Sports News

FCC will consider petition to ban 'Redskins'External Link

WASHINGTON -- The head of the Federal Communications Commission says the agency will consider a petition to ban the Washington Redskins nickname from the public airwaves.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says Tuesday that the commission "will be dealing with that issue on the merits, and we'll be responding accordingly."

A law professor has challenged the use of the name on broadcast television, saying it violates FCC rules against indecent content. Native American and other groups have demanded the name be changed, calling it a racial slur.

Wheeler did not offer a timetable for a ruling on the matter. He has previously said he finds the name "offensive and derogatory," but that he hoped Redskins owner Dan Snyder would change it without any formal action.

Snyder has vowed never to change the name.


MSNBC.com | Tue, 30 Sep 2014 22:27:00 +0000
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Raiders make Tony Sparano interim coachExternal Link

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Reggie McKenzie believes he put together a roster capable of competing for a playoff spot. When that roster got off to an 0-4 start and wasn't even competitive in two games, the Oakland Raiders general manager decided he needed to fire coach Dennis Allen.

McKenzie replaced his hand-picked coach by promoting offensive line coach Tony Sparano on an interim basis Tuesday with the hopes that can spark a turnaround for a team that has lost 10 straight games dating to last season.

"Yes, I do believe what we put together this offseason was a roster that could win," McKenzie said. "I'm not going to get into all the particulars of why it didn't work for Dennis. But the bottom line is it didn't work. For whatever reason, not only the 0-4 start but our play did not represent what we were capable of. That's the bottom line."

Allen was the first head coach hired by Oakland after Al Davis' death in October 2011. His 8-28 record is the worst for the franchise since before Davis arrived in 1963. His contract was set to run through next season.

McKenzie made the decision to fire Allen and then let owner Mark Davis know his plans. Davis supported McKenzie's call but now pressure turns to the general manager whose additions have not led to a better record.

Allen is the third coach fired during the season by Oakland since Al Davis arrived. Mike Shanahan was fired after four games in 1989 and Lane Kiffin was let go four games into the 2008 season.

"In my analysis, I think we do have players that can play in this game," Davis said. "I just think that there may be some changes in how the schemes are utilized."

Sparano becomes Oakland's eighth coach in the past 12 seasons. The Raiders have not made the playoffs or had a winning record since winning the 2002 AFC championship.

Sparano had a 29-32 record as head coach in Miami from 2008-11. He took over a one-win team in 2008 and led the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and an AFC East title. That was his only winning season and he was fired with three games remaining in 2011.

Sparano said he was still working out particulars about play-calling and other details and would talk to his players on Wednesday about what changes he planned to make.

While he was not ready to offer specifics on Tuesday, he did say there would be a philosophy change when the team returns from the bye week to play its next game at home against San Diego on Oct. 12.

"We need to make sure we're asking our football players here as coaches to do the things that they do best," Sparano said. "We have some good football players here, a lot of them. They do a lot of good things. We need to let them do what they do best."

Allen and McKenzie were hired after the team finished 8-8 under coach Hue Jackson in 2011, falling one game short of a playoff bid.

They were expected to steady a franchise that fell into disarray during Al Davis' final years as owner. Instead, the team has only gotten worse, posting back-to-back four-win seasons before getting off to the 0-4 start this year despite adding players like Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Maurice Jones-Drew, Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, James Jones, Antonio Smith and Matt Schaub in the offseason.

Even worse, the Raiders have looked overmatched at times. They fell behind 27-0 after three quarters of their only home game against Houston and trailed by 31 points after three quarters against the Dolphins.

In all, Allen had more losses by at least 20 points (nine) than wins. It was performances like those that Mark Davis said he no longer wanted to see in Allen's third season and that ultimately led to his downfall.

"To me, that's not what the Raiders are," Davis said. "And we're still trying to get to be what the Raiders are."

