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NBA All-Star Weekend not just about the money

With a move from Charlotte to New Orleans, the NBA took a stand against intolerance

NBA All-Star Weekend not just about the money

As the NBA’s viewership and revenue have increased over the last several years, its All-Star Weekend has become an enormous platform for advertising. As the number of endorsements increased, the weekend has become a promising event for advertisers, increasing the event’s financial impact on the league and the host city.

The influx of tourists and basketball fans is invaluable to the host city. Sponsored activities and parties occur all weekend, and the host city becomes the gathering place of the world’s best basketball players.

In each of the last three years, all of the advertising slots were sold out before the weekend began, with 30-second slots selling for $250,000 on average.

Toronto’s 2016 All-Star Weekend was a huge financial win for the NBA and Toronto, as Forbes reported that tapping into international markets helped increase the league’s revenue to over $5 billion in 2015. Toronto’s All-Star Weekend last year marked the first time the league held the weekend outside of the United States.

Somewhere between $80–100 million of revenue was generated in Toronto that weekend, and NBA Canada gained six major sponsors in the 18 months leading up to the event.

This year in New Orleans, Louisiana, sponsors set up promotional activities to engage fans throughout the weekend. The league’s newest sponsor, Jack Daniels, hosted a hospitality event, and Mountain Dew hosted a 3-on-3 game at Champions Square. These are just two of a number of examples of All-Star related events held throughout the city.

The choice for this year’s location held strong social implications. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver chose to move the host city from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans after the former city’s state passed the House Bill 2 (HB2), which requires transgender people to use the washroom that accords with the gender on their birth certificate, not their  gender identity.

Despite the fact that Louisiana is still one of several states that have considered similar legislation and HB2 is currently pending House appropriation there, the changing of cities can still be viewed as a condemnation of North Carolina’s actual adoption of the legislation.

Marketing consultants believe the decision to move cities was meant to promote the NBA’s ethos of acceptance and avoid possible protests or social media outcry that would have threatened potential sponsorships in Charlotte.

NBA President of Social Responsibility and Player Programs Kathy Behrens explained, “It’s important for us to have our All-Star game in a city that’s welcoming to all of our participants and guests.”

Once the law was passed and the NBA withdrew its plans, Charlotte lost a weekend that attracts thousands of tourists, sponsorship revenue, and national exposure.

According to North Carolina Senator Jeff Jackson, the move was a “$100 million hit to the city of Charlotte and the state.”

“A lot of that money would go to schools, health care and roads,” continued Jackson. “We’ve sacrificed all of that for [former North Carolina Governor Patrick] McCrory’s social agenda. He would rather pander to his base than fix an obvious mistake that has major consequences.”

North Carolina Senator Joel Ford believes the NBA’s decision will likely have a “trickle down effect” on other sporting enterprises who might hold future events in Charlotte.

The NBA explained that its “willingness to consider coming back… will be severely impacted unless HB2 is overturned.” The city’s ability to host future NBA events will depend on whether or not they want to keep HB2 in place.

Many players vocally supported the NBA’s emphasis on acceptance. Kevin Durant tweeted: “I respect the choice. Discrimination of any kind cannot be allowed.” Jason Collins, the NBA’s first openly gay athlete, tweeted: “The NBA has set the best kind of example.”

Regardless of the league’s financial growth over the last five years, the 2017 location switch of its All-Star Weekend marks a social use for their economic clout.

Fans may get annoyed with the overwhelming presence of advertising, but in this case, the All-Star Weekend and its advertising have served a larger purpose, due to the NBA choosing to use its growing influence to take a stand for LGBT rights, a topic that is not often spoken about in the sports world.

Simply: if the NBA had not taken this stance, many fans would never have known what HB2 is.

Varsity Blues figure skaters defend provincial title

Team trounces competition once more at OUA championships

Varsity Blues figure skaters defend provincial title

The Varsity Blues figure skating team won their second consecutive OUA championship on February 15, handily defending their title. The two-day event took place at Gale Centre Arena in Niagara Falls and was hosted by the Brock University Badgers, who placed second in the competition.

The Blues racked up 83 points and won five gold medals over the course of the two-day competition. While their points totalled less than last year’s total of 92, they once again routed the competition: in both 2016 and 2017 the second-place finishers were well behind the Blues’ in points. A gold medal in Synchro, the last event of the competitions, vaulted the Blues ahead of their counterparts in the final points tally.

“It was thrilling because we weren’t really expecting to win that event,” noted head coach Ashley Hui. “Most of the team had never done Synchro before… [but] they really buckled down, they really came together as a team to do it.”

The synchronized skating event involves the entire team, or a large contingent, in a performance of difficult footwork and coordinated movements that must be flawlessly uniform. The Blues were the last team to perform the event, and despite the ice being rough from the previous skaters, they pulled off a gold medal win that capped a masterful performance from the Toronto skaters at the competition.

