#SportBitsFashion .. The NBA Runway

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Happy spring, sports fans! There’s a lot happening in the sports world right now but what has my attention is the NBA Playoffs. The eighty-two game season has come down to the four best teams and for the next few weeks you can watch them battle it out to see who’s crowned the championship title. Even if you’re not an NBA fan, it’s a great time to check in. The competition is fierce and the fans are fanatic.

What I love about the playoffs is seeing what the players wear into the basketball arenas. They call it the Concrete Runway. Players enter the stadiums decked out in their best outfits and strut down the walkways giving everyone a glimpse of their personal style. Photographers are there to catch it all to send out to the world on social media.

I think it’s fascinating to see what these athletes wear when the cameras are on. Out on the court they wear their team uniforms strictly following NBA policy,  but pre and post-game they can wear anything and they usually do not disappoint.

My favorite style flex this playoff season comes courtesy of Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James. Before Game 3 of their first-round match with the Indiana Pacers, the entire Cavs team arrived on the de facto red carpet wearing the same gray suit, cardigan sweater, socks, boots and aviator glasses – all purchased by James. Players were fitted for the custom suits designed by American fashion designer Thom Browne and they definitely made a statement.

Other players competing for the “best-dressed award” IMO are Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant. These guys consistently show up looking cool and classy, giving me one more reason to think that in the world of professional athletics, basketball is at the top of the style pile.

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Happy Anniversary Title IX

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On June 23, 1972, President Richard Nixon signed Title IX barring discrimination on the basis of sex for “any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”  Title IX opened doors for girls and women by banning sex discrimination in all federally funded school programs, including sports.

Forty-five years later, how have things changed? To begin with, the number of girls who participate in high school athletics has risen tenfold since its passing, from 300,000 nationwide in 1971 to over 3 million today. That’s encouraging because research shows that among C-level business women, 94 percent played sports and over half competed at the collegiate level.

The good news continues in a recent report released by the NCAA suggesting that progress has been made in a number of areas when it comes to participation, diversity, and equality among college athletes, their coaches and their athletic directors.

Unfortunately, the report also reveals that while spending has climbed to record levels for both genders there remains a stark gap in leadership between the sexes – and it’s not just in the sports world. Whether it’s education, corporate America, or Congress, women are sorely underrepresented in leadership roles. Women are CEOs of just 28 companies in the S&P 500. Only 31 percent of law school deans are women. Women make up approximately 51 percent of the American population, and there are 435 members of our House of Representatives. Eighty-three are women. That’s just 18 percent. And in sports, 88 percent of head coaches of women’s college teams are white, and nearly 57 percent of them are men. Those numbers are simply unacceptable.

The reports goes on to show that spending on men’s and women’s athletic programs is at a record-high, and that over the past decade spending has doubled across all three NCAA divisions with the greatest gap between the two found in Division I. Division I athletic departments spend on average about twice as much on their men’s programs than their women’s programs, though schools without football spend nearly the same on each (about $5 million).

Title IX has undoubtedly moved women in sports in a positive direction. Why is this so important? Because young women who are involved in sports are learning about teamwork, sportsmanship, physical fitness, confidence and winning and losing – all the important qualities needed to become a strong and successful leader. Boys have always been afforded this luxury but for most of the 20th-century, girls have not.

I am thankful for what Title IX has afforded me and my daughter and look forward to where it takes us in the future.

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Equal Playing Field: The Altitude Football Project

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In just a few days, 30 women from 25 countries will summit Mt. Kilimanjaro to break the Guinness World Record for the highest altitude FIFA-regulation football/soccer game ever played, to call for equality, opportunity, and respect for women in sport.

In today’s society, women’s sports remains under-represented in science studies, media coverage, participation, and leadership positions. Female athletes and sports team continue to be under-supported and under-valued. The Equal Playing Field’s (EPF) Altitude Football Project hopes to raise awareness for not only equality in sports, but to “challenge the social norms for girls and women in sport” and acknowledge “the systematic, structured inequality that girls and women face in most aspects of their lives.”

The climb, expected to last seven to ten days, will involve women scaling nearly 6,000 meters (19,330 feet) of Africa’s highest mountain. According to CNN, after reaching the summit they will descend to 18,799 feet and play a 90-minute, 11-a-side match on a volcanic ash pitch at an altitude not attempted before.

The footballers, ranging in age from 18 to 66 years old and representing 20 nationalities, include retired US international Lori Lindsey, former England midfielder Rachel Unitt, ex-Germany international Petra Landers and former Mexico captain Monica Gonzalez.

The fight for women’s equality is not a new topic in sports.  In April, the US women’s national soccer team ended a long-running dispute over pay and conditions by agreeing a new deal with US Soccer, the country’s governing body. US women’s hockey threatened to boycott the world championships before agreeing a pay deal just three days before the start of the tournament, while a tennis tournament director was forced to resign in March after saying female players “ride on the coattails of the men.”

Equal Playing Field’s co-founder, Laura Youngson, believes in the power of sports. “Sport brings friendships and community, commitment and leadership, and strength and health. No girl should miss out on those benefits because of her gender.”

I agree completely, but am amazed at the lengths we must continue to go to in order to close the gender gap in sports.

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U.S. women’s hockey wins the gold medal and equal pay

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It was a wild three weeks for the U.S. women’s national hockey team that culminated with a gold medal win in overtime against team Canada.

But getting to that championship game took courage, determination, and a will to stand up for what they believed in.

The 2017 International Ice Hockey World Championship took place for the first time ever on US soil at the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan. The tournament takes place annually in non-Olympic years to determine the world champion in senior women’s hockey.

The event, March 31 through April 7, 2017, was an 8-team, 22-game tournament that saw a total of 18 games played on the arena’s main sheet (NHL-sized rink), while four games were played on the arena’s secondary sheet (Olympic-sized rink).

The teams competing in Plymouth in ranking order were USA, Canada, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Germany. Team USA won gold in the 2016 tournament, held in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada.

But in a surprise move, the American players called a boycott of the event on March 15th telling USA Hockey they wouldn’t participate without a new contract that offered better pay, more PR and marketing support from USA Hockey, and equitable treatment to what the men receive.

USA Hockey pushed back and threatened to send a replacement team. However, when they attempted to seek out replacement players, they received a resounding “no” from most of those asked.

The women stood strong and with help of a smart social media campaign, and support from several sponsors and professional sports leagues (NBA, MLB, NHL), their message was heard.

An agreement was finally reached on March 29th which left the women only 48 hours to prepare for the tournament. Bu there was no way they were going to cause such a stir and not win the gold medal on their home turf.

“We knew a lot of eyes were on us, and there was pressure,” American Kendall Coyne told ESPNW.

