Menu

Oliver Luck, Vince McMahon settle XFL termination suit....Dan Snyder reiterates refusal to testify at hearing....Zak Brown says Andretti F1 team effort meeting resistance

Luck, McMahon settle XFL termination lawsuit

By Ben Fischer

Former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck and former league owner Vince McMahon have reached a settlement in their acrimonious legal battle over roughly $24M in compensation Luck said he was due after McMahon fired him in April '20. Terms are unknown. The settlement was referred to in a filing by Luck’s attorney, Paul Dobrowski, on Friday, seeking a judicial order permanently sealing records in the case. Many had already been sealed until a resolution. "The parties reached an agreement to resolve this case on June 16, 2022," Dobrowski wrote. The case had been slated to go to jury selection on July 11. McMahon’s lawyer, Jerry McDevitt, does not oppose the motion.

On April 9, 2020 -- early in the COVID-19 pandemic that ultimately shut down the XFL -- McMahon fired Luck, claiming it was for cause. He cited several factors: Luck’s disclosure of confidential information to his brother-in-law, then-Wasserman Exec VP/Football Will Wilson, use of his company phone for personal matters, abandoning his position when the pandemic started, and signing WR Antonio Callaway to a contract, going against McMahon’s rule against employing players with spotty legal or moral track records. The firing was one day before the XFL folded and four days before its parent, Alpha Entertainment, declared bankruptcy. Luck argued McMahon’s reasons were just pretexts to avoid the contractually requirement payments, and said he was due his full salary and bonuses in the five-year deal.

In February, Federal Judge Victor Bolden threw out all of McMahon’s defenses except for the Callaway issue in February, leaving a limited defense for the WWE chief exec. Separately, WWE on Friday announced that McMahon would leave his CEO and Chair positions while the WWE board investigates allegations of misconduct, with his daughter, Stephanie McMahon, replacing him on an interim basis.

Snyder reiterates refusal to testify at hearing

Commanders Owner Dan Snyder "reiterated his refusal to participate in a June 22 congressional hearing about the team’s workplace" via a letter from his lawyer Monday. The two-page letter from Snyder's lawyer Karen Patton Seymour does "not close the door" on him speaking to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform about the team’s workplace but "makes clear that he would do so only if certain conditions are met." The letter restates his “long-standing business conflict, for which he is out of the country,” along with concerns about “fundamental notions of fairness and due process.” A committee spokesperson in response noted that the panel “has been more than accommodating” in several respects, including "allowing Snyder to testify remotely from France" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/20).

Zak Brown: Andretti F1 effort meeting resistance

By Adam Stern
Brown believes value of F1 franchise from when Concorde Agreement was signed in '20 has "grown rapidly"McLaren Racing

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown doesn't think that the Andretti family’s bid to get an F1 expansion franchise is dead yet, but he acknowledged that it is meeting headwinds in the F1 paddock. Brown: "I hope it's not dead; I don't think it's dead. But it certainly seems like it's meeting a lot of resistance." F1 teams agreed to a $200M buy-in fee when they passed the Concorde Agreement in '20, but there has been chatter recently that the number should be higher because the sport has seen huge growth since the pandemic. Asked what he thinks the current buy-in fee should be, Brown said, “I wouldn’t want to comment on what I think the right number is, but what I would say is the value of an F1 franchise from when the Concorde Agreement was signed to now -- it’s grown rapidly. Ultimately, it’s up to F1 to decide what the right number to buy in is, but what an F1 team was worth three years ago -- it’s significantly more today.”

Meanwhile, Colton Herta, who drives for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar, has an "extremely good chance" of signing with an F1 team if he performs well in testing later this year, according to Brown. Earlier this year, Brown signed Herta to a developmental deal with McLaren, and he’s expected to get the chance to test an F1 car at some point later this year. Herta, who is from California, is being closely watched on both sides of the Atlantic because he is largely seen as next best chance to get an American driver in F1 at a time when the series tries to unlock more growth in the U.S. However, while Brown naturally appears to be eyeing Herta for a place with McLaren, he added that the team’s current two F1 drivers, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, are both signed through 2023, “so I don’t see 2023 being an opportunity.” Ricciardo is represented by CAA.

Brown: “The potential is definitely there. If you look at his results in IndyCar, he’s extremely fast. He was Lando’s teammate in Europe many years ago, and Lando rates him very highly, so he has an extremely good chance and is very capable of being an F1 driver. That’s why we’re testing him, and one of these days should the stars align, which if the seats available and Colton is available and proves to us in testing that he’s capable, which we fully anticipate, then yes, I can see him in F1 whether with McLaren or another team. That would be additive to the great exposure that F1 already has in North America. We’ve got Las Vegas, we’ve only done Miami once, so we’re still in the early days of the rapid growth of F1.”

