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Volume 26 No. 181

Coronavirus And Sports

A task force opted for a similar time frame in '21 in order to use existing plans for the Games where possible
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
A task force opted for a similar time frame in '21 in order to use existing plans for the Games where possible
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
A task force opted for a similar time frame in '21 in order to use existing plans for the Games where possible
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Tokyo Games will be "held from July 23 to Aug. 8 in 2021," according to KYODO NEWS. The Games had been scheduled to take place from July 24-Aug. 9 of this year. Tokyo Organizing Committee President Yoshiro Mori said of the new dates, "We thought it will take time to hold qualifications and for the athletes to prepare for them." Mori also said that the Games taking place during the summer will "allow more ticket holders to watch the sports at venues and more volunteers to assist with operations." The new dates were "decided from among several proposed time frames, including springtime, to avoid major conflicts with the international sports calendar and to minimize the logistical challenges faced by organizers." A task force established by the Tokyo Organizing Committee "charged with handling the delay opted for a similar time frame" in '21 in order to "use existing plans for the games as much as possible" (KYODO NEWS, 3/30)

PRUDENT DECISION: In N.Y., Panja & Rich note the IOC initially indicated that a decision was "likely to take weeks, but it ultimately came to a faster resolution after talks with the Japanese authorities, athlete groups, commercial partners and sports organizations whose plans had been left in limbo." The announcement "came after a flurry of conference calls over the weekend stretched into Monday as the IOC moved to get all its stakeholders in alignment." Organizers will "avoid competing with most major sporting leagues in Europe and the United States when they are in the heart of their seasons" with the new dates. The dates also are "likely to suit the Olympics broadcaster in the United States, NBCUniversal, whose rights fees make up more of the IOC's income than any other single entity" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/30).

NO CONSPIRACY THEORY: REUTERS' Ian Ransom reports the Australian Olympic Committee indicated that its decision to pull out of the Tokyo Games "was unilateral and made without the knowledge" of Canada or the IOC. The AOC's move "came shortly after Canada's Olympic and Paralympic committees confirmed they would not send athletes," and the "double withdrawal prompted speculation that the two national Olympic committees may have acted together with the IOC to give the global body leverage to postpone the games." Australia's denial comes after Canada issued a similar denial on Friday (REUTERS, 3/30).

Athletic department budgets will be trimmed, and some schools might question the importance of athletics
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Athletic department budgets will be trimmed, and some schools might question the importance of athletics
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Athletic department budgets will be trimmed, and some schools might question the importance of athletics
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Lost dollars from the NCAA Tournament's cancellation are "just the tip of the iceberg," as the "economic climate in college sports that existed pre-coronavirus, even just a month ago, was vastly different from the one that will emerge post-coronavirus," according to Mike Jensen of the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. The ramifications "will be endless." The facilities arms race that "consumed big-time college sports for more than two decades could slow to a crawl." Athletic department budgets "will be trimmed across divisions," and schools trying to stay open "might question the importance of having an athletics program at all." Lost conference tournament revenue also is a "major issue." Jensen: "Do the venues demand full payment?" One veteran administrator said, "I'm sure there are some outs on both sides." But Jensen writes longtime partners "might handle such issues differently, wishing to maintain the partnership." A longtime AD said of the potential economic impact, "Say you're in a fund-raising campaign right now. Very sensitive. Sponsorships come open. People might be looking at the world very differently now. Next year's marketing budgets might take a hit" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/27).

MID-MAJOR PERSPECTIVES: Duquesne AD Dave Harper said athletic departments are going to have to "reinvent who they are to fit into universities' plans and missions." First-year Robert Morris AD Chris King said, "It probably hits the mid-majors a little harder than the Power Fives because the Power Fives, a lot of times, will have a reserve. They can afford the cut back in staffing or certain operating expenses where it's much, much more difficult for us." He added, "Right now, we’re sweating it a little more, but I guarantee you if we get to July and nothing has gone back to normal, the Power Fives are really going to be sweating it" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 3/29).

