Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Jim Boeheim and a sense of entitlement


Third ranked Syracuse University’s basketball team played a routine pre-season game at the Carrier Dome Tuesday evening. The Orange, now 7-0, pounded Eastern Michigan 84-48 in front of 19,649. The result was never in doubt.

Basketball aside, the game served as a platform for the Orange’s coach Jim Boeheim and the swirling sexual abuse allegations that resulted in the firing of Boeheim’s long-time associate head coach Bernie Fine.

“It’s hard to put everything into words,’’ said Boeheim, glancing occasionally at his notes. “I thought a lot today about different things. I’m saddened in many ways by what’s unfolded. I’m looking forward to a time when we can talk and learn from what has happened. There’s an important investigation going on, which I fully support. I can’t add anything to it by speaking more about that now.’’

When ESPN first broke the Bernie Fine sexual allegations story two weeks ago, Boeheim staunchly defended Fine. Boeheim suggested accusers Bobby Davis and Mike Lang were liars and were chasing a payday.

The Hall of Fame coach was ‘all-in’ standing by his friend of nearly 50 years. The two men first met when Boeheim was the Orange’s student manager in 1963.

“I supported a friend,’’ Boeheim said. “That’s what I thought I did. If you’ve known somebody and worked with them for 36 years and known them for 48 years and went to school with them, I think you owe a debt of allegiance and gratitude for what he did for the program. That’s what my reaction was. So be it.’’

Is it so easy to dismiss what Boeheim said? In the days immediately following the terrible indictment filed against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, the entire Penn State football program, and in particular Joe Paterno, was under the media microscope.

The Penn State story was the lead item on virtually every national newscast for days. It has been suggested Penn State needs to adopt a scorched earth philosophy in dealing with the fall-out, time to fire everyone associated with the current Penn State football program.

When it comes to what’s next at Syracuse, Jim Boeheim took control in Tuesday night’s post-game press conference when it came to talking about his future with Syracuse University.

“What happened on my watch, we will see,’’ Boeheim said. “When the investigation is done, we will find out what happened on my watch. We don’t know what’s happening on my watch, right now. There’s an investigation underway. There are no charges. There are no indictments. There is no grand jury. There is no action being taken. When that is done, then we will see what is happening on my watch.’’

Boeheim is notorious for his smugness. He doesn’t look comfortable, even after 36 years as the head coach for a major college basketball program.

No, Jim Boeheim isn’t above the law and yes, he must be held accountable, as Joe Paterno. However, from the outside looking in, Jim Boeheim looked like he believed no matter what happened to Bernie Fine, his job was safe.

It’s impossible not to read between the lines. Jim Boeheim is saying ‘bring it on; I’m ready for whatever you have to say!’

The Penn State scandal will forever serve as a great example for crisis communications students. So many mistakes were made.

Jim Boeheim is correct in saying there are no charges, no indictments, and no grand jury. He’s standing behind the “facts” that there have been indictments linked to the Penn State football program and there haven’t been indictments associated with the Syracuse basketball program, at least not yet.

“I’ve never worried about my job status in 36 years,’’ Boeheim said. “Many years I didn’t have a contract extension. I didn’t have anything. When I worry about that, I may have to get a job with you guys.’’

Jim Boeheim’s words drip of sarcasm and are about as sincere as the Fox News network supporting President Obama’s health care policies.

Earlier Tuesday Syracuse University Chancellor Nancy Cantor offered Boeheim a vote of confidence.

"Coach Boeheim is our coach; he's getting the team ready tonight," Cantor said. "We're very pleased with what he said Sunday night, and we stand by it."

As of this writing Cantor hasn’t talked about Boeheim’s future with Syracuse, but it’s a safe bet Boeheim will be coaching the Orange for the remainder of the 2011-12 Orange basketball season.

“This is the first time I’ve been in the press room where there’s more people here than at the game,” he quipped. “Is there something special going on tonight?”

Jim your team was playing your usual November cupcake schedule. Your long-time associate head coach had been fired 48 hours earlier for alleged sexual molestations against young boys, and you’re wondering why the media is at your post-game press game conference?

When asked if he was responsible for what allegedly took place Boeheim asked the media member who asked the question a question of his own.

We’re talking about the alleged sexual molestation of young boys, allegations that at least three young men were molested by a man who you stood by two weeks ago. You may have been right to stand up for him then and you may want to shift the focus to the boys on the court and the 2011-2012 season, but you’re not helping anyone by being arrogant and almost defiant in dealing with the media.

"That's where he made a mistake," Mike Paul, president of MGP & Associates PR told Yahoo Sports. "That's a fork in the road in the moment. That's the tipping point that could have made people say, 'Wow, they handled things totally different than Penn State,' and instead he did just the opposite. He followed in their footsteps."

"It's pretty difficult for him to say anything that's going to placate the public and correct what he's already said," said University of Arkansas professor Stephen Dittmore, author of the book "Sport public relations: Managing organizational communication according to Yahoo Sports."

"Anytime you get a crisis that involves things society would find morally inappropriate, you need to show empathy and compassion. Even if you don't agree with the allegations, you have to show some compassion to the human element that's involved there. I think coach Boeheim probably did himself a disservice by reacting so strongly initially. He should have taken a very neutral approach."

Guys like Jim Boeheim and Joe Paterno are not above the law not matter how important they are, or were, on their respective campuses.

Penn State University fired Joe Paterno, in large part because they believed there had been irreparable harm to the image of their school. It remains to be seen if Syracuse University’s Board of Trustees will feel the same way about Jim Boeheim.

It takes a lifetime to build a legacy but mere moments to for it to forever tarnished.

I’m sure Joe Paterno wishes he had done things differently. He seems ready to accept that he is, at least in part, responsible for what took place under his watch at Penn State.

Jim Boeheim is only ready to do what he does best, and that’s challenge for an NCAA championship.

He also seems quite prepared to be defiant with the media. It’s time to check your attitude Jim Boeheim. It’s time to start acting like a Hall of Fame coach. You may have done nothing wrong but if the allegations are proven to be true you are guilty of not knowing what took place “under your watch,” and for that you need to be held accountable.

Stop being your own worst enemy and start understanding why this story is as important as it is to so many people.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Is the National Football League once again the No Fun League?


Once again National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is having to deal with misbehaving players. Goodell’s off field policy created in 2007 has generated a great deal of discussion, but in light of recent on field incidents, it might be time for Goodell to create a blanket policy when it comes to dealing with player behavior.

On Thanksgiving Day, Detroit Lions Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh stomped on the arm of Green Bay Packers Guard Evan Dietrich-Smith in the third quarter of the Lions' 27-15 loss and was ejected.

Sunday during the Buffalo Bills 28-14 loss to the New York Jets, Stevie Johnson was fined $10,000, and the Bills were penalized 15 yards, after Johnson’s end zone dance mocked Jets receiver Plaxico Burress’s infamous gun incident where he shot himself in leg. Burress spent two years behind bars for his actions.

Suh's suspension will cost him $164,000, or two game checks. For Suh, the 2010 NFL
Defensive Rookie of the Year, it was the fifth time in his two year NFL career his on-field behavior has created ‘issues’.
Suh contacted Goodell Sunday evening to apologize for his what he did – four days after the Lions Thanksgiving game. How sincere can he be if it took hm four days to reach out?

In a statement released Tuesday, the league said Suh has now violated its on-field rules five times since joining the Lions in 2010.
Suh was widely considered to be one of the best prospects available in the 2010 Draft. ESPN.com's draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. described Suh as "maybe the most dominating defensive tackle I've seen in 32 years" and projected him to go #1 overall to the St. Louis Rams. The Rams ultimately selected quarterback Sam Bradford.

To prepare for the NFL Draft and the subsequent contract negotiations, Suh signed with Maximum Sports Management, and agent Roosevelt Barnes.

This was concerning for many teams who were hoping to draft him, as this was the same agent who represented Michael Crabtree. Crabtree held out for over six weeks into the NFL season before signing with the San Francisco 49ers in 2009.

For off the field marketing activities, Suh signed with The Agency Sports Management & Marketing, where Russ Spielman serves as lead agent.

His Lions contract guaranteed the defensive tackle a five year $40 million contract.
Suh the second overall 2010 selection in the NFL draft has endorsement contracts with Subway and Chrysler. He's also worked with Omaha Steaks and Battle Sports Science. None of Suh’s sponsors have suggested they’ll drop him.

The Lions are 7-4 and have a real chance of making the playoffs. They are one of the feel good stories of the 2011 NFL season.

His image is of a rough, tough unrelenting NFL player. Is his reputation good for business and the Lions?

Football is a violent game and Suh, in his second NFL season, has to be considered one of the league’s most violent players. For all the wrong reasons Suh appeals to both corporate America and to the football teams for which he plays.

The next time Suh decides to stomp on opponent count on Roger Goodell suspending him for at least five games based on his history.
Stevie Johnson’s on field behavior bordered on moronic. He mocked Plaxico Burress, drew a 15-yard personal foul for excessive celebration and dropped the would-be winning touchdown.

"When we start talking regret, I'm not one to regret much. But in this situation I do regret doing what I did," he said. "I was really expecting Plax to come back at me, making this like a rivalry thing, you know Bills-Jets, they talk, we come back at them, he come back at me. I was expecting him to do something funny in the end zone. ... but he didn't.

"So I was seeing it was probably more serious than what I took it. So I regret doing that, yeah. And I also regret going to the ground, which cost our team at the end of the day a touchdown."

