Jul 22, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Let's sports.

  • ⚾️ Coming tomorrow: MLB season preview (Special Edition)

Today's word count: 1,911 words (7 minutes).

1 big thing: 🏈 The process of changing a name

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Changing a team name is a complicated process and typically takes years. Washington's NFL team is trying to do it in a matter of weeks, amid a pandemic, while concurrently conducting an internal sexual harassment investigation.

  • The last NFL team to change its name was the Tennessee Oilers (to Titans) in 1999, but that stemmed from the franchise having moved from Houston.
  • In Washington's case, the team is staying in the same market, and the name is being changed because it was viewed as derogatory — two factors that make this unprecedented situation even more pressure-packed.
To-do list

1. Name: Choosing a new name is a delicate endeavor, and in this case, the most important decision in the franchise's 87-year history will be a rushed one.

"A typical rebranding process includes lots of focus groups, fan engagement and community involvement. If the process is sped up too much, even the largest organizations can miss the kind of nuances that are really important, particularly in this case."
— Mori Taheripour, business ethics professor at the Wharton School, tells Axios

2. Logo: All three sports branding experts I spoke with said they wouldn't be surprised if Washington waits until later in the season, or even next season, to unveil its logo. The team will reportedly retain its burgundy and gold color scheme, so removing the logo and playing with generic uniforms is an option.

3. Apparel/merchandise: New uniforms, practice jerseys and other team-issued gear needs to be manufactured and distributed. Same thing goes for jerseys and other merchandise that the team will want to make available to fans as soon as possible.

4. Digital footprint: Team and league staff need to update everything from websites and email addresses to social media handles and mobile apps — and not just on Washington's properties, but for the other 29 teams and the NFL itself.

5. Physical footprint: A team's branding is everywhere, from its stadium and practice facilities to its business cards. And oftentimes, its name and logo are literally etched in stone. Under different circumstances, a team might keep banners and mementos hanging around. But Washington has a tougher decision to make regarding historic displays that feature its former name.

6. Paperwork: Team and league staff have a mountain of legal paperwork to complete, starting with trademark filings, copyright and licensing agreements, and a wide array of legal, medical and governmental documents.

7. Coordinating with partners: Sponsors and media partners need the new name, logo, color tones and lettering so they can update their own properties. Making those changes can take months and requires a lot of back-and-forth communication.

"Think about all the sponsors who are the 'official [blank] of the team.' They're all impacted by this change, and it takes a coordinated effort to make even the smallest changes, like updating the logos on Pepsi trucks, with PepsiCo being the team's official non-alcoholic beverage."
— Marty Conway, sports marketing professor at Georgetown, tells Axios
2. ⚽️ NWSL expands, preps for semifinals
Bracket: Axios Visuals

The NWSL announced Tuesday that it will expand to Los Angeles in 2022, with a star-studded ownership group of almost entirely women that includes Serena Williams (and her daughter!), Natalie Portman, Mia Hamm and Eva Longoria.

  • We'll go deeper on this news on Friday, because there's a fascinating backstory and it's a breakthrough moment for women's soccer.
  • In the meantime, there's a championship to be won in Utah.

Today's semifinals: Following a quarterfinal round that saw all three top seeds eliminated, the scene shifts from Zions Bank Stadium (turf) to Rio Tinto Stadium (grass), with all four teams coming off multiple days of much-needed rest.

  • 12:30pm ET: (8) Portland Thorns vs. (4) Houston Dash
  • 10pm ET: (7) Sky Blue vs. (6) Chicago Red Stars

More soccer today:

  • Premier League: Manchester United vs. West Ham (1pm ET); Liverpool vs. Chelsea (3:15pm ET)
  • MLS: Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC (9am ET); Cincinnati vs. NY Red Bulls (8pm ET); Colorado vs. Minnesota (10:30pm ET)
3. 🏀 Taylor exploring Timberwolves sale

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is exploring a potential sale of the team.

  • The backdrop: This is a bizarre time to be selling a pro sports franchise, given how revenue has been battered by the pandemic and the uncertainty moving forward.
  • What he's saying: Taylor, 79, who saved the Timberwolves from a potential move to New Orleans when he bought the team in 1995, told The Athletic that he will not sell to a group that wants to move out of Minneapolis.
  • Potential buyers: Suitors include the Wilf family (owners of the Vikings) and real estate mogul Meyer Orbach. Franchise legend Kevin Garnett also said he's forming a group to try to buy the team.
Reproduced from Forbes; Chart: Axios Visuals

The bottom line: Recent sales of big market teams like the Nets (purchased for $2.35 billion), Rockets ($2.2 billion) and Clippers ($2 billion) have pushed the average NBA franchise value to more than $2 billion, up 476% since 2010.

