Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Local politicians drop ball in Cablevision-FOX dispute
WEDNESDAY, 27 OCTOBER 2010 10:44

So just who is to blame in the Rupert Murdoch/News Corp-Charles Dolan Cablevision battle that has dragged on for more than a week and has cost Cablevision viewers programming on News Corp-owned stations in New York (Channel 5 and Channel 9) and in Philadelphia (Channel 29). Three million Cablevision subscribers have lost New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and NFL telecasts along with the National League Championship Series and shows like "Glee." (There is no word from Cablevision whether there will be a refund for lost programming but based on cable TV history when subscribers did not get rebates when Major League Baseball went on strike in 1994 and settled in 1995, when the National Hockey league had locks in 1994-95 and 2004-05 and the National Basketball Association had a 1998-99 lockout, don't expect any reimbursement.)
Murdoch and FOX wanted a lot more money from Dolan and Cablevision for the three stations and some minor FOX cable programming (the big dog — FOX News Channel is not on the table in these negotiations). The Dolans won't give into Murdoch's demands and the Dolans can be pretty stubborn. When George Steinbrenner ended his talks with Dolan's Madison Square Garden Network and started a Yankees channel with Goldman Sachs and other partners, Dolan didn't exactly give George a going away present or parting gifts in 2001 and did not put the YES Network programming on Cablevision systems in 2002. A truce brokered by local New York politicians enabled the two sides to reach an accord that gave Cablevision subscribers the network in 2003.
So who gets blame? The Australian Murdoch who worked the political system to get a foothold in the United States or Dolan who worked the political system on Long Island to get Cablevision going in the 1970s? The answer may be surprisingly neither. Murdoch has taken his signal off of Dolan's systems but WNYW, WWOR and WTFX are available on digital TV, phone company and satellite TV. Some of FOX's programming is available on broadband. Dolan's deals with municipalities require Cablevision to provide "a quality of service."
A clause in the 1998 Cablevision-Bayonne, New Jersey agreement spells out what "a quality of service" means for customers.
"Cablevision shall maintain the same mix, quality and level of video programming as is now provided to Bayonne subscribers and which appears in Cablevision's Application For Renewal. Cablevision shall provide Bayonne subscribers with the broad categories of programming which appear in Cablevision's Application For Renewal, including, but not limited to: community programming, regional professional sports and national collegiate and professional sports, news and public affairs, minority programming, local broadcast television stations, children's and educational programming, weather and a broad selection of general entertainment programming, including cultural, entertainment, music, religious and other special interest programming."
Dolan has similar agreements with all of the other municipalities that have granted him a cable TV systems operator franchise. In other words, Dolan has promised to different the highest quality of service in a contract but three times this year, Dolan and Cablevision have been in disputes that have seen signals disappear and nothing has happened in his franchise agreements with various municipalities.
The Cablevision-name the municipality where Cablevision operates agreement is available to the public and municipalities have cable TV boards which hold public meetings. It is at that level, that someone can go after Dolan and threaten to pull the franchise agreement and create some problems for the Long Island cable TV king, network owner (Madison Square Garden) and Knicks and Rangers-Madison Square Garden baron.
But inexplicably no municipality has exercised their right to hold the billionaire cable TV operator (and Dolan made his money from cable TV) accountable.
Dolan is actually pretty sharp. He recognized that he needed to provide local programming on Long Island and in New Jersey and established News12 and gave the New York Islanders franchise a huge hunk of cash that was better than any baseball cable TV deals in the early 1980s. Dolan also has the rights to New Jersey Devils games on Madison square Garden Network so he is providing his subscribers with local programming.
Murdoch's lawyers and Dolan's lawyers are sending letters to the Federal Communications Commission and arguing and assigning blame in the battle for other people's money (subscribers) which is going to add up to hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the new agreement. The game is being played in the wrong stadium in Washington. Politicians that have contracts in hand with Cablevision have dropped the ball. This battle should be fought in the trenches with the cable TV municipal boards taking the lead and forcing Dolan's people to talk to them and their customers face to face not on some canned TV ad with some vague facts.
Murdoch is no angel here either. He wants to soak Dolan's customers for as much as he can. Murdoch's only angle is to make money, if Martians landed on earth and got cable TV and watched news in droves, the FOX News Channel would tilt Martian in a nanosecond. Murdoch's only political ideology can be found in targeting an audience that can make him the most dollars, pounds or Australian dollars.
Both Murdoch and Dolan have worked the political system so well that politicians seem to be afraid of crossing them. But politicians can bring both of them to their knees if they decided to rewrite the 1984 Cable TV Act.
The 1984 legislation gave multiple systems operators (MSOs) like Cablevision the right to bundle failing networks like ESPN, the Weather Channel, CNN, CNN Headline News on an expanded basic tier as one entity (which might be a real violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act) and sell it to consumers for one price. The 1984 legislation was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan and was a real victory for small and struggling media companies.
The expanded basic tier is the real goldmine for news channels and sports networks. The cable TV socialism where everyone pays (on basic and basic expanded) has filled the pockets of Murdoch (FOX News Channel), Time Warner (CNN) and Microsoft-NBCUniversal (msnbc) and has allowed "news" channels to become nothing more than the equivalent of people screaming in the corner of the park (and those people being written off as kooks back in the days when they would shout to the sky and hope someone would listen to the diatribe). The cable TV socialism has also put billions into the pockets of sports owners who signed deals with multiple systems operators who had sports channels on the basic expanded or franchises that started networks like Madison Square Garden Network (owned by Charles Dolan --- both a multiple systems operator and a program provider), the YES Network, SNY, and Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia (owned by Comcast, whose properties include the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers).
The NFL Network has not been able to penetrate the basic expanded tier while the MLB Network is on basic expanded thanks to Major League Baseball owners being smarter than their football counterparts and selling off pieces of the baseball channel to multiple systems operators.
The MSO's think the NFL Network is too expensive and doesn't have enough NFL games for their customers. But the MSO's may have an alternative motive — the NFL signed an exclusive deal with the satellite provider, DirecTV, for their Sunday package of out of market games and shut them out.
Hell hath no fury like an MSO scorned.
What would happen if Congress found a spine and actually became pro-choice and gave consumers a chance to pick and choose what they really wanted to buy?
Well the sports industry might be vaporized and the carnival barkers at the FOX News Channel, CNN and msnbc (there is no news on those news channels just a bunch of people paid in six to seven figures letting off steam hoping to attract viewers who will stay long enough to watch the commercials) might have to become real journalists because very few people would pay a premium to watch the Becks, O'Reillys, Hannitys, Dooceys, Kilmeades, Roberts, Blitzers, John and Larry Kings, Spitzers, Parkers, Coopers, Scarboroughs, Matthews, Olbermanns, Maddows and O'Donnells of the world and without the Congressional protection the 95 million or so subscribers to the news channels would drop to maybe two to three million people.
That is the dirty secret in the cable industry that no sane cable network owner or programmer would ever want to reveal. Murdoch's carnival barkers on FOX News Channel take care of the Republicans and push the party's agenda so don't expect House or Senate Republicans to push for a revision of the 1994 Cable TV legislation (other cable TV "news" networks take care of Democrats). All networks spend millions lobbying Congress to keep cable TV just the way it is.
That's why the local politicians need to go after Dolan. The locals are the last and only line of defense in cable TV disputes and in this war of aging media barons, the local politicians have failed miserably to pressure the two sides to an agreement.
Evan Weiner is an award winning journalist, author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Business and Politics of Sports." He can be reached at

