October 24, 2013

Associated Press

 

GRAMBLING, La. (AP) — Naquan Smith and his Grambling football teammates have no regrets about a nearly weeklong boycott that forced the university to forfeit its game against Jackson State on Saturday.

Grambling players stood behind Smith Monday during a press conference outside of the Eddie Robinson Museum on campus. Smith said the entire team was present and that the vote to return to the field was “100 percent.”

“The football team took a stance on what we thought was right,” Smith said. “We did not quit on our university. There are many problems that exist and if no one says anything, nothing will become of our institution. We hope coach Eddie Robinson and his legendary players appreciate we took a stand and thought we were right.”

Smith said players decided to end the boycott after reaching out to several Grambling greats, including former coach Doug Williams, who advised them to, “Go out there and play football.”

Williams also put them in contact with Baton Rouge businessman Jim Bernhard.

Smith said Bernhard told players he has their “best intentions at heart and that he would ensure we had updated facilities, but we had to agree to being back practicing Monday ... and finish the remainder of our season.”

Smith said although the team will play, “We have not forgotten the situation and how we’ve gotten here.”

Players refused to travel to Saturday’s game at Jackson State, a forfeit, because of issues with university leaders.

The Southwest Athletic Conference said Sunday that Grambling had not been fined yet. SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp told The Associated Press on Friday that Grambling would be subject to a fine for forfeiting according to the league’s bylaws.

Grambling will resume practice on Monday evening at the university practice facility. The Tigers host Texas Southern on Saturday.

“Everyone on the team wanted to play, but to get what we feel is right, we had to take a stand and make sure our voice was heard,” Smith said.

Smith said he had no comment when asked if there had been any pushback from university officials because of the boycott. No athletic administration officials were present at the players’ press conference.

It’s been a tough season for Grambling (0-8), which is on its third coach this season and has lost 18 straight football games to NCAA opponents. Williams was fired after just two games this season and replaced by George Ragsdale, who was reassigned within the athletic department on Thursday and replaced by Dennis “Dirt” Winston.

The players have not participated in practices or games since Tuesday, when they walked out of contentious meeting with school administration.

Emmett Gill, the national director for the Student Athlete Human Rights Project, said he was on campus to help ensure that players do not face retaliation from school administration for their protest.

Grambling’s administration has confirmed one of the players’ concerns was about travel. The team recently took buses to games in Kansas City and Indianapolis.

University spokesman Will Sutton said Grambling has endured a 57 percent cut in state funding over several years that has affected the entire campus.

The athletic department was asked to cut $335,000 this year from its overall department budget of $6.8 million. Sutton said football was cut by $75,000 to about $2 million.

ESPN reported Saturday that it had obtained a letter detailing player complaints, which included mold in the locker room and improperly cleaned uniforms contributing to an increased likelihood of staph infections.

Sutton said that local health department inspectors, acting on an anonymous tip, recently visited Grambling athletic facilities and recommended changes to improve conditions, but did not deem those facilities a health hazard.

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October 24, 2013

By Antonio Harvey

Special to the NNPA from The Sacramento Observer

 

DOWNTOWN SACRAMENTO — It’s no joking matter when the Sacramento Kings principle owner Vivek Ranadivé says time after time that he likes to surround himself with people “smarter” than he is. Based on his professional background, the self-imposed discipline Ranadive endorses has been an effective tool for the software engineer and the companies he has built.

Ranadivé has been making some productive personnel changes since he took over the reigns of the Kings. He is also showing his commitment to diversity during the process. It’s a procedure that should fit the Sacramento region and its humanly inhabitants perfectly.

“It’s all about people,” Ranadivé told The OBSERVER during an exclusive interview at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Sacramento. “The one piece of advice I got when I became an entrepreneur was to surround myself with people smarter than me. I’m not super smart. So I’ve been able to do that. But it’s the same philosophy I’m carrying over into the Kings’ journey.”

What Ranadivé is specifically “carrying over” to the Kings’ operation is obviously the business model that works for TIBCO Software Inc., his 16-year-old software company headquartered in Palo Alto. Ranadivé’s first company he founded in 1986 is Teknekron Software Systems.

