Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ryan Braun – justice for no one


Wednesday morning on Boston’s WEEI’s morning radio show the Dennis & Callahan Show featured a roundtable discussion from the Red Sox spring training facility in Fort Meyers. The show ended with a question for the panelists if they believed Ryan Braun was guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs.

ESPN’s sports magazine show PTI asked the same question Tuesday night. This after Braun’s positive test result for the use of a banned substance was overturned last Thursday. Ryan Braun believes he has been exonerated for his positive performance enhancement drug test. The media it appears aren’t quite as sure.

Steven Herz, The President and Founding Partner of IF Management (a “full-service broadcasting and marketing representation firm) addressed a number of issues relating to the Ryan Braun story, starting with whether or not Ryan Braun is believable in his defense?

“Ryan Braun will always have some people believing that he's a cheat and a fraud. Unless there is some new science that comes out that would absolutely exonerate him in the minds of the public, he has this overhang on his reputation and personality. It certainly won't be a death knell for his career (assuming he continues to be a star) and he may still be regionally marketable. Nevertheless, part of his allure, being the wholesome guy in the small town market is irreparably harmed.”

Herz’s thinking is right. Braun is a victim of a process that failed him. During his appeal hearing Braun’s only agreement was in the process and that the process had been compromised, therefore making the positive test null and void. Braun didn’t discuss the results, simply the process. He was “exonerated” on a technicality; however his appeal had nothing to do with the actual test results.

“We won because the truth is on my side. The truth is always relevant and at the end of the day, the truth prevailed. I am the victim of a process that completely broke down and failed in the way it was applied in this case.” Ryan Braun offered after his conviction was overturned.

Dino Laurenzi Jr., the man who handled Braun’s samples, issued a statement Tuesday confirming he handled Braun’s samples submitted after an October playoff game, and that he stored the sample in his basement in accordance to MLB’s Comprehensive Drug Testing protocol.

“At no point did I tamper in any way with the samples,” Laurenzi said in the statement. “Given the lateness of the hour that I completed my collections, there was no FedEx office located within 50 miles of Miller Park that would ship packages that day or Sunday. Therefore, the earliest that the specimens could be shipped was Monday, October 3. In that circumstance, CDT has instructed collectors since I began in 2005 that they should safeguard the samples in their homes until FedEx is able to immediately ship the sample to the laboratory, rather than having the samples sit for one day or more at a local FedEx office. The protocol has been in place since 2005 when I started with CDT and there have been other occasions when I have had to store samples in my home for at least one day, all without incident.”

Braun is right in saying the process wasn’t followed. In his Friday press conference Braun went as far as pointing out the number of FedEx locations (five) that were open until 9 PM the Saturday night in the Milwaukee area where Laurenzi was when he received Braun’s sample. Braun also noted there was also a 24-hour FedEx available to Laurenzi within a 50 mile radius of where he was. Braun’s comments aside – is Laurenzi’s story believable?

“I do believe that the sample collector followed protocol and I do not believe he tampered with the sample. As far as I know, that was never even alleged by Braun. He erred by not going to FEDEX immediately after getting the sample which created at the very least the perception that something was amiss.” President and Founding Partner of If Management, Steve Herz told SBN.

If Ryan Braun is a victim of MLB’s testing process and its procedure, Dino Laurenzi Jr. is also a victim. Given the profile Ryan Braun has and that he became the first Major League Baseball player to have a positive test overturned as a direct result of how Laurenzi Jr. allegedly handled the sample, Laurenzi Jr’s life and career may have changed forever.

“This situation has caused great emotional distress for me and my family. I have worked hard my entire life, have performed my job duties with integrity and professionalism, and have done so with respect to this matter and all other collections in which I have participated.” Laurenzi Jr. offered.

Clearly there are no winners in this story. What about Ryan Braun’s reputation?

“Braun's image has been damaged...unquestionably. Many will always whisper (or yell) that he's a cheat. He'll never truly have his pristine image back. It will always be a postscript to his career and a sentence in his eulogy.” Steve Herz told SBN.

Ryan Braun has marketing agreements with Nike, Sam Bats (an Ottawa, Ontario based company), AirTran, an equity stake in Limelite Fusion Energy Drink, his apparel company and his Milwaukee restaurant.

"Marketers will stay cautious with Braun," said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing expert with Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco in an ESPN report. "He got off, but seemingly on a technicality. The damage was done when he tested positive, and MLB's harsh response to the arbitration verdict did little to assuage his guilt."

"But national advertisers will likely take a wait-and-see approach before considering him," Dorfman said.

David Schwab, the creator of Octagon Sports' First Call, the firm's celebrity acquisition and engagement division, told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that if Braun performs on the field as he has done, the problem will slowly go away.

"While baseball writers will focus on it, the public won't," Schwab said. "He was fortunate the entire process took place in the off-season and not while people were talking baseball 24/7."

When all is said and done as Scott Becker, executive vice president and managing director at Zimmerman Advertising told ESPN it’s tough to judge how much Braun has lost in terms of marketing and endorsement opportunities.

"There are very few baseball players with seven-figure endorsements. Ryan Braun is not at that level," said Becker. "Did he miss out on some deals? Sure. Maybe Ryan Braun missed out on a half-a-million dollars. Regardless, the bigger opportunity for Ryan is years down the road if he continues to perform at a very high level."

The problem with a media driven story is the message. The media is spinning the story by questioning Braun’s innocence. MLB has defended their flawed drug testing procedure. Dino Laurenzi Jr. who handled Braun’s sample has had to defend himself. There have been no winners and only losers in this story.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Red Sox, their owners and beer


The Boston Red Sox play their first spring training games this weekend at JetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers (dubbed Fenway South by the Red Sox). The $77.8 million stadium project for the Red Sox includes $20 million for the land and $7.2 million for design and permits. The project is being funded by federally-subsidized bonds and will be repaid through a tax for short-term rentals and hotel stays.

For Red Sox fans heading to Fort Myers for spring training, drinking beer at games won’t be an issue (at $9.50 per beer – the only issue is the price). But for the members of the 2012 Red Sox, having the occasional beer at the ballpark will be an issue. The Red Sox have banned beer in their clubhouse for the 2012 season.

Saturday afternoon, with the Red Sox ownership team John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino meeting with the media, Red Sox Manager Bobby Valentine announced the Red Sox would become the 19th major league baseball team to ban the consumption of alcohol (including beer) in the team’s clubhouse. There was no team meeting to discuss Valentine’s decision (nor should there have been).

"It's just what I've always done, except in Texas (the Rangers who Valentine managed), I guess," Valentine said in explaining the decision. "I'm comfortable with it that way."

The announcement didn’t come as a surprise to anyone who followed what happened to the Red Sox in September, after a calamity of errors for the Red Sox. After beating the Texas Rangers on September 3, the Boston Red Sox were 84-54. Although half a game behind the Yankees in the American League East, the Red Sox had a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League wild card playoff spot and roughly a 99.6 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Red Sox went 5-18 over their last 23 games, one of the more remarkable collapses in sports history, and on the last day of the season, they failed to make the playoffs.

An October expose in The Boston Globe reported that Red Sox pitchers (who weren’t pitching that day) drank beer in the team’s clubhouse during games. Beer drinking in the clubhouse took place throughout the 2011 Red Sox season.

Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz endorsed Valentine's decision.

"We're not here to drink," he told reporters. "We're here to play baseball. It ain't a bar."

Terry Francona, the Red Sox 2011 manager didn’t quite see the beer drinking in the Red Sox clubhouse the same way.

"I think if a guy wants a beer, he can probably get one," Francona said. "I don't think it's a surprise that they put this in effect, or the fact they announced it. It's probably more of a PR move just because the Red Sox (took) such a beating at the end of the year."

Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Madden took it one step further Sunday when asked about the Red Sox decision to ban beer.

"We're not the Boston Red Sox," the manager told reporters Sunday in an apparent shot at the Rays' AL East rivals. Boston Manager Bobby Valentine last week banned alcohol in the Sox's clubhouse in response to some Boston pitchers drinking beer last year during games in which they weren't working.

Maddon said responsible alcohol use after games is fine by him.

"I've said it a hundred times," Maddon told reporters. "For me at the end of the day, I'd much prefer our players making good decisions, and if you're of legal age, and the game is over, and you've sweated and lost a bunch of pounds and you want to sit down and have a beer, I see nothing wrong with that."

The arrival of the Red Sox ownership team at JetBlue Park was a chance for the ownership to do their part to move the team forward from the disasters end to their 2011 season.

“We feel individually and collectively that we have something to prove in 2012,’’ team President Larry Lucchino said according to a Boston Globe report. “Players feel that way. I think our managers and coaches feel that way. We have something to prove. It’s a new chapter beginning today.’’

Two days after the Red Sox season ended in Baltimore in a bizarre series of events, Francona resigned after meeting with the ownership three times in a five-hour period. Francona’s contract ended when the 2011 season did. The Red Sox suggested they were ready to offer Francona a contract for the 2012 season.

No one other than those who met with Francona (and Francona himself) will really ever know if the Red Sox offered Francona a contract. What did take place on September 30 was a public relations nightmare for the Red Sox. Francona, who managed the Red Sox to their first World Series in 86 years in 2004 and in 2007, was left embarrassed and on the outside looking in. The Red Sox ownership group looked indecisive in their handling of Francona’s departure.

“We accept our share of the responsibility for perhaps not having a more open-door policy,’’ Tom Werner said. “I think we’ll be more present this year.’’

