Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NBA Lockout: Bryant Gumbel is wrong about David Stern being a racist
TUESDAY, 25 OCTOBER 2011 12:12
There is an old television industry joke whenever the name Gumbel is bandied about. It goes something like this. "Which Gumbel, the good Gumbel Greg? Or is it the bad Gumbel Bryant?" The "bad" Gumbel, Bryant, let loose with yet another opinion last week on his thoughts about the National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern and the NBA’s owners induced work stoppage.
The NBA owners have locked out a certain segment of the employees — the players.
Gumbel's "editorial" on his HBO “Real Sports” show is rather pointed and is a personal attack on Stern and his role in the negotiations between the owners and players.
What Gumbel didn't point out is that David Stern works for 29 owners and they apparently are supporting him in his role as NBA owners’ negotiator.
If the 29 NBA owners were upset with Stern, he would have been replaced at the bargaining table with someone else. In the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, the owners dumped Richard Ravitch as the chief bargainer and replaced him with Randy Levine.
What is troubling about Gumbel's characterization of Stern (Note, I do not get along with Stern who can be bullying and sarcastic and condescending although he is the commissioner who has raised the bar and has forced other sports owners, leagues and entities to ramp up in their pursuit of modern technology. Stern also took a page out of the old Ed Sullivan show by making a NBA game an event rather than a mere athletic competition by pointing out what celebrities were at games and having celebrities promote the game as in the NBA is Fan-tastic. Stern has pushed his product globally although he has gotten lucky during his career with favorable United States federal legislation such as the 1984 Cable TV Act and the 1986 reform of the tax codes which enabled owners to increase revenues from cable TV and municipal officials desire to become "major league cities" and build publicly owned arenas and giving owners sweetheart leases.)
Gumble likened Stern to a southern plantation owner prior to the Civil War.
“If the NBA lockout is going to be resolved any time soon, it seems likely to be done in spite of David Stern, not because of him,” Gumbel said. “I say that because the NBA's infamously egocentric commissioner seems more hell bent lately on demeaning the players than resolving his game’s labor impasse.
“How else to explain Stern’s rants in recent days?" said Gumbel in his opinion piece. "To any and everyone who’d listen, he has alternatively knocked union leader Billy Hunter, said the players were getting inaccurate information and started sounding Chicken Little claims about what games might be lost if players didn't soon see things his way.
“Stern’s version of what’s been going on behind closed doors has, of course, been disputed. But his efforts were typical of a commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys.
“It’s part of Stern’s M.O., like his past self-serving edicts on dress code or the questioning of officials, his moves are intended to do little more than show how he's the one keeping the hired hands in their place.
“Some will, of course, cringe at that characterization, but Stern’s disdain for the players is as palpable and pathetic as his motives are transparent. Yes, the NBA's business model is broken, but to fix it maybe the league’s commissioner should concern himself most with the solution and stop being part of the problem.”
Stern, who used to stop by the Westchester Democrats functions, is no racist nor does he have a "modern plantation overseer" mentality. The NBA is Stern's life and he wants to sell a presentable product to consumers and he zealously guards over the league. Back in 1983-84 Stern was part of an owners/players group, which faced numerous problems. The league was too black, too many drug addicts were on rosters, the owners were losing money and there was a possibility of contracting seven teams.
The NBA of David Stern's days as a counsel in the late 1970s included the use of a telethon to save a franchise — Indiana — and tape delayed games on CBS in the finals.
The 1983 collective bargaining agreement which was authored by Stern, Russell Granik, Gary Bettman (who invented the salary cap) from the owners side and National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Lawrence Fleisher and his players is credited with saving the NBA and allowed the new Commissioner Stern (he got the job in 1984) to sell the game globally.
Stern got help from Phil Knight and NIKE and other advertisers in promoting Michael Jordan globally. Stern and the NBA marketers were able to turn a conception — the 1983 NBA is too black — into a global behemoth.
If Gumbel wants to use the plantation mentality mantra let him also discuss this nugget from 1964. It seems Los Angeles Lakers owner Bob Short was ready to evict his resident superstar Elgin Baylor from the NBA in a labor dispute as Tommy Heinsohn recalled.
The National Basketball Players Association came into existence in 1956, but it would not be until 1964 that the players would relax their collective muscle and threaten the owners with a work stoppage in demands were not met. The nationally televised NBA All-Star Game in Boston almost did not come off for two reasons. There was a blizzard and there was an All-Star vote to boycott the game without a new collective bargaining agreement.
