Top Stories

  • The Australian Open, which had been allowing up to 30,000 fans to attend each day, will continue without spectators after the state of Victoria implemented a lockdown for five days in response to a coronavirus outbreak at a hotel near the Melbourne Airport that was being used to quarantine travelers entering the country. While residents can leave home for only essential shopping, work, exercise and caregiving, professional athletes like tennis players have been classified as “essential workers” and are allowed to keep playing. (The New York Times)
  • Bob Chapek, chief executive of the Walt Disney Co., said during the company’s fiscal first quarter earnings call that price sensitivity is a factor in negotiations over a new rights deal with the NFL, citing “long-term trends in sports viewership” and that the pact “make sense for shareholder value going forward.” The league is reportedly seeking eight-to-10-year TV contracts that could reach as much as $100 billion in total value, but there is also speculation that Fox Corp. does not intend to renew its “Thursday Night Football” rights. (Variety)
  • The NHL and its players’ union adopted strengthened COVID-19 protocols that call for players and team personnel to “remain at home and not leave except to attend practice or games or perform essential activities” while in their home markets and advises that family members “limit their discretionary activities outside the home.” The league, which has been forced to shut down multiple teams and postpone 35 games through the first four weeks of the season, will also introduce rapid testing on game days for all players and personnel who operate in the vicinity of team benches. (New York Post)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Professional Sports and Entertainment Safety and Security Forum Begins – Virtual
Financial Times – Business of Football Summit Begins – Virtual
SportsPro Insider Series – Sports Investment – Virtual
SportsAtlas – Uncovering 2021 Opportunities with Data – Virtual
View full calendar

Tracking the Return to Normal

When will things return to normal and what will our new normal look like? It’s a question that business, economic and government leaders are grappling with as more and more Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

To help answer this complicated question, Morning Consult is tracking how consumer attitudes are shifting across a wide range of categories, from travel to entertainment to dining, to gain greater insight into not only when consumers will be ready to return to their normal activities, but how their habits will be forever changed. Sign up to get alerts to be the first to get the latest data and insights each week as our tracking updates.


Jason Whitlock on OutKick Fallout, Media’s Aversion to the Truth
Michael McCarthy, Front Office Sports

Jason Whitlock is in talks to join either Fox News or Blaze Media, sources tell Front Office Sports. The move to sign on with a politically conservative media platform is the natural next step for Whitlock, who left Clay Travis’ OutKick in December.

Most NFL TV Markets Lower For Super Bowl
Austin Karp, Sports Business Journal

Only 10 of the top media markets in the U.S. saw gains for Super Bowl LV on CBS, while 46 saw year-over-year declines — including 14 with double-digit percentage drops. Among markets with an NFL team, 23 of those saw ratings decline from last year’s Super Bowl.

Bellator to air on Showtime as ViacomCBS shuffles pack
Tom Bassam, SportsPro Media

The Bellator mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion has agreed an exclusive US broadcast partnership with ViacomCBS-owned pay-TV network Showtime. US broadcast rights to Bellator, which was acquired by ViacomCBS in 2011, were previously held by DAZN.

Discovery, Snapchat Team Up on Content, Advertising for Next 2 Olympics
David Cohen, Adweek

The mere six-month gap between the rescheduled 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing provides a challenge in terms of content creation and advertising opportunities, and Discovery and Snap Inc. are teaming up to meet that challenge head-on.

Simone Biles Docuseries Gets Greenlight at Facebook Watch Ahead of Tokyo Olympics
Todd Spangler, Variety

Simone Biles, superstar gymnast and Olympic champion, will be the subject of a new Facebook Watch original series following her as she gets ready to compete in the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games — expected to be her last run at a medal. “Simone vs Herself” is slated to premiere this summer, timed for the Tokyo Olympics.

David Beckham To Produce Adidas V. Puma Sneaker Feud Doc Series With Boat Rocker Studios & Matador Content
Peter White, Deadline Hollywood

British soccer star David Beckham is lacing up his boots to produce a documentary mini-series about the feud between sports brands Adidas and Puma. The former Manchester United player, via his production company Studio 99, has teamed up with Boat Rocker Studios, Unscripted and its company Matador Content to produce World War Shoe.


Urban Meyer unveils Jaguars staff, including controversial ex-Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle
John Reid, The Florida Times-Union

Meyer’s staff includes a controversial hire, Chris Doyle, who former University of Iowa players accused of making racial remarks that led to the school reaching a separation agreement with him last June. Meyer defended his hiring of Doyle by saying he vetted him thoroughly, along with the general manager and owner, and he is confident there will not be any issues.


