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Volume 26 No. 64

Top Stories

MLB has added FanDuel Group to its growing portfolio of authorized sports betting providers, evidence that its controversial strategy of tying the sportsbook sponsorship category to the purchase of the league’s official data feed continues to gain traction. FanDuel joins MGM Resorts and DraftKings as “authorized gaming operators,” giving them access to MLB’s official data feed and league and team logos, as well unlocking opportunities for sponsorship deals and promotional opportunities with MLB clubs in states that allow and regulate sports betting. MGM’s status as “official gaming partner” makes it the only sportsbook that can market through MLB channels, such as its web site. This is the first deal between FanDuel and MLB, which held a stake in daily fantasy competitor DraftKings and promoted that company’s daily fantasy product exclusively. Execs from MLB and Fan Duel declined to discuss financials, but confirmed that the structure remained as it was when MLB began negotiating with sportsbooks earlier this year. Multiple sources have said MLB’s commercial payment structure for data approximates the 0.25% royalty it sought when lobbying state legislators.

LOCAL DEALS BIG FOR FANDUEL: FanDuel already is the leading sportsbook in New Jersey, and the company earlier this month launched its sportsbook app in Pennsylvania. That allowed operators to take bets online beginning in June. Pennsylvania is the only state with broadly available sports betting that is home to MLB teams. “The local deals are critical for us,” said FanDuel President & COO Kip Levin. “Last year it was all about New Jersey. This year we’re expanding into new regions. But our marketing approach with sports betting still is very much about local media, local partnerships, local buying. We’re still a ways away before we’ll be looking at the national level in terms of media spend. So the ability to have access to the local assets -- whether its teams or regional sports networks or whatever it might be -- is critical as we’re rolling sports betting out.”

OFFICIAL DATA SEEN AS INTEGRAL: Though there has been debate around the value of real-time official data in an emerging U.S. market, Levin said FanDuel sees it as integral to providing the best consumer experience possible for in-play wagering, which now accounts for about half the sportsbook’s business in New Jersey. “There’s a lot of games (in baseball), with a lot going on,” Levin said. “We still have people monitoring and watching. But (official data) really makes the end customer experience much, much better, because you have less need for manual intervention of somebody pausing a market. In play markets can go on and off and on and off depending on what’s happening. So if you’ve got the live data feed, the percentage of time you can take live bets is much, much higher. Building the best customer experience has always been core to our strategy. So it very much dovetails well with that.”

KEY TO GETTING MARKETING SUPPORT: While MLB’s insistence that sportsbooks use official data in order to gain access to the marketing support of the league and its teams has been a lightning rod, its policy is not at all unique in the U.S. The NBA has taken a similar stance, and the NFL is expected to do so if and when it allows teams to sign sportsbook sponsorships. “To me, things are right on schedule,” said MLB Exec VP/Gaming & New Business Ventures Kenny Gersh. “At the beginning of the season, I was still working with regulating authorities, figuring out how to best structure these deals. Then we started having discussions with all the operators. DraftKings and FanDuel were both quick to recognize the value of these partnerships. We now have both of those done and we’re deep into the contract stage with several other operators."

Rapinoe admitted that the players' lawsuit eventually going to trial is a possibility
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