They handled the pressure like champions by winning five games in eight days. The gold medal game v. Canada was a nail-biter that went into overtime before American forward Hilary Knight, off an assist from Coyne, ripped one in the next to win it.

It was the team USA’s seventh world title in eight years, and was the perfect, and only way to end their unprecedented journey for equal rights.

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The Sport of Memory

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Have you heard of memory sports? Maybe you have, but forgot!

In memory sports, memory athletes participate in competitions where they attempt to memorize and then recall certain information.

The most common type of memory competition involves memorizing the order of randomized cards in as little time as possible, after which the competitor must arrange new decks of cards in the same order. Sounds awful! I would come in last place every time.

You may think that the practice of remembering things is not a sport. But I would argue that since there is serious training involved and competitions held, it qualifies. The World Memory Championships is a yearly competition that began in 1991. Memory athletes from around the world gather to compete in contests that require memorizing as much information as possible within a given period of time. There are ten memory disciplines used in memory competitions:

1. One hour: numbers (23712892….)
2. 5 minutes: numbers
3. Spoken numbers, read out one per second
4. 30 minutes: binary digits (011100110001001….)
5. One hour: playing cards (as many decks of cards as possible)
6. Random lists of words (house, playing, orphan, encyclopedia….)
7. Names and faces (15 minutes). World record: 164 names.
8. 5 minutes: historic dates (fictional events and historic years)
9. Abstract images (black and white randomly generated spots)
10. Speed cards – Always the last discipline. Memorize the order of one shuffled deck of 52 playing cards as fast as possible.

Alex Mullen at the 2016 World Memory Championships in Singapore

The current World Memory Champion is 25-year-old American Alex Mullen. Mullen is the first American to win the world title, which he has won in 2015 and 2016. He is the world No. 1 ranked memory competitor as well as the current USA memory champion. Mullen can memorize a deck of cards in 17 seconds.

What are Mullen’s training techniques and will they work for the average person? According to a recent study, ANYONE can train their brain using the same tricks the top competitors use. The most common technique is called the “memory palace” and it requires you to picture a familiar place (your home, school, or town) and filling it with imaginary objects. For example, choose ten locations in your home that you can fill with objects on your shopping list, or whatever you are trying to remember. Then connect each item with the particular location and the memory will stick. Humans are naturally good at visual learning and navigation.

The more bizarre and outrageous you get with your memory palace, the easier it will be to remember things.

So, while I’m not about to begin my training for the World Memory Championships, I WILL start using my memory palace to help me remember everyday lists, numbers, and appointments!

According to the study, the more I practice the better my memory will get – and that sounds mighty good to me.

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#SportBits … A White House Tradition In Jeopardy

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There’s a longstanding tradition in this country of championship teams visiting the White House. But that tradition may be in jeopardy.

With more players opting out of the ceremonial visit, it’s almost become more of who doesn’t come, rather than who does.

According to Thomas Nuemann of ESPN, the tradition of sporting teams visiting the White House dates back to Aug. 30, 1865, when President Andrew Johnson welcomed the Brooklyn Atlantics and Washington Nationals amateur baseball clubs. John F. Kennedy was the first president to host the NBA champions, when the Boston Celtics visited in January 1963.

It is an honor, no doubt. But today, champions have to search their souls as to whether the honor is worth it.

UCONN women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma and his lady Huskies have visited so many times that former President Obama joked Auriemma had his own room. Recently, Auriemma was asked if the Huskies win their 12th title this year, would his team attend the White House ceremony?

“The fact that in all the 11 championships I’ve never been asked this question says something about where we are as a country,” Auriemma said. “Forget the answer. The fact that I’ve never been asked means there’s something going on that isn’t normal.”

Well, he’s got that right.

It’s not unheard of for athletes to skip the customary visit. Many have opted out but avoided controversy by saying their decision was based on other factors such as family commitments or scheduling conflicts.

But not in today’s political climate, where, thanks to the power of social media, athletes have been very vocal about their views.

So, it’s not surprising that athletes are struggling with the possibility of a White house visit and speaking out as to why. Six players from the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots have said they are not going – five of whom say it’s because they do not feel welcome.

Mr. Auriemma said he is not sure what he’ll do if the team wins and his players object to a White House visit.

“What are you going to do as a coach?” he continued. “It’s not like I can look it up and go, ‘What did other people do?’ We’re in a world that very few of us could have conceived five years ago.”

Strange times indeed. Players are being praised on social media for speaking out while others are being pressured if they don’t.

If this trend of declining White House visits continues, it will be a PR problem for the leagues, teams, and the White House – so what should they do? Invite only a selected few (those who actually want to attend) to represent their team? This way, those who don’t want to go do not have to publicly “skip” the event.

Nope. I don’t like it. I want my sports figures to be socially active and speaking their minds. The PR folks will just have to figure it out.

What about you? What do you think?

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#SportBits Recap … The 2016 WTA Season

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The women’s tennis season is officially over and what a wild year it was.

Over the weekend, the WTA Finals tournament came to a close in Singapore with No. 7 seed Slovakian Dominika Cibulkova taking the title over the newly No. 1 ranked Angelique Kerber of Germany. With the win, Cibulkova moves to No. 5 in the world.

wta-finalsThe singles field for the season ending WTA Finals tournament.

It was quite an effort for Cibulkova who lost her first two round robin matches of the tournament to Kerber and American Madison Keys. She then went on to beat Simona Halep to stay alive and move into the semis. Next, Cibulkova defeated Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova (who only qualified the day before the tourney started with a win at the Kremlin Cup) in the final four, and finally took her revenge on Kerber, who had beaten her in five consecutive matches, to take the title. All this after fighting her way back from a No. 66 ranking due to Achilles surgery which kept her sidelined last year.

kerberDominika Cibulkova

I’m sure Kerber is disappointed that she didn’t end the season with a victory, but she has nothing to cry about. Her 2016 was incredible: she won the Australian Open in January, made the Wimbledon final in July, took Olympic silver in August, and won the Australian Open in September. Oh, and she knocked Serena Williams out of the number one spot, a ranking Williams held for 186 weeks.

Yes, it was a wild roller coaster kind of season in women’s tennis.  Maria Sharapova got suspended for committing an anti-doping violation. Victoria Azarenka got pregnant and was off the tour. Serena Williams played just eight tournaments all season and lost her No.1 ranking. Karolina Pliskova and Cibulkova made their top-five debuts, Madison Keys and Johanna Konta entered the top-10 for the first time and Garbine Muguruza won her first grand slam title.

I think it’s great there was so much movement and diversity in the rankings and tournament finals this year. The power players were consistently at the top, but the young guns made their presence known.

The 2017 season picks up with the Australian Open, January 16-29th. I’m excited to see what next year brings. I’m hoping for the record-breaking 23rd grand slam from Serena.

