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Volume 24 No. 156

People and Pop Culture

Senators Owner EUGENE MELNYK, who is fully recovered from a liver transplant that saved his life, yesterday unveiled The Organ Project, an "enterprise aiming to raise awareness for the transplant process," according to Alex Prewitt of Melnyk "still doesn't know anything" about his organ donor, who "remained anonymous." Pre-surgery, Melnyk had been "intensely private about his illness." Around the one-year anniversary of his surgery, though, he "began brainstorming ways to help." Melnyk: "The worst thing about the transplant was not the pain, before or after. It was the torture of being in a lineup. Every morning, you get up, you get told that today’s not the day. What do we do to eliminate those damn lines? You want to get rid of that." Prewitt noted the mission of The Organ Project is to "register as many as possible to donate ... and slice into a waiting list that’s roughly 4,600 deep in Canada." Melnyk "envisions building The Organ Project incrementally," with plans to roll into the U.S. by '19. Melnyk: "My idea is to go through every media department of every hockey team and make this a National Hockey League initiative" (, 2/15). In Ottawa, Bruce Garrioch notes The Organ Project initially will be "launched in Ontario." It will be "easy for people to opt in -- they can opt out at any time." In the meantime, the group has been "working with both the federal and provincial governments." Melnyk: "Once we’ve perfected it here in Ontario, then we can roll it out fairly easily" (OTTAWA CITIZEN, 2/16).

Nearly a month after PRESIDENT TRUMP announced that WOODY JOHNSONwould be the next U.S. Ambassador" to the U.K, the NFL Jets owner "remains in limbo perhaps due to a power struggle in the dysfunctional new administration,” according to Manish Mehta of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. A Wall Street Journal report stated that several ambassadorship positions “have not yet been filled due to a conflict” between U.S. Secretary of State REX TILLERSON and White House Chief of Staff REINCE PRIEBUS. It is “unclear whether Tillerson wanted to be consulted on the U.K. ambassadorship, one of the more important positions of that kind, but Johnson is still waiting for official word" (, 2/15).

A new book and feature film project about Patriots QB TOM BRADY is "on its way," according to Anita Busch of Screenwriters PAUL TAMSAY and ERIC JOHNSON are joining up with the N.Y. Times' CASEY SHERMAN and Boston-based journalist DAVE WEDGE to write the project. The book and film will chronicle Brady's "come-from-behind win in Super Bowl LI, but it’s not going to shy away from controversy and will include the team’s battle to overcome the Deflategate debacle" in '14, and "follow Brady’s fall from grace and then his triumphant return to lead the Patriots to his fifth world championship" (, 2/15). FS1's Jay Onrait said, "This is very exciting. ... I assume it starts with the four-game suspension at the beginning of the season and ends with this triumphant scene as the players embrace each other and ROGER GOODELL is humiliated and has to present ROBERT KRAFT with the Lombardi Trophy" ("Fox Sports Live," FS1, 2/16). ESPN's Mike Greenberg asked, "Can you imagine how Goodell is going to be painted in this thing?” ESPN’s Ryen Russillo: "Two years of doing that topic almost daily -- I lived it, so I don't need to see the movie” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 2/16)'s John Breech wrote there is a "good chance everyone in Atlanta will boycott this movie" (, 2/15).

Malcolm Butler's life will be turned into a film currently being called "The Secondary"
THE BUTLER DID IT: PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Josh Alper noted producer DANIEL LEVIN has purchased Patriots CB MALCOLM BUTLER's "life rights along with those of agent DEREK SIMPSON for a film" currently being called "THE SECONDARY" ( 2/15). ESPN’s Greenberg: "The Malcolm Butler story is actually the story of an extraordinarily unlikely rise to stardom. ... It is a remarkable story” ("Mike & Mike," ESPN Radio, 2/16).

