Friday, February 25, 2011

Labor, the NFL lockout and American network TV

By Evan Weiner

February 25, 2011

(New York, N. Y.) -- American television networks such as CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX have been called to task by union officials for not including labor leaders in their banal and hackneyed Sunday morning "public affairs" programming. The Sunday morning network shows feature the same old politicians, the same old guests hosted by Washington insiders who cover no new ground.

The shows are a waste of time except they give local TV affiliates public service brownie points when it comes to license renewals.

But there is more to the story of shutting out union officials. NBC's Meet the Press has booked AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka for Sunday's show which will include media darling Senator John McCain of Arizona and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who presumably will be asked about taking a phone call from David Koch.

The more to the story angle could prove to be quite embarrassing to NBC's co-owners Comcast and the other networks if Trumka asks why are the networks providing money to National Football League owners for transmission fees if the owners go ahead next week and lock out the employees, the players, in a labor dispute.

The networks have taken sides in the National Football League labor dispute and that should be troubling for everyone. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (FOX), Comcast-GE's NBC, the Walt Disney Company's ESPN (ABC is a division of the company) and Sumner Redstone's CBS along with DirecTV will pay the NFL owners a full rights fee, worth billions of dollars to the owners, whether there are games played or missed because of the owners decision to lockout players.

Allegedly, the NFL owners will reimburse the networks if games are not shown. However that might be just nomenclature. Somehow, the NFL owners will get their money, maybe on the next TV contract renewal. NFL games get eyeballs in front of the TV or whatever platform is showing a game. It is consistent TV programming which draws eyeballs and advertisers and those advertisers are willing to pay top dollar to reach those eyeballs.

Four of the NFL's five TV partners produce public affairs programming and if Trumka wants to get to the heart of how TV practices journalism, he should ask if the network news shows can indeed show impartiality knowing that the corporate bosses have given the go ahead to their NFL partners to trigger a lockout and support that lockout with TV rights fees.

It would be a very sticky question for NBC's Meet the Press moderator David Gregory to handle. It could also cause problems for FOX's Chris Wallace who recently boasted on a radio talk show that he knows "how to satisfy a woman" and told the "lonely" radio host to look up "advertisements for, like, gentlemen's clubs and escort services."

Neither Gregory nor Wallace nor any of the hosts seem to be equipped to have an answer if Trumka decided to go into that line of questioning. Instead there will be a vacuous round table discussion about nothing which is normal for the TV news talk show.

Trumka's question should be why are the networks underwriting the lockout and if there is a conflict of interest supporting business owners in labor disputes that are collectively bargained with employees. Trumka could then turn to Governor Walker and pose this question to him face to face.

"Why are you so against collective bargaining?"

Trumka could turn the mundane news talk genre into something compelling and in turn force the networks to explain their NFL TV lockout policies publicly.

The networks TV lockout policy is an important issue for consumers, particularly those basic-expanded cable TV subscribers who never watch the NFL on ESPN. They are paying for a product they never watch because of an American cable TV law that allows multiple system operators to bundle cable TV channels onto a tier and sell the channels as one entity which would normally be a violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. ESPN and other cable TV networks get most of their monies from subscribers although a small percentage of their revenues come from advertisers. Those subscribers who were forced to take ESPN on the basic tier will help underwrite the NFL lockout. The networks are using public airwaves to support a labor action and that begs the question.

Are the networks affiliates engaged in the proper use of their TV licenses? Affiliated stations are paying their network partners a fee for the right to have NFL games on their stations. The stations are supporting the NFL owners actions.

The owners are collecting money from the public to support the lockout through a third party, whether it is Murdoch's FOX syndication, Comcast-GE's NBC, Redstone's CBS or Disney's ESPN.

Don't look for this type of breakdown from CNN. Time Warner, CNN's parent company, has some conflicts as well. Time Warner will be supplying the National Basketball Association owners with cable TV rights fees (along with ESPN) should the National Basketball Association owners lockout their players in a labor dispute starting on July 1. Time Warner also is starting a Los Angeles regional sports cable TV network featuring the Los Angeles Lakers. The company is in bed with Lakers owner Jerry Buss.

Cable TV subscribers have not been reimbursed for labor actions, whether it was a strike or a lockout, in 1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2005 in Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association. Apparently nobody has really noticed that owners kept monies from ESPN, TNT and regional sports cable TV networks during the work stoppages.

The National Football League Players Association lawyers are well aware of the cable TV issue. The Players Association was in Judge David Doty's courtroom in Minneapolis on Thursday asking Judge Doty to place what is about $4 billion in revenues from various broadcast platforms in escrow so that the owners cannot use the money to fund a lockout. It was Judge Doty's courtroom that the last labor fight was settled in 1993.

The players lost a bid to place the $4 billion or so in escrow earlier this year when Special Master Stephen Burbank ruled in favor of the owners.

Trumka should put Gregory and the Meet the Press regular Washington D. C. insiders on the defensive and force them to explain the network's football policy. Chances are the Meet the Press regulars will punt and give up the ball.

The Sunday morning shows rarely make any news and are a waste. They are predictable and boring.

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Carmelo Anthony in New York is unlikely to make NBA owners melo

When George Young was running the New York Giants in the General Manager's chair back in the late 1970s into the 1990s, he used to say that "a general manager has to general manage, an owner has to own, a player has to play and a coach has to coach" in order to be successful George Young's formula worked for his team as he put together two Super Bowl championship squads in 1986 and in 1990.
George Young probably would not enjoy being a general manager in the National Basketball Association these days. Owners general manage, players general manage and the industry is on the verge of a labor shutdown on July 1, 2011. The Carmelo Anthony trade from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks probably put the NBA a step closer to a lockout and probably will push another owner, Denver's Stan Kroenke (whose wife Ann is the daughter of Wal-Mart co-founder Bud Walton — Wal-Mart is notorious for hiring cheap labor and preventing unionization among the company's employees) probably can now be counted among the NBA owners hard line faction that wants to reduce players salaries.
Kroenke is also the owner of the St. Louis Rams franchise in the National Football League. You might have heard that the football owners are thinking about locking out their employees — the players — on March 4. National Football League owners also want to reduce employee's salaries.
Carmelo Anthony seemingly called all the shots in the trade that ultimately brought him to the building that sits between 31st and 33rd Street between 7th and 8th Avenue in Manhattan (a building that is not on the New York City property tax roll since 1982 which means that New York City is losing about $14 million annually in taxes). Anthony has joined LeBron James and Chris Bosh as big name talent who have switched teams. The difference between Anthony and the other two is simple. James and Bosh fulfilled their contractual obligations, James in Cleveland and Bosh in Toronto and the two could legally shop around their talents.
Anthony still had a few months left on his Denver Nuggets deal before he could legally shop around his talent. Carmelo Anthony usurped his Denver general manager Masai Ujiri's power last summer by accident at his wedding when New Orleans Hornets star Chris Paul toasted Anthony and his new wife Lala Vasquez, "We will form our own Big 3" referring to the Miami Heat's signing of James, Bosh and reupping Dwayne Wade and the Knicks signing of Amar'e Stoudemire. Stoudemire, Anthony and Paul would team up with the Knicks by 2012.
New York now has two-thirds of Paul's "own Big 3."
The NBA's collective bargaining agreement with the players ends on June 30 and NBA Commissioner David Stern wants to cut salaries and the players want to keep status quo. There was pressure on Anthony to get his situation squared away before June 30. No one knows what the outcome of the agreement will be, but if Stern and the 30 NBA owners want to cut expenses, it is a good bet that Anthony was putting millions at risk if he played out his Denver contract.
Last summer, Stern said something about the league needing to cut player costs somewhere around $700 to $800 million and that the league's 30 teams combined would lose $340-350 million in 2010-11 and something has to be done and that would start by players giving back items earned in collective bargaining.
The NBA no longer wants to give the players 57 percent of the revenues.
Of course not every team is going to lose an average of ten million dollars a season. The New York Knickerbockers franchise, despite putting a poor product on the court (until this season, the team is now a notch above mediocre), sells out every game and the Dolan family owns the franchise, the building and, of course, the Dolans have the Madison Square Garden TV network and Cablevision. There is no way without creative accounting the Knicks franchise is losing money given the team's revenue stream availability.

