#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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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 . . .Weekend WrapUp

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Happy Monday #SportBits readers! There is a lot of sports news to discuss so let’s get right to it.

There are now six New England Patriot players refusing to go to the White House for the Super Bowl celebration and perfunctory meeting with POTUS with pressure mounting on more to join.

Martellus Bennet started it all by saying before the Super Bowl that he wouldn’t go if the Patriots won. He reiterated those sentiments shortly after they defeated the Falcons.

The next day safety Devin McCourt joined Bennett saying he would not attend because he “doesn’t feel accepted in the White House.”

Soon Dont’a Hightower, LeGarrette Blount and Chris Long said they would not attend either. Long, the only white player in the group went on to say there is a “pathetic sea of NFL white silence this year.”

Fans are ramping up pressure through social media urging team members to boycott and expressing support for those who won’t attend.

FYI: Tom Brady skipped the post-Super Bowl visit in 2015 while Barack Obama was president citing a “prior family commitment.” He was seen less than 24hrs later at an Apple store shopping for watches. Brady did attend all three times during George W Bush years.

More sports and politics to report with Steph Curry openly questioning Kevin Plank and his association with President Trump.

575ae5a51500002b00739e30Kevin Plank is the CEO of Under Amour and Steph Curry is their superstar client. Curry’s signing by Under Armor put them on the map in the sports apparel industry and was a huge coup over main rival Nike. Curry is probably the most popular endorser of Under Armor apparel. Even those grandpa-looking shoes were a bestseller.

But when Plank praised Trump as an “asset to the country,” Curry took to twitter .

Curry responded with “I agree with that description,” Curry said, “If you remove the ‘et’” from asset.”

Curry then followed up his tweet with daylong discussions with Under Armour reps and Kevin Plank himself who explained that his views were meant from a business perspective and not political. Plank tried to distance himself from Trump’s controversial policies and comments that have enraged women, Muslims, Mexicans, African-Americans and the poor and impoverished across the nation. Curry felt comfortable with the explanation.

To me, it was an positive example of how open and honest communication can solve problems and misunderstanding during this volatile time.

The same can not be said for the situation in New York where team President Phil Jackson has taken to the media to shame and humiliate his star player, Carmelo Anthony. Whether it’s in an online article stating that Anthony holds the ball too long, or his comparison via twitter of Anthony to a failed ex-NBA player – Jackson’s choice of communication and follow through is not the way to solve problems or misunderstandings – and doesn’t feel very zen-like to me.

More news from Knickland: Former Knick legend Charles Oakley got into a scuffle before the Clipper game last week and was escorted out of Madison Square Garden and arrested. Oakley was allegedly sparring with Knick Owner James Dolan over being left out of recent Knick activities. Dolan’s actions have backfired as fans have taken to social media in support of Oakley and have been chanting his name at home games.

PEOPLE ARE FEELING EMPOWERED TO SPEAK THEIR MINDS THESE DAYS AND I LIKE IT!

On to the NBA..where the OKC Thunder fans were speaking their minds Saturday night.

The big game that had everyone talking was the Golden State Warriors v. Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday. It was the long-awaited return of Kevin Durant to OKC – a place he had spent all previous eight seasons before joining their biggest rivals, the Warriors.

Duran hired extra security for what was an emotionally charged and explosive scene at Chesapeake Energy Arena. He was booed as he entered the arena, as he was introduced and every time he touched the ball. His mom said later she was hurt by the treatment she and her son received on Saturday night.

“The most vicious things you could say, they said about my son tonight. It’s hurtful. We poured our heart into this place. Not just him. Our family. This is basketball. This is not whether or not you’re going to make it into heaven.” ~ Wanda Durant

But the game didn’t really live up to the hype as the Warriors defeated the Thunder 130-114. Durant scored 34 points and Russell Westbrook had 47 for the Thunder.

OK, TIME TO TUNE INTO COLLEGE HOOPS PEOPLE.

March Madness is right around the corner. The tournament begins March 14th and concludes the final four weekend, April 1 and April 3rd. Sixty-eight teams are chosen: 32 Division I conference champions and 36 at-large bids.

So, pick your team now and start following because in a couple weeks that’s all we’ll be talking about. #prepper

In women’s basketball, the No.1 UCONN women’s team looks to extend their winning streak to 100 v. No.6 South Carolina tonight in Storrs, CT. The Huskies last loss came early in the 2014-15 season against then No. 6 Stanford. THAT IS ONE HELLUVA STAT! I’m not a UCONN fan but I’m rooting for them to hit 100.

Lastly:

Jordan Spieth won at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am over the weekend. This was his 9th PGA tour title. Tiger Woods has pulled out of the Genesis Open in Los Angeles this week citing back spasms.

9bb6611d3ae470f21ae0b62f232ed5c4.jpgAt UFC208 in Brooklyn on Saturday, Germaine de Randamie defeated MMA fighter Holly Holm for the inaugural featherweight title. There was some controversy surrounding the fight when after the second round horn sounded, de Randamie continued to throw punches, landing what many considered the best strike of the night that seemed to wobble Holm as she walked back to her corner. Despite complaints, the ref did not warn de Randamie or take a point. de Randamie has agreed to a rematch because of the controversy.

That’s it for now. Check back on mcsportbits.com for more sports stories, scores and highlights and make sure to follow on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for breaking news!!

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How will Trump’s immigration ban affect sports?

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Many in the sports world are trying to figure out how President Donald Trump’s ban on immigration will affect their respective sports.

The executive order blocks entry into the United States from seven predominantly Muslim Nations – Syria, Yemen, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan – for 90 days.

It also suspends the entry of all refugees for 120 days and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.

Over the weekend, sports officials sought to understand the implications of the President’s ban, and whether athletes from the prohibited nations could enter the U.S to compete, especially in the initial 90-day period.

The NBA has already contacted the U.S. Department of State in an effort to deduce how the ban might affect player travel.

“We have reached out to the State Department and are in the process of gathering information to understand how this executive order would apply to players in out league who are from one of the impacted countries” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “The NBA is a global league and we are proud to attract the best best players from around the world.”