“I sort of feel like this is the next chapter,’’ Red Sox principal owner John Henry told The Boston Globe. “There’s a real excitement here at camp. It’s palpable. I’m extremely happy with the leadership of the organization and with the product that we’re going to have on the playing field.’’

The 2011 Boston Red Sox signed Carl Crawford to a seven-year $142 million contract; and then acquired Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres and signed him to a seven-year $154 million contract. The Red Sox 2011 payroll was just over $161 million.

The 2012 Red Sox didn’t sign any major free agents and lost one of the team’s best pitchers, Jonathan Papelbon, who signed a four-year, $50 million contract that carries a $13 million option for 2016, with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Are the Red Sox forsaking their free spending days?

Lucchino believes the 2012 Red Sox payroll will be much bigger than the team’s 2011 $161 million payroll. Lucchino believes by the time the Red Sox finish their 2012 roster, the team’s payroll will top $190 million.

“In terms of 2012, it’s only February,’’ Lucchino offered. “We’re not done. There are things you do during the season that are possibilities . . . there’s still that option as well.’’

Said Henry: “The discussion seems to be centering around that we’re not spending money. We have the second-highest payroll in baseball. This year, 2012, we have the second-highest payroll. Does that mean we’re not spending?’’

The Red Sox average ticket price during the 2011 season was $52.32, more than double what it cost to attend a game at Fenway Park in 2000. Team Marketing Report determined the Red Sox Fan Cost Index for the 2011 season was $339, what it cost for a family of four to attend a game at Fenway, pay for tickets, parking and buying hot dogs and beverages.

Talk isn’t cheap for Red Sox fans. The Red Sox sellout string passed 700 games in September, the team sold out their entire 2011 schedule. Red Sox fans are still bitter about how the 2011 season ended. Ownership seems to understand how angry their fans are, but actions are much louder than words, and not signing any significant free agents made for a very quiet off-season from the Red Sox owners.

For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ryan Braun – Justice for no one


The Milwaukee Brewers training camp at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix begins in earnest today. On Friday, Ryan Braun met with the media, a day after he became the first MLB player to have his positive test for the use of performance enhancement drugs overturned. Major League Baseball expressed their outrage at Braun’s exoneration – just another day at the office for Major League Baseball’s drug enforcement program.

Thursday, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association announced that by a 2-1 vote, Ryan Braun became the first MLB player to have his positive test for the use of performance enhancement drugs overturned. During his appeal hearing that was held in January, Braun and his representatives didn’t argue the actual test results, but rather the testing procedure, suggesting that the “chain of custody” had been compromised.

Braun tested positive in October for elevated testosterone; ESPN revealed the results in December. According to an ESPN report, Braun didn't argue evidence of tampering, didn't argue anything about science being wrong, but argued protocol had not been followed. A second source confirmed to ESPN investigative reporter Mark Fainaru-Wada that Braun did not dispute the science, but rather questioned chain of custody/collection procedure.

According to one of ESPN’s sources, the collector, after getting Braun's sample, was supposed to take the sample to FedEx/Kinkos for shipping, but thought it was closed because it was late on a Saturday. As has occurred in some other instances, the collector took the sample home and kept it in a cool place and possibly refrigerated it. MLB policy states that the sample is supposed to get to FedEx as soon as possible.

"The simple truth," Braun said, "is that I'm innocent."

"If I had done this intentionally, or unintentionally, I would be the first one to step up and say, 'I did it,'" Braun said. "By no means am I perfect, but if I've ever made any mistakes in my life, I've taken responsibilities for my actions. I truly believe in my heart, and I would bet my life, that this substance never entered my body at any point."

Throughout his Friday press conference, Braun answered every question directly, never waving in his conviction that he had not done anything wrong. He never addressed the results of the tests or why or how his results may have been tampered with.

"That wasn't easy," Braun said. "There were a lot of times I wanted to come out and tell the whole story, attack everybody as I've been attacked, as my name has been dragged through the mud, as everything I've ever worked for my entire life has been called into question. ... I could have never, ever envisioned being in this position today, discussing this subject with you guys."

"We are a part of a process in which you are 100 percent guilty until proven innocent," Braun said. "It's opposite of the American judicial system ... so if we are held to that standard, it's only fair that everybody else is held to that exact same standard.

"That's what is at stake -- this is my livelihood, this is my integrity, this is my character, this is everything I've worked for in my life being called into question -- we need to make sure that we get it right. If you're going to be in a position where you're 100 percent guilty until proven innocent, [those responsible for the testing] cannot mess up. The system in the way that it was applied to me in this case was fatally flawed."

Braun’s positive test should never have been leaked to the media. (ESPN should at the same time be applauded for the work they did to break the story.) Braun’s suspension was overturned, but it was overturned on a technicality.

Major League Baseball Executive Vice President for Labor Relations Rob Manfred issued the following statement following Bruan’s press conference: “Major League Baseball runs the highest quality drug testing program of any professional sports organization in the world. It is a joint program, administered by an independent program administrator selected by the Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA.

“With regards to the breach of confidentiality regarding this case, both the Commissioner’s Office and the MLBPA have investigated the original leak of Ryan Braun’s test, and we are convinced that the leak did not come from the Commissioner’s Office.

“The extremely experienced collector in Mr. Braun’s case acted in a professional and appropriate manner. He handled Mr. Braun’s sample consistent with instructions issued by our jointly retained collection agency. The Arbitrator found that those instructions were not consistent with certain language in our program, even though the instructions were identical to those used by many other drug programs – including the other professional sports and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“Our program is not ‘fatally flawed.’ Changes will be made promptly to clarify the instructions provided to collectors regarding when samples should be delivered to FedEx based on the arbitrator’s decision. Neither Mr. Braun, nor the MLBPA, contended in the grievance that his sample had been tampered with or produced any evidence of tampering.”

While Manfred would like the public to believe MLB’s drug testing program is a “high quality program,” how have the other 13 cases (the players who didn’t have their suspensions overturned) been handled? And what about the many minor league baseball players who have had their careers impacted by a positive test and a suspension from baseball?

There are no winners in the Ryan Braun story. Ryan Braun’s suspension was overturned on a technicality not on the results. But the actual tests results may still be a mystery. Did Ryan Braun use performance enchantment drugs? The skeptical nature of the world we live in will force people to look at Braun differently. That isn’t right for Ryan Braun.

For Major League Baseball it’s an embarrassment of biblical proportion. First, there was a leak about a positive test to a major media organization. Then those results were overturned based on a technicality, one that can’t help but create questions about other positive tests.

It won’t be easy, but the MLB and Ryan Braun have to move forward. Major League Baseball has to fix their broken drug testing system (one mistake is one mistake too many) and Ryan Braun has to live with the doubt people will have about the test results. In this case – no one won, everyone lost.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Friday, February 24, 2012

NASCAR – business and racing


Imagine the Super Bowl starting the National Football League season. NASCAR gets their 2012 racing season Sunday with the Daytona 500, the biggest event on their calendar, NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl.

As their 2012 racing calendar begins, the lofty heights that NASCAR reached in the last decade are a distant memory. In a business fueled by sponsorship revenues, 21-year old Trevor Bayne, the youngest winner of the Daytona 500 when he won last year’s 500, hasn’t been able to secure enough sponsorship dollars to drive full-time.

A year after winning the 500 in his second Sprint Cup series start, Bayne has the same sponsors and the same part-time schedule he had last year. According to a USA Today report, Bayne might run fewer events in the Nationwide Series (NASCAR’s B race series) than the full schedule he had last year.

"I definitely thought we'd be full-time Nationwide and Cup this year right after (last year's win)," he said in a USA Today report. "But as the season wore on and nothing was happening, this is what I figured. You would hope you could accumulate some kind of funding or some kind of sponsorship after the year we had last year. It's just tough for us and every team."

Bayne races for Roush Fenway Racing. According to a USA Today report, two of the team's largest sponsor contracts expired after 2011. In a difficult economic climate, the group is still looking for sponsors for the No. 17 car of Matt Kenseth and had to go from four to three cars.

"The climate has just been tough," Roush Fenway President Steve Newmark said. "I think Trevor is an incredible talent, but look at the number of drivers looking for sponsors. That's really impacted a lot of younger drivers.

"It's the toughest time in the history of NASCAR to be a young developmental driver, because a lot of these guys, if they don't bring sponsorship, they're not getting a seat."

Eleven years ago at the Daytona Motor Speedway, on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona, 500 Dale Earnhardt crashed his car and died on the last lap of the race. Nicknamed "The Intimidator," Earnhardt’s death created a national media firestorm.

Earnhardt was featured in the following weeks’ Time magazine cover, and video from the race was played on nearly every major United States televised newscast. Earnhardt's funeral was telecast live on multiple television networks including CNN and ESPN.

While NASCAR didn’t leverage Earnhardt’s death, brand awareness increased dramatically. Media organizations which hadn’t paid a great deal of attention to NASCAR started taking notice. Earnhardt’s death coincided with a tremendous period of growth for the sport.

On December 15, 1999, Fox Sports, FX, NBC and TBS agreed to pay $2.4 billion for a new six-year package, covering the Winston/Nextel Cup Series and Busch Series schedules. Late in 2005, NBC announced that they no longer wanted to carry NASCAR races on their schedule. ABC/ESPN took the opportunity to regain the series. On December 12, 2005, NASCAR announced its next TV contract: eight years, $4.5 billion with Fox/Speed Channel, ABC/ESPN, and TNT.

