Will they or won't they?
The GIST: As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, we’re still dealing with a lot of ifs, buts, and maybes about sports that should be starting up again soon.
Tennis: We’re about two months away from the projected August 3rd restart of the official WTA and ATP seasons, but the first scheduled Grand Slam event — the US Open, which is set to start on August 31st — is still a big question mark, with the US Tennis Association (USTA) hoping to make a yay or nay call by the end of June.
- If the US Open does get the go-ahead, they have a plan! The USTA is looking at chartering flights from hub cities around the world, using fewer on-court officials, and limiting players’ entourages. Also, the ball kids will be adults (and yes, we have thought of applying) and there may even be some fans.
MLB: What a mess. After the MLB presented a pretty disgraceful proposal to the MLB Players’ Association (MLBPA) last week, the MLBPA is now looking to submit a counterproposal that would suggest 114 games (the league proposed 82, while a “normal” regular season generally has 162) and prorated salaries. It’s highly unlikely that the MLB will go for it, so we’re still quite a few steps away from mediation.
- Time is running short, though. The league has been planning to start the season over the Fourth of July weekend, with the original hope that a deal would be met by today (LOL not happening). With all the unknowns, some team owners are now saying they’re willing to call off the entire season. Now that’s glass-half-empty talk.
Basketball: The WNBA still hasn’t made any official statement on the 2020 season since it was indefinitely postponed on April 3rd (we’re getting so impatient!), but rumor has it they might be considering a bubble scenario similar to the NBA. Just tell us something...anything...already!
- Speaking of the NBA, their bubble plan is on the bubble. The Board of Governors is set to vote this week on the format of the Disney World plan, which should *knock on wood* start July 31st. Commissioner Adam Silver is apparently proposing a 22-team scenario (with a 20-team return also on the table), but it’s pretty certain that not all 30 teams will return to play.
Show me the money: Things are tough right now, so maybe it wasn’t the best time for Forbes to take a break from their Kylie Jenner investigation to release their annual “Highest-Paid Athletes in the World” list. But they did, so here’s “the gist” of the important bits:
- Roger Federer topped the list after making $106.3 million over the past year, becoming the first tennis player to ever do so. The only women on the list were fellow tennis superstars, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams, who came in at 29th and 33rd, respectively.
- Thirty-five NBA players made the list, earning a combined eye-watering total of nearly $1.2 billion. Interestingly, not a single hockey player broke the top 100. But somehow, we don’t feel that bad.
Oh mama: Saturday night was fight night for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) — because, you know, Elton said it was alright — and new mom Mackenzie Dern kicked ass. Dern performed the first-ever leglock submission in women’s UFC
history herstory, winning her match in the first round, and is now looking ahead to make herstory again as the first mom to win a UFC championship.
Blue jean baby: One of the few glorious things about being in quarantine is that we can wear comfy clothes all the time. Unless you’re Johnny Gregorek, that is. The middle-distance runner and US Olympic hopeful decided to set a world record and run the fastest mile while wearing blue jeans, running it in 4:06.25, beating the previous record by more than five seconds.
- We know what you’re thinking: “why TF is he running in jeans?” Gregorek was running in honor of May’s Mental Health Awareness month, raising over $31,000 for the National Alliance on Mental Illness in honor of his brother Patrick, who had long struggled with mental health before his death last year at the age of 21. A great run for a great cause.
Guess who’s (maybe) back, (maybe) back again?
The GIST: The NHL is the first pro league in North America to give us
hope a real, detailed plan for returning to play. Meanwhile, the MLB is disrespecting its players, the NFL is wearing rose-colored glasses and the NBA is stringing us along. Does this situation remind you of a rom-com or what?
LOL it does. So, what’s the NHL’s plan?: Basically exactly what we reported on Monday (we’re so ahead of the times!). On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that the regular season is over and 24 teams will play in an unusual Stanley Cup playoff scenario. No word on when (or if) it will start, but the league has promised thorough safety and testing measures when it does.
- Bettman also confirmed the league will use two hub cities (one for each conference) with seven US cities and three Canadian cities in contention to host. Due to international travel restrictions, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly all but confirmed they’ll likely play in the US, but that hasn’t stopped the Alberta government from trying to host in Edmonton. Shoot your shot!
