TIME tennis

Men More Likely to Make Dumb Decisions at U.S. Open

Western & Southern Open - Day 9
Roger Federer of Switzerland returns to David Ferrer of Spain during a final match on Day 9 of the Western & Southern Open at the Linder Family Tennis Center in Cincinnati on Aug. 17, 2014 Jonathan Moore—Getty Images

In tennis, men's players embarrass themselves more often than their female counterparts, according to a new study that analyzed data from line-call challenges. The authors chalk up these gender differences to overconfidence, pride and shame

This year’s U.S. Open, which starts Aug. 25, is sure to surprise. The defending men’s champion, Rafael Nadal, has withdrawn from the tournament because of a wrist injury. Does Roger Federer, who won five U.S. Open titles in a row from 2004 to 2008, have one last run in him? Will Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic take his first title since 2011? Will a new player, like Milos Raonic, the 6-ft. 5-in. Canadian big server who’s looked strong in the hard-court tune-ups, break through?

On the women’s side, Serena Williams is the wildest of wild cards. She’s the two-time defending champ and still No. 1 in the world. But she’s been strangely inconsistent this season, and the U.S. Open is her first Grand Slam appearance since Wimbledon, site of her bizarre appearance at a doubles match with her sister. The sport is still buzzing from that incident, in which a dazed Williams couldn’t serve the ball over the net. It was equal parts strange and scary.

This year’s U.S. Open is pretty unpredictable. But if a new academic study, to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Sports Economics, holds serve, this much is guaranteed: the men’s players will embarrass themselves more often than their female counterparts.

The study — conducted by economics professors from Deakin University in Melbourne and Sogang University in Seoul — examined line-call challenge data for 331 professional men’s matches, and 149 women’s matches, from 2006 to 2008. The major finding: as the competition got tighter, men were more likely to screw up. During set tiebreakers, female players were more likely to make the correct challenge call, and men more likely to make an incorrect call. (There’s a risk to making a challenge — if the Hawkeye system shows the ump was correct, you lose a challenge and the potential to correct a future call. In the U.S. Open, players are allotted three challenges, plus one extra during the tiebreak, per set.)

What’s more, during tiebreaks, 34% of men’s challenges are “embarrassing” — defined by the researchers as questioning a correct call when the ball is more than 50 mm off the line. Only 9% of women’s challenges are “embarrassing,” a statistically significant difference. Men are more likely to make these stupid challenges when the ball is on the other side of the court, which is a riskier call since the net impedes their view. The higher a man’s ranking, the more likely he is to make an embarrassing line-call challenge. For women, the opposite holds true: the higher the ranking, the more prudent the decision to challenge a call.

The authors chalk up these gender differences to overconfidence, pride and shame. Men are more prone to cockiness, and think that their perspective is always correct, even when the naked eye can see that a ball is in or out, they say. Men also possess a disproportionate amount of pride. They can’t bear to lose, and are more susceptible to making an irrational attempt to reverse an umpire’s judgment. “It’s an ego thing,” says tennis great Martina Navratilova, winner of 18 Grand Slam singles titles.

And if the crowd, and millions watching on television, see them making an embarrassing challenge, men won’t feel as much shame as women. They don’t see the same downside to screwing up. “Guys just don’t care as much about losing challenges,” Navratilova tells TIME. “Women are more concerned about being embarrassed.”

Or, as the authors of the study put it, “at crucial moments of the match, such as tiebreaks … male players try to win at all costs, while female players accept losing more gracefully.”

TIME Little League World Series

Chicago Team Could Be First All African-American Squad to Win Little League World Series

LLWS Baseball
The Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team from Chicago participates in the opening ceremony of the 2014 Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa., Aug. 14, 2014. Gene J. Puskar—AP

Jackie Robinson West Is Shooting To Become First All African-American Team to Win Little League World Series

Updated 11:15 a.m. ET

Mo’ne Davis is gone from this year’s Little League World Series. So now let’s talk a bit about a kid named Pierce Jones.

In any other year, when a girl isn’t throwing the first shutout in the history of the Little League World Series, or when she’s not becoming the first Little Leaguer to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Jones’ name would be much more familiar. In the opening game for Jackie Robinson West Little League, hailing from Chicago’s South Side, Jones smacked three home runs and a triple. He led off another game with a long ball a few days later. Jones’ Jackie Robinson team defeated Davis’ Taney squad 6-5 on Thursday, to put the kids from the Windy City in the U.S. Championship Game on Saturday. They will face the undefeated Mountain Ridge team from Las Vegas.

Jackie Robinson is trying to make a little bit of baseball history too. If the Chicago squad can get by Las Vegas and win the championship game on Sunday, it would become the first all-African American team to win the Little League World Series. “I don’t know anyone here,” says Chicago White Sox executive vice president Kenny Williams, “who hasn’t been watching them.” In fact, last Monday more than five times as many Chicagoans watched the Little League team on ESPN than watched the White Sox play the Baltimore Orioles on Comcast Sports Net.

The kids have given their city a nice psychic lift. “Unfortunately, we’ve woken up to bad news far too often,” says Williams. “Everyone is aware of the murder rate in Chicago, particularly in western and southern parts of the city. Yes, these things are happening, but there are so many superstar people in these communities doing so many positive things. People volunteering to help at-risk youth, kids playing and learning from sports. And these kids, playing baseball, have helped show this city in such a different light. They are changing perceptions.”

And they could give baseball a boost. “This is so great for baseball in so many different ways,” says Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig. “It’s really been a thrill to watch.”

