TIME Basketball

LeBron James’ Dangerous Liaison With Cleveland

2014 NBA Finals - Game Five
LeBron James of the Miami Heat during Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 15, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas. The Heat lost the game -- and the series Andy Lyons—Getty Images

If the superstar free agent jilts the Cavs again, will he destroy his post-"Decision" goodwill?

Remember four years ago? When pretty much everyone hated LeBron James for making a spectacle of his free agency, for ditching his championship-starved home city of Cleveland — actually, James is from Akron, but close enough — for the South Beach sun? In Cleveland, they were burning jerseys and tearing down that ten-story mural of him. And people across the country sympathized with those poor Cleveland fans. Everyone could relate. Who hasn’t gotten their hearts broken?

The masses delighted when James faltered in the 2011 Finals, when Dallas beat the Heat in six games, and when James delivered this tone-deaf stinger of a post-game quote:

“All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”

Really? He just doesn’t get it, does he?

Those times seem pretty distant, as James started winning championships, and drawing comparisons to Michael Jordan. He matured, played with more joie de vivre, and developed a post-up game. He expressed regret about how the “Decision” played out. Even after a rough loss to the San Antonio Spurs in this year’s NBA finals, James is still the best player in basketball, and one of the most popular athletes on the planet. He’s earned the max-contract he will receive during this free-agency go-round.

But could he really be flirting with a return to Cleveland? Even after the Cavs owner Dan Gilbert tore him apart — in a laughable open letter — as LeBron made his exit? Even after the Cavs have stunk since he left the team? According to Yahoo! Sports, James’ agent, Rich Paul, “has been funneling belief into the organization that the Cavaliers are in a strong position to lure James from the Miami Heat.” Getting James back in a Cavs uniform, says Yahoo!, “has been something of a mission” for Paul. Twitter went a bit berserk when veteran LeBron-watcher Chris Broussard, of ESPN, tweeted that “Cleveland has replaced Miami as my frontrunner to land LeBron James.”

Now, we’re still in the mass speculation stage of free agency — though have we added that James’ wife reportedly wants him to sign with Cleveland, and the Cavs took down Gilbert’s manifesto from their official website on Monday? James could very well sit down with Pat Riley this week and be sold that Miami will compete if the Big Three stick together (though Riley’s two free agent signings so far to support them, Josh McRoberts of the Charlotte Bobcats and Danny Granger of the Clippers, are underwhelming).

If the LeBron-to-Cleveland chatter isn’t true, he needs to squash it, now. Because the longer James actually flirts with the Cavs, the more he risks jilting Cleveland a second time if he stays in Miami or heads elsewhere. And if he jilts Cleveland, again, the move would dredge up bad memories. All the goodwill James has built over his four seasons in Miami could crumble.

Though I bet it won’t. Fans have seen that James’ decisions have been carefully considered, and have actually worked out for him. Back in 2010, they identified him as a Cleveland Cavalier. The team drafted him, made the finals with him, faltered with him. After two championships and four finals appearances, he’s a Miami guy. Leaving Cleveland the first time stung. Exploring a comeback to Cleveland, the ultimately deciding that it’s not the best move for his career — hey, that’s just business. The mad emotional tie between James and Cleveland has faded.

No matter where he suits up next season, LeBron is not the self-centered kid of 2010. He’s a two-time champion, one of the most accomplished and amazing players ever. Any respectful hoops fan will appreciate his talents, whether they’re on display in South Beach or on the shores of Lake Erie.

TIME tennis

Novak Djokovic Denies Roger Federer a (Final?) Wimbledon

Novak Djokovic kisses the trophy after defeating Roger Federer in the men's singles final at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, on July 6, 2014
Novak Djokovic kisses the trophy after defeating Roger Federer in the men's singles final at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, on July 6, 2014 Ben Curtis—AP

The Serbian star played just enough defense to win his second Wimbledon title and regain the world's top ranking

Roger Federer had one of the best service sets of his beautiful career during Sunday’s Wimbledon final. He was tied a set a piece with Novak Djokovic, the top seed of this year’s tournament. On serve, Federer treated Djokovic like a junior: he aced him again and again, 13 in all, to Djokovic’s one. Some games were barely competitive.

Federer still lost that set. And eventually, the match.

A locked-in Djokovic held his own serves in that crucial third set, and took the tiebreaker that put him a set up. Federer, who was seeking a record eighth Wimbledon title, wouldn’t go quietly; he staved off a 5-2 Djokovic lead and a championship point, in a dizzying fourth set to force a fifth. It was the first Wimbledon final to go the distance since Federer won his 2009 classic over Andy Roddick (final score of that fifth set — 16-14).

