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SBD/August 2, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The Eagles could have "immediately cut" WR Riley Cooper after video surfaced on the Internet Wednesday of him using a racial epithet, but "doing so wasn't that simple from a financial standpoint," according to Alex Marvez of FOXSPORTS.com. If the Eagles had released Cooper, he could have "filed a grievance against the franchise" for his '13 base salary of $630,000 through the NFLPA. The Eagles instead "fined Cooper an undisclosed amount and issued a statement condemning his behavior." Under terms of the CBA, the Eagles could have "released Cooper under the premise of 'conduct detrimental to the team,'" relieving the Eagles of having to pay Cooper's salary. But the union "could have filed a grievance upon Cooper’s request" claiming that releasing Cooper was a "'severe and unprecedented' step that violated his rights." NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah said, "It would be a much different scenario if Riley does something like this on the field or in the locker room or workplace" (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/1). In Philadelphia, Zach Berman notes Eagles coach Chip Kelly "learned about what happened when Cooper came to his office Wednesday afternoon." Cooper apologized to Kelly and "accepted full responsibility." He asked to "speak with the team, which Kelly said Cooper could do before the evening walk-through." Cooper then met with Owner Jeffrey Lurie and GM Howie Roseman. Kelly, Lurie, and Roseman "convened afterward and consulted with the league office" about punishment. That is when they "determined to levy a fine and that Cooper needed outside counseling." They "did not consult with the players before making their decision" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/2).
NOT GOING FAR ENOUGH: In Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan wrote the Eagles used "tepid discipline" in fining Cooper. After meeting with Lurie, Roseman and Kelly -- "three white men -- Cooper got off with a fine." A suspension would have been "more appropriate," and releasing Cooper from the team "would have been within reason." The message "would be clear, that racism simply is not tolerated by the Eagles or the NFL." Now the message is that racism "will cost you a few bucks" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 8/1). SPORTING NEWS' David Steele wrote under the header, "It's Fair To Say Eagles Should Have Cut Riley Cooper." Cooper needs to "make peace with himself," and the Eagles "should have let him work through that by himself, by releasing him." Steele: "Why didn’t they cut him? ... Don’t think that they wouldn’t have if Jeremy Maclin were not on crutches right now" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 8/1). SPORTS ON EARTH's Shaun Powell wrote under the header, "The Eagles Should Let Cooper Go" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 8/1). At least one prominent Eagles player "questioned the punishment." The player said, "I'll tell you one thing, if it was Andy Reid, he would have gotten more than a fine" (PHILLY.com, 8/1). But USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes the Eagles, starting at the top with Lurie, are to be "commended for acting swiftly in what is the first crisis" under Kelly (USA TODAY, 8/2). Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw said he "liked the way the Eagles handled it rather swiftly" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/1).
LEAGUE SHOULD HAVE DONE MORE: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday said the league would not discipline Cooper beyond the fine from the Eagles because the league "does not penalize at the club level and the league level for the same incident” ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 8/1). ESPN's Michael Wilbon said while Goodell "likes to use his bully pulpit for things that interest him, I guess a white player using the 'n-word' aggressively … is not important for Roger Goodell." Wilbon noted NBA Commissioner David Stern "would never have stood for this in the NBA." Goodell's "lack of conviction offends me as much as, if not more, as Riley Cooper's use of the 'n-word.'" ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "I need more from the league. ... This was a chance for the NFL to define itself against such slurs. Moments like this of possible definition don't come around all the time." Kornheiser said Goodell's decision to "hide behind rule and policy to me is inadequate because if you're a strong commissioner, you make rule and policy" ("PTI," ESPN, 8/1). ESPN's Pablo Torre said he "would have liked to have seen the NFL do something more." The league had an "opportunity here to have a top-down policy and Roger Goodell, obviously, uses his bully pulpit for many things." Torre: "He has a zero-tolerance policy for so much. I would have liked to have seen it come from the top and just make clear this is not allowed." Columnist Kevin Blackistone said the NFL "should have done more." He said, "It's done more in the past. ... Other leagues have done more" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/1).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday was at Browns training camp, and he "pledged his support" for team Owner Jimmy Haslam III in the wake of his rebate fraud scandal at Pilot Flying J, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Goodell said, "Jimmy Haslam is a man of great integrity. We're proud to have him as an owner in the NFL and think he's going to be a great owner for the Cleveland Browns and their fans here. He's as disappointed as anybody in what happened at Pilot J and he's working hard to fix it and correct those issues." Goodell added that other NFL team owner still view Haslam "favorably." Goodell noted that the NFL "didn't cut corners on the vetting process" when approving Haslam's ownership of the Browns due to his standing as a minority owner in the Steelers. Goodell: "When you’re going through a controlling ownership position, that’s a big step up so we don’t just pass that off. We do the same vetting process." Goodell said that he "has not been in direct contact with the FBI and declined speculation if Haslam is indicted." He said of the investigation's impact on the Browns, "I don't believe it's distracting anybody in that building, and that's what really matters at the end of the day" (CLEVELAND.com, 8/1). However, in Akron, Nate Ulrich noted Goodell "conceded the scandal is not ideal for the Browns or the league." Goodell: “You never want to see this kind of thing happen, particularly to a partner in the league. So obviously his partners care a great deal about him, and as a partner they want to see him getting off to a good start. This is not what anybody intended, not anybody anticipated, but he’s a man that I think everyone truly respects in the NFL" (AKRON BEACON JOURNAL, 8/2).
