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The hoopla is just beginning.  Yesterday, the Trade Mark and Appeal Board ruled to strip the Washington Redskins of six patents on their name.  According to the two to one ruling, the board ruled that the name “redskins” is disparaging.  The team immediately announced that they would appeal the ruling.  This will probably take several years to work itself through the process.

Of course those on the right are using this as an example of the President running rough-shod over the team and the NFL.  The obvious idiot raging against this ruling is none other than Rush Limbaugh.  He is using the argument that the trademark is being stripped because of “political correctness” and nothing else, except the President’s “power grab”.  He claims that there is no authority for this to have happened except the President “ordered the board” to strip the trademark.  He even says it is a violation of property rights.

What the bloated idiot does not say, is that the ruling is in connection with law.  The Trademark Act of 1946 disallows trademarks that may disparage others or bring them into contempt or disrepute. Over the years, the courts have rejected arguments that the First Amendment guarantees the right to register any name as a trademark.

There is the legal authority for the board’s action.  The bloated idiot further argues that other team names such as the “Fighting Irish” will also be under attack.  He listed others like the “Runnin Rebels”.  Of course, that is total nonsense.  Those names are not considered racist.  The term “redskin” has been considered racist, especially by Native Americans, for at least a couple of hundred of years.  Calling a Native American a redskin is akin to calling an African-American the N word.

To show his “property rights” argument is bogus, I have one question for the bloated idiot.  Since you are so ardent about “property rights”, what about all those farmers who have or will lose their property rights to eminent domain for the Keystone XL pipeline?  But, of course, you favor that one so “property rights” don’t figure into the equation.

For Dan Snyder to say that the name “Redskins” is honoring the Native American population is offensive in itself.  How lame  can a person get?  The ruling was a result of Native Americans filing suite with the board saying the name is offensive.  The board apparently agreed.  To get back to the bloated idiot, no one is going to argue over the “Fighting Irish”.  But they would probably fight over the term “Fighting Micks”, or how about the Chicago Polacks, or the New York Hymies, or the Atlanta Hunkies?   These are all racist and offensive names that these groups were called when they first immigrated here.  Now, those names are on the back burner where they belong.  As should the name redskin.

This brings us to another question.  During the NBA playoffs, we saw a real outrage over Donald Sterling’s racist comments.  The players on the teams still playing in the playoffs even considered boycotting games if the NBA didn’t crack down hard on Sterling.  They were rightfully outraged by the comments.  Racism has no place in sports.  Sports is supposed to be all-inclusive and build teamwork.

However, these same players have been silent about the Redskins name.  Why?  Probably because it isn’t directed at them.  After all, the name means nothing to them so why bother.  Maybe they simply don’t understand the origins of the term and what it really means.

The ruling by the board to strip these six trademarks from the Washington Redskins is not the end of the name.  Even if the team loses the appeal, they can still call themselves the redskins.  They just can’t go after anyone else who uses it for royalties.  That is the real big problem for the right-wing.  For them, it is all about economics for “one of their own.”  Forbes estimates that the team gains roughly $145 million per year through marketing trademark merchandise.

No, if left to the appeals process, this issue isn’t going to go away anytime soon.  But, there is one way that will really force the team to change its name.  When players refuse to sign with a team that has a racist name to it.  When players say that racism is racism regardless of who it is against, the fight by the team may end.  The best way for the name to be changed is from within.

I would have had no problem if the NBA players boycotted the playoffs over the Sterling incident.  But I do have a problem when players take millions of dollars from an organization who uses a racist slur for its official name and say nothing.  I just goes to prove that dollars in one’s pocket can overcome outrage fairly easily.

After the shameful way Native Americans were treated in the 1800′s and up to this day, we cannot look the other way anymore.  It was once said that “What happened to the Native Americans in this country was inevitable.  The way it happened was unconscionable.”  By allowing sports teams to continue using racial slurs as trademark names continues the unconscionable aspect of how Native Americans are treated.

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The union organizing at Northwestern University has a lot of people up in arms.  To recap, the football players at Northwestern University want to form a union.  They claim that they are employees of the university.  They receive compensation for their play on the field in the form of scholarships.  The generally work 40-60 per week at their trade, plus go to school.  They are under the control of or monitored by, the coaching staff, and school administrators. These are policies that they have to follow – social media policy, maintaining certain weight, going to class, staying above a certain GPA level.

In order to gain status as “employees” of the university, the players had to show the NLRB they meet these requirements.  The Chicago office of the NLRB ruled that they did meet these requirements, and thus were entitled to form their union.  To coin a phrase “all holy hell broke out” after the decision.