Djokovic, circa 2008, likely would have wilted after blowing such a golden opportunity. And Federer, as we once knew him, would have finished Djokovic off. But this is a new era: Djokovic reclaimed the world’s top ranking with his close-to-classic 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 5-7, 6-4 victory over Federer.

The match won’t be remembered like Rafael Nadal’s marathon win over Federer in the 2008 final. Still, it was a gripping match, one of the best finals in recent Grand Slam history. Early on, Federer wasn’t showing his age. He was moving with authority and confusing Djokovic with his tactical approach, sometimes playing a serve-and-volley game, sometimes staying home on the baseline, where his racket was a magic wand putting the ball in at seemingly impossible angles. We’ve seen that Federer at Wimbledon so many times before.

Not that Djokovic didn’t make Federer pay when he approached the net: he hit 14 passing shots for winners, to Federer’s two. Federer served big throughout the match: he had 29 aces, to Djokovic’s 13. But when the ball was in play, Djokovic’s reach and quickness — he hustled so hard, he fell a few times on Wimbledon’s worn grass — enabled him to play just enough defense to wear down Federer, who smacked championship point into the net.

Was this Federer’s last chance at a Slam? He turns 33 in August, and if he was going to steal one more title, it was probably going to be his favorite one, Wimbledon. Federer has 17 Slams, while Rafael Nadal, five years his junior, has 14, including nine at the French Open. Even if Nadal falls short everywhere else but clay, he could eclipse Federer’s record.

But that won’t be easy, thanks to this Djokovic fellow. It’s easy to obsess over the Roger-Rafa title chase, while forgetting that Djokovic is, you know, the best player in the world. Since his monster 2011, when he won every Slam but the French, Djokovic has just won two Australian Opens. Not a bad haul, but coming into this match, he had lost three straight Grand Slam finals, including a four-setter to Nadal in this year’s French. Djokovic is close to breaking through at Roland Garros — winning that title would give him a career Grand Slam.

After the match, an emotional Djokovic announced that he was about to become a father; his future wife is six months pregnant. He called Wimbledon “the best tournament in the world, the most valuable one” and you know something, he’s right: it’s the Masters of tennis, the tournament with the most prestige. His second Wimbledon title is his sweetest, especially after defeating the seven-time champ in five sets. Federer stood by the net, gracious, as Djokovic spoke. The closest, perhaps, he’ll ever get to the Wimbledon trophy again.

TIME NBA

Kidd v. Wade: The NBA Sees Two Very Different Power Plays

Getty Images (2)

The NBA is simmering with off-season storylines. While Dwyane Wade is sacrificing for the Heat, Jason Kidd gets selfish in Brooklyn.

When Miami’s Big Three came together, they were ripe for ridicule, easy to dislike. Two championships later, and the day before this year’s intriguing NBA summer of free agency begins, the Miami stars are acting like the grown-ups in the room. The trio, as a group, seem willing to take a substantial pay cut in order to free up salary cap space for Miami, so the team can continue to add role players and win the Eastern Conference, which it has done four years in a row. Why else would Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade, each leave some $42 million on the table by opting out of their contracts with two years left? Odds are, they’re working in concert with LeBron James to return to Miami, at a lower annual salary.

For athletes who have made heaps of money over their careers, it might seem silly to applaud them for shaving off a million here and there. But hey, no matter how rich you are, every extra million means something: for you, your kids, your kids’ kids, your charities. LeBron James, who also opted out of his deal with two seasons to go, is going to get a maximum contract, which will pay him around $22.2 million next season. Bosh could likely recoup his $42.7 million, and then some, on the open market, but his opt-out signals a return to the Heat at some discount.

The real standout here, however, is Wade. He’s no longer the player he once was, and apparently knows it. Wade, 32, has a history of knee injuries, and is coming off a poor performance in the Finals. No team on the open market will pay him $20.2 million next year, and $21.7 million in 2015-2016. Some team could conceivably offer him that $42 million, and a little more, over the next four years. But if Wade wanted to truly maximize his earnings, he’d play out the next two years at a salary that his performance no longer justifies, then, if he’s still healthy, sign one more lucrative long-term deal, or a series of shorter deals, as his career plays out. But he’s chosen not to.

Most likely, he’ll come back to Miami at a significantly lower annual salary. Maybe Miami gives him that $42 million, plus some more, over five years, as a token of appreciation. But Wade’s annual salary cut, combined with James’ max deal and Bosh’s reduced wage, gives the Heat the best chance to add players and compete.

