Sunday, February 03, 2013

Safety and the National Football League – now is the time

There are more than 4,000 retired National Football League players and their family members grouped together in what is the biggest lawsuit the NFL and the sports industry has ever faced. The NFL will offer oral arguments April 9 to Eastern District of Pennsylvania, U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody hoping to have the lawsuit dismissed. While the legal games relating to the lawsuit are only beginning, player safety was very much on the minds of NFL leaders during Super Bowl week.
In what was a surprising announcement the National Football League Players Association announced they were going to offer $100 million to fund a study designed to diagnose, treat and prevent injuries in active and retired players.

The study, conducted at Harvard University, will take 10 years. Dr. Lee Nadler, dean for clinical and translational research at Harvard Medical School, spoke this week about the intention of the research.

“We don’t want to lessen the sport,” Nadler said. “We don’t want to make the sport not exciting anymore. But there are ways of making sure that the players’ health is well attended to. I think that’s our objective.

“There are millions of young people who play football here in the United States,” Nadler said. “There are lots of other people who play contact sports — hockey, girls’ soccer, etc. — that are equally dangerous in many ways, and what we learn will also help them.”

The NFLPA putting $100 million of their money into a concussion and safety study sends a loud, clear and concise message to the Lords of the Pigskins, NFL owners – NFL players are very concerned about health and wellness issues on the football field.

“First and foremost, having Sideline Concussion Experts at every game. I am aware that the league recently made an announcement at their press conference. I wasn't there. But I've heard that they have relented in at least some respect with our request to have Sideline Concussion Experts. We have not seen the proposal. But we asked for Sideline Concussion Experts, because this year you reported on a number of high‑profile instances where players were apparently concussed or at least had suffered a sub-concussive hit, and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the sideline concussion protocol that we all agreed to was not given to those players.” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith offered.

“If we are in a world today in 2012 where we can see 8, 10, 12 players who have suffered a concussive event on the sideline, and we know that the sideline concussion protocol takes at least 7 minutes to give, if we then see that player put back in the game 45 seconds later, we'd know that the sideline doctors have failed to employ the very protocol that we agreed to use.

“So our solution for that is that we'd have a sideline concussion expert that was not paid by either team. That that person would have one job of making sure that that sideline concussion protocol is in order, and if that person made a determination that that player should not go back in, that player's not going back in. “ Smith said

It’s clear there is a trust issue between NFL players and those responsible when it comes to safety on the football field. Players want independent doctors not those employed by NFL teams determining when or if once a player is injured during a game the player should return to that game.

“On the health side, we will update our injury protocols and add neurosurgeons to our game day medical resources. We are going to implement expanded physicals at the end of each season. Three days to review players from a physical, mental and life-skills standpoint, so that we can support them in a more comprehensive fashion. We want to pioneer new approaches to player health and safety that emphasize prevention as well as treatment. This will include our commitment to supporting our retired players. Those are some of the priorities. From the quality of our game, to growing fan interest and engagement, to our commitment to evolve and innovate, we have many reasons to be optimistic about the future. I could not be more optimistic or ready to go.” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell offered Friday during his annual state of the league.

The issue of trust or a lack thereof between NFL players and team doctors, more than 78% of current NFL players do not trust NFL team doctors.

“Last week, we met for four hours with union officials. Several players were there. Several owners were there. They did raise the issue of making sure we have proper medical attention, but they didn’t raise those statistics. That was news to me as of yesterday. I’m disappointed, because I think we have tremendous medical care for our players. These are not just team doctors. These doctors are affiliated with the best medical institutions in the world – the Cleveland Clinic, Stanford, Hospital for Special Surgery. The medical care that is provided to our players is extraordinary. Now, we will always seek to improve it. We will always seek to figure out how we can do things better, provide better medical care, but I think it’s extraordinary. And as I talk to players – including one yesterday – they feel the same way, but we’ll have to address that and we’ll have to figure out what we can do to try to improve it. One of those I also mentioned in the opening. We’ll add a neurosurgeon on the field that can be there for consultation, that can be there for another set of eyes on the field, and to support the doctors in making the best possible decisions on the field, and off the field. And I believe our doctors do that.” Goodell offered.

The NFLPA has suggested in no uncertain terms the San Diego Chargers team doctor David Chao, needs to go, and much sooner rather than later.

“In San Diego there is a team doctor named Dr.Chao who is currently the San Diego team doctor. Who has been found libel for medical malpractice twice. Twice. The same doctor was the subject of a DEA investigation. He's still the San Diego Chargers team doctor.

“Now, I'm not a doctor. I don't even play one on TV. But it seems to me that the players in the National Football League deserve to have a doctor that's not been fined for medical malpractice, and that's what we're asking for.” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said.

"In the CBA, at the union’s request, we entered an agreement that is called Article 50. Article 50 states that if there is an issue with any medical decision, or the medical professionals of the club, there can be a solution by engaging with independent doctors, I believe three neutral doctors, including an NFL attorney, and they will review the matter. As I understand it, that is exactly what is going on in San Diego. We’ll allow the process to unfold. I’m confident our doctors make the best possible decisions for the players, and we’re going to stand behind that. We’ll engage in the process and let it unfold.” Goodell countered.

One doesn’t have to read between the lines to understand what Goodell and Smith are saying. The NFLPA have found their “poster boy” in Chao and the NFL wants to let the process the two sides agreed to in the CBA determine Chao’s fate.

