15 TO WATCH/5 SPORTS TECH/POWER OF SPORTS 5: RICK HORROW’S TOP SPORTS/BUSINESS/TECH/PHILANTHROPY ISSUES FOR THE WEEK OF FEB. 19
with Jamie Swimmer & Tanner Simkins
1. The ongoing Winter Olympics in PyeongChang are being praised for their efficiency and fluidity through the first half of competitions. According to CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, South Korea was more than ready to host the global event. “They are so competent, they are so polite,” commented Quintanilla on the Korean organizing committee. “The Games have basically gone off without a hitch.” While Olympics operations are being lauded, weather has been one factor that organizing committee has been unable to control. In the first few days alone, several notable events were postponed or rescheduled, including Nordic combined, biathlon, and primetime Alpine skiing. On top of that, “more than 60 tents were damaged by winds with a speed of seven meters per second as organizers warned of flying debris.” Sixteen people, mostly journalists, staffers, and reporters, were injured in the event. Another factor the PyeongChang organizing committee hasn’t been able to control despite giving out thousands of free tickets – all those empty seats showing up on camera at virtually every event.
2. The United States is on track to record its worst Winter Olympics performance in two decades with its current showing in PyeongChang. According to Yahoo! Sports, through one week of events, Team USA had already fallen far behind the likes of Norway, Germany, the Netherlands, and Canada in the overall medal race. Back in 1998 at the Nagano Games in Japan, the U.S. finished sixth in the medal table after claiming “just 13 in 68 events,” good enough for 6.4% of available medals. Since then, Team USA has never finished outside the top two in the race for glory and has “never claimed fewer than 9.5 perfect of podium spots.” A few notable American athletes, such as Mikaela Shiffrin and Nathan Chen, were medal favorites heading into their respective competitions but delivered disappointing performances. This has resulted in the U.S. being on “an even lower pace than seen at Nagano.” The lack of medals also means a dearth of emerging stars – expect brands to fight long and hard for deals with U.S. snowboarders Chloe Kim and Red Gerard and women’s hockey team captain Meghan Duggan, among the brightest standouts in an otherwise lackluster American effort.
3. The absence of NHL players at the PyeongChang Olympics has been apparent. According to Yahoo! Sports, the opening days of Olympic men’s hockey were lackluster at best without the world’s top players. Every four years, the Olympic hockey tournament promises to be an “electrifying, star-studded event with NHL players.” But this year in South Korea, tournament rosters are filled with minor league journeymen and young players, prompting journalists to call the competition “unrecognizable compared to what it once was.” The United States opened their Olympic campaign with a disappointing 3-2 loss to Slovenia and Norway beat Sweden 4-0 in what would have likely been a competitive match had NHL players been there. “It’s bad that the NHL guys are not here,” said Russian winger Ilya Kovalchuk, who currently plays in the KHL after spending 11 years in the NHL. “All the best players should play here because it’s a big event.” The NHL’s absence has been a boon for women’s hockey, however, as the USA’s gold medal match against Canada on Monday night will undoubtedly become the marquee hockey event of these Games.
4. To compensate for Russian athletes having to wear neutral colors and play under the Olympic flag, Russian fans have brought an extra sense of pride and noise to PyeongChang to show their compatriots support. According to the AP, Russian fans have dressed in the country’s red, blue, and white colors and have shown a great sense of patriotism thus far. “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” the official title given to the permitted competitors from Russia, have been worried about breaking IOC sanctions that say they will not protest the ruling that turned Team Russia into OAR. As a result, the OAR delegation has been unwilling to take pictures with fans bearing Russian flags. Still, Russian fans have come out in full force in South Korea, “loud and proud” at events like hockey, biathlon, and figure skating, “wrapped in flags and chanting in Russian.” However, a Russian curler has been accused of doping and is currently under investigation, putting the entire OAR delegation under an unwanted spotlight. If convicted, the outcome could taint all OAR efforts.
