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SBD/July 23, 2014/FranchisesPrint All
Pat Bowlen, one of the "most iconic" owners in NFL history, is giving up control the Broncos as he "acknowledges he is dealing with Alzheimer's disease," according to a front-page piece by Mike Klis of the DENVER POST. Team President Joe Ellis will have "final-say authority" over team matters and will "assume control of the Broncos as Bowlen focuses on his health." Bowlen, who bought the team in '84, has "placed his Broncos' ownership in the Pat Bowlen Trust that is controlled by non-family members." His "long-term goal is for one of his seven children to run the team when they're ready." The Broncos "will not be put up for sale." The Broncos in a statement said that the trust was "set up by Bowlen more than a decade ago as part of his long-stated desire to keep team ownership in his family." Business in many respects with the Broncos "will continue as usual," as Bowlen already had "removed himself from the team's day-to-day operations" in '11 after he promoted Ellis, his longtime right-hand man. Ellis said, "No one fills Pat Bowlen's shoes. Everybody in this organization -- [Exec VP/Football Operations] John Elway, [coach] John Fox, the players, all the Broncos' employees, we understand what Mr. Bowlen's goals and objectives are and it's our obligation to fulfill them." Klis reports besides his work with the Broncos, Bowlen was co-Chair of the NFL's labor committee "for 10 years and also chaired the broadcasting and NFL Network committees." However, he had "not been active on the league committees in recent years and it was Ellis who represented the Broncos" at the '14 owners meetings in March. Ellis going forward will add CEO to his title (DENVER POST, 7/23). NFL Network’s Rhett Lewis said Bowlen has "put the succession plan in place," and he wants to "keep the organization in the Bowlen family." He has "laid the foundation for success, so the Broncos should be in good shape” (“NFL AM,” NFL Network, 7/23).
A COLORADO ICON: In Denver, Woody Paige writes under the header, "Pat Bowlen Is One Of Colorado's Most Important Sports Figures." Bowlen's tenure included 307 victories with "only five losing seasons," and he ran the franchise "to two Super Bowl championships and the pinnacle of prestige, pride and power" in the NFL. He also "ran the campaign to get, and help fund" Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Bowlen has admitted that he "committed errors" during this 30 years owning the club, but it was "not for the lack of committing his financial resources and football wherewithal to the Broncos" (DENVER POST, 7/23). NFL.com's Chris Wesseling writes Bowlen has been "one of the most iconic figures in Colorado sports history," and his "importance to the NFL, and Denver in particular, cannot be overstated." He brought "stability to a franchise on the brink of disaster" (NFL.com, 7/23). In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes Bowlen understands that a sports franchise is "far more than a rich boy's toy," and for "better or worse, the Broncos have become one of Denver's leading reasons to brag ... or cry." It was Bowlen who "insisted the Broncos brand must always stand for excellence." The Broncos will "certainly strive to be a winning organization for the next 30 years," but it would be "foolish to take excellence as a guarantee" in Bowlen's absence (DENVER POST, 7/23).
LEAVING A LEGACY ON THE LEAGUE: NFL Network’s Mark Kriegel noted Bowlen is viewed "with immense respect" throughout the NFL. Kriegel: "Bowlen's reign was an overwhelming, unqualified success. The Broncos have been to Super Bowls in three of the four decades he's owned the team" ("NFL AM," NFL Network, 7/23). ESPN's Chris Mortensen said, "This is a guy who was very active within the league, active within the broadcast committee, the executive committees. A man who didn't hog the spotlight but had a tremendous presence about him. ... He always supported his football people and he always wanted to be in the loop. He always felt like the people in the building understood he was the owner but wasn't going to to be an oppressive owner" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/23).
DISEASE'S IMPACT: ESPN's Mark Schlereth, who played for the Broncos from '95-'00, noted he has seen Bowlen recently "on several different occasions" and said, "When I've seen Pat, there are times I think he was lucid and there are times when he didn't know who I was." Schlereth said Bowlen's condition was "well known" among people inside the NFL community, but outside the NFL community, people "didn't really realize what the family was going through." Schlereth: "Your heart certainly goes out" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/23). NFL Network's Jordan Babineaux said, "We hate to really focus on health concerns of our older generation of colleagues throughout the NFL, but it is a reality." Babineaux played with the Titans from '11-12 and said he could see late team Owner Bud Adams "kind of deteriorate later on through his years." He said, "It was just a strong feeling that kind of overtook the locker room that you felt overwhelmed and you felt the compassionate feeling toward the guy and his family” (“NFL AM,” NFL Network, 7/23).