“We were really pushing to excel at that event, so it was really rewarding to come first,” said team co-captain Katrina de Liberato.

Fellow captain Kaitlyn Liu echoed A. Hui’s point that the Synchro event, regarded as the most difficult of the competition, highlighted the cooperation and hard work required to obtain a good result. “[Synchro] really kind of reflects the team itself, and how well you work together, not just individual talent,” said Liu.

“You can’t bank on one athlete carrying the team,” added A. Hui. “That’s not teamwork.”

Second-year skater Chyna Hui had a standout performance at the competition, winning gold medals in both the Women’s Senior Silver Solo Dance event and Women’s Junior Silver Similar Dance event, the latter with her partner Cladia Choi.

Gold medals were also captured by Liu in the Women’s Starskate 10 event and by skaters Christina Liao, Carol Yeung, Lila Asher, and rookie Keiko Marshall in the Women’s 4 Pairs group.

In staging a repeat of last year’s championship win, coach A. Hui highlighted the need for consistency and timeliness in achieving podium results at this level. “Being strong one year is one thing,” she said. “This season was more about showing consistency, rather than beginner’s luck.”

Liu observed that the skills demonstrated by the team’s younger skaters foreshadows a promising future for the Blues figure skaters — perhaps a three-peat next year. “I think a lot of them now, who are now not rookies, who are considered vets, they will kind of take on the new leadership role,” she said. “I think [the team] is in a good spot.”

Europa League Round of 16 predictions

The second-tier European tournament is in its eighth year

Europa League Round of 16 predictions

The Europa League Round of 16 unseeded draw on February 24 saw heavyweights Lyon and Roma forced to battle for a quarter-final spot, in addition to an all-Belgian and all-German tie. First legs will be played on March 9, with the return fixtures on March 16.

Celta vs. Krasnodar

Celta failed to register a single shot on target at home during the first leg of their Round of 32 tie against Shakhtar Donetsk but hit 11 during the return fixture. Despite this, it took a ninetieth minute dive for a penalty to finally score.

Celta’s defence was continuously exposed, and they must sort themselves out against Krasnodar. However, despite Celta manager Eduardo Berizzo claiming that Krasnodar have “very good footballers,” Celta have better ones and should progress to the quarter-finals if they can coordinate their defence and midfield.

APOEL vs. Anderlecht

Giant killers APOEL and Anderlecht surprisingly dispatched of Athletic Bilbao and Zenit St Petersburg respectively. Coincidentally, both teams did so while averaging a pitiful 35 per cent of possession. Although APOEL have a more impressive defensive record, they have still faced 14 more shots than Anderlecht this European campaign, signalling their defensive vulnerability. Anderlecht to advance. 

Schalke vs. Gladbach

Schalke tends to start games slowly, leaving them susceptible to attack, as evidenced by their Round of 32 matches against PAOK. In comparison, Borussia Mönchengladbach, also called Gladbach, smash and grab during the early exchanges of matches but often lack cutting edge.

Yet even without key attacking duo Thorgan Hazard and Raffael, Gladbach managed to score four goals away to Fiorentina to advance 4–3. Die Fohlen manager Dieter Hecking has rejuvenated a previously underperforming team since his December appointment by switching from a wing back system to four at the back, allowing wingers Patrick Herrmann and Hazard to bombard the flanks. This allows forward Lars Stindl more room to operate, which led to his hat-trick heroics against Fiorentina.

Gladbach’s restructure will allow them to match Schalke’s admirable ability to control the ball. With Hazard and Raffael hopefully back to provide an attacking boost, I’d expect Gladbach to nullify Schalke’s possession-based game and progress.

Lyon vs. Roma

Lyon dismantled a hapless AZ 11–2 on aggregate in the Round of 32. Perhaps more impressively, the French outfit made five changes to their 4–1 first leg winning side and managed a 7–1 second leg victory.

In comparison, Roma made six changes to their 4–1 first leg winning side against Villarreal and lost the return 1–0, although key forward Edin Džeko did not play.

This is arguably the toughest tie of the Round of 16, with both teams boasting physically strong midfields. It’s unfortunate that one will have to bow out of the competition. Roma’s over-reliance on Džeko in the attack will be their downfall despite Lyon’s defensive troubles. Lyon’s attacking should allow them passage to the quarter-finals.

Rostov vs. Manchester United

Rostov brushed aside Sparta Prague 5–1 on aggregate to continue what has been a highly impressive European campaign. They finished third in their Champions League group behind heavyweights Atlético and Bayern Munich, claiming an impressive 3–2 victory against the latter.

Independent journalist Jack Pitt-Brooke claims they play “efficient football, maximising set-pieces and defending solidly.” United, on the other hand, have finally figured out how to win against teams that defend deep, like Rostov.

Although the Russian side should put up a tough battle, United have more attacking prowess and thanks to manager José Mourinho, are also masters in parking the bus and wasting time when needed. United through.

