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SBD/July 9, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Patriots Owner Robert Kraft yesterday "finally broke his silence" on the Aaron Hernandez murder case after returning from a vacation, saying the whole Patriots organization was "duped" by Hernandez, according to Ben Volin of the BOSTON GLOBE. Kraft said, "No one in our organization was aware of any of these kinds of connections. If it's true, I'm just shocked." Kraft said he was "limited" in what he could discuss regarding the investigation. But he "spoke to reporters despite being advised not to by his attorneys." Volin notes it is "unclear if the family of Odin Lloyd, the victim in Hernandez's murder case, will attempt to sue the Patriots." But Kraft said it is "important that our fan base hear directly from our organization." Kraft: "The only thing I ever heard on Aaron Hernandez was he was very young, immature, and potentially had problems. ... Never saw signs of anything else." Hernandez often "greeted Kraft with a kiss on the cheek, and donated $50,000 to the Myra Kraft Giving Back Fund." Kraft said, “I only know what goes on inside this building. We don’t put private eyes on people. When he was in this building, I was never exposed to anything where he was not positive. He was always polite, respectful.” He added, “You can be sure we’ll be looking at our procedures and auditing how we do things.” Kraft noted the incident has "cast a pall over the organization." Kraft: "Everything we don't want is happening." He noted cutting Hernandez "was the only option." Kraft: "It was principle, over money or cap or anything else" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/9). Kraft admitted the Patriots "made a mistake and are facing it head on." ESPN BOSTON's Mike Reiss noted Kraft during his meeting with reporters "shared a letter written by Hernandez before the 2010 draft in which Hernandez addressed his alleged use of marijuana at the University of Florida and agreed to biweekly drug tests throughout his rookie season if the Patriots drafted him" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 7/8). The BOSTON HERALD posted a copy of Hernandez' letter to the Patriots.
GOING INSIDE KRAFT'S OFFICE: ESPN's Steve Levy noted Kraft "hand-picked three media outlets to speak to" -- the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald and ESPN Boston. There were "no cameras, no recorders" in the meeting, which took place in Kraft's office at Gillette Stadium. Kraft explained he had to be "limited in his remarks because of an ongoing criminal investigation as well as other potential civil proceedings." ESPN Boston's Reiss, who was among those who talked to Kraft, noted Kraft began "a little bit cautious" in his remarks and he "showed empathy to the victim, Odin Lloyd and his family." Reiss: "As things sort of unfolded over the 40 minutes, I'd say that it loosened up a little bit. But certainly this was something that Kraft wanted to make clear, that he really was advised not to do (this) but felt it was very important that he had to do because he wanted the fan base to hear from him directly and face-to-face." Yesterday was Kraft's first day back in the U.S. after an extended trip to Europe. Reiss did not know why Kraft opted not to hold a full news conference or allow recording devices into the room, but said, "I would imagine that part of this was that Kraft was probably pushing to do this against the advice of his legal counsel." Reiss: "How do you go ahead and do this and not make it a spectacle? ... Maybe by not having cameras and by not having him on a press conference stand where maybe it would become a situation where he was almost being questioned like in a courtroom, that maybe this was something he felt most comfortable with" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/9). WEEI-FM’s Kirk Minihane said, “It’s a private business, he owns it and if he wants to let three people come into his office and talk about it, I'm okay with that. In a perfect world, do you have a big press conference? I guess” (“Dennis & Callahan,” WEEI-FM, 7/9).
DID KRAFT NEED TO DO THIS? The Boston Herald’s Ron Borges said he thought Kraft "helped himself" by meeting with the reporters. Borges: "I didn’t feel that he did any legal damage to himself or the organization.” He noted that Kraft seemed to feel “really embarrassed” and that Kraft is “pretty sad and confused about the whole thing to some degree.” But WEEI’s Minihane questioned why Kraft addressed the issue, saying, "From a public relations perspective, was anybody giving up their season tickets of the Patriots because Bob Kraft hadn’t spoken yesterday?” WEEI’s John Dennis: “Don’t you think it was required for the owner of a football team that has this kind of dark cloud hovering over the entire organization to stand up and say something?” Minihane: “It’s mystifying to me. Why does Bob Kraft have to sit down and explain why a psychopath killed somebody and what the Patriots knew and didn’t know” (“Dennis & Callahan,” WEEI-FM, 7/9).
