1. The Iron Man is only made stronger by superhero friends. Last week, we shared that the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation would design and construct ten Youth Development Parks in five years in MLB markets across the country. They are able to do so thanks in part to a $5 million gift from Group1001. “We are incredibly honored by the commitment made today by Group1001 which will provide thousands of kids across the country with a safe place to play, learn and grow,” said Hall of Famer and Ripken Foundation Vice Chairman Cal Ripken, Jr. “Together with Group1001 and our friends at Major League Baseball, we look forward to bringing a positive environment and mentoring programs that will help guide our youth both on the field and in the game of life.” Said Dan Towriss, CEO, Group1001, “Like MLB and the Ripken Foundation, we believe in our duty to empower people to chase their dreams and to support the communities in most need of empowerment through education and sports.” Since 2009, the Ripken Foundation has 78 completed parks across the country, impacting over 280,000 kids annually.
2. A potential lockout after the end of the 2021 season could be in the making for Major League Baseball if players continue to be displeased with the CBA. According to SportsBusiness Journal, labor tensions continue to escalate between MLB and the MLBPA, as MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark stated that last winter’s slower free agent market represented a “direct attack” on players’ rights. “What the players saw last offseason is that their free agency rights are under direct attack, and those rights have been a bedrock of our economic system,” said Clark. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred defended the league, noting that the slower free agency period came down to “club choices on the relative merits of the available players.” “The only purposeful behavior that took place in the labor market last year was that our clubs carefully analyzed the available players and made individual decisions on what those players were worth,” said Manfred. “That’s how markets operate.” MLB has enjoyed labor peace for 25 years and counting – look for that mutually-lucrative streak to be held up in the next three years.
3. With Cristiano Ronaldo officially a member of Juventus, the Italian heavyweights are looking to capitalize on the financial boom that the Portuguese phenom is expected to bring to Turin. According to the London Times, the acquisition is primarily about closing the financial gap between Juve and “seemingly recession-proof clubs” like Real Madrid, Barcelona, ManU, and Bayern Munich. Despite having won the past seven Serie A titles in Italy and reaching two of the past four Champions League finals, Juventus still lags behind the super clubs from a commercial revenue standpoint. Those other clubs all bring in “well over” £250 million in revenue, while Juventus only reported £101 million in revenue during 2016-2017. Despite his age at 33, Ronaldo is “one of a handful of players in the world who can move the commercial needle single-handedly.” Since rumors started swirling of Ronaldo’s potential move to Turin, Juventus stock prices have been soaring upward. That’s not all that’s soaring. According to The Guardian, Juventus sold 520,000 Ronaldo shirts within just 24 hours of the merchandise being released – roughly $60 million worth. That’s compared to a total of 850,000 shirts sold all of last season. While Adidas gets most of that revenue, the Juventus brand gets priceless exposure.
4. David Beckham’s push to get an MLS team in Miami is still up in the air after its most recent roadblock. According to SportsPro, Beckham and business partner Jorge Mas are still working to secure a property on which to build a $1 billion soccer-specific stadium – which has proven near-impossible at times due to the local government’s opposition. Beckham’s plan to redevelop Melreese Country Club, the city’s only municipal golf course, was expected to be approved at this point, though he and Mas were questioned at a meeting last week “concerning the lack of transparency regarding potential increased traffic in the area, environmental impacts of the project, and assurances to do with revenue sharing between the Beckham group and the living wage of project workers.” The team would not be expected to start play before 2020 so Beckham still has time to build a stadium, but that window is quickly closing. The fate of a no-bid lease will be in the hands of voters come November, after Miami commissioners voted on a referendum last week.
5. Continuing its strong support for American tennis, Oracle is adding a Chicago event to the Oracle Challenger Series, to be held September 2-9. The Oracle Challenger Series launched this year with events in Newport Beach and Indian Wells, CA to provide up-and-coming American tennis players opportunities for ranking points and prize money. The Series will also donate $5,000 to the Chicago chapter of the National Junior Tennis and Learning network, which provides free or low-cost tennis and education programming to more than 225,000 under-resourced youth in the U.S. The Chicago tournament will be a joint ATP Challenger Tour/WTA 125K Series event and pay equal prize money ($150,000 per Tour) for a total of $300,000. The event will be free and open to the public. In other tennis news, The USTA is raising U.S. Open prize money to $53 million this year, with the men’s and women’s singles champion each receiving $3.8 million.
6. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics are only two years away and organizers are beginning to worry about the intense heat that could strike the country during the Games. According to Reuters, Japan is currently enduring an intense heatwave that has “prompted fears of similar extreme weather when the sporting showpiece takes place in the country.” This summer, temperatures have risen to as much as 104 degrees Fahrenheit for the first time since 2013, resulting in more than a dozen deaths. Tokyo usually averages weather around 77 degrees at this time. Tokyo Olympic organizers and the IOC are treating this problem seriously as they “consider a raft of counter measures to battle the extreme heat.” Both technological and infrastructural solutions are being considered, from increasing the shelter provided to fans to installing Wet Bulb Globe Temperature devices designed to provide constant feedback to assess heat levels. Tokyo organizers aren’t alone – this weekend, the Texas Rangers played ball in record-setting 107 and 108 degree sessions.
7. From a European perspective, the 2018 World Cup can be considered a massive success for leading broadcasters. According to SportsBusiness Journal, a total of 44.5 million people watched the BBC’s TV coverage of the month-long tournament, while there were “66.8 million match requests, including live and on demand, on the BBC Sport website and iPlayer.” England’s quarterfinal win over European counterpart Sweden turned out to be the BBC’s most online-viewed program ever, with 3.8 million viewers. In terms of traditional TV numbers, Eurodata TV revealed that viewership was equally as impressive. France’s 2-0 win attracted 163 million viewers in 20 territories across the continent. “This clearly shows once again that even at the age of mobile devices and non-linear viewing, major sports events are the only shows capable of gathering such large audiences in front of a TV set,” commented Eurodata TV Worldwide Sports Director Yassine Berhoun. Sports as appointment TV viewing remains a truly global phenomenon.
8. Launch of Pac-12 Team Green announced. The Pac-12 and Unifi, Inc. have announced a long-term partnership, with Unifi serving as the Founding Sustainability Partner of Pac-12 Team Green and as a sponsor of the Pac-12 Sustainability Conference. As part of the partnership, Unifi will provide grant funding to all 12 of the Conference’s member institutions to support sustainability initiatives and increase recycling efforts; work with the Pac-12 and Pac-12 Networks on creating custom content and media assets to feature sustainability programs and support efforts to recycle billions of plastic bottles into fiber; and will also serve as an official sponsor for all Pac-12 championship events. Pac-12 Team Green is a first-of-its-kind collegiate athletics conference sustainability platform set to promote all greening efforts taking place on and around Pac-12 campuses. The launch of Pac-12 Team Green further cements the Pac-12’s commitment to an elevated approach to enhancing sustainability efforts within collegiate athletics departments and sharing best practices to transform college sports into a platform for environmental progress.
9. Obama helps open basketball court in Kenya. Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo and Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri were on hand in Kenya last week for the opening of the Sauti Kuu Foundation’s sports and education facility, which was headlined by former U.S. President Barack Obama. Biyombo, who will play for Team Africa against Team World at the NBA Africa game on August 4, was also joined by NBA vice-president Amadou Gallo Fall, as the facility, founded by Obama’s sister, Auma Obama, was opened. Addressing the crowd, President Obama said, “Three years ago, I visited Kenya as the first sitting American President to come from Kenya…Today I am really coming as a brother, as a citizen of the world, as someone who has a connection to Africa, to talk about the importance of what [Auma is] doing…I’ve had a chance to look around and it’s a remarkable space, and I’m also very happy to see that there is a basketball court!” Obama wasted no time testing the new court out, to rapturous applause. For Biyombo, meeting Obama was a special moment, as he wrote on Twitter: “Basketball has taken me places and given me the opportunity to meet people that I never thought I would meet.”
10. c. The Twins are doing what they can to help grow the sport of baseball in Minnesota. In some cases, that means helping out one field at a time. The Twins Community Fund, in partnership with Cenex, reconstructs and rebuilds fields in nearby communities each season as part of the Fields for Kids program. Last week, that movement took hold in Hutchinson, MN, where the program broke ground at Northwoods Park on a project that will provide new backstops, dugouts, fencing, and field improvements. “We at the Twins Community Fund really believe that ballparks are community spaces and places that bring people together,” Twins Community Fund manager Stephanie Johnson said. “Whether it’s for those youth baseball and softball games or in smaller towns, it’s also where there’s town festivals, or church services or charity softball games and picnics.” Fields for Kids, which will work with five fields in five communities this year, provided $10,000 for the Hutchinson renovation. Created in 1999, Fields for Kids has granted more than $4.3 million in matching grants and helped reconstruct 789 ballparks across the upper Midwest and Southwest Florida.