How Cricket Has Become More Than Just a Game For Hong Kong’s Filipina Domestic Helpers

It’s 7:00 a.m. and Cherry Octaviano’s workday is about to begin. There’s breakfast to be made—fruit, juice, sandwiches and eggs—and a round of cleaning to be done before she wakes everyone up. She dusts the study and sweeps the floors before gently getting the household out of bed.

Around the same time, in an apartment elsewhere in the city, Jennifer Alumbro is preparing school lunches before dropping the kids off at the bus stop. On her return, she gives the kitchen a quick wipe down before cleaning the bathroom.

This is what most mornings look like for Octaviano, 35, and Alumbro, 30, both Filipina domestic helpers in Hong Kong. But come Sunday, they turn their attention from spotless dishes and sparkling floors to batting practice and fielding strategies. It’s their weekly day off and they spend it doing something very few Filipinas do: playing cricket.

Alumbro and Octaviano are members of the SCC Divas, a female team made up entirely of migrant domestic helpers from the Philippines. It’s certainly the first such cricket team in Hong Kong. Quite probably, it’s the only one of its kind in the world.

It isn’t unusual that cricket is played in Hong Kongthe former British colony’s connection with the sport goes back to 1841. But it is interesting how the Divas have taken with such devotion to a sport that, until recently, was completely alien to them—and indeed to most people who did not grow up in one of the Commonwealth or former Commonwealth countries that are cricket’s heartlands, such as England, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa, the West Indies, and New Zealand.

Cricket has never caught on in the Philippines, despite first being played in Manila in 1914. Until about 15 years ago, the game was only played socially, and haphazardly, by a smattering of expats from Commonwealth countries. Though there are now structured leagues supported by the Philippine Cricket Association in and around the capital Manila, the sport is still far from popular, especially with the Filipino population.

Not so in Hong Kong, where the Divas are helping cricket spread among the city’s Filipino workers. The game is proving to be a welcome diversion for a hardworking community for whom life is often difficult.

While most families in Hong Kong are law-abiding employers and often form warm relations with their helpers, emotional and sometimes physical abuse are occupational hazards. One of the most shocking instances was the 2013 case of a young Indonesian domestic worker, Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, who was starved and tortured by her employer for months. More common is the kind of pettiness that sees a helper’s pay docked for transgressions like using a heater.

Working and living conditions can be challenging, too. Since local laws deem that helpers must live with employers, they have little or no privacy and are constantly on call, working long, tiring days. Given the premium on space in Hong Kong’s overcrowded and exorbitantly priced housing market, many are forced to sleep in substandard conditions when the day’s chores are finally done—making their beds in bathrooms, on balconies, or under racks of drying clothes in corridors.

In these circumstances, cricket is more than just a sport for the helpers. It’s a ready-made family and cultivates a sense of pride. “People say we’re just cleaners and nannies,” Alumbro tells TIME. “We are doing our best to change that. We are more than that.”

In their own, small way the Divas are also part of a growing wave of women’s cricket. Women’s games now draw sizeable crowds and television viewers. One estimate suggests that close to 180 million people tuned in to the 2017 Women’s World Cup, with the 26,500 capacity crowd at London’s hallowed Lord’s cricket ground the largest ever for a women’s final.

‘We’d had enough of playing softball’

Team captain Josie Arimas was the driving force behind the Divas’ formation in 2017. Arimas, 50, a former softball player in the Philippines, was introduced to cricket in 2015 and spent two years playing with a Hong Kong team before deciding to form her own squad. She received enough interest from fellow Filipinas to go ahead with her plan.

“We’d had enough of playing softball; it was boring. Cricket was a new sport,” Arimas says.

She found an ally in Animesh Kulkarni, an Indian businessman and cricket fanatic, who brought the team under the aegis of his Subcont Cricket Club (SCC) and became its manager.

Kulkarni, 58, is one of the many South Asian expats around the world who help cricket grow. His love for the game, what he terms keeda (a colloquial Hindi term for an obsession), has seen him become a mainstay of the Hong Kong cricket scene since he moved to the city in the early 1990s.

“I had a stroke about 15 years ago and couldn’t move my left arm, but it’s that keeda that gave me the willpower to work to raise my hand for the umpire signals,” Kulkarni says.

Despite most of the team having never played cricket before, they quickly found their feet, bringing to cricket skills and athleticism honed in local softball and baseball leagues. Although many softball and baseball fans profess to be baffled by cricket’s rules, the sports have a great deal in common. They are all explosive games, full of tension, in which quiet moments are shattered by sudden bouts of frantic activity. Strategy, nuance and cunning are essential to victory, and an entire day’s play can hang on the subtle turn of a ball.

SCC Divas playing cricket
Kamakshi Ayyar The SCC Divas in action against a local cricket team at Po Kong Village Road Park, Hong Kong, on April 28, 2019

Coach Najeeb Amar, 48, who used to train the Hong Kong women’s team, tells TIME that he just needed to “fine-tune” the existing skills that the Divas had acquired elsewhere and adapt them to a new sport. But he has to work within the challenging schedules of his team, who have only one day off a week, usually a Sunday—and even then, demanding bosses can curtail the day at either end. Some employers insist that their helpers be home by a certain time. Others won’t let them out until a couple of chores have been done.

“They have to walk the dog before leaving home,” Octaviano says of some team members who find it tough to show up to 8:00 a.m. training.

