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Start your morning with Buzzcast: MLB opens up CBD category; Snyder on the defensive; Monahan goes on the offensive; and remembering Bruton Smith.

Speedway Motorsports founder Bruton Smith dies

By Adam Stern

Speedway Motorsports founder Bruton Smith passed away yesterday at the age of 95, a seismic loss of perhaps the most historic NASCAR business icon who was still alive. Smith was one of the foremost builders of American motorsports alongside NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. in the 20th century, constructing massive and, at the time they were built, cutting edge race tracks across America over several decades. He broke ground on Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1959 and held the Coca-Cola 600 for the first time in 1960 as a way to make sure NASCAR had a place on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, which also includes F1’s Monaco Grand Prix and IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500.

He also took SMI public in 1997 in a revolutionary move at the time for a race track promoter; the company later went private again in 2019. Speedway Motorsports is still a family owned company and is now run by CEO Marcus Smith, one of Bruton’s sons. It owns 11 tracks. The company has been known for an endless number of bold moves under the Smiths over the years, including hosting the Battle at Bristol Virginia Tech-Tennessee game in 2016 before 157,000 fans, the largest single-game attendance in college football history. Smith was also famous for being a shrewd and clever negotiator.

Tributes poured in from across the racing landscape. NASCAR President Steve Phelps told SBJ: “They broke the mold with Bruton. He was a force, a titan in our industry, a visionary. I know Marcus is carrying on his legacy, but our thoughts and prayers go out to the whole family and those who knew him. It's a big loss for our sport today." On Twitter, Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrote: “Bruton’s contribution to stock car racing is hard to measure. His ambitious vision created growth and opportunities that I am forever thankful for. My heart is with the Smith family.” Tony Stewart: “Bruton Smith was a pioneer who helped make motorsports mainstream and allowed guys like me to make a living doing what we love. He helped grow not just NASCAR, but all kinds of racing. He had his hands in all of it, and even though he’s gone, his fingerprints remain.”

Read today's SBJ Daily edition for more on Smith's legacy.

Panini partners with 15 NBA Draft prospects

By Juwan Watson

Panini America has teamed up with 15 NBA draft prospects this year, with each player getting a physical trading card that will be immediately available online the moment they are drafted tonight in Brooklyn. Duke C Mark Williams is among the four players (with Wisconsin's Johnny Davis and two others), and he tells SBJ he came to the opportunity through his agents, Excel Sports Management’s Jeff Schwartz and Jordan Gertler. Panini last year had draftees Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green among the players on its draft night roster. Panini has NBA trading card rights through ‘25, after which Fanatics will pick up the deal with the league and players’ union.

After one season at Duke, Williams felt the NIL experience was positive for him, and a lot of other college athletes, who were looking to turn pro. “It helped for sure,” Williams said. He says he jumped at the chance to grow his brand with Panini. Growing up, Williams said he was not much of a card collector, but his friends were (he does admit he’ll be collecting his own draft night card). Williams is also paying attention to where the digital collectible space is headed, but has not been swayed one way or the other just yet (physical cards vs. NFTs). Does he think his former coach in Durham might have an opinion on the growing blockchain space? “Coach K would be into crypto,” Williams said with a laugh.

NBA rookie development part of draft week

By Eric Prisbell

The NBA's rookie development programming began in earnest in the N.Y. area Tuesday and continued throughout the week in advance of tonight's NBA Draft at Barclays Center. The league's player development program is a comprehensive process that began with staff getting to know prospects and their families during Chicago's pre-draft camp, and it continued this week with one-on-one meetings, group sessions and meetings with player families. It will extend into the Las Vegas Summer League as the NBA works with the NBPA as part of its rookie transition program.

The NBA's staff, led by Senior VP/Player Development Jamila Wideman, focuses on a wide array of issues with players, including financial literacy, navigating sudden fame and more. Wideman told SBJ that some of the key takeaways they hope players absorb from the programming include growing as a leader, becoming lifelong learners and recognizing and taking advantage of opportunities they encounter. Wideman said the staff stresses the importance of players possessing the strategies and skills to navigate what is a whirlwind draft process. With the goal of holistic player care, she said it is also important to "pause and take stock of the moment and to celebrate the moment with their loves ones, and to encourage their families to do the same.”

Bain, Nextalia buying Deltatre from Bruin Capital

Bain Capital and Nextalia SGR have agreed to acquire sports & entertainment tech provider Deltatre from Bruin Capital. Deltatre, which offers streaming solutions and live broadcast enhancements, counts among its clients the NFL, MLB, MLS, UEFA and more. It has a presence in 14 countries; its OTT solutions have approximately 25 million end users per day; and it is expected to generate $180M of revenue in '22. The transaction is subject to regulatory and other approvals. Deltatre CEO Andrea Marini will continue to lead the business with the existing management team and remain a significant shareholder in the company (Deltatre).

NHL to launch NFT marketplace with Sweet

By Alex Silverman

TAMPA, Fla. -- The NHL, NHLPA and NHL Alumni Association will launch a new digital collectibles marketplace for the '22-23 season via a five-year partnership with NFT platform operator Sweet. Each of the three NHL entities negotiated its own licensing agreement with Sweet. Financial terms of those deals were not disclosed. The initial offerings in the NHL’s standalone NFT platform will look familiar -- in concept if not design -- to collectors of NBA Top Shot and other similar programs. Users will be able to purchase packs of highlight-based collectible moments, which they can subsequently display, trade or sell to other users. The inclusion of both the players’ union and alumni association in the deal will allow Sweet to offer both historic and current moments. The product roadmap also calls for gamification elements, specialty packs, dynamic NFTs designed to change based on current data and interactive trophy rooms where users can display their collections.

