The ReCap by Rachele Lena: 11.14.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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This week HWTP Sports Talk was joined by Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore and attorney Stuart Davidson to discuss the NHL concussion lawsuit worth nearly $19 million. This case is similar to multiple cases brought against the NFL, which resulted in larger sums awarded to injured parties. Adam Kilgore states that it may be, “the high profile of former players [in the NFL] who were showing symptoms at an older age or even doing things like committing suicide,” that may have caused the case against the NFL to have more media attention than the lawsuit brought against the NHL. Kilgore explains that in the cases similar to the concussion case against the NFL, the league, “tries to mitigate or eliminate any PR headaches, so they settled right away.” In the case against the NHL, “the commissioner decided that the league was going to meet the players head on.”  

This case has not garnered as much media or fan attention. Kilgore claims that fans don’t care about [the case against the NHL regarding CTE and concussions in players] as much as they cared about the same issues in the NFL.” Due to the new emphasis on the negative effects of concussions on players health and well-being, Kilgore explains that, “there’s a new concussion protocol in the NHL, there are cases where the league has pulled players off the ice…[and] the case [against the NHL] has raised awareness among the fan base about the dangers of brain trauma in hockey.” In regard to the effect of this lawsuit on the popularity of hockey or the NHL, Kilgore claims that the case "will not affect viewership or advertising [of the game]...since hockey is so embedded in Canadian culture. It will take a lot more than a lawsuit…to distance hockey from the country's culture."  

Stuart Davidson is a partner at Robbins Geller Rudman and Dowd LLP in Boca Raton and represented a few of the former players in the lawsuit against the NHL regarding concussions and CTE. Davidson’s firm filed in 2014 and was appointed co-lead council to represent the players and has been involved ever since. Stuart Davidson explains that in the beginning of the lawsuit, “Canadian media and television stations had nothing good to say about it,” but eventually those media outlets realized that the NHL was doing harm to players due to their policies regarding head trauma.   

While initially filed as a class action lawsuit, Davidson explains that, “the judge found that since these were personal injury claims that were individual to each player, and each player lived in a different state or province of Canada, one set of laws could not be used for all of the cases, keeping this case from being litigated as a class action lawsuit.” In the NHL concussion case, Davidson explains that, “[the NHL] let [the plaintiff lawyers] into their books, they let [the lawyers] into their email communications…and made [the plaintiff lawyers] prove to [the] judge…that [the plaintiffs] could not meet the requirements of the class action suit.”  

When discussing the personalities and attitudes of those in power in the NHL that he encountered, Stuart Davidson told HWTP Sports Talk, "I couldn't understand why it was so hard for these businessmen to have empathy for the players that they made money off of.”  Davidson explains that the principle thing that was being fought for was testing and treatment for his clients that were suffering. He further explained that his clients “were able to get neuropsychological testing to see if they had a problem neurocognitively.”

The ReCap by Rachele Lena: 11.7.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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This week we were joined by Emily Giambalvo from The Washington Post who covers the University of Maryland athletics news. We were also joined by author and professor Andrew Billings who co-wrote Mascot Nation: The Controversy Over Native American Representations in Sports.  

Emily Giambalvo joined us this week to discuss the reinstatement and subsequent firing of Coach DJ Durkin for the University of Maryland’s football team. Durkin was originally taken out of power due to allegations of inappropriate behavior including a toxic culture of intimidation and humiliation against players. Once Durkin was reinstated on Wednesday, there was a major outcry from the players and the community. Giambalvo states that players using their voices to protest against policies and those in power, “is not something that we usually see in college sports.” 

Giambalvo states that on a college football team, “the head coach holds a lot of power,” and believes that now that Durkin has been removed there will be major changes for the team. She states that much of the pressure and criticisms against DJ Durkin stem from his inability to control the strength and conditioning coach, Rick Court. Those on the athletic board claimed that DJ Durkin was a good man and simply did not receive the correct training, which Giambalvo claims “may have swayed their decision heavily”.  