While Wade is sacrificing, a player known for his unselfish play, former point guard Jason Kidd, got very greedy. Kidd tried a coup in Brooklyn, the franchise that, just a year ago, took a flier on him as head coach, even though he just retired as a player and had no experience. So much for loyalty. Kidd was handed a team with the highest payroll in the league, and his performance was, well, somewhat promising. His team started out 10-21. To help show him his way around a clipboard, Kidd brought in a former coach with the Nets, Lawrence Frank, as the league’s highest-paid assistant. He then promptly demoted Frank to the league’s highest-paid writer of internal “daily reports” that the head coach almost certainly doesn’t read. Kidd also dumped Diet Coke onto the court after one of his players “accidentally” bumped into him, forcing a timeout, apparently forgetting that NBA games are televised and can easily catch him in the act. The sloppy gamesmanship cost Kidd $50,000.

To Kidd’s credit, however, the Nets turned their season around, finishing 44-38 and advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in seven years (Miami bumped them out). But no way does that result justify his power play. Kidd told the Nets he also wanted full control of basketball operations, usurping general manager Billy King, a man who was instrumental in his hiring. The Nets told one of the top players in the history of their franchise to take a walk: he’s now heading to Milwaukee, where he likely will receive a better deal than the four-year, $10.5 million pact that he signed with Brooklyn. Larry Drew is out as head coach, and Kidd’s in. Kidd does not have full control of personnel in Milwaukee — yet. Milwaukee has new owners, and Kidd is chummy with one of them, billionaire hedge fund investor Marc Lasry. As compensation, the Nets get two future second round draft picks from Milwaukee, in 2015 and 2019.

The Nets are probably better off with those picks, and a new coach, than they were with Kidd. The ex-point guard might have dished out over 12,000 assists during his 19-year playing career, good for second all-time. But down in Miami, Wade’s kind of assist is more impressive than any of them.

TIME NBA

4 Ways LeBron James Could Go

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - Game Five
LeBron James drives in Game Five of the 2014 NBA Finals in San Antonio, Texas. The Heat lost the game, and the series Chris Covatta—Getty Images

He's got options after opting out of his contract

LeBron’s opting out of his contract! Oh my, it’s 2010 all over again, another free agent frenzy! He’s leaving the Heat! He’s coming back to Cleveland! The Decision, Part II!

Let’s all relax. LeBron James has indeed exercised his right to opt out of the last two years of his current contract with the Miami Heat, a deal that would have paid him almost $43 million combined. But this move is less a surefire sign that he’s leaving Miami than it is a prudent business decision by the best player on the planet—by a guy who is more mature, on and off the court, than he was during his free agent carnival four years ago. James has won two championships and reached four straight NBA Finals, since signing with Miami in 2010. He knows it’s not all about him. “It would be really shocking if this is as much of a production as last time,” says Tom Penn, an NBA salary-cap expert and former vice president of basketball operations for the Portland Trail Blazers, who now provides commentary for ESPN. “He’s going to keep it more low profile.”

This isn’t to say LeBron won’t enjoy a little wining and dining from suitors. The move gives James, 29, what every working American wants: some options to shape his future. “But nothing is simple,” says one NBA executive. Remember, this isn’t baseball: Player salaries are capped, so a team can’t come in and offer James a gazillion dollars to be the face of their franchise. And team salaries are capped, too. Unlike the NFL, hoops teams can exceed their allotted cap. But the further above that number they go, the more penalties they have to pay.

Here are some of the feasible options LeBron will be looking at this summer.

1. Stay in South Beach. He took his talents there, he’s been wildly successful there, he seems happy there. Why the heck would he leave? “The big question for Miami,” says Penn, “is whether the Big Three are still all in to win.” Miami can give James a five-year deal, max, while other teams can only offer four. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can also opt out of their deals, which are eating up valuable salary cap space for Miami the next two seasons. Would the Big Three each be willing to take enough of a pay cut so that Miami can retool their roster to add better role players? They each already took less money to form the Big Three back in 2010; would they be that charitable again?

James, if anything, deserves a raise. “I would be surprised if he accepts less money to stay in Miami,” says the NBA executive. “For him, he’s already been there, done that with the discounts.” It may be up to Wade and Bosh to take the financial hit. Bosh, 30, is owed $20.6 million next season, but he’s no longer a $20 million per year player. Wade is owed $20.2 million, and with his knee problems and poor performance in the Finals, it’s clear the 32-year-old isn’t aging gracefully.

So the superstars have some talking to do. But don’t be shocked if James accepts a below-market salary to stay. He more than makes up for any shortfall in endorsements: He pulled in $53 million in off-court cash this past year, according to Forbes. Miami likely gives James the safest shot at more championships.

