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Volume 27 No. 5
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SBJ Unpacks: Fans In Play For Fall Classic?

Tonight in SBJ Unpacks: A source tells SBJ's Eric Prisbell there is cautious optimism MLB will allow a limited capacity crowd at the World Series.

Also:

  • Mets ownership reaches deal with Steve Cohen
  • Naomi Osaka's U.S. Open run drives social engagement
  • NFL teams vary in Week 1 social protest demonstrations
  • Adam Amin dishes on calling his first NFL game for Fox
  • How MiLB ballparks got creative amid a challenging 2020

 

SOURCE: CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM FOR LIMITED FANS TO ATTEND WORLD SERIES

  • After proceeding through its truncated 60-game regular season with no fans, there is cautious optimism across MLB that at least some fans will be permitted to attend the neutral-site World Series next month at Globe Life Field in Arlington, writes SBJ's Eric Prisbell.

  • One model that could be the most realistic, according to a baseball source, is for 10,000 fans -- roughly 25% capacity in the Rangers' 40,300-seat ballpark -- to be permitted to attend while adhering to social-distancing guidelines.

  • The source stressed that MLB has no plan yet for fans to attend the World Series, much less a specified number at this point. "But that is the hope -- that some fans can attend," the source said. The $1.2 billion ballpark will be home to three rounds in the expanded postseason, including hosting an NLDS matchup and the NLCS. The expanded postseason is expected to generate close to $1 billion for the league.

  • Globe Life Field already has been able to test some of its operations during the pandemic when it hosted more than 50 graduations this spring. Staff tested air conditioners, restrooms and connections related to scanning tickets at gate entries. In all, more than 100,000 family members and guests attended the ceremonies while socially distanced.

 

METS REACH DEAL WITH STEVE COHEN

  • The Mets this afternoon announced ownership has reached a deal to sell the team to Steve Cohen, which is now subject to MLB approval.

  • Cohen will own 95% of the team, with the Katz and Wilpon families retaining the other 5% per Sportico. Financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, but the N.Y. Post's Joel Sherman reports the club "sold for more than the $2.35B that has been reported." Sherman: "It is for between $2.4B and $2.45B." Next up for Cohen in the process is approval from 23 of the 30 MLB owners at their scheduled meeting in November.

  • Cohen in February ended negotiations with the Wilpons on his original $2.6 billion purchase of an 80% stake in the Mets because Cohen was "deeply unhappy with the Wilpons changing the terms of the deal at a very late stage," according to sources cited by the N.Y. Post.

 

 

WHAT ESPN'S DEALS WITH CAESARS, DRAFTKINGS MEAN

  • The deal announced today between ESPN, sportsbook operators Caesars Entertainment, William Hill U.S. and DraftKings marks an evolution of relationships between companies that already were doing business together, but needed to recalibrate and redefine those relationships in a rapidly evolving market, writes SBJ's Bill King.

  • Since last year, Caesars has been the exclusive sportsbook sponsor across ESPN platforms, providing odds and recently opening an ESPN studio to produce content from Caesars’ Linq Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip. But through all of that time, Caesars was a large casino brand that had not launched online in multiple states as its competitors had, stalled as it worked through a massive and complicated merger that created the nation’s largest casino company.

  • So while Caesars provided odds and lines for ESPN.com, ESPN did not allow users in legalized states to click through and bet as they could on other sites, including Yahoo, which fed to BetMGM, or CBS Sports, which referred bettors to William Hill. Caesars simply had no place to send them.

  • That all changed after the merger closed and William Hill emerged with rights to operate U.S. sportsbooks for the combined company, creating the brand Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. The vastly expanded digital footprint created the appetite -- and opportunity -- for not only a matching promotional platform, but also the direct referrals that ESPN click-throughs could provide.

  •  As a result of the deal announced today, bettors in legalized states will be able to click directly from a betting line on ESPN.com to a William Hill operated landing page to place their bets. DraftKings, which extended and deepened its deal as ESPN’s exclusive daily fantasy sponsor in the deal announced today, also will receive some of that referral traffic. Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill also gets integration as a sponsor of ESPN fantasy products.

 

OSAKA'S ACTIVISM HELPS DRIVE SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT AMID U.S. OPEN RUN

  • Naomi Osaka won the U.S. Open women’s singles title last Saturday, and Twitter posts involving Osaka and the tournament were also hugely successful, according to data from Zoomph cited by SBJ's Bret McCormick.

  • The top three tweets mentioning the U.S. Open during the two-week tournament all involved Osaka, led by MEFeater Magazine’s post congratulating her for winning the tournament, which received over 25,000 retweets and 140,000 impressions, generating $964,817 in social value. An ESPN tweet about Osaka’s Breonna Taylor mask and an ESPNW tweet about Osaka’s boyfriend, the rapper Cordae, rounded out the top three.

