TIME Auto Racing

NASCAR Driver Tony Stewart: Deadly Incident Will ‘Affect My Life Forever’

Oral-B USA 500 - Practice
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet, speaks to the media prior to practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. Jamie Squire—Getty Images

Nascar champion Tony Stewart's car struck his fellow racer on Aug. 9

NASCAR driver Tony Stewart said Friday he remains heartbroken after he hit and killed fellow driver Kevin Ward in a racing crash three weeks ago. The comments come as Stewart, a champion driver, prepares to race again for the first time since the tragedy.

“I’ve taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” Stewart said. “It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”

The incident, which occurred in a sprint car race in upstate New York earlier this month, shocked the racing world. Stewart’s car struck 20-year-old Kevin Ward, Jr. as Ward walked on the tarmac of the race track, apparently trying to flag down Stewart after a collision between the two drivers.

Stewart did not take questions at the Friday press conference, citing an ongoing police investigation of the incident.

 

TIME

Stewart Says Ward’s Death Will Affect Him Forever

(HAMPTON, Ga.) — Speaking quietly and with a trembling voice, NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart said Friday that the death of Kevin Ward Jr. will “affect my life forever” as he returned to the track for the first time since his car struck and killed the fellow driver during a sprint-car race in New York three weeks ago.

“I’ve taken the last couple of weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family and also to cope with the accident in my own way,” Stewart said. “It’s given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates and I miss being back in the race car and I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.”

Stewart said he could not answer questions about the incident — it remains under police investigation — and he left the news conference after reading a short statement. Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood said it was “100 percent” Stewart’s decision to race and that his 43-year-old driver was “emotional” but ready to go on Sunday night in Atlanta.

The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since his car hit Ward at an Aug. 9 sprint car event in upstate New York. Stewart pulled out of the race at Watkins Glen the next morning, then skipped races at Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Stewart, who was described by police as “visibly shaken” the night of Ward’s death, has been in seclusion ever since. Stewart’s only comment since the crash was a statement the day after the crash in which he said “there aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”

“Tony has sent the family flowers and a card around the services, aside from that, he has been very respectful of their time to grieve,” Frood said. “It is very important to Tony to spend time with the family … but is being respectful.”

Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing for position with Stewart. The 20-year-old walked down onto the racing surface waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront Stewart.

Authorities said the first car to pass Ward had to swerve to miss hitting him. The front of Stewart’s car then appeared to clear Ward, but Ward was struck by the right rear tire and hurtled through the air. He died of blunt force trauma.

Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero has said investigators did not have any evidence to support criminal intent by Stewart. Povero said Thursday the investigation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the NASCAR superstar will move forward with his career and attempt to salvage his season.

NASCAR released a statement saying that Stewart was eligible to return because he “has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities.” NASCAR said it would have no further comment until President Mike Helton speaks Friday afternoon.

Stewart, who has 48 career Cup wins in 542 starts, is one of the biggest stars in the garage. His peers have been protective of him as questions emerged in the aftermath of the crash, and it pained them that Stewart was grieving in private and had cut off communication with so many of them.

“Great to have Smoke back at the track,” tweeted Watkins Glen winner AJ Allmendinger.

“Glad to have my boss and my friend back at the track this weekend. #14 #SmokeWillRise,” said Tony Gibson, Danica Patrick’s crew chief at SHR.

NASCAR rules state a driver must attempt to either qualify or race the car in every points-paying event to be eligible for Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, unless a waiver is granted. There was no immediate word if NASCAR would grant that waiver.

Since Ward’s death, NASCAR has announced a rule that prohibits drivers from exiting from a crashed or disabled vehicle — unless it is on fire — until safety personnel arrive. Last week, Denny Hamlin crashed while leading at Bristol and stayed in his car until safety personnel arrived.

But Hamlin then exited his vehicle and angrily tossed a safety device at Kevin Harvick as he passed by moments later. He was not penalized.

TIME Pictures of the Week

Pictures of the Week: Aug. 22 – Aug.29

From Michael Brown’s funeral and a cease fire in Gaza, to swarms of locusts in Madagascar and the US Open Tennis Championships, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME Basketball

How Shelly Sterling Got Steve Ballmer to Overpay for the Clippers

Celebrities At The Los Angeles Clippers Game
Rochelle Sterling attends an NBA playoff game between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers Noel Vasquez—GC Images/Getty Images

Shelly Sterling lived in her estranged husband and real estate mogul Donald’s shadow for decades. But shortly before her 80th birthday, Shelly proved to the world that she, too, has a strong business acumen, by getting former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to overpay for the Clippers, she said in a Thursday interview.

Sterling might have had no idea who Ballmer was when he approached her to buy the basketball team, but she told the Associated Press that she knew she had an eager customer.

“He was a like a little child,” she said. “He was so excited, so happy.”

Although Sterling said that they “sort of connected” and she “felt he would be good for the team,” that also didn’t stop her from getting what the AP declared an “unprecedented” offer for the team.

