Morning Consult Sports: Russia Sentences Griner to 9 Years in Prison


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August 5, 2022
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  • A Russian court ruled that WNBA star Brittney Griner was guilty of bringing cannabis-infused vape cartridges into the country and sentenced her to nine years in prison. In a statement, President Joe Biden said the decision, which Griner’s lawyers plan to appeal, was “unacceptable” and called on Russia to release the 31-year-old “immediately,” while U.S. national security spokesperson John Kirby urged the country to accept the prisoner-swap proposal made by Washington weeks ago. (Reuters)
  • NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell selected former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, a member of the NFL’s diversity advisory committee, to hear the appeal of the six-game suspension handed down by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson as the league seeks a tougher penalty under its personal conduct policy. A source said the NFL is appealing for at least a one-year suspension and a fine, which Robinson didn’t levy, in addition to mandatory treatment for Watson. (ESPN)
  • MLB announced it will return to London in June for the first time since 2019, with the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs scheduled to play a two-game series at London Stadium after the league’s original 2020 plan to host the same series was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The New York Yankees swept the 2019 two-game series in London against the Boston Red Sox, which marked the league’s first regular-season games played in Europe. (The Associated Press)

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What Else You Need to Know


Pat McAfee Will Simulcast Six Major College Football Games for ESPN

Madison Williams, Sports Illustrated 

Pat McAfee will call six college football games in the 2022–23 season on ESPN2. The former Colts punter will work with his former quarterback Peyton Manning with Omaha Productions on the call. 


Taylor Rooks Joins Amazon As TNF Feature Reporter

Michael McCarthy, Front Office Sports 

The rising star will host feature stories and sit-down interviews with NFL players and coaches that will appear throughout TNF’s pregame, halftime, and post-game shows this season. 


ESPN officially announces Bill Walton 30 for 30, directed by Steve James

Joe Lucia, Awful Announcing 

Earlier this year, we noticed a Bill Walton clip in an ESPN Films promo. News about the project involving Walton had been sparse over the last six months, but that silence ended on Thursday. ESPN officially announced the Walton 30 for 30, which will be directed by Steve James (of Hoop Dreams fame, along with the 30 for 30 No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson).


An NFL star, a murder-suicide and the family left behind

Cindy Boren, The Washington Post 

As a young man driving the highways of the Midwest for his sales job, Brad Tyrer would fend off road hypnosis with the radio, navigating the dial as he drove and tuning in whenever he heard his father’s name on sports talk shows.


Accusers, Attorney Rip NFL’s Deshaun Watson Investigation

A.J. Perez, Front Office Sports 

The first woman to step forward publicly to accuse Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct and her attorney roundly criticized the NFL’s investigative and disciplinary process that led to a six-game suspension of the Cleveland Browns quarterback. 


Judge shortens road to decide NFL racial discrimination suit

Larry Neumeister, The Associated Press 

A judge on Thursday made it likely she’ll rule in weeks rather than months whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gets to decide the merits of racial discrimination claims made by Black coaches against the league and its teams, saying an effort to gather more evidence seems like “an impermissible fishing expedition.” 


Keyshawn Johnson Wants the N.F.L. to Remember Its ‘Forgotten Four’

Ken Belson, The New York Times 

The former Pro Bowl receiver lobbied Pro Football’s Hall of Fame to honor Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Bill Willis and Marion Motley, the four Black players who reintegrated the league in 1946.


Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James hold ‘productive’ contract extension talks

Dave McMenamin, ESPN

LeBron James and the Lakers had a “productive” discussion about their future together on Thursday, Rich Paul, CEO of Klutch Sports Group, told ESPN. No new deal has been agreed upon yet, however, sources said.


The Mets’ Big Strategy to Win the World Series

Andrew Beaton and Joshua Robinson, The Wall Street Journal 

Daniel Vogelbach isn’t just baseball’s burliest folk hero. He’s also a key puzzle piece for the New York Mets, who invested in platoon players to boost them down the stretch.


Jonathan Huberdeau gets $84M, 8-year extension with Flames

The Associated Press 

The Calgary Flames and recently acquired forward Jonathan Huberdeau have agreed to an $84 million, eight-year contract extension. The 29-year-old Huberdeau came to Calgary from the Florida Panthers with defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, forward Cole Schwindt and a conditional 2025 first-round pick last month for star forward Matthew Tkachuk.

College Sports

PAC-12 Wants Its Athletes to Monetize Their Game Highlights

Jacob Feldman, Sportico 

As college athletes and institutions find creative avenues to monetize player NIL rights, the Pac-12 is giving its students new ways to leverage their game highlights. The conference announced an expanded partnership with Opendorse and Twitter today that will allow athletes to more freely post highlights on the platform and secure pre-roll advertising dollars for doing so.


