1. Golf and tech engines are revving for the second annual Indy Women in Tech Championship Powered by Group1001. Boasting a $2 million purse, dozens of the world’s best female golfers, and a classic location – the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course, designed by Pete Dye – the Indy Women in Tech Championship also shows off a unique week of tech and STEM focused events for women and girls. Indy Women in Tech makes an annual commitment to support local initiatives financially and through marketing platforms surrounding the LPGA event with a particular focus on expanding the reach of robotic programs in schools; expanding STEM days; helping to create programs that enable professional, full-time athletes to gain the network, confidence, support, and skills to enter the full-time workforce; and creating initiatives aimed at women who have been away from the workforce and equipping them with the skills needed to use tech as a vehicle back to the workforce. Leadership at all levels is also an important component of this event. While the ability to lead and influence is apparent on the PGA Tour – as we saw during Sunday’s PGA Championship final round, as winner and likely Player of the Year Brooks Koepka battled timeless Tiger Woods – the LPGA has been missing a true icon for some years. Here’s hoping one comes into sharper focus this week in Indy.
2. In the wake of this past year’s FBI scandal that took college basketball by storm, the NCAA has unveiled a series of rules changes aimed at cleaning up and reforming the game. According to USA Today, the NCAA is broadly promoting stricter enforcement of the rule book, tougher penalties for violations of such rules, and adding independent investigators for “complex” cases. In such instances, NCAA investigators will now be allowed to “accept information established by another administrative body, including a court of law, government agency, accrediting body or a commission authorized by a school.” One of the biggest issues going forward now is how USA Basketball, the NCAA, and NBA work together on implementing these changes. Under the new rules, elite high school basketball recruits and college players will be eligible to be represented by agents who are certified by the NCAA; the NCAA has tasked USA Basketball with selecting which players will be allowed to sign with agents, but it wants “no part” in bearing such responsibility. The changes are being hailed as “enormously significant” by those in college basketball, though they likely will not be implemented until 2022 at the earliest and still need to be ironed out.
3. Mississippi has become the fourth state to legalize sports betting in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision. According to JohnWallStreet, Mississippi now follows Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware and has opened sportsbooks at Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi and Gold Strike Casino in Tunica – both properties owned by MGM Resorts International. State laws will require anyone wanting to make in-game bets to “visit their local casino as mobile betting will be restricted to those on the casino’s physical premises.” Currently no other states in the South offer legalized sports betting, though neighboring Alabama has more illegal college football bets per capita than any other state in the country. While MGM has the first-mover advantage in Mississippi, William Hill has gone to greater lengths to establish itself; the company has already announced partnerships with 11 casinos around the state. Mississippi’s advantage as the only Southern state with legalized sports betting is expected to last for at least one year, but could be longer.
4. With the 2022 Beijing Olympics only four years away, NHL legend Wayne Gretzky is being tasked with helping to grow the game in China. According to ChinaDaily.com, Gretzky has been appointed as a global ambassador for the KHL Chinese Kunlun Red Star. In his role, Gretzky will help develop a comprehensive youth development program in China, visiting the country in mid-September to make promotional stops in Beijing, Shenzhen, and Shanghai. China “is seeking to boost hockey in a country where winter sports participation remains in its infancy.” While this is certainly going to be a challenge for Gretzky, the NHL has already begun trying to tap into the market from a grassroots level. For the second year, the league is holding promotional games in China, when the Boston Bruins square off against the Calgary Flames in Shenzhen, coinciding with Gretzky’s mid-September visit. With a population of nearly 1.4 billion, China presents a massive opportunity to spread the game of hockey. While it certainly won’t be easy to do, it seems fitting that Wayne Gretzky is the one tasked with this.
5. ATP/WTA BNP Paribas Open tournament Owner Larry Ellison has become an investor in the reform project for the Davis Cup. And according to the Desert Sun, this means there may be an “even greater possibility” of bringing the event to the California desert as early as 2021. Ellison, the “wealthiest man in tennis,” and among the world’s wealthiest people, became an investor in the 25-year, $3 billion partnership between the ITF and investment group Kosmos that is “expected to reform Davis Cup into a one-week event.” Ellison purchased the BNP Paribas Open and Indian Wells Tennis Garden in 2010, and has since “invested substantially into making the March event into a marvel within the sport.” The Kosmos/ITF Davis Cup reform project “will create a season finale with 18 tennis nations and their individual tennis stars playing at world class venues.” On August 16 in Orlando, it “could become more clear whether this could eventually bring more world class tennis to Indian Wells when the ITF votes on whether to accept the project proposal.” The event, as envisioned by the reform project and Ellison, could generate significant revenues for tennis development worldwide.
