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St. Louis Rams make Michael Sam the first openly gay player drafted by NFL
It took a while, but with the 249th overall pick of the NFL draft, the St. Louis Rams made history. Defensive end Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL.
Sam had to wait until 6:50 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, almost seven hours after the third day of the draft started. There were only eight picks remaining in the seventh and final round before Sam was selected. After the pick was announced, ESPN analyst and former NFL general manager Bill Polian could be heard saying, ”Good for you, MIchael.”
ESPN showed Sam’s reaction. He was on the phone with the Rams trying to hold it together. Then the tears came. He doubled over crying, with his boyfriend at his side. When he was done talking to the Rams, he kissed his boyfriend. That scene has been replayed thousands of times over the years in the draft. This was the first time it was happening with an openly gay player.
Sam still has a long way to go to make the ultimate history of being the NFL’s first openly gay player. Like any seventh-round pick, he’ll have a climb to make the 53-man roster. But he gets the chance after a long, stressful offseason.
Sam became one of the biggest stories in the draft when he announced in February he was gay. It became a story that went well beyond football. After a short time, the discussion turned from his sexuality to his skill as a player. The problem was that even though he was successful at Missouri, winning the SEC defensive player of the year award, he didn’t have a natural NFL position. He played 4-3 end in college but at 261 pounds was a bit small for that in the pros. He was a bit slow for outside linebacker in a 3-4 ,as well. He tried that position at the Senior Bowl and struggled. Then he went to the combine, and although he handled the attention marvelously, his workout wasn’t too impressive.
There was a real possibility he wouldn’t be drafted, even though that was hard to believe for a SEC defensive player of the year. Since 2003, when the SEC started giving out the defensive player of the year award, every winner before Sam except one had gone in the first 33 picks of the draft. The last seven winners were taken in the first round. Teams figured Sam was a late-round prospect at best, and who knows if his sexual orientation had anything to do with that. The NFL didn’t want to deal with the story of a man who was attempting to become the first openly gay player in the league, a player who was named the top defensive player in the top conference in college football, not being drafted. It would have been a nightmare. Even if Sam wasn’t drafted only because of football reasons, the perception for the NFL, which has preached acceptance and tolerance for all its players, wouldn’t be good.
Sam was by far the most interesting story of the draft’s third day. ESPN had a camera set up at Sam’s home to record his reaction when he was picked. He looked nervous during the day, fidgeting with his phone every time they showed him. A punter (Pat O’Donnell) went in the sixth round to the Bears, before Sam. Kickers went with consecutive picks in the seventh round with Sam still on the board. Defensive linemen from Princeton, Concordia-St. Paul and Bloomsburg University went before him. Concordia-St. Paul had never had a player drafted before. Georgia State offensive lineman Ulrick John was drafted in the seventh round by the Colts, and he was so obscure NFL.com didn’t have any information on him. The same thing happened when the Dolphins drafted defensive end Terrence Fede of Marist. Yet, Sam waited.
ESPN’s analysts started discussing his chances of getting drafted near the end of the sixth round. A poll was posted on screen that said only about 40 percent of people thought Sam would be drafted. Everyone still watching perked up when the telecast threw it to the podium to announce a pick to the Jets late in the sixth, but it turned to be Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. The next time the broadcast went to the podium, for the Rams’ pick, it was clear that the audience was about to see some history.
The Rams saved the NFL a very negative story by taking Sam right before the end of the draft, with one of the two compensatory picks they had late in the round. He’ll have built-in fan support as a Missouri player going to play for St. Louis, but there will be plenty of others around the country who will be watching the Rams this preseason, hoping Sam makes even more history by making the team.
By Frank Schwab
Hernandez indicted in 2 more deaths
Aaron Hernandez ambushed and shot to death two men after a chance encounter inside a Boston nightclub, prosecutors said Thursday as they announced new murder charges against the former NFL star, who was already awaiting trial in another shooting death.
