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Volume 24 No. 214

People and Pop Culture

Stats LLC named software exec CARL MERGELE its new CEO, replacing KEN FUCHS. Mergele, most recently with Lexmark Enterprise Software, will lead the day-to-day business for the Chicago-based sports data and analytics company, owned by Vista Equity Partners. Stats Chief Revenue Officer RICHARD HENDERSON called Mergele’s arrival the “next evolution of our business.” Henderson: “Carl’s a heavy hitter, and he has a really good track record of bring products and services to market very quickly.” Fuchs, formerly with Time Inc., Yahoo and Fox Interactive Media, had led the company since late '15 and recently oversaw a deeper push into advanced player analytics and artificial intelligence, as well as the addition of CASEY WASSERMAN to the company’s BOD. Fuchs and Stats described the parting as amicable. Fuchs, who is now headed back to the West Coast said, "I worked closely with the board on this, and just a really good time personally and professionally to make the change as we hit the new year, as well as Stats being at a very good pivot point now."

UFC President DANA WHITE said that PRESIDENT TRUMP, for "all the controversy surrounding him, is a 'stand-up' guy," according to Jordan Frias of the BOSTON HERALD. White said, “He says some crazy things and does some crazy things. He’s one of the most stand-up human beings that I have ever dealt with in the business.” White added, “Since Trump has been the president of the United States this guy has called me 15, 20 times. ... He called me to see if I wanted to start bringing UFC champions to the White House" (BOSTON HERALD, 1/18).

THOUGHT PROCESS: USA TODAY's Christine Brennan notes figure skater ADAM RIPPON, who is "believed to be the first openly gay U.S. Winter Olympian, criticized the White House’s selection" of VICE PRESIDENT PENCE to lead the U.S. delegation to Pyeongchang. Rippon said, “You mean Mike Pence, the same Mike Pence that funded gay conversion therapy? I’m not buying it." Rippon added that he "would prefer not to meet Pence during the traditional meet-and-greet between the official delegation and U.S. athletes" in the hours leading up to the Opening Ceremony. Rippon: "I wouldn’t go out of my way to meet somebody like that" (USA TODAY, 1/18).

RAISING AWARENESS: Spurs coach GREGG POPOVICH, prior to last night's game against the Nets, which corresponded with the Nets’ second annual Pride Night, said that events that promote diversity and inclusion are "vital to raising awareness to the number of social justice issues that face this country." Popovich: "Making sure that we all understand that there are social issues in the country that can be addressed, should be addressed is the reason why you do it. It’s not necessarily because of a certain individual. Whether it’s honoring the military, communities, LGBT community, it doesn’t matter. You have a responsibility and a platform, to use it is wise and responsible” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 1/18).

"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. This week, panelists chime in on Jon Gruden's new venture, as well as the NBA's "City Edition" uniforms. 

  • PGA Tour Chief Media Officer Rick Anderson
    -- Still feeling the effects of the loss of Tom Petty.
  • NHL Group VP/Int'l Strategy Lynn White 
    -- Looking forward to seeing Springsteen on Broadway in two weeks.
  • USOC CFO Morane Kerek
    -- "Sorry Not Sorry" by Demi Lovato is the song she hates that she loves.
  • Univision Deportes VP/Live Events Miguel Angel Garcia
    -- Became a dad for the first time in '17, so his pop culture revolves around Mickey Mouse.
Going Off The Grid
  Winter Olympic event I'm most excited for Gruden to the Raiders in 3 words or less... Chances Brady/Belichick aren't together next year Best "City Edition" NBA uniform Siri or Alexa?

Bobsled Really?? Zero Warriors Still dating both

Men's ice hockey - Gold Medal game Never lasts 10 Slim. Winning overcomes all differences Knicks. I love the nod to the FDNY Siri

Biathlon Harder than TV Zero. They were made for each other

The Land! (Cavaliers)


Chucky is back Slim. Throwing away their tremendous legacy would be ridiculous

Suns. I grew up in Phoenix and love the "Los Suns" on the jerseys


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

The Packers promoted General Counsel ED POLICY to COO. Policy will keep his current position but will take on a greater role overseeing the club's business operations, including sales, marketing and HR. Policy is entering his seventh season with the team (Packers). The 47-year-old Policy also will oversee the Titletown District development in addition to team security, shareholder services, community outreach and public affairs. Packers President & CEO MARK MURPHY said of Policy's work with Titletown, "People not only across the league, but others, have started to notice. This is a way to keep him here" (, 1/17).

