TIME The Ultras

Walking The Wire With Nik Wallenda

"I feel sort of like I'm walking on clouds"

Tightrope walking is in Nik Wallenda’s blood. As a seventh generation member of the Flying Wallendas, a circus family known for performing their stunts on the high-wire without a net, Nik has set his sights on pushing the limits of what is physically possible on a tightrope.

Many of his daredevil acts have been inspired by his fellow funambulist family members, and carrying on his family tradition has earned him 9 Guinness World Records and made him a household name.

From walking across the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls to unconventional stunts like his latest walk on the 400 foot tall spinning Orlando Eye, Wallenda has brought a new generation of fans to the family tradition of high wire stunts. But Nik believes his greatest accomplishment is inspiring others to chase their dreams and to never give up.

TIME medicine

How Concussions Can Lead to Poor Grades

Head injuries can have long lasting effects, not just on the field but in the classroom too

When it comes to concussions, the biggest question, especially on the minds of parents of student-athletes, is whether and when their child should get back in the game. But researchers at the Children’s National Health System say that there’s potentially bigger question that parents and educators aren’t asking: how concussions affect children’s performance in the classroom.

In a study published in the journal Pediatrics, Danielle Ransom, a postdoctoral fellow in neuropsychology, and her colleagues found that children who had concussions may experience more problems concentrating, keeping up and paying attention in school. The symptoms are worse for students who have recently been injured, but remained significant even for those who had recovered.

MORE: Longer Rest After Concussions Might Not Be Good, Study Says

“My colleagues and I have been hearing for years that kids with concussions have problems in school, but there was no evidence to show what the problems are, and how frequently they are occurring,” she says.

So she focused on 349 students ages 5 to 18 years old who had all been diagnosed with concussion. Some were still recovering, and experiencing symptoms, while others were no longer feeling any effects from their injury. Of the students who were still recovering, 88% reported more than one symptom including headaches, fatigue, difficulty understanding lessons or problems concentrating. And 77% said they had more trouble taking notes and spent more time completing homework assignments.

MORE: A New Blood Test to Diagnose Concussions on The Field

Students who experienced more-severe head injuries were also more likely to have the most trouble in school. But Ransom admits that diagnosing the severity of concussions is still a challenge. “At this point we really don’t have tools to clinically say, this is what you can expect in your kid’s recovery,” she says.

Still the results highlight the need to pay attention to the extra support that children with concussions need in order to recover. That may include, at least in the first days back from a head injury, a shorter school day, since students may feel more tired and overwhelmed by a full day, and even breaks throughout the day so they can rest when they feel headaches or symptoms occurring.

“Instead of trying to get the kid back to school doing things 100% as they usually would, we need to allow the symptoms to ebb and flow in a more natural way,” says Ransom. “Kids should be paying attention to their bodies, and teachers need to be attuned to their symptoms.”

MORE: Football Players Have More Concussions Than Are Diagnosed, Study Suggests

Such strategies could not only help to ease the transition back to school, and but also potentially lessen the effects of the concussion, says Ransom. There is evidence that children who push themselves to return too quickly to their normal workload can slow recovery and even make symptoms worse.

Unfortunately, she says, there is no magic threshold for when students can handle working at their full capacity; it varies with each child and with the injury. But recognizing that concussions can affect how children do in school could lead to better ways of helping them to return to their normal workload sooner. “We really think the findings in our study highlight the importance of targeting specific problems, and can ease the transition back for kids,” says Ransom.

TIME golf

Rickie Fowler Delivers Major Performance to Win Players Championship

Rickie Fowler holds during the The Players Championship trophy, May 10, 2015, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
John Raoux—AP Rickie Fowler lifts the Players Championship trophy in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., on May 10, 2015

"I've been waiting a long time for this," Fowler said. "Back in the winner's circle"

(PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla.) — The latest survey was unanimous, not anonymous. Rickie Fowler can deliver the goods.

