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Volume 24 No. 160

People and Pop Culture

Pac-12 Networks President LYDIA MURPHY-STEPHANS will leave the outlet in June to set up her own media advisory company. Murphy-Stephans, who was one of the highest-ranking women in sports media, already has signed Pac-12 Networks as her first client. She spent six years with the networks, four as the top exec running them. “As Pac-12 Networks’ first general manager, Lydia’s energy and leadership were critical in turning our ambitious vision into a reality,” Pac-12 Commissioner LARRY SCOTT said via email. “Then, upon becoming Networks president, she made history by becoming the first woman to head a national sports network. Under Lydia’s leadership, Pac-12 Networks grew dramatically both in programming and distribution reach, serving millions of our fans, helping to support our member universities, and providing unprecedented exposure to our women and Olympic student-athletes.” Murphy-Stephans oversaw a unique group of channels -- one national and six regional channels -- that produced 850 live sporting events each year. The network said that Pac-12 Networks has been profitable every year since its ‘12 launch. However, the channels have suffered well-publicized distribution problems as well. Most notably, it has not been able to get carriage on DirecTV, which has kept its distribution number well below other college conference channels like SEC Network and BTN. Murphy-Stephans has enjoyed a long career that has taken her from ABC Sports to Lifetime to Oxygen to MSG Media. She joined Pac-12 Networks in ‘11 as Exec VP & GM. She was named President in ‘13 after GARY STEVENSON stepped down.

The Patriots celebrated their Super Bowl LI win yesterday by visiting the White House and PRESIDENT TRUMP, who "practically made the team one of his platform planks in the final days of the most stunning election" in recent memory, according to a front-page piece by Dan Shaughnessy of the BOSTON GLOBE. Just a "few hours before the team met with Trump in the Oval Office," Patriots QB TOM BRADY "sent word that he would not make it because of 'personal family matters.'" Brady's "ill mother reportedly was visiting him in Boston." Trump, Patriots Owner ROBERT KRAFT and coach BILL BELICHICK "all delivered remarks in a half-hour ceremony on the White House lawn." Brady's name was "never uttered from the microphone." Shaughnessy notes the day was "steeped in controversy long before Brady's bailout or the staggering news about" the hanging death of former Patriots TE AARON HERNANDEZ. Trump's "only slip was a toast" to Patriots WR DANNY AMENDOLA, who was "supposed to be on hand but was not" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/20). In Boston, Annie Linskey notes behind the scenes, the Patriots "received an apparently warm welcome," as they were "served lunch, got a tour of the White House, and met privately with Trump for about 30 minutes in the Oval Office." Earlier in the day, as Press Secretary SEAN SPICER was giving his daily briefing, Patriots TE ROB GRONKOWSKI "interrupted, entering the press room from a side door." But "overt politicking, the conspicuous absence" of Brady and other players, and Hernandez’ prison death "undermined the tone of an event that is typically much lighter and more positive." In his "brief and subdued remarks," Trump name-dropped late Yankees Owner GEORGE STEINBRENNER and also "offered a recycled anecdote" about how Belichick had written a supporting letter during the election (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/20). 

: In N.Y., Victor Mather writes the "customary White House visit for sports champions has become especially fraught since Trump was elected." The "issue was stark" yesterday, when a "relatively small contingent of Patriots players flanked the president" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/20).'s Mike Reiss noted regarding Hernandez, "neither Kraft nor Belichick took questions from reporters after the ceremony to share their thoughts" (, 4/19). In Boston, Jaclyn Reiss notes two images appearing to compare the number of Patriots players and staff at recent White House ceremonies "rocketed around the Internet" last night, "appearing to show a much larger turnout" for the event hosted by PRESIDENT OBAMA in '15 than Trump in '17. The '15 image did include team staffers, while yesterday's image did not (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/20). 

: POLITICO noted Trump’s inaugural committee "raised an eye popping" $106.7M, "double what Obama raised for his first inauguration." Among the "big donors" were MARLENE RICKETTS, mother of Cubs Chair TOM RICKETTS, who donated $1M, Jets Owner WOODY JOHNSON ($1M), Redskins Owner DANIEL SNYDER ($1M), Jaguars Owner SHAHID KHAN ($1M) as well as Kraft (, 4/19). In DC, Dan Steinberg notes The Kraft Group -- "listing the Patriots address" -- and Cowboys Owner JERRY JONES’ Glenstone Limited Partnership -- listing the Cowboys address -- also made $1M donations. Rams Owner STAN KROENKE and Texans Owner BOB MCNAIR made $1M donations as well. The "office of the commissioner of baseball, and NFL Ventures -- the league’s for-profit wing -- both gave $100,000 to the committee, which also received donations from the Madison Square Garden Company, and from individuals associated with the ownership" of the Buccaneers and Mets (WASHINGTON POST, 4/20). Mets investor STEVEN COHEN was "another" $1M donor to the committee (, 4/19). 

