About a year and a half ago, Rudy Gobert became the first National Basketball Association (NBA) player to test positive for COVID-19, forcing the league to shut down. After months of an NBA hiatus and the development of strict health and safety protocols, the season resumed and culminated in a Los Angeles Lakers championship. Now, with the development of the COVID-19 vaccine, the NBA is attempting to return to its normal state with fewer protocols and restrictions. However, a growing movement of NBA players is fighting the vaccine and standing up against the NBA’s attempted mandate. 

In early October, the NBA declared that all coaches and staff are required to get the vaccine (with medical and religious exemptions), however they were unable to enforce this mandate throughout the NBA Players’ Association. The union is attempting to look out for the player’s rights, however the NBA believes that public health crises like these demand a take it or leave it approach. Currently, about 90% of the players across the league have received both doses of the vaccine, meaning there are about 40 players yet to be vaccinated. These players will undergo strict health and safety protocols similar to the “NBA Bubble” in Orlando as well as the 2020-2021 season. Furthermore, these players will be ineligible to play in New York, San Francisco, Toronto and any other city that decides to require a person to show proof of vaccination in order to enter certain indoor entertainment venues. Additionally, practically every stadium will require fans to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test in order to enter the stadium, with increasingly strict regulations for those sitting within 15 feet of the court or benches. 

All time NBA leading point scorer and UCLA alumni Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a very definitive stance on the issue: get the vaccine. He firmly believes that it is an irresponsible decision on behalf of any player deciding to jeopardize their own health, their team’s health and potentially even their success.

“The NBA should insist that all players and staff are vaccinated or remove them from the team,” NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said in a Rolling Stone interview. “There is no room for players who are willing to risk the health and lives of their teammates, the staff and the fans simply because they are unable to grasp the seriousness of the situation or do the necessary research. What I find especially disingenuous about the vaccine deniers is their arrogance at disbelieving immunology and other medical experts. Yet, if their child was sick or they themselves needed emergency medical treatment, how quickly would they do exactly what those same experts told them to do?”

NBA superstars such as Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal and Andrew Wiggins are leading this charge against the vaccination. Andrew Wiggins, who sought religious exemption from the vaccine, is now required by San Francisco law to get the shot. If not, he will be ineligible to play or attend practice. Frustrated with this development, Wiggins believes that he doesn’t owe anybody an explanation for his own personal beliefs. 

“Who are you guys where I have to explain what I believe, what’s right or what’s wrong,” Wiggins said to a group of reporters. “We are two totally different people. What you think is not what I think. What I think is not what you think.”

Famous for conspiracy theories, Irving is at it again. After being widely ridiculed for thinking that the Earth is flat, he is now liking and commenting on Instagram posts and accounts that claim COVID vaccines are a “plan of Satan” to connect Black people to a master computer. This misinformation is the exact lack of research that Abdul-Jabar was referring to, jeopardizing the health and safety of the league. But, with New York’s new vaccine requirements, Irving has been indefinitely banned from team practices, meetings and events. He will also be ineligible to compete at all home games, making this a pivotal decision in his career and sparking retirement rumors. But to him, it is bigger than basketball. 

“I never wanted to give up my passion, my love, my dream over this mandate and what’s going on in this world,” Irving said on an extended Instagram Live broadcast. “I love the game. Sometimes you really have to make choices that ultimately can affect that. It’s unfortunate, but that’s where we are in 2021. I am a bona fide hooper. My legacy will be written forever. I’m grateful to be given this talent to be able to perform on a high stage. But it’s not just about that at this point. It’s bigger than the game.”

In an effort to minimize the push back against the vaccine mandate, the NBA is inciting strict salary penalties for all unvaccinated players. This scare tactic consists of withholding pay for all games missed, simple as that. This means Kyrie Irving will lose about $425,000 per home game. Both Irving and Wiggins would be expected to lose over $15,000,000 in salary. The NBA hopes that these harsh salary reductions will help motivate the anti-vaxxers and bring the league vaccination rate to 100%. 

At the end of the day, the NBA is a business and they need to protect their image. They are returning to a normal 82 game format, meaning there will be limited room for COVID-19 postponements. Both the NBA and their sponsors would stand to lose millions of dollars and millions of impressions on rescheduled games. Ultimately, mandating the COVID vaccine is the smart financial decision as it will prevent these issues, but more importantly, it is the right thing to do as an individual. Every athlete should be vaccinated for the health and safety of the league, their teams and their communities and the NBA won’t rest until this is accomplished.

What is the value of a 2.5 by 3.5 inch piece of cardboard? To most, it is relatively worthless. But to the rapidly expanding, previously niche market of trading card collectors, those 8.75 square inches of cardboard are practically priceless. While it seemed as if technology and sports video games had rendered trading cards invaluable, this recent spike in popularity begs to differ.

A main contributor to trading card’s resurgence was the COVID-19 pandemic. People were stuck at home and finding new ways, increasingly profitable ways to spend their time. Trading cards became one of these avenues. As world renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud believed that collecting serves as a means of imposing order in the world, and amidst the pandemic, people longed for normalcy. Additionally, Holly Schiff, a clinical psychologist who specializes in anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorders, explains this theory more thoroughly.