The victims in the 2012 killing, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, were shot to death in a car as they waited at a red light on a July night in Boston’s South End neighborhood.
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley would not elaborate on what happened in the nightclub, other than saying that the encounter ”triggered a series of events that ended in the murders.” But he said that after the men left, Hernandez followed in an SUV, then pulled up alongside the vehicle and fired multiple shots from a .38-caliber revolver into the passenger’s side, killing de Abreu and Furtado, and wounding a third man. Two other passengers in the car were uninjured.
Conley said there was no evidence that Hernandez knew the victims prior to that evening.
Weeks after the double shooting, Hernandez signed a five-year deal worth about $40 million with the New England Patriots and went on to play in 12 games that season. A spokesman for the Patriots said the team had no comment.
Hernandez is already awaiting trial in the June 2013 shooting death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd near Hernandez’s North Attleborough home and is being held without bail after pleading not guilty to murder in Lloyd’s death.
”Under our system of justice, Aaron Hernandez is innocent of these charges, and he looks forward to his day in court,” said his lawyers, Charles Rankin and James Sultan, in a statement. Alluding to a news conference held by Conley to announce the charges, the attorneys said they would not try the case in the media.
Conley said the investigation of the Boston killings moved forward after the Lloyd case, which will be tried separately in another Massachusetts court. He noted the discovery in Bristol, Connecticut, of the car Hernandez was driving the night the men died and the recovery of the alleged murder weapon from an unnamed person with ties to Hernandez.
Conley declined to say whether authorities suspected any connection between the Boston and North Attleborough shootings.
Hernandez is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and three counts of armed assault with intent to murder, as well as unlawful possession of the gun used in the attack.
Conley said the notoriety surrounding the former tight end played no role in the way the case was investigated.
”This was never about Aaron Hernandez. This case was about two victims who were stopped, ambushed and senselessly murdered on the streets they called home,” he said.
Tanya Singleton, Hernandez’s cousin, was charged with criminal contempt of court in the indictment returned by a Suffolk County grand jury. Singleton was given immunity to testify before the grand jury but refused, Conley said.
A message left with Singleton’s lawyer was not immediately returned.
Families of the victims have filed civil lawsuits in February against Hernandez seeking $6 million for the wrongful deaths of the two men.
He is expected to be arraigned on the new charges in Suffolk County Superior Court next week.
Hernandez was cut by the Patriots hours after his arrest in the Lloyd case, and coach Bill Belichick later said he was ”shocked and disappointed” upon learning of the criminal investigation.
Thursday’s indictment raises the possibility that Hernandez played the 2012 NFL season after killing the two men.
Six weeks after allegedly committing the murders in July 2012, Hernandez received the lucrative contract extension from the Patriots and talked about being inspired by his family to make smart decisions.
”I called [my family] and told them obviously what the contract was, and the basics about it,” he said at the team’s annual charity gala on Aug. 27, 2012. ”They were all crying. I was crying right with them. This is probably one of the best days of my life. I’ll remember this day forever. I just hope I keep going, doing the right things, making the right decisions so I can have a good life, and be there to live a good life with my family.”
Upon receiving the deal, Hernandez donated $50,000 to a fund Patriots owner Robert Kraft set up to honor his late wife, Myra, and told reporters he would ”live life as a Patriot.”
”[Kraft] didn’t need to give me the amount that he gave me, and knowing that he thinks I deserve that, he trusts me to make the right decisions, it means a lot,” Hernandez said then. ”It means he trusts my character, and the person I am, which means a lot, because my mother, that’s how she wanted to raise me.
”They have to trust you to give you that money. I just feel a lot of respect and I owe it back to him. Not only is it $50,000 … it’s more, I have a lot more to give back, and all I can do is play my heart out for them, make the right decisions, and live life as a Patriot.”
Also Thursday, Ernest Wallace, an associate of Hernandez, pleaded not guilty to murder in the shooting death of Lloyd.