USWNT Fs Megan Rapinoe and Christen Press made the rounds on the network morning shows today responding to the breakdown in mediation talks with the U.S. Soccer Federation over their gender discrimination lawsuit, with Rapinoe saying when the USSF is "ready to have a serious conversation about equal pay, I think the conversations will go better." Rapinoe said, "We didn't feel like they were there or willing to go there." Press was asked about what the "sticking point" is in the negotiations and said, “Unfortunately, it was just the concept of paying us equally. We never even got past that." Press said the USWNT needs an "actual pay structure moving forward where we're being compensated equally." She added, "We'll never achieve, as women, any type of social equality without financial equality and we're looking for equal pay, not any talking about it any longer." Rapinoe admitted having the suit go to trial is “definitely a possibility,” though she added, "We're always open to hearing that conversation if they're ready to have it." She added, "I don't think anybody wants to go to litigation, but with that said we're very confident in our case" (“Today,” NBC, 8/15). Rapinoe said at any point when the USSF is "willing and ready to come and have a serious talk about equal pay, we’re always willing to listen to that” (“CBS This Morning,” 8/15). When asked what the plan would be if the players lose at trial, Press said, “You’re asking the wrong people, 'What if we lose?'" (“GMA,” ABC, 8/15). The Guardian's Beau Dure asked, "So when does Cordeiro go on the morning shows? Or Cindy Cone? Or Dan Flynn? Or Jay Berhalter? Not saying it's a good idea. Might hurt their case in court of public opinion. But it'd be good to hear them beyond the rare stone tablet handed down from Chicago" (TWITTER.com, 8/15).

HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF: USWNT F Tobin Heath, before yesterday's development, said the fight for equal has always been "synonymous" with the women's team. She added, "Through systematic discrimination, it's built up to this point. It's not like it has happened overnight. It's been going on forever." Heath: "If winning the last two World Cups were just to get to this moment in history where we can stand up for everyone and say everyone should be treated equally and respected equally in the workplace, then that's what are our lives and this fight is about" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 8/15). USWNT D Crystal Dunn earlier this week said, "This fight isn’t just for us. It’s for women across the board, in all avenues, all aspects of life." She added, "I feel like this cry has been heard for so long, but no one’s been really acting on it. Us filing a lawsuit was our way of saying, ‘We’re tired of talking, we’re tired of complaining or tweeting. Now it’s about actions being taken'" (USA TODAY, 8/15). 

PUT IN WRITING: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Rachel Bachman reports a USWNT player on Monday emailed the USSF BOD a letter signed by all 28 players that "lays out the history of the women’s pay complaints" against the federation going back to '99 and "calls on the board to take action." The letter "details more extensively than ever before the players’ account of how they came to sue their governing body." It describes "'grueling months' of negotiations over" their current CBA, and a "parallel attempt to seek better pay and working conditions from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, with which five players filed a complaint against" USSF in spring '16. The letter said that the EEOC "asked the federation, player representatives and the players’ association to attempt to mediate the players’ EEOC complaint," but the USSF "refused to even make an offer of equality." The letter notes that "after filing suit, the players reached out several times to Cordeiro in hopes of resolving the equal-pay dispute before the World Cup." The sides "couldn’t agree on terms for a meeting and never got together." The letter also "refers to the fact that several lawmakers have proposed legislation to address the equal-pay issue" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/15).

Jay-Z said he couldn't ignore the opportunity to accomplish big things and uplift communities
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Jay-Z said that he can "help amplify" the NFL's Inspire Change initiative for social justice through his new partnership with the league, according to Jason Reid of THE UNDEFEATED. Jay-Z said that the opportunity to "potentially accomplish big things and uplift many in communities important to him was an opportunity he couldn't ignore." He added, "We forget that [Colin Kaepernick's] whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he "knew exactly what to expect" when partnering with Jay-Z. Goodell: "I don't [think] either one of us expected that this relationship wouldn't have its critics. But you don't let the critics or the negativity overwhelm the chance to do something really positive." Jay-Z said that he understands many "believe he should have shut the door on the NFL." But he added, "People have to evolve. People have to want to be better and people have to want to have conversations." Patriots Owner Robert Kraft introduced Goodell and Jay-Z, "believing they would work well together." After Kraft participated in the first meeting, Goodell and Jay-Z "envisioned a path forward together" (ESPN.com, 8/14).