5. Looking ahead, Tokyo2020 has already surpassed domestic sponsorship revenue for all prior Olympics. According to JohnWallStreet, the IOC is reporting domestic sponsors have already committed to spending $2.91 billion on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, three times their initial projections, with more partners expected to join the program. With the Games still more than two years away, 47 brands are already on board, and that figure does not include long-term IOC sponsors like Bridgestone, Panasonic, and Toyota. For comparison purposes, London raised just $1.1 billion for the 2012 Summer Games. Rio reported a figure that was slightly higher, but corruption linked to those Games puts the final total in question. The success of corporate sponsorship sales means that Tokyo’s organizing committee will be able to cover their projected budget of $5.6 billion “without recourse to public funding.” Japanese and Tokyo metropolitan governments will pay the remaining $7 billion. It’s worth noting that since 1960, the median cost overrun for Olympic cities has been 90%. PyeongChang is expected to go 61.5% over their projected budget.
6. Coming off All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles, the city of Sacramento and the Kings are in the process of finalizing a bid to host the NBA All-Star Game in either 2022 or 2023. According to the Sacramento Bee, Kings Owner and Chair Vivek Ranadive will present the team’s bid to the league on February 23 with the hope of securing the right to host. Despite NBA Commissioner Adam Silver saying back in October, 2016 that he was “determined to bring the All-Star Game to Sacramento,” Silver followed up those comments by noting that the city lacked thousands of hotel rooms that would be needed to accommodate all of the visitors. One potential way that Sacramento is trying to solve that problem is by accommodating fans on cruise ships docked in the Port of Sacramento in West Sacramento. The Kings have one of the league’s most cutting-edge arenas in the two-year-old Golden 1 Center – expect Silver to make good on his word and place the All-Star game there soon.
7. More and more NBA players are starting to focus on entertainment ventures off the court, following the trend that Michael Jordan started years ago. According to SportsBusiness Journal, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kobe Bryant are just three players who are trying to “tap into the billions of dollars that Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google are pouring into original programming.” More recently, Tony Parker, Blake Griffin, and Steve Nash have all either produced or developed scripted projects. James’ SpringHill Entertainment and Bryant’s Granity Studios are considered the leading examples showing how serious players are taking their entertainment ventures. “LeBron has done such a great job so far,” said Durant. “It’s like, wow, this can actually be done.” The ease of content creation and distribution coupled with the increasing demand from fans around the world has created the perfect storm for more NBA players to take a crack at their own entertainment ventures.
8. The NFL has narrowed its list down to five cities that are competing to host the NFL Draft in either 2019 or 2020. According to the Denver Post, Cleveland-Canton, Denver, Kansas City, Las Vegas, and Nashville have been announced as the finalists, with a decision expected to be made in May during the league’s spring meetings in Atlanta. Up until 2015, the NFL Draft had never been held anywhere outside of New York City. In 2015 and 2016 the draft was held in Chicago, where it was deemed a big success. Last year it was held outdoors in Philadelphia, and in 2018 it will be held at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. One potentially interesting outcome would be if Las Vegas were awarded the right to host the draft in 2020, right before the Raiders’ arrival in Las Vegas. Raiders President Marc Badain thinks that Las Vegas has an edge over the other cities because “it is a notable visitor destination.” The NFL has traditionally awarded Super Bowls to teams after they open new stadiums, so awarding the Draft before the Raiders play their first game in Vegas would be a clear departure from protocol. Look for longstanding NFL cities to prevail.
9. Sacramento is trying to boost its chances of landing an MLS expansion team by adding more money to its ownership group. According to the Sacramento Bee, the group leading the city’s bidding effort recently “held serious conversations with several billionaires interested in becoming investors in the bid.” Sacramento is currently competing with Cincinnati and Detroit for the 26th spot in MLS, coming on the heels of Nashville and Miami both being awarded MLS franchises in the past months. The “several billionaires” would not only add financial backing for the $250 million in stadium construction costs and $150 million expansion fee that USL club Sacramento Republic would have to pay if awarded a MLS berth, but the investors would “solidify the team’s long-term viability as a major league franchise.” Sacramento was an early front-runner, but the city’s bid lost momentum late last year after it was revealed that the group lacked the “financial heft MLS wanted.”
