April 11, 2013

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) —Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has announced a new investor to help fill the role vacated by billionaire Ron Burkle in the city’s bid to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle.

Johnson said at his weekly news conference Tuesday that Sacramento developer Mark Friedman has joined the group. The announcement comes a day after Burkle backed out because of a conflict of interest stemming from his ownership stake in Relativity Sports, which manages some NBA players’ careers.

Friedman said he will help build the planned arena in downtown Sacramento. He also said he had been in contact with the mayor since January and the timing of Burkle's decision had nothing to with his emergence.

Sacramento is trying to block a bid from a group that has a deal with the Maloof family to buy the Kings and move the franchise to Seattle next season. NBA owners are vetting both offers.

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April 11, 2013

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has been named to the NFL's competition committee.

Commissioner Roger Goodell named Tomlin to the committee on Tuesday. Tomlin will replace former Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. Tomlin had worked on the coaches subcommittee of the Competition Committee since 2009.

The 41-year-old Tomlin is 68-36 in six seasons with the Steelers and led them to victory in the 2009 Super Bowl.

“Coach Tomlin will bring additional strength to the committee from the coaching perspective,” Goodell said. “Mike has strong, perceptive views about the game and is effective in expressing them. We look forward to his contributions to the committee’s ongoing mission to improve the game.”

Tomlin says he is “excited” about the appointment and is looking forward to contributing. The nine-man committee — which is co-chaired by Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay and St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher — recommends rules and policy changes to the NFL.

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April 04, 2013

By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI Associated Press

 

HOUSTON (AP) -- Relatives and hometown supporters of the nation’s first Black heavyweight boxing champion are turning to YouTube to convince President Barack Obama to posthumously pardon him of a 1913 conviction for accompanying a white woman across state lines.

Jack Johnson, nicknamed the “Galveston Giant” after his Texas hometown, was at the center of racial tensions after winning the title in 1908. When he defended his title by defeating white boxer Jim Jeffries in 1910, dubbed the “Fight of the Century,” the victory sparked deadly race riots across the county.

Three years later, Johnson was convicted by an all-white jury for violating a Jim Crow-era law that made it illegal to transport white women across state lines for “immoral purposes.” He was sentenced to a year in prison.

His family and other supporters say he did nothing wrong and that the century-old conviction continues to tarnish Johnson’s image. Lawmakers have asked for a pardon three times in the past decade, most recently in March, though none has been successful. The Justice Department has said its general policy is not to process posthumous pardon requests, and the White House declined to comment on the most recent congressional resolution.

So on Sunday, to mark what would have been Johnson’s 135th birthday, his relatives and supporters gathered in Galveston to honor him and record a video to go straight to Obama.

Leon Phillips, president of the Galveston County Coalition for Justice, which helped spearhead the effort, told The Associated Press on Tuesday the video adds another layer of support.

“Not only is it coming from Congress, but it will be coming from the citizens of the United States if we can just get everyone to click on that like button,” he said. “President Obama’s father could have been convicted of the same thing because he was married to a white woman and they traveled all over the world and from state to state.”

Johnson’s great-great niece, Linda Haywood, said Johnson was “railroaded” by authorities.

“I didn’t know the man was my uncle until I was 12 years old, that’s how ashamed my family was of the fact that he went to prison. A pardon would erase the shame and the stigma and allow us to hold our heads up high because we know what a great man he was,” Haywood said in the video.

“I’m asking President Obama as the first African-American president to give my uncle a pardon,” she said. “A lot of times when he would come to his sister’s house or his mother’s house he had to sneak at night with his white girlfriend or his wife because of the times that they lived in.”

Authorities first targeted Johnson’s relationship with Lucille Cameron, who later became his wife, but she refused to cooperate. They then turned to his former mistress, a prostitute named Belle Schreiber, to testify that Johnson had paid her train fare from Pittsburgh to Chicago, for immoral purposes.

Johnson skipped bail and fled the country following his conviction, but in 1920 he agreed to return and serve his sentence.

So far, the YouTube video hasn’t had too many hits. But Haywood and other relatives are determined to get a pardon to clear Johnson’s name.

“The color of your skin should not determine who you, or how you, love,” Haywood said in the video.

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April 11, 2013

By MARYCLAIRE DALE Associated Press

 

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody has a billion-dollar problem on her hands.

Brody, of Philadelphia, heard arguments Tuesday on whether lawsuits that accuse the NFL of glorifying violence and hiding known concussion risks belong in court or in arbitration.

Brody could side with the 4,200 players and let them pursue lawsuits, or she could rule for the league and find that head injuries are covered under health provisions of the collective bargaining agreement.

Or she could issue a split decision, letting some of the fraud and negligence claims against the NFL move forward in court. Her decision could be worth more than a billion dollars - and is expected to be appealed by either side, spawning years of litigation.

