All-Star Game 2021: Behind the NBA’s Decision

The NBA All-Star Game is an annual tradition dating back to 1951. In normal circumstances, the weekend is a highly-anticipated event for fans and players alike. Besides the exhibition game showcasing the league’s best, the voting, slam-dunk contest, and parties make the game one of the most interactive and exciting annual weekends for sports fans. In-person interactivity is something that has been out of reach for almost a year now, so as one might expect, the excitement surrounding the All-Star Game has dwindled during the pandemic. So much so, that some of the league’s highest-profile players have issued statements expressing their disinterest. Earlier this month, Giannis Antetokounmpo told The Athletic, “The Big Dog (LeBron James) says he has zero excitement, zero energy for the All-Star Game. I’m the same way; I really, right now, I don’t care about the All-Star Game. I got zero energy, zero excitement.” Between the Orlando Bubble last spring, the league’s heightened health and safety protocols, and game postponements, a collective sense of pandemic-induced moral fatigue is understandable. Despite some player apprehension, the league officially announced last Thursday that the Game will take place in Atlanta on March 7th. Additional travel for players and staff presents an increased risk of infection, making the decision to go forward with the game seem rather counterintuitive during an already challenging season. ESPN’s Bontemps and Wojnarowski report that each time the NBA has returned from a break (in June, before the start of the bubble, and in November, before the start of training camp), there has been a significant spike in cases across the league. Therefore, the pros of holding an All-Star Weekend during the pandemic must outweigh the cons. Let’s take a look at the considerations the league may be looking at. 

NBA, ESPN, Turner Sports Media Deal 

In 2014, the NBA announced a nine-year extension deal with its long-term partners ESPN and Turner Sports, keeping the Association on the networks through the 2024-25 season. Although the terms of the agreement remain undisclosed, the deal was reportedly at $24 billion and nearly triple the previous contract’s annual value. Consequently, the NBA All-Star Weekend is a big one for Turner-owned TNT and TBS. Last year’s game averaged a 4.1 rating and 7.3 million viewers across TNT and TBS Sunday night (an 8% increase from 2019). Additional All-Star programming is exclusive and spans across the entire weekend, while Turner makes approximately $30 million in ad revenue alone. The New York Times estimates that for the NBA, the event is worth about $60 million. In the event of cancellation, the NBA would have to make up this amount to Turner later. 

Here, we can start piecing together that canceling the game would present some financial concerns thatfor the leaguemay outweigh the cons of canceling. As Sacramento Kings Point Guard, De’Aaron Fox pointed out, “money makes the world go ’round, so it is what it is. “Due to COVID-19, the NBA suffered losses of around $1.5 billion in 2020, and losses of such magnitude affect staff across the league — not solely the players. Therefore, one may consider that the decision to give the All-Star Game the green light comes from the NBA needing to maximize revenue…but what about that aforementioned apprehension from the players?

Labor Relations, HBCU funding, and Vaccine Confidence

This is where the league’s labor union, the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), comes in. The NBPA’s mission is to ensure that the rights of NBA players are protected and that every conceivable measure is taken to assist players in maximizing their opportunities and achieving their goals both on and off the court. The most important document between the league and the labor union is the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the language of which explicitly notes that players do not have much choice on whether to partake in the game. Article XXI of the collective bargaining agreement states that any player selected to play in an All-Star game must attend and participate in the game and every other event conducted in association with All-Star Weekend. Additionally, a player will not be required to participate only if he has been excused from participation by the Commissioner at his sole discretion. 

Chris Paul, current NBPA President and point guard for the Phoenix Suns, expressed in an interview, “the job for the union has been to try to make sure our players are healthy and safe” while making it clear that players’ opinions are not a big factor in the league’s decision. Per ESPN, the NBA sent out a memo to its teams on Monday detailing its agreement with the National Basketball Players Association for health and safety protocols during the All-Star break, both for selected players and those who are not. 

Players selected to play are allowed to travel solely to their out-of-market home before going to Atlanta strictly by NBA-provided private transportation. Negative PCR tests are mandatory on March 6th and 7th, and each player can bring a limited number of guests who are to follow the same protocols as the players. Non-selected players can enjoy greater flexibility in travel as they can stay in their market home or go anywhere within the United States; however, staying at and using public accommodation is prohibited. Regardless of whether selected as an All-Star or not, all players have to undergo daily PCR testing. 