The owners never took the players association or player demands seriously and beginning in the fall of 1963, the players became more assertive.
"That was the All-Star Game in which the association was finally recognized as a bargaining unit," said Heinsohn, who was the head of the group and a Boston Celtics player at the time. "There was a new Commissioner, Walter Kennedy. Maurice Podoloff, who had been the Commissioner, refused to meet with us. Gave us lip service at times and just infuriated the players.
"It all came to a head at this All-Star Game because Walter Kennedy, even when Larry Fleisher who was the Director of the Players Association. We met with Kennedy in Stamford, Connecticut and he promised to give us a hearing in front of all the Governors and we brought in all the officers in October, 1963 and they had all of us cool our heels in the hotel lobby and never did see us.

"We all went back to our various teams and this was what the setting was for the 1964 All-Star Game."
Money was an issue and so was a pension plan. But there were more than just money issues on the table. Playing conditions were a key element of the players’ complaints.
"It had to do with playing conditions," said Heinsohn. "We didn't have trainers, every team did not have a trainer. Playing on a Saturday night and be expected to take an all night train and play an afternoon game on Sunday on national television.
"All things regarding the game, not just money issues. The key
issue was the pension plan. At that 64 All-Star, there was a blizzard and players were straggling in and we didn't know exactly what was going to happen. But all the All-Star players finally agreed when they arrived that they weren't going to play unless they (the owners) agreed to give us a pension plan and meet all the other demands."
There was tension underneath the Boston Garden stands and in the teams locker rooms as the players decided to strike the NBA's midseason showcase. The players and the NBA association reps were going to take a stand and meant business. Kennedy was furious but met with the players anyway.
"Walt Kennedy came into the locker room after the last player came into the locker room at 5 PM. We had a meeting and the players signed onto the procedure we recommended. We told Walter Kennedy what was going to happen and he went berserk because all the owners had gone out to dinner in the blizzard and he could not round them all up. He was put under the gun to get the ownership to meet. We went into the locker room, each team had its own locker room, but we assembled in one locker room, all the All-Star players.
"At that point, some of the owners tried to get in but we gave instructions to the police not to let anybody in. We sent word in to some owners, to (Lakers owner) Bob Short who sent word into Elgin Baylor that if Baylor didn't get his ass out of there that he would be done in the game.
"Elgin Baylor told him to go f*** himself. Finally, Walter
Kennedy came in and said, guys I can't reached all of these people. They are all over the place. But I will give you my word that you will have what you want. And he lived up to his word."
Collective Bargaining negotiations are contentious and arduous. Gumbel was right when he criticized Gene Upshaw for giving NFL owners a salary cap and other goodies in the NFL owners/NFL players collective bargaining negotiations. Upshaw also went after money and never looked down the road to get his players retirement benefits including a better pension and most importantly lifelong health insurance. He was right about Katie Couric and Elizabeth Taylor.
Gumbel is wrong about David Stern. All Stern is doing is acting on behalf of the owners. He doesn't work for the players nor does he act as an advocate for fans and/or consumers.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

NFL forcing Vikings stadium deal in Minnesota, or L.A.
WEDNESDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2011 12:37
There is nothing lovable about the National Football League. It is just a business, a cold, austere organization that somehow has captured the attention of Americans with smoke, mirrors and on field action every minute and a half or so. The television production aspect of the National Football League is impressive, the pre-game shows loaded with laughter and exciting video, halftime shows loaded with laughter and exciting video, post game shows loaded with laughter and exciting video. The hype of games just played with analysis of play after play after play in slow motion with circles around the point of attack and the buildup of the next game.
The radio talk show hosts chirping about what might have been and what could be and the football scribes being stenographers with the words of wisdom coming from some coach or some general manager or some player as if it was inscribed on a tablet that just came down the mountain and had life changing importance.
The package is sold to the consumer who the NFL hopes devours all the information and sits in front of a TV on Sunday in a coma-like trance. The in-stadium production includes dancing girls and rock 'em-sock 'em videos complete with music for people who can afford the pricey tickets.
But the real NFL is a cold, calculating business and New Jersey's Zygi Wilf will be front and center as example No. 1 in the next month. Wilf's Minnesota Vikings on the field team is not very good this year. But that doesn't matter much. Wilf is headed to the "big game" on November 21 complete with the NFL's backing.
The "big game" will take place in the legislative chambers in St. Paul as Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has called a three-day session of the state legislature to once and for all find a funding mechanism so Wilf can secure a new stadium for his Vikings near the capital in Arden Hills, Minn.
