🏆 Are you there sports? It’s me, Margaret
The GIST: Although COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc on most of our sports hopes and dreams, this week has blessed us with some good news.
What do you mean? Are sports coming back soon?: In soccer-crazed Europe, yes. The English Premier League (EPL) hopes to return by June 8th and finish the season by late July. Talk about a quickie. Over in Italy, Serie A has set May 18th as a target date to resume training, though many aren’t optimistic that full games are around the corner. Meanwhile, France and the Netherlands have taken the opposite route, canceling their country’s soccer seasons completely. You win some, you lose some.
- Closer to home, the LPGA is looking to restart in mid-July, with tournaments in Michigan and Ohio. And the MLB is planning a massive birthday party for America on the Fourth of July by bringing back baseball. We’ll get our party hats ready.
But what can I watch right now?: There’s tennis! Well, kind of. The Madrid Open went virtual this week, bringing together top talent from the WTA (women’s circuit) and ATP (men’s circuit), including stars Belinda Bencic (pronounced BEN-CHITCH), Bianca Andreescu, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal. The tournament wraps up today, and though it’s been fun, we think it would have been way more interesting if they were playing Wii Tennis, but beggars can’t be choosers.
- And over in South Korea, where the pandemic is a little more contained, the Korea Baseball Organization is playing preseason games and intends to open the regular season, granted without fans in the stands, on May 5th. Rumor has it they’re even nearing a broadcast deal with ESPN.
Anything to cheer me up while I wait?: Glad you asked! We fell head over heels for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs
hunk lineman and Super Bowl champ Laurent Duvernay-Tardif this week. As the only active NFL player who’s also a doctor, the Canadian is now working on the COVID-19 frontlines in a long-term care facility in Quebec. Move over McDreamy.
🏆 For the love of money
The GIST: After decades of saying “no,” the NCAA will finally allow athletes to make money from third-party endorsements, starting at the beginning of the 2021–22 academic year at the latest. Turns out, mo’ money, not really mo’ problems.
No way! Why now?: Yes way. And it’s been a long time coming. The NCAA really started feeling the heat in September when California signed the Fair Pay to Play Act — an act that not only received a lot of public support but also kudos from athletes like LeBron James.
- Then in October, the NCAA first voted to allow college athletes to profit off the use of their name, image and likeness. Yesterday, the Board of Governors announced their support of that rule change. Talk about a process.
Got it. So what does it really mean?: Though the ruling still needs to be officially voted in (yes another
tribal council vote), the idea is that organizations big and small can hire a college athlete to promote their business. That means your local watering hole could pay for a star soccer player to come and sign autographs, or, if a player is popular enough, they might even be featured in national commercials. Fabulous!
So this is good news?: We think so. Colleges, universities and the NCAA itself have earned billions of dollars every year off college sports. However, until now, the actual product — aka the athletes who have been putting everything on the line — have received nothing, nada, zilch.
- And, given that women have far fewer opportunities in the sports world post college, this move is likely a big win for female athletes. Make that money, honey!
Any other money news?: Actually, yes. While the Los Angeles Lakers returned a $4.6M loan and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell volunteered to make his salary $0, the Canadian Football League (CFL) is asking for up to $150M from the federal government to help cope with the shutdown and to avoid becoming the next league to go under due to COVID-19. Yeesh.
🏈 “Who gives a sh!t about gender?”
The GIST: This recent NFL talk has us thinking about the trailblazing women — specifically the coaches — who have contributed to the game.
The numbers: Since 2015, seven full-time female coaches and 15 female coaching interns have worked in the NFL. Currently, four women hold full-time assistant coaching positions. Amazing, right?! However, given the typical NFL team currently averages 23 assistant coaches and there are 32 teams in the league, there are about 736 assistant coaching opportunities. We’re no math majors, but this means women hold only 0.54% of assistant coaching roles.
- And while the NFL has implemented policies such as the “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operations jobs, there are no similar gender-diversity policies. Hhhmmmm.
