January 24, 2013

Associated Press

 

The White House says the Miami Heat will get personal congratulations from America's basketball-fan-in-chief on their NBA championship.

U.S. President Barack Obama plans to host the team at the White House Monday.

The White House says he also will recognize their support of the military. The players plan to meet with wounded members of the military while in Washington.

 

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

January 24, 2013

Associated Press

 

The New York Knicks have surpassed the Los Angeles Lakers as the most valuable team in the NBA, according to Forbes' annual study.

Boosted by renovations to Madison Square Garden, the Knicks' value increased 41 percent to $1.1 billion. The Lakers were second at $1 billion.

The report released January 23 estimated the average NBA team's value at $509 million, a 30 percent increase from last year.

The Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks round out the top five.

The Milwaukee Bucks were the least valuable at $312 million. The Nets' value increased 48 percent to $530 million, ranking ninth, after their move from New Jersey to Brooklyn.

 

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

January 17, 2013

By TOM COYNE

Associated Press

 

The wrenching story of Notre Dame football star Manti Te’o’s girlfriend dying of leukemia — a loss he said inspired him to play his best all the way to the BCS championship — was dismissed by the school as a hoax perpetrated against the linebacker.

Notre Dame said Wednesday night it believes Te’o was duped into an online relationship with a woman whose “death” was then faked by the perpetrators of the hoax.

The school made the statement following a lengthy story by Deadspin.com, saying it could find no record that Lennay Kekua ever existed.

“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online,” Te’o said in a statement. “We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.”

However, he stopped short of saying he had ever met her in person or correcting reports that said he had, though he did on numerous occasions talk about how special the relationship was to him.

“To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating,” he said.

“In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.”

Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick said at a news conference that Te’o told coaches on Dec. 26 he had received a call while at an awards ceremony earlier in the month from Kekua’s phone number.

“When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same person he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead. Manti was very unnerved by that, as you might imagine,” Swarbrick said.

Swarbrick said the school hired investigators and their report indicated those behind the hoax were in contact with each other, discussing what they were doing.

The investigators “were able to discover online chatter among the perpetrators that was certainly the ultimate proof of this, the joy they were taking,” Swarbrick said. “The casualness among themselves they were talking about what they accomplished.”

Swarbrick said for Te’o “the pain was real.”

“The grief was real. The affection was real,” he said. “That’s the nature of this sad, cruel game.”

Swarbrick said Notre Dame did not take the matter to the police, saying that the school left it up to Te’o and his family to do so. He added that Notre Dame did not plan to release the findings of its investigation.

“We had no idea of motive, and that was really significant to us. ... Was somebody trying to create an NCAA violation at the core of this? Was there somebody trying to impact the outcome of football games by manipulating the emotions of a key player? Was there an extortion request coming? When you match the lack of sort of detail we lacked until we got some help investigating it with the risk involved, it was clear to me until we knew more we had to just to continue to work to try to gather the facts,” Swarbrick said.

The Deadspin report changed all that.

Friends and relatives of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a high school classmate of Te’o, told Deadspin they believe he created Kekua. She does not have a death certificate, Deadspin reported. Stanford, where she reportedly went to school, has no record of anybody by that name, the website said. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Tuiasosopo by telephone were unsuccessful.

Deadspin said a record search produced no obituary or funeral announce­ment. There is no record of her birth in the news.

There are a few Twitter and Instagram accounts registered to Lennay Kekua, but the website reported photographs identified as Kekua online and in TV news reports are pictures from the social-media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua, the website reported.

Still, Swarbrick said, “Nothing about what I have learned has shaken my faith in Manti Te'o one iota.”

Te’o talked freely about their relationship after her supposed death and how much she meant to him.

