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►  Want to clean up college athletics? Pay the players

The University of Louisville basketball program had just put Stripper-gate in the rearview mirror. Assistant Coach Andre McGee was fired; everyone agreed that the illicit sex parties in Billy Minardi Hall occurred without the knowledge of any higher-ups. Bullet dodged.

Then came the FBI’s bribery and fraud investigation. The inquiry, which led to the arrests of 10 people last week connected to the world of college basketball, identified Louisville as having paid $100,000 to Brian Bowen, an incoming recruit. Last Wednesday, Louisville effectively fired legendary coach Rick Pitino and placed Athletic Director Tom Jurich on paid leave. Indications are that these arrests may be the tip of the iceberg.

Given that both scandals emerged from attempts to work around the ban on paying players, and after decades of trying to police such behavior, will the NCAA finally conclude that only one step can truly clean up college athletics’ seedy underbelly? Paying players.

After all, the cause of paying players had been gaining steam even before the Louisville fallout. Articles and opinion pieces trumpeting the cause have been published by the dozens over the past few years.

Yet, that response would make the current scandal markedly different from countless past instances of illegal payments. In the 1980s, Southern Methodist University boosters illicitly paid dozens of football players. A University of Kentucky envelope mailed to the father of recruit Chris Mills in the late 1980s had $1,000 cash fall out in transit, sparking an NCAA investigation. The University of Colorado admitted in 2004 that it used sex and alcohol to lure prospective student athletes into signing with the school. Michigan’s Fab Five took under-the-table payments.

None of these scandals led to a change in the NCAA’s amateur model.

Instead, over the past century, protest against unpaid student athletes has been docile and inefficient, almost always a low-risk, low-commitment cause. Talk about compensation has rarely been accompanied by actual change, because a strange elixir exists in college athletics: a still-pervasive belief in amateurism by many university leaders is coupled with billions of dollars in annual revenue. This money pays the salaries of thousands of athletic coaches and administrators. Paying the college athletes who generate revenue (and most don’t) requires them to take money out of their own pockets - something that’s possible only if the movement for change is a lot less talk and a lot more action.

The idea of paying college athletes is really old. In 1905, Harper’s Magazine published an editorial (subsequently reprinted in newspapers nationwide) addressing the “Pay of College Athletes.“ Harper’s saw the issue as one of visible inequity. The popularity - and profitability - of college athletics made the problem of “how to make athletes work for nothing” - or to put it another way, “how to keep the athletes from drawing salaries” - increasingly difficult for university administrators to manage. Harper’s concluded that unless a more transparent and fair compensation system arose, college athletes would continue to be paid “surreptitious wages.“

In 1915, the University of Chicago Daily Maroon upended the college football community by pushing the matter further. Given that the editor of the college newspaper and the tuba player in the marching band received compensation from the university, the Maroon argued, why not the college athletes? “They work hard for the university organization known as the football team, which is a money making enterprise, the receipts from football being something like $20,000 [roughly $478,000 today] more than expenditures for the sport. Why not give the players a share of the profits accruing from their hard and faithful labors?“

The University of Chicago was only one year removed from a national championship in football; its voice on the subject mattered.

In 1929, Major W.H. McKellar of the University of the South (Sewanee) proposed that his school’s conference - the Southern Conference - embrace open, above-board payments to college athletes. Actually, the Major preferred universities doing away with charging admission to college football games. But recognizing that this was crazy talk, McKellar argued that “his proposal to openly pay college athletes in the Southern conference” was the only reasonable way forward.

Even the nation’s most beloved humorist at the time - Will Rogers - provided flyby support for the pay-for-play model. He was the John Oliver of his day, just pithier. “There is only one fair way to ever arrange amateur athletics in any line in the country,“ Rogers declared, “and that’s let the athletes work on commission of what they draw at the gate then make them pay their own schooling expenses.“

Every few years the compensation issue resurfaced, usually in response to some sort of scandal. Then it went away.

Which is not to say that there haven’t been any changes along the way. In 1956, the NCAA voted to allow full athletic scholarships. In 1972, Title IX began pushing some of that athletic scholarship revenue to young women. Beginning in 2015, a new cost of attendance provision added several thousand dollars to athletic awards. But direct compensation has remained out of reach. In each case, after the bluster of a pay the players episode died down, the same thing happened: nothing.

