#SportBits … Super Bowl 51 Recap

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Well, if I learned anything from watching Super Bowl 51 last night, it’s that no matter how bad something is going, things can ALWAYS turn around.

Seriously.

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots couldn’t have played a worse first half in yesterday’s Super Bowl. He seemed rattled. He had constant pressure from the Falcons defense and his throws throws were way off target.

It was not the Tom Brady were accustomed to watching.

The Atlanta Falcons completely dominated the first half of play: causing a fumble, intercepting a Brady pass, and building a halftime score of 21-3.

I’m not sure what happened in the Patriot locker room at the half.

Maybe they were inspired by Lady Gaga’s electric halftime show. Or perhaps they said to themselves, “We are the effin NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS – winners of FOUR Super Bowls.”

Or maybe it was Coach Bill Belichick telling them that 21 points were not enough to beat them.

The greatest comeback in Super Bowl history didn’t begin until the score reached 28-12. That’s when Falcons QB Matt Ryan was sacked on his own 25 yard line and fumbled the ball.

It was the first time the Falcons had turned the ball over in this postseason.

That was the spark that Tom Brady needed.

Following the turnover, Brady found Danny Amendola for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 5:56 left. And after the two-point conversion, it was an eight-point game.

Atlanta could score on their next possession and had to punt giving the Patriots time for one final drive to force overtime.

This is what Tom Brady lives for.

His push down the field included one of the best catches in Super Bowl history. Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman managed to fight off three Atlanta defenders, going through the legs of one of them, to scoop up the ball before it hit the ground.

With :57 left the Patriots scored. The two-point conversion pass from Brady to Amendola tied it up and we were headed to overtime.

Next came the coin-toss – probably the biggest coin toss EVER for both of these teams.

The NFL rule states “both teams have the opportunity to possess the ball at least once in overtime unless the team that receives the overtime kickoff scores a touchdown on its first possession.”

That’s just what the Patriots did.

They marched down the field cutting up an exhausted Falcons defense and scored on a handoff to running back James White to win the game.

 

It was the first time a Super Bowl went to overtime.

Tom Brady became the first quarterback to win five Super Bowl titles. He was named Super Bowl MVP for the fourth time, the most all time.

He threw for 466 yards — a Super Bowl record — and two touchdowns.

As Tom Brady said himself, “it was one helluva of a football game.”

And as long as you weren’t an Atlanta Falcons Fans, you had one helluva good time watching it.

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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 … Weekend WrapUp

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Happy Monday, #SportBits readers!

Here is your weekend sports wrap up.

In what felt more vintage than a 79’ Dead shirt, the Australian Open men’s and women’s final gave everyone the #goodfeels.

I can’t tell you how many texts and comments on my social media I received from people expressing how happy the finals made them feel. Four legends of tennis back in the championships.

I think after a month of crazy political upheaval and uncertainty, having these four familiar players in the finals felt reassuring and safe. I LOVE how sports can do that.

The Williams sisters met for the 28th time for the women’s championship.

Venus, at age 36, is at a stage in her career where she seems to be playing for the pure joy of it. She’s already made her mark. She’s got nothing more to prove.

She could have retired after she fell out of the top one hundred in 2012, or when she was diagnosed with a debilitating autoimmune disease. But she didn’t. She battled back. She had faith in herself and her game. #goodfeels

Sister Serena, at age 35, is playing for the numbers. She’s been tied with Steffi Graf at #22 Grand Slam totals which has been an annoying monkey on her back.

Their match was a competitive, awesome display of tennis. Serena won 6-4, 6-4 and not only breaks the tie with Graf, but regains the #1 ranking she lost to Angelique Kerber in September of last year.

I think the best part was their speeches afterward. #goodfeels galore.

On the men’s side, 35-year-old Roger Federer took on 30-year-old Rafael Nadal. These two have played each other 35 times. Sunday’s final was another epic showdown.

Roger, having missed the second half of last season with a knee injury, came back in Federer style by winning the championship in 5 sets. He was down a break in the 5th but somehow found the magic and extended his Grand Slam victories to 18.

