TIME Football

Another High School Football Player Dies After Injury

Equipment sits on a football practice field near the main entrance for Shoreham-Wading River High School on Oct. 2, 2014, in Shoreham, N.Y.
Equipment sits on a football practice field near the main entrance for Shoreham-Wading River High School on Oct. 2, 2014, in Shoreham, N.Y. Kathy Kmonicek—AP

Tom Cutinella, 16, collapsed after a collision in a game. He's the third high school football player to die in a week

Tragedy has struck a high school football field — again. Tom Cutinella, a 16-year-old junior from Shoreham-Wading River High School in Suffolk County, N.Y., died after suffering an injury in Wednesday’s game between Shoreham-Wading River and John Glenn High School in Elwood, N.Y. Steven R. Cohen, superintendent of the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District, told reporters Cutinella’s fatal injury was the result of a “freak football play” where there was “typical contact.”

Cohen said Cutinella suffered a head injury; Newsday reported it occurred after he “blocked an opponent for a teammate.” School officials said Cutinella stood up after the play, then collapsed. The injury occurred at 6 p.m., police say: Cutinella was rushed to a hospital, and pronounced dead Wednesday night. The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office told TIME that it has yet to perform an autopsy on Cutinella. Daniel Holtzman, principal of Shoreham-Wading River High School, said Cutinella was nice, well-rounded, and an “amazing student.”

ESPN says that in the last week alone, three high school football players have died. One other death, like Cutinella’s, happened after a collision. The third player died after collapsing in pre-game warm-ups. As TIME noted in a recent cover story, eight people died playing football in 2013, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina. That was the highest toll since 2001; all eight were high school players.

This latest incident is another stark reminder of the risks of high school football. Despite these deaths and heightened awareness of the dangers of concussions, high school football participation has held steady: it’s down just 1.12% since the 2007-2008 school year, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Participation for kids ages 6 to 12, however, has dropped 26.5% between 2007 and 2013, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

On Thursday afternoon, around 1,000 people gathered for a candlelight vigil in Cutinella’s honor at the Shoreham-Wading River field. As Newsday describes it:

Cutinella’s No. 54 was up in lights on the scoreboard, and at the 50-yard line white candlelights were set up to form the number of the linebacker and guard…When his Wildcats teammates lined up as if for a football play, they left a spot empty for Cutinella, 16, and players began talking about the student they admired.

“He always went out of his way to make you smile,” one player said.


TIME Athletes

Dull Derek Jeter’s New Site Could Actually Be Cool

New York Yankees v Boston Red Sox
Derek Jeter speaks to the media following his last career game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on September 28, 2014 in Boston. Jim Rogash—Getty Images

That didn't take long. Three days into retirement, the Yankee great launches a media business. Here's hoping it's more interesting than he's been.

Oh, so that was it. For 20 years, Derek Jeter was one of the most boring athlete interviews in history. We now know why: he was apparently saving the good stuff for retirement — and he’d like to make a little money off it to boot.

Just three days into his post-baseball life, Jeter has stolen some attention from this year’s postseason with the announcement that he’s now the “founding publisher” of a new website, The Players’ Tribune. The conceit: a site where athletes can connect directly with fans, unfiltered, presumably at more than the 140 characters than Twitter currently offers.

“The Players’ Tribune aims to provide unique insight into the daily sports conversation and to publish first-person stories directly from athletes,” says a brief mission statement on the site. “From video to podcasts to player polls and written pieces, The Tribune will strive to be “The Voice of the Game.”

“I’m not a robot,” Jeter writes in an introductory note. So why did he often come across as one? “I realize I’ve been guarded. I learned early on in New York, the toughest media environment in sports, that just because a reporter asks you a question doesn’t mean you have to answer. I attribute much of my success in New York to my ability to understand and avoid unnecessary distractions. I do think fans deserve more than “no comments” or “I don’t knows.” Those simple answers have always stemmed from a genuine concern that any statement, any opinion or detail, might be distorted. I have a unique perspective. Many of you saw me after that final home game, when the enormity of the moment hit me . . . We all have emotions. We just need to be sure our thoughts will come across the way we intend.”