   “One element of collecting has to do with the ability to gain and exercise control, especially in uncontrollable circumstances — which the pandemic was the epitome of.”

The internet has also played a fundamental role in re popularizing trading cards. Card collectors no longer need to go to the store and buy a pack with the hopes of getting their favorite player, but ultimately only receiving a conciliatory stick of gum. Instead, trading card enthusiasts can now take to the internet and find their favorite players and rarest cards at their fingertips. This increased access to buying and selling trading cards has allowed for the market to develop and the collector’s economy to prosper. 

At the close of 2020, eBay released a report titled “State of Trading Cards” Report, detailing the rapid growth of this niche market sector. In 2020, eBay’s platform saw a 142% growth in their trading category as well as a 4,000,000 card increase in sales. In the past few months, countless records regarding trading card sales have been broken. With a 373% increase in sales, basketball cards have skyrocketed in value, allowing for LeBron James’ card to set the record for basketball cards, selling for a whopping $5.2 million. While baseball cards have always been the most popular form of athletic trading cards, their value has soared as well. Recently, a 1952 Mickey Mantle rookie card sold for a record-setting $5.2 million. Additionally, cards from popular games such as Pokemon and Magic: The Gathering had an approximated 574% increase in sales.

In order for these trading cards to hold their value, they must undergo a thorough inspection and grading process. The Professional Sports Authenticator (PSA) is responsible for the grading and authentication of all trading cards, before they are able to be assigned a value. Getting a card graded requires both time and money, with fees going for about 20 to 100 dollars per card and express fees ranging from 150 to 10,000 dollars. This process usually takes 5-6 months, but due to the impact of the pandemic it could take as long as a year. But if your card is graded a perfect PSA 10, it will be well worth it.   

When grading cards, in order to obtain a PSA 10, the card must exhibit sharp corners, sharp focus, and pristine gloss. The card can’t be stained, worn, torn, and the image must be perfectly centered on the front and back. The PSA inspector will study these minute details with magnifying instruments, gloves and intricate focus as they go down their laundry list of grading specifics, before passing it on to a second set of eyes to do the same. They study your card at a microscopic level in order to observe every little detail that goes unnoticed by the naked eye. Once your card is graded it can officially enter the market and be sought after by other collectors. While every collector aims for a perfect PSA 10, that state of Gem Mint condition is quite rare. Much more frequently, cards get grades of mint, near-mint, excellent, good or for the few collectors who let their cards get damaged, they might receive a poor grade, rendering their card practically valueless. 

With the increase in technology and downtime due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trading cards saw their resurgence in 2019-2020. Reaching peak popularity in the late 1980s, trading cards have come a long way since then and have become a viable investment option. With the popularization of other rival collectibles such as Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), it will be interesting to see how the collector’s market continues to develop and prosper for years to come. But regardless, hold on to those little pieces of cardboard, as their value truly might be priceless.

In 2001, Eric Crouch, Heisman Trophy winning quarterback of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, violated NCAA rules and served a short-term suspension. Crouch was suspended for accepting a ham sandwich and short plane ride valued at $22.67 as a part of a brief public appearance for the university. In breaking NCAA rules regarding accepting outside benefits, Crouch became an integral part of an infamous sports debate, should college athletes be compensated?

Flash forward to 2021 and the landscape has shifted dramatically. Going into the 2021-2022 NCAAF season, University of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young reportedly earned over $1,000,000 in endorsements before ever playing a single snap and Hercy Miller, an incoming freshman basketball player at the University of Tennessee, has reportedly signed a $2,000,000 deal. None of this would be possible without the NCAA’s expanded policies on Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) deals for college athletes, providing a new world of opportunity for nearly 500,000 students across the country. 

After a 9-0 ruling in the Supreme Court Case NCAA vs. Alston, the association was finally prompted to stop resisting NIL deals. This past June, the NCAA announced drastic changes to this rule. According to the NCAA website, athletes can now engage in NIL activities in compliance with state laws and colleges can serve as a resource for NIL legal questions, athletes can use professional service providers to help navigate NIL activities, student athletes in states without NIL laws can still engage in such activities without violating NCAA rules and states, as well as individual colleges and athletic conferences may impose reporting requirements. 

Since this development, student athletes across the nation have quickly delved into the world of endorsements, signing with a myriad of different brands and providing them an opportunity to monetize their collegiate success. Athletes have signed endorsement deals with clothing brands, gyms, pet companies, and a few 300+ pound offensive linemen have even signed on to become the face of a handful of barbeque restaurants. At the heart of NIL, is social media. While being a star player on a nation’s top football or basketball team is certainly the most surefire way of expanding name recognition, athletes have begun leveraging social media platforms to collect NIL earnings. Various social media platforms including Instagram and Tik Tok have allowed athletes to develop and popularize their own personal brands in whatever creative medium they desire. This allows these athletes to gain attention and recognition, all from the power of their cell phones. 

