SBD/June 27, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Top members of the Patriots organization -- including Owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick -- "quietly decided last week that they would part ways" with TE Aaron Hernandez "if and when an arrest happened, even if it was for obstruction of justice," according to a source cited by Ben Volin of the BOSTON GLOBE. Hernandez was arrested on a murder charge yesterday morning and released by the Patriots "ninety minutes later." The Patriots' quick action "may hurt the team for the next two seasons" financially. However, as one member of the organization "emphasized repeatedly, this was one of the few NFL transactions that isn’t about the bottom line." It is about "disassociating the team from a player saddled with a heinous list of charges." Volin reports Hernandez' contract called for a $12.5M signing bonus -- prorated over five years for cap purposes -- and still has $10M "in salary cap money to be accounted for on the Patriots’ ledger." Cutting him now "accelerates those charges" -- $2.5M to be counted in '13 and the other $7.5M in '14. His guaranteed salaries totaling about $2.5M also will "be applied to this year’s salary cap." Cutting Hernandez will "increase his 2013 salary cap number by approximately" $1M to $5.1M, which will be "fifth-highest on the team." His '14 salary cap number could increase to $7.5M. The Patriots will "try to recover some money from Hernandez and obtain salary cap relief." The $12.5M signing bonus was "split into installments," and they will "look to recoup some of the money already paid, to avoid paying him" the final $3.25M installment, and to "void his future guaranteed money" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/27). USA TODAY's Lindsay Jones notes CBA language "allows teams to nullify contracts and recoup bonus money in the case of incarceration or other off-field transgressions, but Hernandez never missed any football-related activities before he was released" (USA TODAY, 6/27).
THE RIGHT THING TO DO: In California, Michael Lev writes the Patriots "did the right thing" in cutting Hernandez so quickly. It is "one thing to stand by a player who got in a fistfight," but quite another to "do so with a murder charge pending." They "had no other choice" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 6/27). YAHOO SPORTS' Les Carpenter wrote an NFL team in the past "might have carried a player such as Hernandez along, letting a trial play out and not taking a stand." Carpenter: "This is a different NFL. Image matters." And the Patriots, for "all the risks they have taken on players who have been in trouble in the past, want nothing to do with a player facing months of live television with a breaking news bar across the bottom of the screen" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/26). Columnist Kevin Blackistone said, "This is a public relations and marketing and moral and ethical decision that was made by the franchise, and I'm sure with the NFL's backing" ("PTI," ESPN, 6/26). FOXSPORTS.com Jen Floyd Engel writes, "The Patriots did not release him because they think this has ugly potential. I guarantee they did their own investigation, have their own police sources, probably were made privy to what lies ahead for Hernandez, and my guess is it is ugly" (FOXSPORTS.com, 6/27). WEEI.com's Christopher Price wrote it "wouldn't be a surprise if his image were simply wiped clean from the facility, like he was never there." Hernandez' personal page "is still up, but he's already been zapped from the roster on the team's website" (WEEI.com, 6/26).
NO REAL CHOICE: WEEI-FM's John Dennis said the Patriots could have kept Hernandez and "not had this conflict and controversy about how much money they can recoup.” But WEEI’s Gerry Callahan said, "They were going to stand by him and keep selling his shirts?” Dennis, "So they did the right thing. You don’t think they should be praised for doing the right thing?” Callahan said that releasing Hernandez was “the only thing” (“The Dennis & Callahan Show,” WEEI-FM, 6/27). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "If they don't release him, they are facing a barrage of questions" ("PTI," ESPN, 6/26).