Rafa also battled injuries last season with wrist problems. I think I wasn’t alone in wondering if he could return to his top form. He did.

Ultimately, I think his 5-hour semifinal win over Gregor Dimitrov on Thursday took too much out of him.

Never the less, it was a wonderful weekend of tennis, the likes of which we may never see again.

On the NFL Pro Bowl….

The AFC took this one, 20-13, over the NFC. The game was played in Orlando, Florida, instead of its usual Hawaiian destination.

The game wasn’t a TOTAL snooze fest, but it still was the Pro Bowl – where players are playing to NOT get hurt in a game that doesn’t matter one bit.

Maybe this one was a bit more interesting because it had so many newcomers. They weren’t tired of it yet. And the teams actually played some defense.

But if I’m being totally honest, I watched the SAG Awards instead.

I mean, did you SEE Winona Ryder’s face while her costar gave his speech after receiving “Best Drama Ensemble” ~> priceless!

 

The NHL All-Star Game happened here in Los Angeles over the weekend, and there was hockeyness all around the Staples Center.

screen-shot-2017-01-30-at-11-35-32-amIt started with the NHL100 on Friday where the top 100 players in hockey were chosen, in no particular order.

On Saturday, there was the skills competition.

The League, in an effort to stay current and hip, had Snoop Dogg perform at the event. And Snoop being Snoop didn’t feel the need to censor his song “The Next Episode” so the FBombs dropped for all of Staples and TV Land to hear. I had to laugh.

Here is a recap of all the winners from the skills competition.

In Sunday’s main event, The Metropolitan captured the All-Star Game title by beating the Pacific 4-3 after toppling the Atlantic 10-6 in the first round of play. The Pacific beat the Central 10-3 in the first round.

There were lots of games in the NBA over the weekend. Here are your scores and highlights.

College hoops are starting to heat up as we inch our way towards March Madness. Here is the latest AP Poll – and scores from the weekend.

In case you hadn’t heard, #SuperBowl51 is next Sunday, February 5th from Houston, Texas. The city will turn into a small-scale Olympic Village in order to host the mass of football fans and media that are expected.

The New England Patriots are playing the Atlanta Falcons.

Here is a schedule of all the events taking place this week and a schedule for game day events.

Country star Luke Bryan will sing the National Anthem. The cast of Hamilton will be performing at the festivities, and Lady Gaga will be the halftime show. CAN’T WAIT!

Ok people, hopefully, this is enough sports info to get you out there and talking with your family, friends, and coworkers!

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#SportBits … a little bit of info is all you need.

 

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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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The top 5 sports stories of 2016!

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Happy Holidays, #SportBits readers!

With the year winding down, I thought I’d chime in with my top 5 sports stories of 2016.

5. The Death Of Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali died last June at the age of 74. Many feel he was the most polarizing sports figure the world has ever known. Throughout his career, Ali was criticized for both his religious and political beliefs, his stance on social issues during the 1960s and ’70s, his rejection of his “slave” name Cassius Clay, and joining the Nation of Islam.

As a heavyweight fighter, he lost over three years of his career after being convicted of draft evasion, and still fought to a 55-2 record before losing three of his final four bouts after turning 36. His career highlights are too numerous to detail here, but, for many, the Thrilla in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle are the best examples of the greatness of the fighter who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee.

4. Ryan Lochte’s “Over-Exaggeration”

In August, soon after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio came to a close, Ryan Lochte admitted it was his fault that a fabricated story about a robbery caused an international scandal.

“I over-exaggerated that story and if I had never done that we wouldn’t be in this mess.” ~Ryan Lochte

The mess he is referring to is the tale of him and 3 teammates being robbed and pistol whipped at a gas station in Rio, which could have turned into a hugely embarrassing incident for the host city. It certainly was an embarrassing incident for Ryan Lochte, who was subsequently suspended from competition for 10 months.

3. Kaepernick Takes A Knee

San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick sat for the playing of the national anthem before the 49ers’ first three preseason games in protest of the rising number of African Americans shot and killed by police.