6. PHIT America released its Inactivity Pandemic’ Report 2018 last week, and the results are grim. The organization reports that 7% of American children are physically active to CDC standards, while the number of U.S. children who are active three times a week has dropped to 23.9%, a decrease of 15% in the last five years; core participation in team sports in the U.S. is also down for the fifth straight year. Said PHIT America Founder Jim Baugh. “Do we really think Americans are going to put down their smart phones and tablets? Will schools suddenly start putting daily P.E. back in our schools? Hell no! The competition is going to get stronger. And the sports and fitness industry must respond.” On brand campaigns to get more children playing sports, Baugh questioned, “Are they really just PR programs for their brand? What is their cost per participant? I bet it isn’t close to the PHIT America formula, which is less than $10 to get a kid physically moving while at school. If PHIT America had access to those brand funds, their ROI would be much better. And, perhaps, more kids would be fitter.
7. DraftKings launches first sports betting in New Jersey. Online fantasy sports provider DraftKings has announced the launch of DraftKings Sportsbook, making it the first company to offer legal online and mobile sports betting in New Jersey. The move comes two months after DraftKings officially applied for a sports betting license in the state after laws restricting wagering on sporting events were relaxed in the country. DraftKings says that it has used insight into the habits of American sports fans to tailor its sportsbook app and online platform to their preferences. The service will give users the ability to place multiple types of bets, including live in-game bets, on both major and niche sports taking place locally and internationally. In addition, the app and website will allow consumers to toggle between the company’s fantasy sports and sportsbook platforms, enabling them to place a bet and then draft a fantasy line-up with one click. While its sportsbook is currently only available in New Jersey, DraftKings is prepared to act in response to the legalization of sports betting in other states across the U.S.
8. Seattle Seahawks and Sounders implement screening technology. Seattle’s two remaining men’s major league sports teams have partnered with screening company Clear to bolster fan security at their shared CenturyLink Field home. The NFL Seattle Seahawks and MLS Seattle Sounders have followed the lead of the MLB Seattle Mariners to introduce Clear’s fingerprint recognition technology at the venue’s security entry checkpoints. The deal is designed to allow fans to enter CenturyLink Field more easily while also using the system to purchase concessions and make payments. The Seahawks are the first NFL team to implement the platform, which was used for the first time at the team’s preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts. The Sounders are the fourth MLS team to install the technology. In order to enroll and use the system, kiosks will be situated around the stadium, where fans will have to answer questions and create a biometric account by scanning their fingerprints. Clear Sports membership is free.
9. Aaron Rodgers talks Wounded Warrior Project in new video. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is one of four professional athletes featured in Sharpie’s Uncap the Possibilities campaign, which looks at how each athlete is inspiring positive change through their chosen charity. In the video series, releases in partnership with The Players’ Tribune, Rodgers talked about how his grandfather served in the Air Force and was active duty during World War II. He came home with a Purple Heart and a Silver Star. His service was “one of the greatest achievements of his life,” Rodgers said. The Wounded Warrior Project works to help veterans live life on their own terms by providing free programs and services in mental health, career counseling, and long term rehabilitative care. In a statement Sharpie said, “It’s this natural talent that has enabled the quarterback to orchestrate countless thrilling come-from-behind wins in the closing minutes of the game. And Aaron’s chosen charity, Wounded Warrior Project®, is all about the strong comeback that the wounded veterans it serves can experience.”
10. Semper Fi 5k charity race becomes RaceThread partner race. RaceThread, the most comprehensive searchable directory of races from every sport, partners with Washington D.C charity race Semper Fi 5K Run/Walk, an annual 5K race that benefits the Semper Fi Fund, a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance and support to wounded, critically ill, and injured members of the military. The partnership with the race directory and the local charity race provides a premium access account free of charge as well as gives the run/walk participants a way to provide feedback on the race. With more than 55,000 races, RaceThread allows athletes of all abilities to search and find the next race that’s perfect for them based on the race’s profile and reviews. From the most scenic run to worst post-race food to the best finish line medal, RaceThread provides logistics and previous participants’ thoughts all on one page. To keep the directory up to date for users and allow race directors complete control of the race information, RaceThread partners with race directors who can claim their race profile and in doing so, update the information, attract new athletes, and create an online hub for participants.