We were also joined by author and professor Andrew Billings who spoke about the use of Native American culture in sport team’s mascots. Billings claims that the controversy over Native American mascot use is based on various questions, asking “is it the name, is it the image or logo, or is it the rituals that go along with it?” Billings also discusses the backlash against those that are told they “have” to change their actions. He explains that when people are asked, “Should someone do something?” the answer is most usually yes, but when the question is phrased as, “Should someone have to do something?” the answer is most usually no.  

Andrew Billing’s claims that many that oppose the changing of these team’s names do so on the basis of the worry that the fandom of the teams may change. Billings explains to us that it is possible for many teams to drop the most offensive aspects of their teams, including name, mascots, or rituals, and still maintain their history and pride while remaining inoffensive. The public has begun to take part in a practice called “de-mascoting” that removes the offensive aspect from team regalia while maintaining a person’s ability to show team pride.

Listen to the entire episode below. Don’t be shy! Send us your questions and/or comments!

 

The ReCap by Rachele Lena: 10.24.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

 “We still need due process to play out…and that the claims of a cover-up [from] USA Gymnastics don’t really hold up when you consider ...” Will Hobson, Washington Post

“We still need due process to play out…and that the claims of a cover-up [from] USA Gymnastics don’t really hold up when you consider ...” Will Hobson, Washington Post

This week HWTP Sports Talk is joined by Will Hobson from the Washington Post to talk about the recent arrest of former USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny. This scandal comes after the Larry Nassar case regarding sexual assault allegations in USA Gymnastics hit the headlines, placing the spotlight on USA Gymnastics in the news.  

Steve Penny, the ex USA Gymnastics president, was arrested and indicted last week on state tampering charges. Penny is alleged to have taken and hidden documents that the ongoing investigation occurring in Texas would have benefited from. Hobson claims that, “law enforcement did a preliminary investigation [of the USA Gymnastics training center outside Huntsville, Texas] two years ago when Larry Nassar was initially arrested and determined that no crimes had occurred other than Nassar’s abuses,” but then went on to tell us that due to backlash from Nassar’s victims, the case was reopened. 

David reminds us that it is unclear whether the evidence that Penny is accused of tampering with has been destroyed or if these documents are hidden in an office somewhere. The question remains on whether or not we are rushing to judgement on the guiltiness of Steve Penny without getting all of the facts and discovering what information is contained within those hidden documents. Will Hobson claims that, “we still need due process to play out…and that the claims of a cover-up [from] USA Gymnastics don’t really hold up when you consider [that USA Gymnastics] did report Nassar to law enforcement”. Suspicions do rise when it is considered that despite Nassar being reported to law enforcement, USA Gymnastics still asked victims not to speak publicly about the abuse.  

Hobson reminds us that, “there are a lot of different organizations and institutions that had the chance to stop this sooner and they didn’t”. Due to the fact that it is unclear what information these documents contained, it is difficult to determine the guilt of Steve Penny in this investigation.  

This investigation has made it difficult to find another person to fill this position as president of USA Gymnastics and the most recent president, Mary Bono, resigned after four days on the job. Will Hobson describes that, “the turmoil [we] are seeing at USA Gymnastics…speaks to the tunnel vision that the Olympic committees have had.” We are also reminded that these type of sexual assault cases have occurred multiple times throughout the years and these organizations have been able to easily keep these issues out of the spotlight, but since the Nassar cases, these stories have been given more precedence.

Full episode below.

The ReCap by Rachele Lena: 10.10.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

 Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus

Cristiano Ronaldo, Juventus

This week we are joined by USA Today’s investigative reporter A.J. Perez and The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education’s Jessica Feighan to discuss the sexual assault allegations made against soccer superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo.  

These allegations, made by Kathryn Mayorga, relate to an incident that occurred in 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. When this event first happened, A.J. Perez claims that the Las Vegas police stated that Mayorga did not name a suspect, but reminds us that there was a settlement and a non-disclosure agreement between Ronaldo and Mayorga that was signed in 2010. The settlement reached was for $375,000. 

Once Mayorga came forward to the police, a rape kit was done, but never processed and it was stated that she did not want to pursue the case. Now that this new lawsuit was opened last month, it appears Mayorga wants to “hold the soccer superstar…to account, criminally,” states Perez.  

