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LIV looking into introducing women's tour, mixed-gender tournaments

June 27, 2022
SOURCE: KIERAN CLEEVES/PA IMAGES VIA GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: KIERAN CLEEVES/PA IMAGES VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Fresh off its controversial first event, the Saudi Arabia–backed LIV Golf series is charting its next moves — and it looks like women’s golf will be one of them. LIV confirmed Thursday that it’s exploring the idea of rivaling the LPGA, furthering concerns about how sportswashing might alter the global sporting landscape as we know it.

The details: A spokeswoman told Front Office Sports that LIV Golf is “looking and considering all opportunities,” from launching its own women’s tour to hosting mixed-gender tournaments.

  • The Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund that finances LIV Golf, is no stranger to the women’s game. It backs multiple events on the Ladies European Tour, including the Aramco Saudi Ladies International that counts world No. 4, New Zealander Lydia Ko, as a champ.

Zooming out: Golf is currently the poster child of the tug-of-war relationship between established American-based sports institutions and international sportswashing counterparts, with the latter having a financial upper hand.

  • PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan admitted last week that the tour “can’t compete” with the PIF’s money, meaning the LPGA — whose players bank less than one-fifth of their similarly-ranked male equivalents — could lose the battle faster.
  • Arguably, brands could save the day. As companies begin wearing their values on their sleeves, opting out of sportswashing — and voiding endorsement deals with top defectors talent — could dent the LIV events’ legitimacy. Watch this space.

How Roe v. Wade reversal will impact women's sports

June 27, 2022
SOURCE: YASIN OZTURK/ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: YASIN OZTURK/ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade on Friday means abortion will be severely restricted or outlawed in at least 15 states within a month, with more states likely to follow. The decision’s gutting of constitutional privacy protections changes the calculus on many facets of American life, including within the women’s sports ecosystem.

The reaction: Members of the women’s sports community overwhelmingly criticized the Supreme Court’s decision. Many are concerned about playing in states where healthcare access is now restricted — the NWSL’s Racing Louisville FC said Kentuckians must now travel an average of 245 miles for full reproductive healthcare.

  • With the right to travel for an abortion still protected under U.S. law, several brands quickly committed to covering those costs for employees, including WNBA partner Dick’s Sporting Goods and Serena Williams sponsor JP Morgan Chase.

Zooming out: The opinions of those in women’s sports generally align with national sentiment, but where women’s sports go from here remains a question. While some brands are pairing powerful statements with immediate action — using their dollars to fill in protection gaps left by the government — teams and leagues, so far, can’t say the same.

  • One-off events in states that immediately banned abortion remain scheduled. In a powerful press conference, Megan Rapinoe said the USWNT will not protest tomorrow’s friendly in Utah, and the NCAA has yet to move the Women’s College World Series out of Oklahoma, despite calls to do so.
  • Teams stationed in constrictive states haven’t detailed plans to support players and staff who now lack healthcare freedom. The ruling directly impacts all athletes without free agency who are subject to drafts or sudden trades — particularly in an age of expansion for women’s sports leagues. Player welfare is paramount.
Sports Business
#Canada#United States

🏒Avalanche down Lightning to become Stanley Cup champions

June 27, 2022
SOURCE: CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: CHRISTIAN PETERSEN/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Move aside, Champa Bay. The Colorado Avalanche are officially Stanley Cup champions after beating the two-time defending champ Tampa Bay Lightning 2–1 last night to win the series in six games and bring the Cup back to the Mile High City for the first time in 21 years. All the small big things.

As it happened: Lightning captain Steven Stamkos lit up the scoreboard first, but the Avs came back with a vengeance to have the final say. Led by Conn Smythe trophy winner Cale Makar, Colorado piled the pressure on Lightning tendy Andrei Vasilevskiy in the second period, with superstar Nathan MacKinnon and Artturi Lehkonen scoring a goal each to finally usurp Tampa.

What’s next: For Colorado? A sweet Stanley Cup parade. For Tampa Bay? Potentially the end of the dynasty as we know it. For the league? Hitting the links and preparing for the NHL Draft on July 7th. Offseason here we come.

Sports world reacts to overturning of Roe v. Wade

June 27, 2022
SOURCE: LAS VEGAS ACES/TWITTER
SOURCE: LAS VEGAS ACES/TWITTER

The GIST: One day after celebrating the 50th anniversary of Title IX — a landmark decision for women’s rights — the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Here’s how the sports world is (and isn’t) responding to the devastating ruling.

The response: Along with the aforementioned Rapinoe, many other athletes have spoken out against Friday’s decision. The WNBA and the NBA along with the NWSL released statements condemning the ruling, while the NFL, MLB, NHL and MLS have yet to comment. The silence is deafening.

  • Meanwhile, some companies are making statements of resistance. One example? Dick’s Sporting Goods. Their CEO Lauren Hobart announced on Friday that the company will reimburse employee travel for abortion care if they live in a restrictive state.
  • It’s no surprise that a woman-led company had such a quick and strong response, but it serves as a stark reminder that this ruling will impact everyone and that we need all voices in this fight.

Zooming out: It’s difficult to conceptualize how widespread the consequences of this ruling will be. How will teams and leagues support athletes competing in states with abortion bans? Will sporting events be withheld from states with abortion restrictions? How will this affect college and high school athletes who become pregnant and can’t easily access safe abortion services?

  • The future is uncertain and scary, but we’re all in it together. Shout it from the rooftops — reproductive rights are human rights.

🎾Wimbledon

June 27, 2022

📗 The history

SOURCE: HISTORIC ENGLAND/TWITTER

Officially known as “The Championships, Wimbledon” (how fancy), this competition dates back to 1877, making it the oldest — and arguably the most prestigious — tennis tournament in the world.

