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Patriots Owner ROBERT KRAFT has had a "profound impact" on the NFL that "deserves to be celebrated," according to Greg Bedard of the BOSTON GLOBE. It is "behind closed doors where Kraft’s reach is really being felt, as he has carved out a vital role as emissary for all things NFL" and Commissioner ROGER GOODELL since losing his wife, MYRA. As the league's Broadcast Committee Chair, Kraft was "going to be involved in the negotiations for the new television contracts ... but he has also been actively involved in placing a team in Los Angeles and the league’s ventures in Europe, among other things." At this point, if "something big is going on in the NFL, Kraft is involved." Kraft said he told Goodell "I needed to fill my time and I’d help him in any way I could, especially with Myra’s passing." He added, "He and I have a good relationship. The TV deals, that’s something I would normally do. I just told him I was there to help him any way I could, so he’s allowed me to. We have other businesses, but I have capable sons, and I love the NFL." Goodell said of Kraft, "He has tremendous business instincts, he cares deeply about the Patriots and the league. He is a tremendous resource for me to be able to bounce ideas off of and help me think through ideas, and I consider that a tremendous asset for me personally and the league in general." Bedard noted as an NFL owner, "you’d be hard-pressed to have more of an impact than Kraft did in 2011." Goodell: "For the first half of 2011, clearly his priority was with Myra and he made that incredibly clear, but at the same time I don’t think he ever compromised helping the league at any critical stage. Whenever there was a meeting, he was there. If I felt it was important for him to be there, he would be there." Bedard noted if it had not been for the work done by Giants President & CEO JOHN MARA and Kraft to "end the NFL lockout, we might not even have a Super Bowl this week." Goodell said, "Both John Mara and Robert Kraft contributed a great deal in that context, but there are so many people that played a valuable role in the labor deal" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/29).
VOICES OF REASON: NFL Giants Chair & Exec VP STEVE TISCH said, "Bob is the strongest, most passionate and caring of the owners in the NFL. His commitment to the league is 100%. ... His guidance and friendship over the years has been incredibly valuable to me, and the relationship is an important and strong one" (L.A. TIMES, 1/30). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes if they "handed out a trophy for saving the 2011 NFL season," then Mara and Kraft would be "standing on the podium together accepting the award from the 2,000 players in the league." The two "played invaluable roles as lead negotiators in ending the lockout and allowing the Super Bowl to even be played this year." More than anybody, Mara and Kraft "put an end to the torturous 136-day lockout that had threatened the season." They "knew the owners and players needed each other and it was a partnership." They were the "voices of reason" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/30).
A DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE THIS YEAR: N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica said the Patriots head to the Super Bowl “less than the team they are supposed to be” after the passing of Myra Kraft. Lupica: “Last summer ... Bob Kraft did more than any owner to end the NFL lockout (and) preserve a season that now ends for his team in Indianapolis against the Giants. (He) did all that against his wife’s brave fight against cancer. There have been other seasons that ended with the Super Bowl for Mr. Kraft. Just not like this one” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 1/29).
Granite Communications President ROB HALE has joined the ownership group of the Celtics (Celtics)….The Single-A California League San Jose Giants named AFAR Media President DANIEL ORUM President & CEO. Orum replaces interim President BILL SCHLOUGH, who will return to his full-time position as MLB Giants Senior VP & CIO (Giants)….The Chiefs named Rams Senior Dir of Communications TED CREWS VP/Communications (Chiefs)….Finish Line named Crocs VP/Global E-Commerce JAY CUSTARD VP/Digital Marketing (Finish Line)….The Bills promoted Team Marketing Manager MARCEY BRYANT to Senior Manager of Event Services (Bills)….The Indians named MLB Rangers Manager of Media Relations & Communications COURT BERRY-TRIPP Coordinator/Baseball Information (Indians).
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In N.Y., Dave Seminara notes the George Washington Univ. School of Business STAR EMBA program is the "first executive MBA program for professional athletes." The "invitation-only program feature all of the coursework one would expect to find in an MBA curriculum, but the students are anything but ordinary." Graduate schools across the country "have seen a rise in applications during the recession," and NFL and GWU officials said that that trend "may be spilling over into the ranks of current and retired professional athletes." GWU "decided to put its initial focus on the NFL, because other sports have shorter off-seasons." In recent years, "dozens of NFL players have completed advanced degrees at a variety of universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, the University of Chicago, Pennsylvania, Columbia and Duke." The league’s CBA "offers players a tuition reimbursement of up to $15,000 a year" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/30).