  • Minnesota is near the bottom of the pack with a value of $1.38 billion, per Forbes (third-lowest). Even so, Taylor is set to recognize a massive return, given that he paid just $88 million for the team in 1995.
4. ⚡️ Catch up quick
Photo: Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images
  • 🏒 NHL: Oilers center Leon Draisaitl, Rangers winger Artemi Panarin and Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon are the finalists for the Hart Trophy (aka MVP). Draisaitl led the NHL in points with 110 (43 G, 67 A), Panarin was third with 95 (32 G, 63 A) and MacKinnon was fifth with 93 (35 G, 58 A).
  • 🏈 NFL: The NFL and NFLPA have agreed to scrap the 2020 preseason while also reducing the size of training camp rosters from 90 down to 80.
Screenshot: @malika_andrews (Twitter)
  • 🏀 NBA: 16 inter-squad scrimmages will be broadcast on NBA TV leading up to the season restart, starting with today's doubleheader: Magic vs. Clippers (3pm ET); Pelicans vs. Nets (7pm ET). The NBA is back!
  • 🏈 CFL: Washington isn't the only football team that will be undergoing a rebrand this season, with the Canadian Football League's Edmonton team announcing that it will no longer be known as the Eskimos.
5. 🏀 Ranking the NBA's all-time rosters (No. 9)
Expand chart
Player data: Basketball Reference; Graphic: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

We're ranking the all-time rosters for all 30 NBA teams. Note: Rosters and stats based only on time spent with this specific team. Thoughts? Email me at jeff@axios.com.

9. Utah Jazz

The historic pairing of John Stockton and Karl Malone made the playoffs every year for nearly two decades but never quite reached the promised land. A classic "always the bridesmaid" tale.

  • Year established: 1974 (as the New Orleans Jazz)
  • All-time record: 2,005-1,701 (.541)
  • NBA Championships: 0
  • Hall of Famers (indicated by *): 4


  • John Stockton*, G (13.1 pts, 2.7 reb, 10.5 ast, 21.8 PER/207.7 WS)
  • Pete Maravich*, G (25.2 pts, 4.3 reb, 5.6 ast, 18.0 PER/20.1 WS)
  • Adrian Dantley*, F (29.6 pts, 6.2 reb, 3.7 ast, 24.1 PER/76.3 WS)
  • Karl Malone*, F (25.4 pts, 10.2 reb, 3.5 ast, 24.1 PER/230.3 WS)
  • Rudy Gobert, C (11.7 pts, 11.0 reb, 2.2 blk, 21.5 PER/62.9 WS)

Sixth man: Deron Williams, G (17.3 pts, 3.2 reb, 9.1 ast, 19.0 PER/46.7 WS)


  • Andrei Kirilenko, F (12.4 pts, 5.6 reb, 2.8 ast, 19.1 PER/68.2 WS)
  • Jeff Hornacek, G (14.4 pts, 2.8 reb, 4.0 ast, 18.4 PER/55.0 WS)
  • Paul Millsap, G (12.4 pts, 7.0 reb, 1.8 ast, 18.8 PER/48.1 WS)
  • Carlos Boozer, F (19.3 pts, 10.5 reb, 2.9 ast, 21.3 PER/40.2 WS)
  • Gordon Hayward, F (15.7 pts, 4.2 reb, 3.4 ast, 17.7 PER/43.0 WS)
  • Mark Eaton, C (6.0 pts, 7.9 reb, 3.5 blk, 10.9 PER/44.8 WS)


  • Stockton is so far in first place on both the all-time assists (15,806; — compared to 12,091 for Jason Kidd) and steals leaderboards (3,265 — compared to 2,684 for Kidd) that it's almost laughable.
  • Eaton is the all-time leader in blocks per game (3.5), and he also holds the single-season record with 5.56 a night across a full 82 games in 1984-85.

ICYMI ... 30. Grizzlies, 29. Timberwolves, 28. Hornets, 27. Raptors, 26. Pelicans, 25. Pacers, 24. Clippers, 23. Mavericks, 22. Nets, 21. Cavaliers, 20. Bucks, 19. Hawks, 18. Wizards, 17. Suns, 16. Kings, 15. Magic, 14. Nuggets, 13. Trail Blazers, 12. Rockets, 11. Knicks, 10. Thunder

Stats, explained: Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is a measure of a player's per-minute productivity (20+ is elite); Win Shares (WS) attempts to divvy up individual credit for team success (6 per season is elite).

6. July 21, 1912: 🥇 "The greatest athlete in the world"
Jim Thorpe at the 1912 Olympics. Photo: Branger/Roger Viollet via Getty Images

108 years ago today, American Jim Thorpe was presented with his two gold medals at the closing ceremonies of the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.

