SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead -- Ripples Across College Football
Though the rebuilding Timberwolves were left out of the NBA’s resumption that is beginning at Orlando's Walt Disney World, the franchise intends to be engaged on the conversation of racial equity that will surround it.
On Wednesday morning, the T'Wolves and Lynx convened on a Zoom call with Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey and police chief Medaria Arradondo, attended by players, coaches and basketball operations staff from both teams, as well as owner Glen Taylor.
The moderator was Kim Miller, a facilitator from the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, who was raised in south Minneapolis, not far from the site of George Floyd’s death.
The subject, of course, was racial equity.
T'Wolves & Lynx CEO Ethan Casson wants the organizations to remain at the center of that important conversation. For more from Casson, listen to the latest episode of the SBJ Unpacks podcast, and read below in tonight's newsletter for how he and his team are approaching the challenges ahead in 2021.
-- Bill King
UNPRECEDENTED DAY ACROSS COLLEGE FOOTBALL
- College football began to feel the domino effect today, as news of the Big Ten shifting to a conference-only model for all fall sports was confirmed. Now, Stadium's Brett McMurphy is reporting the ACC is not far behind, and the conference has already delayed the start of fall sports (other than football) until at least Sept. 1.
- SBJ's Michael Smith reports university leaders have about three more weeks before they need to finalize a decision on the upcoming football season. Aug. 1 is the date most conference commissioners and ADs have pegged as an unofficial deadline to determine what the 2020 season will look like. But today's takeaway is clear: ADs are becoming more skeptical as the days go by.
- Even though the SEC and Big 12 were quiet tonight, the flurry of breaking news throughout the afternoon almost felt like a coordinated effort, writes Smith. Commissioners from the P5 conferences have said they’re in contact practically every day. Even during his retirement comments, ACC Commissioner John Swofford said the collegiality between the commissioners was the best he could remember. During their commissioners call today, however, new Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren reportedly gave no hints that this announcement was coming.
- For much more on the shifts across the college landscape, be sure to check out the SBJ College newsletter this evening.
T'WOLVES TURN FOCUS TO 2021 OPPORTUNITIES
- Falling short of the cut to play at Disney will cost the T'Wolves money, but it also provides an opportunity for an early pivot into a makeover begun shortly before the shutdown, with a trade for All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell.
- "Not being there, does that hurt us from a local revenue standpoint, to not be able to move signage and have some level of engagement and activation happen in and around us? Of course it does,” T'Wolves CEO Ethan Casson said on the latest SBJ Unpacks podcast. “But at the same time for us it’s a chance to begin to think about (what) 2021 could look like. It’s a chance for us to talk to our fans about where we’re headed as an organization.”
- The pause also has provided an opportunity for Casson to join the leaders of other Twin Cities franchises in search of a unified path to bring spectators back to their arenas and stadiums. For much of the shutdown, he has been part of a weekly call with Twins President Dave St. Peter, Vikings CEO Andrew Miller, Wild President Matt Majka and United CEO Chris Wright. “We’re working locally with the Minnesota department of health -- we’re working locally with the governor’s office -- to build a task force specific to safe venues,” Casson said.
NASHVILLE SC BECOMES SECOND MLS CLUB TO DEPART TOURNEY
- Nashville SC is the second club to depart Orlando due to positive COVID-19 cases, three days after FC Dallas had to withdraw from the MLS is Back Tournament, writes SBJ's Mark J. Burns.
- Nashville said that one player tested positive as the individual arrived at the host hotel, while another eight players tested positive a few days after arriving. On a call with media this afternoon, Nashville CEO Ian Ayre said that a majority of players who tested positive are asymptomatic, while there are a couple with minor symptoms.
PRESIDENTS CUP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR ON MOVE TO 2022
- The one-year delay of the Ryder Cup created several ripple effects, one of them being the next domestic Presidents Cup at Quail Hollow moving from 2021 to 2022. And while yesterday’s news had been expected for several weeks, Presidents Cup Executive Director Adam Sperling said his team in Charlotte was in a bit of limbo until the moves became official.
- He told SBJ's David Rumsey, “We were, I would say, in a mix of planning for a 2021 event while preparing for the likelihood of a 2022 event,” he said. “What we were looking forward to … is just having a higher degree of certainty in whatever we were going to be doing.”
- Sperling said while he doesn’t have all the answers yet, all the conversations he’s had with partners and other figures around the Presidents Cup have been positive. And he feels it was ultimately the right move to delay both events. Sperling: “What's best for the game of golf is best for all of us. So, when you think about the fans of these events, you think about the players. … On the local side, you look at what's going to make the Presidents Cup stand out from the Charlotte perspective ... they all have to come together.”
- Over the next 12 months, Sperling and his team will rely on the strategy they had already been following and use the extra time to make any improvements, if necessary. “It'll give us a little bit of an opportunity to look at those plans and identify whether or not they make sense in a hopefully post-COVID world or if they need to be tweaked,” he said.
WTA STAYS FLEXIBLE AMID PANDEMIC COMPLICATIONS
- It was a busy day for the WTA, as the tour announced two new tournaments, rolled out a revised ranking system and had to deal with reports that tour-friendly China has banned all international sports events within its borders for the rest of 2020, writes SBJ's Bret McCormick.
- First, the new tournaments:
- An event in Prague, Czech Republic.
