Athletics

A's say they deferred Coliseum rent payment for lack of use during coronavirus

A's say they deferred Coliseum rent payment for lack of use during coronavirus

The A's deferred a $1.2 million rent payment due to the Oakland Coliseum last month because they couldn't use the stadium, the team said in a statement Tuesday.

The payment was due April 1 as part of the team's annual agreement to use the Coliseum. In a statement provided to NBC Sports California, the A's said the Coliseum Authority "has been unable to make the Coliseum available for use by the A's" and that the team deferred payment as a result.

"The A’s sent notice to the JPA in March stating the Club is in support of these public health efforts and would defer annual rent payment, given the building was not available for use by the organization, per provisions in the contract," the statement read. "The A's look forward to when the City and County feel it is safe to lift current directives, and the A's are granted access to the facility to play baseball."

Henry Gardener, the Coliseum Authority's interim executive director, said earlier Tuesday that A's executives claimed the team had "no ability to pay."

“They said because they haven’t used it, they were not able to generate revenue and they have no ability to pay,” Gardner told Bay Area News Group's David DeBolt on Tuesday.

Oakland banned events of 1,000-plus people on March 11, and MLB first delayed the start of the 2020 regular season and canceled spring training a day later due to the coronavirus pandemic. The A's said in a statement to NBC Sports California that the City of Oakland Alameda County have kept the Coliseum available as a potential surge location for COVID-19 patients. That, combined with state and local bans on mass gatherings, made the Coliseum unavailable for use, the team said.

In a letter obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle's Susan Slusser, the A's told the Coliseum Authority would invoke the force majeure provision of the 10-year lease the team signed in 2014 and defer the rental payment.

The city and county still have $55 million in unpaid debt from renovations when the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995, according to DeBolt. DeBolt reported the stadium authority is "tied up in a legal battle" with the Warriors over $48 million in unpaid debt on Oracle Arena. The Warriors were in the midst of their first season in San Francisco when the NBA season was suspended, while the Raiders are set to play their first season in Las Vegas.

The A's had planned to build a new ballpark at Oakland's Howard Terminal by 2023, and the team officially agreed to purchase Alameda County's shares of the Coliseum in December. In March, the A's requested fast-track environmental certification of the site from California Gov. Gavin Newsom under state Assembly Bill 734. A group of shipping, trucking and steel companies filed a lawsuit on March 17 opposing the team's submission, and state officials' focus on the coronavirus pandemic likely will push back the team's timeline.

NBC Sports California's Jon Williams contributed to this report.

Mike Fiers putting Astros cheating scandal behind him, moving forward

Mike Fiers putting Astros cheating scandal behind him, moving forward

Mike Fiers arrived at the A’s media availability on Zoom Tuesday wearing a hoodie and removed his facemask -- but it wasn’t the one he had made for the team sporting his infamous facial hair.

The facial hair caused national attention, and that spotlight is something the A’s veteran pitcher is used to. He was the one who held the national spotlight after unearthing the Houston Astros of their cheating ways back in November. Fiers revealed in an interview with The Athletic last year that his former team would steal signs electronically during their 2017 World Series run. 

He’s ready to move on from that now, however.

“Yeah, we’re not worried about that,” Fiers told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re focused on us as the A’s -- there are a lot more teams than Houston.”

“Right now, if we’re worried about that, we’re thinking in the wrong thought process going forward. We’re trying to get ready for the season, we know what we have to do to do that. Being out here, competing, practicing together and getting everything right for Day 1.”

The A’s will play the Astros this season, as they usually do, but this time around, it will feel quite different. The combination of no fans in the stands and months going by could make it feel strange.

“Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “It doesn’t really matter -- I guess it’s not something to think about, like I said, just the game of baseball is what we need to think about right now.”

And it appears that’s working in his favor.

He trained in the offseason/hiatus quite a bit -- in between creating TikToks and playing “Call of Duty.” And although he showed up late as a precautionary measure after training partner Jesús Luzardo tested positive for coronavirus, he has looked good, according to A’s manager Bob Melvin.