Sterling had first received an offer of $1.65 billion for the team from potential buyer David Geffen, but after talking to Ballmer, he offered her $1.9 billion. But Sterling wasn’t done: After Ballmer had tried to move the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, she made him promise he would keep the Clippers in Los Angeles.

“I told him, ‘you won’t have to build an arena or a practice field.’ So he was getting a bargain,” Sterling told the AP. “And I told him, ‘We have great players, a great coach and you’ll never have the chance to buy a team in Los Angeles again.'” An inspired Ballmer upped the offer to $2 billion and offered Sterling floor seats to every game as owner emeritus. “He really really wanted the team,” Sterling said.

According to leaked court documents that ESPN got its hands on, $2 billion was more than the Clippers’ actual worth.

Ballmer’s $2 billion final bid is 12.1 times the expected 2014 revenues of the team, according to the numbers given to the bidders by Bank of America, which conducted the sale on behalf of the Sterling trust. . .

“No team in the history of sports has sold for six times total revenues, so that should give you an idea of how crazy this purchase price is,” said a sports banker who was not involved in the transaction.

While money might have been a non-issue for the tech mogul and he would have paid the figure regardless, Sterling deserves serious credit for closing a huge deal — particularly after rising above her disgraced husband’s racist antics that cost him the team.

“I was given the task and I did it,” Sterling said. “I just did what I had to do.”

[AP]

TIME NFL

The Easiest Call of Roger Goodell’s Career

2014 NFL Draft
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who admitted on Thursday that his punishment of Ray Race for domestic violence was too lenient, at the 2014 NFL Draft. Elsa—Getty Images

Apologizing for the Ray Rice error, and stiffening penalties for domestic abusers, was a no- brainer. Now, the real work begins

National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell talks a lot about integrity. Do the wrong thing, PacMan Jones and Ben Roethlisberger and Sean Payton, and you will be sidelined.

So Goodell’s decision to issue a two-game suspension for Ray Rice — the Baltimore Ravens running back who was caught on film dragging his unconscious fiancé out of an Atlantic City elevator after an altercation — was particularly noxious. Especially in a league that hands down year-long suspensions for smoking marijuana, a recreational habit that is not only relatively innocuous, but legal in two states.

Goodell, in a league-wide memo circulated on Thursday, admitted that, in the Rice affair, “I didn’t get it right.” So he reversed course, and instituted a new policy that calls for much harsher punishment for players who assault women — even a potential lifetime ban for a repeat offender. But there’s no need to call Goodell’s move bold or stunning, or give him a standing ovation.

Because it was the easiest call of his career.

After all, if Goodell is going to preach integrity, correcting the indefensible is no act of courage. “The Ray Rice decision was offensive,” says Joan Meier, legal director of the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, and law professor at the George Washington University Law School. Under the new policy, a player who assaults a woman will be suspended six games; the commissioner retains his right to add to that punishment if the incident includes “violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.” A first-time NFL offender could receive a longer suspension if he had a prior domestic violence incident before entering the league. The lifetime ban for the second offense does come with a caveat: a player may apply for reinstatement after a year, though “there will be no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted.”

“This is the most positive action we’ve seen by the NFL and Mr. Goodell,” says Ruth Glenn, interim executive director for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “My gut reaction was one of real hope – for the first time in a long time, the NFL seems serious about trying to fight domestic violence”

One fear, says Meier, is that harsher penalties could deter victims from reporting abuse. “If a victim is financially dependent on the abuser, and his livelihood is completely taken away, she could suffer harm,” says Meier. So Meier is cheering the NFL’s willingness to give second offenders a chance to re-enter the league after a year. “That’s enough time for the perpetrator to really get his act together,” says Meier. “If the penalties are too draconian, you risk punishing the victim.”

On paper, the NFL’s intentions seem noble. But penalties alone won’t solve the problem. The league must prove this is more than a PR move. “Good for the NFL, and good for Mr. Goodell,” says Glenn. “But we’ll be watching. This can’t just be a policy. Players have to be responsible, and their teammates and coaches have to come forward if they witness any abuse, or just know something’s going on. The entire culture has to change.”

TIME Auto Racing

Stewart to Return to Competition Sunday

Tony Stewart will return to Sprint Cup competition Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, ending a three-race hiatus after his car struck and killed a fellow driver during a dirt-track race.

The three-time NASCAR champion has not raced since Aug. 9, when he hit Kevin Ward Jr. at a sprint car event in upstate New York.

Stewart hastily pulled out of the NASCAR race at Watkins Glen the next morning, then skipped races at Michigan and Bristol Motor Speedway.

Stewart has been in seclusion since Ward’s death. He returns to his No. 14 Chevrolet at Atlanta ranked 26th in the Sprint Cup standings.

