On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman personal injury lawyers, Wizards shooting guard Jodie Meeks joined the show to talk about his first month with the Wizards.
Meeks was signed this offseason as a free agent, but already feels comfortable playing with Tim Frazier, John Wall and Bradley Beal. Speaking of Wall, Meeks recalled first meeting him and what it was like to host Wall on his recruiting visit at Kentucky.
After the Meeks interview, host Chase Hughes broke down why Carrick Felix made the final roster spot. Plus, an update on Markieff Morris and what the Wizards are planning to do with Mike Young and Devin Robinson.
15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH:RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BUSINESS/ MARKETING/TECH ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF OCTOBER 9 with Jamie Swimmer & Ron Socash
The 2017-2018 NHL season is officially underway, with the Pittsburgh Penguins looking to three-peat as Stanley Cup champions. One of the biggest storylines heading into the season is which players will represent their countries at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics in a few months. Many elite NHL players have spoken out about their disappointment in not being able to compete in the Olympics. “It’s going to be weird for everybody,” said Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon, who was hoping to make Canada’s Olympic team. “It won’t feel right watching other guys wear that maple leaf and they’re good players, but they’re not the best players in the world at that tournament.” Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, who has been vocal “about saying he’d go no matter what,” criticized the league for putting players in a position to abandon their NHL team just for the chance to represent their country. NHL owners were the ones who decided not to stop the season, finding “no tangible benefit” in doing so. However, depending on fan reaction to the absence of NHL players from the Games come February, the issue will likely be revisited before the 2022 Beijing Games…and in the next CBA.
The Las Vegas Golden Knights are lending a helping hand in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, many Golden Knights players have been donating blood as part of the recovery effort for victims of the shooting. One of the places to donate blood is United Blood Services, where “hundreds have stood in line, some for as long as six hours.” Other players made appearances at Metropolitan Police headquarters. “You start to grow roots here,” said defenseman Nate Schmidt. “You get to know people. Them being affected, you do whatever you can to help.” Many of the players were out at the time of the shooting and did not know what was happening. Forward Alex Tuch said that he was at the Cosmopolitan with teammates having dinner when the hotel went on lockdown. The Golden Knights, only in their first week of professional existence, are clearly already trying to make a positive impact on the community.
YouTube TV has officially signed on as the World Series’ first presenting sponsor. According to SportsBusiness Journal, YouTube TV, Google’s digital pay service, is set to “use the attraction of FOX’ game telecast to promote brand awareness and signups.” The sponsorship will run throughout the MLB postseason and will expand across FOX, MLB Network, and MLB-controlled digital and social media. Additionally, come the World Series, YouTube TV signage will be present throughout hosting ballparks. This is the first time MLB “has signed a presenting sponsor for every playoff round.” Joining YouTube TV as a presenting sponsor are T-Mobile, for the two NLDS matchups; South Korean conglomerate Doosan, for the two ALDS matchups; and Camping World, for both the ALCS and NLCS. “This is the first deal of its kind for one of these services attaching itself to a major sporting event,” said MLB Executive VP/Business Noah Garden. The advent of YouTubeTV is affecting sports, and all of cable, because it has become a viable option to purchasing a basic cable plan. It may not be long until we are able to stream both the World Series and Super Bowl through YouTube in some capacity.
Rookie sensation Aaron Judge concluded the MLB regular season as the leader in jersey sales. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the New York Yankees right fielder joins Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant as only the second rookie to lead the league in jersey sales since rankings were first released in 2010. Judge’s sales are expected to continue to boom well into October and the playoffs, especially given his strong performance in the AL Wild Card Playoff against the Minnesota Twins and his expected performance in the knockout rounds. Last year, no Yankees player cracked the top 20 in jersey sales, but this year Judge is joined by catcher Gary Sanchez who came in at No. 15. Of those players who made the top 20 this year, 14 are on playoff teams. The Cubs have the most representation, with four making the list – Kris Bryant (No. 2), Anthony Rizzo (No. 3), Javier Baez (No. 10), and Kyle Schwarber (No. 14). Jersey sales data clearly shows one predominant theme: “Win and you’re in.”
Protests by players, coaches, and executives during the National Anthem have been seen across the NFL all season. Now, some fans are beginning to show their distaste for the demonstrations – including Vice President Mike Pence. According to the Baltimore Sun, Ravens fans were heard booing at MT&T Bank Stadium while players linked arms and knelt in prayer before the anthem performance. Other fans held up signs visibly expressing their dissent, such as one that read, “Play Ball Not Politics.” In turn, many Ravens players expressed their frustration with fans for this response. Finally, on Sunday, Vice President Pence left the 49ers-Colts NFL game honoring Peyton Manning early, citing his displeasure with the Niners’ anthem protests. One potential change coming from this situation might be for teams to show more transparency in their plans to protest, as opposed to being “so coy about the plan to make a statement on unity.” Multiple teams, led by the Steelers, have started giving a “heads-up” in regard to their National Anthem plans.
