👋 Happy Friday! Dana White heard I called him a villain, so he canceled UFC 249 (just kidding, he did it because executives from Disney and ESPN, which holds the UFC broadcast rights, told him to "stand down").
Today's word count: 1,612 words (6 minutes).
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Premier League players have launched an initiative called #PlayersTogether, which will funnel part of their salaries to the National Health Service to support the U.K.'s front-line workers during the COVID-19 crisis, writes Axios' Jeff Tracy.
The state of play: Thanks to the singular role football plays in the U.K.'s national psyche, this debate took center stage for weeks. The core question: Should players take pay cuts to help their clubs stanch losses? Or should they continue to be paid in full, enabling them to donate those funds directly to those in need?
Between the lines: There's even one more affected party: the non-playing club staffers, whose involvement plays a key role.
The big picture: The EPL is one of the most profitable leagues in the world, making over $5 billion in annual revenue, but its players hardly make up the entire über-wealthy population of the nation. In fact, there were nearly 2.5 million millionaires in the U.K. in 2019, per Credit Suisse's World Wealth report.
Our thought bubble, via Axios' Felix Salmon, who writes our weekly finance newsletter, Axios Edge, and spent the first 25 years of his life living in England:
"The fact is, the NHS has an annual budget of $167 billion, so while the players' donation is inarguably commendable, it also has a whiff of being merely performative. A gesture that tells the public they care, and backs the clubs into an unenviable corner, where cutting salary suddenly means more than it did a couple weeks ago.
"But honestly, in a world where the best that most of us can do is stay at home and play video games, even something performative is, well, something."
The bottom line, from Kendall: When sports stop, what role do athletes play in our society? I think we're still figuring that out.
MLB team valuations have risen yet again, capping a decade of growth during which the average team's value has increased four-fold, per Forbes.
By the numbers:
One mind-blowing stat: If you take away just one nugget from this piece, let it be this. In 2013, 11 of 30 MLB teams failed to turn a profit. This year, the Marlins were the lone team to stake that unfortunate claim (they lost $6 million).
The bottom line: Baseball, like all sports, is going to take a major hit during these unprecedented times. But thanks to a decade of growth, and three major, national media deals that will increase by up to 50% in 2022, it will be back in a big way — whenever that may be.
From 2010 to 2019, American sports franchises exploded in value, with the average NBA team growing 476%, the average MLB team growing 262%, the average NHL team growing 192% and the average NFL team growing 179%.
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
📚 Read: Even in its absence, The Masters plays a powerful force in the lives of one golf-focused family, writes SI's Michael Rosenberg:
"Sport was not the language the Halls needed; sport was the language they loved. Their conversations were peppered with talk about South Carolina football, basketball and, especially, golf. Their story from last April is America's story today: a smoke cloud of death, so overwhelming that you feel like sports shouldn’t matter at all. And then you realize they do."
🎥 Watch: ESPN's Wright Thompson's video essay:
"The Masters, like a few other things is a way we mark the passage of time and celebrate being alive. ... Right now it is encouraging — maybe even essential — to believe that there will be a Masters come November and that we will not be scared to stand next to our human brothers and sisters."
⏪ Rewind: Tiger's win.
For the past two days, the coronavirus has killed more than 2,000 people in the U.S. within 24 hour periods. But on Thursday, the single-day death toll did not exceed 2,000, per Johns Hopkins data.
City skylines and sports stadiums across the country transformed into a beacon of blue last night as part of the global #LightItBlue campaign, a collective salute the millions of essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
One World Trade Center, seen from across the Hudson River in Jersey City, New Jersey.
The Forum in Inglewood, California.
The Dallas skyline, featuring the Omni Hotel with "LIGHT IT BLUE" written across its facade.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the site of this year's canceled Final Four.
73 years ago today, Jackie Robinson signed his first major league contract — $5,000 for the season — with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
By the numbers: Because he didn't debut until he was 28, Jackie's career stats don't look like anything special.
The bottom line: Everyone knew he'd be great, but Dodgers president and GM Branch Rickey famously needed something more; "a player who ha[d] the guts not to fight back." Safe to say he found his man in Jackie Robinson, whose No. 42 is the only universally retired jersey number in baseball.
📖 Go deeper: Stay the heck inside and read this unmade Spike Lee 'Jackie Robinson' script (Slash Film)
🎥 Watch: Wakeskating in Brazil's desert lagoons (YouTube)
Answer at the bottom.
Enjoy the weekend,
Kendall "Today's soundtrack" Baker
Trivia answer: Pedro Martinez (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003)
Editor's note: The top story has been updated to reflect that the U.K.'s National Health Service's annual budget is $167 billion (not million).