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Volume 24 No. 117

Franchises

President Trump’s weekend comments drew "direct rebukes from the owners of 10 [NFL] clubs, including some Trump friends," according to Will Hobson of the WASHINGTON POST. 49ers CEO Jed York issued one of the stronger rebukes, terming Trump’s comments "callous and offensive" and "contradictory to what this great country stands for." Perhaps the most surprising response came from the Patriots' Robert Kraft, a friend and donor to the president who "arranged for Trump to receive a Super Bowl ring" after the team's latest title. Kraft said, "I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the president on Friday." Kraft was one of three owners who "donated to the president’s campaign or inaugural committee who criticized Trump," along with the Browns' Jimmy and Dee Haslam and the Texans' Bob McNair. The Haslams called the president’s comments "misguided, uninformed and divisive." McNair said Trump’s remarks "were divisive and counterproductive to what our country needs right now." Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder waited until kickoff of the team's "SNF" game against the Raiders last night to "issue a statement that also didn’t mention Trump or his comments, instead ambiguously promising the team would 'work to address divisions and bring unity, civility and respect to our greater community.'" The Cowboys' Jerry Jones and the Panthers' Jerry Richardson were the only team owners that "remained silent as a political firestorm engulfed the league" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/25). In Sacramento, Matt Barrows writes the response for team owners was "nearly unanimous and boiled down to this: We're not going to tell players they can't quietly and peacefully exercise their right to protest" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 9/25).

KHAN CHANGES HIS STANCE
: Jaguars Owner Shahid Khan "locked arms in a sideline show of unity" with the team's players prior to yesterday's game in London a a way to "protest Trump's comments." Khan, who is one of several team owners "who donated $1 million to Trump's presidential campaign, called it 'a privilege' to stand on the sideline with his team in protest." He also "chastised the president for the divisiveness" the comments caused" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 9/25). 49ers consultant Dr. Harry Edwards said, "Every owner, and especially the seven who supported him with both money and public association, are going to have to answer the questions: ‘What side of history are you on? Do you agree with Trump?’ If they agree or have no comment, they will be aligned against both the NFL commissioner and league office and the NFLPA. If they do not agree with his Alabama statements, they will in effect have separated themselves from both Trump and his alt-right constituency" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/25).

BLANK, FORD STAND STRONG: In Atlanta, D. Orlando Ledbetter notes Falcons Owner Arthur Blank and Lions Owner Martha Ford both "stood on the sidelines with their teams" prior to their game in Detroit. Blank said, "It’s unfortunate that the president chose to go in that direction and speak out the way he has. Love conquers and that kind of divisiveness and calling out accomplishes nothing, satisfies nothing." He added, "The issues that they point to are legitimate issues. They need to be talked about it. We need to make progress as a country moving forward with them. We don’t do it by creating walls. We don’t build walls" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 9/25). Ledbetter noted Blank was "fine with whatever the players elected to do." Blank: "What they do is their choice. I’m supportive of our players. I’m certainly supportive of their rights to express their freedom of speech" (AJC.com, 9/25). Meanwhile, in Detroit, Rod Beard writes having Ford on the field during the anthem “gave the players a boost, knowing they had her support, as well.” What meant more was that their support “came quickly, without a few days to marinate about the ramifications or how fans might react.” Lions S Glover Quin: “For Mrs. Ford and all the owners across the league to recognize that and quickly speak up -- there’s a difference between quickly speaking up and waiting a couple days -- that’s good” (DETROIT NEWS, 9/25).

Ross called Dolphins players kneeling during the anthem young men of character
ROSS SUPPORTS DOLPHINS: In West Palm Beach, Jason Lieser wrote Dolphins players have the "full support" of team Owner Stephen Ross, who "stood arm-in-arm" between S Reshad Jones and C Mike Pouncey during the anthem yesterday. No team owner "has been as outspoken on this topic," and he cleared the way for players to "act freely by releasing a sharp statement against Trump’s remarks Saturday" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 9/24). Ross said, "I know our players who kneeled for the anthem and these are smart young men of character who want to make our world a better place for everyone. They wanted to start a conversation and are making a difference in our community, including working with law enforcement to bring people together. We all can benefit from learning, listening and respecting each other" (PALMBEACHPOST.com, 9/24). Ross said players "didn’t like the comments being made about them and I think it shows a lot of unity and I think most people feel the way the players feel" (PALM BEACH POST, 9/25).