According to the Buffalo News, Johnson was penalized, and subsequently fined $10,000 by the league, for a similar incident during a Week Three game in the 2010 season against the New England Patriots.

That time, he mimicked the Patriots' traditional musket blast after a touchdown, falling to the ground.

While two on-field incidents are being talked about this week, a series of conduct policies Goodell created in April 2007 sent a message to NFL players that if you behave badly and you’ll pay a price.

Goodell implemented a tougher new personal-conduct policy and, under conditions of the previous policy, handed down two of the harshest suspensions in NFL history for off-field misdeeds.

Just days before the start of 2006 season, Roger Goodell was named NFL Commissioner. Goodell’s first major task was to deal with the fallout from a 2006 off-season filled with NFL players behaving badly.

In the months leading up to Goodell's appointment, nine players from the Cincinnati Bengals were arrested. Goodell and the National Football League Players Association announced that teams would become responsible for the conduct of their employees, and will be subject to discipline for any transgressions.

Goodell had consulted with the late Gene Upshaw, former NFLPA executive director, and created a six-man player advisory committee to discuss conduct, discipline and other topics.

The first to feel the wrath of Goodell were Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones and the late Chris Henry, of the Cincinnati Bengals. The two were teammates at West Virginia. The third player suspended was Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson.

On August 24, 2007, Atlanta Falcons starting quarterback, and NFL mega star, Michael Vick plead guilty to in his involvement in illegal dog fighting and was suspended indefinitely without pay.

He was reinstated upon his release from prison in time to play in the 2009-2010 season.

Ben Roethlisberger was next. On July 17, 2009, a civil suit was filed in Washoe County, Nevada District Court accusing Roethlisberger of sexually assaulting Andrea McNulty in June 2008 in his hotel room. He was in Lake Tahoe for a celebrity golf tournament. No charges were filed in the case.

In March 2010 Roethlisberger was, again, accused of sexual assault. While Roethlisberger was once again not charged with a crime following the events at the nightclub, the league still suspended him for six games, which was later reduced to four.

This is the only time in league history a player has been suspended under the personal conduct policy without being charged with a crime.

Off the field Goodell’s power appears to be absolute. He has made it clear if a player breaks the law, or is even arrested, he’s going to pay a stiff price.
NFL owners have been very supportive of Goodell’s off-the-field player behavior policy, as have former NFL players.

Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp stated, "I understand what they're doing. Some of these new-jack kids act like they're walking on water. Sometimes, they need to be slapped in the face to wake up."

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said of the policy, "I hope this sends a message to people in our league for how to conduct themselves. We have to be careful. People in America can't relate to overindulged athletes not acting responsibly."

If Ndamukong Suh had done what he had done in a normal workplace, he would have been arrested and charged with assault. We all know the gridiron isn’t your normal http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifworkplace. If Stevie Johnson had taunted someone at a normal workplace he would have been fired.

Sooner rather than later, for the good of the game, Roger Goodell has to deal with the Ndamukong Suh's and Stevie Johnson's in the same way he dealt with Pacman Jones, Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger and company.

It’s not a matter of the NFL becoming the No Fun League, it’s a matter of Roger Goodell sending a message to all NFL players that no longer will bad behavior be acceptable on or off a football field.

For s this is Howard Bloom. Sources used in this Insider Report: Wikipedia

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Bernie Fine – a sad ending to a sad life

It has been a tumultuous year for the NCAA. The full frontal assault includes recruiting scandals, booster issues, questionable grading, and high school players being “purchased”. None of those controversies compare to the alleged child sex abuse scandals that first hit the Penn State football program and have now dunked the Syracuse basketball program.

These are the worst of times for college sports – a black eye on the sports industry.
The life and times of now former Syracuse University Associate Head Basketball Coach Bernie Fine came to an abrupt end Sunday evening when the university fired Fine. The 65-year-old Fine was in his 36th season at his alma mater, the longest active streak of consecutive seasons at one school among assistant coaches in Division I.

Fine joined the Orange basketball program in 1963 as a student manager. That team included basketball Hall of Famers Jim Boeheim and current Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. Fine joined Boeheim with the Orange in 1976 when Boeheim was hired as Head Coach.

When ESPN first broke the story ten days ago, Boeheim staunchly defended Fine, suggesting Mike Davis was lying and in search of a financial payoff. Sunday, ESPN released a tape Davis secretly made of himself and Fine’s wife Laurie talking about the sexual abuses.

Laurie Fine, who admitted to having a sexual affair with Davis at the same time her husband allegedly abused him, confirmed what Davis had said about his relationship with her husband.

"The allegations that have come forth today are disturbing and deeply troubling," Boeheim said in a statement released by the school. "I am personally very shocked because I have never witnessed any of the activities that have been alleged. I believe the university took the appropriate step tonight. What is most important is that this matter be fully investigated and that anyone with information be supported to come forward so that the truth can be found. I deeply regret any statements I made that might have inhibited that from occurring or been insensitive to victims of abuse."

What Jim Boeheim knew or didn’t know remains a mystery, but his unwavering support of Fine ten days ago now appears to be a major mistake for one of America’s most important college basketball coaches.

If Boeheim knew nothing about the allegations, one has to question how close the two men really were. Fine’s firing is a blow to Boeheim personally and professionally and while he may not be painted with the same brush that ruined Joe Paterno’s career, it will be tough for Boeheim, whose Orange are among the best in college basketball this year, not to be hurt by the aftermath.

Syracuse University chancellor Nancy Cantor initially stood by Fine but now says there is no place at Syracuse for anyone like Bernie Fine.

“Tonight, in the wake of troubling new allegations that emerged in the media today, I am writing to let you know that Bernie Fine's employment at the University has been terminated effective immediately.

“Frankly, the events of the past week have shaken us all. The taped phone call that ESPN revealed today was not provided to the university by Mr. Davis during the 2005 investigation by our legal counsel. Like the media review of the case a few years earlier, no other witnesses came forward during the university investigation, and those who felt they knew Bernie best could not imagine what has unfolded.

“Since I last wrote to you, we have been cooperating fully with the authorities. On Friday, November 18th, as the District Attorney has noted, we turned over to his office the results of our 2005 months-long investigation. Also on November 18, our Board of Trustees retained an independent law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, to review our procedures in responding to the initial allegations when they first came to the University's attention. I fully supported that decision and it is vital that we examine our protocols and actions in dealing with such serious allegations. We need to learn all we can from this terrible lesson.

“All of us have the responsibility, individually and collectively, to ensure that Syracuse University remains a safe place for every campus community member and everyone with whom we interact on a daily basis on campus or in the community as part of our learning, scholarship, or work. We do not tolerate abuse. If anything good comes out of this tragedy, it will be that this basic principle is reinforced.”
In the days immediately following ESPN’s initial report, many former Orange players stood by Fine.

“I’m sure this is just the beginning,” said Danny Schayes, who played for the Orangemen in the late’70s and early ’80s, from his home in Arizona Sunday evening.
“I’m afraid, unfortunately, that the ball is just starting to roll down the hill.”

“The whole thing is a mess, no matter how you slice it,” said Schayes, one of Fine’s prized pupils. “For those of us who consider themselves friends of Bernie, the best case is a horrible case. There’s no good case here.

“Whether it comes to charges or no charges, jail or no jail, life is over for him.
That tape was damning testimony. The kid says Bernie was sleeping with him while he was sleeping with the wife. I mean, it couldn’t be more Jerry Springerish.”

The NCAA has rules and regulations when it comes to dealing with illegal payments to players, but doesn’t have a firm set of rules relating to sexual abuse allegations.
The damage to the image of the NCAA and the school’s directly involved is incalculable, but the NCAA needs to react quickly.

The pages of Sports Business News demanded Joe Paterno be held accountable. Penn State did what was right when they fired Joe Paterno. There is direct evidence that the Penn State football program covered-up the Jerry Sandusky child abuse allegations for many years.

If Jim Boeheim knew anything about the Bernie Fine accusations then he must pay the same price as Joe Paterno. Should Boeheim be fired? That is a question well worth asking. Fine was Boeheim’s associate head coach, his right hand for 35 years.

If Boeheim didn’t know then he either wasn’t paying enough attention to what his staff was doing away from the basketball court at Syracuse that bares his namesake.
Penn State was very slow to react to the Sandusky allegations – a classic case of terrible crisis communications. When ESPN first broke the Fine story ten days ago Syracuse suspended Fine immediately, but were quick to point out the university had dismissed the Davis story in 2002 and 2003.

The sense of betrayal Jim Boeheim must feel has to be near debilitating. Ten days ago Boeheim talked about a friendship that had spanned 50 years. The sense of humiliation Jim Boeheim must be feeling has to be terrible.

Faced with two terrible sex abuse scandals, the NCAA needs to enact a set of rules that help member schools deal with the issues of child abuse.

NCAA coaches are powerful figures in their respective communities, leaders who are trusted, respected and all too often revered. To take advantage of that standing in the community to abuse a child is reprehensible and must be handled with the severest of possible sanctions.

The rules can’t be tough enough when it comes to dealing with the allegations that have been leveled against Jerry Sandusky and Bernie Fine. The NCAA has its work cut of for it.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Christmas Comes early for the National Basketball Association


Christmas came early for the National Basketball Association in the wee hours of Saturday morning in the form of a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).

What seemed next to impossible two weeks ago turned around in a matter of days. At the end of the day NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBPA executive director Billy Hunter came to the realization that the two sides had to reach an agreement for the “good of the game”. The two sides met for more than 15 hours the day after Thanksgiving before reaching their agreement.

