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May 09, 2013

By JOSEPH WHITE

AP Sports Writer

 

Robert Griffin III’s knee is still feeling fine. His ability to turn a room upside down is better than ever.

The Washington Redskins quarterback made an appearance - and quite an impact - Wednesday at a luncheon for the American Cancer Society. He raised $33,000 in a matter of minutes, more than half of the $60,000 tallied during the auction portion of the fundraiser.

The crowning moment came when a man from Texas paid $15,000 for a pair of pink cleats worn by Griffin in a game last season.

“You don't think that a pair of cleats can make that kind of difference,” Griffin said. “But I guess they were highly sought-after.”

Eighteen people then paid $1,000 each to pose with Griffin for a photograph that the quarterback will sign. He flashed his charismatic smile for each and every flash of the camera.

The guest of honor was Tanya Snyder, wife of Redskins owner Dan Snyder. A breast cancer survivor, Tanya Snyder received the society's Mother of the Year award. The Snyders’ 17-year-old daughter Tiffanie gave a moving a tearful tribute to her mother and presented a slide show of intimate family photographs, offering a rare display of the media-shy owner’s personal side.

“I was going to cry,” Griffin said. “I think everybody got a little choked up.”

Overall, the event raised some $400,000 for cancer research.

Griffin also showed up his playful side, flashing bunny ears behind his fiancee as they posed with Tanya Snyder. And, of course, there was the inevitable football question: How’s the rehab coming along with his surgically reconstructed right knee?

“I’m doing great. The knee feels fine,” said Griffin, whose stated goal is to return by Week 1 of the regular season. “It’s about taking it slow, and each day is a better day because the knee feels better and you do more things. It’s just a process that I'm going through.”

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May 09, 2013

(AP) — Jason Collins, the NBA veteran who last week announced he was gay, is seeking a book deal, The Associated Press has learned.

Officials at three publishing houses said Monday that they had been contacted about a planned memoir by Collins, the first active player in any of four major U.S. professional sports leagues to come out as gay. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the proceedings.

The officials said Collins was working on the book with Sports Illustrated's Franz Lidz, to whom he broke the news that he was gay, and was being represented by Kristine Dahl of International Creative Management. Dahl did not immediately respond to phone and email messages left by the AP.

At least one publisher turned down the book, said one official, who noted the extensive media coverage of Collins and expressed concern that his story already has been told.

Earlier Monday, the Democratic National Committee announced Collins would headline its annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender gala, on May 29. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has phoned the 34-year-old athlete to praise him for his courage.

Collins, who has played for six teams during 12 seasons, was most recently a center for the Washington Wizards. He becomes a free agent on July 1.

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May 02, 2013

City News Service

 

A judge has given a series of legal victories to Los Angeles Lakers forward Devin Ebanks, tossing defamation claims filed by a woman who alleges he sexually assaulted her and denying her bid to pursue her case without revealing her true name. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Samantha Jessner said Ebanks' lawyers demonstrated that their clients' remarks on Twitter and verbally to others after the alleged incident were protected by his First Amendment rights and therefore  issues of public interest.

``The rape allegations at issue in this case were reported by various media outlets ... which reach a national audience,'' Jessner wrote in her seven- page ruling. ``Based on the fact that (Ebanks) is a professional athlete, he is associated with the Los Angeles Lakers brand ... and the subject was covered in national media outlets, the court finds that the public issue requirement has been satisfied.''

Jessner drew an analogy to news generated when Kobe Bryant was also accused or rape. Those allegations were dropped by prosecutors in September 2004.

``One cannot ignore the impact of a Lakers player accused of rape, no matter whether he is a widely known Lakers player or not, in light of the notoriety received when the most well-known Lakers player, Kobe Bryant, was previously accused of rape,'' Jessner wrote. ``Hence, the Lakers' history vis-a- vis rape allegations is germane to the analysis.''

Jessner also awarded Ebanks $18,700 to compensate him for attorneys' fees spent in fighting the defamation claims. The woman sued Ebanks Dec. 6, alleging assault and battery, sexual assault, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Jessner's rulings do not affect the plaintiff's ability to move forward with her other claims against Ebanks. Until now, she has identified herself in her court papers as ``Jane Doe.''

Ebanks has denied the allegations, and the District Attorney's Office found insufficient evidence to prosecute him. According to the lawsuit, the alleged assault took place on Sept. 13, 2011, after the two met at The Colony nightclub in Hollywood. She claims she agreed to go to the Laker player's Marina del Rey apartment on the condition they not have sex. The two began kissing, but after Ebanks began taking off her shorts and underwear, the woman objected and told him to stop, according to her court papers, which allege he then grabbed a condom and became sexually aggressive.

``What's the big deal, it's just sex ... I'm on the Lakers,'' her suit alleges Ebanks told her.