Jessica Feighan claims that “it can take years” for victims of sexual assault to come forward with their allegations and that, “it is not uncommon at all for people to not initially want to go to the police, [or even] the hospital.”  

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A.J. Perez states that in this case, “both the hospital staff and the police told [Mayorga] the case would ‘make her look bad’,” and therefore increases distrust between the victims and those in authority. Perez also states that the previous settlement and non-disclosure agreement should not discredit Mayorga’s allegations due to her being, “under emotional distress, [having] pressure from Ronaldo’s people to settle and her first lawyer being…inadequate.” 

Ronaldo’s lawyer claimed this week that the sexual relations between the two were consensual, seemingly deeming the rape-kit taken in 2009 useless due to Ronaldo’s admission that there was a sexual encounter.  Perez reminds us that the settlement reached in 2010 was not an admission of guilt for Ronaldo and that he is unsure how the prosecution will use this settlement in this new lawsuit.  

Jessica Feighan claims that with the current media coverage of the rape allegations made by Dr. Ford against Judge Brett Kavanaugh calls to sexual assault hotlines have increased by 200%. She claims that “societally we automatically go into this victim blaming,” and when large cases such as the case against Kavanaugh and Ronaldo are covered by the media and apparently ignore the victims it makes it harder for other victims to come forward.  

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, please do not hesitate to call The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education: 

24 Hour Hotlines:
203-329-2929 (Ct. Local)
888-999-5545 (Toll Free)
888-568-8332 (Spanish)

10.10.18 Episode

The ReCap by Rachele Lena: 9.26.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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This week, Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell joins HWTP Sports Talk with David Weinstein to talk about his new STARZ docuseries, “The Warriors of Liberty City.”   We were also joined by The Washington Post sports reporter Des Bieler who talks to us about ignorant comments made about Houston’s quarterback Derrick Deshaun Watson.

Derrick Deshaun Watson labeled as a black quarterback you can’t count on

A Texas school district superintendent made ignorant comments on Facebook regarding the choices made by Houston’s quarterback, Deshaun Watson during a game. Superintendent Lynn Redden, whose Facebook comment read, “That may have been the most inept quarterback decision I've seen in the NFL. When you need precision decision making you can’t count on a black quarterback,” recently resigned from his position as superintendent. 

After his resignation, Redden stated that, “I recognize that given the opportunity to respond by criticizing or belittling me, Watson chose peace and positivity instead.”  Redden went onto say that Watson was a great role model for the children in his Texas school district. 

Bieler stated that these comments “sparked a new discussion on the state of the black quarterback in football these days,” explaining that despite black men being 70% of the NFL, they only makeup 20% of quarterbacks. 

Bieler also explained that the comments sparked outrage because Redden attacked the decision making, and therefore intelligence of Deshaun Watson and other black athletes. He describes the common phenomenon that “when you want a player with intelligence, you may favor the white player over the black player.”

Uncle Luke of 2Live Crew fame creates a compelling docuseries, “Warriors of Liberty City”

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Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell joins David to discuss his decision to give back to the community of Liberty City through the creation of his docuseries on STARZ called “Warriors of Liberty City.”  Campbell stated that he wanted the program to be “organic” and a safe space for young men in the neighborhood to go and spend their time.   Luke describes the area where the young men practice as “sacred ground.” 

Luke also tells David that none of the kids are reacting negatively to this newfound fame. He explains that they are already local celebrities because of their position in the “Warriors” program, so the filming of the docuseries has not created any big heads on the team. 

When discussing the impact of the “Warriors” program on the children’s academics, Luke explains that it is mandatory for the children to bring in their report card for the previous year to ensure that the program is not interfering with their studies, emphasizing the importance of dedication to both the program and school. 

As described by Luke, the purpose of the docuseries is to show that they are, “men that are out there, whether they are incarcerated or not, that are out there trying to make a difference with their sons.”  Campbell describes his shock at the fact that the kids that come out of his program in Liberty City are going on to college and the NFL. He explains that this program, “isn’t just football, it’s a family.”


Rachele is a student at Fordham University. She studies Sociology and Education. She loves writing and takes part in various journalism clubs on campus. In her free time she enjoys watching rugby, playing with her dog and cat and reading.  Follow Rachele on Twitter @rachelelena4, Facebook and Instagram @rachelealena.