“We’ve reached a tentative understanding that is subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations but we are optimistic that will all come to pass and the NBA season will begin December 25th, Christmas Day, with a triple-header. I won’t give you the details to tune in yet. We are very pleased that we have come this far. There is a lot of work to be done in a lot of places, with a lot of committees and player groups and alike but we are optimistic that it will hold and we will have ourselves an NBA season,” a tired but pleased Stern announced at 3:30 AM Saturday.

“I want to announce on behalf of those who are gathered here, Derek (Fisher) and Maurice (Evans), that we are happy that we have been able to resolve and reach a tentative litigation settlement with regards to many issues that are pending for the various courts. We are going to turn it all over to the lawyers here and let them work out the details and we’ll then be able to talk further as that process proceeds,” an equally tired and pleased Hunter countered.

Former ESPN and AP NBA Insider Chris Sheridan offered a few reasons as to why he believed the deal was done.

“On the financial split, the players will receive between 49 and 51 percent of revenues, depending on annual growth. The players had complained prior to Saturday that the owners’ previous offer effectively limited them to 50.2 percent of revenues, but the source said 51 percent was now reasonably achievable with robust growth.

“Owners dropped their insistence on what would have been known as the Carmelo Anthony rule, preventing teams from executing extend-and-trade deals similar to the one that sent Anthony from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks last season. This means that if Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul want to leverage their way out of Orlando, New Jersey and New Orleans, they will still be eligible to sign three-year extensions with their current teams before being immediately traded elsewhere.”

The previous CBA had the basketball related income (BRI) at 57 percent in favor of the players. It’s no surprise the new CBA is basically the same 50/50 BRI split the NBPA said they’d never accept. Both sides had to realize months ago the final agreement would be near a 50/50 split, and should have worked much harder than they did before reaching the agreement Saturday. The NBA season could have started on November 3.

The new CBA is for ten years, but either side has the option of opting out of the agreement after six years. The league is planning on a truncated 66 game schedule that will start on Christmas Day. Training camps will open on December 9.

“Owners came in having suffered substantial loses and feeling that the system wasn’t working fairly across all teams and I certainly know that the players had strong view about expectations in terms of what they should be getting from the system so it required a lot of compromise on both parties part and I think that’s what we saw today. I think we saw a willingness of both sides to compromise yet a little more and to reach this agreement.” NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Stern offered.

One of Stern’s stated goals was the league would be more competitively balanced. Free agency is still very much of part of how the NBA conducts business, but as far as Silver is concerned he has achieved his goal of a more balanced NBA.

“I think it will largely prevent the high spending teams from competing in the free agency market in a way that they have been able to in the past. As I have said, it is a compromise and it is not the system we sought out to get in terms of a harder cap but the luxury tax is harsher than it was in the past deal and we hope it’s effective. You never can be sure with how a new system will work but we feel ultimately it will give fans in every community hope that their team can compete for championships and that their basis for believing in their team will be a function of management of that team rather than, as I have said before, how deep the owners pockets are or how large the market is. Peter, do you want to speak to that point?”

San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt, a key in the negotiations, echoed Silver’s sentiments.

“That is a big part of it and I appreciate what Billy and Derek and the players have compromised on because it will allow us as a small market to be competitive and create more parity across all 30 teams. We are really excited. We are excited for the fans. We’re excited to start playing basketball for the players and for everybody involved. This is going to give us an opportunity we think it is, a contract as we work through it over the next many days getting all the details done, that is going to allow all of that. And so it is really exciting. It is going to be exciting whether you are in a small market or a large market. Fans are going to have a lot of hope and a lot of excitement going forward.”

And what does Billy Hunter feel about the dawn of a new competitively balanced NBA?

“The owners are independently wealthy,” he said. “They did not earn their riches from basketball. They can function if the season blows up.

“I did not want to be reckless. This is not like the United Auto Workers and General Motors. They work together: they make automobiles. If something happens, they will all suffer. I don’t like the idea of Armageddon. I was not prepared to play free and loose with my clients.”

The new CBA includes a salary floor. Teams will have to have a minimum payroll of 85 percent of the NBA’s salary cap in the first two years of the CBA and 90 percent each year thereafter.

One important concession the owners made to the NBPA is their new "Carmelo Rule," which would've put an end to extend and trades. Owners wanted to try and end the drama we saw last season with Carmelo Anthony and nip that in the bud with Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard.

Attorney Jeffrey Kessler who had emerged as a key “player” for the NBPA didn’t attend Friday’s decisive negotiations in person. A few weeks ago Kessler suggested Stern was treating NBA players like they were slaves on his plantation, suggesting Stern was a racist.

Kessler, denounced for his comments, participated in Friday's negotiations via conference call.

Gabe Feldman, Director of Tulane University’s Sports Law program, told ESPN the league needs to recognize the reconstructed union.

"That will truly be a formality," he said, adding that the union does not need to file a petition with the National Labor Relations Board.

So why then, ten days after David Stern evoked the term “nuclear winter,” did the two warring factions find peace?

At or near the top of any list as to why the two sides managed to work out their differences – David Stern and Billy Hunter are leaders and acted like the leaders they are. They got the deal done because they believed it had to get done.

The players were never going to miss an entire season. The average NBA career is just a shade over four seasons and the average salary, $5.1 million. The players could never afford to miss an entire season.

The owners would have been able to afford the loss of an entire NBA season but they ran the risk of alienating a fan base that seemingly didn’t care if the 2011-12 season was played.

The National Hockey League lost the 2004-05 season, the NHL has far fewer fans than the NBA does, but NHL fans are passionate and care about hockey. It’s possible if the NBA had lost the entire 2011-12 season the backlash would have been apathy.

Christmas came early for NBA fans, and Christmas Day will see the return of the NBA with a tripleheader of hoops.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Major League Baseball – giving Thanks


There is a new five year Major League Baseball Collective Bargaining Agreement that ensures 21 years and counting of labor peace for the Boys of Summer.

The National Basketball Association is in the midst of a protracted lockout that could, and will likely, result in the cancellation of the 2011-12 NBA season. The National Hockey League became the first major North American professional sports league to lose an entire season to a labor battle in 2004-05. The National Football League reached the edge of their labor abyss before agreeing to a 10-year CBA.

Baseball was never in doubt.

Bud Selig didn’t play much of a role in the negotiations. While David Stern is front and center on behalf of NBA owners, Roger Goodell on behalf of NFL owners and Gary Bettman on behalf of NHL owners, Selig the former owner of the Milwaukee Brewers turns labor negotiations on behalf of ownership to Ron Manfred.

Bud offered this when the labor agreement was announced:

“I believe that this five year agreement will continue the remarkable popularity and surge that baseball has been on. I've said this often, and I'll say it to all of you today, nobody back in the '70s, the '80s, and the early '90s would ever believe that we'd have 21 years of labor peace. It's really remarkable. Clearly it's the longest period of labor peace that this sport has ever had.

“It's interesting to note that baseball's popularity has manifested itself in a myriad of ways. It's been at its greatest in the last 15 or 16 years. I think that one of the primary reasons, if not the primary reason is labor peace.

“I think at least from my standpoint, a lot of us didn't understand how serious the labor confrontations of the '70s, and the '80s were. Usually I (list each lockout year)…because I can still remember, but how much it really had hurt the sport. Now with the great growth of this sport, and this year ended as well as it could have, and this is another step forward.

“So this is really a very proud day for us. By the way, it needs, obviously, clearly ratification from the players as well as from all the owners, and that process will begin today, so we have a lot of work yet to do before this deal is done.”

The 1994 MLB strike hurt the game. The World Series was canceled ultimately killing the Montreal Expos. The Expos had baseball’s best record in 1994. Whatever fan base the Expos had before the 1994 MLB season ended in mid-August was gone when baseball returned in 1995.

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) have worked together to ensure what happened 16 years ago never happens again. It remains to be seen if MLB will continue to enjoy labor peace beyond this newest agreement, but it sends the right message to baseball fans.

Michael Weiner, who succeeded Don Fehr as the executive director for the MLBPA, echoed many of Selig’s comments.

“Bud spoke of labor peace, and labor peace is good. It's better than labor war, for sure. But the goal of the collective bargaining is not just to have peace. Not just to reach an agreement. This is a good day for baseball, not just because we reached an agreement, but because of the quality and the nature of the agreement that was reached, an agreement that will benefit all players.

“Bud used the word historic, and there are some historic changes in this agreement, some that the players have sought for a long, long time. There are benefits here that will run to young players to veteran players, to international players, to former players. It's our job, the union's job, to secure the benefits for players and to protect and further players’ rights, and that's exactly what we did in this agreement. It's an agreement that will benefit all clubs, the largest market clubs, the smallest market clubs and everyone in between.

“It’s the Commissioner's job and Rob's job and Dan's job and the staff's job to do that. They bargained hard for their constituents and they bargained successfully. This is also an agreement that will benefit the game and the industry.

“I've been working for the union for 23 years, and this is the first round of bargaining where we're able to really engage on matters that can be of benefit to all involved with the game.

“The first time in my experience that it didn't matter whose idea it was, it didn't matter who brought a particular idea to the table or who didn't, but we engaged on matters that I think are exciting for everybody who loves the game.

“Maybe the best example of that is the realignment. The 15 15 realignment that Bud and the owners announced last week. This was a union idea from over a decade ago. It was the owners' side of the table that brought it into this round of bargaining. None of that mattered. It was a good idea. It was an idea that the parties worked hard with that's allowed us to come up with an exciting new post season format. That kind of bargaining is something that these parties haven't previously been able to achieve.

