SBD/July 26, 2011/Franchises

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  • The NFL Goes Back To Work: Several Teams Reimburse Employees For Lockout Pay Cuts

    Johnson thanked Jets employees for their patience during the lockout

    Jets Owner Woody Johnson told team employees that their "missed pay during the lockout was credited to their accounts" yesterday morning, according to Jenny Vrentas of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. Jets coaches "took a 25 percent pay cut during the lockout, and business-side employees took one week" of furloughs per each month, "with the promise the pay would be refunded if no games were missed." Two employees said that the missed pay was returned "without interest" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 7/26). Johnson "thanked everyone for their support and patience during the work stoppage." Meanwhile, coach Rex Ryan left a voicemail for season-ticket holders yesterday (N.Y. POST, 7/26).

    FALCONS: In Atlanta, Jeff Schultz reported Falcons Owner Arthur Blank, who "instituted across-the-board payroll cuts to all non-player employees in the team’s office in the form of two-week furloughs, will reimburse wages." Blank yesterday sent an e-mail to staff members that read in part, "Any deductions to your paychecks during the lockout related to unpaid vacation days we instituted will be repaid to you." Falcons President Rich McKay and GM Thomas Dimitroff are "scheduled to meet with employees Tuesday to make the decision official." Schultz wrote, "It's a classy makeup call by Blank, negating a bad decision that never should have happened" (AJC.com, 7/25). Falcons employees who were "given raises after March 1 had their salaries frozen." But a source said that the money those employees missed out on "will be paid July 31." The team "did not have any layoffs during the lockout" (ESPN.com, 7/25).   

    LIONS: Lions President Tom Lewand yesterday said that "all employees who took a pay cut or furlough during the lockout will be reimbursed for their lost wages." In Detroit, Dave Birkett notes most team employees were given "two-week unpaid furloughs in the spring as a cost-cutting measure" during the lockout. Others in the organization, including Lewand, GM Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz, "took a temporary 25% pay cut." Meanwhile, Lewand said the Lions received "about four times, five times the number calls" and did "about four or five times the number of sales that we would normally have on any given Monday" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 7/26). Lewand said that, "as usual, some training camp practices will be open to the public, but he was in the process of ironing out the schedule with Schwartz." Season-ticket holders "will be allowed to attend practice Friday" (DETROIT NEWS, 7/26). ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote the Lions' decision to reimburse employees "doesn't wash away the original decision, which no doubt created hardship at the time." But at least the team "took a reasonable step to make amends toward a group of people who had absolutely, positively nothing to do with the lockout" (ESPN.com, 7/25).

    DOLPHINS: The Dolphins yesterday confirmed that Owner Stephen Ross and CEO Mike Dee have decided to "return employee salaries to their original levels, effective immediately." Employees also will receive "full refunds of all lost wages in their next paycheck." The team cut salaries by 10-20% in May (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 7/25). In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin notes Dee "was excited because he has seen an uptick in season-ticket sales in the past week." Dee said that new season-ticket sales "ran at about 40 percent of their usual pace, but that the phones have been 'lighting up the past seven to 10 days,' with over 300 packages sold last week." Dee: "Clearly, fans were getting re-energized about football again" (PALM BEACH POST, 7/26).

    BILLS: In Buffalo, Mark Gaughan cites a source as saying that the Bills will give a "full reimbursement to all employees of pay that was reduced during the lockout." The Bills' reductions "were imposed on a scale of up to 25 percent of salary, according to each person's pay level." The Bills also "stopped making payments to employees' 401k plans." Those payments also "will be restored, retroactive to the start of the lockout" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/26).

    CHIEFS: In K.C., Kent Babb reports about two hours after the lockout ended, the Chiefs "took advantage of the enthusiasm by releasing a well-timed reminder that single-game tickets can be purchased beginning next week." Team officials also told employees that "100 percent of the pay lost in spring pay cuts -- employees making annual salaries of at least $50,000 absorbed cuts -- would be tacked onto Friday’s checks, along with a 3-percent raise retroactive to March 1." Meanwhile, the team last week "declared that some of its employees, who had for years been permitted to watch the game from standing locations after their work was completed, would have to pay for the same privilege when the 2011 season began." Some fans had "complained about locked toll gates and employees sitting in reserved seats." After a "public backlash at the changed policy, the Chiefs have since decided to allow employees to watch the games, albeit with an eye on preserving the paying fans’ experience" (K.C. STAR, 7/26).

    GIANTS: Giants President & CEO John Mara noted fans who bought season tickets could authorize the team to charge their credit cards for the full amount once the lockout ended, and he said the club today would likely "send out a notice informing them that now that we have the settlement, we will charge your credit card." Mara said, "I’m sure some of the fans did not appreciate what was going on. But this is a business and we made a bad deal back in 2006 and the players themselves admitted they made a terrific deal back then and this was an opportunity for us to try to correct that. I am just thankful we were able to do it without having to cancel games. I was not that confident about that once the lockout started" ("Francesa," WFAN-AM, 7/25).

