TIME Football

USC Athletic Director Skipping Football Meeting Over Indiana Law

Cal State Northridge v USC
Jeff Golden—Getty Images Pat Haden smiles on the court before the game between the Cal State Northridge Matadors and the USC Trojans at Galen Center in Los Angeles on Nov. 12, 2013

USC athletic director Pat Haden tweeted on Tuesday that he will not attend a College Football Playoff committee meeting in Indianapolis this week due to Senate Bill 101, the controversial religious freedom law Indiana passed last week by Gov. Mike Pence.

The law, which will go into effect in July, has garnered national attention this month. Proponents say the law protects individual religious freedoms from state and local governments. Opponents say it could allow businesses to refuse to serve LGBT customers by citing the business owners’ religious beliefs.

In the tweet, Haden said he was skipping the meeting as “the proud father of a gay son.”

Haden is one of 13 committee members responsible for developing the weekly College Football Playoff rankings that were introduced last season.

The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis and will hold the NCAA men’s basketball tournament Final Four at the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium this weekend, issued a statement last week on the bill.

“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events,” read the statement from NCAA president Mark Emmert. “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

The LGBT sports coalition has since voiced its support for relocating major sporting events from Indiana, and a Change.org petition to move next season’s Big Ten football championship out of Indianapolis has drawn more than 12,000 supporters as of Tuesday afternoon.

On Saturday, the NBA, WNBA, Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever also issued a joint statement on the law. On Tuesday, NASCAR released a statement, saying the organization is “disappointed” by the legislation.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Football

Atlanta Falcons to Lose Draft Pick for Piping In Fake Crowd Noise During Games

An Atlanta Falcons' helmet sits on the turf before a game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. on Nov. 16, 2014.
Bob Leverone—AP An Atlanta Falcons' helmet sits on the turf before a game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C. on Nov. 16, 2014.

NFL is expected to release its official decision on Tuesday

The NFL is expected to suspend Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay from the league’s competition committee and strip a draft pick from the team for using artificial crowd noise at home games, reports ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter.

According to the report, the league is expected to render its official decision on Tuesday, which could also involve a substantial fine.

McCay is the chairman of the NFL Competition Committee, which is in charge of overseeing the league’s rules.

The league has been investigating the claim since November that the Falcons have been using the tactic over the past two seasons while their opponents are huddling or trying to call a play.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank admitted that the team is guilty of pumping in crowd noise, telling the Associated Press that it was “obviously embarrassing but beyond embarrassing it doesn’t represent our culture and what we’re about.”

The Falcons lost three of their seven games at the Georgia Dome this season and were blown out by the Carolina Panthers at home in Week 17 with a playoff berth on the line. They only won three of their eight home games in 2013 on their way to a 4-12 record.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME Football

Michael Sam Says There Are Other Gay Athletes in the NFL

Michael Sam attends the premiere of ABC's "Dancing With The Stars" season 20 in West Hollywood, Calif. on March 16, 2015.
Alberto E. Rodriguez—Getty Images Michael Sam attends the premiere of ABC's "Dancing With The Stars" season 20 in West Hollywood, Calif. on March 16, 2015.

"There is a lot of us," says Michael Sam

Free-agent defensive end Michael Sam says that he is not the only gay player in the NFL.

Sam became the first openly gay player selected in the NFL draft when the St. Louis Rams chose him in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

He was cut at the end of training camp after making three sacks during the preseason and was signed by the Dallas Cowboys to their practice squad, spending seven weeks with the team before he was released in October.

“I am not the only gay person in the NFL,” Sam said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I’m just saying there is a lot of us. I respect the players that did reach out to me and had the courage to tell me that they were also gay, but they do not have the same courage as I do to come out before I even played a down in the NFL.”

Last month, Sam told Sports Illustrated‘s Robert Klemko that there were other gay players in the NFL.

Sam worked out at the veterans combine in Arizona last weekend, running a 4.99 40-yard dash. He admits coming out was a “risky move” and didn’t think it was going to be a big deal.

“Maybe I was naive,” Sam said. “Maybe I thought it was 2014, and people will understand that there’s gay NFL players. There’s gay athletes everywhere. But I was clearly wrong. It was a huge deal.”

Sam is currently competing on ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

“Dancing with the Stars is my employer,” Sam said. “That’s my main source of income.… I’m unemployed, and I don’t believe I’m out of the NFL because I’m gay. But if it was a reason, it can hurt their livelihood, and you don’t want to take that chance.”

Sam says he has not talked to his father since February 2014, when the New York Times published a story detailing Sam’s upbringing in Hitchcock, Texas.

Sam sent his father a text saying he was gay, prompting Michael Sam, Sr. to tell the newspaper, “I’m old school…. I’m a man-and-a-woman type of guy.”

The younger Sam says those comments and others made in the article were “unforgivable.”

