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Column: Why the A's 30-year commitment to Nevada has a 'Get Out of Vegas Free' card

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Column: Why the A's 30-year commitment to Nevada has a 'Get Out of Vegas Free' card

The pitch to the Nevada legislature was simple: If you provide the Oakland Athletics with $380 million in public funding toward a new ballpark, the A’s will agree to move to Las Vegas and stay there for at least 30 years.

The A’s got the funding. However, the agreement intended to bind the A’s to Las Vegas provides the team with an unusual escape clause: If ever a tax is aimed at the A’s, the team can leave town without penalty.

“That is not a normal clause in these things,” said Martin J. Greenberg, the founder of the National Sports Law Institute at Marquette University Law School and an expert in so-called non-relocation agreements in Major League Baseball.

“The whole object of this is to keep the team at home.”

This is not on the A’s. The Las Vegas Stadium Authority approved such a provision in luring the Raiders and presented virtually identical contract language to the A’s.

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“It is a targeted tax clause that says if they are taxed in a way that is different than the way other businesses are taxed, they have the option to leave,” said Erica Johnson, director of communications for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

This is not some remote hypothetical. If you go to a show in Las Vegas, you pay a 9% live entertainment tax. If you go to a game in Las Vegas — and the game is staged by a pro team based in Nevada — you do not pay that tax.

In 2021, an effort to remove that professional sports exemption was rejected. During legislative hearings on the A’s funding last summer, a state senator asked A’s President Dave Kaval whether the team would be willing to pay the tax, given that smaller Nevada businesses do. The Raiders and NHL Golden Knights do not.

Kaval dodged a yes or no answer, saying only that the legislation did not contemplate that. In the future, should a specific tax target the A’s, their players or opposing players, the A’s can move out of town.

The A’s propose a 33,000-seat ballpark in Las Vegas. If the A’s sell 26,000 tickets per game at last season’s average major league ticket price of $37, a 9% tax could generate $7 million for Nevada per year.

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In a presentation led by Steve Hill — chairman of the stadium authority and president of the visitors authority — the Nevada legislature was told the A’s could generate an estimated $1.3 billion per year in economic impact. (Most economists consider this estimate wildly optimistic.)

I asked Johnson why the A’s would be provided with an opt-out clause that could jeopardize that economic impact. She did not comment. Hill was unavailable for comment.

“These non-relocation agreements are what I call political cover,” Greenberg said. “They basically are, at least from a politician’s standpoint, the quid pro quo for the gigantic amount of public dollars that are going into these stadiums.

“Basically, the politician can say, ‘Look, we’re investing all this money because the team is going to stay here, based upon a non-relocation agreement.’ ”

In 2022, the Anaheim City Council considered such a targeted tax — a 2% admission tax that would have applied only to Disneyland, Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, where the NHL Ducks play. The council ultimately voted against the tax, in part because the Angels’ lease requires the city to credit the amount generated by any such targeted tax at Angel Stadium against the team’s rental payments.

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The leases of the Colorado Rockies and Seattle Mariners restrict the ability of the respective stadium authorities to impose any targeted taxes. The Miami Marlins’ lease restricts the city or county from imposing a targeted tax and empowers the team to sue if it believes a tax violates the agreement.

David Samson, the former Marlins president who negotiated that lease, said it is impossible to protect against any targeted tax that might be imposed at any level of government at any point in the future. What a lease can do, he said, is say what can happen in the event such a tax is imposed.

“Can be anything,” Samson said, “a rent abatement, some sort of extra flow of funds from general revenue, or it can be as far as, hey, this non-relocation agreement becomes null and void.”

I asked Johnson if any alternative language had been considered besides granting the A’s the ability to move. She did not comment.

For the record, neither Greenberg nor Samson believes Las Vegas would be at high risk of losing the A’s if a targeted tax were to be imposed. For one, although the A’s would have the option to relocate, they could choose not to do so, or negotiate a lease concession in exchange for not doing so.

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If the team did wish to move, it would have to find a new home, secure funding for a new ballpark there, and win a vote among MLB owners — and the saga that led to Las Vegas took two decades for the A’s. Their move to Las Vegas would be only the second MLB relocation since 1972.

“It’s not easy, as we’ve seen, to move a team,” Samson said.

It’s also not easy to build a fan base in a new city. It might be a little bit easier if the “We’re here for 30 years!” pledge were not accompanied by an asterisk.

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Kylie Kelce shares thoughts on Harrison Butker's commencement speech: 'Support each other in our choices'

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Kylie Kelce shares thoughts on Harrison Butker's commencement speech: 'Support each other in our choices'

Kylie Kelce, the wife of Philadelphia Eagles great Jason Kelce, shared her thoughts on Harrison Butker’s faith-based commencement speech at Benedictine College last month, which sparked wide debate. 

