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Volume 27 No. 7
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SBJ Unpacks: More NFL Staffers Return To Park Avenue

There was finally more clarity today from the NCAA around the fate of collegiate sports in the coming months, with the governing body mandating that all three of its divisions decide by Aug. 21 whether or not fall championships are occurring this year. Hours later, both D-II and D-III threw in the towel. Is D-I now on the clock?

Meanwhile, the MLS is Back Tournament semifinals begin tonight, the NHL is still in the midst of its qualifying and seeding rounds, more NFL staffers are returning to 345 Park Ave. and the NBA returned yet another report of zero players testing positive for the coronavirus. The bubbles continue to hold strong.

Be kind to one another.

-- Mark J. Burns

 

NFL HQ BRINGING MORE WORKERS BACK

  • The NFL is bringing most of its 780-person workforce at its Manhattan HQ back to the office this week after months of working from home, SBJ’s Ben Fischer reports. About 150 people had already been working there in staggered shifts since NYC first allowed offices to re-open in June at 25% capacity, but now the NFL is moving up to 50% capacity.

  • Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo: “With our players and clubs safely back in the workplace, we too must continue to advance our return to the workplace. This will ensure we are collectively in the best position to execute our season.” He went on to promise flexibility and HR support for employees with childcare problems or other challenges at home.

  • No one is expected to work at the office full-time, said Chief People Officer Dasha Smith. To maintain social distancing, no more than half, or 390, will be allowed on site at any one time. Workers with offices will be asked to come for 3 days a week, and those in open floor plans will come in 1-2 days a week. "The idea is to get as many back as we can, in compliance with our 50 percent daily capacity,” Smith said.

  • Smith said the league has reinstated about half the employees who were furloughed in April, though she could not give a precise figure. NFL Media offices in L.A. and NFL Films offices in New Jersey have also been partially repopulated over the summer. The salary cuts for all employees earning $100K or more, enacted at the same time as the furloughs, are still in effect and will be re-evaluated at the start of the season, Smith said. That includes Goodell, who is still not earning his base salary.

 

 

NBA PLEDGES $300 MILLION TO SUPPORT BLACK COMMUNITIES 

  • NBA owners today announced that they will contribute $300 million in initial funding to establish the first NBA Foundation to focus on “creating greater economic empowerment in the Black community,” writes SBJ's John Lombardo. The foundation is being launched in partnership with the NBPA and comes after Commissioner Adam Silver said last month that the league and the union will create a foundation as part of its social justice platform.  

  • Over the next 10 years, the 30 team owners will collectively contribute $30 million annually to establish the new foundation. 

  • The foundation will focus on three critical employment transition points: obtaining a first job, securing employment following high school or college, and career advancement once employed.

  • According to the league, the foundation also "will work directly with all 30 teams, their affiliated charitable organizations and the union to support national organizations and their local affiliates as well as local grassroots organizations to facilitate sustainable programming and create change in team markets." 

  • “We are dedicated to using the collective resources of the 30 teams, the players and the league to drive meaningful economic opportunities for Black Americans,” Silver said in a statement  “We believe that through focused programs in our team markets and nationally, together with clear and specific performance measures, we can advance our shared goals of creating substantial economic mobility within the Black community.” 

 

LATEST RESULTS IN NBA BUBBLE SHOW NO POSITIVE TESTS

  • The NBA bubble is holding secure even as more team and league executives head to Disney since the games began last Thursday, reports SBJ's John Lombardo. The NBA and the players union jointly announced this afternoon that of the 343 players tested for COVID-19 on the campus since test results were last announced on July 29, zero have returned confirmed positive tests.   

  • The results show how well the protocols are working to date, but there is a long way to go given that the NBA Finals won’t wrap up until October. Still, the league has to be heartened by the zero player positivity at rate over the past three weeks. 


NBA RESTART'S VIRTUAL SIGNAGE: A UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY FOR SPONSORS

  • After almost a week of NBA games from ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, the designated home teams have been able to translate the games into opportunities for sponsors on both a local and national scale. Each club has served as the home team at least once, allowing all to present team partners through virtual signage on the court, in front of the bench and along the sideline, writes SportsAtlas' Will Cavanaugh

  • Of the 22 teams, 21 have used on-court and bench signage, with the Rockets as the only team yet to leverage the locations. Most teams have featured at least one of their jersey-patch and facility naming-rights partners, providing marquee sponsors with exposure missed during the long layoff. 

  • A total of 10 teams have presented their jersey-patch partner across one of the three team-owned assets; 14 teams positioned their facility naming-rights partner on the court; while two teams featured their practice facility naming-rights sponsor.

  • The brands occupying the virtual signage have varied between local and national partners. Brands with heavy involvement across the NBA -- LexusToyotaGeicoAT&TStubHubMountain Dew and DraftKings -- have been highlighted during the opening week of the restart. Despite a relatively small footprint across the NBA, brands such as American HomePinnacleMemorial HermannTangerineSweet James and Continental Resources also have invested in virtual signage.

 

 

MLS' RETURN GENERATES OVER $6 MILLION IN SPONSORSHIP VALUE

  • Throughout the MLS is Back Tournament, the league, teams and players have generated $6.3 million in sponsorship value for 32 brands, including all main jersey sponsors and key league sponsors, according to data from social media measurement firm Hookit analyzed SBJ's Mark J. Burns.

  • Adidas received over $2 million of that value, while Target ($1.5 million) and Heineken ($1 million) were the only other two brands to surpass $300,000 in sponsorship value.