Bears suspend Martellus Bennett
Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett was fined and suspended for conduct detrimental to the team after the veteran was involved in a fight at practice Monday with rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller, general manager Phil Emery announced Tuesday.
Emery did not specify the length of the suspension nor disclose the amount of the fine.
”Last night, we made a decision to fine and suspend Martellus Bennett for an undetermined length of time,” Emery said. ”This is a process that we’re working with Martellus. We are in contact with him.
”Our goal is to have Martellus back as soon as possible. He’s a very loved and respected teammate. We want him back, but it’s a process we have to work through.”
Bennett was absent from Tuesday’s workout, and Emery said the tight end is not with the team at training camp on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University. He will remain on the active roster, Emery said, ”but he will not be involved in any team activities at this time.”
”I have been in contact with Phil,” Bennett’s agent, Kennard McGuire, said in a statement. ”We will keep those discussions between us. Martellus looks forward to rejoining his teammates.”
Bennett’s dustup with Fuller took place during Monday’s practice after a routine play in which the first-round draft pick attempted to strip the ball loose after the tight end made a reception.
While attempting to force a fumble, Fuller grabbed near the chest area of Bennett’s shoulder pads and pulled him to the ground. Bennett rose to his feet, walked toward Fuller and pushed him, before body slamming the rookie to the ground.
The fracas required several players to break up and led coach Marc Trestman to end practice earlier than scheduled.
In the aftermath of the fight, Lamarr Houston, Matt Forte and Zach Miller tried to calm Bennett, who was also yelling at star receiver Brandon Marshall. Several players voiced disgust on the field as the fight was being broken up. Even offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer walked over to try to calm Bennett.
Minutes later, Bennett showed little remorse in talking about the incident.
”Everybody talks about friendships, but really we are all preparing to win a championship,” Bennett said. ”If we make friends along the way, cool. But I’m just trying to help the Bears win a championship and do the job to the best of my ability.”
Asked if the fight ultimately was a detriment to the team, Bennett said, ”It’s practice. I know I sound like Allen Iverson right now, but it’s practice. [Expletive] happens at practice. You learn from it. That’s why it’s practice.”
Bennett was later asked whether he expected to be fined by Trestman. The tight end remained petulant.
”I can afford it,” he said.
The Bears apparently put that to the test while making the decision to fine and suspend Bennett. Emery also declined to discuss Bennett’s reaction to the team’s decision, or what it would take for the suspension to be lifted.
”That’s a process we’ll work through with Martellus, and he’s an active part of that process,” Emery said. ”We work through as a staff collectively and hear everybody out. We reached a conclusion that this is the best course of action.
”We think through all the dynamics to each and every situation. They’re all individual. This is where we’re at with Martellus. Again, he’s a very important part of this team and he’s a beloved teammate. We look forward to having him back as soon as possible.”
Trestman said after Tuesday’s practice that he would be speaking with Bennett later in the day.
”We’ve got a plan and a process in place, and as I told the team today, we love him. He works hard. He loves football. He’s a good father, and we want to get him back as soon as we can and we’ll go through this process and when the time is right he’ll be back,” he said.
By Michael C. Wright
LeBron meets with new coach
LeBron James met in person with new Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt for the first time Tuesday as he prepared for the upcoming season, sources told ESPN.com.
James has been extremely busy since announcing his decision to sign with the Cavs last month. He went on promotional trips for Nike to Brazil and China while shooting a movie in New York. James met face-to-face with team owner Dan Gilbert before announcing his free-agent choice and had communicated with Blatt by text since signing.
Blatt saw a thinner James at their meeting. James has been focused on cutting his weight by reducing his carb intake since the end of the Finals, and he has lost more than 10 pounds. James’ thinner frame was noticeable in some photos he posted on his Instagram account earlier this week.
It has been a busy week for the Cavs. Mike Miller visited and is soon expected to sign a two-year, $5.6 million deal. Cleveland also hosted veteran free-agent forward Shawn Marion on Monday and is hoping to sign him to a contract as well.