POINTING FINGERS: The HERALD's Borges writes under the header, "How Could The Patriots Have Fumbled So Badly?" Kraft yesterday saying he had been duped "could not have been easy." Many will "doubt those words, asking quite rightly: 'How could they not have known something?'" Borges: "If no one in the Patriots' organization had a clue what Aaron Hernandez was up to the past three years, I'm just as shocked" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/9). ESPN.com's Gary Hoenig wrote it would be "wrong to point fingers" at Kraft and coach Bill Belichick. The anonymous GMs who are "saying they wouldn't have touched Hernandez with a 10-foot pole are at best disingenuous and at worst hypocrites." Would it "hurt to require a professional on staff ... who analyzes the behavioral patterns of the players as well, who sees warning signs and advises coaches on what to do about them, who counsels players when they're drifting toward the fringe?" The Patriots "saw enough in Aaron Hernandez to invest tens of millions in him." It is what they "didn't see or wouldn't see that should make us all take pause" (ESPN.com, 7/8).
THE PRICE OF BUSINESS: The BOSTON GLOBE's Volin notes the Patriots took a "$250,000 hit over the weekend when nearly 2,000 fans exchanged their Hernandez jerseys for another player's at the Patriots ProShop" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/9).
CON LAW: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Bachman & Clark note Gainesville-based attorney Huntley Johnson "has become the go-to attorney for Florida athletes who get into trouble with the law." Johnson over the past 20 years has "represented dozens of Gators players in criminal cases." During Hernandez' three years at UF, Johnson "provided counsel on at least two legal matters." The NCAA does "not expressly forbid athletes from accepting free legal representation in criminal cases." UF Senior Associate AD Steve McClain said that the school "'periodically' asks local defense attorneys to confirm that they are treating the school's athletes like other clients" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/9). Meanwhile, SI.com's Michael McCann noted Lloyd's family could at "some point consider legal action against the team or the league." The statute of limitations for "wrongful death suits in Massachusetts is three years" (SI.com, 7/8).
With the 76ers "staring at a complete rebuild in its future," the team's new CEO Scott O'Neil is "simply embracing the challenge ahead of him," according to Matt Haughton of CSNPHILLY.com. O'Neil yesterday said of his reasons for joining the 76ers, "The kind of history and tradition obviously that comes with the Sixers. Secondly, it’s a place my family wants to be, which is really helpful. Thirdly, and maybe most important, is that I like these owners, I like the guys. They’re smart, they’re aggressive, they’re young, they want to grow, they’re competitive as hell and they want to win and they’ll put the resources behind it." O'Neil replaces Adam Aron, who was the "de facto face of the franchise with his nightly appearances at Sixers games and big social media presence." While O'Neil "understands the importance of a CEO being accessible to the public, his approach is in stark contrast to his predecessor." O'Neil said, "If you ask people who know me they'll say I'm straight up, straight shooter. I like to engage fans quite a bit. I'll do it in my own way." He will "work in tandem with" President of Basketball Operations & GM Sam Hinkie. O'Neil believes that the two "should form a very good partnership." O'Neil said of his first interaction with Hinkie, "First thing he says when he gets on the phone is, 'Hey, this is about partnership. I want to be a great partner.' I said, 'Hey, nothing I want more than that too.' I think we’ll work really well together." O'Neil said of his responsibilities, "First and foremost, it’s about engaging the fans" (CSNPHILLY.com, 7/8). O'Neil said, "We are going to try to live the values" of Philadelphia. O'Neil: "The city was built on grit, hard work, and toughness and passion. ... It's not going to always be easy, and it's not always going to go right, and it's not always going to go our way." In Philadelphia, Keith Pompey notes O'Neil is a graduate of Villanova, and "this transition comes as no surprise" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/9).
