Andrew will be here in a couple of minutes to take your questions!
Good to be back after the Thanksgiving holiday. As usual, a lot going on between the NFL, of course, as well as the NHL lockout, David Stern's reaction to the Spurs last night and mega contracts going on in baseball. I'm sure there is a lot on everyone's mind. I got a lot of reaction on my column on agents this week on ESPN.com. Fire away.
What did you make of the Babin release? Business issue? Football issue? Lockerroom issue?
I think there is elements of all. It's too simplistic to say that the Eagles wanted to play young players or that Babin had become a divisive player in the lockerroom. I also think it's naive to think that money was not a factor here, as whether he would have been claimed or not, the Eagles have no further claim with Babin. When a vested veteran who was on the roster at the beginning of the season is released, his remaining balance of salary is due as "termination pay," making his salary, in effect, guaranteed. However, that benefit can only be used once in a career and Babin collected it while he was with the Seahawks a few years ago. Thus, the Eagles knew that and the $1.64 million that he's owed for the remaining 5 weeks of the season is not going to be their responsibility whether he's claimed or not. But it's all moot, because he was claimed. I'm not so sure if he would have been released but for the fact that the Eagles knew that they would not owe him that money.
I do not think it's the start of a house cleaning in Philadelphia just yet.
Is this judge's ruling in the Saints case a potential slipper slope for the NFL? If he's asking them to define "conduct detrimental" because it's too vauge, could that possibly tie the commissioners hands when it comes to future punishments?
To review for other readers, the question is about a ruling from Judge Berrigen from New Orleans last night and at the same time the Saints were playing. She has requested clarification on the meaning of conduct detrimental and more specifics as to what is for the on-field officers and what is for the off-field officers. All of this, as you point out, is consistent with her clear inclinations toward Vilma and the players that have been shown since she started with this case in the spring. However, she has been hesitant to rule on anything while this goes through the arbitration process, i.e. the hearings now in front of Tagliabue. But we'll see where these rulings go. She's requested memos from the two sides by Dec. 3. As for a final comment today about the bounties, here we are in Week 13 of the season and no one has served a suspension, so in some ways the players have been victorious here as the checks keep coming.
It's not football related, but it is business related...so what did you think of David Wright's contract extension? That's a lot of guaranteed money.
The reports are that it could be as high as $140 million. Unlike football contracts, these numbers are real and paid even if the player is released. I can not judge David Wright as a baseball player, but these amounts to me, having experienced primarily in football, are staggering. I think that when people look at contracts with big numbers like this, they have to realize it's not about the present, it's about whether a team will be happy paying $12M, $15M, $20M to the player in 2017. The unfortunate part about MLB and NBA contracts is that teams get stuck paying players just to go away, which would never happen in football.
Why would both sides agree to using a mediator and then completely dismiss him?
Great question. The NFL and NFLPA used the same mediation service, but at least lasted a couple of weeks with it. I think both sides felt they had to show the other side and the public that they were doing what they could to try and get a deal done. The problem is you have strong personalities on both sides, among them Don and Steve Fehr on the players side and Bettman on the owners side. They're not easily swayed by the mediators. The problem for the mediators is trying to gain the trust and respect of parties that have been negotiating on this for months. My fear about the mediators, and it became true, is that they would be treated like substitute teachers and would not do what the mediators say. That happened.
Speaking of fear, I would be remiss of not mentioning the former head of the MLBPA, Marvin Miller. Miller is a true giant in the industry of sports for giving the players rights that they never had and now will never lose. He was responsible for the first CBA in major sports and created a strategy to end the "reserve clause," a clause that limited a players' options to one team. In a week that saw BJ Upton get $75M and David Wright get $140M, a lot of that should be a debt to Marvin Miller, who changed the game.
All of the professional athletes owe a great debt to Miller for creating free agency and players rights to this day.
I think the Popovich should be able to run his team however he sees fit, and would be find it highly inappropriate for David Stern to punish the team in any way whatsoever. Without sounding too dramatic here, it would permantly change my opionion of Stern long-term if he follows through with his threat. How would you have reacted in your GB days if the Commish fined the team for resting players?
Great question and I think in football, it is different because there are only 16 games, but there are similar situations at the end of the year, where teams have clinched playoff berths and rested certain players. To my mind, that has never been challenged by the commissioner. As an aside, in my time at Green Bay, we rested some players after clinching a playoff berth, and they had some incentive bonuses that were effected and I had to deal with that.
In terms of Stern, it does seem that he tries to wield his powers more than some commissioners and is OK with having a negative reputation for doing that. With the Spurs resting four starters, his issue is the catch-all integrity of the game, although the Spurs seemed to do just fine against the mighty Heat without them. I actually understand it from the commissioner's point of view, in trying to think about the fans, the TV network and the business of the league. But ultimately, you have to let the coach deal with his roster. I also believe Popovich did this several times last season, but was immune to challenge due to the compressed season due to the lockout and this never became an issue.
with the NHL lockout lingering on, my query has to do with the role of the commissioner. In my mind, the commissioner's role/responsiblity is to "look out" for the best interests of their game. In each of the major professional team sports leagues the commissioner has bargained on behalf of the owners.1) how does the commissioner oversee the best interests of the game if he is bargaining on behalf of one side?2) Is the commissioner in a conflict of interest during bargaining as it appears as if he is only representing one side of the game and may not be looking out for the best interests of the players and the game as a whole?
Great question. We would like to think that the commissioner represents truly the best interests of the game and puts that neutral position above all else. However, as you point out, the commissioner is hired, paid and reports to ownership. As the business of sport has become more lucrative and more important, the owner has accountability issues to the bottom line as well as individual owner priorities. Therefore it is a tough position for the commissioner to try and be neutral and independent in a business so dependent on serving his ownership. The commissioner I know best is Roger Goodell and I will say this: while there may be business issues that hover over him about some initiatives, his emphasis on player conduct and behavior is something coming from him personally and he truly feels it's a moral obligation by him as commissioner to address it. So, good or bad, depending on how you feel about Goodell, I do think he thinks he is looking out for the best interests of the game on that issue, more than an owner issue directed toward him.
What's the next step with the Tagliabue situation?
Tagliabue is having hearings as we speak and today's star witness is the much anticipated testimony of Gregg Williams. Will Smith and Vilma will be in attendance. These hearings will wrap up today or Monday and we'll have a decision by Tagliabue sometime next week, hopefully. The players either accept it or see what goes on in Judge Berrigen's court. She has requested memos on the conduct detrimental issue, due by Monday with a reply from the NFLPA due Tuesday. I've said this 100 times before, but it does appear to be reaching a reckoning point.
Do you think it was smart for the Raiders to suspend McClain 1st before they release him. If they release him, he might have gotten picked up by a better team and that wouldn't have really been a punishment for him.
Good point. He's a former first round pick that has received $23 million guaranteed and still has two years remaining on his deal, so probably not worth giving up on him yet. But this suspension of two games at a $970,000 salary will cost him $114,000. He can challanged the suspension and we'll see where it goes. But my sense is they told him to stay away and figure out if he's going to "get with the program," for lack of a better word, and they'll go from there. This can happen with teams, especially teams going nowhere and it's up to management to properly discipline, but do it in a way that other players can respect it. Reggie McKenzie is a guy I worked with for nine years and I have a lot of respect for him in working with players. He'll handle it.
Great questions. We covered a real wide variety of topics in all sports. Thanks again. Check out my column on player agents up now on ESPN.com. I'll be Tweeting away: @ADBrandt.