Americas Bulletin: NBA keeps the peace; Chargers weigh LA move; MLS expansion plans and more

SportsPro’s Americas Bulletin, dishing up a regular diet of news, views and insight from across the business of sport in the Western Hemisphere.

Americas Bulletin: NBA keeps the peace; Chargers weigh LA move; MLS expansion plans and more

Hot on the heels of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and its players union concluded their new tentative labour pact last week. The seven-year deal, which runs until 2024 and includes a mutual opt-out cause for 2022, was thrashed out at a time when the NBA business is booming across the board thanks, in large part, to the league’s US$24 billion TV contract and increased revenue sharing, so it was no surprise the new accord was reached in good time and with minimal fuss. 

While eagle-eyed observers pore over the minutiae of the new CBA, which must be ratified by 13th January, and consider what its ramifications might be, there are no major changes to the current deal. The basic split of Basketball Related Income (BRI) remains at between 49 and 51 per cent for the players - though BRI, expanded in definition, is projected to rise from US$4 billion to an estimated US$8 billion in the coming years - while there are only negligible changes to the salary cap and luxury tax rules. Most importantly, though, there will be no lockout next year, and that is good news for both sides of the bargaining table. Clearly, the bigger the pie, the easier it is to slice.

After a dismal season on the field and lingering uncertainty off it, the San Diego Chargers look increasingly likely to make the short hop north along the I-5 to Los Angeles. Last week, National Football League (NFL) owners unanimously approved a lease agreement that would see the Chargers and the Los Angeles Rams share the latter’s under-construction stadium in Inglewood. Under the deal, the Chargers would pay US$1 a year to share the US$2.6 billion venue and any non-football revenues, while the NFL’s debt restrictions would also be waived to help finance their US$650 million relocation fee.

With the groundwork for a move now laid, it is down to Chargers owner Dean Spanos (above) to decide whether or not to join the Rams in LA ahead of a 15th January deadline. Spanos has insisted he will not make a decision until after the end of the regular season on New Year’s Day but when asked by Scott Kaplan of CBS if he is closer to leaving than staying, Spanos said: “That would probably be an accurate statement.”

US broadcaster NBCUniversal is already one of the Olympic movement’s biggest benefactors owing to the billions it spends on Games media rights, and now the network is teaming up with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to launch a dedicated Olympic channel in the US. Set to debut in the second half of 2017, the new linear cable offering - dubbed ‘Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA’ - will complement the IOC’s digital Olympic Channel, which launched earlier this year, and will see coverage of Olympic sports produced and distributed to US audiences year-round. AT&T/DirecTV, the country’s largest pay-TV operator, has already signed up to carry the channel, according to NBC Olympics president Gary Zenkel.

"This is fantastic news for our national governing bodies," said USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun. "It's a wonderful way to turbo-charge one of the fastest-growing fanbases out there. It's a great platform not only for Olympic sports but original programming."

In baseball, meanwhile, a record six MLB teams received luxury tax bills this week after exceeding the league’s salary cap last season. The Los Angeles Dodgers have the biggest bill of US$31.8 million, while the New York Yankees - luxury tax offenders for the past 14 years, no less - have been slapped with US$27.4 million. The Chicago Cubs, this year’s World Series champions, have to pay US$2.96 million, with the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants forking out US$11.9 million between them. A blotch on the books luxury tax may be, a deterrent it is not.

Elsewhere, Major League Soccer (MLS) has outlined the timeline and terms for its next round of expansion as it continues its push to 28 franchises. Commissioner Don Garber revealed on Thursday that the league’s 25th and 26th teams will begin play in 2020 and will be required to pay US$150 million each for the privilege while two more sides will be added at a later date for an as-yet-undetermined fee. Interested parties have been given a 31st January deadline to submit applications, with a series of in-person meetings set to take place during the first half of 2017.

Also this week: NBA champions the Cleveland Cavaliers have announced a US$140 million, public-private upgrade plan for their Quicken Loans Arena, with a view to expanding the venue’s retail space and attracting major entertainment acts; the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has confirmed that its 2017 All-Star Game will be played at Seattle’s KeyArena on 22nd July; and Nascar has unveiled a new brand identity and announced that its premier circuit will be called the Monster Energy Nascar Cup Series from next year onwards.

Please note: the Americas Bulletin will not publish next week due to the Christmas break. Expect the next edition in your inbox on Wednesday 4th January. Happy holidays, folks!

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