Since June, the team has been deep in discussions with the Minnesota Timberwolves about a trade for Kevin Love. ESPN reported last week the Wolves and Cavs are focused on completing a deal once No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins is eligible to be traded on Aug. 23, as multiple league sources have begun to describe a Love-to-Cleveland trade as inevitable.
James might not have been in the same room as his front office this summer, but he has been working alongside them. He successfully recruited Miller and free agent James Jones. James also has been in contact with Love, Marion and free agent Ray Allen, who is deciding whether he wants to continue his career.
Over the weekend, Wiggins told ESPN he had not spoken with James since being drafted.
By Brian Windhorst
Carmelo Anthony, Knicks reach deal
Carmelo Anthony has reached a deal to remain with the New York Knicks.
The team announced Sunday that it had re-signed Anthony, but did not disclose terms.
The contract will be for more than $122 million but less than the five-year, $129 million max figure, a source told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard on Saturday.
”After three months of questions around Carmelo Anthony’s return to the New York Knicks we are now happy to know that we have the cornerstone of what we envision as a ’team of excellence,’” Knicks president Phil Jackson said in a statement. ”… [Knicks general manager] Steve Mills and I have assured Carmelo through our conversations, that we share the vision and the determination to build this team.”
Jackson added later Sunday that Anthony had taken less than the maximum to give the Knicks cap flexibility.
”He did exactly what we kind of asked him to do. Give us a break in the early part of his contract so that when we have some wiggle room next year, which is hopefully big enough wiggle room, we can exploit it, provide a more competitive team for our group,” Jackson said after the Knicks’ summer league practice in Las Vegas.
Anthony and the Knicks had been in the final stages of negotiations since Saturday.
Anthony also announced the deal via his personal website on Sunday afternoon.
”A few years ago I dreamed of coming back to New York City, the place of my birth, and on February 23, 2011 that became a reality,” Anthony said in a statement. ”This organization has supported me and in return, I want to stay and build here with this city and my team. At this pivotal juncture in my career, I owed it to myself and my family to explore all of the options available to me. Through it all, my heart never wavered.”
Anthony was being courted by the Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers. He met with each team last week.
He was choosing between the Knicks and Bulls as recently as Friday, according to sources.
”I will always remember this chapter in my life. In the end, I am a New York Knick at heart,” he said in the statement. ”I am looking forward to continue my career in Orange & Blue and to work with Phil Jackson, a champion who builds championship teams. Madison Square Garden is the mecca of basketball and I am surrounded by the greatest fans in the world.”
First-year Knicks coach Derek Fisher said he was thrilled to have the chance to coach Anthony, a seven-time All-Star.
”I have had the opportunity to be around some of the greatest players in our game, and now I have the honor of coaching Carmelo,” Fisher said in a statement. ”This is an exciting time for the New York Knicks franchise and our fans. I look forward to working with him and building something special together.”
The Lakers were prepared to offer Anthony a max contract of $97 million over four years. The Bulls did not have enough cap space to make a similar offer, but could have offered Anthony a max contract via a sign-and-trade.
In bringing back Anthony, the Knicks have retained one of the top scorers in the NBA. Anthony averaged 27.4 points per game last season (second-best in the NBA) and a career-high 8.1 rebounds. Anthony is one of only five players to average 25 points per game and six rebounds per game in his career since the NBA merger. Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Karl Malone are the others.
The 30-year-old Anthony has averaged 26.5 points per game since coming to New York in 2011. That’s tied with Bernard King for the second-highest scoring average in Knicks history.
Anthony operated heavily in isolation last season, which is not necessarily in concert with Jackson’s triangle offense. Jackson said Sunday that Anthony is looking forward to operating within the triangle offense, which is predicated on player movement, spacing and passing.
