Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Do First Amendment rights exist in sports?
TUESDAY, 04 OCTOBER 2011 10:47
If you watch the cable TV news networks or listen to newstalk radio or go through social media and message boards, you find out there are many United States Constitutional experts living throughout the country which probably comes as a big surprise to frustrated social studies teachers in junior high schools and high schools around the country. Those teachers probably didn't realize that when the lesson plan turn to the constitution the students really were listening while they dozed off as they ticked off every point the country's founding fathers articulated.
Some of those constitutional experts know all about the Second Amendment or whatever number they have specialized in so this may come as a shock for those who know the document inside out thanks to newstalk radio show hosts.
The first amendment need not apply to the freedom of speech in sports. Dallas Mavericks owner (and freelance writer) Mark Cuban has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines speaking his mind when it comes to matters in the National Basketball Association. The NBA Commissioner David Stern has levied fines against Cuban for talking about the NBA's officiating. According to some media outlets Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan was fined $100,000 for his words which looked like rather benign comments about the NBA lockout to a reporter from the Herald News in Australia.
Jordan told the reporter that "the model we've been operating under is broken. We have 22 or 23 teams losing money, (so) I think we have gotta come to some kind of understanding in this partnership that we have to realign." It is not surprising that Michael Jordan, one of the three players who made David Stern a sports genius was fined. Sports leagues seem to have no probably squashing and trampling over first amendment rights and that applies to opinion piece writers as well for someone writing about sports business for a newspaper that happened to be owned and operated by a Major League Baseball franchise baron.
The Chicago Tribune Company owned the Chicago Cubs and in the company's media portfolio was the Baltimore Sun. In late July 2002, while Major League Baseball owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association were negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, I was an occasional contributor to the Sun writing Op-Ed pieces for Richard Gross's Op-Ed page. Richard was going on vacation but before he left he edited down one of my thought pieces which instructed baseball fans how to fight back against Major League Baseball owners by boycotting their "real" businesses. It was on the possible work stoppage in baseball sometime in late August or early September. We went over the piece, we both agreed it was in the "all the news fit to print" category and were satisfied with the result.
Richard left on vacation and the opinion piece never saw the light of day until 2005 in a book of my columns which was targeted for sports business management students in colleges and universities. Some higher up at the Chicago Tribune Company killed the piece. Those “higher ups” were never identified but it hit too close to home for them.
Officially the Baltimore Sun stance was that the paper didn’t support boycotts but that didn’t fly as the paper supported the South Africa economic boycott during that country’s days of Apartheid.
The column just didn’t fit with the Baltimore Sun’s style.
It was too radical for the staid Chicago Tribune Company and CEO Stanton Cook, one of the alleged architects of the 1994 baseball meltdown which cost the industry the playoffs and World Series.
"If you listen to sports talk radio or read writers from all walks of life writing about a possible baseball strike, there is a sense of resignation: The fans are saps with no voice who are hopelessly devoted to baseball.
"Simply put, baseball fans have no control over the situation in the spat between multi-millionaire owners and millionaire players if and when the players walk out.
"But baseball fans should know they can fight back and hit both sides hard where it hurts?
"The pocketbook. And here's how the fans can mount a counteroffensive:
"They should contact their state attorney general's office and make sure a mechanism is in place to ensure that they get refunds from games missed on cable TV. The refunds to the country's 86 million cable subscribers, who receive sports channels even if they don't want them, should come from the cable TV owners who transmit the baseball games.
"In Baltimore, that's Comcast, because it has the rights to show the Orioles.
"Fans should call their local, not national, elected officials. In those cities where the municipality helped to pay for a new baseball stadium, make sure that the team continues to pay rent during a baseball work stoppage. Municipalities should sue if a team withholds its rent because games were canceled.
"Baseball fans have enormous power; all they have to do is act. There's the all-time favorite, the boycott.
"For example, if fans are upset with San Francisco Giants owner Peter McGowan, don't shop at Safeway; he's a director of the supermarket's board after having been its chairman and CEO. If Dodger fans don't like Rupert Murdoch's role in the baseball stalemate, they don't have to watch the Fox network or go to movies produced by 20th Century Fox.
"Hungry and want some pizza? Don't buy Detroit Tiger owner Mike Ilitch's Little Caesar's products.
"Looking to go to a theme park in Orlando, Fla., or southernbCalifornia? Scratch the Disney parks in either locale. Also don't watch ESPN, ESPN2, ESP News, ESPN Classic, listen to ESPN Radio or see any Disney movies. The Walt Disney Co. owns the Anaheim Angels.
"The media?
“AOL Time Warner owns the Atlanta Braves. You can drop AOL as your Internet provider and seek another one. You don't have to buy Sports Illustrated, Time or People, watch CNN or CNN Headline News, the Cartoon Channel, HBO or go to New Line Cinema movies, buy Kodak products or spend a day at Warner Brothers Recreation Enterprises and theme parks or buy Atlantic Records products.
"Check stadium names. Budweiser, or Busch Stadium (St. Louis), Coors Field (Denver), Miller Park (Milwaukee), Minute Maid Field (Houston), Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg) are spending millions on partnerships, but there are other beers and juices to drink.
"Bank One (Phoenix), Comerica (Detroit) and PNC (Pittsburgh) aren't the only financial institutions around. Edison (Anaheim) and Cinergy (Cincinnati) are just two energy companies available. Network Associates (Oakland) and Qualcomm (San Diego) are just two of many technology companies. Don't shop at Safeco (Seattle).
"Fans don't need to buy baseball cards, which puts money into player's pockets, nor do they need to attend baseball card shows or stand in line for autographs.
"Fans should boycott buying licensed products and keep their money in their pockets instead of lining the pockets of both players and owners. “Sure, fans can boycott a game here and there and make a minor stand. But that won't send any messages to the owners and players who continue to bicker over how to split up billions of dollars.
"Some 70 million people attend Major League baseball games annually. Millions watch them on TV or listen to them on the radio. If just a fraction of that audience reacts, both the owners and players will get the message, and it could force a settlement in a hurry."
In 2002, the owners and players settled without a labor action.
When Richard Gross returned to work he had no real explanation for me. It wasn't his fault that someone upstairs had killed the column and clearly someone was very concerned about the thoughts.
No one today is suggesting a boycott of other NBA held businesses.
In New York James Dolan and Cablevision would feel an impact of Cablevision subscribers defecting to satellite TV because there are no Knicks games being played thanks to an owners’ lockout. In Los Angeles, Donald Sterling probably doesn't have to worry about turning people off from his residential holdings because his Los Angeles Clippers players have been locked out of the workplace. No NBA beat sportswriter would ever dare write that as that would be treason and all friendly accessibility to the team would be lost.
But it would be very easy to track the other businesses for some enterprising writer who worked for an outlet whose history included supporting the South Africa boycott.
Dolan bought Newsday from the Chicago Tribune Company and the business of the Knicks and the lockout's impact on that team will probably go unreported as will the 1998-99 lockout effort by Golden State Warriors owner Chris Cohan to avoid paying rent to the Oakland Coliseum owners Oakland and Alameda County taxpayers because he didn't play games as scheduled.
Cohan ended up paying the rent after going to arbitration and sold his team in 2010 for about $450 million.

The Chicago Tribune Company sold the Baltimore Sun along with other papers and properties to former Chicago White Sox minority partner Sam Zell who apparently overpaid for the properties and could not afford to maintain the newspaper at 2002 worker levels. The Sun is a shell of a newspaper these days. The Cubs franchise along with Wrigley Field also was jettisoned.
There is limited free speech in sports. People like NBA Commissioner David Stern and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gagged NBA and NFL owners and threatened them with fines for talking about the lockouts. Goodell fined Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams for giving the finger to someone as he sat in his owner’s box watching his Titans play. Major League Baseball commissioners have put up gag orders on the owners during labor talks.
Sports fans and constitutional experts on radio, TV and message boards should take note.
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 bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.

Friday, September 30, 2011

New York and New Jersey done a favor by not getting 2012 Olympics
Thursday, 29 September 2011 10:40


It has been more than six years since we last heard from Jay Kriegel and NYC2012, the group that had hoped to bring the 2012 Summer Olympics to the New York City metropolitan area. The New York Olympic dream or at least the Dan Doctoroff, Kreigel and others dream, ended in June 2005 when New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver voted against building a West Side Olympic/football stadium.

Doctoroff decided New York would be a perfect place to hold the Olympics while watching a Soccer World Cup match in New Jersey at the Meadowlands in 1994.

Sheldon Silverhammer came down on NYC2012 head, Sheldon Silverhammer made sure NYC2012 was dead and in doing so probably did New York and New Jersey taxpayers a major favor. He saved them hundreds of millions of dollars as the International Olympic Committee requires local communities to pay for Olympics cost overruns.

NYC2012 limped into the Olympics selection sweepstakes without a stadium and lost to London. Recently the organizers of the 2012 London Summer Olympics announced that they would no longer provide financial summaries of the Games since it might be a distraction. The general feeling is that Prime Minister Tony Blair’s 2005 genuflecting act before the International Olympic Committee and London’s 2012 budget will be causing some cash flow problems after the Games are done.

So see no evil, say no evil and hear no evil or taking a Sgt. Schultz “I know nothing. Nothing.” stance is probably best. It may also be telling. London could be losing copious amounts of money on the Games even though Prime Minister David Cameron claims the Games will be worth a billion pounds (or $1.5 billion) in economic impact. Some analysts think England is spending 7.2 billion pounds or $11.2 billion on the event.

Those numbers should become available in about a year although no one knows what China spent on the 2008 Games. Budapest considered a 2012 Olympics bid and came in with a $28 billion budget which seemed absurd. Hungary was going to redo the country’s infrastructure to house the Games. The bid never got off the ground.

Kreigel and NYC2012 contended that a 2012 New York Olympics would have cost $3.3 billion and would have been paid for by ticket sales, TV revenues and various IOC funds including merchandising.

The 2004 Athens Summer Olympics didn't cause Greece's financial meltdown but the billions of Euros that need to be paid off by the government for the debt accumulated by hosting the Games.

