Greetings from New York City, where somewhere out there someone may still be celebrating after last night's Sports Business Awards here in Times Square. Good morning. It's Thursday, May 25th. This is your SBJ Morning BuzzCast. I'm Dave Albright, filling in for Abe Madkour.
The continued growth and awareness around women's sports was on display and further validated Wednesday night at the 16th Sports Business Awards here in New York City. The evening started with Michele Kang winning Deal of the Year for her purchase of the NWSL Washington Spirit. It continued when Wasserman won for Best Talent Representation, in part because of its efforts to secure the release of Brittney Griner from Russia, and the U.S. Open picked up Event of the Year, thanks in part to its celebration of Serena Williams and her career, and by the time Angel City FC won Team of the Year, the nearly 1,200 attendees in the Marriott Marquis ballroom erupted in cheers and turned into a standing ovation.
On the other end of the spectrum, established brands and properties were also rewarded with hardware, as Fox Sports, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this summer, picked up a pair of wins for Best in Sports Media and Executive of the Year. Eric Shanks accepted both awards.
The NFL was named League of the Year for only the second time and the first since 2010, and does it get any more established than 111-year-old Fenway Park being named Facility of the Year?
Another highlight of the two-hour program hosted by ESPN's Elle Duncan and Jay Williams was the who's who of Sports Business royalty and attendance, which included commissioners Jessica Berman, Gary Bettman, Don Garber, Steve Phelps and Adam Silver. For complete coverage of the event, including winners and their behind-the-scenes reactions, go to sportsbusinessjournal.com.
NASCAR has landed its third founding partner for July's Chicago Street Race in Xfinity, the first of its major sponsors for the event that already has an official partnership with the league. The agreement will be announced later this morning, with no description of financial terms. Xfinity is already one of NASCAR's four-season long premier partners, and it's unclear the extent to which this represents an incremental spend to what it has already committed to NASCAR. Xfinity joins Chicago-based McDonald's and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois as founding partners that will get official designations plus significant branding at a certain section of the street circuit.
The PLL this morning will announce that it plans to assign home cities to each of its eight teams as the Lacrosse property looks to take another major step in its business growth. The PLL will continue to operate a touring model with all eight teams playing in the same city over two days on a given weekend. That's how it's operated since its founding in 2019, and the PLL continues to be a single entity that owns and operates all of its teams. However, after the selections are made, future schedules will then be tailored to have events in the same cities that will be assigned teams in a bid to unlock fandom in those local markets. No word yet on what those eight cities will be or when they will be announced. The PLL opens its 2023 season next month in Albany.
Let's circle back to New York City where NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was honored with SBJ's Lifetime Achievement Award on Wednesday night as part of the 16th Sports Business Awards. Before Bettman took the stage to receive the award, the packed ballroom heard from actor and hockey fan, Jon Hamm, and it saw video of Bettman's path from a kid in Queens to Cornell, to the NBA, to the NHL's first commissioner. Amid the raucous atmosphere that surrounded most of the evening, the celebration of Bettman was celebratory and tinged with emotion.
Hamm, a St. Louis native and lifelong hockey fan, commended Bettman on taking the "once Mom and Pop regional league" that brought in a total of less than $500 million per year the season before he was hired, to a now 6 billion global and sports media powerhouse, a league in which a Blues fan wonders about when we'll be back in the final, but does not worry that his team might leave St. Louis. All of that and more have happened on Gary Bettman's watch and because of his leadership.
Bettman called the evening and experience of being named the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient an overwhelming surreal out-of-body experience. He also talked about going to Rangers games as a kid in the old Madison Square Garden, and how unimaginable and inconceivable it was to even dream about someday becoming the sports commissioner. Bettman got emotional when talking about his wife Shelli, their kids and grandchildren, many of whom were in attendance.
In closing, Bettman called on all the attendees to continue to make the business of sports a better place to be and work when he said, "Let's all continue every day to serve our constituents in the most creative and fun ways possible. Let's strive to honor the temporary custody of the public trust called sports, to inspire our communities, to teach life skills to our youngsters, and to leave each of our sports or businesses in a far better place, the one which we founded. That, for any of us, is a lifetime achievement."
I can't think of a better sentiment on which to end, so that's your SBJ Morning BuzzCast for Thursday. Congratulations again to all the winners at the Sports Business Awards. I hope everyone has a great day and we'll see you back here tomorrow morning.