Sen. Lamar Alexander said, “Imagine a university’s basketball players striking before a Sweet 16 game demanding shorter practices, bigger dorm rooms, better food and no classes before 11 a.m.” He added, “This is an absurd decision that will destroy intercollegiate athletics as we know it.”   A lot of others cried that the players were simply trying to get high salaries for playing at the university.  Some of these may sound reasonable, but let’s look at what the players are asking for.

There are three major areas of concern for the players:

No. 1 is medical protections … extending past the end of a player’s eligibility …

No. 2 is to see concussion reform. Concussion prevention and concussion research in the NCAA, and these schools making great strides to protect these players’ brains.

No. 3 is extended academic support. If you only play three or four years because you didn’t red-shirt, you’re not going to have the opportunity to have one year of your grad school paid for like you would if you did red-shirt.

There are a lot of things that the general public does not know about how these athletic scholarships work.  For one, each scholarship is for one year.  That means the university can pull the scholarship from an athlete for a number of reasons.  For example, if a player has a career ending injury, the university can pull that person’s scholarship.  Even though he suffered the injury at the university.

Once a player leaves school, any residual effects from injuries are no longer covered by medical insurance.  If a player receives concussions while playing for a university, there is no medical insurance for lingering effects of those concussions.  It is up to the player to pay for any medical expenses he endures as a result of these concussions.

Scholarships do not cover the entire cost of attending college.  There are a lot of expenses that are required by the university during each semester that scholarships do not cover.  These are paid by the student-athlete out-of-pocket.  Since many athletes, both black and white, are from poor families, this creates a burden on them and their families.

Naturally, this situation is going to take a lot of time to settle.  Northwestern University and the NCAA are fighting this ruling.  The next stop will be at the NLRB in D.C.  If either side does not get what they want, it will probably go the route of the courts.  Maybe even to the Supreme Court.

This whole scenario does serve as a looking-glass on the rest of society.  These students are demanding that they have a voice at the table concerning their education, their workplace conditions, and future.  They know full well that only about 50% of their fellow student-athletes in D1 sports actually graduate from college.  They also know that 99% of all student-athletes never get to the professional level.  They also know that once their playing days are over, they are abandoned by the university in terms of health coverage for lingering injuries going forward.

I would think that if Northwestern University would actually approve this ruling, and support their athletes, it would give them a tremendous edge in recruiting new players.  What player would not pick a university that supports its players in the fashion the current players are demanding?  Though I cannot believe that the NCAA wouldn’t find some way to discipline the university if they did support the ruling.

Only time will tell how this plays out.  I can see changes in the “student-athlete” status coming no matter who wins.  The NCAA is not the most popular organization around.  Whether the Northwestern University football players ultimately win or lose, it should at least bring about meaningful changes to the NCAA.  No matter where you stand on this issue, we should all applaud these players for having the courage to stand up for their rights.

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We have been going through a period where insensitive jokes, comments, accents, etc., have shown up in the Republican Party.  We have seen episodes in Wisconsin and yesterday in Florida.  There is another type of insensitivity that gets mentioned from time-to-time.  But, since Americans love their sports, it doesn’t get the attention is probably should because many people don’t see it as political.  Of course, I am talking about sports team nicknames.

There is currently a lawsuit filed against the Washington Redskins by Native American Groups.  The lawsuit is looking to strip the team from its federal trademark protection.  Dan Snyder, the owner of the team, says that the nickname is meant to “honor” Native Americans.  In order to show just how much he cares about them, he announced that he is creating a foundation to assist Native Americans.  I applaud him for that foundation.  However, I take issue with his statement that the name is “honoring” and “showing respect to Native Americans”.

In a letter he says:

”It’s not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans.  ‘We must do more.”  The letter goes on to state the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation will ”provide meaningful and measurable resources that provide genuine opportunities” for Native Americans. The announcement did not state whether Snyder will personally donate any money to the foundation and gave no other financial details.

A major opponent of the nickname said Snyder’s move was ”somewhere between a PR assault and bribery.” Suzan Shown Harjo, a lead figure in a long-running case told The Associated Press that Snyder is showing the ”same arrogance” that he’s shown previously when defending the nickname.

”I’m glad that he’s had a realization that Native Americans have it tough in the United States,” Harjo said. ”All sorts of people could have told him that, and have been trying to tell him that for a long time.”

If Mr. Snyder would take a little time to look at history, he will discover, probably to his amazement, that the term “redskin” was used as a racial slur towards Native Americans.  Native Americans were considered as “savages” by the white community throughout our history.  White society valued the land Native Americans held as hunting grounds, and went out of their way to mostly kill-off the native populations.

Since that time, Native Americans, especially those living on reservations, suffer in extreme poverty.  Many reservations don’t even have basic infrastructure.  They have mostly been ignored by the government and other American Citizens.  Their plight is almost invisible to most Americans.  That has resulted in nothing being done to help them get out of the poverty they suffer.