Monday, October 25, 2010

NBA Preview: Labor woes are coming
SUNDAY, 24 OCTOBER 2010 19:51

National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern has sent Billy Hunter the Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association a happy New Year note. The note included something about the league needing to cut player costs somewhere around $700 to $800 million and that the league's 30 teams combined would lose $340-350 million in 2010-11 and something has to be done and that would start by players giving back items earned in collective bargaining.
The NBA no longer wants to give the players 57 percent of the revenues.
Of course not every team is going to lose an average of ten million dollars a season. The New York Knickerbockers franchise, despite putting a poor product on the court, sells out every game and the Dolan family owns the franchise, the building (they pay no New York City property taxes despite owning a good chunk of Manhattan real estate) and, of course, the Dolans have the Madison Square Garden TV network and Cablevision. There is no way without creative accounting the Knicks franchise is losing money given the team's revenue stream availability.
Also on the table is a threat by Stern aimed right across the bow of Billy Hunter's ship. The elimination of financially wobbly franchises. The best guess is that those markets could be Memphis and Charlotte. The contraction of the league would mean fewer jobs for players. Left unsaid in the possibility of lopping off teams is what happens with the leases between the franchises that didn't make it into the future and the municipalities which built the arenas and gave away the house to the owner of the local franchise that was set adrift.
"Easy Dave" is not someone who is to be taken lightly. He divided the players in the 1998-99 lockout pitting the lesser valued players against the Patrick Ewings, Charles Barkleys and other high salaried players and got a cap on top salaries.
This isn't the first time the NBA hierarchy has thought about dropping franchises. In the early days of the league, many teams dropped out every year. The last time a team folded was on November 27, 1954 when the Baltimore Bullets ownership gave up after 14 games.
It almost happened again in the early 1980s.
Despite the fact that Larry Bird was the star in Boston and Magic Johnson was winning titles in Los Angeles and a strong presence in Philadelphia where the old ABA star Julius Erving was winning a title, the NBA was at the crossroads in 1983. A good many franchises were losing money, the Collective Bargaining Agreement was up and the 23 team NBA could have been whittled to 16 with Cleveland, Denver, Indiana, Kansas City, San Diego and Utah losing an enormous amount of money. Some teams fell behind on their deferred payments to players, estimated to be between $80 million and $90 million, which nearly prompted a player's strike in 1982.
There were rumors that Denver and Utah were going to consolidate into one franchise and that other teams would move.
Starting in 1982, the players and owners met for nine months and completely rewrote the Collective Bargaining Agreement from its foundations. The league opened their books and let the players see what the profits and losses really were and a deal was brokered. The agreement came in March 1983.
"I think it just had a number of important consequences," said then NBA Deputy Commissioner Russell Granik who was part of the NBA management and negotiating team in 1982-83. "One, by having rolling around in that stuff, for the first time, I think that process in the nine months or the year of negotiations, was that the players for the first time got complete financial information. Everybody knew everything.
"That really, I think, sort of created a feeling of we are in this together as a partnership that maybe hadn't existed between the players and the league. I think that was a great boast. The other thing by having the salary cap and the revenue sharing system in place, we were able to go out and attract new ownership in places that up until then we were struggling."
Two franchises that were struggling were the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Indiana Pacers. All together the league might have been left with just 16 teams without the new bargaining agreement.
"I believe Gordon and George Gund at the time would not have purchased the Cleveland Cavaliers shortly thereafter except we had this deal. The same we got at that point Indiana was really struggling. Shortly after that we got Herb and Mel Simon purchased the team in Indiana. Both are still in the league (in 2001) many years later. Two of the strongest ownership groups we had. I think there were others that followed thereafter that probably would not have happened if we hadn't been able to say okay I think we got a system that's going to make sense.
"At the time we were very seriously and I think (NBPA Executive Director) Larry (Fleischer) and the players, you know your first reaction is they are bluffing, but again having been in the process and learn all the numbers, we were seriously thinking of at least right away folding two or three times, buying them back or merging them or something. I don't have any doubt but for that kind of deal that would have happened as well," said Granik.
The 1983 Collective Bargaining Agreement that put a salary cap in place is considered to be the turning point in the league's history by the owners and by the players. The 23-team league survived and both sides formed a working alliance, which would allow the league to grow. It also helped that two entities were about ready to join the league, Michael Jordan and Nike. The salary cap was the brainchild of a new lawyer that came on the scene named Gary Bettman. Bettman would become one of the three key people that would run the NBA in the mid-1980s and beyond. David Stern would be the boss, Russell Granik the number two guy followed by Bettman.
The Collective Bargaining was Commissioner Larry O'Brien's last major work for the NBA.
O'Brien was in a sense a transitional commissioner. The NBA was a business under his predecessor Walter Kennedy, but under O'Brien it became a bigger business. O'Brien replaced Walter Kennedy in 1975 and guided the NBA in the league's "merger" with the ABA. O'Brien was the lead negotiator in two Collective Bargaining Agreements in 1976 and 1983. During O'Brien, gate receipts doubled and TV revenues increased by threefold. Still O'Brien was unable to financially stabilize the league and without the 1983 labor agreement which established a partnership with the Players Association and its Executive Director Larry Fleischer, the NBA might have contracted franchises.
Following the March 1983 deal, some franchises ended up in different cities. Donald Sterling moved the San Diego Clippers to Los Angeles following the 1983-84 season without the NBA's permission. The Kansas City Kings, a franchise that tried to regionalize itself in the 1970s by splitting home games between Kansas City and Omaha after leaving Cincinnati in 1972, went west to Sacramento in 1984-85. Utah attempted to solve some of its financial problems by playing a number of home games in Las Vegas.
Knicks and Nets patrons need to be careful in what they wish for. If either team gets Carmelo Anthony in a trade from Denver and the league has new salary restrictions, there is a real possibility that paying Anthony the max six year deal allowed under the present CBA could blow up a team's future payroll and that Melo could end up playing with Chico, Harpo, Groucho and Zeppo. The Miami Heat's Lebron James-Dwayne Wade-Chris Bosh trio could also be torn apart.
Stern's "Happy New Year's" greeting will send shock waves throughout the NBA world but it is just part of collective bargaining. The present CBA ends after this season and a lockout may come as early as July 1, 2011 right on the heels of an NFL owners' lockout of the players.
Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Business and Politics of Sports." He can be reached at