(Can I just mention how much I appreciate both the NBA and WNBA for their consistent fight for equality and inclusion and their willingness to stand up for civil rights and social issues?)

Here in Los Angeles, Laker forward Luol Deng finds himself at the center of this mess.

Deng was born in Sudan (now called South Sudan) and fled before the country split in 2011. As noted, Sudan is one of the countries whose inhabitants have been banned from entering the US for three months.

Deng managed to escape the country’s Civil War and travel to Egypt with his father, finally finding asylum in the United Kingdom.

But his is a dual citizen and his British passport do not guarantee re-entry into the US.

Under Trump’s executive order, dual citizens are at risk of being detained and deported upon their return.

Basically, no one knows what the hell is going on.

Meanwhile, the #LA2024 Bid Committee, led by Chairman Casey Wasserman, CEO Gene Sykes, and Mayor Eric Garcetti, is wondering what impact he ban will have on their effects to bring the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games to the city of Los Angeles.

Mayor Garcetti has been very vocal regarding his stance against Trump’s immigration orders. He has let it be known that Los Angeles will continue to accommodate all refugees.

“Los Angeles will always be a place of refuge, where the most vulnerable people fleeing war, or religious political oppression, can find a safe and welcoming home,” Garcetti said.

The International Olympic Committee will meet on September 13th in Lima, Peru, to choose the host city and this immigration ban has no doubt thrown a wrench into LA’s bid.

Richard Perkin, a member of the IOC who will be voting in September for the 2024 host city posted his concern via Twitter that the actions of the President may cause our city to lose out in the bidding.

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The stakes are high for athletes and the city of Los Angeles regarding Trump’s new regulation restricting access to America.

And the frustrating part is, we have no idea how this is going to play out or how we should prepare.

Stay tuned.

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#SportBits … Russia Accused of “Systemic Doping”

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The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has released the second part of their report into allegations against Russia of state-sponsored doping, particularly involving the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Lead investigator Richard McLaren alleges that systematic doping took place between 2011-2014, and that more than 1,000 Russian athletes from summer and winter sports were involved in or benefited from an organized conspiracy over the four-year period.

 

The report confirms the information released in the first report back in July of this year. But it expands its findings to include evidence of tampering with doping samples involving 12 Russian medalists in Sochi. That number includes athletes who won four gold medals.

As reported here last summer, it was the recommendation of WADA after the first report surfaced to ban the entire Russian Federation from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio. The International Olympic Committee officials rejected the outright ban, however, and instead required the international federations that govern each sport to decide which Russians should be allowed to compete.

This decision was widely criticized after roughly two-thirds of the Russian team ended up participating in Rio. With the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, pressure is mounting to react more harshly to this latest allegation.

The IOC has established two commissions to address the situation, especially the allegation of swapping dirty samples for clean ones at a Russian lab during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. No athletes were named in the report: however, their identities were provided to the respective international federations for possible disciplinary action.

This is a sad story with which to end what has been an exciting year in sports. I feel for all the athletes who worked hard and made sacrifices in order to pursue their goal of winning a medal in the Olympics, only to face an uneven playing field. I feel sorry for the fans and spectators who have been deceived, and I strongly believe that ANYONE, whether it be an official or an athlete, who took part in such a deliberate and dishonest manipulation of the system should be banned from all aspects of their respective sport FOR LIFE.

Three strikes and you’re out. #consequences

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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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#SportBits … Ladies, It’s Your “Fall Sports Preview”

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Summer is over. The Olympics are done. School is starting. Sadness rains and we all get wet! Ha!

No need to be sad loyal #SportBits readers. There are plenty of exciting sporting events on the horizon. Here is a quick look at what’s coming up this fall and what you need to know so you can #jointheconversation. Ladies, it’s no fun being left out because you don’t know what the big game is…am I right?

August 29th – September 11th: US Open, Flushing Meadows, NY
The U.S. Open is the fourth and final event of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments. The New York crowd is always rocking, the outfits are NEVER white, and those nighttime matches are a party! No. 1 seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokavic made early exits in Rio – let’s see if they can pull it together for another GS win in the big apple.

September 30th – October 2nd: Ryder Cup, Hazelton National Golf Club, Chaska, MN
The Ryder Cup is a men’s golf competition between teams from Europe and the United States, played every two years. The venue alternates between courses in the USA and Europe. Players are chosen on a point system, which closes on Sunday, August 28th. So far five players, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson, Jimmy Walker and Brooks Koepka, have mathematically qualified for the Cup. It’s the USA v. Europe on our homeland…so there’s a lot of pride on the line. If there’s one golf tourney to watch this year, it’s the Ryder Cup.

October 4th – October 23rd: Major League Baseball Playoffs
OCTOBER BASEBALL!!! THE BEST. Check in here to see how your team is doing.
Here is the schedule for all the playoffs and World Series games.

October 25th – November 7th: MLB World Series

August 26th – December 10th: 2016 NCAA College Football Season
The College Season ended last year with Alabama winning the national championship. They are the Pre-Season #1 team and have a DOOZIE of a first game v. #19 USC on September 3rd at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX. (8pm ET. ABC)

September 8th – January 1st NFL: Regular Season
ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL? Well, get ready because it’s here, and this articlewill give you a quick preview of the upcoming season.

October 25th – Wednesday April 12th: NBA Regular Season
The biggest news in the off-season in the NBA was the signing of Kevin Durant by the Golden State Warriors. Everyone is anxiously awaiting to see if the Warriors will dominate as expected. Mark your calendars for Christmas Day when the Warriors will meet NBA Champ LeBron James and the Cavaliers for a tasty holiday rematch treat!

OK, this should get you started ladies. I’ll be keeping track of scores, news, and interesting sports stories on social media, so give me a follow. Remember, you just need a little information to join the conversation. #SportBits

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#SportBits … Breaking the #TamponTaboo

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Hello #SportBits readers! Last week we discussed the history of the sports bra. Today we’re talking periods – that’s right, menstruation. Women in sports rarely talk about their periods. It’s the #TamponTaboo … and it’s time to break the barrier!

