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SBD/July 25, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
Brewers Owner Mark Attanasio yesterday made a "surprise visit" to the Miller Park press box and "ducked no questions" about the season-ending suspension of LF Ryan Braun for violating MLB's Joint Drug Agreement, according to a front-page piece by Tom Haudricourt of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. Attanasio said that he would counsel Braun "in ways to go about repairing the damage he has done to his reputation and career as well as to the franchise's." But Attanasio made it "clear it would take considerable time for Braun to make amends, if that even is possible at this point." He said of Braun, "He wants to do the right thing at this point going forward. This was the first step in coming forward and accepting the penalty and being the first player to do that (in the Biogenesis investigation). That's the first step, and it's a baby step. But it's a step in the right direction." Attanasio said that he had "no inclination" to try and trade Braun "despite the pleas of some." He said, "Right now, the full expectation is to keep him. And the full expectation [is] that he's going to do the right things, he's going to say the right things, and he's going to put in a lot of hard work to get back in folks' good graces." Attanasio continued, "That's going to take some time. It's not like we're going to be at opening day next year and we're going to be through this." Attanasio said that Braun "understands he needs to face the media and answer questions." But he added that Braun is "unable to do so because MLB's investigation is still active" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/25).
NO PRECEDENT FOR THIS: Attanasio said there was "no road map" for Braun to follow in repairing his image. He added, "This is a unique circumstance here. I told Ryan that this is going to take time. No matter how open, honest, truthful, sincere he is in the next press conference, that is one step in what is going to be (many). It is going to take time. Everyone will know when, if he gets over that threshold, that he has gotten over it, because the community will be in a position that they can embrace him again" (AP, 7/24).
REWARDING FANS FOR SUPPORT: Attanasio yesterday said that team execs were "working on plans to 'give back' to fans to make up for the suspension of ... Braun and the team’s dismal season." He said that he was working with Brewers COO Rick Schlesinger and Exec VP/Finance & Administration Bob Quinn "on a way to reward fans before the end of the season" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/25). Attanasio said, "This community has been terrifically supportive of the organization and the circumstances we find ourselves in. The sponsors have been great and frankly I think the fans have been great, coming out to the park still. We’re going to do some things ... in a way to give back to the fans not only in going through this (Braun suspension) but what otherwise has been a difficult and frustrating season for us. We’re working on some ideas on ways to give back to the fans between now and the end of the year, in a meaningful way, to show our appreciation for their support" (JSONLINE.com, 7/25). Meanwhile, YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan wrote the call for the Brewers to void Braun's contract "is wrong, and it is excessive, and it is oversimplification and extrapolation at its worst." MLB contracts, especially the "long-term ones like Braun's five-year, $105 million extension that doesn't even kick in until 2016, are marriages." There are "good ones and bad ones." Passan: "If the Brewers hadn't given him that extension, would anybody be calling for its invalidation? Of course not" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/24).
SELIG DEFENDS DRUG PROGRAM: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig yesterday "defended baseball's fight against performance-enhancing drugs," but declined to discuss the suspension of Braun or "whether other stars will also face penalties." Selig said, "People have been thorough. I said last week the process would be comprehensive, thorough, fair and we have spent thousands of hours doing these things. ... We're doing this in a very disciplined, thorough, fair and sensitive matter." He added, "I'm proud of what we've done, we will continue to enforce the program" (AP, 7/24).
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, speaking publicly yesterday for the first time since Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder, "was as open as we've seen him in his New England tenure, even though there were questions he didn't answer because of legal considerations," according to Mike Reiss of ESPN BOSTON. Belichick before an "overflowing media crowd" spoke for about 22 minutes, the first seven "consisting of opening remarks before fielding questions." Belichick showed a "mix of the human touch in which he expressed personal hurt and disappointment, empathy for those affected by the tragedy, perspective on a life lost and also a respectful defense of the process in which he's vetted players over the past 14 years." Belichick in his opening remarks said, "It's a sad day; really a sad day on so many levels." It was an "immediate tone-setter, followed up by words such as 'shocked,' 'disappointed' and 'hurt,' as well as Belichick's endorsing the idea that the club has a responsibility to be a 'pillar in the community.'" His remarks "came across as sincere, in part because Belichick didn't budge when talking about the team's player-evaluation system" (ESPNBOSTON.com, 7/24). In Hartford, Paul Doyle notes Belichick "offered few insights as he insisted that he was limited by the ongoing criminal investigation." But after "weeks of silence, he defended his organization and how it does business." Belichick spoke with a "tinge of emotion during his opening remarks." He mentioned Hernandez by name in his "first sentence and it was the last time he did so" (HARTFORD COURANT, 7/25). Click here to watch Belichick's comments.