  • Osaka wore a different mask bearing the name of Black Americans whose deaths have been prominent in recent years as she walked onto the court for each of her seven matches. That statement against systemic racism kept the Japanese-American star top of mind on Twitter, where posts mentioning her handle generated nearly 103 million impressions and a social value of $1.7 million. For comparison, Tweets mentioning the men’s champion, Austria’s Dominic Thiem, led to 37 million impressions and a social value of $542,000. 

  • From Aug. 31 to Sept. 14, there were over 397,000 Tweets mentioning the U.S. Open, leading to six million engagements, an engagement rate of 0.32%. Those same Tweets generated 1.8 billion impressions and a total social value of $20.1 million.

  • See more coverage of Osaka's marketability in SBD.

 

Osaka wore a different mask bearing the name of black Americans that have been killed in recent years as she walked onto the court for each of her seven matches
Osaka wore a different mask bearing the name of black Americans that have been killed in recent years as she walked onto the court for each of her seven matches
Osaka wore a different mask bearing the name of black Americans that have been killed in recent years as she walked onto the court for each of her seven matches

 

NFL TEAMS SHOW VARYING FORMS OF SUPPORT FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

  • Some NFL teams "stayed in their locker rooms during the playing of the national anthem and the song 'Lift Every Voice and Sing'" during Week 1, and their absence "appeared to dilute the pledge many players had made to use their positions to raise awareness of racial injustice, even without fans in most stadiums," according to the N.Y. Times' Ken Belson. Still, there were "plenty of gestures." The players "took advantage of the league's embrace of their efforts, even at the cost of alienating fans who do not want social statements to encroach on their sports viewing."

  • Below is a sampling from SBD of how teams handled their protests.

    • The Dolphins opened their season against the Patriots "after following through with a vow to avoid taking the field until both the national anthem and 'Lift Every Voice and Sing' had been performed."

    • The majority of Rams players prior to playing the Cowboys "warmed up wearing black T-shirts with white letters that read 'It Takes All Of Us.'" For the national anthem, 15 Rams players "took a knee and five remained in the locker room."

    • During the national anthem before Cardinals-49ers, the 49ers "were on the field, and the majority of their players stood during the song." The Cardinals "were one of several teams to skip being on the field." 

    • Six Vikings players knelt during the anthem before their loss to the Packers. The Packers "elected to not come out of the locker room for the anthem."

    • The Raiders "linked arms on the sideline of Bank of America Stadium" during the anthems prior to their game against the Panthers.

    • For Seahawks-Falcons in Atlanta, all 22 players on the field for the opening kickoff "took a knee and the kick was not returned." 

 

ADAM AMIN NAVIGATES UNIQUE CIRCUMSTANCES DURING FIRST FOX NFL GAME

  • Fox Sports’ newest NFL play-by-play announcer Adam Amin called his first-ever regular season game for broadcast TV yesterday in Atlanta, as the Seahawks took down the Falcons in an empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium. While Amin called some MLB games remotely this summer, this was his first in-person assignment for the net, which he joined in July, alongside Mark Schlereth and sideline reporter Lindsey Czarniak.

  • That meant learning some of the new normals sports broadcasting now requires. Amin told SBJ's David Rumsey, "Getting on site, having to take a test and have this swab up your nose and all that, that was not routine. ... (But) I think any apprehension I felt was probably mitigated because everybody was kind of dealing with it."

  • Amin was slightly concerned the virtual production meeting wouldn’t provide the same insight as being in person, but he gave credit to both the Seahawks and Falcons for making things easy: “They were very comfortable with us. … We still felt like we had a great interaction with everybody and that was a really huge weight off all of our shoulders.”

  • No fans certainly creates a strange atmosphere for both players and broadcasters. “I don't think generating energy is the problem with us,” Amin said. “For me it felt like, ‘Am I putting that energy out at the right times?’ Because so often the fans help you in that regard. If they are responding, then either you have to work over the crowd, or you have to match the crowd. Your energy fluctuates with the fans more often than not.”

  • The NFL is pumping in 70 decibels of artificial crowds noise at stadiums, which Amin said did not affect him very much. “Typically, really loud college crowds are like 100 decibels or right around there, maybe 95,” he noted. “But I really don't know how to contextualize that just in a normal everyday interaction. … I always thought in my head that it would be louder.”

