Friday, June 08, 2012

The NFL – they don’t take care of their own

“Wherever this flag's flown – we take care of our own.”

In the first single from his current album, Bruce Springsteen repeats again and again, “Wherever this flag's flown – we take care of our own.” Springsteen is asking a bittersweet question but failing to get an answer. The “voice of an American generation” questions how America and Americans are reacting to each other in these tough economic times. While not linked to the current plight retired National Football League players are facing, most retired NFL’ers have to be wondering why the NFL hasn’t taken care of its own.

Thursday, a lawsuit that included more than 2,200 former National Football League players was consolidated into one lawsuit -- in the "master complaint" filed Thursday in Philadelphia. The lawsuit contends the National Football League willfully withheld information that linked football-related head trauma to permanent brain injuries. Almost as important, helmet maker Riddell is part of the lawsuit.

"The NFL, like the sport of boxing, was aware of the health risks associated with repetitive blows producing sub-concussive and concussive results and the fact that some members of the NFL player population were at significant risk of developing long-term brain damage and cognitive decline as a result," the complaint charges.

"Despite its knowledge and controlling role in governing player conduct on and off the field, the NFL turned a blind eye to the risk and failed to warn and/or impose safety regulations governing this well-recognized health and safety problem."

It seems unimaginable those who played in the National Football League didn’t understand the inherent risks in playing a sport that has been called “an organized car wreck.” It seems incomprehensible the “Lords of the Pigskin” NFL owners and league management haven’t focused more on player safety and in particular the health and the welfare of their employees.

"Our legal team will review today's filing that is intended to consolidate plaintiffs' existing claims into one `master' complaint," the NFL said in a statement. "The NFL has long made player safety a priority and continues to do so. Any allegation that the NFL sought to mislead players has no merit. It stands in contrast to the league's many actions to better protect players and advance the science and medical understanding of the management and treatment of concussions."

If you ask the National Football League – the league has “done right by their players”. The league likes to talk about the billion dollars they have spent on player pensions. The league likes to talk about the 88 Plan, named after Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, provides funding to treat dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and ALS. Players do not need to demonstrate that the condition was caused by their participation in the NFL. The league likes to point out a series of medical benefits to former NFL players to help them after football, including joint replacement, neurological evaluations and spine treatment programs, assisted living partnerships, long-term care insurance, prescription benefits, life insurance programs, and a Medicare supplement program. Clearly it isn’t enough.

Former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, who had been a named plaintiff in a suit filed last year. Easterling played for the Falcons from 1972 to 1979, helping to lead the team's "Gritz Blitz" defense in 1977 that set the NFL record for fewest points allowed in a season. He never earned more than $75,000 from the sport. Easterling died on April 19, 2012, at the age of 62. His death was ruled a suicide. It is believed that Easterling shot himself due to clinical depression resulting from dementia "as he lost the ability to focus, organise his thoughts and relate to people", with the dementia itself the result of the lifetime of head injuries during Easterling's career.

"I think the thing that was so discouraging was just the denial by the NFL," Mary Ann Easterling told the Associated Press. "His sentiment toward the end was that if he had a choice to do it all over again, he wouldn't (play). ... He was realizing how fast he was going downhill."

"After voluntarily assuming a duty to investigate, study, and truthfully report to the public and NFL players,
including the Plaintiffs, the medical risks associated with MTBI in football, the NFL instead produced industry-funded, biased, and falsified research that falsely claimed that concussive and sub-concussive head impacts in football do not present serious, life-altering risks," the complaint reads.

Dave Duerson was a member of the Chicago Bears 1985 Super Bowl winning team. He was a four time member of the Pro Bowl team. Duerson was found dead at his Sunny Isles Beach, Florida home on February 17, 2011. The Miami-Dade County medical examiner reported that Duerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. He sent a text message to his family saying he wanted his brain to be used for research at the Boston University School of Medicine, which is conducting research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) caused by playing professional football. On May 2, 2011 researcher neurologists at Boston University confirmed that he suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions. Football killed Dave Duerson.

And then Junior Seau committed suicide last month -- by pointing a gun at his chest.

“He did what players think you’re supposed to do: save your brain” Daniel Amen, a California-based physician and psychiatrist told The Washington Post. “They have to learn there’s another way. Don’t give up on your brain while you’re alive. Try to fix it.”

