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Leadership Theory and Ownership Succession in the National Football League: The Case of the Cincinnati Bengals

Daryl R. Smith and Kimberly A. Hasselfeld

The fans in Cincinnati are in an uproar. They have just witnessed another disappointing football season, the 23rd since Mike Brown became the owner of the team. Mike Brown’s tenure has been marked by historically poor performance with eight and nine straight game losing streaks to begin the season on multiple occasions. To make matters worse, this was the same number of seasons that his father and Hall of Famer, Paul Brown, owned the team. Where Paul Brown’s tenure had been marked by record ascendence to the playoffs and two Super Bowl trips, his son’s tenure was notable primarily for seasonal failure. In the minds of the fans and press, the two eras of ownership could not be more starkly different. Both are now calling for wholesale changes to the leadership or the sale of the team. Students should examine these claims and both eras of ownership using transformational and charismatic leadership theories, Collins’ Genius with a Thousand Helpers leadership model, and family-owned business succession perspectives. Do the fans and press have a right to be angry and demand a change in leadership?

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Organizational Socialization in Professional Sport: The National Basketball Association’s Rookie Transition Program

Mark A. Beattie

Launched in 1986, the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Rookie Transition Program (RTP) is the longest running program of its kind in U.S. professional sports. Jointly administered by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association, the RTP is designed to ease the transition of first-year players to the league. Over the course of 4 days, RTP participants engage with current and former NBA players, coaches, administrators, and other league stakeholders on topics that range from personal finance, to mental health, to social justice advocacy. Organizational scholars might describe the NBA RTP as an element of the league’s onboarding, or organizational socialization, strategy. In this case, students will reflect on their own socialization experiences as organizational newcomers before analyzing the components of the NBA RTP. Finally, students will apply what they learn through this case to design the agenda of a future NBA RTP.

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Volume 13 (2024): Issue 1 (Jan 2024)

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Developing a Community Sport Organization’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy

Megan C. Piché, Erik L. Lachance, and Shannon Kerwin

This teaching case study tasks students with creating a diversity, equity, and inclusion policy. The teaching case study’s context is a fictional community sport organization (CSO; i.e., Niagara Falls Thundering River Volleyball Club) located in the Niagara Region in Ontario, Canada. To develop such a policy, students learn about the emerging pressures and market conditions surrounding the fictional CSO. Students are also made aware of key policy principles as well as management by values to consider ethical standards within diversity, equity, and inclusion. Finally, students are introduced to diversity, equity, and inclusion policies within the Canadian sport system to inform their policy development process for the purposes of this teaching case study.

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One Nation, One Team: The U.S. Women’s National Team’s Equal Pay Victory and Its Broader Impact

Ben Pincus, Martha Brown, and Alexia Lopes

This teaching-based case study focuses on and addresses issues and opportunities in women’s sports. The context used for such discussions are the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team’s accomplishments (e.g., mainly the settlement for equal pay). Both the main case and the teaching materials enlighten examinations in three principal areas (i.e., leadership, diversity, and marketing). As future leaders in the sports industry, we believe that Sport Management students should be prompted to discuss issues and opportunities beyond what we have long referred to as (traditional) “sports,” to intentionally focus on and address issues and opportunities in women’s sports. Nonetheless, the benefits of the present case study reside in its ability to invite students to consider topics and current events in sports that are imperative to continue the momentum to move sports (in particular, women sports) forward. This teaching-based case study is intended for third- or fourth-year undergraduate students. Given its broad approach and focus in three different areas (i.e., leadership, diversity, and marketing), the case could be used in several sport courses, such as management or business of sports, sport marketing, sport diversity, sport sociology, or sport leadership. Knowledge is gained via individual and teamwork, class debates, and written assignments.

