Other Sports

Pitcher: Life 'destroyed' by slayings of wife, son, in-law

tlmd_police_line_generic722.jpg
NBC Sports

Pitcher: Life 'destroyed' by slayings of wife, son, in-law

KEELING, Va. (AP) -- Tampa Bay Rays minor leaguer Blake Bivens said his "heart was turned to ash" when his wife, 1-year-old son and mother-in-law were slain this week.

"My life as I knew it is destroyed," the 24-year-old pitcher wrote Thursday night in an Instagram post, his first public statement since the slayings. "The pain my family and I feel is unbearable and cannot be put into words. I shake and tremble at the thought of our future without them."

Bivens flew from a road trip back to southern Virginia when he learned of Tuesday's tragedy. He was accompanied by Montgomery Biscuits manager Morgan Ensberg.

"It was awful," Ensberg said. "Blake is an incredibly strong man. He's an incredibly strong man, and he went through just a rotation of tearing up, and then he would shake and then he would just stare.

"I didn't let him out of my sight."

The 18-year-old brother of Bivens' wife has been charged with first-degree murder in the slayings, which have shocked his coaches, teammates and the community where his family lived.

"You don't wish this on any community, any family," Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor said. "We're a small community. It affects us all."

Bivens posted a series of photos of his wife Emily, 14-month-old son Cullen and mother-in-law Joan Bernard.

"Emily, my sweetheart, you are the best wife and mother this world has ever seen," he wrote. "You made me into the man I am today and you loved me with all of my flaws. You brought our precious baby boy into this world and made our family complete. Your love and kindness changed countless lives, including mine."

Of Cullen, Bivens wrote "I can't breathe without you here" and "I finally understood what love was when you were born and I would have done anything for you."

Court documents released Thursday revealed new details in the slayings but did not explain what could have driven 18-year-old Matthew Bernard to allegedly kill his sister, nephew and mother.

In Montgomery, the Biscuits -- a Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays -- painted "BIV" on the ground behind home plate before a game against Pensacola. They were to hold a moment of silence before the game, with another planned before the Rays' home game Friday against the Cleveland Indians.

"Nobody's thinking about baseball," Ensberg said.

Montgomery pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein remembers pregame moments when Bivens would walk over to see his wife and hold Cullen.

Biscuits pitcher Ryan Thompson said Bivens' family was on his mind "all the time."

"His family was everything to him," said an emotional Thompson, who described Bivens as a close friend with a "hilarious" sense of humor.

"He never lets the game get in the way of who he is as a human being. He's such a great guy, and something like this couldn't happen to a better human being," Thompson said.

According to the complaint filed against Bernard, the teenager's rampage began Tuesday morning at a neighbor's house. Bernard punched the neighbor in the arm and then ran away, police said.

The neighbor then heard gunshots at the house next door, police said. The neighbor drove to the house and found a woman's body in the driveway. Inside, she found the other two bodies.

Officers found two victims with gunshot wounds to the head and rifle shell casings near all three bodies.

A rifle was found in a wooded area behind the house and a sledgehammer with blood was found in the garage, the court documents said.

The criminal complaint did not offer any motive for the killings, and authorities have declined to comment.

After the bodies were discovered, a manhunt brought as many as 100 officers to Keeling, a tiny community near the North Carolina border.

Bernard emerged naked from the woods about four hours later, running past TV cameras to a church parking lot, where he was recorded trying to choke a church caretaker.

An officer used pepper spray and struck Bernard with a baton before he was captured, officials said.

Bernard banged his head against the cage in a police vehicle after being taken into custody and was taken to a hospital for treatment, police said. He was released and was in jail Thursday, where he was being held without bail and kept on suicide watch, police said.

A "celebration of life" service for the slain family members is planned for Saturday.

A vigil was held at The River Church in Danville, Virginia, Wednesday night. Senior pastor Jackie Poe led those in attendance in prayer for the Bivens and Bernard families.

Avery Stevens, pastor of Keeling Baptist Church, said he was in his office where he also works as an insurance agent when he saw the television coverage of Bernard's capture near his church.

"This is a small, rural community, pretty quiet most of the time like most small, rural communities. But the fact of the matter is, it can happen anywhere, and right there at the doorstep," he said.

"Pray for the family," he said. "Praying for the community. Praying for healing."

11.15.19 Rick Horrow interviews PepsiCo Vice President of Marketing Todd Kaplan

rings_1920_olympics16.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

11.15.19 Rick Horrow interviews PepsiCo Vice President of Marketing Todd Kaplan

Edited by Tanner Simkins

In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick interviews PepsiCo Vice President of Marketing Todd Kaplan and takes you through the biggest sports business stories of the week.

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST HERE

1. Sports investor Bruin Sports Capital received $600 million more to spend. According to the New York Times, Bruin Sports Capital is a sports investment and management company that invests in the technologies of media, marketing, and data surrounding sports. After raising $600 million from two even larger investors – CVC Capital Partners and the Jordan Company – Bruin Sports will be able to expand its portfolio of investments, which already include data analytics, media and streaming companies, and a fledgling drone-racing league. Currently, Bruin, led by Sport Business Handbook contributor George Pyne, has nearly $1 billion invested, including significant stakes in six companies across the modern sports landscape, from sports media start-ups such as The Athletic to a live-event provider selling high-end trips to events like the Super Bowl and the NFL draft. Overall, Bruin Sports Capital’s guiding philosophy is that people under 40 watch and consume sports and media in radically different ways from their parents – and this is likely how the strategic company will invest its newly-acquired $600 million: toward attracting future generations of sports and tech fans.

