Several of the USTA's current and recent board members "have benefited" from the organization's "grants and contracts, raising questions about the unofficial perks available to the men and women at tennis’s highest rungs," according to Pilon & Lehren of the N.Y. TIMES. The Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., whose CEO Ray Benton sits on the USTA's BOD, "received more than $840,000 from the USTA's charitable wings over the last three years." Meanwhile, N.Y. Triathlon Organizer John Korff "sat on a USTA board that approved a $50,000 grant to Life Time Fitness, a health club chain." Months later, Life Time "bought Korff’s company for an undisclosed sum." USTA Dir of Communications Chris Widmaier acknowledged that the organization "sometimes contributed money to its members’ causes and companies." However, he said that that was "unavoidable in the small world of elite tennis." Widmaier: "You’d be kind of hard pressed to find someone with that kind of tennis expertise that might not have interacted with the USTA at some point." BOD members said that they "played no role in steering money to their own organizations and that in many cases the financial arrangements had predated their time on the board." Pilon & Lehren note the USTA spends roughly $200M a year "on salaries, grants to tennis organizations, operating costs and outside contracts." But at least $3.1M of that "annually goes to organizations with ties to board members." No one "received more from the USTA than the Tennis Media Company, the publisher of Tennis magazine and Tennis.com." In '12, for roughly $2.8M "from the USTA, Tennis Media sent copies of the magazine, along with a digital package." But Tennis magazine Publisher Jeff Williams said that even though he was an "active USTA board member, he had played no role in the decision to send the organization's funds to his company." Williams: "The relationship between Tennis magazine and the USTA was one that existed long before I joined the board." Widmaier added, "Having an expert in media is helpful to us. He does not interact with staff as it relates to the business of Tennis magazine and the USTA" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/23).
Leagues and Governing Bodies
Little League Baseball CEO Steve Keener suggested that the organization in the future could possibly give back some of the $76M "in television rights fees the organization is reaping over the next eight years to the kids whose names, images and likenesses fill up flat screens every summer," according to Jeff Passan of YAHOO SPORTS. Kenner: "I've always felt we need to be as progressive an organization as we can. We don't know what's coming. If at some point in time that would be deemed to be appropriate, we'll consider it. At the moment, I don't see the necessity and don't think we should be compensating kids right now. Whether at some point down the road any funds could be put aside to help them with college I don't know. Down the road that's something we might take a look at even if it's feasible." Passan noted Little League has "grown into a business" with more than $80M in assets and nearly $25M in revenue, and "every August it runs out a fresh batch of kids in hopes of captivating the country." Tax records show that Keener "made $430,844 in salary and benefits" between October '12-September '13. His compensation package over the past decade "nearly has doubled from the $228,869 he made" in '05. Little League's '12 tax filings show that Keener was "one of seven employees with six-figure compensation packages." It is "technically a charity, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, though perhaps more accurately it is a business wearing charity clothes." Tax filings show that Little League "paid a Connecticut company called SJX Partners $472,062 last year for a ''corporate sponsor search.'" Passan: "Charities don't spend nearly half a million dollars so a company can find which multinational is willing to pay the most to be the exclusive whatever-it-may-be of the Little League World Series. Businesses do" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/23).
PAY IT FORWARD: In Miami, David Neal writes the LLWS and its organizers "make enough to provide a more direct reward to the young entertainers." Only in sports "do we maintain this concept that at a certain age, the athlete should perform for free while somebody else collects all the beaucoup bucks people pay to watch/show them." Neal: "How about $1,000 gift cards to Staples or Office Depot or Target for every player in the series?" Winning the tournament "should yield bigger gift cards or maybe special memorabilia -- how about each player receiving a glove and ball signed by a Major League Baseball All-Stars at his/her position?" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/25).
SIGN OF A CHANGING TIME? The Little League team from Chicago lost the championship game 8-4 to South Korea yesterday, but the presence of the all African-American team on such a stage caused ESPN's John Saunders to wonder whether "the game is changing" in regards to its current demographics. ESPN's Jemele Hill noted baseball has had a "very difficult time attracting young African-Americans to the sport," yet in one tournament, there was not only an "all-black team from Chicago from the inner-city," but also the presence of female P Mo'ne Davis. Hill: "From a demographic standpoint for baseball, this could not be a bigger win or success.” ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski said it was not a coincidence that MLB Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred "was there to throw out the first pitch during those World Series games," as he knows the league has to "figure out a way to speed up the games, to get young players involved (and) inner-city kids involved.” The Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan said, "We do need to reconnect that community with the game” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 8/24).
The NFL is letting teams use Microsoft tablets on the sidelines this season for the first time, and it is a "wonder why they didn't get to it sooner," according to Fox' Troy Aikman. The HD quality of the tablets "is outstanding because the Polaroids were always dark." Aikman: "To be able to get the information that quickly and look at it on the spot is pretty cool." He speculated the reason tablets were not allowed prior to this year is "because they didn’t have a sponsorship deal" ("Chargers-49ers," Fox, 8/24). CBS' Jason La Canfora notes teams will have 15 tablets on the sideline, meaning the days of "having to wait for those images to get printed after a series and then run down to the sidelines" are gone. If there are "any glitches in the system," teams will still "have access to the old-school printouts" (CBSSPORTS.com, 8/25). Meanwhile, play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan talked about the possibility of referees using tablets for replay challenges and said, "Pretty soon they’re talking about bringing tablets out to the field. No more hood” (“Redskins-Ravens,” WSOC-ABC, 8/23).