In a story that appeared in The South Bend Tribune on Oct. 12, Manti’s father, Brian, recounted an anecdote about how his son and Kekua met after Notre Dame had played at Stanford in 2009. Brian Te’o also told the newspaper that Kekua had visited Hawaii and met with his son. Brian Te’o told the AP in an interview in October that he and his wife had never met Manti’s girlfriend but they had hoped to at the Wake Forest game in November. The father said he believed the relationship was just beginning to get serious when she died.

The Tribune released a statement saying: “At the Tribune, we are as stunned by these revelations as everyone else. Indeed, this season we reported the story of this fake girlfriend and her death as details were given to us by Te’o, members of his family and his coaches at Notre Dame.”

The week before Notre Dame played Michigan State on Sept. 15, coach Brian Kelly told reporters when asked that Te’o’s grandmother and a friend had died. Te’o didn’t miss the game. He said Kekua had told him not to miss a game if she died. Te’o turned in one of his best performances of the season in the 20-3 victory in East Lansing, and his playing through heartache became a prominent theme during the Irish’s undefeated regular season.

“My family and my girlfriend’s family have received so much love and support from the Notre Dame family,” he said after that game. “Michigan State fans showed some love. And it goes to show that people understand that football is just a game, and it’s a game that we play, and we have fun doing it. But at the end of the day, what matters is the people who are around you, and family. I appreciate all the love and support that everybody’s given my family and my girlfriend’s family.”

He was asked again about his girlfriend on Jan. 3 prior to the BCS title game, saying: “This team is very special to me, and the guys on it have always been there for me, through the good times and the bad times. I rarely have a quiet time to myself because I always have somebody calling me, asking, ‘Do you want to go to the movies?’ Coach is always calling me asking me, ‘Are you OK? Do you need anything?’”

Te’o was a Heisman Trophy finalist, finishing second in the voting, and led Notre Dame to its first appearance in the BCS championship. His widely reported story was among the most heartwarming of the season.

“It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life,” Te’o said in his statement.

“I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.”

Te’o and the Irish lost the title game to Alabama, 42-14 on Jan. 7. He has graduated and was set to begin preparing for the NFL combine and draft at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., this week.

“Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life,” he said in his statement, “and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”

 

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

January 24, 2013

By Rob Maaddi

AP Pro Football Writer

 

After minority candidates were recently shut out by NFL teams for 15 top jobs, the Fritz Pollard Alliance wants the Rooney Rule to include coordinators, assistant head coaches and club president positions.

The proposal sent Tuesday to league executives came a week after no minorities were hired for eight coaching vacancies and seven general manager openings. There are only four minority head coaches going into the 2013 season, the fewest since 2003.

“I think the league recognizes that these are the challenges we are dealing with when it relates to diversity and this is a plan of action that they can accept and be willing to work with,” John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation said. “I feel very comfortable that this will be extended into the Rooney Rule.”

Robert Gulliver, the NFL’s executive vice president of human resources, said in a statement last week the hiring results were “disappointing” and anticipated making revisions.

In a letter to Gulliver and Jeff Pash, the NFL’s executive vice president and general counsel, the alliance said: “We believe pipeline issues are a part of the reason we’ve seen a reduction in head coaches of color over the past few years, and this expansion will diversify the head coaching pipeline.”

With teams trending toward hiring coaches with offensive backgrounds, it’s important for minorities to hold coordinator positions. Baltimore’s Jim Caldwell and Pep Hamilton, hired last week by Indianapolis, are the only minority offensive coordinators in the NFL.

Caldwell, who led the Colts to a Super Bowl appearance in his first season in 2009, didn’t even get an interview for a coaching vacancy this offseason.

“In this quarterback-dominated era, it seems clubs are increasingly looking for offensive coaches to fill head coaching positions in particular, and far too few minority coaches have been given offensive coordinator and play-calling responsibilities,” said Cyrus Mehri, co-founder and counsel of the FPA. “We want to see a special focus on offensive coordinator and play calling duties going forward. We have many experienced wide receiver and running back position coaches ready to be coordinators now.”

