The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 5.30.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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“This whole movement has been hijacked”

George Martin told HWTP Sports Talk regarding the NFL national anthem controversy.

Former NY Giants defensive end George Martin joins HWTP Sports Talk with David Weinstein to discuss the ongoing NFL national anthem controversy. The result is a thorough, engaging discussion about social issues in America and where the NFL may be falling short in addressing them.  A must-listen!

Later, Michigan State University alumna and HWTP editorial manager Laina Stebbins speaks with David about the recent settlement agreement between MSU and Nassar victims, and the troubling First Amendment implications it may have for future sexual assault cases. Stebbins also discusses her interview with former NFL linebacker and defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, which will be available on the HWTP blog by Monday.

George Martin: “This whole movement has been hijacked”

The NFL’s new national anthem policy dictates that players must either stand for the Star-Spangled Banner on the field, stay in the locker room if they do not intend to stand, or face a fine and/or penalties from the league. George Martin, a former New York Giants defensive end and Super Bowl champion, offers up his thoughts as a former player who has seen the norms surrounding the national anthem at NFL games evolve over the years.

David points to widespread misconceptions in the public narrative about what the national anthem stands for, why players kneel in the first place, and how those protests should be interpreted.

In these misconceptions, Martin says, the original message behind the protests has seemingly been forgotten.

“I'm greatly disappointed that the narrative, that this whole movement has been hijacked,” Martin says. “It was never an intent to disregard the national anthem.”

“The issue was the infringement and the deterioration of the rights of People of Color...they used the national anthem to bring that to the forefront,” he continues. “That has been forgotten in this whole discussion, and to me, that is the whole shame of this whole situation.”

Speaking on his 14 years in the league, Martin says as a player he cannot recall there ever being a discussion about what to do during the national anthem. He and his teammates always stood proudly to “acknowledge the country in a patriotic fashion” – but Martin also says that this was never forced, always voluntary.

“I have a very, very staunch and very strong commitment to patriotism,” says Martin, whose father served in the military during WWII. “And at the same time, I know what patriotism stands for, and it can't be mandated. It can't be forced upon you.”

He adds that the American right to protest is also spelled out in the US Constitution – another reason why the mandate does not make sense to him as a measure of patriotism.

David also points out that the NFL Players Association seems to have been left out of the discussions prior to the league implementing the new policy.

“To implement a unilateral decision without the input the NFL Players Association, I think it's just totally misguided,” Martin says. “I think that they come together initially and sat down collectively, as our bargain agreement suggests and recommends.”

Had this procedure been followed initially, Martin contends that “a lot of the harsh rhetoric and language and conflict could have been avoided.”

HWTP’s Laina Stebbins on the ongoing mess at Michigan State

As David rightly puts it, the situation at Michigan State University regarding the Larry Nassar sexual assault case is “something that is simply not going to wash itself away.” It continues to spiral outwards, and has potentially far-reaching implications.

MSU recently entered into a $500 million settlement with Nassar’s victims. Many are now saying that although this number accurately reflects the great magnitude of damage done by Nassar, a portion of the settlement may unfortunately set a troubling First Amendment precedent by stifling the rights of victims and victims rights advocates to speak out about sexual assault and advocate for legislation pertaining to it.

Another new MSU/Nassar development – on Wednesday, former MSU president Lou Anna K. Simon was served with a subpoena at her vacation home in Traverse City. She is being compelled to testify before a Senate subcommittee about the Nassar case, and initially declined to do so because the new hearing date conflicted with her vacation time.

Simon resigned earlier this year under pressure from state legislators, MSU students and more following her apparent mishandling of the Nassar case and sexual assault in general at the university. Her interim replacement, former Michigan governor John Engler, is not faring much better and has been garnering controversies of his own with his words and actions regarding the Nassar case.

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Also...

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to interview former NFL linebacker and assistant coach Pepper Johnson.

Johnson has been involved with an organization called USA Natural Patches since 2016, selling patches of vitamin B1 that he says aid in bodily health and function when worn on the skin. He is currently in the process of obtaining the NFL's official approval for them. Once approved, the league's trainers and nutritionists would be able to directly supply the B1 patches to players for a boost of nutrition and energy without the use of steroids.

Other topics of discussion include: Johnson’s transition from player to coach in 2000, his take on the recent speculations surrounding Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, his views on the NFL national anthem controversy, his thoughts about politics in sports, and more.

Look for my full interview with Pepper Johnson on the HWTP blog this Monday, June 4.

