1. With the NFL season officially over, the league is left pondering its future following a tumultuous season. According to the New York Times Magazine, the NFL has gone from “one of the most unifying institutions in America to the country’s most polarizing sports brand.” Player protests spanned the course of the season, drawing most of the attention, while ratings continued to drop and tickets and jerseys were burned. President Trump openly condemned players who protested the national anthem, only adding more fuel to the fire. “There’s no question, this season has been probably unlike anything that I’ve been around,” said Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II, who has been a Steelers executive since 1989. “No one was expecting this to happen, and it was hard to see coming. I think there was no question it hurt the league.” Heading into the offseason, the NFL will be looking to make significant changes to ensure a repeat does not happen next year.
2. Cities that build new NFL stadiums are in line to host future Super Bowls, but few see the economic benefit the league continually promises. Minneapolis taxpayers contributed $498 million (nearly 50% of the cost) to build U.S. Bank Stadium, following an economic impact study that stated Super Bowl LII would contribute $343 million to the city (including $29 million in tax revenue). However, most economists claim that Super Bowls generate only $30-$130 million in new economic activity — and recently, San Francisco, Glendale, and New Jersey all lost money on the Big Game. The disconnect between inflated estimates and economic reality can be explained in part by looking at hotel usage numbers. The Minneapolis host committee projected 230,000 hotel night stays during Super Bowl week, but that’s a net figure; it doesn’t account for rooms that would have been booked anyway. Up next: Atlanta’s sparkling new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in 2019. One number the host committee can all but guarantee: the temperature will at least be in double digits.
3. The 2018 Winter Olympics begin on February 8, with the U.S. among the favorites to finish with the most medals. But unlike almost every other country at the PyeongChang Games, many American athletes got to South Korea with little to no financial assistance from the U.S. Olympic Committee – despite the USOC being guaranteed hundreds of millions over the next decade. While USOC CEO Scott Blackmun will make more than $1 million this year and the U.S. Ski & Snowboard CEO takes in more than $500,000 a year, many athletes trying to make the Games live at or below the poverty line. Last week, HBO’s Real Sports examined the U.S. Olympic athlete pay gap. Most Olympic delegations are treated as government employees, receiving full-time compensation and benefits. That’s not the case in the U.S., where Olympic hopefuls often finance training with part time jobs, crowdfunding, and credit card debt. As a result, they often end up broke. HBO cited Michael Phelps and Simone Biles as athletes who succeeded financially: Phelps is worth an estimated $50-$55 million; while Biles has an estimated net worth of $2.6-$3 million. More must be done to narrow the gap between America’s have and have not Olympians.
4. It’s February. Rev your engines. On February 9 in Avondale, AZ, Group One Thousand One and ISM Raceway will sponsor “Sports Business Arizona: A Prix View of Things to Come” where figures from a variety of organizations will come together to discuss the full spectrum of 2018 sports business topics in the greater Phoenix area. The symposium will dive into topics including economic development, philanthropy, and business relationships as they relate to sports and how it impacts the local and regional community. ISM Raceway President Bryan R. Sperber will deliver opening remarks, while Horrow Sports Ventures CEO Rick Horrow will emcee the discussion. Representatives from professional sports, education, and civic organizations are slated to speak, including Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti, Verizon IndyCar CEO Mark Miles and up-and-coming driver Zach Veach, Group One Thousand One CEO Dan Towriss, Arizona Office of Tourism Executive Director Debbie Johnson, and Arizona Coyotes CEO Steve Patterson. The event precedes on-track Verizon IndyCar test races, held one week before the Daytona 500 unofficially kicks off the 2018 motorsports season.
5. Now that Super Bowl LII is in the history books and happy Eagles fans and disappointed Patriots supporters are heading home, the Minnesota Vikings will celebrate Black History Month through a partnership with EVERFI. Together, the NFL franchise and the online education leader will provide Twin Cities high schools with 306: African-American History, an online history curriculum that celebrates the stories of figures who changed the fabric of American history. By the end of the 2017-18 school year, the Vikings will reach 10 schools with this curriculum. On February 23, representatives from the Vikings will visit the Harvest Network of Schools’ Best Academy, an African-American heritage school. The program will include performances celebrating African-American contributions to the arts and a panel discussion on themes drawn from the online course. The partnership is a fitting tribute to Black History Month, and a great answer to the question “What’s next for the Vikings?”
