Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 25 No. 64

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Legalized sports betting could lead to the NFL relaxing its policies on teams' abilities to partner with casinos
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NFL is expected to sit the "whole integrity fee thing out, for now," following the Supreme Court's ruling on sports betting, according to Albert Breer of THE MMQB. That comes after ESPN's Don Van Natta Jr. reported the league is "opposed" to an integrity fee. There have been "different estimates" surrounding an integrity fee, and such fees "could wind up costing Nevada sports books, and later those in other states," around 15-20% of their annual revenue. One Raiders source said that the team is "very sensitive to that two years ahead of their move" to Vegas. The change in law also "could lead to the NFL relaxing its policies on teams abilities to partner with casinos, and the sponsorship opportunities on that end could be massive." Breer: "So why immediately anger those people on something that most in the league view as a low-margin business opportunity if there’s bigger upside around the corner with them?" (SI.com, 5/17). CBSSPORTS.com's Jason La Canfora wrote the NFL will be "very careful with its public statements and outward stance on this new era in gambling." But La Canfora added, "I can guarantee you there are already plenty of forward-thinking, high-revenue owners with dollar signs in their eyes." The "bottom line" is that there is "no shortage of entities about to cash in." La Canfora: "Don't think for a minute that once these floodgates are truly open that the men who run this league won't be doing the same." With "so many" outside operations about to "profit from the NFL's product via legal gambling, this is certainly a time for the league to be obsessed with protecting the 'integrity' of its games." But it is also going to be "very much about ensuring they get their piece of an ever-growing pie" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/16). 

PROS & CONS: In Denver, Mark Kiszla writes it "seems reasonable to expect a spike in everything from TV ratings to franchise valuations with the introduction of legal gambling to NFL games." A fan is "more likely to watch the Bills play the Browns in late December if there's money riding on the outcome." Kiszla: "What worries me about gambling being extensively woven into the fabric of the NFL aren't the big issues of enforcement and integrity, but how gambling could slowly begin to fray the community spirit that has made the Broncos about the only thing almost everyone in Colorado solidly supports" (DENVER POST, 5/17). 

Jacobs believes there won't be any issues with the athletes themselves based on the salary structure
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs believes legalized sports gambling in the U.S. "will boost fan engagement" and "increase revenue -- for state coffers and for the various pro leagues and individual teams central to the betting action," according to Kevin Paul Dupont of the BOSTON GLOBE. Jacobs said of sports betting, "It will, probably, provide more income to the various franchises and to the players." Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs also "suggested that gaming could be one way to enhance overall fan interest in the NHL." Charlie Jacobs: "I anticipate there will be a greater level of engagement from the event-goer and the casual viewer. Maybe the casual viewer becomes more than a casual viewer" (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/17). Jeremy Jacobs said of how betting will affect the integrity of the game, "There's a lot that will have to be managed, probably cautiously. ... We'll learn a lot from what's going on in Australia and Britain" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 5/16). THE ATHLETIC's Joe McDonald noted Jacobs believes there will not be any integrity issues "with the athletes themselves based on the salary structure." In U.S. leagues, athletes "simply make too much for them to be bought or swayed easily by betting interests." Jacobs: "We like our class of players, who they represent and the earnings they get is a different situation" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/16).

COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE? In Winnipeg, Paul Wiecek writes while the U.S. Supreme Court decision "doesn't technically apply to Canada, it most surely does if American-based hockey teams begin raking in gambling dollars, rendering the seven Canadian NHL teams at an even worse competitive disadvantage than they already are by a devalued Canadian dollar." There has "already been a movement afoot in Canada to legalize single-game sports betting." Canada's Parliament likely will be "looking at the issue again now that the Americans have swung the door wide open." What is "good for hockey is good for Canada," and what is "good for politicians is to not have angry hockey fans with pitchforks on their doorsteps" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 5/17).

Zobrist said that a consensus from the MLBPA and MLB would be needed for a change in the rules
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Cubs 2B Ben Zobrist "believes uniform rules will be adjusted to allow him to wear his black cleats without facing a penalty," according to Mark Gonzales of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. After discussions yesterday with MLBPA officials and MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre, Zobrist said, "It sounds like they all want us to be free to wear whatever we'd like to wear. Obviously there needs to be some structure because you can't just say 'Go ahead, wear whatever whenever.' We still have to protect certain things from happening." Gonzales notes MLB "warned Zobrist last week after he wore black cleats for a Rockies-Cubs game." Zobrist said that a "consensus from the MLBPA and MLB would be needed for a change in the rules." Zobrist added that the 51% minimum cleat rule was "instituted to allow some freedom, 'but not total freedom' because some teams wanted a more uniformed approach" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/17). 

