Controversy on the Court: What Will the Tennis World Do Next

On September 8th, Serena Williams faced Naomi Osaka in the US Open Final match when it quickly spun out of her control. Williams became engaged in a heated dispute with the match umpire Carlos Ramos after she was handed a series of code violations that made her lose points at a critical time in the match.

Ramos first gave Williams a violation for making eye contact with her coach who was in the stands watching, which is illegal as players cannot receive coaching during their matches. Ramos then gave her a second violation that resulted in the loss of a point for her smashing her racket on the ground in frustration. For the last straw, she finally received a game penalty for verbal abuse after she confronted the umpire, claiming that he stole a point from her and that he was a “thief.”

In the aftermath of the controversy, the International Tennis Federation defended Ramos and said he was within reason for handing out the rule violations. Williams unfortunately ended up losing the match. In her news conference afterwards, she claimed that she did not believe that what she said was bad in comparison to what male players say to umpires. As the dispute started trending on every website and social media, former players also backed her up on this.

Famous tennis player John McEnroe admitted that in his playing days he said much worse without getting penalized for it. Billie Jean King, a tennis legend and equal rights advocate, tweeted, “When a woman is emotional, she’s “hysterical” and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s “outspoken” & there are no repercussions. Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”

serena 3.jpg
Tennis legend Billie Jean King was one of many athletes that emerged to support Serena Williams.

If there is to be a stop to this type of sexism in the tennis world, Serena is the best to lead and advocate for this change. The greatest female tennis player ever, and the face of the tennis world, her entire career she has dealt with people loving to hate her not only because she is a female, but also because she is a minority. People don’t just dislike her, they love to hate her. This passion is not over a specific reason. They don’t hate her because of the way she acts or who she is. It is purely because they don’t want to like her and want to see her fail.

There is a glaring double standard in the way that men and women are treated in the sports world, but also in tennis specifically. What women are allowed to say, what they are allowed to wear, and how they should go about being angry or frustrated is all held to a different standard than men.

For example, Serena received backlash from the president of the French Tennis Federation Bernard Giudicelli in August after she wore an all-black catsuit in one of her French Open matches. He cited that it was disrespectful to the game. Williams countered by saying that the suit was not just for aesthetic reasons, but that it in fact helped her from developing blood clots during the match, something she has struggled with since becoming a mom last year. Men have always worn colorful outfits during their matches and suffered no backlash from it. Why can’t women do the same? Isn’t this entertainment after all?

serena 2.jpg

Beyond that, however, inside women’s tennis, there are also different standards for how African American women are allowed to conduct themselves on the court. Serena and her sister Venus always have to deal with things differently compared to other female players in the specific outfits they wear, the way they style their hair, and how well-spoken they are in off-court interviews.

Not judged for their tennis skills on the court, they have to play opponents while people are in the stands wanting to see them not succeed. The mental strength it must take to actually stay strong through that and stay focused on their tennis goals and not be affected from other people cannot be understated.

The tennis world needs to make a change. While such a big event like this made us take a hard look at the sexism that is in the sport, we need to realize that problems like these have been happening for a while. Only when we acknowledge the misogyny around us can we begin to make steps to fix it.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-oped-what-tennis-umpires-need-to-learn-20180913-story.html#

 

https://www.cnn.com/2018/09/09/us/serena-williams-sexism-tennis-controversy/index.html

 

https://www.tennisworldusa.org/tennis/news/Serena_Williams/60311/john-mcenroe-defends-serena-williams-i-have-said-far-worse-/

 

A Closer Look Into One of the NHL’s Best Marketing Strategies

If you live in or around Pittsburgh, it’s likely you’ve heard of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but have you ever thought about the marketing strategy behind the Penguins organization? Does a sports team in Pittsburgh even really need a marketing strategy? Well, they do. To keep growing its fan base, the Penguins have had to continually evolve their marketing campaigns.

