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SBD/July 16, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
The Bills, "in a move likely to irk many fans, are opting out" of the new NFL policy that allows the lifting of TV blackouts if at least 85% of nonpremium seats are sold, according to Gene Warner of the BUFFALO NEWS. Bills CEO Russ Brandon said, "We are not going to participate in the relaxed-manifest rule. We are a volume-based business, and for us to be successful, we need to keep our ticket prices low and sell a greater number of tickets." The Bills join the Colts and Chargers, "two other smaller-market teams that also appear to be opting out of the relaxed policy." U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-New York) said, "I think it's disappointing, and I think it's somewhat short-sighted. I'm disappointed that they didn't take into account the loyalty of the fan base here in Buffalo." Of the Bills' last six blacked-out home games, "only one" reached the 85% threshold. The Bills "fear that the new policy, if adopted, would have threatened the team's ticket base." More fans "might opt out of season tickets or individual-game tickets." The Bills "clearly view this as a business decision, to protect their product." Brandon, regarding what effect the Bills' decision to opt out of the blackout policy will have on current lease talks with Erie County and the state of New York, said, "None whatsoever. This is a business decision, and it's a business decision aimed at preserving the integrity of our most loyal customers, our season-ticket holders" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/14). In Buffalo, Donn Esmonde wrote under the header, "Bills Short-Change Fans With Blackout." Esmonde: "By easing the blackout, the team could have given back to fans who don't have the time, ability, interest or money to go to a game. Instead, it Just Said No. It is no way to show that you care" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/15).
WORK IN PROGRESS: Erie County Exec Mark Poloncarz said, "I'm not surprised with the result. I feel if they went with the blackout rule, they would have asked for more money." He said that Buffalo "is not in a large market like New York City or San Francisco, and this move reflects that." Poloncarz: "We don't have the economic resources that those other cities do" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/14). In Buffalo, Gee, Warner & Gaughan noted Poloncarz "wants a new lease that ties the Buffalo Bills to Ralph Wilson Stadium for many years." But how long the state and county "can ensure the Bills stay in Buffalo will depend on several factors." One factor is the "length of the lease, expected to be 10 to 15 years." Another is "how much of a financial penalty the team would face for leaving." Also, whether the county "can get the Bills to agree to clauses like those in the Jacksonville Jaguars' lease, considered perhaps the most ironclad" in the NFL. But it "might be hard to get an ironclad guarantee that would prevent the Buffalo Bills from leaving town during the duration of their next stadium lease agreement." Some kind of assurance that the Bills will stay in Buffalo "is believed to be key." The Bills "were not planning on having an ironclad guarantee in the new deal." While it is "not known whether they could be talked into the idea," the two sides "can look to the closest thing the NFL has to a guarantee, the Jacksonville situation." A framework of the deal "could be agreed to in the next couple of weeks" (BUFFALO NEWS, 7/15).
The Buccaneers on Friday announced the team "will take full advantage" of the blackout policy, according to Stephen Holder of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. The Bucs have agreed to allow games to be shown on local TV if at least 85% of general admission seats are sold 72 hours before a game. Based on the 51,000-plus general admission seats in Raymond James Stadium, the Bucs "will need to sell fewer than 44,000 per game" to reach the 85% threshold. The team averaged 56,614 in total attendance for its seven regular-season home games last season, about 87% of the stadium's 65,000-seat capacity. The Bucs "must adhere" to the 85% threshold all season, "meaning they can't change it depending on the opponent." If the team starts selling out games, it is "on the hook to split revenue with the visiting team on every ticket sold" above 85% (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/14).
THANK YOU, NO: In Florida, Tania Gangulihe Jaguars noted the Jaguars can be added "to the list of teams to decline the NFL's new relaxed blackout policies." Jaguars President Mark Lamping said, "We have not finalized our blackout number yet, but it will be the same as last year, or very close, to accommodate some seating initiatives we are considering unrelated to the blackout issue." The Jaguars "have not had a blackout since the 2009 season in which nine of 10 home games" were blacked out on local TV (JACKSONVILLE.com, 7/13).
SENSITIVE SUBJECT: The Colts also will opt out of the new blackout policy, and an INDIANAPOLIS STAR editorial stated, "By making a non-issue an issue this week, the Indianapolis Colts managed to offend fans, upset restaurant and sports bar owners, and pick away at old scabs about the overly generous deal that built and maintains the team's Lucas Oil Stadium home." It is "clear the Colts had good business reasons to operate under the old blackout rules." It is "clear, too, that the challenges of operating in a smaller market aren't fully appreciated by many fans or team critics." If the Colts had "issued a press release saying the team greatly appreciated fan support, noting that sellouts were fully expected and explaining the issues fully, far fewer people would have been upset" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 7/13).
