SBD/Issue 52/Franchises

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  • Randy Lerner Denies Talk Of Browns Sale To Under Armour's Plank

    Lerner Is Contemplating Making Major Changes
    Within The Browns Organization This Offseason
    Browns Owner Randy Lerner Tuesday "shot down a rumor making the rounds that he has been approached" by Under Armour Chair & CEO Kevin Plank about a possible sale of the team, according to Tony Grossi of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Lerner, during a rare 60-minute interview with the media, insisted that his "passion for re-establishing the franchise's long-lost winning ways is as fervent as ever." Lerner: "I feel totally engaged. I will stay committed and focused. I have no plans to sell the team. I'm not prepared to throw in the towel at the age of 46 and suggest I can't get the job done." In addition, Lerner confirmed that he is "contemplating major changes in the off-season but is weighing another organizational shake-up against the goal of continuity." Lerner said that he was "'very' concerned with credibility issues that arose" from TE Kellen Winslow Jr.'s retracted suspension, as well as the recent incident in which Browns GM Phil Savage "used a profane word in an email to an angry fan." Lerner admitted that there exists an "organizational void in communicating to the public on non-football matters." Grossi noted the sit-down for the "publicly-shy" Lerner was "done ostensibly to deliver the message that Lerner is not oblivious to the fan outrage building over another losing season" (CLEVELAND.com, 11/25).

    MISTAKES BY THE LAKE: Lerner Tuesday said, "We have not established an identity and I find that very frustrating. The Steelers, a coach and a group of players show up, memorable plays are made and a myth and a legend and an identity is born. The Rooneys were able to parlay that into another administration under Bill Cowher. I'm very envious of that" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 11/26). Lerner said that the team has "not made any overture" about a future coaching vacancy to CBS' Bill Cowher (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 11/26). In Cleveland, Terry Pluto wrote Lerner admitted that the Browns have "no real identity," and "that starts with the coach," Romeo Crennel. Lerner's "general approach of hiring football people, sitting back and then holding them accountable is the correct one." But that means that the Browns "must have a general manager or coach who can say, 'This is the kind of team we want to have, and this is what we expect from the players'" (CLEVELAND.com, 11/25). A PLAIN DEALER editorial stated if Lerner "can't hire the right people to fix this colossal mess, he should sell the team to someone who can." The Browns "should be thankful the Detroit Lions are still" in the NFL, because otherwise the Browns "would be the front-runner for the league's most pathetic." That the team's "phenomenal fan base continues to support this franchise is nothing short of a miracle" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 11/25). 

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  • NFL Officials Not Discussing Ending Lions' Thanksgiving Game

    NFL Officials Say There Is No Talk Of
    Moving Lions From Thanksgiving Game
    The 0-11 Lions will host the 10-1 Titans during the first game of the Thanksgiving Day NFL triple-header, and the idea of the Lions getting "manhandled" by the Titans "has some influential voices saying enough is enough and it is time to end" the tradition of the Lions hosting a Thanksgiving Day game, according to Ted Kulfan of the DETROIT NEWS. However, NFL officials said that there has been "no discussion to pull the game," which was first held in '34. The addition of a third Thanksgiving game in '06 that airs on NFL Network "gives other NFL teams an opportunity to host the holiday game" outside of the Cowboys and Lions. Also, both CBS and Fox said that the Lions' presence "really doesn't have a major negative, or positive, affect." One TV exec: "People are going to watch the game. We really don't have a strong opinion one way or another on this." Kulfan noted there were reports CBS was "struggling to sell commercial time for Thursday's game," but the net has "reportedly sold all its spots" (DETROIT NEWS, 11/25). ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported there is "no talk ... from those who truly are in authority" within the NFL about removing the game from the Lions. Mortensen: “They added the third Thanksgiving game to appease those who wanted in on the show, so to speak" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 11/26). Meanwhile, USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes the Lions' Thanksgiving games since '00 have averaged an 11.9 rating, while the Cowboys, "despite being America's Soap Opera and getting a later (and thus better) time slot, aren't doing much better," with a 12.1 average rating. Hiestand: "That suggests fans are hungry for any Thanksgiving Day NFL action -- imagine if the NFL rotated game sites to schedule something tasty" (USA TODAY, 11/26).

    Ditka Feels NFL Should Put Two Top
    Teams Together For Thanksgiving Day Game
    ENOUGH ALREADY: In Michigan, Bill Broderick wrote he thinks "most Americans would rather the Lions not be the traditional game on Thanksgiving." Broderick: "Is it time for Detroit to step away from its longstanding spot as America's Turkey?" Meanwhile, Jeff Karzen wrote the Lions "should be taken off Turkey Day," as "NOBODY outside of Michigan cares" (BATTLE CREEK ENQUIRER, 11/25). ESPN's Mike Ditka: "I believe in tradition a lot. But I think the league is missing the point. The viewers deserve better right now. We need to put two teams on every Thanksgiving that are competitive, that mean something to the league" ("Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN, 11/23). In Albany, Mark McGuire: "Traditions, in short, come and go. The Detroit Lions in my family room every Thanksgiving? That is one relative who has to be kicked out" (TIMESUNION.com, 11/25). In Milwaukee, Bob Wolfley writes the NFL would be "better served to hide the embarrassing Lions, with the tradition of their Thanksgiving appearances, on the NFL Network" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 11/26). In Michigan, Brian VanOchten wrote under the header, "Warning: Lions, Thanksgiving Dinner Won't Mix" (GRAND RAPIDS PRESS, 11/24). In Birmingham, John Reimer: "No team is less deserving of an automatic invitation to one of the league's choice viewing slots than the Lions." The NFL's "'if you play it they will view it' philosophy of trotting the Lions out each Thanksgiving prizes tradition over punch in matchups with as much appeal as cable access replays of city council meetings" (BIRMINGHAM NEWS, 11/25).

