Football

The ReCap by Rachele Lena: 11.28.18 by HWTP Sports Talk

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This week HWTP Sports Talk were joined by Kareem Copeland from The Washington Post, A.J. Perez from USA Today and Marcel Louis-Jacques from the Charlotte Observer. After a week of hot sports news, including the Washington football club’s signing of Reuben Foster,  a nail-biting match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Eric Reid’s random drug testing.  

Kareem Copeland joined us to discuss Reuben Foster’s addition to the Washington football club after his dismissal from the San Francisco 49ers after a second domestic violence occurrence. Copeland tells us that Washington players are in a strange position when it comes to answering questions regarding how they feel about Foster’s addition to the team. He explains that, “this is someone that could be their teammate and they don’t want to get off on the wrong foot, but at the same time, no one wants to condone the allegations.”  Reuben Foster played college football at Alabama and Kareem Copeland tells us that four other players on the Washington team also have roots in Alabama spoke very highly of Foster and gave him “glowing recommendations.” When asked why Copeland thinks the Washington team took a risk on a player that is on the Commissioner’s Exempt List as opposed to a player like Colin Kaepernick who is known for being “outspoken, but not with the law” he explains that, “from a pure football standpoint it makes sense” and that “he’s a first round talent and does not need to be paid a lot since he is being kept on his first contract.”  Copeland describes this as “purely and clearly a business decision” instead of a decision that was made with taking public relations into account.  

Our second guest, USA Today’s A.J. Perez, joined us to discuss the golf match between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson that lasted 22 holes. This match, which was a pay-per-view event, faced streaming difficulties and other technical issues. These technical difficulties have led to a public outcry from those that paid to watch the match and were unable to stream it. Perez explains to us that, “this event was supposed to be a trial event” and that he has received multiple messages from people that have yet to receive their refunds for the match that they played for.  

Our third guest, Marcel Louis-Jacques from the Charlotte Observer, joined us to discuss the “random” drug tests that are being administered to Eric Reid, a player known for kneeling during the national anthem. Louis-Jacques claims that, “it is a 1 in 500 chance that a player is tested 5 times in 8 weeks out of a 72-player pool”. Despite Eric Reid being continuously tested for performance enhancing drugs, Marcel Louis-Jacques claims that “Reid has never registered a positive test and has never shown evidence of using these drugs.”  He also explains to us that the independent administrator of the tests, Dr. John Lombardo, “has the sole discretion to decide what players are tested, when they are tested and is not allowed to override the random computer program”.  In response to whether or not these random drug tests are affecting Reid’s play out on the field, Louis-Jacques states that, “Reid is arguably the best member of the secondary so far this season except for their corner Dante Jackson.”

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 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: 7.11.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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David is joined this week by New York Times reporter and author Karen Crouse to have a discussion about sexism in sports, and Crouse’s article, "At Wimbledon, Married Women are Still 'Mrs.'" Later in the show, Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post comes on to discuss a college basketball corruption case that now involves the University of Maryland.

NYT’s Karen Crouse on sexist traditions in sports

Karen Crouse covers sports for the New York Times. She is also the author of “Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town's Secret to Happiness and Excellence.”

One of her latest articles for the Times explores Wimbledon’s apparent fixation on the marital status of female players, with the case study being Serena Williams – who is now being referred to as “Mrs. Williams” by chair umpires, after getting married last year but not taking Alexis Ohanian’s last name.

“If you are a woman competing at Wimbledon, you are either a ‘Miss’ if you are single, or you are a ‘Mrs.’ if you are married,” Crouse says.

“But when you have the case of someone like Serena, who is recently married but has not taken her husband's name, they just call her ‘Mrs. Williams’ – so it makes it sound as if she is married to her father.”

This particular way of addressing players according to their marital status does not extend to men, however.

“If you are Roger Federer – [who is] married with four children – you are simply ‘Federer,’” Crouse says. “So, the married men do not have the courtesy title in front of their names.”

Is this just a case of the British being overly proper and fond of tradition, or something more malicious?

“I’ve heard the ‘tradition’ side of it as it relates to Augusta National,” says Crouse, who also covers golf for the Times. “I'm getting to the point where when I hear the word 'tradition,' it's feels like it's synonymous for sexism or prejudice. I just don’t buy it.”

