Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Journalist Sarah Palin should ask why TV money will fund an NFL lockout

TUESDAY, 30 NOVEMBER 2010 11:52


So Sarah Palin wants "to help clean up the state that is so sorry today of journalism." Palin also has "a communications degree. I studied journalism, who, what, where, when, and why of reporting." Let's take Sarah Palin, who has a communications degree from one of the five colleges she attended in six years, at her word that she really wants to help clean up journalism. Let's give the former Alaska TV sportscaster an assignment and see how she does.
Palin is employed by Rupert Murdoch's FOX News Channel so it should be rather easy for her, as a onetime Vice Presidential candidate in the United States, to score an interview with the naturalized American citizen Murdoch. Palin, the former sportscaster, should begin the interview with her boss with a simple question. "Mr. Murdoch, why are you helping to underwrite the National Football League lockout which is slated to begin in March 2011?"
Palin's second question of the Australian-born media mogul should get right to the core of Murdoch's FOX News Channel and New York Post audience. "How does your guarantee of paying hundreds of millions of dollars in rights fees to the National Football League in 2011 help your audience, "real" Americans, even in the event that the 31 owners and Green Bay's management lockout the players and no games are played?
Palin should then just go with the flow and ask a few more questions "is providing financial support for a labor action by a custodian of the public airwaves — Murdoch owns a number of television stations across the United States. He had to become an American citizen to do that after being an illegal alien owning the New York Post before he was naturalized — a proper use of a television station license?" And, "is it in the public interest to use monies generated by News Corp-owned stations (including WNYW and WWOR in New York and WTFX in Philadelphia and 24 other stations), to support the NFL ownership group?"
To expand her report and show off her journalism skills Palin should invite Jeffrey Immelt, the General Electric Chairman of the Board and Chief Operating Officer (and at present owner of NBC), Robert Iger, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Walt Disney Company (and ESPN owner), Sumner Redstone, the Chairman of CBS and Michael White, the President and CEO of DirecTV to appear on her report on the potential NFL lockout.
Iger should jump at the opportunity to chat with Palin after Sarah's oldest daughter Bristol brought new viewers and tons of phone calls over the past few months to the ABC show, "Dancing With the Stars," along with more advertising dollars.
Palin could pose the same questions to Iger and Redstone that she did to Murdoch and ask whether it is ethical that Iger's ESPN and White's DirecTV is taking subscribers money to provide a cushion for NFL owners. After all, Congress in 1984 kept ESPN alive (along with other cable TV networks) by allowing multiple system (cable TV) operators to bundle financially struggling networks like ESPN, CNN and The Weather Channel and to place them on a basic expanded tier, which is a direct restraint of trade in a free market society. The result was cable consumers now pay for networks whether they watch them or not. All basic subscribers pay for channels that only a fraction watches; and it is all legal because of the Cable TV Act of 1984 which was signed into law by the champion of free market — President Ronald Reagan. The whole issue of why media companies and by extension their news divisions (with the exception of DirecTV, which does not have a news division) are supporting NFL owners needs to be explained to the very "real" Americans that Palin says she stands with.
Murdoch, Iger, Immelt, Redstone and White agreed to individual contracts with the NFL and paid a lot of money for the right. They also told the NFL that they would cover (financial not in depth news) the owners in the event of a lockout and at some point down the road would get a rebate if the owners' lockout in 2011 forced the cancellation of games. But the NFL never lowers rights fees. When the contracts are renegotiated down the road, the NFL will still have big leverage over the TV networks — NFL games are among the top rated TV shows in the United States and attract the 18-34, 18-49, 18-54 male demographic that advertisers want. The NFL TV guys, Dallas's Jerry Jones, Denver's Pat Bowen, can ask for the moon; but that doesn't mean Murdoch, Igor, Immelt, Redstone and White's predecessor at DirecTV needed to give the NFL whatever they wanted. The 2011 season rights fees will go into the owners' war chest in the battle with the players; and because of that the owners will have an enormous edge over the players in the bargaining talks, as they can hold out while players' careers are brief and any games lost to the lockout will impact the players' pockets far more than the owners'.
The owners want to reduce the players' take of revenues from 59 to 48 percent and chop salaries by 18 percent. The TV people are in the owners' corner in the labor action which brings up a point. Are the TV networks shilling for the rich and elite, or do they care about "real" Americans? What does that say about their ability to real provide "fair and balanced" news?
In all seriousness, could ABC, CBS and NBC news divisions really report on the NFL owners' lockout in full detail, knowing the corporate bosses are providing much needed leverage for the owners? Could the FOX News Channel and ESPN lay out the story? The answer is no. No one on the FOX News Channel, MSNBC or ESPN is going to criticize Murdoch, Immelt or Iger. Katie Couric and her CBS news division is not going to go after Redstone. But Palin did run for Vice President and as a journalist she should have the gravitas to actually get Murdoch, Iger, Immelt, Redstone and White on record to explain their decisions.
Murdoch's FOX syndication arm (FOX is not a true TV network) owes the NFL an awful lot. Murdoch got the rights to NFC Games in 1993 with a four-year, $1.58 billion offer beating out CBS. Murdoch's FOX had The "Simpsons" and a few other programs like "Married With Children" and "Beverly Hills 90210" that garnered some interest on many weak stations. With the NFL, a powerful TV franchise in his back pocket, Murdoch also took away two strong CBS affiliates in Detroit and Milwaukee in early 1994 and all of that resulted in the loss of audience share for CBS' Sunday night news magazine, "60 Minutes." FOX also got a promotional platform for prime time shows during NFL games and ended up with a Super Bowl. The NFL built FOX and allowed Murdoch to move ahead with the FOX News Channel. CBS returned to the NFL in 1998, taking away NBC's AFC package with an eight-year deal. NBC returned in 2006 with a Sunday night package, Disney's ABC Sports was folded into ESPN's camp and in 2006, Monday Night Football shifted from over-the-air ABC to the cable ESPN.
Palin, the journalist, could conclude her in depth report by getting into the political arena by interviewing Congressional Republicans and asking if they plan to review the whole question of why and how Murdoch, Iger, Immelt, Redstone and White are using public airwaves or cable/satellite TV subscriber fees. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform seems like a good place to start hearings on television's role in an NFL lockout.
The players association is asking elected officials in NFL cities to get involved with the negotiations, claiming there is a huge potential for major economic losses with NFL football in 2011. The NFL Players Association Executive Director should be playing the public financing of stadiums card just to educate the public about the real costs of football and sports in the United States and to reveal how "real" Americans are paying a variety of taxes to support sports facilities around the country. Palin, who apparently favors small government and less government spending, should ask about the billions upon billions of public tax dollars that are spent for facilities, including the one she approved in Wasilla, Alaska when she was mayor of that city for a junior hockey franchise that ended up in her town.

Palin is right about the quality of journalism today. Glenn Beck passes for a journalist, as do all of the yellers and screamers on cable TV news and AM talk radio. None of them really goes into any depth or perhaps even has the ability to be a savant even though CNN's Anderson Cooper is trying to "keep them honest."
The entire politics of the potential NFL lockout includes a conversation on workers' rights, medical/health benefits, retirement payments, government's role in infrastructure (stadiums), the National Labor Relations Board, Congress, the Oval Office and the media. Sarah Palin, of all people, could use her FOX credentials to work the story and get the info out to "real" Americans. Somehow though, it seems very unlikely that Palin would find the time and do the proper interviews with the proper people. "Real" Americans may not have an entire NFL season starting in March which includes the April Draft, mini-camps, free agency and then finally training camp. Someone should explain why this is happening and how Murdoch, Iger, Immelt, Redstone and White have fingerprints all over the potential loss of the NFL during next season by underwriting an owners' lockout.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at www.bickley.com or amazonkindle. He can be reached at evanjweiner@yahoo.com

Friday, November 26, 2010

N.J. could get World Cup again if Bill Clinton is convincing
FRIDAY, 26 NOVEMBER 2010 15:27