That’s because activism on the issue has always been about words - passionate editorials, enthusiastic speeches and well-constructed research projects - rather than actions. There has never been an ethos of change or else among critics of college athletics.

No one expects commentator Jay Bilas to quit his work for ESPN because of his strong objections to the NCAA structure that he is covering. Similarly, it is not uncommon for faculty members at major football or basketball universities to rage against the inequity of the NCAA (using social justice theory, Marx, the whole nine yards) - and then take full advantage of their discounted athletic tickets.

This activism hasn’t gone further because paying college athletes is a collective action problem, a situation where members of a group might benefit from or support a certain action, but the individual costs make it difficult for the crowd to band together toward that end. In essence, someone says, “I could forfeit going to college football games because student athletes should be paid, but that would just result in me sitting at home on Saturday afternoon while everyone else is at the game.“ What good would that do?

And of course there’s the money involved. CBS recently extended its contract to televise the annual NCAA March Madness tournament for $8.8 billion over eight years. Nick Saban makes $11 million annually coaching the University of Alabama football team. The Big Ten conference just awarded Jim Delany more than $20 million in bonuses for his leadership. The status quo is working quite well for many of the parties involved.

Given that financially significant collective action problems are notoriously difficult to solve, what’s next?

Allowing athletes to control and profit from their names, likenesses and athletic abilities seems reasonable. Even for YouTubing, cross-country studs. Allowing college athletes open access to agents would be a start. Perhaps the NCAA, as ESPN’s Jay Williams suggests, is about to crumble.

But I doubt major changes will occur anytime soon. History tells us that we’ll continue to talk about this problem. We’ll debate it. We’ll write about it. We’ll even argue and fight about it.

And then things will die down, and we’ll go back to the way it has always been.

Ryan Swanson is associate professor of history in the honors college at the University of New Mexico and author of “When Baseball Went White: Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Dreams of a National Pastime.“

►  Analysis: What’s the end game for NFL and protesting players? Right now, there isn’t an answer

The conversations are taking place all over the NFL, in various settings and between different combinations of players, coaches, owners and league leaders. On Sunday in Baltimore, it was Ravens Coach John Harbaugh talking to Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva and DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, before the Ravens and Steelers played at M&T Bank Stadium.

“Coach Harbaugh has done a lot of things for the military. . . . It was just a very friendly conversation regarding all the events that have transpired and how we as sort of players, coaches and the union can make this right,“ Villanueva, the former Army Ranger who has been a high-profile figure in the recent national debate about patriotism, unity and protests by NFL players during the national anthem, said later Sunday.

The NFL spent much of last week trying to figure out how to move forward on the issue. Commissioner Roger Goodell met with a group of players and owners on Tuesday night in New York. But as the league attempts to orchestrate its end game to all of this, here’s the problem: There is no quick and easy solution, because the interests of the league and the players who are protesting are divergent.

“At this point, this whole kneeling [or] standing up is a much bigger issue than the things that we’re asking for as a league,“ Villanueva said Sunday. “We’re trying to be conscious of social issues. We’re also trying to be very respectful of the flag. And how it’s being demonstrated has taken a much larger stage than the actions on the field.“

The NFL just played its second Sunday of games since Trump intensified the controversy over players taking a knee during the anthem by using crass language to say that those who do so should be fired. This week, fewer players knelt.

On Sunday in Baltimore, Villanueva was joined by his Steelers teammates on the sideline, standing for the anthem. A week earlier in Chicago, the Steelers had decided not to be on the sideline for the anthem, although Villanueva stood at the front of a tunnel leading to the field, with his hand over his heart.

The Ravens seemed to seek a compromise solution Sunday, with their players taking a knee before the anthem. The crowd was asked to join the players and the Ravens organization in a prayer to embrace kindness, unity, equality and justice for all Americans. The Ravens then, like the Steelers across the field, stood for the anthem. The Ravens’ display drew boos, with some cheers mixed in, from the crowd.

