Monday, May 31, 2010

LeBron James, Dwayne Wade colluding to be N.Y. Knicks? Times have certainly changed in the NBA

LeBron James, Dwayne Wade colluding to be N.Y. Knicks? Times have certainly changed in the NBA
MONDAY, 31 MAY 2010 12:54
Let's get this straight. People are "concerned" that National Basketball Association free agents to be Dwayne Wade, Lebron James, Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh may meet to discuss whatever free agents-to-be need to discuss, such as playing together. Wade's agent now says there will not be a "summit" with the NBA's top available free agent talent but there probably will be some talks here and there. The New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers can offer two "max" contracts and there is talk the Dolan-family owned Knicks (who probably don't pay a "max" salary of about $14 million a year in New York City property taxes on Madison Square Garden real estate) might go after Lebron and Wade. There is "concern" that players can collude but owners cannot and that the players will orchestrate where they will play which means the free agents could make or break franchises.
Nowhere in this "concern" is it mentioned that the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players is up after the 2010-11 season and that the NBA wants huge financial rollbacks from the players which could scuttle the plans of any owner including Dolan or the Nets new moneyman Mikhail Prokhorov or even the Clippers Donald Sterling from going after two max players.
The NBA is still an owners toy because of a salary cap. Two great players might be on the same team, but good complimentary players may be passed over because of salary cap restrictions and that is a complication in building a team.
At one time, Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, Joe Johnson and Chris Bosh-like players would not have even been considered for employment in the NBA.
Prior to 1950, they all would have ended up with the Harlem Globetrotters. The NBA closed the doors to Negro players back then just like it closes the doors today to 18-year-olds of all stripes out of high school.
The NBA remains an exclusive and exclusionary club to certain people.
The Harlem Globetrotters were important to the NBA. The team and brand were bigger than the National Basketball League, the Basketball Association of America or the new National Basketball Association that was established in August 1949. In what turned out to be the dying days of the NBL, the match up of the Globetrotters and the Mikan led Minneapolis Lakers brought attention to the struggling Midwest-based league in 1948.
The Globetrotters were basketball troubadours who literally played anywhere as long as someone set up a basketball court and was willing to give Abe Saperstein some cash. The Globetrotters also provided the first half of a night's worth of entertainment at NBA games as a featured attraction in a double header.
"The Globetrotters would play the preliminary and the NBA would play the main attraction," said Marquis Haynes. "But it got to the point we people after our game, the Harlem Globetrotters game would start leaving before the halftime of the NBA game and they switched it around for them, the NBA teams to play the first game and the Harlem Globetrotters the second which made a lot of sense."
The Globetrotters popularity might have had something to do with blacks being accepted into pro basketball with no fanfare. In 1942/43, the Toledo Jim White Chevrolets and the Chicago Studebakers of the National Basketball League had black players in their lineups. Both teams folded, but the NBL was integrated four and a half years before Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball's color barrier.
Mikan and the Lakers would face the Globbies before a sellout crowd at Chicago Stadium on February 20, 1948 in a game that was conceived by a Chicago sports editor, Arch Ward. (Ward came up with the idea for the American and National League All-Star Game in baseball and pushed for the formation of a new football league, the All America Football Conference in 1946 and the College All Star Game against the NFL in Chicago).
Mikan's Lakers seemed to be really good and the Globetrotters team was thought to be the best in the world. Ermer Robinson, Ducky Moore, Sam Wheeler, Goose Tatum, Haynes, Babe Pressley, Ted Strong, Vertes Ziegler, and Wilbert King defeated Mikan, Jim Pollard and the Lakers, 61-59, before a crowd of 17,823 at Chicago Stadium. Robinson won the game on a last second, two-handed 20-foot set shot.
"I was told by several NBA owners at the time that that was the beginning of them deciding to draft or recruit players from the Harlem Globetrotters and the black colleges," said Haynes in an interview in the mid-1990s.
Minneapolis, along with three other teams, joined the BAA in the 1948 off season. Wade, LeBron, Johnson and Bosh would not have been able to follow the Lakers, Rochester Royals, Fort Wayne Pistons or Indianapolis into the newer league. Despite enormous talent, Negroes were "unofficially" barred from the BAA. There seems however to be an exception in the case of the New York Knicks player, the Japanese-American Wataru Misaka, who played with New York in 1947-48 and is now considered the first non-white in the BAA.
Haynes never played in the NBA but he and his Globetrotter teammates helped open the door. It took a while for the NBA to consider top notch players. It was not until 1950 that the league would give a Negro player a try out.
NBA integration would not happen until October 31, 1950 when the Washington Capitols' roster included Earl Lloyd. Years later Lloyd would downplay the significance of his breaking of the color barrier.
Lloyd had a head start on the Knicks Sweetwater Clifton, whose contract was purchased from Saperstein's Harlem Globetrotters, and the Boston Celtics Chuck Cooper, who was taken out of college.
Black college coach John McLendon, who was at North Carolina College, was instrumental in getting Lloyd signed.
"The Washington Capitols were the first team to have historically black schools products on the team. They preceded Boston by one week." said John Mc Lendon (who was the first African-American coach of a pro team as he was hired by the American Basketball League's George Steinbrenner-owned Cleveland Pipers in 1961 and fired by Steinbrenner even though Cleveland won the Eastern Division because McLendon refused to tell a player Steinbrenner had traded him to that evening's opponent — McLendon then got as far away from Steinbrenner as possible and went to Malaysia as a basketball instructor). "There were two guys ahead of Cooper, Harold Hunter and Earl Lloyd.
"I took them to a tryout in Washington, D.C. They had 20 something guys in there and they put them in threes and no combination could be the three guys. The owner, (Mike) Uline, and the general manager called me upstairs, and said, ‘hey coach get those guys dressed and bring them up here.' I have a copy of the contract they signed."
Lloyd made the Capitols, Hunter didn't. McLendon said the first two black athletes who actually signed NBA contracts were Hunter (who played for McLendon at North Carolina College) and Lloyd with Washington and the Celtics signed Cooper after drafting him in the second round of the 1950 Draft a week later.
"I took them, I was there," said McLendon. "I asked the Basketball Hall of Fame just to note five pioneers in the game. They had it up for six months and then took it down because it caused too much controversy, people were arguing about who is the first one, who was the first under contract, the first one on the floor, the first one drafted. The first two in the NBA under a tryout were Harold Hunter and Earl Lloyd.
Lloyd and the rest of the players in the NBA were not playing for the money.
"We wasn't making more money with the Globetrotters." said Haynes. "In fact in those years, league teams weren't making much money either. They (NBA players of the 1940s and 1950s) were like we were, we had to keep in touch with different businesses in our hometown or in the area of our hometowns while the season was still going on. Hopefully, in keeping in touch with them, we were able to gain employment during the summer to be able to afford ourselves until the next season started. So the NBA players were in the same position as we were in keeping up to the money part."
The Globetrotters would eventually lose games to the Lakers but still got their share of talented players after their monopoly on black players was broken by the Lloyd signing. The Globbies did get quite a few players including Wilt Chamberlain who left Kansas to play with Saperstein's team in 1958-59 for a $50,000 salary, which was out of the NBA's range. Chamberlain was ineligible to play in 1958-59 in the NBA because he had not put in four years at college. Had Chamberlain been 18 years old in 2010, he would be ineligible for the NBA because he was not one year out of high school.
If there should be any player collusion, talented high school graduates should be filing lawsuits against the NBA for discrimination for not allowing them to apply for a job because of age. An 18-year-old can fight a war yet not play on an NBA team because Commissioner David Stern and his owners have decided that either colleges or overseas leagues should develop a player who can command millions sitting on the bench with an entry level contract. The National Basketball Players Association and NBA owners have agreed to banning 18-year-olds in the NBA and the harmed players can do nothing about it under US labor laws.
Wade and LeBron will get max contracts and the other guys, Bosh and Johnson won't be checking in with people in their hometowns for summer employment like Haynes and other NBA players once did.
Even if they collude.
Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator and lecturer on "The Politics of Sports Business" and is available for speaking engagements at

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Indy 500 Isn’t The Indy 500 Anymore

The Indy 500 Isn’t The Indy 500 Anymore

By Evan Weiner

May 29, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) --- Once upon a time, the Indianapolis 500 was mentioned in the same breath as the World Series, the Boxing Heavyweight Champion and the Kentucky Derby as major, major events in America. The World Series is still a major event but has lost a lot of luster over the years. The Kentucky Derby is an event but thoroughbred horse racing has seen much better days. Boxing's heavyweight championship belt has been devalued over the decades.

The Indianapolis 500 was big and engrained in American popular culture. The Beach Boys song, Fun, Fun, Fun has a lyric about a girl and her love affair with her T-bird -- Well the girls can't stand her/Cause she walks, looks and drives like an ace now (You walk like an ace now, you walk like an ace)/She makes the Indy 500 look like a Roman chariot race now. The 1969 Paul Newman movie "Winning" is based loosely on the Indy 500. There were other TV shows, movies and songs that celebrated the Indy 500.

Today it can be argued that the Indy 500 is not even the most important race of the Memorial Day Weekend that a NASCAR event in Charlotte is more popular. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway can accommodate as many as 400,000 people for the event. The Indianapolis brickyard is as famous as the Ivy at Chicago's Wrigley Field or the Green Monster at Boston's Fenway Park yet the Indy 500 is now a ho hum event. How did that happen and can the Indy 500 capture the imagination again?

The Indy 500 is a huge deal in Japan, there will be two Japanese drivers in the field and the race will be televised on outdoor big screen TVs. It will be seen in South Africa and will be the prelude to the FIFA World Cup in that country as a premier sporting event.

The Indianapolis Speedway was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 and was designated a National Historical Landmark in 1987. But trouble started in the 1970s with problems over prize money and regulations. In 1994, Speedway owner Tony George changed the paradigm by starting the Indy Racing League and changing the rules. The top 25 Indy Racing League drivers got 25 of the 33 spots in the 1995 race and that limited members of the Championship Auto Racing Team (CART) to just eight openings. CART eventually went bankrupt and now the Indy Racing League is trying to pick up the pieces and rebrand the Indy 500.