The NFL is in the second year of a ten-year CBA. Throughout his state of the union address DeMaurice Smith was attacking the NFL and Roger Goodell. Roger Goodell touched on his disappointment regarding the NFLPA and the CBA, suggested the agreed process was important to adhere too. Two years into a ten year CBA, the fun and games off the field have only begun.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Friday, February 01, 2013

Countdown to Super Bowl XLVII – the evolution

The remarkable evolution of the Super Bowl from a football game to an American holiday holds the XVII edition Sunday evening at the New Orleans Superdome. When you look back at the origins of the Super Bowl, what a long strange wonderful trip it truly has been for the National Football League.

The first Super Bowl held in January 1967 at the Los Angeles Coliseum didn’t sell out. Tickets for the game were priced at $5 and $10 each. The face value for tickets, for this year’s game -- $850 to $1,250. Most of the 75,000 who will consider themselves blessed to be at the game will be paying more than $2,000 for the “privilege” of seeing the Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens meet the San Francisco 49’ers. More than 100 million people will watch the game on CBS, making it the most watched television program of the year. The evolution of the Super Bowl, like the NFL, what billion dollar dreams are made of!

Born in 1960 the American Football League proved to be much more of a competitive league than National Football League owners imagined forcing a merger, at the start of the 1970 season. The two leagues agreed to hold a championship game between the two leagues after the 1966, 1967 and 1968 seasons. The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl I and II.

On his flight from Los Angeles to New York City the day after Super Bowl I, the late NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle turned to his cohorts, suggested in no uncertain terms Super Bowl I would be the last Super Bowl that would not be sold out.

Super Bowl II and III were held at Miami’s Orange Bowl (which hosted five Super Bowl games). Working closely with the automotive industry the NFL created a series of sweepstakes opportunities. The sales driven incentives offered local dealerships a chance to “win a week in Miami”, get a little golfing in and see a football game. Those sweepstakes opportunities became the hallmark of the Super Bowl’s success. The NFL offered Super Bowl ticket packages to their sponsors, including those packages in the NFL advertising packages companies purchased from the NFL.

Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers dominated Super Bowl I and II. With the NFL, AFL merger still off in the distance the Baltimore Colts were a 21 point favorite over New York Jets at Super Bowl III. Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed the Jets would win the game, and backed up that guarantee leading the Jets to a stunning 16-7 win over the Colts. The first famous Super Bowl commercial was for Noxzema; Namath was a part of their 1973 Super Bowl commercial.

A year later in the final NFL-AFL Championship game the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs defeated the NFL's Minnesota Vikings 23–7 in Super Bowl IV in New Orleans.

The NFL realigned into two conferences after Super Bowl IV; the former AFL teams plus three NFL teams (the Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Cleveland Browns) became the American Football Conference (AFC), while the remaining NFL clubs formed the National Football Conference (NFC). The champions of the two conferences would play each other in the Super Bowl.

Lamar Hunt, owner of the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs, first used the term "Super Bowl" to refer to this game in the merger meetings. Hunt would later say the name was likely in his head because his children had been playing with a Super Ball toy (a vintage example of the ball is on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio). In a July 25, 1966, letter to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, Hunt wrote, "I have kiddingly called it the 'Super Bowl,' which obviously can be improved upon." Although the leagues' owners decided on the name "AFL-NFL Championship Game," the media immediately picked up on Hunt's "Super Bowl" name, which would become official beginning with the third annual game.

CBS has sold 58 30 second spots for Sunday’s game at an average cost of $3.8 million per spot, more than $100,000 per second, or $238 million in advertising revenue from the game. CBS sold several 30 spots for Super Bowl XLVII for $4 million. With Super Bowl XLVIII rest assured Fox will sell 30 spots for more than $4 million per spot.

A 30 second spot at Super Bowl I cost $37,500. At Super Bowl X a 30 second spot cost $110,000.
Super Bowl XX $525,000. Finally at Super Bowl XXX a 30 second spot surpassed $1 million, $1.15 million for a 30 second spot at the 1995 game. The 1999 Super Bowl saw 30 spots selling for $1.6 million. A year later at the 2000 game the average spot sold for $1.1 million. A year later the infamous .com Super Bowl saw the average 30 second spot sell for $2.1 million. 19 .com’s (most spending their entire advertising budgets on the Super Bowl) promoted their businesses on the Super Bowl broadcast, many going bankrupt as a result.

Close to 100 million people watch the Super Bowl, making the Super Bowl annually the most watched television program. The Super Bowl is the one event that families gather together to watch. It is Teflon proof television, an event everyone watches every year, and it’s not for the football, it’s the football, the commercials and the half-time entertainment.

The game’s economic impact hundreds of millions of dollars if you ask the local host organizing committee. More than 300,000 will fill Las Vegas Super Bowl weekend, the biggest weekend annually in Las Vegas. More than $93 million will be legally “wagered” in Nevada, that total grows every year.

Josh Moore, the owner of the fantasy football website '4for4,' has created a petition he’s hoping President Obama might notice on the White House’s “We The People Page”. Moore’s Super Bowl fantasy – to create a National Holiday the day after the Super Bowl. Moore’s petition claims the holiday would "promote camaraderie among the American people, keep the streets safer for our children on Sunday night and Monday morning, promote a productive workplace when work resumes on Tuesday, and honor the most popular event in modern American culture."

The Super Bowl has evolved from a football game (a championship game) to an unofficial American holiday (maybe an official one in the not too distant future). The Super Bowl is much more than a football game – it’s an American institution and its very big business.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Countdown to Super Bowl XLVII – the economic misnomer

The Big Easy’s hotel rooms are filled this weekend, Super Bowl XLVII is set for Sunday. Super Bowl XLVII managed to extend Mardi Gras, or least put that party aside for a few days. Because of the Super Bowl festivities the New Orleans Mardi Gras krewes (parades) are taking the weekend off. If Super Bowl XLVII wasn’t being played at the Superdome Sunday, Mardi Gras celebrations would continue, hotel rooms throughout the Louisiana city would be filled to capacity with Mardi Gras celebrants.

