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The MLBPA, MLB and Red Sox yesterday announced a combined donation of $600,000 to the victims of last week's Boston Marathon bombings, with the MLB and MLBPA combining for $500,000 and the Red Sox adding $100,000. MLB will encourage fans to donate to The One Fund Boston throughout all national telecasts on Fox, MLB Network, ESPN and TBS and will promote charity signage behind home plate. MLB.com, RedSox.com and MLBPlayers.com also will be promoting the fund. Additionally, MLB licensee Brand 47 has produced caps featuring the B Strong Logo with the Red Sox' stylized B. All proceeds from cap sales will go to The One Fund Boston (MLBPA). MLB.com's Jason Mastrodonato reports as of last night, $300,000 "had already been raised via hat sales" (MLB.com, 4/22). ESPN BOSTON's Joe McDonald noted as a "result of contributions made by fans at Fenway Park this weekend," the Red Sox Foundation pulled in $46,500. In "addition to the donations, the Red Sox, MLB and MLBPA will continue to raise funds" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 4/21). In Boston, Michael Silverman notes Red Sox LF Jonny Gomes played with a "custom-made bat engraved with the names of the four victims and 'Boston Strong.'" Gomes has four bats and will "eventually auction them all off" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/22).
RECOVERY EFFORT: In Boston, Peter Schworm wrote the Red Sox' first home game since the bombings on Saturday against the Royals "felt like a new beginning, and some fans spoke of a burden lifted." Many fans "went out of their way to thank law enforcement personnel." In a "moving pregame ceremony, the fans sang the national anthem together, their voices rising as one." Before the anthem, fans "stood and cheered as a video montage, set to the song 'Hallelujah,' showed a series of vivid images from recent days, from the scene at the bombings" to the capture of the second bombing suspect in Watertown, Mass. Red Sox DH David Ortiz before the game "declared defiantly that this 'is our (expletive) city, and nobody is going to dictate our freedom.'" The FCC in a tweet said that it "forgave Ortiz for letting the expletive fly, noting that the slugger 'spoke from the heart'" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/21). Also in Boston, Schweitzer & Allen noted law enforcement officials at the game were "treated like royalty as fans expressed their gratitude" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/21). The BOSTON HERALD's Silverman wrote the "recovery has begun. And baseball, once again, is helping with the healing" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/21). In Boston, Evelyn Lau wrote the game Saturday was about "honoring victims and paying tributes to heroes." But it was "mostly about feeling normal again" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/21).
EMOTIONAL DAY: In Boston, Julian Benbow wrote, "Looking out at the faces in the crowd, people who had come to Fenway Park to escape, to celebrate, and recapture some of the normalcy they had lost, David Ortiz felt what they were feeling." Ortiz said, "I don’t think there was one human being who wasn’t affected by what we got going on down here. This past week for me, myself, I was very emotional and angry about the whole situation and got to get that out of my chest and make sure our fans and everyone in the nation knows that this is a great nation and part of it was supporting each other when everything went down.” At the end of the ceremony, Ortiz’s microphone was "hot and his words were clear." Ortiz later apologized "for the swear, but not the sentiment." But in the "wake of incomprehensible terror, the words were forceful, defiant, and proud." Marathon volunteers "lined the Green Monster in front of an American flag as wide as the 231-foot long wall." The Royals and Red Sox stood "shoulder to shoulder along the foul lines." Red Sox P Andrew Bailey said, “Guys were fighting back tears on the line. I’ve never been a part of something like that.” Security for the game was "heightened," as earlier in the day police dogs "checked the ballpark." Officers in bright yellow jackets "seemed to be at every turn" and fans were "wanded down at the entrances." It took a 7:30am ET flight for Neil Diamond to "make it to Boston" from L.A. Then, he "called into the main Fenway Park switchboard and asked if he could sing 'Sweet Caroline'" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/21).
