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NFL salary cap rises $30.6M to record $255.4M

The NFL announced Friday that its salary cap for the 2024 season will be a record $255.4 million per team -- a stunning 13.6 percent increase over last year's cap and a sign that the league is entering a new phase of exploding revenue.

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The NFL announced Friday that its salary cap for the 2024 season will be a record $255.4 million per team -- a stunning 13.6 percent increase over last year's cap and a sign that the league is entering a new phase of exploding revenue.

This year's salary cap will be $30.6 million more per team than last year's $224.8 million -- by far the largest jump it has taken from one year to the next since the salary cap was introduced in 1994.

The increase could have a significant impact on the free agent market set to open next month, as most teams had been using cap projections in the range of between $240 million and $245 million when budgeting for the upcoming season. As an example, there are three teams -- the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks -- that ESPN's Roster Management System projected to be over the cap as of Friday morning and should be under the cap now that the actual cap number is established.

Part of the reason for the massive jump is that the league has now paid back all of the player benefits that were deferred in 2020 as part of the agreement between the players and the league to keep the league running during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cap growth is directly tied to the league's revenue growth, but it was limited in 2022 and 2023 because the repayment of those benefits was subtracted from the final calculations. With all of the benefits repaid at this point, the 2024 cap number more closely reflects the increase in revenue.

In its announcement of the 2024 cap number, the NFL said one of the reasons for the sharp increase was "an extraordinary increase in media revenue." Since the league signed new deals with its broadcast partners in 2021, there has been a belief that 2024 and 2025 would be the first years in which the new TV revenue would really have a noticeable impact on league revenue. Friday's announcement indicates that that is the case. Given the expected ongoing impact of the broadcast rights deals, significant cap increases likely can be expected in the next several, as well.

The NFL saw a salary cap increase of roughly $10 million to $12 million per year every year from 2013 to 2020. The cap dropped by nearly $17 million (from $198.2 million to $182.5 million) in 2021 as a result of projected revenue losses due to the pandemic, but it jumped back up to $208.2 million in 2022 and $224.8 million in 2023.
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What's next for the PLL after Championship Series success?

The Boston Cannons defeated the Philadelphia Waterdogs in an OT thriller in the final. What comes next, with lacrosse's Olympic return coming soon?

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Days after the Boston Cannons defeated the Philadelphia Waterdogs 23-22 in the Premier Lacrosse League's Championship Series final on an overtime goal by Matt Kavanagh, Paul Rabil was asked for his overall takeaway from the event.

"The flow of the game is incredible," Rabil, co-founder and president of the PLL told ESPN. "This format is higher speed, higher intensity and higher skilled."

After witnessing a barrage of shots, goals and viral highlights over the six-day event, fans would certainly agree with that assessment, and those on the field came away fired up as well.

"I talked to all my players this week, and every single one told me it was one of the coolest experiences of their life," Cannons coach/GM Brian Holman said. "For a group of professional players to say they felt like 12-year-old kids out there again playing the game, that's something special."

What comes next for the PLL after this successful showcase, with the sport's return to the Olympics just four years away?

THE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES saw the four top teams from the 2023 regular season -- the California Redwoods, Utah Archers, Cannons and Waterdogs -- play a round robin, semis and final in the "sixes" format that will be used when lacrosse returns to the Olympics in 2028. This was the first time the event was staged in this format after the IOC's announcement in October 2023.

There a number of differences between sixes and traditional field lacrosse, but here are the big ones:

"This is a simpler version of the game," Rabil said. "It's easier to follow the flow of the game if you played -- and especially for people who didn't play."

But, it also led to some challenges for those constructing and coaching the teams.

"I had never coached it before, and was excited to see how all of the nuances would unfold," Holman said. "We thought we would see more two-point shots and we did. It was also important to emphasize putting balls on the cage; you miss it and it's a turnover, so I wanted guys who had accurate shots."

Holman was also quick to credit Brodie Merrill -- the namesake of the PLL's long-stick midfielder of the year award -- who joined his coaching staff for the event, and had experience with the format from coaching Canada in the 2022 World Games.

