TIME Football

Find Out Who Got Fired in Football’s Black Monday

Former Atlanta Falcons Head coach Mike Smith at a game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 21, 2014 in New Orleans.
Sean Gardner—Getty Images Former Atlanta Falcons Head coach Mike Smith at a game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 21, 2014 in New Orleans.

Which coaches and GMs will get their walking papers with the 2014 season in the books

Find all the latest updates on firings below.

Chicago Bears

Fire head coach Marc Trestman, GM Phil Emery

Tale of tape: 5-11 in 2014; Trestman was 13-19 in the regular season; Emery was 23-25 in three seasons as general manager.

What went wrong: The defense was an overwhelming debacle this season, hence the 5-11 record and 27.6 points allowed per game (second most in the NFL). At the heart of both Trestman and Emery’s downfalls, though, is Jay Cutler.

​Trestman, off a successful CFL stint and with multiple successes as an NFL offensive coordinator, was supposed to be the coach capable of taking Cutler to the next level. Emery showed his faith in that process, first by hiring Trestman and then by handing Cutler a seven-year contract extension worth $120 million.

“When you evaluate a quarterback, you say, ‘Does he have an inventory of passes? Can he make all the throws? Does he have mobility? Is he a quick decision-maker?’ Jay has all that,” Trestman said back in January, when the deal was struck. “He can do all those things. But what’s most important is, is he mentally tough enough? Can he fly the plane and not be on autopilot? And I think during this process he’s proven that he can do that.”

Fast-forward to Week 16 of this season, when Trestman benched Cutler in favor of the thoroughly uninspiring Jimmy Clausen. It was a move seen as a potential Hail Mary by Trestman — an attempt to save his job by tossing Cutler under the bus.

Obviously, the plan failed.

Cutler actually wound up starting again in Week 17 because of a Clausen injury. He and the Bears lost their season finale, 13-9, another half-hearted effort to wrap a season-ending five-game losing streak.

Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will be replaced, as well, and that move probably should have happened weeks ago. While Tucker did coax a career-best 10.0 sacks out of free-agent addition Willie Young and rookie CB Kyle Fuller showed some early flashes, the Bears were laughable at times on that side of the ball. Seven times they allowed 30 or more points in a game; the Patriots and Packers hung 106 combined points on Chicago over a two-game stretch.

Roster outlook: Whether Cutler is in or out as Chicago’s 2015 quarterback, the strength of this team sits on offense. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery posted 18 touchdowns and more than 1,800 yards between them this season. RB Matt Forte topped the 1,000-yard mark on the ground and caught 102 passes of his own. TE Martellus Bennett broke through with career-best numbers: 90 catches for 916 yards and six touchdowns.

Clearly, there is something to build on there. The next GM might explore his trade possibilities with Cutler, whose contract could prevent him from being moved. Otherwise, Chicago will move forward with a similar cast of characters.

Defensively, it is anyone’s guess as to how the depth chart will shape up come next September. Longtime stalwarts Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs almost certainly have played their final games in Chicago (Tillman appears set to retire). D.J. Williams, Chris Conte (who was awful this season) and Stephen Paea are among the other impending free agents in Chicago.

In a division featuring the high-powered Green Bay and Detroit offenses, plus an emerging Minnesota team, Chicago has to find a way to come up with more stops in 2015. That will be the case no matter what happens at quarterback.

Possible replacements: Todd Bowles, Darrell Bevell, Dan Quinn, Rex Ryan, Mike Shanahan, Pep Hamilton, Adam Gase. Keep a keen eye on Shanahan, who recently talked up Cutler — the two were paired together in Denver for multiple seasons.

Chiefs‘ director of player personnel Chris Ballard already has been linked to Chicago as a possible Trestman replacement. The Bears may not be alone if they express interest in him. Ravens assistant GM Eric DeCosta is another name to remember.


Atlanta Falcons

Fire head coach Mike Smith

Tale of the tape: 66-46 in the regular season through seven seasons; 1-4 in the postseason. Smith led the Falcons to winning records in each of his first five seasons, including two 13-win campaigns (2010 and ’12), but was never able to make much noise in the playoffs, and the Falcons compiled a 10-22 record in the last two seasons. Smith is the winningest coach in Falcons history.