I mean really… half of the population menstruates at some point in their lives, right? It’s a normal physiological phenomenon so why can’t we talk about it?  The stigma that periods are unclean, embarrassing, and could be perceived as an excuse for a poor performance keep women in sports quiet about their cycles.

Enter: Fu Yuanhui.

Fu Yuanhui is a Chinese swimmer and backstroke specialist. In Rio she won the bronze medal in the 100-m backstroke and adorkably exclaimed, “Whoa, I was so fast! I’m very, very satisfied with my results.” But it was her comments after she and her relay team placed fourth in the 4x100m relay that caught everyone’s attention. When a CCTVreporter noticed Fu bent over and clutching her stomach after the race, she asked the swimmer if she was hurt.

 

“Actually, my period started last night, so I’m feeling pretty weak and really tired. But this isn’t an excuse. At the end of the day, I just didn’t swim very well.” ~ Fu Yuanhui

You would have thought she ran the marathon with her bra straps showing! Twitter went wild. Part of the shock came from the fact that in China discussions about periods are almost non-existent. Many of the women don’t even use tampons because they are taught that tampons can “rob you of your virginity.” Jeez Louise.

The reality is that most women athletes don’t speak about their periods, and because it’s not openly talked about, the stigma perpetuates. A recent study from BodyForm in the UK found that two in five young women regard menstruation as “dirty”, “shameful”, “embarrassing” and “disruptive to everyday life”. The study went on to say “70% of young women aged 12-18 years old feel uncomfortable playing sports while on their period, with many refusing to participate altogether”.

How does this translate to women athletes? Well if it’s not being talked about, it’s not being studied. There needs to be more research on how women athletes should best handle the effects of their periods and what impact these effects have on their performance. Right now there is no discussion and different athletes use different methods to control their cycles. It’s a messy topic that needs some attention. The stigma and the lack of discussion are keeping many young girls from playing sports all together …. when in reality, physical activity has been shown to HELP some of the effects of menstruation. #themoreyouknow

Good job Fu Yuanhui! Your comments in Rio help to bust open this long-held taboo in sports. Let’s hope more women start to speak out as well.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more sports news and daily updates.           #SportBits … a little bit of info is all you need.

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#SportBits … The History of the Sports Bra

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Did you know that the sports bra has only been around for 40-ish years? Tell me; has there EVER been a more useful invention?

I don’t know about you, but having a comfortable way to strap those puppies in and keep them safe and supported during physical exercise is something I appreciate and definitely take for granted.

So, let’s be thankful together and take a quick look at the history of the sports bra.

It was the 1970’s. Title IX was ushering women into athletics and jogging was the hottest new craze. But while feminism and equal rights were moving our society forward, American breasts were being left behind. The time had come to upgrade the brassiere and take care of the boobies.

The first commercially available sports bra was introduced in 1975. It was called the “Free Swing Tennis Bra” and while it offered more support than regular bras, it wasn’t close to what we would consider a sports bra of today. With skinny straps and no mention of support, you can see you how useless it was.

Newspaper

 

Enter Lisa Lindahl, a student at the University of Vermont. Lisa and her sister were joggers fed up with the boob-bounce thing. Designing the first “jockstrap for women,” their bra sought to eliminate breast bounce, have straps that didn’t fall down with no “poky hardware.” Their newly named  “jockbra” turned into the “jogbra” and a mail-order business was born.

Lindahl soon realized that the jogbra needed to be in retail sporting stores, however, but it was a tough sell to the mostly male owners.

“I made a decision early on that this was not lingerie,” Lindahl said. “It was sports equipment, something you needed like you needed your shoes.”

And when the owners became squeamish about a display case full of sports bras? Lindahl reminded them, “You sell jockstraps, don’t you?”

Since those early days of the jogbra, there have been many improvements and landmark moments for the sports bra:

In 1984, 27-year-old Joan Benoit won the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon in Los Angeles with her lingerie-style bra strap showing as she completed her final lap causing an uproar that upstaged her athletic achievement.

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In 1988, Montana hairstylist Renelle Braaten constructed a front-fastening sports bra designed especially for big-breasted women.

In 1999, soccer player Brandi Chastain celebrated her team’s World Cup victory by ripping off her jersey and revealing her black Nike sports bra – the nation went CRAZY!  Breasts could now be celebrated in sports!

BrandiAP

AP

In 2000, Champion responded to women’s complaints that sports bras flattened and de-feminized their bust lines by introducing the Shaper bra, which used a non-foam spacer fabric to maintain women’s curves without compromising performance.

In 2003, Seamless sports bras virtually eliminated chafing and the practice of distance athletes covering themselves in Vaseline to prevent painful abrasions.

The innovation continues today. High-tech fabrics improve moisture and odor management, support and comfortability – and me and my boobs couldn’t be more pleased!

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#SportBits … The Losers of #LochteGate

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American swimmers Ryan Lochte, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigenhijacked the second week of the Olympics…

Their ill-advised and immature antics sucked the life right out of the Games, but I don’t want to rehash what they did. I’m sure you already know, and if you don’t, you can read the recap here. I want to discuss the REAL losers of #LochteGate.

1. NBC: The exclusive home of the Olympics until 2032, NBC broke the story when Billy Bush, having just graduated from being the host of Access Hollywood to NBC Today Show correspondent, got the exclusive story by chance. He found Ryan Lochte on the beach the day of the incident and filmed the interview on his iPhone. I’m sure Bush thought he had THE story of the Olympics. Unfortunately, he is not a seasoned reporter and failed to ask important follow-up questions: What did the men look like? How much money was taken?, etc. I think it was a ballsy and risky move for the network to air the story without further vetting, and in the end, since the story was a lie, the network’s reputation took a hit. Watch Billy Bush and AL Roker argue about the story here.