According to a New Orleans Times Picayune report a sampling of Super Bowl economic impact studies shows a reported $292 million spending boost in Atlanta for 2000, a $367 million benefit in San Diego in 2003, a $261 million spike in Detroit in 2006, a $463 million wave in Miami in 2007, a $500 million gain in Arizona in 2008 and a $384 million bump in Indianapolis last year. New Orleans saw $249 million in 1997 and $299 million in 2002.

"We're all fond of saying, 'Move the decimal point one place to the left and you're more accurately predicting what the impact will be,'" economist Rob Baade of Lake Forest College in Illinois said about Super Bowl economic impact studies in a New Orleans Times Picayune report. "You really need a kind of dispassionate, objective appraisal."

Hosting the Super Bowl makes sense in helping to promote tourism in the city hosting the game – regardless of whether or not New Orleans hosted Super Bowl XLVII the city remains a tourism destination.

Most Super Bowls are held in warm weather cites. Miami has hosted ten Super Bowls. New Orleans, home to Mardi Gras every February, hosts their tenth Super Bowl this weekend. Tampa, San Diego and Phoenix have each hosted multiple Super Bowls in late January or early February. Those five cities are tourist destination points. If those cities weren’t hosting Super Bowls in late January or early February, most of their hotels would still be filled with tourists. Those five cities host conventions during the winter months. In simpler terms, four of those five cities are each busy this weekend and they’re not hosting the Super Bowl. The lone exception, New Orleans the games host this year.

Detroit has hosted two Super Bowls and last year Indianapolis hosted Super Bowl XLVI. In the cases of these three Super Bowls, it is a safe assumption hotel rooms in Detroit or Indianapolis wouldn’t be filled unless the Super Bowl was there.

Patrick Rishe offered a number of interesting points regarding the “economic impact of a Super Bowl” in a Forbes Magazine report:

• Super Bowls do confer net economic benefits in terms of new visitor spending from fans, corporations, and the media…and that there can be lagged non-local spending benefits as well as real-time cost savings associated with the media value that hosting the Super Bowl can confer upon one’s city;

• Most Super Bowl impact estimates tend to be inflated (some widely so) because they don’t properly account for all the factors which ultimately pull net impact estimates well below gross impact estimates.

Dr. Rishe, Director of SportsImpacts, a national sports consulting firm that has conducted economic impact studies for two Super Bowls, three Final Fours, and more than 70 projects all together since 2000, believes that many Super Bowl economic studies fail in what they’re supposed to do by:

• Not properly sorting “locals” from “non-locals”…and though the “vacationing at home” argument has validity, some over-estimate the degree to which this effect is applicable;

• Not accounting for the fact that ticket revenue, NFL merchandise, and similar itemized expenditures don’t stay within the host city because that revenue is ultimately slated for the NFL’s pockets or that of some non-local supplier;

• Not accounting for monetary leakages of various types…non-local suppliers taking money out is one example, and any restaurant or hotel with a national headquarters based outside of the host city yields some additional leakage which reduces the impact of the Super Bowl;

• Not accounting for displacement or crowding out effects.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Planalytics, a business weather intelligence firm in Pennsylvania, suggested the economic impact for Super Bowl XLV (held in Dallas in February 2011) had an economic impact of between $200 million and $250 million. Spending at last year’s Super Bowl was impacted by terrible weather in Dallas. Hotel rooms were filled, but tens of thousands of Super Bowl visitors stayed in those hotel rooms when ice storms plagued Dallas in the days before Super Bowl XLV. The ice storms cost Dallas retailers at least $25 million.

"I was surprised. I thought the impact from the weather would have been much greater," Scott A. Bernhardt, chief operating officer at Planalytics, told The Dallas Morning News. "After Tuesday, everything just stopped, but the floodgates opened on Thursday."
Per person spending between Thursday and Sunday at Super Bowl XLV averaged $1,200, Bernhardt said. At recent Super Bowls, spending usually worked out to about $1,000 per person.

"The debate over economic impact has been going on in the academic literature for about twenty years," Craig Depken, an associate professor of economics in the Belk College of Business at UNC Charlotte, told The Daily "Generally speaking the economics literature has found little evidence to support the idea that mega-events such as the Super Bowl or the Olympics generate the net economic impacts predicted by event promoters/advocates."

"The studies [saying there are big benefits from the Super Bowl] are just guesses, not studies," says Philip Porter, a professor of economics at the University of South Florida in Tampa. "While there is a lot of money being spent there is no opportunity for the city to grab it."

"We think the NFL has an impact far beyond the game itself and people who come to the game," University of New Orleans economist Janet Speyrer told the New Orleans Times Picayune. "My sense is it will have a positive and lasting effect for some time.

"Usually the comparison still leaves a positive number when it's the Super Bowl," Speyrer said.
It’s expensive to host a Super Bowl week. Infrastructure costs can cost close to $100 million, with security the most expensive taxpayer paid component of hosting a Super Bowl.

"Everyone is coming up with the answer that the Super Bowl is good thing, but it turns out to be a good thing that's less than half, and sometimes as much as a tenth," of common estimates, economist Victor Matheson at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts said in the New Orleans Times
Picayune report.

"There's no doubt that the Super Bowl is a big event," he said. But, "they do a really good job adding and multiplying. The problem is they don't do a good job subtracting."

Following Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, the local organizing committee offered an economic study and impact report following the February 2012 event.