 As student-athletes have suddenly shifted into small business owners, they have started to need outside help from accountants, attorneys and personal advisers. The NIL rules and regulations are complicated and the tax implications that follow are confusing, forcing athletes to hire additional help in order to ensure they don’t get in trouble with or suspended by the NCAA. In an effort to support this goal, UCLA has recently debuted the Westwood Ascent Program, a comprehensive NIL program designed to support the school’s student-athletes to build their personal brand and maximize their NIL opportunities. Westwood Ascent focuses on three fundamental pillars to each athlete: education, brand-building and monitoring and disclosure. These three pillars are designed to ensure these athletes success for years to come and Martin Jarmond, the Alice and Nahum Family Director of Athletics at UCLA, is expecting the university to be a leading contributor to the world of NIL deals and monetary success of student-athletes for years to come.

“We enthusiastically embrace Name, Image and Likeness,” Jarmond said in a UCLA press conference. “With the launch of Westwood Ascent, we’re well-positioned to be a leader in providing our student-athletes the tools to maximize their NIL opportunities in Los Angeles and beyond. The future is here.”

Jarmond and the entire athletic department have played an instrumental role in securing endorsement deals for UCLA athletes. Less than two months after the NCAA rule change, UCLA student-athletes had already signed over 50 endorsements. Quarterback Dorian Thompson Robinson is sponsored by Cameo, Jaylen Clark created his own cryptocurrency, Jake Kyman has signed over 22 deals, Norah Flatley is sponsored by HighKey Keto Mini Cookies and Emmanuel Dean is sponsored by Big League Chew. These are just a few of the countless endorsements UCLA athletes have signed and tangible proof of the Westwood Ascent Program’s success. While NIL deals revolutionized the college sports industry, student-athletes across the nation are now capitalizing on this expanded world of opportunities that is at their fingertips.

The sports industry continues to grow exponentially year in and year out. As the industry expands, new jobs are created at a rapid pace, resulting in a growing demand for sports management majors at universities throughout the nation. This rise in popularity has left many Bruins wondering why UCLA doesn’t offer a sports management major.

Sports management serves as an excellent way for sports enthusiasts with business mindsets to enter the field. There are countless different avenues within sports management that professionals can take, causing this field to continuously broaden. The global sports industry is thriving, with a market value of $488.5 billion in 2018, according to an LSU study. Recently, the national Sports Global Market Opportunities and Strategies to 2022 forecasts this number to grow to $614.1 billion by 2022. A rise in sports sponsorships, Esports and a multitude of different sports networks have all contributed to this growth. 

As the industry continues to grow, trained professionals must be groomed and master the ins and outs of the sports world. These professionals are expected to possess a wide range of managerial skills in subjects such as finance, law, analytics, human resources and many other traditional business competencies but with a specific focus on the unique dynamics sports offer. The sports industry no longer relies on mainstream business professionals, but is instead looking to develop industry specialists, ready to further develop and understand this sector of work. These specialists should be prepared to manage athletes, create wealth through marketing and sales strategies, and manage staff for national sport organizations and global companies associated with the sport. It is a rapidly developing industry, with hundreds and thousands of new jobs and new types of jobs being created. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the industry to grow roughly 9-13% by 2025 and increase from an evaluation of $60.5 billion in 2014 to over $75 billion in 2021. The opportunities within this industry are plentiful.

There are many different jobs that classify under the umbrella of sports management. Without requiring athletic talent, these industry professionals can work in marketing, facilities management, sales, law, accounting, and business development. In addition, they might work for professional sports teams, universities, sports leagues, equipment manufacturers, or marketing agencies. 

One of the most common jobs a sports professional might delve into is an account manager. Account Managers are responsible for maintaining and building the relationships their teams have with corporate sponsors. Account managers handle partnerships with sponsors by implementing promotional campaigns, advertising, retail strategies, and event programming. Account managers in sports may use game tickets, specials events, player appearances, and stadium signage to personalize and incentivize sponsor partnerships while promoting brand awareness. This career pathway has a median income of $118,000 and is suitable for those with strong backgrounds in social media and technology.

Another common job within the industry is a sports agent, or a professional who helps athletes manage the aspects of their careers not concerned with athletic performance. Sports agents help athletes negotiate contracts, deal with legal issues, and manage their money. Since many professional athletes are public figures, sports agents also help them manage their images. Sports agents should possess strong foundations in business, finance, law, communications and public relations. Agents can choose to operate independently or with an agency and they make a median income of $110,000 with exponential room for growth. 

Different industry professionals also choose to work in countless other positions. Jobs such as athletic directors, sports facilities managers, financial managers, public relations, sports media and broadcasting are just a few of the many more jobs to choose from. Most of these jobs require a sports management, business/economics, communications, marketing or law degree and both business school and law school are said to drastically improve your chances for success in this cutthroat business. 

Multi-billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban, however, doesn’t believe that sports management is a valuable major and in fact discourages students from going down that path. He believes that learning sales and marketing will be far more beneficial within the sports industry as well as far more applicable in the rest of the business world. Cuban finds that the sports management majors are slightly too narrow and restrictive and unable to advance young professionals careers as effectively. Cuban summed it all up by saying, “Teach kids sports management and you improve their chances of getting a job at Fridays.”

