Tuesday, April 14, 2020


Nobody really knows what the world will look like when we believe it is safe to live without fear of the deadly coronavirus. We can reasonably conclude that not everything will simply pick up where it left off before we hid in our homes.

There has been loss of lives, loss of jobs, loss of security and loss of joy. The kind of joy that helps make life bearable at times — the world of sports, shut down in our attempt to fight the virus with social distancing and isolation.

There will be no record of NCAA playoffs for 2020, no record of spring sports in colleges and high schools across the country. There will likely be no 2020 NHL or NBA playoffs. The XFL, which opened its season a few months ago with a sense of optimism, has folded up shop quicker than the failed American Alliance of Football did, with owner Vince McMahon leaving a long list of creditors.

We don’t know what lies ahead for professional sports.

But it is safe to say some things will be different — particularly in the suites where the rich and famous watch their sports franchises compete.

Some owners will be forced to sell. Others will have to take in new partners to survive. And there may be no place where this changing of the guard happens more than the NBA and NHL.

Football owners will likely be safe, although some experts believe we are a year away from resuming spectator sports safely. Major League Baseball appears to be poised to possibly take a huge hit — conceivably, the loss of an entire season. But baseball owners may be in better position to withstand the financial hit. The league has a history of credit cushions that should ease the blow.

Not all of them. Franchises already operating with thin margins, like Oakland and Tampa Bay, will probably feel more financial pressures than other teams and need more help.

Then we have the Baltimore Orioles, on a fast track to a dumpster fire before the coronavirus disaster. Sources said the Angelos family was looking into the possibility of inviting a partner — a plan similar to how Steve Bisciotti bought into the Baltimore Ravens as a minority owner and then took over the franchise — before the coronavirus hit. It is difficult to see how the Orioles will be able to continue doing business in a post-coronavirus world without help. Their attendance looked as if a plague had hit Baltimore before the world changed.

Baseball in America will undergo a much more dramatic change in small cities and towns, where the MLB was already weighing a plan to reduce minor league teams by 40 franchises — including teams like the Keys in Frederick, Maryland. That was in the works before the world of coronavirus, and it was met with much resistance.

Now, given the financial losses MLB will be suffering, the push to cut costs will be greater — and the resistance to fight such plans will be weakened. Priorities will be much different.

The NBA and NHL may be hit harder.

In the NBA, there is real concern that major ownership changes will likely be taking place when the league returns to game action. Franchises like New Orleans and Memphis may be on the market, or at the very least be forced to take in new partners for a cash infusion.

Give Ted Leonsis credit. The Monumental Sports boss brought in Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs, as a minority owner in October 2017 when she purchased a 20% stake in Monumental that includes part ownership of the Wizards and Capitals. That $500 million buy-in is looking pretty good these days.

Other owners will be looking for new partners as well, which will present opportunities for those who still have piles of money when this is over, setting the stage for a new generation of sports owners.

Minority investors often wind up majority owners when other teams in their league come up for sale — see David Tepper, the Carolina Panthers owner who had purchased a 5% stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009.

What will they own, though? What will your favorite sports team look like after the world has changed?

Hear Thom Loverro on the Kevin Sheehan podcast Tuesdays and Thursdays.

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