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Chivas USA President & CEO Shawn Hunter last night said that the MLS club "will not be leaving" L.A., according to Grahame Jones of the L.A. TIMES. A friendly between Chivas USA and its Mexican counterpart, Chivas de Guadalajara, drew 23,216 fans at Petco Park last night. Before the game, Hunter said, "We're not coming down here. L.A.'s our home. We've said all along that when the right opportunity presents itself, we'd like to build our own stadium. We had a lot of great conversations going two years ago and then the economy crashed. We've kind of started those again, but all the conversations we're having are in L.A." When asked why Chivas USA scheduled the game in San Diego, Hunter said, "It's a great fan-development opportunity. There are a lot of Chivas fans down here. There are a lot of soccer fans. It was one of the top TV markets during the World Cup. For us it's an opportunity to do something we want to try to do on an annual basis." He added, "I have strong friendships with the ownership of the Padres, and we've been kicking this around for a year and a half" (L.A. TIMES, 9/15). Hunter also said, "We want to be the team for all of Southern California." Addressing the possibility of leaving The Home Depot Center, he said his club has "always engaged in conversations with different communities" and noted "three or four" such conversations are ongoing. Hunter: "It's a decision you typically make once in the life cycle of a franchise, so you want to get it right." In California, Scott French notes Chivas USA's identity is "tied to Guadalajara's," and the MLS club has "struggled to escape big Chivas' shadow." The "vast majority of fans at Petco, as at last year's meeting at the Rose Bowl, favored" the Mexican team (SAN BERNARDINO SUN, 9/15).
Ryan Offers To Talk To NFL About Sainz
Situation, Says Team Open To Sensitivity Training
The NFL and the Jets are taking the situation involving TV Azteca reporter Ines Sainz "very seriously," and there "isn't much doubt" that the Jets face a fine for their role in the situation, according to Jason La Canfora of NFL Network. League security was at the Jets’ HQs yesterday “to talk to players and coaches about their alleged involvement in this incident,” which involves players and coaches possibly sexually harassing Sainz on the practice field and in the locker room. La Canfora: “If some of what's been reported turns out to be true, I would not be surprised at all if we're looking at a strong reprimand and a major fine. Remember, Jerry Jones got fined about $100,000 last year for some comments he made regarding the CBA negotiations. Maybe we see something north of that in this case” (“NFL Total Access,” NFL Network, 9/14). NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said it is "premature" to say whether there will be any league-issued sanctions. Aiello: "We don't have all the facts yet." He did note Jets Owner Woody Johnson has “already taken steps to ensure proper conduct in the workplace" (NEWSDAY, 9/15). The story was covered on all three network morning shows for the second straight day, with ABC's Cokie Roberts saying, "It was interesting how the NFL really did apologize and they're investigating. I suppose that's a good thing" ("GMA," ABC, 9/15).
RYAN WILLING TO TALK: Jets coach Rex Ryan yesterday said that he "has offered to talk to the NFL about the investigation into whether Jets players and possibly coaches acted inappropriately” toward Sainz. Ryan: "I volunteered to talk to them. We want to have an environment here where everybody's comfortable." He added that the team is "open to sensitivity training." Ryan said, "It's something as an organization we're going to look into. Bring people in that maybe will help, provide that kind of environment. We're certainly open to that." Ryan said that the NFL "had not yet spoken with him about the incident," and that he "had not spoken to Sainz." Ryan: "I really don't know what happened, what took place. If anything I'm finding out as well" (Manish Mehta, N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/15). ESPN N.Y.'s Jane McManus reported NFL VP/Security Milt Ahlerich "met with Sainz at NFL offices Sunday, and another security representative met with her again" at the Ravens-Jets "MNF " game. The league is "looking to see if the Jets created an uncomfortable environment for Sainz and others present, and if the Jets failed to act professionally during the time that the media is allowed to be in the players' locker room" (ESPNNEWYORK.com, 9/14).