“There are other examples as well, for example, in the areas of health and safety. The parties jointly brought to the table issues related to drug testing to our joint drug agreement to how we deal with players with alcohol difficulties, with players with concussions, issues of equipment and safety that the parties jointly addressed.

“And there are a number of others in the reserve system and in the draft area, and revenue sharing is just a couple of examples. Of these are exciting changes that will better the game and help grow the industry.

“That's why I say it's not just a good day for baseball, but a good day for collective bargaining. When collective bargaining works, you have creative, determined, even dogged people on both sides of the table, and that's what we had here. The parties are pursuing in good faith the priorities of their constituents. But at the same time, they're looking for areas of common interest, areas of common benefit.

“The process wasn't easy. It's never easy. It's always harder than you think it's going to be. But it was a successful process. It's a good day for collective bargaining and for baseball.” Weiner commented.

There isn’t a great deal to argue about in the new MLB CBA. However one clause being included that is ‘interesting’ is a cap on spending at the annual June entry draft.

Two issues make this clause questionable and worrisome at the very least.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Kansas City Royals spent more money on players each organization had drafted after the June 2011 entry draft. The Pirates and the Royals rarely, if ever, spend money in the free agent market.

They’re small market MLB franchises. The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox can’t help but spend money on big name free agents. If the Pirates and Royals are going to be competitive they need to draft the right players and keep them for four to six years before they become arbitration eligible and free agents.

Small market franchises rely on the draft to stay competitive. Just look at the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Kansas City Royals drafted and signed Derek “Bubba” Starling, a center fielder and multi-sport phenom from Gardner Edgerton High School in Missouri to a three year $7.5 million contract.

Startling had a football scholarship waiting for him from Nebraska if his agent Scott Boras didn’t reach an agreement on behalf of his client with the Royals. Starling is key to the Royals future.

And Boras – baseball’s most affluent agent had a great deal to say about how MLB is dealing with their entry draft.

"This will hurt all of baseball," Boras told USA TODAY in a telephone interview. "This was not good for the game at all. There have to be some amendments to it because this dramatically impacts the game. It goes against the revenue sharing concept. This dramatically affects parity. That concept is gone. A team's chance to dramatically improve has been dramatically reduced.

"This will affect (general managers') careers. This will affect scouts' careers. This is restricting their expertise. The value they invest in scouting is no longer worth the payment of the scouting department. Their ability has about been minimized by 30 to 40% because they can't draft a certain way. The intellect of scouting has been reduced. You want to pay for talent, but now it's going to be governed by artificial behavior.

"Try to find a GM who's for this. I know of no GM who's in favor of these changes. Try to find a scouting director. No one is in favor of this but Bud [Selig]. This was a mandate by the commissioner to get the deal done.

"Now, if you're Tampa Bay, and if you win, you get to spend half as much as the Chicago Cubs do in the draft. It makes no sense." Boras told USA Today

He “was” a two sport star who chose a small market MLB team because the Royals could pay him to choose baseball. If the Royals were capped and could not pay him that much money, he would have gone to college, played football and potentially left baseball behind.

Long-term, MLB didn’t run the risk of losing a potential star to the National Football League. Short-term the Kansas City Royals are sending the right message of their fan base.

A real win for Major League Baseball. A win/win for MLB – the new clause included in the new MLB CBA may make this a lose/lose for baseball.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sidney Crosby – the return of the NHL’s Prodigal Son


Thanksgiving Day came three days early for the National Hockey League and the Lords of the Rink must be thrilled.

Sidney Crosby, the NHL’s marquee and most bankable player, returned after a near year- long absence, following a series of concussions, to score two goals and collect two assists in the Penguins 5-0 trashing of the New York Islanders.

Crosby last played an NHL game January 5, 2011, 320 days ago.

Crosby’s return comes at the perfect time for the NHL. The National Basketball Association is in the midst of a protracted labor dispute – the likelihood of there being a NBA season being more and more remote each passing day. The NBA lockout represents a tremendous opportunity for the NHL.

Crosby’s story is a tale that illustrates why hockey means so much to those who love the frozen sport. Small town Canadian kid becoming the best player in the game, a fact niot lost on Tim Hortons – one of Canada’s iconic brands, Dempsters and the companies who choose to work with the NHL’s best player.

The Hockey Writers (a website) offered this on who Sid the Kid is: “Love him or hate him, Sidney Crosby has been anointed the new face of the NHL since he was by the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted in 2005.”

It was an unusual draft year to say the least. Due to a labor stoppage, the 2004-05 season never happened making the order of the draft a topic of debate.

In order to determine the order of the draft, a weighted lottery was used. The lottery was based primarily on each team’s playoff appearances and lottery victories the previous four seasons. This system led to the draft known as the “Sidney Crosby Lottery.” Pittsburgh Penguins won that lottery and picked Crosby first overall. However, his rise to fame occurred well before he was drafted.

Sidney was born in 1987 in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. His father, Troy, was a goalie drafted by the Montreal Canadiens 240th overall in 1984, however, he would never make it to the NHL.

Sid began playing hockey in his basement shortly after he could walk. In fact, hishe badly damaged washer and dryer as a result of his repeatedly shooting pucks at it is stuff of legend.

By the time he was two and a half years old, he and his father were skating once a week in a parent/child program. The seed had been planted.

From day one it was as if Sidney’s destiny fate had been predetermined. After appearing in the Air Canada Cup, one of hockey’s premier showcase events as a 14-year old, Crosby was being called “The Next One,” an homage to Wayne Gretzky the NHL’s best player throughout the 1980’s and much of the 1990’s.

When he turned 15, Crosby left Nova Scotia for Shattuck-St. Marys, a hockey driven prep school located in Minnesota, with future NHLers Jonathan Toews and Zack Parise.

The Crosbys thought it would be a great experience for Sidney, not only to play hockey outside of the media spotlight of Canada, but also to grow and mature as a person. He would play the 2002-2003 season with Shattuck-St. Marys, leading them to the U.S. National Championship scoring 72 goals and 162 points in 57 games.

The following year, Crosby was selected first overall in the midget draft by the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (“QMJHL”) and would make his debut in the 2003-04 season as a 16-year old.

He wasted no time making his mark scoring eight points in his first exhibition game. Throughout his first season in the QMJHL, Crosby would be named QMJHL Player of the Week six times, Player of the Month three times, and Canadian Hockey League (“CHL”) Player of the Week three times.

At the conclusion of the season, with 54 goals and 139 point in 59 games, Crosby was named Player of the Year, Top Rookie and Top Scorer, the first QMJHL player to earn all three awards. Most youngsters begin playing junior hockey (the NHL’s premier development league) at 17; Crosby was the best junior hockey player in the world – at 16.

The 2004-05 season would see even more success for the young star. This was the year of the NHL labor stoppage. The World Hockey Association (“WHA”) was attempting to become a rival league to the NHL and was offering large contracts to current and future NHLers.

The league offered Crosby $7.5 million over three years, however, Crosby declined saying he wasn’t yet ready to leave juniors. The WHA never played a game.

Crosby returned to Rimouski and dominated the QMJHL, establishing a Canadian Junior Hockey record for the longest undefeated streak of 28 games, and losing only 2 games in the entire playoffs. Unfortunately, the team fell to the London Knights in the Memorial Cup Finals. He would finish the season scoring 66 goals and 168 points in 62 games.

Over this time, Crosby also participated in two World Junior Championship Tournaments. In 2004, Crosby would score two goals and five points in six games helping Canada to the silver medal. The following year, Crosby returned to the Tournament and scored six goals and three assists helping Canada win the gold medal.

The NHL came back in 2005-06, and Crosby was selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Crosby started off the year playing alongside Mario Lemieux. Crosby, now 18 and with a three year $8.7 million contract, chose to live with Mario Lemieux and his family. You can’t make this stuff up..

Crosby is the youngest player to win the NHL’s Lester B. Pearson Award, and the 2nd youngest to Wayne Gretzky to win the Hart Trophy. He is the youngest scoring champion in North American professional sport history, winning the NHL’s Art Ross Trophy at 19 years old.

Crosby signed a three-year deal with Pepsi and Frito Lay of Canada after his rookie season.

But it was Tim Hortons, who signed Crosby to a major endorsement contract on December 13, 2006, who really understood the brand power of Sidney Crosby.

Tim Hortons, Canada’s biggest quick service restaurant business, first connected to Sidney Crosby in 1993 when the then five year old Crosby played for the Cole Harbour Timbits in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia. Standing at 3' 11" Sidney wore jersey # 8 and played centre, clearly a sign of things to come.

"I am proud to represent Timbits Hockey," said Sidney Crosby at the time. "In my early days of playing hockey, my parents and coaches always reinforced the importance of having fun. That is something I take to the ice with me everyday."

"Sidney is an ideal ambassador for Timbits Hockey," said Rob Forbes, Director of Regional Marketing and Hockey Development, Tim Hortons. "As a role model Sidney inspires with his positive attitude and fun approach while still being grounded in family and community. Sidney Crosby embodies the philosophy of Timbits Hockey."

The commercial spot, which continues to promote Tim Hortons commitment to minor league hockey in Canada, showcases Crosby as a child dreaming the dream of making it to the NHL.

The commercial moves from Sidney Crosby infectious smile as a nine-year old to the Sidney Crosby of today, hockey’s best player playing hockey with five and six year olds, current Timbit hockey players.