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 5.23.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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This week on HWTP Sports Talk, David has a conversation with author Jesse Berrett about American politics and the NFL. He also speaks with USA Today Sports writer Nancy Armour about policies regarding maternity in women’s tennis, and with Washington Post writer Jerry Brewer about the NFL’s new policy targeting athletes who choose to kneel during the national anthem.

Jesse Berrett – on where and how the NFL fits in with American politics and culture

Jesse Berrett, a teacher and historian in California, published a book this month called “Pigskin Nation: How the NFL Remade American Politics.” In it, Berrett explores an especially heightened era of football and politics in the 1960s.

“People don’t want to think about sports as being political,” Berrett tells David, but he explains that his book illustrates how the NFL has always been interwoven with American politics and culture.

In this particular decade, Berrett says, the NFL began to market itself in a particular way which politicians, former players, etc. picked up on. They chose to further that image the NFL was selling “and used it politically, because the NFL seemed so powerful and useful and appealing.”

Berrett’s book also explores how the NFL as a franchise made its way into the mainstream – a fascinating history that not many Americans are familiar with.

Read more about Berrett’s book, “Pigskin Nation,” and purchase it here.

Nancy Armour – on Serena Williams being denied a seed in the French Open following the birth of her baby

Sports writer Nancy Armour also joins David on the show to discuss her latest article for USA Today Sports: “Is French Open punishing Serena for having a baby?"

Williams, often regarded as the greatest female tennis player of all time, was not given a seed for the upcoming French Open. Officials say this is because they awarded seeds based on rankings, and Williams did not qualify for one at No. 453.

Why the low ranking? – Williams recently had a baby. She had announced her hiatus from tennis because of pregnancy on Apr. 19, 2017, and gave birth on September 1 that year. She had many serious complications, which resulted in Williams having a cesarean section.

The birth of her daughter “literally almost killed her,” Armour says. “This was not a simple delivery by any means.”

In her article, Armour argues that the French Open is essentially punishing Williams as a professional athlete by not offering her a seed because she chose to have a child. “Williams obviously could not play tennis during that time, so an exception should have been warranted,” Armour tells David.

“You are asking these women to either put your career on hold and have a baby, or keep playing and hope that you will still be able to have a child when you want to,” Armour says. “To me, that’s not fair.”

“If you have a child, you should be able to do so without penalty,” she adds.

Jerry Brewer on the NFL’s new anthem policy

David also caught up with Jerry Brewer, a Washington Post sports reporter, about the NFL’s new mandate that players must stand for the national anthem if they are on the field or face fines and/or other penalties.

The statement from the NFL reads, in part:

“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room until after the Anthem has been performed.”

In Brewer’s view, this shows yet again that the NFL’s management is willing to sacrifice ethics when their bottom line is at stake.

The socially proper thing to do during the national anthem is obviously to stand, Brewer says, which is exactly the point – the act of kneeling instead is meant to garner attention so the players can deliver a message to the American public about police brutality in this country. The NFL’s new policy will take away players’ freedom to peacefully protest for their cause, he says.

We are a republic that is supposed to show respect for each other [more than] symbols” like the American flag and national anthem, Brewer tells David.

"It’s very dangerous in this country when you start dictating to Americans what is American and how they should be expressing their patriotism,” he adds.

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 5.16.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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This week’s featured guest is Laura Okmin, an NFL reporter for Fox and the founder of GALvanize. She speaks with David about her organization and its upcoming bootcamps for young women in sports broadcasting.

Earlier in the show, reporter Brian Murphy of The News & Observer discusses the prospect of allowing college athletes to profit from their names. USA Today reporter A.J. Perez also joins David to analyze the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week to let states regulate sports gambling.

Brian Murphy on letting college athletes sell their likeness

In college sports, the contentious debate over how student athletes should be treated is nothing new – but the question of whether students should be allowed to make some money from their collegiate athletic careers has seen recent escalation.

Brian Murphy covers the Washington, D.C. beat as a correspondent for The News & Observer and McClatchy. In an article earlier this week, Murphy writes about a Republican Congressman from North Carolina who recently threw his own powerful opinion into the ring by penning an opinion piece for The News & Observer.

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker “basically threatened the NCAA with legislation that would allow players to use their name, image and likeness while in college,” Murphy tells HWTP Sports Talk. “Right now, those rights [belong to] the schools and conferences.”

David points out that this is difficult to balance with the fact that Walker is simultaneously against the idea of paying the student athletes.

It may seem arbitrary, Murphy says, but “the NCAA and many have drawn a line between name, image and likeness [versus] paying players for their performance” nonetheless.