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#SportBits … The Curious Case of NFL Kicker Josh Brown

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Another day, another sexual abuse case in the NFL. Like school shootings and #Trumpisms, I’m becoming numb to it.

Here is the latest:

NY Giants’ kicker Josh Brown was arrested, but not charged, in May 2015 for domestic violence against his wife Molly Brown.

He was initially suspended for the 2016 season opener. He was then placed the Commissioner’s exempt list (paid leave) after a police report showed that Brown admittedto physical, verbal and emotional abuse in letters, emails and journals. FINALLY, of October 25th, he has been released from the team. It took long enough.

Remember how Patriots QB Tom Brady received a four-game suspension because he was “generally aware” of deflating footballs before the 2014 AFC title game? Well, Josh Brown received a one-game suspension after a domestic violence arrest, put on paid leave a year later and finally released from the team.

It’s worth noting that the NFL did not have the police reports when they made their initial decision to suspend Brown.  WHY NOT? I don’t understand – but that’s another article.

They were aware, however, of a 2013 “Contract for Change” signed by Brown, his wife and a counselor stating that Brown had physically, verbally and emotionally abused his wife. They also knew of an incident at this year’s pro-bowl in Hawaii where Molly Brown and her children had to be moved to another hotel after Brown was led away by security after he showed up “drunk and pounding on the door” of the couple’s room.

Yup, Brown sat out one game without pay for his domestic abuse arrest – and was re-signed by the team during the offseason to a two-year, $4 million deal.

Giants’ co-owner John Mara said in August:

“I believe all the facts and circumstances, and we were comfortable with our decision to re-sign him.”  ~John Mara

Mara added this insensitive remark after the police report was released:

“He admitted to us he’d abused his wife in the past. What’s a little unclear is the extent of that.” ~John Mara

LORD HAVE MERCY! What exactly is the threshold for abuse Mr. Mara?

Two years ago, after the Ray Rice scandal, Commissioner Roger Goodell promised, “we will do better” regarding abuse cases. The League issued a new policy in 2014 implementing a six-game suspension for domestic violence cases and hired three female advisers to assist on these issues.

So why do they keep getting it wrong?  And why don’t players speak out? Tom Brady, probably THE face of the NFL, has stayed mum regarding the Brown case.

“Obviously, there is a lot of controversy with that. I’m trying to stay out of all that. I will let them handle it. ~ Tom Brady

Ugh.  So, while players continue to be fined for celebrating in the end zone, Josh Brown will receive his salary of $1.5million for admitting to abusing his wife.

Awesome. Way to go NFL.

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#SportBits’ 5 Guaranteed Tips For Surviving Your College Reunion

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Hi, y’all.

I’m sporting that southern twang because I just got back from my college reunion in Nashville, Tennessee.

It was the first #Vandy reunion I had attended since I graduated in 1986. So if you’re doing the math, that’s my 30th. Damn.  I decided it was time to bite the bullet and head cross-country to try to reconnect with friends I hadn’t seen in years.  Who knows, maybe one of them is now head of NBC Sports and could help me with #SportBits!

Living in Southern California was always my excuse: it’s too far to travel for the weekend; I can’t leave the kids; I’ve got to wash my car. #lame  It was always something. Well, I’m really glad I made the effort.

I returned home with no voice, a few business cards, and lots of funny memories from an awesome weekend with old (and new) friends.  And because I’m such a giver, I’m going to share with you some of my reunion wisdom should you be heading to your school gathering anytime soon:

1. Ibuprofen – bring lots of it. Whether you’re walking miles around campus or drinking lots of wine (or both!), the aches and pains will need to be addressed EVERY morning. #advil
2. Some killer heels and comfy shoes. Must wear those heels and tight jeans for the official gathering in order to make a statement. As we say in Los Angeles, it’s all how you look! #sorrynotsorry. You must then immediately change into comfy shoes (mine were black checkered Vans) for all the after-parties.
3. Earplugs – all my after-parties involved music (I mean we were in Nashville for Pete’s sake) and those small bars with loud music were WAY more enjoyable with the plugs. Just make sure they aren’t a bright color so they don’t stick out and make you look REALLY old!
4. Take some time to look through your senior yearbook to familiarize yourself with folks. Yes, there are name-tags (thank God) but it’s really helpful to peruse your senior class pictures so you’re not TOTALLY in the dark.
5. Thank you notes: surely there is someone in town who hosted a party, bought you drinks or maybe even let you stay at their house. So, have some manners and send them a note to say “Thank you.” Letter writing – it’s a lost art and it will be appreciated.

It goes without saying you need that one outfit that you feel great in (mine was drop -crotch Citizen cargo pants with a J. Crew blazer) which will mostly likely need to go from one event to the next. So take plenty of time to try on different options to find the one that gives you confidence. Use that confidence to make a splash and reconnect with your classmates.  You never know what can come of it. #winkwink

After all, what happens at reunions, STAYS at reunions.

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#SportBits … Athletes Slam Donald Trump for “Locker Room Talk”

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“Locker room talk” Mr. Trump? Is that what you’re sticking with? Well, I’m not buying it and neither are male athletes around the country.

Donald Trump’s characterization of his crude and vulgar remarks caught on a 2005 tapeas “locker room talk” have professional athletes condemning him for using the term as a defense.

On the tape, the Republican nominee brags about trying to have sex with a married woman, as well as groping, grabbing, and kissing women whenever he wants.

“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” ~ Donald Trump

When confronted about his remarks, Trump brushed it aside as “locker room talk.”  Almost immediately athletes responded…

LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers forward)
“What is locker room talk to me? It’s not what that guy said. We don’t disrespect women in no shape or fashion in our locker room. That never comes up. Obviously, I got a mother-in-law, a wife, a mom and a daughter and those conversations just don’t go on in our locker room. What that guy was saying, I don’t know what that is. That’s trash talk.” (@KingJames)

Richard Sherman (Seattle Seahawks cornerback)
“I think it was a cop-out. He needed some way to divert the attention from himself. That’s not how most people talk in the locker room, and I think a lot of athletes would say the same.” (710 ESPN Seattle)

Sean Doolittle (Oakland Athletics pitcher)
“As an athlete, I’ve been in locker rooms my entire adult life and uh, that’s not locker room talk. (sfgate.com)

Doc Rivers (LA Clipper Coach)
“They’re bad comments. They’re demeaning to women. You know, I think when people throw out that word, ‘locker room talk,’ there’s nobody talking like that in the locker room. Is there swearing in the locker room? Yeah. Every other word, but there’s nobody demeaning — there are players in our locker room with sisters, wives and daughters. There’s not that type of talk in anyone’s locker room.” (ABCNews.Com)

I agree with Doc. I’m not naïve enough to think that crude and profane language doesn’t happen in locker rooms, but language so vulgar and demeaning to women I have to believe is not the norm.