Wooten said the Rooney Rule for coordinators wouldn't apply to just-hired coaches because “it wouldn’t be fair to them” going into their interviews.

“We made a differential in that the rule extends to a sitting coach when he starts to hire coordinators and assistant head coaches,” Wooten said. “It wouldn’t be fair to a coach coming in because that’s one of the real positives of a new coach when he’s sitting in that interview is to be able to tell them exactly who his staff will be and who has committed to coming with him.”

The alliance also proposed a reinstatement of the league’s front office and coaching symposia to train coaches and front office personnel for future opportunities.

There’s never been a minority team president.

“That’s very important now because the president is very much involved in the selection process,” Wooten said.

The Rooney Rule was implemented in 2003 and named after Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, who pushed for it. Before the diversity rule, there had only been six minority head coaches in the NFL in more than 80 years. Since then, 12 have been hired. 

The Fritz Pollard Alliance is a group of minority coaches, front office and scouting personnel established 10 years ago.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

January 17, 2013

By HEATHER HOLLINGSWORTH  Associated Press

 

Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit when he shot his girlfriend nine times and then killed himself in front of his coach and general manager, an autopsy released Monday showed.

The Jackson County Medical Examiner report on Belcher, 25, raised new questions about whether police should have done more before the Dec. 1 murder-suicide. Officers found Belcher sleeping in his idling car about five hours earlier, but let him go inside a nearby apartment to sleep it off.

At the time of the autopsy, Belcher's BAC was 0.17, more than twice the limit of 0.08 percent for Missouri drivers, and it was likely higher when he shot girlfriend Kasandra Perkins, 22, at the couple's Kansas City home.

A police report released previously said Belcher had gone out the night before with a woman he was dating on the side while Perkins attended a concert with her friends.

Police who found Belcher sleeping in his Bentley outside the woman's apartment told him to turn off the ignition and he complied, the report said.

The report said Belcher "initially displayed possible signs of being under the influence (asleep and disoriented)." But the report added that after a few minutes of being awake his "demeanor and communication became more fluid and coherent." The report added that officers didn't smell alcohol on Belcher, and that there were no signs of him being "violent or emotionally unstable."

Under both city ordinance and state law, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated, city prosecutor Lowell C. Gard said in an email. He said a vehicle doesn't need to be in motion for it to be determined that the person behind the wheel was operating it.

"Operation has been defined in Missouri courts to include a wide range of activity, including sitting behind the wheel of a parked car with the engine running, and sitting alone behind the wheel of a parked car with a warm, but shut off, engine," Gard wrote. "However, problems of proof arise when the arresting officer must provide evidence of that operation contemporaneous with intoxication."

Kansas City police Sgt. Marisa Barnes said in an email she wasn't aware of anyone being disciplined over the case. Even if they were, she said, she wouldn't be able to discuss it.

Belcher asked the officers who found him if he could stay inside the apartment for the night. Belcher tried to call his girlfriend, but she didn't discover the missed calls until the next morning. Two women who were up late invited Belcher to wait inside their nearby apartment after he explained his plight. They said Belcher "appeared to be intoxicated" but "seemed to be in good spirits," the police report said.

Belcher slept on their couch for a couple hours, leaving at 6:45 a.m. so he could make it to a team meeting planned for later that morning.

Upon arriving at the home he shared with Perkins, the couple began arguing. Belcher's mother, Cheryl Shepherd, who had moved in with them about two weeks earlier, heard multiple gunshots and ran to the bedroom, where she saw Belcher kneeling next to Perkins' body, saying he was sorry. The autopsy report says Perkins was shot in the neck, chest, abdomen, hip, back, leg and hand.

After kissing Perkins, his baby daughter and his mother, Belcher drove to Arrowhead Stadium. The autopsy said Belcher shot himself in the right temple as coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli looked on.

The infant, Zoe, is the subject of a custody fight between relatives of Belcher and Perkins.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

Page 25 of 41