TIME Sports

The Beginning of the End for Sepp Blatter

If FIFA is going to reform itself, its president must go

Yes, Sepp Blatter was not one of soccer officials nabbed by the authorities in Zurich on May 27, as part of the U.S. government’s indictment of 14 people—including top FIFA brass—charged with money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud. Public opinion, however, will cast the FIFA president’s escape as a mere technicality. According to the laws of Nixonian physics, this scandal points right to the top.

Kickback allegations have shadowed Blatter and his organization since he took over as FIFA president in 1998. Blatter plays big-league pork politics, using his substantial war chest—FIFA has more than $1.5 billion in reserves—to dole out funds to officials of tiny soccer federations, who sometimes keep the money. In November, for example, Nepal’s top soccer official temporarily stepped down after he was accused of stealing more than $5 million. These rich grants buy loyalty: in FIFA presidential elections, the votes of Nepal and Montserrat count just as much as those of America and Brazil.

Will Blatter even survive the presidential election on May 29 that UEFA, Europe’s governing soccer body, insists should be delayed? He was supposed to win his fifth term with ease. Now, it’s no longer a coronation. “If he’s not detained, he’ll probably win,” says Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist from Smith College and author of the book Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup. “FIFA’s propaganda machine strong, and is already distancing Blatter from the charges.” In a statement released on FIFA.com, Blatter said: “Let me be clear: such misconduct has no place in football and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game.”

Even if Blatter somehow survives Friday’s election, Zimbalist believes this scandal will be too tough for him to overcome long-term: “FIFA is an international monopoly with control over a very popular product.” In 2014, a World Cup year, FIFA generated $2 billion in revenues. “If the power is in control of the wrong people,” Zimbalist adds, “things get out of hand.” For FIFA to change, and win back the constituents its supposed to serve—players and fans of the beautiful game—Blatter has to go. Because, as Zimablist puts it, “I don’t think there is any hope of reforming Sepp Blatter.”

Read next: U.S. Accuses Soccer Officials of Decades of ‘Rampant, Systemic and Deep-Rooted’ Corruption

TIME Soccer

Soccer Star Alex Morgan: Sepp Blatter Didn’t Know Who I Was

FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter, Alex Morgan and French actor Gerard Depardieu during the red carpet arrivals at the FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala 2012 at the Kongresshaus on Jan. 7, 2013 in Zurich.
Alexander Hassenstein—FIFA via Getty Images FIFA president Joseph S. Blatter, Alex Morgan and French actor Gerard Depardieu during the red carpet arrivals at the 2012 FIFA Ballon d'Or Gala in Zurich.

Morgan calls Blatter's failure to recognize her at FIFA World Player of the Year event "shocking"

Controversial FIFA president Sepp Blatter, whose tenure atop world soccer’s governing body has been pockmarked by scandal, recently called himself “a godfather” of women’s soccer. That’s particularly amusing, considering that a group of top women’s players recently sued FIFA for gender discrimination. And that U.S. star Alex Morgan–who has nearly 1.7 million Twitter followers, tops among women soccer players–says she once went unrecognized by Blatter at an event honoring the world’s top players.

In an interview with TIME, Morgan was asked if she’s had to deal with sexism and misogyny.

“I have experienced sexism multiple times, and I’m sure I will a lot more,” she said. “I feel like I’m fighting for female athletes. At the FIFA World Player of the Year event [in 2012], FIFA executives and FIFA president Sepp Blatter didn’t know who I was. And I was being honored as top three in the world. That was pretty shocking.”

The women sued FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association because the upcoming World Cup, which kicks off June 6, is being contested on artificial turf. Many players detest this surface, saying it leads to more injuries, and disrupts the tempo of the game. No men’s World Cup has even been played on turf. The players dropped the complaint in January. Their attorney said they wanted to shift the focus from the controversy to World Cup preparation.

Morgan’s full interview — 10 Questions With Alex Morgan — appears in the June 1 edition of TIME, on newsstands now. Subscribers can read it here. Subscribe to TIME here.

FIFA’s presidential election is May 29; Blatter is running for a fifth term. Two rivals just pulled out of the contest.

