Hamish Stephenson & Jordan WiseCourtesy of GAFFER
Music, sport, and fashion all have significant cultural relevance in society, particularly amongst the younger generation. In the U.S. it is not uncommon to see sports stars such as former NBA star Dwayne Wade as a special guest at leading fashion weeks around the world or musicians like Kanye West crossing over into fashion and building a multi-billion dollar fashion line. Whilst this is commonplace in the U.S. it is not so common in Europe. However, there is a new generation of athletes coming through who don’t want to be known for just their sport but want to get involved in other areas where they can fully express themselves like their U.S. counterparts. Two entrepreneurs who are working with athletes and brands and are at the forefront of this cultural shift in Europe are Jordan Wise & Hamish Stephenson, founders of GAFFER media platform and FALSE 9 creative agency.
Wise and Stephenson have been friends for years and were on very different paths before starting GAFFER. Wise had a successful career in sports management where he managed footballers contracts and commercial partnerships working with several Premier League clubs. Stephenson had a career in photography where he worked across music, fashion, and sport with many leading brands including Nike and Adidas. Whilst Stephenson was on these shoots he noticed “many footballers were not engaged in the shoots they were being forced to do” he recalls. Naturally, as a creative, he understood why but didn’t understand why in today’s environment where the athlete posting content on their platform can drive just as much, if not more, authentic engagement than the brand they didn’t collaborate more proactively.
Wise noticed similar issues when speaking to his clients and realizing the approach many brands were taking was outdated, the duo decided they would set up GAFFER a media platform showcasing this talent in a different, forward-thinking way that results in higher quality content when working with brands.
Building GAFFER & FALSE 9
To stand out the duo immediately realized the platform had to be different. To do this rather than trying to lure superstars they used their knowledge of young popular culture and sports talent and worked with young, up-and-coming stars they thought would gain prominence soon. Some of these include working with Manchester United star Aaron Wan Bissaka and Chelsea star Callum Hudson Odoi who both got their first cover shoot with GAFFER. “Our best attribute is not only our content but our ability to spot up and coming talent’ Wise says. Beyond the premium look and feel of the content, the pair thought it was important their print offering wasn’t a throwaway magazine either but similar to GQ and other high fashion magazines and would be “something you’re proud to have sitting on your coffee table.”
Cover shoot featuring Chelsea footballer Callum Hudson-OdoiCourtesy of GAFFER
After launching their print, digital and social media platforms this eye for up-and-coming talent and unique content was noticed and the pair started to get contacted by several brands wanting them to create a similar look and feel for them. Whilst it was flattering, it was imperative that whilst working with other brands the aesthetic they had created was not lost for commercial reasons “when we work with brands we take full creative control and work with the talent to ensure the campaign has the right look and feel” Wise says. Once this was agreed upon, the duo set up creative agency FALSE 9, a reference to the false 9 position in football. Across the media platform and agency, clients have included Burberry, Virgin Galactic, Beats By Dre and more recently the team worked on a groundbreaking campaign with Nike on the England national football team which was unique and received a number of plaudits in the creative space.
There has been a significant cultural change, driven by social media, in the way athletes and musicians market themselves and the number of verticals they go into. Whilst many agencies and brands have struggled to catch up GAFFER /FALSE 9 are ahead of the curve and their backgrounds will ensure they continue to be tastemakers in the space.
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. You can find more articles (click here) and if you have a story to tell or want to be updated as soon as new features are released get in touch via Twitter @TommyASC91
As with everything related to covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the illness is too new for there to be much data yet on such specific questions. And with rapid spread of the virus throughout the country, some regions have taken action to prevent people from exercising indoors at all. Minnesota, where I live, is on a four-week “pause” that has closed fitness centers and put organized sports on hold.
Where indoors sports are allowed, experts say that parents can assess risk based on knowledge of how the virus spreads, along with studies that investigate transmission of other infectious diseases through athletic events. Factors to consider include ventilation, number and proximity of players, adherence to mask-wearing and community rates of infection.
When possible, consider playing outside, says Cordelia Carter, an orthopedic surgeon and co-director of the Center for Young Athletes at NYU Langone Health in New York. “The best indoor sport is an outdoor sport,” she says.
But even outdoor sports carry risks. Although the data are limited, covid-19 has been associated with a number of sporting events and venues, including a recreational ice hockey game in Florida and a squash facility in Slovenia.
