An inside look at the powerful, porous NFL

first_img“‘Politics has become a much bigger subject than the Super Bowl,’ [President] Trump boasted in the run-up to the big game. ‘This is usually Super Bowl territory, and now they’re saying that the politics is more interesting to people,’ he said. ‘So that’s good.’”  — Mark Leibovich, writing in The New York Times Magazine last Aug. 28As a club of rich businesspeople and lucky heirs operating a billion-dollar cash cow, the last thing that team owners in the National Football League (NFL) wanted was to be swept into a political maelstrom, with the president pressing them to punish players who protested violence against African-Americans by kneeling during the national anthem.But that’s exactly what happened in 2017 and 2018 when President Trump seized on the protests, brought into the national spotlight by then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016. Trump’s efforts both galvanized his supporters and unsettled the NFL, which had rejected his attempts to become an owner, beginning in the late ’80s and continuing through 2014, when Trump wanted to buy the Buffalo Bills.Yet as much as the owners tried to keep politics away from the pigskin, Mark Leibovich, a longtime political writer for The New York Times, wasn’t surprised that effort failed. Best known for his 2013 best-seller “This Town,” a sharply funny look at smug, self-aggrandizing denizens of the nation’s capital, Leibovich took a break from politics to study New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady and the NFL’s inner workings for his latest book, “Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times.”Leibovich will visit the JFK Jr. Forum at Harvard Kennedy School Tuesday evening to discuss the politics and business of the NFL.A lifelong Patriots fan from Newton, Mass., Leibovich spoke with the Gazette about his experiences as an outsider trying to pierce the NFL’s tightly controlled corporate “shield.” He also discussed the future of the sport and how Patriots fans may be contributing to the hatred directed at the team by other fan bases, the media, and some team owners.Q&AMark LeibovichGAZETTE: Has your impression of the NFL changed from when you looked at it as a fan versus now, after you’ve seen the inner workings?LEIBOVICH: I certainly learned stuff about the league that I didn’t particularly admire, especially some of the people who run it and own it. I thought that there’s not a lot of real forward or courageous thinking going on at the highest levels of the league. I think there are some real moral and existential issues that they have to grapple with, or should grapple with, around health and safety and a lot of greed. A lot of the owners who I spent time with were not the most savory group I’ve ever been around. But having said that, the game does still seem to survive in spite of the people who run it. And I still have whatever addiction it is.I think the game has a way of regenerating and putting the focus back on not just the field of play, but also the little “reality TV shows” that seem to sprout up around the NFL all the time. Now all anyone is talking about is “Should they replay the New Orleans-L.A. [NFC championship] game?” I personally think they should. That’d be a lot of fun. The game endures; it’s a great game; it’s perfect for television; it’s perfectly attuned to the psyche of America circa 2019, and here we are.GAZETTE: You wrote lengthy profiles of both Brady in January 2015 and his Deflategate nemesis, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a year later. What was that like? Was there real animosity between the two, or was that overstated?LEIBOVICH: I think it’s real animosity. I think Tom legitimately got screwed in that deal. The time I spent with him was all leading up to that. It was that season, and then I got a few conversations with him after the you-know-what hit the fan. They’re both athletes in their own way. Goodell is sort of a corporate athlete. He’s a terrible person to interview. He’s very controlled and doesn’t give you much. But if you think about it in terms of reality TV, this was a great TV show for the offseason of 2015‒2016, and it was one of the big sports stories in the country at a time when there were no games. It was, I think, the stupidest sports scandal in history.GAZETTE: How much of Goodell’s zeal in pursuing punishment against Brady and the Patriots over something the league’s own investigation couldn’t prove might have been to ingratiate himself to the owners who detest the franchise, after Goodell’s handling of the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson domestic-violence incidents, among other PR mishaps?LEIBOVICH: Yes, exactly. One of the reasons I wanted to do this book was it was an escape from politics. But you realize pretty early on that there’s no escaping politics inside