A Chargers ticket sales rep via e-mail recently “sought out rival fans to come" to Qualcomm Stadium, but team Exec VP & CEO A.G. Spanos said that is "not standard practice" of the team, according to Michael Gehlken of the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE. The team insisted that the sales pitch, inviting Chiefs fans to attend the Nov. 1 game in San Diego, “wasn’t by design ... calling the email ‘disappointing’ and a point of emphasis during a Monday staff meeting.” The story first broke last Thursday, and by Friday the incident had “gone viral on the Internet." Many Chargers fans “gave a scathing response, filling up comment sections with words like ‘pathetic’ and ‘weak.’” Spanos said, “I totally understand that reaction. It’s disappointing because we’ve been so aggressive this year with trying to sell to new Chargers fans. We hired 18 new people. We’re launching a season-ticket holder referral program, where season-ticket holders are going to be able to get rewards if they refer a new Chargers season-ticket holder customer. ... We’ve been very aggressive. We’re trying our best to pack the stadium with Chargers fans. This article, it hurt.” Spanos added, “This was an overeager sales rep, I would say, who was selling groups. He acted on his own without checking with his manager. We have sold to visiting fan groups in the past. We don’t proactively solicit them for new business. That’s not a standard practice of the Chargers. I was disappointed the story made headlines. It paints the organization in a poor light, and that’s not how we operate.” A team spokesperson when asked if the sales rep in question still works for the Chargers said the team "will not comment on any disciplinary action" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/10).
After Bengals season-ticket holders were e-mailed a "special invitation" to a pep rally at the team's first-ever Cincinnati-based training camp that required purchasing a $10 ticket, negative reaction included blog WhoDeyRevolution posting, "It shows even when the Bengals try to reward their most loyal stakeholders, they can't resist squeezing out a few bucks," according to Janice Morse of the CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. Bengals Dir of Sales & Public Affairs Jeff Berding said that the blog's criticism is "akin to unnecessary roughness, considering that the Bengals organization will incur costs 'north of six figures' to pay for a local band, fireworks, security and other expenses." Berding: "I think most people think this is a pretty neat thing." Berding said that as of yesterday, the Bengals' ticket office "had received only one telephone call from someone complaining about the ticket charge." He added that the "complainer was the same person associated with the WhoDeyRevolution posting." But some negative fan comments about the fee were posted on the team's Facebook page. Berding acknowledged that because it is the first time such an event has been held, the Bengals organization "isn't quite sure what type of turnout or response they'll get." The e-mail invitation said that season-ticket holders are "entitled to purchase unlimited numbers of tickets to the event, which will include the entire Bengals team and also will make former Bengals available for autographs" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 7/10). Morse, in a separate piece wrote under the header, "Is Bengals Pep Rally Criticism Fair?" Morse received a number of reader and fan responses on the issue (CINCINNATI.com, 7/9). PROFOOTBALLTALK.com's Mike Florio wrote, "There are actually three certainties in life: death, taxes, and the Bengals accused of being cheap." The question is "whether there's a way to do this without soaking $10 out of everyone who attends." Especially since the franchise "has soaked millions out of the taxpayers in putting together one of the sweetest sweetheart deals that any NFL team enjoys" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 7/9).
The Nets are “bound for Brooklyn and a newfound respectability,” and they are “no longer a punch line, but a destination,” according to Howard Beck of the N.Y. TIMES. Other than former Nets G Stephon Marbury -- “who simply wanted to be closer to home -- no NBA star ever demanded a trade to East Rutherford.” But elite players now view the Nets “as legitimate, and Brooklyn as desirable.” Nets G Deron Williams, who recently re-signed with the team, said, “Brooklyn is going to be huge. It definitely factored into my decision, starting a franchise in a place that hasn’t had a franchise since the ’50s, a city that wants basketball there.” When Williams was “asked if this conversation would be happening at all if the Nets were still in Newark, or East Rutherford,” he “shook his head.” Beck notes the big-city lights of N.Y. “will be shared now,” and the Nets “are poised to challenge the Knicks’ supremacy on the court and in the boroughs” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/10). In DC, Deron Snyder writes the Knicks, one of the NBA’s “marquee franchises, have the history, memories, championships and Madison Square Garden,” but they “don’t wear ‘Brooklyn’ on their chests.” That gives the Nets “a prime opportunity to siphon allegiance among the proud residents and natives who have lacked such specificity in a rooting interest since the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles in 1958.” If the Nets were to acquire Magic C Dwight Howard, team Owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority partner Jay-Z “couldn’t hope for a better housewarming gift for their state-of-the-art, $1 billion arena.” If they obtain Howard, the Nets “wouldn’t just upstage the Knicks,” they would “upend the league.” And though the Knicks, along with "small-market fans and proponents of parity would disagree, the move would be a blessing for the NBA.” Howard joining the Nets would “create dramatic tension within the nation’s biggest media market,” and it would give NBA Commissioner David Stern “maximum bang as Howard’s dreadful soap opera comes to a close” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 7/10).