Also on the table is a threat by Stern aimed right across the bow of the National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter's ship. The elimination of financially wobbly franchises. The best guess is that those markets could be New Orleans or Sacramento or maybe Charlotte or Memphis. The contraction of the league would mean fewer jobs for players. Left unsaid in the possibility of lopping off teams is what happens with the leases between the franchises that didn't make it into the future and the municipalities which built the arenas and gave away the house to the owner of the local franchise that was set adrift along with compensating the owner whose team has been put out to pasture.
Chris Paul is under contract to the New Orleans Hornets through June 30, 2012. Stern is Paul's boss these days. The NBA took over the ownership of the Hornets franchise. Stern has on one hand said the franchise could be disbanded but the NBA wants to make the team attractive for local Louisiana investors to keep the team in the Crescent City. But Stern has contradicted himself saying potential investors are interesting in buying the team and moving the franchise to another city. Based on the last NBA franchise sale, the Golden State Warriors franchise of Oakland, California (the nation's fifth biggest market), the Hornets franchise should fetch at least $300 million (depending on the market) which means each NBA owner would get $10 million or more dollars in a sale. The NBA is not going to get rid of the New Orleans franchise but that doesn't mean that Louisiana will keep the team. The franchise could end up elsewhere.
The NBA has some financial problems. According to one of Herb Simon's friends, the mall developer and owner of the Indiana Pacers, Simon is losing money on the basketball team even though the team is getting big money from Indianapolis to help pay the maintenance at the Pacers home arena. Simon is committed to keep his team in Indianapolis until 2013 as part of a deal. The Indianapolis' Capital Improvement Board gave the Simon $30 million for the 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons in $10 million annual payments. The board will pay for a minimum of $3.5 million in arena improvements. If Simon moves the team in 2013, he has to repay the $30 million. If he stays in Indianapolis until the lease ends in 2019, he can leave without paying back any money.
Simon gets revenues from every event held in the building.
Next Tuesday is the NBA's deadline for an owner to move his franchise. The Sacramento Kings ownership group, the Maloof brothers, have been unable to secure public funding for a new arena and according to Stern, the Maloofs have checked out Henry Samueli's arena in Anaheim as a possible relocation site. Samueli owns the National Hockey League's Anaheim Ducks and it is hard to imagine Samueli would cut a deal with the Maloofs which would give them a significant revenue stream in the building. There would also be the question of whether the Maloofs would have to pay off Jerry Buss (Los Angeles Lakers) and Donald Sterling (Los Angeles Clippers) for invading the LA market.
Sacramento mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson is continuing his efforts to get a Sacramento arena built.
Milwaukee owner (United States Senator) Herb Kohl is seeking a new arena. Senator Kohl (D- WI) is limited in his ability to threat a franchise move as they would signal that in his opinion Milwaukee and Wisconsin are not good places to do business.
Washington Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is a fan of the National Hockey League's hard salary cap. Leonsis is also the owner of the NHL's Washington Capitals and was in the NHL in 2004-05 when the owners locked out the players in a labor dispute.
Small market NBA owners have been after Stern for years to find a way to increase revenue sharing between the big money teams (the Knicks and Lakers) and the small market franchises (Memphis, Charlotte, Indiana, Milwaukee, Portland and Sacramento).
Paul's toast at Carmelo Anthony's wedding, the LeBron James "Decision" last July and the rumors that another small market star Dwight Howard might not stick around Orlando when his contract ends has to be catching the attention of the owners. The big name stars are dictating moves but that isn't all that unusual for NBA. Kareem Abdul Jabber forced his way out of Milwaukee and ended up in LA with the Lakers, Julius Erving didn't; get a bonus after Roy Boe and his New York Nets joined the NBA in 1976. Erving went to Philadelphia. Shaquille O'Neal left Orlando for the Lakers.
The NBA owners will lockout the players on July 1 unless something unanticipated suddenly appears. The star players have too much power and the owners will correct the imbalance. Chris Paul's toast and LeBron James' decision will come back to haunt the players.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Monday, February 21, 2011

American people deserve answer to NFL’s billion dollar healthcare question
Monday, 21 February 2011 11:49

There is a major question that the "American People" should be asking in the ongoing labor dispute between National Football League owners and the National Football League Players Association as the two sides head to a March 4th lockout. Are the players association's negotiators asking for a change in post career health benefits or are the reps asking for status quo? Status quo means that qualified former pros get health care for just five years following their last game. That is important for the "American People" to know because the "American People" are picking up the cost of taking care of broken down former pros that cannot get health insurance and instead are living on social security disability and Medicare.

The cost to the American taxpayer? Higher than a billion dollars.

Working conditions in the National Football League, whether Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and other like minded people and politicians care for it or not, is collectively bargained. Players can bargain for rights with owners like other workers in many other businesses. NFL owners need help with their businesses from the players for antitrust reasons as well and know it.

The only reason there is a National Football League Draft of college players is due to an agreement between the owners and players to hold the draft which is essentially an illegal restraint of trade. Salaries are just part of the agreement and because there has always been a let's get the most money available at one time possible attitude that trumps any thought of what life is like in the post football career life of an NFL player. It is just an afterthought somewhere down the road.

The players association has done a very poor job of taking care of members in the football after life. Players now get five years medical benefits after their playing careers and then they are out on their own. There are countless stories of broken down football players on the public dole after the cheering stops.

Because of pre-existing conditions — which were more than likely caused by their job playing football — a majority of players are uninsurable and go on the public dole.

There has been some buzz that the players may be asking for 10 years worth of post career health benefits but that is probably too little a time period as the real health problems seem really hit when a player is in his 40s. But the players have not discussed what they want from the owners publicly.

Perhaps it is time for Congress to really hold legitimate hearings, whether it is either the House or Senate Oversight and Government Reform Committee or the House or Senate Judiciary Committee and find out why players leaving an industry that brings in billions upon billions of dollars worth of revenue without a real post career benefit package.

Politicians love talking about what the "American People" want or hearing from the "American People" but rarely do they really listen or take care of the real needs of the "American People." To those on both sides of the aisle, the "American People" would like to know why the responsibility of taking care of the former employees or the players of America's sports popular spectator sport in pro football's afterlife.

Not every player gets a multimillion dollar contract and the average career doesn't even last three seasons. But the medical needs of both average players and the superstars start not long after a career is done. The players joke that the initials NFL mean "Not For Long" and it appears they are right.

The present talks between the owners and players are following a natural progression. The owners want to reduce the players take of the gross revenue and knock down salaries by 18 percent on average. The owners would like to increase the regular season by two games to 18 and also have a rookie wage scale. The players want to keep status quo. They are disagreeing and both sides are saber rattling.

It is the status quo that is a problem for American taxpayers. It is a problem that House member Lamar Smith (R-TX) doesn't think needs governmental intervention.

Representative Smith is incorrect.

NFL owners (along with those of the American Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and the American Basketball League) were given an antirust exemption on September 30, 1961 that put a lot of money into the then 14 owners pocket. The Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 allowed the National Football League to sell the television rights of all 14 members to a television network. Within a year, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle cut the league's first national TV deal and that opened the floodgates of money into what was nothing more than a mom and pop store operation.

The then two-year old American Football League had a national TV deal with the struggling American Broadcasting Company. The new league flew under the radar and inked the deal with ABC selling all eight of the league's franchises as one. AFL founder Lamar Hunt "borrowed" bundling his league's franchise as one and selling the TV rights to one company from Branch Rickey's Continental Baseball League.

Rickey's league never got off the ground, but there was an assumption that the Continental League would get the same rights as the American League and the National League and could sell the 12-team TV package as one entity because of the 1922 decision by the United States Supreme Court which ruled that baseball was a game in the Baltimore Terrapins (of the Federal League) suit against the National League.

The NFL's 1964 deal with CBS' William Paley spurred NBC's David Sarnoff to underwrite a lot of the costs of Hunt's AFL after Sarnoff lost the bidding for NFL TV rights to Paley. Sarnoff gave the AFL money to compete with the NFL. By 1966, owners in both leagues decided that a bidding war for players' services was becoming too cost and agreed to merge.

The NFL and AFL announced an intention to merge on June 8, 1966. Congress had to sign off on the merger (which was an anti-competition truce). Senator Russell Long and Representative Hale Boggs, both of Louisiana, traded their no votes to yes after Rozelle assured them New Orleans would get an expansion team. Congress passed the legislation as a rider on an anti-inflation bill and it was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in October, 1966.

The Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 and the merger go ahead built the National Football League into a multi billion dollar enterprise. (The same act didn't help the other entities — The NBA could not get a TV deal after the 1961-62 season when the NBC deal ended. In 1964, ABC picked up NBA telecasts following a two-year absence from national TV. The NBA flew under the radar screen as well and was considered a mom and pop operation. The American Basketball League lasted for just one full year, 1961-62 and folded on December 31, 1962. The National Hockey League didn't have a TV deal at the time of the passage of the 1961 Broadcast Act. There was a story in Sports Illustrated which claimed NHL owners ended a deal that was in place with CBS from 1956-60 because the league owners decided they didn't want to give the players a share of the television revenues. The NHL returned to network TV in 1966.)

Congress needs to get involved with the NFL-NFLPA talks for a myriad of reasons. The discarded player post career health benefit issue and its cost to the "American People" is enormous and demands attention.

"There is more to come on the NFL shifting of health costs to the public, especially to State and Federal Disability programs, namely Social Security," said Mel Owens, a former linebacker with the Los Angeles Rams from 1981-89 and now a practicing disability lawyer. "This will be the next big issue.

Remember, these players, as a group, are the most injured in society. They all have major orthopedic, internal and neurological injuries, and the most significant part of this is their age — they are all under 40-years of age when they leave the game. This puts the burden and cost on the government for many years, having to deal with the results of their injuries, such as multiple joint replacements, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, dementia and early onset of Alzheimer's.

By the insurance companies own cost estimate relative to the players injuries is over a billion dollars. This is their number not anyone else's. The NFL is circumventing their responsibility and liability by shifting the long term disability cost to the State and Federal Government, thus driving up the cost of insurance for every person in America.

It's time to call on Congress to act."

Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and he is beginning to snoop around which means there could be some Senate hearings on the issue down the road.

Why the players association has never taken care of former members in the football afterlife is open to some conjecture. There are two theories as to why that happened. 1) Player agents wanted to make a quick buck and pushed for money over long term issues such as pensions and health benefits and wanted to get as much money as possible in representing a player fearing that players taking less money and leaving money for future health care would result in less commission for them because there would be less money available for salaries. 2) The late Gene Upshaw, who was the Executive Director of the NFLPA, always made it a point to please players who were paying his salary and his responsibility was to that pool of players from year to year. Upshaw seemed to distance himself from the retired players until push came to shove when it came to light that former association president John Mackey was suffering from a brain injury and needed assistance. Retired or discarded players have used Upshaw quotes such as "what are we supposed to do, fix every injury of every player?" to support their contention that the association didn't care about the retired guys.