It’s no secret that the percentage of African-American players in the big leagues has drastically declined: 8.3% of players on this year’s opening day rosters were African-American. Back in 1975, 27% of all players were African-American. (Though one baseball researcher, Mark Amour, says the highest percentage of African-Americans in the major leagues was 19% in 1986; Amour argues the 1975 number included all dark-skinned players, including Latino-Americans.) Though a single Little League team can’t singlehandedly reverse this trend, “everything that has happened, having these kids play in prime-time on national television, and getting exposure in different media outlets, is surely raising awareness about baseball in African-American communities,” says New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson, who grew up in the Chicago area and donated $5 million to build a baseball stadium at his alma mater, the University of Illinois. Curtis Granderson Stadium also hosts events for 38 youth baseball organizations in the area. “It gets kids’ attention,” says Granderson, who is African-American. ”Wow, there’s an all-black baseball team? I haven’t seen that before.'”

Baseball’s fight for the attention of African-American athletes — and fans — faces serious hurdles. Travel baseball, which is more important than ever on the youth level, is prohibitively expensive, and doesn’t have the same level of grassroots investments — read, sneaker company — as a sport like basketball to offset some of these costs. Then, there’s the “cool/marketing factor,” as Granderson puts it. Granderson points to social media: LeBron James has 14.2 million Twitter followers. Dwayne Wade has 4.38 million. At cafeterias across the country, young African-Americans are talking about LeBron and D-Wade, not Clayton Kershaw (202,000 Twitter followers) and Mike Trout (520,000). So as kids start specializing in a single sport at younger and younger ages, African-Americans are bound to pick basketball or football, both of which offer a quicker, more glamorous path to the pros. Play a little college ball in front of millions, and skip all the bus rides in the minors, which weed out tons of prospects.

If African-Americans no longer feels a connection to baseball, “you’ve got to put a question mark on the game’s status as the national pastime,” says Granderson. “I’m just very excited for these Chicago kids, it’s been amazing how they’ve showcased their skills. And hopefully, the conversation about African-Americans and baseball continues, and some positives for our sport will come out of it.”

TIME Baseball

Why Can’t Girls Play Baseball?

Mo'ne Davis
Philadelphia's Mo'ne Davis drives in a run with a single to right field off Pearland pitcher Clayton Broeder during the first inning of a baseball game at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa., Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014. Gene J. Puskar—AP

Mo'ne Davis is the star of the Little League World Series. But odds are, she won't even play baseball in high school. Girls should have more opportunities to take part in the national pastime.

Be sure to watch Sports Illustrated cover girl Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year-old pitching sensation from Philadelphia who on Friday became the first girl to throw a shutout at the Little League World Series, while you can. Because if her baseball career follows that of most girls who love the sport, it will be over by high school.

For young girls playing sports like basketball, soccer, and lacrosse, there’s a traditional path to high school success: girls’ teams. In these sports, and others, athletes can even earn a college scholarship. But baseball, America’s pastime, is a strange exception. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) is not aware of a single school-sponsored girls’ baseball team anywhere in the United States.

Sure, girls can play softball in high school and college. But while softball does have bats and bases and other similarities to baseball — consider it baseball’s close cousin — it’s a still a fundamentally different game.

“We’re fighting a culture that’s decided that softball is an equivalent sport to baseball,” says Justine Sigeal, founder of Baseball For All, a non-profit that provides opportunities for girls and women to play the sport. “If softball and baseball were equivalent, imagine changing [Major League Baseball] to softball. It’s a ridiculous idea.”

Siegal says there are 100,000 girls playing youth baseball. But according the most recent participation survey from the NHFS, only 1,259 girls played high school baseball during the 2012-2013 academic year — and all of them were competing against boys. “We know that 99,000 girls didn’t just lose their passion for playing baseball,” says Siegal. “Girls are not encouraged to play baseball. And if you tell a girl she’s not encouraged to play baseball, what else won’t she be encouraged to do?”

Just 0.27% of high school baseball players are girls, per NHFS data. Some of them do succeed against boys, and if an exceptional talent like Davis — who is slated to pitch on Wednesday night, in the U.S. semifinal — does decide to stick with the sport in high school, she certainly could keep thriving. But she’d be the exception. “So many girls are bullied off of teams,” says Siegal. “Sometimes it’s the players, but mostly it’s coaches and other parents doing the damage. Usually it’s the adults.”

Sarah Hudek, who just finished her junior year pitching for the varsity at George Ranch High School in Richmond, Texas, near Houston, get more stares than anything. “But I’m used to them now,” she says. “It used to bother me more when I was younger.” When she’s warming up at games, she can still see an occasional opponent laughing. “That just puts me in a good mindset,” says Hudek. “Get on the field with me, and see what you think after.”

On August 15, the lefty Hudek, whose best pitch is a change-up, announced a verbal commitment to play baseball at Bossier Parish Community College in Louisiana. “I love watching the kids go back to the dugout after she gets them out, and seeing the ribbing they get,” says Greg Kobza, Hudek’s high school coach. “It gets in their head, and really gives us an advantage.”

Throughout their careers, female baseball players are asked when they are switching to softball. “The question is more obnoxious than it is hostile,” says Dean Dinnebeil, whose daughter, Sara Tobias, is entering Berkeley Carroll High School, in New York City, this fall. She plans to join the baseball team there. Though many girls enjoy softball, others just prefer baseball’s longer bases, bigger fields, and smaller ball. Pitchers in particular often don’t want to switch, since they’ve spent years mastering a skill set. “Throwing underhand is very different from throwing overhand,” says Sara, 14. “When I was younger, a lot of girls were switching to softball, but I liked Little League baseball, and the boys were nice to me. I saw no reason to switch.”

