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NFL Debating Team Bubbles To Carry Out The Playoff Season 

Throughout the unpredictable 2020 NFL season the league has maintained an “all options on the table” mentality in terms of how they will continue out the rest of the season safely as the world continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Chief medical adviser Allen Sills recently spoke at a media conference, claiming that the league never seriously considered a bubble approach for the regular season, however, the playoffs are a different story, and after seeing how successful the NBA was at playing out the rest of their season in a bubble with no Covid-19 cases appearing, the option is looking more and more attractive. 

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The NFL is set to hold its Week 8 conference later this month where bubble concepts, and other options for how to carry out the playoff season, will be discussed more seriously. Despite a few outbreaks of Covid-19 in the beginning of the pandemic the NFL otherwise hasn’t needed to implement any aggressive measures in terms of game play due to the fact that they’ve been very diligent in securing team facilities and safe travel arrangements with strict protocols for all parties involved in the regular season. These protocols involve daily testing, contact tracing, and other standard practices we’ve seen working within the past eight months. 

The latest league-wide testing results showed that there were eight new positive tests among the 2,459 players, and 11 new positive cases among the 5,340 coaches and other staffers tested. These sort of spikes are why the bubble approach to the playoff season is being discussed more now as the road to the Superbowl gets closer and closer. 

The NBA, WNBA, NHL, and now MLB have all instituted the use of bubbles to carry out their seasons and all leagues have shown massively successful results with this approach, hence the NFL’s peaked curiosity. Saints coach Sean Payton was one of the first individuals working in the league to bring up a bubble approach months ago, and he has only further pushed for this as the pandemic has progressed. 

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“Teams are going to demand that they get bubbles of their own, and it won’t be a ‘soft’ quarantine. It’ll be a hard bubble. Man, nobody’s going to miss the Super Bowl because of COVID.”

Pre-pandemic it wasn’t unheard of for teams to isolate themselves at hotels before home games, so the idea of a playoff bubble would just be a more intensified extension of that plan. The main concern is moving from local bubbles in the beginning portion of the season to larger ones that will need to exist to accommodate for the playoffs. Sills recently discussed with the press why the bubble strategy hasn’t been considered more seriously in the past. 

“The bubble doesn’t take away the need for all of our other mitigation strategies. In fact, infection can spread more rapidly inside a bubble if it does get introduced, because everyone is together in very close quarters.”

Sills continued on that one of the only things the NFL has learned from other experiences this season is that non-player staff and personnel also need to have their own accommodations and bubbles to remove all elements of risk. The NFL Players Association will likely be voting on what the next steps for the season will be later this month. Experts are predicting that it will mainly come down to the “cost vs. risk” argument, however, time is running out for the NFL if they want any chance at finishing up their season on schedule.

Olympics

Tommie Smith And John Carlos Made History At The Olympics 52 Years Ago Today

The 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City became one of the most historic Olympic events in history after American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos took to the medal stand and raised a black-gloved fist during the national anthem; an act that is now emulated at professional sports games when players take a knee during the anthem in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

It was 52 years ago today – Friday, October 16th – when Smith won the gold and set a world record of 19.83 seconds in the 200-meter dash. Carlos won bronze for the same event and Australian sprinter Peter Norman joined them on the stand to accept the silver medal. 

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Everyone has seen the iconic image of Smith and Carlos raising their fist in the Black Power salute on the stand, however, at the time the two likely had no idea the type of precedent they would be setting for athletes everywhere, fighting the same fight they were some 50 years ago. 

During the 1968 Olympic Games America was at the height of its initial civil rights movement. Black members of the US track team, which has continuously been viewed as one of the fastest teams ever assembled, threatened to boycott the Olympic games at the time to protest the racist treatment of Black People in America; something that members of the NBA also did this year during the playoff season. 

In 1968, however, the idea of a boycott from some of the countries biggest and best athletes was unheard of, causing the media to spiral. The boycott never took full effect, as many of the Black athletes argued that they had to work ten times harder anyway to get a spot in the Games, and wanted to take full advantage of that opportunity that they’ve trained so hard for. So instead, their protests just took different forms at the games themselves. 