The New Meadowlands Stadium chances of holding a 2022 World Cup event seemingly depends on the delivery of an aging southpaw from Arkansas and his ability to come up big once again in a major spotlight. Former President Bill Clinton, the Honorary Chairman of the USA Bid Committee for FIFA (soccer) World Cup 2022, is part of the presentation delegation that will try to convince FIFA members that they should put the 2022 event on American soil. Clinton and his fellow delegation members will plead the United States case on December 1st in Zurich, Switzerland.
The winning bids will be announced on December 2.
Bill Clinton's presence on the US committee should not be a surprise. Both the International Olympic Committee and the Federation Internationale de Football Association expect world leaders like Clinton to basically grovel and beg that their country should be given these major international sports events. International football is a big business in the United States in the stadiums and on TV while Major League Soccer is treated as an afterthought.
Americans like good football not American soccer if stadium attendance and TV ratings mean anything.
FIFA's month long international event, which is held every four years, easily outpaces the Olympic Games in importance and the International Olympic Committee knows this based on the fact that the Olympics can't get every major football (soccer) player into the IOC tournament and the IOC doesn't squawk about it. The IOC in a fit of self-importance ran to the United States Congress and Arizona Senator John McCain to complain about Major League Baseball's drug testing policies in 2003 because MLB wasn't playing ball with the IOC and sending big name baseball players to the Olympics. The IOC got even as delegates dropped baseball and softball (American women were too dominating in Olympic competition) from the Games starting in 2012. But the IOC does enjoy one perk that FIFA has not been able to capture.
The International Olympic Committee (along with the Vatican) enjoys permanent observer status at the United Nations. The IOC acts as if it is a sovereign nation (it is not) and dictates to countries what they want and need if a country bids for their Games. It is thought the British Prime Minister Tony Blair's appearance before IOC delegates in 2005 got London the 2012 Summer Olympics. Russian President Vladimir Putin went before IOC delegates in 2007 to pitch Sochi, Russia's bid for the 2014 Winter Games. Putin was not the only world leader begging IOC delegates for their vote. Austria's Heinz Fisher and South Korea's Roh Moo-hyun were in Guatemala leading their countries' bids.
Putin won. The "star" of politicians seems to be very important in getting an international sports event.
FIFA is awarding two events in Switzerland this week. The 2018 and 2022 World Cup. The United States is bidding on the 2022 Games. Clinton will be in a diplomatic element in Zurich. British Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William will be in Zurich in an attempt to bolster the UK bid. Cameron will go head-to-head with Putin in the 2018 bidding as Russia is in the contest along with a joint bid by Spain and Portugal, and another joint bid by The Netherlands and Belgium. The UK seeming has the lead at this point. The United States dropped out of the 2018 bidding in October to concentrate on the 2022 contest. The US competition for the 2022 World Cup will come from Australia, Japan, Korea Republic and Qatar.
The politics of the World Cup bidding process will come into play and the American bid might be hindered because the Obama Administration (like the Bush Administration before it) will not guarantee a federal underwriting of FIFA contractual guarantees. In other words, FIFA wants to be shown the money and probably wined and dined in the process. The absurdity is that America has the venues needed, hotel space needed and transportation needed and held a World Cup in 1994. The money issue can be easily rectified locally as host cities can put up guarantees like they do for the Olympics. (As Texas Governor, George W. Bush in the late 1990s allowed both the Houston bid committee for the 2012 Summer Games and the Dallas bid committee the chance to put aside $100 million in taxpayers dollars as sort of a slush fund in case either city landed the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to "cover" cost overruns. That is the price of dealing with the IOC.)
The World Cup experience in 1994 in New Jersey led Dan Doctoroff to launch a campaign aimed at getting the 2012 Summer Olympics in New York (and New Jersey). It was a different world then as Doctoroff was a managing director of a private equity firm and world leaders did not have to proselytize themselves before an international group for a world event. FIFA's recently released report on the 2022 bidders also raised a question about Japan's ability to provide financial guarantees.
Remember these big international sports events are not necessarily about competition. It is all about money going back into the governing bodies and for the winning bidders, it is a combination of political statement, financial statement and an invitation to corporations to take a closer look at their country as a major market. That is why Clinton, Cameron, Prince William and other world leaders are making final arguments. FIFA and IOC delegates like glitz. There is a political argument in the United States that is missing from this bidding and there may be a major reason that the cable news networks and the AM carnival barkers are absent from this discussion as opposed to the October 2009 shrill-a-thon when the Obama Administration was heckled by the Rupert Murdoch-Roger Ailes FOX News Channel and the Rush Limbaugh talk radio crowd when President Barack Obama went to Copenhagen to make the case for a 2016 Summer Olympics in Chicago.
The cable TV news crowd and the talk radio experts, who knew nothing in 2009 about how an Olympics bid is set up and the politics around the Olympics (after all that might take some research to find out the ins and outs of international sports governing bodies) but criticized Obama for going before the Olympic delegates and then criticized him for not landing the Games for Chicago, might not be so opinionated on this bid. Murdoch has far too many irons in the football world fire with his Sky Network contracts globally particularly in England, the FOX Soccer Channel in the United States and (hopefully FOX's Lou Dobbs is seated for this), Fox Deportes that there is no need to call attention to Obama in this round of international sports bidding. Besides the US bid seems to be flying under the radar in this process. But the process has been made political as Clinton pointed out in a statement he released last Tuesday that the talkers missed.
"The bid could not come at a better time for the game of soccer, the United States and the world. First, the level of enthusiasm for the game has never been greater across America. Thanks in good part to the opportunity FIFA gave us to host the games in 1994; we have become a nation of footballers, young and old. The last 16 years have seen the creation of the MLS professional league, an expansion of the game's United States fan base to more than 90 million and now a roster of four million registered youth players. Last summer our passion for the sport extended beyond our borders: The United States was second only to South Africa in tickets purchased for the 2010 World Cup.
"Second, our nation, like the game, is more diverse than ever before. We have a fascinating mix of ethnicities and cultures within our borders. Players from every competing nation would feel as though they were playing a home game right here in the United States.
"Third, this is an important moment for the future of the game of soccer. Our bid promises not only to uphold the great legacy of the World Cup but also to advance global growth by creating new opportunities for the world's soccer economy, including greater television and sponsorship rights, increased franchise and team values and greater investment in player development.
"Last, and perhaps most important, our bid will mobilize American citizens and citizens around the globe to do more to address the economic, social and environmental challenges facing our world in the 21st century. If awarded the opportunity, we will use the 2022 World Cup as a platform to assist those less fortunate and promote environmental sustainability in line with the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. For example, a percentage of every ticket sold at the 2022 World Cup will go to the World Cup of Life campaign, a project aimed at providing drinking water for millions in the developing world. Additionally, as hosts, we would set new standards in environmental responsibility by minimizing the footprint of the event in six core areas: water, waste, energy, transportation, procurement and climate change.
"In our interdependent world we have to change our theory of success from a zero-sum game, where one team has to win while the other must lose. It's good for sports, and makes for great World Cup matches, but it's wrong for the world. We need to build a world with more winners."
Clinton is talking about the changing face of America, globalization and the environment. International sports events like the World Cup and the Olympics are political platforms. In July 1969, hostilities boiled over at a World Cup qualifier between Honduras and El Salvador which led to a four day war. The countries might have had a war anyway but the football match lead to Honduras invading El Salvador. The Olympics were a platform for Hitler's Germany in 1936, there was the Massacre of 11 Israeli athletes in the 1972 Games in Munich, the African boycott of the 1976 Montreal Games, the US boycott over the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 of the 1980 Moscow Games and the Soviet and Eastern Bloc countries boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games as payback for the 1980 action by President Jimmy Carter.
The old lefty from Arkansas will go before FIFA delegates on Tuesday hoping to bring the football matches to the United States. He will be among the world leaders who are scheduled to appear that include Russia Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov: England's Prince William of Wales and Prime Minister Cameron; Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Mark Arib, Minister for Sport, Minister for Indigenous Peoples; (the joint bid) Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands along with Edith Schippers, Minister of Sports and Ives Leterme, Prime Minister of Belgium and Didier Reeynders, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.
In another joint bid, Portugal's Secretary of State for Sports Laurentino Jose Monteiro Castro Dias and Secretary of State for Sports for Spain: Jaime Lissavetzky Diez, Secretary of State for Sports will represent the Iberian Peninsula. Qatar's delegation will Sheik Hamad bin Kahlifa Al-Thani, The Emir of the State of Qatar and members of the Royal family
Korea: Lee Myun Bak, the President of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and former Japan Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, and Hiroshi Suzuki, Minister in Charge of Sports will be in Zurich. The power politics of sports business will be on display in Switzerland and with it could come some World Cup action in East Rutherford in 2022.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at www.bickley.com or amazonkindle. He can be reached at evanjweiner@yahoo.com

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vince Lombardi's players don't have a seat at the NFL lockout talks
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 07:32


Eight times a week, the life and legacy of Vince Lombardi is on display on the Great White Way in New York. Vince Lombardi is part of the National Football League's Mount Rushmore for his accomplishments as coach of the Green Bay Packers. Lombardi took over a bad team that was financially boosted in the mid 1950s by dances and fundraisers throughout Wisconsin (aided by the "arch-enemy Chicago Bears coach and owner George Halas) and turned the franchise into champions within three years of taking the job in February 1959.

Lombardi is now being canonized on Broadway in a way no other football coach ever has. But that Lombardi probably would have problems dealing with the football industry of 2010.

Lombardi's teams would win five National Football League titles and two American Football League-National Football League championships (neither the Super Bowl nor the Lombardi Trophy existed in 1967 and 1968 in name). Lombardi came of age at precisely the same time the National Football League exploded on the national scene. The NFL would ultimately become the most successful professional sports organization in the United States but Lombardi's players never did share the financial gains that NFL owners would see with every new TV contract that National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell would negotiate.

One of Lombardi's players who played on five NFL and two AFL-NFL championship games (and a Super Bowl championship team after leaving Green Bay) is now making $176.85 in his monthly pension. A player who competed against one of Lombardi's teams in the early days of the AFL-NFL Championship Game is getting $201.36 a month for 11 years of service. Another of Lombardi's guys, Jerry Kramer, is organizing a fundraiser to help his in need peers from the 1960s. One of the opposing players from the Packers hated rival, the Chicago Bears, Mike Ditka is trying to shame the league to help out his down-and-out peers from the 1960s.

The discarded and left-behind players from Lombardi's NFL of 1954 (when he began as a New York Giants assistant) until his death in 1970 should have an honored seat at the table divvying up the financial pie, but they don't.

There are more than 250 former players including 50 Hall of Famers who receive less than $200 a month in pension payments.

The National Football League and the National Football League Players Association are facing a March 3, 2011 deadline to get a new collective bargaining deal done. The prevailing thinking is that once the present collective bargaining agreement expires, the NFL owners will lock out the players on the 32 teams and a prolonged labor impasse will start.

The players who built the league and association starting in the late 1950s through those who played in 1992 have terrible pensions and need health benefits. Association Executive Directors Ed Garvey and the late Gene Upshaw seemed more concerned about getting players the most money they could for a contract and left out important details like good post career benefits like pension and health care.

A good many former or "discarded" players cannot get health insurance because they have pre-existing conditions. They don't have much recourse. NFL owners have no legal obligation to give them more money or provide health benefits. The league and the players association have been talking about taking care of the former players health benefits but the associations' turned down a deal that might have covered about 2,500 of 3,200 players because the association's reps didn't feel that TransAmerica would insure 700 of the discarded players because of pre-existing conditions.

Because some of the ex-players cannot get insurance, the one-time players are getting government assistance in dealing with football injuries through social security or Medicare even though some of them are under the age of 65.

According to former players, the proposal came from the National Football League not the National Football League Players Association. The "discarded" players don't trust the National Football League Players Association.