In Minnesota, health officials recently announced that at least 10 percent of cases in schools in the state were associated with sports. Overall, the state health commissioner reported 46 outbreaks related to hockey, 41 associated with volleyball, 35 for football, 20 for basketball and 15 for soccer.
When considering whether to play sports indoors this winter (if they are still happening), one factor to consider is ventilation. It’s not enough to open a single window or put on a fan, says Paul Francisco, an indoor air researcher at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has been studying how contaminants, including infectious pathogens, move through air and how various types of ventilation affect the potential for exposure to airborne contaminants.
While better than nothing, opening a window or door can end up simply blowing air (and pathogens) around instead of out, he says. It’s better to try to enhance cross-ventilation by opening doors and windows on opposite sides of a room or building so that air moves away from the places where most contamination happens.
To assess the safety of a gym, dome or other venue, you can look for clues about how air moves through spaces, Francisco says.
Older buildings are leakier than new ones and likely better for air flow. Big overhead fans can sweep air away quickly. And large spaces help, especially in newer, tighter buildings. Francisco’s calculations suggest that doubling the height of a ceiling can produce the equivalent of more than double the number of air exchanges when people are in a space for one hour.
But even the best ventilation won’t counteract the risk of exposure to small particles exhaled by someone breathing hard in your face. That explains outbreaks related to outdoor sports.
“If you’re going to be in close proximity to people who are infected, then that’s the biggest problem,” Francisco says. “You’re going to get it before the ventilation could ever act on it.”
The chances of inhaling infectious particles grow as you spend more time in a space, Francisco says. You are more likely to get infected if you spend all day in a gym than if you spend an hour there. Sharing the space with fewer people also helps.
Given those variables, Francisco says that risks are probably lower for a sport such as swimming — done apart from others in a large, well-ventilated space, where people spend less time in close proximity as they swim by each other — than for sports such as basketball, hockey or volleyball that involve close contact in more confined spaces among players who might accidentally spit on one another.
Coronavirus isn’t the only cause of illness from sports, and past research offers insight into how athletes can pass along infectious diseases. Contact sports such as wrestling, judo, rugby and football are particularly good at spreading skin infections such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA; Group A strep; staph aureus; and herpes, says H. Dele Davies, a pediatric infectious diseases consultant and epidemiologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He was lead author of a 2017 paper in Pediatrics that offered clinical guidance to pediatricians about managing outbreaks associated with sports.
Airborne and vaccine-preventable diseases such as chickenpox, measles and influenza can also spread through sports as wide-ranging as gymnastics and skiing, according to the report. Transmission happens through not only physical contact but also gym mats, water bottles and other equipment. Occasionally players come into contact with the bodily fluids of others.
Respiratory illnesses aren’t as well-studied as skin infections in the context of sports, but they do happen, says Mary Anne Jackson, an infectious diseases doctor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and Children’s Mercy Hospital and co-author of the Pediatrics paper.
Three clusters of influenza occurred at the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002, striking both athletes and support staff. Visits to the health clinic at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018 included reports of influenza and norovirus, a highly contagious gastrointestinal illness.
If avoiding indoor sports means not exercising, that’s a risk, too. Organized sports provide opportunities for movement, social interaction and the life lessons embedded in competition. The benefits of physical activity include improvements in cardiovascular health, sleep, mental health and focus, Carter says. Some evidence suggests that organized activities may help some people stick with exercise.
Still, there were already downsides to organized sports before the pandemic. For young people in particular, Carter says, early specialization can lead to burnout and overuse injuries. Now might be a good time for people of all ages to broaden their athletic horizons, she suggests, with less structured or more solo activities such as yoga, hiking, dance or martial arts.
For those who want to keep playing organized sports indoors as safely as possible, experts recommend looking closely at a team’s policies. Details to consider include mask-wearing, playing in small groups, regular cleaning of surfaces, screening for symptoms and even periodic testing.
Most national sports have a national governing body with guidelines that can help smaller organizations and families develop and assess protocols, Carter says. The website for USA Hockey has a page of covid-19 resources, as does U.S. Soccer and U.S. Ski and Snowboard.
Local case numbers are also important to consider, she says. And ultimately, every athlete and family will have to make decisions based on their tolerance for risk and the underlying health conditions of their close contacts.
Assessing risk includes thinking beyond the field of play, Davies says, to the locker room and after-game celebrations in bars, restaurants or homes. And each layer of protection is like a slice of Swiss cheese. No strategy offers perfect protection, but together they can cover a lot of holes to help minimize risk.