On Tuesday the NFL told Dayton and the legislators to get it done or else Wilf may have to seek a solution to his woes outside the state. The estimated cost for the Arden Hills facility is $1.1 billion. Wilf and his Vikings partners apparently will put up $407 million for the construction and the NFL could lend Wilf another $150 million. The state and Ramsey County would raise the rest through a variety of options including proceeds from a "racino", a combination of a horse racing track with a casino.
The "or else" part could be that Wilf might move the franchise to Los Angeles if the legislators don't heed to the NFL's wishes.
People who put up money to support any sports team are always played for suckers.
In Minneapolis-St. Paul, taxpayers since 1956 have paid for two multi-purpose stadiums for baseball and football, a baseball stadium, a college football stadium, an indoor arena in Bloomington which no longer exists as the original multi-purpose stadium and the arena were bulldozed for a mall and two indoor arenas in St. Paul. The city of Minneapolis now owns a privately built arena for the NBA Timberwolves.
Taxpayers have put up more than a billion dollars for privately owned businesses and probably have not gotten back much on the investment except two Minnesota Twins World Series titles.
The area lost a hockey team (the NHL's North Stars) and a basketball team (the Lakers). The baseball team almost moved to the Tampa area and Greensboro, NC. The owners of the football team looked at moving to LA in the late 1970s.
Los Angeles is looming in the background if the legislatures don't say yes to the NFL.
But the NFL is not happy with the present Los Angeles option. Phil Anschutz's AEG unit is proposing to build a stadium allegedly with AEG backed funding but the deal doesn't make any sense for an NFL owner who would be a renter and not get the revenue streams from luxury boxes and club seats that municipalities or taxpayers can offer. AEG has to pay off the debt and while the NFL has not blasted Ed Roski's City of Industry stadium proposal east of LA, the same problem exists in that plan.
The NFL just a couple months ago locked out the league's employees---the players---because they wanted to control players’ salaries. Part of the lockout strategy was to get money from the players and use it to fund stadiums. The NFL told the San Francisco 49ers ownership not to seek funding from banks for a proposed Santa Clara, CA stadium until the lockout was over. During the lockout, the NFL was playing both ends. While dissuading the 49ers ownership from getting dollars for the Santa Clara building, the league was lobbying St. Paul lawmakers for money for a Vikings facility.
The entire sports industry is not every lovable and there is not a better illustration of that than looking at the Twin-Cities, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Los Angeles.
In the vagabond days of the National Basketball Association, Minneapolis was co-opted into the Basketball Association of America from the National Basketball League in 1948 because the team featured George Mikan. Minneapolis had won the 1947-48 National Basketball League title with Mikan but you won't find any existence of that fact in NBA annuals. The Basketball Association of America absorbed most of the NBL teams by 1949 and changed the league's name to the National Basketball Association. Minneapolis was the best team in the league and won a number of titles but when Mikan retired after 1954, the team went downhill on the court and attendance fell off. By 1957 it became clear Minneapolis was no longer going to support the Lakers and no new arena was on the horizon like the taxpayers subsidized multiple use stadium in Bloomington. The team owners looked at places like Kansas City and Houston but sold the team to Bob Short.

In 1960 Short moved his Lakers to Los Angeles.
Short departed but Major League Baseball came to the area in 1961. Calvin Griffith moved his Washington Senators to a Minneapolis suburb, Bloomington, to that municipally funded baseball/football park. The American Football League awarded a franchise to Bloomington in 1959 but the NFL convinced the Minneapolis AFL owners to drop their plan to join the football start up league in 1960 and join the NFL in 1961. The NFL's Chicago Cardinals franchise played a few games in Minneapolis in the late 1950s.
By the 1970s, the baseball Minnesota Twins and the NFL's Vikings ownership group decided that the Bloomington facility was economically unworkable. The Vikings ownership almost pulled a Bob Short and looked at Los Angeles as a solution. As the spin masters and the image makers were pushing themes like "40 for 60" (40 players putting it all on the line for 60 minutes to reach the Super Bowl) or the "Purple People Eaters" tying the Vikings purple color uniforms with the teams defensive linemen, the Vikings owners were looking at padding the bottom line.
The Vikings ownership had Los Angeles wanderlust in the late 1970s when it became clear that Los Angeles Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom was eyeing Anaheim as a future home for his Rams. Rosenbloom had purchased the Baltimore Colts in 1953 but by the early 1970s, Rosenbloom wanted out of Memorial Stadium. In 1972 in a complicated deal which involved tax attorney Hugh Culverhouse, Rosenbloom traded his Baltimore Colts to businessman Robert Irsay who had just purchased the Rams. Culverhouse who knew all the ins and outs of the NFL financially ended up with the Tampa Bay expansion franchise even though someone else bought it from the league. Thomas McCloskey for whatever reason never went through with the purchase. Irsay continued the Rosenbloom battle for a new Baltimore stadium.
