Friday, December 31, 2010

Larry King was the World Football League's Biggest Success

By Evan Weiner

December 31, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- It is hard to believe that the most successful man that emerged from the financial wreckage of the World Football League was Larry King, the cable TV news yenta. There is no better term than the Yiddish expression yenta to describe what Larry King did as he was never much more than someone who was unprepared to ask any real questions and seemed out of touch with what he did for a living which was ask questions.

Larry King's career almost ended in 1971 when he was arrested and charged with grand larceny. The charges were dropped in 1972 but King had been fired by WIOD radio and WTVJ-TV in Miami and lost has gig as a Miami Dolphins radio announcer. Larry King eventually would go back to work with the Shreveport Steamer of the World Football League.

The stint with Shreveport rehabilitated King's image enough that he could return to Miami. The World Football League had grandiose visions of conquering the sports world globally. The league had 12 teams, Anaheim, Birmingham, Chicago, Detroit, Honolulu, Houston, Jacksonville, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Portland and Toronto. John Bassett, whose family had a share of the Toronto Maple Leafs, signed a trio of high profile Miami Dolphins -- Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield -- but was thrown out of Toronto by Parliament which threatened to ban on American football played in Canada as a protection measure to keep the Canadian Football League from having competitors, Bassett moved his franchise to Memphis in the pre-North American Free Trade Agreement days. New York's owners couldn't make it in an old stadium on Randall's Island and fled to Charlotte. The wheels came off the Detroit Wheels (a team that played a "home game in London, Ontario without a single complaint from Parliament) and the franchise was terminated after 14 weeks along with the Jacksonville franchise. Houston moved to Shreveport, which was most fortuitous for Larry King.

The league returned in 1975 and Shreveport was still playing football. The league never made it through year two but Larry King did his time and was back in action in Miami. For those who knock new sports leagues and the most glaring example of unprofessional bias when it came to new leagues was Sports Illustrated's Tex Maule who was through and through a National Football League cheerleader, apologist and an American Football League hater back in the 1960s, the list of people who cut their professional teeth in new leagues is exceptionally long and filled with very familiar names like Larry King, like Bob Costas (American Basketball Association), present day New York Yankees announcer John Sterling was the play by play guy for the World Hockey Association's New York Raiders, the American Basketball Association's New York Nets and the New York Stars/Charlotte Hornets WFL team.

New leagues give people opportunities and one of those people was Larry King.

King continued to dabble in sports and got his big break in 1978 when he got the overnight national Mutual radio talk show that was originally intended for New York radio personality Long John Nebel. Luck played a role as Nebel died and one of King's Miami bosses took over Mutual and offered him the spot. King's show would eventually move to Washington and sometimes King would fall asleep during the show and have to be awakened by a producer.

The show seemed more fit for a conversation at Duke Zeibert's than a radio show but King was non confrontational and seemed to be likable. In radio, perceived perception is what programmers want. King was easy going and didn't ask any poignant questions. Somehow he caught the eye of Ted Turner and CNN and began a 25-year run on the network in 1985. When King started, CNN was a news outlet, at the time of his final show, CNN was nothing more than an empty gabfest and it was quite possible that King's ascendancy to cable TV prime time began the downward spiral of cable TV news in America.

King was a hot commodity after joining CNN. He was a part of Washington Capitals hockey presentations and did a column for USA Today, which was little more than a word here and a sentence here, and always seemed to have one line that Major League Baseball is returning to Washington. The columns never were revealing and were never considered Pulitzer worthy but somehow King won a number of major awards including Emmys and a Peabody. He also provided a precursor to what would become partisan cable TV "news" as his show was a landing spot for all politicians who wanted a feel good interview.

Illustrating that point, former President Bill Clinton paid tribute to King along with pop culture figures. It is unseemly that Clinton and other political leaders would pay any tribute to King. It is understandable that Tony Bennett gave King a send off but political leaders?

King's on camera persona didn't necessarily mirror his off camera life. One time, when he was using the CNN studios across the street from Madison Square Garden, King started an ugly fight with a New York Rangers staffer over his right to enter a media room for a free meal. The staffer refused to allow him in the room and he started screaming that he would call Sumner Redstone (whose company owned Madison Square Garden and the Rangers) and have the staffer fired. He used the "don't you know who I am line" and the staffer said “yes but you don't have a credential.” The staffer suddenly disappeared about a week later. King walked into the Garden because the guy at the media entrance door on 33rd street, Bruno, let him in. He was Larry King, after all.

King is an important figure in American TV and radio. Howard Cosell once remarked that when they write the history of TV, they will write about the "three C's" -- Cronkite, Carson and Cosell but not necessarily in that order. Howard was right about the impact of Walter Cronkite, Johnny Carson and himself during their eras. Cronkite represented a high standard of news coverage, Carson was the king of late night TV and Howard was, well he was Howard---both the most beloved and hated TV personality of his time. But Cosell didn't see King's influence before he died in 1995. King made the leap from over night radio to cable TV and was successful. That opened the door for non descript, mediocre talents like Sean Hannity, Alan Colmes, Glenn Beck to do the same. Oddly enough Rush Limbaugh never transferred well to TV. King's CNN changed prime time headline news and instead of reporting news, CNN's other news outlet brought in Nancy Grace and Beck and dropped any news pretense.

King's fawning over political figures led to copycats. King's love fests with Ross Perot in 1992 when Perot was running for President as been mirrored by others including Oprah Winfrey, Arsenio Hall, David Letterman and Jay Leno. Politicians now have safe havens where they can find love on cable TV news networks or entertainment shows partly due to King.

The Larry King victory lap for mediocrity including a session with Howard Kurtz, another one of the Washington examples of total conflict of interest. How can a media critic host a media show on CNN? But then again how could NBC News assign Andrea Mitchell to any political stories when she is married to former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan? But Larry King didn't create those conflicts. He just provided a safe haven for politicians to sell their wares on his show.

To King's credit, he never was a carnival barker in a world of cable TV news carnival barkers. He didn't preach, he had non-meaningful conversations and would fall asleep on his radio show after a night out in Washington.

King's replacement on CNN is no better than all of the rest of the carnival barkers. Piers Morgan promises to make headlines. That's pretty funny coming from someone whose reign as a "journalist" in Britain came to a screeching halt in 2004 while he was the editor of London's Daily Mirror. Morgan gave the go ahead to print pictures showing members of England's armed forces torturing Iraqi prisoners. The pictures were a hoax and Morgan was gone. Morgan cut his teeth professionally as an editor of one of Rupert Murdoch's London papers, the Sun, and showed right away that he had no journalistic integrity. He left Murdoch's world and joined the Daily Mirror in 1996 and got into trouble immediately. He again had problems in 2000. He came to America in 2006 and has been an American TV personality since although it is unclear what he has done to merit a prime time cable TV news show. At least Larry King had a track record.

Speaking of records, for the record, it should be noted that Jim Fassel, now coaching in the United Football League is the last WFL player of note to be active in football. Fassel took the last snap as the quarterback of the Hawaiians in 1975 in WFL history.

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at, Barnes and Noble’s or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Did the NFL want to take care of discarded players benefits back in 1992?