2. Chicago Fire. One team that won’t have to move mountains to afford LeBron is the Bulls. The team annually overachieves: Franchise star Derrick Rose has missed most of the last two seasons, but the Bulls have still finished comfortably above .500, made the playoffs each season, and are always a pain to play, thanks in large part to the intense defensive preachings of coach Tom Thibodeau. Rose, James, and reigning defensive player of the year Joakim Noah: That’s a nice Big Three.

The cons of going to Chicago: Rose’s health will always been a question, thanks to his history of nasty knee injuries. As for quality of life, Chicago is nice in the spring, summer, and fall, but there’s no comparing Chicago winters to Miami winters.

3. Houston, We Have No Problem. Houston is an attractive landing spot for LeBron. It’ll be a little harder for the Rockets to afford James, says Penn, as they’d likely have to move players they’re fond of, like Jeremy Lin and big man Omer Asik. But come on, this is LeBron James we’re talking about here. He could play with Dwight Howard and James Harden, a prolific scorer. Rockets sharpshooter Chandler Parsons is an emerging star. Plus, like Florida, Texas has no state income tax.

The cons of going to Houston: Remember the Dwight Howard-Kobe Bryant-Steve Nash-Pau Gasol superteam in Los Angeles? How did that horror show work out? Howard made some positive strides last season, his first with the Rockets. But he has a history of being a distraction. Will LeBron bet his championship legacy on him?

4. Cleveland Calling. Ah, the fairy tale ending. James breaks his hometown’s heart by leaving, but then returns—two titles already in tow—to end Cleveland’s 50-year championshiop drought. Five thousand books are written about how Cleveland’s curse is lifted, how so many suffering sports fans can rest in peace, what it all says about the city and the Rust Belt and the American spirit itself.

Cleveland cons: Where to begin? Cleveland has had the worst record in the NBA since James left. The team has won the draft lottery three of the past four seasons. Kyrie Irving, the 2011 pick, is terrific, while Anthony Bennett, last year’s stop selection, had a rough rookie season. He might be a bust. The Cavs own the top pick this year, too, but the June 26 draft is now real cloudy: Many experts pegged Joel Embiid, an athletic, defensive-minded seven-footer from the University of Kansas, as the top selection, but his foot fracture is scaring off teams. Even James may not be able to rescue the Cavs, although a watered-down Eastern conference could open a door to the Finals.

The bigger issue for Cleveland, however, is probably the owner: Remember, Dan Gilbert blasted James as he walked out the door. (The most hilarious claim—in all-caps no less—in his infamous open letter: “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE. You can take it to the bank.”) James is going to play for this guy again?

If you’re betting, says Penn, put your chips on James staying in Miami. “He has a clear comfort level with [Heat president] Pat Riley and [Heat coach] Erik Spoelstra and the city,” says Penn. “The sting of losing in the Finals is still present, but they reality is, moving forward, Miami should still be really, really good.”

TIME tennis

4 Things to Watch for at This Year’s Wimbledon

Including a return to the Roger-Rafa rivalry, and Serena's struggles

+ READ ARTICLE

We know you might be addicted to the World Cup, and who can blame you? It’s been pretty amazing. But if your brain can digest two events showcasing some of the greatest athletes from around the globe, don’t forget about Wimbledon, which starts on Monday. This year’s fortnight should be special. Here are four reasons why:

1. The Roger-Rafa Slam Chase. If Roger Federer is going to win a record 18th Grand Slam — and put a little more distance between him and Rafael Nadal, who has 14 titles, and is five years younger than his longtime rival — odds are the victory will come at Wimbledon. Federer has won seven championships at the British tournament, and his last Grand Slam title came on the Wimbledon grass, when he beat Andy Murray in the 2012 final. Federer won his grass-court tune-up in Halle, Germany, this year; counting him out would be pure folly.

Nadal, on the other hand, has recently had a hellish time on grass. He lost in the first round of that same Wimbledon tune-up. Last year, he fell in the first round at Wimbledon, and in 2012, he was beaten in the second round — and then was sidelined for seven months because of a bum knee. But Nadal tends to surprise. He had the worst clay-court season of his career this year and still took the French Open.

The two-time Wimbledon champ could meet Federer in the semifinals. There might be some hype around that match.

2. Not-So-Dandy Andy. Last year, Andy Murray — of Scotland — ended Great Britain’s tortuous Wimbledon drought, as he became the first British man to win the fortnight in 77 years. He entered that tournament on a bit of a high: he had won the previous year’s Olympic event on the Wimbledon grass, the U.S. Open a few months later, the Miami hard-court tournament in March 2013 and the Queen’s Club Wimbledon tune-up.