Yes, there will probably always be that one loser in the locker room saying ignorant things, so I’m teaching my kids to walk away from that BS and not participate. Or better yet – call out that trash-talker!

In the end, First Lady Michelle Obama put it best:

“Strong men, men who are truly role models, don’t need to put women down to feel powerful. People who are truly strong lift others up. Those that are truly powerful bring us together.” ~ Michelle OBama

Can’t she just run for president? #Michelle2020

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#SportBits … The Return of Ronda Rousey

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The wait is over!

In what could arguably be the biggest fight of her career, Ronda Rousey returns to the octagon to try to regain her title on December 30th in Las Vegas, Nevada.

UFC President Dana White announced that Rousey will face women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes in the main event of UFC 207.

rousey-300x300.png
Since she’s been gone (she can breathe for the first time…#kellyclarkson) her bantamweight division title has been on the move. Holm lost her first title defense in March to Miesha Tate, who then lost to Nunes in July. In contrast, Rousey defended the belt six straight times from 2013 to 2015.Rousey, the breakout star in the MMA who often won her fights in a matter of seconds, has been out of the sport for over a year after her stunning and brutal defeat to Holly Holm in November of 2015.

I cannot WAIT to see this fight. If you know anything about Ronda Rousey you know she is the ultimate competitor who hates to lose.

She used to say she wanted to retire undefeated with a perfect record, but that obviously can’t happen now. So she’s changed her tune as evidenced by her new Reebok #perfectnever campaign:

 

This fight is redemption for Rousey and a pathway back to a future rematch with Holm. I’m guessing 412 days out of the octagon and the spotlight has given her time to reflect and reenergize. I expect her to be more than ready to meet Nunes.  For her part, Nunes has a message for Rousey:

 

I think Dana White sums it up pretty well:

“Ronda had a bad loss, obviously, lost her title – she’s still Ronda Rousey at the end of the day.” ~UFC President Dana White

That’s right. She’s the ultimate #badass. The build up to this fight will be enormous – and I think it will be the perfect way to (almost) ring in the new year.  Ronda Rousey versus bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes: December 30th … find it on pay-per-view or your favorite local sports bar. #sharkscove

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#SportBits … Spatting

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Last year, the University of Missouri football team threatened to boycott the last three games of the season amid racial tensions on campus and the administration’s perceived failure to address students’ concerns…

Players refused to take part in any football-related activities until school president Tim White was replaced. It worked. Tim White resigned.

However, pulling off a strike in college sports can be tricky and with the many issues facing student athletes today, there needs to be a better way for players to protest and make their voices heard. This is one method I think could be highly effective because it hits the schools where it hurts: their wallets. It’s called spatting.

Spatting is when a player covers her/his athletic shoe with tape in order to prevent ankle injuries. It is a common practice in football, but it can have serious financial consequences for a university. Companies like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour pay millions to schools in apparel contracts and they do NOT want their logos covered.

In August, University of Michigan’s athletic department began a partnership with Nike that will pay the university at least $173.8 million through 2031. Under the terms and conditions of the contract, Michigan acknowledges “polishing-out” or “spatting” is not allowed. All of the collegiate contracts have consequence for excessive spatting. They range from contract termination to percentage reduction in the base compensation.

For example, at the University of Texas, the Nike contract states:

“For each game in which 5 or more shoes [not pairs, but individual shoes] appear on-field (in game action) polished-out, spatted or taped for any reason [excluding medical reason], Nike shall have the right to reduce annual scheduled Base Compensation by $20,000 per shoe (in excess of five shoes) . . . up to a maximum of $100,000.”

That’s $20,000 PER SHOE! So, if five players wearing a total of 10 shoes spat, then the school loses $100,000 of its annual compensation from Nike. In addition, there is a penalty for repeated occurrences, “Nike shall have the right to reduce annual schedule Base Compensation by $30,000” for each such subsequent occurrence.”

If a student athlete tells a trainer she/he needs extra ankle support because of an ill-fitting shoe or sore ankles, is the school going to put economic incentive over the health and welfare of that athlete? You would hope not – but one can’t be too sure. It certainly would be a PR nightmare.

Student athletes have a lot to gripe about these days. Whether it’s their long standing belief that they are being used for profit without input or cut of the revenue or the disgraceful fact that schools offer NO INSURANCE for players should they get hurt while on the “job” to their general concerns over long-term health effects resulting from their respective sports, players need a voice and need to be heard. So, if placing some tape over that swoosh is going to get the schools’ attention, I say #justdoit.

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#SportBits … The Mountaineering Malik Twins

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Nungshi and Tashi Malik are twin sisters from the small Himalayan town of Dehradun, India. They come from a culture where gender inferiority keeps many girls from playing sports, but that didn’t stop the Malik twins…

The girls grew up on playing fields. That is where they felt the freedom from gender bias and ridicule that came from the boys and teachers at school.  However, the Maliks wouldn’t be discouraged. With the support of their father, who had to overcome his own fears of not having a son, the girls set out to blaze their own path in sports – a path that lead them right up the side of a mountain.

When the girls were young their father took them on hikes, exposing them to the beauty and strength of the Himalayas. He instilled in them the belief that they could accomplish anything if they worked hard enough. When high school was over, he signed them up for a mountaineering class and it all clicked.

“Mountaineering was a completely new world. It opened our horizons and we knew who we wanted to be in life.” ~ Tashi Malik

Right away, the girls set their sights on Mt. Everest. They wanted to be the first female twins to make it to the top. Their mother was not on board however, and it took nearly 4 years to get her blessing.

“I thought my girls were dainty and delicate, but their mountaineering instructors assured me that they were made of steel.” ~ Anju Malik

With their Sherpa Mingma, who was just one year older, they set off on their summit climb to the top of Everest. Tragedy soon hit when on a particularly steep ice wall, Mingma clamped onto a rope that had become brittle and it snapped. The twins witnessed their friend fall 2,000 feet and disappear to screams of terror. The girls returned to base camp unsure whether they should continue or go home. It was their father who encouraged them to finish in honor of their friend, which they did.

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Since then, the girls have been blazing their path setting numerous world records:
• First female twins to scale Mt Everest (Climbed at 21 years of age)
• First siblings & twins to climb ‘Seven Summits’ (highest peaks in all continents)
• First siblings & twins to complete Adventurers Grand Slam & the Three Pole Challenge
• Youngest persons ever to complete Adventurers Grand Slam & the Three Pole Challenge
• First twins to reach South Pole on Skis
• First twins to reach North Pole on Skis

The Malik twins continue to challenge themselves on the mountain, but they are also passionate about making mountaineering a recognized sport in India which in turn could spark economic development in a region that is suffering. Through their NungshiTashi Foundation, they hope to promote empowerment for young girls through self-awareness, leadership and outdoor activities.