For New York Giants backers, this Sunday's contest against the Washington Redskins could be the team's final game for a long, long time. The National Football League's Collective Bargaining Agreement ends on March 3 and should the owners and players not reach an agreement, the NFL's off season will be silent except for the annual draft which will take place as scheduled.
There will be no free agency, no mini-camps, no organized team activities, no overlooked in the draft college kids signing up with teams and no training camp until the owners and players reach an accord. Meanwhile the players will challenge the legitimacy of the owners' war chest, which is being stuffed with money from Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (FOX), General Electric's NBC, Summer Redstone's CBS, Disney's ESPN and DirecTV. The players filed a complaint to Special Master of the National Football League Stephen Burbank, a University of Pennsylvania law professor. Burbank was appointed by a federal court in 2002 to handle disputes between the owners and players.
The players could decertify the association, which means that the NFLPA could go to court and ask for an injunction to end the lockout. The argument would be that the players are independent contractor and not part of the association. The owners plan to end players benefits as soon as the lockout starts.
The dispute comes down to money. The NFL owners want to cut back revenues given to the players from 59 to 48 percent and cut salaries by 18 percent. But there are some other issues such as pensions and health benefits. Health benefits should emerge as a major issue, but it isn't.
Week after week, National Football League players are getting hurt in alarming numbers. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers, who was cleared to play against the Giants last Sunday, has had two concussions this year. A concussion is a brain injury. Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Austin Collie is done for the season after getting his "bell rung" again. The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is on the field because of a head injury that 2010 Eagles starting quarterback Kevin Kolb went down with a head injury.
If there is a fortunate part of all the head injuries that have occurred is that the NFL is somewhat more diligent in taking care of head injuries than the league was say back in 1980. The league is urging players who have suffered head injuries to come forward and if a teammate notices something awry with a player he suspects has suffered a head injury to speak up.
But football players, being tough, macho guys who succumb to peer pressure get on the field as soon as they are "well enough" to perform.
Football players have "sucked it up" since the game was invented and suffered life changing injuries as a result of their actions on the field. A lot of NFL players now are getting government assistance through social security disability and Medicare because they have pre-existing conditions and cannot get health benefits. The government taking care of discarded players issue that the news media has ignored for whatever reason known only to those who decide what "news" to cover.
Here is a question that the discarded players should be asking. Did the NFL's collective bargaining negotiator Harold Henderson in 1992 propose that the league take care of old players who had no medical coverage and that the players association decided that free agency for the players was more important? A good number of former players who are uninsurable because of pre-existing conditions think it is solely the responsibility of present-day NFL owners to take care of them. However, the owners and players association collective bargained working conditions and the players association failed to protect their membership's future health needs in the 1982 and 1987 collective bargaining agreements.
The players association took the money always.
The wife of a 1960s-era player though thinks NFL owners should be responsible for health issues that were caused by injuries on the field because "the fact that the players were required to play with injuries that could and did cause long-term damage and sometimes death, does make them legally responsible." The former player wife added that she hope someone will come along and take on the NFL owners to get help for those in bad shape. "Attorneys will take a closer look at the notion that the retired players (many who did not even participate in collective bargaining) signed their rights away in the process of collective bargaining. In that same vein, once the players retire, they have no voice and are unable to restate their cause, particularly with all the current evidence of trauma and even death caused by concussions."
Head injuries have always been a part of the NFL. The 1940 Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon told NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Packers coach Vince Lombardi along with the CBS Director of Sports Bill McPhail at a Los Angeles bar prior to the 1967 American Football League-National Football League Championship Game (now known as the "first" Super Bowl) that head injuries began to rise once face guards were put onto helmets which occurred in 1955.
The National Football League Players Association during the Ed Garvey and Gene Upshaw days when they led the players has always been about money and free agency with scant mention of benefits. The NFLPA website on the collective bargaining page confirms the notion.
"A simplistic account of the 1974 and 1982 bargaining efforts would say that the players fell short of their goals on both occasions. In 1974, they set out to achieve free agency, but the 1977 CBA restricted free agent movement almost as much as the old system. In 1982, they set out to achieve a defined percentage of the gross revenues and a "pay for performance" system, but the old system continued along with improved benefits.
"A more enlightened view of those negotiations, however, was that the battle was never going to be won in the short term. The owners, who had their way for most of the league's history, were a powerful group that always stuck together in dealings with the players. Because they shared most of their revenues, they were unlike the Major League Baseball owners, whose internal conflicts made them less than a united front when dealing with the players union. The NFL owners could always outlast the players, since players had short careers and an inherent fear of making careers even shorter "by taking a stand."
"These realities were proven again in 1987, when the NFLPA opened negotiations for a new CBA to succeed the 1982 agreement. A lot had happened in the interim. Ed Garvey left his job as Executive Director to enter politics. Gene Upshaw, who had served as NFLPA President during the 1982 strike, was a natural choice to succeed Garvey since he had experience as a player and union leader and also as a negotiator of the 1977 and 1982 agreements. The player reps unanimously elected Upshaw as Executive Director in June of 1983, and the organization changed significantly thereafter.

"Gene's primary objective was simple — he wanted to have the players determine the goals of the organization. He worked closely with Jeff Van Note (NFLPA President 1983), Tom Condon (NFLPA President 1984-1986) and Marvin Powell (NFLPA President 1986-1988) to meet with and poll the players on their bargaining objectives in preparation for the expiration of the 1982 CBA in 1987. The results of a league-wide player survey taken in 1986 made clear that the players viewed free agency as their highest priority. This was not surprising, since only one player even got an offer from another club during the entire term of the 1982 CBA, despite the fact that over 500 players had become "free agents" under the system.
"While benefits were improved in the 1982 CBA, players still had no choice as to where they would play since the system essentially prohibited free agent movement. At the same time, revenue disparities increased among the teams to the point where, unlike in 1982, an owner could increase his revenues through luxury box sales and other sources if he could assemble a winning team. In other words, free agency could work for players in 1987 if they could ever force owners to agree to it. That, however, would not be easy."
In November 2010, the owners made a proposal to help out the former and discarded players even though NFL owners have no legal obligation to give them more money or provide health benefits. The league and the players association have been talking about taking care of the former players health benefits but the associations' turned down a deal that might have covered about 2,500 of 3,200 players because the association's reps didn't feel that TransAmerica would insure 700 of the discarded players because of pre-existing conditions. The NFLPA wanted all 3,200 players insured.
Rogers, Collie, Kolb have better benefits than the players who played in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The players finally got better benefits in the 1993 collective bargaining agreement but that only took care of players who were fortunate enough to be on the team rosters in 1993.
The retired and discarded players should be asking whether Harold Henderson and the NFL really did make a proposal in 1992 to take care of them. And if that was on the table, what happened to the proposal?
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at or amazonkindle. He can be reached at
Goodell Cannot Fine Tucker Carlson For Calling For Michael Vick’s Execution

By Evan Weiner

December 29, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- Roger Goodell, who is trying to rule the National Football League with an iron fist when it comes to disciplinary matters (although his critics have not been that kind to him in slowness the Brett Favre investigation of sending lewd pictures to a "reporter" who worked for the New York Jets--Goodell eventually fined Favre $50,000, the "reporter" was a model turned sportscaster named Jen Sterger. No doubt she was on Versus and turned up as a Jets TV reporter for her investigative qualities), has a major problem. One of Commissioner Goodell's business partners (and backer of an NFL lockout of the players in March), Rupert Murdoch, has seen one of his carnival barkers on the FOX News Channel ---Tucker Carlson---say "I'm a Christian, I've made mistakes myself, I believe fervently in second chances. But Michael Vick killed dogs, and he did in a heartless and cruel way. And I think, personally, he should've been executed for that. He wasn't, but the idea that the President of the United States would be getting behind someone who murdered dogs? Kind of beyond the pale."

Goodell cannot fine Carlson for anything.

Carlson was looking to do the FOX thing which is a constant negative critique of President Barack Obama. The way cable TV news and political talk radio works in the United States is pretty simple. No real debate, the testosterone ladened host (or hostess) is angry at something and that appeals to the loyal viewers or listeners who are looking for someone to vent for them. One radio programmer at WMAL told Sam Donaldson he was not angry enough on the air and that hurt his appeal to the older white male listener who hates his wife, his kids, his job, his lot in life. Donaldson quit the gig. The more vile built up, the better the dramatics and the ability to say some useless product or medicine to the loyal viewer or listener.

Carlson's vitriol looks well with the FOX News Channel audience. It doesn't with the NFL crowd but that's not Carlson's problem. Carlson is just another mouth who works for Murdoch, a media mogul who was ripped by Chicago legendary columnist Mike Royko after Murdoch bought the Chicago Sun Times. Royko quit as a Sun Times columnist in 1984 and said,”No self-respecting fish would be wrapped in a Rupert Murdoch newspaper. His goal is not quality journalism. His goal is vast power for Rupert Murdoch, political power".

Royko was right. (For the record this writer was fired in 2000 by a Murdoch editor as a contributor to a FOX sports business website and David Hill, the head of FOX Sports at the time told me that he loved my show idea for a sports business program but his audience would hate it.)

Murdoch gives Goodell's owners hundreds of millions of dollars annually for the right to put National Football Conference regular season and playoff games on his FOX TV syndication (FOX is not a network in the truest sense of the word network) along with a Super Bowl every few years. Goodell and his owners are eternally grateful that Murdoch stepped into the bidding for NFL TV rights in 1993 and have been reaping the benefits ever since. Murdoch will be paying his annual rights fee in 2011 to the NFL and help fund a lockout fund for the owners. FOX, ESPN, CBS, NBC and DirecTV are giving the owners money for their lockout war chest. But never has one of Murdoch's carnival barkers ever called for the execution of an NFL player. Not even Rush Limbaugh was that stupid during his days with ESPN.

Limbaugh resigned from the Disney-owned network ESPN after a critique of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in October 2003. The sad part was that Limbaugh might have been right about McNabb as a quarterback but he introduced a racial angle which works well in his milieu (talk radio) but not in sports reporting, not that Limbaugh does anything that resembles reporting or journalism.

"I don't think he's been that good from the get-go," Limbaugh said during a Sunday night cablecast on ESPN. "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

Tucker Carlson has no ties to the NFL and that is where the story gets complicated for Goodell, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and Vick. Goodell can blast Carlson's statement but comedian Jon Stewart skewered Carlson and cable TV news in general in 2004 when some young booker fresh out of college thought that Stewart would be the perfect guest on CNN's Crossfire which featured Clinton political strategist Paul Begala and conservative Carlson. That was a mistake as Stewart did not come onto the show as a funny man and instead told the two hosts what was on his mind.

"The thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations," Stewart said. "And we're left out there to mow our lawns."

"Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America," Stewart said. "You're doing theater, when you should be doing debate, which would be great. … What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery."
Begala and Carlson were stunned by Stewart's remarks but that shouldn't be surprising as so-called cable TV news talk show hosts rule their realm as they see fit. The who, what, why, where and how of journalism along with out of the box thinking doesn't apply to their world. CNN would eventually cancel Crossfire but in the world of cable TV news that just means another news network is waiting for the castoff with open arms. MSNBC hired Carlson. His show was a flop and now he like a lot of other flotsam and jetsam ended up on FOX. Sometimes FOX's flotsam and jetsam ends up elsewhere as in the case of Paula Zahn and Rita Crosby. Carlson has been hired by msnbc and FOX since his CNN debacle. He also appeared on Dancing With the Stars, the ABC-TV show that has some sort of fascination with conservatives like Carlson, Tom DeLay and Sarah Palin's daughter Bristol. No one ever loses a job in cable TV news world for slip ups or calling people names or wishing someone dead like New York radio personality Bob Grant did in the 1990s. Grant was fired by WABC and was quickly hired by WOR.

