Jul 7, 2020

Axios Sports

By Kendall Baker
Kendall Baker

👋 Good morning! Let's sports.

Today's word count: 1,638 words (6 minutes).

1 big thing: ✍️ Sports media's race reckoning

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The national conversation about systemic racism has found its way to the sports media world, forcing companies to address their shortcomings around coverage of race and their own internal diversity, Axios' Sara Fischer and I write.

Why it matters: Sports leagues, teams and athletes have been thrust into the cultural spotlight in recent weeks, as they often are. Now, the publications that cover sports have turned the camera on themselves.

Driving the news: Disney announced Monday that ESPN Films will produce an exclusive docuseries on Colin Kaepernick as part of a larger deal with Kaepernick’s production arm Ra Vision Media.

  • Jemele Hill tweeted that she'll be a producer on the docuseries, after leaving the network two years ago following a dramatic falling out in 2018.
  • At the time, Hill's outspoken tweets about President Trump put ESPN in the crosshairs of a polarizing debate over race and politics.

The big picture: Sports media has long been dominated by white, male voices. Now, under pressure to address diversity, companies are taking some of those issues head-on.

  • The Ringer, which was founded by Bill Simmons and recently sold to Spotify, has come under fire for its lack of diversity (85% of the speakers on Ringer podcasts last year were white, according to The Ringer Union).
  • Bleacher Report CEO Howard Mittman reportedly left the company after being pressed by staff about diversity concerns.
  • Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy apologized to staff last week for using terms that offended Black employees.

By the numbers: The vast majority of sports journalists are white males, according to the most recent AP Sports Editors Racial and Gender Report Card (2018), which evaluated over 75 newspapers and websites.

  • Sports editors: 85% white, 90% male
  • Sports reporters: 82% white, 89% male
  • Sports columnists: 80% white, 83% male

For comparison, here's the most recent player data from some of the biggest sports leagues in the U.S., per The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports:

  • NBA: 18% white
  • NFL: 27% white
  • MLB: 59% white
  • MLS: 38% white
  • WNBA: 17% white

Share these statistics.

2. 🏈 Mahomes signs richest NFL deal ever

Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

"Patrick Mahomes' agent is Leigh Steinberg, the inspiration for the movie 'Jerry Maguire.' On Monday, Steinberg showed Patrick Mahomes the money," writes The Ringer's Danny Heifetz (well done, Danny).

  • The deal: Mahomes signed a 10-year contract extension worth a maximum of $503 million including incentives, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Here's a breakdown of the cash flow.
  • Why it matters: It's the largest contract in the history of American sports and almost double the career earnings of Eli Manning, the highest-paid player by salary in NFL history.
"We're staying together ... for a long time. We're chasing a dynasty."
— Mahomes in a video posted on Twitter

The big picture: Mahomes' 12-year deal (10 year extension, plus two years on current contract) is incredibly rare. In fact, Cowboys LT Tyron Smith is the only other NFL player with a contract lasting more than six years.

  • Reminder: 12 years is a long time.
  • Proof: Remember when David Tyree made the "Helmet Catch" to lift the Giants past the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII? That was 12 years ago.

Zoom out ... Highest average annual contract value by sport, per ESPN:

  • NBA: Damian Lillard ($49m)
  • NFL: Mahomes ($45m)
  • MLB: Gerrit Cole ($36m)
  • NHL: Connor McDavid ($12.5m)
Bonus: 💬 Tweet du jour
Screenshot: @CBS11BillJones (Twitter)
3. ⚾️ While U.S. struggles, Japan preps for fans
Expand chart
Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Axios Visuals

While MLB struggles with testing delays ahead of its shortened season, Japan's Nippon Pro Baseball (NPB) — the world's second-best league behind MLB — has not only resumed play, but will soon allow fans at games, Axios' Jeff Tracy writes.

  • NPB: The season began nearly three weeks ago, and some fans will be allowed at ballparks starting Friday (either 5,000 or 50% capacity, whichever is smaller).
  • MLB: Multiple teams canceled workouts on Monday due to delayed test results. Summer Camp began on July 1, and Opening Day is still scheduled for July 23 (highlighted by Yankees at Nationals).

By the numbers: The U.S. has 2.6 times more people than Japan (328.2 million vs. 126.5 million), and 26 times more land.

