Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Handouts to NFL owners have been an absolute failure

Wednesday, 29 June 2011 08:14




Cory Booker wants a National Basketball Association team in Newark. Tim Leiweke is working the room in Los Angeles trying to get government money to help his company, the Anschutz Entertainment Group, to build a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles. While Leiweke works the room and tries to entice the owners of various football teams—the Jacksonville Jaguars, the St. Louis Rams, the Minnesota Vikings, the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers—to move to the planned stadium.

Leiweke is going after a football team despite the fact that the National Football League owners have locked out their employees – the players.

Booker wants a new franchise even though the NBA plans to shut down on Thursday night if there is no new collective bargaining agreement between owners and players.

The National Football League business goes on despite the fact that the main product is not available—football games—and could conceivable not be available to consumers this fall. That doesn’t seem to bother Los Angeles politicians who are talking to Leiweke about funding a downtown facility or Minnesota politicians who are trying to figure out a way to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to satisfy New Jersey’s Zygi Wilf and his want for a new stadium for his Minnesota Vikings franchise.

Sports fans probably don’t want to read this, but the team you love or hate doesn’t belong to you. The team belongs to an owner and that owner is looking for government handouts and if he or she doesn’t get a handout from the local government, he or she will look elsewhere and probably find it.

It is about time that people understand that government support of big time sports has been an absolute failure since the 1986 tax reform that changed the way stadium and arena debt were paid. In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed the tax reform that created a new formula for paying off municipally funded stadiums and arenas and placed the onus on local taxpayers to pay down the debt and gave the owners as much as 92 cents on every dollar generated within a stadium or arena and left just as little as eight cents on every dollar to pay off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of debt.

Despite sweetheart deals, the National Football League owners shutdown the business in March.

What is the real reason for labor strife?

Owners with older stadium such as Wilf’s Vikings and Al Davis’s Oakland Raiders have to invest more and more money into player’s salaries to meet the salary cap and salary floor NFL rules with the proliferation of municipally built facilities since 1986. Since the last National Football League owners and players collective bargaining agreement in 2006, new stadiums came online at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey, Arlington, Texas and Indianapolis and that forced up the salary cap and floor as more revenues flowed into the league.

Apparently the alleged new agreement that is being breathlessly reported by football insiders at a worldwide cable TV sports leader indicates that the very reason that triggered the lockout is not being addressed.

But life goes on in Los Angeles and in the legislative chambers in St. Paul, Minnesota and in Santa Clara, California where local officials are trying to cobble together a money deal to get the Santa Clara football stadium off the ground for the York family’s San Francisco 49ers.

The Santa Clara stadium is also a sore point for the owners. The Yorks have to throw money into the place and the NFL owners want the players to assume some of the costs for the Santa Clara building. The NFL owners basically have told the Yorks don’t seek any funding from the banks to cover their costs and they would try to extract that money from the players.

Meanwhile Booker wants a replacement for the departing Nets in Newark even though the NBA owners are on the verge of closing down the National Basketball Association business.

If the owners and players don’t come up with an agreement by Thursday night, the NBA owners will lockout the players.

Just how important is government as a sports partner? That is easy to answer. NBA Commissioner David Stern will tell you there are three major aspects in running a successful franchise. You need government to supply funding for arenas, you need government to continue the current cable TV rules which forces all consumers to pay for channels they don’t want in a basic expanded tier – where ESPN, TNT and regional sports channels reside because multiple cable systems operators place them there not consumers- and give corporations favorable tax breaks in buying tickets or club seats or luxury boxes.

If you don’t believe David Stern, perhaps Mario Cuomo’s words from 1991 will back up Stern. Cuomo, at that time, was the governor of New York and was lobbying the National League of Major League Baseball for an expansion team for Buffalo.

Cuomo was hardly a reluctant lobbyist as he told this reporter when he was asked if the Cuomo name—Mario Cuomo was considered a favorite for the 1992 Democratic Presidential nomination—would help get Buffalo a franchise.

“When you say enormous, you mean length?” joked Cuomo in response to the question. “Ah like Willie Sutton (the legendary bank robber). That’s an excellent question and it is a question I thought of before you did frankly.

“From the beginning I have said to (Buffalo mayor at the time) Jimmy Griffin, you know we have been very supportive from the beginning and it is not because I am a baseball fan. It is because this is a terrific investment for a strong part of the state.

“Pilot Field (the baseball park built in the late 1980s and a facility that is now known by yet another corporate name—the fourth since the stadium opened in 1988) was a great idea. I am proud of the judgment I made in giving nearly $22 million (to pay for the project). It wasn’t a gift, it was an investment and a very good investment and Buffalo proved that by setting (attendance) records for a few years and by qualifying by being this high up in consideration (for an expansion team).”

Buffalo was in the hunt along with the Miami area, St. Petersburg, Florida and Denver, Colorado. While Cuomo was a big name, he didn’t have the same clout as Florida Senator Connie Mack III and Colorado Senator Tim Wirth. Those two lawmakers could have played havoc on Major League Baseball by starting legislation that stripped Major League Baseball of antitrust protection from United States business laws which gave Florida and Colorado a leg up on Governor Cuomo.

But sports owners cannot afford to turn their collective backs on politicians of any stripe who can help that get a sweetheart lease for a team.