2. Bentz, Conger, and Feigen: The relatively unknown swimmers had a chance to make a name for themselves after winning gold in Rio. Unfortunately, they will probably be remembered more for their night of partying rather than their achievements in the pool…and marketers will take note. Olympians hope to capitalize on endorsements after the games and this incident will likely have a negative effect on any future endorsement deals for these three. Add in the disappointment in knowing you’ve let down your families, friends, and country – it’s got to hurt.

3. Ryan Lochte: His decision to lie will cost him millions in endorsements and will forever be a dirty footnote to his career. Polo Ralph Lauren Corp has already taken down any mention of Lochte on their site, and Speedo, another of his sponsors says it’s “monitoring the situation closely.” Future business opportunities for Lochte will be slim to none.

4. USA: We don’t need any more bad press, so when a 32-year-old 12-time American Olympic medalist accuses the Olympic host country of a crime, and then shamelessly plays victim rather than owning up to his mistake, it makes ALL OF US, our entire nation, look like we’re entitled, phony, privileged punks. #Thanks4That

5. ALL the OTHER athletes whose inspiring storylines and successes were overshadowed by this embarrassing story: #LochteGate took away their time to shine and that pisses me off. #AllApologies

There is surely more to come from this story: interviews, suspensions, indictments maybe, but what I really hope resonates for not only future Olympians, but for our society as a whole: your actions have consequences. Remember, most of the time it’s not the crime that takes you down, but the cover-up. #Watergate #EmailScandal #MantiTeo

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#SportBits … Simone Manuel And Her Historic 100m Race

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On Thursday night, August 11th, the much-anticipated women’s 100-m freestyle race ended in a dramatic and historic manner…

Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak and American competitor Simone Manuel flew to the finish and touched the wall at precisely the same moment.

At 16 years old, Oleksiak is Canada’s youngest-ever Olympic champion and the first Canadian to win Gold in Rio making her the most decorated Canadian athlete of the Summer Games.

Simone Manuel is 20 years old and the first Black woman in history to win a gold medal in individual swimming and the first African-American to win an individual swimming medal at all.

With her historic gold medal win, Manuel is helping to break down the long-held stereotype of black people and swimming.

Dating back to post-World War America and for decades after swimming pools were a place of public segregation. The mistaken myths of disease and uncleanliness forced black Americans to stay out of the water. In 1954, when Las Vegas performer Dorothy Dandridgedipped her toe in the pool at the Hotel Last Frontier, it was immediately shut down, drained, and scrubbed by Black employees….all in the name of “white safety.”

As a result of keeping Black children out of pools and beaches for decades, 70% of today’s African-American children are unable to swim well (if at all) and are 3 times as likely to drown. The problem is, as a USA Swimming Report found, if a parent can’t swim, there is only a 13% chance the child will learn.

This is why Manuel’s win is so important – and while she doesn’t like being singled out as a “black swimmer” – she does understand the significance of her winning race.

“I tried to take the weight of the black community off my shoulders as it is something I carry with me being in this position, but I do hope it kind of goes away. I am super glad with the fact that I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport, but at the same time, I would like there to be a day when there are more of us, and it’s not ‘Simone, the black swimmer.” ~ Simone Manuel

I believe in order to make positive change in our communities, in sports, and in the world around us, it’s best to lead by example and with her determination and hard work Simone Manuel is doing just that. #breakingbarriers

“Have fun, number one and love what you’re doing. You can learn from every situation in the sport, win or lose, and I think that’s what’s driven me – doing my best.”

For more sports news, scores and commentary, follow me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. There’s more #SportBits on WordPress too. #SportBits … a little bit of info is all you need.

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#SportBits … Online Bullying of Gabby Douglas

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Four years ago, Gabby Douglasearned the title of best gymnast in the world after winning two gold medals at the London Olympics. Today she’s been labeled #CrabbyGabby.

Did she earn that title too? I don’t think so. This is just another example of when Twitter takes hold of an innocent action and turns it into an end-of-the-world scenario.

After making history in London in 2012 — becoming both the first African-American gymnast to become the all-around Olympic champion and the first female gymnast to win both team and all-around gold in the same Olympics — Douglas found herself a household name all over the world. Cereal boxes, books, red carpet appearances, and a made-for-TV-movie became the new reality for the 16-year-old. She could do no wrong – and that’s when she needed to be most careful. In our culture, when you get to the top of your career –  there is always someone there waiting to take you down.

In Rio, Douglas earned just one gold for the team competition. During the medal ceremony, she did not place her hand over her heart during the national anthem (THE HORRORS!) and apparently, didn’t smile enough – which is ironic because in London, it was that HUGE smile that got so much attention.

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Twitter grabbed hold of the ceremony footage and the trolls went to work. They attacked her demeanor and her “lack of patriotism”. She was #CrabbyGabby for not smiling. She was anti-American for not putting her hand over her heart. And they didn’t stop there. She was criticized for not giving teammates Simone Biles and Aly Raisman a standing ovation when they claimed gold and silver in the all-around final. She was accused of bleaching her skin and having breast enhancements. All the hate took its toll on Douglas.

“You name it and she got trampled,” her mother said. “What did she ever do to anyone? I don’t think respecting your country or your flag boils down to whether you put your hand over your heart or not.”

I agree. I think patriotism should be measured by what you do for your country and community, and how you treat others. And another thing, I didn’t know there was such a strict protocol for when the anthem is played. I always stand and remove my hat if I’m wearing one. But when I’m at a Dodger game proudly (and loudly) singing our country’s anthem, do I put my hand on my heart? Not usually. I guess I’m unpatriotic too.

Sometimes, Twitter just needs to chill.

I’m on twitter where I stay away from bullying. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook too. Or read my weekly #SportBits updates on WordPress.  #SportBits … a little bit of info is all you need.

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#SportBits … America’s Top Gun Kim Rhode

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I love the Olympics! Everyday I learn about some badass athlete who has accomplished something amazing…usually by overcoming adversity or controversy. It’s inspiring!

Today meet Kim Rhode… one of America’s least known Olympians who is one of the most successful Olympic medalists in U.S. history. On August 12th, Kim Rhode will have the chance to bring a medal home for a record-setting sixth Olympics in a row, as she competes in the skeet event.

