SBD/Issue 163/FranchisesPrint All
Suns' Wearing Of "Los Suns" Jerseys Draws
Attention From Fans, Media, President
Around 3,000 protesters "respectfully marched by US Airways Center" over Arizona's new immigration law during last night's Spurs-Suns Western Conference Semifinals Game Two, in which the Suns wore their "Los Suns" jerseys, but "inside the arena, fans treated the game like any other," according to Paola Boivin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The protesters outside alternately shouted "yes, we can" and "let's go, Suns." Inside the arena, "on one side of the court sat a fan in a Suns jersey and sombrero," and "on the other side was a man with a 'shut up and play' sign" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/6). In Phoenix, Craig Harris reports one "outraged fan" said that she "shredded her four lower-level tickets to Wednesday's game ... in protest" of the Suns' decision. The Arizona Republic yesterday received "84 letters to the editor," 79 of which were opposed to the move. The decision "got the attention of President Barack Obama, who made reference to the jerseys Wednesday in a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the White House." The move also "got the attention of conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, who called the move sad and shortsighted." Suns President & CEO Rick Welts said that the team "has no plans to wear the 'Los Suns' jerseys for the rest of the best-of-seven-game series with the Spurs" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/6). Limbaugh said the Suns' decision to wear the "Los Suns" jerseys was "cowardice, pure and simple" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 5/6).
TEAMS DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM ISSUE: In N.Y., Billy Witz notes the "topic of Los Suns jerseys was one that both coaches sought to distance themselves from." Spurs coach Gregg Popovich "strongly supported" Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver on Tuesday regarding the jerseys, but 90 minutes before tip-off last night he said, "Now it's game time. I'm not running for office, just coaching." Suns coach Alvin Gentry: "We're wearing these jerseys just because it's a national holiday, it's Cinco de Mayo. We're wearing it because of the diversity we have in the state of Arizona, and we're wearing it because of the diversity in the NBA" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/6).
APPLAUDING THE MOVE: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin writes the "Los Suns" jerseys were a "simple, brilliant and immensely powerful form of nonviolent protest" that was a "smashing success long before tipoff." Voisin: "Kudos to Sarver ... for coming up with the idea and enlisting his players' support before moving forward. His club's willingness to visit such potentially treacherous terrain is both daring and appropriate given the league's progressive history regarding civil rights and social issues" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/6). ESPN.com's Jackie MacMullan said, "The owner made a political stance, but the team is saying, 'We just want to support these people.' This is a very sensitive issue. I think it makes sense." She added the team is "not wearing a shirt that says, 'Down with the immigration bill.' They're just simply wearing a shirt that supports the Latino community" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/5). In Boston, Charles Pierce wrote, "Good for the Phoenix Suns for stepping up, and even better for Steve Nash to be so open and honest about why" (BOSTON.com, 5/5). In Phoenix, E.J. Montini writes, "Whether you agree with the Suns' decision or not, you should be proud of them for taking a stand and for doing so the right way. No wavering. No dancing around the issues. It took guts. It showed heart" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 5/6).
Media Members Disagree If Nash, Suns' Decision
To Wear "Los Suns" Jerseys Right Thing To Do
SHOULD SPORTS AND POLITICS MIX? L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "I agree with the Suns' sentiment. I don't agree with what they're doing. I think sports and politics … should not mix. That's why the Olympics has lasted so many years because they don't let it mix." Plaschke: "Sports should be above and beyond the political sphere of things" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/5). New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said, "I don't think there's need for putting politics into sports." Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton: "None of us would like politics to be injected into sports, but the bottom line is sports are political" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 5/5). In West Palm Beach, Dave George writes, "Like it or not, there always will be a connection between sports and politics, if only because these crazy games of ours are played and enjoyed by political animals. Human beings, in other words" (PALM BEACH POST, 5/6). ESPN's Michael Wilbon: "Politics and sports should perhaps not mix, but they do mix and usually players are simply pawns" ("PTI," ESPN, 5/5).
CAN'T TOTALLY SEPARATE THE TWO: In DC, Mike Wise writes when political issues "so pervade a community, a sports franchise -- from the owner to the players -- can't pretend they are somehow above or below the fray." Sports franchises "have never been separate from the communities in which they reside, and they have become even more entwined over the years as they have skyrocketed in value." Sarver "in effect was making a choice no matter what action he took," and "doing nothing would have been silent acquiescence" to the new law (WASHINGTON POST, 5/6).