Raptors to keep calling Tampa home for rest of season
Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors aren’t going back to Toronto this season. Ongoing challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic and how that affects the process of crossing the border between the U.S. and Canada will keep the Raptors in their adopted Tampa, Florida, home for the remainder of the regular season, the team said Thursday.


MLB Keeps DH and Expanded Playoffs On The Negotiating Table
Barry M. Bloom, Sportico

Neither the universal designated hitter nor expanded playoffs were a part of the 2021 health and safety protocols announced this week by MLB and the MLB Players Association, but it’s still possible they could be adopted in 2021. Support for instituting the DH again in National League lineups after its debut during the COVID-abbreviated 60-game 2020 season seems to be universal among baseball executives, managers and the players.

Indians’ New Name Search Turns To Carefully Designed Survey
Michael McCann, Sportico

In an email sent to fans on Tuesday, the team asked for completion of a brief survey that sought “feedback about our brand and our team.” The survey asked respondents for their “initial reaction” about the team’s decision last December to change names, with five choices ranging from “full support” to “complete disagreement.”


Habs-Oilers Start delayed until 8 p.m.
Stu Cowan, Montreal Gazette

The start of Thursday’s game was delayed from 7 p.m. until 8 p.m. after the Oilers’ Jesse Puljujarvi was placed on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol related absences list. The delay to the start time was done to allow for the completion and analysis of COVID-19 tests on all Oilers players before they were allowed to show up at the Bell Centre for the game.

NHL’s Lake Tahoe games coming together quickly, but may need contingencies
Sean Shapiro, The Athletic

COVID-19 is always a concern and three of the four teams have already had schedule alterations this season because of COVID-19 outbreaks on their rosters. “God forbid COVID creeps in. Our plan is to move another team in and play the games as scheduled,” NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer said. “And if we had to move two teams in? We could bring two teams in as well.”

Arizona Coyotes fire assistant GM holdover Steve Sullivan
Arizona Sports 98.7 FM

The Arizona Coyotes announced Thursday that they “terminated the contract” of assistant general manager and executive vice president of hockey operations Steve Sullivan. Sullivan previously served as interim general manager starting in July of last year when GM John Chayka left his role with the team.

College Sports

Valparaiso alumni react to retiring of Crusader mascot
Bob Kasarda and Paul Oren, The Northwest Indiana Times

Valparaiso University has announced plans to retire its Crusader mascot, citing concerns about negative associations with religious oppression, violence and hate groups. Valparaiso University Interim President Colette Irwin-Knott’s announcement came after months, if not years, of discussion about the mascot that led to the formation of a task force last fall that was made up of Valparaiso students, faculty, staff, athletics representatives and alumni.

Ivy League allowing one-time waiver for grad students to play in 2021-22 due to COVID-19 pandemic
Jeff Borzello, ESPN

The Ivy League Council of Presidents has approved the opportunity for current senior student-athletes to play an additional season as graduate students next season, according to a statement sent to student-athletes on Thursday. The statement makes it clear that the rule change is a one-time waiver because of the Ivy League canceling its fall and winter seasons.

MEAC cancels spring football season because of COVID-19 concerns
John X. Miller, The Undefeated

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) is canceling its spring 2021 football season scheduled to start Feb. 20, the league announced Thursday. Six of the MEAC’s nine football-playing institutions opted out of the spring 2021 season.

Ivy League Received Offer To Cover Costs of Men’s, Women’s Lacrosse Bubble; Didn’t Pursue Plan
Terry Foy, Inside Lacrosse

Yale lacrosse alum, San Diego Seals owner and PLL investor Joe Tsai offered to cover the costs of the Ivy League hosting a men’s and women’s lacrosse bubble this spring, and facilitated the league’s access to an operator who successfully put on a lacrosse-specific bubble last summer, multiple sources have confirmed to Inside Lacrosse. The league subsequently discussed the opportunity among its members’ university presidents and men’s lacrosse coaches.

Richmond’s Multimedia Rights Rollercoaster
Michael Smith, Sports Business Journal

When the process to select a rights holder resumed last fall, Richmond found a new bidder at the table — Playfly Sports — which didn’t even exist during the previous bidding process. Playfly formed last September but made up enough ground to win the Spiders’ rights in a new 10-year contract, announced today.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard earns reprimand from Big 12 for his memorable meltdown vs. West Virginia
Kyle Boone, CBS Sports

The Big 12 Conference on Thursday issued a public reprimand of Texas Tech coach Chris Beard for his actions Tuesday that led to him earning a double technical foul and being ejected from the team’s game against West Virginia. The rebuke was made in place of a fine or other punishment as conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby effectively used the incident to publicly chastise him while warning against committing similar acts in the future.