In the mid 1970s, the NFL did a survey of potential areas that could support an NFL franchise. Anaheim was the top choice. Rosenbloom had that survey in hand and went south to Anaheim. That opened up the Los Angeles Coliseum for a new tenant. The Vikings ownership, Irsay and Oakland Raiders managing general partner took a look.
The Vikings kicked the tires at the LA Coliseum.
When asked about the Vikings ownership wanderlust during the National Football League versus Al Davis trail after Davis sued the league to move to Los Angeles, Rozelle said no team was locked in its location in perpetuity.
The Vikings ownership did get a taxpayers funded in Minneapolis multi-use stadium which also housed the Twins baseball team.
When Al Davis asked Rozelle for the same treatment as the Vikings received, Rozelle said the NFL would not allow the Raiders to move. A proposed deal that Davis and Oakland had agreed to was then pulled off the table by Oakland after Rozelle promised Oakland that Davis would not move.
Irsay also kicked the tires at the LA Coliseum. In 1984 Irsay moved his Colts to Indianapolis after exploring Phoenix, Indianapolis, Memphis, Jacksonville and LA.
Prior to 1980 the NFL had never tried to block a move. Dayton moved to Brooklyn in 1930. That franchise was merged in 1945 with the Boston Yanks with the team playing in Boston in 1946, 1947 and 1948. The franchise was moved to New York in 1949. The team folded after three years with the remnants of the franchise ending up in Dallas in 1952. That team or piece of that team went to Baltimore in 1953 when Rosenbloom bought it.
(Jim Irsay's Indianapolis Colts lineage includes Dayton, Brooklyn, Boston, Miami, Baltimore, New York, Dallas, Akron, Ohio and Baltimore).
The Cleveland Rams in 1936 and jumped to the NFL in 1937. The franchise moved to LA in 1946. That franchise had started off in the second American Football League. The NFL also (in reality CBS Chairman William Paley) paid the Bidwill family $500,000 in 1960 to relocate the Bidwill Chicago Cardinals to move to St. Louis. It was strictly a television business deal as Paley's CBS owned and operated station in Chicago, WBBM, was unable to broadcast any of the six Chicago Bears road games in the city and suburbs because of NFL blackout rules since both the Bears and Cardinals would always be home except for the few times that Bidwill sent his Cardinals to Buffalo or Minneapolis to play "home" games.
The official story is that Bidwill was paid the money to move the temporary grandstand that was used in Comiskey Park for home games to St. Louis' Busch Stadium.
In 1961 the Minneapolis AFL owners gave the NFL $600,000 for the right to operate a Minneapolis franchise in the league. Over in the American Football League, Barron Hilton (the man who Donald Trump saw as a charter member of "The Lucky Sperm Club" because Barron's father Conrad made the Hilton money from the hotel chain thus reducing Barron to trivial status) moved his football team to San Diego in 1961. Ironically the San Diego Chargers franchise is also rumored to be interested in moving up the coast to L.A. The Spanos family has been looking for a new San Diego stadium for 10 years.
Both Anaheim and Los Angeles lost NFL teams after 1994. Rosenbloom's widow Georgia Frontiere took her Rams to St. Louis. Davis went back to Oakland in the spring of 1995 after the NFL got involved in his negotiations with Hollywood Park racetrack to build a stadium at the site. Davis had gotten assurances from the NFL that he would stage five Super Bowls in the new building in 10 years after completion. The promise was changed to three then one. The NFL, as Davis' partners, decided that the stadium should have a second tenant with Davis getting a year head start to sell club seats, luxury boxes, signage including a stadium title rights holder. The deal broke down and Davis went back to the Bay Area.
Ironically some in the NFL wanted Davis to partner in the Santa Clara-49ers proposed deal. The Davis lease in Oakland ends in two years. The Ralph Wilson lease with New York and Erie County for the Orchard Park facility usage ends in two years. The 49ers-Santa Clara project is still in the fundraising stages. San Diego officials would like to work out a deal with the Spanos family for a new facility. Not everyone can move to L.A.

It is Zygi Wilf's turn to get a new Minneapolis-St. Paul facility and the league has thrown out Los Angeles as a possible landing spot for Wilf.