The legend of Michael Jordan is in part based on Michael Jordan not making his high school basketball team, and returning a year later to begin his journey to becoming basketball’s greatest. Imagine if Nike could recreate Michael Jordan to when he had missed making his high school basketball team.

Sid the Kid and Timbits – the marketing dream team worth millions.

In October, Dempters, a Canadian bread company, showcased Sidney in a commercial for the second time. The spot, according to Marketing Magazine, showcases Crosby’s game-day preparation with the work of Canadian farmers growing wheat and grains used in Dempster’s line of breads. The spot is narrated by both the farmer character and Crosby.

“Our first promotion ran last fall and was extremely successful in the marketplace… We received strong feedback from our consumers and our franchisee partners,” said Bryan McCourt, a marketing director at Canada Bread Company, which is owned by Maple Leaf Foods in a Marketing Magazine report.

Earlier this year the National Hockey League signed a ten-year television contract with NBC and Versus. On January 2, 2012 Versus changes their name to NBC Sports. NBC will be showcasing the NHL Friday in the first Thanksgiving Showdown.

Too bad the game features the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins at home to the Detroit Red Wings. The Penguins, with Crosby will be home Friday night to the Ottawa Senators.

Showcasing Sidney Crosby on Friday would have been a dream come true for the NHL. It wasn’t until Sunday Crosby and the Penguins decided Crosby would play Monday night.

The good news is Sidney Crosby is back. Count on NBC having plenty of opportunities to showcase Sid the Kid when their weekly NHL game begins early in 2012. The NHL needs Sidney Crosby and Sidney Crosby needs the NHL – welcome back Sid the Kid.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Monday, November 21, 2011

Penn State – Earned their 2011 bowl game


The Penn State Nittany Lions are 9-2 heading into their regular season finale at Wisconsin this Saturday. If the Nittany Lions win Saturday, they are headed for the Big Ten title game.

The winner of the Big Ten championship is heading to the Rose Bowl, the Granddaddy of them all. Regardless of whether or not Penn State wins any of their remaining 2011 games, the Penn State football has earned the right to play in a bowl game.

Most bowl projections don’t have Penn State going to the Rose Bowl but virtually every 2011 bowl projection has Penn State heading to a bowl game. College football teams need to win at least six games to be bowl eligible and with 9 wins heading into Saturday’s game at Wisconsin – the Lions have earned the right to play in a bowl game.

Sunday, the University of Miami decided to declared themselves ineligible for a 2011 bowl game as a punishment for violating NCAA rules.

“The University of Miami has made the decision to withhold the UM football team from bowl consideration following the 2011 regular season in response to the ongoing NCAA inquiry and has informed both the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference of its decision.

“We understand and share the disappointment that our student-athletes, coaches, staff, supporters and fans are feeling but after lengthy discussions among University leaders, athletic administrators and outside counsel, it is a necessary step for our University. The University of Miami has not self-imposed any other penalties.

“The team was informed of the decision earlier today and is in preparations for their final game of the season.

“As we stated in August, the University of Miami maintains the highest standards in our academic and athletic endeavors and we will remain steadfast in our commitment to building winning programs with the utmost of integrity. We will be more vigilant in our compliance efforts and continue to work cooperatively with the NCAA on the joint inquiry to determine the true facts.

“To continue to protect the integrity of the inquiry, the University will not comment further at this time.”

Yahoo Sports first reported University of Miami booster, Nevin Shapiro, provided thousands of impermissible benefits to at least 72 athletes from 2002 through 2010, including current members of the football team.

Even though only a handful of current players broke the rules, Miami made the only decision they could, banning themselves from playing in a bowl game.

The current members of the Penn State football team bear no responsibility for the horrible allegations and scandal that will forever taint college athletics, Penn State football and the University.

Penn State will, one day recover, from the Sandusky Scandal and the massive cover-up, but the current member of the football team have earned the right to play in a bowl game this year.

Will Penn State follow Miami’s lead? Indeed they may.

Penn State president Rod Erickson wasn't definitive, saying, "we’ll wait and see at the appropriate time."

"Yes, I want to make it. The players and the guys on this team didn't have anything to do with this that's surrounding them," said interim Head Coach Tom Bradley.

It is all but certain whoever the next coach of the Nittany Lions is it won’t be Bradley or any member of the current coaching staff. Whatever the current coaching staff knew or didn’t know about the allegations against Jerry Sandusky, Penn State will fire everyone and start over.

Does anyone believe any of the current coaches of the Penn State football program will ever coach again? But Bradley is right, if nothing else, the current football team had nothing to do with the scandal. And if Penn State decides to turn down a bowl game – the message they are sending out to potential recruits about the program’s future is not a good one.

It won’t be easy for the Penn State team to travel to a bowl game.

At the University of Miami a booster corrupted some members of the team, but they did accept gifts and money. Penn State could ask the players to vote on whether or not they want to play in a bowl game.

There will be members of the team who will have had enough of the 2011 season and want it all to end. Bowl teams have to make themselves available at media conferences and various bowl related events.

Most bowl games offer the student athletes gifts. Penn State has to know that when they accept a bowl game bid – the team will be under tremendous scrutiny.

Saturday, the Nittany Lions played at Ohio State before more than 100,000 football fans, winning 20-14. The Nittany Lions were up to the task and proved they had what it takes.

"It's an unprecedented situation for Penn State, the bowls and everyone involved," Fiesta Bowl and Insight Bowl spokesman Andy Bagnato said in a USA Today report. "We can't speculate on how Penn State will finish the year, and everyone needs to remember and keep in mind that this is a sensitive issue."

Bagnato is right in what he’s saying. Again the current football team has earned the right. What message are bowl game sending to young men who have earned the right to play in a bowl game but have that right taken away from them because of the actions of their coaches?

If Penn State wins the Big Ten the Nittany Lions will be heading to the Rose Bowl. Other bowl games are by invitation. Participating schools have to make a commitment to buying thousands of tickets – bowl games are a big business and bowl game organizers may look at Penn State and try and look the other way.

"We absolutely think about it," said Steve Hogan, Executive Officer of Florida Citrus sports, which is affiliated with the Capital One Bowl. "This transcends the game we're playing because it's so much bigger than that.

"There've been distractions over the years," Hogan said to the USA Today. "Coaches retired, or were fired, left the program, athletes were ineligible or lost in the final game that cost them a chance in the National Championship, a variety of things. But nothing of this level."

"I wouldn't be concerned because I saw the support that the university showed at the rallies and there are a lot of Penn State alums in the Dallas area," TicketCity Bowl President and CEO, Tom Starr said in a USA Today report. "If nothing else, they might be more supportive."

Penn State’s football program needs to be held accountable for their inaction when it comes to the Sandusky scandal, but that needs to be addressed after the season.

The NCAA is in the early stages of an investigation of its own. Whatever the NCAA decides to do it shouldn’t be at the expense of the 2011 football team.

Miami is paying a fair price. Penn State deserves better.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Believing in Bernie Fine


I was never good enough to make the high school, college or university basketball teams, no where near good enough actually. Realizing I was never meant to play competitively at Montréal’s Wagar High School, Montreal’s Dawson College or Carleton University in Ottawa, I served as the team manager.

Team managers fill an important role on a basketball team, often a key connection between the coaching staff and the players. Through my years as a student manager I stood from afar and imagined what it would be like to be Bernie Fine.

In the early 1960’s Bernie Fine had been the student manager on the Syracuse University basketball team, a team that included Hall of Famers Jim Boehim and David Bing. Boeheim is the current coach of the Orange and Bing the mayor of Detroit.

Fine had first been a high school coach and then Boehim’s assistant at Syracuse. If Bernie could do it, could I do it? Could I make the leap from student manager to coach?

Four years working at Basketball Canada and many years coaching, basketball has and will always be a large part of my day-to-day life, and that is at least in part due to Bernie Fine.

The Penn State “alleged” child sex abuse scandal is rearing its ugly head once again. This time allegations being linked to another major college athletic program nowhere near Happy Valley.

Instead, Central New York and the Syracuse University basketball program are under the microscope. And Bernie Fine – is at the center of a firestorm

The allegations, first reported by ESPN, have raised many questions and offered few, if any, answers. Jerry Sandusky has been indicted by a Grand Jury on 40 different charges involving multiple young boys. The charges have resulted in the firing of Penn State’s head football coach Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier who served as Penn State’s President for 16 years.

The story is very different at Syracuse. Bobby Davis, a former Syracuse team ball boy, reported his claims to the media, Syracuse University and the Syracuse Police Department in 2002. Davis provided the authorities with four people who would corroborate his allegations.

When the multiple investigations were completed and no one backed up what Davis’s claims, the case was closed.

“All of those identified by him denied any knowledge of wrongful conduct by the associate coach,” Nancy Cantor said in a Syracuse Post Standard report. “At the end of the investigation, as we were unable to find any corroboration of the allegations, the case was closed. Had any evidence or corroboration of earlier allegations surfaced — even if the police had declined to pursue the matter — we would have acted.”

The second alleged victim, Mike Lang, now 45, is Davis' stepbrother and was a ball boy at Syracuse for several years. He also has told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that Fine molested him, starting when Lang was in fifth or sixth grade. When the story broke late Thursday the media did their best to not compare the story to Penn State.

Jim Boeheim, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and Fine’s teammate since 1962, has been very vocal in his support.