It will not be an easy task but one sponsor is making a push to put present day drivers into the limelight and it appears that they want present day drivers to appeal to those who are not into racing. The past stars, A. J. Foyt, Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti and others were portrayed as guys around the track and garage. The new effort is to make the drivers more appealing. Hélio Castroneves has won three Indy 500s since 2001 yet more people know him from the ABC television show, Dancing With the Stars. Danica Patrick has won races and has been a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and corporate spokesperson.

Still the Indy 500 has not reclaimed a top spot in American sporting events and that bothers Townsend Bell who will be behind the wheel in this year's event.

"I have been around the sport for over 10 years now, I came from the Champ-Car, CART side and I feel like for the first time since I have been around that there is a sense of reality that is grounded. Everybody knows who we are and where we are and what the climb ahead looks like and it is going to be a climb and it is one step at a time. You got to reach rock bottom or as much as a point of realty where the management is very honest with themselves, team owners are honest with themselves where everything really truly is, that makes it a lot easier to grow," he said.

"If you are living in a fantasy world still and pretend and convince yourself that things aren't the way they really are which is an area that I think we have been in for many years, how do you actually deal with progress. I feel like for the first time, we have established our reality, which is not glamorous in terms of level and we are building now."

So just where is the Indianapolis 500 today?

"One of the things that has been lost is the mystique of Indianapolis," said Bell. "There are two reasons for that. One is, the Indy 500, I went when I was 11 (in 1986), that was the first race I ever went to. I didn't know much about the history of the Indy 500 other than I knew it was the biggest race in the world. But later in life I learned that the history of the Indianapolis 500 was great for two reasons.

"Man and machine.

"And we all think we are all great racing drivers, the best out there but we are driving machines that are the same damn thing we have been driving for eight years? So where is the sex appeal or the mystique or the innovation on the machine side? That is one thing and the second thing that disappeared is that we are driving the same speeds we have had for the last 10 years. It is the same car, the same tire, the same tire, we have been capped---limited in our ability to technically push the limit."

So the Indy 500 needs to be liberated. It needs speed. Speed sells and the Indy 500 isn't pushing the envelope for various reasons.

"We have to make sure we that we push the limits on the number (miles per hour)," Bell said. "We need to be going faster every year. The Speedway has mentioned liability issues but that is such a generic blanket term that in our society we have become used to excusing things like--liability issue--well this is auto racing and pushing the limits and so if we want this sport to grown, we need to haul ass and increase the limits."

The Indy 500 has some good markets globally. Japan is a racing hotbed, Brazil likes the sport and so does England. But Don Wheldon thinks getting interested in Indy racing globally is good but Indianapolis 500 is as American as apple pie. Wheldon is from England as is his wife but his children were born in America and he wants to see the Indy 500 revert to iconic status of the 1950 and 1960s.

"You got to remember, what makes this series is that it is American-based," said Wheldon. "I do think there is not the necessity to go to countries outside the US. I think it is important to do a race or two in Japan. But I think we have to really building this market. This is a very important market worldwide. Businesses want to be involved in America and I think it is important to have the majority of the series here (America). Like I say, we have to keep doing what we are doing, be patient and continue to explore a lot of avenues that have not been not been explored before and exploit the ones we have explored and make them bigger and better.”

The Indy 500, the Kentucky Derby, motherhood and apple pie. That’s Americana or was Americana in 1950. The Indy 500 has fallen off the pedestal in that equation. It isn’t even the biggest race of the weekend anymore.

Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator, and lecturer on the “Politics of Sports Business” and is available for speaking at

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Black athletes faced a very different America before Civil Rights Act of 1964

Black athletes faced a very different America before Civil Rights Act of 1964

WEDNESDAY, 26 MAY 2010 21:30
Intentional or not, Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Dr. Rand Paul has opened the door to a new discussion over the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This column is not about Dr. Paul, his candidacy and his beliefs. He will have a thorough chance between now and November's election to go over every issue. This though is about people who played sports before the legislation was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
The names of two African-American basketball players, Lebron and Kobe, today rank right up there with the Babe as in Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees in the 1920s and 1930s. Lebron James is the focus of sports and business journalists everywhere as they try and figure out what National Basketball Association team is the perfect fit for him as he mulls what contract offers may come his way on July 1. Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates are trying to win another title. But back on the Fourth of July, 1947, when Larry Doby was heading up to the Major Leagues there was trepidation. Whether Doby liked it or not, he was going to be a civil rights trial blazer.

The then 23-year-old Doby from Paterson, New Jersey was about ready to join the Cleveland Indians and would break the color barrier in the American League just three months after Jackie Robinson played his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Today, a 23-year-old African-American player joining a Major League Baseball team is not big news. It happens a lot but in 1947, Larry Doby made history.
Doby and a good many "Negro" or "black" or African-Americans who went through both the college and professional ranks have a lot of stories about their pre-Civil Rights Act of 1964 America and not being able to stay with their teammates in the same hotels or motels or eating in the same restaurants or even using the same water fountains. They may have been sports heroes but that didn't mean a thing off the field in some areas of the country, particularly the South. Major League Baseball though was not a "Southern" sport and a lot of the problems happened in the North as well. There was not much to distinguish between spring training in the South and playing in the North during the season.
Major League Baseball owners didn't want black players nor did the National Football League. Boston's George Preston Marshall entered the NFL in 1932 and moved the team to Washington five years later. Thirty-nine years later, 1961, Marshall still had not hired a black player.
Doby was "selected" by Indians owner Bill Veeck to join the Cleveland team because he was a good Negro League player and attended Brooklyn College. Veeck saw Doby as more than just a talented player and Veeck ended up having a lifelong baseball relationship with Doby as a player in Cleveland then in Chicago and eventually Doby coached and managed Veeck's White Sox in the 1970s.
Doby might have been a great baseball prospect when he was 18 in 1942 but both the American and National League and a predecessor called the American Association along with minor leagues like the International League had a color barrier between 1890 and 1946. There was never any formal decree banning African-Americans from "Organized Baseball" but African-Americans were clearly not wanted on the field or in the stands. African-Americans ended up in the Negro League or barnstorming or in Mexico or Cuba. Officially the American Association's Toledo Blue Stockings catcher Moses Fleetwood Walker was the last African-American to be in the "Major Leagues' in 1884. It was Toledo's only season in the American Association.
In 1945, the Brooklyn Dodgers' President and General Manager signed Jackie Robinson and assigned him to Montreal of the International League. In 1946, Robinson officially became the first African-American player in "Organized Baseball" since 1890 although there were whispers that some players were of "mixed" race. Baseball wasn't the only sport denying opportunities. The National Football League stopped hiring black players after the 1933 season. A new football league, the All-America Football Conference, signed black players in 1946, the same year as the NFL but the only reason black players were allowed in the NFL had nothing to do with the league.
When the Cleveland Rams moved to the Los Angeles Coliseum, the lease agreement between the team and the stadium required the Rams to hire Negro players. The new Los Angeles Rams signed Woody Strode and Kenny Washington. The AAFC's Cleveland Browns signed Marion Motley and Bill Ford because Coach Paul Brown wanted football players.
There was a professional basketball league in the Midwest, the National Basketball League, which employed African-Americans but the new Basketball Association of America that started in 1946 did not. The merged National Basketball League and the Basketball Association of America became the National Basketball Association in 1949 and did not hire black players until 1950.
College football teams like Penn State and the University of San Francisco turned down games and bowl bids because they were asked to leave their black players home. Penn State did play SMU in the 1948 Cotton Bowl and brought with them two African-American players, Wally Triplett and Dennie Hoggard played in that game but the team stayed at a naval air base near Dallas because local hotels refused to accommodate the Penn State squad if Triplett and Hoggard were part of the team.
It was in this environment that Doby made his debut.
Doby was a Negro League player with the Newark Eagles. He hit .341 in 1946. Veeck bought his contract from Newark and he was the first player to go straight from the Negro League to Major League Baseball.
"Mr. Rickey, Mr. Robinson and Mr. Veeck gave me an opportunity to be in the American League," said Doby in an interview in March 1997. "So I have to say that Jackie had not made it, I probably would have not been given the opportunity. When you talk about what goes through your mind 50 years ago, you first have to think of Mr. Rickey, who had the courage to do it and you think about Mr. Robinson, who had the courage to do it, and you the think about Mr. Veeck, who had the courage to do it and me who had the opportunity to do it."
It seem rather strange that Doby used the word courage three times in describing his chance at playing in "Organized Baseball" yet from all accounts it seemed to take a lot of courage to play a simple game back in the 1940s, 1950s and into the 1960s.
"A lot of people ask me, Jack gets a lot of the headlines and you don't get too much headlines," said Doby in the 1997 interview on the pressures he had to succeed. Both Robinson and Doby were in the same boat. They both were verbally abused and had to live a separate life on the road from their teammates, almost always in the poorer side of town in certain cities.
"When the guy is first, he should get the headlines," he said. "I know myself, my friends, my friends know I was involved in the same type of thing he was involved in. I am not going to be going around asking for publicity, politicking for publicity but I know what I have done and I know I have helped some people to accomplish what they have done in terms of coming into the American League and it makes you feel good being a part of it, that is one thing nobody can take away from me.
"I think a lot of people think because I was 11 weeks behind Jackie, it made it easier for me and that is not true. We (Robinson and Doby) talked about it. I would not say we were close from a social standpoint but we barnstormed for about four years for 30 days, I would see him at certain functions but we stayed away from the negatives. The only thing we talked about there were certain guys who gave him a tough time and I had certain guys in the American League that gave me a tough time. You see the focus was trying to be the best ballplayer you can be and you had to be because when you are talking about eight teams (eight in the American League and eight in the National), you know, you get hurt and you might get back. You had to concentrate on playing the game as well as you can.
"And one of the other things and I think he felt the same way I felt. Why stir up things, it is tough enough going through the summer going through what you are going to go through you don't want to go through to talk about the same thing during the winter. Let's talk about something positive, let's be comfortable, let's be happy."
Robinson and Doby faced segregation.
"They say Mr. Robinson and you were picked because you could deal with the segregation. I had a situation growing up in a town where there were mixed neighborhoods. I know that on that side of the track, it was better than my side of the track to a certain degree, people say could I deal with it better or could Jackie? Of course we had both been to college and we were never separated from our teammates during the college time we played," Doby stated. "When you say that he could or I could handle it better than Satchel (Paige) or Josh (Gibson), I sometimes question that because I feel this way about that.
"If you have never been on the other side, you don't know what it is like. But once you have been on the other side and you see it is more comfortable over there than it is over here and all of a sudden you are going to transfer from that side other here while the guy who has never been over there and doesn't know what it is over there. So it was just as easy for him to deal with the situation as have as segregation is concerned."
Doby, a member of Baseball's Hall of Fame, passed away in 2003 six years after this interview. He said nothing changed in baseball during the 11 weeks between Jackie Robinson's April 15, 1947 debut and Doby's first game on July 5 and that in his opinion, there were still racial problems that existed 50 years after Robinson's debut.
Dr. Paul gave recent two interviews on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one in a Louisville newspaper and another on a cable TV news channel. The dialogue has opened up a new discussion on an old subject that was supposed to have been settled 46 years ago. The issue has not faded from the American conscience. In July 2009, the college sports' Atlantic Coast Conference pulled the 2011, 2012 and 2013 conference baseball championships from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina because the Confederate flag flies at a soldier's monuments near the state capital in Columbia.
The NCAA has had a moratorium on awarding predetermined championships to South Carolina since 2001, the year after the NAACP began a boycott of the state because of the Confederate flag flying issue. Both the Atlantic Coast Conference and the South East Conference have followed the NCAA's lead over the years. Sports and politics go hand in hand even if people view sports as the sandbox of society.
Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator, lecturer on the "The Politics of Sports Business" and can be reached for speaking engagements at
LAST UPDATED ( THURSDAY, 27 MAY 2010 07:22 )

