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Volume 24 No. 132


Spurs coach Gregg Popovich "singled out the fans" at AT&T Center last night for "cheering when a message espousing equality, social justice and freedom of speech flashed on the JumboTron after the national anthem," according to Tom Orsborn of the SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS. The Spurs players and coaches, along with former players Tim Duncan and David Robinson, "linked arms on the court as the message was played." Popovich: “They obviously also buy into the message that was up on the JumboTron, and I am so proud to be in a city when you have fans that understand that (those values) are important for everybody. So kudos to our fans.” Spurs G Dejounte Murray said the message and the linking of arms was a way for the Spurs to show, “We’re all together, we’re all one.” He added, "It made us smile to hear them cheer. All you guys know what’s going on in the world today. We’ve got to come together" (, 10/18).'s Michael Wright noted the Spurs and T'Wolves "stood for the national anthem as normal." But after the anthem, both squads "locked arms while still standing on their respective ends on the court." A source said that the Spurs' players "felt strongly about putting out the message and that Duncan attended the game just to be a part of that message." Popovich has "drawn scorn for critical remarks" against President Trump since the day after the '16 election. Spurs G Danny Green said that it was "important for the team to stand up for its coach, who has spoken out in support of players for the better part of the past year." Green said, "We have heard that he's gotten some backlash. But regardless, he's speaking out for us. And we have to speak out for him and back him for him taking a stand" (, 10/18).

FLAG DAY: In Ft. Worth, Stefan Stevenson noted an "ultra patriotic video featuring a tribute to the American flag played on the big overhead video board" before the national anthem for the Mavericks’ season opener against the Hawks last night at American Airlines Center. The video’s narrator, speaking as the flag, "lists a collection of milestone moments for the Mavs," including the '11 championship, as images of players, fans and Owner Mark Cuban "float by in a collage of red, white and blue pageantry." The video "received a loud round of cheers from fans and players for both teams stood per usual" (, 10/18). In Dallas, Eddie Sefko notes the Mavs had no plans for a demonstration. One player said that the team "talked about it, but decided not to take any action" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/18).

TAKE A KNEE: In Detroit, Vince Ellis notes Pistons Owner Tom Gores "unequivocally said he would fully support a player" protesting during the anthem. Gores: "If that's what he wants to do, absolutely." The Pistons "stood during the anthem," but Gores "wondered openly why the two ideals can't co-exist" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 10/19). TNT’s Kenny Smith said of the potential for protests in the NBA, “If they feel they need to create more awareness in certain situations, I think they should do it. Protests are going to make the comfortable uncomfortable, it is just a natural process of it. ... Protest creates awareness, then creates change. That's the steps, you can't bypass it" ("NBA Tip-Off," TNT, 10/17).

Crew Chair Anthony Precourt spent yesterday "extolling the virtues" of Austin as a potential MLS market, but "kept the door slightly ajar for Columbus if it agrees to build a new stadium," according to Kevin Lyttle of the AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN. Precourt said, "Austin is the best untapped market in the United States for MLS." He added, "Did you anticipate that Atlanta would be a good soccer market a year ago? Did you anticipate Orlando would be a good soccer market a few years ago? Portland? ... Those are some of the examples of the vision we have for Austin." Precourt several times "mentioned that any possible move is predicated on finding a suitable stadium site in Austin." Lyttle notes the Crew have drawn "no timeline for the decision nor answered questions about how much money is needed." They are "looking for private investors" and are "adamant that they are not playing Austin against Columbus." Precourt Sports Ventures President Dave Greeley said, "Let’s be explicitly clear: There is no leverage game here." Precourt and Greeley said that they are "not entertaining offers to sell the club and are not eyeing any other cities" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 10/19). Austin Mayor Steve Adler in a statement said that a potential MLS team in his city was "exciting news." He added that he "does not think that there is support for public funding of a stadium." Precourt yesterday reiterated that he "does not intend to use taxpayer dollars to finance a stadium in either city" (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, 10/19).

COLUMBUS REACTS: In Columbus, Laura Newpoff reported Columbus Partnership President & CEO Alex Fischer, who heads a group of 60 local business leaders, is "working to keep the Crew in town and has requested a meeting with MLS Commissioner Don Garber." Fischer said, "We offered millions in additional community sponsorships, as well as an offer to buy the team. Mr. Precourt wasn’t interested. I guess we are learning why. It appears he and others have long had a secret plan to try to move the team to Austin, starting with what has been reported as an ‘escape clause’ in his 10-year agreement that no one was aware of, and months of private discussions in Austin. It’s a shame leaders here in Columbus have been misled for so long." But Newpoff noted MLS officials have been "working in partnership with the Crew on the Austin move." The league was the "first to approach" Adler this summer about "whether there was support there for a soccer team" (, 10/18).'s Brian Straus wrote there has been "concern for some time about Columbus’s long-term MLS viability." It is a "smaller media market (ranked 32nd) where college football reigns supreme" and where Mapfre Stadium's location has been an issue. But it is "tough to separate interest in the product from the quality of the product, and therefore from the owner." Has Precourt "done everything possible to make it work?" Straus: "Isn’t it true that permission to move to Austin was written into Precourt’s 2013 purchase agreement? That raises obvious questions about his long-term commitment" (, 10/18).