Wilf's Vikings have not won a game this year but the on field action is insignificant and inconsequential. Wilf's Vikings showdown with the Minnesota legislature is the only game that matters in 2011. If Wilf's Vikings lose, L.A., according to Governor Dayton and the NFL, is waiting.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

NBA lockout and the blame game
THURSDAY, 13 OCTOBER 2011 13:41

Sportswriters and sports pundits have reduced the cause of the National Basketball Association lockout to simple bumper sticker fitting terms such as the billionaires versus millionaires spat or greed or in one case on ESPN.com, "Idiots" but that's too much of a sophomoric view of the labor dispute.
There is far more to the lockout that meets the eye.
It is actually galling to read the sportswriters version of the NBA lockout and that David Stern is the dictator behind the labor action and caused the lockout. It is an owners lockout of employees and Stern is the negotiator on behalf of the owners.
If Stern was not pleasing the owners he would have been phased out of the bargaining. In 1994, Major League Baseball marginalized Richard Ravitch and replaced him with Randy Levine in the collective bargaining sessions.
Even more galling is to see a column about Stern lasting too long as a commissioner and that the lockout tarnishes his legacy. ESPN writer Ian O'Connor apparently failed to realize or didn't do the research that Stern is employed by NBA owners and if those 29 owners were really upset with Stern, he would have been replaced. Major League Baseball fired Fay Vincent when they voted 18-9 in favor of no confidence in his leadership. Vincent resigned after the vote in 1992 and was replaced by an owner, Milwaukee's Bud Selig.
Pete Rozelle, who in the 1960s helped enrich National Football League owners as Commissioner was really fired by the owners in 1989 although he submitted his resignation, because of flat television revenues and a series of lawsuits (Al Davis v NFL when the league refused to allow Davis to move his Raiders to Los Angeles and the USNFL-NFL antitrust case) and two players strikes.
The commissioner serves the owners, not the fans or players and his (or hers) main job is to maximize owners revenue streams. Stern has done just that and has enough league owners watching his back that he remains on the job.
The National Basketball Association lockout has roots in politics and bad decisions by politicians to become partners with the league by building arenas and stadiums for sports owners and endowing them with sweetheart leases in which the public picks up much of the costs in sports facility construction with little to show except some intrinsic pride in having a team or being part of the big leagues.
Sports leagues also got richer thanks to the 1984 cable TV legislation which created a basic expanded tier and allowed multiple system operators to bundle cable TV networks like ESPN, CNN and The Weather Channel onto that tier and sell it as one package to consumers which skirted antitrust laws.
The legislation saved ESPN from oblivion and allowed cable operators and sports owners to build networks and collect subscriber money from 100 percent of the basic expanded tier universe instead of the few who might want to purchase a channel (the legislation has allowed news channels with scant audiences along with sports programming to prosper as there is a cable TV socialism where everybody pays for what a small percentage of the subscribers actually watch).
Because of population, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago get more cable TV money from local markets than Memphis, New Orleans and other small cities which creates an inequity in finances and while teams are committed to paying a set amount for salaries for players, other areas such as coaching, scouting and marketing vary between the franchises.
But there is some sort of pride in having a big league team in an area, at least that is what elected officials think as they spend taxpayers dollars.
Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory offered one of the most inane statements ever uttered by an elected official as to why his city in 2003 needed to build an arena to get a replacement franchise after George Shinn took his NBA Hornets to New Orleans when the city would not replace the then 15-year old Charlotte Coliseum.
McCrory said the reason that city needed an arena and an NBA team for exposure and mentions on ESPN SportsCenter and you could not buy that type of publicity. Charlotte built a new arena after voters by about a two to one majority said no in an arena referendum. The NBA returned to Charlotte awarding an expansion team to one of the founder of Black Entertainment Television Robert Johnson for the 2004-05 season.
Financially despite a new municipally-build arena with all the bells and whistles of luxury boxes, club seats and other potential revenue sources, the Charlotte Bobcats franchise is a financial disaster. The Bobcats franchise has limited corporate support and a small TV market.

One of the Bobcats owners Michael Jordan (the game's biggest drawing card and individual player revenue producer in the 1980s and 1990s) was fined by NBA Commissioner David Stern for giving an interview to an Australian newspaper and pointing out the league needs a revenue sharing plan and a new owners-players agreement that insures cost certainty.
"We need a lot of financial support throughout the league as well as revenue sharing to keep this business afloat,” he explained.