DAMAGE TO PATRIOTS' IMAGE: ESPN BOSTON's Mike Reiss wrote Hernandez "put a black mark on the Patriots' franchise," and this could be the "low point in Robert Kraft's 20 years of ownership." The Patriots' brand and "what it represents, in the community and beyond, means a lot to Kraft and while releasing Hernandez ends the team's involvement with him, the slate doesn't just get wiped clean." However, in "one respect, the decisive action reflected well on the Patriots" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 6/26). In Boston, Karen Guregian writes while the Patriots "made the correct move" by cutting Hernandez, it "didn't erase the damage already done." Hernandez' allegations are "going to hang over the franchise like a black cloud." The "heinous crime further tarnishes a brand that's been on a downward spiral for a while." Guregian: "Between all of Rob Gronkowski’s Las Vegas high jinks and fun with porn stars, Alfonzo Dennard’s conviction on assaulting a police officer, players with performance enhancing drug suspensions, embarrassing sex tapes coming to light, and an often boorish head coach who spawned the term Spygate, it’s been a pretty rough ride of late for the Patriots and their brand" (BOSTON HERALD, 6/27). In Providence, Jim Donaldson writes, "Despite their ardent espousal of 'The Patriot Way,' the Pats have shown themselves more than willing to take players with problems if the reward is deemed to outweigh the risk." The Patriots for years under Belichick have been "willing to take a risk on a player if they felt the 'upside' was worth it." They now have "bottomed out" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 6/27). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes Hernandez' alleged actions are "not the Patriots' fault," but at a "time when 'Patriot Way' has become a sickening parody of its own mythical origins, New England's front office needs to stop with the self-congratulation" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/27).
Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez believes that the team does "not want him to return this season, and perhaps ever again" in the wake of injury troubles and PED allegations, according to a source cited by Wallace Matthews of ESPN N.Y. The source said that Rodriguez "thinks the Yankees are deliberately slowing his return to their active roster in the hope they can have him declared medically unfit to play this season, enabling them to recoup 80 percent of his $28 million salary through insurance." Yankees GM Brian Cashman this week said of Rodriguez updating his injury status via his personal Twitter account, "Alex should just shut the f--- up." The source added that Rodriguez "felt the GM's response was 'over the top,' and cemented his belief that the Yankees have been looking for ways to rid themselves" of the 10-year, $275M contract they gave him after the '07 season. The source said that Rodriguez "believes the Yankees are delaying his return hoping time will run out for him to come back this season," or that MLB will "hand down a lengthy suspension for his alleged involvement with Miami-area anti-aging clinic Biogenesis and its founder, Anthony Bosch." Both Cashman and team President Randy Levine "strongly denied that the Yankees would prefer A-Rod not return to play this season" (ESPNNY.com, 6/26). In N.Y. George King III cites a source as saying that Rodriguez "informed Yankees officials in Tampa yesterday he isn’t ready to begin a minor league rehab assignment because his surgically repaired hip isn’t up to the task." The source also said that there is "speculation Rodriguez could use the hip problem to retire." That would "allow him to collect the $114 million owed to him." Should Rodriguez "retire because of a medical problem, he would avoid a possible suspension by MLB in the Biogenesis mess" (N.Y. POST, 6/27).
YANKS' FUTURE MOVES: Levine on Tuesday said that the Yankees' "desire to trim their payroll to below the luxury-tax threshold" of $189M for next season "will not hinder their ability to improve the roster this summer if it meant adding salary." In N.Y., Ben Shpigel notes the Yankees want to "cut about" $30M before '14 "so they can qualify for rebates and luxury-tax savings." Levine said, "We'll see what happens and hopefully we can accomplish both at the same time." Referring to Yankees Managing General Partner & co-Chair Hal Steinbrenner, Levine added, "The overriding goal is -- as Hal has said -- is to maintain the Yankees' desire to provide a championship team for Yankee fans all over" (NYTIMES.com, 6/25). The N.Y. Daily News' Bruce Murray said the Yankees "need to become buyers" in the trade market because the team is in the "unique situation of they're over .500 right now and you can never send the message to this fan base, which is dwindling by the way in terms of what's showing up at the ballpark, that you're not in it to win it." SportsNet N.Y.'s Sal Licata said Cashman is "going to have to make a decision because you cannot sit back and be patient and rely on these guys" returning from the disabled list to help the team. SNY's Adam Schein said, "I'm not making a trade. Who are they going to trade? For what? For who? This is still a last-place team no matter what." Licata added, "But this is the Yankees. You're expected to at least make the postseason" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 6/25).