Sheldon Silver voted against funding the Manhattan west side stadium was not necessarily a vote against the Olympics. Silver was concerned too much money would be funneled into the stadium that would have been built between 34th and 30th Street and 11th and 12th Avenues and that his downtown district would lose out on dollars for local needs.

Is government spending on sports worth it?

For fans the answer is yes even though a lot of middle and lower class fans have been priced out of stadiums by owners who got public money for new stadiums.

The stadium game was pretty simple. Owners knew investing in stadiums was prohibitive and asked for government handouts, if they didn't get the local government to help with financial assistance for a new stadium, another city would give owners just what they wanted on the public dime.

That is what happened in Cincinnati although the owners of the Major League Baseball's Reds never did say they would leave town without a new stadium. The Brown family, the Bengals' owners, did in the mid 1990s when they threatened to move to Baltimore without a new stadium. Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell beat the Brown family to Baltimore. Eventually Cincinnati and Hamilton County worked which included a 0.5 percent sales tax hike which would pay down the stadium debt.

The Browns finally kept virtually all of the revenue generated inside the stadium which is capped at 92 percent by federal law. Eight cents on every dollar generated inside the building could go back to the municipality to pay down the debt thanks to the 1986 federal tax reforms.

The sales tax hike did not produce the revenues needed to pay off the two stadiums debt and that has become a major problem. The Reds and Bengals ownership got sweetheart deals and local taxpayers now face a tax hike or slashed services and municipal employees could lose their jobs because of sports stadiums debt.

Don’t expect the Reds or Bengals ownership to share in the sacrifice. After all a contract is contract and the lease is good for them.

Hamilton County needs $14 million in a hurry to pay off the 2011 stadium bill. The county doesn't have the money for the two stadiums debt load. Hamilton County property owners are now paying more on their tax bill because of the stadium but that is not enough.

The two teams got great deals from Hamilton County—maybe too great. Back in the 1990s, the general feeling was that if you built a stadium, it would be an economic engine. A platform that featured a stadium and potential growth of businesses around the facility. That has never happened although some will argue that downtown Baltimore was revitalized by a baseball stadium but that would be wrong. The Orioles baseball park was the next to last piece of an urban renewal that included a museum and an aquarium along with the building of a retail center.

The football stadium was supposed to have cost $280 million. The official price tag is being disputed with the Bengals owners saying the field cost $350 million while local politicians say it is $454 million. Hamilton County was on the hook for $34 million in debt payoff in 2010. The country pays the day-to-day maintenance of the facility

The Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper did something remarkable last Sunday for a newspaper. The newspaper reported on the financial problems of the two stadiums that were built for Reds baseball and Bengals football and how the stadiums have become a financial drain on the city. The paper's reporter checked out how other cities were handling cost overruns of stadiums and arenas.

The reporter looked at a number of cities. Indianapolis built a new football facility which nearly bankrupted the city's Capital Improvement Board with a $47 million a year shortfall. The Capital Improvement Board fired people and cut other costs while Indiana created a Professional Sports Development Zone near the stadium and there was a tax hike--one percent boost in hotel taxes.

That might not help. More tax hikes could come in 2013.

The stadium game has been a losing proposition for years. Jay Cross, the man who was supposed to deliver to Jets owner Woody Johnson, once said that the only people who benefit from a new stadium or a new arena were owners, players and parking lot attendants.

The Cincinnati saga is being ignored in other cities. Sacramento's city council voted on Tuesday to spend $555,000 to consultants as the first step in building a new arena to house the National Basketball Association's Kings. The city's mayor is Kevin Johnson a former National Basketball Association player. Johnson claims that the $555,000 investment (in a city that has cut municipal jobs and social services and has had a tent city for homeless within Sacramento) is worthwhile because an arena can create thousands of jobs and bring billions of dollars into the region.

Johnson is still reading off of the 1990s pro sports script sounding like Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent telling Cleveland build a stadium and it will open up enormous business opportunities for you. Cleveland built a baseball park, an arena and a football facility and none of them has done much to revitalize the struggling downtown. The next hope is a casino to turn Cleveland's fortunes around.

Silver did New York and New Jersey taxpayers a favor by killing the New York Olympics dream. Montreal and Quebec residents pay extra taxes for 30 years to pay down the debt of the 1976 Summer Olympics. Do local politicians learn a lesson? No Montreal leaders were thinking of bidding for another summer event. Sydney, Australia interests are paying down the debt on unused facilities as a legacy from the 2000 Summer Olympics. Greece has to pay billions of Euros to pay off the 2004 Games.

Still countries continue bidding for the Olympics; California politicians have bowed to the Anschutz Entertainment Group and are trying to fast track a Los Angeles football stadium despite losing a convention center. Minnesota politicians are trying to figure out how to built a Vikings football stadium, Charles Wang's New York islanders could spark a bidding war for the team between Brooklyn interests, Nassau County interests, possibly Queens interests and Quebec City investors. Of course Quebec as a province is broke but that probably won't stop politicians from funding an arena and out in Edmonton, politicians seem to be a little too slow for the National Hockey League's Oilers owner Daryl Katz's liking on funding a new arena. Katz has told Edmonton elected officials vote on the arena issue by October 31 or else. Whatever the "or else" means. Buffalo, Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis politicians better start firing up the mint if they want to keep their NFL teams around.

The Buffalo Bills record is 3-0 but that's immaterial. The Bills next real important game will take place in 2012 or 2013 when the lease between Erie County and New York State officials ends and the real contest begins---"the Stadium Game."

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 bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another week of sports business tests fan loyalty
MONDAY, 26 SEPTEMBER 2011 10:44
Sometimes you wonder why people become emotionally and, in some cases, overzealous about sports. After all, it is just a game and when one ends another begins. It is understandable that someone cares when they are an active participant in a sports activity but why should a fan care about an industry — sports is an industry — when the real owners of sports seem to take a rather cavalier attitude about their customers.
Just in the last week, the National Basketball Association’s collective ownership through their hired help — NBA Commissioner David Stern is an employee of a consortium of 29 owners (the franchise in New Orleans is owned by the league) — “postponed” (canceled is the real word) the opening training camp sessions and 43 preseason games (which count as regular season games in season ticket plans even though they are not bona fide contests in the strictest sense of competition as part of the 30 team’s business plan.
The only good news for season ticket holders is that a good many of those games were scheduled in so-called neutral sites). There is no word on whether cable TV subscribers will get a refund for paying for something that is not going to be available for them -- NBA pre-season games on cable TV.
While David Stern and the owners’ lockout continues, there is a very real possibility that Seton Hall and St. John’s University basketball fans may see the Big East Conference crumble as big time jock factories presidents and chancellors are again building up cartels and “expanding” big time sports conferences.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse, not the cities but the two jock-factory schools that play big time college football and basketball and earn money off of college kids who don’t get paid for their services and in some cases risk their health for the good old alma mater, have decided the Big East is no longer their cup of tea. The school presidents have decided that there is more prestige playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference and more money that can be squeezed out of fans from a cable TV contract. Pittsburgh’s chancellor Mark Nordenberg made it quite clear that college sports is a business when he addressed the issue talking to the media.
"Every university leader involved in intercollegiate athletics really has two fundamental responsibilities,’’ said Nordenberg. “One is to work to build strength in a current conference home. The second is to be appropriately attentive to the changing landscape and institutional opportunities that might need to be pursued. We also have been attentive to that responsibility. There's nothing incompatible about those.”
Nordenberg’s quote seemed to contradict the school’s 2003 stance when Boston College, Virginia Tech and the University of Miami left the conference to join the ACC.
Pitt brass was very critical of the move after the ACC poached The Big East for “big market schools” to strengthen the ACC’s bargaining position with cable TV executives because the conference needed bigger TV markets.
"We made very clear that if other opportunities did arise, we would feel obligated to seriously assess them looking at the long-term future of the University of Pittsburgh, and I made that point clearly in writing both to the commissioner of the Big East and chair of the conference in May of 2010, and they each responded was they thought the position I had articulated for Pittsburgh was the position that had been embraced by all the members of the conference."
The University of Connecticut seems to be the next Big East school to jump to the ACC. The irony here is that the state of Connecticut sued the ACC in 2003 for poaching the Big East. The case was settled and the ACC took the three schools for TV purposes.
There are some issues surrounding schools jumping from conference to conference for TV dollars. The first is just how are those TV dollars generated? They come from somewhere and the answer is that somewhere is cable TV consumers, who probably have no idea that their money is going to support big time college athletic programs.
The 1984 Congressional rework of cable TV rules that created a sort of cable TV socialism was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. Cable TV is the second biggest part of the three necessities needed to operate a successful franchise in Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer. You can add big time jock factories to that list as well.
The 1984 legislation created a basic expanded tier where “networks” could be banded together and sold as one to consumers. It was the lifeline that saved CNN, the Weather Channel, ESPN and others. The “I Want My MTV” ad campaign grew out of that because the MTV owners wanted to be placed on that tier because that was where money could be made. The cable systems operator decided what should be on that tier, not the consumer, and sports was a natural fit. ESPN thrived and started jacking up the network’s rate. Regional sports networks were founded and that became a huge source of revenue for teams.
The New York Yankees franchise was fortified by TV.
College presidents and chancellors are jumping on the bandwagon. The Disney-owned ESPN has created a University of Texas sports network. The college “realignments” have been caused by the want for TV dollars.
There is not that much interest in the college sports industry on TV. It is a niche industry at best and the cable TV ratings reflect that as a rather small number of people in the cable TV universe (ESPN has over 90 million subscribers) watch the games, yet 100 percent of the people are paying for what a rather small number of people are viewing. (Cable TV “news” works the same way, 100 percent of the basic tier universe is paying for what maybe a combined five million are watching on the FOX News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, FOX Business, CNN’s “Headline News” and other networks.)
The colleges and universities also have a federal tax exemption, which means that the schools and conferences don’t pay taxes from the proceeds of bowl games.
Consumers should be screaming about getting fleeced legally by jock factories by cable TV networks and tax loopholes because of federal legislation that does not help consumers. There are also some questions that need to be answered about all of the stars realigning to produce “Super Conferences.”
Just where is the money going? Most athletic programs lose money, so is the Disney and Rupert Murdoch money going to fix a budget problem or will the college student body see any of that money? Will the money go to pay coaches even more money? Why are college coaches the highest paid state employees in places like Connecticut, Iowa and New Jersey coaching at state schools? Why are governors like Chris Christie not addressing the issue? Rutgers is a New Jersey state school and all of the realignments will impact Rutgers.
Why are the players, the people who make the games possible, getting nothing out of this? The players get scholarship money, yes, and an opportunity to get an education, yes, but the demands on a so-called “student-athlete” are great as there is the emphasis on the sport, not studies. The players on scholarship are also stymied in non-school job opportunities as they are limited to about $2,000 in earning from outside work annually while on scholarship. Other college students are free to earn as much as they can in part time jobs.
Jock factories can say, look because of Bobby Bowden’s or Joe Paterno’s or Bobby Knight’s success, we got money to build new labs, etc. There probably will be some noise that college games have a big economic impact (but local and state governments don’t want to research the real economic benefits of sports because the numbers may not coincide with reality -- that the economic impact is minimal at best).
There is a paucity of reporting on the why Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott thinks an Arizona State-University of Southern California baseball game in Japan is great for his conference. Scott wants to put Pac 12 sports in front of Pacific Rim viewers. Don’t be surprised if the Pac 12 starts sending football teams to Asia for games, Scott’s tennis background suggests that he knows all the key money players in Asia and that the college presidents and chancellors of the then Pac 10 when he was hired wanted global expansion.
But what is the real reason that these chancellors are acting like pro sports owners and why are Robert Iger from Disney and Murdoch playing ball with them? Are they bettering the schools or just seizing an opportunity to grab more money?
Sy Syms in ads for his clothing store boasted that “an educated consumer is our best customer,” but that may not be the case in sports. The less a consumer knows the better off sports is as a business.
So Seton Hall, St, John’s and Georgetown probably will be thrown under the jock factory bus because the schools don’t play football and football is driving conference realignments. Without football, those schools are not welcomed into the super college jock factory club. They will be left behind in the money grab because they are not worthy.