Donald Sterling "opened a third legal front Tuesday in his fight to maintain control of the Clippers, alleging in another lawsuit that he remained the team's rightful owner and demanding" that Shelly Sterling's $2B sale of the team to Steve Ballmer "be blocked," according to Rainey & Fenno of the L.A. TIMES. Also during yesterday's testimony, interim Clippers CEO Dick Parsons said that he feared the team "could fall into a 'death spiral' if fans, sponsors, players and coaches flee should Sterling remain with the team." Parsons said that Clippers coach and Senior VP/Basketball Operations Doc Rivers told him "in at least three conversations that he would probably leave if the team wasn't sold." Parsons: "If Mr. Sterling continues to own the team, he doesn't think he wants to continue as coach." Attorneys for Shelly Sterling "called Parsons to bolster their request that Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas not only validate her takeover of the trust that owns the Clippers but also order that her actions remain in force, regardless of appeals." Donald Sterling's filing yesterday stated that the ongoing probate trial "would resolve only issues about the family trust, and that he still had claims based on his ongoing control of LAC Basketball Club Inc., the corporation that owns the team." Sterling accused his wife, the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver of "fraud, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and other violations for pushing a sale of the team despite his continuing ownership." The suit "asked for an injunction to block the sale to Ballmer." The NBA declined to comment. The testimony from Parsons "drew the most attention" because he has "kept a low profile." The trial is set to continue today, and Donald Sterling's lawyers "plan to call a psychiatrist who evaluated Sterling." They also may "question Shelly Sterling again" (L.A. TIMES, 7/23).
LANGUAGE OF THE LAWSUIT: Shelly Sterling's attorney Pierce O'Donnell called Donald Sterling's latest lawsuit a "frivolous, last-ditch act of desperation by a delusional, bitter man" who is "obsessed with ruining" the sale of the team. In L.A., Shelburne & Markazi note it "is not known whether the probate-court judge will seek to consolidate Tuesday's lawsuit with the current trial" (ESPNLA.com, 7/23). Donald Sterling's new complaint reads in part, "(Shelly) is attempting to usurp (Donald's) interest in LAC by unilaterally selling LAC's shares to Ballmer. (Shelly's) unilateral attempt at the sale of LAC shares to Ballmer is without the consent of the sole shareholder of record (Donald) or the board of directors of LAC. The sole shareholder of record was denied the right to sell his shares. As the sole shareholder, (Donald) retained the right to withhold his shares and refused to sell the team to Ballmer" (USA TODAY, 7/23). In California, Kelly Puente notes closing arguments "are set for Monday" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 7/23).
THE "DEATH SPIRAL" DETAILED: Parsons said that while the Clippers' ticket revenue was "essentially the same as the past season's, many of the team's 20 or so sponsors have made it clear they want to continue a relationship with the team only if Sterling is replaced as owner." Parsons said sponsors such as Mandalay Bay and Kia Motors are "sitting at the edge of the pool and don't want to go in the water unless there is resolution" on the ownership situation. But he added that only six or seven sponsors "had explicitly asked to be disassociated" from the team following Donald Sterling's controversial comments. ESPN L.A.'s Shelburne reported the Clippers "gave the remaining two-thirds 'a holiday' before they felt compelled to disassociate from the franchise." Parsons: "If none of your sponsors want to sponsor you, your coach doesn't want to coach you and players don't want to play for you, what do you have?" Parsons and Bank of America's Anwar Zakkour testified that the $2B price Ballmer agreed to pay for the franchise "was much higher than the team's revenues justified under the most aggressive and optimistic predictions." Zakkour, who helped conduct the sale, added, "Whether you want to call it a slam dunk or a home run, none of us believed we would get to the $2 billion." Zakkour warned that if the sale "fell through and the NBA restarted termination proceedings, there was significant risk the franchise would sell for far less" (ESPNLA.com, 7/22). Parsons testified that ticket sales are "holding steady thanks to excitement over last season, but that fans could still revolt." He added that he has "seen emails from fans saying they don’t want any of their money going to the Sterling family" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/23).
WHAT'S UP, DOC? ESPN L.A.' s Markazi wrote Rivers "isn’t just the team’s coach and president; he’s its heart and soul." Rivers is the "calming presence that kept the team afloat when it was rocked by the tsunami that was the Sterling controversy during the playoffs." He "not only did his best to shield his players from outside distractions, but he also put his arms around tearful employees and told everyone in the organization -- players to receptionists -- to call him with any problems." Rivers "didn’t come to Los Angeles to be the team’s leader, but when it needed one, he stepped up to the challenge" (ESPNLA.com, 7/22).
