Nike Launches Racial Justice “Equality“ Initiative
In sports, as in life, sometimes the biggest actions come from the smallest voices. Starting a week in which Nike launched its massive “Equality” initiative, designed to bring attention to racial justice,” via multipage newspaper ads starring LeBron James, Serena Williams, Megan Rapinoe, and Kevin Durant, and in a corresponding spot that aired during the Grammys, a New Jersey coed youth basketball team decided to forfeit its entire season rather than kick two female teammates off the team. After a New Jersey CYO league director handed down the ruling that a coed basketball team was not allowed in the boy’s league, players on the St. John’s fifth grade team voted unanimously to forego the season, according to NJ.com. “After the opposing team left the gym as did the officials,” the St. John’s team split up and scrimmaged each other…wearing #UnityGames T-shirts. In a time in which we need it more than ever, these youngsters didn’t just hypothesize that sports delivers unity. They proved it.
Golden State Warriors Guard Stephen Curry Questions Under Armour CEO Over Trump Remarks
Golden State Warriors guard and Under Armour golden boy usually stays away from political statements, but not this time. Curry publicly responded to comments about Donald Trump made by Under Armour Founder & CEO Kevin Plank. According to the East Bay Times, Plank shared with CNBC’s “Fast Money Halftime Report” that it “is a real asset for the country” to have “such a pro-business President.” The comments left Curry questioning whether or not Under Armour had changed its values. “Every mantra that I live by, they share that,” said Curry. “And so when you blur the lines of business and politics, there is an opportunity for things to get muddy.” Plank and Curry reportedly have since spoken to clarify any confusion, and Under Armour has moved quickly to cover its tracks. Regardless of party affiliation, sports messages and endorsements are highly visible, frequently watched, and largely misconstrued.
Atlanta Falcon’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium Personal Seat Licenses Continue to Sell at High Rate
Despite losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, the Atlanta Falcons continue to sell personal seat licenses at a high rate. According to The Daily, the team’s ticket sales for the soon-to-be-open Mercedes-Benz Stadium are still going strong into the offseason. “From the conclusion of the game through the close of business Monday, the Falcons received 560 unique inbound requests for PSLs and tickets at the venue.” That marker is the highest number of inbound ticket requests the day following a game all season, including playoffs. “In the same period, 256 PSL sales were completed online, the highest single-day online sales total since sales began.” The Falcons have now sold just over 76% of all available PSLs “and suite inventory is at 90% sold.” The new stadium is expected to be among the league’s finest – right up there with AT&T Stadium in Dallas and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium should continue the Falcons upward trajectory in value and league importance (regardless of the final 24 minutes of Super Bowl LI).
2020 World Cup Host Qatar Spending $500 million Per Week on Major Infrastructure Projects
In preparing for the 2022 World Cup, Qatar faces a challenge that other host countries have shared: it needs to build not only soccer stadiums, but cities. According to the BBC, Qatar is spending an astonishing $500 million per week on major infrastructure projects in preparation for the 2022 soccer tournament. Qatar Finance Minister Ali al-Emadi confirmed this number and noted that he expects the spending to continue at this rate for “three to four years as new stadiums, motorways, rail links and hospitals are built.” In total, more than $200 billion will be spent by the Middle-Eastern country – far more than the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which reportedly cost that country $11 billion. Al-Emadi expects all of the projects to be completed on time for the beginning of the tournament, though complaints about migrant worker conditions plague the Qatar building process. Precedent for the mega-infrastructure build: Dubai and Abu Dhabi were constructed almost overnight into two and four million respective populations. Oil money, enlightened development expertise, and world-class infrastructure propelled the United Arab Emirates – let’s see what happens in neighboring Qatar.
Russian State-Sponsored Doping Scandal Clean Up Too Slow for 2017 World Para Athletics Championships
In wake of the nation’s state-sponsored doping scandal, Russia is set to be banned from this summer’s World Para Athletics Championships in London. According to the London Telegraph, Russia was expelled from the “International Association of Athletics Federation’s version of the event” following its orchestration of the “biggest doping scandal in history.” The scandal plagued Russia in its build-up to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics this past summer as well. While a final decision on this matter will not be made until May, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency would need to be declared compliant with the World Anti-Doping Code before the event takes place if it wants to participate, which is not possible; the earliest RUSADA is expected to be “declared compliant” with the WADA code is November. The head of the World Athletics Championships said he now “backs Russia’s exclusion from the event because of the country’s continuing refusal to admit that it had a state-organized doping system.” Hopefully, the bans are not met with controversy, denial, and political intrigue. Rather, a common vision toward credible anti-doping measures and long-term cleanup.