the NFL. Roger Goodell, if nothing else, is a politician. He’s sort of like a Senate majority leader who has to keep 50 senators happy. All Goodell has to do is keep 32 billionaires happy and he’s going to keep his job and get paid insane amounts of money to do it. So yeah, appealing to an anti-Patriots strain within the NFL among owners is a pretty easy political move, and that’s what he did.GAZETTE: After several years of self-inflicted scandals and PR problems — including revelations about the pervasiveness of traumatic brain injuries for players, declining TV ratings in 2016 and 2017, and, more recently, the controversy over players kneeling during the national anthem — ratings soared last weekend for the conference championship games. What’s the state of the NFL now?LEIBOVICH: Insomuch as they will always measure the state of the league in terms of profits and ratings points, I mean, sure. They’ve had a good year. But if you measure the state of the league in terms of the bad will it generates around the country, despite how obsessed people are, there’s a whole lot of people who do not like the NFL. Many of them live in New Orleans this week. But there are large groups of people who root The Daily Gazette Sign up for daily emails to get the latest Harvard news. Off-field experiences sharpen NFL players’ criminal justice focus Bill Belichick’s endlessly efficient management style holds lessons for business Law School conference hears from coalition on roots of activism, ideas for improving police-community relations for many different teams who have very real grievances against the league — not to mention parents of kids who are at terrible risk, and there are a lot of very real existential issues around health and safety and youth sports leagues not getting insurance — to put behind them. There’s just a lot they’re going to have to work out. But in the short term, Americans love a good TV show and a good drama. So I guess the numbers that they care about, which are how much money they’re going to get out of this, they can feel good about. Insomuch as the owners are generally very old, mostly men, who are going to maximize their already ridiculous wealth by whatever ratings points they achieve this year, that’s their short-term thinking.I don’t think football is going to go away and die. But I do think when you look at how younger people are turning away from sitting around and watching football on TV on weekends, it’s a very different entertainment landscape that we have. If you were looking to the future, something like the NBA or even soccer has much bigger room to grow, and there’s not the same amount of bad will there as toward the NFL, so I think that’s a problem.GAZETTE: What’s similar and what’s different about writing and covering politics as opposed to football? In many ways, it seems like a lot of the access issues, the horse trading, the thirstiness, goes on in both. What was your impression?LEIBOVICH:  It was more similar than I would have anticipated. Ultimately, there are a lot of the same fragile egos, money, power, and control — control from a journalistic standpoint, control over the story. You mentioned access. Access is a big deal. They don’t need me, but at the same time I do think that everyone, whether in politics or sports, feels like they have a story to tell, and they want to tell it as best they can. And in some ways, I was dangerous to people inside the NFL because I was not telling any kind of official story. I was an outsider. To some degree, it’s always important to try to position yourself as an outsider because otherwise you get so cozy and so steeped in the conventional wisdom. You just don’t want to be part of the club. In that regard, it was an easy inside/outside game for both. But, look, it’s basically the same tension between people wanting to tell their story in a certain way and a reporter trying to write something that more closely approximates the truth.GAZETTE:  Why were team owners so easily rattled by Trump’s attacks on the league over players who protested police violence against African-Americans? They acted like they weren’t a bunch of millionaires who controlled the country’s most popular sport.LEIBOVICH: It was pathetic to watch. I think what the owners were rattled by is that Donald Trump, for better or for worse, has the ability to control a pretty large segment of the population. His base is, say, 30 or 40 percent of the population, and many of these are older, white men, and that overlaps pretty big with football watchers. The NFL, unlike Trump, cannot just play to its base. The NFL needs everybody — it needs Democrats, Republicans, men, women, Hispanics. You have this very bizarre situation where a president who has personal history with the league — NFL owners have never wanted Donald Trump to be part of their club — all of a sudden has the bully