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Volume 25 No. 128

People and Pop Culture

MLB has promoted three execs to the Senior VP level as part of its ongoing league office restructuring. BARBARA MCHUGH, with the league since ’09 and before that  with the Mets and Sports Museum of America, becomes Senior VP/Marketing, where she will oversee efforts such as new media and content marketing, club initiatives and growth marketing. JAMIE LEECE, a key player in the development of products such as the RBI Baseball video game revival and MLB Home Run Derby experience, becomes Senior VP/Games & VR, where he will lead the league’s gaming and VR efforts. PATRICK HOULIHAN becomes Senior VP & Deputy General Counsel for Labor Relations, and will advise clubs on issues related to the CBA. He also will be involved with player discipline and grievances and manage the MLB Players Benefit Plan.

Former NFL and NASCAR exec JIM O'CONNELL has been named President of a new sales agency, launched by athlete and broadcast talent rep firm Athletes First. Athletes First Partners' first assignment will be to sell marketing, licensing, and content rights for the NBPA. “There’s tremendous potential for deals across categories and with a variety of content opportunities,” said O’Connell, who was most recently working for WheelsUp, after 10 years at NASCAR. Eight people have been hired for the new sales unit, including former NBA Int'l Marketing VP JENE ELZIE as Chief Growth Officer, former Medallion Sports Properties CEO SEAN DOWNES as VP/Sponsorship Sales and former Turner Sports VP/Property Sales MATT SHULMAN as VP/Platform Sales & Client Services. Athletes First Partners will be housed within MKTG’s Manhattan offices. MKTG parent Dentsu is a minority partner. “It's our first foray into sales, and when you combine the power of every NBA player with the global reach of Dentsu and the expertise we’ve brought in with Jim and his team, its just a matter of focus,” said Athletes First President BRIAN MURPHY, who will serve as CEO of Athletes First Partners.

There were six covers for this year's issue, with Federer being the only athlete featured
Photo: Time Magazine

TIME magazine today unveiled its 15th annual list of the 100 Most Influential People, and Gold Medal-winning U.S. snowboarder CHLOE KIM was one of several prominent sports figures were featured on the list. Celebrity chef DAVID CHANG wrote of Kim, "It’s hard for me to imagine the amount of pressure Chloe must have internalized." Fans "saddled her with four years’ worth of built-up expectations" and Asian-¬≠American fans "further piled on their hopes that she would shatter Asian stereotypes on her way to the podium." Chang: "She crushed it. Blew us all out of the water. Now the best thing Chloe Kim can do is be Chloe Kim." U.S. figure skater ADAM RIPPON also made the list, and CHER wrote Rippon "isn’t just a beautiful skater." Cher: "He has humility, grace and an incredible sense of humor." He "dares to be different in a world where being different always comes with a cost." Gymnast RACHAEL DENHOLLANDER, the first woman to publicly say she was molested by former USA Gymnastics team doctor LARRY NASSAR, also was honored. U.S. gymnast ALY RAISMAN, herself a victim, wrote, "None of us could have anticipated or prepared for the onslaught of emotions we’d experience just by being in that courtroom." Yet Denhollander was in attendance for "each court session of that sentencing, each impact statement and each fellow survivor."  

CHECKING THE LIST: Texans DE J.J. WATT made the list, and Houston Mayor SYLVESTER TURNER noted Watt raised more than $37M for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts and "delivered water, food and supplies to storm victims." Watt "lifted the spirits of all Houstonians." Turner: "Every few years, a professional athlete touches the heart and soul of a city in a way that has nothing to do with athleticism." Such is the case with Watt -- a "star on and off the field." ROGER FEDERER also was recognized, with BILL GATES writing, "Roger and his team are working to improve the life prospects for poor children -- a mission that stems from his childhood visits to his mother’s home country of South Africa and seeing extreme poverty firsthand." Federer "knows that effective philanthropy, like great tennis, requires discipline and time." Apple Senior VP/Internet Software & Services EDDY CUE penned the piece on Warriors F KEVIN DURANT. From Durant's $10M commitment to the College Track program to "help disadvantaged kids receive higher education to building and renovating basketball courts around the world so at-risk youth have a safe place to learn and play," Durant is "giving those growing up in tough situations, like he did, a path to success." As an entrepreneur, Durant "brings the same relentless work ethic and pursuit of excellence that he has on the court, focusing on companies and products that are making lives better." Indian cricket player VIRAT KOHLI also made the list; former India National Cricket Team captain SACHIN TENDULKAR wrote today Kohli is a "household name and a champion in cricket" (TIME, 4/30 issue).

"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, our panelists give their takes on legalizing sports betting in the U.S. and Conor McGregor's prospects for fighting in the UFC again.