Bengals Owner Mike Brown said the day-to-day responsibilities of running the team “has essentially been handed off” to Exec VP Katie Blackburn, his daughter, and coach Marvin Lewis, according to Joe Danneman of Cincinnati-based WXIX-Fox. Brown said, "Back when we were losing, I was doing a lot. But now that we've been winning lately, less and less.” Danneman reported Brown is present at the Bengals’ facilities and he watches what goes on, but his “presence is now bigger than his actual present role." Brown indicated that he will “never tire of football and might not ever retire." Brown: "I would rather do this than anything else I can think of." He added that he “deserves” the criticism he has taken for the team’s performance over the years. However, Danneman noted with the Bengals “now winning more (and) the franchise recently bending more to help the city,” Brown “hears the critics less." Brown: "Do I take credit for that? I wasn't out there taking credit when it wasn't going so well, so maybe I ought to shut up and not take credit when it's going a little better. But I'm happier when people don't want to bite on me" (WXIX-Fox, 7/22).
The NFL Jets "are doing away with paper tickets for season ticket holders, while offering those fans a rewards plan for showing up regularly and behaving properly," according to Barry Wilner of the AP. The program "begins with creating a simplified way to get into MetLife Stadium." Season-ticket holders "will enter using wallet-sized smart cards that are loaded" for the '14 season. The program also will "provide incentives for the season ticket holders to keep coming, with bonus points accumulating throughout a season." Once a fan has "been to seven of the 10 home games, the rewards points increase significantly, right through the home season finale." The program "is not based on spending money for food or souvenirs, but on showing up." Jets Senior VP/Marketing & Fan Engagement Seth Rabinowitz calls this the "sense of community" of rooting for the team. The Jets' long-term plan "is to expand the program beyond game day to include other events and tie-ins with sponsors" (AP, 7/22).
POINTS OF THE PROGRAM: In N.Y., Brian Costello reports as part of the new program, season-ticket holders "can earn points every time a visiting opponent is penalized for jumping offsides, gives up a sack or calls a timeout before the final two minutes of each half." The Jets call these "fan assists." The reward points "can be used to redeem everything from autographed memorabilia to the chance to travel with the team to a road game." Rabinowitz: "It was really born from feedback from our fans more than anything else. ... They’ve told us they want us to acknowledge their loyalty, their passion, their support, the number of years they’ve supported the team. That was really the genesis of the idea." When it comes to the fan assists aspect of the program, Rabinowitz said that this "is not because they feel MetLife is too quiet." He added, "We really want to make it true that one of the great reasons to come to a game is you can really influence the outcome. ... Everyone likes to talk now about what’s the reason to still come to the game with HDTV and that kind of stuff. There’s a million reasons, but that’s one of them" (N.Y. POST, 7/23). ESPN N.Y.'s Rich Cimini noted for Jets' games at MetLife Stadium, "late-arriving crowds have been an issue in recent years." Under the rewards program, fans "receive 500 points if they're scanned in at least 15 minutes before kickoff." Points "aren't deducted for bad behavior" (ESPNNY.com, 7/22).
The Maple Leafs "appear to have changed direction in the front office," announcing the hiring of OHL Soo Greyhounds GM Kyle Dubas as Assistant GM, and the departures of VP/Hockey Operations Dave Poulin and VP & Assistant GM Claude Loiselle, according to Darren Yourk of the GLOBE & MAIL. Dubas, now 28, was hired to run the Greyhounds "when he was just 25, making him the second youngest GM in OHL history." Prior to that, he "landed a job with Uptown Sports Management, becoming the youngest player agent certified" by the NHLPA. Dubas was representing players such as Kings LW Kyle Clifford and Sharks D Andrew Desjardins and "helping Uptown establish offices in Calgary and Stockholm when the GM opportunity arrived." Dubas said, "The chance to work for the Toronto Maple Leafs is like a dream come true" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/23). In Toronto, Lance Hornby writes Leafs President Brendan Shanahan has put his "stamp on the Maple Leafs this season and for years to come" by hiring Dubas. Shanahan said, "After polling the hockey world pretty much the entire time I’ve been hired, about who are the great minds out there, the innovators, the rising stars, one name that kept coming up was Kyle." Hornby notes Dubas, who "champions analytics in his player evaluations, becomes the youngest assistant GM" in the NHL. A "potential hurdle avoided" by Shanahan yesterday was mention of how Dubas and GM Dave Nonis "will function." Nonis "did not attend the news conference" because of "a family function." Meanwhile, at least "one more hiring is expected" with Poulin gone, as well as Loiselle, who "did salary cap and contract work" (TORONTO SUN, 7/23).