“I still love him, but I can love him from afar,” Sam said.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME College football

USC AD Pat Haden: Documents Confirm NCAA Sanctions Unfair

USC Trojans Athletic Director Haden stands on the sidelines during the NCAA football game against the Hawaii Warriors in Los Angeles
Danny Moloshok—Reuters Pat Haden stands on the sidelines during the NCAA football game against the Hawaii Warriors in Los Angeles on Sept. 1, 2012

USC athletic director Pat Haden says private emails between NCAA committee on infractions members that were made public as part of a lawsuit filed by former Trojans running backs coach Todd McNair confirm the school was treated unfairly in the NCAA’s handling of the Reggie Bush case.

The NCAA released almost 500 pages of documents on Tuesday after losing a court battle to keep them sealed. The documents relate to McNair’s defamation suit against the NCAA.

“I think these documents are cause for concern about the NCAA’s own institutional controls,” Haden said Wednesday in a statement. “It should be concerning to all schools that the NCAA didn’t appear to follow its own rules.”

The NCAA investigated the school to determine whether Bush and former basketball player O.J. Mayo received improper benefits and whether USC coaches knew about the players’ violations.

USC’s football program received a postseason ban, lost 30 scholarships and was forced to vacate 14 victories in which Bush played from December 2004 through Bush’s 2005 Heisman Trophy winning season after NCAA investigators concluded that Bush and his family received cash and gifts from sports marketers in 2004 and 2005.

“We are extremely disappointed and dismayed at the way the NCAA investigated, judged and penalized our university throughout this process,” Haden said. “USC hopes that the transparency in this case will ultimately lead to review and changes so that all member institutions receive the fair and impartial treatment they deserve.”

The investigative report also criticized McNair, slapping him with a one-year “show-cause penalty” prohibiting him from recruiting and other sanctions.

McNair sued the NCAA in June 2011, saying the NCAA investigation was one-sided and seeks unspecified damages for libel, slander and breach of contract. McNair’s contract was not renewed by the school after the show-cause penalty was handed down.

The NCAA said McNair lied about his knowledge of extra benefits being provided to Bush and his family.

In the unsealed documents, the NCAA criticized the school for hiring Lane Kiffin as its head coach. Kiffin, now the offensive coordinator at Alabama, was the coordinator of the USC offense while Bush was playing.

“Lack of institutional control … (and do we add the hiring of Lane Kiffin?), is a very easy call for me,” committee member Roscoe Howard wrote.

NCAA committee member Rodney Uphoff also compared the evidence against McNair to the case surrounding the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City. Uphoff said the case against McNair was stronger than that against Terry Nichols, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the bombing.

This story originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Football

NFL Suspends TV Blackout Policy for 2015

The rule blocked local game broadcasts if not enough tickets had been sold

The National Football League (NFL) announced Monday the suspension of a long-standing TV blackout policy for the 2015 season.

The policy, which was instated in 1975, blocks local TV stations from broadcasting NFL games if fewer than 85% of the seats have had been sold 72 hours prior to kickoff, according to the NFL’s rules.

At the time, NFL teams had relied primarily on ticket sales for revenue.

“With the proliferation of booming television deals and increased public funding of stadiums, the NFL has decided to run a season without the policy in place and analyze whether the lack of a blackout threat drastically alters ticket sales in certain markets,” according to NFL.com.

NFL teams have taken steps to prevent the number of blackouts in recent years, with zero regular season blackouts in 2014 and only two in 2013, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. Still, ticket sales have been low in cities including Jacksonville, Fla., Oakland, Calif., and San Diego, Calif., the Associated Press reports.

The NFL’s suspension of the policy follows heavy criticism of the blackout rule through the decades. In 1972, the NFL famously denied a request by former President Richard Nixon to lift a hometown blackout on a Washington Redskins game in 1972. Just last year, the Federal Communications Commission expressed opposition to the NFL’s blackout policy.


TIME Football

Ex-NFL Star Darren Sharper Sentenced to 9 Years in Sex-Assault Case

Darren Sharper
Mario Anzuoni—AP Former NFL All-Pro safety Darren Sharper looks toward his attorney, Blair Berk, during an appearance in the Los Angeles Superior Court on Feb. 20, 2014.

The former safety is accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women in four states

(LOS ANGELES) — Former NFL star Darren Sharper removed all doubt Monday that he drugged and raped women, taking the first of several steps to own up to sex assaults in four states that will send him to federal prison for about nine years.

In two separate court cases, Sharper pleaded guilty to sexual assault in Arizona and no contest in California to raping two women he knocked out with a potent sedative mixed with booze.

Sharper, 39, wearing a striped, light blue suit, said it was in his best interest to enter the pleas.