Rhode made her debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games days after her 17th birthday, and promptly won gold in the double trap. In London while pregnant, she set an Olympic record by hitting 99 of 100 targets in the finals. Badass, right?

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Luca Bruno/AP
Kim Rhode taking gold in Atlanta.

Now at 37, she’s got more on her mind than just history. Fame and recognition as one of the best shooters in the world have put her in a unique position to become more politically active. After taking the gold at the London games, the first question asked wasn’t about the win, but rather, “Can you comment on Aurora” – a reference to the mass shooting in a movie theater that left 12 people dead.

“No other sport in the Olympics gets that,” she says. “They don’t ask the swimmers to comment after somebody drowns.”

Kim Rhode started shooting when she was 10 years old. As an avid hunter and outdoorsman, guns and shooting have always been a part of her life. Recently she has decided to take a stand against gun control laws, offering full support for carrying concealed weapons, and attacking gun legislation in her home state of California.

“I’m definitely becoming more vocal because I see the need,” said Rhode. “We just had six laws that were passed in California that will directly affect me. For example, ammunition law. I shoot 500 to 1,000 rounds a day, having to do a background check every time I purchase ammo or when I bring ammo out for a competition or a match – those are very, very challenging for me.”

She said one of the new laws in California that curtails the flow of guns will actually prevent her from inheriting her own father’s guns or giving hers to her children. Rhodes feels that many of the recent mass shootings have occurred in cities where anti-gun legislation is already in place – suggesting that those shootings are examples of why gun control doesn’t work.

Being in a sport surrounded by controversy hasn’t been easy. Rhode spends a lot of time studying gun laws because she knows that will be the focus of her press conferences. Also, she says the stigma attached to shooting has affected her ability to get endorsements.

Whether you agree with Rhode’s views or not, you can’t argue with her place in Olympic history, and I for one will be rooting for her to break the record and become the first summer Olympian to win an individual medal in six straight Olympics. #Badass

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#SportBitsUpdate: Russian Doping Scandal

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Following an independent report that confirmed the existence of a state-supported Russian doping program at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided days before the games began, to allow Russian athletes to take part in these summer Olympic games.

This came after a decision to ban the Russian track and field athletes was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Last weekend, the International Paralympic Committee banned Russia from participating in the upcoming 2016 Paralympic Games for allegedly violating international doping rules.

Let’s recap:

The Russian doping scandal and investigation began back in May when Russia’s former anti-doping director, Grigory Rodchenkov, told The New York Times that he had been ordered by state officials of the ministry of sport, tourism and youth policy to suppress evidence of performance-enhancing drug use by the Russian Olympians at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Rodchenkov explained how he developed the perfect anabolic steroid cocktail that allowed Russian athletes to recover quickly from their competitions so they would stay in peak shape during their Olympic run. Alcohol was used to speed up the absorption of the steroids. Rodchenkov went on to say how athletes were instructed to stockpile clean urine for months so they could be swapped for dirty samples at the lab – through a hand-sized hole in the wall – in the middle of the night.

(OK, this is SO going to be made into a movie – and I want Sorkin to write it!)

As of now, the Russian track and field team will be barred from competing in Rio. Consequently, IOC rejected a bid from Russian runner and whistleblower, Yulia Stepanov, to compete as a neutral athlete.

The committee has left the decision as to whether Russian athletes can take part in individual sports up to international governing federations. The IOC has demanded that Russians athletes provide proof of a positive anti-doping test. Currently, 118 competitors of the 389 Russian team have been banned.

Call me a cynic, but I never believed the IOC would take such a bold step and ban an entire nation from competing – especially one as prominent in international sports as Russia. Plus, I’m betting there is fear of #PutinBackLash.

Would it be fair to penalize an entire delegation of athletes for the faults of a few? My first thought is no, it’s not fair. But then when I consider the possibility (and probability) it was state-sponsored, and the decision to cheat allegedly came from top government officials, then I say yes, they all should pay. Medals-over-morals ain’t going to fly…

So why are ALL the Paralympic athletes banned? Because the Paralympics aren’t as prestigious?

What do you think about the Russian doping scandal? I’d love to hear. It’s an interesting topic of conversation for the dinner table….that’s for sure. #SportBits … a little bit of info is all you need.

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#SportBits … Refugee Olympic Team

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We’ve heard all the stories for months: the crime, pollution, unfinished venues, doping scandals, and the Zika virus. The Rio Olympics battled a huge storm of negative publicity coming into the games. Every day there seemed to be another#RioProblem. But now that the games have started, the feel-good stories of strength, perseverance, and hope are emerging. Here is my favorite one so far…

This year the first ever refugee team is participating in the summer games. These athletes aren’t representing a country, but the 65 million people displaced (either inside or outside their country) by war and persecution.

Originally called the “Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes,” the ten athletes representing South Sudan, Syria, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) soon became known as the “Refugee Olympic Team.” #ROT

Yusra Mardini is a courageous swimmer from Syria.

Rami Anis is a swimmer and a refugee from the Syrian Civil War.

Runners Paulo Amotun Lokoro, Yiech Pur Biel, Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, James Nyang Chiengjiek and Rose Nathike Lokonyen, are all originally from South Sudan.

Judokas Popole Misenga and Yolande Bukasa Mabika are from the DRC.

Yonas Kinde is a runner from Ethiopia.

Here is Rose Nathike Lokonyen, who was eight years old when she fled war and found safety in a refugee camp in northern Kenya, leading the squad at the Opening Ceremony behind the flag of the International Olympic Committee.

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“Being a refugee doesn’t mean you are not a human being.” ~ Rose Nathike Lokonyen

The more I read about their incredible journeys, the clearer it became that these athletes did not want their refugee status to define them. Yusra Mardini, who last year helped drag a sinking boat full of fellow refugees to safety said,

“We are still humans. We are not only refugees, we are like everyone in the world.”