The NFL owners collectively bargained the pension plan and post-career medical benefit plan which isn't very much with the players association. The players association has failed the former players. The players association and the NFL Alumni Association have been battling one another and there seem to be a number of splinter groups that have formed trying to get discarded players some extra pension money and health benefits. Some of the splinter groups have forced the league and players association to come up with some benefits for the discarded players.

Meanwhile another precinct has weighed in on the current collective bargaining talks:


Somehow the National Football League Players Association and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) are embracing one another even though the AFL-CIO rejected NFLPA overtures to join the labor organization in the 1960s. However, the NFLPA's Executive Director DeMaurice Smith sits on the executive council of the AFL-CIO. In September, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said he would talk with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Smith and work out a solution. The NFL said no because Smith is serving on Trumka's board.

But in the high stakes poker game between the owners and players, the AFL-CIO is getting involved whether the NFL likes it or not. The NFL-NFLPA collective bargaining negotiations figure to become the most politicized sports labor negotiations on record and there are reasons for that.

The NFL got two assists from Congress and the Oval Office, one in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy signed the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961, which allowed the NFL to bundle the 14 league franchises and sell them as one to a TV network. The second was when President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation allowing the National Football League-American Football League merger to take place. Both bills transformed the NFL from a step above semi-pro level to an enormous money-maker.

Two laws signed by President Ronald Reagan, the 1984 Cable TV laws and the 1986 Tax Act gave pro sports owners even more benefits which allowed them to make even more revenues. A wave of new and renovated stadiums replaced old NFL facilities because of the 1986 legislation, which capped a municipality's ability to take revenues out of a facility at eight percent. There are some variants to that law based on the lease agreements signed by an NFL owner and a municipality. There is also this. Louisiana gave New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson about $186 million between 2002 and 2010 as a thank you for not moving his team elsewhere.

The NFL-NFLPA talks are politically charged.

Manny Herrmann, the Online Mobilization Coordinator for the AFL-CIO sent out an e-mail to members last week even though the NFLPA is not affiliated with the AFL-CIO:

"Incredible news! Yesterday (November 18), the AFL-CIO joined a huge coalition to deliver more than 100,000 petition signatures to Capitol Hill, urging Congress to maintain an extension of emergency unemployment insurance benefits for long-term job hunters. We'll keep you updated on this critical fight.

"If you care about jobs, here's something else you should be worried about: the National Football League is in contract negotiations with its players and is getting ready to do a player ‘lockout.'

"If that happens, players won't be able to play, fans won't have a football season and local economies that rely on football will be devastated -- it'll mean more people out of work.

"Why is the NFL getting ready to lock out its own players and devastate its fans? One word: Greed.

"It is estimated that a lockout would impact 150,000 jobs -- and cause more than $140 million in lost revenue in each and every NFL city -- some $4.5 billion across America.

"If there's a lockout, stadium employees will be jobless. Sports bars, police officers, restaurants, hotels and various support staff who work supporting the game also will be affected.

"The NFL and team owners don't care what a lockout costs communities and fans -- they only care about their own profits. The NFL's set to make billions of dollars, even without a football season. But if they do that, players and fans lose.

"It is estimated that a lockout would impact 150,000 jobs -- and cause more than $140 million in lost revenue in each and every NFL city -- some $4.5 billion across America.

"If there's a lockout, stadium employees will be jobless. Sports bars, police officers, restaurants, hotels and various support staff who work supporting the game also will be affected.

"The NFL and team owners don't care what a lockout costs communities and fans -- they only care about their own profits. The NFL's set to make billions of dollars, even without a football season. But if they do that, players and fans lose.

"The NFL's greed is seemingly boundless -- they are demanding a number of outrageous wage and benefit concessions without justification. Here's just one example: the NFL wants to take ALL health care benefits from players and their families.

"An average football player will work for only three and a half seasons -- that's their entire career. But the health impacts from playing can include a lifetime of pain or discomfort -- and even brain trauma that leads to depression and suicide.

"How can the NFL make money without a football season? By rigging the system. They've already set aside $900 million that should've gone to players' benefits to cover their costs for locking players out -- and they've signed TV contracts that'll pay out billions of dollars even if no football is played in 2012.

"To save football next year, and to save jobs, we've got to take the NFL on and tell them locking out players and fans based on greed is unacceptable. If players and fans band together, we can shame them into doing the right thing.

"Please stand in solidarity with the players. Sign our petition to BLOCK the lockout. Make your voice heard to save the sport that you love."

The AFL-CIO numbers seem to be way off base in terms of real economic impact if there is a lockout. There doesn't seem to be 150,000 people in jobs that would be out in the cold because a football game isn't played 10 times in 21 weeks or 147 days (without playoffs) with the possibility of two home games at the most in the playoffs (in 21 days) in the city even if the host Super Bowl city and the Pro Bowl host city are added over a seven month period.

The economic impact is dramatically overstated. The players would suffer major losses and some team and league personnel would be laid off. But the AFL-CIO is right about one thing, the over-the-air, cable and satellite TV partners will fund the lockout which means that Rupert Murdoch's FOX, General Electric's NBC, Disney's ESPN, Sumner Redstone's CBS (and by association their news divisions) are lining up to support management along with DirecTV which might make some interesting conversation on the cable TV "news" sets.

Herrman's blast won't make the NFL owners want to rush to the bargaining table with Trumka. One former player isn't even sure why the AFL-CIO is involved. Dave Pear, who has been critical of the NFL and NFLPA and is one of the "discarded" players, wants to know, "how does the NFLPA get away claiming that we are part of the AFL-CIO? Where is the shop steward when there is a grievance? Somebody needs to write a letter to the AFL-CIO and ask some pointed questions."

Now the AFL-CIO wants a seat at the table. Before this is done, local elected officials, federal mediators, the National Labor Relations Board, the courts, Congress and even the Oval Office will weigh in but an agreement has to be reached by the two parties and the two parties have constituencies that will be heard, big market versus small market owners on management side and a whole host of parties on the players side.

This fight may get very nasty, very soon. It is a scenario that Coach Vince Lombardi, who didn't really want to play an American Football League (or Mickey Mouse) team in a championship game in 1967, could never envision as his Packers ran to daylight nearly five decades ago.

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

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 23 November 2010 07:32 )

Monday, November 22, 2010

No Never Means No in the Politics of Sports Facility Construction

By Evan Weiner

November 22, 2010


(New York, N. Y.) -- In the suburban New York City at the Town Hall of Ramapo in Suffern, New York, which is about 35 miles north of the George Washington Bridge, Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence will once again on Tuesday night explain why he feels there is the need to spend millions of dollars for a project that has failure written all over it.

St. Lawrence is continuing his quest to bring an independent baseball league franchise to what once was a wooded area in his town.

St. Lawrence is so gung ho about getting a 3,500-seat facility built on the taxpayers’ dime that he has decided that to ignore the results of an August referendum election which saw local voters turn down the stadium spending request by a 2 to 1 margin. The referendum result apparently was a mirage. Yes the voters said no, but they were clearly mistaken. It wasn't the ballpark or the fact that St. Lawrence has an agreement with the financially-troubled Can-Am League to play at the facility that caused a landslide vote.

Despite the loss, St. Lawrence is plowing ahead with his initiative. The Ramapo Town Board has since the defeat approved a payment of $8,700 for a traffic study of the roads around the site. Then $336,296 was quietly allocated for the site this despite the vote when Ramapo residents said they did not want to put up $16.5 million for the stadium.

Ramapo residents welcome to the "Business and Politics of Sports." Ramapo now has a chance to join a select group of municipalities who voted down stadium or arena packages only to see elected officials overturn the result. No never means no in the political sports arena.

St. Lawrence wants his town board to transfer 61 acres of Ramapo land to the Ramapo Local Development Corporation and use 27 acres to build a small baseball park that will seat 3,500. St. Lawrence plans to proceed with plans for the stadium that could cost taxpayers even more money. Ramapo could pay a higher interest rate on the 20-year bonds, which have been guaranteed by the Ramapo Local Development Corp., or vote to finance the stadium with town funds. Either way, Ramapo taxpayers stand to lose more than they will gain and the possibility of cutting needed town services becomes greater as stadiums and arenas are endless money pits for their owners, town boards like Ramapo.

The stadium idea seems to be a misguided adventure that might have made sense in 1959 after the Tappan Zee Bridge opened north of New York City and when city residents flocked to Ramapo and Rockland County. A stadium with business going up around the facility might have be a gateway to the town but just building a stadium off of parkway and a state road, Route 45 makes no sense in 2011 as there the ballpark is being built in a mature suburb and will not generate any business development or spur housing.

St. Lawrence wants to build a baseball park for an independent league team in an area that has never supported any kind of big time sports or entertainment. At one time, the Nanuet Theater-Go-Round in the late 1970s brought the biggest names in show business to the area but the concept failed and there is now a church in the facility which is about 10-15 minutes away from St. Lawrence's ballpark.

Big time tennis in Mahwah, New Jersey, also within 15 minutes of St. Lawrence's ballpark folded after nearly two decades of mediocre support about 10 years ago.

St. Lawrence is going after a team in a grouping, the CanAm League, that has hardly impressed anyone. The league gets no media attention, has no TV contract and has problems attracting fans.

The 2010 CanAm champions Quebec City franchise led the league in attendance with 147,978 people in 45 games or an average of 3,288 per opening. A team in the backyard of the Boston Red Sox, the Brockton Rox did as much business over 46 games as the nearby Boston Red Sox get in three openings. A slightly more than 100,000 people saw Rox games, 100,092 to be exact or 2,175 a game. Another franchise near Boston did even worse. The Worcester Tornadoes franchise had 88,499 customers in 45 games or 1,966 per opening. The New Jersey Jackals franchise playing on the campus of Montclair State in New Jersey next to the Yogi Berra Museum and within the shadow of the Meadowlands Sports Complex and with Manhattan in the distance had 86,014 people in the stands in44 dates with an average attendance of 1,956 a game. Another New Jersey team, the Augusta-based Sussex franchise ended up with 71,826 patrons in 43 dates or 1,670 a game. Pittsfield could not even break four figures for a per game average. Only 29,485 people came through the turnstiles in 42 games for an average of 702 customers a guy.