Imagine a basketball player spending her entire life learning how to shoot one way, and being told that if she wanted to play for her high school team, she’d have to learn to shoot underhand because that’s how the girl’s game is played. If she didn’t, she’d have to compete against the bigger, stronger boys, diminishing her odds of success. Sounds absurd. But that’s essentially the choice many baseball players have to make. “I tried pitching softball, and it felt terrible,” says Hudek. “I’m more at home on the mound. It’s my natural place.”

In baseball, girls do have a better chance at succeeding against boys than they would in, say, basketball or soccer, since baseball is much less physical than these other games. Sure, a girl is much less likely than a boy to smack a 450-foot home run or throw 90 miles-per-hour. But if a girl has good location and movement on her pitches, or can make solid contact, or has a good glove, she can still be effective on the baseball field.

And if girls really want to level the playing field, they can do what Chelsea Baker did — learn to throw a knuckleball. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 6’3,” 225-pound dude or a 5’4″, 125-lb gal like Baker, who is going into her senior year at Durant High School in Plant City, Florida: if you can make that slow ball flutter, you can get people out. Baker went 3-0 during her junior season, with a 0.74 ERA. In June, the Tampa Bay Rays invited her to throw batting practice before a game. She gave a couple of guys fits.

At Durant, Baker changes in the boys’ locker room, but has her own storage room–with her name on the door–to give her the appropriate privacy. “I walk out, and I’m right there with everybody,” says Baker. “Inside, I have a mirror and stuff with hangers. They set it up nice, I like it a lot. I have a lot more room with my stuff than they do.”

Yes, girls can compete with boys on the baseball field. Still, many players would prefer traditional opportunities in high school — on all-girls teams. “It’s kind of frustrating,” says Kelsie Whitmore, a center fielder and pitcher who will be a junior at Temecula (Calif.) Valley High School this year. She plans on playing for the varsity. “There are teams for different genders in every other sport, but not for baseball.”

“It would just be easier,” says Hudek, who changes in the softball locker room at George Ranch. “As much as they try to make you feel like one of the guys, you can’t really be. You miss out on the locker room bonding.”

If there were girls teams, however, these players would surely miss bothering the boys. “Sometimes you get these rude kids, they get to the plate, and you just know that they think I’m nothing, that it’s stupid that I’m out there,” says Baker, the knuckleballer. “And my catcher goes ‘shut up, dude, she’s going to strike out you out.’ And then I do it. That’s got to be the best feeling in the world.”

TIME robin williams

Watch Robin Williams Explain Sports

Robin Williams at the Friars Roast for Whoopi Goldberg at the Hilton Hotel in New York City on October 7, 1993.
Robin Williams at the Friars Roast for Whoopi Goldberg at the Hilton Hotel in New York City on October 7, 1993. Walter McBride—Corbis

The late comic went on memorable riffs about golf, baseball, and other games

No one tackled the absurdity of sports quite like Robin Williams. Here’s the comic legend riffing on golf, baseball and other games during his stand-up routines.

(Warning: Lots of NSFW stuff here).

Golf

Oh, so that’s why the shots are called strokes.

The Winter Olympics

Put on a glove, man.

Football

What happens when Tom Landry coaches ballet, and a choreographer coaches football?

Soccer

Williams’ take on flopping and yellow cards, with a detour to Lance Armstrong — pre-PED scandal — and hockey.

Baseball

Baseball had a cocaine problem in the 1980s, and the third-base coach wasn’t helping.

TIME College Sports

Landmark College Sports Verdict: Harsh, but in the End Puzzling

Ed O'Bannon Jr.
Former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon Jr. sits in his office in Henderson, Nev., Sept. 18, 2010. Isaac Brekken—AP

The judge's injunction in the Ed O'Bannon cases leaves plenty room to further challenge the NCAA's business model down the road

Since the pace of change in college sports is glacial, consider the events of this year – even this past week – a revolution. The latest came down on Friday: a federal judge in the Northern District of California handed down her much-anticipated ruling in the Ed O’Bannon anti-trust case. In a crushing defeat for the NCAA, Judge Claudia Wilken picked apart the NCAA’s long-cherished – though clearly illogical – reasons for failing to fairly compensate college athletes in the sports that produce the bulk of the revenues. Big-time college football players and Division 1 basketball players are now able to earn a cut of licensing revenues from the use of their name, image, and likeness; schools can cap this pay, but the minimum cap is $5,000 per year. This money will be put in a trust that an athlete can access once he or she has graduated or left the school.

The NCAA will very likely appeal the ruling. “We disagree with the Court’s decision that the NCAA rules violate antitrust laws,” NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement. Wilken said that her injunction could not be stayed during any legal challenge, but would not go into effect until beginning of the next football and basketball recruiting cycles, which get going during the summer of 2015. If the case survives appeal, all future athletes who leave school having earned at least $20,000 during a four-year career owe a debt to O’Bannon. The former UCLA hoops star, who won a national title in 1995, first brought the case forward in 2009 after noticing that his image was being used in a college basketball video game, yet he didn’t receive a dime.

The NCAA has been smacked around. The courts – and some of the schools themselves – have recognized the fundamental hypocrisy of college sports: revenues have soared, and coaches can make millions, while compensation for athletes is limited to a scholarship. Free tuition, room and board is valuable, surely, but many players are worth even more. Wilken also determined that the NCAA could not cap direct compensation below the cost of attendance, which is an extra $2,000 to $5,000 above the athletic scholarship grant covering personal expenses like transportation, clothing and entertainment. The schools, however, had already moved on that one: the NCAA voted on Thursday to allow schools in the Big 5 power conferences – the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC – to set some of their own rules, and these schools are prepared to offer their athletes these cost-of-attendance stipends. Schools in the other Division 1 conferences are welcome to join them.