Murphy explains that although the Congressman does not favor paying the players directly, he believes that they should still be able to enjoy the same or similar financial rights as Olympic athletes currently do. The “Olympic model” allows Olympians to earn compensation for selling their image, name and likeness.

“That’s one reason why [Olympians] have longer careers; because they can make money off of being athletes,” Murphy says.

Murphy says the Olympic model is gaining steam as one of the possible solutions being floated in the NCAA debate.

“Some of these athletes in college produce way more value than a scholarship,” Murphy says, and produce so much “surplus value” that colleges are able to make millions off of them every year by not paying their players anything.

Proponents of financial rights for college athletes say the compensation would appropriately reward their achievements, serve as an incentivize for them to finish school, and put them in a better position to have the future they want.

Any kind of big move on this issue by the NCAA will likely need to involve legislation, David speculates.

Murphy says we should keep an eye out for such legislation “later this summer.”

A.J. Perez on the legalization of sports gambling

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an important and long-awaited decision: federal limitations on sports betting, it ruled, are unconstitutional.

A.J. Perez, a sports reporter for USA Today, has been following this story’s progression for the past decade. Back then, he reported on Delaware’s attempt to circumvent the sports betting limitations. Fast forward about ten years, and Perez was able to report on Monday’s momentous court decision.

“It finally happened,” he said.

Perez says that many felt as though it was only a matter of time, comparing it to states gradually warming up to the idea of marijuana legalization. But he had no idea when or how it would happen – until this Monday, when “Jersey won out.”

New Jersey will be the first to offer sports betting within the next week, with others – e.g. West Virginia, Mississippi and Delaware – to follow close behind.

David and Perez discuss the potential pros and cons of the court’s decision, as well as the merits of federal oversight.

States will choose how much they want to tax the newly-legalized pastime, which is something that will likely deviate widely from how Nevada (the only state in which sports gambling has already been legal) has been operating.

“They’re all taxing more than Nevada,” Perez tells HWTP Sports Talk. He notes that Delaware’s state taxes are already extremely steep, for example, and that Pennsylvania is looking into demanding large sanctioning fees on top of their similarly high state tax.

Perez says that with the exception of a small handful of states, he expects that most others will leave it up to their state lotteries or a gaming commission to finalize specific betting rules and guidelines.

Laura Okmin on her GALvanize bootcamps for young women in broadcasting

For over 20 years, Laura Okmin has been at the forefront of professional sports broadcast media. She has hosted, anchored, reported, produced – you name it, she’s done it. Currently, she works as an NFL sideline reporter for Fox.

A few years ago, she also followed her passion to become the founder of an organization that teaches and empowers young aspiring female broadcasters.

Okmin’s organization is called GALvanize, and is geared toward young women who want to gain the experience and confidence necessary to succeed in the male-dominated field of sports broadcasting by providing intensive two-day “bootcamps” around the country.

When GALvanize hosted its first seminar about five years ago, Okmin’s sole focus was on training the young women. She was also working as a media trainer for NFL teams and major league baseball teams at the time. She realized that she was coaching players on how to interact with the media while simultaneously training aspiring reporters about interacting and connecting with those same players.

“I’m sitting here at this beautiful intersection,” Okmin recalls thinking. “How can I get these two sides together?”

Quite easily, apparently, when you have Laura Okmin’s connections; today, all bootcamps are in partnership with NFL teams.

“The [Buffalo] Bills, the Jaguars, the Falcons and the Chargers, they give us our rookies,” Okmin says. “The players AND the women are getting coached.”

Day one of the bootcamp is Okmin’s educational session with the young women, in which she teaches them everything from interview techniques to dressing professionally to building relationships.

Then, on day two: “We are with the rookies, interviewing each other, empathizing with each other,” Okmin tells HWTP Sports Talk.

While the young female reporters are being given the tools to perfect their researching and interviewing skills and build up their confidence, the male players learn to open up and push through nervousness to tell their story and be vulnerable. Both sides learn how to listen and empathize with the other.

“I wanted the men to understand the power that comes with the platform once you learn how to use it, and I want the women to understand the responsibility and the weight that comes with helping somebody share their story,” Okmin says.

“So this way, it’s both sides really helping each other with that, which is wonderful.”

Okmin has three bootcamps coming up, all of which are sold out: two more this month in Jacksonville and Atlanta, and another in L.A. this June.

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 5.9.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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David is joined by author, media historian and University of Maine professor Michael J. Socolow to discuss Socolow’s award-winning book – Six Minutes in Berlin: Broadcast Spectacle and Rowing Gold at the Nazi Olympics.