Pushing boundaries, reaching goals, and giving back – qualities I admire in female athletes!

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#SportBits … 6 Ways Athletes Are Protesting Racial Injustice

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Whether you agree with his method or not, San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a movement when he took a knee during the National Anthem at a pre-season NFL game to protest what he sees as racial injustice in our country.

Since then, many athletes in all levels of sports have joined in with their own variations of the protest. Here is a look at 6 ways in which athletes around the country have protested in order to raise awareness of social injustice.

1. Megan Rapinoe of the Seattle Reign and U.S. National Soccer Team has taken a knee before her WNSL games and U.S. Soccer games in solidarity with Kaepernick. After she knelt before the USA v. Thailand match on September 15th, USA Soccer put out a statement saying “We have an expectation that our players and coaches will stand and honor our flag while the National Anthem is played.” Rapinoe was not reprimanded and continued her protest in the next game v. Netherlands.

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2. Philadelphia Eagles players Ron Brooks (33), Malcolm Jenkins (27) and Steven Means (51) raised their fists in the air during the National Anthem for a game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field in Chicago on Sept. 19, 2016.

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3. The Indiana Fever knelt during the National Anthem before the game against the Phoenix Mercury during Round One of the 2016 WNBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Sept. 21, 2016.

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4. Members of the Washington varsity alumni marching band knelt as they held a giant American flag during the playing of the National Anthem before an NCAA college football game between Washington and Rutgers in Seattle on Sept. 3, 2016.

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5. A group of University of North Carolina students raised their fists throughout the performance of the National Anthem at the start of the UNC v. Pittsburgh game September 24th. At least two members of the UNC marching band knelt and did not play their instruments.

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6. Colin Kaepernick visited Oakland’s Castlemont High School Football team who protested during the National Anthem by lying on their sidelines with their hands in the air. Kaepernick, in a pre-game speech, told the team:

“You are important. You make a difference. This matters. Everything you do matters.” ~ Colin Kaepernick

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Say what you will about Kaepernick, but he has started a national conversation and that’s a good thing.

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MARY COYNE

MARY IS A 30YR ANGELENO WHO HAS SOMEHOW SURVIVED THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE LOS ANGELES SPORTS SCENE. SHE ENCOURAGES HER KIDS AND FRIENDS TO WATCH THE GAMES BECAUSE SHE FEELS EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW ALITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT IS GOING ON IN THE SPORTS WORLD. #SPORTBITS … A LITTLE BIT OF INFO IS ALL YOU NEED. FIND HER AT MCSPORTBITS.COM

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#SportBits … The Inspiring Life And Tragic Death Of Jose Fernandez

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Baseball continues to mourn the loss of one of its biggest and brightest stars…

Early last Sunday morning, Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez and two friends were killed when the boat they were in hit an ocean jetty off Miami Beach. Investigators reported the boat was traveling at a high rate of speed and Fernandez was killed on impact. He was 24 years old.

Jose Fernandez made his major league debut only three years ago, but he had an immediate impact on the game with his amazing mix of pitches and his bigger-than-life personality. He was selected as the 14th pick in the 2011 draft and wasted no time in becoming one of the dominant pitchers in the league. Fernandez’s 2013 season, in which he went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA and struck out 187 hitters, ranks among the best for a pitcher that young in the history of the sport. He won the National League rookie of the year award and finished third in the Cy Young voting. In 2014 he was sidelined with an elbow injury requiring Tommy John surgery and didn’t pitch again until July 2015. Fully healthy heading into 2016, he completely re-established his form and became an all-star again.

The stats speak for themselves, but it was Fernandez’s passion for life and complete joy for the game that set him apart.

“When he pitched … you just see that little kid that you see when you watch kids play Little League or something like that. That’s the joy that Jose played with.” ~ Marlin’s coach Don Mattingly

So where did all this joy come from? Gratitude. Jose grew up in Cuba where and he and his family longed for the freedoms of America. Having failed 3 attempts to defect (after which he was briefly jailed), he and his family made it on their 4th try. During the harrowing boat ride his mother fell overboard and had to be rescued. Jose, not even knowing who had fallen in, jumped in to save her.

 

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The family soon settled in Tampa where Jose played high school baseball, but acclimation to American culture was difficult. He didn’t know how to use a computer. He didn’t understand how to use cell phones. His English was poor. He didn’t understand buffets, free refills or why kids laughed at him. So he settled into what he did know, baseball and the world opened up.

Stardom and success didn’t affect Jose, however. He appreciated everything he had and he made sure to give back. He supported ALS charities and made himself available to local kids, touring them around the ballpark before every home game. What he gave to me was a newfound appreciation for a game where big contracts and PEDs have stripped away its integrity. He also gave me that awesome smile.

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I hate the dreaded “perspective” moments – but I hate the “what could have been” moments even more. #RIPnumber16

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#SportBits … The Stellar Career of Tamika Catchings

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The WNBA celebrated its 20th year this season and for 15 of those years, Tamika Catchings gave her heart and soul to the Indiana Fever...

On September 21st, Catchings’ remarkable career came to an end in the 89-78 first-round loss to Phoenix in the WNBA playoffs. It was an emotional night for the City of Indianapolis and the Fever franchise as they struggled to say goodbye to a player who gave so much to their city and to the sport itself.

Catchings announced at the beginning of the 2016 season that it would be her last. True to her nature she didn’t want a big farewell tour, but rather chose to use her retirement as an opportunity to give back to the communities that had given so much to her. The Nike-sponsored 12-City Legacy Tour had no gifts or lavish introductions, but rather fundraising parties where all proceeds went to Catchings’ Catch The Stars Foundation, an organization that promotes literacy, fitness and mentoring.

Catchings, the daughter of NBA player Harvey Catchings, had a stellar basketball career:
– 2,113 collegiate points (fourth all-time leading scorer at Tennessee)
– 12 consecutive WNBA playoffs
– 1 WNBA Championship
– 4 Olympic Gold Medals

Growing up with a hearing-impairment, Catchings took up basketball as a way to avoid the bullying she got from other kids. They made fun of her bulky hearing aids; but they couldn’t make fun of her basketball skills. Maybe it’s these early challenges that set her on her path of empathy and giving. Her foundation, the mission of which is to use mentoring to help promote fitness and literacy, has raised nearly $1 million. It has set up reading corners in community centers, fitness clinics and annual holiday basketball camps as well as six-week mentoring programs to help teach kids ages 12-16 mentoring skills. Additionally, the foundation awards two $2,500 scholarships to high school scholar athletes each year.

