Category Archives: Sports news

That’s what it was, Mr. VPOTUS: a political stunt

Vice President Mike Pence certainly knew what would take place when he went to a pro football game today.

He knew some of the players would “take a knee” while they struck up “Star Spangled Banner.” He knew some of the San Francisco 49ers would protest, along with some of the Indianapolis Colts.

He knew that would happen. But he showed up anyway at the game in Indianapolis — only to walk out because, as he said, he wouldn’t “dignify” a disrespecting of the flag, our country, our men and women in uniform, our Constitution.

Good grief! What we saw today was an act of political grandstanding.

An Indianapolis Star sports columnist also was right to question why Pence showed up in the first place and why he decided to expend a good bit of taxpayer money — with the requisite security and other things associated with the vice president’s traveling contingent.

Using high office to score political points

It’s not as though presidents and vice presidents don’t occasionally use their high office for political gain. I get that it’s happened before.

But this stunt that Pence pulled today was so transparently phony it boggles the mind. He wanted to make a statement that the players who are protesting are somehow “disrespecting” the nation that allows them to do the very thing they are doing.

Lest we forget, the protest — which began this pas season when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the National Anthem — is intended to protest police treatment of African-American citizens. I’ll stipulate that I am not pleased with the form of protest mounted. I wish the players would find another way to make their point.

However, their demonstration is not meant to dishonor the flag, or the country, or our brave fighting men and women. To suggest it does all of that is to cheapen a legitimate form of political protest.

For the vice president of the United States to make a big show of it in the first place only heightens the phoniness of his own declaration of disgust.

O.J. out of prison … what now?

Orenthal James Simpson no longer is locked up in a Nevada prison, but he’s hardly what you’d call a “free man.”

The former college and pro football star served a nine-year prison sentence on an array of charges stemming from an altercation he had with some guys over possession of some football memorabilia.

But … then there’s that other crime with which he’ll be associated until the end of time. His former wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were stabbed to death in 1994. Simpson was the prime suspect. Police arrested him and charged him with double murder.

What ensued next was the most overexposed, overcovered and overhyped trial of the 20th century. Jurors heard months of testimony and after four hours of deliberation, they acquitted Simpson of killing the two victims.

Oh, it doesn’t end there.

Nicole and Ron’s families — the Browns and Goldmans — filed a civil suit. Another jury ruled that Simpson was “liable” for their deaths. They awarded them $33.5 million in damages.

Then came the scrape that put The Juice behind bars.

The Browns and Goldmans have been unable to collect anything from Simpson during his time in prison. His NFL pension is protected. The Hall of Famer couldn’t work, quite obviously, while he was locked up.

O.J. gets parole

Well, now he’s out. He’s free to earn some outside income apart from his pension if he’s so inclined. The question now becomes: Will the Goldmans and the Browns renew their quest for some semblance of the cash that the jury awarded them when they found Simpson liable for the gruesome deaths?

Don’t expect them to collect all of it. And at this point, I wouldn’t even bet on them getting any of it, given Simpson’s proclivity for hiring top-drawer legal advice. I mean, his criminal defense team got him acquitted of the murders despite overwhelming circumstantial and physical evidence that he committed that hideous crime.

My own wish is that O.J. Simpson vanishes from the public stage. It’s not likely to happen, given the ubiquitous nature of social media and this guy’s lust for attention.

Another wish would be for Simpson to make good on his post-acquittal promise to search for as long as it takes to find Nicole and Ron’s killer.

Oh … wait!

Trump to NFL players: Stand for anthem, or else?

Donald J. Trump is sounding like he’s issuing some sort of veiled threat against pro football players who don’t stand for the National Anthem.

My question is this: What’s he going to do about it?

According to The Associated Press: Amid a series of tweets Saturday against criticism of the federal response to hurricane damage in Puerto Rico, the president returned to the world of sports and society: “Very important that NFL players STAND tomorrow, and always, for the playing of our National Anthem. Respect our Flag and our Country!”

