Friday, December 30, 2011

NBA Armageddon 2011/Stern warnings – the NBA in 2011


David Stern has been a part of the National Basketball Association since 1966, serving as the league’s commissioner since 1984. Basketball has enjoyed unparalleled growth under Stern. The globalization of basketball will be David Stern lasting legacy.

However when basketball pundits look back at 2011, it won’t be one of Stern’s best years. It may have actually been his worst year as NBA commissioner.

The NBA lockout began at midnight on June 30 and received little attention due to the NFL’s lockout. Ownership hammered home their position that the previous collective bargaining agreement, which gave the players 57% of basketball generated revenues, wasn’t working anymore. Initially management wanted the players to accept 43% of basketball-generated revenues.

The NBA Players Association (NBPA), led by Executive Director Billy Hunter and President Derek Fisher, agreed to give back between 4 and 5 percent of basketball-generated revenue.

Not a great deal happened in July. Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul talked about heading to China to play basketball this year, Nets guard Deron Williams signed a contract with Turkey's Besiktas which included an opt-out clause allowing Williams to return to the NBA once the lockout ended.

On August 1 the NBA filed unfair labor charges against the players union.

"For the parties to reach agreement on a new CBA, the union must commit to the collective bargaining process fully and in good faith," said NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Adam Silver.

Hunter responded: "We urge the NBA to engage with us at the bargaining table and to use more productively the short time we have left before the 2011-12 season is seriously jeopardized."

Not a great deal took place in August.

September rolled around and the two sides starting getting together on a more regular basis. The lockout took an interesting twist in terms of how the two sides communicated their message to basketball fans and to a lesser extent the media.

Ownership let David Stern do their talking while Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher had to contend with social media, in particular, Twitter. On September 7 Knicks guard Roger Mason Jr., a member of the players' executive committee, wrote "Looking like a season. How u" on his Twitter page. He later deleted the tweet, stating his account was hacked.

On the heels of Mason Jr.'s tweet, SI.com reports that Fisher text-messaged numerous players a week earlier, saying that progress had been made and implored them to be physically prepared in case the season starts on time.

The next day, Fisher refutes the report of his text message to players in an ESPNLosAngeles.com story.

Both the NFL and the NFLPA created their own websites during the NFL lockout. The NBA did have a labor related site the NBPA chose to not dedicate any real efforts towards effective communication throughout the lockout.

David Stern and NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Stern continued delivering the owners’ message. The players were going to have to accept significant changes.

On September 22, during an appearance at the University of Connecticut, Celtics guard Ray Allen says he is willing to sacrifice a whole season if necessary due to the NBA lockout.

"Nobody wants to miss a year," Allen said. "But I'm prepared to do what the team needs me to do, what my players association, players union team, what they need me to do, because we want to make sure we get the right deal for us."

The two sides meet several times in early October, with little if any, progress. They agree to bring Federal Mediator George Cohen into the talks.

Talks collapse just before Halloween. Stern announces all games are canceled through November 30.

"We held out that joint hope together, but in light of the breakdown of talks, there will not be a full NBA season under any circumstances," Stern said.

The 1998-99 season began on February 5, 1999 and featured each team playing 50 games. The two sides didn’t reach a settlement until January 6, 1999. There was still plenty of time left to save the NBA season.

By November 9, the union and NBA had met 22 times for over 148 hours trying to come to a new collective bargaining agreement.

On November 14 ‘the talks blew up’. The NBPA rejected a “take it or leave it” offer from the owners that would have seen the basketball related income (BRI) split move from 57/43 in favor of the players to 50/50.

The NBPA walked away, paving the way for a lawsuit that throws the season in jeopardy.

By filing a disclaimer of interest, the union ended its role as a collective-bargaining agent and NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter became the executive director of a "trade association".

Outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler and attorney David Boies who, ironically, represented NFL owners when they thwarted the football players' decertification push last spring become the key figures for the players' side, taking over for Hunter and Derek Fisher.

David Stern offered what became one of 2011’s great sports business quotes that day: "We're about to go into the nuclear winter of the NBA."

Nine days later “secret talks” began and continued through the Thanksgiving Weekend holiday. The two sides announce a new collective bargaining agreement in the early morning hours of November 26.

The agreement included a 50-50 split of basketball-related income, a higher luxury tax with progressive tax rates and the retention of a soft salary cap system. The maximum length of player contracts lowered from six years to five and maximum annual increases in salaries will be 7.5% for teams re-signing their own players and 4.5% for teams signing free agents.

The NBA season began on Christmas Day with five games, all televised by ABC, ESPN and TNT. The ratings were record setting for Christmas Day. It remains to be seen if there will be any long-term fallout from the lockout.

While football fans were never going to be angry with the NFL, basketball fans seemingly didn’t care if the NBA played a game.

Baseball fans remained bitter after the 1994 World Series was lost to a labor dispute.

The NHL has the smallest fan base of the four major sports. Hockey fans were so happy when the NHL returned for the 2005-06 season they embraced the game as if the NHL had never missed a game.

Basketball fans almost seemed apathetic towards the NBA. If the NBA lost their entire 2011-12 season fans wouldn’t have cared. No anger, no longing for the game. All the good David Stern had done in the 25+-years he had served as NBA commissioner seemed to be falling apart.

The NBA will play a truncated 66 game schedule. An NBA champion will be crowned but the NBA had better pay attention to the laissez-faire attitude fans have towards the product being played on NBA basketball courts.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Blooom

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

NFL Armageddon – Tebow Time (the NFL in 2011)


The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV and remain the prohibitive favorite to win Super Bowl XLVI. While the Packers were the NFL’s best team in 2011, the biggest National Football League business story was the protracted NFL lockout.

The NFL lockout began on March 11 following the break down of negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The NFLPA filed antitrust lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis to block a lockout. The two sides presented their cases before U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson in early April and she forced NFL owners to end the lockout.

The owners won a temporary stay of Nelson’s ruling on April 29 and the lockout was back on.
The Wall Street Journal reported the NFL had lost close to a billion dollars in off-season revenues as a direct result of the lockout. Two weeks after the court ruled in favor of the owners the two sides began serious talks.

Why the two sides didn’t continue to negotiate after the lockout began on March 11 and waited until the courts ruling remains not a mystery but, rather, an example of poor management by both parties.

On July 21 the NFL and the NFLPA announced the longest CBA in sports labor history, a ten-year collective bargaining agreement.

"We are pleased to announce that our clubs have approved the terms of a long-term negotiated agreement with the NFL players," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "It includes many positive changes that emerged from a spirit of compromise rooted in doing what is best for the game and players. DeMaurice Smith and his team, and the players and owners involved in the negotiations, deserve great credit for their skill and professionalism. If approved by the players, this agreement will allow the league and its players to continue to benefit from the NFL's popularity and will afford a unique opportunity to deliver to fans an even better, safer, and more competitive game in the future.”

“This has been a long road for everyone involved. While it is not yet over, the diligence demonstrated by active and former players speaks volumes to their dedication to reaching a fair deal,” said Kevin Mawae, NFLPA President. “This settlement is an essential component to what will be a long-term agreement benefitting players, owners and fans.”

"On behalf of the NFL, our teams and players, I want to express our deep appreciation to Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan. Judge Boylan was the court-appointed mediator, but his contributions far exceeded that role. His patience, determination, and commitment helped keep everyone focused on the goal, and helped lead us to today's announcement."

The key for the owners was closer to a 50/50 split of football generated revenue. The previous deal was closer to 60/40 for the players. The players also received 55% of television related revenues.

On December 15 Roger Goodell announced new network broadcast agreement through the 2024 NFL season. Fox’s average rights fee will jump to about $1.1 billion a year from $725 million in 2013. CBS’s payments will increase to nearly $1 billion from $625 million, and NBC’s fees will go to $950 million from $612 million. Three months previous ESPN approved a 73 percent increase to $1.9 billion annually for eight years.

The NFL will generate more than $4 billion annually in broadcast revenues, an average of more than $134 million for each of the NFL’s 32 member franchises.

“In these difficult economic times, you want to create stability and planning for our business,” said Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and chairman of the league’s broadcast committee in a New York Times report.

“When we made our C.B.A. deal with the players,” he said about the collective bargaining agreement reached last summer, “we promised if they worked with us, they would be the big beneficiary — and they’re getting 55 percent of the TV money.”

“These agreements underscore the NFL’s unique commitment to broadcast television that no other sport has,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “The agreements would not have been possible without our new 10-year labor agreement and the players deserve great credit. Long-term labor peace is allowing the NFL to continue to grow and the biggest beneficiaries are the players and fans.”

There was little if any chance the National Football League would lose two months of their regular season schedule to a labor dispute like the NBA. The average NFL career is less than 3.5 football seasons and the average NFL salary is $1.9 million. The average NFL median salary is $770,000.
The minimum NFL salary for an NFL rookie in 2011 was $375,000.

The NFL generates more than $9 billion annually. Once the lockout ended and the two sides reached a new labor agreement several points stood out. NFL contracts are not guaranteed. While NBA, MLB and NHL players all enjoy guaranteed contracts, football players can be cut from their teams for any reason and be out millions.

The only guaranteed component of an NFL contract is the bonus. Guaranteed contracts were never an issue the NFL and the NFLPA even broached. A rookie rage scale, fewer practice days and the players receiving fewer dollars are all a part of the new CBA.