TIBCO, short for The Information Bus Company, provides infrastructure software for companies to use on-premise or as part of cloud computing environments. TIBCO employs its trademark’s products to supply companies the “two-second advantage,”which is the ability to retrieve information instantly and act on it to gain a competitive advantage.

TIBCO has more than 4,000 customers worldwide that count on the software company to act as a steward for information, decisions, people, and data in real time. Ranadivé’s high-level management team and staff includes people of all different races and gender. Former San Francisco 49ers great Roger Craig is one of the Kings’ owner best friends and business associate.

“We just have the best people (to work for TIBCO),” he said. “That’s something you can never compromise.”

With the inclusion of 160,000-plus African Americans, the Sacramento region boast more than 2.5 million people and has a diversity pool that may exhibit a face from every corner of the globe. Ranadivé likes that human-facade factor of Sacramento. He made references to the region’s diversity as a form of popular music or a gumbo mix.

“Oh, I think it’s fantastic,” Ranadivé said of the makeup of the region. “What you get is the ultimate jazz band. You have people from everywhere. Bring them together and great things happen.”

The Kings’ ownership group, Ranadivé cited, is a mixture of backgrounds within itself. Youtube co-founder Steven Chen (Taiwanese American), the Jacobs family that founded Qualcomm (Jewish Americans), and former NBA star Dr. Shaquille O’Neal (African American) are a part of the Kings ownership group. Ranadivé is from the of India, the second most populated country in the world.

“If you look through it, you’ll find just about every kind of person represented in the ownership group,” Ranadivé told The OBSERVER. “You’ll see the same thing in the Kings’ staff like Shareef Abdur-Raheem (also African American). He’s the general manager of our D-League team and he’s doing a fantastic job.”

TIBCO and the Kings, as diversified as they are, is a only a key component of Ranadive’s repertoire. He is persistent in hiring the best people that are qualified for the position. People with different ethnic backgrounds is a plus, though performing the tasks with competent skills is a must, Ranadivé said.

“I am actually pretty colorblind,” Ranadivé said. “I have the best people and it just turns out that they come from everywhere. Openness is one of my core values. Openness and diversity actually make good business sense.”

Leslie Moore, TIBCO Software Inc.’s Director and Global Head of Corporate Communications and a graduate from Fresno State University, said the company’s diversity makeup stretches around the world. TIBCO is global and has offices all around the planet earth.

“(Diversity) carries over into his software company,” Ms. Moore said of Ranadivé. “His executive leadership group reads like an international, global database.”

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson expressed that Ranadivé’s Kings could be a definitive reflection of TIBCO. Johnson said Ranadivé built his company and reputation on finding the cream of the crop to implement the business’ vision and organizational infrastructure. Ranadivé is completely changing the whole Kings organization’s culture from top to bottom.

“I think that most people realize that if you want to build a high-performing company or high-performing sports team…diversity is in your best interests,” Johnson said. “You want to get the best and the brightest. But when you have different perspectives…certainly you’re able to do that (perform at a high level). And certainly, (Ranadivé) is able to tout his success in Silicon Valley. I’m sure that same kind of broad-based approach, diversity and perspective, will be a part of what he brings to the Sacramento Kings’ franchise,” Johnson stated.

In regards to building the Kings back into a winning franchise, Ranadivé also shared that the team is operating under a mission statement that relies on enhancing lives, reaching the lives of those it touches “and to make the world a better place,” he said.

Along with the mission statement, excellence, integrity, hard work, openness, and amusement values have been incorporated into the franchise to ensure everyone is making a contribution and commitment to put out the best product possible.

“We’ve laid all this out and everybody has bought into it so that we are all on the same page,” Ranadivé said. “The analogy I make is that the 20th century model ­leadership was a marching band where everybody robotically marched to the beat of a single drum. The 21st century model that I subscribes to is more jazz. Everyone can contribute, do their own thing, and sometimes improvise. But at the end of the day…what occurs…is beautiful music,” Ranadivé stated.