MAKING HIS POINT: The BOSTON HERALD's Silverman wrote Ortiz' message was "loud, clear and justifiably profane." When the Red Sox "returned to action after canceling Friday night’s game, they began the restoration of normalcy to a town that desperately needs some of that." Ortiz speaks "excellent English and has never been shy about showing off his mastery of some of its saltiest words," but he usually "waits, though, until the microphones and cameras are off." But Saturday "was different." Ortiz: "If I offended anybody, I apologize, but I feel like this town needs to be pumped, it seems like that was it" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/21). ESPN BOSTON's Gordon Edes wrote though Ortiz apologized, he "needn't have been too concerned, judging by the roar that greeted his F-bomb" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 4/21). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes Ortiz "grabbed an old town," and "lifted it up" (HARTFORD COURANT, 4/22). ESPN's Buster Olney said he “thought it was so cool” that FCC Chair Julius Genachowski tweeted his support of Ortiz and the city of Boston. Olney: “The head of the FCC gets it, everybody gets it. What an important day in Red Sox history.” ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian added, “They’ve already made T-shirts with what Big Papi said (Saturday). My guess is it’s going to be a big seller” (“Baseball Tonight,” ESPN, 4/21). To see how the networks handled Ortiz’ profanity, see Weekend Rap.
CHANGING THINGS UP: ESPN BOSTON's Edes noted the Red Sox on Saturday wore white jerseys with "Boston" across the front, something they have not worn "at home on a regular basis in more than a century, not since 1911." But following the bombings, Red Sox front-office execs "huddled with MLB, which approved the plan to wear the jerseys when the team returned home from Cleveland." A "rush order went out to the Majestic factory in Easton, Pa." Red Sox Equipment Manager Tom McLaughlin said, "We gave them a roster of who was going to be here, it must have been Wednesday. They hammered them out on Wednesday and Thursday; they did all the lettering and embroidering" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 4/21). Red Sox President & CEO Larry Lucchino said that the uniforms that the Red Sox wore Saturday will be "auctioned off within the next couple of days to keep the donations flowing." Lucchino: "As far as we know, that's the first time in the 113-year history of the Red Sox they've worn white uniforms that say Boston on the front. They have been signed and will be auctioned off" (MLB.com, 4/22).
LENDING A HAND: In Boston, Nancy Marrapese-Burrell wrote fans for the Penguins-Bruins game Saturday at TD Garden were "passionate once again, the appreciation for the first responders even greater as a result of Friday’s intense manhunt." During warm-ups, Bruins players "wore baseball caps instead of helmets, with logos representing the Boston, Watertown, and Massachusetts State police departments." Bruins LW Brad Marchand said, "With the ceremony and all the police and firemen in the building, it was a special time again. It was a little more of a celebration with everyone here tonight. It was more of an opportunity for us to thank them and to give our respects for the amazing job they did with taking [the suspect] into custody and cleaning up the streets." The Penguins "graciously agreed to wear Boston Strong shirts and hats before the game" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/21). In Toronto, Joe Warmington wrote the Bruins and Red Sox "offered classy tributes" (TORONTO SUN, 4/21). In Miami, George Richards noted the NHL Panthers in yesterday's game against the Bruins "wore specially made '617' decals on their helmets to honor the victims and first responders" to the bombings (MIAMIHERALD.com, 4/21). In Boston, Gayle Fee notes the Celtics Shamrock Foundation will "donate $200,000 to The One Fund and has partnered with" adidas to created Boston Stands As One T-shirts (BOSTON HERALD, 4/22).
NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello on Friday said that the league has "no plan" to ask Browns Owner and Pilot Flying J CEO Jimmy Haslam to "remove himself from operational control of the franchise while the FBI investigates his company's alleged fraud scheme," according to Cabot & Reed of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Haslam, who "flew back to Knoxville to conduct a Friday press conference in the boardroom of Pilot Flying J," was "upbeat." He admitted he has been "rocked back" by the FBI raid and investigation. But he "maintained his innocence" and "didn't address the Browns." A source said that Haslam "still plans to return to Cleveland" this week for the NFL Draft. ESPN's Andrew Brandt said, "This is cause for concern for the NFL. But they aren't going to do anything rash or anything soon. It's obviously not good news, but we have a long way to go before there is potential discipline. That is, unless evidence came to light that was very substantial" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/20). ESPN's Ed Werder reported Haslam "personally reassured employees of the Browns that his status as owner of the team is in no jeopardy whatsoever." The NFL "can’t like the fact that he’s connected to a controversy … but I’m told by league sources that they do not believe that he personally will face any charges," though some of his employees "could indeed face indictment." Werder: "They think that ultimately Jimmy Haslam will be cleared” (“NFL Live,” ESPN2, 4/19).
