Morning Consult Sports: Facing Bankruptcy Risk, Sinclair’s Regional Sports Networks Reportedly Eye $8.6 Billion Debt Restructuring


Essential sports industry news & intel to start your day.
January 26, 2023
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The State, and Future, of NIL
Outgoing NCAA Commissioner Mark Emmert told Morning Consult name, image and likeness is the most important issue he’s encountered during his tenure as head of the collegiate governing body. Interviews with industry stakeholders, student-athletes and marketers, in addition to new Morning Consult data, reveal an ever-evolving environment that is poised to undergo more change in the future. Read more in my latest data feature with brands reporter Ellyn Briggs: 18 Months Into the NIL Era, Athletes, Fans and Brands Are Mostly Happy. But Messiness Remains.


Today’s Top News

  • The Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.-owned Diamond Sports Group LLC, which operates numerous U.S. regional sports networks, is said to be preparing for a $8.6 billion debt restructuring in bankruptcy court amid falling cable TV subscriber numbers as it considers a new direct-to-consumer service where fans could pay to watch individual games. Diamond Sports will likely forgo paying $140 million in interest payments, which are due in mid-February, to trigger a 30-day grace period, people familiar with the matter said, while the company reportedly hopes to turn its biggest lenders into owners via a predetermined Chapter 11 process. (Bloomberg)
  • MSP Sports Capital has held preliminary discussions about purchasing a stake in Premier League side Everton FC, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Talks between the U.S. investment firm, which bought majority control of the X Games property in October, and Everton reportedly remain in the early stages and may not result in a transaction. (Bloomberg)
  • Billionaire Mat Ishbia, president and chief executive for UWM Holdings Corp., will reportedly assume full control of the Phoenix Suns by Feb. 9 after he purchased a majority stake in the NBA franchise in December at a $4 billion valuation. Sources said the NBA’s board of governors are expected to ratify Ishbia’s purchase in a vote early next month, while the Suns are said to have already scheduled a news conference for Feb. 8 to introduce Ishbia as the new owner. (ESPN)

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What Else You Need to Know


Mike Francesa to appear on ESPN’s ‘First Take’ with Stephen A. Smith and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo

Mark La Monica, Newsday

Mike and the Mad Dog are back together again. This time, Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo will share the same table opposite Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s “First Take” on Wednesday, Feb. 1.


US Soccer will leave an empty seat for Grant Wahl at all home matches through the 2026 World Cup

Joe Lucia, Awful Announcing

On Wednesday, the National Soccer Hall of Fame announced the late Grant Wahl as the 2023 recipient of the Colin Jose Media Award, “created to honor the contributions of members of the print and electronic media.” US Soccer then announced a tribute to Wahl during Wednesday’s USMNT friendly with Serbia, including a jersey with his name on it, a framed photo, and flowers at an open press box seat.


San Francisco 49ers’ George Kittle Partners with Chubbies on Collection

Jean E. Palmieri, WWD

The line is based on the athlete’s life and career and will launch this summer.


M&M’s clarifies spokescandies to remain—experts weigh in on Super Bowl stunt

Jon Springer, Ad Age 

Experts see a ‘tricky situation’ that may produce more conversation than controversy. 


Hurts, Jefferson, Mahomes among AP NFL MVP finalists

Rob Maaddi, The Associated Press 

Jalen Hurts, Justin Jefferson and Patrick Mahomes are finalists for The Associated Press 2022 NFL Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year awards. The winners will be announced at NFL Honors on Feb. 9. A nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the league completed voting before the start of the playoffs.


Purdy goes from ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ to brink of Super Bowl

Josh Dubow, The Associated Press 

Brock Purdy’s NFL career started with the moniker of “Mr. Irrelevant” and the weeklong trip to Newport Beach to celebrate the player picked last in the draft. With one more win, Purdy’s rookie season in the NFL will end on the brightest stage of all as a starting quarterback in the Super Bowl for the San Francisco 49ers.


NFL to consider ‘mechanics’ of tackle that injured Cowboys’ Tony Pollard

Des Bieler and Mark Maske, The Washington Post

The NFL does not believe the tackles that injured Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard during last weekend’s divisional-round playoff games were illegal under the current rules, multiple people familiar with the deliberations said Wednesday.


LeBron James Scoring Tracker: How Close Is He to the N.B.A. Record?

Tania Ganguli, The New York Times

The Lakers star is fewer than 200 points away from breaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring record, which Abdul-Jabbar set before James was born.


Mike Miller’s NBA ups and downs make him more than your ‘typical agent’

Mike Vorkunov, The Athletic

“The amount of resources he had was impressive,” No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero said of one-time Rookie and Sixth Man of the Year.


Bob Myers on his new podcast and why the Warriors GM is not ready for post-NBA life just yet

Bill Shea, The Athletic

As reports swirl about Bob Myers’ future, the Warriors GM has started a new leadership podcast. But he hopes post-NBA life is still far off.


