RICK HORROW’S TOP 10 SPORTS/BIZ/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF JANUARY 6 : MAYOR’S EDITION
with Jacob Aere
- The sports world and beyond remembers David Stern. Former Commissioner David Stern took the NBA into the modern era over the course of his 30 years as Commissioner after he assumed the role in 1984. By the time he left the Commissioner’s office in 2014, a league that had once struggled for a foothold had grown into a more than $5 billion-a-year industry. The NBA’s longest-serving commissioner, Stern was credited with transforming the NBA into the global powerhouse it is today, overseeing major uplifts in commercial revenue and media coverage, domestic and international expansion, and a surge in global popularity. Under Stern, the NBA added seven new franchises, including two in Canada, and grew into a commercial behemoth. It also created the WNBA in 1997 and a developmental league, now known as the G League, in 2001. Thanks largely to Stern, the NBA is now revered as a sports industry pioneer and innovator. Rick had the privilege to work with Commissioner Stern on the formation of the Miami Heat and the eventual Oklahoma City Thunder, as well as interviewing him numerous times. He will be greatly missed.
- Endeavor acquired majority equity ownership stake in experiential hospitality leader On Location Experiences from existing investors. Last week, Beverly-Hills based agency giant Endeavor announced that it had acquired On Location Experiences. The reported $660 million deal will give Endeavor a majority stake in the hospitality and live events company, which works with the NFL, the NCAA, and the PGA Tour, among other entities. The NFL, through its strategic investment arm, 32 Equity, will continue to be a minority shareholder and retain its seat on the Company’s Board of Directors. On Location will seek to enhance its existing sports and entertainment offerings, including its long-term relationship with the NFL, by leveraging Endeavor’s access to content and experiences across entertainment, sports and fashion. The deal will also help to strengthen Endeavor properties, including the UFC, which it acquired in 2016 for $4 billion. Former Bloomberg, Westwood One, and Time Inc. executive, Paul Caine, will lead the newly integrated entity. The deal is the latest in a flurry of acquisitions by major Hollywood talent agencies as they expand into other entertainment disciplines, particularly music and sports.
- Tennis Australia announces a charity match to support bushfire relief. According to The Guardian, Australian tennis player Nick Krygios’ plans for a massive fundraising effort for bushfire victims has resulted in a tennis exhibition match set to feature some of the world’s top players. Kyrgios kicked off a flood of donations to the fundraising campaign from sporting names around Australia, including American basketballer LaMelo Ball. After Krygios’ initial push, Tennis Australia announced “Rally For Relief,” an exhibition match on Rod Laver Arena January 15. It will also grant $1 million for communities to rebuild tennis facilities. Kyrgios has also pledged $200 for each ace he serves across the Australian summer of tennis. Fellow Australian players Alex de Minaur, John Millman, and Samantha Stosur, among others, also vowed to donate money from their aces while the new ATP Cup got on board. The tournament announced that $100 would be donated to the Australian Red Cross for every ace served over the next 10 days, with the final figure expected to surpass $150,000. Much of Australia is up in flames and sports figures are here to help inspire seismic change across the globe for charitable donations.
- In the wake of record low ratings for their annual New Year’s Day outdoor game, no progress is yet evident on discussions of NHL Olympic participation. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that there is “really nothing new” on possible Olympic participation at the moment, but there will be “further discussion in the near future,” according to The Athletic. Daly said, “I imagine it will be discussed further with the NHLPA in connection with any resumption of talks relating to a potential CBA extension. But, we and the NHLPA will also need to get a better understanding from the IIHF and/or IOC regarding the conditions on which NHL players would be invited to the Olympics. That remains a question as to which we do not have a lot of clarity at this point.” NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr said the players have “made it clear that they want to participate” in the Olympics. He said, “We want to find a way to do that.” More discussions are expected before the end of the month, between the league, the NHLPA, and the IIHF.
- U.S. men’s national soccer team cancels Qatar training camp amid escalating tensions in the Middle East. The USMNT is moving the team’s training camp out of Qatar back to the United States as a “precaution” given heightened tensions in the Middle East following the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Suleimani last Thursday. According to the Los Angeles Times, the camp was scheduled to open Sunday in Doha, host city for the 2022 World Cup, but now will be staged in Bradenton, Florida. Though Doha is 950 miles from Baghdad – the center of the current conflict – “tensions in the region have escalated.” The Washington Post adds that U.S. outposts and personnel have “braced for retaliatory attacks.” The last thing the struggling USMNT needs at this point in time is to worry about a potentially life-threatening military conflict. USMNT officials did the right thing in moving the camp to Brandenton and out of harm’s way.