BLEMISH ON THE BROWNS? Haslam said that "the 'last thing I want to do' is put a blemish on the Browns" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/20). But USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell wrote the raids last week on Pilot Flying J's HQs "threaten another black eye to the image of the nation's most popular sports league." A source said, "The league is very, very concerned. ... The NFL was completely blind-sided by this. The NFL found out when the records were seized. That's not a good time to find out" (USATODAY.com, 4/20). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman cited sources as saying the overall league reaction is some owners are "absolutely terrified." The source said, "More than a few owners are scared to death" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/18). In Boston, Greg Bedard wrote the NFL and Haslam are "putting on strong public faces in the wake" of the allegations, but "behind the scenes there is a lot of worry -- in Berea, Ohio, and at the league offices" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/21). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said of NFL officials, “I will bet you ... that in their offices in Manhattan they are readying contingency plans right now for the possible eventuality that there would be a trial, in which case he’s going to have to step aside.” ESPN's Michael Wilbon: “Having just recently vetted Haslam, they must have been aware of some questioning.” Kornheiser added, “Maybe at some point if somebody is willing to pay $1 billion for the Cleveland Browns, which seems awfully high, maybe you look the other way” (“PTI,” ESPN, 4/19).
INVESTIGATION SHOULD NOT IMPACT TEAM: In Cleveland, Bud Shaw writes Haslam's issues "shouldn't affect the Browns on the field in 2013, certainly not to the extent" that former Owner Randy Lerner's selling of the team "did last year." The Browns now are "better built to handle this storm." Shaw: "Don't be fooled by Haslam's calm manner in front of the cameras." This is "serious." Even if the owner is as "innocent as he claims, remember the appeal he carried with him into town centered on his business acumen and his laser attention to detail after a decade of Lerner's reluctant ownership" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/22). SI.com's Peter King writes the "last thing the NFL needs is for the Browns to be up for sale again, not to mention that it's the last thing the Cleveland fan base needs." King: "I'm told Haslam was the cream of the crop among owner candidates when the league knew Lerner wanted to sell." If this story is "true, the league is going to have to give a once-over to its vetting process for owners, and it may have to search anew for a Cleveland savior" (SI.com, 4/22).
TRYING TO BE TRANSPARENT: Haslam said that he "wanted to be transparent and candid about the investigation." He said, "To have this type of incident happen here at Pilot Flying J is tough, truly tough. ... But we feel confident that this company is run the right way and will continue to be run the right way. We’ll cooperate with federal authorities. And at the same time, we’ll continue our own investigation. ... I’m highly confident we’ll emerge from this an even better company than we are today" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 4/21). The AP's Schelzig & Megargee note Haslam on Friday would "not answer a reporter's question about whether he had been involved in meetings where rebate fraud was discussed." He "shrugged off suggestions he might step down." Haslam: "I thought to myself, 'Well, why would I do that?' Candidly, I haven't done anything wrong, No. 1. No. 2, if there's ever a time the company needs our leadership, it's right now." No charges have been "filed in the case" (AP, 4/20).
HASLAM'S LEVEL OF INVOLVEMENT KEY: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote the question "becomes whether the feds can marshal enough evidence to prove that Haslam knew about the situation." That is where the situation gets "even more delicate for Haslam." If key employees who "orchestrated and implemented the scheme sense that Haslam is throwing them under the proverbial bus, they may escape into the arms of immunity from prosecution, in exchange for testifying against Haslam" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 4/21). In Cleveland, Terry Pluto wrote maybe time will "indeed exonerate Haslam." But the "fact is top executives caught on tape admitting to 'cost-plussing' certain clients to raise the company's profit margin happened on his watch." It is "not always clear what Haslam knew, but this mess was taking place with him in charge." Even if "nothing comes of the fraud charges, Haslam's truck stop business will take a hit" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/21). Also in Cleveland, Jodie Valade wrote the case involving former 49ers Owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. in '99, in which he was removed from the position because of a federal gambling indictment, "set a precedent that might be looked at" when the case against Haslam moves forward. One "interesting similarity" is Haslam "retained Nashville attorney Aubrey Harwell on Friday, the same lawyer DeBartolo used during his trial" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/21).
