvo in upcoming negotiations to extend its current agreement" with MiLB, which expires after next season. There also is "no way MLB clears all of the legal and/or congressional road blocks" between now and the end of '20 to "follow through on their wishes." Whether it is "just delayed or scuttled altogether is another story" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 11/19). THE ATHLETIC's John Sickels writes the "plot to kill the minors may or may not be an elaborate bluff," but even if it "does not happen, the fact that it is even being proposed is a bad sign for the future of the game." MLB "needs to grow more fans," and "cutting down on minor league affiliates, especially in such a coldly brutal manner, will reduce the number of fans, not grow that number." Even proposing it in this manner is an "insulting and egregious breaking-of-faith with many communities who have loyally supported their teams over the decades" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/19).

A video monitor at another AL ballpark was not told by MLB to listen for any dugout sounds
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
A video monitor at another AL ballpark was not told by MLB to listen for any dugout sounds
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
A video monitor at another AL ballpark was not told by MLB to listen for any dugout sounds
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

MLB early this past season "instructed video monitors working in Minute Maid Park to listen for banging sounds emanating from the Astros' dugout," according to a source cited by Chandler Rome of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. The Astros allegedly "stole signs" during their '17 World Series-winning season by using a "system that included players banging on trash cans to signal certain pitches." The fact that the league "directed those working at Minute Maid Park to listen for such sounds is an indication the league already had an eye" on the Astros. By comparison, a video monitor working at another AL ballpark said that they "were not 'implicitly told' to listen for any sounds from either dugout" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 11/19). THE ATHLETIC's Rosenthal & Drellich reported an Astros front-office exec "wrote about the team's desire to steal signs" in an email from August '17. As the club "discussed its advance scouting plans ahead of the playoffs, the executive asked the team's scouts to pursue sign stealing from the stands." The email was "sent to multiple people" (THEATHLETIC.com, 11/19).

MANFRED'S MOMENT: In Boston, Sean McAdam wrote Rob Manfred's legacy as commissioner "may depend more on how he navigates the perilous labor path between now and the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement and whether he can effect meaningful gains in the sport's turgid pace of play." However, everyone "will be watching" the Astros situation "closely." Manfred has been "confronted with an issue that impacts the game's integrity." The "absolute worst thing that can happen to any sport is having paying customers doubt the authenticity of the outcome" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 11/16). In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes the whole of MLB's power base "acted too slowly on the steroid issue," so the commissioner "must empower his investigators to go to the limit to learn what they can learn and punish harshly the wrongdoers regardless of title" (N.Y. POST, 11/19). ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote as Manfred again is "weighing discipline against one of the teams that employs him, the broad perception of him among clubs is that he needs to be tougher if he truly wants to create change." If Manfred wants to change behavior -- and the "perception of how toothless his decisions have been -- he might not have a choice but to go big in his sanctions" (ESPN.com, 11/17).

NEED TO MOVE QUICKLY: On Long Island, David Lennon asked, "Can you imagine the next-level catastrophe this whole sign-stealing debacle would have been if the Astros had taken the trophy for the second time in three years?" The "stain of a dirty champion is more difficult to rinse off when it happens to be the reigning one." MLB "wants to put this sign-stealing circus behind it as soon as possible." Lennon: "The paranoia is always going to be there, but the sport needs to silence any rumblings of impropriety. Maybe the best they can hope for is turning down the volume for a while" (NEWSDAY, 11/17).

Tsitsipas on Sunday became the youngest debutant to win the ATP Finals since John McEnroe in '78
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Tsitsipas on Sunday became the youngest debutant to win the ATP Finals since John McEnroe in '78
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Tsitsipas on Sunday became the youngest debutant to win the ATP Finals since John McEnroe in '78
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Tennis has been "crying out for a member of the next generation to end the dominance of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at the grand-slam tournaments," and it "looks increasingly likely that Stefanos Tsitsipas will be the man responsible" for making that happen, according to Stuart Fraser of the LONDON TIMES. At just 21, Tsitsipas' victory over Dominic Thiem at the ATP Finals on Sunday "meant he became the youngest debutant to win the season-ending championships" since 19-year-old John McEnroe in '78. After "proving that he is more than capable of beating the greatest players in the world over the best of three sets," the next step for Tsitsipas is to "do it consistently over the best of five." Next season, he will attempt to "become the first non-big three member to win a grand-slam title" since Stan Wawrinka at the '16 U.S. Open (LONDON TIMES, 11/18). In N.Y., Cindy Shmerler noted it was the first ATP Finals appearance for Tsitsipas, who is "still young enough to play in the NextGen Finals." However, when he qualified for the ATP Finals, he withdrew from the NextGen event and "did not look back" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/18).