Several athletes from around the sports world soon joined in, and while there are many who disagree with his methods, many others believe in Kaepernick’s message and his right to protest. Who knows, this may be the start of more athletes speaking up about social and political issues.

2. Cleveland Wins The NBA Championship

The city of Cleveland had not won a championship in 52 years. LeBron James had returned to his hometown after winning two titles in Miami and was determined to end the drought. In 2015, the Cavaliers lost at home in six games to the Golden State Warriors. In 2016, they became the first NBA team to win a Championship after being down three games to one when James had the game of his life and the Cavs beat the Warriors 93-89.

1. Cubs Win! Cubs Win!

After 108 years of waiting, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series! The most cursed franchise finally became champions – but it wasn’t easy. With the game tied at the end of Game 7, a 17-minute rain delay stymied the Cleveland Indians’ momentum and the Cubs scored three runs and the curse was over.

 

Happy Holidays ~> #SportBits!

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Knicks open to trading Carmelo Anthony to Clippers

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Just two weeks ago Carmelo Anthony went public with his desire to remain a Knick and stay in New York. He made it very clear he had no interest in waiving his no-trade clause.

Well, a lot can happen in two weeks and it now seems a trade is imminent.

Knicks president Phil Jackson seems determined to find a new home and a deal that Anthony would accept before the February 23rd trade deadline.

According to several reports, the Clippers and Knicks are discussing a deal that would bring Anthony to Los Angeles.

But don’t panic Clipper fans – the deal does NOT include any of the big three: Chris Paul, Blake Griffin or DeAndre Jordan.

Big sigh of relief.

Talks of the Clipper trade come a day after Jackson offered up Anthony to the Cavaliers for Kevin Love. This would be a no-brainer for ‘Melo considering his close friendship to LeBron and his desire for a ring.

But the Cavs turned it down and will probably have to deal with an unhappy LeBron who tweeted several times this week that he needs management to find him a playmaker, stat.

E01628846nter the Clippers – another organization Anthony would agree to. He owns a home in Los Angeles and is close friends with Paul.

 

But he comes at a price for both organizations. Besides the no-movement clause, his five-year $124million contract signed in 2014 also has a 15% trade-bonus the Knicks would owe him.

Thankfully, Blake Griffin is off the table due to random rule in the Collective Bargaining agreement that states that a team cannot have two Designated Rookie extensions on the roster acquired via trade at one time.

I would imagine the Clippers want to keep DeAndre even though, in my opinion, his game is very one-dimensional these days, and his foul shooting is atrocious. But he’s probably the most physically gifted player in the league.

So that leaves 24-year-old guard Austin Rivers, who is averaging a career-high 11.9 points a game, veteran guard JJ Reddick, who becomes a free agent this summer, and super sixth man Jamal Crawford, who signed a three-year, $42 million deal last summer.

While I am a huge Carmelo fan, at 32 years old, he, like his pals Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and LeBron, isn’t getting any younger. So I understand Jackson’s wanting to trade either Anthony or Derrick Rose to try and rebuild a younger team around their superstar Kristaps Porzinis.

What do you think? Should the Clippers try and deal for Carmelo? Leave a comment below.

And remember to follow me on twitter, instagram and Facebook for more sports news, score and highlights.

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Mary Coyne is #SportBits …

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by M. Mattison @ HerDaily.com

Mary Coyne learned early on that paying attention to sports would serve her well.

“I’m one of five girls and realized a great way to connect with my dad was to sit down and watch the game with him,” remembers Mary.

Her parents took Mary and her sisters to various sporting events – mostly those involving Syracuse University. She remembers many times, while sitting at the dinner table, her dad saying, “Who wants to go to the basketball game tonight?” and off they’d head to Manley Field House.

Whether it was regular season football games, Bowl games or the Big East basketball tournament in New York City, sports – as both a participant and spectator – were a huge part of her childhood.

img_1918-2-300x300Mary and her family at the Fiesta Bowl.

