The Chiefs have "adamantly denied that they tap phones or listen in on conversations," but as the team "enters another period of transition after elevating defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel last week to head coach, interviews with more than two dozen current and former employees suggest that intimidation and secrecy are among the Chiefs’ principal management styles," according to Kent Babb of the K.C. STAR. Since the Chiefs hired GM Scott Pioli in '09, "life for many inside the Chiefs’ front office has been marked by massive staff turnover, fear and insecurity about how closely they are watched." Numerous current and former staffers "paint a picture of constant worry -- and, in a few cases, of alleged age discrimination." Chiefs Chair & CEO Clark Hunt "rejected the notion that Arrowhead is a difficult place to work, but he said there has been an emphasis placed on responsibility." He added that change "is often uncomfortable." Pioli three years ago "began ushering in a new culture on Arrowhead Drive." It centered on "secrecy, extreme attention to detail and putting an end to the way things had been" under former GM Carl Peterson. Some of the "first changes involved shutting off access and protecting information." Non-football employees, including "those who had worked for the Chiefs for decades, were told that they weren’t allowed on certain floors, or in certain areas of the team facility." Former Chiefs Dir of Stadium Operations Steve Schneider said, "It's not Lamar Hunt's organization anymore." A few former employees, though they "don’t deny that the working environment was tense," said that they believed Pioli and Chiefs President Mark Donovan "simply carried out changes that Clark Hunt, a graduate of the results-oriented Goldman Sachs training program, had authorized." Former coach Todd Haley this past year "stopped talking on the phone and repeatedly checked his office for listening devices." The team said that there is "nothing to substantiate Haley's fears, but some believed that anything was possible." A common notion "is that employees are constantly being watched." When they "arrive and leave, where they're going within the building and who they're talking to." But Donovan "denied that conversations are monitored or that the building is bugged" (K.C. STAR, 1/14).
EVIDENCE NEEDED FOR TAPPING CLAIMS: PROFOOTBALLTALK’s Mike Florio wrote if Haley “believes that the Chiefs are bugging rooms and/or tapping phones, Haley needs to provide chapter-and-verse evidence.” The allegation is “so inherently troublesome that we think the league should launch an immediate investigation." This is a “far bigger issue than brazenly videotaping defensive coaching signals during games, the foundation of the ‘Spygate’ scandal in New England.” If Haley is right, the Chiefs “have been violating state and federal law in the name of truly spying on their employees” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 1/16). SI.com’s Peter King asked, “Does Haley have proof that a federal crime has been committed and his phone was tampered with, or an office he works in has been bugged so team management could spy on him and other employees?” If he has proof or something “more than simple paranoia, out with it -- and expose the team for something incredibly scurrilous.” If not, that is “a damaging rap to lay on someone, or an organization.” Haley “needs to set the record straight” (SI.com, 1/16).
The CBC's Elliotte Friedman last week said he noticed Geoff Molson "was no longer" Canadiens Chair, but is now team President. Friedman: "Apparently (the move) happened last June, but what people were saying was, even though that it happened last June there's a lot of infighting on the Montreal ownership group, the six or seven pieces that are there." However, Molson and Canadiens minority Owner Michael Andlauer told Friedman the reports of unrest were "total fabrication." Friedman: "The reason Geoff Molson was moved from Chairman of the Board is because he wanted to be President and you can't be both. They said, 'We are not fighting behind the scenes.'" The CBC's Mike Milbury: "Somebody should be fighting there because it's a mess. They've embarrassed themselves time and time again with this coaching thing and everything that's gone on there this year" ("HNIC," CBC, 1/14). In N.Y., Larry Brooks wrote under the header, "Canadiens A Mess In Any Language." Brooks: "At some point or another Canadiens general manger Pierre Gauthier is going to run out of scapegoats, and at some point or another ownership might cast a critical glance at the way this unusually unpopular individual within the industry is running the operation, but at the same time it hardly is accurate to cast [Flames LW] Mike Cammalleri as some sort of a victim as the organization devolves into rubble." The Canadiens traded Cammalleri mid-game Saturday after he reportedly gave a "statement that contained a variation of the word 'loser'" in reference to his former team (N.Y. POST, 1/15).
FALLEN ON HARD TIMES: In a special to the Montreal GAZETTE, Jack Todd writes, "Someone has to take a clear-eyed look at this team and develop a long-range plan based on the assets the Canadiens really have, not on an overly optimistic view of the talent here and in the system. Show me the long-term thinking that is going to put the once-mighty Canadiens back on a par with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Vancouver and Boston as a consistent championship threat." The Canadiens are a team "desperately in need of a long-term overhaul, a clear vision of the future, even a willingness to bottom out now in order to come back stronger than ever." Todd writes, "Instead, we have a comedy act -- and a team president, Geoff Molson, who appears reluctant to do something about it. How the once-mighty Canadiens have fallen" (Montreal GAZETTE, 1/17).
In Toronto, Cathal Kelly writes under the header, "Toronto Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos Is Testing The Fans' Patience." Anthopoulos "sold fans on the idea of a measured rise," and the "expectation grew that Anthopoulos could think his way into playoff baseball." But there are "practical limits to that sort of team building," and Anthopoulos has "begun butting up against them this off-season." He is "drifting out there all by himself without any backup from his employers." Blue Jays Owner Rogers Communications is "putting the financial shackles on him, and he’s the one left to explain it to people" (TORONTO STAR, 1/17).
TIME TO LET GO? YAHOO SPORTS' Jeff Passan noted "pressure is mounting" for the financially strapped Mets, and "more bills are coming due." A source said that MLB is "likely to let the creditors' squeeze force [Owner Fred] Wilpon into considering selling, which isn't exactly imminent -- and could set the franchise back even more." Passan: "If Wilpon wanted what was best for the Mets, he'd sell now and give the club a chance to avoid the wrecking ball barreling toward him. Instead, this is about him and his family and their team, and so he olés the wrecking ball, knowing its target is the team onto which he so desperately wants to hold" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/16).
THE ROYAL TIME: In K.C., Rustin Dodd reported the Royals yesterday "unveiled their slogan/tagline for 2012 -- 'Our Time' -- which is, according to the club, supposed to highlight the young team and the upcoming" MLB All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium. Dodd: "If you believe that simpler slogans -- with more direct messages -- are generally more effective, well, then this is probably an improvement over last year's tagline, 'Major League Moments'" (KANSASCITY.com, 1/16). STRAIGHT FROM THE RUNWAY: YAHOO SPORTS' Kevin Kaduk noted the "cat's out of the proverbial equipment bag" regarding the Braves' alternate jerseys for the upcoming season. Sports apparel website OnTheField.com posted images of the team's new jersey for sale. The "cream-colored tops are receiving a lot more positive attention than the Miami Marlins did." Kaduk: "And rightfully so, because they are certainly pleasing to the eye." What "makes these uniforms attractive is that they're not a huge departure from what they wear now" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/16).