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Most Influential: Athlete Influencers

Sinead Farrelly, Mana Shim, Alex Morgangetty images (3)

— Top Influencers —

Current and Former NWSL Players

Led by Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim, female soccer players stepped forward to call out incidents of sexual abuse, coercion, misconduct and other improprieties by coaches within the league in stories by The Athletic and The Washington Post. U.S. women’s national soccer team standout and Orlando Pride player Alex Morgan spoke out publicly on social media about the NWSL’s inaction around certain allegations, further heightening the conversation around a need for systemic and cultural change and new safeguards to prevent similar behavior in the future. In the aftermath, Commissioner Lisa Baird announced her resignation Oct. 1, Washington Spirit owner Steve Baldwin agreed to sell his stake in the club and male head coaches with Washington, the North Carolina Courage and Chicago Red Stars were fired or resigned. Subsequent investigations into the NWSL were launched by U.S. Soccer and FIFA.

LeBron James, Maverick Carter, Rich Paul

LeBron James

Forward, Los Angeles LakersCo-Founder, SpringHill Co.

Maverick Carter

Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, SpringHill Co.

Rich Paul

Founder, Klutch Sports Group

James landed a massive endorsement deal with Pepsi after nearly two decades with Coca-Cola, took an ownership stake in Fenway Sports Group and starred in “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” The film was co-produced by SpringHill, which was valued at $725 million following a minority investment earlier this year. Paul, James’ agent, is a top NBA power broker — especially after his Klutch Sports Group joined with United Talent Agency — and was behind a five-part docuseries on the agency with BET Studios.

Naomi Osaka (top), Simone Biles

Naomi Osaka

WTA Tour Player

Simone Biles

U.S. Olympic Gymnast

Osaka and Biles continued to elevate their business influence through lucrative endorsements and investments. They each also stepped away from high-profile competition for mental health reasons, spurring a global dialogue about athlete wellbeing. Osaka’s refusal to fulfill media obligations at the French Open prompted a fresh look at a press conference tradition. And Biles’ withdrawal from the Tokyo Games mid-competition over mental health concerns brought an outpouring of support.

SBJ Spotlight: TikTok’s threat to traditional sports media

While tech companies are consumed with finding ways to compete with TikTok, almost no one in conventional media “spends any time talking about it,” said Recode senior correspondent Peter Kafka in an Spotlight interview with SBJ’s John Ourand. “To me, that’s just an obvious disconnect.” Kafka authored a recent column headlined, “It’s TikTok’s world. Can TV live in it?” He said the main response to TikTok’s growth from traditional media execs has been to “punt and hope it’s someone else’s problem a quarter from now or two years from now.” But Kafka said that ignores the trend of conventional broadcast audiences growing older while a billion younger consumers spend most of their media time watching short video after short video. “If you’re in the business of getting anyone under the age of 30 to look at what you’re putting on a screen, you have to think about the fact that you’re probably asking them to put down TikTok and watch your thing instead,” said Kafka. “That’s a very difficult ask. … [TikTok] is insanely addictive.”

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