NASCAR nearly doubling their rights fees in 2005 didn’t come as a big surprise to the sports industry. The Sprint Cup series ratings peaked that year at an average of 8.5 million viewers for each race. Over the six years since, ratings have fallen every year, leveling out to an average of 6.5 million viewers in 2011, the same average as 2009.

With the current broadcast agreements expiring after the 2014 season, NASCAR will begin renegotiating with their current partners this year. Many industries insiders suggested given the ratings drop, NASCAR could expect to receive less from their television rights. That might be true, but for the most part (the NFL, MLB and NHL) television rights fees continue to grow.

Sponsorship is very important to NASCAR, accounting for 75% of overall revenues. Crown Royal and Red Bull are no longer NASCAR sponsors and brands like Caterpillar, Home Depot and UPS are each investing less in NASCAR. There are new sponsors including Detroit-based Quicken Loans and 5-Hour ­Energy. Farmers Insurance is the biggest new NASCAR sponsor, committing $800,000 per race for 22 races to Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 car, part of the Hendrick stable.

“We’re seeing more sponsor activity than we have in three years,” Zak Brown, founder and head of JMI, which sells and manages motorsports sponsorships told Forbes.

Brown’s views aside – when the winner of the 2011 Daytona 500 continues facing challenges in finding sponsors, times are tough. Roush racing agreed to a partnership with Wood Brothers team, which has a Ford Motorcraft/Quicklane sponsorship for at least a dozen Cup races for Bayne to race in one of their cars.

While there has been interest in Trevor Bayne, Wood Brothers co-owner Len Wood, told USA Today none of the companies they have talked to about Bayne are interested in the big money sponsorship agreements that fuel NASCAR agreements.

"We got e-mail after e-mail and phone calls wanting to sponsor our car, Wood said. “But it would be like $5,000, $10,000 deals. There was no deal to go run your race car. There was a lot of interest, but nothing panned out."

Bayne made it clear in the USA Today that he understands the current sponsorship marketplace and he’s willing to do what he has to make corporate partnerships work.

"We're actually going out and trying to find them. So it's not a great climate, but it's just like our fans. Once you get them to the track and see how great our sport is, then they want to be a part of it. The hardest part is getting in the door and bringing them to the track and showing what you have to offer."

NASCAR supporters have a reputation for brand loyalty, standing by the sponsors supporting the company logos that adorn both the cars they drive and the racing suits they wear.

“You have very passionate fans that are not just involved in the race but the entire drama of Nascar,” says Mike Linton, chief marketing officer at Farmers in a Forbes Magazine report.

NASCAR president Brian France, whose grandfather Bill France created NASCAR, understands the how loss of sponsorship dollars has impacted the ability for racing teams to run cars (NASCAR has three racing series, Sprint, Nationwide and a Truck racing series).

“The economy will do that. It will have an effect on the sponsorship model, the funding of the teams, and various reasons teams also move around or get smaller. I don't anticipate short fields, but obviously a very difficult economy that's lasted so long has had an effect, and that will continue at some level.”

During his pre-season media conference, France acknowledged the importance of media rights and NASCAR’s upcoming rights fee negotiations for network TV rights.

“We're excited with our current — we really like our current partners. My expectation is they want to renew their involvement with NASCAR, and my hope is at the right time we'll figure that out together. The sports landscape in general, as you know, has heated up quite a bit, so we will be in a good position at the right time. I don't know when that will happen. If it happens early, it's possible, or it might not. We're having conversations,” he said.

“And on digital, it's very important to us. Very important for us to manage those rights carefully in the future. Obviously between digital and social media, it's the new medium to develop that deep relationship with our fans and communicate with them. So we will be taking a very, very active role, already are, and not just us but the rest of the industry. This is one of these things where the industry has come together on many things, but this is an important one where the industry is working together, the teams, the tracks, NASCAR and so on, to formulate the right social media strategy, the right digital media strategy for the future. And we're quite confident that we will manage those rights in a way that takes the most benefit forward on behalf of the industry.”

The issue remains – has NASCAR reached its peak? Brand awareness grew in the 90’s and Earnhardt’s death was one of the biggest national sports media stories in recent memory. Are NASCAR’s best days behind for the organization?

“I can tell you that the industry has never been more united to growing the sport of NASCAR on everyone's behalf. And that's going to be our job,” France said.

“Obviously you've heard a lot about digital and social media as an enormously important place. We've reformed our communications efforts to reach more fans. So you're going to see us and the entire industry get more aggressive. You're going to see youth initiatives. You're seeing the fruits of diversity start to be right around the corner. That will really advance us if we can get a breakthrough, which I'm very confident we will, at a national level. So there are a lot of things out there that are all going to point to us being able to either grow our audience with a new demographic, whether it be a younger demographic or more diverse. We're doing the things that we think you have to do to put yourself in a position to grow in the future, even though when I say grow in the future; it is a very, very difficult landscape for any sports property to build on. It's just very competitive.

“So we're having to be at the top of our game to make sure that we're delivering what the fans want, what our partners need, and what new fans will get excited about.”

For Brian France and NASCAR, it all starts this Sunday with the Daytona 500.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Political incorrectness and the sports industry – will anyone ever learn?


ESPN and The Poynter Institute have partnered for ESPN’s Poynter Review Project, offering independent examination and analysis of ESPN's media outlets. The latest commentary (written by Poytner’s Jason Fry) focused on ESPN’s coverage of Jeremy Lin, specifically the use of the politically incorrect term (Chink in the armor) which appeared as an ESPN mobile headline, on ESPN News and on ESPN Radio and how ESPN reacted. What happened at ESPN won’t be the last time (nor was it the first time) ESPN has had to deal with journalist missteps. Looking at the bigger picture, there have been several “gems” that led to people losing their jobs and their careers in the sports industry as a direct result of something they said.

On April 6, 1987, ABC "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel interviewed Al Campanis, then the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and a one-time teammate of Jackie Robinson, the African-American baseball player who broke the major leagues' color barrier. Campanis appearance was in recognition of the 40th anniversary of the Dodgers breaking MLB’s “color line” when Robinson joined the Dodgers at the start of the 1947 MLB season.

During the interview, Koppel asked Campanis why African-American managers and general managers were virtually nonexistent in the sport. Campanis offered a sound bite that is forever linked with his legacy: "It's just that they may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or, perhaps, a general manager."

Koppel was looking at diversity in MLB management.

When Koppel objected to what Campanis was saying, Campanis didn’t back away, saying, "I know that they have wanted to manage, and many of them haven't managed. But they are outstanding athletes, very God-gifted and wonderful people … They are gifted with great musculature (sic) and various other things. They are fleet of foot and this is why there are a number of black ballplayers in the major leagues."

Two days after his Nightline appearance, Campanis was forced to resign; his career finished.

On January 16, 1988, Jimmy ‘The Greek’ Snyder (Snyder was Jewish) was fired by the CBS network (where he had been a regular on NFL Today since 1976) after commenting to WRC-TV reporter Ed Hotaling in a Washington, D.C. restaurant, that African Americans were naturally superior athletes at least in part, because they had been bred to produce stronger offspring during slavery:

“The black is a better athlete to begin with because he's been bred to be that way, because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs and he's bred to be the better athlete because this goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trade'n the big… the owner… the slave owner would, would, would, would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have ah, ah big, ah big, ah big black kid see…”

According to his New York Times obituary, Snyder expressed regret for his comments, remarking: "What a foolish thing to say."

While his CBS co-workers supported the decision to fire him, Irv Cross said in the ESPN "30 for 30" documentary about Snyder, whom he worked alongside for a long time and never heard any racist comments, nor detected any racist attitudes from him.

The late Reggie White, a member of the Football Hall of Fame, visited the Wisconsin Legislature in September 1998. White believed the time was right to share his “beliefs” with Wisconsin politicians (and as it turned out the world). White was an ordained minister and a key member on two Green Bay Packers Super Bowl winning team.

The politicians who were in attendance believed White came to talk about his community work and a recent trip to Israel. White did, but his nearly hour-long speech also included remarks on homosexuality, race and slavery that turned the Assembly's applause to stunned silence.

White said the United States has gotten away from God, in part by allowing homosexuality to "run rampant."

HOMOSEXUALITY IS a sin and the plight of gays and lesbians should not be compared to that of blacks, White told lawmakers.

"Homosexuality is a decision, it's not a race," White said. "People from all different ethnic backgrounds live in this lifestyle. But people from all different ethnic backgrounds also are liars and cheaters and malicious and back-stabbing."

White said he has thought about why God created different races. Each race has certain gifts, he said.

Blacks are gifted at worship and celebration, White said.

"If you go to a black church, you see people jumping up and down because they really get into it," he said.

Whites are good at organization, White said.

"You guys do a good job of building businesses and things of that nature, and you know how to tap into money," he said.

"Hispanics were gifted in family structure, and you can see a Hispanic person, and they can put 20, 30 people in one home."

THE JAPANESE AND other Asians are inventive, and "can turn a television into a watch," White said. Indians are gifted in spirituality, he said.

"When you put all of that together, guess what it makes: It forms a complete image of God," White said.

CBS SPORTS spokeswoman Leslie Ann Wade declined to comment on White's speech or whether his remarks would affect his chances for a studio analyst's job. White has auditioned for a commentating job at the network. Shortly after his appearance, CBS withdrew a five-year, $6 million contract for White to become a part of the pregame panel.