POWER-FIVE PERSPECTIVES: Georgia AD Greg McGarity said that his school is "starting a list of 'different buckets' that could be affected by the coronavirus crisis." McGarity: "Depending on football, obviously, that's the big unknown now. We're planning as if a football season is going to happen. If that doesn't happen, that's a whole another environment" (ATHENS BANNER-HERALD, 3/29). The NCAA last Thursday announced it was reducing its direct distribution to D-I conferences and schools this year by about $375M, but Utah State AD John Hartwell said that was "something we knew was coming for the last couple of weeks." Hartwell: "When the NCAA Tournament was canceled, we knew it was coming to some extent, so it was not totally out of left field. The number for Utah State will be about $600,000 of budgeted revenue that will not be coming our way for fiscal 2020." In Salt Lake City, Josh Newman wrote some "better news is that the Pac-12 has a rainy-day reserve fund for an emergency situation, such as a global pandemic," which it "could dip into to help athletic departments" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 3/28). Nebraska AD Bill Moos said there is an "opportunity here to implement things you ordinarily wouldn't implement." He said, "You're going to start seeing multi-million dollar reductions in revenue streams, so dream up some new ones" (LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR, 3/28).

COST OF DOING BUSINESS: In Portland, John Canzano noted the Pac-12 is in the midst of an 11-year lease for "two floors and 113,000 square feet of prime office space" in downtown S.F. The deal cost the conference $6.9M in rent last year and another $11.7M in "deferred rent." Canzano wrote, "If I'm a member of the Pac-12's CEO Group -- the presidents and chancellors of the 12 universities -- I have one question: Why are we still there?" None of the Pac-12 member institutions are located in downtown S.F., and staff at the Pac-12 offices have to be "paid more because of the high cost of living." Additionally, the "theoretical advantages of being located within blocks of some high-profile tech companies hasn't manifested itself in a single lucrative partnership." Canzano: "That downtown San Francisco location is a vanity play for a conference that can't afford one." As such, the Pac-12 should "get out of that lease" and "relocate the headquarters and the Pac-12 Networks studios somewhere less expensive" (Portland OREGONIAN, 3/28).

The PGA Tour has "outlined a number of programs to provide financial assistance to players, who are independent contractors and are compensated based entirely on their performance," according to Rex Hoggard of GOLFCHANNEL.com. IRS regulations prohibit the Tour "from distributing unearned financial benefits to members," but it has "created a number of programs for players, including an advanced-payment model based on projected FedExCup earnings." Players can receive "up to $100,000 in bonus earnings that will be removed from their season-ending bonus after play has been restarted" based on where they are "projected on the current FedExCup list." The Tour also has created a program "that will allow players to request advance payments for future Monday pro-am spots (up to $30,000) and advances on future earnings." Additionally, the Tour will allow for a "partial mid-season distribution of an endorsement program, and caddies will be allowed to make financial requests to the Caddie Benevolent Fund" (GOLFCHANNEL.com, 3/28).

DID THEY GO FAR ENOUGH? GOLF.com's weekly roundtable notes the Tour has "not yet announced any plans to assist Korn Ferry Tour players in a way that, say, Major League Baseball is giving its minor leaguers a weekly stipend." GOLF.com's Dylan Dethier writes it "makes sense to follow a similar model, where Korn Ferry players could borrow against their future earnings, to help string things out a bit." But he adds, "I understand the reluctance from the Tour -- few things are less certain than a pro golfer's next paycheck." GOLF.com's Josh Sens: "Strikes me as a can of worms the Tour is unlikely to open, as once you get started, where do you stop? Though it does seem a bit backward to start at the top circuit and work down, rather than the other way around." GOLF.com's Luke Kerr-Dineen: "It would be great that they did, but it's also a business, and with no money currently coming in, the potential for its rights deals to be affected by all this and everything else, there’s no use being idealistic. ... I have no idea if it's financially feasible for them to take on that commitment" (GOLF.com, 3/30).

PRETTY, PRETTY, PRETTY GOOD: CNN.com's Alaa Elassar noted comedian Larry David has "launched a GoFundMe for golf caddies" at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., who are "losing income due to the coronavirus pandemic." The goal was to reach $150,000, and it raised $111,000 "within a week of its launch" (CNN.com, 3/28).

Marcus Smart wrote on Twitter, "Corona Free as of two days ago. Cleared by Mass Dept of Health"
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Marcus Smart wrote on Twitter, "Corona Free as of two days ago. Cleared by Mass Dept of Health"
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Marcus Smart wrote on Twitter, "Corona Free as of two days ago. Cleared by Mass Dept of Health"
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

Celtics G Marcus Smart last night said that he "has been cleared of the COVID-19 virus after testing positive nearly two weeks ago," according to Gary Washburn of the BOSTON GLOBE. Smart wrote on Twitter, "Corona Free as of two days ago. Cleared by Mass Dept of Health." Three more NBA players -- Jazz C Rudy Gobert, Jazz G Donovan Mitchell and Pistons F Christian Wood -- also "have been cleared after testing positive" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/30). In Utah, Sarah Todd noted the "entire Jazz team and staff, regardless of their prior testing status, were all cleared by the Department of Health" on Friday after completing a "mandated two-week quarantine period following their exposure to the coronavirus, having been in contact with either Gobert or Mitchell" (DESERET NEWS, 3/27).