Friday, October 22, 2010

NFL get tough policy on illegal hits isn’t enough
FRIDAY, 22 OCTOBER 2010 12:51

Weekend 7 in the National Football League is supposed to have a different look. The league has decided that the game has become too dangerous and will hand out both suspensions and fines to players who deliver what league officials think are illegal hits to the head and neck.
While some players including Pittsburgh's James Harrison (who received a $75,000 fine for his hit on Cleveland's Mohamed Massaguoi last Sunday), are unhappy with the get tough policy (Harrison threatened to retire), Michael Kaplen could not be happier with the NFL's decision although he doesn't think the NFL's sudden change of heart on big hits goes far enough.
Just who is Michael Kaplen? He is the chair of the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council, an entity created by the New York State legislature and charged with the responsibility of making proposals and recommendations regarding traumatic brain injury to the New York State Commissioner of Health. The way Kaplen sees it, the NFL must take the lead in making football a safer game. He is hoping that there will be a successful trickledown effect on football to the people who need to kids who are playing the game in the Pop Warner leagues across the country and high school players who watch the glorification of violent hits during football games and on television sports packages either on SportsCenter on ESPN or other regional cable TV sports shows or over-the-air newscasts and even in video games.
"I have carefully followed the conduct of the NFL in its approach to concussions because I believe that school-aged athletes, school coaches and trainers, as well as parents, look to professional football teams and players for proper guidance when dealing with this silent epidemic," said Kaplen, a Past President, Brain Injury Association of New York State. "I have become increasingly frustrated with the league because although they now seem to publically be espousing correct information about concussions, the message still has not seemed to register within the sporting community. Current players are not accurately reporting their conditions for fear of professional repercussions, team trainers and coaches are ignoring obvious head injuries and are exposing players to needless further injury by an inappropriate return to play protocol, and retired players who are entitled to brain injury disability benefits are still being denied these benefits. All of this is due to the fact that although they appear to be taking this seriously, their actions belie their rhetoric."
Kaplen was at a sports fundraiser just after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced earlier this week that the league which going to suspend players for illegal hits. Kaplen and Goodell exchanged pleasantries and business cards. Kaplen would like to address the hits issue with Goodell. Also at the function was Sylvia Mackey, the wife of the Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey who is not doing well because of head injuries. The league and the National Football League Players Association almost out of embarrassment set up the 88 Plan (Mackey's number was 88) which provides retired players with up to $88,000 per year for medical and custodial care resulting from dementia, including Alzheimer's. Initially neither the league nor the players association wanted anything to do with discarded players with head injuries and refused to pay benefits because their expert doctors including Dr. Ira Casson believed that there was not enough evidence to prove a link between concussions and various ailments such as Alzheimer's disease, dementia and depression.
Dr. Casson resigned as the co-chair of the NFL committee on mild traumatic brain injury in November 2009.
The league and the players association are still acting rather indifferently about the life style of former players who are ailing and are in some cases disabled. The two entities have been claiming that head injuries suffered during games really don't have anything to do with later life problems and Congress has hauled both NFL and players association officials before them to discuss the problem.
Not much has happened other than a tongue lashing. Former players with no medical benefits are living off of government assistance to get them through life. Medical benefits end five years after a player's career is done.
The National Football League Players Association (a group that was privately criticized by other players associations for their approach) has always fought for salaries and never has looked at the long term quality of life for players who retire. It has always been about getting the most money for the players during collective bargaining negotiations under Ed Garvey and the late Gene Upshaw. It seems that DeMaurice Smith, despite a few words tossed to the former players that the players association will fight for them, is following the same path as his predecessors as Executive Director of the association, Garvey and Upshaw.
"I want from the NFL is a no nonsense rule," said Kaplen. "(A player) engages in death blows should be suspended for the rest of the season.
"The NFL for years has been compliant in selling violence and they are a part of the problem. They are content to sell violence and violence is not cool. My concern is not with the NFL but with Pop Warner and high school players. They emulate what they see. You start changing the attitude with the NFL and work your way down. The NFL players don't get it. The focus will be on children that (violence) is not going to be cool. This is football, they don't need the death blows, helmet to helmet is not part of football.
"This needs to be filtered down and there needs to be an educational campaign, Concussions are serious and brain injuries impact player's wives and children. There needs to be more than putting up posters in locker rooms."
The present players have been warned but the NFL is not taking care of former players who have had life altering head injuries according to Kaplen. The players aren't taking warnings too seriously either and that continues even after Goodell's pronouncement judged by the statements this week of players like Harrison, Chicago's Brian Urlacher, Miami's Channing Crowder and former Redskins and Broncos offensive lineman Mark Schlereth
"Despite league admonitions and posters, the reality is that a player who is experiencing the signs and symptoms of a concussion is reluctant to accurately report his condition out of genuine fear that this will lead to his termination from the team and the cancelling of his contract with a resultant loss of future income. Players may have a brain injury, but they are not ignorant. There is a real disincentive for a player knowing that that the consequence of reporting his symptoms may be the loss of all future benefits, to be forthright and report any symptoms.
"Players who are cut from team rosters because of a traumatic brain injury must still receive their full contract benefits. This new provision must be included in all future NFL contracts and must be enforced by the players association in upcoming contract negotiations," he explained.
Players who sacrifice their health for the financial benefit of team owners need to know that they will receive adequate and proper compensation for their brain injuries. We have moved beyond gladiator mentality of discarding injured warriors. Players with a brain injury need to receive proper benefits and set the right example for youth in all sports."
Kaplen has seen the medical records of some former players and thinks the league and the players have been wrongfully turned down after applying for disability. But that is not Kaplen's battle to fight. He really cannot do much for former NFL players but he and his colleagues on the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council have given the New York State Commissioner of Health Dr. Richard F. Daines some recommendations for high school athletes that they hope will be adopted. The council wants baseline testing for all athletes and they want the testing to be paid by medical insurers and health care providers. They want to make sure any problems are caught before severe damage is inflicted.
The New York Health Commissioner has not made a ruling. Football is a violent and dangerous game. President Theodore Roosevelt ordered a cleanup of the game in 1905 and used the bully pulpit of the White House to pressure the Presidents of Harvard, Yale and Princeton to change college football rules after the deaths of 18 players during college games in 1905. The American Football Rules Committee changed the culture of football overnight with rule changes with included the banning of mass formations and gang tackling, increasing the distance for a first down from five to ten yards and the introduction of the forward pass. Barack Obama hasn't weighed in on the head injuries in football although he has said he wants to see a college football championship game. Perhaps an Oval Office meeting is in the cards for all stakeholders in football including owners, players, college presidents, chancellors, provosts, and high school administrators to discuss the dangers of football and ways to clean it up.
James Harrison threatened to retire, Crowder has a helmet and plans to use it as part of his arsenal as a defender. Urlacher is worried that the NFL will become the National Flag Football League. That culture needs to be changed.
Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator and a speaker on "The Business and Politics of Sports." He can be reached at

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is sports the third rail of American society?
TUESDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2010 11:41

Suppose for a moment that New York Gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino pitched for the Atlanta Braves or Ohio Congressional candidate Rich Lott owned the Cincinnati Reds. Imagine for a second that Alaska Senatorial candidate Joe Miller dumped water over the heads of two reporters while pitching for the Detroit Tigers. Replace the names John Rocker for Paladino, Marge Schott for Lott and Dennis McLain for Miller and ask yourself a question.
Are athletes held to a higher standard of conduct by society and American newspapers, radio and TV reporters and commentators than politicians?
The answer seems to be yes. Sports fans taunted Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and other alleged steroid users in baseball but does anyone care about the various members of Congress who have been in trouble with the law?
The answer to that is a resounding no.
Politicians and elected officials have far more of an impact in life than Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens, the other named baseball players in the Mitchell Report about drug usages in Major League Baseball and every other athlete who played a game. Politicians make laws, athletes entertain yet athletes are held up as role models for the youth.
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell is the moral police these days. Goodell plans to have a chat with Brett Favre about the allegations that Favre texted some pictures of himself as nature intended to a New York Jets employee named Jenn Sterger when the quarterback played for the New Jersey-based team in 2008. Goodell is in unchartered territory here because there are no criminal or civil investigations of Favre and the only thing he might have done is something ridiculously stupid. But Favre also might have violated league policy--there are morals clauses in sports contracts.
Politicians don't have moral clauses. Maybe they should.
Goodell did deal with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in a stern matter earlier this year. Roethlisberger faced sexual assault allegations in Lake Tahoe in 2008 and in Milledgeville, Georgia, in 2010. But no charges were filed in the two incidents. Goodell did suspend Roethlisberger for six games under the NFL's personal conduct policy for the start of the 2010 season. The suspension was reduced to four games by Goodell as Roethlisberger was on good behavior.
Goodell has also suspended Michael Vick and Adam "Pacman" Jones because of criminal behavior. In Congress, possible criminal behavior might get you an ethics violation and have your name dragged down by radio talk show hosts and cable news TV hosts.
Sports might be the "third rail" of American society. A politician can say the vilest and worst things imaginable on radio or TV. A politician can go visit a mistress in Argentina and not tell anyone you are disappearing for a few days if you are the Governor of South Carolina and not lose your job as Mark Sanford could tell you. What Sanford did was breech his trust with South Carolina, not for having a mistress but for the failure to tell anyone that he was leaving and would be out of town. An elected official, particularly a governor has to be in constant contact with his administration. But if it happened in sports — like it did to National Hockey League President John Ziegler in 1988, you will soon lose your job. Ziegler was let go after being in London, England in May 1988 for some reason when the officials working the Mother's Day playoff game at the Meadowlands struck because the recently suspended Jim Schoenfeld (who was caught on tape and WABC TV gladly handed over the tape) calling Don Koharski a "fat pig" and telling him to "have another donut."
Then there was the Don Imus-Rutgers incident in 2007.
Don Imus apparently was not much of a student when it came to sports history. Almost 20 years ago to the day that Imus and his producer, Bernard McGuirk, referred to the Rutgers Women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos," another high-profile gentleman found himself in hot water for remarks made on broadcast TV.
On April 6, 1987, the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Al Campanis, appeared on ABC's "Nightline" to discuss the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier. When asked whether there was "still that much prejudice in baseball today," Campanis responded, "I don't believe it's prejudice. I truly believe that [blacks] may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager or perhaps a general manager." Campanis was out of a job by April 8. And like Campanis, a few words marked the beginning of the end for Imus.
Imus joined Campanis, football commentator Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder, Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott, golf analyst Ben Wright, MLB pitcher John Rocker, and basketball's Tim Hardaway and Micheal Ray Richardson on the unemployment line. Some have been luckier. Sportscaster Billy Packer was largely spared the wrath of the sports industry although he spent some time apologizing for making disparaging remarks in 1996 about Allan Iverson and women's basketball. In June 2006, the manager of the Chicago White Sox, Ozzie Guillen, was fined by MLB for calling sportswriter Jay Mariotti a "fag," among other things. Guillen was ordered to undergo sensitivity training, and eventually apologized for using the word. Guillen is still the White Sox' skipper.
Imus was different. He wasn't a player in the sports industry but his talk radio show did venture into the sports arena on occasion. In the end, it was easier for the CBS and NBC/MSNBC networks to cut ties to a cash cow like Imus than defend him. But neither CBS nor MSNBC had a problem with Imus's constant put-downs, which have been documented for decades, until he entered the sports realm by insulting the Scarlet Knights. CBS also had to contend with its partner, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, of which Rutgers is a member. The Tiffany network would eventually have had to renegotiate its multibillion dollar deal with the NCAA (the TV deal ends two years from now), and the collegiate organization might have been none too pleased with the continued presence of Imus had CBS decided to keep on.
What Imus and others failed to understand is that you can't enter the sports arena and run your mouth without repercussions. Both college and professional sports has come to serve as the country's moral compass when it comes to hateful and hurtful speech. Of course, it's somewhat surprising that sports leagues should be moral guides given how many National Football League players were arrested in 2006 alone.
But time after time, it's been proved: when it comes to sports, you better watch your mouth. In 1983, announcer Howard Cosell called Washington Redskins wide receiver Alvin Garrett a "little monkey" during a Monday Night Football game. Cosell said he really meant nothing harmful by the remark, but soon disappeared from Monday Night Football broadcasts. Although he wasn't fired — he quit — Cosell, who had been the key to the success of ABC's Monday Night Football in the 1970s, his remark sparked major criticism and effectively ended his days with the Monday Night franchise.

