September 05, 2013

 

By RACHEL COHEN

 

Associated Press

 

 

 

NEW YORK — NFL Com­missioner Roger Goodell took issue with the notion that the league’s $765 million settlement with former players is a paltry sum compared to the sport’s revenues.

 

“This is a significant amount of money,” he said Wednesday. “The plaintiffs also agreed it was an appropriate amount. The mediator felt it was an appropriate amount.”

 

Goodell made his first public comments since the settlement to the lawsuits was announced last week. More than 4,500 former players, some of them suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or depression, accused the NFL of concealing the long-term dangers of concussions and rushing injured players back onto the field.

 

“We were able to find common ground to be able to get relief to the players and their families now rather than spending years litigating,” Goodell said at an event in Manhattan to promote February’s New York/New Jersey Super Bowl.

 

The settlement was announced last Thursday after two months of court-ordered mediation and is subject to approval by a federal judge. It does not include an admission from the NFL that it hid information from players about head injuries.

 

“We think it's the right thing to move forward and try to do what we can to help our players,” Goodell said.

 

Some former players questioned the size of the settlement, considering it stretches over 20 years and will be divided among thousands of people — and considering the NFL takes in more than $9 billion a year, a figure that will rise when new TV contracts start in 2014.

 

Goodell noted that those billions are revenues, not profits.

 

The settlement applies to all past NFL players and spouses of those who are deceased — a group that could total more than 20,000. It sets aside $75 million for medical exams and $10 million for medical research.

 

Individual payouts would be capped at $5 million for men with Alzheimer’s disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after their deaths with a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy; and $3 million for players with dementia.

 

The NFL’s litigation may still not be over. Four former players filed a federal lawsuit in New Orleans on Sunday against the league and helmet maker Riddell, claiming they hid information about the dangers of brain injury. They want medical care for past, current and future NFL players.

 

As the league and retired players debate what happened in the past, the NFL has promoted its initiatives aimed at making the game safer. Goodell appeared on “CBS This Morning” earlier Wednesday to help announce a program with Under Armour and GE to donate money toward projects that prevent head injuries.

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

August 29, 2013

GRAHAM DUNBAR

AP Sports Writer

 

ZURICH — Usain Bolt aims to achieve greatness with a third Olympic triple-gold medal haul at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

“To actually go to Rio and win again would be a feat in itself,” Bolt said Wednesday, speaking ahead of the Weltklasse Diamond League meeting.

The Jamaican will run in the 100 meters on Thursday after a world championship sweep in 100, 200 and 4x100 relay in Moscow, where he talked of working hard to attain “the greatness thing.”

He completed the same triple at the past two Olympics and is focused on repeating in Rio.

“For me, the key thing is just to go to defend my titles, and that’s my focus,” Bolt said. “It would be the first time anybody has ever won three times in a row.”

Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt, right, meets with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, left, on Wednesday,  …Bolt became the most decorated athlete in world championships history this month, with his career tally of eight golds and two silvers lifting him above American great Carl Lewis.

Three more golds for Bolt in Rio would still leave him trailing Lewis' Olympic track and field record of nine golds and one silver in the medal standings.

“I won’t be adding a fourth event in Rio for sure,” the 27-year-old Bolt said.

Bolt’s news conference was held at FIFA headquarters, across the city from the stadium where he will run Thursday.

Bolt was greeted on arrival by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, and later accepted a blue FIFA soccer shirt bearing his name and the No. 9.

Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt, right, meets with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, left, on Wednesday,  …Blatter joked that nine seconds was probably the limit for Bolt, whose 100 world record set in 2009 stands at 9.58.

Bolt suggested he was capable of running in the 9.70s at Weltklasse, where a warm, still evening is forecast.

“I have gotten a lot of rest,” said Bolt, who set a Weltklasse meet record of 19.66 in the 200 who last year in cool, wet conditions. “This track is always a fast track and I’ve run some fast times here.”

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August 29, 2013

By Nick Valencia

CNN Wire Service

 

WWE superstar wrestler Darren Young publicly came out as gay during an unplanned interview with the news entertainment website TMZ late Wednesday.

He is the first openly gay wrestler in the organization — which is the premier professional wrestling company — according to a tweet by WWE Executive Vice President Stephanie McMahon.

Young made the statement while at an airport baggage carrousel in Los Angeles after being asked if “a gay wrestler could be successful within the WWE.”

“Absolutely. Look at me. Ya know. I’m a WWE superstar and to be honest with you, I’ll tell you right now, I’m gay. And I'm happy. I’m very happy,” Young said in response to the question.

The revelation, which is not thought to be part of the wrestler's onscreen character, apparently caught the cameraman off guard. He stumbled over his response.

“Man, that’s in ... that's ... sorry. I’m kinda’ of flabbergasted man. I think ... I didn’t know and obviously I think that’s just ... I commend your bravery,” the cameraman said.

“I don’t think it matters. Does it matter? Does it matter to you?...Does it change what you think about me?” Young rhetorically asked after making the statement.

