Three Strikes for Professional Sports

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  1. I thought this was an interesting article summarizing all the turmoil that profession sports has been going thru.

    Three Strikes for Professional Sports
    August 25, 2007; Page A4​

    It's been a summer of shame in the sporting world, with athletes and a referee causing headaches for the commissioners of the top three U.S. pro sports leagues.

    Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's announcement this past week that he would plead guilty to dog-fighting charges came just a week after National Basketball Association referee Tim Donaghy admitted to betting on games he had officiated in the past two years. Meanwhile, Barry Bonds became Major League Baseball's career home-run king, but amid a cloud of suspicion that the slugger used steroids.

    Mr. Vick, the 27-year-old franchise star, faces jail time and was suspended indefinitely by the National Football League on Friday, the latest in a string of players to have their careers interrupted by arrests.

    Each league commissioner, recognizing that scandals risk the loss of fan interest and corporate sponsorship, has promised swift action to maintain their sport's integrity.

    Here's a closer look:

    How well are the leagues policing themselves?

    Football: Faced with the arrest of some 50 players since 2006, commissioner Roger Goodell in April instituted a tough suspension policy that holds teams responsible for their players' poor behavior. Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones received the stiffest penalty so far this year when he was suspended for the 2007 season, facing felony charges in two states.

    The league is conducting its own investigation of Mr. Vick, who told Mr. Goodell earlier this year that he had nothing to do with the illegal dog-fighting ring housed on his property. Mr. Vick, who likely faces jail time, was banned from Falcons' training camp earlier in the summer and suspended indefinitely from football on Friday.

    Baseball: Under pressure from Congress, Major League Baseball implemented a drug-testing policy two years ago that created harsher penalties and fewer loopholes for cheaters. Last year, Commissioner Bud Selig named former Sen. George Mitchell to head the league's steroid investigation. Mr. Mitchell has said a full report will be released soon.

    Basketball: On Tuesday, NBA Commissioner David Stern named an independent investigator, former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz, to review the league's antigambling policies and officiating program. The league was tarnished three years ago by an ugly brawl involving fans and players at an Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons game. To boost the NBA's image after that, Mr. Stern took steps including implementing a dress code that mandates business attire for players arriving or departing a game or conducting official league business.

    What economic repercussions have the scandals had?

    Nike has suspended its endorsement deal with Mr. Vick, and Reebok, which makes all NFL uniforms, has stopped selling his jerseys. The NBA's scandal could threaten the legal gambling industry, which depends on the perception that games aren't rigged to make money. Some $2.25 billion is wagered on legal sports betting in Nevada, according to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission.

    Could there be more fallout?

    While the NBA has said the gambling scandal remains limited to one rogue referee, any evidence to the contrary would certainly inflict more damage. To reduce his own sentence, Mr. Donaghy could tell investigators of other referees who have violated league gambling rules.

    But the long-term economic impact will be negligible if the leagues confront their problems head on, says Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College. He notes that sports fans, particularly NFL fans, "expect this kind of periodic excess in player behavior. It's part of the rough and tumble and violent nature of the sport." And despite baseball's steroids scandal, the league has broken attendance records in each of the past three seasons. The NBA also has set a record in each of the past three seasons, and the NFL in each of the past five.

    Failure to correct ills, however, could drive away sponsors. That may already be happening in the Tour de France. Struggling to recover from last year's disputed finish, the bike race saw numerous riders ejected for violating doping rules this year. Two German television stations went home early, and several corporate sponsors, including Adidas AG and Deutsche Telekom AG, may drop their support. The cycling team once led by Lance Armstrong disbanded two weeks ago when it couldn't find a new sponsor. It had been sponsored for the past three years by the Discovery Channel and before that by the United States Postal Service.

    * * *


    • A July survey of 4,800 NBA fans found that 34% believe that the referee gambling scandal is an isolated case of corruption, while 56% believe the situation isn't an isolated case, according to Zogby Interactive.

    • In 2005, Michael Vick ranked 33rd among Forbes's list of the top 100 celebrities. Since then, his endorsement deals with at least six companies, including Coca-Cola and EA Sports, have expired without renewal.

    • There were 18 seasons in which Major League Baseball players hit 50 home runs or more before 1995. Since then, players have accomplished the feat 21 times.

    • Some $380 billion is wagered illegally on sporting events every year, according to the National Gambling Impact Study Commission.

    • NFL player salaries averaged $1.4 million last year. MLB players salaries averaged $2.7 million and NBA salaries averaged $5.1 million.

    • In what became known as the "Black Sox Scandal," eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox were banned from baseball for intentionally losing games during the World Series.

  2. I wish professional sports were like high school sports, when they played the game because they loved the game. Not because it was a job or a thing to do...