DirecTV's practice of giving refunds to some NFL Sunday Ticket subscribers "puts the company at risk of looking as if it's taking" President Trump's side in the National Anthem controversy, according to USA Today. Keeping long-term customers happy is "important because subscribers to Sunday Ticket and premium sports programming are highly valued." DirecTV is "caught between two groups of football fans -- those who support" Colin Kaepernick and the "reasons for his protest and those who don't." DirecTV has "historically shunned refunds for NFL Sunday Ticket once the season gets underway." If the anti-NFL movement "gains momentum, other pay-TV subscribers could ask their provider for refunds to downgrade their programming packages to punt premium channels" such as NFL RedZone and NFL Network. While the NFL continues to take an even-handed stance on the team-level decisions made by its ownership regarding National Anthem reactions, the league has to be keenly aware that once again, it’s year-over-year ratings are down so far in 2017. Losing more fans due to politics is clearly not in the NFL’s best interest long-term.
The NBA preseason is underway, with the regular season set to tip off in less than two weeks. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the NBA is using the preseason to expand its brand across the world. This year, the reigning champion Golden State Warriors played a slate of preseason games in China. The team anticipated fandom to be “exponentially larger” this year than it was back in 2008 and 2013 when it played in China as part of the NBA Global Games. Last year, the Warriors “led the China market” in jersey sales, digital views per game, and followers on Weibo. Apart from the team’s reach in China, individual Warriors players have made an effort to expand their footprint across the country as well. Kevin Durant “visited China annually the past seven years to film promotional spots for Nike,” while Klay Thompson recently signed a 10-year extension with Chinese shoe brand Anta. China hands-down represents the NBA’s largest growth market, so it’s no wonder the league and its top players are focused on the region.
Despite hardly being able to hit the new golf ball he’s being paid to play, Tiger Woods is still moving the needle for Bridgestone Golf, according to CEO Angel Ilagan. In December 2016, Bridgestone Golf signed the golf legend to a multiyear deal to exclusively play with its Bridgestone balls. Yet as a result of ongoing back surgeries, Woods hasn’t played a single game since the deal. Still, Bridgestone still saw record growth for the first half of 2017. “Tiger Woods has been very positive for the game. As you know with golf, we’ve been experiencing declines in the recent years, but with Tiger on board, it’s bringing a lot of consumers back to the game and excitement to the game and to Bridgestone,” Ilagan said on CNBC’s “Power Lunch.” He also insisted that whether Woods plays or not, the golf industry is sure to continue to experience gains. “He actually has more power as an endorser than he does as a player,” the CEO said. He added that Woods is “the Michael Jordan of golf…the single golfer who’s had the greatest impact of bringing consumers into [the game].” Ilagan suggested rightly, if statistics have any meaning, that as long as Woods is around, the golf industry is relatively safe.
Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman have officially been introduced as the new owners of the Miami Marlins, but one thing remains uncertain: the team’s future direction. According to the Miami Herald, while they pledged to make the fans “their No. 1 priority,” the new ownership duo did little to give the public an outline of their intended path for the franchise. Jeter and Sherman are now tasked with turning around one of baseball’s poorest franchises in terms of performance and attendance over the past years. Despite opening up a state-of-the-art ballpark in 2012, “the Marlins have ranked no better than 27th in home attendance during the past five seasons.” “We believe in this market. We believe in the fan base,” said Jeter. “We are focused on bringing the fans back. We want them to get to know us as owners.” Coming from the Yankees, Jeter is accustomed to playing for a winning franchise in the country’s biggest market. This is a new challenge for the MLB legend.
The Topps Company has now sold 1 million Topps NOW baseball cards. The Topps NOW cards, available for only 24 hours exclusively on Topps.com and then never offered again, captured the many thrilling moments throughout the MLB season. “Topps NOW has been a truly innovative program that Topps was thrilled to bring to sports fans and collectors first,” said David Leiner, Topps General Manager and VP of North American Sports & Entertainment. Topps NOW launched in 2016 from the exclusive trading card partner of MLB, commemorating amazing moments such as Mets pitcher Bartolo Colon’s epic home run, Ichiro’s 3,000th MLB career hit, and the captivating World Series title run for the Chicago Cubs. This year’s Topps NOW moments have been led by top rookies such as the Yankees’ Aaron Judge and the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger. The Topps NOW card featuring Judge’s record-breaking 50th home run as a rookie sold 16,138 copies, which broke the Topps NOW single-card record by nearly 5,000 cards. Topps NOW MLB cards will continue throughout the postseason. These innovative cards aren’t simply about breaking records – Topps NOW has given baseball fans a different way to chronicle their most special moments of every modern-day baseball season.