Campanis never worked again in baseball despite the Seattle Mariners' front office wanting to bring him in as an advisor in 1988. The Mariners decided against hiring him after the Seattle chapter of the NAACP threatened to boycott the club's games.
Jimmy "the Greek" met his professional end at a Washington steakhouse when a TV reporter asked him why blacks seemed to be better athletes than whites. The CBS football analyst said that "[blacks were] bred to be the better athlete because, this goes all the way to the Civil War when ... the slave owner would breed his big woman so that he would have a big black kid." Snyder was dismissed from CBS's NFL pre-game show on January 16, 1988.
Schott got into all sorts of trouble with MLB in December 1992, when in an interview with the New York Times, she not only insisted that her use of the "N-word was a joke" but also described "the rise of Adolf Hitler as being initially good for Germany." Schott ran into more trouble in the next four years. During a May 1996 interview with ESPN, Schott again referred to Hitler and said, "everything you read, when he came in, he was good." Shortly after the interview, the acting commissioner of MLB, Bud Selig, and his owners ordered Schott to give up day-today operation of the Cincinnati Reds to avoid a long suspension. She sold the Reds in 1998, but her legacy remains tainted by her public comments.
Ben Wright lost his golf analyst job with CBS on January 9, 1996, months after he gave an interview that included the following insights: "Let's face facts. Lesbians in the sport hurt women's golf. [Lesbianism] is not reticent. It's paraded. There's a defiance in them in the last decade. They're going to a butch game, and that furthers the bad image of the game." Wright initially denied he'd made the disparaging remarks, but came clean to Sports Illustrated. He has lived in sports exile ever since.
In 1999, Rocker, then a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, opened up to Sports Illustrated writer Jeff Pearlman about his experiences in New York. His candid remarks included his thoughts about Asian women, and his teammate Randall Simon, whom he described as a "fat monkey." In 2000, Rocker was suspended by MLB, and by 2001 he was traded with his pitching in serious decline.
Also in 2007, Hardaway lost his job promoting the NBA and its All-Star game after telling a radio interviewer that he hates gays. Hardaway apologized but as far as NBA commissioner David Stern is concerned, the services of the former NBA star will no longer be needed. Richardson also lost his coaching job with the Continental Basketball Association's Albany Patroons after he allegedly told a local newspaper reporter, "I've got big-time lawyers. I've got big-time Jew lawyers," who would handle his suspension. During a Patroons playoff game, Richardson had screamed profanities and a gay slur at hecklers. He has apologized but fears another coaching job may be hard to come by.
Imus spent some time in exile and returned to radio and cable TV eventually. But first he had to go through some sort of kabuki dance which included a meeting with the Rutgers players who were targeted.
Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have bothered to reign in Paladino for threatening a reporter or sending out lewd e-mails to colleagues or for his slurs. The Republicans have not distanced themselves from Lott who turned up in a picture in Nazi clothing and it will be interesting to see what happens with Joe Miller in Alaska after his security team handcuffed a blogger for asking him questions at a public forum. The incident with Tony Hopfinger was caught on tape and Hopfinger was "freed" by local police.
Back in 1970, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended Detroit Tigers pitcher Denny McLain for dumping water over the heads of two Detroit sportswriters. So far Miller and New York Congressman Maurice Hinchey — who either shoved or put his hand against a reporter — have faced no repercussions.
There is overwhelming evidence that making derogatory or insensitive remarks in the sports world can cost you a career. Just ask Rush Limbaugh about his critique of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in 2003.
"I don't think he's been that good from the get-go," Limbaugh said during a Sunday night cablecast on ESPN. "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."
Limbaugh can be crude, caustic and over the top on his daily radio show but that's not sports talk. By the way two of Limbaugh's radio bosses at one time, former Texas Rangers and present Dallas Stars owner (along with at the moment Liverpool FC) Tom Hicks and former San Antonio Spurs and Former Minnesota Vikings owner Billy Joe "Red" McCombs had no problem with Limbaugh's mouth in radio but if Limbaugh was with the Stars, Rangers, Spurs or Vikings and was quoted with just of one of his daily diatribes, chances are he would have faced a suspension.
In sports you can play in the Super Bowl after being arrested, but you better choose your words carefully, as Imus and others have learned. In sports, at least, there is no truth to the old adage that sticks and stones can break bones but words don't do any harm.
Evan Weiner is an author, radio-TV commentator, and lecturer on "The Business and Politics of Sports." He can be reached at

Sunday, October 17, 2010

FOX-Cablevision dispute and authentic frontier gibberish

Sunday, 17 October 2010 10:21




Shortly after News Corp, Rupert Murdoch's Channels 5 and 9 in New York and Channel 29 in Philadelphia because of a contract dispute with Charles Dolan's Cablevision, the New York news radio station WINS featured some authentic frontier gibberish from Long Island Congressman Steve Israel about the battle between Murdoch and Dolan. Israel was either asked a question by someone at WINS or put out a statement about the unfortunate situation that could deprive Cablevision subscribers of the Major League Baseball playoffs and National Football League games along with FOX local newscasts, Glee and a plethora of afternoon judges shows on Channel 5 and Channel 29.

Israel, a Democrat was joined by his fellow Long Island Congressman, Republican Peter King and New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg in urging the two heavyweights Murdoch and Dolan to go to arbitration and settle the dispute on behalf of the little people — the cable TV subscribers, even though subscribers could pull Channel 5, Channel 9 and Channel 29 in with an antenna. Even Gabby Johnson, the character who gave a moving speech loaded with authentic frontier gibberish from the movie "Blazing Saddles," could have come up with a more coherent thought than the three elected officials.

What Israel (along with King and Lautenberg) should have said was that he and his 434 fellow members of the House of Representatives and the 100 members of the Senate should revisit the 1984 Cable TV Act and become pro-choice advocates and give consumers a chance to pick and choose what cable TV channels they want.

The 1984 legislation gave multiple systems operators (MSOs) like Cablevision the right to bundle failing networks like ESPN, the Weather Channel, CNN, CNN Headline News on an expanded basic tier as one entity (which might be a real violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act) and sell it to consumers for one price. The 1984 legislation was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan and was a real victory for small and struggling media companies.

The expanded basic tier is the real goldmine for news channels and sports networks. The cable TV socialism where everyone pays (on basic and basic expanded) has filled the pockets of Murdoch (FOX News Channel), Time Warner (CNN) and Microsoft-NBCUniversal (msnbc) and has allowed "news" channels to become nothing more than the equivalent of people screaming in the corner of the park (and those people being written off as kooks back in the days when they would shout to the sky and hope someone would listen to the diatribe). The cable TV socialism has also put billions into the pockets of sports owners who signed deals with multiple systems operators who had sports channels on the basic expanded or franchises that started networks like Madison Square Garden Network (owned by Charles Dolan — both a multiple systems operator and a program provider), the YES Network, SNY, and Comcast Sports Net Philadelphia (owned by Comcast, whose properties include the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers).