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Meadowlands Super Bowl the worst-kept secret in sports

Meadowlands Super Bowl the worst-kept secret in sports
TUESDAY, 25 MAY 2010 21:16

If you understand how National Football League owners operate, then it is really no surprise that the 2014 Super Bowl will be played in the Meadowlands. The NFL has been targeting a New York/New Jersey Super Bowl for years, first as part of a Manhattan west side Olympics/football stadium and then after that project failed in 2005, East Rutherford, N.J., at the new football stadium that would eventually replace Giants Stadium.
The new place didn't have a roof, but that was no big deal, even though the NFL likes warm weather sites for the extravaganza. The NFL uses the Super Bowl for leverage in getting new facilities and rewarded Houston, Detroit and Glendale, Arizona for building new stadiums with the Super Bowl. Next February's Super Bowl is at Jerry Jones' new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. If there is a 2011 NFL season, the big game will be played in Indianapolis in 2012. Indianapolis, despite the dome on the stadium, has been given the game because locals built a new stadium.
New Orleans gets the 2013 game partly because of guilt over Hurricane Katrina and because Louisiana came up with money to redo the Superdome and worked out a new lease arrangement with Saints owner Tom Benson.
The awarding of Super Bowls to communities who have done "the right thing" by NFL owners should not go unnoticed in places like San Diego, Santa Clara, California, Los Angeles and St. Paul, Minnesota. The NFL ownership is telling you, do the right thing – provide public money, and tax breaks such as payments in lieu of taxes or tax increment financing – and you will get a Super Bowl complete with the economic impact of at least $300 million although that figure is open to conjecture particularly in places like Miami, Tampa and Glendale, AZ., where "snowbirds" are displaced in favor of people coming to the Super Bowl.
Local motels and hotels raise their rates for the game but if the hotel/motel is part of a chain, the extra money goes back to the home office instead of the community. Hotel/motel workers do not get paid more money just because it is Super Bowl week. The economic impact is less than estimated in places like Miami, Tampa and Glendale and is substantially higher in Detroit and Minneapolis-St. Paul where there are not a lot of tourists in February. New York has a lull during February and this will bring some people to the area.
The New York/New Jersey Super Bowl's first impact might be felt in Santa Clara, California a week from Tuesday when voters will be asked to provide funding for a new San Francisco 49ers stadium. There has been one Bay Area Super Bowl at Stanford Stadium. The Super Bowl and the "economic impact" is a carrot that will be dangled before voters. No one knows exactly how much the Santa Clara stadium will cost or if it will house one team, the 49ers, or two, the 49ers and Oakland Raiders, or even if 49ers owner John York has the money to actually fund this nearly billion dollar building but proponents should be pointing to the Meadowlands Stadium as proof in the "if they build it, they will come" mantra.
South Florida may be out of the Super Bowl running because the NFL just doesn't like the present set up of the stadium and wants major improvements at the Miami Dolphins home just a few years after a major renovation. New York/New Jersey's 2014 win might be just the jolt that is needed to get someone to pony up a quarter of a billion dollars to fix up the Dolphins home. The NFL doesn't need Miami now that the door has been opened to Super Bowls in the metropolitan area and also Washington, Foxboro, MA., Philadelphia, Chicago, Denver and other cold weather cities.
San Diego and Minnesota are out of the Super Bowl rotation. The NFL wants no part of the more than four-decades old San Diego stadium and the nearly three-decades old Metrodome in Minneapolis. The Minnesota legislature tried to put together a Vikings stadium package in the recently concluded session but the clock ran out. They will try again next year with the Vikings/Metrodome lease expiring at the end of 2011. There seems to be nothing going on in Los Angeles in terms of getting a new stadium built and the NFL's hopes of holding Super Bowl L (50 for those who don't like Roman numerals) in 2016 seem to be fading. The Los Angeles Coliseum will still be there but it is not an NFL-friendly stadium.
The NFL is a business and can do what it wants with Super Bowls. The Giants' and Jets' new building lacks a corporate naming rights partner. The two teams might pick one up with the Super Bowl coming as Joe Robbie/Dolphin and a-host-of-naming-rights-partners Stadium did prior to this year's Super Bowl in Broward County in South Florida. But Jones' Cowboys Stadium is still Cowboys Stadium and the Super Bowl is just nine months away.
The Super Bowl is a big-ticket item and is not designed for the average fan. The high rollers are around for just Super Bowl weekend and just to clear up one misconception that Jacksonville learned the hard way, the high rollers just want to be seen at the game and have no intentions of relocating their business or opening up a branch for their business just because they are in town for a game. Jacksonville thought that would happen in 2005.
It didn't.
People are having trouble understanding the rationale behind the New York/New Jersey Super Bowl. Woody Johnson and John Mara are in the club, the owners club, and they were taken care of by their brethren. Just wait until the NFL decides to hold a game in London – not Ontario, but England. The Super Bowl might be a TV ratings monster in the U.S. and grab some Canadian viewership along with Mexico but globally the NFL is a dud.
The NFL would kill for the eyeballs that India/Pakistan gets for cricket or table tennis watchers in China. New York/New Jersey just might be the launching pad in a whole new chapter for the Super Bowl with just one goal in mind. Get as much money as possible from the Super Bowl franchise no matter what the weather is.
Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator, lecturer on the Business of Sports and can be reached at

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cycling’s Dirty Tricks: The Latest Chapter

Cycling’s Dirty Tricks: The Latest Chapter

By Evan Weiner

May 23, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- When it comes to dirty tricks, cyclist Floyd Landis apparently can teach the masters a few lessons if the whispers coming out of Los Angeles are true. Allegedly Landis told the Anchutz Entertainment Group (AEG) that if he was not invited to this year's Tour of California bike race, somewhere around day three or four, he would start naming names and tell the world who was doping.

AEG didn't take kindly to Landis' threat and told the cyclist hit the road.

Landis apparently kept his word after AEG did not invite him to race this year and a few days into the race he accused fellow cyclist Lance Armstrong
of not only joining Landis in using performance enhancing drugs but added that Armstrong showed other cyclists how to beat the system (drug testing) and allegedly Armstrong paid the former president of the International Cycling Union to keep a failed test quiet.

Armstrong has denied all of the accusations.

AEG knew Landis was going to go public and decided to roll the dice to see if he would actually go ahead with his threat.

He did.

In a sense Landis, because he was not invited by AEG to this year's event, has become the Jose Canseco of cycling. The former Major League Baseball player Canseco went public and named names and more often than not, Canseco was right. Landis doesn't have a book to sell at the moment but seems to be singing to anyone who is listening. Landis has not just set his sights on Armstrong. There is a list of people he is accusing of doping.

Some have already come out against Landis’ charge.

Landis has admitted that he was blood doping years before he won the 2006 Tour de France. He was stripped of his title after the results of a test showed that he had used synthetic testosterone.

Landis was banned from cycling for two years between January 30, 2007 and January 30, 2009 because he was a cheater. He has served his time and wants back in.

There is a difference between being a cheater and being user of an illegal substance. Illegal substances can put you in prison for a while. The sports industry has not as of yet acknowledged the difference. Just ask International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge about what he thinks of athletes using banned substances. Rogge tried to explain to Italian authorities before the 2006 Turin Winter Games that the IOC should police the Olympic Village not Italian authorities for illegal substances such as performance enhancing drugs because using the drugs was cheating not illegal.

An Olympian, track and field gold medal winner Marion Jones, was sentenced to six months in prison in January 2008 for lying to federal investigators about the BALCO steroid ring and for lying about a check-fraud scheme involving her ex-boyfriend, the Olympic sprinter Tim Montgomery.

Jones did not go to jail for using steroids. It seems athletes have Teflon when it comes to breaking the law using drugs.

Maybe it is because the world puts athletes on a podium and there is more shame in cheating than breaking the law.

