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Volume 26 No. 208
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SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead -- NFL Training Camps On Schedule

The look of the fanless game has begun to take form.

As the NBA considers a framework for who gets what on virtual ad positions created within its local game telecasts, NFL owners today voted to allow teams to tarp lower-level, TV-visible seating to create a canvas for advertisers during its broadcasts.

Empty seats mean lost revenue. Turning those seats, or the spaces created in their stead, into billboards will recover some of it.

How this will play with viewers, and the networks who hope they’ll stampede back to their TVs, is -- like much of our COVID-ized lives -- TBD.

-- Bill King



  • NFL training camp will start on time around July 28, league executives said today after an owners meeting, but little other hard information was available about possible preseason cancellations, reports SBJ’s Ben Fischer. NFL General Counsel Jeff Pash said he expects resolution “relatively soon” on the fate of the four-game preseason, which appears to be in doubt, particularly after the HOF Game was called off earlier today because of the pandemic.

  • The league has not given up on having large crowds at games this year, but a policy approved by owners today is the first formal acknowledgement that a true “status quo” season isn’t in the cards. All 30 stadiums will have their first few seating rows covered to create a safety buffer to protect players, coaches and other on-field staff from coronavirus exposure, Exec VP/Partnerships & CRO Renie Anderson said. Those coverings will be available for advertising, as SBD reported first on Wednesday.

  • Teams will be asked to follow local public health regulations and CDC guidelines on venue capacity, the NFL also confirmed today, opening up the door to potentially wide variations in crowd size around the league. Exec VP Peter O’Reilly said teams will decide how to distribute limited ticket supply, but said season-ticket and PSL holders will presumably be given priority.

  • The next major project for the NFL’s pandemic response is coming to terms with the NFLPA on a COVID-19 testing, screening and treatment protocol.


  • Nike late this afternoon "reported an unexpected quarterly net loss and a sales decline of 38% year-over-year," per CNBC, proving even one of the "strongest global brands in the retail industry" has taken a hit from the pandemic. 

  • Nike's business was "hurt from its stores being shut temporarily, and online revenue was not enough to make up for that." The retail giant reported a loss of $790 million during the period ended May 31. Shares were "down around 4% in after-hours trading." 

  • Total revenue was down 38% to $6.31 billion from $10.18 billion a year ago. Sales in North America were "down 46%, while sales in China were down just 3%, with many of Nike’s stores in that region reopening sooner during the pandemic than in the U.S." CNBC producer Robert Hum noted this was "just the second time in eight years that Nike has missed earnings estimates."

  • On a positive note, Nike President & CEO John Donahoe said Jordan Brand "resonated deeply this quarter" thanks to "The Last Dance." The brand "grew more than 50%" in FY '20, "approaching a billion dollars in revenue." Donahoe said women "played a key role in that growth."


On a positive note, Jordan Brand grew more than 50% in FY '20, approaching a billion dollars in revenue
On a positive note, Jordan Brand grew more than 50% in FY '20, approaching a billion dollars in revenue
On a positive note, Jordan Brand grew more than 50% in FY '20, approaching a billion dollars in revenue



  • Amazon has secured naming rights to the future home of the NHL Seattle expansion team, but the name of the online retail giant will not be part of the venue’s moniker. The $900 million-plus building will be called Climate Pledge Arena. The name refers to an initiative that Amazon co-founded in 2019 committing to be net zero carbon across its business by 2040. SBD in January first reported that Amazon was seen as the leading contender.

  • “Amazon reminded us that they don’t need branding, but if they found a cause, that they’d rally around the cause,” said Oak View Group CEO Tim Leiweke, whose company operates the arena. He called this the hardest deal he has ever had to pull together in his career.

  • Read more here.



  • ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi first laid out his vision for closer commercial collaboration with the WTA while interviewing for his job in the fall of 2019. Once he started the new role on Jan. 1, Gaudenzi began sharing that vision more widely behind closed doors, first to the WTA, then with players at the Australian Open in late January and again with other major stakeholders in the following weeks. Then the pandemic shut down tennis in March and shifted his focus to salvaging the 2020 season.

  • Combining the forward-facing aspects of the ATP and WTA’s business operations is an intriguing idea that both sides support. Click here to get an early look at Bret McCormick's story for next week's SBJ on why the timing makes sense for tennis' top tours.