A return to the World Series for the Dodgers -- who have not played in the Fall Classic since '88 -- likely would "erase years of red ink," according to Josh Kosman of the N.Y. POST. A source said the Dodgers "might be close to break even” thanks to the increased number of home games in the MLB Postseason. The team had an Opening Day payroll of $242.2M -- which has swelled to $265M "because of in-season trades." The Dodgers "posted an operating loss" of $20.5M in '16 after an operating loss of $73.2M in '15. The Dodgers’ financial picture is "expected to improve next season -- with expected payroll cuts." The source said that within a few seasons, the team "projects" making more than $50M annually (N.Y. POST, 10/19).

Steelers investor Thomas Tull is "not trying to buy the Pirates," according to a source cited by Bill Brink of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. That contradicts an earlier report from FanRag Sports that said Tull, who purchased interest in the Steelers in '09, was "interested in making an offer" to Pirates Owner Bob Nutting for upwards of $1B. Nutting has "received an unsolicited offer to buy the Pirates in the past." Penguins co-Owners Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle in '10 "made an offer to Nutting, who said at the time the Pirates are not for sale" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/19). FANRAG SPORTS' John Perrotto in the original report noted Tull has "long been a fan of Pittsburgh sports teams" and along with his stake in the Steelers is an "avid baseball memorabilia collector." Tull also "attempted" to buy the Padres in '12. The Pirates this year had their "second straight losing season following three consecutive postseason appearances" (, 10/18).

The Yankees are "investing in competitive video gaming, acquiring a stake in Echo Fox," the esports franchise owned by former NBAer Rick Fox, according to Eben Novy-Williams of BLOOMBERG NEWS. The investment is a "part of a deal between the Yankees and Vision Esports," an investment vehicle set up earlier this year that "contains Echo Fox; Twin Galaxies, a stats and rankings company; and Vision Entertainment, which produces esports video content." In a statement, the Yankees said that they will "receive a stake in all three." Terms of the investment "weren’t released." The Yankees join a "growing list of big-time sports teams buying into the rapidly expanding esports industry." Echo Fox has 10 teams competing in titles such as Riot Games' "League of Legends," Warner Bros.’ "Injustice 2," Nintendo's "Super Smash Bros." and Bandai Namco’s "Tekken 7." Riot in the next few weeks is "set to announce which 10 teams will be given permanent slots" in its North American League of Legends Championship Series. Sources said that Echo Fox "will be awarded one of those highly-coveted slots" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 10/19).

Heat President Pat Riley tops a list of 30 people who have "impacted the organization most -- from players to the front office" -- as the team kicks off its 30th season, according to Manny Navarro of the MIAMI HERALD. Riley was the "architect of the Heat’s three championships as team president and the franchise’s all-time leader in wins as a coach." Only the Spurs and Lakers "have won more" than the Heat since Riley’s arrival in '95. The Arison family, which founded the club in '87, rank No. 5 on the list. Also included in the top five were Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Alonzo Mourning (, 10/18). Riley said of his time in the NBA, "For 50 years I shut the world out. Everything (but basketball) became second. Now, as much pressure as I have here, I’m not going to allow it to do to me what it used to." In Miami, Greg Cote wrote Riley is in a "good place" personally now. He is in a "good place professionally, too." He has "learned to trust, to delegate." Heat Owner Micky Arison, CEO Nick Arison and Senior VP/Basketball Operations & GM Andy Elisburg "enjoy his faith." Riley said, "I always felt if I wasn’t sitting in that chair eight, nine, 10 hours a day, people would walk by saying, ‘He’s not committed anymore.' That’s a pretty bad way to go through life. Now I feel a freedom from that. We all know how to get the job done." Cote: "Do not mistake Riley’s late-career epiphany of perspective for nonchalance. The man who has nine NBA championship rings as player, assistant, head coach or executive is hungry for one more" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/18).

In L.A., Vincent Bonsignore notes the "major changes" to the Rams' uniforms representing their move back to L.A. will not happen until '19 and possibly '20 to "coincide with the opening of their new stadium in Inglewood." By NFL rule, uniform changes "require a two-year notification and lock teams into that uniform for five years." The Rams have "begun that process" but have "yet to decide whether to make the switch" in '19 or '20. Change "is coming, which is a positive for those who hate the current color scheme." Those fans "can't help but connect the present jersey and pants color schemes with the years the Rams spent in St. Louis" (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 10/19).

LISTEN TO THE MUSIC: In Nashville, Jason Wolf reports the Titans have "heard from fans upset about players' protests." The team in a statement said, "We remain engaged with our season ticket members, returning every call or email that comes in to our season ticket reps about a variety of topics." There were "fewer fans in attendance" at the Titans' Week 6 "MNF" game against the Colts than the team's first two home games. Sales had "always tracked slower for that game, possibly because it was on a week night." Ticket sales for the Titans' next two home games, on Sunday afternoons in November, "already outpace sales for the Colts game." The Titans have also "not noticed a downturn in merchandise sales" (Nashville TENNESSEAN, 10/19).

HARD ROCK LIFE? In Miami, Armando Salguero notes the last time the Dolphins played at Hard Rock Stadium, Oct. 8 against the Titans, the team "was booed" during a game it won. QB Jay Cutler "heard fans basically calling for his benching before the first half was over." WR Jarvis Landry said those fans were "disrespectful." Salguero writes this "crack in the relationship between some fan base and their team must be patched up before it becomes an issue that affects the Dolphins' competitive advantage." Sources said that the Dolphins "don’t consider themselves to have much of a home field advantage right now." Some people within the organization view playing at Hard Rock Stadium as "something only slightly more advantageous than playing on the road" (MIAMI HERALD, 10/19).