Hawks GM Wes Wilcox has "received an undisclosed discipline from the organization" for the "racially charged joke he made during a season-ticket holder event last month," according to Marc Spears of ESPN.com. After some "challenging questions from attendees, Deadspin reported that Wilcox responded by saying he had 'a black wife and three mixed kids, so I'm used to people being angry and argumentative.'" A Hawks internal investigation from Dec. 27 to Jan. 9 that included interviews with attendees concluded that Wilcox "didn't use the words 'angry and argumentative,' but the mention of race merited his being reprimanded internally by the franchise." Hawks Senior VP/Community and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Nzinga Shaw said, "After hearing multiple sides of the story and getting multiple eyewitness accounts of what took place, I am not convinced that what we heard and read in Deadspin is a direct quote that was used. Wes, however, certainly did make his off-color statement, which included elements of describing his wife's race. ... We certainly do not approve of this behavior and we are going to handle this manner internally." Shaw said that the Hawks have "no plans to fire Wilcox" (ESPN.com, 1/10).
The Ravens are considering "raising ticket prices" for the first time since '13, according to Joshua Gordon of the BALTIMORE BUSINESS JOURNAL. Ravens President Dick Cass at the team's year-end press conference yesterday said that nearly $120M is being "invested in upgrades at M&T Bank Stadium over the next two and half a years and that will factor into the decision whether to raise ticket prices." Cass added that the Ravens were in the "bottom half of NFL teams in terms of prices last season." An announcement is "expected by the end of January or beginning of February." Gordon noted the last increase "came following the team's Super Bowl." Cass said, "We have only raised prices once in the last eight (years). Since we have last raised prices we have spent about $45 million in improving the stadium and over the next two and a half years we are going to spend" an additional $120M. If ticket prices are "indeed raised, the question becomes whether fans continue to attend home games if the product on the field is not a winning one," as the Ravens have missed the playoffs two consecutive seasons. Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said that season-ticket renewals are "always" between 97-99%, but he "knows there is a lot of disappointment and anger from the fans this winter" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/10). In Baltimore, Edward Lee writes despite weekly sellouts, Ravens attendance "lagged this season." Raiders and Redskins fans were a "visible presence at games on Oct. 2 and 9, respectively," and when the Eagles "visited on Dec. 18, quite a few seats were empty" (Baltimore SUN, 1/11).
HARD STANCE: The SUN's Lee reports Bisciotti "renewed the organization's position against choosing players with histories of violence against women." The Ravens' restraint "stems from its own history" with former RB Ray Rice. Bisciotti said, "There are some people that we’re going to take off our board that do real well in the league. That’s just the way it goes. Categorically, yeah, domestic abuse, we’re not taking them." Ravens Exec VP & GM Ozzie Newsome said that the team’s brain trust must "weigh the risks of selecting a player with character issues." Newsome: "I don’t think we are afraid of character guys. But we want guys that No. 1, love to play football, that are going to be here on time and hopefully not getting in trouble when they leave" (Baltimore SUN, 1/11).
The Sharks for the first time are now able to "research the sales history and current demand for each individual seat" at SAP Center as a "guide for pricing," according to Jody Meacham of the SILICON VALLEY BUSINESS JOURNAL. The Sharks have found it is "not unusual for two side-by-side seats to have radically different desirability," but so far they are "only using this new business intelligence on a row-by-row basis." Still, this season's 16 different ticket prices "will multiply to 32 price levels" for the '17-18 season. Club seats -- the ones at the "bottom of the lower bowl, excluding only a handful of sections at the Zamboni end of the rink" -- will increase 8% on average, while "lower level non-club seats" will increase 2.5% and upper level 2.8%. The biggest change is to the "first three rows in the club section called Premium Glass seats, which sold for $137 to $222 per game last season and included access with other club seat ticket holders to what is now called the Alaska Airlines Club and its higher-end food and beverage offerings." Premium Glass-level ticket holders next season "will pay $300 to $400 per game but it will include access to a new club, called the Chairman’s Lounge, with food and drinks, parking and a dedicated arena entrance already priced into their tickets." The Chairman’s Lounge will "replace the 300-seat Arena Grill restaurant," once called George’s Grill after original Sharks co-Owner George Gund III. The Sharks may spend up to $1M "remodeling the space into more of a stand-up-and-schmooze area that will open before the main building and close when the third period begins" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 1/10).
The Heat and e-sports team Misfits yesterday announced that the NBA club has "acquired a stake" in the multigame organization, according to Jacob Wolf of ESPN.com. The Heat will "assist in managerial duties around the brand, including a new rebrand to match the Heat colors, marketing, brand promotion and sponsorship." Terms of the deal "were not disclosed." The Heat are the second NBA franchise to "fully integrate into an esports team." In September, the 76ers ownership group "purchased a majority stake in Team Dignitas and Apex Gaming, merging the two under the Dignitas banner, appointing new staffers and using some of its staff from the Sixers for the esports brand." There are "other NBA investments of varying degrees" that include the Grizzlies, Kings, Wizards and Warriors (ESPN.com, 1/10).
FILM STUDY: Toronto-based movie theater operator Cineplex yesterday announced plans for a "Call of Duty" tournament that will see teams compete for $65,000 in cash and prizes and, for the first time, the "opportunity to move on to a major U.S. competition." The GLOBE & MAIL's Andrew Willis writes it is the latest sign that e-sports are "becoming a big-money enterprise in Canada." As part of a "larger strategy to be about more than just movies, Cineplex and its WorldGaming subsidiary will host qualifying tournaments for teams of four gamers at 24 theatre complexes" across Canada. The success of the e-sport business "means Cineplex’s fortunes are no longer totally dependent on Hollywood blockbusters" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/11).
Mediacom Communications Founder & CEO Rocco Commisso, who yesterday acquired a majority stake in the NASL N.Y. Cosmos, said that the team "will likely leave Long Island," according to Jim Baumbach of NEWSDAY. Since returning as a pro franchise in '13, the Cosmos "have played home games at Hofstra." Starting next season, though, the Cosmos "will be elsewhere." Commisso said that the "possible sites" are the stadium at Columbia Univ. and Coney Island’s MCU Park, home of the Single-A New York-Penn League Brooklyn Cyclones. The Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium at Columbia is named for Commisso as he "co-captained the Columbia soccer team to its first NCAA appearance" in '70. Faced with "growing debt and questions about the future" of the NASL, the Cosmos "released all but three players in November then stopped paying most staffers in December." Commisso said that his “'first order of business' is to pay the money owed to staffers and debtors." Commisso: "Let’s get something clear: Rocco is not known for screwing anyone, all right?" He "declined to specify how much money is owed." He also "doesn’t foresee unveiling grand plans to build a stadium." More likely he will "seek to house the team at an already established venue." Commisso said, "This is not an easy situation from a financial standpoint. Rarely do sports teams make money and in the case of the Cosmos, even worse" (NEWSDAY, 1/11). In New Jersey, John Brennan writes Commisso has a "challenge ahead of him" (Bergen RECORD, 1/11).