DOLAN TESTS POSITIVE: In N.Y., Marc Berman reported MSG Exec Chair and Knicks Owner James Dolan has "tested positive for the coronavirus 'with little to no symptoms.'" A source said that Dolan is "self-isolating with his family in the Hamptons and his test came back earlier this week." The Knicks said he “continues to oversee business operations.” Dolan "did not attend the Knicks’ final road trip to Washington and Atlanta, but sat baseline at the Garden for their final home game on March 8 against the Pistons." The game was six days before Wood tested positive (N.Y. POST, 3/29). Also in N.Y., Sopan Deb noted Dolan is the first NBA team owner "publicly known to have tested positive for the virus." It was "not immediately clear how or why Dolan was tested," given the lack of available tests in the U.S. and in N.Y. in particular (N.Y. TIMES, 3/29).

MORE POSITIVE TESTS: In Denver, Matt Schubert noted a second Avalanche player "has tested positive." The player, who has not been identified by the team, is "now in self-isolation" (DENVER POST, 3/29)....Sparks G Sydney Wiese is the "first WNBA player to test positive for the coronavirus." Wiese said she is "feeling well -- fortunate to only show mild symptoms, but I am capable of spreading it." She is now in Phoenix "under self-quarantine" (L.A. TIMES, 3/28)....Pistons College Scout Maury Hanks has "contracted the coronavirus and taken a terrible turn." Hanks has been "admitted to the ICU of a Tennessee hospital and is fighting for his life" (ESPN.com, 3/27).

Behrens (r) said once the league suspended its season, it pivoted right away to what it could do to help
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Behrens (r) said once the league suspended its season, it pivoted right away to what it could do to help
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Behrens (r) said once the league suspended its season, it pivoted right away to what it could do to help
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The NBA has been "active in the fight against COVID-19," working to "spread messages of hygiene, social distancing and mental well-being while their gyms and arenas are dark," according to Dan Woike of the L.A. TIMES. NBA President of Social Responsibility & Player Programs Kathy Behrens said once the league suspended its season, it "just pivoted right away to what we could do to help." Behrens: "We're trying to put as much of what we're doing ... directly focused on this issue right now." Woike noted from the outset, the NBA had its stars "instruct fans on the importance of hand-washing before shifting the messaging to self-distancing, generosity and social well-being." Additionally, 13 current players have "video messages at the bottom of a coronavirus fact sheet on the NBA's web page" and at least six others have "participated in PSAs." Behrens said, "We've been hearing from guys who are like, 'What do you want me to do?' 'What can I do?'" (L.A. TIMES, 3/29).

MENTAL GAME: In Minneapolis, Chris Hine notes the T'Wolves are trying to "be there for their players and their families as they navigate this crisis." The T'Wolves have addressed the "physical challenge," as they have "sent players exercise equipment, given them workout routines they can do from home and helped players find living quarters that include basketball courts where they can at least take a ball and shoot." But there also is the matter of "making sure players are healthy from a mental standpoint." To do that, the team has been "leaning on the expertise" of VP/Performance & Technology Robby Sikka, longtime head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam and team psychologist Justin Anderson, who has been doing "video check-ins with players to help them cope with the psychological aspect of not playing." T'Wolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas said that the team also has been "forming de facto book clubs and podcast clubs filled with literature and content on leadership and motivational talks to help keep players engaged" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 3/30). In Houston, Jonathan Feigen wrote under the header, "NBA Players Get Help For Anxiety, Stress During Coronavirus Pandemic" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/29). 

Tampa's estimated total loss from sports cancellations over the coronavirus pandemic is somewhere between $290-390M, as the virus has "wiped out five major sporting events in the Tampa Bay area," according to Baker & Knight of the TAMPA BAY TIMES. The virus has wiped out NCAA Tournament games, WrestleMania, the PGA Tour Valspar Championship, IndyCar's Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the final days of MLB Spring Training. The biggest financial blow has been the "loss of WrestleMania 36, moved from Raymond James Stadium to a closed set at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando." Previous economic impact estimates for the event ranged from $165M -- last year in New Jersey -- to almost $182M in Orlando in '17. Put all the individual estimates together and the total loss is around $360M, a figure calculated "without considering lost revenue from the Lightning, Rays, Rowdies and Vipers games." It also "doesn't include the publicity that comes with these high-profile events" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 3/28).