What went wrong: Smith was an iffy in-game manager at best, and this showed up more and more often as the team’s talent base started to atrophy. But the primary issue over the last two years was that the roster choices made by general manager Thomas Dimitroff led the team in some unfortunate directions. It’s also been rumored that owner Arthur Blank may want to bring in more players who skirt the edge of the character equation, and that’s never been Smith’s style — he’s perhaps the nicest guy in the NFL, and he wants his team to reflect a certain level of class.

Dimitroff and Smith started off hot with the acquisitions of quarterback Matt Ryan, tackle Sam Baker, linebacker Curtis Lofton, receiver Harry Douglas, safety Thomas DeCoud, and defensive lineman Kroy Biermann in the same 2008 draft. That draft allowed the Falcons to immediately transcend the dregs of the Bobby Petrino era, and it was one of the more remarkable single-season transformations in NFL history (Atlanta went from 4-12 to 11-5). But over the seasons to come, the Falcons’ front office swung and missed on several high-ticket picks. From 2009 through ’12, outside of the costly Julio Jones pick (Atlanta gave up multiple picks for that choice) and some fringe talent, Atlanta was unable to restock the team’s depth through the draft, which is the most crucial way to do it. Most specifically, Dimitroff’s inability to acquire the right kind of long-term pass-rusher in the draft was a major problem.

Roster outlook: As such, the Falcons have several deep holes right now. There’s still no top-shelf pass-rusher, the offensive line is an issue outside of left tackle Jake Matthews, the secondary is improving but needs some work, and the running back position is a work in progress. Julio Jones is a top-five receiver when healthy, but he’s missed 12 games in the last two seasons. Time is running out for Roddy White, and the team’s inability to replace Tony Gonzalez with a tight end who is even serviceable may be Dimitroff’s biggest miss to date. The Falcons’ new head coach will have a rebuilding process ahead of him — the team’s records over the last two seasons were not a fluke.

Possible replacements: The Falcons have hired the search firm Korn Ferry to identify potential coaching candidates, which means that this process could go just about anywhere. Look for hot assistant coaches like New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase to get consideration, though it’s also been said that Blank may want to try and make a splash with one of the big names who turned to broadcasting like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden. Cowher seems pretty happy with his current lot, though, and Gruden just signed a lucrative extension with ESPN. More likely, the Falcons will get one of the top assistants available.


New York Jets

Fire head coach Rex Ryan, GM John Idzik

• Tale of tape: 4-12 in 2014; 46-50 in the regular season overall; 4-2 playoff record, including back-to-back AFC Championship Game appearances in 2009-10.

• What went wrong: This season, just about everything.

The problems began, as they so often do when these coaching situations go awry, back in the offseason. Despite Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie patrolling other secondaries, Idzik did little to help Ryan at cornerback, a position that serves as one of the centerpieces for Ryan’s multifaceted defense.

The D still managed to hold it together at times, finishing in the middle of the pack vs. the pass and top 10 against the run. The depleted secondary, however, produced just six interceptions — tied with Jacksonville and Kansas City for the fewest in the NFL.

Offensively, the same challenges that had been present throughout much of Ryan’s tenure as head coach lingered. A Geno SmithMichael Vick QB duel unraveled quickly in the offseason, with Vick first saying he was content being the backup and then admitting he was unprepared when Ryan put him into the lineup.

Idzik did make significant moves, signing WR Eric Decker in the offseason and trading for WR Percy Harvin just before the deadline. Aside from a Week 17 outburst in Miami, the offense still showed little progress.

The Jets followed up a Week 1 win with eight straight losses. By that point, Ryan’s fate was all but sealed.

Roster outlook: There are a couple of bright spots, notably up front on defense thanks to Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson. Decker also finished the year with 74 catches for 962 yards despite little help from his QBs.