In the BALCO case, Victor Conte, Greg Anderson (Barry Bonds trainer) and Patrick Arnold were sent to prison. The athletes who testified in the case with the exception of two athletes who went to jail Jones, Tim Montgomery and one coach Steven Riddick (all on non-drug, money laundering charges even though Jones, Montgomery and Thomas all admitted to using PEDs) were given a scarlet letter and received scorn from baseball writers and some fans but pretty much went unscathed. That list included Jason Giambi, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire among others. A track and field coach, Trevor Graham, was barred for life from participating in training US Olympians because of the number of athletes who received PEDs from him including Marion Jones. He faced criminal charges for lying to criminal investigators and received house arrest.

It seems not too many people in the sports industry or even government agencies are too concerned about the illegality issue. Instead there is a tendency to give out 50 day suspensions in Major League and Minor League Baseball, a four week ban in the NFL, and Olympic suspensions ranging from two to four to eight years for athletes who are caught using PEDs.

Landis got a two-year suspension.

On April 5, 2008 Olympics cyclist Tammy Thomas was found guilty by a jury on three perjury counts and one count of obstruction of justice as a byproduct of the BALCO investigation. Thomas had been banned from cycling but interestingly enough none of the charges against her including using banned substances.

Landis used PEDs and was convicted of cheating. Landis and other athletes pay a price in shame and humiliation and apparently have no problems outing others out. The list includes baseball's Rafael Palmiero who blamed his Baltimore Orioles teammate Miguel Tejada for failing a drug test. Palmiero contended that Tejada gave him what he thought was a B-12 shot.

Tejada is an interesting study as well.

He was charged by Congress for lying to that august group about the usage of PEDs in Major League Baseball. But the Congressional investigators were not interested in whether Tejada used banned substances. Instead, the Washington lawmakers thought Tejada lied about talking to a teammate about steroids and human growth hormones. On February 11, 2009, Tejada pleaded guilty to lying to Congress and received one year probation. A Dominican Republic national, Tejada, was also allowed to continue his baseball career and was given a visa to work in the United States. Tejada could have been deported from the United States.

Landis may have found out something that sports insiders have known for years. Corporations are not going to stop buying tickets for sports events in the United States because of doping allegations or end their marketing partnerships, TV networks (and their Internet arms) are not going to stop showing sports events, the US government is not lifting Baseball's Antitrust exemption or revoking the 1961 Sports Broadcast Act or undoing the 1966 American Football League-National Football League merger nor undoing the major loophole in the 1986 Tax Act which spurred stadium and arena construction nationally and local governments are not stopping the funding for stadiums and arenas for teams.

Just a few people care, some sportswriters, politicians who talk a good game about drugs and the impact on kids who follow sports and glom onto athletes as heroes and some sports talk radio callers and hosts. The Tour of California is going on without Landis even with the knowledge that Landis planned to use the race as his platform to out people who he contended were doping.

Sports is a lot like the Whac-A-Mole game, hit one mole and five more come up. The next one is already on the lathe, Dr. Anthony Galea, the former team doctor of the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts who had an elixir for treating injured athletes. Dr. Galea’s clients included Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Reyes, the Olympic swimmer Dana Torres and others. Landis will be forgotten soon enough and replaced by Dr. Galea as the next act opens.

Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator, and lecturer on the "Politics of Sports Business" and can be reached for speaking engagements at

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Opinion: Arizona sucks

Opinion: Arizona sucks
By Evan Weiner - The Daily Caller 05/19/10 at 3:46 PM
In America, there’s supposed to be a stark separation between sports and real life. Sporting events are designed to be forms of escapist entertainment, much-needed opportunities for Americans to forget about things like budget deficits and political candidates and focus instead on their hometown team.
On Facebook, you can find a popular group entitled “Keep Your Politics Out Of My Arizona Sports” that tries to preserve this escapist element of sports. The stated reason for the group’s existence is simple: It’s for “Democrats and Republicans alike who don’t want to see their hometown teams get caught up in political issues.”
Though Los Angeles Lakers Coach Phil Jackson once entertained the idea of serving as former teammate Bill Bradley’s campaign manager for his ill-fated 2000 presidential run, he could easily be a member of the group, as well.
“I have respect for those who oppose the new Arizona immigration law, but I am wary of putting entire sports organizations in the middle of political controversies,” said Jackson.
Jackson and the Facebook group were referring to the recently passed Arizona law that aims to crack down on what some see as the growing threat posed to the state by illegal immigration. The ownership of the Phoenix Suns, they argue, made an unwise statement by permitting the team to wear ‘Los Suns’ jerseys to protest the Arizona law.
Still, there are calls by everyone from Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen — whose team trains in the Phoenix suburb of Glendale — to San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez urging Major League Baseball to move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Phoenix. One soccer match on July 7 featuring two teams from Mexico at a Glendale, Arizona stadium was canceled. And the World Boxing Council will not schedule Mexican fighters in boxing matches in Arizona.
For the 125 members of the Keep Your Politics Out Of My Arizona Sports group – and for Jackson – here’s a sobering reality check: Politics and government in the United States and around the world drive sports, and they always will.
Take a look at Afghanistan: It was the Soviet invasion of the country that was the basis of President Jimmy Carter’s decision to stop Americans from competing in the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. The Soviets returned the favor in 1984, when Eastern European countries under Soviet influence and the USSR boycotted the Los Angeles Summer Games in 1984.
Before that, twenty-five African countries used the Olympics as a forum for protest by boycotting the 1976 Montreal Summer Games because New Zealand’s rugby team had played a match in the apartheid state of South Africa. Arizona lost one Super Bowl — the January 31, 1993 contest — because NFL owners, with a heavy push from the NFL Players Association, did not like the fact that the state chose not to celebrate Martin Luther King Day.
If Major League Baseball did move the 2011 All-Star Game out of Phoenix, it would not be precedent-setting, though it would be somewhat startling in that many athletes today are instructed to ignore the political climate. It’s not generally considered good for business for teams to discuss the issues of the day.
In January of 1965, a group of American Football League players took a political stand that has mostly been forgotten. Following the 1964 American Football League season, the league scheduled the fourth-annual AFL All-Star Game in New Orleans. The January 16, 1965 contest would have been the prelude to the city getting an American Football League team.
New Orleans was a football hotbed, and both the American Football League and National Football League were taking a close look at the city as a potential expansion site. The AFL apparently won the race to New Orleans, and a game was scheduled at Tulane Stadium. Dave Dixon headed the promotion and persuaded American Football League owners and players that it would be a good city for the match.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was now the law of the land, and New Orleans was going to welcome the AFL All-Stars — which included twenty-two African-American players — with open arms. Segregation and Jim Crow were part of the history books, and the city desperately wanted a professional team. After all, Syracuse had just played in the Sugar Bowl against LSU and had eight African-American players on the team without incident. New Orleans seemed the perfect spot to host both the All-Star Game and a professional football team.
It didn’t turn out that way, according to Abner Haynes, a former Kansas City Chiefs running back. Haynes had been a civil rights pioneer as one of the first two African-Americans to play college football in Texas.
“Clem and I decided to fly out to the game,” Haynes said. “I didn’t know what to expect; Mr. [Lamar] Hunt [the Kansas City Chiefs owner and American Football League founder] said there would be no problems.”
The American Football League was really an experiment in the sports world. It was the only league at the time to truly embrace the African-American athlete as an equal on the field with white players. Major League Baseball struggled with integration, even through the 1950s. And the NFL’s Washington Redskins did not employ a black player until 1962.
“One of the things we [the AFL] needed was the unity of the white and black players for our new league,” said Haynes. “When the white players, Jack Kemp, Jerry Mays who was our [Kansas City] defensive leader and four or five other guys heard about what was happening, their character showed and my teammates were looking after me.”
The idea of a boycott of New Orleans didn’t take shape until the players met at the Roosevelt Hotel and started sharing stories. It’s worth noting that neither Haynes nor Daniels was able to hail a cab at the airport to take them down to the city. They waited for about two hours before someone finally picked them up and took them to the hotel. Once they got there, things didn’t get much better.
“They had a woman operating the elevator and she said, ‘you monkeys come on in and get to the back.’ […] Finally we had about 10 or 12 guys in my room, we were talking sensibly. We were going to stay together. This was just another test,” he said.
The thought of a boycott of the game came up, and the discussion quickly grew serious, with Buffalo’s Cookie Gilchrest being one of the most vocal leaders.
“We were disrespected as men,” Haynes remembered. “We were not here because of color; we were here because of talent. Why should we go out there and put our lives on the line for people who don’t appreciate us? We were not appreciated here. Everyone agreed, you should not put your life on the line in that type of situation.”
Pro football in 1965 does not in any way resemble pro football in 2010. The players acted alone and took a stand. There were no agents warning the players of possible and probable repercussions if there was a boycott of the game. There were not any worries about losing endorsements because the players had no endorsements at the time. They players took the action because they felt it was a correct and principled fight. They got support from their white teammates, including Jack Kemp, the Buffalo quarterback who headed the American Football league Players Association. Kemp, Ron Mix, Jim Tyrer, Freddie Arbanas and the other white players put their careers on the line, as did the African-American players. There was no safety net for any of them, and they could have all been fired for their actions.
“They were first good men,” said Haynes of everyone involved with the boycott. “They gave a damn, they stood up, people I am extremely proud of.”
The boycott was not about sports. It was about society and conditions in New Orleans for nearly two-dozen African-American players. The New Orleans boycott came after Civil Rights actions throughout the South and after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights legislation. But, oddly enough, civil rights leaders never contacted Haynes or his teammates, as far as he could tell.
“We had no leverage,” Haynes said. “We weren’t playing for money, but we were playing for progress. Football players took the lead. Places like Atlanta, New Orleans, [and] Miami were death holes. Grayson couldn’t get a drink at the bar. Our white teammates [in New Orleans] were there for us.”
Haynes did not know at the time that Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams was in contact with some of the players and offered an alternative site for the game: Houston.
On January 11, 1965, the league moved the game.
The AFL players stood up and staged the first sports boycott of a city, New Orleans. The players received tacit support from Hunt, Adams and the rest of the American Football League owners. There seemed to be no retribution for ruining the New Orleans game and the possible expansion fee revenues that would have been split up by the eight owners, which might have come out to somewhere between $500,000 and a million dollars for each owner. That was big money in 1965.
“That was the toughest thing that happened to me,” said Haynes. “We stood up; we shocked the nation. Our white teammates stood up. It was amazing the league moved the game. Stuff like that didn’t happen. Hunt took us to dinner, Stram, the Chiefs All-Stars, but never addressed the issue.”
Haynes did say he thought all the players were “kind of marked,” but none of the players was blackballed.
New Orleans eventually did get a football team in 1966, though only after some political intervention. The two leagues, the AFL and NFL, decided that they could no longer financially compete for players and worked out a merger. The marriage needed congressional blessing, and there were two prominent members of Congress — Louisiana Senator Russell Long and Louisiana Congressman Hale Boggs — who didn’t think the merger served the best interests of Louisiana because New Orleans had no team. Both Long and Boggs eventually voted ‘yes’ after NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle promised them New Orleans would eventually get a team.
To those on Facebook and to Phil Jackson, there is a lesson to be learned here: You cannot keep politics out of sports.
Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator and a lecturer on “The Politics of Sports Business” and can be reached for speaking engagements at