"We have stars like (Milwaukee Bucks Andrew) Bogut who are entitled to certain type of demands. But for us to be profitable in small markets, we have to be able to win ballgames and build a better basketball team."
Jordan spoke the truth but was under a gag order not to talk about the lockout and was fined by Stern.
Jordan owns a team in a market which cannot compete with franchises that print money like the New York Knicks and the soon-to-be printing even more money Los Angeles Lakers because of numerous reasons. Charlotte doesn't have the wherewithal to support his team like James Dolan's Knicks because you cannot compare the two city's corporate support or like Jerry Buss will have in Los Angeles next year when two Los Angeles Lakers TV networks will materialize, one in English and one in Spanish.
Buss is partnering with Time Warner Cable and will establish the two networks which is like owning the keys to the Denver mint. Charlotte doesn't have a chance to get equal TV money nor does Memphis nor does Orlando.
Miami, a midsized market with a limited television market and a poor corporate base in a very crowded sports city seems to be an outlier as is San Antonio. Miami gets support when there is a championship contending team in place as Heat games become the thing to do.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed tax code reforms legislation which was crafted by the House of Representatives and the Senate. One of the provisions in the law dealt with stadium and arena funding. A local government entity could put up money for the construction of a sports facility and could offer a sports owner a lease that guaranteed the owner as much as 92 percent of the revenues generated in the facility. The federal government's new law stated that just eight cents on every dollar made in a facility had to go to paying down the debt in the building which meant taxpayers not the team owner would be responsible for paying the bills.
It didn't take long for sports owners to pounce on the new law. Cities which had no business being in the "big leagues" got franchises. The NBA added Orlando, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Miami and Charlotte in 1987 although that expansion was planned prior to Reagan's signature. The NBA wanted to add only two teams. In retrospect the four team expansion was a poor decision although it netted the then 23 NBA owners $130 million to split equally.
Cash on the barrelhead is what sports is all about.
Almost from the get go, the Orlando Arena was too small and lacked owners' toys like luxury boxes and club seats. The same held true in Charlotte and Miami. In Minneapolis-St. Paul Timberwolves ownership could not afford the team and building an arena on their own dime. By 1994 they worked out a deal to sell the franchise to boxing promoter Bob Arum who wanted to move the franchise to New Orleans. The league blocked the move and found a local buyer while the city of Minneapolis took over the building. Charlotte moved, Miami got a new building just 11 years after the Miami Arena opened up.
The league put two teams in Canada, Toronto and Vancouver for $100 million each. The $200 booty was gobbled up by the 27 NBA owners and split equally with each owner getting a bit less than $8 million. Vancouver was a financial pit for Arthur Griffiths who could not afford paying the NBA debt while owning the National Hockey League's Vancouver Canucks and building an arena on his own loony. Griffiths sold the team to an American investor John McCaw in 1996. McCaw tried to get rid of the money losing team in 1999 and sell it to Bill Laurie who intended on bringing the franchise to St. Louis. The NBA didn't approve the team. McCaw sold the franchise in 2000 to Heisey. A year later the franchise was relocated to another city that didn't have the wherewithal to compete with the big boys on the block: Memphis.

Ironically the NBA lockout of 1998-99 probably finished off corporate interest in the Grizzlies in Vancouver. Attendance fell and McCaw was hindered by working in Canadian dollars. The loony was worth about 62 American cents at that time.
In the 1990s cities built new arenas and stadium because the threat an owner would take his business elsewhere was real. The NBA didn't move any franchises in the 1990s but a good number of new arenas popped up with virtually every franchise with the exception of the Knicks and New Jersey Nets getting either a new arena or a renovated structure. The cities that didn't the new buildings saw the local owner find that the grass was greener elsewhere or so they thought.
George Shinn left Charlotte for New Orleans and found out that New Orleans is another really cannot compete with the big boys city pre-Katrina and post-Katrina and gave up his ownership of the team. The NBA now has the deed to the franchise and is beating the bushes to see if anyone wants the team and keep it in New Orleans.
The Seattle SuperSonics franchise ownership got a renovation at the city owned arena in 1995 but that wasn't good enough. Two ownerships later, after failing to get a new Seattle arena, the team moved to Oklahoma City where local politicians gave away everything not nailed to the floor to make sure Oklahoma City Thunder ownership could stand a chance of being in the same financial ballpark as the Knicks and Lakers.