John Quinones, Vice-President of Recruitment at the MLB agrees with Cuban. He understands how valuable sales are in both sports and business and how majoring in sports management can restrict your future options. Quinones values real experience and sales practice over the specificity behind a sports management degree. 

“I agree with Cuban that learning sales skills are paramount to success,” Quinones said. “Let’s focus on ticket sales careers. I think it demonstrates to employers that you are willing to really do whatever it takes to break into the sports industry. A lot of people come into my office and I ask them what they aspire to do and a lot of them will tell me that I want to be a GM of a baseball team. Ok…so there are only 30 of those jobs. How can you then prove that you are willing to do whatever it takes. I like people coming up from the minor leagues. I will ask them, ‘have you been the mascot? Will you sell tickets one day?’ Because to me that is saying that you love being around the game of baseball. That really proves that to me.”

While countless sports enthusiasts at UCLA yearn for a sports business major, Mark Cuban would argue that it isn’t the end of the world. Instead, learn the fundamentals of business, sales, marketing or law and find a way to apply those skills to this expanding industry. Furthermore, gaining hands-on internship experience for a sports franchise or business is an exceptional way of improving professional skills and developing necessary networking skills, pivotal to the industry. Regardless of your specific aspirations, sports management is an inviting industry to delve into as it continues to expand financially into the future. And joining the Bruin Sports Business Association might just be your first step on your journey towards sports agent, account manager, coach, or even general manager.

Athletes dedicate their entire lives to their sports. From as long as many of them can remember to when their bodies ultimately tell them it is time to call it a career, athletes train tirelessly and put every fiber of their being into their sport. So, when that day finally comes to hang those cleats up, it can be a very difficult time in an athlete’s life and an even more strenuous transition to the next phase of their life. 

First of all, many athletes experience a huge shock in their transition to a much less structured day-to-day routine. Accustomed to packed training schedules, highly regulated diets, and countless sponsorship meetings/events, newly retired athletes struggle to adjust. While it may seem as if these athletes would feel liberated by this newfound freedom, many athletes report feeling lost without it. 

Another thing that these newly retired athletes struggle with is a lack of immediate feedback that they are used to receiving. Throughout their careers, athletes’ efforts are consistently recognized, dates of upcoming competitions are always known, and hundreds of important statistics are watched closely and compared with previous measurements. This allows athletes to always understand the level of fitness they are at and monitor the progress they are making. Many athletes are fueled by this sense of training and progress, meaning life after retirement can feel just a little too stagnant. 

Furthermore, many athletes report lost feelings of identity after retirement. Most athletes have dedicated so much of their lives training, that their sport has become an integral part of who they are. They struggle to see who they are outside of their sport and find it difficult to choose a new career, especially one they feel is suited for. This lack of belonging leads many newly retired athletes to face depression and struggle with their mental health. Olympians in particular, report a sense that they were on top of the world performance-wise, and struggle coping with the fact that they will most likely never be able to feel that way again and never play the sport they loved in a competitive environment ever again. 

While athletes navigate these difficult times, it helps them to focus on the assets that helped them make it this far. Most athletes advertise their strong stamina, work ethic, resilience, competitive spirit, and ability to be good team players during their career transition. Most importantly, however, athletes must recognize that this transition will take time, according to British rower Elise Laverick Sherwell. 

I think people try and rush it too much,” Sherwell said in an Olympic interview. “They feel they have to do something, and they panic. Whereas actually, if you give yourself six months to detrain and not be so hyped up and emotional, you can transition more smoothly. You’re not going to change yourself in five minutes to become a new person.”

Additionally, US Rower Anne Martin believes that it is important for athletes to dedicate their skills and talents to other avenues that they are passionate about.

“If you were an elite athlete, you have certain characteristics you need an outlet for, like competition and learning and feedback,” Martin said in an Olympic interview. “I think what helped me was going to school, which was a lot of the same things, and then later into a career. Find something else you are passionate about and channel yourself into it—a career, nonprofit work, a different sport on the side.”

In an effort to remain connected with the sports industry, many athletes aim to go into coaching or broadcasting after their retirement. Many of the greatest coaches throughout soccer, basketball, baseball, and football were once some of the greatest players on the field. Coaching allows athletes to maintain a sense of belonging and connection to the sport they love and have dedicated so much of their lives to. It also allows them to continue the same quest that all athletes have, to win another championship. On the other hand, many athletes such as Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, and Tony Romo opt to go into broadcasting instead. This allows them to continue to be immersed in the sports environment, constantly surrounded by their friends and fellow athletes, as well as maintain their role in the sport they love. Broadcasting is becoming an increasingly more popular post career job for athletes across all of the global sport’s networks. 