Overall, however, this is at best a roster in flux. The quarterback conundrum remains a black cloud for the franchise. Vick is set to be a free agent but Smith is under contract for next season, so the next coach could try again to turn him into a true No. 1. The smarter play at this point would be to send Smith to the bench and attempt to upgrade the starting spot, either through the draft (New York picks No. 6 in Round 1) or a free agency/trade move.

There are minimal key players with expiring contracts: David Harris, a 16-game starter at linebacker, is the most noteworthy. A decision also must be made on Harvin at some point in the near future.

A one-year fix may be asking too much for the next regime, particularly with the unsettled QB situation. It will take some time for the new GM to undo Idzik’s mess and the new coach to shape the roster.

• Possible replacements: Josh McDaniels, Adam Gase, Dan Quinn, Darrell Bevell, Hue Jackson, Kyle Shanahan, Jack Del Rio. There is no shortage of options, both those somewhat tested (McDaniels, Del Rio) and those set for a first head coaching shot. McDaniels, Gase, Jackson, Shanahan and Bevell all would represent a shift away from the defensive-minded Ryan.

As far as the GM job goes, Tom Gamble and Brian Gaine could be among the names to watch. Both interviewed for the Jets’ job before Idzik was handed the reigns two years ago.


San Francisco 49ers

Mutually agreed to part ways with Jim Harbaugh

Tale of the tape: 8-8 in 2014, 49-22-1 overall, and 5-3 in the postseason. Harbaugh became the first NFL coach to lead his team to the conference championship in his first three seasons, and the 49ers came within a couple of plays of beating the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. He’s one of the most successful coaches ever to leave his team by virtue of mutual agreement.

What went wrong: It’s long been known that Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke — two very intense guys — did not get along. Harbaugh inherited a roster that was more talented than the one he’s leaving behind, and that team was built primarily by former team executive Scot McCloughan. Baalke’s last three drafts have been iffy at best, and recent injuries and player suspensions led to a sub-par performance on the field in 2014.

Harbaugh came into the league in 2011, one year after former Pac-10 rival Pete Carroll took over the Seattle Seahawks, and the level of organizational control Carroll had from Day 1 is something that Harbaugh desires — and something he feels he’s earned. (He’s probably right about that.) There’s also the simple fact that Harbaugh’s sometimes caustic style tends to wear out its welcome — even more so when the team he’s coaching isn’t winning. Quite simply, no matter how successful Harbaugh had been, it was time for a change.

Roster outlook: The 49ers were without inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman for the entire season, and Patrick Willis was hurt in-season. Rookie Chris Borland stepped up until he was upbraided by his own maladies, but this team should have a very formidable linebacker corps in 2015. Defensive tackle Justin Smith is likely to retire, leaving a huge hole in the front four, and Aldon Smith has been unable to shake off-field concerns. The team has an underrated group of cornerbacks, though young safeties Eric Reid and Jimmie Ward have a lot to learn about pass coverage.

On offense, quarterback Colin Kaepernick still needs a lot of development, and that was made apparent in 2014 when the offensive line and run game regressed. Frank Gore, who’s been the heart of that offense for the last decade, is a free agent and may go elsewhere. The 49ers do have an estimable young back in Carlos Hyde. Among the team’s receivers, only Anquan Boldin performed as expected — tight end Vernon Davis never really seemed to find his groove, and the passing attack they envisioned when they added receivers like Stevie Johnson never seemed to come together. This is a team with a lot of talent at a lot of spots, but there is a noticeable gap between the older guys on the downside and the younger players still coming into their own. Kaepernick’s development will be the key.

Possible replacement(s): The hot name that’s been bandied about for months is defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, who would, we speculate, be easier for Baalke to deal with than Harbaugh was. Other possible candidates might be Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. One thing is for sure: If the 49ers let a coach this successful go for personal (as opposed to personnel) reasons, the ability to get along will be critical for the next man up — and Baalke will have to hope that it works its way into wins.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NBA

LeBron James Says Cleveland Cavaliers Are ‘Not a Very Good Team’

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James again gave an assessment of where his team stands, saying that they are “not a very good team” after they were blown out by the Pistons on Sunday, Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor reports.

