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Volume 26 No. 179

Coronavirus and Sports

MLB will "discuss its plans" for the '20 season in a conference call with owners today, and if they "give their approval, the league will present its proposal" to the MLBPA tomorrow, according to Ken Rosenthal of THE ATHLETIC. Sources indicate that this is a "rough outline" of some of what the league would like to do:

  • A regular season "beginning in early July and consisting of approximately 80 games." The number "might not be exactly 80 -- 78 and 82 are also possibilities."
  • The schedule "would be regionalized" to minimize travel. Clubs "would open in as many home parks as possible," with even N.Y. "potentially in play by early July."
  • Expanded playoffs similar to the idea first reported in February, with an "increase from five to seven teams in each league."
  • Because games, "at least initially, will be played without fans, the players would be asked to accept a further reduction in pay, most likely by agreeing to a set percentage of revenues for this season only" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/9).
Players under the plan would report to training camp in June and start an abbreviated season in early July
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Players under the plan would report to training camp in June and start an abbreviated season in early July
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Players under the plan would report to training camp in June and start an abbreviated season in early July
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

OTHER DETAILS: In L.A., Bill Shaikin reported under the owners’ plan, players "would report to training camp in June and start an abbreviated season in early July." Rosters "would be expanded to account for the probable cancellation of the minor league season," and the postseason "would be expanded too." Fans "would not be admitted, at least at the start." But MLB owners "could tweak some of those concepts" today. Following approval, Commissioner Rob Manfred's office "would then begin what could be a contentious negotiation with the players’ union" (L.A. TIMES, 5/10). In N.Y., Joel Sherman reported there are those in the game who are "still holding out for 100 games via more doubleheaders, fewer off-days and perhaps pushing the regular season into October." But one source described that as “a very optimistic, everything going right” scenario. Sherman noted MLB "still has to demonstrate to the Players Association that it has a plan to keep players safe from the coronavirus." MLB's plan will ask players to take a pay cut, because "at least to begin and possibly all season there will be no fans and, thus, no revenue from ticket sales, parking, concessions and luxury suites" (N.Y. POST, 5/10).

CHALLENGES STILL REMAIN: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jared Diamond noted that "huge challenges stand in the way, including the question of how often players and other personnel will be tested -- and where the resources to do that will come from." MLB will "have to assure the union it has the capability to administer frequent coronavirus screening ... without taking testing capabilities away from front-line workers and more essential sectors of the economy." There also "must be a protocol for what happens if someone contracts Covid-19 -- ideally without shutting down the entire league" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/10). In Boston, Jason Mastrodonato wrote the "key word" for all involved is "flexibility." Safety "will be paramount, but in order to keep everyone safe, the players and owners must stay flexible, allowing for games to be postponed or canceled if there are localized coronavirus outbreaks, stadiums to close temporarily and games to be moved to other locations" (BOSTON HERALD, 5/9). MLB agent Scott Boras, who represents about 100 MLB players, said that none of his clients have "expressed concerns about playing." However, he said that any player with a medical issue that "might put him at risk should be allowed to choose whether he wants to play." Boras: "These contracts aren’t servitude." He explained, "There’s no reason I can see that, if you start in July and you have four months, we shouldn’t be playing 110 to 120 games, minimum. That’s why we negotiated that extra month.” The L.A. TIMES' Shaikin wrote Boras is wary that owners "would try to cut salaries for regular-season games and then expand the postseason, where owners keep almost all of the money" (L.A. TIMES, 5/10).

MONEY MATTERS: In N.Y., Bill Madden wrote in order for there to be a baseball season this year, "three things have to happen: (1) The go-ahead from President Trump’s task force, (2) the approval of all the governors, and (3) an agreement from the players to take further pay cuts if the games are played with no fans." It is the latter that "could be the biggest stumbling block, if you believe all the rhetoric" coming from Boras and other agents. But from a "public relations standpoint, the players do not figure to generate a whole lot of sympathy if they refuse to take pay cuts when millions of Americans are being laid off or taking severe salary cuts" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/10). On Long Island, David Lennon wrote MLB is "looking for payback." For example, MLB umpires already have accepted a "30% salary reduction," while the draft has been cutback as well. Lennon: "This stopped being about baseball as soon as games started getting wiped out." Still, as "difficult as it may be," Lennon believes that MLB and the union can "agree on a workable course to resume this season" (NEWSDAY, 5/10). 

