Sports

Federal judge rules U.S. Soccer did not violate Equal Pay Act

A federal judge ruled Friday in favor of the United States Soccer Federation, dismissing a claim it violated the Equal Pay Act by allegedly discriminating against female athletes. District Judge R. Gary Klausner granted in part a motion for summary judgment sought by the U.S. Soccer Federation, siding with its lawyers in a dispute involving athlete pay. He allowed other aspects of the lawsuit to move ahead, however, setting the stage for lawyers representing members of the Women’s National Team to pursue different claims in court. An attorney for the team said they would appeal the dismissal of their equal pay claim, and Democratic presidential hopeful Joseph R. Biden said he would get involved if elected. Lawyers for members of the women’s team filed the suit against U.S. Soccer in March 2019, seeking more than $66 million in damages for alleged violations of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Judge Klausner, an appointee of former President George W. Bush, ultimately dismissed the suit’s claim that athletes on the Women’s National Team have been underpaid in comparison to players on the Men’s National Team in violation of federal anti-discrimination law. “In sum, Defendant has offered evidence in support of its Motion for Summary Judgement that the WNT has been paid more on both a cumulative and an average per-game basis than the MNT over the class period,” he ruled from U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. But he did not dismiss allegations that U.S. Soccer violated Title VII, which protects employees against discrimination based on characteristics such as sex. He said the plaintiffs can move forward with its claim that female athletes have been subjected to unequal working conditions, paving the way for their argument to go to trial as soon as next month.

Sounds like Judge Klausner made a reasonable and prudent ruling here, and should be commended for it.  The only question we have is..  Who the hell does Joe Biden think he is?  A dictator?  What on earth could he POSSIBLY do as a President to “intervene?”  Someone needs to remind crazy ol’ Joe that here in America we have three SEPARATE branches of government, and that presidents (executive branch) cannot interfere with the judiciary; basic American civics 101.  Either he’s too senile and forgot that, or he really thinks his base is too stupid to not know that.  For the rest of us, we’ll just roll our eyes and call him out for his outrageous, inappropriate and very UNpresidential comments.  For more on this story, click on the text above.

XFL Lays Off All Employees, Suspends Operations Due to Coronavirus

What began as a promising reboot for a spring time football league looking to fill the void for football-crazed fans after the NFL season, has just taken a turn for the worse. The XFL has laid off all their employees and suspended operations indefinitely. According to Pro Football Talk: ” Several XFL employees confirmed on social media today that the whole staff of the XFL was informed that they’re being laid off during a conference call. Although there has not been an official announcement about the 2021 season, it certainly looks like there will be no more XFL at all.” The league got off to a very strong start in its first week. While the numbers fell significantly in the weeks following, the league was averaging over 1.5 million viewers before it suspended play in response to the coronavirus. While 1.5 million is certainly not a large number compared to the NFL, it was a solid performance matched up against other major sports. For example, college basketball was typically pulling in roughly a million viewers on ESPN. In addition, English Premier League games on NBCSN, typically brought in 800 or 900,000. The XFL initially signaled its willingness to resume operations in 2021, but, the lay offs and suspension of operations certainly casts doubt on that idea.

Hopefully once things are back to normal, or as normal as can be expected, the XFL will return.  Go St. Louis BattleHawks!    🙂

The Big Question for Sports: When Will You Feel Safe Around 20,000 Strangers Again?