Limbaugh never recovered professionally in the world of the NFL though. In 2009, he floated an idea that he wanted to buy into the St. Louis Rams. The National Football league Players Association condemned the idea and eventually dropped the pursuit of the team. Carlson, from what is known about him, is not much of a sports fan and probably will never try to buy into an NFL team so he is safe from any NFL repercussions.

But that leaves Goodell and his NFL owners in a quandary. Goodell would like as sanitized league as possible but he is in bed with Murdoch and one of his carnival barkers said Michael Vick should have been executed. Murdoch pays a lot of money for TV rights and most football fans really don't care about Murdoch, his FOX News Channel, his New York Post, his inaccuracies with his newspapers globally, they want to watch games. The zombie media in Washington probably will be quiet about Carlson or as quiet as they can in that he is one of them and they seems to protect one another as Stephen Colbert could tell you following his appearance at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2006 when he blasted, in a satirical way, the zombie media. The New York Times was not pleased and other Washington media didn't enjoy the satire very much either. The zombie media brought in Rich Little the next year so that everything would be in order.

Carlson was out of line but he will get away with his comment. He has his own website, The Daily Caller, and he fits in well with the style of the FOX News Channel. He probably won't get Eagles press credentials anytime soon but he did his job well for Murdoch and Roger Ailes and the FOX News Channel audience. Meanwhile, Murdoch should be called onto the carpet by Goodell and Congress should review the 1984 Cable TV Act and allow customers to choose whatever they want in basic and go a la carte. If that happens, the FOX News Channel probably loses 95 percent of its subscribers as would CNN, msnbc, CNBC, FOX Business Channel and ESPN. But Murdoch has half of the 2012 presumptive Republican Presidential candidates on his payroll at FOX, so how likely is it that Congress changes cable TV laws? Goodell can do nothing except ask Carlson for an apology and maybe condemn his statement.

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at, or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

NBA contraction: LeBron James says he didn’t mean to get rid of N.J. Nets
Tuesday, 28 December 2010 11:59 .BY EVAN WEINER
There is nothing like a feud in sports and apparently LeBron James has picked a senseless fight with the National Basketball Players Association, the New Jersey Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves. It would have made far more sense for LeBron from Miami to call one of the sports talk radio shows in Miami than tell NBA beat reporters that in the 1980s, people like watching NBA games because stars played together because there were less teams. LeBron from Miami could have told one of the carnival barkers on WQAM or WINZ "let's Kevin Love off Minnesota or Brook Lopez and Devin Harris off New Jersey put them on a team to a team that could be really good." It would have made good talk radio but in the business of the NBA, LeBron from Miami could not have said anything dumber from a business standpoint.

"Not saying let's take New Jersey and let's take Minnesota out of the league," James said last Thursday. "But hey, you guys are not stupid, I'm not stupid, it would be great for the league."

Great for the league?

Maybe on the court but LeBron from Miami also wants to put at least 30 players out of work, which will not make his fellow player association members too happy, along with head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts, athletic trainers, equipment managers, front office staff and per diem employees who work for the team on game day or at the arena on game day along with reporters because they won't have a team to cover.

But on Monday, LeBron from Miami backtracked. "I'm with the players, and the players know that," James said. "I've been with the players. It's not about getting guys out of the league or knocking teams out. I didn't mean to upset nobody. I didn't tell Avery Johnson to leave, either. I didn't say let's abandon the Nets, and not let them move to Brooklyn or let's tear down the Target Center in Minnesota. I never said that."

LeBron from Miami didn't even know what "contract" meant.
The damage was done however, Nets coach Avery Johnson said, "We're going to Brooklyn. We're not going to contract."

But for LeBron from Miami and the beat reporters who don't know much about NBA or sports business and for book publishers who claim there is no market for basketball history books complete with accounts from those who played the game in the 1940s and 1950s, here is how the NBA worked back in the 1950s when the league last contracted a team. Actually, the NBA didn't contract a team as the owners of the Baltimore Bullets didn't wait for Commissioner Maurice Podoloff to contract them and gave up on November 27, 1954. That was the last time an NBA team went out of business although many have moved and there were a number of American Basketball Association franchises that met the same fate as Baltimore. The NBA took the four surviving ABA teams in a "merger" in 1976.

For even more New Jersey sports, visit the NJNR Press Box
The NBA, like the National Football League of that era was a step above semi-pro level.

In the late 1950s, television became an integral part of sports. The National Football League became engrained in the American culture on December 28, 1958 when Johnny Unitas lead the Baltimore Colts downfield in overtime to beat the New York Giants. That game changed pro football and led to the formation of the American Football League. NBA owners also took notice of the game and the power of TV according to Bailey Howell who was a rookie with Detroit in 1959

"It was a period of transition because shortly after that they started adding teams," said Howell of the NBA in 1959. "They added Chicago and teams were moving out of the small markets to the big market areas, Minneapolis moved to LA, Philadelphia moved to San Francisco and Syracuse moved down to Philadelphia so they were targeting the bigger markets and hopefully the TV revenue that would result from it."

As NBA owners moved to the bigger markets, they encountered another problem. Too many home games, so the solution was simple. Instead of having the Harlem Globetrotters play the Washington Generals or any other team as the preliminary game before an NBA contest, they would schedule an NBA doubleheader in a proven market like New York and so they owners hold less home games or farm out home games to cities that could handle a game.

"All the cities had doubleheaders but the Knicks had more, of course," recalled Howell. "The league was struggling so and in Detroit they (owner Fred Zollner) didn't think they could have 40 home games and draw good crowds, so we would play about 30-32 games at home and the rest were doubleheaders or we would take a home game down to Toledo or go back to Fort Wayne. We played somewhere different every night; we never played two or three nights in the same place. The Celtics played doubleheaders in New York in the first game of a doubleheader and in Providence. The league was struggling; it was really struggling in those years."

The NBA played, it seems, whenever there was a court and two baskets. The 1953-54 Baltimore Bullets franchise was scheduled in the least likely basketball outposts in the United States at that time. Baltimore played games in Buffalo, Indianapolis, Miami Beach, Miami, Birmingham, Alabama and Troy, Ohio. George Mikan's 53-54 Minneapolis Lakers played in Moorhead, Minnesota, Chicago, Kansas City, Missouri, Grand Forks, North Dakota, Spencer, Iowa, Huron, South Dakota, Toledo, Ohio, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Hibbing, Minnesota and New Haven, Connecticut. The Milwaukee Hawks in 1953-54 went to Omaha, Nebraska, Collingsworth, Michigan, and Iowa City, Iowa. Rochester played a game in Cleveland that year. Syracuse had a contest in Cleveland. Eddie Gottlieb's Philadelphia Warriors played the New York Knicks in White Plains at a building that decades later would serve as the home of an NBA summer rookie league, the Westchester County Center, as well as playing in Hershey. Boston had games in New London, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island and Waterville, Maine. Throughout the 1950s, the NBA would be barnstorming during the regular season in addition to the pre-season. The Lakers after Mikan retired performed in Houston and Dallas.

In 1959-60, the lame duck Minneapolis Lakers played the Philadelphia Warriors on January 31, 1960 in San Francisco and on February 1, 1960 in Los Angeles. It was the first time the Warriors and Lakers would play one another in the two California cities. Within two and a half years, the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Francisco Warriors would play one another regularly in NBA action. Minneapolis also played a game in Seattle.
The NBA would approve the relocation of the Minneapolis Lakers to Los Angeles in 1960 and add the Chicago territory in 1961 to give the league a presence in the country's top three markets. The league was also in Detroit and auto manufacturers were spending money on sports sponsorships. The NBA, it seemed by 1961, to position itself into a good spot for United States network TV and with President John F. Kennedy's signature on the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, the league could bundle its teams together and sell rights to its games without running afoul of United States Anti-trust laws.

Oddly enough, David Sarnoff's NBC TV dumped the NBA after the 1961-62 season. The league would find a home on ABC in 1963 which was a languishing network. ABC would carry NBA games until the 1972-73 season. Today, television, specifically cable TV provides a revenue stream that is essential to the survival of the league. The Christmas Day games, which Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson and LeBron from Miami complained about, are the start off point for league marketing for the season, which is a bit strange in that the season is approaching the two-month mark at that point.

LeBron's comments were ill advised but that's not the first time he has run into that problem this year. The NBA does have financial problems and there is a reason that there are 30 franchises today and some of that had to do with potential owners wanting to get into the league (Vancouver's Arthur Griffiths spent $100 million for a Vancouver franchise when the league wasn't even thinking about Vancouver back in the mid-1990s and that franchise was sold to Michael Heisley in 2000. Heisley took the franchise to Memphis and has lost money. NBA owners wanted Griffiths' $100 million and gave him a franchise), sudden availability of arenas (Charlotte, Miami, Minneapolis and Orlando). Replacing a transferred team with an expansion team (Charlotte) and numerous exemptions that are available to teams in the salary cap. That is just the tip of the iceberg.

NBA Commissioner David Stern took over a league in 1984, which was financially reeling. NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien and players association Executive Director Larry Fleisher came up with the 1983 Collective Bargaining Agreement that put a salary cap in place is considered to be the turning point in the league's history by the owners and by the players. The 23-team league survived and both sides formed a working alliance, which would allow the league to grow. It also helped that two entities were about ready to join the league, Michael Jordan and Nike. The salary cap was the brainchild of a new lawyer that came on the scene named Gary Bettman. Bettman would become one of the three key people that would run the NBA in the mid-1980s and beyond. David Stern would be the boss, Russell Granik the number two guy followed by Bettman. Without the 83 agreement, there might not have been a Cleveland Cavaliers, which is something that LeBron from Miami should know.