There is a “simmering fear among those inside the sport” that the battle between MLB and the MLBPA ultimately could be what “dooms the 2020 season before it even starts,” according to David Lennon of NEWSDAY. The “most volatile part” of the negotiations around the sports’ planned return is about “compensation for the players.” The deal reached in March called for players “to be paid on a prorated basis depending on the number of games played” once the season resumes. However, that deal includes a clause that states the two sides will “discuss in good faith the economic feasibility of playing games in the absence of spectators or at appropriate substitute neutral sites.” If the salary issue is a “non-starter this week, it’s going to be difficult to get to anything else, because a payment plan is crucial to getting baseball up and running again.” If the “last remaining hope for this season implodes over money concerns ... that would be a terrible outcome for both sides” (NEWSDAY, 5/11).

PLAYERS' POINT OF VIEW: Several players who hold key leadership positions in the MLBPA indicated that players "want to be paid their full, prorated salaries." But players say that health is "first and foremost on their minds, with fair compensation behind it." Cardinals P and MLBPA Exec Board member Andrew Miller said, "I don't think anything can be done until that (safety) can be guaranteed and we feel comfortable with it." ESPN.com's Jesse Rogers reported players "held an executive board member conference call on Friday in anticipation of earnest discussions with the league next week." They are "hoping to get answers to their health questions, and are also ready to address the financial considerations." Players also believe that in a non-salary-capped system, they "shouldn't be beholden to league profits -- or losses." Miller said, "The way our sport works is we are not tied to revenue in any way." One source said that sharing TV revenue with players "will be part of the proposal from the commissioner's office." Rogers noted that "would give both sides the incentive to increase the amount of playoff teams" for '20 (ESPN.com, 5/9).

THIS WON'T STOP GAMES, WILL IT? In N.Y., Joel Sherman writes there is “no way -- regardless of both the historic and current bad blood -- that MLB and the Players Association are going to shut down the game this year over player compensation.” Sherman: “That would be so shoot-yourself-in-the-brain, assure-the-negative-first-line-in-your obituary stupid that not even these two hostile sides can navigate there.” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, MLBPA Exec Dir Tony Clark and their key advisors “must lock themselves in a virtual meeting space and not come out until they have found the face-saving mechanisms out of their locked-in rhetoric” (N.Y. POST, 5/11). WFAN's Gregg Giannotti said, “You’re telling me, fresh off of one of the biggest cheating scandals in the history of the league, we’re now going to come back and have a players strike during a pandemic when we are seeing unprecedented unemployment throughout the country? These guys are going to say we’re not playing for this amount of money? That is about as bad of a look as you could possibly have right now” (“Boomer & Gio,” WFAN-AM, 5/11). However, in Massachusetts, Chris Mason wrote, “Might be time to grab that sword and shield; this battle feels inevitable” (MASSLIVE.com, 5/10).

DRAFT DOWNSIZING: In Boston, Peter Abraham reported MLB will "hold a five-round amateur draft on June 10, a cost-cutting measure because of the coronavirus pandemic that could lead to long-term changes" to the sport. Multiple reports indicate that signing bonuses will be "at the same levels" as '19, though any undrafted free agents "will be limited to a bonus of $20,000." Abraham noted a March agreement with the MLBPA "left open the possibility of a 10-round draft." But the sides "could not come to an agreement on bonus limits." The cutdown will "reportedly save teams" $30M (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/9). The POST's Sherman wrote the measure is the "latest example" of MLB and the union being "unable to work well together." Agents believe that baseball operations departments "very much wanted the 10-round draft, but that a bloc of owners wanted the financial savings -- believed to average about $1 million per team -- of a five-round draft as franchises deal with so much lost revenue inflicted by the coronavirus" (N.Y. POST, 5/9). In N.Y., Dennis Young wrote under the header, "MLB Draft Cut From 40 Rounds To Five In Absurd Cash Grab By Owners" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/9).