She points to the fact that women at Wimbledon have had equal pay for 11 years now.

“They've been able to get past…the idea that women don't need money because they're married to men who make the money,” Crouse says. “They've gotten over that tradition, so maybe it's time for them to recognize women as their own people, and not who they are married to or…whether they're married or single.”

“It has the impression, at least, that you just see women as appendages of men,” she says.

Crouse says that in an over-600-page compendium about Wimbledon, you can find the detailed marital history of every semifinalist and finalist on the women’s side, both singles and doubles: “It has the date of when you were married, the place, and the full name of your husband,” Crouse says.

“That's how I found out that Serena's husband, Alexis Ohanian, his middle name is Kerry because this was listed in the Compendium. It is so crazy.

“None of this is done on the men's side,” she says, adding: “If you're going to have this kind of information and the women are going to be recognized in terms of their relationships, you should do the same for the men.”

WaPo’s Jesse Dougherty on college basketball corruption

Jesse Dougherty is a staff writer at Washington Post who covers college sports and University of Maryland athletics. He speaks with David about a developing story that now involves both of his beats.

An FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball has now led to more subpoenas for the University of Maryland, even after the University handed over records after being initially subpoenaed in March.

The new subpoenas request information regarding one unnamed former player at Maryland, the team’s assistant coach, and a recruit who ultimately attended Kansas.

“The company line from everyone is that ‘this happens everywhere.’ Of course, that's not entirely the case,” Dougherty says.

“There are over 300 schools in college basketball, so it can't be everywhere – but I don't think any school’s really in the clear, even if the trials are looming.”

Back in March, it was reported that Diamond Stone, a former Maryland player, was implicated in improper payments that were meant to steer him to sign with sports agency ASM after college.

“He was one of a long list of players that was sort of roped into this whole federal investigation,” Dougherty says.

When that happened, Maryland announced that they were conducting an internal investigation. “Given the fact that...Maryland was looking into some matters on their own front…it didn't seem like Maryland was totally in the clear of this kind of thing,” he says.

The March subpoena, in part, requested communication records between Maryland employees and Christian Dawkins. According to the Washington Post: “Dawkins is facing charges, including wire fraud, under accusations he arranged payments for the families of several top recruits to ensure they attended certain schools and eventually signed with preferred agents and financial advisers.”

The initial subpoenas were then followed up, less than two weeks ago, with more that request additional information regarding communications with another player.

So far, the University of Maryland’s reaction to the new subpoenas has been “pretty close to the chest,” Dougherty says, but “I can’t imagine Maryland’s feeling great about that.

“It's not something you want connected to your program. And [with] about a dozen now that have been implicated or sort of tied into this…morale can't be a hundred percent, that's for sure.”

Since there are few connections between Maryland and Silvio D'Souza, the recruit who ended up attending Kansas, Dougherty says it's “not totally surprising to see Maryland at least come up in a subpoena” – although, he and David agree that the case might not necessarily track back to Maryland.

“It could just be that they're trying to gather more information…I think Maryland’s roped in just by association in this,” Dougherty says. “They’re sort of tangentially connected to the Silvio case. And as you said, if there is some glass half-full, it could be that – that it's not actually going to crack down on [Maryland], but just sort of an information gathering for a trial that could unfold in October.”

Until then, “things are going to bubble to the surface, and it’s going to be a fun thing to follow and report on,” says Dougherty.

Listen to the entirety of both conversations below.

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 6.13.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

 Luther Wright with former NBA commissioner David Stern

Luther Wright with former NBA commissioner David Stern

This week, David is joined by Amy Ellis Nutt of The Washington Post to discuss her reporting on rising suicide rates across the country, particularly those of athletes. Author and game fixing expert Brian Tuohy also speaks with David about newly-legalized sports betting, and some potentially unintended consequences it may have as it becomes more widely available across the country.