Steve Lyons, Fox Sports’ number two baseball analyst, was fired six years ago after comments he made about the Hispanic background of Lou Piniella, who was a guest analyst, during the 2006 American League Championship Series. “Lou’s ablating some Español there, and I’m still looking for my wallet,” Lyons said. “I don’t understand him and I don’t want to sit close to him now.”

That wasn’t the first time Lyons had stepped over that line in the sand. Eight days earlier, his ill-conceived comments about Piniella Lyons found humor in a handicapped New York Mets’ fans pointing out “a large magnifying device worn by a mostly blind Mets fan during an N.L.C.S. game.”

In 2004, Lyons (working with Fox Sports) was critical of former Los Angeles Dodger Shawn Green for choosing not to play on Yom Kippur.

“He’s not a practicing Jew,” Lyons said. “He didn’t marry a Jewish girl.” Then, he added, “And from what I understand, he never had a Bar Mitzvah, which is unfortunate because he didn’t get the money.”

The Poynter Institute’s review of ESPN’s Jeremy Lin coverage using the slur “Chink in the armor” did offer valuable insight. The Poytner Institute reported that “in the week, racial sensitivity regarding the Lin storyline was a topic in the company’s monthly editorial board meeting, and ESPN issued a memo to all its content groups urging staffers to be cognizant of how Lin was discussed -- a directive that was revisited in a Friday staff meeting.”

Early last Saturday morning the “Chink in the armor” headline appeared on ESPN Mobile at 2:30 a.m. (it was removed by 3:05 a.m.). Anthony Federico, 28, who had six years of experience on ESPN’s mobile team, was fired Sunday. Federico, who has apologized to Lin personally, made a mistake and paid the ultimate price. Given that ESPN had sent out two memos dealing with racial insensitivity and their Lin coverage, Federico had to be fired.

Poynter points out “Chink in the armor,” which has no racial connotations in itself, but was an unfortunate choice of words -- to say the least -- when used in discussing Lin’s on-court performance.”

The world we live in, a world with Twitter, Facebook and social media ensures that at 2:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, a headline that appeared on ESPN Mobile (and not ESPN.com) can garner a great deal of unwanted attention in a very short period of time.

The question of free speech – a cornerstone of the American Constitution – is often a part of the conversation when ill-timed headlines appear, baseball analysts use barroom humor, Football Hall of Fame members make speeches, sports figures are interviewed in restaurants or appear on national news magazine shows, but with freedom of speech, comes social responsibility and hopefully, an understanding that you have to be careful about what you say, where you say it and who you say it to. There is no place in the sports industry for locker room humor.

Sources used in this Insider Report: ABC News, CBS Sports and ESPN. For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Will life begin (again) on opening day for the Red Sox?


In 1984, Washington Post columnist Thomas Boswell wrote: “Why Time Begins on Opening Day,” a collection of essays on the sport of baseball, its myths, superstars, pennant races, strategies, ballparks, and other facets of the national pastime. The title suggests to every baseball fan that on opening day baseball fans can dream the big dream, dream the impossible dream, their team having a great season (and winning the World Series).

At the start of the 2011 season, Boston Red Sox fans believed their beloved team was going to have a great 2011 season. The 2011 Red Sox had a terrible April, were the best team in baseball in May, June, July and August and ended up playing their worst baseball in September.

September was a calamity of errors for the Red Sox. After beating the Texas Rangers on September 3, the Boston Red Sox were 84-54. Although half a game behind the Yankees in the American League East, the Red Sox had a nine-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays for the American League wild card playoff spot and roughly a 99.6 percent chance of making the playoffs. The Red Sox went 5-18 over their last 23 games, one of the more remarkable collapses in sports history, and on the last day of the season failed to make the playoffs.

The Red Sox had been handed everything they needed to succeed and failed in 2011. The Red Sox team payroll was $161,762,475 (the third highest in baseball). On September 1, the Fenway Park sellout stream hit 700 games. With Fenway Park set to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, there’s every reason to believe the Red Sox will again sellout their entire 81 game home schedule. The last time a Red Sox game at Fenway Park did not sell out was back on May 15, 2003.

Most New Englanders give their hearts and their wallets to the Red Sox. What they deserve is the very best the players can offer each day on a baseball diamond – that didn’t happen at the end of the Red Sox 2011 season.

The finger pointing began days after the Red Sox season ended in Baltimore on September 29. Two days after the season ended in what was a public relations disaster of biblical proportion, Terry Francona, who managed the Red Sox to a World Series (the teams’ first in 86 years) in 2004 and again in 2007 resigned (knowing he wouldn’t be rehired). Theo Epstein, the architect of the organization’s two World Series, left Boston to try and save the Chicago Cubs. Both Francona and Epstein paid the price.

With pitchers and catchers arriving at Fort Myers this weekend, those who were most responsible for the end of the Red Sox 2011 season – the players – are arriving and are forced to deal with what happened at the end of their last Red Sox season.

On October 12, The Boston Globe published an expose on the Red Sox 2011 collapse, suggesting three of the team’s key starting pitchers: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey drank beer, ate fried chicken and played video games in the Red Sox clubhouse (when they weren’t pitching).

Beckett, the Red Sox so-called “ace” (a team’s most important starting pitcher) lost his two last 2011 starts – if Beckett won either game, the Red Sox would have made the 2011 playoffs as the American League wild card team.

On April 6, 2010, Beckett signed a four-year $68 million contract extension. The contract included a $5 million signing bonus for the 2010 season, and an annual salary of $15.75 million from 2011 to 2014. Beer and fried chicken may be a fun way to spend an evening watching a baseball game, but when you’re being paid $15.75 million and your team is losing game after game in September, it might have made more sense for Beckett to sit in the Red Sox dugout supporting his teammates on days he wasn’t scheduled to pitch. The image of Beckett drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the Red Sox clubhouse was terrible.

Beckett met with the media when he arrived at Jet Blue Park and didn’t exactly say he was sorry for what happened either on or off the field in September. “I'm not saying we didn’t make mistakes, because we made mistakes in the clubhouse, but the biggest mistake I made was not pitching well against Baltimore. I was prepared to pitch every time I went out there. I just didn’t execute pitches when I needed to.

“I think for me, I can only speak for myself here, I think that we had lapses in judgment. I had lapses in judgment; I can’t speak for everybody else. I want to keep it at that. I can’t speak for Jon or John or Clay or Wakie (Wakefield) or anybody. I want this to stay about me. That’s kind of how I feel about it. I can’t speak for anybody else."

Josh Beckett’s inability to say he’s sorry speaks volumes for the leadership he can’t provide the Boston Red Sox. A key to the Red Sox 2007 World Series, Beckett is the de facto leader of the Red Sox pitching staff. While Beckett wants to win every game he pitches, when he met with the media on Sunday, he needed to stand up and hold himself accountable for the terrible end to the Red Sox 2011 season. Beckett did admit that he understands how upset Red Sox nation was (and still are) with him.

"Absolutely. I’ve been a fan of things, too. It stinks whenever things don’t go the way they’re supposed to go. We’re a really good team, and the best team in baseball for about five months. And it sucks the way things ended. We’re just as let down as they are. That doesn’t make it right. We were very let down, as well.

"We need to earn that trust back," Beckett said. "I think that they're the best fans in baseball. There's some good, there's some bad, but they're the best fans in baseball. I mean, I definitely think we need to earn that trust back, and the way we've got to do that is just go about our business the way we have in previous years. Just earn it back and win ballgames."

Jon Lester appears poised to take a leadership role for the Red Sox. “It’s something the guys in my age group have never really had to do because we’ve been around guys like [Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek] and had veteran guys who have been around a long time.

“We’ve just sat back and let them do their thing and kind of followed them. It’s time for us, and me, to step up and start to try and feel comfortable in that situation and do the best I can in there.’’

And unlike Beckett, Lester appears to be willing to take a great deal of responsibility for the Red Sox 2011 season.

“I’m ready to move on from it,’’ he said. “I’ve learned from it. It’s something that I’m not proud of. The biggest thing is, especially from last year, is that you learn from your mistakes. I’m looking forward to starting new this year and trying to be that leader.’’

John Henry and Tom Werner have committed more than $150 million to the Red Sox payroll for the 2012 season. Fenway Park turns 100 on April 20 (the Yankees will be visiting Fenway that day). Henry, Warner and the millions of baseball fans who will fill Fenway Park throughout the 2012 season deserve the very best Beckett, Lester and company can offer this year, each and every game.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The National Football League – do they take care of their own?


“Wherever this flag's flown – we take care of our own.”

In the first single from his upcoming album, Bruce Springsteen repeats again and again, “Wherever this flag's flown – we take care of our own.” Springsteen is asking a bittersweet question but failing to get an answer. The “voice of an American generation” questions how America and Americans are reacting to each other in these tough economic times. While not linked to the current plight retired National Football League players are facing, most retired NFL’ers have to be wondering why the NFL hasn’t taken care of its own.

Friday, 11 retired NFL players filed a lawsuit against the NFL in federal court in New Orleans. The lawsuit claims each of them has developed mental or physical disabilities from concussions or concussion-like symptoms, as a direct result of the years they played in the National Football League.

"Those who had sustained concussions reported more problems with memory, concentration, speech impediments, headaches and other neurological problems than those who had not been concussed," the lawsuit says. The lawsuit claims the league has only recently taken action to address the problem.

