Dodgers bankruptcy impacts fans; some stay away from games amid tumult

Mercer 19010

Brian Watt/KPCC

28-year-old Robert Vazquez

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was running out of time and money. So the Dodgers filed for bankruptcy protection Monday hoping to buy a little bit of both. How does that decision affect the team’s fan base?

Robert Vazquez chuckled. "It’s sad and embarrassing, you know. Hopefully, they just fix it." Vasquez, 28, wore his all-black Dodgers cap outside the Mar Vista barber shop where he works.

He’s a third-generation Dodgers fan who’s attended 10 games this season and plans to take in more. "I’m sticking with the Dodgers, I’m not going anywhere. Hopefully they just fix it for people to come out and not hear just 'divorce' and 'bankrupt' and all that. Just more about the game."

But a lot of fans aren’t going to home games. The stands look empty on TV broadcasts.

David Carter says the Dodgers’ bankruptcy won’t help. The head of USC’s Sports Business Institute says this is one of the darkest moments in the history of the Dodgers, "a franchise that helped break the color barrier, a franchise that was instrumental in bringing baseball to the West Coast, and now among the things that they’ll be known for is going into bankruptcy in June of 2011."

Dodgers owner Frank McCourt blamed the bankruptcy on Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. McCourt says Selig shoved millions of dollars away from the Dodgers when he rejected the team’s proposed TV deal with Fox Sports.

The team owner hopes that bankruptcy court will push the Fox deal through. He also needs the court to approve $150 million in interim financing loans to keep the team going.

Observers expect Major League Baseball to contest the bankruptcy filing. In a statement, Commissioner Selig said the move does nothing but hurt the Dodgers.

The Sports Business Institute’s David Carter says Fox Sports may feel uneasy in the short term about its proposed $3 billion deal to televise Dodger games. "If I’m Fox Sports, I’m concerned about the Dodger brand. I’m concerned about people’s interest and willingness to not only attend games, but more importantly, tune in to watch them on cable."

But, Carter predicts that once the team and the league resolve their dispute and the Dodgers return to firm financial ground, the fans will come back. "Fans have checked out, but they can’t wait to check back in and Fox knows that."

Another die-hard Dodgers fan on the street, Santa Monica hairdresser Sharon Fatahi, says, "Yeah, I’m just staying away. I’m waiting until the good times roll." She hasn’t visited Dodger Stadium since Frank and Jamie McCourt started fighting over who owns the team, and she won’t return until they’re both gone.

"If you’re a fan of the Dodgers, it’s like Dodgers are L.A. L.A. is the Dodgers," says Fatahi. "And it’s like our family is breaking up. And we need a new Papa and a new Mama." Fatahi laughed. "A strong, healthy, somebody with money that can make a go of it."

That Big-Money Mama or Papa will have to pay a long list of creditors that includes former Dodgers power hitter Manny Ramirez and hall of fame broadcaster Vin Scully. The Dodgers’ next payroll date is Thursday.

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