Saturday, January 30, 2010

Redstone and CBS Back in a Political Tug of War at the Super Bowl

Redstone and CBS Back in a Political Tug of War at the Super Bowl

By Evan Weiner

January 30, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) --- Perhaps Sumner Redstone should just say no to the Super Bowl because it seems Redstone’s CBS television network is always involved in some controversy in the presentation of the Super Bowl. Redstone’s CBS is making news because the network has accepted money from a group that plans to air an anti-abortion commercial during next week’s game but at the same time has rejected an ad from ManCrunch, a gay dating website.

Redstone’s network released a statement explaining why CBS will not show the ad during the Super Bowl.

"After reviewing the ad - which is entirely commercial in nature - our Standards and Practices department decided not to accept this particular spot. As always, we are open to working with the client on alternative submissions," according to the CBS publicity department.

Too bad Redstone’s Standards and Practices department doesn’t review the Redstone-owned MTV show Jersey Shore or some of the other MTV shows that are loaded with sexual innuendos including promoting lesbianism. Redstone bowed to pressure from someone in rejecting the ManCrunch ad but Redstone, CBS President Les Moonvees and the rest of the CBS upper management has no problem with the Focus on the Family, Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life spot featuring college quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow.

Redstone’s CBS network enjoys a much higher profile than his ratings challenged MTV. Redstone apparently doesn’t care that the New Jersey Italian American Legislative Caucus asked his Viacom company to take Jersey Shore off the air. In a letter to Redstone and Viacom, caucus chairman Joseph Vitale said the show is "wildly offensive."

Jersey Shore is just a cable TV show, nothing more, nothing less on a network that produces minimal ratings. The Super Bowl is American television’s biggest event and Redstone is going to get protests from various groups over his or someone at CBS decisions to air one spot and decline another spot.

Redstone and CBS may have made their commercial decisions with the 2004 Super Bowl in mind. Redstone and CBS had the television rights to the game and Redstone’s MTV cable network produced the halftime show.

The Super Bowl XXXVIII did not start well for political activitists as CBS rejected an ad from the political group, called “Bush in 30 seconds” under a network policy that apparently dated back to when William Paley owned the network “controversial issues of public importance.”

No one seems to remember that New England beat Carolina in that game but people do remember that the singer Janet Jackson’s breast popped out of her clothes due to what fellow singer Justin Timberlake called a wardrobe malfunction during halftime of that game.

Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” lasted scant seconds but it set off a political firestorm even though very few people actually witnessed the event live on TV and it wasn’t until people who TiVo’ed the show and got a glimpse of the “wardrobe malfunction.” The MTV produced halftime show also featured the singer Nelly gesturing towards his crotch and the singer Kid Rock wearing a poncho made from an American flag. There were also a number of strange commercials during the presentation including a guaranteed a cure for erectile dysfunction, and two beer commercials, one of which featured a horse that suffered from flatulence and another that had a dog attacking male genitalia.

Immediately Republican members of Congress jumped into the halftime show “costume malfunction” and some House members stood on the steps in front of the Capitol criticized CBS and the NFL the morning after. Zell Miller, a Democrat from Georgia, took to the Senate floor and took aim at the halftime show saying something about how the “wardrobe malfunction” was a sign or declining morality in America. Political groups seized the incident to gain exposure and the Federal Communications Commission levied a $550,000 fine against Redstone, CBS and 20 TV stations because of the halftime show. FCC fines would rise as a result of the incident from $27,500 to $325,000 per incident.

In Canada, where Global TV used the CBS feed, there were a few complaints but the CTRC let the matter go. The game was televised globally and the “costume malfunction” seemed not to be a problem.

There were other ramifications from the Jackson “costume malfunction.” The NFL decided the halftime show needed a change and “safe” acts were hired beginning in 2005. Those acts included the Beatles Paul McCartney who spent nine days in jail in Japan for possessing marijuana, the Rolling Stones, a group that featured Keith Richards who was busted on a heroin charge in Canada in 1977 and this year, The Who, a group who had two members die of apparent drug use, Keith Moon and John Entwhistle will perform.

MTV was fired as the halftime producer.

Additionally, the NFL dropped Levitra as the league’s erectile dysfunction advertising partner in 2007 and Anheuser-Busch promised it would never make commercial that featured a horse suffering from flatulence or a dog nipping at a male’s crouch or similar commercials ever again.

Television (and radio) also took steps to clean up shows. In 2005, the National Basketball Association suggested to the singer Beyonce Knowles to sing Crazy in Love rather than Naughty Girl at the NBA All-Star Game. Live programming was put on a delay just in case something went awry. The halftime show also impacted network TV soap operas, and award shows such as the Grammy’s and the Academy Awards. Sixty-five ABC TV stations were so concerned about the newly found “indecency” issue that they refused to show the networks presentation of the moving “Saving Private Ryan” because on Valentine’s Day 2004 because of the film’s violence.

Over-the-air TV and radio are subjected to FCC laws, cable TV is not. The American public owes the airwaves, Redstone is merely a steward who oversees a network and network owned and operated TV stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and other cities.

The halftime incident became a political campaign issue. Jackson and Timberlake are still big names in the music industry globally even though they set off a political firestorm in 2004.

Redstone and CBS are still fighting the FCC fines.

The Super Bowl has been sanitized as much as possible because of a less than three second incident in 2004. Redstone and CBS will now face a maelstrom of protests from the left because of their decisions to say yes to Focus on the Family’s spot and no to ManCrunch.

The Super Bowl, which was born in Senate and House chambers in the summer and fall of 1966 as the result of Congress giving the go ahead to the merger of the National Football League and the American Football League, is a potent political force. Arizona now celebrates Martin Luther King Day because the NFL wanted to put the Big Game in Tempe and was forced to pull it from Tempe in 1993 after Arizona refused to recognize the day. The NFL awarded Tempe the game in 1996 after Arizona voters said yes to making Martin Luther King Day a state holiday. The NFL rewards cities that build stadiums with a Super Bowl and the 2004 game changed TV.

Redstone and CBS had the 2004 game and they have it this year and the Redstone and the CBS commercial decisions have ignited political debate. Welcome back to the Super Bowl Sumner Redstone, Les Moonvees and CBS.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The 18 percent solution won't fly

The 18 percent solution won't fly

By Evan Weiner

January 27, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- Peter King has been around the National Football League as a reporter for a long time so there should not be any reason to doubt his January 18, 2010 column which stated that National Football League Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith sent out an e-mail to his players that ownership wants to cut players compensation 18 percent and that a management source confirmed the figure. The 18 percent figure has not filtered down to the teams yet but it sounded about right according to one NFL person who is not involved in the day-to-day talks. Not every owner is filled in daily on the bargaining, which is a normal business standard.

The owners and players have about 13 months until the present collective bargaining agreement ends and it is highly unlikely that the players would even consider an 18 percent pay decrease but this is the starting point in the negotiations.

The owners want change, the players want status quo. Something will have to give or the National Football League owners will simply lockout the players sometime after February 28, 2011 and the work stoppage which ensue meaning that some or all of the 2011 NFL season will be canceled.

The players in some way are collateral damage in an on going fight between the high revenue teams and the low-end teams and economic realities. Before Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and the New York Giants/Jets ownership decided to build new stadiums, the high revenue owners like Dallas’ Jones, Washington’s Daniel Snyder, New England’s Robert Kraft, Houston’s Robert McNair and Philadelphia’s Jeffrey Lurie were arguing that the owners revenue sharing system needed to be changed and that Jones, Snyder, Kraft, McNair and Lurie among others should be keeping a lion’s share of locally produced revenue so they could use that money on their teams. Small market owners like Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson and Cincinnati’s Mike Brown reminded the big revenue guys that the National Football League was built on a sharing system that made sure the small market Green Bay Packers could compete (in the 1960s and beyond) with New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Wilson and Brown wanted to keep the revenue sharing rules in line with league financial history since the 1960s but times have changed. Wilson paid $25,000 for his American Football League franchise in 1960 and does not have the debt problems as other owners but his market, Buffalo, is one of the NFL’s smallest and his local revenue potential is limited compared to New York, Washington, New England, Philadelphia and Dallas. Brown’s Bengals cost was about $7.5 million in 1967 when the team joined the American Football League, presumably the franchise is in good financial shape in terms of debt but Cincinnati is another revenue limited market.

Brown’s Bengals have played in two publicly funded facilities; Wilson’s Bills also play in a facility that used a lot of taxpayers’ dollars for a renovation in the late 1990s. But Jones, Snyder, Kraft, McNair and Lurie have put up a lot of money to either buy the franchise or build new facilities and in some cases have had to put a lot of their own money into the new venues. Jones paid for about half of his new Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, Texas taxpayers have kicked in the other half through a sales tax hike) and one of Jones’ plans to help pay down the debt of the new place fell through. He was unable to sell naming rights to the stadium.