TIME Television

David Letterman’s Top 10 Sports Moments

Highlights include Larry and Magic, training with the Yankees and Buddy Biancalana

Luckily for sports fans, David Letterman has long loved the games—he even co-owns an IndyCar racing team. In his 33 years on TV, he’s interviewed countless big-name athletes, and done many goofy bits involving sports. As he signs off on Wednesday night, here’s a top 10 list for Letterman and sports:

10. Little Buddy

As Pete Rose chased Ty Cobb’s all-time hit record in 1985, Letterman poked a little fun at diminutive Kansas City Royals shortstop Buddy Biancalana, who finished his career a .205 hitter. But Biancalana was stellar (for him) in the 1985 World Series, hitting .278 over seven games, and after KC won it all, Biancalana appeared on Late Night for some self-deprecating fun.

9. The Nash Report

Letterman knew when to enlist others for comedy help—look no further than Rupert Jee. Here, Steve Nash covers the 2009 NBA Finals, between the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic, for the Late Show, and asks analyst Jeff Van Gundy a pretty, er, direct question about his brother, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy.

8. Albert Achievement Awards

For those of us who grew up without cable or ESPN—some of us really did—Marv Albert’s Letterman appearances were the only place to see sports bloopers. Earlier this year, Marv picked out his all-time favorite follies. Yes!

7. Revenge Pitch

In 1985, Letterman called Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Terry Forster a “fat tub of goo.” Later in the year, Forster paid Letterman a visit, sporting what could only be a 1981 World Series ring, thank you very much (Forster pitched for the champion Los Angeles Dodgers that season). Forster entered the studio chomping on a “David Letterman” sandwich. “It had a lot of tongue on it,” he said.

6. Loosening Larry and Magic

Later in Letterman’s career, he became a master conversationalist, more willing and able to put subjects at ease. He puts his skills on display in this interview with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird a few years back, probing the dynamics of their relationship. Magic, more outgoing, was inclined to be friendly with his rival; Bird, an introvert, wanted none of it. “He’s got that big smile,” Bird said of Magic. “My goal is to take three of them teeth home with me.”

5. Oh, So That’s How You Do It!

In 1987, Minnesota Twins knuckleballer Joe Niekro was suspended for 10 days after an emery board flew out of his pocket while the umps searched him for suspicious items. So naturally, Niekro went on Letterman to show how to scuff a baseball—while coyly denying he did it that night.

4. Cubs Win!

Will Ferrell broke out his Harry Caray imitation in a recent appearance: the legendary Cubs broadcaster asked “what are we going to do about this wall in Berlin?” and shouted the names of players who haven’t been on the Cubs in years. “And the 2-0 pitch is in there to Dunston, strike on the corner!”

3. Spring Training

Dave heads up to Yankee Stadium in 1992 to workout with Yanks manager Buck Showalter and coach Frank Howard. They discuss the fine art of spitting.

2. Olympic Mom

During the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, dispatches from Dorothy Mengering—Letterman’s mom—became appointment TV. Her gentle midwestern demeanor, insistence on calling Letterman “David,” and dry, one-sentence answers to her son’s nagging questions made Mengering an ideal foil. “Tonya! Tonya!” Mengering shouted, barely audible, while Tonya Harding stood a few feet away. She also scored a sit-down interview with Nancy Kerrigan. “Would you like cocoa?” she asked.

1. Baseball Biff

Speaking of comic foils, for my money nobody beats Letterman stagehand Biff Henderson, especially when he interacted with athletes. Somehow, Letterman convinced the staid, secretive New York Yankees to let their home ballpark become a Late Night/Late Show playground. And Biff took advantage: a few hours before a 1998 World Series game—a World Series game!—he was on hand to ask silly questions and lead “Yanni” chants. For viewers, his laryngitis was well worth it.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geEQjDV_8E0]

Read next: Everything You Need to Know About David Letterman’s Last Show

TIME

Why the Tom Brady Suspension Is Ridiculous

Given the thin evidence tying Brady directly to Deflategate, a four-game suspension makes little sense

Tom Brady and his people haven’t exactly carried themselves with aplomb during this whole Deflategate episode. Earlier this year, in a pre-Super Bowl news conference, Brady tried to deflect the seriousness of New England’s alleged air pressure tampering during January’s AFC title game by bringing terrorists into the conversation. That’s never a good idea. (“This isn’t ISIS,” Brady said. “You know, no one’s dying.”) Brady refused to hand over any text or email records during attorney Ted Wells’ investigation, even though Wells was prepared to let Brady’s lawyer control the production of such records—a layup for the defense if there ever was one.