THE GRAND PECKING ORDER: In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes Nonis had his "right and left arms cut off by Shanahan" with the Dubas hiring. Randy Carlyle is "still the coach" and Nonis is "still the general manager." But now each is "on alert to understand well enough the next people to go might be them" (TORONTO SUN, 7/23). SI.com's Allan Muir noted Shanahan's decision to retain both Nonis and Carlyle has "drawn fire from some quarters, but he obviously respects them as hockey men." He has "nevertheless put them on notice by getting rid of their trusted aides and forcing them to look at the game in a new way." Nonis and Carlyle "may still be leading the conversations, but new voices are going to be heard." New approaches "will be considered" (SI.com, 7/22).
PLAYING THE NUMBERS GAME: ESPN.com's Craig Custance wrote hiring Dubas is "a signal that the Maple Leafs are now embracing analytics under Shanahan after resistance from the previous regime." Dubas has been "called hockey's Theo Epstein" (ESPN.com, 7/22). In Toronto, Dave Feschuk writes the move "marks a moment of convention-shaking self-realization." Dubas is "a numbers-savvy whiz kid with an affinity for the advanced analytics hockey has been slow to embrace" (TORONTO STAR, 7/23). SPORTSNET's Chris Johnston wrote under the header, "Dubas Hire Signals Massive Shift For Leafs." The shift toward advanced statistics "is well underway across the hockey industry and will soon reshape it entirely." What is most significant is that Shanahan "recognized the Leafs were on the wrong side of history and sought to change that course" (SPORTSNET.ca, 7/22). The GLOBE & MAIL's Cathal Kelly writes Dubas will "introduce the new metrics gospel to the club's hockey Pharisees, who still work off stone tablets." Dubas puts the Leafs "in line with a progressive trend in every big-money business." He "didn't get this job despite his age," but he is "here -- at least in part -- because of it." The "new breed" of sports execs are "wonks and technocrats; numbers people and disciples of the objectivity cult." Two years ago, the average age of the GMs and their lieutenants across MLSE's "three big-league properties was 53. Today, it's 40" (GLOBE & MAIL, 7/23).
TAMING EXPECTATIONS: SPORTSNET's Tyler Dellow noted one of the "challenges that NHL teams face in incorporating analytics into what they’re doing is that they aren’t particularly well equipped to separate the good analytics work from the bad." Dubas' experience "in doing so will enable the Maple Leafs to avoid a lot of the potential pitfalls that exist" (SPORTSNET.ca, 7/22). YAHOO SPORTS' Sunaya Sapurji noted Dubas has been "dubbed as a 'stats guru' and is often compared" to Epstein and A's GM Billy Beane. But Dubas will "be the first to tell you he's not." Sapurji: "Sorry, but Dubas is not the math-based messiah who will lead the Maple Leafs to glory." Dubas is a "very astute, hard-working man, who is loyal and open to new ideas." The thought that Dubas is "going to come in and change the Leafs with some grand paradigm shift is absurd." He is "just a new piece in a very large, dysfunctional puzzle" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/22).
Tonight's exhibition match at BMO Field between Toronto FC and EPL club Tottenham Hotspur "is the highest-profile example of a joint venture that will help both clubs," but MLSE Chief Commercial Officer Dave Hopkinson said that there will soon be "more signs of the collaboration," according to Morgan Campbell of the TORONTO STAR. The partnership began when TFC signed F Jermain Defoe from Tottenham, and in the course of negotiations, the deal "grew to include a variety of in-kind perks in addition to cash, like a four-year advertising and marketing agreement." Hopkinson said that MLSE execs and sponsors "have already visited Spurs’ operations in London." Tottenham gear "is already for sale at the Sport Chek apparel store at Maple Leaf Square." Hopkinson said that the two sides are "working on a deal to feature TFC jerseys this season" at Tottenham's White Hart Lane stadium. For Tottenham, the deal with TFC "provides an entrée into a lucrative pool of North American consumers." While a non-EPL jersey sponsorship with China-based insurer AIA "gives Spurs traction in Asia, working with TFC provides both insight into the North American market and lessons Spurs can apply to business back in London, where it hopes to open" a new stadium in '17. Tottenham Exec Dir Donna-Maria Cullen said, "We’re already a global brand but it’s a fantastic opportunity to grow it further, and to grow it in this part of the world" (TORONTO STAR, 7/23).
