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Volume 23 No. 28
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Forum: SBAs will honor industry’s ability to help, heal and lead

We gave a lot of thought to whether to move forward with our Sports Business Awards, which were originally scheduled to take place on May 20 in New York City. If you have attended in the past, you’ve experienced the energy and camaraderie in the room, with the genuine excitement of the winners balanced by the disappointment of those not taking the stage in celebration.

We’re extremely proud of how this event has grown — combined with the increased stature of the recognition — over the past 13 years. It’s become a must-attend event on people’s calendars, and an annual stop to both network and catch up with old friends. But we weren’t sure going forward this year was the right approach, and internally, there was concern of appearing tone-deaf to the events around us, of having a celebration of excellence during a pandemic. There were suggestions to bow out and just cancel the event for this year, or declare “every organization a winner” and distribute trophies to everyone. We understood many of the organizations looked far different than they did during the nomination period — with many employees no longer a part of the company. 

But in talking externally, the conversations were different. Every organization we spoke to — those up for consideration this year or those familiar with the event — all declared the show must go on; that companies worked hard for this recognition and wanted the process completed. They stressed that moving forward with the event would be good for a company’s morale and externally for the industry. That sentiment guided our decision to go ahead with a slightly delayed awards celebration. But we wanted to use the platform to not only celebrate the companies and people that are nominated, but make the event a true celebration of the sports industry’s ability to help, heal and lead during a time of crisis — from a global pandemic to an important voice in the fight for equality and social justice. 

So, that’s what we truly will be celebrating. Of course, we will announce the winners in 17 categories, and while that recognition of accomplishments in a pre-pandemic world may seem dated, it’s important that the process be completed. We asked 31 judges to review the criteria and meet virtually to debate, vote and determine the winners. They don’t know the results of their deliberation, as winners will be announced for the first time on Wednesday, Sept. 30. In addition, we will be honoring our Lifetime Achievement Award winner Larry Tanenbaum, and while he surely wishes he was preparing to watch his Raptors defend their title in Game 1 of the NBA Finals that night, we are pleased that he will join us as we celebrate his career accomplishments.

Finally, we wanted to use the evening to generate support for organizations that have been greatly affected during the past six months. We are asking you to join us in helping the four winners of our Celebration of Service Award, which we introduced in 2017, who are using sport to help the marginalized, those discriminated against and those lacking opportunities and resources. They need our help to continue the good work they do. So, from Sept. 16 through Oct. 2, in lieu of a registration fee for the Sports Business Awards, we hope you will consider donating what you can to the Homeless World Cup, PeacePlayers International, PowerPlay and Team IMPACT, so that they can continue to inspire and help people who really need it the most (see below for more information). 

So please join us Wednesday, Sept. 30, from 7-8:30 p.m. ET for an evening that will celebrate sports, inspire us to continue to work together and lead during these historic times, and remind us all, again, how fortunate we all are to work in the sports industry.


Abraham Madkour can be reached at