New lawsuit claim: John Angelos and mother ‘plundered’ tens of millions from ailing Orioles owner Peter Angelos

Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun

An explosive new court filing alleges Orioles chairman and CEO John Angelos and his mother “plundered” tens of millions of dollars from ailing team owner Peter Angelos, bought a greater share of the franchise and shielded assets from potential creditors.


Inside Montreal captain Nick Suzuki’s crash course in French

Ryan S. Clark, ESPN

The Canadiens have reinstituted a voluntary French program for players who want to learn, with a former Olympian teacher.

College Sports

Auditor: LSU overpaid Brian Kelly by more than $1M in 2022

Holly Duchmann, Baton Rouge Business Report

An audit of LSU’s athletics department found that head football coach Brian Kelly was overpaid a little more than $1 million last year. 


Uber Eats driver walks onto court during Duquesne-Loyola Chicago game trying to deliver McDonald’s

Ryan Young, Yahoo Sports

Someone working at the UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse in Pittsburgh really wanted McDonald’s on Wednesday night. They just didn’t give the best delivery instructions to their Uber Eats delivery driver … or wait for a better moment.


Top WNBA Prospect Haley Jones Is Using NIL to Elevate Women’s Hoops

Amanda Christovich, Front Office Sports

When the name, image, and likeness era began, Stanford senior guard Haley Jones was already arguably one of the most marketable female athletes — she was an NCAA champion in the most popular women’s sport at a major-market Power 5 team. But Jones took her time building an NIL portfolio.


The World Cup confirmed what MLS has been saying: It’s already one of the best leagues in the world

Kyle Bonagura, ESPN

The growth of Major League Soccer can often seem like it’s progressing at a snail’s pace, but never has there been a better representation for how far the league has come than in Qatar for the World Cup. 


The USMNT, coachless and chaotic, begins new World Cup cycle with a loss

Steven Goff, The Washington Post

The U.S. World Cup adventure in Qatar ended almost eight weeks ago. Since then, there have been enough sideshows and controversy to fill eight years.

Golf and Tennis

Tommy Paul and American Tennis Are Having a Moment

Christopher Clarey, The New York Times 

Paul, the first American man to reach an Australian Open singles semifinal since Andy Roddick in 2009, must now face Novak Djokovic.


PGA Tour Ramps Up Pursuit of PIF Evidence

A.J. Perez, Front Office Sports 

The PGA Tour escalated its effort to obtain a deposition from the head of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and other PIF evidence with a motion filed in federal court on Tuesday night. Attorneys for the PGA Tour requested leave to amend the counterclaim to include PIF and PIF’s governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan as defendants. 


He Was Compared to Tiger Woods. So Why Did He Walk Away From Golf?

Andrew Keh, The New York Times 

Is it OK for an athlete — or anyone, really — to have an extraordinary gift and not use it? The golfer Anthony Kim apparently decided, emphatically, that it is.


In Tennis, the ‘Nepo Babies’ Are Everywhere

Matthew Futterman, The New York Times 

The names of a lot of the young pros on the tennis tour have a familiar ring to them. It’s about more than good genes.


Fans questioned by police over Russian flags at Australian Open

Shrivathsa Sridhar, Reuters

Four supporters at the Australian Open with “inappropriate flags and symbols” are being questioned by Victoria Police following the quarter-final between Russia’s Andrey Rublev and favourite Novak Djokovic, organisers Tennis Australia said on Wednesday.


IOC seeks pathway to let Russians compete at Paris Olympics

Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press 

The IOC made clear Wednesday it wants Russians to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutral athletes, in defiance of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call to exclude them entirely. Citing a “unifying mission” during a time of war, the International Olympic Committee said no athlete should face discrimination based only on the passport they held.


India Women’s Cricket Nets Half Billion In Sales Of Five Teams

Emily Caron, Sportico 

The five teams in India’s new women’s cricket league sold for more than $572 million at auction in Mumbai. Three owners of men’s Indian Premier League (IPL) teams—the Mumbai Indians, Delhi Capitals and Royal Challengers Bangalore—won bids to own the women’s teams, alongside coal titan Gautam Adani’s conglomerate, the Adani Group, and investment firm Capri Global. 


Deadly Police Corruption in California Town Takes Center Stage in Trailer for Colin Kaepernick’s ‘Killing County’

Abbey White, The Hollywood Reporter 

The Hulu docuseries, produced by ABC News Studios in association with Kaepernick Media, unravels how a deadly hotel shooting changes a family and community in the face of its police force.


NY AG Letitia James presses MSG over use of facial recognition technology

Noah Sheidlower, CNBC

New York Attorney General Letitia James wants to hear from Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corporation about the company’s reported use of facial recognition technology at its venues. MSG Entertainment has reportedly used the technology to identify and deny entry to multiple lawyers affiliated with law firms involved in ongoing litigation relating to the company, including those with season tickets. 

Morning Consult