The Kansas City Chiefs kicker’s speech, during which he urged women graduates to embrace being a “homemaker,” led to attacks from those who believed he was diminishing the role of women in communities. 

Kelce, who was working with the Eagles Autism Foundation to share activities with kids on and off the spectrum Thursday, was asked during an interview what she thought about Butker’s speech, especially being a mother of three. 

Kylie Kelce on NBC April 1, 2024. (Nathan Congleton/NBC via Getty Images)

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“I think that everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” she said, via Cheddar. “I hope that, if anyone does not align with those views in that graduating class, that they know they achieved something. Those women graduating in that class have achieved something that no one can take away from them. Their education will stick with them for the rest of their lives. I hope that they were appropriately celebrated if that was not their view. 

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“If it was, and they’re looking forward to making a family and being a stay-at-home mom, then more power to them.

CHIEFS’ TRAVIS KELCE DEFENDS HARRISON BUTKER AS ‘A GREAT PERSON AND A GREAT TEAMMATE,’ DESPITE DIFFERING VIEWS

“I think, as women, we should support each other in our choices and make sure that we feel as though we can do whatever we would like to do,” she said.

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“So, hopefully, those graduating know that, at the very least, I’m very proud of them and hope that they go on to do whatever makes their heart happy.”

Kylie Kelce in NYC

Kylie Kelce attends the 2023 Night of Too Many Stars benefiting Next for Autism at the Beacon Theatre Dec. 11, 2023, in New York City. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Night of Too Many Stars)

Butker recently stood by his commencement speech while making his first public appearance since his time at Benedictine College. He appeared at the Courage Under Fire Gala in Nashville in late May, which was presented by the Regina Caeli Academy. It’s an institution that “encourages our students to strive for excellence in academics as well as in virtuous living, self-discipline and accountability through a classical education taught in the light of the Catholic tradition.”

“The theme for tonight’s gala, ‘Courage Under Fire’, was decided many months ago, but it now feels providential that this would be the theme after what we have all witnessed these last two weeks,” Butker said. “If it wasn’t clear that the timeless Catholic values are hated by many, it is now.”

Butker continued by saying he understands he’s become a “more polarizing” figure because he spoke about his beliefs, but he won’t be changing them for anyone. 

“Our love for Jesus, and thus, our desire to speak out, should never be outweighed by the longing of our fallen nature to be loved by the world,” he said. “Glorifying God and not ourselves should always remain our motivation despite any pushback or even support. I lean on those closest to me for guidance, but I can never forget that it is not people, but Jesus Christ who I’m trying to please.”

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Butker’s Chiefs peers have defended his character despite their differences in views, including Kelce’s brother-in-law, star tight end Travis Kelce. 

Kylie Kelce and Harrison Butker side by side

Kylie Kelce gave her opinion on Harrison Butker’s faith-based commencement speech at Benedictine College last month. (Getty Images)

“I’ve known him for seven-plus years, probably, eight-plus years. And I cherish him as a teammate,” Kelce said of Butker, whom he calls “Harry.” 

“I think Pat [Mahomes] said it best, where he is every bit of a great person and a great teammate. He’s treated friends and family that I’ve introduced to him with nothing but respect and kindness, and that’s how he treats everyone.

“I can’t say I agree with the majority of [the speech] or just about any of it, outside of just him loving his family and his kids. And I don’t think that I should judge him by his views, especially his religious views, of how to go about life. That’s just not who I am.”

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With her husband retiring after the most recent NFL season, Kylie Kelce continues to work on helping her community with the Eagles Autism Foundation, which was created by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who drew inspiration for the project from his autistic brother. 

Fox News’ Ryan Morik and Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.

Follow Fox News Digital’s sports coverage on X, and subscribe to the Fox News Sports Huddle newsletter.

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Justin Herbert must adjust to Chargers' new philosophy that running is not passé

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Justin Herbert must adjust to Chargers' new philosophy that running is not passé

No quarterback in NFL history has attempted more passes per game than Justin Herbert.

His 39.1 mark over the last four seasons edges Andrew Luck, with Patrick Mahomes and Matthew Stafford next on the list.

Now, Herbert is playing for a head coach and offensive coordinator who, since their arrivals five months ago, have talked extensively about emphasizing the run game.

“Selfishly as a quarterback I’d love to throw the ball every time,” Herbert said Thursday. “But if we throw it one time or we throw it 100 times, as long as we’re winning and finding a way to do that, it’s good with me.”