A study involving thousands of staffers and players from most MLB clubs revealed that 0.7% of those who completed test kits had "antibodies for covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, indicating that they had been infected at a previous time," according to Des Bieler of the WASHINGTON POST. That number is "greater than the rate of reported cases," approximately 0.4%, among the overall U.S. population. However, researchers said that most of the country "has not been tested," making the MLB study an "important and unprecedented 'snapshot'" of the virus' behavior at present. The study reportedly involved 26 of the 30 MLB clubs and "based its results on 5,603 completed tests and surveys." Researchers said that 60 people "tested positive for covid-19 antibodies, and after controlling for an expected amount of false positives and negatives, that number was adjusted to 42." The study was "described as the first of its kind in terms of its national scope." Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory President Dr. Daniel Eichner indicated that the 0.7% rate of infection "appeared encouragingly low." Stanford's Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who is leading the study, said that the 0.7% figure was "surprising in part because players and team staffers would have been grouped together in spring training ... a few weeks before tests were completed April 14 and 15" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/11). ESPN.com's Jeff Passan reported the total number of players involved in the study is "unclear." The D-backs "returned the most samples, with 362" (ESPN.com, 5/10).

WHAT'S IT MEAN? The AP's Ronald Blum notes while the percentage of Angels employees with a positive test was the "highest among teams, the error margin is too high to draw results because just 123 tests were included from the team." Bhattacharya said that the results are “'both good and bad news' because they showed the virus has not spread widely in MLB but still has many baseballers left to target." But Eichner said that the results "could mean MLB employees had been diligent in use of personal protective equipment, such as masks." Bhattacharya noted that the Cubs, Reds, Rockies and Marlins "did not participate" (AP, 5/11).

Silver said that 40% of the league's revenue comes from money built around game nights in arenas
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Silver said that 40% of the league's revenue comes from money built around game nights in arenas
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Silver said that 40% of the league's revenue comes from money built around game nights in arenas
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver during a call with the NBPA prepared players for a "potentially grim landscape amid the coronavirus pandemic, suggesting there are no guarantees when fans could fully return to NBA arenas next season," according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. Friday's call included NBPA Exec Dir Michele Roberts, President Chris Paul and several players "asking questions of the commissioner in an hour-long session." Silver said that 40% of the league's revenue "comes from money built around game nights in arenas." Silver: "This could turn out to be the single greatest challenge of all our lives." Wojnarowski noted the tone "was respectful, but Silver was asked some hard questions about safety issues, return-to-play ideas, how future seasons would be affected and the financial realities of future salary caps and basketball-related income." Silver said that "no decision on returning to play this season needed to be made in May, nor immediately into the start of June." He added that "returning to play this season at one or two potential sites -- including Orlando and Las Vegas -- made the most sense." Silver flatly told players the current CBA "was not built for extended pandemics" (ESPN.com, 5/8).

UNCERTAINTY LOOMS: In N.Y., Marc Berman cited a source as saying Silver was “forthcoming and genuine in expressing the difficultly to plan in light of the uncertainty." However, the source added Silver expressed the league’s "desire to resume the season, but only if absolutely safe for all" (N.Y. POST, 5/9). On Long Island, Steve Popper noted what NBA players "still don’t have right now is a clear idea of what they are working their way back toward" (NEWSDAY, 5/9). In Boston, Brian Robb noted one of his biggest takeaways from the conference call was Silver's claim that 40% of revenue "comes from fans in attendance." There was some thinking that the NBA’s attendance impact "would be a little less significant than other pro sports due to their massive TV deal with Turner/ESPN." But Silver’s call "indicates that’s far from the case" (BOSTONSPORTSJOURNAL.com, 5/9). THE ATHLETIC's Shams Charania wrote the "clear takeaway" from Friday's call was that the NBA "still is not anywhere close to having the necessary answers to resume play -- and that a major financial impact looms." Charania: "The ultimate question left on the call for all parties was: How much risk are they all willing to take?" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/8).