The Hawks will "bring 4,000 meals a week, for four weeks, to approximately 1,000 health care workers who are taking care of COVID-19 patients at six Emory hospital facilities in metro Atlanta," according to Spencer & Figueras of the ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION. Partnering with their arena sponsor State Farm, the Hawks will "sponsor two area restaurants, Miller Union and Forza Storico, to prepare the meals using product from local farmers." The health care workers will "receive the meals (that serve two) five times a week," with the hope that "having readily available, free meals will ease their burden." Emory acts as the team’s health care provider, so that relationship was "already in place." Hawks CEO Steve Koonin said that he "hopes this program can expand, with more restaurants and hospitals involved." The Hawks also are "sponsoring pop-up grocery stores to help battle food insecurity," and "continuing to pay workers during the NBA hiatus." A source said that the "cost of this initiative comes out to about $100,000 a week" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 3/29). 

The Mavericks and DoorDash have "partnered together in an effort to support local restaurants" -- in the Dallas area as well nationwide -- as "part of DoorDash's #OpenForDelivery initiative," according to Doyle Rader of FORBES. DoorDash "donated $150,000 to the Mavs Foundation, which distributes the money it raises to nonprofit organizations that support foster care, victims of domestic abuse and families struggling with homelessness and hunger." The Mavs Foundation and the Mavericks have been "active in the community" since the NBA suspended its season, "donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to healthcare workers and nonprofits." The Mavs' partnership with DoorDash is "helping the organization build upon community efforts it already established." It also is a "logical extension of a program" that Owner Mark Cuban "implemented with the Mavericks and all his businesses." Cuban said, "We're doing things where we're loading up on some of our players and just sending (healthcare workers) unannounced, anonymous deliveries of tons of foods that they'll never ever be able to eat just so we can buy the food from the local restaurants and tip them" (FORBES.com, 3/30).

Ballmer's latest donation will be used to accelerate testing for the coronavirus
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Ballmer's latest donation will be used to accelerate testing for the coronavirus
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Ballmer's latest donation will be used to accelerate testing for the coronavirus
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

A philanthropic group founded by Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, said that it has pledged more than $25M "toward organizations working to blunt the novel coronavirus outbreak." The Ballmer Group said that its latest donation toward the healthcare system in Seattle, where the Ballmers live, will be "used to accelerate testing for a virus vaccine" (L.A. TIMES, 3/28). 

TAKING CARE OF THEIR OWNMSG has "established a relief fund to provide financial assistance to employees while also committing to paying qualified venue employees through at least May 3." The MSG Relief Fund was established with a $1M donation from MSG Co. that was "matched by a similar contribution from the Dolan Family Foundation." Another $300,000 has been "contributed by the MSG management team with the expectation that the fund will grow with contributions from the Rangers and Knicks." The fund has been "set up to provide direct assistance to employees for a variety of expenses, including health care, rent/mortgage, food and other necessities, while the arena is shuttered" (N.Y. POST, 3/29). MSG previously had "only guaranteed pay for its event staff until April 5" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/29)....NHL Panthers Owner Vincent Viola is "committed to continue paying Panthers full-time employees throughout the shutdown." Viola on Friday told the staff of about 230 people "about his plan" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/28).

RIGHT DIRECTIONAramark's 1,000-plus Red Sox game-day employees will "now be able to partake in an expanded pool of relief aid for game-day workers affected by the shuttering" of the MLB season. The pot of relief money "will grow" by 50%, from $1M to $1.5M, with the Aramark concessionaires "joining Red Sox game-day staff such as ticket-takers, ushers, and grounds crew as recipients of the aid." Details on "how much money will go to each employee and when have yet to be hammered out" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/28). The Local 26 union, which covers the Aramark Red Sox employees, last Thursday "began a petition asking the Red Sox to offer their support to third-party employees as well." The petition had "over 2,000 signatures" by the following day, and that afternoon, the Red Sox "announced the change to their funding" (BOSTON HERALD, 3/28)....Hundreds of contracted food service workers at Citi Field "haven't received a single paycheck" since MLB suspended its season. One worker said the "non-response" from Aramark is "especially hurtful because they're regularly referred to as 'a family'" by the company. Aramark is responsible for their workers' paychecks and the Mets are responsible for Aramark's, so it is unclear "who feels who should pay workers during the shutdown," as both entities are "yet to provide comment clarifying if or when workers ... would receive pay" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/28).