The Divas face such circumstances with cheerful resilience. Their games at the Po Kong Village Road cricket ground are part sports fixture, part picnic, with loud conversations and laughter over trays of noodles and coolers filled with drinks. The bonds between them are evidently close. The players call their captain Ate Josie, using the Tagalog term for “older sister.”

The Divas give Alumbro something to look forward to during the domestic drudgery of the working week. “We might be bruised from our games, but on Monday we’re already discussing the next match,” she says, “Each game gives us the motivation to do better next time.”

Such motivation has seen them top Hong Kong’s Development League—a tournament for amateur women cricketers—two years running. That success in turn has generated enough interest among the migrant worker community for the establishment of a second team, the SCC Pinay.

Now they’re aiming to move up to more competitive leagues. In December some of the Divas also hope to take their talents back to the Philippines, where there are proposals to organize an international cricket series with a Philippines national women’s team competing against countries from the region. Kulkarni said some members of the Divas will likely be trying out for the national squad.

It’s a long way from worrying about clean countertops and laundry loads, and a big step for players who hadn’t heard of the sport until two years ago. Arimas is hopeful. “Maybe one day some of us can play for the Philippines,” she says.

Even if they don’t make the squad, each and every one of the Divas is already a winner. “I don’t play just for me,” says Alumbro, summing up the Divas’ ethos. “I play for all of us, because my victory is also their victory.”

Sports – TIME

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‘You Have to Take a Stand.’ Soccer Phenom Alex Morgan Wants the Respect—and Money—Female Players Deserve

On a drizzly spring evening in New York City, Alex Morgan fixes her gaze on the golf ball at her feet, cocks her arms and then propels them forward with effortless power. The ball leaps off the tee and sails toward the netting between the tee and the Hudson River 200 yd. away. “This is nice,” Morgan says, exhaling between swings. “Really nice.”

The driving range is a favorite escape for Morgan, but she’s spending less and less time there–even as she needs the release more than ever. The reigning U.S. women’s soccer player of the year, Morgan is the sport’s most marketable American star since Mia Hamm and the linchpin of Team USA’s bid to clinch a second consecutive World Cup title this summer. She leads the U.S. into the tournament, which begins on June 7 in France, facing outsize expectations both on the field and off.

As the defending champions and top-ranked team, the Americans are favored to win. But the competition is historically tough. When the U.S. hosted the landmark 1999 World Cup, which led tens of thousands of girls to sign up for youth soccer leagues, only a few countries were considered contenders. Traditional soccer powers like France, England and Spain didn’t even qualify. Now, thanks in part to increased investment from soccer governing bodies and their corporate backers, many more have a real shot in the tournament, which now has 24 teams, up from 16 two decades ago.

Alex Morgan World Cup TIME Magazine Cover
Photograph by Erik Madigan Heck for TIME

“This is the first time I have ever been able to name potential winners on more than one hand,” says former U.S. player Julie Foudy, an ESPN analyst, who sees the U.S., France, Germany, Australia, Japan, England and Sweden as title threats. “Absolutely, this is the most competitive World Cup I have seen.”

Interest should be particularly high in the U.S., where the women’s team not only outperforms the men’s team on the field–the men failed to even qualify for last year’s World Cup–but has outdrawn it too. Four years ago, some 25 million people watched the women’s team beat Japan in the World Cup final–a record U.S. audience for any soccer game.

But the team’s success highlights glaring inequities. Despite the popularity of the women’s team, the men are positioned to make substantially more money. And so on March 8, International Women’s Day, the U.S. players took the unprecedented step of filing a federal gender-discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, the national governing body for the sport. Morgan’s name was listed first in the suit, which accuses U.S. Soccer of paying “only lip service to gender equality.” (The federation, in a legal filing responding to the complaint, denied unlawful conduct, attributing any alleged pay discrepancies to “differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams and/or any other factor other than sex.”)

“Eventually, you just have to take a stand,” Morgan says while riding in an Uber from her New York hotel to the driving range. “How come we’ve had to fight this whole time, year after year?”

Her stand has inspired other women’s teams around the world to push for equal treatment and has transformed the U.S. women into a cause larger than soccer. At a Los Angeles exhibition game in April, the actors Jessica Chastain, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Garner, Uzo Aduba and Natalie Portman attended with T-shirts that read Time’s Up Pay Up. At a time of almost paralyzing political division, the World Cup has the potential to be a welcome national distraction, a respite from presidential politicking and cable-news sniping.

“A win for this team is a win for women everywhere,” says former U.S. captain Abby Wambach. “If other women in the business world, in parenting, see these women stepping up and betting on themselves, it gives them the power to want to do it for themselves. And that, my friend, is how the world actually changes.”

No pressure or anything, not that Morgan wasn’t feeling plenty already. Morgan, 29, is the face of Team USA–her steely gaze will be plastered on billboards and dancing across screens in commercials for Coca-Cola, Nike and Secret deodorant. Her millions of followers on Instagram and Twitter give her one of the largest social-media imprints of any female athlete in the world. She starred in a Nickelodeon movie for kids, Alex & Me; wrote a series of books for middle schoolers that was made into an Amazon TV series; and has shared a stage with Taylor Swift.

But Morgan, who in April joined Hamm and Wambach as the youngest U.S. players to score 100 career international goals, has never dominated the World Cup. She was a breakout rookie in a losing effort in 2011, and was hobbled by injuries in 2015 when Carli Lloyd’s heroics powered the U.S. to victory. This year is the best chance for America’s best player to make her mark on the world’s most prestigious tournament–while showing that she should be paid the same as any man for doing it.