IndyCar's Colton Herta, who drives for Andretti Autosport, could sign with an F1 team if he performs well in testing later this yearIndyCar

Crypto companies looking to cut sports spending

Cryptocurrency companies that "splurged heavily on sports deals last year" are "now looking to cut costs" amid this year’s downturn. Sources said that crypto exchange FTX "pulled out of talks to provide a jersey patch" to the Angels in recent weeks as the crypto market "tanked." The sources added that another patch deal between the Wizards and a crypto company "also recently fell through," with both deals being "nixed as the market crumbled." The Angels "declined to comment," while FTX and the Wizards did "not respond to requests for comment." The spending slump comes after large crypto exchanges "binged on sponsorship deals" in '21 in an effort to "woo sports fans." But despite the current turmoil, there is "no indication Crypto.com or FTX are currently looking to back out of their stadium naming rights deals" with the Lakers and Heat respectively. If either of the companies were looking to back out, they would "likely be forced to pay heavily" (N.Y. POST, 6/20).

Kyrgios is first player repped by Osaka's new agency

By Liz Mullen

Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios has joined Evolve, the new athlete representation agency launched earlier this year by Naomi Osaka and Stuart Duguid, becoming the firm's first client. Duguid will represent Kyrgios and he will also continue to be represented by his manager Daniel Horsfall. Kyrgios was formerly represented by IMG, where Duguid worked as an agent before forming Evolve.

Meanwhile, Osaka has officially pulled out of Wimbledon for the second consecutive year. Osaka cited a lingering left Achilles injury for withdrawing from the tourney, but she had previously expressed misgivings about competing at the All England Club after the tournament was stripped of rankings points by the WTA and ATP.

M-B Stadium earns designation for green efforts

Mercedes-Benz Stadium is the first stadium in pro sports to be awarded Total Resource Use and Efficiency (TRUE) precertification by Green Business Certification Inc. for its zero-waste efforts. Since March '22, MBS has diverted over 90% of accumulated waste from landfill at all major events, including five Atlanta United matches and concerts. In '17, the stadium became the first pro sports venue in North America to reach LEED's highest certification (Platinum). Green practices and programs in place include:

  • Supply chain items made from recyclable and compostable materials
  • Leveraging a resource recovery room (R3) to reclaim, sort and divert materials from landfill
  • Sustainability education and engagement programs for fans, associates and the stadium’s food/beverage partners
  • Recycling/compost bins added to every stadium suite by August '22
  • Green partnerships with Coca-Cola, Georgia Power, Novelis, Phade and Waste Management (Mercedes-Benz Stadium).

Today in SportTechie....

This Week in History: Muhammad Ali's conviction

June 20, 1967 -- Muhammad Ali was convicted in Houston, Texas, of violating Selective Service laws by refusing to be drafted. He was fined $10,000 and sentenced to five years in prison. Ali, who opposed the Vietnam War, had refused to report for service on grounds that he was a Muslim minister. The U.S. Supreme Court later overturned the conviction.

Also happening this week

  • June 21, 1904: The Boston Herald goes with the header, "[Former Red Sox LF Patsy] Dougherty as a Yankee," which is the first known reference to the N.Y. club as the Yankees. The team would become known as the Yankees in 1913.
  • June 22, 1946: Bill Veeck buys the Cleveland Indians for $2.2M, which is $33.7M today. 
  • June 23, 1894: The International Olympic Committee is founded at the Sorbonne, Paris, at the initiative of Barron Pierre de Coubertin.
  • June 24, 1922: The American Professional Football Association is renamed the National Football League.

Speed Reads....

Kraft Heinz Canada, in partnership with the NHL and NHLPA, will host two Canadiens-Senators preseason games in October in the '20 and '21 Kraft Hockeyville winning communities: Twillingate, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Elsipogtog First Nation, New Brunswick. The games, had been postponed due to COVID-19 (NHL).

Quick Hits....

“That’s partly just a product of the global nature of the LPGA right now in that the best from every country that comes over here has an opportunity to win and win the biggest events … (and) that’s a great thing for the LPGA. But you need to see some of those big names win big tournaments because that’s really what makes the headlines” -- Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols, on how it is getting more difficult to win on the LPGA Tour week to week (“Golf Today,” Golf Channel, 6/20).

“What we’re talking about right now is what makes the NBA continue to grow as a brand because even though the champs are crowned … the attention will still be on the NBA until the season starts because there is so many stars potential moving or stars actually moving. In no other major sport do stars move around like they do in the NBA” -- ESPN’s Matt Barnes, on offseason storylines of potential player movement in the NBA (“NBA Today,” ESPN, 6/20).

Twitter Me This....

Daily Download....

The WNBA tomorrow will premiere its new short film, “We are the W,” showcasing the stories of individual athletes in the league, and how they dovetail with the story of the WNBA as a whole.

Check out Sports Business Journal's weekly issue

Don't miss this week's issue of SBJ. Title IX turns 50, and we take a look at the uncertain future of the landmark legislation that changed women's sports forever. Also in this issue: Inside the milestone deal between MLS and Apple; schools are following Boise State's early bet on NIL; and our debut finance column from writer Chris Smith examines the continuing fall of the once-trendy SPAC investment craze.

If you’d like to receive the print issue at your home office, update your delivery address at any time within your account settings here. If you have questions about how and where to receive your print copy, email help@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

Channel Surf....

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will appear on NBC's "The Tonight Show" at 11:35 pm ET.

Daily Digit....

$1.25M -- Amount the Meijer LPGA Classic raised for food pantries across the Midwest, exceeding its initial fundraising goals. In total, the event has generated $8.65M for the Simply Give program. Jennifer Kupcho won the event at Blythefield Country Club (Meijer LPGA Classic).

;