Ravens coach John Harbaugh yesterday said that he had "no idea when the NFL would make a decision regarding discipline" for RB Ray Rice stemming from the offseason aggravated assault on his wife, according to Clifton Brown of CSNBALTIMORE.com. Harbaugh added that the "uncertainty involving Rice’s status would not immediately impact the team’s preparation during training camp." Asked if he expected to receive word on Rice’s punishment by now, Harbaugh said that the league had "many factors to consider." Harbaugh: "It’s not my decision to make, or any of us here. It’s in other people’s hands, and I’m sure there’s a lot of complications making those kind of decisions. There are many sides to every story and there are a lot of factors, there [are] other people involved, other disciplinary situations involved. They’re going to have [to] sort through that to be fair about the whole thing. I know the league’s very judicious about that. I think they work very hard to do the right thing" (CSNBALTIMORE.com, 7/22). In Baltimore, Aaron Wilson noted five Ravens players, including Rice, "were arrested this offseason," which is the "most in the NFL, and one more than the Ravens' combined total over the previous six years." Asked how he has addressed the off-field problems, Harbaugh said, "I think the point has been made" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 7/22). Also in Baltimore, Jeff Zrebiec noted Harbaugh "scoffed at the notion that he's become the face of the team." Harbaugh: "I don't want or need to be the face of anything." He called "such questions about who is the face of the team 'disingenuous'" (Baltimore SUN, 7/22).
The Human Rights Campaign yesterday "blasted" the Giants hiring former NFLer David Tyree as the club's new Dir of Player Development based on past comments in which he "expressed anti-gay views," according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPN N.Y. Tyree in '11 said that he would "trade in his famous Super Bowl helmet catch if it would stop homosexuals from being married." The club in a statement yesterday said that Tyree "was expressing his personal view, and that is not the view of the Giants organization." Tyree replaces Charles Way, who "took a job" as NFL Head of Player Engagement a couple of weeks ago (ESPNNY.com, 7/22). The N.Y. Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano said he was a "little bit" surprised by the hire given that Tyree's stance is "not the same belief as many people in the organization." Vacchiano: "It's certainly possible that, in his role, David Tyree is going to have to deal with a player's concerns about a gay teammate at some point. ... That stance that he has is one that he's going to have to answer to at some point, and the Giants are probably going to have to explain it as well" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 7/22). ESPN.com's Dan Graziano wrote, "While I don't think wrongheaded views should necessarily prevent a person from seeking and holding a job in his chosen field, I'm surprised that the Giants would make such a tone-deaf move in the current NFL and social climate" (ESPN.com, 7/22).
In DC, Jason Reid writes Redskins President & GM Bruce Allen "finally has the power he always wanted," but it will be "interesting to see how he wields it." At a time when owners are "moving away from centralizing power in one person," Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder "doubled down" on Allen by promoting him. The organization is "trying to rebuild from a 3-13 season on the field and is facing scrutiny over its nickname off the field." Allen is now "squarely in position to receive credit or blame for both situations." By "banking so heavily on Allen to spur change on both fronts," Snyder is "taking one of his biggest risks" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/23).
SUPPLY & DEMAND: FORBES’ Jesse Lawrence notes with the Vikings to play outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium this season, the team’s tickets are “among the bottom third in the league on the secondary market, but are still 27.7% above the average price from last season.” Data from TiqIQ shows that the “average price for Vikings tickets across the 2014 season is $153.67.” With a “capacity loss of 14,000 from the Metrodome to TCF Bank Stadium, a jump in price from last season is not surprising.” Last season, home games had “an average price of $120.31 with the most expensive game coming for the final game in the Metrodome with an average price of $257.20” (FORBES.com, 7/22).
HORSE PARADE: In Indianapolis, Abby Hamblin noted the Colts’ Kickoff Concert is back, with Blues Traveler set to perform on Sept. 5. The event is “free and open to the public and takes place two days before the Colts’ first game, a road contest” against the Broncos. The kickoff event also will “feature the Colts cheerleaders and mascot, giveaways, a beer garden and food provided by the Indianapolis Colts Grille” (INDYSTAR.com, 7/22).