pulpit of the White House, and his Twitter feed. And all of a sudden he can be this puppeteer and drive these people who wanted no part of him crazy. Trump loves that. The owners just had no clue. You just sensed that these people had no power, and even though they were printing money in their league, they were reduced to blithering.GAZETTE: Is that “culture war” issue over, or could the president revive it?LEIBOVICH: I think Trump could revive it at any minute. I’m actually sort of surprised that he didn’t make it more of an issue this season, coinciding with the midterm elections. I think one of the best things the NFL had going for it this year was that Trump was preoccupied with the midterms, and now the shutdown, and he just decided to move on. And the league, obviously, was thrilled with that.GAZETTE: You had to step away from covering politics full-time for a few years to write “Big Game.” Given how news-making and chaotic the Trump era has been, do you regret that decision? Did you ever feel like you missed your shot to write the first “Fire and Fury”?LEIBOVICH: No, I would drive myself crazy if I thought about all the books I could have written. The truth is people come up to me and say, “Wow, this is the biggest, greatest political story ever. You must be completely in heaven!” The first year of the Trump administration I was mostly focused on writing the book, and clearly I missed out on some big stories. But at the same time, I don’t find it as fun or as edifying as others might. I find a lot of it pretty depressing. It wasn’t as terrible a time to be walking away from politics as you might have thought. Good for Michael Wolff, he wrote “Fire and Fury,” one of the many books I wish I had written and thought of at the time.GAZETTE: Will you revisit the subject, or has the tone change in D.C. made that critique off-key?LEIBOVICH: I’m actually thinking of revisiting that. That’s an ongoing question. Certainly, the swamp hasn’t been drained. We have this reality TV show going on right in the middle of everything, which is just weird. But if you walk around D.C., it’s the same — a very, very prosperous, very, very cozy city. And K Street is doing very well. It’s an incredibly affluent and prosperous part of the country right now. Whatever pain is being inflicted on the D.C. area is coming pretty directly from the [government] shutdown-related stuff right now, which is huge. But also, part of it is karmic pain. What’s happening here is just so unprecedented, it’s very unpalatable in many ways. There’s corruption, there’s potential crimes. It’s pretty serious stuff beyond the giggles of the reality show.GAZETTE: You are a lifelong Patriots fan, who goes back to the Schaefer Stadium, Jim Plunkett days, when the franchise was so abysmal it was blacked out on local TV because it couldn’t fill the stands.LEIBOVICH: Yeah, I didn’t go to many games. I think I went twice to Schaefer Stadium. That was my age. They were bad.GAZETTE: Is there a part of you that misses rooting for that sad underdog, or are you happy with all the Lombardi trophies?LEIBOVICH: First of all, I definitely do miss the Patriots’ old uniforms and the old helmets. I loved that helmet. Insomuch as I own any paraphernalia, it’s always the old logo instead of the new logo. That is one thing I miss.There’s definitely some real bad will toward the Pats, and it’s not entirely jealousy. I think a lot of it is arrogance, and we’re not the most likable group of fans in America, I would say. I try to be self-aware about that. I do think that on a whole it’s an incredible privilege to be able to sit and watch these playoff games. Even when they lose, it’s a great story. We’re just so spoiled, and it’s going to end soon, or one day.GAZETTE: OK, what’s your Super Bowl prediction?LEIBOVICH: I was actually thinking about this. In the eight Super Bowls the Patriots have played this century, the margin has never been more than a touchdown, so I think it’ll probably be close. I will say that the Pats will win 33 to 31, how’s that?GAZETTE: And how long does Brady keep playing?LEIBOVICH: Until he’s 45 years old. He’s 41 now. I just sounded much more definitive and specific than I thought. But I figured if I sounded definitive and specific, I’d have much more authority [laughs].The interview has been edited for clarity and length.center_img Related At Cambridge diner, political scientist and friends regularly talk football Doing his job Theda Skocpol, superfanlast_img read more

Stanford’s victims get their day in court today