“Not an iota,” TMZ’s cameraman said. “In fact I commend you even more that you would share something so beautiful and personal with me.”

“We're all adults. All sports are physical. When I come to work, I come to work,” Young said. “Business is business.”

He added, “Some people might not like it, and some people will like it.”

When contacted by CNN for comment, World Wrestling Enter­tainment Inc., said, “[The] WWE is proud of Darren Young for being open about his sexuality, and we will continue to support him as a WWE Superstar.”

On Thursday, Young was expected to participate in an anti-bullying event in Los Angeles “to teach children how to create positive environments for everyone regardless of age, race, religion or sexual orientation,” WWE added in its statement.

While Young’s public disclosure made headlines, he is not the first wrestler to come out. In a posthumously released 2011 book, WWE and WCW star Chris Kanyon wrote about being both a gay man and pro wrestler. He committed suicide in April 2010 after battling with mental illness.

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August 29, 2013

BY HOWARD FENDRICH

Associated Press

 

From the earnest explanation of why Gary the Snail is her favorite “SpongeBob SquarePants” character to the name-check of rapper Lil Wayne, Victoria Duval made quite clear she is very much a 17-year-old kid.

One who just so happened to stun 2011 champion Sam Stosur in the first round of the U.S. Open.

Overcoming the sort of nerves that derive from never before having played this highly ranked an opponent — let alone beaten one — and never before having won a match at a Grand Slam tournament, Duval hopped up and down with arms overhead after pulling off her big surprise at Flushing Meadows, a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory over the 11th-seeded Stosur.

“I don’t even remember match point,” the 296th-ranked American said Tuesday night, less than two hours after closing out Stosur with a forehand winner. “I guess I was really happy. I mean, you could tell by all the jumping I did.”

She wore a white towel around her neck, giggled at her own squeaky-voiced answers, and genuinely seemed to be enjoying the whole experience during a news conference that was a meandering affair, befitting Duval’s bubbly personality — and the long, unique journey that brought her to this point.

Duval, currently based in Bradenton, Fla., was born in Florida, but grew up in her parents’ home country of Haiti. She said that when she was 7, she and some cousins were taken hostage there by robbers.

“It’s not a good memory, so I’ve tried to forget as much as I could about it,” Duval said when the subject was raised. “I don’t remember too much of it anymore, which is great.”

Then, in 2010, when Haiti was rocked by an earthquake, her father was buried in rubble and badly injured, Duval said.

“There’s a lot to be thankful for. I don’t take anything for granted. ... My Dad is really fortunate to be here,” she told the Louis Armstrong Stadium crowd during an on-court interview.

Duval, who needed to go through qualifying to get into the U.S. Open because her ranking is so low, joined eight other American women in the second round of the main draw. Tuesday also was a good day for American men, who went 5-2, led by No. 13 John Isner and No. 26 Sam Querrey.

“We’re obviously trying to make American tennis become what it used to be,” Duval said. “We”re all working toward the same goal. We’re all a tight-knit group. Helping each other is important. I think we’re on an amazing path.”

The first American to play Wednesday was CoCo Vande­weghe, who dropped her second-round match 6-3, 6-4, to 18th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro. Others on the schedule included past champions Serena and Venus Williams, 15th-seeded Sloane Stephens, 23rd-seeded Jamie Hampton, and 33-year-old James Blake, who announced the U.S. Open will be the last tournament of his career. Also on the schedule: Andy Murray, the defending men’s champion who added a Wimbledon championship last month.

In other early matches Wed­nesday, No. 3 seed Agnieszka Radwanska and No. 5 Li Na advanced to the third round with straight-set victories.

Until Tuesday, Duval did not own a victory over anyone ranked higher than 69th. She had not faced a woman in the top 20. She only had played one match at a major tournament, a first-round loss to Kim Clijsters at last year’s U.S. Open (which turned out to be the final singles victory of the Belgian's career).

Stosur was unhappy with the way she played Tuesday, including 10 double-faults and a total of 56 unforced errors, 21 more than Duval.

“I’m not going to be a sore loser and say she didn’t do anything,” said Stosur, an Australian. “But, you know, I think I certainly helped her out there today, that’s for sure.”

Perhaps. But Duval’s game also has benefited from time spent in heady company recently, including mentoring from Billie Jean King and tips from famed tennis coach Nick Bolletieri.

“We have a great relationship,” Duval said. “I call him Uncle Nick.”

Seconding Stosur’s assessment, Duval summed up their match this way: “Although she didn’t play nearly her best today, I played amazing, so I’ll take it.”

And why shouldn’t she? We’ve seen this sort of thing before, and rather recently: In 2009, another 17-year-old American, Melanie Oudin, made it all the way to the quarterfinals in New York by upsetting a series of seeded players, including past champion Maria Sharapova. This year, Oudin lost in U.S. Open qualifying.