The irony of Derek Jeter, distruster of media, starting a media business is outright comical. (My colleague Jack Dickey nails it here on Twitter). Jeter’s pitch is that the site has “no filter.” But don’t expect real honesty here. Twitter already works too well for that. The reason athletes tend to spout their true feelings — which they often wind up regretting — on Twitter is that Twitter doesn’t give people time to think. The whole operation — the 140-character limits, the endless chatter on your timeline — thrives on quick outbursts. Athletes aren’t going to thoughtfully air grievances with teammates on Derek Jeter’s website, which will apparently be staffed with editors. The editorial process will slow things down, and discourage spontaneity. It gives publicists time to get involved. Readers don’t want glorified press releases.

A certain type of story, however, does offer a win-win proposition to both athletes and fans. Athletes like talking about their craft. And sports geeks like reading about it. If Derek Jeter offers deep insight into how he pulled off all those jump throws, for example, that’s safe stuff for him — nothing remotely controversial about it. And readers benefit. Baseball lovers would eat it up. Parents can share Jeter’s tips with their kids.

(Quick: what are the two most-viewed video clips on TIME’s YouTube channel? Number one — by over a million views — Kobe Bryant offering hoops tips. Number two: Novak Djokovic explaining his serve and giving other insights on his game.)

So I, for one, look forward to seeing what Jeter cooks up. And if it takes a boring athlete to make an athlete-bylined website compelling, so be it. And who isn’t ready for more Jeter right now anyway?


Are NFL Head Injuries Causing Domestic Violence?

Jovan Belcher, in September 2012.
Jovan Belcher, in September 2012. Kansas City Star—MCT/Getty Images

A report shows that Jovan Belcher, who killed his girlfriend before taking his own life in 2012, probably had football-related brain trauma. A link between the NFL's most troubling issues is far from implausible

Another football “what if” was just answered. In December 2012, after Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend before fatally shooting himself in the head in the team parking lot, you couldn’t help but wonder: could head injuries associated with football have contributed to this horrible act? Aggression and lack of impulse control are known symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain disease that had ravaged the brains of over 30 deceased NFL players. A few of them had committed suicide.

Still, you had to approach the question gently, because casually linking the game to Belcher’s actions was irresponsible. Belcher also had “no long concussion history,” the Chiefs said at the time. There was no evidence that he had brain damage.

Until now. Far too often over the past few years, football’s worst fears are confirmed. According to a neuropathological report prepared in the wrongful death lawsuit that lawyers for Belcher’s daughter have filed against the Chiefs, Belcher’s brain showed signs of damage “fully consistent with the pathological presentation of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) as it is reported in the medical literature.” For example, the research — conducted by Dr. Piotr Kozlowski, dean of research and professor of pathology at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York City — says that Belcher had clumps of tau protein in “the 7 out of 7 sections of the right (4 sections) and the left (3 sections) of the hippocampi.” A buildup of abnormal tau levels can cause nerve cell damage in the brain.

Belcher’s body was exhumed a year after his death; his brain showed “severe decomposition,” according to the report. Researchers can only diagnose CTE posthumously. “The quality and quantity are compromised because there was some breakdown of the brain after death and due to the gunshot,” says Dr. Sam Gandy, director of the Mount Sinai Center for Cognitive Health and NFL Neurological Center, who examined Kozlowski’s report at TIME’s request. “But I don’t see any reason to doubt this reading of CTE.”

Belcher is not the first athlete with signs of CTE to act violently. Chris Benoit, a former pro wrestler, killed his wife and son before committing suicide in 2007. The family of Paul Oliver, a former safety for the San Diego Chargers and New Orleans Saints, sued the NFL, the Chargers, the Saints and several helmet manufacturers after Oliver’s 2013 suicide. In an upcoming episode of HBO’s Real Sports, Oliver’s wife Chelsea talks about how her husband abused her. She says he pushed her, kicked her, pulled her hair, and threw her against the wall. One time, she says he dragged her up and down stairs. HBO asked Chelsea if she felt like her life was in jeopardy. “As time went on, I starting thinking about that, yes,” she said. Both Oliver and Benoit had CTE.

After these tragedies, all “what ifs” are on the table. It’s more than fair to ask if the NFL’s two most troubling issues, domestic violence and head trauma, are linked.”You can’t say those brown spots on Jovan Belcher’s brain caused him to do what he did,” says Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at the NorthShore University HealthSystem outside of Chicago, who has extensively studied football brain injuries. “But are those brown spots tell-tale signs of a brain injury that influences behavior? With every case like this, we keep upping the ante.”

