Quick stories and a quick take from the world of sports. This is a remake of our weekly sports column. We will publish with new stories as they come up – 1-2x a week.
By Ryan Sederquist, Shovel Lake Public Radio/Seder-Skier Podcast Host
Quick Story: Basically, the actions of alumni and athletes were effective in convincing the higher ups that cutting this program was hurting their quoted desire to improve competitiveness and diversity (which it objectively was). The response from the president does mention Title IX however, and it seems like that issue could potentially be a bridge they still have to cross.
Quick Take: This is a big win for students, the sport, and honestly, the school. Hopefully, this is a trend we see – runners taking back their teams. As I mentioned last week, I feel like the heart of Title IX was to increase opportunities for women – not to eliminate ones for men.
Quick Story: Basically, 22 teams will return (based on those who were in realistic play-off contention…sorry Wolves fans), they will play an 8-game ‘wrap up’ of the regular season and then a possible play in tournament for the 8th seed, and then the play-offs will begin, all to be held inside Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. It is starting July 31st.
Quick Take: It’s nice to have one of the big four sports back. It is getting old having ‘sprots’ journalism hardly even talk about sports anymore these days. We might have to come up with a prediction article once we approach July. A couple of noteworthy talkers:
- no home court advantage – I feel for the Bucks, who were on pace for 67-68 wins; a small market team like that really needs the home court advantage, and, should they win it all, it is kind of depressing for those fans in the midwest to not really get to experience it with their team, I think.
- no home court advantage – on the flip side, not having homecourt could really equalize a lot of teams. This could be the ‘fairest’ play-offs, as, without fans as well, refs will probably innately not be swayed and thus will call a more neutral game. I wouldn’t be surprised if, due to the long layoff and neutral site, that we see some unexpected upsets.
- virus issues – I really hope we don’t get 65% of the way through this and then have everything shut down again because of the virus. At this point, I think we can establish that, though this virus does kill, it isn’t as potent as the Bubonic Plague. There is obviously not that much threat to the public nor felt by the public, as the recent protest and large gatherings surrounding them indicate. Also, those in the NBA are in an extremely low risk group, except for maybe Greg Popovich. It would annoy me if there was an “outbreak” and they decided to close things up after all of this. Just my two cents.
- Rookies – A key story line going into the play-offs is Zion Williamson. His Pelicans are sitting on the brink of a spot, and with the additional rest and time to gel with teammates, they pose a potential upset alert. I think TV would like to see him and fellow rookie of the year candidate Ja Morant advance as far as possible.
- James vs. Jordan – Lebron has a golden opportunity here to get a 4th ring, and his legacy is on the line.
- Kawhi – is he the actual best? Kawhi took down the super team Heat (Lebron, Wade, and Bosh) with the elderly Spurs on his back, and then just went up north to the hardest market to win in, Toronto (they have to go through public TSA every time they travel), and in one season, helped them take down the greatest dynasty in the history of sports in the Golden State Warriors. This guy is like a humble, more athletic and defensive minded version of Jordan if you ask me.
Sports organizations make statements in response to George Floyd protests, including USOPC.
Quick Story: Many companies, leagues, teams, and clubs have made statements in response to George Floyd’s death and the subsequent protests and riots. Since we are an endurance focused publication with an emphasis on Olympic sports, we will highlight the story surrounding the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s recent statements, which have caused some blow-back. Here is the article on Fasterskier.com.
Basically, USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland, who evidently is not a fan favorite of Team USA athletes based on what I’ve seen on Twitter and Instagram lately, issued a statement, part of which said, “Today, I am creating an athlete-led group to challenge the rules and systems in our own organization that creates barriers to progress, including your right to protest. We will also advocate for change globally.”
It is important to understand two key points: 1) currently the International Olympic Committee (IOC) denies the right to protest (or promote any religious or commercial movement) on the global stage – like, at the Olympics or Youth Olympics and 2) in following the IOC’s aforementioned mandate, the USOPC recently punished two of its own athletes for their protest/public statements in 2019 international events.