Notably, both the league and the NBPA have emphasized that the Game will feature a philanthropic component to benefit historically Black colleges and universities and COVID-19 relief efforts while featuring a campaign to urge fans to take the coronavirus vaccine. Thus far, NBA leadership has withstood the test of a global pandemic. In fact, the league has seen some weeks since the season’s start where none of the players tested positive, indicating that their protocols work. Here’s to hoping this holds true through All-Star Weekend. 

2021 Preview: Litigation

In this second installment of previewing 2021, I take a look at some of the compelling storylines to follow in the world of sports litigation. As trials now occur virtually, several ongoing disputes are expected to reach resolutions this year, including a six year-old lawsuit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which will fundamentally rearrange the way college athletes are “defined” and compensated. Let’s take a look at what is on the docket to be decided this year.

NCAA v. Alston
For fans of EA Sports’ NCAA Football, the dream of the beloved video game making a comeback has become a reality following a surprise announcement last week. O’Bannon v. NCAA, a class action lawsuit against the NCAA, Collegiate Licensing Company, and video game publisher Electronic Arts, brought an end to the game franchise in 2014 when college players sued over the unauthorized use of their name, image, and likeness (NIL). A $60 million settlement ended the dispute and with it any NIL-related profit opportunities for college players, such as broadcast rights and merchandising. Rather than simply license NIL rights with college athletes, all profiting parties were forced to abandon these lucrative areas of college sports, stemming from the NCAA regulations prohibiting athletes receiving outside compensation. This concept had become known as amateurism. Amateurism has prevented college athletes from profiting from their NIL.

This is just a snippet of the NCAA’s long battle against its athletes and their authority over NIL rights, however a new chapter may be on the horizon. The relevant lawsuit, NCAA v. Alston, is a years-old case that will be making its way to the Supreme Court. Following the Ninth Circuit’s decision in favor of the plaintiffs, the NCAA’s petition for certiorari was granted, meaning the Supreme Court will hear the case and make a final ruling. If the Supreme Court affirms the Ninth Circuit’s judgment, the NCAA rules restricting education-related pay and benefits for college athletes will be stricken down. However, if the Supreme Court goes a different route, a win for the NCAA may essentially grant antitrust immunity to the organization, which would allow it generous latitude in terms of what changes if any the NCAA would make to its current compensation structure. The debate over amateurism will take place on March 31st, and regardless of outcome, will have permanent, far-reaching consequences for the future of college sports.

Jeffery Kessler, head attorney at Winston Strawn LLP, will be arguing on behalf of Alston and college athletes as a whole, while the NCAA and its athletic conferences will be represented by a plethora of law firms.

Bryant v. Island Express Helicopters Inc.
Little more than a year ago, the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other passengers crashed, tragically resulting in the deaths of everyone on board. Many of the details are well-known at this point: despite traveling the same route to a girl’s basketball tournament 24 hours earlier, pilot Ara Zobayan became disoriented in the heavy fog that hung over the Calabasas hillside that day and misperceived the helicopter’s final plunge, apparently believing that they were climbing to four-thousand feet shortly before impact. However, what still remains to be determined is the outcome of the litigation against Island Express, Zobayan’s employer and the owner of the helicopter.

Vanessa Bryant, the widow of the Lakers’ legend, brought suit against the helicopter company and Zobayan on twenty-eight counts alleging negligence resulting in the wrongful deaths of the passengers. Island Express attempted to cross-claim the Federal Aviation Administration, alleging that the air traffic controllers had negligently handled a shift change that occurred during the flight, according to Law360. Both Bryant and the federal government have filed a motion to dismiss, which if granted would remand the case from federal court to Los Angeles Superior Court, where Bryant is more likely to find a favorable verdict if the case goes to trial. However, both sides must first await the investigation results of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). These findings will determine if the crash was due to a mechanical failure or human error, as previously suspected. The NTSB is expected to announce the release of its report tomorrow on Tuesday, February 9th via livestream.