”I talked to Carmelo a little bit about that in the process. One of the things about the offensive system is you can’t try to score every time you catch the ball,” Jackson said. ”You have to participate and you also have to have guys who are strong enough to know that there’s a whole offense to run and guys to all be involved, and if things happen, breakdowns, you need to have that man who can get shots on his own, then you have a guy that’s a great bailout guy in Carmelo. So there are two things that go along with that, but I think that’s what he’s really looking for. He admired San Antonio’s game and how they played, and that’s the way we want to play.”
With Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire ($23.4 million) and Andrea Bargnani ($11.5 million) under contract for 2014-15, the Knicks are expected to be over the salary cap. Jackson had offered Stoudemire and Bargnani in trade talks with several teams in recent days, according to sources. He was unable to find a taker.
Assuming Stoudemire and Bargnani remain under contract, the Knicks will have only the $3.3 million tax payer’s exception and veteran’s minimum contracts to offer free agents this summer.
Jackson hinted that the Knicks would be prudent with their spending for the rest of the summer but made it clear that he would be looking to balance the guard-heavy roster.
”We’ve been a taxpayer team for a little bit and we want to limit that. So, we’re not just going to foolishly throw money away because it’s available to us,” Jackson said. ”We want to make an appropriate move that brings our team forward.”
In the summer of 2015, the Knicks are projected to have at least $20 million in cap space. New York is expected to target the top free agents on the market that summer, a list which could include Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.
By Ian Begley
NBA : Milwaukee Bucks hire Jason Kidd
NBA : #Heat 87 – 104 #Spurs (Final; Spurs Win The NBA Finals)
Donald Sterling hires investigators
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s team of lawyers has hired four private investigation firms to dig up dirt on the NBA’s former and current commissioners and its 29 other owners, said a person familiar with Sterling’s legal strategy.
Report: Sterling hiring investigators to examine NBA practices The SportsXchange
Donald Sterling hires private investigators to dig up dirt on NBA commissioner and owners NBC Sports
Attorney: Donald Sterling agrees to sell Clippers The Associated Press
APNewsBreak: Shelly Sterling heads to court The Associated Press
Report: Shelly Sterling heads to court seeking hearing to allow her to sell Clippers NBC Sports
Investigators were given a six-figure budget over the next 30 days to examine the league’s finances, allegations of previous discriminatory conduct and compensation to past Commissioner David Stern and current Commissioner Adam Silver, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday night on condition of anonymity. The person wasn’t authorized to talk publicly.
The person said the investigators also are looking into whether other owners made any off-color jokes, or racist or sexist remarks.
”The gloves are off, as they say,” the person said. ”Have them dig up all the dirt they can find.”
The 80-year-old Sterling is suing the NBA for $1 billion in federal court after the league tried to oust him as Clippers owner for making racist remarks to a girlfriend that were recorded and publicized. Silver fined him $2.5 million and banned him for life.
The suit alleges the league violated Sterling’s constitutional rights by relying on information from an ”illegal” recording. It also said the league committed a breach of contract by fining Sterling and that it violated antitrust laws by trying to force a sale.
Sterling’s attorneys also will be facing off with his wife’s attorneys in probate court during a four-day hearing scheduled for July.
The probate court hearing centers on whether Shelly Sterling had the right to unilaterally negotiate a $2 billion deal to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Shelly Sterling’s attorney, Pierce O’Donnell, said she made the deal as the sole administrator of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the team, after two doctors determined her estranged husband was mentally ”incapacitated.” Donald Sterling is fighting that conclusion and her authority to sell.
The person who spoke to the AP said Donald Sterling reluctantly agreed to hire private investigators after this week’s legal proceedings in probate court. The NBA submitted a legal filing Wednesday urging a judge to confirm Shelly Sterling’s authority to sell the team.
”He realized these guys will literally go to any low to get this sold,” the person said. ”Even if it gets (him) nothing other than exposing all these guys and shaking up the league and seeing a change in the leadership of the league, it’ll be worth it to him.”