: VARIETY's Todd Spangler noted “QB1: BEYOND THE LIGHTS," a 10-part docu-series, premiered last night on Verizon’s Go90 mobile video service, with "new installments to be released weekly." The series was created and produced by PETER BERG, and is "about three top American high-school football quarterbacks who aspire to someday make it to the NFL" (, 2/15). Meanwhile, THE DAILY DOT's Josh Katzowitz noted Pro Football HOFer MARSHALL FAULK is "working on the internet’s answer to 'SHARK TANK' if the ABC hit was mediated by sports stars instead of ultra-successful business people." He recently "helped jumpstart a new series" called "MVP" on Go90. For the 43-year-old Faulk, the "opportunity to move into the digital world was the right opportunity at the right time." The show's panel will be led by Patriots TE ROB GRONKOWSKI (, 2/13). 

FLEXING THE GOLDEN PIPES: In Houston, Matt Wyatt notes Steelers RB LE'VEON BELL, whose rap alias is "JUICE," is "set to release a new album, 'POST INTERVIEW,' on March 1." It is Bell's "first LP." During Super Bowl week, Bell "dropped a single" entitled "Shrimp Bayless" that targeted Fox Sports' SKIP BAYLESS (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/16)....Former MLBer BARRY ZITO is the "first Cy Young winner to make the Billboard charts," as his debut album, "NO SECRETS EP," ranks No. 15 on Americana/Folk album sales (, 2/15). 

HOCKEY'S HIDDEN FIGURES? In Buffalo, Amy Moritz notes former NHLer TONY MCKEGNEY is part of a new documentary "SOUL ON ICE: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE" and was "part of a screening and discussion" yesterday at the Amherst Dipson Theatre. The doc explores the "legacy of hockey players of color in the NHL." The "heart of the film" is the story of 21-year-old OHL Sarnia Sting RW JADEN LINDO, and it "features in-depth interviews with current and former NHL players," including Flyers RW WAYNE SIMMONDS, Hockey HOFer GRANT FUHR and the first U.S.-born black NHLer VAL JAMES (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/16). 

"Going Off The Grid" is a weekly survey of sports execs and personalities offering their thoughts on a handful of pressing (and trivial) issues in sports and pop culture. With the NBA All-Star Game headed to The Big Easy this weekend, our panelists discuss the biggest issues facing the league and weigh in on international expansion.

  • TNT's Kenny Smith
    – His favorite basketball movie is "Cornbread, Earl and Me."
  • State Farm Advertising Dir Ed Gold
    – Loves movies, primarily action and comedies. His go-to mindless TV show is "American Pickers."
  • New Orleans Times-Picayune Pelicans beat writer John Reid
    – Enjoys '80s music -- Loose Ends, New Edition and Kashif.
  • Smoothie King Center GM Alan Freeman
    – Tries to stay informed about trends in pop culture -- not an easy task with technology evolving daily.

Going Off The Grid
  Future NBA franchise - Mexico City or London? The biggest issue facing the NBA is... Most memorable dunk/dunker at the All-Star Game Moving the ASG from Charlotte to New Orleans was... An untapped All-Star Game market

London There isn't a negative issue facing the league - it's in a great space right now Chris "Birdman" Andersen Ahead of the curve Miami hasn't hosted in a while - everything there is centrally located

Overseas travel is tough - Mexico City Maintaining the positive momentum in the league I'm a Chicago guy, so gotta go MJ from the free throw line Very difficult, but I appreciate Adam Silver putting the NBA's conviction into action I'm ready to head to Memphis!

Mexico City
It's becoming strictly a 3-point shooting contest - get back to the basics Dwight Howard - still see him soaring with that Superman cape A strong move by the NBA Portland - nice arena, nice area

Hard to see how a standalone European team would work with scheduling Sports in general are overexposed Dwight
Howard when he donned the Superman outfit
A tough loss for Charlotte The NBA has expressed a desire to return to Charlotte - a great idea

Do you want to get your thoughts in the Grid? If so, shoot an e-mail to

LA 2024 named Univ. of California Dir of Olympic Sports Operations AARON SCHULMAN Manager of Athlete Relations (THE DAILY)....Alliance MMA named SCOTT SHEELEY Dir of Emerging Markets (Alliance MMA)....The Royals named former MLBer REGGIE SANDERS Special Adviser to Baseball Operations (, 2/15).