  • Here are some other key findings: 

    • The Galaxy drove the most sponsorship value among teams at $800,000, in large part due to social video posts with fewer sponsor logos than other clubs.

    • The league generated 61% of the total value while teams generated 37%.

    • Of the clubs remaining in the tournament, Orlando City SC has generated the most value ($93,000) followed by the Union ($76,000), Minnesota United FC ($44,000) and the Timbers ($41,000).

    • Orlando City’s captain Nani produced the most value ($40,000) of any MLS player.

 

D-II, D-III CANCEL FALL CHAMPIONSHIPS 

  • The NCAA today laid out several measures that it "says schools 'must follow' if they are going to conduct fall sports," emphasizing the NCAA BOG's "serious concerns" about the threat of the pandemic, per CBS Sports. The NCAA's three divisions were given until Aug. 21 to decide whether to hold fall championships at all, but both D-II and D-III wasted no time. Hours after the NCAA statement, both of the division's respectivepresident councils announced the cancellation of all fall sports. 

  • Notable reactions to the D-II and D-III news on Twitter:

    • SI's Ross Dellenger: "If you want to know why the BOG kicked the can to the divisions, it's because of this. D2 and D3 wanted out. DI did not, for now."

    • Extra Point's Matt Brown: "If the argument is 'well, D1 has more resources than D-II or DIII, they can provide a better standard of care, maybe this can be safe' ...might be worth mentioning that the bottom of D1 looks real close to a lot of D-II programs, resource-wise."

    • Detroit News' Matt Charboneau: "Does Division I follow suit, and if so, when? And does that lead to a split by the Power Five?"

    • Toledo Blade's Ron Seibel: "Unfortunate, but in the big picture the correct move. If the current vaccine trials work, I'm guessing spring, 2021, will be the first safe sports season. If only high schools, D-I and D-II take the same difficult, but needed, step..."

  • More headlines from the college space today:

 

LONGTIME MLB CARDINALS VP JOE ABERNATHY RETIRES

  • Longtime Cardinals VP/Facility Planning & Engineering Joe Abernathy, who has overseen operations, event management, security, and guest services for the MLB club since 1995, has retired, reports SBJ's David Broughton.

  • Abernathy’s association with the club began in 1977, when he was managing engineering and construction for capital projects at then-team owner Anheuser-Busch Cos. In the early 90's, he managed engineering and construction projects at old Busch Stadium. In October ‘95 he joined the club as director of stadium operations and was promoted to vice-president in ‘97. He played a key role in the design and construction of the 2006 opening of the new Busch Stadium, as well as the ongoing mixed-use development surrounding it. He also helped direct the 1998 opening of Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, the club’s Spring Training facility in Jupiter, Fla

  • Over the course of his 24+ seasons with the club, Abernathy, a 2017 SBJ Power Player, oversaw more than 2,000 home games -- more than Cardinals legends Stan Musial and Lou Brock -- including 29 playoff series.

 

Abernathy played a key role in the design and construction of the 2006 opening of the new Busch Stadium
Abernathy played a key role in the design and construction of the 2006 opening of the new Busch Stadium
Abernathy played a key role in the design and construction of the 2006 opening of the new Busch Stadium

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: PERIOD OF UNCERTAINTY

  • Tonight's op-ed is from sports media consultants Ed Desser and John Kosner, who write under the header, "Sports Slogging Through Cruel Summer of 2020."
  • "Sports has experienced a lost season (NHL) and shortened ones before (NBA, NFL and MLB), but had never been entirely 'on hiatus.' Now, we’re midsummer, and the restarts have begun (motorsports, golf, MLB and, most recently, the NBA and NHL, so far successfully in their respective bubbles). Amid the progress, however, the nationwide spike in COVID-19 infections is feeding a new crisis." 
  • To read the full contribution, click here.

 

SPEED READS

  • Positive news on the racing front: more than two weeks after Bristol Motor Speedway "welcomed over 20,000 people to the country’s largest in-person sports gathering in months, local public health officials say they have not yet identified any COVID-19 case clusters directly associated with the NASCAR All-Star Race," per the Bristol Herald Courier's Tim Dodson. BMS "implemented an extensive plan for the July 15 event that physically distanced spectators in the stands and required attendees to wear masks in most parts of the stadium, except for at their seats."

  • Live Nation Entertainment, the parent company of Ticketmaster, reported year-over-year ticketing revenue decreased $457.8 million on its Q2 earnings call today, primarily because of refunds to cancelled concerts, sports and other events during the pandemic.

  • While the amount of NBA 2K20 content streamed on YouTube and Twitch from July 4-Aug.3 remained relatively constant, viewership peaked on the Thursday of the NBA restart, according to the latest data from Newzoo Pro analyzed by SBJ’s Andrew Levin. The resumption of live action generated a positive correlation with 2K20 streaming viewership, perhaps due to the general excitement the league’s restart generated in the days leading up to its return. See more in the SBJ Esports newsletter.

  • The USTA "laid out key elements" of its U.S. Open bubble plan in an update sent to players, according to the N.Y. Times' Christopher Clarey. Players need written permission from tournament director Stacey Allaster or the tournament's chief medical officer in order to leave the tournament bubble. If they leave without it, the player "will be removed from the event and fined an unspecified amount." If a coach or other guest of a player leaves the bubble, that credential "will be revoked." 

  • LeBron James, who has owned a 2% stake in Liverpool since 2011, showed off the club's new Nike red kit on his way to the Lakers game tonight in Orlando

 

 

  

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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.