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SBD/September 10, 2012/FranchisesPrint All
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith yesterday morning sent a letter to players “exalting the recent decision to overturn suspensions" to Saints players allegedly involved in the team's bounty scandal, according to ESPN.com. Smith “credited the strength" of the CBA for the ruling. His letter read in part, "Our CBA provides careful checks and balances to ensure that player rights are protected and no one person can make impartial, biased and unfair decisions. The panel's ruling exposed the league's unfair process and false accusations" (ESPN.com, 9/9). The AP’s Brett Martel noted the ruling by a three-judge appeals panel came “just two days before the first full slate of NFL games this season,” and it is “a setback for Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league.” But while the decision “allows the players to rejoin their teams, it does not permanently void their suspensions.” NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said Goodell would "make an expedited determination of the discipline imposed" for violating the league's bounty rule. Martel noted while the panel “did not address the merits of the NFL's bounty investigation, it found that Goodell overstepped his authority in hearing the players' appeals of their punishments for participating in the Saints bounty program” (AP, 9/8).
THE RULING: In N.Y., Hank Gola noted the panel ruled that Special Master Stephen Burbank, “not Goodell, should discipline players for receiving money from a pool that paid for big plays.” The panel said that Goodell’s role “should be limited to whether he can prove the players intended to injure opponents, which would fall in the category of conduct detrimental to the game.” NFL Exec VP/Labor & General Counsel Jeff Pash in a memo sent to all 32 NFL teams after the ruling emphasized “nothing in today’s decision contradicts any of the facts found in the investigation into this matter, or absolves any player of responsibility for conduct detrimental.” Pash: “Nor does the decision in any way suggest what discipline would be appropriate for conduct that lies within the authority of the Commissioner.” Gola noted Goodell, who is “expected to reissue a decision within the next few weeks but not before [yesterday], can maintain the same penalties or reduce them based on new evidence” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/8). Also in N.Y., Judy Battista wrote the decision “was a small setback for Goodell by a process put in place by the league’s own collective bargaining agreement with the players, but it opens the door for the league and the players to reach a settlement that would end a contentious matter that consumed much of the off-season.” The ordeal is “probably not close to over,” as it is not clear “what kind of discipline the players would be willing to accept if a settlement were offered by the league” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/8).
WHAT'S NEXT? In New Orleans, Mike Triplett wrote the “victory was an extremely minor one -- and a temporary one.” Triplett: “Lost in all the glee that followed the players' reinstatement was the fact that the appeals panel pretty much punted the ball right back to Goodell and the NFL for what it called a ‘redetermination’ of the Saints' penalties.” There is “no reason to expect this standoff will end any time soon, or that it will ever end in the Saints' favor” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 9/8). In Atlanta, Mark Bradley wrote the ruling “wasn’t so much a vindication of the Saints as a defeat for Goodell.” Goodell is “never one to err on the side of deliberation” and he “often acts less like a commissioner than a czar.” In this case, Goodell’s “attempt to levy rough justice was an effort to be pro-active about an issue (player injuries in general, concussions in specific) that has the potential to besmirch the NFL as nothing ever has" (AJC.com, 9/7). ESPN.com’s Jeffri Chadiha wrote Goodell on Friday “received ample reason to reconsider how he's been conducting business.” The players “pulled a major upset and left Goodell looking very much like the cruel tyrant some deem him to be.” The league can “consider its own legal moves at this stage, but there's no real value in that.” It is “best to settle this matter quickly rather than risk any further embarrassment resulting from sheer pride.” It is “already fair to say this decision will have far-reaching ramifications for the NFL's player conduct policy.” The ruling “made the most powerful man in sports look weaker than ever” (ESPN.com, 9/6).