NBA Commissioner David Stern on Friday said that the competing Sacramento and Seattle bids for the Kings "'are in the same ballpark' ... pushing aside complaints" from Kings Owner the Maloof family "that the deal they've struck with investors from Seattle is markedly superior to the counteroffer from Sacramento," according to Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Stern offered "few clues about the outcome to the richest tug of war the league has ever seen." He said that a decision "probably won't come until early May." The Maloofs in a letter to the NBA said that Sacramento's "bid is 'deficient economically' when compared with the sweetened offer they've accepted" from the group led by Seattle hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. The letter "confirms earlier reports that Hansen is offering more money." His recently "improved offer would value the whole team" at $550M, the "most ever paid for an NBA team." Sacramento "so far has only matched Hansen's original offer, which would give the Maloofs" $341M. The letter also questioned whether the Sacramento group has "sufficient cash." But Stern, who has "tangled with the Maloofs in the recent past, gave the bid far more credence than they did." Stern "bristled Friday at a Seattle TV reporter's suggestion that he's taking sides." NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver: "There's no lobbying or campaigning going on by the league office." Stern said, "We're most concerned about the critical path of arenas to getting built." Kings co-Owner George Maloof said that his family would "like an answer soon." Maloof: "We respect the process, but we want it to be over." Silver said, "While we would have liked to have seen it move faster, we can't short-cut this process." Meanwhile, Stern "threw cold water" on the possibility of an expansion team in Seattle. Stern: "I don't want to say (expansion is) a complete non-starter" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 4/20).
DIFFICULT TASK: In Boston, Gary Washburn wrote the Kings situation serves as "one of the more controversial topics in Stern's tenure." Silver "reiterated that this decision has been agonizing because while the owners want Seattle back in the fraternity ... Sacramento has done everything asked to retain the team." Silver: "I can’t remember anything in recent history where we’ve had so many lengthy meetings, so much deliberation." Stern added, "We have expended not only enormous man hours but enormous sums of money for outside consultants. This will be by far our most extensive review of anything like this in the league’s history.” Asked how Seattle could ever trust the NBA again if the Kings remain in Sacramento, Stern said, “I don’t know. We can only do what we do and tell you transparently what we do" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/21).
SPLIT DECISION: Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said that he has "spoken with several owners who 'feel very good about where we are'" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/20). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger cited an owner who said of the NBA BOG's upcoming vote, "I think it's 50-50. I think it could go either way." Stern said, "It's the only time in the last ... 47 years that I haven't known the answer. This is one that's just been quite difficult and confusing for the owners as well." Stern said that the "issue slated first" for a vote "will be the proposed relocation of the Kings." Relocation requires a "majority vote of the 30 owners to pass." A vote for relocation would "signify that subsequent approval of the sale" to the Seattle group "would be a foregone conclusion." A source said that some owners remain "skeptical about the viability of the Sacramento group's offer." An owner said, "The question about Sacramento is, can they come up with the money? It's kind of like 'The check's in the mail.' That's not good enough. The check's got to arrive" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/19). The AP's Gonzalez & Mahoney noted Stern has said previously that the "sale of the Kings would not become a bidding war." But a "bidding war is exactly what seems to have broken out" (AP, 4/19). In Seattle, Bob Condotta reported the "earliest a decision would be known is May 6." Condotta noted "few question the plan in Seattle, which is a larger media market and probably a safer long-term financial proposition." But the NBA and Stern "appear to feel a responsibility to Sacramento, to give it every opportunity to work things out" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/21).
THE BLAME GAME: In Seattle, Jerry Brewer looks back and profiled the efforts of former Mayor Greg Nickels, who was “considered the last dunce in a series of dunces who made it too easy for the Sonics to be taken." In looking at the two situations, Nickels said, "There were different circumstances. I don't know how strong the public support was by then. The political support from the state Legislature and the city council wasn't there. ... Local ownership, they got out of the situation so quickly there was no time to intervene. Different circumstances, different towns, different times" (SEATTLE TIME, 4/21).
LOOKING TO L.A.: Also in Seattle, Lynn Thompson in a front-page piece writes Hansen plans to "create a smaller, Seattle version of L.A. Live" adjecent to a proposed arena in the Sodo neighborhood. The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce recently led a "delegation of business and political leaders" to L.A. Part of their "mission was to experience L.A. Live and consider how such a venture might work in Seattle." Hansen: "L.A. Live is meant for the Los Angeles market. And it’s adjacent to its convention center, so it’s serving a more grandiose purpose. We want to create a small, concentrated gathering place that serves fans from all the sporting events. ... We want it to have a Seattle feel" (SEATTLE TIMES, 4/22).