So it goes in the world of sports. NBA lockout, college sports realignment, allegations by the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Newsnight that the Beeb has uncovered evidence of secret payments of millions of dollars from Azerbaijan in exchange for two boxing Olympic gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics. Phil Anschutz, the owner of the Los Angeles arena that houses the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers (Anschutz is a part Lakers owner), all of a sudden showing an interest in developing a Sacramento arena for the NBA’s Kings after the team owners, the Maloof brothers, made a pitch to relocate the franchise in Anschutz’s backyard in Anaheim and become a competitor for corporate support in the market.
The Lakers franchise in 2012 will start printing cash as a part owner (with Time Warner Cable) of a Lakers cable TV network in Southern California but Anschutz seem to want to make sure there is no reason for the Maloofs to cash in on LA area cash. While Anschutz will try and play white knight for Sacramento Kings fans, he is trying to convince an NFL owner to move to his proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles.
That was the week that was. It makes you wonder why sports fans still watch games when the lords of the game don’t care about them.
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 bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ask Rick Perry about failed Formula 1 racing investment in U.S.
MONDAY, 19 SEPTEMBER 2011 13:50

There is a question that "news presenters" who somehow get the plum assignment of moderating a GOP Presidential nomination debate should ask Governor Rick Perry of Texas. But given the absolute lack of imagination and scant information that the presenters and their researchers have or the lack of diligence in fact finding, it is unlikely that Governor Perry will be asked the following.
"Governor Perry, why are you, with your state having colossal financial problems (an estimated $27 billion hole), investing $250 million into a Formula-1 car racetrack in Austin, Texas in an effort to help Billy Joe "Red" McCombs re-introduce the car race to American audiences when F-1 racing is a proven failure in the U.S.?"
It is hard to believe that Brian Williams, Wolf Blitzer, Bret Baier or any other presenter would actually ask a narrow policy question in a national debate (These presenters take their jobs somewhat seriously. In 1992 ABC presenter Carole Simpson complained about the debate format in the Bush-Clinton-Perot gabfest which allowed normal citizens to ask questions troubled her as the electorate is filled with unqualified people. Ironically the electorate depends on Simpson and others to inform them. Simpson’s complaint did not reflect well on her and her colleagues’ professional acumen).
But there should be at least a mention of the quarter of a billion dollar subsidy and an inspection of the Texas-F1 contract as to how much money will Bernie Ecclestone and F1 keep from a television contract, how much of the ticket sales will go to Bernie Ecclestone and F1 and how much goes back to Texas as well as concession and how much rent Texas taxpayers can expect to see in the deal. Will there be a corporate sponsor slapping a name on the racetrack marquee and will investors/taxpayers get any of that money?
Will the Perry/Texas investment yield a dividend for Texas taxpayers or just put money in McCombs and F1's pocket?
Allegedly private money is going to pay the estimated $180 million required to build a permanent 120,000 seat F1 facility for Full Throttle Productions, McCombs company and Ecclestone, the commercial rights holder of F1. If the facility is being funded by private funds, why has Perry green lighted an annual $25 million payment to help out F1 and Full Throttle? Do the math; the state will spend a quarter of a billion dollars for 40 full time jobs. The race organizers contend the track will be a winner for Austin with the creation of 1,500 construction jobs, and 1,200 people will work the race on a per diem basis annually for maybe four or five days.
The race backers claim the track will be used 250 days a year. The key word in all of this is "claim".
The race people contend the race will have $300 million worth of economic impact but offer no proof behind the rationale of their claim. Sports organizers offer make large boasts of large economic impact, but New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said last year no one has ever really done a study to show the real economic impact of sports events in a community.
Austin taxpayers are kicking in $13 million for infrastructure and could be on the hook for an additional $4 million annually in subsidies for ten years. In this day and age, private money to build sports venues is rare and there are examples of private money sports arena failures in Minneapolis in 1994 and Columbus, Ohio in 2011.
Government support is an absolute necessity for sports in the United States. No project can be successful without cash handouts or tax incentives like PILOTS and TIFS. Will Ecclestone/McCombs pay property taxes to Austin? Is there a hidden taxbreak?
National Basketball Association and National Hockey League teams pay zero property taxes across the United States.
If Formula One is such a good investment, why is government dollars needed? Perry who is the hero of those who want sharp government cuts has created a government F1 racing program.
There seems to be something hypocritical about Perry’s stance that is at odds with his dogma. Perry’s recent political ideological book seems to be at odds with his political stances.
When completed, the Austin track will give F1 the circuit's first a permanent track in the United States in decades. Long Beach, California, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix have had street races which were fails. The F1 series inside the Indianapolis held eight races at the Brickyard.
F-1 racing has never been held in the New York area although there was a plan to hold a race in the early 1980s was never materialized. Now the mayors of Weehawken and West New York want to stage an F-1 race on the streets of those New Jersey municipalities in 2013. F-1 racing has been a financial disaster in the United States and the racing loop has not held an event in America since 2007. Formula One races were held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway between 2000 and 2007.
F1 does well globally but the United States has been a challenge.
The Austin November 18, 2012 date seems odd in that the University Texas football season is still in swing and Austin is the home of the University of Texas. Football is king in Texas and McCombs is a huge financial supporter of University of Texas sports but he has apparently agreed that F-1 and football can co-exist for one week in November. The race will also have competition from the National Football League, specifically the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans.
But Governor Perry has cushioned the blow of possible financial losses by making sure the state taxpayers are subsidizing the racing event if things don’t work out for McCombs.
McCombs has partnered with Tavo Hellmund to bring F-1 racing to Austin with Perry's blessing. Hellmund has a long history of being a race participant and racing promoter.
F-1 racing is different from NASCAR and Indy Car Racing according to the racing association's website.
"Formula One, also known as Formula 1 or F1, and currently officially referred to as the FIA Formula One World Championship, is the highest class of single-seater auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The "formula" in the name refers to a set of rules to which all participants' cars must comply.
"The F1 season consists of a series of races, known as Grand Prix, held on purpose-built circuits, and public roads. The results of each race are combined to determine two annual World Championships, one for the drivers and one for the constructors, with racing drivers, constructor teams, track officials, organizers and circuits required to be holders of valid Super Licenses, the highest class racing license issued by the FIA.
“Formula One cars race at high speeds, up to 360 km/hour (220 mph) with engines revving up to a formula imposed limit of 18,000 rpm. The cars are capable of pulling in excess of 5 g on some corners. The performance of the cars is highly dependent on electronics (although traction control and driving aids have been banned since 2008), aerodynamics, suspension, and tires. The formula has seen many evolutions and changes through the history of the sport."
Perry has signed off on the quarter of a billion dollar package to subsidize an annual race starting in 2012 and ending in 2021. McCombs, who was a co-founder of the now bankrupt Clear Channel Communications empire (and right wing talk radio shows with a liberal show sprinkled in for balance), led the charge to get the race and racetrack built in the Texas state capital. McCombs has a long sports history including a onetime stake in the NBA's San Antonio Spurs and the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.
McCombs failed to get a new stadium built in the Twin-Cities and sold the Vikings to New Jersey resident Zygi Wilf for a reported $600 million in 2005. Wilf is battling with Minnesota lawmakers in his effort to get a new football facility built in the Twin-Cities.
During the spring when Texas and Formula 1 deal was concluded, Perry trumpeted the deal and his words are still etched into the F-1 website.
Texas Governor Rick Perry conveyed his enthusiasm for the project, explaining Texas' relatively strong economy continues to draw both national and international attention and I commend Comptroller Combs for her work in bringing this exciting event to the Lone Star State.
The presenters should ask Perry about the commitment in what is a documented money losing venture, after all if F-1 racing in the U.S. was a good deal, there would be elected officials jumping through hoops to build a permanent facility for the event.