Snyder paid a bundle for the Redskins and while one magazine claims the team is the most valuable franchise in North American sports, Snyder still has to pay off the debt. Kraft used a lot of his own money to build his new Foxboro, Massachusetts stadium, Lanier paid well over $700 million for the Texans expansion franchise in 1999 although he got a taxpayers funded stadium and Lurie had to kick in money for his new Eagles stadium.

There will be more owners tales of woe in the future. The combination Mara/Tisch family-Woody Johnson new East Rutherford, New Jersey football palace is costing according to estimates at least $1.3 billion and while New Jersey is picking up infrastructure costs and given Mara/Tisch/Johnson all sorts of tax breaks and incentives, there is still a debt that needs to be paid and the new stadium naming rights are still up for sale.

The York family’s San Francisco 49ers franchise may be singing off of the same music sheet sometime this year. The Yorks would like to build a new football venue in Santa Clara, about 40 miles south from Candlestick Park in San Francisco and the plan is to get minimal taxpayers support for the facility.

The NFL and the Yorks have been in contact with the Raiders Al Davis about possibly being a partner in the venture to help the financial burden.

The 18 percent solution according to King’s column comes out to about a billion dollars in additional revenue for the owners.

There is one area that the owners and players probably can agree upon for cost reductions.

Entry-level contracts.

First round draft picks cost a lot of money and players like the New York Jets Vernon Gholston is a perfect example of where costs can be reduced. Gholston was the sixth overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. He signed a five-year contract for a reported $32.5 million and was guaranteed over $20 million. Gholston has been a bust so far but he will get his bonus money whether he is with the Jets or out of football.

The Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell was the top pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Russell has done little in his career to justify the deal which reported was for six years and $68 million with a guarantee of $31.5 million.

The NFL and the NFLPA can negotiate a rookie wage and not worry about the consequences of harming a third party, in this case entry level players, because of labor laws. But veteran players would want the money shifted from the rookies to them.

The owners will have some leverage in the battle with the players. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (FOX), General Electric’s NBCUniversal, Sumner Redstone’s CBS, Disney’s ESPN and Liberty Media’s DirecTV (NFL Sunday Ticket) will continue paying the owners under the terms of their broadcast/cable/satellite agreements with the league whether the league locks out the players or not.

The NFL’s deals with News Corp, NBCUniversal and CBS end after the 2011 season. The TV deals bring in more than $3 billion annually for the 32 owners.

NFL players went on strike in 1987 but the NFL owners had a backup plan and offered replacement players contests. The games went on after the league shut down for a week. A number of top names including the New York Giants Lawrence Taylor, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, the Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Randy White along with Seattle Seahawks receiver (and future US Congressman) Steve Largent crossed the picket lines and the strike collapsed after four weeks. The NFLPA had no war chest to support the players, not learning any lessons from the 1981 Major League Baseball strike, the players and owners had a strike fund or insurance in that battle, or the 1982 NFL Players strike. The players picked up a little money in 1982 from two NFLPA “All-Star Games” in Washington and Los Angeles.

“In 1982, Ted Turner and Turner Broadcasting stepped forward and funded the strike games and put the two games on TBS which allowed the players to go forward. There was enough money raised at that time to field a mini season of 10 teams with the teams owned by the players had the strike continued. But the players voted against having their own league,” said Sheldon Saltman, the NLFPATV consultant who created and organized the two All-Star Games under the aegis of then NLFPA Executive Director Ed Garvey and former Redskins All-Pro defensive back Brig Owens.

After the players crumbled, the NFLPA decertified and the players led by New York Jets running back Freeman McNeil sued the NFL, challenging the league’s free agency rules. By 1993, the owners and players settled their disputes.

The game has changed though for the owners and players. Three prominent people are no longer at the negotiating table, Paul Tagliabue, the former NFL Commissioner who retired, the late Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the association and former Pittsburgh Steelers boss Dan Rooney who rode off into the sunset and is now the United States Ambassador to Ireland. Tagliabue and Upshaw had a very unique relationship that was unlike other league commissioners/negotiators and players associations’ executive directors in that they worked together in an amicable fashion and resolved differences and extended the 1993 agreement five times. The players trusted Rooney as a voice of reason.

The owners’ 18 percent solution is not going to fly this time around.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is Obama more important than Favre in the Minnesota Vikings future?

Is Obama more important than Favre in the Minnesota Vikings future?

By Evan Weiner

January 24, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- Will Brett Favre or Barack Obama, when all is said and done, be more important in both the short and long term future of Zygi Wilf’s Minnesota Vikings franchise? It is an intriguing question because Favre’s short term success with the Minneapolis-based team probably has no impact on the business of football and the business of football for Wilf and his predecessor Red McCombs (one of the people who owned the Clear Channel radio network in the halcyon days of that business that included among the stable of talent Rush Limbaugh, a carnival barker who stated publicly that he hoped Obama failed) whose goals is and were to get a new Vikings football stadium built.

So far, McCombs and now Wilf have struck out in their years of attempts in getting the Minnesota legislature to fund a football stadium project and what is more frustrating for both the Vikings ownership group and the National Football League is that the legislature has found more to build a new baseball park for the Twins in Minneapolis and a stadium for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers football team.

The Golden Gophers new digs opened last fall.

The debt on the Twins park will be paid down by various taxes and some money from the Twins ownership. The park will open in the spring.

The Golden Gophers stadium is also taxpayers funded and students, whether they use the facility or not, have to pay a $25 fee as part of the legislature’s agreement to fund the stadium.

The Twins and Golden Gophers formerly played at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, a facility which caused about $68 million of taxpayers’ money to build. The stadium opened in 1982 and apparently no one was pleased with the facility as Twins and Vikings ownership spent years trying to get out of the building.

Wilf still has two years to go on his Metrodome lease.

On Friday, two days before the National Football League’s NFC Conference Championship game, Wilf’s representatives came out with a new stadium plan. The timing of the announcement may have been a coincidence as the Minnesota governing bodies start their session in two weeks but Wilf and the Vikings have sneaked a new play into the stadium playbook.

Use federal stimulus money as help build a suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul football facility. Apparently Wilf has heard from a number of developers who want in on the Viking stadium and the Vikings stadium-planning team has figured out that a two cent on a dollar rise on hospitality taxes, motel and hotel taxes and maybe car rentals, would be a good thing as that would hit tourists not the locals pocketbook, and the usage of Build America Bonds could help swing the financing. The there is the Recovery Act or the Obama stimulus plan.

The Recovery Act, which was passed by Congress in February 2009 and signed into law by President Obama on February 17 of that year, was a $787 billion plan to get the economy which broke in September 2008 moving. The Recovery Act was targeted at infrastructure development and enhancement. For instance, the Act plans investment in the domestic renewable energy industry and the weatherizing of 75 percent of federal buildings as well as more than one million private homes around the country.
Construction and repair of roads and bridges as well as scientific research and the expansion of broadband and wireless service are also included among the many projects that the Recovery Act will fund.
Apparently Wilf and the Vikings ownership feel that a stadium qualifies as part of infrastructure development and enhancement.

Whether a football stadium qualifies for the Obama stimulus plan is something that needs to be researched. Another problem that Wilf faces is that the Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is a lame duck and is not running for re-election in the fall. Pawlenty, a Republican, has other ideas and may be running for President. Pawlenty is a critic of the Obama federal stimulus plan and that should make for an interesting time for Wilf knowing that Minnesota has a lame duck governor who seems more intent on running for President than working at his job which is at least look the Governor of the State of Minnesota.

The Minnesota legislature goes back to work on February 4, which is three days before the Super Bowl, a game that could feature Favre and the Vikings. In terms of being success on the field and whether that leads to politicians opening the coffers for sports teams to build new stadiums and arenas, there seems to be no linkage between the two. Bad teams also get new facilities.

Wilf’s real football season starts on February 4 as that is when he takes the field against Minnesota politicians with cash for a stadium on the line.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

How Hale Boggs saved the Saints (and football as we know it)

How Hale Boggs saved the Saints (and football as we know it)
By Evan Weiner 01/23/10 at 12:39 pm

If the New Orleans Saints football team wins the National Football Conference championship game on Sunday, one of the first people who should carry the George Halas Trophy is Cokie Roberts. Without Cokie’s father, the Louisiana Democrat Congressman Hale Boggs and Majority Whip of the House of Representatives in the mid-1960s, there probably would not be a New Orleans Saints franchise today.

The American Football League and the National Football League announced a merger plan on June 8, 1966, but the two entities could not become one without an anti-trust exemption from Congress. For those who think a sports league commissioner’s role is limited to just making sure the fans are happy and rooting for the home team, you’re about to get a lesson on political hardball.

A sports commissioner is a hardened political lobbyist and NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle was an old hand on Capitol Hill by the summer of 1966.

In 1961, Rozelle lobbied the House and Brooklyn (NY) Democrat Emanuel Cellar in an attempt to win a limited antitrust exception so that the National Football League could sell the league’s 14 franchises as one entity to a television network.

The Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy on September 30th of that year and allowed the NFL to bundle the 14 franchises and sell a package of games to a TV network (either CBS or NBC in those days). The law helped propel the NFL into a different economic orbit. The league went from a mom and pop store operation that was open about six months a year to a mega business because of the legislation, which put hundreds of thousands of dollars into every NFL owner’s pocket.

