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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is "primed to attack his new job with all the ferocity of a LeBron James dunk," according to Sam Amick of USA TODAY. Tell Silver that it is "impossible to have the kind of impact" David Stern had -- growing annual revenues from $156M to $5.6B -- and he will "respectfully disagree and offer sound arguments to the contrary." Silver said, "I have a set of tools available to me that David couldn't even have imagined." He added, "The U.S. is less than 5% of the world's population. So when I look at markets like the billion people in Africa, the over billion people that live in India, the (1.3 billion) that live in China, just those markets alone where we're just barely scratching the surface, there is so much opportunity out there for us. ... I'm also very focused on growing the game in the U.S. I see enormous upside, both in consumption of new media; largely digital media -- but just as importantly, for conventional television." Silver even expects to "go after the NFL's position as the country's most popular and profitable sports league." He said, "I look at the enormous gap between NFL ratings and NBA ratings and see enormous room for growth." Meanwhile, Silver also addressed the minimum age for NBA players. He said that instead of the "current rule that players must be at least 19-year-old, he'd like to raise it to 20." He also said of changing the draft lottery system, "I'm not ready to declare it broken yet, but it's worthy of study" (USA TODAY, 2/14). In New Orleans, Jimmy Smith wrote, "No longer is Silver Stern's wing man; the stick is in his hands." Silver's main concern moving forward "admittedly is to build upon the foundation he has inherited." Silver said, "Most importantly, I want to focus on the game. I know the game is at the center. And I don't just mean the NBA game. Basketball is at the center of everything we do at the league" (NOLA.com, 2/13).
A FRIENDLY COMPETITION: Silver said of the possibility of the NBA challenging the NFL in ratings and popularity, "When I said there that it's my dream that we should rival the NFL in popularity, by no means am I suggesting that it comes at the expense of the NFL because all of the research I look at shows that virtually all sports fans are fans of multiple sports. ... The strongest part of our season begins essentially after the NFL season is over. We overlap to a certain extent, but we know that when you get towards the second half of the season, moving into All-Star, and then driving into the playoffs and ultimately the Finals, that's where we get our largest viewership" (USATODAY.com, 2/13).
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Wednesday "offered public support" for former Univ. of Missouri DE Michael Sam, saying that he "commended Sam for his decision to publicly disclose that he is gay," according to Bob Glauber of NEWSDAY. Goodell, speaking at Jesse Jackson's "Wall Street Project" in N.Y., said, "Good for him. He's proud of who he is and had the courage to say it. Now he wants to play football" (NEWSDAY, 2/13). Giants WR Victor Cruz said an openly gay teammate "would be received just fine." He added, "We’re a team and organization that embraces any type of player. ... From a player’s standpoint I think (Sam) would be accepted everywhere, but it’s tough to tell." Cruz continued, "I think it will be easier for other athletes (now). You’re going to start seeing some guys maybe coming out" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/13). Redskins WR Pierre Garcon said of Sam, "He’s gotta deal with it every day, especially playing in the NFL. He’ll have questions from guys like you guys, but he’ll just have to deal with it. It’s part of being in the NFL where your life is an open book" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/12). One NFC team exec said of media coverage surrounding Sam, "I would think that this won’t die down once the season starts, either. You have to worry not only about the kid but his teammates. Football players and staff aren’t great when you get them talking about something other than football" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/14). Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross said Sam's announcement "is a significant step in sports and I respect the choice that he made publicly" (MIAMI HERALD, 2/13).
TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGIN': Red Sox P Craig Breslow said of the possibility of having an openly gay teammate, "I feel like sexuality is totally independent and irrelevant to what we’re trying to accomplish" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/13). ESPN's Bill Simmons said, "At this point, I would be much more surprised if anyone was a jerk to Michael Sam than I would be if they were supportive. It would be career suicide for them to come out against him, even if they felt that way. It is a much more tolerant society in 2014, and this guy is going to be looked at as an ambassador and somebody with a lot of guts." Simmons credited Sam and his publicist, Howard Bragman, for how they have handled the situation. Simmons said of Sam, "It seems that he has put a lot of thought into the decision and made it for really smart reasons, and it sounds like he really thought seriously about doing it before the season begins (in September). I think the eventual goal is three or four years from now, no one is going to give a crap about any of this stuff. It kind of doesn't really matter now -- it does and it doesn't ... People's general attitudes are that it's not that big of a factor, which is a great place for (society) to be. He does it, then two other guys do it, then three other guys come out. Once the numbers start adding up, I feel like it's not going to be a big deal anymore" (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/12). In N.Y., William Rhoden wrote the early reactions to Sam's announcement "have offered hope." Now that his "cards are on the table, team owners, general managers and players will have to put theirs on the table as well" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/12).
SAM IN DEMAND: ESPN.com's Darren Rovell reported Sam's agent, Joe Barkett, has been "inundated with calls, including those from Fortune 500 companies." Barkett said, "Every time I'm on the phone, I'm getting phone calls. There's always one from a company expressing their interest in Michael. Name any type of industry, we've probably heard from a company in their sector in the last 48 hours." Barkett said that all the interest "is coming from mainstream companies, not gay brands that have a product or service to sell specifically to the gay population." Barkett: "We haven't really heard from companies that market specifically to the LGBT community. It has been large companies who obviously support LGBT initiatives" (ESPN.com, 2/12).
The NBA D-League will be using biometric sensors embedded in uniforms for the duration of this season, extending a keen interest the NBA already has in player analytics. The sensors, weighing about 1oz each, will be worn by players on their chest or back, and provide a wide range of physical data such as heart rate, distance and speed run, player jumps, fatigue and cardiovascular exertion. About 20 NBA teams already use such monitors in practices, but the D-League effort extends that to a game setting, something no other major U.S. pro league does. It also builds meaningfully upon leaguewide player tracking the NBA implemented earlier this season with Stats LLC’s SportVU product. D-League President Dan Reed said, “We’ve naturally been the research-and-development department of the NBA, and this is another important example of that. This is a perfect complement to player tracking, and give us a wide range of measures on the players’ health and fitness.” Of particular interest with the biometric sensors is providing hard data on injury recovery compared to prior baselines. The use of the sensors will be voluntary, but the Bakersfield Jam and Ft. Wayne Mad Ants are among the earliest adopters, with other teams expected to begin implementation soon. The D-League has a list of pre-approved vendors for the sensors, including Australia-based Catapult, but teams can also submit their own preferred providers for league approval. Biometric measurement opens up a wide range of potential implications for labor relations and individual health privacy rights, and the D-League effort is designed as a test initiative before a potential broader rollout within the NBA, one that would need to be collectively bargained with the NBPA.
Major League Gaming is expanding outside of North America, establishing a new int'l franchise called MLG Brasil. The new venture will begin with competitions on Feb. 16 and 23, and contain a regular series of events and online distribution of its competitions through MLG.TV like its U.S.-based counterpart. MLG Brasil is being developed in partnership with travel and tourism outfit Grupo Aguia. MLG co-Founder & President Mike Sepso said, “MLG has long been focused on growing the competitive gaming scene and we quickly recognized the tremendous opportunity to create a strong presence in the largest economic market in Latin America. This is the first of many international franchises we plan to roll out in the coming years.” Paulo Castello Branco Filho will be MLG Brasil CEO.