SBD/July 24, 2013/Franchises

Brewers Face Potential Alienation Of Fans, Sponsors Following Braun Suspension

Brewers attendance is down, and Braun's suspension could exacerbate the problem
Brewers LF Ryan Braun's 65-game suspension has left the team "with an incredibly awkward and major public-relations problem on their hands," according to Michael Hunt of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. The team until Spring Training "must distance themselves somewhat from their best player under the guidelines" of his suspension. But the Brewers also "must create a gap between the franchise and Braun as a means to prevent the alienation of primary sponsors, suite-holders and fans." The decision "whether or not to trade Braun will start" with Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio, who has to "weigh whether Braun's presence will cause fans to stay away from Miller Park." Brewers VP/Communications Tyler Barnes yesterday said that the team has "reached out to key sponsors, suite-holders and many season-ticket holders to get their input." However, it may be "weeks or months before the Brewers know the extent of the fallout." Hunt notes the Brewers, in the "absence of big-market TV/radio revenue, depend on attendance more than many franchises." A bad season this year has "hurt them at the gate," and the team has "got to make sure Braun doesn't put a drag on attendance next year as well." Meanwhile, the Brewers "have yet to symbolically remove" Braun's presence. He is "still prominently featured in a promotional video the team plays an hour before each game," and his pictures "still hang in the stadium" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/24).

A DIFFICULT SITUATION: In Milwaukee, Tom Haudricourt in a front-page piece writes the entire Brewers organization is "in a difficult spot with a player who became the face of the franchise two years ago." Even with the $3.4M in salary that Braun "forfeits while on suspension," the Brewers "owe him approximately" $130M over the remainder of his contract. Braun is "basically an untradeable player." The Brewers are "in the awkward position of having to support their best player as well as the MLB drug policy" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/24). In N.Y., Pat Borzi notes many Brewers fans viewed Braun "as the current link in a succession of franchise stars that included" Baseball HOFers Hank Aaron and Robin Yount (N.Y. TIMES, 7/24).

TIME TO GO? A MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL editorial states the Brewers "should end their relationship with Braun," as Attanasio has an "opportunity to make the most powerful statement any owner has ever made about what the game of baseball should be and what it should not be." There has been "a lot of talk about 'moving on'" from Braun's situation from players, GM Doug Melvin and Attanasio in the past 24 hours that indicates "they still don't get it." Only by cutting Braun "can the organization 'move on.'" His drug use "taints the team's National League Central Division championship in 2011 and its victory over Arizona in the playoffs that fall." Attanasio has a "chance to make the Milwaukee Brewers franchise an example for the rest of professional sports: He can do that by getting rid of Ryan Braun" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/24).
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