On Tuesday, Serena Williams revealed in a first-person essay for Vogue magazine that she is retiring, or “evolving away from the game,” as she called it. She'll play her last tournament later this month at the U.S. Open.
What's the deal?
She joins Allyson Felix, Sue Bird, and Sylvia Fowles, all legends in their own right, who are stepping away from their respective sports this year. Women who have inspired us to push a little harder, to speak a little louder, to fight a little longer. But the longevity. The accolades. The consistency. The willingness to become more than an athlete and a beacon for equality, for the rights of female athletes, mothers, and people from marginalized communities; those are the things that take all four of these women from memorable to icon. Serena has long been outspoken, about pay equity in tennis and beyond, and how she and her sister were treated and portrayed.
Had any of them, or even all of them, stuck to their respective sports, we’d still have much to celebrate and lament that we’ll never get to see their greatness again. But they didn’t. Serena changed the standard in tennis, Felix set a near-impossibly high bar for track and field success, Bird and Fowles are among the greatest team players we’ve ever seen. And that wasn’t enough for any of them. Since she became a mother, Serena also has become tennis’s grand dame, embracing younger players, like Naomi Osaka, who grew up idolizing her. She did this while still trying for that elusive 24th Slam, which would tie her with Margaret Court for most ever (Court played in the pre-Open era).
The bottom line:
They pushed themselves a little bit harder, spoke a little louder, fought a little harder. And we are all the better that they did.
The Bleacher Report standout and up-and-coming Turner Sports broadcaster has signed a new multi-year deal to broadcast across both the digital-sports outlet and TV programs produced by the Warner Bros. Discovery sports division, even as she has secured a role as a features reporter for the new “Thursday Night Football” streamcast being handled by Amazon’s Prime Video. Rooks has been known for her coverage of the NBA. She intends for that to continue. But she also wants to make a splash with her time reporting on the NFL.
“I don’t want to be someone who can only do one thing, or be put in this box,” she tells Variety. “In this business, it’s really easy to throw people into something that’s confined. I view myself as an incredibly versatile broadcaster, and I want to thrive in all of the settings.” Rooks is the latest in a recent parade of sports-broadcasting notables to secure a contract that allows her to work for more than one company. Indeed, several members of Amazon’s “Thursday Night Football” roster—Al Michaels, Kirk Herbstreit, and Charissa Thompson among them – all have maintained roles with their current employers, NBC Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports.
ZIPS Car Wash (zipscarwash.com) has announced its multi-year investment in 13 collegiate athletic programs through an extensive sponsorship agreement with LEARFIELD. This marks ZIPS first foray into college sports marketing and represents the largest sponsorship of its kind in the growing car wash industry. ZIPS’ most highly concentrated markets of its 250 locations are in the southeast, where it has targeted the sponsorship most heavily.
As part of its multi-school relationship with LEARFIELD, ZIPS is now the proud sponsor of six universities – Arkansas, Baylor, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. ZIPS will have category exclusivity at these respective SEC, Big 12, and ACC member schools, where LEARFIELD is the athletics multimedia rightsholder. There are seven additional universities included in a different capacity, with projections to scale the sponsorship throughout the length of the three-year agreement.
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Sports has been a role model as an area that has made marked progress in fostering a greater sense of inclusion. When we can create an environment where everyone feels truly supported, people are much more likely to feel comfortable taking risks, innovating, and experimenting.
Companies today have much to learn from the way sports has gone beyond inclusion to adopt a Unified approach, joining people with and without disabilities on the same team, and grounding empathy with real-world inclusivity in our company culture, our teams, and our communities.
What organizations are doing to incorporate inclusive practices
About the mutual themes between sports inclusion and inclusion in the workplace
1st hand, from an athlete with disabilities on having a voice and taking the lead
Orange Comet, Inc., a premium NFT creative media and Web3 experience company, today announced an exclusive partnership with American motorsports legends Tony Stewart and Leah Pruett, alongside Tony Stewart Racing. As the first of its kind in its industry, this partnership is poised to create an all new fan experience, elevate fan engagement, and create a new means of storytelling through an emerging technology platform. With various collections set to drop throughout the year, these NFTs will tell the story of Tony Stewart, Leah Pruett and Tony Stewart Racing in a never before seen way.
"We're always looking for new and innovative ways to highlight motorsports and bring unique, one-of-a-kind experiences to our fans, and this partnership with Orange Comet is doing just that," said Stewart, the only driver to win championships in NASCAR, INDYCAR and USAC. "We live in a world where the digital experience is enhancing the live experience, and this collection we've created for the racing community blends these two worlds in a way we've never seen before." The partnership will officially kick off on Aug. 23 with a limited-edition drop on TonyStewartNFTs.com and OpenSea focusing on Stewart's historic motorsports career. Comprised of a variety of signature animations and PFPs, the collection will honor Stewart's legacy by featuring various cars he has raced over the years, while driving home his sense for innovation.
Social media personality and Disney Channel star turned professional boxer Jake Paul is getting back into the media business, and he’s doing it with a sports betting twist. Paul and business partner Joey Levy have raised $50 million to launch a new media and micro-betting company called Betr, with plans to develop sports media properties and eventually build out a sports betting business built around the so-called micro-bets (instead of betting on the outcome of a game, think betting on the outcome of the next pitch, or the next play).
“Micro-betting is the TikTok-ification of sports betting and I am excited to bring it to the masses through Betr,” Paul said in a statement. “We are in this for the long haul and are focused on doing things the right way…. We want to be the category defining consumer company in both sports betting and sports media by the end of the decade and are confident we will achieve that goal.” The first media project to come out of Betr will be a video series called BS With Jake Paul, with other projects to follow. The company has hired Bleacher Report veteran Mike Denevi to serve as Betr’s head of media.
PARTNERSHIP:Opendorse and Twitter announced an expanded partnership, providing a pathway for student-athletes to earn NIL compensation from video content posted.
TECH:Ticketmaster and their partnership with TikTok will make it easier for younger audiences to discover and buy tickets to sporting events.
INVESTING: WNBA legend Sue Bird has signed on to become a minority investor in National Women’s Soccer League club NJ/NY Gotham FC.
BRANDS: Audi the official innovation partner of Sky Sports will sponsor the Power Meter, an on-screen graphic evaluating the quality of a kick upon impact using algorithms.
EVENTS: Sports fans are lucky, as there is a convergence of huge events, many held only once every two to four years, and some entirely new but very high-profile options.
DIGITAL: MLB Network, swinging for attention from younger fans, is producing a baseball-news vignette just for them.
Athlete: Trevor Lawrence
Campaign: Fun Is Still the MVP in Sports
DEAL OF THE WEEK
Minnesota Wild tie up ‘US$5.65m a year’ TRIA jersey patch deal
The National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild have announced a jersey patch deal with HealthPartners that will see TRIA Orthopedics logo feature on all uniforms from the start of the 2022/23 season. Oak View Group’s global partnerships division oversaw the jersey patch partner search, ultimately securing a five-year contract that the Sports Business Journal reports is worth US$5.65 million a year, to total more than US$28 million over its duration. HealthPartners has been a long-term partner of the team, with the new deal further extending the current 22-year association with the Wild that dates back to when the franchise first joined the NHL in 2000. The renewal will also see HealthPartners partner with the Minnesota Wild Foundation and Hockey Fights Cancer.