FIFA Is Backing a Social Media Boycott By U.K. Soccer Players Protesting Against Racism

(MANCHESTER, England) — FIFA is backing a 24-hour social media boycott by professional players in England in a protest against racial abuse and revealed plans for a new global campaign to eradicate discrimination in soccer.

Following a series of high-profile cases in recent weeks, the Professional Footballers’ Association has gathered support from Premier League stars to stay off Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from 9 a.m. Friday (0800 GMT) until 9 a.m. Saturday as they push for a crackdown on racist messages.

“Collectively, we are simply not willing to stand by while too little is done by football authorities and social media companies to protect players from this disgusting abuse,” England and Tottenham defender Danny Rose said on Thursday.

FIFA said that it was listening to the concerns of players and supporting their decision to put pressure on social media companies to take stronger action against racism by not posting for a day.

“We applaud the initiative of the English professional football players,” FIFA said in a statement to The Associated Press. “FIFA is fully engaged in combating racism and any form of discrimination not only in football but society in general.”

FIFA is preparing to write to all 211 member associations and the six confederations encouraging them to adopt a three-step procedure which allows a referee to stop play, suspend a game and ultimately abandon the fixture if discriminatory abuse persists.

FIFA was criticized in 2016 for dismantling its anti-racism task force after saying its mission had been completed.

Now the Zurich-based governing body says it is “preparing a concrete action with worldwide impact that will launch a powerful campaign against discrimination.”

After being targeted with monkey noises while playing for England in Montenegro in a European Championship qualifier last month, Rose said he couldn’t wait for his career to end to escape racism in football.

“Football has a problem with racism,” Rose said. “I don’t want any future players to go through what I’ve been through in my career.”

Unlike Rose, Manchester United defender Chris Smalling does have public accounts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

“Throughout my career I have developed a thick skin against verbal abuse, justifying it as just ‘part of the game’ but the time has come for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to consider regulating their channels, taking responsibility for protecting the mental health of users regardless of age, race, sex or income,” Smalling said.

“I understand that I am in an extremely privileged position and I am deeply thankful for that but, at the end of the day, we are all human.”

Earlier this week, Manchester United condemned abuse directed at Ashley Young online following the club’s Champions League exit at Barcelona.

Watford captain Troy Deeney was also targeted with racial insults on Instagram earlier this month after scoring in an FA Cup semifinal win over Wolverhampton.

“My teammates and I have been on the receiving end of well documented abuse from a minority of narrow-minded, ignorant people both on social media and on the pitch,” Deeney said. “Any racism in football is too much, and it’s essential that we fight it wherever and whenever we see it.

“On Friday we are sending a message to anyone that abuses players — or anyone else — whether from the crowd or online, that we won’t tolerate it within football. The boycott is just one small step, but the players are speaking out with one voice against racism — enough is enough.”

The PFA has distributed a red graphic featuring the words “Enough. Make a stand against racism.”

“While there has been progress in the battle against racism within football, there are still far too many instances of players being abused,” said Leicester captain Wes Morgan, who won the Premier League in 2016. “I’ve heard it in the stands and I’ve seen it online. We all have. That’s why, as players, we are coming together on Friday to say that more must now be done to eradicate racism from our game.”

Twitter said earlier this week that it uses “proprietary-built internal technology to proactively find abusive content” but anti-discrimination organization Kick It Out asked for more serious action.

“Football is more popular than it has ever been, but we have a discontented generation of players who won’t stand for racist abuse any longer. Enough is enough,” Arsenal and England women’s team forward Danielle Carter said. “We want to see social media companies take proper responsibility for racist abuse on their platforms and we want them to find solutions.”

Sports – TIME

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Doctors May Have Found a Way to Reveal Concussion Damage in Living Football Players

Researchers may be closing in on a way to check athletes while they’re alive for signs of a degenerative brain disease that’s been linked to frequent head blows. Experimental scans found higher levels of an abnormal protein tied to the disease in a study of former National Football League players who were having mood and thinking problems.

It’s the first time a major study has tested these scans for detecting chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is only diagnosed now after death, with brain autopsies.

Doctors are searching for a way to tell when players, veterans or others with concussions or other head injuries are at risk for permanent damage. It’s too soon to know if the scans will enable that — so far they only show that these athletes are different as a group; they can’t be used to say a particular player does or does not have CTE.

“We’re not there yet,” said Boston University neuroscientist Robert Stern. “It is not ready to be used for individual diagnosis in the clinic.”

He led the study, published Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine.

“It’s an encouraging advance. It looks like they have detected CTE in living players,” said Dr. Gil Rabinovici, a neurologist and imaging expert at the University of California, San Francisco, who is doing other research using the scans.

“It’s hugely important to be able to detect the disease in living people” to know how common it is and to research treatments, he said.

The study was done in Massachusetts and Arizona and involved 26 former NFL players with thinking, mood or behavior problems, and 31 similarly aged men without these symptoms or head injuries.

They were given positron emission tomography, or PET scans, in which a radioactive tracer is injected that binds to various substances and makes them visible on the scans. Several of these tracers are used now to look for a protein called beta amyloid in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. An experimental tracer that doctors are testing binds to another protein, tau, which is the key one that’s been implicated in CTE.

Men in the study had both types of tracers. Tau levels were higher in the players compared to the others, but their amyloid levels were similar, confirming that CTE is a different disease than Alzheimer’s.

Researchers also saw a relationship to years of play.

“The more years of play in tackle football across all levels, the greater the amount of tau detected,” Stern said.

However, there was no relationship between tau levels and the severity of mood and thinking symptoms. Researchers think the study may have been too small to detect a difference or that tau may not be the only factor involved.

“There’s a lot more work to be done to develop a diagnostic” tool using these scans, said Dr. Michael Weiner an imaging expert at UCSF who is involved in other CTE research.

Government grants and Avid Radiopharmaceuticals, which makes the tracers, funded the study. Some authors work or consult for the company.

