1. Shortly after midnight Monday in the United Kingdom, The Masters got a new champion, and Britain celebrated its first green jacket since Sir Nick Faldo last donned it 20 years ago. Four-time European Tour winner Danny Willett joins two-time winner Faldo as the only Britons to ever win at Augusta National. Willett, OWGR No. 12 before his Masters victory on Sunday, turned pro in 2008 and claimed $12,271,943 in career earnings before his Masters payout of $1.8 million and his second win of the year following Dubai Desert Classic, pocketing over a half million for the win. Willett almost didn’t even attend The Masters due to the birth of his son, but it’s a good thing he did for agent Chubby Chandler of ISM and sponsors Callaway, Audemars Piguet and Malaysian hotel chain Saujana. After his obligatory round of American talk show interviews, Willett plans on joining the PGA Tour next year. Willett stemmed a British golf drought that pales in comparison to tennis, where it took Andy Murray 77 years to follow Briton Fred Perry’s Wimbledon win.
2. Last week, Las Vegas’s newest attraction opened: T-Mobile Arena. The state-of-the-art arena played host to The Killers, Wayne Newton, Shamir and more than 20,000 fans on its opening night of action. Designed by Populous, T-Mobile Arena is a joint venture between MGM Resorts and AEG. The arena has the largest arena capacity in all of Vegas and is looking toward attracting an NHL and/or NBA team to the city. Dan Beckerman, AEG President and CEO, spoke about the potential for such a venture, saying, “We are confident that T-Mobile Arena will transform the entertainment landscape in Las Vegas, further elevating the city's status as one of the iconic sports and entertainment destinations in the world.” While the NBA has no plans to add a franchise anytime soon, the NHL is currently exploring expansion or relocation options in Quebec and Las Vegas.
3. Fans flooded to Tampa to experience this year’s edition of the Frozen Four. With star-studded Boston College and North Dakota squaring off against Quinnipiac and Denver, respectively, ESPN set up for what promised to be an epic weekend of hockey. John Buccigross and Barry Melrose called all three games, with Quint Kessenich reporting from between the benches. ESPN 2 televised both semifinals, with the finals switching over to ESPN in primetime. On the production side of things, innovations aired throughout the duration of the weekend-long broadcast. Despite Quinnipiac coming into the tournament with a No. 1 ranking as the top seed in the field and the most wins of any team this year, it did not have nearly as impressive of a resume as the other three finalists: Denver, North Dakota and Boston College had combined for 62 Frozen Four appearances, 19 national championships and 92 NCAA berths. Make that 20 championships, after North Dakota’s resounding win.
4. Noting the social media stalwart’s widespread reach to sports fans and its international presence, the NFL chose Twitter for its “Thursday Night Football” streaming package. Contrary to most deals nowadays, Twitter did not win the rights by offering the most money to the league. NFL Executive Vice President/Media Brian Rolapp commented on the unique decision to the Boston Globe, saying, “This is not a deal where we took the highest check; we had other things we wanted to accomplish here. We wanted to bring in a new audience and make it complementary to television, not disruptive.” Twitter’s strong international presence goes hand-in-hand with the NFL’s expanding International Series. The successful shift toward NFL games streamed digitally was first seen this past year when Yahoo streamed the Bills-Jaguars game live online. Twitter will try to expand on Yahoo’s success in streaming’s NFL debut.
5. You can't break curses on an empty stomach. The culinary lineup at Wrigley Field this season is looking like a home run. The folks providing the concessions at Wrigley — like the team — didn't sit back and bask in the on- and off-field glory of last year. So what new food can baseball fans expect at The Friendly Confines this year? The Gilbert's Grill Cart is new on the stadium's main concourse where they'll serve three new sausage selections from suburban Wheaton. Fans in the Budweiser Bleachers can try a twist on the Bloody Mary with a celery salt and poppy seed rim. The fun's with the skewer, which features a mini Vienna Beef red hot and garnishes, served in a souvenir mason jar. Finally, Chicago chocolatier Fannie May is now the sponsor of the area formerly known as the Budweiser Bleacher Suite, targeting corporate groups, with all-inclusive food and beverage package. We have only two words: sweet suite.