Facing a five-shot deficit with six holes to play, Fowler produced the greatest finish in the 34-year history of the TPC Sawgrass. In a three-man playoff on three of the most visually intimidating holes in golf, he never backed down.

And when he faced that nervous shot over the water to an island for the third time Sunday, he was as good as ever.

No, there was nothing overrated about this kid.

Criticized in an anonymous survey by some of his peers for not being able to win, Fowler answered with a captivating victory at The Players Championship. At a tournament that dresses up like a major, Fowler looked the part in beating the strongest field in golf with an array of shots that won’t be forgotten.

As for that survey?

“I laughed at the poll,” he said. “But yeah, if there was any question, I think this right here answers anything you need to know.”

It was hard work.

He took six shots on the par-3 17th hole, which is not unusual for a Sunday except that Fowler played it three times. And even with the record-setting finish at the Stadium Course — birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie on the last four holes for a 5-under 67 — Fowler still had to face Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner, who produced big shots of their own.

For the first time, The Players went to a three-hole aggregate playoff starting on the par-5 16th, where earlier Fowler hit a 3-wood into the breeze to 30 inches for an eagle that made this moment possible.

They all made pars on the 16th.

Kisner rolled in a breaking 10-foot birdie putt on the island-green 17th to keep pace with Fowler, who hit his tee shot to 6 feet and converted the birdie. Garcia, who in regulation made a 45-foot birdie to give him new life, failed to repeat the putt from about the same range in the playoff. All three players made par on the final hole, which eliminated Garcia.

Fowler and Kisner, who closed with a 69 and lost for the second time in a month in a playoff, headed back to the 17th hole for the third time. The great shots kept coming. Kisner barely cleared the mound and the ball settled 12 feet away. Fowler answered by taking on the right side of the green and sticking it just inside 5 feet.

Kisner finally missed.

It was the second time in a month that Kisner, winless in 102 starts, lost in a playoff despite making clutch putts.

“Golf is a hard and cruel game,” Kisner said. “But hats off. I mean, shoot, these guys are good, I’m telling you. Don’t give up on anybody.”

Fowler never seemed to miss over the final two hours, and he calmly clutched his fist to celebrate his first PGA Tour victory in three years.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Fowler said. “Back in the winner’s circle.”

Garcia, who had a two-shot lead heading to the back nine, closed with a 68. He had a 20-foot birdie putt to win in regulation that missed badly to the right. And he faced a crowd that was increasingly hostile to the Spaniard, perhaps remembering the tiff he had with Tiger Woods two years ago.

His caddie was asking for security when he made the turn. In the three-hole playoff, a small group of fans yelled, “USA!” as he took the putter back.

It marred what was other sheer brilliance, a most unforgettable final hour in a tournament that has a history of them.

For Fowler, the timing couldn’t have been better.

One of the questions in SI Golf’s annual player survey — players do not give their names — was to pick the most overrated player on the PGA Tour. Fowler and Ian Poulter shared first place at 24 percent. Fowler has never faced this level of criticism. He is a favorite among fans and most players for his considerate behavior.

He tried to play it down, though he said on more than one occasion this week that it would motivate him.

Fowler was five shots behind Garcia when he “hit the button.” It was more like hitting warp speed.

A 9-iron to 12 feet for birdie on the par-3 13th. A 15-foot birdie on the 15th. The bold shot over the edge of the water to tap-in range for eagle. The wedge over the corner of the island to 6 feet for birdie. And then he blasted a tee shot 331 yards and made a 15-foot birdie on the 18th hole to be the first player to reach 12-under 276.

The Stadium Course has rarely lacked for greater theater over the last three decades.

This topped them all.

Over the final hour, six players had hopes of winning the richest prize in golf. Four of them were tied for the lead.

Ben Martin raced into the picture with three straight birdies, but he pushed his tee shot into the woods on the 18th, pitched out and missed his par putt for a 70 that knocked him out of the playoff. Bill Haas twice had a chance to tie for the lead, and he failed to make birdie on the 18th to join the playoff.