9.26.18 Episode

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 8.22.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

This week, Sister Mary Jo Sobieck dials in from Chicago to talk about her perfect first pitch at last week’s White Sox game that made headlines across the country. We are also joined by Washington Post sports reporter Roman Stubbs, who discusses the ongoing controversies surrounding the University of Maryland’s athletic program following the sudden death of one of their football players in June.

Sister Mary Jo Sobieck on her “nun-believable” first pitch and deep love of sports

  Sister  Mary Jo at Guaranteed Rate Field; (Melissa Ferrara, Iron + Honey Photography)

Sister Mary Jo at Guaranteed Rate Field; (Melissa Ferrara, Iron + Honey Photography)

Last week, Sister Mary Jo Sobieck became a trending topic on Twitter thanks to virally-shared videos of her show-stopping first pitch at a Chicago White Sox game.

For most people, a Dominican nun with such impressive pitching skills is not something you see every day – but for Sobieck, playing sports has been a lifelong passion. Her students at Marian Catholic High School in suburban Chicago, where Sobieck teaches theology, know this very well.

“In the classroom, I have some credibility with the athletes. They knew that I had the skills, so to speak,” Sobieck tells David, adding that she is very active in the school’s team sports and with their student athletes.

“They’re really not surprised,” Sobieck says about her students’ reaction to her now-famous first pitch. “To them, this is just kind of a natural occurrence.”

Indeed, Sobieck is a skilled former college athlete who played softball as shortstop and center fielder.

“I would say my God-given gift has been my athletic ability, so a lot of it does come naturally for me,” Sobieck says.

“But I haven't thrown the ball in a long time like that. So I did practice...I had to get that angle right.”

Sobieck, who turns 50 later this year, grew up in a large, active family in which she was the youngest of ten children.

“I’ve been playing ball with my brothers and sisters since since I could walk,” Sobieck says.  “That competitive spirit in me, it came from sport, but also because I'm the youngest of ten. I had to, you know, keep myself strong and agile with all those brothers and sisters coming at me.”

In addition to softball, Sobieck also played volleyball throughout high school and college. She was even an assistant varsity men’s volleyball coach for Marion Catholic during her first year at the school, but her focus has since shifted.

“As much as I love sports, as much as I enjoy being active and staying physically fit, my spiritual exercises are more important to me,” Sobieck says, explaining her reasoning for giving up coaching.

“My love for sports has transcended into a love for God and community,” she says.

“I hope people can see…beyond just the fact that I'm a girl and I’m a sister and I can throw the ball, [and also see] that I'm motivated by my love for life and my joy for the Gospel,” Sobieck adds.

WaPo’s Roman Stubbs on Maryland football

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Roman Stubbs is a Washington Post sports reporter who has covered University of Maryland athletics and national college sports since 2014. Read his article regarding Jordan McNair's death and Maryland's inability to overhaul athletes' healthcare here.

Jordan McNair was a freshman on Maryland’s football team. In late May of this year, McNair collapsed during a team practice and died two weeks later on June 13.

It has been reported that the 19-year-old was showing signs of exhaustion and additionally suffered a seizure before being taken to the hospital. McNair’s cause of death was listed as heatstroke.

An external review of the school’s athletic department concluded in early August and resulted in multiple staff members being put on administrative leave. Shortly after, an in-depth exposé by ESPN revealed a “toxic,” borderline abusive culture underpinning the school’s football program, leading to even more questions surrounding McNair’s death and how it may have been prevented.

Now, Stubbs’ reporting reveals that a health care overhaul for Maryland’s athletes was on the table a year before McNair died, but was shot down by the school’s president, Wallace D. Loh. Had the NCAA-recommended medical model gone through, would McNair still be alive today?

Stubbs says there is no way to know, but there is plenty of speculation that the proposed health care model would have at least improved the culture of the athletic department.

“If you create this independent model...the system might not be manipulated by coaches,” Stubbs says. Maryland’s current model, on the other hand, has many doctors housed inside the athletic department, which Stubbs says may lead to conflicts of interest and other problems.