CAN'T PLEASE EVERYONE: In Boston, Gary Washburn writes Silver “wants to do the right thing but finally admitted Friday that there will be no consensus decision on nearly anything with this situation." If he "cancels the season, the owners and many players will take issue, imploring that there could have been a way to conduct the season safely." If he "resumes the season, there will be those who claim Silver did not take into account the safety of his players -- his most important commodity -- and this was simply a money grab." For the first time in his six-year tenure, Silver "likely will not come out of this unscathed." He will "make his share of adversaries, have his detractors and irk those who believe the NBA is only returning for the sake of avoiding catastrophic losses” (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/11).

Emmert said college sports will not be played if students are not back on campus
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Emmert said college sports will not be played if students are not back on campus
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Emmert said college sports will not be played if students are not back on campus
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

NCAA President Mark Emmert said "college athletes are college students, and you can’t have college sports if you don’t have college (campuses) open and having students on them," according to Zach Braziller of the N.Y. POST. Appearing on the NCAA's Twitter channel on Friday, Emmert said, "You don’t want to ever put student-athletes at greater risk than the rest of the student body." Those comments came hours after Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman said that her conference had "already decided fall sports would not be played if students aren’t allowed on campus." Emmert said that every commissioner and president he has spoken to "adheres to the belief that if regular students aren’t on campus, student-athletes can’t be, either." Emmert: "If a school doesn’t reopen, then they’re not going to be playing sports. It’s really that simple" (N.Y. POST, 5/9). Emmert also said that he "does not think sports can return at schools operating in an online-only teaching environment." Emmert and NCAA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brian Hainline added that "testing and tracing both need to dramatically improve before sports can return" (USA TODAY, 5/9). ESPN's Paul Finebaum said universities trying to get students on campus are “looking to check a box” in order to get “get away with having college football” (“Get Up,” ESPN, 5/11). 

BIG EAST BREAKDOWN: Ackerman indicated that the Big East is "prepared for a 'patchwork outcome' that could have some of its schools back as novel coronavirus restrictions are lifted while others remain in lockdown." In DC, Kareem Copeland noted the Big East "decided it would be unfair to keep any school or program from participating in sports if the institution is open before others in the league." Ackerman: "Any school that’s lucky enough to be back in business should allow their athletes to resume activity, even if another Big East school isn’t there yet. The last thing we would want to do is to hold back the athletes in one place because the athletes in another aren’t quite there" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/9). In New Jersey, Jerry Carino noted Ackerman mentioned the term "hybrid" several times when discussing a possible return. She said, "Some schools are looking at a hybrid approach." Carino noted campuses "could be opened on a limited basis, for a percentage of students who can’t do their thing from home" (ASBURY PARK PRESS, 5/9).

ASSESSING DAMAGES: Ackerman said that should the college football season be delayed, she "envisions 'a domino effect' that would push back the college basketball season" as well. She also "identified the first week of September as the critical time when decisions will have to be made about the upcoming college basketball season." Ackerman said that the Big East is "prepared to hold athletic events with either limited attendance or no spectators at all." She explained, "You’d sort of give up the fan atmosphere as well as the fan revenue. But at least you could produce something that your followers on television could follow and appreciate and enjoy" (NEWSDAY, 5/9). In Philadelphia, Joe Juliano noted in talking about the heavy losses schools suffered because of the cancellation of the '20 NCAA Tournament, Ackerman revealed that the Big East "had insurance that covered pandemics." She said together with financial reserves that were established when the league relaunched in '13, "we were able to access that to a degree to help mitigate some of the damage." The Big East is "looking at alternative scheduling models for its six fall sports, including the possibility of a regional model." Ackerman said that "would be for this season only" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/9).

OUT WEST: Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott cited three reasons he is “more optimistic this week" than he was last week. First, the NFL’s reveal of its '20 schedule on Thursday evening and what Scott called the absence of “pushback from government officials” in the states that have NFL teams and Pac-12 campuses. Second, the spate of recent announcements by Pac-12 universities that they intend to reopen for the fall with students on campus, developments Scott called “very encouraging." Scott: "We’ve said from the start that if it’s not safe for the students, it’s not safe for the student-athletes.” Finally, discussions with the Pac-12’s COVID-19 Medical Advisory Committee left him “feeling like there’s a good chance we’ll get there.” Scott said that he has "spoken with each president/chancellor individually since the shutdown began and believes there is a commitment to move forward as one" (San Jose MERCURY NEWS, 5/9).