Rich Lam—Getty ImagesAlex Morgan #13, Lauren Holiday #12, Abby Wambach #20 and Whitney Engen #6 of the United States of America hold the World Cup Trophy after their 5-2 win over Japan in the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 Final at BC Place Stadium on July 5, 2015 in Vancouver, Canada.

“We have to do more in general–we have to be the athlete, we have to be the role model, we have to lead the way for the next generation,” Morgan says. “Are male athletes doing that? Are they thinking about anyone other than themselves? I don’t know. We do have more than one job within this role, and are getting paid much less.”

So it’s understandable if the weight of it all weighs on Morgan as she hacks away at the driving range. After a few crisp swings, she whiffs, missing the ball completely. “I’m going back to my 7-iron,” she says when her driver catches air. All that looms in the background is national unity, gender equality and Morgan’s professional legacy. “You can’t think about it,” she says. “But you can’t not.”

Leading the fight for equal pay in sports was far from the mind of the 8-year-old Morgan when she left a Post-it for her mother, Pam, at their home in Diamond Bar, Calif., a suburb east of Los Angeles. “Hi Mommy!” Morgan wrote on a note Pam still has. “My name is Alex and I am going to be a professional athlete for soccer!” She signed it “Ali Cat.”

The certainty was surprising. Unlike most promising young soccer players, Morgan avoided the high-pressure Southern California youth circuit and played many different sports as a kid. Her competitiveness was honed in fierce board games with her parents and two older sisters. “Alex strove not to be the loser,” says her father Michael, a retired masonry contractor. “Because she knew she was going to get party-danced around.”

Morgan began playing elite travel soccer at 14, years after many of her contemporaries. She credits playing a range of sports with preventing her from burning out. “When I went to soccer practice, I was really excited because I hadn’t been there in four days,” says Morgan. She worries that today’s youth system is also pricing out potential soccer stars and is counterproductive to America’s future competitiveness.

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Morgan’s speed and knack for scoring earned her a soccer scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with a degree in political economy and met her future husband, Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Servando Carrasco, who also played for the school. Morgan excelled on the pitch for Cal and was named to the U.S. Under-20 team, which functions as a feeder for the top national team. After helping lead the U.S. to the 2008 Under-20 World Cup title with a brilliant left-footed goal in the final, Morgan was called up to the senior squad.

Her impact was immediate. Morgan scored a key goal against Italy to help the U.S. qualify for the 2011 World Cup, and she emerged as a go-to substitute in the tournament. Undaunted by soccer’s biggest stage, Morgan scored in both the semis and the finals in her first World Cup, which the U.S. lost in heartbreaking fashion to Japan.

The performance endeared Morgan to her older teammates, who gave her the nickname Baby Horse. “She ran so fast and has a very specific gait,” says former teammate Shannon Boxx. “Baby horses are little unsteady with her legs, and we kind of saw that.” Morgan disliked the name but knew better than to complain. “When you’re young and have no leverage on the team, you’re like, Sure, I’ll take Baby Horse,” she says. “But after two or three years, I was like, O.K., it’s funny, but let’s move on.”

Baby Horse became a key cog in the team’s gold-medal run at the 2012 Olympics. Her winning goal in the semifinal against Canada–a header seconds before time expired–has become soccer lore. “What’s unique about Alex is the closer she gets to the goal, the slower the game happens for her,” says Wambach, who has written a new book called Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game. “She can see the rotation of the ball, and imagine and create a situation where most players would be like, ‘Oh, this is shut down.’ It’s like something else inside of her body just goes into a natural state of flow that allows her to score goals. Her power is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

The Olympics made Morgan into a star. She appeared in McDonald’s ads with LeBron James and helped the fledgling National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) get off the ground by joining the Portland Thorns for the inaugural 2013 season. Buoyed by endorsement deals, her annual income grew into the seven figures–far beyond that of any other top U.S. women’s player. She published an autobiography in 2015 and began writing The Kicks, a best-selling kids’ fiction series with a 10th installment coming in June.

A run of knee and ankle injuries, however, slowed Morgan’s ascent. She was hobbled by knee problems at the 2015 World Cup and isn’t proud of her individual showing despite the team’s win. “I don’t feel like I met my goals,” Morgan says in late February at a Philadelphia hotel, where the national team was staying for a game against Japan. “In the first half of the final, I was just gasping, dead. My legs would not go. I wasn’t thinking about how to beat my opponent and be that fearless attacker. I was thinking about how to be pain-free.” A year later at the Rio Olympics, Sweden bounced the U.S. in the quarterfinals, the earliest the U.S. women’s team has ever been eliminated from a major international tournament.

It was a low moment. Morgan needed to rekindle her passion for the game. So she did what many other Americans in search of inspiration have done: move to France. After being courted publicly by Jean-Michel Aulas, the president of the French club team Olympique Lyonnais, Morgan agreed to join the squad for its 2017 season. Lyon has become a powerhouse in the women’s game, dominating the competition by attracting top players from around the world, paying them more and treating them like a men’s team. This simple, seemingly intuitive idea is radical in professional soccer, where the men’s teams of top clubs are routinely afforded more perks than their women’s sides. “It was something I needed at the time,” says Morgan. “To focus on soccer solely and entirely, without having my family, without having my friends, not having anyone but the team I went to play for.”

Lyon soared with Morgan, winning the league championship, the French Cup and the Women’s Champions League title–a feat known as the treble. More importantly, Morgan rediscovered the joy of playing. She began meditating and doing yoga, and soon switched to a vegan diet after deciding it was unethical to eat meat.