So, while I watch and cheer for these athletes as they compete on the grandest stage in sports, I will think of them as any other competitors: strong, disciplined, high-achieving individuals who did not let ANYTHING get in the way of their dreams. #TeamROT

Here is the full schedule of events for #ROT. Remember to follow me on Facebook,Instagram and Twitter for more Olympic news, scores, and highlights.
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#SportBits … Must-Have Social Media Handles for #Rio2016

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The #RioOlympics have begun and keeping track of all the events, schedules, scores, news, and gossip couldn’t be easier. Here is your #SportBits must-have list of social media handles to help keep you up on all things #Olympics for the 2016 run in Rio.

NBC: NBC agreed to pay the IOC roughly $12billion to broadcast the Olympics through 2032. They’ve got it covered! Here are some NBC folks to follow:

NBCOlympics on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine

OlympicTalk on Twitter:
All your Olympic news in one place.

Nastia Liukin on Instagram:
2008 All-Around Champ and NBC gymnastics analyst in Rio.

Ato Boldon on Twitter:
Four-time Olympic medalist and NBC track & field analyst in Rio.

Rowdy Gaines on Twitter:
Three-time Olympic gold medalist and NBC swimming analyst in Rio.

The Golf Channel on Facebook:                                                                                                             Golf is back in the Olympics after an 112-year break – don’t miss it!

Dan Levinsohn on Twitter:
Racquet sports (Tennis, Badminton, Table Tennis) & Weightlifting for NBCOlympics.com.

Rachel Lutz on Twitter:
Anything in the pool, Rachel’s got the scoop. Swimming, Water Polo, Diving, Synchronized Swimming for NBCOlympics.com.

Carrie Waltemeyer on Twitter:
Beach Volleyball, Volleyball, Equestrian, Fencing for NBCOlympics.com.

THE ATHLETES:

Michael Phelps on Facebook:
He’s the greatest Olympian of all time. Period.

Usain Bolt on Facebook:
Fastest man on earth and loves to share his training routines.

Simone Biles on Instagram:
Her dominance at Worlds and expectation at Rio are #bigly (I can’t stop using that word).

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Allyson Felix on Facebook:
This track star is always inspiring.

Alex Morgan on Instagram:
#USWNT soccer star is always sharing moments with her teammates.

Kerri Walsh Jennings on Twitter:  She’s a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist AND lives in my hometown! @90266

Lolo Jones on Twitter:
Probably the funniest athlete of them all.

Serena Williams on Instagram : Going for her 5th Olympic Gold Medal playing doubles with her sister Venus.

LeBron James on Twitter:
@KingJames ~> #nuffsaid

Ibtihaj Muhammad on Instagram:
This fencer will be the first athlete to compete in the Olympics in a hijab.

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The Experts:

TeamUSA on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine
Get anything and everything on TEAM USA!

Rio2016 on Twitter:
Up to the minute updates.

Nancy Armour on Twitter:
USA Today reporter, Olympics.

Alan Abrahamson on Twitter:
Olympic journalist.

Interested in a specific team? Just search USA(sport) and follow! Here’s a list of USA teams I’m following on Twitter:
USA Basketball
USA Golf
USA Gymnastics
USA Soccer Women’s Team
USA Swimming
USA Track & Field
USA Tennis

Who is on your list and why I should follow them?

People, if you are a fan of social media and the Olympics, you’re set! Don’t forget to follow ME on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram  – I’ll be posting throughout the Games too. Jump in and start a conversation about whatever sport(s) you’re following. Make comments, ask questions and who knows, maybe Simone, Michael or even King James might reply…and that’s when it gets REALLY exciting! #fanfun #USAUSAUSA

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#SportBits … Opening Ceremony Fashion

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Sports and fashion collide #bigly at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro. From the athletes’ uniforms to their leisure wear, style choices will be discussed and analyzed at this year’s Olympics. Today, let’s look at some Opening Ceremony outfits for a few fashion forward countries.

With over a billion people worldwide expected to watch the Opening Ceremonies tonight, it’s no wonder leading fashion designers are foaming at the mouth to design their country’s Olympians. What an incredible platform to elevate your brand!

For the United States, Polo Ralph Lauren will again be outfitting #TeamUSA, and for the first time, everything will be Made In The USA. Athletes will be decked out in tapered, white denim jeans, patriotic T-shirts, Polo Pony-emblazoned navy blazers, and red, white, and blue striped boat shoes. Preppy, classic, fun….they’re ready for a weekend in the Hamptons, I’d say. Some critics are screaming #RussianInfluence however, pointing out the shirts’ resemblance to the Russian flag. As the Bidenator would say, that’s #malarkey!

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US Flag Bearer Michael Phelps will literally light the path for the US Athletes –  wearing a jacket that is the ultimate integration of innovation, fashion, and technology. Electroluminescent panels brightly illuminate portions of the jacket making Phelps a sight for all to see.

The Australian outfits for Rio also have a preppy, yacht club feel to them. Designed by Sportscraft, the Australian athletes will don green and white-striped blazers with white bottoms. The names of Olympic gold medalist champions are stitched into the lining of the blazers, which also have a special pocket for the athlete’s smartphones. #genius

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The preppy look continues with the South Koreans crispy white pants, navy blazers, and fedoras. The design team is taking no chances with the health of its athletes as the outfits are all infused with insect repellent to keep mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus at bay. #ZikaProof

SouthKorea

Some countries are not happy with their outfits, however. The Iranians have taken to social media complaining their uniforms resemble a school eraser.

Iran

The Georgians are upset because they feel their outfits represent a look of their past instead of a look to the future. I would have to agree.

Georgia

My favorite is #TeamCanada . The Canadian design duo Dean and Dan Caten of DSquared2 have partnered with Hudson Bay for Canada’s outfits. Athletes will be wearing a long black and red blazer/windbreaker mash up with a giant maple leaf and tails on the back. Flat front tapered wool stretch pants with bonded zippers, elastic waist and ankles give the look a modern, fresh feel. Badass, eh?