Michael Dell’s investment firm is a new force in football finance
Samuel Agini, Financial Times

As players compete in empty stadiums, clubs shun flashy signings and once-fat TV revenues shrink, an unlikely new force has emerged in English football: a US firm that invests some of PC pioneer Michael Dell’s fortune. Over the past year, MSD Partners has lent almost £80m to Premier League team Southampton, provided funding for the £200m takeover of rival Burnley and made a loan to Derby County, a historic English club.


Aric Almirola and Austin Dillon win qualifying races for Daytona 500
The Associated Press

What should have been a tuneup for the Daytona 500 might have cost Hendrick Motorsports the front row for NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl. Alex Bowman and William Byron were slated to lead the Daytona 500 field to green, but that’s in danger following Thursday night’s qualifying races. 

Ducati MotoGP team call up Lenovo as title sponsor
Sam Carp, SportsPro Media

The motorcycling outfit will be known as the Ducati Lenovo Team for the next three seasons, building on a previous lower-tier technology partnership. China-headquartered Lenovo takes over the naming rights to the team from tobacco company Philip Morris International, which used the partnership to promote its Mission Winnow campaign.

MotoGP and teams’ association sign new five-year deal
Lewis Duncan,

MotoGP has announced a five-year extension to agreement in place between Dorna Sports and the International Road-Racing Teams’ Association (IRTA) beginning in 2022. The IRTA was founded in 1986 and has acted as a voice for grand prix racing’s teams in MotoGP’s decision-making process.

Golf and Tennis

The Honda Classic (and the Bear Trap) will look a little different this year
Tom D’Angelo, Palm Beach Post

Inside the ropes, the tournament will have the same feel as any other year since the event was moved from neighboring Mirasol 14 years ago. Outside those ropes, things will be much different for a tournament that twice has been named the most fan-friendly event on the PGA Tour.


Baltimore Ravens sign multi-year deal with Esports Ent Group
Cody Luongo, Esports Insider

Publicly-traded gambling firm Esports Entertainment Group (EEG) has signed a multi-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens to serve as the NFL franchise’s esports tournament provider. Per the agreement, EEG will operate esports tournaments on a bi-annual basis for the Ravens. Competitions will be facilitated through the Esports Gaming League (EGL) platform, which the gambling company completed the acquisition of in January.


Tokyo Olympics: Mori is leaving but gender issues remain
Stephen Wade, The Associated Press

Yoshiro Mori resigned Friday as the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee following sexist comments implying women talk too much. But it’s not clear that his resignation will clear the air and return the focus to exactly how Tokyo can hold the Olympics in just over five months in the midst of a pandemic.

Redbird Capital Buys Into Wasserman Media
Scott Soshnick and Eben Novy-Williams, Sportico

RedBird Capital has purchased a significant minority stake in Wasserman Media, the sports marketing and talent agency founded by Casey Wasserman. The stake is between 30% and 40%, according to multiple people familiar with the deal. The valuation isn’t immediately known.

Opinions, Editorials, Perspectives and Research

The pregame national anthem — in all its roiling contradictions — still has something to offer
Barry Svrluga, The Washington Post

At a time when we need whatever unity we can find and sports might be one place to find it, the anthem could be a two-minute span when we agree that we’re all Americans, that we should be together rather than separate. It could remind us that — not very long ago — we had more in common than we did not.

Half the Team Had the Coronavirus. The Wizards Are Still Recovering.
Scott Cacciola, The New York Times

The team’s outbreak, which helped spur the N.B.A. to tighten restrictions on players’ social activities, came amid a surge of cases for the league and underscored the fragile dynamics of the 2020-21 season. In a series of interviews, several members of the Wizards organization shared their firsthand view of how quickly things can come unglued.

Pac-12 commissioner search: There are qualified internal candidates, but the politics are thorny
Jon Wilner, The San Jose Mercury News

There is a close parallel to consider. Two years ago, the Big Ten conducted a lengthy search to replace legendary commissioner Jim Delany. Northwestern president Morton Schapiro led the process, which included a stellar internal candidate: Schapiro’s own lieutenant in Evanston, Jim Phillips. But the Big Ten went outside the family and hired Kevin Warren from the Minnesota Vikings, whose tenure has been less than impressive thus far.

Morning Consult