Vanessa Bryant is represented by Munger, Tolles & Olsen LLP and Robb & Robb LLC. Island Express is represented by Cunningham Swaim LLP and Worthe Hanson & Worthe. The federal government is represented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and U.S. Department of Justice

Senne v. Office of the Commissioner of Baseball
The Minor League (MiLB) system of Major League Baseball (MLB) has been a lightning rod of controversy over the past year following the MLB’s decision to cut the number of minor league teams from 162 to 120 or one affiliate per MLB team for each of the four “levels” of MiLB. Commissioner Rob Manfred has faced backlash from minor league team executives and Congress alike. However, it seems that the MLB’s 120 Plan” not-so-coincidentally comes at a time where the league awaits a verdict on a class action lawsuit that would make the operation of the Minors Leagues exponentially more expensive. Enter Senne v. Royals.

Seven years ago, former minor leaguer Aaron Senne filed a lawsuit against the Kansas City Royals. The litigation has since expanded to include thousands of players past and present who are alleging that they have received unlawfully low wages from MLB for their services. These claims include zero compensation for spring training as well as its fall counterpart, both of which are reportedly “strongly implied” to be mandatory. Further, some players even claim to have made as little as $1,100 per month during the five-month regular season, which, assuming a minimum forty-hour workweek, would make their hourly wage $6.875. Of course, this figure falls well below the $7.25 federal minimum wage; however the MLB may already be shielded from this apparent discrepancy.

Hidden on page 1,967 (of 2,232 total) of Congress’s 2018 $1.3 trillion spending bill, the “Save America’s Pastime Act” essentially exempts minor league players from the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This legislation meant that minor league players could no longer receive overtime, nor payment for spring training, rendering minor leaguers “seasonal employees” by default. There are many other considerations that fill out this complicated picture, but in short, the MLB’s lobbying for these provisions may signal that the MLB is not expecting the court to rule in its favor. Hence, why eliminating 42 teams – or roughly one-thousand players – will mitigate some of the blow the MLB will face if it loses this case.

The MLB petitioned the Supreme Court to reject the class action on the basis that the claims lacked commonality; however the land’s highest court declined to hear the case. Therefore, the lawsuit will proceed in the Ninth Circuit where Judge Joseph C. Spero has tentatively scheduled a trial for June 2022. However, allowing such an expensive (and contentious) lawsuit to reach trial may threaten the MLB’s most valuable commodity: its antitrust exemption. While a settlement appears unlikely, all eyes are on the league as it prepares for its next move.

The minor league class is represented by law firms Korein Tillery LLC and Pearson, Simon & Warshaw, LLP. MLB is represented by Elise Bloom of Proskauer Rose LLP.

Amid postponements NBA awaits vaccine, mulls mandate

Editor’s Update: Adam Silver spoke about the NBA’s vaccine policy today (1/19/21) on Sportico’s NBA Valuations Panel. Silver highlighted the role that players might have in promoting vaccine efficacy to skeptical populations. Specifically, members of the African American community may understandably mistrust the vaccine given the racist history of vaccination in this country. Silver also reiterated that the league would wait until public health officials agree it’s the right time to vaccinate players.

It is not uncommon for a team’s roster to fluctuate in size as a result of players’ injuries or other personal reasons. However, nowadays rosters seem to be thinning faster due to contact tracing and other COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Last Sunday’s game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat was postponed after Miami fell short of the eight-player minimum due to COVID-19 contact-tracing concerns. Per ESPN, Miami guard Avery Bradley was out due to health and safety protocols. Forward Kelly Olynyk, guard Goran Dragic, and center Meyers Leonard were also among the players potentially unable to play due to injury. The Celtics, however, do not have a brimming roster to boast of as of now either. Last week, seven players on the Boston team were out due to health and safety protocols. In fact, Jason Tatum has recently tested positive and is undergoing a 10-14 day quarantine. The Philadelphia 76ers are also currently missing players as Seth Curry tested positive earlier last week, which meant that four of his teammates had to also go into quarantine per the league’s health and safety protocol.  

