Vikings P Chris Kluwe was released yesterday, and “cynics will look at the Vikings’ decision and wonder whether they cut Kluwe based solely on football or whether they had also tired of their veteran punter generating so much off-the-field attention for his candid opinions and activism,” according to Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE. Vikings GM Rick Spielman, after drafting P Jeff Locke, “insisted the push to separate from Kluwe was purely competitive.” Spielman said, “It had nothing to do with Chris Kluwe’s off-field concerns. I have no issues if Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion. That’s his right, that’s his freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a guy to come in to compete." Wherever Kluwe lands, "he wants his next team to know he’ll be dedicated to his job but that he won’t stifle his opinions on topics he feels strongly about.” Kluwe “could not say for sure whether voicing his opinions so frequently had become a catalyst for his release.” But he is “hopeful that was not the case and that it won’t deter other organizations from giving him an opportunity” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/7). In St. Paul, Bob Sansevere writes Kluwe's of activism affecting the Vikings' decision, “We might never know how much a part it truly played, if any.” Sansevere: “We do know this: The activism got Kluwe a sharp rebuke last season from Vikings special team coordinator Mike Priefer” (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/7).
THINKING OUT LOUD: In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins wrote, “Regardless of whether they admit it, the Vikings are jettisoning Kluwe partly because they grew tired of his outspokenness.” Kluwe has “become the most visible punter in NFL history because of his social activism.” The Vikings “deny that Kluwe’s public stance on issues factored into their decision -- not that they would ever admit it -- but they likely prefer someone who embraces the anonymous life of an NFL punter” (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/5). CBSSPORTS.com’s Mike Freeman wrote it would be “silly to think” the Vikings did not release Kluwe “in part due to his activism and public stances on a variety of things.” It would be “asinine to say he wasn't cut, at least partially, because he yapped too much” (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/6). FOXSPORTS.com’s Jen Floyd Engel writes Kluwe’s activism “definitely factored into his release, and anybody in Minnesota who says otherwise is lying.” Floyd Engel: “We say we want athletes to take stands and have opinions, but this is a lie. We demand they shut up and play, or insist if they must speak that they share our opinions” (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/7). But CBS' Doug Gottlieb said, "This is just a business transaction where they didn’t feel like Chris Kluwe was good enough.” CBS' Allie LaForce added, “And you can save a lot of money with a rookie who can produce the same numbers that he did” (“Lead Off,” CBS Sports Network, 5/6). FREE AGENT SPEECH: In N.Y., Pat Borzi notes both Kluwe and free agent LB Brendon Ayanbadejo “are out of work,” as the Ravens “released Ayanbadejo two months ago.” Kluwe “wonders whether that might discourage other NFL players from speaking out on issues.” Kluwe: “It’s really going to depend on whether we are able to find work. If we’re not, then people are probably going to draw the logical conclusion. That will happen. I would hope the NFL isn’t an organization that will allow something like that to happen” (N.Y. TIMES, 5/7). YAHOO SPORTS’ Les Carpenter wrote while “you could argue Ayanbadejo was a financial casualty for a team desperate to get under the salary cap, Kluwe was a modest budget strain to the Vikings.” What happened to him “makes little sense." Except it "makes lots of sense.” There is an “idea in football that punters should be seen and not heard” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/6).
The Nationals' arrival in DC in ‘05 “created a complicated relationship” between the team and the Orioles, where the teams are “at once neighbors, opponents on the field and, lately, bickering business partners when it comes to the regional television network they co-own but the Orioles control,” according to Jeff Barker of the Baltimore SUN. The clubs are “outwardly cordial,” and both front offices are “anxious to keep it that way.” But “maintaining the relationship can be challenging.” The clubs are “like roommates sharing a space that one had long occupied.” They must make “delicate calculations about how far they can go in marketing without intruding on the other's turf.” The teams “seem to have more flexibility to promote themselves across the region than their NFL counterparts,” the Ravens and Redskins. If MLB has “carved out marketing territories -- and it says it has -- it's not sharing them publicly.” DC’s “natural marketing territory, which includes rapidly growing Northern Virginia, dwarfs Baltimore's in population.” Meanwhile, the DC media market is ranked eighth nationally, while Baltimore is ranked 27th. The Nationals say their marketing territory and TV footprint "are essentially the same and include Washington, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and parts of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.” The Orioles' reach is "very similar.” The team's radio network "has affiliates in Washington and all the Nationals' states." The Orioles also “don't believe countless baseball fans in Washington, Virginia and other states abandoned the team once the Nationals showed up.” But the Nationals “see it differently.” Nationals COO Andy Feffer said that DC-area fans “may still follow the Orioles but were ready to embrace a new team” (Baltimore SUN, 5/5).
BELTWAY BATTLE: The SUN's Barker wrote the Ravens for years "quietly tried to make the case to the NFL that Baltimore-Washington would function best as a single television market." The Ravens in '10 said that about 12% of their PSL holders "have residences" in DC, Northern Virginia or Montgomery or Prince George's counties in Maryland. Those fans "used to complain that they couldn’t see all of Baltimore's games on TV." The Ravens said that has "been changing." The change "isn't because the TV territories have been shifted." It is because DC TV "has become very Ravens-friendly." But DC "doesn't always like conceding that it's interested in the Ravens." It is "as if some Redskins fans feel they're diluting their allegiance to the home club by following a neighbor." But there is "clearly Ravens interest" in the DC area "and vice-versa" (Baltimore SUN, 5/6).
In Boston, Galen Moore notes the Red Sox ended April with the best record in MLB, and despite 17 home games in April, the teams has only "sold out Fenway three times, and remain just barely in the top 10 for attendance.” Consequently, ticket resellers are “dropping prices.” A $52 ticket for an upcoming Twins game “was listed on reseller Fenway Ticket King for $34." Even a “surge of civic pride that followed the Marathon Monday bombings did not push Fenway attendance over the sellout limit on April 20, the next home game following the Marathon” (BOSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL, 5/3 issue).
FLYING BY THE SEAT OF HIS PANTS? In Philadelphia, Sam Donnellon writes, “At some point you have to ask: Has [Flyers Chair] Ed Snider become our version of Al Davis, his heart in the right place, his head not so much? Is there something structurally wrong with how the Flyers do things? A philosophy? A lack of one? And if so, does it all trace to its founder and the guy who still calls all the shots?” Donnellon continues, “What you like about Ed, what saves him from the vitriol, is his history. He probably will eat [G Ilya Bryzgalov’s] contract if it leads to a better defense and a better team. What you don't like is that if he does, it suggests once again that his wallet is no match for his seat-of-the-pants stewardship of this title-starved franchise” (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/7).
WHALE OF A TALE:In Hartford, Paul Doyle noted Madison Square Garden Co. is “competing for the right to renovate and run the Nassau Coliseum.” But the company said that it has “no specific plan to eventually move” its AHL affiliate, the Connecticut Whale, from Hartford to Long Island “if it wins the bid.” MSG “vowed” to spend $250M in "renovating the coliseum and creating an entertainment complex around the arena.” The new lease in Hartford “is for three years, and the deal includes two one-year extensions” (HARTFORD COURANT, 5/4).