  • Predators CEO Sean Henry
    -- Go-to karaoke song is "Gold On The Ceiling" by the Black Keys.
  • NFL Network's Kyle Brandt 
    -- First-ever Netflix rental was "Get Him To The Greek."
  • Adidas Golf President Jeff Lienhart
    -- Is interested to see where online gaming evolves.
  • MiLB VP/Business Development & Media Gerald Jones
    -- Favorite TV shows are "Blue Bloods," "NCIS: New Orleans" and "Chicago P.D." 
Going Off The Grid
  The impending legalization of sports betting is...
Best sports doc/movie you watched recently? Favorite takeout food? Ping-pong or foosball? Will McGregor fight again in UFC?

Will cause a lot of opportunity and distress for some "Andre The Giant" Calzones Foosball. Not even a question! Absolutely

Overrated. Every guy I know is already betting "The King Of Kong" Indian food Neither. Air hockey -- the MMA of bowling alley games I hope he keeps fighting

Good if it's well thought out and gives back in some way "42" Sushi Ping-pong Of course. It's all about the drama and storyline

A fun way to engage fans and provide league/team revenue "The U" Fresh Kitchen Ping-pong Of course. It will be a huge storyline when he returns

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

Home Team Sports-owned Impression Sports & Entertainment named DAN LENTZ VP/Naming Rights & Partnership Development. Lentz had overseen Cal Bears Sports Properties' partnership sales department, which is managed by Learfield Sports. Fox Sports owns HTS (John Ourand, Staff Writer)....Sports data and intelligence firm STATS promoted Managing Dir of Europe, Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific regions RYAN PATERSON to Chief Global Officer (STATS)....Colombia Sportswear Company named MARY ELLEN GLYNN Dir of Corporate Communications. Glynn has experience as Communications Dir for former Oregon Gov. TED KULONGOSKI. Columbia also promoted SARA BRADSHAW to Corporate Communications Manager (Columbia)....Gator Bowl Sports appointed Jacksonville-based betting outfit bestbet President JAMIE SHELTON Chair and named The Addecco Group Regional Head of HR for North America, UK and Ireland RICH THOMPSON Chair-elect (, 4/18).

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Stabler is one of 33 women to take the agent certification exam administered by the NFLPA
Photo: Courtesy Of Alexa Stabler

USA TODAY's Lindsay Jones profiles NFL player agent ALEXA STABLER, who has "become part of a growing number of female contract agents in the highly competitive and male-dominated industry." She is "one of 33 women to take the agent certification exam" administered by the NFLPA and has signed "six players eligible" for the NFL Draft. Currently "only 5% of the 830 certified agents are female," but the 41 women represent a "roughly 50% increase" in female agents since '10 (USA TODAY, 4/19). Stabler, the daughter of Pro Football HOFer KEN STABLER, also was profiled by SportsBusiness Journal last month.

THE GOOD STUFF: ESPN's DICK VITALE is hosting his annual gala to raise funds for pediatric cancer research on May 11 at the Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Fla. He is "'very optimistic' that he'll reach his goal to raise a best-ever" $3.5M, which would lift the overall total to $25M since he started the effort. The event is also honoring ESPN's SHELLEY SMITH and CHRIS BERMAN as Spirit of Jimmy V award recipients (, 4/18)....Red Sox P JOE KELLY is using attention gained from a recent fight with Yankees OF TYLER AUSTIN to "do a little good." Kelly has "started the 'COME ON! JK56 Challenge' in which he's asking Boston sports fans and anyone else who wants to participate to donate to the Mission 108 foundation," a charity started by MLBer ROBBIE ROSS JR. to "help fight human trafficking" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/19).

NAMES: Recently fired UConn men's basketball coach KEVIN OLLIE's lawyers have "sent UConn President SUSAN HERBST a letter accusing the school of violating his constitutional rights" by firing him for just cause before "giving him an opportunity to contest the decision" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/19)....Former Portland Marathon Dir LES SMITH “illegally borrowed more than $865,000 from the nonprofit that operates the event,” according to the Oregon Department of Justice. Smith “entered into a settlement agreement with the state, agreeing to repay the Portland Marathon" the full sum. He “admitted to no wrongdoing in the settlement.” Smith had been the event’s director since ’82 (Portland OREGONIAN, 4/19)....Patriots Owner ROBERT KRAFT and coach BILL BELICHICK were in Cleveland on Saturday to see BON JOVI “get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” Kraft on Tuesday was “seated courtside” at Bucks-Celtics Game 2 with RICKI LANDER (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/19)....PEYTON MANNING was “inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame” (, 4/18)....SI’s BEN REITER’s new book, “ASTROBALL: THE NEW WAY TO WIN IT ALL,” will be released July 10 (, 4/18).


This is not your father’s league sport anymore. Bowling is targeting a younger demographic with upgraded food and entertainment offerings at lanes across the country, and promoting the sport through team and race sponsorships in NASCAR. We look at efforts by the sport expand its fan base and stay relevant to the millennial and younger generations.

Publishing Date: May 7

Ad Close: April 23

Materials Due: April 25

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