THE LIGHTER SIDE: NBC's Jay Leno touched on the Suns' situation during his "Tonight Show" monologue last night, saying, "Tonight, to protest Arizona's new immigration law, the Phoenix Suns are all wearing jerseys that read 'Los Suns.' Thankfully, they were able to get the jerseys made quickly using an illegal sweat shop, but they were able to turn them out. Talk about making a point. The Phoenix Suns are wearing jerseys written in Spanish, made in China, modeled after their best player, Canadian Steve Nash. That is America!" ("The Tonight Show," NBC, 5/5).
Vote On Kroenke's Bid For Rams
Could Take Place By End Of Summer
Stan Kroenke has submitted his application to the NFL to purchase the remaining 60% of the Rams, but there is "much remaining to be done on the actual purchase document" and that process "may take several weeks," according to league sources cited by Jim Thomas of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. The NFL's finance committee met on Tuesday and an "update on the Rams sale was one of the topics of discussion." But the committee cannot vote on Kroenke's bid until it "sees the final purchase document." Thomas notes it "appears very doubtful then, that there will be a vote by the full league membership on the Kroenke bid at the NFL's owners meetings May 24-26 in Dallas," though one "could take place by the end of the summer." NFL owners still are "waiting to see precisely how Kroenke plans to be in compliance with the league's cross-ownership rules." He has told the league that he "plans to be in compliance" and will "not seek a waiver or a change in that rule." The most likely outcome "involves either transferring or selling the Nuggets and Avalanche to Kroenke's two children or his wife." Sources indicated that a "variation of the approach taken by the NFL when H. Wayne Huizenga purchased the Miami Dolphins may be used with Kroenke." The NFL gave conditional approval to Huizenga's purchase in '94, "with the proviso that if the NFL's cross-ownership rules weren't changed in two years he would have to put the team up for sale in 1996." Huizenga subsequently was "given a one-year extension of that window before the league amended its cross-ownership rules," allowing him to also maintain ownership of the Marlins and NHL Panthers (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 5/6).
Saints Have Offered Relocation Ticket Packages
To 1,200 Fans Displaced By New Press Box
The Saints yesterday said that they have "now offered relocation ticket packages to all the members of 'the missing 1,200,' a group displaced by the new press box in the Superdome," according to James Varney of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Saints VP/Communications Greg Bensel in a statement said the team has "directly contacted each account holder from the 1,200 seats affected." Bensel: "It represents about 330 accounts. There remains about 30 accounts, which represent about 200 seats, that are still undecided on what they want to do with respect to relocating." Varney notes the stadium's old press box is "being converted into luxury suites ... as part of the Superdome's renovations to maximize revenue and attract events such as the Super Bowl." The group of displaced season-ticket holders "organized themselves into 'the missing 1,200,' and became something of a squeaky wheel," though "from the outset, 'the missing 1,200' members said they fully support the Superdome upgrades, and that they understand the Saints need to make changes to stay in the elite ranks of the NFL." Meanwhile, Varney notes Saints officials were "stung by any suggestion that they began reaching out to aggrieved fans Monday in an effort to divert attention" from the lawsuit filed by former Saints Security Dir Geoffrey Santini. Bensel said that "solving the problem of 'the missing 1,200' had always been a priority, and its resolution was unconnected to the timing of the lawsuit" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 5/6).
Students at Lebanon Middle School in Connecticut Tuesday thought they were going to get "to meet New England Patriots football players, as well as the opportunity to challenge a set of exercise stations," but instead they got "an intern and some workout videos," according to Paul Petrone of the NORWICH BULLETIN. The students were participating in a "gym session that participants thought would feature prominent professional athletes." The event was held to "reward students who participated in the NFL-sponsored Fuel up to Play 60 program." Lebanon Middle School health and PE teacher Alyssa Fabry said that the Fuel up to Play 60 Web site stated that if "enough students participated in the program, they would be rewarded with a gym session complete" with Patriots players. But instead, the session "featured a registered dietician giving them tips on healthy eating" and Patriots communications intern Tim McMaster "playing kickboxing workout videos." Fabry said of the Fuel up to Play 60 program, "I don't think I am going to do it again next year. They built it up quite a bit and really did not come through." McMaster said, "We try to get some players out, but, in the summer, it's hard because they're off" (NORWICH BULLETIN, 5/5).