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On the stand, Smith, Carlos, and Norman all wore patches on their jackets for the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). OPHR was an organization founded in 1967 to raise awareness and expose the mistreatment of Black athletes in America. The OPHR’s main claim was that America and the media didn’t actually care about the Black individuals who were making strides in the sports industry, and instead just wanted to “prop up” athletes like Jackie Robinson and Kenny Washington to show that America has made racial progress to the outside world. 

At the time, the OPHR’s main goals and demands included restoring Muhammad Ali’s heavyweight boxing title – after he was stripped of it for publicly opposing the Vietnam war -, hire more Black coaches, remove Avery Brundage as the head of the International Olympic Committee — he was known for his history of racism, sexism and Antisemitism — and to exclude South Africa and Rhodesia from the Olympic Games in solidarity with Black people against the apartheid.

While Norman may have opted not to raise his fist, the fact that he was a white athlete wearing an OPHR patch was enough to negatively impact his career down the line. The black glove worn by Smith on his right hand was meant to represent the power of Black America while the glove on Carlos’ left hand symbolized Black unity. Smith also wore a scarf around his neck to represent Black Pride while Carlos wore beads around his neck to represent the countless Black lives lost due to lynchings in America. Carlos and Smith also went up to the stand shoe-less to represent poverty in the Black community in America and Carlos kept his jacket unzipped – a violation of Olympic etiquette – as a symbol of solidarity with the working class. 

This iconic image has been used countless times within the past five decades, and continues to be relevant today as America is in the midst of another movement fighting for the same thing Smith and Carlos were fighting for; racial equality and justice for Black people in America.

Basketball on Court

The Lakers Win 17th NBA Title, LeBron James Earns Fourth Championship

The Los Angeles Lakers became NBA Champions this weekend after defeating the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Baseball Stadium

Supreme Court Denies MLB Request To Dismiss Pay Increase Lawsuit With Minor Leagues

On Monday the Supreme Court denied Major League Baseball’s request to dismiss a lawsuit filed on behalf of minor league players who are seeking compensation for past hours already worked. The case of Senne versus the Royals was originally filed back in 2014 on behalf of former minor league player Aaron Senne, who aimed to bring in thousands of past and present players to receive compensation for spring training that they were denied or paid salaries that were below the poverty line. 

Garrett Broshuis is the attorney and former minor league player who filed the initial lawsuit, and recently claimed that there’s “no reason for players to be making $7,500 or $8,000 for the year.” 

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“The ultimate goal is pretty simple: to get MLB to comply with the same laws that Walmart and McDonald’s comply with. Whenever they ask players to go to spring training, they should be paying their employees for it.”

This is a longstanding issue within minor league baseball. Players are often paid below minimum wage for their given numbers of hours worked. If the minor league season wasn’t cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, players who were considered to be Triple-A players were projected to be paid  $700 per week played, Double-A players $600, Class A players $500 and Rookie League and short-season players $400. Lower-level players in 2019 earned about $290 a week and even with some players receiving raises, some were paid less than $5,000 for a full season; a staggering amount when compared to their major league counterparts. 

In August 2019, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit allowed the lawsuit to proceed as a class action suit which would allow former players to seek back pay that they are owed from previous seasons, and current players to receive compensation for the hours worked before the seasons cancellation. 

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The main issue lies in the minimum wage payments for these players. Back in 2018 lawmakers included the Save America’s Pastime Act in a $1.3 trillion spending bill. By including the Pastime Act in this bill, minor league players were directly stripped of their minimum wage protections, meaning their management could legally get away with paying them as little as they wanted. According to Broshuis, players typically are working 60 hours a week during an active season, and the law passing meant players could only be paid minimum wage for 40 hours a week.

“The law called for them to be paid minimum wage for 40 hours a week irrespective of the number of hours the employee devotes to baseball-related activities. The Save America’s Pastime Act was a horrible act, it was a misnomer. There was never a need for it.”

The Ninth Circuit ruling allowed players located in California, Arizona, and Florida to join the class lawsuit. These states are the homes of dozens of minor league teams and spring training facilities. No players, including major league, are paid for their spring training, however, MLB players are able to negotiate a salary through the MLB Players Association, the minor league teams don’t have any sort of union in place to help them negotiate potential payments. 