While NBA fans are focused on the season tip off at present, this year’s NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles will not feature the traditional East vs. West matchup, but rather a draft to determine teams. According to ESPN.com, the fan-favorite event is “switching formats” when it arrives at Staples Center, with two captains selecting teams without regard to conference alignment. The fan vote winner from each conference will captain one of the two teams, with 12 players from each conference still being nominated to compete in the game. Five players from each conference will be selected as starters, “with the fan vote being worth 50%, player vote worth 25% and media vote worth 25%. Seven reserves for each team will be picked by each conference's head coaches.” Current NBPA President Chris Paul and Charlotte Hornets Owner Michael Jordan were noted as two highly influential figures in finally changing the format of the game to make it more competitive. From season tip off to the Christmas Day game slate to the All-Star Game, NBA leaders constantly strive to find creative ways in which to better engage their fans, passionate and casual alike.
Vince Tyra has taken the reins of the University of Louisville athletic department less than a week after Athletic Director Tom Jurich was placed on administrative leave. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, an ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball shook up Louisville, with men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino and Jurich getting caught in the middle of the scandal. Tyra is an investor in USL club Louisville City FC, and is now tasked with playing a “key role in helping Louisville navigate an NCAA infractions appeal.” Interim university President Greg Postel noted that he hopes the appeal will be resolved by January, but that may be wishful thinking. “I’m just taking it as I’m filling the role for now until we find out what the long-term fix is,” said Tyra. Apart from investing in Louisville City FC, Tyra is a member of the UL Foundation board, and currently serves as Operating Partner at Southfield Capital, a Connecticut-based private equity firm. The stakes are high for him to display excellent leadership and decisiveness during this difficult time for the university.
One of the stadiums being used in this summer’s World Cup will have an interesting feature: seats outside the facility. According to The Guardian, all World Cup stadiums are required to seat 35,000 in order to host matches, but Russia’s Ekaterinburg Arena was thousands short of that marker. In order to meet the required capacity while preserving the stadium’s iconic exterior, seats have been added behind both goals – outside the stadium. With the changes, Ekaterinburg Arena will now be able to host four group games “taking place at the home of Russian Premier League side Ural.” As of now, the seats will be removed after the World Cup ends, bringing the capacity back down to under 35,000. “In the case of Ekaterinburg, temporary seats are being installed in order to ensure that the renovation work would conserve the historical façade of the stadium and that maintenance costs are reduced after the FIFA World Cup,” commented a FIFA spokesperson. While the configuration is unusual, sports fans worldwide are increasingly accustomed to standing room only sections and watching giant video screens even while attending a live game. Look for the new section to be popular with fans ever searching for the “new, new thing.”
Already one of the world’s largest, most iconic stadiums, Old Trafford will potentially be expanded in the near future. According to the London Daily Mail, Manchester United officials are mulling over viable options to expand Old Trafford’s capacity to 88,000. The current capacity sits at 75,643, so the proposed increase calls for more than 12,000 additional seats to be added. The Sir Bobby Charlton Stand, “formerly known as the South Stand,” is the part of the stadium that seems most likely to receive the facelift. Old Trafford is already Britain’s “largest club stadium,” and this move would almost increase its capacity to that of Wembley Stadium – the England national team’s home that fits 90,000 spectators. ManU is “giving strong consideration” to the long-term expansion plans because a new section for disabled fans – expected to be completed by 2020 – would “lead to a reduction in [current] capacity to around 73,300.” Wembley was also the exclusive longtime “home” of London-based NFL games until Twickenham was added last year; while the NFL’s International Series will also soon expand to Northumberland Park, an expanded Old Trafford could also earn a spot in the NFL rotation.
The PGA’s Tour Waste Management Phoenix Open already boasts one of golf’s most entertaining holes in the sport – the raucous, stadium-like 16th hole – and a similar environment may be coming soon. According to the Arizona Republic, the tournament is planning “new spectator improvements for 2018,” with construction beginning now. The Cove will be built on the 17th hole, which will have “26 to 30 sky boxes, two lounge/bar areas and a play area with ping pong and other games.” In addition to the Cove, tournament Director of Communications Ryan Woodcock confirmed construction of the new Bay Club, which will feature 16 luxury suites, for the 2018 tournament. The renovations are meant to create a more fun atmosphere at the 17th hole, diverting some of the fans from the par 3 16th and spreading the party-like atmosphere across the course. In adding interest to the 17th hole between the excitement of the 16th and the 18th, the Waste Management Open may also be trying to emulate the success of the Honda Classic’s infamous three-hole stretch, the Bear Trap, easily one of the most entertaining trio of finishing holes on the PGA Tour. Kudos to the creative minds in Florida and Arizona alike.