10. LeBron James and Kevin Durant continue to use their platform as professional athletes to speak out about today’s political climate. According to the Washington Post, James and Durant both shared their dissent for President Donald Trump in a video produced by James’s Uninterrupted multimedia platform, which depicted them riding around in a car with ESPN’s Cari Champion. “At this time right now, with the president of the United States, it’s at a bad time, and while we cannot change what comes out of that man’s mouth, we can continue to alert the people that watch us, that listen to us, that this is not the way,” said James. Since Trump was elected into office, James has been one of the leading voices for change across professional sports and has not been shy about commenting on his displeasure with the leadership in this country and the polarizing political climate. While James and Durant were disparaged by polarizing Fox News pundit Laura Ingraham, it’s clear that the leadership skills and large following they have developed on-court have earned them the right to use their considerable platform and not, as Ingraham bleated, “shut up and dribble.”
11. As MLB spring training gets underway in Florida and Arizona, former Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is claiming a $0 net profit on the sale of the team. Loria has claimed a $141 million loss on the $1.2 billion sale of the Miami baseball team, a claim that nullifies a profit-sharing agreement with Little Havana (Miami) and Miami-Dade County, the entities responsible for financing most of the development associated with the construction of Marlins Stadium. A 2009 financing agreement between the Miami, Miami-Dade County, and Loria required the wealthy art dealer to return 5% of the sales’ proceeds (less deductions) to the local governments, in the event he sold the team within 10 years. However, Loria’s accountants have provided documentation claiming $0 in net proceeds after deducting $280 million in debt, $297 million in income tax on the sale, $375 million in franchise value appreciation, and $30 million in advisor fees. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez says the County will contest the accounting, as it considers legal action to recoup a portion of the proceeds. Gimenez estimates Loria placed “hundreds of millions in (to) his pocket.” This is only the latest chapter in the long saga of questionable accounting that is the tale of Miami pro sports teams, as I have recounted time and again.
12. Amazon is expected to be one of multiple bidders for the English Premier League’s two remaining media rights packages. According to the London Times, the EPL is working to lure digital companies to bid, as made clear in the league’s tender document for the 2019-2022 rights. The EPL has promised that it will “help the broadcaster with live transmission of simultaneous or overlapping matches,” which is largely understood to mean that a digital company like Amazon would be able to avoid expensive production costs and stream the feed from the Premier League’s own production company if it held the rights. Sky and BT Sport were recently awarded the media rights to 160 games for a price tag of $6.29 billion. 40 games across two packages are still up for grabs; Package F consists of 10 matches from a bank-holiday program and 10 from a midweek program, and Package G comprises 20 matches covering two midweek programs. Digital sports delivery is now global, and we’ll see digital companies in local markets around the world picking up the practice begun in the U.S. by Amazon, Netflix, and the like.
13. A recent study by corporate finance advisors Duff & Phelps indicated that Manchester United would earn an additional $36.6 million per season in revenue if it were to sell the naming rights to Old Trafford Stadium. Manchester City currently has the league’s most valuable naming rights deal (with Etihad), worth $26.7 million per season. While naming right sponsorships are commonplace in the U.S. (only Arrowhead Stadium, Soldier Field and Lambeau Field remain; the Raiders will certainly have one in Las Vegas), they are an under-utilized revenue stream within Europe. Just eight of 20 EPL clubs have deals in place. Selling naming rights would be a prudent decision, regardless of the price, that would benefit EPL shareholders, but there is some debate as to how achievable the $36.6 million figure is. Historic venues will always be referred to by their original name, reducing the value of the building’s naming rights; sponsors pay a premium for new buildings with no prior association. They broke ground on Old Trafford in 1909 and the venue has hosted World Cup matches (1966), Euro 1996 and the 2003 Champions League Final. It is highly unlikely that an EPL sponsor would pay more than the $30 million/year for 20 years that the Rams and Chargers are seeking for their new stadium in Inglewood.