A larger study of former NFL and college football players is underway; first results are expected early next year.

Mike Adamle, a former running back for the Chicago Bears and sports announcer, has been told he has symptoms consistent with CTE, and has been evaluated by Stern at the Boston research center though he was not part of the current study.

“I had more than a few” concussions, Adamle said. “If you were running, everybody kind of led with their head. Back then, it was a test of your macho man stuff.”

The illness has been devastating, said his wife, Kim. “He couldn’t remember his lunch or he couldn’t remember his lines on the air,” and lost multiple jobs, she said.

If a test could have shown he was at risk and given him a chance to consider quitting play, “I would have definitely taken note,” Mike Adamle said.

Sports – TIME

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Trump Administration Ends Deal Allowing Cuban Baseball Players to Directly Sign With MLB

HAVANA (AP) — The Trump administration is moving to end a deal allowing Cuban baseball players to sign contracts directly with Major League Baseball organizations. The change will once again require Cuban players to cut ties with their national program before signing with MLB.

The Treasury Department told MLB attorneys in a letter Friday that it was reversing an Obama administration decision allowing the major leagues to pay the Cuban Baseball Federation a release fee equal to 25% of each Cuban player’s signing bonus. The decision made public Monday afternoon appears to make the MLB-Cuba deal unworkable by eliminating the payment mechanism, similar to one MLB has with leagues in China, Korea and Japan.

“The U.S. does not support actions that would institutionalize a system by which a Cuban government entity garnishes the wages of hard-working athletes who simply seek to live and compete in a free society,” National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said. “The administration looks forward to working with MLB to identify ways for Cuban players to have the individual freedom to benefit from their talents, and not as property of the Cuban state.”

The MLB and Cuba engaged in intense negotiations on a player-transfer deal through the Obama administration’s two-year effort to normalize relations with Cuba but the deal was only finalized after Donald Trump took office pledging to roll back Obama’s policy. Opponents of normalization inside and outside the administration argued for its cancellation as soon as it was announced, and appear to have now succeeded.

U.S. law prohibits virtually all payments to the Cuban government under the 60-year embargo on the island but MLB argued the Cuban Baseball Federation, which oversees all aspects of the sport on the island, was not formally a part of the Cuban state.

Opponents called that argument ridiculous given the tight control the highly regimented government maintains over virtually every aspect of life in Cuba.

The letter from the Office of Foreign Assets Control obtained by The Associated Press agrees, saying that “in light of facts recently brought to our attention, and after consultation with the U.S. Department of State, OFAC has determined that MLB’s payments to the Cuban Baseball Federation are not authorized.”

“We stand by the goal of the agreement, which is to end the human trafficking of baseball players from Cuba,” an MLB statement said.

Without a formal path from Cuba to the major leagues, hundreds of top players have left the island for good, many making harrowing crossings on rafts and rickety boats in the years before Cuba abandoned a hated exit permit requirement for most of its citizens.

While such dangerous escapes were mostly eliminated with greater travel freedoms, players still needed to cut ties with Cuban baseball and often their families and hometowns, going years without returning after signing with the major leagues.

“The deal with Major League Baseball is an attempt to stop human trafficking, encourage cooperation and elevate the level of baseball,” the Cuban Baseball Federation said on Twitter. “The politically motivated attacks on the deal hurt players, their families, and fans.”

Last week the Cuban federation released its first group of players able to sign contracts directly with Major League Baseball organizations, and some expected to be playing in the United States this year.

The 34 players were 17 to 25, classified as international amateurs under MLB rules and eligible to sign minor league contracts. No likely stars were apparent on the list, but more notable players included 22-year-old Raidel Martinez Perez and 23-year-old Liván Moinelo Pita, who have played professionally in Japan; 17-year-old infielder Loidel Chapellí Zulueta; and 18-year-old pitcher Norge Carlos Vera Aldana.

The Cuban federation also agreed to release all players 25 and older with at least six years of professional experience to be classified as international professionals under MLB’s labor contract with the players’ association and not subject to international amateur signing bonus pools.

___

Associated Press Baseball Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.

Sports – TIME

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Why Telling the NCAA to Pay Players Is the Wrong Way to Help College Athletes

The annual March Madness heist is under way. Let’s take a peek behind the curtain: while the cameras show supremely gifted college athletes delivering drama and thrills on the court, the NCAA has licensed every television broadcast to hoard a bonanza for people who never touch the ball.

Well-meaning voices call for the NCAA to pay players, but this demand is misguided. No college should be required to pay athletes, and no pay structure needs to be planned. The central question is whether college athletes should have the bargaining rights that other Americans take for granted. On this point, the NCAA is deaf to persuasion. It will hang on to its windfall tenaciously.

The NCAA system is not a creation of law. It’s a private compact of colleges and their athletic conferences, designed to impose a compensation ceiling on athletes by fiat and to demonize anyone who pays or receives a nickel above essentially the cost of college attendance.

Basic reform is simple: just recognize the right of each athlete to bargain for the value of his or her work. This is not a radical notion. Roughly 14 million of 20 million U.S. undergraduates have jobs outside the classroom, and no one thinks to regulate or confiscate those earnings. Only the players in commercialized college sports are victimized as cash cows, to the tune of several billion dollars per year.

A fair, free-market college sports industry would evolve on its own once athletes have their rights restored. Some revenue would be diverted to those players as the essential core talent, which is only fair. What’s amazing is how long we’ve allowed them to be robbed.

Such a system would favor the same 60 to 100 schools that are dominant already. The major conferences may adopt differing, nonmonopoly standards for their athletic budgets, but the vast majority of athletes would not be affected. A volleyball player at a small college could seek compensation like anyone else, but negligible revenue would make such a request moot. Most college sports could remain amateur in the only true sense of the word, being pursued for love of the game and voluntarily divorced from commerce.

