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The relationship between player and ownership, once so tight, has come almost completely undone
On May 19 of this year, just after the St. John’s Edge had been knocked off by the Moncton Magic in the National Basketball League of Canada final, Carl English had a posting on his Twitter account (cenglish23) showing himself back on, wearing his Edge jersey, thanking St. John’s fans for their support.
After that day, other than a couple of retweets of posts from others and an acknowledgement of his former teacher, Gord Pike, who had been featured with English as part of the NLTA’s Teachers Change Lives campaign, English did not have a single tweet that featured the Edge logo or that spoke about the team.
The only brand to be seen was his own, CE23.
In other words, if we’re witnessing the divorce of Carl English and the St. John’s Edge, then the separation happened a half year ago.
Divorce is a decent description, because now there are lawyers involved.
English has not outrightly confirmed he has retained legal device in his dispute with what now is his formal team, but in interviews, he has consistently referred to the Edge as not having fulfilled “contractual obligations” to him.
Always the same phrase. In other words, he has lawyered up.
He is also not detailing the obligations to which he refers, although English did say they were “substantial.”
That means money, and not just missed per diems from a road trip.
Falling outs between athletes and teams are not uncommon, but this one is particularly fascinating, firstly because it’s happened here, and secondly, because it would appear to represent dramatic changes of heart.
Just a little less than two years ago, this reporter interviewed Edge majority owner Irwin Simon, who insisted English be there for the Q and A, during which Simon said that he talked to English every day, that he was “like family,” that English’s family was now part of Simon’s family and that the basketball star from Patrick’s Cove was the centrepiece of what he hoped to accomplish with the Edge organization.
And English spoke about the hopes he held, and of the respect he had, for Simon, about the Edge being able to advance basketball in St. John’s and the province and in particular, about how it fitted into English’s vision for the game in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Even in the summer of 2018, when there was uncertainty about whether English, who had been the NBL Canada MVP during St. John’s successful inaugural season, would return as a player, he was still very much the team’s focal point as its interim general manager, chief public relations officer and local representative for the ownership group.
This past off-season, in relation to the Edge, the most that English could have seen as was an ex-player with the team.
The relationship’s dissolution — whether mutual or not — is pretty much complete.
Last week, English said he’s had minimal contact with Simon directly, that most of his recent talks with ownership had been through minority owner Rob Sabbagh and that he has had no conversations with Tyrone Levingston, named the new Edge president over the off-season.
English, who struggled with injuries that left him sidelined for half of the 2018-19 campaign, says he has not retired as a player.
“I’m always ready to play, you know that. I’m in shape,” he answered when asked if he felt he would be able to handle a third NBL Canada campaign with the Edge, who begin their new season in 10 days.
But even though there is an open roster spot on the team — and one for a Canadian player, at that — there is no expectation of his return to the roster happening.
In fact, English is on record as saying there are plans for a possible cross-country tour in January and February to promote his biography, “Chasing a Dream.”
Added Edge head coach Steve Marcus, “I’m not counting on Carl to be in the locker room on Dec. 27.”
“I wish Carl nothing but the best; we all know what he meant to this team over the last two years, but (the issue) is above me. I have no part in the decision-making process when it comes to this. My focus is on the team and the 13 or 14 players we brought into camp. It’s unfair to the guys we have here to have that focus on Carl.”
Marcus may be concentrating on coaching, but you know that he knows that this can be more than a distraction at the start of a new season.
English is a folk hero in these parts and that is only being added to by the buzz surrounding his bio, which has already set sales records for its publisher, Flanker Press. And while each side may have a story to tell when it comes to this break-up, it’s not hard to determine which version most locals will accept.
That can’t possibly be helpful to an organization coming off what can be described as a “blah” off-season, at best — especially for one with momentum from a run to the final — as it looks to resell a team featuring almost entirely new lineup.
Outside of suggesting he deserved to have been treated better, English hasn’t badmouthed the Edge publicly. Actually, he lauded them for what they’ve done in “raising the profile of basketball in the province,” and for providing him with a platform for his work in developing the game locally.
But when someone gives someone else the silent treatment — except perhaps when they’re speaking though lawyers — that speaks louder than a voice through a megaphone.
That’s even if all of this gets settled quietly.