"Super Bowl spending by residents was eliminated wherever possible; arguably those expenditures would have taken place without Super Bowl XLVI," the report said. "Spending streams that immediately left Indianapolis were also subtracted. Examples include game ticket purchases or operational expenditures that went to businesses outside the area. Where identified spending streams lacked sufficient data, they were not included."

That study believed the Super Bowl created a gross contribution to the Indianapolis economy of $384 million. It narrowed total spending from sources outside the region to $342 million the study eliminated $46.9 million in displaced tourism business, believing Super Bowl XLVI had an a $295 million net contribution to the Indianapolis economy. The study again offered by the Indianapolis Super Bowl host committee said businesses that worked directly with Super Bowl events and customers took in $176 million. The Indianapolis study concluded that the event amounted to "a huge economic and fiscal windfall for the region."

New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee President Jay Cicero spoke with the New Orleans Times Picayune offering his own spin on the benefits of hosting Super Bowl XLVII.

"You mean to tell me they would've had that amount of business, paying that amount of money, without the Super Bowl being here," Cicero said about local companies. "Would they be doing the same amount of business on the first weekend of Mardi Gras? The answer is no."

"It just dwarfs everything out there," Cicero said. "You can see with your own eyes. This isn't a small event.

The National Football League wanted New Orleans to host a Super Bowl as part of the league`s belief in the city and the cities recovery from Hurricane Katrina. New Orleans hosts a party like few cities in the world can. That said, the economic benefits might not be as great as organizers would like to believe, but it is an event that for the most part offers tremendous benefits to a host city.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Countdown to Super Bowl XLVII – Ray Lewis a not so great media day

Ray Lewis has become the player to watch heading into the last days before Super Bowl XLVII. Sunday evening when Lewis’ Baltimore Ravens meet the San Francisco 49’ers, more than 100 million will focus much of their attention on the Ravens middle line-backer playing the last game of his Hall of Fame career. Tuesday at Super Bowl media day, Lewis who craves attention on and off a football field, did the best he could to avoid the thousands of media who wanted to ask Lewis about some of the “unfortunate” events in his life.

“Nobody here is really qualified to ask those questions,” Lewis said. “I just truly feel that this is God’s time, and whatever his time is, you know, let it be his will. Don’t try to please everybody with your words, try to make everybody’s story sound right. At this time, I would rather direct my questions in other places. Because I live with that every day. You maybe can take a break from it. I don’t. I live with it every day of my life and I would rather not talk about it today.”

Cowboys VP/PR & Communications Rich Dalrymple working with the NFL Network during media was ‘impressed’ by Lewis’ refusal to answer certain questions: “It is called Media Day and you better be prepared for that question as you’ve been for X-number of years since the incident took place. … I do think he handled it in a pretty effective way.”

The questions that Lewis referred too, a series of tragic events that took place following a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000. Lewis attended the game with ‘friends’ before staring in Super Bowl XXXV a year later. But for the grace of God, the events that unfolded at Super Bowl XXXIV nearly ended Lewis’ career before it began.

A fight broke out between Lewis and his companions and another group of people, resulting in the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Lewis and two companions, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were questioned by Atlanta police, and eleven days later the three men were indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges. The white suit Lewis was wearing the night of the killings has never been found. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard alleged that the bloodstained suit was dumped in a garbage bin outside a fast food restaurant.

Lewis' attorneys, Don Samuel and Ed Garland, of the Atlanta law firm Garland, Samuel & Loeb, negotiated a plea agreement with Howard, the Fulton County District Attorney, where the murder charges against Lewis were dismissed in exchange for his testimony against Oakley and Sweeting, and his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice.

Lewis admitted that he gave a misleading statement to police on the morning after the killings. Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner sentenced Lewis to 12 months' probation, the maximum sentence for a first-time offender; and he was fined $250,000 by the NFL, which was believed to be the highest fine levied against an NFL player for an infraction not involving substance abuse.

Ray Lewis knew he would be the focus of attention at media day and knew he would be asked to reflect upon what took place 13 years ago. As a professional, as the de facto Ravens leader, Lewis refusing to deal with an uncomfortable issue on the biggest stage afforded an NFL player was an embarrassment.

Lewis’ behavior at media day was ‘highlighted’ when Lewis was asked about a Sports Illustrated report linking Lewis to the use of a banned substance (deer antler extract) during his recovery after he tore his triceps. Lewis and the Ravens learned of the Sports Illustrated report on their way to the Superdome for their media day appearance.

“Why would I give that any press?

"Two years ago, it was the same report. I wouldn't give that report or him any of my press. He's not worthy of that. Next question," Lewis said.

Lewis has been tested for banned substances, as are all NFL players throughout their NFL careers.

"Ray has been randomly tested for banned substances and has never failed a test. We have never been notified of a failed test. He has never been notified of a failed test," Kevin Byrne, vice president of communications for the Ravens, told ESPN.

"He denied using the substance discussed in the article, and we believe him," Byrne told ESPN.
Bryne raised the best point – Ray Lewis has never once tested positive for anything. While that sounds familiar to statements made time and time again by Lance Armstrong, Ray Lewis’ behavior is an issue. Lewis has worked hard to craft his image off a football field.

If he wasn’t playing in Super Bowl XLVII his post football career working with ESPN would have begun, Ray Lewis would have been one of the 4,000 media people covering Super Bowl XLVII.

"Last month, I did a piece for Sports Illustrated on what current NFL players and coaches are in the eyes of network executives," said Richard Deitsch, media writer for Sports Illustrated in a Baltimore Sun report. "These guys all keep a list of those people they interact with on a weekly basis as to who has really good potential for television, should they decide to go into it and work at it. And every executive I talked to mentioned Ray Lewis ... and had Ray Lewis probably in their top three.

