Americas Bulletin: Sport faces up to Trump; Raiders’ Vegas setback; Islanders on thin ice and more

SportsPro’s Americas Bulletin, dishing up a regular diet of news, views and insight from across the business of sport in the Western Hemisphere.

Americas Bulletin: Sport faces up to Trump; Raiders’ Vegas setback; Islanders on thin ice and more

Not surprisingly, US president Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and prohibiting Syrian refugees indefinitely was met with widespread condemnation across the sporting world this week. Senior figures across corporate America, including the heads of Google, Apple, Intel, Ford and Goldman Sachs, joined prominent athletes and sporting organisations in denouncing the immigration ban, which was signed on Friday and has since sparked outrage and protests on both sides of the Atlantic.

Adidas spokeswoman Lauren Lamkin issued a carefully worded statement in which she reiterated her company’s commitment to “an open and diverse society and culture in the US and around the globe”, while Nike chairman and chief executive Mark Parker denounced the implementation of a “policy we don’t support”. Further criticism has come from Olympic running great Sir Mo Farah, a Somalia-born Briton who trains in Oregon, and Richard Peterkin (above), an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member from St Lucia who described Trump’s order as “totally contrary to Olympic ideals”.

For now, some US sporting bodies are seeking workarounds to ensure international participation at events on American soil is not affected. In a statement, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) said it will work with the US Government “to ensure that athletes and officials from all countries will have expedited access to the United States in order to participate in international athletic competitions” - a move that has been welcomed by IOC president Thomas Bach. Meanwhile USA Wrestling has vowed to send a full delegation to next month’s Freestyle World Cup in Iran despite the country’s retaliatory ban on US citizens.

The greatest scrutiny has, however, centred on the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Olympic Games - an effort that has trumpeted the Californian city’s ethnic diversity and openness from the outset - and the extent to which Trump’s order hurts the bid’s chances ahead of the IOC’s host city vote in Lima in September. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti (right) led the bid’s opposition to a move that “unfairly targets refugees” yet other commentators have been cautious of stoking the mounting doomsday hysteria. Eight months, they argue, is an eternity in the rollercoaster Olympic bidding process, and regardless of Trump’s travel ban, LA’s self-titled ‘high-tech, low-risk’ bid remains, for now at least, the most compelling option on the table.

Elsewhere, the Oakland Raiders’ planned relocation to Las Vegas hit a snag this week after a prominent investor in a proposed US$1.9 billion stadium intended to house the National Football League (NFL) team withdrew vital funding. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a driving force in the project who had pledged US$650 million for the development, is angrily walking away from the deal after a recent lease agreement put forth by the Raiders to the Las Vegas Stadium Authority failed to mention his family’s contribution. “We were not only excluded from the proposed agreement, we weren’t even aware of its existence,” Adelson said in a statement. 

While Raiders owner Mark Davis (left) remains intent on a move away from Oakland and is seeking additional funding to make it happen, Adelson’s decision to pull out has reportedly left Goldman Sachs, another financial backer of the Vegas stadium project, reconsidering its investment. And in another intriguing twist this week, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer has spoken to NFL officials about bringing the Raiders to his city should the Vegas move fall through, thereby filling the void left by the Chargers, who bolted to LA earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the New York Islanders’ short tenure at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center looks to be coming to an end after arena officials indicated they could make more money without the National Hockey League (NHL) team. A report by Bloomberg this week cites ‘people familiar with the facility’s financials’ who said the arena, which already houses the Brooklyn Nets basketball team and is one of the world’s top-grossing concert venues, has no plans to host the Islanders beyond 2019. Since the team relocated from Long Island in 2015, average attendances for Islanders games are said to have fallen to just 12,828, the third-lowest per-game total in the NHL. Barclays Center operator Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment will also run the Islanders’ former home, the Nassau Coliseum, when it reopens in April after a major overhaul, and reports in Newsday suggest the team could be interested in a return there.

In other news: Cleveland’s Progressive Field has been announced as host of the 2019 Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game, while this year's edition of Major League Soccer’s (MLS) equivalent showpiece will be stage at Chicago’s Soldier Field; the Boston Celtics have become the third National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise to secure a jersey sponsor for next season, signing a multi-year, multi-faceted partnership with GE; and Keith Joseph, Neven Ilic, Carlos Nuzman, Richard Peterkin and José Joaquín Puello have all formally submitted applications to become the next president of the Pan American Sports Organisation (PASO), according to Insidethegames.