No one really in the United States pushed for F1 races until Austin came around. The New Jersey plan doesn't call for permanent structures.
When the agreement was executed, Perry was dealing with a record budget deficit and discussing the possibility of slashing services and jettison teachers. Why would any elected official even think of spending taxpayers’ dollars on an unpopular form of entertainment when staring at a record budget shortfall?
The presenters who moderate the debates ought to do a better job in getting ready for the debates. But for the most part, they are as woeful as the candidates (see Gwen Ifill in the 2008 Vice Presidential debates performance as a moderator. Ifill lost control of the debate asking Sarah Palin a question), maybe worse. So some free advice for the next presenter, ask Rick Perry about his commitment to Billy Joe McCombs, because a fiscal conservative like Perry needs to explain the Texas investment in a proven loser in the United States, F1 racing.
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 bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Could Major League Baseball or 'honkball' be coming to the Netherlands?
TUESDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER 2011 13:21

(Amsterdam, the Netherlands) – The flight out of Schiphol near Amsterdam in the Netherlands should be heartening for the Lords of Major League Baseball. Looking out the window, one can see four baseball diamonds as a flight heads out to the North Sea. There is gold in those diamonds if Major League Baseball can attract locals to play baseball.
There is some talk that Dutch baseball officials want to host a Major League Baseball game in Hoofddorp near Amsterdam in 2014. Could Honkball (Dutch for baseball) be played on a Major League level in The Netherlands on a one-off circumstance?
It is possible but the Dutch need a honkball stadium for a game or a series as MLB is not sending two teams to Amsterdam or Hoofddorp to play just one game and there is a need to build a higher level of awareness for the game. Hoofddorp plans to open a 30,000 seat facility which would be used for an MLB series. There is money available in Amsterdam and the country is rebuilding the infrastructure so the low country might be a good place to start in MLB’s quest to find a European market and sell baseball.
The Netherlands will be celebrating 100 years of baseball in the country in 2012 but a lot of work needs to be done before anyone will consider the Netherlands a baseball hotbed. At sporting goods stores in places like Delft and Rotterdam there are football (soccer) kits, footballs, sneakers, basetballs and lots and lots of bicycles. Baseball gloves are not widely available. Baseball doesn’t have a bottom to the top support system starting with youth baseball and working through high schools in the country.
Yet, the Netherlands national baseball team is pretty good. The Netherlands is for some reason the most baseball friendly country on the European continent and you can spot a lot of Atlanta Braves hats along with New York Yankees caps, although Yankees caps can even be spotted in St. Petersburg, Russia. The team upset the Dominican Republic in the 2009 World Baseball Classic (WBC) and the country will return to the WBC in 2013. The team competed in four Summer Olympics between 1996 and 2008 and the only reason that the country won’t have a baseball team in the 2012 Summer Games in London is simple. The overseers of the five interlocking rings two week corporate bazaar were upset that Major League Baseball didn’t want to play ball with them and send the game’s best players to compete. MLB didn’t want to shut down the regular season to allow their players to compete in a glorified all-star tournament and the International Olympic Committee delegates decided that golf and rugby were better fits for the competition than baseball and women’s softball.
The International Olympic Committee also went after Major League Baseball by badgering members of Congress in 2003 and 2004 because the self appointed arbitrators of sport didn’t like Major League Baseball’s drug testing policies. These were the same people who took bribes from competing cities in exchange for votes during the bidding between cities for the right to host an Olympics. These were the same people who required host cities to set up what is nothing more than a slush fund to pay for construction overcosts for an Olympics.
The Netherlands team is more than just European trained players. There are some Americans who have Dutch roots and a number of players who are from the Netherlands’ Caribbean territories, Aruba, the Netherlands Antilles and Curacao.
Major League Baseball blew an opportunity to establish a footprint on the European continent in 1992 when the owners and the players association could not come up with a payment formula for members of the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals to play a few spring training games in Barcelona as a prelude to the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. The IOC in those days classified baseball as demonstration sport. The Mets and Cardinals Barcelona series never took place.
Major League Baseball officials would like to get into Europe. Mike Piazza has been spreading the baseball gospel in Italy and one of baseball’s newest Hall of Fame members, Dutch born but California raised Bert Blyleven is also trying to raise baseball awareness in the Netherlands. MLB looked into the possibility of holding games in Italy in 2012.
Baseball like other North American based sports is feeling the need to go global. Later this month four NHL teams including the New York Rangers will start the regular season with games in Stockholm, Sweden, Helsinki, Finland and Berlin, Germany. The four teams will also spend part of training camp in Europe. The National Basketball Association, currently in a lockout mode, sent the New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors to London for a pair of games last March. The NBA has a significant footprint in Europe and NBA Commissioner David Stern has long been an advocate of establishing an NBA European division but the league has not been able to find the right cities for the plan to work.
Only London and Berlin seem to have the “North American” style building that Stern seeks. Coincidentally the London and Berlin buildings are run by AEG, the Los Angeles based entertainment company headed by Phil Anschutz. Anschutz owns the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings (Anschutz’s Kings will play in the NHL’s Berlin opener) and a piece of the LA Lakers. A couple of years ago, Stern felt London, Berlin and Rome, Italy could support NBA teams.
Both hockey and basketball are well established entities in Europe. Both the NHL and NBA have European trained athletes in the leagues. MLB had just two Dutch born players on active rosters in 2011, Seattle outfielder Greg Halman and Baltimore pitcher Rick VanderHurk.
A guy by the name of Derek Jeter won the Yankees shortstop position in 1996 beating out the Dutch born Robert Eenhoorn for the job.
Eenhoorn now runs the Dutch baseball program.
Major League Baseball is looking for new markets; the Netherlands, Italy, Ghana and India are on the industry’s radar. The International Baseball Federation once had the Netherlands ranked as high as sixth in the group’s ranking of baseball powers.
The view from the soaring plane of four baseball diamonds is rather impressive for MLB. You just don’t find many baseball fields in Europe but there are at least four in the Netherlands that you can see from the sky and there probably are quite a few more scattered around the country.

The Netherlands wants a Major League Honkball game or two in 2014. MLB would gladly provide them with a few games in exchange for a considerable amount of euros. That’s what sports is all about anyway, dollars, loonies, pesos, euro, yen, yuan and how to maximize whatever currency into the business.
The Netherlands is calling, now it is up to the country to get the right stadium and the right amount of Euros together for Major League Honkball.
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 bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Discarded NFL players continue the fight for health insurance

Monday, 22 August 2011 19:34





There may be a cruel irony in play for disabled and discarded former National Football League players if a New York Post report is correct that MetLife is about ready to sign a multimillion dollar, multi-year deal to become the naming rights sponsor of the New Meadowlands Stadium. MetLife could be throwing as much as $20 million annually or $400 million over 20 years into the pockets of the stadium owners, the New York Jets Woody Johnson and the New York Giants Mara and Tisch families. But in a good many cases, a large percentage of former NFL players who suffered life altering injuries playing for teams like the Jets and Giants and the other 30 franchises would never be able to get a life insurance policy from MetLife.

MetLife has been a stadium sponsor since the new facility opened last year and apparently is just "upgrading" from a "cornerstone sponsor" to the naming rights sponsor. Some company figures to replace MetLife as “cornerstone sponsor” if the New York-based insurance company upgrades. Despite the media frenzy or the cable TV and talk radio carnival barkers who want to grab attention for ratings purposes that the economic sky is falling and we will be facing a double dip recession (cable TV news anchors and talk radio show hosts are economic experts just ask them), insurance companies seem to have a lot of disposable income for what probably is best described as vanity sponsorship.

MetLife is already part of the New Meadowlands Stadium landscape for a reported $7 million a year as a "cornerstone sponsor." In Los Angeles, the Anschutz Entertainment Group has sold naming rights for a proposed downtown football stadium to the Farmers Insurance Group, a Swiss company with Los Angeles headquarters. The Farmers-Anschutz Entertainment agreement is reportedly a 30-year deal with Farmers kicking in over $700 million during the length of the contract.

If the reports are correct, insurance companies will be spending over a billion dollars over a couple of decades to throw their names on top of two facilities that are used less than 30 times a year. MetLife's sports sponsorship includes plastering the company's name on blimps that over-the-air and cable TV networks use to provide aerial shots of stadiums and other sports venues.

Again there is a cruel irony in this for the former players as they probably could not get life insurance from the Farmers Insurance Group because of pre-existing injuries suffered while playing for the Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Raiders and Los Angeles Rams of both the American and National Football Leagues.

The former players still have no idea if the National Football League Players Association got them any real long term health benefits from the recently concluded National Football League lockout. But the former players seem to be taking no chances that the National Football League Players Association or two decertified versions of the National Football League Players Association have once again failed their long term futures in exchange for short term economic gains.

There have been lawsuits filed and one National Labor Relations Board complaint has been placed in an attempt to change the lives of players who because of football injuries are unable to work or properly function following their careers.

The one action that is not getting much attention a claim filed by former Cleveland Browns player Bernie Parrish with the National Labor Relations Board on July 20, 2011. Parrish doesn't want the NFLPA or the association's executive director DeMaurice Smith representing him in trying to get better post career health and economic benefits from the NFL.

Parrish's involvement with the former players should not be dismissed. A former player rep and one of the founding fathers of the modern day NFLPA during his playing days in the 1960s, Parrish has gotten some results for the former players in their battle with the NFLPA in an effort to get some money steered their ways.

In 2007, Parrish and Hall of Fame defensive back Herb Adderley filed a class action suit on behalf of retired NFL players against the NFLPA and Players, Inc., one of the NFLPA subsidiaries, over retired players' benefits derived from player image and name licensing fees. Even though Parrish was dismissed from the suit as a lead plaintiff, a jury found in favor of the retired players and awarded a $28.1 million judgment against the NFLPA and Players, Inc., including $21 million in punitive damages The NFLPA appealed in February 2009, however both sides settled the case without further litigation.

"Since on or about within the six months prior to the filing and service of this charge, and continuing to date, the above-named labor organization (the NFLPA), by its agents, officers and representatives, has violated the National Labor Relations Act by violating an outstanding Board Order by continuing to try to represent the retired NFL players, including, among others Bernard Parrish," reads the complaint.