Even if players haven’t fully developed CTE, or haven’t suffered obvious concussions, they still may be at risk. “The frontal lobe of the brain often jostles around during head contact in football games,” says Gandy. “And the frontal lobe has an inhibiting effect that helps control behavior. Damage to the frontal lobe can compromise the inhibiting effect, and cause mood swings, even violence. You simply can’t exclude the possibility that frontal lobe damage is linked to damaging behavior.”

Scientists are starting to identifying possible ways to spot at-risk players while they’re still alive. Gandy injected a radioactive chemical that sticks to tau into a former NFL player who has suffered cognitive decline: a PET scan picked up the tau buildup, showing pathology consistent with CTE. “We’re still early in our experience, but at a minimum, we can signal to people that they might clinically be showing signs of CTE,” Gandy says. His team just published this neuroimaging technique in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

Bailes has also been working on a PET scanning method to spot CTE in living patients, in conjunction with UCLA researchers. He anticipates expanding it to NorthShore. “While it’s been rewarding to do work on tau,” says Bailes, “it’s gets a little tiring diagnosing patients when they’re already dead.”


TIME major league baseball

Baseball’s Derek Jeter Problem

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees
Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees smiles prior to a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on September 22, 2014. Mike Stobe—Getty Images

What will happen when the sport's most recognized and admired player leaves the game?

The New York Yankees have a Derek Jeter problem. Sure, the endless pomp surrounding Jeter’s retirement has kept a lot of people watching a team that won’t make the playoffs. But during his long goodbye, Jeter simply hasn’t produced. Entering Wednesday’s game, Jeter was hitting .255 – a full 55 points below his career average. His .615 on-base percentage (OPS) is the second-lowest of his career, ahead of only his .542 clip during last year’s injury induced abbreviated 17-game campaign. Jeter has hit a home run in 0.6% of his plate appearances; excluding his brief call-up in 1995, when he did not hit a home run in his 51 plate appearances, Jeter’s prior low was a 1.3% home run percentage in 1997. So in this category, it has been his weakest year, by two. He has drawn a walk in 5.6% of his plate appearances, another career low.

Outside the batter’s box, Jeter’s struggles as a shortstop have long been documented. And they’ve continued this season. According to the analytics, he’s below-average at his position.

In the public’s imagination, Jeter — who will play his last home game as a Yankee on Thursday night — is one of the greatest clutch hitters of all-time. But on Tuesday night, with the Yankees barely hanging on to the mathematical miracle they would have needed to make the post-season, Mighty Jeter struck out, with the tying run was on first, to end the game. It was a fitting summation of the season.

The Derek Jeter problem extends to all of baseball. Despite his shaky last-season performance, Jeter is still the most familiar, marketable, beloved player in the game. And right now, the sport has no one to replace him.

That love was on full display a few Sundays ago, during Derek Jeter Day at Yankee Stadium. Three-plus hours before the start of New York’s game against the Kansas City Royals – which the Yanks lost 2-0 – dozens of Yankees fans milled about. Joe Talnagi, 21, was asked what he was going to do during all this pre-game down time. “Probably cry,” said Talnagi, a college student from New Jersey. “Number 2” patches graced bottles of wine resting on the locker room chairs of all his Yankee teammates, the Yankee uniforms, and the flags atop the stadium. They were painted onto the field, along the first- and third-base lines. Jeter’s former teammate Jorge Posada showed up, and called Jeter the greatest Yankee of all-time. Michael Jordan was the surprise guest, and said Jeter is an “idol to me.”

Jeter’s fans, teammates, and buddies aren’t the only ones who idolize him. According to Q Scores Company, among active athletes recognized by more than half the U.S. population, Jeter owns the second-highest “Q score” – a general favorability rating – trailing only Peyton Manning. The bad news: no other baseball player ranks in the top 15. “Baseball players aren’t even on the national radar for the general population,” says Henry Schafer, an executive vice president at Q Scores. “They’re just not out there like players from other sports.”

Baseball has become a more regionalized game, a series of thriving fiefdoms with little national cultural connection. Thanks to lucrative local television deals, stable attendance, and smart digital investments by Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the game’s overall revenues have grown. The sport is in fine economic health. But fans are getting older. The game is getting slower and slower, which hurts its appeal among younger viewers. Rarely is a regular season game appointment television. There’s just too much competition. A quarter century ago, NBC offered a “Game of the Week” on Saturdays. Now, the network offers Premier League soccer, a hipper product, on its cable channels. European soccer over baseball once seemed like a ridiculous proposition. Not anymore.

