TIME Football

San Francisco 49ers Release Ray McDonald Over Behavior ‘Pattern’

Ray McDonald at a game between San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sep. 21, 2014.
Ray McDonald at a game between San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sep. 21, 2014. John Biever—Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

McDonald is being investigated for a possible sexual assault

San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke announced Wednesday that the team has released defensive tackle Ray McDonald.

Baalke said the decision to cut McDonald was due to a “pattern” of behavior by the player.

Earlier Wednesday, the San Jose Police Department announced that McDonald is being investigated for a possible sexual assault. McDonald’s house was served with a search warrant on Tuesday night after the department received a call from a local hospital regarding the alleged victim, who was receiving treatment. No arrests have been made and the investigation is ongoing.

“We certainly believe in due process, and have demonstrated that over time. But when it becomes a pattern of poor decision making, which it has in this case, it becomes a time it leaves you with no other choice than the one we made today,” Baalke said.​

McDonald, 30, spent eight seasons in San Francisco after being drafted in the third round in 2007.

He made 68 starts for the 49ers and has 210 tackles, 19.5 sacks and three fumble recoveries in his career. The veteran started all 14 games to date this season and had 39 tackles and three sacks.

Last month, McDonald was cleared after an investigation into an alleged domestic violence incident at his home. He was arrested on Aug. 31 on suspicion of felony domestic violence, and after the investigation, the district attorney said it did not find sufficient evidence to press charges and characterized it as a “physical struggle between two parties, each party blaming the other.”

In September, police revealed an earlier incident that occurred at the home of McDonald and his fiancée. In May, police had been called to the home due to a dispute between a man and a woman in which the woman eventually pulled a gun on the man.

McDonald continued to play throughout his investigation for domestic violence, as 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and CEO Jed York both said they would not discipline McDonald until there were further developments in his case.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NBA

Reggie Miller: ‘No Question’ Michael Jordan Tougher to Guard Than Kobe

"Michael Jordan on his worst day is ten times better than Kobe Bryant on his best day"

Kobe Bryant has surpassed Michael Jordan on the NBA’s career scoring list, but retired NBA guard Reggie Miller believes strongly that Jordan is the better player.

Miller was asked by Dan Patrick Tuesday whether Jordan or Bryant was tougher to guard. Miller said there is “no question” the answer is Jordan.

“Michael Jordan on his worst day is ten times better than Kobe Bryant on his best day,” Miller continued, “and that is not short-changing Kobe Bryant.”

Bryant surpassed Jordan’s career point total of 32,292 during Sunday’s game against the Timberwolves to move into third place on the NBA’s scoring list.

Bryant’s total currently sits at 32,331, but he has played 1,270 games, compared to Jordan’s 1,072. Jordan averaged 30.1 points per game over 15 seasons, while Bryant has averaged 25.5 points per game during his 18-year career.

Miller, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, faced Bryant 15 times in the regular season and Jordan 49 times. During those games, Jordan averaged 29.5 points and Bryant averaged 22.2 points.

This article originally appeared on Si.com

TIME Football

Players File Lawsuit Against NFL Over Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson Hearing
NFL running back Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings addresses the media after pleading "no contest" to a lesser misdemeanor charge of reckless assault Nov. 4, 2014 in Conroe, Texas. Bob Levey—Getty Images

NFL Players Association argues against NFL's decision to suspend the Vikings running back

The NFL Players Association has filed a lawsuit on behalf of suspended Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson against the NFL in federal court in Minneapolis, MN, on Monday morning, according to a release from the NFLPA.

The NFLPA’s intention to file suit was reported by Tom Pelissero of USA TODAY Sports on Sunday evening.

The suit is expected to challenge the impartiality of Harold Henderson, who upheld NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s suspension of Peterson on Friday. Henderson, a former league employee for nearly two decades, called Peterson’s domestic abuse case “arguably one of the most egregious cases of domestic violence” under Goodell’s nine-year tenure as commissioner.

Peterson was suspended for the season in November after he was indicted on felony charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child in September. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless assault on Nov. 4 after authorities claimed he hit his 4-year-old son with a switch.

Peterson cannot be reinstated before April 15, 2015.