Later, David speaks with Washington Post sports columnist Jerry Brewer about his latest article detailing the series of "deplorable" decisions made by the Washington Redskins.

Michael Socolow’s award-winning book about the Berlin Olympics and the origins of global sports broadcasting

Originally published in 2016, Socolow’s book recently received the 2018 Broadcast Historian Award from the Library of American Broadcasting Foundation in partnership with the Broadcast Education Association.

The announcement reads, in part, that Socolow’s book “illustrate[s] the development of sports broadcasting at the personal, national, and global levels” with his single case study of the American rowing team victory at the Berlin Olympics, and in doing so revisits “the dramatic and exciting origins of live global sportscasting.”

As David points out, the 1936 Olympics are best known for Jesse Owens’ victory and the longstanding record he set for track and field gold medals by a U.S. citizen. Owens indeed “takes over our historical memory of the 1936 Olympics,” Socolow agrees.

But Socolow’s book details a lesser-known narrative during the games, David says – one that would influence the world of sports broadcasting for decades to come: the story of how the victory of the University of Washington rowing team turned out to be “genesis of global sportscasting and how we all now pay attention to sports.”

“In 1936, the Germans had planned the Olympics to be far bigger, more expansive and more complex than any previous Olympics,” Socolow says. “...They knew that this was their really great chance to introduce the world to their Nazi government.”

They also wanted to contrast themselves with other authoritarian dictatorships. Socolow says, “The Soviets weren't letting people in and weren't letting people report on them, [whereas] the Nazis were welcoming everybody for this Berlin Olympics.”

Additionally, there was the simultaneous development of new radio technologies that allowed for the Games’ live transmission, which Socolow calls “the finest live transcontinental transoceanic transmission that had ever been done before.”

“It created this excitement in the audiences around the world that we sort of take for granted today,” he says.

Socolow tells David he was able to listen to the event from a variety of sources, including Japanese broadcasts from the NHK, German broadcasts (many of which he says can be found online today), and recordings by NBC located in the Library of Congress.

“The 1936 Berlin Olympics may have been the most-recorded event between 1920 and 1940,” Socolow says.

Six Minutes in Berlin: Broadcast Spectacle and Rowing Gold at the Nazi Olympics can be purchased here.

Jerry Brewer on the Washington Redskins’ “deplorable” leadership

In one of his latest columns, The Washington Post’s Sports Columnist Jerry Brewer writes that the Washington Redskins’ continuing series of poor decisions is a direct result of its leadership. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and team president Bruce Allen, Brewer argues, “continue to lead one of the NFL’s most important franchises deeper into the sewer.”

A recent report from the New York Times alleges that the team allowed male sponsors and FedEx Field suite holders access to see Redskins cheerleaders topless or wearing only body paint, after which some of them picked cheerleaders to be their “personal escorts at a nightclub.”

By allowing the franchise to treat their female cheerleaders so poorly, the Redskins' owners and operators "were dancing a dangerous dance in this #MeToo era,” Brewer tells David, adding that this is just one of many instances showing extremely poor judgment on the part of Snyder and Allen.

The Redskins’ leaders “consistently act in a deplorable and privileged manner that makes them ill-suited to represent a community as diverse and influential as this one,” Brewer writes in his article.    The full interview is available below. 

The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 4.2.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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David is joined by legendary heavyweight boxing champion Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield and Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame president Ray McCline. Their wide-ranging talk comes in advance of the ACBHOF’s second annual Hall of Fame induction class weekend, June 1-3.

In addition to being among those honored in the 2018 induction class, Holyfield will be bringing his “Real Deal” boxing promotion to the weekend of events with a boxing match on Saturday, June 2.

Evander the Overcomer

Becoming “The Real Deal” was never a given for Holyfield, and he will be the first to admit it. He speaks frankly with David and McCline about years of determination through struggles and adversity, including being raised by parents who did not have education and not meeting his father until he was 21 years old.

Despite his family’s hardships, Holyfield got most of his motivation early on from his mother and siblings. “Don’t let people outwork you,” his mother would tell him. She would push him to never lose his work ethic, and his siblings would support his efforts and keep him out of trouble.

“I wasn’t no quitter,” Holyfield tells David. “I had a good support system…I was fortunate enough at a young age to have people who cared about me and gave me structure.”

Holyfield recalls his first time losing a boxing match as a defining moment for him. “I thought I was gonna be like Muhammad Ali,” he remembers telling his coach through tears.