I find it very difficult to believe that anyone could claim that using a racial slur as a team nickname is “honoring” those people.  What kind of outcry would ensue if a team renamed themselves Honkies?  Or if a team called themselves the Hymies?  These wouldn’t go over well.  So, why should we condone the use of Native American nicknames?

In the movie The Dog Soldiers, an anthropologist who specialized in Native American scholarship said “What happened to the Native Americans was inevitable.  The way it happened was unconscionable”.  Continuing using Native American nicknames for sporting teams could fall under the second sentence.  It is time we listen to their concerns.  After all, they were here first!

 

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The NFL Combines are getting started.  For those who don’t follow sports, this is where potential draft picks show off their skills in hopes of improving their draft spots.  This year, we are faced with a different dilemma.  This year, Michael Sam publicly announced that he is gay.  This isn’t just some player who decided to go public either.  Michael Sam was the co-defensive player of the year in the SEC.  Before his public announcement he was projected to go somewhere between the third and sixth rounds.  But, since his announcement, even that selection may be in jeopardy.

Following his announcement, the NFL released a statement that said:  “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage.  Michael is a football player.  Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL.  We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

That sounds really nice.  But, the NFL front office doesn’t make draft selections.  It is the individual teams that make the selection.  From other sources, who naturally needed to be protected by anonymity, other comments came out that were not so inclusive.

An NFL player personnel assistant said: “I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet. In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

An NFL scout said: “I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down (in the draft),” He added: “There’s no question about it. It’s human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote ‘break that barrier?’”

An NFL assistant coach called Sam’s decision “not a smart move,” and promised that it will “legitimately affect [his] potential earnings.” That coach went on to justify his statement by saying: “If you knowingly bring someone in (the locker room) with that sexual orientation, how are the other guys going to deal with it? It’s going to be a big distraction.”

Plus, remember the just released Wells report about the Miami Dolphins bullying included homophobic comments made to another teammate.  One coach even gave that player a blow-up male doll as a “joke”.

In a normal conversation all of this would call into question where Sam will end up in the draft, if at all.  The NFL claims that players are selected based on their skill level.  Yet, here are team officials who say that may not be the case.  In fact, they are predicting that he will not be selected solely on his skills but rather whether or not a team wants to “break that barrier”.  To put this into context, it is important to note that these comments to this effect follow earlier claims by former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe that he was fired for supporting marriage equality.

What is really at stake here is not whether or not a football player should be drafted or not based on his skills, but rather if his sexual orientation should affect his ability to make a living doing the job he has trained to do.  This goes well beyond the playing field.  This brings us back to Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Michael Sam is not the only potential employee to face discrimination because of his sexual orientation.  Thousands of Americans face discrimination because of their orientation as well.  They can be fired from their job, or not hired to one, simply because they are gay.  This is law in several states.  Republicans refuse to even discuss ENDA claiming it is unnecessary.

You may ask how these homophobic statements show employment discrimination?  Just look at the NFL’s statement again:   “We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

Now when you look at the quotes again, you can clearly see that these are employers talking about a potential employee.  What if those comments were about race instead of sexual orientation?  Would that change things?  Would the NFL openly chastise these people for their comments?

Is it be OK for employers to promise that a prospective employee will be paid less (it “legitimately affects [his] potential earnings”) because he is gay?  Is  it OK for employers to say a potential future employee will not get a particular position within the company (“it’s going to drop him down”) because he is gay?

I think we can all agree that this would constitute discrimination.  Yet, without ENDA, this type of practice is rampant in many parts of our country.  Until Congress passes ENDA, this type of discrimination will continue unabated.  If you think that this type of discrimination is okay, then I suggest we allow companies to fire or not hire anyone who is a Baptist, Calvinist, Catholic, Methodist, or any other sect that is not part of the “correct” Christian Group.  Maybe then you will understand that discrimination is wrong in every case!

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It is becoming clearer and clearer that the far right-wing conservatives and Christian Conservatives have so many phobias it is hard to count them.  These people seem to think that just because they disagree with something, it is their responsibility to make laws even if they are clear examples of phobia and/or discrimination.

The attacks on groups are unbelievable.  There are attacks on the LGBT community.  There are attacks on women especially those who report rape.  There are attacks on the victims of bullying.  There are more attacks on the victims of crime than there is on the people responsible of committing those crimes.  It is becoming so you cannot tell the phobia without a scorecard.

The law in Kansas that would have made it legal to discriminate against anyone who is gay based on “religious” beliefs has been withdrawn.  The amazing part is that Idaho had two bill that are similar to the Kansas bill.  Fortunately, at least for now, they too have been withdrawn.  Not because the author of the bills saw they were wrong, but because he claims they were “misinterpreted”.  The second of his two bills would have made it illegal for private organizations like the American Medical Association to force doctors to treat “all” patients without discrimination.