“Maybe because dad didn’t have any sons,” she says.  “We all – intentionally or otherwise – paid attention to sports; some of us more than others!”

So it’s not surprising that Mary, who has a Masters degree in TV & Film from Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications, has found her way to #SportBits – her sports brand that aims to provide those who don’t know a lot about what’s happening in the sports world get a little bit of information so they don’t feel left out.

Whether it’s a mom who wants to bond with her kids or spouse, or someone hoping to connect with a co-worker or client, bonding over sports can often lead to good things.

“There have been any number of times when my sports knowledge has helped me both personally and professionally. In an interview, business meeting, or social event, knowing just a little bit of info can go a long way. It’s not fun being left out of the conversation because you don’t know what the big game is,” explains Mary.

Mary and Caitlyn Jenner

When asked about her favorite interview, Mary doesn’t hesitate. “Caitlyn Jenner, without a doubt. I stalked her in the Chicago airport and she couldn’t have been nicer,” remembers Mary.

Mary loves talking sports, especially on social media. She says her Twitter account is like a virtual sports bar where she can connect with others on various sports topics.

“I love sitting down with a beer and hopping on Twitter while I watch a live sporting event,” says Mary.  “I’m part of a cyber sports community and it’s fun to chat it up and follow along with my Twitter friends.”

Currently, #SportBits runs weekly on HerDaily.com. She also is a contributor to FanSided.com, covering Los Angeles sports, and has a weekly sports segment on Jazzo’s World – an Internet radio program out of Philadelphia. You can follow #SportBits on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

#SportBitsa little bit of info is all you need.

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#SportBits … Concussions And The Female Athlete

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Concussions are still a much-discussed issue in sports, but the conversations tend to focus on football and hockey: men’s sports.

In reality however, the dangers of concussions are just as present in female athletes, even in non-contact sports.

Sports journalist Joanne Gerstner has written a book with renowned sports neurologistJeffrey S. Kutcher called “Back in the Game: Why Concussion Doesn’t Have to End Your Athletic Career.”

In the book, they attempt to move the conversation of concussions in sports from fear to knowledge. Yes, there is always a risk when you play sports, but if you’re armed with knowledge and you’re aware of protocol and safety measures, there is a way to “proceed safely and have fun.”

Gerstner and Kutcher also discuss the fact that female athletes are just as likely to get concussions as their male counterparts.

“Hmm, we all have brains, we can get concussions, but people don’t watch women’s sports like they watch men’s sports. The lawsuits have been directed more at men’s entities than women’s entities. It stands to reason they would associate concussions with a guy’s thing, but it’s really not.” ~ Joanne Gerstner

Because women have less neck strength, as well as hormonal changes throughout the month, they may be even more susceptible to concussions. Whether it’s cheerleading, gymnastics, soccer or basketball, the risk is there for women and parents need to be aware of it.

It’s not only awareness – it’s the importance of acting on a potential problem when faced with it. The courage for a young girl to say she doesn’t feel right, or that a teammate seems off is extremely important. It’s having the confidence to say “No” when asked to play by a coach or parent after being hurt.

Ultimately, it comes down to the athlete. Everyone is an individual and their bodies react differently. It’s important for parents and coaches to be knowledgeable on concussion protocol, and to listen to athletes who must be empowered to say, “I’m hurt and can’t play.”

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#SportBits … Columbia University Suspends Men’s Wrestling Season Over “Lewd Texts”

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What the heck is going on in our country? Have we all lost our minds!!???

On Monday, the New York Times reported that Columbia University has suspended its wrestling team while it investigates “racist, misogynistic and homophobic” text messages between team members.

This on the heels of Harvard, another Ivy League institution, canceling its men’s soccer season earlier this month when school officials found out that players had been making lewd rankings of women players for years.

The decision to suspend the Columbia wrestling team came after the student-run website, BWOG, published several text messages dating back to 2014 between teammates that contained jokes about rape and the use of racist, homophobic, and sexist slurs and comments.