During the 103-80 rout by Detroit, the Cavaliers actually led by 15 points early before the Pistons used an 18-0 run to put the game out of reach. Detroit made 17 three-pointers and turned 18 Cleveland turnovers into 21 points.

“As far as on the court, we’re still trying to find our way as well,” James said after the game, according to Cleveland.com. “But right now, we’re just not very good in every aspect of the game that we need to be to compete every night.”

James basically repeated what he said after the Cavaliers lost to the Miami Heat on Christmas Day. After a win the next night over the Orlando Magic, James said that his team was playing “nowhere near championship ball.”

The Cavaliers have been blown out in their past three home games and with the loss to Detroit fell to 18-12, three games behind the Chicago Bulls in the Central Division.

James had 17 points, 10 rebounds and seven rebounds in Sunday’s loss to Detroit. He also turned the ball over seven times and shot 5 for 19 from the field in 32 minutes.

This article originally appeared on Si.com

TIME Football

San Francisco 49ers, Jim Harbaugh Agree to Part Ways

San Francisco 49ers v St Louis Rams
Dilip Vishwanat—Getty Images Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers reacts in a game at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis on Oct. 13, 2014

The San Francisco 49ers and head coach Jim Harbaugh have “mutually agreed to part ways,” team CEO Jed York said in a statement Sunday.

York also said the 49ers have already started its search for the team’s next head coach.

On Saturday, there were multiple reports that Harbaugh had accepted an offer from Michigan to become the school’s next football coach. Michigan officials were reportedly in San Francisco this weekend to meet with the head coach​.

On Sunday morning, Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports reported that Harbaugh is expected to be introduced at Michigan’s men’s basketball game on Tuesday. Jay Glazer of Fox Sports also reported Sunday that the Oakland Raiders remain “hopeful” about the chance of hiring Harbaugh.

From 49ers.com:

“Jim and I have come to the conclusion that it is in our mutual best interest to move in different directions,” said York. “We thank Jim for bringing a tremendous competitive nature and a great passion for the game to the 49ers. He and his staff restored a winning culture that has been the standard for our franchise throughout its history. Their commitment and hard work resulted in a period of success that should be looked back on proudly by our organization and our fans. We wish Jim and his family all the best.”

“For the last four seasons I have had the great privilege to coach one of the storied franchises in the history of football,” said Harbaugh. “We accomplished many great things together as a team during this period, which is a tribute to the incredible efforts of some of the most dedicated players and coaches in the NFL.”

Harbaugh has a 44-22-1 record in four seasons with the 49ers, including three NFC Championship games and one Super Bowl berth. He played quarterback for Michigan from 1983-86, and is renowned for guaranteeing a win against archrival Ohio State in his senior season.

Harbaugh also played in the NFL for 15 years until 2001, and served as the Raiders’ quarterbacks coach in 2002 and 2003. He earned his first head coaching job at San Diego from 2004-06 before he was hired by Stanford in 2007. Over four seasons with the Cardinal, Harbaugh went 29-21, culminating in a 12-1, Orange Bowl-winning 2010 season with future Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck at quarterback.

Michigan fired Brady Hoke earlier this month after he went 31-20 in four seasons. The Wolverines went 5-7 this season, missing a bowl for the first time since 2009.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NFL

Michael Sam Discusses Coming Out on Oprah TV Special

Michael Sam
USA Today Sports/Reuters Michael Sam speaks to the media in a press conference during the 2014 NFL Combine on Feb. 22, 2014.

His first TV appearance since being cut by the Dallas Cowboys in October

In a TV documentary with Oprah Winfrey that aired Saturday night, Michael Sam said that coming out as gay was the right thing to do.

The 90-minute program on the Oprah Winfrey Network, which also included a one-on-one with Sam and Winfrey, was the the former St. Louis Rams draft pick’s first TV appearance since being cut by the Dallas Cowboys from their practice squad in October. Sam signed with Dallas after he was part of the Rams’ final round of training camp cuts.

Sam said that while he knew coming out was the right decision, his preference was to tell the team that drafted him before the news became public.

“It didn’t need to be public,” Sam said, according to the Associated Press. “Why do gay people have to do it?”