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Ready to make your next great hire? Or take the next step in your career? Connect with the industry’s top employers and job seekers on the Sports Business Career Link. For more information, contact Matt Gibson at 212-500-0714, or

Current and former Red Wings yesterday "attended the public memorial and visitation" for late Red Wings and Tigers Owner MIKE ILITCH. Visitors were seated in Detroit's Fox Theatre and "watched a video montage" of Ilitch. Ilitch Holdings President & CEO CHRIS ILITCH and his siblings "greeted visitors." Staffers from Ilitch's other businesses were "allowed in before the public entered" around 12:15pm ET (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 2/16). Mourners "filed into the Fox throughout much" of the day, "waiting 30-45 minutes in the main theater before being ushered into the grand lobby." This was "not a memorial with speeches by dignitaries, but a common gathering, the way Ilitch would’ve liked it." It was a day of "remembrance, not remorse, and it was impossible to put Ilitch’s legacy in proper perspective." Ilitch’s "way was an everyman’s way, and the words on the memorial card summed it up: 'A Life Well Lived.'" It was a "full life and a fulfilled vision, celebrated equally by those who know him well, and those who felt they did" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/16).

THE KING'S COURT: ARNOLD PALMER "will be succeeded by five co-hosts" at next month's PGA Tour Arnold Palmer Invitational -- GRAEME MCDOWELL, ANNIKA SORENSTAM, PETER JACOBSENCURTIS STRANGE and former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security TOM RIDGE. The tournament will take place at the Bay Hill Club in Orlando, where McDowell and Sorenstam reside. The tournament hosts will "help with a variety of roles traditionally held by Palmer" (, 2/15).

NAMES: Dolphins WR KENNY STILLS is the fifth NFLer to pull out of a "goodwill trip" to Israel sponsored by the Israeli government (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 2/16)....Honorees at last night's Dapper Dan Dinner & Sports Auction were Penguins GM JIM RUTHERFORD and coach MIKE SULLIVAN, who were named Co-Sportsmen of the Year. Also honored were Gold Medal-winning U.S. rower AMANDA POLK (Sportswoman of the Year), former NFLer ROCKY BLEIER (Lifetime Achievement Award) and Pro Football HOFer MEL BLOUNT (Dr. Freddie Fu Sports Leadership Award) (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 2/16)....The NBA Cares program last night had seven former NBA and WNBAers on hand to "conduct a clinic for approximately 35 kids and christened" a refurbished basketball court at the Baton Rouge Recreation’s Monte Sano gym (, 2/15)....Snider Health, the company left to late Flyers Owner ED SNIDER’s heirs, submitted a proposal yesterday for a 125,000-square-foot facility for "growing medical marijuana” to be built in Philadelphia (, 2/15).

With the Internet connecting us all, conducting your OTT service in a global marketplace is now more essential than ever before. Listen to industry experts, Mike Allen of the NBA and Chris Wagner of NeuLion, as SportsBusiness Journal’s Abe Madkour asks them about the importance of packaging content, supporting global currencies and local payment methods for video on any device. To sign up for the podcast, visit

SportsBusiness Journal/Daily, along with our partner LeadDog Marketing Group, have created the 2017 Thought Leaders Retreat, June 15-16, 2017 -The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, Calif. An off-the-record program that includes learning, networking and action. The Retreat promises to be two days that will motivate and inspire.

The Retreat is by-invitation-only, and exclusively for current and past recipients of the following SBJ/SBD awards:
• Forty Under 40 Award
• Champions: Innovators & Pioneers in Sports
• Game Changers
• Lifetime Achievement Award

For more INFORMATION on how to REGISTER, please go to