The Canadian-American Association of Professional Baseball started business in October 2004 with franchise in Bangor, Maine, Brockton, Massachusetts, Elmira, New York, New Haven, Connecticut, Lynn, Massachusetts, Little Falls, New Jersey, Quebec City, Quebec, and Worcester, Massachusetts. Bangor never opened the doors and the league replaced the franchise with a road franchise called the Grays. That franchise and Elmira folded after 2005 and the franchises were replaced by Augusta and Nashua, New Hampshire in 2006. Two more teams joined the league in 2007, Atlantic City, New Jersey and the road franchise known as the Grays.
Lynn and New Haven folded after the 2007 season. Ottawa joined the league for 2008 and replaced the Grays. Atlantic City and Ottawa did not return in 2009. The Nashua franchise was locked out of the local stadium because of the failure to pay rent and became a road team. That franchise moved to Pittsfield after the 2009 season. The league will add Newark, New Jersey as a seventh team in 2011. Newark was a financial failure in the Atlantic league of Professional Baseball. The Ramapo team would be the eighth team and is needed to balance out the league so everybody can play every day.

That is the league that St. Lawrence desperately wants to have Ramapo join.

In sports, saying no to a stadium or an arena proposal doesn't mean no. In the mid-1990s, voters in Seattle, Pittsburgh, and Milwaukee voted against funding for new baseball parks and in Pittsburgh's case a new football stadium as well. Yet the Seattle Mariners ended up with a new, taxpayers funded ball park as did the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Milwaukee Brewers. Pittsburgh also built a new facility for the NFL Steelers.

In Charlotte, voters said no to spending $342 million for a new arena in June 2001 with a 15,000 vote majority. George Shinn took his National Basketball Association franchise to New Orleans in 2002. Charlotte spent $52 million to build an arena in the late 1980s. The structure opened in 1988 and by 1999, Shinn was pushing for a new Charlotte arena for his Hornets because the 11-year-old facility was outdated.

Once Shinn was gone, Charlotte decided that the city needed an NBA team and that the 2001 vote was a referendum on Shinn not the need for a new arena. The city was promised an expansion team by NBA Commissioner David Stern if elected officials came through on a promise to build a new arena. Charlotte Mayor Pat McCoury said one of the reasons that he wanted a new arena built in the city to replace the one that opened in 1988 was that the city would get free publicity every time Charlotte’s basketball team’s highlights were shown on ESPN.

The city spent $265 million to get back into the good graces of the NBA and in exchange, Bob Johnson bought the 2004 expansion team which moved into the new arena in 2005. Arena revenue streams from club seats, luxury boxes (two items that Shinn really did not have) were supposed to make a Charlotte team financially competitive. The franchise has had money problems since day one and the Charlotte Coliseum was demolished in June 2007 at the age of 19.

But in sports, saying no to a stadium or an arena proposal doesn't mean no. State politicians in Washington, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin decided that the voters really didn't intend to kill the ballparks and overturned the vote by taking it out of the voters' hands and passing state legislation raising taxes to build ballparks in Seattle and Milwaukee.
Weeks after the Seattle ballpark referendum was defeated, Washington Governor Mike Lowry on October 24, 1995 signed a bill which allowed King County to create a .017% sales tax, which was offset against the sales tax now collected by the state in King County. Other funding mechanisms included the sale of baseball stadium commemorative license plates as well as using money from sports theme lottery scratch games. Non baseball fans were hit as well as baseball fans for dining as a special stadium sales tax of .5% on restaurants, bars and taverns was levied for patrons in King County and as a special stadium sales tax of 2% on rental cars was implemented. The Mariners contributed $75 million.

The Kingdome was blown up in 2000 but the debt service lingers on until 2016.

In Pittsburgh, Plan B was enacted by city and Allegheny County politicians and money was found to build a new baseball park and a football stadium. Pittsburgh and Allegheny County residents were still paying off the debt on Three Rivers Stadium when the two new parks opened. Three Rivers Stadium was blown up in 2001 but the debt service wasn't.
In Milwaukee after voters said no in January 1995, the state houses (the assembly 52-47) and the state senate 16-15) said yes and sent a bill to Governor Tommy Thompson to sign that made taxpayers in Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee Counties pay additional sales taxes 0.1% sales tax to cover 77.5% of the costs of the baseball stadium they didn't want. The tax is scheduled to end in 2014. The most interesting part of the Brewers/Wisconsin stadium deal came nine months after the October 6, 1995 vote by the state senate to approve the taxation. State Senator George Petak, a Republican from Racine, originally voted no because Racine had nothing to do with Milwaukee economically and Petak felt that Racine should not be included in the taxation method. Petak voted no but switched his vote which allowed the stadium package to pass by a vote.
Petak was recalled by Racine voters nine months later and ousted from office because of his support for the stadium financing scheme. But the stadium was built.
Politicians just cannot say no to sports. Yonkers, New York has been pushing to build a 6,500-seat baseball park for another independent baseball circuit, the Atlantic League for 10 years now but the project has not taken off. The former mayor, John Spencer, brought out the old and worn out axiom that the ballpark would be an economic engine---a notion that has been put to pasture by virtually everyone over the past two decades with stadium economic impact knowledge----but so far the stadium project remains on the drawing board.
Ramapo Supervisor St. Lawrence hasn't given up yet and probably doesn't know much about George Petak.
Last spring, St. Lawrence signed a memorandum of understanding through the not-for-profit Ramapo Local Development Corporation and Bottom 9 Baseball, LLC to pave the way for a team with Bottom 9 Baseball, LLC running the franchise. The document was not a binding legal paper but it laid out what was ahead for Ramapo taxpayers and the baseball team owners. RLDC and Bottom 9 Baseball had 18 months to finish a deal after the clock started on June 4, 2010. It is not as though Ramapo had many suitors at the town's doorstep for the new stadium. It is going to be a tough go for anyone to sellout a 3,500-seat baseball stadium in Ramapo and in the "secondary" markets of Rockland and Orange Counties in New York and Bergen County in New Jersey.
The contract between the town and the team will be for 20-years, which is quite a stretch considering the Can-Am League is just playing a sixth season after reorganizing following the failure of the Northeast League. The Northeast League began in 1995 and merged with the Northern League in 1998. The two groups split after the 2002 season.
The league has never enjoyed financial stability in 16-years of various incarnations.
The Ramapo-Bottom 9 Baseball deal could have fallen apart on August 15, 2010 if a number of conditions were not been met. Apparently the referendum failure was not a deal breaker. Ramapo and RLDC have to find money to support the construction (with or without Ramapo taxpayers' approval) and have to get all the necessary land approvals. Lawsuits could delay or scuttle the project entirely. Bottom 9 Baseball also has to be in a league by October 8, 2010. As of today, November 22, 2010, the CanAm League officially has seven members and no team in Ramapo. Apparently that is not a deal breaker either.
Assuming Bottom 9 Baseball gets into the Can-Am League (and pays a million dollars or so for that right) and is set to go and Ramapo or the RLDC gets the stadium funding together, the new facility will be built over the winter and will be ready to open on June 6, 2011. Bottom 9 Baseball will be throwing a million dollars or four percent of the estimated costs into the venue. The team will pay $175,000 a year in rent. It would take more than a century for Ramapo to get back the construction costs at that rate. The team threw a couple of bones to Ramapo. The municipality will get a dollar for each ticket sold (not including those seats in the stadium's 20 luxury boxes – the town will get some money from those seats and some money from the sale of the stadium's naming rights. What are the odds that a Ramapo Stadium can get any money for naming rights when the New York Giants/Jets Meadowlands Stadium, the Dallas Cowboys Stadium and the Golden State Warriors facility are still unnamed? What also has to be disturbing to St. Lawrence is that the city of Jacksonville waived the 25 percent of an estimated $16 million naming rights deal at the city's stadium to help the Jacksonville Jaguars bottom line. The city is forfeiting $800,000 in revenues annually for the next five years.)
The team will give Ramapo two dollars from each car parked in the stadium's lot for a game. The town will also get 10 percent of the concessions whether it is food, beverage or merchandise sold at the stadium. The team will keep signage rights in the building. Based on Can-Am League attendance figures, the Town of Ramapo will get somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 a game if the town and team is lucky.