Top Five Tech
1) The largest indoor high definition scoreboard made its debut October 7 for the New Jersey Devils home opener at the Prudential Center in Newark. According to SportTechie, the scoreboard was built by the company Trans-Lux, and weighs over 44 tons. In an effort to enhance the fan experience, the facility has taken new steps to increase their use of technology in a literal big way. Hugh Weber, President of Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment along with the New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center, said this of the scoreboard installation: “Our partnership with Trans-Lux, and the installation of the largest in-arena scoreboard in the world, is another example of our commitment to providing our fans the most dynamic, engaging and technologically-advanced experience in the industry today.” Some of the other features include over 29.6 million pixels across 9,585 square feet of screen, with the scoreboard approximately four stories tall. As we’ve seen in the NFL with widespread interest in mega-scoreboards, we now see the NHL making similar moves. Time will tell if NHL fans are as interested in the feature as their NFL fan brethren.
2) The U.S. Soccer Federation has agreed to a 3-Year deal with Opta, a sports analytics company, to provide the league with data and analysis in order to better train and prepare players for international competition. The technology and data will also be used to scout players and help enhance the fan experience. As U.S. Soccer Spokesman Neil Buethe told SportTechie, “Not only does this significantly improve our analytical capacity at the senior international and professional levels, but for the first time we will create timely and relevant data, on an ongoing basis, around our youth environments.” Opta will provide their analysis for not only the men’s national team, but the women’s team as well. For the next three years, U.S. Soccer will be using analytics to gain a competitive edge in a variety of ways against their international counterparts. The women’s national team has seen success during world-wide competition, but the men’s team largely has not. Hopefully, this new infusion of data and technology can turn the tide for the men’s national team as well.
3) ESports continues to grow on a global scale. The most recent Nielsen report compiling data on the popularity of esports in the U.S., United Kingdom, France, and Germany. In their report, Nielsen actually found that Call of Duty is the most popular esport game. These reports were surprising given the reputation of large esport games such as League of Legends. Additionally, this excerpt from SportTechie clarifies that women are also a part of the esports arena:
“The report also dispels the notion that women aren’t esports fans. In large part, it is a male-dominated industry; however, women represent a significant portion of the fan base of some games. A comparison of fans across the markets reveals that while Counter-Strike might inherently attract a male-centric audience, plenty of women are interested in FIFA.” Overall, we see that the growth of esports is not slowing down anytime soon. As these games grow in the U.S. and overseas, more diverse sets of fans will become a part of the esports base. The next few years will be crucial for the development of consistent esports leagues, but the signs are trending up.
4) SnapChat and UnderArmour are cooperating on creating a app in which a user can train like NBA superstar Stephen Curry. The app, called FITLIGHT, works with athletes to improve their reaction time and quick decision making. The application will feature small disks that users can place on the floor and other points in order to test their peripheral vision and other reaction features. Global Head of Creative Strategy for SnapChat Jeff Miller told Advertising Week, “This is something that is intrinsically connected to the Under Armour brand…connected to one of their star athletes, Steph Curry, and done in an incredibly fun and playful way. So, whether it’s a game, whether it’s a video, you can drive that engagement.” As youth athletes look for more ways to improve their game, technology is playing as large a role as ever. In basketball, height is becoming less of a prerequisite to play. Smaller, more skilled guards like Curry are proving that shooting and speed may be the most important tools to becoming a star basketball player, and the FITLIGHT app clearly seeks to capitalize on those attributes.
5) The NHL is expanding its use of instant replay by implementing iPad video reviews available on team benches during games. The league started allowing iPads on the bench for mid-game review during last season’s postseason, and has been approved for extended use this year. Not everyone is in complete agreement about using the iPad review system. Arizona Coyotes Video Coach Steve Peters shared this with the Associated Press regarding the potential overuse of replay: “It almost becomes too much. We don’t want every player coming over the boards after every shift and wanting to see things and wanting to review what they just finished on the ice. We still want our players to play. You don’t want that to become a crutch. You want it to become a tool.” While overuse and slowing the pace of play are real concerns, the increased use of technology can only help the NHL in helping advance the sport as a whole. In the next few years, we will see teams and players rely on video replay during games like we have not seen previously. With the use of video replay expanding in the game, the NHL could also be looking at other ways to infuse technology into the sport very soon.
Christian Djoos made a very successful debut with the Capitals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Have the Caps finally found a player they can rely on for the third pair? Also, Tom Wilson's four-game suspension is up. What can fans expect in his return? JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss, plus they give their take on Sidney Crosby's hit on Braden Holtby. Dirty or not?
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