A Seminal Sports Moment; Dark Days for Pac-12

Last Wednesday, August, 26, 2020, was a landmark day in sports history.

It was the day athletes learned they have real power.

And things will never be the same. The “shut up and dribble” crowd has been humbled.

As you know, on that day, the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks went on strike to protest racial injustice after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.

Unlike a lot of politicians, protesters and TV hosts who are all talk and no action, the Bucks showed some real guts. They refused to play game 5 of a playoff series.

A lot was at stake. But they put their country ahead of their wallets.

When the Bucks walked off the floor, lots of bad things could’ve happened. Like forfeits, fines, suspensions.

But the NBA supported the players and quickly cancelled all the games scheduled that day.

In short order, players in the other major sports followed suit, leading to 35 game postponements in the WNBA, Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, and the NHL.

Play resumed three days later, but not before the NBA promised to implement several social justice initiatives, including using NBA arenas as polling places in November’s election.

Whether or not you agree with the players’ decision to use their platform to protest racial injustice—and I most certainly do—the players now understand that they hold real power and real leverage.

And college athletes definitely took note.

As I wrote last week, there are major changes coming in college football, and one of them is that the players will have a much larger voice. Last week’s events have reaffirmed—and perhaps hastened—that inevitable development.

Pac-12 Bloodletting: More than half of the employees of the Pac-12 Conference and the Pac-12 Network—almost 100 in all—were furloughed or laid off last week due to the conference’s mounting financial troubles.

These cuts are not merely due to COVID-based postponements or cancellations. They are also due to mismanagement and waste.

Unfortunately, the person most responsible for this debacle, Commissioner Larry Scott, still has a job. And the Pac-12 office, now a ghost town, is still located in ridiculously expensive space in San Francisco.

Last month, with typical bombast, Scott proudly announced that he had taken a 12% salary cut. So the poor boy is down from $5.3 million to about $4.66.

Might have to sell a Lamborghini or that third vacation home.

The Pac-12 presidents have tried to justify Scott’s salary—the largest among Power Five commissioners—by claiming that he actually works two jobs running the league and the TV network.

Nonsense.

The fact that industry pros Gary Stevenson, Lydia Murphy-Stephans and Mark Shuken have been on hand serving as President of the Pac-12 Network has always rendered that argument specious.

Now it’s not just specious, it’s almost cruel. While most of his staff files for unemployment, Scott continues to collect almost $400K per month.

Just for comparison, here’s a little tidbit.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey makes about $2 million. The SEC has a network, too. And it’s doing quite well, thank you, much better than the Pac-12’s national laughingstock.

Last Word: “"Recently in some places in the nation, there's been a disturbing reoccurrence of bigotry and violence. To those individuals who persist in such hateful behavior … you are the ones who are out of step with our society, you are the ones who willfully violate the meaning of the dream that is America, and this country because it does what it stands for will not stand for your conduct." - Ronald Reagan, 1981

Gary Cavalli - Bowl and League co-founder, author, speaker 

Gary Cavalli, the former Sports Information Director and Associate Athletic Director at Stanford University, was co-founder and executive director of the college football bowl game played in the Bay Area, and previously was co-founder and President of the American Basketball League.

Get in touch//@cavalli49//gacavalli49@gmail.com

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