After Henderson’s decision was handed down, the NFLPA responded in a statement:

The NFLPA expected this outcome, given the hearing officer’s relationship and financial ties to the NFL. The decision itself ignores the facts, the evidence and the collective bargaining agreement. This decision also represents the NFL’s repeated failure to adhere to due process and confirms its inconsistent treatment of players. Our union is considering immediate legal remedies.

At the hearing last week, the union argued that Peterson was punished retroactively under Goodell’s changes to the personal conduct policy in August. It also said Peterson was subjected to a “new and obfuscated disciplinary process,” according to USA TODAY.

Henderson rejected those claims in his ruling:

I conclude that the player has not demonstrated that the process and procedures surrounding his discipline were not fair and consistent; he was afforded all the protections and rights to which he is entitled, and I find no basis to vacate or reduce the discipline.

Henderson also echoed Goodell’s claims in a letter to Peterson that the Vikings star failed to “reflect remorse or appreciation for the seriousness of his actions.”

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Sports

Cleveland Cops Want Apology for NFL Player’s Tamir Rice Shirt

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns
Andrew Hawkins #16 of the Cleveland Browns walks onto the field while wearing a protest shirt during introductions prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland on Dec. 14, 2014. Joe Robbins—Getty Images

"It's pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law"

The head of the Cleveland Police Union is demanding an apology after Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wore a shirt before Sunday’s game that read, “Justice for Tamir Rice – John Crawford.”

Rice, a 12-year-old boy, died last month after he was shot by a Cleveland police officer who reportedly mistook his air gun for a real firearm. Crawford was shot and killed by police in August while holding an air rifle in a WalMart.

Hawkins wore the shirt coming out of the tunnel at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland before the Browns’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Afterward, Jeff Follmer, Police Patrolman Union president, sent newsnet5 in Cleveland the following statement:

It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law. They should stick to what they know best on the field. The Cleveland Police protect and serve the Browns stadium and the Browns organization owes us an apology.

Last week, Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi wore a shirt that read, “I Can’t Breathe,” during warmups before a game against the Indianapolis Colts. Athletes across the country have worn shirts with the message in protest of a grand jury’s decision not to indict the New York police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner.

Last month, St. Louis police offers were angered after Rams players took the field with a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” gesture used by protesters in Ferguson, Mo., and across the country. None of the athletes protesting with the shirts have been punished by the NFL or the NBA.

This article originally appeared on Si.com

TIME NFL

Johnny Manziel Stumbles Early, Often in Less Than Spectacular Debut Start

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel rolls out during the third quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium on Dec. 14, 2014 Joe Maiorana—USA Today Sports/ Reuters

“He played like a rookie, and looked like a rookie”

Let’s be clear about one thing amid all the infernally hot takes regarding the first NFL start of Johnny Manziel: A bad start to an NFL career doesn’t really mean much. For every quarterback who has started hot only to flame out just as quickly, there’s a quarterback who threw up all over himself to start his career and then went on to do great things.

That said, Manziel’s performance against the Cincinnati Bengals was not one that will have tongues wagging about his future — at least, not in a positive sense. Manziel looked overwhelmed and frustrated more often than not in Sunday’s 30-0 loss, throwing several passes too high and finishing with 10 completions in 18 attempts for 80 passing yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and three sacks. Cincinnati’s defense, which had been exploited by the legs of Carolina’s Cam Newton in a 37-37 Week 6 tie, shut Manziel down in the Bengals’ second matchup against a truly mobile quarterback this season. Manziel ran five times for 13 yards, and most of them were scrambles as opposed to designed runs.

“He didn’t play well,” Browns head coach Mike Pettine said after the game. “He played like a rookie, and looked like a rookie.”

Not that it was all Manziel’s fault. The Browns managed only 53 rushing yards on 17 attempts and had just 38 total plays. Cleveland’s defense, which had kept the team afloat while Brian Hoyer had been dealing with his own struggles under center, gave up 244 yards on the ground on 45 carries and allowed rookie Jeremy Hill to run wild for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 25 attempts. Andy Daltonwasn’t too great himself, completing 14-of-24 passes for 117 yards, no touchdowns and an interception, but the Bengals were firing on all other cylinders, while the Browns were decidedly not.

