SBD/September 6, 2012/People and Pop Culture

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  • Former Browns, Ravens Owner Art Modell Dies At 87; Remembered As NFL Visionary

    Modell's image took a hit after moving Browns to Baltimore in '96

    Former Browns/Ravens Owner ART MODELL died this morning of natural causes at John Hopkins Hospital at the age of 87. Modell owned the Browns from '61-95 before moving the club to Baltimore, where he ran the renamed Ravens from '96-'04. Modell won two NFL Championships ('64 and '00) and he was a key figure in launching "MNF," as he chaired the NFL's TV Committee for 31 years. He also was the only elected NFL President, and was Chair of the NFL Labor Committee, which negotiated the league's first CBA (THE DAILY). NFL Commissioner ROGER GOODELL wrote in a series of tweets, "Art Modell’s leadership was an important part of the NFL’s success during the league’s explosive growth during the 1960s and beyond. Art was a visionary who understood the critical role that mass viewing of NFL games on broadcast television could play in growing the NFL” (TWITTER.com, 9/6).

    ONE OF LEAGUE'S SIGNIFICANT FIGURES: Fox' BRIAN BILLICK said, "I don’t know how you can look at the history of the NFL and where it is right now and not recognize the fingerprints that Art Modell had all over it.” Billick: "In the ‘60s and ‘70s, when it really transcended baseball, when the TV presence exploded, that led to where we are now in the NFL. Art was a huge part of that. He negotiated those first contracts. He was one of the protagonists for creating 'Monday Night Football.' He was the head of the broadcast committee" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN Radio, 9/6). In Akron, Rich Heldenfels notes Modell’s “greatest single contribution to TV and the NFL was his endorsement" of "MNF." Cleveland hosted the first "MNF" game in '70 “at a time when the idea of prime-time network football seemed alien to many observers” (OHIO.com, 9/6). NFL Network’s Mark Kriegel said, “He was one of the first NFL guys who understood he was in the television business as much as he was in the sports business. … His experience in television made him almost a visionary kind of owner.” Meanwhile, NFL Network's Steve Wyche noted Modell was "one of the pioneers in football for integration." NFL Network's Eric Davis: "He was drafting black players when a lot of teams weren’t. He put a black person in charge of a team as a GM. There are things that he added to this game that you have to give him credit for” (“NFL AM,” NFL Network, 9/6).

    A TALE OF TWO CITIES: In Baltimore, Morgan & Murray write Modell "was a visionary in the NFL's boom years." But even as the league "he helped create grew into a billion-dollar industry, he was forced to relocate Cleveland's legendary Browns to Baltimore after the 1995 season to avoid bankruptcy and losing the team." Modell in '99 "sold minority interest" in the Ravens to current Owner STEVE BISCIOTTI. Modell then "yielded controlling interest" to Bisciotti in '04. Modell was "a major fundraiser in Ohio, both for charities and political causes," and he continued that "philanthropical work in Baltimore." But for "all of Modell's philanthropic projects in Cleveland, he will be remembered there mostly for his dramatic exit in 1995" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 9/6). In Cleveland, Tony Grossi writes Modell "was a showman, a sportsman, a fascinating figure in Cleveland sports history." Modell "survived the unfathomable firing of legendary Browns founding coach PAUL BROWN in 1963." His life and legacy "changed dramatically when he moved the Browns -- provoking the wrath of NFL executives and some of the league's most respected team owners who were powerless to stop him." Modell was "vilified by national commentators and politicians, received death threats and employed two bodyguards." He then "cut off one of the greatest pleasures of his life, kibitzing with national reporters, and became a reclusive figure." Modell "became a league outcast" and "never returned to Cleveland after moving the team to Baltimore" (ESPNCLEVELAND.com, 9/6). In Cleveland, Bill Livingston writes under the header, “Art Modell’s Time In Cleveland Didn’t Turn Out The Way He Imagined It Would.” From the moment he “appeared on the dais with the Baltimore officials to announce the deal until his death today, he was the biggest villain in Cleveland history." The “irony was that Art Modell at first connected so well with people in Cleveland, his adopted home" (CLEVELAND.com, 9/6). Former Browns OL DOUG DIEKEN said, “It’s a shame that one decision hurt how some people think of him, because he did so much good” (AP, 9/6).