St. Lawrence is absolutely convinced that spending what will become tens of millions of dollars will be a good investment even though there is so much documented proof that municipalities going into the sports business end up having to constantly scramble for funds to cover unanticipated expenditures starting with stadium cost overruns. But St. Lawrence knows better than stadium opponents and the real life experiences in places like Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Jacksonville, after all his hired firm of financial consultants Fishkind and Associates has told him that the ballpark will be a winner.
Fishkind thinks the stadium will bring in $1.4 million a year which would cover the $1.3 million annual debt service that St. Lawrence projects for the stadium. Politicians when it comes to stadium costs are so easily fooled. There is a paper trail of consultant figures that can fill up rooms at municipal buildings around the country of rosy projections. In Cincinnati, the city and Hamilton County need to find money somewhere to cover the debt of the city's football stadium.
Revenues will come in at $500,000 for the Town of Ramapo and that is a big maybe from games in real world projections not Town of Ramapo-hired economist projections.
Ramapo taxpayers better understand that this stadium will be a loss leader no matter what both sides say. Ramapo officials think the team will bring in $900,000 in stadium related revenues. The bad news, the revenues figure is grossly overstated, the good news for Ramapo is that at this point they are not being asked to pay the team's expenses like New Orleans and Indianapolis and Glendale, Arizona residents are doing for pro sports teams. The bad news is that Ramapo will have to find money somewhere to pay from the annual $1.3 million stadium debt. That money won't be coming from local college baseball teams (Rockland Community College, St. Thomas Aquinas College and Dominican College) or high school baseball or stadium concerts, as the seating capacity is too small for anything but small acts.
There is also a question of infrastructure (road repairs, sewer installation and other improvements) and other costs including police. Can the area also handle game day traffic, although that would seem to be a moot point considering the lack of attendance in the Can-Am league?
Another question that should be answered: Who is paying RLDC's legal fees? St. Lawrence or the town?
There is also a clause about radio and TV and how Ramapo and the RLDC will get some advertising money from broadcasts and telecasts of the team. Many Major League Baseball teams, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and National Football League teams have revenue sharing deals with local radio stations and a radio network. Ramapo has two radio stations.
There is a major radio problem, the stronger signal of the two Rockland radio stations (a 1,000 watt daytime) broadcasts in Polish and the other is a 500 watt station daytime that doesn't cover the entire county. Most games will be played at night when the station's signals are diminished under rules established by the Federal Communications Commission. The money that can be charged for a commercial on a small radio station for an independent baseball league team might amount to tip money at a local diner.
There is always Internet radio.
Unless some local access cable TV company wants to put some games on TV, there will be no TV. The affiliated Brooklyn Cyclones franchise in the Short Season A Ball, New York-Penn League is owned by the New York Mets and there are a couple games on TV on SNY and maybe a game here or there on WFAN. The Yankees' Staten Island affiliate in the New York Penn League is on the YES Network once in a while or a blue moon, whatever frequency is less.
The terms of the Ramapo-Bottom 9 Baseball agreement heavily favors the baseball team which is not surprising.
If the stadium is not done by June 6, 2011, Ramapo will pay Bottom 9 Baseball a penalty of $2,500 a day for every day the stadium is unusable or up to $175,000. If construction of the stadium starts and Bottom 9 Baseball cannot get into a league, Bottom 9 Baseball has to give Ramapo $675,000.
If the stadium isn't built and the RLDC and Bottom 9 Baseball have an agreement and the agreement is canceled out because there is no stadium by September 30, 2011, Ramapo taxpayers are on the hook for $500,000 as a penalty for Ramapo not living up to the contract.
Bottom 9 Baseball gets exclusive use of the stadium 85 days a year, which is the summer when an outdoor stadium in the northeastern part of the United States should be most utilized. Ramapo gets the stadium 280 days a year, mostly in the winter. It is hard to hold an outdoor concert on January 17 and putting a temporary ice rink in the middle of a 3,500-seat outdoor facility in winter borders on financial lunacy if the town thinks that an outdoor rink in a baseball stadium will make some money.
There is a high baseball team mortality rate in the Can-Am league. Chris St. Lawrence probably doesn't want to know all of this but Ramapo residents should. There really is no media in Ramapo other than the local Gannett newspaper which has shrunk the paper's newsroom staff and the physical size of the paper that has gone into any real detail about what is a failed urban and public policy----stadium and arena subsidies.

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Politics of the National Football League Potential Lockout


By Evan Weiner

November 18, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) -- Since the last time we visited the potential National Football League owners' lockout of the players next March, about 72 hours ago, it appears that are a number of people have become a bit anxious about the whole process becoming politicized. The NFL had some issues with the piece. Former players had their say and no one, it seems, wants this to head to Congress and the Oval Office.

Or do they?

One former National Football League player sent an e-mail criticizing this writer for suggesting that National Football League Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith should take some former players who are disabled from injuries that they suffered while working as football players in the NFL and bring them before Congressmen John Boehner and Eric Cantor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The suggestion is that Smith have the players testify and ask the GOP leaders to their faces why those two Congressmen and one Senator, along with the others who enjoy stellar house and senate health benefits because they are in Congress, should repeal the law that was passed in 2010 which will allow Americans with pre-existing conditions who cannot get insurance to buy health insurance should be overturned.

The former player wrote, "I take issue with the political spin that you put in your article. You are right, every player has pre-existing conditions as a result of playing in the NFL. It is up to the NFL to take care of their players, past and present. It is not up to the American taxpayer to pay for the care of the NFL players, past and present. It is obvious that the proposed health care plan that Obama passed will destroy our health care industry. I am hopeful that Mr. Cantor and Mr. Boehner will do everything in their power to get the health care plan repealed.

"The NFL owners have incredible revenue streams coming in, and the players who make this possible should be protected by the owners. Football is a huge industry, and there is a tremendous amount of money being generated by the sport. Perhaps the owners could take a part of the revenues that they generate through licensing, and apply them to a health care plan for all players past and present."

The 2010 health care plan isn't too far from the proposed Republican plan of the early 1990s which Robert Dole championed. A number of former NFL players cannot get health care because of pre-existing conditions and they are getting government assistance whether it is Social Security or Medicare despite not being the retirement age which last time anybody looked was funded by American citizens.

The NFL and the NFLPA tried to negotiate a deal to provide health care to about 2,500 out of 3,200 retired players but the NFLPA wanted all the retirees protected and rejected the NFL’s plan. The NFLPA wanted all the players protected and claimed a large group of former players would not be insured by TransAmerica because of pre-existing conditions.

That rejection brings the health care issue into the discussion and could be used as a reason to go before Congress, which under Boehner, Cantor and McConnell wants to roll back the 2010 legislation and there seems to be no GOP alternative.

The National Football League of today was created by Congress and two Presidential signatures. In 1961, two Democrats, Emanuel Cellar in the House and Estes Kefauver in the Senate crafted legislation that became known as the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 which was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy which allowed NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle to take all 14 NFL teams and sell them as one entity to American television networks starting in 1962. Rozelle played off CBS and NBC and got substantial deals with CBS. After losing two TV battles to CBS in 1964, NBC chairman David Sarnoff decided to make the American Football League a real major league entity. He gave them a huge (for 1965) five year deal and football was flooded with money.

In 1966, the NFL and AFL agreed to merge but needed Congressional approval. Again Cellar was involved but two Louisiana Democrats, Russell Long in the Senate and Hale Boggs in the House literally traded their votes to Rozelle in exchange for an expansion team in New Orleans and the merger was approved. Lyndon Johnson signed the legislation which was on the back of an anti-inflation bill in October 1966 and within ten days, New Orleans had a team.

Additional federal legislation, specifically the 1984 Cable TV Act and the 1986 Tax Act, put more money in owners' pockets. That is why this will play out in Washington eventually.

The NFL-NFLPA dispute will start perhaps with a federal mediator, then the National Labor Relations Board, maybe Congress and maybe even the Oval Office. President Bill Clinton in 1994 summoned Major League Baseball owners and players to the White House in an attempt to settle the 1994-95 baseball strike.

He failed.

To that former player, here is the answer not from this writer to the column of 72 hours ago of "How DeMaurice Smith can wreak havoc on a NFL lockout" but from an Associated Press story of November 18, 2010 which is entitled "The Influence Game": NFL union seeks Congress help. A note to the AP writer, DeMaurice Smith runs an association not a union. Apparently according to the story the NFLPA has a lobbyist, which seeming comes as a shock to the AP, who has been working Capital Hill since the summer. The NFL too is working over Congress with a lobbyist and both the NFLPA's DeMaurice Smith and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell have visited the White House.

According to the piece, the NFL's political action group contributed $600,000 in campaign contributions.

Goodell, it should be noted is the son of former New York Senator Charles Goodell, who was appointed to the Senate seat after Robert Kennedy was murdered in June 1968 and is married to a former FOX News Channel anchor Jane Skinner, whose father Sam Skinner is a former White House Chief of Staff under President George H. W. Bush.

Smith was on the Obama Presidential transitional staff and is a tight friend of Attorney General Eric Holder.

The AP piece, which shows how out of touch the Washington media is with reality has a disclaimer that appears in the middle of the piece --- EDITOR'S NOTE -- An occasional look at how behind-the-scenes influence is exercised in Washington --- as if this is a news flash.

It seems health care for former players could become a major flash point in the battle between the owners and players. Right now the owners seem to have a plan that would cut the players take of the revenues from 59.6 percent of the revenue to 48.2 percent and cut players salaries by 18 percent. If there is no contract in place by March 3, 2011, the players --- a good many of them who have pre-existing conditions could be scrambling for health care.

The NFL plans to use health care as a bargaining tool to get an agreement. The league issued this statement -- "Regarding the funding of current player benefits if there is a work stoppage, here is what we have said: 'This is yet one more reason to get back to the bargaining table and get an agreement. But there is no question that a strike or lockout triggers rights under a federal law known as COBRA that allows employees to continue their existing health insurance coverage without interruption or change in terms -- either at their expense or their union’s expense. This means that no player or family member would experience any change in coverage for so much as a single day because of a work stoppage. The union surely knows this and there is no excuse suggesting otherwise.'”

In the public relations front, the league is assuring retired players that whatever happens with the CBA, they will get their benefits.