COME TOGETHER? SI.com's Glen West noted the NCAA and the conferences are "trying to work toward a common goal," but there are "still many varying opinions on fundamental issues" (SI.com, 5/9). In DC, Barry Svrluga writes college football "has no commissioner," and at a "time like this, when the pandemic leaves us yearning for the best information about how to act and what to do, any entity without a single, steady, strong voice is in danger of listing, perhaps badly" (WASHINGTON POST, 5/11). In Dallas, Chuck Carlton noted for now, all 10 members of the Big 12 "say they expect to be open for fall classes, viewed as a key step forward for football’s return," and 13 of the 14 SEC schools have "expressed similar sentiments, with the exception of Vanderbilt." On the "opposite end of the spectrum, the large majority of Big Ten schools have not yet said they are definitely returning to fall classes." Baylor AD Mack Rhoades said that there are "already competitive balance concerns with some schools opening up weight room facilities for voluntary workouts." He added, "We’re going to have to find a way to make it work. I just don’t know we’ll be able to mandate 100% equality across the board. Otherwise we end up being our worst enemy. We make it harder for us to get to the main goal" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/10).

Fauci said if the risk is low enough he could see see filling a third of the stadium or half the stadium
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Fauci said if the risk is low enough he could see see filling a third of the stadium or half the stadium
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Fauci said if the risk is low enough he could see see filling a third of the stadium or half the stadium
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested that NFL stadiums "might not have to be empty all season," according to Peter King of NBCSPORTS.com. Fauci said, "It's feasible that negative testing players could play to an empty stadium. ... There will be virus out there and you will know your players are negative at the time they step onto the field. You're not endangering." Fauci added, "If the virus is so low that even in the general community the risk is low, then I could see filling a third of the stadium or half the stadium so people could be six feet apart. I mean, that's something that is again feasible depending on the level of infection." King notes it is clear that Fauci "thinks the NFL has time on its side," not just because he "sees the virus waning by Labor Day, certainly, but because of other factors that are calendar-friendly." The availability of tests "should make massive testing by August and September easier," and people "should be far more prepared to handle the disease as it loosens its grip on society." If the 32 NFL teams tested players, coaches and vital personnel twice a week, that "would probably consume about 20,000 COVID-19 tests for the season." In response to that prospect, Fauci said, "By the end of August, we should have in place Antigen testings. ... You could test millions of people, millions of people." Fauci said that the NFL "hasn't reached out to talk to him" (NBCSPORTS.com, 5/11).

The NHL's return-to-play scenarios have been "narrowed to two," and the "timing of when games can resume -- if they do -- likely will determine which format is used," according to a source cited by Andrew Gross of NEWSDAY. The "first scenario includes 24 teams." Under this plan, the "top four teams would play for playoff seeding and the bottom teams would have postseason play-in games." The second plan "would include only 16 teams heading straight into the playoffs, with no regular-season games salvaged" (NEWSDAY, 5/10). 

INTERESTING PROPOSAL: In Toronto, Kevin McGran reported MLSE is "willing to pay for all the testing of its players, and help others in the city with testing, if Toronto becomes a hub city in the NHL’s plan to resume" the season. Ontario Premier Doug Ford was "asked whether testing millionaire athletes would negatively impact the public’s ability to get tested during the coronavirus pandemic." Ford said, “What I understand, all tests will be supplied by MLSE. The cost will be absorbed by MLSE or the NHL, whoever it might be. And I guess through that, when they set it up, then they’ll actually donate some of the time of the testing area to the public, as well." He added, "So they’re giving back to the public on top of testing their own players, which I thought was very thoughtful of them for doing that." McGran noted MLSE is "already using its staff and space at the Scotiabank Arena and BMO Field to prepare and deliver up to 13,000 meals a day for front-line workers during the pandemic" (TORONTO STAR, 5/9).