“We don't know how much that contributed to the culture of Jordan McNair maybe not feeling like he could speak up when he was struggling,” Stubbs says, “and so the thought is that maybe an independent model would have helped that culture…[but] the president completely mixed it.”

Maryland’s athletic scandal doesn’t end there, as Stubbs says there remains plenty of legal liability and more potential for Maryland to come under fire for the circumstances contributing to McNair’s death. There is at least one lawsuit pending against the school and three separate probes into the program.

“They're looking at not just the program itself, but the trainers who are out there. There's some liability on the line from them,” Stubbs says.

As for those at the top – “We don't know the fate yet of the jobs of the president, athletic director [Damon Evans] and the football coach D.J. Durkin, but there's a notion...by a lot of the community that none of them will potentially survive this,” Stubbs says.

“I think it’s a chaotic time at the University of Maryland,” Stubbs says. “My sense is that they need to not only do a thorough job [with the investigations], but they need to act quickly, or it’ll only get messier and messier.”

Listen to the entire show below.

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 8.8.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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This week’s guests include Cindy Boren (Washington Post), David Berri (Forbes), and Brett Baldeck (FOX 46 News).

Topics include President Trump’s continued attacks on activist-athletes, whether now is an economically advantageous time to invest in a professional sports team like the WNBA, and what the recent arrest of NASCAR’s CEO could mean for the future of the company.

WaPo’s Cindy Boren on athlete activism, Trump criticism

Cindy Boren is a reporter covering sports, with an emphasis on politics and national stories for the Washington Post. Boren is also the founder of Early Lead, the Washington Post’s sports blog.

She joins the show to discuss her recent article: “When Trump attacked LeBron James, it had an unintended effect: other athletes speaking out.”

ICYMI: Last weekend, LeBron James sat down for an interview with CNN’s Don Lemon to discuss James’ recently-opened I Promise School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. The school will serve at-risk, low-income, students in the third and fourth grade.

At one point during the interview, James made it clear that he would sit down with President Obama, but never with Trump.

President Trump responded to the interview with a tweet attacking James, questioning his and Lemon’s intelligence, and comparing James to Michael Jordan:

“Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”

Boren notes that James had also previously called Trump a “bum” over Twitter, in addition to briefly campaigning with Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election – “and if there's one way to get under President Trump’s skin, it's to align yourself with Hillary Clinton,” Boren says.

But publicly condemning athletes who choose to voice their disagreement with his administration or demonstrate in a certain way has become a frequent line for Trump. Since Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling for the national anthem to protest police brutality in 2016, Trump has continued to make very clear his opposition to anti-Trump or so-called “unpatriotic” behavior.

Presumably, Trump’s eagerness to loudly and publicly criticize comes with the hope that doing so will silence activist-athletes.

Boren argues, however, that the opposite is becoming true – that these attacks are only going to keep this issue at the forefront of the national conversation and further give athletes a reason to speak out.

“It seems to me that this is just a fight that's going to do nothing but bring more and more athletes to the forefront,” Boren says.

“If he wants incredibly popular people to be active and vocal, he's accomplished it…he’s probably not going to like their message, but it's one that's not going to go away.”

Indeed, when the NFL’s 2018 preseason began this Thursday, many players continued to protest during the national anthem. Some refused to take the field, some knelt, some raised their fists. It is clear that the so-called national anthem protest will not slow down for the President.

Enforcement of the new NFL rules, which required players to stand during the national anthem, was suspended last month. It is not clear how the league will ultimately decide to proceed, and Boren has no predictions about what the NFL and NFL Players Association will end up deciding.

“Trying to come up with an intelligent, reasonable national anthem policy that everyone can follow and that will keep the president quiet” is “probably not a realistic goal,” since Trump is likely to find reasons to critique the NFL either way, Boren says.

But Boren says she has been witnessing athletes like LeBron James, for example, becoming “increasingly vocal and active” about issues plaguing marginalized communities.

“With each each time a young black person is shot to death by a member of the police…[James] speaks out,” Boren says.

Additionally, she adds: “He was incredibly active, he and other NBA players, when Donald Sterling was pushed out…for his racist comments when he owned the Clippers.”

“I don't think athletic activism is going to go away, and I don't think LeBron James is going to be shy about sharing his opinion from now on either,” Boren says.