Save for exalting the beeflike Impossible Burger, Morgan couches her new regimen as a personal choice and keeps the proselytizing to a minimum. But over a dinner of artichokes and stuffed peppers in New York, she says the change has boosted her energy on the field. It’s impossible to argue with the results: from August 2017 through the end of last year, Morgan scored an incredible 25 goals in 26 games. She is decidedly no longer Baby Horse. “She has worked to promote the game, promote her team and promote herself,” says Hamm, who still casts a long shadow over women’s soccer. “She’s done an amazing job.”

As Morgan has developed into America’s leader on the field, she has strengthened her voice beyond it. Among the pro-athlete orthodoxies she’s willing to break: don’t criticize management, and steer clear of politics. After Major League Soccer’s Orlando City team declined to retain her husband, Carrasco, while Morgan was playing for the Orlando women’s team, she called out the clubs’ shared management for breaking what she says was a deal. “We were told it was going to be a long-term relationship between the club and us,” Morgan says now. “When you promote a business acting as a family, I would expect to be given that treatment you promote.”

President Donald Trump is another target. “I don’t stand for a lot of things the current office stands for,” Morgan says. She’s particularly upset about the Administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the southern border, noting that her husband’s family is from Mexico. Indeed, if Trump invites the team to the White House after the World Cup, Morgan says she won’t go. If that turns anyone off, so be it.

“We don’t have to be put in this little box,” Morgan says between sips of red wine at dinner. “There’s the narrative that’s been said hundreds of times about any sort of athlete who’s spoken out politically. ‘Stick to sports.’ We’re much more than that, O.K.?”

 

A national team doesn’t simply decide to sue its governing body on a whim. The roots of the equal-pay fight go back decades. In the early 1990s, the team flew to a tournament in China in cramped economy seats adjacent to the smoking section. “We were pretty much smoking for 13 hours,” says Hamm, who played on the team from 1987 to 2004. Players recall staying in roach-infested rooms and taking the hotel shuttle bus to a game. “We sit now and we have to laugh,” says Hamm. “If you didn’t, you’d cry.”

Conditions for the team have vastly improved since the 1990s, and U.S. Soccer has invested far more in women’s soccer than most other countries. But plenty of indignities linger.

At one stop on the 2015 World Cup victory tour, a series of 10 exhibition games across the country meant to celebrate the team (and fill U.S. Soccer’s coffers), players were shocked by the conditions at Aloha Stadium near Honolulu. Rocks filled the turf. In some sections, the aging field was pulling up out of the ground. The team felt it was unsafe and refused to play. U.S. Soccer agreed and canceled the game, but it rankled the players that it wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t spoken out.

“It falls on us sometimes to decide what’s just, what’s unjust,” says Morgan. “We as players shouldn’t have to make those decisions. But I’m happy we came together and did.”

It was a lesson that informed the decision of five of the team’s star players, in 2016, to file a complaint over inequity in pay and bonuses with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “We realized that just because we had success without being given what we deserve, doesn’t mean we didn’t deserve it,” says Morgan. “That was like a flip of the switch.”

In April 2017, the players signed a new collective-bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer. As part of the deal, the players won control of certain licensing and marketing rights. They partnered with the NFL Players Association and the WNBA Players Association to form REP Worldwide, a new licensing-representation company, in late 2017. REP expects to sign some 25 licensees–for things like jerseys, scarves and digital collectibles–for the women’s soccer players by the start of the World Cup. REP says the players can expect between $ 1 million and $ 2 million in net royalties by the end of 2020.

Despite these gains, the women often end up with less than the men–and that includes the coaches. For the fiscal year ending in March 2018, women’s head coach Jill Ellis received $ 318,533 in total compensation–making her the 10th highest paid employee at U.S. Soccer. Jürgen Klinsmann, who was fired as U.S. men’s coach in 2016, still received $ 3.35 million. Bruce Arena, who replaced Klinsmann and oversaw the failed effort to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, got $ 1.27 million. Even the coach of the Under-20 men’s team made more than Ellis. (U.S. Soccer says she has since received a six-figure raise that will be disclosed in next year’s tax filings.)

“It’s devastating to see a male coach who hasn’t been coach of the men’s team for more than two years still be paid significantly more than Jill, who has a World Cup title on her résumé,” says Morgan. “It’s terrible.”

This long history was on the players’ minds when they decided to sue their employers in an effort to close the pay gap once and for all. As the team’s top player and biggest name, Morgan agreed to be listed first in the complaint.

“I’m not sure our team would have done that three months before the World Cup,” says Foudy, who played on the seminal 1999 U.S. team that won the World Cup on home soil. “We wouldn’t want all that noise. I respect that they’re willing to absorb all that. It’s courageous.”

According to the complaint, U.S. Soccer “rejected requests for compensation for the WNT players that would have been at least equal to that afforded to the male MNT players.”

U.S. Soccer has argued that since the organization signed different collective-bargaining agreements with the men’s and women’s teams, the gender comparisons are unfair. Women’s national team players, for example, can now receive salaries of around $ 170,000 from the federation if they also play in the NWSL, which U.S. Soccer helps finance. The U.S. provides no such base pay to the men’s players, since they can earn contracts playing in pro leagues that are far more lucrative than organizations like the NWSL. According to U.S. Soccer, the men are eligible for higher per-game bonuses because the federation pays them on a per-game basis as opposed to a salary. For example, the men receive $ 17,625 for winning an exhibition game, or friendly, against a top-10 team or Mexico; under the 2017 collective-bargaining agreement, the women get $ 8,500 for a friendly victory over a top-4 team or Canada. Some of the pay gap also comes from the stark differences in World Cup performance bonuses from FIFA. FIFA awarded $ 9 million to the U.S. after the men reached the round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup, while the federation received $ 2 million after the women won it all in 2015. FIFA has attributed these differences to the larger revenues generated by the men’s tournament.

