Signs of panic are starting to show in the sports business society—professional, college and high school across the board. Trouble is the common denominator of living from top to bottom: MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, PGA-golf, MLS-soccer, Pro Tennis and UFC. We’ve gone over four weeks since March 12 with no games.
The predator is the invisible coronavirus spreading like wildfire across the globe. It’s now in 183 countries with over 100,500 deaths worldwide and more than 20,000 in the United States, the most lives lost of any country.
The sports industry has been built on using the labor and talents of the world’s greatest athletes, who hook the fans who in turn drive the engine of sports television and radio marketing. This multi-billion-dollar industry has never experienced this before. We’ve had work stoppages, lockouts, and labor strikes before in the NFL and MLB, but nothing like this where everyone was forced to stop.
The NBA has cut 20% of the salaries of team and league executives, including NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. NCAA President Mark Emmert is taking a 20% cut in salary. The NCAA distributed $225 million to Division I membership, or 38% of the $600 million budgeted after the richest tournament in the world, the NCAA Men’s Basketball March Madness, was canceled.
Dana White, president of the highly popular UFC, said the higher-ups at Disney and ESPN, his partners, asked him to stand down and respect the times and not do the April 18 planned UFC 249 in California.
The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on all sports, including university sports revenue across the country. The Big 12 Conference is reducing all salaries by 10%. The deeper this continues, the schools are facing more difficult decisions—schools closed, no classes, no games, no revenues.
Last week the Masters, the most famous golf tournament in the world, canceled. Wimbledon, the most important Grand Slam Tennis Tournament in the world, cancelled. The last 17 years Wimbledon, scheduled for July in London, has paid $2 million a year for pandemic insurance. The insurance policy will pay organizers $141 million. Smart planning?
Because of social distancing, our new way of life survival, fans are now in fear of returning to crowded arenas to see games and our heroes as usual. The sports fan has never had to choose between life or potential death when deciding to go to a sporting event.
It’s the great equalizer of life. Seventy-two percent of respondents to a poll show great hesitation and reluctance to return to normal, like buying tickets and going back to games in ballparks and stadiums. Many don’t feel safe attending games again right now until a vaccine for the coronavirus is developed.
Whatever good or bad fortune comes your way, it gives life meaning and transforms it into something of value. Be smart.
Remember, only 1.7 million people have been tested globally for the coronavirus. Three hundred and sixty million people live in the United States alone. Half a million have tested positive for COVID-19, and most survive.
It’s been over 100 years since we were last in a public health crisis like this one. Life chips and pounds you to bring out your possibilities. Life will strip you of wealth, humble your pride, and humiliate your ambition.
What happens to you is not as important as how you react to what happens. Keep the faith.