Sunday, February 03, 2013

Safety and the National Football League – now is the time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Friday, February 01, 2013

Countdown to Super Bowl XLVII – the evolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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