Both the NFL and NFLPA were shamed into creating the "88 Plan", named after Mackey's uniform number, in 2005 which provides up to $88,000 for institutional care and up to $50,000 in custodial care for players who are suffering from serious illnesses which may have been caused by football injuries. As of last October, the two sides had given a little less than $10 million to 132 former players. That $10 million figure is about one-one hundredth short of what Owens says is needed to take care of the former players.

Congress needs to haul in owners, members of the players association and agents and get everyone to testify under oath just exactly has happened over the decades of labor negotiations and collective bargaining agreements that has caused the "American people" to be so involved with the football afterlife.

Representative Lamar Smith was not correct in stating that the NFL and the NFLPA should be left to settle their differences. Both sides have agreed to outside help, mediation, and the NFL filed an unfair labor practice grievance at the NFLPA with the National Labor Relations Board. The "American People", the people that Representative Smith and 434 other members of the House along with the 100 members of the Senate who do "the people's business", deserve to know why former football players are not being covered by the industry that is flowing in money that those disabled former players helped build.

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

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

By Evan Weiner

February 17, 2011

(New York, N. Y.) -- According to Albert Einstein, "." Einstein might have been thinking of politicians who apparently still think that approving public spending for stadium and or arena project is a prudent because sports facilities spur economic growth.

In the Los Angeles area, two football stadium proposals are on the table. In downtown Los Angeles, the Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) is promising to build a facility that won't cost the public a dime and will be built by private money. Of course there is the fine print in small letters that comes with the stadium. Someone will have to pay to replace the city-owned convention center that currently occupies the parcel of land that AEG wants for the proposed facility.

The cost to replace the convention center may be as much as $350 million. As usual, stadium proponents are claiming that building a stadium will create construction jobs (building a supermarket also creates jobs or repairing broken infrastructure creates construction jobs but the supermarket and infrastructure work as not as glamorous as working on a stadium) and lots of jobs once the stadium opens.

But a football stadium does not lend itself to creating good paying jobs. Because a football season features two pre-season and eight regular season games, there is a real possibility that an LA stadium might only be used 10 times a year. AEG wants California environmental regulations waived in the run up process to the start of construction just like the state did under Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for Ed Roski's proposed football stadium east of LA in the City of Industry. Roski too is proposing building a facility where no public monies are used.

That sounds all well and good until the fine print is read. Instead of paying for the construction, the public ends up paying for the project on the back end in various ways whether it is a reduction of property taxes or other tax incentives.

Up the 101 from LA, Santa Clara officials have allocated money for a new football stadium for the San Francisco 49ers franchise. But the 49ers ownership has not raised any capital yet for the facility because the National Football League wants to get a committee from the National football league Players Association that the workers group will help pay for the York family’s dream facility. San Jose officials seem to want to entice Lew Wolff to find a way to San Jose and bring his A’s baseball team with him. But there is a pesky question of territorial rights that needs to seemingly be resolved. Apparently the San Francisco Giants own the territory and Wolff just cannot take his A’s from Oakland (which is significantly closely to San Francisco than San Jose is to the city by the bay) and deposit the team in San Jose. The city of Oakland is looking to somehow satisfy Wolff and also Oakland Raiders ownership by building new stadiums (plural) in the city.

Elected officials are trying to cut spending wherever they can including the public sector. (A note to newly elected officials who are trying to gut the public employment sector and to sports owners looking to push tickets---reduce the public workforce and it has a domino impact on the community. A fired worker has less money to spend in the community, the community loses out on taxes that are collected from items purchased and the economic recovery that people entrusted with your judgment fails. That seems to be missing from the thought process of elected officials who promise to lower taxes and to cut spending when they can't because of fixed costs because of obligations.) But stadium and arena building is still the thing to do.

In St. Paul, Minnesota Vikings officials are pushing to get a new stadium built and looking at the Minnesota state coffers to aid them in the cost of building a stadium loaded with gadgets such as in-stadium restaurants, luxury boxes, club seats and other toys that will put more revenue into owner Zygi Wilf's pockets.

Across the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, the city's mayor R. T. Rybak is seeking about $155 million in state funding from St. Paul lawmakers to upgrade the city's 21-year-old arena. The city of Minneapolis owns the building and it is managed by AEG. The Twin-Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have been spending public money for sports facilities for more than a half century. Since then, a baseball-football stadium was built and demolished in Bloomington along with an arena; the Minnesota Twins baseball franchise is operating in a third publicly financed facility. The National Hockey League's Minnesota Wild franchise set up stop in St. Paul in 2000 (St. Paul needs money to upgrade an 11-year-old building) and state money has gone to a new on campus football facility at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

Minnesota has allocated more than a billion dollars on sports facility spending.

Florida Governor Rick Scott may have jettisoned a federally funded high speed rail but he may be involved at some point in the near future in the stadium game in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area. The Tampa Bay Rays ownership wants to leave the taxpayers funded domed St. Petersburg baseball park for a new facility, preferably in Tampa. Rays ownership has a lease on the St. Petersburg facility until 2027. By the way, Tampa Bay's baseball ownership might have lost some potential customers with Rick Scott saying no to the $2.4 billion for the high speed rail between Orlando and Tampa as someone would have had to build the rail and hire people to do just that who might have relocated in the area.

(Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker may have cost the owners of the Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks franchises customers by turning down high speed rail funding and costing Milwaukee a business headquarters for the company that was in line to build the railroad through Wisconsin.)

The North American Free Treaty Agreement between the United States and Canada may have produced one unwanted consequence that will be painful to Canadians. It seems local elected officials north of the 49th parallel have learned well from their American counterparts when it comes to stadium and arena building. Quebec City has decided that the people of that village and surrounding areas need a National Hockey League team and the best way to go about that is building a new arena and then finding an owner who wants to move his franchise there or sell the team to local owners.

The building will cost in 2011 Canadian dollars (which is about equal to the US dollar) about 400 million loonies and apparently the bill will be split between Quebec City and Quebec's provincial government. As always, the devil is in the details. What kind of lease can Quebec City present to an owner? In the United States, because of the 1986 Tax Act, as little as eight percent of revenues generated by a facility can go off to pay down the building's debt. The Quebec City arena revenues from naming rights, marketing revenues and operations are supposed to be kept by the government and that will not win over an owner’s heart.

From an owners standpoint, the Quebec City deal if all of those revenue streams are maintained by the city and province is a nonstarter.

The Quebec scheme for a building does not ask for federal money. The owners of the Edmonton Oilers franchise want a new arena in the city and perhaps they could follow Quebec City's lead and fund a building with public dollars but if they put the same sort of restrictions on revenues it is unlikely Oilers ownership would bite at the building.

How to pay for a building is becoming a problem in a northern New York City suburb. Ramapo Town Supervisor Chris St. Lawrence is failing in his bid to get necessary funding to complete a 3,500-seat baseball park after voters told him they were not interested in putting up more than $15 million for the facility last August. St. Lawrence decided that Ramapo voters didn't know what they were doing in the voting booth and is going ahead with building the park for a team in a league that has been fiscally-challenged. St. Lawrence was so eager to land a team in the CanAm League, an association that has problems finding teams to fill the schedule in a year-to-year basis, that he gave away the store to a group called Bottom 9 Baseball.

Bottom 9 Baseball will be throwing a million dollars or four percent of the estimated costs into the venue. The team will pay $175,000 a year in rent. It would take more than a century for Ramapo to get back the construction costs at that rate. The team threw a couple of bones to Ramapo. The municipality will get a dollar for each ticket sold (not including those seats in the stadium's 20 luxury boxes — the town will get some money from those seats and some money from the sale of the stadium's naming rights.

What are the odds that a Ramapo Stadium can get any money for naming rights when the New York Giants/Jets Meadowlands Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys Stadium are still unnamed? What may be disturbing to St. Lawrence is that the city of Jacksonville waived the 25 percent of an estimated $16 million naming rights deal at the city's stadium to help the Jacksonville Jaguars bottom line. The city is forfeiting $800,000 in revenues annually between 2010 and 2014).
The team (presently called the Rockland Boulders if it works out with a local hot dog vendor who owns the trademark to the name) will give Ramapo two dollars from each car parked in the stadium's lot for a game. The town will also get 10 percent of the concessions whether it is food, beverage or merchandise sold at the stadium. The team will keep signage rights in the building.
Based on Can-Am League attendance figures, the Town of Ramapo will get somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 a game if the town and team is lucky.
The Ramapo paid financial consultant on the project thinks the stadium will bring in $1.4 million a year which would cover the $1.3 million annual debt service that St. Lawrence projects for the stadium. But someone who witnessed firsthand how much money a minor league baseball team can generate debunked St. Lawrence and his consultant's estimate of revenues.
"My brother used to have a piece of a minor league baseball team and there is no way the stadium will generate $900,000 for the town (probably less than half)," said the person who knew about his brother's operation. "00And if bondholders who will have to finance the construction are being told that, then there's another lawsuit coming down the pike."
Ramapo taxpayers better understand that this stadium will be a loss leader no matter what both sides say. Ramapo officials think the team will bring in $900,000 in stadium related revenues. The bad news, the revenues figure is grossly overstated, the good news for Ramapo is that at this point they are not being asked to pay the team's expenses like New Orleans and Indianapolis and Glendale, Arizona residents are doing for pro sports teams.
New Jersey, Indianapolis, Seattle, Pittsburgh and other cities and municipalities are paying off the debt on sports facilities that are no longer standing.
Stadiums and arenas were once thought to be economic engines that would revitalize or build up an area. That is not the case but municipalities are still spending. The only rational reason for that is to signal to investors that an area is open for business.
Einstein was right about elected officials who spend and spend and spend on money losing ventures like sports facilities for professional teams. "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results," said the noted genius. It is a lesson that has not been learned by elected officials who think spending for a luxurious stadium or arena gives their burgs unachievable relevance.