An angry Ebanks later threw her keys, purse and shoes outside and pushed her out of his apartment, according to her court papers. The woman alleged Ebanks subsequently published false information about her on his Twitter account as well as to teammates and an acquaintance suggesting she had made up the rape allegations against him. She maintained in her court papers that Ebanks did not disavow allegedly false statements about her that were published in a celebrity website and therefore adopted them as his own.

Jessner said Ebanks' denial of the rape allegations ``does not somehow become an affirmative statement that plaintiff falsely accused (Ebanks) of rape or (that she) falsely reported the rape to police.''

In the other motion asking that her name by kept confidential, Ebanks' lawyers argued that the woman did not have sufficient legal grounds for such protection and that permitting the aspiring lawyer to do so would compromise their client's ability to defend himself. Jessner, while sympathetic to the plaintiff, said that ``generalized fears of ridicule, embarrassment or scrutiny'' were not enough to allow the woman to proceed with a pseudonym.

``The court recognizes the difficulty that this situation presents for plaintiff,'' Jessner wrote. ``Unfortunately, the once incident described is attenuated in time and there is simply no persuasive evidence that her career in the law will suffer as a result of the disclosure of her name.''

In a sworn declaration submitted in support of her position, the plaintiff said she was ``depressed and vulnerable'' since the alleged assault and that she has a hard time not thinking about it.

``I fear that I will fall apart if the public gets a hold of my true name and I get verbally, physically and emotionally attacked,'' she stated in her declaration, adding that comments on the Internet in reaction to her suit have been ``vitriolic and threatening. Already I am made to be an evil woman.''

The woman maintains that through anonymity, she has been able to ``shield myself somewhat because I am not known as the person that has accused (Ebanks), a Laker NBA player, of rape, whose criminal complaint was not upheld by law enforcement, and now the woman bringing the lawsuit.''

The plaintiff says the ``public interest is served if people like me, facing a relatively more powerful, rich and famous adversary, can bring litigation without fear of public disdain, intrusion of privacy and physical violence, among others.''

But Ebanks' lawyers argued in their court papers that the law does not permit people to proceed with civil cases under assumed names just to avoid ``scrutiny in the media'' which ``could cause embarrassment'' to litigants.

``Plaintiff, a recent law school graduate, is merely speculating that she may have difficulty finding employment in her new legal profession if her identify is revealed,'' Ebanks' lawyers stated in their court papers.

Prosecutors in December 2011 cited a lack of corroborating evidence for their decision not to prosecute Ebanks. The Lakers chose the 23-year-old Ebanks as the 43rd overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft.

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May 02, 2013

By KENNETH MILLER

Assistant Managing Editor

 

Los Angeles native Jason Collins has been playing professional basketball for a dozen years with six NBA teams, but few knew who he was until this week when he told the world that he was Gay.

In a watershed moment for same sex relationships, Collins a seven-foot reserve center who starred at Harvard Westlake High School and Stanford crafted an essay that will be published in Sports Illustrated magazine and appeared on its online website revealing that he is Gay. He thus became the first active professional athlete in the NBA, MLB, NFL or NHL to make such a profound declaration.

The revelation of his lifestyle drew praise from President Obama, former President Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama, NBA Commissioner David Stern, NBA players, advocate organizations of same sex relationships and thousands of others.

"The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”—Collins told SI.

I first met Collins and his twin brother who also plays in the NBA and is married with children, when they were teens playing AAU basketball and participating in the Slam ‘N Jam National Invitational Tournament more than 20 years ago.

Both he and his brother have always been considered model citizens and good basketball players. Few if any doubted they would eventually become NBA players, but no one saw this bombshell coming.

When I reached out to former local coaches and players they all declined to speak for the record, but voiced their shock.

One prominent former collegian coach who recruited both the Collins twins said; “I’ve pretty much seen it all, but I never thought I would see this coming. There were never any indications that he could be Gay and I have and still do think the world of their family.”

Another former player whose brother played against Collins and his brother expressed his feeling this way; “Wow! I just don’t know what to say. What can you say?”

Current NBA players Brook and Robin Lopez, each seven foot twins followed in the footsteps in the Collins twins to Stanford and looks up to both Jason and his brother Jarron.

Jason Collins said that he reached out to those close to him and informed them before it went public and according to multiple published reports it was a very emotional experience for him, but the support from his family and friends has been overwhelming.

Among those was the woman who thought she would wed Jason. Carolyn Moos, a former Stanford and WNBA center, dated Collins for eight years and was to marry him in 2009 until he suddenly called it off with a month to go. She found out along with most others why just recently.

His twitter account, which had 3,500, skyrocketed to 85,000 after he made his announcement on Monday April 29; by Tuesday April 30th he was on Good Morning America with an audience of millions.

 

Lakers star Kobe Bryant tweeted; Proud of ‪@jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others ‪#courage ‪#support ‪#mambaarmystandup ‪#BYOU

President Clinton tweeted; I'm proud to call Jason Collins a friend.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers added in a tweet; Doc Rivers: "I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins. He’s a pro’s pro." Read Doc's full statement:

Former Westchester High and UCLA star and teammate of Jason with the Washington Wizards tweeted; much respect to you.  It takes a strong dude to be the first. Your a hell of a professional and a hell of a teammate.

