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🏆 Bad for business

March 26, 2020
Bad for business

The GIST: During wars and recessions, the sports industry usually remains pretty status quo. Turns out the only thing that’s bad for sports business is a global pandemic. Who woulda thought?

How are the leagues dealing with it?: They’re doing their best. The NHL decided to cut front office staff salaries by 25% starting on April 1st in order to prevent layoffs. Not an easy decision, but it’s definitely the lesser of two evils. The league is preparing to lose anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion when this is all said and done.

  • Meanwhile, after the NBA’s trouble with China back in October, the NBA was already at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars before COVID-19 reared its ugly head. Now they’re looking at nearly $1 billion in losses, and though we haven’t heard about any front office layoffs yet, the rumor mill says it won’t be long.

And the teams?: Sadly, NBA and NHL teams are also starting layoffs as the seasons suspensions wane on. Groupe CH, who own the Montreal Canadiens, cut 60% of their staff temporarily, but have pledged $6 million for a staff assistance fund. And on Monday, Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment (HBSE), the organization that owns the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia 76ers, also said they’d be requiring employees making over $50,000 to take up to a 20% pay reduction.

So how will the seasons look when sports start again?: Because we’re still waiting to see how this pandemic will pan out, we don’t really know. However, rumor has it the NHL has reached out to teams about ice availability in August, meaning we could see late summer playoffs (weird, right?). They’re hoping to make a call on the season around April 6th and they’ll also have to reschedule the draft, which they just postponed yesterday.

  • Apparently, the NBA has said it’d be fine playing into September (which isn’t as weird); however, Dallas Mavericks owner (and everyone’s favorite Shark Tank shark) Mark Cuban thinks they could be playing as early as mid-May (in empty arenas, but still).

🏅 The right stuff

March 26, 2020
The right stuff

The GIST: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the long-awaited and completely obvious decision to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics, originally set to start July 24th in Tokyo, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Weren’t they waiting until April to make a decision?: They were, for like a minute. On Sunday, the IOC said that it was giving itself until mid-April to decide whether they would postpone the Summer Games or leave them be (cancelation was not an option).

  • But a few hours later, the Canadian and Australian Olympic Committees said they wouldn’t be sending their athletes if the Games were held this summer, and with the fear that other countries would also pull out (Team USA announced they were leaning heavily towards doing so), the IOC made the decision to delay the Games on Tuesday.

So what now?: The IOC has a few more decisions to make. Along with the Tokyo Organizing Committee, they’ll have to set a new 2021 date for the Games and somehow make up the estimated $2 billion lost in this postponement. The 57% of athletes who have already qualified will get to keep their qualifications, but now the IOC will have to work with the sports’ governing bodies on new processes to fill the rest of the open spots.

  • For a deeper dive into the IOC’s decision, listen to this week’s episode of The GIST of It, our weekly podcast. We have your, ears.

⛸️ I can show you the world

March 23, 2020
I can show you the world

The GIST: Thanks to COVID-19, we missed out on the 2020 World Figure Skating Championships that were set to take place last week in Montreal, Quebec. So, in honor of the shining, shimmering and splendid sport, we’re profiling our top five figure skating moments from women’s singles, pairs and ice dance past.

5. Sometimes figure skaters get a bad rap for not being tough. Well, Canadian pairs figure skater Eric Radford proved the haters wrong at the 2011 World Championships in Moscow, after his partner, Meagan Duhamel, elbowed him in the face during a triple twist that went awry early in their short program.

  • The elbow broke Eric’s nose and blood immediately streamed down his face, but he kept going despite the pain. Needless to say, Meagan kept her elbows nice and tucked after that incident.

4. After winning the ice dance gold medal by the skin of their teeth at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics (thanks to one of the best programs of all time), Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir became the most decorated figure skaters (with five medals) in Olympic history. And, no, despite the world’s pleas, the two are not a couple.

3. Our number three spot is dedicated to American singles skater Nancy Kerrigan, who stunned the world with a silver-medal performance at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympics, just seven weeks after suffering a clubbing to her right knee from a brutal attack planned by rival Tonya Harding’s ex-hubby Jeff Gillooly. If you haven’t watched I, Tonya yet, you need to (and even if you have, watch it again, because let’s face it, you have the time).

2. We can’t have a figure-skating list and not talk about American sweethearts Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski. At the 1998 Nagano Olympics, 15-year-old Tara just edged out Michelle to win the women’s singles gold, becoming the youngest figure skater to win an Olympic gold medal at the time.

1. To cap off our list, we’re throwing it back to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where one of the biggest judging scandals in figure skating history initially deprived Canadian pair (and former IRL couple) Jamie Salé and David Pelletier of a gold medal.

  • After performing our all-time favorite program “Love Story” (no, not the Taylor Swift kind) to perfection, literally everyone thought they would be taking home gold. But in a sick twist of fate, they ended up with silver while Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won the gold.
  • The Olympic world was up in arms, and after nearly a week of investigation, it was determined that Salé and Pelletier were snubbed by a vote-trading scheme involving a French judge. As a result, both the Canadians and Russians won the gold.
  • The scheme made the figure skating powers-at-be rethink the scoring for the sport, and pushed them to leave the judge-ranked 6.0 scale in favor of the more complex points system we see today. A silver lining, one could say.

