The NFL is expected to let players continue to kneel during the national anthem, MLB and the players continue their debate on baseball’s return, hockey players look to fight racism in the sport, and sports fans continue to cord cut.
NFL Allows Kneeling
Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL will likely allow players to continue to kneel during the national anthem this season. The league is reportedly in talks with the NFL Players Association to develop a strategy, but kneeling players won’t be fined or disciplined – and haven’t been in the past.
The news comes after President Donald Trump took to Twitter asking NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell if he was OK with players kneeling. Trump has sparred with the league over the issue before – in 2017 he said owners should fire players who kneeled during the anthem.
Last week, the league made a visible shift in its stance on social injustice, peaceful protests, and the Black Lives Matter movement when Goodell released a video apologizing for not listening to previous player protests. That came after a dozen NFL players urged the league to comment on the ongoing nationwide protests surrounding the death of George Floyd in their own video.
The NFL also pledged to donate $20 million to organizations fighting systemic racism last week.
Photo Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
MLB owners provided players with a new proposal Monday after a weekend that left fans wondering if there would be baseball in 2020. The new plan includes a 76-game regular season with up to 16 playoff teams. Players would make approximately 75% of their previously agreed-upon prorated salaries if the postseason is completed.
The new offer comes a week after the owners denied the latest proposal from players. To fit the schedule in, players would need to agree to the new proposal by Wednesday. A 48-game season is an option if it isn’t agreed upon in time, which ESPN said seems likely.
New 76-Game Proposal Details:
Regular season ending no later than Sept. 27.
50% of players prorated salary guaranteed during the regular season.
Postseason with up to 16 teams.
Elimination of free-agent compensation.
$2.75 billion estimated revenue under the new plan, down from $9.73 billion last year.
$1.43 billion in guaranteed player compensation – $989 million in the regular season and $443 million in playoffs.
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Just days after the NHL announced the creation of four commissions on diversity, several minority hockey players have launched the independent Hockey Diversity Alliance. The alliance, made up of seven former or current Black NHLers and led by Akim Aliu and Evander Kane, aims to “confront hockey’s culture of intolerance and promote diversity at all levels of the game.”
Discussions around forming the group started following Aliu’s Players’ Tribune article in May in which he spoke about racism he faced playing the sport. That accelerated in recent weeks as the national conversation around racism was heightened. The group even met with Colin Kaepernick recently. “We understand the culture in hockey and we want to help be a part of that change,” Kane said. “We are hopefully going to be able to expedite that change.”
A focus on diversity is happening at the team executive level as well, as Xavier Gutierrez is slated to become the first Latino club president and chief executive officer in the NHL with his hire by the Arizona Coyotes. It’s the second year in a row that the Coyotes have marked a first in the NHL – Alex Meruelo became the league’s first Latino owner when he bought the team in June 2019. Gutierrez most recently served as managing director of financial firm Clearlake Capital Group, and had previously been the chief investment officer of Meruelo’s holding company.
With 31% of Arizona’s population identifying as Hispanic, the new leadership group will likely impact how the predominantly white sport continues to grow in the state. Arizona hockey registrations with USA Hockey grew 22.6% the past five years, compared to 6.5% nationally.
Cord Cuts Continue
Photo Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
While 2020 has not brought much in terms of live sports thus far, the amount of people who plan to watch them online is still projected to grow. Digital live sports viewership is projected to increase 14% this year. Approximately 36.5 million people – 23.7% of total U.S. sports viewers – are expected to watch digitally, up from 32 million last year.
That shift comes as consumers pivot away from cable subscriptions and instead go with OTT platforms. Last quarter, the pay TV bundle business lost 1.8 million subscribers. Most of those digital viewers – 17.1 million – are tuning in through multichannel distributors such as Sling TV, Hulu, and YouTube TV.
But as more sports return from their pandemic hiatus, more fans will also find ways to tune in illegally. A survey recently found 51% of sports fans use pirate services to watch live sports, despite 89% owning a subscription platform.
42% who regularly use illegal streams watch sports daily.
31% said not having a game broadcast locally is a motivator for illegal providers.
29% have paid the piracy site.
16% don’t use illegal services.
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What We're Covering
With La Liga set to return to live action later this week, La Liga North America CEO Boris Gartner will join Fundamentals today at noon ET to chat about the Spanish soccer league’s growth in the U.S.