“I know that retired players and their families are watching the current round of bargaining between the NFL and players’ union with growing concern,” said NFL Alumni President and Executive Director George Martin in a letter dated September 7, 2010. “They want to make sure that their benefits will be secure and uninterrupted, no matter what happens in those negotiations. I have discussed this matter with Commissioner Goodell on several occasions, and he has always assured me that retired player benefits will be protected, first in the uncapped year, and then if the CBA its expires.
“I have seen the statements from NFLPA representatives that retirees will lose their benefits if the agreement expires. I am convinced that is not true, and have again asked Commissioner Goodell for his assurances on this point. He was unequivocal and told me again that he as Commissioner, and the owners as a group, are committed to protecting and funding current retired player benefit programs.
“In his letter to retired players, Martin said that he had received the following commitments from the NFL:
“First, no matter what the status of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL clubs will continue to make all required contributions to the pension plan, will continue to pay in full all pension benefits earned by retired players, and will continue to accept requests from vested players to begin receiving benefits as provided for in the pension plan.
“Second, NFL clubs will continue to fund the basic and supplemental disability plans, and the 88 Plan, and will continue to accept and process new applications even after the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires. In addition, the league has pledged to work with NFL Alumni to develop new outreach programs to identify retired players in need of assistance and to getting those players the help they need.
“Third, retired players will continue to receive post-career medical benefits as provided in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, regardless of whether the agreement expires. Their medical benefits will continue on the same terms as today just as if the CBA were still in place.
That should come as good news to one player, an 11-year veteran who will continue to receive his $201.36 a month pension.
But former players don't seem to be too interested in helping DeMaurice Smith. "The NFLPA has been guilty of not helping the pre-1993 retired guys, and these are the guys who have medical problems from playing in the NFL. I don't believe that any of the guys will join DeMaurice Smith, and the NFLPA the way that you suggested because we have been discarded for many, many years by the NFLPA. The thought of using the discarded guys to help settle the CBA negotiations doesn`t sound good to me because of the way that we have been treated.
"During the historic trial that 2062 retired guys were awarded $28.1 million, Jeffrey Kessler, the lead attorney for the NFLPA built his defense around the retired guys being un-marketable, and worthless. He compared us to "dog food.'"

The high stakes battle is gearing up. Goodell and Smith are veteran Washington insiders. The battle is political and much more important than who makes it to "The Big Game" in February.

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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How DeMaurice Smith Can Wreck Havoc on the NFL and House GOPers and the Washington Media


By Evan Weiner

National Football League fans probably aren’t paying too much attention to what might happen once the Super Bowl rolls around. Some teams and their fans are gearing up for a December playoff run but in Washington, DeMaurice Smith is plotting strategy as National Football League owners and officials of the National Football League Players Association are about ready to face off in a much bigger game than the Super Bowl.

The league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players nearly ends after the NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii in February. The old CBA expires on March 3 but the real lockout for NFL customers and fans, if the owners and players don’t reach an agreement, could start in April with no mini camps and by July, there could be no training camps, It is unclear whether the league can even conduct a draft if there is no CBA in place.

The dispute is all about money. NFL players take about 59 percent of league-generated revenues and the NFL want to scale that back to 41 percent.

If there is a lockout, NFL players and perhaps NFL retired players will be impacted as the owners do not intend to fund the NFL pension plan or pay for life insurance. The league no longer has to put money aside for that under the terms of the expiring labor agreement. The league will use that money for an owners lockout fund.

Present and former players need to find out how the defunding of those programs will impact their lives.

DeMaurice Smith, the political operative who served on President Barack Obama’s transitional committee, could spring into action and shake up not only the football industry, but members of Congress and the zombie Washington, DC/national media by going on a public relations tour which should include the most unlikely of places.

A visit to that noted football fan’s radio show, Rush Limbaugh and other carnival barkers.

Smith should bring with him a number of discarded football players who are suffering from brain damage or other physical ailments and start talking about the loss of benefits for these players and what happens if the NFL players actually lose their health benefits in the course of the lockout. He should also talk about the number of players in assisted living facilities and who might be paying for their care.

Smith, the political insider, should appear before the GOP controlled House of Representatives and tell presumed House leader John Boehner of Ohio and Virginia’s Eric Cantor that you figure out what to do with my players if they lose their health benefits. After all, Smith should say, you want to repeal the new health care law and one of the provisions you would eliminate is that insurance companies could say no to my clients because of pre-existing conditions and all players have pre-existing conditions.

Who will pay for their care?

Smith would put a face to all of those with pre-existing conditions and put Congressmen Boehner, Cantor and all the others who want to repeal the health care law in a box. He would also force the Washington media, most of whom are probably planning the 2011 White House Correspondence Dinner, to examine the health care issue in a different light because the gladiators of Sunday—the players of the most popular sport in America---would been seen as advocates for health care as they do have pre-existing conditions.

The only people reporting on discarded football players come from the sports media at this point.

The Washington media would have to report on something other than polls and conservative right wing talk show hosts like Limbaugh, who have to actually face someone who is more articulate than they are, will be forced to have an honest, two-way conversation about health care. Smith should also hit the so-called cable TV news channels including FOX and MSNBC and get into a real dialogue instead of the usual in your face food fights that passes for news in these environments. He should appear on the Sunday talk shows and the network morning fares. He should engage in a full media blitz and take with him the “discarded” players.

More than a handful of former players are collecting social security and using Medicare assistance to take care of their health needs because the NFL is not paying for medical insurance down the road for former players. Smith needs to point this out to Boehner, Cantor, Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell and all the other members of the Senate and the House. It is a story that needs to be told and probably explained to the football crazy Washington insiders who appear at Washington Redskins home games because that is a place to be seen.

Smith should start his tour during the NFL playoffs. If Smith reached out to the retired and discarded players, they would jump on the opportunity to educate the Boeheners, Cantors, McConnells and the Washington media on issues that effect “real Americans” like the ones politicians always talk about and the media always reports on.

Smith can use some political leverage too. Elections have consequences that are often not reported by national or local media. With Barack Obama’s election in 2008, the National Labor Relations Board changed and because there is a Democrat in the White House, there is a good chance that Smith can eventually use the National Labor Relations Board to his advantage.

Democrats are seen as pro workers while Republicans are seen as pro business and the NLRB reflects that.

Smith might decide that the National Football League Players Association should decertify—although he runs the risk that another group of players might want to form a new association----and file a complaint with the NRLB about the negotiations and see whether or not the NFL owners are engaging in fair collective bargaining negotiations.

During the Bill Clinton presidency, the Major League Baseball Players Associations appealed to the National Labor Relations Board in 1995. The baseball players filed for injunctive relief under Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act. Under the provisions of Section 10(j), the players sought a ruling from the National Labor Relations Board for injunctive relief and so they could go to a federal district court and ask for an injunction if a party is found to be negotiating in bad faith to preserve the status quo.

The Major League Baseball Players Association got the NLRB to agree with them and the case ended up in the courtroom of the youngest justice sitting on the bench of the Southern District of New York. A judge by the name of Sonia Sotomayer was assigned the case.

The 40-year-old Judge Sonia Sotomayer on a cold spring day in a packed courtroom at Foley Square in lower Manhattan back on March 30, 1995 issued an injunction against the owners and restored free agency and arbitration and ruled that the owners negotiated in bad faith.

One of those Major League Baseball owners was George W. Bush. Sotomayer eventually was nominated to the United States Supreme Court by Barack Obama in 2009 and was confirmed by the Senate.

In 2004, Judge Sotomayer upheld the NFL’s college draft rule that requires a player to serve three years in a college football program before being eligible for the league’s draft.

In 2008, the minor-league Central Hockey League asked for injunctive relief under the Section 10(j) provision of the National Labor Relations Act in a dispute between Central Hockey League owners and CHL players. The CHL strike ended two days after the request on October 5. The players went back to work. It was the only time during the Bush years that a sports players association looked to the NRLB for help.

Whether the Obama NRLB would take up Smith’s case, if an action was filed, is not known. But, during the Bush’ years between 2001 and 2009 there was only one “major league” sport job action. The National Hockey League owners locked out the NHL players in 2004-05 but the National Hockey League Players Association never sough out the National Labor Relations Board, possibly because the leadership knew that Bush’s NLRB was going to be less friendly to them than Clinton’s NLRB.

Smith and the players are in a high stakes negotiation that is filled with politics. Smith is taking on 31 of the most powerful people in the world (Green Bay is community owned) with powerful political connections. Jets owner Woody Johnson is a major Republican fundraiser as is San Diego’s Alex Spanos. The guys on the other side of the table generally get their way and have powerful allies. Smith also has some leverage and if he was smart would use it for to his advantage on behalf of his players and education the “American people” and the Washington media on contract negotiations, health care and political leverage.

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

Baseball Hall of Fame should include Marvin Miller
FRIDAY, 12 NOVEMBER 2010 11:16