Also, it sure seems like Brady sold out a powerless locker room lackey when he told investigators that he did not even know the identity of Jim McNally, the man accused of carrying out the deflation deed. And Brady’s agent called the flaws of Wells report, which concluded that the Pats star was likely “generally aware” of the deflation scheme, “tragic.” Again, never a good idea introducing such a word into a discussion on psi.

So it’s tempting to cheer the comeuppance of Tom Brady, the all-too-perfect quarterback of the NFL’s most villainous team. The NFL suspended him Monday, without pay, for four regular season games, while fining the Pats a million bucks and taking away the team’s first-round draft pick in 2016, and fourth-rounder in 2017. But please resist cheering the NFL’s sentence. Because it’s ridiculous.

For what it’s worth, I’m not from Boston, and not a Pats fan. But while you and I may bet that Brady did at least tacitly sign off on puncturing the footballs, the evidence in the Wells report directly trying Brady to Deflategate is thin. Wells largely bases his conclusion on the fact that Brady made a bunch of phone calls to equipment assistant John Jastremski after the controversy went public; Brady had not called the guy in the prior six months. Were they getting their stories straight? Maybe. But is it plausible that Brady was just insanely curious to find out what Jastremski knew, given the story was spiraling out of control, and many people were labeling Brady a cheat? Totally.

Bottom line: this penalty is convenient for the NFL. So what if Roger Goodell peeves off Pats fans, and even Brady? If he had let Brady off easy, on the other hand, he’d have to hear howls from other team owners, the press and millions of fans across the country that he was just protecting Pats owner Robert Kraft—Goodell’s most visible defender during the Ray Rice mess—and the NFL’s biggest star.

Instead, he gets to be the tough guy. He’ll even stand up to Tom Brady, darnit, and teach him a lesson. It’s actually pretty easy to pick on the cool kid. You don’t come across as a bully. (Brady’s agent said Monday evening he will appeal the penalty.)

“Your actions as set forth in the report clearly constitute conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the game of professional football,” NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent wrote in a letter to Brady. The NFL always nails sanctimony. This is a sport that all but ignored a public health crisis—head injuries—or decades. Confidence leaked long ago.

Brady deserves a little stain on his “legacy” for this. After all, Joe Montana didn’t need deflation. Let the sports bars say he’s a fraud. But don’t keep him on the sidelines to send a hollow message, when you just don’t have the goods.

Read next: 6 Surreal Takeaways From the Deflategate Report

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TIME Athletes

U.S. Ranks Worst in Sports Homophobia Study

Will gay athletes find acceptance on the field?

Throughout most of high school, Michael Martin—a senior at Musselman High School in Inwood, W. Va.—kept his sexuality hidden from his soccer teammates. “I was afraid I would get harassed, tormented, made fun of a lot,” said Martin, who knew he was gay since middle school. “I wasn’t afraid of physical abuse necessarily. But I thought guys would do stuff like throw the ball at me. On purpose.” Martin says he heard the word faggot all too many times.

According to new research released on Saturday, Martin is far from alone. The study, entitled “Out On The Fields” and billed as “the first international study on homophobia in sport,” is a survey of nearly 9,500 people, mostly from six countries (the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand). The researchers found that 80% of all participants and 82% of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) participants “said they have witnessed or experienced homophobia in sport.” Of those reporting personal experience with homophobia, 84% of gay men and 82% of lesbians said they had received verbal slurs like faggot and dyke. Also, 81% of gay men and 74% of lesbians who were under 22 at the time of the study reported being completely or partially in the closet to teammates while playing youth sports. Nearly half of gay men and 32% of lesbians hid their sexuality while playing youth sports because they feared rejection by teammates. Only 1% of all participants believed LGB people were “completely accepted” in sports culture; 78% said that an openly gay, lesbian or bisexual person would not be very safe as a spectator at a sporting event.

“Unfortunately,” the authors wrote, “the study found few positive signs in any country that LGB people are welcome and safe playing team sports.”