NEW VENTURES: 76ers Majority Owner Josh Harris yesterday said, "I always wanted to bring in a world-class team that could lead this organization into the next 10 to 20 years." He added, "You don't always know when people like Scott O'Neil and Sam Hinkie are going to become available, so it's hard to put those people in place. I'm very excited about the team we have." In Philadelphia, Bob Cooney notes the team in O'Neil has "someone who is considered one of the brightest marketing minds in all of sports." Harris said, "When he became available, it was a no-brainer. He's a great team builder." Meanwhile, Aron yesterday "assured that he wasn't fired." He said, "I could have stayed, but I chose not to. I loved my 2 years with the Sixers and I think we all did a great job of re-engaging the team with the fans. I'm sure that will continue" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/9). In New Jersey, Eliot Shorr-Parks reported Aron will become Chair & CEO of a "new investment vehicle funded by members of the Sixers ownership group" (NJ.com, 7/8). Aron said that he has "increased his ownership stake in the franchise." He said, "It's a move of my making. I wasn't pushed, shoved or asked to go" (AP, 7/8). Aron said of the new investment fund, "It's good, it's exciting, it's big, it's fun, and it obviously grabbed my attention right away. When Josh told me he wanted to go down this road, I jumped at the opportunity to go with him. It's a decision that I made, and I'm giving up one very good thing for another good thing. We haven't acquired, yet, what I hope we can acquire, but for that to be as fruitful as I hope it can be, we have to be successful in our acquisition efforts. I'm very confident that we'll find attractive investments" (CSNPHILLY.com, 7/8).
The Red Bulls are one of four MLS clubs working to eliminate the “tired but amazingly resilient ‘You Suck A------‘ goal kick chant" during games, and "have introduced a bit of carrot” to aid the team's effort, according to Brian Straus of SI.com. The Red Bulls have “notified its three fan groups -- the Empire Supporters Club, the Garden State Ultras and the Viking Army -- that $500 will be contributed to each for every home game during which 'YSA' isn't heard in Red Bull Arena's South Ward.” The money will be “doled out in $2,000 increments, meaning the stadium will have to be 'YSA' free for four games before the supporters are rewarded.” ESC yesterday in a message to its members wrote, "We can use this money for reimbursement for nearly anything we do, from buying batteries for the megaphone to offsetting costs for bus trips." The only other MLS club to “go public with its appeal to end 'YSA' is Real Salt Lake, which has no interest in paying for compliance.” The league “wants change to be a local exercise and has pushed its clubs to take the lead on the chant's eradication.” ESC board member Eric Rios said, "We meet together in the (Red Bull) front office every month or two months and this is one of the hot topics in every meeting." He added, “We didn't ask for the money. We sat down with them and they said, 'This is what we're going to offer you guys to get rid of it'" (SI.com, 7/9).
REACHING OUT: ADWEEK’s Noreen O’Leary noted the Red Bulls earlier this year hired ad firm R/GA, N.Y., to "boost recognition and ticket sales.” The team last year “advertised on soccer-specific sites” and had a “little outside media help but developed a strategy internally with a focus on existing fans.” R/GA “broadened its target to adjacent audiences familiar with soccer but not attending games.” To reach soccer moms, the agency “promoted the Red Bulls’ camps for kids.” Spectators are “being wooed with wild postings -- large numbers of ads posted in high-traffic areas -- near soccer bars and playing fields.” Red Bull Arena is near the PATH station, "so R/GA used outdoor ads and train takeovers.” The agency also “sought to increase Red Bulls’ fan targeting through Facebook and Twitter content and ensure Facebook content is consistent with overall messaging.” While search is “still the best channel for ticket sales, Facebook now follows it.” The Red Bulls using real-time optimization have been “able to learn from what isn’t working as well as seeing what generates results” (ADWEEK.com, 7/7).