STEALING THE SPOTLIGHT: ESPN N.Y.’s Stephen A. Smith wrote under the header, “Knicks Losing Their Grip On New York,” and noted the Knicks “appear to be precisely what we thought they would be all along: a team with two highly paid stars, saddled with high expectations but destined for nonexistence in the pantheon of championship contenders.” Smith: "Anyone who thinks the roster in Manhattan is better than the one already assembled in Brooklyn might need to visit their nearest eye doctor.” The Nets are “making moves -- staking claim to the hearts and minds of a city they deem vulnerable and starving for a contender.” Smith: “The roster is better in Brooklyn. So is the new Barclays Center. Some would even say the uniforms are better” (ESPNNY.com, 7/9).
Jerseys for Wild LW Zach Parise and D Ryan Suter are “flying off the shelves,” and “almost 2,000 season-tickets have been sold” since the players signed with the team last week, according to Michael Russo of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Wild COO Matt Majka said, “We're picking up the phone, not calling people.” Wild Owner Craig Leipold: “Free agents of Zach's and Ryan's caliber are often attracted to the major markets, where there is more attention, brighter spotlights and, frankly, more money. These two chose Minnesota ... and in doing so have transformed our franchise.” During yesterday's introductory press conference Leipold “talked about his hope of getting a Winter Classic, a practice facility, an eventual Stanley Cup or two.” He “invited the entire Wild staff to the news conference” and “more than 150 showed” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/10). The AP’s Jon Krawczynski wrote when Parise and Suter signed matching 13-year, $98M contracts with the Wild, "part of their aim was to turn Minnesota into a destination for the best pros in the league.” Parise yesterday said, “Hopefully, with Ryan and I coming here, good players want to play with good players. Hopefully that helps influence some people if they need some and we have a lot of friends around the league so hopefully that will help, too." In hockey circles, Minnesota "can in some ways be considered a major market." The Wild "have a beautiful arena, a dedicated fan base and a hockey heritage where children sometimes are put on ice skates before they can walk.” But 12 years into the franchise's existence, the fans were “getting restless while watching a starless team miss the playoffs year after year.” The Wild were "desperately in need of an adrenaline shot," and the team "got two” (AP, 7/9).
SEIZE THE DAY: In St. Paul, Ben Goessling notes Leipold "reopened the Wild's pursuit of a practice facility in St. Paul." Leipold "called on St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman to help him make it happen.” The team's “campaign for a practice facility has been a long and so far unsuccessful one.” For the Wild, the “answer could be seizing on the momentum created by Parise and Suter, just as the rest of the Twin Cities' professional sports teams finish their lobbying efforts for new facilities.” Leipold said that the lack of a practice facility "was among the concerns Parise and Suter raised when considering playing for the team.” Goessling writes a practice facility “eventually could inject some new revenue into the team's operations.” St. Paul Arena Co. Senior Dir of Planning & Public Affairs Bill Huepenbecker said that a practice facility would cost $45-55M and "would be linked by tunnel or skyway to the Xcel Energy Center.” Leipold yesterday said that the team has “sold almost" 2,000 new season tickets since signing Parise and Suter. Meanwhile, Leipold “declined to comment on business partner Phillip Falcone, who is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for charges that he lent himself $113 million from hedge funds he manages to pay his taxes.” Leipold only said that he has “been in touch with Falcone” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 7/10).
Organizers of the "anti-Coyotes referendum may not have enough signatures to get on the ballot, and they could face a big legal fight with the city of Glendale over how many signatures are needed and when the petitions are due," according to Mike Sunnucks of the PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL. Local residents Ken Jones and Joe Cobb are "trying to collect enough voter petition signatures to get a Coyotes referendum on the November ballot." They "want city voters to void" a $300M, 20-year arena deal with the Coyotes and prospective Owner Greg Jamison. Jones yesterday "wouldn't say how many signatures they've collected or if he has enough signatures right now to make the ballot." The Glendale City Council approved the measure on June 8. Jones said that he was "told by the city" the petitions were due yesterday. However, he said that he is "not turning in petitions" yet because he "believes he has until July 16." That will "likely set up a court fight over the deadline" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 7/9).
BACKUP PLANS: In N.Y., Fernanda Santos writes the Coyotes "once seemed like a great investment to Glendale, but now they are perhaps the most tortured example of the perils of public funding for privately held teams." Glendale City Council member Manny Martinez said, "If there's anyone to blame for this mess, it's us because we voted to pay all this money to bring the Coyotes here. We thought it would be a good deal." If Jamison "does not buy the team, the NHL will have to decide whether to operate the Coyotes for one more year in Glendale, somehow arrange a move to Quebec City or elsewhere, or even suspend the franchise for the 2012-13 season before reactivating it somewhere else." The Coyotes had the league's "lowest attendance in the regular season" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/10).
