Anticipation high for today's inaugural Miami Grand Prix....Rich Strike stuns with Kentucky Derby upset victory....Derby sets handle record as Churchill Downs returns to full attendance

Anticipation high for Miami GP debut today

By Adam Stern

Anticipation is high for today's inaugural F1 Miami Grand Prix at Hard Rock Stadium, where 85,000 people are expected to be on hand as the racing series shows off its newfound American fandom. The race is at 3:30pm ET on ABC. ESPN has been heavily promoting the event including airing lengthy coverage around Saturday's qualifying action toward the top of last night's "SportsCenter." also had an in-show ad promoting its Kinetica activation, where it will award 57 unique NFTs to people at the race who have a company account. is using sensors around the track to turn data from the cars each of the 57 laps into a piece of abstract art.

 Event COO Tyler Epp declined to comment to SBJ on how much the Dolphins and its South Florida Motorsports subsidiary invested into building out the massive F1 circuit and campus around the stadium, but motorsports industry executives speculated that the investment is likely into the low nine figures, with one pegging it at around $150M (for comparison, Circuit of the Americas cost $400M to build). Industry execs predicted heading into the weekend that an event of this magnitude would have growing pains, and there have been some, namely complaints with the food-and-beverage experience in the Paddock Club on Friday and some drivers complaining about issues with the track, though others have also complimented aspects of it.

LOCAL NOTES: Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross is poised to "make as much money in ticket sales for Miami’s inaugural F1 event as he makes during an entire season on Dolphins home games" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/8)....Several F1 drivers "struggled with the surface" in the opening practice sessions. Driver Lando Norris said, "It is extremely tricky … I think everyone was expecting it to be very smooth and beautiful but it's not" (, 5/6)....There "have been hiccups," from "congested pedestrian bridges, long walks from point to point under the hot Florida sun, and traffic snarls surrounding the stadium." Some teams were "upset Friday over the guest experience inside the Paddock Club," which "cost $11,000 for a three-day pass" (AP, 5/7)

Celebs flock to Miami for debut F1 race

Today's Miami GP is the "hottest ticket in sports right now," part of a "five-star weekend experience" created by Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium Vice Chair Tom Garfinkel. On Saturday, former First Lady Michelle Obama "watched an F1 practice session" from the back of Lewis Hamilton’s pit. George Lucas was in attendance Saturday, and so was Greg Norman, Michael Strahan and Jeff Gordon. CBS' James Corden has been "in the paddock three consecutive days," and Bills QB Josh Allen was "hanging outside McLaren hospitality awaiting friend Daniel Ricciardo" (AP, 5/7). Celebrities who have been on site this weekend or are expected today, according to reports, include Matt Damon, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Tony Parker, Tua Tagovailoa, Ian Poulter, Venus and Serena Williams, Dennis Rodman, Reneé Zellweger and Dan Marino. There's also an array of U.S.-based sports business executives and agencies on site as the industry looks to capitalize on F1's spiking commercial growth and its bid to Americanize (Adam Stern, SBJ).

Rich Strike wins Kentucky Derby in stunning upset

The Kentucky Derby saw its “second-biggest upset” ever yesterday, as Rich Strike “stole the show” with his win and paid $163.60. Rich Strike “wasn’t even in the Derby” until Friday when trainer D. Wayne Lukas "scratched Ethereal Road, making room for the chestnut colt that had just one previous win in his career." Churchill Downs “returned to full capacity” with 147,294 people in attendance (, 5/8). Rich Strike's win is the kind “that can serve as a palate cleanser" for a sport that “has had a few rough years,” culminating with Medina Spirit’s disqualification from last year’s Derby over a positive drug test. Rich Strike is owned by Rick Dawson of RED TR-Racing LLC, “who picks up the $1.86 million winner’s share of the $3 million Derby purse" (USA TODAY, 5/7).

Former President Donald Trump was spotted at the Kentucky Derby. Ten minutes prior to race start, the crowd "cheered as Trump appeared on the big screen overlooking the racetrack." Trump reportedly “came to the Derby this year to appear at a political fundraiser held at Churchill Downs” (Louisville COURIER JOURNAL, 5/8).

Kentucky Derby sets handle record

Handle on yesterday's Kentucky Derby “set a record” on a day in which Churchill Downs had 147,294 in attendance after it “opened its gates wide for the first time” since ’19. Handle, including all multi-race bets that ended in the race, was $168.8M, up 9.9% "compared to handle on the race last year" and up 5.8% "over the record set in 2019." Handle also “set a record for the entire 14-race card” at Churchill Downs yesterday, a total of $263.2M bet, up 4.9% "over the record set in 2019" (DAILY RACING FORM, 5/7).