    MAINTAIN THE TRADITION: In Detroit, Drew Sharp writes under the header, "It's Tradition: Thanksgiving Day Game Belongs In Detroit." Traditions "should stand for something in sports, regardless of the outcomes." Sharp: "You cannot attach a price tag -- or even a win-loss record -- on that bond between past and present" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/26). ESPN's Tony Korneheiser: "They play on Thanksgiving Day. This goes back to 1934. If you don't like it, turn off the TV and say hello to your family." ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "Don't take Detroit off" ("PTI," ESPN, 11/24). Fox Sports’ Andrew Siciliano: “It might be a boring tradition, but it still is tradition. Just let them play it out. It’s their national stage” (“The Jim Rome Show,” 11/25). Detroit News columnist Terry Foster: “People want to take it away to punish the Fords, because they’ve been bad owners. … But really who are you punishing? You’re punishing the people who watch the Lions, you’re punishing Lions’ fans, and these people did nothing to deserve that” (DETNEWS.com, 11/24).

    GAME ON: In Detroit, Carlos Monarrez reported the Lions "avoided their first non-sellout of a Thanksgiving Day game" since '92, meaning Thursday's game will be broadcast locally on Detroit's WWJ-CBS. However, a Lions spokesperson said that tickets "are still available after the Titans returned some of their allotment" (FREEP.com, 11/25).

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  • Is Slow Economy To Blame For Lack Of MLB Free-Agent Movement?

    Affeldt One Of Two Free Agents To
    Have Inked Deals So Far This Offseason
    Since MLB's free agency window opened on November 14, only two of the league's 171 free agents have signed contracts, and the lack of activity "raised the question as to whether the nation's economic crisis is affecting baseball's marketplace," according to Ben Shpigel of the N.Y. TIMES. The MLB winter meetings will be held December 8-11 in Las Vegas, and it is "possible that some prominent free agents may soon make their choices, giving baseball some buzz." But for the moment, it is "pretty quiet on the baseball front," and "unusually quiet, if free-agent moves that took place during the same period in recent off-seasons are considered." Each of the past five offseasons have seen at least six free agent signings by this date, but teams this year "seem to be proceeding cautiously and dispensing fewer offers than in years past." However, Shpigel writes in "all likelihood, elite players" such as P CC Sabathia and 1B Mark Teixeira will "not be affected by the economy; they will sign lucrative contracts at some point regardless of how many bankruptcies occur" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/26).

    HOLDING THE RUNNER: In L.A., Dylan Hernandez writes Dodgers Owners Frank and Jamie McCourt seem to be "hedging against lavish spending during a time of such great economic uncertainty." Jamie McCourt said that the "fact that the majority of contracts were guaranteed was a significant issue." She said, "If people can't play anymore, it's like, 'Oh well, see ya.' Different story. Whatever money they are guaranteed could be money that we could otherwise have given to the community." Frank McCourt said that the funds that cover 42 youth baseball fields being built in Southern California "won't be taken out of the team's operating budget." But he added that the Dodgers need to "re-examine their priorities." He said that the team's "top priority remained to field a winning team," but noted that the team's payroll, which was around $120M this past season, has not been determined for '09. But Jamie McCourt said that while the Dodgers "might be more cautious, they wouldn't shy away from pursuing such big-name free agents" as Sabathia and LF Manny Ramirez (L.A. TIMES, 11/26).

    Padres Could See Significant Attendance
    Drop-Off After Paring Of Payroll 
    DOWN BY THE BAY: ESPN.com's Sean McAdam wrote the Padres are "bracing for a significant drop-off in attendance in 2009, thanks in equal parts to the economic downturn and their dismal performance this past season," when the team finished with a 63-99 record. The Padres drew 2.4 million fans to Petco Park last season, down from 2.8 million in '07, and it "would surprise few if the Padres were to draw less than 2 million in attendance next season." The team's payroll, which was near $73M this past season, is "likely to be sliced nearly in half" for '09. Meanwhile, as part of the team's front-office structure, Padres Exec VP/Baseball Operations Paul DePodesta reports to CEO Sandy Alderson, not GM Kevin Towers, and "must sign off on player moves." An industry exec said of the Padres, "It's a mess. That whole organization is totally dysfunctional" (ESPN.com, 11/25).