“[Fiers] has proved that he ended up being really good for this team,” Melvin said Tuesday.

“Probably not as far along as a couple of guys at this point based on the fact that he had to sit down for a couple days, but if anybody could make it up in a hurry it’s him.”

Melvin also said he watched Fiers’ bullpen yesterday and was able to get a different view, complimenting his sinker and a late cutter.

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“You understand without the velocity, why he continues to be so consistent, and so good and is always looking to add some stuff on," Melvin added.

Fiers looks to be a part of the A’s starting rotation this season and said he will be pitching against the Giants next week during their scheduled exhibition games.

Tony Kemp overwhelmed by A's, community support on '+1 Effect' campaign

Tony Kemp overwhelmed by A's, community support on '+1 Effect' campaign

Tony Kemp arranged to have 60-70 shirts promoting his +1 Effect campaign sent to Oakland Coliseum during A’s training camp, enough for everyone on the team’s roster and staff.

The veteran second baseman may have ordered too many.

Matt Olson, Marcus Semien, Liam Hendriks, Jake Diekman and assistant hitting coach Eric Martins had already bought shirts on their own.

Kemp was moved by that. He’s relatively new to the A’s, an offseason signing who spent a few weeks with the Green and Gold before baseball shut down over the coronavirus pandemic.

He wasn’t sure how much immediate (and unsolicited) team support to expect when he started the +1 Effect, a campaign designed to snuff out racism one individual conversation at a time. That question mark was answered quickly, with manager Bob Melvin sent a text of support early in the process. Then he saw teammates lining up behind him.

“It was cool to see that they bought shirts on their own and are out supporting the cause,” Kemp said in a Monday video conference. “That’s a big deal. I’ve only been with this team for a couple of months now, and to see how people have been respecting and going after the campaign means a lot. It means your teammates have your back and have been supportive. I’m incredibly happy with that.”

Kemp pushed forward with a bold, time consuming and rewarding enterprise shortly after George Floyd was killed while in police custody. That prompted protests across the country and brought the underlying, systemic racism that exists here into mainstream consciousness.

Kemp pondered ways of joining the fight against racism and police brutality against Black Americans and decided to attack it through individual conversations. The +1 Effect quickly grew in popularity and was making an impact on an individual level. His Instagram inbox swelled as the press got hold of it, but Kemp has remained committed to this cause even with Kemp back to work in A’s camp.

“My wife and I were going through 120 message requests that I had on Instagram that we went through today,” Kemp said. “We’re still trying to push the ideas through and get our point across with the +1 campaign. It’s going well. You see a lot of people being changed. It’s a true blessing to impact people in the way that we have.”

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Those message requests don’t receive a pamphlet. They largely get a callback and a conversation trying to change minds about topics involved with racism plain to see and issues more covert.

"When you have conversations like this, you have to have an open mind and a calm spirit,” Kemp said. “If you just start yelling at each other or one person gets upset, you just have to remain calm. I think that’s how I have been getting through to people, by saying, ‘I hear you. I understand you. But please listen to this experience, maybe watch this documentary or read this book.’

“It’s all about your tone, honestly. Being able to relay that message to them, I think that has created a better understanding because conversations they normally have with someone of another point of view is that someone gets upset and storms out, and nothing gets accomplished. Being able to be open-minded and calm with these situations show where it has been going in a positive direction.”

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Kemp admits the campaign’s impact has exceeded original expectations and has fueled him to keep the effort going.

“It has been therapeutic to hear the responses and hear how people have been responding to it,” Kemp said. “It makes me feel great. it makes me feel that, with a platform and with a voice, you can tell people that they too have a voice even if they think they don’t. Being able to let people talk to their inner circles and understand that what we’re doing is very positive. I have been sleeping very well at night knowing that I feel like I have been helping change the world. I can say it has.”