But Murray not only hasn’t won a single tournament since last year’s Wimbledon, he hasn’t even reached a final. Murray had back surgery nine months ago and split with his coach, Ivan Lendl, in March; Amélie Mauresmo, the 2006 women’s Wimbledon champ, is his new coach. Will Mauresmo be able to lift Murray’s game and give Great Britain something to cheer about? After England’s World Cup flameout, many fans could use a lift. Top-seeded Novak Djokovic, however, is in Murray’s half of the draw.

3. Sharapova Surging. Ten years ago, Russian teenager Maria Sharapova stunned the globe when she beat Serena Williams in the Wimbledon final, denying Williams a third straight title. Since that breakout event when she was 17, Sharapova has won four more Grand Slams, including the French Open a few weeks ago. Williams was the last woman to win the French and Wimbledon titles in the same year, in 2002. Sharapova hasn’t lifted the Wimbledon trophy since her breakout win a decade ago, and she faces a potential quarterfinal clash against Williams, who owns a 16-2 career record against her rival — though when you dominate an opponent like Williams has dominated Sharapova, can it really be called a rivalry?

4. Serena’s Struggles. The good news for Sharapova: Williams has had a frustrating year. Although she won the hard-court tournament in Miami in March and won on clay in Rome in May, she also lost in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, and made a shock exit in the second round of the French Open, at the hands of Garbiñe Muguruza of Spain. Williams also pulled out of the Madrid tournament in the quarterfinals with a thigh injury. The Wimbledon draw has done Williams, who has won five titles on the west London courts, no favors. When Serena gets written off, however, she tends to dominate. A sixth Wimbledon could be her sweetest.

TIME World Cup

Saturday’s Argentina-Iran World Cup Game Will Bring Back a Lot of Pain

(FILE) Firemen and policemen search for
Firemen and policemen search for wounded people after a bomb exploded at the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association community center in Buenos Aires on July 18, 1994. ALI BURAFI—AFP/Getty Images

When the two teams meet on Saturday, many Argentines will remember the deadly Buenos Aires bombing of 1994, which killed 85 and was blamed on Iranian terrorists

This World Cup, thus far, has lacked the geopolitical frisson that can make the games particularly compelling. The Americans, for example, haven’t played Russia or North Korea (which didn’t qualify for this year’s tournament).

But for many Argentines, Saturday’s game against Iran — which should be a cakewalk for Messi & Co. on the pitch — will be fraught with off-field tension.

On July 18, 1994, terrorists bombed the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA, in Spanish) community center in Buenos Aires, killing 85 people. Nearly 200,000 Jews live in Argentina, giving the country the seventh-highest Jewish population in the world, behind Israel, the U.S., France, Canada, the U.K. and Russia. A probe by Argentine prosecutors concluded that Iran bore responsibility for the attacks, and in 2007 Interpol issued notices calling for the arrest and possible extradition of five Iranian leaders, including Ahmad Vahidi, the country’s former Defense Minister under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Watching the game can’t help but bring back painful memories for many of us,” says Claudio Epelman, executive director of the Latin American Jewish Congress, who knew two people who perished in the bombings.

“I love soccer, and I try to put politics outside of this match,” says Ariel Isaak, who as a high school student rushed to the rubble to help in the AMIA rescue effort. (“Nobody knew what to do,” Isaak says, recalling that nightmarish day. “Nobody knew what to say. It was like being in a war, without the soldiers or generals.”) Isaak’s girlfriend — now his wife — lost her best friend in the attacks. “I know the [Iranian] players in the game are not the ones who put in the bomb,” says Isaak, who now owns a private security firm in Buenos Aires. “I just want to see justice.”

In early June, the World Jewish Congress wrote a letter to FIFA head Sepp Blatter asking for a minute of silence before the Argentina-Iran game to recognize the 85 victims. But the organization says it has not received a reply from FIFA, and a FIFA spokesperson did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.

Abbas Milani, director of Iranian Studies at Stanford, notes that Tehran has far bigger distractions than the AMIA case right now (most notably the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, or ISIS, the Sunni insurgent group now rampaging through Iraq and threatening the stability of the region).

“The government has consistently refused to accept responsibility [for the AMIA attack], saying it’s never been proven in a court of law,” says Milani. “There’s no reason to expect an overt response from the government now. And this is not a government known for showing remorse for past sins.”