JOHNSON TAKES THE LEAD: In N.Y., George Willis notes Jets Chair & CEO Christopher Johnson spoke to each of the Jets before the game and "asked if he could join them on the sidelines during the anthem." It "wasn’t an easy ask" knowing his brother and Jets Owner Woody Johnson's "tight relationship with the president." Woody Johnson is currently serving as the U.S. ambassador to the U.K (N.Y. POST, 9/25). In N.Y., Manish Mehta writes Christopher Johnson "chose the exact right path." Real leadership "requires grace in the face of ignorance." On a powerful day that "included freedom of expression across the NFL landscape, the man in charge of the team that everybody loves to lampoon exhibited a compassion that galvanized all of them." Jets QB Josh McCown, who stood next to Johnson during the anthem, said, "It meant everything. That was over my career one of the more special things. No matter who you are, when you’re at the top and you’re willing to stand with your guys. ... There’s nothing that reflects better leadership than that. When you say, ‘I’m with you guys. We’re together on this'" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/25).

SPANOS ON SIDELINE: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell notes Charger Chair Dean Spanos joined his team on the sideline for the anthem, "locking arms with players, illustrated another type of statement as owners and executives for several teams supported players in the protests that began last year." Bell: "That’s huge. And unprecedented optics in a league with its fair share of acrimony between management and players flowing from labor issues." Spanos said, "It’s hard not to be emotional. I respect every one of our players, and it’s important that they know I have their back side. I want to be there for them" (USA TODAY, 9/25). In California, Randy Kartje notes Spanos addressed his team and "offered no suggestions about how to react when the anthem played." He only told the room that he would "stand together with them on the sideline, no matter what." Chargers DE Chris McCain said, "He told us that he’s with us. He’s got our back" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 9/25). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Hoffman and Booth note Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie joined his players on the sideline, "locking arms as a group, while some of the team split off to surround" S Malcolm Jenkins, who has been outspoken about his desire for civic change (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25). Jenkins said, "I know Mr. Lurie specifically doesn't go on the field much, so for him to be down there and showing their support in their own ways in important. I was happy to see that league-wide" (CSNPHILLY.com, 9/24).

Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said he is fully behind his players' decision to kneel
OTHER OWNERS SHOW SUPPORT: In S.F., Ron Kroichick notes Raiders Owner Mark Davis previously had asked his players "not to protest while wearing a Raiders uniform." However, Davis "amended his stance" on the eve of last night’s game (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/25). Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti said that he "'100 percent' supports his players' decision to kneel during the national anthem." Kraft said that politicians "could learn much from the unifying spirit of a competitive, team-oriented enterprise like football." Jimmy and Dee Haslam wrote that they "didn't want to let 'misguided, uninformed and divisive comments from the President or anyone else deter us from our efforts to unify'" (AP, 9/24). Meanwhile, in N.Y., Pat Leonard notes the entire Giants team "locked arms in solidarity" during the national anthem while team Chair & Exec VP Steve Tisch and President & CEO John Mara notably "were not on the sideline" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/25).

HUNT MISSES OPPORTUNITY
: The N.Y. TIMES' Hoffman & Booth note the Chiefs were in an interesting position, as team Chair & CEO Clark Hunt has "regularly stated that he prefers that his players stand for the anthem." Hunt somewhat backed away from that stance with a statement that read, in part, "We believe in honoring the American flag and supporting all of those whose sacrifices protect the many freedoms with have in this country, including the right to have differences of opinion." Some of the Chiefs players were "seen kneeling or sitting during the anthem" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25). In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes Hunt "missed a chance to lead." Mellinger: "Trump directly insulted Hunt’s family business, and Hunt responded with the electronic statement version of the guy who’s challenged to a fight and jumps into his friends’ arms, screaming, 'HOLD ME BACK! HOLD ME BACK!'" Hunt’s delay in speaking was "consistent with his deliberate nature." But the time "spent drafting a statement with help from confidants did little to ensure a clear or even strong message." Mellinger: "Trump’s words demanded a strong response, one way or the other, and Hunt brought a rubber mallet to a job that requires a sledgehammer" (K.C. STAR, 9/25).

UNFORESEEN DEVELOPMENT
: The NATIONAL POST's Scott Stinson writes the fact that the NFL “pushed back so significantly is at least somewhat unexpected.” This is a league run by “exceedingly wealthy men, several of whom proudly call Trump a friend and who donated millions to his political cause.” In this one way, the “most divisive president in history has finally managed to be a uniter” (NATIONAL POST, 9/25). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Radnofsky & Beaton note the NFL is "typically considered to be a conservative institution, and many owners have avoided direct conflict with Washington, making the statements unusual" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 9/25).