    IN THE BRONX: The Yankees yesterday said that they will keep ticket prices for Spring Training games at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on par with the '08 level, ranging from $17-31 (AP, 11/25). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote Yankees Vice Chair Hal Steinbrenner, who has assumed control of the organization, was "always going to be the guy in charge no matter what his older brother," Yankees Vice Chair Hank Steinbrenner, kept publicly saying. Hal was "quietly learning the business while his brother kept talking." Hal's leadership is "good for the Yankees and good for baseball, which did not want Hank to be the one in charge" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/23).

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  • MLS Fire Fan Group Section 8 Chicago Suing Team Over Debt Owed

    MLS Fire Fan Group To Sue Team Over
    Debt Owed For Ticket Sales, Stolen Banner
    Section 8 Chicago, an umbrella organization of MLS Fire fans who sit in two sections at the north end of Toyota Park, "expects to file suit against the team early next week after failing to come to an agreement concerning a debt owed the group for ticket sales and a missing banner," according to Nick Firchau of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. The $25,000 the fan group is seeking is "derived from two debts -- roughly $15,000 garnered through a longstanding agreement for ticket sales, and $10,000 for a giant banner allegedly lost or stolen while being stored at Toyota Park earlier this year."  Fire President Dave Greeley said that the team had "long intended to settle any debts with the organization after the season, which ended Sunday." Greeley: "Section 8 is a valuable entity for the Fire and Toyota Park, and we want to resolve this and avoid any acrimony with their organization." Section 8 Chicago "oversees 14 Fire fan groups and maintains funds for various needs, including banners and other game-day adornments, as well as travel arrangements for fans to attend road games." Since '05, a "large portion of those funds has come from an agreement struck" in '04 with former Fire President & GM Peter Wilt. Section 8 Chicago Chair Ben Burton said that the deal "calls for Section 8 to receive 75 cents for every individual game ticket and $1.50 per game for every season ticket sold in Section 118 of Toyota Park." Wilt: "Transparency solves so much. Unfortunately, on the Fire's side, a lack of transparency naturally leads to suspicion." The Fire would not disclose '08 ticket-sale numbers for Section 118, but Greeley "dismissed the $15,000 figure," and said, "It's not even close." Burton said that section 118 "seats 550," and with his count of 380 season-ticket holders, Section 8 "would be owed $11,400 for the 20 home games this season." Burton: "Unfortunately, it's entirely possible to love the team on the field and still be at odds with the ... front office" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/26).

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  • Who's Singing The Blues? St. Louis Drawing Big Crowds This Season

    Blues' Attendance At Scottrade Center
    Up 7% Through First Eight Games Of Season
    The Blues are "winning back big crowds" to Scottrade Center this season, as the club averaged 18,800 fans for its first eight home games, a 7% increase "from their first eight last year, and 1,000 more per game than their full season average in 2007-08," according to Christopher Tritto of the ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. The club sold out seven of its first nine home games, and there are around 9,500 season-ticket holders, a 70% jump from 5,600 "when SCP [Worldwide] purchased the club in July 2006." Blues Enterprises CEO Peter McLoughlin said that sponsorship revenue also "is 10[%] ahead of where it was a year ago." Tritto reports a "big part of the Blues' sales success is creative marketing," including the Blues Bailout Plan. The promo, which will select a fan at each Saturday home game and pay their mortgage up to $1,000/month for four months, has resulted in 3,500 ticket sales since being announced November 10. Half of those "are for Saturday games." Tritto: "The fact that fans and sponsors are voting with their wallets in favor of the Blues is all the more notable considering the current economic pressure on discretionary spending" (ST. LOUIS BUSINESS JOURNAL, 11/21 issue).





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  • Saputo Still Interested In MLS, But Says Expansion Fee Too Steep

    USL club Montreal Impact Owner Joey Saputo "remains keen on joining" MLS, but he "won't risk the team's future or the continued growth of soccer in the city and across the province to do it," according to Randy Phillips of the Montreal GAZETTE. Saputo: "In soccer, like any other sport, we have to make sure our next acquisition will not be our last acquisition because it was a bad acquisition. We strongly believe that a [US$40M] franchise fee alone would seriously mortgage the future of soccer and our team." Saputo said of the city's MLS bid being dropped last week, "We were told that MLS is out of the picture for 2011, but we remain open to any possible expansion in the future. Why our bid was taken out, I really don't have any idea. I also have no idea why we were never called to meet with league officials in New York, to go into the specifics of our bid" (Montreal GAZETTE, 11/25).

    GAME TIME: The Women's Professional Soccer St. Louis Athletica unveiled their name and logo Tuesday at the Missouri Athletic Club in St. Louis. The Athletica crest resembles a medieval coat of arms inspired by St. Joan of Arc and features the silhouette of a woman atop her horse, hoisting an "STL" flag overhead. Below the crest, a SAINT LOUIS ATHLETICA banner is flanked by two fleurs-de-lis, a tribute to St. Louis as an 18th Century French settlement. St. Louis Athletica will play begin play in April '09, and will play home games at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville's Univ.'s Korte Stadium (Athletica).

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