From the opening of training camps it became obvious very quickly the NFL wouldn’t suffer from any lingering anger football fans had regarding the lockout. The NFL may have lost close to one billion dollars in revenues but when the 2011 regular season ends Sunday night at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey, 2011 will be another year of record television ratings for the NFL.

According to Nielsen the three top rated television programs for 2011 was Super Bowl XLV, Super Bowl XLV (pre-game show) and Super Bowl XLV (post-game show). Nine of the top ten rated 2011 television programs were NFL games. While the Super Bowl preceded the lockout, it’s a pretty safe bet the three top rated TV programs for 2012 will again all relate to the Super Bowl.

Tim Tebow, and Tebowmania, has delivered exactly what the sports world needed in a time when the sports industry is experiencing a daily assault as a result of child sexual abuse scandals from Penn State to the heart of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).

An athlete people can believe in for all the right reasons.

The Broncos began their season with Kyle Orton as quarterback. After the team started 1-4, Broncos coach Jim Fox named Tebow the starting quarterback against the Miami Dolphins.
Tebow led the Broncos to a 7–1 record before being blasted in their last two games against New England and Buffalo. He led five game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and/or overtime.

Tim Tebow became the NFL’s most polarizing figure in 2011 generating great rahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.giftings. NBC failed to “flex schedule” the Broncos/Patriots game on December 18 even though All sports fans wanted to talk about leading up to the game Tim Tebow and his showdown with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Brady, not surprisingly, bested Tebow in the Patriots 41-23 win.

The Broncos meet the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday at Mile High Stadium. If the Broncos win, Tebow and the Broncos will host a playoff game the following weekend in Denver.

Wins and losses aside, Tim Tebow was good for the NFL in 2011. The lockout seems a distant memory, and with a network broadcast agreements that guarantee each NFL team more than $134 annually the NFL remains the sports industry’s gold standard.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011 – The year of the sports industry concussion


The sports industry dealt with Child sex abuse allegations, scandals plaguing major college football programs, labor woes for the National Football League and National Basketball Association in 2011. However, one of the most important issues the sports industry was forced to deal with in 2011 was concussion and head related trauma.

The NHL suffered the loss of the game’s marquee player Sidney Crosby to concussions, two NHL players committed suicide and a third died from a drug overdose. All three deaths were linked to the role they played during their NHL careers.

Late last week two lawsuits were filed against the National Football League by former players alleging the league had ignored concussions they had suffered during their NFL careers.

The Associated Press reported over the last two weeks, 23 of 44 NFL players said they would try to conceal a possible concussion rather than pull themselves out of a game.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Colby Armstrong suffered a concussion during a game against the Vancouver Canucks on December 17. He didn’t tell the team. Two days later Leafs trainers found Armstrong vomiting and suffering blurry vision.

“He didn’t tell the trainers or the doctors, but he had his bell rung,” said Leafs coach Ron Wilson according to the Toronto Star. “He was nauseated, blurry vision, so he’s got a concussion, and we didn’t know that.

“He’s going to be out however long he needs to be out now.”

“Everyone tries to play hurt, but you should never try to conceal a head injury — no one admires that or respects that,” Leafs President Brian Burke said. “We grudgingly respect when players hide other injuries, because they do it routinely. (Head injuries are) one where we absolutely insist the players be forthcoming.”

Colby Armstrong epitomizes the NHL’s nightmare, a fringe player hiding a life altering injury to try and save his career.

Crosby, the NHL’s best player, missed ten and half months before returning to play for the Penguins on November 21, 2011. Eight games later he began experiencing post-concussion symptoms and hasn’t played since.

If Crosby never plays another NHL game he’ll have more than made more than $50 million in his NHL career. Conversely, Colby Armstrong is in the first year of a three-year $9 million contract. Armstrong isn’t quite an NHL journeyman but he knows if he can’t play for whatever reason his NHL career will end when his current contract does. He clearly felt he had to play.

Crosby won’t return until he’s sure he’s concussion free, Armstrong tried to play with a concussion.

Just as disturbing was a report the Associated Press published over the Christmas weekend that suggested National Football League players will do whatever it takes to play football on Sundays.

Unlike the NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball, NFL contracts are not guaranteed. If an NFL player suffers a career ending concussion, he can be cut by his NFL team and lose his salary. In the National Football League only a player’s bonus is guaranteed.

"Hide it," Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew NFL's leading rusher told the Associated Press.

"The bottom line is: You have to be able to put food on the table. No one's going to sign or want a guy who can't stay healthy. I know there will be a day when I'm going to have trouble walking. I realize that," Jones-Drew said. "But this is what I signed up for. Injuries are part of the game. If you don't want to get hit, then you shouldn't be playing."

The Associated Press spoke to at least one player from each of the NFL’s 32 teams looking at whether concussion safety and attitudes about head injuries have changed in the past two years. The group included 33 starters and 11 reserves; 25 players on offense and 19 on defense; all have played at least three seasons in the NFL.

The players told the AP they were more aware of safety issue. Five of the 44 players admitted to hiding concussions they had suffered while playing in NFL games.

"You look at some of the cases where you see some of the retired players and the issues that they're having now, even with some of the guys who've passed and had their brains examined -- you see what their brains look like now," said Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, the NFL's leading tackler. "That does play a part in how I think now about it."

"You want to continue to play. You're a competitor. You're not going to tell on yourself. There have been times I've been dinged, and they've taken my helmet from me, and ... I'd snatch my helmet back and get back on the field," Redskins backup fullback Mike Sellers offered in the AP report. "A lot of guys wouldn't say anything because a lot of guys wouldn't think anything during the game, until afterward, when they have a headache or they can't remember certain things."

The Associated Press report couldn’t have comforted the nearly two-dozen NFL players who filed a lawsuit against the NFL in lawsuits filed in Atlanta and Miami last week.

According to an Associated Press report: “one of the two lawsuits was filed Thursday in Miami on behalf of ex-Miami Dolphins team members Patrick Surtain, Oronde Gadsden and 19 other NFL players. Most now live in Florida. It accuses the National Football League of deliberately omitting or concealing evidence linking concussions and long-term neurological problems.”

The NFL was quick to deny the charges.

Following the Atlanta lawsuit, the NFL announced new concussion protocols for NFL teams.

“After reviewing our protocols for managing concussions with the NFLPA, our own medical advisors (including team physicians and athletic trainers), and outside experts, NFL clubs have been notified of two changes that will take effect with this week’s games.

“First, we have arranged for a certified athletic trainer to be at each game to monitor play of both teams and provide medical staffs with any relevant information that may assist them in determining the most appropriate evaluation and treatment. This athletic trainer will be stationed in a booth upstairs with access to video replay and direct communication to the medical staffs of both teams. In most cases, the athletic trainer will be affiliated with a major college program in the area or will have previously been affiliated with an NFL club. This individual will not diagnose or prescribe treatment, nor have any authority to direct that a player be removed from the game. Instead, the athletic trainer’s role will be to provide information to team medical staffs that might have been missed due to a lack of a clear view of the play or because they were attending to other players or duties. The athletic trainers are being identified and selected with the assistance of each club and the NFLPA. Their fees and expenses will be paid by the NFL office.

“Second, club medical staffs will be permitted to use their cell phones during games for purposes of obtaining information relating to the care of an injured player. This is not limited to concussions and is intended to assist team medical staffs in addressing a variety of injuries.

“Clubs also were reminded of the importance of team coaching and medical staffs continuing to work together to ensure that full information is available at all times to medical staffs, that players do not take steps to avoid evaluations, and that concussions continue to be managed in a conservative and medically appropriate way.”

The announcement of new policies followed a concussion Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy suffered after a helmet-to-helmet hit from Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison. Harrison received a one game suspension costing him over $73,000. The Browns “hope” McCoy returns for a meaningless final game against host Harrison and the Steelers in Cleveland Sunday.

The concussion issue will not go away just because the calendars change to 2012.

The NFL may need to make an example of someone like James Harrison the next time he throws a helmet-to-helmet hit. The NFL should consider banning Harrison for half an NFL season. His 2011 base pay was $1.25 million. A half season suspension would cost him half his salary. Only then will players like James Harrison learn that type of behavior isn’t acceptable in the National Football League.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The shame the sports industry felt in 2011


In 2010 ESPN and the ABC’s 20/20 reported on allegations of sexual abuse among youth coaches certified by USA Swimming. The sports industry reported the disturbing news but quickly moved onto other issues.

The sports industry was changed forever on Friday, November 4, 2011 when a Pennsylvania grand jury indicted former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky on charges of sexual abuse. Others have since been alleged to have taken part in sexual abuse like the now fired Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, Bobby Dodd the now former head of the powerful American Athletic Union and now retired Philadelphia Daily News sports writer Bill Conlin. Conlin was recognized by the Baseball Writers of America in July at the Baseball Hall of Fame. All of these events occurred over the last two months.

"Sexual abuse affects everyone everywhere," says former U.S. Olympic swimmer Margaret Hoelzer, who was abused when she was 5 and has studied the topic and now speaks about it in an ESPN Outside the Lines report. "You can live in the richest gated community in the world, and I guarantee there is at least one sex offender, if not more, in that neighborhood."

So many questions for the sports industry as 2011 comes to an end and so few answers. Is the sports industry beyond repair? No, but the sports world has been changed forever and a sacred bond that once existed between the sports world and the adults who are empowered to mentor young people has been altered.