STILL MORE TO DO: In Chicago, Shannon Ryan writes NFL owners "basically copy-and-pasted each other on Saturday, releasing statements vaguely calling for 'unity' and tsk-tsk-ing the president's words as 'divisive.'" The NFL "proved itself a slick PR machine once again." Ryan: "Forgive me, but I can't help but think the commissioner and owners' statements are nothing but spin in an effort to quell the rising voices of black players and their allies about racial injustice. ... Let's appreciate that the league and its owners did not remain silent." Instead of "advocating for the causes in which players have protested this season," owners "skimmed through their thesaurus looking for safe words." Ryan: "The NFL owners need to do more before we give them credit" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/25).

Steelers OT Alejandro Villanueva was the team's lone player to be present for the national anthem yesterday at Soldier Field, and his presence "surprised many members" of the team, according to a source cited by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. The source said that Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who served terms in Afghanistan, was the lone Steeler to appear "despite an expectation from Saturday's players-only meeting that the entire team would remain in the locker room." Villanueva was a "key figure in the team's protest planning because of his background." The source said that players wanted to "accommodate Villanueva, who expressed during their 30-minute session that he didn't want to be singled out." Moving the protest off the field entirely was a "way to keep solidarity without isolating an individual." The source said, "That's where the confusion came in" (ESPN.com, 9/24). Steelers coach Mike Tomlin "stood on the sideline with assistant coaches Mike Munchak, Todd Haley and James Saxon" (TRIBLIVE.com, 9/24). Tomlin prior to the game said to CBS' Jamie Erdahl, "These are very divisive times for our country, and for us as a football team, it’s about us remaining solid. We’re not going to be divided by anything said by anyone. ... We’re not going to play politics" ("That Other Pregame Show,” CBSSN, 9/24). NBC’s Al Michaels said, “Leave it to Mike Tomlin. I always felt he was ahead of a lot of guys. He had his team in the locker room. He didn't want them to have to make a choice whether they were going to protest or kneel or whatever and he didn't want his team to play politics” (“FNIA,” NBC, 9/24).

TEAM DECISION
: Steelers CB Coty Sensabaugh said that Saturday's meeting was "uncomfortable in spots, but constructive." He added that there was "no yelling or anger with one another." Steelers DE Cameron Heyward said that those who "did address the group before the vote ... challenged each other and their fellow players not to [be] broken by whatever outcome they reached." In Pennsylvania, Jacob Klinger reported the players-only meeting "lasted 15 minutes" and ended with a team that had "never personally or collectively demonstrated during the national anthem deciding to stay out of sight while the song was sung." Steelers OT Chris Hubbard said that a vote was "split nearly in half," while fellow OT Ramon Foster added that the team "supported Villanueva standing just off of the field during the anthem performance." Steelers LB James Harrison "did not think anyone was exempt." Harrison: "We thought we were all in attention with the same agreement, obviously. But, I guess we weren't." The players' decision was relayed to Tomlin, who called NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and "told him his players' plan" (PENNLIVE.com, 9/24). Steelers TE Vance McDonald: "By no means are we trying to limit anyone or restrict anyone on the team from having a voice, today, tomorrow, on social media, whatever platform they want to use. But collectively before the game, we wanted to do something together" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 9/25).

MIXED MESSAGE: In Pittsburgh, Stephen Nesbitt writes the protest was a "striking and symbolic image." But rather than "present a unified front, abstaining from a highly charged conversation, the Steelers’ position appeared unclear." Nesbitt: "Seen one way, they had Mr. Villanueva’s back. Seen another way, they stranded him" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/25). Also in Pittsburgh, Kevin Gorman wrote in an attempt to "show solidarity over a divisive issue, the Steelers instead left their hero soldier standing alone." Gorman: "What a shame it would be if all Sunday's protest did was divide the town with the great football team" (TRIBLIVE.com, 9/24).