The attack on women is just as bad, maybe even worse.  Naturally, the conservatives are against contraceptives being part of health care, not to mention their hatred of abortion.  How else could Rush Limbaugh gotten away with calling a woman who spoke up for contraceptives a “slut”?  Through their “abstinence only” training they are also claiming that a “woman’s worth is tied to her virginity”.  Worse still, police departments, others in the criminal justice system, and colleges are blaming the women who are victims of sexual assault for the violence committed against them.

Investigative journalist Kiera Feldman has an incredible (though deeply troubling) piece in the New Republic detailing how Patrick Henry College, an evangelical Christian private university commonly referred to as “God’s Harvard,” systematically failed student victims of sexual assault.  She conducted a series of interviews for her story.

Some quotes from Ms. Feldman’s article:

 After a student named Sarah told the school’s dean of student life Sandra Corbitt that she had been sexually assaulted, she was told, “He’s a nice boy. Are you sure you want to report this?”

Sarah says Corbitt grilled her on certain details: What was she wearing? Had she flirted with him or given him mixed signals? “The entire line of questioning was basically like, ‘Did you make it up? Or did you deserve it in some way? Or was it consensual and now you’re just lying about it to make him look bad?’ ” recalls Rachel Leon, Sarah’s roommate who had accompanied her to Corbitt’s office for support.

Listening to Sarah from across her desk, the dean was as polite as ever. But she didn’t seem to believe Sarah’s story at all. “If you were telling the truth about this,” Sarah remembers Corbitt saying, “God would have kept you conscious to bear witness to the abuse against you.” [...]

Corbitt summoned Sarah for several rounds of questioning. “It’s my job to poke holes in your story,” Sarah remembers Dean Corbitt saying. “I have to make sure that you’re not lying to me. … I don’t think you’re wholly innocent in this situation.”

Another student, who disclosed to Corbitt that she had been receiving emails from a male student threatening to “forcibly take” her virginity, was told, “The choices you make and the people you choose to associate with, the way you try to portray yourself, will affect how people treat you.” The student was later instructed to think about her clothing and “the kinds of ideas it puts in men’s minds.”

Last year a Louisiana Parish argued that is should not be held liable for the rape of a 14-year-old girl in a juvenile detention center because the victim “consented” to be sexually assaulted by a 40-year-old corrections officer at the facility.  Court documents alleged that “[former guard Angelo] Vickers could not have engaged in sexual relations within the walls of the detention center with [the victim] without cooperation from her. Vickers did not use force, violence or intimidation when engaging in sexual relations.”

Commenting on the case, an anonymous parish official remarked that the 14-year-old should share the blame for her assault, saying, “These girls in the detention center are not Little Miss Muffin.”

Around that same time, Judge G. Todd Baugh said he believed that a 14-year-old student who was repeatedly raped by her 49-year-old teacher Stacey Dean Rambold “acted older than her age,” thus making her complicit in her rape. Baugh further stated that Rambold should not serve time in prison for the rapes, he had “suffered enough” during his trial.

There has been little discussion about the bullying that a Miami Dolphin Offensive Lineman faced from his teammates.  The investigation is in, and it is not a pretty picture.  It turns out that Jonathan Martin was not the only victim of this bullying.  Another lineman and an assistant team trainer were also bullied by Incognito and other players.  Even a Line Coach, who was recently fired, took part in the bullying.  When the assistant trainer went to his boss, the team trainer, he did nothing to help.  The trainer was also fired.  Of course the head coach claims he didn’t know anything about the bullying.

The problem with all of this is that there are far more current players around the league that say Martin will have a harder time getting back into the league than will Incognito.  As usual, the victim is being blamed more than the guilty parties.

Unfortunately, these are not uncommon examples of the conservative point of view.  If you are a victim, then you obviously did something to “entice” the assault against you, and therefore you carry the majority of the blame.  We may read these examples of total abuse of power by administration officials, people in authority, police, judges, etc. and are appalled.  But Conservatives, especially Christian Conservatives read them and say “right on”!

Conservatives keep saying they want a small government.  What they are really saying is they don’t want a government that will interfere with their perceived right to discriminate against anyone they wish.  In my mind, I equate this kind of behavior with terrorism.  Terrorism doesn’t have to be political.  Terrorism can also be when people are intimidated and blamed when they report something illegal being done against them.   Looking to the “right people” for help and getting blamed is the worst kind of terrorism an individual may face.

What makes it worse is that the Republican Party endorses these kinds of behavior.  It is their party trying to pass such legislation.  When it is someone outside the party, they are very silent.  Not condemning such behavior is akin to endorsing it.