In March, a regional director for the National Labor Relations Board ruled that football players at Northwestern University are indeed employees, and directed the school to hold a unionization vote. The board’s national office has yet to weigh in on the school’s appeal. Unions could help players gain than even more money at the bargaining table.

“If you look at the Northwestern union decision and the O’Bannon case, here you have two significant departures from the way judges and the government traditionally view at the role of student-athletes in college athletics,” says Gabe Feldman, director of the Tulane University Sports Law Program. “If this is the trend, it could be the beginning of the end of the NCAA’s model,” Feldman added.

Wilken’s injunction alone did not entirely blow up the NCAA’s business. Schools can still cap trust payments at $5,000 per year and prevent athletes from receiving third-party endorsements. But her condemnation of the NCAA is sweeping, and almost invites a future plaintiff to try to tear everything down and create a true open market for college athletes.

Some damning examples from the text of the ruling:

  • “The evidence … demonstrates that student-athletes are harmed by the price-fixing agreement among FBS football and Division 1 basketball schools.” In other words, if you’ve played big-time college football or basketball, particularly during the extreme growth period of the last decade or so, you’ve gotten totally screwed. In this section, Wilken notes that the NCAA’s own economic expert called the organization a “cartel” in a textbook he wrote. The NCAA’s effort to keep operating as-is comes off as desperate and silly.
  • “Although the NCAA sought to establish the importance of these restrictions by asserting that they increase consumer interest in FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) and Division 1 basketball, its evidence supporting this assertion is unpersuasive.” Finally, we can put to bed the defense that paying college players would cause fans to stop watching games or going to them. After all, what else are you going to do on fall Saturdays? Plus, tailgates are a way of life, and fun as hell. Wilken cites the Olympics and Major League Baseball to back her up. People fretted about allowing professionals into the Olympics, and fought baseball free agency, under the guise that more money for athletes would ruin everything. Yet, the Olympics remain extremely popular, and baseball is economically strong.
  • “The number of schools participating in FBS football and Division 1 basketball has increased steadily over time and continues to increase today … Although [NCAA president Mark] Emmert and other NCAA and conference officials say that this trend is not the result of increased Division 1 revenues, but, rather, because of the schools’ philosophical commitment to amateurism, this theory is implausible.” Translate ”implausible” from the legalese and you have a much stronger word: a federal judge has officially called B.S. on amateurism, which has pretty much been the bedrock of the NCAA’s existence. Schools clamor to play big-time sports to win games and raise a school’s profile and attract more money. If they truly cared about some idyllic, love-of-the-game “amateur” ideal, they’d move down into Division 3. Of course, no schools have done that, and wouldn’t take such action if they had to pay players more, despite protests that these payments are too expensive. “The NCAA’s assertion that schools would leave FBS and Division 1 for financial reasons if the challenged restraints were removed is not credible,” Wilken writes. Ouch, more rough rhetoric. How does Wilken know that FBS schools will still play on? One of the NCAA’s own witnesses, University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides, said as much, testifying that his school “would probably continue to compete in football and men’s basketball” if current compensation caps were lifted. The NCAA has a witness problem.

One key question does arise from Wilken’s finding: If the NCAA’s current payment cap is anti-competitive and harms athletes, why is the cap on a trust fund, somewhat arbitrarily set at $5,000 per year, not anti-competitive? While Wilken goes on for pages ripping apart the NCAA’s arguments with strong evidence, the support for her own assertion that compensation limits are justified is far less convincing.

In the ruling, for example, Wilken addresses the main concern about a true open labor market: “These administrators noted, depending on how much compensation was ultimately awarded, some student-athletes might receive more money from the school than their professors. Student-athletes might be more inclined to separate themselves from the broader campus community by living and socializing off campus.”

Wilken then brings up the flaws of such thinking. “It is not clear that any of the potential problems identified by the NCAA’s witnesses would be unique to student athletes.” Yup, there are plenty of kids on college campuses with lush trust funds and nice cars and access to spending money on college campuses. Most of them haven’t earned it. That’s fine. But if a kid who has worked his tail off playing football or basketball, who might be from a poor family, who’s helping generate millions for the school, is paid a market wage and sets foot on campus with some cash? That’s somehow offensive.

The judge goes here with her line of questioning. “In fact, when the Court asked Dr. Emmert whether other wealthy students – such as those from rich families or start successful businesses during school – raise all of the same problems for campus relations, he replied that they did.” What, really? Haven’t heard of the rich-kid scourge tearing apart college campuses. Wilken continues: “It is also not clear why paying student-athletes would be any more problematic for campus relations than paying other students who provide services to the university, such as members of the student government or school newspaper.”

In three sentences, Wilken legitimizes the arguments pay-for-play advocates have been making for years. So her big conclusion is … “Nonetheless, the Court finds that certain limited restrictions on student-athlete compensation may help integrate student-athletes into the academic communities of their schools, which may in turn improve the schools’ education product.”

What? Here’s another way to read this part of the ruling. Wilken: “Athletes should be paid. Athletes should be paid. Athletes should be paid. So we’ll pay them, but set limits. Why? Err … well, because, ‘nonetheless?’”

After this puzzling paragraph, she does site some justification for her finding. She refers to a survey in which many respondents said they would be less likely to watch college athletics if players were paid $20,000 or $50,000 per year. Wilken supposes that respondents would say they’d keep watching college sports if they had been given a lower figure in the survey – like, say, $5,000 per year. Wilken might be correct. But assumed answers to a survey is pretty weak evidence to support a legal ruling.