Read Boren’s Washington Post article here.

Forbes contributor David Berri on the ideal conditions for investing in a sports team

David Berri is an author, a professor of economics at Southern Utah University, and a Forbes contributor. He joins the show to discuss his latest Forbes piece about why he believes now might be the economically ideal time to invest in a women’s professional sports team like the WNBA.

As Berri writes in his article – “you probably need to be worth billions” to buy an NBA team today, whereas the same teams cost very little to purchase less than a century ago. Those who invested in professional sports teams back then likely could not have predicted how immense of a payoff they would experience many decades later.

A similar phenomenon may be happening now, Berri says, with women’s professional sports – simply because the women’s franchises are so much younger, and perhaps have yet to find their true value.

“I want people to think about women’s sports today in the way you would think about men’s sports...30, 40, 50, 60 years ago,” Berri says.

For example: in the 1960s, “the NBA was exactly like the WNBA today. It was a minor sports league; their attendance was extremely low,” he says.

Because of this, investments in the NBA at that time would have been relatively inexpensive – but ultimately very profitable down the road.

“Let's say you could go back in time…if you went and bought the Boston Celtics in 1965, I doubt it would have been a very expensive investment. It was not a very big league,” Berri says.

“If you held onto that investment and you kept the Boston Celtics, 50 years from now you have something that’s worth a billion dollars.”

The same context applies to today’s younger professional sports franchises. Namely, women’s sports, since the two oldest organizations in women’s professional sports – the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) – are still younger than the NFL, NBA and MLB. Since women’s sports teams are not yet as established as the men’s, but they are on track to be, now is the time to invest in them.

“It takes time for a history to be written, for a context to be established,” Berri says. “Until that happens, your sport is not going to be tremendously popular.

“But when it does happen, your athletes...have a much bigger demand, have a lot bigger audience they're going to generate a lot more revenue. And so again, the time to get involved is before that happens.”

 

FOX 46’s Brett Baldeck on what Brian France’s arrest means for NASCAR

Baldeck is a news and motorsports reporter at FOX 46 Charlotte in North Carolina. He speaks with David about the recent arrest of NASCAR’s CEO Brian France, and what the unfolding situation could mean for the company and the sport. Read Baldeck’s latest reporting on it here.

Brian France, the CEO and Chairman of NASCAR, was arrested last Sunday for DUI and possession of oxycodone. His blood level was reportedly more than twice the legal limit.

France was released on his own recognizance after being held overnight for a morning arraignment. He then released a statement that included an apology, along with an announcement that France will be taking an  “indefinite leave of absence” to focus on his “personal affairs.”

According to Baldeck, most NASCAR fans would like him to stay gone.

“From the fans’ perspective, they would like to see him go. They kind of see him, unfortunately, as a villain. That's how most fans feel,” Baldeck says.

“Now that this has happened, they’d like him to step down and get away from NASCAR – that's most of the fans’ perspective.”

NASCAR has been seeing notable declines in both ratings and attendance in recent years. There is the argument that this is simply an industry-wide problem, not the fault of Brian France’s leadership, but Baldeck says there are certainly those for whom France’s presence alone has soured the sport.

“He was making poor decisions with the sport,” Baldeck says. “He rarely would actually even be at a NASCAR race, and fans were pretty upset about that…[and] a lot of fans are upset with Brian France for all of the changes that he’s made over the last ten years.”

Baldeck says that ousting France as CEO could be an opportunity for NASCAR to shake things up and improve how they do things – and hopefully “bring some new life into the sport” – but it is rather unlikely, given the fact that NASCAR has been owned and operated by the France family since it was founded in the 60s. The decision will therefore be a family one.

“NASCAR is a privately-owned, family-run business, so they can make whatever kind of decision they want…it's really going to be up to the France family about what they want to do with the future of him and his involvement within the sport,” Baldeck says.

Since France only said that he is taking a leave of absence, and not that he is stepping down, Baldeck says that he will likely come back as CEO once things are sorted out for him.

Listen to the entire show below.