Amy Ellis Nutt on rising suicide rates, links between athlete injuries and mental disorders (36:20)

 Amy Ellis Nutt covers neuroscience and mental health for The Washington Post. In the aftermath of recent high-profile deaths by suicide, including Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, Nutt joins David for a timely and important discussion. Topics include Nutt’s reporting on rising national suicide rates, the significance of mental illness as a factor, and how athletes can be uniquely vulnerable to both.

A growing national crisis

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In her most recent article, Nutt reports on details from a new CDC report revealing that suicide rates in the U.S. increased between 1999 and 2016. This was true in all but one state, held for variables including age, gender, race and ethnicity.

In 2016, the number of reported suicides in the U.S. more than doubled the number of homicides, Nutt writes.

Why is America continuing to see a troubling upswing in suicide rates? According to Nutt, a combination of factors are at play – with undiagnosed mental illness being a significant one.

Nutt says there are sadly many people who tragically take their own lives, with their undiagnosed mental disorder(s) only being discovered after it is too late.

“When you go back and do a psychological autopsy on these people, you discover they have all the signs of mental illness, but they haven’t been seen,” she says.

This is often due to Americans not having access to proper care and/or not being able to afford treatment, Nutt says, which by themselves have a lot to do with driving numbers of suicides up.

“Half the counties in the United States do not have a psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker, which is really stunning,” Nutt says.

Add to this a prominent social stigma surrounding mental illness, and it becomes apparent why so many Americans do not receive the treatment they may desperately need – whether they know they need it or not.

Why athletes are especially vulnerable

Nutt, speaking to her experience as a former sports reporter, says that athletes tend to have a harder time dealing with issues of mental and emotional health in general.

Often, this can largely be attributed to the significant amount of pressure and scrutiny professional athletes are expected to shoulder gracefully – while continuing to perform at a top level and maintain a good public image simultaneously.

It’s easy for us to think of pro athletes as being pampered because of their lifestyle, Nutt says, but in reality we might be failing to recognize classic signs of mental illness.

She talks about the story of former NBA player Luther Wright, who had a promising but ultimately short stint in professional basketball. His career was cut short after less than a year for reasons including a struggle with mental illness.

Nutt recalls what Wright said during a revealing interview in 2015, in which he spoke about the pressures of being a pro athlete: “He said as an athlete, you're desperate to provide for your family. And especially when you finally reach that professional level, you just might not feel you have a luxury to divulge that you're having a mental health issue,” Nutt says.

“If you're even able to recognize it yourself, it's not something you want to talk about” because of the social stigma and unwanted public attention, she adds.

On top of that: “Athletes are a special breed, they’re perfectionists. Everything about the life of an athlete is measurable…so the standards by which athletes measure themselves are very exacting,” Nutt says.

In this way, it becomes all-too easy for athletes to feel like they are failing if they don't meet certain benchmarks or measure up in a particular way. This perfectionism can lead to athletes playing down or hiding parts of their life they deem damaging to their career, including injuries.

The links between athlete injuries and mental health

David brings up the death of NFL hall of famer Junior Seau, who took his own life in 2012. Seau confided in those close to him about the many concussions he had suffered, but went to lengths to hide them from the public during his 20-year career. Not once was he even formally diagnosed with a concussion. Upon his death, Seau was discovered to have CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy), a degenerative brain disease found in athletes and others with a history of repeated head trauma.

As described by this NPR article, Seau’s death brought the issue of football-related concussions to the forefront of a national conversation – but six years later, are professional and collegiate teams doing enough to mitigate these risks today?

“I’m not sure they are,” Nutt says.

“Only about 40 percent of Division 1 schools actually have a licensed full-time mental health practitioner,” she tells HWTP Sports Talk. “That, to me, is kind of stunning when you consider the particular problems of athletes.”

An all-too common occurrence for pro football players, repeated hits to the skull are now widely known to pave the way to early-onset dementia, Nutt says.

However, “what a lot of people don't know is that any kind of head trauma increases the risk of developing a mental disorder – sometimes as much as 400 percent.”

In other words, dementia, CTE and cognitive loss aren’t the only potential consequences of repeated head trauma. Mental illnesses can also develop as a result.

“Things like depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia – those are things that can happen from repeated blows to the head,” Nutt says.

Nutt also points to a study in which researchers examined the injury experience of elite athletes: “Having an injury – these researchers likened [that experience] to a grief process,” she tells David.