- With the Citi Open unable to reach an agreement to host the WTA side of the D.C.-based event in August, the WTA is taking its talents to Lexington, Ky., for the Top Seed Open from Aug. 10-17. Octagon owns the WTA sanction for the women’s half of the Citi Open, but leases the sanction to MDE Tennis, Mark Ein’s tennis outfit., which operates the Citi Open.
- An event in Prague, Czech Republic.
- The WTA also announced it will use a revised rankings system that limits damage to players who decide against traveling this year because of the pandemic. That development came as the AP today reported that China won’t host international sporting events this year. The WTA’s revised 2020 schedule included seven events in China during October and November, headlined by the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, the tour’s biggest money-making event.
- “To our knowledge, the report that has been circulated regarding a principle on international sporting events in China does not represent a final decision,” WTA VP/Global Communications Amy Binder wrote in an email. “We will advise when we have more information. We remain on track with our decision timeline regarding the 2020 WTA Tour provisional calendar, which will be (made) by the end of July.”
WORLD TEAMTENNIS TAKING ALL PRECAUTIONS TO HOST FANS
- World TeamTennis will be one of the few American sports leagues allowing fans when its season kicks off July 12 at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. Asked if WTT was committed to hosting fans throughout the three weeks that it’ll be playing at the resort, CEO Carlos Silva told SBJ’s Bret McCormick that the league hasn’t committed to anything the whole way through, and that it will consider every aspect of the event on a daily basis.
- WTT organizers will require fans to wear masks, and have already added more testing for those closest to the operation. The WTT already had to disqualify one player, Frances Tiafoe, from participating after he tested positive for COVID-19 last Saturday.
- “I don’t know that everyone understands that every minute, every hour, every day, the checklist of things that we’re trying to make sure we stay tight on,” said Silva. “You don’t want to have any mistakes and you want to stick to your procedures. You’ve got to be super diligent.”
- Silva said a Paycheck Protection Program loan of more than $350,000 ensured payroll was covered for 10 weeks, giving WTT one less thing to worry about during a time period when it was trying to decide whether to hold its 2020 season or cancel. Silva said that WTT -- which will have select matches broadcast on ESPN2 this weekend -- has event cancellation insurance, though it doesn’t have specific COVID coverage, which is unavailable in the insurance market right now.
NONPROFIT TASTE OF THE NFL ADAPTS AMID NEW REALITY
- Few businesses have been as devastated by the pandemic as restaurants and sports, writes SBJ's Terry Lefton. As a founder and head of Taste of the NFL, a nonprofit which raises money for food banks, restaurateur Wayne Kostroski is feeling the impact as much as anyone not stricken by COVID-19.
- “Restaurants and chefs are hurting a lot and these are the people who support and staff our food events,’’ said Kostroski, whose 28-year-old organization stages food benefits each year, culminating in an annual Super Bowl fete. So, while there’s usually close to a dozen team events every year leading up to the big Super Bowl fundraiser, this year there haven’t been any. “Everything’s on hold,’’ he said. “And everything is changing as we’re trying to plan.’’
- Accordingly, Kostroski is holding his first virtual event this month, Tasteforethetour.com, in conjunction with the July 23-26 3M Open in Minneapolis, yet another fanless PGA Tour event. “Its tough to plan anything now,’’ acknowledged Kostroski, “but the best thing I can tell you about this year is that I’ve seen restaurant people are as giving in tougher times as they are in good times."
- The Browns and Seahawks are the latest NFL teams to let season-ticket holders skip 2020 with no penalty for 2021, becoming at least the 13th and 14th teams to do so, reports SBJ's Ben Fischer. Another three have canceled season tickets altogether. In a letter to season-ticket holders, the Browns said they can either apply their current payments to 2021 or seek a refund. In neither case will their status or PSL rights be affected for the 2021 season. The team emphasized that the odds of playing in front of full crowds is very low, although if they remain confident the season will occur.
- Giants broadcaster (and avid golfer) Dave Flemming expressed cautious optimism for MLB's abbreviated season on the most recent episode of No Laying Up's "TrapDraw" podcast. Despite the Giants' recent issue with testing results, Flemming is staying positive. "I have a high-level of confidence that we’re going to see baseball. High. … It’s almost a certainty that we’re going to start, and try. Now whether we get all the way through and get to the playoffs and get a World Series in, … my confidence level would dip a little bit. But I’m optimistic that if everybody is smart about it, we can figure out a way to hopefully keep everybody safe and almost everybody virus-free."
- ESPN's Baxter Holmes & Eric Woodyard take a look at "how the NBA picked the barbers for the bubble." Six barbers from across the country will fly in and "operate out of one of three barbershops set up in each hotel teams are staying in." The plan is for "everyone to quarantine in the bubble for seven days and be ready to open individual barbershops by July 15." When Marcos Smith got the invite, the 42-year-old Dominican, who operates out of his studio in Brooklyn, immediately accepted. "This is potentially the biggest privilege of my career. It's a blessing. I feel like an astronaut."
NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY
- During this crisis impacting the sports business, we want everyone to be up-to-date on the latest news and information. Select stories from Sports Business Daily are free, outside the paywall, for the foreseeable future. Below are today's headlines:
SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD
- Check out the most recent editions of our "SBJ Unpacks" podcasts around COVID-19:
- T'Wolves & Lynx CEO Ethan Casson on how his organizations are staying active in furthering equality and social justice.
- Sports industry pioneer Donald Dell talks about the state of sports.
- D-backs President & CEO Derrick Hall discusses the return of MLB during the pandemic.
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