Morning Consult Sports: Robert Sarver Announces Intent to Sell Phoenix Suns, Mercury


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September 22, 2022
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End of an Era

New Morning Consult data shows that professional tennis is losing two of its greatest and most popular athletes of all time: Serena Williams and Roger Federer. More than 7 in 10 self-identified men’s tennis fans said they have a favorable opinion of the Swiss legend, making him the most popular men’s tennis player as retirement looms. Read more here: Men’s Tennis Is Losing Its Most Popular Star in Roger Federer.


Today’s Top News

  • Robert Sarver, owner of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, announced he has started the process of selling both teams after the NBA suspended him for one year and issued a $10 million fine over instances of workplace misconduct. (The Associated Press) In an all-staff call hours after Sarver’s announcement, team CEO and President Jason Rowley said that Sarver will not attend games nor have any interaction with anyone in the organization, while Sam Garvin, a minority owner, will remain the team’s interim governor. (ESPN)
  • A proposal to change the NCAA college football schedule, obtained by Sports Illustrated, includes creating new dead periods and shifting back the early signing dates, among other proposed changes currently circulating around athletic departments. The draft proposal was created through a collaboration of the 10 FBS conferences and Notre Dame. (Sports Illustrated)
  • New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he is willing to speak to James Dolan, owner of Madison Square Garden, about moving the home of the NBA’s Knicks and NHL’s Rangers amid the state’s Penn Station redevelopment talks. Adams said the Pennsylvania Plaza space surrounding Madison Square Garden could be a place for housing development, though Dolan has previously fought to prevent the “world’s most famous arena” from moving. (New York Post)
  • Sources said that Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka is expected to face disciplinary action, including a significant fine, for having a consensual relationship with a female staffer that violated organizational guidelines. A final decision, which may include keeping Udoka out for the entire 2022-23 season, could come as early as today, sources said. (ESPN)


Worth keeping an eye on today (all times local):


Chart Review


What Else You Need to Know


NBA insider Shams Charania makes free agency decision

Ryan Glasspiegel, New York Post 

The 28-year-old NBA newsbreaker was a free agent this year. He has signed new deals to remain at Stadium/Bally Sports — both owned by Sinclair — and The Athletic, The Post has confirmed.


First Q4 World Cup Will Be an Early Christmas Gift for Broadcasters

Asli Pelit, Sportico 

When FIFA agreed to push the dates of the 2022 World Cup from the summer to the end of the year—a shift necessitated by Qatar’s punishing climate, with temperatures in June averaging 107 degrees Fahrenheit—World Cup organizers have set the stage for a record TV viewership, and in turn, record ad sales numbers.


Brands Are Quiet Quitting Brett Favre Amid Welfare Scandal

A.J. Perez, Front Office Sports 

At least two brands appear to be quietly distancing themselves from Brett Favre in the aftermath of his connection to a welfare scandal in Mississippi. Favre and the pharma startup the Hall of Fame quarterback was associated with are linked to millions in diverted funds, according to court filings and media reporters.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans out vs. Green Bay Packers in Week 3 after appeal of one-game suspension denied


Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans’ one-game suspension without pay was upheld by appeals officer James Thrash, the NFL announced Wednesday. Evans will miss the Buccaneers’ home opener Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.


For N.F.L. Kickers, Showing Too Much Leg Could Hurt Their Pockets

Kris Rhim, The New York Times 

The league drew the ire of several kickers over its enforcement of uniform policies that require players to wear pants that cover their knees.


Robert Sarver’s Phoenix Suns Will Be Sold For At Least $2.5 Billion, Bankers Say

Mike Ozanian, Forbes 

The Suns will likely fetch at least $2.5 billion, according to sports bankers contacted by Forbes. A year ago, Forbes valued the Suns at $1.8 billion, 18th out of the league’s 30 teams.


NBA Mulls Executive Pay Pool as Tech Raids Sports

Eben Novy-Williams and Scott Soshnick, Sportico 

NBA owners are exploring options for how the league can better recruit and retain top executives at its central office, according to multiple people familiar with the plans. Among the possibilities under consideration is a pool of money to help boost compensation packages at the C-suite and VP levels, said the people, who were granted anonymity because the talks are private.


HBO To Revisit ‘Linsanity’ In New Jeremy Lin Documentary

Michael McCarthy, Front Office Sports 

HBO wrote the book on sports documentaries before giving way to ESPN’s prolific “30 for 30” franchise. It’s good to see HBO back at it with “38 At The Garden,” a new documentary chronicling the “Linsanity” craze of a decade ago. 


Nike Reveals the Next Signature Sneaker for NBA Icon LeBron James

Aaron Royce, Footwear News

LeBron James is taking his signature performance shoe line to new heights with his latest: the Nike LeBron 20, which celebrates both his 20th year with the athletic giant and in the NBA. The basketball star’s new low-top sneaker — the first to debut in the silhouette in James’ collection — features a synthetic-wrapped lateral across its uppers in a mint green “Time Machine” palette.


For Major Milestones, M.L.B. Trusts but Verifies

David Waldstein, The New York Times 

The ball from Aaron Judge’s 60th homer carried two markings — one of them invisible — authenticating it as the real deal. He will be pitched special baseballs for the rest of the season.