There was also a need for a wardrobe adjustment for his goalies.

"I pretty much demanded that they wear sweatshirts and sweatpants," the coach said with a laugh. "I knew they were gonna see a lot more rubber in these games than a typical game."

Overall, the Championship Series averaged 83.7 shots per game -- which included an astounding 93 in the Cannons' opener against the Redwoods.

None of the 85 shots in the final were more important than Matt Kavanagh's, which sealed the deal for Boston.

"He's done it a million times before," Cannons teammate Marcus Holman said after the game, per the league site. "He's the most clutch player probably in the history of lacrosse, straight up."

NOT ONLY DID this event feature the PLL's best-on-best tournament, fans were also treated to the Unleashed women's all-star game, where the best players in the world matched up in the sixes format as well.

The game ended with the North team defeating the South, 18-12, in front of a packed crowd. Charlotte North led the way for the victors, with six goals and two assists in earning MVP honors.

"These are the world's best, it doesn't get better than this, so to suit up alongside them was a dream come true," North said on the broadcast after the game.

Rabil noted the importance of including the top women's players, particularly when it comes to the Olympic return. And for fans, it's an easy switch to watch the women's game.

"The rules for men and women in this format are the same: the number of players, pace of play, shot clock, etc.," Rabil said. "We were thrilled to have this opportunity to showcase the world's greatest players."

The league brings a group of men and women players to Japan each March to do clinics and generally grow the game in that country, and he's been pleased with the results. Down the road, the idea is to have women's players at more PLL events, including the All-Star Game and future Championship Series.

SO WHAT COMES NEXT for the PLL, and this event? Asked for what he'd change if he was in charge for a day, Cannons coach Holman raised a line of discussion that might sound familiar to NFL fans.

"I'd change the OT rules," he said. "Make it more equitable, maybe make it a three-minute quarter or something. With this format, you don't really have any faceoff guys there, and the team that gets that first one in OT has a huge chance to win."

Or, at the very least, he'll be sure to get a certain message to his players, unlike some of his NFL counterparts.

"I definitely made sure they knew what the rules are," he said with a laugh.

The coach also thought maybe expanding the rosters to 12 field players and two goalies would make the grind of the series easier, but acknowledged that the physical and mental challenge of playing that many games in a row was a great experience and bonding opportunity for his team.

Fans who watched the series couldn't miss how different the tech and access were than other sports they watch on broadcast. All of that, of course, is by design.

"It's a collective effort for us with our broadcast partners to give fans the most immersive access and experience," Rabil said.

One of the new developments this year was the use of the jib camera, which functioned like a skycam to bring viewers close to the action. Zones were created on the field where the ref travels, which provided a safe path for the camera operators.

"We took a page out of the XFL version 1.0," Rabil noted.

The advancements in audio were also readily apparent, from goal mics that let fans hear a pop when a ball hits the net, to enhanced audio that allowed viewers to hear what coaches and players were saying throughout the game, leading to this viral moment when Tim Troutman had some trash talk for his former High Point teammate Asher Nolting:

Beyond continued innovation in how the game looks and sounds, the league has considered expanding the Championship Series field to include all eight teams, or potentially holding a play-in round. And there's also the international aspect to ponder, as Rabil noted they could hold a Little League World Series-style event, with top teams from other countries taking on the domestic clubs.

But before all of that, the PLL will hold its draft in early May, followed by the start of the 2024 regular season from May 31 to June 2 in Albany, NY.

"We are thrilled with how the Champ Series went," Rabil noted. "Revenues were up 50%, attendance was up 30% and viewership was up 140%. It sets us up for another great season."
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Alabama’s IVF warning to the country

The movement to treat embryos as full-fledged people is taking a victory lap.

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One week ago, Alabama’s Supreme Court issued a now (in)famous 131-page decision that invoked God to claim that frozen embryos count as “children” under state law.

The unprecedented legal opinion, which came out of a tragic negligence case in which families sued someone who had accidentally destroyed their frozen embryos, has sent shockwaves across the country.