The finish by Garcia and Kisner would have been talked about for years. On this day, thanks to Fowler, it was nearly an afterthought.

So were the two biggest names in golf. The action was that good.

Tiger Woods had a 72 and tied for 69th, his worst position ever in The Players Championship. Rory McIlroy, who started the final round four shots behind, didn’t get going until it was too late. He closed with a 70 and tied for eighth, four shots behind.

TIME public health

San Francisco Bans Chewing Tobacco at Sports Venues

Effective Jan. 1, 2016

On Friday, San Francisco became the first American city to ban smokeless tobacco—chewing tobacco and “moist inhalable snuff”—at sports venues.

The new ordinance, signed by Mayor Ed Lee, goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. Violators will be asked to leave the playing fields (where cigarette and cigar smoking is already banned), the Associated Press reports.

Anti-smoking groups argue that a ban on smokeless tobacco—which has been linked to cancer and nicotine addiction—sends the right message to kids who look up to the players. But San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain said the measure may be hard to enforce, noting that coffee pouches resemble tobacco pouches, according to an article on the team’s website.

The state Assembly is still considering a bill banning tobacco use—electronic cigarettes included—wherever there’s a baseball game, the AP reports.

Read next: Why Lawmakers Want Smokeless Tobacco Thrown Out of the Homes of a National Pastime

TIME Courts

Jameis Winston Files Counterclaim Denying He Raped Woman

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston listens to a reporter's question during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis
Doug McSchooler—AP Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston listens to a reporter's question during a news conference at the NFL football scouting combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, on Feb. 20, 2015.

He says his accuser is motivated by greed

(ATLANTA)—Attorneys for No. 1 NFL pick Jameis Winston said in a federal court filing that the former Florida State University quarterback did not rape a woman who is suing him and that she is motivated by greed.

Attorneys John F. Myers and David Cornwell Sr. filed a counterclaim Friday against Erica Kinsman in court in Orlando for the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Kinsman, a former student at Florida State, filed suit against Winston last month, saying she was intoxicated at a Tallahassee bar in December 2012 when Winston and others took her back to an off-campus apartment and that he sexually assaulted her. Her lawsuit, filed two weeks before the April 30 NFL draft, accused Winston of rape, assault, false imprisonment and emotional distress.

Winston signed a four-year, $23.35 million contract with Tampa Bay and was at the start of rookie minicamp on Friday. He could not immediately be reached Saturday.

Winston has repeatedly denied the allegations in the past and prosecutors declined to file charges against him in late 2013. He also was cleared by the university following a two-day student conduct hearing last year. The hearing was held to determine whether Winston violated four sections of the code of conduct — two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment.

The Associated Press doesn’t routinely identify people who say they’re sexual assault victims. However, Kinsman told her story publicly in a documentary.

Telephone messages left by The Associated Press with the attorneys listed on court documents for Kinsman and Winston weren’t immediately returned Saturday.

In the counterclaim, the lawyers said Kinsman has told “many different and inconsistent accounts of her sexual encounter” with Winston.

“Ms. Kinsman has been successful in one major area,” the filing said. “She has mounted a false and vicious media campaign to vilify Mr. Winston with the objective of getting him to pay her to go away. Ms. Kinsman is motivated by the most insidious objectives — greed,” it added.

The court filing said that after “the media circus she created” Kinsman’s lawyer had “initiated ‘settlement’ discussions” and that “in a later call Ms. Kinsman’s counsel demanded $7,000,000 from Mr. Winston.”

Friday’s filing by Winston’s attorneys said that the player’s contact with Kinsman was a “consensual sexual encounter” supported by medical evidence and two teammate witnesses.

The court filing obtained by AP and first reported by The Tampa Bay Times ( http://bit.ly/1cye4vt ) said Winston requested a jury hear the matter.

The filing points out that Kinsman chose to leave the bar and didn’t object in the taxi or when they got out.

It said Kinsman, afterward, rode on Winston’s motorscooter with “her arms wrapped around Mr. Winston’s waist.”

