Nike Chair PHIL KNIGHT appeared on yesterday's episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and host OPRAH WINFREY introduced him by saying, "My next guest has been called the most powerful man in sports, and nobody can argue that because he basically changed the way the world -- all of us -- work out." Winfrey noted Knight is "notoriously media shy and it took my team a lot of convincing to get him here." Winfrey asked Knight, "Do you marvel at what Nike has become?" Knight: "Totally, but it was all a labor of love in the early days and really to this day." Winfrey said, "I can't believe how every year you all figure out a way to improve those shoes." Knight responded, "Hang around, we're just beginning." Nike endorsers MIA HAMM, CHARLES BARKLEY, PICABO STREET and LANCE ARMSTRONG all sent Knight videotaped messages of thanks. Armstrong then surprised Knight by joining him on set. Armstrong said Nike is "giving athletes the ability to tell a story, share a story, through ads or through partnerships, but ... this is a legitimate sports-performance company." Winfrey later asked Knight, "Do you like being called a visionary?" He responded, "No, I'm uncomfortable with that, so pick something else." The show also featured a taped look inside Nike's HQs, with Knight saying, "We wanted it to be a special place, a place that people were comfortable and happy in" ("The Oprah Winfrey Show," 4/26).
People and Pop Culture
The 49ers yesterday named Khosla Ventures General Partner GIDEON YU Chief Strategy Officer. Yu will be responsible for maximizing the team’s strategic and business prospects, as well as developing new businesses and revenue streams. He will work closely on the team's Santa Clara stadium project, and will identify and integrate new technology into the new facility. Yu previously served as CFO of Facebook and YouTube, and as Senior VP & Treasurer of Yahoo (49ers). ESPN.com’s Mike Sando noted Yu “owns one of the more impressive resumes in the NFL or anywhere,” and his hiring “brightens the team’s prospects for building a new stadium and enjoying it upon completion.” Yu has known 49ers President & CEO JED YORK “for some time.” The two men serve on the BOD for Tipping Point, a “charity that fights poverty in the Bay Area” (ESPN.com, 4/26). In San Jose, Tim Kawakami wrote the arrival of Yu “signals a fairly large shift in the 49ers thinking about the Santa Clara stadium situation.” The 49ers “clearly need some new brainpower -- on the financing front for sure, and probably on several other levels.” Kawakami: “This is the start of something. Jed York is being realistic and creative with this hire, which are both good things. But it’s only the start and it’s immersed in the tough reality of the stadium situation” (MERCURYNEWS.com, 4/26).
Longtime Fuel TV GM C.J. OLIVARES is leaving the network. The move follows Fuel TV's plans to broaden its programming beyond action sports to include MMA and motorsports. He said, "Back in the fall, we announced we would expand our audience and the network will continue different avenues to that goal. It doesn't mean we'll abandon any of the action sports that got us here, but there are other things that will increasingly play a role in the daily composition in the network. I'm far more passionate about the action sports idea of it than I am about the other side of it. It's the right time for me to go see what (else) I can make happen." Fox, which owns Fuel TV, plans to name a replacement for Olivares by the end of next week. Olivares will remain as a consultant at Fuel TV on a short-term basis, representing the network at Fuel TV's upfront in N.Y. May 5 and the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association Surf Summit in mid-May. He is unclear about what he plans to do after his consulting work concludes. Olivares said, "There's tons of opportunity yet to explore and I'm weighing a number of different opportunities that would be at the intersection of television, media and action sports. It's a great space and there's lots to do still." Olivares joined Fuel TV in '02 and was named GM in '07. Before that, he was the CEO of Broadband Interactive Group (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal). Sources indicated that Olivares "wasn't comfortable with the male-skewing network expanding its age base from 12-24 to 12-34 and moving toward sports such as auto racing and mixed martial arts." The network is in 30 million homes and is "looking to reach 50 million to 70 million over the next few years" (VARIETY.com, 4/26).
Dolphins radio announcer JIM MANDICH, who was "revered" by Dolphins fans "as both a player and broadcaster for more than four decades, died Tuesday evening after a long bout with bile-duct cancer" at the age of 62, according to Mike Berardino of the South Florida SUN-SENTINEL. Mandich, who was part of the team's radio crew from '92-04 and '07-10, "spent more than a quarter century on South Florida radio, eventually developing into one of the most successful and popular talk-show hosts on the area scene" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 4/27). In Miami, Darlington & Jackson note Mandich last season broadcast "every single game, home and away, despite his fight with cancer." He "became one of the most popular sportscasters in South Florida history as a talk show host and as the Dolphins radio analyst." He had a restaurant in Islamorada, Fla., owned Miami-based construction company Lotspeich and "on Tuesdays during football season, Mandich hosted Miami Touchdown Club luncheons, which raised money for former Dolphins players in need." Mandich "had been receiving chemotherapy and radiation, with the hope that the tumor would shrink enough for it to be removed." He was initially diagnosed with cancer last February (MIAMI HERALD, 4/27).
GREAT REPRESENTATIVE FOR TEAM: In West Palm Beach, Hal Habib writes, "When it comes to unabashed ambassadors of the Miami Dolphins, there was never anyone better than Jim Mandich." Habib: "A homer, a cheerleader -- Mandich was all that, but his stature as the most popular broadcaster in team history never would have been if not for blunt candor when the action turned sour" (PALM BEACH POST, 4/27). NATIONAL FOOTBALL POST's Aaron Wilson writes Mandich's "famous 'All Right, Miami!' exclamation after exciting Dolphin plays became his hallmark catch phrase." Wilson: "His passion for the team was evident in every broadcast he did, and his unique on-air presence and personality captivated Dolphin fans everywhere" (NATIONALFOOTBALLPOST.com, 4/27).