The pleas came as Los Angeles prosecutors were prepared to present evidence of Sharper’s fall from grace as a former all-pro safety who won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints. His clean-cut reputation took a hit when women began telling police in several cities similar stories of blacking out while drinking with him and waking up groggy to find they had been sexually abused.

Defense lawyers had previously said the sexual intercourse was consensual. One lawyer had said Sharperdidn’t mix the sleepy shots of alcohol.

But Sharper wielded no defense in court Monday.

By not contesting the California charges, he admitted he raped two women he drugged after meeting them at Bootsy Bellows, a West Hollywood bar. The pleas have the same effect as a conviction.

Both encounters were eerily similar.

In October 2013, Sharper invited a woman and her friend to go to a party but stopped on the way to get something at his Century City hotel and invited them upstairs.

He insisted they drink a shot and they blacked out. One woman awoke with Sharper on top of her having sex.

The women were not in court, but prosecutors said they had agreed to the plea.

Under the unusual deal negotiated by Sharper’s lawyers and state and federal prosecutors, Sharper will serve sentences concurrently in federal prison, though the full term has not yet been announced.

He was sentenced to nine years in the Arizona case and will face 20 years in the California case when sentenced July 15. However, because the crimes in California only require serving half the term and he gets credit for 13 months spent in jail, he’ll serve about nine more years, lawyers said.

The sentence is no slap on the wrist, but it spares Sharper a potentially longer term if sentences involving at least nine alleged victims were added together and he also avoids notoriously rough state prisons, said Jeffery Rubenstein, a former Los Angeles prosecutor.

“This could have gotten really ugly and very likely this guy would have never seen the light of day,” said Rubenstein, who didn’t work on the case.

From the prosecution standpoint, victims were saved from reliving the event through testimony and having their credibility questioned by a seasoned team of defense lawyers, Rubenstein said.

Hearings will follow in Las Vegas on Tuesday and in New Orleans in the next month. In each state, he’s accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women when they were unconscious or otherwise unable to resist or consent.

Sharper’s worked as an NFL network analyst after retiring in 2011 from his 14-year NFL career. His arrest reverberated as the league dealt with off-field problems with players accused of crimes ranging from spousal abuse to murder. He was working

Sharper appeared in a Phoenix courtroom by video-conferencing from LA and admitted he sexually assaulted one woman and tried to attack another in suburban Phoenix in 2013.

Prosecutor Yigael Cohen said one victim didn’t have the ability to resist and suffered emotional harm.

A search of the Tempe apartment turned up a shot glass with a residue of the sedative zolpidem, sold under the brand name Ambien.

In the California case, he pleaded no contest to four counts of furnishing zolpidem, a controlled substance.

Sharper was told he couldn’t later change his mind and withdraw the California plea and that it would stand even if deals in other states collapse.

“To use the vernacular, do you understand that this is a final answer?” Judge Michael Pastor said.

“Yes, sir,” Sharper replied.


Billeaud reported from Phoenix.

TIME Football

Retiring 49ers Linebacker Chris Borland Will Return Most of Signing Bonus

The announcement comes days after the 24-year-old said he was retiring due to concerns over potential head trauma injury

Retiring San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland said he would pay back three-fourths of his signing bonus in an appearance Sunday on CBS’ Face The Nation program.

That equates to paying back more than $463,000, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.

Host Bob Schieffer asked Borland whether or not he was having buyer’s remorse. Borland responded that, to the contrary, he was being accused of a money grab. He then announced his intentions to pay back the bonus, according to Niners Nation.

The announcement comes just days after the 24-year-old told ESPN’s Outside The Lines he was retiring from the NFL due to concerns over potential head trauma injury.

“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health. From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” said Borland earlier this month, who made the 49ers aware of his decision on Mar. 13.

Borland, who played one year of collegiate football at Wisconsin, logged one season in the NFL. He had two interceptions, one sack and 84 tackles for the 49ers in 2014.

Borland is among at least four NFL players who have chosen to retire recently, according to ESPN.

This article originally appeared on SI.com

TIME Football

Football Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik Dies

Chuck Bednarik Eyes The Opposition
Robert Riger—Getty Images Chuck Bednarik (#60) of the Philadelphia Eagles eyes his opponants as Charlie Conerly (#42), quarterback for the New York Giants prepares to take the ball during a game, late 1950s.

"Concrete Charlie" epitomized the tough-guy linebacker

(PHILADELPHIA)—Chuck Bednarik, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and one of the last great two-way NFL players, died early Saturday, the Eagles said. He was 89.

Bednarik, known as “Concrete Charlie,” epitomized the tough-guy linebacker and also was an outstanding center for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1949 to 1962. He is best remembered for a game-saving tackle at the 9-yard line on the final play of the 1960 title game, and it was typical Bednarik. He threw Green Bay running back Jim Taylor to the ground and refused to let him up while the final seconds ticked off as the Eagles held on for a 17-13 win.

