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12.9.19 Rick Horrow sits down with Julie Edelman, Global Client Partner of Google

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USA TODAY Sports

12.9.19 Rick Horrow sits down with Julie Edelman, Global Client Partner of Google

Edited by Tanner Simkins

In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick sits down with  Julie Edelman, Global Client Partner of Google.

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST HERE

1. It's hard to believe, but we have reached the end of yet another decade. And in the business of sport, it’s been a busy one. Here are Rick Horrow’s top 15 sport business/law trends and issues of the decade just ending. Stay tuned throughout December for his top 15 sports technology and media picks, as well as his most influential philanthropic/corporate social responsibility actions in sports, and an early look at the year and decade ahead.

2. State by state, legal sports wagering outside of Nevada sportsbooks takes hold, with massive business implications. On May 14, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the federal ban on sports betting. Since the ruling, 19 states have legalized the practice, with Colorado, Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Tennessee passing legislation this year. Additionally, 24 states have pending legislation. Legal sports wagering has already had a profound effect on virtually all American professional sports, casting a wider fan base net, spurring innovation in sports media and e-commerce, and birthing an entire cottage industry of related new companies. Sports teams are embracing fans who wager – Monumental Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Washington Wizards and Capitals, is only the latest ownership group to install a sportsbook in their venue. And tens of millions of tax dollars on net sports betting proceeds are adding income streams to state and community coffers. 

 

3. College football adds a real playoff. After years of avoiding adding yet another game to the college football season via the auspice of the Bowl Championship Series – a selection system that created five existing bowl matchups involving ten of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision’s top-ranked teams – the NCAA in the 2014-2015 season finally embraced the College Football Playoff (CFP), a bracket tournament between the top four teams in the country as determined by a selection committee, culminating in a championship game at a neutral site. While the payout for the semifinal teams is a modest $6 million, the playoff format delivers tens of millions in additional revenue to the schools, conferences, and contract and access bowl host cities – a handful of which, including New Orleans this year, get to double down on hosting duties and economic impact.

 

4. After 20 long years, Los Angeles gets an NFL team back in 2016. In fact, it gets two. Largely thanks to billionaire and St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke, Los Angeles has now positioned itself to be the center of the sports universe for the next decade and likely longer. The two-decade span in which Los Angeles lacked an NFL team was brought on in part by the obsolescence of Los Angeles’s existing stadiums, the unwillingness of the NFL to add expansion teams after 2002 (when the Houston Texans premiered) or relocate any other teams, and an inability to agree on a plan to build a new stadium, despite several proposals that were vetted but never landed a team willing to relocate under the developers’ terms. Kroenke’s privately-funded SoFi Stadium opens next July with a Taylor Swift concert and will house both the Rams and the Chargers. Additionally, the $4.963 billion venue will host Super Bowl LVI in 2022, the CFP National Championship Game in 2023, and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. L.A. is now synonymous with mega sports events.

 

5. Rob Manfred became the 10th Major League Baseball Commissioner during a period of labor peace and unrest in almost everything else. At the beginning of the decade, baseball was still healing from its steroid era, a span in the 1990s-2000s where home runs were plenty and performance-enhancing drug testing scarce. Former Commissioner Bud Selig was largely credited with cleaning up the sport, and in 2015 Manfred inherited a league that was in decent baseball shape but desperately trying to stay relevant to the next generation of fans. Slow play was an issue…but a pitch clock somehow made games even slower. PED bats were gone, but the balls appeared to be corked. And Manfred’s decade ends with a nasty sign-stealing scandal involving the World Series champion Houston Astros. One bright spot in baseball continues to be its vast minor league system, which ensures pro baseball is played throughout America’s smaller communities – MiLB saw attendance in 2019 surpassed 44 million fans annually. As baseball’s Winter Meetings convene next week in San Diego, MiLB President Pat O’Connor and industry experts present a solution to improved facilities that rests in three key areas: time, money, and space.

1.24.20 Rick Horrow sits down with LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan

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USA TODAY Sports

1.24.20 Rick Horrow sits down with LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan

Edited by Tanner Simkins

In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick Horrow sits down with LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan and takes you through the biggest sports business stories of the week. 

Family-friendly Gainbridge LPGA event offers something for everyone. Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio kicks off this week with 108 of the world’s best female golfers teeing it up in the four-day championship, January 23-26. Event officials have outlined additional family-friendly and affordable tournament week offerings for the whole community. The tournament kicks off on Monday with the Gainbridge Junior Golf Clinic at Osprey Point Golf Course. LPGA Players and certified golf instructors will be on hand to offer free golf instruction to kids ages 5 and up. On Tuesday, #GainbridgeLPGA is teaming up with Versant Health for a Women’s Leadership Summit that will feature a panel headlined by female business leaders, a fireside chat with a LPGA Tour pro, and presentations from pioneering female leaders. Next weekend, A.D. Henderson University School will offer free onsite STEM activities for kids of all ages. “Gainbridge is committed to making sure the week is affordable for the entire family and that there is something for everyone, beyond golf,” said Lesley Baker, Executive Director. “We are thrilled the tournament is able to offer several programs throughout the week in year one, and we invite everyone in the community to come out and experience the event.”