first_img 50 Views   no discussions NewsRegional Stanford’s victims get their day in court today by: – June 14, 2012 Share Tweet Sharecenter_img Share Sharing is caring! Stanford’s victims get their day in court today.HOUSTON, Texas, United States, Thursday June 14, 2012 – When convicted criminal financier Robert Allen Stanford attends court today to hear the outcome of his sentencing it will likely be in front of scores of his former clients who saw their savings drained thanks to his ponzi scheme.This is thanks to the United States Justice for All Act of 2004, which states that crime victims have a right to be “reasonably heard” at any public proceeding in the district court involving sentencing.Anyone who suffered losses as a result of the crimes committed by Stanford were informed that they had a right to submit a Victim Impact Statement or letter in aid of sentencing to explain how the crimes affected them, including physical, emotional and/or financial losses.However, in this case, given the thousands of alleged victims across the world, according to a statement by the US Department of Justice, the court decided that it would be impractical to accord all of the victims the right to be heard at sentencing, therefore victims were encouraged to send a written statement to the presiding judge, United States District Judge David Hittner, by June 1.According to the Coalición Víctimas de Stanford América Latina (COVISAL), there are at least 23,597 non-US victims on record, who represent more than 84% of Stanford’s victims.  Estimates by the Stanford International Victims Group are that there were as many as 30,000 clients of the Antigua-based financial services company in the latter heights of the two decades old business.Still, the request for written statements does not rule out intervention by those victims who wish to attend the sentencing hearing in person.Those who wished to deliver their Victim Impact Statement in person were asked to contact Ellen Alexander with the United States Clerk’s Office, also by June 1.Again, due to the number of victims in this case, the court said it could not guarantee that every victim who wished to speak would get an opportunity to do so and, depending on the number of victims who wished to speak, those who were allowed to attend might find their speaking time limited.Despite a gag order being in place for all victims and witnesses associated with the trial, the court has stated that the verbal statements made today by the victims would be made in open court and would become a matter of public record.Sentencing has been set for this morning (June 14) before Judge Hittner. Stanford faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years for the count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, each count of wire and mail fraud, and the count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and five years for the count of conspiracy to obstruct an US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation and the count of obstruction of an SEC investigation.This sentencing hearing comes as a result of Standford’s March 6, 2012, conviction. At that time, Stanford, the former Board of Directors Chairman of Stanford International Bank (SIB), was found guilty of orchestrating a 20-year investment fraud scheme in which he misappropriated $7 billion to finance his personal businesses and lifestyle.Following a six-week trial, the jury found Stanford guilty on 13 of 14 counts in the indictment. Stanford was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, four counts of wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to obstruct a U.S. SEC investigation, one count of obstruction of an SEC investigation and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Stanford was acquitted on one count of wire fraud.Caribbean 360 Newslast_img read more

Women of Troy dominated by UCLA

first_imgThe No. 16 USC women’s tennis team dropped a 6-1 decision to No. 7 UCLA on Friday afternoon in a crucial Pac-10 conference showdown for both teams at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.With Friday’s loss, the Women of Troy (13-8, 5-2) are eliminated from the Pac-10 title contention.UCLA (19-3, 6-1) came out strong, snagging a doubles sweep to start the day off. The Bruins secured an 8-5 win at No. 2 as UCLA’s No. 77-ranked duo of Noelle Hickey and Nina Pantic topped sophomore Alison Ramos and freshman Valeria Pulido.Meanwhile, the other two matches on courts one and three remained close. At the third court, USC’s duo of senior Sarah Fansler and junior Lyndsay Kinstler evened the score after being down 1-3, but couldn’t complete the comeback and fell 9-7.The doubles point was already secured when the match on court one was tied 6-6. From there, UCLA No. 4 pair of Andrea Remynse and Yasmin Schnack put away USC’s No. 55 duo of freshman Danielle Lao and junior Maria Sanchez 8-6.With UCLA up 1-0 heading into singles, the Bruins held the momentum and managed to claim the first set on five of six courts, en route to taking three consecutive singles matches to seal their victory.USC was held to straight-set losses on the back two courts, putting UCLA ahead 3-0, and just one victory away from taking