Teams appear to be short-handed at this point in the season; however, according to ESPN’s Wojnarowski, the NBA has no plans to pause the season. The 2020-21 NBA Health and Safety protocol is reported to be extensive at 158 pages; however, it does not list criteria for the season to be suspended. Monitoring the virus and preventing outbreaks is significantly more challenging outside of last season’s Orlando bubble; however, teams have avoided a single large outbreak. Since last week, twelve more games have been postponed, bringing the total to fourteen. The thing that seems to be counteracting the considerable inconveniences, such as precarious competitive balance across teams and continually disrupted chemistry, is the collective sense of hope for a vaccine and a less volatile latter half of the season. The league’s health safety protocol states, “Once a vaccine is available, the league and the National Basketball Players Association will negotiate whether players, coaches, and staff will be required to receive it. If it is not required, adjustments to the safety provisions — such as requiring more masking or testing of those who choose not to receive the vaccination — might be implemented.” 

Decisions surrounding the distribution of the vaccine will be interesting to observe across professional sports leagues given that considerable skepticism already seems to exist. For example, Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors told USA Today, “I’m a guy that don’t really take any vaccines. I try to stay away from a lot of medicine.”  Moreover, Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. raised some eyebrows over the summer when he suggested that coronavirus was “being used for a bigger agenda” and revealed that he had never been vaccinated. Porter contracted the virus earlier in January and is currently on the list of players sidelined for the duration of their quarantine. Undoubtedly, a mandatory vaccine (assuming it’s ethical, safe, and effective) of all players, coaches, and staff could very much ease the season’s flow and ensure a quicker return to normal. So, can the NBA mandate a vaccine? Take the flu vaccine, for example. The league “strongly recommends” it, and all players and their households receive the option to take the vaccine. In the case of denial, the respective team has the right to provide the player with an educational course on the vaccine’s benefits. However, in 2021, the world is dealing with much more than just the annual flu, so how will the process be handled?

While the NBA has avoided comment on how it will handle the issue so far, history may provide insight on the legality of a potential mandate. A most relevant landmark case is Jacobson v. Massachusetts; a 7-2 decision held that Cambridge, Massachusetts could fine residents who refused to receive smallpox injections during the 1905 epidemic. Jacobson’s side argued that introducing smallpox to a healthy functioning immune system is a violation of the 14th Amendment, specifically of life and liberty. In response, the court reasoned that under the 10th Amendment, states have the authority to enact reasonable legislative action to protect public health. While this decision is over one hundred years old, there is little precedent on vaccine mandates and the NBA may look to this holding as a means to justify enforcement.  However, this determination seemed to grant power to respective states and it is uncertain how it can be applied in the context of an organization. Interestingly, although personal and ethical views are usually insufficient, “sincerely held religious belief” may qualify an exemption from a mandatory vaccination policy under Title VII. However, the current pandemic is largely uncharted territory. The consequences of a player or a coach denying the vaccine may be significant. In light of this, the conversation surrounding risk-management is likely to develop further, and shift legal determinations. Additional federal and state guidelines will likely also inform league decisions surrounding vaccination protocols. For now, Adam Silver has commented that the NBA will not “jump the line in any form whatsoever” in terms of receiving the vaccine.

Pricey Pandemic Insurance Policy Sets Wimbledon Up For $141 Million Payout

While the rest of the sports world is sustaining huge losses, one organization is well positioned to navigate through the global recession. The AELTC (All English Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club) is the association responsible for hosting and operating the prestigious Wimbledon Championships that were set to take place this June. And while COVID-19 is causing most leagues to scramble to find any salvageable solutions, Wimbledon has had the “luxury” of simply cancelling the tournament, and recouping $141 million in the process.

Despite the fact that Wimbledon was projected to generate more than $300 million in revenue this year, the roughly $150 million loss they will see as a result of the pandemic pales in comparison to those of other major leagues and events. Forbes estimated that the NCAA will see damages of $1 billion, the NBA – $1.2 billion, and the MLB (whose season had not yet even started) – as much as $2 billion. These numbers are all based around an assumption that the leagues will resume sometime over the summer, but given the uncertainty it is possible — even likely — that the true figures will be much higher.

So, how exactly did Wimbledon “ace” its handling of the coronavirus chaos? The story reportedly traces back to 2003, the year in which SARS rattled the world and brought pandemic preparedness to the forefront of international dialogue. Though SARS didn’t uproot the sports world like COVID-19 is doing now, the AELTC understood the potential of a global spread and updated its insurance policy to cover an infectious disease clause. That amendment didn’t come cheap however; it cost the AELTC a whopping $2 million per year to protect its premier event from what most others considered a once-in-a-lifetime fluke that wouldn’t repeat itself.