His coach responded: “You didn’t lose. You only lose when you quit.’”

This philosophy became a key concept that would guide Holyfield’s professional career. “As long as you keep working toward the goal, you get closer to it,” Holyfield says. “…You gotta do your best. If you don’t quit, you eventually win.”

The tenacity and determination Holyfield developed would sustain his record-breaking 27-year career, making him able to push through obstacle after obstacle to eventually become the first and only four-time heavyweight champion of the world. He had broken a record previously set by boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who had been the world’s three-time heavyweight champion.

“Records are meant to be broken,” Holyfield says.

Helping a younger generation of boxers

Holyfield enjoyed a long professional career that spanned from 1984 to 2011. He officially retired from boxing in 2014.

Now a boxer promoter, he believes he can help young fighters aspire to greatness.

“I didn’t want to be a coach,” Holyfield tells David. Coaches can only help a small number of people, in his view, whereas promoters can talk to many more fighters about “what it takes to be a champion” and be able to provide them with opportunities like the ones Holyfield himself was once given.

Holyfield says he wants to “tell the fighters who don’t have great education, who grew up poor…that you can overcome things.”

In this way, Holyfield sees his promoter role as a way of giving back to the boxing community, and especially to the younger generation. Holyfield says he encourages young kids to avoid surrounding themselves with people who don’t have their best interests in mind.

“You have to be very appreciative and strong-minded because there are a lot of people who don’t want you to succeed,” he says.

McCline jumps in with an observation about how “natural” it is for Holyfield to be giving back to the young fighters who are pursuing a career in boxing, since he had so many good values seeded into him by his mother at a young age – like choosing the right team around you and knowing to “walk away from things that don’t align with your character."

“You realize what thrust him to be great,” McCline says.

Atlantic City: A boxing “Mecca”

To many, New Jersey’s Atlantic City is known as a special place for professional boxing.

“Atlantic City and boxing are synonymous,” McCline says. By holding his annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in the city, he hopes to keep it on the map in the professional boxing world for years to come.

Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Evander Holyfield, who were both included in the ACBHOF’s first class of inductees last year, are among the boxing legends who McCline says “made Atlantic City...a boxing Mecca that was known around the world.”

“It’s an honor to have that type of boxing royalty part of this,” he tells David.

Holyfield fought in Atlantic City 11 times throughout his professional career and won all but one of those fights. Most of those matches took place in Boardwalk Hall, the very place McCline will be holding his organization’s second annual Hall of Fame weekend.

Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, formerly known as the Historic Atlantic City Convention Hall, served as the venue for his fights against Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Pinklon Thomas in the 80s; against Seamus McDonagh, George Foreman, Alex Stewart, and Ray Mercer in the 90s; and against Hasim Rahman and Chris Byrd in the early 2000s.

McCline says it feels “surreal” to have Holyfield returning to this very building – which he had watched the boxer fill to the rafters many years ago – to work with McCline’s organization and participate in its 2018 Hall of Fame induction weekend.

Hall of Fame weekend 2018

McCline firmly believes in boxing’s “incredible” ability to bring people together, which he says can be no better demonstrated by the ACBHOF’s annual Hall of Fame induction weekend, June 1-3. By gathering boxing fans, trainers, and legends themselves in Atlantic City and showcasing individual stories and careers, McCline says the ACBHOF can properly celebrate the history of the sport and look toward the future while giving proper respect to the past.

The weekend kicks off on Friday, June 1 with a meet-and-greet and VIP reception in the Clarence hotel, followed by a live pro boxing show at the hotel’s Celebrity Theater.

Saturday, June 2 (day two) begins with the “Fight Fan experience” at the Conference Center with exhibits, guest fighters, memorabilia and more.

That evening, Evander Holyfield will return to Boardwalk Hall for his “Real Deal” boxing match showcase.

ACBHOF will then hold its second annual induction ceremony on Sunday, June 3. “We look forward to honoring the greats,” McCline said. “We make sure they are remembered and shown homage to in the right way.”

There will be a formal dinner and presentation, which McCline likens to “the Academy Awards of boxing.”

“We’re really excited about the induction class, but really just the itinerary for the whole weekend,” McCline said.

Visit the ACBHOF’s website for the full 2018 weekend itinerary and more details. Tickets to the weekend’s events can be purchased here. More information about Holyfield’s Real Deal boxing promotion can be found here.