The Professional Baseball Agreement between MLB and Minor League Baseball expired at the end of September this year, meaning the MLB will now likely take control over the minor leagues. This will potentially lead to a merger of unions as well and could give the minor league players the chance at renegotiating their working arrangements for future seasons.

Rugby

Rugby Players’ Association Fearful For Sports Future Amid Growing Covid-19 Concerns 

Damien Hopley is the chief executive of the Rugby Players’ Association and he recently spoke with the press about his immense desire to protect his members’ livelihoods as the coronavirus pandemic continues to take its toll on the world. According to Hopley, “the foundations of sport have been completely rocked and we’re now in a position where we’re starting to understand the real impact.”

The way the Covid-19 pandemic is projected to keep growing has Hopley worried about the financial impact playing for crowdless stadiums will have on not only the players’ incomes, but the rest of the association as well. Rugby especially hasn’t received any government assistance when it comes to making up for the financial loss of playing a sport without a crowd. 

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Rugby in general is also a sport that’s had to fight to be taken seriously, and after 25 years of work to “build a viable professional structure,” Hopley is worried it will all be diminished in a matter of months thanks to Covid-19. He referred to it as a “typhoon sweeping through the sport.” 

“When Rugby club owners’ businesses start being affected as adversely as they have been, there’s a seismic issue. A lot of players are getting nervous about what the future holds. No one can look into a crystal ball and say where it is going to end up, hence the call for government support.”

There’s already been a significant cut to many players’ salaries, and Hopley is worried that these drops will cause more and more players to leave the league and leave it completely void of talent. The association itself has a multitude of wealthy investors who have always been inspired by the sport, however, it’s hard to get players to want to stick around for a sports future that may or may not exist. 

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As a players’ union the ultimate goal is to keep everyone employed, and protecting those jobs as well. Right now the biggest concern is over the amount of jobs available and which ones will be terminated as the pandemic continues. If fans aren’t able to come back and pay for the games that they normally enjoy, the impact on the sport could be devastating. 

Hopley claims that even if there is some sort of financial bailout, at this point the players’ association has endured “irreversible damage” due to the looming dark future and already massive pay cuts some individuals have seen; some players have received cuts up to 25%. 

“Communities rely on their local rugby club as a beacon of hope and inclusivity. You just hope that with common sense and social distancing people can return, revenues can start to trickle in and a bit of confidence will come back. The bottom line is we all want to see the game surviving.”

The regular Premiership season is still in the midst of concluding and as four teams remain fans are eager to see which of the Bath, Wasps, Sale, or Bristol teams will be eliminated next. The Wasps’ win on Monday has elevated them to a second place position where they will aim to take the gold this upcoming Sunday. 

Bath will have to win as well to qualify by virtue as well, and based on if they win or not they could knock out either Sale or Bristol for the final game.

Black & White Checkered Flag

Michael Jordan Forms Nascar Team With Bubba Wallace As Driver

Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin are teaming up to form a Nascar team with Bubba Wallace as the driver, a decision that’s being regarded by the community as a high-profile pairing of a Black majority team owner and the only Black driver at Nascar’s highest level. 

The two announced their partnership this past Monday night in a coordinated social media post that both Jordan and Hamlin uploaded. Wallace added his own comment to both owners’ posts, which showed a picture of Jordan and Hamlin in a motorhome at a race track, already fitting right into their new “playing field.” Jordan also recently released a statement about the milestone for him and Nascar. 

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“Historically, Nascar has struggled with diversity and there have been few Black owners, the timing seemed perfect as Nascar is evolving and embracing social change more and more.”

Nascar hasn’t had a Black principal owner of a full-time Cup team since Hall of Famer Wendell Scott drove his own races from 1961 to 1973. Scott’s win at the 1964 Jacksonville 200 is the only time a Black individual has won in cup history. Jordan wants to change that complete lack of representation on the track, and has made running this team a part of his $100 million 10-year pledge to fund initiatives that combat systemic racism and help the country achieve true racial equality. 

“I see this as a chance to educate a new audience and open more opportunities for Black people in racing.”

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Besides Jordan there’s only one other Black Nascar team owner who also happens to be a former NBA player, Brad Daugherty, who’s a partner at JTG Daugherty Racing. The two are the only Black owners at Nascar’s elite Cup level. 