The Seahawks and Titans yesterday "did not take the field for the playing of the national anthem," making it the "only game where neither team was on the field for the anthem," according to a front-page piece by Bob Condotta of the SEATTLE TIMES. Players from both teams had "spoken Saturday and knew the plans of each other." Seahawks CB Richard Sherman said that "many ideas were batted around" in what he "estimated were at least three-and-a-half hours of talks on Saturday." Sherman said that the "goal was to show unity." Sherman: "We wanted to do our best to not ostracize our guys, any of our individuals." He also noted one reason the team decided not to come out for the anthem is that that "used to be the norm -- players were typically not on the field for the anthem prior to the events of September 11, 2001" (SEATTLE TIMES, 9/25). Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin said that the team "consulted with Titans players up until a couple hours before kickoff to coordinate the statement the teams would be making before the game" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 9/25). Titans TE Delanie Walker said, "We had a group text message with the Seattle Seahawks. We sat down and started talking about it as a team. The head coaches got involved and we came up with a solution that would be perfect for everybody, and that was staying in the locker room." He added, "For a long time we’ve been united playing with one another -- all races. That’s what we’re trying to show, that we’re united and you can’t separate us” (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 9/25).

MATTER OF TIMING: NBC's Michele Tafoya reported the Raiders "wanted to stay in the locker room during the national anthem, but they couldn't because the pregame timings in primetime are different from those in daytime games." The team would have "forfeited the coin toss, their second half option and they would’ve been in danger of a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty” ("SNF," NBC, 9/24).

Many other teams responded to Trump's comments yesterday. Here are a sampling of what some clubs did:

  • In Chicago, Rick Morrissey notes many Bears players "locked arms in solidarity during the national anthem" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/25). Also in Chicago, Patrick Finley notes Bears Chair George McCaskey and coach John Fox "addressed the team Saturday night, telling players they supported whatever they wanted to do -- as long as it showed team unity." Bears LB Danny Trevathan said that McCaskey "told players he wouldn’t recommend a protest but encouraged them to act united" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 9/25). In Chicago, JJ Stankevitz notes Bears players said that the message from McCaskey and Fox was "well-received." Players "felt like the team’s ownership, management and coaching staff had their back." The Bears "saw President Trump’s comments as an attempt to divide them and the rest of the players in the league, so the message they wanted to send was one of unity." Whatever the Bears did yesterday, the "point was to do it as a unified team" (CSNCHICAGO.com, 9/24).
  • In St. Paul, John Shipley in a front-page piece notes the Vikings "stood arm in arm for the anthem for the first time this season" in what was called a team decision. Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph said that the team stood because they "also respect the flag and we respect what it stands for, and we respect the men and women who serve our country." Rudolph: "That’s why we did what we did today. The leaders on our team decided that was the best thing to do." Shipley: "Whatever they might think of kneeling during the anthem, Vikings players clearly feel that race is a big part of the controversy" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 9/25).
  • In N.Y., Hoffman & Booth write the Bills had "one of the more unusual demonstrations, with the entire team walking about 10 yards onto the field together before having several players kneel" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25). In Buffalo, Kimberley Martin writes under the header, "Bills, NFL Deliver Powerful  Message To Trump" (BUFFALO NEWS, 9/25).
  • USA TODAY's Josh Peter notes Chiefs WR Chris Conley, who "knelt during the national anthem" yesterday, said that "two teammates told him they disagreed with his form of protest but respected his right to do it." Conley also said that "one of the teammates said his acceptance stemmed from a pregame meeting, during which players voiced their opinions about the protests aimed at raising awareness of social injustice" (USA TODAY, 9/25).
  • In Charlotte, Jourdan Rodrigue in a front-page piece notes Panthers DE Julius Peppers "stayed in the locker room" during the national anthem. He "did not kneel, because he wanted it to be clear that he was not, in his words, 'disrespecting the flag.'" When the anthem finished, he "took the field without fanfare." He did "not discuss his plan with teammates beforehand." Peppers said of President Trump's comments, "I felt like he attacked our brothers, my brothers in the league. So I felt like it was appropriate to stand up with them and stay in the locker room" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 9/25).

Former Patriots LT Matt Light has “no problem with fans booing” Patriots players who took a knee during yesterday's game against the Texans, as he "walked away from the game ‘ashamed,’” according to Karen Guregian of the BOSTON HERALD. Light, who spent his entire 11-year career with the Pats, said, "If you think that it’s OK to take a knee during our national anthem and disrespect openly the national anthem, you are wrong.” He added the kneeling during the anthem “would have never happened during my time.” Light: “As a guy that’s been there and helped set up the Patriot Way so they can walk in there and do what they do, it’s beyond disheartening. It’s the first time I’ve ever been ashamed to be a Patriot. And I promise you I’m not the only one.” Light said that he was “surprised this would happen" under coach Bill Belichick's watch given how tightly Belichick has always run the team (BOSTON HERALD, 9/25).