The NBA needs an agreement with the league's business partners----the players---and on the owners terms because the league is in so many cities that really cannot compete with the Knicks template (arena ownership, franchise ownership and cable TV ownership) or the Lakers template (television network) that comes with massive corporate support. The rust belt cities like Cleveland, Detroit and Milwaukee have something in common with Sunbelt cities like Charlotte, Memphis, New Orleans and Orlando. Portland, Sacramento and Salt Lake City are in that group too. The owners need revenue sharing aid from not only the players but from James Dolan and Jerry Buss.
NBA ownership gladly sold franchises to owners in cities that had no business being in the league without solid revenue sharing between the owners. Before the explosion of local TV monies through cable revenues in 1984, the NBA had financial health issues. The 1983 collective bargaining agreement with the players probably saved seven franchises that could have been contract including Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, Kansas City, San Diego and Cleveland.
San Diego Clippers owner Donald Sterling took his team to Los Angeles without league approval. Kansas City ownership sold the team to Sacramento interests. The franchise has skated on thin financial ice for more than 15 years and again the league is wrestling with the franchise's future home. The Maloof brothers have been unable to secure financing for a new building in the California state capital and have threatened to move the team to Anaheim if they don't get a new arena in Sacramento.
It is the second time in 15 years that Kings ownership has flirted with Anaheim. The TV money is much greater in Anaheim as part of the Los Angeles DMA or designated market area than Sacramento.
Getting a financial structure that works for the owners seems to be the owners goal. The players don't want to have to protect the owners from making bad decisions on spending money on talent. But to just reduce the dispute to a bumper sticker slogan is a rather lazy approach to see the multitude of problems that were caused by cable TV legislation and tax code revisions.
The owners could share money but there is the Caveat Emptor principle also.
Owners like Heisey wanted a team and took whatever was available. Heisey left Vancouver for what he thought was paradise in Memphis. It didn't work out financially. In Indianapolis the Simon family got a new arena at the turn of the century but even with getting every conceivable revenue break from the city and the Capital Improvement Board, the franchise cannot charge New York prices in Indiana and doesn't have the Knicks TV deal.
The small market owners asked for increases in revenue sharing in 2007 and that didn't happen.
Oddly enough, all the politicians who have skin inthe game, because games are economic generators for a city if you believe them, are strangely quiet about the lockout. You would think with cities having problems with finances and threatening to lay off workers and cut services that they would be pressuring the owners and players to get a deal done. New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and other cities are losing per day tax dollars from the visiting team players who perform in those cities. Restaurants and hotels are losing business but the sound you hear from politicians is that of silence. They created the modern NBA and sports but politicians are quiet and so are the corporations who buy the luxury boxes and club seats.
Nothing from them either.
It seems the only people who care about the lockout are sportswriters, sports radio talk show hosts and the participants in the NBA.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Plan to pay NCAA student-athletes in works
MONDAY, 10 OCTOBER 2011 09:57
PHILADELPHIA — While college football fans wait for Boise State, Air Force, Navy, Central Florida and a bunch of other schools to accept an invitation from The Big East to join that college/university sports conference which needs to add schools or go into Bowl Championship Series oblivion something else may be happening at big time college sports schools.
The players in all collegiate sports may get paid.
Apparently, according to a person in the know, college presidents, provosts and chancellors are thinking of giving “student-athletes” a $2,000 a year salary for their efforts. Athletic Directors seem to think $3,500 is a better stipend but for now the $2,000 figure seems to be right amount of money to spend on players for the Lords of the Ivy Towers.
The players, who are the show, get a scholarship and are considered “student-athletes” for workman’s compensation purposes. The schools really don’t want to deal with athletes who might be injured on the “job” and fight for payment because they are unable to work anywhere because of being hurt. That is why the term “student-athlete” was coined as it shields colleges and universities from paying workingman’s compensation in the event of a severe injury suffered during a game.
Injured athletes are useless for the big time sports playing schools.
The presidents, chancellors, provosts and other big time college sports playing schools set the rules and give the athlete very few rights with the threat of the revoking of the scholarship for whatever reason (ranging from a coach doesn’t like a player to flunking courses) hanging over the athlete’s head like the Sword of Damocles.
Athletes are limited in their ability to earn money from jobs if they are on scholarship.
The whole issue of paying the players for their work has been around for years. The thinking around college sports is that players should realize how good they have it and that they are getting a scholarship which pays for their education while they are playing a game. Players should just play and shut up. The thinking has convinced other members of the student body that athletes have it made getting full scholarships -- sometimes you need to read comments in sports business management courses blackboard discussions to find out how deep the resentment based on the writings of those paying up to $40,000 annually for schooling --- the others students think athletes are privileged.