Neither the Louisiana Democrat Senator Russell Long, who was the Senate’s Majority Whip and Chairman of the Senate Financial Committee, nor Congressman Boggs were very excited about the planned football merger. Neither saw a merger benefiting New Orleans, as the city had neither an AFL nor an NFL team. New Orleans blew an opportunity at getting an AFL in December 1964 after being awarded the 1965 AFL All Star Game because a group of players and AFL owners had a social conscience.

Buffalo Bills Quarterback Jack Kemp (who was becoming very interested in politics and worked on Barry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential campaign) and his white teammates witnessed their African-American friends, teammates and competitors being ignored at the New Orleans airport by taxis when they needed a ride to New Orleans and watched as their black teammates were barred from eating in New Orleans restaurants and staying from in the same hotels in December 1964 as they were in the Jim Crow Louisiana. There were 21 African American players who were selected to be play in the game.

The American Football League was looking to expand and decided that New Orleans would be a perfect fit for the five-year-old league. AFL owners were told by New Orleans officials not to worry about Jim Crow laws because President Johnson has signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2nd. The AFL owners’ plans included a January 1965 All-Star game at Tulane Stadium and an announcement at the game that the league was going to put a team in the city.

Kemp, who was a co-founder of the American Football League Players Association in 1964, and the white All-Stars said they would support whatever decision the 21 African Americans made during their meeting, including the possible boycott of the 1965 AFL All Star Game.

Their decision was to boycott the game.

An outraged group of AFL players called Houston Oilers owner Bud Adams and said they were going to boycott the game. The eight AFL owners league moved the contest to Houston. The boycott ended the chance that New Orleans would get an AFL team.

Louisiana businessmen were pushing for a New Orleans franchise and saw an opening.

Rozelle spoke to Boggs and Long, asking for their support, but neither budged. Rozelle was not ready to hand out an expansion team, and the two Louisiana legislators were not ready to sign off on a merger bill. Originally there was a thought of moving some teams around to satisfy the Louisiana interests with the New York Jets franchise going to Los Angeles. Daniel Reeves would take his Los Angeles Rams franchise to San Diego and replace the Chargers. Barron Hilton then would take his Chargers to New Orleans. The Oakland Raiders would be moved to either Seattle or Portland. But Rozelle and other NFL officials went before Congressman Cellar’s Subcommittee on Antitrust and assured Cellar (who rammed through the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 legislation through the House) that no teams would be moved because of the merger. But stadiums in the future would need to have more than a 50,000 seat capacity to house an NFL franchise.

Something had to give.

Rozelle and the NFL owners relented and worked out a deal with Boggs that included a placing a team in New Orleans. Congress approved the NFL-AFL merger by giving the two competitors an anti-trust exemption, which was added as a rider to an anti-inflation tax bill on October 21, 1966.

The NFL awarded its 16th franchise to New Orleans on November 1, 1966 on All Saints Day. One other thing about the merger, NFL owners, going back through history, always liked to collect money whenever they could on business deals which allowed teams from other leagues to join the NFL or when an NFL team decided to invade the New York or Washington market. NFL owners made some serious money on the merger.

The league pocketed an $8 million expansion fee from New Orleans owner John Mecom, which was split between the 15 NFL owners. Additionally, the New York Jets ownership paid $18 million to the New York Giants ownership, and the Oakland Raiders handed over $8 million to the San Francisco 49ers as both AFL teams “invaded” NFL territories. The AFL also agreed to pay the NFL the $7.5 million it received from the Cincinnati expansion fee in 1968.

“It was the right thing to do,” said AFL founder and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt years later. “It consolidated the sport. It assured the continuity of every team in both leagues. There were some teams that were pretty weak financially at that point. Some teams going out of business generally accompanied previous mergers in sports. We assured that every team would stay in business. We assured the addition of new teams in Cincinnati and New Orleans. It gave the public the Super Bowl. It also provided the teams and the league with a common draft, which provided for an equal dissemination of playing talent.”

Had the NFL and AFL not merged, Tex Schramm, the longtime Dallas Cowboy President and a chief architect of the merger along with Hunt, thinks pro football would not be the strong national presence that it is today. “I think football was on its way to self destruction with the two leagues,” said Schramm. “Both sides were spending themselves into bankruptcy and there were only four or five clubs that could remain really competitive…Teams were drafting players not on the basis on whether or not they could play, but whether they could be signed. Whenever that happens then your sport is in trouble and that’s the way we were headed then.”

Of the merger, Pete Rozelle said that at the time he was “surprised that the AFL was interested or that even [we] were interested because [we] were such bitter enemies. The war was going on and we were raiding players. Obviously the terms and conditions turned out to be favorable, particularly to teams that had to take in competitors in New York and San Francisco. History shows it is a good move, a costly one but it gave the league greater strength.”

Without Hale Boggs and Russell Long, there would have been no NFL team in New Orleans and no Super Bowl. That’s why Cokie Roberts should be handed the Halas Trophy if the hometown Saints emerge victorious on Sunday afternoon.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Loria not McGwire Embarrasses Major League Baseball

Loria not McGwire Embarrasses Major League Baseball

By Evan Weiner

January 18, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- The New Year is less than three weeks old but Major League Baseball has already endured one very embarrassing moment and it has nothing to do with Mark McGwire steroids usage admission or that a former Kansas City Royals errand boy and flunky named Rush Limbaugh again opened his mouth disgracefully after the earthquake in Haiti. Whether Limbaugh likes it or not, Major League Baseball is donating $1 million to relief efforts in Haiti.

The embarrassing moment came last week when the Major League Baseball Players Association, Major League Baseball and the Florida Marlins organization reached an understanding that the Marlins franchise will actually spend some of the revenue sharing revenues earmarked for them and other struggling franchises to pay players. Florida has been receiving stipends along with other teams but apparently has not been using the money to spend on talent.

The revenue sharing issue has been around for years and the 2002 Collective Bargaining Agreement was hatched to spread around baseball’s wealth from say George Steinbrenner’s baseball revenue generated pockets to lesser lights like the Montreal Expos franchise, Florida, Limbaugh’s old employer, the Royals, Pittsburgh and others. But there has always been a question as to whether the owners of the lesser lights were going to spend Steinbrenner’s money or pocket it or pay down the operating debt.

The players could have filed a grievance against the owners and try to prove that the lesser revenue generating teams were not spending on players salaries.

In a news release released by MLB, the MLBPA and Florida, the three parties said: “The Basic Agreement requires that each Club use its revenue sharing receipts in an effort to improve its performance on the field. This requirement is of obvious importance to all players, Clubs and fans of the game. In recent years, the Union has had concerns that certain Clubs have not lived up to this requirement, and has consulted regularly with the Commissioner’s Office about those concerns. The Florida Marlins are one of a number of Clubs that have been discussed.

“After extensive discussions, the three parties are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement regarding the Florida Marlins’ continued compliance with Article XXIV(B)(5)(a) of the Basic Agreement.

“MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner said: In response to our concerns that revenue sharing proceeds have not been used as required, the Marlins have assured the Union and the Commissioner’s Office that they plan to use such proceeds to increase player payroll annually as they move toward the opening of their new ballpark. Today’s agreement, which covers the period 2010 through 2012, calls for ongoing communication among the Marlins, the Commissioner’s Office and the Union as the Marlins proceed with that plan. It also permits, after consultation among all parties, adjustments in the Marlins’ plan to respond to unforeseen developments, and calls for arbitral intervention if disagreements arise. We greatly appreciate the willingness of the Commissioner’s Office and the Marlins to engage with us and ensure that all terms of the Basic Agreement are met.”

“Marlins’ President David Samson said:

“The Marlins have consistently made every effort to put the best product on the field and our record supports the fact that we have been successful in that regard. Throughout the discussions, the Marlins maintained that there had been no violation of the Basic Agreement at any time. While we know that the Marlins will always comply with the Basic Agreement, we were happy to work cooperatively with the Union and the Commissioner’s Office on this matter.

“MLB Executive Vice President, Labor Relations Rob Manfred added:

“The Basic Agreement contains confidentiality provisions that preclude the parties from publicly discussing the specifics of the Marlins’ finances. There will, therefore, be no comment by any of these parties on any further specifics of this agreement. All three parties agree that the Basic Agreement provision on the proper use of revenue sharing dollars is an important part of our agreement. Today’s announcement is the product of a positive dialogue between the MLBPA, the Commissioner’s Office and the Club.”

Florida will be moving into a mostly taxpayers funded new stadium in 2012 at the site of Miami’s old Orange Bowl. Since Miami city officials are partnering with the Marlins franchise perhaps they should allow taxpayers to see Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria’s books as taxpayers are paying the freight on a stadium that theoretically will make Loria more money on his investment.

