FIBA’s Basketball Champions League Tries Tamir Goodman’s New Net, Designed to Disinfect the Basketball

By Andrew Cohen

A FIBA Basketball Champions League game last week between Israeli club Hapoel Jerusalem and Turkish club Pınar Karşıyaka was played with an Aviv Basketball Net, designed to reduce sweat and bacteria on the ball’s surface. The Oct. 5 contest was won, 86-84, by Pinar Karşıyaka at Pais Arena in Jerusalem. 

The net’s material contains three antimicrobial fibers to disinfect the ball as it goes through the basket, ideally removing germs the ball carries from being handled. Aviv was founded by Tamir Goodman, a former Maryland high school basketball star dubbed the “Jewish Jordan” in a 1999 profile by Sports Illustrated. 

“With the onset of Covid, everyone has become more conscientious about germ and infection avoidance. We wanted to help solve that problem in basketball,” Goodman said in a statement.

Aviv says its net is also being tested by teams in the NBA, Big3, Euroleague, and NCAA Division-I. The net is being sold for $19.99 on Aviv’s website. 

ESPN Adds On-Ice Camera Operators for NHL Broadcasts

By Dominic Massimino

ESPN’s NHL coverage this season will include on-ice camera operators to film more footage during shootouts and coming out of commercials, particularly near the teams’ nets. The network will also place microphones on players and on the goals to capture substantial pregame audio. 

Additional aerial shots will come from a Four-point SupraCam system that will be suspended from cables above the rink. Data from SMT’s puck and player tracking system will also be shown on broadcasts across ESPN, ESPN+, Hulu and ABC.

ESPN’s broadcast crew will also gain locker room access to capture coaches’ pre-game remarks. The crews will also be allowed inside the NHL’s replay review room during referee decisions, with former NHL ref Dave Jackson providing rules analysis during games.

The Drop, a new 30-minute digital pregame show, will also livestream on ESPN’s digital platform before marquee games this season. The NHL campaign begins tonight with the Pittsburgh Penguins playing the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET, followed by the Seattle Kraken taking on the Las Vegas Knights at 10 p.m. ET. The matchups are the first NHL games to air on ESPN since 2004.

Bryson DeChambeau, Inspired by Instagam Ad, Joins $3 Million Seed Round for Proteus Motion

By Joe Lemire

PGA Tour star Bryson DeChambeau has invested in Proteus Motion, a multi-planar training system that uses magnetic 3D resistance and data-collecting software for advanced functional power training. DeChambeau’s involvement was part of a $3 million seed round that valued Proteus at $40 million.

Proteus Motion has now raised about $9 million in total, including investments from Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the family office of late NBA commissioner David Stern, Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield and the Hospital for Special Surgery. Proteus, which was initially incorporated as Boston Biomotion and inspired by an original concept from CEO Sam Miller’s father, released its version 2.0 machine this spring. New York Yankees director of player health and performance Eric Cressey is also an advisor and investor.

DeChambeau, the 7th-rated golfer in the world and SportTechie’s honoree as 2020 Outstanding Athlete, invested in Proteus soon after seeing an Instagram ad for the product, as first reported by Sportico

“The Proteus system has been an amazing tool to see how much power and acceleration I am producing in my rotational motions,” DeChambeau said in a statement. “Proteus allows me to see if I’m getting stronger each week, if I need to work harder and what adjustments I should be making to optimize my training. Proteus Motion has groundbreaking technology that I believe will revolutionize strength training for athletes across all levels of sports.”

PlaySight Interactive Sold to Slinger for $82 Million

By Andrew Cohen

Automated sports video production and analysis company PlaySight Interactive has been acquired by Slinger in a deal valued at $82 million. Slinger is best known for its portable tennis ball launcher machine called the Slinger Bag.

PlaySight will allow Slinger to expand its capabilities across AI video camera production, live streaming and data analytics. The USTA’s national campus in the Lake Nona, Fla. community of Orlando, has installed PlaySight’s automated player-tracking camera system. Other clients include the Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns

“Our goal is to create a full suite of ‘Watch, Play and Learn’ solutions, the three largest commercial activities in every sport,’’ said Mike Ballardie, CEO of Slinger, in a statement. “To accomplish this, we are building a 360-degree platform of products and services to meet the needs of our tennis consumers today, and for other major sports over the next few years.” 