Catchings has been a staple in the game for 20 years. She will be a hard player to replace not only for the Indiana organization, but for the WNBA as a whole. Her selflessness and leadership along with her basketball skills made her a special player, evident by the huge show of emotion at her last game. Through the many sobs, teammate Briann January tried to articulate what the loss of Catchings means to her…

“That’s my rock, man. She’s just impacted every area of my life and has always been there for me and taught me so much about being a professional, about being a good person.”

Catchings may be done with basketball on the court, but I’m betting she won’t stay out of the game for long. Last February, USA Basketball launched a concerted youth development initiative, a program dedicated to providing education and training to kids and coaches across the country and word has it they want Catchings involved. I think it’s a perfect fit.

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#SportBits … Dear Football Hall of Fame: Character Counts

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Dear Hall of Fame Selection Committee,

I was saddened to learn of your recent decision to include former NFL Safety and convicted rapist Darren Sharper on your list of nominees for the 2017 Pro Football Hall of Fame class…

I understand he was on the list last year as well, but thankfully did not make the cut. I am writing today to inquire as to why you continue to consider Darren Sharper for your prestigious club?

I accept that Sharper, a defensive back who spent 14 seasons with the Packers, Vikings and Saints had impressive numbers on the field. He was voted All-Pro six times and played in five Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls, but it’s his numbers off the field that speak volumes to his character.

Eighteen is the number of years that a New Orleans federal judge sentenced Sharper to prison last month.  Sixteen is the number of women the judge said he drugged and raped. Four is the number of states in which he spread his violence against women.

If your mission is to “Celebrate Excellence EVERYWHERE,” and your values supposedly include integrity, courage and respect, can you please explain to me how the drugging and raping of women fit into that?

I realize the HOF has no character clause in their by-laws. I respectfully request that you consider amending those by-laws. At a time when the NFL is continuously being criticized for its soft stance on players and personnel who assault and rape women, the presence of Sharpe on the preliminary list of nominees is embarrassing and shows a complete and total lack of respect by the league for rape victims.

Football fans already have to accept that OJ Simpson and Lawrence Taylor are HOF members. Who is next – Rae Carruth – the Panthers receiver who was convicted of hiring a hit man to kill his girlfriend while she was pregnant with his child?

Yes, it is unlikely that voters will allow Sharper into the HOF, but the fact that you keep allowing his name to make the list of nominees for the league’s highest honor is wrong. I am a huge football fan. I couldn’t be happier that after 20 years football has returned to my city, Los Angeles, but my excitement and joy for the game and the respect I have for the Hall of Fame have been diminished by the lack of sensitivity that surrounds the sport.

Please feel free to contact me on social media if you would like to continue this conversation. I’m game. Thank you for your time.  #charactercounts

Sincerely,

Mary Coyne

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#SportBits … Medical Marijuana and the NFL

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The good news is the NFL is showing genuine interest in medical marijuana and its potential to help current and former players deal with pain. The bad news is that marijuana use is still a violation of the league’s policy, which means that even casual pot use can land a player on the suspended list.

I think it’s time for a policy change: First with the DEA and secondly with the NFL.

Currently, the DEA lists marijuana as a Schedule I substance. It needs to be reclassified as Schedule II. This would acknowledge the drug’s medical value and allow for more research, which in return, would help open up a dialogue between players and the league, but the FDA disagrees. In their latest review they concluded that marijuana should remain Schedule I “because of its high potential for abuse, the fact that it had no current accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and because it lacked accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

The NFL and its supposed desire to do what’s best for its players needs to change its policy and allow marijuana use to combat pain. Right now the league is opiate based when it comes to pain management. Toradol, Vicodin and OxyContin are just some of the opioids commonly used in the NFL to treat pain. However, little thought seems to be given to what the long-term use of these drugs is doing to players once their careers are over. Addiction, depression, kidney and liver failure are just a few of the nasty side effects of extended use. Also, in a sport that’s reeling from (and continually denying) the effects of repeated head trauma, medical marijuana shows promise as a potential agent to re-start damaged brain cells and therefore should be researched as a possible combatant to CTE.

The NFL’s most outspoken proponent of medical marijuana use is former Baltimore Raven Eugene Monroe. Monroe made headlines earlier this year when he became the first active player in the NFL to publicly call for the league to change its policy. He has since retired stating that he wanted to quit before his body deteriorated further, which would require him to take more pills in order to continue playing.

In retirement, Monroe now feels free to advocate for medical marijuana use saying it’s healthier and safer than prescription painkillers. He, along with other players, feel it’s time for the NFL to do their research on the pain-relieving qualities of medical marijuana.

“I just take the NFL for their word: If they say that long-term health and player safety are top priorities of the league, then why aren’t you looking into all the options for health care that are out there?” ~ Tennessee Titan Derrick Morgan

Exactly! More research is needed and ultimately I think players should have a say in their own pain management. #ChemicalorNatural #PlayersRightToChoose

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#SportBits … Abby Wambach: Ashamed No More

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Not many people consider an arrest for driving under the influence “one of the best things to ever happen” in their lives, but Abby Wambach does…

In an interview with the Associated Press, the retired U.S. national team soccer star has admitted to abusing prescription drugs and alcohol for years until her DUI arrest last April; an incident she believes put her on a path to sobriety.

“I was stubborn and I was in denial,” soccer’s most prolific international goal scorer told the AP in the interview. “I didn’t want to face the truth. I think I was asleep for a lot of years. Asleep to the pleas from my family and friends and even myself to get help. So that night I was humiliated enough to wake up.” 

In Forward, her memoir released on September 13th, Wambach recounts some of her highs (winning the Women’s World Cup in 2015) and some of her lows (losing her high school championship). She details her high-profile marriage to fellow soccer player Sarah Huffman and the difficulties they faced and she delves into her struggle with vodka and pills, including Vicodin, Ambien and Adderall.  Even though Wambach had the love and support of her family, friends and fellow teammates, she hid her abuse from the public.

“Not only was I hiding this secret from the world for so long; so were the people that I loved — they loved me so fiercely they wanted to protect me as much as possible; almost from myself.” ~Abby Wambach

Wambach, who despite her struggles scored 184 goals in international soccer, the most ever by a male or female player, admitted her problem is one she’s been dealing with for years and if it weren’t for the DUI arrest, she might not have been able to open up about it.

“It’s really hard to talk about things when you’re ashamed,” she said “and I’m not ashamed about what happened to me anymore because it led me to where I’m at right now. I’m proud of where I’m at.”

#Accountability

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#SportBits … Ashton White: Female Football Recruit

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So there’s this girl  who lives in Houston County, Alabama. She’s in seventh grade and her name is Ashton White. Ashton grew up playing soccer. She plays for a traveling team in her hometown. Soccer is her sport of choice and she’s got one heck of a leg.