The Collective Bargaining was Commissioner Larry O'Brien's last major work for the NBA and it is one of the reasons that the NBA of the 1980s became popular and it didn't hurt the Boston and Los Angeles had stars as did Philadelphia but LeBron from Miami should know this too. There were bad teams in the 1980s, franchises moved and not all the stars played together — Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin never had the "Big 3" around them like this year's Miami Heat.

The NBA is not a perfect world.

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at, or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Why Los Angeles May Not Get an NFL Team

By Evan Weiner

December 26, 2010

(New York, NY) -- There seems to be a lot of momentum in the “Bring the NFL Back to Los Angeles” campaign, but is the push for an NFL team in downtown LA or the City of Industry just an illusion? It is a question worth pondering even if soon-to-be former New York Governor David Paterson thinks the Buffalo Bills franchise could end up in the Southland in 2014.

Under Governor Paterson’s scenario, Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson’s estate tax will be so high that his heirs will have to sell the team to the highest bidder and that someone will scoop up the franchise and move the team elsewhere. Governor Paterson doesn’t think Toronto will support an NFL team and that Los Angeles is the logical alternative once the Bills lease in Orchard Park expires in 2013.

But will there ever be an NFL stadium built in downtown LA? That is a huge question mark. AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group) is behind the construction of a stadium near LA Live, a congested area that might not be able to handle the traffic flow of 70,000 people per game. But the traffic congestion may be just window dressing for the real problem.

There are some holes in the LA story that need to be addressed. AEG President and CEO Tim Leiweke is talking about building a stadium near the LA Live property for the past couple of months. His vision is building a 65,000-seat facility and getting an NFL owner (presumably Minnesota’s Zygi Wilf, Jacksonville’s Wayne Weaver, maybe San Diego’s Spanos family) to commit to moving his franchise to Los Angeles by perhaps the NFL annual spring owners meeting in March.

Wilf is going before the Minnesota legislature after the first of the year and asking for a new stadium. Red McCombs sold the team to Wilf in 2005 after failing to get the Minnesota legislature and Governor Jesse Ventura on board in his attempt to get a new stadium. Minnesota has built a new baseball stadium and college football stadium since McCombs sold the team.

Here are the problems Leiweke will encounter. He might be too full of himself. His boss, Phil Anshutz is not on board with the stadium plan. The NFL is going to do absolutely nothing in helping Leiweke in terms of paying for a stadium until the league’s owners and players agree to a new collective bargaining agreement. There is a reason that the San Francisco 49ers owners, the York family, have not gone ahead with the construction of a facility in Santa Clara even though voters gave the project the go ahead last spring. The NFL’s stance though might have to change before Minnesota elected officials in the statehouse in St. Paul to help Wilf. The Vikings-Metrodome lease ends after the 2011 season.

NFL owners want the players to help finance the cost of a new facility and plan to get in writing as part of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Leiweke’s recent track record is not good when it comes to arena projects or getting a major league team as a client in an AEG building. Harrah’s and AEG agreed to build an arena in Las Vegas in 2007, that never happened and AEG has been unable to convince an NHL or NBA owner to relocate his franchise to an AEG-run, new facility in Kansas City.

Leiweke thinks the stadium will cost about a billion dollars and AEG will finance the place. The NFL’s two newest venues in Arlington, Texas and East Rutherford, New Jersey cost more than that and neither Cowboys Stadium nor the New Meadowlands Stadium have a corporate sponsor. That means the actual financing for the facility has to be questioned.

There is the timetable that Leiweke has laid out. He wants to get a deal done, get tax breaks, maybe a payment in lieu of taxes or a tax incremental funding or some other sleight-of-hand economic gimmickry (which politicians love to approve even though there are financial consequences down the road—just look at Hamilton County, Ohio and the fiscal plight of the Cincinnati Bengals facility and how Cincinnati-area politicians totally underestimated revenues and failed to understand basic stadium financing) from Los Angeles elected officials. The problem this time around is simple.

Los Angeles has nothing to give and California is broke (the University of California because of the state’s perilous financial conditions has dropped five sports teams including men’s baseball at Berkeley) although you would never know it looking at Oakland’s reaction to Lew Wolff’s threat of moving his Major League Baseball Oakland A’s to San Jose. Oakland wants to keep the team in town even though Wolff wants greener pastures like San Jose.

California also has some very tough environmental provisions that need to be met by stadium planners.

Leiweke is selling the stadium as part of a grand plan that includes a convention center with the thought of making downtown Los Angeles a convention destination. That would put Leiweke and AEG in competition with Las Vegas and Orlando and other cities for an industry that is drying up---conventions. The competition for conventions also includes cruise ships. One line built two super- sized vessels with the thought of going after conventions and having conventions taking place on a cruise ship.

That has not worked out as planned.

Leiweke also has a competitor to the east. Ed Roski wants to build a football facility for some NFL owner at a plot of land in the City of Industry. Roski has floated the idea for about two years and nothing much has happened. Roski’s proposal doesn’t make sense for an NFL owner looking for greener pastures.

Roski’s stadium was supposed to cost $800 billion when the City of Industry City Council approved the plan in February 2009. The $800 million figure seems out of line and too conservative when compared with Jerry Jones’s Arlington, Texas venue for his Dallas Cowboys and the East Rutherford, New Jersey stadium that is being funded by the owners of the New York Giants and New York Giants. Both stadiums price tags are estimated at well over a billion dollars.

The National Football League used to have something called the G-3 program which loaned up to $150 million to owners who built stadiums. Money went to Denver’s Pat Bowlen, ($50 million) in 1999, New England’s Bob Kraft ($150 million) in 1999, Philadelphia’s Jeffrey Lurie ($150 million) in 1999, Detroit’s William Clay Ford ($100 million) in 2000, Seattle’s Paul Allen ($50 million) in 2000, Chicago’s McCaskey Family ($100 million) in 2000, the Green Bay Packers Board of Directors ($100 million) in 2001, Arizona’s Bill Bidwill ($50 million) in 2001, Dallas’ Jones ($76.5 million) in 2005 and Indianapolis’s Jim Irsay ($34 million) in 2005 to fund new facilities or to renovate old venues.

Even though the G-3 program was running out of money by 2006, the Giants Mara-Tisch families and the Jets Woody Johnson did get $300 million for their new Meadowlands facility from NFL owners in 2006 and the Kansas City Chiefs Hunt family ended up with $42.5 million for renovations at Arrowhead Stadium.
The loans helped fill a shortfall between public financing of projected final costs of stadiums in Denver, Philadelphia, Detroit, Seattle, Chicago, Green Bay, Glendale, Arizona, Arlington, Texas and Indianapolis. All the facilities including Foxboro, Massachusetts and East Rutherford, New Jersey received various tax breaks whether they were privately or publicly funded.

Roski’s Majesty Realty plans to pursue Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson or Jacksonville’s Wayne Weaver initially. Wilson’s lease in Orchard Park ends following the 2013 season. Wilson is 92 years old and he has leased a number of home games to Toronto through the 2012 season. Toronto, Ontario is 90 miles from Buffalo and there is enough money in Toronto to support an NFL team should Wilson or his heirs decide that small market Buffalo is not for them.

Jacksonville does not have the wherewithal to support an NFL team in the 21st century as there are not enough well heeled fans or corporate dollars around to sell out the stadium. Demographers were wrong in estimating the city’s growth and potential when the NFL awarded Jacksonville a franchise in 1993. The Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver has won lease concessions from the city but has been unable to sell naming rights at the Jacksonville stadium and the team has not be able to sell out the stadium which means home games are not seen in the Jacksonville market. This despite cutting down the capacity of the stadium by covering seats.

Majesty Realty has decided that Buffalo and Jacksonville are not NFL markets by whatever arbitrary means they have created. The company will not go after San Diego’s Alex Spanos, Minnesota’s Zygi Wilf or San Francisco’s York family because those owners are attempting to find financing in those markets although the Yorks have their eyes set on Santa Clara which is 40 miles south of San Francisco with Oakland as a fallback position.

The NFL would like to see the York family and Oakland’s Al Davis to find common ground and work on a new stadium together to solve a potential Bay Area problem. Davis lease in Oakland ends in 2013.

St. Louis is another franchise that might be in the City of Industry mix. The Rams franchise lease ends in 2014.

Roski and his company want to develop a football village in the City of Industry complete with a stadium and other businesses. Roski doesn’t want to outright own an NFL team but would like a piece of the action and is trading the right to help fund the Roski stadium for the right to making lots of potential revenues generated in the LA market and in his stadium village and to be an owner in LA.
In other words, Roski wants an NFL owner to become his partner in a real estate venture. In the real world of the NFL, cash on the barrelhead is the preferred way of doing business. Roski ought to know this by now; he witnessed it first hand when the NFL gave LA an expansion team. All LA and Roski needed to do was to put up a stadium.

That never happened and Robert McNair and Houston got the team. Houston and Harris County approved a publicly financed stadium.

With no G-3 revenues available, with California in dire financial shape, with Jerry Jones and the Mara/Tisch/Johnson East Rutherford, NJ group still looking for a naming rights partner for their stadiums, with ticket prices far, far too high and in the City of Industry’s scheme, there would have to be a heavy Personnel Seat Licensing fee and then high prices for those buying the licenses, Roski’s deal doesn’t look like much of a bargain for Wilson or Weaver or both.