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  • The NFL Goes Back To Work: Teams Send Letters Thanking Fans For Their Support

    Richardson pens open letter to Panthers fans committing to building a championship team

    Several NFL teams yesterday released letters to their fans thanking them for their support during the 136-day lockout. Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson penned a letter to fans that appeared on the team's website yesterday and in today's Charlotte Observer. The letter read in part, "The last 12 months have been very difficult for Panthers fans. ... You are passionate about the game and have stuck with our organization through the highs and lows that come with an NFL franchise. ... I have learned timetables can be tricky, but I can promise we will continue to make a total commitment to building the championship team you deserve" (THE DAILY). In Boston, Ian Rapoport notes the Patriots sent season-ticket holders a "letter of thanks" after a 97% renewal rate this offseason. Team Owner Robert Kraft and President Jonathan Kraft acknowledged that the last five months "have been tough for fans in likely the first offseason dedicated to the business of the game, rather than the game itself." The Krafts "thanked fans for their patience." The letter read in part, "We look forward to getting back to the game of football and look forward to seeing you in Foxboro in the coming weeks." The note described the new CBA as "fair" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/26). Meanwhile, Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie and President Joe Banner also wrote a letter to fans that read in part, "We're proud to represent Philly fans, and we thank you for your patience during this long offseason" (PHILLY.com, 7/26).

    THANKFUL FOR THE FANS: Broncos President Joe Ellis was asked yesterday if the lockout did any "long-term damage" to both the NFL as a whole and the Broncos specifically. Ellis said, "It's not so much as it would have been if we had started canceling games, there's no question about that." He added, "We have had tremendous support from our sponsors and ticket holders, and they have been unwavering. I think we’ve done the best we can to communicate with them through this. They have had every opportunity to abandon us, no question about it" (DENVERPOST.com, 7/25).

    RE-STARTING TICKET SALES PUSH: In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino reports the Jaguars "will start a season-ticket blitz Tuesday with the theme of 'It’s Go Time,' hoping to make up for lost time." The team has to sell about a "total of 17,000 non-premium tickets per game -- including 10,000 season tickets -- to avoid TV blackouts for the second consecutive season." Jaguars Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Macky Weaver said, "It’s a big number, but I’m cautiously optimistic." Team Owner Wayne Weaver said, "We need the fans to step up." The Jaguars also have 4,000 premium tickets to sell, but those "don't count toward the blackout number." Stellino notes the NFL also is starting a "Back to Football" marketing campaign with the lockout lifted (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/26). Meanwhile, Vikings VP/Sales & Marketing and CMO Steve LaCroix said that single-game tickets "will go on sale Aug. 3, and a push will be made to increase the season-ticket base." LaCroix: "We're going to be very aggressive with our season-ticket base that have not responded or didn't fully commit to this year, and get back in touch with them." LaCroix said that the Vikings have sold "more than 2,500 new season tickets this offseason, but acknowledged the team isn't in the range of last year when it sold about 55,000" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/26).

    NOT WAITING AROUND: StubHub said yesterday ticket sales on the site for upcoming '11 NFL regular season games were doubling typical sales patterns, both in terms of unit sales and gross dollar volume, as a result of the end of the lockout. The most actively traded team yesterday, by number of tickets sold, was the 49ers, followed in order by the Cowboys, Redskins, Chargers, Chiefs, Giants, Jets, Lions, Packers and Saints. With the additional trading activity, however, the average price fell to $120 per ticket, down from $134 on Sunday and $145 per ticket a week ago (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal).

    GOING TO THE NIGHT TIME: In Green Bay, Rob Demovsky notes the Packers' full training camp schedule "won't be announced until Tuesday at the earliest," but team President & CEO Mark Murphy indicated that it "would look quite a bit different than in previous summers." Murphy: "Most of the practices will probably be in the evenings. I think those are very popular" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 7/26). Murphy said that the team "will go ahead with its annual Lambeau Field preseason practice (Family Night scrimmage), only this time it will not include a full-contact scrimmage." It will be a "normal night practice that fans will pay $10 to attend." Murphy noted that the Packers were "one of the teams who did not require any of their employees to take a salary cut during the lockout." Murphy: "I'm proud of the way we handled it as an organization." Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Tom Silverstein reports the defending Super Bowl champions "will make it to the White House for a visit with President Barack Obama next month." Murphy said that the team "has been working behind the scenes to arrange a visit before the start of the regular season" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/26).

    REMEMBERING THE ALAMO: In San Antonio, Tom Orsborn reports the Cowboys will report to training camp at the Alamodome tomorrow, but "unlike in past years when the team trained in San Antonio, there will be no 'Kickoff Spectacular.'" The annual pep rally and concert the night before the first practice was a "casualty of the lockout because the uncertainty of the labor talks made it difficult to plan" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 7/26).

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