AROUND THE WORLDWIDE LEADER: ESPN promoted Asia Pacific VP & Managing Dir MIKE MORRISON to VP/Business Development in the U.S., reporting directly to Exec VP/Affiliate Sales & Marketing JUSTIN CONNOLLY. With Morrison's transition, Senior VP/Int'l Programming, Production & Marketing TIM BUNNELL will now oversee ESPN's business in China and North Asia. Also seeing a promotion was CHARLY CLASSEN, who becomes ESPN VP & GM for EMEA, South Asia & Australia/New Zealand (ESPN).

EXECS: The PGA Tour named Shriners Hospitals for Children Open Exec Dir ADAM SPERLING to the same role for the '21 Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte (, 1/17)....Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey named Las Vegas-based TPC Summerlin GM LEE SMITH to the same role. Liberty National hosted the Presidents Cup in October (, 1/16)....The Twins formally named JUSTIN MORNEAU Special Assistant to Baseball Operations, which will see the former MLBer "assist with Spring Training instruction." He will also "contribute to draft preparation, be a resource for players in the clubhouse ... and cover about 10 games as an analyst" for FS North (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 1/18)....The Royals named former MLBer and coach GENE LAMONT Special Assistant to the GM (Royals).

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Some fans were able to grab selfies with Goodell, who was in Buffalo for a wedding

ROGER GOODELL on Sunday was at the Creekview restaurant in Williamsville, N.Y., and people "took selfies" with the NFL Commissioner, who was in the Buffalo area over the weekend for the wedding of Pro Football HOFer JIM KELLY's daughter, ERIN. Creekview GM BILL JACOBBI said of Goodell, "He was a gentleman to everybody" (, 1/17).

GIVING BACK: COLIN KAEPERNICK announced he will "name 10 beneficiaries over the next 10 days for the final $100,000" of his $1M charity pledge. Each organization picked will "receive an additional $10,000 from a different celebrity." The first charity announced was Silicon Valley De-Bug, and the "match to Kaepernick's $10,000" comes courtesy of Warriors F KEVIN DURANT (, 1/17). Warriors G STEPHEN CURRY is also contributing to Kaepernick's pledge, "donating $10,000 to United Playaz, a Bay Area-based violence prevention and youth development organization that has worked closely with Curry in the past" (, 1/17).

HONORING TWO GREATS: Bruins anthem singer RENE RANCOURT will "retire" at the end of this season. Rancourt has been a "regular singer" for the team since the '75-76 season. Meanwhile, the Bruins and the NHL "celebrated the 60th anniversary" of WILLIE O'REE "breaking the league's color barrier." Boston Mayor MARTIN WALSH proclaimed yesterday as Willie O'Ree Day. The Bruins and NHL also announced the "dedication of Willie O'Ree Rink, a street hockey rink" in the Allston neighborhood of Boston (, 1/17).

NAMES: Pro Football HOFer EMMITT SMITH has started a "new Dallas-based real estate business" in partnership with N.Y.-based Newmark Group. The company will "work in commercial property brokerage as well as development and construction services." Smith said that the firm will have "50 to 100 employees and will operate in multiple markets" (, 1/17)....Top Rank Boxing has signed 17-year-old junior middleweight prospect DAVID KAMINSKY, who was 94-8 as an amateur. Kaminsky hails from Israel but has been living for years now in California (, 1/17)….The Golf Writers Association of America will award former August National Chair BILLY PAYNE with its William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to golf (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 1/18)....The Raptors and rapper DRAKE yesterday announced plans to “grow their partnership” with a new program called “Welcome Toronto.” Drake and the Raptors will donate $1M to refurbish local community basketball courts and another $2M to Canada Basketball (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/18)....The Mark Gordon Co. has “picked up the movie rights” to the upcoming JAMES PATTERSON book on late former NFLer AARON HERNANDEZ. MATT JACKSON will produce the project with BILL ROBINSON and LEOPOLDO GOUT (, 1/17).