“But I said to Jimmy Griffin and Rich, Bob and Mindy, (the people pursuing the franchise for Buffalo) in the beginning. I am not sure exactly what role you should want me to play. How do they feel about politicians? If it is better for us to stay away, I will go nowhere near this thing. If you think it is helpful for me to talk to (National League President) Bart Giamatti, may he rest in peace, I will. But you tell me what your sense of how the owners feel about talking to politicians.

“Under some circumstance, your political identification could be a negative. I don’t know what these baseball people feel about it. Bob and Mindy came back to me and said we will tell you when and how you think you can be most affectively supportive. And they have from time to time. I spoke to Bart Giamatti, again may he rest in peace, he was a terrific, terrific human being. I knew him when he was president of Yale and I knew him as Commissioner.

“And they said when it is time to make the presentation; we would like you to be there. We understand other governors will be there. Their judgment is, it does not hurt for the political person to be there.

“I think from the owners point of view, they need to know what the governmental units, upstate New York. It is important for the owners to know that we are going to contribute to the stadium’s expansion. They want to hear you say it. They want to see you on the record. They want to know the money will be there, that the support for infrastructure will be there. That when you have a World Series, the police will be there. The security will be there. That is all a very important part in running a major sports franchise.”

Cuomo wasn’t done yet. He spoke the words that politicians that elected officials understand when it comes to government-sports partnerships.

“It is one of their stated criteria,” Cuomo said of what sports leagues want. “Indeed it is their first criteria. To what extent do you have sport and government?”

In the end, the National League did expand to the Miami area and Denver and the threat of having the antitrust exempt being pulled was gone.

Major League Baseball still has portions of the 1922 Supreme Court of the United States ruling that granted the industry an antitrust exemption in place. The 1922 decision is felt to this day in the New York City area.

New Jersey cannot get a Major League Baseball franchise because the owners of the game can block anyone from bringing a third team into the area. Oakland A’s ownership cannot move to San Jose because of the exemption.

Government has invested billions into helping sports reach a level that no one who played in the NFL or the NBA in the 1940s or 1950s could ever envision. The stadiums, the cable TV act, the 1986 tax reform, the Sports Broadcast Act of 1961, the 1966 American Football League-National Football League merger, the tax hikes for car rentals, hotel, motel rooms, and restaurant bills, sewer and water, alcohol, cigarettes (the so-called Sin Tax in Cleveland) and various tax hikes to build stadiums and arenas and yet, it is not enough.

The owners and players cannot figure out how to split up $9 billion in annual NFL revenue. The NBA owners want major salary givebacks because they claim they are losing money despite sweetheart leases because they cannot generate enough in arena revenues for many franchises.

The National Football League lockout allegedly will have an impact on communities that will not be hosting training camp this year regardless of whether there is a settlement or not in July. Yet Cuomo’s son Andrew has not said a word about the lockout as New York’s Governor even though the Madison, New Jersey based New York Jets will not hold training camp as planned in central New York State at the State University of New York – Cortland. The Baltimore Ravens franchise will stay at the team’s training facility instead of traveling to McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is quiet about the NFL Lockout even though his state seduced Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell to Baltimore with a generous lease offer and helped Modell through a tough financial situation in 1995.

Maryland spent more than $100,000 per jobs created at the Ravens football facility. New York is kicking in about $3 million a year at the Orchard Park football field for the Buffalo Bills. Louisiana finished paying a $186.5 million bill to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson to keep him in town between 2002 and 2010 and renegotiated the contract that gave Benson a building (he is renting office space to the state) for about $10 million and reduced the state’s contribution to the team to as much as $6 million annually along with tax breaks.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has said nothing about the NFL lockout and the upcoming NBA lockout. Louisiana pours millions of dollars in NBA’s New Orleans Hornets. Mitch Daniels is Governor of Indiana, a state that is basketball crazy. But the NBA’s Indiana Pacers cannot make money in what was a new building in 1999 and the team under the right set of circumstances could move in 2013. The Pacers ownership is paying virtually nothing to use the city’s municipally built arena and sucks out every nickel from the building.

Daniels is mute on the subject of sports. The NFL’s Indianapolis Colts are taking virtually every cent out of the city’s new stadium. Sports is costing Indiana residents millions upon millions of dollars.

Media anointed political superstars like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is a heavyweight at putting down his bosses — the public — but he along with a lot of elected officials who pay the bills for sports are more like Harpo Marx or Marcel Marceau and are lightweights when it comes to solving lockouts that have been caused in part by using public dollars to build arenas in areas that should never have major league sports.

Christie inherited a bill of hundreds of millions of dollars for the now departed Giants Stadium and the Meadowland sports complex. New Jersey also supplied hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure for the New Meadowlands Stadium and provided property tax taxes for the Giants/Jets stadium. He should be vocal and pressure John Mara and Woody Johnson, the Giants and Jets owners but publicly he is not.

Cuomo never reviewed the property tax break that various owners of Madison Square Garden have enjoyed for nearly three decades. His son Andrew apparently doesn’t want to put the Garden back on the New York City tax roll either.

The public has a stake or an investment in stadiums and arenas and by extension sports franchise. The elected officials across the country should have stepped up and pressed NFL owners to get a new collective bargaining agreement done if having sports teams are important and if stadiums and arenas are economic engines. Elected officials should be all over David Stern and NBA players to get a deal done. The NBA has shutdown summer leagues due to the pending lockout.