AP is reporting that the president won’t tolerate any further protests by these athletes.

What’s the next step? Is the president going to declare martial law and suspend the rights of the athletes to protest what they believe is racial inequality in the enforcement of the law? Lest we forget, that is the original object of the players’ protests that began this past season when quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled while the anthem was being played.

I just wish the president would stick to more important and relevant matters. I can think of quite a few: North Korea, tax reform and, oh yeah, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands devastation brought by Hurricane Maria.

Here is what House Speaker Paul Ryan said, according to the AP:

“I do really believe his heart’s in the right place,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“I think what matters is that we have to show people that we are an inclusive society, that we want everyone to succeed,” he said. Ryan also acknowledged that the original point of the player demonstration — racial injustice and police mistreatment of African-Americans — has become obscured by the narrower issue of how to act during the anthem.

“I think we should just have separate and distinct conversations. Because when you merge it into the flag and the anthem, it’s lost,” Ryan said.

Put another way: This story has spiraled out of control.

MLB honors Say Hey Kid

This story kind of slipped past us as we have been fixated on Puerto Rico’s hurricane recovery and assorted troubles afflicting the Donald J. Trump administration.

Major League Baseball has announced a new award it will bestow in honor of one of the greatest men ever to play professional hardball.

The Willie Mays Most Valuable Player Award will go henceforth to the player who earns it while playing in the World Series.

Willie Mays is now 86 years of age. He played in four World Series. His New York Giants won one of them, in 1954, against the Cleveland Indians. During that Series, Mays made “The Catch,” in deep center field off the bat of Indians slugger Vic Wertz.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement on the 63rd anniversary of that spectacular catch.

Mays crafted an iconic career over more than two decades playing for the Giants — first in New York and then in San Francisco — and for the New York Mets. And just so you know, I got to watch Mays play ball in August 1964. It was in Candlestick Park in San Francisco against the Cincinnati Reds. If memory serves, Mays went hitless that day … but, hey, he’s Willie Mays, man.

I am glad to see this great athlete’s name placed on an award that will be given in his honor.

Willie Mays could do it all. And he did it with verve, panache and tremendous skill.

Ditka: ‘Don’t demonstrate against the Constitution’

Mike Ditka was a damn good professional football player and coach.

He is a strong supporter of Donald J. Trump. He has strong opinions on the recent controversy regarding NFL players “taking a knee” while they listen to the National Anthem at the start of football games.

But he needs to take a breath and maybe rethink what he told the Chicago Sun-Times. He said:

“But I don’t believe you demonstrate against the American flag. I believe in the American flag. Or demonstrate against the Constitution. I believe in the Constitution. I’m old fashioned. There are other ways to get your point across. But I don’t believe one should demonstrate against our country. Just play football.

“And that’s the way I feel. And now I’d like to go back to my card game.”

Here’s more of what he said.

Old-fashioned Mike should examine the Constitution and what it means. It guarantees the right of citizens to do precisely what he’s arguing against. These football players and their coaches are doing it peacefully. Their initial protest — which started this past season with quarterback Colin Kaepernick — has been aimed at police treatment of African-Americans.

Do I agree with the tactic they’ve employed? No. I wish they would protest differently. But I take no offense at what they’re doing. I do not believe these young men are disrespecting “the flag” or “the Constitution.”

I believe in the flag as much as Coach Ditka. I also believe that the cherished flag symbolizes a nation founded on the very principle of dissent and protest.

MPEV contract signed? Done!

Someone will have to explain to me why the news out of Amarillo City Hall is somehow bad for the city.

It’s going to take a mighty stout argument to persuade me.

The City Council today announced that Elmore Sports Group, the outfit that owns the San Antonio Missions AA baseball team, has signed a 30-year lease agreement to play minor-league baseball at the new ballpark set to be built across the street from City Hall.

The city plans to pay for the $45.5 million multipurpose event venue with hotel occupancy tax revenue. Elmore will pay the city $400,000 annually to rent the ballpark.