The other plaintiffs are: Tyrone Hughes, Eric Hill, Curtis Baham, Raion Hill, Maurice Hurst, Treverance Faulk, Keaton Cromartie, Vince Buck, Charles Commiskey and Tyrone Legette. Wives of the players also are named as plaintiffs in the suit.

The Louisiana lawsuit follows the consolidation of similar lawsuits that were filed on January 31 in Philadelphia Federal Court.

The NFL is a business that annually generates more than $9 billion. The latest collective bargaining agreement the National Football League and the NFL Players Association agreed to in early August (a landmark ten-year agreement) failed to address long-term medical benefits most NFL players need once they retire.

In addition to a lack of health coverage, many retired players face the same hardships millions of Americans are dealing with each day.

The Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund (GGAF) a group that works with retired NFL players facing financial hardship has been circulating information that offers a startling look at the terrible life some retired NFL players are facing:

• Former running back with the Miami Dolphins, suffering financial hardship because of the changing economy. He has changed jobs a few times in the last few years, each with a pay cut, all while taking classes so he can get a better job and provide for his high school age son. GGAF helped with one month of mortgage payments.

• Former punter with the Packers and Rams, suffering financial hardship because of cutbacks at his job. He is financially responsible for his young son. GGAF helped with utilities and rent.

• Former linebacker with the New Orleans Saints, suffering financial hardship since last year when his wife was diagnosed with cancer and has been unable to work. GGAF helped with mortgage payment.

• Former linebacker with the Detroit Lions, suffering from an incurable disease and has medical bills and financial hardships. GGAF helped with mortgage payments.

• Former wide receiver with the Jets and Ravens, suffering financial hardships due to his job not paying him over the summer. GGAF helped reconnect his utilities.

• Former running back with the Patriots, Falcons and Rams, currently living through a Chicago winter with water and gas pipes that were not working. GGAF helped negotiate with the contractor for donated services, so that he and his family would have heat and hot water.

• Former running back with the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills, suffering financial hardship due to the economy and high medical/prescription costs, was pawning his possessions to pay for his prescriptions and food, most of the time having to choose which to buy. GGAF helped pay for rent to keep him from being evicted, and to keep his utilities on.

• Former running back with the Bengals and Buccaneers, suffering financial hardship in this economy. GGAF helped pay for rent.

• Former defensive tackle with the 49ers, suffering from brain trauma from football related injuries, has gone through nine brain surgeries, and suffers seizures. GGAF helped pay bills.

• Former defensive tackle with the Cowboys, Saints and Bears, suffering financial hardship, has trouble working because of memory issues. GGAF helped pay rent so he wouldn't be evicted.

• Former tackle with the Buccaneers, suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and a reduction of pay due to the economy. GGAF helped with car payments so he wouldn't lose his car.

More than 100 million Americans watched Super Bowl XLVI on NBC. Families across America gathered together to watch the $3.5 million commercials, Madonna’s half time adventure and the New York Giants thrilling 21-17 win over the New England Patriots. More than 100 million Americans have little if any understanding as to what’s happening to the gridiron greats they cheered for on “Any Given Sunday.”

"The NFL knew аbουt the debilitating and permanent effects οf head injuries аnd concussions thаt regularly occur аmοng professional players, уеt ignored аnd actively concealed those risks," ѕаіd Gene Locks, one of the attorneys representing the players.

Craig Mitnick, who represents more than100 players and is Locks’ co-counsel, said "The NFL concussion issue is one whose time has come after being covered up, profitably hidden for many decades. It is long overdue."

Canadian Mike Schad who played in both the NFL and in the Canadian Football League is part of these lawsuits.

"Before they made all those changes I got ear-holed," said Schad, who would go on to play with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1989 to 1993 in a Philadelphia Inquirer report. "Next thing you know, I'm sitting on the sideline."

Central to the various lawsuits – how the NFL treated players once they were injured in a game. Time and time again players (NFL Hall of Fame member Tony Dorsett is one of these retired players suing the NFL) describe experiences were they suffered head related trauma in an NFL game and either returned to play in the game they were injured in, or in their teams’ next game.

Schad became involved in the lawsuits after he learned two of his former Eagles teammates had passed away. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer “safety Andre Waters killed himself at age 44; guard Tom McHale, Schad's backup one season in Philadelphia, died of a drug overdose at 45 after becoming addicted. Each was later found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease in athletes with a history of brain trauma. It can lead to memory loss, confusion, aggression, depression, and dementia.”

Where is the moral outrage from the tens of millions of Americans who NFL football Sundays from early September through Super Bowl Sunday?

"What's a crisis for the league is just the perception of football and its safety and the sustainability of the game,” Robert Boland, a sports law professor at New York University told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It is the single biggest sustainability concern for the league."

There is a day of reckoning coming for the National Football League. The Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund and other groups working with retired NFL players are getting their message out. The NFL will be forced to deal with their alleged inaction in Federal Court. A business that generates more than $9 billion annually in revenues needs to be “taking care of their own” and needs to be held accountable.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Political and moral incorrectness and “Linsanity”


The world focuses a great deal of attention on the sports industry. We take our teams seriously, our athletes seriously, our games seriously. When all is said and done, “it is only a game” is as true today as it has always been. However, because the sports industry is taken as seriously as it is, at times we take sports far too seriously.

Sports is a multi-billion industry (the NFL generates $9 billion annually, MLB $7 billion) and the business of sports continues to drive interest and awareness. We live in an age where the evolution of social media continues to at times have an overwhelming impact on the word we live in. In an era of instant communication with stories going viral instantly, more so than ever, one can never be too careful about what one is saying – what you say may come back to haunt you in ways you never imagined.

The Jeremy Lin story continues to capture attention. It’s likely in the coming days and weeks the “Linsanity” will calm down and Jeremy Lin’s ultimate fate will be played out on a basketball court. However, as long as Lin remains the “flavor” of the day, how the media, how society looks at this media- driven phenom offers an opportunity to look at how the world we live in looks at a modern day “Linderella.”

Political and moral incorrectness reared its ugliness early Saturday morning on ESPN, the self-proclaimed worldwide sports leader. Friday night Lin’s New York Knicks lost 89-85, ending their seven- game winning streak, their first loss since Lin became the Knicks starting point guard on February 6. Lin had 26 points for the Knicks but also made nine turnovers. Someone working at ESPN.com created a headline for their game recap “Chink in the Armor.” The headline is completely inappropriate.

In its statement Saturday, ESPN said: “We are conducting a complete review of our cross-platform editorial procedures and are determining appropriate disciplinary action to ensure this does not happen again. We regret and apologize for this mistake.”

Rob King, ESPN’s senior vice president for editorial, print and digital media, Saturday said on Twitter: “There’s no defense for the indefensible. All we can offer are our apologies, sincere though incalculably inadequate.”

While in no way offering an explanation as to what went so terribly wrong at ESPN early Saturday morning, Wednesday night during an interview on ESPNews, Max Bretos, while interviewing Walt Frazier, the Knicks’ analyst on the MSG Network, used the same offensive racial slur.

According to The New York Times, an on-air statement delivered by Jorge Andres, another ESPN anchor, said an “anchor used an inappropriate word in asking a question about Jeremy Lin.” The statement continued: “ESPN apologizes for the incident and is taking steps to avoid this in the future.”

Embarrassed and maligned, ESPN made a decision on Sunday; a scorched earth solution to the series of events surrounding what amounted to a small part of their overall Jeremy Lin coverage, releasing the following statement:

“At ESPN we are aware of three offensive and inappropriate comments made on ESPN outlets during our coverage of Jeremy Lin.

Saturday we apologized for two references here. We have since learned of a similar reference Friday on ESPN Radio New York. The incidents were separate and different. We have engaged in a thorough review of all three and have taken the following action:

The ESPN employee responsible for our Mobile headline has been dismissed.|
The ESPNEWS anchor has been suspended for 30 days.
The radio commentator (Walt Frazier) is not an ESPN employee.

We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian-American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN. Through self-examination, improved editorial practices and controls, and response to constructive criticism, we will be better in the future.”

There have several other examples of inappropriate media reporting and the Jeremy Lin story.

Lin’s most important game to date was the Knicks on February 10 when Lin hit for 38 points in a nationally-televised ESPN game against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock offered this inappropriate tweet following the game on his Twitter feed “Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple inches of pain tonight.” Whitlock was referring to Lin’s genitals and his Asian-American ethnicity.

Reaction was immediate on Twitter. “Linsanity” was trending worldwide. Whitlock was universally criticized.

The Asian American Journalists Assn. posted a letter to Whitlock, who is African American, on its Facebook page. "The offensive tweet debased one of sports’ feel-good moments, not just among Asian Americans but for so many others who are part of your audience," the letter according to The Los Angeles Times.

The AAJA asked Whitlock to apologize, which Whitlock did last Sunday on the Fox Sports site and via Twitter:

“I get Linsanity. I've cried watching Tiger Woods win a major golf championship. Jeremy Lin, for now, is the Tiger Woods of the NBA. I suspect Lin makes Asian Americans feel the way I feel when I watch Tiger play golf.

“I should've realized that Friday night when I watched Lin torch the Lakers. For Asian Americans and a lot of sports fans, his nationally televised 38-point outburst was the equivalent of Tiger's first victory in The Masters. I got caught up in the excitement. I tweeted about what a great story Lin is and how he could rival Tim Tebow.