Any other NHL news?: With the regular season officially over, the end-of-season awards can be decided! The Art Ross Trophy, which is won by the player with the most points (one point for each goal and assist), will go to Edmonton Oiler Leon Draisaitl (pronounced DRY-SIGH-TULL), after he put up 110 points in just 71 games. Impressive.
- New (again) dad Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruin David Pastrnak will share the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for most goals after they each tallied 48.
- And the Boston Bruins are the Presidents’ Trophy winners after “finishing the season” (quotes because did they really though?) with the most points (two points for a win, one point for an overtime loss).
So what’s up with the MLB?: On Tuesday, they submitted their official return-to-play proposal to the MLB Players Association (MLBPA), and the MLBPA is having none of it. The MLB proposed some pretty drastic cost-cutting measures that would dramatically decrease players’ salaries.
- Sure, these guys already make a ton of money and we get that everyone has to make some sacrifices nowadays, but the league may have taken this one too far. They’re suggesting a paycut of anywhere between 47 and 77 percent to players’ salaries, depending on their original salary amount.
Where’s the NBA at?: Let’s pop them under the TBD column. There was talk that the Disney World plan could be finalized during tomorrow’s weekly Board of Governors meeting, but it’s looking like we might need to wait a little longer for confirmation. And there are new reports that play could start up in late July, but no one’s confirming anything.
- NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he’d have an answer for us by June 1st, so be sure to check in with us again on Monday.
Any other comeback plans?: The NFL still has time before September kickoff, but they’re planning on having fans in the stands by then. Uh, we’ll see how that one goes. The WNBA has finalized their rosters, the CFL has given the go-ahead for all teams to open practice facilities, and MLS is letting their players practice again...but only if they want.
The GIST: Before any of the men’s pro leagues will see sports action, the women will get to show them how it’s done. Classic. The NWSL is planning a month-long tournament to kick-start the regular season and we can hardly wait.
Yes! When? Where? How?: They’ll start with an Olympic-style group stage format on June 27th with each of the league’s nine teams playing four games. Then the top eight teams will move on to a knockout round to determine the NWSL Challenge Cup champions.
- All 25 games will be played between two spectator-less stadiums right outside Salt Lake City, Utah, (home to Utah Royals FC) where lockdown restrictions have eased. The players will be flown in on chartered planes, housed in two nearby hotels, tested regularly and have to follow a slew of safety rules.
And this is for sure happening?: Well…the plan is somewhat ambitious and completely dependent on a couple of things. For one, Salt Lake City will need to stay safe and open. If the city or state sees any major outbreaks, they could limit large gatherings (and with 22 players on the field at once, we’d say that’s a large gathering).
- Most importantly, the players will have to want to play. This could be hard because, on top of COVID-19, many players are concerned with playing most games on artificial turf, an injury-prone surface that women’s national teams everywhere have been fighting against for years. The players have the ability to opt out, and TBH, we wouldn’t fault anyone who chooses to.
Changing of the guard
Making money moves: Forbes released some jaw dropping figures this week, confirming that the queen of tennis, Serena Williams, has been dethroned...on the money list. She’s still the GOAT (in our humble opinion), but 22-year-old tennis phenom Naomi Osaka is now the highest paid female athlete in history. Let that one sink in.
- Over the past 12 months, Osaka raked in $37.4 million — $1.4 million more than Serena, who has been the highest paid female athlete for the past four years — making most of her hard-earned dough through sponsorships.
- When Forbes releases their top 100 highest-paid athletes list next week, it will be the first time since 2016 that two female athletes will make the list. Two out of 100 — let that one sink in.
Like a boss: Vanderbilt University has made herstory, hiring Candice Storey Lee as the school’s athletic director (AD). Lee is the first woman and first Black woman to run an athletic department in the SEC (Southeastern Conference, one of the most accomplished sports conferences in the NCAA) and is only one of five female ADs in the NCAA’s Power Five (the top five conferences). Enough acronyms for you?
- Lee has a good history with Vanderbilt, too, having served as the interim AD since February and as captain of the basketball team in the late ’90s.
Dream team: The ESPYs, ESPN’s annual multi-sport award show, will have a different look and feel this year, and we couldn’t be more excited. The show plans to focus on heroism and humanitarian aid and will be hosted by our favorite power couple, soccer superstar Megan Rapinoe and basketball legend Sue Bird. ESPN must’ve noticed the pair’s stellar hosting skills on A Touch More.