What Aaron Judge’s potential record home run balls could be worth for some lucky fans

Daniel Kaplan and Bill Shea, The Athletic 

Standing in the concourse behind the Yankee Stadium outfield Tuesday night, Matthew Smith, 21, baseball cap on backward, beer in hand, said he knows what he would do if he caught one of Aaron Judge’s hoped-for record-breaking home runs: give it the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. He had seats right behind Judge’s right field stalking grounds.


Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press 

The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.


Philadelphia Flyers Mascot Gritty on His ‘Abbott Elementary’ Cameo: ‘I’m Not in the Business of Explaining Myself’

Selome Hailu, Variety

School is back in session at “Abbott Elementary,” this time with high-profile guest stars such Leslie Odom Jr. and … Gritty, the famous mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers.

College Sports

Could Michigan become 1st state to expressively permit NIL at high school level?

Jeremy Crabtree, On3 Sports 

State Sen. Adam Hollier has proposed an amendment to Michigan’s state laws that would make it the first state law to expressly permit NIL at the high school level.


Rainbow Armbands Are New Flash Point for FIFA and Qatar World Cup

Tariq Panja, The New York Times 

An effort by European soccer federations to highlight gay rights could force a collision between FIFA rules and social campaigns.


Ronaldo says he is not planning to retire after World Cup

The Associated Press 

This year’s World Cup apparently won’t be the end for Cristiano Ronaldo. The 37-year-old Portugal star said he is not considering retiring from international soccer in December after the tournament in Qatar, and plans to play at the 2024 European Championship.


PL clubs agree to minimum-length bans for invasions, smoke bombs

Shrivathsa Sridhar, Reuters 

Supporters of Premier League teams who take part in anti-social and criminal behaviour at stadiums will receive automatic club bans with a minimum term of one year, the league said on Wednesday after unanimously agreeing to the move.


Ted Lasso, AFC Richmond are making their debut in EA Sports FIFA 23

Kyle Bonagura, ESPN

FC Richmond has been promoted. The fictional club in the Apple TV+ hit show “Ted Lasso” will be a playable team in the EA SPORTS FIFA 23 video game, it was announced Wednesday. 


KFC France distances itself from executive comments on Mbappe’s sponsorship stance

Julien Pretot, Reuters 

KFC France distanced itself from comments from a senior executive saying the fast food chain may take legal action over forward Kylian Mbappe’s refusal to take part in some of the French national team’s sponsorship commitments. Alain Beral, vice president of KFC France, told the Sport Business Club website that they were considering legal action, though he did not specify whether this would be against the player or the French Football Federation.


Formula One Singapore Brings $70,000 Tables to Nightclubs

Hannah Elliott and Joanna Ossinger, Bloomberg 

The most grueling F1 race in the calendar offers fans glamour unabated—concerts, parties, VIP suites, and luxury dining. Here’s how to make the most of the Singapore Grand Prix.

Golf and Tennis

Roger Federer’s goodbye will be in doubles, maybe with Nadal

Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press 

There was none of that sort of sadness Wednesday, just smiles and some chuckles at his own jokes, as Federer appeared at a news conference to discuss his retirement from professional tennis at age 41 after a series of knee operations. He will close his career with a doubles match at the Laver Cup on Friday — perhaps alongside longtime rival Rafael Nadal.


Greg Norman lobbies for LIV Golf during Congressional visit, gets mixed reviews

Mark Schlabach, ESPN 

LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman met with federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to lobby on behalf of the new circuit being financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, and his message was met with mixed reviews from politicians.


Why marketers should care about the blowback to G2 Esports’ sexism scandal

Alexander Lee, Digiday

The esports organization G2 Esports has been embroiled in controversy since Saturday, Sept. 17, when its CEO Carlos “ocelote” Rodriguez posted a video of himself partying with Andrew Tate, an anti-feminist influencer who has drawn internet ire over his comments about mental health and the role of women in society.


The Question Behind the Magnus Carlsen-Hans Niemann Drama: How to Cheat at Chess?

Joshua Robinson and Andrew Beaton, The Wall Street Journal 

A cheating scandal has upended chess—and cast a new spotlight on how a player might possibly cheat without being detected. 


Floyd Mayweather WILL fight Conor McGregor again next year, the boxing legend confirms… with a decision on whether it’s an exhibition or a professional boxing rematch ‘the only detail to be worked out’

Joyce Li, The Daily Mail 

It has been nearly five years since Mayweather and McGregor combined for a mega crossover fight in Las Vegas back in August 2017, with ‘Money’ teaching the UFC superstar a boxing lesson by securing a tenth round TKO victory. Mayweather has now revealed that he is in final negotiations with McGregor over the terms of a 2023 rematch.  


Family of Utah boy injured in fall sues Little League, bunk-bed maker

Cindy Boren, The Washington Post 

The family of a Utah boy who suffered fractures of his skull and cheekbone when he fell roughly six feet from a bunk bed onto a hard floor two days before Little League World Series games began is suing Little League Baseball and the manufacturer of the bed.

Morning Consult