The study additionally found that with regard to depression and suicide, “about 10 to 20 percent of elite athletes who suffer an injury really warrant a clinical intervention,” according to Nutt.

“It’s easy to be blithe about it, but when that is your life and you injure something...and you might not be the person you were, or you might have to retire early – then it’s devastating, if that’s been your whole life and it’s taken away from you,” she says.

If you or someone you know is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK [8255] or text HOME to 741741 for help.

Brian Tuohy on sports gambling (20:00)

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Last month, the world of sports celebrated a long-awaited ruling from the Supreme Court. The 6-3 decision lifted a federal ban on sports gambling, essentially allowing it to transition from an underground practice (with the exception of Nevada) to a legal, above-ground enterprise that states can choose how to regulate.

Since the May ruling, both New Jersey and Delaware have instituted full-scale legalized sports betting. New Jersey’s began Thursday, with large crowds convening at racetracks to celebrate and place their first bets.

Brian Tuohy is a game fixing expert and author, notably of “The Fix Is In.” He joined David to discuss the potential pros and cons of the pastime’s newly-legalized status, and offer his thoughts on what the future may hold.

“I think overall, it’s a good thing,” Tuohy tells David. “If people want to do it...they should be allowed to do it. Then you can regulate it, then you can tax it, then you can have some sort of oversight on it.”

Another positive, according to Tuohy: before the Supreme Court ruling, “everything outside of Las Vegas and Nevada was basically illegal and was controlled mostly by organized crime.

“The more it's legalized, the more you take it out of organized crime’s hand – and the more, hopefully, you can regulate it,” he says.

Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Mississippi are the next few states in line to likely implement sports betting on a full scale in the near future. Legislation geared toward this goal has also been introduced, but not yet passed, in 15 additional states. Click here to follow ESPN’s state-by-state sports betting bill tracker.

Tuohy adds that not all consequences of legalizing sports gambling will be positive.

“On the downside, what I'm afraid is going to happen, at least at first – I think the sports media is going to get carried away with the gambling end of it,” he says.

Tuohy predicts that, to the dismay of the average sports fan, a large portion of sports coverage – including online articles – will likely begin slanting heavily toward this angle as betting becomes more widely available.

“I'm afraid that sports coverage...it's all going to become about gambling and about the betting line,” Tuohy says, “and I think it might get overwhelming for the casual fan who isn't gonna gamble. It just might be too in people's faces.”

“I think they're going to believe that the gambling fan is the engaged fan, and the more they can talk or write about gambling and the sports betting end of things, the more clicks they're going to get,” he adds.

“I think it's going to be a constant loop.”

As for modern-day figures like Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, a popular commentator and gambler on “The NFL Today” in the 1980s largely known for bringing sports gambling into the mainstream: “I think every show's going to have a guy like a Jimmy The Greek,” Tuohy says.

“What I think's going to be the problem is that they’re not going to vet any of these guys,” he continues. “They're going to find somebody on Twitter, or who has some sort of established reputation – be it good or bad, it's not going to matter – there’s gonna be somebody who's established in the gambling industry and they're going to make them a permanent panel member. And you're going to hear nonstop about, again, the gambling end of sports.”

“In the end I still think it's a good thing,” Tuohy says, “but I'm afraid the way the media is going to treat it is going to be a bad thing.”

As for the crowd that has already been gambling in the underbelly – “I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon,” he tells David.

Tuohy explains that a big reason is due to the fact that, unlike in illegal gambling, the major sports books are corporate-owned entities that do not accept huge wagers. “Especially from guys that they believe are sharp, good gamblers,” Tuohy adds.

“So, I think the underground is still going to exist because the illegal sports gambling industry is going to still take those big bets,” he says.

Furthermore, gamblers who win big money from underground bets don’t have to worry about paying taxes on what they win.

In Las Vegas, “you win over 10 grand, you're instantly taxed on it – whereas if you win it with Vinnie, you know, out on the corner, you don't have to.

“So even though it's going to be legalized...there's still going to be this illegal industry that exists, because they can get around certain things that proper sports books won't deal with, and the taxes and fees that they won’t to have to pay,” Tuohy says.