"He's considered to be incredibly charismatic, a great speaker, great communicator and on top of that has incredible name recognition, because he's a first ballot Hall of Famer," Deitsch said. "What I got from everybody was if Ray decided to do this, if Ray was serious about being good at it, the sky's the limit for this guy."

"Ray Lewis has an intensity about him and a way of communicating that is very infectious," CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus told SI. "He is a bigger-than-life personality, very articulate and [has] an incredible passion for the game. If Ray Lewis decided to take that same passion and put it into a broadcasting career, I think he would be a terrific studio analyst or I imagine game analyst, too.

Fox Sports Media group executive producer John Entz echoed McManus. "I see Ray as a guy who would be great in the studio because he is so animated and emotive," Entz said in the Sports Illustrated report. "I think he could fire people up there."

Lewis’ reaction to controversial issues on the biggest stage at Super Bowl XLVII leaves one to question how Lewis is going to feel when as a retired NFL player he’ll be forced to ask some of the tough questions he was ask and refused to answer on media day.

Will Ray Lewis be able to extend his ESPN career to endorsement opportunities?

"He's got to come out from under the helmet and sort of establish his personality away from the field," said Dr. Stephen McDaniel, who studies sports and entertainment marketing at the University of Maryland in a Baltimore Sun report. "I think he really has what it takes to continue to grow."

David Carter, principal of the Sports Business Group and executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute, told the Baltimore Sun now that Lewis playing career is coming to an end, he’ll have to focus on broadening his appeal if he wants to continue to endorse products after his retirement.

"Despite being one of the NFL's greatest players, he hasn't established himself as a national figure beyond hardcore football fans," Carter said. "Being a defensive player and, to a lesser extent, one from a small market, has made it tougher for him to compete with the likes of other NFL superstars in terms of endorsements.

"Of course, he will need to stay out of trouble because, while his alleged involvement in a double murder was a long time ago, that baggage still exists in terms of his marketability," Carter said.

The great saying “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” embarrassingly applied to Ray Lewis on media day. An image Ray Lewis worked to create in the last ten years likely wasn’t touched by his actions on Super Bowl media day, but an important lesson was learned. Lewis is a media savvy 17-year NFL veteran. Ray Lewis is far too polished to have tried to ignore key issues in his life, the lesson that needs to be remembered, be ready, be prepared, be honest and do your best to deal with every and any questions you are asked on Super Bowl media day.

And Lewis’s suggestion that “Nobody here is really qualified to ask those questions,” is ignorant at best, insulting at the least – the 4,000 media onslaught covering Super Bowl XLVII have an obligation to ask questions reporters want to ask, and they are qualified to ask questions at Super Bowl media day.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Countdown to Super Bowl XLVII – the future of professional football

One of the biggest stories throughout Super Bowl week has nothing to do with the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49’ers, but everything to do with the future of the National Football League. More than 3,800 retired NFL players and their families are suing the National Football League, believing the Lords of the Pigskin willfully withheld information relating to the impact concussions had on football players and related safety issues. The issue – the future of the National Football League, the safety of the game and how football is played “colliding together” with the future of the NFL at stake.

“I'm a big football fan, but I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football. And I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence. In some cases, that may make it a little bit less exciting, but it will be a whole lot better for the players, and those of us who are fans maybe won't have to examine our consciences quite as much.” President Barack Obama told NPR in regard to concussions and player safety in football.

“I tend to be more worried about college players than NFL players in the sense that the NFL players have a union, they're grown men, they can make some of these decisions on their own, and most of them are well-compensated for the violence they do to their bodies. You read some of these stories about college players who undergo some of these same problems with concussions and so forth and then have nothing to fall back on. That's something that I'd like to see the NCAA think about.”

When the most powerful person in the world steps into the football safety debate – player safety will be front and center throughout Super Bowl week.

There is an inherent danger in playing football, football is controlled warfare. Those who play football are well aware what can happen during a football game. There are close to 4,000 retired NFL players and their families, while aware of safety issues want to be heard. There are those who currently play on Any Given Sunday who seemingly could care less about player safety. Ravens safety Bernard Pollard believes the NFL faces a very uncertain future.

"Thirty years from now," Pollard told CBS Sports. "I don't think it will be in existence. I could be wrong. It's just my opinion, but I think with the direction things are going -- where they [NFL rules makers] want to lighten up, and they're throwing flags and everything else -- there's going to come a point where fans are going to get fed up with it.

"Guys are getting fined, and they're talking about, 'Let's take away the strike zone' and 'Take the pads off' or 'Take the helmets off.' It's going to be a thing where fans aren't going to want to watch it anymore."

"The league is trying to move in the right direction [with player safety]," Pollard offered CBS Sports, "but, at the same time, [coaches] want bigger, stronger and faster year in and year out. And that means you're going to keep getting big hits and concussions and blown-out knees. The only thing I'm waiting for ... and, Lord, I hope it doesn't happen ... is a guy dying on the field. We've had everything else happen there except for a death. We understand what we signed up for, and it sucks.

"Like I said, I pray it never happens, but you've got guys who are 350 pounds running 4.5 and 4.4s, and these owners and coaches want scout-run blockers and linemen to move walls. At the same time, they tell you, 'Don't hit here, and don't hit there, or we'll take your money.' Like I said, I hope I'm wrong, but I just believe one day there's going to be a death that takes place on the field because of the direction we're going."

The genesis of the current lawsuits the NFL is facing date back to July 2011 when 75 retired players filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles claiming the NFL were aware as early as the 1920’s (the NFL began in 1920) of the inherent risks of concussions on players' brains, but concealed the information from players, coaches, trainers and others until June 2010.