LEAGUE SENDS UPDATED MEMO TO TEAMS: USA TODAY's Jon Saraceno reports NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's office yesterday "directed that a memo be sent to team public relations directors asking them to reinforce long-standing league policy regarding news media cooperation." The league added that "NFL player development directors would discuss proper conduct with players." The NFL "repeated its policy" in an e-mail to Association for Women in Sports Media Chair Jenni Carlson. The Jets have contacted Carlson and the AWSM "to arrange an educational session with the team." Meanwhile, Sainz said that "her opinion regarding discipline was irrelevant." Sainz: "What I heard was not a big deal. I did not find it sexually offensive. But other reporters approached me; my colleagues were concerned" (USA TODAY, 9/15). ESPN's Antonio Pierce, who played nine years in the NFL, said, "You're going to see a lot of PR departments within all the organizations talk to their players about this and I can speak as a former player, it was uncomfortable at times having women in the locker room while guys are naked. But there's a certain way you go about handling that” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 9/14).
Portis Apologizes For Comments
About Sainz Controversy
PORTIS APOLOGIZES: In DC, Rick Maese noted Redskins RB Clinton Portis yesterday "apologized for comments he made" yesterday on WJFK-FM on the Sainz controversy. Portis yesterday morning during an appearance on "The Mike Wise Show with Holden Kushner" said, "You put a woman and you give her a choice of 53 athletes, somebody got to be appealing to her. You know, somebody got to spark her interest, or she's gonna want somebody." But Portis yesterday afternoon in a statement said, "I was wrong to make the comments I did, and I apologize. I respect the job that all reporters do. It is a tough job and we all have to work and act in a professional manner. I understand and support the team on these issues." The NFL "came down on Portis earlier Tuesday but apparently has asked the Redskins to deal with the running back" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 9/14).
ENOUGH ALREADY? MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann gave the Bronze Medal in his daily "World's Worst Person" segment to Sainz. Olbermann said, “Various women's media groups have thrown their weight behind her even as she undermines every hardworking woman sports reporter who knows the game. … Why do the National Football League and its teams keep giving this network credentials? You have to keep Super Bowl Media Day and team locker rooms open for stunt reporting?” ("Countdown with Keith Olbermann," MSNBC, 9/14).
LATE NIGHT LAUGHS: The Jets/Sainz situation is already beginning to become a topic on late-night talk shows. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel said, "Something happened at Jets practice on Saturday. A reporter from a Mexican TV network was there to interview Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, and apparently when she got there, some of the players went nuts because, well, primarily because she looks like this. And supposedly they were throwing footballs in her direction so the receivers could get near her and making comments in the locker room, conduct unbecoming of the sophisticated gentlemen who play professional football. So the owner of the Jets, Woody Johnson, apologized to her which must have been a funny phone call. 'Hi, this is Woody Johnson.' I'm pretty sure that is sexual harassment in and of itself" ("Jimmy Kimmel Live," ABC, 9/14). NBC's Jay Leno: "The Jets are coming under scrutiny now for allegedly harassing a female sports reporter. This is a huge story. But the team's owner, Woody Johnson, said he talked to the female reporter and assured her the team is committed to treating all women with respect. Unfortunately, the reporter thought she was being harassed again when he introduced himself as Woody Johnson" ("The Tonight Show," NBC, 9/14).
The MLS Red Bulls have "become a force in the league" for the first time and perhaps in the "crowded New York marketplace, on and off the field," according to Kevin Clark of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. After finishing the '09 season with the worst record in MLS, the Red Bulls now own the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and acquired two designated players midseason -- Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez. At the same time, the team's "off-the-field fortunes have improved as well." The new Red Bull Arena "is the headliner, as attendance has risen to 17,926 per game from 12,774" last season at Giants Stadium. The club also is "building a training facility in New Jersey, though no timetable has been finalized, with a plan to commit" $25-50M. adidas Dir of Soccer Antonio Zea said that Red Bulls jersey sales "are up 150% since the re-branding from Metrostars" prior to the '06 season, and the club is "second in the league in jersey sales" behind the Sounders. While there is "no timetable for when the team will begin turning a profit," Red Bulls Managing Dir Erik Stover said that the team is "fine with being in a 'growth mode' in the first season" in Red Bull Arena. Clark notes both "concessions and merchandise have doubled in the new stadium, and they no longer have to give a cut to Giants Stadium." In addition, Stover said that the team "wants to produce its own local broadcasts next season and sell the rights to major networks." Sources indicated that the Red Bulls are in the final year of a three-season contract with MSG Network. The sources said that the contract calls for the Red Bulls to "pay about $250,000 in production costs while MSG pays $750,000." Stover said that MSG "produces the team's broadcasts well, but that the network hasn't 'always done enough' because it's 'cluttered' with other responsibilities" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/15).