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

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

President Donald Trump buying New York Mets?
It has been a big week for the man that the comedian Billy Crystal calls P. T. Barnum, Donald J. Trump. The made for TV star is applying for two jobs that he thinks he can fill. The President of the United States and the owner of the New York Mets. Based on his business success or lack of business success in New Jersey, it is unlikely Donald Trump will ever live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D. C. or own the Mets.
People who possess casinos that go bankrupt or put a football league into the ground generally don't win Presidential elections or are embraced by Major League Baseball franchise owners and asked to join their exclusive club.
Trump seemed to "wow" the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington last week although his personal life, the business failures, the bankruptcies and the United States Football League debacle would seem to make him a rather unlikely conservative candidate. He also reached out to the Wilpon family to see if he could buy the Mets from the group that is entangled in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme.
Trump is the ultimate publicity hustler and has lived off the New York tabloid newspapers and TV gossip shows for decades for no real reason. Perhaps he will form a new political party, The Lucky Sperm Club Party. In 1986, during the National Football League-United States Football League antitrust trial, Trump became infuriated while listening to testimony about Barron Hilton, the son of Hilton Hotel chain founder Conrad Hilton. He kept repeating the line, "lucky sperm club, lucky sperm club."
When this reporter asked what the lucky sperm club was, Trump responded that Barron Hilton (who is Paris Hilton's grandfather) did nothing to earn his money, that Conrad made the money. When asked about get a huge sum of money from his father Fred, Trump turned away and didn't have an answer.
Donald Trump has been presented on NBC as the as an incredibly successful businessman and host of a so-called "reality" show, "The Apprentice". The show's ratings have steadily fallen since 2004 but for some reason NBC during the General Electric ownership days liked Trump enough to keep the show around long past the show's expiration date.
There is no such thing as "reality" on "reality TV" despite the publicity surrounding programs like Trumps', however, since the show features a man who has been anything but successful with the failure of his football team and his casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, his airline and other ventures.
Trump probably doesn't like to be reminded of this, but people who were connected with the United States Football League will tell you Trump, more than anyone else, was the leader in destroying the league which last played on July 14, 1985. While Trump wasn't the only poor businessman in the endeavor; he just led the owners down the path to ruin.
On July 29, 1986, Trump's football aspirations came to a crushing end. A Federal Court jury in New York couldn't figure out the football business and handed him both a win and loss.
A quarter of a century later, The Donald is not a beloved football icon. Trump is remembered as the pied piper who failed USFL people. Former USFL personnel are not impressed with The Apprentice, Trump's golfing exploits, his boxing ventures, his character on wrestling or his licensing of his name to businesses.
He failed at a business that should have worked. Spring football in the United States should have been foolproof, as it came with a TV deal with ABC and a separate deal with the Getty Oil owned ESPN (Getty sold ESPN to ABC in 1984).
The United States Football League started at a swanky New York hotel on May 11, 1982 and died in New York in a court house in Foley Square about four years later. The league had franchises in Arizona, Birmingham, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Oakland, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Washington and had a two-year TV agreement with ABC and ESPN and a national radio contract with ABC.
Eleven days prior to the league's first games, Heisman Trophy winner and underclassman Herschel Walker signed a deal with Walter Duncan's New Jersey Generals. That signing would eventually change National Football League eligibility rules. Duncan would sell the franchise to Trump on September 22, 1983 after the first season was complete. The team cost Trump a reported six million dollars. Trump had originally sought a USFL team when Dixon was planning the league but had some financial problems and didn't go through with purchase.
The USFL had strong franchises and as many weak ones, like the Boston Breakers. The Breakers encountered stadium problems and moved to New Orleans in 1984 and then to Portland in 1985. Like a good number of USFL teams, financial problems beset them.
Oddly enough, while the USFL was going through financial woes, another group of businessmen led by Californian Alex Bell decided 1984 would be a good year to start yet another spring football league.
The International Football League announced its official formation on July 1, 1983, at Donald Trump's Grand Hyatt Hotel next to Grand Central Terminal. It is unknown whether the check cleared for the IFL banquet and meetings at Trump's hotel.
The news conference was a big party that featured cheerleaders, lots of food and drink and IFL hats. It would be the only "official" function the league would hold.
The IFL's twelve charter franchises included Chicago, Florida, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina (Charlotte), Ohio, San Jose, and Tennessee. The league would also play in the spring, like the USFL.
Yet, the IFL faded away by 1984.
Years later, another group of businessmen were poised to start a league in the 1990s called the Professional Spring Football League. Again there was a New York news conference to alert the world that a new league was coming. The league even brought in ex-Jets and ex-Generals coach Walt Michaels to head up a New York entry, but all that is left of the league are some baseball caps with the letters PSFL. Michaels decided not to discuss his years with Trump that day.
Following the first season, the USFL added six teams in Pittsburgh, Houston, San Diego, Jacksonville, San Antonio and Memphis. Trump purchased the Generals on September 22, 1983. Chicago and Arizona swapped franchises. San Diego never played a game and moved operations to Tulsa. Boston became the New Orleans Breakers.
The league continued to be beset with financial problems in 1984. Chicago and Pittsburgh folded. The Tulsa based Oklahoma Outlaws merged business operations with Arizona who had been Chicago in 1983; the Detroit based Michigan Panthers hooked up with the Oakland Invaders. Philadelphia moved to Baltimore to play home games but the Stars trained in Philadelphia. Washington relocated to Orlando, New Orleans ended up in Portland and the USFL took over the Los Angeles Express, who among other contracts gave Steve Young a $40 million contract.
The Express owner William Oldenberg spent wildly on players and lost $15 million. Oldenburg had major financial problems as well and left the team a financial ruin. The ABC deal required the league to have teams in New York (New Jersey), Los Angeles and Chicago. Chicago folded, the league kept Los Angeles going in 1985 because of the ABC deal and Trump, well Trump was talking about building a condominium stadium in the Flushing junk yards across the way from Shea Stadium in Queens, New York. Trump, to his credit, was the first to publicly talk about a plan that required customers to buy a seat license and then pay for a ticket. It is a concept that many NFL teams use today.
Perhaps, should Donald Trump buy the Mets, the team will use the condominium ploy to sell tickets.
The spring league had plans to compete with the NFL in the fall of 1986. Led by Trump and Eddie Einhorn, who promised to take over the defunct Chicago franchise if the league abandoned the March to July schedule, the league started making moves.
The USFL filed an antitrust suit against the National Football League, charging in part that the NFL monopolized the fall football television schedule. Trump somehow convinced his fellow owners that the league would thrive by going head to head with the NFL in the fall. Originally the USFL brought in famed attorney Roy Cohn to handle the case but settled on Harvey Myerson was their lead attorney. According to Carl Peterson, who ran the Philadelphia-Baltimore Stars franchise for Myles Tannenbaum, the NFL wanted to avoid a court case and offered to take two unnamed USFL franchises, presumably Baltimore and Oakland (to replace the departed Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Colts in the NFL) but USFL owners like Trump and Einhorn balked at the possibility and demanded that the NFL take at least four and possibly as many as six USFL teams and decided that an antitrust suit against the NFL was the way to proceed.
The NFL was not going to take in Trump's New Jersey-based franchise. Einhorn was headed to Honolulu with the Chicago franchise where we had a sweetheart deal to play in the city's Aloha Stadium.
Baltimore had a USFL championship caliber team in the Stars and had an owner who probably would have made the cut in the NFL, Myles Tannenbaum. Oakland did not do well financially however the NFL spent a lot of money and time in court fighting Raiders owner Al Davis' right to relocate his team from Oakland to Los Angeles which made the city a lead candidate for NFL inclusion. The NFL had passed on Birmingham and Memphis in 1976 after the World Football League folded and it was unlikely those two USFL cities were on the short list of towns the NFL wanted. Other USFL cities that might have piqued the NFL's interest from the USFL could have been Jacksonville and Phoenix.
There were other bad owners like the San Antonio Gunslingers Clinton Manges who had no money. The late Harry Usher, the USFL Commissioner who presided over the league in the Trump days. Manges once threw a pair of guns on the table at a USFL meeting in Teaneck, New Jersey for some reason and Usher politely asked Manges to put his toys away. Peterson remembers a meeting where Manges was being asked about lack of payments to players and Manges told Usher to line up with all the others who were suing him.
"We had a real good season with the Breakers in Boston," recalled Dick Coury who made the cross continent trip between 1983-85 with his team in Boston, New Orleans and Portland. "It was three great experiences. It was different. In the National Football League, when you change cities, it means you got fired.
Coury admitted that the strain of financial uncertainty certainly played a role on his teams. The moves affected families, in terms of setting up homes, doing banking, and other day to day tasks. That affected the team that was 11-7 in 1983, 8-10 in 1984 and 6-12 in 1985.
"It was difficult and most of our players did go to all three cities," he recalled. "When we moved, the team did house the coaches until the players got there. We moved in the off-season, so most of players just came into town and found apartments for the season. It was not easy, but our players took it well. It was trying for some of the families. We had to be ready to move, we didn't unpack in any city, we just kept our clothes in a suitcase, in case we had to move we were ready to go."
Coury had been with the Portland World Football League franchises in the 1974. The World Football League somehow lasted until 1975.
"In the World Football League, we had players mostly at the end of their career. I had players like Ben Davidson and Pete Beathard, who could still play but were on the downward side. In the USFL, we had some great players like Herschel Walker, Jim Kelly, Marcus DuPree."
"Had we stayed in the spring, we would still be playing in the USFL," he said.
But his former Breakers owner Randy Vataha said it was just not that simple. He remembered an owner's dinner prior to the start of the league when Tampa Bay owner John Bassett was asked about how a league operated as Bassett was the only USFL owner with previous ownership experience with the WFL, and the World Hockey Association Toronto Toros/Birmingham Bulls.