What is clear is “we,” the sports industry, have either chosen to ignore the specter of sexual abuse.

“I think there is a disillusionment there, but I think it’s reality. We haven’t seen behind the curtain before,” said Jarrod Chin, director for training and curriculum at the Center for Sport in Society at Northeastern University in an Associated Press report. “We’ve used sport as a way to ignore problems. But now what we’re seeing is they exist there, too.

“That’s what makes it the worst year in sports. What people are coming to realize is the thing we thought was such a great escape has a lot of the same issues we’re trying to escape from.”

A study conducted by sociology professor Sandra Kirby of the University of Winnipeg in 1995 concluded that 22.8 percent of respondents had sexual intercourse with a coach or other person in position of authority within their sport. As difficult as it has been for the sports industry to try and comprehend the news that has dominated the news since Sandusky was arraigned on November 4, it’s almost impossible to imagine what the Canadian study produced 16 years ago.

"Although there are a few cases where strangers accost a child and abuse occurs," domestic violence expert Lisa Smith of Brooklyn Law School told Yahoo Sports, "it is much more common for adults known to the child and, most importantly, trusted by the child to be the perpetrators. Sports provide an opportunity for contact and the building of trust, so the environment for abuse exists."

Parents bring up their children always telling them not to talk to strangers. The same set of rules never applied when Jerry Sandusky offered young, impressionable and often “lost boys” a chance to get close to Penn State’s football program.

It’s almost impossible to imagine how terrible the parents of Sandusky’s victims must feel today.

Penn State’s football program represented everything to everyone who lived in the region. The program was larger than life and Sandusky was part of the “magic”. The Nittany Lions won national championships in 1982 and 1986 and Sandusky was a key to their success.

After Sandusky ‘retired’ in 1998 his access to the Nittany Lions remained in place. Sandusky had access to the football team, the football teams’ locker room, to entire program. All too often parents believe so much in those they entrust to coach their children, a trust that is now forever shattered.

"Isn't that why you choose a certain coach?" Dan Lebowitz, executive director of Sports and Society at Northeastern University told Yahoo Sports. "The thinking is, this coach is better for the child development of your kid. Whether it's at camp at age 10 or college at age 18, these coaches become huge in the development of youth. Everyone's thinking this is the best place for my kid.”

The Associated Press should be applauded for making the Sandusky story their sports story of the year. The Sandusky report “finally” ensured allegations Bernie Fine who, for 36-years, served as Syracuse men’s assistant basketball coach would be brought forward.

That led to the Bobby Dodd AAU news and the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting that Bill Conlin was facing similar allegations.

Sports reporters have little, if any, understanding of what makes a child predator and similarly little, if any, knowledge of the aftermath the victims experience. Conversely, experts in sexual predation had little, if any, understanding of how the sports world operates.

"Your average dad isn't going to watch a Lifetime movie about some girl who got molested," says Hoelzer. "But you can believe he's watching ESPN and knows exactly what's happening at Penn State or Syracuse. And if there's a silver lining in this, that's it. This can introduce this topic to a new audience and serve as the wake-up call we so desperately need."

"I don't want to say I was holding my breath, waiting for this to happen, but it was always a matter of where, not when," says Kristen Dieffenbach, who teaches athletic coaching education at West Virginia University and has studied coaching ethics and sexual abuse in sports.

As hard as it is to believe, there is some good that can come out of this tragedy. Parents will now have to make sure whenever their children are part of sports team that they understand that they need to be attentive if they are alone with their coach.

The Penn State football program will one day move forward from the aftermath of Jerry Sandusky, and children will once again attend Penn State football games with caring adults who are there to mentor.

"We can't change what happened," Dieffenbach told ESPN. "But we have to get angry about it. We have the power and responsibility to prevent the culture from letting this happen again."

"You can have new policies and procedures and posters, but is that real change?" asks former NHL player Sheldon Kennedy, who was sexually abused as a youth hockey player in Canada in an ESPN report. "Most organizations don't even know where to start with this discussion. It's: Let's hope this never happens here, and if it does, we will put out the fire as fast as we can and shove it back under the carpet."

The process has begun. Awareness is everywhere. The next step is change and, as Sheldon Kennedy suggests, most organizations aren’t even aware of what is taking place in their organization.

It’s a safe bet that since the college sports world was rocked by the news from Penn State and Syracuse, every college athletic department is conducting extensive background checks on everyone associated with their athletic departments.

No one wants to be the next Penn State, the next Syracuse and experience what the AAU is going through and the only way that can happen is through better monitoring. The sad news is how many young children could have been saved if those in charge had paid closer attention to what was taking place?

Football Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier were both fired days after Sandusky’s first indictment largely because many believehttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifd they had played an active role in covering up allegations that Sandusky had raped a ten-year old boy in Penn State’s football locker room in 2002.

Sandusky was arrested for a second time on December 7 on additional counts of sexual abuse. One of Sandusky’s victims offered testimony that he had been raped by Sandusky in Sandusky’s home in 2004.

If Penn State had reported what Mike McQueary had told Penn State officials he had witnessed in 2002, victim number nine might never have been raped by Jerry Sandusky. Forget about whether or not Penn State officials may have broken the law by covering up the horrific 2002 allegations, a life was changed forever because of their inaction.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Monday, December 26, 2011

College Athletics 2011 – Scandalous


The year that was for college athletics isn’t quite over. With bowl games filling the holiday week, college sports hopes to take a respite from what can only be called one of the worst years in the history of the NCAA.

Allegations of child sex abuse dominated headlines over the last few months, but earlier in the year the Fiesta Bowl and football programs at Ohio State, North Carolina, and the University of Miami were each under the microscope for various infractions.

Former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro, serving 20-years for being at the center of a $930 million South Florida based Ponzi scheme, became the central figure in a Yahoo Sports investigative report that looked at Shapiro making improper payments to football and basketball players at the University of Miami between 2002 and 2010. According to the Yahoo report Shapiro made more than $2 million in illegal payments to Hurricane athletes during the eight-year period.

Shapiro believed his involvement was a direct continuation of Luther Campbell's activities. Campbell, like Shapiro, loved being close to Miami’s football program. In 1993, Campbell threatened to go public with various violations relating to the football program if Ryan Collins, a black player, wasn't named their starting quarterback.

Campbell was interviewed about his involvement with the Miami Hurricanes for the documentary The U, which aired on ESPN in 2009.

In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Shapiro said: “Here’s the thing: Luther Campbell was the first uncle who took care of players before I got going. His role was diminished by the NCAA and the school, and someone needed to pick up that mantle. That someone was me. He was ‘Uncle Luke,’ and I became ‘Little Luke.’”

Soon after Shapiro’s world fell apart, he reached out to many of the players he had allegedly offered gifts too. After none of the athletes returned his calls Shapiro contacted Yahoo Sports to tell his story.

The NCAA has yet to conclude their investigation of the University of Miami. Many so-called college athletic pundits believed Miami could receive the death penalty (having their program banned for at least one year). That isn’t expected to take place and, unlike Ohio State, Miami announced they would not attend a bowl game this year.

While Miami’s decision won’t impact what sanctions the NCAA could impose, it appears Miami is prepared to accept penalties for what happened.

Last Tuesday, Ohio State was cited by the NCAA for failure to monitor preferential treatment and extra benefit violations in its football program. Former Head Coach Jim Tressel also was found to have engaged in unethical conduct for not reporting NCAA rule violations.

Ohio State will play in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl on January 2. The Buckeyes won’t be playing in a bowl game in 2012, face three years of additional probation and have lost nine football scholarships. As for Jim Tressel, he was fired.

When the penalties were handed down last week, Ohio State President Gordon Gee offered a few gems: "I think we stumbled out of the gate. I think we made mistakes initially. I think we did not get a strong start. I think we gathered ourselves and put together a good approach, and I think from that point on I think we've done very well."

The one who really stumbled and, in fact fell flat on his face, was Tressel. Tressel was first contacted by Columbus attorney Christopher T. Cicero, a former Ohio State walk-on player in the 1980s, and says he has been told that current Buckeyes players have been selling signed memorabilia to tattoo parlor owner Edward Rife, who is under federal investigation by the U.S. attorney's office.

Not only did Tressel ignore Cicero but, on September 13, 2010, Tressel signed an annual NCAA certificate of compliance form indicating he knows of no violations and has reported to the school any knowledge of possible violations. Given that Cicero and Tressel had exchanged more than a dozen emails after Cicero first contacted him on April 2, 2010, it would appear indeed Tressel never got out of the gate in trying to deal with the truth.

On the eve of the start of North Carolina’s 2011 football training camp, the school announced they were firing Butch Davis as head football coach. North Carolina’s football program came under fire in 2010 after ESPN broke a story that several North Carolina football players, notably San Francisco 49er Kentwan Balmer, had accepted money from agents while they were students at North Carolina.

North Carolina’s problems extended to nine football players and their relationship with a tutor. A source told ESPN that these former players might have had papers written by this tutor.
Somehow Davis managed to field a competitive football team in 2010 and even won a bowl game but the school waited until days before the start of their 2011 football training camp to fire him.

"Our academic integrity is paramount, and we must work diligently to protect it," North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement. "The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change."

"I can honestly say I leave with the full confidence that I have done nothing wrong," Davis said. "I was the head coach and I realize the responsibility that comes with that role. But I was not personally involved in, nor aware of, any actions that prompted the NCAA investigation."