Until it did.

17 years and $34 million later, AELTC is seeing the worst case scenario (in the sports world, at least) unfold, but its directors can rest easy knowing Wimbledon is covered and well-poised for a 2021 return. The policy is exactly why AELTC didn’t need to postpone or reschedule Wimbledon, in fact, the London-based club reportedly had to cancel by a certain date in order to recoup the insurance premium.

Meanwhile, other leagues and major events are trying to brainstorm any possibility to soften the financial blow each one is facing. Even if the NBA returns late in the summer and skips straight to playoffs, or the MLB’s “quarantine league” comes to fruition, these events will undoubtedly be held without crowds and the leagues will still suffer substantially this year. So, a question many are likely wondering is: why didn’t these organizations have any protections on their events like the AELTC did with Wimbledon? The short answer is that they actually did, just to a limited extent.

Most contracts include force majeure clauses, which excuses certain contractual obligations due to a “superior force”. These forces consist of circumstances that are largely out of both parties’ control such as natural disasters, acts of terrorism or say, a global pandemic like the novel coronavirus. However, while sporting organizations can invoke the force majeure clause, the primary benefit in doing so would derive from these organizations’ ability to withhold pay for missed games.

Accordingly, this contract language (if enforced) only really protects these companies from the costs to their thousands of employees, rather than safeguarding them from losses to the revenue, highlighting the true value of AELTC’s insurance. However, at this point, the money these leagues could save by invoking force majeure is far outweighed by the revenue that any semblance of a season would drive, even if it means fan-less events. The reality is, if leagues are going to see any sort of monetary light at the end of this coronavirus tunnel, the government will likely be the one shining it.

In a summary published by lawyers from White & Case, they believe that governments will be willing to provide financial support to prop up the sports industry as it looks to restart itself. Given both the economic and social impact of sports, the government has a vested interest in doing so, however the report warns to expect some form of lengthy litigation in leagues’ pursuit of federal compensation. In any event, whatever kickback AELTC receives down the line will be icing on Wimbledon’s well-insured cake.

COVID-19’s Impact on Sports Broadcasting and Salaries

It’s been just over two weeks since the last live broadcast of a professional sporting event and the effects are rippling through the world of sports business. COVID-19’s arrival and subsequent spread across the United States prompted the suspensions of the NBA’s, NHL’s and XFL’s seasons, as well as the delay to the start of the MLB season and countless other disruptions throughout sports. Much like almost every other area of the U.S. economy, sports have taken an enormous hit and while fans and organizations alike are eager to see their favorite athletes return to competition, it is uncertain as to when they will be able to safely, and lucratively, do so.

Between the timing of COVID-19’s lockdown on U.S. sporting events and the ambiguous 2-to-6 month timeframe medical experts are forecasting for a full recovery, each league has tailored its own plan in response to sudden halt of play. Below is a quick summary of just a few of the major sporting organizations’ financial and/or scheduling proposals.

NBA: After announcing that players would receive full salaries on the April 1st due date, the NBA announced earlier this week that it would be reducing the pay of 100 of the leagues’ highest-paid executives by 20% for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, the league has extended its credit limit to $1.2 billion for added flexibility in covering its coming expenses. While there is no set plan on when play for the current season will resume, league commissioner Adam Silver has insisted that regardless of timeline, the league would prefer to salvage some portion of the season and crown a champion for the 2019-2020 season. Among the avalanche of proposals of how to “save the season,” Atlanta Hawks CEO Steve Koonin, recommended permanently pushing back the start date of the NBA season to December and concluding with the NBA Finals in late summer, given the current season would optimistically end in August or September. Moreover, Brooklyn Nets point guard Spencer Dinwiddie tweeted out an interesting idea in which the NBA season would resume with a March-Madness style tournament involving all 30 teams.