Canada

And this is just the beginning folks. These designers have put together “kits” for their athletes that include the Opening Ceremony outfits, performance uniforms, and leisure wear. Be sure to follow me on social media where I’ll be posting all my favs. I think you should share YOUR favorites too, using the hashtag #SportBitsFashion. #JumpIn

You can watch the Opening Ceremonies tonight at 7:30pm on NBC. #TeamUSA

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#SportBits … NBA Moves the 2017 All-Star Game

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The NBA Pulls The All-Star Game Out of North Carolina Over Anti-LGBT Law

In an unprecedented move, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the league’s decision to move the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina due to the state’s anti-LGBT legislation passed in March.

In a statement issued Thursday, Silver said the league could not hold a successful game in the controversial climate created by House Bill 2. HB2 prohibits transgender people from accessing bathrooms with which they identify. It also allows restaurants and bars the right to refuse service to a customer based on their gender or sexual orientation.

The decision to move the event is not a surprise. It’s an issue the commissioner and the league have wrestled with since HB2 was passed. Silver made it clear from the beginning that if the law wasn’t changed, the league would have a difficult time holding the event in a state where all fans didn’t feel welcome.

“Since March, when North Carolina enacted HB2 and the issue of legal protections for the LGBT community in Charlotte became prominent, the NBA and the Charlotte Hornets have been working diligently to foster constructive dialogue and try to affect positive change. We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others, but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view. ~ NBA

Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player, applauded the move:

“As a member of the NBA family and as a gay man, I’m extremely proud to see the NBA take initiative and move the All-Star Game from North Carolina. Their decision is an extremely poignant one and shows that discrimination of any kind is not welcome in sports and is not acceptable in any part of our society. The NBA has set the best kind of example and precedent moving forward for all to follow.” ~ Jason Collins

Not everyone was pleased with the decision. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, whose state stands to lose $100 million in profit, fired back:

“The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present.”     ~ Pat McCrory

I respectfully disagree Governor – and think the decision shows how principled, progressive, and inclusive the NBA is at this time. Other leagues could stand to learn from the progressive social agenda the NBA consistently promotes. #pagingNFL

The league plans to announce the new host city soon, with New Orleans topping the list. It also says it’s open to returning to Charlotte in 2019 if changes are made. Considering how much economic activity the state is losing because of HB2, I’m guessing there will be change. #moneytalks

Discuss amongst yourselves…and let me know what you think! I think #equalmeansequal and using #sports4change can be a positive and powerful phenomenon.

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#SportBits … Sports & Social Media

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Social Media is a powerful vehicle in today’s society. As a sports fan, I love it. It’s a tool that greatly enhances my sports experience … most of the time.

I love following my favorite teams and players on social media. To be able to interact directly with teams, players, personalities, and fellow fans is exciting, informative and just plain fun. Shout out to #CuseTwitterArmy !!

Twitter has become my virtual sports bar – a place to engage before, during, and after games. Connecting with fellow followers to discuss and sometimes argue about plays, coaching decisions or outrageous team uniforms may sound weird, but it enriches my sporting experience. #bigly

I also enjoy the unique approaches that athletes, teams, brands and organizations are taking when it comes to social media.

This year at Wimbledon, Roger Federer took me on a tour of the Wimbledon grounds on Periscope. Too cool!! The Bryan Brothers gave me their Wimbledon Experience on YouTube. Enlightening! Best of all what I see as a revelation in sports broadcasting was former Grand Slam Champion Andy Roddick analyzing thefinals on Periscope from his couch in Austin, Texas. I just turned down my volume and listened to Andy talk about the match and answer questions while he watched along with me. At one point he went to get coffee and look in on his newborn. I loved the intimacy of it and the fact he could do and say whatever he wanted. Forget Breakfast At Wimbledon … I’m all for Breakfast at Andy’s House.

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What I don’t like about social media and sports merging is the annoying trend of creating content in the hopes it will “go viral.” I feel that athletes and organizations sometimes go out of their way to do something outrageous knowing fans will be recording it on their phones. Whether it’s an excessive celebration by a player or some outrageous team announcement, it can feel fake and forced and ultimately feeds into our attention-craving culture, which I think is a negative reflection on today’s society.

Another annoyance? When I record a game to watch at a later time, I must remember to stay away from Twitter so I don’t get the final score before I’ve watched it, but that goes for any live event (Oscars, Grammys, etc). #realtime #getoverit

Lastly, and this is silly, but I hate when I read political views of athletes I admire and their views are polar opposites of mine. Sometimes it’s a bummer to learn that someone I admire so much thinks so differently than me. But it’s the #freespeech and varying opinions that make this country great –  so I’m just going to have to get over that one.

What do you think? Has social media affected the way you follow sports? I’d love to hear about it. I think you should enhance YOUR sporting experience by following me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. See what I did there? #SportBits

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#SportBits.. Meet Teen Olympian Sydney McLaughlin

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Sixteen-year-old New Jersey native Sydney McLaughlin is headed to Rio Di Janeiro for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad. Her record-setting performance in the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Oregon secured her a spot on the USA track and field team. Here are some fun facts to help you get to know this young Olympian – so when you’re with friends or family watching her race at the Games – you can impress everyone with your knowledge!  #SportBits

1. McLaughlin will be the youngest Team USA track athlete to compete in the Games since 1972 when a 15-year-old Cindy Gilbert competed in Munich. McLaughlin turns 17 on August 7th…two days after the Opening Ceremonies.

2. Her event is the 400-meter hurdles and there is no one her age that has run this event faster. At the Olympic trials, she finished third with a time of 54.15 – setting a new junior record.

3. She is a rising high school senior from Dunellen, New Jersey with a 3.55 GPA. She has not lost a high school race since June of 2014 when she was 14 years old.

4.  She probably didn’t see herself in Rio 2016 after beginning her school track season with mononucleosis which kept her out 1 ½ months. She probably didn’t see herself at the Espy Awards in Los Angeles a few weeks ago either. But she was there rubbing elbows with the most famous pro athletes – taking home the award for the girls’ national prep athlete of the year.

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5. She holds so many records that I can’t even begin to write them all …but you can find them here.