The ReCap by Melissa Nappi: 4.18.2018 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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Brett Estrella, Report Coordinator at The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at University of Central Florida, stops by to discuss Major League Baseball’s score on the Racial and Gender Report Card. Michael Chiaradio, CEO and Chairman of the American Softball Association (“ASBA”), discusses his hopes for an all-female professional softball league.

MLB Diversity Report Card

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (“TIDES”) released a diversity report that examined the minority hiring practices of Major League Baseball.  David noted that “The report shows racial hiring is a B+ — up from last year. Gender hiring was at a C — up by just one point from last year — leading to an overall grade of a C+.”  

David:   “The numbers can say a lot of things, but most of the information contained in your (TIDES) report is self-reported... are there any safeguards in place to insure the numbers reported to you are accurate and not getting inflated?” 

Brett Estrella, a Masters student at University of Central Florida, explained: “Each of the clubs that the HR staffs reports that are sent to the Central Office in New York are accountable to the government.”

While the numbers are improving in both race and gender they are still nowhere near where they ought to be.  “The percentages have shifted and our grading system has changed in the last year to reflect the changing demographics of the United States,” Brett explained. “The central league office has better numbers in hiring women and people of color while the teams seem to be lagging behind.”

David: “Do these numbers reflect the pressure put on the Central Office to hire more diverse people or is it just a matter of the demographic of the area?” 

Brett: “I think that the Central Office is where the message comes from and they want to model those diverse hiring practices. As for the teams we don’t get the actual team data from each individual teams just the averages from the MLB, but that would be an interesting study to consider.”

Brett continues,

“The MLB has the most diverse talent pool of any sport, but 42.5% are players of color. The only thing to be miffed about is that the percentage of African-American players has fallen. With their grassroots programs like RBI, which is about bringing baseball back to inner cities...”  Brett continued, “Another program aimed at African-American youth is the Urban Youth Academy that deals with making sure that the game is accessible...”

It’s interesting to note that Major League Baseball cites the reason for the African American decline is because of dark-skinned Hispanics being mischaracterized as black. “The decline over the decades also deserves some context. Though baseball's peak African-American population is often cited at 27 percent in the mid-1970s, that number was inflated by the inclusion of dark-skinned players from Latin American countries -- a mischaracterization uncovered several years ago in research by Mark Armour of SABR.”  MLB concedes that, “…the distinction between today's figure and what Armour determined to be the actual peak (18.7 percent in 1981), as well as the steady decline from the 17.2-percent figure in 1994, is still striking. And MLB has made many efforts to address the factors -- societal and otherwise -- that have contributed to that decline.” (Article here)

Brett turned his attention to the lack of women in baseball. “I am all for women coaching, but how realistic is it to include gender in the coaching category?”  He explains, “90% of the coaches, or if not more on field, are males — there aren’t a lot of female coaches out there…I don’t want to discount it in the future and say that it is unrealistic…” He points out that “There are three women coaching with the Astros, Indians, and Mets — all have women on field… it is a male dominated sport and…in coaching where a majority of coaches played the game and played at a pretty high level…which right there (creates) a barrier of entry to women because of the barriers in participation.”

Brett also noted that other leagues out shine Major League Baseball with respect to the hiring of minorities.  “Baseball actually lags behinds the other major leagues… with an overall grade of C+/B- (MLB) lags behind the NBA who received an A-, NFL who got a B, and the MLS got a B+.”

The TIDES report doesn’t provide recommendations to the leagues as to better their score, but the scores can lead to programs that increase diversity hiring. For more information on the TIDES study, please visit their website at www.tides.org. 

American Softball Association: Are we ready for a women’s softball pro team?

In keeping with our theme of gender equality in sports — Michael Chiaradio, CEO of ASBA, stopped by to discuss his new league and the goals for the inaugural season.

Michael isn’t a typical CEO — he played independent minor league baseball that exposed him to real life experiences on the field that he brings to his softball league.  

Michael explains, “There are great athletes out there who don’t see any viable professional options. Girls go to college and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and make academic decisions or just fizzle out — it’s not a priority.” He continues, “Whereas for me (as a man) whatever school or team I played for, everyone thought they could get drafted or play at a high level. That is something we have to do with women…”

The most important thing about the ASBA is that they are looking to spread the wealth unlike other professional leagues. “We are going to have one standard base pay and give the same bonus opportunities. I was looking over MLB’s collective bargaining agreement and the teams have far too much autonomy and I knew that was no way to grow the league. I think we’re more towards the NFL collective bargaining agreement which gives the governing powers more control over the teams."  Michael continues, "We are giving (women) the ownership shares and that is my macro solution to getting product out there and growing the sport professionally.  This is about giving a fighting wage to players and expanding the boundaries of women’s sports,” explained Michael.