MLB: The MLB reported this week that it had reached an agreement with the MLBPA on a loose framework of financial and scheduling logistics regarding the upcoming season. Perhaps the most shocking news was the revelation that IF the season is cancelled, players would receive the same amount of service time they received the season prior. This means that players with a year remaining on their contract, such as recently-acquired outfielder Mookie Betts, will hit free agency in 2021 without ever playing a game for the Los Angeles Dodgers who traded valuable assets for his services this year. Also, in the event that the season is cancelled, the MLB made it clear that players would not be able to sue for full salaries, however all players will be receiving a $170 million advance over the next two months. Despite these insurance measures, Commissioner Rob Manfred is hopeful that the MLB resumes play this summer, while he acknowledges that a full 162-game season is likely off the table. The reported contingency plan includes 1) beginning the season once there are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans, 2) no travel restrictions, 3) medical experts determine that games will not pose a risk to the health of teams and fans. Moreover, if/when play resumes, the MLB noted that doubleheaders, a 14-team playoff format, and a neutral, warm-weather location for a November/December World Series are all in serious consideration.

NHL: While the NBA and MLB have quickly pivoted to rescuing their seasons, the NHL has not matched their optimism nor their speed in announcing contingency options. The league has not yet united around a financial agenda, yet both the Dallas Stars President and General Manager have taken voluntary 50% pay cuts. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens announced layoffs as their own responses. While many see the cancellation of the rest of the season as the most realistic scenario, others have proposed a timeline similar to that of the NBA with the season picking back up in July/August and ending in August/September. Most notably, star players Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby said that they would be “OK” with skipping straight to the playoffs if and when the season is able to resume, however they acknowledged the question of fair play and keeping the integrity of the sport.

XFL: I really feel for the XFL here. Riding a strong start in its inaugural season, the decision to not only suspend but cancel its remainder must have been decisively more difficult than those of other sporting leagues. The XFL was exactly at the midway point of its season having played through five weeks of its ten week schedule (excluding a two-week playoff in April). Though the eight-team football league had been dealing with declining ratings following its initial excitement, it immediately committed to paying its players’ full salaries and returning refunds or credit to its ticket holders. The XFL also announced that it will be back for a 2021 season and has great reason to do so. Ten former XFL players have already signed contracts with NFL teams for the upcoming season with more likely to follow in the coming days.

MLS: Major League Soccer was in the midst of only the second week of its season when it made the decision to postpone its season for 30 days. As updates of the spread across the U.S. have come in, the Commissioner Don Garber pushed the deadline back to May 10th, but will likely have to do so again under the current climate. Garber, however, is adamant that when soccer returns, the MLS will play a full season’s worth of games even if it means extending the calendar of the season. While there has not been an unanimous response to salary fulfillment across the MLS, one team came under scrutiny for sending an email to its game day staff suggesting they file for unemployment while naming corporate partners who might be hiring.

BIG3…?: I was hesitant to include the Big3 in this rundown of major sporting organizations, however its response to the coronavirus crisis may just elevate its status to that of the leagues listed above. For those who are not familiar with the Big3, it is a 3-on-3 basketball league composed of former NBA and college players such as Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson. The games are played half-court style with rule oddities that differentiate it from the NBA such as the addition of a 4-point shot and first team to score 60 points as the winner. As for the coronavirus’ impact on the BIG3, originally games were supposed to be played around the country in Memphis, New York and more. However, BIG3 co-founder Ice Cube announced yesterday that the organization will be partnering with the producers of reality TV show “Big Brother” in efforts to air a basketball tournament-reality TV show hybrid to fill the significant void in the sports world. It was reported that the tournament will feature 16-22 players, who be previously tested for COVID-19 and if selected, will be quarantined in a house together for the duration of the season with anyone who breaks quarantine being kicked from the house. It was also reported that some of those selected may even in former top women’s basketball players.

The idea is that the three-person teams would shuffle teams each round and once an individual player accumulates three losses they would be eliminated from contention. Then, the final three players would win cash prizes with the top prize being at least seven figures. The goal is to air the tournament starting in May and given the current sport’s climate, or lack thereof, the BIG3 will surely see a large opportunity to scoop up hungry sports fans across the country craving any form of live competition. There is no word yet on whether or not these fans will be able to bet on these contests, however given the nationwide craving to slowly restart the economy, it wouldn’t a surprise to see Las Vegas announce the lines once the details of the BIG3’s proposal are ironed out. In any event, every other aforementioned league is looking at June start/resume dates in their most optimistic scenarios, so at the very least the BIG3 has at least a month to show us all what it has to offer, and hopefully hold us sports fans over until our favorite teams are back in action.