They’re going to break ground on the MPEV in early 2018; they plan to finish the venue in time for the start of the 2019 baseball season.

Get your hot dogs and cold beer right here!

What a journey it has been — and what a journey that lies ahead.

And yet, there is a continual chorus from a cadre of soreheads that keeps casting the city’s downtown revival in negative terms.

It seems like a hundred years ago that Amarillo voters approved a citywide “non-binding referendum” on whether to support construction of the MPEV. The cost of the building in November 2015 — when the election occurred — had been pegged at $32 million. The cost inflated a bit after the ballots were counted, which brought out some howls around the city.

It hasn’t been a smooth ride, to be sure.

Voters elected a new council majority in the spring of 2015 and there was some discussion about the council slamming the brakes on the MPEV. To its credit, the new council majority heeded its better angels and allowed the vote to proceed.

Prior to all of that we got to witness the general managing contractor — an outfit named Wallace Bajjali — disintegrate in a spat between its principal owners. It was damn ugly! They left the city without an organization that was supposed to coordinate all the moving parts. Fortunately for Amarillo, the organization’s demise didn’t damage the city’s commitment to proceeding with the ballpark/MPEV.

But there was some turnover in some key municipal management positions. Melissa Dailey essentially was forced out of her job as head of Downtown Amarillo Inc., City Manager Jarret Atkinson quit over his inability to work with the new council majority and Amarillo Economic Development Corporation President Buzz David retired and moved out of town.

But the MPEV kept moving forward.

The Local Government Corporation was able to get a tentative agreement with the Missions, who wanted out of the Alamo City, which courted a AAA franchise.

And today, everyone signed on the dotted line.

Downtown Amarillo has made tremendous strides in the past half-dozen years. We now have a first-class convention hotel and parking garage across the street from the Civic Center. The city is able to lure conventions to the Civic Center. Business is booming along with construction of downtown residence construction.

Why in the world is all of this is a bad thing for Amarillo?

I want to restate what I believe is quite obvious: Every thriving city in America has virtually one thing in common. They all boast thriving downtown districts.

Amarillo has taken a big step toward a bright future.

That’s how you ‘unify’ a nation, Mr. President?

My goodness, Donald Trump. When are you going to get it?

You’ve been handed yet another opportunity to say the right thing. To offer a soothing word of assurance. To tell those who are protesting U.S. government policies toward an important segment of our population that you hear them, that you will work to assuage their concerns.

So, what do you do?

You suggest that National Football League owners and football execs should fire the “sons of b******” who refuse to stand during the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the start of games. Then the NBA champion Golden State Warriors said they oppose your view on the kneeling issue. Your response to them was Classic Trump when you disinvited them to the White House for a ceremony honoring their accomplishment.

You, Mr. President — the Leader of the Free World and head of state of the greatest country on Earth — have used your high, exalted office to score points with your political base. You have inflamed emotions on both sides of this issue.

Have you forgotten, sir, how you pledged to “unify” the nation once you took office? Or how you intended to be president for all Americans? Or how you would spend your waking moments working to “make America great again”?

I know the answer to that. You haven’t forgotten any of that. In my view, they were empty platitudes. You didn’t mean a word of it when you made those pledges.

I am left to wonder out loud, Mr. President: Do you have any idea what you are doing? Do you have a clue about what this high office to which you were elected entails?

You have managed yet again to make an absolute hash of a situation that has spiraled out of control partly because of your divisive, fiery rhetoric that is precisely the wrong thing to provide at a time when we need words of calm assurance.

One of the unwritten rules of your high office means you are obligated to be the voice of reason during difficult circumstances. As you have demonstrated time and time again since taking office, sir, you are failing this test.

I am left, then, to ask yet again: When are you going to get it? Ever?

NASCAR owners weigh in on anthem controversy

This might be the least surprising development imaginable in the festering controversy over athletes refusing to stand when they hear “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Some key NASCAR heavyweight owners have issued fair warning to their crew members — including drivers — who don’t stand when they play the National Anthem at the start of each automobile race.