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski challenges NCAA to do something for 'student-athletes'

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski challenges NCAA to do something for 'student-athletes'

Monday, 17 May 2010 21:52




After a Philadelphia policeman tasered a teenager running around the outfield during a Phillies home game on May 2, there was a suggestion that perhaps the Phillies and the other 29 Major League Baseball franchises should just go out and hire college football players and have them near the field in the event someone decides to trespass during a baseball game and that a beefy college football player would know what to do with an interloper and would deliver the same sort of punishment to the person as a running back looking to pick up a few yards.

It was a better alternative than tasering a teenager looking for a moment of fame.

But there is a major problem with the hiring any athlete from a big NCAA sports playing school for an 81 game baseball season even at minimum wage. You can only pay that athlete up to $2,000 a year, anything more and that athlete risks losing his or her scholarship. The National Collegiate Athletic Association, an organization that runs commercials talking about how much they care about "student-athletes" and education, is so concerned about the welfare of athletes that they impose a limit on an athlete's wages during the calendar, not the school year from any line of employment.

The term "student-athlete" was invented by the NCAA after the University of Denver lost a workman's compensation case in 1953 in the University of Colorado v. Nemeth. A Colorado Supreme Court determined that a full-time enrolled student and football player was an employee injured in the course of his employment and was therefore entitled to workers' compensation benefits. The NCAA thought a subtle change in nomenclature to "student-athlete" would shield schools from claims by injured students who were hurt while playing sports.

There are major differences between athletes on scholarships playing sports at big time schools and the rest of the student body, even those on other types of scholarships.

If someone in the school band, who is attending a college on a band scholarship, wanted to work during the school year and was able to pick up paying gigs or got a job giving music lessons there would be no cap on earned income.

The stars of the sports shows, the athletes — who play the games and get a scholarship which pays for school, room and board and incidentals like books — cannot even get a part time job that pays more than an average of $40 a week during their years of sports eligibility. On the other hand, big time college sports programs have invested huge sums of money for tutors and academic advisors to keep the students eligible with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA.

Those are the rules and Duke University's Men's Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski cannot even let his players coach and speak at his basketball camp unless they make under $2,000 in salary for the year.

Everyone gets a shot at big money at big time college sports schools except the athletes.

Sumner Redstone's CBS television network, the Disney Company (the ones that make family friendly programming for TV and the movies) and the Disney operated ESPN and ABC television networks, General Electric's NBC TV, Rupert Murdoch's FOX over-the-air and regional cable TV networks and Time Warner's Turner Sports are forking over billions of dollars for rights fees, marketing partners are handing colleges who engage in big time sports hundreds of millions of dollars in sponsorships, sneaker companies are buying off schools with multimillion dollar contracts which outfit the coaches and the school teams in that label's products and boosters are flooding the market with dollars. The players are glorified in video games, although not named, with their images complete with their number of their nuances. The players get no compensation in return (there are two lawsuits dealing with college players, their images and who controls a players likeness before the courts now).

The NCAA allows the schools to literally sell the shirts off the backs of the superstars in football and basketball and the superstar does not see one cent of the revenue derived off of his talent.

The real stars of the show — the athletes — play under a salary cap in their off time.

"There are still are (restrictions)," said Krzyzewski picking up on a conversation that started about a decade ago when he complained that he could no longer hire Duke Blue Devils basketball players at his camp. "I don't think the NCAA has kept up to date with what we do for the student athletes. I think we should do more for the student athlete, especially the student-athlete in revenue sports.

"They have more asked of them. They have more commitments made for them. But that could be done in certain allowances without actually paying a student athlete like just giving them money. There is a thing called the scholarship-umbrella where you have benefits whether it be books, board, tuition or whatever.

"We have to look at that and see how we are able to help them and to unveil some summer opportunities. For the last 15 years or more, our kids can't go and speak in camps. I think it is a bad thing."

The NCAA is raking in billions to run programs and there is no thought of paying "student-athletes" for their time for practice, sports classroom study and games not to mention the "involuntary" voluntary practices in the off-season. But the NCAA doesn't even want "student-athletes" to get a job and earn money because the august body that supervises the college sports industry is afraid that some appreciative booster will take care of a player with a cushiony no-show job with a satchel filled with cash that no one knows about except the booster and player.

Krzyzewski is of the opinion that paying players at his (and others) camps would accomplish two things.

"That is a way they can be missionaries and ambassadors for our sport while actually earning money and being able to speak publicly. But because there was one abuse or two abuses then all of a sudden, it was just taken away," the coach explained. "To keep looking for ways to help the student-athletes, I am in favor of it.

"A kid cannot actually work during the school year. We should not have it where kids try to make money during the school year because going to school and doing your sport is work enough. But during the summer months and sometimes you have as many as four months, you can make some money and get good experiences."

Krzyzewski can get his players at his camp but he isn't paying them enough money so they can do things paying for a date. Krzyzewski is not the only big-name coach who has even voiced an opinion that the NCAA has to back off the salary cap. Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and long time college basketball coach Rick Majerus have been openly vocal about the NCAA's draconian rule.

"We can hire our players to work our camp if they are paid at the same amount as another high school coach but you don't make much money doing that and it is tough to do that while they are in summer school but speaking at camps would be a better way of doing it."

The NCAA is the overseeing body on all that encompasses college sports. But there are so many fiefdoms within the college sports structure that the NCAA President does not have the final say in what is a de facto salary cap. Do coaches lobby the NCAA President or do they lobby college presidents and chancellors or do they go to the conferences. When it comes to making TV deals, there is the NCAA and then the conferences. There are a lot of turfs that are being defended within college sports.

"Who do you go to?" said Krzyzewski. "There is a maze of how to get things changed in the NCAA and a coach does not have a vote and most of the time doesn't have any voice. So somebody has to take that who is at an administrative level, whether it be a conference, a conference commissioner and stuff like that to be an advocate. For coaches to change things, it would be impossible."

College sports is constantly under the scrutiny of either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Most of the recent Congressional hearings dealing with sports have centered around how the Bowl Championship Series is executed and how BCS teams get big dollars for being within that exclusive group and that the rest of the college football playing schools are on the outside looking in when it comes to generating the same revenues as BCS schools and playing for a national championship.

Congress will probably also bring up the topic of why there is not a college football championship again while deftly forgetting a number of topics that relate to the "student-athlete" including the salary cap for outside work.

Congress has held periodic college sports hearings even though the United States is fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the unemployment rate is high, the economy nearly melted down in September 2008 and immigration was left on the table during the Bush Presidency.

"I wish, Congress should be running our country and we should do a better job of running college basketball. I think if there was a single entity in charge of college basketball---there is none. Like who is in charge of college basketball? It is a committee, we need somebody who is following it on a day-to-day basis where you have pinpoint responsibility, this is happening in this sport what about it Mr. So and so or Mrs. So and so and we don't have that and as a result, it gets diluted and you go through a maze.

"It is a maze.

"Our sport is a billion dollar sports which funds over 90 percent of the activities of the NCAA and it should be run by a group under the NCAA umbrella and have a person who is totally in charge. Football has a different, their rules are governed by the NCAA but the money is all with the BCS. So they have a greater chance at changing rules because you can pinpoint who is in charge of the BCS right now and they are kind of running college football, you cannot do that with men's college basketball.

The money train is picking up steam as conferences make plans to grow in size and hand out big fees to people like Paul Tagliabue and entertainment companies like Creative Artist Agency to come up with strategy so that they can generate even more TV, broadband, marketing and sponsorship dollars. Everyone gets a shot at money except the entertainers — the "student-athletes" — the real stars of the show.

Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator, and lecturer on "The Politics of Sports Business" and can be reached for speaking engagements at

Last Updated ( Monday, 17 May 2010 23:23 )

Saturday, May 15, 2010

When Mexico Was a Threat to Major League Baseball

When Mexico Was a Threat to Major League Baseball

By Evan Weiner

May 15, 2010

(New York, N. Y.)Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig doesn't plan to ask his owners to move the 2011 All-Star Game from Phoenix to another venue in some other city in response to Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer signing of (Arizona) Senate Bill 1070, the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act on April 23. The law will take effect later this summer and has set off a torrent of opposition and the backlash has included a call for a boycott of the state to hurt Arizona in the pocketbook.

Selig defended Major League Baseball's record when it comes to minority hirings under his tenure earlier this week but is resisting a call for moving the game from Phoenix from various groups that claim the Brewer's signature on SB 1070 gives police the green light to go after anyone who is suspected of being in Arizona illegally in asking them for official papers and that the most likely target of the crackdown are people who appear to be Mexican.