“I’ve heard people say that my colleagues and I are un-American and unpatriotic,“ Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece. “Well, we want to make America great. We want to help make our country safe and prosperous. We want a land of justice and equality. True patriotism is loving your country and countrymen enough to want to make it better.“

The Ravens’ gesture Sunday was in line with the Dallas Cowboys’ attempt last Monday night in Arizona to blend the interests of players who wanted to kneel for the anthem and those who wanted to stand for it. Owner Jerry Jones joined Cowboys players and coaches in locking arms and taking a knee on the field before the anthem. The Cowboys then stood and returned to their sideline and remained standing for the anthem.

It raises the question: Is a protest still a protest if it’s a compromise? Protest is, by definition, necessarily provocative. Some players have concerns that the original message of the movement started last season by quarterback Colin Kaepernick, then with the San Francisco 49ers, has been lost. Kaepernick took a knee to protest what he viewed as racial inequality in the U.S. and police brutality toward African Americans.

Those who took exception to the form of the players’ protests, including Trump, have made the national debate about patriotism. NFL owners reacted to Trump with statements of support for players and shows of unity in which some locked arms with players on the field. Players said they appreciated the support. But is it all about inequality, patriotism or unity?

“I think these conversations make people uncomfortable, and I think that’s a way for them to deflect from the issues that we really want to talk about and steer the narrative in a different direction,“ 49ers safety Eric Reid, who protested alongside Kaepernick last season, told ESPN last week.

The league has a business to run, and it must run that business while avoiding alienating fans on both sides of this polarizing, emotionally charged issue. At least for now, the league is drawing the ire of both those angry about the players’ protests, as well as those supportive of them and upset that Kaepernick remains without a job. The league is acutely aware of this.

The volume undoubtedly will be turned down at some point, though perhaps not soon. One former NFL general manager expressed wariness in recent days that any team contemplating signing Kaepernick must fret that Trump will return to the issue at some point and, the next time, that team would find itself bearing the brunt of the president’s scorn. But there is a country for Trump to run, after all. Surely the NFL won’t remain so prominent on Trump’s agenda forever.

The NFL, which dealt last season with sagging TV ratings, ultimately will be left to assess whether its business model has suffered lasting damage - and, if so, to what extent. Some players, meanwhile, have urged the league to become more involved in supporting their activism. And that, Jenkins argues, is the ultimate end game in all of this.

Jenkins wrote in The Post that he appreciated the support of a white teammate, Chris Long. He wrote about taking Long around Philadelphia to speak to police and community leaders, of going to bail hearings and talking to public defenders.

“This is where we need to point our attention now,“ Jenkins wrote. “Not to guys demonstrating but to the issues and work to be done in cities across the country.“

►  The MLB playoff bracket is set

The Colorado Rockies clinched the final playoff spot in Major League Baseball when the Milwaukee Brewers lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. With that result, we now know all the matchups when the Major League Baseball playoffs begin on Tuesday.

The Minnesota Twins will take on the New York Yankees in the Bronx on Tuesday in the 1-game American League Wild Card game. On Wednesday, the Rockies will take on the Diamondbacks in Arizona in the National League Wild Card game. The winners of those games will take on the top seeds in each league’s League Division Series, the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively.

The other ALDS will begin on Thursday between the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros. The other NLDS will have the Chicago Cubs facing the Washington Nationals and will begin on Friday.

Here is the playoff bracket, via Major League Baseball:

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►  13 teams are battling for the final 4 MLB playoff spots

There is still one month left in the MLB season, but there are already six playoff spots that appear to be locked up.

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If we use 95% chance to make the playoffs as the cut off, according to Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight, six teams are already locked into the playoffs, including the Dodgers, Nationals, Astros, Indians, Red Sox, and Diamondbacks.

Outside the top six, there are 13 teams with at least a 1% chance of grabbing one of the other four playoff spots. Of course, that’s if we include the Cubs, who at 92%, are a near-lock. Once the Cubs move up, that would leave 12 teams fighting for three spots.

►  West Virginia to start Big 12 men’s basketball slate on road

West Virginia will open the Big 12 men’s basketball season with a trip to Oklahoma State on December 29 and to Kansas State on New Year’s Day.

The conference released the Big 12 portion of the schedule Thursday.

The Mountaineers will play their conference home opener against Oklahoma on January 06 and face Baylor in Morgantown three days later.