El impacto de COVID-19 en la transmisión y los salarios de los deportes

Ha sido poco más de dos semanas desde la última transmisión en vivo de un profesional evento deportivo y los efectos están ondeando por el mundo de los negocios de los deportes. La llegada de COVID-19 y su difusión subsiguiente sobre los Estados Unidos provocaron las suspensiones de las temporadas del NBA, NHL y XFL, y tanto la demora del comienzo de la temporada del MLB como otras interrupciones a través de los deportes. Como casi cada otra área de la economía estadounidense, los deportes han sufrido un golpe enorme. Mientras que ambos los fanáticos y las organizaciones quieren ver a sus atletas favoritos regresar a jugar, es incierto cuándo ellos estarán capaz de hacerlo seguramente y lucrativamente.

Entre el momento de la llegada de COVID-19 y el periodo de tiempo de 2 a 6 meses que los expertos médicos están prediciendo para una recuperación completa, cada liga ha creado su propio plan en respuesta a la parada inesperada de los juegos. Aquí abajo está un resumen breve de las propuestas financieras y/o de programación de  las organizaciones deportivas más grandes.

NBA: Después de anunciar que los jugadores recibirían sus salarios enteros en la fecha límite del 1 de abril, el NBA anunció esta semana que reducirá los salarios de cien de los ejecutivos más bien pagados por 20% para la duración del crisis de coronavirus. Además, la liga ha extendido su límite de crédito hasta $1.2 mil millones para la flexibilidad de cubrir los gastos venideros. Mientras que no hay un plan fijo de cuándo los partidos para la temporada corriente reanudarán, el comisionado de la liga, Adam Silver, ha insistido que en cualquier caso la liga preferiría rescatar una porción de la temporada y coronar un campeón. Entre la avalancha de propuestas de “cómo rescatar la temporada,” el presidente de los Hawks de Atlanta, Steve Koonin, recomendó empujar el comienzo de la temporada siguiente hasta el diciembre para siempre y concluir los finales muy tarde en el verano como agosto o septiembre. Dado que para cuando regrese la temporada corriente estaremos en junio o julio, este periodo de tiempo tiene sentido. Además, el base de los Nets de Brooklyn, Spencer Dinwiddie twitteó una idea interesante en que la temporada reanudaría en un estilo March-Madness como un torneo involucrando todo los 30 equipos.

MLB: Esta semana el MLB informó el público que ha llegado a un acuerdo con el MLBPA para establecer un armazón para las logísticas financieras y de la programación con relación a la temporada inminente. Tal vez la noticia más sorprendente era que SI la temporada de verdad está cancelada, los jugadores recibirían la misma cantidad de tiempo de servicio que recibieron el año anterior. Entonces, significa que jugadores con un contrato que le queda solo uno año, como el nuevo jardinero de los Dodgers de Los Ángeles, Mookie Betts,  llegarán al mercado libre en 2021 sin jugar ni un partido para ese equipo. También, en caso de que la temporada esté cancelada, el MLB quedó claro que los jugadores no pueden demandar a la liga para sus salarios completos, sin embargo todos los jugadores recibirán un adelanto de $170 millones para los dos meses que vienen. A pesar de estas medidas de seguro, el comisionado Rob Manfred tiene ganas de que el MLB reanuda la temporada este verano, pero reconoció que una temporada completa de 162 partidos probablamente no será considerado. El alternativo plan declarado incluye 1) comenzar la temporada cuando no hay prohibiciones para jugar partidos frente los fans, 2) no hay prohibiciones de viajar, 3) los expertos médicos determinan que los partidos no ponen en riesgo la salud de ni los equipos ni los fans. Además, si/cuando el juego reanuda, el MLB reconoció que doble-juegos, un formato de 14 equipos para la postemporada, y una neutra ubicación de clima cálido para un World Series en noviembre/diciembre serán considerados.

