Sports & Politics Intersect: LA poses for its Olympic close-up

Front Five: The top stories that shaped both sports & politics this week

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“If America is a nation of immigrants, Los Angeles is ground zero … a living, breathing metaphor for unity.” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Members of the International Olympic Committee visited Los Angeles this week as the governing body continues to meet with local officials and tour facilities in both L.A. and Paris ahead of naming a host city for the 2024 Summer Games – the twist being the IOC has indicated they might make a dual announcement and grant one bid to one city for 2024 and the other for 2028, although they have sidestepped the discussion thus far. The week also marked the announcement of the formation of NOlympics LA, a community action group organized against the city’s bid, following a pattern of similar bids in Boston, Toronto, Hamburg and Rome where local displeasure with hosting the large event derailed possible bids and has even decided elections. 

Looming over the visit are the ever-changing foreign travel restrictions to the United States under President Donald Trump, but Casey Wasserman of LA 2024 told reporters last week, “Donald Trump has done everything we could have asked to support our bid.” Trump spoke with IOC President Thomas Bach in December shortly after the election. 

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“You gotta be f***ing kidding me.” - Alex Morgan, U.S. Women’s National Team, Orlando Pride

FIFA had a tumultuous week starting with the election of Mahfuza Akhter Kiron of Bangladesh over Australia's Moya Dodd to the 37-member council that overlooks the governing body of soccer. The council represents the six soccer confederations from Asia, Europe, Africa, North & Central America, South America and Oceania and by rule must have one women from each confederation. The vote came with an immediate backlash from fans and players alike as many accused Kiron of being unqualified for the seat – especially when put against Dodd, a former player and lawyer known for her tireless push for equality in the sport – when she couldn’t name who the current women’s World Cup Champion without being given a few guesses first and her short stint running the Bangladesh women’s program. USWNT and Orlando Pride star Alex Morgan immediately took to social media to register her disapproval along with her teammate USWNT Carli Lloyd of Manchester City W.F.C. Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated went as far as to call the election a “farce” and a reminded readers that of the 211 federation heads in soccer, 209 are held by men happy with the status quo. For her part, Dodd was magnanimous about the loss posting, “In football, the ball doesn't stop rolling for long, and there are many ways to contribute to our game.” 

Backlash over the election was soon followed in by the news that several members of FIFA’s ethics committee were dismissed from their posts, a move which could possibly hold up investigations for some time. Then came the decision not to rule on the legitimacy of the six Israeli clubs that play in the occupied West Bank ahead of FIFA’s congress, upsetting members who believe the clubs violate FIFA’s rules against not violating human rights. Reaction to the delay was further inflamed by reports that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally contacted FIFA president Gianni Infantino requesting for the matter to be removed from the agenda.

By the end of the week critics were out in full-force for Infantino wondering he is no better than his predecessor, Sepp Blatter. Infantino dismissed the claims early Thursday saying it was “fake news” and “FIFA bashing” is a sport in many parts of the world

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“Indeed, the content of the Complaint raises serious issues about whether the NFL knew about potential and on-going criminal violations regarding prescription drugs, as well as troubling questions about the legality and medical ethics of the dispensing of painkillers by NFL medical personnel to players.” National Football League Players Association

The NFLPA filed a ‘non-injury grievance’ in late-April against the NFL in response to what the union believes is a continuing issue with how prescription painkillers are given to players by team officials. The grievance was disclosed by the league in a legal filing early in the week as part of their response to a lawsuit currently under review in federal appellate court by former player Richard Dent. Dent’s case states teams routinely handed out painkillers while misleading players about the health risks of such drugs in order to keep a competitive advantage on the field. The filing also pointed out that if the NFL had the time and the resources to spend on ‘Deflategate,’ they could take action in this case

Critics say the league’s disregard for the law around medicating players veers into dangerous criminal activity and should be treated as such.

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"You want the right kind of attention, but when you have the president playing golf and saying that golf is a good thing, that's good for the game.” - PGA of America CEO Peter Bevacqua

Golf and the presidency continue to be intertwined as the the head of the PGA Peter Bevacqua said in an interview with CNNMoney Trump’s golfing was good for the game, just as it was good for the sport when previous presidents such as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton played. Bevacqua hopes Trump can spur a growth in public courses to grow the sport even further, although Trump’s previous comments on the subject say he believes golf should be an aspirational sport. 