The firms will be engaged in an ”audition” of sorts, the individual said: ”Whoever delivers the best (material) is going to stay on for the next round and it might be all four of them…29 owners is not a small undertaking.”
By TAMI ABDOLLAH
NBA : #Heat 95 – 110 #Spurs (Final, Spurs lead series 1-0)
NBA : #Heat 49 – 54 #Spurs (Halftime)
Hall of Famer Dan Marino suing NFL over concussions suffered during career
One of the NFL’s most accomplished quarterbacks is among the players suing the NFL for damages related to concussions players say they suffered during their football-playing careers.
Dan Marino, a Hall of Famer for the Miami Dolphins, was one of 15 players named in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia against the league, according to federal court records, as reported by the Los Angeles Times.
There are more than 300 active lawsuits against the league, comprised of more than 5,000 former players. Marino was named in an 18-page complaint that charged the NFL with concealing and whitholding information about football-related brain injuries, claims that the NFL has repeatedly have denied.
Marino, 52, played for the Dolphins from 1983 to 1999 and was named to nine Pro Bowls. According to the short-form version of the complaint, of which one was submitted for each plaintiff, “On information and belief, the Plaintiff … sustained repetitive, traumatic sub-concussive and/or concussive head impacts during NFL games and/or practices.”
According to the Times report, Marino is seeking ”medical monitoring and unspecified financial recovery.”
Although as many as 40 or more Hall of Famers have been part of lawuits against the league, Marino’s is perhaps one of the biggest and most recognized. His recent work as a broadcaster, even as he was let go by CBS, makes him among the more recognizeable former players to several generations of football-watching fans.
By Eric Edholm
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer wins bidding for Clippers with NBA-record $2 billion offer
Former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer won a frenetic bidding war for ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers, with his $2-billion offer setting a record price for an NBA team, The Times has learned.
Ballmer, who was chief executive of Microsoft for 14 years, was chosen over competitors that included Los Angeles-based investors Tony Ressler and Steve Karsh and a group that included David Geffen and executives from the Guggenheim Group, the Chicago-based owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations said the Geffen group bid $1.6 billion and Ressler at $1.2 billion.
The sale price is almost four times the highest previous NBA franchise sale price — the $550 million paid earlier this month for the Milwaukee Bucks. It is second only to the Dodgers’ 2012 sale for $2.1 billion as the highest price for any sports team in North America.
The prospective sale by Clippers co-owner Shelly Sterling comes five days ahead of an NBA hearing to oust her family from ownership following a controversy in which Donald Sterling insulted African-Americans in a secret audio recording.
The tentative deal still must receive the blessing of her husband, Donald Sterling, who has waxed and waned on the question of whether he would allow his wife to sell the team he has controlled for more than three decades.
The deal also needs the eventual approval of 29 other NBA owners, but is expected to clear that hurdle as long as Ballmer reaffirms his pledge to keep the team in Los Angeles and not move it to Seattle, where he lives.
Ballmer, 58, left the software giant in February and has an estimated net worth of $20 billion. Unlike other bidders, he did not immediately seek out partners for the purchase of the Clippers.
Ballmer last year joined a group, led by hedge fund manager Chris Hansen, to bid on the Sacramento Kings, intending to move the team to Seattle. NBA owners voted to reject the proposed move.
The businessman said in a recent interview that he had no intention of moving the Clippers. He said that the high valuations for the team only made sense in Los Angeles — the second biggest media market in the country.
NBA : #Heat vs. #Pacers (Who is your pick?)
NBA : San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter was fined $5,000 by the NBA on Wednesday for violating anti-flopping rules
NFL : Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins, the team’s first-round draft pick, signed his rookie contract
NBA : #Thunder vs. #Spurs (Who is your pick?)
NBA : #Heat 87 – 83 #Pacers (Series tied 1-1)
NFL : The NFL has hired 12 new officials for the 2014 season and promoted two veterans to referee.
NBA : Cleveland Cavaliers get #1 pick for 2nd straight year
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