Roski might not have any lawsuits to worry about that would slow down the project and lame duck California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has waived environmental laws because the stadium and the other part of the construction project would in theory create jobs with Majestic estimating that the project will put 6,700 people into jobs that would create $21 million in new tax revenue and have a $762 million impact on the area.

Based on other deals that developers have cut with municipalities, it is unlikely that those figures have any accuracy. Because of various tools such as payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT), tax increment financing (TIF) and others, the City of Industry won’t be getting full property taxes assessment on the land.

If Roski and the City of Industry think that a Los Angeles market stadium will get them a Super Bowl, they are probably correct, the NFL will put the stadium in the rotation but there needs to be a history lesson here. Back in 1994-5, the NFL was trying to help Al Davis land a new stadium for his Los Angeles Raiders near the Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood.

The NFL, trying to sweeten the deal, offered five Super Bowls over a ten-year period to get the stadium built. The deal was scaled back to three over 10 years then one, then the NFL decided LA should be a two team marketing and another team (after Georgia Frontiere moved her Anaheim-based Los Angeles Rams to St. Louis) and that Davis team would share the stadium with another franchise and share all of the revenues generated inside the building.

Davis went back to Oakland.

The Super Bowl does not guarantee that the corporate community will take a look at the area hosting the game and move some of their operations to that area. The corporate community knows Los Angeles. If that type of thinking---that corporate leaders will open up facilities in an area because it was good enough for the Super Bowl was true --- then Jacksonville should be a burgeoning area.
Jacksonville hosted the Super Bowl on February 6, 2005.

Where is the great deal that Roski and Majestic have offered? Unless they offer hundreds of millions of dollars and it might be closer to a billion dollars to buy out an owner, there is no great deal. An owner will not sell off a piece of his franchise in exchange for development rights in a bad economy in a financially downtrodden state with a high rate of foreclosures. It does not make sense.

If Roski has to spend a billion for a team, then another billion for the stadium, what does that do to a franchise’s finances? On top of that the NFL might impose a relocation fee and furthermore, there is no collective bargaining agreement in place after March 3, 2011, so owners have no clue about future budgets.

Because the stadium is privately financed more than eight percent of the stadium-generated revenues will go off to pay down the debt unlike those that get public monies.

Getting a franchise back in Los Angeles is a dream shared by NFL owners, Leiweke, Roski and the LA business community. But the reality is that there is not enough money around right now to get a facility built and there is an array of other factors including getting the approval of the Los Angeles Coliseum Commission, a group that doesn’t want competition in the Southland. All of these factors can be a momentum killer for Leiweke, AEG and Roski.

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at, or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Why Carmelo Anthony could join the New Jersey Nets
TUESDAY, 21 DECEMBER 2010 11:53
SAMANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC — One of the more intriguing aspects of giving lectures on cruise ships centers round the people who come to the talks. Over the past four years, a former Congressman, a New Jersey judge, a person who helped design the financing for the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum (he got free tickets to the Oakland Raiders first home game at the facility in 1966), an investigator in Marilyn Monroe's death in 1962, a member of the cast of the Broadway play Momma Mia and others have wandered in and listened to talks about the business and politics of sports.
Last week, during a business of sports talk, a massage therapist for an NBA was in the audience. She was on her vacation while her team played at home — she was not needed that week although she will be spending New Year's Eve on the road with her team. She also said after the speech was done something that everyone connected with the National Basketball Association knows, she will be temporarily or possibly permanent out of a job starting July 1, 2011.
The National Basketball Association owners are locking out their main employees — the players, unless the owners and players come to a new collective bargaining agreement and that seems highly unlikely by July 1 — and there will be collateral damage to non-playing personnel. Some will be furloughed and some will be fired. There will be no need for them until a new agreement is negotiated.
The NBA owners, like their National Football League peers, want to change the fiscal picture of the league. NBA Commissioner David Stern claims that his league owners are losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually and wants to reallocate revenues given to the players. The present formula gives 57 percent of NBA revenues but owners want to significantly cut players funding by a third from $2.1 billion in salaries and benefits by $700 million or so. Stern would like to see all of his 30 owners turn a profit and moving funds from the players to the owners pocket is his goal.
Carmelo Anthony may be the most impacted by the NBA's want to cut salaries. The Denver Nuggets star player is an unrestricted free agent after the season and could be the biggest loser in the CBA talks. If there is a hard salary cap in place after the owners and players reach a new deal, Carmelo Anthony could lose more than $25 or 30 million on his next contract if he does not resign with Stan Kroenke's Nuggets. Anthony could be traded and the New Jersey Nets are extremely interested in the Denver player but Anthony's best options are to either resign with Kroenke's team or force a trade and sign a contract extension with his new team.
The money that is presently available under the present CBA will not be there in 2011 and beyond. The owners want to shorten contracts and want cost certainty and that is a problem for Anthony and for others down the road like Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.
Anthony seems to be most interested in playing for the New York Knicks, if media reports are to be believed. Just how the Knicks (a franchise that has to be making huge profits: Madison Square Garden-Knicks-Rangers owners, the Dolan family, pay no New York City property taxes on top of the revenues generated by sell out crowds and the MSG cable TV network) will pay for Anthony if there is a hard salary cap and a new financial order is unknown.

The NBA will be the third major sports league in North America in the queue in the CBA derby. Major League Soccer, which is a much smaller entity, was first up in contract negotiations earlier this year. MLS players got more money and many now have guaranteed contracts but there is no free agency for the players. MLS players have global options though if they are good enough. MLS Commissioner Don Garber claimed that just two MLS teams were profitable in 2009, Seattle and Toronto. A good number of MLS owners have properties in the NFL, NBA and NHL. But the MLS talks should not be considered the bellwether indicator of what will happen in 2011 because it is not in the same category of the NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.
In 2004, the NHL was the first up in the CBA talks. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and his 30 owners decided to pursue a hard line stance and locked out the players until the owners got some sort of cost certainty. Bettman, who was the "father" of the NBA salary cap (a major component of the 1983 collective bargaining agreement), ended up getting a salary cap in the NHL. Bettman also gave his former boss Stern and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and his owners leverage in their talks with the players association in 2005. NBA players watched the NHL lockout unfolded and found out that the owners were determined to get what they wanted even if it meant shutting down the industry for an undetermined amount of time.
The NBA and Major League Baseball got new collective bargaining agreements following the NHL lockout with minimal problems. The NBA players didn't want to risk losing millions of dollars in 2005 and decided not to go to the mat with the owners.
The National Football League collective bargaining agreement is done in March. NFL owners want to cut players salaries by 18 percent and reduce the players' take of the revenue from 59 to 48 percent. The lockout won't have any impact on games until August, which means that the NBA owners and players will probably go into a lockout on July 1 and not much will happen in the NBA talks until "crunch" time in the NFL which is when training camp opens in late July and game action in August. So the NBA players will not have the NHL example like they did in 2005 and will not be able to see how far the NFL owners will dig in until regular season games are impacted and that happens in September. The NFL free agent season, possibly the NFL Draft, organized training activities and mini camps will be gone but the league will not miss any games until pre-season.
The NFL has hired Bob Batterman as an attorney in the talks with the players. Batterman represented the NHL in the 2004 collective bargaining talks and help lead the league through the lockout as a legal representative.
People around the leagues will deny the chain reaction theory but there are too many overlaps and sharing of information. Kroenke owns the NFL's ST. Louis Rams, the NBA Nuggets, the NHL's Colorado Avalanche, the MLS Colorado Rapids and the Denver based Altitude regional cable TV sports network. There are significant partnerships in arenas and regional cable TV networks. All players associations also share information.
Sports Illustrated reported last summer that the Walt Disney Company's ESPN and Time Warner's Turner Sports will continue paying rights fees (which is roughly $900 million in 2011-2012) to NBA owners whether the league plays or not. The Walt Disney Company's ESPN will also pay NFL owners a rights fee even if there are no games played in 2011.
Congress needs to step in and ask why consumers (all basic expanded tier subscribers which is about 95 million people who pay the cable bills) are underwriting an NFL and NBA owners lockout and if new House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican majority are going to have an open door and listen to the American people, they should schedule hearings immediately on the issue. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should be the same. The NFL lockout will be funded by News Corp's Rupert Murdoch (FOX), GE's Jeffrey Immelt (NBC), CBS' Sumner Redstone, Disney's Robert Iger and DirecTV. Regional sports cable TV network operators who in some instances are team owners as well (MSG's Dolan, Comcast's Brian Roberts-Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers as well as a partner in regional set ups in Washington, Sacramento, Chicago and Boston to name a few cities) will still collect subscribers fees and not show a product because of the lockout.