Sports will be back. At some point in the possibly distant future, athletes will head back to work in arenas, ballparks and stadiums, and leagues will promise a return to normalcy. There will finally be something to watch on television again. But there are some people who might not be ready so quickly: the fans. What happens next in sports may be beyond the control of leagues and the television networks that pay them billions of dollars. The people with the power are the ones who packed the stands. And sports will only be normal once the public decides it’s socially and psychologically acceptable to be around thousands of strangers again. When they can even begin to think about that is impossible to say. The novel coronavirus has caused so much damage and behaves so unpredictably that major events are canceled deep into the summer. It’s no longer a given that play will resume this year. “Until you’re widely vaccinated,” Bill Gates said last week of mass gatherings, “those may not come back at all.” President Trump told the commissioners of sports leagues on Saturday that he wants fans at games “soon—very soon.” “I want fans back in the arenas,” Trump said. “And the fans want to be back, too.” But the primary challenge for the business is not a political or financial one. It’s behavioral. “The overall biggest long-term problem for sports is the fear associated with public interaction,” Golden State Warriors owner Joe Lacob said in an email. “When does that go away? When will society decide that it is once again safe to interact in public? That is the big question for sports teams and leagues.” “The good news is that this virus will be beat and things will return to normal,” he wrote. “We know the enemy, and medical knowledge and capabilities are greater than ever in history.” How long that will take is a question that no one in sports is qualified to answer—and epidemiologists, immunologists and infectious disease experts are still trying to wrap their minds around. What they do understand, as the year slips away, is that how sports fans behave mirrors the behavior of large groups in society as a whole. Even if people were allowed into offices tomorrow, it’s uncertain when they would have the appetite to surround themselves with anywhere between 20,000 and 100,000 other fans at stadiums. Some leagues, governing bodies and even the International Olympic Committee have stopped trying to predict the future. The Olympics were postponed until next summer. Wimbledon will skip 2020. Belgium’s top soccer league simply declared a champion last week. The only thing for the rest to do is search for alternative dates and keep waiting. The NBA is exploring the concept of hosting the playoffs in a fan-free bubble if they get clearance from public health officials, while the English Premier League is contemplating a shift for the last quarter of its season to the middle of summer. But there are many skeptics in the NBA, including LeBron James, and the most ruthless soccer league on earth acknowledges that matches will be on hold until the conditions are “safe and appropriate.” Even if they manage to finish this season, they could find themselves in the same position next season. They could also find themselves running into ferocious competition for eyeballs with the NFL and college football—if those seasons begin on time. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Saturday that he doesn’t believe his state’s three NFL teams will be playing in front of fans come September. Amy Huchthausen, commissioner of America East Conference, said that she’s already noted small shifts in her own life that foreshadow larger ones in society. She notices the nearest person on the sidewalk when she’s outside now. That sense of heightened attention figures to be common in crowded stadiums. “I think we’re naive to think that’s not going to persist in a long-term way even when we’re past the virus and past the pandemic,” she said. “I have a hard time believing that once an order is lifted, people are just going to flock to go back to a 50,000-seat or 100,000-seat stadium like they did before.” That would render plans for near-term comebacks as useless as a face mask made of tissue paper. The basketball and soccer leagues in China, where the virus appeared to be dissipating under strict controls, hoped to return to action this month in empty venues. They quickly abandoned those hopes. South Korea canceled the rest of its basketball season. Japan has postponed baseball’s opening day—twice. Players and coaches are reluctant to rush back anyway. Not only do they balk at the prospect of playing in empty stadiums, but they also understand that the globetrotting nature of their jobs is a recipe for constant exposure. “I think we’re going to have to draw a line through the entire 2020 tennis season,” tweeted Amélie Mauresmo, the 2006 Wimbledon champion and former coach of Andy Murray. “No vaccine = no tennis.” Imagining a return to packed stadiums is even harder when the stern lessons of recent mass gatherings are only beginning to be understood. It isn’t just because fans will have less disposable income to spend on sports tickets. It’s also become clear that the outbreak of coronavirus in Northern Italy was turbocharged by a soccer game between Atalanta and Valencia in Milan on Feb. 19. Fans who attended other matches are now wondering if they are sitting on their own time-bombs. Matthew Ashton went to see Liverpool play Atlético Madrid on March 11 at a time when other European countries were already in lockdown. He persuaded his father, a 72-year-old season-ticket holder, to skip one of the club’s biggest matches of the season. But since he was young and healthy, Ashton made a different calculation for himself. “I think it’s the last chance I have to go see Liverpool play this year,” he told his father, who is also a public health expert. “It probably was the wrong decision. In retrospect, you think: Was it really worth it?” The weeks that followed saw a spike in cases in Liverpool that Ashton believes was accelerated by the Atlético match. Once people realize the consequences of being around each other, he said, they might have an unsettling thought: “Oh my God, perhaps I’m not as safe as I once thought I was.’” There’s a reason this is now on Ashton’s mind: Last week he was named the city of Liverpool’s director of public health.

Our thanks to Joshua RobinsonBen Cohen and Laine Higgins for that sobering piece.  

Tokyo Olympics Officially Postponed Until 2021

The Tokyo Olympics were postponed until 2021 on Tuesday, ending weeks of speculation that the games could not go ahead as scheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The International Olympic Committee made the decision after speaking with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and local organizers. The IOC said the games will be held “not later than summer 2021” but they will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “In the present circumstances and based on the information provided by the WHO today, the IOC President and the Prime Minister of Japan have concluded that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad in Tokyo must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020 but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community,” the IOC said in a statement. Before the official announcement, Abe said Bach had agreed with his proposal for a one-year postponement. “President Bach said he will agree ‘100%,’ and we agreed to hold the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in the summer of 2021 at the latest,” Abe said, saying holding the games next year would be “proof of a victory by human beings against the coronavirus infections.” On Sunday, Bach said a decision on postponing the games would be made in the next four weeks. But pressure grew as national federations, sports governing bodies and athletes spoke out against having the opening ceremony as planned on July 24. Four-time Olympic hockey champion Hayley Wickenheiser was the first IOC member to break ranks with Bach’s stance that the games would go ahead as planned when she publicly criticized the body’s unwavering strategy. After the announcement to postpone the game, she wrote on Twitter that the decision was the “message athletes deserved to hear.” “To all the athletes: take a breath, regroup, take care of yourself and your families. Your time will come,” she wrote. The decision came only a few hours after local organizers said the torch relay would start as planned on Thursday. It was expected to start in northeastern Fukushima prefecture, but with no torch, no torchbearers and no public. Those plans also changed. “For the time being, the flame will be stored and displayed in Fukushima,” organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori said. The Olympics have never before been postponed, and have only ever previously been canceled in wartime. Organizers will now have to figure out how to keep things running for another year, while making sure venues are up to date for possible another 12 months. “A lot can happen in one year, so we have to think about what we have to do,” said Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the organizing committee. “The decision came upon us all of a sudden.” The IOC and Tokyo organizers said they hope the decision to postpone will help the world heal from the pandemic. “The leaders agreed that the Olympic Games in Tokyo could stand as a beacon of hope to the world during these troubled times and that the Olympic flame could become the light at the end of the tunnel in which the world finds itself at present,” the IOC statement said. “Therefore, it was agreed that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan. It was also agreed that the Games will keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.”