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The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 8.1.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

HWTP Sports Talk’s first guest is Brandon Steiner, CEO of Steiner Sports, who offers his insight into the changing field of sports collectibles and how today’s landscape is different from when he first started his company three decades ago.

David also speaks with author Josh Birnbaum about his book, "Dream Shot: The Journey to a Wheelchair Basketball National Championship.”

Brandon Steiner, on sports memorabilia then and now

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“I’m not sure what the future of the trading card business is..."

- Brandon Steiner

Brandon Steiner is the founder and CEO of Steiner Sports, a sports marketing company best-known as a producer of memorabilia. He is also an inspirational speaker and has two books.

Steiner has led the company over several decades to make deals with the New York Yankees, Notre Dame University, the Dallas Cowboys, and The Madison Square Garden Company to create and sell collectibles and historical artifacts. Although Steiner sold his company to Omnicom in 2000, he has kept his CEO title and still maintains control over Steiner Sports’ daily operations.

His conversation with David begins with a pressing question: After collecting so many sports cards as kids, why are so few (if any) of them worth millions today?

“You just probably got in the game a little late,” says Steiner, who describes himself as an “old-school” trading card collector. “You need the cards from more of the 50s and 60s.”

Steiner adds that many people don’t take good enough care of their cards for them to be worth much, although his company’s auction platform will try to get customers good money for them.

But perhaps the biggest reason why so few cards have much value nowadays, according to Steiner, is simply that there are so many out there. Starting in the late 70s and early 80s, “they started making a lot more cards, and you had to be really savvy to know which ones to collect,” he says.

Steiner says this has made today’s trading card gig “a little wobbly.”

“I’m not sure what the future of the trading card business is, unless you're sitting with a lot of vintage cards from the 40s, 50s, 60s, and a little bit of 70s,” he says.

“There's just so many cards out there, and I'm not sure the kids these days are looking at cards the same way we did.”

Steiner and David talk about how today’s kids turn to Internet and sports video games to get sports information and connect with their favorite players, rather than having to collect trading cards like they did decades ago.

But David points out the new collectible craze that today’s kids have picked up instead: basketball sneakers.

“What's happening is the kids have found the market for it,” Steiner agrees. He says he is not sure how long this particular business will be booming, but sneaker companies are enjoying great success for the time being.

“Some sneakers are cool, they're definitely a statement – they’re a social statement,” he says. “You walk on a court with, you know, some nice Jordans…it's a statement, [it] says something about your game.”

Steiner says there are certain ways to set up a product to be a collectible, which the most successful sneaker companies have evidently been capitalizing on.

“The whole key to a great collectible is to under-produce, [to] not have enough for your demand,” Steiner says. This “[sets] the tone for those sneakers, that particular brand, that model…to be highly collectible.”

For example, big-name companies like Nike and Jordan will create very limited editions and special colors and initially run out of them. Hopeful buyers will have to enter contests and jump through other hoops for a chance to get their hands on more.

But for the average fan interested in sports memorabilia without breaking the bank, Steiner says it can be relatively straightforward and inexpensive through sites like www.SteinerSports.com  and others – “if you know what you’re doing.”

“It’s buyer-be-educated,” Steiner says, adding that fans can also still get autographs from their favorite players in person if they approach them the right way.

Having been in the collectibles business for decades – Steiner Associates was launched in the late 80s – Steiner says much has changed between then and now.

“I think the collectibles business is ten times more organized than it's ever been – and safer,” he says.

Steiner says his company “really set the tone” in both categories, most prominently through his company’s partnership with the Yankees in 2009.

All things considered, Steiner says the business today is “healthy,” albeit “a little flat” simply because of its expensive nature – but the good news is that players are more involved now, and at least recognize that what they wear has market value (regardless of whether or not they choose to capitalize on it).

Steiner’s advice for modern collectors: if you’re in it just for the money, you have to be savvy about it. “You gotta get educated and understand how the market works and what's what,” he says, adding that the market is fast-moving and complicated.

But for the casual collector who simply want to obtain sports memorabilia because they love a certain sport, team, or player, Steiner advises to focus on collecting around that, rather than worrying about something’s potential value down the line.

“Even if it doesn't necessarily go up in value…you have some stuff to remember a memory, an experience you have,” Steiner says. “You keep that forever, and it's more valuable than whether it went up or not.”