The price tag on the new stadium is estimated to be $645 million with some of that picked up by unsuspecting snowbirds through hotel and motel taxes. Miami-Dade County officials approved $563 million worth of bonds, with $378 million coming from Dade County’s sports tax, another $130 million from tourist taxes (no one knows whether there will be enough tourists to fund that fund) and $55 million from a general obligation bond. Loria and the Marlins owners are putting up $120 million and will pay back a $35 million loan from Dade County.

Loria will get all of the revenue generated in the city-owned stadium. But Miami has come up with a big plum. Loria will rename the team the Miami Marlins. That certainly is a great reason to fund a stadium. One time Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Pat McCrory once suggested that Charlotte needed a new team and a new arena after George Shinn took his National Basketball Association team to New Orleans because of arena issues in 2002 because of the many times Charlotte would be mentioned on ESPN SportsCenter in game highlights and how much free advertising the city would get from ESPN.

The fact that MLB and the MLBPA had to go public with dirty laundry and that Loria wasn’t spending money is quite embarrassing and that Loria agreed to spend more money on players has validated George Steinbrenner’s big fears that his Yankees money would be pocketed by other owners instead of paying for players.

McGwire did not embarrass baseball in anyway with his admission of steroids usage. Again the guardians of baseball’s gate, baseball sportswriters, are upset this time with the quality of McGwire’s announcement and his subsequent interview with Bob Costas. Too bad for the baseball scribes. In a public appearance in St. Louis on Sunday, McGwire was cheered by Cardinals fans which no doubt baffled the guardians.

People who attend or follow baseball games want to be entertained. They don’t care about steroids or off field behavior which is something the guardians don’t understand. There are fewer guardians these days as the newspaper industry retrenches but baseball writers still think they matter. After all they still judge who belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame or who is not worthy of the Cooperstown, NY shrine even though it is a blatant conflict of interest to vote for any baseball awards or the Hall of Fame. True journalists should not vote on subjects they cover, particularly when their vote can conceivably put more money in an award winner or Hall of Fame inductee’s pocket. It is an ethical issue that no one really wants to take up although some newspapers did bar writers from voting.

The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) is one of the last vestiges of a bygone era, the writers are “real baseball men” or at least in the world of one of the newest Hall of Famers Whitey Herzog who preferred to talk to the “real baseball men” instead of radio or TV reporters. Perhaps it is fitting that Herzog and New York Daily News writer Bill Madden, one of the BBWAA dinosaurs (and strike breakers and why the Major League Baseball Players Association members still talk to Bill Madden is curious considering how the MLBPA dealt with players who were in training camps during the 1994-95 strike) will be honored as inductees later this summer.

The BBWAA is sort of like McSorley’s Old Ale House in Manhattan. McSorley’s was one of the last bars in Manhattan to allow women inside the premises in 1970 after being sued and losing. The BBWAA is an old boys club in a 21st century environment which no longer works. But baseball writers and newspapers have given the sport free advertising and publicity for well over a century and even though baseball and sports gets a lot of money from TV, newspapers and baseball writers still retain a special role in the industry.

Loria has promised to put more money into his payroll although that could change depending on how the stadium financing goes. Next up? Maybe Pittsburgh, another franchise that has a special relationship with taxpayers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Are Vancouver public libraries engaging in censorship because of the Olympics?

Are Vancouver public libraries engaging in censorship because of the Olympics?

By Evan Weiner

January 15, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- The Vancouver Winter Olympics will begin in less than a month and it is a good time to see what the merry band of sportsmen and sportswomen of the International Olympic Committee are trying to hatch. Item number one, the Vancouver Public Library system according to The Tyee, a daily on line British Columbia magazine, has been advised to protect Olympics sponsors and make sure if any library branch is holding a gathering that only Olympics sponsors get publicity.

The Tyee published parts of the memo that was circulated to Vancouver libraries and the memo reads more like a guide to curtail freedoms in an open society. Libraries are supposed to be places of education and enlightenment. However the Vancouver libraries are potential hazards to the core of the Olympics idea, sponsorship. So the libraries have been instructed to take extraordinary measures to protect Coca Cola and McDonald’s, two of the Olympics worldwide sponsors.

“Do not have Pepsi or Dairy Queen sponsor your event,” is one of the paragraphs that come out blazing in The Tyee piece. “Coke and McDonald’s are Olympics sponsors. If you are planning a kids event and approaching sponsors, approach McDonald’s and not another well-known fast-food outlet.”

The Vancouver libraries have not yet been asked to ban or burn books which might conflict with the Olympics goals although that thought might have crossed someone’s mind within the Olympics movement. But apparently other censorship is fine. Vancouver officials are doing it as part of the 2003 agreement to host the Games to protect International Olympic Committee sponsors. In 2007, the Canadian government gave the Vancouver organizing committee “considerable powers” to further protect the IOC and sponsors.

There is no doubt that the International Olympic Committee thinks that it is above the law and politicians cannot genuflect fast enough when they hear the words International Olympic Committee wants to bring the Olympics to town. The library heard the clarion call as well and fell into line with the rest of the troops.

For instance, according to the library memo, audio-visual equipment is a problem. Panasonic is the official sponsor of the Vancouver Organizing Committee yet other company’s equipment can be found at library branches. There is a simple solution, put tape over the manufacturers name.

Allegedly the entire premise of the Olympics and the Olympic movement is to promote openness and dialogue between peoples through sports. But you would never know that through the actions of the Vancouver city council last July. The city council has put the clamps down on people who have agendas and what to push their wares near the Olympics-related areas.

Section 104 of the bylaws prohibits advertising matter, which can be described as pamphlets or handbills, in Olympics areas.

The Vancouver Winter Olympics will follow in the footsteps of other financial disasters that have taken place. The 1976 Montreal Summer Games was the last Canadian based Olympics and it took 30 years to pay off the debt from that two-week sports adventure. The world is littered with Olympics-sized financial debt from Games in Sydney, Australia in 2000 and Athens, Greece in 2004. No one will ever really find out what Beijing spent on the 2008 Games but the Bird Nest stadium goes for the most part unused in the post-Olympics era and someone in China is paying about nine million dollars annually to keep the place maintained. Vancouver’s sponsors have done the barest minimum to fund the Games and there are plenty of tickets, hotel rooms, advertising and merchandising opportunities still available.

The bill for the Olympics will come due in 2011 and there will be a lot of questions that will need answers when the day of reckoning arrives as British Columbia taxpayers will be asked to pay the debt. That is not a concern of the International Olympics Committee, host cities should be happy that the IOC even gave them the time of day. When a host city signs a contract with the IOC, the host city taxpayers have to pay cost overruns, not the IOC. Apparently some freedoms also are forfeited to protect IOC partners.

There are some who will blame the global recession for the Vancouver Games financial failure and that failure extends to the American broadcaster, General Electric’s NBCUniversal, which figures to lose as much as $200 million (US) on the event.

Library censorship and the possibility of the sledding sports and the alpine skiing venue being in receivership are two of the probably legacy of the Vancouver Games. Those same libraries may not be able to buy new books starting in 2011 if tax money has to go to pay off the Vancouver Olympics debt.

But the lessons learned in Sydney, Athens, Montreal and other places have not resonated with other governments. The London 2012 Summer Games will cost English taxpayers a bundle and things are not very promising in Russia for the 2014 Sochi Games. Still the line forms on both the left and right with politicians and corporate leaders tripping all over themselves for a chance to host the Olympics in 2018 and 2020.

Item number two.

While the politicians and corporate leaders get on their collective hands and bended knees to cozy up to IOC President Jacques Rogge and his associates, Rogge and the associates may have to learn to grovel as well before American TV executives. American TV has funded the Olympics for decades and now the days of overpaying for the two-week sports orgy may be over. The IOC has no American TV deal in place for the 2014 Sochi Winter Games of the 2016 Rio Summer Games and the IOC may not solicit bids for those events until 2011. News Corp head Rupert Murdoch pointed out last September that “no one’s ever made any money out of them” and it was unlikely News Corp, the owner of the American syndication TV network FOX (Fox is technically not a network), would be bidding on the Games.

The IOC may also have decided to wait not because of a soft advertising market but to see if United States regulatory agencies give the go ahead and allow Comcast to buy out 51 percent of NBCUniversal.

The Vancouver Olympics presentation will feature colorful pageantry but when the show leaves town in late February, the viscerally gorgeous green city of Vancouver will remain viscerally gorgeous but the balance sheet will be drowning in red ink. That is how it is when politicians and corporate leaders deal with the IOC.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Saturday's Miami-Cleveland AAFC rather Colts-Ravens NFL playoff game has interesting roots

Saturday's Miami-Cleveland AAFC rather Colts-Ravens NFL playoff game has interesting roots

By Evan Weiner

January 11, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) --- There probably are not many people around who can recall the details of the first true match up between the Indianapolis Colts and the Baltimore Ravens back in 1946. The two teams did play but it was not in the National Football League nor was it in Indianapolis or Baltimore. The Miami Seahawks squad, now the Colts franchise, was shut out by the Cleveland Browns, now the Ravens franchise 34-0 in Cleveland in the first weekend of play of the new American Football Conference on a Friday night, September 6th. Miami also lost to Cleveland 44-0 on December 3 in a Tuesday night football game ay home.