The Trail Blazers "plan to become more visible on the national landscape in support of sustainability issues," according to Andy Giegerich of the PORTLAND BUSINESS JOURNAL. One "big step toward that end came last week" when Trail Blazers Senior Dir of Sustainability & Public Affairs Justin Zeulner "praised President Obama’s call for climate change reform." Zeulner noted that Obama’s "commitment to renewable energy meshes with the Blazers’ support of alternative transportation." The club is the "only sports team in the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy group, which includes Nike." The team also "co-founded the Portland-based Green Sports Alliance, which is pushing pro teams to adopt more sustainable tenets." The Trail Blazers since '08 have "poured more than $500,000" into sustainability initiatives, which has delivered more than $3M in efficiencies and savings. Much of the money "went toward earning" the Rose Garden a LEED Gold certification. The team hopes that "more investments into the 18-year-old arena could result in a LEED 'platinum' rating, a lofty goal in that the designation is generally only conferred on new buildings." The club also will "advise developers of the new Seattle arena project on creating a sustainable facility" and has "begun advising various cities and other governmental bodies on environmental action." Team officials have "appeared at the White House three times to discuss sustainability initiatives" (PORTLAND BUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/5 issue).
In Baltimore, Childs Walker wrote the Orioles' on-field success since the start of the '12 season has "stirred something in Baltimore fans," who have "started to believe they're entering a new golden age for a franchise that was baseball's best from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s." Attendance is "up more than 13 percent at a time when it's down almost 4 percent across baseball." Orioles games are "the top-rated program in the Baltimore area for adults 18-49." SportsOneSource data shows that the club "owns 3.3 percent of the U.S. retail market for baseball merchandise, more than double its share through the same point last year." The Orioles are "back in Baltimore's bloodstream." Walker: "You can see it in the proliferation of orange 'O' stickers on city cars, hear it in workplace chats about last night's game." Fans "no longer talk about this as a plucky bunch of faceless youngsters." They have "formed powerful attachments to individual players" (Baltimore SUN, 7/6).
NO LOVE FOR SOX: In Boston, Eric Wilbur writes the Red Sox, despite being in first place in the AL East with 52 wins, are "consistently overshadowed" by news coming from the city's other pro teams. The degree "to which the Red Sox are ignored lately is significant." Although the team is "a bright spot in a Boston sports sea of heartbreak and crime, they just can not, for whatever reason, grab the headlines." The Red Sox have "become the [MLS] Revolution, haven't they? First place in the standings, fourth place in our hearts." Being a Red Sox fan in '13 is "like being a fan of vanilla ice cream. Or Nickelback" (BOSTON.com, 7/5).
NEW DEPTHS: In Tampa, John Romano noted the Rays, after finishing last in MLB attendance in '12, are "drawing fewer fans this season." Attendance is "down roughly 13 percent from the same point last year." The Rays have "already proven that a sharp ownership group and a quality team are not enough." Attendance is "not likely to grow magically, or even organically, in the next few years." It "might make sense to attack the problem when leverage is still our friend." Florida has "not turned out to be a baseball paradise, and we share in that blame." But "so do MLB leaders." If this is "truly a problem that needs fixing, they should be down here offering a helping hand" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 7/6).
MEET THE MRS.: Mets officials announced that the Mrs. Met mascot “will now be a regular fixture at Citi Field.” In N.Y., Gary Buiso notes Mrs. Met is “new to many,” but her origin dates “almost as far back as the team itself.” Mrs. Met, also “called Lady Met, was initially featured on pennants and other team souvenirs in cartoon form.” She first appeared “on the field in 1975” (N.Y. POST, 7/7).
Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird said of his team and the Thunder avoiding the NBA luxury tax, “We can't afford it. It's like buying a used car and a new car. If you have the money to buy a used one you better buy a used one. Our owner went out and did everything he could this year so we could be close to the tax. We just can't fight the tax. It's always going to be a disadvantage for us. I feel bad for Oklahoma. They had a great team and they had to make a trade. They were right there, but we're going to have to do the same in the future. We're always fighting an uphill battle with revenues. But that's part of who we are. We do the best we can with what we have" (USA TODAY, 7/9).
BIRD WATCHING: In Seattle, Bob Condotta reports “five of the 14 training-camp workouts” the Seahawks have open to fans have “already sold out.” Fans "must register through the team’s website.” Admission is “free other than a $7 transportation fee” (SEATTLE TIMES, 7/9).
COMES WITH BAGGAGE: The Colts yesterday announced that they will give season-ticket holders a bag that complies with the NFL’s new rules for what can be brought into stadiums. The NFL had earlier announced restrictions on the size and type of bags that will be allowed. The bags will be sent in early August (Colts).