Atlanta is set to add another expansion franchise – this time in esports.
The Overwatch League announced Thursday that Atlanta will join the global Authentic Pernell McPhee Jersey , city-based esports circuit in 2019, its second season. The team will be managed by Atlanta Esports Ventures, a partnership between Cox Enterprises and Province Inc.
”We’ve had our eye on Atlanta for a long time,” said Pete Vlastelica, president and CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Leagues. ”It is near the top of the list of remaining Overwatch cities in the world, certainly in North America.”
The league also announced a new franchise in Guangzhou, China. It plans to add four more franchises before next season, which would bring the total to 18.
The Overwatch League explored awarding Atlanta one of its 12 inaugural franchises but couldn’t find an ownership fit for the first season. The league is hoping to capture some of the same enthusiasm backing Atlanta United of the MLS. The soccer club has shattered just about every MLS attendance record since joining the league in 2017.
”There’s a lot of Overwatch players there, and not just in Atlanta but in the Southeast,” Vlastelica said. ”Between Texas, where we have two franchises, and Florida Texans Authentic Jerseys , where we have a franchise, there’s a lot of America and a lot of video game players and a lot of Overwatch players. And it’s just a great sports market.”
Province executive Paul Hamilton will serve as Atlanta’s president and general manager. He’s a lifelong esports enthusiast and hardcore fan of Blizzard’s 6 vs. 6 first-person shooter. He plans to be hands-on regarding player acquisition and roster management.
”I probably have more strong feelings about players than most of the people that are running these teams,” Hamilton said. ”That may end up not being a good thing, but we’ll see.”
Player contracts from the league’s inaugural season will expire Sept. 9, and the league’s expansion franchises will be granted an exclusive free agency window from then until Oct. 7 to fill the bulk of their rosters. The minimum salary for players in the league’s inaugural season was $50,000.
Hamilton has been in contact with people from the AMB Group, Arthur Blank’s company that manages the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United. Hamilton is hoping to build local support in much the same way the soccer team did.
”They really engaged the hardcore fan first,” Hamilton said. ”They wanted the people that are tried and true.”
The Guangzhou franchise was awarded to Nenking Group, which also manages the Guangzhou Long Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Atlanta and Guangzhou have yet to announce team names or unveil logos. Expansion fees were not disclosed. The 12 inaugural franchises were reportedly awarded last year for $20 million each, with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and New York Mets owner Jeff Wilpon among the initial buyers.
Like the rest of the Overwatch League, Atlanta and Guangzhou will be based out of Southern California next season. The league is hosting all matches at Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California Alex Cappa Color Rush Jersey , until its franchises can find arenas and build the infrastructure necessary for esport events in their host cities. The league hopes to begin holding true home-and-away matches in its third season.
The league’s 14 franchises currently span three continents, including first-year champion London, runner-up Philadelphia, Seoul and Shanghai. Vlastelica said the league would likely announce a 15th team in the next week or two, with future expansion focused mostly outside the United States.
London beat Philadelphia in the league’s first Grand Finals at Barclays Center in New York last week. The first night of the two-night championship was broadcast live on ESPN, a first for the traditional sports network in prime time.
The Dallas Cowboys kept talking up the receivers they already had going into the NFL draft after dumping Dez Bryant in a cost-cutting move.
They ended up having to tout their tight ends as well when ESPN reported on the draft’s second day that Jason Witten was planning to retire after 15 seasons to join the ”Monday Night Football” crew as lead analyst.
Even with all the talk, Dallas still addressed a pair of positions that figure to look dramatically different after years of Bryant and Witten at or near the top of the club’s list of receiving leaders.
A day after drafting receiver Michael Gallup in the third round, the Cowboys traded one of their three picks in the sixth Saturday to the Los Angeles Rams for receiver Tavon Austin, the eighth overall pick in 2013 when the franchise was still in St. Louis.
The Cowboys took a tight end with the second of two picks in the fourth round in Stanford’s Dalton Schultz. Their first pick in that round was defensive end Dorance Armstrong from Kansas.
”I think we’re better because I think we’ve got a great read on where we were as we sort through Dez, as we sort through the what ifs of Witten,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. ”I think we’ve got more clarity now than we did when we started the draft.”
As for those players on the roster before the draft, the Cowboys don’t expect a No. 1 receiver to emerge because they don’t think their offense will be structured that way without Bryant.
Dallas wants quarterback Dak Prescott to feed off the run with 2016 rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott Authentic Martin Kaut Jersey , so free-agent pickup Allen Hurns could be the top receiver without numbers similar to what Bryant posted during his best run from 2012-14.
The Cowboys also signed journeyman Deonte Thompson to go with incumbents Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. Dallas took a receiver out of the equation Saturday by sending Ryan Switzer to Oakland for defensive lineman Jihad Ward.
”When you lose a player like Dez and what he’s brought to the table throughout his career, we’re remaking our receiving room,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said. ”I do think we wanted to do things that, as Jerry has said, that’s Dak-friendly.”
ESPN reported Friday that Witten was planning to retire to join the network, but Jerry Jones said the franchise leader in games, catches and yards receiving hadn’t made a decision and wanted the weekend to think about it.
Without Witten, the Cowboys currently have nine career catches from the tight ends on their roster – all by fourth-year player Geoff Swaim.
Dallas is high on Blake Jarwin and hopeful that former Baylor basketball player Rico Gathers can develop. Gathers hasn’t played a regular-season game and missed all of his second season after sustaining a concussion in training camp last year.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT NO. 1: Because of all the talk about Bryant and Witten, first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch was overshadowed. The linebacker from Boise State, taken 19th overall, could be a walk-in starter. Jerry Jones likes to compare him to Rolando McClain, a key man in the middle when the Cowboys won the NFC East in 2014. Dallas took another linebacker in the sixth round (Indiana’s Chris Covington).
PLAN FOR AUSTIN: Rams coach Sean McVay used Austin as more of a hybrid Kolton Miller Jersey Elite , with some wildcat and other change-of-pace looks as a runner in the last of five disappointing seasons for the speedy receiver. The Cowboys have similar plans for him, and high hopes for more production than Austin had while the Rams surged to the NFC West title in the first year under McVay after 10 straight losing seasons.
TILTED TOWARD OFFENSE: Six of the nine picks were offensive players. The third-day choices were Schultz, quarterback Mike White of Western Kentucky (fifth round), receiver Cedrick Wilson of Boise State (sixth) and Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough (seventh).
STILL NEED: The Cowboys didn’t draft a safety despite moving one of last season’s starters, Byron Jones, back to cornerback. At the moment, the starters appear to be Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods, a sixth-round pick last year.