The AAFC played a lot of Friday night, Sunday, Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night games that year long before television dictated when games should be played and before Congress banned the NFL from competing on TV with high school and college games on Friday night, Saturday day and nights during the high school/college season.

Miami won just three of 14 AAFC contests that year while Cleveland was 12-2 and won the AAFC championship. Miami’s owner Harvey Hester gave up and returned the money losing franchise to the AAFC. The league replaced Miami with Baltimore. Cleveland was the AAFC powerhouse franchise and Paul Brown’s team won every AAFC championship game between 1946-49.

Brown’s Browns joined the NFL in 1950 along with Baltimore and the San Francisco 49ers following the league’s demise. Cleveland won the 1950 NFL championship beating the Los Angeles Rams.

Baltimore’s football history is very complicated to say the least. The original Colts franchise in the AAFC was terrible going 2-11-1 in 1947, 7-7 in 1948 and 1-11 in 1949. But somehow the NFL owners allowed Abraham Watner’s team into the league for the 1950 season even though some franchises like the Buffalo Bills to name one example had a stronger team and the financial wherewithal to survive in the NFL. Buffalo did not get an NFL team for a number of reasons including market size and climate.

Baltimore “invaded” George Preston Marshall’s Washington Redskins territory but even the mom and pop store NFL owners understood back in 1949 there was a way to do business and it was cash on the barrelhead, Watner gave Marshall $150,000 and Marshall gladly allowed Watner into the territory.

The 10-team NFL grew to 13-teams.

Watner gave the Colts back to the NFL after the 1950 season.

Long before Tex Schramm conceived the term America's Team for his Dallas Cowboys, Dallas was the home to the original and real America's Team, the Dallas Texans, now and the Indianapolis Colts.

Oddly enough, in 1952, the Dallas Texans "hosted" a Thanksgiving Day game. The game was played at the Rubber Bowl in Akron, Ohio as part of a morning high school-afternoon NFL game doubleheader.

To understand why the Colts really claim title to "America's Team," you need to brush up on NFL history. The 1952 Texas started out life in the All American Football Conference in 1947 as the Baltimore Colts, taking the place of the Miami Seahawks, who folded after playing one year in the AAFC. The Colts joined the NFL in 1950 but went belly-up, and a number of the Colts players went to New York in 1951, where the combined team played in Yankees Stadium as the New York Yankees.

The Texans rose from the ashes of this team, which folded after three years of struggling as both the New York Bulldogs and Yankees in both the Polo Grounds and Yankee Stadium. The Bulldogs came to New York in 1949 after a five year unsuccessful run in Boston where the team as known as the Yanks. The Boston Yanks merged with the Brooklyn Tigers in 1945, the Tigers disbanded in 1946. The Dallas Texans had roots in Dayton, Ohio, Boston, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Hershey, Akron and Baltimore.

Dallas was a big high school and college football hotbed and should have been a good pro city. It did not take off. The Cotton Bowl was nearly empty; the Texans averaged nearly 15,000 people per game in their first three home contests, and the owners gave up after the fourth game. The NFL took over and the Texans moved first to Hershey, Penn. and then Akron, Oh.

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Artie Donovan, who grew up on Grand Concourse, said the 1950 Baltimore Colts were one of two of the worst NFL teams ever assembled. The 1952 Texans were the other. He should have known, as he played for both.

The 1950 Colts were 1-11, when that team folded, Donovan's contract was assigned to the Yankees in 1951, who went 1-9-2. In the Texans' 1952 training camp, Donovan got an inkling as to what he was about to encounter with the Texans when the owners hired Willie Garcia as their equipment manager in Kerrville, Texas. If a ball was passed or kicked into the high grass, the Texans sent Willie to get it, because he had only one leg. The players figured Willie stood a 1 in 2 chance to get a rattlesnake bite.

By Thanksgiving, the NFL moved the Texans daily operations to Hershey. The 0-9 Texans would meet the 4-5 Chicago Bears as the second half of a high school-pro doubleheader in Akron. The Texans were the home team.

"In the morning they had a high school football game and they must have had about 20,000 people in the stands. When we went to warm up, there must have been about 3,000 people in the stands," Donovan recalled in his thick Bronx accent in Towson, Mary. in the early 1990s, after David Letterman "discovered" him.

"Now (Coach) Jimmy Phelan was one of the greatest men I ever met in my life, but football had passed him by years before. In his speech before the game, he told us, 'we are going to dispense with the customary introductions and meet 'em individually.

"We went out and about eight guys climbed over the fence and started shaking people's hands. Then we played and we beat them."

How the Texans ended up in Hershey/Akron is easy to explain, according to the man known as Fatso." The team was supposed to have folded after the game that was supposed to rescue us against the Rams. We played them in the Cotton Bowl and they expected about 50,000 people and lo and behold, it hadn't rained in Texas for about a year and that day it stormed. About 10,000 people showed up and the team folded.

"We then went to Hershey. From Hershey, we went to play games in Akron, Philadelphia and Detroit. I'll tell ya what, it was a great experience."
The Texans never came close to winning another game, losing to the Eagles and Lions. Phelan was fired and only 13 Texans moved to Baltimore after Carroll Rosenbloom purchased the team and Baltimore purchased enough tickets after a ticket selling campaign.

Rosenbloom would keep the franchise until July 13, 1972. In a tax deal, Rosenbloom traded his ownership in the Baltimore Colts in exchange for Robert Irsay's Los Angeles Rams, a franchise that started out as the Cleveland Rams in 1937 and moved to LA in 1946. Within five years, Irsay was looking for a new stadium and ended up moving the Colts to Indianapolis under the cover of darkness on March 29, 1984.

It seemed appropriate given the history of the franchise. Rosenbloom also had a lot of nomad in him. In 1980, he moved his Los Angeles Rams to Anaheim. In 1995, Rosenbloom's window Georgia Frontiere took the Rams to St. Louis. Irsay began looking at relocating the Colts in the 1970s. He visited Jacksonville and wanted the city to rebuild the Gator Bowl. Jacksonville would be just that in the early 1990s. He visited Memphis, toyed with Phoenix and even thought about filling the vacancy at the Los Angeles Coliseum after Carroll Rosenbloom took an offer from Anaheim to move the Rams after the 1979 season.

In the middle of a March 29, 1984 night during a snow storm in Baltimore, Irsay brought in Mayflower moving vans to the club’s training facility and within Colts equipment and recordswere headed west on Interstate 70. As soon as the vans left Maryland, Indianapolis Mayor William Hudnut announced the move. The Maryland Legislature was working on a bill that would permit the Colts to be seized by eminent domain.

"I was watching TV and happened to be flicking through and a station over in DC had picked it up first and they were talking about how one of their reliable sources told them the Colts were going to be moving that night and they had sent a camera crew over there and the guy on TV said hold it the guys from the Mayflower Vans were there," recalled Nesby Glasgow, a Colts defensive back. "We will be showing footage as soon as we get it. So it was about 10:30 and I kept it on there.

"Sure enough, they showed the trucks packing everything up. The stations in Baltimore didn't even get news of it until after the fact. So what I did was call a lot of my teammates and said we are going to have a new address. Instead of going to Baltimore, we are going to be in Indianapolis. Most of them didn't believe me."

Glasgow said it was a rainy/snowy night and his first thoughts were with the people who were losing their jobs as a result of Irsay's decision.

"They had stuff everywhere and the one thing I remember about it and that saddened me about the whole deal was a lot of the people who worked there, they had taken a lot of their personal thing and packed them up and shipped them out to Indianapolis," he said. "And I saw some of the ladies the next day and, or course, they were in tears. Some of them had worked with the organization more than 10 years. To have something like that happen and not know anything about it....

"The biggest thing that upset them that a lot of their personal belongings, things that were dear to them were taken. That's probably the one thing that bothered me most about the whole situation."

Glasgow became a member of the Colts the year before and was planning to become a big part of the community. When he signed, he asked the General Manager Ernie Accorsi if the team was planning to move.

"He assured me that he was not going anywhere and the team was going wasn't going anywhere," Glasgow stated. "He was halfway right, he stayed but the team went to Indy. We were shocked"

Glasgow and a couple of his teammates went to the Colts training facilities in Owing Mills and found their lockers were empty and the equipment was gone.

"The Colts used the cover of the night and got out of town, but that was the only way they could do it. If they waited until the daytime, I am sure they would have put an injunction on the team to prevent him from moving the team to Indianapolis. So he had to do it as quick as he possible could if he wanted to make that move," Glasgow said. "People couldn't stand the owner. They liked the Colts but they hated Robert Irsay. That's all you heard when I lived there for the one year.

"They wanted the team without the owner but they couldn't have it that way. It was his team and they had to accept him as owner. The community never really did that and never did anything to appease him and to make him feel like hey they wanted him to stay in town. So he made a business decision.

"I'm not going to sit here and fault him. Let's face it; Indianapolis gave him everything he wanted. The deal was so sweet; he couldn't afford to pass it up. He had to do what he had to do."