The NCAA met with North Carolina officials in late October and are expected to announced what sanctions the school will face in the next 30 days.

In 2010 the NCAA announced a series of sanctions against USC’s football program after an investigation revealed that former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, and his family, had received improper benefits from agents vying to represent him. These incentives included free airfare and limousine rides, a car, and a rent-free home in San Diego.

As a result, the BCS stripped USC of its 2004 national title, and Bush returned the Heisman Trophy he had won in 2005.

In March 2011, Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker was fired after an investigation revealed he had been at the center of a cover-up that included payments to politicians over a 30-year period.

The Arizona Republic first broke the news that under Junker’s leadership the Fiesta Bowl had done whatever they had to do to ensure they would have the necessary political support, and taxpayer dollars, to facilitate the Fiesta Bowl’s future as a BCS event.

The common denominator in these five events is money. College athletics, and in particular football, is often an economic engine for a university.

The BCS, billion dollar national television contracts, boosters running amok are seemingly business as usual for the NCAA.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

The National Football League – monster TV

NFL games are 23 of the 25 most-watched programs among all television shows this fall and draw more than twice as many average viewers as primetime broadcast shows. The economic engine that drives the National Football League –their broadcast agreements.

The National Football League has their television broadcast agreements in place through the 2024 NFL season. Fox’s average rights fee will jump to about $1.1 billion a year from $725 million in 2013. CBS’s payments will increase to nearly $1 billion from $625 million, and NBC’s fees will go to $950 million from $612 million. ESPN’s recent agreement can be added to that. Three months ago it approved a 73 percent increase to $1.9 billion annually for eight years.

The NFL will generate more than $4 billion annually in broadcast revenues, an average of more than $134 million for each of the NFL’s 32 member franchises.

“In these difficult economic times, you want to create stability and planning for our business,” said Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots and chairman of the league’s broadcast committee in a New York Times report.

“When we made our C.B.A. deal with the players,” he said about the collective bargaining agreement reached last summer, “we promised if they worked with us, they would be the big beneficiary — and they’re getting 55 percent of the TV money.”

The NFL and the NFL Players Association reached an agreement for a new ten-year collective bargaining agreement that will last through the 2020 season in August.

“These agreements underscore the NFL’s unique commitment to broadcast television that no other sport has,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “The agreements would not have been possible without our new 10-year labor agreement and the players deserve great credit. Long-term labor peace is allowing the NFL to continue to grow and the biggest beneficiaries are the players and fans.

“CBS, FOX and NBC have served NFL fans with the highest-quality television production,” Commissioner Goodell said. “The networks will continue their outstanding coverage of the NFL while also helping to deliver more football to more fans using the best and most current technology.”

The NFL and NBC, who hold the broadcast rights for Super Bowl XLVI, announced this year’s Super Bowl will be streamed online at NBC.com for the first time.

“We are pleased to work with our partners NBC and Verizon to bring our fans more ways to watch their favorite sport during their favorite time of the year,” said Hans Schroeder, NFL Senior Vice President of Media Strategy and Development.

“With a heritage of streaming live NFL games since 2008, we are especially excited to now bring our unique and innovative SNF Extra video experience to the NFL Playoffs, Pro Bowl, and Super Bowl,” said Rick Cordella, Vice President & General Manager, NBC Sports Digital Media. “By adding multiple camera angles, HD-quality video, DVR controls along with social interactivity, our online streaming represents a compelling, second-screen experience that nicely complements NBC's on-air presentation.”

Which begs the question, in the toughest economic period since the Great Depression, why and how could network executives justify paying billions of dollars to televise NFL games?

Mark Lazarus, a former Turner executive who is now the chairman of the NBC Sports Group, told The New York Times: “In an early discussion, they said that this would have had a different value at a cable network, whether that’s Turner or whoever. They’ve seen what ESPN does with the N.F.L. on cable.”

Lazarus is the force behind the rebranding of Versus to the NBC Sports Network on January 2. Count on Lazarus to be even more aggressive with the NFL. Their new NFL agreement includes the rights for the Thanksgiving night game.

When the NFL makes additional Thursday night games available, NBC and the NBC Sports Network will bid very aggressively. Lazarus is well aware how important the NFL is to ESPN.

Lazarus will add a Sunday morning NFL show that reportedly will go head-to-head with ESPN’s Sunday three-hour NFL show, the NFL Network’s four-hour Sunday morning show and CBS and Fox’s one-hour broadcasts.

“Hopefully, it will improve our schedule,” said Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports. “It’s potentially significant.”

President and CEO of CBS Corp. Leslie Moonves added: "No other franchise delivers ratings the way an NFL game does. The League has proven time and again that it understands the importance of a healthy broadcast partner, and this historic new agreement strengthens that partnership. In addition, the deal continues CBS' ability to be profitable with the NFL throughout the coming decade and beyond."

David Hill, chairman of the Fox Sports Media Group, told The New York Times that the company was paying a lot more for largely the same package of rights it now has.

“It’s a strong increase, but you’re not talking about normal things,” Hill said. “The N.F.L. transcends everything, as it has soared to astronomical heights.”

"The National Football League is the greatest television property in the world and we are thrilled that it remains the cornerstone of Fox Sports and the Fox Network well into the next decade," Hill added

It would seem that it’s next to impossible for networks to turn a profit on their NFL programming. They lose money for the most part with the exception of the year(s) they broadcast the Super Bowl. The NFL is about much more than the advertising revenue that is part of each game.

NBC will use this year’s Super Bowl to showcase programming NBC offers during their primetime schedule. Fox, CBS and NBC use a significant percentage of their programming each game to showcase programming.

The NFL broadcast agreement ensures NFL teams in each teams’ home market will be able to see their team’s games on a terrestrial network. The NFL is the only sports league that can make that bold a statement. Monday Night Football games on ESPN are televised on an over-the-air station, as long as the home team meets the blackout rule for that game.

The NBA airs both of their conference finals are on cable. Major League Baseball airs one of the league championship series on Fox and the other on TBS. The NHL airs most of their playoffs on Versus, including at least two Stanley Cup Final games.

NBC Universal’s Chief Executive Steve Burke told the New York Times he was ready to pay more for NFL rights, but in order to sell it to his shareholders it had make good business sense. Getting the rights to the Thanksgiving Night game was a key,

“When everybody has finished their turkey and is ready to watch football, you are likely to generate significantly higher viewers than a Sunday night. Combine that with the fact that it’s the night before Black Friday and if you’re an advertiser, you have to be in the game.”

“Think of ways to add value to the existing package. So we did it until we got to a place where we were basically at break-even.” Burke concluded.

NFL players, as Kraft pointed, out receive 55% of television revenues.

The NFL TV deals are all about making money for everyone. It’s a money making machine for the players, the leagues and the network.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sacré bleu – Entraîner Les Canadiens de Montreal


On Saturday the Montreal Canadiens fired their coach Jacques Martin and hired Randy Cunneyworth as the interim head coach.

The Canadiens have won the Stanley Cup 23 times, more than any other National Hockey League franchise. Only the New York Yankees, with 27 World Series titles, have won more championships than the Canadiens.

For Cunneyworth it’s a dream come true, but that dream is quickly turning into a nightmare for the man who played 16 years in the NHL, served as a head coach for eight years in the American Hockey League, and spent past three and a half years as an NHL assistant coach.

While Cunneyworth appears to have the credentials to coach an NHL team, coaching the Montreal Canadiens isn’t like the other 29 NHL head coaching positions. The Canadiens are one of sports most cherished franchises and they play in Quebec, a Canadian province where more than 80% of the population speaks French.

Randy Cunneyworth is the first Montreal Canadiens coach since Bob Berry in the early 80s who
cannot speak any French.

Canadiens owner, President and CEO Geoff Molson made the following comments Monday.

“On Saturday, our general manager Pierre Gauthier made a coaching change and named Randy Cunneyworth interim head coach of the Montreal Canadiens until the end of the 2011-12 season.

“This important decision was made with the objective of giving the team a much-needed spark after disappointing results since the start of the 2011-12 season. We are responsible for providing our fans and partners with a winning team and believe that this move will contribute to improve the overall performance of our team and produce positive results this season. The action was taken to remedy the situation without further delay.

“Randy Cunneyworth is a qualified and experienced coach who has earned the respect of the players and everyone within the organisation and he was ready to take over the responsibility of head coach. As Pierre Gauthier indicated, the head coaching position will be revaluated at the end of the season and, at that time the selection process will be carefully planned.

“Although our main priority remains to win hockey games and to keep improving as a team, it is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach.

“Like all our fans we hope for the Montreal Canadiens to be among the top teams in the NHL and we are doing everything we possibly can to win.

“We would like to thank all our fans for their understanding.”

The Quiet Revolution marked a period of intense change in Quebec. Characterized by the rapid and effective secularization of society, the creation of a welfare state and a re-alignment of politics into federalist and separatist factions. Many believe the birth of the Quiet Revolution was ignited by then-NHL Commissioner Clarence Campbell suspending Canadiens star Maurice Richard for the remainder of the 1954–55 season, including the playoffs.

French Canadiens believed Campbell was motivated in large part by Richard's French Canadian ethnicity. Campbell attended a game at the Montreal Forum four nights later and ensued causing an estimated $100,000 in property damage. 37 people were injured and over 100 arrests were made. Montreal, Quebec and Canada changed forever that night.