Other home games include Kansas on January 15, Texas on January 20, Kansas State on February 03, Oklahoma State on February 10, TCU on February 12, Iowa State on February 24 and Texas Tech on February 26.

Other conference road games include Texas Tech on January 13, TCU on January 22, Iowa State on January 31, Oklahoma on February 05, Kansas on February 17, Baylor on February 20 and Texas on March 03.

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►  Michael Phelps’ Next Opponent Has Never Heard of Him

Is he high>? Mashable reports Michael Phelps will race a great white shark for Discovery Channel’s inescapable Shark Week. The mechanics of the race are unclear—Mashable is concerned the shark won’t understand it’s supposed to race the Olympian, not eat him—and a press release for the special, Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White, states such a race has never before been attempted. Discovery is billing it as a battle between “one of the fastest and most efficient predators on the planet” and “our greatest champion to ever get in the water.“ And sure, Phelps has 23 Olympic gold medals and 39 world records, but a great white shark has approximately 300 teeth.

For the Win reports Phelps has already completed a week of filming in South Africa for Shark Week, so apparently they figured out that whole don’t-get-an-American-sport-hero-eaten-for-ratings thing. And Phelps seems to have had a pretty great time, saying: “Sharks are like my no. 1 favorite animal in the world; being able to see them face to face was pretty cool.” He added on Instagram that he’s “always wanted” to get “in a cage and dive with great white sharks.“ Phelps vs. Shark: Great Gold vs. Great White airs July 23 on Discovery. A second special, Shark School with Michael Phelps, in which the Olympian gets real close to a hammerhead shark, will air July 30.

►  After 41 Years, McDonald’s Makes a Change

The year 2018 will mark the first time since 1976 that you won’t see the McDonald’s logo plastered across Olympic venues, reports USA Today. That’s because McDonald’s has negotiated an early end to its corporate sponsorship agreement with the International Olympic Committee, which was scheduled to run through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Effective immediately, McDonald’s is no longer one of the IOC’s top sponsors, though it signed an eight-year sponsorship extension in 2012, per the AP. The company is believed to have paid about $25 million per year to call itself the Olympics food retail sponsor, reports Reuters.

It’s not cutting ties completely, however. Under the change announced Friday, McDonald’s will keep domestic marketing rights in South Korea for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, per a release. It will also keep restaurants in the Olympic Park and Olympic Village in 2018. Last year, McDonald’s announced it would review its Olympic sponsorship deal, citing a new advertising rule that allowed non-official sponsors to benefit. In a statement, the company says it will “focus on different priorities … as part of our global growth plan.“ The BBC notes Budweiser, Hilton, and AT&T have also ended Olympic partnerships recently.

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►  Cooler heads prevail: A different Mr. Met back at ballpark

Posing for pictures, shooting T-shirts into the seats and high-fiving fans young and old, the ever-smiling Mr. Met mascot is back in the lineup at Citi Field. Cooler heads prevailed, apparently.

A day after the person inside the funny-looking costume was caught on video making an obscene gesture to a fan, the team said someone else was doing Mr. Met duty at Thursday’s game against Milwaukee.

No one seemed too upset, either.

“I love you, Mr. Met!“ a couple kids called out as the popular mascot bounded to his pregame perch beyond the distant outfield seats. He got more cheers in the sixth inning, when he launched souvenirs along the first base side.

Mr. Met has been around for more than five decades, long popular with New York fans for his oversized baseball head.

They seemed to be in a forgiving mood.

“I thought he was trying to mimic Bryce Harper and get himself suspended,“ kidded Tim Rothman, moments after his 4-year-old son met the mascot.

“Mr. Met was just upset, he got mad. It was a New York thing,“ Rothman said.

Harper was suspended this week by Major League Baseball, the Nationals slugger punished for getting into a fistfight with Giants reliever Hunter Strickland after being hit by a pitch.

MLB didn’t seem inclined to suspend a mascot, rather letting this be handled as a club matter.

Video of the mascot flipping his finger during a 7-1 loss to the Brewers on Wednesday night went viral.

The Mets apologized after the incident, saying the offending employee won’t work in the costume again. The team didn’t identify the person — a couple people usually fill the role during the season.