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Yesterday the Baseball Hall of Fame announced its 2013 class.  Three players, all on the ballot for the first time, were voted in by the Baseball Writers Association of America.  Those players, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas all played during the “steroid era”.  But, they all played it cleanly and still put up amazing numbers.

I have to admit, that being a White Sox fan, and no I am not going to apologize for it either, I believe that Frank Thomas was a no-brainer Hall of Fame First Ballot nominee.  I have watched the White Sox for many years and he is the most prolific hitter I have ever seen in a White Sox uniform.  Although I was worried that he would be unfairly thrown into that “category”, I have no doubt that he played the game clean without the use of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs.  I do not say this simply because I am a White Sox fan.  There is a reason for my belief.

I am not quite certain about the year, but I think is was around 2003.  Baseball and the Players Union finally agreed that something needed to be done about the use of PEDs in baseball.  But, the union wanted baseball to find out just how prevalent that use was before instituting mandatory drug tests.  So they came up with a plan.  They decided to conduct anonymous drug tests during spring training.  If the percentage of players exceeded a certain number, then mandatory testing would be implemented the following year.  It was also decided that if a player chose not to participate in the test, that would count as a positive.

Spring training came along and the drug tests were on.  Everything was going well, according to reports at the time.  The results wouldn’t be announced until much later in the season, so it wasn’t really being followed that closely by the media.  Then, the drug testers showed up at the White Sox training facility and all holy hell broke loose!

It turned out that the White Sox players, including Frank Thomas, had unanimously decided in a team meeting to refuse to take the test.  They wanted mandatory testing in baseball, and they figured if every White Sox player refused the test, they would throw the numbers high enough to force it into being.  Needless to say, pace-makers and hearts stopped all over Union Headquarters!

The union immediately sent representatives to the White Sox training facility.  The drug tests were put on hold until they held their meetings with the players.  Now, I don’t know what was said in those meetings.  I am sure there was a whole lot of cajoling and begging and whatever, but the players all finally agreed to stop their “action” and take the tests.  As it turned out, the league-wide percentage exceeded the pre-set number and testing became mandatory.

I use this little known story because if I had been Frank Thomas and was using PEDs, the last thing I would have wanted was mandatory testing.  He was fully onboard with the refusal plan.  As a matter of fact, he was one of the clubhouse leaders at the time.  That is one reason I am certain he played the game clean.

NBA Great Charles Barkely once said, “I ain’t no role model.”  Although I understand what he was saying, namely fathers should be our heroes, I also understand that sports heroes ARE role models.  When speaking of role models, that White Sox team should be considered true role models for their courageous stand.  They stood by their belief that cheating in sports is bad for the game and should be stopped.

All three of these new Hall Of Famers proved that you can be successful without using PEDs.  They are also true role models in sports.

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The other day I wrote about the case going on in Miami. Specifically, the bullying case against Jonathan Martin by fellow teammates. Yes, I said teammates, plural!!!

According to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Miami coaches asked Incognito (the bully) to “to toughen up” Martin after he missed a voluntary workout during the 2013 offseason. Kelly cites “at least two” unnamed sources. Apparently, Incognito was following a request by his coaches but “went too far”.

As I watch all of this unfold, the sickening part is that Jonathan Martin is becoming the “villain” in the affair. In other words, the victim is to blame and can’t be trusted.

What makes this even more sickening is the fact that other players had to be involved in the “toughening up” of Martin. Remember, it wasn’t just Incognito who got up from the lunch table when Martin approached. Other players joined him.

All day I have heard former NFL Players keep harping on the old “what happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room”. As if this was all caused by Martin. They surmise that it had to be Martin who leaked the text messages and the voice message Incognito left. To them that was an abuse of trust.  Since Martin filed a formal complaint against the team, wouldn’t it more likely be called “evidence”?

One even went so far as to say that Martin, not Incognito, would never play for the Dolphins again because the “guys won’t trust him”.  He even went so far as to say he may never play again because other teams players would have the same feeling.

What about the team breaking trust with Martin?  If the locker room is truly a haven of brotherhood, why didn’t anyone step in and stop the abuse?  Remember, this has been going on for one and a half years!

Look, I played football when I was younger. No, I never played in college or the NFL, but I do have a sense of what goes on in the locker room. In my experience, this type of behavior was never tolerated.

To attempt to put the blame on Martin is absolutely absurd! Is anyone out there telling me that if your child comes home from school and tells you that someone is bullying them, the first thing you will do is go down to the school and tell the principal to punish your child to “toughen him up”? As they say on ESPN “C’om On Man!”

In order to attempt to justify this bull, the Miami Players are actually rallying around Incognito! They don’t think he is a racist! According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Incognito was more accepted by African-American teammates than Martin was.