Davis cited this year's draft class led by linebacker Khalil Mack, quarterback Derek Carr and guard Gabe Jackson as players who could form the foundation.

But he was not willing to commit long-term to McKenzie, who has two years remaining on his contract, or Sparano. Davis said he would have more involvement in the hiring of the new coach than last time when he let McKenzie pick Allen.

He also said he might reach out to former coach Jon Gruden about a possible return.

"That's the future and I'm not going to talk about future coaches," Davis said.

Sparano has 12 games to show that he should be that guy.

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AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL


MSNBC.com | Wed, 01 Oct 2014 00:21:00 +0000
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Michigan AD apologizes for mistakes with QB injuryExternal Link

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Roughly 12 hours after embattled Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he'd been given no indication that quarterback Shane Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion, athletic director Dave Brandon revealed in a post-midnight statement that the sophomore did appear to have sustained one.

That capped a bizarre day in which Michigan tried to address questions about the coaching staff's handling of Morris, who took a violent hit in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to Minnesota.

"In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline. Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes," Brandon said in a statement released shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday. "I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made.

"We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first."

Morris took a crunching hit from Theiren Cockran on Saturday and briefly looked as if he was having trouble standing, but he remained in for the next play and threw an incompletion before coming out of the game.

Devin Gardner replaced him, but later on that drive, his helmet came off at the end of a play. While Gardner sat out for a play, as required, Morris went back in and handed the ball off to a running back.

Asked Monday if Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion, Hoke said: "Everything that I know of, no." Hoke said Morris would have practiced Sunday night if not for a high ankle sprain.

But in his statement, Brandon said: "As of Sunday, Shane was diagnosed with a probable, mild concussion, and a high ankle sprain. That probable concussion diagnosis was not at all clear on the field on Saturday or in the examination that was conducted postgame. Unfortunately, there was inadequate communication between our physicians and medical staff, and Coach Hoke was not provided the updated diagnosis before making a public statement on Monday."

Brandon said he has had numerous meetings since Sunday to determine what happened with Morris. He said Morris had been treated for a sprained ankle earlier in the game, and medical staff on the sideline believed that was why he stumbled while trying to walk around after being hit by Cockran.

"The team neurologist, watching from further down the field, also did not see the hit. However, the neurologist, with expertise in detecting signs of concussion, saw Shane stumble and determined he needed to head down the sideline to evaluate Shane," Brandon said.

As for how Morris went back in after Gardner's helmet came off:

"Shane came off the field after the (incomplete pass) and was reassessed by the head athletic trainer for the ankle injury," Brandon said. "Since the athletic trainer had not seen the hit to the chin and was not aware that a neurological evaluation was necessary, he cleared Shane for one additional play."

Brandon said the neurologist and other team physicians were not aware Morris was being asked to return to the field, and Morris left the bench when he heard his name called and went back into the game.

"Under these circumstances, a player should not be allowed to re-enter the game before being cleared by the team physician. This clearly identifies the need for improvements in our sideline and communication processes," Brandon said.

Brandon said Morris was examined for a concussion after the game and wasn't diagnosed with one at that point.

Hoke was already facing pressure over Michigan's performance this season. The Wolverines fell to 2-3 after losing 30-14 at home to Minnesota.

If there was one major point Hoke seemed to stress Monday, it was that he doesn't have input into whether a player is healthy enough to play. If a player shouldn't be going back in the game, that is the trainer's call.

"I knew the kid had an ankle injury," Hoke said. "That's what I knew."


MSNBC.com | Tue, 30 Sep 2014 06:57:00 +0000
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NFL has laundry list of verboten celebrationsExternal Link

Dancing Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, shuffling Ickey Woods and the group high-fiving Fun Bunch? Their entertaining touchdown celebrations would be illegal in today's NFL.

Though the league rulebook has some very specific examples of what constitutes a penalty, the gray area is as wide as ever.