For the record, whoever is inside the outfit never comments.

Mets reliever Jerry Blevins said he’d seen a lot during his long career, but never any mascot mayhem like this.

“Not on social media,“ he said.

Blevins didn’t want to say much more — “I’ve been around a long time, I know when to tread lightly,“ he said.

But he mentioned he had joined fellow pitcher Josh Smoker and the Mr. Met mascot for an appearance Wednesday morning at a school in Long Island for those with severe physical disabilities.

“He couldn’t have done a better job,“ Blevins said. “He did great.“

Thousands of kids were at Citi Field early for Zoo Day, and they all eagerly greeted Mr. Met when he wandered past them.

Mr. Met drew smiles as he walked the hall from his dressing room, past the Milwaukee clubhouse and toward his pregame post. A security guard laughed when noting that Mr. Met couldn’t have flipped his middle finger because the costume only has four fingers.

“And I’m pleading the Fifth!“ called out one of the mascot’s handlers.

Around baseball, reactions were equally playful.

The general manager of the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s, the Mets’ top minor league affiliate, tweeted that “unfortunately” their mascot “Cosmo is not eligible for a call-up to New York.“

The mascot for the San Francisco Giants, Lou Seal, posted a picture with his New York counterpart’s significant other, Mrs. Met, saying: “Calm down #MrMet… it was just one kiss.“

Of course, this all would’ve never happened with the first mascot for the Mets, back when they were an expansion team in 1962. That was Homer the Beagle, a real hound who was trained to run around the bases when one of Casey Stengel’s players hit a home run at the old Polo Grounds.

All the practice sessions with Homer went well inside an empty ballpark. But the first time he tried it in a game, with fans going crazy, he became a true beagle and just ran all over the field.

That ended his career, long before the dog days of summer.

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►  LeBron James’ Home Vandalized With Racial Slur

A Los Angeles home owned by LeBron James was vandalized Wednesday morning, the n-word spray-painted on its front gate, according to TMZ. Los Angeles police confirmed the vandalism to USA Today, though the spokesperson didn’t offer specifics on what racial slur was used. The Cleveland Cavaliers player, whose primary home during the NBA season is in Ohio, was not at the Brentwood home at the time, and TMZ says it “does not appear he lives there on any regular basis.“ Property management has already covered over the racial slur, and police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

►  Stanley Cup Catfish-Tosser Had a Very Elaborate Plan

Prosecutors are dropping charges filed against a Tennessee man for throwing a catfish onto the rink in Pittsburgh during the opening of the Stanley Cup Final, reports the AP. Thirty-six-year-old Jacob Waddell was charged in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County with disorderly conduct, possessing instruments of crime, and disrupting meetings or processions after tossing the dead fish over the glass surrounding the rink Monday night during the Nashville Predators-Pittsburgh Penguins game. District Attorney Stephen Zappala said in a Facebook post Wednesday that Waddell’s actions “do not rise to the level of criminal charges,“ so the charges “will be withdrawn in a timely manner.“

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry had called for the charges to be “quickly dismissed.“ Waddell called himself “a dumb redneck with a bad idea” in a conversation with Nashville radio station WGFX-FM. Sports Illustrated has the whole convoluted story of how Waddell got the fish into the arena, which included driving it 600 miles with the rotting critter in a cooler doused in cologne. His initial plan hit a snag: “I tried putting it in my boot but the head was too damn big,“ Waddell said. “No matter how much I ran it over with the truck, the head was too damn big.“ Hence, the fish’s mangled appearance. He eventually hid it between layers of underwear.

►  Who Beat Out LeBron for Most Famous Athlete

Tom Brady who? The all-star NFL quarterback might be a household name in the US, but he doesn’t even make the top 20 of ESPN’s list of the most famous athletes in the world, reports the Boston Herald. The 10 most well-known athletes, based on social media followers, endorsement money, and internet search popularity:

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo
  2. LeBron James
  3. Lionel Messi
  4. Roger Federer
  5. Phil Mickelson
  6. Neymar
  7. Usain Bolt
  8. Kevin Durant
  9. Rafael Nadal
  10. Tiger Woods

Click to see the highest-ranking female athlete.