“Richie is honorary,” a former Dolphins player who knew both said. “I don’t expect you to understand because you’re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It’s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you’ve experienced. A lot of things.”  Is he saying that since Martin comes from Ivy League parents and attended Stanford, a University that actually graduates most of their athletes, that his experience doesn’t make him black enough?

This is the same old nonsense that has been part of athletes culture for far too long. Whether they are bullying a teammate or one of the smarter kids at school who doesn’t play ball, it is still bullying! If you don’t like the term bullying in this case, how about the legal term “creating a hostile work environment”?

When a co-worker contributes to or creates a hostile work environment. that co-worker should be the one being questioned. When a player raises the issue of his own workplace safety, he should not have to answer questions about whether he’s tough enough to continue in that job. The notion that a player might be considered “more black” than another, or that it would excuse certain behaviors, is simply a perverted view on race relations and perhaps a symptom of the internal insanity that would allow it to happen.

In the 1970s the NBA lost a lot of fans.  The saying was that NBA Teams were nothing but street gangs in shorts.  This was all promulgated by constant reports of players being caught using drugs, committing crimes, etc.  In the last several years, the same thing has arisen in the NFL.  To me, this is simply another sad example of how wrong things are in the NFL.  Maybe, NFL teams have become nothing more that street gangs in pads.  Considering the money these players make, that is truly sad!

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The World Series has ended with the Boston Red Sox coming out on top. The series was fun to watch. Most of the games were close and the outcome was usually in doubt. There were some magnificent plays made in the field, and, although I didn’t have a “dog” in the fight, I really enjoyed it.

Now that the Series is over, more of the usual sports news is coming back to the forefront. Problem is that not all of the news is very good. I am going to begin with congratulations and my thanks to all the players who participated fully in the NFL Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I know that they are sincere in their support.

All of the major sports organizations support charities across this country. They should be applauded for doing so. One sport that I think really needs to be mentioned is the NHL. I have noticed that whenever an NHL player is asked to participate in a charitable event they not only agree, but they bring teammates with them.

My sister is diabetic and was very active in the Children’s Diabetes organizations around home. They often held dinners to raise money and often would ask member of the local NHL team to participate. The group found out that even though they asked one player, they had better plan on at least five members of the team showing up.

With all of the good things that sports leagues do in the community, we cannot forget about how sports mirrors society’s woes as well. We have players in all sports, at all levels who seem to think their play warrants them special treatment.

We have heard about rape cases by high school football players, drug addiction of college and professional players, spousal abuse, and even murder. Of all of the cases that can be talked about, I am going to pick out just two. One shows the greed that drives some players, and the other uncovers a perverted culture that seems prevalent in sports.

Now that the series is over, the self-professed PED user Alex Rodriquez is spouting off at the mouth again. As you probably know, he was suspended 211 games for using PEDs during his career. Several years back, Rodriquez admitted that he did us PEDs but was now clean. An investigation into the Biogenesis scandal caught several players, including Rodriquez, as PED users. All of the players caught accepted their suspensions except Rodriquez.

It is true that Rodriquez received the harshest penalty. But then again, in my opinion, he didn’t get enough. The sad irony of all of this is that he got to finish the season because he is appealing. That is his right. But, desperately trying to deflect blame, he is also suing MLB and Bud Selig in court for conducting a “witch hunt”.

“I am deeply troubled by my team’s investigative findings with respect to MLB’s conduct,” Rodriguez said in a statement Thursday. “How can the gross, ongoing misconduct of the MLB investigations division not be relevant to my suspension, when my suspension supposedly results directly from that division’s work?”

He also said: “It is sad that commissioner Selig once again is turning a blind eye, knowing that crimes are being committed under his regime,” the three-time AL MVP said. “I have 100 percent faith in my legal team. To be sure, this fight is necessary to protect me, but it also serves the interests of the next 18-year-old coming into the league, to be sure he doesn’t step into the house of horrors that I am being forced to walk through.”

You notice that during neither of these quotes does he refute the use of PEDs.  He is just deflecting blame from himself to others as the reason for his fall from grace with the fans of baseball.  As Ted Cruz said the other day “it is an old political trick that if you don’t want to answer a question directly, simply deflect it to another topic”.  Guess Alex was watching the interview.

I will leave it to the Arbitrator hearing the case to determine if his suspension should be upheld.  I also have confidence in the justice system to sort out the lawsuit.  But, I must say that at least in my humble opinion, he should be banned for life.  That would be the best way to ensure the next 18-year old coming into the league doesn’t follow in his footsteps and cheat.

The second case is much more recent.  It involves Miami Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin.  Martin left the Dolphins Headquarters on Monday.  He was listed as “out” for last night’s game with Cincinnati.  What is of interest here is that the reports indicate that Martin was the victim of an abusive environment that developed during Martin’s 1 1/2 seasons with the Dolphins.  In essence, he was a victim of bullying!!!