Also on the links, famed golf writer James Dodson told the story of the time he almost played golf with Trump at the then-developer’s newly rebuilt course at Trump National Golf Club Charlotte, but had to settle for lunch due to the rain in 2013 to WBUR in Boston. By Dodson’s account, Trump was looking for him to treat him like a subject matter, something the journalist was reluctant to do. As it was the Great Recession had just recently happened and banks were not loaning money for golf courses at the time, Dodson asked son Eric Trump, who was part of their foursome, where the funding was coming from, to which the younger Trump replied they had Russian investors. Eric Trump has denied the story, but Dodson stands by his account saying, “It didn’t mean anything to me at the time. I thought, Good on you! In fact, I think I congratulated him. I said, 'Good. You’re the one guy who can find funding for golf courses.' "

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“This is not about politics. This is about bringing people closer together. You know, when I was coming up, people love and respected the police, the deputies. And, I want to be the one to bring that back, especially in the community I serve.” - Shaquille O'Neal

When asked by Atlanta station WXIA if he would consider running for mayor, the former NBA player and current TNT analyst said no, but he is going to run for sheriff in 2020, either in Atlanta or in Florida, has he decided yet. An interest in law enforcement is not new for Shaq, he’s a honorary sheriff’s deputy in Clayton County, Georgia and was a reserve police officer in Los Angeles and Doral, Florida. Shaq believes his ability to talk to people at all social levels would serve him well as sheriff. 

And in an interview with GQ this week, WWE and film star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson said that after the Washington Post suggested he could be a good candidate for president, he’s put a lot of thought into the notion and there is “a real possibility” he might run. Johnson declined to endorse either candidate last year – despite their requests – saying he wanted Americans to make up their own minds.

Of Note: 

  • Gary Bettman made his argument for why athletes should keep their politics off the ice saying, “when the game is being played, it should be about the game because that’s what fans want.” 

  • Yes, we’re the only folks who will tell you it’s for entertainment.” - John Cena speaking in an interview for his upcoming movie “The Wall” and how all sports and political coverage now follow the “argumentative debate” of wrestling. 

  • Nearly 100 Raiderettes received payment for their $1.25 million class-action lawsuit against the Raiders for failing to pay at least minimum wage, overtime and incurred expenses from 2010-2014

  • Former SportsCenter host Keith Olbermann used classical references to the Roman era of soldiers going to battle for the republic when describing his time away from his passion, sports, in a profile for The New York Times Magazine

  • Bengals owner and president Mike Brown penned an open letter to the residents of Cincinnati on taking a “risk” on first round draft pick Joe Mixon despite his history of violence saying, “We believe Joe has put this behind him and that he can turn into the player and community member that creates a plus for Cincinnati.” 

  • Adelphi University’s men’s lacrosse team replaced their usual warm-up music with Trump’s “Make America great again” speech set to music. 

  • Golden State Warriors owner Chamath Palihapitiya again lent his support for Bitcoin as “the ultimate insurance policy against autocracy.”

  • The Portland city council voted to support a $50 million expansion to the Timbers stadium. The building will be privately financed but the city will lose roughly $2 million due to tax exceptions in the deal over the next decade. 

  • Manager and investor Jeff Kwatinetz, who recently founded the Big3 league with his client Ice Cube, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter this week about his relationship with White House advisor Steve Bannon and how he believes the press does not treat his former business partner fairly, stating he does not believe Bannon is a racist or anti-Semitic despite their difference in politics. 

  • Due to expected changes at the FCC, the race to buy more stations is on between Sinclair, Fox and CBS in an effort to lower costs on sports broadcasting fees.

For the record books: This week in sports politics history 

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"If I had my druthers, I would have had them there. I would have liked to have sent home a thousand Soviets experiencing the quality of the hospitality of the 72,000 people who worked, experiencing the quality of the fact that they would have not gotten booed. They would have been given an ovation and treated with dignity.” -  Peter Ueberroth, former Major League Baseball commissioner and organizer of the 1984 Summer Olympics 

On May 8, 1984 the Soviet National Olympic Committee announced their intention to boycott the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles citing "security concerns" for their athletes in a move that was widely viewed as relation for the United States skipping the 1980 Winter Games in Moscow. In the months preceding the Games, organizer Peter Ueberroth would go on to travel the world in his own form of shuttle diplomacy meeting with foreign leaders to keep other countries from following suit. His travels including a stay in Cuba, where Fidel Castro said they had to show solidarity with the Eastern Bloc teams and because of U.S. sanctions in place since the 1960s, the country had no sport relationship with the Americans, therefore would be skipping the event. Total, 18 teams out of 140 qualifying countries did not participate in the 1984 Summer Olympics, although not all due to the Soviet influence. 


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2018 first-round NFL Mock Draft (March 20, 2018 edition)

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