10 Pro Teams So Embarrassed They Apologize to Fans
In a letter published in newspapers and on the team website on Monday, Toronto Maple Leafs chairman Larry Tanenbaum admitted that “the way this year ended was unacceptable.”
The Leafs collapsed down the stretch and have the longest current playoffs drought of any team in the league. But Tanenbaum isn’t the first team representative to issue a sorry after a disappointing end. Here’s a look back at 10 owners who told their fans that their teams should have delivered more:
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS – 2012
Owner John H. McConnell was in the sorry seat when his team got off to a slow start in January. “Unfortunately and surprisingly, we opened the season terrible and have struggled ever since. Disappointing is not a strong enough word,” he wrote in a letter. They finished with a league-low 65 points this year.
ATLANTA BRAVES – 2011
After the Braves blew an eight-and-a-half game wild-card lead over the last month of the season, President John Schuerholz did some damage control by sending a letter to ticket holders letting them know that it didn’t sit well with him. “While there were many exciting moments during our 2011 season, unfortunately, we fell short of our ultimate goal. Together, we share in the disappointment and frustration of how and when this season ended,” he wrote.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS – 2011
A month after the Braves reached out to fans, it was the Dodgers’ turn. But in that case, owner Frank McCourt’s apology had a bit of a personal note to it. His much-criticized and very public divorce led to the Dodgers’ bankruptcy and the league taking over the organization temporarily. ”I’m very, very sorry about that. We’re going to move forward and handle the situation now in as professional a way as possible and make sure the baton is passed here in a classy way,” he said.
MINNESOTA WILD – 2011
Wild owner Craig Leipold expressed a ”lot of disappointment” with the team’s late-season collapse that left them in 12th place in the Western Conference after they went just 2-10-1 to the final horn. “We let our fans down, and we have to now reach back out and find a way to re-engage them,” he said. “We have to convince them that we are committed and serious about winning, and we hope to do that by communicating to them what we’re doing with our prospects and our new players and where our future is.”
WASHINGTON CAPITALS – 2011
After the Caps’ playoff loss to Tampa Bay in the first round, owner Ted Leonsis penned an apology on his blog where he told fans that the team didn’t live up to his expectations. “Little things seemed to bother us this series. We weren’t resilient and we didn’t get over obstacles placed in our way. We are all accountable on this performance starting with me,” he said.
DENVER BRONCOS – 2011
Owner Pat Bowlen wrote in a letter to ticket holders that the 2010 season was his hardest of his 27 years at the helm. The team finished 4-12 and dealt with several off-the-field distractions. “You deserve more from this franchise than what we saw in 2010, and you have my word that I will restore the culture of winning, trust and integrity within the Broncos,” Bowlen wrote. “There is a Bronco Way that exists, and it entails success on the field, honoring tradition and maintaining the highest level of character.”
CAROLINA PANTHERS – 2010
Anticipating a revolt from PSL owners over his team’s poor play, owner Jerry Richardson sent out a letter to his biggest spenders. “I know how difficult the season has been for you. As the person ultimately responsible for putting a team on the field, I take full responsibility for our shortfalls. It is agonizing that we have not performed at the level we had planned for and expected.” The missive was a good idea, considering the team was 1-11 at the time. The only problem? Richardson didn’t tell coach John Fox he did it. ”I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Fox said when asked about the letter. Fox was fired later that month.
DALLAS COWBOYS – 2010
He’s outspoken, even about his losses. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones didn’t wait until the end of a terrible year to apologize to Cowboys’ fans. ”There’s no question that I have the plan and executing it to have the best players and the best coaching that we can have. I’m dumbfounded that we are 1-7,” Jones said. The only problem? The team was 1-6 at the time. Still, ”I’m very, very, very sorry to our fans. You should have better than this,” he continued. They did in fact fall to 1-7 in their next game, after which they fired coach Wade Phillips. The team wound up finishing 6-10.
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS – 1981
Bob Irsay apologized to season-ticket holders in a letter that stated he had no intentions to move the team, contrary to rumors. “We want to play here, and we want to give you the kind of team you can be proud of again. This is our commitment…I’ve said some things maybe I shouldn’t have. If I have offended the fans here, I apologize,” he wrote. Three years later in the middle of the night he moved the team to Indianapolis. This past fall he was apologizing again, though, after the Colts’ 0-7 start to the most recent season.
SAN DIEGO PADRES – 1974
At the team’s home debut, Ray Kroc, then the new owner of the Padres, let the fans know how he felt with a tirade. Down 9-2 in the 8th inning, Kroc took the public address microphone and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I suffer with you.” A streaker then ran across the field, according to reports. Kroc apologized to the fans, saying, “This is the most stupid ballplaying I have ever seen.”