While some athletes choose to stay within the industry, many others find it’s time to branch out away from sports. Some athletes go back to school in order to get a degree and begin working in more traditional fields such as business, medicine, writing, and more. Other athletes utilize and monetize their platform of national fame as a source of income. And finally, many athletes tend to create and operate their own philanthropic organizations during or after their careers. Every athlete tends to deal with the transition of retirement differently. Some of them struggle through this loss of identity, while others are more quickly able to redirect their lives. Regardless, retirement is a monumental moment in all athletes’ lives, marking the end of one chapter and the beginning of a new, oftentimes difficult chapter of life. 

Roughly one year ago today, the entire world was put on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdown orders were put in place and sporting competitions were entirely shut down, both nationally and internationally. Besides the major soccer, basketball, baseball, and other leagues being affected, two major sporting events were also canceled. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 2020 UEFA European Championship were canceled last summer, however, now with the improved COVID rates across most of the globe, these two monumental sporting events are set to occur.

Sports fans across the world are eagerly awaiting this summer of sports and it is finally ready to begin in just under one month. The 2021 UEFA European Championship will take place from June 11 to July 11, hosted by 11 different cities throughout Europe including Amsterdam, Budapest, Copenhagen, Rome, St. Petersburg, Seville, Spain, London, Munich, Glasgow, Bucharest, and Baku Azerbaijan. Currently, the favorites of this tournament are considered to be Belgium, France, Germany, and Portugal. France’s roster remains mostly unchanged from their 2018 World Cup Winning side, however, their path to the finals is referred to as “the group of death.” Based on a random draw, France, Germany, and Portugal were all placed into the same group and while all three of them could hypothetically advance, it is much more probable that only two of them will. Kevin De Bruyne’s Belgium team, on the other hand, has a much easier path and could be looking for vengeance after their defeat to France in the 2018 World Cup Semi-Finals. Soccer fans around the world are eager to see which international powerhouse goes down first.

Besides the tournament favorites, teams such as Netherlands and England appear to have the best shot at winning. Both teams have strong veteran presences as well as new, young talent. These two teams are serious contenders and look to advance further this summer than their past few abysmal campaigns.
Showcasing some of the world’s greatest talents, this tournament is the second most prestigious in soccer, second only to the World Cup. Players such as Kylian Mbappe, Kevin De Bruyne, Christiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, and Virgil Van Dijk are eager to prove their dominance. This level of competition is everything soccer fans have been waiting for since the pandemic began.
Following the UEFA European Championship, the world’s eyes will turn to the Olympic Games. The Olympic Organizing committee believes that the 2021 Olympics will become a symbol of resilience and unity after a tumultuous, pandemic-filled year that devastated so many people across the world. They are hopeful that the Olympics can represent the end of this overly difficult 12 months.

“Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic Flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel,” the Olympic organizing committee said.”
With detailed safety procedures finally laid in place for the Olympic games, it seems as if few obstacles could get in the way now. With the games running from July 23rd to August 8th, fans have already begun getting excited about the fascinating storylines soon to be played out in Tokyo. Many Americans are saddened to bid farewell to Simone Biles, arguably the greatest gymnast of all time. Biles earned four gold medals in Rio and is competing in six events in her second and final Olympic Games, once again leading the dominant U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team. Biles will look to conclude her career in historic fashion, without an all-around defeat for eight years.

Another storyline Americans are monitoring is how the U.S. Swimmers will fare without recently retired legend and one of the greatest Olympians of all time, Michael Phelps. Professional analysts believe, however, that the U.S. swimming domination will continue in 2021 led by star swimmer Caeleb Dressel. Dressel will be expected to go for 7 gold medals in Tokyo, just one shy of Phelp’s historic Beijing campaign. Additionally, Simone Manuel, the first black female swimmer to win a title for the U.S., has a chance for six gold medals this summer. Between Dressel and Manuel, as well as Katie Ledecky, Ryan Lochte, Ryan Murphy, Regan Smith and Lilly King, America should add some silverware to their esteemed swimming trophy display.

Additionally, in track and field, America looks to present the world with a potential Usain Bolt successor. Christian Coleman, was the world’s fastest sprinter in 2017, 2018, 2019 and entered 2020 as the Olympic favorite. Now, pending a missed drug test, Coleman will look to bring back the gold for the United States. Furthermore, Noah Lyles who was just 0.31 seconds short of Bolt’s world record, looks to earn three gold medals as well. Finally, Allyson Felix bids for her fifth Olympic team and first since becoming a mother. With nine medals, Felix stands just one shy of Carl Lewis’ record for a U.S. track and field athlete. History is set to be made at these upcoming Olympic games and it looks as if the United States will have yet another successful campaign, especially amongst the female athletes. The Women’s National Team looks to rebound after four years ago’s quarterfinals exit vs Brazil last Olympics and Sue Bird is competing to become the first basketball player, of any gender, to win 5 gold medals.

All the eyes in the world will be on these two international competitions this summer. Sports fans worldwide are overwhelmingly excited after an exhaustingly difficult COVID year.

Non-fungible tokens (NFT) have recently reached the big leagues. Spreading rapidly throughout the National Basketball Association, National Football League, Major League Baseball, and more, NFT’s appear to be the future. However, they are surrounded by question marks. Some experts believe NFTs will remain the future of investing, while others wonder if the bubble is set to pop.