In 2007, the Penguins began targeting their fans through mobile technology when they worked in collaboration with Vibe Marketing Group. Both parties worked to create the Pens Mobile Club(1), which has, since 2010, expanded into the Pens App. The creation and promotion of the Pens Mobile Club increased the membership of their club from approximately 14,000 members to 74,000 members(1). The Pens App has many features, including updates throughout the game and Game Day Previews. Videos and articles fill the home page of the app covering topics from “Verizon Coach’s Corner” to “Pet Calendar Shoot.” Through the app, fans can also sign up for the Pens Pass Last Minute Ticket Club. Once signed up, fans receive a text message when last minute tickets, including playoff games, are available in the FedEx Level or the Giant Eagle/Snapple Level. App users also have access to podcasts, Fan Central, and players’ stats throughout the season. The app is free and available to download for iPhone and Android users by searching “Pittsburgh Penguins” in the app store.

penguins 3.jpg

Fast forward to 2010, the Penguins organization teamed up with Gatesman, Marmion, Drake, and Dave, Inc. to restructure its marketing campaigns(2). Coming out of the 2009-10 season, the Penguins finished fourth place in the Eastern Conference. This was an upsetting outcome based on the Penguins winning the 2008-09 Stanley Cup. To continue to incorporate the fans and continue to build upon their foundation, the Penguins presented their newest slogan “Destiny Has A New Home”(2).  An additional tie-in to this slogan, the Penguins were finding a new home in the Consol Energy Center (now PPG Paints Arena) at the beginning of the 2010 season. This move into a more modern arena from Mellon Arena (also known as the Igloo)  aided the Penguins in being able to be more technological when it came to marketing strategies and fan engagement. The marketing slogan helped to bring focus to this change, but also show the fans the continued commitment to excellence they came to expect of the Penguins.

The Penguins marketing team seems to identify early on what moves will be needed to keep up with current marketing strategies. Since 2010, and especially in the last three years, there has been an increase in the Penguins social media content becoming more geared towards fan interactions. No longer are its posts strictly related to the score of the game or other game-related information. The organization tends to focus on off-ice accomplishments and interactions more so in their social media – which helps grow that connection between fans and the organization. A prime example where the organization builds on previous posts made – last season the Penguins posted about the players’ love of Mario Kart. This season, the Penguins posted a video of Jake Guentzel and Patric Hornqvist playing a live-action game of Mario Kart. Matt Murray also announced yesterday that he will be making a $30 donation for every save he makes during the season as part of his “Saves MATTer” charity program(3). If this program would have been implemented last season, he would have donated over $38,000 to youth organizations(3). If you talk to fans, they feel like part of the Penguin’s family. Players are called by their first names and nicknames in casual conversation (i.e. Sid the Kid, Geno) and if you didn’t know better, you would think these fans were neighbors with the players. The Penguins really do a fantastic job of creating that connection between fans and players and having it be a positive experience for all involved.

penguins

Even with the major overhaul in 2010, the Penguins continue to improve their interactions with their fans going into the 2018-19 season. This season, the Penguins are doing away with PensPoints and looking to launch a new program in November, the Pens Instant Win Program. Very little is known about this program because the organization is not relaying any information to the public at the moment.  

The Penguins are also active on multiple social media platforms, including Pinterest and Facebook. Although their Pinterest account hasn’t been updated for the 2018-19 season, fans can still follow many boards that include#PensValentines, Wedding on Ice, and Holiday HapPENings. The Penguins also have a fan interaction board for pets.

 

While creating content on multiple platforms, the Penguins seem to post the most content on their Twitter profile. The Penguins use this platform to interact with fans, as well as give game updates, practice updates, etc., which are typically in real time, as well as posting off-ice content. For example, I tweeted the Penguins and in less than 30 minutes, they had responded. You can also find many of the Penguins staff tweeting about behind the scenes information, like a sneak peek at Matt Murray’s mask before the preseason started (which garnered 619 Retweets and 4,070 likes) and their take on current happenings in the hockey community.  Two of the best examples for incorporating off-ice accomplishments into the Penguins marketing are posts about an article on Jake Guentzel’s rise to fame and Bryan Domoulin’s “hat trick of summers.” Plus, to no one’s surprise, a big “Happy Birthday” to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin together received 6,412 Retweets and 21,246 Likes. Their most recent high impact tweet was their reaction to the new Philadelphia Flyers mascot, Gritty, with over 15,000 Likes. The Penguins Snapchat and Instagram stories are great for behind the scenes look at warm-ups, practices, and time with the players – on and off the ice.

The Pittsburgh Penguins marketing strategy is much like its team; it has evolved through the years. It has found new ways to bring fans into the sport, just as it has brought new team members to the club. Yet it has maintained its loyal following, just as it has managed to maintain some of its key players, such as Mario Lemieux. It is easy to see how the Penguins tap into modern culture, while still looking back on great athletes that have passed through the organization, to include multiple generations of fans in the organization.