  • A fun fact? Since its inception, Wimbledon’s been played at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, a grass court (more on that later) nestled in the London neighborhood of Wimbledon, of course.

The early years were men’s singles only, but a women’s singles championship was introduced in 1884, the same year a men’s doubles tourney was added. By 1913, the tournament featured mixed doubles and women’s doubles, but Wimbledon wouldn’t open to professionals until 1968.

🎾 The surface

SOURCE: WIMBLEDON/TWITTER

Wimbledon is the only Grand Slam tennis event played on grass, and similar to clay, pros either excel on or fall victim to the terrain.

  • The grass is so precious to the club that Serena Williams was fined a whopping $10,000 (!!!) in 2019 for damaging the court during practice. It’s going to be a busy couple of weeks for the “get off my lawn” crowd.
  • Another way organizers protected the court? Installing a retractable roof over Centre Court back in 2009 in preparation for rainy English days. But this upgrade was met with lots of controversy. Change can be difficult.

Back to those players who excel on the surface, while they haven’t quite reached Rafael Nadal’s “King of Clay” status, Martina Navratilova and Roger Federer can be considered the goddess and god of grass. Navratilova’s won a whopping nine Wimbledon titles, the most of any tennis player, and Federer’s secured eight, the most of any man.

  • Plus, they have respective career win rates of around 89% and 87% on the surface. Pretty good.

🍓 The traditions

SOURCE: CARL COURT/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

With nearly 150 years of history, it’s no surprise that Wimbledon has many notable traditions. For starters, the tournament mandates a strict dress code for participants, complete with a list of rules dedicated specifically to clothing and equipment.

  • Good thing it’s played well before Labor Day, because that dress code includes white — Wimbledon’s staple color.
  • The original reasoning behind the color choice was due, in part, to the supposed cooling effects, but it also allowed athletes to sweat discreetly on hot summer days since signs of sweat were deemed “improper.”
  • Many players have challenged the dress code over the years. If they don’t abide by the rules, though? They may be asked to change or even be disqualified. Okay, fashion police.

As for a sweeter tradition, Wimbledon’s also known for a delicious summertime snack staple — strawberries and cream.

  • In 2019, 191,930 servings of strawberries and cream were consumed, and the price has remained the same since 2010: £2.50 (about $3 USD). Spectators are allowed to bring their own bottle of wine or champagne or two cans of beer to cut down on costs.

And finally, it’s not Wimbledon without a member of the Royal Family making an appearance. While the Queen has only attended four times, her grandsons and their partners have been known to enjoy the tournament more frequently.

💪 Women to watch

SOURCE: WIMBLEDON/TWITTER

While we sadly won’t see Naomi Osaka in action after she withdrew last week with an Achilles injury, there are plenty of other contenders in this stacked women’s field.

Serena Williams: But of course. As mentioned, it’s been nearly a year since Williams took the court in a Grand Slam. It’s only fitting that her comeback begins at Wimbledon, where she’s won seven of her 23 career major titles. We’ve been waiting for this one.

World No. 1 Iga Świątek: Świątek’s dominance has been the story of the 2022 tennis season — she’s riding a 35-match win streak into Wimbledon, an epic run highlighted by her French Open victory a few weeks ago. One more W and she’ll break a tie with Venus Williams for the longest women’s win streak in the 21st century. Bet on it.

World No. 3 Ons Jabeur: Jabeur’s recent rise to No. 3 in the WTA rankings marks a career-high for the Tunisian star. But the quest for her first Grand Slam title could be in danger: Jabeur (and her doubles partner Serena) withdrew from last week’s tune-up event after Jabeur suffered a knee injury.

World No. 12 Coco Gauff: The American phenom burst onto the scene with a run all the way to the French Open finals, her first appearance in a Grand Slam final. Now the 18-year-old will be looking to beat her previous best at Wimbledon, where she was bounced in the fourth round last year. Can confirm — we’re still loco for Coco.

👊 Men to watch

SOURCE: SIMON BRUTY/ANYCHANCE/GETTY IMAGES

World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev won’t be competing due to Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes (more on that below) and the aforementioned Federer is out of the main draw for the first time since 1998 as he continues to recover from knee surgery, leaving the door wide open for these contenders.

World No. 3 Novak Djokovic: The defending champ, Djokovic’s had plenty of success on grass, with six of his 20 Grand Slam titles won at Wimbledon. And he’ll need to make it seven if he wants to keep pace with Rafael Nadal’s current record of 22 men’s titles. Speaking of…

World No. 4 Rafael Nadal: Rafa hasn’t been as successful as Djokovic in London, but he still boasts two Wimbledon trophies. Plus, the Spaniard’s been on a tear this year, winning the first two majors on the calendar. Could this be a Grand Slam in the making?

World No. 7 Carlos Alcaraz: The 19-year-old put the tennis world on notice with his dominant clay-court play earlier this year, and while he struggled in his first grass match of the season last week, the No. 5 seed is still a threat to make a deep run in London.

World No. 11 Matteo Berrettini: Last year’s runner-up, Berrettini has yet to reach a Grand Slam final this season, but that could change at Wimbledon, especially considering the Italian’s success on grass. With a favorable draw, he could just burst through for his first major title.

📺 How to tune in

SOURCE: PETER MACDIARMID/GETTY IMAGES

The 128 men’s and women’s singles contenders will begin their two-week quest for the Gentleman’s Singles Trophy and Venus Rosewater Dish tomorrow, with all the action airing on ESPN in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.

  • Then mark your cal for the women’s singles final on Saturday, July 9th, followed by the men’s on Sunday, July 10th. Serve it up.