If sports is so important and adds billions to the economy—like politicians who pitched voters to approve sports facilities—where is the pressure on keeping the games going?

Cuomo and Stern have let people in on a secret that sportswriters seem to blissfully ignore and that the worldwide leader in sports doesn’t want to talk about. By the way, the worldwide leader in sports owes its very existence to federal legislation in 1984.

Sports depends on government to survive. But do the politicians and the public know that? The answer seems to be no.

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.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How the NHL and sports accidentally stumbled into globalization
THURSDAY, 23 JUNE 2011 12:26
Sports globalization will again be on display this week as the National Basketball Association holds the league’s annual draft in Newark on Thursday and the National Hockey league holds the league’s annual grab bag in St. Paul, Minnesota on Friday and Saturday.
The NBA, the NHL and Major League Baseball have been global entities for a long, long time with baseball signing players from outside of the United States for decades. In the 1960s, the National Hockey league was essentially a closed shop with the league players made up entirely of Canadians with just one American, Tommy Williams and one Swede, Ulf Sterner who played with the New York Rangers.
Today, the National Hockey League teams all feature a good number of young and talented players from around the globe. Canadians, Americans, Swedes, Finns, Swiss, Slovakians, Czechs, Russians and other nationalities who take to the ice but it wasn’t always like that.
The globalization of North American sports escalated in 1972 during the Summit Series between Canada and the Soviet Union. Team Canada took on the Swedish National Team in a pair of exhibition games in between the four games and Canada and the four scheduled games in Moscow. One NHL general manager, Toronto’s Jim Gregory, took notice of the Swedish team during the two game series and dispatched his scout Gerry McNamara to a Christmas tournament in Sweden a few months later to evaluate talent.
Gregory and McNamara found two players they immediately liked and felt would be good NHL players, defenseman Borje Salming and winger Inge Hammarstrom. That really was the start of the globalization of the National Hockey League. Both players were free agents, so there was no need to worry about taking them in the draft so Toronto was able to sign them under the radar.
The two players signed Maple Leafs contracts in May 1973 and that would start a revolution that would ultimately change how hockey was played. The Canadian game borrowed significantly from the European version of the game and Gregory was at the forefront.
Salming was a Hall of Fame player.
“I brought Hammarstrom in, Gerry McNamara was our scout and we brought Hammarstrom and Salming in and they were welcomed additions to our club despite what (owner) Harold Ballard said,” laughed Gregory who knew Ballard did not like non Canadian players.
“That was his prerogative. Borje Salming was an unbelievable player for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Inge Hammarstrom while he was there did a real good job as well.”
Ballard needed to be sold on the addition of Swedes to his lineup and every though he would eventually warm up to Salming, Ballard did say that Hammarstrom could go into a corner with six eggs in his pocket and not break any of them. Back in the 1970s, the NHL was still a league of mostly Canadians although Gregory did his best to change that.
“Actually the Rangers brought in a player in 1964 (from Sweden) named Ulf Sterner and then Detroit brought over a player (Thommie Bergmann) and we had started scouting and Gerry McNamara went over and we were very lucky to get the players we did.
“We had a couple of other ones that should have been on our team. (Anders) Hedberg and (Ulf) Nilsson. We got into a little bit of bidding (with the World Hockey Association’s Winnipeg Jets) and we did not win out.”
The World Hockey Association was vilified by the sports media for being an inferior product, but the sports media like Pavlov’s dog is conditioned to react in a certain way and putting down upstart leagues like Lamar Hunt’s American Football League, Dennis Murphy’s American Basketball Association and World Hockey Association was par for the course. The truth is that those leagues changed North American sports. Hunt brought new ideas to what was essentially a mom and pop organization—the National Football league. Murphy’s ABA is on display every night dressed as the NBA as the old league “borrowed” from Murphy and his associates ideas which included the three point play and the All Star Weekend. The WHA sold the naming rights to the league’s championship trophy and pioneered international play and welcomed Swedes and Finns into the league.
Established leagues were staid affairs.
Gregory left the Toronto Maple Leafs and joined Central Scouting in 1979. He fought to bring Europeans into the fold shortly after that.
“I had been to Europe very early when I worked with the Leafs and actually I was part of a committee that hired Jack Button, who started Central Scouting, and when I was let go by the Leafs, the league offered me that job. I had been to Europe and had seen the talent that was there and, of course, had Salming and Hammarstrom as part of the organization that I was with and we had some other players as well.
“I contacted a couple of gentlemen, one of whom who had lived in Toronto and was part of the Finnish Ice Hockey Association, and we get together in talking and formed European Central Scouting to augment what was already there for the National Hockey League.”
By 1979, NHL teams were very aware of European talent or at least players who could come over from Sweden and Finland. The Iron Curtain countries also had many talented players but Soviets and Czechoslovakians could only come to North America if they defected.
In 1981, Czechoslovakia allowed Ivan Hlinka and Jiri Bubla to join the Vancouver Canucks not long after the Statsny Brothers defected and signed with the Quebec Nordiques. Hlinka would eventually coach the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2000.
It was not until 1989 that players who played for Russia were able to free join NHL teams. The first Soviet player to legally join an NHL team was Sergei Priakin who signed a contract with Calgary. Later that summer, New Jersey added Vyacheslav Fetisov and Sergei Starikov. Sergei Marakov and Igor Larinov were also cleared to join NHL teams. Fetisov and Larionov are members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Gregory said it was inevitable that Europeans would seek to come to North America and NHL teams would hire them “because of the popularity of the World Cup and Canada playing Russia, Sweden and Finland and the US as well.”
The globalization of hockey and looking for hockey talent had an effect on the lifestyles of NHL scouts who back in the six-team league rarely ventured out of Canada looking for talent.
“No, I went close (to the Arctic Circle),” said Gregory of one of his initial trips to Sweden. “Salming’s hometown is right near the Arctic Circle. When I was with the scouting bureau and you have to go look.”