Next for Duval, who wears white-framed eyeglasses and a visor on court, is a matchup against Daniela Hantuchova, who has been ranked as high as No. 5 and been a Grand Slam quarterfinalist.

But for an evening, anyway, Duval wanted to relish the biggest win of her nascent career.

And the kid sure seemed to be having a grand ol’ time speaking to reporters, describing herself as “very goofy off the court” and “a child at heart.”

So it made sense that when the subject of the “SpongeBob” cartoon series came up during her media session, she pointed out that “Gary’s cute; Gary doesn’t get enough credit.”

And she brought this up, too: “I heard that Lil Wayne tweeted me. I need to go check that out. I don’t have Twitter. I’m going to go hit that up.”

Parent Category: News
Category: Sports

August 22, 2013

By W.G. RAMIREZ

Associated Press

 

Chris Paul has already seemingly done the impossible by turning the long-languishing Los Angeles Clippers into a force in the Western Conference. Now he’s taken on another big task — rebuilding the reeling NBA players’ association.

Paul was elected president of the players’ union Wednesday, replacing Derek Fisher and giving an organization cloaked in turmoil some much-needed star power at the top.

The vote by NBA player representatives came six months after the union fired Billy Hunter as executive director, a position that remains vacant and follows about 18 months of in-fighting and drama that occurred during the negotiations for the latest collective bargaining agreement. Hunter countered with a wrongful-termination lawsuit in May, accusing Fisher of conspiring with NBA officials during the 2011 lockout.

“It’s not about me as president or the first vice president, it’s about the players as a whole,” Paul said in a conference call Wednesday night.

One of Paul’s greatest gifts on the court is an ability to get everyone involved and make his teammates better. Now he'll try to do the same thing with the union. After the lockout ended and the lawsuits started to take hold, there was a feeling among many players and observers that putting a big name in the big chair would help galvanize the group and get star players interested in participating again.

That once was commonplace, with marquee players Bob Cousy, Oscar Robertson, Alex English and Isiah Thomas all serving as union presidents. But Paul, a six-time All-Star who is widely regarded as the best point guard in the league, is the first big star to hold the top spot since Patrick Ewing’s run ended in 2001. Role players Michael Curry, Antonio Davis and Fisher, who had been in charge since 2006, followed Ewing.

“That wasn’t a requirement, but I think it gives us a little more oomph, I guess, having somebody like him wanting to step up and take on that role,” Charlotte Bobcats forward Anthony Tolliver said in a phone interview. “It means a lot.”

Paul served as a vice president for the last four years, so he has intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the union, and the trouble that engulfed it recently.

“It was something I saw as a challenge, something I knew I’d be able to handle,” Paul said. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity, a lot of responsibility comes with this position but I'm very fortunate to have an outstanding of committee guys. The past couple of days have been outstanding, the dialogue we’ve had as an executive committee also with the players that have come in town, it was amazing.”

The decision to appoint a new executive director to replace Hunter will come at a later date.

“We definitely discussed (hiring an executive director), but there’s no rush,” Paul said. “For us, it’s all about getting our house in order and making sure that everything moves right in that direction.”

In meetings at the Venetian Hotel, Roger Mason Jr. was elected first vice president. He replaced Jerry Stackhouse, who resigned from the office and is expected to take a position within the union.

There are several issues that the league has been waiting to discuss with the union while they searched for new leadership, most notably the possible implementation of testing for HGH. Commissioner David Stern, who is retiring in February and handing the reins over to deputy commissioner Adam Silver, has said multiple times this summer that testing for HGH was a priority.

“Chris is an All-Star player and person and we look forward to working with him,” Silver said in a statement.

Tolliver, who has long been one of the most devoted player representatives in the league, and Steve Blake were elected vice presidents, filling the executive committee positions vacated by Paul and Mason.

“This is not a position that’s about me or one person,” Paul said. “It’s about the collective group and the players and I think from my experience ... it’s about growing the game and expanding our brand and continue to get our players involved as we can and make sure our voice is heard. The guys here just understand it's our union, there’s no one person that is bigger than the group.”

Paul said the union needed a “rebuild,” and he was looking forward to rolling up his sleeves and getting to work. Tolliver agreed, saying it was time for a “fresh start” after a messy time in the union’s history.

“We want to make sure that nothing remotely close that has gone on in the union in the past 12 months or so will ever happen again,” Tolliver said. “It’s a huge job. It’s a huge responsibility. I’m glad to be a part of that.”

Paul’s ascension could pave the way for more involvement from the biggest names in the game. LeBron James considered running for the job before deciding against it, and Paul is an All-NBA first team player who has been tight with James for years.

“Since I’ve been in the NBA the superstars have come to a few meetings here and there, every once in a while, but not very often,” Tolliver said. “The fact that (James) even considered doing that lets me know that he’s going to be more involved in the future. ... Especially him being the face of our game, we want to have him involved as much as possible. Not only him, we want all the guys that carry our brand to be a part of this.”

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