BRADY DISAGREES WITH TRUMP: Patriots QB Tom Brady linked arms with his teammates during the anthem yesterday, and he said that he “disagreed with what the president said.” Brady during his weekly appearance on WEEI-FM this morning said, “I certainly disagree with what he said. I thought it was just divisive." He added, "I just want to support my teammates. I am never one to say, ‘Oh, that is wrong. That is right.’ I do believe in what I believe in. I believe in bringing people together and respect and love and trust.” WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable said that Brady “reiterated his comments from after the game about why he linked arms” with WR Phillip Dorsett and others. It was “about the love and support he has for his teammates” (WEEI.com, 9/25). Meanwhile, Brady said that he “heard the boos” from the crowd yesterday, but he did “not condemn them.” Brady: “You can voice your disagreement. That's absolutely, I think that's great. That's part of our democracy. As long as it's done in a peaceful, respectful way, that's what our country is all about” (BOSTONHERALD.com, 9/25).

President Trump over the weekend rescinded the Warriors' White House invitation, and now the team must decide if it will "join many of its peers in the NFL, WNBA and even MLB by protesting during the national anthem," according to Connor Letourneau of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, "It's not something we're talking about right now." The Warriors "recognize that they have a big platform as one of the most popular teams in the NBA." Warriors players "expect to talk about their options as a group" before deciding whether they will protest ahead of their preseason game Saturday against the Nuggets. Warriors F Andre Iguodala said that the Warriors "don't necessarily have to take a stance during the anthem" to make their message heard (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/25).

END OF STORY: ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne noted the Warriors have been "answering questions" about going to the White House since June. Everyone in the organization and the NBA league office "recognized the responsibility of the decision." This would "serve as a precedent for future NBA champions and a litmus test for champions in other sports." But Trump "ended all debate" this weekend. Now, instead of the "well-reasoned, calm, decision-making process the Warriors, NBA and senior White House officials had worked for months to set up, there was suddenly no choice to attend or not attend, and no chance at civil discourse at all." Kerr said, "It was an actual chance to talk to the president. After all, he works for us. He's a public servant. He may not be aware of that, but he is a public servant, right? So maybe as NBA champions, as people in a prominent position, we could go in and say, 'This is what's bothering us, what can we do about this?'" Warriors co-Owner Joe Lacob said, "There had been discussions between our camp and his camp all summer. He knew there would be a discussion and decision (Saturday). And that was all usurped by a tweet. I find that rather disconcerting" (ESPN.com, 9/23).

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO: Kerr said, "I was not surprised. He was going to break up with us before we could break up with him. That's the way it goes" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/24). Kerr in a special to SI.com wrote, "The hard part is knowing what to do now. ... I’ve probably been as critical of Trump as anybody but maybe it’s time to take a different course. There’s no need to get into a war of words. It’s about trying to hang on to the values that are important to us as an organization, a country, and, really, as human beings." Kerr: "You're the president. You represent all of us. Don't divide us" (SI.com, 9/24). Instead of visiting the White House, the Warriors said they will do something to "celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion -- the values we embrace as an organization." The team is "considering visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture" in DC (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/24).

CURRY COMMENTS: Trump rescinded the invitation following comments Warriors G Stephen Curry made Friday. Curry said, "I don’t know why he feels the need to target certain individuals rather than others. I have an idea of why, but it’s kind of beneath the leader of a country to go that route. It’s not what leaders do." Kerr added, "We would, in normal times, easily be able to set aside political views, and go visit and have a great time. ... The president made it really, really difficult for us to honor that institution" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/24). In DC, Tim Bontemps wrote what is notable in this situation is "not only Curry being willing to speak out about this forcefully, but to do so in a direct affront" to Trump. It is a "stark change from how Curry has historically comported himself." It is also one that "everyone, given the nature of the topic, will notice" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/23). In S.F., Scott Ostler wrote Curry is "not only the Warriors’ leader, and maybe the strongest team leader in sports." But he just "took over as the leader of whatever you want to call it -- the Athlete Resistance?" Everyone around the country "doesn’t love Curry like we do here in the Bay Area, but they’re looking at him in a whole different light now" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/24).

