The pro pickleball world has held its breath since Jimmy Miller, co-host of the King of the Court pickleball podcast, broke the news about Steve Kuhn’s resignation from all leadership roles within Major League Pickleball (MLP). Last night, the MLP confirmed Kuhn’s resignation with an official statement on their website.
Kuhn has spent the last couple of years championing pickleball as the next big spectator sport in America, even claiming it will be a top-five sport on television in the next five years. Not only did he found the MLP, but he also was one of its lead investors by becoming a minority owner in the majority of the league’s 24 teams.
We’ve seen the league grow exponentially year alongside pickleball as the fastest-growing sport in America, and many of us believed that MLP was heading in the right direction to make pickleball viable as a commercial entertainment product. Kuhn’s resignation has left the pro pickleball world in shock and with many questions, as he was seen as a pioneer leading pickleball to the next level.
Shortly after Jimmy Miller posted his video announcement, The Dink released an article claiming that what Miller stated was true. However, likely due to either legal reasons or maintaining anonymity, The Dink didn’t list any direct sources for the news, instead stating, “After speaking with multiple sources, we now have more clarity.”
We connected with sources of our own after the announcement, but ultimately decided to wait to report on Kuhn’s resignation until hearing it straight from the MLP. Some individuals we spoke with confirmed the information, others weren’t so certain, and a few were even actively spreading misinformation; finally, the truth has come to light. The MLP’s official statement is as follows:
“Steve Kuhn has resigned from his leadership positions with Major League Pickleball. We thank him for his numerous contributions as founder of MLP and bringing professional pickleball to the forefront of sports. MLP will continue to fuel the growth of our league and teams with the ideal combination of players, owners, and partners.”Major League Pickleball
That’s it: Three short and sweet sentences. While we got the confirmation we knew might be coming, it also left many of us with even more questions. Why did Steve Kuhn resign so suddenly? What is causing the MLP to leave out the details surrounding his resignation? What’s next?
The fall of MLP 1) MLP overcommits 2024 salaries trying to buy pros . 2) MLP is massively negative cash today 3)founder steve kuhn trys to sell another mlp team to raise money to pay for nov 23 event 4) existing mlp owners see MLP is sham. 5) Steve K. resigns. Org is bankrupt pic.twitter.com/6YL9CSB6OW— PickleballTalk (@TalkPickleball) October 16, 2023
The above tweet contains what some speculate to be contents from the email Kuhn sent out following the board meeting in which he resigned. While we cannot confirm or deny that this is, in fact, the email, it does point to some interesting perspectives on the resignation.
About a month ago, we witnessed what one might call “The Great Pro Pickleball Signing Wars of 2023.” The PPA Tour and MLP found themselves at odds, each trying to become the focal point of the professional pickleball world.
A Unified Pro League
The fight for a singular professional pickleball organization makes complete sense. For the sake of comparison, let’s look at American football.
Yes, there are professional American football organizations outside of the NFL, such as the CFL or USFL, but none come close in terms of national and even international recognition as the NFL does. The NFL has a legacy dating back over a century and has cultivated a multi-generational fanbase in the process.
In its infancy, pro pickleball needs to draw the public eye to just one organization, as a split audience distracts from the possibility of really becoming, as Steve Kuhn once put it, a top-five spectator sport. So, the PPA and MLP decided enough was enough – let’s start signing pros to exclusive deals in hopes of becoming the top dog in the pro pickleball market.
However, the plan of splitting pro pickleball’s player base is also flawed because it would force fans to pick and choose among their favorite players, again splitting their viewing time awkwardly between two leagues. The PPA and MLP eventually recognized this after it was too late, and ultimately had to decide on a merger between the two organizations.
The pro-tour wars and messy merger likely led to the MLP board’s growing disapproval of Kuhn’s decision-making as the organization’s leader. In a recent board meeting, Kuhn allegedly wanted to continue fighting the merger and instead was hopeful of expanding the league further by selling more teams to gain further investment in the MLP.
Current MLP shareholders and team owners didn’t like this risky maneuver, and fellow MLP board members started to protest and resign as well. Following the board meeting, Kuhn allegedly sent out the email resignation from the board of MLP with the intention of continuing to lead and fund DUPR, pro pickleball’s most relevant rating system.
Pro Pickleball’s Future
We are still firm believers in pro pickleball. As fans and spectators of the MLP, PPA, and APP, we find pro pickleball to be the best it’s ever been. Following the success of the MLP’s most recent event in Atlanta, we think that MLP Dallas could be the biggest and best MLP event yet!
Kuhn’s resignation initially felt like a setback, as it raised a ton of alarms about what’s going on behind the scenes in the MLP, but it now feels like it could be just what was needed to push the merger between the MLP and PPA forward. As we said earlier, pro pickleball requires a unified professional organization to thrive. Despite the rocky circumstances of the merger, it is likely exactly what the sport should be experiencing right now.
Thanks, Steve Kuhn, for everything you’ve done to evolve pro pickleball, and we hope you continue to do great things for pickleball with your efforts at DUPR. As for the next leader of the MLP, good luck.
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