The documentary also discusses what Sam called “the infamous kiss” TV cameras captured between he and his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, after being notified the Rams were drafting him.

“Some say the kiss, the cake, it was all just too much,” Winfrey said. “Some say he wasn’t good enough. Others say he should have never come out, one saying during the introduction to the program that he would be the mother of all distractions.”

Sam is currently a free agent after spending seven weeks on the Cowboys’ practice squad.

This article originally appeared at SI.com

TIME Football

Michael Sam Says Other Closeted NFL Players ‘Reached Out’ to Him

In May, he became the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL

Michael Sam tells Oprah Winfrey that other gay NFL players “reached out” after he decided to come out as gay.

The athlete, who in May became the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL, opens up in his first television interview since he was cut from the St. Louis Rams and waived from the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad. He wouldn’t specify how many closeted players contacted him.

“They were thankful that I had the courage … they wished that they had the courage to come out,” Sam says. “There’s a lot of us out there. I’m not the only one. I’m just the only one who’s open.”

The interview airs Dec. 27 at 10:30 p.m. ET on the Oprah Winfrey Network after the 9 p.m. ET premiere of documentary about him.

[OWN]

TIME Baseball

Nationals Pitcher Doug Fister Buys Everybody Starbucks for Christmas

Doug Fister of the Washington Nationals celebrates scoring a run in the sixth inning on a Ryan ZImmerman single during one of a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins on Sept. 26, 2014 at Nationals Park in Washington.
Mitchell Layton—Getty Images Doug Fister of the Washington Nationals celebrates scoring a run in the sixth inning on a Ryan ZImmerman single during one of a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins on Sept. 26, 2014 at Nationals Park in Washington.

But cautions against using the barcode more than once

Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister was feeling particularly generous on Christmas Eve, so he decided to buy Starbucks for everyone.

Fister posted a barcode on his Twitter page and told followers to have a Starbucks barista scan the barcode, which would give them a free cup of coffee. He also cautioned potential Grinches to only use the barcode once.

Fister made $7.2 million in 2014, so as long as everyone stays away from Venti-sized coffees, he shouldn’t have too big an issue footing the bill.

This article originally appeared on SportsIllustrated.com

TIME Soccer

A Nepalese World Cup Worker Dies Every Other Day in Qatar

Prakash Mathema—AFP/Getty Nepalese migrant workers queue to receive official documents in order to leave Nepal from the Labour department in Kathmandu on January 27, 2014.

The appalling toll comes despite Qatari claims of reform

The Guardian reports that Nepalese migrants building the infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar died at a rate of one in every two days during 2014.

The death toll excludes deaths among Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi workers. The Guardian believes that if these figures were included, the death toll would “almost certainly” be more than one a day.

Human rights organizations have accused Qatar on falling behind on the investigations and labor reforms they vowed to implement following a report by international law firm DLA Piper published in May.

“It’s Qatar’s responsibility to determine if deaths are related to living and working conditions, but Qatar flatly rejected a DLA Piper recommendation to launch an immediate investigation into these deaths last year,” said Nicholas McGeehan, the Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The Nepalese foreign employment board told the newspaper that 67 of its nationals had died of cardiac arrest and 8 of heart attacks, while 34 death were logged as workplace accidents.

Read more at the Guardian

TIME College football

Jameis Winston Accused of ‘Fix In’ With Code of Conduct Hearing

Florida State Seminoles quaterback Jameis Winston leaves his student conduct code hearing in Tallahassee, Florida on Dec. 2, 2014.
Jeff Gammons—Getty Images Florida State Seminoles quaterback Jameis Winston leaves his student conduct code hearing in Tallahassee, Florida on Dec. 2, 2014.

Accuser's lawyer claims proceeding was "biased" and "fix was in"

A lawyer for the woman who accused Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston of sexually assaulting her says “the fix was in” when the university cleared him of violating the school’s code of conduct.

The lawyer, Baine Kerr, told the Associated Press that Florida State did not conduct a fair hearing, calling the proceedings a “mockery … that ignored what the evidence was.”