The former players have again gone in many directions in trying to secure health and economic benefits after the NFLPA signed "Money Now" collective bargaining agreements with NFL owners and didn't bother with post career benefits.

A number of former NFL players are living on government safety nets such as social security insurance and Medicare long before their 65th birthdays.

Parrish has gone through the courts and won and is now trying the National Labor Relations Board for a remedy. Last week seven former players including the quarterback of the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl squad, Jim McMahon, filed a class action suit against the NFL in a Philadelphia courtroom contending they did not receive proper treatment for concussions and that the league has been concealing links between football and brain injuries. McMahon, Joe Thomas, Ray Easterling, Wayne Radloff, Gerry Freehery, Steve Kiner and Mike Furrey are the players who have their names on this lawsuit.

Another group is also going after benefits that they feel should be theirs led by former Minnesota Vikings player Carl Eller.

Eller and other former players sued both the NFL and the NFL Players Association, contending they were illegally been left out of the latest talks after taking part in court-ordered mediation sessions earlier this year. Eller's group claimed that both sides also conspired to keep benefit levels and pension payments low in the new collective bargaining agreement.

Eller recently circulated a letter among the retirees.

“(The) NFLPA objects to Independent Retiree Organization. Owners offer $33 Million per year to Retirees. The funds would come from the $50 Million that the Leagued informed us about a couple of weeks ago. The $22 Million that is designated for Retirees in the CBA that the NFLPA has the digression to use any way it chooses. Plus another $11 Million of the $50 Million that would be administrated by the League and the Retirees. Another $11 Million of the $50 Million would remain in the hands of the NFLPA which is designated for charities.

"Roughly $44 million per year which is not included in the proposed $.95 Billion to $1.1 Billion designated for Retiree Benefits and Pensions in the CBA is pending decision by the courts. $33 million of that $44 Million to have an Independent organization control it has been agreed on by two of the three parties involved in the Eller Class Litigation. The party that objects is obviously the NFLPA. It is not for naught that I want to bring your attention to these matters. My assumption is that the NFLPA has determined that the retirees individually and as groups are idiots. And that the NFLPA can basically say anything and the Retirees will believe it. Also that by using these basic and simple tactics they can disarm any threat that they may encounter in pursuit of their goal to control Billions of dollars and continue to operate as they have in the past. "

Some of the former retirees have complained that Eller isn't reaching high enough for retirees when compared with Major League Baseball retired players. But the Major League Baseball Players Association had much better leadership with Marvin Miller as Executive Director when you examine the two groups. Miller stressed to his group to think about the future while Ed Garvey and Gene Upshaw demanded "money now."

While the former players continue the fight and some quarrel among themselves, the business and corporate spending on the National Football League continues apace. There are insurance companies ready to spend billions and act like jock sniffers so that some company executives can rub elbows with NFL owners and league officials and players and coaches along with team officials. The fans care only about being entertained or how their monetary investments in fantasy leagues, point spreads over and unders are going by watching endless football shows which feature the same highlights in various degrees of slow motion and numerous anglings or listening to sports talk radio or reading handicappers guides. And some sit comatose in front of their televisions on a Sunday from the start of network pre-game shows in the morning to the final play of Sunday night football while downing beer and eating all sorts of unhealthy snack foods which may raise their health risk and force them to pay more money for life insurance policies from MetLife and Farmers.

This is the NFL Today.

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 bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

New York Islanders still have a shot at a new arena

Friday, 05 August 2011 14:53





For the New York Islanders owner Charles Wang, the disappointment of losing an arena referendum in Nassau County last Monday was not the end of the road in terms of getting his Uniondale, New York-based New York Islanders a new arena. It was just a hiccup although if you read hockey writers accounts in both the New York and from the self proclaimed world's best hockey writers market, Toronto, it is all over for Wang. He should pack up and get out even if he has four years left on his lease because it will not happen for the Long Island businessman in Nassau County.

Wang, who spent part of his childhood in Queens, won't ever get a new arena in Nassau County according to the ones with supreme hockey knowledge and in fact one titan of the Toronto hockey writers Parthenon, the noted public policy and economic expert Damien Cox, suggested that the Islanders problems stem from Wang himself. Cox should stick to something he might know about — talking to hockey insiders about proposed trades, coaching or general manager changes — and leave the public policy writing to experts who understand property tax hikes, funding mechanisms for arenas and stadiums and whether a sports venue is an economic engine.

Cox probably has been to a New Jersey Devils game in Newark, New Jersey and if Cox and the rest of the enlightened thinkers who turn out daily rabble about hockey had any understanding of what they try and write about in the business arena of sports, Newark is a perfect place to start an urban policy lesson.

Newark was the apple of the eye of the former owners of the New Jersey Nets back in the 1990s and into the early part of the last decade. The Nets ownership planned to build an arena there and when it didn't happen, the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association David Stern called New Jersey politicians some names and said the politicians "blew it."

Funny thing, the New Jersey Nets franchise of Stern's NBA is using the very land on which the arena that was built after the Nets-Newark arena talk meltdown that the Nets ownership and Newark were planning. The team is renting dates at the building until a Brooklyn arena opens up. The New Jersey Devils ownership jumped into the void and worked out a deal with Newark to build a facility in a public-private partnership.

For Cox and the rest of the hockey hacks, perhaps some facts should be explained to them so they write better columns. In the sports stadium/arena game, no never means no even if voters say no.

Here are some examples of where the voters were sadly mistaken in the voter’s booth after rejecting a sports venue. Seattle, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Charlotte and Ramapo, New York eight miles north of the New Jersey-New York border at Montvale.

In the early 1990s, Major League Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent was terrorizing cities in hopes of getting a new ballpark in places like Cleveland. No new park and your team will be moved. In an awful lot of places the threatening tactics worked. Cleveland can up with a "sin tax" with tax hikes on cigarettes and alcohol to help pay for a new Cleveland baseball park. The explosion of stadium and arena building in the United States started after the 1986 tax reform and owners noticed that a large loophole existed if a municipality put up funding for a building. The municipality could take as little as eight cents out of every dollar earned inside a facility and use that money to pay down the stadium or arena debt.

All the possible relocation threats worked as almost everyone got a new stadium between 1986 and 2011. Only two franchises in baseball are looking for new facilities, the Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff and the Tampa Bay Rays owners. Just about every minor league ballpark has been replaced or renovated since the 1990 Major League-Minor League development pact.

King County, Washington, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and Milwaukee residents said no to funding ballparks in votes. But the elected officials knew better and put new stadiums in those cities. Washington state lawmakers imposed tax hikes in restaurant, hotel and motel and restaurant tabs to fund a new Mariners home. There was a six county sales tax hike around Milwaukee to fund that city's new ball yard and A deal was crafted for Pittsburgh to build a new baseball facility and a new football stadium.

In the summer of 2010, Ramapo, New York voters overwhelmingly said no to a publicly funded minor league style baseball park only to see the Town Supervisor and the town council nullify the vote. Ramapo residents have no idea what the final tab on the stadium will be but they will be paying for years for a park that was built for a team in a financially shaky independent baseball loop, the CanAm League.

In the 1990s, stadium building was viewed as an economic engine which has over the decades proven to be false. The jobs created are mostly

per diem and minimum wage positions.

Still the stadiums kept being built. Middle and small markets like Nashville, Jacksonville, Charlotte and others began competing with the big boys and one of the biggest, the Los Angeles-Anaheim market, lost two National Football League teams following the 1994 season when Georgia Frontiere took her Anaheim-based Los Angeles Rams to St. Louis and Al Davis moved his Los Angeles Raiders back to Oakland after a deal had been conceptually worked out that would have kept Davis in the Los Angeles area. Art Modell moved his Cleveland Browns to Baltimore after the 1995 season when he was unable to get a new stadium, Cleveland threatened to sue the NFL and viola a deal was worked out, Cleveland built a new stadium and the NFL put an expansion team in the city in 1999. Houston and St. Louis also regained teams.

The National Basketball Association was not beyond using relocation threats. Leslie Alexander wanted to move his Houston Rockets along with his WNBA and indoor football team and flirted with Louisville. Houston voters got the message after saying no to an arena referendum and said yes. Ken Lay, the disgraced Enron CEO is a major player in getting a Houston baseball park approved, there seemed to be annual Larry King "exclusives" back in those days in his USA Today column that insiders told Larry that John McMullen (who also owned the New Jersey Devils) was moving his Astros to Washington.

After George Shinn could not get a new basketball arena built for his Charlotte Hornets, Shinn took his team to New Orleans. Despite voters saying no to a new arena in Charlotte, the city officials worked out a deal to build a new venue in exchange for an expansion franchise.

Wang's biggest deficiency is that he has publicly not taken the threat road and in the stadium/arena game that is a big stick. Nassau County politicians have basically shown Islanders owners like Wang and before that Howard and Ed Millstein and Stephen Gluckstern the door like an overbearing landlord hold an iron clad lease. In the late 1990s, Millstein thought he had a deal to build a new arena and that fell apart.

If Wang wants some leverage, Queens political and business leaders are interested in bringing the team west to the Mets ballpark/tennis center area or work out a deal to share the Brooklyn arena that will house the Nets. Back to Cox, surely he knows that the Toronto Maple Leafs-Raptors home building was half done when Maple Leaf Enterprises took over the basketball-only building and turned it into a multi-use facility.

Nassau County lawmakers are suburbanites and not used to dancing with major league hitters but then again Wang has not been blustery about his problems like former Devils owners, the late John McMullen who never missed liking a city with an arena that was better than the Meadowlands like Hamilton, Ontario or Hoboken. McMullen never did get his Hoboken building constructed but the Devils franchise controls a building in Newark.

A lot of people look at sports as a well, sports. It is a business, Wang will have more shots at the net; all he needs is one to go in while playing the arena game. He was never going to win last week's referendum, his pitch for the building was very weak and National Hockey League Commissioner did not issue the requisite threats. Also Nassau residents have been bombarded with the "nattering nabobs of negativism" — radio talk show hosts and cable TV carnies who constantly rail against the government and government spending. But New York has built four baseball stadiums (Bronx/Yankees, Queens/Mets in a city-state, private partnership, Brooklyn/Cyclones minor league team, Staten island/Yankees minor league team), one very expensive basketball arena in Brooklyn in a heavily subsidized project and has given Madison Square Garden a property tax break for nearly 30 years. There seems to be political will in Queens, maybe some in Brooklyn.