He apparently reached his limit with the persistent bullying and teasing from some teammates that has plagued him since joining Miami as a 2012 second-round draft choice. As first reported by FOX Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer, the latest taunt – a group of players stood up and left when he tried joining them for lunch – led to Martin getting up himself and walking out the door.

Apparently, according to the reports, this wasn’t an abrupt action by Martin either.  A source said Martin has tried dealing with a slew of indignities that crossed into personal and family insults, including being bestowed with the nickname of “Big Weirdo.”  Martin is Stanford Educated.  His parents are both lawyers who graduated from Harvard University.  So his background suggests he is not inclined to settle matters with fist fights.

It’s believed the Dolphins were aware that the cruel actions of some teammates toward Martin went well beyond the customary hazing sometimes given to NFL rookies and youngsters, the source said. Martin experienced some of that when the Dolphins appeared on the 2012 season of HBO’s Hard Knocks.

It is also reported that veteran players failed to support Martin and draw a line where the bullying should end.  Of course the Dolphins declined to comment on whether they knew about the bullying.

We have all read stories about teenagers being bullied at school.  We have all heard stories about people committing suicide because they have been victims of bullying.  We have all heard stories about athletes being given “special treatment” when they commit crimes like spousal abuse, rape, robbery, etc.

This shows that the culture of bullying goes far beyond isolated incidents.  This is a very serious situation permeating throughout society.  You can see it everywhere.  And it is not just in football.  You see it in things like “man-caves”, “chickafication of America”, “man-card” etc.  It isn’t just about men either.  Girls are just as guilty of bullying as boys and men are.  All it takes is for someone to have the “I’m superior to you” attitude to have it all begin.

Where does it all come from?  It comes from things like pampering athletes and laughing at the “nerds”.  It comes from being able to put down someone because I look prettier than they do.  It comes from the righteous believer who says my religion is right and yours is wrong.  It comes reckless discrimination because of race.  It comes from name calling over sexual orientation.  It comes from laughing about someone’s physical or mental conditions.  It comes from a society that places a person’s worth on looks, color, physical strength, and beliefs above respecting others simply because they are people.

Bullying and its effects on people, especially children, is a very, very serious problem in this country.  And it is everywhere!  It is in our schools, it is in our religions, it is in our sports arenas, it is in our politics.  Maybe, just maybe, this case of Jonathan Martin as a professional football player being bullied will grab some needed attention.  And maybe, just maybe Alex Rodriquez will be forced to fade into oblivion where he belongs and more attention is put on achievement through hard work and not cheating.

One can only dream!

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So Condoleeza Rice has just been invited to become a member of the Augusta National Golf Club. She – along with a local business-woman also invited – will be the first-ever female members of a club that is infamous for its decades of aggressive and staunchly defended segregation. (They admitted their first-ever black member in 1990*, and fought for years to retain their ban on women in the face of protests centered around the annual PGA Masters tournament.)

Several years ago, Rice attended the Masters at Augusta and published a breathtakingly fatuous article about how much she loved the club, managing to completely avoid any mention of segregation (other than to note that “the faces at Augusta are changing”, without ever mentioning how, or why they hadn’t before, or the fact that she belonged to two categories of people whose presence at the club had been specifically banned for years). I wrote about that at the time:

Just as she did so often as Bush’s beard, Rice makes herself an apology for racist, sexist old white men’s anxieties, and determinedly forces herself not to notice either what’s going on around her or how she herself is contributing. She even goes out of her way to write about the fact that she spent an entire day at Augusta, knows it’s segregated, and hasn’t got anything to say about that.

So it’s impossible not to have mixed feelings about this. Augusta – finally – has agreed to stop their falling-behind-the-times clock at about negative-100 years and maybe try to keep pace from now on. Rice, who earned her groundbreaking membership with a world-class sucking-up job (“the people are very kind”), gets a sweet golfer’s perk and opens the door, presumably, to a few – a carefully-regulated few – more women who don’t happen to be former Secretaries of State. Augusta gets to congratulate itself on its progressivism and also claim that they never backed down: fully 10 years after mass protests at the Masters drew attention to their gender segregation, they’ve chosen to de-segregate “voluntarily”, and even went and got themselves a two-fer – a woman who is also black! So it’s not like those feminists had a point or anything.**