(Not so) Quick Take: First, a take on organizations in general making statements. Former Viking’s coach and one of the first African American head coaches in the NFL, Dennis Green once wrapped up a statement regarding freedom of speech and freedom of the press by saying something along the lines of, “The great thing about America is, anyone can have an opinion, but another great thing is, you don’t have to read it (the newspapers).” In essence, it’s great that we have the freedom to speak, but we also have the freedom to choose to not read what others have said. I think along those lines, there is a fair argument to be said that people and companies should feel free to publish statements or remain silent (and not be ridiculed for either) when it comes to the current events. I can see reasonable defenses for both – remaining silent in this case might be unique because of what is at stake – human rights – but at the same time, if they make a statement on this very important issue, are we now going to expect to see Starbucks, the NBA, Scheels, and the Shovel Lake Athletic Association making known their stance on every other important issue of the day? Probably not. I don’t need to understand the moral foundations of every organization. So on that end – I don’t have ‘less’ respect for places that do speak out.
Now, for the USOPC and Team USA athletes specifically. It appears many people feel the USOPC is simply making a PR move in light of current events, and are therefore understandably frustrated. The two athletes whom were suspended for 12 months probably feel particularly slighted, since they lost big from an opportunity cost standpoint by missing sponsorship dollars and opportunities to win medals for doing something the higher ups at Team USA are now saying was the right move. .
That being said, I think there are probably multiple ways to slice this. Optimistically, I’d like to think the actions of the USOPC could serve to prevent further division. They may indeed be simply admitting that they made a mistake and are now ready to fight in the same corner as their own athletes. In saying ‘including the right to protest,’ and ‘we will also advocate for change globally,’ the USOPC is basically saying, “Look, we are actually going to stick our neck out and go against the marching orders of our bosses (the IOC) on your behalf. Let’s see if we can win back the right to use the Olympic podium as a platform for free speech.”
On the flip side, I can sympathize with athletes who have endured a long history of perhaps being unfairly treated by a beaurcratic system all the way back to the early 70s, when amateurism was an issue. There is an argument to be made that what we are seeing now is part of a larger pattern wherein the administration does not always truly have the best interests of their athletes in mind until it starts to really impact their own bank accounts. I don’t really know a whole lot about all of this, so take it as a grain of salt, but it appears that is at least a narrative coming from the athletes’ camps.
My ultimate take, however, is that maybe it actually is wise of the IOC to simply say, “Look, the Olympic games and the podium aren’t for furthering any commercial, social, religious, etc., ideals.” I mean, I believe I should stand up for my faith, and I’m a teacher, but I understand and adhere to the fact that if I want to work in the public schools, I can’t use my platform to promote my own religious messages directly. And society has agreed that is smart. I think a better move for the USOC might have been to apologize for the suspensions, ask for forgiveness, form the committee they are going to form, and tell athletes that from here on out, they’re going to support them if they do make a stand, even if it is on an international stage, because that is what we as Americans stand for (liberty and freedom of speech). However, as an organization, we aren’t going to fight what the IOC has in place, and instead, we will bear the burden and shield the athletes from the potential repercussions for acting out, if they do. That would have, I believe, been a novel act of selflessness that would have been refreshing for USA athletes. Maybe it is too idealistic, though.
Or, I think the athletes who were punished for protesting should realize, when they decided to protest, it was against the IOC rules. If they have any beef, they should take it up with the IOC. They knew the potential consequences for their brave actions, and if they believe in their cause enough, they should have the maturity to accept the consequences, no matter how unfair they perceive them to be. They can’t really have it both ways – half of the reason their protest is so effective is because it was technically illegal. They should be proud of it, but also be proud because it comes at a cost – maybe even a severe one.
And, now that the USOPC has come along to their side and has said they are going to fight to change for the right to internationally protest, they need to hold their leaders accountable to stand up for this change. It sounds to me like there is anymosity in this direction from some athletes, as the words of punished thrower Gwen Berry indicated in her reaction: “We’ll see. We’ll see how hard (Hirshland) fights for us, for those rights.”
Ultimately, I’m on the side of the athletes, but as unfair as the beaucratic system of international sports seems to be, we should remember, too, that at the end of the day, they are pursuing an incredible passion (sports) as their career, and there is a lot to be thankful for there. If they can’t use one particular stage (the Olympic medal stand) as a place to freely express their beliefs, just like I can’t as a teacher, they should be able to live with that, too.
Golf is back
Quick Story: Golf makes a triumphant return, post Covid-19, at the Colonial this weekend, and the field is stacked. Justin Rose, Rory, Phil, Brooks, and a few more.
Quick Take: Tiger is sitting this one out, but he isn’t hurt. He’s just playing a lighter schedule – I’m looking forward to watching him at the Master’s in November. Good to see golf back and all the stars with it.