(Participants in the study were not asked whether they identified as transgender, as experts consider transphobia and homophobia distinct forms of discrimination in sports, and the researchers decided to focus the study on sexuality rather than gender identity.)

The study found the U.S. had the highest percentage of gay men reporting that they had received verbal threats in a sports environment, and the highest percentage of gay men who heard slurs. In fact, of the six countries surveyed, the U.S. ranked worst in sports homophobia and discrimination, as measured by the “inclusion score” developed by the researchers. (Canada had the highest score, followed by Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., Ireland and the U.S.) “It’s sad that the U.S. fared so poorly,” said Pat Griffin, professor emerita in social justice education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a member of the academic team that advised the study authors. “It feels like we’ve made a lot of progress with the acceptance of homosexuality in sports. But going by these results, we have a long way to go.”

The “Out On The Fields” report comes with caveats. Though the project’s academic consultants insist that they reviewed the survey methodology and results, it’s not a peer-reviewed paper published in an established journal. The lead author is a former journalist who’s a member of the Sydney Convicts Rugby Union Club, Australia’s first gay rugby team. Joshua Newman, a sports sociologist from Florida State University who is unaffiliated with this project, reviewed the document for TIME. “The recruitment and sampling technique used likely resulted in a significant over-representation of higher-earning, racial- and ethnic-majority, pro-LGBT respondents to the study,” Newman writes in an email. “Are those representative of the broader populations in the English-speaking world more generally?”

Despite its flaws, Newman wrote, “I am inclined to say that the findings are important and the study holds the potential provide a significant contribution. This is the largest study of its kind yet to be undertaken. The results illustrate the extent to which LGB sport participants across multiple nations share common experiences of harassment, bullying, and even physical violence. It reaffirms what most LGB and straight athletes in these contexts already know, that homophobic language and action remain effective techniques for normalizing heteronormative masculinity in the sports domain. If we are going to take issues of (in)equality and civil rights seriously, this study reminds us that there’s no better place to start than on the sports field.”

Jason Collins, the first openly gay active athlete in the four major U.S. sports, has witnessed the power of sports firsthand. As more athletes come out, Collins thinks attitudes and behavior will change. “When I was in the closet, I would hear homophobic language in the locker room,” said Collins, who came out in 2013 and spent part of the 2014 season with the Brooklyn Nets. “However, when I came out, not one of my teammates ever used homophobic comments. It’s hard to change habits, it’s hard to change people’s language. But it is possible.”

Collins believes that sports homophobia would decline if Michael Sam—the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team, now a free agent—got a shot. “We need Michael Sam to play in the NFL,” said Collins. “I know he’s been training hard. We just need an owner, a coach, one of the NFL teams to give him an opportunity.” Why is Sam so crucial? “The NFL is very popular in this country,” said Collins. “Just to have his example, as an openly gay NFL player, going out there making plays, helping his team win—it’s another example of somebody living their authentic life. And hopefully it would encourage other NFL players who are in the closet to come forward.”

The study found that many gay athletes chose to stay in the closet because they fear rejection from teammates. Arizona State backup offensive lineman Chip Sarafin, who last year became the first active college football player at a major program to publicly announce he was gay—Sam only told his Missouri teammates—found acceptance. “As long as you put forth the effort,” said Sarafin, “people won’t care about your sexuality.”

What advice do gay athletes have for younger players struggling with their sexuality in sports? “Don’t quit,” said John Fennell, an Olympic luge athlete from Canada who came out to teammates in Russia, of all places, during the Sochi Games. “All too often I hear about talented gay athletes who leave sports because they don’t feel welcome. But they do belong. If I had given up sports, I would have wound up on a very different path. Sports shaped the person I am. My tenacity, ability to set goals and achieve them—I attribute that to my success in sports.”

“My advice is that there’s a lot of love and support waiting for you when you live your authentic life,” said Collins. “I understand everyone has their own path. Trust me, it took me 33 years of my life before I told another human being the words ‘I am gay.’ I hope all of them get to that point of self-acceptance.”

Michael Martin, the high school soccer player from West Virginia, arrived there this fall. He finally told his teammates he was gay—and danced with his boyfriend in front of the school. He has no regrets. “I feel like I played completely better with that weight off my shoulder,” said Martin. “It’s an uplifting feeling. I’m so glad I did it.”

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