PlaySight’s roster of athlete partners include tennis greats Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King and Pete Sampras. The company’s AI cameras are also used to stream games across youth and college sports, particularly baseball and softball

Investors in PlaySight include former golfer Greg Norman and Verizon Ventures. Both PlaySight and Slinger were founded in Israel. Last month, Slinger bought another video analysis company, Gameface.AI, for $24 million

Fantasy Soccer NFT Game Sorare Is Being Investigated by the U.K. Gambling Commission

By Andrew Cohen

The U.K. Gambling Commission is investigating fantasy soccer NFT platform Sorare to determine whether or not its crypto-backed fantasy game is a form of gambling.

The investigation comes after Paris-based Sorare raised $680 million last month. Sorare is not a licensed gambling operator and released a statement on Monday, saying it was “very confident” it does not offer any form of regulated gambling. 

“The Gambling Commission is currently carrying out enquiries into the company to establish whether requires an operating licence or whether the services it provides do not constitute gambling. Consumers are being advised to consider this information when deciding whether or not to interact with the site,” the U.K. Gambling Commission said in a statement

Sorare lets users buy and sell digital player cards that are tokenized on the Ethereum blockchain. Users can then build lineups with their tokens to enter fantasy contests and earn points based on their player’s real-life performances. Prizes are given in the form of ETH cryptocurrency or rare in-game player cards.

More than 100 soccer clubs have licensing partnerships with Sorare, including teams such as Real Madrid, Liverpool and Juventus F.C. The MLS Players Association also has a licensing deal with Sorare. 

The U.K. government is planning to ban Premier League clubs from selling jersey ads to gambling firms, which would follow a ban Spain placed last year on betting sponsors appearing on La Liga club kits. 

In the wake of Spain’s ban on gambling sponsors, brands in the cryptocurrency space are increasingly becoming shirt sponsors for La Liga clubs, such as Valencia’s jersey sponsorship with crypto-backed fan token platform Socios. A recent report from consulting firm GlobalData said La Liga clubs have received $36.8 million in crypto partnerships this season. 

KinoTek, Which Uses Algorithms to Map the Human Body, Closes $2.1 Million Seed Round

By Joe Lemire

KinoTek, a human movement evaluation platform, has closed a $2.1 million seed round. The Lake Nona Fund, which has ties to the leAD Sports & Health Tech Partners accelerator from which KinoTek graduated, led the investment.

The Portland, Maine, startup had been using IMU sensors to track motion prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, at which point they shifted to a strictly computer vision-based system. KinoTek’s algorithms map the human body and assess any inefficiencies by utilizing 3D visualization and quantitative measurements. The company’s stated goal, in the words of CEO and co-founder Justin Hafner, is to “provide the objectivity and confidence in understanding why or what this [motion] data can do.”

Maine Venture Fund and Bridge Angels were among the other investors. KinoTek previously received $600,000 in pre-seed funding from leAD and a series of private angel investors.

Michael Jordan Is in Favor of NBA’s Covid Protocol, Hopes Stars Such as Kyrie Irving Acquiesce

By Tom Friend

Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets, is urging all NBA players to follow league protocol and get vaccinated prior to the upcoming season.

While players such as Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving are likely to miss regular season games due to being unvaccinated, Jordan told NBC’s “Today Show’’ Monday that he is in agreement with the league’s Covid-19 mandates.

“I am in total unison with the league,’’ the six-time NBA champion told the show. “And I think everybody’s been speaking about the vaccinations, and, you know, I’m a firm believer in science. I’m gonna stick with that, and, hopefully, everybody abides by whatever the league sets as rules. I think once everybody buys in, we’re going to be fine.’’

The Net’s Irving failed to travel with the Nets to Philadelphia on Monday, missing his first road game of the preseason, and will not be able to take the floor at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden until he is vaccinated. As it stands, he would be able to play in Brooklyn’s season opener later this month in Milwaukee.

“We’re just trying to navigate this thing,’’ Nets coach Steve Nash told reporters before Monday’s game. “We don’t really know what’s going to happen tomorrow. We’re just trying to take our time to figure out what everything means.’’