But while the solution may be simple, it won’t be easy. The NCAA constitution blocks athletes from membership while professing devotion to their welfare, and NCAA officials resist the danger of granting college athletes even “limited” rights. Under pressure, they have stuck to the claim of exclusive authority. Small benefits called reform, such as a “full scholarship package” — which includes free tuition and a stipend — shrewdly fall short of rights or independent representation for the athletes.

External forces will be needed to compel significant change, and there is precedent on several fronts. In 1978, spurred by Cold War competition over Olympic medals, Congress passed the Amateur Sports Act to empower active athletes by requiring they have at least 20% representation on each governing committee for U.S. Olympic teams. This small but revolutionary step soon dissolved draconian “amateur” rules that had enriched the AAU, then the NCAA’s biggest rival. Defying hysterical predictions, the compensation since negotiated by Olympic athletes has hardly destroyed worldwide audiences for the Games. A similar law requiring representation for college athletes could be effective, and deserves consideration, but Congress has shown no interest in bucking the college sports establishment.

The courts are another venue for justice. Several times they have struck down the NCAA system as an illegal restraint of trade. Until 1984, the NCAA asserted a sole power to license each college football broadcast. That power vanished overnight when the Supreme Court upheld a demand from the major football colleges, led by Georgia and Oklahoma, to schedule their own unlimited broadcasts. In the late 1990s, when an NCAA rule restricted certain new assistant coaches to a $ 16,000 annual salary, some 2,000 assistants banded to file an antitrust grievance that won them the freedom to bargain, plus a $ 54.5 million settlement. NCAA colleges promptly found ways to pay assistant coaches many times the old limit.

Judges have acknowledged the same legal reasoning in recent cases brought by current and former college athletes. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken recently ruled the NCAA compact a violation of antitrust law because it captures “extraordinary revenues” for member schools by confining players to compensation “not commensurate with the value that they create.” This is a restrained understatement, and courts have not yet granted athletes anything like the direct relief awarded to big football schools and the assistant coaches.

So far, the judiciary seems unwilling to confront the NCAA’s self-serving bromide that economic rights for college athletes would diminish their educational experience. In truth, compensation would give players an incentive to stay in school — and standing to bargain for better academic life. Beyond that, it remains up to the colleges whether they treat prime athletes as legitimate students.

Universities should be a forum for clarity about whether commercialized sports can coexist with academic integrity, but such debate rarely takes place at the institutions born for fearless thought. My alma mater, the University of North Carolina, temporarily canceled a pioneering course on NCAA history as too controversial. Sadly, most professors never examine the conflicted juggernaut right there on campus.

The burden of change may thus fall on athletes. Some have already begun raising their voices. A recent strike by the football team saw the University of Missouri’s president resign quickly, and the University of Maryland dismissed its football coach after players spoke out against him following a teammate’s death in practice. Even symbolic gestures in defiance of NCAA rules, such as wearing an armband or a small patch discreetly labeled something like “RFA” (Rights for Athletes), or selling autographs for charity at a public ceremony, could provoke spasms of attention that sports broadcasts zealously avoid. Truly concerted action could topple the NCAA.

I am cheering for UNC in March Madness as always, and I don’t expect to hear a word about equity for the players. Armchair experts and well-paid commentators will continue to obsess about bracketology, upsets, momentum and a key player’s sore ankle. This is natural, because sports are a designated world where fans escape to cheer and boo as they please. Intrusions from real life can break the spell, provoking resentful cries for pampered athletes to shut up and play.

Sports-think gives fans a presumptive stake to say how college sports should be run, oblivious that the whole NCAA production rests on players who have no voice at all. Athletes become urgently important for moments on the screen, but we force their fundamental rights to fit our entertainment and convenience. Surely this perspective is backward. College athletes are young adults who love a sport they have played all their lives. Some don’t realize how badly they have been used until they are leaving school, which helps perpetuate the exploitation.

Sparks of courage are needed. Fans, being also citizens, should engage the larger arena of fairness. Nonfans should stop wishing for commercial sports to vanish, as though Plato might rescue the academy, and address sports corruption and dishonesty at the heart of our vital universities. My hope for March Madness, now and in the future, is some small sign of agitation over basic rights. Regardless, I’ll chant, “Go Heels!” for Carolina and keep pushing for those armbands.

Sports – TIME

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Want to Win March Madness? These 10 Players Could Lift Your Bracket to Office Pool Victory

Did Michigan State get a raw deal? Yeah. If the Spartans — who (along with Purdue) won the Big 10 regular season title and took the conference tournament — didn’t deserve a #1 seed, they definitely didn’t deserve a #2 seed. Especially because that puts Duke, the top overall team in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, right in Michigan State’s Final Four path. (If seeding holds, #1 Duke and #2 Michigan State would clash in the Elite Eight.)

Meanwhile, should the selection committee have granted St. John’s, who lost in the Big East tournament quarterfinals to Marquette by a cool 32 points, the last at-large bid? With apologies to the Red Storm faithful, you can make a strong argument that no, it shouldn’t have.

All bitter gripes about the brackets, however, should last about three seconds. You can’t change anything now. So grab your pencil, print out a piece of paper and get ready make your picks. (Seriously, just to mess with the IT honcho who runs your office pool, hand him paper brackets, we’re sure he’ll love it.)

To help you along with your NCAA basketball March Madness bracket, here are 10 standout players who could carry their teams to an upset or two, if not all the way to the Final Four in Minneapolis.

Zion Williamson, Duke

Duh, I know. But even hermits have been known to fill out brackets (presumably). And just in case you’re one of those folks who only tunes into college hoops this time of year: Duke freshman Zion Williamson is simply the most freakish player in the game. “There’s never been a player on any level like Zion Williamson,” says ESPN analyst Jay Bilas.

That doesn’t mean Williamson is the best player on the planet. It’s that no one with his build — chiseled 6’7″, 284 lb. linebacker — possesses his skill set. He can jump over the backboard. And Williamson — or just plain “Zion” at this point, ala Serena, LeBron and Neymar — is incredibly fundamental: he can dribble, pass, and owns an effective shooting touch around the rim. “He’s like a mack truck,” says Bilas, “playing lead in ballet.” Let’s just hope his shoes stay intact.