UCLA ‘Lost’ $99.2M in Under Armour Fight as Big Ten Offers Cushion

Eben Novy-Williams, Sportico 

In June 2020, Under Armour informed the school it was terminating their relationship just three years into a massive 15-year, $280 million contract. It set off a legal fight that finally ended earlier this year, when the two sides agreed to a $67.5 million settlement. 


More NCAA leagues to pay women’s basketball referees equally

Doug Feinberg, The Associated Press 

The NCAA earned praise last year when it agreed to pay referees at its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments equally. The gesture only cost about $100,000, a tiny fraction of the roughly $900 million networks pay annually to broadcast March Madness.


Big Ten Hopes to Earn at Least $1.5B Annually in Media Rights Deal

Michael McCarthy and Amanda Christovich, Front Office Sports 

Before USC and UCLA announced they would join the Big Ten in 2024, the conference was already on track to garner up to $1 billion annually in its new media rights deal. But after the addition, media partners were told to “go back to the drawing board,” Front Office Sports previously reported.


Beats By Dre Celebrates Marcus Rashford Ahead of Soccer Season

Stephen Lepitak, Adweek 

The illustrated spot highlights Manchester United striker’s ambition and drive.


Women’s soccer gear in demand after historic England win

Richa Naidu, Reuters 

Weekly sales of women’s soccer gear have tripled since the start of the women’s European Championship that ended Sunday with an historic England win, according to retailer Fanatics Inc, which sold official merchandise for the tournament.


Volkswagen EV ad stars Christian Pulisic under pressure

Maia Vines, Ad Age 

U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team captain fronts film for VW’s ID.4 as U.S. production of vehicle begins.


Australians have starring roles in F1’s hot summer drama

Alan Baldwin, Reuters

Australians have the starring roles in Formula One’s summer drama — retired racer Mark Webber as a behind-the-scenes fixer for rising star Oscar Piastri while fan favourite Daniel Ricciardo stares at an uncertain future.


How are NASCAR’s drivers staying sharp away from the racetrack? Hours and hours of video games

Austin Lindberg, ESPN 

“Practice makes perfect.” That’s what you tell yourself when you’re throwing spirals through an old tire, with dreams of the NFL, or shooting pucks against the garage door and imagining hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Golf and Tennis

Djokovic withdraws from Canada event, Murray handed wildcard

Frank Pingue, Reuters

Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from next week’s U.S. Open tune-up event in Canada as he cannot enter the country without being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, tournament organisers said on Thursday while handing Andy Murray one of four wildcards.


How fighting game events could provide a blueprint for success in live esports

Alexander Lee, Digiday 

As live esports events make a gradual return, organizers have struggled to make them attractive to an audience accustomed to spectating from the air-conditioned comfort of their computer rooms. By capitalizing on the passion of the fighting game community (FGC), this weekend’s upcoming Evolution Championship Series might crack the code.


Crypto Companies Are Spending $2.4 Billion on Sports Sponsorships

Kim Bhasin, Bloomberg Businessweek, Coinbase, and FTX are moving aggressively to match the marketing muscle of carmakers, beer brands, and other big-money advertisers.


‘It is the dawning of a new era’: How WWE moves forward without Vince McMahon

Mike Coppinger, ESPN 

Stephanie McMahon milled around the Wild Horse Saloon, where three rings were set up in front of a stage. Her husband, Paul “Triple H” Levesque, was also on hand Friday, as was Nick Khan.


Slamball Planning Its Big Return Amid a Hot Alternative Sports Market

Lev Akabas, Sportico 

The 1989 movie Back to the Future Part II predicted the creation of both Zoom and SlamBall. During a video call taking place in the year 2015, the biography of the character Needles appears on the screen and indicates that one of the sports he plays is called “slamball.”


Rare T-206 Honus Wagner baseball card sold for record $7.25 million in private sale

Dan Hajducky, ESPN

Collectibles marketplace Goldin announced on Thursday that a T-206 Honus Wagner has sold in a private sale for $7.25 million, a record amount for a sports card. The figure eclipsed the $6.606 million fetched for another T-206 Wagner almost a year ago to the day.


Sneakerhead Accused of Running Huge Air Jordan Ponzi Scheme

Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, Bloomberg

Zadeh Kicks promised the hottest sneakers at discount prices. Buyers say they never got their shoes and are out millions of dollars.


Griner’s Tearful W.N.B.A. Teammates Play On After Her Conviction

Kris Rhim, The New York Times 

Brittney Griner, the Phoenix Mercury star, was convicted on drug charges in Russia. Hours later, her teammates had a game. 


Adidas’s Fitness Regime Looks Like a Stretch

Carol Ryan, The Wall Street Journal 

Weak sales in China leave the sportswear brand increasingly reliant on consumers in Europe and the U.S. to hit its 2025 financial targets.

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