The firsts: Still, there are four full-time coaches in the league and that’s a BFD, especially when football, despite having professional women’s football leagues, is “not a women’s sport.” Five years ago, Dr. Jen Welter got the ball rolling when she became the first woman to coach in the NFL as the Arizona Cardinals training camp/preseason coaching intern.
- Just a year later in 2016, Kathryn Smith became the NFL’s first female full-time coach when she landed the role of special teams quality control coach with the Buffalo Bills.
The present: Mostly recently, Katie Sowers, who’s been an offensive assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers since 2017, became the first woman and openly gay full-time coach in the Super Bowl. Can we get a HYFR?
- Then, shortly after the season ended, Jennifer King became the NFL’s first Black female full-year coach when she was hired by the Washington who must not be named as a full-year coaching intern. You love to see it.
The future: With the combination of having female coaching role models, an increase in female fandom (the NFL says 47% of its fans are women) and head coaches “not giving a sh!t about gender,” we predict we’re only going to see more female coaches in the future (and maybe even our first female NFLer).
The GIST: Just how desperate are we for the return of sports? Well, a record-high 15.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft broadcast live from league commissioner Roger Goodell’s basement, so you tell us.
How did the virtual draft go?: Pretty well, actually. There were no major technical glitches (though Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy is still figuring out his angles) and the tradition of fans booing the commissioner was kept alive. It just wouldn’t have been a true draft otherwise.
- The most entertaining part for many viewers seemed to be the behind-the-scenes glimpse of team executives’ at-home war rooms (special shoutout to New England head coach Bill Belichick’s dog) and watching the incredibly awkward interactions between players and their families (new Cowboy CeeDee Lamb is never living this one down).
Who was drafted?: With the most obvious pick of the evening, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Louisiana State University (LSU) quarterback Joe Burrow first overall. Burrow was the first of 14 LSU players selected, while Ohio State’s defensive end Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah went second and third, respectively.
- University of Georgia linebacker Tae Crowder won this year’s title of Mr. Irrelevant, which is bestowed upon the draft’s last pick. Despite the unfortunate name, Mr. Irrelevant gets some pretty sweet perks, including a visit to Disneyland, invites to a regatta and a golf tournament, and a week vacation in Newport Beach, California. Hate to be the guy who was picked second last.
🏒🏀⚽ Bring it all back now
The GIST: Remember live sports? Those were the days, huh? But don’t fret! While COVID-19 continues to keep us locked up for a little while longer, the major leagues are working to bring our beloved sports back.
What are they working on?: The NHL’s latest idea would have each team play games in one of four cities, based on their division. The league, which along with the players' association has developed a Return to Play Committee, is still considering whether they’ll play out the rest of the regular season (each team had about 12 games left) or skip ahead to a modified version of the playoffs.
- These games will likely be scheduled for the summer, as rumor has it that NHL training camps will open on June 1st. That means that some players who went back to their home countries when the season was suspended (some have already begun practicing), will have to return to North America soon to complete a mandatory two-week quarantine.
Interesting. Who else is coming back?: In a serious plot twist, the NBA is going to allow some players to start practicing Friday. Players that live in cities with loosened restrictions on personal movement will be allowed to take part in voluntary, individual workouts in athletic facilities, starting May 1st. Until now, players were adhering to strict stay-at-home (i.e., workout-at-home) guidelines.
- But we’re not totally stoked about this. While some cities may be slowly adjusting back to “normal” life, others are still virus hotbeds. Allowing players in states like Oklahoma or Georgia, where lockdowns are being eased, to begin practicing while players in harder-hit places like New York or California are still under strict lockdown seems pretty unfair to us. As Scar would say, “Life’s not fair, is it?”
Any other leagues?: The NWSL and MLS have extended their training moratoriums to May 15th, while the LPGA and PGA both have their first post-lockdown tournaments set for June 11th. And considering golf is a sport where you can actually physically distance, we wouldn’t be surprised if these dates stick. No updates on potential start dates for the WNBA or MLB seasons.
What about the rest of the world?: Many European countries will begin easing lockdown restrictions next week, and since soccer is basically the lifeblood of Europe, we can look forward to some sports action from across the pond soon. In Italy, Serie A players are set to resume team training on May 18th in hopes of restarting the season in June.