Myriad quarterback issues aside, it may be time to concede that the Browns aren’t a very good team, that their 7-7 record is about as positive a result as could be expected, and it’s time to let either Manziel or Hoyer take their lumps while a foundation is built around them. There’s a great deal of talent in Cleveland, from the offensive line to the backfield to the defense, but this is a team that is struggling to hold it together consistently. What Pettine must do now is avoid the quarterback back-and-forth he’s engaged in of late. He’s seen Hoyer become ineffective, and he’s seen Manziel take his lumps. The question going forward is whether the Browns will let Manziel try to unlock his higher upside or give the ball back to Hoyer and hope that experience trumps the veteran’s obvious limitations.

What we do know is that Manziel didn’t make anyone’s job easier with this performance. Including his own. Pettine said after the game that Manziel will get to start the rest of the way this season, but we’ll see how the vagaries of the position play out.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME College football

Marcus Mariota’s Heisman Trophy Win Adds to Oregon’s Stunning Success

Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota answers questions during a press conference after winning the Heisman Trophy
Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota answers questions during a press conference after winning the Heisman Trophy in New York on Dec. 13, 2014. Brad Penner—USA Today Sports/Reuters

80th Heisman Trophy goes to Oregon’s quarterback

NEW YORK – Oregon wasn’t too concerned with subtlety during the 2001 season. That fall, the school kickstarted quarterback Joey Harrington’s Heisman Trophy campaign with a 10-story billboard plastered nearby Madison Square Garden in New York. The Ducks’ takeover of the Big Apple was the most visible element of Harrington’s campaign for the Heisman Trophy that season. For better or worse, the school’s efforts worked; Harrington escaped the relative anonymity of the Pacific Northwest and reached New York as a finalist, finishing fourth.

Thirteen years later, Marcus Mariota entered the season as another Heisman candidate hailing from Eugene. But how would the Hawaii native have felt about a billboard featuring his face the size of a minivan?

“I wouldn’t have enjoyed that,” Mariota said.

Luckily for the shy Mariota, he didn’t need the extra attention. Oregon’s quarterback did enough on his own this season. On Saturday, Mariota claimed the 80th Heisman Trophy, earning 90.92 percent of possible points, second all-time behind Ohio State‘s Troy Smith. He earned 788 first-place votes, which is the third-most in Heisman history, and he was named on 95.16 percent of ballots. That’s a new Heisman record.

Simply put, Mariota ran all over the Heisman competition.

More than a decade after Harrington’s campaign, Mariota became the first Oregon player inducted into the Heisman fraternity. His victory marked another milestone for the Ducks’ program, one that’s undergone a transformation since Harrington’s campaign 13 seasons ago. But in evolving into one of the country’s power programs, two achievements have eluded Oregon: A Heisman Trophy winner and a national championship. Now Mariota has delivered one to Eugene. Can he deliver another?

The Ducks couldn’t ask for a better star to lead the charge. Mariota compiled a season for the ages this fall. His 53 total touchdowns tied the Heisman record set by 2008 winner Sam Bradford of Oklahoma and finished the regular season as the nation’s leader in passing efficiency (183.6) thanks to a remarkable 38 touchdown passes against only two interceptions. The Pac-12 champions finished 12-1 and secured a Rose Bowl berth where they will play unbeaten Florida State.

The results must sound like a broken record to Ducks fans. Since former coach Mike Bellotti led Oregon to its first 10-win season in 2000 — one year before Harrington’s run to New York — the program has won 146 games, six conference titles and notched 10 double-digit wins seasons. Two other Oregon players, quarterback Dennis Dixon and running back LaMichael James, finished in the top-five of Heisman voting during that span.

Now the program has its first Heisman Trophy. Suddenly, Oregon doesn’t need billboards the size of skyscrapers to get noticed. Mariota is one of the biggest reasons why.

“I think through the continuation of the development of the program in the last decade, and all the thing that come with it — building a national brand, the uniforms, etc. — people are watching [Oregon] now,” Harrington told SI.com. “People have noticed how phenomenal Marcus has been really for three years now.”