Ashton goes to Wicksburg High School which includes kindergarten through 12th-grade. Wicksburg High doesn’t have a soccer team. It does have a varsity volleyball and softball team; both of which Ashton plays for.  It also has a football team – and when coach Josh Cox got wind of Ashton and her mad soccer skills, he recruited her for his team. The Wicksburg Panthers needed a kicker and Cox thought he had found one. His players thought it was a joke.

“They’re like, ‘Coach Cox, really, you have a girl you’re going to have kicking out here at practice?’ I said, ‘Yeah, y’all just wait and see.’ ~ Coach Josh Cox

Ashton proceeded to kick 12 in a row and the team has never looked back. In her first game earlier this month she kicked 6 out of 7 extra-points. When asked about the experience she said,

“It was really just an adrenaline rush,” White said of the first made PAT. “You run out there for the first time and your heart is beating really fast. As soon as he snaps it, all you focus on is the ball.” ~ Ashton White

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Ashton has strong support from her family. Her brother Seth is a sophomore and plays for the Panthers too. Her mother Teri admitted to being nervous seeing her daughter on the field with all the boys, but like any good mother she supports her child’s passion.

“Her father and I probably had more nerves than she did,” she said. “She loves it and we’ll just keep encouraging her to continue.” ~ Teri White

Ashton wears the helmet and all the pads and feels protected “like a little sister” when out on the field and she’s set some lofty goals for herself. “I want to make a 40-yarder by my 10th-grade year,” she said “and maybe play in college.”

Oh, I can’t wait to cover THAT story ~> the first female football player in the NCAA. Football…it’s not just the boy’s club anymore.

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#SportBits … Rape, Recovery And Redemption

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College coaches often invite speakers to meet with their teams. Alumni in the NFL come talk to about competition, celebrities come to inspire and sports psychologists discuss mental health issues. It’s a way to start off the season on a positive note.

Brenda Tracy isn’t any of those – but there she was last June standing in front of the Nebraska football team – delivering a speech that none of those players will likely forget.

Tracy spoke of the 6-hour gang rape she says she suffered 18 years ago at age 24 by four football players, 2 of whom played at Oregon State University. I won’t discuss the details of the alleged assault, but Tracy described a violent and horrific attack.

Tracy reported the assault and the players were arrested. The two OSU students were charged and suspended for one game. After receiving death threats from the community, Tracy refused to cooperate.

The charges were dropped. OSU head coach Mike Riley held up the suspension, but he also defended his players: “These are really good guys who made a bad choice,” he said.

Brenda Tracy’s recovery was a difficult one. She contemplated suicide. She had such hatred for Mike Riley – it consumed her. “I despised that man,” she told the Oregonian. “I hated him with every cell in my body.”

So how did she end up half-way across the country speaking to the Nebraska football team? Because head coach Mike Riley invited her.

Riley was named coach of Nebraska’s team in 2014. From the moment he arrived, he began working on a way to meet with Tracy. He had a lot of time to reflect on what happened in 1998 and admitted he should’ve “done more” and been harsher on his players after the assault. He invited Tracy to come to the school.

At first, Tracy could not fathom being in a room with Riley, but since she has gone public with her story, she’s become an advocate for sexual assault survivors. No matter how difficult Tracy knew she’d be doing it for all rape victims.

On June 22nd Tracy and Riley met for an hour. “I said everything I needed to say. I asked everything I needed to ask,” Tracy said. There were tears shed and most importantly, an apology. Mike Riley apologized for not getting all the facts of what happened and for not fully considering the impact on Tracy – and she believed him.

After their meeting, Tracy sat with the players and recounted EVERY detail of the rape. She told them how she hated Riley “more than the rapists,” but then she told them how Riley didn’t have to invite her and praised him for his “accountability.”

Here is statement from Mike Riley:rileystatement-600x600

Brenda Tracy now works at OSU helping the school prevent sexual assaults. She thinks, and I agree, every school should have survivors speak to teams. It’s a scary time in college football (Baylor), Mike Riley and Brenda Tracy have set a positive example. Hopefully, more teams will follow.

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#SportBits …. “Supergirl” Makes History

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 Look! It’s a bird … it’s a plane …. no, it’s Supergirl!

Did you get a chance to see THE ultimate athlete, Jessie Graff, make history on the August 29th episode of the NBC show American Ninja Warrior? Jessie became the first woman ever to complete Stage 1 in the National Finals in Las Vegas – and she did it all while wearing a feisty green Superhero outfit! #badass

Graff, a 32-year-old former pole vaulter, had 2 minutes and 20 seconds to complete the challenging obstacle course. She powered through with laser focus and determination and hit the finish buzzer with 12.39 seconds to spare. The crowd and the announcers went wild! She placed fourth out of eight finishers in week one of the Stage 1 competition.

If you don’t know about the Ninja course, it’s wicked!! For the National Finals in Las Vegas, the four-staged course has been modeled after the Mount Midoriyama course in Japan. Obstacles like the Giant Log Grip, Propeller Bar, Jumping Spider and Warped Wall are so physically demanding; few make it though and no woman has ever completed Stage 1 in the finals… until Jessie.

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Take a moment to check out her incredible course run and then tell me she’s not a badass!

 

Why the superhero costume? Graff is a stuntwoman on the CW show Supergirl. Her friend makes the outfits – she wore a Wonder Woman costume in an earlier competition  which has been such a hit that she plans on selling them on her own website. Her entertainment goals don’t stop with Supergirl, however. Graff has her sights set on being the next Jackie Chan. In the meantime she plans to continue with American Ninja Warrior, which she feels empowers women and her.

“My first year doing Ninja Warrior, I didn’t really know what it was about. After that, when so many people were like, ‘I didn’t know women could do that,’ I thought, ‘Then, we better show you.” The main thing is just testing my limits and seeing how much you can do. Seeing how much you’re capable of.” ~ Jessie Graff

The American Ninja Warrior finals continued on Monday, September 5th on NBC. Among the 32-finalists to compete in week two, 6 are women and they’re hoping to follow in Graff’s footsteps. Graff thinks they can:

As far as being the first woman to do it, there are more women than ever who are fully capable of doing what I did and even more. I’m grateful that it came together for me on the right night and I’m looking forward to seeing more women hit that buzzer in the future.’ ~ Jessie Graff

I’ll be watching  and hoping she busts out a goddess outfit for round two. #OhMightyIsis

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#SportBits … The Hope Solo Suspension

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Has there ever been a more controversial athlete than women’s national soccer player Hope Solo? Probably…

 

Today I’m focusing on Solo and the controversy surrounding her recent suspension from the women’s national soccer team.

#ICYMI, Hope Solo – the longtime goalkeeper for the #USWNT – was suspended six months by U.S. Soccer for conduct they said was “counter to the organization’s principles.” U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati said the comments Solo made after Sweden beat the U.S. at the Rio Olympics were “unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players.” Solo called the Swedish team a “bunch of cowards.”