“Every plan is only as good as the weakest link or the noncompliant person,” he says. “If there is good ventilation, and everyone is wearing a mask and staying distant to one another, and there is good environmental cleaning, the chances of keeping everyone safe is dramatically enhanced.”
The games will go on, hanging by the thread of the almighty dollar.
Even as the coronavirus rages out of control over wide swaths of the country, and some facets of society are beginning to shut down again in hopes of stemming the deadly tide, there are no plans to shutter sports like they did back in March.
Too much money is at stake.
Everyone is all-in on this utterly joyless pursuit.
But it's easy to see why so many have tuned out these made-for-TV games.
The contests being played in largely empty stadiums and arenas, devoid of any atmosphere or excitement. The constantly changing lineups and scattershot rescheduling or canceling of games, often on a few hours notice. Teams forced to play in temporary, faraway homes because, well, we're in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that already has claimed a quarter of a million American lives.
Please welcome to the court ... your Tampa Bay Raptors?
Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean summed it up best when his team's season opener was canceled shortly before tipoff because of COVID-19.
"This season already was a surreal experience all around,” said Crean, whose team hasn't even played a game. “To all our fans, bear with us. It’s going to be this kind of year in college basketball.”
It's already been that kind of week for the Bulldogs.
On Monday, they learned that their second game of the season, set for this Sunday against Gardner-Webb, would have to be canceled because of a positive test within their opponent's program. On Tuesday, the Bulldogs hastily scheduled Florida A&M as a replacement game. Then, on Wednesday, they had to call off the opener against Columbus State.
Florida A&M — a team that wasn't even on Georgia's schedule a few days ago — is the new season opener.
Assuming nothing happens in the next couple of days.
Meanwhile, anyone planning to cap off Thanksgiving Day by watching the highly anticipated Baltimore-Pittsburgh NFL matchup in prime time had to make alternate plans — who's up for some Parcheesi? — after that game was first pushed back to Sunday, and then to Tuesday by an outbreak that put more than a dozen Ravens on the coronavirus reserve list.
MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson was among those stricken, casting a further pall over a season that feels more like the reality show "Survivor: NFL All Stars."
Keeping with that theme, winless Vanderbilt headed off to Missouri for what could be the first Power Five college football game to feature a female player.
Soccer goalkeeper Sarah Fuller was cleared to travel with the Commodores and poised to handle the kicking duties Saturday after a rash of COVID-19 issues swept through the special team unit.
“Let's make history,” Fuller said in a tweet that included a picture of her wearing a Commodores jersey and holding a football.
“She’s really good with a soccer ball, she seems to be pretty good with a football, so we’ll see,” Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason actually said.
While we're certainly pulling for Fuller's quixotic pursuit, the lunacy of a Southeastern Conference football team having to do some impromptu recruiting from the women's soccer program sums up the shameless exercise this season has become.
Forget about wins and losses.
The only thing that truly matters is whether the network checks clear.
That's certainly the case with the NBA, which not so long ago finished up its pandemic-delayed 2019-20 season by holding most of its playoffs before zero fans in a de facto high school gymnasium at Disney World.
While the bubble was an organizational marvel — and, most important, kept everyone healthy — the NBA has no plans of duplicating it as it rushes head-long into its next season with the pandemic firing on a larger, more terrifying scale than ever before.
The league conducted its draft last week, powered quickly through free agency, and is getting ready for teams to report to training camp next week — even though it hasn't even released a schedule for a season that is supposed to begin Dec. 22.
“It's going to be a wild year,” Atlanta Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said. “We're going to have to adjust on the fly.”
You'll get no argument from the Toronto — uhh, make that the Tampa Bay Raptors.
Because of travel restrictions imposed by the Canadian government during the pandemic, the Raptors had to find an alternate home. They settled on Amalie Arena, home of the NHL Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning (who have no idea when they'll get back on the ice, with time growing increasingly short for a planned New Year's Day start).
Well, at least the weather along the Gulf Coast will be a lot nicer than a Canadian winter.
“I was just happy that it was somewhere warm,” quipped Raptors star Fred VanVleet, who remained with the vagabond franchise after agreeing to a four-year, $85 million contract.
At some point, hopefully in the not-too-distant future given the progress being made on the vaccination front, sports will return to normal.
The stands will be packed. The schedules won't be changing on an hourly basis. The Raptors can return to their proper home.
Until then, it's hard to find any reason to cheer.
Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry196 His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry
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