The Browns confirmed Friday morning that they "have been approached by a potential investor, Jimmy Haslam, the president of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Travel Centers," according to Joel Hammond of CRAIN'S CLEVELAND BUSINESS. It is unclear whether Haslam's "'investment' would involve him becoming a majority or minority owner," or whether Browns Owner Randy Lerner would maintain a stake in the team. Haslam "currently owns a stake" in the Steelers. The Browns in June "emphatically denied a report from a veteran Philadelphia reporter that said the Browns were one of a handful of NFL teams that could be for sale." Lerner took over ownership of the Browns in '02 after his father, Al, died (CRAINSCLEVELAND.com, 7/27). Haslam's company is "the nation's largest retail operator of travel centers and truck stops" (CLEVELAND.com, 7/27).
Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark has long said that the “days of seeing Knicks fans turn Nets ‘home’ games into MSG West were going to end once the Nets began play in Brooklyn this fall,” according to Tim Bontemps of the N.Y. POST. Yormark, noting the teams will face each other to open the season, said, “What better matchup than the Nets vs. the Knicks at the Barclays Center, not only to open the building for pro basketball, but also to set the tone for what I think will be hopefully one of the greatest rivalries in pro sports.” He “scoffed at the idea that the Nets need time to build up their fan base after spending the past 35 years being overlooked across the Hudson before taking on the Knicks and their legions of fans in the area.” Yormark said, “Trust me, those are Brooklyn Nets fans buying those seats. What happened in New Jersey, for how long it happened, for however long it happened, it’s in the past. That will not happen in Brooklyn.” He added, “There isn’t a concern as far as I’m concerned as far as who might show up and the allegiances they might have. I’m a believer in Brooklyn, and I’m a believer that, on opening night, we’ll have a big-time Brooklyn Nets crowd in the building, and it will be a home court advantage for us” (N.Y. POST, 7/27). In N.Y., Nate Taylor writes a few weeks ago, Yormark "made a request to NBA Commissioner David Stern for Brooklyn's first home game" to be against the Knicks. Yormark said, "I'm looking forward to it. People are going to be talking about this game until it happens." Yormark added, “We are now part of the conversation, and I can’t say we were in New Jersey. This has been an incredible move.” Knicks play-by-play announcer Marv Albert, who will call the Nets’ season opener on TNT, said, “They’ll be talking about this night for years to come as one of the biggest events in New York sports’ illustrious history. Brooklyn is back in the big leagues” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/27).
COULD MEAN TROUBLE: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Chris Herring writes despite the publicity it "will garner, having the first home game against the Knicks could be a somewhat risky proposition.” In April, during the Nets' final game in New Jersey, Knicks fans “took over the Prudential Center as if it was their home stadium.” They outnumbered Nets fans, chanted "MVP" for Knicks F Carmelo Anthony and “booed New Jersey players whenever they went to the free-throw line” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/27).
Jaguars Owner Shad Khan in a Q&A “discussed a wide range of topics from his expectations for the season to his role as an NFL owner, to the benefits of playing a game or two overseas,” according to Vito Stellino of the FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. Khan said, “Football is bigger than I thought it was. It is hope springs eternal and I’m very, very excited and optimistic.” Khan admitted that his ownership of the franchise is one of his smaller businesses. He said, “This is about the size of a small auto parts plant, very small. A couple of hundred people. But it’s an infinitely higher profile and the ability to impact people’s lives is absolutely amazing and mind blowing.” Khan said he “knew several” of the NFL owners before he bought the team. Khan: “Obviously I’ve gotten to know most of them. It’s absolutely a great group of owners. Great front office and leadership at the league level and, obviously, most importantly for me are the Jacksonville fans.” Meanwhile, Khan said of ticket sales thus far, “We’ve put a huge amount of effort, the caravans, we’ve had a number of other fans events, showing them really we’re reaching out and I think we’re doing better but we‘re not where we need to be.” The Jaguars earlier this month decided not to drop the TV blackout figure to 85% and Khan said of the move, “The (current) number (is what) we need to really have a sustainable team in the area, a sustainable team which will have the energy in the stadium. I think we can do that.” When asked how “important is it to avoid blackouts,” Khan said, “I think it’s money but it’s frankly more than that, that we have the support of the community.” When asked about the team’s desire to play multiple games in London, Khan said his message to fans is “you’re not going to lose a home game.” Khan: “The home game is just going to be a little further away. … We’ll do everything to accommodate Jacksonville area fans who want to go to that home game in London” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/27).
NEW DIGS: In Jacksonville, Tania Ganguli notes the Jaguars on Thursday unveiled a “$3 million makeover” of their locker room. The lockers now have “ventilation systems in each locker to dry players’ cleats and pads, custom chairs and LED hang rods that can change colors for special events, such as pink for breast cancer awareness.” Twenty HD LED display screens “ranging from 42 to 80 inches hang throughout the locker room, some of them display instructions for players rather than the white-board the team used for messages last year.” The locker room also “features a sound system of 41,600 watts” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/27).
The Pirates' on-field success this season "is also leading to success at the cash register," according to Sullivan & Schwarz of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Pirates Senior Dir of Communications Brian Warecki said that this week's series against the Cubs "brought out 94,018 people, a record for a three-game weekday series at the park." The 33,935 fans at Wednesday's game "also set a record for the highest attendance at a 12:35 p.m. start." The large crowds and a team that currently is 56-42 and in second place in the NL Central "have been an economic boon to vendors, restaurants and stores." Local merchandiser Pittsburgh Fan! store manager Michael Romano estimated that the store was selling 300% "more Pirates gear than in previous seasons." Romano: "It's the first time ever that Pirates are the priority. Last year, we saw a taste of what it could be like. Now, it seems more permanent as long as they don't fall apart." He added that in "previous seasons he would start selling Steelers merchandise in late summer as training camp started up." But for now, he will "be keeping Pirates jerseys front and center." Sullivan & Schwarz note the team's recent wins "have had one negative effect on the area: increased traffic." Pittsburgh police Lt. Michael Piasecki said that more officers "have had to respond for traffic control because of higher pre-game crowd estimates" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/26).
The MLS N.Y. Red Bulls are "inviting season-ticket holders on the field for their exhibition game" against EPL club Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday, according to Scott Soshnick of BLOOMBERG NEWS. The names of "more than 600 season-ticket holders will be included in the fabric of the numbers on the back of the jerseys worn by Red Bulls players." Red Bulls President of Business Operations Chris Heck said that for legal reasons, "season-ticket holders must opt-in to the offer." He added that the club has "about 7,000 season-ticket holders." Heck said, "This unique integration is our way of saying thank-you and that, together, we are one team." He added that fans whose "names appear in the jersey will be able to order a replica" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 7/26).