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Understanding the Ecological System: Increasing Women’s Sport Participation Within Bowls Canada Boulingrin

Adam T. Pappas and Shannon Kerwin

This case showcases Amber, the CEO of Bowls Canada Boulingrin (Bowls Canada). Amber and her Board of Directors are looking for ways to increase the number of adult women 1 who participate in bowls at the competitive level. Through the case narrative and teaching note, students are asked to explore Bowls Canada’s strategic plan to uncover the organization’s goals around equity, diversity, and inclusion, and review data that has been collected related to barriers for women’s participation in competitive Bowls. Analysis of the data is linked to Social Ecological Theory, which will help students think about the most effective ways to synthesize their understanding of barriers into recommendations for Amber and her Board. The need to use data to make decisions around issues related to equity, diversity, and inclusion is increasingly relevant when addressing multiple concepts in the sport management classroom. The case contributes to engaging discussion that will naturally generate valuable interaction among students.

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Marketing With Purpose: Building Upon Momentum in the Angel City

Danielle K. Smith and Melissa Davies

The growth of women’s sports, specifically women’s soccer through the National Women’s Soccer League, creates a contemporary landscape through which students explore the relationship between revenue-driving and community-based marketing strategies. Drawing upon the realistic case of Angel City Football Club, a National Women’s Soccer League expansion franchise in Los Angeles, students will study and discuss the role of a socially responsible team position, analyze and create target market segmentation strategies, generate sponsorship partner recommendations, and create a social media campaign for this growing women’s professional sport in one of the United States’ most diverse and sport-crazed cities.

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From Podcasts to the Playing Field: Creating a Culture of Gender Inclusivity Within the Stone Kickball League

Peyton J. Stensland, Dominique C. Kropp, Sarah E. Tackett, Farah J. Ishaq, and Sarah Stokowski

Hall’s Circuit of Culture provided a framework in the context of this case study to help understand and alter cultural systems within an organization. Specifically, the Circuit of Culture was applied to the Stone Kickball League, a hypothetical, nonprofit, adult community sport organization, with nearly 400 participants across the local Keystone City, Oklahoma area. Felicity Campbell, the league’s newly appointed commissioner, was tasked with creating necessary change to address league-wide issues of inclusivity, recruitment, and retention, particularly among female-identifying and gender minority participants. By incorporating Hall’s Circuit of Culture framework, Felicity reviewed cultural components of the organization through document collection, personal experiences, and research. Felicity’s Summary of Findings provided ample evidence of gender and cultural issues within the Stone Kickball League. Students will analyze the Summary of Findings and propose strategies to implement a positive environment and create a culture that integrates and promotes greater inclusivity within the Stone Kickball League while also developing recommendations to address the issues identified throughout the case.

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Strategic Operations in Baseball: “Maximizing the Window”

William Cialone and Brianna L. Newland

This is a fictional case based on the acquisition and use of talent within Major League Baseball club the New York Mets using “sabermetrics.” The case introduces students to three disparate approaches to acquiring and utilizing talent with the strategic aim to maximize the Mets’ “championship window.” The case primarily uses examples from the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the Tampa Bay Rays to compare successful and unsuccessful strategies. With the data and strategies presented, this case presents a scenario for Jalen Burkes, the fictitious assistant to the General Manager for the Mets during the Major League Baseball offseason. This case develops within the theoretical framework of workforce differentiation theory and is suitable for student learning about strategic decision making and human resource management. Specifically, students are challenged to consider whether to keep free agents on the roster based on how talent is acquired and used to put the Mets in the best possible position to compete for a championship in the next season.

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European Super League Gets a Red Card: 12 Breakaway Clubs

Belal Alsalous and Prescott C. Ensign

On April 18, 2021, 12 of Europe’s elite men’s professional football (soccer) clubs announced they were creating a stand-alone midweek European Super League (ESL). The league would be separate and independent from existing governance bodies controlling the sport worldwide. In addition, the league would exist in a closed competition format where only member clubs played against each other. A total departure from the traditional open competition format of relegation and promotion. However, the ESL clubs also proposed to continue playing in their current national weekend leagues. During the next 72 hr an extraordinary drama played out. Enraged fans, players, and football governance officials were unrelenting in their efforts to kill the ESL. This case examines the contextual background, precipitating factors, and intense counter forces that quickly led to ESL’s demise. The case raises five questions: Were there valid reasons for the clubs to seek a new business model? Were elements in the strategic planning process missing in the decision to launch ESL? Were club owners justified in breaking away to form the ESL? Was the decision to create ESL unethical? and What actions can the clubs take to repair relationships with stakeholders?