In Raleigh, Chip Alexander reports Hurricanes Owner Peter Karmanos "still is looking to sell part of the team, still looking for new partners." But Karmanos yesterday said that he is "not stressing over it or feeling a time crunch, saying he hoped to have the process completed sometime this fall or early winter." Karmanos: "This isn't a fire sale. Things have gone well. This is the process I anticipated. It's not tough. There's a lot of interest. We've talked to a bunch of people. We're just trying to sort through different issues about ownership." When asked if he is "still seeking to sell 49 percent" of the franchise, Karmanos said, "I will maintain control. It's the right mix of partners that we're working on. Whether I keep 70 percent or 51 percent is not the main concern" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 9/15).
BROKEN TRUST: In Columbus, Reed & Portzline reported the Blue Jackets have sold 7,700 season-ticket subscriptions this season, down 2,500 or "almost 25 percent from a year ago, a reflection of fan frustration with the club's 14th-place Western Conference finish last season." Season-ticket sales last year "increased for the first time since the 2001-02 season." Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson: "We have to rebuild the trust and prove we are going in the right direction. It's a critical year for us to try to win fans back" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 9/14).
MEN ABOUT TOWN: In Atlanta, Chris Vivlamore notes Thrashers C Jim Slater, LW Eric Boulton, G Ondrej Pavelec and D Boris Valabik yesterday "delivered season tickets around town" as part of "good will missions for the team" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 9/15). Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, Rob Rossi noted Penguins Cs Sidney Crosby, Mike Rupp and Max Talbot, RWs Craig Adams and Eric Godard, LWs Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz, Gs Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson and D Kris Letang Friday delivered season tickets to Penguins fans. The players "made multiple trips to more than 30 houses -- and no two scenes were alike" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 9/11).
The inability of Frank and Jamie McCourt to "settle their divorce case and the prospect of several more years of litigation has prompted" MLB Commissioner Bud Selig to "consider intervening on behalf of the Dodgers," according to sources cited by Bill Shaikin of the L.A. TIMES. Selig has "remained virtually silent on the issue since the McCourts filed for divorce 11 months ago." But sources indicated that the commissioner is "dismayed at the public spectacle surrounding the divorce and concerned about the potential for lasting damage to the league and its flagship West Coast franchise." Selig reportedly has expressed that he "wants the Dodgers' ownership situation resolved long before his scheduled retirement" in '12. The McCourt divorce trial is scheduled to resume Monday and conclude Sept. 30. Attorneys involved with the case, however, contend that with both sides "openly discussing possible appeals and additional legal maneuvers, a final decision on whether Frank McCourt is the sole owner of the team or Jamie McCourt is a co-owner could be two to three years away." Attorney Steve Susman, a member of Frank's legal team, yesterday said that MLB "has not leaned on his client to settle or sell." Former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent said, "I think it's very unlikely any commissioner in any sport would get too much involved in a mess like that." Shaikin notes if Frank McCourt ultimately elects to sell the Dodgers, the "list of potential buyers is headed by Southern California residents," including Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio, Red Sox Chair Tom Werner, former player agent Dennis Gilbert, former MLB Commissioner Peter Ueberroth and real estate developer Alan Casden. Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison "also have been mentioned as potential buyers," and one baseball source said that "Asian investors might explore a bid as well" (L.A. TIMES, 9/15).
DODGE BALL: SI's Lee Jenkins, when asked about the chances of Selig intervening in the case, said, "I actually think it's more likely that the judge steps in. The judge in this case actually has the power to invalidate this post-nuptial agreement which this whole case hinges on and order the team to be sold." Jenkins added if Jamie wins the team, Frank “likely appeals.” But if Jamie “wins the appeal, then it becomes community property. It becomes their shared asset and everyone says that they will have to sell it, even Jamie McCourt's lawyers say they will have to sell it. She will not be able to buy out Frank and even if she does, there's no way baseball will approve her after this sideshow." Jenkins added the McCourts "still have assets, but the way that the world is now it's harder to get a loan. I don't know they're going to have the liquid cash to run that team" ("The Dan Patrick Show," 9/15).