The National Hockey League started the ball rolling in North America as the effort to expand North American branded sports continued in 1974 when the World Hockey Association sent a touring team to play Europeans and the Soviets. The NBA did not catch up to the NHL until Ted Turner developed the Goodwill Games and sent his Atlanta Hawks to the Soviet Union for training camp in the late 1980s. The NHL and NBA finally landed Soviet players in the late 1980s.
The National Basketball Association is hoping to open up a marketplace in India; Major League Baseball is expanding the World Baseball Classic and wants to introduce the game to countries like Ghana. The NHL plays regular season games in Europe. Oddly enough, the National Football league is way behind the other leagues in global expansion. The NFL has not been able to stage any games in China and seems to be content to go to London for annual games. The NFL has to continue finding growth areas in the United States, if possible, because it has limited options outside of North America. People do not play American football elsewhere except in British Columbia, a market that the NFL has cornered.
Sports continues to be a multinational entity. The drafts illustrate that pointedly.
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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Rant by LeBron James speaks volumes about the real world of sports
TUESDAY, 14 JUNE 2011 16:14
Perhaps in the smoke and mirrors and laser light shows filled with loud music of 2011 sports, LeBron James should be introduced with some Billy Joel music the next time he goes onto the basketball court.
The song "My Life" seems apropos but if you think LeBron's post game rift was out of line, think again. High salaried athletes of the 21st century in America live in gated communities and don't have much to do with fans on a daily basis. It is no longer the 1950s — a time when members of the Brooklyn Dodgers lived in the Brooklyn community, members of the New York Giants baseball team lived in Dobbs Ferry, New York and were a part of that community.
Phil Rizzuto and Yogi Berra are no longer selling suits in a Newark clothing store in the off season to supplement their New York Yankees income.
Sports fans and sports media employees expect a lot out of their athletic heroes.
At one time LeBron James was a hero but he has become the equivalent of a wrestling heel, a bad guy after leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise and announcing his intentions during a made for cable TV show on ESPN. Forgotten in the criticism of the show which was dubbed "The Decision" was that LeBron James made some money for charity. Athletes are supposed to be role models and the excuse is always because kids look up to sports heroes. LeBron has been clean, no drugs, no jail time yet he is a villain while scores of athletes are arrested on an annual basis for various crimes.
Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick seem to be coming back into sports as conquering heroes after doing jail time. LeBron James doesn't seem to have humility or has yet to be humbled by the sports media so he is a bad, bad guy now. Athletes are supposed to be humble. Entertainers on the other hand are applauded for being wild people. The Lindsay Lohans, Britney Spears of the world are great copy. The sporting media expects athletes lead the way by example because the kids look up to them.
Babe Ruth was hardly a role model but the Babe was out there signing autographs for the kids back in the 1920s and 1930s. But Babe was also a businessman and in 1930 made more money than President Herbert Hoover. Babe’s response drew chuckles when asked about making more money than the President of the United States.
“I know, but I had a better year than Hoover,” he said.
LeBron James problem seems to be his lack of a quick wit and humor. His statement was innocuous. LeBron James is not refusing to go into military service as a conscientious objector and not following Muhammad Ali’s 1967 lead. He wasn’t on the podium in Mexico City with a black glove raised in the air like John Carlos and Tommie Smith did in 1968 protesting poverty in America.
There was a no political statement here. It was just a pro wrestling type rant.
James should have been signing the final words from the 1978 song — I don't care what you say anymore, this is my life. Go ahead with your own life, leave me alone.
"All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. So they can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they got to get back to the real world at some point," James said after the game.
James is getting excoriated for his statement.
James is saying publicly what athletes have thought and talked about privately for years. Athletes are not normal people as just everyday performers. LeBron James is in a different stratosphere from the average NBA player. Athletes are coddled, put on pedestals by fans — many of them adults who are in their 40s, 50s and 60s and wear the name of their favorite athlete on their back. They are pursued by autograph hounds and other jock sniffers and there are groupies who chase them. Their athletic exploits are recorded and chronicled for the ages.
Athletes are supposed to be happy just playing a child's game and at one time, great players like Honey Russell back before the days of the National Basketball League and the Basketball Association of America in the 1930s played for nothing. Even a great player like George Yardley played for nothing with the Los Angeles Jets of the American Basketball League (an organization that featured a Cleveland franchise owned by George M. Steinbrenner III). Yardley took the opportunity to play because he only participated in home games and select road games where his business would have taken him anyway. But as the late George Young pointed out in the 1980s while running the New York Giants in selecting player personnel and coaches that if a player says he will play for nothing, he is a liar.
It is a business and LeBron James is merely a businessman who let out a secret that is well known in his community, sports. You play a game and then get on with your life. Jim Bouton in his ground breaking baseball book Ball Four wrote that in 1970.
Sports is nothing more than a business even though fans are asked and give unconditional love for the team. But fans have to put up with an awful lot in exchange for a team. Madison Square Garden displaced the true "fans" decades ago when the building owners tore out the blue seats and replaced them with luxury boxes. The blue collar worker has been evicted from the best seats in that and other buildings.

