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Scott Stinson on COVID-19: The CFL nears a financial crisis, but forgive the public skepticism – National Post

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Pity the die-hard Canadian Football League fan who tuned into Justin Trudeau’s press conference on Wednesday morning.

With the CFL having let slip late Tuesday that it was asking the federal government for somewhere between $30-million and $150-million to help it stay afloat as its 2020 season is seriously imperilled by the coronavirus pandemic, this was the first chance to hear what the Prime Minister thought about that. Would he indicate that a life preserver was at hand?

Well, no. Trudeau responded to a question about the CFL’s request with as little detail as it was possible to offer while still acknowledging the question. The government is talking to a lot of businesses about possible supports, he said. The CFL is one of them, he acknowledged. “Those discussions are ongoing,” he said. The verbal equivalent of the blank-face emoji.

This is, to be fair to Trudeau, not out of the ordinary. Politicians give non-answers to specific questions all the time, although Trudeau has really raised his game on that front in his daily sessions outside Rideau Cottage. But for the CFL and its fans, it is akin to hanging from a cliff, asking someone to hold out an arm, and being told that they will take the matter under consideration.

The edge-of-a-cliff metaphor is particularly apt. As has been clear for weeks, the prospects for a CFL season amid a pandemic are exceedingly grim. Even as some provinces begin to ease stay-at-home restrictions, their various proposals for a return to normalcy put large public gatherings at the end of the line, for the obvious reason that one infected person in a packed stadium could undo months of effort to bring the virus under control. And while other professional leagues are considering empty stadiums should they resume operations, that idea isn’t feasible for a CFL that brings in about half its revenues from ticket sales and game-day concessions. Without paying customers in stadiums, the CFL simply doesn’t have a viable business model. And so, the pleas to Ottawa.

But even if the CFL is in desperate need of emergency support, the role of government in any rescue plan will be a tricky one to sort out. It’s a unique business in that almost all of its revenue is derived from spring to fall, when games are played. And while all kinds of companies have been dramatically impacted by a global economic pause, the vast majority were earning revenue until restrictions hit last month. CFL teams have been in their revenue-producing lean times for months, and the normal spring spike has been pushed back indefinitely. They can make an argument for emergency assistance just like those being made by hotels and airlines and any number of industries, including the media.


Shane Bergman of the Calgary Stampeders runs onto the field during player introductions before facing the Toronto Argonauts in CFL football in July 2019.

Al Charest/Postmedia Network

The problem is that the CFL is a modest league with several non-modest participants.

The federal government might quite like the idea of propping up community-owned teams in Edmonton, Regina, and Winnipeg, especially to preserve the many hourly-wage jobs that those franchises provide on game days, but there are six other teams for whom the idea of a handout becomes more complicated. Three teams — B.C., Hamilton and Montreal — are owned by entrepreneurs who are independently wealthy. The remaining three, in Ottawa, Calgary and Toronto, are owned by business that control multiple professional sports teams, and those businesses are owned by various real-estate developers, oil executives and telecom conglomerates. So while a cancelled 2020 CFL season might dramatically impact the specific business of, for example, the Toronto Argonauts, what it would mean in the grand picture of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and beyond that to its majority owners Bell and Rogers, is much less clear.

When the CFL says it would “open its books” to the government to explain the potential losses caused by a lost season, it almost certainly doesn’t mean it would open all those other books, too.

When there is push back, the argument quickly becomes about how the public money is needed because the team will fold or leave town or won’t come in the first place

All of this would be slightly more palatable if the CFL, like other pro sports leagues, didn’t already have the habit of seeking public money to subsidize its business. Tax dollars are poured into stadium construction and refurbishment, even if the business case mostly amounts to “people like sports.” When there is push back, the argument quickly becomes about how the public money is needed because the team will fold or leave town or won’t come in the first place. The list of governments that have been suckered by this ploy is now so long that it’s a complete surprise when a sports team doesn’t seek taxpayer money for a capital expense.

The pandemic is, obviously, something else entirely. The CFL’s teams, especially those that are community owned, are facing a crisis that is unlikely to be solved by a rapidly improving public-health picture. But the public can be forgiven for being suspicious of professional sports leagues that come seeking handouts. Even if this time they really mean it.

Postmedia News

sstinson@postmedia.com

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Goodell says NFL was wrong for not listening to players – CTV News

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NEW YORK —
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was wrong for not listening to players fighting for racial equality and encouraged them to peacefully protest.

One day after 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and several of his peers released a video demanding the league condemn racism, Goodell made his strongest statement on the issues many players passionately support.

George Floyd’s death has ignited nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality, issues former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began speaking out against in 2016 when he started taking a knee during the national anthem.

“It has been a difficult time for our country. In particular, black people in our country,” Goodell said in a video released Friday. “First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all the families who have endured police brutality. We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much needed change in this country.

“Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff. We are listening. I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”

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UFC 250 Results: Nunes vs. Spencer – MMA Fighting

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MMA Fighting has UFC 250 results for the Nunes vs. Spencer fight card on Saturday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nev., live blogs for all the main card, and live UFC 250 Twitter updates.

In the main event, UFC featherweight champion Amanda Nunes will try to defend her title against Felicia Spencer in the main event.

Raphael Assuncao and former UFC champion Cody Garbrandt will clash in a key bantamweight contest in the co-main event.

Check out UFC 250 results below.

Main card (ESPN+ pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)

Amanda Nunes vs. Felicia Spencer

Raphael Assuncao vs. Cody Garbrandt

Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen

Neil Magny vs. Rocco Martin

Sean O’Malley vs. Eddie Wineland

Preliminary Card (ESPN and ESPN +, 8 p.m. ET)

Chase Hooper vs. Alex Caceres

Gerald Meerschaert vs. Ian Heinisch

Cody Stamann vs. Brian Kelleher

Charles Byrd vs. Maki Pitolo

Early Preliminary Card (ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass, 6 p.m. ET)

Jussier Formiga vs. Alex Perez

Alonzo Menifield vs. Devin Clark

Evan Dunham vs. Herbert Burns

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Report: NBA to test players every night upon return – TSN

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The National Basketball Players Association informed players on Friday they will work with the NBA to conduct COVID-19 testing every night during the resumed season according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

The testing will likely involved mouth swabs or light nasal swabs and not full invasive nasal swabs. Should a player test positive, they will quarantine for a minimum of seven days.

Charania also reports the league does not plan to shut down the season should a player test positive for the coronavirus. Players are expected to stay inside the league’s bubble environment in Orlando, while families are allowed to enter after the first round of the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Charania also reports the NBPA has unanimously approved a 22-team return to play format beginning July 31 at Disney World. The news comes one day after the league’s board of governors voted 29-1 to approve the NBA’s summer restart plan.

The league and the union will continue to work though a number of details in the next week on the Orlando resumption.

As for the 2020-21 NBA season, reports from earlier in the week indicated the league was planning on beginning the regular season around the start of December but Charania writes the NBPA believes this to be “unlikely.” Charania adds they plan to negotiate the date.

The league paused its season on March 11 after Utah Jazz centre Rudy Gobert was revealed to have tested positive for COVID-19.

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