    STILL WAITING ON CANTON: In Cleveland, Mary Kay Cabot notes Modell has been a finalist for the Pro Football HOF several times, but the move to Baltimore "ultimately prevented Modell from induction despite deserving credentials." The closest he got was the round of 15 in '02, but he "didn't receive enough votes to make it past the first cut to 10.” Modell is “on the primary ballot for the Class of 2013, and many of his supporters are campaigning for him to get in” (CLEVELAND.com, 9/6). NFL Network’s Wyche said, “Here’s a guy on merit that should be in the Hall of Fame, but by moving that team out of Cleveland and creating so much animosity there, he’s still waiting” ("NFL AM, NFL Network, 9/6). 

    SHOULD CLEVELAND HOLD MOMENT OF SILENCE? FOXSPORTSOHIO.com's Zac Jackson writes there "could be a leaguewide moment of silence observed in Modell's memory before kickoffs Sunday and Monday," but for the Browns, the "prudent plan would be to do nothing." Jackson: "The Browns should absolutely not observe a moment of silence in Modell's memory before Sunday's game with the Eagles. It would not end well." The Browns holding such a tribute "would only open the door for fans to interrupt it, make the wrong kind of national news or make it a spectacle." Jackson: "There's just nothing the Browns or Browns fans would gain from that happening" (FOXSPORTSOHIO.com, 9/6).

    TWITTER REAX: Reaction to Modell's passing is starting to come across on Twitter. CBS' Jason La Canfora: "Art Modell will be vilified for some forever for Browns move, but he was a visionary who belonged in Hall of Fame before his passing." Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal: "Covered him in Baltimore, enjoyed the back-and-forth. Departure from Cleveland more complicated than portrayed." SI's Peter King: "One of the most fascinating people I've ever covered in this business. He loved the NFL as much as any owner." ESPN's Andrew Brandt: "One of architects of NFL success, advocated for equal revenue-sharing model." Sports On Earth's Joe Posnanski: "If I ranked the people who had the most influence on my life, Art Modell would be unnervingly high on the list." Ravens WR Torrey Smith: "RIP Mr. Art Modell...without his dream I would have never been able to play for this great city...thank you."

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  • MSG President Scott O'Neil Steps Down After Four Years In The Role

    O'Neil stepped down as MSG President and is not believed to be leaving for another job

    MSG President SCOTT O'NEIL is “stepping down next week after four years with the organization,” according to Frank Isola of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. It is “unclear what led to O’Neil’s abrupt departure.” A source said that O’Neil has been “at odds with Garden Chairman JAMES DOLAN.” Others “insist O’Neil’s goals are different from running the World’s Most Famous Arena.” Sources said that O’Neil “always has had aspirations of becoming NBA commissioner, a job the league’s deputy commish and COO ADAM SILVER is expected to fill once DAVID STERN steps down.” O’Neil worked for the NBA as Senior VP before leaving for MSG. Sources said that O’Neil is “calling his move a resignation, but according to sources this could very well be Dolan’s way of forcing out a personality the organization considers a potential leak -- an approachable businessman who does not instinctively fear and loathe the press” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/6). In N.Y., Howard Beck notes O’Neil “helped stabilize the Knicks after the controversy and tumult of the ISIAH THOMAS era.” The reasons for O’Neil’s departure were “not immediately clear, but it appears he is not leaving for another job.” O’Neil was “constantly pushing to expand his influence in the daily operations of the Knicks and the Rangers, as well as on the business side, creating some tension with Dolan.” O’Neil was “well regarded around the league, and he generated millions in new revenue for the Garden.” The MSG statement said that the search for O’Neil’s successor will “begin immediately” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/6).

    Print | Tags: Madison Square Garden, People and Pop Culture
  • Warriors Hire NBA Exec Gail Hunter To Aid In Community Efforts Around New S.F. Arena

    The Warriors named longtime NBA exec GAIL HUNTER VP/Public Affairs & Event Management as the team steps up its effort to build a new arena in downtown S.F. Hunter spent the last 13 years working for the NBA, most recently as Senior VP/Events & Attractions. The Warriors said Hunter will help lead community relationship efforts in S.F. connected to the planned arena. Warriors co-Owner JOE LACOB said in a statement, “She has a proven record in the sports and entertainment business and is incredibly well-respected for her vast accomplishments in the industry.” Prior to joining the NBA in '99, Hunter worked for MLB and for the Mariners. Hunter said, “The opportunity to be affiliated with the new San Francisco sports and entertainment project for the Warriors, among other things, is very appealing. This is an exciting time in the Bay Area.”