COMING TOGETHER: The Union have "set up an employee assistance fund to pay part-time game day staff who've lost money" due to the MLS season being suspended. The fund also "applies for games of the club's reserve squad" in the USL. Union Chief Business Officer Tim McDermott said, "We're just trying to do the right thing." McDermott said that "'it ends up being about 225 or so people' who would have access to the fund, from ushers to ticket-takers to security to parking attendants and concession stand workers" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 3/28). In N.Y., Rory Smith wrote soccer -- "perhaps more than any other sport -- sells itself, in part, on the basis of its connection to its community." These are the times when fans "expect clubs not to act like businesses, when we expect them to do more, to go further, to live up to their own billing as social institutions, as part of the fabric of a community." These are the times when soccer "gets a chance to prove it is not all just spin" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/28).

Former NBAer Stephon Marbury said that he has "made arrangements with a mask supplier in China willing to sell New York 10 million masks 'at cost' for $2.75 each -- well below the roughly $7.50" that the N95 masks typically retail for, in an effort to equip "hospital workers and other first responders." The masks "would be delivered 2 million at a time over five weeks." Marbury currently coaches Chinese Basketball Association club Beijing Royal Fighters (N.Y. POST, 3/30)....Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni and his wife, Laurel, "donated $100,000 to the Greater Houston Community Association" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 3/28)....New Balance has "begun developing and manufacturing facial masks, in an effort to assist with the high demand for medical supplies" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/29)....The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation "raised $20,000" from the auction of green St. Patrick’s Day jerseys the team was scheduled to wear March 15 against the Islanders and "donated $5,000 each to the Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Western PA Diaper Bank, Rainbow Kitchen and Salvation Army carry-out meal program" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 3/28). 

HELP FROM FOOTBALL PLAYERS: Bears WR Allen Robinson, through his Within Reach Foundation, has "partnered with the Greater Chicago Food Depository to supplement students who rely on daily meals at school." Robinson "pledged to match the first $12,000 in donations." OT Charles Leno and coach Matt Nagy "quickly stepped up with money for the cause too." Nagy "matched Robinson's pledge with $12,000 of his own." As of Sunday morning, "nearly $10,000 had been raised" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 3/30)....Raiders QB Marcus Mariota's Motiv8 Foundation will "join with other community entities in underwriting 1,000 free grab-and-go meals a day Monday through Friday for at least 43 days at Kauluwela and Palolo Elementary Schools" in Honolulu (Honolulu STAR-ADVERTISER, 3/29)....Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins tweeted Friday that he will "donate $150,000 to the Arizona Coronavirus Relief Fund" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 3/28)....Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence and his girlfriend, Marissa, announced on social media that they have "restarted their efforts to raise money for those affected by the coronavirus." The fund is "being managed by the Cartersville-Bartow Community Foundation" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 3/29).

NBA GIVING: Lakers F Anthony Davis partnered with cold food storage company Lineage Logistics in "hopes of helping" healthcare workers and the economy. The first arm of the partnership will "help Staples Center workers find jobs with Lineage, which has about 300 jobs to fill" in the L.A. area. Lineage's HR department "worked with AEG to set up a special application link for arena workers to identify themselves as Staples Center employees for consideration for the available jobs." Davis and Lineage also will "match up to $250,000 in donations for Feed the Frontlines LA, an organization trying to raise money to purchase food from local restaurants and deliver it to hospital workers" (L.A. TIMES, 3/28)....The Heat also partnered with Lineage Logistics and Feeding America, with the team and the Micky Madeleine Arison Family pledging "a $200,000 donation to Feeding South Florida." Lineage Logistics will "match that $200,000 donation." The "goal of the partnership is to raise awareness for Lineage Logistics' Share A Meal campaign" (MIAMI HERALD, 3/28)....Knicks Fs Julius Randle and Bobby Portis have "teamed up with Hello Fresh" to donate $180,000 worth of meals to City Harvest to "help feed New Yorkers" (N.Y. POST, 3/28). 

A GRAND GESTURE IN ITALYCristiano Ronaldo and his Juventus teammates, along with coach Maurizio Sarri, agreed to forgo $100M in wages to "help the club during the coronavirus crisis." The club said that the money "amounted to four months worth of wages, a third of players' salaries." The first agreement of its kind in Serie A "since play was halted three weeks ago means Ronaldo, the highest-paid player in the Italian league, will give up" more than $11M (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/29).