Glasgow was able to sell his townhouse by June and set up shop in Indianapolis. His teammates were not able to sell their properties that quickly. Irsay's family wasn’t happy with the terms of the deal by the mid-1990s and was rumored to be on the move to Cleveland or other cities before signing a new lease arrangement in Indianapolis.

Baltimore applied for an NFL expansion team in the early 1990s, but Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was not pushing to put a team back in the city and Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke liked having the territory to himself, just like George Preston Marshall back in the late 1940s. The league ultimately picked Charlotte as the league’s 29th franchise and Jacksonville as the 30th team in 1993 and left the Baltimore, St. Louis and Memphis’s bid on the table.

Cleveland’s owner Art Modell, who was in dire financial straits and was frustrated by Cleveland city officials lack of movement in building his Browns a new stadium and giving money for a new baseball stadium, a new arena and the Rock and Roll hall of Fame revisited Baltimore’s expansion proposal. In 1995, Modell agreed to terms with Maryland to move his Browns to Baltimore although he “agreed” to leave the Browns record book and colors behind in Cleveland.

Modell’s departure also spawned a threatened lawsuit from Cleveland elected officials. The NFL and Cleveland quickly came together on a stadium plan and the Browns “rejoined” the NFL in 1999 complete with Modell’s old colors and Modell’s record book.

In Baltimore and in Indianapolis there will be references to the Colts once playing in Baltimore but in the business and politics of the NFL and sports it is just the tip of the iceberg. Indianapolis’s roots go back to the Dayton Triangles, a team which started play in 1913 and joined the American Professional Football Association in 1920 when $100 down bought someone a professional football franchise. That league was renamed the National Football League in 1922.

In July 1930, Brooklyn’s William Dwyer purchased the Triangles and moved the team to Ebbets Field. The version of the Brooklyn Dodgers ended up in the AAFC in 1946. That franchise was not successful but out of the ashes of the AAFC Dodgers came an idea from the team’s general manager Branch Rickey in the late 1950s that was co-opted by a young Dallas businessman named Lamar Hunt. Rickey, who was a baseball executive who moonlighted in football, wanted to start a third major league in baseball that featured television revenue sharing. Hunt was uninterested in owning a Dallas-based Continental Baseball League franchise as he was pursuing an NFL franchise for the city. Hunt never got an NFL team and formed the American Football League which borrowed from Rickey’s Continental Baseball League business model.

National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle would use Rickey’s formula, which in NFL circles was “leaguethink,” to propel the league into becoming a mega business.

The background story of the Baltimore-Indianapolis match up started in 1946 in a different league in different cities but it illustrates how the NFL became the NFL through a series of happenstances rather than a solid business model.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

American Needle, the NFL and the Supreme Court of the United States

American Needle, the NFL and the Supreme Court of the United States

By Evan Weiner

January 9, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- The Supreme Court of the United States goes back to work this week and the nine justices have an interesting case on the docket.

American Needle Inc. v the NFL (Docket 08-661).

The Court is supposed to listen to arguments from American Needle attorneys and National Football League lawyers as to whether National Football League Properties, the National Football League and the 32 individual teams acted as one when the league awarded Reebok International an exclusive 10-year deal to produce hats and other headgear in 2001 in violation of Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.

Reebok is now owned by Addidas AG.

National Football League Properties decided in 2000 that it would put the caps, hats and headgear license up for bid and would give the contract to one company. Prior to 2001, the league had an assortment of licensees for the manufacture of caps, hats and headgear with American Needle holding one of those licenses.

After Reebok won the bid, American Needle decided to file an antitrust lawsuit in Chicago against the NFL in December 2004. The NFL picked up victories on in lower level trial and appeals court but the small Buffalo Grove, Illinois-based American Needle Inc. decided to press on and take the case to the Supreme Court.

National Football League lawyers apparently have no problems arguing the case before the nine justices and basically told American Needle’s attorneys to bring it on.

The NFL has received support from the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. Major League Baseball, which received antitrust protection from the Supreme Court of the United States in the 1922 ruling against the Baltimore Terrapins because baseball was a game, not a business, is not involved with this particularly case.

This might be the case that the National Football League has been seeking for decades. A favorable decision by the SCOTUS would presumably give the league an antitrust blanket and allow the league to really act with monopoly powers although Congress in 1961 gave the league antitrust protection with the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 which was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy. Congress gave football owners another gift by allowing the June 8, 1966 merger of the National Football League and the American Football League in the fall of that year which ended a bidding war for players.

President Lyndon B. Johnson gave his approval to the merger when the AFL-NFL legislation was tacked onto another bill. New Orleans ended up with a football team because of the political maneuvering by Louisiana Senator Russell Long and Representative Hale Boggs who traded a no vote on the merger in exchange for a guarantee that New Orleans would receive a team as part of political horse trading.

The fact that American Needle wants to do business with the NFL is pretty obvious. A NFL product license can bring in a sizeable check for any company. American Needle is arguing that it should be allowed to talk to each of the 32 teams not just the league and that companies like American Needle should have the opportunity to talk to say Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones about a deal where presumably they can offer him more money than he could get from his 1/32 share of the revenue.

The American Needle Inc. v NFL Supreme Court battle has apparently made an awful lot of people nervous and it does not appear from those who have SCOTUS anxiety are from the NFL owners camp. The National Football League Coaches Association filed a brief with the court saying that an NFL victory could mean a salary cap for head coaches and a salary scale for assistants because the NFL would gain monopoly power.

Additionally, some are arguing that the NFL would push a TV agenda that would include the scheduling of games against High School and College contests during the High School and College football season which is presently not allowed under the terms of the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 which would have a direct impact on attendance at High School contests across America and cut down on the TV audience of Saturday college games.

The National Football League Players Association, which is preparing strategy in collective bargaining talks with the league owners with the Collective Bargaining Agreement schedule to expire after the 2010 season, is worried that an NFL SCOTUS victory would harm the players bargaining abilities since the association has used the courts to settle labor disputes.

The Major League Baseball Players Association, the National Basketball Players Association and the National Hockey League Players Association are supporting the National Football League Players Association by filing a brief which is supporting American Needle.

The National Federation of State High School Associations wants to keep Friday Night Lights going with no NFL interference.

The Federal Trade Commission has asked the nine justices to “vacate the judgment of the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh District” because the FTC is of the opinion that the league is 32 separate entities and that the league violates section 1 and section 2 of the Sherman Act.

Legal experts from various law schools, other lawyers with opinions and media pumped up experts like the Chicago-based Marc Ganis are predicting doom for fans should the National Football League win the case. (Sportswriters should do some research instead of relying on "experts" like Ganis and law professors, lazy journalism on their part) The dire consequences include even higher costs for merchandise (the cost is extremely high now for those who have not shopped) to league wide higher league mandated ticket pricing (ticket prices are extraordinarily high and in some cases come with a personal seat licensing tab for those who have not noticed) to hiring cheaper players and putting an inferior brand of football on the field (guess the experts failed to watch any Detroit Lions games over the past five years or this year’s St. Louis Rams).

The NFL and other leagues are in a powerful position not necessarily because of consumer power. Congressional acts in 1961 and 1966 backed by the signatures of President Kennedy and Johnson made the NFL a juggernaut. The Supreme Court of the United States in 1922 cemented the National and American League of baseball position as the dominant baseball force. Congress would not take up a proposed American Basketball Association-National Basketball Association merger in the early 1970s which forced the NBA to find a Washington political insider to become the league’s commissioner. Former Kennedy and Johnson staffer Lawrence O’Brien became the NBA’s head man in 1975 and by 1976, the NBA absorbed four ABA teams, Denver, Indiana, New York and San Antonio with each team paying $3.2 million to join the new league. Additionally the Uniondale, N. Y.-based New York Nets had to pay the New York Knicks $4.8 million for invading Knicks territory.

The NBA dictated terms despite not having the type of monopoly powers that Major League Baseball was granted by the 1922 SCOTUS decision.

Sports leagues are powerful but are always mindful of Congress even though Pete Rozelle during the 1986 United States Football League v National Football League antitrust suit said leagues are natural monopolies in Judge Peter K. Leisure’s court room in lower Manhattan. Rozelle was regarded as a genius but that genius label came because of powers given to his league by Congress and two Presidents. Major League Baseball, despite a 1922 antitrust exemption, had to fend off the Continental Baseball League in 1960 and the American League was forced to expand to Los Angeles and Washington in 1960 after Calvin Griffith moved his Washington Senators to Bloomington, Minnesota for fear of what Congress would do. The Continental League failed but the National League put teams in New York and Houston in 1962 because of the league and Congressional pressure.

The 1969 American League expansion came about only after Charles Finley moved his Kansas City A’s to Oakland for the 1968 season. Missouri Senator Stuart Symington applied pressure on the American League to restore a Kansas City franchise as soon as possible or baseball’s antitrust exemption would be gone. Kansas City and Seattle were granted American League franchises. Not to be outdone, National League owners added San Diego and Montreal.