Irving, a 7-time all-star, averaged 26.9 points per game last season for the Nets.

Brooklyn Nets Expect Kyrie Irving to Miss Home Games Due to Vaccine Requirement

By Andrew Cohen

Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash expects his team to play home games without star guard Kyrie Irving due to his vaccination status. New York City requires individuals to show proof of a Covid-19 vaccine shot to enter indoor gyms, including Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. Irving remains unvaccinated.

“We recognize he’s not playing in home games,” Nash told reporters on Sunday. “We are going to have to, for sure, play without him this year. So it just depends on when, where and how much.”

Irving was able to practice with the Nets on Sunday at the team’s HSS Training Center in Brooklyn because the city’s government has determined the facility is a private office building rather than an indoor gym, according to ESPN

Under NBA rules, players who can’t comply with local vaccine requirements will not be paid for games missed. Irving would forfeit roughly $380,000 per game for each home game absence due to his vaccine status, totaling about $15 million in lost salary if he misses all 41 Nets home games this season.

NHL to Re-Institute Puck Tracking After Last Season’s Failed Sensor Debut

By Andrew Cohen

Tuesday’s start of the 2021-22 NHL season will see the league return to playing with sensor-laden pucks to power the league’s tracking system. The pucks have been re-designed to glide better on the ice since last season’s high-tech ones were removed after a single week of games due to performance issues.

“We went away from it because the puck didn’t glide right,” Detroit Red Wings Coach Jeff Blashill told the AP. “It didn’t feel like a real puck. Obviously, that’s the trick. I think puck-tracking is a great thing that will really help the analytics a lot.”

Sports technology leader SMT designed the NHL’s tracking system, which includes sensors in both the pucks and jerseys worn by players. Cameras inside arenas capture movement from the sensors.

Puck and player tracking is expected to result in a new era of in-play betting for the NHL, where sportsbooks could allow fans to place wagers on which player skates the fastest, who records the hardest shot or how far the puck travels during a game.  

“This is going to re-engineer the hockey better experience, which, to put it politely, is sub-optimal — because it’s all about game outcomes,” NHL VP of technology Keith Horstman told AP. “It’s exciting that this data is going to lead to in-play betting. We’re working on it, and I’d like to say it will happen this season.”

In February, the NHL agreed to a partnership with PointsBet that saw the league gain an equity stake in the sports wagering company. The NHL is also letting teams sell jersey patch ads to gambling operators, with the Caesars Sportsbook logo set to appear on Washington Capitals jerseys starting with the 2022-23 season.

Fans Can Hang With Atlanta Braves Greats Glavine, Jones and McGriff and Others for NLDS Game 4

By Andrew Cohen

A group of former Atlanta Braves players — including Tom Glavine, Andruw Jones, and Fred McGriff — will join online watch party platform Hang for Tuesday’s Game 4 of the NLDS between the Braves and Milwaukee Brewers.

 Fans can pay $49.95 for a VIP ticket to enter a livestreamed video room with the former players and talk with them directly throughout the game. Other former Braves players scheduled to join Hang include David Justice, Steve Avery, Kent Mercker, and Mark Wohlers.

 For $10, fans can join the watch party as a spectator to hear the former players discuss stories from their careers and provide analysis of the playoff game. Spectators can also submit questions via a text chat for the hosts to answer.

 Tomorrow’s Game 4 will broadcast on TBS. Hang was co-founded by Jon Klein, a media executive who served as the president of CNN/U.S. from 2004 to 2010. 

Former Spanish Goalkeeper Iker Casillas to Debut Startup Accelerator Sportboost

By Dominic Massimino

Retired Real Madrid goalie Iker Casillas has launched Sportboost, an accelerator for sports-related startups. Sportboost has partnered with La Liga and ESIC Business & Marketing School.

Casillas played for Real Madrid from 1999 through 2015. Startups accepted into Sportsboost will be trained on how to promote their company, on building industry relationships and on business development.

Sportboost’s initial startups include Fly-Fut, an AI-based drone camera system for soccer; Kognia Sports Intelligence, a Barcelona-based analytics firm; and IDOVEN, a wearable tech company focused on early at-home detection of cardiac problems — an issue important to Casillas following his heart attack in 2019.