U.S. professional sports reaching out to Mexico, bucking Trump nationalist wave

U.S. professional sports reaching out to Mexico, bucking Trump nationalist wave

The NBA plans to open a minor league in Mexico City that could begin competing as early as next season. It will also open a basketball development and training academy in the city, its seventh such academy globally. The NFL says it will play a game in Mexico every year through 2021.

The NBA and NFL have set their eyes on Mexico to increase fan base and income Univision

MEXICO CITY – Even as President Donald Trump hammers home his 'America First' message and a nationalist wave sweeps across the United States, two of the country’s most influential institutions are moving in the exact opposite direction: the National Basketball League and National Football League.

Mexico, Trump’s favorite punching bag other than Hillary Clinton, is the next frontier for both leagues. Over the last month, they have individually announced aggressive steps to expand their presence in Mexico, part of a long-term strategy to grow their fan base and find new sources of revenue.

“We have had our most anti-Mexican president in a century or so and yet we are seeing more of an effort to connect with Mexico,” said Matt Bowers, a professor in sports management at the University of Texas at Austin.

The NBA plans to open a minor league in Mexico City that could begin competing as early as next season. It will also open a basketball development and training academy in the city, its seventh such academy globally. The NFL says it will play a game in Mexico every year through 2021.

The investment in Mexico by both leagues is likely to be a short-term money loser, but one that has the potential to reap tremendous long-term financial benefits.

“Global expansion in sports is becoming much more prioritized because of the way social media has opened things up and allowed different fan bases to connect,” Bowers said. “Mexico is simple logistically and it is kind of low-hanging fruit for tapping into a 20 million-plus market.”


The NBA and NFL’s push southward could also deepen the cultural and economic ties between Mexico and the United States countries at a time when talk of a border wall to separate the countries dominates the political landscape. Fathali Moghaddam, an expert in political psychology at Georgetown University, predicted that the juggernaut of sports would ultimately prevail in bringing the countries closer, even if Trump succeeds in getting the wall built.

“The financial gains from internationalizing sports and dissolving borders are so enormous that nobody can stop what’s happening,” Moghaddam said. “It is driven by the bottom line but it is a form of diplomacy and a form of breaking down walls. People have more positive attitudes towards fans of the same sport or the same team.”

Still, major cultural and logistical challenges face both leagues as they try to grow their fan base in Mexico.

Journalists mingle with players following a Brooklyn Nets' training...
Journalists mingle with players following a Brooklyn Nets' training session at the Mexico City Arena in Mexico City, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017.

The NFL has a head start, Bowers said. It has quietly developed a large fan base in Mexico over the last few decades. By some estimates, Mexico City is home to the NFL’s seventh largest fan base. On game days, Mexico City bars routinely fill with football fans.

But league officials acknowledge that there is little to no chance they will open a franchise in Mexico in the near future because the country has no stadium modern enough or large enough to house an NFL team.

For the NBA, the biggest hurdle appears to be simply growing the sport’s following. The league’s championship game in June between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers generated hardly a ripple in Mexico City.

“Basketball is not popular because there are not a lot of courts and it’s not more promoted,” said Juan Manuel Alvarado, who was playing in a recent pickup game in Mexico City.

Like many of his fellow players at the pick-up game – most of them in their late 30s and 40s – he started watching basketball during Michael Jordan’s heyday in the mid 1990s.

Erik Solis, who runs a basketball camp for kids, said Mexican public officials invest in soccer fields and soccer programs. Basketball, he said, is an afterthought.

“If they gave the same support to basketball as they do for soccer then [Mexico] could be at the same level as the ‘grandes,’” said Solis, a devoted Boston Celtics fan. “Like Venezuela and Puerto Rico. It’s difficult to reach the level of the U.S.”

Venezuela’s men’s national team is the defending champion of the South American Basketball Championship and came in 10 th place at the 2016 summer Olympics. Puerto Rico’s national team didn’t qualify for the 2016 Olympics but came in 6 th place in the 2004 Olympics. The Mexican national team hasn’t qualified for the Olympics since 1976.

Height disadvantage

Of course, even if Mexico begins investing more in basketball, its players have a built-in disadvantage when it comes to international competition: Their height.

The average Mexican man born in 1996 is 5 feet 7 inches, while the average American man is 5 feet 10 inches, according to a 2016 study led by scientists at Imperial College London.

That height difference was top of mind for Osvaldo Angeles de la Vega, who kicked around a soccer ball with his friends on a basketball court in Mexico City.

“Basketball is cool because you can elbow, and in soccer you kick,” Angeles said. But he prefers soccer because he said it is faster-paced – and, he added, his stature makes no difference.


“You need to be tall in basketball… in other countries everybody is really tall and here we are short.”