All of the new buildings that have gone up since the 1986 federal tax code update (which shifted the way municipalities could charge owners for debt payment and put the onus of paying the bills for the facility on the taxpayers) also gave owners an excuse to hike ticket prices. The new places became malls complete with a sporting event, restaurants, shops and some new places included a Ferris Wheel or a swimming pool. In a 2000 interview, long time basketball executive John Nash, talking before Nets game at the Meadowlands, wondered if ticket prices for sporting events became too high.
"Cost is obviously a factor and it is directly related to players salaries," said Nash who was the General Manager of the New Jersey Nets at that time. "The players get 53 percent of the gross revenues by virtue of the agreement they made with the NBA. And as their salaries go up, the revenues streams necessarily have to go up."
In 2000 Nash and other sports executives were asking the same question. Were ticket prices hitting a plateau? The answer was no as ticket prices continue to escalate shifting the culture and social class inside of the arena to a high income "fan" and leaving behind the real sports lovers.
"That's a great question and I think every year teams have to decide for themselves," Nash said. "What has happened in many cases is that corporations have become our top customers as opposed to the everyday fan who cannot afford either the time commitment of 41 games or the cost."
In two weeks, NBA players may be locked out by the owners over money issues.
Politicians are willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to build sports stadiums and arenas and in some cases go the extra mile and hand owners money so their cities can be considered big league.
This is the culture of sports and Lebron James is part of that culture.
There is a National Football League owners led work stoppage taking place right now. On July 1, there could very well be an owners-led National Basketball Association work stoppage. Looking down the pike, the possibility of a Major League Baseball work stoppage exists as the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the owners and players expires in December. That National Hockey League owners and players CBA ends in the summer of 2012.
Since the Nash interview, the three NBA franchises have been relocated. Vancouver lost the Grizzlies franchise when Michael Heisley went shopping for a better arena deal in 2001. Heisley took an offer from Memphis. George Shinn relocated his Charlotte Hornets franchise in 2002 to New Orleans also in search of a better arena deal. The Oklahoma City-based owners of the Seattle SuperSonics took the franchise to Oklahoma City in 2008 after Seattle officials refused to build a new arena for the team some 13 years after the city rebuilt the municipally owned arena that housed the NBA team. The owners left despite having two years remaining on the lease between the city and franchise.
New Jersey will be losing the NBA Nets soon as that team will relocate to Brooklyn.
Allegedly 22 of the NBA’s 30 teams are losing money.
National Hockey League owners locked out their players in 2004 and shut down the business for an entire year. The NHL figures to approve the relocation of the Atlanta franchise to Winnipeg in a few days. Glendale, Arizona is paying $25 million a year for the privilege of having an NHL franchise in the Phoenix suburb.
Hawaiian officials are questioning why they are paying the NFL $4 million annually to host the league's annual all-star game, the Pro Bowl.
Businessmen in the Los Angeles area are demanding Los Angeles taxpayers kick money into a stadium for a National Football league team. In Sacramento, police, firefighters, teachers and other municipal employees are getting fired but Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is determined to spend taxpayers dollars to build an arena for the Maloof brothers Kings NBA franchise and keep the team in town.
Stadiums and arenas are costly projects and sports owners are smart enough to know that they don't want to build one on their own dime if possible.