A non-fungible token is a unit of data stored on a digital ledger, called a blockchain, that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. NFTs can be used to represent and own items such as art, GIFs, videos and sports highlights, collectibles, virtual avatars, and video game skins, designer sneakers, and music, thus creating digital scarcity. They are bought and sold online, most frequently with cryptocurrency, and are generally encoded with the same underlying software. Originally created in 2014, NFT’s have recently exploded in popularity as a way to buy and sell digital artwork. 

According to Forbes, $174 million had been spent on NFTs from 2017 to 2020. In the first quarter of 2021, a staggering $2 billion have been spent on NFTs, including a record-setting $69 million on Beeple’s Everyday—The First 5000 Days. American billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban believes that Generation Z’s dependency on the internet and phones is a leading cause of this spike in NFT sales. 

“The crypto natives, particularly Gen Z, their most valuable assets are on their phone,” Cuban said in a recent interview with Business Insider. “Unless you have a house or a car, everything that you value, your brand is your Instagram, or Snapchat, or TikTok account. Everything that you’ve ever captured in your life that you find dear to you, you keep on your phone. That’s why people my age don’t fully understand that this is not a transition, this is not hard, this is natural.”

Typical forms of NFTs include iconic clips from NBA games or securitized versions of digital art. While any individual with access to the internet can still view these items, an NFT allows an individual to own the item. When purchasing an NFT, you receive a built-in authentication to serve as proof of ownership. These digital bragging rights are almost worth more than the actual item itself.

While NFTs could serve as a lucrative investment going forward, their future value is unknown and some experts don’t believe that they are worth the money. An NFT’s value is based solely on what someone else is willing to pay for it, meaning that demand will drive its price fluctuations, unlike how fundamental, technical, and economic indicators influence the stock market. This unfortunately means that an NFT may resell for less than the purchasing price. So, with NFT’s uncertain future, it is clear that they are a risky, but potentially lucrative investment. In order to benefit regardless, NFTs are best if the specific token has a certain special meaning to the buyer.

There are many other downsides to NFTs as well. The blockchain verification process requires a substantial amount of energy and is damaging to the environment. The environmental footprint of selling an NFT artwork versus a physical copy is 100 times larger. Additionally, one artist canceled the sale of 6 of his works of art once he calculated that those sales would use the same amount of energy in 10 seconds as his studio apartment did in two years. Another potential downside to NFTs is that there is a danger of a speculative bubble. In other words, NFTs could be rendered valueless if this bubble were to burst. 

One organization spearheading this NFT movement is the NBA. Recently, they released NBA Top Shot, a blockchain-based platform that allows fans to buy, sell and trade numbered versions of specific, officially licensed video highlights. They started this concept to transform fan-favorite, unforgettable highlights into a new category of collectibles. They place each highlight into digital packs, just like regular trading cards, and sell the packs on the official NBA Top Shot website for prices ranging from $9 to $230. The pack prices depend on the quality of highlight, the stardom level of the player and the exclusiveness of the card. Once you purchase a pack, those highlights go into your encrypted, secure highlight wallet to be showcased or re-sold on the NBA Top Shot Marketplace. This is also serving as the NBA’s newest means of marketing and customer engagement as all of the hype surrounding NFTs has proven to be increasingly beneficial for the NBA. It looks as if NFTs are the future of this industry, but at this point, only time will tell.

The European Soccer League (ESL), a $5.5 billion global soccer competition created on April 18, 2021, has come to a screeching halt just 48 hours later. In an attempt to save and revolutionize soccer, the ESL was not well received, quickly enduring an onslaught of criticism from players, managers, fans, and soccer’s governing bodies alike. While the ESL is officially a thing of the past, it would have reimagined the world’s most popular sport in a drastic fashion. 

The ESL was a newly proposed soccer league in which 20 football clubs would leave The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) in order to compete in a midweek European competition, which would have rivaled the UEFA Champions League. Of the ESL’s 20 teams, 15 of them would have a permanent spot in the league, while 5 other teams across Europe’s top six leagues would compete for the remaining spots. In essence, the ESL was a gated community of teams who no longer wanted to compete for money and trophies with other UEFA clubs they felt were beneath them. The ESL planned to feature six English clubs, three Spanish clubs, and three Italian clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Juventus. To many people’s surprise and disappointment, last year’s Champions League finalists Bayern Munich and Paris Saint Germain weren’t proposed members of this new league. They were asked to join but declined long before the 30-day deadline. 

Real Madrid President, Florentino Perez, announced that the European Super League was created in order to save football and help it economically recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Perez noted that young people are no longer interested in watching soccer as much due to the number of low-quality games throughout the world’s top leagues. Perez believed that the ESL would help solve this issue and restore soccer’s global domination within the sports industry while generating large amounts of revenue via highly lucrative television deals. However, the majority of the soccer world stood in opposition.