STILL STANDS WITH KAP: In N.Y., Ken Belson writes if Goodell thought that "teaming up with Jay-Z would end a perception that Kaepernick has been blackballed by the league, he was mistaken." Kaepernick's name was "invoked over and over in one way or another" at the press conference announcing the partnership between the league and Jay-Z' Roc Nation agency. The "first question to Jay-Z was why he had partnered with the league" with Kaepernick "unable to land a job in the NFL." Jay-Z said that through this deal, he and others could "follow up Kaepernick's protest by helping millions of people." Goodell said that player protests inspired by Kaepernick had "raised awareness of social injustice and that the focus should be on work the players are doing to solve problems." Belson writes this partnership may "raise a lot more money for groups fighting social injustice that the league is backing" through Inspire Change. However, the league is "probably going to have a hard time shaking the Kaepernick questions" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/15).

TAKING THE NEXT STEP: In N.Y., Stefan Bondy notes Jay-Z "views his project with the NFL as the next step after kneeling, an action that not only piggybacks Colin Kaepernick's movement but enhances it." Jay-Z: "We're [past] kneeling and I think it's time to go into action. I'm not minimizing that part of it. That has to happen. That's a necessary part of the process." Bondy notes the partnership between the NFL and Roc Nation was "pitched as 'unifying America' through education and actions that addressed policing and the criminal justice system." Presumably, this deal "has the monetary backing to invoke real social change" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/15). ESPN's Jason Fitz said, "If we actually want to move forward, it's going to take everybody on both sides saying, 'How do we maximize this partnership?'" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 8/15). THE ATLANTIC's Jemele Hill writes the new partnership is a "huge win" for the league, as it is "conceivable that some of those entertainers who distanced themselves from the NFL might change their mind" (THEATLANTIC.com, 8/15). 

LEADING THE CHARGE: ESPN's Jalen Rose said Jay-Z is the "perfect person that can embody a relationship that clearly has been fractured with the NFL and its public." Rose: "For the NFL it's a big leap forward in acknowledging that they need that olive branch" ("Jalen & Jacoby," ESPN2, 8/14). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes this deal is "more intriguing" because of how Jay-Z was "one of the most prominent critics of Goodell's league for its handling of Kaepernick." Despite this, Jay-Z's "exemplary track record on social justice matters should have tremendous value" to the NFL. He is a "fitting partner for so many NFL players who have taken up the cause." Jay-Z "looms as a leadership voice that has been missing" (USA TODAY, 8/15). NBCSN's Chris Simms said he thinks Jay-Z's "heart is in the right place with this whole thing." Simms said the partnership with the NFL is "not only a business move but he's trying to shed some light and some knowledge on 32 white owners" ("PFT," NBCSN, 8/15).

DISINGENUOUS DEAL: In DC, Kevin Blackistone wrote Jay-Z "can't stand up for Kaepernick while tucking himself into bed with the NFL." It is "disingenuous" and "hypocritical." Blackistone: "What should have come of the deal Jay-Z announced with the NFL should have included Goodell standing up for Kaepernick." If Jay-Z is "who he has presented himself to be," more had "better come out of this partnership with the NFL than some more zeros in his bank account" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15). PFT's Mike Florio said, "A lot of people are troubled by it and rightfully so because the extent the NFL is now aware of the message that Kaepernick was trying to send, you can't say you've gotten the message but still continue to kill the career of the messenger" ("PFT," NBCSN, 8/15). FS1's Jason Whitlock said the NFL is "trying to use Jay-Z because they know that we're headed towards a very volatile political year." Whitlock said this election cycle is "going to be bonkers and the NFL doesn't want to be swallowed up by it" ("Speak for Yourself," FS1, 8/14).

OWNERSHIP AMBITIONS? PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Florio wrote when Jay-Z "decided to launch a sports agency six years ago," a source explained his "ambition in simple terms: He wants to own a team." The NFL deal "nudges Jay-Z far closer to that goal, if that indeed is the objective." He now has a "formal relationship" with the NFL, and has a "chance to build up plenty of goodwill with owners." Florio: "Perhaps Jay-Z would start as a Jon Bon Jovi-style owner, serving as the face of the group while the person with the controlling share opts to stay in the shadows." There is "almost always a bigger play when a big deal like this is announced" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/14).