The NHL is the last of the four major team sports leagues to launch its own NFT marketplace. The NBA and NFL are both working with Dapper Labs, while MLB is partnered with Fanatics-owned Candy Digital. “We knew that we wanted to take some time to really think about it instead of following what some of the other leagues were doing to quickly get into the space with more of a consumer product-type of mindset,” said NHL Exec VP/Business Development and Innovation Dave Lehanski. He said the league had conversations with dozens of companies in the NFT space and hired unidentified consultants to assist with strategy development. “Everything from creativity, marketplace and design to promotion and community-building aligned with Sweet,” Lehanski said. “We established a partnership with a common sense of what we want to do, which certainly is going to have a short- term rollout, but it's really built on a longer-term vision."

The partnership is a rare example of the league, players’ union and alumni association all working together on a joint licensing agreement, and Lehanski called the pact with Sweet “one of the biggest licensing deals we’ve ever established.”

Mathieu Schneider, Assistant to the Exec Dir of the NHLPA, said it was important for the sport to do its due diligence before entering the nascent space. "There was there was a certain sense of urgency, but as we started to dive into the area further and further, we were learning the space and wanted to make sure that we were making the right decisions and partnering with the right people," Schneider said. "There was a common willingness to invest in the development of the marketplace, the experience and the promotion of it, and how we would all use our collective IP to do that,” Lehanski added.

With the Sweet partnership in place, the players’ union is now in the process of determining how individual players will be compensated for the use of their likenesses in NFTs. “Players are going to be expecting something coming back for one of their great moments that they've had on the ice,” Schneider said. “We're going to work with the players and try to come up with ideas or ways that we can make sure everybody feels good about money and where it's going.” Several NHL teams previously dipped a toe into the NFT waters with their own initiatives and will be allowed to continue to do so going forward. Lehanski said the league is in the process of “creating ways for there to be some connectivity between what we do at the league with regard to our marketplace of product offerings and what the clubs are doing.” Sweet’s other professional sports partners include the Cavaliers, Knicks, Bucks, McLaren Racing, Red Bull Racing and the Australian Open.

Related: SportTechie talks with Sweet's Tom Mizzone.

Canada's government freezes Hockey Canada funds

The Canadian government is "freezing Hockey Canada’s millions of dollars in federal funding until the organization signs up with a new federal agency that has the power to independently receive and investigate abuse complaints and issue sanctions for inappropriate behaviour." This comes two days after Hockey Canada President Scott Smith and outgoing CEO Tom Renney testified before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage about "allegations made by a woman who said she was sexually assaulted" by eight CHL players in '18, "at least some of whom played for Canada’s 2018 World Juniors team." A C$3.55M lawsuit was launched in April against Hockey Canada, which now will be "required to detail its plans to implement change within the organization" (TSN.ca, 6/22).

LEAD1 celebrates Title IX at 50 with DC event

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Title IX, signed into law on June 23, 1972. The LEAD1 Association, which represents the ADs of the 131 FBS member schools, is hosting a Title IX at 50 Celebration tonight at District Winery in DC. The event will feature a panel discussion about the impact and future of Title IX followed by a reception for attendees. The panel, which will be moderated by USA Today Columnist Christine Brennan, includes Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman, Pitt AD Heather Lyke (also LEAD1 Board Chair), Basketball Analyst Christy Winters-Scott, Playfly Sports President Christy Hedgpath and U.S. Reps Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), Susie Lee (D-Nev.), and Sharice Davids (D-Kan.), all of whom are former student-athletes (LEAD1).

Morning Hot Reads: Title IX at 50

The N.Y. TIMES goes with, "Fifty Years On, Title IX’s Legacy Includes its Durability." What has "made Title IX so durable?" An act of Congress and "broad public support, for starters." But even though Title IX was "intended to equalize college admissions, perhaps its most visible achievement has been the inclusion of women in interscholastic sports, leading to an explosion in numerous youth sports for girls." Title IX "emerged as an ember from the civil rights and women’s liberation movements." But like the policies that "came before Title IX, its path to success was far from certain." The key was "keeping it under the radar and broad."

Other reads on the 50th anniversary of Title IX:

SBJ this week also goes deep on Title IX. The headlines:

Speed Reads....

Talent Resources Sports, a platform and service for brands to leverage the social media followings of athletes, has partnered Neiman Marcus with NBA Draft prospects Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin as the fashion retail company launches its "Concrete Runway" campaign (Eric Prisbell, SBJ).

The Ducks and Honda Center named emergency response company Titan HST the arena's official security communication platform provider (Titan Health & Security Technologies).

Bridgestone Americas opened its new tire production center in Akron, Ohio, where it will manufacture all Firestone Firehawk race tires for the NTT IndyCar Series. Bridgestone invested more than $21M to build the facility (Bridgestone).

Ribbon-cutting ceremony at Bridgestone's new IndyCar-specific production facility in AkronBridgestone

Quick Hits....

“After President Biden fell of his bike over the weekend, former President Trump said he will ‘never, ever ride a bicycle.’ ... If this is anything like your past promises, you’ll be in the Tour de France next month” -- NBC’s Seth Meyers (“Late Night,” NBC, 6/22).

Twitter Me This....

Final Jeopardy!

Last night’s "Final Jeopardy!" category was "19th Century Literature."

"This author first thought of a parrot before choosing another bird 'equally capable of speech.'"

Today's Back Pages....

The Morning Buzz offers today's back page sports covers from some of North America's major metropolitan tabloids:

N.Y. Post N.Y. Daily News Newsday Boston Herald Chicago Sun-Times Philadelphia Daily News
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