NHL: Mientras que el NBA y MLB han cambiado el foco hasta rescatar las temporadas muy rápidamente, el NHL no ha igualado ni sus optimismos ni sus velocidades de anunciar un plan de emergencia. Todavía la liga no ha unificado en un plan financiero, sin embargo tanto el presidente como el gerente general de los Stars de Dallas han cortado sus salarios por 50%. Mientras, los Bruins de Boston y los Canadiens de Montreal anunciaron unos despidos como sus propias respuestas. Mientras que muchos consideran la cancelación de la temporada como el escenario más razonable, otras han propuesto un periodo de tiempo parecido a el del NBA: la temporada reanudaría en julio/agosto y terminaría en agosto/septiembre. De modo interesante, las estrellas de la liga, Alex Ovechkin y Sidney Crosby, dijeron que serían “OK” saltar hasta la postemporada si y cuando juego regrese.

XFL: Lamento la situación del XFL. Después de un comienzo fuerte en su temporada inaugural, la decisión de no solo suspender la temporada, sino cancelarla tenía que ser difícil. El XFL estaba al medio camino: semana 5 de su temporada de 10 semanas de fútbol americano. Aunque la liga de ocho equipos había estado luchando contra índices de la audiencia faltando, el XFL anunció de inmediato que pagará los salarios completos de sus jugadores y devolverá crédito a las personas con boletos. El XFL también anunció que regresará para otra temporada en 2021 y tiene mucha razón hacerlo. Diez ex-jugadores del XFL han firmado contratos con equipos del NFL para la temporada que viene y otros lo harán esto en los días siguientes.

MLS: La liga profesional de fútbol estaba en solamente su segunda semana de su temporada cuando hizo la decisión de suspenderla para 30 días. Ahora que hay más información de la difusión de COVID-10, el comisionado Don Garber empujó la fecha límite hasta el 10 de mayo, pero de verdad probablamente tendrá que hacerlo de nuevo dado el clima. Sin embargo, Garber es firme que cuando regrese el fútbol, el MLS jugará la cantidad de partidos de una temporada entera aun si signifique extender el calendario. Mientras que no haya estado una respuesta unánime a la cuestión de los salarios, un equipo se convirtió en blanco de las críticas cuando mandó un corre electrónico a su personal sugiriendo que pidan los beneficios de paro mientras nombrar socios empresariales que tal vez están contratando.

BIG3…?: Dudaba incluir el BIG3 en este resumen de las organizaciones deportivas más grandes, sin embargo su respuesta al crisis de coronavirus tal vez elevará su estatus a los de las ligas ya mencionadas. Para los que no conocen el BIG 3, es una liga de baloncesto de estilo 3 contra 3 compuesto de jugadores ex-NBA y universitarios como Amar’e Stoudemire y Joe Johnson. Se juegan los partidos en estilo mitad-pista con diferencias que el baloncesto tradicional como un tiro que vale 4 puntos y el ganador declarado cuando el primer equipo anota 60 puntos. Originalmente, la cuarta temporada del BIG3 estuvo presupuesto jugar sus partidos en Memphis, New York y más. Sin embargo, co-fundador Ice Cube anunció ayer que la organización estará asociándose con los productores del reality show “Big Brother” en un esfuerzo de llenar el agujero grandísimo en el mundo de los deportes. Según una fuente, el formato será un torneo de 16 a 22 jugadores, quienes estarán probados para COVID-19. Si se selecta, todos estarán en cuarentena en una casa grande y para cualquier persona quien rompe la cuarentena, estarán expulsados.

La idea es que los equipos de tres personas cambiarían cada ronda y cuando un jugador individual pierda tres veces, estará eliminado del torneo. Entonces, los tres jugadores finales ganarían los premios de efectivo y el premio más grande será por lo menos $1 millón. La meta es transmitir el torneo empezando el mayo y dado la falta de deportes transmitidos en vivo, el BIG3 definitivamente verá una oportunidad grande de reclutar a unos fans nuevos. No hay palabra todavía si o no estos fans serán capaz de apostar en estos partidos, sin embargo dado las ganas de todo el país de reiniciar la economía, no sería una sorpresa si Las Vegas publiquen líneas de apuesta. En cualquier caso, cada liga ya mencionada está mirando hasta junio para comenzar/reanudar sus temporadas en los escenarios más positivos, entonces por lo menos el BIG3 tendrá un mes para mostrarnos lo que tiene para ofrecer y con suerte, aplacar a nosotros fans de los deportes hasta que nuestros equipos favoritos regresen.