Column: Bribery Kickback Scandal Rocks College BasketballOctober 12, 2017

“I rob banks because that’s where the money is.” Willie Sutton Last week a New York federal court handed up indictments charging a number of assistant coaches, agents, financial advisers and shoe company employees with corruption in recruiting amateur basketball players. Ten men were arrested on criminal charges including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. During a press conference to announce the arrests, Joon Kim, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said the investigation is ongoing, sending an ominous signal that this is merely the tip of the iceberg in unmasking a scandal that has been an open secret for years. Prosecutors will no doubt use the prospect of jail time to coerce defendants into identifying more schools, coaches, and companies involved in the corruption, kickbacks and bribery schemes to funnel top-level athletes to certain programs.

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Column: Trump Takes On The NFLOctober 5, 2017

Leave it to President Trump to stir up a controversy at a time when he should have been dealing with the myriad issues confronting the country. But as untimely as his actions to take on the NFL players and owners may have been, that doesn’t mean he was entirely wrong. The President castigated the players for taking a knee during the national anthem and accused the owners of being afraid to take action against them. Trump said the players showed “a total disrespect of our heritage…a total disrespect of everything that we stand for.” When the players suggested that Trump’s comments were “racial” (the NFL is approximately 70 per cent African American), the President shot back: “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our country, flag and national anthem.”

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Column: NFL Overestimated LA MarketSeptember 28, 2017

Greed can motivate human beings to do things they might regret upon hindsight. NFL owners, despite being billionaires, are no different from ordinary folks in that regard. Their decision to storm back into the Los Angeles market last year after a 22-year absence was motivated by greed. As so often happens in such instances, the league and some team owners may be experiencing a severe case of buyer’s remorse. In 1995, the Los Angeles Rams bolted LA for a new, state of the art stadium in Saint Louis. Along with an array of revenue streams and fancy suites, perhaps the best part of their deal was a clause in the lease that required Saint Louis to guarantee the stadium would always be one of the top-ten in the league. If at any time the stadium was deemed to fall below that standard, the team would be free to move. Two decades later, the inevitable came to pass and Rams’ owner Stan Kroenke printed business cards that read, “NFL team available for the best deal.”

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Column: The Intersection Of Sports & Politics Is MuddledSeptember 24, 2017

The synergy between sports and entertainment has existed since time immemorial. ESPN paid homage to that notion when it was founded in 1979. The “E” in its name stands for Entertainment, which perhaps not ironically comes before “S,” or Sports. Sports and politics have likewise had a symbiotic relationship, but since the advent of social media, that relationship has become even more pronounced. And once again, we need to look no further than ESPN to recognize that. SportsCenter hostess Jemele Hill took to twitter last week to issue a series of vitriolic accusations against President Trump, accusing him of, among other things, being “ignorant, offensive, unqualified and unfit to be president, a bigot, an incompetent moron” and most controversial of all, “a white supremacist.”

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Column: MLB To Enact Fan Code of ConductSeptember 7, 2017

In the aftermath of a racially charged incident at Fenway Park earlier this season, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the league would adopt a Fan Code of Conduct beginning with the 2018 season. On May 1, in a game between Boston and Baltimore, several fans hurled racial slurs and peanuts at Orioles’ centerfielder Adam Jones, who is black. The incident was quickly denounced by the team and Jones received a standing ovation from Red Sox fans and players prior to the following night’s game.

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Column: Computerized Umps On The HorizonAugust 31, 2017

Controversies in baseball are virtually endless. The Designated Hitter, Instant Replay, Inter-league Play, Wild Cards, Pace of Play - and on and on it goes. Here’s another topic that is starting to heat up: Robot Umps. According to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred the technology to accurately call balls and strikes will be available sooner rather than later. He’s right, but the availability of the technology isn’t the question; after 150 years of players, fans and the media (mostly) complaining about umpires, should MLB eliminate one of the human elements from the sport?

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Column: Disney Joins Cord Cutting RevolutionAugust 24, 2017

In a nod to the “if you can’t beat them, join them” idiom, the Walt Disney Company has decided to join the cord cutting revolution. In a stunning move that shocked the media entertainment industry Disney announced plans to introduce not one but two streaming services, one built around sports programming and the other focused on movies and television programming. The former will be unveiled early next year and will include live baseball, hockey, tennis and college sports. The service will stream an estimated 10,000 regional and national events in its first year alone. Subscribers to the new service as well as cable and satellite subscribers will have access to the sports service through an enhanced version of ESPN’s current app.

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Column: Can Gum Chewing Boost Sports Performance?August 17, 2017

Jordan Spieth won this year’s British Open, golf’s oldest tournament, in dramatic fashion but that may not be the most enduring memory of his performance. During the first two rounds of the tournament Spieth could be seen vigorously chewing gum. That sparked a debate about the role, if any, that gum chewing plays in sports performance. The discussion began during live coverage of the rounds on the Golf Channel and was flamed by social media. Did chewing gum contribute in any way to Spieth’s performance or was it merely coincidence? Researchers have left nary a stone unturned and sure enough, there is scientific research on the effects of gum chewing on physical and cognitive performance. And not surprisingly, the findings from those studies are far from uniform.

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Column: Big Money Salaries In Sports Can Be SustainedAugust 10, 2017

NBA free agency opened on July 1 and teams wasted no time in signing their own or other teams’ free agents to what may appear to be exorbitant contracts. Stephen Curry re-signed with the Golden State Warriors for five years and just over $200 million. Kyle Lowry signed a 3-year $100 million contract to stay with the Toronto Raptors. Gordon Hayward left the Utah Jazz to sign a 4-year $128 million contract with the Boston Celtics. Blake Griffin decided to stick with the only team he has known, the Los Angeles Clippers. You would too if they agreed to pay you $173 million over five years despite being plagued by injuries, as Griffin has been during the past few years.

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