“Ms. Kinsman got off the scooter, gave Mr. Winston a hug, and walked … to her dormitory,” it said.

The filing said she made no call to 911 and didn’t call or text family or friends to tell them what happened. “Kinsman admits that she had access to her phone, but she did not use it to call for aid,” it said.

The filing added, “Ms. Kinsman has made the False Statements in an effort to cause damage to Mr. Winston’s reputation and to coerce and extort him to give her money and ‘make her go away.’ Ms. Kinsman was aware that Mr. Winston was likely to earn a substantial amount of money in salary, bonuses, and endorsements as a professional NFL football player.”

The counterclaim added that “Ms. Kinsman’s publication of the False Statements tarnished Mr. Winston’s reputation and public image, and caused him to incur actual damages.”

“… Her False Statements are per se defamatory because she has repeatedly accused him of committing a crime that he did not commit” it added, stating that the quarterback suffered actual damages “greater than $75,000.”

John Clune, a lawyer for Kinsman, had said in a statement shortly after Kinsman’s suit was filed there are consequences for Winston’s behavior “and since others have refused to hold him accountable, our client will.”

“Erica hopes to show other survivors the strength and empowerment that can come from refusing to stay silent no matter what forces are against you,” Clune said in that statement last month. “Jameis Winston in contrast has proven time and time again to be an entitled athlete who believes he can take what he wants.”

TIME Athletes

U.S. Ranks Worst in Sports Homophobia Study

Will gay athletes find acceptance on the field?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME Media

3 Reasons Bill Simmons Leaving ESPN Is a Big Deal

"Son Of The Congo" - 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival
Heather Kennedy—Getty Images Bill Simmons attends the premiere of "Son of the Congo" during the 2015 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival at Austin Convention Center in Austin on Mar. 14, 2015.

Even if you're not a big sports fan

After months of rumors, ESPN made its split with Bill Simmons official Friday. It’s rare that a writer’s departure from a media outlet creates so much interest–even if the writer is one of America’s most influential sports personalities and the outlet is among the world’s most valuable media companies–but here’s why Simmons leaving matters:

1. Bill Simmons is a major brand

At a time when the monetary value of the written word has been diminished, people know Bill Simmons’ name and listen to what he has to say, making him a valuable asset. His columns at ESPN have historically been the most popular on the site. His podcast, the B.S. Report, was downloaded 32 million times in 2013, long before the format had a renaissance last year. His dead tree book, The Book of Basketball, is a no. 1 New York Times bestseller. And he is an established on-air personality on ESPN shows like NBA Countdown.

Thanks to his massive reach (Twitter following: 3.68 million and counting), ESPN allowed Simmons to start his own sports and pop culture website, Grantland, under their banner. That move helped pave the way for a wave of other media brands built around the distinct visions of their founders (see below).

Simmons is also responsible for some of ESPN’s most critically-acclaimed recent programming. He was the mastermind behind the award-winning documentary series 30 for 30. Originally conceived as a way to mark ESPN’s 30th anniversary, the films were so successful that the company decided to continue funding the ambitious projects for years to come.

2. His brand has sway

Simmons has reach far beyond sports. Guests on the B.S. Report have included President Barack Obama, late night host Jimmy Kimmel (whose show Simmons once wrote for), Girls creator Lena Dunham, Mad Men actor Jon Hamm and author Malcolm Gladwell.

Dunham has proved to be a particularly enthusiastic supporter. After Simmons was suspended by ESPN for calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a “liar” on his podcast during the Ray Rice domestic abuse scandal and challenging ESPN to fire him, Dunham rallied celebrities like Judd Apatow to his defense on Twitter using the hashtag #FreeSimmons.

And other big editorial names listen to Simmons’ advice. When the statistician Nate Silver left the New York Times in 2013, it was Simmons (and Simmons’ dad) who helped convince him to turn his Five Thirty Eight site—known for predicting elections with freakish accuracy—into an appendage of ESPN structured similarly to Grantland.