6. After realizing that 55 percent of rookies on NFL rosters are actually undrafted, the NFL has decided to put an end to the league’s annual rookie symposium, replacing it with a more inclusive alternative. In the past, only drafted players were included in the preseason rookie meetings, but this new program will be hosted and customized by each team, allowing undrafted players to get the same education as their drafted counterparts, according to USA Today. NFC rookies will go through the new program from June 20 to 22 and AFC rookies from June 22 to 24. The NFL "will work with team player engagement directors and provide outlines, content, presenters and an expense budget to cover mandatory topics." Those topics include "social responsibility, benefits, mental health and respect at work." Teams will also have the option to discuss “flex” topics if the league signs off on them beforehand. This new model will allow each team to accurately pinpoint its needs and address those of its new hires — a better model all around.
7. The Kansas City Royals are finally looking royal after receiving their 2015 World Series rings. Sparing no expense, the franchise chose a ring featuring two types of gold and nearly 10 karats of gemstones, according to the Kansas City Star. Custom-cut blue sapphires were used to create the KC logo, outlined in yellow gold; the words “World Champions” appear at the top and bottom of the ring in yellow gold, and a cluster of round diamonds are set on a field of 14-karat white gold that make up the ring’s facade. Each player received a customized ring with his name featured above a silhouette of Kauffman Stadium and its Crown Vision board, along with MLB and Royals logos. About 700 rings were distributed. Players, coaches, field staff, full-time front-office members, scouts, minor-league instructors and staff were among those fortunate enough to bring the gems home, according to Royals Senior VP/Business Operations Kevin Uhlich.
8. Pending a league Board of Governors vote, the Toronto Raptors plan on implementing jersey advertisements for the 2017-18 season. MLSE executives have set a $4 million to $5 million target price for companies interested in taking out jersey space. The vote is expected to take place among the BOG later this month, and if successful, ads the same size as the Kia ad that appeared on the NBA All-Star Game jerseys will adorn Raptors jerseys. During their sales pitches, MLSE staff "discussed prospect ads of about two-and-a-half inches in diameter," but MLSE has made the case that the ads are valued to be as much as $5 million per season "because officials are concerned that marketers might try to use contract values secured by smaller-market teams as comparables." If approved, this would mark a first for the NBA. Despite soccer leagues across the world using ads as jersey centerpieces, the “Big Four” American sports leagues have been unwavering in their resistance to putting ads on regulation game jerseys.
9. With golf set to makes its first appearance in the Olympics since 1904, the leaders of golf’s major championships announced that gold-medal winners at the men’s and women’s Olympic golf tournaments in Rio this summer will receive exemptions in their respective major championships the following year. The gold-medal winner on the men’s side will get a one-year exemption to qualify for the Masters, U.S. Open, The Open and PGA Championship. The silver- and bronze-medal winners will be exempt from local qualifying for the U.S. Open. Golfweek noted that this move to “create additional invitations or exemptions seems more symbolic than substantive, because most of the Olympians will be determined off the world rankings, the same rankings that already are used to determine exemptions into golf's top events." Despite that claim, golf’s Olympic return is set to dramatically elevate the sport on a global platform.
10. Despite Sepp Blatter’s permanent ban from international soccer, investigations into some of the world’s top soccer-organizing committees have not subsided. The Swiss police, unannounced, raided UEFA HQ, according to the London Telegraph. The raid was motivated by the suspicion of criminal mismanagement relating to the sale of TV rights by Europe’s top soccer-organizing body. While no individuals were targeted in the raid, the Swiss police seized details on a contract signed by UEFA’s former general secretary. UEFA recently sold rights for Champions League match to an Argentinean pair of men who own Cross Training, only to see those rights “allegedly resold to Ecuadorean broadcaster Teleamazonas for three times as much.” The new allegations follow Amnesty International’s report on the inhumane conditions of migrant workers preparing for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and on the heels of new FIFA President Gianni Infantino being dragged into the Panama Papers corruption scandal claims.