“The Post-Standard and the university talked to those other kids (in 2003). None of them corroborated the story, at all. I know some of those kids. They’ve told me, ‘Hey, Coach. Bernie helped me. He cared about me. He knew I needed help and he helped me.
“You need to go to your people down there at the paper. They investigated this for four months. Do they remember that? And they found … what? They investigated this and found nothing. They talked to Bernie’s neighbors and friends … everybody. They found nothing. Your paper would whitewash nothing. Don’t you agree? They had nothing. They could not write a story. They found zero.

“The Penn State thing came out and the kid behind this is trying to get money. He’s tried before. And now he’s trying again. If he gets this, he’s going to sue the university and Bernie. What do you think is going to happen at Penn State? You know how much money is going to be involved in civil suits? I’d say about $50 million. That’s what this is about. Money.”

Was it right for Jim Boeheim to stand by Bernie Fine? Depends who you ask.

"He took a big risk in automatically defending his assistant," New York-based crisis consultant Mike Paul said. "He certainly didn't think about this from the university's standpoint or out of respect for the law and potential liability for the university and him."

Paul may be right, but so is Boeheim in why he’s standing so firmly beside Fine. Boeheim points out he and Fine have been friends for 50 years and he’ll stand up for his lifelong friend.

The statute of limitations against Fine has long expired – legally the case has little if any merit.

"The case is likely to face difficulty whether a civil lawsuit or criminal charges are brought because the time for filing a lawsuit or prosecuting a crime appears to have passed," said Suzanne Goldberg, a Columbia University law professor and director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law.

"There's no case here," said New York University law professor Martin Guggenheim in a USA Today report.

At the same time it’s impossible to dismiss the allegations against Fine. College sports has changed forever in the aftermath of the Penn State scandal.

That said it’s important to note a Grand Jury conducted a three year investigation of Jerry Sandusky. Bernie Fine has been investigated by the Syracuse Police, Syracuse University, ESPN and The Syracuse Post Standard in 2002 and 2003.

Was ESPN right to report the story in 2011 when they didn’t believe there was a story in 2002 and 2003?

If Fine is exonerated ESPN could face a great deal of criticism.

"Now what's happening is the ripple effect," Paul Mones, a sexual abuse attorney and children's rights advocate in Portland, Ore told ESPN. “Victims around the country are having what is called an anniversary reaction. Victims are feeling more agitated."

What made Lang come forward in 2011 when he was nowhere to be found in 2002 and 2003? Davis says it was “after seeing news coverage of the Sandusky case.”

Support for Bernie Fine and the tough stance Jim Boeheim is taking in his support of Fine is resonating with the Syracuse community.

"From the people I've talked to around here, there is a real sense of being disturbed about this story and also a kind of defensiveness which I think we saw at Penn State as well," Thompson said. "The idea that this surely couldn't be true and all of that kind of thing, especially given what Boeheim has said.

"It certainly sounds sincere," Robert Thompson founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University said when asked about Boeheim's strong denial of the accusations against Fine according to the USA Today. "However this goes, this is a bad story. If it all turns out to be untrue, then a bunch of untrue accusations is a really bad story. If it turns out to have truth to it, that's an even worse story."

There are two ways this story can go. It will be a repeat of the ultimately false rape accusations made against the nationally ranked Duke University lacrosse team in 2006.

Those accused were tried and convicted of a fabricated event. The young men linked to lies had their lives changed forever – and they did nothing wrong. If Bernie Fine is proven to be innocent will he be able to recover his reputation – will his life ever be the same?

If the story is true it will mark a sad end to the life and times of Bernie Fine and will impact the legacy Jim Boeheim has built in his 36 years at Syracuse.

This is a story with no happy endings.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

David Beckham – was his MLS contract a good business decision


The David Beckham era in MLS comes to an end Sunday at the Home Dept Center in Los Angeles when the Los Angeles Galaxy meet the Houston Dynamo in the MLS Cup.

The championship marks much more than the end of the 2011 MLS season, it marks the end of a what was billed as the biggest contract in sports history. When Beckham joined the Galaxy in January 2007 he signed a contract estimated to be worth more than $250 million in salary and commercial endorsements. His contract never paid him anywhere near $250 million.

When the contract was signed the BBC reported the breakdown of Beckham’s MLS record contract:

• An annual salary of $10m
• His existing sponsorship contracts with his four sponsors - Motorola, Pepsi, Gillette and Volkswagen - are estimated to be worth $25m
• His merchandising shirt sales will bring in $10m
• His share of the club profits: $10m

That adds up to $55M. Multiply it by five and you get well over $275M. The ‘released’ $250M figure offered by the Los Angeles Galaxy likely didn’t include the endorsement agreements with Motorola, Pepsi, Gillette and Volkswagen that have been extended as a result of Beckham’s decision to continue playing the remaining years of his soccer career in North America.

Was it a good deal? Is Major League Soccer stronger as business and as a brand?

The Los Angeles Times offered some compelling points that suggest Beckham has been good for business. The right to become an MLS member (expansion fee) quadrupled to $40M.

MLS, which once had to pay for its game to be televised, will start the 2012 season with a $10 million a year multi-year agreement with NBC, as well continuing to enjoy broadcast from Univision and ESPN.

Last week Beckham's Galaxy signed a new local broadcast agreement with Los Angeles' Time Warner Cable, which according to The Los Angeles Times, will pay the team $55 million over 10 years .

Expansion fees haven’t decreased in the last five years and at $40M an MLS franchise represents a good investment. The growth of regional sports networks would have seen MLS secure a rights fee regardless of whether Beckham had joined the Galaxy. It’s important to note Time Warner Cable is focused on putting together a Los Angeles based sports channel along the lines of New York’s YES Network and the New England Sports Network.
An MLS franchise with or without Beckham would have been important to what Time Warner is trying to do in the LA market.

The Galaxy are one of, if not the, marquee MLS franchise. The Times estimated the Galaxy’s value in excess of $100 million, a great deal for an MLS franchise. But what impact did David Beckham really have?

This year the MLS regular-season average climbed 7% to 17,872, better than last season's NBA and NHL figures.

"That's all David," said Tim Leiweke, president of AEG, the entertainment group that owns the Galaxy and hockey's LA Kings. "From a financial standpoint … he's been undeniably successful. Show me one measuring post that hasn't increased significantly."

Leiweke, isn’t taking enough credit for what AEG has accomplished. The Home Depot Center, home to the Galaxy, hosts the MLS Cup and has become the premier MLS facility.

On the other hand it would be hard to fault many soccer fans if they were surprised to learn Beckham was still playing in the MLS. Should the Galaxy win Sunday, it will be the first championship the Galaxy have won in the five years Beckham has been a part of the team.

Beckham has started less than half the teams’ games during the contract, and made more appearances on loan for AC Milan than for the Galaxy in 2009 and 2010.

"David coming to MLS, arguably one of the most popular cultural figures in the world today, in or outside the sports business, was a statement to a really broad global audience that MLS was serious, that we were a legitimate business," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. "It also says to a global market of soccer players that 'Hey, if it's good enough for David Beckham it's probably good enough for you.' "

Five years ago this was the right decision for MLS. MLS was formed on December 17, 1993, in fulfillment of Alan Rothenberg and U.S. Soccer's promise to FIFA to establish a "Division One" professional football (soccer) league in exchange for the staging of the FIFA World Cup USA 1994 in the United States.

The league began play in 1996 with ten teams and enjoyed promising attendance numbers in its first season. Numbers declined slightly after the first year, but stabilized in subsequent years.

When the league was started, most teams played in stadiums built specifically for NFL or NCAA football. This was based on the record attendances achieved at the 1994 FIFA World Cup. However this turned out to be a considerable expense to the league because of modest attendance and poor lease deals.
To provide better facilities as well as to control revenue for the stadium, a major goal of MLS management is to build its own stadiums, which are often called soccer-specific stadiums.

Since Beckham joined the Galaxy in 2007 the MLS has expanded to Toronto, Seattle, Philadelphia, Portland, Vancouver and Montreal. The league plans on adding two more franchises in the next few years.

Beckham offered MLS a key block in levering the league and soccer in North America. He may not have played half of the Galaxy’s games, but in 2007 and 2008 MLS was afforded the opportunity to showcase their league with David Beckham.

France's Thierry Henry, Ireland's Robbie Keane and Mexico's Rafael Marquez are now playing for MLS teams. MLS matches are televised in Europe.

The MLS isn’t anywhere close to what England’s Premier League is to European Football fans but at least Euros are aware MLS exists and David Beckham deserves much of the credit for that.

"It's a pretty good experiment," Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena said in a Los Angeles Times report. "He's helped make this team better, he's helped make the league better and there's a great awareness of MLS around the world because of David. It's a much more popular sport now, and at a time when the competition for the sports dollar is greater than ever."

And what about Beckham – does David Beckham believe traveling across the pond to America was a good decision for him?

“It’s turned out exactly the way I wanted it to, especially off the field. We wanted to see the success of the game growing in this country, the league getting bigger and more popular, and I think we’ve done that. Throughout the game around the world, now the MLS is known around the world, which it wasn’t five or six years ago. I think that’s one of the things that I personally wanted to do. I wanted to create a buzz. … I want to win a championship. I came here as a soccer player; I came here to be successful as a soccer player as well as being an ambassador for the game.” Beckham told ESPN Los Angeles.

What about that $50M annual salary Beckham signed in 2007? The $250 overall estimate for the five year contract was based on “what Beckham might earn by combining his Galaxy salary with off-field sponsorship deals.”

Forbes Magazine reported Beckham earned $40M last year making him the world’s richest soccer player.