  • Both countries recorded their first confirmed COVID-19 case at roughly the same time (Jan. 16 for Japan; Jan. 20 for the U.S.).
  • On March 28, the U.S. had its first day with 20,000+ new cases. Since then, we've seen just 13 days with fewer than 20,000 new cases, while Japan has yet to reach 20,000 cases total.
  • Between this past Friday and Sunday, Japan reported 648 new cases. Over that same period, the U.S. reported 150,657.

The shutdown:

  • NPB: Starting Feb. 29, the league barred fans from attending preseason games; by March 9, they'd shut down and pushed back Opening Day. At the time, Japan had just 502 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
  • MLB: Fans were still in the stands at spring training on March 12, when MLB followed the NBA's lead and shut it down. At the time, there were over 1,000 confirmed cases in the U.S.

The big picture: Japan's success in curbing the spread has puzzled experts, since they "largely ignor[ed] the default playbook," Time reports. Rather than emphasizing testing (they'd tested just 0.2% of their population through late May), Japan relied on a culture of mask-wearing and a focus on contact tracing.

4. ⚡️ Catch up quick

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  • 💵 PPP loans: Data released Monday showed hundreds of thousands of Paycheck Protection Program recipients. Of the 500+ spectator sports properties that received at least $150,000, the two largest loans went to NYRA and Richard Childress Racing, with both receiving $5-10 million, per SBJ.
  • ⚽️ MLS: FC Dallas withdrew from the league tournament after 10 players and a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. Also, last year's MVP, Carlos Vela, opted out of playing for LAFC. Games begin tomorrow.
Screenshot: @darenw (Twitter)
  • ⚾️ MLB: The Rangers (14,706) and Astros (13,954) will travel the most miles this season in baseball's regional-based schedule, while the Brewers (3,962) and Cubs (4,071) will travel the fewest, per MLB's Daren Willman.
  • 🏀 WNBA: With teams en route to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the WNBA and WNBPA announced that the season will be formally dedicated to social justice, with multiple 0n- and off-court initiatives. Opening weekend uniforms will feature Breonna Taylor's name.
Photo: Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images
  • 📸 Pic du jour: Michael Keane's unfortunate own goal gave Tottenham a 1-0 victory over Everton. But the real winner was this photo/view.
  • 🏀 College basketball: Iowa State's Rasir Bolton says he transferred from Penn State after coach Pat Chambers told him he had a "noose'"around his neck. Chambers apologized publicly and to Bolton's family Monday.
5. 🏀 Ranking the NBA's all-time rosters (No. 20)
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.

20. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks' 1970-71 season was straight out of a movie. A 23-year-old future all-time scoring champion (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) teamed up with an aging yet still prolific point guard (Oscar Robertson) to lead Milwaukee to its only title. The question now is whether the Greek Freak can bring home ring No. 2.

  • Year established: 1968
  • All-time record: 2,182-2,017 (.520)
  • NBA Championships: 1
  • Hall of Famers (indicated by *): 5

Starters:

  • Oscar Robertson*, G (16.3 pts, 4.9 reb, 7.5 ast, 17.6 PER/35.0 WS)
  • Ray Allen*, G (19.6 pts, 4.6 reb, 3.8 ast, 19.3 PER/54.1 WS)
  • Marques Johnson, F (21.0 pts, 7.5 reb, 3.7 ast, 21.2 PER/71.1 WS)
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, F (20.0 pts, 8.9 reb, 4.3 ast, 22.9 PER/63.6 WS)
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar*, C (30.4 pts, 15.3 reb, 4.3 ast, 26.7 PER/114.7 WS)

Sixth man: Sidney Moncrief*, G (16.7 pts, 5.0 reb, 3.9 ast, 19.1 PER/88.5 WS)

Bench:

  • Michael Redd, G (20.0 pts, 4.0 reb, 2.3 ast, 19.7 PER/55.1 WS)
  • Jack Sikma*, C (13.4 pts, 7.9 reb, 2.9 ast, 15.7 PER/33.5 WS)
  • Sam Cassell, G (19.0 pts, 4.0 reb, 7.2 ast, 21.2 PER/36.2 WS)
  • Glenn Robinson, F (21.1 pts, 6.2 reb, 2.8 ast, 17.8 PER/34.8 WS)
  • Bob Dandridge, F (18.6 pts, 7.3 reb, 3.2 ast, 16.8 PER/62.6 WS)
  • Terry Cummings, F (19.4 pts, 7.8 reb, 2.3 ast, 18.9 PER/42.7 WS)

Notes:

  • Abdul-Jabbar ranks first all-time in points (38,387) and WS (273.41), fourth in rebounds (17,440) and third in blocks (3,189). He also has the most MVPs (six) and set the record for longest gap between Finals MVP (1971 and 1985).
  • Antetokounmpo's career trajectory looks like a never-ending quest to win Most Improved Player every season. Points per game by year: 6.8, 12.7, 16.9, 22.9, 26.9, 27.7, 29.6. Rebounds per game by year: 4.4, 6.7, 7.7, 8.8, 10.0, 12.5, 13.7.