Paying the players on top of the scholarships will make a certain segment of the student body at various schools even angrier as tuition continues to goes up and government aid is taken away by elected officials who apparently think they are gifted in economic theory and practicality.
Meanwhile life in The Big East is evolving. Pittsburgh and Syracuse decision makers have decided that it is best for those universities to join the Atlantic Coast Conference leaving behind The Big East. The colleges and universities left in The Big East need to fill those vacancies as soon as possible and hope that the University of Connecticut and Rutgers remain in the conference. The Big East needs to get football playing schools like Navy, like Central Florida to join up. The Big East, which is being advised by former National Football League Commissioner and Georgetown graduate Paul Tagliabue, had added Texas Christian University to the group last year. But TCU declined membership and joined The Big 12 last week, which left Tagliabue and The Big East presidents, chancellors and provosts scrambling to replace the Texas school.
The entire realignment of big time college sports playing schools is being driven by television. In May 2010 Duke Men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski opined that college sports is in a flux because there is no one in charge like a strong commissioner. Krzyzewski is half right; there is no central figure in big time college sports to get the school presidents’s, chancellors’s and provosts’s attention.
But there is a central figure dominating the restructuring of big time college sports.
Cable TV is providing big money for programming and one college AD said whatever the TV people decide that’s what we are going to do. So the most important people in calling the shots for the school presidents, chancellors and provosts are the Roger Igers, Brian Roberts’, Jeff Bawkes, Sumner Redstones, David Hills (or Rupert Murdochs) of the world. Iger just reupped as the head of the Walt Disney Company and is the de facto head of Disney’s ESPN unit. As the AD said, TV will remake the conferences. TV as in ESPN, as in Brian Roberts’ NBC Sports Network (the rebranded Versus as of January 2, 2012), Redstone’s CBS whose sports partner is Bewkes and the Time Warner/Turner networks which includes TruTV and TNT and Murdoch’s FOX holdings. The presidents, chancellors, provosts bow and pray to the TV people who endow them with billions of dollars. Hill is the final decision maker in sports for Murdoch’s FOX and News Corp portfolio.
Where does television get the billions needed to pay rights fees? That’s easy from cable TV viewers. As long as ESPN, the NBC Sports Network, USA Network, TruTV and TNT and FOX sports properties are on the basic expanded tier of a cable system they will be able to raise rates from subscribers and pay the bills. As long as Congress does not undo the 1984 cable television legislation which allowed cable operators to bundle various channels and sell them as one to the consumer and give the consumer no option or choice in choosing channels on the basic expanded tier, the television people will spend huge amounts of money for programming. Everyone who has the basic expanded tier is paying for sports programming whether they watch it or not thanks to Congress and President Ronald Reagan’s signature.
ESPN is the most expensive network in the cable TV universe.
The cable operators decide what networks to put on the basic expanded tier not consumers. The Dolan family’s Cablevision and Time Warner have not added the NFL Network to the basic expanded tier because those entities feel that the NFL Network does not have great value to consumers. That decision has cost the NFL hundreds of millions of dollars but there may be more to the “does not have great value to consumers” tale. The NFL has sold the entire slate of Sunday games as a package for consumers to DirecTV and bypassed the multiple systems operators and this may be a payback by the cable multisystem operators. Major League Baseball worked with cable TV multiple system operators and gave the cable companies along with DirecTV a piece of the action and landed a plum basic extended tier spot.
The MSOs (multiple systems operators) seem to have no qualms about passing on the cost of the MLB network to all subscribers whether those subscribers wanted the network or not.
Sports rights fees are the most costly part of the monthly cable TV bill.

The changing landscape of college sports driven by football has some in the college sports industry concerned that Congress will snoop around and start asking questions about the Bowl Championship Series and the conference realignment.
The worry is justified.
Congress has given college sports some perks including looking the other way when it comes to collecting taxes from a school or a conference from earnings at a bowl game.
Government and sports are partners. As conferences continue to realign in pursuit of television dollars, conference commissioners genuflect before TV executives knowing that their jobs are on the line (see the Big 12 as an example. The college presidents, chancellors and provosts got rid of Commissioner Don Beebe in September because of the TV money divide between Texas and the rest of the conference and the splintering of the sports conference). Paying the players may be a small concession to make in order to keep Congress from investigating the TV deals, the tax loopholes and the Bowl Championship Series.
Evan Weiner, the winner of the United States Sports Academy's 2010 Ronald Reagan Media Award, is an author, radio-TV commentator and speaker on "The Politics of Sports Business." His book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at bickley.com, Barnes and Noble or Amazon Kindle.