"Bassett said, we will have 12 teams, six games a week. Six teams will win, six will lose and we need to understand that to be a successful league," said Vataha.
"Our payrolls were about $1.5 million a year. The NFL was around $6-7 million. As teams started to lose, they went after NFL players and brought the average to $5 million.
"That was $42 million more than we had budgeted."
To offset the 1983 losses, the league expanded to six cities and got some $36 from expansion monies to split between the 12 original teams. One of those new owners was Trump.
"Trump lobbied for one year to move to the fall, and so we suspended the league during the antitrust law suit and we would have started in the fall of 1986," said Vataha.
Only July 29, 1986, a jury declared that the NFL was an illegal monopoly but they could not figure out what to pay the USFL in damages. They decided to give the USFL a dollar and hoped that the Judge Peter K. Leisure would adjust the figure. Apparently the jury did not understand Judge Leisure's instructions on monetary damages.
Myerson and the league won the case, but were awarded just $3 in damages. Vataha said the real cause of the league's demise was not NFL owners but USFL owners who didn't pay attention to what Bassett said.
"No matter what you spend, there are six teams that win and six teams that lose every week. We could have been successful if we stayed a spring football league, had a budgetary restraint and didn't compete with the NFL. But some of the owners decided they had to win and went out of business," said Vataha.
"The salaries went up; we expanded too fast and decided to play in the fall. We went out of business."
The end of the USFL meant Jim Kelly, Herschel Walker, more than 100 players would join the NFL player ranks. Three players would contribute to the Giants 1986 Super Bowl victory, offensive lineman Bart Oates, running back Maurice Carthon and punter Sean Landeta.
"I just kind of laughed a little bit after months and months of high profile courtroom proceedings ended up in a $3 outcome. I thought that was kind of funny," said Landeta. "Other than that, I thought a lot of fun like that went down the drain."
The USFL was just "small potatoes"
Trump and the USFL won the battle but lost a war. In 2011, the NFL has to be extremely careful about how the league conducts business thanks to the Trump-led lawsuit. That alone would raise a red flag among Major League Baseball owners. Trump has done well in the golf course business.
Donald Trump never owned another football team and within a few years of the demise of the USFL faced severe financial problems. Chances are pretty good Trump will never own an NFL team. The USFL should have said to Trump, "You're Fired" back in 1984 or 1985. But Trump does have a TV show, and has proven what comedian Billy Crystal once said about him when he walked it a room at a 2008 golfing event. Crystal in his Howard Cosell voice announced, here he comes ladies and gentlemen: P. T. Barnum.
Barnum was the king of the side show as is Trump 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, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lamar Smith should talk to Jon Runyan before keeping Congress out of NFL labor dispute
Should Congress get involved in the collective bargaining agreement talks between the National Football League owners and the National Football League Players Association? The answer is yes because Congress and two Presidents, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson actually created the conditions which made today's NFL a financial behemoth with the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 and the 1966 AFL-NFL merger. The two pieces of legislation gave the National Football League vast antitrust exemptions. Two other bills signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, which changed cable TV rules and the 1986 reform of the tax code also paid dividends for NFL owners.
The NFL seems to rake in more than $9 billion annually although the league refuses to open both team and league financial records. The publicly-owned, non-profit Green Bay Packers franchise announced a $9.8 million profit for the calendar year ending on March 31, 2010. But that is down significantly from 2007 when the franchise announced a profit of $34.2 million. Revenues are up but so are salaries since then.
Still, the NFL's smallest market is making a nice profit.
Additionally, there are a good number of former NFL players who are on government assistance whether it is living on social security disability insurance or Medicare. The "discarded" players have pre-existing conditions from football injuries and are uninsurable. Like it or not, these players are living on the government dole because the National Football League Players Association leadership never thought much about the players futures once they left the game.
The Super Bowl is designated as a "National Special Security Event" which activates involvement from the United States Secret Service (the group in charge of the event security), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (which handles law enforcement) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chair of House Judiciary Committee, said Congress should stay out of the NFL's CBA negotiations. "That is a business dispute. The owners and players are both literally and figuratively big boys and do not need Congress to referee every dispute for them."
Congressman Smith is wrong.
In 2005, Congress decided to look into Major League Baseball's drug testing policy for steroids and other banned performance enhancement drugs after the International Olympic Committee put pressure on elected officials because baseball would not send big name players to the IOC's biannual sports event. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform swung into action after the release of Jose Canseco's book when he accused some of baseball's biggest names of using steroids.
In 2007, the NFL Network was scheduled to show the New York Giants-New England Patriots game on the final Saturday night of the season. New England was 15-0 and was bidding for a perfect season. The NFL Network was struggling to gain carriage agreements with big multiple system operators in the cable TV world. The game would be available on the NFL Network and a few over the air TV stations in Boston and New York by the lack of NFL Network cable penetration meant most of the country would not see the contest.
The United States Senate, led by Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter and Vermont's Patrick Leahy stepped in and threatened to look at remedies if the NFL did not make the game available beyond the NFL Network and local stations in New York and Boston. The remedies started with the Senate Judicial Committee examining the various NFL antitrust exemptions which could have included the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961 and the various additions tacked onto that legislation over the years.
Not surprisingly, the NFL opposition to make the game widely available to protect the NFL Network or force cable operators to take the NFL Network folded and the NFL allowed the game to put the game on CBS and NBC.
Here is a suggestion for Congressman Smith. Have lunch with fellow Republican Congressman Jon Runyan from New Jersey and a former offensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles and ask him about the business of the NFL. How Congress gave the league the tools for big TV deals, the 1966 merger, legislation that allowed owners to play city against city to get sweetheart stadium leases in the late 1980s and beyond. Congressman Runyan also must have first hand knowledge of the sad football stories that continue to surface such as this which was e-mailed to this reporter.
"My husband (name protected) played in the mid 70's to 80. We just saw results of neck MRI yesterday. — Not good, but helps explain severe headaches.
He remembers the game the injury took place and he could not move his legs and arms the next day. The teams reassuring remark to him was, get better because you have to play the next week!
"Five years ago he was diagnosed with brain damage. Trying to get NFL to agree there's physical, long term injuries in past NFL players is nearly impossible. They just keep appointing another committee to look into matter."
Congressman Runyan was once a member of the National Football League Players Association.
Here is what Congress did to build the National Football League. Before the 1961 Sports Broadcast Act, the Mara's New York Giants, George Halas' Chicago Bears and Daniel Reeves's Los Angeles Rams were getting the lion share of the television money which was available in those days. Green Bay, which was the league's smallest market, was struggling to get some money for the team's TV rights. Brooklyn Congressman Emanuel Cellar got the Sports Broadcast Act through the House in almost record time, while Tennessee Democrat Estes Kefauver got the Senate to agree with the House quickly and President Kennedy signed the bill almost immediately.
The NFL, which was 14 separate businesses, became one entity for TV purposes which was clearly a violation of antitrust laws.
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle was able to get William Paley's CBS and David Sarnoff's NBC to bid on the 14-team league's games. CBS won the bid. In 1964, CBS extended the NFL deal with Rozelle. Sarnoff was livid and called the American Football League's New York Jets owner Sonny Werblin, who was working with MCA-TV and supplying some to NBC, and wanted to even the score. NBC gave the AFL a huge TV deal which gave the league the wherewithal to sign big time college stars. Werblin's Jets signed Joe Namath.
Both NFL and AFL owners began to complain that a bidding war was ruining their business and decided a merger was necessary to halt rising salaries. By the summer of 1966, Rozelle was summoned to do what commissioners do.
Lobby Congress.
Initially neither Louisiana Senator Russell Long nor Louisiana Congressman Hale Boggs were too interested in supporting the proposed merger. New Orleans was not getting either an NFL or AFL franchise and they didn't see the need to merge. Rozelle got Long and Boggs to sign on for the merger by promising New Orleans a team in 1967. There were a few other details that needed to be cleaned up. One of the NFL-AFL proposals was to realign franchises so that New York and the San Francisco Bay Area would remain one franchise markets. The merged leagues agreed to move the Jets from Queens to Los Angeles, Reeves would take his Rams to San Diego. Barron Hilton's Chargers would leave San Diego and relocate to New Orleans and Oakland would lose the Raiders with that franchise ending up in the Pacific Northwest in either Seattle or Portland, Oregon.
The NFL's old best friend in Congress, Emanuel Cellar said no to that idea. Werblin's Jets paid $10 million to the Mara Giants for the right to share the New York territory while Raiders owners gave $8 million to the San Francisco 49ers ownership because the team "invaded" the 49ers territory. New Orleans got an expansion team and Cincinnati ended up with an AFL expansion team although NFL owners collected the AFL expansion fee.
Those two acts of Congress propelled the NFL into the sports stratosphere in the United States and created the Super Bowl, or the AFL-NFL World Championship Game.
There is more than a century's worth of history of monitoring football in Washington. President Theodore Roosevelt is credited with saving football from extinction in 1905.
If Representative Smith or Representative Runyon wants a brief history of Roosevelt's involvement in the game, they should go to the Theodore Roosevelt Association website and read up on Roosevelt's involvement with the sport although the website version is slightly whitewashed. In 1905, 18 players died as a result of injuries suffered during college football games, many others were badly injured but Roosevelt wanted the game to continue.
"Strange as it may seem, high school football, college football, and even the Super Bowl might not exist today if President Theodore Roosevelt had not taken a hand in preserving the game. As originally played on college campuses, the game was extremely rough, including slugging, gang tackling and unsportsmanlike behavior. Quite a number of players died (18 in just the year 1905 alone, with 20 times fewer players than there are today). Interest in becoming a football player was declining!," blurts out the website.
"But Roosevelt saw merit in the game. It built bodies and could build character, a sense of team and never giving up. Ten of the Rough Riders, the soldiers who fought with him in Cuba, gave their occupations as football players when they enlisted in 1898.
"So in 1905, President Roosevelt summoned representatives of the Big Three (Harvard, Yale and Princeton, the universities who first played the game and who also set the rules of play) to the White House. In his best table-thumping style, Theodore Roosevelt convinced them that the rules needed to be changed to eliminate the foul play and brutality.