ICYMI ... 30. Grizzlies, 29. Timberwolves, 28. Hornets, 27. Raptors, 26. Pelicans, 25. Pacers, 24. Clippers, 23. Mavericks, 22. Nets. 21. Cavaliers

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 7, 2019: ⚽️ USWNT wins World Cup
Megan Rapinoe poses after scoring the first goal of the World Cup Final. Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

One year ago today, the USWNT won its record fourth World Cup, defeating the Netherlands, 2-0, in Lyon, France (highlights).

How was this only a year ago?

7. 📚 Good reads

Augusto Periera outside his home before it is demolished, in front of a Brazil flag that reads "memory cannot be removed." Photo: Phil Clarke Hill/In Pictures via Getty Images

🇧🇷 Inside the troubling legacy of displacing poor communities for the Olympics — and one village's resistance in Brazil (Bill Donahue, WashPost)

"The date is June 3, 2015. Rio is readying to host the 2016 Olympics ... and a bulldozer is idling on a dusty dirt road on the edge of a small favela [called] Vila Autódromo, population 700 families. The dozer is there because the Olympics need wide-open land on which to build ... and Vila Autódromo is in the way."

🎬 The making and disappearance of Don DeLillo's Red Sox-inspired "Game 6" (Ross Scarano, The Ringer)

"The novelist's only screenplay turned the 1986 World Series into a backdrop for an unusual comedy about anxiety, failure, and fandom — but a rough release doomed it to obscurity."

🏈 How NFL offensive linemen escape the 5,000-calorie lunch and transform in retirement (Emily Kaplan, ESPN)

"'I was bloated for four years straight,' [Longtime Niner] Joe Staley said. 'You know when you overeat after a really nice dinner at an Italian restaurant, you just eat all these courses and leave feeling gross? That's how I felt the entire time in college.'"
8. The Ocho: 🏀 Korfball
Source: Ninh Ly (YouTube)

Korfball is a variant of basketball that is similar to netball, but with its own charm and intricacies.

How to play: Teams of four face off against each other, and the rules dictate that there must be both male and female participants, with two each per side.

  • There's no dribbling, and you can't shoot if you're being defended.
  • Instead, the game hinges on quick passing and off-ball movement, with set plays aiming to get someone an open shot at the korf ("basket" in Dutch).

🎥 Watch: The rules of korfball (YouTube)

9. 🏀 NBA trivia

Temporary practice courts in a converted ballroom at Walt Disney World. Photo: NBA

James Harden (34.4 ppg) leads the NBA in scoring this season.

  • Question: Who's second in scoring?
  • Hint: East.

Answer at the bottom.

10. ❤️ Why we love sports
A young Davida and her father. Photo: Davida D.

Davida D. (Ashland, Mass.) writes:

"For most people in Boston, the words 'Opening Day' bring the Red Sox to mind. But I have another Opening Day.
"Mine comes when the six beautiful Har-Tru courts at the outdoor Sudbury River Tennis Club (SRTC) in Framingham, Massachusetts, are ready for play. This is my little hamlet. My utopia. My short-term vacation spot 15 minutes from home.
"I first stepped onto those courts in July 1966, when I was two years old, with diapers hanging below my little tennis dress. At that time, the courts were a velvety rich red clay — the kind that sticks to your socks and short pockets, and stays there no matter how many times your mothers washes them.
"I used to sweep the small porch that overlooked the courts with a broom 10 times my size. I loved watching my dad and being part of it all. The clay had a certain smell. The gravel in the parking lot had a certain smell.
"As I got older and more serious about the game, SRTC played an even more important role in my relationship with my dad. We'd 'run down and hit a few' or even warm up before a tournament.
Sudbury River Tennis Club in 2017. Photo: Instagram
"When I formed a family of my own, we moved nearby and I got an adult membership. Now in my 50s, I still go with the hushed anticipation of stepping onto one of the best tended courts around.
"And although Dad, now 97, doesn't play anymore, he loves to sit on the porch and watch me play — just like his little girl used to watch him."

✍️ 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 "Come a long way" Baker

Trivia answer: Bradley Beal (30.5 ppg)