2. The NBA altered its bylaws prior to the start of the 2019-2020 season to allow teams to sell sponsorship packages outside of the U.S. and Canada for the first time. League rules previously prevented teams from participating in any ad campaign or sponsorship event outside of their home market. However, NBA chief innovation officer Amy Brooks told JohnWallStreet that the companies currently participating in the league’s jersey patch program – two-thirds of which have an international presence – indicated that the time was right “to grow [the NBA] brand and our partners’ brands globally.” Loosening bylaws surrounding international marketing rights should help the league grow revenues and connect with fans in other regions. The Washington Wizards were the first NBA franchise to take advantage of the rule change, signing an agreement with Japanese tech conglomerate NEC. The Wizards made Rui Hachimura the first Japanese player ever selected in the first round of the NBA Draft in 2019.

 

3. Airbnb is set to announce a global sponsorship with the International Olympic Committee running through the Los Angeles 2028 Games, according to SportsBusiness Journal. The deal would represent a significant shift in the home-sharing platform’s sports marketing strategy as Airbnb prepares for its IPO in 2020. According to SBJ, the deal would focus on Airbnb’s “experiences” strand, which allows hosts to offer access to their hobbies, skills, or expertise as part of offering out their homes for rent. The arrangement is not intended to infringe on the hotel and hospitality business that Olympic organizers require to stage the Olympics. Recent partners joining the IOC’s global TOP program have made significant investments, with a joint Mengniu Dairy and Coca-Cola deal back in June being valued at $3 billion over 11 years. Currently, 13 companies comprise the TOP program, getting category-exclusive rights to every Games, the IOC, and national Olympic committees.

11.1.19 Rick Horrow interviews Alex Saratsis

daily_line_xfl_logos.png
NBC Sports

11.1.19 Rick Horrow interviews Alex Saratsis

Edited by Tanner Simkins

In the latest edition of Rick Horrow's Sports Business Podcast, Rick interviews Senior Director of Operations Alex Saratsis and breaks down the biggest sports business stories of the past week.

LISTEN TO THE FULL PODCAST EPISODE HERE

1. A new football league unveils its inaugural schedule. The XFL unveiled its 2020 schedule which will serve up a 10-week regular season that starts February 8 at 2 pm with the DC Defenders hosting the Seattle Dragons on ABC, followed by the Los Angeles Wildcats traveling to Houston for a game against the Roughnecks at 5 pm on FOX. According to Cynopsis Sports, the eight-team league is divided into two four-team divisions, East and West. The XFL East features the DC Defenders, New York Guardians, St. Louis BattleHawks, and the Tampa Bay Vipers while the Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats, and Seattle Dragons comprise the XFL West. Overall, ABC and ESPN will combine to televise 22 games during the 2020 XFL season, concluding with the inaugural XFL Championship on April 26. ABC will televise 14 games with most telecasts starting at 2p on Saturdays and both ESPN and ESPN2 will combine to carry eight games, all on Sundays. The XFL season is being broadcast after the end of the NFL season which finishes in early February, but the XFL needs to be careful to not make the same mistakes as the AAF, which collapsed after just three months into its inaugural season in 2019.

2. National Women’s Soccer League inks an exclusive deal with Octagon for media rights and marketing consulting. According to Sports Video Group, Octagon will provide comprehensive media rights valuation, sales strategy services, and work directly with NWSL executives to secure and amplify new media distribution opportunities. In addition, Octagon’s Marketing division will assist the league with brand marketing, asset development, sponsorship valuation, and fan engagement insights to help generate increases in overall reach and revenue for the league and its teams. Featuring more than 200 of the world’s best professional soccer players, including U.S. Women’s National Team members and two-time World Cup Champions Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and Alex Morgan, as well as international stars Marta, Christine Sinclair, and Sam Kerr, the NWSL is highlighted by 23 current FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions and 58 FIFA Women’s World Cup team members. Budweiser has also launched a campaign focused on finding the NWSL new sponsors as more money is being put into women’s soccer across the globe.

3. The sports world aims to tackle ocean plastic pollution. According to SportTechie, a research expedition embarked from the southwest coast of the U.K., on a two-year mission to sail westward around the world. The crew aboard the S.V. TravelEdge, a 73-foot floating laboratory, will travel 38,000-nautical-miles and cross all five of the world’s major ocean gyres, regions where rotating currents lead to the accumulation of floating plastic waste. The 300 women joining the all-female rotating team will investigate to find solutions to plastic pollution. The “eXXpedition Round The World” is being organized by sailor Emily Penn, who is among a growing group of athletes and people connected to the sports world that is advocating for and taking action to protect the environment. Another goal of Penn’s journey is to create a global network of ambassadors who can advocate helping solve the problem. She has been working with a larger environmental organization called 11th Hour Racing over the last few years to give talks and run workshops for other sailors to learn how they can play a role in tackling plastic pollution. By having athletes tackle environmental problems head-on, they can use their social influence to be advocates for policy and lifestyle change.