Olympiacos vs. Beşiktaş

Beşiktaş have efficient forwards Vincent Aboubakar and Cenk Tosun, who each claimed a Man of the Match award in the Round of 32 games, while Olympiacos are a sturdy defensive unit that have conceded just six goals in eight Europa League games. Beşiktaş’ attack is more formidable than any team Olympiacos have played this season though, meaning the Turkish team should advance.

Gent vs. Genk

In the Round of 32, Gent claimed an impressive scalp by ousting Tottenham 3–2 on aggregate, whilst Genk squeezed through Astra Giurgiu by the same scoreline. Overall, Genk have succeeded more consistently against more challenging obstacles this European campaign.

Although they sold key players Leon Bailey and Wilfred Ndidi, Genk’s perfect European home record — winning all seven games and scoring 12 — and an impressive tally of 13 goals in seven away games should continue to see them advance.

København vs. Ajax

København claimed a 2–1 aggregate victory over a tough Ludogorets side, despite averaging just 39 per cent of possession. Conversely, Ajax achieved an average of 61 per cent of possession in their 1–0 aggregate victory over Legia Warszawa. Ajax should dominate possession, but København have a reliable defence that conceded just two goals in their six Champions League games. Danish champions to progress.

Candidate profile: Natalie Biancolin, Vice-President Professional Faculties

Slate: We the Students U of T

Candidate profile: Natalie Biancolin, Vice-President Professional Faculties

Natalie Biancolin is a fourth-year student studying Kinesiology & Physical Education. She is the Social Commissioner for the Kinesiology & Physical Education Undergraduate Association.

Biancolin believes that there is a disconnect between the UTSU and professional faculty students and wants to further involve students in professional faculties by being more proactive in engaging them and their needs.

Biancolin recognizes the unique needs of professional faculties and feels it is important to be more than an advocate, saying, “One of my biggest goals is approachability. I want all of the professional faculties to feel like they can reach out to me and tell me what their specific needs [are].”

With files from Christy Ahn and Jack O. Denton

Candidate profile: Michelle Mabira, Vice-President Equity

Slate: We the Students U of T

Candidate profile: Michelle Mabira, Vice-President Equity

Michelle Mabira is a third-year student at New College studying Finance and Economics in Rotman Commerce.

The current President of the African Students Association, Mabira is committed to recognizing and celebrating the diversity of students at the university.

She believes the way to begin doing this is by gathering statistics on staff and students, and compiling reports based on feedback from students to know how to better serve them.

Mabira wants to push a campaign for regulated policies related to students’ mental health and their education, especially related to how students interact with the professors and administrators.

“I feel like systematic racism is a pretty big issue here at the university. I’ve seen it firsthand. Many people have seen it firsthand. The UTSU should work with student groups and organizations that are trying to fight the systematic racism in the institution,” she said.

Candidate profile: Julian Oliveira, Vice-President Campus Life

Slate: We the Students U of T

Candidate profile: Julian Oliveira, Vice-President Campus Life

Julian Oliveira is a fourth-year student at St. Michael’s College majoring in Psychology and English and minoring in Cinema Studies.

As the Events Director of LGBT OUT and having been involved with the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office, Oliveira is very passionate about speaking out for queer students.

In regards to Frosh Week, one of his goals is to book a major performer for a concert. Oliveira also hopes to make clubs funding easier to obtain and to heal the divide between different groups on campus.

“I think that’s important for creating a unified campus identity… especially considering everything that’s happened in the past year in terms of transphobia, Islamophobia [and] anti-black racism,” said Oliveira.

He emphasized his slate’s commitment to equity and focusing on voices that are not always heard.

Candidate profile: Emmanuela Alimlim, Vice-President External

Slate: We the Students U of T

Candidate profile: Emmanuela Alimlim, Vice-President External

Emmanuela Alimlim is a third-year student at Woodsworth College pursuing a double major in Economics and Environmental Studies.

She is concerned with the financial burdens facing students at U of T and seeks to regulate tuition fees, especially for international students. “The idea of making international students feel [like they are] part of this university and not just a cash machine is really vital,” she told The Varsity.

Alimlim is passionate about addressing the needs of marginalized students and feels that her struggles as a Kenyan international student have provided her with the experience to bring about positive and much-needed action through the UTSU, which she reasserts is “the [representative] body of we the students.”

With files from Tamim Mansour

Candidate profile: Carina Zhang, Vice-President University Affairs

Slate: We the Students U of T

Candidate profile: Carina Zhang, Vice-President University Affairs

Carina Zhang is a fourth-year Rotman Commerce student at New College. Zhang previously served as New College Council Representative, and Social Sciences Representative for the Arts & Science Council.

Her main focuses are eliminating the exam deferral fees and the exam remark fee.

She also advocates for Ontario Health Insurance to apply to international students because, in her view, the international health insurance is not “good enough.”

Other campaign points are increased freedom for student societies and “having free feminine products in washrooms.”

With files from Rachel Chen and Jack O. Denton