To date, the Penguins have a strong social media following and a solid fan base to lean on. However, to continue to bring new fans to the organization, the Penguins will have to maintain its current level of fan interaction through social media, as well as stay one step ahead of the current trends. When attempting to build the fan base, the mindset of listening to fans important, but the follow through with related actions is what will keep the Penguins at the forefront of many hockey fans’ minds. The KeyBank Challenge videos posted throughout the season seem to be a major selling point to fans who want to feel like they are getting to know the players more personally. This personal connection will not only help maintain the current fan base, but will continue to bring in more fans as the Penguins progress through the 2018-19 season.

 

 

  1. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/pittsburgh-penguins-score-on-marketing-power-play-with-vibes-media-103434534.html
  2. https://www.nhl.com/penguins/news/pens-launch-new-marketing-campaign/c-537777
  3. https://www.nhl.com/penguins/news/matt-murray-charity-program/c-300581156

Le’Veon Bell’s Fall from Grace

Hailed as one of the best running backs in the league, Le’Veon Bell was looking for a record-breaking contract from the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both sides could not come to an agreement this past offseason, leading to a franchise tag being put on Bell (a one-year contract that makes Bell the highest paid player at his position). There’s only one problem: Le’Veon bell has yet to sign the contract. It is unclear when, or if, Bell plans to end his holdout. One thing has been made clear in the past week, and it is that the financial implications for both parties could be drastic.

Bell’s franchise-tag tender is worth $14.544 million. For each week that Bell sits out, he is forfeiting about $855,000 per game (CBS Sports). To put that into perspective, Bell’s current replacement, and former University of Pittsburgh star back James Conner, is slated to make a little over $750,000 for the entire season. (Sportrac)

Bell 1.png

In week one against the Browns, Conner matched Bells single-game high from 2017 in total yards at 192. As far as the running back position goes, the Steelers felt more than comfortable moving forward into week 2 with second year back Conner. Bell’s teammates have said just as much, calling Bell out for not reporting to the team before their first game against longtime rival Cleveland Browns.

As for the salary cap as a whole, the Steelers are in a little bit of a predicament. Since they planned on paying Le’Veon all of his $14.544 million contract, they are now left with more money than anticipated. What they do from here likely depends on when Bell decides to show up, if at all. The longer his holdout, the more likely it is that the Steelers make a move from outside of the organization to bring in talent to help make a push for their seventh Lombardi trophy.

bell 2.jpg

As someone who has followed Bell through his career as a citizen and fan of Pittsburgh, I can say that the mood concerning the running back has drastically changed over the past couple of weeks. Bell was still in good grace with the city. They still felt that Bell was their guy. That opinion changed when Bell decided to extend his holdout into the regular season. Losing his teammates trust, Bell has turned heel on the city, the one he once claimed to want to retire in. Teammates and fans alike are now rallying around Conner, and why wouldn’t they? A hometown hero who battled back from a fight against Hodgkins-Limphoma in

 2016, he has a background that anyone could take inspiration from.

Le’Veon is slated to miss out on a lot of money. Ideally for Bell, he would make it through this season healthy, and then go out and test the free agent market, signing with a new team for the 2019 season. But at the cost of $850,000 per game, Bell is likely to rejoin the team at some point, especially since he has to sign by week 11, or suffer another year of being a restricted free agent under the Steelers (triblive).

Regardless, Bell’s recent decisions have had a major impact on the market as a whole for running backs in the NFL. Whether or not he gets as much money as he wants with another team remains to be seen. Bell most recently turned down the Steelers five-year deal that had over $30 million guaranteed over the first two years of the deal (sbnation). The Steelers are in a position where it is hard to see them continuing their efforts to sign him after the events of the past week. Now, Bell looks to find a new home in 2019. Until then, Fans and fantasy owners alike are hoping for the return of one of the most electrifying backs in the league. But don’t expect his return to be a heartwarming one in Pittsburgh, regardless of if he’s in the Black and Gold or not.

 

 

 

Sources:

 

https://triblive.com/sports/steelers/14069628-74/leveon-bell-spotted-partying-in-miami-as-steelers-prep-for-chiefs

 

https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/leveon-bell-officially-off-of-steelers-depth-chart-as-his-franchise-tag-remains-unsigned/

 

https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/pittsburgh-steelers/cap/

 

https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2018/7/16/17527698/leveon-bell-pittsburgh-steelers-franchise-tag-deadline-contract