The Washington Post reported that “Amen’s research and stated mission — to rehabilitate a damaged brain — gets at the heart of class-action lawsuits filed against the NFL. A master complaint was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia that laid out the claims of more than 2,000 former football players. In addition to personal damages, the complaint outlines the need for medical monitoring, a costly undertaking that would require the NFL to pay for medical testing and treatment for the duration of a player’s lifetime.“Guys are scared. The Junior Seau thing kicked it into a whole other category,” said Von DuBose, one of the attorneys representing former players. “There was a lot of cynicism from folks on the outside looking in. But Junior Seau was NFL royalty. When that happened, it took that layer of cynicism off. It really got folks to thinking, wow, this is a real, real problem. This isn’t a bunch of broke, retired guys looking for a quick payday.”

Amen isn’t interested in money – nor is he interested in fame, he made it clear to The Washington Post as a doctor he sees a much bigger picture how football is damaging football players.

“I could care less about the politics or even the lawsuits,” Amen said. “This is a brain-damaging sport. When we started our research, everyone was actively in denial. They’re changing now, and I’m excited about that. But we got to start talking about the next step: Let’s rehab their heads.”

The lawsuit is going to be very difficult for the players to win. The NFL reportedly is going to try and have the lawsuit dismissed in August. The NFL is likely to point out the players had to know there was a risk playing football. There is a much bigger challenge the NFL is about to face.

The damage to the reputation and to the image of the National Football League could hurt the sport in the eyes of the tens of millions of millions of people who watch and attend NFL games. Even more damaging could be how the league’s sponsors react. General Motors ended their relationship with the Super Bowl, moving away from the NFL and embracing soccer.

The NFL needs to settle this lawsuit before it reaches the Philadelphia court where the case is going to be heard. The league needs to reach an arrangement with its retired players offering their retired players better long-term medical benefits and a better pension plan. The NFL generates more than $9 billion in revenues annually. The NFL has a television contract that pays the NFL more than $4 billion a year. What will the average American and more importantly corporate America believe if the NFL making billions of dollars can’t and won’t take care of its own.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Fate, Destiny and LeBron James

The Miami Heat won the NBA’s Eastern Conference last year, losing the NBA championship to the Dallas Mavericks. The Heat are two wins away from making it to the 2012 NBA Finals. The mountain the Heat will try and climb their opponents in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics are one win away from winning making it to the NBA Finals and the Celtics will host the Heat in game six of the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night at the Boston Garden. The Heat are led by LeBron James – recognized with his third NBA most valuable player award last week. If the Heat lose Thursday night in Boston or Saturday night in Miami if the Heat force a game seven – James will be blamed for the team’s failure.

The Heat were pushed to the brink of elimination Tuesday night after the Celtics defeated the Heat 94-90 at Miami’s Amerian Airlines Arena. LeBron led the Heat in scoring with 30 points and collected 13 rebounds. 30 points, 13 rebounds – what exactly didn’t James deliver for the Heat? It’s not what LeBron James did or didn’t do, but the image – the persona James has. Three times in his first nine years in the NBA James has won the league’s MVP award – that aside LeBron James remains today what he has been for much of his career – loved and respected by many, detested by even more NBA fans.

James was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the number one overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. In his first professional game he recorded 25 points, setting an NBA record for most points scored by a prep-to-pro player in his debut outing. James grew up in Akron, Ohio – less than 60 miles from Cleveland.
James attended St. Vincent–St. Mary High School in Akron, where he starred as a two-sport athlete, playing basketball and football. He appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school junior, the Cavs believed they had drafted the best basketball player the Cleveland area had ever produced when they selected LeBron with the first overall pick. James was that and even more during his first seven years in the NBA, as a member of the Cavaliers.

LeBron has earned more than $100 million during his first nine NBA seasons. The first contract he signed with Nike in May 2003 – seven-years and $93 million. James signed an even bigger contract with Nike in March 2010.

"LeBron James is one of the world's best basketball players and a global sports icon that has transcended generations and cultures," Nike spokesman Kejuan Wilkins said. "Nike's relationship with LeBron has created innovative basketball products and captivating campaigns. We're proud to continue our partnership with him for years to come."

"Our relationship with Nike is more than a shoe deal," Maverick Carter, CEO of LRMR, told CNBC. "It's more like a joint venture — meaning we are working to build a business. His latest shoe, the LeBron VII designed by Jason Petrie is the best selling shoe we've ever had in LeBron's line."

James lived up to the hype he created when he was a high schooler getting ready to play in the NBA – he delivered on the court. He was seen as the successor to Michael Jordan, sports biggest brand name ever. However there has been and will only be one Michael Jordan.

“What happened with Nike and LeBron has proved that the days when a single athlete dominated like Jordan are completely over,” said Matt Powell, analyst for SportsOneSource, a sports market retail tracking firm. “It took Nike about six years to come up with LeBron shoes that were commercially viable and even then it paled in comparison to Jordan’s standard.”