But it’s a welcome change, and more significantly, an inevitable one. So much of conservatism is simply a dedication to being wrong for as long as possible. Eventually they can’t help coming around – on slavery, segregation, voting rights, women’s rights, now gay rights, right-wingers have been forced into acceptance of progress against which they had once declared war (and in every case then claim that defeat as evidence of their own moral superiority). Augusta was founded by a man who blustered that “As long as I’m alive, all the golfers will be white and all the caddies will be black.” Hootie Johnson, the absurd blowhard who staked his life’s reputation on keeping women out, declared that he would defend segregation “at the point of a bayonet” while simultaneously claiming himself to have been a major supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Johnson was so wedded to segregation and his own sense of entitlement that he rescinded $10 million in advertising fees in 2002 so he could say the advertisers hadn’t technically honored the boycott of his tournament. His replacement, Bill Payne, brought the Olympics to Atlanta but they rejected allowing an Olympic competition in golf specifically because he wanted to hold it at the segregated club – in his role as Olympics organizing chair, he abandoned golf rather than abandon segregation. On becoming the new club chair, just three years after the segregation protests under Johnson, he announced “Hootie did a wonderful job as chairman, and I will endeavor to maintain the customs and traditions of our club”. Being chair of a club that practices sex segregation doesn’t stand in the way of sexual judgmentalism, however: two years ago, Payne held a press conference to criticize black Masters champion Tiger Woods for having sex that he (Payne) didn’t approve of; two years after that, he was still refusing to publicly discuss the segregation issue.

Now the club has finally done what the club was often asked to do and said it never would, thus establishing a timeline for how long those particular conservatives chose to be wrong (for the club, 79 years; for Billy Payne, 6 years in office; Hootie Johnson, by all accounts, remains an asshole). The club can claim it won by dictating the terms of its own surrender, but there’s no question this is Martha Burke’s day: she pointed out a wrong and started a conversation that never ended until, today, they did what she asked, while all the club managed to do was continue to be wrong for 10 more years. Condoleeza Rice can now claim to be a pioneer for de-segregating a club she didn’t think needed it, but she’s no Jackie Robinson; given how much water she carried for Augusta while it defended discrimination, she ought to be considered its last black caddy.

And so another conservative institution comes unwillingly forward from its place in the past, and demands praise for agreeing not to be wrong after fighting to be so for more than a lifetime. It’s tedious, but it’s the only way they learn, so I guess we should be glad.

 

UPDATE: Rice has now been quoted, on the occasion of her breaking the 79-year ban on women at Augusta, as saying, I swear to God: ““I have long admired the important role Augusta National has played in the traditions and history of golf.” And the club, predictably, is taking a victory lap: the Chair who, just 4 months ago, refused to extend the traditional invitation to the CEO of IBM (a woman this year, for the first time), and refused to discuss it as well, now declares, on admitting two women after years of agitation, “This is a joyous occasion”. Man, they really don’t listen to themselves, do they?

 

UPDATE: David Zirin at The Nation goes upside Condi’s head today, refusing to let her role in this segregation farce obscure her history of both war crimes and abandonment of women’s interests. (“In a sane world, Rice would be awaiting trial at the Hague.”) He also digs up this jaw-dropper: the other woman named to the golf club along with Rice, local billionaire Darla Moore, lives on an honest-to-God antebellum plantation, and when her name was raised as a potential member of the club during the first round of segregation protests years ago she stated “I’m as progressive as they come. But some things ought not to be messed with.” She has a reputation as a fierce business negotiator, and claims “I’ve harassed guys all my life” – but she was “too much of a friend” of Hootie Johnson to actually ask him to let women into his guy sanctum. Man, they sure know how to pick ‘em.

 

* Caddies at August had all been black, by specific club rule, until 1983. They allowed white caddies 7 years before they allowed black players. Here’s an interesting article noting that blacks started to get cut out of caddying when golf purses got so large that caddying became a lucrative job (the caddy gets a percentage of the golfer’s winnings); the field is almost entirely white now. In the same way, most of the female coaches of women’s college basketball teams lost their jobs to men when the NCAA began promoting women’s sports. So for the most segregated sports in the world, de-segregation was just another way to keep blacks and women down.

** “Ever kicked down stairs? Decidedly not; once received a kick at the top of a staircase, and fell down stairs of his own accord.” (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)

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UPDATED 29 Jul 2012: Added New Yankee Stadium

I’m a sports fan, and I “collect” stadiums (stadia?). Especially major league baseball, NFL football, and NHL hockey. My goal, before I die, is to see a baseball game in the home stadium of every MLB team. It would be an added bonus if I could do the NHL and NFL venues, but right now, I’m focusing primarily on baseball.

Problem is, I keep forgetting where I’ve been, and losing count. Therefore, mostly for my own reference (and because I expect few others to be interested), I’m posting a list of venues attended below the fold. I’ve ordered them in roughly the order in which I first visited them, to the best of my ability to recall.

However, if you have comments concerning favorite (or least favorite) venues, feel free to leave them.

(more…)

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