How did Jeter, who played 20 seasons in New York, won five World Series rings and has 3,461 hits–sixth-best of all time–break through? “Being able to accomplish all that, for that long a period of time, in a major market is highly unusual,” says Schafer. “The Yankees are both loved and hated across the country, but what’s surprising is he rises above it. He’s a likeable individual, and he’s respected.”

For 20 years, no personal scandal has interrupted the Jeter narrative: he’s a winner, a leader, a guy who plays the game “the right way.” During the Jeter ceremony, if any fans played a “right way” drinking game during the dozens of between-inning personalized messages that former teammates, opponents, New York sports legends like Joe Namath and random big names like Kenny Chesney and Matt Lauer delivered on the video board, they were sloshed before the seventh-inning stretch.

“He’s pretty much the face of baseball,” says Schafer. “There’s going to be a big void. It’s going to be like when the NBA was trying to find the next Michael Jordan. Baseball is going to have a very tough time finding the next Derek Jeter.” On Schafer’s list, there is one other active baseball player that more than half of the general population recognizes.

It’s A-Rod.


Roger Goodell Is the Committee Commissioner

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell News Conference
National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference on Sept. 19, 2014 inside the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City. Alex Goodlett—Getty Images

Answers were hard to find during Roger Goodell's eagerly awaited press conference. But there will be a committee

You hoped for something different, but in these kind of settings, Roger Goodell has always been a master of empty words. His annual state-of-the-NFL address press conference, at the Super Bowl, is always worth skipping. Things got moved up a bit this year, thanks to the heat Goodell has faced over the NFL’s handling of recent domestic abuse cases. And the main takeaway from Goodell’s frantically awaited press conference Friday—which was only held after Goodell’s nine-day silence in the midst of the NFL’s worst PR worst crisis in years became utterly indefensible—was that a committee would figure things out.

Ah yes, the committee, the task force, the best way to buy time. The committee itself won’t even be in place, probably, until right before the Super Bowl. That committee, Goodell said, would re-write the NFL’s personal conduct policy—which he himself instituted after becoming commissioner in 2007. Everything is on the table, Goodell said. Maybe he’ll give up some of the judge and jury power the owners granted him, after they wanted to punish misbehaving players to clean up the NFL’s image. And ironically, that very same policy—because of the maddening inconsistencies in its execution—is tarnishing it.

Yes, the NFL’s funding of the domestic violence hotline, as one example, is going to help a lot of people. That shouldn’t be taken lightly. But why now? If the NFL really cared about domestic violence, this kind of donation would have been made years ago. But no, it comes only after a horrifying tape of a star running back punching a woman becomes public. So you can’t talk about getting it right, about being a societal leader, when such moves, though noble and important, are a response. When they’re defense. The NFL can’t hold itself as a “microcosm of society,” as Goodell said, when most of society isn’t bashing heads every week. The league did the same things with concussions, and funded research and restricted return-to-play only after the league was being sued. Heads have been banging together for years. Why now?

Goodell promised transparency and accountability, but punted the most sensitive Ray Rice questions over to the “independent” investigation former FBI head Robert Mueller will lead to figure out who knew what and when. If the personal conduct policy is going to be reworked, it needs to be codified. What exactly triggers punishment? An arrest? An indictment? A conviction?

Tune in after the Super Bowl. In the meantime, tune in Sunday, as so many people surely will. No amount of bad press has stopped the NFL’s financial windfalls. No committee is needed for that.

TIME Football

Football’s Ultimate Cost: The Chad Stover Story

The Stover family never expected that their son wouldn't walk off the field

It was halloween night, and the Tipton Cardinals needed a tackle. trailing 27-18 in the opening round of the Missouri high school playoffs, a stop here—on first down and 10 with less than seven minutes to play—would help keep Tipton’s fading season alive.

As the running back took the Handoff and sprinted right, Tipton’s Chad Stover, a 16-year-old defensive back, dove at his legs with arms outstretched. Chad’s head collided with the runner’s right thigh as the back dodged the tackle to gain another few yards. Chad went down, and his helmet smacked into the ground.

Chad wobbled to his feet, and after a time-out, he jogged to the sideline. twice, a Tipton assistant coach asked if he felt well enough to return to the game. twice, Chad said he was good. He went back in, and Tipton huddled up. “Something’s wrong,” Chad told a teammate before lining up for the play. Suddenly, his legs turned soft.

“When he walked out the door to play football that day, it didn’t cross my mind that i wouldn’t see him come off that field,” Chad’s mother, Amy, says nearly eight months later. “it just didn’t.”

