NBA Senior VP/Marketing Communications Mike Bass said that Penguins co-Owner Ron Burkle on Thursday "sat down with" NBA Commissioner David Stern in N.Y. to "express interest in buying" the Kings, according to Lillis, Kasler & Bizjak of the SACRAMENTO BEE. The two-hour meeting was "brokered by" Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. A source said that the discussion "focused not only on the Kings, but on Burkle's desire to help build an arena at the current site of Downtown Plaza -- and not the downtown railyard." The meeting presents "evidence that the NBA is taking seriously Johnson's effort to present an alternative ownership group to the league that would keep the team in Sacramento." When news "first leaked" two weeks ago that Kings Owner the Maloof family was "negotiating to sell the Kings, Stern made a point of saying he thought Burkle should be given a shot at matching the offer from Seattle." Burkle's endorsement of Downtown Plaza also "marks the first time a precise location has been pushed by any of the investors being recruited by the mayor" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/27). Kings investor Bob Cook said that he asked a S.F. sports attorney to contact Oracle Founder & CEO Larry Ellison to "see if he'd consider investing in the team and meet with" Johnson. Cook said he thought Ellison "would be a good possibility" to buy the 65% interest in the Kings that is held by the Maloof family and partner Bob Heinreich. Cook said that he "met Thursday with Johnson to discuss his idea and said Johnson 'absolutely' reacted favorably to it" (MERCURYNEWS.com, 1/26).
WRONG WAY OF DOING THINGS? In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote, "My main gripe with the Maloofs? If their finances forced them to sell their franchise, that's fine." The economy has "chewed up more than a few families and businesses these past few years." But before privately negotiating a sale with hedge fund manager Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, whose group "fully intends to relocate the team to Seattle, Joe and Gavin should have informed the Sacramento public ... of their plight and their plans." That would have been "an honorable approach." Voisin: "Give Sacramento a chance for a pre-emptive strike" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 1/27).
PICKING UP THE PIECES: In Seattle, Jerry Brewer wrote there is "plenty to be done to ensure the new Sonics have the best chance to reclaim their place in the local sports scene." It starts with "winning back more of their fan base." That process might be "as difficult as Hansen's task of putting together an arena plan and acquiring an NBA team." It certainly "figures to take longer." Former Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro said, "There's no telling how some folks are going to react. It's going to be painstaking, and it won't be overnight. But you're going to have to regain the trust of fans" (SEATTLE TIMES, 1/27).
After the NHL Rangers' website on Friday published an article entitled "A Girl's Guide to Watching the Rangers," the organization was "quickly derided for the condescending way in which the article addresses its female readers," according to Chris Peters of CBSSPORTS.com. Sometimes with a new audience, "it's just best to let the game speak for itself and let them learn as they go." The team now is "finding this out the hard way." The story was presented in a "slide-show format with words of apparent advice for female fans." The Rangers were "quick to point out" that the story was "written by a contributor not employed by the team." The article "suggests learning a few names of the players by looking up the roster on the Rangers website, the importance of getting to know goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and reassuring the reader that it's all right to ask the man questions." The Rangers in response to the backlash tweeted, "Today's article was posted by a fan contributor. We determined article was inappropriate & took it down. We apologize to all offended fans." Peters wrote it is "good that the Rangers acknowledged that the story was in poor taste and shouldn't have been published, but the fact that a fan contribution wouldn't go through some sort of vetting process before it appears on a team-affiliated site seems a little hard to believe." Additionally, the Rangers "initially tweeted the link to the Girl's Guide from the official Twitter account" (CBSSPORTS.com, 1/25).YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote, "No one associated with the post evidently remembered the 'While The Men Watch' controversy last season, in which CBC pushed a female hockey program" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/25).
HOW BAD WAS IT REALLY? In Philadelphia, Deanna Vasso wrote, "As a female hockey fan, I found this article to be unintentionally hilarious." Vasso: "Although it was written by a woman, the condescending tone throughout the article hit on a lot of female stereotypes and assumed all women know absolutely nothing about hockey." The purpose of the blog was "understandable, but the lexicon and tone of it made it come off as sexist, even though it was written by a woman." Vasso wrote, "Here’s my advice to anyone -- male or female -- who wants to learn more about hockey: Be a visual learner and just watch the game" (PHILLY.com, 1/26).