Marvin Miller is once again up for election to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The 93-year-old Miller literally built the Major League Baseball Players Association with Richard Moss from scratch starting in 1966. By the time Miller left his post as the association's executive director Major League Baseball was transformed with the players gaining free agency and huge sums of money.
Miller, according to many sportswriters and baseball executives, ruined the game.
There are 12 names that the 16-member Hall of Fame Committee will consider at a December 6th vote. Miller's credentials will be examined long with those of eight players, Vida Blue, Dave Concepcion, Steve Garvey, Ron Guidry, Tommy John, Al Oliver, Ted Simmons and Rusty Staub; former five time Yankees manager Billy Martin; and long time baseball executive Pat Gillick, who built championship teams in Toronto and Philadelphia and the late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.
There are other names that should get consideration are missing, one time Boston and Milwaukee Braves owner Lou Perini, one time Houston Colt 45s and Astros owner Roy Hofheinz and one time Kansas City and Oakland A's owner Charles Finley, The Baseball Hall of Fame is far from perfect and those three along with Miller should have been members of the Baseball Parthenon a long time ago.
Miller was passed over in 2003 and 2007 for baseball political reasons. Miller was not liked because he changed the economics of the industry in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. He negotiated new deals with the owners and took their concerns to the courts, the National Labor Relations Board, and arbitrators. His actions eventually led to free agency.
If Jim Kaat, a long time pitcher and announcer, had a vote, Miller would be enshrined immediately. If Bill Madlock, a good hitter in his playing days in the 1970s and 1980s had a vote, Miller would have gotten a call years ago.
"Actually, the central issue that Marvin went after was always the pension plan," said Kaat in an interview in 2000. "Nowadays, you would not think that but the pension plan in the 1960s was much more important to the players than salary. Because in those days, if you projected to when you were 55 or 60 years old and you could draw $30,000 a year in a pension plan...a lot of players weren't making that much in salaries.
"That's how he kept everyone together. If you talk to Marvin, he will reiterate that. It was a big issue.
Kaat came up to the major leagues with the Washington Senators in 1959 and was with the Twins when Miller entered the picture in 1966.
In 1966, the players were tied to their teams because of the reserve clause.
The maximum salary seemed to be $100,000 and that money went to Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays type players. There was no free agency. The owners controlled the game and the players had little to say in their careers.
"It was a combination of getting organized as a players association with all of the television revenue that came until the game," said Kaat. "It gave the players an awful lot of strength. The owners didn't have a lot of foresight in what was going to be."
Kaat went on strike in 1972 along with his fellow association members over the percentage of the nation television revenues that went into the pension plan. That strike lasted nine days and the players got a guaranteed percentage of the TV revenues.
"Marvin used the pension plan as the cornerstone. He got all the stars with a few exceptions," Kaat recalled. "The (Chicago) Cubs had a very good owner in Mr. (Phil) Wrigley, a player-friendly owner. And so did the (Boston) Red Sox in Mr. (Tom) Yawkey. They were a little tougher sell. But we had a big rally in New York City in the late 1960s with Willie Mays, Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente. You had all of these stars saying we won't give in. They stayed together and encouraged all of the players to stay together."
That generation passed the torch to Bill Madlock and the players of the 1970s and 1980s.
"We started off with the Andy Messersmith decision," said Madlock of his introduction to Miller. Messersmith and Dave McNally were granted free agency by arbitrator Peter Seitz and that opened the floodgates in the mid-1970s for player freedom.
"It just got better and better," Madlock said also in 2000. "I think the owners got intimidated by him. They knew very few guys could get these millionaire players together as one. There was no hesitation, what he said we did."
Madlock added that Miller explained all the options that were available to them and let the players decide.
"He did not try to make the decision for us," said Madlock. "He would put out all the information and what affect it would have — not only then but in five or 10 years down the road. He made it very simple.
Miller is head and shoulders ahead of the other 2010 candidates but there are a good number of people who helped "change" the game that aren't honored either.
Without Lou Perini, there is a good chance that Los Angeles and San Francisco, along with the Twin Cities in Minnesota, would have waited until the lords of baseball decided to expand beyond 16 teams to enter those cities. Because of Charles O. Finley, Major League Baseball had teams in Oakland, Kansas City, Seattle, San Diego, Milwaukee, Toronto, and Montreal. Without Roy Hofheinz, it might have taken a lot longer to change the blue-collar fan-base not only of MLB, but also the NFL, into well-heeled customers.
Perini had owned the Boston Braves, a franchise that could not get people out to Braves Field in the early 1950s. He started looking around for greener pastures and knew that Milwaukee city officials were intending on getting an MLB franchise. Milwaukee was the first city to put up taxpayer dollars to build a facility and had talked not only to Perini, but also to the owner of the St. Louis Browns, Bill Veeck, about relocating to the city. Perini took the offer and moved his team in the middle of spring training in 1953. The Milwaukee Braves' franchise broke National League box office records, Perini was suddenly awash with money, and that got the attention of Brooklyn Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley. Because of Milwaukee's success, O'Malley concluded Brooklyn could no longer compete with Milwaukee as long as the team played in Ebbets Field.

Perini's move did not go unnoticed in Minneapolis either, as city leaders decided that if Milwaukee could get a team, they could too. Minneapolis went after Veeck; Horace Stoneham, the owner of the New York Giants; the owners of the Philadelphia A's and the Cleveland Indians, and Calvin Griffith's Washington Senators.
Though private industry paid for the initial construction of the Bloomington, Minnesota, stadium, which opened in 1955, Minneapolis officials kicked in $9 million in 1958 to expand the stadium.
O'Malley took his Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1957, after striking out in his attempt to get a stadium to his liking from New York City officials. Griffith moved his Senators to Bloomington after the 1960 season.
Perini sold his majority share in the Braves in 1962, but remained on the Braves' board of directors and approved the Braves' franchise move to Atlanta in 1964, a move that opened up the southeast to MLB. O'Malley was elected to the Hall of Fame in December 2007 for his contributions to the industry — but Perini changed baseball, and he should be recognized in Cooperstown.
In 1952, Harris County, Texas, Judge Roy Hofheinz came up with an idea. Why not play baseball indoors under perfect weather conditions? Hofheinz eventually became mayor of Houston and spearheaded the campaign to bring MLB to the city. Hofheinz obtained a franchise for Houston in 1960 and got city and county dollars to pay for the first indoor stadium that featured baseball: the Astrodome. That should have been enough to warrant his inclusion in Cooperstown, but Hofheinz did something else that changed baseball and sports: He introduced the skybox.
Hofheinz was charging about $20,000 annually for the boxes, and that did not go unnoticed by his fellow owners. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said in the 1980s that the skybox was a "bane to the business," and because of them, NFL owners needed stadium renovations or new stadiums with built-in luxury boxes.
Rozelle was correct, and the 1980s and 1990s were a time of franchise shifts in the NFL because owners were looking for stadiums with luxury boxes. Hofheinz also influenced entertainment by using a scoreboard to entertain people during games.
Finley is in the same category as Marvin Miller when it comes to baseball executives. They hated him and still bear a grudge. Finley tried to move his Kansas City A's a few times in the 1960s and eventually ended up in Oakland in 1968. He was another owner who tried to add some entertainment to baseball: Finley's A's experimented with orange baseballs in spring training; employed ballgirls instead of ballboys; built a zoo behind the outfield fence in Kansas City; advocated the use of the designated pinch hitter and pinch runner; World Series night games; started a trend by using multiple uniform combinations, and gave players money to grow moustaches.
His move to Oakland caused a major chain reaction in baseball that would eventually be felt in Kansas City, Seattle, Milwaukee, Montreal, San Diego, and Toronto. Kansas City did not stop Finley from moving, but a senator from Missouri, Stuart Symington, pressured MLB to get back into Kansas City as quickly as possible or he would begin to dismantle MLB's antitrust exemption. The American League filled the gap by awarding Kansas City and Seattle franchises in 1969, and the National League sped up a possible 1971 expansion and gave teams to Montreal and San Diego. Seattle went bankrupt and, in March 1970, a group led by Bud Selig scooped up the team and transferred it to Milwaukee during spring training. Seattle, which was planning to build a domed stadium, got into a legal battle with the American League, which was finally settled in 1976 when the AL granted teams to Seattle and Toronto. Finley changed the industry by making it more flexible for team migrations, and he should be acknowledged.
The Baseball Hall of Fame is more than just a room filled with plaques honoring great players, umpires and baseball executives. It should swing open the door to people who really made a significant mark on the industry.
Miller should have a plaque in Cooperstown. He is as much responsible for the growth of baseball as anyone who received Hall of Fame honors.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at www.bickley.com or amazonkindle. He can be reached at evanjweiner@yahoo.com
Pat Sajak: Major League Baseball is Lucky He Doesn’t Work There Anymore

By Evan Weiner

November 12, 2010

(New York, N. Y.) --It is probably a good thing that Pat Sajak no longer hosts a show on the Major League Baseball owned mlb.com because someone in MLB's hierarchy probably would have called the long time emcee of television's Wheel of Fortune what exactly was he thinking when he penned a column for Ricochet.com calling for voter suppression in some cases.

Sajak can express whatever opinion he wants and he did nothing wrong except perhaps in the court of public opinion. He basically told a lot of his elderly and working class public sector viewers that are unfit to vote on certain issues because they could benefit financially if an election result favors the candidate they supported.

Sajak might have missed that civics class at Columbia College Chicago when the democracy topic was discussed.

Sajak is on a roll. Less than a month after he suggested that someone, somewhere at least give thought to his voter suppression idea, he picked on sportscaster turned news pundit Keith Olbermann in his latest Ricochet ranting called "Mea Culpa, I Put Keith Olbermann on National TV". Olbermann did appear on Sajak's very short lived television show in 1989 but here is the credibility problem that Sajak has in his piece. Olbermann was working for CNN in New York as the network's lead sports reporter in the early and mid 1980s and Sajak should have known that before apologizing for his sin. Sajak liked Olbermann, the Los Angeles sportscaster and thought he would be a great guest on the show.

A note to Pat Sajak, Keith Olbermann will eat you alive in a competition between intellects. Keith is the smartest guy in the room although he tends to be his own worst enemy. Pat, with your voter suppression opus, you have shown you are not very bright as the people who you suggest should be denied the chance to vote, school teachers, union members, baseball fans who are asked to vote on referendums to raise taxes for baseball stadiums watch your show and some of them might decide to contact Sumner Redstone, whose CBS TV distributes Wheel or show owner Sony or some advertisers asking questions about the "likeable" host who thinks in certain cases, public employees should be disqualified from voting on certain issues.

They could lead to a backlash and a viewer boycott of Wheel of Fortune. No sane game show host would ever venture into those waters.

Sajak's two column voter suppression opinion came out on October 13 and while he acknowledges that his idea might not fly, his argument goes against the conventional wisdom of product selling. Don't infuriate your customers which Sajak manages to do. The Wheel of Fortune customers are older and some of them are on Medicare and social security and those people along with public sector workers according to Sajak could be disqualified for conflict of interest.