WAITING GAME: In Phoenix, Sarah McLellan notes free agent RW Shane Doan "refused to entertain offers when 11 teams called during the first week of free agency, waiting to make any decisions" until the petitions were due yesterday. However, "little clarity surfaced on Monday, leaving Doan's future still unresolved." Lagardere Unlimited agent Terry Bross, who represents Doan, said, "I don't feel like we're any closer to a resolution." McLellan writes the "uncertainty that continues to surround Jamison's bid has paused the negotiation process for Doan, but that could change soon should he decide to explore other teams" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 7/10).
The city of Sacramento is “casting friendly glances at the A’s, but the team is not receptive,” according to Susan Slusser of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Responding to reports yesterday that Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson “has begun to explore the possibility of bringing major-league baseball to the state capital,” A’s Owner Lew Wolff said, "We are not leaving the Bay Area, and that's the end of it. ... The only focus we have is San Jose. Sacramento is a very nice city, but not for major-league baseball, as far as our ownership is concerned.” Johnson said that he “is not looking to ruffle feathers; the idea of major-league baseball in Sacramento is strictly in the exploratory stages.” Johnson: "I respect Lew Wolff and John Fisher and the rest of the A's current ownership, and I understand they have to be laser-focused on San Jose. ... I know my good friend Jean Quan is going through the process to try to keep them in Oakland. Should those options not materialize, we want to send a message to the A's and Major League Baseball that Sacramento is a great baseball town." Johnson said that he “expects to get a report in two to four weeks that includes extensive marketing analysis and an examination of how viable MLB would be from the standpoint of corporate sponsors” (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/10). Johnson’s team said that it “wasn't surprised by the A's reaction," adding that it "realizes the Oakland team's first goal is to find a better home in the Bay Area.” In Sacramento, Dale Kasler notes Johnson “wants Sacramento to be ready if the Bay Area options fizzle.” A’s VP/Broadcasting & Communications Ken Pries said that team investor John Fisher “told Johnson ‘some months ago’ that the team won’t move to Sacramento” (SACRAMENTO BEE, 7/10).
NO NEWS HERE: MLB Commissioner Bud Selig during his 12th annual MLB.com Town Hall Chat offered no new substantive comment on the league’s inquiry into future stadium options for the A’s, now in its fourth year, again calling it a “complex issue” (Eric Fisher, SportsBusiness Journal). In California, Harmon & Seipel note Sacramento is providing the A’s with “another option in the club’s agonizing search for a new home.” Kunal Merchant, Exec Dir of Johnson's Think BIG task force, said that Sacramento has “no intention of trying to push Wolff into a decision.” Merchant: “We just don’t want to be caught flat-footed if other events don’t work out.” Harmon & Seipel note officials in "both Oakland and San Jose were unimpressed” with Sacramento’s outreach to MLB. Baseball San Jose co-Chair Michael Mulcahy said, “K.J. should stick to basketball -- that’s where he’s an All-Star” (CONTRA COSTA TIMES, 7/10). CSNBAYAREA.com’s Ray Ratto wrote under the header, “Sacto Mayor Johnson Big Hat, No Cattle Again.” Ratto: “I believe he is sincere. And I definitely believe he is nuts.” Ratto added, “Just nuts in that ‘why would you say this out loud to strangers?’ way” (CSNBAYAREA.com, 7/9).
The Angels have made LF Vernon Wells "disappear from the front of the stadium," according to Bill Plunkett of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER. During the team's recent road trip, one of the "large promotional banners at the main entrance of Angel Stadium was swapped out" as Wells' banner "was replaced by one" featuring LF Mark Trumbo. The new banner "was in place" for last weekend's four-game series against the Orioles. The decision to swap out one of the banners "in mid-season is apparently unprecedented." Angels VP/Communications Tim Mead said that it was a "marketing decision -- one made with no input from the baseball operations side of the Angels' front office." Mead: "Everything we try to do around here from a marketing standpoint, we try to keep current. It's just simply the fact that he's on the 60-day disabled list and you've got a couple other options that are performing and active." Wells has been on the DL since May 20, but he is "still one of the players featured in promotional photos around the stadium." The Angels also plan to replace the banner featuring P Jered Weaver "with a more up-to-date photo." Weaver's "current banner has been up since the start" of the '11 season. Banners featuring manager Mike Scioscia, former OF Bobby Abreu and commemorating the franchise's 50th anniversary season already have been "replaced this year by banners featuring the team's big off-season acquisitions," 1B Albert Pujols and P C.J. Wilson (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 7/9).