COMMISH TO DELEGATE? YAHOO SPORTS’ Jason Cole wrote Goodell “privately knows, as people around him have admitted, that he went too far in this case.” Goodell “needs to show a willingness to create a system that gives the players a real voice,” as that is the “overarching message you hear again and again from players.” An independent third party “is critical.” Cole: “Instead of trying to collect and protect his power like a squirrel with a nut, Goodell needs to let some of it go." In a situation "where evidence gathered from an internal league investigation can't be shared, have a third party review it and determine whether the commissioner is correct” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/7). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Mike Florio wrote Goodell “should consider appointing as the eventual hearing officer someone other than himself, a right that he expressly possesses under the labor deal.” With the NFLPA arguing that Goodell “isn’t capable of being impartial, Goodell should exercise his authority to designate the person who will hear the appeal, and he should choose someone from the league office who has had no role in the process.” Florio: “Ideally, Goodell should agree to delegate the responsibility to Art Shell or Ted Cottrell, the two men who already have jurisdiction over on-field infractions” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/7).
The Browns had “planned just a brief read over the public address system” to honor the team's late former Owner Art Modell, but did not publicly recognize Modell's passing during their pregame activities yesterday, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Ravens Senior VP/Public & Community Relations Kevin Byrne said that Browns President Mike Holmgren “reached out to Modell's son, David, and said 'we want to do the right thing by the Modell family.’” Byrne said, “David told Mike that he really appreciated the call and the offer, but that he knew it would not be totally accepted by the Cleveland fans. David suggested that the Browns not do a tribute.'' Cabot noted the Browns “received a backlash from angry fans when they announced Friday that they would have an ‘appropriate recognition’ Sunday before the home opener against the Eagles” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 9/9). In Baltimore, Aaron Wilson noted the concern was that an “angry reaction would take place if the Browns did something for Modell due to the lingering hard feelings from the fan base” (Baltimore SUN, 9/9). Browns VP/Media Relations Neal Gulkis said Friday of the organization’s original plan, “We're trying [to] strike the right balance. We want to show respect and dignity for Modell's family, the community and the fans” (CLEVELAND.com, 9/7). In Cleveland, Bud Shaw wrote, “Credit David Modell for doing the right thing in asking the Browns to forego a public remembrance of his late father. Nothing good, or heartfelt, could've come from it” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 9/9).
A FRESH START: The PLAIN DEALER's Cabot in a separate piece wrote yesterday's game marked the “beginning of the Jimmy Haslam era, and it promises to be a golden age in Cleveland Browns football.” Haslam, the team’s prospective Owner expected to be formally approved by the NFL in the coming weeks, “comes to town with a Jerry Jones swagger and a presidential smile and firm handshake.” Haslam “brings money, drive, energy and a passion to restore the Browns’ luster.” He will "have the same profound impact on the city" that Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert has, and he will be "instrumental in developing the lakefront around the stadium." Cabot: "I think he'll be one of the best things to happen to Cleveland in a long, long time and that he'll transform the Browns into a consistent winner” (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 9/9). PRO FOOTBALL TALK’s Mike Florio cited a source as saying former Eagles President Joe Banner has “agreed to terms with the Browns.” Florio wrote, “Nothing will become official until Haslam is approved by the NFL as the new owner of the team. And Haslam may want to wait to unveil Banner until team president Mike Holmgren’s status is resolved” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/9).