The NFL Network has not been able to penetrate the basic expanded tier while the MLB Network is on basic expanded thanks to Major League Baseball owners being smarter than their football counterparts and selling off pieces of the baseball channel to multiple systems operators.

The MSO's think the NFL Network is too expensive and doesn't have enough NFL games for their customers. But the MSO's may have an alternative motive — the NFL signed an exclusive deal with the satellite provider, DirecTV, for their Sunday package of out of market games and shut them out.

Hell hath no fury like an MSO scorned.

What would happen if Congress found a spine and actually became pro-choice and gave consumers a chance to pick and choose what they really wanted to buy?

Well the sports industry might be vaporized and the carnival barkers at the FOX News Channel, CNN and msnbc (there is no news on those news channels just a bunch of people paid in six to seven figures letting off steam hoping to attract viewers who will stay long enough to watch the commercials) might have to become real journalists because very few people would pay a premium to watch the Becks, O'Reillys, Hannitys, Dooceys, Kilmeades, Roberts, Blitzers, John and Larry Kings, Spitzers, Parkers, Coopers, Scarboroughs, Matthews, Olbermanns, Maddows and O'Donnells of the world and without the Congressional protection the 95 million or so subscribers to the news channels would drop to maybe two to three million people.

That is the dirty secret in the cable industry that no sane cable network owner or programmer would ever want to reveal. They know that the Howard Stern jump from terrestrial radio to satellite rating was an absolute disaster as Stern's former listeners on free radio did not dig deep into their pockets to buy satellite radio. Stern got his money; the satellite radio business is struggling financially.

The buy rate for cable news channels which would be at a much higher price than the estimated buck per month per subscriber that Murdoch, Time Warner and Microsoft-NBCUniversal get would be in the low single digits.

FOX junkies can scream all they want about being the number one cable news network and msnbc lovers can extol the virtues of the so-called "liberal" network but the real numbers of people watching the cable news networks are abysmal and cable executives know it. Perhaps the only people who don't realize this are journalists who give credence to the cable TV news personalities.

But sports owners might come in for a real financial drubbing if Representatives Israel and King and Senator Lautenberg attempted to reign in cable costs by introducing a la carte legislation. It has been a number of years since a Georgia Congressman named Nathan Deal tried to put the genie back in the lamp. The Georgia House member failed to get his measure to the floor.

Cable TV is transforming the Texas Rangers franchise from bankruptcy to being flush in money. Rupert Murdoch, who had the regional cable TV sports monopoly is feeling heat from Comcast in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Comcast is looking at Texas and may set up a regional sports network in Houston. In a pre-emptive shot, Murdoch has given the new Texas owners, Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan a $1.6 billion, 20-year deal which will give the Rangers ownership plenty of cash to pay off the debt on the team purchase and money for signing players. For Murdoch, the investment allows him to stay in Dallas and may keep Comcast out of the metroplex.

All Murdoch has to do is stay on basic expanded and up his fees and get 100 percent of the cable universe to pay for what just a few percent watch — Rangers baseball — thanks to socialism (the very kind of thing that the Becks, O'Reillys, Hannitys, Dooceys and Kilmeades rant against on a daily basis). Murdoch makes money from American socialism that was given to cable TV networks and MSO's by Congress and Ronald Reagan.

Murdoch lost the Chicago market a few years back when Jerry Reinsdorf (Bulls and White Sox), the Tribune Company (Cubs) and the Wirtz family (Blackhawks) signed a partnership with Comcast to launch their own network and left Murdoch's regional network in Chicago for dead. Owners in Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL are looking to start new networks and get onto basic cable. It is just not pro sports. The Big Ten has a network and the University of Texas would like a network as well.

It makes sense when there is big money available. But what would happen with a la carte? No one wants to know. Disney has lobbyists in Washington to make sure that it will never happen as ESPN (which is a Disney cash cow) would go from the so-called "World Wide Leader in Sports" to begging people to buy their costly network. The Yankees franchise would not be able to spend money freely without the revenues from YES that presently come from non-YES watchers. The sports industry would be devastated.

The authentic frontier gibberish from Israel was followed by authentic frontier gibberish from both News Corp and Cablevision. In the end, cable TV consumers in the Cablevision systems will reach into their pockets again and both Murdoch and Dolan will continue to duke it out somewhere else or make love in an another area (they were partners in a complex TV deal which also included the Knicks, Rangers and Madison Square Garden). As long as Congress doesn't rewrite the 1984 cable TV legislation, they can go on with their faux fight because at the end of the day, neither will be unhappy with the outcome as they are playing with other people's money thanks to a federal law that protects cable TV and leaves consumers reaching into their pockets to pay for something that they might not necessarily watch.

Evan Weiner is an award winning author, radio and TV commentator and speaker on the "Business and Politics of Sports. He can be reached at

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Should Chris Christie be considered one of the most powerful people in sports?
TUESDAY, 12 OCTOBER 2010 16:22