- A lawsuit blaming Pop Warner for two fatalities is dismissed in federal court. According to the New York Times, a federal court judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Pop Warner, stating that the two women who sued the youth football organization had no proof that their sons’ deaths later in life were linked to any head trauma they had sustained over a decade earlier as youth football participants. The judge in the case, ruling for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, said the mothers did not show sufficient links between any head trauma their sons may have suffered while playing Pop Warner football and their behavior later in life. The judge added that the plaintiffs had discounted other contributing factors, including the “social and biological.” The case, which was set to go to trial this month, was a benchmark for head-trauma related cases against sports organizations. Pop Warner, meanwhile, continues to refine and improve its football safety practices each year, with the constant input of renowned doctors as well as football experts, and remains the gold standard of youth football organizations nationwide.
- The NBA G League secondary competition has announced the addition of Mexican professional men’s basketball team Capitanes next season, its first franchise based outside the U.S. and Canada. Established in 2016, the Mexico City outfit will become the NBA G League’s 29th team from the start of the 2020-2021 season, and will play their home games at the Gimnasio Juan de la Barrera, based in Mexico’s capital. The announcement was made during a press conference ahead of Dallas Mavericks 122-111 victory over the Detroit Pistons in Mexico City on December 12, the first of two regular-season games played in the Hispanic nation during the ongoing 2019-2020 season. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said: “Bringing an NBA G League team to Mexico City is a historic milestone for the NBA which demonstrates our commitment to basketball fans in Mexico and across Latin America. As the first G League franchise based outside of the US and Canada, we look forward to welcoming Capitanes to the NBA family.” The schedule for the 2020-2021 NBA G League season, which tips off next November, will be announced in August, 2020.
- Sports teams using machine learning tech to drive sponsorship revenues. According to JohnWallStreet, the sports industry has begun to place a greater emphasis on data capture and analytics, particularly as it relates to on-field performance. But while sports has become big business, Adam Grossman, founder of Block Six Analytics (B6A), suggests “from an economic and financial perspective – in terms of understanding concepts like asset valuation, cash-flow and regression – it remains behind the times.” To help bring the industry up to speed, Grossman developed a sponsorship evaluation platform that values sports assets in the same manner “that venture capitalists, private equity firms and investment banks look at investment opportunities.” B6A’s proprietary sponsorship model translates traditional fit and engagement benchmarks into probabilistic revenue growth metrics. Over the last 10 months, more than a dozen pro sports organizations have begun using Block Six technology to drive sponsorship revenues. Sports sponsorships sellers naturally seek brand partners that are demographically aligned. While most teams and media entities have managed to gather insights on their own, “the challenge has always been capturing the demographic data needed to ensure audience alignment, so that both parties can achieve their goals.”
- Sony and Verizon are bringing 5G to sports broadcasting. According to Mobile Marketing Magazine, Sony and Verizon collaborated to demonstrate how 5G technology and streaming can be used in live sports broadcasting during the NFL’s Texans vs. New England Patriots game on December 1. A camera person from NBC Sports used Sony’s PXW-Z450 shoulder camcorder to capture the game and the video was sent through to a production room in the NRG Stadium in Houston with the help of Sony’s prototype transmitter box, Xperia 5G mm Wave device, and finally, Verizon’s 5G Ultra-Wideband network. The result was an almost real time broadcast sent to NBC producers without any hiccups. In the future, the same 5G-connected cameras could be used to transmit to remote production teams that aren’t located at the site of the sporting event. In the future, another advantage to 5G is the use of wireless connectivity, so cameras can use all angles and positions to capture the games.
- David Stern passes away, but his legacy lives on through NBA Cares. David Stern was dedicated to public service, as is evidenced by NBA Cares, which he launched in 2005. Over its first five years, the program donated more than $100 million to charity. NBA Cares is the league’s global social responsibility program that builds on the NBA’s mission of addressing important social issues in the U.S. and around the world. Causes the platform supports include education, youth, and family development, and health, including Special Olympics, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, UNICEF, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Share Our Strength and GLSEN. NBA Cares programs and participants have provided more than five million hours of hands-on service, created more than 1,300 places where kids and families can live, learn or play, and engaged more than 51 million youth basketball programs in communities around the world. Internationally, NBA Cares has created more than 323 places where kids and families can live, learn, or play in 40 countries – largely thanks to Stern and his legacy.