#1 Duke plays the winner of the #16 North Carolina Central/#16 North Dakota State game on Friday, March 22 at 7:10 PM ET on CBS.

Fletcher Magee, Wofford

Magee — “sounds like he should be somebody’s butler,” Bilas deadpans — might be the best shooter in the country. The 6’4″ senior has hit 502 career three-pointers for Wofford, the Southern Conference champs, two shy of the NCAA D-1 record. He shoots an efficient 43% from downtown, a pretty remarkable rate for a guy who hoists an arm-tiring 11 treys a game, and 91% from the foul line.

Magee grew up studying the shot of Philadelphia 76ers guard J.J. Redick, who used to play for the Magic in Magee’s hometown of Orlando; this season, Magee passed Redick on the career NCAA three-pointer list.

#7 Wofford — of Spartanburg, South Carolina — faces #10 Seton Hall on Thursday, March 21, at around 9:40 PM ET on CBS.

Anthony Lamb, Vermont

The player of the year in the America East Conference, Lamb, a 6’6″ junior, has an unusual style in today’s basketball world, which values spreading players across the floor and jacking threes. During Vermont’s America East Conference title game win over UMBC on Saturday, Vermont would dump the ball to Lamb around the foul line, and he’d often bully his way to the basket, a testament to his strength and skill. And Lamb can shoot: he hit 1.5 threes per game this season, nearly double his per-game production from a year ago.

Besides Lamb, who averaged 21.4 points per game this season, the Catamounts feature the Duncan brothers of Evansville, Indiana: fifth year senior Ernie, junior Everett, and freshman Robin. Vermont’s the fifth team in Division 1 history with a fraternal trio on the same squad.

Catch #13 Vermont against #4 Florida St. on Thursday at 2 p.m. ET on CBS.

Miye Oni, Yale

It’s been 24 years since the NBA drafted a player from the Ivy League. Yale’s Miye Oni could end that draught. A late bloomer who had committed to a Division 3 college in high school — and was spotted by a Yale assistant coach while scouting another player — NBA scouts have made regular visits to New Haven to check out Oni’s game. The 6’6″ guard won Ivy Player of the Year honors by doing a little bit of everything; Oni averaged 17.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game.

#13 Yale will play #4 LSU on Thursday at 12:40 PM ET on TruTV. Both schools are involved in embarrassing scandals: LSU coach Will Wade was placed on leave after he was caught potentially violating NCAA rules on wiretap. Yale’s embroiled in the college admissions scandal, as a family allegedly paid $ 1.2 million in bribes to get a fake soccer recruit into the school. Folks made jokes on the internet.

Ja Morant, Murray St.

Zion may be the top overall pick in this June’s NBA draft. But Morant, the explosive 6’3″ point guard from Murray St., is almost certainly going top 3. A Murray State assistant coach first spotted Morant, another unheralded recruit, while stopping by a gym concession stand to grab some chips. Best snack ever: Morant’s stewardship on the Murray St. offense is now appointment TV. Morant scores 24.6 points per game on 50% shooting, which is scarily efficient for a point guard, and dishes out 10 assists per game, tops in the country.

In the first round, Morant will duel with one of the country’s other top point guards, Markus Howard of #5 Marquette, around 4:30 PM ET on Thursday on TBS. Grab some more chips for that one.

Tacko Fall, University of Central Florida

Ja Morant, Fletcher Magee — this year’s tournament fields an impressive All-Name Team. Tacko Fall’s another name you won’t forget. The 7’6″ University of Central Florida center shot 75% from the field this season, and swatted away 2.5 shots per game for the Knights, who finished 23-8. That’s right: Fall’s 7’6″, with a 10-foot, 5-inch standing reach, meaning he need not jump to dunk the basketball.

In one of the season’s sweetest moments, Fall was reunited this season with his mother, whom he hadn’t seen in the seven years since he moved to the U.S. from Senegal.

#9 UCF takes on #8 VCU on Friday at around 9:40 ET PM on CBS. The winner most likely gets Duke in the second round.

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Ethan Happ, the 6’10” senior center, this season became the first Big 10 player in more than 35 years to score over 2,000 career points and grab over 1,000 rebounds. Don’t discount his passing — Happ has also assisted on 37% of his teammates’ field goals while he’s on the floor, a fantastic rate for a big man.

Happ’s a bit of a throwback, the rare tall pro prospect who doesn’t jack three-pointers — he finished his career 1-16 from downtown. Still, don’t discount the damage Happ, a second team All-American, and his Badgers can inflict on their opponents these next few weeks.

First test for #5 Wisconsin is #12 Oregon, the Pac-12 tournament champions, on Friday at 4:30 ET on TBS.

Eric Paschall, Villanova

One-and-done college players like Zion, who stay in college for a year before leaving for the NBA, rightfully steal most headlines. They tend to be phenomenal. But it’s nice to see players who stick around at college, like Happ and Villanova’s Eric Paschall, get their due. Remember the Wildcats, last year’s national champs? They lost four of their top six players to the NBA this season, but thanks in large part to Paschall — the relatively undersized senior 6’8″ power forward who memorably shot 10-11 from the field against Kansas in last year’s national semifinals — the Cats still won the Big East regular season and tournament championships.

‘Nova’s not a favorite to repeat as national champions. But beware of any team with a skilled bruiser like Paschall, who’s eager to prove that he’s ready to play at the next level, no matter his height.

#6 Villanova opens up its title defense against #11 St. Mary’s on Thursday at 7:20 ET on TBS.

Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga

Hachimura, a 6’8″ junior, is a projected NBA lottery pick: he’d be the first native of Japan ever selected in the draft. As a freshman at Gonzaga, for the 2016-2017 Zags team that reached the national championship game (before falling to North Carolina), he didn’t see much action. Hachimura missed practice time with his teammates to learn English in tutoring sessions (he also picked up the language through TV shows like The Vampire Diaries).

Since then, he’s blossomed. In one of the best regular season games of the season, in Hawaii back in November, Hachimura helped show that Duke — a team that some pundits were predicting would finish with a perfect record this season — could indeed be felled. In a thrilling 89-87 win for Gonzaga, Hachimura scored 20 points, with seven rebounds, five assists, and three blocked shots. Gonzaga could face Duke again in the national semifinals.

But first, on Thursday at 7:27 ET on TruTV, the #1 ‘Zags must advance past either #16 Farleigh Dickinson or #16 Prairie View A&M, who play in the “First Four” on Tuesday night in Dayton.

De’Andre Hunter, Virginia

A financial services firm called 361 Capital on Monday released a note —titled “The Psychology of Undermining March Madness Brackets” — applying behavioral research to tournament picks. (Makes sense: the firm’s clients surely want to win their bracket pool’s prize.) As one of its “behavioral biases that can bust a bracket,” the company pointed to “the gambler’s fallacy,” a misconception that an abnormal event is less likely to occur in the future because it just happened in the past. So, 361 Capital warns, don’t feel #1-seeded Virginia is immune to another historic upset at the hands of a #16 seed, just because UMBC crushed the Cavaliers a year ago.

With all due respect to the financial outfit, throw your psychological buzzwords off the court. Virginia’s not going to fall in the first round again, because this year, the Cavaliers have De’Andre Hunter. The 6’7″ sophomore swingman from Philly missed last year’s tournament game due to an injury. But this season, Hunter has emerged as Virginia’s best NBA prospect in the school’s resurgence under coach Tony Bennett over the last decade.

Virginia will try to move on from last year’s nightmare against Gardiner-Webb on Friday, at around 3:10 PM ET on TruTV. With Hunter, a third-team All-American, on the floor, they’re more than likely to avoid another disaster. That’s no fallacy, gambler’s or otherwise.

Sports – TIME

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All 28 Women’s National Team Players Sue U.S. Soccer for Equal Pay

Players for the U.S. women’s national soccer team have filed a federal gender discrimination lawsuit seeking pay equal to that of their male counterparts.

The action comes just three months before the team will defend its title at the Women’s World Cup.

The class-action lawsuit was filed Friday in federal court in Los Angeles under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It alleges gender-based discrimination by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The players allege they have been subject to ongoing “institutionalized gender discrimination,” including unequal pay, despite having the same job responsibilities as players on the men’s national team. The 28 members of the current national team player pool joined in the lawsuit.

The U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association was not party to the lawsuit, but in a statement said it “supports the plaintiffs’ goal of eliminating gender-based discrimination by USSF.”

The U.S. Soccer Federation didn’t have an immediate comment.

The players are seeking equal pay and treatment, in addition to damages including back pay. The complaint was filed on International Women’s Day.

“Each of us is extremely proud to wear the United States jersey, and we also take seriously the responsibility that comes with that. We believe that fighting for gender equality in sports is a part of that responsibility. As players, we deserved to be paid equally for our work, regardless of our gender,” forward Alex Morgan said in a prepared statement.

This is not the first time the players have sought equitable compensation and conditions.

A group of players filed a complaint in 2016 with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that alleged wage discrimination by the federation. The players maintained that players for the men’s team earned far more than they did, in many cases despite comparable work.

The lawsuit effectively ends that EEOC complaint, brought by Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn, Carli Lloyd and former goalkeeper Hope Solo.

The team took the fight into contract negotiations and struck a collective bargaining agreement in 2017 that runs through 2021.

The players received raises in base pay and bonuses as well as better provisions for travel and accommodations, including increased per diems. It also gave the players some control of certain licensing and marketing rights. Specific details about the deal were not disclosed.

“This lawsuit is an effort by the plaintiffs to address those serious issues through the exercise of their individual rights. For its part, the USWNTPA will continue to seek improvements in pay and working conditions through the labor-management and collective bargaining processes,” the players’ union said.

The USSF has in the past maintained that much of the pay disparity between the men’s and women’s teams resulted from separate labor agreements.

Sports – TIME

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Ole Miss Basketball Players Kneel During National Anthem To Protest Local Pro-Confederate Rallies

Mississippi v Georgia

Source: Logan Riely / Getty

The Ole Miss basketball team is woke (well, some of them). Players on the squad knelt during the national anthem in protest of pro-Confederate rallies happening near their university’s campus.

Deadspin reports that K.J. Buffen, Terence Davis, Luis Rodriguez, Bruce Stevens, Devontae Shuler and Breein Tyree took a knee before the team’s home game against Georgia on Saturday (Feb. 24). A total of eight players kneeled per reports.

Reports ESPN:

Minutes before the game, both teams formed lines for the anthem. As “The Star-Spangled Banner” began, six Rebels players — who appeared to be KJ Buffen, D.C. Davis, Brian Halums, Luis Rodriguez, Devontae Shuler and Bruce Stevens — knelt one by one. Two more players — appearing to be Breein Tyree and Franco Miller Jr. — took a knee on the song’s final line.

The game was being played while two pro-Confederacy groups organized a march onto the campus in Oxford, Mississippi.

“The majority of it was we saw one of our teammates doing it and we just didn’t want him to be alone,” Ole Miss scoring leader Tyree said after his team’s 72-71 victory. “We’re just tired of these hate groups coming to our school and portraying our campus like it’s our actual university having these hate groups in our school.”

So no, they weren’t disrespecting the flag or servicemen. Star player Tyree later tweeted: “To the people that fight for this country, my teammates and I meant no disrespect to everything that you do for us, but we had to take a stand to the negative things that went on today on our campus. #WeNeedChange”

The team’s coach, Kermit Davis, was unaware the protest was going to happen, but he supported his players, as he should.

