SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: July 10, 2023

Episode Summary

As Jay Monahan returns, a Tour Policy Board member steps down; the NBA's longtime vision comes to fruition and MLB embraced in Seattle

Episode Transcription

It's great to be back with all of you after taking a few days in Vermont and a few mornings sleeping in. Thanks for David Albright for superbly delivering the BuzzCast all last week. And this is your morning BuzzCast for Monday, July 10th. Good morning, I'm Abe Madkour, let's get right to it. Friday afternoon, PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan broke his public silence, ended speculation and made it official. He told the tour's policy board, he will return to his role next Monday, July 17th. Monahan has been on leave for health reasons since June 14th and there was a lot of industry speculation about his future. Jay Monahan did not disclose his health issue, but stated in his letter to the policy board that he experienced a personal toll during the past challenging year with PGA Tour and LIV Golf. Especially in the days following the announcement of the agreement between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund.

He acknowledged he encountered adverse impact on his health. Now this is notable, in full disclosure, most of the sources I spoke with didn't believe Jay Monahan would return. That perhaps his heart wasn't in seeing this partnership through. And many wondered if he had lost too much credibility with the players to even return in the role. But my colleague Josh Carpenter, noted that multiple tournament directors in recent weeks had expressed optimism that Monahan would come back and he says he's feeling better. He'll be back at it starting next Monday, he added he would be at a tournament as soon as possible and address all questions about his health. Now this is a big week for golf as there's a hearing in the US Senate on Tuesday in which the tour board member Jimmy Dunn, the architect of the agreement with the Saudi PIF and PGA Tour, COO Ron Price will testify before Congress.

Now the Senate subcommittee will meet to examine the tentative deal between the tour, the DP World Tour and the PIF. Now, the PGA Tour had suggested that Jay Monahan would consider testifying if the Senate agreed to postpone the hearing, but the committee declined and will move forward with the hearing tomorrow. But that's not all, in a surprising, almost shocking move, former AT&T executive Randall Stephenson resigned from the PGA Tours' policy board over the weekend over serious concerns about the partnership with the PIF. And this is not a good sign and it shows that not everyone is on board. Stephenson obviously very influential. The tour policy board is not large and he had been a member of the board since 2012, but resigns immediately over the weekend. So a lot of storylines in golf. Let's move on. Saturday had to be a special day for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver as he was able to formally announce a concept that he admits has been floating around the NBA office for about 15 years, as it unveiled it's newly formed in-season tournament and the NBA cup, which will begin this coming season.

It's part of Adam Silver's plan and vision to bring a European Cup style competition to the NBA. So here's what you need to know. It will be a group stage tournament that will take place on seven dates throughout November, a combination of four Fridays and three Tuesdays. There will be quarterfinal games in early December, the semi-finals December 7th at T-Mobile Arena, followed by the championship on December 9th at T-Mobile in Vegas. And there is money involved. Players who win will take home half a million dollars, $500,000 for being on the team that wins the NBA Cup. There's even $50,000 for the losers of the quarter-final round. So players get paid. All the league officials who spoke about the event tempered their enthusiasm, they admitted it's going to take time for fans to adjust to a new competition as part of the NBA season. League officials acknowledge that not everyone will be an avid follower immediately, but they believe it will build interest over time.

Now, the championship trophy is called NBA Cup, but League officials said they considered a variety of names and that this is the name for now. It could change and they could sell title sponsorship rights to the NBA Cup. Here's the bottom line to me, it's an exciting addition and innovation to the NBA and to sports and it's something everybody is watching and seeing how successful it could become over over time. Meanwhile, in another new initiative by the NBA, it launched NBA Con over the weekend. This is a three-day event, we've talked about it on the buzz cast. It ended yesterday. It was held at Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Like I said, an entirely new concept. It's intended to offer all things' basketball, all things' basketball to NBA fans. I will send photos of people in long lines to get in.

There were appearances by players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Isaiah Thomas. Those two led a panel with Victor Wembanyama, but the event also dives into art in music and fashion and they had basketball drills and they're selling apparel and collectibles. So it's a celebration of basketball and by all indications, its debut was a success and you'll see this going forward during the NBA Summer League in the future. We'll touch about it more tomorrow and later in the week. But the early line from Seattle for baseball's big week has been very positive as MLBs all-star festivities go to the northwest for the first time in more than 20 years. And I think attendees will experience a marketplace that shows that it really loves baseball and really loves sports. Monday's Home Run Derby, Tuesday's All-Star game are expected to see more than 40,000 fans attend each day.

Saturday's MLB All-Star Futures game at T-Mobile Park saw 42,000, more than 42,000 watch that event and that's a great number. There was also the introduction of a new event around historic Black colleges and universities as the HBCU Swingman Classic, which was an idea by Ken Griffey Jr. Featured players from 17 HBCUs. Griffey said that he is hoping to make that event an annual event during MLB All-Star Week, but by all indications, the week for baseball getting off to a very positive start in Seattle. And on Friday we looked at the growth of Major League Rugby in SBJ Daley and the league held its championship on Saturday and drew just over 10,000 fans at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois. And that was Major League Rugby's, highest attendance for its championship game and comes as the league looks for future growth in the United States. And we talk about all these leagues looking to continue to grow in the United States and get a little bit of market share and continue to draw an audience, add Major League Rugby to that group.

And finally we'll end around a name in the news, Ironman Group president and CEO Andrew Messick is retiring after 12 years leading that endurance race brand. Messick, who was well known in sports, will remain on the Ironman's board and they have begun a global search to find his replacement. They will use executive search firm Spencer Stuart to lead the process. Like I noted, Messick is known in sports. Before he joined Ironman, he was at a AEG, where he was president of AEG Sports. Before that, he spent seven years overseeing the NBA's international efforts. But Andrew Messick, retiring after 12 years as CEO and president of the Ironman Group. And it should be noted, Ironman is owned by Advance, which also owns Sports Business Journal. And so that is your morning BuzzCast for Monday, July 10th. I'm Abe Madkour, thanks for listening to the BuzzCast. Stay healthy, be good to each other. I'll speak to you tomorrow.