The Marlins are averaging only "about 100 extra fans per game" this year at Marlins Park than they did in their last season at Sun Life Stadium in '11, according to a front-page piece by Douglas Hanks of the MIAMI HERALD. Attendance for the Marlins "hit a 15-year high with the opening of the 36,000-seat Marlins Park last year," but the gains at the gate "didn’t last long." The Marlins currently have the "worst attendance in baseball at about 17,830 people per game." That amounts to an "average sales drop of 10,400 tickets" from the '12 inaugural season, a 37% decline. During the second year of every MLB ballpark built since '89, only one has had a "worse drop: Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field, where attendance fell 38 percent in the season after its 1998 debut." But Marlins Park "could wind up in the statistical basement by the time this season ends." During its first 55 home games, the '99 Rays "only saw a drop" of 30%, Assuming the Marlins "follow the same trajectory once summer ends, it will pass Tampa’s record for the worst sophomore season." The Marlins are reporting an "average announced attendance of 17,977 per game, helped along by Thursday’s second-best tally of 25,916 thanks to a popular summer-camp promotion." But actual attendance has been "lower because the announced tally includes sold or distributed tickets that are not used." The Marlins to combat the weak demand are "cutting into profits with more promotions than they ever envisioned at the new ballpark." The discounting includes "kids-eat-free specials on Wednesdays and $27 all-you-can-eat buffets on Saturdays." Seniors "get free tickets on Thursdays." However, the lower deck appeared "more than half full during two visits to the park this week" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/2).
OVER THE TOP: In Tampa, Mark Holan reports the Rays should "top the 1-million attendance" for the season as soon as Friday night's game against the Giants. The Rays are "averaging 17,916 fans per home game at Tropicana Field, which holds 34,078." The per-game average is "next to last" in MLB. In a recent poll conducted by the Tampa Business Journal, 61% of 267 respondents said that they would "attend more home games in the second half of the season." Another 13% said that they would not attend more games, while 14% said they would “keep watching the Rays on television" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/2).
The Pelicans on Thursday unveiled their uniforms for the '13-14 season, which will feature dark blue and gold as the prominent colors and red as an accent color. The team's home uniforms will be white, and the road uniforms dark blue. Both jerseys will feature the words "New Orleans" on the front, making the Pelicans one of three NBA teams to wear its city's name on the front of both uniforms. The word mark on each of the uniforms was inspired by French Quarter street signs. The team worked with designer Rodney Richardson to develop the jerseys (Pelicans). In New Orleans, Mike Gegenheimer reported the uniforms "boast a number of minute details -- the golf siding on the jerseys are a pelican's beak, and the waistband of the pants feature a unique ligature that combines the letters 'N' and 'O' to form the shape of a basketball." The Pelicans' three colors can each be found on the Louisiana state flag, and "each hold a specific significance to the local community." Richardson said that Pelicans Owner Tom Benson "was looking for a uniform that symbolized what the pelican meant to the city and state." Gegenheimer noted the goal was "to find something that could bring the team's mascot to life and convey the image of rebirth and revitalization Benson is trying to stress with the franchise's overhaul" (NOLA.com, 8/1). ESPN.com's Paul Lukas noted NBA teams "aren't allowed to have alternate uniforms during their first season of operation, so the Pelicans will stick to their home whites and road blues" for '13-14. But the team does "plan to add an alternate" for the following season (ESPN.com, 8/1).
Several hours before MLS Commissioner Don Garber detailed the league's future expansion plans Wednesday, USL Pro Orlando City FC Owners Flávio Augusto da Silva and Phil Rawlins "made their pitch to the league's board of governors" at a K.C. hotel, according to Brian Straus of SI.com. The pair "discussed the design and public/private financing of the 18,000-seat stadium the club intends to build in downtown Orlando." They also "trumpeted the crowds the team has drawn to the Citrus Bowl." At nearly 8,000 fans per game, Orlando City's average attendance is "more than double what the second-division Seattle Sounders attracted in their final minor league campaign." Da Silva and Rawlins also "advocated for Orlando itself, which is critically important when trying to bring a team to the state that hosted MLS's only two failures, the Tampa Bay Mutiny and Miami Fusion." da Silva "smiled as he said that he expects City to become the 'second team' for legions of Brazilian tourists." He and Rawlins are focused on joining MLS in '15, not '20. Da Silva, when asked about the odds that Orlando City will enter the league alongside NYC FC in two years, said, "We are much ahead of New York. ... We still have some pieces to put in place, but I would say 99 percent." Straus cited reports that suggest da Silva is "prepared to spend" $80M total. Da Silva said that he "looked into buying an existing MLS club, but he concluded that Orlando's potential, its status as a global tourist destination, the dearth of major league competition and the response from the area's fan base made 'The City Beautiful' the best choice" (SI.com, 8/1).
REMEMBER THE ALAMO: In San Antonio, Dan McCarney notes NASL San Antonio Scorpions Owner Gordon Hartman "has repeatedly expressed his intent to let his fledgling professional soccer team grow methodically, pursuing membership in Major League Soccer only with the requisite support." Hartman "saw no reason to alter that approach" after Garber's announcement. Hartman on Thursday said, "Most teams don't make the jump immediately. They define their fan base and build their brand. ... I think we can be serious (candidates) if we continue to see our fan base grow, our season-ticket sales grow. We put all this together because we felt this is an extremely strong soccer city, and we're not going to do anything to put ourselves behind. But the fans have to be there with us.” Hartman is "open to adding partners or selling the franchise outright as long as it aides his charitable mission." He said that he has "been contacted by numerous parties, describing one as serious." The Scorpions are averaging 7,139 fans in NASL matches in their first season at Toyota Field, which "has a current capacity of 8,000 and can be expanded to more than 18,000" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 8/2).