Sports is filled with entitlement.
It doesn't matter if it is pro sports, college sports or in Lebron James case, the AAU. LeBron James and other talented young teens are courted by sneaker companies and push into colleges whose coaches have deals with sneaker companies. The money game starts very early in life for basketball players.
LeBron James talked and the sports world went into a tizzy.
He said nothing.
America is fighting two declared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is involved with NATO in Libya. There seems to be secret wars taking place in Pakistan and Yemen. The economy is still struggling; politicians are more concerned with ideology than settling real problems yet LeBron James' my life statement is being scrutinized.
LeBron James is nothing more than a highly paid basketball player and entertainer. He's right. People go back to their lives after a game and he has his own life. He just plays a game, nothing more, nothing less.
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.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Belmont Stakes Odds: Final leg of Triple Crown will depend on slot machines
FRIDAY, 10 JUNE 2011 19:25
The eve of the running of the annual June Belmont in Elmont, New York is a good time to review the "racino" industry. For those who have never heard of the time “racino” you better get used to it. A "racino" is a horse racing facility whether it is for thoroughbreds or harness or standard bred horses, which depends on a casino loaded with slot machines to survive.
For the most part, standard bred racing in the northeast United States would be gone by now without the “machines” and the thoroughbred industry would be on life support. Around 1950, baseball, boxing and horse racing were the crown jewels of American sports. Horse racing has diminished in popularity because of the abundance of state sponsored gambling through lotteries at local stores and in New York, keno in restaurants.
The horse racing business is now surviving in many areas, except New Jersey, through proceeds from on site slot machines and table games (in some states) at racetracks. New Jersey is not keeping pace with neighboring states like New York, Pennsylvania and Delaware and has no "racinos", preferring to keep operations going in Atlantic City.
New Jersey residents can go to Yonkers and bet the slots or into eastern Pennsylvania. Sometime this fall, they will be able to go to Aqueduct in Queens and deposit money into “machines” which may help bolster thoroughbred racing at Belmont, Aqueduct and in Saratoga.
“Too much in terms of gaming?” asked Charles Hayward, the President and Chief Operating Officer of the New York Racing Association, in response to a question about gaming and slot machine saturation on the east coast. “No, I think there is a fair amount of density in casinos throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia. The Aqueduct facility will be the first casino within New York City.
“We think the projects we have between $300-350 win per machine are very conservative. When we had our partner MGM, this goes back a few years; they said the biggest problem we were going to have would be managing the crowds on weekends when people would be lined up behind all of the 4,500 machines.
“There is no question there has been more saturation. Pennsylvania, which is much closer to that market you are speaking of (New Jersey), I don’t know how many slot machines and now they have gone to full blown table games but that had to increase the number dramatically and it has had a big impact on Atlantic City. But I think the Aqueduct "racino" is geographically situation to do well and I think more importantly Genting (Malaysia’s Genting Group-a casino operator) is a world-class operation. They are going to put more money into this, making the amenities better. It is not a destination resort by any stretch of the imagination but it will be a place people will want to go.”
The Aqueduct "racino" should be in business sometime after Labor Day.
The slot machines at Aqueduct figures to give a big push to help revive an ailing business – thoroughbred racing in New York.
“The money comes in in a bunch of different tranches,” said Hayward. “One is purses and that is probably an increase of somewhere around $30 million just to give you a frame of reference. Purses last year were about $103 million and it will be about the same this year. So that is about a 30 percent increase. We can tap X money, which again depending upon win per machine will be between $20-25 million. We get operating expense monies, so we can do more marketing customer service things and then there is a breeder award.
“So all in all, the racing industry and NYRA gets about 16 percent of the net win from the VLT (video lottery terminal or slot machine) so that is going to be significant. We have undertaken some studies for Cap Ex (Capital Expenditure) improvements at all three of the tracks (Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga) and we can start working on that once we got the money.”
Video Lottery Terminals are saved a lot of tracks thorough New York and in Delaware. The horse racing industry is dependent upon the slot machines.
Hayward is hoping that people will return to horse racing as owners. Since the economic meltdown of September 2008, a lot of horsemen and horsewomen have left the industry.
Hayward is monitoring what is going on in New Jersey in the struggle between bolstering Atlantic City and saving the horse racing industry but doesn’t have much to say about the New Jersey legislative battle to help both industries.

“I wish Morris Bailey (who now runs Monmouth Race Track) a lot of luck on the thoroughbred side, I had the good fortune of meeting the gentleman at the Preakness (in Baltimore). I think he knows what he is getting himself into,” said Hayward. “Look, it is important for racing to have various circuits, it is important for us for Monmouth to be a strong track. Obviously, the Meadowlands was a premier harness track for many, many years and Jeff Gural (who has a lease at the Meadowlands) is a very talented guy. He has brought back some harness racing here in state (upstate New York). I don’t know what is going to happen but it looks to me that the current administration (Governor Chris Christie) is certainly protecting Atlantic City. Under that scenario, it would seem unlikely that they would do anything (installing slot machines) at the Meadowlands
“But as you know, those things can change very quickly.”
Don’t look for slot machines at Belmont race track anytime soon. There has been mention that as part of the New York Islanders quest to gain a new arena for the hockey team in Nassau County that land which could be used for a Shinnecock Indian Casino in Uniondale (as suggested by former New York Senator Al D’Amato) should be shifted to Belmont but Hayward isn’t interested in the idea.
“We have not been involved,” he said. “Our position and our board’s position, you know the state (New York) has an option. If they put VLT’s here, they have an option on 10 acres of land at the end of building here (at Belmont). But, our view is let’s get the VLT’s going at Aqueduct; it is only nine miles away. I think to bring another entity in the market until we establish what is going on and until Genting gets some return on their $380 million investment would be inappropriate. You know, Nassau County, you can understand given their financial situation why they would want more economic development but we have not been involved in any conversations about gaming at Belmont nor will he be or putting an arena here. We have about 400 acres so we got some room but we would like to do some expansion. We need to build a few new barns. This is a beautiful old building we have; it’s an old building that doesn’t have a lot of air conditioning or heat so we have some challenges.”
The horse racing industry seems to be surviving thanks to the slot machines in various states. NYRA has been on the ropes for a long time but like a number of other horse tracks, its future depends on slot machines and eventually table games.
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.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rio and Sochi Olympic Games are about to drive up your cable TV bill
TUESDAY, 07 JUNE 2011 10:49

