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Volume 24 No. 179

Franchises

The U.S. Army has filed paperwork with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office "challenging the Golden Knights' use of the name" for the team along with its colors, according to Steve Carp of the LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. The Army's parachute team is "known as the Golden Knights and its primary colors are black and gold." Golden Knights Owner Bill Foley is a "West Point graduate and a donor to Army athletics." In its filing, the Army "claims it would be damaged by the hockey team should the team be granted permanent use of the mark." The Golden Knights on Thursday replied, saying, "The two entities have been peacefully co-existing without any issues for over a year (along with other Golden Knights trademark owners) and we are not aware of a single complaint from anyone attending our games that they were expecting to see a parachute team and not a professional hockey game." The team has until Feb. 19 to "respond to the Army's claim." However, Golden Knights Exec VP & Chief Legal Officer Peter Sadowski said that fans "need not worry about a name change" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 1/12). ESPN.com's Darren Rovell noted the Army in its filing "points to an article in the Washington Post in June" in which Golden Knights GM George McPhee "makes the connection" between Foley and the Army. The notice of opposition "also cites a tweet from TSN that quotes McPhee." The Army does "not have any trademarks filed for the 'Golden Knights,'" though two colleges -- UCF and the College of St. Rose -- "do have trademarks." The College of St. Rose "opposed the filing and this week got a second extension, this time for a period of 60 days, to file its opposition" (ESPN.com, 1/11).

The Raiders "will almost certainly get fined" for violating the Rooney Rule when they hired Jon Gruden as coach, and they "probably deserve to get fined," according to Tim Kawakami of THE ATHLETIC. The NFL on Thursday announced plans to formally investigate whether the Raiders broke the rule, but they "almost certainly violated the spirit and intent" of the rule when team Owner Mark Davis "raced to an agreement" with Gruden. Davis had decided he was either "going to finally land Gruden after a six-year chase or he was going to stick with Jack Del Rio as his coach." Davis admitted on Tuesday that he and Gruden "came to a general agreement on Christmas Eve, the night before the Raiders' penultimate game." The timetable runs "afoul of the Rooney Rule," but Davis was not "purposely flouting an important part of the NFL's commitment to diversity." Once Gruden was ready to sign, the Raiders were "not going to seriously consider any other candidate, minority or otherwise." However, teams cannot "skip over rules just because of worthy behavior in the past." Each new event "can and should be judged on its own" (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/12). ESPN's Bill Polian said, "I would expect some NFL discipline for this and perhaps, rightly so." He added there is "not only a good case for discipline" against the Raiders "but probably a need for some" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 1/11). ESPN's Dan Le Batard: "Whatever their history is on this subject, it doesn't mean that this isn't a violation of the Rooney Rule" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN, 1/11).

ALREADY MADE YOUR DECISION: NBC Sports Bay Area’s Kelli Johnson said if a team owner "has his mind set on a coaching candidate, it doesn't really matter when he interviews those other candidates." Johnson: "If he has all intents and purposes to hire, then the Rooney Rule really means nothing” ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 1/11). ESPN's Pablo Torre said if a team "has a coach in mind that they’ve been chasing ... there really isn’t a good way” to interview minority candidates" ("Highly Questionable," ESPN, 1/11). FS1’s Jason Whitlock said people’s expectations of the Rooney Rule "probably need to be modified.” There is “some value” to the rule, but “what really creates jobs and opportunity is success.” Whitlock: “The Rooney Rule is cosmetic, it’s not a solution” (“Speak For Yourself,” FS1, 1/11). Meanwhile, ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "If you own a team, you should be able to hire who you want" ("PTI," ESPN, 1/11).

WORTH THE FINE: NBC SPORTS BAY AREA's Ray Ratto noted the Raiders are "right to be called on" violating of the rule, but they will "give up $200,000 and move on without a moment's concern with Gruden as their head coach." Any amount of a fine is a "grossly insignificant deterrent to a billionaire getting what he wants, and it doesn't come with any kind of shaming mechanism" (NBCBAYAREA.com, 1/11). But NBC Sports Bay Area’s Greg Papa said, “I don't care if this organization has to pay $2 million, $200,000 or $0.02, I don't think they want to be aligned with any kind of a racial smear" ("The Happy Hour," NBC Sports Bay Area, 1/11).