It’s hard to forget that McLaughlin is only 16 years old. She’s so accomplished and appears so full of confidence. But inside – she has doubts just like anyone else. At the Olympic trials in Eugene she said:

“It was me doubting everything I’d done so far this season not understanding that I’ve worked to get where I am and that I deserved to be here and just thinking, ‘I’m 16 and these girls are all professionals.’ I definitely had a moment where I didn’t think I could do it, and they told me ‘You’re getting on the line and running this race.’ That put me where I am today.” 

McLaughlin is a star with a very bright future ahead. Even her competitors gush over her. American Kori Carter, who finished 4th behind her in Eugene, said, “She’s a beast. She’s the truth. I was in every single heat with her, and she carries herself like a pro. I know she’s going to represent the U.S. amazingly.”

I’m excited to see how this teen performs on the biggest sports stage in the world! You can watch her at the Olympics starting August 5th on NBC. Follow me onsocial media for more Olympic news, scores, and updates.

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#SportBits … Sexual Harassment and Abuse in Sports

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It is difficult for me to imagine sports, which I love so so much, being an environment in which many athletes, young and old, are victims of sexual harassment and abuse; but it is. Studies indicate that anywhere from 2-20% of young athletes experience sexual harassment or abuse. That may seem like a small percentage, but when you realize that 36million kids play organized sports each year, it’s not.

Sexual harassment and abuse happen in ALL sports and at ALL levels: from youth programs, community and university settings, to Olympic-elite levels. The sporting culture, with its dominating coaches, “win at all cost” mentality, and fierce competition, creates an environment that contributes to the sexual abuse of athletes.

Sexual harassment and abuse are forms of sex discrimination. Sexual harassment is unwanted, often persist, sexual attention. Some examples include:
– Sexually oriented comments or threats
– Jokes, lewd comments or sexual innuendoes
– Shouting and/or bullying
– Ridiculing or undermining of performance or self-respect
– Practical jokes based on sex
– Intimidating sexual remarks
– Physical contact, fondling, pinching or kissing

Sexual abuse includes unwanted, groomed, or forced involvement in sexual behavior. Members of an athlete’s sports community in positions of power and authority are often identified as sexual abuse predators. These include coaches, trainers, athletic directors, physical therapists, bus drivers, chaperones, etc.

Who is at risk for sexual harassment and abuse in sports?

Within the context of sports, there are several situations where athletes are susceptible to abuse. The most common are those athletes with low self-esteem or high ambition, who become emotionally reliant on or obsessed with their coaches. And in many cases, these coaches are not subject to independent monitoring.

Risky environments for athletes include: the locker-room, the playing field, trips away, the coach’s home or car, and social events, especially where alcohol is involved. Team initiations or end-of-season celebrations are also risk factors.

How can we keep athletes safe from sexual harassment and sexual abuse?

As a community we should:
– Insist sporting organizations/teams develop policies and procedures to prevent abuse.
– Insist there be codes of ethics and conducts for coaches – which should be MONITORED CLOSELY.
– Adopt rigorous screening procedures for the appointment of ALL personnel (coaching staff or voluntary workers).

As a parent we should:
– Ensure organizations and coaches have gone through criminal checks, child abuse registry etc.
– Be present at practices and games to observe the interaction between our children and their coaches.
– Communicate honestly and openly with our children, and encourage them to keep no secrets from us.

More attention on the subject of sexual harassment and abuse in sports is needed. I feel the best way to make change is to keep the conversation going, and work to develop a culture and infrastructure that supports the needs of the athletes. It is imperative we ALL work together to create a safe and positive environment in sports. Personally, I don’t EVER want to hear about another Jerry Sandusky – EVER.

Join my #sportsconversation: follow me on FB, Instagram and Twitter.

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#SportBits .. Steph Curry Criticized

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Steph Curry is under fire these days. The Golden State Warriors superstar and back-to-back MVP is still being criticized for his sub-par play after his team blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA finals. He’s had to defend his wife’s controversial tweets,#Ronigate, and of course, the #ChefShoe.

Man, it’s tough when you get to the top of that metaphorical mountain. Everybody just wants to knock you off.

The latest scorcher surrounding Steph has nothing to do with his performance on the court, but I think it speaks directly to his character – more so than a shoddy shoe design.

Over the July 4th weekend, Curry held a youth basketball camp in Hawaii. It’s common for athletes to host instructional camps for children – so why all the flack? The problem for many parents and single mothers is the cost and the location of Curry’s camp.

The price tag for the four-day camp is $2000 … $2250 if your child spends the night. That doesn’t include airfare. This high cost, combined with that fact that there are no scholarships offered makes it virtually impossible for inner city and underprivileged kids to attend. That’s a problem for me.

The other criticism is the camp locale. Many feel it’s wrong to use a location other than your own community for a business opportunity. If you want the respect and loyalty of your community, you should give back to your members, and not take your business elsewhere. In comparison, Portland Trailblazer starDamian Lillard charges $325 for his four-day camps in the Portland area, and has been known to cover the cost himself in some cases.

Seattle Seahawk Michael Bennett of the NFL, holds his FREE football camp in Oahu, Hawaii because his wife is a native and he didn’t hold back his thoughts on the matter…

“I see a lot of different athletes come through Hawaii whether it’s Steph Curry or whoever it is. They all come here and it makes me mad because I live in this community and I understand this community — that there’s so many kids who can’t afford to pay such a high amount of money. In my mind it’s like, how much money do you need before you start giving back for free?”

What was Steph Curry’s response? He posted a tongue-in-cheek (and totally sarcastic) instagram promoting the much less expensive basketball camp of his (much less) talented younger brother, Seth.

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What do you think? Is this an unwarranted attack by those annoyed by Curry’s meteoric rise to the top? Or is it a case of a wealthy elitist who is not in touch with his community fan base? #thelatter

What a great sports topic of conversation, huh? Bring it up tonight at the dinner table or at work tomorrow. See where it takes you and remember to follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more sports news and daily updates.#mcsportbits.com

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