3. His audience is loyal

Simmons re-imagined sports writing from the perspective of the fan, dispatching neutrality in favor of emotion and energy. When he began writing for AOL in 1997, the conventions of blogging didn’t even exist. Simmons’ stream of consciousness writing, filled with plenty of pop culture references, established a new kind of style, and his unabashed partisanship won over readers. (One column he wrote was titled “Is Clemens the Anti-Christ?”) He eventually branded himself as the “Sports Guy” for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine and spawned a legion of imitators. Wherever Simmons goes, his millions of fans will travel with him.

Still, losing Simmons won’t exactly be a death blow to ESPN, which is reportedly worth $50.8 billion. ESPN is an entertainment behemoth, and Simmons’ audience is just a small fraction of their overall reach.

TIME Football

Tom Brady Says Deflategate Scandal Doesn’t Taint Super Bowl Win

"We earned everything we got and achieved as a team"

(SALEM, Mass.) — New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Thursday night the scandal surrounding his use of deflated footballs during the NFL playoffs last season hasn’t detracted in any way from his Super Bowl title.

“Absolutely not,” Brady told a friendly university crowd in his first public appearance since an NFL investigation concluded Brady likely knew Patriots employees were cheating.

“We earned everything we got and achieved as a team, and I am proud of that and so are our fans,” he said.

Brady declined to discuss his thoughts about the 243-page report that said that he was likely at least aware two team employees were breaking rules by deflating footballs for him.

“I don’t really have any reaction. It has only been 30 hours, I’ve not had much time to digest it,” Brady said. “When I do I will be sure to let you know how I feel about it. And everybody else.”

Brady said he will address things more once things play out and he is more comfortable. Brady is still waiting to see whether the league will discipline him with a fine, suspension or both.

“There is a process going forward and I am involved in this process,” he said.

Asked whether public backlash is bothering him, Brady said he accepts his role as a public figure and has people who support him and help him get through it.

“As a human you care about what people think. I think also as a public figure you learn not everyone is going to like you,” he said. “Good, bad or indifferent there are a lot of people who don’t like Tom Brady, and I am OK with that.”

The report by Ted Wells, an independent investigator hired by the NFL, found some of Brady’s claims implausible in explaining why balls were underinflated during the Patriots’ 45-7 win against Indianapolis in the AFC title game last season.

The superstar quarterback spoke at a Q&A session moderated by sportscaster Jim Gray during a previously scheduled, sold-out event at Salem State University. He arrived by helicopter for the talk on leadership, avoiding a long line of fans outside and media waiting for him to enter. The event was delayed more than 30 minutes to allow fans to file in, including some wearing Brady jerseys. During the wait, the crowd chanted “Brady” and “MVP,” then gave him a standing ovation as he walked in.

Gray said the session would largely stick to subjects they planned previously when they arranged the talk 4 months ago. But he acknowledged the difficulty in avoiding one of the hottest topics in sports.

“There’s an elephant in the room,” Gray said.

“Where?” Brady responded.

Gray shot back: “You might be the only one in the room who does not see it.”

Gray did not ask Brady directly whether he cheated or about specific issues raised in the report, including text messages and phone conversations that indicated the employees were trading autographed footballs and sneakers for doctoring the balls for Brady.

Brady’s agent, Don Yee, said earlier Thursday that the NFL was determined to blame Brady, while the investigation omitted key facts and buried others.

The team didn’t respond to requests from The Associated Press seeking comment about the report from Brady and Patriots coach Bill Belichick. The Patriots didn’t make anyone available on Thursday, canceling prior plans to allow two players to be interviewed during voluntary team workouts held at the team’s headquarters in Foxborough.

The report didn’t find any evidence that Belichick or the coaching staff knew anything about deflating the balls.

Wells concluded there was no plausible explanation for the deflated footballs besides deliberate tampering. Text messages to and about Brady led to the conclusions that he was aware, if not more actively involved, in the scheme.