“LeBron is one of the most important endorsers to Nike,” Jordan’s longtime agent David Falk said in the CNBC report. “And I think, from the beginning, it was unfair to compare him to Jordan. The model everyone was talking about just couldn’t be replicated.”

“I don’t think any basketball player is making $10 million a year in guaranteed money on a shoe deal ever again,” said Sonny Vaccaro, who has worked with all the shoe companies and convinced Nike to spend its entire basketball marketing budget on Jordan in 1984. “All my life, I said there would never be another Jordan and now we know. It wasn’t Kobe. And it wasn’t LeBron.”

James’ first NBA contract was the standard three year contract offered to all NBA rookies. As the first overall selection James was offered more than the other members of the 2003 NBA draft class. At the end of the 2005-06 season, James negotiated a three-year contract extension, with a player option for a fourth year. The contract was worth $60 million and began at the start of the 2007–08 season. Although it was for fewer years and less money than the maximum he could sign, it allowed him the option of seeking a new contract worth more money as an unrestricted free agent following the 2010 season. He had discussed this with fellow members of his 2003 draft class, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, who also re-signed with their respective teams while allowing them to be unrestricted agents in 2010.

In the seven seasons LeBron James represented the Cleveland Cavaliers he won two NBA MVP awards, led the NBA in scoring one year and was selected as an All-Star six of the seven seasons. The Cavaliers made the playoffs in James’ last five seasons in Cleveland, losing in the playoffs and never coming close to winning an NBA championship.

James became a free-agent at 12:01 am ET on July 1, 2010. He filed papers to formally change his jersey number 23 to 6 for the season. James was courted by several teams, including the Knicks, Nets, Heat, Bulls, Clippers, and his hometown Cavaliers.

On July 8, 2010, James announced on a live ESPN special, The Decision, that he would be playing for the Miami Heat for the 2010–11 season and teaming with Miami's other All-Star free agent signees Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Decision was broadcasted from the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, Connecticut. The Decision came during the “dog days of summer”. Major League Baseball was nearing their All-Star break; both the NBA and the NHL had completed their playoffs. NFL training camps were three weeks ago. The biggest team sport player of his era announcing where he would be taking his talents attracted all of the attention and ratings numbers ESPN dreamed it would.

“In this fall...this is very tough...in this fall I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat. I feel like it's going to give me the best opportunity to win and to win for multiple years, and not only just to win in the regular season or just to win five games in a row or three games in a row, I want to be able to win championships. And I feel like I can compete down there.” James announced.

LeBron joined Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami – the three leading members of the NBA’s 2010 free agent all playing for the same team. James had made the right basketball decision. He wanted to win an NBA championship and believed he had given Cleveland seven years of his career. He had, the Cavaliers hadn’t won and James wanted to play for a team he believed had a better chance to win.

LeBron James had made the right basketball decision – he had gone about announcing that decision in the wrong way. The Event was a public relations disaster – an unmitigated disaster. James appeared as an aloof pro-typical athlete who had kicked his hometown (Cleveland) under the bus. What LeBron should have done – signed with the Heat, allowed Miami to hold a press conference, instead The Event turned into an embarrassment for LeBron James – an athlete who had worked so hard on crafting his image during his seven years in the NBA.

Michael Jordan won his first NBA championship when he was 28. LeBron James is 27. Three MVP’s in his first nine years in the NBA, but that was for how James has played in the regular season. Jordan won five MVP’s with the Bulls, but six NBA Finals MVP awards – recognized for each of the six NBA titles Jordan led the Bulls too. LeBron James may win his first NBA title this year, he certainly will win several NBA championships but until he does LeBron James will not receive the respect he likely craves.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Roger Goodell – the law when it comes to the National Football League

Earlier this week arbitrator Stephen Burbanks that when it comes to running the National Football League – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has absolute power.

The National Football League Players Association appealed Goodell’s decision to suspend New Orleans Saints defensive team captain Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012 season and defensive end Will Smith (also still a member of the Saints) for four games. Former Saints defensive end Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, was suspended eight games, and linebacker Scott Fujita, now with Cleveland, was suspended three games for involvement in the program while they were playing for the Saints. The four players were suspended by Goodell for their role in the Saints bounty system a program that focused on specific opposing players for injury and included cash payouts.

In November 2002, a federal court appointed Burbank as special master of the National Football League.
In that role, Burbank arbitrates certain categories of disputes between the NFL Players Association and the NFL Management Council under a consent decree and collective bargaining agreement.

Burbanks ruled that as commissioner, Roger Goodell has the right to discipline NFL players when he announced he was suspending four NFL players for their role in the Saints hit for hire program.
Reaction from the NFL, the NFLPA and the NFL Coaches Association was interesting and telling.