Respect.

Photo: Getty

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Walmart, Target pull children’s game that had players defuse toy bomb

A kids’ game that asked children to defuse a plastic, pretend bomb had parents exploding with anger — and now two major retailers are pulling the controversial toy. The game, called “Cut the Wire,” asks players to defuse a fake bomb before the timer runs out. Should a player cut the wrong wire with the…
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Seth Meyers Mocks Trump’s Fast Food Feast with Clemson Football Players

Seth Meyers spent most of his first “A Closer Look” segment of the week going through the latest revelations about Trump and Russia. But before he got there, he couldn’t help but spend just a few minutes on the fast food feast the president had with the Clemson University football champions at the White House Monday night.

While Trump’s government shutdown has driven federal workers to show up at food banks by the hundreds, “that’s not the food Trump was concerned with today,” the Late Night host explained.

Early in the day, Trump told reporters that he would be serving the team “McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger Kings with some pizza,” adding, “I would think that’s their favorite food.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Two under-the-radar players are must-haves for Week 17 fantasy

Whether you are playing for your league championship or just looking to dabble in some daily fantasy football contests, Week 17 can be a tricky one. Most people will tell you the only players worth investing in are those who have something to play for in the final week. For some, it’s a chance to…
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‘Fallout 76’ players can get three old Fallout games for free

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Is Bethesda Softworks just getting into the holiday spirit here, or is this an unspoken “make good” apology after Fallout 76‘s borked launch?

No one can say! And frankly, it doesn’t matter. Bethesda has a special holiday offer in place for anyone who’s played Fallout 76, which takes the popular apocalypse-centered role-playing game and turns it into an online game. 

The offer is for more Fallout, and — importantly — free Fallout. Here’s the deal, straight from the publisher’s Twitter account:

#HappyHolidays!

ANYONE who logged into the full release of #Fallout76 in 2018 will receive an entitlement for Fallout Classic Collection on PC. This applies to Xbox One and PS4 players, too

The entitlement is expected to go live in early Januarypic.twitter.com/U8pJwrk0PV

— Bethesda (@bethesda) December 22, 2018 Read more…

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MLB Agreement Will Let Cuban Players Sign Contracts Without Defecting

(HAVANA) — Major League Baseball, its players’ association and the Cuban Baseball Federation reached an agreement that will allow players from the island nation to sign big league contracts without defecting, an effort to eliminate the dangerous trafficking that had gone on for decades.

The agreement, which runs through Oct. 31, 2021, allows Cubans to sign under rules similar to those for players under contract to clubs in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Only players under contract to the Cuban federation are covered by the agreement, and the Cuban federation agreed to release all players 25 and older with at least six years of professional experience. They would be classified as international professionals under MLB’s labor contract and not subject to international amateur signing bonus pools.

The Cuban federation may at its discretion release younger players to sign minor league contracts with MLB organizations.

Sports – TIME

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Could an Alabama Team Under Nick Saban Beat an NFL Team? Several Former Players Think So

It’s long been debated whether or not Alabama’s dominant teams could hold their own against the professionals, so we posed the question to several former Bama stars currently in the NFL—and while some remained measured, others are fully confident in their college coach’s ability.

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Wide House Unveils Flurry of Deals on IDFA Players (EXCLUSIVE)

Paris-based sales company Wide House has sealed a flurry of deals for two titles playing this week at Amsterdam’s IDFA documentary festival: Ruth Beckermann’s “The Waldheim Waltz,” Austria’s candidate for the 2019 Oscars, and Marcus Lindeen’s “The Raft.” World premiering at February’s Berlinale, where it won the Glashutte Award for best documentary, “The Waldheim Waltz” […]

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Adam Silver supports ‘Enough’ T-shirts, players speaking out

LOS ANGELES — With NBA commissioner Adam Silver in the stands and supporting the cause, the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks honored the victims of the Thousand Oaks shooting by wearing black T-shirts with the message "Enough" on the front. The Lakers and Hawks followed what the Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks did on Saturday when players from both teams first wore the T-shirts. "As I’ve always said, our players aren’t just ballplayers, they’re citizens," Silver told ESPN after watching the Lakers beat the Hawks 107-106 on Sunday. "They have strong feelings about what’s happening in society and they react to them. I think this was something that was a groundswell within the league. It came from the players and it spread by word of mouth from one team to another. "It obviously began here in California and other teams around the league supported them," Silver continued. "Again, I support our players’ desire to speak out on issues…
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Education activists were big players in this year’s elections, but they fell short in red states

Democratic challengers backed by teacher activists failed to unseat Republican governors in Arizona and Oklahoma, while ballot initiatives in Oklahoma and Utah were defeated. 
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Christian Dawkins’ emails detail payment plans to several players

Federal authorities have given NCAA officials their approval to move ahead with an investigation of alleged rules violations that came to light during the first of three federal criminal trials involving pay-for-play schemes and other corruption in college basketball, ESPN has confirmed. During last month’s trials in New York, evidence and testimony were presented that alleged potential rules violations involving coaches and players at Arizona, Creighton, Kansas, Louisville, LSU, NC State, Oklahoma State, Oregon and other programs. ESPN reported in February that as many as three dozen Division I programs, including many of the sport’s traditional powers, might be facing NCAA sanctions once the federal government releases information that it acquired during its clandestine, three-year investigation. Among the most revealing evidence turned over to the NCAA, according to documents obtained by Outside the Lines, is a business plan that aspiring agent Christian Dawkins…
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FIFA warns of World Cup ban for players in breakaway ‘Super’ league

ZURICH — Soccer’s biggest names would be banned from the World Cup if they played in a breakaway European Super League, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said Wednesday.