He adds: “I always like to say collect with your heart, not with your pocket. Have fun with it. Collect stuff that you're passionate about.”

Josh Birnbaum on his book chronicling a wheelchair basketball team’s championship journey

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Birnbaum is a photographer, lecturer at Ohio University, and the author of "Dream Shot: The Journey to a Wheelchair Basketball National Championship."

“Dream Shot” features over 100 color photographs chronicling the story of the first collegiate wheelchair basketball team in the country – the University of Illinois men’s wheelchair basketball team – as they set out to win a college national championship in 2008.

Though primarily a photographic essay, David says there is a lot more to the book than just the photography. The pictures and narrative are curated in such a way that the reader feels like they are along on the journey.

Birnbaum says he didn’t initially plan to create a book about the team, but that it was “sprung upon him” and become something of an “unintentional adventure” that turned into something much more meaningful.

“In 2005, my first assignment was just to photograph a wheelchair basketball game,” Birnbaum says. But “when I went to the game, I immediately saw that there was so much more potential to dive deeper into a story.”

Over time, he says, “I realized that someday I wanted to make a book out of it, that it deserved a broader audience.”

Birnbaum says he wanted to capture the experience in such a way that people would be able to understand what being a disabled athlete is like without relying on stereotypes, and to bring more awareness to the sport of wheelchair basketball.

“I hope that the photographs can help people empathize a little bit with other people’s experiences,” he says, and “create a new narrative that lets people see for themselves the complexities of these individuals’ lives.”

Birnbaum followed the players around both on and off the court for years, learning about them and building relationships with them.

“I had to embed myself with the team and show them that I was willing to do everything that – almost everything – that they were willing to do, and that I would be there for everything and show them the dedication that they were putting into their sport and to their team,” he says.

In time, he had essentially became a part of the team – so much so that one day, the coach even gave Birnbaum a hard time for showing up to practice a little late.

“The coach yelled at me. That made it clear to the whole team – this guy’s one of us, and he’s held to the same standards as everyone else.”

Birnbaum says that although the team did have an enthusiastic core group of fans who showed up for nearly every game, they still did not see the same level of attendance as the able-bodied men’s basketball teams. He says lack of awareness of the sport was likely to blame, and was one of the reasons he decided to pursue this project so diligently in the first place.

“I think if there was more awareness, people would definitely come there,” Birnbaum says. “It’s incredible to watch these guys on the court, they’re very talented, very athletic. The game is just as exciting as able-bodied basketball to me.”

Wheelchair basketball in America began in 1948 by Dr. Tim Nugent, who was known as a visionary for disabilities rights and established University of Illinois as the very first collegiate team in the country. Nugent died in 2015 at age 92.

At the time Birnbaum was following the team, he says he was fortunate enough to meet and photograph Nugent on a handful of occasions.

“When you meet him, you just feel this warmth,” Birnbaum says. “Everyone he met he would talk to and give them time and listen, and he was just that kind of person that affected people.”

“Everybody had the highest respect for him because he started wheelchair basketball in America...at a time when if you were in a wheelchair, you probably couldn't go to college.”

Birnbaum continues: “I think that's why this sport is so symbolic – because it's not just a sport, it's also something that has enabled people who historically have been discriminated against to get an education and move up in the world and do all the things that everyone else gets to do.”

Today, Birnbaum says there are more than a dozen collegiate teams that compete regularly, as well as many more smaller intramural leagues at other universities. Not all universities have the kind of support necessary for running such a team, he explains, but the sport is growing nonetheless with new teams coming up every year.

Birnbaum says he has also kept in touch with many of the players he photographed more than a decade ago, and contacted almost all of them while the book was in production last year to update them on the project.

“Some of them are Paralympic athletes now, one of them just won the ESPY Award for best male disabled athlete [Steve Serio won the award in 2017], and some of them are coaches, and...a lot of them still play – even if it's just recreationally in their local team,” Birnbaum says.

“A lot of them stay connected to wheelchair basketball, but also they have lives just like the rest of us.”

You can purchase “Dream Shot” from the IU Press, Amazon and more.

Listen to the entire show below.