There aren’t many NHL coaches who can speak both English and French. Two of them, Claude Julien and Alain Vigneault, met in last year’s Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. Both Julien and Vigneault had served as head coach of the Canadiens once upon a time.

Quebec’s Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre believes the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens should be able to speak French.

"I have the utmost respect for the language here and I am very aware of how important it is to try and learn the language," Cunneyworth said after running his first practice. "Obviously I know a few words, and not all the good ones."

Former Canadiens captain and head coach Guy Carbonneau echoed St-Pierre’s comments.

"He's (Cunneyworth) living a dream, which is doing what he loves for one of the best franchises in the NHL, and he's caught in a storm," said Carbonneau, a former Canadiens captain and coach.

"It's premature. You have to give him a chance to show what he can do and if he's willing to learn.

"But there's no doubt in my mind that the coach of the Montreal Canadiens has to speak both languages, at least to some extent."

Le Journal de Montreal, one of Quebec’s largest selling daily newspapers, threw more fuel onto the fire Tuesday, running a front page headline "Another Loss For Cunneyworth" to make sure he understood, after the Canadiens lost Monday night in Boston.

"I like to think we were hired on our hockey background first and foremost," Vigneault told The Canadian Press in Vancouver. "I think all of us (former Canadiens coaches) that have gone on to other teams have proven that it was the right decision at the time."

It isn’t as simple an issue as it appears. The head coach of the Montreal Canadiens may be the most important person in the Province of Quebec. Those who live in Wisconsin and in Green Bay love their Packers. New Englanders live and die with their Red Sox. Both passions pales in comparison to how Quebecers feel about their beloved Canadiens.

The Canadiens are much more than a sports franchise to Quebec; it serves as their cultural identity. The early years of the NHL Entry Draft allowed the Montreal Canadiens to protect two
Francophone players before the draft began. That practice ended after the 1969 draft when the Canadiens used that right to protect the two best entering the NHL that year, Rejean Houle and Marc Tardif.

There are three French Canadians currently on the Canadiens roster. The Canadiens captain is Brian Gionta who was born in Rochester, New York.

It really isn’t as simple and wins and losses in Montreal. Al MacNeil coached the Canadiens to a Stanley Cup during the one year he was the teams’ head coach in 1970-71, he only spoke English.

Randy Cunneyworth deserves a much better hand than he’s being dealt. In all likelihood he will be fired when the season comes to an end and replaced by a coach who speaks French and English.

He may not be as good an NHL coach as Cunneyworth but if you’re going to be successful coaching the Montreal Canadiens both on and off the ice you have to be able to speak French and English – those are the rules of the game as it is played in Montreal.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Texas Rangers contenders – Toronto Blue Jays pretenders


Late Monday evening the Texas Rangers won the right to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish by submitting a winning bid of approximately $51.7 million that was accepted by the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. The Rangers now have 30 days to work out a deal. If they can't sign Darvish by then, he returns to the Fighters and they return the $51.7 million to the Rangers.

The Toronto Blue Jays who were very interested have nothing to show it.

The Rangers, winners of the last two American League pennants, but losers of the last two World Series sent a message to the rest of Major League Baseball that they are a major market baseball team.

The Blue Jays enjoyed a few days of suggesting to the baseball universe and their fans that they were finally moving from pretender to contender status in the American League East. It’s the strange case of two Major League Baseball franchises and the mixed message they managed to send out to the baseball world in the past week.

Darvish wasn’t a free agent. Baseball doesn’t have an international amateur player draft, so his team, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japanese Baseball League, posted his rights. MLB teams submitted sealed bids for the rights to negotiate with Darvish and The Fighters accepted the highest bid.

"Darvish is the No. 1 pitcher in Japan, but we want him to become the ace of the world," Nippon Ham team representative Toshimasa Shimada said this month when Darvish rights were made available to the highest bidder.

Much of the attention as to which teams were interested in bidding on Darvish focused on the Rangers and the Blue Jays, the two teams who had their general managers fly to Japan to see the 25-year old pitch.

It might have made as much sense for the Boston Red Sox, whose new manager Bobby Valentine, managed in Japan against Darvish, but the Red Sox weren’t interested.
They were bitten once before by this process in the signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka to a six-year $52 million contract in 2006.

The Red Sox paid Matsuzaka’s Japanese team, the Seibu Lions, a posting fee of $51.1 million. Matsuzaka was injured for most of the 2011 season. He was effective for the Red Sox in 2007 and pitched to a record of 18-3 in 2008. However, he has missed large parts of the last three MLB seasons with injuries.

As much money as Boston likes to spend on talent, the next time the Red Sox invest more than $100 million on a Japanese pitcher they’ll be looking for a great deal more than the 69 wins Dice-K has given them over his first five years. The Red Sox learned a valuable lesson of caveat emptor - or buyer beware.

The Rangers have come close to winning the last two World Series and lost their best starting pitcher C.J. Wilson to division rivals the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels also signed Albert Pujols.

"Obviously this is a very exciting night for our organization, for our fans and for our community," Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said in a conference call an hour after Major League Baseball officially announced the Rangers had submitted the winning bid.

"This is just the first step in the process, but an important one," Daniels said.
"It's one that we hope will lead to signing Yu Darvish to a contract, but we understand the negotiations are just beginning. Our ownership group went the extra mile to support us on this."

ESPN Dallas reporter Jean Jacques Taylor may have summed it up best when he suggested: “This is about low-key owners Bob Simpson and Ray Davis, who gave Jon Daniels permission to reportedly drop $51.7 million on the Nippon Ham Fighters just for the right to negotiate a deal with Darvish, who reportedly wants a five-year deal in the neighborhood of $15 million per year.

“Finally, the Rangers are a big-market club in every sense of the word.”

Simpson and Davis had to send a message to Angels’ owner Arte Moreno that they’re not going to sit around and watch him buy a championship team.

It’s becoming clear the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox aren’t the only big market franchises willing to spend whatever they have to do win today. The Rangers and Angels are in the same boat.

The Toronto Blue Jays won the 1992 and 1993 World Series. On the eve of the 1992 season the Blue Jays added free agents Jack Morris and Dave Winfield and won the World Series. A year later, with Winfield having departed and Jimmy Key gone to free agency, the Jays signed Dave Stewart and Paul Molitor. Again, they won the World Series.

The 2011 Blue Jays won 81 games. The 1991 Blue Jays won the American League East but lost in the American League Championship series to eventual World Champion, the Minnesota Twins. The 1991 Blue Jays were one or two players away from winning a World Series, the 2011 Blue Jays are many, many players away from contending for a playoff spot, and are nowhere close to being legitimate World Series contenders.

If the Blue Jays had won the rights to negotiate with Yu Darvish they were looking at spending north of $120 million on one player. The Blue Jays are not a baseball team that can afford to invest anywhere close to $100 million on any baseball player.

The Blue Jays 2011 payroll was just a shade over $70 million. What made the Blue Jays reported interest in Darvish questionable was a press conference Blue Jays general Manager Alex Anthopoulos held shortly after the baseball winter meetings. Anthopoulos talked at great length about the Blue Jays payroll parameters.

"That’s probably not a question for me, it’s not impacting us in ’12, but I think in ’13 and beyond it’s going to impact us, certainly we’re going to be receiving less," Anthopoulos replied when asked whether the new baseball CBA would affect his payroll parameters. "I don’t get involved in those conversations with accounting, but there’s no question that’s going to be phased out and we’re going to lose dollars there.

"I’m sure that has some type of bearing and impact.

"If there’s something we need to go over for … with certain cases we’ll jump up beyond that," he said. "There’s no question that there’s areas I’ve been asked to be, and I can work within those areas. Whatever I’m handed to work with, I can make it work." Anthopoulos said.

The general managers of the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels and Rangers appear to have few, if any, so called “payroll parameters”. Each of those teams 2012 payrolls will be well north of $125 million; the Blue Jays 2012 payroll may not hit $80 million.

That’s not to suggest the Blue Jays can’t contend for a playoff spot in 2012, but that is to say Anthopoulos is operating under a competitive disadvantage when it comes to his signing of talent as opposed to the “big market” American League franchises.

The Blue Jays may not be pretenders but to suggest they’re contenders would be wrong. The Blue Jays aren’t quite ready to put their feet in the deep end just yet.

For this is Howard Bloom

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Monday, December 19, 2011

It’s time for the NHL to change!


The National Hockey League’s 2011-12 season will hit its home stretch in the next month or so. Spring will bring the Stanley Cup playoffs, the best time for hockey fans. However, the current “times” have been anything but the best of times for the Lords of the Rink.

Hockey fans remember 2011 as the year Minnesota Wild defenseman Derek Boogaard, Winnipeg center Rick Rypien and the recently retired Wade Belak all died tragically – Boogaard from a drug overdose, Rypien and Belak both committed suicide. Boogaard, Rypien and Belak were all NHL enforcers, players paid to fight. Their deaths are all connected to the sport they played as professionals.

Hockey’s marquee player Sidney Crosby missed playing hockey ten and a half months this year after suffering back-to-back concussions in games in early January. Crosby returned in mid-November, played eight games and is again forced to the sidelines suffering from what Crosby has called post-concussion syndrome. Thursday night Philadelphia Flyers captain Chris Pronger, a hockey player who represented Canada in the last four Olympic Games and will one day be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, had his 2011-12 season end as a direct result of a concussion. Its likely Pronger will never play hockey again.

