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Volume 26 No. 228
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SBJ Unpacks: The Road Ahead -- MLS Opening Up CBD Sponsor Category?

As an anxious sports world waits to see if its top attractions can be safely staged during a pandemic, other headlines get increasingly bizarre.

What can you say when today’s biggest stories have an NFL team excising its 87-year-old name, while the NBA’s top player keeps his name on his jersey, instead of something from a list of social justice phrases.

Whenever it ends, will we echo Hunter  S. Thompson’s declaration that “it never got weird enough”?

-- Terry Lefton

  

SOURCES: MLS "LIKELY" TO APPROVE CBD OPPORTUNITY

  • It is “likely” that the MLS Board of Governors will approve CBD as a new commercial opportunity for teams by the end of 2020, multiple sources tell SBJ’s Mark J. Burns & Terry Lefton.

  • CBD is not currently an approved category across any of the other major U.S. pro sports leagues. Details are still scarce, sources said, around if CBD brands would be allowed on MLS teams’ kits, jersey sleeves or stadiums. Last year, MLS approved new commercial opportunities in both the sports betting and spirits categories, opening up new revenue streams for teams. Prior to this season, MLS teams could begin selling sponsorship rights internationally

  • Commissioner Don Garber last month said that the league would suffer a $1 billion loss in revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sources said that allowing even more commercial opportunities, like with CBD, would help teams and the league recoup some of that money, albeit only a small fraction. Questions remain about how a THC company with a CBD brand would fit into the commercial policies, sources said. 

 

RANGERS: NO FANS AT GLOBE LIFE UNTIL AT LEAST AUG. 7

  • Even though Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last month that he'd allow in-state sporting venues to fill to 50% capacity with fans, the Rangers are not planning to play in front of any fans until at least Aug. 7.

  • While the team had hoped fans could attend their five regular-season games later this month at the new $1.2 billion Globe Life Field, the alarming spike in new cases in Texas prompted them -- in consultation with MLB -- to pump the brakes, Rangers Exec VP/Business Operations Rob Matwick told SBJ's Eric Prisbell.

  • Rangers co-owner Ray Davis maintains communication with Commissioner Rob Manfred regarding the possibility of fan attendance, and any decision will be a "collective" one, Matwick said. MLB maintains dialogue with local and national health officials who help inform decisions. The Rangers' first regular-season game at Globe Life Field will be July 24, the first of three home games against the Rockies. They also have a two-game home series against the D-backs in July.

  • On holding off on fan attendance, Matwick said, "Right now, I think it's probably a smart way to go in the short term. At this point, we're just hopeful we can get through camp and get the season started. That's really the first challenge. ... Hopefully by the time we come back for the second home-stand, which starts on Aug. 7, maybe up to 50% (capacity), but that will be dictated by where we are related to the virus and the outbreak in Texas. And we understand the possibility that we might still be in position where we can't have any fans."

 

Fans will be unable to attend at least the first five regular season games later this month at the new $1.2 billion Globe Life Field
Fans will be unable to attend at least the first five regular season games later this month at the new $1.2 billion Globe Life Field
Fans will be unable to attend at least the first five regular season games later this month at the new $1.2 billion Globe Life Field

 

NBA REVEALS TWO POSITIVE PLAYER TESTS OVER PAST WEEK

  • The NBA and NBAPA this afternoon disclosed that of the 322 players tested for COVID-19 since arriving on the Disney campus last Tuesday, two players have tested positive while in quarantine, according to SBJ's John Lombardo. The league said the two players who tested positive never cleared quarantine and have since left Disney to isolate at home or in isolation housing.

  • Since July 1, during in-market testing, 19 NBA players newly tested positive. These players are staying in their home markets and recovering until they are cleared under CDC guidelines and NBA rules to leave home isolation and join their teams at Disney.

 

THE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT CREDITS “GROUPING” FOR LOW COVID FIGURES

  • The Basketball Tournament found 43 positive COVID-19 tests (2.0%) among 2,024 total tests for this year's tournament, which wraps up tomorrow night at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.

  • Tests were administered to players, coaches, staff, TV production personnel and referees. A maximum of six separate tests were administered according to TBT’s testing protocol. Vault Health facilitated on administering and reading the tests, and while TBT Founder & CEO Jon Mugar declined to give a specific cost for them, he admitted TBT’s entire health-and-safety plan cost north of $1M, including testing.

  • Mugar called grouping -- not allowing certain categories of people to interact with other categories -- the “biggest defense that we had” against preventing an outbreak inside the TBT bubble.

  • He told SBD's Andrew Levin, “First, you come in and you’re isolated, so you’re grouping every individual person alone. Once they graduate that phase after they pass two negatives, then they’re grouped with their team. But in that team grouping phase, nobody ever comes into contact with other people (in other categories) within six feet or without a mask on.” He credited grouping’s ability to limit direct exposure, allowing TBT to continue even after Day 3 and Day 4 tests revealed three positives among players who had already practiced with their teams. Because of grouping, only those teams affected had to be removed and replaced, saving the operation as a whole.

 

THE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT COVID-19 POSITIVITY RATES
TEST LOCALE
RATE (POSITIVE TESTS/TOTAL TESTS)
At Home
7.5% (34/450)
Isolation
1.6% (6/391)
Quarantine Day 3
0.5% (2/374)
Quarantine Day 4
0.3% (1/352)
Quarantine Day 5
0% (0/329)
Quarantine Day 7
0% (0/128)
TOTAL
2.0% (43/2,024)
Download the
TBT

 

BIG TEN'S FOOTBALL DECISION CASTS LONG SHADOW

    • As the college football season approaches, will more conferences follow the Big Ten and Pac-12 in eliminating non-conference games? Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman, appearing on "The Herd with Colin Cowherd" earlier today, said the message from Ohio State AD Gene Smith last week will carry weight across the sport. 