BIG MISUNDERSTANDING: In Boston, Rapoport & Guregian reported there "was never supposed to be a player, which is consistent with the rest of the NFL teams who put on the same event." Fabry "made the assumption that players would show up when that wasn't the plan." It was "supposed to be a team official who would administer the video." National Dairy Council spokesperson Jenny Bourbeau, whose organization runs Fuel up to Play 60 along with the NFL, said, "Because of the wording from a (letter) we had sent out, someone at the school drew some false assumptions. That letter may have led someone to believe, without actually saying it, that (there would be Patriots). But we never promised a player." Rapoport & Guregian note the problem "arose because the letter made mention of 'celebrity coaches' to lead the fitness event, when that just means they're on the video." The letter "has been cleaned up going forward." Bourbeau: "I feel so bad for the school that there was this big misunderstanding. We're working with the school to find a way to make this right to make sure this misunderstanding doesn't happen again" (BOSTONHERALD.com, 5/5).
Manchester United, England’s biggest soccer club, today announced a four-city U.S. tour that includes stops in Toronto, Philadelphia, K.C. and Houston. The tour, ManU’s first since '04, was organized by Soccer United Marketing and CAA. It is the first time the agencies have worked together. Last summer, they competed against each other with SUM organizing an FC Barcelona tour and the Gold Cup and CAA organizing a six-game exhibition tour featuring AC Milan, Inter Milan, Chelsea FC and Club America. Because of the FIFA World Cup this summer, it is unlikely ManU will bring its first team and star players like F Wayne Rooney. But even without its biggest stars, the Glazer-owned soccer club has the power to draw spectators. The tour includes the club playing in the MLS All-Star Game at Reliant Stadium, making ManU by far the biggest club to play in the game. Previous All-Star Game opponents have included Celtic FC, West ham United and Everton FC.DATEOPPONENTTIME (ET)LOCATION7/16Celtic FC7:30pm
Rogers Centre7/21Philadelphia Union8:30pm Lincoln Financial Field7/25K.C. Wizards6:00pm Arrowhead Stadium7/28 MLS All-Star Team8:30pm Reliant Stadium
Sullivan (l), Gold Had To Pump $30.2M
Into West Ham To Avoid Administration
West Ham United co-Owner David Sullivan revealed that the EPL club was "10 days away from going into administration in January," and that he and co-Owner David Gold had to pump US$30.2M into the club four months ago to "avoid going down the same troubled route" as Portsmouth, according to Harry Harris of ESPN SOCCERNET. Sullivan indicated that West Ham "will have to make another" US$6M available "over the summer months to cover player wages when the club receive no matchday income." He "felt it necessary to come out and explain the nature of the club's financial situation after two days of newspaper reports which claimed to list the wages off all members of the playing staff." Sullivan said, "Over the last few days several newspapers and websites have published the alleged wages of most West Ham United's players. In some cases the figures are totally inaccurate, whilst in other cases they are so accurate the figures can only have come from current or past employees of the club. ... They do illustrate, as we've explained before, we've inherited a real mess" (ESPNSOCCERNET.com, 5/6).
In Columbus, Rob Oller notes the Indians rank "last in major-league attendance this season," drawing an average of 14,298 fans per game at Progressive Field. That figure includes a total of 33,067 for this week's series against the Blue Jays, thought to be the "smallest three-day attendance in stadium history." The Indians in the '90s sold out a then MLB-record 455 consecutive home games when they were "winning and the stadium was new." Oller: "Owner Larry Dolan should spend more to build a contender" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 5/6).
YOU'VE GOT A FRIEND IN NEED: In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway notes MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is "stretched out and maybe stressed out with many 'issues' in the game," yet despite that he is "honed in and pushing hard to put the Rangers on equal financial terms for the summer by making" the sale from Tom Hicks to Chuck Greenberg happen quickly. Selig has "muscled up in an attempt to save the summer for the local baseball team, which among the 30 clubs Selig oversees is bottom tier in the category of being relevant." He deserves applause for "plowing ahead and being a stand-up guy on the local front" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/6).
WRONG KIND OF ATTENTION: A Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW editorial states this week's Sports Illustrated cover featuring Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger with the headline "The Hangover" is "exactly the kind of publicity that the Pittsburgh Steelers rightly loathe." Roethlisberger's story is "sad and sordid," and the Steelers "must realize that the stain will not be removed until Ben Roethlisberger no longer wears the Black and Gold" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 5/6).