The AHL this morning officially announced the cancellation of the '19-20 season following a BOG call this past Friday afternoon. The league suspended play on March 12. AHL CEO David Andrews in a statement said, "After a lengthy review process, the American Hockey League has determined that the resumption and completion of the 2019-20 season is not feasible in light of current conditions. The League’s operational focus has turned toward actively preparing for the 2020-21 season.” Eighteen of the 31 active AHL teams are NHL-owned, while two are NBA team-owned. Some clubs, like the Syracuse Crunch, Utica Comets and Binghamton Devils, have already secured federal PPP funding to continue paying staffers as well as other expenses (Mark J. Burns, THE DAILY). The AP's Stephen Whyno notes the Calder Cup "will not be handed out for the first time since 1936." The league "hopes to return next season," though that "remains uncertain, with the possibility of no fans allowed in arenas" (AP, 5/11).

NO REALISTIC ROAD TO A RETURN: In Syracuse, Lindsay Kramer notes while NHL teams "examine a variety of scenarios that might allow a resumption of play this summer, that option was not available" to the AHL. Building availability "would be impossible to work out, even if facilities were cleared to open." Additionally, since the AHL’s revenue is "gate-driven," playing games without any fans would not be "economically feasible." The league now "waits to react to the NHL’s resumption plans to determine the structure of its own 2020-21 season." AHL training camps typically open in late September with the season starting in early October, but if the NHL "decides to play late into the summer, that would almost certainly push back the start of its next season by several weeks." The AHL would then have to make decisions "whether it will still play the standard 76-game regular season and keep the same length of playoff rounds next spring" (Syracuse POST-STANDARD, 5/11).

Exploria Stadium is one of the multiple venues in Orlando that could host MLS play
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Exploria Stadium is one of the multiple venues in Orlando that could host MLS play
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Exploria Stadium is one of the multiple venues in Orlando that could host MLS play
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

MLS is "weighing several options for returning to competition, including all teams in Orlando or splitting between two cities," according to sources cited by the Washington Post's Steven Goff. The discussed timetable would be for a June/July return, with "everyone tested and quarantined." At some point, clubs "would return to home markets for matches." The MLSPA "would have to go along" with the plan, which still has many "logistical challenges and of course health and safety concerns." Orlando "offers multiple playing facilities, accommodations, ESPN presence." The Wide World of Sports "set-up allows more flexibility" with broadcasts and "behind-the-scenes features" (TWITTER.com, 5/7). MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "We're more optimistic about what a return to play plan could look like." He added, "A month ago, we were very pessimistic, but I think our country has done a pretty good job of flattening the curve, which is what the objective was" (ESPN.com, 5/8). Orlando City Exec VP/Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said, "If this was a league in Orlando, man, I feel like we could have started last week because conditions are different" (PROSOCCERUSA.com, 5/8). In Philadelphia, Jonathan Tannenwald wrote under the header, "MLS, NWSL Resisting Short-Term Benefits Of Making Soccer First American Sport To Restart" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 5/10). 

Alter noted ticket sales account for an estimated 40% of the Sky's overall revenue
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Alter noted ticket sales account for an estimated 40% of the Sky's overall revenue
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Alter noted ticket sales account for an estimated 40% of the Sky's overall revenue
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

WNBA Chicago Sky Owner Michael Alter remains hopeful the season will go on in some capacity, although he said that if the league does get a green light from public health officials to start its season, "fans will not be in attendance," according to Madeline Kenney of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. Alter said, "We don't know when we’re going to start and how it’s going to be ... but we do know we’re going to lose a tremendous revenue source, which is tickets." He added that ticket sales "account for an estimated 40 percent of the Sky's overall revenue." Kenney noted with the season on hold, the Sky have "implemented a ticket policy similar to those of other teams, in which they will honor tickets for postponed games on the rescheduled dates." If a game is canceled altogether or "isn't open to fans, the Sky plan to offer a credit for a future game or a refund." Sky F Jantel Lavender said that she is "'most definitely' concerned about the financial strain the pandemic has had on teams and the league," which lost a reported $12M in '18. Lavender: "It seems like it would be crazy to have a season. But I can see the financial part of it being a reason why they really push for us to have a season" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 5/10).

