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Volume 26 No. 208
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SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead -- NASCAR Seeks New York Quarantine Waiver

The pandemic has transformed the cyclical and largely predictable sports business into something unfamiliar. Asked what value a sports venue without fans has, the sponsorship chief at a company with several entitlements said "our argument starts that it's worth zero -- not everyone agrees."

With COVID-19 reaching new highs in some of the most populous states, 14 are rethinking reopening plans. There’s additional skepticism around the return of sports, especially for those planning to play outside of a bubble.

Those unfamiliar things in what was a recognizable sports landscape have become the most nettlesome; hopefully, a path to health -- businesswise and otherwise -- can emerge soon.

-- Terry Lefton

 

NASCAR SEEKING QUARANTINE WAIVER FOR WATKINS GLEN

  • Watkins Glen Int'l and NASCAR are in discussions with Andrew Cuomo's administration to try to get a waiver for the motorsports industry regarding New York state's quarantine rule that currently includes North Carolina, sources tell SBJ's Adam Stern. Cuomo last week implemented a rule mandating that residents of certain states with spiking cases must quarantine for two weeks if they travel to New York. North Carolina, where the majority of the NASCAR industry is based, is one of those states -- and NASCAR’s annual race weekend at WGI is slated for August, presenting an obvious issue.
  • Without a waiver, the idea of having teams quarantine seems highly unlikely for multiple reasons, so a cancellation could not be ruled out. It was not yet clear how receptive Cuomo was to the request. There is a precedent, as Cuomo granted a waiver to players from the Mets and Yankees as they returned from Florida to get MLB's pre-season training back underway before the 2020 season starts later this month.
  • However, the NASCAR industry entails more than 500 people on a normal race weekend, and the sport has not been doing uniform coronavirus testing for all competitors and at-track participants, which could give Cuomo pause. Given how New York has suddenly become a state with a low amount of coronavirus cases, NASCAR was believed to also be interested in talking to Cuomo about possibly having fans at the WGI race weekend. Whether that has been impacted by the new quarantine rule is unclear.

 

NFL CARDINALS ACKNOWLEDGE LOW CHANCE OF CAPACITY CROWDS

  • The Cardinals have told season ticket holders there’s a “very low” chance of playing to capacity crowds at State Farm Stadium this season, SBJ’s Ben Fischer reports. The Cardinals and other NFL teams are trying to manage expectations amid a difficult ticketing scenario, as it appears that sold tickets will far eclipse legal capacities set by local public health officials fighting COVID-19. However it's hard to say how many seats will be available or where.
  • “Based on the latest available information, the likelihood that we will be able to play all of our games in front of a full-capacity crowd is very low,” the Cardinals said in a letter to season ticket holders. “As such, we are developing contingency plans for the different scenarios and potential stadium seating configurations. When the overall situation comes into clearer focus and the details of the 2020 plan are solidified we will reach out with an update.”
  • Separately, the Bears and Jets today became the fourth and fifth teams, respectively, known to offer fans the option of cancelling their 2020 tickets with no loss of status for 2021, following the PatriotsGiants and Rams. In the letter sent today, the Bears also said they’d let season ticket holders know more about capacities and seating configurations as soon as they can, and said “Adaptability and flexibility will be key” for both the team and fans to make the most of a complicated situation.

 

 

NHL ANNOUNCES 26 POSITIVE COVID TESTS AMONG PLAYERS

  • More than 250 players who worked out at team facilities were "administered more than 1,450 COVID-19 tests." Training camps can "open as early as July 10 if an agreement on testing, health and safety protocols and 'hub' cities" can be reached. 
 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: DRAWING UP A GAME PLAN

  • Tonight's op-ed is from sports media consultants Ed Desser and John Kosner, who write under the header, "Thoughtful, Creative Planning Will Put New Normal Into Focus."
  • "Re-think. Have you put your most pressing problems into priority order? With revenue prospects down, how best to trim expenses? What do your media and sponsorship agreements state in terms of force majeure, and compensation adjustment procedures? How best to maintain these vital relationships? We are just beginning to understand the ramifications of COVID from a media rights perspective. Anticipate some form of renegotiation."
  • To read Desser and Kosner's full contribution, click here

 

WORKING FROM HOME WITH BEARS EXEC MELISSA MCDERMOTT

  • Bears Director of Partnership Activation Melissa McDermott has been quarantining with her family in their Lake Forest, Ill., home. Keeping up with her daughter (3) and son (6) was the first priority for McDermott, who labeled herself a “creature of habit.” McDermott: “I talked to my boss, talked to some of my colleagues and I said, ‘I need to block off like 8:00-10:00am on my schedule every day, if I can. That just allowed me to get the kids going in the morning.”
  • McDermott says there has been no problem keeping her team’s normal cadence of meetings, albeit virtually, but she does look for ways to keep things interesting. “I've tried to pepper in a couple of fun things, whether that's happy hours, coffee breaks. I ran a trivia game for them for a while and things like that,” she said. “So, just something to keep it new and fun and let us connect when we can.”
  • With many clients hurting from the pandemic, McDermott is making sure to keep things in perspective. “I just reach out and say, ‘Hey, how are you doing? What can we do to help? We're here for you,’” she said. “So many of them, unfortunately, have gone through furloughs or layoffs or really tough times.” McDermott has been trying to think of good gestures to keep spirits high, like sending gifts or merchandise for companies to share with or raffle off to employees. “Something that’s a morale booster,” she said.
  • Without the usual slate of summer sports, McDermott has been watching plenty of reality TV. “I’m a huge foodie and I love to cook. So, ‘Top Chef: All-Stars’ is my No. 1 show,” she said. McDermott: “I'm a big ‘Bachelor’/’Bachelorette’ fan. They’ve been replaying the best seasons. So, that's kind of my mindless, wind down with a glass of wine at the end of the day, kids are in bed, I can kind of escape to watch that.”

 

McDermott feels she has found a good balance between work and keeping up with her kids during the pandemic
McDermott feels she has found a good balance between work and keeping up with her kids during the pandemic
McDermott feels she has found a good balance between work and keeping up with her kids during the pandemic

 

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S SBJ

 

SPEED READS

  • NASCAR has canceled the 2020 Champion’s Week and Cup Series Awards banquet in Nashville due to the coronavirus pandemic, writes SBJ's Adam Stern. The sanctioning body formally announced the move today after informing industry partners about it in recent days. NASCAR first started holding the postseason event in Nashville last December following a decade in Las Vegas. The awards banquet is typically broadcast by NBC Sports.
  • The NFLPA today "directed agents to provide their players with info from the CDC on COVID-19 risk factors and speak with them by mid-July about the importance of consulting their personal physicians as they make decisions on playing this season."

  • F1 has been given financial breathing room until the end of 2021 after Liberty Media amended the conditions attached to a $2.9 billion loan. Motorsport notes that F1 CEO Chase Carey said that the "change will help the company get through the COVID-19 crisis."

  • A new survey from Civic Science, analyzed by SBJ's David Broughton, shows that some 21% of Americans closely follow MLB, and those fans are mostly split on their feelings about baseball returning to play this year. The poll was taken among 36 ,000 U.S. residents earlier this month.

 

 

NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

 

SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

 

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