In New Jersey, Newark built an arena, the Jets and Giants with state aid negotiated a deal in a private/public partnership to build a new stadium even as the debt on old Giants stadium approached nine figures. That is how it is, no is never no.

Wang has some leverage and in the stadium/arena game, all you need is leverage even if you have four years left on your lease.

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 bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

NFL and NFLPA’s labor woes may not be over yet
TUESDAY, 02 AUGUST 2011 14:04
The National Football League owners have a labor agreement with the present members of the reconstituted National Football League Players Association but it appears that the league still has problems with the players association's stance on not helping out former players with their medical needs years after their last game in the league. The league apparently informed Carl Eller's legal team on Friday that the-then decertified National Football League Players Association decided not to take a $500 million offer over ten-years to get retirees life football medical benefits and an uptick in pensions as part of the recently completed collective bargaining agreement.
Eller, the one time member of the Minnesota Vikings "Purple People Eaters" defensive line, has emerged as a key player in the NFL-NFLPA labor agreement. Eller and a number of former players inserted themselves into this year's collective bargaining talks because they felt the league and whatever the NFLPA called themselves in this round of negotiations had failed to provide adequate post football life care in terms of pensions and medical benefits to former players.
There are numerous stories about former National Football League players who cannot function on their own or are suffering from dehabilitating injuries that occurred on the football field but did not come out until they were long retired from the game. A new story has been making the rounds in retired players’ circles about a onetime offensive lineman who played in the American Football Conference.
"(The former player) has gone downhill fast," said his wife. "He’s now on the 88 plan. I can't keep up with him – even with full-time help. We do not need anything financially. YET. But we do need communication and support. I could never have imagined how hard this would be and I pride myself on being a strong cookie. We are living in Crazyland every day!
"Fortunately, (the player) is just as sweet as he has always been. But two of us chase him all day long. He has several self-inflicted wounds: eye, thumb, nose. Minor but of concern. He thinks he’s holding something in his hand all day – nothing there but his hand is clasped. It’s crazy. Even two of us cannot keep up. Last night, I went to take a shower and I forgot to lock the front door. Within 10 minutes he was outside with the TV remote in his hand along with 4 or 5 books (anything he could get his hands on) and in his bare feet walking down a long driveway to get into a neighbor’s mailbox! And Terry cannot go into an assisted living facility at this stage as he’s beyond that and needs round-the-clock supervision to keep him from hurting himself or getting into trouble."
There is another story going around about a one-time offensive lineman in the AFL and NFL who is also totally disabled and is suffering from the same head injuries as his friend, the late John Mackey who died less than a month ago.
That former player’s story seems all too familiar.
The "88 plan" came about after the league and the NLFPA seemed to be shamed into having to do something to help former players. The “88 Plan,” named after John Mackey's Baltimore Colts uniform number, came about after it was revealed that the Pro Football Hall of Famer and one time NFLPA president Mackey was suffering from frontotemporal dementia. The two sides signed off on the following the 2006 CBA singing. The "88 plan" provides up to $88,000 a year for nursing care or day care for ex-players with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or $50,000 for home care.
Not everyone can qualify for the "88 Plan" or other post career benefits. There is a panel made up of NFL management types and former players that rules on who gets money and treatment and who doesn't. It is a very complex issue that seems to have no solution.
The players association has always been about "Money Now". In 1982, NFLPA Executive Director Ed Garvey along with his then assistant, the former Oakland Raiders player, Gene Upshaw and the rest of the staff used the slogan "Money Now" to hammer their point across in that year's NFLPA strike. The NFLPA wanted the money in 1982 and didn't strive for any real post-career benefits. The Hall of Fame defensive back Herb Adderley is getting about $175 a month in pension. Wayne Hawkins, a long time offensive lineman in the American Football League, gets slightly more than $200 a month. To qualify for any kind of care, a player has to last three years.
The NFLPA, not the NFL owners, has failed to live up to a union/association's responsibility to get the best deal possible and that doesn't necessarily mean money now. In a rough world of pro football where exaggerated toughness commands respect there comes a price. The NFLPA has constantly ignored players once they go into the civilian world. The former players have blamed the NFL owners for their indifference but the NFL owners are not obligated to do anything for their former employees. They have been engaged in the collective bargaining process for more than five decades. The owners aren’t angels and in fact did not initially recognize any players association or union in the late 1950s.
The NFL ownership group, hardly a bastion of liberal and enlightened thinkers, understands that there is a need to collectively bargain with the players and has apparently offered mechanisms to take care of players who have suffered lifelong injuries related to the industry. The NFL may also face other legal suits. Seventy five former players including one time New York Giants running back and Super Bowl MVP O. J. Anderson are suing the league claiming that the NFL deliberately held back information that concussions had long term health effects.
The American public has been taking care of some players through Medicare and Social Security Insurance for years unknowingly. Players have turned to the government because they are uninsurable because of pre-existing injuries that they suffered on the field. It is not unknown how many players are on the Medicare or Social Security rolls long before their 65th birthdays because most of the severely injured players never come forth and go public about their National Football League or American Football League related injuries. There are few players still alive who played in the All American Football Conference between 1946 and 1949 who can discuss whether they had life impacting injuries from football. Other players who may have been saved by the American safety net include those who have played high school and college football, indoor football, minor league football and those who were in the World Football league, the United States Football League and the various incarnations of the World League of American Football which included NFL Europa.
It is an industry wide problem.
The former players who once were part of the NFLPA seem to have been betrayed by the leadership or were blinded by their agents or the "Money Now" thinking. The players found out that they are not only considered disposable commodities by their teams who tell them to play through injuries, both minor and severe, but by their agents and their association.
The NFL also stands for "Not For Long" in many cases.
The former players are fragmented which is a problem and there are often a good many agendas that are being put forth by people who are trying to rectify untenable situations. The NFLPA may have wanted to reach out to the former players in a public relations ploy and went as far as almost offering them a seat at the collective bargaining table. In the end, the NFL owners led by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the decertified NFLPA led by Executive Director DeMaurice Smith came up with an agreement that allowed training camps to open a little late and persevered the 2011 season without the retirees having a seat.

There is a legacy fund to take care of former players in the new agreement although no one seems to know how it will work. Perhaps the league's insurance groups will take some of the severely injured players off of the Medicare and Social Security rolls and replace that with better health care and pension benefits. Perhaps is a big word though. This isn't silly stuff like "Spygate" where New England Patriots coach Bill Belichek was videotaping run throughs or the other inane stories that are manufactured throughout a football season about one team really hating another team. This is real life and the lawsuits that are being pushed might have be avoidable if the players had better advice.
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 bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Is the United Football League done?

Friday, 29 July 2011 14:21





It probably has not been a good business year for the former Google executive Tim Armstrong. After leaving Google, Armstrong took over America Online and decided to put together a new football league called the United Football League. Armstrong's AOL is still floundering and is not in any better shape after Time Warner made the decision to jettison the one time gold standard in Internet service. The United Football League seems to be, using a boxing parlance, taking a standing eight count just awaiting the knockout blow.

The United Football League was heavily in debt when the 2010 season closed and has not cleared up the financial problems. The 2011 training camp season for the league's five teams has been postponed as has the league's planned August kickoff. There is a question of just how many teams will be on the field if there is a 2011 season.

Will Hartford field a team? As of Wednesday, the answer seemed to be yes, maybe, well maybe not. The United Football League has been, to say kindly, a work in progress since the announcement in 2007 that a group of well heeled, well connected investors including the husband of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Pelosi whose wife Nancy wielded the gavel in Washington, and Armstrong.

The league had a plan to start in 2008. The United Football League missed the target and began playing games in 2009. The present Hartford franchise was located in New York with the plan to use the Mets new baseball stadium in Queens named after a taxpayers bailed out bank who bought naming rights from Mets owner Fred Wilpon while the stadium was being planned and constructed.

Team owner William Mayer never did get a deal done with Wilpon and ended up playing one game at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, one game at Hofstra's football stadium in Nassau County and one game in Hartford.

Mayer moved the team to Hartford in 2010 and found a local partner, the operators of the Hartford stadium, to invest in the team.

The league "expanded" to Virginia Beach, Virginia in late 2010 but the owner of the Hampton Bay area team, Jim Speros, got out and the league was stuck with an ownerless expansion team. Meanwhile the Orlando-based Florida Tuskers (partially owned by the Tampa Bay Rays Major League Baseball franchise owners) folded last January leaving five teams, Hartford, Las Vegas, Omaha, Sacramento and Virginia Beach. At the time Speros left and Orlando dropped out stories began to surface that the league was not paying some of the league and franchise bills including paying players for the championship game.

The UFL is supposed to be a development league not a National Football League competitor and players contracts with UFL teams in theory end with the UFL's championship game. But after the 2010 season, UFL officials wanted a payment from someone (the player, an NFL team) to release a player that had an opportunity to join an NFL team.

Armstrong had concluded a multimillion dollar deal with Arianna Huffington to combine the Huffington Post and AOL’s version of a newsroom. Meanwhile, they fired a lot of AOL writers and brought on the Huffington Post—a website that prides itself on not paying all of the writers at the time the stories about players not being paid started to leak.

The United Football League probably will be a case study one day in sports business management programs in colleges and universities in the United States. The league's apparent failure fits a narrative laid down by National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern.

Stern's formula for being a successful league and franchise can be best explained by looking at a three legged stool. A stool needs three legs to be operational.

A league, a franchise, needs three components or legs to make it work. Government, a large cable TV contract (regional and national sports networks are placed on a bundled expanded tier with other cable TV networks and the consumer pays for all of those networks whether that consumer wants the network or not as part of the tier thanks to Congress and President Ronald Reagan's signature in 1984) and corporate support (buying luxury boxes and club seats and dining at venues and claiming going to games as a business expense and getting tax breaks under federal law).