White Sox Senior VP/Sales & Marketing Brooks Boyer said that the team's "first few hours of individual ticket sales to the general public were 'OK.'" Boyer: "Not great, but part of it is our season sales, our seven-game plans and 14-game plans are hundreds of percentage points up. ... Although I would have thought, with the $20 seats and $15 seats on Sunday that we would have ticked higher on our first day, it wasn’t all that bad because when you look at where we are and who’s probably buying baseball tickets at the end of January, it’s OK" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 1/28).
BIG FISH? In Miami, Barry Jackson wrote Marlins Owner Jeffrey Loria's "meddling in personnel decisions is widely known, but it’s even worse than perceived." Besides "suggesting or dictating free agent signings and players to trade, Loria has instructed his front office to demote several players." But the "broader question is this: Why is the owner even involved to this extent with personnel?" An MLB player agent said if Marlins President of Baseball Operations Larry Beinfest and VP & GM Michael Hill were "left alone and given autonomy, they would be much better off." Another agent said, "Jeffrey wants to be Jerry Jones and George Steinbrenner making personnel decisions, but Jones and Steinbrenner want to win. Jeffrey wants to make money first. That’s the difference" (MIAMIHERALD.com, 1/27).
MINI-APPLE: In St. Paul, Brian Murphy noted the Twins' fan festival yesterday concluded its three-day run at the Metrodome, "perhaps for the last time." The Twins are "uncertain whether the building still will be available next January or demolished to make room for the Vikings' new stadium." Team President Dave St. Peter said that the club is "considering several Twin Cities venues to replace the Dome, such as the Minneapolis Convention Center, St. Paul RiverCentre, Mall of America or perhaps a tandem event at Target Field and Target Center" (TWINCITIES.com, 1/27).
THE FIFTH WHEEL: In a special to MLB.com, Jeff Seidel reported the Nationals on Saturday introduced William Taft, the 27th President, "as the fifth member of the nightly Presidents Race." Taft "received a loud ovation from a packed ballroom" when he made his debut at the team's NatsFest (MLB.com, 1/26). In DC, Dan Steinberg noted Taft has an "intimate connection with baseball, having started the tradition of ceremonial first-pitch tossing with a 1910 delivery." He also is "widely credited with having accidentally created the seventh-inning stretch." The team will refer to Taft as "Bill" and the "Big Chief," due to his later role as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/25).
Titans Owner Bud Adams on Friday said that the team "will not raise ticket prices for the 2013 season." In Nashville, Jim Wyatt noted a year ago the team "raised ticket prices in the lower bowl at LP Field for the first time in three years, but kept prices unchanged in the stadium’s upper deck." The Titans' average season-ticket price for '13 is "expected to remain among the lowest in the NFL, with tickets ranging from $46 to $92 per game" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 1/26). Meanwhile, the Texans' average ticket price will go up 9.8% from '12. However, it is anticipated that the Texans again will be in the middle third of the NFL in ticket prices (Texans).
ON THE BLOCK AGAIN? In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch noted there is "talk" the NHL Panthers "could be for sale ... again." The club is "looking for further capital and judging by" last Thursday's Senators-Panthers game, the team "could certainly use more cash." Season tickets at the BB&T Center are "as low as $7 per game -- and free parking comes with the package" (OTTAWA SUN, 1/27).
PUMP UP THE VOLUME: TNT's Marv Albert following Thursday's Knicks-Celtics game said that he "believes Celtics management pumps in extra noise" at TD Garden. Albert said, "It seems that way, but they say no. There's times when it seems like there is suddenly a bump in the sound. But I really don't want to make a big deal out of it." The Celtics responded to Albert's claim with the following tweet: "Regarding comments on tonight's (broadcast), the Celtics have never used artificial crowd noise" (BOSTONHERALD.com, 1/25).
PULLING OUT THE BIG GUNS: EPL club Arsenal investor Alisher Usmanov said that former player Thierry Henry "is 'pushing him' to complete a buy-out of the club." Usmanov, who owns a 30% stake in the club, said that when he "had the chance to become one of the main shareholders in the club he was prevented to do so by 'certain people preferring to make a profit and create, using me, an outside enemy.'" He is "growing frustrated by being portrayed as a 'pirate' by Arsenal's current ownership," with Stan Kroenke owning two thirds of the club's shares (London TELEGRAPH, 1/28).