Baseball hires many non-Americans who come to the country who need to have seasonal visas to work in the United States and Selig needs to be sensitive to the Latin American employees who work legally for Major League Baseball and for Major League Baseball subsidiaries including the minor league teams of the 30 Major League Baseball franchises.

Oddly enough, it was Mexico that almost brought the American and National League owners to their collective knees in the years after World War II. Jorge Pasquel ended up with Club Azules de Vera Cruz. Pasquel signed Satchel Paige in 1938. Pasquel also added three players who would eventually be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, Josh Gibson, Ray Dandridge and Monte Irvin.

Pasquel took many of the Negro Leagues best players and by 1946; he was raiding Major League Baseball. The Mexican Baseball League eventually would force the American and National League owners to integrate although a good many teams including the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were very slow in adding African-American players. Pasquel also changed some of the working conditions for the players employed by the 16 teams in the American and National Leagues.

Boston was the last team to add an African-American player to the roster. Tom Yawkey's franchise finally used Pumpsie Green in 1959, 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier.

When Bob Feller came to the major leagues in 1936 as an 18 year old pitcher for the Cleveland Indians, players had no freedom. Maybe a Babe Ruth could command a huge salary, but the Babe was bigger than the game. Feller had a choice of 16 teams when he signed, but once the signature went on the contract, he was an Indians employee for life or until a General Manager decided he could not use his services anymore.

"Before the war, the Reserve Clause kept the players on the same ball club. Unless you had clout maybe like Hank Greenberg, Babe Ruth or Lou Gehrig and many other players of consequences on teams. They had some leverage in their salaries and it made a big difference at that time," said Feller. "After the war we started the pension plan."

The Mexican signings of major league players included Junior Stephens, Sal Maglie, Hal Lanier, Mickey Owen and others. Pasquel brothers made a run at Phil Rizzuto, Ted Williams, Feller and Stan Musial but their plan ultimately collapsed.

"They wanted to get the players who jumped to Mexico back here," Feller said. "Pasquel down there. He was a dictator. He and his four brothers ran the country. George Pasquel, I knew him quite well. I played ball for him in 1947 in October against teams in Mexico. So Happy Chandler and Larry Mc Phail figured out they had to give the players a pension plan and get the players back. They gave them (the players who jumped to Mexico) amnesty.

"At that time, Johnny Murphy of the American League, a relief pitcher with the Yankees and a very good one and Dixie Walker of the Dodgers was the National League representative. It was the first time the players were allowed to have their own representatives. They had to be active players and one a roster. That started the pension plan and they had $800,000 on the pension plan. Television made the baseball players pension plan."

World War II was a turning point for the American and National Leagues. Returning players put their life on the line in Europe and in the Pacific and they were no longer afraid of owners who controlled every aspect of their professional athletic life.

The Pittsburgh Pirates nearly became the first team in the 20th Century to strike over working conditions. In 1946, a Boston attorney named Robert Murphy tried to organize Major League Baseball Players.

"It all started in 1946 after World War II," said Ralph Kiner who was a young player with the Pirates at the time. "There was a guy named Bob Murphy who organized a players union and he picked the Pittsburgh Pirates as a place to start because Pittsburgh was a highly unionized city at that time. I was involved as a player then and I later on became the National League representative.

"It was a matter of fact that the players got no money. It was in the aftermath of World War II, where black players were coming into the game and the minimum salary was nothing. Like two or three thousand dollars a year. They wanted to get more money and in 1947, the minimum went to $5,000 a year and the players wanted to have other benefits like better playing conditions, and better dugouts."

But Major League owners really did not react to Murphy's threats. The biggest problem was coming from Mexico where the Mexican League was flexing its muscle.

"One thing that started the whole beginning of the pension plan was the Pasquel Brothers in Mexico who offered large amounts of money to some of the players to jump from the ranks of professional baseball in the states to Mexico. That didn't work, but it started the beginning of unionized baseball."

While Mexico was becoming a problem, it was just a matter of time before Major League Baseball was going to be desegregated. The Brooklyn Dodgers did sign Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier, but there was more to the story than just signing Robinson to right a social wrong. It came down to plain old dollars and cents.

It was economics that also crashed the color barrier.

"I don't think Branch Rickey should get the credit," said Kiner. "There was a movement at the time that they were going to bring black players into the game. He jumped the gun and got Jackie Robinson.

"But the reason for Branch Rickey obtaining and bringing black players in was economical. He didn't have to pay the black players any money to sign them and they were bought from the Negro Leagues at that time and Robinson was the choice. Rickey was the man who picked Robinson and that was a brilliant choice."

Teams could get black players on the cheap because black players were just grateful to get the chance.

"It was just another part of the changeover of baseball. It had to happen sooner or later. It was really an aftermath of World War II where the black players, or as they were called in those days, the Negroes, fought for our side. They had to be recognized," said Kiner.

Baseball was fighting on two front in 1946. There was the threat of Pasquel signing big names and the players were no longer just happy to put on a big league baseball uniform. They wanted to share in the revenues.

Pittsburgh was the top target because it was a huge union city loaded with steelworkers. The very same steelworkers that Marvin Miller would join in 1950 as an associate director of research and in 1960 would become the Assistant to the President of the United Steelworkers of America.

"We had a vote, we were going to strike on the field and not play against the New York Giants. We had a vote whether or not we were going to unionize and the vote failed. We ended up playing that game. It took a long time to unionize.

In 1953, the pension plan became a hot topic again. Kiner and Allie Reynolds hired New York attorney J. Norman Lewis to represent the player's interests and Lewis went to work on gaining increases in player's pensions.

The players proposed increases from $50 to $80 a month for five year players and from $100 to $150 a month for 10 year players and that pension payments begin at 45 instead of the age of 50. The players also wanted to make sure that the pension plan was funded by the Baseball's Central Fund and that monies from radio, TV, gate receipts from the All-Star Game and World Series TV and Radio rights fees were funneled into the Central Fund.

An agreement between the players and owners was struck on February 16, 1954 with the players getting 60 percent of the monies generated from radio, TV, gate receipts from the All-Star Game and World Series TV and Radio rights fees were funneled into the Central Fund.

The players also asked for changes in winter ball regulations, the elimination of twi-night double headers, a hike in the minimum salary from $5,000 to $8,000 and that eight year players get the same benefits as 10 year veterans.

The owners upped the minimum salary to $6,000, gave the players $8 a day in meal money and provided moving expenses for traded players at other meetings.

Mexicans had a profound effect on Major League Baseball. If Selig and the 30 Major League Baseball owners do keep the 2011 All-Star Game in Phoenix, they should start an educational program about the history of Mexico and the United States baseball and civil rights relations and how the events in the late 1930s and the 1940s changed the game forever.

Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator and lecturer on the "Politics of Sports Business." He is available for speaking engagements at

Friday, May 14, 2010

Preakness and Belmont Stakes futures in doubt

Preakness and Belmont Stakes futures in doubt
FRIDAY, 14 MAY 2010 13:54

Two thirds of horse racing's Triple Crown series in serious financial trouble


Gary Pretlow says there will be horse racing this fall at the Belmont Park. Wait one second, the home of one of thoroughbred racing crown jewels and Triple Crown event — the Belmont Stakes — may not have racing this fall? And who is Gary Pretlow that he is in the know?

The short answer is that it is quite possible that (the New York Racing Association, NYRA-run) Belmont's September 11-October 31, 2010 Fall Championship Meet is in jeopardy because of the meltdown of New York State politics in the both State Senate and Assembly and the leadership of Governor David Patterson. Not only is the Belmont Fall Championship Meet but the Saratoga Race Course July 23 through September 6 dates could also be in peril.

The Democrat Pretlow is the Chair of the New York State Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee. He has been in that post since 2005 and is in the middle of all the crises that are enveloping the thoroughbred horse industry in New York

There will be the running of the Belmont Stakes on June 5th. The Belmont is the oldest of the Triple Crown races and started in the Bronx in 1867. The race has been run on the Queens-Nassau County, New York race track since 1905 with the exception of two years, 1911 and 1912 when politics shut down the race. The New York State Legislature banned betting in those two years. Politics has a long history of involvement with racing in New York State. Neither New York Democrats nor New York Republicans have been able to solve thoroughbred racing's fiscal problems.

The basic problem of 2010 can be solved according to Pretlow if New York City's Off Track Betting cuts a $15 million check to the New York Racing Association but Pretlow said OTB chairman Sandy Frucher has refused to do so. The New York City OTB is bankrupt.

But that is not the long term solution for an industry that is reeling in New York. It is just a temporary fix.

Two of the three venues for thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown are in financial trouble. The Preakness at the Pimlico Race Course has been in business since 1873 but there have been suggestions since 2005 that the Preakness might be moved elsewhere because Maryland didn't have the money to keep racing in the state going.

At the end of April, the bankrupt Pimlico Race Course owner MI Developments reached an agreement with the state of Maryland that they will not move the horse race from Pimlico. The Kentucky Derby remains the gold standard for the thoroughbred industry but the glory days are long gone. The Triple Crown like the Indianapolis 500 is pure Americana from the days of Norman Rockwell paintings. Those events still resonant but is seems the events are more suited for the Smithsonian than modern day sporting events that catch the public's attention.

For the time being, the Preakness is going nowhere. But the thoroughbred and standard horse racing industry is in real financial trouble. In 1950, Americans favorite sports were baseball, boxing and horse racing. Six decades later, baseball is still extremely popular but it is no longer the lone "superstar" sport and trails football in popularity according to pollsters. Both boxing and horse racing have bottomed out.

Horse racing tracks were the only legal venue to bet outside of Nevada back in 1950. But horse racing within 15 years would come under assault as politicians attitudes toward gambling changed. Politicians decided to tap into a new revenue source, gambling, through a variety of lotteries. In New York, you can play Keno in pizza parlors and go to a local 7-11 and play about 20 different scratch off games or lotteries. Gambling is everywhere and it took a toll on the horse racing industry.