The T’Wolves finished the ’09-10 season with the second-worst record in the NBA, and they are letting their fans know through their current marketing campaign that they hold no illusions of a miraculous turnaround when the new season begins next month. The team in Monday’s edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune ran an open letter from President of Basketball Operations David Kahn that reads in part, “Will we challenge for the NBA Championship this year? Not likely.” T’Wolves Senior VP/Marketing & Communications and CMO Ted Johnson said the letter is the latest effort in a 14-month campaign via Hunt Atkins, Minneapolis, designed to help the team "to be more open and honest with our fans." “We’re simply stating what most people already know or think,” Johnson said. “We’re saying it’s not likely, we’re not saying it’s impossible. But if you were to ask any Timberwolves fan or fan in the Twin Cities area or even around the country, I don’t think anyone is putting us at the top of the list to contend for an NBA title. So the question is, what is wrong with stating the obvious?” Johnson said the fans have responded to the no-nonsense approach and “appreciate the fact that we are being forthright with them.” The T’Wolves are in the top five of NBA teams with regard to new season-ticket accounts, and the club retained 85% of its existing season-ticket holders from last season. The club’s marketing efforts heading into the season will include radio and online ads, but it was a conscious decision to target the Star Tribune for the latest example of honesty. Johnson says newspapers “seem to be one of those mediums that you can create a community conversation piece around.” “A big element of our campaign is having more of a conversation with fans instead of advertising and marketing to them,” he said (Theresa Manahan, THE DAILY).
SIGNED SINCERELY, ME: In St. Paul, Ray Richardson reports Kahn yesterday sent out a three-page letter to T'Wolves season-ticket holders reiterating what the ad stated, that it is "'highly unlikely' the Wolves will compete for the NBA championship this season, but he insisted the team will be significantly better and that his rebuilding process is 'nearly complete'" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/15). The letter reads in part, "I recognize it's been several seasons since our team contended for a playoff spot and you'd like results now. Me, too. Nevertheless, to build a team to win at the highest level, it takes time. Band-Aids and shortcuts typically aren't lasting in the NBA. ... The reality is, we are still lacking a dominant player -- our version of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant -- and that will remain an item at the top of the To-Do list" (STARTRIBUNE.com, 9/14).
THE RIGHT ROAD TO TAKE? Denver Post columnist Woody Paige said of the campaign, “My first reaction is what a stupid move, but after reading the letter I actually liked it. If I were a Minnesota Timberwolves fan I'd get kind of excited. I would like this attitude." Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan noted Kahn formerly was a sportswriter and said it was a “wonderful kind of refreshing honesty you would never get from a basketball lifer" (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 9/14). ESPN’s Michael Wilbon: “I'd appreciate that a whole lot more than an ad that tells me we're going to contend and then you can't deliver. … The Minnesota Timberwolves haven't even turned any corner.” ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser: “I'd like the idea of candor. … A little honesty wouldn't hurt" ("PTI," ESPN, 9/14).
The Wild have sold out every home game in their 10-year history, but Owner Craig Leipold said the team is "having a little bit of [a] hiccup" in ticket sales for the upcoming season, according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Leipold said, "We hope we can still sell out every game. We think there will probably be some games, some Tuesday and Thursday games earlier in the year when there are other things going on in this market, that cause people not to come down. And if we don't sell out those games, fine. We just move on to the next night and work on the next sellout streak." The following is an excerpt from the interview.
Q: How down are you in season-ticket sales?
Leipold: We are down a number in single digits (percent).
Q: I've been told that you've lost $10 million in each of the last two seasons. Can you talk about that?
Leipold: No, I don't think it's appropriate to talk about business. Fans don't want to read an owner talking about (losses). I would just say there's 25 teams in the NHL that would love to have the business we have.
Q: Fans do have a perception though that you're just making piles of money.
Leipold: That is not accurate (laughs). Fair to say that is not accurate (laughs hard). But, look, we have a great ownership group, and like every team in this league, it hurts (financially) when you don't make the playoffs. If we make the playoffs, we're going to be in great shape. But we're committed long-term.
Q: How about corporate sponsorship?
Leipold: Sponsorship numbers are surprisingly high. We thought we would keep our season-ticket holders and our sponsors would go down. But we're getting new sponsors, big sponsors are getting bigger. A lot of new guys are coming in, and they're coming in in a big way. So it's not offsetting what we're losing in ticket sales, but at least you're not losing everywhere. Our business is really solid (STARTRIBUNE.com, 9/15).