Cable TV consumers never received rebates for games lost to the 1994-95 Baseball strike, the 1994-95 and the 2004-05 NHL lockouts and the 1998-99 NBA lockout. Boehner and Reid should be asking questions about cable TV's role in abetting labor stoppages in sports because hundreds of millions of dollars in consumer dollars are being used to give owners leverage in the bargaining.
A massage therapist will be looking for other work starting July 1, Carmelo Anthony may or may not be with the New Jersey Nets this year and consumers will fund sports lockouts. The captains of industry and make no mistake sports owners are captains of industry and are among the most powerful people walking the earth have decided that they have paid out enough money to athletes — for the time being. The whole sports industry is out of whack in the United States and globally but an NFL lockout or an NBA lockout will do nothing except transfer money from the players to the owners although players will still be handsomely compensated on the major league level, whether it is in football, basketball, hockey and baseball for their services. The lockouts won't bring down ticket prices or reduce cable TV costs associated with sports. The owners want a bigger slice of the sports economic pie and that is why the players will be sidelined and there will be some collateral damage like the massage therapist losing her job on at least a temporary basis and the others who work on a per diem basis at games who will be impacted.
American sports will be battered in 2011 but the people will come back in droves and watch games after the lockouts are done. They always do.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Big Ten Conference expansion on hold keeps Rutgers in Big East for now

For the foreseeable future, Rutgers University will not be dropping out of the Big East and join the 12-school (along with the University of Chicago — which doesn't field big time football or basketball teams) Big Ten. The Midwest-based conference announced on Monday that their "expansion" mode has been put on hiatus and the conference isn't looking to add any school for the time being.
"I think, we will continue to look for expansion for another year," said Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez. "I think everybody was thing (last May) as schools were moving and looking that may be the direction (a 16-team conference). Our commissioner and our league decided to study it for a year."
There seem to be some whispers that college presidents and chancellors are becoming gun shy about conference expansion and that the industry wants to see the issue quiet down somewhat. The Big Ten seemed to have Rutgers, Syracuse, Maryland, Missouri and Notre Dame as targets along with Texas. The Big Ten did take Nebraska. The Big East added Texas Christian University, the Pacific-10 plucked Utah from the WAC and Colorado from the Big 12, which now has ten schools after losing Colorado and Nebraska.
Of course as television needs programming and is ready to throw money into big-time college sports, there will be further realignments to please the barons of TV. Television runs the show no matter what college officials say, at least in football.
"I'm thrilled we have Nebraska," said Alvarez who oversees a 23-team, $90 million enterprise at the Madison, Wisconsin school. "It's a great fit for us and the thing that is exciting for me being a Nebraska graduate and having some many friends in Nebraska, how excited they were and how open they were to come to the Big Ten. You think there is loyalty there but as they say it is not the Big 8. The Big 12, they don't play Oklahoma every year, there is not that tradition, they weren't losing anything. So they are very excited to come and it really is a good fit for us."
Alvarez wasn't surprised that the Fort Worth, Texas-based TCU took a Big East spot despite not being close to any Big East schools.
"TCU has to look for what is best for them," said Alvarez. "Obviously getting into a (Bowl Championship Series) BCS Conference, it makes sense. If it makes sense for them, I have no problem with it. I don't think it is all about TV (the Big East has some major markets in New York and now the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and some midsized markets in Tampa, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati for football). TV is part of it. Aligning yourself in a conference with an automatic berth in the BCS is important. You have to balance the budget. If you are in charge of it, you make decisions that are best for your school. In my case (Wisconsin), I have 23 sports and football is the engine so whatever you can do in football to allow everyone else (the other sports at the school) to compete. You make the best decision for your program."
The Big East was a basketball conference that morphed into a football conference because that is where the money is. Seton Hall, Villanova, Providence, Georgetown, St. John's, Marquette and DePaul don't have big time football programs and Notre Dame remains an independent even though the school competes in basketball and other sports in the Big East. Former National Football League Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is helping the conference with expanding the football playing schools. TCU will be the ninth football playing school and in all probability, the Big East will add a 10th school in the very near future.
Wisconsin will not play Rutgers in the Big Ten anytime soon, but that doesn't mean Alvarez is ruling out any New York metropolitan contests. Alvarez has had some conversations with the New York Yankees brass about playing a game at Yankee Stadium under "the what's best for the school financially" guise.
"I have talked to the Yankees, we have a great alumni base here (in the New York-New Jersey area)," said Alvarez. "If it makes sense and it would have to be early in the year, it would have to be in September that's the issue. I have talked to them about that and the Commissioner of Baseball (Bud Selig, Wisconsin alum) told him he can arrange them to be out of town for 10 days.
"We are looking at those (neutral site games) but I have to have seven home games and that is a mandate from my people. We have to have seven home games and if we can do something on a neutral site that makes sense and helps us in recruiting and satisfy some of our alums, we would look into that."
So is the turmoil of earlier this year with conferences beefing up over? "It appears to be," said Alvarez.
The key word there being "appears". But no one has shut the door on additional movement. Television money is flooded Big Ten schools as each is getting more than $23 million annually because of various deals. The Big East despite having some big markets is getting about one-third of the television dollars going to Big Ten schools.
When Comcast does take over NBC, the Philadelphia-based cable TV giant could rebrand the Versus network as some sort of NBC cable sports network and then go after major conference contracts and any conference that is adding or has added key markets could help pry more money out of ESPN, FOX or whatever Comcast plans to call Versus in the future. Rutgers may be a New Jersey school, but the football team's TV market is the New York metropolitan area, the nation's top market. That alone makes Rutgers a major player in the conference shuffle.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Randy Cross: Time NFL Owners Took Care of Discarded Players

By Evan Weiner

December 7, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- Randy Cross, who was a member of three San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl championship squads, thinks it is time that National Football League owners take some responsibility and provide medical benefits for retired and discarded players. Cross is now an NFL television analyst and is not part of any of the retired or discarded players groups begging NFL owners to help to pay for medical costs for players who are disabled because of injuries suffered during their NFL careers.

"I read everything, I stay in touch with all of that," said Cross, a six time Pro Bowl selection during his 13-year career which ended in 1988. "I am not sure, I think ultimately there is a real liability issue that the league has to get their arms around and take responsibility for, for the physical and mental well-being for some of these players that have struggled the way they have. I don't think there is any two ways around it.

"You can't tell me that concussions and brain injuries and the physical injuries and what not aren't traced back to the careers in football. The league has to take responsibility for that. And, they (the NFL owners) are the ones who have to do it. It is their game; it is not the Players Associations game. It is not some new executive director's game (referring to National Football League Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith); it's the league's game.

"If they are not willing to take responsibility for it, I think---a) it is sad and b) somebody has to hold their feet to the fire."

The National Football League owners and players collectively bargain the labor rules of the industry. The old or discarded players did not get the same post-career benefits that are bestowed on baseball players thanks to Marvin Miller and his Major League Baseball Players Association staff. (Miller was again denied admission into the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday--a wrong decision by voters as Miller changed baseball and made sure those players with the proper service time got a pension and post career benefits although there were some overlooked players who did not qualify based on service time) because former association executive directors Ed Garvey and Gene Upshaw went for money and not post career benefits.

They failed the players. The NFL owners are not legally required to help the former players at this point who need assistance but there should be a moral obligation.

Cross was part of two labor stoppages in 1982 and 1987. In retrospect, neither job action got the players what they really needed----good post-career mental benefits and pensions.

"They were both abysmal failures and this (the potential 2011 lockout) all the earmarks of being the same," said Cross. "When the NFL Players Association is run by and influenced by a union type person (Smith), a person that has interests of a union variety---this is not a union. This is a group that is together for as player’s maximum for two or three years on average. These guys need to make the money they can, get the coverage they can and when you have that kind of influence in this negotiation, it is not good news.

"If Gene Upshaw (the deceased former Executive Director of the NFLPA) for all his failings, and God knows you probably hear enough of that from the some of the guys about the things that went wrong but the game of football for the has never flourished from that period from (19)93 to 2008. Never, ever, ever. That was always because the number one priority was building the game."

Cross is correct about the financial growth of the NFL starting in 1993. It was in 1993 that a desperate Rupert Murdoch threw hundreds of millions of dollars at the NFL owners to land the rights to National Football Conference regular season and playoff games along with the Super Bowl. Murdoch needed the NFL product to give credibility to his struggling syndicated FOX grouping of television stations and scored big with the signing which not only included the NFL rights but he picked up stronger affiliates when CBS stations did not renew affiliate deals because that network lost the NFL TV rights. Murdoch's contract upped the ante for General Election's NBC along with Disney's ABC for the Monday Night Football franchise and Disney's ESPN and Ted Turners Turner Broadcasting for cable TV rights.

New stadiums came on board complete with club seats, luxury boxes, in-stadium restaurants (major revenue generators) thanks to the federal 1986 Tax Act (which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan) which changed taxation language for municipalities building stadiums and arenas. The municipalities could only take eight cents on every dollar worth of revenue generated in a stadium to pay down the debt of the building costs. Individual cities signed various leases with teams and those cities without teams, Nashville, Baltimore and St. Louis enticed owners from other cities (Houston, Cleveland and Anaheim with new stadiums), Oakland convinced Al Davis to move his Raiders from Los Angeles back to the Oakland Coliseum. Owners were chasing sweetheart deals, and enhanced revenues. Expansion teams in Charlotte, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Houston brought in over a billion dollars to league owners. The league got two significant bumps in TV contracts since 1993 and the league owners have a war chest to fight the players in 2011 as Murdoch's FOX, GE's (soon to be Comcast) NBC, Disney's ESPN, Sumner Redstone's CBS and DirecTV will play the league a rights fee in 2011 even if no games are played because of a lockout.

"They need to find a way to keep building the game, take care of the players that went in the past," said Cross. "And I am sorry; I don't think the guys who went in the past are the responsibility of the guys that are playing right now."

Cross doesn't see any hope that the owners and players will have a new collective bargaining deal in place when the present agreement expires on March 3.