“We are the Netflix’s of softball… we are also developing an app that is going to go right on Xbox and PlayStation in order to target the young folks.”  Draft day for the league is June 9th and Opening Day is June 15th in Mobile, Alabama. 

The full interview is available below. For more information on ASBA and/or to support, go to their website at www.asbasoftball.com.

For more thought-provoking sports content keep tuning in Wednesdays at 9P ET, and by reading our blog.  Comments are welcome!

The ReCap by Melissa Nappi: 4.11.2018 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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Washington Post reporter Des Bieler stopped by to discuss the eventful Masters tournament in Augusta as well as the bad behavior of UFC champion Conor McGregor.  

David and Des discussed the watch-ability of golf in light of the enhanced experience being provided by CBS this year. While some find the game boring it is one of the few sports that is actually better on television as opposed to live on the greens.

Going into the Masters, all the talk was about Tiger Woods -- his return was nothing compared to the other drama provided by his fellow golfers -- Sergio Garcia, last year’s winner, not making the cut for the tournament to Tony Finau dislocating his ankle while celebrating a hole-in-one. However, the biggest piece of drama was the shocking win of Patrick Reed. “It would be hard to complain about it (the tournament). Perhaps they could complain about a guy like Reed winning... Tons of drama on Sunday” is how Des described the overall tournament.

Sergio Garcia's shots were less than desirable and looked like something right out of a movie.  "...something right out of Tin Cup (movie) five shots in a row into the water,” David pointed out. Taking a 13 on that hole, “it was over real early for him, but he had to stick around. He posted the third worse score overall,” Des explained.

Patrick Reed’s win has thrust the player’s past right into the spotlight -- which includes allegations of cheating during his college golfing years.  Des noted that “these allegations will be brought up until we (reporters) have exhausted that angle.”  He went onto say, “another success will pull the focus, but when people win we want to know more about them.”

Another quirk of Reed’s is that he doesn’t have an equipment sponsor -- preferring to use different brands for different clubs -- citing that no one manufacturer makes everything he needs. David mused, “a Piece of logic which I didn’t think about until I read about it.” David wondered, “If this came from a lack of sponsor interest or if he really finds that it makes a difference.”  Reed was formally sponsored by Nike at one point but hasn’t had a sponsor since they stop making golf equipment.

Ultimate Fighting Championship:

Following the discussion of the newest green jacket winner, Des and David turned to the behavior of another champ, UFC’s Conor McGregor. McGregor attacked a bus filled with UFC players as it attempted to leave the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.  Some thought that McGregor’s attack was a setup, but UFC officials have denied any part in the incident. “I wouldn’t blame anybody who watched the footage of McGregor and his crew in the bowels of the Barclays…” Des said.  “…if you ever watched WWE events that is a staple of their events, which are staged.” He continued, “There is a lot of crossover between both audiences, I don’t think the UFC was behind any of that.”

The UFC stripped McGregor of his title prior to the incident for inactivity. Des wonders if McGregor is eyeing a spot in the WWE -- after all, his bout against Mayweather made him a ton of money. “We haven’t seen him fight since 2016 -- would he rather just sign with WWE and not fight in the UFC again,” Des pointed out. It's obvious that working with the WWE would mean less physical beatings as opposed to the violent beatings he has taken as a UFC fighter.

Des feels nothing much will come from this.  David, a practicing lawyer, highlighted the charges and consequences of his actions as McGregor isn’t a US citizen. The gathering of a number of McGregor’s friends from Dublin again highlights the possibility that he was attempting to either garner attention for a possible match within the octagon or try to set up a potential future within the WWE. “Overall it was pro-wrestling style showdown gone wrong,” Des concluded.

David also had some additional highlights from last week’s story about the NFL and their cheerleaders. Another Times article talked about the harassment that the cheerleaders face from not only the players but also the fans. “They are told it is part of the job, you’ve got to be polite and turn the other cheek even in the short skirts and tight costumes,” David explained. “You have to have more respect for these folks cheering on the team and stop contributing to a hostile workplace.”  It is clear that Bailey Davis’ EEC complaint will be the first of many coming in the post-Harvey Weinstein era.

National Hockey League:

The NHL playoffs are upon us and Washington Post reporter Isabelle Khurshudyan stopped by to discuss how the playoffs will take shape this year.