Had the 6-month suspension resulted from those remarks only? I’d scream sexism and call B.S. for 1st Amendment reasons, but U.S. Soccer said the suspension resulted from her remarks plus several incidents where Solo showed poor judgment off the field, most notably:

– In 2014, Solo was arrested on two charges of fourth-degree domestic violence assault for allegedly striking her half-sister and her sister’s son. U.S. Soccer came under fire for not suspending Solo after the incident.
– Solo WAS suspended for 30 days in 2015 following a DUI arrest of her husband. When he was pulled over Solo was “acting belligerent” and was almost arrested too.

Solo had this response to the 6-month suspension:

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Although she’s suspended, Solo will still receive a 3-month severance on her #USWNT salary. Her NWSL salary might be in question however, as Solo just announced she is taking an indefinite “personal leave” from her Seattle Reign team.

Solo, who will be 39 years old for the 2019 World Cup isn’t missing much during her suspension. The whole thing feels like a PR move to me and perhaps a way for U.S. Soccer to push out the world’s best female goalie who some think isn’t worth the headache anymore. It will be interesting to see what Coach Jill Ellis does at the end of the six months.

No matter what happens you can’t argue with Solo’s impressive career. She helped the USA win Olympic gold medals in 2008 and 2012 and the 2015 Women’s World Cup. She has recorded 103 shutouts in 202 international matches, the most a goalkeeper has ever played. Her last two seasons – the two most important in the national team’s four-year cycle – have been the two best statistically of her career.

I like Hope Solo’s spirit and passion for the sport. She was one of the first female players to speak out against the wage discrimination in U.S. Soccer. Yes, I think she’s made some mistakes, but for the most part has owned up and apologized for them. I’m not perfect that’s for sure and I have let my competitive nature get the best of me at times, but on the flip side, Solo will be pushing 40 years old at the next World Cup. Maybe it’s the perfect time to start looking for the next greatest goalie? Thoughts?

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#SportBits … When Is The Right Time To Protest?

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By now I’m sure you’ve heard about San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernickand his decision to sit on the bench during the national anthem

He’s doing this in protest of what he believes are wrongdoings against African-Americans and minorities in our country. If you haven’t heard about it, then please start following me on social media so you can stay informed. Currently, this is one of the biggest sports stories in the news.

Kaepernick’s protest is not the focus of my story. I will add however, I feel strongly that Colin has the right to protest; even in this manner. This is America after all. At the ESPY Awards this year, the big four stood and pleaded for their fellow athletes to use their platforms and celebrity to call for change…so I find it annoying that when someone has the courage to actually do it, they get lambasted.

However, I DON”T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THAT. What REALLY bothers me about this situation is how quickly everyone, especially fellow football players and coaches, jumped on the (social) media wagon to add their two cent’s. Whether they supported Colin or not, everyone has an opinion.

So why don’t these same players, coaches, fans have an opinion about the domestic violence and sexual assault cases that are rampant in the NFL? Why aren’t these same people criticizing the players that commit these horrible acts? When Ray Rice punched his then-finance in an elevator in Las Vegas, which was caught on video for all to see, few players spoke out. When photos of Greg Hardy’s then-girlfriend surfaced showing red marks and bruising after an alleged assault, most players kept their opinions to themselves and most recently, when NY Giants kicker Josh Brown was suspended one game for a 2015 arrest on charges of domestic violence, again, not a whole lot of reaction from the peanut gallery. Brown’s teammate Jason Paul Pierre did have this to say:

“We’re all family around here. People have their own problems to handle. He’s still our brother and we look past it.”

The Giants Quarterback Eli Manning offered this:

“I don’t think there is a whole lot to say. To the team, if Josh wants to say something, he can explain his case. I don’t know a whole lot of details about what happened. I know he’s been suspended and that’s about all I know.”

Conveniently, when it comes to sexual assault and domestic violence cases, there never seems to be “enough information” to comment – but there’s plenty of info to offer up opinions when Kaepernick sits during the anthem in protect of racism. I guess domestic violence is too messy of an issue and nobody wants to get dirty.

It’s a double standard and I’m not happy about it. Are you?

I think you should follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook so you’re up to date on what’s happening in sports. #SportBits … a little bit of info is all you need.

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#SportBits … Women in the NFL

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The 2016-‘17 NFL season is upon us. Hooray! And it’s not just the good ole boy’s network anymore…

Football lovin’ females currently make up 45% of the NFL’s 150 million fans. But it’s not only fandom where the women are showing up. They’re making their way onto the field, into the front office, and even in the training rooms. Let’s take a look at a few women who have been busy busting down barriers in this male-dominated field of sports.

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Sarah Thomas – Line Judge, NFL
In April of 2015, Thomas became the first-ever full-time female official hired to the NFL. She began her officiating career in high school. After a short stint in sales, she began working for Conference USA. She was the first female to officiate a bowl game in 2009. Last season, I remember watching her make an incredibly difficult call on Monday Night Football at the end of the Pittsburgh Steelers/San Diego Chargers game. The Steelers had the ball at the Chargers’ 1-yard line with only five seconds left. They called a play where the ball was snapped directly to the running back who was initially stopped but managed to plow across the goal line as time expired. Somehow he got the ball across for a touchdown an instant before his knee touched. Thomas was the line judge and raised her hand to signal a touchdown. A replay review confirmed the score and the Steelers won 24-20. I remember thinking, THANK GOD SHE GOT THAT RIGHT, because if she didn’t, social media would have skewered her. Sad but true.

Kathyrn Smith – Special-teams Quality Control Coach, Buffalo Bills
Smith made history in January when she was named the NFL’s first full-time female assistant. Before her promotion, Smith worked as the administrative assistant to Bills head coach Rex Ryan and was player personnel assistant with the NY Jets for seven years before that. She started out as an intern for the team.

Anna Isaacson – Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility, NFL
In 2014 NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appointed Isaacson to the first-ever head of social responsibility. It’s her job to develop and oversee the league’s social responsibility efforts. I’d imagine her job hasn’t been easy since the NFL continues to struggle with domestic violence and sexual assault issues.

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Pittsburgh Steelers

Sonia Ruef – Assistant Athletic Trainer, Pittsburgh Steelers
It is Ruef’s job to help treat and prevent injuries. When she was hired in 2011, Ruef became the only female athletic trainer in the NFL – and second in league history. Since then, three more women have been hired as athletic trainers.

“Teams weren’t sure it could work. But all it takes is giving someone a chance to prove themselves.” ~ Sonia Ruef

Well put Sonia – and with the recent expansion of the Rooney Rule to include women, I expect more female hires in the NFL. Me? I’m shooting for Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Rams. You hear that @artistwyman? I’m coming for you!!

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