Golden State Warriors Ticket Price Values Increase with Team Popularity and Success
The Golden State Warriors are the best team in basketball and their ticket prices reflect just that. According to ESPN.com, the Warriors are “raising ticket prices once again,” with increases coming between 15-25%. A courtside seat will now cost you $715, up from $625, while the cheapest seat in Oracle Arena will rise from $32 to $40. At the start of the Warriors’ “recent run of success,” the 2014-2015 title season, the “cheapest season-ticket price seat was $18, while courtside was $450 a game.” The team’s season-ticket holder waiting list is growing at a similarly fast clip – more than 32,000 people are now waiting for season tickets. “It is the cost of doing business,” said co-owner Joe Lacob. “We have a great product and we have to pay for that product…As long as our fans want that product and we can deliver it, we’re going to do what we can.” As the Warriors continue to improve on the court and begin building their new San Francisco arena, look for variable pricing and other methods to allow consumer choice.
Will Qualcomm Stadium Become New home for MLS Franchise?
The San Diego Chargers are officially gone, but that void may soon be filled by an MLS franchise. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, San Diego State has been “relatively quiet” on a proposal from a group of local investors to build an MLS stadium in San Diego. The proposed stadium would seat 30,000, but pushback against the plan call it “settling,” and that it is “small-time.” The SDSU football team “averaged 37,289 over six home games,” thus exceeding the capacity for the new stadium if built to its planned size. SDSU played a game at Qualcomm Stadium this past season, and the crowd of 35,000 made the game “seem like it was being played inside a library.” “We’re still discussing what that top end is going to be. It will be expandable to 40,000. That will be in the plan as we work with the architects and we lay out what the stadium site will look like,” said SDSU AD John David Wicker. Look for increased political momentum to support this project, especially since the San Diego region may view this as the “last great chance” to build a new facility to attract/keep major sports events.
Wrigley Field Struggles with Night Event Limits
The Chicago Cubs’ success has directly translated into more business for Wrigley Field. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, Wrigley Field is near its limit for night events in 2017 after adding a Lady Gaga concert recently. The historic baseball stadium has “nine concert dates on the docket for this summer, breaking last year’s record of seven.” Adding night concerts might appear to have no direct effect on the Cubs, but this now leaves the team “little wiggle room to add night games this season without having to give up night games in 2018 under terms of a city ordinance.” The city ordinance states that the Cubs can only schedule up to 35 night games or night events each season, so every night concert added means one less night game for the reigning World Champions. As it currently stands, the Cubs have 29 scheduled night games, “meaning the five extra concerts put them at 34 night events for the year.” Inevitably, the Cubs are the “biggest thing in Chicago.” The organization predictably attempts to capitalize on the goodwill, though the neighborhood location of Wrigley Field provides economic, physical, and logistical challenges.
Following Poor Season Cleveland Browns Lower Season Ticket Price By 40%
Following a horrendous 1-15 season, the Cleveland Browns will reduce season ticket costs by 40%. According to the Akron Beacon Journal, this coming season will mark the eighth time in nine years that the team will not raise ticket prices. The Browns will now rank “either 31st or 32nd in the NFL for season-ticket prices per game this year.” Meanwhile in Chicago, the Bears are raising ticket prices following two years of stagnant prices. Most Soldier Field sections will receive a 1-4% price increase, while “some will see a price decrease.” The increase comes to the displeasure of many after “each of the final four homes games were played before at least 10,000 empty seats at Solider Field.” The Los Angeles Rams, finally, informed season-ticket holders that prices will not go up at the L.A. Coliseum. Prices are expected to “increase dramatically” in 2019 when their new $2.6 billion stadium opens, which will include the cost of PSLs. Good to see that the ticket market bears some resemblance to on-field performance (at least in Cleveland). Obviously, the pricing will go “through the roof” in Los Angeles when the new stadium opens. As for Chicago, raising prices after last year’s performance merely means that the Bears have new incentives to turn their on-field performance around.
German insurance group Allianz Sponsors Drone Racing League
The upstart Drone Racing League has a new sponsor: German insurance group Allianz. According to the London Times, Allianz reportedly signed a sponsorship deal with the DRL worth more $10 million over two years, with plans to further “extend the partnership over five years.” Allianz is a very active sponsor of numerous sports leagues and teams across the world; its portfolio “currently includes Saracens rugby club, Formula 1, Bayern Munich and stadia across Europe.” The DRL currently airs on Sky Sports and ESPN and has Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross signed on as a key investor for the American start-up. Founder Nick Horbaczewski described the deal with Allianz as a “huge milestone” for the league, which continues to gain popularity globally. “Allianz brings an incredible brand and brand credibility to the sport, so I think it is a major legitimizing moment,” said Horbaczewski. Look for the Drone Racing League to be one of the fastest growing “niche sports” on the landscape in the next 3-5 years: venues, sponsorships, television, etc. All of the right ingredients.