"As a result, the American Football Rules Committee was formed and, in 1906, plays designed to open up the game and make it less dangerous to play were introduced. Some of the changes made included, the introduction of the forward pass, the distance to be gained for a first down increased from five to ten yards, all mass formations and gang tackling were banned.
"Football became less dangerous to play, injuries and deaths decreased, and it became more fun to watch."
Congressman Smith is wrong. If Congressman Tom Davis in 2005 could call hearings before the Oversight and Government Reform Committee to talk about steroids usage in baseball, if Congress can call a hearing on college football's Bowl Championship Series (and by the way, big time college sports has a tax exemption and antitrust protection thanks to Congress), Congressman Smith could haul NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith before his committee and ask what is going on with the lockout (which is being underwritten by various over-the-air, cable and satellite TV networks — FOX's Rupert Murdoch, now Comcast's NBC and Sumner Redstone's CBS are using public airwaves ad money while Disney's ESPN and DirecTV are using both subscriber fees and advertising dollars in guaranteeing NFL owners money in 2011 whether or not games are played. It would be interesting to see Rep. Smith's committee haul in Murdoch, Redstone, and others and explain them to explain away their decisions and whether giving NFL owners money to support a lockout is the best use of public airwaves licenses or in the cable/satellite TV area, whether using subscriber fees to underwrite a lockout is ethical, especially when most subscribers never watch the NFL games if ratings are to be believed.)
There is also the question as to why the American people, there is that political term that politicians love to say, are paying for health care for discarded players. The GOP is gung ho about repealing the Affordable Health Care for America Act, perhaps they could find some time as they control House committees and ask those involved in the NFL why the American people are paying for health benefits for discarded NFL players.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Super Bowl XLV: Vince Lombardi wanted no part of the Super Bowl
Vince Lombardi has staged a comeback in the past year. The Broadway show, "Lombardi", is doing well and his old team, Green Bay, is playing in the Super Bowl this Sunday, an event, ironically enough that Lombardi didn't like. The Lombardi coached Green Bay Packers played in what is now known as Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II. Officially Lombardi's two teams played in the American Football League-National Football league World Championship Game.
Lombardi thought the NFL title game was the be-all, end-all NFL event.
Lombardi's teams won the 1967 and 1968 contests but Lombardi didn't get to touch the Vince Lombardi Trophy given to the Super Bowl winner. The Super Bowl became the Super Bowl in 1969 and the championship trophy was named for Lombardi following his death in 1970.
In the decades following his Lombardi's passing, the Super Bowl became a uniquely American quasi-celebration/holiday. The Fourth of July is America's Birthday Party but the Super Bowl is American's excuse for a party. Supermarkets have Super sales for countless Super parties, but it wasn't always like this.
Back in 1967, it was just called the "World Championship Game, AFL vs. NFL." The game was held in the 94,000 seat Los Angeles Coliseum. The ticket prices were $12, $10 and $6. There were 33,000 empty seats. It was the last time a Super Bowl or the World Championship Game was not a sellout.
There were no parties, no weeklong football orgies. In fact, it wasn't until January 1973 when Super Bowl parties took on a different life. The Commissioner's Party was held on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.
The first game was played on January 15, 1967 just 26 days after the final approval of the merger between the National Football League and the American Football League. CBS and NBC televised it using the same television feed but with different announcers. The networks charged $42,000 for a 30 second commercial. The two leagues had to put together a game in a hurry.
The two networks paid $9.5 million to televise the game.
The leagues couldn't even agree on which ball to use, so they compromised. When Green Bay was on offense, they used the Wilson "Duke" football. When Kansas City had the ball, they used the AFL sanctioned Spalding J5-V.
Today there is still that one feed, but the game is internationally televised. Cities bid for Super Bowls years in advance. Networks put up big money for regular season games so they could get the Super Bowl once every three years.
It's no longer NFL vs. AFL, NFL advertisers vs. AFL advertisers. CBS vs. NBC. In 1967, the American Football League and the Kansas City Chiefs were considered to be part of a "Mickey Mouse league" by Lombardi and the NFL. Lombardi was among those thinkers (a group which includes Wayne Gretzky. The hockey star used the same term in 1983 in a criticism of the New Jersey Devils) who felt that "Mickey Mouse" was a putdown.
Mickey Mouse launched the Disney empire and the trademark is worth billions globally. Lombardi was partially right using a Mickey Mouse reference back in the infancy of the Super Bowl. There is some irony in that the Walt Disney Company's ABC- TV division had the rights to broadcast the Super Bowl along with FOX and CBS under one of the past NFL-network television agreements.
Adding injury to insult, Lombardi and his Packers practiced in Southern California before the 1967 championship game not far from Disneyland because the NFL felt that was the best way to sell tickets to the contest The AFL was the Mickey Mouse league and not worthy of being on the same field as the NFL..
"He got a lot of pressure put on him by the other owners of the National Football League. That was a bitter relationship with the AFL and NFL," recalled Jerry Kramer, one of Lombardi's Packers offensive linemen. "I'm not sure there still aren't still some rivalries in that situation.
"Lombardi got calls from virtually everyone in the NFL saying we were representing the NFL and the pride of the NFL and we couldn't be beaten."
Lombardi even had to deal with William Paley's CBS Television Network and NFL partner.
"I was talking to Frank Gifford years ago and he mentioned that he announced that first Super Bowl," Kramer continued. "Gifford said he was fairly cool, fairly calm and relaxed and he went over to put his arm on Vince's shoulder and Lombardi was shaking like a leaf.
"Gifford said that really made me nervous."
Gifford, of course, was the CBS announcer who played under Lombardi when Lombardi was the New York Giants offensive coach (in 2011 parlance, an offensive coordinator) in the 1950s and represented the NFL.
Neither CBS nor NBC bothered to keep a video of the game.
Green Bay won the matchup and Lombardi was able to exhale. But Lombardi was right in this sense. The NFL was the favored league of the sports media in those days with Tex Maule of Sports Illustrated leading the charge against the AFL. Green Bay won the first two championships and the football media dismissed the American Football League and players like Joe Namath and teams like the New York Jets, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Oakland Raiders.
The flaw in the thinking was this. The AFL was signing players out of the same college pool as the NFL and the AFL coaches like Weeb Ewbank, Sid Gillman and Al Davis came out of the NFL. The AFL has had the same TV money available to them as the NFL thanks to David Sarnoff's anger at losing the NFL contract deal to his CBS rival William Paley. Sarnoff's NBC was the AFL's bank and the Sonny Werblin used some of Sarnoff's money to sign Namath.
The name Super Bowl came by accident and it came from Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, the man who founded the AFL because he could not get an NFL team in Dallas.
"It was one of the spur of the moment things," said Hunt. "No one ever said what are we going to call it? It was one of those things that just came out of the mouth. It was not too inspired."
Hunt was home one day watching his children play with a ball when he first uttered the words.
"They each had a Super Ball that my wife had given to them and they were always talking about them and I just used the expression Super Bowl and it was an accidental thing and it seems to have caught on."
But NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle didn't like the name nor did NFL owners. Still, the game had no name and no one had suggested anything else. In fact, there was no Super Bowl Committee. It was Rozelle's idea to call the contest, The AFL-NFL World Championship Game.
"Everybody said, that's a corny name," Hunt recalled. "But the members of the committee started using that name and one thing lead to another. After the second game, it was formally adopted."
But Hunt did talk to Rozelle, and Hunt the visionary who founded the AFL was very persuasive and Rozelle listened.
"Lamar talked to me after the first couple of games and told me his daughter had a funny ball, a toy. She'd bounce it. It was a super ball," remembered Pete Rozelle in September 1990. "He said why don't we call it the Super Bowl?
"Well to me, you know when I was in high school (in the 1940s), super was a big word. You know this was super, that was super. I thought that sounds a little corny, but then finally, I decided this was worth a shot and it course it has a totally different connotation when used on the game today. We decided to do it then, so we started calling it that and it really caught on."
Rozelle did not recall any formal discussion on the name. It just became the Super Bowl by 1969 despite the fact that he didn't really like the name.
As far as the Wham-O Super Ball? It's shelve life was considerably less than the Super Bowl. It was a toy made Zectron. Chemical Engineer Norma Stingley found that when formed at 50,000 pounds of pressure, Zectron becomes uncontrollably bouncy. Wham-O began producing a ball made of Zectron in 1967, the same year that Super Bowl I was played between the Chiefs and the Green Bay Packers. After only a few years, the "double-top secret" formula for Zectron was copied by Wham-O's competitors and the Super Ball floundered. The Super Ball was out of production by 1976.
Today the Super Bowl means millions of dollars for the airline industry, the hotel industry, the rent-a-car industry, the restaurant industry in the host city and the TV industry. The league uses the promise of awarding a game to a city if that town builds a new stadium. The Super Bowl is one of the few events that brings out of town money to a sporting event.
On January 12, 1969 the Jets- Baltimore Colts match up in Miami sold out just minutes before kickoff. The Jets victory that day might have been crushing for old line NFL owners, but even Rozelle in the NFL Publication, The Super Bowl, Celebrating a Quarter of a Century of America's Greatest Game, admitted the Jets upset that day mushroomed interest in football.
The Jets-Colts game was the turning point in the popularity of the Super Bowl. The National Football League and the most of the football media thought the old league would just be better all the time.
The New York Jets were the free spending rebels from the rebel league. New York quarterback Joe Namath had a large contract, wore long hair and played in white shoes. The Colts quarterbacks, Earl Morrall and Johnny Unitas both had crew cuts. Namath was known as Broadway Joe, a nickname given to him by former Colt and Jet offensive lineman Sherman Plunkett. Unitas was known as Johnny U and wore black high top shoes.
Namath had a public perception of being a playboy who enjoyed New York life to its fullest and was a braggart. Unitas had little to say.
While Ewbank was studying films of the Colts and analyzing why the Chiefs and Raiders lost, Namath was talking and was ahead of his time as a trash talk pioneer. Except Namath only said two things and was probably only echoing what his coaching staff and teammates were thinking.
Namath said there were four quarterbacks in the AFL who were better than Morrall, the Colts starter and then said, "We are going to win this game. I guarantee it."