The litigation is expected to take months to play out. U.S. Soccer is attempting to get the case dismissed, while the players may try to force a settlement. Whatever the legal result, the U.S. women have already secured a victory. Their push for more equitable benefits has inspired other female athletes to fight for their fair share.

“The women’s soccer team, in my opinion and the opinion of many of my teammates, continues to lead the way in advancing women’s sports,” says Meghan Duggan, a member of the 2018 Olympic gold medal–winning U.S. hockey team, which threatened to boycott the world championships in 2017 unless their pay improved. (The team struck a new agreement with USA Hockey before the tournament began.) The U.S. team’s stand has set off a chain reaction in women’s soccer. The Danish women’s national team boycotted a World Cup qualifying match in October 2017; it has since signed a four-year collective-bargaining agreement that included increased investment in women’s soccer. After refusing to promote their appearance in the 2017 Euro tournament finals, Scotland’s female players signed the first collective-bargaining agreement with their federation. And Norway’s women achieved pay parity with the men.

 

In some ways, the equality fight is being won piecemeal. The foodmaker Luna Bar pledged to pay each of the U.S. women who made the World Cup team $ 31,250, to make up for differences in roster bonuses. Nike has launched a national ad campaign called “Dream With Us,” built around Morgan and the women’s team as inspirational figures. Still, relying on corporate largess to compensate for a cultural double standard is halting progress at best.

“When I was playing, 75% of my money came from endorsements, 25% came from playing. I would love for that to be flipped,” says Hamm. “It’s frustrating that we’re still having these conversations. I’m proud of the women that they’re saying we’re not taking no for an answer.”

To Morgan, the best way to state her case is on the field. She sees another World Cup win as essential to boosting public support for equal pay. “Seeing women supporting other women on a grander level is pretty unique,” she says. “We need to capitalize on that now.”

The path to victory in France, however, is narrower than ever. The host team is hungry for its first title; the last time a World Cup was held in France, in 1998, the men won at home. England, which reached the semifinals in 2015, won the SheBelieves Cup in March. And Japan, which has reached the finals of the past two World Cups, remains a threat. The U.S. opens against Thailand, on June 11, and must fare well against the other teams in its group, Chile and Sweden, which is led by former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage, to advance.

To prepare, Morgan has studied video of her performances with her personal coach and worked on a bending left-footed shot, from outside the 18-yd. box. She’s also taking extra care of her body. When the national team introduced high-tech wristbands to monitor rest quality, Morgan ditched the device. “I swear when I started wearing it, I stopped sleeping well,” Morgan says. “After two nights, I was like, F this.”

Back at the driving range, the sky clears over the Hudson River as Morgan talks about her ability to compartmentalize. Among the things on her mind is an ambition to launch a media company for girls and women who love sports. But she has balanced performance with the demands of stardom as well as any athlete before her. So why not expect more of the same this summer? “If we do our job,” she says, “people will be captivated. This can be something greater and bigger than there’s ever been before.”

Morgan takes one last swing with her driver. Whack. Her ball flies high and long, straight toward the sunset.

This appears in the June 03, 2019 issue of TIME.
Sports – TIME

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Figure Skater Bridget Namiotka Claims Ex-Pairs Partner Abused Her Prior to His Death by Suicide

(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) — One of the former skating partners of two-time U.S. pairs champion John Coughlin has accused him in a series of Facebook posts of sexually assaulting her over a two-year period.

Coughlin, who killed himself in January, “hurt at least 10 people including me,” wrote Bridget Namiotka, who skated with Coughlin from 2004, when she was 14, through the 2007 season.

Namiotka’s attorney confirmed to The Associated Press the comments were made by her.

“My office alone represents three women across a generation who really didn’t know each other until they found they had very similar stories, and all of them wanted to keep their privacy because nobody wants to disclose this,” said John Manly, who has represented victims of sexual abuse for more than 25 years. “I think Bridget has courageously said, ‘I’m not going to take it anymore.’”

The U.S. Center for SafeSport and U.S. Figure Skating had begun investigating allegations lodged against Coughlin late last year. They found enough evidence to warrant an interim suspension earlier this year, barring Coughlin — who had become a coach and well-known TV commentator after retiring from skating — from attending activities sanctioned by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Coughlin, who had maintained his innocence throughout the investigations, was found dead Jan. 18 at his father’s home in Kansas City, Missouri. He was 33.

“Athlete safety and wellbeing continue to be a top priority of U.S. Figure Skating. We fully support all victims of sexual abuse and misconduct and encourage anyone who either has been abused or suspects abuse or misconduct to report it,” U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement Tuesday.

“We condemn any and all acts of bullying and shaming of those who share their story. Bullying and victim-shaming are wrong and will not be tolerated,” the statement said. “U.S. Figure Skating commends and supports those who speak up as we all work to end abuse and misconduct in sport.”

Coughlin and Namiotka captured the silver medal at junior nationals in 2006 before ending their partnership the following year. Coughlin later teamed with Caydee Denney, making the podium at several Grand Prix assignments and finishing second at the 2012 Four Continents.

The team stopped competing after the 2014-15 season, and Coughlin effectively retired.