Infantino, speaking to a small group of reporters at FIFA headquarters, said the governing body would punish players at clubs like…

Sports – New York Daily News

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Giants players: Talk of throwing in the towel is just ‘disrespectful’

Don’t tell the Giants about the white flag raised outside their building. After trading away their second defensive starter in as many days, the 1-6 Giants don’t believe their front office is surrendering this season and thinking only about the future. “The giving-up-on-the-season narrative, I really think that’s disrespectful to the guys in the locker…
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Amy Schumer supports protesting NFL players by saying no to Super Bowl ads

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The Super Bowl is the biggest night of the year for two things: Pro football and very expensive commercials. Amy Schumer has decided to use one to influence the other.

Her concern stems from ongoing protest actions in which certain players kneel, raises fists, or stand together united during pre-game National Anthem performances. They’re doing it to take a stand against police brutality and racial inequality in America — sticking to the message of exiled NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Schumer isn’t involved in football, but she does acknowledge that there’s one place she can push back: Super Bowl ads. She’s not doing them this year. She also urges Maroon 5 — the next Super Bowl’s halftime band — to drop out. Read more…

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The NBA Is Now Policing Player’s Bodies

Hats off to writer Robert Silverman and The Daily Beast as they’ve come up with a searing piece called “The NBA Is Fake Woke.” The essence of the story is that the NBA has received plaudits for its so-called progressivism, but if you look a bit closer at the pro sports league and you’ll find precious little evidence.

Trust us. This one’s more than worth the read. Here’s an excerpt:

It was a small imposition of authority by the NBA in the grand scheme of things, but a revealing one.

Over the summer, J.R. Smith, the oft-shirtless Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard, added a brand new tattoo to some of the few square inches of canvas available on his person. This time he went with a literal brand, inking the logo of the lifestyle and clothing company Supreme across the back of his right calf. The NBA refused to let this combination of self-expression and unpaid sponsorship go unpunished. Should Smith fail to cover up the logo while on the court, he’ll be subject to ongoing fines.

 

Instagram Photo
Smith isn’t alone. Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball has the logo of the Big Baller Brand, the company founded by his ur-sports dad, tattooed just above his right elbow. During the preseason, Ball avoided a fine by neatly concealing it with a square bandage.

Why is the NBA micromanaging players’ body art? Well, the NBA has a slew of corporate partners and advertisers, many of whom have their logos embossed directly on team jerseys. Per league rules, players rocking potentially conflicting trademarked imagery is a no-go, either via a tattoo or creative haircut. It could interfere with the direct flow of commerce, you see, and so the NBA won’t stand for it, even if it means making it perfectly clear that this business retains the final decision-making power over its employees’ skin.

Cold, hard financial realities aside, that’s still a terrible look for the NBA, which over the last half-decade has leaned into the skid of progressive politics. More to the point, the sport has been packaged as a place where #Resistance-minded folk who’ve grown weary of the NFL’s honking militarism and inherent brutality can park their entertainment dollars without sullying their conscience.

This, of course, is a branded lie. As the 2018-19 season kicks off tonight, what better way to celebrate than by letting go of the notion that a sports league is somehow woke. In reality, the NBA is a multi-billion-dollar entity whose sole motivation is profit, full stop.

Whoa! Dang. If that doesn’t get your attention and make you think, we’re not sure what will. In any event, there'[s much more. Get it HERE at The Daily Beast.


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Mipcom: Buying, Production Trends at Major SVOD Players – Report (EXCLUSIVE)

CANNES — “Never predict, especially about the future,” the saying goes. Three of MipJunior’s key speakers and kids industry players – from Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the BBC –  took that to heart on Cannes’ Saturday afternoon when addressing the panel subject, “View from the Top: Gazing into the Future of Kids Media.” Rather than […]

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European Soccer Is Set Up to Protect Superstar Players. So What’s Next for Cristiano Ronaldo?

Nine years ago, Kathryn Mayorga signed a non-disclosure agreement presented to her by lawyers for the international soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo. Last week, in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel and in court filings in Las Vegas challenging that NDA, Mayorga broke her silence and spoke out publicly. She says Ronaldo raped her in 2009 in a Las Vegas hotel room.

The allegations are now reverberating through the sporting world. The Portuguese superstar has been world player of the year five times and lifted the Champions League trophy with his club team three seasons in a row. His most recent contract with Nike is reportedly worth one billion dollars. But now Nike has released a statement that the company is “deeply concerned” about Mayorga’s allegations. Ronaldo denied the allegations himself on Instagram on Sept. 30, calling them “fake news.” The Italian club Juventus, which spent $ 117 million to acquire Ronaldo from Real Madrid over the summer, took to social media on Thursday to defend its new star. With controversy swirling, Portugal chose not to include Ronaldo in its squad for the next round of international fixtures, although both sides say the decision is temporary.

What comes next is still uncertain. The Ronaldo case is the the highest-profile story of sexual assault in soccer since the explosion of the #MeToo movement in 2017. Indeed, Mayorga has said she was inspired by reading the testimony of other women who chose to reveal publicly stories they had felt unable to speak about for years.

But as Mayorga tells her story, will Ronaldo face any consequences? One problem here is that the structure of European sports makes it hard for punishments to be leveled in similar situations. Such punishments in North American sports are hardly a given—hockey star Patrick Kane was not sanctioned by the National Hockey League after being accused of sexual assault in 2015, for example. But when they do happen, as with Major League Baseball suspending Addison Russell for 40 games due to an allegation of domestic abuse, the punishments are typically brought by the leagues. In Europe, however, there is no single European soccer league comparable to the NHL or MLB. When he signed for Juventus, Ronaldo left Spain’s La Liga for a different league in Italy, Serie A.

These various national leagues tend to be loose confederations in which the top teams hold outsized power. Serie A is unlikely to act in a way that punishes its top team. It would also be possible for the Italian Football Federation, which oversees both club and international soccer in the country, to level a punishment. But that power is not widely used in cases like this either. In 2016 in England, when the player Ched Evans was released from prison after serving time for rape, neither the league nor the English Football Association stepped in to suspend or otherwise sanction Evans. Ronaldo then has two lines of defense. His club, which invested heavily to retain his services, has spoken in his defense. The league and the national federation have little history of fighting disciplinary battles in similar situations and limited power to effectively challenge Juventus. So long as the club defends the player, the institutions of European soccer are structured to protect players like Ronaldo.