Is it time for the NHL to change? Is it time for the “physicality” of hockey that National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman embraced two short weeks ago as “something our fans love” to undergo a fundamental change?

In an editorial published Monday, the Canadian Medical Journal interim editor-in-chief Dr. Rajendra Kale suggested it was time for hockey to change:

“Simultaneously, I was appalled by the disgraceful and uncivilized practice of fighting and causing intentional head trauma,” the neurologist said in an interview from Ottawa published by the Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s national newspapers.

“It doesn't seem to fit in ... I almost thought that these were two different games being played,” said Kale, who moved to Canada from London more than three years ago.
Ken Dryden, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, former Toronto Maple Leafs’ President and a former member of Canada’s Parliament, in an op-ed piece in the Globe and Mail, called for Gary Bettman to make changes to how hockey is played, while recognizing just how tough Gary Bettman’s job is.

“In the U.S., Mr. Bettman has to try to make hockey matter for more than just an intensely dedicated minority, and beyond the north and northeast. For Americans, it's Major League Baseball and the National Football League first, then the National Basketball Association, and then … the NHL. The result is a perpetual struggle to matter,” said Dryden.

“This means having teams in parts of the U.S. where the main aim has to be simple survival. Ask any chief executive officer what he or she would do if one-quarter of his or her stores were dragging down the others.

“The answer: Close them and focus on the business's strengths. But Mr. Bettman can't do that.

“I've disagreed with him at times, but I've found him right far more often than wrong. Of all the NHL presidents or commissioners I've seen, as a player, an administrator and a fan, Gary Bettman is easily the best.

“Today, though, he faces a bigger challenge: head injuries. He has seen the dangerous mess of the past few years, with the premature deaths of former players, suicides and concussions that have ended or shortened careers. Now, there's the grave uncertainty over the future of his league's biggest star, Sidney Crosby.

“All through it, I was sure there would come a point where Mr. Bettman would say, “Enough.” He would intervene on the issue of head injuries as forcibly as he has on franchise and collective-bargaining matters. Instead, he has left it to others – first to Colin Campbell, an NHL executive formerly in charge of player safety, and now to former star player Brendan Shanahan.”

Dryden “hits the nail on the head” in looking at the problem and what is being done. While the NHL has put the right person in place in trying to deal with the violence of the sport (Shanahan), given how the sport is viewed in the United States, it might be impossible to change the way the game is played.

Does Brendan Shanahan have the right pedigree to move the help move hockey forward? During his hockey career Shanahan was a member of three Stanley Cup winning teams, part of the 2002 Canadian team that won the gold medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics and the Canadian team that won the 1994 World Championship. He is the only NHL player to have scored more than 600 goals and collected more than 2,000 penalty minutes. Shanahan currently works in the NHL office as the league's vice president of hockey and business operations. He has the right background!

The question that needs to be asked is this: Is having the right person in place enough to make the changes to the sport, especially when you consider how serious those changes would impact the sport?

Sidney Crosby is the one athlete who this sport can’t lose. If LeBron James never plays basketball again, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Dwayne Wade can each fill in. Peyton Manning, who will miss the 2011 NFL season, was the NFL’s biggest and most important player before the start of the current season. Tim Tebow, Aaron Rogers, Tom Brady and several other players make it clear no one player is bigger than the game itself. Ryan Braun, one of baseball brightest stars, is facing a suspension after testing positive for the use of a performance-enhancement drug and baseball hasn’t missed a beat. The National Hockey League cannot afford to lose Sidney Crosby and its clear Sidney Crosby’s hockey career is one hit to his head away from ending.

Twenty-three of the NHL’s current 30 teams are based in the United States. Canadians will forever love the frozen sport, but it’s the American population where the league, as Ken Dryden noted, faces its biggest challenge. Ask the average Canadian hockey fan what style of hockey they believe is best and they’ll tell you the international game. In the Olympics, the World Junior Hockey Championships and in college hockey – one fight and you’re handed a game suspension. In the National Hockey League, you’re given a five minute fighting penalty and allowed to return to the game.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman at a 2007 press conference broadcast on CBC Sports in Canada, was asked about fighting and the NHL: “Fighting has always had a role in the game...from a player safety standpoint, what happens in fighting is something we need to look at just as we need to look at hits to the head. But we're not looking to have a debate on whether fighting is good or bad or should be part of the game.”

Ask the families of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak how they feel about fighting in hockey today.

Hockey is a wonderful sport. It is the fastest game on two feet. Removing body-checking completely from hockey will never take place. Hockey without any body-checking is a sports event no one will watch. It isn’t entertaining.

Banning fighting and ending hits to the head must take place. The NHL must put an end to fighting. If a player fights in an NHL game, he should receive a match penalty (suspended for that game), a second fight in a game he should be suspended for two games. If a player hits a player to his opponents head, that player should immediately receive a two game suspension. That suspension should double each time.
The player who receives the penalty should also lose the equivalent of whatever they were going to be paid to play in that game.

There are other changes that must be made to hockey, but this is a good place to start building the future of hockey. The game as it is being played today – players are dying, careers are ending prematurely. It’s time for Gary Bettman and the Lords of the Rink to step up and to do what’s right.

For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Shame of Penn State Football


Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, Jerry Sandusky and Penn State, like a bad marriage – inevitably and seemingly linked together forever. Friday, Mike McQueary, then a graduate assistant, testified for more than two hours at the hearing that determined Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley and former Penn State Vice President Gary Schultz will face perjury charges in the case that centers on the two administrators’ failure to report allegations that Sandusky, Penn State’s former assistant football coach, raped a ten-year old boy in 2002.

"I would have said that Jerry was in there in very close proximity to a boy with his arms wrapped around him. I said I heard slapping sounds. I described it was extremely sexual and that some kind of intercourse was going on," McQueary, now a Penn State football coach on paid administrative leave, testified on Friday, referring to the locker room shower incident.

“I really didn’t know what to do,” McQueary said on the stand.
The heart of the matter remains – Did Penn State University and their Athletic Department participate in covering up the reprehensible allegations McQueary testified took place in Penn State’s football locker room in 2002?

McQueary contacted Penn State Football Coach Joe Paterno (now fired) the day after the incident and explained what he saw.

"I said, `Coach, I need to come to your house and talk to you about something,' " McQueary testified. "I went over to his house, sat at his kitchen table and told him I had seen Jerry ... it was extremely sexual in nature."

"I went to Coach Paterno because I knew he would handle it the right way, what I thought was the right way."

What did Paterno have to say (this from Paterno’s grand jury testimony that led to the charges against Sandusky moving forward)?

"He had seen a person, not an older, but a mature person who was fondling or whatever you might call it," Paterno's testimony reads.

Paterno told the grand jury he called Tim Curley, "I said, hey, we've got a problem, and I explained the problem to him. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Mr. Curley, and I thought he would look into it," Paterno continued.

What did Tim Curley have to say? (Here is where, at least in part, why the perjury charges against him are moving forward, as part of his original grand jury testimony.)

Curley said "absolutely not" when asked if Mike McQueary reported having witnessed anal sex in the showers at the Lasch Football Building.

Covering up a child sex abuse scandal is wrong. If in fact, as McQueary testified, he told Penn State administrators in 2002 and Penn State administrators failed to report the Sandusky allegations to the police, what Sandusky did after 2002 might have been prevented if the police knew what Sandusky had done then.

On Wednesday, December 5, one of Penn State’s biggest nightmares came true. Additional charges were filed against Sandusky, indicting him on allegations that he sexually molested a young man, who in 2004 was ten years old, referred to in grand jury testimony as “victim number nine.”

Victim number nine (now 18) claims Sandusky took him to Penn State football games and gave him gifts and money in 2004. Victim number nine claimed Sandusky raped him in the basement of the Sandusky home in 2004, according to the grand jury.

Given that Penn State chose to cover-up the 2002 allegations and assuming victim number nine is telling the truth, he may not have been a victim at all if Penn State had reported what McQueary told school officials he witnessed. There is no forgiveness for anyone at Penn State who played any role in the aftermath of the 2002 incident and failed to report the allegations to local law enforcement.

“As in many of the other cases identified to date, the contact with Sandusky allegedly fit a pattern of `grooming’ victims,” Attorney General Linda Kelly said in a statement. “Beginning with outings to football games and gifts; they later included physical contact that escalated to sexual assaults.”

According to McQueary’s testimony, Curley and Schultz told him they would investigate what McQueary told them.

Soon after McQueary told Paterno, Curley and Schultz what he witnessed, McQueary, a graduate assistant coach at the time of the 2002 incident, was offered a full-time coaching position with Penn State. There has been a great deal of criticism directed at McQueary, suggesting that once McQueary realized Penn State officials hadn’t informed the police of the allegations against Sandusky in 2002, McQueary should have contacted the police on his own.

McQueary spent his entire life in and around the Penn State campus. He played football at Penn State when Sandusky was a member of the coaching staff. It’s impossible to fully understand what McQueary felt when he witnessed what he saw in the Penn State locker room in 2002.

A better question that could be asked -- Would anyone who is questioning what Mike McQueary did or didn’t do, have done themselves, if they had been in his place that fateful day in 2002?

Only Penn State officials and Mike McQueary can answer the question if their cover-up and McQueary’s full-time appointment are in anyway related to each other.

Why then, if Tim Curley and Gary Schultz participated in a cover-up, did Curley and Schulz not contact the police as they were supposed to do?