Bivol stuns Alvarez in unanimous decision

Boxer Dmitry Bivol scored an unanimous decision over Canelo Alvarez Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in one of the "biggest boxing upsets in recent memory." Bivol, who is Russian, "didn’t have his national anthem played at a time when many of his countrymen are being barred from competing.” The “long-awaited trilogy fight” between Alvarez and Gennadiy Golovkin was "already signed for Sept. 17." Instead, Alvarez said that he "plans to exercise his contractual right to an immediate rematch" with Bivol (, 5/8). Thousands of boxing fans descended on Las Vegas to "see the sport’s biggest star in a marquee fight” and fans "packed T-Mobile Arena." It was Alvarez’s first loss since he "dropped a decision to Floyd Mayweather" in ’13 (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/7).

Ventrelle: Raiders firing was for reporting allegations

Raiders President Dan Ventrelle said that he was "fired in retaliation" for him alerting the NFL that Owner Mark Davis "ignored concerns that there was a hostile-work environment within the organization." Ventrelle: "Multiple written complaints from employees that Mark created a hostile work environment and engaged in other potential misconduct caused me grave concern.” He also said that when he confronted Davis about the issues that he was “dismissive of them.” In response, Davis said, “I’ve heard about (Ventrelle’s) statement, but I won’t comment on it. The only thing I want made clear is that Dan Ventrelle was never president of the Raiders. He has always been the interim president" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/7).

One theory behind the "re-organization of the entire franchise occurring" is Davis “wants a clean slate to build the organization more in his own image.” A "sort of reset to the entire thing.” But there are “more rumors of internal discord” right now (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 5/8).

The NFL said that it will “investigate allegations” against the Raiders. NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said, “We will promptly look into the matter” (WASHINGTON POST, 5/8). The NFL “should want to get to the bottom” of Ventrelle’s claims (, 5/6).

NCAA expected to pass new NIL rules soon

An expedited NCAA enforcement process addressing NIL rights abuses is “expected to pass as early as Monday." Ohio State AD Gene Smith said that the NCAA and his subcommittee are “determined to put up meaningful guardrails around NIL,” which in some cases has “edged close to pay-for-play.” The working group's recommendations submitted this week “primarily deal with booster involvement.” Those recommendations have “passed through the NCAA Transformation Committee” and “will be taken up next week” by the NCAA BOD. Smith said that the NCAA is “fully invested” in the crackdown. But how effective it will be is “up for debate.” Smith: "We know we're going to get lawsuits" (, 5/6).

Peacock debuts "MLB Sunday Leadoff" package

Today's 11:30am ET game between the Red Sox and the White Sox “stands as the debut” for Peacock’s “MLB Sunday Leadoff” package, which will "feature an exclusive late-morning/early-afternoon game” over each of the next 18 Sundays. This particular game is being "simulcast on NBC.” The broadcast features “graphical and musical callbacks to NBC’s fondly remembered heyday of baseball coverage” in the '70s and '80s. “MLB Sunday Leadoff” each week will feature “an analyst from each of the two teams playing," with Jason Benetti "on play by play.” The analysts today are Kevin Youkilis from NESN and NBC Sports Chicago’s Steve Stone, Benetti’s “usual broadcast partner” on White Sox games (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/6).

Ex-Papa John's CEO says Goodell ouster tried in '17

Former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter claimed that Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones and Commanders Owner Dan Snyder wanted him to try to get NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "fired" in '17, “specifically for the manner in which Goodell was handling the national anthem controversy." Schnatter in an interview for last month said, “I had a free shot from two owners to go after Goodell personally. I didn’t go after him in a vicious, venomous way.” Schnatter in a '17 conference call regarding Papa John’s poor earnings for Q3 of that year said that Goodell should have been more proactive in handling the league's controversies, saying, “Good or bad, leadership starts at the top and this is an example of poor leadership. This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago” (, 5/7).

Boehly at Chelsea match after club purchase

Dodgers co-Owner Todd Boehly was "at Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon" to watch EPL club Chelsea play after agreeing to become the club's new part-owner. Chelsea supporters "stood with Boehly" outside of the stadium, and he was seen “clapping and whistling” after F Romelu Lukaku gave Chelsea the lead. Boehly is the "main face" behind the consortium purchasing Chelsea, but it will be Californian private equity firm Clearlake Capital that "owns a majority of shares" (, 5/7).