This plan encountered stark criticism and elicited strong controversy for a number of reasons. First and foremost, many of the ESL critics deemed that having 15 teams safe from regulation would devalue the game, making it unfair and uncompetitive. It would allow those 15 teams to share the league’s lofty total of prizes and profits, leaving the rest of Europe’s teams fighting over the table’s scraps. For example, Arsenal hasn’t made the Champions League since the 2016-2017 season and yet they would have been permanently qualified for the utmost elite soccer league, effectively stripping the fluctuating, balanced format of European soccer. Additionally, the top six European leagues would have certainly declined in talent, value, and revenue flows for each team whilst also crumbling the Champions League. 

Most players and teams also quickly spoke out against the European Super League as they felt blindsided and betrayed. William Bowyer, a solicitor in the Sports and Entertainment team at Mackrell Solicitors, explained to Al Jazeera the potential repercussions of this failed deal, including the monumental effect it would have had on the World Cup, the second-largest sporting event in the world. 

“One of the key stakeholders, the players, appear to have been left behind in the thoughts of the clubs,” added Bowyer. “There are likely to be issued with the existing playing contracts should clubs breach their league, UEFA or FIFA rules. It would have put the players in a position to obtain legal advice on where they stand should they participate in the ESL and also be prevented from playing in Euros or a future World Cup.” 

Additionally, the vast majority of clubs throughout the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A League instantly spoke out against this proposition. The Everton public relations team released a powerful announcement regarding the matter.

“Everton is saddened and disappointed to see proposals of a breakaway league pushed forward by six clubs. Six clubs acting entirely in their own interests. Six clubs tarnishing the reputation of our league and the game. Six clubs choosing to disrespect every other club with whom they sit around the Premier League table. Six clubs taking for granted and even betraying the majority of football supporters across our country and beyond. At this time of national and international crisis – and a defining period for our game – clubs should be working together collaboratively with the ideals of our game and its supporters uppermost. Instead, these clubs have been secretly conspiring to break away from a football pyramid that has served them so well. We urge them all to consider what they wish their legacy to be.”

Besides the players, teams, managers, and soccer’s leading governing bodies, soccer fans around the world also immediately protested this development. The leaders of the ESL experienced a ferocious backlash from fans staging protests and rallies outside Europe’s major stadiums. The fans carried signs and chanted slogans in order to prove how intensely the wider soccer community opposed this new deal. Within 48 hours, the uproar surrounding this league was made clear, featured in headlines throughout the most powerful global news sources. Quickly, the teams in the ESL heeded the world’s warnings and dropped out of the league, effectively putting an end to this revolutionary, failed concept. Aleksander Ceferin, the president of UEFA, is relieved that the European Super League has failed and is now looking ahead, ready to move forward.

“The important thing now is that we move on,” Ceferin said. “We need to rebuild the unity that the game enjoyed before this, and move forward together.”

On May 14th, 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, thus providing each state the decision and opportunity to legalize sports betting. This decision has revolutionized the sports gambling world, propelling the betting industry into an incredibly lucrative market space. As the rate of sports gambling continues to increase exponentially in the United States, the industry’s future remains bright. But what will the lasting impact of the wide legalization of sports betting be?

Aiming to profit from the newly legal industry, 25 states and Washington D.C. have chosen to legalize sports betting and 80% of the other states are expected to do the same in the next few years. Since then, over $20 billion in bets have been placed (ESPN). In 2020, U.S. sports betting generated one billion dollars in revenue, and that number is expected to grow sixfold by 2023 (Forbes). If betting is legalized by all 50 states, the estimated revenue would exceed $19 billion a year. 

Many companies and organizations are attempting to capitalize on this rapidly expanding industry. This includes major sports leagues in the U.S. such as the MLB, NBA, and NFL. These leagues have come to understand how strong and dedicated the sports betting demographic can be and they have chosen to support that fanbase. Scott Kaufman-Ross, the NBA’s senior vice president and head of fantasy and gaming, explains the matter.

“We want to meet the fans wherever they are and so, if [betting is] how they’re choosing to engage, we want to support that,” Kaufman-Ross said. “We’ve seen the data that shows people who play fantasy sports, people who bet on sports, they are some of our most engaged fans. They consume more content than traditional fans – they watch more games and for longer periods of time.”

Partnerships between leagues, teams, and betting platforms have also exploded in popularity in recent years. The MLB’s Chicago Cubs just inked a $100 million deal with DraftKings and the NBA has secured deals with Genius Sports Group (GSG) and Sportradar. Many other organizations are following in their footsteps, with the hopes of benefitting the leagues, teams, fans, and other companies.

“The wealth of data around US sports is impressive and the customers’ appetite is massive,” Kaufman-Ross said. “That translates in fantasy-type games being hugely popular but also, from a sports betting perspective, it’s showing a higher propensity of data-driven player propositions. The leagues have made a big step towards providing real-time data to licensed league operators and that is the basis of a partnership that can be successful for both leagues and operators while delivering a better experience for the fans and customers.”