Take, for example, Husain Abdullah's drop to his knees after returning an interception for a touchdown Monday night. It threw the referees for a loop - and caused them to throw a flag. In their eyes, the Chiefs defensive back violated the language in Rule 12, Section 3(d) that states "Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground."

But Abdullah is a devout Muslim, who had always vowed he'd fall to his knees if he ever reached the end zone. Critics pointed out that many players have knelt in Christian player and weren't penalized, most notably Tim Tebow, who's one-knee genuflection became a meme. After further review, the NFL said since it was part of a religious expression, and Abdullah should not have been flagged.

Highlights from the NFL's forbidden list, who may have caused it and who might get nailed today.

-PROLONGED, CHOREOGRAPHED, EXCESSIVE CELEBRATION: It could be said that the "Fun Bunch" - aka Art Monk, Alvin Garrett and the rest of the Washington Redskins receivers in the early 1980s - took the fun out of the NFL. After touchdowns, they would form a circle and time a group high-five. In a 1983 game at Texas Stadium, Cowboys defenders tried to break up a Fun Bunch celebration by standing in the middle of it. A year later, the league passed a rule banning "excessive celebration." Just last week, Antonio Brown of the Steelers broke this rule, and about three others, when he spun the ball on the ground, pretended he was spinning like the ball, then fell to the ground. He was penalized 15 yards and a scolding from coach Mike Tomlin. Victor Cruz of the Giants says he's planning a new Salsa dance to celebrate TDs.

-USE OF FOREIGN OBJECTS THAT ARE NOT PART OF THE UNIFORM: Would the white shoes Johnson wore when returning kicks for the Oilers back in the day have qualified as "foreign objects?" Who knows? But give these guys an `A' for creativity and advance planning: Terrell Owens pulling a Sharpie pen out of his sock and signing a ball after scoring. And Saints receiver Joe Horn reaching the end zone, then pulling a cellphone out of the padding on the goalpost and pretending to make a call.

-SACK DANCES, HOME-RUN SWING, INCREDIBLE HULK: All are verboten if "committed directly at an opponent." Mark Gastineau of the Jets had one of the first (and possibly the worst) sack dance. It sparked a bench-clearing brawl in 1983 with the Rams and their Hall of Fame offensive lineman Jackie Slater, who said: "One lousy tackle and he puts on a big act. Why don't I dance every time I block him out?" Also forbidden under this category are home-run swings (Neil Smith), incredible hulk gestures (Clay Matthews used to do it. More recently, Packers RB Eddie Lacy cleverly bypassed this by wearing an Incredible Hulk shirt under his jersey) and military salutes (could've potentially put Terrell Davis and the Broncos famous Mile High Salute of the late 1990s in jeopardy).

-THROAT SLASH, STOMPING ON TEAM LOGOS: Fred Taylor of the Jaguars got tagged a few times for a throat-slash gesture that was popular, especially in college football, about 10 years ago. Owens put team logos in the rulebook when, while playing for the 49ers, he ran to the star at the 50-yard line at Texas Stadium after a touchdown. Emmitt Smith responded by doing that himself a bit later. Then, Owens caught another touchdown and did it again, and Cowboys defensive back George Teague met him at the star and laid him out.

-SPIKING THE BALL OVER THE GOALPOST: It had been one of the last bastions of good, clean celebration - that is, until Saints tight end Jimmy Graham knocked the post off-kilter on a slam last season in Atlanta, causing a lengthy delay. This preseason, Graham was penalized twice and fined $30,000 for breaking the new rule. His reaction: "You can't really have fun anymore." Well, Woods still can. The former Bengals runner is featured doing his once-famous Ickey Shuffle in a GEICO commercial that airs during NFL games.


MSNBC.com | Tue, 30 Sep 2014 20:35:00 +0000
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A flawed Ryder Cup system for AmericansExternal Link

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) Paul Azinger is not ruling out a return as Captain America in the Ryder Cup.

But that's not what America needs.

And neither does Azinger.