CLEARLY IMPACTED BY THE EVENTS: In Boston, Shalise Manza Young notes Belichick wrote his opening statement and it was clear he "has been affected by the events that have transpired with his now-former player." He "deflected most of the Hernandez questions," but did respond when asked "about the apartment Hernandez kept in Franklin and the implication from one of his alleged accomplices that other Patriots used it as well." Belichick: “We have absolutely done as much work as we can on finding out things like that and we’ll try to get all the information that we can as that would apply to any current situation, which I can’t talk about. But we absolutely are trying to do that, yes.” Belichick said that the Patriots "did not know about Hernandez possibly being connected to a double homicide in Boston last July, nor did they know about the alleged incident earlier this year in Florida in which Hernandez is accused in a civil suit of shooting an acquaintance in the face" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/25). In Providence, Paul Kenyon notes Belichick "showed contrition and sincerity." The news conference at Gillette Stadium "drew a standing-room-only crowd of reporters in the main press box, one of the largest groups of media for any non-playoff game gathering." There were an "estimated two dozen television and video cameras" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 7/25). WEEI-FM’s John Dennis said, "It was a mixture of candor and contrition, sadness and anger, and something we rarely, if ever, see from Bill Belichick that would be humility and humanity. ... I haven’t heard anybody give him anything but high marks for what he did and how he did it yesterday.” WEEI’s Gerry Callahan said, “He surprised me at every turn. He genuinely seemed like this affected him and he did not down play it, diminish it, dismiss it at any point” ("Dennis & Callahan," WEEI-FM, 7/25).
RISING TO THE OCCASION: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes Belichick "came up big." He was "fair, measured, empathic, remorseful, dignified, ever-secretive, and best of all, human." Belichick "knew this was not the day to be intentionally obtuse." He did things that "surprised many." Belichick "said Hernandez’s name (once). He admitted failure." Among the phrases he said were, “These are fair questions to be asked," “I’m not trying to make the story disappear," "This certainly goes way beyond football issues," and “We try to learn from mistakes we’ve made along the way which there have been -- plenty." Shaughnessy writes these are "dark days in Foxborough," but Belichick yesterday "gave them what they needed" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/25). Also in Boston, Ron Borges writes Belichick "got it." He spoke "forthrightly about his disappointment and sadness." What Belichick said yesterday was "what he needed to say" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/25). THE MMQB's Greg Bedard wrote Belichick "did not shy away from the issues, and his candor lifted a burden and a tension that was palpable before the press conference." He "hit the right notes," and you could "tell this shook Belichick to his core as a person" (MMQB.SI.com, 7/24). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes Belichick "did his best to portray his feelings and did a good job." He took "responsibility for making what turned out to be a huge misjudgment of character when evaluating Hernandez" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/25). SportsNet N.Y.'s Adam Schein said Belichick handled his press conference "with the right kind of sensitivity and emotion and grace that he needed to" ("Loud Mouths," SNY, 7/24). SNY's Andy Martino said Belichick was "as sensitive to this subject as he could be given what he could say" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 7/24). In Boston, Margery Eagan writes Belichick "spoke with what seemed like genuine pain and sadness" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/25). Belichick was "emotional and contrite, accountable and selfless, forthcoming and fairly descriptive." He provided "more than anticipated" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/25). He was "very human," and "Belichick the citizen bled a little" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/25).