Can the bad blood be set aside for the sake of a soccer match? “Soccer is one of those things that tend to eclipse this type of controversy,” says Milani. “But at the same time, I can’t imagine a team from the Islamic Republic of Iran, once it takes the field, being free from the shadow of the government in Tehran. So it works both ways.”

TIME NFL

It’s Time for the Redskins to Change Their Name — or Be Buffoons

Dan Snyder is out of excuses

Over the past year or so, we’ve seen landmark shifts in sports. Not that long ago, these movements and actions seemed like long shots at best. An openly gay player suited up for an NBA team, another one was drafted by an NFL franchise. The Ed O’Bannon trial, which is playing out in court in Northern California, threatens the amateur model in college sports. A group of Northwestern players have voted on whether or not to unionize. The NFL settled a lawsuit, brought by former players, that claimed the league was negligent in its handling of concussions — though the amount of money the league ultimately doles out may change.

These are big moves. And now, finally, the easy one — the controversy with such a frustratingly common-sense solution that it should really never have been a controversy at all — got a nice win on Wednesday. If Daniel Snyder now doesn’t just give in and change the name of the Washington Redskins, a nickname that is clearly offensive to some segment of the American population, he will set an all-time record for ownership buffoonery. And if the other NFL owners, led by commissioner Roger Goodell — a man who has long taken pride in doing what he sees as the right thing — don’t squeeze Snyder hard enough so that he changes the name, they’re all officially a bunch of rich buffoons as well.

Goodell & Co. may put more pressure on Snyder, because Wednesday’s ruling by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceling the Redskins’ federal trademark registrations could hit the owners where it hurts most: their wallets. Licensed merchandise creates revenue not only for the Redskins but also for all 32 NFL teams who share it. The ruling does not mean the Redskins legally have to change their name or stop selling Redskins merchandise. But the lack of federally registered trademark protections means counterfeiters selling T-shirts with the Redskins name could have more of a claim to cash that normally goes into the NFL revenue pie. “For the owners, this has gone from a moral to a financial issue,” says Warren Zola, sports-law expert at the Caroll School of Management at Boston College.

Practically, the ruling could challenge the NFL’s ability to enforce its trademark protection, says Christine Haight Farley, a trademark-law expert and professor at the American University Washington College of Law. If the ruling withstands appeal — and the Redskins are sure to appeal it — and a counterfeiter starts selling merchandise with the Redskins name, with a design that the patent office has deemed a canceled trademark, that person would likely receive a cease-and-desist letter claiming that while the trademark is unregistered, the Redskins have a common-law claim to the mark. The big question, says Farley, is, If the counterfeiter then challenged the Redskins claim in a federal court, would that court protect a trademark that another federal government entity has canceled and deemed “disparaging to Native Americans”? In some recent cases, Farley says, courts have not protected unregistered marks that have been denied registration under the trademark act. “A federal court may deny a remedy to a party who comes to court with unclean hands,” Farley says.

More important, really, is the timing and wording of the decision. The anti-Redskins movement has been boiling. In May, 50 U.S. Senators signed a letter asking the Redskins to consider changing the name. An effective anti-Redskins ad ran during the NBA Finals. And now the U.S. government has ruled that the term is indeed offensive. Last year, USA Today asked Snyder if he would consider changing the name it he lost the trademark lawsuit. “We’ll never change the name,” he said. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

The government canceled the trademarks. It’s time for Snyder to cancel those caps.

TIME Horse Racing

No Triple Crown: Anger and Sadness at the Belmont Stakes

2014 Belmont Stakes
Steve Coburn, co-owner of California Chrome, not happy while watching the 146th running of the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 7, 2014 in Elmont, New York. Rob Carr—Getty Images

California Chrome fell short in his Triple Crown bid. And co-owner Steve Coburn was not happy about it. Inside a day of horse racing sadness.

“Hey, Sophia Loren, baby, how are you?” Steve Coburn, co-owner of Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome, called out to a woman he thought resembled the actress, who was standing across from him at Barn 4 at Belmont Park.

It was about an hour before race time, and Coburn, wearing a purple shirt, green tie, beige cowboy hat, and a blazer that had a large button reading “Got Chrome” on it, was having a good ol’ time. He was loose and loveable, with his walrus mustache and large personality.

“They tell me I’m the next John Wayne,” Coburn said to the surrounding crowd, which included his co-owner Perry Martin, who barely makes a peep. “We can make a pretty good movie together.”

But after California Chrome finished tied for fourth in the Belmont Stakes, adding to a maddening Triple Crown drought that is now 36 years old, Coburn was far from ducal. In his post-race interview on NBC, he ranted about the Triple Crown setup, lamenting the fact that horses that don’t run both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness are still eligible for the Belmont Stakes, making them fresh for the tortuous 1.5-mile test.