First Saturday in September: Pandemic delays Kentucky Derby to late summer

As a global coronavirus pandemic spreads, Churchill Downs Inc. says it will move the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby to Saturday, September 5. The late-summer Derby would mark the first time the race isn’t held the first Saturday in May since 1945, when it was postponed to June during the waning months of World War II. The move comes amid growing concerns about large public gatherings in the coming weeks and months. President Trump on Monday urged Americans to restrict their discretionary travel and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people for the next 15 days. Churchill Downs Inc. CEO, Bill Carstanjen said the racetrack and gambling company didn’t consider canceling the iconic race for 3-year-old horses, the first leg of thoroughbred racing’s Triple Crown. “Throughout the rapid development of the COVID-19 pandemic, our first priority has been how to best protect the safety and health of our guests, team members and community,” Carstanjen said. “As the situation evolved, we reached the difficult conclusion that we needed to reschedule.” Churchill now plans to run the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, September 4. In a conference call Tuesday morning, Carstanjen said the Derby would run this year and didn’t address any contingency plans if the virus is still spreading or begins to re-appear at the time of the race. The Derby routinely has more than 150,000 people in attendance. “We are determined that we are going to run the Kentucky Derby, and we are going to run it with a crowd,” Carstanjen said. The Derby is a participatory event.” Carstanjen said NBC Sports is in talks with other racetrack operators to move the Preakness and Belmont. The Derby is a consistent $400 million economic boon for Louisville with two weeks of events and celebration in the city, including Thunder Over Louisville. The race is just the latest event to be delayed in America’s rush to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Every major professional and collegiate event has been canceled or postponed, and many states have outright bans on gatherings of above a few hundred people.

Bouwmeester back in St. Louis, ‘on the road to recovery’

Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester is back in St. Louis after collapsing on the bench during a game in Anaheim last week and said in a statement Tuesday that he is “on the road to recovery.” Bouwmeester, 36, collapsed during the first period of the Feb. 11 game after going into cardiac arrest. He had a cardioverter defibrillator implanted into his chest at UCI Medical Center in Orange County, California, where he had been hospitalized until returning to St. Louis on Sunday. In a statement issued by the Blues, Bouwmeester thanked team trainers for both the Blues and Ducks, along with first responders and the medical staff at UCI Medical Center. “Our family has felt the support of the entire National Hockey League family and the city of St. Louis during this time,” Bouwmeester said in the statement. “We have all been greatly comforted by your genuine concern. On Sunday evening, I returned to St. Louis and I am on the road to recovery. My wife and daughters are forever grateful for everyone’s support and we will continue to have a positive outlook for our future.“ The game was postponed and will be played March 11. It will begin with a 1-1 score, as it was at the time of the postponement, but still follow a full 60-minute format.

Glad you’re doing better, Jay!  This story broke last night as the Blues shut out the NJ Devils 0-3 at home in St. Louis.  GO BLUES!!!      🙂

NASCAR star Hailie Deegan poses with Trumps ahead of Daytona 500: ‘Goal complete’

Hailie Deegan, the 18-year-old driver deemed “NASCAR’s Next Big Superstar,” posed for a photo she’ll likely remember for the rest of her life, standing next to President Trump and first lady Melania Trump at the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Deegan and the Trumps were all smiles ahead of the race in Florida. The driver posted the photo to Twitter, adding, “Goal complete,” with a check mark. Earlier Sunday, she tweeted: “Today’s goal. Get my helmet signed by Trump.” That earlier tweet got the attention of Donald Trump Jr., who responded: “DM me… I may know someone.” Deegan proudly held her helmet as she posed for the photo. She was not slated to drive in Sunday’s race. Deegan made her stock car debut at Daytona earlier this month, finishing second to Michael Self in the ARCA Series season opener on Feb. 8. President Trump spoke ahead of the Daytona 500, calling it “the legendary display of roaring engines, soaring spirits and the American skill, speed and power that we’ve been hearing about for so many years.” He later gave the command, “Gentlemen, start your engines,” and rode for a lap in the presidential limo known as “The Beast” before the race got underway. When asked about her rising profile in NASCAR, Deegan said earlier this month: “I think there’s that aspect of being a girl that does help. But, once you get in the car, it don’t matter. No one knows. Most of the time I have the most aggressive-looking, guy-looking car on the track.”

What a great story!     🙂