It is silly season again as a S. I. M. magazine "the only global sport business magazine targeting a dual readership that focuses exclusively on influence and affluence in today's ever-changing world" is polling readership and asking readers to name the most influential people in the world of sports. For the record, this United Kingdom-based publication has Joseph Blatter, the President of FIFA (Soccer) out in front in the voting followed by the President of the International Olympic Committee, Dr. Jacques Rogge and Herbert Hainer, the Chairman and CEO of adidas in the top three slots. The first American on the list and coming in at number four is Heidi Ueberroth, which is a head turner. Ueberroth's father Peter, of course, ran the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Committee and was the Commissioner of Major League Baseball but his daughter simply doesn't belong as high on this list as President of NBA International. Her boss David Stern as the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association has more power.
Stern is ninth on the list well ahead of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman who is at 50. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who cannot get his league market attention and traction outside the North American continent unlike Stern, Bettman and Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who is 11th. Selig is 32nd, one spot ahead of CBS Sports President Sean McManus, which makes no sense. McManus just gave the NCAA billions of dollars in a partnership with Turner Sports for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. McManus' Turner Sports Partner David Levy is ranked 54th.
For some reason, S. I. M. magazine has San Francisco 49ers owner Denise DeBartolo York in the Top 100. York doesn't run the football team, her 29-year-old son Jed with a rather thin business resume does.
Stern, the former Teaneck resident, understands where the real power in sports is located. Stern's three legged stool formula for success always starts with government. In the United States and in a great many countries, elected officials either directly give money to sports (as in Malaysia) or set up laws that funnel money into sports whether it is through tax breaks, tax incentives, the building of facilities at taxpayers' expense and in America, the federal government changed the cable TV laws which allowed owners like the Yankees George Steinbrenner, the Mets Fred Wilpon and the Dolan-family owned New York Knicks, New York Rangers and New York Liberty to make enormous sums of money from cable TV. The feds also give tax breaks to corporations buying high item sports event seats for "business purposes."
In New Jersey, Chris Christie as Governor is more important to the sports world than the state's highest paid employees, the Rutgers football coach and the Rutgers men's and women's basketball coach. Christie has to decide the fate of the Meadowlands at some point soon along with the horse racing industry in the state. Horse racing is a sport even though none of the top 100 on S. I. M.'s list represent horse racing.
Governors, mayors, state elected officials are major players in sports as they control the purse strings. The Meadowlands complex never would have opened without government support.
When publications and websites put out lists of the Top 100 this, the Top 100 that, they are should always to be taken with a grain of salt. In 2007, BusinessWeek posted a list of the Top 100 Power People in sports with National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell on the top of the list. BusinessWeek should have asked me to be part of their panel because their list is filled with questionable choices and omissions.
BusinessWeek asked the wrong people — players, agents, sports gadflies, for their opinions and didn't know that there is a formula for sports success — government support, a large local cable TV deal and corporate support, the latter two made possible by government assistance.
It's too bad because that Power 100 list might be far more accurate with real sports business experts than the BusinessWeek 100 that was presented. There really is nothing on the list that indicates that the panelists thought about the UEFA 2008 football tournament. That happens to be the second most watched sports event in the world behind the World Cup.
There is nothing about cricket or boxing on the list. The National Hockey League Commissioner is rated just 27th on the list even though the NHL has lots of eyeballs watching its product in Europe far more eyeballs than the NFL on that continent.
The list also was too United States-centric. The oddity here is that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell heads a highly successfully United States business that is attempting to catch up with Soccer, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and yes even the downtrodden National Hockey League in the global community. The list places Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Galaxy and AEG owner Phillip Anschutz at number 21. Anschutz may be the most powerful man in sports globally. Anschutz's LA Kings opened the 2007-08 National Hockey League season in London in the London arena he owns against the Anaheim Ducks. .
Anschutz controlled most of the franchises in Major League Soccer and brought David Beckham to America. National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern will tell you that London, England is the most ready city in Europe for an NBA franchise thanks to Anschutz.
Anschutz is also a major force behind the 2012 London Olympics.
The list has International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge but absent was the heads of the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, the 2012 London Summer Games and the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. That is worth noting because US Presidential candidate Mitt Romney launched his political career by running the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. From there he ran for Governor of Massachusetts and may be attempting to get the Republican nomination for President in 2012.
Of course sports can be a great stepping stone. United States President George W. Bush was a two percent owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team and its general managing partner but he was never considered a Top 100 performer in sports during his days as a minority owner of a baseball team.
Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars owner Thomas O. Hicks, a major financial support of George W. Bush's 1994 and 1998 gubernatorial races in Texas and 2000 and 2004 Presidential bids is not on the list. Hicks and Montreal Canadiens owner George N. Gillett, Jr. purchased Liverpool P. C. in the English Premiere League and are building a football stadium in the English city that is more known for being the home of the Beatles John Lennon, Paul Mc Cartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr to Americans but Liverpool football has a long history. Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazier isn't on the BusinessWeek 100 Power list either. Glazier owns the most recognizable sports brand internationally, Manchester United. Manchester United football is a lot better known globally than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hicks and Gillett recently sold Liverpool to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry.
Two glaring omissions in the 2007 list came from the world of the original cable TV investors, Ted Rogers in Canada and Chuck Dolan in New York . Rogers owns the Toronto Blue Jays and Sportsnet, which carries Blue Jays baseball, five NHL teams telecasts and has the rights to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Dolan, who helped found HBO, owns Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks, New York Rangers, New York Liberty, the Madison Square Garden Network (which has Knicks basketball and the three New York City area hockey teams, the Rangers, Islanders and New Jersey Devils hockey as part of its programming along with the Liberty and other sports) and Radio City Music Hall.
Another cable TV guy, Altitude Sports and Entertainment Network-Colorado Avalanche-Denver Nuggets-St. Louis Rams-Colorado Crush-Colorado Rapids and Arsenal FC owner Stan Kroenke is also not highly thought of by BusinessWeek either. Nor is New York Islanders owner Charles Wang who is trying to raise hockey interest in China, nor are the Toronto Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment Chairman of the Board Larry Tannebaum a player on BusinessWeek's 100. Tannenbaum runs the NHL Maple Leafs, the NBA Raptors, the MLS Toronto FC, two Toronto arenas Leafs TV, Raptors TV and Maple Leaf Square which includes office space and residential living.
Why is Arnold Palmer on this list? Palmer was a great golfer in his day and businessman but if you include Palmer how do you leave off Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman who are major figures in golf course development?
There is something else that is puzzling on the BusinessWeek 100 when it comes to NFL owners. Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder, Robert Kraft, Robert Mc Nair and Jeffrey Lurie are the five most powerful NFL owners in that they stuck together and tried to break the NFL's "Leaguethink" philosophy during the last owners squabble over revenue sharing but neither Mc Nair nor Lurie are on the list. Denver owner Pat Bowlen was on the NFL TV committee, a group that helped negotiation the league's huge TV deals with Rupert Murdoch's FOX, General Electric's NBC, Disney's ESPN and Sumner Redstone's CBS along with DirecTV but he isn't on the list.
Where are politicians on this list? Without Anthony Williams, the former Washington mayor, there is no new baseball park in Washington; there is no Major League Baseball in the city period. Russian President Vladimir Putin belongs on this list. Putin lobbied the International Olympic Committee to get the 2014 Winter Olympics for Sochi and Putin was behind that the formation of a state corporation, which will supervise the infrastructural development of Sochi and the construction of the Olympic facilities.
Can BusinessWeek explain Vladislav Tretaik's 2007 exclusion on the list? Tretiak, the President of the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, refused to sign off on the International Ice Hockey Federation-National Hockey League transfer deal that allows young Russian players to play on an NHL in exchange for financial considerations.
Business Week also enlisted ESPN: The Magazine for data. Another mistake. ESPN may own TSN in Canada and ESPN International may carry North American sports around the world but you would never know it from the Power 100 list. Depending on ESPN reporters for business information is risky because ESPN reporters are clueless when it comes to business. What do Shane Battier, Amanda Beard, Bill Cowher, Carl Edwards, Brad Faxson, Martina Hingis, Mark Kreigel, Tommy Lasorda, Lisa Leslie and Mark Spitz know about dealing with politicians to secure taxpayers dollars for the Olympics, World Cup, Super Bowl and other major sports events globally for stadiums and arenas? What do they know about the difficulties in getting tax abatements, payment in lieu of taxes, tax increment financing in the United States, getting dollars from provincial hockey lotteries in Alberta, converting US dollars into pounds, Euros and Yuans?
If BusinessWeek did an honest list of the real power figures about 50 percent of the Top 100 would be gone. BusinessWeek failed to identify the real power behind sports, particularly in the United States. It's a fun list to scan but its little more than that. It is sort of like the Forbes list of what North American sports franchises are worth. Interesting reading but in reality a franchise is worth want someone is willing to pay for the business.
BusinessWeek's 2007 list was filled with glaring holes. In 2009, BusinessWeek had Tiger Woods as its most powerful sports player followed by Goodell and Stern. As always, no government people were on the 2009 BusinessWeek list. The S. I. M. 2010 list will be no better. BusinessWeek had Goodell ranked too high. Goodell is powerful in the US but is pretty feeble internationally compared to MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, NBA boss David Stern, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and FIFA President Blatter.
That will tell you a lot about that list.
Evan Weiner is an award winning author, radio and TV commentator and speaker on the "Business and Politics of Sports. He can be reached at