    • Feldman: "Smith is probably the most powerful AD in the country. The language he used when they announced this, he talked about when you look at the trajectory and our behavior in the country ... it’s a really downward trajectory. I think his feeling was very disturbed, very alarmed." More Feldman: "The conversations that I’ve had with ADs and coaches behind the scene … they’ll tell you something, but it’s not like they’re going on record. Gene Smith put his name on it. ... Here’s a grown-up who is basically trying to shake people and say, ‘You've gotta take this more seriously.’ And that is a tone that I’ve heard a lot from folks around the country."

    • SI's Ross Dellenger told ESPN's Paul Finebaum he expects the SEC to "wait a couple weeks before making a decision on the 2020 season." Dellenger: "This may be the biggest two or three weeks in college football history."

    • Meanwhile, the Patriot League, which competes at the FCS level in football, will "not play sports in the fall because of the coronavirus pandemic." The league also said that a "decision on winter sports will be made at a later date and that practice, conditioning and strength training will be permitted if 'health and safety conditions support such activities.'" Among the FBS schools impacted by the Patriot League’s decision this season are Boston College (vs. Holy Cross), Army (vs. Bucknell) and Syracuse (vs. Colgate). 

      

    OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: ASSESSING RISK

    • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from N.Y.-based law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman partners Richard Giller and Brian Finch, who write under the header, "Pandemic Risk Insurance Act Can Have A Positive Impact On American Sports." 

    • "The insurance industry has spent the better part of 2020 selling narratives about how their existing insurance policies will not cover the untold losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. State legislatures, not willing to let billions in private insurance funds sit untapped as their budget coffers are bled dry by pandemic relief packages, have responded by drafting laws that will force insurers to pay out on virtually any business loss claims, regardless of what those policies actually cover."

    • To read the full contribution, click here.

      

    CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S SBJ

     

     

    SPEED READS

    • As training camp began today for 24 NHL teams, the league issued a summary of its testing policies from Phase 2 of its return to play. The NHL revealed 30 confirmed positive cases from 4,934 COVID-19 tests, which included players voluntarily participating in optional workouts at training and practice facilities. More than 600 players participated in Phase 2, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. The league noted that 13 other players tested positive for the coronavirus outside of Phase 2. 

    • The NFL and Oakley today unveiled "face shields for the players' helmets" as part of the league's health & safety efforts, with training camps "set to start at the end of the month." Oakley "already provides visors for the players" via a league-level deal. So far, the face shield "has received a better response than the mask suggestion" among players. NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills said, “From the start, the [NFLPA], their medical advisers, their engineers have been engaged with us. We’ve also had dialogue with players along the way trying to look at early prototypes and developments.”

    • In SBJ Media tonight: How ESPN’s decision to suspend Adrian Wojnarowski for two weeks without pay created a couple of revenue opportunities for several sports media companies.

    • ESPN's Jay Williams took issue with several NBA players voicing their displeasure with the food and accommodations in the Orlando bubble, saying the comments were "tone-deaf" amid the current situation across the country. Williams, on "Get Up" this morning, said, "When you think about what degree the NBA has gone to create this billion dollar bubble, the protective measures in place to protect these athletes while they make millions of dollars, I think when they make comments like that it takes away, especially from every day people who are working 9-to-5 jobs, who are working in environments where those same protective measures aren’t being taken because a lot of their employers are trying to increase the bottom line due to the money that they’ve lost throughout this pandemic.”

    • The move to close down Hong Kong Disneyland is a "fresh setback for a property the entertainment giant had reopened just last month," per the Wall Street Journal. Disney’s challenges in Hong Kong "demonstrate the issues that businesses are facing in trying to operate amid ongoing fears about the pandemic while navigating government rules that can vary from one jurisdiction to another." Two main parks at Disney World in Orlando -- Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom -- "reopened last week with significantly reduced capacity."

    • The Chicago Marathon (Oct. 11) today became the "latest major marathon to be canceled, joining Berlin, Boston, New York City," per NBC Sports' Nick Zaccardi. As of now, the London Marathon is still scheduled for this fall on Oct. 4.


       

     

    NEWS YOU NEED FROM SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY

     

     

    SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

     

     

    2020 SBJ THOUGHT LEADERS RETREAT (VIRTUAL)

    • Aug. 13, 2:00-7:00pm ET (by invitation only)

    • The road ahead has never been more challenging -- and it has never been more important for executive leadership to pause, learn, reflect and relax in order to prepare themselves to step up and navigate what the future holds. This year, we are continuing the tradition of Thought Leaders, creating the industry’s most intimate, senior-level event with a virtual program.

    • Content will include:

      • Mindful Leadership with Pandit Dasa
      • The C-Suite Imperative: Corporate Responsibility & Social Impact
      • The New Fan Experience: A 360-degree approach; a 365-day Journey
      • Reinvented: A Conversation with Agent Leigh Steinberg
      • Supporting Social Justice Reform: Backing Words with Action
      • Navigating the Road Ahead: Fundamental Shifts We Can Expect in the Sports Business (group discussions)

    • In addition to the compelling content, we will have plenty of time for some of the best virtual networking activities of the year, including:

      • Jack Daniel’s whiskey tasting
        Aquimo golf (live challenge)
        Aquimo cornhole (live challenge)
        • Cooking demo with "Iron Chef" Marc Forgione
        • A private set from John Popper and Brian Wilson of Blues Traveler

    • For more information please visit, www.Thought-Leaders-Retreat.com.

     

     

     

    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.