The Patriots have taken hold of the Boston sports landscape from the Red Sox, as the Patriots “simply awoke on the morning of Aug. 26 and the town was officially theirs,” according to Bob Ryan of the BOSTON GLOBE. As a result of the Red Sox-Dodgers trade on that date, there “had been a completely bloodless coup.” Some “might argue that they already had the town, and have had it for some time,” but now “there is no dispute.” Ryan wrote, “The Battle of Boston was now over. The New England Patriots have won. The Patriots rule. The Bruins, Celtics, and, yes, the Red Sox obey.” Ryan: “This is monumental. There is nothing comparable in American sport. Boston has been a certified Baseball Town since at least 1871, and perhaps even longer than that.” It turns out the Patriots “didn’t have to do anything but stand around and watch the Red Sox implode” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/9). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy wrote the Patriots are “the envy of just about every NFL organization, and best of all," they "are not the Red Sox.” Shaughnessy wrote, “Pause for a moment and try to imagine Jerod Mayo running upstairs at Gillette to tell Bob Kraft that [coach Bill] Belichick made a joke about Danny Woodhead’s height." Or perhaps Bob and Patriots President Jonathan Kraft taking a call from WR Brandon Lloyd’s cellphone and "agreeing to meet with a dozen Patriots who are unhappy with Belichick." Imagine Belichick "threatening to punch out Glenn Ordway.” Shaughnessy: “It’s nice to have them back on the field. It’s nice to watch a team fans can be proud of” (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/9).
FALL GUY: In Boston, John Tomase wrote those in the Red Sox organization who “care about narratives would like nothing more than to put the mess of the last year” on former Exec VP & GM Theo Epstein, as he is a “convenient scapegoat, since he’s no longer here.” If Red Sox Owner John Henry and Chair Tom Werner, as well as President & CEO Larry Lucchino “want to wash their hands of those decisions and pin them all on their former GM, that’s fine, but it’s also disingenuous” because Epstein “did not operate in a vacuum” (BOSTON HERALD, 9/9).
Newly appointed MLSE President & COO Tom Anselmi "didn’t get all the keys to the shiny kingdom," according to Damien Cox of the TORONTO STAR. Upon his promotion, it "appeared Anselmi was being rewarded for years of fine work and annointed" as the successor to former President & CEO Richard Peddie, "except he wasn't." Cox wrote, "Not quite, that is." The fact that Anselmi "was named president/COO rather than Peddie’s combined title of president/CEO apparently meant a lot." It means he is "in charge now," but it "doesn’t mean it will stay that way, which is where it gets interesting." Some "believe Anselmi almost certainly won’t get the CEO title, and that he will sometime in the coming months fall to No. 2 on the MLSE chain of command." Sources said that if it had "strictly been up to" MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum, Anselmi would have "immediately inherited all of Peddie’s powers." Cox wrote instead, with MLSE Owners Bell and Rogers "possibly having very different ideas of what should be done with a sports company that apparently can’t produce a winning team ... the prestigious Korn Ferry search firm is actively searching for a CEO, one that would be installed over Anselmi." Anselmi on Thursday said, "I’m a candidate for (CEO). I would want the job. ... Hopefully, the board will come to the conclusion that me and this management team are exactly what they need.” Cox wrote the "guessing game will now clearly start to revolve around whether Bell and Rogers see eye to eye on a wide variety of corporate matters, from the role of CEO, to the future of Leafs and Raptors TV, to the status" of Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke and Raptors President & GM Bryan Colangelo (TORONTO STAR, 9/7).
MLS club Chivas USA in its eight-year history “has yet to turn a profit, has waffled on its identity and has struggled to find stability,” which makes this “the best time to declare the Chivas USA idea a failure and look for a way to start over,” according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. TIMES. Chivas USA “hasn't made the MLS playoffs since 2009,” losing more games since that time than any team in the Western Conference, while seeing attendance drop 16.5%, “the largest decline in the league.” When MLS adds a 20th franchise, it could make “existing franchises such as Chivas USA attractive options for places like Orlando and San Antonio.” There “could be money to be made” in such a move for Owners Jorge Vergara and wife Angelica Fuentes. Vergara would probably “have to buy himself out of various commitments before the team could be sold or moved." The team's lease with AEG at Home Depot Center "has two years left." But MLS, which has had "just one franchise relocated in its 17-year history, insists that option isn't being discussed.” Should Vergara keep Chivas USA in Southern California, “he faces a more complex set of challenges, the most vexing of which is how to escape the massive shadow cast” by the AEG-owned Galaxy. Chivas USA is "reportedly paying its rival" more than $1M annually to share Home Depot Center, “making it one of just four MLS teams to pay rent.” The club also receives "no rights fees for its local English-language broadcasts -- not suprising" given that the team has averaged a "barely detectable" 0.1 local rating and 5,500 HHs over the last two seasons. When its lease ends, Chivas USA “hopes to jump to a proposed soccer-specific stadium to be built in Exposition Park” in L.A., but “a new home alone won't address Chivas' larger problems of identity and stability” (L.A. TIMES, 9/9).