  • For 22 NBA franchises, there is now a date, and a place, to look forward to. Beyond that, much remains to sort out. Who will get what from local broadcast inventory? What can franchises do to engage fans and sponsors from afar? And, perhaps most importantly, should the focus of this salvage mission shift from blunting financial losses to creating a platform to promote social change? 

  • Heat President of Business Operations Eric Woolworth discussed that, and more, with SBJ’s Bill King on the latest episode of the SBJ Unpacks podcast.

  • “The world over the past … three weeks or a month has been going through a lot of turmoil,” Woolworth said. “And I think having the platform that we’re going to have while the team plays in Orlando puts us in a position to not only think about our sponsors and our fans but also to think about our community. And to use that platform ... to try to make our community a better place."

  • “Those are things that are front of mind right now. I would actually say that the mindset has somewhat shifted from business opportunities to social responsibility opportunities.”



  • MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred admitted the league and union "owe it to our fans to be better than we've been the last three months," according to the AP's Ronald Blum. Meanwhile, MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark "would not directly respond when asked whether lasting damage had been inflicted." Clark said, "There is an opportunity to move forward, move our game forward. And as it relates to the atmosphere in general, the lines of communication remain open, and we’ll count that as a positive in the days ahead."

  • Bob Costas on HBO's "Real Sports" said of the negotiations between the league and union, "There's going to be a price to pay here much larger than whatever they could win or lose at the negotiating table.” But former MLB Commissioner Fay Vincent added, "You can beat baseball with a stick, and you could trash the fans and you could do all sorts of things that are really stupid and yet, over time, the baseball fan comes back.” 


  • Sports bettors have taken a keen interest in the PGA Tour’s return to play, as golf is one of the few things on the board right now at sportsbooks. Westgate Las Vegas SportsBook VP/Risk Management & Oddsmaking Jeff Sherman said for the Tour’s return in Ft. Worth, his outfit took in “about twice what we normally do on a weekly event." Sherman, appearing on the "Golf Digest" podcast, added: "Last week at the (RBC) Heritage it went up to about three times what we normally do, and already this week at the Travelers we’re on pace to do better than that. .... We’re putting up more match-ups, a few more props than we normally do."

  • Sherman expressed confidence that interest in golf will stay steady as other sports resume play later. "We’ll get a lot of repeat customers after this,” he said. Another positive Sherman is paying attention to? The emergence of lesser-known players. "The new people that are in this space betting it are now familiar with someone like Abraham Ancer. These other golfers are getting introduced to non-traditional golf followers. Now when you get to a tournament that doesn’t quite have the field that we’ve seen over the last few weeks, some of these names will be more recognizable."








  • Athletes "returning to their old social lives is becoming a problem in the new world of sports," according to the Wall Street Journal. As teams "reconvene for practice, they face a common foe: a night at the bar that results in a virus outbreak." Between the LSU football team, the NWSL Orlando Pride and tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, trips out on the town are providing the "worst hangover in sports." Incoming UCLA AD Martin Jarmond, on the difficulty of enforcing a bubble on a college campus, "The issue is not the two hours at practice. It’s the other 22 hours of the day.”

  • From SBJ's Ben Fischer & Chris SmithVisa Chief Brand & Innovation Marketing Officer Chris Curtin is stepping down from his role at the end of the summer. In his position, Curtin has overseen the brand’s NFL and Olympic sponsorships, in addition to other high-profile marketing initiatives.

  • In tonight’s SBJ College, Michael Smith takes a look at the legacy of John Swofford, as well as potential candidates to be the next ACC commissioner.

  • Univision networks starting next Friday will see Liga MX soccer return to the  airwaves for the first time in three months, per SBJ’s Austin Karp. The Spanish-language networks will air the first-ever Copa por Mexico preseason tourney. Eight teams will play 15 matches in Guadalajara and Mexico City ahead of the start of the fall (Apertura) season in August. There are no plans right now for English-language carriage of the preseason tourney games. 

  • Australia and New Zealand won a joint bid to host the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. The two countries beat out Colombia in a 22-13 vote by the FIFA Council. At a news conference afterwards, FIFA president Gianni Infantino confirmed the event will expand to 32 teams.







Something related to coronavirus and sports business catch your eye? Tell us about it. Reach out to Austin Karp ( and we'll share the best of it.