Uber Becoming Major Player in Sports World
17 May, 2017By: Michael Popke
Last month’s news that the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, NHL’s Buffalo Sabres and National Lacrosse League’s Buffalo Bandits all made Uber those teams’ official ridesharing partner got us thinking about how the sharing economy has impacted sports.
Buffalo sports fans visiting New Era Field, KeyBank Center and HarborCenter will have access to Uber Pickup and Drop-off Zones, and Uber is working with the Bills and Sabres to become fully integrated in the My One Buffalo app, which already provides fans with ticket management service and other convenient features.
The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., also recently expanded its partnership with Uber for the 2017 event, slated for May 9-14. For the first time, Uber will have a designated pick-up and drop-off area at the Sawgrass Marriott to help fans travel safely to and from the tournament.
Uber and Lyft (another on-demand ride service) have become an integral part of the fan experience for several professional and college teams over the past few years, and have helped significantly reduce the number of drunk-driving incidents.
The Uber economy has led to some negative press in the sports world, too. In April, Uber officials needed to apologize and issue a $20 credit to Atlanta Braves fans who hoped to take advantage of the team’s partnership with the service. As Atlanta’s NBC affiliate, WXIA-TV, reports, “it took hours for hundreds of Uber customers to leave the park” following the Brave’s home opener at new SunTrust Park. “There were not nearly enough drivers, according to reports, and it took customers hours to get home. Customers also jumped the line and would get in nearby Uber vehicles. There was even some unrest in the crowd.”
Sometimes, it’s the athletes who create Uber-related unrest. Earlier this month, Carolina Panthers tackle Michael Oher — subject of the bestselling book and popular film The Blind Side — was cited for assaulting an Uber driver in Nashville in April. And on May 4, news broke that sports agent Christian Dawkins was fired from ASM Sports for using the credit card of an unnamed NBA player to charge $42,000 for 1,865 Uber rides between July 2015 and May 2016. Only a few of those, SBNation.com reports, were authorized by the player.
Nevertheless, considering the way Uber has permeated the sports experience culture, it appears here to stay — unlike its early competitor Sidecar, which lasted about four years. Plus, there’s now talk of allowing Uber to include an option for driver tips on customers’ receipts, which is common practice in the regulated taxicab industry.