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Does Linda McMahon know why the N.Y.-N.J. Hitmen and the XFL went out of business suddenly?
THURSDAY, 07 OCTOBER 2010 12:11
There has been an awful lot said about the Connecticut Republican Senate candidate Linda McMahon and her role with the World Wrestling Federation and World Wrestling Entertainment as chief executive officer. When you run for political office, everything is fair game and rightfully there has been a major focus on the McMahon family bankruptcy in the 1970s and questions about former World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment performers who died as young men while either working for Vince and Linda McMahon or shortly after they left the wrestling organization.
But there is one area of the McMahon portfolio that has not been given a lot of scrutiny.
The short-lived XFL.
The XFL was born after Vince and Linda McMahon past on an opportunity to buy the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and then the entire league in the late 1990s. McMahon and General Electric's NBC division teamed up in early 2000 and started to put together a single entity owned league with each side owning half of the product. The league was scheduled to start in February 2001 and came to life around the same time that Time Warner was thinking about creating a professional football league.
The McMahon-NBC venture failed and was done by May 2001 and left a lot of football people rather bitter because of just how the end played out.
Vince and Linda McMahon did not put the XFL out of business. Ken Schanzer, an executive at NBC Sports did according to numerous insiders who were employed by the league or NFL people who were friends with XFL football people.
The late George Young, who built two New York Giants Super Bowl teams as the franchise's general manager, used to carp about how someone would not allow the football people to run the show. The someone was not Vince McMahon nor was it Linda McMahon. It was NBC personnel that decided to give the league a wrestling persona which included having the network's football analyst Jesse Ventura try to bait the New Jersey-New York coach Rusty Tillman to create some sort of storyline.
The tactic failed miserable and caused George Young one day to complain vehemently to anyone who listened that it belittled Tillman and the other coaches looking for a place to hone their craft. George Young never had a problem with the XFL as it gave people opportunities to play, to coach, to scout, to market and to announce.
People like Bob Costas and John Sterling cut their teeth on upstart leagues.
The story that former XFL people tell is that NBC executives were still miffed at the National Football League for accepting a 1998 CBS offer to get the rights to American Football Conference games, playoff contests and an occasional Super Bowl for $4 billion over an eight year period which was about a 130 percent increase over what NBC had paid for the contract. NBC wanted to stick it to both CBS and the NFL in a rather childish manner and hoped to get good ratings for a late winter-spring product.
It was not until late in the 2001 season when the XFL fell off the map that football people took over the product. The XFL might have lasted into season two, 2002, had Schanzer and NBC not pulled the plug. According to one XFL official who was present at the end, everyone acknowledged that the league had lost some $50 million but ESPN in Bristol, Conn. had interest in picking up the programming in 2002 and TNN would have returned for a second year. UPN had dropped out but ESPN's interest would have more than made up for losing the weak UPN network. But according to the league insider Schanzer, (the insider did not know if Schanzer acted on his own or if a higher authority made the call) and didn't want a competitor.
With that the league disappeared leaving an awful lot of angry football people stewing both in the NFL and XFL.
McMahon wanted to keep going according to the XFL insider.
Western civilization survived the first weekend of the existence of the XFL on February 3, 2001. The first game pitted the New Jersey-New York Hitmen and the Las Vegas Outlaws in the desert. Las Vegas won the game 19-0. The XFL didn't change the world despite the horrors predicted by the very predictable sportswriters of the time who in the Pavlov dog thinking abhorred the thought of somebody starting a new football (or basketball or hockey or soccer) league and other naysayers like George Will.
The XFL didn't prompt China to bringing the tanks back to Tiananmen Square in Beijing; the Wall didn't go up again in Germany, there was no reversal of the Florida Presidential Election results.
The XFL featured just a bunch of football players who played the game in various sites around the country with scantily clad cheerleaders on the sidelines.
Vince McMahon's latest contribution to American society at the time really didn't make very much difference. There was the assertion from then Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell that McMahon was selling sex and violence. But Modell was stopped in his tracks when the name Sam Huff came up and then the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders was the second part added to the conversation.
Nearly 40 years ago, on October 31, 1960, CBS aired as part of the network's Twentieth Century series, "The Violent World of Sam Huff" which was narrated by Walter Cronkite. Huff was the tough New York Giants linebacker who was also the first NFL player to appear on the cover of Time magazine on November 30, 1959. The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders became a brand name and were regulars on TV shows.
The XFL was a made for TV show for NBC, the UPN Network (which is now out of business) and the TNN cable network, which is now Spike TV. The first week's TV audience was a pleasant surprise. The actual football though was ragged at best but the XFL was not necessarily going to be about football. Wrestling had storylines and was a soap opera. McMahon and NBC, who had some experience with daytime soap operas on the network, were going to create storylines. But they would have had to go a long way in 2001 to catch the real life drama of some NFL players like Rae Carruth the Carolina Panthers player who was standing trial for the murder of this girl friend, the Baltimore Ravens Ray Lewis, who was arrested on murder and aggravated assault charges (Lewis copped a plea for obstruction of justice and got one year probation) and Green Bay's Mark Churma who just a couple days after the start of the XFL was acquitted of sexual assault charges.
McMahon and professional wrestling in general always presented lowbrow entertainment. There was nothing ever sophisticated about professional wrestling in the TV era and a lot of it resembled Three Stooges shorts. The critics fired at McMahon and the XFL but his presentation was really lame and at best fourth grade humor. The XFL didn't have DWI arrests (a common occurrence in football), wife beaters, coke addicts like the other "established" sports leagues at the time.
But University of Chicago economist Allen Sanderson was quoted that he "hopes the league fails" because Professor Sanderson "doesn't want the bar of entertainment to be lowered." Then there was the conservative columnist, baseball shill and member of two baseball franchises' board of directors (the liberal Peter Angelos' Baltimore Orioles and John Moores' San Diego Padres — Moores was a major contributor to Bill Clinton's Presidential campaigns) George Will's comments.
Will worried that the XFL would continue the "further coarsening of America."
McMahon may have come up with a lot of sports and entertainment ideas in his Cape Cod Coliseum incubator but he didn't invent bad behavior in sports.
George Will probably likes to draw a blank on the illegal steroids usage in baseball while he served Angelos and Moores but the former professor, one time Republican political operative and conservative writer and TV talking head is smart enough to know that bad behavior started long before Vince and Linda McMahon.
When the New York Islanders Pat Lafontaine suffered a concussion during a game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers in 1990, Rangers fans blocked the exit out of the Garden for the ambulance and then rocked the ambulance as it was leaving. Jeffrey Lange was arrested at Giants Stadium for throwing a snowball and he wasn't the only one pelting the field with snow and ice balls during a Giants-San Diego Chargers game on December 23, 1995. Lange was arrested with 17 others that day. Some fans in various cities around North America used championship celebrations as an excuse to go on rampages. The XFL crowds were not dangerous. The XFL did not have European soccer crowd lunatics.
The XFL lead TV analyst Jesse Ventura was the governor of Minnesota at the time. George Will didn't take note of this in 2001 because he is a baseball apologist in many ways. But Governor Ventura issued an apology statement after Minnesota Twins fans at the Metrodome pelted former Twins and New York Yankees leftfielder Chuck Knoblauch with garbage from the stands in 2001.
By the time the XFL's life support was pulled by Schanzer, the XFL didn't cause gas prices to rise, the XFL didn't create tension between the US and China, the US and North Korea nor did McMahon cause the US to lose its United Nation's seat on the Human Rights Commission in that body. It was just a TV show but it is interesting to read all of the negative reaction to the McMahons, the wrestling industry and how the real story of the failure of the XFL has never really been fully explained.
The XFL was just entertainment, a made for television show. In 2001, the XFL expired and that aspect of Linda McMahon's life and business has not been explored. It deserves a look, not only for Connecticut voters but for sports business management students who need to see how sports and business intersect. The questions of why the XFL didn't go on should be asked and the first question that Linda McMahon or Schanzer should be asked is this. Did NBC really pull the plug because a Connecticut business, ESPN, wanted to get involved? Nine years later with the senatorial campaign nearing an end, and Linda McMahon claiming she knows how to create jobs, there may be some people who want an answer.
Evan Weiner is an award winning author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Business and Politics of Sports" and can be reached

