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H. Wayne Huizenga, former owner of Florida Marlins, Florida Panthers and Miami Dolphins, dies at age 80

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H. Wayne Huizenga, the founding owner of the Florida Marlins and Florida Panthers, as well as the former owner of the Miami Dolphins, died Thursday night at his home. He was 80.

Valerie Hinkell, a longtime assistant to Huizenga, told The Associated Press of Huizenga’s death when reached at the family residence Friday. She gave no details on cause of death.

Huizenga, a billionaire who made his fortune creating Fortune 500 companies such as Waste Management Inc., Blockbuster Video and AutoNation, simultaneously owned all three sports teams from 1994 to 1998 — the first man to own teams in three major sports leagues.

His net worth in 2017 was reported to be $2.8 billion, according to Forbes Magazine.

Huizenga brought Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League to South Florida via expansion with the Marlins and Panthers, respectively. For the Marlins, he paid $95 million in 1991, while he shelled out $50 million for the Panthers in 1992. Both teams began play in 1993.

By 1996, the Panthers had reached the Stanley Cup Final. A year later, the Marlins won the World Series.

After buying 15 percent of the Dolphins and 50 percent of the team’s stadium from the family of team founder Joe Robbie in 1990, Huizenga became the sole owner of the NFL team in 1994 for $168 million after persuading the NFL to waive its ban on cross-ownership of teams in other leagues.

Huizenga’s first sports love was the Dolphins — he had been a season-ticket holder since their first season in 1966. But he fared better in the NFL as a businessman than as a sports fan. The Dolphins made the playoff eight times under his ownership but never reached the Super Bowl.

He turned a nifty profit by selling the Dolphins and their stadium in 2008 to New York real estate billionaire Stephen Ross for $1.1 billion, nearly seven times what he paid to become sole owner. But Huizenga knew that the bottom line in the NFL is championships..

“If I have one disappointment, the disappointment would be that we did not bring a championship home,” Huizenga said shortly after he sold the Dolphins. “It’s something we failed to do.”

Huizenga earned a reputation as a hands-off owner and received praise from many loyal employees, even though he made six coaching changes. He eased Pro Football Hall of Famer Don Shula into retirement in early 1996, and Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, interim coach Jim Bates, Nick Saban, Cam Cameron and Tony Sparano followed as coach.

For a time, Huizenga was also a favorite with South Florida sports fans, drawing cheers and autograph seekers in public. The crowd roared when he danced the hokey-pokey on the field during an early Marlins game. He went on a spending spree to build a veteran team that won the World Series in the franchise’s fifth year.

But his popularity plummeted when he ordered the roster dismantled after that season. He was frustrated by poor attendance and his failure to swing a deal for a new ballpark built with taxpayer money.

He sold the Marlins to John Henry in 1998. Three years later, he sold the Panthers to Alan Cohen.

The Panthers retired the No. 37 jersey in Huizenga’s honor on Jan. 18. It’s just the second number to be retired by the franchise.

Many South Florida fans never forgave him for breaking up the Marlins’ championship team. Huizenga drew boos when introduced at Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino’s retirement celebration in 2000, and he kept a lower public profile after that.

In 2009, Huizenga said he regretted ordering the Marlins’ payroll purge.

“We lost $34 million the year we won the World Series, and I just said, ‘You know what, I’m not going to do that,”‘ Huizenga said. “If I had it to do over again, I’d say, ‘OK, we’ll go one more year.'”

Starting with a single garbage truck in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1968, Harry Wayne Huizenga, a college dropout from the Chicago suburbs, built Waste Management Inc. into a Fortune 500 company. He purchased independent sanitation engineering companies, and by the time he took the company public in 1972, he had completed the acquisition of 133 small-time haulers. By 1983, Waste Management was the largest waste disposal company in the United States.

The business model worked again with Blockbuster Video, which he started in 1985 and built into the leading movie rental chain nine years later. In 1996, he formed AutoNation.

“You just have to be in the right place at the right time,” Huizenga said of his business acumen. “It can only happen in America.”

Huizenga was a five-time recipient of Financial World magazine’s CEO of the Year award, and was the Ernst & Young 2005 World Entrepreneur of the Year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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NFL Week 2 arrivals – Best entrances, outfits, cleats and more

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Welcome to Week 2 of the 2020 NFL season. We’re still mostly fanless at the stadiums, but players have brought their “A” game with their outfits and cleats as they get prepared for kickoff.

Here’s our roundup of the best pregame threads, entrances, scenes from the field and locker room and more.

The Week 2 NFL schedule is stacked with great matchups. Our NFL Nation reporters bring us the keys to every game, a bold prediction for each matchup and final score picks. Check out ESPN’s NFL Week 2 game guide.

More: Sunday’s fantasy football inactives: Who’s in and who’s out?


Best cleats

Golden Tate has two legends on his pregame cleats for Sunday:

Kobe also made it on to Darius Slay‘s cleats in Philly:

Best arrival looks

Apparently there’s a Wild West showdown taking place Sunday, based on the arrival looks from Dak Prescott and Takkarist McKinley:

Carson Wentz, Zach Ertz and … The Dude???? … make their way into Lincoln Financial Field:

Miami’s Preston Williams has arrived at Hard Rock Stadium:

Best brotherly reunion

Reid Ferguson and Blake Ferguson pause for a meetup before the Bills and Dolphins head into battle:

Best movie reference

Not sure if this is exactly how the Saints arrived in Vegas, but we’ll give them the “A” for effort here:

Best of the rest

There’s a range of emotions before a game, and that’s easy to see on the faces of NFL players, even behind their masks:



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Washington coach Ron Rivera plans for another halftime IV treatment Sunday

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After getting an IV treatment at halftime of last weekend’s regular-season opener, Washington Football Team head coach Ron Rivera plans to do the same for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals if he needs it.

“If I’m feeling it, I will tell our head trainer [Ryan Vermillion] that I need it,” Rivera said Friday before his team left for Arizona.

Rivera, 58, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma located in a lymph node this past summer. The cancer is in the early stages and is considered “very treatable and curable,” but Rivera still is learning how to deal with it.

For instance, Rivera now usually goes to bed at 9 p.m., about two hours earlier than he usually has during his decorated coaching career. He gets treatments that sometimes throw off the timing of his days.

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Sources — NFL senior VP of officiating Al Riveron missed Week 1 because of coronavirus

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Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, was not in the league office’s replay command center last Sunday for the Week 1 games because he was at home in Miami battling the coronavirus, league sources told ESPN.

But Riveron said Saturday that he will return to the command center Sunday for Week 2 and is “feeling great.” To date, Riveron is the highest-profile NFL employee who has been forced to miss a game day because of COVID-19.

With Riveron out last Sunday, it was next man up: The NFL’s vice president of instant replay, Russell Yurk, stepped into the role that Riveron usually has on game day, being a critical voice on any disputed replay call.

Most team owners, head coaches and general managers don’t know who is in the officiating command center in New York, and they certainly don’t know the depth chart. They didn’t know that some of their fates last Sunday were being decided by Yurk, who was a replay official under former NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino and started in the league office with Riveron in 2017.

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