In 1976, faced with an antitrust lawsuit filed by King County, Seattle and Washington over the move of the Seattle Pilots to Milwaukee in March 1970 for breach of contract, the American League expanded to Seattle and then added Toronto.

The 1991 National League expansion to Miami and Denver came as a result of political pressure on baseball from Colorado Senator Tim Wirth and Florida’s Connie Mack III. The 1995 baseball expansion to St. Petersburg, Florida and Phoenix was the result of an expiring stadium funding plan in Phoenix. Had baseball not acted by April 1, 1995, public monies for a downtown Phoenix stadium would have disappeared.

Even monopolies can not run roughshod as Major League Baseball owners learned. An arbitrator, Peter Seitz, granted players free agency on December 23, 1975 even though baseball had an antitrust exemption.

There is a lot of noise surrounding the January 13 Supreme Court session. Some “experts” suggest that the American sports landscape could be changed should the majority agree with the NFL, others think it is a simple case where a small hat company is suing the NFL because it lost business and wants a crack at talking to individual teams. The court will rule sometime this spring but will the decision change the big business of American sports?

The NFL is betting that the court will reaffirm that it is a single entity which does business for 32 affiliates. American Needle apparently just wants to have a crack at getting a slice of the NFL’s business.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

LA Stadium Offer to Bills, Jaguars No Great Deal

LA Stadium Offer to Bills, Jaguars No Great Deal

By Evan Weiner

January 7, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- Here is a question that Ed Roski needs to answer in his quest to yet again attract a National Football League franchise to the Los Angeles market, specifically the City of Industry. Who is funding the stadium project? You, your Majestic Realty Company or will it be Ralph Wilson or Wayne Weaver? The answer to that question is necessary because at this point it is rather unclear when the dollars that are needed to build a “majestic” stadium for an NFL owner or NFL owners to move a franchise to the market are coming from.

The 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.

Majesty Realty plans to pursue Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson or Jacksonville’s Wayne Weaver initially. Wilson’s lease in Orchard Park ends following the 2012 season. Wilson is 91 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 2010, 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. No special tax district will be created unless the City of Industry decides that a special tax district for a team would be a benefit for the city and franchise. The City of Industry is not near LA, Hollywood or Beverly Hills, it is 25 miles east of LA, and will the high rollers want to venture away from the city?

That gets back to the original question. Just who will finance Roski’s stadium? Question two is simple. What makes Roski’s proposal a sure fire winner for Ralph Wilson or Wayne Weaver?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Politics of the New York Islanders

The Politics of the New York Islanders

By Evan Weiner

January 3, 2010

Now that Nassau County, New York has a Republican in the County Executive chair, it is time to find out whether or not the old Nassau County Republican machine will re-embrace the New York Islanders National Hockey League franchise or if the new boss, Ed Mangano will say no to Islanders owner Charles Wang’s proposal to rebuild the Nassau County Veterans Memorial Coliseum and develop the 70 or so acres surrounding the building.

Wang has spent years trying to convince the Hempstead Town Supervisor, the Republican, Kate Murray that his plan is best for the area. So far, not much has happened other than a bunch of meetings and some vague promises.

That is a far, far cry from the old Republican machine that greeted the Islanders and the American Basketball Association’s New York Nets with open arms in 1972 to the new building that opened in Uniondale.

The New York Islanders franchise has never been much about hockey. Sure the team won four consecutive Stanley Cups between 1980 and 1983 but the team has been more about real estate and local Long Island cable TV programming than an on ice product and looking at the history of the Nassau Coliseum project will spell that out immediately.

The building sits on land that was once an Army/Air Force base. Nassau ended up with a lot of the land and decided to put up an arena. The decision was made back in the day when neither the National Basketball Association nor the National Hockey League was a major business. In 1961, the NBA was still trying to establish a national base in the United States and was failing in Chicago while the NHL had six teams with four of them based in the United States.

The arena was built and the county was able to get the American Basketball Association’s New York Nets as a tenant but county officials decided they really needed a hockey team in the venue as well. In 1971, the newly formed World Hockey Association looked at putting a team in the facility but Nassau County and County Executive Ralph Caso wanted nothing to do with the league that was being put together by some of the same people that were behind the financially struggling American Basketball Association so they turned to noted attorney William Shea, the man who helped push baseball’s National League to expand to New York in 1960 to get them an NHL team.

The National Hockey League quickly expanded to Nassau County in 1971 to ward off the WHA and thus the politics of Nassau County and hockey converged.

The new arena quickly became a home for political patronage for Nassau GOP.

Nassau County Republicans awarded a no-bid concessions contract at the new arena to a prominent GOP contributor in 1972. The arena was a money-losing venture from the very start. The prominent GOP contributor was found in 1973 to have underpaid the county in concession revenues.

The GOP put their operatives in the Coliseum, gave them jobs and found themselves defending huge deficits at the new building.

The Coliseum was a dumping ground for political patrons.

Meanwhile the Nets and Islanders owner Roy Boe was under funded and the basketball team was losing money. Ultimately Boe would agree to join the NBA with three other ABA teams in 1976 at a price of $3.2 million for the right to be an NBA team and then there was a $4.8 million charge for “invading” the New York Knicks territory. Boe could not afford the bills and sold his main draw Julius Erving to Philadelphia. Boe’s Nets would never recover from the merger and sale and Boe sold the team to New Jersey interests who moved the team to Piscataway, New Jersey in 1977. The Islanders nearly suffered the same fate in the late 1970s and were saved when a minority owner John O. Pickett stepped in.

Pickett’s team was aided by a huge cash infusion from the relatively new cable TV company, Charles Dolan’s Cablevision, and the team’s finances stabilized.

The Islanders franchise was a combination, GOP business and cable entity and Dolan was able to use the big money contract as a loss leader for his SportsChannel enterprise by pointing out to the various towns, villages and municipalities that enfranchised Cablevision in Nassau and Suffolk County that we had local programming nobody else did---the Islanders.

Dolan also hired political operatives---mostly Republicans—to help expand Cablevision on Long Island.

At the same time, the Coliseum was losing money. The Hempstead Town Supervisor, Alfonse D’Amato brokered a deal that gave Hyatt Management a five-year contract to run the Coliseum. The deal started in 1979 and D’Amato promised that the county would show a profit on the venue with Hyatt. D’Amato was wrong and the building lost money in 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982. D’Amato was gone by 1981 as he was elected to the Senate. His successor Thomas Gulotta wanted Hyatt gone but Nassau County Executive Francis Purcell extended the Hyatt deal, the company was now called Spectator Management Group, through 2015.

By the mid-1990s, the Islanders franchise became part of a real estate package that peaked the interest of a New York City developer, Howard Millstein. Pickett sold the Islanders to Millstein and Steven Gluckstern in 1997 and the New York City developer planned to build a new arena on the property along with other structures. Millstein and County Executive Gulotta worked out a deal which fell apart at the last minute. Unofficially the word was the two sides could not agree on who was going to build the venue, Millstein wanted his people, Gulotta wanted his people.

Millstein tried to get out of the lease that gave the hockey team no share of parking and concession revenue. Millstein and Gluckstern sold the Islanders and the Dolan cable TV deal to Wang in 2000.

In 2007 Wang proposed the “Lighthouse Project” which would have rebuilt the Coliseum and developed the land surrounding the building. The project has been in political limbo since then and no one is talking right now.

Dolan owns much of the media in Nassau and Suffolk County with his News12 cable station and the area’s main newspaper, Newsday. For some reason the Coliseum redevelopment plan is not a top news story for Dolan and for some other reason, political reporters no longer press politicians for answers and hold politicians accountable. Kate Murray, the Hempstead Supervisor, gets off easy from the lack of coverage, which has more to do with news philosophy today which is pundit-based instead of Edward R. Murrow type questioning.

But Murray and Mangano should not count on Wang waiting forever for a decision of yes and no on the arena. Wang has a major option that didn’t exist.

An arena grows in Brooklyn.

After a half decade of waiting, New Jersey Nets owner Bruce Ratner finally has the go ahead to build an arena in Brooklyn.

Ratner, a political operative in New York City, is a lot smarter than Phoenix, Arizona politicians that were talked into building an arena that was built with perfect basketball sightlines that is virtually useless for any other sports event.

The financial difficulties of the NHL's Phoenix Coyotes can be directly traced back to the Phoenix decision of the late 1980s.

The story that went around was that Ratner’s Brooklyn building was not going to be able to fit a hockey rink and would be useless for hockey and probably ice shows.

However, a person who worked on Ratner’s original arena plans said there was always a hockey element to Ratner’s plan.

Ratner probably will not outright own the Nets or even the building in 2012 when the place might be finished. Ratner has a deal to sell his team and part of the arena to Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, the owner of a Moscow based basketball and hockey team, CSKA Moscow.

Mangano’s predecessor, Democrat Thomas Suozzi has made it a bit easier for Wang to leave if business does not pick up at the old building. The Islanders/Coliseum lease has been revised and is in effect until 2015. Wang is now getting operational control of the facility and will be in control of booking and will receive parking and concession monies. Wang can break the lease between now and 2015 but only if he pays off Spectator Management Group and receives approval from the Nassau County Legislature.