The UFL apparently has failed on all three counts.

Armstrong and league officials had no leverage strong arming politicians in making demands for new stadiums and getting 92 cents of every dollar generated in the facility to flow back into the league or individual owners. Mayer used three stadiums in 2009 for the New York Sentinels and settled on Hartford.

Hartford is a problem for a league made up of mid-level American cities looking for a large local cable TV deal. The regional sports networks in New York and Boston probably would not be interested in Hartford games at a premium price although a couple of Colonials games ended up on the Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins owned New England Sports Network. The same holds true for Comcast's Sacramento region sports network, or Comcast's Mid-Atlantic sports network or MASN in the Virginia Beach territory. Las Vegas is part of the Los Angeles regional sports channel’s reach and Omaha is not enough of a draw for any Midwest sports channel to pay big dollars.

The league played games all over the calendar and flew under the radar in terms of scheduling games on Friday night and Saturday during the fall. The NFL doesn't play on Friday nights or during the day and not on Saturdays during the high school and college football seasons in a trade off for an antitrust exemption for television purposes. The NFL never plays a regular season game on Friday nights and presents Saturday games starting in mid-December.

The league never was able to land a big national cable TV contract and there was little hope for a national over-the-air network to pay any sizeable rights fees for an entity which in 2009 was located in New York, Sacramento, Orlando and Las Vegas. Mark Cuban's HD Net and Comcast's Versus had television rights.

In 2010, Hartford, Las Vegas, Omaha, Orlando and Sacramento had teams. Again that really is not appealing in terms of national footprint.

The UFL wanted fans not customers and pushed the league as a good place to watch football at a fraction of the price of NFL tickets. That doesn't work anymore in the world of big time sports. Attendance was poor in many spots.

There have been many "rival" football leagues that tried to gain a piece of the professional marketplace. There were four versions of the American Football League. The second version of the American Football League featured the Cleveland Rams in 1936. The Rams franchise jumped to the NFL in 1937 (that franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1946, Anaheim in 1980 and St. Louis in 1995). The All American Football Conference lasted four years between 1946 and 1949. The NFL took three of the AAFC's franchises, the Cleveland Browns (another Cleveland franchise that ultimately failed and was moved by the owner Art Modell to Baltimore in 1996), the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Colts (a franchise that went to New York in 1951, Dallas in 1952, back to Baltimore in 1953 and Indianapolis in 1984). AFL IV, which was bankrolled starting in 1965 by David Sarnoff’s NBC-TV, merged with the NFL in 1966 with the NFL taking all ten of the AFL's teams in 1970.

Other rivals perished.

The World Football League folded in 1975 after nearly a two-year run. The NFL moved the Pro Bowl to Hawaii after the WFL ended perhaps as a thank you to Hawaiian land developer Chris Hemmeter, the WFL owner who put the league out of business. The United States Football League had a three year go between 1983 and 1985. The USFL sued the NFL on antitrust grounds in a lawsuit headed by Donald Trump in 1986. The league won the lost suit (the battle) but Trump lost the war as a jury gave Trump's league a dollar in damages (apparently Trump's lead attorney Harvey Myerson did a great job getting the court win but messed up after the jury came back with a one dollar damage fee by not asking the jurors why they came up with the dollar figure while he had the opportunity).

Trump pushed the lawsuit while the NFL was looking for another solution which would have included taking two USFL franchises into the league. It was thought that Baltimore and Oakland (replacing two NFL franchises that moved to different cities) were the two markets the NFL wanted.

The NFL did not want Trump.

The International Football League and the Professional Spring Football League never got off the ground. In 2000, Bill Futterer's Spring Football League played a few games and then folded. Vince McMahon's spring time XFL was backed by General Electric's NBC network with dollars and exposure but the league folded shortly after the completion of the 2001 season. NBC Sports executive Ken Schanzer pulled the plug on McMahon and the XFL.

The XFL had a cable TV deal with TNN at the time and ESPN was allegedly very interested in the league for the 2002 season according to one prominent XFL official who still rues the day that Schanzer ended the XFL. According to that insider Schanzer didn't want a GE-NBC property on ESPN and he simply folded the league. The XFL would have been a cable only entity in 2002.

UFL officials knew the financial history of rival leagues and decided to test the marketplace for football in a crowded football environment in 2008 (just before the collapse of Lehman Brothers) in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The UFL pulled back in 2008 and did not play until 2009. The league is supposed to announce plans for 2011 by August 15.

By that time only the owners, coaches, players and UFL personnel and their families will be the only ones caring if the league folds or plods through another year.

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 bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

NFL is back and so is the business of football
TUESDAY, 26 JULY 2011 16:41

To the relief of a great many beers distributors, snack food vendors, per diem workers who are employed 10 days a year by NFL teams, fantasy football players, bookies, rather office pool organizers, casino operators in Nevada and those who cannot move from their couches for up to 12 hours at a time on Sunday because they are too busy watching football, the National Football League is back in business.
FOX's Rupert Murdoch, CBS' Sumner Redstone, General Electric's Jeffrey Immelt (NBC’s head prior to the Comcast takeover of the Peacock Network), The Walt Disney Company's Robert Iger and DirecTV executives don't have to explain to anyone including a federal judge in Minnesota why they were willing to underwrite the NFL owners lockout. Iger heads up Disney and one of Disney's companies is ESPN. That cable network would have put up money for the 2011 NFL season using subscribers’ money. Only about a tenth (and that is being generous) of ESPN subscribers watch football yet 100 percent pays and that is permissible thanks to the 1984 Cable TV legislation passed by Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. People who have no interest in the NFL would have helped support the owners lockout. That law allowed cable TV multiple systems operators to choose what networks they wanted on a basic expanded tier and sell them as one. The legislation probably saved ESPN, CNN, MTV and others from financial ruin.
The NFL owners lockout—which may have been prompted by some owners whose teams play in old facilities like New Jersey's Zygi Wilf's Minnesota Vikings who could not keep up with a salary floor—is over. It is unclear whether the new collective bargaining agreement will address that issue. With the end of the lockout, NFL owners can go back and demand new taxpayers assisted stadiums where needed. The NFL owners as part of the lockout ploy told the San Francisco 49ers ownership not to look for money to pay off the 49ers share of the costs a planned Santa Clara, California stadium because the league owners wanted the players to pay for part of the construction costs.
The players trade association, formerly known as the National Football League Players Association, never helped out broken down old players so it might have been a bit much to expect them to hand over money to owners to help build football facilities. The NFLPA didn't recognize in many cases that some of the retired players with very serious injuries that were sustained during their NFL careers ended up in government social safety nets long before their 65th birthdays such as Medicare and Social Security.
NFL owners and the NFLPA should have collectively bargained long term health care for players but that was not an important issue in the past for the NFLPA. The new CBA seems to have some provision to take care of the health of players but until the CBA is fully digested by all, including the retirees, it is unclear how much help those players may get.
The National Football League and by extension—the players—depends on government subsidies and handouts. The deal with the players is done and now it is time for the league to get new facilities in San Diego, Santa Clara, Oakland (the San Francisco Bay Area), Los Angeles, Minneapolis or Ramsey County, Minnesota and see what can be done with the Buffalo Bills franchise. Arthur Blank is seeking a new facility for his Atlanta Falcons franchise as 19 year old domed stadium that houses his team is quickly becoming antiquated and New York realtor Stephen Ross is stuck with a 24 year old, although updated, facility which is no longer suitable for a Super Bowl outside of Miami.
The mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford—who seems to fit in with the United States Tea Party movement in that he wants to slash services to the bone but not raise taxes for those who can afford a slight increase—may be open to finding public funding to build a National Football League state of the art facility in Canada's financial capital. Ford seems to be like a lot of politicians. Slash spending, cut public jobs and don't raise taxes on the very rich and if you can give the very rich tax breaks for sports facilities go for it. Political leaders in both parties in Minnesota are trying to build Wilf a taxpayers funded facility in some sort of public-private partnership. In Santa Clara, hundreds of millions of public dollars have been set aside for the 49ers planned facility. Louisiana is still giving New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson cash handouts and New York is doing likewise for Buffalo's Ralph Wilson while cutting services. Florida politicians are seeking a way to help Ross and the NFL’s sad plight.
The 1986 changes in the tax code altered American sports. President Reagan's signature gave owners who played in taxpayers built facilities after 1986 an opportunity to get up to 92 cents on every dollar generated in the building with just as little as eight cents going to pay down the facility's debt. It was great news for owners and a massive expansion of American sports would ensue.
Since the changed occurred, the National Basketball Association has grown from 23 to 30 teams, Major League Baseball has added four teams and in 1990, Major League Baseball signed a new deal with minor league baseball operators which forced cities to renovate or build new minor league parks or risk losing the minor league team. The National Hockey League went from 21 to 30 teams and some franchises were relocated. The 28 team National Football league also expanded and ended up with 32 teams. Major League Soccer was formed and MLS owners are also at the public trough claiming their fair share of tax dollars for stadium construction.