In this past Super Bowl, over 23 million Americans reported plans to bet a total of $4.3 billion (Forbes). 7.6 million of those bets were placed online, up 63% from the previous year. Due to technology’s constant accessibility, online gambling is becoming the most popular medium. An increase in gambling addictions has come with this change.

After reviewing over 140 studies and reports related to sports gambling and addiction, the National Council on Problem Gaming (NCPG) offered a statement. “Recent research suggests that gambling problems may increase as sports gambling grows explosively at the same time that mobile and online technologies evolve to create seemingly unlimited types of wagering opportunities.” Additionally, the NCPG found that sports bettors have at least two times higher rates of addiction than other gamblers, and these rates of addiction increase in an online format. This is because online gambling provides increased convenience and privacy. 

Online sports betting has also made it easier for minors to get addicted to gambling. Many minors are able to illegally create accounts and begin betting from a young age. A recent study found that 75% more students are gambling now than in 2015, but many people are now working to counteract this growing movement. Moving forward, organizations such as the NCPG are working to research the dangers of gambling addictions and educate the public. Additionally, they are aiming to prohibit TV advertisements for sports betting and to enact stricter laws/regulations surrounding the topic. If the industry is able to reduce the amount of underage gambling as well as addiction, then the future will remain increasingly bright and astronomically lucrative. Sports betting truly is sweeping its way through the nation.

Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and soccer are the five most popular sports in the United States. These sports have maintained control over American audiences for decades, however, a new global sensation is taking over. Esports is quickly and efficiently cementing their position as the future of the sports industry, redefining society’s perception of what an athlete is, while simultaneously revolutionizing the world of sports.

Esports is a form of competition using video games and often takes the form of organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players, individually or as teams. The most popular Esports games include Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CSGO), League of Legends, Dota 2, Call of Duty, and Fortnite. Additionally, Esports has grown increasingly popular in sports simulation games such as Madden, NBA 2k, and Fifa. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has created the NBA 2K League in which each professional franchise has a subsidiary 2K team, competing for cash prizes and representing their NBA counterparts. Interestingly enough, BSBA’s own President Collin Flintoft grew up with and remains friends with Dayne Downey, also known as OneWildWalnut, who was the 6th overall pick in the 2018 inaugural 2K draft as well as the 2018 NBA 2K MVP.

In recent years, all of these Esports has exploded in popularity, breaking records year after year. Dubbed one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, Esports has grown from an estimated audience of 263 million viewers in 2016 to an estimated audience of 557 million in 2021 (Newzoo’s 2021 Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report). It is also estimated that the sport will reach an astronomically high viewership of 920 million people by the year 2024, in comparison to Major League Baseball (MLB) and National Football League’s (NFL) downward trending numbers (Juniper Research). With this increase in viewership, there also comes a considerable increase in revenue. Esports in 2021 is expecting a 14.5% increase in revenue, rising from $947.1 million in 2020 to $1.1 billion, while the industry as a whole is expected to be valued at $3.5 billion by the year 2025 (Newzoo’s 2021 Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report). Esports’ tremendous popularity in many Asian and South American countries is a huge contributor to this increase, however, America is quickly starting to play a bigger role. A large percentage of this revenue comes from in-person tournament ticket and merchandise sales, both of which have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. That being said, Esport’s online format has proven to be very beneficial during this year-long hiatus from in-person events, allowing for the industry to continue to thrive, while so many others have struggled. 

The steady viewership that Esports has encountered is in part due to the company Twitch.tv. Twitch is the undisputed leader in video game streaming platforms, featuring casual users streaming video game content from home as well as major Esports tournaments, vlogging, and music-themed streams. According to Twitch, the platform has reached 2 million monthly broadcasters and 15 million active daily users. Incredibly, Twitch has also accumulated over 443 billion minutes watched thus far in 2021, which is a 38.7% increase from last year. Twitch allows for competitive players and streamers to earn income through subscriptions and tips, in addition to the millions of dollars of cash prizes competitors can receive through tournaments. Ninja, one of the most popular video game streamers, is estimated to earn over $650,000 per month in subscriptions alone, not including his winnings and sponsorships. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Esports industry is full of money.

While viewership and revenue are certainly increasing, active participants are as well. According to the National Association of Collegiate Esports, over 170 U.S. colleges now have varsity Esport programs. Additionally, these programs are offering over $16 million in scholarships, demonstrating how lucrative this industry is becoming. At this point, collegiate Esports tournaments have attracted over 1350 schools and 40,000 players, however, both of these numbers are expected to soar. 

Another large contributor to the rise of Esports is it’s demographic. The vast majority of Esports fans are in their teens and twenties, however, the average age is trending downwards. As younger children are getting increased access to technology sooner and sooner, ages 5-12 are becoming a larger share of the market. This is also because of video games’ established popularity amongst children, as, according to the Entertainment Software Association, more than 90% of kids play video games, and 97% of boys aged 12-17 play video games. Additionally, Esports is able to capitalize on the demographic of people whose genetics impact their ability to play and succeed in a more physical sport. Esports has quickly taken over the sports industry, are expanding demographics and revenue and it doesn’t seem as if anything will be able to stop them.