"None of my family and friends is allowed to appear on Wheel of Fortune," wrote Sajak "Same goes for my kids’ teachers or the guys who rotate my tires. If there’s not a real conflict of interest, there is, at least, the appearance of one. On another level, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from nearly half the cases this session due to her time as solicitor general. In nearly all private and public endeavors, there are occasions in which it’s only fair and correct that a person or group be barred from participating because that party could directly and unevenly benefit from decisions made and policies adopted. So should state workers be able to vote in state elections on matters that would benefit them directly? The same question goes for federal workers in federal elections.
"I’m not suggesting that public employees should be denied the right to vote, but that there are certain cases in which their stake in the matter may be too great. Of course we all have a stake in one way or another in most elections, and many of us tend to vote in favor of our own interests. However, if, for example, a ballot initiative appears that might cap the benefits of a certain group of state workers, should those workers be able to vote on the matter? Plainly, their interests as direct recipients of the benefits are far greater than the interests of others whose taxes support such benefits. I realize this opens a Pandora’s box in terms of figuring out what constitutes a true conflict of interest, but, after all, isn’t opening those boxes Ricochet’s raison d’ĂȘtre?"
Sajak, a man who has made his living by being a modestly talented host of a TV game show, has basically told a lot of his audience that a game show has higher standards than the American democracy and some of you viewers should lose your right to vote.
Wheel of Fortune has been on television for four decades. It was an established franchise when Sajak became the host of the daytime version of the program in 1981. He got lucky. The show's creator Merv Griffin liked his style as a TV weatherman in Los Angeles and decided to hire him to replace Chuck Woolery who wanted more money to host the show. NBC said no to Sajak, Griffin stopped production until he got his man. NBC caved and Sajak was the host.
Sajak has probably been hosting a game show too long and has made too much money to understand the makeup of his audience. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig got lucky on this one. He doesn't need to worry about someone hosting a show on mlb.com who clearly doesn't understand the makeup of the consumer base nor does Selig have to worry about a backlash.
Sajak though is now in a fight with someone whose intellectual prowess (Olbermann) is superior to him and someone who has a following (250,000 signatures on a petition telling msnbc to put him back on the cable channel after Olbermann was suspended for making campaign contributions) that can hurt Sajak's Wheel audience by simply not watching his show. The Wheel is an old brand name that could get scoffed up because the show's emcee is picking fights with the wrong people, voters and Olbermann followers.

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Issa, Brown and California’s Stadium Problem

By Evan Weiner

November 10, 2010


(New York, N. Y.) --Sometime in January, perhaps Darrell Issa will find time in his busy schedule as a Congressman in Washington and start a recall campaign of the new California Governor Jerry Brown. Congressman Issa, a Republican from Southern California, probably will head up the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform -- a fitting committee for someone who has had a couple of brushes with the law in the past -- and his plans are to call members of the Obama Administration to discuss all possible areas of corruption during the first two years of the Obama presidency.

Issa was one of the architects of the 2003 recall of California Governor Gray Davis. He contributed $1.6 million to get enough names on a petition that ultimately forced the recall of Davis and forced an election. The former body builder and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger won a special election in 2003 and California voters returned Schwarzenegger to Sacramento in 2006.

The Schwarzenegger years didn't exactly turn out well and the state is still grappling with massive debt. Jerry Brown now has to deal with California fiscal problems. Meanwhile Issa will probably go about calling people before his committee, wasting time and money in the process because that is what politicians do so well in Washington.

Brown's priority will be to get California back to fiscal solvency and more than likely that means that Ed Roski and AEG will not get that much help from the state in their attempts to build new football facilities in the City of Industry and Los Angeles. Brown's record as California governor from 1976 through 1982 is empty when it comes to the stadium game although Los Angeles Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom took his team south to Anaheim and Raiders owner Al Davis also went south from Oakland to Los Angeles. As Oakland mayor between 1999 and 2007, Brown did little to help of two Oakland A's ownership groups who were looking for a publicly funded baseball park.

Brown was governor when Los Angeles landed the 1984 Summer Olympics but that was more Peter Ueberroth's baby and Ueberroth did not depend on the state to build facilities for the Games although the Coliseum did get a facelift.

Schwarzenegger was in favor of building a Los Angeles football stadium and had hoped to attract two franchises in that facility.

In sports, the National Football League has a California problem. The football facilities in San Francisco, Oakland and Sand Diego need to be replaced. The league has not had a team in the Los Angeles area since 1994. Georgia Frontiere moved her Anaheim-based Los Angeles Rams to St. Louis and Raiders owner Al Davis left the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for Oakland.

Davis might have remained in Los Angeles had the NFL not changed the terms of a deal that would have seen Davis moved his team from the Coliseum to a stadium in the parking lot of the Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood. The details of the broken down agreement have come out over the past 15 years although Los Angeles reporters never really report how the deal fell apart.

Davis and the NFL were going to put up money to erect the facility. Davis was promised that five Super Bowls would be played in the building over a 10 year period to help pay down the debt and his team was going to be the only franchise in the facility which meant that Davis would have been able to get lucrative revenue streams like luxury boxes and club seat sales. But the NFL started changing the details of the contract. The promise of five Super Bowls in the facility was gone; the NFL offered three in a ten year period, then one. Davis also found out that his team would share the facility with another NFL team one year after the stadium opened and while he would sell the luxury boxes and club seats, he would have to start sharing revenues with another franchise.

The proposed deal became untenable and Davis took an offer from Oakland and left Los Angeles in the spring of 1995.

The National Football League gave Los Angeles a conditional expansion franchise in 1999 but the state didn't have the money to build a facility on a toxic waste site in Carson and lost an opportunity to secure the team. Houston, whose voters approved a referendum to build a stadium after Bud Adams took his Houston Oilers to Nashville, ended up with the franchise.
Phil Anschutz's AEG eventually built a soccer stadium in the Carson area.

While Los Angeles business people like Roski and the Anschutz Entertainment Group scramble to get financing for a facility, the state of California is cutting back on sports. The University of California, Berkeley will drop five of its intercollegiate sports programs, baseball, men's and women's gymnastics, women's lacrosse and rugby at the end of the 2011 academic year with the hope of saving $4 million annually. Cal's athletic program has been losing more than $10 million annually over the past few years. Sports losses though a just part of California's large fiscal problems.

Roski is hoping to build his $ 800 million stadium along with a retail facility with private money. The project appears to be dormant at the moment. Roski's group claims that seven NFL franchises have been targeted as potential tenants in his stadium including Zygi Wilf's Minnesota Vikings, Ralph Wilson's Buffalo Bills, Wayne Weaver's Jacksonville Jaguars, the York family's San Francisco 49ers, Stan Kroenke's St. Louis Rams, the Spanos family’s San Diego Chargers and Davis' Oakland Raiders. Roski's $800 million price tag may be just a dream considering the cost of the new stadiums in East Rutherford, New Jersey and Arlington, Texas, the New Meadowlands Stadium and Cowboys Stadium cost well over a billion dollars.

The Spanos family has been seeking a new facility in San Diego since 2000 and could leave San Diego at any moment if someone had a new stadium ready somewhere else. That has not happened. Wilf's lease in Minnesota ends after 2011. Wilson's lease in Orchard Park expires in 2012. Jacksonville's business community has offered the Jaguars franchise lukewarm support partially because the Jacksonville business community is not very big. Davis' Oakland lease ends in 2013. Kroenke's St. Louis lease ends in 2014. The York family has an agreement to move to Santa Clara but no one knows when a stadium will be built there. Denise York's brother Eddie DeBartolo had an agreement to build a new San Francisco stadium in 1997 when he ran the 49ers. The facility was never built. DeBartolo lost control of the franchise and the York family is running things. The franchise remains in Candlestick Park.

AEG wants to build a football stadium near the arena-entertainment-hotel complex that the company has built in downtown Los Angeles.

Schwarzenegger, in October 2009, signed an environmental exemption bill that waived an environment study of the project. One of California's major obstacles in building stadiums has been environmental studies. One question that should be explored though, can California justify sports spending when the California education system is scaling back?
While business titans in the Los Angeles areas figure out a way to build an NFL facility, up the 101 freeway in Santa Clara is supposed to build a private-publicly funded stadium in that city after voters last June approved by referendum. But the project seemingly has been halted until NFL owners and the National Football League Players Association sign off on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Santa Clara has committed $444 million dollars to the stadium, the York family is supposed to provide the rest of the funding. Here is a question that should be asked. Do the Yorks have that money which might be more than $500 million to get the construction started?
Any delays in stadium building will hike the construction cost.
The NFL wants stadiums built in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Clara and Oakland. The National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern allegedly is washing his hands of trying to build a new basketball arena in Sacramento for the Maloof brothers' Kings franchise after striking out repeated in the Sacramento arena game since 2006. Stern has put contraction on the table as a negotiating point in the NBA owners-players association on-going collective bargaining agreement talks. Stern's ploy gets the players attention as the association doesn't want to lose jobs and also puts cities like Sacramento on notice that they better play ball with him or the league will take the franchise away without a new arena.
Oakland A's owner Lewis Wolff has struck out in his attempts to get a new baseball stadium built in Oakland (Brown apparently didn't pursue that with any vigor while he was Oakland's mayor) and down the I-880 in Fremont. There may be a deal in the works for Wolff to move his A's to San Jose but Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig's crack committee on the A's relocation to San Jose and how that might impact the San Francisco Giants franchise has still not reporting the results of the study.
San Francisco ownership may have territorial rights to San Jose despite the fact that two referendums to build stadiums in the South Bay failed and the distance between San Jose and San Francisco is considerably larger than the distance between the two ball parks in San Francisco and Oakland. The two baseball teams share the over-the-air and cable TV market where big money is made. Wolff is getting a San Jose stadium for his Major League Soccer franchise in the city.
Oakland is looking into building a football stadium that would host Davis' Raiders and perhaps the York family's 49ers if the Santa Clara option fails.
Issa may be too busy to start a Jerry Brown recall drive in January considering how many investigations he wants to start on the Hill. Brown may have other more important items on his desk than supporting a Los Angeles area stadium and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell may not care about getting stadiums built until the league gets an agreement with the players on a new collective bargaining deal and that may not be easy. The players association might disband and head to the National Labor Relations Board, a group that is friendlier to workers with a Democrat sitting in the White House, and that is a messy process that could take a while to settle down.
All of this means that it might be another five to eight years before the National Football League plays another game in Los Angeles or stadiums are built in Santa Clara or Oakland or San Diego. The California problem is not going away anytime soon.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at www.bickley.com or amazonkindle. He can be reached at evanjweiner@yahoo.com