EMPIRE STATE OF MIND: ESPN N.Y.'s Mike Mazzeo reported Yankees execs "have a grander vision" for Yankee Stadium than just hosting the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. They eventually see the venue "hosting college football playoff games." Levine said that "no such discussions have taken place, but the team will reach out to NCAA officials about the possibility in the future." He added, "This is a pretty young bowl game. We've taken a step up we believe with the Big Ten and the ACC, and we believe that after performing for a couple more years, we'll be as good as any venue there is to a host a semifinal or eventually a (national) championship game" (ESPNNY.com, 6/25).
Glendale Vice Mayor Yvonne Knaack and Council member Gary Sherwood "believe they have the best deal they can get" from prospective Coyotes owner Renaissance Sports & Entertainment to manage Jobing.com Arena, and they have "called for a vote" next Tuesday, according to Paul Giblin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Glendale officials had "not posted a meeting notice by the close of business" yesterday. They could "post the notice as late as" tomorrow and "still meet legal requirements, though city leaders repeatedly have stated that they wanted the deal in the public realm for about a week before a vote." The "hurried negotiations between Glendale officials" and RSE "focused on a use agreement for Jobing.com Arena." Terms to use the arena have "been at the center of numerous failed deals." The council is "expected to meet in private again" tomorrow. But Sherwood said that after a "bevy of late-night phone calls," he determined at about 1:30am PT yesterday that RSE had "made its final offer, so he sent an e-mail requesting a voting meeting." Sherwood said that Knaack later made a "similar request." A letter by Acting City Manager Dick Bowers to council members "sheds light on the tone of the talks." In the letter, which Bowers wrote before Tuesday’s closed-door council meeting, he notes that RSE execs had made "certain concessions, but that negotiations were far from being a done deal." Bowers notes in the letter that RSE execs had "agreed to share" 20% of the revenue from naming rights for the arena (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/27).
THE FINAL CHAPTER: In Phoenix, Scott Bordow writes under the header, "Hey, Glendale: Please Finish Deal For Coyotes." Bordow: "I’m tired of this story, I can’t imagine how the Coyotes’ players, staff and fans are feeling." They have been "teased and tormented for four years now." They have "endured court hearings and potential lawsuits and premature Gary Bettman news conferences." They have "put up with a cast of characters unlike anything we’ve seen in Arizona sports history." Bordow: "Thankfully, the drama will end on Tuesday. The credits will roll and hockey either will be here or it won’t." If the Coyotes "do move, no one will be able to say they were surprised." If they stay, "let’s hope we won’t have to go through this again in five years, when the 'out' clause that’s sure to be in Renaissance’s contract might kick in" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/27).
CITY OF GOODWILL: In Seattle, Geoff Baker writes fans in the city "might not be hockey-immersed like in Toronto, Montreal, Detroit or Chicago." But "nobody running the NHL cares." It is "far-fetched to think Seattle can just replace 'NBA' with 'NHL' on a Memorandum of Understanding with entrepreneur Chris Hansen and rush an arena plan" so the Coyotes can "relocate by September." No owner "will commit" $200M to Seattle "without that future arena guarantee." Operating an NHL-only venue will "alter projected revenues." The Mariners’ new RSN also is "now the dominant player here and impacts any initial TV revenue plan Hansen had." That could "impact arena financing and any public help needed," which "makes public vetting required." Glendale has "already drained reserve funds for water, sanitation and landfill to make partial payments." NHL owners often have "less equity in teams than counterparts in other sports." Baker: "We don’t know yet who the Seattle owner would be, let alone what they’d put in, versus borrowing. ... We can't promise arenas to just anyone without a public process." But "do things right," and Seattle "could be NHL-ready in a year or two." It is "time to get moving" (SEATTLE TIMES, 6/27).