“This is coward’s way out,” Coburn said. “If you’ve got a horse, run him in all three.” His wife looked like she was trying to get him to stop talking. “I don’t care,” he could be heard snarling afterwards, presumably after a chiding from Mrs. Coburn.

Not that he didn’t have a point. In most sports, the playing field is level: you play the same amount of games in the regular season before the playoffs. The problem is that Coburn got sour on a sick horse. Tonalist, the Belmont winner, got ill before the Wood Memorial, a key prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Without running in the Wood, Tonalist could not earn enough points to qualify for the Derby. That’s not cowardly, Steve.

Also, an injury might have cost Calfornia Chrome anyway. His right front foot had a patch of blood on it after the race. At some point during the run, the shoe of his back right foot overextended and clipped the flesh of his front one.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, when a Triple Crown hopeful can’t catch the leader down the stretch at Belmont, the deflation that hangs over the crowd is oppressive indeed. Written on every face is the question, “Will we ever see another Triple Crown in our lifetimes?”

“He’s a push-button horse,” said a still hopeful Chrome fan, Amy Arvanitis, while her horse was in fourth at the three-quarter-mile mark. Arvanitis, who is friends with Chrome trainer Art Sherman, was watching near the rail at the finish line. At the mile, he was still in fourth. “Come on, Victor, come on baby!” said Arvanitis, imploring California Chrome’s jockey, Victor Espinoza, to open things up. But the horse just didn’t have it. “Aw f–k!” she exclaimed, just before the finish. Right after, she dropped her lip and made a tragic face. “I’m devastated.”

Kathleen Dunagan, an artist and equestrian hobbyist with a close attachment to California Chrome, had tears in her eyes as she left the track. “I thought he was going to be our Seabiscuit,” Dunagan said.

California Chrome’s backstory has the underdog elements: Coburn and Martin, who barely knew each other, dropped $8,000 on an unimpressive filly, Love the Chase. A groom said whoever bought Love the Chase was a dumbass, so they named their new ownership group Dumb Ass Partners. Coburn and Martin mated Love the Chase to another underwhelming horse, Lucky Pulpit, and somehow they produced a near Triple Crown winner. “He just came out of nowhere,” says Dunagan. “I thought it was going to just be so wonderful. I’m sorry, I usually don’t get so emotional about that stuff.” Dunagan kept on walking — and crying.

Before the race, the California Chrome team could not have been more confident. With more than three hours to go until post time, Chrome’s exercise rider, Willie Delgado, entered the horse’s barn with a case of Coors Light and a bag of ice. Alan Sherman, California Chrome’s assistant trainer — and son of Art — walked outside with a beer in his left hand, cigarette in his right. When asked to describe Chrome’s morning workout, Delgado said he “was like a monster.” He has just been in the horse’s stall, and said “what’s up boy, you going to do this?” California Chrome’s ears perked up, Delgado said. That, to him, was a clear answer. “Hell, yes.”

Afterwards, Delgado insisted he wasn’t devastated. “I’m not sad, not sad,” Delgado said back at the barn. “He gave he the ride of my life. He’s still my hero.”

If only all those people at Belmont could say the same.

TIME nba finals

Don’t Blame LeBron’s Cramps, or San Antonio’s A/C Breakdown, For Heat’s Loss

LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts after cramping up against the San Antonio Spurs during Game One of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 5, 2014 in San Antonio.
LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts after cramping up against the San Antonio Spurs during Game One of the 2014 NBA Finals at the AT&T Center on June 5, 2014 in San Antonio. Andy Lyons—Getty Images

The oppressive Game 1 conditions were unfortunate. But they did not decide the game, or this series.

It’s tempting. Too tempting, really, especially if you’ve joined the LeBron vs. Jordan debate over the last few years. Remember Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals, when Michael Jordan, nearly collapsing on the court because of the flu, still scored 38 points to lead Chicago to a crucial Game 5 victory in Utah (the Bulls would clinch the series at home in Game 6)? And Thursday night we had LeBron James, cramping in the San Antonio sweat after the arena’s air conditioning system malfunctioned, being carried off the court in the fourth quarter, before the Spurs closed the game with a 16-3 run to beat Miami 110-95.

MJ would not have done that. Man up, LeBron. It’s tempting.

But it’s ludicrous.

James, remember, played pretty great in the oppressive heat. He scored 25 points in 33 minutes on 9-17 shooting, while grabbing 6 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists. “Rather than seeing this as a sign of weakness, or that he’s fragile, I think it’s the opposite,” says Dr. James Gladstone, co-chief of sports medicine at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “He pushed his body as far as he could go.”