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October 17, 2013

By DAVE CAMPBELL

AP Pro Football Writer

 

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Your turn, Josh Freeman.

Freeman was named the latest starting quarterback for the scuffling Minnesota Vikings on Wednesday. Freeman’s second week with the team will culminate on Monday night with him leading the offense against the New York Giants.

“It really hasn’t been that difficult. Any time you step into a situation where you’re the new guy, there’s always kind of an awkward getting-to-know-you phase,” Freeman said. “But I think that goes back to the character of this organization just from top to bottom: a lot of quality people that are dedicated to winning first and foremost but also being quality human beings off the field. So it’s been a smooth adjustment.”

Coach Leslie Frazier also said that Christian Ponder will be the backup, not Matt Cassel, assuming Freeman makes it through the week without problems.

“I like the things he’s done in his career, along with what he’s done since he arrived here with our football team, the time he put in, how well he’s adapted to our system,” Frazier said. “He’s done enough for us to say we want to give him this opportunity, which is something we had in mind when we acquired him. I think now is the time.”

Freeman will be the third starter in the last four games for the Vikings (1-4) and the 11th since Daunte Culpepper’s season-ending knee injury in 2005. Freeman was cut by Tampa Bay on Oct. 3 and signed by Minnesota to a one-year contract five days later.

“We’re just going to make plays for whoever’s in there and just make it as easy as possible,” wide receiver Jerome Simpson said.

Freeman started 59 games over four-plus seasons with the Buccaneers. The 25-year-old former first-round draft pick threw for 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2010, his first full season as a starter, but has been up and down since. The Vikings were on the wrong end of one of his best games last year, a 36-17 victory at Minnesota when he passed for 262 yards and three touchdowns without an interception.

“The underlying questions I’ve been getting from a lot of people: ‘Do I have a chip on my shoulder?’ I’m sure I do,” Freeman said. “But I think it’s more deeply rooted than just the past six months, 12 months.”

Frazier said he was impressed by Freeman’s first practice with the team.

“From the moment he stepped in the building, he wanted to learn. And the way he handled himself in that practice, it changed my mindset about the possibilities,” Frazier said. “We had a timeframe in mind originally but watching what he did from the day he arrived, that cemented it for me that sooner was a possibility.”

Frazier said he hasn’t considered a scenario in which Ponder wouldn’t still be on the roster for the rest of the season. Ponder said he wasn't sure about his future here. The trade deadline is Oct. 29. He’s under contract with the Vikings through at least 2014.

“I have to figure out what’s best for me and everything and for this team. I don’t know if that’s staying here and going somewhere else,” Ponder said.

Ponder started the first three games until he broke a rib. Cassel took over and led the Vikings to their only victory. Frazier said he preferred to keep the factors in his decision to put Ponder ahead of Cassel on the depth chart private.

The coach also said he had full authority to make Freeman the starter. He acknowledged, though, that owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf and general manager Rick Spielman were consulted.

“When you’re talking about the quarterback position, which affects your entire franchise, this is not a decision you make alone,” Frazier said.

Running back Adrian Peterson was missing from practice because of a personal matter. Frazier said he expected him back on Thursday. The coach declined to specify whether his absence was related to the situation in South Dakota regarding his 2-year-old son, who died last week by alleged abuse. A man is in custody in South Dakota.

Safety Harrison Smith was also not present for the beginning of practice reporters were allowed to watch. With the game on Monday this week, the Vikings aren’t required to produce an injury report until Thursday. Smith suffered a turf toe injury to his left foot on Sunday. Frazier said he’d provide an update on Thursday.

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October 17, 2013

Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

 

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder staunchly defended his decision to keep the team’s name on Wednesday amid a growing opposition that has gathered steam after President Obama recently weighed in on the topic.

In a letter to season-ticket holders, Snyder said that while he was cognizant of the criticism of the name — which many consider a disparaging term for Native Americans — the team’s tradition and legacy is too important to consider a switch.

“I’ve listened carefully to the commentary and perspectives on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name,” he said. “But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans too.”