“I then gave in to another part of my personality — my immature, sophomoric, comedic nature. It's been with me since birth, a gift from my mother and honed as a child listening to my godmother's Richard Pryor albums. I still want to be a standup comedian.

“The ... tweet overshadowed my sincere celebration of Lin’s performance and the irony that the stereotype applies to pot-bellied, overweight male sports writers, too. As the Asian American Journalist Association pointed out, I debased a feel-good sports moment. For that, I’m truly sorry.”

Whitlock enjoys being at the center of a firestorm, often being his own tempest in a teapot.

In 2006, after deciding he didn’t have enough time to continue writing for ESPN.com’s Page Two but while still wanting to appear on ESPN, in an interview with TheBigLead.com, Whitlock had less than complimentary remarks about two of his ESPN colleagues. Whitlock labeled Mike Lupica "an insecure, mean-spirited busybody" and referred to Robert "Scoop" Jackson as a "clown", saying that "the publishing of [Jackson's] fake ghetto posturing is an insult to black intelligence."

ESPN ended their association with Whitlock. Soon after ESPN decided they had had enough of Jason Whitlock wrote in The Kansas City Star (September 2006) that he was fired altogether from ESPN as a result of his remarks; he wrote that the company doesn't tolerate criticism and acted as they saw fit.

Aside from his online Twitter apology (published by Foxsports.com Whitlock’s primary employer), Fox Sports decided not to discipline Jason Whitlock. Both the ESPN.com headline and Jason Whitlock slurs were inappropriate. Someone lost their job at ESPN for poor judgment, its business as normal for Fox Sports – the same company who has brought Homer Simpson to America and the world.

Last Wednesday, following the Knicks 85-79 win over the Philadelphia 76’ers (their seventh consecutive win), the MSG Network (the Knicks primary broadcast partner) published a picture of a fortune cookie, that featured Jeremy Lin (with his tongue sticking out) and the caption “The Knicks Good Fortune.” MSG suggested the picture was captured from a sign a fan brought to Madison Square Garden that night. The image is silly and insulting. Regardless of who created the sign, the offensive sign appeared on MSG. MSG should be held accountable for the sign appearing.

Jeremy Lin has established himself as a starter for the New York Knicks. The NBA will showcase Lin this weekend during the league’s All-Star Weekend. Lin will appear in Saturday night’s Rising Star’s game (showcasing rookie and sophomore players). This is the same Jeremy Lin who was cut by two NBA teams in December (Golden State and Houston) and was playing for the Knicks NBA D-League (minor league) team just three weeks ago.

The Jeremy Lin story has energized the Knicks and the NBA. It is a breath of fresh air the sports world needs. The ultimate unknown – becoming an overnight sensation. Jeremy Lin has earned all the accolades he’s received. What Jeremy Lin doesn’t deserve (or for that matter anyone else) are the racially insensitive remarks, comments and pictures that have appeared.

For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Jeremy Lin – making the most of his opportunity


Is Jeremy Lin a one hit wonder? Is Jeremy Lin “The Knack” of the NBA, they of “My Sharona” fame? Less than ten games as an NBA starter it remains to be seen if Jeremy Lin will start the remainder of the Knicks 46 games.

Regardless, Jeremy Lin has saved the NBA’s 2011-12 season. The NBA was well on its way to a season of obscurity following a lengthy labor dispute that forced the NBA to start their regular season on December 25 and led the league to a truncated 66 game schedule.

Lin has been compared to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow. That isn’t the right athlete to compare Lin too and the differences outweigh the similarities. Tebow was an NFL first round draft pick, and won college football’s Heisman Trophy presented to the college football player of the year. He’s on a short list of the greatest college quarterbacks of all time.

Kurt Warner is a far better comparison. Warner's journey from Northern Iowa quarterback to NFL superstardom was unconventional. Cut by the Green Bay Packers after the 1994 training camp, Kurt played for the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League from 1995-1997 where he earned all-Arena honors. The St. Louis Rams signed Warner in December 1997 and assigned him to the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe in 1998.

Shortly thereafter, following an injury to starter Trent Green, Warner led the Rams to a victory in Super Bowl XXXIV and was named the NFL and Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.

Like Warner did in 1999, Lin has captured attention that extends far beyond basketball and sports fans because of the story. Undrafted by the NBA when he graduated from Harvard in 2010, cut by two NBA teams (Golden State and Houston), buried in the NBA D-League (a minor developmental league) Lin has emerged as the leader of a New York Knicks team that has been playing well above its collective abilities since Lin became a starter seven games ago. He was nearly cut from the Knicks too by the way.

Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney told the media who were travelling with President Obama on Marine One, that Lin's game-winning 3-pointer at the end of Tuesday night's game against Toronto was the subject of conversation with the President.

Carney says Lin's success is "just a great story, and the president was saying as much this morning."

The President says it's a story that "transcends the sport itself."

China has felt “linsanity”.

“His jerseys have sold out, even including the counterfeit ones,” Zheng Xiaojun, a 24-year-old clerk here in the capital of Zhejiang province, near Shanghai told The New York Times.

In what shouldn’t have come as a surprise, the Chinese government appears to be in the initial stages of claiming Lin as a native son. Lin’s parents were born in Taiwan. They moved to the United States where Lin was born.

Yu Guohua, described by The New York Times as “Lin’s closest relative still living in northern Zhejiang” the community his parents grew up, told the Times Lin had come to play basketball with the Jiaxing High School team last May and been mobbed by admirers.

Yu admitted that he did not have a chance to meet Lin during his visit, but spoke with his family. “His father was very supportive of Lin’s playing basketball, but his grandmother was not, for fear he would be injured,” Yu said.

According to The Times report: Lin’s combination of success in the N.B.A. and strong Christian faith — he has spoken in the past of becoming a pastor someday — has fired the imagination of many Asian-American Christians. There are some early signs that he may also be catching the attention of Christians in China, who continue to face varying levels of persecution.

Only 1,500 of the initial 1.4 million microblogging messages on mainland Chinese web sites that mentioned Lin also mentioned Christianity.

But these messages tend to be fervently enthusiastic.

“Your physical agility has shown me the glory and omnipotence of God,” one Internet user wrote.

“How should young Christians live the life of the Lord?” another blogger wrote. “We have a good example in Lin Shuhao’s miraculous performance and we should cheer him on.”

At the Zhejiang Theological Seminary here in Hangzhou, Professor Yan Ronghui said that she was planning to use Lin’s religious faith and basketball successes as a model for students in her course in “theological English” this semester.

Hu Shubang, a 25-year-old student at the seminary, told The New York Times that Lin would become a natural symbol for Christians in China to use in seeking converts.

“Just by his being a Christian, it is a fantastic way to broadcast the ways of Christ,” he said in the Times report.

China is very important to the NBA. According to the Times there are more than 300 million people playing basketball in China. The NBA needs to find a voice in the Chinese market after Yao Ming retired last year.

What about the Lin’s economic impact?

- According to Tuesday’s Toronto Star, Lin had the top selling t-shirt at the NBA.com’s online store;

- According to Tuesday’s USA Today, Lin’s Fathead sales overtook Tom Brady as the top seller;

- According to yet another USA Today piece, Lin has boosted MSG stock over the last week, MSG Network has seen ratings increase by 70% since Lin’s star began to shine, and web traffic for Lin on Facebook, Twitter, and the team’s website have spiked significantly;

- According to Forbes Mike Ozanian Lin’s impact on MSG ratings could help to resolve the squabble with Time Warner Cable which has blacked out Knicks games in the local market for roughly six weeks.

What’s amazing – less than two weeks ago no one knew Jeremy Lin.

“All of the sponsors are going to pile on right now, especially as he’s riding this wave,” Quency Phillips, a marketing agent who represents several NBA and NFL players told The Toronto Star. “There’s nobody else out there like him. It’s the perfect groundswell of everything.”

"There's no question brands will be interested in Jeremy Lin," Jeremy Walker, head of sports marketing and branded entertainment for GolinHarris, told Reuters by telephone from Hong Kong on Monday.

"You only have to look at what Yao Ming has done not just for the NBA but for brands that he represents both in the States and in China.

"Every top Chinese star that comes out from the Olympic Games or wherever it might be, there's always going to be an awful lot of interest for brands because all the major brands in the world are still looking to China for growth.

"A lot of brands want that positive 'halo effect' association they are going to get from being involved with a superstar."

Jeremy Lin will determine his future as a basketball player playing for the New York Knicks. What seems to have been missed is Jeremy Lin is making the most of his opportunity in the world’s media mecca. If Jeremy Lin were playing for the Portland Trailblazers or the Memphis Grizzlies someone would have to call ESPN and let them know about the story. Jeremy Lin is in the right place at the right time with the right story, but his chance is coming with the New York Knicks.

The Greater New York area is home to six major daily newspapers, WFAN the biggest all-sports radio station in America, YES the largest regional sports network in the United States; the platform Jeremy Lin is showcasing his skills is extensive. He is making the most of his opportunity. He has building a foundation for success on and off the basketball court, one that he “might” be able to one day earn tens of millions of dollars from, but two weeks in the NBA do not offer a guarantee of anything.

What Jeremy has been is a great story for the NBA in a year when the league so desperately needed one.

Sources used in this Insider Report: The New York Times and Forbes.com

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

When you wish upon a star – Jeremy Lin


Jeremy Lin completed a remarkable week as an NBA player on Monday when the league named Lin the East Division Player of the Week. Lin led the New York Knicks to a 4-0 week, averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 assists and 2.0 steals. His 109 points over his first four career starts are the most by any player since 1976-77, and he became the first player in NBA history to tally at least 20 points and seven assists in each of his first four starts. Lin scored a career-high 38 points on Feb. 10, in a 92-85 win over the Lakers.