14. College football will be looking to rebound next season from one of the largest per-game attendance drops in history. According to CBSSports.com, regular season attendance was down an average of 1,409 fans per game in 2017 from 2016, marking the largest per-game drop in the last 34 years and the second-largest ever. The total average of 42,203 fans per game was also the NCAA’s lowest since the 1997 season. Despite being the country’s strongest conference, the SEC experienced the sharpest decline in fans – down an average of 2,433 per game – yet still led all FBS conferences in average attendance at 75,074 per game. Overall, attendance has been slipping in college football since 2008, when the record was set. While professional leagues have started making stadiums smaller to tailor to decreasing attendance levels and to “create a more premium ticket,” universities have generally not jumped on this trend. In light of the declining numbers, we’ll see the next wave of college stadiums mimicking the pros and opting for smaller, more elite venues.
15. Details are finally beginning to emerge around the University of Texas’s new basketball arena. According to the Austin American-Statesman, UT plans on building a smaller facility than the Frank Erwin Center, which has a capacity of 16,734. The move to build a smaller arena is carried out in the hope of delivering a better home court advantage, and to decrease the ease for walk-up sales on game days. The new proposal calls for a maximum of 12,000 seats in the arena, a decrease of over 4,000 from the Frank Erwin Center. University Athletic Director Chris Del Conte noted that specific arrangements for the size of the building are “still in the discussion stage, but he smartly prefers smaller over bigger.” Building a smaller facility might help create a bigger home court advantage, but it could also hurt the arena’s chances of hosting big concerts and shows. Major music acts would likely pass over Austin to play at the 18,581-capacity AT&T Center in San Antonio.
Power of Sports Five
1. The NFL’s first female coach wants women to be empowered by football. In the summer of 2015, Jen Welter became the first woman ever to coach in the NFL, serving as a linebackers coach for the Arizona Cardinals. Before that, the passionate trailblazer also became the first woman to play running back in a men's professional football league in 2014. During a 14-year career in women’s professional football, Welter led her team to four National Championships and two gold medals as a member of Team USA in the 2010 and 2013 International Federation of American Football’s Women’s World Championship. The United Nations recognized her as Sports Pioneer of the Year on Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, and espnW named her one of the “25 Most Influential Women in Sport” in 2015. Now, Welter is focused on increasing opportunities in football for women, particularly young women in underserved areas. She released her book, Play Big: Lessons in Being Limitless, last fall and her signature women’s program, “A Day in the Life” Camp – which provides women a chance to experience a day as a professional football player – debuted in 2015.
2. From meditation to mind runs, Olympians and Paralympians share tips for mental training. Athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games train more than just muscle to get this far. Some of the most decorated Olympians and Paralympians also focus on taking care of their minds and emotional needs in order to stay at the top of their respective games. A new video series called “My Focus,” presented by Milk Life, shows how athletes sharpened their mental skills for their quest to win gold at the Games. Olympic gold medalist freestyle skier Maddie Bowman knows that in order to be successful as an athlete, she has to take care of her herself both mentally and physically. Bowman talks about being comfortable in her own skin, and skiing with passion. Having sustained knee injuries and criticism since winning a gold medal in 2014 in Sochi, she says, “you have to find your own way. For me, I had to get comfortable with being vulnerable.”