Was the signing a good investment? Yes and no. The MLS has grown tremendously in the last five years. If you’re going to decide on the value of the contract you have to look the overall picture and base your judgement on that. At the end of the day, it was the right business decision.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Today’s Big Deal of the Day – Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment


Eighty percent of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, one of the sports industries biggest brands and Canada’s pre-eminent sports property had been for sale for close to a year.

The Ontario Teachers Pension Fund who own a majority stake in MLSE reportedly have been looking for a buyer for their shares in one of the sports industries most valuable entities since December 2010.

The Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund are in the business of making as much money as they can for their fund. Owning the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, Toronto’s MLS franchise, the Air Canada Centre, and two regional sports networks isn’t what the Pension Fund cares about – making money is all they care about.

The Toronto Star reported Providence Equity Partners are ‘interested’. Whether that interest is real or simply speculation on the part of the newspaper remains to be seen. Rick Westhead, who has an outstanding reputation and understanding of the business of sports, reported that Providence Equity Partners have “inquired” but admitted that “it’s unclear whether it has made a formal offer.”

Providence is a 12-year-old U.S. private equity firm with $23 billion in capital under management and focused on media, communications, information and education.

The Globe and Mail reported, “banking sources familiar with the company dismissed the idea the parent of the Toronto Maple Leafs could wind up in the hands of a U.S. equity fund.”

Is the Toronto Star report “much to do about nothing” – not if Rick Westhead is reporting the news. And it does make sense a company like Providence Equity Partners would at least take a serious look at a company like Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.

Providence Equity Partners were one of the original equity partners in Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network. YES Network, which started in 2002, broadcasts more than 130 New York Yankees games a year and is the most successful regional sports network.

The New England Sports Network is another example of what Providence may be looking at if their interest in MLSE is real.

MLSE is a money making machine. From the NHL, NBA, MLS, arenas, stadiums and properties MLSE owns in Toronto – if ever there was time to sell 80% of MLSE the time is now.

“They’ve done an unbelievable job maximizing revenue,” Bob Stellick, a Toronto-based sports marketing consultant told the Toronto Star. “They’ve taken their last speck of land and turned it into valuable condos and they’ve done better than anyone could have expected getting the most out of their ticket revenue.”

Providence has to be thinking about creating a YES Network II in Canada’s most densely populated area – the Golden Horseshoe. More than 7 million people live in the Greater Toronto area.

What about an American based equity company owning Canada’s most important sports property? Half of the England’s Premier League's 20 clubs are under foreign ownership. If its working in England the concept will work in Canada.

The proposed sale of the Ontario Teacher’s Fund 80% stake in MLSE makes sense if a company like Providence grabs the opportunity. Content remains king for media companies and sports properties continue to generate unbelievable interest and investment.

Canada’s Rogers Communications owns the Toronto Blue Jays, the Rogers Centre (where the Blues Jays play their home games) and five Canadian regional sports networks.

Rogers’ tentacles extend far beyond their sports properties and sports related media outlets. Bell Globe Media owns TSN (Canada’s biggest sports cable network), CTV (Canada’s biggest television network), newspapers and radio stations.

If Rogers buys MLSE they’d have complete control of the Toronto sports market. If Bell Globe Media bought the 80% stake, Rogers and Bell will both control Canada’s premier sports properties.

“Now it’s all about the financial play and the investment, not the emotion or getting into the locker room,” said Brian Cooper, a former Maple Leaf Sports executive, who is now president of S&E Sponsorship Group, a sports consulting company in a Toronto Star report.

As quick as the Globe and Mail are to dismiss the report the more it makes sense. A few of the facts:

• MLSE isn’t in the business of owning sports properties
• Sooner or later a second National Hockey League franchise is going to either relocate, or the NHL will expand, to Southern Ontario
• A Maple Leafs/Raptors regional sports channel featuring Maple Leaf games would overnight become one of Canada’s most valuable media properties

How dedicated are Toronto Maple Leaf fans? Last week the Maple Leafs Channel began televising Toronto Maple Leafs practices.


In the Greater Toronto area, its “Maple Leafs forever”. The last time the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup was 1967. The Red Sox brand increased dramatically winning the 2004 World Series for the first time in 86 years.

If the Maple Leafs win a Stanley Cup, the Leafs value might double almost overnight.

Would Providence, Rogers or anyone else be better owners than the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund have been?

The real owners of any sports team are the fans who support that team. Anyone owning MLSE and in particular the Toronto Maple Leafs has to be in the business of making as much money as possible.

The bottom line is if under their stewardship of the Toronto Maple Leafs the Leafs manage to win the Stanley Cup the owners will turn a money making machine into overdrive.

MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum owns the remaining 20% of MLSE. Tanenbaum has the right to purchase the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Fund’s 80% stake in MLSE. Tanenbaum might be able to put together a group of investors, but if he decides to pursue the Ontario Teacher’s Fund 80% it will largely be based on emotion.

It doesn’t make sense for Tanenbaum to try and make this happen.

Sooner rather than later the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund will sell their stake in MLSE. The Steinbrenner family owns the New York Yankees out of respect to the legacy George Steinbrenner built.

John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino own the Boston Red Sox and have brought two World Series to Boston since 2004. However if either ownership groups were offered the right opportunity they would sell the teams.

The Ontario Teachers Pension Fund cares only about the bottom line, and if you want to buy their 80% stake in MLSE you had better have more than $1.5 billion and that is a great deal of money.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The ugly aftermath of Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno and the Penn State Scandal


In the 14 years SportsBusinessNews.com has been publishing, the biggest story we’ve covered up until now, has been the death of NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt. As sad as The Terminator’s death was that fateful day at the Daytona 500, nothing compares to how important and far reaching the Penn State football scandal represents to the sports industry. The Penn State football program was free of the problems that have plagued so many other major college football programs. Their players graduated, they played football. This moved from a sports story, to the lead item on network news, the front page of newspaper, a sports story that has become one of the defining news stories of 2011.

The far-ranging and long-term implications of the Penn State football scandal haven’t begun to be understood. Before this story ends (and that may take many years) – how college football, college athletics and sports is viewed by hundreds of millions of people – will be impacted. It will be next to impossible to fully assess the fallout , but the sports industry that existed before the Penn State scandal, will not be the sports industry that will exist ten or twenty years from now.

Before the horrific allegations were reported (hard to believe it was just ten days ago this story was first reported), few if anyone outside of Penn State had ever heard of Jerry Sandusky. However, Joe Paterno and Penn State were two of the most cherished “brands” in sports, let alone college athletics.

Paterno had won more football games (409) than any other coach in college football history. Paterno had been Penn State’s head football coach for 46 years. Joe Paterno was among the most honored names in American society. Paterno was synonymous with the good most people look for in our leaders. And Penn State football – among the best –
where young men excel on and off the playing field and become community leaders after their playing careers ended.

“I’ve not seen anything on this scale, where the leadership’s been on notice for 10 years that something was going on, and took no action,” Harlan Loeb told The New York Times. Loeb who is in charge of the United States crisis and risk management practice at Edelman, a public-relations firm, continued. “That has to have a big effect on trust and reputation.”

Countless mistakes were made, beginning with an apparent cover-up of the allegations Jerry Sandusky, and now Penn State, are linked to that dates back more than 13 years. Penn State knew about Sandusky’s alleged behavior as far back as 1998 and Paterno knew something was wrong in 2002. They choose to “look the other way” and not contact the police. For Penn State, a problem that should have been dealt with years ago has become one of the great examples of damage control an American University has ever been forced to address.

“This scandal will not affect the quality of the education the students will receive, but it certainly could affect individual employers’ views of the education P.S.U. provides,” Karen A. Mason, director of college counseling at Pennsylvania’s Germantown Academy, said in an e-mail to The New York Times. “Incidents like this trigger concern that other problematic issues at the University may have been overlooked.”

When you choose to cover-up events that are repulsive and decide to conduct business as usual – one price you pay is being associated with similar events.

“It is really a striking and almost identical factual pattern that has emerged in the Catholic Church cases and at Penn State,” Jeffrey Anderson, a lawyer who has represented hundreds of American abuse victims in lawsuits against the Catholic Church, told CNN. “The only difference is that two people have been fired at Penn State who was in revered positions. That’s in contrast to every diocese in the U.S where a cover-up has been revealed.”

There have been other tragic and horrific events that have taken place at American universities – examples those at Penn State can learn from in trying to move forward in hopes of restoring Penn State’s image.

In 2007 at Virginia Tech, where Seung-Hui Cho’s horrific shooting rampage left 33 dead, Virginia Tech leaders had to ask themselves — would any parent allow their children to attend Virginia Tech?

“It might sound trite, but prospective students and their families saw on TV a united student body and incredibly supportive alumni population working together with strong university leadership,” said Larry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations at Virginia Tech in a New York Times report. “It was painful and stressful, but the institution kept moving in the right direction, dealt openly with problems and shared our experiences with others.”

The rape allegations against Duke’s lacrosse team created a national firestorm. While the players were exonerated of any crimes, in the days, weeks and months following the allegations, Duke’s preppy image and the sense of self-entitlement associated with their athletes, created a communications nightmare for Duke University.

“In all the information sessions I did that season, there was only one time when anyone raised a question about it,” Christoph Guttentag, Duke’s admissions director told the New York Times. “Most people saw it for what it was, which was an issue that wasn’t going to have any significant effect on their child’s career at Duke.”

The Penn State football scandal left the sports pages soon after the news broke on November 5. Reporters who play in the sandbox of life (better known as the sports industry) reached out to those who knew little about the sports industry but did understand the horror of the allegations and what the cover-up represented.

