1. LeBron James has done it again, willing his team to an elusive road victory in Game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. The win for the Cleveland Cavaliers gives James his eighth consecutive Finals appearance, while also giving fans a bit more hope that he will stay in his home state of Ohio past this season. Despite the lopsided games – for most of the series the average margin of victory hovered around 20 points – ratings were off the charts. According to SportsBusiness Journal and Yahoo Sports, individual games turned out great viewership numbers, as the Cavs’ 111-102 win in Game 4 gave ESPN its highest-rated Game 4 “for any conference finals in six years.” On the other side of the table, Game 1 between the Warriors and Rockets Game 1 was “TNT’s highest-rated opener for a Western Conference Finals.” The league is “rolling, especially among coveted younger fans, and the fact that no one can manage a close game hardly seems to matter.” The Cavaliers await the winner of Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals, where the Golden State Warriors take on the Houston Rockets in Texas. Will we have a repeat of last year’s Finals matchup?
2. The Las Vegas Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Finals is truly a remarkable story, especially given their initial long odds to win it all this season. According to FiveThirtyEight and the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, the new expansion side was given odds of 200-1 last summer to win the Cup. That is twice as high as the Cleveland Browns’ current Super Bowl odds of 100-1, despite their going 0-16 last season. Vegas fans have fully embraced the team and its incredible run, as is reflected in the ticket prices for games at T-Mobile Arena. On StubHub, “asking prices for a ticket to the Knights’ first home game…started at $836 on Tuesday and topped out at a jaw-dropping $10,260.” Early in the week, around 2,300 were still available, but the average sales price for those was $1,167. On the other side of the table sit the Washington Capitals and star Alexander Ovechkin. The Caps have finally reached the Stanley Cup Finals after years of playoff heartbreak. Both teams enter the series after stellar regular seasons, but their histories could not be more different. One way or another, a hockey team will soon have a Honeymoon in Vegas.
3. The Golden Knights’ “booming off-ice business continues to spin heads with high-volume, accelerating merchandise sales,” according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. The City National Arena retail shop, where the team practices, on Sunday “quickly sold out its first batch of 150 Western Conference champion shirts.” Fanatics Director of PR Brandon Williams said that Sunday also was the “best day ever for Knights merchandise sales” through the retailers’ network. Meanwhile, Galleria at Sunset mall Marketing Director Jamie Cooper said that lines “were out the door Sunday at two Lids shops that sell Knights gear, and the line at Dick’s wrapped through the store ‘like a Black Friday.'” Retail executives said that Golden Knights’ merchandise sales “were strong during the regular season but keep accelerating during the playoffs as the team advances in its historic inaugural-season.” Fans were “waiting in lines 100 people deep to get into City National’s retail store.” Lids VP, Buying and Merchandising Bob Durda said that the Golden Knights were the “top-selling NHL team for the chain’s U.S. operations during the regular season.” The NHL is in need of sports’ fans attention, and hopefully the league will benefit from one of the greatest stories in sports every bit as much as the Golden Knights themselves will.
4. The PGA Tour might soon be facing a rival in the World Golf Series, a proposed tournament circuit promising prize money that dwarfs that of the PGA. According to Reuters, the British-based World Golf Group has been planning the World Golf Series for more than a year now. The group hopes to stage between 15 and 20 tournaments per year, with each offering a purse “close to $20 million.” The PGA Tour’s biggest purse offered this season is $11 million, meaning that the World Golf Series would be awarding significantly more money on a consistent basis than its rival would. Multiple “blue-chip sponsors are believed to be on board for the World Golf Series if top players can be signed.” It appears unlikely that the World Golf Series would be sanctioned for world ranking points, “which could on its own make it a non-starter.” While the plan sounds attractive at first glance, it will surely have to overcome some serious hurdles if it hopes to gain traction around the world.
5. In the wake of last year’s dramatic and controversial NFL season stemming from player protests of the national anthem, team owners have decided to give each franchise the authority to set their own rules on the issue. According to the Washington Post, different ideas and potential solutions were circulated amongst owners – including one that involved clearing the field of all football personnel while the anthem is played – before concluding that it would be best to let each to “set an anthem policy and decide whether to discipline a player for any protest during the national anthem.” The new policy means that the league’s current requirement for all players to be on the field for the playing of the anthem is being scrapped. The decision came out of the owners’ two-day offseason meeting in Atlanta, where there did not appear “to be sufficient support among the owners for a league-wide requirement that players stand for the anthem.” This isn’t over yet – the announcement was followed by loud and predictable backlash on both sides. Expect the conversations around the issue to continue well after September’s season kickoff.
6. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stands behind his opinion that the league should receive an integrity fee based on the total amount of money wagered on professional baseball, though he indicated that the fee would be below 1%. According to SportsBusiness Journal, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize sports betting in all 50 states, the integrity fee percentage remains up for negotiation and very well could vary from state to state due to the “likely lack of a uniform deferral framework for American sports betting.” Manfred acknowledged how the legalization should have a positive impact on baseball’s overall viewership, despite the negative connotations often associated with gambling. “Fan engagement is the big upside in this,” said Manfred. “I don’t see our sport being a direct participant in gambling at any point. But everybody recognizes that sports betting can be a source of fan engagement, and we’re going to capitalize on that opportunity.” Closely watching Manfred’s actions – and Adam Silver’s, for that matter, is Roger Goodell. The NFL has yet to indicate what integrity fee percentage and or other fees it intends to charge for its data and intellectual property. Rest assured there will be remuneration.
7. Nashville will officially host the 2019 NFL Draft. According to the Nashville Tennessean, the vibrant and booming city beat out Cleveland-Canton, Las Vegas, Kansas City, and Denver to win the bid. Nashville is currently on a hot streak from a media and entertainment perspective, with the NFL Draft only being the most recent victory for the city, coming after being awarded an MLS expansion franchise, seeing the NHL’s Predators explode in popularity, and cementing “its reputation as a global destination for music fans.” Specific venues and sites for hosting the weekend of festivities and the Draft itself have not yet been announced, but the city’s event marketing fund committee is “considering a proposal to commit $1 million in tourism tax dollars to promote” the event. The Draft has become a weekend-long festival and celebration of football in recent years, proving to be an economic boom for host cities. The 2017 Draft in Philadelphia resulted in as estimated $94.9 million in economic impact for the city.
8. FC Cincinnati appears set to make the leap to MLS. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the league is preparing to announce its newest expansion club at a press conference early this week featuring MLS Commissioner Don Garber, FC Cincinnati Owner and CEO Carl Lindner, and City Mayor John Cranley. It remains to be determined when the club will officially start play in the top flight of American soccer, but this marks a huge step up from the USL. While the club wants to start play as soon as 2019, the league mandates that all new clubs have soccer-specific stadiums, which is still in the works for Cincinnati. The team is expected to continue play at Nippert Stadium while a new stadium is being built, though “no timeline for stadium construction has been released or publicly discussed” thus far. The club plans to build a $250 million stadium on the present site of Stargel Stadium behind Taft High School, while also rebuilding a new Stargel Stadium for $10 million as pledged. Combined with the $150 million expansion fee, FC Cincinnati seems poised to shell out more than $400 million to join MLS – will the next expansion club spend more than half a billion?
9. After successfully hosting Super Bowl 50 in 2016, the San Francisco 49ers are aiming to land the big game again in either 2025 or 2026. According to the San Jose Mercury News, the 49ers originally hoped to land the hosting rights for Super Bowls LVII or LVIII in 2023 or 2024, but those two games have been awarded to Glendale, Arizona, and New Orleans, respectively. The 49ers have since turned to the years following, when their “massive, mixed-use development should be completed” next to Levi’s Stadium. The Las Vegas Raiders’ new stadium appears to be one of the only serious competitors for the bid, assuming the Raiders bid for the same years. Super Bowl 50 gave the Bay Area a $240 million economic boost back in 2016 – that number should be even higher were the 49ers to host in a few years’ time. With so many new, state-of-the-art stadiums coming online – like the ones in Atlanta and Minneapolis and soon-to-be in Las Vegas and Los Angeles – it will become increasingly hard to break into the NFL’s Super Bowl host rotation.
10. AEG, Kings partner with BluEco on NHL rinks. AEG and the LA Kings have formed a joint venture with BluEco Technology Group to introduce a revolutionary new BluEco Liquid Crystalline Turbex™ (LCT™) environmental technology for arenas and public facilities. AEG and BluEco will further the NHL’s Greener Rinks mission by bringing the technology to professional and community facilities across the globe. The BluEco LCT System produces pure water while cleaning indoor air and significantly reducing energy costs for arena and facility operators and owners. Additionally, the BluEco LCT improves spectator and player comfort in a wide variety of venue climates and provides material operational cost reductions to teams and arena management. The proprietary BluEco Liquid Crystalline Turbex technology produces the highest quality of water while at the same time efficiently managing the interior air-flow, cleansing the air from particulates, and allowing for significant energy savings. The formulated ice has fewer impurities and a clearer, harder surface. Additionally, the technology eliminates an arena’s reliance on the municipal water systems to create and maintain its ice sheet. The BluEco LCT System was piloted at Staples Center during the Kings’ 2017-2018 season.