3. A Chicago Cubs player attends candlelight vigil after shooting at his alma mater. Anthony Rizzo, the Chicago Cubs three-time All-Star first baseman, left spring training to attend a candlelight vigil at his alma mater, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On February 14, a 19- year-old armed with an AR-15 semiautomatic weapon who had posted a series of racist and threatening messages online killed 17 students and faculty members. In one YouTube comment, he wrote that he aspired to become a “professional school shooter.” Rizzo, who graduated from Stoneman Douglas in 2007, was joined by thousands in attendance at the vigil on Thursday night. In a quavering and emotion-soaked voice, he thanked the teachers, students, administrators, and first responders, expressed his pride in the community, and promised to do whatever possible to help in the recovery. “I want you to know that you're not alone in your grief. We're all grieving with you,” Rizzo said. “So whatever comfort I can give, I will give.”
4. Nevada’s new sports teams may help boost philanthropic numbers. Speaking on a panel last Friday, Executive Director of the Raiders Foundation Chairman Chris Mallory said he anticipates a significant amount of fundraising in 2018. “All of that fundraising we’ll be doing in Las Vegas will stay in Las Vegas,” he told a crowd of about 400 business leaders involved with philanthropic giving and corporate social responsibility. “It is extremely important for us to give out as much as we can so when the team gets here in 2020, it’s just icing on the cake.” Mallory addressed a crowd at Las Vegas City Hall at the seventh annual Philanthropy Leaders Summit, hosted by Las Vegas philanthropy consulting firm Moonridge Group. “What has surprised me the most is youth and veteran homelessness,” he said. Among major cities, Las Vegas had the third-highest number of unaccompanied homeless youth (2,052) in 2017, according to a December report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “What we would look to do is help with that in terms of funding, as well as to let people know that this is going on,” Mallory said. John Coogan, president of the Vegas Golden Knights Foundation, echoed Mallory’s sentiments regarding Las Vegas’ number of homeless people.
5. John Stallworth has devoted his post-Steelers career to philanthropy. On February 21, Stallworth will receive the Dapper Dan Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition to his 14-year Hall of Fame career with the Steelers as a wide receiver, in which he won four Super Bowl rings and retired as the franchise leader in receptions with 537, Stallworth has had an impactful career as a businessman, one that enabled him to become a part-owner of the Steelers in 2009. He considers the establishment of the John Stallworth Foundation, which was founded in 1980 and has grown to provide over $490,000 in scholarship funding to more than 150 students at Alabama A&M, to be the highlight of his post-Steelers days. Stallworth knew his earnings from his playing career wouldn’t be enough to sustain his family. When he retired at the age of 35 in 1987, the average NFL salary was around $215,000 annually. So Stallworth earned an MBA while he was still a player, and in 1986 he launched his first company, Madison Research, A Huntsville, AL aerospace and military contracting firm. At its peak, Madison Research employed 750 people and grossed more than $80 million annually. Stallworth sold the company in 2006 for $69 million. Looking back, he credits his relationships with the Rooney family, the Croom family, and others for helping him open doors in the business world during his post-playing career.
Tech Top 5
1. Greg Norman’s golf carts enable streaming of PGA Tour live content. Golfers enjoying their rounds will soon be able to follow PGA Tour action by streaming content through their golf carts. Greg Norman’s Shark Experience cars will roll out to select golf courses across the U.S. in the spring, enabling golfers to bring all the content they would have in a hotel room right to the course. By partnering with Shark Experience, the PGA Tour can distribute its live programming and on-demand coverage from more than 30 events via PGA Tour Live and through weekend telecasts from CBS and NBC Sports. “The PGA Tour is continually looking for avenues to grow the game and share our content,” Rick Anderson, Chief Media Officer at the PGA Tour, said in a statement. “Shark Experience is a perfect example of modernizing to move the game forward.” The golf cars from Club Car will use Verizon’s 4G LTE and include high-definition touchscreen displays and built-in speakers with Bluetooth connectivity. Besides the PGA Tour coverage curated by Verizon, golfers can also stream music via Slacker Radio and have access to other live sports and highlights, news and entertainment, yardage information, and golf tips from Norman himself.