  • When awarding Thorpe his medals for the decathlon and pentathlon, King Gustav V of Sweden said, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world."

Why it matters: Thorpe, who grew up in the Sac and Fox Nation in Oklahoma, became the first Native American to win a gold medal for the U.S.

  • One year later, his medals were stripped after the IOC learned that he'd been paid to play baseball, thus voiding his amateur status.
  • In 1982, the IOC reinstated Thorpe's medals, ruling that the disqualification had been improper. The replicas were presented to his children in 1983, 30 years after their father's death.

The big picture: Thorpe is the most versatile athlete to ever live. In addition to winning gold medals on the track, he played collegiate and professional football, professional baseball and professional basketball. He also excelled at billiards, lacrosse and ballroom dancing.

  • He starred in football at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, where he led his team to the 1912 national collegiate championship.
  • In 1914, he led the Chicago White Sox and New York Giants on a barnstorming world tour, meeting with global leaders and playing baseball in front of 20,000 people in London, including King George V.
  • Thorpe played pro football for nearly 20 years and was the first president of the AFPA, which became the NFL in 1922.
  • In 1963, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of its 17-player inaugural class.

The bottom line: In 1999, AP placed Thorpe third on its list of the top athletes of the 20th century, behind only Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan.

🎥 Watch: NFL's greatest players, Jim Thorpe (YouTube)

7. 📚 Good reads

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

📺 Coronavirus dooms fall TV season (Sara Fischer, Axios)

"TV's infamous fall lineup of new shows and series is going to look a lot different this year, thanks to paused production during the coronavirus pandemic and the uncertain future of sports."

🤺 The curious case of the electrified épée (Michael Farber, SI)

"The Summer Olympics, which were supposed to open this week, have seen their share of competitive scandals — but none more bold or bizarre than Soviet pentathlete Boris Onischenko and his doctored fencing sword."

😷 Welcome back, sports. It seems we're really going to do this. (Dave Sheinin, WashPost)

"This, finally, is the week big-time team sports, such as they are, return to American life."
8. The Ocho: 🏗 Speedway fans are committed
Screenshot: @speedwaymotorlubin (Instagram)

Polish speedway fans rented 21 cranes so they could watch their team, Motor Lubin, while abiding by social-distancing rules and attendance limits.

Speedway, explained: Motorcycle speedway is the most popular sport in Poland and dates back to the early 20th century.

  • Four riders (and sometimes six) race on an oval-shaped dirt track. First to complete four counterclockwise laps wins.
  • Motorcycles must use only one gear, have no brakes, weigh a minimum of 170 pounds, and be fueled by pure methanol.
  • Speedway tracks are between 260 and 425 meters long, so most races are over within a minute.
Photo: Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Above: Racers slide around a turn during the 2018 Speedway Grand Prix at the Stadion Narodowy ("National Stadium") in Warsaw, Poland.

Below: A photo taken before the 2019 event.

Photo: Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto via Getty Images

🎥 Go deeper:

9. 💬 Submit your trivia questions

I messed up yesterday's trivia question (thank you to the hundreds of people who reminded me, haha). It was meant to say three non-Europeans other than Lionel Messi. Sorry about that.

  • I'm taking this as a sign that it's time to ask for more trivia submissions.
  • To submit, simply reply to this email with your question and answer.
  • Please also include your name and hometown so I can credit you.
10. ❤️ Why we love sports
Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Ben T. (Pittsburgh native) writes:

"Pittsburgh in the '80s and '90s was not a fun place to grow up. The steel industry had collapsed, leaving a once proud town humble. One thing that did bring pride, however, was our beloved Steelers.
"They weren't flashy, or stylish. But they represented the core values of our city and those who called it home — loyalty, tradition and hard work.
 "My father and I went to every home game from 1992 until I left for college in 2004. He taught me not only the strategy of the game, but its history as well. Those Sundays at Three Rivers Stadium, and then Heinz Field, were magical.
"When I got married, Dad managed to get Terrible Towels with my name and my wife's embroidered on them as wedding favors for all 200+ guests.
"Ironically enough, the day of the Steelers 2016 home opener, and a week before our wedding, he was taken to the hospital with pneumonia. He died a few short days later on the eve of our wedding.  
"Five months later, my wife and I are on a belated honeymoon at the Taj Mahal. Just as our picture is being snapped, I unfurl the very Terrible Towel my dad got us for our wedding, taking a bit of the black and gold to India.
"I could only imagine the kick he would have gotten out of that moment, a proud yinzer. Here we go Steelers! Thanks, Dad."
Photo: Ben T.

✍️ Submit your story: Do you have a fondest sports memory? Or an example of sports having a positive impact on your life? If you'd like to share, simply reply to this email. We'll be telling your stories until they run out.

Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Reply to this email with your current favorite song" Baker