Penn State’s football program represents more than $50 million annually in revenues for Penn State University. Joe Paterno was the school’s football coach for 46 years. Joe Paterno is Penn State University. The cover-up was wrong, but really not that difficult to understand, if one takes the time to examine the business of Penn State University and what Joe Paterno represented.

Curley and Schultz are going to be held accountable for their actions. Jerry Sandusky is facing a trial that logic suggests will end with Sandusky spending many years in jail. Paterno and now former Penn State President Graham Spanier were fired for their respective roles.

The NCAA has launched an investigation into how Penn State managed (or in this case mismanaged) the allegations of child sex abuse against Sandusky and Penn State’s cover-up. The NCAA has asked Penn State for a report on what was or wasn’t done.
Late last week Penn State General Counsel Cynthia Baldwin sent a letter to the NCAA asking for additional time to prepare their response.

The NCAA has a long list of rules, regulations and penalties covering everything from illegal payments to student-athletes to grade fixing. Given the scope of the Penn State and Syracuse sex/child abuse scandals, it is imperative the NCAA announce a set of regulations dealing with member institutions’ inaction when it relates to the welfare of minors. It remains to be seen if Penn State, as an institution, will be held accountable.

Between legal proceedings moving forward, and firings against those directly involved, Penn State is well on their way to seeing those who are responsible for the cover-up being held accountable for their actions. That remains a good starting place in allowing the victims of this terrible tragedy to begin to move forward with their lives.

For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tim Tebow – the Messiah on Mile High


Tim Tebow has delivered exactly what the sports world needed in a time when the sports industry is experiencing a daily full frontal assault as a result of child sexual abuse scandals at Penn State to the heart of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).

An athlete people can believe in for all the right reasons.

The Broncos began their season with Kyle Orton as quarterback. After the team started 1-4, Broncos coach Jim Fox named Tebow the starting quarterback against the Miami Dolphins.

Since then, Tebow has led the Broncos to a 7–1 record, including game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and/or overtime five times.

Faith has been the cornerstone of Tebow’s life. Religion and sports have always been intertwined with athletes thanking “God” in post-game speeches or accepting awards. Tim Tebow is taking his belief in a higher power to new levels.

“He gets attention the way Doug Flutie got attention,” Jep Streit, dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Paul told The Boston Herald. “He’s an exciting player, and then you layer on his faith, and it makes an attractive and provocative story. It will be interesting to see what happens on Sunday. Around Boston, Brady is like a god, so we’ve got these two godlike figures. Someone’s got to lose.”

“People wonder, does God get involved in the minor details, the relatively minor details, or does God stick with the larger master plan?” said Grand Rabbi Y.A. Korff, the city of Boston’s chaplain.

God isn’t guiding the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow’s remarkable two-month run will end, possibly as soon as this Sunday.

The New England Patriots are one of the National Football League’s best teams. Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, owner of three Super Bowls, two league MVPs and an eventual bust in the Hall of Fame.

Brady and Tebow share at least one essential quality. They inspire their teammates to greatness. Tebow doesn’t have Brady’s talent, in fact he doesn’t have the talent of most NFL starting quarterbacks, but Tim Tebow has the ability to inspire the men who play football with them.

“I don’t like to see it so visible and overwhelming, because then it becomes an act for the act’s sake, rather than for the underlying faith and belief,” Rabbi Korff said. “And that, then, becomes a concern, particularly for those that have faiths that are in the minority in this country. I don’t know if he’s crossed over that line.”

Has Tim Tebow crossed over the mythical line that does its best to separate sports and religion? Sandy Koufax didn’t pitch during the World Series on Yom Kippur, and Shawn Green didn’t play on Rosh Hashanah.

Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, two of the biggest athletes of the 20th century, changed their names from Cassius Clay and Lew Alcindor, and embraced their Muslim faith at the peak of their careers.

Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, was known as Chris Jackson when he played at LSU. He changed his name when he was a member of the Denver Nuggets. He will forever be remembered for refusing to acknowledge the American National Anthem during a 1996 game, effectively ending his NBA career.

Football players seem to embrace their faith in a higher power more than any other athletes. Football is a violent sport, often compared to war.

"I just tell God to watch over me from the toes on my feet to the head of my crown,'' Chicago Bears Devin Hester said in a Chicago Tribune report.

"My mom taught me, No. 1, to have respect for God,'' the Bears returner-receiver said, "and to know that you can do all things through Christ.''

Hester’s Chicago Bears were on the receiving end of Tebow Time last Sunday, losing 13-10 to the Broncos in overtime. God didn’t win the game for the Broncos, Marion Barber’s mistakes in the dying moments of regulation time and overtime were keys. Barber had a bad football game, that’s why the Bears lost to the Broncos.

"I don't have a problem with it," Hester said. "It's just like being a captain on a team: There are guys who are vocal; there are guys who aren't.''

"Tebow is taking a lot of criticism not just because of his faith. He's taking criticism because he's abnormal,'' Deion Sanders, now an analyst for the NFL Network told The Chicago Tribune. "The things he's doing and the success he's having is not normal, and people have a hard time buying into what they haven't seen. Then to top it all off, he exercises his faith.

"To me, a young, successful guy or woman, regardless of their ethnicity, who exercises what they believe in and what they truly stand for, no matter what it is, it shouldn't be a problem.''

"His play is evident of someone who follows God,'' said Bears quarterback Josh McCown, also an ardent Christian. "He plays wholeheartedly, with passion. That's a misnomer about Christian players; that they should be soft or they should be weak. That's not the case at all.''

Why, then, has Tim Tebow become one of the most polarizing figures in American society?

Appearing at a pre-season press conference, former Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason offered this gem on how he felt about Tebow’s abilities as an NFL quarterback.

"[Tebow] can't play. He can't throw. I'm not here to insult him. The reality is he was a great college football player, maybe the greatest college football player of his time. But he's not an NFL quarterback right now. Just because he's God-fearing, and a great person off the field, and was a winner with the team that had the best athletes in college football, doesn't mean his game is going to translate to the NFL."

"What (former Broncos coach) Josh McDaniels saw in him God only knows. Maybe God does know — because the rest of us don't,"

NFL draft pundits projected Tebow as a third-round pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Then-Broncos Head Coach Josh McDaniels stunned the football world by selecting Tebow with the 23rd pick in the first round.

Boomer has had a change of heart when it comes to Tim Tebow and his NFL abilities.

"I bought in to Tim Tebow; that's all I can tell you. He's a great guy; he's a great player in the fourth quarter," Esiason said.

Quite the 180 from his assessment in August: "He can't play. He can't throw."
Merril Hoge maintained that Tebow had "massive flaws" on ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown. "Why are they able to win? They hide those flaws."

What Hoge seems to be missing is the moment in time Tim Tebow has provided the sports world with, a player who manages to win despite his apparent shortcomings as a football player.

Tim Tebow has delivered at a time when the Denver Broncos needed him. Tim Tebow has delivered at a time when the National Football League needed him. Tim Tebow has delivered at a time when the sports world needed him.

Tim Tebow makes you want to watch more football. Tim Tebow makes you forget about Jerry Sandusky. Tim Tebow makes you remember the good times sports can provide, the time when sports produced heroes, athletes who rose above their “God given abilities” and delivered.

Tebow’s magical time may end this Sunday, but it’s been a wonderful ride.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Jim Boeheim – number one and being sued


These should be the best of times for the Syracuse basketball program. The Orange are off to a 10-0 start and are ranked number one in both major national polls. The Orange are set to seriously challenge as NCAA men’s basketball champion during March Madness.

Tuesday, Bobby Davis and Mike Lang, who have accused Boeheim’s former assistant coach Bernie Fine of sexual molestation, are suing both Syracuse and Boeheim for defamation of character.

In days immediately following Davis’ and Lang’s accusations, Boeheim stood by Fine, a man he’s known since 1963.

“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.”

A great deal has happened since Boeheim said the above. Davis released a recording he made of a conversation he shared with Bernie Fine’s wife Laurie in 2003.
After ESPN released the tapes Fine was fired, and Boeheim tried to apologize to Davis and Lang.

Davis and Lang have hired attorney Gloria Allred who has represented women in sex scandals involving presidential candidate Herman Cain, golfer Tiger Woods and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal.

“She uses whatever weapons she has, and I think her weapon is the media,” said Laurie Levenson, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles in a Syracuse Post Standard report. “If you’ve got Gloria Allred on the other side, you have two battles to face: one in the courtroom and one outside the courtroom.”

Allred took the Davis and Lang traveling road show to CNN’s Piers Morgan Show Tuesday night, a show which also featured Jerry Sandusky’s defense team co-counsel, Karl Rominger.

“She’s not just an ambulance chaser — she’s thoroughly well-grounded in the law,” said Cynthia Bowman, a law professor at Cornell University School of Law. “She’s obviously committed to various causes involving gender-based violence, and by that I would include gender violence to boys.”

Davis and Lang aren’t suing Bernie Fine, the man they’ve accused of sexual molestation, but rather Jim Boeheim who angrily fought to defend him.

“Coach Boeheim was the coach of -- and is the coach of the Syracuse men's basketball team. And he made these statements. These false and injurious and inflammatory allegations about Mike Lang and about Bobby Davis, calling them liars, saying that they're essentially motivated by money.

“Those statements were completely false. They really have harmed the reputation of both of them. And especially to call Bobby Davis a liar, that's really accusing him of a crime. Because Bobby Davis reported this allegation of child molestation to the police. And to make a false statement to the police is a crime in the state of New York.” Allred said on the CNN.