“System Arbitrator Stephen Burbank upheld the commissioner’s authority under the Collective Bargaining Agreement to impose “conduct detrimental” discipline on players who provided or offered financial incentives to injure opponents. He also upheld the commissioner’s authority to impose such discipline against players who obstructed a league investigation. The System Arbitrator thus confirmed the commissioner’s authority to suspend Mr. Fujita, Mr. Smith and Mr. Vilma. He invited the commissioner to clarify the precise basis for his discipline of Mr. Hargrove who, among other things, was found to have lied to the league’s investigators and obstructed their investigation,” the NFL announced following the ruling.

NFL Coaches Association executive director David Cornwell offered this gem: “After destroying the best opportunity in the history of sports for NFL players to maximize the economic benefits of playing the game, NFLPA leadership has now turned its sights on destroying the bond between NFL players and NFL coaches. Its strategy in the bounty investigation has been to throw coaches under the bus to save the players involved.

“As the NFLPA was suing NFL coaches and sponsoring the declaration of Anthony Hargrove, in which it encouraged a young man to admit to lying and then tell a new lie by claiming that his coaches made him do it, we now learn that DeMaurice Smith was scheming for the release of the Gregg Williams tape because he thought players would look better if he made Williams look worse. The NFLPA’s “my coach made me do it” defense is petty and irresponsible and is further evidence that union leadership is not up to the task of leadership.“

As was the case in March 2011 when Smith refused to review additional league financial disclosures because he thought ignorance gave the NFLPA the upper hand in its' failing public relations strategy, the NFLPA’s “no evidence” defense in the bounty investigation has been exposed as nothing more than a directive from Smith that players not meet with the Commissioner and not look at records uncovered in the NFL’s investigation so that Smith’s strategy of blaming their coaches would have the illusion of merit.”

Not to be outdone the NFLPA said: “The NFL Players Association will appeal today’s decision to the Appeals Panel provided by the CBA for the review of all system arbitrator decisions.

“Any pay-to-injure program runs counter to the health and safety principles we stand for as players. However, none of the players punished in this case have seen a shred of evidence justifying the NFL’s punishment.

“In the opinion, system arbitrator Stephen Burbank wrote, “[I]t is important to emphasize – with respect to all of the Players – that nothing in this opinion is intended to convey a view about the underlying facts or the appropriateness of the discipline imposed.”

“The union believes that the players are entitled to neutral arbitration of these issues under the CBA and will continue to fight for that principle and to protect the fair due process rights of all players.

“In New Orleans, Coach Payton and Coach Vitt and their colleagues across the league have made it clear that NFL coaches do not condone any playing technique or motivational tool that compromises the fundamental principles of fair play and sportsmanship. From Pop Warner to the NFL, accountability is the most important attribute in the bond between coaches and players, but the NFLPA’s defense in the bounty matter is nothing more than finger pointing, which is demeaning to players, offensive to coaches, and destroys the standard of accountability that is expected from a Pro.”

None of the prepared statements dealt with the most important issue – player safety in the National Football League.

The players appeal was ‘interesting’. The Saints head coach Sean Peyton, the team’s general manager, the team’s assistant coach and the team’s former defensive coordinator all admitted the Saints “bounty” program was real. The four football executives all accepted their suspensions.

The players led by Vilma have been steadfast in their denial. While the coaches didn’t point the fingers at any specific players – the coaches haven’t defended the four players Goodell suspended. And if it wasn’t Vilma
and the three other players who were suspended then which players on the Saints (current or former) had participated in the program their coaches have been suspended for? The NFL is in the midst of a massive lawsuit that focuses on player safety. More than 2,200 retired NFL players and their estates are suing the NFL claiming the league willfully withheld critical safety information from players. The lawsuit alleges if the former players had been offered all of the information relating to the inherent safety risks associated with playing football the players may have decided not to play in the National Football League.

Goodell announced during his annual state of the league address at Super Bowl XLVI player safety was his number one goal. The Saints bounty program that suggests the team not only encouraged but paid players for hurting their opponents defies Goodell’s safety first mandate.

The National Football League Players Association’s mandate is to defend the rights of their membership – NFL players. In agreeing to appeal Goodell’s decision to punish the players who played a leadership role in the Saints bounty program the NFLPA is playing both sides of the player safety issue. They are defending those who have been found guilty by the league but in defending their alleged abuse of player safety are in part suggesting player safety isn’t important to the NFLPA.

The NFL is caught between the inevitable rock and a hard place. They are pursuing their primary mandate – defending the rights of NFL players but in doing so are bringing into question how serious the NFLPA is about the issue of player safety. The NFLPA needs to look at the bigger picture, player safety and an even bigger issue – the retired players’ lawsuit. In defending Vilma and company that are inadvertently hurting their ability to defend what must be their number one concern – player safety!