The university released a statement saying the athletic department “has decided that Columbia wrestlers will not compete until we have a full understanding of the facts on which to base the official response to this disturbing matter.” But a university official also told the New York Times that the team was still practicing, leaving open the possibility the season would continue after the investigation concludes.

Over the weekend, Columbia students held protests on campus outside the fraternity house where several wrestlers are members. A Change.org petition calling for the expulsion of wrestlers had over 1000 supporters as of Tuesday evening.

Many students on campus were encouraged by the university’s quick response and investigation into the texts. The school’s statement called the language used “appalling” and said they were “at odds with the core values of the university, violate team guidelines and have no place in our community.”

This behavior and thought process goes beyond my #FrontalLobeTheory where young men and women do stupid things because their frontal lobe/reasonable-decision-making-part of their brain is not fully developed (ex. Jose Fernandez). I don’t understand how anyone could think that jokes about rape or hateful comments about race or sexual preferences are funny. But to then put it in writing for all to see – JUST PLAIN STUPID. Ignorance AND stupidity, not what you want or expect to see from today’s younger generation.

But we are living in a listicle society where we comment and rank everything, whether it be on Tinder, Buzzfeed, or Yelp, so I shouldn’t be so surprised … but I am … and I’m worried that our President-Elect has helped to normalize this behavior.

We’d better get our friggin’ act together, people.

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#SportBits … Venus and Serena Williams Return To Their Compton Roots

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Serena and Venus Williams grew up a few miles from my house.

In the thirty years I’ve lived in Southern California, I haven’t seen them spend much time here. They live and train in Florida, and travel the world as members of the WTA.

But the Williams sisters recently renewed their ties to the community that helped shape them as both women and professional tennis players when they returned to Compton, California last weekend to announce the planned opening of a trauma resource center in honor of their slain older sister.

Yetunde Price, the elder half-sister of Venus and Serena, was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2003. She was a 31-year-old registered nurse and co-owner of a beauty shop. She also was the mother of three young children. Price was killed in the early morning of September 14, 2003, in Compton, a Los Angles community known for its gang violence. Price was shot in the head as a passenger in a car driven by her boyfriend, who authorities believed was the intended victim.

Dealing with the tragedy was a difficult process for the Williams sisters. They credit their family for helping them get through it. But the sisters have since realized that not everyone has the strong support system needed to deal with tragedy.  Their goal with the Yetunde Price Resource Center is to offer help and guidance to those affected by gun violence and trauma in order to get the resources needed to heal and move on with their lives.

Sharoni Little is the center’s chief operating officer and says the center will serve 50 clients per month.

“This is going to be not just an exchange of information, but a sustained, deep relationship. It will be relational. There will be follow-up. There will be not just passing on a card or a flyer, but actually making those connections and relationships. And we obviously know it will grow because of the need.” ~ Sharoni Little

The Williams sisters understand the importance of families getting help when dealing with the aftermath of violent crimes.

“Basically, how does the family react? If her (Price’s)  kids didn’t have my mom and us, it could be really devastating. But we had such a great system that they’re doing pretty good. We just felt like people who didn’t have that opportunity to fall back on, what could they do? And that’s kind of how this resource center came about.” ~ Serena Williams

The Williams sisters have been involved in many charitable efforts from backing scholarships for young Americans to funding schools in Africa and Jamaica. But this one hits close to home and brings them back to their community with a strong and positive presence.

“We’re really appreciative to have this opportunity, and to have it in Compton, I think it brings everything full circle. We started here and we want to make sure people understand this is a great place to be.” ~Serena Williams

The Yetunde Price Resource Center is set to open in Compton early next month.

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#SportBits … NBA Coaches React To The Presidential Election

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Like many, I’m still processing the results of our Presidential election.

I realize this is an inexact comparison, but I feel like I did after 9-11: sad, mad, scared, and anxious over this feeling of the unknown. I have the same unsettling haunch that life will never be the same again. It sounds dramatic, but there has been a shift in our country, and I’m hoping that in the end, good will come of it after we realize there is much to learn about each other and ourselves.