Policymakers, parents, and prospective parents are realizing it could seriously imperil in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or dramatically hike its already prohibitive costs. About 2 percent of births in the US are done through IVF, which entails fertilizing eggs outside of the body and then transferring embryos to a womb.

We’re already seeing consequences.

Two days ago, the University of Alabama at Birmingham health system — the largest hospital in the state — announced it was pausing IVF, given the new risks of criminal prosecution and litigation. Since then, at least two more Alabama fertility clinics have followed suit.

Let’s be clear. This decision and its very obvious fallout are a victory for an extremist wing of the anti-abortion movement I’ve been covering for the last two years. These particular activists believe in the radical idea of “fetal personhood,” meaning they want to endow fetuses (and embryos) with full human rights and legal protection.

It’s also a reminder that the overturn of Roe v. Wade is about more than just abortion. It has ramifications for the full spectrum of reproductive health care — including birth control and fertility treatments.

Roughly one in eight couples nationwide struggles with infertility. A 2023 Pew survey found that 42 percent of US adults say they or someone they know has used treatments like IVF or artificial insemination.

“There was a time post-Dobbs where wealthier people thought they were not going to be affected ... there was a sense that IVF was in a gated country club,” Stephen Stetson, the director of Planned Parenthood Alabama, told me. “But the people in this movement have been very clear about their intentions. There is a war on bodily autonomy.”

What this means for women

This week, I spoke with Tasha Coryell as she was celebrating the second birthday of her son, whom she gave birth to thanks to successful IVF treatment in Alabama.

“I had a really good experience seeking fertility treatment in Alabama, it was one of the few medical experiences I’ve had where I felt really listened to,” she told me.

Being pregnant in Alabama, though, was scary for Tasha.

“We knew there was a potential problem with our baby, and though it turned out to be something very, very minor, there was a chance I would have to have an abortion and we weren’t at all sure I would be able to get one,” she explained. “That was the most anxiety-inducing time I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.”

Tasha and her family decided not to risk the possibility of an unsafe pregnancy in Alabama again, so after years of living in the state, they relocated last summer to Minnesota. But her 11 remaining embryos are still stored in an Alabama cryogenic facility, and she’s been considering trying for another child.

Earlier this month, before the Alabama state Supreme Court decision came down, Tasha called her fertility doctor to ask for general advice. Her doctor recommended keeping the embryos in Alabama, since they could be damaged in transport and relocation would not be cheap. But now Tasha is left to make sense of this decision. Should she move her embryos out now?

“I have no idea what’s going to happen legally,” she said. “Can Alabama force people to continue paying for embryo storage year after year after year? Do they have to exist forever?”

She knows she’s luckier than most, since she at least already has one child. “I keep thinking about people in the middle of all this who are currently injecting themselves with shots,” she said.

Even under “good” circumstances, IVFs is grueling, and it can be difficult for people to talk about. Now, for some women, it might all be for naught.

Is IVF totally over in Alabama — or, next, the whole country?

The ruling was somewhat narrow and did not weigh in on the future of other frozen embryos.

As my colleague Ian Millhiser explained, there’s a world where this decision could be relatively contained. The case is also not over; the state Supreme Court is sending it back to a district court for further litigation.

In short, this victory for the fetal-personhood movement isn’t fully set, but medical providers and patients like Tasha are already left trying to piece together answers that nobody yet has.

“It’s a climate of chaos and confusion,” Stetson, of Planned Parenthood Alabama, told me. “I can appreciate the desire of lawyers who are advising fertility clinics to be conservative. No one wants to be on the hook for any legal liability or risk of criminal prosecution if some district attorney gets the wrong idea.”

One possibility is that IVF will continue in Alabama, but embryos will be stored in other states — raising the costs and complexity of the procedure.

For the rest of the country, IVF specialists are now on high alert and warn that this first-of-its-kind decision may be just the start in courts and state legislatures.

This is all a sober reminder that for many activists, attacking reproductive health care has always been about more than just ending abortion. For these religious crusaders, nothing short of “fetal personhood” will suffice.

This story appeared originally in Today, Explained, Vox’s flagship daily newsletter. Sign up here for future editions.

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