NBA player of the week, one week does not make an NBA career – whether Jeremy Lin is for real remains to be seen but he is the flavor of the day.

“If Jeremy Lin is the real deal on the court, expect him to be the most popular athlete marketer off the court for many years to come,” gushed sports marketing expert and branding strategist Ronn Torossian, CEO and president of 5W Public Relations, a firm based in New York in a New York Daily News report. “This young man will be the face of the NBA — and surely the face of many mainstream, major brands.

“Linsanity has just begun,” Torossian continued, “and this 2010 Harvard graduate is destined for marketing greatness if he can deliver on the court. Jeremy Lin is a marketer’s dream — and to top it all off he is playing in the biggest media market in the world. He can be bigger than David Beckham, bigger than Michael Jordan — he’s Tiger Woods prescandal. Jeremy Lin is the American dream — for people, marketers and the world.”

After receiving no athletic scholarship offers out of high school and being undrafted out of college, the Harvard University graduate reached a partially guaranteed contract deal with his hometown Golden State Warriors last year. Lin is one of the few Asian Americans in NBA history, and the first American player in the league to be of Chinese or Taiwanese descent.

How Lin made it to the Knicks has a fairy tale quality to the story. Born in Los Angeles, raised in Palo Alto, California, Lin was one of the best California High School Basketball players in 2005-06 during his senior year in high school. He was named first-team California All-State and Northern California Division II Player of the Year. Only 6’3” – Lin didn’t receive one Division I scholarship offer.

Lin wanted to go to either UCLA or Stanford. Neither school offered him a scholarship, just a chance to “tryout” for their teams. Lin put together a DVD of his playing highlights and sent the DVD to all the Ivy League schools. Harvard and Brown both guaranteed Lin a spot on their respective teams but Ivy League schools don’t offer athletic scholarships. Lin had a 4.2 grade point average in high school, which fit Harvard's academic requirements.

Rex Walters, University of San Francisco men's basketball coach and a retired NBA player, believed NCAA limits on coaches’ recruiting visits impacted Lin. Lin played Division II high school basketball.

“Most colleges start recruiting a guy in the first five minutes they see him because he runs really fast, jumps really high, does the quick, easy thing to evaluate," Walters said.

Throughout his four years at Harvard, Lin demonstrated tremendous drive and determination. His senior year was special. In his senior year (2009–10), Lin averaged 16.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.1 blocks, and was again a unanimous selection for All-Ivy League First Team. He was one of 30 midseason candidates for the John R. Wooden Award and one of 11 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award. Fran Fraschilla of ESPN picked Lin among the 12 most versatile players in college basketball.

He gained national attention for his performance against the 12th ranked Connecticut Huskies, against whom he scored a career-high, tying 30 points and grabbed nine rebounds on the road.

After the game, Hall of Fame Connecticut Coach Jim Calhoun said, "I've seen a lot of teams come through here, and he could play for any of them. He's got great, great composure on the court. He knows how to play."

But Harvard is in the Ivy League and there have been very few Ivy League basketball players selected in the NBA draft. The NBA draft is a two round draft; eight teams had invited Lin to pre-draft workouts but Lin wasn’t selected in the 2010 NBA draft.

On July 21, 2010, Lin signed a two-year deal with his hometown Golden State Warriors, his favorite team growing up. Lin's deal was partially guaranteed for 2010–11, and the Warriors held a team option for the second season. The reports noted that the deal would include a first-year salary of close to $500,000 with more than half of it guaranteed.

Nike saw something that most of the NBA had missed – the brand they could build around Lin – and how the Asian-American market would react to Lin. As the first American player in the NBA to be of Chinese or Taiwanese descent, Nike believed if they placed some of their marketing machine behind Lin, they would see a return on their investment. Nike signed Lin to a three-year contract (he had what amounted to a one-year NBA contract), and put his NBA jersey on sale before he had even played one NBA game.

Lin made the Warriors 2010 opening night roster but didn’t dress until the teams’ second game of the year – Asian Heritage Night. Lin managed to get into the game with 2:32 left in game and received a standing ovation.

At Toronto on November 8, 2010, the Toronto Raptors held Asian Heritage Night to coincide with Lin's visit with the Warriors. More than 20 members of Toronto's Chinese media covered the game.

Tuesday night the Knicks visited Toronto. The Raptors again held Asian Heritage Night, and sold out only their second game of their season. Unprecedented media demand forced the Raptors to turn away many requested media credentials for the game.

Three times during his 2010-11 rookie season, Lin was assigned to the Warriors' D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorn. The D-League was created for players like Lin, players who needed a chance to prove themselves and receive playing time in basketball’s minor league.

The Warriors walked away from Lin’s contract on December 9, 2011, the first day of the team’s training camp. On December 12, 2011, Lin was claimed off waivers by the Houston Rockets. On December 24, before the start of the season, the Rockets waived Lin to clear payroll to sign center Samuel Dalembert. The New York Knicks claimed Lin off waivers on December 27 to be a backup behind Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby after an injury to guard Iman Shumpert.

The Knicks sent Lin back to the D-League on January 17, 2012. Six days late fate and maybe a touch of Jeremy Lin’s destiny intervened. The Knicks recalled Lin to the NBA.

On February 4, 2012 (the game before the four games that led to his selection as NBA Player of the Week) Lin came off the team’s bench to score 25 points, collect five rebounds, and hand out seven assists—all career-highs—in a 99–92 Knicks victory over the New Jersey Nets. Teammate Carmelo Anthony suggested to Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni at halftime that Lin should play more in the second half. After the game, D'Antoni said Lin has a point-guard mentality and "a rhyme and a reason for what he is doing out there."

During Lin’s remarkable run, both Anthony and the Knicks other NBA all-Star, Amare Stoudemire, haven’t played for the Knicks. Anthony has been injured. Stoudemire missed the Knicks last five games following the death of his brother. Stoudemire returned to the Knicks line-up on Tuesday night.

"The only positive for us during that whole week was we were watching the ball games and we were watching Linsanity," Stoudemire said, following practice on Monday. "My family was getting a kick out of it. That's the only smiles they really had all week. It was great to see that. It's been a tough week."

Jeremy Lin’s arrival as an NBA start couldn’t have come at a better time for the NBA. The NBA is playing a truncated 66 game schedule. Many believed sports fans didn’t care anymore. The remainder of Jeremy Lin’s 2011-12 NBA contract ($800,000) became guaranteed on Friday, when Lin hit 38 points last Friday – a “tour de force” performance against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. The game was televised nationally by ESPN.

"Players playing that well don't usually come out of nowhere. It seems like they come out of nowhere, but if you can go back and take a look, his skill level was probably there from the beginning. It probably just went unnoticed," Bryant said, after Lin scored 38 points.

The Associated Press has called Lin "the most surprising story in the NBA." Bloomberg News wrote that Lin "has already become the most famous [Asian American NBA player]." Time.com ran an article titled, "It's Official: Linsanity is for Real".

Hall of Fame player Magic Johnson said, "The excitement [Lin] has caused in [Madison Square] Garden, man, I hadn't seen that in a long time."

Lin credited his success to playing without pressure. "I've surrendered that to God. I'm not in a battle with what everybody else thinks anymore," said Lin.

What Tim Tebow was to the National Football League, Jeremy Lin is to the NBA – a deeply religious athlete with courage and deep conviction and a commitment to excellence. He is a true athlete from the sports bygone era. Five or six games do not make an NBA career and it remains to be seen if Lin is for real. Regardless, Jeremy Lin is the breath of fresh air the NBA needed.

Sources used in this Insider Report: Wikipedia For Sports Business News, this is Howard Bloom

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Risk vs. Reward – retired NFL players and their suing game


An additional 62 retired National Football League players and 30 of their wives joined the growing group this past Friday that has filed a lawsuit against the NFL. The complaint alleges fraud and negligence against the NFL and accuses the league of hiding medical evidence about the risks of concussions and failing to warn players they risked permanent brain injury if they returned to play too soon after they sustained a concussion. There are more than 300 former NFL players now involved in one of most important lawsuits in recent sports history.

"The NFL knew аbουt the debilitating and permanent effects οf head injuries аnd concussions thаt regularly occur аmοng professional players, уеt ignored аnd actively concealed those risks," ѕаіd Gene Locks, one of the attorneys representing the players.

Craig Mitnick, who represents more than100 players and is Locks’ co-counsel, said "The NFL concussion issue is one whose time has come after being covered up, profitably hidden for many decades. It is long overdue."

Britt Hager, a former linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos, commented, "If the NFL knew that our futures were at risk and covered that medical evidence up, shame on them, they need to do what is right by us."

On January 31 (media day at Super Bowl XLVI), a multidistrict federal judicial panel approved six of the cases to be tried together in Philadelphia, perhaps within a year.

"Here might be the weapon that brings the mighty billionaires to their knees and forces them to accept their liability," says former Vikings Guard Brent Boyd, founder of the player advocacy group Dignity After Football.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the lawsuits filed by the retired players during his “State of the NFL” on February 3, two days prior to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.

“We have done a great deal to try to address issues that are specific to our former players. We will always make sure that player health and safety is the No. 1 priority in the NFL. We will not quit. We are not done yet. We’re going to do what we possibly can to help our retired players, the current players and future players, by making the game safer,” Goodell said.