Hamlin, on the other hand, is a three-time Daytona 500 winner and a top contender for this year’s cup title. He initially met Jordan 11 years ago at a Charlotte Bobcats game, where the two supposedly “became fast friends.” Hamlin joined the Jordan Brand to be the first Nascar athlete to represent Jordan on the track, and the two have been friends ever since. When it came time to create a new team for Nascar, the two knew there was only one driver they wanted, Bubba Wallace. 

Wallace is currently the only Black driver in the Cup series and this season has used his platform to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and speak up against racial injustices that Black individuals in America face every day. Recently he was able to get Nascar to ban the display of the Confederate flag at all of its events due to its historically racist representation/use. 

While Wallace has never won at a Cup series, he has six victories in the Truck series, and both Hamlin and Jordan can see that he’s ready to take his career to a higher level. Nascar recently also released a statement expressing their excitement over the creation of this team and Jordan’s specific involvement with racing now, claiming that “his presence at Nascar’s top level will further strengthen the competition, excitement and momentum growing around the sport.”

Jordan and Hamlin recently purchased a charter for their new team that will guarantee Wallace a spot in the 40-car field every week.

Baseball Player

MLB Postseason Games Will Be Played At Bubble Site

MLB has revealed this week that the World Series will be played entirely at the Texas Rangers new ballpark in Arlington, Texas. The division series, league championship series, and World Series will all be a part of the bubble experience in Texas as a means of reducing the risk of Covid-19 exposure. This is the first time the World Series will be played in its entirety at one location since 1944. 

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was recently interviewed by the Associated Press following the announcement on Tuesday, where he claimed MLB was already happy with the players responses to the health and safety protocols they’ve endured throughout this season, but this will make the entire staff working for the league feel even more secure. 

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“The elimination of travel is obviously positive because it cuts exposure. Less interaction outside with the group that you’re looking to protect is a huge positive.”

After playing the entire season in empty stadiums, MLB is also hoping by remaining in one remote location they’ll be able to reopen their doors to fill the ballparks at 25% distanced capacity. Other adjustments include the elimination of off days for the division and league championship series’. This decision is projected to impact each team’s decision making in regards to how many pitchers they’ll carry out for postseason games. 

The postseason also expanded from 10 to 16 days, and will begin with the top four seeds in each league that’s been hosting a wild-card series in their regular-season home ballparks. The final eight teams will shift to the bubble environments, according to union head Tony Clark. 

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“The agreement attempts to balance players’ experiences and concerns while making the accommodations necessary to best ensure a safe, healthy, and successful conclusion to the 2020 season.”

The AL Championship Series will be at San Diego’s Petco Park, and the National League Championship Series at Globe Life. The AL Division Series will be at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium, and the NL Division Series at Globe Life and Houston’s Minute Maid Park. There’s no concrete plan to invite fans back into the stadiums for these series, but it is a goal nonetheless. 

MLB deputy commissioner Dan Halem recently sent a memo to all teams where he claimed that the players’ association were “in the process of finalizing details of the agreements” which includes testing players daily during the postseason. 

During the transition period between the regular season and postseason, any player who lives by themselves, or with a spouse/partner who is pregnant or has special medical needs may quarantine at home as long as they receive special documentation from a physician.

Only spouses, domestic partners, children, and child-care providers are allowed to stay with players while they quarantine during the transition period, according to Halem, and family members will not be allowed to enter the bubble site hotels unless they complete a supervised week-long quarantine period. 

Players can, however, have up to 6 family members stay at separate “family hotels” located at four various sites near the stadium.

Football Player

Colin Kaepernick Calls Out NFL’s Black Lives Matter ‘Propaganda’ On Opening Weekend

Athletes across the US have been protesting against racial inequality for the past month, but many are starting to wonder how genuine these organizations are in their message.

Tennis

Serena Williams Reaches US Open Quarterfinals After Defeating Maria Sakkari 

Serena Williams played what experts are calling her best tennis match of the season yet this past Monday against Maria Sakkari. After an intense two and a half hours Serena beat Sakkari, this reaching her 53rd grand slam quarter-final position. 

12 days prior she faced off against Sakkari in what resulted in a much different outcome. She started that match with a solid 7-5, 5-3 lead and began serving for the win when Sakkari caught a second-wind and beat Williams, tying them up for the potential quarter-final position. In the third set of that match, Williams began to noticeably cramp which impacted her performance and allowed Sakkari to take the win. 