Read the full TIME cover story here


Despite Scandals, The NFL Always Wins

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens
Wide receiver Steve Smith #89 of the Baltimore Ravens is pulled down by the face mask by free safety Mike Mitchell #23 of the Pittsburgh Steelers on September 11, 2014 in Baltimore. Patrick Smith—Getty Images

Ray Rice assaulted his fiancée. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is under fire. Football has a host of other problems. Still, TV ratings soared.

Thursday night was the true test. A nation was disgusted with the NFL. At best, the league’s leader, Roger Goodell, was wholly incompetent in his handling of the Ray Rice mess. At worst, he’s lying about the way the NFL conducted the Rice investigation. No matter what, the world had just seen one of the league’s most prominent players punch his fiancée on video. And Rice played for the Baltimore Ravens, the team featured on CBS’ first Thursday night NFL broadcast. The Ravens hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And those Ravens, remember, had been tone-deaf to the horrors of domestic violence. Whether or not the team saw the tape of Rice’s assault before Monday — in a pre-game interview, Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti told CBS that he hadn’t — the team knew, months ago, that Rice struck Janay Palmer during their February altercation. Most employees would have been fired after committing such an offense. Instead, the Ravens staged a press conference with Rice and Palmer, and tweeted out that Palmer– now Rice’s wife — “deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.” After the NFL suspended Rice for a mere two games in July, Ravens coach John Harbaugh called Rice a “heck of a guy.” A Ravens PR staffer went out of his way to sing Rice’s praises.

So if there was any night for the American public to shun the NFL, it was last night. Ravens-Steelers.

But now, the returns are in. And as always, the NFL wins.

And wins big. “THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL” ON CBS AND NFL NETWORK MORE THAN DOUBLES OPENING NIGHT RATINGS FROM A YEAR AGO, screamed a Friday press release. The twofold ratings increase of the Steelers-Ravens game, compared to the New York Jets-New England Patriots game on September 12, 2013, is impressive, though somewhat misleading. This year’s Thursday night game was shown on both CBS and the NFL Network, while Jets-Pats was only broadcast on the NFL Network. Double the channels, double the ratings.

What’s more salient: the game gave CBS its best Thursday prime-time numbers since May of 2006.

The NFL has failed leadership. The NFL has behavior problems. The NFL enjoys a federal tax-exemption it doesn’t deserve. The NFL milks the public out of money for stadiums. The NFL turned its back on concussions. It may have enabled painkiller abuse. The NFL supports a racist team nickname.

But the NFL is no political entity, no leader. The NFL is a beloved product. The NFL has passes and catches and tackles and gambling and fantasy leagues. The NFL spurs parties and beer-drinking and man caves.

Roger Goodell may get booted. More players will likely break the law. But these developments won’t affect the NFL one bit. Because even during one of the league’s worst hours, the votes kept rolling in.

They won’t stop.


The Convicted Abuser Who’s Still Playing In The NFL

Carolina Panthers v Pittsburgh Steelers
Hardy looks on from the sideline during a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 28, 2014 George Gojkovich—Getty Images

Greg Hardy was convicted of assaulting a woman. Neither the NFL or the Carolina Panthers have benched him

Ray Rice was caught on tape punching his future wife. He’s indefinitely suspended from the NFL. Greg Hardy, a Pro-Bowl defensive end for the Carolina Panthers, was arrested on May 13 for assaulting an ex-girlfriend. On the arrest warrant, a police officer made the following statement. The capital letters appeared in the document.

“I, the undersigned, find that there is probable cause to believe that on or about the date of the offense shown [May 13, 2014] and in the county named above [Mecklenburg County, North Carolina] the defendant named above [Hardy] unlawfully and willingly did assault [redacted], a female person, by GRABBING VICTIM AND THROWING TO THE FLOOR, THROWING INTO A BATHTUB, SLAMMING HER AGAINST A FUTON, AND STRANGLING HER. The defendant is a male person and was at least 18 years of age when the assault occurred.”

On the “complaint and motion for domestic violence protective order,” the accuser described the incident.