HE WHO LAUGHS LAST
: In Las Vegas, Ed Graney wonders whether Gruden and Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie "will speak last and loudest" on personnel decisions. If someone is "going to be lured out of the comforts of a television booth after nine years away from coaching, you’re probably asking for money and power." McKenzie was the league’s Exec of the Year in '16, but Gruden will now "become heavily involved in which names are called for the Raiders" in April (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 1/12).

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson believes the city has "no financial responsibility to keep an NHL team in the municipality" even if Senators ownership has "mused about relocating the club," according to Jon Willing of the OTTAWA CITIZEN. Watson said, “We should not be using property tax dollars to subsidize an NHL team. That’s not the role of a municipal government, in my opinion." Senators Owner Eugene Melnyk last month prior to the NHL 100 Classic outdoor game said that he would "consider moving the franchise if the club’s financial situation worsened." Watson said those comments "really put a cloud over the game to a certain degree." He added, "It was not helpful when Eugene blurted out that maybe (the Senators) don’t have to move downtown because that’s exactly at odds with what he and (NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman have been telling me going back four years, that the arena has to be in the downtown core." Watson said that the city of Ottawa under his administration "won’t do what other cities have done and give a professional hockey team money to keep the club around." Edmonton helped pay for the Oilers' Rogers Place, while Calgary "has offered the Flames money for a new arena." Watson: “It’s very clear that there is precious little support for direct subsidies to professional sports teams" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 1/12).

The Coyotes are "trending positive in ... attendance, merchandise sales and TV ratings” despite the “worst 41-game start in franchise history since the team moved to Arizona" prior to the '96-97 season, according to Richard Morin of the ARIZONA REPUBLIC. The team’s attendance through the first 18 games at Gila River Arena was “up 5 percent from the same time last season," while group ticket sales "ranked in the NHL’s top six.” Despite that, the Coyotes still rank "just 29th out of 31 teams in average attendance” at 13,124, ahead of only the Hurricanes and Islanders. Meanwhile, the Coyotes also have seen a "positive trend in TV numbers," with ratings are up 13% for games that start at 6:00pm MT or later. Online streaming via Fox Sports Go is also up 33%. There also has been an 8.25% "increase in merchandise sales.” Coyotes President & CEO Steve Patterson believes that figure could be "partially attributed to selling licensed apparel of visiting teams at select games at Gila River Arena.” He added that “such sales occasionally make up 20 percent of the night’s outgoing product” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 1/12).

The Patriots "never have dominated the Boston sports discussion" like they did this week following the release of Seth Wickersham’s ESPN story about Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, according to Steve Buckley of the BOSTON HERALD. The Pats have "long since become entrenched as the dominant professional sports franchise in the region, but this week, it’s more than that," as they had the "entire stage to themselves." The Celtics had a week off before their game Thursday against the 76ers in London, while the Bruins are on their All-Star bye week. It was "all Pats all the time this week," and in a way that has never been seen "in a non-Super Bowl week or week after, and here’s why: It’s not as easy to rally around a common enemy as in crises past." While plenty of Patriots fans are dismissing Wickersham's story as "just another Bristol-generated hit piece, it’s more complicated than that." Even some local media folks are "agreeing that something is going on down Foxboro way, and the talk shows have full lines as longtime fans weigh in with their own grassy-knoll theories" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/12). In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy writes media in most cities read a story like Wickersham's ESPN piece and "try to advance the narrative." However, the local "Patriots Media Cartel" shifted into "overdrive to tell us that there’s nothing to see here." Wickersham in the process "becomes the Salman Rushdie of Patriot Nation" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/12).

WINNING MATTERS: In Boston, Chad Finn writes the city is a "hockey town when the hockey team is actually compelling," but more than anything else, Boston’s "favorite team is the one most successful in that particular moment." The "current sports riches" around Boston are "more abundant than massive snowbanks on the street corners." The Celtics are "on a 63-win pace" and the Patriots are "deep into their second decade of annual, legitimate Super Bowl contention." When the Bruins' season began, it "seemed inevitable they would slip to a second-class citizen" in Boston, but they have "reestablished their relevance" with a 23-10-7 record (BOSTON.com, 1/10).