11. The Oakland Raiders are in the market for a new home, and team owner Mark Davis’ visit to Las Vegas further demonstrated that need. Davis toured UNLV’s Sam Boyd Stadium to evaluate if the facility “could serve as a temporary home” for the team, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The stadium opened in 1971, but underwent a significant renovation in 1999 to install a new press box, luxury suites, club seats and other amenities. Despite the stadium’s current capacity of 35,000 — a number far too small to ever host an NFL team for an entire regular season — that number could be boosted by as much as 10,000 if the north end zone were to be expanded. This visit marked Davis’ second trip to Las Vegas in the past three months, as pressure is mounting for the Raiders to find a new stadium in the face of little progress at home. Las Vegas has received "mixed sentiments" as an NFL option. Some owners "seem in favor of that market, while others say that moving there would be difficult."
12. With another victory for the history-chasing Golden State Warriors, beating the 1995-96 Bulls' marker of 72-10 is now looking like promising for Steph Curry and Co. On the heels of a 125-117 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Warriors saw their chances of reaching 73 wins take a big hit. What used to stand at over a 55-percent chance of reaching the historic win total shrunk to a mere 13.4-percent likelihood. However, after defeating the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, the Warriors tied the Bulls with 72 wins. The big question now is whether the Warriors will pursue the record full bore or rest their players for another championship run. On Wednesday, the Warriors face Memphis at home and face history.
13. Deloitte has renewed its sponsorship of the USOC, staying on as the official professional services sponsor of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams through the Rio 2016, PyeongChang 2018 and Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Deloitte, regarded as one of the top consulting firms in the world, has and will continue to help the USOC set long-term strategy, promote sport and field the strongest Team USA possible during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Across advisory, tax and consulting platforms, Deloitte helps the USOC on a multitude of levels. Diana O’Brien, chief marketing officer for Deloitte, commented on her company’s sponsorship, stating, “Our ongoing sponsorship helps athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic Games successfully compete on the global stage. It’s why we are passionate about our continued support of the U.S. Olympic Committee.” The partnership began back in 2009, when the USOC signed Deloitte on as a trusted advisor.
14. In its sixth-annual edition, LeBron James came out on top of Horrow Sports/MVPIndex Power 100 — a list of the 100 most powerful athletes on and off the field. For 2015-16, on-field attributes comprise 50 percent of the athletes’ power. The other 50 percent is based entirely on a key off-field attribute: social-media presence. Combining on-field and off-field attributes yields the power score. Athletes are then ranked based on power to find the top 100. Rounding out the top five are Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (No. 2), world No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic (No. 3), tennis superstar Serena Williams (No. 4) and Oklahoma Thunder forward Kevin Durant (No. 5). The 2015-16 POWER 100 focuses on long-established sports and the U.S. market specifically. Key indicator statistics were used as predictors of performance per sport, and statistical weight varied with impact. For sports lacking indicator statistics, such as tennis and golf, relevant rankings were used. In the current sports marketplace, such sophisticated metrics are critical to major sports business decisions.
15. Coordinated by Israel Bonds Insurance & Real Estate Divisions, Guggenheim Insurance and Horrow Sports Ventures, the Sports Panel Discussion and Luncheon brings together some of the most prominent names in sports business under one roof in Chicago. Headlined by keynote speaker Jerry Colangelo, Chairman of USA Basketball, and Israel Unity Award Recipient Dan Towriss, Senior Managing Director of Guggenheim Insurance, the panel will discuss key sports industry issues and how they impact our community, all themed around a major challenge: Within the embarrassment of sports riches that is Chicago, how do teams attract fans to live sports and entertainment events? Disparate voices chiming in together to discuss major sports issues of the day can only mean one thing: progress.