NEXT BIG THING? In London, Mike Dickson wrote Tsitsipas' victory is "another indicator that the guard may be slowly changing as the eternal wait for a new men's Grand Slam winner stretches on" (London DAILY MAIL, 11/18). The AAP's Martyn Herman wrote Tsitsipas being crowned ATP Finals champion "felt like a watershed moment" (AAP, 11/18). In London, Simon Briggs wrote tennis "saw the future on Sunday at the O2 Arena." But observers must "be careful here." Many in the sport were "making grand predictions about Grigor Dimitrov when he won the ATP Finals" in '17, and then "made the same mistake when Alexander Zverev triumphed last year." In both cases, the players "suffered a miserable follow-up season" (London TELEGRAPH, 11/18). Also in London, Paul Newman wrote under the header, "Tsitsipas Emerges As Next Superstar Of Tennis But Past Finals Champions Provide Warning" (London INDEPENDENT, 11/18). TENNIS.com's Steve Tignor wondered, "Has the ATP found a successor to the Big 3, and a future No. 1, in Tsitsipas?" The sport has "heard that a few times over the last decade as well, especially at this event." If Tsitsipas and Thiem, 26, "don't turn out to be the future" in '20 and beyond, they still "gave us a great way to say good-bye" to '19 (TENNIS.com, 11/17).

The MLS All-Star Game is going to L.A. next season, and for the first time the league's top players "will be matched against a team of all-stars from Mexico's Liga MX," according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. TIMES. The game is "scheduled to be played July 29 at Banc of California Stadium." A formal announcement will be made at the stadium tomorrow morning. Next summer's match will be just the second MLS All-Star Game in the L.A. area (L.A. TIMES, 11/19).

WISH LIST: In Minneapolis, Jerry Zgoda notes making "charted air travel standard" throughout MLS is one of several issues being discussed in labor negotiations "that will intensify" now that the season is over. The current five-year CBA expires Jan. 31. The MLSPA also "seeks what it calls 'true' free agency, simplified salary-cap mechanisms and rules, compensation that rewards current performance and better travel that improves performance and turns current travel days into practice or regeneration days." MLS players "seek a faster path to free agency than a current system that requires a player be at least 28 with eight years of service." They also "want the system reinvented, without such concepts as TAM (targeted allocation money) and GAM (general allocation money) that confuse fans." MLSPA Exec Dir Bob Foose said that this round of labor talks is "all about a partnership that transforms MLS into what Commissioner Don Garber long has sought: a 'league of choice' in a global game" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 11/19).

The USL has "conditionally agreed to award a club to Buffalo" in time for the '23 season, according to a front-page piece by Jonathan Epstein of the BUFFALO NEWS. However, the league is requiring that the "partners leading the effort -- John H. McClutchy Jr. and Dennis Penman -- must first conduct economic feasibility studies to ensure a team would succeed," as well as "construct a stadium specifically designed for the team's needs." This includes "finding and acquiring a site large enough for a stadium, lining up financing that could include public dollars, designing a facility that could handle other events, and completing construction" by '23. McClutchy and Penman are "eyeing at least four potential sites in or near downtown" for a stadium capable of seating at least 10,000 fans (BUFFALO NEWS, 11/19).

YAHOO SPORTS' Hannah Keyser cited sources as saying that MLB is "not confident that the ball can be made completely standardized and consistent without overhauling the manufacturing process." This would mean that any "changes in the ball's so-called juiciness to date were unintentional ... and that the culprit behind the dramatic swings in drag coefficient the past few years remains a mystery to the league." Beyond that, it "implies that as long as the balls are handmade and comprised of natural materials, MLB might not ever be able to control to a sufficient degree of precision the behavior of the sport's fundamental object" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/18).

MAKING A CHANGE: Hockey Canada is "changing its traditional age group names, including 'midget,' a year after some other sports organizations stopping using the term." The age categories, which also "included novice, peewee, atom and bantam, would be replaced by names descriptive of the ages of the players, from under-7 to U21." The change will "impact all minor and female hockey programs under the Hockey Canada umbrella." The word "midget" is "considered a derogatory slur" (CP, 11/18).

MONEY MATTERS: CBS' Kelefa Sanneh said there is a "long history of women boxing, but recognition has come only recently." However, boxing promoter Lou DiBella said women's boxing is "never going to be as big as men's boxing, the same way the WNBA is never going to be as big as the NBA." Sanneh noted it has "been a long time since the glory days of boxing," but top male boxers still "earn millions per fight while top women make less than a tenth of that." DiBella: "There is no pay equality in sports vis-a-vis men's sports. But God, there should be pay fairness" ("CBS News Sunday Morning," 11/17).