The groveling has started.
American media giants are genuflecting in front of International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge and his associates in Lausanne, Switzerland begging them to take their billions of dollars so they can win the television and multiple platform video rights to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and the 2016 Rio Summer Games.
The media brigade trying to win Rogge and his colleagues hearts are going to raise cable rates if they land the Olympic rights. Someone will have to pay billions for the two week corporate bazaar that happens to feature some sports events.
The IOC wants four billion dollars for the rights which means cable and satellite subscribers will be paying more on their monthly bill because whoever wins the rights will pass the bill onto consumers — whether they watch the games or not on cable TV.
Powerful people including heads of state and those who head up media companies became putty when it comes to business dealings with the International Olympic Committee. In 2009, President Barack Obama was criticized for being unable to move IOC delegates in Copenhagen and landing the 2016 Summer Games for Chicago. The noise crowd (media pundits and Republican operatives) was thoroughly unprepared in the criticism in that they did not know how the IOC works, they just saw Tony Blair lobbying the IOC while he was England's Prime Minister and secure the 2012 Summer Games for London or that Vladimir Putin's bended knee routine helped Sochi, Russia's chances for the 2014 Winter Games.
Sochi got the Games.
Because of Blair, heads of states had to go before the IOC and beg for either the Winter or Summer Games.
The International Olympic Committee, a group that somehow has "earned" permanent observer status at the United Nations, one of two entities with permanent observer status. The Vatican also has permanent observer status. But the International Olympic Committee is not a sovereign state, it just acts like one and powerful people allow them to act like a sovereign state.
Local politicians have created slush funds or have raised taxes to pay down the debt incurred by building huge sports complexes for a two week sporting orgy that has left financial messes behind. American television network executives have filled IOC coffers with billions of dollars, and American corporations have thrown billions to put their logo next to the Olympic rings. Canada changed laws protecting Olympic sponsorship during the lead up to the 2010 Vancouver Games.
The Olympic aura is just too strong for political and business leaders who are attracted to the five interlocking rings like a magnet.
The International Olympic Committee spited women softball players globally by dropping the sport because the Americans women were too good and the IOC could not get Major League Baseball to shut down the season, like the National Hockey League does, and send baseball’s very best players to the Olympics.
The National Hockey League may not send players to compete in the 2014 Sochi Games which might infuriate Rogge and his associates. They want professionals, not amateurs in their little sports orgy. Professionals can be used for cross promotional opportunities and are worth more money to the IOC — money is the IOC's only concern — than unknowns.
At present, the International Softball Federation is trying to figure out how to get the sport reinstated in the 2016 or 2020 Games. One suggestion was to move some of the Summer events indoors to create a bigger winter event but the games must go on in the winter on snow and ice. The International Softball Federation is trying to negotiate in a political maze.
Women softball players only chance on the world stage has been ended because Rogge and his IOC delegates are mad at Major League baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, MLB owners and the former Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association Don Fehr for not seeing it the IOC's way. Selig, the owners and the players just think their little endeavor, Major League Baseball, is more important than
Meanwhile, the IOC which loves to lecture the world about human rights has barred a women's only event from the 2012 Summer Games — softball — because Rogge and his cohorts are still angry with Major League Baseball for not including top players in an ersatz competition for an Olympic Gold Medal in baseball. The IOC awarded the 2008 Summer Games to China despite China's appalling human rights record.
The IOC leaned on the United States Congress to make Major League Baseball change drug policies that were collectively bargained to suit Olympics needs. The IOC didn’t care if baseball players were taking banned substances and some of those banned substances were legal in a number of players home countries like the Dominican Republic and Mexico; the IOC was bigger than Major League Baseball and flexed the group’s collective muscle.
Major League Baseball and the Major League Players Association have separated from the Olympics. Major League Baseball created the "World Baseball Classic", an event that will feature 28 countries in March 2013.
There seems to be just one organization that intimidates the IOC: FIFA, the governing body of football (soccer). Football’s World Cup is a much bigger event than any Olympics, and the IOC knows that. FIFA calls the shots in football, not the IOC.
The Walt Disney Company's ESPN, Comcast's NBCUniversal and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. United States media rights fees from a network TV-cable TV-multiple media platform funds a significant part of the Olympics. In 2010, General Electric's NBC unit lost millions on the two-week event. Yet like sailors on leave, TV executives feel the need to cozy up with their billions to Rogge and his crowd.
There are few global entities with the arrogance of the IOC.
The IOC has a pattern of corruption unmatched by any sports organization in the world. Salt Lake City, Utah won the rights for the 2002 Winter Olympics by bribing various International Olympic Committee delegates.