TAKING THE HIGH ROAD: In S.F., Al Saracevic wrote the Warriors "didn't slink from the spotlight." Of the players and execs who "spoke to the media Saturday, all sat and answered questions on the matter, taking the high road" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 9/24). In San Jose, Dieter Kurtenbach wrote Trump "picked a fight" that he "cannot win" against the Warriors. If there is one team in the world that is "equipped to handle a ridiculous, unprecedented, media duel with Trump, it’s the Warriors" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 9/24). Curry said, "It was amazing to see all of these guys (NBA players) rally around each other. That's what this is about. I commend and applaud everyone that’s spoken up. That’s what we are supposed to do. It’s really important" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/24). In N.Y., Benjamin Hoffman wrote the days of superstar athletes being "unwilling to speak their minds for fear of damaging their earnings or reputation appear to be at an end" (N.Y. TIMES, 9/24).

The Penguins have accepted an invitation to visit the White House this year after winning the Stanley Cup, and coach Mike Sullivan yesterday said the decision was made "as an organization." Sullivan: "We decided that we were going to accept the invitation. It's politics aside. Having said that, we also respect the fact that someone has a right to protest. We totally respect that, as well. That's how our organization looks at it and that's how we all feel" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 9/25). Penguins C Sidney Crosby said of the team's decision, "I support it. It’s a great honor for us to be invited there" (DKPITTSBURGHSPORTS.com, 9/24). Penguins F Bryan Rust: "As an organization, we relish the opportunity, and it's something we get to do because we are champions, and we're going to make the most of it" (CP, 9/24).

THINK AGAIN? YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote under the header, "Penguins Wrong To Accept Trump’s Invitation With Feeble Statement." Wyshynski: "How does one look around the current landscape of the sports world and the U.S., and as the current standard-bearer of a lily-white professional sports league (93 percent of the players identify as white) decide this is the best course of action?" The Penguins, and thus the NHL, "participating in [Trump's] folly at a time when other professional leagues have decided to not to go through the motions with the single most destructive and divisive political figure I’ve seen in my lifetime is a tone-deaf disgrace" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 9/24). In Pittsburgh, Kevin Gorman asks, "Are the Penguins really that tone deaf, to publicly accept an invite to the White House while the rest of the sports world is up in arms over Trump's tweets?" (TRIBLIVE.com, 9/24). In Toronto, Shree Paradkar writes under the header, "Why The Pittsburgh Penguins Should Reconsider Meeting Trump." Paradkar: "This isn’t about the Penguins’ freedom to make their choice. Rather it’s what that choice says about them. There come moments in public life when certain decisions are plucked out and pinned on to an arc of history. When that happens to this moment, when the future gazes back, where does this team want to see itself placed?" (TORONTO STAR, 9/25).

76ers and Devils co-Owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer have created a new entity called Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE) that puts both franchises, along with Prudential Center, into a single organization. 76ers, Devils and Prudential Center CEO Scott O’Neil has been named HBSE CEO. Devils President Hugh Weber will continue his job and also has been named HBSE President. 76ers Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Chris Heck has been promoted to President of Business Operations, while Exec VP Lara Price becomes COO. Jake Reynolds becomes 76ers CRO, but will retain his role as Senior VP/Ticket Sales & Service for both the 76ers and Devils. “I will focus on growing the company and we want to continue on that path,” O’Neil said. Many business operations of the teams are being combined under the new structure, but O’Neil would not disclose any specific job cuts across the franchises. “All the logical places where you would find scale is what we have done,” he said. Other Blitzer and Harris owned properties, such as its esports franchise Team Dignitas, the NBA G League Delaware 87ers and the Sixers Innovation Lab, are included under HBSE.

The Braves recently hosted their second Hackathon, an event where teams go to SunTrust Park and The Battery Atlanta to "learn about the club, develop ideas that will enhance the fan experience and [then] pitch them to Braves marketing executives," according to Phil Hudson of the ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE. The competition's winners "win a Braves VIP experience and $5,000." The previous winner "created the idea that was the genesis behind the team's 'Clubhouse Attendant.'" This year's winners -- Jeff Walters, Sasha Lowndes and Scott Bradshaw -- "proposed an idea called 'Battle for the Big Screen,' which pits fans against each other in a voting competition for a spot on the Big Screen at SunTrust Park." Braves Senior Dir of Marketing & Innovation Greg Mize said, "The winning team's product can be [implemented] into our app and allows for us to present challenges, prompts, or anything we can do that will generate an action with the end result of the content ending up on the Big Screen." Mize added that the next move for the club is to "bring the winning team into the Braves front office to present their idea to the entire Braves Game Entertainment Team and Corporate Sponsorships Team so the club can have the product in place" for '18 season (BIZJOURNALS.com, 9/22).