She gives some weight to the testimony of Stanford Athletic Director Bernard Muir, who said, “Where I set the dollar limit, you know, that varies, but it does concern me when we’re talking about six figures, seven figures in some cases.” Muir, however, is far from an independent witness. Stanford is a member of the NCAA. So we’re setting compensation caps because an employer would rather not pay an employee big money? Of course Muir is not comfy; he’s management, and every employer on the planet tries to keep labor costs as low as possible. And by the way, would a six, seven figure paycheck be as concerning to the athlete who actually received it?

Plus, by bringing up baseball to knock down the NCAA, Wilken undermines her own arguments. Yes, free agency showed that players making money would not destroy the sport. In fact, free agents compete in an open market, make millions and millions of dollars – and baseball is still popular. So why wouldn’t college sports still be popular, if the athletes – most of whom would make far, far less than pro baseball players – had the opportunity to maximize their wealth?

Such unanswered questions could be tackled by future plaintiffs – and their lawyers. Wilken, maybe by design, has left grist for more legal challenges to the college sports model. One suit already filed, and likely boosted by the O’Bannon ruling, is an anti-trust claim led by high-profile sports labor lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, who helped NFL players gain free agency. He’s essentially seeking the same for college players.

The next Ed O’Bannon, now’s your time.

TIME College Sports

Some College Athletes Will Now Get Paid—a Little

Cabrinni Goncalvesof the Maine Black Bears tackles Trevor Siemianof the Northwestern Wildcats during their college football game at Ryan Field on September 21, 2013 in Evanston, Illinois.
Cabrinni Goncalvesof the Maine Black Bears tackles Trevor Siemianof the Northwestern Wildcats during their college football game at Ryan Field on September 21, 2013 in Evanston, Illinois. John Gress—Getty Images

Power conferences gain autonomy to make own rules, which will include cash stipends for athletes

Some colleges are going to pay athletes.

The NCAA voted Thursday to allow 65 teams from the so-called Big 5 power conferences—the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, and SEC, plus Notre Dame, a football independent that is now a member of the ACC in other sports—to make their own rules. These conferences will to offer their athletes not only a scholarship, but the full cost of attendance: money for extras like food, clothing, the occasional trip to the movie theater and more. Depending on the school, this could amount to athletes receiving an additional $2,000 to $5,000. With further autonomy, these schools will also ease restrictions on contact between athletes and agents, and be able to do things like pay for post-season travel for the families of athletes and invest more money in athletic health care coverage.

The move in many ways reflects an economic reality. These conferences drive the most interest in college sports: Between 2003 and 2012, for example, annual football revenues for teams now in SEC jumped 91%, to $759.9 million. The college football playoff, which starts this season, and the continuing expansion of lucrative conference television networks—the SEC Network debuts on August 14—will continue to pump more riches into college sports. NCAA leaders are recognizing that in this environment, the long-criticized inequity of college sports—that none of this additional money flows into the pockets of the talent actually doing the core work, the athletes—is no longer tenable.

“It’s important for the student-athletes and their welfare,” Ken Starr, president and chancellor of Baylor University, said of the vote. “There are things that we would like to do, and we need to be empowered to do those things.”

While the vote is historic in nature, college sports critics contend it doesn’t go far enough.

“I hope it’s the first step towards players being able to negotiate their own working conditions,” said Richard Southhall, director of the College Sport Research Institute at the University of South Carolina. “The crumbs are more nutritious than they used to be, but they’re still crumbs.”

The move falls short of giving athletes in the high-revenue sports full salaries, or allowing them to capture their true worth on the open market. To college leaders, such reform would dredge up the dreaded E-word. Athletes would serve as employees, which administrators have determined is incompatible with education.

“If you’re an athlete, going from $0 to $3,500, mathematically, is infinitely better,” said Andy Schwarz, an economist who has done work on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Ed O’Bannon anti-trust case, in which the former UCLA hoops star and other athletes are challenging the rights of schools to profit off their name, image and likeness without compensating them. “But qualitatively, it still misses the point entirely.”

A decision in the O’Bannon case, which is pending, and a successful effort by Northwestern football players to form a union could accelerate the destruction of the NCAA’s so-called “amateurism” model. But for other critics of the NCAA’s vote, that would be a disaster. To them, autonomy for Big 5 conferences, and cost of attendance subsidies, already goes too far. It will destroy competitive balance in college sports, as the extra benefits offered by the big schools will allow them to attract even more top talent, leaving schools outside these conferences helpless. “The NCAA cannot fall prey to phony arguments about student welfare when the real goal of some of these so-called reformers is create a plutocracy,” Boise State president Bob Kustra wrote in statement in May, “that serves no useful purpose in American higher education.”

Stipends for athletes, however, won’t destroy college sports. Competitive balance doesn’t really exist in college sports now, as almost all of the top high school players are already going to the top schools. In a 2011 paper entitled “Excuses, Not Reasons: 13 Myths About (Not) Paying College Athletes,” Schwarz studied 10 years worth of recruiting data and found that 99% of the high school football players listed as Top 100 prospects on Rivals.com went to power conference schools and Notre Dame. And despite this trend, football teams like Northern Illinois, and basketball teams like Wichita St., have cracked the top of the national rankings, because, as West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck puts it, “recruiting is an art, not a science.” Plenty of talented players are overlooked by big schools, and will continue to be overlooked by big schools, even though players at top conferences are receiving a few thousands dollars extra in stipends. At lower schools, plenty of players blossom into pros, and will continue to blossom into pros, even though their Big 5 rivals are receiving some cash.