The 3,800 suing the National Football League include members of the Football Hall of Fame, including Tony Dorsett. In the second quarter of a 1984 Dallas Cowboys – Philadelphia Eagles game (Dorsett was playing for the Cowboys) Dorsett suffered a helmet to helmet hit, the hardest hit of his Hall of Fame career.

"It was like a freight train hitting a Volkswagen," Dorsett says now. "Did they know it was a concussion?" he asks rhetorically during an interview with The Associated Press. "They thought I was half-dead."

And what did the Dallas Cowboys do? They shined a light in his eyes, asked him who sat next to him on the Cowboys team bus and put him back in the game in the second half. Dorsett remembers running plays the wrong way in that second half – yet he still managed to run for 99 more yards.

"That ain't the first time I was knocked out or been dazed over the course of my career, and now I'm suffering for it," the 58-year-old former tailback says. "And the NFL is trying to deny it."

What about the risk vs. reward – that playing football is dangerous – and Tony Dorsett was paid to play in the NFL. Much of the money he made while playing football was lost through a series of bad investments.

"Yeah, I understand you paid me to do this, but still yet, I put my life on the line for you, I put my health on the line," Dorsett says. "And yet when the time comes, you turn your back on me? That's not right. That's not the American way."

That, in many ways, is the heart of the matter – how the NFL is treating its former players, the athletes who built the NFL into one of the most successful businesses in the world today. Out of the four major North American sports: the NFL, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, NFL player contacts are the only ones that are not guaranteed. Only the bonuses players receive when they sign their contracts are guaranteed. The NFL generates in excess of $9 billion annually. In what is arguably the most dangerous professional team sport, the NFL does not offer its players lifetime medical insurance.

There is risk vs. reward in any profession and NFL players are well paid and are aware of the risks playing football presents. The real question that needs to be asked: Is the NFL responsible for the quality of life their former players are being forced to lead –and are later-in-life health issues, a direct result of having played in the NFL?

More than 100 million Americans will watch Super Bowl XLVII on CBS. Families across America will gather together to watch the $4 million commercials, Beyoncé's half time adventure, the last game of Ray Lewis’ Hall of Fame career and the Baltimore Ravens meeting the San Francisco 49’ers in the biggest “event” of the year. More than 100 million Americans have little if any understanding as to what’s happening to the gridiron greats, the close to 4,000 former players desperately looking for answers.

Where is the moral outrage from the tens of millions of Americans who NFL football Sundays from early September through Super Bowl Sunday?

"What's a crisis for the league is just the perception of football and its safety and the sustainability of the game,” Robert Boland, a sports law professor at New York University told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It is the single biggest sustainability concern for the league."

There is a day of reckoning coming for the National Football League. The NFL will be forced to deal with their alleged inaction in Federal Court. A business that generates more than $9 billion annually in revenues needs to be “taking care of their own” and needs to be held accountable.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Countdown to Super Bowl XLVII – Roger Goodell and the Big Uneasy

The highlight of Roger Goodell’s year is set for Sunday afternoon at New Orleans Superdome, Sunday February 3. If not for Roger Goodell, Super Bowl XLVII likely would have been played at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale (a Phoenix suburb), or Miami’s Sun Life Stadium. New Orleans was awarded the game during the NFL's Spring Ownership Meetings in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on May 19, 2009. Goodell and Goodell alone is why Super Bowl XLVII is heading to the Big Easy!

This will be the tenth time that the city has hosted the Super Bowl, by far the most by an individual city and once again tying with the Miami area for the most Super Bowls hosted by a metropolitan area. It will be the first Super Bowl to be held in New Orleans since the Superdome sustained damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Roger Goodell worked to save the Hornets following Hurricane Katrina, as former commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s deputy. Goodell was very proactive in New Orleans being awarded Super Bowl XLVII, believing the Super Bowl would deliver a resounding post Katrina message to the world about New Orleans recovery.

"I know everybody in the city is belly aching about the last year, but here's the thing: Roger Goodell has always been a friend to the City of New Orleans," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said last week.

Once a hero to the city of New Orleans, Goodell is now a villain, one of the most despised people who will be in New Orleans for the Super Bowl. Worshipped one day, hated the next, Roger Goodell sadly has become a storyline at Super Bowl XLVII, for all the wrong reasons. The New Orleans Saints hoped to become the first host team to play in a Super Bowl. The Saints 2012 record, 7-9, out of the playoffs, the blame placed on Goodell, largely because of the fallout from bountygate, which included Saints coach Sean Peyton yearlong suspension, believed to be a key in the disappointing Saints 2012 season. Goodell reinstated Peyton last Monday.

“They believe he completely used the Saints as an example of something that was going on league-wide,” said Pauline Patterson, co-owner of Finn McCool’s, an Irish Bar in the Mid-City neighborhood where the words “Go To Hell Goodell” are visible over the fireplace in a Washington Post report.

Goodell has been hung in effigy, bars and restaurants throughout the city and the French Quarter are displaying signs “Refuse to Serve Roger Goodell”, none of this is good for the image New Orleans wants to project throughout Super Bowl week.

“We had a real shot of being the first team in history to host the Super Bowl in our own stadium,” Parkview Tavern owner Kathy Anderson said. “He can’t give that back to us.”
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu hopes that people in this city, known for its hospitality and history, will mind their manners and remember the not-too-distant past.