Ewbank had to convince his Jets to keep quiet and play football and not say a thing about beating Baltimore. He was in one way seeking NFL respect but in another way laughing to Super Bowl. Weeb knew his Jets could win and the AFL was a quality league.
"They weren't giving the AFL anything," he said years later. "I thought there were two great teams in Super Bowl I and II. They were fine ball clubs. I don't think there has ever been much better material than they had at Kansas City. They had great athletes and the Raiders were a good football team.
"In both games, they let themselves get upset. In the first game, they had an interception in the third quarter and the Chiefs weren't any good in the ballgame after that after Green Bay scored. Then the Raider game, they had a dropped punt and a recovery and then they weren't in the game anymore.
"When we went into out game, we said no matter what happened, we weren't going to let it upset us. Whether it be an official call, an interception, a fumble or what. Why we weren't going to let that upset us. We were going to stick to the game plan."
But one thing Ewbank didn't count on was Namath sounding more like Muhammad Ali than the average football player.
Ewbank brought the Jets to Fort Lauderdale to work out prior to the game. The Jets stayed at the Galt Ocean Mile Hotel where Namath was given the same room that Vince Lombardi used the year before. The Jets trained at the New York Yankees Fort Lauderdale spring training complex and he was given Mickey Mantle's locker. Twists of fate?
Maybe, but Namath broke the athlete's code. He guaranteed a win. Ewbank was not amused.
"We had gone down there as 17 points underdogs which I liked," he recalled. "I told the guys don't pay any attention to what I say because I want to try to make it 21 if I can. Don't you guys do anything to stir them up. Well, I could have shot Joe when he said that."
But Namath and the Jets were confident and really believed they were better than the Colts.
"That's true and I understood Coach Ewbank," said Namath. "The next day I saw Coach Ewbank and he said my goodness these guys (the Colts) are overconfident and I have been working on that and here you are giving them fuel to get fired up for the game.
"I simply said, Coach if they need clippings to fire them up, then they are in trouble. That was that. He made me aware that he was very upset that I had said what I did and I felt badly about it after that. Fortunately we won."
The Jets did go out and won 16-7. The AFL had arrived nearly 10 years after Hunt and Bud Adams decided to go ahead with their plan.
The Jets apparently didn't think too highly of the Tiffany Trophy the organization received for winning the game. The team left it behind in Miami's Orange Bowl in a backroom and returned to New York.
"The important thing was we won," said Namath.
Namath, Ewbank and the rest of the Jets permanently etched the term Super Bowl into the American mindset. Namath, the quarterback, became a TV host, sex symbol, rebel, hero and salesman.
"I don't know how much money the Super Bowls means," Hunt admitted. "I wasn't smart enough to copyright the name. That was a fatal mistake. No, I'm kidding.
"If we thought about copyrighting it, I am sure somebody would have taken the name. It is copyrighted now. But it's all from a child's toy ball."
Even Rozelle years later would admit the "Super" name probably played a major role in the event's success.
What would have happened to the NFL without its June 1966 merger with the AFL? Tex Schramm, the longtime Dallas Cowboys President and a chief architect of the merger along with Hunt, thought pro football would have been in shambles. There would have been no Broadway Joe guarantees, no Steelers, no 49ers or Cowboys, no Lombardi to talk about.
"I think football was on its way to self destruction with the two leagues," said Schramm. "Both sides were spending themselves into bankruptcy and there were only four or five clubs that could remain really competitive.
"Teams were drafting players not on the basis on whether or not they could play but whether they could be signed. Whenever that happens then your sport is in trouble and that's the way we were headed then."
At that time there were 15 NFL teams and nine AFL clubs. Instead of two
entities in a financial battle, the merger brought an end to the 1960s
version of soaring player cuts and solidified an industry that was gaining more and more popularity annually.
"The merger started the most successful growth period in the National
Football League. Because of the rivalry that had been built up with the American Football League, we were able to create the Super Bowl," Schramm explained. "The Super Bowl kind of put the icing on the cake and the interest in the National Football League kept rolling until it was the most popular spectator sport in the United States."
The ghost of Lombardi will be on display during Sunday's big game between Green Bay and Pittsburgh. The Lombardi Trophy will be shown off around 10:15 Eastern Time on Sunday night. Lombardi will be back for a day but in a sense, he has never left. There is the turnpike stop near the Meadowlands, the play on Broadway, the old adages and of course, the Lombardi Trophy. All of which is a bit odd considering that Vince Lombardi really didn't want to be at the Super Bowl.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle. He can be reached at

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Can-Am League and a study in public policy failure