Mangano is now on the clock as are the Islanders old allies, the Nassau County GOP. Will Mangano follow his GOP roots going back to Ralph Caso, Fran Purcell, Alfonse D’Amato, Thomas Gulotta and play ball with Wang and the Islanders or will Wang, who has Brooklyn as leverage and the NHL will not stop Ratner or Prokhorov from pursuing Wang, just play out the clock waiting for Mangano and Murray to finally make a decision on the Lighthouse Project.

The politics of the New York Islanders continue with some new players playing the same old political games.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Do you know the way to San Jose?

Do you know the way to San Jose?

By Evan Weiner

January 1, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) --- To all those prognosticators, and you know who you are, who are trying to predict the top business sports stories of 2010, you have missed what is going to be the biggest fight. Oakland Athletics owner Lewis Wolff and the city of San Jose against the San Francisco Giants, the San Jose Giants, the city of San Francisco and Major League Baseball and the battle will center on the 1922 United States Supreme Court decision that gave the National League and the American League of baseball an antitrust exemption.

Wolff, whose lease with the Oakland Coliseum ends in 2013, would like to locate his baseball business in San Jose. Because of the 1922 Supreme Court decision that baseball was a game not a business, he has many hurdles to climb in his quest, hurdles that would not be there without the SCOTUS ruling.

A little background on this upcoming battle is necessary. In 1967, Kansas City Athletics owner Charles O. Finley decided that Oakland was his best destination after deciding that Kansas City would not support his baseball team and moved his franchise to the city that the writer Gertrude Stein once commented that “The trouble with Oakland is that when you get there, there isn’t any there there.”

Finley moved his team to an area that already had a major league baseball team, the San Francisco Giants, and agreed to an unwieldy deal that limited his ability to truly be a San Francisco Bay Area franchise as he agreed that the A’s territory was Oakland, Alameda County and Contra Costa County which is a relatively small area when examining the entire market. In 1967 neither San Jose nor Santa Clara County, California were considered major league areas but Santa Clara County became the headquarters of National Semiconductor that year and Intel moved there in 1970.

The Silicone Valley was born and all of a sudden a lot of people were not just singing “Do You Know Your Way to San Jose” because it was a hit song in 1968.
The Silicone Valley became a major money area.

Finley apparently was never enamored by Oakland and looked at moving his team to New Orleans in 1978 but he could not break his lease and actually sold the team to Marvin Davis who planned to take the team to Denver but again he could not break the lease. Finley subsequently sold his team to the Haas family in 1980. The Haas family sold the team to Stephen Schott and Ken Hoffman in 1995 and Wolff bought the team in 2005.

Wolff has been looking for a new facility virtually since his first days as A’s owner. He floated an idea of building a “Ballpark village” in a parcel of land next to the Oakland Coliseum and Arena parking lot but could not get Oakland officials to go along with the plan. He then went down I-880 and decided that Fremont, an area as close as he could get to San Jose without infringing on San Francisco Giants territory would be a perfect solution. That deal fell though.

Oakland would like to maintain the franchise, which at the present location is much closer to the San Francisco Giants corporate multi-named home field in China Basin than it would be in San Jose, but so far it appears that Wolff would like to travel into Giants territory and attempt to get a San Jose stadium.

Wolff has some options if he wants to go to San Jose. He can somehow convince the 75 percent of the other 29 baseball owners that it would be in their best interests if he could move to San Jose or he can challenge Major League Baseball’s antitrust exemption.

The San Francisco Giants ownership has territorial rights to an area where voters twice rejected the team’s request for public money to build a baseball park. Yet the Giants ownership has exclusive rights to the territory and will not cede anything to Wolff.

A San Jose group, with ties to the Single A level baseball team, the San Jose Giants of the California League – which is partially owned by the San Francisco Giants ownership—plans to fight any attempts to Wolff and San Jose officials to build a Major League state of the art baseball park in the city if taxpayers funding is used. That, of course, is a bit hypocritical by the San Francisco Giants ownership group because they know that San Francisco has provided every sort of tax break imaginable for their “privately” funded China Basin stadium.

The city of San Francisco is now getting into the fray as City Attorney Dennis Herrera has sent a threatening letter to Major League Baseball and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig that urges baseball not to invade the Giants San Jose territory.

San Francisco has a privately funded baseball park, why is the city fighting a battle for a private business, the San Francisco Giants? That is rather easy to explain, the city of San Francisco has a major investment in the “privately” funded park. A 2008 Port of San Francisco Economic Impact Study will point this out immediately.

The Giants ballpark, which transferred monies spent at Candlestick Point when the Giants hosted 81 baseball games annually to China Basin, revitalized the area although the report did not point out the financial redistribution of money that left another part of the city, Candlestick Point behind.

“AT&T Park serves as an anchor use for the neighborhood, drawing visitors from throughout the City, region, and nation to shop and dine in South Beach. During its seven years of operation,

AT&T Park has had more than 25.4 million visitors. In 2007, attendance at Giants home games totaled 3.2 million people. AT&T Park held one of its largest events in 2007 when it hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. Giants officials counted 128,322 attendees at official events, while the San Francisco Visitors & Convention Bureau estimated that 250,000 visitors came to the City for the event, contributing $60 to $65 million to the local economy.

In 2006, paid attendance to events other than Giants games totaled 153,434.

This increased activity has established a sense of vitality and a positive neighborhood identity in South Beach, contributing to strong real estate values in the area. In any given year between 2000 and 2006, the median price of condominium units in South Beach was 15 to 44 percent greater than
comparable units in San Francisco. In addition, residential rents in South Beach have consistently exceeded citywide rents since 2002. The difference in average rents between the two areas ranged from one to 11 percent between 2002 and 2006, with the gap growing every year since 2002.

Before 2002, South Beach and San Francisco apartments showed similar average rents, with a difference of only 1.2 to 1.7 percent.”

San Francisco is worried that the city would lose revenues generated by people coming up the 101 from San Jose and Santa Clara, which is why the city is joining the melee.

But there is something striking in the Port of San Francisco’s report, which covered the years between 2000 and 2007.

Fisherman’s Wharf blows away the economic engine that the baseball park allegedly generated.

“Fisherman’s Wharf consistently remains one of San Francisco’s primary tourist attractions. Approximately 12 million visitors come to Fisherman’s Wharf annually, with an average visitor age of 42 and household income of $80,000. The Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District reports that 71 percent of visitors in 2006 were from outside of the Bay Area.

Pier 39, located in Fisherman’s Wharf on Port property has offered a wide variety of specialty retail and restaurants since 1978. Pier 39 now contains approximately 110 stores, 14 restaurants, and the Aquarium of the Bay. The average household income of visitors is roughly $100,000, which is 25 percent more than the average Fisherman’s Wharf visitor and 6.5 percent more than the average San Francisco visitor.

At the end of calendar year 2006, Pier 39 retail and attractions grossed $181 million, representing a $2 million increase from the previous year. Visitors tend to
spend $79 during their average 3.3 hours visit.”

Would San Francisco stop San Jose is somehow that city could replicate Fisherman’s Wharf?

Of course not.

San Francisco never stopped Monterey, California’s development and the city does compete with Lake Tahoe, which is about three and a half hours away by car.

Why is baseball such a treasured business? Why should the Giants business get preferential treatment?

Baseball is a complex business and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes had it wrong in 1922 even by 1922 baseball business standards.

The stage is being set right now and a fierce territorial battle may shape the future of baseball and determine whether or not San Jose can become the home of Lewis Wolff’s baseball team. Wolff has to decide whether he really wants to fight this war and the implications may be felt far beyond the Bay Area.

Selig and his Major League Baseball owners did allow Washington to house a franchise in 2005 despite the fact that it was Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos’ territory. Selig and MLB played around with cable TV rights to satisfy Angelos. The cable TV set up is different in the Bay Area with Comcast (and one of sports major movers in the United States Brian Roberts) fully in control of cable TV sports rights. The distance between Washington and Baltimore is nearly identical to San Francisco and San Jose.

This could be a battle that extends to Congress but would the former San Francisco Mayor, Senator Diane Feinstein along with her colleague Barbara Boxer and the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco want to get involved in the issue? Congress squawks about antitrust issues in sports but does nothing to correct inequities.

If Wolff wins his battle, what is to stop another owner from pursuing a team in the New York City market? Once upon a time there were three New York teams, the Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Giants. There is still a huge, huge cable TV contract that is available in New York, which is bigger than a number of markets put together, and New Jersey has had eyes on a Major League Baseball team for years.

The antitrust exemption has kept a third team out of the New York marketplace and is preventing San Jose from making an offer to Wolff.

Wolff isn’t the only one who is asking do you know the way to San Jose? The San Francisco 49ers ownership is looking at Santa Clara as a new home and if that fails, the York family may disregard Gertrude Stein’s warning about Oakland. Oakland is a fallback for the Yorks if Santa Clara doesn’t materialize for them.

That story may be the second biggest in sports in 2010 but that is an issue for another day.