"There is going to be some serious toe-to-toe stuff," he said. "I mean, if you are used to scheduling vacations around training camp in late July or early August, I would move my calendar back a month or two. It will affect the season. There is no way around it. There is going to be a draft, the draft is the last official act of this agreement. No (mini-camp or free agency), there will be a draft. The one thing that could happen with the draft and I could be full of it, but they could have it earlier. There is no reason to wait until late April to have a draft, so why not do it earlier?"

The football negotiations are fascinating in that there are a lot of moving parts. Smith, the Obama political operative, is seemingly conducting a campaign sending players to Capital Hill to discuss the possible lockout with Congressional leaders and staffers. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, whose father replaced Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 in the United States Senate from New York after Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968 while running for President, also is a political lobbyist as are all sports commissioners. Goodell's father-in-law Samuel Skinner was President George H. W. Bush's chief of staff and Goodell's wife worked for Murdoch's FOX News Channel. The owners are not on the same page in terms of revenue sharing but they do want to cut players salaries by 18 percent and reduce the size of the revenue given to players from 59 to 48 percent. Then there are the retired and discarded players who have no medical benefits (some of whom have pre-existing conditions and could not get health insurance that are taking government support through disability and Medicare). They want help. They want medical insurance, they want better pensions. Fifty NFL Hall of Famers get pensions of less than $200 a month.

"I think everyone has a little bit of skin in the game," said Cross. "I just think the majority of this is sort of a token effort to appeal to the old guys whether it is coming from the NFL or NFLPA. It is a PR (public relations) thing more than a legitimate, concerted effort to really get stuff done for the older players that built the game."

Neither Goodell nor Smith has really responded to the former and discarded players. Smith is telling his players to save money because he anticipates a March lockout. There is less than three months to go get a deal done but it appears that both sides are entrenching their positions which means that the NFL off-season may really be an off-season with no free agent signings, no min-camps, no organized team activities and perhaps no training camp or pre-season games.

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Monday, December 6, 2010

New Jersey’s horse racing problems rooted in NFL wanderlust
Monday, 06 December 2010 12:01

As New Jersey continues to figure out what to do with the state's financially ailing horse racing tracks, the "popular" (according to media pundits who like to affix tags like popular, hapless or weak to political figures or sports teams) or "superstar" (according to the Tucker Carlson founded Daily Caller conservative political website) Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie has to balance his desire to "fix" the industry with the reality that New Jersey is leaking gambling money to New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware. For more than four decades states have been adding all sorts of ways for the average person to spend money gambling near their homes whether it was at an Off Track Betting facility (and that is now an endangered species in New York) to playing all sorts of games at the local 7-Eleven or Wawa stores. The state would get a percentage of the take and pay off bills.

That opens up a real ethical debate that no one seems to want to address.

Should the state encourage legal gambling knowing that people who have addiction problems might add betting to their addictions as a way to generate revenue or just raise taxes?

Tax hikes, of course, are highly unpopular so why not hide them?

Gambling is a form of taxation and across the Hudson River in Queens, New York, a casino will be opening in 2011 at Aqueduct racetrack. New York's gain could potentially be a New Jersey's revenue loss.

The Queens casino will be operated by a Malaysian company, Genting, and will eventually house 4,525 video lottery terminals. The first 1,600 will be opened sometime in early 2011.There will eventually be a major structure housing the terminals at the Queens racetrack and New York racing will be able to up purses and draw a better grade of horse to Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga. New York is also hoping that some of the casinos proceeds will go to pay off education costs in the state. That brings up another ethical question that politicians ran away from.

"Neighborhood" casinos don't attract the "high rollers" who can afford to lose money. The crowd is a lower to middle class crowd that is there for either enjoyment or hoping to hit the jackpot. It is a tax although on the lower and middle class yet it never is packaged that way. Those people will be paying a tax they have never considered because gambling is a form of recreation even though they are the ones shouting about high tax rates.

The same media people who tout "rising star" politicians or "popular" politicians or "superstar" politicians never bother to actually understand that an elected official makes decisions that impact lives and is not a celebrity. The pundits never explain state gambling. Politicians more than four decades ago decided to start state gambling games as a way to collect revenues. That is why there are so many "racinos" — racetracks with slot machines and in some cases table games. That is why restaurant goers can play keno while waiting for a slice of pizza in New York.

Aqueduct will be just another casino within a driving distance of northern New Jersey. It will join the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway as a close competitor. Pennsylvania casinos are also within a quick drive and one Poconos casino regularly runs ads on an AM northern New Jersey radio station telling people to make the drive there. In the Philadelphia area, there are slots at racetracks and Delaware along with Maryland also feature slot parlors. Atlantic City is not the only game in town anymore and for those in northern New Jersey, there will be a casino/resort opening in what used to be known as the Borscht Belt near Monticello, New York in the next few years.

That is a problem for the "popular" and "superstar" governor whose main job is to get New Jersey out of the fiscal mess the state is coping with. Of course New Jersey is not alone in the budget problems and no amount of "media celebrity" accolades is going to pull the any state out of the financial crisis.

If that were the case, California with Governor Schwarzenegger would have turn the financial ship around and the Golden State would be swimming in money. It is just not that easy.

Both the thoroughbred and standard bred horse racing industry have been dying for years. At one time, Yonkers Raceway packed 40,000 people into the stands on a Saturday night. That was four decades ago. Now the venue is a casino that features some racing most nights. The same is true at Dover Downs in Delaware and the trend around the country has been to put slots into tracks in an attempt to get people into the venue to bet on something, not necessarily horses. Christie's problem is that Atlantic City is the hub of gambling in New Jersey and the casinos there don't really want any in-state competition for gambling dollars from New Jersey racetracks. Ideally the Meadowlands and Monmouth Park would be the perfect venues for slot machines but that is not happening anytime soon, like this afternoon, and New Jersey is losing money on the racetracks.

Apparently Monmouth lost about $6.5 million this year and the Meadowlands came in at around $11 million in losses. The total was offset by contributions from Atlantic City casinos and taxpayers dollars. Governor Christie wants to end the subsidies but others want to save horse racing in the state and some of the suggestions include internet gambling on races, opening New Jersey's version of Off Track Betting, selling off Monmouth (no one would buy the facility for just horse racing) and limiting racing at the Meadowlands to just a few days a year.

All of the solutions are flawed. If New Jersey does get out of the horse racing industry, the state will lose horse farms and that has a domino falling impact on all sorts of secondary industries from veterinarians to stable operators to people spending money in the community where the farms are located. That means a job and tax revenue loss. Because of casino gambling, Delaware was able to save horse farms that would surely had left if horse racing ended at the remaining tracks in the state. New York and Maryland are struggling with that problem although both states think that they can stem the tide of farms leaving with money from the "machines" as Yonkers Raceway owner Tim Rooney calls them.

The National Football League and other sports leagues would fight legalized sports gambling in Atlantic City although New Jersey lawmakers had the ability to legalize sports gambling in 1993 and passed on the opportunity.

Delaware does have legalized "parlay" National Football League action at the state's casinos.

Ironically, New Jersey got into the racetrack business because of the National Football League. In 1971 and 1972, state elected officials built the Meadowlands racetrack with the thought that the proceeds from the track would help pay down the debt at the new football facility that would eventually house the New York Giants. The football venue was completed in 1976. Meanwhile Leon Hess was becoming more and more unhappy with the terms of his lease at Shea Stadium as his Jets franchise played second fiddle to the New York Mets at the New York City-owned sports facility in Queens. Hess was eyeing New Jersey and his lease with the New York City ended in 1983.

Hess was a member of the Board of Directors of the Monmouth Park Jockey Club. By 1985, Hess had a deal for his Jets to play in the Meadowlands and New Jersey bought Monmouth Park from Hess and his fellow Jockey Club members for $45 million. The Hess-New Jersey negotiations for the football team move to New Jersey started in 1983 as did the Monmouth Park talks. The two negotiations were not linked.

At least not officially.

The state originally went after the Yankees in 1972 and thought a deal which about to be struck between Yankees owner CBS and a local New Jersey businessmen for about $13 million. New Jersey would have built a baseball park in the Meadowlands for the Yankees. In 1972, CBS Chairman William Paley told Yankees President Michael Burke to either sell the team or buy it himself. CBS could not put Yankees games on CBS' owned and operated WCBS-TV, Channel 2 in New York because of Federal Communication Commission rules. Back in 1972, that was where the real money on the team could have been made through TV advertising revenue and promotions. New Jersey officials felt that a deal to move the team to the state was imminent but Burke informed New Jersey interests that the team wasn't for sale near the end of 1972, A few days later, on January 3, 1973, Burke announced that a group led by George M. Steinbrenner III had purchased the club for $10 million (along with a $1.5 million tax credit).

The New York Yankees franchise remained in the Bronx.

New Jersey has to do something soon because of pressures from inside the state and external pressure has gambling money seeps into neighboring states. The longer politicians kick the can down the street, the harder it will be to solve New Jersey's horse racing and gambling problem.

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Louisiana taxpayer subsidies not enough for the NBA's Hornets
By Evan Weiner

December 5, 2010

(new York, N. Y.) -- Louisiana residents both in the New Orleans area and in other parts of the state should be keeping a close eye on the future of the National Basketball Association's New Orleans Hornets. The team owner George Shinn has decided he doesn't want to own the franchise anymore and is apparently about ready to sell the franchise back to the league.