“I understand his family may not want to believe this, and I’m so sorry for this loss, but he did these things,” said Manly, who also represented victims during the sexual assault case against former sports doctor Larry Nassar, which brought intense scrutiny to both Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

Three weeks after Coughlin’s death, SafeSport announced it was halting its probe into Coughlin because its purpose is to “protect the sport and community and other persons from the risk associated with sexual misconduct and abuse.” That risk expired when Coughlin killed himself.

Namiotka, now 29, works as a figure skating coach. Manly said the reason she is speaking out is to counter months of “mistreatment by U.S. Figure Skating and Coughlin supporters.”

Manly also accused the national governing body of helping to create the impression that the women abused by Coughlin were “crazy and making it up.”

“And for the sport, for U.S. Figure Skating, to allow this narrative to come out, how these women are just liars and want money — just a bunch of nonsense — is no accident,” he said. “It was designed to victim-shame anybody else who might have been hurt by him and to keep them quiet.”

Sports – TIME

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Cameroonian girls defy prejudice to pursue soccer dreams

When Gaelle Asheri first started playing soccer in the dirt streets near her home in Cameroon’s capital, she was the only girl on the informal neighborhood teams which used stones for goal posts and kept score by chalking results on a wall.


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Hedge funds up 7 percent in 2019 but struggling in broader market

Hedge funds are gaining steadily this year but still lagging well behind the broader market. The $ 3.2 trillion industry gained 7 percent through April, when the S&P 500 popped 17.5 percent, according to data released Tuesday by Preqin. While hedgies like to blast comparisons between hedge fund performance and the S&P 500, Preqin’s data shows…
Business | New York Post

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Jamie Oliver’s restaurant empire crumbles, putting 1,300 jobs at risk

British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant chain went into administration — a British version of bankruptcy — on Tuesday, threatening around 1,300 jobs in the latest blow for Britain’s high street. Oliver, 43, a well-known figure in Britain and beyond for his popular TV shows and top-selling cookbooks, founded his Jamie’s Italian brand of high…
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Formula One Legend Niki Lauda Dies at Age 70

(BERLIN) — Formula One great Niki Lauda, who won two of his world titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.

Lauda’s family issued a statement saying the three-time world champion “passed away peacefully” on Monday, the Austria Press Agency reported.

Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: “Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that.”

“His unique successes as a sportsman and entrepreneur are and remain unforgettable,” the family statement said. “His tireless drive, his straightforwardness and his courage remain an example and standard for us all. Away from the public gaze he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather. We will miss him very much.”

Lauda won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.

In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix, but he made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later.

Lauda remained closely involved with the F1 circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.

Formula One posted a message from its official Twitter account to acknowledge Lauda’s contribution to the sport.

“Rest in peace Niki Lauda. Forever carried in our hearts, forever immortalized in our history,” the post said. “The motorsport community today mourns the devastating loss of a true legend.”

Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna family, Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was expected to follow his father into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead concentrated his business talents and determination on his dreams of becoming a racing driver.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said “Niki, we will miss you.”

“The whole country and the motor sports world are mourning a really great Austrian,” Kurz wrote on Twitter.

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen paid tribute to Lauda as “an idol and an ambitious fighter who never gave up.”

Lauda financed his early career with the help of a string of loans, working his way through the ranks of Formula 3 and Formula 2. He made his Formula 1 debut for the March team at the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix and picked up his first points in 1973 with a fifth-place finish for BRM in Belgium.

Lauda joined Ferrari in ’74, winning a Grand Prix for the first time that year in Spain. He won his first drivers’ title with five victories the following season.

Facing tough competition from McLaren’s James Hunt — their rivalry featured in the Ron Howard-directed movie Rush — Lauda appeared on course to defend his title in 1976 when he crashed at the Nuerburgring during the German Grand Prix. Several drivers stopped to help pull him from the burning car, but the accident would scar him for life. The baseball cap Lauda almost always wore in public became a personal trademark.

“The main damage, I think to myself, was lung damage from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds,” he recalled nearly a decade later. “It was something like 800 degrees.”

Lauda fell into a coma for a time. He said that “for three or four days it was touch and go.”

“Then my lungs recovered and I got my skin grafts done, then basically there was nothing left,” he added. “I was really lucky in a way that I didn’t do any (other) damage to myself. So the real question was then will I be able to drive again, because certainly it was not easy to come back after a race like that.”

Lauda made his comeback just six weeks after the crash, finishing fourth at Monza after overcoming his initial fears.

He recalled “shaking with fear” as he changed into second gear on the first day of practice and thinking, “I can’t drive.”

The next day, Lauda said he “started very slowly trying to get all the feelings back, especially the confidence that I’m capable of driving these cars again.” The result, he said, boosted his confidence and after four or five races “I had basically overcome the problem of having an accident and everything went back to normal.”

He won his second championship in 1977 before switching to Brabham and then retiring in 1979 to concentrate on setting up his airline, Lauda Air, declaring that he “didn’t want to drive around in circles anymore.”

Lauda came out of retirement in 1982 after a big-money offer from McLaren, reportedly about $ 3 million a year.

He finished fifth his first year back and 10th in 1983, but came back to win five races and edge teammate Alain Prost for his third title in 1984. He retired for good the following year, saying he needed more time to devote to his airline business.

Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew.

In 1997, longtime rival Austrian Airlines took a minority stake and in 2000, with the company making losses, Lauda resigned as board chairman after an external audit criticized a lack of internal financial control over business conducted in foreign currency. Austrian Airlines later took full control.