►  Soccer Legend’s Body Goes Missing in Brazil

What happened to Garrincha’s body? That’s what Brazilians are asking after the soccer great’s remains went missing. The one-named, two-time World Cup champ’s family revealed the odd disappearance on Tuesday, telling O Globo via the BBC that Garrincha’s body may have been lost during an exhumation, though nobody knows for sure. A cousin says per ESPN FC the remains were removed from a grave in a cemetery near Rio 10 years ago, after another family member was buried there. Garrincha’s bones were supposed to be transferred to a niche, but cemetery officials concede they have no idea if that ever happened. “It’s very upsetting not knowing where he is,“ says daughter Rosangela Santos.

Cemeteries in Brazil are typically divided into two parts, one with tombs and another with concrete niches set like drawers into walls, per the BBC. Two tombs carry Garrincha’s name: the original grave where he was laid to rest in 1983, and a second one constructed in 1985 and marked with an obelisk. If the family agrees, Mage Mayor Rafael Tubarao says he’ll order an exhumation of the graves and DNA tests of any bones. Garrincha, a nickname meaning “little wren” in Brazil’s Portuguese dialect, is widely revered as the nation’s greatest dribbler of all time. As one of Pele’s teammates, he helped the soccer-crazed nation clinch the World Cup in 1958 and 1962. He died at the age of 49 after years of heavy drinking.

►  ‘We’re Sorry,‘ Say Mets After Mascot Flips off Fans

Mr. Met has had it up to here, it seems. The much-loved mascot is out of job after he flipped the bird to fans on Wednesday, the Daily News reports. The gesture summed up the frustration of Mets fans who’ve watched their World Series dreams dwindle during a troubled season. The incident unfolded during a 7-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers as Mr. Met was walking off Citi Field in Queens. Raising a white glove, the round-faced one displayed a single digit. Captured and tweeted by a fast-fingered fan named Anthony De Lucia, per the Washington Post, the video went viral. Although shouting can be heard, De Lucia tweeted that he and his friends “didn’t even say a word” and were “reaching over for a high five,“ when the mascot spun around and made Mets history.

Although some argued the four-fingered mascot really doesn’t have a middle digit to flip, the gesture was too much for Mets managers, who quickly canned Mr. Met. (The AP reports that more than one person dons the costume.) “We apologize for the inappropriate action of this employee,“ the team said in a statement. “We do not condone this type of behavior. We are dealing with this matter internally.“ Funny enough, the pudgy-handed salute came on the 53rd anniversary of Mr. Met’s debut as mascot. The team website notes that Mr. Met “can gesture in 12 different languages” and leads “all active Major League mascots in high fours.“ The Post notes the Mets have had an injury-wracked season with off-field embarrassments—like a photo tweeted by the Mets that showed a sex toy in a player’s locker.

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►  Jeb Bush Drops Bid to Buy Miami Marlins: Report

Jeb Bush has dropped out of the race for the Miami Marlins, the AP reports. The ex-presidential candidate and former Florida governor is no longer interested in buying the Marlins and has ended his pursuit of the team, two people close to the negotiations said Tuesday. One of the people said former New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter, who had been part of Bush’s group, is still exploring a bid with other investors. Jeter becomes the frontman for an investment group competing with a group led by businessman Tagg Romney, son of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. The Romney group includes Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine and former Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart.

Earlier this month, Commissioner Rob Manfred said the Romney and Bush-Jeter groups were relatively even in their price offers. Both bid about $1.3 billion to buy the team from Jeffrey Loria, who bought the Marlins for $158.5 million in 2002 from John Henry. Four weeks ago, Bush said he was optimistic he could close the deal. But one of the people confirming Bush’s withdrawal said he didn’t put up enough of his own money to have the controlling interest he sought.

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►  Gisele Interview Leads to Brady Concussion ‘Cover-Up’ Rumors

Gisele Bundchen says her husband, NFL quarterback Tom Brady, has a history of concussions and even suffered one last year, though such an injury was never reported by the New England Patriots. While appearing on CBS This Morning to discuss climate change, Bundchen touched on Brady’s plant-based diet before bringing up her concerns about his overall health. “He had a concussion last year. I mean, he has concussions pretty much every—I mean, we don’t talk about [it], but he does have concussions,“ she said. “I don’t really think it’s a healthy thing for your body to go through ... that kind of aggression, like, all the time,“ she added.