 

NHL All-Star Game takes the ice and the streets in St. Louis. The NHL has lined up its roster of activations for the 2020 NHL Fan Fair, the official fan festival of the2020 Honda NHL All-Star Weekend, running January 23-26 in St. Louis. Partners gearing up for the event include Enterprise, Honda, New Amsterdam Vodka, Truly, Discover, Dunkin’, Bud Light, GEICO, Great Clips, MassMutual, and SAP. Highlights of the four-day, family-friendly festival include autograph sessions featuring former and current NHL All-Stars; a Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit featuring the St. Louis Blues; NHL memorabilia and trophy displays, including the Stanley Cup; and the sixth annual NHL Mascot Showdown featuring all 29 NHL Mascots. Additionally, the NHL and Green Day will build on their multiyear partnership with the band’s headlining performance at the 2020 Honda NHL All-Star Game on January 25. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees will perform outside Enterprise Center shortly before they take the stage inside during the second intermission presented by Ticketmaster. The performance – as always, aimed at expanding hockey’s demographic reach – will be televised as part of the live All-Star Game broadcast on NBC and throughout Canada. 

 

The WNBA and its players’ union have come to terms on a new eight-year collective bargaining agreement that includes higher salaries, improved family benefits, and better travel accommodations. This represents a turning point for women’s basketball and could ultimately lead to a substantial shift in how female athletes — across all sports — are compensated. The average WNBA cash compensation will reach nearly $130,000, and top players will be able to earn upwards of $500,000. Players will also receive a full salary while on maternity leave, and an annual child care stipend of $5,000. WNBA teams, which provide housing, will now guarantee two-bedroom apartments for players with children. And while players will still have to fly commercial, they’ll finally get their own individual hotel rooms. “We believe it’s a groundbreaking and historic deal. I’m proud of the players; they bargained hard, they unified, they brought attention to so many important topics,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. The implications of this agreement reach beyond basketball into the larger workplace, at a time when women are demanding increased pay and benefits, on their merit and as a challenge to historically unequal pay.

 

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred came down hard on the Houston Astros last week for illegally stealing signs in 2017. Penalties Manfred imposed included a $5 million fine, the forfeitures of several top draft picks, and one-year suspensions from the game for manager A.J. Hinch and GM Jeff Luhnow – who were subsequently fired by Astros owner Jim Crane. While the Astros have suffered irrevocable damage as a result of this investigation, ripple effects extend far beyond Houston. Former Astros bench coach and Boston manager Alex Cora was also fired by the Red Sox for his involvement in the Houston sign-stealing, and former Astros player Carlos Beltran, whom the Mets hired as manager just days before the first sign-stealing story broke, was canned and thus had the shortest tenure in Mets history. The sign-stealing scandal also likely extends beyond Boston and Houston, and the league will have no choice but to pursue all future leads now that the precedent has been set. While MLB’s strict punishment will likely help dissuade teams from breaking the rules, further action is still required to quell public concerns about cheating.

The Big Twenty: The Mystics win the 2019 WNBA championship

The Big Twenty: The Mystics win the 2019 WNBA championship

For the next three weeks, NBC Sports Washington will be rolling out the 20 biggest stories in DMV sports in the past 20 years. Here is No. 18.

Not all championships are equal.

Every title tale has its own unique wrinkle that differentiates their story from those that preceded it and the ones that will eventually follow. 

The Washington Mystics 2019 WNBA Championship had its own nuances that will likely never receive the same attention of the other DC championships.

But let’s make it clear, the Mystics championship was far different than the Capitals' Stanley Cup Championship in 2018 and the Nationals' World Series title that occurred concurrently. 

Unlike the Capitals, the Mystics were not a team that had a decade of success that was yearning to breakthrough. Unlike the Nationals, they were not an underdog, where the team had overcome obstacle after obstacle and break through walls to get to the title.

The Mystics were just good – check that – historically exceptional when they won the franchise’s first championship. They weren’t just a championship team, they shattered records and re-defined how the game is played in the WNBA.

No team could get in their way.

They were led by one of the best basketball players in the world in Elena Delle Donne. Who, despite having to wear a knee brace, a face mask and wrap around her back for three separate injuries, won the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player award en route to her first league title. While doing so, she also finished the year as a member of the elite 50-40-90 club (field goal, 3-point and free throw percentages) that only eight other basketball players, men or women, have accomplished in a single season. 

But the rest of the roster is how they won the championship. Kristi Toliver brought the championship pedigree, Natasha Cloud brought the swag, Ariel Atkins and Aerial Powers brought the youthful energy.

Emma Meesseman, the original Mystic of the entire group (and arguably the second-best player on the team), came off the bench.

Their coach Mike Thibault was one of the most accomplished in WNBA history.

What they accomplished a year removed from falling short in the WNBA Finals was staggering. ‘Run it Back’ was their motto, but it was a stampede on their path to glory. 

Here’s just a sample of their record-breaking year:

  1. 13 victories by 20 points or more (WNBA record)
  2. Eight victories by 25 points or more (WNBA record)
  3. Beat the Connecticut Sun by 43 points (4th largest margin of victory ever)
  4. 316 3-pointers made (WNBA record)
  5. 89.3 points per game (3rd best all-time)
  6. 21.8 assists per game (WNBA record)
  7. Offensive rating of 113.2 (WNBA record)
     

There are more, but the point has been made. There are not enough words to describe how dominant this Mystics team was.