1. They started the season at 500-1 odds to win the Stanley Cup. Now, the Vegas Golden Knights have advanced to the championship, and the few people who took those long odds pre-season are looking at payouts of $10,020 for a $20 bet. After a 4-1 defeat of the Winnipeg Jets, the Golden Knights becomes the first expansion team in all of sports to reach the championship round since the St. Louis Blues did so in. Tickets to Vegas home games during the playoffs have been “among the most expensive, if not the priciest, on the resale market,” and with the expansion team now headed to the Stanley Cup Final, the market for games at T-Mobile Arena is “only heating up,” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The average sale price on StubHub for Friday’s Game 4, “was $567.” And even though sports books are bracing for a loss, the Golden Knights’ success has benefited them in other ways. Hockey betting is reportedly up 35% across the board, and the Golden Knights have also created a lot more casino traffic. If the Golden Knights triumph against either Tampa Bay or Washington, they will go down as one of the most unlikely champions in sports history.
2. On the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize sports betting in all 50 states, professional leagues have begun pitching legislation to states. According to the Providence Journal, MLB, NBA, and PGA Tour officials have already made their way to Rhode Island to speak to state lawmakers “for a cut of the action on sports betting should the state legalize it.” All three leagues proposed taking a 0.25% rights and integrity fee of all money bet on their respective sports in the state, which would surely account to tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars over the years. The NFL has yet to pitch state legislatures on the issue, making it unclear how America’s preeminent sports league feels on the topic. The leagues also “want the state and its chosen gambling operator to share betting data with them and use their official statistics, which would be licensed, presumably at an additional cost.” Many believe that giving the leagues a cut of the revenue would help wipe out any misaligned incentives between the existing parties. The legalization of gambling is not only going to change how we view sports, it’s also coinciding with a data revolution that will change the parameters of what we can bet on.
3. While other leagues such as the NBA and MLB have showed their eagerness to profit from the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize sports betting, the NFL is expected to “sit the whole integrity fee out, for now.” According to The MMQB, the NFL, America’s most popular sports league, noted its opposition to an integrity fee. Different estimates have been floated around how big these fees would be, but such fees could ultimately “wind up costing Nevada sports books, and later those in other states, around 15-20% of their annual revenue.” With the court decision, however, the NFL could relax its strict policies around teams partnering with casinos, which would likely be lucrative sponsorship opportunities. For the NFL and other leagues, the windfall of cash expected from the court’s decision should lead to a spike “in everything from TV ratings to franchise valuations” and beyond.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers investor David Tepper has agreed to purchase the Carolina Panthers for a record $2.275 billion. According to SportsBusiness Journal, $2.2 billion will be paid in cash by Tepper, with the final $75 million being deferred. There has been no indication yet of minority partners joining Tepper, nor has there been any signal as to what his plans are for Bank of America Stadium. The 5% share of the Steelers that Tepper initially bought in 2009 is worth $122.5 million now based on the team’s current valuation, though he will have to give up his stake as he takes control of the Panthers. Despite putting in a bid that was hundreds of millions of dollars less than South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro, Navarro was “unable to raise the estimated $2.6 billion he was said to have offered.” Tepper is unlikely to make any major organization changes. If you think these numbers are crazy talk, keep in mind that in 2014 Business Insider pegged the NFL’s total value at $45.7 billion – more than MLB and the NBA combined.
5. In the wake of Friday’s school shooting at Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texans star J.J. Watt told school officials that he will “pay for the funerals of the victims who died,” according to the Houston Chronicle. Houston Rockets CEO Tad Brown has also confirmed that Owner Tilman Fertitta and the Rockets organization are “discussing plans to support the victims and families” of the school shooting at Warriors-Rockets Game 5 on Thursday and “in the community.” Rockets guard Chris Paul on Friday reacted to the school shooting, saying, “It’s scary that that’s become the norm here, and we’ve got to do something about it.” And the Houston Astros before Friday’s home game against the Indians “held a moment of silence” and “flew the Texas state flag at half-staff” to honor the school shooting victims. While this is yet another example of the healing power of sports and the ability of individuals like Watt and organizations to shine in the face of both natural and human-driven tragedies, it is also another opportunity for athletes and teams to use their influence to drive societal change.