“Everybody reminds me of it and I’m happy they remind me of it,” Bednarik once said. “I’m proud and delighted to have played in that game.”

He died at an assisted living facility in Richland, Pennsylvania, following a brief illness, the Eagles said in a statement.

Bednarik, who frequently criticized modern athletes, said he played on all but two kickoffs against the Packers and could have kept playing if he needed to, unlike today’s players who “suck air after five plays.” He missed only three games in his 14-year career.

The tackle on Taylor actually was the second hit that season that drew headlines. Earlier in 1960, he knocked out New York Giants running back Frank Gifford with a blow so hard that Gifford suffered a concussion and didn’t play again until 1962.

An iconic photograph captured Bednarik pumping his fist over Gifford’s prone body, though the linebacker insisted he wasn’t gloating. He said he didn’t notice what happened to Gifford after the hit and only saw that he had fumbled and another Eagle recovered the ball.

Bednarik was the last NFL starter to play regularly on both offense and defense until Deion Sanders did so for Dallas in 1996. Sanders’ achievement hardly impressed Bednarik.

“The positions I played, every play, I was making contact, not like that … Deion Sanders,” Bednarik said. “He couldn’t tackle my wife. He’s back there dancing out there instead of hitting.”

Born May 1, 1925, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Bednarik flew 30 combat missions over Germany as a gunner during World War II. He then played center for Penn from 1945 to 1948, and was selected first overall in the 1949 NFL draft by the Eagles.

In 1950, he was All-NFL as a center, then he was voted All-NFL as a linebacker in 1951 through 1957, and again in 1960.

Bednarik, whose gnarled fingers in retirement stood as a reminder of the ruggedness of his profession, said he never made more than $27,000 in a season and supplemented his income by selling concrete, earning his nickname. At one point, he pawned his championship ring and his Hall of Fame ring.

In early 2005, when the Eagles won the NFC championship and had Philadelphia in a Super Bowl frenzy, Bednarik was bitter enough to root for the Patriots in the Super Bowl. He later apologized to owner Jeff Lurie and was a welcomed visitor at training camp and other alumni functions.

“Philadelphia fans grow up expecting toughness, all-out effort and a workmanlike attitude from this team and so much of that image has its roots in the way Chuck played the game,” Lurie said in a statement released by the team.

The Maxwell Football Club presents an award in Bednarik’s honor to the defensive player of the year in college football.

Bednarik is survived by his wife, Emma, and five daughters —Charlene Thomas, Donna Davis, Carol Safarowic, Pam McWilliams, and Jackie Chelius, as well as 10 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

TIME Football

Former NFL Player Darren Sharper Charged With Rape in Nevada

Former NFL star Darren Sharper appears at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles
Nick Ut—Reuters Former National Football League star Darren Sharper appears at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center in Los Angeles, March 23, 2015.

Sharper already has plea deals in New Orleans and Los Angeles

Former NFL safety Darren Sharper has been charged with rape in Las Vegas, the Associated Press reports.

He faces two counts of rape for allegedly sexually assaulting two women in January 2014 when they were impaired. He will have another hearing in the case on April 3.

Sharper, 39, has also been accused of rape in Los Angeles, Phoenix and New Orleans. He has been in jail in Los Angeles since February 2014 on charges that he drugged and raped a pair of women at a nightclub in 2013.

In December 2014, Sharper was indicted in New Orleans on two counts of aggravated rape and a count of simple rape. He also faces federal drug charges in Louisiana for allegedly drugging the women. A conviction on the rape charges could carry a life sentence without the possibility of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.

Sharper reached a plea deal in the New Orleans and Los Angeles cases Friday, according to the New Orleans Advocate. The agreement “appears to be part of a global deal to wrap up all of the cases against Sharper,” the Advocate reports.

He is also accused of drugging three women and raping two of them in Phoenix. In April 2014, a police detective testified that Sharper’s DNA was found on the leggings of one of his alleged victims.

Sharper played 14 seasons in the NFL with the Packers, Vikings and Saints. He was a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro selection.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 19

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Instead of fighting about the Iran nuclear talks, Congress and the White House should be planning smart sanctions in case a deal falls through.

By Elizabeth Rosenberg and Richard Nephew in Roll Call

2. DARPA thinks it has a solution to Ebola — and lots of other infectious diseases.

By Alexis C. Madrigal at Fusion

3. A stand-out rookie’s retirement after one year in the NFL over fears of brain injury should be a wake-up call for all of football.

By Ben Kercheval in Bleacher Report

4. When patients are urged to get involved in their course of treatment, they’re more confident and satisfied with their care.

By Anna Gorman in Kaiser Health News

5. We don’t need “diversity” on television. We need television to reflect the world around us.

By Shonda Rhimes in Medium

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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