While I choose to be hopeful and open-minded about this transition, it is hard for me to ignore and forget the hateful rhetoric that was used during the campaign.  Many people in the sports world feel the same.

In the NBA, a league that has never shied away from political activism, coaches and players have used their platforms to speak out on the divisive political campaign and the results that followed.

Gregg Popovich, the head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, didn’t hold back when it came to the President-Elect and the people who voted for him. He told reporters he was “disgusted” that voters were willing to brush aside Trump’s “xenophobic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic” language during his campaign. He went on to say:

“I live in that country where half of the people ignored all of that to elect someone. That’s the scariest part of the whole thing to me. It’s got nothing to do with the environment and Obamacare, and all of the other stuff. We live in a country that ignored all of those values that we would hold our kids accountable for. They’d be grounded for years if they acted and said the things that have been said in that campaign by Donald Trump.”

Like me, Popovich is having a hard time putting all the hateful rhetoric behind him.

“The fact that people can just gloss that over, start talking about the transition team, and we’re all going to be kumbaya now and try to make the country good without talking about any of those things.” ~ Gregg Popovich

Stan Van Gundy, the president and head coach of the Detroit Pistons used his First Amendment rights to speak freely about the election and Trump.

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Lastly, there was Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warrior, who commented on the “Jerry Springer” atmosphere of the campaign.

 

stevekerr

It’s the fear of the unknown that has me so anxious. And on top of that, I can’t move on until we deal with the effects of the disparaging and dehumanizing rhetoric used during the campaign.

This campaign revealed the ugliness within our country and until we recognize and deal with that, the healing can’t really begin.

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#SportBits … Why Oh Why, Harvard Men’s Soccer Team?

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On the heels of our nation’s current conversations regarding gender equality and inclusion, comes a document out of Harvard University revealing sexist and crude remarks made by members of the men’s soccer team against their female counterparts.

The 2012 9-page “scouting report” included a short paragraph assessing incoming members of the women’s soccer team. The report also contained a photo (captured from the player’s social media accounts), a numerical value, and suggested sexual positions for each incoming female player. There was no mention of the women’s soccer abilities.

The male players also gave the women offensive nicknames. For example, one female player was named “Gumbi” because of her “gum to tooth ratio.” Sexual positions were suggested for each, including Cowgirl, Triple Lady, and Doggy Style.

The male players also noted various crude and sexual comments, such as:

‘She seems relatively simple and probably inexperienced sexually, so I decided missionary would be her preferred position.’
~Harvard male soccer player

Another unidentified player wrote:

She seems to be very strong, tall and manly so, I gave her a 3 because I felt bad. Not much needs to be said on this one folks.’

And another:

‘Yeah… She wants c**k.’

Yes, the document is fours years old, but a line at the beginning of the report insinuates it is produced each year. And Daily.com reports that until recently, it was made available to the public and searchable on Google Groups.

Harvard’s men’s soccer coach Pieter S. Lehrer – who was hired in 2013 – is “shocked” and “disgusted” by the report, but hopes to use it as an opportunity to discuss with his players the current attitudes regarding equality and respect for women.

Harvard’s director of athletics, Robert L Scalise, told the Harvard’s newspaper, ‘It’s very disappointing and disturbing that people are doing this.’

Ya think?

In response, the Harvard women’s team had this to say:

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As women, we often face sexual abuse and harassment in society. We are objectified in the media and our current political campaign has the dialogue moving backwards. #womennotobjects

Why can’t we figure out a way to stop this from happening?

Empowering young girls and women is not only morally right, but economically smart. There are many athletes and athletic organizations working hard to do just that, but not enough is being done.

Sounds cliché, but I’m hoping that the Harvard men’s team – and the community as a whole – can take a hard look at itself to see where they might make changes to move the dialogue on women’s issues in a positive direction, and build a community where everyone can feel safe and proud.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. What can we do to move forward with gender equality? Leave a comment below, and be sure to follow me on social media for more thoughtful discussions and of course, sports news.

#SportBits … a little bit of info is all you need.

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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.

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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.

#SportBits a little bit of info is all you need.

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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