Citing evidence “insufficient to satisfy the burden of proof,” officials cleared Winston of allegations that he violated four sections of the school’s code of conduct — two for sexual misconduct and two for endangerment. Winston, last season’s Heisman Trophy winner, could have been expelled had he been found guilty.

“I don’t want to impugn the proceeding as corrupt, but I think it was biased and the fix was in,” Kerr told the AP. “It’s all about a football game 10 days from today. It turned out to be just a predetermined whitewash to keep a guy playing football.”

Winston did not testify during the hearing but gave a written statement saying that sex with the woman was consensual.

“The proper forum to getting to the truth is going to be the court of law, not, essentially, a sham court like this one turned out to be,” Kerr said.

Winston’s accuser has five days to appeal the school’s decision.

Florida State is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Education on how it handled the Winston case, which could be a possible Title IX violation.

The Seminoles, who have won 29 games in a row, face Oregon in the College Football Playoffs semifinal on Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Football

Details Released in Ray McDonald Sexual Assault Allegations

Former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald at a game against Washington Redskins in Santa Clara, Ca. on Nov. 23, 2014.
Thearon W. Henderson—Getty Images Former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald at a game against Washington Redskins in Santa Clara, Ca. on Nov. 23, 2014.

The details were released on Monday

A woman said that former San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald sexually assaulted her after she spent time drinking with him and hit her head in a fall by his swimming pool, according to court documents.

The 49ers released McDonald last Wednesday, citing his “pattern of poor decision-making.” Last month, McDonald was not charged after an investigation into an alleged domestic violence incident at his home. Authorities dropped the case, citing lack of evidence to press charges.

The San Jose Police Department began investigating McDonald, 30, in this case after a woman accused him of a possible sexual assault earlier this month.

The woman told police that she does not remember the sexual encounter, which police say took place in McDonald’s home in San Jose on Dec. 14, hours after the 49ers lost 17-7 to the Seattle Seahawks.

According to an unsealed search warrant, the woman said she had been drinking with friends and McDonald that night. The woman told authorities that she awoke the next morning naked and next to McDonald at his home.

The woman stayed the next day with McDonald and had drinks with him and 49ers teammate Aldon Smith, who is currently on probation after pleading no contest to weapons and drunk driving charges. McDonald then admitted a sexual encounter occurred.

Police also set up a text-message exchange between McDonald and an investigator to get him to discuss what happened that night.

“I don’t understand why you’re bothered. U chose to stay with me another day,” McDonald texted, according to documents. “I didn’t do anything wrong. Ok so now it seems like you’re trying to set me up.”

Police executed a search warrant on McDonald’s home the day before the 49ers released him. McDonald told authorities that the entire incident was captured “on his internal video system and was on his DVR in his room.”

McDonald has not been arrested nor charged in the case.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME NFL

AP Votes NFL Domestic Violence Saga as Top Sports Story of the Year

Ravens running back Ray Rice is planning to address the media at 3 p.m. Friday for the first time since he was charged with knocking
Baltimore Sun—MCT via Getty Images Ravens running back Ray Rice and his wife Janay made statements to the news media May 5, 2014, at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md, regarding his assault charge for knocking her unconscious in a New Jersey casino. On Monday, Sept. 9, 2014, Rice was let go from the Baltimore Ravens after a video surfaced from TMZ showing the incident. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun/MCT -- Getty Images)

Don Sterling is #2

Editors and news directors have voted the NFL domestic violence tumult the top sports story of the year in an annual poll conducted by the Associated Press.

After Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on video knocking out his then-girlfriend-now-wife Janay Rice and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on felony child abuse charges, the league has struggled to address how players are disciplined for violence off the field. Both Rice and Peterson initially received slaps on the wrist (Rice initially got a two-game suspension, Peterson was scheduled to play a week after his indictment) until public outrage led the league to suspend them both. Rice has now won his appeal to be reinstated, while Peterson is suing the NFL. Commissioner Roger Goodell is pursuing a new player conduct policy but the players’ union is fighting him every step of the way.

The 3rd most important story of the year was LeBron returning home, the 4th was the increased openness of gay athletes like Jason Collins, and the 5th was the Giants winning the World Series.

[AP]

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