The program’s evolution has been palpable to those who have witnessed the progress first-hand.

“Over the last several decades, Oregon football just keep rising and building and building,” said athletic director Rob Mullins, who’s been at Oregon since 2010. “The on-field success is showing itself. We’ve been in national championship games. We’ve been in a number of BCS bowl games. We’ve proven ourselves to be a consistent contender across the country.

“Obviously having a Heisman trophy is significant, and having it be the person that it is makes it even more significant. I don’t know how to measure it, but it’s nice to have.”

Mariota has led Oregon to a 35-4 record in those three seasons, but that record isn’t without blemishes. Mariota couldn’t beat Stanford until this season, and the Ducks fell to an unranked Arizona team late in 2013. Entering this fall, Oregon’s decade-plus of dominance was still without a championship trophy in its Nike-infused football complex. Mariota, one of the most prolific quarterbacks in Pac-12 history, likely had one final shot at Heisman glory in 2014.

But history threatened to repeat itself this past October, when Oregon again fell to an unranked Arizona squad, 31-24, on a Thursday night. Mariota’s decision to spurn the NFL for another season in Eugene appeared destined for more disappointment.

“I think that was definitely a part of his thought process when he was thinking about coming back, ending on the right note,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “Whether it was losing to Stanford or losing to Arizona last year, just righting that in his mind. I think that played a part. I think it also played a part in helping his teammates to do that.”

Instead of wilting, the Ducks won eight straight games after losing to the Wildcats. But they need two more to earn the championship that has eluded them for so long. That task starts Jan. 1 in Pasadena against the Seminoles and last season’s Heisman winner, quarterback Jameis Winston. With a win, Oregon will play for a national championship for the first time since 2010.

That’s the goal for Mariota and the Ducks going forward. Asked on Saturday to reflect on the Heisman’s significance for the Oregon program, the quarterback said he’d trade the trophy in a second if it meant bringing a championship to Eugene. Mariota still has a chance to do that for the first time as a starter. That’ll be Oregon’s ultimate sign of success, as wins are no longer the benchmark for the program. The Ducks finally need a championship to complete their growth.

If Mariota plays his game, he’ll fill Oregon’s trophy case with a Heisman and a national title in the same season. That’s why he’s counting down the days until he can hit the field again.

“Honestly, I’m looking forward to it,” Mariota said.” These last couple days have been hectic, but it’s been so much fun. I’m just looking forward to getting back on the field. We do have a team goal. That’s the biggest concern.”

This article originally appeared on SportsIllustrated.com

TIME Football

Darren Sharper Indicted on Rape Charges in New Orleans

Former professional football player Darren Sharper appears for his arraignment in Los Angeles, Ca on Feb. 20, 2014
Former professional football player Darren Sharper appears for his arraignment in Los Angeles, Ca on Feb. 20, 2014 Mario Anzuoni—Reuters

Former NFL star Darren Sharper was indicted Friday in New Orleans on three rape charges

Former Saints safety Darren Sharper has been indicted in New Orleans on two counts of aggravated rape and a count of simple rape, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office announced Friday.

The two counts of aggravated rape stem from an accusation that he sexually assaulted two impaired women at his apartment in September 2013. The simple rape charge comes from a separate incident with a different woman in August 2013.

Another man, Erik Nunez, was also charged with two counts of aggravated rape for his involvement with the woman, while Sharper’s friend Brandon Licciardi was indicted on a charge of aggravated rape from February 2013.

Sharper was jailed in California in February on charges that he drugged and raped two women he met at a West Hollywood nightclub. He was also charged with sexually assaulting two women in Arizona.

A preliminary hearing for his charges in Los Angeles was recently delayed and is expected to be moved to January.

If convicted in New Orleans, Sharper could face a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NFL

NFL Owners Vote to Approve Revamped Personal Conduct Policy

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell looks on as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft speaks at an NFL press conference announcing new measures for the league's personal conduct policy during an owners meeting on Dec. 10, 2014, in Irving, Texas.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell looks on as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft speaks at an NFL press conference announcing new measures for the league's personal conduct policy during an owners meeting on Dec. 10, 2014, in Irving, Texas. Brandon Wade—AP

The new policy states that Goodell will no longer be involved in initial disciplinary proceedings

NFL owners have voted unanimously to approve a revamped personal conduct policy, according to a report from NFL.com’s Albert Breer.