    Print | Tags: People and Pop Culture, Golden State Warriors
  • Executive Transactions

    The Spurs formally named Jazz assistant coach and former Knicks President & GM SCOTT LAYDEN Assistant GM (Spurs)….The NBA promoted Senior VP/Player Development MIKE BANTOM to Exec VP/Referee Operations. Bantom will report to NBA President of League Operations JOEL LITVIN (NBA)….Shamrock Sports & Entertainment promoted NICOLLE MEYER to VP/Partnerships (Shamrock)….England Rugby 2015 named LOCOG Dir of Sport DEBBIE JEVANS CEO, replacing PAUL VAUGHAN, who stepped down (England Rugby 2015)….The Univ. of Alaska-Fairbanks named Montana State Univ.-Billings AD GARY GRAY to the same position (NEWSMINER.com, 8/31)….Central Washington Univ. AD JACK BISHOP announced he will retire next June (CWU)….Colorado State Univ. named Buccaneers Senior Dir of Sales & Advertising JASON LAYTON Senior Associate AD/Sales & Marketing (CSU)….The Univ. of Maryland promoted Coordinator of Development, Alumni & Community Relations KEVIN GLOVER to Associate AD and Exec Dir of the M Club (Maryland).

    Do you have an executive announcement? If so, please send to editorial@sportsbusinessdaily.com.

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  • Names In The News

    Wilson, 93, is in his 53rd year overseeing the Bills and is the NFL's oldest owner

    Bills Owner RALPH WILSON “was released from the hospital Tuesday and is home doing well.” Wilson, 93, was admitted last week to a hospital near his home in Gross Pointe Shores, Mich., “with what was believed to be an infection.” The Bills said Wilson, in his 53rd season as Bills Owner, was “listed in good condition throughout his stay” (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/6)….Magic Owner RICH DEVOS “is said to be in good condition after suffering a mild stroke last month.” DeVos was admitted to a hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Aug. 19 and “underwent tests and was released” on Aug. 21. DeVos in '97 “received a new heart during a transplant procedure in London” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 9/6).

    GOLDEN OPPORTUNITIES: Gold Medal-winning U.S. swimmer MISSY FRANKLIN took in a MLS Rapids game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park yesterday. Franklin, on the top things she has done since the Olympics, said, “Either Jay Leno or Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. The Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day was so much fun. I got to meet so many incredible people. It was for such an awesome cause” (DENVER POST, 9/6)….Gold Medal-winning U.S. swimmer MICHAEL PHELPS and other Olympians from Maryland “will be honored at a celebration Monday afternoon at the Inner Harbor, after which the swimmer will be named an honorary captain of the Ravens at the team’s season opener” (Baltimore SUN, 9/6).

    NAMES: Golf Digest Writer-At-Large DAN JENKINS was named winner of the PEN Literary Lifetime Achievement Award for Literary Sports Writing. He will be honored at a ceremony on Oct. 23 in N.Y. (Golf Digest)….Int’l Ice Hockey Federation VP and former Hockey Canada President MURRAY COSTELLO will be presented with the Wayne Gretzky Int’l Award as part of the U.S. Hockey HOF induction ceremony and dinner on Oct. 15 in Dallas. The award pays tribute to int'l individuals who have made major contributions to the growth and advancement of hockey in the U.S. (USA Hockey)….News Corp. Chair & CEO RUPERT MURDOCH received a $30M “compensation package in the company’s 2012 fiscal year.” That figure “represented a cut” of nearly 10%, or $3M, from last year. COO CHASE CAREY, who was paid $24.8M in FY ’12, saw “a nearly 18% reduction” (L.A. TIMES, 9/5)….Bobcats Owner MICHAEL JORDAN “will be used as both an advisor and motivator” for the U.S. team at this month’s Ryder Cup (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 9/5)….Several athletes participated in the American Rights at Work’s Labor Day Tweet-a-Thon, including Texans LB BRIAN CUSHING, Bears K ROBBIE GOULD, Tigers P JUSTIN VERLANDER and Rays 3B EVAN LONGORIA. The NFLPA and MLBPA were among the event’s organizers (POLITICO.com, 9/5)….Actor MATTHEW PERRY last night announced the Dodgers’ starting lineup before the game against the Padres at Dodger Stadium (NCTIMES.com, 9/5).

    IN MEMORY: Former AP and N.Y. Times sports writer TOM KENVILLE, who also served as a publicist for boxing HOFer MUHAMMAD ALI, passed away Tuesday at the age of 82 after a long battle with cancer (AP, 9/5).

    Print | Tags: People and Pop Culture
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