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Volume 24 No. 113


Jets Exec VP/Business Operations Matt Higgins said that the franchise "will begin furloughing employees next week" if the NFL and NFLPA do not reach a new CBA, according to Daniel Kaplan of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Employees will be told that they "must take a one-week, unpaid absence every month until a new CBA is signed." The Jets' plan, which has been "in place now for a few months," will affect every business operations employee, including Higgins. He said that the team's "football operations unit will act to cut" 25% from its budget. Kaplan notes it is "more complicated for that group to furlough because it needs full staffing before the April draft." The Jets have "roughly 158 employees, 96 on the business side and the remainder on the football side." Higgins noted that a benefit of furloughing is that the employees "can file for unemployment benefits while keeping their jobs." He added that if no games are lost to a work stoppage, Jets Owner Woody Johnson is "committed to reimbursing the employees for their lost income." Sources indicated that the league in the last several months has polled teams on plans in the event of a work stoppage, "asking them to check off on a questionnaire if they planned furloughs, layoffs, salary reductions or other moves" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 2/21 issue).

PREVENT DEFENSE: Higgins yesterday said that the Jets "simply are taking the proper steps to cover all their bases with a lockout looming." He contends that "going about it this way provides the best long-term solution." Higgins: "Although we fully expect an agreement to be reached, it just makes sense to plan for the worst, and this plan is about shared sacrifice across the organization to get through a period of uncertainty." On Long Island, Roderick Boone reports it does not appear that the Giants have a "similar contingency plan in place." While they are "not commenting publicly on what they would do in the event of a lockout, at this point the Giants don't seem to be planning any furloughs or staff cuts" (NEWSDAY, 2/22). In N.Y., Judy Battista notes the Jets "laid off 30 employees -- most of them involved in sales of personal seat licenses -- shortly after the season, and two years ago, when the economy slumped, business-side employees had to take two weeks of unpaid leave to avoid job cuts" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/22).

The Knicks finally acquired F Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets last night after Knicks Owner James Dolan "caved in and added Russian center Timofey Mozgov to the deal after the Nuggets threatened to trade him to the Nets if they did not," according to Marc Berman of the N.Y. POST. The "long-talked-about trade" is expected to be announced today, and Anthony "looks to make his Knicks debut tomorrow night at the Garden against the Bucks." An NBA source indicated that Dolan "has been hell-bent on getting Anthony to keep him" from the Nets and Owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who "has become a rival." The Nuggets had "preferred the Nets' draft-pick-laden trade offer until Mozgov was added." Berman notes the trade "will have negative connotations only because of the perception" that Florida Int'l men's basketball coach Isiah Thomas, Dolan's "loyal friend, was a major advocate of the deal." League sources said that Knicks President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh "would not have given up as many pieces -- or at least called Denver's bluff of trading him to the Nets -- had he been completely calling the shots" (N.Y. POST, 2/22). In N.Y., Peter Vecsey writes what "mattered most to Dolan ... was not losing such an alluring specimen to Prokhorov." It was "very important to Dolan, extremely personal, to win the turf war against his Russian rival." Dolan proved to be the one to "take command" of the trade talks. Not only did he "meet one-on-one with Anthony, but recently he became the hands-on flesh dealer" with the Nuggets. In addition, there is "no question Dolan was following" Thomas' advice, which is why Walsh "was benched during the latest negotiations" (N.Y. POST, 2/22).

ON THE LEAD GUITAR: The N.Y. POST's Berman cites sources as saying that as "negotiations for Anthony heated up in Los Angeles with Dolan, Walsh bolted for Indiana to see his family during All-Star Weekend." One source said that Walsh "packed up and left because he was irritated and felt it was a waste of time being in New York since trade negotiations were taking place in Los Angeles without him, and with Thomas advising Dolan." Another league source indicated that Thomas "wanted to make the deal more than Walsh did" (N.Y. POST, 2/22). Also in N.Y., Mike Lupica writes after Walsh "made the Knicks viable and watchable again, Dolan shoved him out of the way to make this deal happen." Dolan "clearly lets Thomas talk him into giving the Nuggets whatever they want" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/22). But ESPN N.Y.'s Stephen A. Smith wrote, "The people who run this franchise would have looked like buffoons for perpetuity had they not pulled the trigger and gotten Melo to Gotham City. This is what New York needed. This is what this city wanted. This is who the Knicks absolutely had to have if they were going to transform themselves from abysmal to mediocre to respectable and beyond" (, 2/22). ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor: "This is a great deal for the Knicks, a greater moment for their fan base" (, 2/22).

AIR BALL? In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence writes, "There is no other way to sum it up: Monday night was another bad night for the Nets under Prokhorov. ... Prokhorov is all talk. No action. Under Prokhorov, the Nets haven't done a thing." It is "not entirely Prokhorov's fault," since there is "nothing in Brooklyn now for the best players in the game to come to." Lawrence: "Maybe when the arena is finished, that's when Prokhorov will be able to convert his vast fortune into some NBA superstars. But not yet" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/22). Also in N.Y., Stefan Bondy writes if Prokhorov has "accomplished anything in his brief tenure as Nets owner, it's establishing a real, impassioned rivalry with the Knicks, specifically with ownership." But after "another failed pursuit, many of Prokhorov's grand declarations now seem hollow" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/22).

With NBA Kings Owner the Maloof family considering applying to the NBA for relocation to Anaheim, fans in Sacramento are “massing for a last assault on the Maloofs' heartstrings,” according to Mark Heisler of the L.A. TIMES. The Kings will play one home game at Arco Arena before the March 1 deadline to file for relocation -- Monday against the Clippers -- and fans have “organized a drive to sell the place out, with only 2,000 tickets remaining.” An organization called "Here We Stay" is “trying to make up T-shirts.” The group also is "urging fans to spread the word" via social networks, so "it's possible a crowd of 50,000 will turn out, if only to line the roads.” Heisler: “Not that it may mean anything in the cold scheme of things” (L.A. TIMES, 2/22). YAHOO SPORTS’ Kelly Dwyer wrote though the Kings “have been lacking in the attendance department, sadly, this isn’t the answer.” A “new arena, replete with skyboxes and suites as far as the eye can see, is” (, 2/21).

SIGNS OF AFFECTION: Eight Sacramento-area billboards were “made over during the overnight hours to be part of a new campaign to save” the Kings. Glass Agency President Amber Williams said that the campaign is “designed to show community support for keeping the Kings in Sacramento.” She “declined to say how much the campaign will cost but said it is being paid for entirely through private donations.” Williams said that the effort “will utilize four traditional billboards, four electronic billboards and online social media” (, 2/21).

The Rams "have decided to raise ticket prices for the 2011 season on most seats in the Edward Jones Dome," according to Jim Thomas of the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. Rams Exec VP/Football Operations & COO Kevin Demoff said that "most ticket prices will increase from $4 to $7 a game for PSL holders (which doesn't include club seats or luxury suites)." He added that the "price of the cheapest tickets, in the upper-reaches of the dome, is not going up." Demoff: "The cheapest tickets will remain at $25." Informational packets "were just sent out to PSL holders over the weekend, so Demoff didn't want to provide any more specific details on the ticket prices." He said, "This is the first time in four years that we've raised prices. So we're trying to claw our way back slowly but surely to make sure that we can have the revenue base to remain competitive." Thomas notes prices in '10 "actually were reduced for about two-thirds of the seats in the dome -- the first time the team cut ticket prices since the move to St. Louis in '95." Demoff said that raising prices for the first time since '07 "was a tough decision." But he added, "We're still in the lowest quarter of the league in ticket prices. So we know that our product is still among the least expensive products in the NFL." Demoff noted that the Rams have "worked hard to improve the game day atmosphere at the dome" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/19).

D'Backs Managing General Partner Ken Kendrick said that the team will start the season with a payroll "somewhere north" of $60M, down from $79M on Opening Day last year, but team officials said that they are "spending 'roughly the same' on their total baseball operations budget as they did last year," according to Nick Piecoro of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. Kendrick: "We've reallocated monies in different places because we want to invest in the future. It's not all about the major-league budget." Meanwhile, D'Backs President & CEO Derrick Hall said the club's total attendance of 2.1 million last season, the "smallest in franchise history," was a "pretty good number when you lose 97 games." But he "stopped short of saying the club was projecting as many fans again this season" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/20). Hall said the D'Backs "hope to be over" 2.1 million this season. Hall: "It proves that we're playing well. I'll tell you, I think the market is ready for us. The state is ready for us. You go to Fan Fest ... after a 97-loss season and you have 12,000 fans come through on a Saturday, that means they like you and they like this team. That's a very positive sign." Kendrick said the "overall baseball budget is roughly the same number this year as a year ago." Kendrick: "It's more than $100 million. And when I talk about the baseball budget I don't talk about that elephant in the room and that's the deferred player number. ... It's still a significant number. It will be this year and it will be next year and then beyond that it'll reduce substantially. We had a 10-year plan that we had to deal with a $250 million obligation. It's almost -- I choke on the number when I say what it was and certainly where it is -- it's way, way below. It's below $50 million as we speak." Meanwhile, when asked about MLB's labor situation, Kendrick said, "Our contract does end this year, as you all know, and the owners that are leading the negotiation have already begun to talk, make plans. This time they've solicited input from all of the clubs in a more thorough way than at least in my memory. ... I think there are no known issues, at least that I'm aware of, that are likely to produce the atmosphere that might result in a work stoppage" (, 2/19).

BONUS BUCKS: The REPUBLIC's Piecoro reported the D'Backs "spent a franchise record on draft bonuses in 2009, doling out around" $10M. Team officials said that they are "prepared to exceed that this year ... in a draft in which they hold two picks in the top 10 -- Nos. 3 and 7 -- and a supplemental first-round pick, No. 43." Hall: "We knew we're going to have to spend money on this draft. We look at it as an opportunity" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/20).

Blue Jackets Senior VP/Sales & Marketing John Browne is trying to lure "new fans to games with good deals while not offending a dwindling season-ticket base," according to Tom Reed of the COLUMBUS DISPATCH. The team has created a "Four Subs, Four Stubs" promotion "in which fans buying four foot-long sandwiches in one transaction receive a voucher for four Jackets tickets at $5 each." The deal "was limited to 250 seats for five designated weekday games." Browne: "It's a balancing act, but we are always going to protect the value of our season-ticket holders." The team this season "suspended 'all-you-can eat nights' for single-game patrons in the Sky Terrace in response to complaints from season subscribers." Browne also said that he "doesn't like offering two-for-one ticket bargains or placing specials on the team website 24 hours before a game." The Blue Jackets have "roughly 8,000 season subscribers -- 4,000 fewer than what the NHL required when the team entered the league" in '00. However, the team's single-game ticket sales through 20 home games were up 21% from last year, and the team's recent 9-3-3 run "has been good for emotional and financial investments." Winning "drives up prices in secondary markets, which reportedly accounts for up to 15 percent of sports tickets sold." Resale website CEO Adam Kanner said that his company "receives its inventory only from ticket brokers and arena operators looking to fill seats." Blue Jackets games are listed on ScoreBig, but Blue Jackets President Mike Priest said that the team "does not furnish the company or its like with tickets" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 2/20). 

Yankees co-Chair & General Partner Hank Steinbrenner yesterday "called for a change in baseball’s revenue-sharing policy after divulging that his team contributed about $130 million, which includes a luxury-tax hit." Steinbrenner said that the '10 revenue-sharing figure was "an all-time high for the Yankees." He said, "We’ve got to do a little something about that. And I know (commissioner Bud Selig) wants to correct it a little, some way. Obviously, we’re very much allies with the Red Sox, the Mets, the Dodgers, Cubs, whoever, in that area." Steinbrenner added, "Don’t put teams in minor markets. Or don’t keep teams in minor markets. ... Communism, socialism, whatever you want to call it, is never the answer" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/22).

PIECE OF THE PIE? MLBPA Exec Dir Michael Weiner yesterday during the first stop on his Spring Training tour said that the "concept of a player gaining equity in the franchise for which he plays enjoys union support and is in keeping" with the CBA. Sources have indicated that "such a possibility was broached" during contract talks between the Cardinals and 1B Albert Pujols. Speaking at Cardinals camp, Weiner said, "Have we thought about it a little bit? Yes. Have we thought about it a lot? No. There are other circumstances in organized labor where you have a union (that) ends up with a piece of the business or members of the union end up with a piece of the business. There are ways to deal with it. If that were to happen we would deal with it." He added, "There are not going to be a lot of player and clubs who would be interested in talking about that kind of (equity) arrangement" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/22).

REELING THEM IN: In Miami, Barry Jackson reported the Marlins "sold 45,131 tickets on the first day individual game tickets went on sale" Saturday, the "most in team history." Also at FanFest weekend at Sun Life Stadium, team President David Samson said that the Marlins "hope to offer tours of the new ballpark beginning in late summer or early fall." In November, the team "will unveil its new uniforms and logo and officially change its name to the Miami Marlins." Jackson noted only "two of the new stadium’s 379 Diamond Club seats behind home plate remain unsold" for the debut '12 season. Samson added that "1,000 of the stadium’s 37,000 seats will be standing-room only" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/20).

THE A'S HAVE IT: Comcast SportsNet Bay Area’s Ray Ratto noted A's DH Hideki Matsui arrived at Spring Training with a "huge Japanese media contingent as expected,” but there also were a “lot of just regular fans who came out, which is fairly unusual for the A's, at least in the last eight to 10 years.” Ratto estimated about 80 fans were watching the team’s first workout yesterday, which is “awfully high for them.” Ratto: “Maybe the expectations that people are whispering about are starting to get down to the grassroots here" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 2/21).