The NBA has not lost a franchise since November 27, 1954 when Baltimore went out of business. The original NBA franchise in town, the New Orleans Jazz, had a five year run between 1974 and 1979. The franchise left because of financial strains and relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1983, the league probably saved a few franchises from extinct by agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement with the players that included a salary cap.

This is just more than an owner handing the keys to the franchise back to the league for Louisiana residents as they have a vested interest in the team. The state has been giving subsidies to Shinn since he decided to leave Charlotte and relocate his team in New Orleans in 2002. Louisiana was also subsidizing Tom Benson and his National Football League Saints to keep his franchise playing in the Superdome.

Benson received $186.5 million between 2002 and this year as a gift from Louisiana Governor Mike Foster and the two statehouses in 2001. Benson decided to remain in New Orleans despite having years left on his Superdome lease.

Louisiana is heavily invested in "Major League" sports with taxpayers shelling out millions upon millions of dollars annually to satisfy Benson and Shinn. Benson has a new lease with the state thanks to Governor Bobby Jindal to play in the Superdome that reduces annual subsidies from $23.5 million to up to $6 million but the state gave up a building near the Superdome which Benson will redevelop and then rent out space for state offices in the building. Benson and the state agreed to create a sports development district and there will be upgrades at the Superdome which was renovated after Hurricane Katrina flooded out the city in August 2005.

Meanwhile Shinn was also giving subsidies by Louisiana elected officials.

The Shinn-Louisiana 2002 agreement included a clause that required the state to reimburse the team if Shinn was unable to sell naming rights to New Orleans Arena or didn't reach certain thresholds for advertising and sponsorship sales. Shinn could have received as much as $6.5 million annually if New Orleans ticket buying community failed to scoop up tickets.

The arena never did get a corporate name. New Orleans is a small market with limited corporate dollars and an even more limited television marker, two of the three absolute necessities required for a successful sports business. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban expressed reservation about moving the Hornets to New Orleans in 2002. New Orleans was a shrinking city before Katrina hit in 2005 as the city has been losing population since the 1960s.

In January 2008, Governor Kathleen Blanco and Shinn rewrote the original lease after the Hornets franchise returned to the Crescent City following a two-year exile to Oklahoma City after the devastation caused by Katrina. There were still subsidies included in the new deal and the state picked up some of the costs of a training center for the team but Blanco and Shinn extended the lease by two years with 2014 as the final year of the agreement. But Shinn did have an escape clause if the team did not average 14,735 people a game in the arena.

So far, the team has averaged 13,826 people in nine games in 2010-11 but there is a 13-game test that started on December 1 that could tell the tale of the Hornets future in New Orleans. In those 13 home games between December 1 and January 17, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the franchise needs to draw an average of 14,213 per opening and if the number is below that on average, the team can opt out of the Blanco-Shinn 2008 agreement. Shinn, if he continued as owner, could have broken his lease as early as March 1, 2011 and would have been required to pay a $10 million exit fee.

Shinn was hoping to sell his majority ownership in the club to minority partner Gary Chouest but those talks have gone nowhere over the past eight months.

Interestingly enough National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern, who is in the midst of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the National Basketball Players Association, has suggested that the NBA might drop a financially ailing team or two. It was thought that Stern was using the threat of contraction to get the players attention that the league was in serious in Stern's desire to tighten the league's budget and that was his way of getting association concessions.

Louisiana decided to partner with sports franchises for the same reason states and cities subsidize pro teams. Politicians like "big league" status and think by rolling out the red carpet for sports franchises it will bring other corporate businesses to their cities and states. That isn't the case but it is a good tale for a politician to spin. When Shinn moved from Charlotte to New Orleans, Charlotte officials scrambled to get a new arena built in the city to replace a 14-year-old building that was "obsolete" because it didn't have luxury suites and club seats, the high ticket items.

Charlotte's mayor at the time, Pat McCrory, said the city needed an NBA team because Charlotte highlights would appear on ESPN's SportsCenter and that was advertising for the city.

Sports teams around the United States get all sorts of tax breaks and handouts from elected officials. Louisiana handed out cash to Benson for his Saints and Shinn for his Hornets. Apparently the legal payoffs are not enough for Shinn or Chouest and once again, Louisiana may have to go to the well and bailout a sports franchise.

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Governor Paterson Warns the Buffalo Bills and New York Islanders Could Relocate

By Evan Weiner

December 2, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- Will there be a National Football League franchise in Orchard Park, New York in 2014? Will there be a National Hockey League franchise in Uniondale, New York in 2016? According to the soon to be former New York Governor David Paterson, there is a distinct possibility that the Buffalo Bills franchise may not be in Orchard Park very much longer and that the New York Islanders franchise will leave Uniondale in 2015 once owner Charles Wang's contract with the Nassau Coliseum is done.

Paterson will be handing the keys to the Albany state house in January to Andrew Cuomo so he is out of any negotiations to keep the Bills in Orchard Park. The Islanders situation is a local issue in the Town of Hempstead and there will be no state intervention other than the power of political persuasion to convince Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray to approve Wang's Lighthouse Project plan which would include the renovation of the Nassau Coliseum.

"The land around Nassau Coliseum is what Charles Wang would like to develop as part of what they call the Lighthouse Project, which is an expanded stadium, entertainment center and housing," said Paterson at a New York Press Club function on Wednesday night. "The Town Supervisor of Hempstead, Kate Murray, continues to reject this plan and if allowed to continue will lose the franchise."

Paterson is making the threat that Wang has not made yet. The team will move unless Murray approves the plan. Murray and Wang have gone silent on the project. That is Wang's right. As an elected official, Murray should be talking about the project or at least answering question about her reluctance to approve or just finally say no to the proposal. She needs to be held accountable either way.

"The Islanders have just broken a 14 game losing streak, they have the worst record in the NHL and lowest attendance so maybe she just doesn't want the Islanders there," said the Governor. "But it still would be an economic impact to the area she represents. We don’t have the authority as a state to supersede the town's jurisdiction so unfortunately that project is stuck and Mr. Wang is not happy about it and I think he is justifiably unhappy about it.

"There is a desire of the Shinnecock Indians to use the land to create a casino but under the Kempthrone Doctrine of 2008 (authored by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthrone in the final year of the George W. Bush Presidency), Indian land as per the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, this is a federal act, can only be used for a casino when it is native and transitional Indian land like land that was on an Indian reservation.

"So therefore the desire of (Nassau) County Executive Ed Mangano to use that for Indian land will not work because it runs contra to the act and the guide rules known as the Kempthrone Doctrine."

The Shinnecocks have enlisted the help of former New York Senator Al D'Amato in getting a casino built and have partnered with the owner of the National Hockey League's Detroit Red Wings (and Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers) Mike Ilitch and his family to run a casino. Wang's options might include moving the franchise to Brooklyn or pursuing an arena near the New York Mets ballpark and the National Tennis Center in Queens.

Meanwhile the future of the Buffalo Bills in western New York is an issue that will be coming into sharper focus over the next 36 months. Ralph Wilson purchased an American Football league franchise in 1959 for $25,000 and has spent more than 50 years owning the team. Wilson is now 92 years old and apparently his family will sell the team after his death. The franchise has two years remaining on the lease in Orchard Park and would be free to go to another city once the obligation is fulfilled. Technically Wilson has had a year-to-year lease on the building since 2004. Wilson has looked to expand the Bills fan base by moving his team's pre-season training base to Rochester and regionalizing the franchise. In 2008, Wilson "rented" a series of games to Ted Rogers and Rogers Communications over a five year period to be played in Toronto. Rogers is a Canadian multiple media company that includes cable TV, broadband, TV and radio station ownership and Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays. Rogers is attempting to buy Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, a group that owns the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs, the National Basketball Association's Toronto Raptors and Major League Soccer's Toronto FC.

Rogers could be a bidder for the Bills after Ralph Wilson's death. Two Los Angeles groups, trying to build football facilities in the Los Angeles area, may also be players in the bidding.

New York State is heavily invested in Wilson's Bills by virtue of a 1998 lease agreement between Wilson and Erie County which called for $63.25 million worth of improvements at the Orchard Park facility.

"The Empire State Development Corporation gives $3 million a year to help Orchard Park and to help that field," said Paterson. "Obviously, the Buffalo Bills have played some games in Toronto but Toronto doesn't seem to have the fan base to support the Bills. Ralph Wilson will never move but he is 92 years old now and the family says because of inheritance taxes they might have to sell the team.

"It's kind of perilous. (Commissioner) Roger Goodell the head of the NFL (a western New York native whose father Charles was appointed to the Senate seat held by Robert F. Kennedy after he was killed in June 1968 and the son-in-law of President George Bush's chief of staff Samuel Skinner) has told us they would not move the team without giving New York an opportunity to bring the team under a new ownership but it is a private company.

"If they get a better deal from Los Angeles or any place else that is trying to get a team, it would put us in a very difficult position."

Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo has much more pressing issues such as paying for pensions, public services and health care than keeping a football team in Orchard Park or a hockey team in Uniondale but attracting and keeping businesses is part of the governor's portfolio in all 50 states. Sports is business and New York has a financial stake in Orchard Park. Paterson though used the term as "perilous" when talking about the Bills and outright said that Charles Wang will move his Islanders hockey team once his lease is done. New York may be losing two "big-league" teams in the next five years unless deals are reached. Paterson has issued the threat for Charles Wang that he will move unless Kate Murray gets moving. There may be nothing that New York can do though to keep the Bills in Orchard Park.

Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at or amazonkindle. He can be reached at