the match from its crosstown rival.No. 24 Ramos was the only player for USC to take the first set from her Bruin opponent, as she cruised to 6-1 on court three over No. 51 Hickey. Ramos beat Hickey in straight sets the last time the teams met.But Ramos couldn’t keep up this time and ended up winning just two games for the remainder of the match. Hickey posted a 1-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Ramos, which gave UCLA the 4-0 lead as well as the secured match.USC earned its sole point of the day with an impressive comeback victory on court four by No. 100 Pulido. Pulido lost the first set rather quickly at 0-6, but won the next two sets in hard-fought tiebreakers.The No. 3 singles player in the nation, USC’s Sanchez was topped by No. 8 Schnack on the first court. Sanchez seemed like she had the upper hand after going up 5-0 in the first set. But from there, Schnack won seven straight games to edge out Sanchez in the first set 7-5. Schnack also won the next set and notched another 7-5 in the second set.The No. 3 match was still under way with UCLA’s No. 26 Remynse and USC’s No. 28 Lao competing in the final singles match of the day. Lao was hoping to avenge her loss to Remynse from earlier this season. Remynse had taken that match clinching point in three sets, when the teams were tied 3-3, which had given the Bruins the win.But yet again, it was Remynse who snagged the victory, polishing off Lao 7-5, 6-1 to close out the match for a dominant 6-1 win for the Bruins.“It was a really tough loss. We were very disappointed, but we know we all tried our best,” Pulido said. “Now, we are just trying to move on and stay positive. We need to stay focused. We can’t let this loss affect our performance for next week.”The Women of Troy head to Ojai, Calif., this week for individual singles and doubles action at the Pac-10 championships. First, they will get to finish their match versus No. 10 Stanford on Wednesday at 11 a.m. Their April 2 match was suspended because of rain.If Stanford wins, the Cardinal will improve to 8-0 and capture the Pac-10 crown. If USC wins, UCLA must face No. 12 California as its April 2 match was also cancelled by rain. If the Bruins win, then it will share the Pac-10 title with Stanford.“We still have a lot left of the season,” Sanchez said. “Everyone is going to go into Ojai working on their game and trying to best prepare themselves for the upcoming NCAAs.”last_img read more

Mahomes signs record breaking $503 million,10 year extension with Chiefs

first_imgThe Kansas City Chiefs have handed 24-year-old Super Bowl-winning quarterback Patrick Mahomes a contract extension reportedly worth between $US477 million and $US503 million.Those numbers over 10 years are believed to be the biggest contract in the history of professional sport.Mahomes still has two seasons left on his current contract — worth $2.8 million for the 2020 season slated to start in September, and $24.8 million for 2021 — which he signed as a rookie.ESPN reported the new contract was worth at least $US450 million, but with the remaining money on his current deal, plus bonuses tied into the new one, the number could climb over $US500 million ($716 million).That prompted Mahomes’s agency to label its client the “first half billion dollar player in sports history”.The contract extension starts in 2022 when the NFL salary cap is projected to be $227.5 million, but that number could be lower depending on revenue losses due to the coronavirus pandemic and the possibility any games played this season will not have fans.Mahomes will take up a big chunk of Kansas City’s salary cap, about 20 per cent, which could make it difficult for the Chiefs to sign other stars, but general manager Brett Veach said the contract allowed them to ensure Mahomes is not forced to be a one-man team.“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to surround him with talent, and this deal provides us more flexibility to do that,” Veach said.“He’s obviously an integral part to our success and we’re thrilled he’s going to be the quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs for a long time.”The danger with long contracts in a contact sport is that one bad knock can turn a no-brainer deal into a disastrous albatross.Mahomes dealt with numerous injuries this past season, including a dislocated kneecap on a seemingly innocuous quarterback sneak that left him sidelined for a couple of games.But he came back to lead the Chiefs on a long winning streak that culminated with a series of come-from-behind wins in the playoffs, including their second-half rally in the Super Bowl.ESPN reported the new deal has a $US140 million guarantee in the event of a serious injury and a no-trade clause.None of this takes into account Mahomes’s numerous endorsements, including lucrative deals with Adidas and Oakley. Source: abc.netlast_img read more