TUESDAY, 01 FEBRUARY 2011 12:50

Just in case you haven't notice, and many in New Jersey probably have not, New Jersey lost a professional baseball team in January. Floyd Hall decided to disband his Sussex Skyhawks of the independent Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball, or Can-Am League for short on January 11. The reason for the team's demise is pretty simple. Hall's lease at the August baseball park had expired and he was unable to sell the customer-challenged franchise to an investor so he cut his losses and folded the team.
Only Skyhawks diehards, and there were not many of them, will miss the team.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie may want a replacement team in Newark after National Basketball Association's New Jersey Nets depart for Brooklyn sometime in the future, but he is not clamouring for a Sussex Skyhawks replacement in the Can-Am League.
The Can-Am League is just not that important.
Skyhawks fans can watch Can-Am League baseball elsewhere in New Jersey, either in Montclair or Newark or can make a short drive into Rockland County, New York and watch the Ramapo-based Rockland Boulders. That is if there is a Boulders franchise as all of a sudden, the future of that franchise may be deciding by a New York State Supreme Court Judge.
People in northwest New Jersey apparently had a lot of other things to do in June, July and August each summer and neglected to show up at the Augusta yard. Hall's team drew just 71,826 "paid" customers or 1,670 per game in 43 openings. That was not the worst attendance in the league in 2010. That honor belonged to Pittsfield, a team that averaged 702 paying customers a game and drew 29,485 people in 42 openings in the western Massachusetts city in the Berkshires.
Hall will still operate a New Jersey team in the league as his New Jersey Jackals will once again play at Yogi Berra Stadium on the Montclair State University campus. Hall's other team, the Jackals, didn't excite too many people either, the Jackals attendance figure was 86,014 "paying" customers in 44 dates or an average of 1,954 per game in an affluent market with demographics that would be the envy of most affiliated minor league baseball team owners.
The Can-Am League is in many ways the last stop for players who still have the dream of making it to the Major Leagues. The league has some older players who are looking at one more shot at Major League Baseball and younger players who have been overlooked and may have fallen through scouting cracks that are hoping to impress someone who works in player personnel major league team. The league lacks fans in large numbers and is publicity starved as well as media-challenged since there are no TV and radio contracts with stations that have limited signals although those broadcasts are available on the Internet.
It is also a league that has seen franchises come and go at alarming rates. The independent circuit has lost Sussex but gained Newark after Tom Cetnar purchased the Bears franchise and decided to move the team from the Atlantic League to the Can-Am League last October. That gave the league six teams but there is a seventh and an eight team scheduled to compete in 2011 and the eighth franchise (which is located about eight miles north of the New Jersey-New York border in Montvale up New York's Route 45 in Ramapo, New York) is going to be a problem for the league.
The seventh franchise seems to be a travelling squad made up of New York State League players looking for a chance. The eighth team is the Rockland Boulders and the franchise already has a sordid history. That "history" is going to be played out in court very shortly. Some Ramapo, New York residents are a tad upset with Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence who decided to go ahead and build a 3,500-seat stadium off of Route 45 despite the fact that local residents overwhelming voted against funding of the ballpark last August.
St. Lawrence probably thought the vote was a mirage as construction of the stadium continued despite the fact that local voters said there were not giving permission to use town funds to pay off $16.5 million worth of debt. Last Friday, St. Lawrence was hit with a lawsuit, which cannot make the Can-Am League too happy.
The suit filed on Friday in the State Supreme Court of New York State in Rockland County has 390 points of discussion (including item 233, a column by this reporter on the economics of the Can-Am League). The lawsuit is asking for a judgment to stop the project.
Meanwhile the Rockland Boulders along with the rest of the Can-Am League are scheduled to start playing in late May.
Spending on sports facilities in the United States is a major issue and when a municipality decides to get into the sports business, it becomes a money pit of which there seems to be no escape. Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence is hell bent on building a baseball park for a sports league which has at best a mediocre financial history.
The Can-Am League had six (two from New Jersey) teams playing in 2010. St. Lawrence wanted to see Ramapo included as the league's seventh team in 2011 and authorized the town to build a $25 million ($16.7 million for the stadium the rest for land acquisition), 3,500-seat park for an owner who wants to cast his lot in a league that doesn't seem to have too many fans.
The Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball.
Because of the number of teams that have folded, offers little more than a grim financial picture but St. Lawrence wanted his taxpayers to invest in by building a stadium for prospective owners. As St. Lawrence continued to make his push to get a stadium funded and a prospective owner, the East Ramapo School District (which is part of the Town of Ramapo) made plans to lay off workers and close a school, the Hillcrest School, which is not far from where the stadium with a promise of a few minimum wage per diem jobs will be built.
Can-Am League players don't get paid much money either. Independent baseball differs from minor league baseball in a significant way. Major League Baseball teams pick up the salaries for managers, coaches, players and trainers in the farm system which eliminates a significant payroll item for owners; in the independent leagues, owners pay for everything. There is a tight salary cap in the independent leagues.
The Can-Am League has a long list of defunct teams: Atlantic City, N.J., Elmira, N.Y., New Hampshire (Nashua), New Haven, North Shore (Lynn, Ma.), Ottawa, Ontario and Sussex.
A 2005 team was supposed to play in Bangor, Maine. That franchise became a road team known as the Grays and folded with Elmira after the 2005 inaugural Can-Am season. The league had 10 teams in 2007 and by 2010 lost 40 percent of the league members.
The league could not find an investor for Sussex and has a travelling team of guys who are basically auditioning for the Can-Am League in the New York State League players. That history should not give anyone any real confidence in the league's financial wherewithal.
But in 2010, St. Lawrence moved ahead and signed a memorandum of understanding through the not-for-profit Ramapo Local Development Corporation and Bottom 9 Baseball, LLC and landed a team. The document was not a binding legal paper but it laid out a road map for Ramapo taxpayers and the baseball team owners. RLDC and Bottom 9 Baseball had 18 months to finish a deal after the clock started on June 4, 2010. It is not as though Ramapo had many suitors at the town's doorstep for the new stadium. It is going to be a tough go for anyone to sellout a 3,500-seat baseball stadium in Ramapo and in the "secondary" markets of Rockland and Orange Counties in New York and Bergen County in New Jersey.
The contract between the town and the team is for 20-years, which is quite a stretch considering the Can-Am League is just playing a seventh season after reorganizing following the failure of the Northeast League. The Northeast League began in 1995 and merged with the Northern League in 1998. The two groups split after the 2002 season.
The league has never enjoyed financial stability in 16-years of various incarnations.
The Ramapo-Bottom 9 Baseball deal could have fallen apart on August 15, 2010 if a number of conditions were not been met. Ramapo and RLDC had to find money to support the construction (with or without Ramapo taxpayers' approval) and have to get all the necessary land approvals. Bottom 9 Baseball had to be in a league by October 8, 2010.
St. Lawrence lost the financial referendum in late August by a 2 to 1 margin, but no matter he forged ahead. Bottom 9 Baseball also missed the October 8 deadline. On January 11, 2011, three months later, Bottom 9 Baseball officials joined the Can-Am League.
The baseball facility is supposed to be ready to open on June 6, 2011. Bottom 9 Baseball will be throwing a million dollars or four percent of the estimated costs into the venue. The team will pay $175,000 a year in rent. It would take more than a century for Ramapo to get back the construction costs at that rate. The team threw a couple of bones to Ramapo. The municipality will get a dollar for each ticket sold (not including those seats in the stadium's 20 luxury boxes — the town will get some money from those seats and some money from the sale of the stadium's naming rights.

What are the odds that a Ramapo Stadium can get any money for naming rights when the New York Giants/Jets Meadowlands Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys Stadium (where Sunday's Super Bowl is taking place) are still unnamed? What also has to be disturbing to St. Lawrence is that the city of Jacksonville waived the 25 percent of an estimated $16 million naming rights deal at the city's stadium to help the Jacksonville Jaguars bottom line. The city is forfeiting $800,000 in revenues annually for the next five years.)
The team will give Ramapo two dollars from each car parked in the stadium's lot for a game. The town will also get 10 percent of the concessions whether it is food, beverage or merchandise sold at the stadium. The team will keep signage rights in the building.
Based on Can-Am League attendance figures, the Town of Ramapo will get somewhere between $3,000 and $4,000 a game if the town and team is lucky.
The Ramapo paid financial consultant on the project thinks the stadium will bring in $1.4 million a year which would cover the $1.3 million annual debt service that St. Lawrence projects for the stadium.
Politicians when it comes to stadium costs are so easily fooled.
There is a treasure chest of consultant figures that can fill up rooms at municipal buildings around the country with rosy projections. In Cincinnati, the city and Hamilton County need to find money somewhere to cover the debt of the city's football stadium.
Revenues will come in at $500,000 for the Town of Ramapo and that is a big maybe from games in real world projections not Town of Ramapo-hired economist projections.
Ramapo taxpayers better understand that this stadium will be a loss leader no matter what both sides say. Ramapo officials think the team will bring in $900,000 in stadium related revenues. The bad news, the revenues figure is grossly overstated, the good news for Ramapo is that at this point they are not being asked to pay the team's expenses like New Orleans and Indianapolis and Glendale, Arizona residents are doing for pro sports teams. The bad news is that Ramapo will have to find money somewhere to pay from the annual $1.3 million stadium debt. That money won't be coming from local college baseball teams (Rockland Community College, St. Thomas Aquinas College and Dominican College) or high school baseball or stadium concerts, as the seating capacity is too small for anything but small acts.
There is also a question of infrastructure (road repairs, sewer installation and other improvements) and other costs including police. Can the area also handle game day traffic, although that would seem to be a moot point considering the lack of attendance in the Can-Am league?
Another question that should be answered: Who is paying RLDC's legal fees? St. Lawrence or the town?
There is a laughable clause about radio and TV and how Ramapo and the RLDC will get some advertising money from broadcasts and telecasts of the team. Many Major League Baseball teams, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League and National Football League teams have revenue sharing deals with local radio stations and a radio network.
Ramapo has two radio stations.
There is a major radio problem, the stronger signal of the two Rockland radio stations (a 1,000 watt daytime) broadcasts in Polish and the other is a 500 watt station daytime that doesn't cover the entire county. Most games will be played at night when the station's signals are diminished under rules established by the Federal Communications Commission. The money that can be charged for a commercial on a small radio station for an independent baseball league team might amount to tip money at a local diner.
There is always Internet radio.
Unless some local access cable TV company wants to put some games on TV, there will be no TV. The affiliated Brooklyn Cyclones franchise in the Short Season A Ball, New York-Penn League is owned by the New York Mets and there are a couple games on TV on SNY and maybe a game here or there on WFAN. The Yankees' Staten Island affiliate in the New York Penn League is on the YES Network once in a while or a blue moon, whatever frequency is less.
The terms of the Ramapo-Bottom 9 Baseball agreement heavily favors the baseball team which is not surprising.
If the stadium is not done by June 6, 2011, Ramapo will pay Bottom 9 Baseball a penalty of $2,500 a day for every day the stadium is unusable or up to $175,000. If construction of the stadium starts and Bottom 9 Baseball cannot get into a league, Bottom 9 Baseball has to give Ramapo $675,000.
If the stadium isn't built and the RLDC and Bottom 9 Baseball have an agreement and the agreement is canceled out because there is no stadium by September 30, 2011, Ramapo taxpayers are on the hook for $500,000 as a penalty for Ramapo not living up to the contract.
Bottom 9 Baseball gets exclusive use of the stadium 85 days a year, which is the summer when an outdoor stadium in the northeastern part of the United States should be most utilized. Ramapo gets the stadium 280 days a year, mostly in the winter. It is hard to hold an outdoor concert on January 17 and putting a temporary ice rink in the middle of a 3,500-seat outdoor facility in winter borders on financial lunacy if the town thinks that an outdoor rink in a baseball stadium will make some money.
There is a high baseball team mortality rate in the Can-Am league. Chris St. Lawrence probably doesn't want to know all of this but Ramapo residents should. Publicly funded stadium and arena construction is a failed urban and public policy
Stadium and arena building became an integral part of public policy in the 1940s when Oakland decided to build a football stadium however that was shot down in a referendum. But other cities such as Baltimore and Milwaukee jumped onto the stadium building bandwagon and by the 1950s, cities began putting money aside for simple stadiums that could be used for baseball and football. By the 1990s, (after the 1986 Tax Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan which somehow changed the way stadium debt was paid down---only eight cents of every dollar generated in a stadium or arena built with public funds could go to pay off debt) sports executives convinced politicians that building a sports arena or stadium would be an economic engine. That was the mantra in Cleveland and people said yes to a baseball stadium for the Indians and a project called The Gateway was built which came complete with a baseball stadium, a multipurpose arena, a football stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The project has been bleeding money and the latest plan to help Cleveland's downtown is opening a casino next to the arena.
Sports owners got great leases though at the stadiums and arenas built on the public dime.
Now the Can-Am League is encountering a major problem, a lawsuit that could result in Ramapo having the stadium construction halted. Actually, it is not really much of a problem for the Can-Am League as the baseball grouping has lost franchises before. It is a problem for Christopher St. Lawrence and the residents of Ramapo, New York.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition is available at, Barnes and Noble or amazonkindle. He can be reached at