Lucas Oil's sponsorship deal with the Colts is "only as good as the exposure it gets," and the NFL schedule-makers have not done company CEO Forrest Lucas "any favors" in that sense, according to Anthony Schoettle of the INDIANAPOLIS BUSINESS JOURNAL. Of the six primetime games on the Colts' '13-14 schedule "only one is at home," and the primetime exposure Lucas Oil is getting "has increased only one game over last year." Lucas said, "I was surprised by the schedule. I would have thought after last year, the Colts would be off the bottom of the totem pole and we'd have gotten a few more prime-time home dates. Those prime-time (home) games are huge for us." He added, "I don't want to complain too much because the Colts and the city of Indianapolis have been real, real good to us." But Lucas "couldn't hide his disappointment." He said, "Those early games kill our exposure on the West Coast." Lucas said of the Oct. 20 Broncos-Colts game, "It's big not just for the game coverage, but the pre-game coverage as well. That gets your name out there a lot on the sports-talk radio and TV shows. And we love the night games, especially when they show the stadium from the outside. Our logo on the top of the building lights up like jewelry" (IBJ.com, 4/19).
As the Heat begin their attempt to win a second consecutive NBA title, team President Pat Riley acknowledged that he, Owner Micky Arison, CEO Nick Arison and Senior VP & Assistant GM Andy Elisburg "have already had talks about how Miami can keep the core of this team together for years to come," according to Tim Reynolds of the AP. Heat F LeBron James, G Dwyane Wade and C Chris Bosh can all opt out of their contracts following the '13-14 season. Riley said of keeping all three together, "It's doable in this tax economy, but I'm going to leave that to Micky. We've already had conversations, internal conversations about it, Nick and Andy and myself and Micky. That will all be tackled after the season. We'll start talking about that. But it is doable." Reynolds noted the Heat may be "facing some significant luxury-tax bills in the coming years," which will be "one of many factors that go into the shaping of the roster for 2014-15 and beyond." Riley said that he wanted to "build a dynasty when the Heat structured their finances in such a way to allow maximum flexibility -- and maximum spending -- when James, Bosh and Wade hit the market together in 2010." Given the "financial realities" that are associated with the current CBA, especially the "more punitive luxury tax for big-spending teams, few might think that the Heat will be able to retain all three." Riley: "There's going to have to be some strategic planning, not only from that standpoint but personnel-wise over the next couple years to deal with it" (AP, 4/20). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde wrote it would be "stunning" if Micky Arison "allows this team to break up." He "no doubt has a plan in place already to keep it together." The Heat are "a marketing machine right now," and the question is if they "can fully unlock the financial rewards of that and lessen what will be a punitive luxury tax in 2014" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/21).
KNOW YOUR ROLE: ESPN’s J.A. Adande noted the "only thing that can keep them from being a dynasty is the new collective bargaining agreement, which will limit their ability to bring in" quality role players for the salary exemption. Adande: "Those won’t be at their disposal because they’ll be a tax-paying team” (“NBA Tonight,” ESPN2, 4/20).
In Philadelphia, Bob Ford wrote of the 76ers, "Forget who will coach the team. Who will run the team?" 76ers President Rod Thorn is "easing into retirement," and GM Tony DiLeo, who has been "a loyal, competent company man for years and got the GM title last year when the team couldn't find anyone else, doesn't seem to fit the job that must be done." 76ers Majority Owner Josh Harris "needs to find a sharp, aggressive NBA architect" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/21). Also in Philadelphia, John Smallwood wrote the franchise is "at its lowest point since it passed Anferenee Hardaway and Jamal Mashburn in the 1993 draft to take Shawn Bradley." This franchise is "as close to ground zero since the 1995-96 season -- the one before it drafted Allen Iverson with the No. 1 overall pick." The team's trade for C Andrew Bynum last August has "cost them their coach, the trust of their fans, their dignity, and, most important, their hope for turning things around anytime soon" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/20).
CHECK YOUR ENGINE: In Detroit, Bob Wojnowski wrote of Pistons President of Basketball Operations Joe Dumars, "I've always maintained Dumars could turn this around, even after owner Bill Davidson passed away and the franchise entered a two-year limbo. I have doubts now. For the sake of basketball in this area, I hope Dumars proves us wrong." But Wojnowski wrote he is "not sure" Pistons Owner Tom Gores "has total faith" in Dumars (DETROIT NEWS, 4/19). Also in Detroit, Terry Foster writes the phrase, "spend it and they shall come" does not "apply to the Pistons." Gores can "make all the proclamations he wants, the problem is the Pistons are not a free-agent destination." Foster: "Gores has money to burn. But will anybody of worth take it?" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 4/22).
OF TEAL & PURPLE: In Charlotte, Rick Bonnell wrote fans have been asking him "why the NBA would need 18 months to rebrand the Bobcats," as NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver said last week. Branding experts said that they "find 18 months an incredibly tight schedule to do all the things involved in such a project" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/21).