Another former local star, Baron Davis who grew up playing with and against the Collins twins before going on to star at UCLA and in the NBA for 13 seasons tweeted; I am so proud of my bro ‪@jasoncollins34 for being real.

The subject matter of same sex lifestyle and being gay or lesbian has always sparked a heated debate in the Black and Christian community and ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard put his job on the line vehemently stating his objection of Jason Collins.

Speaking on ESPN's "Outside the Lines," the former New York Times writer was Broussard said, "I'm a Christian. I don't agree with homosexuality." "I think it's a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.”

"If you're openly living in unrepentant sin ... that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ," he added.

He also expressed some irritation that those who disapprove of homosexuality are, he says, labeled as intolerant and bigoted. 

Even the usually outspoken NBA analyst Charles Barkley was tame when it came to Jason Collins.

"I've said this many times, we've all played with gay players," said Barkley.

"People should be able to disagree if they don't like it and not get crucified," he said.

Barkley added, “I didn’t care who Jason Collins slept with last night and I don’t care who he sleeps with tonight.”

NFL players are already pushing back on the idea of an openly gay player playing in their league.

Recently acquired Miami Dolphins receiver tweeted that with all of the beautiful women in the world he doesn’t understand it before the tweet was quickly deleted.

Former Steeler and Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward added; “I don’t think football is ready, there’s too many guys in the locker room and, you know, guys play around too much,” Ward told NBC Sports Radio.

NBA Icon Magic Johnson whose grown son is openly gay stated. “I know Jason and his family well and I support him 100%.”

There are those too who went as far as comparing Collins pioneering effort to the great Jackie Robinson who integrated Major League Baseball, but the comparison is not fair to the legacy of Robinson.

Robinson had no choice in the color of his skin and while carefully selected to become the first Black to play in the majors, it is not likely that Collins would endure the bigotry today as a Gay man as Robinson did a Black man.

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April 25, 2013

By KENNETH MILLER

Assistant Managing Editor

 

Mike Brown was sitting way up at the top of the Redondo Union High School gymnasium while his older son Elijah Brown was playing in a local high school all-star basketball game, but the former Lakers coach will soon be sitting front row as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers again.

Brown has been keeping a low profile since being canned by the Lakers after just five games into the season, but last Saturday following his son’s game, he managed to speak openly and candid about his one plus season with the Lakers.

Flashing his signature smile, Brown said that he didn’t feel the Lakers organization was in full support of him during his reign.

When told that I didn’t think the Lakers would hire a Black coach and was surprised to see that he accepted the job, Brown responded:

“I kind of thought about that. I felt they were going to pull out all of the stops to doing everything to win a championship, but that was not the case.”

During his first season, the strike-shortened season of 2010-2011, Brown didn’t have the benefit of training camp and with a roster that had Derek Fisher and Lamar Odom on the team.

Then one day in December, he was called into General manager Mitch Kupchak’s office.

“So, I go up there and he tells me that we just traded Lamar Odom! My mouth just dropped. He explained to me that it was for salary cap reasons, but nothing that he did after that justified anything to do with the salary cap,” Brown said.

Brown said that he wasn’t even consulted or asked what he thought before the trade went down.

“I mean, how can I not be told in advance of losing one of my primary pieces, a guy who was ‘Sixth Man of the Year?’”

Then in March, the Lakers traded Fisher to Houston for Jordan Hill.

Brown went on to lead the Lakers to the Pacific Division championship with a 41-25 record before being swept in the Western Conference semifinals by eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks.

He was under the impression that with a full off-season and a complete training camp, the addition of key acquisitions the Lakers would furnish him with a roster that could compete for an NBA championship.

The Lakers traded away young star center Andrew Bynum and got a bigger star in Dwight Howard, then added Steve Nash to go along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

Teams usually don’t put much stock into the preseason, but after the Lakers went winless, the pressure mounted on Brown.

Then the team under performed in the first five games of the season, but rarely if ever does a team terminate its coach so early in the campaign.

White coaches Mike Dunlap lasted the season after only winning 11 games with Charlotte. Dunlap was an assistant at St. Johns University and had no head coaching experience before he was hired.

Lawrence Frank won just 29 games in Detroit, but lasted the season before he was fired.

Brown’s former player LeBron James was miffed at the Lakers firing, but Mike Brown exited with class.

“Yea, it was rather shocking. I mean, I take a team without a training camp into the second round of the playoffs and then I’m gone.”

The Lakers have lost their cornerstone Bryant for the remainder of the playoffs and barely go in as a seventh seed playing sudden death the final weeks of the season.

Bryant logged more minutes than he has since his prime and went down with a torn Achilles tendon ruining any chance of the Lakers competing for the title under Brown’s replacement Mike D’Antoni.

“Could you imagine what they would have said if I was the coach with Kobe playing all of those minutes?”

We will never know, but you can just imagine…

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