Listen to the whole conversation below.

 

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 6.6.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

 NFL Network's Jeffri Chadiha

NFL Network's Jeffri Chadiha

David is joined by NFL Network’s Jeffri Chadiha to talk about Bobby Kennedy and Rosey Grier on the 50th anniversary of RFK’s assassination. Later, New York Times reporter and author Joe Drape joins the show to break down a little league baseball bat scandal and give his take on Justify’s upcoming Triple Crown attempt.

This week’s show was brought to you by USA Natural Patches, home of the B1 all-natural sports performance patch. Visit BuyB1.com and use the code PepJ52 to get 20% off your order.

NFL senior writer Jeffri Chadiha on “Rosey & Bobby”

June 6, 1968 was a day that shocked the country and the world – and left a national wound that we are still assessing to this day. After his victory speech following the California primaries, Robert F. Kennedy, the beloved activist and the leading Democratic candidate for president, was assassinated in Los Angeles.

Wednesday marked the 50 year anniversary of RFK’s sudden and tragic death. David is joined by award-winning writer Jeffri Chadiha to discuss Chadiha’s compelling piece for NFL.com about the relationship between Robert “Bobby” Kennedy and NFL star Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier. The night of the assassination, Grier was guarding the Senator’s wife, Ethel Kennedy.

Chadiha says that everything in Grier’s life had changed after he was asked to be a part of Kennedy’s presidential campaign in 1968.

“Bobby Kennedy really loved people, and he and Rosey Grier had that in common from the start...It was a natural bond that they created,” Chadiha says. The two also had football in common; like Grier, Kennedy was also a former football player at Harvard.

“Rosey Grier was probably at some point going to do something to help people, to help humanity, because that’s in his soul,” Chadiha says, but “in so many ways, Bobby Kennedy taught Rosey Grier about how to...not just love people, but how to help people.”

“He wanted to change the world, but he ended up changing Rosey Grier in the process.”

Kennedy was well-known and beloved for his fervent social justice advocacy. He confronted issues that America still grapples with today, including economic equality, racial injustice and immigration.

“The world was divided, the country was divided back then, and I think Rosey felt like [Kennedy] was the person who was going to change that,” Chadiha says.

Chadiha goes on to talk more about the long-lasting impact Kennedy’s life, friendship, and death had on Grier, and how it changed the trajectory of his life and career post-1968.

Read Chadiha’s full piece on NFL.com, "Rosey & Bobby,” here.

NYT writer Joe Drape on youth batting, sports betting

This season’s new standards for youth baseball equipment came with a big price tag, and are being met with outrage and frustration from young players and their parents.

Reporter and author Joe Drape writes about the controversial new standards in his latest New York Times article, “New Rules for Bats Leave Youth Baseball Parents With the Bill.” He talks with David about the updated standards, how they are being received, and the potential consequences of raising the price of youth sports.

Back in the day, David points out, all you needed to play baseball was a bat, a ball or two, and a street or field to play on. “It wasn't something that was costing parents hundreds of almost thousands of dollars to keep kids competing,” he says.

So, what gives?

“They put in, like, OSHA standards of how the bat is built and what effect there would be,” Drape says. But not for safety reasons, as one might presume.

“USA Baseball…[they] didn't think it was competitive enough,” Drape says. The new models apparently make good hits – and thus, home runs – harder to come by.

The approved bats, stamped with the USA Baseball logo, can range from $45 to $350. Drape’s article also reports that retailers are having a hard time keeping them in stock.

“Team sports has definitely become an economic divide,” Drape says. “There's no doubt, when you raise prices like that and make the barrier to entry about bucks, that you're discriminating against people.”

Drape adds that when team sports have this monetary barrier to entry, lower-income children are only able to participate if they can already demonstrate a high level of ability; whereas for children whose families can afford the costs, their talent level is not a factor in their inclusion.

It’s all about the money.

“They basically have sold sports to the folks who can afford it,” Drape says. “Doesn't mean they're the most gifted.”

In the last part of his and David’s discussion, Drape also weighs in on the upcoming potential for Justify to win the Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes.

To catch the whole conversation, listen to the full show below.