His reputation only grows each time the Americans fail. Why would he want to risk that when there is no guarantee of reward? With so much focus on a dysfunctional U.S. team, it's easy to overlook that Europe might have been the stronger side, anyway.

Azinger was in a Harley-Davidson bar in Florida on Sunday when the Ryder Cup ended. He answered his phone and said, "Dude, why is my Twitter blowing up?"

The reaction to such a resounding loss and embarrassing exit in the Ryder Cup was to bring back Azinger in 2016 at Hazeltine. So when Derek Sprague takes over as president of the PGA of America the weekend before Thanksgiving, Azinger should be the first person he calls.

Not to hire him. To listen to him.

Azinger might be the one person responsible for giving the Americans their best chance in a game that has gone global.

His greatest contribution had nothing to do with pods, rather how the team was chosen. He refused to take the captain's job for 2008 unless the PGA of America agreed to toss out its outdated qualifying system in which points were rewarded only to the top 10 at PGA Tour events. That stopped working as the tour became populated with the best players from around the world.

And he somehow persuaded the PGA of America to copy the PGA Tour. The new qualifying system is just like the one used for the U.S. Presidents Cup team - based strictly on money dressed up as points. He also asked that the number of captain's picks be doubled to four players.

That prompted Azinger to say, "If we win, I'll go down as having the lowest I.Q. of any genius who ever lived."

He sure looked like one. His system of "pods" was genius. Three groups of three qualifiers told Azinger whom they wanted as a captain's pick (Steve Stricker was a pick but treated like a qualifier that year). They were accountable for each other as a pod, and ultimately a team.

Phil Mickelson referred to it as a "winning formula." It's more about the philosophy than the details.

And above all, it's about team.

That's what Europe has figured out. The Americans had that under Azinger. They also had it under Davis Love III, except that Europe had better putters at Medinah, and that works in any format golf is played.

But to identify the problem with the Americans is to study the team that keeps beating them. That starts with how the captain is selected.

Paul McGinley wasn't chosen by a club pro.

The 12 players on the tournament committee for the European Tour who put him forward as the captain, the same system that selected Jose Maria Olazabal and Colin Montgomerie. It will change for 2016, but the same principle applies. Getting the players invested started with having everyone under the same flag.

The past three captains, one player from the tournament committee and European Tour chief George O'Grady are on the panel that picks the 2016 captain.

How did PGA President Ted Bishop decide on Watson? Reading a book.

He was coming home from the boondoggle in Bermuda known as the PGA Grand Slam of Golf when he read a book by the late Jim Huber on Watson's remarkable run at Turnberry in 2009, when he was an 8-foot putt away from winning the British Open at age 59. He called Huber about his "out-of-the-box" idea, and Huber loved it. Bishop consulted his officers, called Watson and a year later took a chance.

"I think it's important for the people to understand that the PGA of America has an obligation to try to pick and find the captain that we feel is going to put our team in the best position to win," Bishop said when he introduced Watson as captain. "We feel he's certainly the perfect person to do this, based on his playing record in Scotland."

It's hard to say which is more dreadful. That he would connect Watson's playing record in Scotland with his ability to lead players half his age? Or that the PGA of America alone decides to should be captain?

Why not involve the players? Why not involve the past captains?

Europe has a formula that began under Tony Jacklin and has been used in various capacities by just about everyone except Nick Faldo, whom Azinger referred to as the "lone wolf." Faldo brought his own system, and it was the one European loss in the last 15 years.

All of Europe seems to be involved in the Ryder Cup.

The PGA of America runs this show by itself, and there is a built-in disconnect because it has no involvement with PGA Tour players except at the PGA Championship every year, and the Ryder Cup every other year.

There is no continuity in America, even on the rare occasion when it wins.

The Ryder Cup is closely contested because the players are great. Even so, Europe has won eight of the last 10.

And unless something changes, the gap will only widen.


MSNBC.com | Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:44:00 +0000
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