Sure, a few players on the margin may choose to possibly sit on the bench at a big conference school, rather than star at the lower levels, because of the extra benefits. But all talent won’t flow upwards, because of simple supply and demand. Schools offer a finite amount of athletic scholarships; every player who wants to play basketball at Duke can’t go to Duke. So they’ll go to, say, Lehigh. And what can happen? We’ll still have charming upsets. If Lehigh could knock off the hyped stars from Duke during the 2011 NCAA tournament, they could still beat them tomorrow, even if the Duke players receive more money.

“Having a little bit of cash doesn’t spoil the entire amateur status,” Luck said.

TIME Basketball

Meet the First Woman to Run a Major U.S. Pro Sports Union

Michele Roberts
An undated photo of Michele Roberts. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher—Flom LLP/AP

Michele Roberts, star Washington D.C. litigator, talks about her humble beginnings, measuring success, and her changed view on race

“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about breaking a glass ceiling,” says Michele Roberts, the new executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). She went ahead and shattered one anyway.

Roberts, who was named union chief early this week, is the first woman to head a players union for the top four U.S. pro sports leagues (basketball, football, baseball, hockey). Given the outsized impact of sports business on American culture, the importance of this appointment can’t be overstated. “Michele will inherently be a role model for girls and women aspiring to leadership roles in all sectors,” says Kathryn Olson, CEO for the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Roberts’ resume was too attractive to turn away. She was a star Washington litigator; Washingtonian magazine once named her the “finest pure trial lawyer in Washington.” Throughout her career, which began in the D.C. public defender’s office in 1980, Roberts showed an uncanny ability to connect with juries, a skill she hopes to transfer to the negotiating table.

“As a trial lawyer, you have to clarify minds, and change minds,” says Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree, who recruited Roberts to the public defender’s office. “She does the homework, and understands the arguments that need to be made. There won’t be a time when someone across the bargaining table doesn’t say, ‘Wow, I learned something.’”

During the interview process for her new high-profile gig, Roberts’ personal history helped form a bond with the players. Like some of them, she came from humble beginnings. “She could identify with us,” says Roger Mason Jr., NBPA vice president. Roberts was raised in a South Bronx housing project, and became interested in the law after seeing her older brother’s friends get sent to jail. Often, her mother told her, they couldn’t afford good representation, and it cost them.

“I’m not going to say I was proud to be poor – nobody believes that,” says Roberts. “But I’m proud that my background guided my life.” She still keeps in touch with three children – all named after her – of acquitted clients from her public defender days.

Roberts attended a prep school in the New York City suburbs, and encountered the kind of racism that was all too common at the time. “Many people hadn’t had any contact with black people,” Roberts says during a Tuesday telephone interview from Las Vegas, where the announcement of her appointment was made. “They weren’t necessarily evil, just ignorant.”

For years, this experience framed her worldview. By 1988, she was leading the trial division of the public defender’s office, and the Washington Post magazine ran an extensive profile on her. She said in that story: “I liked school, and all I wanted to do was go to school, finish up and go to college. And then I went to prep school and met these creatures: The students and some of the professors were just blatant racists. And I didn’t know anything about that before I came there. I became more aggressive in my studies, because I refused to let any of these white folks think that I was stupid. It probably has some impact on how I behave in court. Most of my opponents are white, and there’s no question that I’m more aggressive when I’m dealing with them. I am immediately suspicious of white people. I just assume, for better or worse, that they have preconceived notions about the intelligence of black people. Thankfully, I am often proved wrong, at least by people in this office.”

When asked about that comment today, Roberts doesn’t run from it: she calls it her “genuine” feeling at the time, over 25 years ago. But after working in private practice, and at prestigious white-collar firms, since those days — and while further removed from her high school experience — Roberts says her views have “evolved.” She is far from “suspicious” of white people. “The very, very goods news is that’s no longer how I see the world,” says Roberts. “And I’m happy to say that.”

She’s also delighted that the players who hired her were blind to gender. “The only question in my mind, really, was, ‘Were they unwilling to give me a chance because I was a woman?’” Roberts says. “We had so many intelligent conversations about this issue. What’s most impressive to me is, once they saw my accomplishments and the value I can add, that didn’t stop them from making the offer, even while others may have predicted otherwise.”

Roberts is used to winning, and during the last round of negotiations between the NBA and its players, the union fell short. In the collective bargaining agreement that ended the 2011 lockout, the players’ share of basketball-related income declined, from 57% to 50%. Maximum guaranteed contracts were shortened, and harsher penalties levied on teams that exceeded the salary cap. Former executive Billy Hunter was fired in February 2013, after an investigation revealed questionable business practices.

With Roberts now at the helm, the union is ready to look forward. “This is not going to be Billy Hunter vs. the NBA,” says Roberts. “This is Michele Roberts and a team of gladiators. I don’t tout that I have some magic formula. That would be a recipe for disaster.” Roberts’ competitive flair has also impressed the players. (During her public defender days, she almost got a black belt in taekwondo. “But then I had to fight two 16-year-old girls at the same time,” Roberts says. “They beat the hell out of me.”)

“I understand that there’s going to be some level of winning and losing in any big negotiation,” she says. “In the end, I want my clients to be happy. If my clients got the best deal they could under the circumstances, I would consider it a win. I would consider it a catastrophe – and it never would happen – if my clients felt shortchanged in a negotiation.”

Both players and owners can opt out of the current deal in 2017. Although Roberts is not ready to talk specific strategies and priorities during her first full day on the job, it’s not difficult to read the signals — more than likely, the players will exercise that right. “When we speak about value, of course we feel we should be getting more,” says Mason Jr. If a work stoppage were to follow, both Roberts and NBA commissioner Adam Silver, whose popularity has soared since he took a hard line against Donald Sterling, will take their hits. Fans rarely seep themselves in the mind-numbing economic details. They just want to see basketball.