Raptors President Bryan Colangelo yesterday resigned "less than a month after being stripped of his basketball decision-making powers" by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Tim Leiweke, according to Doug Smith of the TORONTO STAR. For Colangelo the "sideways corporate move just wasn’t worth it." Colangelo in a release said that he "will remain as a 'consultant' to MLSE." Sources indicated that he is "destined for a job at the NBA head office" in N.Y. Smith notes "what kind of opportunity would await Colangelo at the league office is unclear" (TORONTO STAR, 6/27). CBSSPORTS.com's Ken Berger cites a source as saying that Colangelo was "at odds with" Leiweke. Colangelo in his statement mentioned MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum and MLSE BOD member Dale Lastman as well as MLSE ownership "but did not mention Leiweke by name" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/26). The NATIONAL POST's Eric Koreen writes the "experiment -- with Colangelo nominally in charge of the business operations" and Raptors GM Masai Ujiri "in charge of the basketball operations -- was doomed to die young, and might have been a charade all along." While Leiweke said that he "did not want to get rid of someone with Colangelo’s experience in basketball, it was pretty clear that the former general manager had little power left in the organization" (NATIONAL POST, 6/27).
Dwight Howard reportedly is unlikely to re-sign with the Lakers, but the team yesterday "unveiled a massive banner" on the side of Staples Center with a photo of the soon-to-be free agent and "one message: 'Stay,'" according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN L.A. Lakers VP/PR John Black said the sign is one of "six or seven" billboards the Lakers plan on putting up in "various key locations" to try to keep Howard. The Lakers also "unveiled a billboard above Hollywood Boulevard with the same message." Both signs "include the hashtag 'STAYD12,' hoping the message catches on through social media." Black said that the team also will take out a "full-page advertisement" in the L.A. Times. Black described the campaign as a "company-wide initiative" agreed upon by both the basketball operations and business side of the Lakers. Black said that the Lakers have treated previous players such as Shaquille O'Neal to "grandiose displays of appreciation." But they have "not embarked on this type of campaign with a free agent." The NBA free-agency period officially begins July 1 (ESPNLA.com, 6/26). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Devine wrote whether "slapping a plea on a billboard does L.A. any good remains to be seen ... but clearly, Lakers brass wants to make sure the All-Star center knows that they want him to stick around, in big, bold, declarative, in-no-way-uncertain terms" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/26).
In Philadelphia, Bob Ford writes in the 76ers organization there is "the standard level of consternation and messiness." New President of Basketball Operations & GM Sam Hinkie "hasn't hired a head coach, and people are getting antsy about that -- even though it is obvious that the coach will take direction from the GM and not the other way around, which represents a huge change." One of CEO Adam Aron's "roles, aside from signing purchase orders for T-shirt cannons and acting as the resident carnival barker, was to operate as the liaison between" Majority Owner Josh Harris and the basketball operation. That has "definitely changed, and it is expected among insiders" that co-Owner David Heller "will assume the responsibility" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 6/27).
BRAVE NEW WORLD: In Atlanta, Carroll Rogers asked former MLBer Chipper Jones whether the Braves organization "had changed a lot." Jones responded, "Yes. It used to be that if we had a need, we went out and addressed it, no matter what the cost. Whenever a prospective free agent was put on the trade market, we were always in the mix. ... We were notorious for big blockbuster deadline deals back in the day. We don't do that anymore. We are very hesitant to let go of our top prospects in the upper minor leagues because we're going to have to lean on them on down the road. We don't have the money to be able to pay top dollar anymore. And we can't afford to miss on trades" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 6/27).
PACKIN' 'EM IN: In Green Bay, Richard Ryman reports the Packers "culled the season-ticket waiting list by more than 5,000 names as the team sold Lambeau Field’s newest seats." Packers PR Dir Aaron Popkey said that "of the 5,000-plus offered tickets, about 77 percent bought them." Popkey added that 1,500 existing ticket holders "chose to move to the new south end zone, mostly in level six, which is general seating." Contractor Hammes Co. VP Stu Zadra said that those seats "are nearing completion" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 6/27).
BLAZE UNDER CONTROL: The AFL Utah Blaze yesterday announced that they have "officially fulfilled financial obligations with EnergySolutions Arena for the remainder of the 2013 season and the 2014 season, per the original multiyear contract." In Utah, Trevor Phibbs notes the Blaze were "removed from EnergySolutions Arena as tenants last week after failing to address financial obligations with the Larry H. Miller Group." The franchise "owed $120,000 in unpaid rent from six home game fees from this season" (DESERET NEWS, 6/27).