WRITING NEW CHAPTERS: Former NBAer SAM VINCENT is trying to expand the National Basketball Retired Players Association "beyond its chapters in Orlando, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Houston and Phoenix." Vincent said that he "hopes to get the likes" of MICHAEL JORDAN, SCOTTIE PIPPEN, SHAQUILLE O'NEAL and PENNY HARDAWAY involved. He added that Magic CEO ALEX MARTINS "has pledged his support." Vincent said that he "hopes some of today's players attend a panel discussion during All-Star Weekend in Orlando," which will include Basketball HOFers JULIUS ERVING and ELGIN BAYLOR, along with National Urban League President MARC MORIAL. The topic: "The impact of African-American players on the business side of basketball" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 1/29).
COURT BATTLE: Former NFLer HUNTER HILLENMEYER is waging a fight against the NFL "to receive what the NFL Players Association says is $900,000 due him according to the collective bargaining agreement after two doctors, one the independent neurological consultant for the Bears, recommended he no longer play football" due to concussions. Hillenmeyer said, "It makes me sick to see (the league) claim it is driving concussion research and putting players safety first. The whole system is designed to do one thing: make owners money" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/29).
SECRET AGENTS: In S.F., John Shea profiled MATT SOSNICK and PAUL COBBE, who have "quietly built the Bay Area's most influential baseball agency." The two have negotiated $300M in "guaranteed contracts the past three years through Sonick Cobbe Sports." The firm has six agents and "represents 88 players," including Reds RF JAY BRUCE, Marlins P JOSH JOHNSON and Rays P MATT MOORE. Sosnick "will be a groomsman" in the November wedding of client and Giants C SCOTT COUSINS -- after Cousins "proposed in Sosnick's home and had his engagement party there" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/28).
BUYING & SELLING: Former Lightning co-Owner LEN BARRIE "was finally kicked out of his opulent mansion" near Victoria, British Columbia. HSBC Canada has "mortgages on the 12,500-square-foot house" for more than C$14M. It "was supposed to take over the house on Jan. 16 but Barrie and his family were still living there, which prompted the bank to obtain a court order evicting" them (GLOBEANDMAIL.com, 1/27)....Clippers G CHRIS PAUL has purchased the 12,184-square-foot Bel-Air home of signer AVRIL LAVIGNE for $8.495M (L.A. TIMES, 1/29).....Jaguars Owner SHAHID KHAN is trying to sell his 223-foot yacht for a little more than $112M. The yacht is also available for "$600,000 a week plus expenses" for Caribbean cruises this winter (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/29).
NAMES: An estimated 17,000 people attended Saturday's WalkAbout Autism -- a half-mile walk around SunLife Stadium sponsored by the Dan Marino Foundation. The foundation exceeded its fundraising goal by 40%, bringing in $700,000 (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 1/29)....Former MLBer EDDIE GUARDADO helped organize the Stars & Strikes celebrity bowling tournament in Tustin, Calif. The event, attended by Angels CF TORII HUNTER, Rangers 3B ADRIAN BELTRE and other MLBers, benefited Autism Care & Treatment Today (OCREGISTER.com, 1/29)....New Buccaneers coach GREG SCHIANO owes Rutgers $800,000 for leaving the school early, with $500,000 of that amount due "over the next 30 days as part of his buyout penalty" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 1/28)....NBC has commissioned composer JOEL BECKERMAN to "create an orchestral-rock hybrid" of JOHN WILLIAMS' '06 piece "Wide Receiver" for use during Super Bowl XLVI (BILLBOARD.com, 1/27)....White Sox Chair JERRY REINSDORF received the Commissioner's Award for Philanthropic Excellence from MLB Commissioner BUD SELIG on Friday (MLB.com, 1/27)....A source said a publicist for Eagles QB MICHAEL VICK "is asking around for Fashion Week invites" (N.Y. POST, 1/30).
IN MEMORY: BARBARA DOUGLAS, the first African-American Chair of the USGA's women's committee, died Saturday after a lengthy battle with ovarian cancer. Douglas, 69, was a past President of the National Minority Golf Foundation and a member of the National Black Golf HOF (ESPN.com, 1/29).