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Volume 24 No. 117

Franchises

The Golden Knights made their T-Mobile Arena debut last night in front of a crowd of 18,191, and for fans who had "eagerly anticipated" a major-league professional sports franchise in Las Vegas, it was "well worth the wait," according to Case Keefer of the LAS VEGAS SUN. The Golden Knights beat the Coyotes 5-2, and at 3-0 are off to the "best start ever by an expansion franchise." The players "couldn’t hide their excitement for the atmosphere at the arena." The frills "extended into the intermissions, with Cirque du Soleil’s 'O' performing in the first and the Golden Knights’ 12-man drum line accompanied by 3D visuals overtaking the ice in the second" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 10/11). In Las Vegas, Schoen & Carp note Golden Knights Owner Bill Foley made the decision to "honor the victims and first responders from the Oct. 1 mass shooting on the Strip" before last night's game. The ceremony, which "lasted more than 20 minutes, began with a video of musicians and celebrities offering well wishes to the city." First responders then were "introduced and accompanied onto the ice" by a Golden Knights player or member of the front office before a "ceremonial puck-drop at center ice." After 58 seconds of silence, the sellout crowd "sang the national anthem with organizers from the outdoor country music concert." Foley said, "It was very solemn, it was very moving and it accomplished what we were trying to accomplish. I thought it was good for the town." Raiders Owner Mark Davis was in attendance for the home opener and "arrived at the arena wearing a white Knights T-shirt" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/11).

BEST SHOW IN TOWN: In L.A., Helene Elliott writes for the Golden Knights to win their first three games was secondary to their success in "turning the occasion into a cathartic shared moment that strengthened the bonds already forged through tears and tragedy." The slogan Vegas Strong was adopted by the team and the city, and last night it "replaced the advertisements that usually clutter up the boards." The theme was "echoed on towels placed at each seat and on decals on the helmets of both teams." The team also is "selling T-shirts with that slogan and donating the net proceeds to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Foundation" (L.A. TIMES, 10/11). In Las Vegas, Chris Kudialis notes fans "lined up by the hundreds at bars and restaurants outside the arena," as early as 4:00pm PT. The average ticket for last night's game on StubHub and Vivid Seats were going from $150 to "sit in the upper deck to over $1,500 to sit near the glass." The Golden Knights' debut brought "both fans and the community together in 'a unique way that few events could.'" Outside the arena, bars "filled with both local Golden Knights fans and tourists anxious to watch the historic event" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 10/11).

A GOLDEN NIGHT: SPORTSNET.ca's Kristina Rutherford writes opening night really "couldn’t have gone any better for the NHL’s 31st franchise, on the ice and off it." It "isn’t easy to strike a perfect balance between respect for a tragedy and celebration for the start of something exciting, but the Golden Knights did." The team "promised the opening-day festivities would be toned down in light of the tragedy, and if this was toned down, you have to wonder what it’ll look like in full force." It was a "sight to see, the pre-game procession on the sparkly gold carpet," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "posing for pictures with fans who actually weren’t booing him" (SPORTSNET.ca, 10/11). In Las Vegas, Ray Brewer writes under the header, "You Couldn't Have Asked For A Better Opening Night Of Golden Knights Hockey" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 10/11). Also in Las Vegas, Adam Candee writes the Golden Knights "succeeded in balancing the temporary escape sought by a weary community with the solemnity demanded" (LAS VEGAS SUN, 10/11). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen writes last night "provided a much-needed distraction" for Las Vegas (USA TODAY, 10/11). ESPN Radio's Mike Greenberg said last night was a "good illustration of the ability of sports under the right circumstances to galvanize people and bring people together.” ESPN's Booger McFarland added, "How come we can't do it when things are normal? How come we can’t just be like, ‘Things are great, let’s come together and make our country a better place'" ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 10/11). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes sports "proved to be the most powerful of remedies." The Golden Knights connected "divergent groups of folks with a common goal: For a few hours, all the pain and loss and grief would be replaced with the simplicity and excitement and emotions of a hockey game" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/11). 

BACK IN THE FOLD: In Las Vegas, Ron Kantowski notes Golden Knights minority Owners Joe and Gavin Maloof were in a suite for last night's game "watching history being made as silent partners" of  Foley. The Maloof siblings were "back as principals of a major league sports team, albeit minority principals." The Maloof family "played an important if understated role" in bringing the Golden Knights to Las Vegas. The two brothers own 15% of the team. Gavin Maloof on the power of sport in troubling times said, "The team can be a healing factor for a lot of people in the community" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/11).