You stand or you will get fired! Got it? Good!

This issue has become a serious talking point ever since former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a protest this past season by kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. Kaepernick said he was protesting treatment of African-Americans.

It’s gotten a lot bigger this season. The president of the United States has weighed in, suggesting NFL owners should fire the “sons of b******” who refuse to stand during the Anthem. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors were disinvited to the White House because some of their star players have expressed support for the sideline demonstrations.

The protests are being led by mostly African-American athletes. NASCAR, of course, comes from a different environment altogether. It’s rooted in the Southern culture. Its fan base is overwhelmingly white. As are its drivers, owners and associated crew members.

The different approach to this National Anthem protest business is on stark display. As The Sporting News reported: Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty and current team owner of the No. 43 Cup Series team of Aric Almirola agrees with Trump.

“Anybody that don’t stand up for the anthem oughta be out of the country. Period. What got ’em where they’re at? The United States,” Petty said, adding that any protester within his organization would be fired. 

We live in a tremendously diverse country. Its diversity is being played out right before our eyes as we prepare to watch sporting events — and see how athletes of all stripes react to the sound of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Trump pulls WH invitation for NBA champs? Huh?

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to remember the last time this has happened.

A president of the United States withdraws an invitation to the White House to greet a professional sports team that has won a national championship.

Trump pulls invitation

That happened this week when Donald Trump told the NBA’s Golden State Warriors they aren’t welcome at the White House, where they were supposed to be feted by the president for winning the NBA title earlier this summer.

Trump posted this tweet: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!” 

What? Huh?

At least two of the Warriors’ top stars — Steph Curry and Kevin Durant — had said they wouldn’t attend the ceremony apparently because they oppose the president’s policies. The president reacted by yanking the invitation.

So, there won’t be the obligatory photo op with the president and the NBA champs, something that has occurred since, oh, I cannot remember how long.

What in the world is going on here?

Didn’t some of the NFL’s New England Patriots say they opposed President Obama’s policies and, thus, wouldn’t attend a similar ceremony for the Super Bowl champs? And, hey, wasn’t all-universe quarterback Tom Brady one of them? Did the president cancel the event? No. He welcomed those team members who came, had some laughs, took a few pictures and that was that.

My head is still spinning over this latest kerfuffle.

I am trying to figure out the root of all this.

Donald Trump is finding out under the most curious of circumstances that he is as polarizing a public figure as anyone who’s ever occupied the White House.

He announced earlier this year he and the first lady wouldn’t attend the annual Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. Why? Because some of the entertainment honorees said they cannot support the president.

Now this.

Is this the national unity that the president promised he’d deliver?

Mr. President, there’s that First Amendment thing

Donald Trump has weighed in on professional football players’ conduct while listening to the National Anthem being played before the start of NFL games.

Fire ’em if they sit or kneel while “The Star Spangled Banner” is being played, he said at a Huntsville, Ala., political rally this week.

According to CNN: Trump said NFL owners should respond to the players by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!” 

Well …

This whole discussion began a year ago when former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to kneel during the Anthem to protest the country’s treatment of African-American citizens.

Count me as one American who was appalled at Kaepernick’s disrespectful display. I thought he acted stupidly at the time. He is free to express his political views, but I just didn’t like the manner in which he chose to do it.

However, what he did was legal. Not only that, it’s guaranteed under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees citizens the right to protest in any peaceful manner they wish. If they want to burn Old Glory in the town square as a form of political speech, that’s allowed, too. Just don’t do it in my presence.

The president’s urging of NFL owners to fire players who sit during the Anthem ignores the First Amendment guarantee of a cherished civil right.

I could argue that the president simply should keep his trap shut when it concerns such matters, except that the First Amendment damn sure gives him the right to speak his piece, too.

Then again, Donald Trump isn’t just your average Joe. He is the president of the United States of America, which gives his words a lot more weight than those that come from some shmuck blogger out here in Flyover Country.

Oh, the price of living in a free society.