Sunday, April 01, 2007


This is an article I wrote for the Vermont Guardian that was picked up by Our Sports Central and a couple of other papers.

Another horror story from the ABA:

Of late, it seems to be one thing after another for the troubled American Basketball Association. As the Vermont Frost Heaves prepare for Thursday night’s title game against the Texas Tycoons, ABA CEO Joe Newman, and the league is under fire once again.

In an exclusive interview with the Vermont Guardian, the owner of the Mississippi Miracle, Mother Annie Williams told me of her plight in the ABA. She spoke of games being scheduled with just a couple of days notice, a schedule that was always changing, and in the case of this past week, promises that were once again broken by the head of the ABA.

In an article I wrote last week, I spoke of the countless problems the ABA has encountered this season, capping off with the defending champion Rochester Razorsharks withdrawing from the playoffs and league due to the way the playoffs have been run. When Rochester dropped out, it created a scheduling problem in which Mississippi, who had advanced two rounds without playing a game, and Wilmington who was set to play Rochester in the second round facing off. According to Mother Williams, CEO Newman told her on Friday morning that the team had to travel to Wilmington for a Sunday game, insinuating that if they didn’t, a victory would be awarded to Wilmington. When Williams balked at the cost, Newman said he would take care of all expenses, and would pay the standard 25 percent of the gate to the visiting team. This is when the difficulty started.

First, there were logistical issues as Williams had sent her team home, not knowing when their next game would be played. Williams had to scramble to get a team together, and with purchasing tickets 48 hours in advance, seats were difficult to come by. According to Williams, “We had to have our guys fly out of four different airports so we could make the game. This cost me over six thousand dollars. Mr. Neuman assured me that he would help with the expenses (airline tickets, hotel stay, etc for the entire team) and I have an email stated that he would help with the expenses. After several phones calls with Mr. Neuman, I did agree the team would make the game, on Sunday, and I purchased one way tickets to Wilmington (on my personal credit card) to play that game, so the playoff schedule would remain in tact. We were able to purchase one-way tickets for the team, because of the last minute notice. If the schedule would have remained in its original scheduling, we would not have to purchase these one way tickets, but would have ample time to drive to Wilmington and not fly.”

Upon the team’s arrival in Wilmington, the least of the team’s worries was Mr. Newman had booked one less room than they needed; that was easily taken care of. What was not easily taken care of was the bill. When it came time for the team to depart Wilmington, Williams was told the bill still had not been paid. The hotel allowed the team to stay for an extra night, but were told to leave the following day. During this time, Williams was scrambling to try and reach Mr. Newman to have the bills taken care of. When Newman did not return her calls, she reached Vice President of Team Operations Brad Hester who told Williams, “The expenses have to be approved by Joe.” When she told him the expenses had been approved, and were done so in writing, Mr. Hester said he would get back to Mother Williams, but did not. Williams also says she has sent “several e-mails” to both, none of which have been returned. On the ordeal, Williams says, “This is extremely unprofessional, disrespectful and disappointing to me as well as our team. As far as we know, we are the only team in the ABA league that has not received any support or any financial support from this league. We have been treated very poorly since our inception of this team.”

In response to these charges, CEO Newman stated in an e-mail, “Teams are responsible for their own travel to playoff games. The playoff format does call for the home team to give the visiting team 25% of the gate receipts to offset travel to the playoff game - and I assumed that Wilmington did that as Vermont will for Wilmington for last night's game. The league has subsidized travel regularly (the league subsidized Wilmington's visit to Vermont in fact), but we did not guarantee to return Mississippi to Mississippi after the game.” Newman then said he would be in contact with Mother Williams. In response, I asked Newman to get back in contact with me when things had been resolved. (So I could make the decision to run the story or not) He responded with, “I'd suggest killing the story. Lots of things are said out of disappointment. There really isn't a story here.”

This is the latest in a long line of charges against the ABA, and specifically CEO Newman, alleging promises have been made for financial help and not followed up upon. Williams has said she intends on leaving the league, and anonymous sources say at least four more teams may follow suit as a result of problems with the ABA. As I stated in a previous article, this is a league with enormous potential, it is the running of the league, and the lack of organization is where there are issues.


Anonymous said...

No question that the ABA, like any league without mass media revenue, is struggling. It's a Catch 22, who is going to pay upfront to carry the games, either on local television or the web, when there are no historical ratings to calculate CPM rates for ad sales? Sooner or later, the ABA will be carried free on the streaming video web, with streaming commercials to offset expenses. Then, when the ratings can be demo'ed, the ad rates rise and the TV or webcaster will bid upfront for x seasons, along with the demo numbers enabling the sale of the teams' and league's merchandise.

It's all rather a simple formula to success . . . it's just that the ABA has to hang tough until then, e.g., access team owners for all expenses until such time the league goes into the black. Mark my words, if the ABA follows this plan, in a max of 5 yrs the league and team owners will be in the $green big time, with millions of happy fans.

Fells said...

Is this Joe Newman?