“Roger Goodell has been a great friend to New Orleans, and it’s a fact that he’s one of the people instrumental to making sure that the Saints stayed here after Hurricane Katrina,” Landrieu said in a statement. It was a reference to the days after the storm, when 80 percent of the city was underwater and the damaged Superdome became a shelter for thousands of the displaced. Saints owner Tom Benson a San Antonio native was packing his team ready to move the Saints to San Antonio.

“If not for Roger Goodell, we would not have this Super Bowl,” Landrieu added. “And we will need him since we want to host another one.”

Saints quarterback Drew Brees critical of Goodell throughout bountygate offered this from the Pro Bowl Friday.

“There’s no question, yeah. And I think people will see that when they come down, as soon as people come down that haven’t been there in a while,” Brees said while in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. “The city knows how to entertain, knows how to treat people right. The tourism industry’s huge, so we’re excited to host this big game. Obviously it’s the biggest sporting event in the world, and the city will be ready for it.”

No Roger Goodell, New Orleans would have likely lost its NFL team and certainly wouldn’t be hosting Super Bowl XLVII.

“Whether I have Roger Goodell’s face on my dart board is not going to change anybody’s mind about the Super Bowl,” Anderson said.

"Roger was with us when it counted," said Doug Thornton, vice president of stadiums for SMG, the company that manages the Superdome for the state in a report. "He worked and sweated here. People don't realize how granular he was down here. He was in the weeds with us."

There are been more than a few suggestions Roger Goodell should bring a food taster with him wherever he goes in New Orleans during Super Bowl week. Roger Goodell had issues with the New Orleans Saints football team, those issues as Goodell has shown time and time again have nothing whatsoever to do with how Roger Goodell feels about how important the New Orleans market is to the National Football League.

"Roger was very supportive and played a critical role in so many different ways," former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue told the New Orleans Times Picyaune in a phone interview last week.
"He was a major player in executing what we had decided was going to be the policy to keep the Saints in New Orleans, in Louisiana and in the Gulf Coast region. He was the guy who managed the process."

Tom Benson and the Saints management team worked at breaking their Superdome lease with the state of Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, tried to sue FEMA for supposedly destroying their training facility, collected negative information about New Orleans and distributed it to the other 31 NFL owners and advised members of the Saints to buy homes in the San Antonio area in anticipation of the team’s planned move.

"It was clear there were things being done by San Antonio and things being considered by the Saints which were clearly focused on San Antonio," Tagliabue told the New Orleans Times Picayune.

"When I told the team that they were moving back to New Orleans, some players stood up and asked me, 'Who the hell are you? We're the ones who have to get our kids in school and find doctors for our families.' The assumption of a lot of the players was they were going to buy homes in San Antonio. I told them the team is going to be back in New Orleans. That is the decision of the league. A team can only relocate if three-fourths of the membership approves the move and there is no such support. I told them they better stop negotiating (real estate) because you're expected back in Metairie by mid-February.

"We made it very clear from the start that we were not going to leave an NFL city in the wake of a national disaster and tragedy," Tagliabue said. "It was like throwing a Hail Mary pass and somebody had to catch the pass."

Roger Goodell should be hailed as the hero; Roger Goodell should be regarded as the biggest and most important reason why the City of New Orleans will be the center of the universe this week. How easily those who support the Saints, are ready to vilify the man who saved their Saints.

"It hurts," Thornton said. "It saddens me to see that Roger would be thought of in that regard after all that he and the league has done to help us.

"If it weren't for the inspiration, motivation and vision of Roger Goodell and Paul Tagliabue to push us, this project drags beyond 2006 and then who knows what happens," Thornton said. "I don't want to overstate it, but it could have literally altered the course of history here."

With more than 3,000 media people in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII, if anything happens that paints New Orleans negatively because of the short-sighted view of Roger Goodell, the tremendous steps New Orleans has made in the years since Hurricane Katrina will be lost. The good citizens of New Orleans would do well to remember how Roger Goodell has respected and treated their community.

"I love the city," Goodell said. "Being a part of that work (post-Katrina) was real important. ...To see the way that community (in New Orleans) rallied around their team and rallied around the disaster, you can't have anything but the highest respect for the people and the people we work with down there. We're seeing the same thing in our community with (Superstorm) Sandy. People pull together. People move forward"

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Baseball Hall of Fame debacle

Wednesday for only the second time in 42 years the Baseball Writers Association of America failed to elect anyone to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The 2013 Hall of Fame ballot included the game’s greatest hitter Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens the premier pitcher in baseball history. Statistically Bonds and Clemens should have been elected to the Hall of Fame; both have been closely linked to the use of performance enhancement drugs (PED’s) during their careers, ending in the doors to Cooperstown being slammed in their faces.

The New York Times made one of the strongest statements relating to the Baseball Hall of Fame debate Thursday leaving the front page of their sports section blank with the exception of a
“Welcome to Cooperstown” banner adorning the top of the page.

"Wayne Kamidoi, our boundary-pushing art designer, came up with the idea," Joe Sexton the well-respected New York Times sports editor told ESPN’s Darren Rovell. "And Jay Schreiber, our baseball editor, saw the chance to capture the very old, very dispiriting story of steroids in baseball in a freshly powerful way. Yes, it was not a surprise that Bonds and Clemens didn't make it. But felt like history had spoken. How to convey that to our readers? I think we did it -- a striking, profound emptiness.”

Kamidoi offered this to Rovell:

“In what should have been a historic day for Cooperstown, it proved to be an incredibly empty day for baseball," he wrote. "That's why 11.5" by 13" of white space seemed appropriate. What a group the Class of 2013 SHOULD have been -- Clemens, Bonds, Piazza, Sosa. Their numbers and accomplishments say: One of the best classes ever. However, all that has transpired since 2007 when they all decided to retire certainly has tarnished their images and the Hall of Fame as a whole. The big names of the game were appropriately published in very small type -- a mere footnote to baseball history."