A DIFFERENT BELICHICK: In DC, Cindy Boren wrote Belichick "bore little resemblance to the coach who is usually curt and dismissive of his media duties" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 7/24). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "For the most part he was very un-Belichickian. He was very humble, he was somber, he was affected. ... He did a lot more than a lot of people thought he would do. He was very human." Denver Post columnist Woody Paige: "This didn't seem like the Bill Belichick that normally comes into press conferences and wants to be confrontational" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/24). ESPN's Marcellus Wiley said the Patriots handled the situation "correctly," and for the fact Belichick "didn't go out there and just give the same old Belichick press conference and say nothing, I have to commend him" ("SportsNation," ESPN2, 7/24). NFL Network's Albert Breer: "You could sense regret, you could sense sympathy and you sense even a little bit of embarrassment that his program is connected to this" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 7/24). In Hartford, Jeff Jacobs writes Belichick "showed real remorse." Jacobs: "He hurt. He bled. ... He let his guard down to show real humanity. Appropriate is the word that strikes me" (HARTFORD COURANT, 7/25).
LEFT SOMETHING ON THE TABLE: In Providence, Jim Donaldson writes while Belichick was "more forthcoming than usual in his prepared remarks, he dodged answering any meaningful questions." He has "said all he is going to say" (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL, 7/25). In Connecticut, Kevin Duffy writes, "What you heard Wednesday is the best you're going to get" (CONNECTICUT POST, 7/25). ESPN's Bomani Jones said, "Given the fact he didn't even bother to take the pencil from behind his ear before giving his talk, he looked to me like a man that just wanted to get this over with" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/24).
TACKLING THE ISSUE HEAD ON: YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel noted in an "unusual step," six Patriots captains, including QB Tom Brady, were made available to the media today. Belichick's goal is "clearly to address the situation the best they can and then get back to football." Wetzel: "You can expect no one here to say a word about Hernandez by Friday morning" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/24). NFL Network’s Steve Wyche said, “I wonder if they talked to the Atlanta Falcons, because this is the same approach the Falcons took when the Michael Vick dog fighting case had engulfed the nation. They had Arthur Blank and Rich McKay have a huge, lengthy news conference one day. The next day they had Alge Crumpler and Joey Harrington and Lawyer Milloy come in and take all the questions and try to shield the rest of their teammates" ("NFL AM," NFL Network, 7/25).
EVALUATING THE EVALUATIONS: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes under the header, "Pats' Evaluations Suspect." And Belichick yesterday "didn't rule out overhaul" of the player evaluation process (USA TODAY, 7/25). FOXSPORTS.com's Mike Garafolo cited a source as saying that the Patriots have "become sensitive to the fallout from the Hernandez situation and will be more careful in regard to signing or drafting players who have had legal and behavioral issues." The source said that it has "been communicated to the scouting and personnel staff the standards for adding players with character and legal concerns have been raised." The source said, "Some of the red flags that used to get through won't be getting through" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/24).
Browns CEO Joe Banner yesterday in a pre-camp interview stressed that it has been "business as usual in Berea despite owner Jimmy Haslam's legal woes with Pilot Flying J, and that Haslam is still as involved with the team as he always intended," according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Haslam "will be at the team's first training camp practice" today. Banner said, "Jimmy is here and incredibly supportive and a huge asset to us. I think he’s made it clear and I’ve tried to make it clear without any ambiguity at all that he’s not going to sell the team." Cabot asked if Banner could "envision any outcome in which Haslam will put the team up for sale." He replied, "I don't see that scenario, but you know ... (trailed off).'' Banner said of how the reputation of the organization has been affected by Haslam's situation, "I think it’s not as pure as it was, but I don’t think it’s spoiled. ... There’s a lot of evidence that things are going just as we would have hoped they’d be going at this point." He added, "We’ve sold more season tickets than the Browns have sold since at least the return here. This off-season, more suites, more club seats, more new marketing partnerships. So there’s a lot of optimism and positive feeling about where the franchise is heading." Banner said the Browns are "at 94 percent renewal rate" for season tickets. He added of stadium enhancements, "Things like the bathrooms were repainted in Browns colors so they feel clean. ... Your cell phones will work. You will have complete cell service and you will have partial use of iPads and things like that" (CLEVELAND.com, 7/24). Banner said of the NFL's feelings toward Haslam, "I think they feel very good about Jimmy, he’s been very open and transparent with them. I think they feel confident in the way they see him leading and the team we’ve put together to operate things" (OHIO.com, 7/24).
