Thursday November 30, 2023

A Different Story for Some Leagues and Athletes

  • A number of smaller leagues have had lengthy shutdowns dating back to March 2020.
  • Some, like XFL football and the National Lacrosse League, canceled their 2021 seasons entirely.
Photo: Y. Taguchi/D. Medley-USA TODAY/Design: Alex Brooks
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While many major sports leagues are playing full schedules with limited fans, the world’s third-most decorated gymnast is waiting on the sidelines with the Tokyo Olympics looming.

Simone Biles has used the extra time to work on a rarely-attempted move: the Yurchenko double pike, a vault no female gymnast has ever performed in competition.

Olympic warmup events are among the competitions that remain shut down a year into the pandemic. With less capital to implement solutions and sustain losses, a number of leagues are simply waiting it out.

  • Minor League Baseball canceled its season for the first time in 120 years in 2020, with implications spilling over into this year’s campaign.
  • The XFL — acquired over the summer by RedBird Capital Partners, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Dany Garcia — canceled its 2021 season.
  • National Lacrosse League called off its 2021 season, too.

The common denominator: revenue for smaller leagues is highly dependent on in-person fans. Major professional sports can fall back on TV and sponsorship deals, as well as their capital reserves.

When you factor in the cost of safely administering events, the financial justification is that much more difficult.

The Ivy League, less concerned about revenue, still canceled its sports seasons this year over safety and logistics concerns. Brooklyn Nets owner and Yale alumnus Joseph Tsai attempted to fund a three-week lacrosse tournament bubble but his offer was rebuffed.

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