After the Chargers wrapped up their three-day minicamp in Costa Mesa, Herbert met with the local media for the first time since the team brought in Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman.

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The new regime — including general manager Joe Hortiz — first reshaped the roster to try to become more powerful and physical. Roman then spent the several weeks introducing an offense designed to operate from the ground up.

The Chargers’ new additions include running backs Gus Edwards, who is known of his downhill approach, and J.K. Dobbins, whose explosiveness has resulted in per-carry career average of 5.8 yards.

“We don’t have pads on, so you can’t really feel the impact of the run game right now,” Herbert said. “But you can feel the juice. They’ve got energy. They bring it.”

The overall theme has been to establish a run-pass balance, a clear departure from how the Chargers have played offensively since Herbert took over as the starter in Week 2 of his rookie year.

“The way that we’ve installed everything,” Herbert said, “we want to be able to do everything.”

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Except for the Chargers’ Week 14 loss to Denver last season — when Herbert left the game early because of a finger injury — he has attempted at least 24 passes in each of his career starts.

Along the way, he set numerous franchise and league records and made the Pro Bowl in 2021. Herbert’s right arm has been celebrated as few others, Harbaugh just this week noting the velocity it can generate.

But the Chargers are only 30-32 in Herbert’s starts. They’ve played one postseason game with him at quarterback and are coming off a five-win finish that led to all the leadership changes.

So, it’s not difficult to believe Herbert when he says winning is more significant to him, even while joking that, when it comes to passing the ball, “the more the better.”

In his conversations with Roman, Herbert said the message has been to involve the playmakers, take care of the ball and — if the defense has a decided advantage or there is risk of a turnover — “punting is not the worst-case scenario.”

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The ultimate goal of the offense, Herbert explained, is to produce completions, explosive plays and touchdowns, but the Chargers aren’t going to simply force the passing game.

Harbaugh spent 14 years in the NFL as a player, starting games at quarterback for Chicago, Indianapolis, Baltimore and the Chargers. Herbert said his head coach brings “great perspective” each time he sits in the quarterback meetings.

Similarly, Harbaugh spent several minutes during two recent media sessions praising everything from Herbert’s physical skills to his mental capacity to his overall leadership.

“Nobody in this organization has played quarterback at the high level that he has,” Harbaugh said. “There’s an expertise there that has been extremely valuable.”

When the Chargers met on the field for the final time Thursday before breaking for the start of summer, Herbert was the player Harbaugh tabbed to address the group.

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Chargers safety Derwin James Jr. (3) flips a football while watching practice.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Herbert said he spoke about the importance of not allowing the offseason-program work to go to waste. He said he encouraged his teammates to remain diligent in their preparation for training camp, which starts in late July.

“If we’re going to be the team we want to be, it starts now,” Herbert told reporters later. “It’s starts when we’re on our own and having that level of loyalty and dedication and integrity.”

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Safety Derwin James Jr., another of the Chargers’ acknowledged leaders, also spoke publicly for the first time in months Thursday, saying the renewed atmosphere surrounding the team “feels like Christmas.”

James called Harbaugh “the most powerful leader I’ve seen” and highlighted his ability to command a room just by walking through the door. Like several of his teammates this offseason, James said the mood is different.

“Every year, you’re going to feel like you’re the team to beat, feel like you’re going to the Super Bowl,” James said. “But this year it just feels right. … I can’t wait to play ’cause I really believe it’s going to be special.”

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ESPN needs a LeBron James-sized reboot to its NBA Finals coverage

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ESPN needs a LeBron James-sized reboot to its NBA Finals coverage

When ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro wanted to glam up “Monday Night Football,” he reached for the stars and Mickey Mouse’s wallet. Pitaro, a die-hard New York Yankees fan, channeled his inner George Steinbrenner by signing NFL TV’s white whale, Peyton Manning, and then luring Joe Buck and Troy Aikman over from Fox Sports.

They were boss moves for the Disney-owned ESPN.

Pitaro lavished Buck with a $75 million deal and Aikman with $90 million, both over five seasons, while Manning, with his Omaha Productions and his brother Eli in the fold, is making even more per year than either, though the exact figures are unknown. This offseason, Omaha called another audible by adding the legendary Bill Belichick to this fall’s MNF “ManningCast.”

The luster has been returned to “Monday Night Football” production.

Now, on the NBA Finals, Pitaro should tear a page out of his NFL playbook. He and his right-hand man, Burke Magnus, ESPN’s president of content, should court LeBron James with a Tom Brady-like broadcasting deal that will begin whenever the 39-year-old James decides to hang up his sneakers.

