Aug 12, 2020 - Sports

The busiest owner in sports

Ted Leonsis with his 2019 WNBA championship ring.

Ted Leonsis with his 2019 WNBA championship ring. Courtesy: Monumental Sports

The NBA, WNBA and NHL are currently in bubbled environments, each with their own protocols, living arrangements and schedules. One owner has a team in all three.

The state of play: Ted Leonsis is the founder and CEO of Monumental Sports, which owns the NBA's Washington Wizards, the WNBA's Washington Mystics and the NHL's Washington Capitals.

  • Leonsis also serves on the NHL's executive committee and is chairman of the NBA's media committee — a particularly demanding role at the moment, as the NBA and WNBA scramble to deliver on broadcast commitments, while networks adjust to unprecedented schedules.
  • Monumental also owns an esports organization, which has continued competing during the pandemic, and just opened a sportsbook at Capital One Arena in D.C., making it the first pro sports stadium in America with a full-service sports betting operation.

The backdrop: When the NBA and NHL halted play in March, "I took it very seriously because I'm a little bit older and can't afford to get COVID," Leonsis tells me.

  • "I've pretty much been in front of my computer since then, which has been a challenge for me as an extrovert. The good news is I love my wife, so that's been going great."
  • After months of meetings, the NBA, WNBA and NHL bubbles began to take shape, and Leonsis and his staff started preparing to send three teams to three similar, yet different, quarantined environments.
  • Monumental hosted things like virtual yoga classes and prepared daily meals, which players were able to pick up at their training facilities (the Wizards and Mystics facility is in D.C.; the Capitals facility is in Northern Virginia).
  • "We had to negotiate waivers with the city of D.C. and the state of Virginia, saying 'Hey, now we're going to have 10 people working out ... now 12 ... now 14.' They were both incredibly strict — and we're glad because it kept us healthy."

Between the lines: The Wizards and Mystics — along with the Wizards' G League affiliate, Capital City Go-Go, and their NBA 2K team, Wizards District Gaming — exist under the Monumental Basketball umbrella.

  • The teams share resources and some personnel — a collaborative approach that has helped them navigate similar bubble-related challenges.
  • Sashi Brown, the former Cleveland Browns VP who has been compared to Sam Hinkie is Monumental Basketball's chief planning and operations officer and has been working remotely.
  • Danny Medina, who spent the bulk of his career in European soccer, is Monumental's chief of athlete care and performance. He's in the NBA bubble, while his direct reports are either in the WNBA bubble or at home.

The big picture: Leonsis is thrilled about the success of the bubble format but says he's holding his breathe "because we're one misstep away." As for the NBA and WNBA player protests, he had this to say:

"Players want to be able to self-express, speak their minds and shine a light on subjects that are meaningful to them. And I think they've done it in a way that's very respectful.
"I believe it's created a greater partnership between the leagues, players and fans. We think we can amplify this moment because everyone is together, and it's our job to provide the platform and keep players healthy."
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