A labor union that represents workers in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana has "filed a charge alleging" that Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones has "violated the National Labor Relations Act with his threats to discipline players if they protest during the national anthem," according to Hill & Davison of the FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM. Local 100 of the United Labor Unions "filed the complaint" yesterday with the Ft. Worth office of the National Labor Relations Board. The National Labor Relations Act "prohibits employers from intimidating or threatening workers for their 'concerted activity.'" Local 100 Chief Organizer Wade Rathke said that the NFL has already "established that there is no condition of work that requires players to stand during the anthem." He added that players have the "right to protest and act concertedly at their workplace -- the playing field" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/11). Rathke said, "You can't discipline somebody for something that is a right they have under the law, whether that discipline be termination or benching or giving a slap on the wrist or writing up in their files they've been a bad boy. That's just not what they can do when it comes to concerted activities." He added, "I'm hoping this doesn't go to hell and back on the labor board. I think Mr. Jones should just say, 'I stepped out of line.' Fine. ... We're not looking for blood" (ESPN.com, 10/10).

A REAL TEXAS TUSSLE: In Dallas, Kate Hairopoulos reports Jones yesterday "strongly reiterated his stance that Cowboys players will be benched if they 'disrespect the flag' during the national anthem" during his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM. Jones said that it is "not in the best interest of the Cowboys to be in this debate." Jones: "This is a workplace issue. I don't want there to be any misunderstanding as to where I want the personnel of the Cowboys to be when we're at the No. 1 workplace we have, which is the field and the sideline on gameday." Jones "declined to get into 'conjecture' what he would do if star players" such as QB Dak Prescott or RB Ezekiel Elliott "decided to protest." He did indicate that he would "follow through on his statements." Hairopoulos notes Jones continues to "point to the NFL's game operating manual, which includes language about how teams and players should behave during the national anthem." But the policy is "not considered a hard-and-fast rule and the NFL has not disciplined the many players who have protested during the anthem for the last year." Jones believes that the manual makes it "clear the intent of the policy is that players should stand for the anthem" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/11). Jones said, "The No. 1 thing I have to do is run the Dallas Cowboys. I can’t get caught up in [President] Trump stuff and all the other issues -- no matter what side you’re on. The least pain for the Dallas Cowboys is the perception that we’re honoring the flag." Jones said that the issue, which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday addressed in a memo to club executives, "will be 'front and center' when owners gather in New York next week for league meetings." NFL Exec VP/Communications Joe Lockhart said the NFL, its teams and players "are frustrated when we’ve become part of a debate that really isn’t about football." Jones: "This just isn’t good for the Dallas Cowboys. This isn’t good for America’s Team" (USA TODAY, 10/11).

NO DEAL? In Dallas, Matt Mosley notes Jones "believed he made a deal with his roster when he took a knee before the anthem" prior to his team's kickoff against the Cardinals in Week 3. Mosley: "I'm pretty sure his players weren't aware they'd entered a pact with Jones." What Jones yesterday admitted was that Trump "absolutely forced his hand." Jones: "I'm a friend of the President, we don't agree on many, many matters. I'm really in practice, apolitical. But I really can't afford to be when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys and my No. 1 job. We're addressing the issue in part because (Trump) been very active in the issue. In part, that stirred it up. And because it is stirred up is one of the reasons I've drawn a bright line." Mosley writes Jones has "decided that much of his fan base has had enough of all the anthem protests in the NFL and would like to focus on football." He also believes "taking this hardline stance will provide cover for players and fans alike" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/11). Also in Dallas, Brandon George writes, "Jones didn't build a reputation as the most powerful NFL owner by backing down" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/11). But the MORNING NEWS' Moore writes it is "naïve to believe Jones or the Cowboys will emerge unscathed." Jones clearly has a "feel for the majority of his consumer base" and he knows where his clients and biggest advertising partners "stand on this issue." Moore: "Does he truly understand the depth of the emotion on the other side? Does he care?" Jones has put himself and the Cowboys at the "epicenter of an ugly partisan divide." Moore: "How can anyone believe he and the Cowboys won't suffer injuries?" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/11). 

LOCKER ROOM DIVISION? In Dallas, David Moore notes there have been no "signs of stress or division" among players regarding their stance on Jones' comments, but that "doesn't mean it won't develop over time." Moore: "It's too early to tell. Check back in a few weeks" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/11). In Ft. Worth, Mac Engel writes Jones "can’t win on this, and he’s taking the whole team down." The Cowboys are five games into a season of "great promise that is on the precipice of coming apart" because discussions surround the national anthem. Jones has a "long history of fighting for his players, but siding with President Trump on this issue is not one of them." It has "created stress in a locker room that does not need it" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 10/11).

New Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta yesterday said he wants people to talk about the Rockets "the way they talk about" the Lakers or the Celtics, teams that "win championships every decade," according to Jonathan Feigen of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Fertitta: "I don't want to win three in a row and not win any for the next 20, 25 years. I want to be a competitive team every year. We're going to make good decisions, and we're going to do whatever it takes to win." Fertitta spent "more for the Rockets and control of Toyota Center than anyone ever had for a North American sports franchise." But he also saw "more ways to spend, from upgrading Toyota Center lounges and dining areas to potentially paying the NBA's punitive luxury taxes." Fertitta said, "I will not make any decision based on what I paid for the team. ... If somebody tells me if you get this player you can win the championship next year, I have no problem losing money on this team." Fertitta also said that he will "not take over basketball decision-making" and will "rarely work from the owner's corner office" at Toyota Center." Rather, he intends to "remain at his headquarters at The Post Oak" in downtown Houston. He expects to be "front and center in free-agent recruiting, but he has no intention of evaluating players and weighing trades himself" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/11).

ICE, ANYONE? The CHRONICLE's Feigen notes Fertitta also said that he would "consider bringing an NHL team to Houston either as an owner or landlord if the numbers could work." Feritta: "I would put an NHL team here tomorrow. This one has got to work. But I'd love to have the other dates in the building. Do I want to see Toyota Center filled up 300 nights a year? Definitely. We'll do whatever we can do, but whatever we do has to make sense." Rockets CEO Tad Brown said that former Owner Leslie Alexander had "looked at NHL teams in the past, but either the timing with labor issues or the deals available were not right." Brown also said that he has spoken to MLSE Chair Larry Tanenbaum "about an NHL team in Houston." Brown added, "Tilman is aggressive. He has made it very clear to me he wants to see everything. We'll be getting him and Larry together soon" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/11).

TV TIMEOUT: The HOUSTON CHRONICLE notes a camera crew from "The Billion Dollar Buyer," Fertitta's reality TV show, "followed him around Toyota Center as he was introduced" as Owner. However, Rockets Gs James Harden and Chris Paul "will not be featured" in the show. Fertitta said, "This is crazy, but the NBA will not allow players to be in a television show. They can't appear. I'm struggling with this one. It's my show. These are my players. And they can't appear in it." Fertitta said that the rule is "designed to keep owners from making side deals that would circumvent salary cap rules" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/11).

The Ducks have signed a partnership with Denver-based data analytics firm SSB to help the franchise establish a data platform to drive strategy, engagement and revenue. SSB now has partnerships with eight NHL teams and the league itself. The data firm will help the team manage and coordinate its data, ranging from merchandise and concessions to fan clubs. “What they do will give us the ability to communicate consistently and efficiently to all of our audiences --including internal -- and will also allow us to more easily see the fans perspective,” said Ducks VP & CMO Aaron Teats in a statement. “We anticipate a big impact on ticket sales, sponsor return, marketing, operations, staff efficiency, and a lot more.”

D-backs Exec VP & GM Mike Hazen said that he "didn’t envision many financial impediments if the club chose to bring the team back intact" next season. In Phoenix, Nick Piecoro notes that is not including RF J.D. Martinez, an impending free agent who "figures to command big dollars on the open market." The D-backs have "four players on guaranteed contracts heading into next season," and another 14 players who will be "eligible for salary arbitration." There could be "non-tender candidates in that group," but even without them, the team's payroll "would be north" of $110M. This year's payroll was a little more than $105M, so going into the $120M range "would be a sizable increase" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 10/11).

WHAT'S GOING ON? In DC, Thom Loverro writes Laurene Powell Jobs' investment into Monumental Sports & Entertainment "raises a lot of questions about the health" and future of the company. Loverro: "Why this infusion of money in Monumental now?" MS&E recently signed a reported 10-year, $100M arena naming-rights deal with Capital One, and MS&E Chair Ted Leonsis made a deal that "gave him ownership of one-third" of NBC Sports Washington. Those two steps "should have put a healthy chunk of money into Monumental." Meanwhile, Jobs' investment "puts her next in line to own" MS&E (WASHINGTON TIMES, 10/11).

LAKERS BACK ON TOP: NBCSPORTS.com's Kurt Helin noted there is a "genuine belief that things are about to turn around" for the Lakers, and that has made them the NBA's "hottest ticket." The Lakers are the "top ticket selling NBA team on StubHub this season," as sales are up nearly 130% from last season. Second on that list are the Knicks and third are the Celtics, having jumped 48% from last season. The "hottest single-game ticket" this season is Warriors-Lakers on Dec. 18 -- Kobe Bryant’s jersey retirement game -- where the "average ticket price is $660" (NBCSPORTS.com, 10/10).