The San Antonio Scorpions, set to make their debut in the North American Soccer League in '12, have hired former MLS FC Dallas President & GM MICHAEL HITCHCOCK as team President (NASL)....NASCAR has hired former Bank of America VP/Global Media Relations JON SCHWARTZ as Dir of Business Communications (NASCAR)....Watkins Glen Int'l has hired ELIZABETH MAYER as PR Manager. Mayer spent the past two years as an Athletic Communications Assistant at UConn (Elmira STAR-GAZETTE, 4/26)....Horizon Media subsidiary Scout Sports & Entertainment has hired Amplify Sports & Entertainment Sales Exec ADAM FRIEDMAN as Account Exec (SSE)....Ecco USA Golf Division has hired Isis Apparel Sales Manager JACKIE KIRKWOOD as Sales Manager, East (Ecco).
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TIME magazine named tennis player KIM CLIJSTERS, FC Barcelona MF LIONEL MESSI and India cricket player MAHENDRA SINGH DHONI among its 100 most influential people. Former tennis player MARTINA NAVRATILOVA profiles Clijsters under the header, “Balancing Sport, Motherhood And Victory With Grace.” It is “easier to balance work and family when you’re making a lot of money,” but Clijsters “has turned that balance into an art form.” She has “kept her feet on the ground and knows that her tennis skills do not make her a great person.” MLS Red Bulls F THIERRY HENRY writes of Messi, “It’s not normal, what he does. I know the expectation that builds up around top players, but it doesn’t bother Messi. He’s a competitor: he doesn’t want to lose, not even in training.” Meanwhile, Indian novelist CHETAN BHAGAT notes Dhoni “doesn’t just lead a cricket team; he’s also India’s captain of hope.” Dhoni “didn’t just win India the World Cup; he also taught India how to win” (TIME, 5/2 issue). In N.Y., Keith Kelly notes Knicks F CARMELO ANTHONY “managed to get a pretty good seat” at the Time 100 gala at Lincoln Center in Manhattan last night (N.Y. POST, 4/27).
AWARD-WINNING PERFORMANCE: In L.A., Mike Bresnahan reports Lakers F RON ARTEST was “selected as the winner of the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award” presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association. The award “recognizes an NBA player or coach for outstanding service and dedication to the community.” Artest has “made a personal crusade of raising mental health awareness this season.” Artest said of the award, “It’s something that is probably not on people’s minds. But it was something that I wanted and I’m definitely happy that I got it” (L.A. TIMES, 4/27).
ON SOLID GROUND: In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel profiled Big 12 Commissioner DAN BEEBE and wrote he is “a competitor.” Critics who “blamed Beebe for the exits of Nebraska and Colorado were clueless, but none of us had any idea how strong was the Big 12 leader.” Beebe “kept the remaining 10 teams together by making financial promises,” and now he has “delivered on the promise, with a 13-year, $90-million-per-year contract with Fox Sports.” Tramel wrote, “Truth is, the Big 12 is more stable now with 10 teams than it was with 12” (DAILY OKLAHOMAN, 4/24).
WEIGHT AND SEE: Last night's edition of NBC's "The Biggest Loser" featured NASCAR driver CLINT BOWYER arriving in his No. 33 Wheaties Chevy Impala. Bowyer gave the contestants a pep talk, telling them they were "an inspiration to all of us." The contestants dragged a car around the track and the winner received a "VIP experience" as Bowyer's guest at the Richmond Int’l Raceway, $5000 in prize money and will have their face on a collector's box of Wheaties ("The Biggest Loser," NBC, 4/26).
NAMES: Ingram's magazine has named Learfield Sports Founder & Chair CLYDE LEAR one of the "50 Missourians You Should Know" (INGRAM'S, 4/ '11 issue)....T'Wolves Owner GLEN TAYLOR "has temporarily set aside his usual daytime duties" for jury duty in Blue Earth County, Minnesota (MANKATO FREE PRESS, 4/27)....Daytona Int'l Speedway President JOIE CHITWOOD has made a push to open the ISC Archive "to the public via a new, three-hour VIP Tour package, which started Tuesday." DIS and ISC "store all their valued historical information, photographs and racing memorabilia in an unmarked building" away from the track, and "only a handful of employees have regular access to the facility" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 4/27)....CARL LEWIS’ political ambitions were “dealt a major blow” yesterday when New Jersey Secretary of State KIM GUADAGNO ruled that the former Olympian “can’t run for the state Senate” because he has not lived in the state for the required four years (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/27)….Heat F LEBRON JAMES has “made good on a promise to help Boys & Girls Clubs across Northeast Ohio by sharing advertising proceeds” from “The Decision,” his ESPN special last July during which he announced his decision to sign with the Heat. Boys & Girls Clubs in Cleveland, Akron and Elyria received a total of more than $480,000, part of the approximately $2M James has distributed nationwide since the broadcast (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 4/27).
IN MEMORY: Former Nike exec JOSEPH HA, who “helped shape Nike’s stature in international business, died Saturday of cancer” at age 74. From ’81-96, he served as a consultant for global business at Nike, and later became VP/Int’l Business & Government Relations (Portland OREGONIAN, 4/27).