Lauda founded a new airline, Niki, in 2003. Germany’s Air Berlin took a minority stake and later full control of that airline, which Lauda bought back in early 2018.

He partnered with budget carrier Ryanair on Niki’s successor, LaudaMotion.

Lauda in later years formed a close bond with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who joined the team in 2013. He often backed Hamilton in public and provided advice and counsel to the British driver.

Lauda also intervened as a Mercedes mediator when Hamilton and his former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg feuded, argued and traded barbs as they fought for the title between 2014-16

Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and, when that stopped functioning well, a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005.

In August 2018, he underwent a lung transplant that the Vienna General Hospital said was made necessary by a “serious lung illness.” It didn’t give details.

Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.

Sports – TIME

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Brooks Koepka finally kisses Jena Sims after PGA Championship win

Brooks Koepka got his championship and Jena Sims got her kiss. Koepka, who twice shutdown his girlfriend’s attempts at a smooch before the final round of the PGA Championship, won the event – after a little bit of on-course drama – at Bethpage Black on Sunday. Once Koepka finished off shooting 8-under for the tournament…
Sports | New York Post

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War of Will Wins Preakness in Wild Race That Also Featured a Jockey-Less Horse

BALTIMORE (AP) — Mark Casse completed a lifelong quest two weeks after the scare of a lifetime. And he did so in a race featuring a riderless horse that threw his jockey out of the gate and kept running.

Since he was a child, Casse wanted to win a Triple Crown race, and the well-respected trainer got that victory when War of Will bounced back from a bumpy ride in the Kentucky Derby to win the Preakness on Saturday.

Casse, 58, was more relieved than anything that his prized 3-year-old colt didn’t go down in the Derby, which could’ve been a multihorse catastrophe, and could finally take a deep breath following the Preakness.

“This is even I think probably more special given everything that we’ve been through,” Casse said. “I’m not even calling it redemption. I didn’t feel like he got his fair shot, and that’s all I wanted — a fair shot. And he showed what he had today.”

War of Will was unfazed starting from the inside No. 1 post position for the second consecutive race, even though that contributed to his rough run at Churchill Downs. Rising star jockey Tyler Gaffalione guided the horse along the rail in the Preakness and made a move into the lead around the final curve, holding off hard-charging late addition Everfast, who was a nose ahead of Owendale for second.

All the while, Bodexpress — after ejecting Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez — kept running around the Pimlico track and did an extra lap. An outrider tried to swoop in at the top of the stretch and corral Bodexpress, but the horse sped up and passed a few competitors near the finish line and kept going. Technically, Bodexpress gets a did-not-finish.

“He wasn’t behaving well,” said Velazquez, who added he’s fine and would not seek medical attention. “When the doors opened, I was off right from the start and he kind of jumped sideways, and I had my feet out sideways and I lost my balance and went out.”

It was yet another bizarre scene in a Triple Crown season full of it.

Two weeks ago at the Kentucky Derby, apparent winner Maximum Security was disqualified for interfering with War of Will, and Country House elevated to first in the only on-track disqualification in the race’s 145-year history. Casse was just thankful War of Will was healthy and decided to take his shot in the Preakness even though Maximum Security and Country House didn’t run.

It was the first Preakness run without the Kentucky Derby winner since 1996, but the 13-horse field was the largest since 2011. Go back to 1951 for the last time the Preakness was run without the top four finishers from the Derby.

“This is the Preakness,” Casse said. “We just won the Preakness. I really don’t care who was in it.”

Bob Baffert-trained Improbable was in it as the 5-2 favorite and finished a disappointing sixth. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness are the only races of Improbable’s career that he didn’t finish first or second.

“He just got mad and reared up,” Baffert said of Improbable’s antics in the starting gate. “After that, he was in a good spot. He just didn’t kick.”

War of Will had plenty of kick and put himself in position to become the first horse since Afleet Alex in 2005 and 19th all-time to fall short in the Derby but win the Preakness and Belmont. Winning the $ 1.5 million Preakness by a 1¼ length over Everfast, who wasn’t entered until Wednesday, was another illustration of War of Will’s mix of talent and grit.

“He’s got so much heart,” Gaffalione said. “We always knew he had the ability. We just had to get a little bit lucky, and today was our day.”

It’s a breakthrough for Gaffalione, who has become something of a rising star since being named top apprentice rider in 2015. Gaffalione, 24, was aboard War of Will for the colt’s sixth consecutive race and came away with the biggest victory of his young career.

“It really hasn’t even hit me yet,” said Gaffalione, who got advice Saturday morning from idol Jerry Bailey. “I can’t even put it into words.”

Casse had plenty of words after the contentious situation at the Kentucky Derby that spurred a lawsuit from Maximum Security owners Gary West and a 15-day suspension handed down to jockey Luis Saez. He took issue with West blaming War of Will and Gaffalione.

West took Maximum Security off the Triple Crown trail, but Casse was eager to get War of Will back on the track two years after Classic Empire finished second in the Preakness. With the sport in turmoil after the deaths of 24 horses at Santa Anita Park since Dec. 26 and an ongoing quarrel over the future site of the Preakness, Casse’s first Triple Crown victory is a tale of redemption for him and the horse even if he doesn’t want to call it that.

“I’m just very happy for Mark to get his first Classic win,” Gaffalione said. “Very happy for the horse. He deserved it more than anything. He’s so special.”