In the early 1970s, Yonkers Raceway would draw as many as 40,000 people on Saturday nights. Within two decades, a good many standardbred racetracks were ready to go out of business. Lawmakers in various states including New York approved a form of a one armed bandit, video lottery terminals (VLT) or video slot machines, and opened up gambling venues in failing standardbred tracks. Yonkers is now a casino which features standardbred racing. The horse racing industry and casino operators can be at odds in terms of promoting a "racino" and what is more important, horse racing or slot machines. But the casinos cannot open without the horses and the horse racing industry desperately need proceeds from a casino to keep their industry going in the United States.

In many corners of America, horse racing is a dead sport.

In 2001, the New York State Senate and Assembly passed legislation which was signed into law by Governor George Pataki that allowed the VLTs and that kept Yonkers Raceway, Monticello, Batavia Downs, Buffalo Raceway, Saratoga Gaming and Raceway, Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs in business along with the thoroughbred Fingers Lakes Race Track. But for some reason, State Senate Majority Leader Republican Joe Bruno said no to thoroughbred tracks in Saratoga and at Belmont and Aqueduct Race Tracks in Queens.

In 2007, Tim Rooney, who owns Yonkers Raceway, said without the "machines" as he called the VLT or slots, Yonkers Raceway would be a shopping mall.
Eventually, Aqueduct was allowed to install VLTs but the process of awarding a license to a company to build a Queens-based casino near John F. Kennedy International Airport has been bungled by Governor David Patterson. But Patterson is not the only New York Governor that is responsible for the dismal state of thoroughbred racing in New York. Pataki and Eliot Spitzer could not get a "racino" in Aqueduct.

Whether state sponsored gambling is ethical and causes more problem gambling is an argument for another column. The point is that politicians of both sides of the aisle, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative, are using gaming as a way to raise revenues. Government-sponsored gambling, whether it is video lottery terminals, slot machines, video table gaming or real table gaming is here and is not going away. Gambling revenues replace the need to tax. The Republican Pataki and the Democrats Spitzer and Patterson have dropped the ball when it comes to the thoroughbred industry which consists of jockeys, trainers, horse farms and ancillary businesses connected to thoroughbred racing.

Last winter, Paterson backed a deal that would have seen Aqueduct Entertainment Group run Aqueduct's racino. The state Division of Lottery refused to grant AEG a gaming license, saying it failed to provide some of the required background information. An industry insider called one of the main partners in AEG a "bottom feeder" with a history of problems. Patterson is hopeful that a gaming license will be issued to another group soon. Patterson though has weakened his credibility by giving the Aqueduct license to AEG, a group that was rejected by the state lottery.

There is a suggestion that New York State cannot help fix the thoroughbred industry's fiscal problems until 2011 when a new governor will be sworn in.
Patterson seems to be the lamest of lame ducks.

New York's thoroughbred industry is falling far behind states that have "racinos" which feature gambling and horse racing. Pretlow said that even though New York has fallen behind neighboring states like Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut in the gaming industry along with Delaware and West Virginia, he is convinced that getting the OTB payments to the New York Racing Association and slots in Aqueduct and possibly Belmont and Saratoga will make New York a horse racing destination again. Right now, the thoroughbred industry can get more money from race purses in other states and Philadelphia Park is becoming a better bet for horse owners on the east coast in terms of purses because of Parx Casino.

The TV glitz of the Triple Crown is just that glitz. The thoroughbred industry in the United States has some severe financial problems on a day-to-day basis. The tracks are empty, there is far too much betting competition starting at the local 7-11 and even in local pizza places. Jockeys used to be household names, Willie Shoemaker and Eddie Arcaro were major celebrities, even the track announcers were well known like the New York announcer Freddie Caposella who was lampooned in standup bits by comics. Horses like Secretariat, Seabiscuit, Man O' War and Citation were treated like celebrities as well. Secretariat was immortalized on a US postage stamp in 1999. But much of thoroughbred racing's glory came before 1950 when Americans listed baseball, boxing and horse racing at the top of their most popular sports lists.

The Triple Crown of Horse Racing is not the Triple Crown anymore.

Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator and lecturer on "The Politics of Sports Business" and can be reached for speaking engagements at

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Big Ten expansion to start game of musical chairs among big time college sports schools

Big Ten expansion to start game of musical chairs among big time college sports schools

WEDNESDAY, 12 MAY 2010 15:38

Rutgers in position to be big winner or loser

The future of the Big East Conference and Rutgers University's athletic program are going to become a major topic of conversation among the college sports industry and various cable TV networks in the next few weeks as the Big Ten Conference meets next week to consider future plans. Rutgers may or not be part of the Big Ten Conference's future.

There is one thing certain according to Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. There is change in the air and that might start with the Big Ten adding a school or a number of colleges to the present 11-team conference.

"The dust has not settled yet from expansion of a number of years ago (2003)," said the Duke coach. "Because, it wasn't as clean. There are teams left out, the Big East, you have 16 teams, eight of them are football schools, eight of them are not. It lends itself to other options and the Big Ten is the catalyst now. If they do something, a lot of dominos will fall."

The Big Ten needs a 12th team so they could have a conference championship game, which they could put out for bid before over-the-air and cable networks which will be in additional cash.

The Big Ten may have Rutgers and Pittsburgh on the radar screen or maybe not. The Big East is concerned that other conferences may come after some of the conference's teams, such as Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse or Connecticut and the conference hired former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a special advisor on "strategic planning" in an effort to keep the conference going. The Big East is not the only one that has added an "advisor." The Pac 10 has a new Commissioner, Larry Scott and has gone Hollywood as it has hired Creative Artists Agency to see what they can do about forming a network to enhance TV coverage by 2012.

The Big East is a basketball conference, not a football alliance and it is football, not basketball, that drives college revenues.

Krzyzewski knows that and so does Geno Auriemma, the coach of the University of Connecticut's women's basketball squad.

"I keep hearing different reports of which schools are going to be approached," said Auriemma. "You don't know which to believe and which not to believe. The one thing you can be sure of, something is going to happen. The Big East as we know it today will probably won't exist in the future. For me, ideally it would be great if we can keep the league the way it is because it has been successful and we have proven it can be successful. Who are the teams that are going to leave and what impact they are going to have, I think everybody is waiting to see.

"The dilemma that colleges have right now, if you are one of those teams that is approached by another league, whether it is the Big Ten or anybody else, do you turn your back on existing rivalries and loyalties and just go? Financially they have made it that yes, that is exactly what teams are going to do. If you are one of the teams that is not asked, do you sit around and wait for someone to leave and you pick up the pieces or do you now start to become pro-active and you are looking for someplace to go. I think whether you are asked or not asked, everybody is moving in some direction."

In 2003, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) invited three Big East schools, Boston College, the University of Miami and Virginia Tech to join that collection of
schools which forced the Big East into realigning. The Big East has some schools that are attractive to other suitors. Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers have football and basketball programs. The ACC took three football schools in 2003.

Rutgers, in theory, would be a good fit for a Big Ten expansion because of geography in that the Big Ten Network, a cable TV partnership between the 11 universities in the conference and FOX Cable Networks. That network has 45 million subscribers and contributes to each school getting an annual check for $22 million from TV revenues. The Big Ten could increase the cable TV footprint by adding Rutgers which, is in Comcast, Cablevision and Time Warner territory. An increase in a cable TV footprint means more cable TV revenues from subscribers. Comcast can put the Big Ten Network on any of the company's systems outside of the Big Ten and carries the network on systems with the Big Ten territory so New Jersey would get the network if Rutgers joins the conference.

But adding Rutgers does not necessarily mean that the Big Ten will "get" all of the New York market as neither Charles Dolan's Cablevision nor Time Warner, the other big New York area MSOs are locks to take the channel. Rutgers also has a problem in terms of the size of the stadium. As one time NCAA President, the late Myles Brand pointed out; you need between 80 and 90 thousand seats in a football stadium to really make money.

The Big Ten has to look at both sides of the coin in terms of adding Rutgers. The Big Ten has had Rutgers on a list of schools that make sense for conference expansion. But conference expansion is really not all that complicated according to Auriemma.

"This is all going to come down to college president's deciding this is what is best for our university from an academic standpoint and certainly financially, none of these moves would be happening if it was not financially rewarding."

No one is talking about Connecticut moving out of the Big East, not yet anyway. But Connecticut has a 40,000 seat football stadium, two top notch basketball programs and also claims part of the New York City market in terms of a following. If Maryland jumped from the ACC to the Big Ten, Connecticut might be a good fit in the ACC.

It is the new domino theory.

"Georgetown, St. John's, Syracuse back in the day (1979) were the reasons why the Big East became the Big East in basketball," said Auriemma. "Well if you look at the Big East now, Connecticut is one reason the Big East is the Big East. Are we going to stay and become the linchpin of that league or someone thinks we are attractive enough now that we bring a lot to the table.

"I don't know of any school in our league or in a lot of leagues that brings more to the table academically and program wise up and down the entire sports spectrum."
Auriemma did say he has no idea how others view Connecticut.
Is conference expansion good?

For TV money yes, but schools lose local rivals and in Connecticut's case there are now long trips to the south to play in Florida or in the Midwest instead of the I-95 corridor. But the money is too good to pass up.

"From a cable standpoint, if you got your own network like the Big Ten does, sure you want to expand that network all over the country. Absolutely," said Auriemma. "But in terms of bringing a market (into a conference) when you don't have your own TV network, it doesn't do anything for you.

"Unless a league, and the Big Ten is way ahead of everybody in this regard, has their own TV network and is able to expand that and is looking for acquisitions that is going to give them that coverage all over the country, just to get in a league because ESPN, CBS or somebody may do this, that or the other thing. That has proven that doesn't work. I live in New England and I don't know everybody in the Boston area who says, hey BC is playing Clemson tonight, I got to get a ticket for that.

"These decisions are going to be made for financial reasons that are going to be impacting these schools 20 years from now, 25-years from now. Creating these super conferences probably and I would bet you that everybody involves with these sees a scenario where they are going to be like what the BCS has done in football."
It is all in the pursuit of money. The money has changed college sports.