The NFL expansion process started in 1991 and started a chain reaction of events that included creating four expansion teams (Carolina, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Hpuston) and the movement of the Anaheim-based Los Angeles Rams to St. Louis and Art Modell's Cleveland Browns to Baltimore. There was also the transfer of the Houston Oilers franchise to Nashville, Tennessee and Al Davis' Los Angeles Raiders to Oakland. The most eye opening franchise-government deal that evolved out of the 1991 expansion was the $186.5 million 2001 agreement between Louisiana and New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson that assured Benson would keep his team in the Superdome even though he had an existing long term contract that bounded him to the building. Benson got $186.5 million from cash strapped Louisiana to stay in the city between 2002 and 2010.
In 1991, Baltimore, St. Louis, Memphis, Charlotte and Jacksonville decided to go after an NFL expansion franchise. The NFL never really expanded in the "modern" era (1956-present) because league owners like Chicago's George Halas, Pittsburgh's Art Rooney, and the Mara family's New York Giants had no inkling as to how to market and grow the NFL. Instead expansion was always a reaction to market pressures. When Lamar Hunt was unable to purchase the Chicago Cardinals or get an NFL expansion team in Dallas in 1959, he decided to start the American Football League. The NFL responded by expanding to Dallas and Minneapolis. In the mid-1960s, the NFL went into Atlanta to deny Hunt's league an opportunity to establish a team in that city. In 1966, the NFL granted New Orleans a franchise in exchange for Congressional approval of the AFL-NFL merger and in the 1970s, the NFL expanded to Seattle and Tampa to take potential markets out of circulation for the fledgling World Football League There was no outside pressure to expand in 1991 except there was money on the table and other owners could see what cities were willing to do to get an NFL team.
The NFL found out in a hurry that cities would be willing to pay a ransom for a team.
The league liked Charlotte and the possibility that a former player—Jerry Richardson—would own the franchise. Richardson didn't need much public money because the team was going to get ticket buyers to pay twice for seats and that would pay for the construction of the facility. Richardson's "personal seat licensing" scheme required ticket holders to buy a stadium seat over a set amount of years and then pay for a football game. NFL owners were impressed by the pricing mechanism and awarded Richardson a franchise but the NFL wanted two expansion teams and the 28 owners would split up $280 million with each owner getting a $10 million payment.
Boogie Weinglass and the author Tom Clancy pursued a Baltimore franchise. Weinglass presented a proposal that Maryland would build a stadium and the team would be well supported even though Robert Irsay moved out of the city in 1984 and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue soured on the city that was more interested in building libraries than a football stadium.
"The problem was that the fans loved the (former team) Colts too much," said Weinglass in 1991. "And when we began to have the reverses (the team wasn't winning), they reacted very badly (attendance dropped) and the underlined feeling was that it was impossible that we would lose the team. In fact we did.
"They (the owners) said that it wasn't a factor (the team moving)."
Weinglass was competing with two other Baltimore groups for the franchise. They all failed but the Baltimore/Maryland stadium bid was circulated within the NFL. Baltimore was offering a stadium complete with the requisite state of the art luxury boxes, club seats, restaurants, concessions with major revenue streams. The stadium would be paid through a combination of municipal resources including proceeds from the Maryland lottery.
The NFL said no to an expansion team but the terms of the Maryland deal was too good for Art Modell to pass up. In 1995, Modell took the offer (which included a multi-million loan to Modell) and made Weinglass a bit of a prophet.

"The fact of the matter is, the primary basis the league is going to make its decision is what city can make the most money for the league and I think Baltimore can make more money for the league than any other town (in 1991, Memphis, Jacksonville, St. Louis and Charlotte),” said Weinglass. “ (Baltimore) is a bigger city. It's bigger than Charlotte, bigger than San Antonio (which wasn't a serious bidder), we have done all the surveys that show we can fill a 70,000 seat stadium, we have a great big television market, one of the biggest in America. We got all the buttons pushed."
Baltimore has succeeded despite the fact that the market is surrounded by Philadelphia and Washington. The team is looking to expand market share and co-exist with the Redskins in a shared market status like the Giants and Jets in New York and the 49ers and Raiders in the San Francisco Bay Area market. Because of NFL rules not every Ravens game is seen on Washington TV which is 40 miles away nor is every Redskins game is shown on Baltimore TV.
Redskins and Ravens ownership would like to get same market status which would include no scheduling of home games at the same time in both cities. Major League Baseball has given Baltimore and Washington same market status and the United States Olympic Committee considered Baltimore-Washington one market in the bidding for the 2012 Summer Olympics.
It was thought that NFL marketing partner Anheuser Busch would be the deciding factor in St. Louis landing an expansion franchise in 1993. That was a concern for other bidders given AB's cozy relationship with the city of St. Louis and the NFL. But St. Louis was a failed NFL market. Bill Bidwill left town after the 1987 football season and went to Tempe, Arizona. That was a black mark against the city because St. Louis refused to build Bidwill a new football facility. After Bidwill left, Missouri, St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis socked away $258 million for a 70,000 seat domed football facility. The city was willing to help pay some of the costs for an expansion team. Some of the money was going to come from a motel-hotel sales tax hike.
"Central to our application was the stadium," said Jerry Clinton. "The others things that are naturally inherent are the size of our television market. We are the 18th largest TV market in the country. Our market is larger than 35 percent of the markets that currently possess National Football League teams. The, of course, all those things we inherit because of our location and population. We are nearly two a half million people, our location is exactly the population center of the United States, we are accessible, we fit expansion and division realignment in any direction, north, south, east or west, we are always compatible with NFC or AFC plans. On top of them we have a very solid ownership with Walter Payton and Jim Orthwein (the great grandson of AB's founder Adolphus Busch). I think that has to be considered very heavily too.”
Anheuser Busch didn't have much sway over the NFL owners. St. Louis failed. Charlotte was an area that the league really wanted and got the 29th franchise. But number 30 was a fight between Baltimore, St. Louis and Jacksonville. Memphis was not seriously considered.
Wayne Weaver got involved in the Jacksonville bid before the NFL solicited interested people in what amounted to an auction for two franchises. Jacksonville was looked upon as a huge growth city by football people including Robert Irsay who thought about moving his Baltimore Colts to the town as well as Houston's Bud Adams. Neither did but Jacksonville remained attractive.
"We had our mayor with us, Mayor Ed Austin," said Weaver knowing that political support was a major component of any bid back in 1991. "We had our city council president, Warren Jones, we had the gentleman who will renovate our Gator Bowl, the biggest contractor in the southeastern United States, Preston Haskell, and our president David Seldin.
"We have three qualities that we think we set us apart from the other candidate cities and that's what we talked about today. We think we have the best football fans in America. The second thing we talked about and what sets us apart from the competing candidate cities is that we have the only game in town. We have no competition from other major league franchises. I am not sure anybody can make that statement. We have no competition from college sports which Memphis has. We have no competition from other major league franchises and we think the only game in town aspect is an important ingredient. Finally and most importantly was the local ownership group issue. We have the financial credentials to qualify for an NFL expansion team and we made that very clear."
"It is very true that Florida is a very proactive sports state. One of the presenters today (in 1991) in our video is Governor Lawton Chiles, he is truly a supporter of NFL football in Jacksonville. Jacksonville is Florida's city of choice for the NFL. Simply put, the state of Florida is a partner in this quest. The state legislature has put together legislation that encourages and financially supports stadiums for sports in the state of Florida. The (baseball) Marlins are the latest example. We think Jacksonville will be the latest example of why we can compete because we have, among other things, the state of Florida as a financial partner. There are no tax dollars involved, it is a sales tax abatement there is no general revenue taxes involved in the state of Florida."
Jacksonville won the race and got a franchise. But it has been very tough sledding in recent years with rumors that Weaver is ready to pick up and move elsewhere. The stadium seating capacity has been cut and the rough northern Florida economy is not helping the franchise. Still Weaver has made it clear he wants to remain in Jacksonville. But Los Angeles interests have targeted Weaver and plan to try and entice him to move.
Neither Los Angeles nor Anaheim has had an NFL team since the end of the 1994 season. Georgia Frontiere did her 15 years in Anaheim and when a better stadium deal did not develop, she opted to take the St. Louis offer that was still on the table after the NFL gave Charlotte and Jacksonville teams. Raiders owner Al Davis could have had the LA market to himself but negotiations between the NFL, Davis and Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood broke down after a deal looked to be coming together.
Davis and the league were going to be what can best be described as partners in the deal. The NFL would award the stadium five Super Bowls in 10 years to get back some of the money Davis and the league were going to put up for the facility. Davis would get revenues from luxury boxes, club seats and concessions. But the NFL decided that five Super Bowls in 10 years was too much for LA and scaled back to three and then just one. Davis would only be the sole tenant for one year with another team moving in and sharing revenues from luxury boxes, club seats and concessions. Those were deal breakers and Davis moved back to Oakland. The NFL is more responsible for having no team in LA than Al Davis.
The LA area lost both teams but unlike Cleveland, they didn’t threaten to sue and replace a team. The NFL expanded into Cleveland after getting a deal done for a new stadium and the new Cleveland Browns started play in 1999. Los Angeles was given a 2002 condition expansion franchise if a stadium was built. There was no available funding for a building like Houston had, so the NFL gave the fourth expansion team to Bob McNair and Houston.
Davis is looking for a new stadium deal as Oakland has not been a panacea for the team money-wise. His Oakland deal is up after 2013.
Los Angeles' Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) has told LA city officials they better sign off on a deal to help finance a new football stadium by July 31 and cash strapped Los Angeles seems to be ready to make a deal.
AEG has a list of targeted owners including Stan Kroenke who has the St. Louis Rams. There was a provision in the Georgia Frontiere-St. Louis 20 year contract (which is done in 2014) that probably will come back and haunt the city, county and state. The Rams franchise has to be in the upper quarter or top eight in stadium revenue generation. A 20-year-old facility cannot compete with new places like the New Meadowlands Stadium or Jerry Jones' Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. St. Louis may run into the Louisiana problem of 1999 and 2000 when Benson complained that the Superdome was no longer in the top 4 of NFL revenue generators and had fallen to the bottom and needed help or he would have to move.

Ironically it was new stadiums in St. Louis, Jacksonville and Baltimore that helped cause Benson's woes. The new stadiums were cash cows for owners; those owners spent money for scouting staffs and coaches. Baltimore and St. Louis won Super Bowls; Jacksonville was a Super Bowl contender. Benson went to the state house in Baton Rouge and find willing partners in both houses of the legislature and Governor Mike Foster. The Rams franchise may need a handout or might be available for some new facility in 2015.
The NFL is back, although it never went anywhere. No games were missed, the three day draft was held in April and people had to pay for their seats on time or risk losing them. That's the way NFL business operates and the business operations will soon be on display in Santa Clara, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Toronto, St. Paul, Minnesota and maybe in Jacksonville, South Florida, Atlanta and Buffalo with one certainty: the billionaire owners will be looking for tax breaks for their football businesses which really don't do all that much for the economy.
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 bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle.