The Dodgers late yesterday filed a request with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware for approval to hire law firm Covington & Burling LLP to help market the club's cable TV rights. Club Owner Frank McCourt has long considered the TV rights the key to alleviating his financial woes, and has argued MLB's rejection of three proposed long-term extensions with Fox Sports are what forced him into the current bankruptcy. Thus, the club's latest request begins to get to the heart of the ongoing case. The filing does not express a preference for a traditional rights deal or the creation of a new regional sports network. But the Dodgers praised the abilities of the firm, which also represented the team on the thwarted Fox extensions. "[The Dodgers] believe that Covington's prior background and experience with LAD will enable [the club] to efficiently and effectively pursue a potential transaction involving the broadcast television rights during their Chapter 11 cases, thereby generating value for the estates and benefiting their creditors and all parties in interest," the filing reads in part. DC-based partner Douglas Gibson is the team's lead attorney on the matter, and his prior work has included representation of MLB, the NFL, the USTA and the USOC's Independent Advisory Committee, among others. Most recently, Gibson led a Covington team advising the UFC on its new TV rights deal with Fox. The Dodgers are currently under contract with Fox through the '13 season, a deal that also grants Fox exclusive negotiating rights for another 15 months. But bankruptcy law allows the Dodgers an option to exit that deal, and the club is expected to seek court approval to do that.
NFL Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson last night acknowledged that he asked QB Cam Newton prior to selecting him with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft whether Newton had any piercings or tattoos, and when the QB confirmed he did not, Richardson said, "We want to keep it that way." Richardson, appearing on PBS' "Charlie Rose," said of the pre-draft meeting with Newton, "He started to talk about his past and I said, ‘Cameron, I really don't care to talk about your past. I think we need to talk about the future,’ and we did that. He was dressed perfectly. I said, ‘Do you have any tattoos,’ and he said, ‘No sir, I don't have any.’ I said, ‘Do you have any piercings?’ He said, ‘No sir, I don't have any.’ And I said, ‘We want to keep it that way.’” Richardson added, “I said, ‘We want to keep: No tattoos, no piercings, and I think you've got a very nice haircut.’” Host Charlie Rose said, “You sound like a Lombardi.” Richardson replied, “No, I just sound reasonable to me” ("Charlie Rose," PBS, 8/23).
OUT OF BOUNDS? PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio notes Richardson "has drafted and signed plenty of players who have tattoos and piercings," including new TE Jeremy Shockey. Richardson appears "willing to tolerate those things when it comes to men who won't become the face of the franchise." But when it comes to Newton, Richardson "presumably wants him to do nothing that would potentially alienate the mainstream paying customers." Still, Florio writes, "The notion that teams would try to make players into non-threatening billboards seems more than a little heavy-handed, even if it's done in the name of 'growing the pie' to the benefit of teams and players alike" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/24). YAHOO SPORTS' Chris Chase writes, "Yes, it's hypocritical because his team's star player for the past decade has tattoos all over his arms. It's not unfair though. ... You have to adhere to the rules of your place of business" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/24). But CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman writes, "A dress code is one thing. But telling a grown ass man what he can do with his own body is way over the top. Newton is a football player, not a head of state. He's not leading Microsoft. He's a freaking quarterback. Who cares if he has his ears pierced?" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/24).
In St. Louis, Rick Hummel reports the MLB Cardinals have the "fourth highest attendance decline in the major leagues at nearly 171,000, or 2,843" per game going into last night's game against the Dodgers. With four weekend series remaining on the schedule, Cardinals VP/Ticket Sales Joe Strohm said that the team "still will exceed three million fans for the eighth year in a row and 15th year overall." He indicated that the club would "exceed three million on Friday, Sept. 23 against the Cubs." Hummel notes that number "still will be down from the 3.3 million attracted last year, but the decline per game by the end of the season should be more like 2,500 a game than the current figure." Strohm said that the Cardinals, who play in the 24th-largest market in MLB, will "finish sixth in attendance" for '11 (STLTODAY.com, 8/24).
HOMETOWN DISCOUNT: Angels P Jered Weaver admitted that he "had to go against the advice of agent Scott Boras before agreeing to" terms yesterday with his team on a five-year, $85M contract extension. ESPN L.A.'s Mark Saxon noted Weaver "may have left tens of millions on the table by signing 15 months before he reached free agency." Weaver said, "If $85 (million) is not enough to take care of my family and other generations of families then I'm pretty stupid, but how much money do you really need in life? I've never played this game for the money." Weaver added Boras "would have liked to have seen me gone [to free agency], but I told him I wanted to get something done and he was more than willing to work with me about it that way" (ESPNLA.com, 8/23).
ARMY STRONG: The MLS Timbers announced they are "adding seats for two home games that will raise the capacity at Jeld-Wen Field to more than 20,000." In Portland, Geoffry Arnold noted the extra seats are scheduled to be in place for the team's home games against the Revolution on Sept. 16 and the Dynamo on Oct. 14. The club will "open up reserved sections in 209-211 and approximately 1,200 seats in the Timbers Army, consisting of sections 201-208." The additional seats will "raise the stadium's capacity from the current 18,627 to 20,323" (OREGONLIVE.com, 8/23).
HEATING UP: In Buffalo, Bucky Gleason wrote the Sabres are "inching, if not leaping, toward becoming one of the top teams in the league." Owner Terry Pegula is the "gift that keeps on giving," and Gleason noted he has "spent some $8 million on the dressing room alone, [and] another $5 million or so buying the [AHL] Rochester Americans." In addition, the team is "adding scouts and tweaking operations." The Sabres are "evolving into a great story, and outsiders are paying attention" (BUFFALO NEWS, 8/21).