Veach, 23, could emerge as a cornerstone for the next generation of IndyCar stars
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Veterans in IndyCar believe the current young group of drivers has a "better chance of making an impact together than previously-hyped classes," according to Michael Marot of the AP. Chip Ganassi Racing Managing Dir Mike Hull said, "We've got good, quality guys under 25 and now they're driving for owners who hopefully will stick with them because that's how I think that's what develops them. I think the crop you're talking about is the crop we've needed for a long, long time but we didn't have the stability to do that. Now, we do." IndyCar President of Competition & Operations Jay Frye called this young group "'advanced' in terms of their experience and business savvy." But Marot wrote in a sport where "winning matters, big names rule, and sponsorship money is increasingly more difficult to find and keep, the biggest challenge might be finding teams and companies that are patient enough to stick with a young guy long enough to reap the rewards." Andretti Autosport driver Zach Veach, 23, "looks like the perfect guy for IndyCar's youth movement." He has a "full-time ride with one of the series' top teams, stable sponsorship and what appears to be a bright future." If Veach succeeds, he could "emerge as a cornerstone for the next generation of stars." It is possible more than 20% of this year's Indianapolis 500 starters could be "younger than 25," including Gabby Chaves (24), Ed Jones (23), Kyle Kaiser (22) and Sage Karam (23). The driver with the "most at stake this month" may be Karam, whose "only scheduled race this season" is the Indy 500. Karam: "The hardest part is when you're not a full-time driver and you don't have a resume to show sponsors you can do well. ... If I win, it would be a game-changer" (AP, 5/16).

ONE MANN OPERATION: In Indianapolis, Gregg Doyel in a front-page piece notes driver Pippa Mann is "representing Donate Life Indiana" in this year's Indy 500, which has "outfitted her No. 63 car, once so famously pink, in blue and greens." Mann said, "It was a really big honor for me. It does come with a lot of weight, it comes with a lot of responsibility." The last four years, Mann's car was all "decked out in the pink of Susan G. Komen, pink being the color of breast cancer awareness." Her Dale Coyne Racing team "offered up the car’s livery as an in-kind donation to Susan G. Komen," and Mann took care of the rest, "raising more than $200,000." Mann, who is only looking to do the Indy 500 this season, does her "own marketing, branding and public relations." She finds sponsors, "signs them up, makes sure they’re happy, and does whatever it takes to fulfill their agreement." Most drivers "slap a decal on their car" and "that’s where it ends." Mann gets her sponsors their "garage pass, speaks at their banquets, poses for their pictures." She "entertains sponsors in a suite at IMS, then invites them down to the track for a tour of the garage" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/17).

The NBA's Utah Summer League will return July 2-5, but some of the participants and venue have changed for the "annual round-robin format," according to Kyle Goon of the SALT LAKE TRIBUNE. The Hawks and Grizzlies will join the Spurs and Jazz, and after two years at the Univ. of Utah's Huntsman Center, teams "will play in Vivint Smart Home Arena, which underwent renovations last summer" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 5/17). Meanwhile, the NBA Kings announced that the inaugural California Classic Summer League also "will be held July 2, 3, and 5 at Golden 1 Center." In Sacramento, Jason Jones noted the three days will "feature double headers on both days" involving the Kings, Warriors, Lakers and Heat. All the teams will also "participate in NBA summer league in Las Vegas, which begins July 6" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 5/15).

Bruins Owner Jeremy Jacobs said of possible NHL expansion markets, "Quebec is challenged, OK, I’m going to put it nicely. They’re challenged. Look at the income base and the population base and there probably isn’t a smaller market, so they’re going to really have to distinguish themselves in some other way." Quebec City as of '16 had an "estimated population of 705,103, which would make it the eighth-largest Canadian city just behind Winnipeg" (SPORTSNET.ca, 5/16).

QUICK PITCH: MLB Giants 1B Brandon Belt alleges an umpire in yesterday's game against the Reds made a borderline strike call in order to end the game quickly. ESPN's Scott Van Pelt noted there is a "big difference between an ump saying that he wants to keep a game moving, which is a directive from on high in Major League Baseball, and an ump calling a ball a strike because he wants to go eat lunch" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 5/17).

TIGHT SQUEEZE: The WNBA chose to "ram the entire regular season and playoffs in before the [FIBA Basketball] World Cup tournament begins Sept. 22 in Spain," meaning games "will be coming fast and furious." Last season, the Lynx’ 34 regular-season games were "played over a span of 112 days." This season, those 34 games "will be played over 91 days" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 5/17).