🏆 So it’s not gonna be easy…

March 23, 2020
So it’s not gonna be easy…

The GIST: As the great Ryan Gosling once proclaimed, “It wasn’t over. It still isn’t over!” As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so does the complete breakdown of springtime sports.

Have any more athletes tested positive?: Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics and PGA golfer Victor Lange tested positive over the past few days, as well as a second Ottawa Senator, two Los Angeles Lakers and three Philadelphia 76ers. The teams haven’t released any names (because everyone deserves privacy and the right to recover in peace) but have assured us that all players, infected or not, are self-isolating.

  • And it’s not just the players. New Orleans Saints’ head coach Sean Payton and Liga MX (Mexico’s top pro soccer league) president Enrique Bonilla have tested positive, and former Real (pronounced REY-AL) Madrid president Lorenzo Sanz died at 76 from COVID-19 complications in Spain on Saturday. So sad.

What are the healthy athletes up to?: They’re still helping and still training (at home!). The #StayAtHomeChallenge is encouraging people to stay indoors and show off their keep-up skills, and athletes like runner Usain Bolt, soccer star Lionel Messi (pronounced LEE-OH-NELL) and Montreal Canadien Tomas Tatar (who put a hockey spin on it) have all participated. Nice try boys, but this girl, a US U-14 Girls’ National Soccer Team member, definitely won it.

What are the timelines looking like?: It’s impossible to know. Most leagues have suspended until May, others have postponed tournaments to the fall. All we know for sure is that this is going to be pretty financially devastating for the sports world (and, like, the whole world).

  • The NBA is currently considering withholding players’ salaries if play doesn’t resume by April 15th (which it probably won’t). Players could regain that money if the season starts up again, but if the league decides to cancel the rest of the season (without rescheduling), players won’t be paid for the missed games. Considering the minimum full-year salary for an NBA player is $800k, we think they’ll be just fine.

🏅 The heat is on

March 23, 2020
The heat is on

The GIST: We have a deadline, folks. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is giving itself four weeks to figure out how the heck they’re going to deal with the 2020 Summer Olympics, set to begin on July 24th in Tokyo, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And if they don’t postpone it, Team Canada and Team Australia won’t be there.

What?! Why not?: The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) announced the very difficult decision late last night, saying they would not risk their athletes’ safety by sending them to Tokyo if the Games are held this summer. Canada has been at the forefront of this movement, with Canadian Olympic hockey and softball legend Hayley Wickenheiser opening the floodgates last week with her comments about the IOC’s inaction.

  • Very soon after the COC’s announcement, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) told their athletes to prepare for a 2021 Summer Olympics, saying that an Australian team cannot be assembled safely and in time for the 2020 date. Many Aussie athletes train around the world and the AOC believes they’ll face too many major delays to their training to be ready for July.

Wow. What are other countries saying?: Well, Canada is the first country to officially step away from the Games, but we think it’s pretty likely that other countries will follow suit. That said, yesterday evening US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) CEO Sarah Hirshland said that she’s not in the position “to make demands of those making decisions.”

  • The USOPC sent out a survey to 4,000 Olympic hopefuls over the weekend to see if they’d be interested in postponing, and we have a feeling that Team Canada’s decision may influence the survey results.

So what are the IOC’s options?: They have two: postpone, or keep calm and carry on. Unless you were isolated in the desert for 12 days like Jared Leto, you’ll know the latter is probably the worst possible scenario. Just thinking about 11,000 athletes and millions of fans congregating in Tokyo gives us the quarantine cringe.

  • And despite the fact that Japan’s climate could allow for the Games to take place in September or October, with Canada stepping out, postponing for a year seems like the only option.

And what about cancelation?: The IOC said they will definitely not cancel. As IOC president Thomas Bach said, “The Olympic Games cannot be moved like a football game next Saturday,” and he’s not wrong. The planning and operations of the Olympics start nearly a decade before the Opening Ceremony, and outright canceling would mean not only a logistical nightmare, but also financial ruin and 11,000 Olympic dreams crushed.

What do the athletes want?: They want an answer, quick. Until they know for sure that the Games will be canceled or moved (and unless they’re Canadian or Australian) they have to keep training. And thanks to the #stayathome movement, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do so.

  • The Italian Olympic Committee has made a similar plea, especially because many of their athletes are on complete lockdown and not legally allowed to leave their homes, and World Athletics president Sebastian Coe and hurdler Lolo Jones have called for postponement, too.

And what does The GIST think about this?: Although we’re really feeling for the athletes right now, we’re proud of Team Canada. Making the decision to withhold their athletes was bold and understandably difficult, but we think it needed to be done. By showing how seriously the COC is taking the risk, we’re hoping it will allow other countries (especially those more severely affected right now like Italy and Spain) to feel comfortable about making the same decision.