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PASPA Anniversary: Top 10 Game-Changers In Pro Sports

Bill Speros for Bookies.com

Bill Speros  | 4 mins

PASPA Anniversary: Top 10 Game-Changers In Pro Sports

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The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for legal sports betting nationwide six years ago. 

The reversal of Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) came in a case called “Murphy v. NCAA.” The Court ruled 7-2 in a decision released in the morning of May 14, 2018, that the law was unconstitutional because it violated the rights of individual states to allow betting. 

That opened the door for the growth of legal sports betting in the United States. 

We're looking at the sixth anniversary of PASPA being overturned in series of stories.

Here, we look at where does the legalization of sports betting fit in the history of professional sports in the United States since the launch of the National League in 1876? 

Let’s take a look. 

Top 10 Game-Changers In U.S. Pro Sports 

PASPA Anniversary: Top 10 Game-Changers In Pro Sports 1

Here are our Top 10 Game-Changers in the history of professional sports in the United States in chronological order. 

10. Babe Ruth 

  • First major national sports superstar who transcended sports space
  • Made as much money outside baseball as playing 
  • Still resonates today
  • First multi-media sports star 

9. Radio 

  • Allowed millions to share their experience
  • Delivered in-the-moment results
  • Announcers heightened interest in stars
  • Teams shared in revenue, awareness

PASPA Anniversary: Top 10 Game-Changers In Pro Sports 2

8. Integration  

  • Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier in 1947
  • Took decades for all teams/leagues to integrate 
  • Lack of racial diversity an issue in coaching ranks & front office 
  • Gave racial and social justice icons like Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar major platforms
  • Led to the widespread proliferation of Latin and Asian players in the MLB 

7. Television

  • Live pictures and sound in your home
  • Allowed fans to see athletes and teams they would never see otherwise, created new stars 
  • Delivered revenue stream to teams, leagues, sponsors

PASPA Anniversary: Top 10 Game-Changers In Pro Sports 4


6. Expansion  

  • Baseball moved to California in 1958; divisions added and playoffs expanded in 1969
  • Other leagues followed in terms of adding teams, time zones 
  • Teams proliferate in the West, Sun Belt
  • Las Vegas held Super Bowl 58 after winning Stanley Cup in 2023
  • 13 No. 1 NBA picks foreign-born players
  • China remains a major revenue stream for NBA
  • NFL plays multiple games overseas, ties teams to individual countries

5. Free-Agency & Unionization 

  • MLB Players Association founded in 1966, after multiple attempts at unionization failed
  • Curt Flood sued to end the reserve clause, failed at the Supreme Court, but galvanized players toward union representation and free agency
  • Players earn benefits, protections in CBAs
  • Arbitrator allows Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith to become free agents after playing 1975 without contracts 
  • Athletes are free to test the open market and have leverage over ownership
  • Higher salaries and higher ticket prices result 

4. Title IX 

  • Demands equal opportunity and bans discrimination based on sex at any institution that receives federal funding
  • Law signed in 1972 by President Nixon 
  • First large-scale tangible results came during the 1996 Olympics; the 1997 launch of the WNBA; and the 1999 Women’s World Cup
  • Sheryl Swoopes, Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi, Tamika Catchings, Cynthia Cooper, and Maya Moore are among top women's pro basketball stars of all time
  • Caitlin Clark Effect carries over into WNBA
  • Record women's NCAA TV & sports betting numbers in 2024

PASPA Anniversary: Top 10 Game-Changers In Pro Sports 3

3. Cable TV 

  • Superstations developed national followings for Cubs & Braves
  • ESPN made watching sports a 24/7/365 endeavor 
  • Multiple events, sports now available on dozens of channels 
  • Teams air games on their own networks (NESN; MSG; SNY)

2. Internet & Streaming 

  • News, stats, analysis, audio, and video available in real-time
  • Streaming of live games anywhere beyond cable, broadcast
  • Bloggers, non-traditional commentary, and micro team sites expand interest
  • Social media allows instant reaction, trends, and interaction as players build their own brands away from teams 

1. Legal Sports Betting 

  • U.S. Supreme Court overturned the law (PASPA) that prohibited sports betting outside Nevada in 2018
  • Live legal sports betting available in 38 states & DC
  • Gambling lines and information are now a staple in telecasts, discussions 
  • Legality key for consumer, industry integrity, and new revenue
  • Sports betting increases fan engagement
  • Delivers millions in revenue to leagues through partnerships and sponsorships
  • Concerns raised over the integrity of games (Jontay Porter) due to ties with gaming operators

About the Author

Bill Speros for Bookies.com
Bill Speros
Bill Speros is an award-winning journalist and editor whose career includes stops at USA Today Sports Network / Golfweek, Cox Media, ESPN, Orlando Sentinel and Denver Post.