6. Meanwhile in Las Vegas, the Raiders have opened their “long-awaited” 7,500 square-foot stadium preview center. According to a report from the Las Vegas Sun, the venue’s foyer has “two large video walls displaying team highlights on each side.” The center is “filled with Raiders memorabilia,” featuring Super Bowl rings, equipment and “photos and videos, giving visitors a glimpse into key individuals in the team’s storied past.” The franchise’s three Super Bowl trophies “will be added later.” The view-from-your-seat and large-scale stadium model “weren’t ready for public viewing yet, but those features should be ready before March.” Current Raiders season-ticket holders get “first choice” of seats in the new venue. While the Raiders are celebrating this incremental milestone towards their new Vegas home, not all in Sin City are happy at present. According to multiple reports, the Eagles’ surprise upset of the Patriots was a bad night for sports books, including William Hill – that company reported “multimillion dollar” losses at its 108 Nevada outlets.
7. The LPGA is adding a new tournament to the 2018 schedule at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles. According to SportsPro Media, the event will debut April 16-22 and will feature 144 of the world’s top female golfers in a four-round event. The purse is set at $1.5 million and South Korean companies Hugel and JTBC will co-title sponsor the tournament. The Hugel-JTBC Open was officially announced following global marketing and event management agency EMG’s (Eiger Marketing Group) three-year agreement to own and operate the new tournament. “We’re very excited to take the LPGA back to Los Angeles and historic Wilshire Country Club, adding to the Tour’s already prominent presence in Southern California,” added LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan. “We want to thank our good friends at Hugel, JTBC and Eiger Marketing Group for providing us the opportunity to bring the stars of golf’s global tour to the heart of Hollywood and put on a show in one of the largest broadcast markets in the world.” The Hugel-JTBC Open joins the ranks of signature new events on the LPGA calendar, such as the Indy Women in Tech Presented by Guggenheim tourney that took Indianapolis Motor Speedway by storm last September.
8. With NBA All-Star Blake Griffin officially a member of the Detroit Pistons, many are now left wondering whether the franchise will see an increase in attendance. According to MLive.com, there was certainly a lot of buzz around Griffin’s first game in the Motor City, but attendance for that game was “virtually the same” as the Pistons’ season average. The team averages 17,465 attendees per game – slotting them at 19th in the NBA – and Griffin’s first game drew 17,481 to Little Caesars Arena. The Pistons are in the midst of trying to sell season ticket packages to fans for next year and are looking to leverage Griffin’s arrival as a major selling point. “We haven’t seen this kind of buzz from a trade since Rasheed Wallace and we’re feeling it from our fans and from a retail perspective,” said Pistons Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Charlie Metzger. Retail is good. Season ticket and suite sales are better. Time will tell if “Blake Michigan” causes a tidal wave.
9. The NFLPA is preparing for intense negotiations with the NFL in 2021 over a new collective bargaining agreement. According to the AP, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith made his point clear that the union would not extend the current CBA beyond the 2020 season. “We prepare for war,” said Smith. “If we are able to get a collective bargaining agreement done, great. All of these men went through a unilateral war declared on players in 2010-11.” Some of the biggest topics and areas of debate are going to be the commissioner’s right to suspend players, rookie contracts, and health care coverage. The NFLPA is also intent on winning “a large portion of the league-wide revenue that they divide with the owners.” Despite player salaries having increased over the years, the players are still demanding an overhaul of the current CBA. Smith “did not rule out” possibly engaging in talks with league owners before the current CBA expires. Labor peace is one of the cornerstones of a successful sports league. Now that the NFL has sold its Thursday night game rights and seems to have put the National Anthem kneeling controversy behind, it’s time to move the next CBA up the priority list.
10. Wounded warriors hit the slopes with their families at Wintergreen Resort. Veterans and active-duty military members at Wintergreen Resort were breaking barriers during the 14th annual Wintergreen Adaptive Sports Wounded Warrior weekend. Wintergreen Adaptive Sports helped 23 wounded warriors and their families enjoy a day shredding the slopes in their own way Saturday and Sunday. Volunteer instructors assisted each person and helped them get down the slopes using various equipment such as bi-skis, outriggers, and tethers. This is the 14th year that Wintergreen Adaptive Sports has put on this weekend. Matt Staton is a Wounded Warrior, but also volunteers with Wintergreen Adaptive Sports. He was shot six times in Balad, Iraq in 2004 and spent 120 days learning how to walk again. He said he volunteers to be an inspiration to others. “I’m here giving back, showing these warriors that what we go through is just a blip in our life,” Staton said. “What you can be known for is your abilities and showing them no matter how catastrophic the illness or the wound, you can come back out here. You can give back.” The lodging, lessons, and equipment were all free for all of the warriors and their families due to Wintergreen Adaptive Sports’ fundraising efforts and donations from the community.