Today in sports: NBA players are pondering blowing up their union, Jack Abramoff recalls his correspondence with Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, and the NFL's smartest quarterback has figured out how to wear a wedding ring on the field.
- Reports of infighting and secret deals with management haven't helped the National Basketball Player's Association improve its bargaining position as the union negotiates with owners to end the NBA lockout. Now The New York Times is reporting, "About 50 players, including some All-Stars, are planning a drive to dissolve their union if talks again falter, or if the talks produce a labor deal that they deem unpalatable." Dissolving the union would allow players to sue the NBA under federal antitrust laws, but the protracted court process would put the entire 2011-2012 season in jeopardy. (During the NFL lockout, the union decertified, but that vote came months before the first week of games. The NBA was supposed to begin its season Tuesday.) "The most immediate outcome of a decertification drive would be chaos," says New York Times NBA reporter Howard Beck. Beck adds that the "mere threat of [decertification] could hasten a deal." In order to decertify, "30 percent of the union — about 130 players — sign a petition, which would then trigger an election by the full membership, under the auspices of the National Labor Relations Board." After that, all that's needed is a majority vote from the players. According to ESPN.com NBA reporters Marc Stein and Chris Broussard, the magic number of 130 signatures is within reach, after players and agents pushing to decertify held two conference calls this week that "mobilized close to 100 players either in favor of or giving strong consideration to signing a petition to request a formal decertification vote." [The New York Times and ESPN.com]
- Say what you will about disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but he really did his best to get Daniel Snyder to change the name of the Washington Redskins. In his new memoir Capitol Punishment, Abramoff recalls sending Snyder a letter in 1999 a month after he bought the team urging him to rename the club. At the time, he was lobbying on behalf of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, the same tribe he duped into paying $15 million in inflated fees, but he says the tribe didn't ask him to lean on Snyder. It was all his idea. Writes Abramoff:
"Although the Choctaws had long ago assured me that a team named the Redskins didn’t bother them, I figured I would take a shot a trying to undo this insult. In my letter to Snyder, I asked him how we would feel if the New York team were called the Jew Boys, or worse. Moreover, I knew that all Native Americans resented the use of the feathered headdress in the team band’s uniform. I asked how he would feel if the New York Jew Boys band had a uniform of black hats and prayer shawls. I further argued that, were he to make this change now, he would immediately establish himself as a moral leader in our nation’s capital, and garner the respect of those who were likely to look askance on him."
The team didn't change its name and Dan Snyder has yet to "establish himself as a moral leader in our nation's capital." But he did write back to Abramoff and the lobbyist found him to be "gracious, not the imperious brat the media had portrayed him to be." Others would disagree. [TPM]
- In addition to attending Harvard, performing well on standardized tests, and being one of the breakout stars of the NFL season, Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick wears his wedding ring during games. The New York Times notes that this is rare, and particularly perilous for a quarterback. So what's Fitzpatrick's angle? Common sense. "[B]ecause he throws right-handed," The Times explains, "wearing the ring on his opposite hand does not affect his performance." These are the things they teach you at Harvard. [The New York Times]
- Jon Bon Jovi and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft were spotted having what an onlooker described as a "business-style" dinner at Harry Cipriani in Manhattan on Wednesday night. That could describe almost any dinner between two men in suits, but it's worth noting Bon Jovi has been trying to get into Kraft's business -- professional football -- for years. He co-owned the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul from 2004 to 2009 and earlier this year he was reportedly in negotiations to buy 15% of the Atlanta Falcons for $150 million. In 2009, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross tried to get Bon Jovi to join his ownership group, but the Sports Business Journal reported the deal fell apart when the rocker demanded an "exclusive arrangement" that would prevent other partners from joining the group and diluting his control. It's unclear if Bon Jovi has his eye on any particular team.but a source says he's still interested in buying in to a franchise and was "getting some advice from Bob" on how to do it. [Page Six]