15 to watch (Week of 7.18.16)
Rick Horrow's "15 to Watch"
CSN Bay Area Sports Business Insider Rick Horrow takes you off the field with his 15 top Biz Ball trends for the week of July 18.
McIlroy blasts golf
1. Rory McIlroy wants golf to be viewed as a mainstream sport, and he criticized the sport’s drug testing policy as one of the key reasons it is not there yet. According to USA Today, McIlroy said that “he could use a human growth hormone and get away with it.” As opposed to many other notable sports, golf does not administer blood tests to its professional athletes. “I probably get tested four to five times a year, which is very little compared to the rest of the Olympic sports,” said McIlroy. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of athletes over the years, and whether it be coming to their houses and doing blood and urine, I think drug testing in golf is still quite far behind some of the other sports.” While golf does not appear to have a doping scandal, stricter drug policies could signify the sport is becoming more serious about its public appearance.
2. In a direct contradiction of the golfers’ justifications, Rio Olympic Games Organizing Committee President Carlos Nuzman said that the world's top four male golfers – Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, and Jordan Spieth – have "withdrawn from the games because there is no money to be won" and "not because of the Zika virus." As Nuzman told the AP and other assembled media, "They tried to blame Zika, but the media have shown that they are not coming because there's no prize money." Nuzman added, "Zika is much worse in Florida than in Brazil, and golfers are playing in Florida.” Meanwhile, "another top-ranked tennis player," Wimbledon semifinalist Tomas Berdych, on Saturday withdrew from the Games "over concerns about the Zika virus.” He joins Wimbledon finalist Milos Raonic and Simona Halep as recent top-ranked tennis players removing themselves from Rio. Whether Zika is a valid concern or excuse, the virus has become a true concern for the Rio Organizing Committee.
Silver not a fan of 'Super Team'
3. The NBA’s ever-increasing salary cap has allowed many of the league’s superstars to join forces, but none bigger than Kevin Durant electing to sign with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and the Golden State Warriors. In the wake of Durant’s move to the Bay Area, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver “expressed concern about the impact” of the move and the need “to maintain the league’s competitive balance,” according to ESPN.com. “Just to be absolutely clear, I do not think that's ideal from the league standpoint,” said Silver. “The good news is that we are in a collective bargaining cycle, so it gives everybody an opportunity – owners and the union – to sit down behind closed doors and take a fresh look at the system and see if there is a better way that we can do it. My belief is we can make it better." Silver hopes to rework the CBA to ensure that every team in the NBA has a shot at being competitive.
End of Deflategate
4. The Deflategate saga comes to an end in New England. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game suspension has been upheld, and he has indicated he will take his legal battle no further. A federal appeals court denied Brady’s effort to overturn the suspension, meaning he will have to sit out until the team’s October 9 matchup with the Cleveland Browns, according to the Boston Globe. While the NFLPA could still appeal this ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the start of the season less than two months away, it is unlikely the Court would rule by then. Brady’s initial suspension came after he was allegedly found guilty of deflating the team’s footballs in the 2015 AFC Championship. Brady sued the NFL, and a lower court overturned his suspension at the beginning of the 2015-2016 season. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated his four-game suspension earlier this year. Also at risk: TV ratings, as the Patriots behind Brady are a continual ratings draw.
'No one expects a strike'
5. The MLB’s CBA is set to expire on December 1, and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark hope to reach a new deal without any interruptions, according to SportsBusiness Journal. Formal talks regarding the core issues of a new CBA began during spring training, and those talks revealed some key points of divergence between labor and management camps. Manfred in particular said a potential reduction of the regular-season schedule would likely result in less money for players due to a drop in revenue. But Clark argued that fewer games and more rest could lead to greater performance by star players and in turn more fan interest and revenue. Added SBJ’s Tyler Kepner, “No one expects a strike or a lockout to shut down an industry with annual revenue" of more than $9 billion. League executives and the MLBPA will work to reach a deal before December, but major hurdles sit in the way of universal agreement.
6. Within just six hours of going on sale, the entire allotment of Los Angeles Rams season tickets was sold, according to the Los Angeles Times. Around 24,000 people bought all 70,000 tickets, forcing the team to focus on single-game tickets. The season tickets were awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis. Fans who put down deposits but were not contacted for season tickets will be the first to receive calls about single-game seats. Rams Vice President Tickets and Premium Seating Jake Bye said a "very limited number" of single-game tickets will be released to the general public on July 28. The capacity for this season’s Rams games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will be set at 80,000. LA’s likely sellout crowds will present a drastically different home environment than what the Rams were accustomed to playing in at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
Stenson grabs spotlight
7. Before Sunday, Sweden’s premier golf brand belonged to Annika Sorenstam, exclusively. After countryman Henrik Stenson survived a final round back nine duel with American Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson at this year’s Open Championship, however, the golf spotlight shifts to Stenson. The 40 year-old met or broke a slew of Major records at Royal Troon, including carding a final-round 63 that equaled the lowest round in Majors history and gave Stenson the lowest winning 72-hole total in relation to par at 20 under, as well as a winning total of 264 that eclipsed Greg Norman’s mark of 267 set in 1993 at Royal St George’s. Additionally, he and fellow endorser Mickelson not only provided Callaway with the marketing showcase of the century, Stenson gave unprecedented exposure to his longtime sponsors NetJets, Audemars Piguet, Mutual of Omaha, and Hugo Boss. Next up for Stenson: the PGA Championship at Baltusrol in two weeks, and the Rio Games.
