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The Wall Street Journal report that the NFL is asking potential Super Bowl halftime performers to pay for the right to play during the game is the "single most arrogant thing I've heard of in my life," according to ESPN's Bomani Jones. He added, "You're going to take people that sell bazillions of records and tell them they have to pay their own way? Not a charitable donation, you're actually going to make them pay." ESPN's J.A. Adande added, "Come on NFL, you're making enough on the Super Bowl. You don’t need your halftime entertainment to pay you" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 8/19). ESPN's Michael Wilbon called it "just the greediest of acts by the NFL." Wilbon: "This is beyond greedy -- even in all of the NFL's arrogance -- to ask the artists (who) they weren't paying anyway" ("PTI," ESPN, 8/19). ABC's Diane Sawyer said, "Talk about a trick play." The call for musical acts to pay the league comes "even though the NFL already posts billions of dollars in revenue every year" ("World News," ABC, 8/19). BOSTON.com's Eric Wilbur asks, "At what point does the league decide to charge the teams involved in the game for the right to play for the Lombardi Trophy?" Wilbur: "How many ways can the NFL make its fans hate it before enough is enough?. ... This takes huge ones, even for the NFL, the most powerful sport in America, bloated with a popularity that the league only continues to exploit with all the integrity of a group of slithering used car salesmen. It'll be fascinating to see if any of the acts succumb to the ridiculous request, or at the very least, demand that their contribution go to a charitable fund" (BOSTON.com, 8/20).
GETTING A PIECE OF THE ACTION: In the original report, the WALL STREET JOURNAL's Hannah Karp cites sources as saying that the NFL "has narrowed down the list of potential performers for the 2015 Super Bowl to three candidates: Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Coldplay." While notifying the artists' camps of their candidacy, league reps also "asked at least some of the acts if they would be willing to contribute a portion of their post-Super Bowl tour income to the league, or if they would make some other type of financial contribution, in exchange for the halftime gig." Sources said that the pay-to-play suggestion "got a chilly reception from the candidates' representatives." The halftime show "has always been among the most valuable promotional opportunities for the music industry." Sales of CDs and downloads "typically get a temporary boost during the week following the artist's Super Bowl performance" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/20). CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin said during the past few years, the NFL has "watched as these performers have done the halftime show and then ... literally that night or the next day put concert tickets on sale immediately." Sorkin said the NFL "now thinks to themselves, 'We should get a piece of this.'" He called the whole idea "shocking" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 8/20).
WOULD IT BE MONEY WELL SPENT? MSNBC's Donny Deutsch said any of the three finalists "would pay because the reality of getting in front of a billion people ... is the stage of the year." Deutsch: "It's the best exposure of the year" ("Morning Joe," MSNBC, 8/20). NBC's Tamron Hall said, "It's worth a lot of cash for the artists" ("Today," NBC, 8/20). YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee noted Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers during Super Bowl XLVIII this past February "were onstage for about 12 minutes." With commercial time valued at $4M per 30-second slot, that is nearly $100M "worth of publicity for a band" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/19).
TWITTER REAX: WCNC-NBC's Ira Cronin wrote, "I know the NFL is king, but reportedly asking major artists to basically pay to play the Superbowl half time show? That going next level." Retired sportscaster Len Berman: "If the NFL wants to charge Super Bowl halftime artists to perform is that called good business or a shakedown?" The N.Y. Post's Bart Hubbuch: "No limits to the owners' greed." The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly: "Talk about BALLS. Hilarious!" "The Dan Patrick Show" producer Paul Pabst: "On behalf of @rushtheband fans...I will pay the NFL a grand to have The Holy Triumvirate play halftime of the Super Bowl." ESPNW.com's Jane McManus wrote, "I will pay the NFL $50 to be the halftime act. It will be a roller derby demo, but we will sing old Metallica songs and invite Flea to play."
A "handful of technological forces have converged on the NFL this year to create some behind-the-scenes statistical revolutions," according to Kevin Clark of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The league this offseason signed a deal with Zebra Technologies to "put radio-frequency tracking devices in the shoulder pads of players." Teams such as the Lions and Eagles already have "implemented similar technology," from Zebra or Virginia-based Catapult Technologies for their "daily practices." This represents a "Moneyball moment" for the NFL. Chiefs GM John Dorsey said, "Football is apprehensive to change. But this will allow you to blend the old and the new together." Clark writes the NFL "likely will never have the analytics revolution that has occurred in other sports since there are so few games," but that "won't stop talent evaluation, especially at the college level, from getting more evolved." Rams GM Les Snead said that the "big leaps will be in specific measurements." Clark: "Coaches are salivating over the possibility that every player could soon have a camera in their helmet" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/20).
Some MLB execs say that White Sox Chair Jerry Reinsdorf "lost a lot of influence" after unsuccessfully fighting for Red Sox Chair Tom Werner to succeed Bud Selig as MLB Commissioner, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com. Despite having "virtually no chance of success" of getting Werner elected over Rob Manfred, Reinsdorf "kept the fight going, even as the Rays and Brewers jumped on board and joined the Manfred camp, putting him within a single vote of being selected." Reinsdorf "then mentioned that there were other qualified candidates in the room who were not up for election -- and somebody then asked why Reinsdorf, a member of the search committee, hadn’t pushed forward those other would-be candidates before." Reinsdorf for years "has been regarded as the second-most powerful man in the sport, given his relationship with deal-making commissioner Bud Selig." But in the "midst of the process for choosing the commissioner, the decision was made in the room to allow Manfred to choose his own executive committee -- which Reinsdorf has been a part of in the past." A rival MLB exec said of Reinsdorf, "His judgement was so questionable during this process that he will be hurt. A lot of us don't understand what he was doing." Olney wrote Selig "was renowned for meting out carrots to those who followed his lead, such as positions on committees or particular events." But the expectation "is that Manfred will give everybody a seat [at] the table" (ESPN.com, 8/19).
ULTERIOR MOTIVES? In Chicago, Phil Rosenthal writes, "What's worrisome is the hackles raised by Reinsdorf's insistence on a discussion rather than a coronation, even if the proffered alternatives, TV exec-turned-Boston Red Sox co-owner Tom Werner and MLB exec Tim Brosnan, were destined only to delay Manfred's election, not prevent it." Reinsdorf "is an ironic evangelist for taking the views of others into account, and his stance may have been in response to no longer having as powerful a voice among the owners as he once did." The "stubborn single-mindedness that an individual owner such as Reinsdorf may be able to afford, the sport overall cannot," and "especially not now." There "are more dollars coming into baseball than ever, but in some ways the business has never been more challenged." Rosenthal: "Baseball needs a labor strategy, sure. But it also needs a TV, digital and marketing plan. All of it" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/20).