For now, Roberts – a lifelong hoops fan – is still riding high. “When I got up this morning, I giggled out loud,” says Roberts. “It was still true. I got the job.” And she does feel some weight of history. “I have two nieces that I worship,” says Roberts, who has never married. “And the pride I feel when I hear how proud they are of me is tremendous. It’s important for women to break barriers. But I don’t wake up and say, ‘Let’s break some barriers today.’ I wake up and say, ‘What do I have to do to best serve my client?’ And if I happen to break some barriers along the way, God bless me.”

TIME Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

Lives Lost: Remembering Karlijn Keijzer, Indiana University Rower and Chemist

Ukraine Plane Indiana Victim
An undated photo of Karlijn Keijzer provided by Indiana University on July 18, 2014. Indiana University/AP

After helping transform the Hoosiers rowing program in the 2011 season, she turned to her PhD career as a scientist intent on fighting cancer and other diseases.

“I’m not an overly emotional person,” says Steve Peterson, the head women’s rowing coach at Indiana University.

But late Friday afternoon, while talking about Karlijn Keijzer (pronounced Kar-line Kite-ser)–a former Indiana University rower who was killed on Malaysia Airlines Fight 17 on Thursday–Peterson reached his breaking point. She was 25. “One of my favorite memories that keeps popping into my head, and it makes me so sad to say this,” Peterson says, unable to continue his words. Between several pauses to let the tears pass, he explains why he can no longer hide his grief. It was such a small thing, really, but it meant so much.

After every season, Peterson conducts exit interviews with his athletes. Keijzer was from the Netherlands, and under NCAA rules was eligible to row only one year while she pursued her graduate studies in chemistry. Keijzer was a key recruit for Peterson, who was looking to draw more international athletes, with more experience, to help keep Indiana competitive in the Big Ten. Keijzer was a terrific fit. She had competed in prestigious events, like the European Rowing Junior Championships and the World Rowing Junior Championships. She had Olympic aspirations.

During that 2011 season, she helped transform the Indiana program, leading the Hoosiers to a 14-5 record. She rowed with the Varsity 8 – “the big cheese,” says Peterson – and sat in the “stroke” position. In rowing, the stroke sits closest to the coxswain, and is not unlike the boat’s quarterback. “The stroke sets the rhythm, the pace,” says Peterson. “The best rower sits in the stroke seat.” Peterson calls Keijzer one of the best rowers he’s ever coached, and he’s been at it for 30 years.

But during that exit interview that Peterson can’t bear to describe, Keijzer didn’t want to talk about her own performance. “She was just encouraging me, telling me, “Your on the right path, keep doing what you’re doing,” says Peterson. Smitten with Bloomington, Keijzer wound up staying on the IU campus, ditching a potential rowing career for the school’s PhD program in chemistry. So this season, she saw Peterson’s team make it all the way to the NCAA championships for the first time in school history. Peterson traces this success directly back to Keijzer’s boat, which made IU nationally relevant and helped bolster recruiting. “After we finally made it, she says ‘I told you you can do it,’” says Peterson. “She was just so ridiculously supportive.”

The Malaysia Flight 17 tragedy has already cost so much. In Keijzer, a senseless act cost of group of rowers a beloved teammate, her fellow chemistry students a popular colleague, and the world a scientist intent on fighting cancer and other diseases.

David Giedroc, professor and chair of Indiana’s chemistry department, remembers Keijzer walking into his office as soon as she got on campus. She asked if he would advise him. “Here was this confident young lady, passionate about science and sports,” says Giedroc. “High level science and high level NCAA sports – that’s a fairly exotic combination for a graduate student.” During her first year at IU, when she was both rowing and studying, Keijzer would sometimes fall asleep in her lab chair. Still, she somehow managed to make the 6:00 am practices.

“We’d be in the locker room at 5:30, it would be windy, rainy,” says Jaclyn Riedel, one of Keijzer’s teammates. “But she was kind of leading the charge, cheering everyone on. She was just infectious.”The Amsterdam girl took to Indiana, calling herself a “Dutch Hoosier.” To fit in, she came to one party dressed as an ear of corn. “She wore black spandex, a long yellow shirt with frayed edges, and her hair was green,” says Riedel. Her teammates would ask her for informal Dutch lessons, and when they found out the word for garden gnome – kabouter – a select few, including Keijzer and Riedel, started calling themselves “the kabouters.” They headed to Home Depot to pick up a few statuettes. The gnomes became good luck charms. Riedel would carry one in her backpack, “though it never went into the boat,” she says.

After wrapping up her rowing career, Keijzer kept pursuing her doctorate. “As a computational chemist, she had enormous potential,” says Giedroc. This summer, Keijzer was working in the Netherlands, collaborating with researchers at VU University Amsterdam on simulations of anti-tumor drugs. At IU, she was working on developing a computer program that calculates how anti-cancer molecules interacted with partner proteins that might play a role in cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.

“She was so passionate pharmacological chemistry, and helping people that way,” says Meghan McCormick, Keijzer’s lab mate for four years. “Cancer was just one obstacle she was tackling. She also took on a project seeking better HPV vaccines.” Keijzer and McCormick were co-authors on a study just published in the Journal of the American Chemistry Society, titled: “Understanding Intrinsically Irreversible, Non-Nernstian, Two-Electron Redox Processes: A Combined Experimental and Computational Study of the Electrochemical Activation of Platinum(IV) Antitumor Prodrugs.” McCormick offers the lay explanation: “Many second and third generation cancer drugs aren’t working as well as they could be. We think we can make better ones, based on the methodology and tools that we used.” “She was just a strong woman,” says McCormick. “As a woman in science, a woman in chemistry, she was a big inspiration. We always felt like we had to prove ourselves a little bit more, to fight through the biases. We fed off each other’s strengths.” McCormick starts tearing up. “It’s certainly going to take a very long time to walk into that lab, and not see her sitting next to me,” says McCormick. “I’m so used to seeing her smiling at me, drinking coffee, giving me encouragement.”