Monday, October 4, 2010

Chris Dudley lacking NBA support for gubernatorial run in Oregon
MONDAY, 04 OCTOBER 2010 11:13
National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern seems to be staying out of this year's Oregon Gubernatorial campaign. There is nothing odd about that until you realize that one of Stern's former employees — the one time New Jersey Nets and New York Knicks center Chris Dudley — has the Republican line in this contest. John Kitzhaber has the Democratic line in the contest.
Stern is a master political operative as a lobbyist but Dudley doesn't really rate on his radar screen. Dudley is not in the same class of pedigree as former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley who, of course, was part of the New York Knicks championship teams in 1970 and 1973. When Bradley decided to run for President in 2000, the entire NBA seemingly was at his disposal.
Not so for Dudley.
Dudley does have a basketball money savior though. NIKE's Phil Knight is a big donor. Dudley, who graduated from Yale and wasn't much of an NBA player, has some political genes as his grandfather Guilford Dudley was the United States Ambassador to Denmark in the Nixon and Ford Administrations.
Back in the days when basketball leagues looked for any available space to play a game, the game had almost no political influence. Over the decades that changed. The National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle persuaded Congress to allow league's to bundle its teams together and have one entity negotiate for a national TV deal. President John F. Kennedy signed the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 on September 30, 1961 and that changed the bargaining power of leagues.
The Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 was an important factor in the growth of the National Football League and ultimately the NBA. By 1999, Stern, a lifelong Democrat, was holding a league sanctioned political fundraiser at Madison Square Garden for one of the NBA's own, Bill Bradley.
Bradley rolled out a who's who in basketball lore in his bid to raise money for his challenge against Al Gore for the nomination.
Presidential campaigns and Hollywood seem to go hand in hand. Both Democrats and Republicans have sought out actors and actresses to bolster campaigns and money. In fact, Hollywood has produced one President, Ronald Reagan. Others like Fred Thompson, George Murphy, Fred Granby, Sonny Bono and Al Franken went onto Congress. Arnold Schwarzenegger became the Governor of California.
Over the years, the world of sports has not had many players in the Presidential game. Certainly, the NBA did not although there were some owners who in the 1990s were heavily involved in politics. The Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl holds one of the Wisconsin senate seats on Capitol Hill. Former National Football League and American Football League quarterback Jack Kemp, who was also the President of the American Football League Players Association in the mid 1960s, was Robert Dole's running mate for the GOP in the 1996 Presidential election.
Bradley received help at his Garden fundraiser from Kareem Abdul-Jabber, Bob Cousy, his onetime Knicks teammate and roommate Dave DeBusschere, Bill Walton, Bill Russell, three other Knicks teammates Willis Reed, Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier, Bob Petit, Oscar Robertson, Nancy Lieberman-Cline, Wes Unseld, Dolph Schayes, Elvin Hayes, Nate Archibald, Julius Erving, John Havlicek, Dave Bing, Billy Cunningham, Jerry Lucas, Rebecca Lobo and Grant Hill. Spike Lee had a courtside seat along with the actor Harvey Keitel. Tennis great John McEnroe and Pro Football Hall of Famer quarterback Joe Namath were there too. Namath, of course was New York's big star leading the Jets to a Super Bowl championship in 1969 at the same time that Bradley and his Knicks teammates became championship contenders.
Patrons were paying New York Knicks-type prices to enter the Garden as tickets for the fund raiser ranged from $100-1,000. But a major question came up about the fundraiser. Could Bradley, a Rhodes Scholar who served 18 years as a United States Senator from New Jersey, get sports fans out to vote?
Would voters casting ballots in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut Democratic primaries vote for a hometown hero who helped New York win two championships or would they vote on the Bradley versus Gore record?
Jerry Lucas thought that Bradley's basketball pedigree was not going to sway voters. Bradley had been a college All-American at Princeton, had two championship rings, was a Basketball Hall of Fame member and enjoyed the support of a cross section of the basketball community, but Lucas thought that voters would scrutinize Bradley the man, not the basketball player.
"He told me he is having the most fun he has ever had in his life," said Lucas of his friend's campaign. "He is very much enjoying his campaigning and what he is doing. He is a very capable and very honest person and I appreciate that in Bill."
It's the human Bill Bradley, not the athlete that Lucas thought would connect with voters. Bradley also had Stern's commitment to help him on the stump.
Bradley wasn't the only 2000 Presidential candidate who had NBA star power around him. Gore picked up the endorsement of Newark native Shaquille O'Neal. That was somewhat interesting in that O'Neal's coach at that time with the Los Angeles Lakers was Phil Jackson who thought of running Bradley's campaign in Iowa but took the Lakers coaching job instead. Jackson was supporting his old Knicks teammate.
In an even stranger twist of sports in politics in the 1999-2000 election cycle, Philip F. Anschutz, who build the new downtown Los Angeles arena and had a piece of the Lakers ownership, rented out the arena for the 2000 Democrat Convention. Anschutz counted the 1996 Republican nominee for the Presidency, long time Kansas Congressman and Senator and one time Vice Presidential candidate Robert Dole as one of his lifelong friends. Jackson was, of course, the Lakers coach.
Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf was closely aligned with the late Ron Brown, the former Commerce Secretary and the Democratic National Committee chairman in 1992. Reinsdorf got the 1996 Democratic Convention at his arena in Chicago when he needed dates to fill and money to pay off costs of the privately funded arena. Owners and politicians do work rather closely.
Lucas said he supported Bradley because he was more than just a friend and he thought other basketball players felt the same way.
"When I played, we didn't support candidates," said Lucas, who competed in the NBA in the 1960s and 1970s.
One NBA big name ran for Congress after his playing days were done. Mikan. He lost in his bid for the House in 1956 to incumbent Democrat Roy Wier. The NBA did not hold a major fundraiser for Mikan in 1956 but then again there was nothing major about the NBA in 1956.
Some athletes like Wilt Chamberlain did attend national conventions. Chamberlain supported the Republican Richard Nixon who served as the American President between 1969 and 1974. Bradley was the first to take basketball players out on the campaign trail.
"People want to help certain people that they appreciate, love and believe in," said Lucas.
The fundraiser didn't help; Bradley was out of the race in March 2000 after Gore picked up most of the delegates available in the Super Tuesday primary including those in New York. His basketball background might have picked up a few votes but not many. In the east, people are not impressed with stars as say in California.
Perhaps Dudley is better off without Stern's involvement. Stern has failed to deliver new arena in Sacramento and seems to have lost a mile off of his political fastball lately. But make no mistake, the NBA is a political entity and wields enormous influence locally and nationally. Stern is still peeved at New Jersey legislators for not building the Nets a building in Newark going so far as saying that New Jersey politicians blew it. Bruce Ratner is building an arena in Brooklyn and the New Jersey Devils are in Newark. But Stern will keep hammering away as the politics of sports business never fades away even if Dudley isn't getting any support from the NBA's home office.
Evan Weiner is an award winning author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Business and Politics of Sports" and can be reached at

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Business & Politics of Sports [Kindle Edition]

The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is being used by professors at SUNY Cortland, NYU and St. Joseph's University. Available for $9.99 from or amazonkindle.

The Business & Politics of Sports [Kindle Edition]
Evan Weiner (Author)
No customer reviews yet. Be the first.


Digital List Price: $9.99 What's this?
Kindle Price: $9.99 & includes wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet


Available on these devices
Text-to-Speech: Enabled
Don't have a Kindle? Get yours here.


Editorial Reviews
Product Description
The Business & Politics of Sports, Second Edition (ISBN: 1-883210-06-2) contains an updated collection of award winning sportswriter Evan Weiner’s columns that span from 1998 to the present; they are categorized into fifteen chapters with introductions.

Evan Weiner has important things to write about. Everybody in America is paying in some way for sports, whether it is through taxes, cable TV bills, tax breaks or incentives. Mr. Weiner not only shows how closely business, politics and sports are interwoven, he has an encyclopedic memory that allows him to include historical background in his articles. Evan doesn’t see himself as brave; rather he does what he thinks a responsible journalist does: research, interview, listen carefully, think, connect the dots and write. Readers benefit from his knowledge and observation.

Since The Business & Politics of Sports first smashed through the insular ivory tower of sports academia in 2005, many colleges and universities have used Evan Weiner’s columns as the basis for class discussion and case studies. Professor Daniel A. Rascher, the University of San Francisco’s Director of Academic Programs, who has hosted Evan’s electronic blackboard classes for the past ten years, believes, “Evan Weiner understands the nexus between politics and the sports industry unlike anyone else. He is able to stir the pot and get at students' passions and emotions about sports, policy, regulation, and politics. His columns and articles are an invaluable resource for any course or program in sport management.”

“In reality, he is probably the most provocative sports writer in the business today,” sums up Thomas P. Rosandich, Ph.D., President and CEO of the United States Sports Academy, which conferred its Distinguished Journalist Award on Mr. Weiner in 2003. “Evan writes on topics that no one else will dare to touch, and he writes them very well. The part that we find to be so exceptional here at the Academy is the amount of research that he does on each and every one of his articles.”

Cooper Union urban historian Fred Siegel, who wrote the introduction to the book’s “Stadiums & Public Policy” opines, “Evan Weiner’s columns are essential public policy reading for those trying to make sense of what is happening with American cities.”

Evan Weiner also has a large following among sports fans, news junkies, political wonks and general readers fascinated to learn something new. Sheldon A. Saltman, former president of FOX Sports, recently remarked, “A bagel, cream cheese and an Evan Wiener column are my breakfast fare. Evan’s wit and cynicism give an offbeat perspective to the rigors of each day. For me, he’s a ‘must read.’"

During the summer of 2010, sports writers brought to the attention of the American public the plight of former NFL players whose lives have been forever changed by brain concussions which they claim have caused permanent physical damage. Mr. Weiner’s extensive July 6th article on NFL 49er George Visger, “The football culture needs to be changed,” has caused quite a stir within the professional football community.
Evan Weiner is a contributing columnist for, New Jersey Newsroom, The Daily Caller and The Examiner. He wrote a weekly column for the New York Sun and has written for New York Newsday, the Orlando Sentinel, Metro Philadelphia, Metro New York, the Washington Examiner and, and was a re-occurring guest on “Politics Live” with Sam Donaldson. His radio commentary “The Business of Sports” aired nationally on a daily basis between June 1999 and June 2006. He is a participant in several Long Distance Learning and electronic blackboard university classes, speaks at colleges across the country, and gives talks to civic groups and on cruises.


Product Details
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 1084 KB
Publisher: TBE Press, an inprint of TBM Records; Second Edition edition (August 24, 2010)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Language: English