Brady didn’t miss a single game due to injury last season and hasn’t been listed as having a concussion or a head injury at any point in his career, report the Bleacher Report and ESPN, leading the New York Post to ask, “Did Gisele just reveal a Tom Brady concussion cover-up?“ A player diagnosed with a concussion must abide by the NFL’s concussion protocol, which notes a player can only return to action if he has been cleared by his doctor, per TMZ. Teams have previously faced penalties for not disclosing injuries, per CBS Sports. However, it isn’t clear if the NFL would consider Bundchen’s comments as evidence of a violation.

►  Woman Will Call NFL Game for 1st Time in 3 Decades

ESPN has tapped Beth Mowins to call the second part of a season-opening Monday Night Football doubleheader in September, making her the first woman to do play-by-play duties on an NFL game in 30 years, the AP reports. The network says Mowins will team with former NFL Coach Rex Ryan when the Los Angeles Chargers visit the Denver Broncos on September 11.

Mowins joined ESPN in 1994 and has called college football for the network since 2005. She has also done play-by-play for locally broadcast preseason Oakland Raiders games. ESPN Senior Vice President Stephanie Druley says Mowins “deserves this opportunity.“ The last woman to call an NFL game was NBC’s Gayle Sierens in 1987.

►  Ex-Student: Gang Rape Was ‘Bonding’ for Baylor Players

A former student at the world’s largest Baptist college says she was gang-raped by football players who treated the assault as a “bonding” experience. The women, a former member of Baylor University’s volleyball team, filed a lawsuit against the college Tuesday over its handling of the alleged assault in 2012, CNN reports. The lawsuit says the institution in Waco, Texas, allowed football players to “run wild” and she was “manipulated into not pursuing her rights” after she was allegedly drugged and raped by up to eight players. Her attorney says she didn’t inform police at the time because “the mindset at that time was the football players could do whatever they wanted.“

Court documents state that a coach spoke to some of the players involved and they said they had only been “fooling around,“ calling it “a little bit of playtime,“ the Dallas Morning News reports. In the lawsuit, the woman says that after the coach’s talk, football players verbally harassed her on campus and sent her family text messages. This is the seventh Title IX lawsuit for the university, which has been dealing with allegations of mishandling of football-related sexual assaults for years, reports Reuters. Last year, the scandals led to the firing of football coach Art Briles and the departure of university president and chancellor Ken Starr.

►  Tragedy at Wrigley as Lifelong Cubs Fan Falls to His Death

A man who struck his head after tumbling over a railing at Chicago’s Wrigley Field has died, reports the AP. The Cook County medical examiner’s office says 42-year-old Richard E. Garrity of Wheaton was pronounced dead Wednesday at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. Authorities say Garrity fell over a railing after Tuesday night’s game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds. Police say he suffered head trauma from the fall. The medical examiner has scheduled an autopsy for Thursday to determine the cause of death.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Garrity was a marketing manager at Heineken and attended the game versus the Reds with some colleagues and his wife. Garrity’s father, who says he was babysitting the couple’s two young children while their parents were at the game, notes his son was a lifelong Cubs fan and “a great guy, everyone loved him. When he walked in a room, there were no strangers.“

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►  Man Honors Childhood Friend ... by Flushing His Ashes

“I went to the bathroom, and I was like, I know what to do,“ Tom McDonald tells the New York Daily News. Roy Riegel, McDonald’s childhood friend and fellow New York Mets superfan, died in 2008 at the age of 48. McDonald kept Riegel’s ashes in a peanut can wrapped in Mets ticket stubs next to his collection of baseball autographs and World Series highlights, but he wasn’t sure exactly what to do with them, the AP reports. According to the New York Times, the answer presented itself after a trip to a bar’s men’s room: flush his friend’s ashes down the toilet. Since McDonald’s stroke of genius, he’s flushed scoops of Riegel’s ashes at 16 Major League stadiums around the country.