A Seatgeek.com survey conducted during the NFL offseason of more than 60 websites "shows that plenty of seats are available on the secondary ticket market," according to Kevin Clark of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. For an "average game at the Dallas Cowboys' 80,000-seat stadium, 24,278 seats are listed as available." Meanwhile, the Patriots "occupied four spots among the five least-scalped games." The Bills' Dec. 16 game in Toronto against the Seahawks "had the fewest seats available -- only 698" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/8). Below is the complete list of NFL teams and the average number of tickets available on the secondary market for a home game.
TEAMAVG. TICKETS TEAMAVG. TICKETS Cowboys24,278 Dolphins8,827 49ers20,148 Steelers8,313 Chargers18,966 Buccaneers8,222 Redskins16,337 Titans7,910 Texans13,201 Colts7,502 Falcons13,181 Vikings7,340 Seahawks12,104 Browns7,252 Bengals11,608 Saints7,008 Lions11,175 Ravens6,731 Chiefs10,669 Packers5,844 Eagles10,064 Giants5,616 Panthers9,789 Bears5,260 Cardinals9,499 Broncos4,699 Raiders9,195 Rams4,308 Jets8,882 Jaguars4,079 Bills8,881 Patriots2,428
In K.C., Sam Mellinger wrote this year, more than any other, "is the one that could most dictate what people here think" of Chiefs GM Scott Pioli. His K.C. "judgment day is fast approaching." It took Pioli "a few years to realize that the Chiefs are way too big in Kansas City for fans and media to only hear from the head coach." Pioli said, "I think I've evolved. I think I've grown. I think I've learned." When asked how he has changed in the last year, or three, Pioli "speaks mostly in generalities -- especially regarding football -- but the signs are everywhere." The "most tangible are his hiring of a head coach who's comfortable in his own skin and dogged pursuit of a new vice president of communications who has one of the league's strongest reputations for promoting conversation with fans and media." This is the "convergence of Pioli's recognition of his own weaknesses and failures" (K.C. STAR, 9/8).
GROWING INTO HIS ROLE: In Houston, Tania Ganguli noted Texans Owner Bob McNair's son, Cal, has been "involved with the Texans franchise from its inception 10 years ago," and five months ago added the title of COO. Someday Cal McNair "will own the team, but it might be decades" with his grandfather still alive at age 102 and his father at 75. Texans Vice Chair Phillip Burguieres said, "I'm starting to see Cal change. I'm starting to see him get more involved. I think giving him the title of chief operating officer gave him a lot of confidence. ... I'm seeing a lot of good things." Cal McNair said, "Dad's not going anywhere. I'm not taking over. He's going to be here. His dad is over 100 years old. My dad loves to work" (CHRON.com, 9/9).
WHO NEEDS TICKETS? Colts Owner Jim Irsay said of the franchise a few months ago still having a few thousand tickets available for home games, "When you're going into a different era, you go 2-14 and you have a lot of changes with so many popular players, it's tough. But you have to consider this has been a tougher time for getting all of the stadiums in the league sold out. That's been the trend with the economy. We're going to be sold out for the opener. We're going to be sold out for the year. I don't think you can be disappointed with that. There is tremendous interest and excitement with the team" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 9/9). Meanwhile, in Denver, Andy Vuong cited StubHub as showing that "demand for Broncos tickets has increased by three times compare with last year" (DENVER POST, 9/9).