“There are people who aren’t going to be able to be around long enough to find out the end of this case, and my husband is one of them,” said Eleanor Perfetto, the widow of guard Ralph Wenzel, who played for Pittsburgh and San Diego from 1966 to 1973. “He died last June, and I’m here for him. He was sick for almost two decades and, in the end, had very, very severe, debilitating dementia.”

In the closely-watched court arguments Tuesday, NFL lawyer Paul Clement insisted that teams bear the chief responsibility for health and safety under the contract, along with the players’ union and the players themselves.

“The clubs are the ones who had doctors on the sidelines who had primary responsibility for sending players back into the game,” Clement said at a news conference after the hearing.

The players argue that the league “glorified” and “monetized” violence through NFL Films, thereby profiting from vicious hits to the head.

Players’ lawyer David Frederick also accused the league of concealing studies linking concussions to neurological problems for decades, even after the NFL created a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee in 1994. The panel was led by a rheumatologist.

“It set up a sham committee designed to get information about neurological risks, but in fact spread misinformation,” Frederick argued.

In recent years, scores of former NFL players and other concussed athletes have been diagnosed after their deaths with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, including popular Pro Bowler Junior Seau and lead plaintiff Ray Easterling. Both committed suicide last year.

About one-third of the league’s 12,000 former players have joined the litigation since Easterling filed suit in 2011. Some are battling dementia, depression or Alzheimer’s disease, and fault the league for rushing them back on the field after concussions. Others are worried about future problems and want their health monitored.

Brody honed in on whether the collective bargaining agreement specifies that head injuries are workplace safety issues and belong in arbitration.

“It has to be really specific. That’s what I have to wrestle with,” she said.

Frederick called the contract “silent” on latent head injuries, and said players therefore have the right to seek damages in court. Brody is not expected to rule for several months.

Players and family members on hand for the hearing included Kevin Turner, a former Philadelphia Eagles running back now battling Lou Gehrig’s disease; Dorsey Levens, a veteran running back who made a 2012 documentary on concussions called “Bell Rung,” and Easterling’s widow, Mary Ann.

One wrinkle in the NFL’s argument is what it calls the “gap year” players, who played from 1987 to 1993, when there was no collective bargaining agreement in place. The league, eager to avoid opening up its files in a court case, argues that those players were bound by previous contracts or contracts later in effect when they collected pensions.

“I certainly admit that the gap year players ... are the most difficult cases,” said Clement.

However, he said very few people played only those years, and not before or after. For most, “there’s no way to say the only hits that hurt you are the hits from those years,” he said.

Tom McHale played in the NFL from 1987 to 1995, before the All-Ivy League athlete died of an accidental overdose in 2008. He was 45 and had battled depression and addiction toward the end of his life.

Lisa McHale, of Tampa, Fla., hardly recognized her once-gregarious husband. After his death, he was also diagnosed with CTE. She believes the player lawsuits, and the willingness of retired players to go public with their problems, will help her three teenage sons understand their father’s illness.

“To know it wasn’t his fault, that there was something neurological going on, it helps,” she said.

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April 04, 2013

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Reggie Theus is returning to college basketball to coach the men’s team at Cal State Northridge.

Athletic director Brandon Martin announced the hiring of the former NBA player on Wednesday. Theus succeeds Bobby Braswell, who was fired March 17 after 17 years that included three 20-win seasons, two NCAA tournament appearances and a 251-258 record.

Martin calls it “a game-changing hire” for the Big West school, saying it will help the Matadors build a national profile. It’s also Martin’s first big hire since he officially began as AD on Monday.

Theus signed a multiyear contract that takes effect April 15. He has coach of the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA’s D-League since October 2011.

“I am ecstatic to have the opportunity to get back into college basketball,” he said in a statement. “This is what I really want to do. To have an opportunity to coach in my hometown area is really a dream for me. This is what I really wanted.”

He will be introduced on Friday.

The Matadors were 14-17 this season, when they won their first seven games and then lost six of their final seven. They finished ninth among 10 teams in the Big West with a 5-13 record, and failed to make the conference tournament.

“This is a program that everybody in the near future is going to be proud of,” Theus said. “If the team is willing to work, it’s going to happen.”

Theus coached at New Mexico State from 2005-07, compiling a 41-23 record with one NCAA tourney berth. He was an assistant under Rick Pitino at Louisville from 2003-05. In Theus’ second season there, the Cardinals reached the Final Four.

He also had coaching stints in the NBA, running the Sacramento Kings from 2007-09 and serving as an assistant at Minnesota from 2009-11.

He played 13 years in the NBA after a college career at UNLV.

Theus becomes the fifth men's basketball coach in the program’s 55-year history.

He is the third coach hired at a Division I school in Los Angeles in recent days after UCLA hired Steve Alford and Southern California hired Andy Enfield.

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