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“It was a completely different scenario and completely different moment. I just kept fighting and she was doing so well, being so aggressive. I knew that I needed to do the same thing.”

Sakkari has been thought of as one of the most improved pro-tennis players within the past few years. She credits part of her success to her coach, Thomas Hill, who helped her go from top 50 status to number 22 in the world. In the beginning of game 3 this Monday, Sakkari started strong by throwing down three aces, however, Williams quickly retaliated, saving all three break points giving her control over the serve. 

Once she was able to hold serve her momentum was visibly unstoppable. However, it was clear that Sakkari was in no position to back down from facing the world’s greatest tennis player, especially with a quarterfinal position on the line. Williams was able to blow off her four set points, but found it difficult to keep up and by the end of the second set Sakkari has hit more winners and aces, giving her a 2-0 lead. However, Williams fought back just as hard, winning her three more games. 

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At this point the scoring was at 3-3- and 30-30, but Williams saw the end result she wanted and took it after hitting an ace that was measured at reaching a speed of 124 miles-per-hour, giving her the win and quarterfinal position. 

Williams is no stranger to grand slam finals as most know. Between 2018 and 2019, Williams lost a total of four grand slam finals, however, she’s still referred to as one of the stars of those finals for the phenomenal matches she played. This season, fans began to notice a shift in her game; she appeared to move slower and lose her timing a lot easier. However, Williams used these critiques as motivation to do better, and at the Arthur Ashe Stadium she completely turned a corner and began taking wins every chance she got. 

Williams is now set to face off against Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova; a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 2010 who briefly retired from tennis after the birth of her son. The US Open this year is her first event back playing pro-tennis, and fans couldn’t be more excited that she’s making her comeback against Williams, as they know the two are definitely going to put on a nail-biter of a match.

Football on Field

The Future Of College Football Remains Unclear As Season Kicks Off This Week

The college football season is kicking off this week, however, many individuals still have a lot of questions as to what this season will look like and what new procedures will be put in the place to protect all parties involved. 

The biggest and most general question is if fans can expect a full season of football. The answer is the same for all other sporting events occurring currently in the US; it’s to be determined. This virus has proven to all of us that the way it moves and grows is unpredictable, and the way it impacts college campuses is completely uncharted territory for everyone. 

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There have already been multiple games rescheduled due to outbreaks on the teams, which is likely to continue as the season progresses. The Big Ten and Pac-12 both announced that they wouldn’t be participating in this season, which is fairly historic in itself. Without the Big Ten alone the entire season is going to be restructured and different. Many college campuses have already shut down due to a spike in cases, so the thought of restarting training and practicing just didn’t seem worth it for Big Ten or Pac-12, and many other teams are likely to follow suit in the coming weeks. 

Many big name players on these teams have personally opted out of playing this season out of personal fears of contracting the virus. Additional players are also likely to follow suit as the weeks progress, as juggling sports, a full class schedule and living during a global health crisis would be overwhelming for anybody. 

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is allowing every player to have another year of eligibility when it comes to playing on the team, which they believe will help motivate players to stay on for the season, despite it already having the opposite effect. All players are also required to be tested multiple times for Covid as well as endure additional heart testing after myocarditis concerns rose. 

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Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle that can weaken the entire organ relatively fast and lead to sudden death. It’s brought on mainly by extensive viral infection within the body, such as contracting Covid-19, and has been a major concern among healthcare professionals across the world. The worry with testing football players is that it’s likely many other underlying health issues will reveal themselves with the type of testing involved for the upcoming season. 

The College Football Playoff plans to go ahead with a four-team playoff, however, the idea of playing “bowl-games” also complicates how the season will work. There are currently 80 bowl slots available for the season with only 76 teams playing. This means it’s likely that every team could receive a bowl game this season to fill the slots needed to air college football, however, it’s yet again unclear whether that will work or not. 

Finally, another major concern regards the Heisman Trophy, as it typically goes to the most prestigious individuals in college football, however, it’s unclear as to whether or not the Heisman Trust will focus only on players who participate in a traditional fall season, or the more limited number of players. There’s no decision from The Heisman as to what they’ll do, as they likely want to see if an entire football season will even be able to play out.