“And we will do that with rules, we will do that by improving the equipment, and we will do it by making sure that we pioneer research that’s going to make sure we understand all there is about brain injuries, brain disease, and make sure we’re being responsible leaders.”

The NFL is facing multiple lawsuits filed by retired players (and their wives). Legally, Goodell wasn’t in a position to comment on the specifics of the lawsuit, given the legal ramifications the NFL is facing.

One question that should be asked – when anyone agrees to work in a profession is it fair to believe that they accept the “physical” conditions of their employment? Football is a violent game, an occupation where men hit each other, run into each other – is there not an understanding of the risks involved with playing professional football?

The genesis of the current lawsuits the NFL is facing date back to July 2011 when 75 retired players filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles claiming the NFL were aware as early as the 1920’s (the NFL began in 1920) of the inherent risks of concussions on players' brains, but concealed the information from players, coaches, trainers and others until June 2010. (That lawsuit and the other related lawsuits will now be heard in a Philadelphia court.)

"For decades, defendants have known that multiple blows to the head can lead to long-term brain injury, including memory loss, dementia, depression and (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and its related symptoms," says the 86-page lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday.

"This action arises from the defendants' failure to warn and protect NFL players, such as the plaintiffs, against the long-term brain injury risks associated with football-related concussions. This action arises because the NFL defendants committed negligence by failing to exercise its duty to enact league-wide guidelines and mandatory rules regulating post-concussion medical treatment and return-to-play standards for players who suffer a concussion and/or multiple concussions."

However, "It was not until June 2010 that the NFL acknowledged that concussions can lead to dementia, memory loss, CTE and related symptoms by publishing (a) warning to every player and team," says the suit. "The NFL-funded study is completely devoid of logic and science. More importantly, it is contrary to their (the NFL's) Health and Safety Rules as well as 75 years of published medical literature on concussions," according to the suit, which asks for a jury trial and damages.

Four current members of the Football Hall of Fame are part of the current lawsuit, including Tony Dorsett. In the second quarter of a 1984 Dallas Cowboys – Philadelphia Eagles game (Dorsett was playing for the Cowboys) Dorsett suffered a helmet to helmet hit, the hardest hit of his Hall of Fame career.

"It was like a freight train hitting a Volkswagen," Dorsett says now. "Did they know it was a concussion?" he asks rhetorically during an interview with The Associated Press. "They thought I was half-dead."

And what did the Dallas Cowboys do? They shined a light in his eyes, asked him who sat next to him on the Cowboys team bus and put him back in the game in the second half. Dorsett remembers running plays the wrong way in that second half – yet he still managed to run for 99 more yards.

"That ain't the first time I was knocked out or been dazed over the course of my career, and now I'm suffering for it," the 57-year-old former tailback says. "And the NFL is trying to deny it."

What about the risk vs. reward – that playing football is dangerous – and Tony Dorsett was paid to play in the NFL. Much of the money he made while playing football was lost through a series of bad investments.

"Yeah, I understand you paid me to do this, but still yet, I put my life on the line for you, I put my health on the line," Dorsett says. "And yet when the time comes, you turn your back on me? That's not right. That's not the American way."

That, in many ways, is the heart of the matter – how the NFL is treating its former players, the athletes who built the NFL into one of the most successful businesses in the world today. Out of the four major North American sports: the NFL, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League, NFL player contacts are the only ones that are not guaranteed. Only the bonuses players receive when they sign their contracts are guaranteed. The NFL generates in excess of $9 billion annually. In what is arguably the most dangerous professional team sport, the NFL does not offer its players lifetime medical insurance.

There is risk vs. reward in any profession and NFL players are well paid. The real question that needs to be asked (and will be answered in a Philadelphia court): Is the NFL responsible for the quality of life their former players are being forced to lead –and are later-in-life health issues, a direct result of having played in the NFL?

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Nordiques Nation, the imminent future of the NHL in Quebec City and the end of the NHL in Phoenix


The world in which the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes live collided in two different places on Saturday. When the dusts clears in the coming days, weeks and months, the Phoenix Coyotes will move to Quebec City in time for the start of the 2012-13 National Hockey League season. It is no longer a matter of “if or when” the final nails are being pounded into the Coyotes’ Phoenix coffin, as Quebec City is ready to start building the Coyotes future home, a $400 million state-of-the-art arena in Quebec City – the future home of the Coyotes.

More than 2,000 colorfully dressed hockey fans made the five-hour trek from Quebec City to Ottawa’s Scotiabank Place on Saturday, joining more than 20,000 fans in sending a loud and clear message to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman – Quebec City wants back in the NHL. At the same time, The New York Times offered an expose on the imminent end of the NHL’s failed Phoenix odyssey.

The NHL took over the ownership of the Coyotes at the start of the 2009-10 season while they were dead last in attendance. The Coyotes are averaging 11,624 fans per game this year, still dead last in NHL attendance. The Coyotes finished 29th in attendance last year of the 30 NHL teams.

The first edition of the Winnipeg Jets moved from that Canadian city to Phoenix in 1996. With a series of owners and a real estate deal that never worked, the Coyotes filed for bankruptcy protection during the 2008-09 NHL season.

Canadian Blackberry founder Jim Balsillie tried to buy the team. (He had failed to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins when they were in bankruptcy protection and then tried for the Nashville Predators.) Balsillie was interested in buying an NHL franchise and moving the team to the Southern Ontario market, where territorial rights are protected by the NHL Constitution.

The City of Glendale, AZ, owners of the Jobing.com Arena where the Coyotes play their home games, have covered $25 million in annual losses each of the last two years. There have been suggestions the Glendale City Council is ready to invest another $25 million of taxpayer dollars to keep the Coyotes there. This is a classic example of “throwing good money after (a very) bad” idea, but those taxpayer bailouts are about to come to an end in Glendale.

“We’re going to try to avoid a move of the Coyotes,” Bettman said in a radio interview before the All-Star Game last month. “But if we don’t sell the club, I’m not sure that this won’t be the last season here.”

On Saturday, The Arizona Republic reported former Coyotes and retired NHL’er Jeremy Roenick who played for the Coyotes for six years, is interested in joining former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison in his bid to buy and keep the Coyotes in the Phoenix area.

Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf has been talking about owning the Coyotes for the last four years. The NHL wants $170 million for the Coyotes. It’s safe to assume given the NHL has yet to approve either Jamison or Reinsdorf will be the next Coyotes owner.

Forbes Magazine in their latest NHL financial valuation believes the average NHL team is worth $240 million. According to Forbes (the well-respected list is subjective) believes the Phoenix Coyotes are worth $134 million, $106 million less than the NHL average and $36 million less than what the NHL is trying to sell the team for. No one is going to pay $170 million for a sports franchise that is losing more than $30 million annually and is only worth $134 million. The NHL needs to find a new home for the Coyotes.

The Quebec Nordiques formed as one of the original World Hockey Association teams in 1972. The franchise was originally awarded to a group in San Francisco, as the San Francisco Sharks. However, the San Francisco group's funding collapsed prior to the start of the first season, and the WHA hastily sold the organization to a group of six Quebec City-based businessmen who owned the highly profitable Quebec Remparts junior team.

The team left Quebec City after the 1994-95 NHL season. The Nordiques played their home games in the Colisée de Québec, originally built in 1949 with 15,176 seats. The Canadian dollar was in a free fall (as compared to value of the American dollar), NHL salaries were paid in American dollars and the teams’ owner Marcel Aubut believed the Nordiques needed a new arena.

Aubut asked for a financial bailout from Quebec's provincial government, the request was turned down, as few in Quebec were willing to subsidize a hockey club that paid multimillion-dollar salaries (bailouts for Ottawa and Edmonton were also rejected for the same reason). In May 1995, shortly after the Nordiques were eliminated from the playoffs, Aubut announced that he had no other choice but to sell the team to a group of investors in Denver, Colorado. The franchise was moved to Denver where it was renamed the Colorado Avalanche.

Sixteen years later, the long talked-about plans to build a new $400 million arena appear to be ready to put shovels into the ground and start building the cities state-of-the-art facility.

Friday, SportsNet.ca reported all that is standing between Quebec City and their new arena is an environmental assessment and clean-up. The new arena is to be built beside the Pepsi Colisee. Pierre Karl Peladeau, president and CEO of Quebecor (one of Canada’s biggest media groups) is ready to own the team. Quebecor has a management contract in place for the new arena. The $400 million cost of the arena will be covered by Quebec and Quebec City taxpayers. Quebecor has pledged to pay $63.5 million for naming rights and $4.5 million in annual rent if the company is able to buy the team.

The Coyotes death watch began in 2003. The team moved from downtown Phoenix to Glendale (20 miles outside the city). The real estate market collapsed the planned retail shopping outlets that were a key to the decision to build the arena never happened. The NHL missed the 2004-05 season due to the labor lockout and the NHL was all but dead in Glendale.

“The team was doomed the day they signed on to move to Glendale,” said Jordan Kobritz, who teaches sports management at Eastern New Mexico University in a New York Times report. “The Coyotes have had two strikes against them from the time they arrived.”

It’s time for the NHL to move this dead desert dog. The end long ago arrived for the Phoenix Coyotes. Losing tens of millions of dollars annually – enough is enough. The Coyotes will be playing in Quebec City next year, welcome back Nordique Nation to the NHL.

For Sports Business News this is Howard Bloom

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