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James’ basketball IQ is off the charts. Like Brady — who begins in the Fox NFL booth in September on a 10-year, $375 million deal — there is no definitive way of telling how good James would be on games, but part of the point is to turn the broadcasts into events.

James would do that, standing next to play-by-play broadcaster Mike Breen. They should make it so he calls 20-25 games per season, like an NFL analyst, and elevate the broadcast level, especially this time of year, on the finals.

If Pitaro can’t have James, he should keep 36-year-old Stephen Curry in mind for when he is ready to stop draining 3s. In the meantime, of course, if TNT Sports does lose its NBA TV package, Charles Barkley should — and will be — at the top of ESPN’s list.

All this is to say, it is time for an ESPN NBA reboot because its finals coverage of the Boston Celtics against the Dallas Mavericks feels small.

For the first two games, ESPN added the New York Knicks’ Josh Hart as a guest analyst. Hart is someone to admire, with his work ethic and his good-guy reputation, but, as the kids like to say, it felt very mid.

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If ESPN wanted to add another body for its half-hour pregame and its blink-of-an-eye halftime show, it should have rewarded analysts who got them there, like big personalities Kendrick Perkins or Richard Jefferson. Both are way better daily on “NBA Today” than the neophyte Hart showed in his guest spots. At least Hart added another NBA player voice to the finals festivities.

Before he was added, ESPN’s finals coverage included 15-year 3-point specialist JJ Redick as the only ex-player. Redick joined Doris Burke and Breen in the consistently underwhelming finals booth.

In studio, without Hart, there are no former players, as host Malika Andrews is joined by legendary opinionist Michael Wilbon, ex-Golden State general manager Bob Myers, and the face of ESPN, Stephen A. Smith. Well, when Smith has the time.

After Game 2 on ABC, ESPN had a postgame show, but Smith wasn’t on it. He was already jetting off from Boston to Miami to be in position for “First Take,” even though the program regularly emits from New York.

Smith is the undisputed No. 1 star of the network, but it is the games that make it run. Smith said earlier in the playoffs he hoped for a quick Eastern Conference finals so he could take some time off.

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Smith is a workaholic and the center of sports media, but if appearing on the playoff studio shows is beneath his time, maybe, quite frankly, it is not the best fit to have him jam it in between his daily TV talk debates, his thrice-weekly YouTube show, his “General Hospital” role and every other platform known to mankind he appears on.

As the series moves to Dallas on Wednesday, nine-time All-Star Paul George is an upgrade in status over Hart as the guest analyst. Whether he is any good remains to be seen. During the conference finals, Chris Paul was the guest analyst, and he showed some signs of potential.

When the new TV deals are completed, ESPN is expected to have the rights to the finals for a dozen years, with its final season on the current contract and the next 11 on the new one. It has boxed out the competition with a deal that will pay the league $2.6 billion a year, just a shade less than the $2.7 billion it doles out to the NFL per season. It looks like a smart move, as TNT Sports hangs on for dear life for its NBA future.


ESPN’s NBA Finals booth: JJ Redick, Doris Burke and Mike Breen. The trio has yet to find its stride in its debut NBA Finals. (Barry Gossage / NBAE via Getty Images)

Amazon Prime Video, which has a framework agreement with the league, already has Ian Eagle on its radar for play-by-play, according to sources briefed on their plans, and NBC, which also is on the doorstep of a completed deal, will likely name Mike Tirico its No. 1. Those are strong starts to match Breen.

Though the iconic “Inside the NBA” is potentially entering its final season with Warner Bros. Discovery, it is not like Barkley or Shaquille O’Neal won’t be employed, maybe even still with Kenny Smith and Ernie Johnson. Amazon and NBC will be in play for the biggest names.

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Beyond all this, ESPN should take a cue from other networks’ coverage of the Super Bowl and the World Series. The ESPN executive in charge of the NBA, David Roberts, should order up a new graphic package for the finals to further distinguish it from a game in November. The network with the Super Bowl does this every year, though it is actually even more necessary for ESPN on the NBA because of its overabundance of games that can make them all blend together.

Roberts should also look at Fox’s MLB October studio coverage, which features Derek Jeter, David Ortiz and Alex Rodriguez. It is a prestige event, and Fox has brought in three of the biggest players of the last generation. You don’t have to do this, but if you fail to have the names, the content has to be superior. It hasn’t been on these finals.

Next, ESPN should be pursuing James, as it did Manning. And Barkley, as it did Buck and Aikman. Pitaro and company should play like the boss again.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Where will Charles Barkley go? What if ESPN loses JJ Redick? Thoughts on NBA media issues

(Top photo: Adam Pantozzi / NBAE via Getty Images)

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