The NFL is now using Wells’ findings as it considers potential punishment. Brady, the MVP of the 2015 Super Bowl, could be fined or face a suspension. The Patriots are scheduled to play their opener against the Steelers in the kickoff game of the NFL regular season on Sept. 10.

___

AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York contributed to this report.

TIME

A-Rod Passes Willie Mays on Home Run List With No. 661

New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez (13) reacts as he heads to the dugout after hitting his 661st home run, surpassing Willie Mays for fourth on baseball's all-time home run list, in a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium in New York on May 7, 2015.
Kathy Willens—AP New York Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez (13) reacts as he heads to the dugout after hitting his 661st home run, surpassing Willie Mays for fourth on baseball's all-time home run list, in a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium in New York on May 7, 2015.

Next up for Rodriguez: Babe Ruth at 714

(NEW YORK) — Alex Rodriguez passed Willie Mays for fourth place on the career homer list, connecting for No. 661 Thursday night an at-bat after he was robbed of the milestone drive by a leaping catch.

The New York Yankees star hit a liner off Baltimore’s Chris Tillman into a secure area just to the left of Monument Park in center field in the third inning. A-Rod sent a soaring shot in the first that Delmon Young caught by reaching over the top of the wall in right field.

Next up for Rodriguez: Babe Ruth at 714 home runs.

The Yankees, who said they will not pay a $6 million bonus after he matched the Say Hey Kid on Friday in Boston, put a message on the main videoboard saying, “661 Home Runs. Alex Rodriguez just surpassed Willie Mays for sole possession of 4th place on baseball’s all-time home runs list.”

The slugger pumped his fist as he rounded first base, and fans gave Rodriguez a standing ovation.

Mark Teixeira stepped out of the batter’s box as the cheers swelled. Rodriguez briefly emerged from the dugout and waved to the crowd with both hands above his head.

Rodriguez, who turns 40 in July, moved into a tie for fourth in the AL this season with seven home runs. He didn’t play last year while serving a drug suspension.

The Yankees and A-Rod have a marketing agreement that calls for $6 million each for up to five achievements, payable within 15 days of designation by the team. But New York has said the marketing possibilities were ruined after Rodriguez served his performance-enhancing drug penalty for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.

The accomplishments were contemplated to be homers 660, 714, 755 (Hank Aaron), 762 (Barry Bonds) and 763 as he moved up baseball’s list.

No payment likely would trigger a grievance on Rodriguez’s behalf by the players’ union. Without a settlement, the case would be heard by an arbitrator.

TIME Boxing

Mayweather Says No Rematch With ‘Sore Loser’ Pacquiao

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, connects with a right to the head of Manny Pacquiao, from the Philippines, on May 2, 2015 in Las Vegas
John Locher—AP Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, connects with a right jab to the head of Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas on May 2, 2015

The gloves are off

(NEW YORK) — Floyd Mayweather said in an upcoming interview with Showtime that at this moment he’s not interested in a rematch with Manny Pacquiao “because he’s a sore loser and he’s a coward.”

The interview was recorded late Tuesday night and will air Saturday night after the network’s replay of boxing’s richest fight, which Mayweather won by decision last weekend in Las Vegas to stay undefeated.

Asked if he thought Pacquiao was hampered by the right shoulder injury that later required surgery, Mayweather tells Jim Gray, “Absolutely not.”

“Excuses, excuses, excuses,” he said later.

“He was fast,” Mayweather insists in quotes released Thursday. “His left hand was fast. His right hand was fast and he was throwing them both fast and strong.”

Using an expletive for emphasis, Mayweather adds that “I’m not going to buy into” it, “and I don’t want the public to buy into” it.

“He lost,” Mayweather said. “He knows he lost. I lost a lot of respect for him after all of this.”

Mayweather acknowledges that he earlier texted ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith to say he welcomed a rematch.

“Yeah, but I change my mind,” Mayweather said. “At this particular time, no, because he’s a sore loser and he’s a coward. . If you lost, accept the loss and say, ‘Mayweather, you were the better fighter.'”

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com