Bleacher Report named Slate Magazine President KEITH HERNANDEZ VP/Brand Strategy & Sales. Hernandez, who “started working at the company last month,” reports directly to Founder & CEO DAVE FINOCCHIO. Hernandez is “leading go-to-marketing strategy for social media, working with advertising clients and BR’s ad sales team to develop branded-content campaigns targeted at the site’s core millennial-male audience” (, 4/18).

: Data outfit Sportradar has parted ways with CRO TOM MASTERMAN and Marketing & Communications  Dir NICK STAMM as it has shifted some of its U.S. business operations from Minneapolis to N.Y. (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer)....The Univ. of Iowa promoted Senior Associate AD/Sport Administration & Event Management BARBARA BURKE to Deputy AD. Burke is replacing GENE TAYLOR, who on Monday left to become Kansas State AD (, 4/18)....Whistle Sports named Mashable Studios Exec Producer of Original Programming & Development J LALONDE VP/Content (Whistle Sports)....L.A.-based Innovative Partnerships Group (IPG360) began its operations yesterday. IPG360 is founded by veteran business development exec JEFF MARKS. The company’s first client is the Pro Football HOF (IPG360)....The Bears named Blackhawks PR Manager MEGHAN BOWER to the newly created position of PR Specialist. The Bears also named Ohio State Associate AD/Athletic Communications ADAM WIDMAN Dir of Media Relations (THE DAILY)....Learfield named Celtics VP/Activation & Corporate Partnerships JJ ALBERTS GM of Providence Friars Sports Properties (Learfield)….The ECHL Worcester Railers named TOM MATTHEWS Social Media & PR Coordinator and KATIE ARSENAULT Marketing & Game Operations Coordinator. The Railers also promoted Membership Exec TYMMOTHY DORE to Senior Account Exec of Tickets & Memberships (Railers)….The NHL Kings named LINDSEY KARLIS Rink Account Exec in its Hockey Development department (THE DAILY)….Oak View Group’s security consulting division Prevent Advisors named USTA Dir of Security MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ and former U.S. Secret Service Special Agent MARK CAMILLO to its BOD (Prevent Advisors). 

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The AP's Brian Mahoney profiles NBA Commissioner Emeritus DAVID STERN and noted he is "more businessman than sportsman now, advising venture capital firms from his position atop DJS Global Advisors and investing in a number of startups, some of them in sports technology." Stern believes viewers will "favor streaming services and virtual reality, with output from wearable technology to provide statistical data to augment what they're watching." This week he and a group of partners "announced the launch of SportsCastr.Live." That adds to "previous investments that include ShotTracker" (AP, 4/20).

IN YOUR HONOR: Indiana Univ.'s forthcoming Excellence Academy will, "at least in part, feature the Irsay name." IU announced a major gift "from the Irsay Family in support of the IU Athletics Excellence Academy being constructed in the south end zone of Memorial Stadium." In recognition of that gift, a space "within the south end zone facility -- currently under construction -- will be named the Irsay Family Wellness Clinic." The gift was announced in a news release, which credited Colts Owner JIM IRSAY's daughter KALEN JACKSON, and an IU Varsity Club board member, specifically. The release "does not specify the size of the gift" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 4/20)....A painting depicting late Red Wings and Tigers Owner MIKE ILITCH was unveiled as "part of a two-month exhibition" featuring the works of artist CURTIS LEWIS. The 2-foot by 3-foot "multimedia acrylic and oil painting on stretch canvas includes images of a tiger, a Little Caesars pizza with breadsticks, a baseball diamond, the Fox Theater marquee, the Stanley Cup, the new Little Caesars Arena and a portrait of Ilitch in a Tigers jersey."  The painting is "part of a display of Lewis' work at the Farmington Hills Community Library" (DETROIT NEWS, 4/20).

NAMES: Cubs co-Owner TODD RICKETTS, whom PRESIDENT TRUMP "tapped late last year to serve as deputy commerce secretary, withdrew his nomination" yesterday after "complications arose as he tried to divest his financial portfolio to avoid conflicts of interest." A source said that Ricketts had been "prepared to divest his own financial portfolio," but was told by the Office of Government Ethics that his entire family would have to "divest in order for him to be in full compliance with ethics rules" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/20)....Fan PATRICIA DOWDELL has "filed a suit in Baltimore Circuit Court claiming negligence by the Orioles” and MLB after she was hit in the stands by Orioles 1B CHRIS DAVIS' bat during a July 23 game at Camden Yards. The suit “seeks more than $75,000 in damages and an injunction requiring the team to install protective netting to the outfield side of each dugout” (, 4/19)....Grammy award-winning electronic music artist ZEDD “will be the special guest artist" at the ’17 Preakness Budweiser InfieldFest on May 20 (The Stronach Group)....Massachusetts-made movie “GREY LADY” premiered on Tuesday in Dedham, Mass., and Patriots coach BILL BELICHICK “stopped by to show his support” (, 4/20).