The company had temporarily furloughed 171 employees, the vast majority of its workforce, in March
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The company had temporarily furloughed 171 employees, the vast majority of its workforce, in March
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The company had temporarily furloughed 171 employees, the vast majority of its workforce, in March
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Louisville Slugger baseball bat maker Hillerich & Bradsby Co. has "ended its mass furloughs amid the coronavirus pandemic after receiving some needed federal funding," according to Billy Kobin of the Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL. The company had "temporarily furloughed 171 employees -- the vast majority of its workforce -- after shutting its museum and factories in March." But after securing funding through the second round of PPP, H&B officials said that the furloughed workers were "brought back." H&B VP/Corporate Communications Rick Redman "declined to say how much money the company received through the PPP program." But he did say that the company "reapplied for the PPP funding and was approved for it on 'day one of the second round thanks to the help of Stock Yards Bank'" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 5/10). Redman added that the company’s retail staff is "preparing for the Louisville Slugger Museum store to reopen on May 20 to ensure it is a safe and healthy environment." In Louisville, Marty Finley noted H&B also has "started preparing for the eventual return of the museum" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 5/8).

Patriots Owner Robert Kraft has "put his Super Bowl LI championship ring up for bid to benefit the All In Challenge." The winner also will "receive a personal visit with Kraft in his Gillette Stadium office, with the team sending its private plane to bring to town the new owner of the ring if he or she is not within driving distance." The auction opened at $75,000 yesterday at 6:00pm ET and by midnight, the "bidding had reached $330,000." The auction is "scheduled to extend over the next 11 days" (ESPN.com, 5/10). Meanwhile, the Patriots and Massachusetts Military Support Foundation are "teaming up to package their 2 millionth meal to help those directly affected by the coronavirus pandemic" (ESPN.com, 5/10). Kraft and Fanatics Chair & CEO Michael Rubin appeared on CNN’s “The Situation Room” last night to discuss the All In Challenge, and Kraft said the Super Bowl ring “was a good thing to auction off." Rubin noted the challenge has “now raised over $38 million in less than a month.” When he started to think about starting the challenge, Rubin said Kraft told him, "Michael, I want to do everything I can to help” (“The Situation Room,” CNN, 5/10).

HELPING SMALL BUSINESSES: The Sounders have awarded more than $200,000 to 143 individuals and 17 small businesses in the "first grant cycle" of the club's Sounders Relief Fund. Sounders Owner Adrian Hanauer and his mother "initiated the fund with $500,000." Hanauer: "The $500,000 my family seeded, and hopefully we're able to raise considerably more than that. But let's be realistic. It's a drop in the bucket to what is ultimately going to be required to get people back on solid footing" (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/10). 

BASEBALL INITIATIVES: Former White Sox LF Ron Kittle on Friday helped his old club during its blood drive at Guaranteed Rate Field. The drive was "part of a partnership with the American Red Cross and Anheuser-Busch to utilize arenas and stadiums nationwide as temporary blood-drive centers." The White Sox said that "there were 100 appointments" for the event (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/9)....Angels manager Joe Maddon, through his Respect 90 Foundation, is "making a $120,000 donation for COVID-19 relief efforts, with a $30,000 grant going to the WomenShelter of Long Beach" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/10)....Pirates bench coach Don Kelly on Friday "volunteered with Pirates Charities and Silver Star Meats to distribute" more than 500 meals to homeless people across Pittsburgh (TRIBLIVE.com, 5/8).

MORE GOOD STUFF: Penguins D Kris Letang has made an "unspecified donation intended to provide meals to the Students and Families Food Relief Fund and the Knead Community Cafe, allowing both organizations to provide meals during the covid-19 pandemic" (TRIBLIVE.com, 5/8)....The Pistons beginning today are partnering with Detroit-area McDonald’s locations to "help first responders" with "Motor City Frontline Meals." The venture, which will last the rest of the month, offers "free breakfast at all participating McDonald's restaurants in the city of Detroit to all healthcare workers, Detroit Police Department officers, Detroit Fire Department firefighters, paramedics and EMTs, and Detroit Department of Transportation bus drivers" (DETROIT NEWS, 5/9)....Pacers C Myles Turner has made "a $50,000 donation to the COVID-19 Response fund at Texas Health HEB," where his father, David, was treated for coronavirus. David Turner was released on March 29 after a five-day stay (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 5/11).