And while San Antonio’s A/C malfunction is embarrassing and a potential danger to fans and players, it should not have stopped the game, despite the protestations of the NBA Players Association. “The playing conditions for tonight’s game were completely unacceptable from the opening tip,” Ron Klempner, acting executive director of the union, wrote in a text to Bloomberg. “In a situation like this, there needs to be more open communication before a decision is made that could potentially place players at risk.”

But players weren’t slipping all over the place. If anything, the game was a throwback — to outdoor summer hoops in the park, to the 1980s, when the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers played in 100 degree swelter at the old Boston Garden. Everyone played under the same conditions. No team had an advantage. The better team won. If you like the Heat, harp on that. Not the heat.

TIME Basketball

Sterling’s Surrender Is Gift for the NBA

BASKET NBA RACISM CLIPPERS
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling attends the NBA playoff game between the Clippers and the Golden State Warriors on April 21, 2014 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. ROBYN BECK—AFP/Getty Images

On the eve of the Finals, the disgraced Clippers owner agrees to $2 billion sale of his team, and drops a lawsuit against the league

On April 29, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that he was banning Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling from the league for life, thanks to the racist remarks he made in a private conversation that were caught on tape, and broadcast to the world. Silver also said he was terminating Sterling’s ownership of the Clippers, forcing Sterling to sell a team he took so much pride in owning. On that afternoon, right after Silver’s press conference, if I would have told you that the Sterling family would sell the Clippers a little over a month later, for nearly quadruple the previous record price for an NBA franchise, to the former CEO of Microsoft no less, and that Donald, who’s fond of suing people into submission, would drop his outstanding legal claim against the league on the day before the start of the NBA Finals — that the mess would be pretty much over in early June — you would have called me hopelessly naive and even a nutcase. Rightfully so.

The NBA, it turns out, is living in dreamland.

Sterling is saving the league and its fans a massive headache, by agreeing to his wife’s sale of the team to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, and by dropping the $1 billion anti-trust suit he filed against the NBA last week. Reality must have finally set in for Sterling. Because based on some of the assertions coming out of his camp over the last week, it was becoming clear he had no shot in this fight.

For example, in an interview with CNN last week, Sterling’s attorney Max Blecher made this absurd assertion: “If the NBA would have done what I think they should have done and to say ‘we’re rejecting the use of this illegally used evidence and not violating charges,’ no sponsor would have left in the first place.”

Say what? First of all, sponsors started fleeing the Clippers right after they heard the tape, before Silver used “this illegally used” evidence to issue his punishment for Sterling. The sponsor exodus gave Silver good reason to boot Sterling: under the NBA’s constitution, conduct that has an “adverse affect” on the league’s members can result in termination of ownership. A loss of sponsorship money was a clear, quantitative measure of “adverse affect.”

And second, the thought of sponsors factoring the technicality of California’s recording law into their decisions is laughable. “Oh, so that tape is probably illegal because California requires both parties to consent to being tape-recorded. No problem: we’re sticking with you, Donald Sterling and your racist remarks!” Come on. Sponsors don’t care about these legalities because they know customers don’t care. Under Sterling, people wanted nothing to do with the Clippers — whether the tape was legal or not, his words were loud and clear.

When those kinds of absurd statements are part of your case, you don’t really have a case.

The $1 billion anti-trust suit wasn’t going anywhere either. How can it be credible, when it asserted that a forced sale of the team could result in a lower purchase price than a non-forced sale? The team sold for $2 billion, nearly four times the previous record for an NBA team. Was Sterling supposed to get $4 billion? If anything, the forced sale drove up the price, as big rich names rushed to outbid other big rich names. Ballmer paid a prestige premium to be the savior of the Clippers.

So here we are, the Heat-Spurs rematch tipping off Thursday night, these Finals ripe with anticipation. And we might not hear a peep about Sterling all series. Has any commissioner, of any sports league, ever had a higher approval rating than Adam Silver does today? Not that it’s guaranteed to last: this $2 billion price tag for the Clippers might cause Silver headaches down the road. Because come collective bargaining time, players always use rising franchise values as leverage. If they’re exploding, the players argue, we deserve a larger share.

But these worries can wait: the earliest the players can opt out of the current agreement is 2017. Let Silver enjoy his accolades. And it’s now time to get really excited about the Ballmer era in L.A. As a courtside entertainer/agitator, he might just rival Mark Cuban.

The team’s player development staff must be psyched.

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