…but someone does, and the focus of today’s blog is the always controversial ownership of the New York Mets—Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz—and the importance of transparency in sports.
First off I wanted to extend my congratulations to Mets fans for the re-signing of David Wright. He is a once in a generation type of player for the Mets, and now should finish his career in Queens.
Back on topic; it is well documented that Mets ownership put a lot of their eggs in the Bernie Madoff basket. The team lost considerable money in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, and ended up having pay an additional $162 million to the victims of Madoff as part of a settlement.
This money, on top of Money actually lost to Madoff, left the Mets ownership strapped for cash. In order to provide money needed for player contracts and day-to-day operations, the Mets sold minority shares to various wealthy investors.
One such investor was James McCann, the founder of 1-800-Flowers. In a NYT article today, we see some interesting facts about 1-800-Flowers. It seems the company willingly defrauded their consumers, selling information to 3rd party advertisers which created a worthless rewards club, charging customers a monthly fee.
1-800-Flowers has been paid $10 million by the 3rd party advertiser, so who knows how much money the actual defrauding party secured. “The company [1-800-Flowers] paid the $325,000 settlement, and the money was to be used for consumer education, redress, and the costs and fees of the investigation. “ When you can net 9 + million dollars after being caught and found guilty of defrauding customers, clearly something is wrong.
Ultimately, this is an issue of ethics in Baseball. Do we want to hold everyone in baseball to a high standard? Pete Rose, the all time hits leader, is banned from baseball’s Hall of Fame for betting on games he was a part of. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two of baseball statistically most successful players, recently lost their first H.O.F bids due to the PED issue.
Is where player’s money comes from even important? As a fan, would you have an issue knowing your team’s ownership got the money they used to pay your new favorite star player by illegitimate means? It is often argued that corporate philosophy comes from the top down. If those highest up use questionable business practices, does this trickle down to the coaches and players? Sports are entertainment, but they are also big businesses, how should their finances be monitored?
Players are increasingly in the spotlight. The MLB players union is talking with the league about expanding random in-season PED testing to ensure transparency in MLB. Do you believe that upper management in sports should be held to similar high standards that players seem to be facing? Can a league realistically be expected to monitor where a team’s money comes from?
Does any of this even matter to the average fan, or is it all a very far second to the on the field product you team rolls out? Let’s get some discussion going here fellas!
December 4, 2012 at 11:49 am
I think there already are some checks on who can own a professional sports team in place, but they appear to be amorphous. In 2009, Jim Balsillie’s purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes was rejected by the NHL. The NHL deputy commissioner stated in an email that Balsillie’s application was rejected under bylaw 35 of the league’s constitution. The section states the league may reject potential owners if they are not of “good character and integrity” and also for financial reasons. Basillie angrily fired back, accusing the NHL of long allowing convicted criminals to hold ownership positions- including Oilers owner Eugene Melnyk, who had settled a securities fraud investigation with SEC and Canadian authorities.
In 2009, the NFL rejected Rush Limbaugh’s bid to become an owner of the St. Louis Rams, mainly based on his right-wing, quasi-racist propaganda.
So, there is some oversight, but some “unsavory” characters do get to become owners. There don’t seem to be any hard and fast rules- e.g. one lawsuit, SEC proceeding, racially insensitive rant, and your out? That’s probably good, because teams actually need the money that new ownership brings in. Basillie’s rejection by the NHL may have had as much to do with his plans to move the team, and the presence of suitors preferred by the NHL, as it had to do with any vague issues with his moral character. Would Limbaugh have been approved by the NFL if he had said Donovan McNabb was underrated because he’s black, instead of overrated? Apparently, potential owners are judged not just on past legal proceedings, but a combination of other social, political, etc. factors. Most people who are successful enough to afford ownership of a franchise probably have some dirt on them if you dig deep enough. Let’s just let the current vetting committees do their thing, so teams are not deprived of the possibly tainted money they need.
And it wouldn’t matter if the Mets coffers were suddenly infused with the Gaddafi’s hidden billions, they will still suck next year.