SBJ Morning Buzzcast

SBJ Morning Buzzcast: May 23, 2022

Episode Summary

Insight into Sports Business Award judging; NFL owners meet in Atlanta and Vegas hints at possible financial aid to lure the A's.

Episode Transcription

After a tremendous week in New York and the incredibly powerful Sports Business Awards. It's great to be back with you on the Morning Buzzcast. This is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, May 23rd. Good morning. I'm Abe Madkour. Hope everybody is ready for the week. We have a week going into a long weekend that I know many are looking forward to. As I noted, the energy in the Times Square Marriott Marquis Ballroom was fantastic on Wednesday night, and many asked me about the judging process to determine the winners for the Sports Business Awards.

This week in SPJ, I offered some perspective from the judges' deliberation, which, for the first time in awards history, there was serious discussion and debate about ties and co-winners. We didn't go in that direction. But today, I'll offer some insight into two very competitive categories.

First, League of the Year, was for the second year in a row, the most contested category. Every nominee had some support. Despite a small pocket of passionate advocates, the NFL couldn't get traction despite its strong business year because of its high-profile controversies. The NHL had such a good story around a new media deal, a new franchise with the Kraken, and inclusion efforts that I thought the NHL might sneak in as a surprise winner.

The SEC was widely respected for adding two key members to the conference, but judges were eager to see more in the future. We also talked about the US OPC. But it ultimately came down to the WNBA and the UFC. This featured a very engaged back and forth.

In the end, it seemed like the ultimate fighting championship prevailed because of its amplification of both male and female athletes, its overall success in signing significant sponsorship deals and driving ESPN Plus's business, and its way of connecting with a young, diverse, engaged fan base. I'll just tell you that's, at the end of the day, probably why the UFC won League of the Year. But I'll just say this was one of the better debates I've witnessed over all the years of Sports Business Award judging.

Team of the year was also competitive as all six franchises had support. But the conversation soon focused around four: the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Braves, and Tampa Bay Lightning. Judges were very impressed with the Warriors' continued outstanding business performance with strong season ticket sales, ticket renewals, overall revenue. The turnaround of the Rams and the progress the team has made in Los Angeles was a very strong story. The Braves' incredible hold on its fan base, their revenue gains, and the draw of the battery, that amazing facility, nearly won over the room. But voters kept coming back to the consistent excellence of the Tampa Bay Lightning, the team's respected business performance matching its on-ice product, and the efforts of team owner Jeff Vinik and his organization in engaging with the community. I believe the Lightning's strong community efforts had tremendous appeal with the judges, and I believe it may have been the difference-maker, allowing them to win team of the year.

That's just some insight into two categories. I'll have more insight later in the week. But let's get to some news about, first, the NFL. Five groups are vying to buy the Denver Broncos. All five have submitted their proposed amendments to the sale contract last week. A second round of bids are coming due in June. Overall, this indicates momentum is building toward a sale. We've talked about this. This deal is likely to set a record for the most paid ever for a pro sports franchise.

Who's in the mix? Well, groups led by former Walmart chair, Rob Walton, is one. Dodgers investor Todd Boehly is two. Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment co-chair Josh Harris is also in the mix. Now, there are still two unknown bidders for the team. That represents the five groups bidding. Rob Walton has unbelievable resources. Forbes estimate his net worth at $65 billion.,Clearly far more than the other bidders. But the other bidders are still in the game. Industry sources now expect an owner to be chosen before training camp opens in late July. A new owner should be in place by the regular-season start in September, so the Bronco's sale continuing to move forward.

NFL owners have a spring meeting this week in Atlanta. USA Today previewed the meetings over the weekend by reporting that frustration is growing with Commanders owner Dan Snyder. For the first time that I can remember, there are anonymous quotes from owners that suggested they may try to force Dan Snyder to sell that team. An NFL team owner said there's growing frustration about the Washington situation and not over one issue but over how much smoke there is. I think everybody's getting tired of it. That's quite a quote.

USA Today reports that some owners would support forcing Dan Snyder to sell the franchise. It would take 24 votes to pass a measure to oust Snyder from the NFL. Because of the league's action against Dan Snyder, he will not be at the owner's meetings that begin on Monday in Atlanta. But again, it seems that there is growing concern and growing frustration about the situation around the Commanders.

Finally, around the NFL owners' meetings today and tomorrow, the league is launching a new program to enhance opportunities for minority candidates to become head coaches and GMs. The NFL will hold the inaugural Coach and Front Office Accelerator Program today in Atlanta. It's a new way for owners and team leaders to get to know coaches and front office executives better. Hopefully, they establish relationships that will help in future hiring.

One coaching and one general manager candidate from each of the 32 teams has been selected to attend the accelerator. These are not job interviews. There won't be any hiring allowed. It's really just a more of a get to get-to-know-you that should help both candidates and owners get to know each other better. They hope that'll lead to more diverse hiring in the future.

Let's shift and end around major league baseball. Interesting news out of Las Vegas. The Oakland As have reportedly focused on two possible sites for a new ballpark in Las Vegas. This comes as a key leader in the city said that to help lure the As to Las Vegas, some form of public financial assistance could be made available to the team. Now, that is new because most state and local politicians have been pretty clear that they oppose using any public funds to help fund a potential As ballpark. But that no longer appears to be the case. Though, the specific options or option of what funds could be available and how much funding is available was unclear. But still, Vegas hinting that there could be some public aid to lure the Oakland As to that city. That remains to be an incredibly important story to keep your eye on.

That is your Morning Buzzcast for Monday, May 23rd. I'm Abe Madkour. Good to be back with you on the Buzzcast. I'll be with you all week. Until I talk to you tomorrow, stay healthy, be good to each other, and have a great Monday.