“On May 13, 2014, Greg Hardy attacked me in his apartment. Hardy picked me up and threw me into the tile tub area in his bathroom. I have bruises from head to toe, including my head, neck, back, shoulders arms, legs, elbow and feet. Hardy pulled me from the tub by my hair, screaming at me that he was going to kill me, break my arms and other threats that I completely believe. He drug me across the bathroom and out into the bedroom. Hardy choked me with both hands around my throat while I was lying on the floor. Hardy picked me up over his head and threw me onto a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns. I landed on those weapons. Hardy bragged that all of those assault rifles were loaded. Landing on those weapons bruised [my] neck and back. Hardy screamed for his “administrative assistant” (Sammy Curtis) to come into the room and hold me down. Curtis came into the room, grabbed me from behind and held me down. Hardy and Curtis then took me into the living room area. I wasn’t nearly strong or fast enough to escape. I begged them to let me go & I wouldn’t tell anyone what he did. They took me out into the hall, pushed me down & went back inside his apartment. I crawled to the elevator and ran into CMPD (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department)

In court, the accuser testified: “He looked me in my eyes and he told me he was going to kill me. I was so scared I wanted to die. When he loosened his grip slightly, I said just,`Do it. Kill me.”

On June 15, a judge found Hardy guilty of assaulting a female and communicating threats. She sentenced him to 18 months probation; a 60-day jail sentence was suspended. Hardy appealed, and since he was convicted of a misdemeanor, under North Carolina law he’s entitled to a jury trial, which is set for Nov. 17. In court, Hardy and Curtis denied that Hardy assaulted the victim, or communicated threats.

The world hasn’t seen this incident on tape. Hardy played in Carolina’s first game. He didn’t practice on Wednesday for what the team said were “personal reasons” — he met with his attorney. But Hardy returned to practice Thursday and as of right now, he is slated to play on Sunday, as the Panthers host the Detroit Lions. Pressure is building on the team to change that and the Charlotte Observer called for Hardy’s suspension in an editorial.

On Wednesday night, hours after Hardy missed practice, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson received a humanitarian honor in Charlotte: The Echo Award Against Indifference.

TIME Boxing

Don’t Forget, You Can Also Boycott Floyd Mayweather

Floyd Mayweather Jr. Media Workout
Floyd Mayweather Jr. arrives for a workout at the Mayweather Boxing Club on September 2, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mayweather Jr. will defend his WBC/WBA welterweight titles against Marcos Maidana on September 13 in Las Vegas. Eric Jamison—Getty Images

Convicted abuser set to make over $30 million from boxing match this weekend says NFL got it wrong on Ray Rice

Sadly, it took the Ray Rice video to expose another very troubling sports character to a larger audience. Over the years you might not have given much thought to Floyd Mayweather Jr., often called the “best-pound-for-pound fighter on the planet,” given that boxing is largely irrelevant.

A quick primer: He’s never lost a fight. He’s very rich. He has twice pleaded guilty to attacking women, and spent two months in jail for domestic battery in 2012. He’s been accused of battering women several other times. His ex-fiancee filed a civil suit against him last week, in which she accuses him of assaulting her.

Now Mayweather is defending the NFL’s original two-game suspension of Rice, who attacked fiancee Janay Palmer—now his wife—in February and was dropped by the Baltimore Ravens this week after video of the assault was made public. “I think there’s a lot worse things that go on in other people’s households, also,” Mayweather told a group of reporters Thursday. “It’s just not caught on video, if that’s safe to say.”

He also said he’s been falsely accused of domestic attacks.”Like I’ve said in the past, no bumps, no bruises, no nothing,” Mayweather said. “With O.J. and Nicole, you seen pictures. With Chris Brown and Rihanna, you seen pictures… You guys have yet to see any pictures of a battered woman, a woman who says she was kicked and beaten [by Mayweather]. So I just live my life and try to stay positive, and try to become a better person each and every day.”

In advance of Mayweather’s next fight, this Saturday, the Washington Post‘s Rick Maese penned an illuminating profile of the champion fighter. In discussing his criminal past, Mayweather actually mentions two civil rights icons:

“Malcolm X been to jail; Martin Luther King been to jail. The list goes on and on. You live and you learn. But I think the main thing, I think people should just learn from the mistakes that are made. And I’m not saying that when I went to jail it was a mistake. But things happen and you live and you learn.”

While Rice may never play in the NFL again, and fans are boycotting merchandise with his name on it, Mayweather isn’t doing too badly for himself. For Saturday’s fight, the boxer will likely net $30 million no matter what. Ticket sales, and pay-per-view purchases of $65 to $75, will bring him millions more.

“Whether you pay to see me win or pay to see me lose, I’m the smart one at the end of the day,” Mayweather told Maese, “because you pay me.”

Perhaps that’s a payment worth skipping.

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