TIME NFL

NFL Cracks Down on Domestic Violence After Criticism

2014 NFL Draft
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on May 8, 2014 in New York City. Elsa—Getty Images

Six-game suspension for a first offense, lifetime ban for a second

The NFL said Thursday that it would impose stricter penalties on players and any other league personnel who commit domestic abuse, following fierce criticism of a two-game suspension it handed down to a player who allegedly beat his fiancée.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made the announcement in a letter to team owners, saying that anyone in the league who violates its Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault will face a six-game suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense. And he alluded to the outrage that followed the two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who had been indicted for allegedly hitting his now wife so hard that he knocked her unconscious.

“Whether in the context of workplace conduct, advancing policies of diversity and inclusion, or promoting professionalism in all we do, our mission has been to create and sustain model workplaces filled with people of character,” Goodell wrote. “Although the NFL is celebrated for what happens on the field, we must be equally vigilant in what we do off the field.

“At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals,” he continued. “We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.”

The NFL suspended Rice last month for two games. A video posted online appeared to show Rice dragging his unconscious then fiancée out of an elevator in an Atlantic City casino after the alleged incident.

In the letter, Goodell also announced a series of education and training for players and all NFL personnel, additional support for educational programs in schools and youth football programs, and a campaign to raise awareness about sexual assault and prevention.

“Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong,” read a memo to all NFL personnel that was included in the letter. “They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances.”

The NFL Players Association reacted cautiously to the change Thursday.

“We were informed today of the NFL’s decision to increase penalties on domestic violence offenders under the Personal Conduct Policy for all NFL employees,” the players’ union said in a statement. “As we do in all disciplinary matters, if we believe that players’ due process rights are infringed upon during the course of discipline, we will assert and defend our members’ rights.”

TIME Business

Watch Johnny Manziel Dancercize in New Snickers Ad

Meet Johnny JamBoogie

+ READ ARTICLE

As the Snickers tagline goes, “You aren’t you when you’re hungry.” So what does Cleveland Browns backup quarterback Johnny Manziel turn in to when his tummy is growling? According to a new commercial, Johnny Football transforms into Johnny JamBoogie, an aerobics instructor jazzercising his way into our hearts.

While the entire point of the commercial is that a bite of a candy bar has the power to get his football helmet-wearing head straight and turn his back on florescent leotard-wearing older women, we must ask — does Manziel have to choose? Dance can be an important part of any pre-game or post-touchdown routine.

Signature steps can get you new endorsement deals, Manziel. Embrace the JamBoogie.

TIME Television

Infamous Ex-Pitcher John Rocker to Star in Newest Season of Survivor

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves
Former Braves player John Rocker participates in a pre-game ceremony honoring many Braves alumni at Turner Field on August 8, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Kevin Liles — Getty Images

Series kicks off on Sept. 24

The newest season of Survivor will feature none other than former Major League Baseball pitcher John Rocker, according to CBS Sports.

The retired pitcher, who played portions of six seasons in the MLB, will compete in Survivor: San Juan del Sur — Blood vs. Water, which will debut on Sept. 24, CBS says.

Rocker is notoriously remembered for the bigoted comments he made about New Yorkers during a widely publicized interview in Sports Illustrated in 1999.

“I was raised in a professional baseball clubhouse and still carry a lot of that idiocy with me,” said Rocker in a trailer released by CBS.

The former reliever will appear on the show alongside his girlfriend Julie McGee.

TIME

USC Football Player Suspended Indefinitely for Fake Drowning Story

Southern California cornerback Josh Shaw lines up against California defensive back Isaac Lapite during the first quarter of a NCAA college football game in Berkeley, Calif.
Southern California cornerback Josh Shaw lines up against California defensive back Isaac Lapite during the first quarter of a NCAA college football game in Berkeley, Calif. Eric Risberg—AP

Shaw has been suspended "indefinitely" from the Trojan athletic program

University of Southern California’s cornerback Josh Shaw said Wednesday he lied when he told his coaches he sprained his ankles while attempting to save his drowning nephew. In response, the USC Trojans suspended Shaw indefinitely from the athletic program as a result of what he referred to as a “complete fabrication.”

“We are extremely disappointed in Josh,” USC coach Steve Sarkisian said in a statement. “He let us all down. As I have said, nothing in his background led us to doubt him when he told us of his injuries, nor did anything after our initial vetting of his story.”

USA Today reports that members of the school’s athletic department doubted Shaw’s story from the beginning. The investigation into Shaw’s injury had been ongoing since Monday when the school posted the initial story in which Shaw claimed to have sprained his ankles after jumping onto concrete from an apartment balcony in an attempt to save his drowning 7-year-old nephew.

In a statement issued through his lawyer, according to USCTrojans.com, Shaw apologized saying, “I made up a story about this fall that was untrue. I was wrong to not tell the truth. I apologize to USC for this action on my part.” The statement did not include any information about the real reason behind Shaw’s injuries.

Shaw is a fifth year senior at USC where he was a team captain on the football team.

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