Keijzer was on the Malaysia Airways flight with her boyfriend, bound for a summer vacation in Indonesia before she returned to Indiana. Kuala Lumpur was a layover. When Peterson, her old coach, got word from a former rower on Thursday that Keijzer was most likely on the plane, he was in a car with his family, on his way to visiting a friend in northern Ohio. He didn’t want to believe it. When he saw the confirmation on Keijzer’s Facebook page, the devastation set in.

“She was such an optimist,” says Peterson. “Not just for herself, but for her team, and for everybody around her. She was always there, smiling, a best friend. That’s now all cut way too short. That’s what really makes me sad.”

TIME NFL

Pro Gay-Rights Former NFL Player Suing Vikings to Release Dismissal Report

Chris Kluwe
Former Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, pictured in a 2012 Minnesota Vikings NFL portrait. AP

Chris Kluwe, the outspoken ex-NFL punter, plans on suing his old team, the Minnesota Vikings, for discrimination

When former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe posted an explosive article on Deadspin in January, alleging that the team dumped him for being an outspoken supporter of gay marriage, he knew his career was pretty much over.

“I’m now known as the activist punter,” Kluwe tells TIME. “So when teams are choosing between a guy who has baggage and a guy who doesn’t, then it’s usually an easy choice for the team to make.”

What Kluwe didn’t expect was that the Vikings would open an independent investigation of his claims, and then, he says, keep those findings hidden.

So Kluwe announced Tuesday that he plans to file a discrimination suit against the Vikings, unless the findings of the investigation are made public. According to Kluwe’s lawyer, Clayton Halunen, over the past few months he and the Vikings have discussed terms of a possible settlement, which included the report going public, a donation of $1 million to two LGBT charities, and a public apology from special teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who allegedly said in a meeting “we should round up all the gays, send them to an island, and then nuke it until it glows.” (Priefer was retained as an assistant by new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer).

Halunen said he talked to the investigators hired by the Vikings to probe the case, and they told him the report was finished and corroborated the gist of Kluwe’s allegations, including Priefer’s remark. On Monday afternoon, however, Halunen says he met with Vikings lawyers, and they told him the team wouldn’t release the report. “For six months, we were repeatedly told that the report would be made public,” says Halunen. “This news was very shocking.”

In a statement, the Vikings said, in part, that “in order to further maintain objectivity and integrity, the team engaged a nationally-prominent law firm — Littler Mendelson P.C. — to evaluate employment law matters and provide findings and recommendations to the Vikings. Those recommendations are to be provided to the team this week … the Vikings have never made or broken promises as Kluwe and his attorney Clayton Halunen have claimed … As we have consistently communicated throughout this process, the Vikings will have further comment when the investigation is entirely complete and the team has made determinations on next steps.” You can read the full statement here. The Vikings did not return a request for further comment. Halunen and the team’s lawyers are scheduled to meet on Thursday.

Why does Kluwe want the report to go public?

“For one, it corroborates my claims, obviously, or else they would have made it public by now,” says Kluwe. “And two, it shows the kind of atmosphere that could be allowed to happen if steps aren’t taken to correct that kind of culture. We want to make people aware that what they’re saying has consequences, and can be potentially hurtful to other people.” He also hopes the NFL can learn lessons. “Even though you are the NFL, you are still a business, and you are required to abide by the law,” Kluwe says. “You can’t say, just because this is football we don’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else, which I think is very important when you’re talking about a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry that frequently takes public funds to construct stadiums and host events.”

In his Deadspin piece, Kluwe wrote, “If there’s one thing I hope to achieve from sharing this story, it’s to make sure that Mike Priefer never holds a coaching position again in the NFL.” Kluwe wants that one back.

“I was being too harsh there,” Kluwe says. “What I would like to see is coach Priefer suspended for a period of time, subject to the personal conduct policy — I mean, that’s something we all have to abide by — and then to get training and work with the LGBT groups to understand why what he did was wrong. Because that way, he can serve as a positive role model to other potential coaches or managers out there who might be thinking of doing the same thing he did.

“The NFL is all about redemption stories, right?”

Lately, Kluwe spends his days as a stay-at-home-dad and science fiction novelist. He’s currently shopping a book, entitled “Genesis Prime,” which he co-wrote with friend and bandmate Andy Reiner (Kluwe plays bass for Tripping Icarus, a Minneapolis-based group).

“It’s essentially a very human story about what happens with those in power, as power always corrupts,” Kluwe says. “You can start out with the noblest of intentions, but then along the way you get to a point where you might think you’re doing things for the right reasons, but you’re not.” Hmmm. NFL metaphor, anyone? “No so much the NFL, just large structures in general,” Kluwe says. “You can look at what’s happening with the NSA, you can look at what’s happening with our drone program, even what’s happening with the Catholic Church.”

While Kluwe is comfortable pursuing a writing career and looking after his two young daughters in their Huntington Beach, Calif. home, he still wants an NFL job. He has eight years of punting experience, and was in the top-10 in yards-per-punt during three different seasons. Kluwe says he’s been kicking balls, and is in game shape. Still, since the Deadspin story posted, no NFL team has called. He doesn’t regret writing the piece, but is still disappointed.

“In the NFL, it’s okay to commit crimes or beat your wife or get caught drunk driving, but when you speak out for something, that’s the line you can’t cross.

“Apparently, I can’t be redeemed.”

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