After acquiring G Raymond Felton, the Knicks decided Saturday night that they “will not match” G Jeremy Lin’s “back-loaded" three-year, $25M offer sheet from the Rockets, according to a source cited by Marc Berman of the N.Y. POST. Knicks Owner James Dolan “might have matched the offer had it been done above board.” But the Knicks “were furious Lin renegotiated the contract after they had told him they would match it, knowing how deadly it would be financially to the organization’s coffers because of the tax.” Dolan is “all about loyalty and the revamped offer sheet rubbed him the wrong way” (N.Y. POST, 7/16). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro wrote the Knicks “made a basketball decision and not a marketing decision.” Which is “exactly the way it should be” (N.Y. POST, 7/15). Also in N.Y., Bob Raissman wrote, "Dolan apparently decided Lin had done all he could in terms of producing ancillary revenue for MSG." Lin "delivered big time," and he was "the catalyst for settling Time Warner’s blackout of the MSG Network." That deal "resulted in a big payday for MSG.” If Lin does not return to the Knicks, MSG "could face a backlash from media and fans alike” because Lin “spread the kind of vibe only an underdog could” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/15). The N.Y. DAILY NEWS reports there is an “internet petition designed to convince James Dolan to match the Rockets’ ‘ridiculous’ offer.” As of last night, the petition “had gotten a little over 1,000 signatures," despite the creator of the petition “hoping for 100,000” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/16). In Houston, Jonathan Feigen wrote Lin’s value as a marketing force “is difficult to overstate.” The Knicks “do not have attendance issues, but Lin can bolster everything from sponsorship deals to stock prices.” The N.Y. market is “unparalleled for launching marketing opportunities.” The Rockets would “also receive many of those benefits.” For Lin, a return to Houston “could prove as fortuitous as his departure” (CHRON.com, 7/15).
Saints QB Drew Brees' new five-year, $100M deal was "an obvious win-win-win for the player, the team and the Who Dat Nation," according to Mike Triplett of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. Triplett wrote, "All that talk of 'market value' and 'leverage' over the past five months seems so silly now. Everyone involved in the negotiations, every fan and most every media analyst spent Friday congratulating both sides on the deal. And virtually no one suggested that either side got the raw end" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 7/15). ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas wrote Saints players, coaches and team Owner Tom Benson "finally can start moving on." The Saints' "dysfunction was masked almost exclusively by one man -- Brees." Yasinskas wrote, "I have to believe that [Saints GM Mickey] Loomis and Benson knew all along that they couldn’t afford to go into this season without Brees, no matter how much he would impact the salary cap." Both sides were "simply playing the game." They played it "far too long and made it much more dramatic and bitter than it had to be" (ESPN.com, 7/13). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole wrote Brees can "officially now go about repairing the damage done to the team this offseason by the bounty scandal." Brees is the "guy who every player (and even most coaches) is going to look to for answers as the Saints navigate a challenging 2012 season." The most "shocking part of this offseason is that the Saints, starting with Loomis and owner Tom Benson, didn't seem to realize (or value) that" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/13). Meanwhile, Black & Gold Sports Shop Owner Pam Randazza said, "People have been holding out buying jerseys for Drew Brees until he was signed. All of a sudden, we're getting bombed with jersey orders" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 7/14).
WHAT PEOPLE WERE SAYING: Brees' signing drew a variety of comments from on-air pundits over the weekend. ESPN’s Rob Parker said, “Every player in the NFL should feel good that he made the owners blink. He’s been underpaid for a long time” (“Numbers Never Lie,” ESPN2, 7/13). ESPN’s Antonio Pierce said, “What he’s done for this organization, on and off the field, I think it’s priceless to a certain degree because this was a team that struggled for a lot of years” (“NFL 32,” ESPN, 7/13). ESPN’s Tom Jackson said, “Considering everything that happened to that team over the course of the last year this had to happen. I’m going to steal a quote from LeBron James: It is about time that the Saints got it right” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 7/13). N.Y. Daily News columnist Mike Lupica: “You can make a case that because of Bountygate, because of the hit the franchise (took), he might have had more leverage in this negotiation than any NFL player has ever had at any time. If he had held out like three more days, it wouldn’t be the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It would have been the Drew Brees Superdome” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 7/15). SB Nation’s Bomani Jones: “It sounds to me like the Saints caved and lost bad and they could have played nice.” NBC Sports Network's Erik Kuselias: "He's an important position. As long as he continues to play at that level, you can't overpay for that kind of quality. I think the Saints are getting the better end” (“NBC Sports Talk,” NBC Sports Network, 7/13).