"If the Big East is giving Connecticut $7 million and our budget is $50-55 million, whatever it is, and somebody is offering us $22 (million), now you say wow, we can compete now. What I would imagine in these discussions, people are saying, okay well your budget is $100 million, and so is mine and so is his and so is his, so we are all thinking the same thing, we are all going after the same thing so let's all form our own little club and let's compete against each other. If you are one of those other guys you are out.

"Is that fair? No, it is not fair but that is where the world is right now and these people are taking advantage of an opportunity. They saw the model, you have this sized stadium, you produce the revenue and you can join our club, if you don't you are out."

And that leads to a question, has the big time college sports industry gotten out of hand?

"I don't know if it has gotten out of hand as much as it is still in the process of change," said Krzyzewski. "Things change but when our sports is such that if one conference changes, it is going to have a rippling effect. If the Big Ten changes, it is going to change or could change four other conferences or more and I am not sure that is all bad. Change isn't bad. You are constantly looking for ways of improving and if the resources that are needed to fund all the programs each school has, it is not just basketball or football, you have to produce a certain amount of money to do that and if these changes produce that while still giving a quality experience for a student athlete, then I am all for it."

The times, they are a-changing in big time college sports. What makes a school attractive? That is what the solons of the Big Ten will deliberate upon next week. Is Rutgers attractive? Or does Pittsburgh, Missouri, Nebraska and Notre Dame work out better individually or collectively for the Big Ten? If Rutgers is "the other guy" as Auriemma referred to those not asked to join a conference, and if the Big East falls apart what happens?

That is a good question. Rutgers might end up in the ACC or the South East Conference. The game of musical chairs for money is about to begin.

Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator, and lecturer on "The Politics and Business of Sports." He is available for speaking at .

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

NFL preparing for ‘Replacements II’ sequel with possibility of 2011 lockout

NFL preparing for ‘Replacements II’ sequel with possibility of 2011 lockout
TUESDAY, 11 MAY 2010 13:04


There are stories that are beginning to surface that National Football League owners will sign United Football League, Canadian Football League, indoor football league and any other players that might be available in the event the owners and players cannot reach a new collective bargaining agreement sometime in the next year. The present deal between the owners and players ends after the 2011 Super Bowl.

The stories include details such as the National Football League buying a 25 percent share of the one-year-old United Football League, a five team entity with teams in Hartford, Las Vegas, Omaha, Orlando and Sacramento, and using some of those players.
If these stories are true, the NFL in 2011 will be revisiting an old plan that was used in 1987.

Replacement players.

How the paying customers who own Personal Seat Licenses and paying big money for games will react is unknown at this point but in 1987 neither New York Giants coach Bill Parcells nor Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan was too thrilled with the idea. But the Giants and Eagles NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins embraced the idea. A little history is needed to understand why NFL owners endorsed the idea which was the brainchild of then Dallas Cowboys President Texas E. (Tex) Schramm and may revisit the idea in 2011.

The NFL owners and players had a contentious relationship for decades. The NFLPA formed in 1956 with help from Creighton Miller, the first General Manager of the Cleveland Browns. Unhappy players in Cleveland and Green Bay assembled a network of "player reps" on each team. The players included Don Shula (Colts), Frank Gifford (Giants), and Norm Van Brocklin (Rams) to represent their teams. The Chicago Bears did not have a players representative. The players first meeting was held in New York in the fall of 1956, after the owners ignored the players' attempts to discuss their requests. The players asked for minimum salaries of $5,000 per season, injury pay, uniform per diems, and for teams to supply their own equipment.

Nothing happened but the players got a big break in 1957 when, the first lawsuit involving professional football and antitrust was filed, Radovich v. NFL, which significantly altered player rights within the league. The case involved a player/coach, George Radovich, who sued the league because the NFL effectively prevented him from attaining employment in the NFL or affiliated leagues, such as the Pacific Coast League, which was in existence at the time. The case was dismissed on the grounds that the NFL was exempted from the antitrust laws, and was appealed to the Supreme Court, which reversed the decision of the trial court, holding professional football subject to the antitrust laws.

The Supreme Court decision changed life for NFL owners. The players could now sue the league on antitrust grounds which they threatened to do. The owners and players settled with the players receiving minimum salaries of $5,000, $50 payment for preseason games, medical coverage for injuries, and a pension.

But the players didn't get what they agreed to and spend the 1958 season chasing the owners to live up to the agreement. The deal was finally signed in 1959.
The players did catch another break when Lamar Hunt started the American Football league and for some college players, they were able to play the NFL off against the AFL in getting some leverage for their initial contract. The AFL-NFL war over established players began in earnest when Pete Gogolak, a kicker on the Buffalo Bills signed a deal with the New York Giants in 1966. What was good for Gogolak and two NFL quarterbacks John Brodie and Roman Gabriel along with Mike Ditka who were been pursued by AFL Commissioner Al Davis to sign with his league was not good for the owners of either league. Brodie, Gabriel and Ditka got raises from their NFL teams. The AFL and NFL announced their intent to merge on June 8, 1966.

The National Football League Players Association wanted to fight the merger but didn't have the funding to do so.

The NFLPA has always been weak and the owners knew that. The two leagues may have merged, but the player associations did not, as the players on the 16 NFL teams were NFLPA members and the players on the 10 AFL teams were American Football League Players Association members. This caused a major problem in subsequent negotiations as the NFLPA would come to a tentative agreement with the owners on certain collective bargaining issues (such as minimum salaries, retirement age) then the owners would bargain with the AFLPA, who accepted lower terms, which wasn't good for NFLPA members.

There was a brief lockout and a 20-day strike in 1970 that ended just before the 1970 All Star game and which did not result in the cancellation of regular or post-season games, the NFL and NFLPA signed a four-year contract, the first collective bargaining agreement in the history of the NFL, which raised player salary minimums to $12,500 for rookies and $13,000 for veterans, added dental insurance, improved the pension, gave players the right to have agents, gave players representation on the Retirement Board, and provided for impartial arbitration of injury grievances.
(Retired players from that era are still battling the NFL over injury grievances and those grievances have caught the attention of Congress)

In 1974, the previous CBA was coming to an end. Players were demanding the elimination of the Rozelle Rule and the option clause which kept a player tied to his team in perpetuity unless another team was willing to give up number one draft picks or players to sign a free agent among other things. On July 1, the players went on strike, and were prepared to sit out until a new bargaining agreement was hammered out. The sit-out led to the cancellation of the New York Jets game at New Haven, the first game ever cancelled due to a labor impasse. However, by the early part of August, about a quarter of the NFLPA crossed the picket lines, breaking down union solidarity. On August 11, Garvey sent his players back to work after a federal mediator suggested a 14-day cooling off period, instead pursuing the issue through the Mackey case. The 42-day strike ended that day with nothing gained.

On September 21, 1982, NFL players went on strike. It was the longest strike in professional sports in the U.S. at the time and lasted until November 17. The owners responded by locking the players out at the commencement of the strike. During the strike, only 126 of the 224 scheduled regular-season games were played, forcing the league to change the format of post-season play to include 16 teams instead of the usual 10 teams. The players held two "All-Star" games to raise some funding for players without a paycheck. The players got more money but two goals were not met, a form of free agency and more pension money.

The owners were not going to let that happen in 1987.

The players decided to strike after the second week of the season and the NFL reverted to its 1974 tactic of bringing in rookies and free agents and play replacement games. The league cancelled the third week's schedule and resumed with the week four matchups.

In 2000, Hollywood made a movie about the 1987 strike called "Replacements" which was based on the Washington Redskins.

Some teams scouted the best available talent and tried to put together a strong replacement team. Other teams took chunks of local semipro teams, like the New York Giants, and hoped for the best. Others like Philadelphia Eagles Coach Buddy Ryan didn't take the replacement games too seriously and wanted for the players to return.
Like in 1974, veterans crossed the picket lines and by October 25, the NFL was able to claim victory. The players reverted to their old standby; plan B that was court action and that set off years of litigation.

"It was a great time and a lot of fun," said Charley Casserly who was part of the Redskins front office at that time. "Really, the interesting thing was we put together a time, the whole organization and Joe Gibbs did a great job coaching them. Nobody crossed the picket line and we beat two teams, St. Louis and Dallas on that climatic Monday Night that had about 10-12 players cross the picket line. The Dallas team had (Tony) Dorsett, Randy White, Danny White, Too Tall Jones. It was quite a time."

The NFL teams who did compete for players for Schramm's replacement league look anyway for players. Casserley found four players in a Richmond, Virginia halfway house who were playing for a minor league team including Tony Robinson who was the quarterback of the replacement team that beat Dallas.

"We did have a little philosophy on it," Casserly continued. "We wanted players that knew the system. We had to put together a team in 10 days to go play a game. Football unlike all other sports is really a team sport. So we wanted guys who knew the Joe Gibbs system. So we started with players who had been in our camp that year and been in our camp the year before and had been in camps with the Gibbs/(Don) Coryell system. We got players from everywhere.

"Obviously NFL cuts, but we got players from Canada, players who were cut in Canada. We wanted players in camp who were healthy and ready to go."

The players crumbled quickly in 1987 but years later Dave Jennings, who was a New York Jets punter at the time, thinks the showdown with the owners was worth it.
"The players were not that interested in a long term strike, they were looking at the next paycheck," said Jennings. "It's tough to get players to strike and stay together. In 1987, it was a shorter strike and we had the court cases working and eventually it worked out for us.

"We got nothing from the 1987 strike, we didn't get anything directly, but indirectly we got free agency and you see what happened. Free agency works."

It took six years until the players and owners came up with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and that under pressure from a federal court judge in Minneapolis. The players and owners have spent 17 years under that system. The owners want to chance the revenue stream that is going into players' wallets and maybe break the association in the process. It has worked before with the players caving but in the end, the owners have lost antitrust cases.

It is not surprising stories are surfacing that the NFL owners are planning a sequel to the 2000 movie, "Replacements"

Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator and lecturer on the Politics of Sports Business and can be reached for speaking engagements at