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Jerry Sandusky – justice is about to be served

The most important sports story of 2011, a story that turned into one of the biggest stories in recent memory takes center stage Tuesday when the State of Pennsylvania brings 52 charges of sexual molestation of children against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. Sandusky was indicted on November 4. Five days later Penn State fired Joe Paterno, along with Graham Spanier Penn State’s President. Paterno had been the school’s head football coach for 46 years Paterno and Spanier were fired for not being more proactive went they first learned of Sandusky’s alleged pedophile in 2001.

The far-ranging and long-term implications of the Penn State football scandal are only beginning to be understood. Sandusky’s trail begins another chapter in the story, a sordid saga of college football, college athletics and how sports is viewed by hundreds of millions of people – impacts our society and the world we live in. It will be next to impossible to fully assess the fallout but the sports industry that existed before the Penn State scandal, will not be the sports industry that will exist ten or twenty years from now.

Before the horrific allegations were reported, few if anyone outside of Penn State had ever heard of Jerry Sandusky. However, Joe Paterno and Penn State were two of the most cherished “brands” in sports, let alone college athletics.

Countless mistakes were made, beginning with an apparent cover-up of the allegations Jerry Sandusky, and now Penn State, that dates back more than 14 years. Penn State knew about Sandusky’s alleged behavior as far back as 1998 and Paterno knew something was wrong in 2001. They choose to “look the other way” and not contact the police. For Penn State, a problem that should have been dealt with years ago has become one of the greatest examples of damage control an American University has ever been forced to address.

It remains to be seen what if the NCAA will do if anything regarding the school’s covering up of Sandusky’s alleged activities. Some of the allegations date back to 1998 when Sandusky was employed by Penn State. The most serious allegations relating to Penn State and the charges that cost Paterno and Spanier their jobs are connected to an alleged 2001 incident in the Penn State football locker room – three years after Sandusky had retired as Penn State’s assistant football coach.

Nine months ago Sandusky was a hero on the Penn State campus. The Harrisburg Patriot News paints this picture of the Jerry Sandusky that once was: “Defensive mastermind. Man’s man who related well to his football warriors. Children’s champion with an uncanny knack of relating to kids on their level, despite his 68 years.

“It didn’t matter that Sandusky had retired from the football program more than a decade before. The university kept an office for him in the athletic building. This afforded him full privileges and unfettered access to the football locker room and facilities.

“Even when an incident involving alleged sexual contact with a boy in the football shower room in early 2001 resulted in a university ban on Sandusky bringing underage kids on campus, it did nothing to deflate the esteem in which he was held.

“University officials, its football fraternity and Penn State alumni still turned out — and shelled out — for Sandusky and the many events benefiting his charity, The Second Mile.

“Sandusky’s roots run deep here. So did his ties. And so did the town’s and its football community’s loyalty
to him.”

A lawyer who spoke with Sports Business News Monday offered this on the start of the Sandusky trial, “If he were my client I would have advised him to plead guilty. Everyone deserves a fair trial and that’s what Jerry Sandusky is going to get. At the same time I do believe when all is said and done Jerry Sandusky is going to jail for a very long time.”

Monday Penn State reported that during the first five months of the scandal (November 4, 2011 through March 32, 2012) the scandal cost Penn State $9,631,822 – nearly $10 million. According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Roughly two-thirds of the updated cost total, or $6,519,946, involves the internal investigation headed by the firm of former FBI Director Louis Freeh, along with crisis communication expenses, according to Penn State data. Firms covered by the total include Freeh Group/Kekst Public Relations; Reed Smith/Ketchum Public Relations; Domus Inc. and the The Academy Group.

Penn State has paid another $1,793,487 for university legal services and defense. That sum includes payments to Saul Ewing; Duane Morris; Lanny J. Davis and Associates; Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP; Jenner & Block LLP; ML Strategies; Lee, Green & Reiter Inc. and Klink & Co.

Externally initiated investigations account for another $49,788 and include payments to Margolis & Healy.Penn State told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette it also has spent $543,079 in legal defense for Mr. Spanier, who is not charged with any crime, and for both Tim Curley, who is on administrative leave as Penn State's athletic director, and Gary Schultz, retired as senior vice president of business and finance, both of whom are charged with one count each of perjury and failure to report.

Penn State told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette its bylaws state that, except as prohibited by law, "every trustee and officer of the University" is indemnified by Penn State against expenses including counsel fees and financial liability.

The school listed other institutional expenses related to the scandal at $724,623.