NO STONE UNTURNED: CBSSPORTS.com's Clark Judge noted former FBI Dir Louis Freeh now is moving from "investigating Penn State to the New Orleans Saints." Freeh and his team "earlier this spring were hired by Saints owner Tom Benson in a bold and courageous move that should set the record straight once and for all." In hiring Freeh, Benson shows that he "isn't afraid of the truth" and that he "wants to get to the bottom of a scandal that won't go away." Freeh will "look into allegations of electronic eavesdropping of opposing coaches, too, which makes sense considering there's still an open criminal investigation into the charges." Essentially, Benson has "asked Freeh to tell him what he doesn't know about his organization, and that's not just smart; it's downright responsible" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/13).
After the New York Cosmos last week announced the team will join the NASL in '13, MLS officials "have good things to say about" team Chair Seamus O'Brien, according to Grant Wahl of SI.com. O'Brien is a "respected 27-year veteran of the European and Asian sports industry," which is "in stark contrast to previous Cosmos chairman Paul Kemsley, a bombastic (and bankrupt) Brit who made a lot of unfulfilled promises, besmirched the Cosmos name and, oh yes, essentially set $10 million on fire." O'Brien and the Saudi Arabia-based Sela Sport took control of the Cosmos last year. O'Brien is "quick to distance himself from Kemsley." He said, "We won't say anything we're not going to deliver on, so you're not going to get hyperbole and big, grandiose lunatic statements that might have been the mantra of the past. You're going to get facts and reality." MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "I have spent quite a bit of time with Seamus and his partners, and I think they're terrific. (Joining the NASL) shows they're serious about being real, that it's more than a merchandising play. It's about being a club and having a team with players on the ground and trying to develop a fan base." Wahl wrote MLS has "been clear that it wants the league's 20th team to be a second New York City-area outfit, but the process is an unusual one." MLS owners "want to build a new soccer stadium first -- reportedly in the Flushing Meadows area -- and then hold an auction between ownership groups vying to join the league." The idea is "to draw an expansion fee of up to" $100M, but it could be "at least three years before a stadium is ready." O'Brien "certainly sounds interested in being that second New York-area MLS team." He said, "We've had a dialog with MLS. I'm absolutely sure we'll keep that dialog open" (SI.com, 7/13).
In N.Y., Josh Kosman cites sources as saying that Devils Owner Jeff Vanderbeek is "talking to private-equity firms and hedge funds about buying into his financially strapped team." Sources said that Vanderbeek is "looking to sell a majority stake, but keep operating control." The talks, coming "three weeks after the 55-year-old former Wall Street executive seemed close to inking a deal with an investor to save the team, are leading some in the financial world to believe the deal has fallen apart." Creditors "are owed $80 million." Without an investor "to pay off overdue debts, Vanderbeek risks having the team thrust into Chapter 11 -- or having the NHL" take control of the franchise (N.Y. POST, 7/16).
TIPPING THE CAP: In Pittsburgh, Dejan Kovacevic wrote the "public consensus now" is that Pirates Chair Bob Nutting "had zip to do" with the team's success this season. Kovacevic: "How else to explain not a sliver of credit being sent Nutting's way?" Nutting said Pirates prospect Starling Marte, who the team developed in its Dominican academy, is "absolutely what we need in terms of a talent stream." Kovacevic: "And therein lies the primary reason to tip the cap to Nutting: He's talked about those streams, about building from the ground up, from his very first interviews as controlling owner. More important, he's followed through in the face of relentless, vicious criticism." Nutting has been "demonized like no local sports figure I can recall," and it has been "miles off base" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 7/14).
GLASS HOUSE: In K.C., Sam Mellinger wrote Royals Owner David Glass is "severely misunderstood" in the city, and most of the misunderstanding "is his own damn fault." This is "particularly important right now because this is Glass’ best and last chance to own a winning team." There is an "enormous disconnect between Glass and the fan base." Fans "don’t give him enough credit for his evolution into what people around baseball call a model small-money owner the last six years, and Glass has never been accountable enough for the disastrous years before." The coming months are his "best chance to change all of that, because fans understandably aren’t going to give credit unless they see a winner." The Royals, now "more than ever before, are worth Glass spending more" (K.C. STAR, 7/15).
HEATING UP: In Ft. Lauderdale, Ira Winderman reports the Heat have been "scheduled for a pair of games in China during the 2012 preseason." A source yesterday said that the Heat "will play the Los Angeles Clippers in those games, Oct. 11 in Beijing and Oct. 14 in Shanghai." It will be the Heat's "first appearance in China, with the NBA having visited China in five previous preseasons." The team is currently "in the midst of a multi-year marketing partnership with Chinese beer company Tsingtao" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 7/16).