McDonald calls it the “perfect tribute” to his friend, “the best plumber you ever saw” who “walked that tightrope between genius and insanity.“ Hank Riegel agrees, saying his brother “would definitely approve of it.“ There are rules to McDonald’s tribute to Riegel: a baseball game must be in progress when the ashes are flushed, and if McDonald also has to use the facilities, “I always flush in between.“ McDonald has flushed Riegel’s ashes in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Baltimore, and Chicago (though not at Wrigley Field due to the Cubs’ rival status), to name a few. McDonald says he has enough ashes left for one final flush, which he plans to do at North Carolina’s Durham Athletic Park, where the movie Bull Durham was filmed.

►  Ballplayer Has Racial Slurs and Peanuts Hurled at Him

Adam Jones has received apologies from the Boston Red Sox and the mayor of Boston after the Baltimore Orioles outfielder was subjected to a barrage of racial slurs Monday night at Fenway Park, the Boston Globe reports. According to USA Today, Jones says he “was called the n-word a handful of times” and also had a bag of peanuts thrown at him. He says it was some of the worst behavior directed at him in his 12-year career—though he says it’s not the first time he’s been the victim of racist insults at Fenway. The Red Sox say a fan was removed from the stadium for throwing something at a player and another was removed for language directed toward a player, CBS Boston reports.

“No player should have an object thrown at him on the playing field, nor be subjected to any kind of racism at Fenway Park,“ Red Sox president Sam Kennedy says in a statement. He says the organization is “sickened” by the “inexcusable behavior” of “an ignorant few.“ Mayor Marty Walsh adds that the behavior was that of a “racist” fan and not indicative of the kind of city Boston is. The Red Sox say about 30 people were ejected from Fenway during Monday’s game. That’s more than double the normal amount. Jones says there need to be stiffer punishments than being removed from the stadium for fans who throw things at players, risking injury and their livelihood.

►  Ex-NBA Star Brandon Roy Shot While Protecting Kids

A former NBA All-Star and current high-school basketball coach of the year was shot Saturday near Los Angeles while shielding a number of children from gunfire, USA Today reports. According to KING 5, Brandon Roy was attending a party at his grandmother’s house in Compton when two men walked up. A source tells USA Today the men “opened fire randomly,“ and four people were hit. All four victims—including Roy, who was shot in the leg—had non-life-threatening injuries. Roy was treated in California before flying home to Seattle to recover. Police have not made any arrests in the shooting nor identified a motive, though a source tells KING the shooting might be gang-related.

Roy was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2007 while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers. He would go on to become a three-time All-Star in his six seasons in the NBA before being forced to retire due to knee injuries. The 32-year-old was undefeated this year during his first season coaching basketball at Nathan Hale High School in Seattle, Yahoo Sports reports. Nathan Hale was the country’s top-ranked team, and Roy won the Naismith High School Coach of the Year award.

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  Prepare to Be Amazed at This Baseball ‘Slide’

It looked like a sure out. Chris Coghlan of the Toronto Blue Jays was heading for home, but a throw from the outfield to St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina got there first. Coghlan’s solution? He dove over the catcher and executed a mid-air somersault onto home plate. See the video at He was ruled safe, and the Blue Jays went on to win 6-5. Mashable notes that the movie Major League II featured the same stunt.

“I was coming around third, and I looked to my left to see where the ball was,“ Coghlan recounts. “I saw it was going to beat me, and then, probably the last step or two, I saw Yadi go down. Your first thought is, ‘OK, I’m going to run him over because he’s right over the plate.‘ Then I was thinking, since he was down, ‘Why don’t you jump?‘ I just jumped, and the rest is history.“

In Sports….

The Free Press WV

►  Former Atlanta Braves Player Otis Nixon Is Missing

Police in Georgia are looking for a former Atlanta Braves player who left his home to play golf Saturday morning and hasn’t been seen since. Otis Nixon, 58, was reported missing by his girlfriend Sunday afternoon, a Woodstock Police Department rep tells CNN. He was driving a gray 2011 Range Rover with Georgia license plate CFP9010. Police say there’s no sign of foul play or any known medical issue. Nixon’s 17-year playing career was marred by drug problems, and he missed the Braves’ 1991 trip to the World Series after failing a drug test, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports.

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