With the trial set to begin – Penn State’s image will experience a full frontal assault. The school has done an exceptional job of distancing themselves from Sandusky. Rodney Erickson has been proactive as the school’s new president in delivering a message that Penn State will hold itself accountable and Bill O’Brien who left the New England Patriots to become Penn State’s head football coach has become a breath of fresh air. All that said – as ready as Penn State has been, it remains to be seen if how the school and the football program will weather the storm.

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

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

The victims who were eight to ten when Jerry Sandusky allegedly abused the men who are set to face Sandusky may indeed rock Penn State and college athletics to its very foundation.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Monday, June 04, 2012

Is it time to pay college athletes – playing for pay?

The ongoing debate regarding paying college athletes a stipend above full scholarships was revived last week at the annual Southeast Conference spring meetings. South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier put forth a proposal that would change the landscape of college sports. Spurrier believes football and men’s basketball players should be paid "approximately $3,500 to $4,000" for the entire year to cover most college expenses above and beyond their tuition, cost of books, room and board that are covered by their current athletic scholarship plan.

"We as coaches believe they're entitled to a little more than room, books, board and tuition," Spurrier said. "Again, we as coaches would be willing to pay it if they were to approve it to where our guys could get approximately get three-, four-thousand bucks a year. It wouldn't be that much, but enough to allow them to live like normal student-athletes.

"We think they need more and deserve more. It's as simple as that."

The SEC football coaches passed the motion 14-0. It’s likely at least in the short-term Spurrier’s suggestion won’t go any further than the support it now has from SEC football coaches.



On Friday the SEC announced it will distribute $241.5 million to its 12 institutions for the 2011-12 fiscal year, giving each school $20.1 million. The $241.5 million is the highest total ever distributed in SEC history and represents a 9.8 percent increase from the $219.9 million distributed to the schools in 2010-11. Broken down by categories and rounded off, the $241.5 million was derived from $116.6 million from football television, $34.2 million from bowls, $15.3 million from the SEC Football Championship, $31.2 million from basketball television, $4.9 million from the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament, $24.9 million from NCAA Championships and $14.4 million in a supplemental distribution. $166.1 million was generated by football – the SEC’s economic engine.

"We recognize that the income producers are both the football and basketball programs, period," LSU coach Les Miles told ESPN. "So there's a want to say with this extra income we would like to provide cost of education and cost of expense stipends to those players. We recognize that it's going to be difficult for every team on every campus -- volleyball, gymnastics, baseball, etc. -- to come up with the same number.

"What we're saying is the revenue-income sports, certainly football, would need in a possibility of sharing the income that's being produced, paying it back to those guys.

"It would be a difficult task putting it to work, but I think it's something we all want to push forward."
NCAA president Mark Emmert announced a plan in late October that would have allowed NCAA institutions to begin paying their student athletes an additional $2,000 a year. The program would have allowed schools to opt-in or opt-out of the program.

The NCAA’s has more than 1,100 members – 330 at the Division I level. The play for pay concept is now being reviewed by an NCAA committee – where it is likely to stay for an undetermined period of time. At the NCAA’s annual meeting in January the debate of playing for pay bogged down, forcing Emmert to toss the concept to a committee.

Emmert wasn’t a part of the discussions at the SEC meetings. However Emmert did offer this on the play for pay concept in late March.

“Because this (college athletics) is about a model completely different than professional athletics. College athletics has always been about college students who happen to be athletes. Indeed, the NCAA was created over one hundred years ago to prevent that professionalization of the sport, to differentiate it from professional athletics. The whole notion is that these are young men and young women who come to universities, who play athletics avocationally and represent their schools. When you convert those student-athletes into professional athletes, then they're virtually no different than NBA and NFL or MLB.” Emmert told ESPN.

“That's all fine. I have nothing against those professional sports. But college sport has always been intended to be something quite different.”

The USA Today recently reported that only 22 out of 227 public schools in NCAA Division I generate enough money to pay for athletics. The private schools (meaning private Division I schools including Notre Dame, Duke and Boston College) do not have to report the profitability of their athletic programs. The profit/loss formula is based on all of the sports. Penn State’s football program has annually averaged made more than $50 million over the last ten years. Penn State spends $101.1 million on athletics and generated $116.1 from their athletic department. In simpler terms, without football, Penn State athletics would have lost more than $35 million last year.

Texas President William Powers believes that one day in the not too distant future financial disparity could create a seismic shift in college football, with the haves moving away from the have nots.
"We may get to a point — I want to underline the word may — where many schools are really not in a position to compete at the level of the Florida's and the Notre Dame’s and the Texas's and the USC’s,"

Powers told the USA Today. "Like any competitive business, being in it and not really being in the game, you can get hurt. Will there be some restructuring? I am not a fan of some national league, but we may end up with 50 schools in (the upper football division of the NCAA's) Division I."