Jaguars President Mark Lamping said that the team "won't have any TV blackouts for the fourth consecutive season, even though they're currently behind last year's pace" of ticket sales, according to Vito Stellino of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Lamping "can make that guarantee" because NFL teams "can write a check" for 34% of the cost of the unsold non-premium seats to avoid blackouts. The Jaguars last season "sold all of the non-premium seats and didn’t have to buy any." Lamping said, "We’re not planning on doing that this year, either. ... Our goal last year was not to buy any tickets. That’s our goal this year and we’re going to do everything we possibly can to achieve that." While Lamping declined to give specifics on how far behind last year the Jaguars are currently, he said that it "was less than" 10% off the '12 figures. Lamping added that club seats are "tracking about where they were last year." Stellino notes while the team "doesn't usually sell them all unless the visiting team’s fans buy them, the premium seats don’t need to be sold to avoid a blackout." The luxury suites however "are selling better." Lamping said that the Jaguars "doubled the size of the ticket-selling department from last year in an attempt to boost sales." Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan said that it is "up to team executives to figure out how to sell more tickets in Jacksonville." Khan: "We've got to have the value proposition so the fans want to come out and support the team. I put it all on the leadership of the team. We’ve got to reach out to the fans (and say), 'Please come out and spend your hard-earned money on us'" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/25)
The Celtics' "big-name departures of Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett have not resulted in negative reaction from fans at the box office," according to Baxter Holmes of the BOSTON GLOBE. Celtics President Rich Gotham said that about 90% of the team's '12-13 season-ticket base "has re-upped for next season." That number is "considered to be above the league average for season-ticket retention rate, which has been trending upward in recent years and, at the moment, is generally in the low- to mid-80s for most NBA teams." Gotham: "In these past six years, we’ve had years where we were 95 percent and above, so we’re a little bit down. But the good news is the new season-ticket sale demand has been comparable to the past few offseasons." Gotham noted that the "window for the majority of season ticket-holders to renew was closed by the end of June," which was prior to Rivers leaving for the Clippers, and the trade of Pierce and Garnett to the Nets. Gotham said that "no Celtics season ticket-holders have requested to cancel for the upcoming season" (BOSTON GLOBE, 7/25).
The Panthers yesterday were voted as winners of NFL.com's "Greatest Uniform in NFL History" for their alternate uniform from last season, and the victory in the fan-voting contest will "ensure the Panthers will wear their black jerseys, black pants and blue socks together more often" this year, according to Scott Fowler of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Panthers Equipment Manager Jackie Miles said, "You’re definitely going to see black jerseys and black pants some more now. This hasn’t gone unnoticed in our building." The black-on-black combo has "only been worn once," a Panthers' home game against the Broncos last season. Miles said that the team is "locked into black jerseys five times already this season." The Panthers could "wear black pants as well for any or all of those games and likely will for at least a couple." Unlike NFL teams' gameday jersey colors, the color of their pants can be "decided at the last minute." The Panthers will "wear white jerseys and white pants for their first four regular-season home games." Miles said that they will then "wear their alternate blue jerseys" Oct. 20 and Nov. 3. The Panthers got about 90% of the vote this week, beating the 49ers "in the final for a victory" of NFL.com's contest (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 7/25). The semifinalists in the contest were the Ravens' current uniform and the Chargers' uniforms from '61-65 (THE DAILY).
HOME IMPROVEMENT: In Charlotte, Erik Spanberg reports the Panthers have "taken on a combined" $1.5M in improvement projects for Bank of America Stadium, including "widening and improving the entrances, and replacing the playing field at the stadium and one of the practice fields." More upgrades to the stadium's Wi-Fi system also "have been completed, and access to the NFL Red Zone channel has been added for Panthers app users." Panthers President Danny Morrison said that the game presentation "will feature more music at the stadium -- what he describes as a less-scripted production of features and themes on the video boards and more interaction with fans to increase enthusiasm." Meanwhile, the Panthers also have "extended their radio contract" with Charlotte-based WBT-AM in an agreement that "runs three more years" (CHARLOTTE BUSINESS JOURNAL, 7/19 issue).