New York and New Jersey residents should feel very fortunate that London, England won the 2012 Summer Olympics bid. London taxpayers will be on the hook for millions of pounds to cover cost overruns for venues built specifically for the Games. A decade following the Sydney, Australia Games, venues used for the event are being maintained by taxpayers. Greece spent 5 percent of its gross domestic product monies on the 2006 Athens Games. It took 30 years to pay down the debt on the 1976 Montreal Olympics with all sorts of taxes, including a 17 cent per pack cigarette tax, being assessed for decades long after the closing ceremonies at Montreal's Olympic Stadium. The main stadium for the Beijing Games in 2008 is gone.
Despite all the evidence that the Olympics traveling show is a financial fiasco for host cities and now American TV networks, cities are still going after the Games. There is a question whether Annecy, France has the appropriate funding to remain in the running in the last month leading up to an IOC decision on the 2018 Winter Olympics site. That is the lasting Olympic legacy. A taxpayer draining two-week corporate bazaar that features a few athletic events and cable/satellite TV subscribers facing rising rates because someone has to pay for the television rights for the Games.
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.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bad owners like Time Warner ruin sports
THURSDAY, 02 JUNE 2011 13:35
The sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to a Canadian group of investors who will take the National Hockey League team to Winnipeg, Manitoba is yet another Time Warner failure. The media giant selected the wrong people in Atlanta to buy the company's National Basketball Association Atlanta Hawks, the NHL Thrashers and the lease agreement with the city of Atlanta for the use of the city built arena.
Time Warner officials, like an awful lot of other officials at media companies, in the late 20th century decided that getting bigger was better and buy out other companies. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp bought the Los Angeles Dodgers and attempted what was then called "vertical integration" and bring a sports franchise into the company. Murdoch's thinking or his advisors thinking was to put Dodgers telecasts into the homes of the Pacific Rim countries like Japan.
Murdoch failed and sold the Dodgers to Frank McCourt's group in 2004.
Time Warner ended up with the Atlanta Braves, the Hawks, Thrashers and control of the leases at Atlanta's new baseball stadium and the city arena. Time Warner then merged operations with America Online or AOL.
AOL Time Warner was a financial disaster.
AOL Time Warner got rid of World Championship Wrestling in March 2001 because it just didn't fit in with the corporate culture of the company. AOL Time Warner ditched the CNN's Sports Tonight program soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. The show would continue on the CNNSI network which started in 1996. But AOL Time Warner ended that channel in 2002. The Hawks, Thrashers and the arena lease was sold off in 2003. Turner South, a regional cable network that was founded in 1999 and carried Braves, Hawks and Thrashers games was sold off in 2006.
In 2007, the Braves franchise was sold. AOL Time Warner also got rid of its share Comedy Central along with a record label.
The company now known as Time Warner has a long history of getting rid of sports properties. After Murdoch attempted to take over Warner Communications (a Time Warner predecessor) in the early 1980s, the company decided that it no longer was interested in owning the New York Cosmos despite the team's success at the Meadowlands. It can be argued that Warner Communications ruined not only the Cosmos with handing out large contracts to big names but the North American Soccer League as well. Eventually the Cosmos and the NASL folded.
AOL was eventually spun off.
Time Warner has stomped all over Ted Turner's legacy in sports. The Hawks, the Thrashers, the Goodwill games, even a sports show on CNN. Time Warner has destroyed CNN as a legitimate source of news and turned Headline News into something that resembles bad daytime/tabloid television. CNN and Headline News are profitable because of the 1984 federal legislation that created a bundled tier that saved cable channels like CNN, Headline News and ESPN.
It is quite clear that Ted Turner was and remains the most important person in Atlanta sports. He bought the Atlanta Braves and turned the medium market franchise into a national brand thanks to WTBS. Turner hired top notch people to run his sports enterprises, Dr. Harvey Schiller, Jack Kelly, Stan Kasten.
At one time, New Jersey-native Kasten ran the Braves, Hawks and Thrashers.
Turner understood the value of having Braves baseball on WTBS and was mocked by baseball purists for turning Braves baseball into TV programming. Braves baseball games started at 5:05 p.m. on Wednesdays in a television block which served as a prelude to a Wednesday night movie. The Braves, a team out of Atlanta, had a national following and showed others in baseball that baseball was TV programming not just a game. Turner also brought the first Soviet player to the NBA as a part of the back and forth of staging the Goodwill Games.
Turner named the hockey team the Thrashers.
Turner ran a successful enterprise which was run into the ground by a company that got far too big, Time Warner and then AOL Time Warner. The company never replaced the sports people who ran Turner Sports, Dr. Schiller, Kelly, Kasten and a host of others. The only smart thing that AOL Time Warner did was to leave John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox in charge of the Braves but the big money that Ted Turner provided to the club was gone. Today, the Atlanta Braves baseball team is run as a mid market franchise and is no longer "America's Team."
To blame Time Warner for the demise of the Atlanta Thrashers may be a bit of a stretch as the company washed its hand of the team eight years ago. Back in 1997, it was a foregone conclusion that Ted Turner was going to get a National Hockey League expansion team in Atlanta and that Dr. Schiller and Kasten were the kind of people the NHL wanted. Turner had the checkbook to buy a franchise for $80 million, there would be a new arena opening in the city and he could put together a regional cable TV network. There was always a possibility that the NHL could get a cable TV network contract with Turner Sports. He could also get corporate support. But the Time Warner takeover of Turner's company and then the AOL-Time Warner merger ended that.
The AOL Time Warner debacle came under President Bill Clinton's watch. Clinton also signed the 1996 TeleCommunications Act into law, an act that virtually destroyed local radio and ended up created two radio giants—Infinity and Clear Channel—and changed the industry.
Vertical integration failed.

Time Warner's Turner Sports still has some major properties. The NBA on TNT, Major League Baseball on TBS, NASCAR on TNT, NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament on TNT, TBS and TruTV along with,,,, Atlanta Braves games are on Peachtree TV but Turner does not produce the games.
Time Warner was an original partner of the Fred Wilpon/New York Mets' SNY regional sports network. But Time Warner got rid of Time Warner Cable in 2009. Time Warner and Time Warner Cable are separate companies and Time Warner Cable has a piece of SNY.
Media companies got bigger and were too big to fail but failed. Time Warner and Clear Channel have been bad stewards of media properties. Time Warner is out of the sports ownership business. Bad owners ruin sports and the guys at Time Warner and then AOL Time Warner whether it was Gerald Levin or Steve Case is at the top of the list of bad sports owners.
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.