How real is Powers suggestion? Closer than most casual observers believe it may be. There is a growing belief that the six power conferences —Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern — plus Notre Dame and a few others could leave the NCAA and create their own super-division. That would include between 60 and 70 schools. The breakaway schools could create a college football playoff.
The NCAA controls men’s basketball the other major revenue generating sport – however if those 60 to 70 schools left the NCAA March Madness would become March Sadness overnight.

Incoming Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby Friday spoke out against the SEC football coach’s proposal.

"We should never do anything to establish an employee-employer relationship," Bowlsby said on the final day of the Big 12 meetings. "There are places you can go and play for money, but colleges and universities are not among them. This is an educational undertaking."

Oklahoma State president Burns Hargis, the chairman of the Big 12's board of directors, was even more forceful in his opposition to stipends, even for athletes in revenue-producing sports such as football.

"I don't think it's a good idea," Hargis told ESPN. "These student-athletes are provided scholarships in many cases, and they're eligible for other assistance. You get into all this kind of stipend stuff and it affects the amateurism, I think it affects recruiting. I just think it's introducing an idea that's not necessary."

There are a multitude of issues facing any playing for pay plan. Title IX has to be near or at the top of any list of challenges. Assuming the 60 to 70 so called super schools decided to leave the NCAA and create their own college sports league and conference(s), what exactly would be the difference between a men’s basketball player at Duke and a women’s basketball player at Duke? The Duke men’s program generates tens of millions of dollars for Duke (a private institution), the women’s team pales in comparison economically. The football program at Boston College generates revenue, their men’s hockey program far fewer dollars. Does that mean at Duke only the men’s basketball team would be paying their players and at Boston College the men’s hockey team, who have a far greater winning percentage than the Eagles football program, wouldn’t be playing their athletes?

The NCAA would create a class system and even scarier a class system within schools (Duke and Boston College two examples). The issue of playing for pay is complex and the implications are far ranging. A year ago at the SEC meetings Steve Spurrier’s idea went nowhere. A year later he has the support of the 13 other SEC football coaches. Texas President William Powers suggests that one day the bigger schools will leave the NCAA. The play for pay concept isn’t going away – that is certain.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Friday, June 01, 2012

The end of Terrell Owens football career (finally)

Terrell Owens’ football career ended Tuesday when the Allen Wranglers of the Indoor Football League came to the same conclusion each of the 32 teams in the National Football League realized after the 2010 NFL season – Terrell Owens was no longer worth the bother he once was. The Wranglers cut Owens. The Indoor Football League not to be confused with the Arena Football League is a 16 team indoor football league. If nothing else the Wranglers and the IFL have ‘enjoyed’ their 15 minutes of fame as a direct result of ending Terrell Owens football career.

Due to his high profile status and his accomplishments in the NFL, the Wranglers signed Owens with high expectations of positive things for the team, the league and the community – that according to a Wranglers press release.

“It is difficult to look other players on this team in the eyes and tell them that being a team player is important...that giving it your all on the field every night is our expectation, when another member of this team is not operating by these standards”, stated team President and Co-Owner Tommy Benizio. ”The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back for Mr. Owens was his no – show to a scheduled appearance at a local children's hospital with other Wrangler players and coaches. It is not the desire of the Allen

Wranglers' organization to disappoint fans by having our most notable player miss a scheduled appearance.”
Team owner Jon Frankel said “Our fans are amongst the best in the league and it is impossible to maintain a player when even our fans notice and comment on a player's lack of effort both on and off the field. We need to do what is best for this team, our fans and this community.”

The Wranglers clearly had little if any understanding as to the ‘character’ of the player they were signing. Owens has always had a great deal of talent on a football field. However once the cheering ends more often than not been Owens has been a cancer to the team’s he’s played with – far too much trouble for what he offered on a football field.

Some of the highlights of Terrell Owens the “football player”:

During his weekly Philadelphia sports radio show on WIP (AM) prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys early in the 2005 season, Owens stated if he could return to the 2004 off-season he would not have signed with the Eagles. After the Dallas game, in which the Eagles were badly beaten, Owens was seen by Philadelphia Daily News reporters wearing a Michael Irvin throwback football jersey on the way to the Eagles airplane flight. Irvin was a hall-of-fame wide receiver for the Cowboys during the '90s when the Cowboys-Eagles rivalry was perhaps at its most intense. Ironically, as a 49er Owens had drawn the ire of Cowboys fans when he celebrated a touchdown by dancing on the midfield logo at Texas Stadium on a game on September 24, 2000.

Owens' appearance in the jersey was seen as provocative in the Philadelphia press and by many fans. According to sources and Andy Reid's post-game press conference, none of Owens' teammates or coaches challenged him at the time. The following Friday, on Owens' radio show, he stated he did not care what the fans thought of him wearing the jersey and that he would wear what he chooses.