Sports – TIME

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Tesla stock slips after Elon Musk reveals company’s cash crunch

Tesla’s stock slid Friday after Elon Musk warned that the electric-car maker could run out of cash in less than a year — even as US regulators revealed that Tesla’s controversial “Autopilot” software was activated during yet another fatal crash. In a Thursday memo to employees, Tesla’s chief executive said the company will run out…
Business | New York Post

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JUUL e-cigarette maker sees its valuation top $38B

Despite criticisms that it’s helping promote an “epidemic” in teen vaping, e-cigarette maker Juul continues to attract new investors, The Post has learned. Last week, mutual fund giant Capital Re bought a bunch of Juul Labs shares in the secondary market at a price that values the company at more than the $ 38 billion valuation…
Business | New York Post

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Gas station burritos and one stoplight: Seahawks rookie rises from tiny hometown

Seahawks first-round pick L.J. Collier gave a special shout-out to his tiny West Texas hometown on draft night and hopes to keep making it proud.
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Ohio State Team Doctor Abused At Least 177 Men, and Over 20 Officials Knew, Report Says

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — A now-dead Ohio State team doctor sexually abused at least 177 male students from the 1970s through the 1990s, and numerous university officials got wind of what was going on over the years but did little or nothing to stop him, according to a report released by the school Friday.

Dr. Richard Strauss groped or ogled young men while treating athletes from at least 16 sports and working at the student health center and his off-campus clinic, investigators from a law firm hired by the university found.

“We are so sorry that this happened,” Ohio State President Michael Drake said at a news conference, using words like “shocking,” ”horrifying” and “heartbreaking” to describe the findings.

He said there was a “consistent institutional failure” that spanned years, adding that Ohio State — the nation’s third-largest university, with almost 65,000 students and nearly a half-million living alumni — “fell short of its responsibility to its students, and that’s regrettable and inexcusable.”

At the same time, Drake, who has led the institution since 2014, sought to distance Ohio State from what happened more than two decades ago: “This is not the university of today.”

The report on Strauss, who killed himself in 2005 nearly a decade after he was quietly pushed out, could cost Ohio State dearly by corroborating lawsuits brought against it by a multitude of victims.

The findings put Strauss in a league with gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of Michigan State University, who was accused of molesting at least 250 women and girls and is serving what amounts to a life sentence. Michigan State ultimately settled with his victims for $ 500 million.

Similarly, the Jerry Sandusky child sexual-abuse scandal that brought down legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in 2011 has cost the university more than a quarter-billion dollars in settlements, fines, legal costs and other expenses.

Many of Strauss’ accusers who have spoken publicly said they were masturbated or otherwise touched inappropriately during physical exams or leered at in the locker rooms. Many told investigators that they thought his behavior was an “open secret” and that they believed their coaches, trainers and other team doctors knew was going on.

The students described the examinations as being “hazed” or going through a “rite of passage.” Athletes joked about Strauss’ behavior, referring to him with nicknames like “Dr. Jelly Paws.”

The abuse went on from 1979 to 1997, nearly Strauss’ entire time at Ohio State, and took place ace at various locations across campus, including medical examining rooms, locker rooms, showers and saunas, according to investigators. Strauss, among other things, forced student patients to strip naked, purportedly to “assess” their conditions, or lured them into intimate situations by setting up bogus “medical studies.”

The report concluded that scores of Ohio State personnel knew of complaints and concerns about Strauss’ conduct as early as 1979 but failed for years to investigate or take meaningful action.

Ohio State Provost Bruce McPheron said the report does not address whether anyone went to law enforcement at the time or was required to do so under the law back then.

In the wake of the report, some of Strauss’ victims called on the university to take responsibility for its inaction and the harm inflicted by the doctor.

“Dreams were broken, relationships with loved ones were damaged, and the harm now carries over to our children as many of us have become so overprotective that it strains the relationship with our kids,” Kent Kilgore said in a statement.

Steve Estey, an attorney for some of the former students who are suing, said: “If OSU refuses to take responsibility we will continue with civil litigation and put this in front of a jury for 12 people to judge their actions.”

No one has publicly defended Strauss, though family members have said they were shocked by the allegations.

At least 50 members of the athletic department staff, including many coaches, corroborated victims’ accounts of Strauss’ abuse, the report said. But students’ allegations never left the department or the health center until 1996.

At that point, Strauss was investigated and let go as a team doctor and physician at the health center but was allowed to retain his tenured faculty position.

Investigators said Strauss set up an off-campus clinic within months, receiving assurances from the associate vice president of health sciences and academic affairs that “there would be no issue” with him engaging in part-time private practice while on the faculty. The abuse continued there.

He continued to plead for his job back as an on-campus doctor, finally going to then-President Gordon Gee with a letter in 1997. His pleas were rejected, at which point Strauss was allowed to retire with emeritus status, a mark of distinguished service — an honor the university is now taking steps to revoke.

Gee, now president of West Virginia University, said Friday he has no recollection of Strauss.

The lawsuits against Ohio State are headed for mediation. They seek unspecified damages. Drake said the investigation alone has cost the school $ 6.2 million.

Separately, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights is examining whether Ohio State responded promptly and fairly to students’ complaints. The department could cut the university’s federal funding if it is found to have violated civil rights protections.

Before Friday’s release, the doctor’s accusers had alleged that Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan was one of the coaches back then who were aware of concerns about Strauss and didn’t stop him. Jordan, an assistant wrestling coach from 1987 to 1995, was not mentioned by name in the report, and a spokesman said the document showed the congressman did not know about the abuse.

Sports – TIME

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