Commissioner Roger Goodell had acknowledged that under the previous policy, “our penalties didn’t fit the crimes.”

A memo obtained by ESPN’s Outside The Lines outlines the new elements of the policy.

Under the new policy, the league conduct independent investigations rather than exclusively using information developed through law enforcement.

The new Policy will embrace the use of independent investigations; we will no longer rely solely on information developed in law enforcement proceedings. While we will always respect and seek not to interfere with law enforcement, we recognize that the standards that apply in a workplace are substantially different from those that apply in the criminal justice system. We are confident that we can address issues within the NFL in a way that respects and supports law enforcement activity.​

In addition, players charged with certain crimes can be placed on paid leave.

The new Policy will include an element of leave with pay for individuals charged with crimes of violence. A program of paid leave can be implemented promptly for non-player employees. As it applies to players, this element may be subject to changes based on our ongoing discussions with the NFLPA. The union has thus far taken the position that paid leave is appropriate only when a player is charged with a felony, and even then only with the player’s agreement. We have said that we believe that a system of paid leave must be uniform and consistent across the league.​

Another feature of the new policy is that Goodell will no longer be involved in initial disciplinary proceedings but will retain his role in regards to appeals and there will be a “more rigorous and transparent process for those initial disciplinary decisions.”

The league and Goodell have come under scrutiny since former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was initially suspended only two games for striking his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City Casino elevator in February.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NBA

Magic Johnson: ‘I Hope Lakers Lose Every Game’

"You either have to be great or you have to be bad"

NBA Hall of Famer and Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson seems to be in favor of his former team tanking, saying he hopes they can continue their losing ways this season.

Johnson was in New York City on Tuesday speaking at a promotional event. He later received the Sportsman Legacy Award from Sports Illustrated.

“I hope the Lakers lose every game,” Johnson said, according to Newsday. “Because if you’re going to lose, lose. I’m serious.”

Johnson believes that the Lakers are in a good space, because they will have significant cap room to sign or trade for a top player next summer.

“If you’re going to lose, you have to lose, because you can’t be in the middle of the pack,” he said. “You either have to be great or you have to be bad, to get a good [draft] pick.”

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant says he doesn’t believe that teams around the league are tanking.

“Maybe there are certain teams in the league — and this is not one of them — where ownership sits up there in their office and they’re crossing their fingers quietly and hoping,” Bryant said. “But the players themselves? Never.”

The Lakers’ losing stopped at least for one night, after they beat the Sacramento Kings 98-95 on Tuesday. Their 6-16 record is the second-worst in the Western Conference.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Football

Panthers’ Cam Newton Suffered 2 Lower Back Fractures in Car Crash

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has two transverse process fractures in his lower back after a car accident on Tuesday in Charlotte, the team announced. The Charlotte Observer first reported the news of the accident.

The Panthers added that Newton is in fair condition and will remain in the hospital overnight. ESPN’s Ed Werder reports that early tests show no serious injuries for Newton. The team also said Newton had “no further internal injuries.”

Panthers owner Jerry Richardson visited Newton and told the Observer‘s Joe Person that “he’s in good shape.” It’s unclear if he will play in Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If he misses the contest, backup Derek Anderson would get the start.

From the Observer:

Team officials had no comment on Newton’s football-related status but were privately doubtful he could play in Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

Panthers officials expressed relief that Newton hadn’t been more badly hurt considering the significant damage to his truck.

According to the Observer‘s report, a car crashed and overturned on a bridge at 12:30 p.m. ET near Bank of America stadium. A newspaper photographer who was at the scene said Newton was involved in the wreck and was taken by ambulance to a hospital at 12:50 p.m. ET.

A Charlotte police officer told the Observer that Newton was a driver in one of the vehicles involved in the accident.

Newton, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL draft, has played for the Panthers for the past four seasons. He has thrown for 2,812 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season.

This article originally appeared on SportsIllustrated.com

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