 

Amin (r) called Seahawks-Falcons yesterday from an empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium alongside Mark Schlereth
Amin (r) called Seahawks-Falcons yesterday from an empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium alongside Mark Schlereth
Amin (r) called Seahawks-Falcons yesterday from an empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium alongside Mark Schlereth

 

OUTSIDE CONTRIBUTORS: AMERICA'S PASTIME

  • Tonight's op-ed contribution is from sports marketing veteran Nick Griffith, who writes under the header, "Chronicles From An Unlikely Baseball Season During The Pandemic."

  • "Minor League Baseball boasts some of the most creative minds in sports. Since the COVID pandemic led to the cancellation of the MiLB season as well as the seasons of several independent and summer collegiate leagues, teams have had to squeeze every drop of their creative juices to generate revenue and engage fans. ... Baseball teams from Nashville to Nashua and from Pensacola to Walla Walla are at a historic inflection point. Their abilities to innovate, pivot and persevere will be put to the test like never before to ensure the sun shines again on ballgames in towns large and small throughout the U.S."

  • To read the full contribution, click here.

 

The summer collegiate Traverse City Pit Spitters (l) and MiLB’s Lansing Lugnuts (r) got creative to find ways to host fans this summer
The summer collegiate Traverse City Pit Spitters (l) and MiLB’s Lansing Lugnuts (r) got creative to find ways to host fans this summer
The summer collegiate Traverse City Pit Spitters (l) and MiLB’s Lansing Lugnuts (r) got creative to find ways to host fans this summer

 

SPEED READS

  • Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment's Larry Tanenbaum used family values, perseverance and an unwavering long view to influence leagues and develop champions. SBJ's Bill King in this week's magazine has the story on this year's Lifetime Achievement Award honoree, which is free to all to read.

  • The NHL’s lockdown inside both the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles has continued throughout the postseason, writes SBJ’s Mark J. Burns. There were zero positive COVID-19 tests from the latest batch of 1,357 tests administered to those remaining teams and their associated traveling parties from Sept. 6 through Sept. 12. All teams are now situated in Edmonton for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final. To date, more than 31,000 tests have been given to NHL clubs and their respective 52-member parties over roughly seven weeks, none of which have returned positive. 

  • The NCAA D-I Council reportedly is "set to vote Wednesday on moving the start of the college hoops season to Nov. 21." A source said that there will be a "recommendation of playing a minimum of 4 non-conference games and potential to start 8 hours/week to work with players." The "target date" for those workouts is Sept. 21. One source said of whether the new start date will be approved: "I think it should pass, but it’s still unpredictable."

  • It is looking "more and more likely that there will be football this fall in the Big Ten following a Sunday meeting of Big Ten presidents and chancellors," according to sources.

  • The NFL sent a memo this morning to "reinforce its requirement that coaches wear face coverings at all times on the sidelines during games, threatening discipline for those who don't comply," per ESPN. The "sharply worded message," written by NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Troy Vincent, came in response to "wide variance in compliance during the first Sunday of the 2020 season." It was "directed particularly at head coaches, on whom TV broadcasts frequently focus."

  • The Wall Street Journal's Jason Gay has fun with the abundance of sports-viewing options right now, writing that after a "long stretch without action, there’s a historic overload of games, and it’s both beautiful and exhausting." There are "now days when there are games and events from the NFL, college football, the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball, WNBA, Premier League, F1, Major League Soccer, National Women’s Soccer League, NASCAR, cricket, boxing, bass fishing, and on and on and on." Gay: "I’m probably forgetting like 600 sports, because it seems like every league on earth is playing -- except for, you know, the Big Ten."

  • New Balance ahead of tomorrow night's Clippers-Nuggets Game 7 has unveiled the latest colorway of Kawhi Leonard's signature shoe. The New Balance KAWHI Jolly Rancher Collection pays homage to Leonard's favorite childhood candy. The collection promises a "smiley fruit gang take on Kawhi’s stone cold, focused, all-business approach."

  • Nitro Circus has announced that the Nitro World Games will next be held in Brisbane, Australia’s Suncorp Stadium on October 23-24, 2021. The annual action sports showcase, which features skateboarding, BMX, freestyle motocross and scooter events, has been running since 2016. Next year’s Nitro World Games will be the first edition held outside of the U.S.; this year’s event was supposed to be held in Cardiff, Wales, in May but was canceled over concerns related to COVID-19.  


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SBJ UNPACKS -- THE ROAD AHEAD

 

 

 

--- AXS SPORTS FACILITIES & FRANCHISES & TICKETING SYMPOSIUM ---

Sept. 22-23, 2020

Virtual Program

Announcing the 2020 AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises & Ticketing Symposium agenda.  To view the agenda or to learn more, visit www.SportsFacilitiesandFranchises.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.