The Colombian soldier Mauricio Calvo shares his experience as part of a burgeoning industry of men who travel the world to fight in other people's wars.
They grew up in Chicago and their husbands, the Flores twins (aka ‘Los Mellizos’), worked for the Sinaloa cartel. The twins later became DEA informants in Mexico who helped bring down El Chapo Guzman. They have written a book, Cartel Wives, telling their story as a lesson to others not to fall for the narco life, and they regret what they put their families through. "Our fathers put on their suit of armor and their badge, and they are going out there on the streets of Chicago,” Mia confesses. “It’s the very same streets that our husbands were flooding with drugs.”
Nelson Denis, author of 'War Against All Puerto Ricans,' details how the commonwealth's 119-year-long association with the U.S. has produced total economic and governing dependence. With over $70 billion in crushing debt, Puerto Rico's governor turned to the courts on Wednesday to put certain debts before a federal bankruptcy court.
We traveled to Ciudad Juárez to see if hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Mexican maquiladora industry would return to the United States if Trump were to modify or abandon the NAFTA free trade agreement, as his government is considering. A border tax would have serious consequences in Mexican cities.
A wave of demonstrations in Venezuela has left several dead and hundreds more detained in the last two weeks. Univision reporter Tamoa Calzadilla explains how a democratic crisis, inflation and shortages of food and medicine have sent Venezuelans into the streets.
As the legend goes, a UFO landed in Capilla del Monte in 1986, leaving a mark on the side of the Pajarillo mountains. Since then, this Argentinian village has lived off UFO tourism. It's currently hosting its annual Alien Festival.
The announcement to scrap the benefits came as a bucket of cold water for the Cuban migrants who just arrived in the United States. As this group waits for their papers, the uncertainty grows on whether they will ever be reunited with the relatives they left on the island.
It is estimated that the Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, and its rival Barrio 18 gang together have about 40,000 members in the United States. And at least another 100,000 in El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and Italy. How did the gangs come to be among the world's best known criminal organizations?
A group of Argentines diagnosed with mental illness set up a radio station from where they broadcast their experiences
How Fidel Castro's plan to save Cuban baseball unraveled. The once mighty amateur baseball champions have lost much of their talent in recent years to U.S. Major League Baseball. Now the Cuban government is in discussions with MLB to stop the desertions. But will a Trump presidency make that more difficult?
A half-century of armed conflict has left behind 8 million victims in Colombia. It has also affected the country's unique natural resources. We explore the war’s impact on Colombia’s environment.
At the end of 1980 ‘Team USA’ defeated ‘Tri’ for the first time in almost fifty years. Footage from this match was presumably hidden by the Mexican Federation, but after more than three decades these images are revealed here.
Forty three students in Mexico were abducted two years ago, and to this day, none have ever been found. When his son Jorge disappeared, New York City plumber Antonio Tizapa began to run marathons, not to win, but to send a message at the end of each race: he won’t stop until he finds his son or the truth about what really happened on that shameful day. On Sunday, Antonio and 20 friends will be running the New York City Marathon.
The evidence against El Chapo: undercover recordings, intercepted communications, protected witnesses’ declarations, drug seizures, and a confession. As U.S. prosecutors prepare their case against the world's most feared drug trafficker, this is what the government's case is built around.
Family, friends and fans turned out on Wednesday to pay their last respects to Miami Marlins pitching ace, José Fernández who died in a boating accident early Sunday.
An experienced captain and a Univision crew successfully navigated the same route as the Miami Marlins star pitcher who was killed in a boating accident Sunday.
La cancelación del TPS está incentivando un inusitado auge inmobiliario en El Salvador
Mientras unos hablan de una aparente crisis humanitaria por la posibilidad de masivas deportaciones desde EEUU, otros ven esta situación como una oportunidad para que los que regresan al país se encuentren con espacios cómodos y seguros.
A cuatro meses del sismo que azotó a México, cientos de familias continúan viviendo en las calles
Los damnificados no pueden creer la incapacidad de actuar por parte de autoridades federales ante la crisis que dejó el terremoto. Inclusive, han retado al jefe de gobierno Miguel Ángel Mancera a que pase una sola noche en los albergues para que sienta en carne propia la difícil situación.
Estudio revela que la mayoría de las personas en EEUU no cuentan con ahorros suficientes para solventar una emergencia
Según la compañía Bankrate, solo el 39% de la población en el país cuenta con 1,000 dólares para cubrir cualquier imprevisto, mientras que el 36% pide préstamos o usa tarjetas de crédito ante un gasto inesperado.
El Congreso sigue sin plan para terminar con el cierre de gobierno
Donald Trump y los congresistas de ambos bandos dicen que quiere sacar al gobierno del cierre pero todavía carecen de una solución. Los republicanos rechazan las demandas de los demócratas.
Honduras enfrenta nuevas protestas a una semana de la investidura de Juan Orlando Hernández, señalado por la oposición de fraude
Varias personas resultaron heridas y el expresidente Manuel Zelaya acusó a las fuerzas de seguridad de la muerte de una persona. La oposición pidió a sus partidarios bloquear carreteras y accesos para impedir la asunción el próximo 27 de enero del actual mandatario, al que acusan de fraude electoral.
Realizan un taller informativo en Los Ángeles para resolver dudas sobre la solicitud de renovación del TPS
Los participantes pudieron recibir ayuda financiera por parte de Caridades Católicas para pagar las actuales tarifas que están establecidas para esta opción migratoria. Durante los próximos días se realizarán eventos similares para la comunidad interesada.
Madre latina y su hija de cinco años resultan heridas tras un tiroteo en Belmont Cragin
La policía aseguró que las víctimas fueron impactadas mientras viajaban en un auto por una persona que iba en otro vehículo. Aparentemente, la madre habría podido manejar por varias cuadras después de los disparos hasta que llegaron las autoridades.
Nadal venció a Schwartzman y ahora enfrentará a Cilic en el Abierto de Australia
El tenista español logró seguir adelante en el torneo tras el triunfo sobre el argentino en tres horas y 51 minutos.
'Noche de mi...' para Facundo Erpen, además de perder con Lobos sufrió robo en Pachuca
El defensa argentino de los universitarios reveló que todo ocurrió tras el duelo ante los Tuzos.
Caroline Wozniacki se mete por primera vez a los Cuartos de Final del Abierto de Australia
La danesa Caroline Wozniacki derrotó con facilidad a Magdalena Rybarikova en sets corridos y llegó por primera vez a Cuartos de Final en Australia.
Pulido sobre su tanto ante Necaxa: “Es lindo reencontrarme con el gol y más que el equipo ganó”
El delantero de Guadalajara se mostró contento con su anotación, pero sobre todo por los tres puntos.