'Most profitable in Olympic history'
8. After losing money on the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and breaking even on the 2012 London Summer Games, NBC Sports Group Chair Mark Lazarus firmly believes the network will finally turn a profit in Rio. According to SportsBusiness Journal, NBC Sports Executive Vice President/Ad Sales Seth Winter said that while inventory is still available, NBC is closing in on selling $1.2 billion worth of ads. NBC CEO Steve Burke confirmed that the company “has hit its sales target for the Rio Games,” which will end up being “the most profitable in Olympic history.” Despite the ongoing drama surrounding the Rio Games and all the problems the city and country continue to face, Burke revealed that NBC is “way ahead” of where they were at this point leading up to the London Olympics. While NBC "is selling advertising for its digital coverage, a majority of the sales are for commercials on prime-time telecasts over the broadcast network."
9. In two years, the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers will play the NFL’s first game in China, according to multiple sources. While all the official details have yet to be confirmed, the game will most likely serve as the Rams’ home opener in the 2018 season. The Rams have already agreed to give up one home game a year for the next three years to play overseas during each of the seasons in which they’re scheduled to play home games at the Los Angeles Coliseum before their new Inglewood stadium is completed. In March, according to SportsBusiness Journal, “reports surfaced that the NFL wants to expand its international presence to China and that the Rams were one team selected to play there.”
Sports enter political world
10. “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations have started to harness professional sports more in the wake of recent killings, as exemplified by strong statements at the ESPY awards and protests in Minnesota during a WNBA Lynx game at the Target Center. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, four off-duty police working the game “walked off the job after the players held a news conference denouncing racial profiling, then wore Black Lives Matter pregame warmup jerseys.” The four officers who left the arena that night also “removed themselves from a list of officers working future games,” Minneapolis Police Federation Lt. Bob Kroll confirmed. "If the players are going to keep their stance, all officers may refuse to work there," Kroll commented. The facility affirmed that it retains private security, so the absence of any off-duty officers would not compromise the safety of any event being held there.
11. English Premier League side Tottenham’s new stadium is officially under construction in London, according to the London Daily Mirror. White Hart Lane, the club’s iconic current home stadium, has been “partially demolished.” The new facility “will sit on the same road as the current 36,000-capacity ground,” but will increase in size to accommodate around 61,000 spectators. Home games will still be played at White Hart Lane this coming season, though the team hopes to move down the block by the start of the 2018-2019 season. “Known as the Northumberland Development Project, the stadium project also includes a hotel, sports center, health center, homes and a Tottenham Experience, housing a museum and club superstore.” This year, the team will play its Champions League games at Wembley Stadium. The short-term deal was signed after the club finished third in this season’s EPL standings to quality for the prestigious tournament.
12. MLS’s newest expansion club Atlanta United FC signed its first official jersey sponsor. In a multiyear partnership, American Family Insurance will be featured on the team’s jersey in 2017, the club’s first season in the league. According to SportsBusiness Journal, financial terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, “though it will put the club within the top tier of MLS in jersey sponsor revenue, with the league average being between $3-4 million in revenue annually.” Atlanta United FC already has 31,000 deposits for season tickets, and league representatives have expressed how impressed they are with the progress the club has made in cultivating a fan base without having played a single game. AFI also has sponsorship deals with the Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts, and Green Bay Packers, among others.
13. Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade released a new shoe line paying homage to his new team and his former team, the Miami Heat. Wade is sponsored by China-based Li-Ning, and the two sides partnered up to produce the “Way of Wade 4” combo pack. “One of the models features a map of Chicago printed in the insole and the other in Dolphins aqua with a Miami map,” according to the Chicago Tribune. The shoes came out the same day Wade signed with the Bulls, which “led some fans to question whether the two events were a natural concurrence.” While Wade is from Chicago, speculation remains as to whether he had his homecoming planned well in advance of the announcement. Wade’s arrival in Chicago coincides with the franchise’s signing of former Kings guard Rajon Rondo.
Signed, seal, delivered
14. Spanish soccer club and global powerhouse Barcelona FC has signed a one-year kit sponsorship extension with Qatar Sports Investments. According to AS, the deal comes in at $44.4 million. “Qatar Airways” is the shirt sponsor, and the deal, signed in London, will continue to keep the airline’s name on the front of the team’s iconic blue and red striped home jerseys. The agreement took months to negotiate, but “does not meet the expectations that Barcelona had a year ago,” when the club tentatively agreed to a deal worth $67 million annually over five years. That deal, which fell through, was thought to have been with a United States-based company, though offers were made by companies in Mexico and the UAE. Barca is coming off an exceptional season in 2015, in which they won La Liga, the Champions League, and the Copa del Rey.
'Unique visual experiences'
15. The Players’ Tribune, a blog featuring first-hand accounts and stories by athletes, has signed Samsung as its latest corporate content partner and its first in the tech space, according to SportsBusiness Journal. The joint-venture will see TPT “produce athlete-driven, short-form 360-degree videos and photography using Samsung Gear 360, the company’s high-resolution camera.” Samsung will also repurpose the content for its Samsung VR. While the company used this technology on the ESPY’s red carpet last week, Broncos Linebacker Von Miller and Heat Center Hassan Whiteside were featured in earlier pieces on TPT using 360 gear. TPT President Jaymee Messler said the deal provides the media company’s contributors with the tools they need to create “innovative, premium content” and fans the ability to connect with athletes “through immersive stories and unique visual experiences.” TPT has also signed partnerships with American Family Insurance, Budweiser and Tyson Foods.