The Eagles suspended Owens for four games for conduct detrimental to the team. Following the suspension the Eagles deactivated him from their roster for the remainder of the season, so that they wouldn't be forced to release him and let him sign on with another team.

Owens agent Drew Rosenhaus held a press conference with Owens at Owens' Moorestown Township, New Jersey residence. Owens read a prepared statement (an apology). Rosenhaus answered all the questions the media asked with a curt “next question”.

On November 15, 2004, Owens, wearing a Philadelphia Eagles uniform, appeared with popular TV actress Nicollette Sheridan (of the ABC series Desperate Housewives, in character as Edie Britt) in an introductory skit which opened that evening's Monday Night Football telecast, in which Owens and the Eagles played the Cowboys at Texas Stadium. Some observers (especially then-Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy) condemned the skit as being sexually suggestive because of Sheridan removing a towel, and ABC later apologized for airing it.

Some media outlets in Dallas reported on the morning of September 27, 2006 that Owens had tried to kill himself by intentionally ingesting an overdose of hydrocodone, a pain medication. A police report filed on the night of September 26 all but confirmed the attempt, saying that Owens' publicist, Kim Etheredge, found him unresponsive with an empty bottle of pain killers, pried two pills from his mouth, and called 9-1-1, after which an ambulance transported him four blocks from his Deep Ellum condo to Baylor University Medical Center.

On May 8, 2012 Terrell Owens appeared on the Dr. Phil Show with the mothers of 3 of his children to discuss relationships. The mothers were complaining that Terrell Owens was not involved in his children's lives though Terrell Owens has met each of his children. Whoever suggested to Owens he might benefit from appearing on the Dr. Phil show clearly didn’t realize what Owens would look like after three women appeared on the nationally syndicated show each embarrassing Terrell Owens for missed child support payments and his lack of any interest in being a father.

Owens made $80 million during his 13-year NFL career. Owens NFL career ended in 2010 when the Bengals signed him to a one-year contract. On the field during the 2010 season Owens delivered seventy-two catches and nine TDs for nearly a thousand yards, a solid season. Owens turned 36 at the end of the 2010 season, the Bengals focused on the big picture when it came to Terrell Owens, not resigning the enigmatic receiver.

"It's not his knee that's the problem; it's his attitude," says an executive at one of the better teams, who didn't want to be named a GQ Magazine profile on Owens. “The ratio that once made it worth it for owners to sign him—two parts genius to two parts trouble—has shifted now that he is not quite as fast, his body not as reliable.

"He may have been less openly divisive with the Bengals," the exec continues, "but you can't live down the destruction of all those years. With T.O., no matter how brilliant he can be on the field, the dark side is always lurking. You don't know which T.O. you're going to get, and no one is comfortable risking that."

Owens lost his fortune by, as he suggested in the GQ profile,taking the wrong advice from the wrong people and putting his trust in others. An ill-fated Alabama entertainment complex (with an electronic-bingo component) cost him $2 million. His New Jersey home the site of his infamous Eagles press conference that
ended his career in Philadelphia cost him $3.9 million to build as was sold for $1.7 million in late 2010.
That’s no were near the reported $80 million Owens claims to have lost, but it exhibits a clear pattern of financial mistakes.

In talking with GQ earlier this year Owens remains both defiant and bitter about his experience with the Eagles.

"Some of the things in Philadelphia. I was not paid competitively, and that was that," he says. "The teams talk about how we should keep to our end of the bargain, but then they dump you at the point at which you'd actually start earning out, and that is supposed to be okay. Why don't they need to keep up their end?"
Does Terrell Owens future include one last NFL more team giving the now 38-year old one last shot at glory? No. Owens has missed the last two NFL seasons. He was cut by an Arena Football League team.

Off the field it’s the same old Terrell Owens too much of a distraction.

Will Terrell Owens be a member of the Football Hall of Fame one day – yes. Some of his career highlights: Through 15 seasons, has 156 total touchdowns (153 receiving), 15,934 receiving yards, 1,078 receptions, 39 rushing attempts, 251 rushing yards, 3 rushing touchdowns, 5 kickoff returns, 23 kickoff return yards, 2 fumble recoveries, 13 fumble return yards, and 3 two point conversions, and 3rd player to reach 150 touchdown receptions, 3rd player to reach 15,000 receiving yards.

On the field Terrell Owens defined greatness – off the field time and time again he embarrassed the team he played for, the National Football League and when all is said and done Terrell Owens embarrassed himself. That is the real tragedy of the life and times of Terrell Owens, greatness lost by an inability to behave himself.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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