6. Derek Jeter taking control of the Miami Marlins has seemingly done little to pique fan interest in Southern Florida. According to the Associated Press, through mid-May, the Marlins have averaged the fewest fans per game in Major League Baseball, drawing an average of 10,676 fans per home game at Marlins Park – that number is more than 4,000 fewer that what the Tampa Bay Rays attract per game. Since changing the way they report attendance figures – instead of counting all tickets distributed, including giveaways and heavily discounted ones, the club announces tickets sold – the Marlins have reported four crowds of less than 6,000 at a stadium that has a capacity of 36,742. “We’ve gotten a positive reception with what we’re trying to do,” said Jeter. “But the bottom line is, we want more people to come. We’re not happy with the number of people in here. A lot of that goes with how we perform.” While winning helps, some Bill Veeck-inspired promotions and/or slashing concession prices a la Atlanta Falcons might nudge away the franchise’s summertime blues.
7. As Calgary is pushing to finalize its bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics, complaints coming from key organizers cite the bid’s underfunding. According to the Calgary Herald, of the $30 million in funds assembled by the municipal, provincial, and federal governments for the Olympic bid corporation, $5.2 million has already been spent. “We are under-resourced, significantly under-resourced,” said Calgary City Manager Jeff Fielding. In addition to the lack of funding, the work of the bid’s organizing committee, including 32 consultants who have been hired by the city at different times to assist, has been challenged by “new information coming in almost hourly.” As the group races to make key deadlines on the Olympic file, including the completion of a draft budget with forecasted capital and operational costs for hosting the Winter Games, other bid groups competing for the right to host have enjoyed an easier path. Sapporo, Japan; Sion, Switzerland; and Stockholm, Sweden, are all vying with Calgary to win the 2026 Games. But the IOC may once again announce multiple winners simultaneously, with the “loser” getting the Games in 2030.
8. Changes in MLS’ salary structure have made the league “more attractive to young foreign stars and older U.S. players alike, resulting in deeper rosters, more exciting games, and a level of play rapidly approaching that of Mexico’s Liga MX,” according to the Los Angeles Times. LAFC Executive VP, Soccer Operations John Thorrington said, “Look at the on-field product week in and week out and MLS is in a very different place. The types of players that are coming have a lot to do with that.” The MLS Players Union released the first 2018 survey of player salaries, which “showed the number of millionaires in the league increased to 46 from 28” in 2017, while the guaranteed salary total for the league’s 669 players topped $249 million for the first time. Houston Dynamo Senior Vice President and General Manager Matt Jordan told the Houston Chronicle, “There’s a lot of top players who have the choice to go to China and make a ton of money. (But) It’s a totally different culture, it’s a totally different lifestyle…The one advantage we have in the MLS is that it’s a very stable league, it’s a very organized league — very professional — and it’s growing.” You only have to look at the influence of MLS players such as the LA Galaxy’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic to understand the impact young foreign stars are having on the American game.
9. WNBA launches empowerment program for women. The WNBA launched “Take a Seat, Take a Stand,” its new women and girls empowerment program for the 2018 season. As regular-season games begin this week, WNBA tickets do more than support women’s sports. When fans take a seat at a WNBA game, they will also have the chance to support several organizations that are changing the game for women and girls. For each ticket purchased, the WNBA will donate $5 to one of six organizations of the fans’ choosing in addition to a ticket to send a young woman or girl to a game to inspire her by the strength, talent, and leadership of the women of the WNBA. Fans can also choose to donate tickets directly to one of the organizations. “For 22 years, the WNBA and its players – women playing at the highest level of their sport – have stood up as role models for millions of women and girls,” said WNBA President Lisa Borders. “With ‘Take a Seat, Take a Stand,’ we are proud to come together as a league to stand with our partner organizations, our fans and the many inspiring women raising their voices for change in the current women’s movement.” The six national partner organizations for “Take a Seat, Take a Stand,” selected for their advocacy on behalf of girls and women, are Bright Pink, GLSEN, It’s On Us, MENTOR, Planned Parenthood, and The United State of Women.
10. Riddell adds head injury analytics to smart helmet. Riddell is upgrading their current technology to assist coaches in analyzing head-damage tendencies to scale back the prospect of damage. Riddell launched the InSite Influence Response System in 2014 to alert soccer coaches when an athlete suffered serious impacts. The primary-era system was meant to assist coaches and trainers on how to handle potential concussions as quickly as they occurred. The 2018 model, referred to as the Riddell InSite Coaching Software, will do all of that plus present detailed head-damage analytics. Riddell’s evaluation is predicated on a dataset of more than five million head impacts, which the corporate has been amassing over the last few years. The data has been used to inform rules modifications to the sport, and now these tens of millions of situations of head impressions will be used to help coaches implement safer practices day-by-day.