Allred says Boeheim’s apology matters not to her clients.

“Too little, too late. And the damage has been done. Because what he said has been carried by nationwide media. And it not only has an impact on Mike and on Bobby, but what about other persons who are child victims of sexual abuse? Doesn't it send them a message that if they dare to step up and tell the authorities, the police, their coach or the university or their school, that they have been the victims of child molestation, that they're going to be having their worst fears realized, that they're going to be attacked by adults publicly and called liars.

“We simply cannot allow this. The university needs to be accountable for what the coach said. And we are within the statute of limitations to bring this lawsuit. And we have brought it.”

As expected, Boeheim and the University are not talking about the case.
Esteemed lawyer and ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack discussed the case on ESPN’s Outside the Lines.

"We have the first amendment in this country which protects a lot of free speech, doesn't protect against defamation, but we believe in the idea that people can speak and most of the time speak their mind unless they're defamation. We also have the issue of whether or not people are public figures and if they do they receive less protection under the law. It'd be interesting and difficult to figure out how they were damaged by what Boeheim said, what kind of damages they would be entitled to.
And we can never forget that Boeheim, a couple days later after he had more information apologized for what he said. So I just don't think this is much of a lawsuit that's going to go very far."

Are Bobby Davis and Michael Lang chasing the money?

"Bobby Davis had never heard of Gloria Allred until a few days ago. I don't think he understands the implications of Gloria and what she's known for. So I would say that is not really on his mind or even in his realm of consciousness right now, but it probably soon will be," ESPN’s Mark Schwarz said on "Outside the Lines."

Jim Boeheim might have to pay the price for standing by his friend, and jumping to a conclusion. Cases like this are often settled out of court.

Allred, for her part, seemingly wants to try this in the court of public opinion. That may or may not be a good strategic decision.

It isn’t right that the statute of limitations has expired on Fine and there is little if anything Davis and Lang will ever receive from him. One day there may not be a statute of limitations when it comes to child abuse but that day isn’t today.
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick announced that he couldn’t bring charges against Fine last week. He also said both Davis and Lang were believable. Fitzpatrick made heroes out of Davis and Lang; they were and are men of honor, men who are trying to help other victims of sexual abuse come forward. They deserved to be admired and respected.

Davis and Lang are doing what they believe is the right thing.

If their goal was to create greater awareness when child abuse takes place that goal has been accomplished. They were both aware the current legal system wouldn’t allow the prosecution of Bernie Fine. However, Bernie Fine has lost his job, his reputation and will no longer live the life he once led.

Bernie Fine has paid a terrible price for what he is alleged to have done.
From the outside looking in, it does appear Davis and Lang are indeed chasing after the money as Boeheim originally suggested, only it’s not Bernie Fine’s they’re after.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

David Stern – NBA Gatekeeper


David Stern is in the home stretch as NBA commissioner, a role he has served in since 1984. His association with the NBA dates back to 1966 as an outside counsel, officially joining the NBA in 1978 as General Counsel. He became the league's Executive Vice President in 1980.

The last few months must seem like a roller-coaster ride to Stern. A prolonged NBA lockout cost the NBA the first two months of the 2011-12 season.

The last few days have seen Stern at the center of a firestorm, a crisis many NBA media pundits believe Stern brought upon himself when he vetoed a trade of NBA All-Star Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets to the Lakers. The NBA owns the Hornets.

“Since the NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets, final responsibility for significant management decisions lies with the Commissioner’s office in consultation with team chairman Jac Sperling. All decisions are made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the Hornets,” Stern said in the statement. “In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.”

Stern’s decision set somewhat of a precedent. The National Hockey League has owned the Phoenix Coyotes for the last three NBA seasons. Gary Bettman’s support for the Coyotes is unwavering but he hasn’t stepped into the day–to-day affairs of the Coyotes.

Major League Baseball owned the Montreal Expos after Jeffrey Loria sold the Expos for $120 million to Major League Baseball. There are more than a few Expos fans who believe MLB commissioner Bud Selig may have run the Expos out of Montreal, but Selig didn’t interfere in the day-to-day management of the team.
Stern’s vetoing the Chris Paul trade appears to have had more to do with comments a number of NBA owners “shared” with Stern.

"The message is we went through this lockout for a reason," Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. "Again, I'm not speaking for Stern. He's not telling me his thought process. I'm just telling you my perspective, having gone through all this. There's a reason that we went through this lockout, and one of the reasons is to give small-market teams the ability to keep their stars and the ability to compete.

"I wouldn't have been happy, but I would have understood because it was a conversation a lot of owners had long before the Laker deal was consummated," Cuban said. "It was like, 'Look, sure, I'd love him. Give [Paul] to me in a heartbeat.' But the whole idea of the lockout was to prevent stuff like that.

"Players will always have the right to choose what they want to do as a free agent, but the players agreed to rules that said, 'You know what? Let's give the home team, the incumbent team, an extra advantage.' And that's how the rules were designed. I think they're going to work."

The Mavericks are the defending NBA champions. Most of the Mavericks championship team are back to defend their title, and in a truncated 66 NBA schedule the Mavericks are one of the NBA’s pre-season favorites. Cuban isn’t exactly an objective observer when it comes to the Lakers becoming a much better basketball team.

But the Coup de grâce belongs to Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert who is still feeling the sting a year after LeBron James “took his talents to South Beach.” Gilbert sent Stern an email that read:

Commissioner,

It would be a travesty to allow the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul in the apparent trade being discussed.

This trade should go to a vote of the 29 owners of the Hornets.

Over the next three seasons this deal would save the Lakers approximately $20 million in salaries and approximately $21 million in luxury taxes. That $21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing.

I cannot remember ever seeing a trade where a team got by far the best player in the trade and saved over $40 million in the process. And it doesn't appear that they would give up any draft picks, which might allow to later make a trade for Dwight Howard. (They would also get a large trade exception that would help them improve their team and/or eventually trade for Howard.) When the Lakers got Pau Gasol (at the time considered an extremely lopsided trade) they took on tens of millions in additional salary and luxury tax and they gave up a number of prospects (one in Marc Gasol who may become a max-salary player).

I just don't see how we can allow this trade to happen.

I know the vast majority of owners feel the same way that I do.

When will we just change the name of 25 of the 30 teams to the Washington Generals.

Please advise...

Dan G.

The letter is remarkably misguided on Gilbert’s part.

It’s embarrassing the NBA still owns the Hornets; it may or may not be wrong that David Stern believed he had to intercede in the day-to-day operations of the Hornets, but it’s silly to even suggest the 29 NBA owners are going to vote on whether or not the Hornets can make a trade.

Good ownership focuses on hiring the right personnel and putting the right management in place to make the best decisions. Jerry Jones and the late Al Davis more often than not hurt the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders respectively when they served as their teams’ general managers.

In a report published by ESPN’s Larry Coon, author of the NBA Salary Cap FAQ, he offered this regarding Gilbert’s reference to the $21 million that wouldn’t be heading to the league if Paul was traded to the Lakers.

Coon pointed out “the system is supposed to decrease spending, yet owners like Gilbert rely on teams like the Lakers continuing to spend like they used to -- because the proceeds from the luxury tax go to teams like the Cavs. Gilbert is using his position as part-owner of the Hornets to implore Stern to exercise his power as the fiduciary of the Hornets to make a ruling.

The NBA hired Jac Sperling to be the Hornets team chairman to avoid a conflict of interest on the NBA’s part in the day-to-day management of the Hornets. Paul can become a free agent after the 2011-12 season. He had made it clear he has no interest in signing a contract extension with the Hornets.

The question that begs to asked “if the Hornets are going to lose Paul to free agency at the end of the 2011-12 season is it in the best interest of the Hornets to trade Paul and receive something in return?”

The answer would appear to be simple. Yes it makes sense for the Hornets to make the best possible trade they can for Chris Paul,

Did David Stern overreach his mandate as NBA commissioner in blocking the trade?
During the 1976 season, Oakland A's owner Charlie Finley tried to trade closer Rollie Fingers and outfielder Joe Rudi to the Boston Red Sox and pitcher Vida Blue to the New York Yankees only to have Commissioner Kuhn block both deals because they were "not in the best interests of baseball." Kuhn did the same thing the following year after Finley tried to deal Blue to the Cincinnati Reds.

The dawn of free agency was set to begin for Major League Baseball and Finley tried to sell the players he knew he would lose through free agency.
What the Hornets wanted to do was trade Chris Paul and attempt to make their basketball team better in the long run.

The NBA’s other 29 owners aren’t in the business of owning 1/29 of the New Orleans Hornets. If the management team the NBA put in place to manage the day-to-day affairs of the Hornets believed it was in the best interests of the Hornets to make the trade in order to improve the team, the NBA had no business interfering in the trade.

Clearly Mark Cuban had a conflict of interest. He doesn’t want to see the Lakers become a better basketball team. The Lakers would represent more of a direct threat to the Mavericks if the trade had been made.

Clearly Dan Gilbert was more concerned about the luxury tax the Lakers wouldn’t have to pay if the trade had been made, and that’s another conflict of interest.
David Stern’s vetoing of the trade isn’t his finest hour as NBA commissioner. It’s embarrassing and suggests the NBA doesn’t have a great deal of faith in the people they’ve entrusted to run manage the Hornets.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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