Snyder, a “lifelong” Redskins fan who purchased the team from Jack Kent Cooke for $800 million in 1999, wrote in the letter of attending his first Redskins game at 6 years old with his late father. He spoke of when the franchise in 1932, then located in Boston, changed the team name to the Redskins.

“On that inaugural Redskins team, four players and our head coach were Native Americans,” he said. “The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor.”

The issue has always been a contentious one, but has heated up in recent years as other sports teams with nicknames deemed racially insensitive toward Native Americans have changed in an era of increased political correctness.

President Obama said earlier this month that he would consider changing the name if he owned the team.

“I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn,” Snyder said. “But we cannot ignore our 81-year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country. After 81 years, the team name ‘Redskins’ continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.”

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October 17, 2013

By SCHUYLER DIXON

AP Sports Writer

 

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Jay Ratliff's mysterious and rapid decline with the Dallas Cowboys has ended with his release.

The Cowboys unloaded the apparently disgruntled defensive tackle on Wednesday, saying he failed a physical after spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list. He was eligible to be activated this week.

Ratliff missed the last six games of 2012 with a groin injury that required surgery. The four-time Pro Bowler injured his hamstring during the conditioning test before training camp in July and never practiced for the Cowboys this season.

The ninth-year pro wasn't seen by reporters in the locker room all season after hinting there was tension with the Dallas medical staff, and agent Mark Slough said his relationship with team doctors was ''strained.''

But Ratliff tried to put a happy face on his departure in a statement issued by Slough, thanking ''the best fans in the NFL'' and giving owner Jerry Jones credit for ''taking a chance'' on a seventh-round pick from 2005 who went to four straight Pro Bowls.

''I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Cowboys and it was always my desire to begin and end my career here in Dallas,'' Ratliff said. ''But I understand this business and now it's time to move on, turn the page and begin again.''

The team said Ratliff had sports hernia surgery and expected him to be ready in 2013, but Slough said doctors told him the injury was far more serious and could take up to a year to heal. He described the injury as muscles tearing away from bones in the pelvic area.

Slough said he and Ratliff ''never felt the need'' to clarify his injury, even with his client getting criticized over the slow recovery time.

''If it doesn't bother my guy, then I guess it doesn't bother me,'' said Slough, who said several teams have already contacted him about Ratliff, but that the 32-year-old won't play this season.

The agent also said Ratliff wasn't leaving the Cowboys on bad terms. Slough said Jones called Ratliff to tell him about the release.

''There's no ill will,'' the agent said. ''Jay's not upset. He's not mad. He's not angry. I've been with him quite a bit over the last two days, he and his wife both. He and his wife both talking about the possibility of what might happen today.''

Ratliff made the Pro Bowl as recently as 2011, but ended up missing 10 games last year. A sprained ankle kept him out of the first four, followed by the groin problem.

After his injury-filled 2012 season, Ratliff was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated in January, just weeks after teammate Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter following a car accident that killed practice squad player Jerry Brown.

In his four-year stretch of Pro Bowl appearances, Ratliff twice had a career-high 83 tackles and 19 of his 27 career sacks.

But he had just two sacks after signing a five-year, $49 million extension in 2011. He will count $7 million against the salary cap next season even after agreeing to have his deal restructured this past offseason. Ratliff will be off the books in 2015.

With star pass rusher DeMarcus Ware battling a quadriceps injury, it's likely Hatcher will be the only one of the four projected starting defensive linemen on the field Sunday when Dallas visits Philadelphia. Anthony Spencer, the end opposite Ware, is out for the season after knee surgery.

One of the primary backups, Tyrone Crawford, was lost for the season to a torn Achilles tendon in the first full workout of training camp. The defensive front is relying so heavily on patchwork replacements, Jones has started calling it the ''no-name group.''

And now they know Ratliff won't join them.

''It's unfortunate that he didn't have the opportunity to play in this new defense because I think he would have done well,'' Slough said. ''I know the Cowboys thought he would flourish in that defense. They felt like it would extend years on his career. But the injury got in the way, and that happens in the NFL.

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