“This isn't about football or coaches or who you like better. The Penn State scandal is about what happened to those young boys in the shower stall. The horror of those 'alleged' moments is almost lost in the uproar and focus over the shakeup of an historical and cultural mob mentality that ignores the small and crushes the weak,” Ph.D. therapist and couples expert Dr. Tammy Nelson told The Huffington Post.

“Even in the media coverage of the recent shake-up at the college, the focus has been on the loving and loyal connection to the old guard football legends of coaching at Penn State. We ignore the victims of the abuse by a coach who was accused 18 times of abusing young boys and instead hear interviews and news coverage of nostalgia for the good old boy/good old days. That type of loyalty to the team spirit could have and should have kept all the team players safe and protected instead of throwing the weak and vulnerable to the wolves for the sake of the big game.” Nelson concluded.

The Penn State football program generates more than $70 million annually, and has shown a yearly profit of more than $50 million. Penn State football is a money-making machine and the cover-up in large part was about ensuring Penn State had that $50 million to spend each year. But coaches like Joe Paterno create a sense of loyalty that few outside of the Penn State football circle will ever understand.

“Misplaced loyalty is often because a person has developed a trauma bond relationship and become loyal, attached or even supportive of a person who is manipulative, exploitative, abusive or toxic. This can be a powerful attachment that requires the trauma-bonded person to 'keep secrets.' The secrets being kept are the powerful force that keeps the person in bondage. Typically, a trauma bond relationship is applicable to sexually abused persons. They are traumatized by the horrible secret and are required or exploited by threats of breaking the secret. The power is in the secret,” Trudy Johnson, therapist and author, told The Huffington Post.

The Penn State scandal has become a communications disaster of biblical proportion for Penn State. It wouldn’t be too far fetched to suggest what might be in the best interest is for Penn State to believe it is in the school’s best interest to adopt a scorched earth philosophy – fire everyone who is in anyway linked to the scandal. That process is well underway.

Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier, Penn State’s President for 16 years, were fired last week.

Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant and currently an assistant football coach at Penn State, has been placed on “administrative leave” and is under protective custody. According to Grand Jury records, McQueary walked into the Nittany Lions locker room in 2002 and witnessed Sandusky raping a ten-year-old boy, and decided all he had to do was to let Coach Paterno know. A year after McQueary reported what he had seen to Paterno, Paterno hired McQueary as a full-time coach.

Penn State Athletic Director Timothy Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz are facing charges for failing to report the abuse to authorities and misleading investigators. Curley is still on Penn State’s payroll; Schultz has retired.

Jay Paterno, one of Paterno’s sons and one of Penn State’s assistant football coaches, is likely coaching his last football games at Penn State – guilty only of being Joe Paterno’s son.

Penn State is going to need a great deal of help in rebuilding their football coaching staff next year – and that makes perfect sense. The road back for Penn State will be a long, difficult and painful path. What Penn State had better realize is that the sooner they are honest in dealing with the scandal and the fallout, the sooner the school will have an opportunity to begin to deal with life after the Sandusky scandal.

For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom

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Monday, November 14, 2011

NBA Armageddon 2011: Time for the game(s) to end


The 2011-12 National Basketball Association season took a dramatic step backwards Monday with the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) rejecting the latest offer David Stern presented the NBPA on Thursday.

“We’ve arrived at the conclusion that the collective bargaining process has completely broken down,” Union Executive Director Billy Hunter said.

According to Yahoo Sports: “Union officials served the league with a ‘disclaimer of interest,’ officially informing Stern of their plans to disband and become a trade organization. Jeffrey Kessler, who had acted as the union’s lead negotiator, will represent the players in their litigation with the League, along with David Boies, a famed antitrust attorney. Boies worked for the NFL against the players’ antitrust suit this past summer, putting him on opposite sides of that sport’s labor battle with Kessler.”

“I would hope that, in the face of a disclaiming union, where there’s no hope of collective bargaining, that the owners would reconsider whether, under these circumstances, it makes sense to continue to boycott,” Boies said. “But I have no idea what [the owners’] strategy is.”

The players had agreed to accept a 50-50 Basketball Related Income (BRI) split with the owners, if the owners agreed to systematic issues that could limit player movement. In several media interviews over the weekend, Stern repeatedly suggested the owners were finished negotiating with the NBPA and that the players had the league’s current proposal or they would be forced to deal with an offer that took a dramatic step backwards.

Union officials announced that all 30 team player representatives were at Monday’s meeting and were unanimous in rejecting the owners offer.

“This is the best decision for the players,” Union President Derek Fisher said. “I want to reiterate that point, that a lot of individual players have a lot of things personally at stake in terms of their careers and where they stand. And right now they feel it’s important – we all feel it’s important to all our players, not just the ones in this room, but our entire group – that we not only try to get a deal done for today but for the body of NBA players that will come into this league over the next decade and beyond.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern released the following statement shortly after the NBPA’s announcement:

“At a bargaining session in February 2010, Jeffrey Kessler, counsel for the union, threatened that the players would abandon the collective bargaining process and start an antitrust lawsuit against our teams if they did not get a bargaining resolution that was acceptable to them.

“In anticipation of this day, the NBA filed an unfair labor practice charge before the National Labor Relations Board asserting that, by virtue of its continued threats, the union was not bargaining in good faith. We also began litigation in federal court in anticipation of this same bargaining tactic.

“The NBA has negotiated in good faith throughout the collective bargaining process, but – because our revised bargaining proposal was not to its liking – the union has decided to make good on Mr. Kessler’s threat.

“There will ultimately be a new collective bargaining agreement, but the 2011-12 season is now in jeopardy.”

Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College in Massachusetts, has a real understanding of what has taken place and where the NBA labor talks are. He spoke with Grantland.com offering this: “It means in order to file, there has to be a decertification wherein the players are repudiating the existence of the union as a collective bargaining unit. There are two ways to do a decertification: one is a notice of disclaimer and another is a formal decertification. They’re doing a notice of disclaimer.

“What it means is that the union no longer represents the players, but the players instead have an association. It’s not protected by the National Labor Relations Board, so it doesn’t receive protection from labor laws anymore and because it’s not protected from labor laws, it can’t be protected by antitrust laws.

“Since they obviously feel they can’t get anywhere in collective bargaining, it enables them to use antitrust issues to pursue their goals. Suing the league on antitrust bounds means that they are going to claim the lockout is an illegal conspiracy amongst 30 different teams. Teams are cooperating with each other and that’s illegal under the antitrust laws because they’re independent entities, that’s what they’ll claim.

“And presumably, they’ll claim that the league is trying to force them to accept a series of labor market institutions related to the salary cap that are also restraints of trade and in violation of the antitrust laws.” Zimbalist told ESPN’s Grantland.com

One of the first questions that begs to be asked: Was the NBA ever interested in negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the NBPA? On the surface that answers appears – not really. The negotiating process began with the players/owners basketball related income (BRI) split at 57/43 percent in favor of the players. The NBPA first lowered their BRI demands to 53, than 52.2 before agreeing to a 50/50 BRI split last week.

The owners’ most recent offers included a number of contentious clauses, clauses the owners had to know the NBPA would never agree to (the toughness of the luxury tax and the NBDL two-way NBA contract are two of many examples). David Stern made the NBPA an offer they would never be forced to accept.

Stern believes (what else would he say) the league has bargained and negotiated in good faith with the NBPA. Stern is the sports industries preeminent leader of the last 25 years had to believe what has taken place was going to take place. David Stern is far too smart to not have done what he legally had to do and be prepared to deal with any legal ramifications. Stern had to know the NBA labor talks were going to end just the way they have – with litigation and a breakdown in talks.

“f you look at it from a player’s standpoint, collective bargaining has totally failed. So rather than exercise their labor law rights to futility, they’ve decided to free up all players to exert their antitrust rights to triple damages. And we think — not we, the players — think that is the best protection for NBA players going forward.” NBPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler told NBA.com.

There has been a great deal of discussion comparing were the NBA labor talks are and were the recent National Football League labor talks ended. The NFL lockout began in early March 2011. There was plenty of time to save the 2011 NFL season. The NFLPA did what the NBPA did Monday at the start of the lockout. The NFLPA went right to the courts as soon as the NFL owners began the lockout.

Why didn’t the NBPA do what they did Monday in early July at the start of the lockout? NBPA President Derek Fisher Monday reiterated it’s the owners that are locking out the players – the players want to play basketball, but Fisher didn’t touch on why the NBPA waited as long as they did before following the legal course the NFLPA tried during the NFL lockout.

The NBA lockout is headed for litigation with the 2011-12 season barely hanging on. While the NBPA believe they’ll receive a quick judgment the players need to understand two things – they could lose in court and even if they win the owners are likely to appeal. If the NBA CBA is decided in the courts the 2011-12 NBA season will be lost. The only way any part of the 2011-12 NBA season can be saved is if the two sides try and reach a negotiated settlement.

There is nothing stopping the two sides from trying to reach an agreement while the case is headed and then in litigation. Don’t expect the two sides to try anything for at least a few weeks.

Right now the two sides are like a marriage that has gone bad, the two sides may have at one time liked each other, now they’re being forced to deal with what amounts to irreconcilable differences.

Is the 2011-12 season done – not quite. The 1998-99 NBA season the last time the NBA was forced to deal with a prolonged lockout the two sides reached an agreement on January 7 and managed a 50 game NBA regular season and a full playoffs. The NBA has six weeks to see if they can reach an agreement before the 2011-12 NBA season becomes a lost NBA season.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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