The club's purchase price of $3.1B would be the “most ever paid” for a team in any sport. The sale, one of the “more unusual in modern sports history,” still “requires the approval” of the U.K. government. Boehly’s group also includes Swiss businessman Hansjorg Wyss and Dodgers Chair & co-Owner Mark Walter (N.Y. TIMES, 5/7). There “remains doubt” over how the money from the sale will be "paid into a foundation destined for Ukraine." Another potential hurdle are assurances that any links to Owner Roman Abramovich will “come to an end when the Boehly-led consortium take control.” Chelsea and Boehly will be “asked to address concerns” that club Chair Bruce Buck, who is believed to have "played a key part in negotiations," and Dir Marina Granovskaia, could “stay on at the club” (London TELEGRAPH, 5/8).

Storm host first WNBA game at Climate Pledge

The WNBA Seattle Storm opened a “promising and highly anticipated season” on Friday with a “raucous, appreciative crowd on hand" for their game against the Minnesota Lynx, the first regular-season WNBA game played at Climate Pledge Arena. The "glittering arena ... was a perfect fit” for the Storm after three years of “itinerant hooping.” The crowd of 12,904 "had a blast," particularly when the Storm “broke open a tie game” in the second half. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, NWSL OL Reign F Megan Rapinoe, former NFLers Doug Baldwin and Cliff Avril, and Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard “dotted the stands” (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/7). Production delays prevented Storm F Breanna Stewart from "unveiling her Puma signature shoe" Stewie 1 on Friday. Instead, the Storm star “wore the Rick and Morty version” of Hornets G LaMelo Ball’s Puma MB.01 sneakers (SEATTLE TIMES, 5/6).

Becky Hammon returned to the WNBA in her debut as Las Vegas Aces head coach Friday with a 106-88 victory over the Phoenix Mercury at Footprint Center (, 5/7).

Liberty Media's Maffei talks F1's future

By Adam Stern

Liberty Media President & CEO Greg Maffei made a couple eyebrow-raising comments Friday. Maffei first revealed during an earnings call that Liberty was spending $240M to acquire a plot of land in Las Vegas to house its paddock and garages for the new race there starting next year. Maffei later spoke at a Bloomberg Power Players conference, where among other things he re-affirmed that F1 is going to see a massive increase in its new U.S. media-rights deal that will start next year, declined to comment on Florida's controversial teaching law that's been dubbed "Don't Say Gay" and said: "If we responded to every political complaint, we'd race nowhere. Maybe Norway." He also downplayed the chances of F1 imminently adding an 11th team, despite the fact that Michael Andretti was in the paddock this weekend working on that very initiative, and he seemed to suggest that Sky Sports' coverage of F1 is better than NBC Sports' coverage of the Indy 500 though he didn't say NBC by name.

Big3 adds owners through NFT deal

The Big3 is adding “some big names” to its ownership groups, with rapper Snoop Dogg and PayPal co-Founder Ken Howery “expected to buy a 40% stake in Big3 team Bivouac." The purchase will be made “exclusively through designated NFTs." Howery said that he is “excited to bring his knowledge of blockchain to this new venture.” Howery: “The Big3 is on the leading edge of enabling blockchain technology as utility” (, 5/6). The NFT deal is part of the Big3’s new model of ownership announced last month which leverages blockchain technology to sell NFTs offering ownership-like benefits (Big3).

Speed Reads....

A petition to represent the approximately 360 USFL players was "recently filed at the National Labor Relations Board" in hopes to start a "union for players in the new USFL, and potentially for competitors in future minor football leagues like the planned XFL next year" (, 5/6).

NHL timeout coordinator Joe Foley on Friday during Bruins-Hurricanes Game 3 at TD Garden was "taken off the ice on a stretcher after he was injured by a pane of glass which fell into the penalty box." Foley appeared to be "hit in the head and shoulders by the glass," which was "shaken loose by fans celebrating" Bruins RW David Pastrnak’s goal (BOSTON GLOBE, 5/7).

Quick Hits....

“Surviving" -- Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby, on his proudest accomplishment at the Big 12 (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/7).

“When you don’t have that playoff environment to really capture new fans, it’s hard to sell down the road and in the future. This is great for our selling next year, in addition to the short-term revenue upside that we get” -- Stars President & CEO Brad Alberts, on how the team making the Stanley Cup Playoffs helps with marketing (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/7).

Weekend Hot Reads:

Under the header, "Formula One, fueled by Netflix and ESPN, revs up courtship of U.S. fans," the WASHINGTON POST's Liz Clarke wrote several factors are "driving what has become a full-blown courtship" between F1 and American fans and promoters. Expanding the sport’s U.S. audience was "among the goals" of Liberty Media when it bought the F1 in '17. Under Liberty’s direction, F1 "ramped up its social media presence to better reach the young consumers U.S. advertisers covet." Meanwhile, the N.Y. TIMES' Patricia Mazzei looks at F1 coming to Miami, a city where "cars are already king," with this weekend's Miami GP.


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Today's Back Pages....

The Weekend Rap 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