These institutional protections echo Ronaldo’s own protections, as reported by Der Spiegel. His lawyers went so far as to hire private investigators to trail Mayorga as they sought to discredit her accusations. In so many #MeToo cases, powerful men use the legal system to protect themselves from consequences and to silence those who speak up against them.

This has been standard in Ronaldo’s defense, with his lawyers threatening a lawsuit against Der Spiegel. Here, they are using another key institutional protection—defamation laws. Libel law in the United Kingdom places the burden of proof on the defense, meaning that a newspaper sued by Ronaldo for publishing details of the rape accusation would need to demonstrate to the court it had not defamed the soccer star. Much of the initial English-language coverage of the Ronaldo case came from American media, where publishers have less to fear from the legal threats of Ronaldo’s team.

But coverage is now intensifying, despite the legal hurdles. An outcry from women and feminist media critics challenged reporters to investigate the story. Events such as the re-opening of the criminal case by Las Vegas police, the public statement of concern from Nike, and Ronaldo’s and Juventus’ public statements have provided local media with clear facts to report.

And Mayorga’s allegations are not simply a matter of her word against Ronaldo’s. In her legal filing, Mayorga claims that medical examinations from the night of the incident confirm her account. She also brings forward a questionnaire in which it appears Ronaldo admits that Mayorga repeatedly said “no” and “stop” during the event. While these documents are not yet fully public or confirmed, they have been reported by Der Spiegel and would offer more material for investigation were they to become public.

The Ronaldo case, then, is developing slowly. While in the past an allegation like Mayorga’s might have been dismissed, and a denial like Ronaldo’s simply accepted, here the story continues. But it faces even more obstacles than a similar allegation would in American sports. The loose structure of the league system and more restrictive defamation laws both offer added protections to sports figures. Mayorga is speaking out and the platform of the #MeToo movement has enabled her voice to be heard.

Still, the European sporting context offers a variety of institutional supports to a powerful man seeking to avoid punishment after an allegation of assault. The weakness of sporting leagues and defamation law, combined with the vocal support of his club, continue to make it unlikely that Mayorga’s accusations will lead to serious consequences.

Sports – TIME

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LeBron James Is Taking on the NCAA’s Rules Prohibiting Pay for College Players

LeBron James, the best basketball player in the world and one of the most influential athletes on the planet, fights for off-court causes he cares about. In 2017, for example, James starred in Nike’s “Equality” ad campaign, which was released at the outset of the Trump presidency in 2017, following the Women’s March and the President’s executive travel ban that sparked protests across the country. This past summer, James opened a public school for at-risk students in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. He has criticized Trump for using sports to divide the country. Trump responded by questioning James’ intelligence.

Now, James is taking on a new foe: the NCAA. He’s the executive producer of a new documentary, Student Athlete, which debuts on HBO Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET. The film picks apart amateurism in major college sports, a model that allows schools to generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues, but prevents the cash from tricking down to the players themselves. Instead, it flows to coaches’ salaries and athletic facilities with barber shops and bowling alleys and flat-screen TVs. (James himself notably skipped college, instead going from high school directly to the pros.)

The hypocrisy exposed in Student Athlete is not new: lawyers are challenging amateurism in the court system, while advocates and media outlets have long screamed for change. Still, the film –— which was co-directed by Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy — hits the mark. Over its 88 minutes, Student Athlete packages five stories — on a high school prospect, a former college coach, and three former college players — that show how the system takes its toll. In the opening scene, the viewer meets former Rutgers tight end Shamar Graves, who played for the Scarlet Knights from 2007 through 2009. He’s sleeping in his car.

Student Athlete shines an invaluable light on athletes like Graves, who effectively held an unpaid full-time job while playing his sport in school, managed to earn his degree, but has struggled in his post-college life. Most major college athletes aren’t going pro. Those who sacrificed internships and other career development opportunities in school in order to concentrate on sports may find that the promise of a degree — an education sets you up for life! — falls far short of expectations. A back injury ended the college career of Mike Shaw, a former top-ranked high school basketball prospect who played at the University of Illinois and Bradley University. The film shows Shaw at this graduation ceremony at Bradley. His pro basketball dreams shattered, he’s still hopeful he’ll find his way. We soon learn, however, that Shaw has struggled with his mental health. Shaw shares that he’s rehabbed in a psychiatric hospital.

If the film falls short in one area, it’s in offering solutions for athletes like Graves and Shaw. Yes, the undercurrent is that colleges should pay their athletes. “The thing that’s disgusting,” says John Shoop, a former offensive coordinator at the University of North Carolina and Purdue, “is that coaches are making millions of dollars, and they’re coaching players whose families live below the poverty line.” (Shoop seems to have been blacklisted from the college coaching ranks due to his advocacy for athletes). But not all college athletes would earn lucrative salaries while playing their sports. Graves and Shaw, for example, weren’t stars. If they could have earned money for playing in college, would they find themselves in a better situation today? In recent years, many college graduates have learned that their degrees don’t guarantee stable employment. Is it the obligation of schools to offer full services like post-graduate career training and job placement and health insurance for their athletes? If so, are the schools obligated to do the same for all students?

You can’t blame Student Athlete for largely glossing over the prescriptions for college sports. Quick and easy fixes don’t exist. But the film drops at an opportune time, as college sports are ripe for major reforms. Testimony just wrapped up in the latest anti-trust trial — Alston v. NCAA — challenging compensation caps in college sports. A federal trial that promises to expose the underbelly of college basketball, and resulted from an FBI investigation into under-the-table payments by shoe company representatives and financial advisers to coaches and players, begins in New York this week. College athletes deserve better. Having LeBron James on their team can only help.

Sports – TIME

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