Robert W. Cohen, who wrote the 2009 book “Baseball Hall of Fame — or Hall of Shame?” spoke to the New York Times Wednesday offering an interesting perspective on the Hall of Fame.

“Baseball has always had some form of hypocrisy when it comes to its exalted heroes,” he said. “In theory, when it comes to these kinds of votes, it’s true that character should matter, but once you’ve already let in Ty Cobb, how can you exclude anyone else?”

Ty Cobb a member of the first Hall of Fame first Hall of Fame class in 1936 may have never used PED’s but as has been well documented was anything but an honorable person. Cobb according to the Times report “is portrayed as a sociopath in biographies and a Hollywood film starring Tommy Lee Jones, is without question the Hall of Famer mentioned most often whenever the integrity of the game’s top players is questioned. Known as the Georgia Peach, he was often painted a racist and had numerous documented altercations with African-Americans off the field, including one that led to a charge of attempted murder.”

In a world where athletes are held to a higher standard, Cobb’s behavior borders on being offensive and repulsive; he was a terrible human being. If the Hall of Fame had a morality’s clause, Cobb who during a major league baseball game once jumped into the stands and attacked a one legged fan who had been bothering him, would be ejected from the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

Two years ago Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson clarified the integrity clause of the guidelines for
voting for Hall of Fame membership:

“Baseball has historically been held to a very high standard, right or wrong. There’s a certain integrity required when it comes to baseball’s highest honor, which is being inducted into the Hall of Fame. The character clause exists as it relates to the game on the field. The character clause isn’t there to evaluate and judge players socially. It’s there to relate to the game on the field. … The voters should have the freedom to measure that however they see fit.”

Idelson suggests baseball holds itself to a higher standard; Cobb isn’t the only immoral member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“Plaster saints is not what we have in the Hall of Fame,” said John Thorn, perhaps the nation’s most widely known baseball historian and the author of more than a dozen baseball books in the New York Times report “Many were far from moral exemplars.

“Cap Anson helped make sure baseball’s color line was established in the 1880s,” Thorn said of the Chicago Cubs first baseman and manager who was enshrined in the Hall of Fame the year it opened in Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1939. “He was relentless in that cause.”

Cobb a man who beat up cripples, Anson who like Cobb and fellow Hall of Famer Tris Speaker were alleged racists (Cobb and Speaker reportedly were members of the Ku Klux Klan), although that has never been proven.

When it comes to a sense of right or wrong away from a baseball diamond the Baseball Hall of Fame has its own rogue gallery as the New York Times pointed out: “illicit recreational drugs (Paul Molitor, class of 2004) or had racetrack gambling issues (Rogers Hornsby, class of 1942). And Wade Boggs (class of 2005), after an extramarital affair was exposed during his playing days, announced to Barbara Walters on national television that he was a sex addict.

“But there’s a real distinction between a player who does inappropriate things not related to his job and a player who does inappropriate things that affect his job,” said Bill James, an influential and pioneering baseball author and statistician who wrote the book “Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?

“Being inducted is an honor, not a paycheck you are entitled to,” James said, defending the character clause written into the criteria on the Hall of Fame ballot. “No one is entitled to be elected. The voters choose who to honor.”

Bonds and Clemens have attracted a great deal of attention for all the wrong reasons. Baseball documentarian Ken Burns who produced and directed the Emmy award winning 1994 series “Baseball” that chronologies baseball history (ironically ending in 1990 at the dawn of baseball’s steroid era) made it clear to The Hollywood Reporter he was thrilled Bonds and Clemens will be nowhere near the Baseball Hall of Fame unless they buy an admission ticket for the foreseeable future.

“I want them to suffer for a while. Barry Bonds may be the greatest baseball player of all time, and Roger Clemens -- maybe you’d get some arguments from the [Sandy] Koufax/[Pedro] Martinez sector and the Walter Johnson segment and the Nolan Ryan crowd -- but they are two of the very, very best. And before when we think they began taking, they’re Hall of Fame caliber. But at the same time, the problem is we don’t know who didn’t at all. I mean, I know one person in all of the Major Leagues I’m absolutely certain didn’t, and that’s Ichiro Suzuki. But other than that, I have no guarantee that anyone you loved and think is way above that didn’t do it. And that is why they need to wait and wait and wait. Because it makes it impossible for us to judge excellence in this era.”

Ironically Burns makes the strongest argument why Bonds, Clemens – the entire steroid generation must be recognized and enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame, unless and until baseball can definitively prove every player who played Major League Baseball during the steroid era never use PED’s, it’s wrong to exclude some players, while allowing others membership in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“The Hall of Fame is a special, sacred establishment,” Joe Torre, the former nine-time All-Star, manager, and now, MLB’s vice president of baseball operations, told azcentral sports Wednesday.

“The sad part for me is obviously the things we’re going to have to live with at this point in time with the questioning of Roger and Barry Bonds and that stuff.

“That’s unfortunate but understandable with the sort of cloud hanging over their heads. It’s really on the conscience of the voters on where that goes. … You can’t change things that have happened. But baseball, with the whole performance-enhancing drug question, it’s clear we have to get the fans’ trust back. It’s something we’re going to have to deal with and continue to move on and basically prove ourselves.”

The Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens steroid era players Baseball Hall of Fame debate isn’t going to go away. Baseball as a business cannot ignore a significant historical period. Baseball as a business doesn’t have to embrace the steroid era, but it needs to accept the period and open the doors to the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Baseball Hall of Fame without Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens isn’t the Baseball Hall of Fame.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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