“…we’ve got some new faces like Vegas (Las Vegas Golden Knights); we got Winnipeg who hasn’t been there in a while; New Jersey who wasn’t expected to be there, Colorado wasn’t really expected to be there – it’s going to be interesting – you also got some rivalry’s in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia…” 

She continued, “There are certainly some interesting matches up and just how the format will be played.  Some of the best teams in the league will probably play early.  You have Winnipeg who is easily one of the best teams in the league, who will have to play Nashville potentially in the second round -- if both teams advance, as they should.  This is what you saw with Washington and Pittsburgh the past couple of years where you literally had the best two teams playing each other pretty early.  So it gets good right away. It’s not like other sports where you have to wait for the conference final or even the final to get the best team to match up.”

Khurshudyan expressed that she learned not to count out defending champions Pittsburgh Penguins.  “I’ve learned not to doubt the Penguins. The question for them ‘is the fatigue going to catch them’ with all these extra games -- which adds up to almost another season…I think they are positioned to do well.”   

The real surprise has been the Vegas Knights. As a first time playoff team, although most of the players have playoff experience, Khurshudyan explains, “You don’t know how they are going to do on this stage… all season they have had nothing to lose -- does the magic run out now that they are on the big stage, if they make it – it will be a great story for the league.”  That’s for sure.

The ReCap by Melissa Nappi: 4.4.2018 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk

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April 4, 2018 Podcast, New York: In recent months a spotlight has been shone upon the dark side of being on the sidelines of the National Football League. The cheerleaders of the National Football League have long been chafed under the strict guidelines placed upon them with little to no reward. The Saints recently fired cheerleader Bailey Davis for a photo that the team deemed inappropriate on her personal Instagram account. Davis responded by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against the team claiming unfair treatment.  New York Times writer Ken Belson stopped by HWTP Sports Talk to discuss the pending lawsuit filed by Davis as well as his investigative article into the restrictions placed upon NFL cheerleaders.

One point Ken and David stressed early in the interview is that Davis’ complaint is the first step in the long process to ligation with the Saints. If the claim is found to have merit she may go through with a lawsuit against the team. Davis isn’t the first cheerleader to sue a team but given the ongoing national conversation taking place about sexual harassment any claim of gender bias will receive extra scrutiny especially given the troubles the NFL has had with domestic violence as well as the inherent sexualization of cheerleading within the league.

Ken also provided new insights not shared in the original Times article. Of all the controlling policies, Ken examined the anti-fraternization clause which seemed to have appalled him the most. A clause which on the surface seems to be in the best interests of all involved as it is meant to prevent cheerleaders from being taken advantage of by players and other male personnel. However, the clause is so restrictive that if a cheerleader does so much as anything more than say ‘good game’ or ‘hello’ to a player, she is in violation of the clause. Players face no repercussions for hitting on cheerleaders whereas cheerleaders can be fired for not distancing themselves from the predatory behavior of the players.

HWTP listeners chimed in by stating, “So sexist! These men can't keep it in their pants so the onus is on the Cheerleaders!" and “Another form of the NFL controlling cheerleaders.

Players, who are unionized and protected employees, face restrictions nowhere near as strict as cheerleaders. Ken uses the example of a cheerleader eating in a restaurant. Should a player enter the same establishment, the cheerleader must leave. Should a player be there first, the cheerleader must exit the restaurant. Restrictions on social media are also intense including no geotagging, pages set to private, and blocking players who attempt to contact them via these platforms. Everything from what they post to where they eat and how much they weigh is controlled by the cheerleaders’ handbook -- violations of these rules can lead to termination of what is essentially a part-time, minimum wage job.

Another point that David and Ken discussed is that by restricting cheerleaders from posting photos in team uniforms or even with logos they are hindering their commerce. A point perhaps the average fan may not consider. With yearly auditions or occasional limits on how long these women can cheer for a team, they need to build a brand. For example, Davis, who filed a complaint with the EEOC, wasn’t allowed to reveal that she was a Saints cheerleader, which hindered her during job hunts -- she couldn’t list it on her resume or LinkedIn profile.  Not only was she fired for a minor violation of the policy that wouldn’t even get a player fined, they also hindered her ability to find other gainful employment in her chosen profession, dance.

We could see a shift in these policies as the new owner of the Saints is a woman. Could this along with the steady growth of female fans and the #metoo movement be the momentum needed to see an actual change to these handbooks or will the team settle with Davis and be back to business as usual as some teams gear up to audition new cheerleaders this weekend. 

Keep tuning in to HWTP Sports Talk for further developments on Davis’ on-going battle with the Saints as well as other thought-provoking sports stories.