2. TSA Pre✓ adds Fast Pass entrances to Brooklyn Nets’ Barclays Center. IdentoGO by IDEMIA, the exclusive provider of TSA Pre✓, has announced a new partnership with Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment that will establish “fast pass’ entrances at the venue, which houses the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and NHL’s New York Islanders. As part of the deal, IdentoGO will offer enrollment into the TSA Pre✓ program from a retail location within Barclays Center that’s accessible from both the street and the arena’s main concourse. The two will also work together on developing future security enhancements at the venue. “Stadium and arena security as well as fan experience are important to us,” Ed Casey, Chief Executive Officer of IDEMIA Identity & Security USA, said in a statement. “We are excited that Barclays Center is the first arena to have a permanent IdentoGO retail location in it.” This partnership builds on similar initiatives IdentoGO launched last year with the NFL’s New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers. The Jets’ multi-year deal made the TSA Pre✓ parent the official identity security and biometric partner of the team, and enabled the two to collaborate on other ways to improve safety and fan engagement at MetLife Stadium through biometrics.
3. CBS Sports is upping golf coverage with technological additions. CBS Sports has beefed up their coverage with some robust technological advancements. The network’s coverage of 21 PGA Tour events in 2018 will make use of tools like Toptracer, SmartCart, Virtual Eye, and many others. “The basic pictures of the golf course from our cameras and the basic announcer commentary is the foundation of our coverage,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus told Sports Video Group. “The new technology just has a different way of showing what’s happening on the golf course and is something that viewers are becoming more and more used to seeing.” Toptracer is a Topgolf ball-tracking product that might be the most significant enhancement. It was used in 2017, but its deployment will be upped to 10 holes per tournament as opposed to four. Normally ball-tracking tech is exclusive to tee shots, but Toptracer allows wireless tracking of second and third shots as well. Virtual Eye will create 3D hole models to show shots while highlighting analytics like ball speed, arc and distance, while Smartcart will provide similar data and content.
4. Locast streams local sports channels to smartphones for free. A newly-launched nonprofit is seeking to solve a dilemma faced by the many sports fans weighing whether to cut the cable cord: it’s offering to stream local broadcast stations in high definition to users’ smartphones for free. That includes the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Locast.org, founded by longtime communications attorney and Sports Fans Coalition chairman David Goodfriend, offers a free streaming app for local broadcast stations that’s currently only available to users in New York. But Goodfriend says the company is using NYC, with its tall buildings and condensed living spaces that can disrupt over-the-air signals, as a test market, and plans to expand to other cities as soon as funding allows. The service, which launched earlier this year, streams broadcast channels such as NBC, CBS, and FOX without having to ask for broadcaster permission. In that sense, Locast borrows from the same tactics used by Aereo a few years ago. Aereo captured over-the-air TV signals that it streamed to customers for $8 per month before it was shut down in a U.S. Supreme Court dispute in 2014.
5. Daytona 500 race week featured an esports tournament on a mobile stage. As NASCAR’s best drivers started their engines for Sunday’s Daytona 500, esports players were firing up their game consoles. NASCAR announced its Heat Champions esports tournament, a mobile competition that started on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. Fans raced against each other for a shot at an Xbox One S, a VIP experience at the Daytona 500, and other prizes. The tournament itself took place on a mobile, truck-based production set called ESPORTS ARENA: DRIVE, which was introduced last month at CES. The 18-wheel truck can travel around the country and then transform easily into a competition and production set. Broadcaster Bill Carter hosted the tournament, whose final rounds were live streamed on Twitch on Sunday, ending a couple of hours before the start of the Daytona 500. The Heat Champions tournament isn’t NASCAR’s first foray into esports. Last week, Richmond Raceway became the first NASCAR track to field its own esports team, which will compete in the NASCAR Peak Antifreeze Series for iRacing.