Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Worst Sportsmanship Moments of 2014

Those who attended the 2014 Musial Awards saw the very best sportsmanship moments from the past year. Selflessness, respect, civility and integrity were on full display. Crying was a sign of joy and standing ovations were commonplace.

Alas, we know there are two sides to every coin. If the Musial Awards is the head, then this next list is most certainly the tail. The Worst Sportsmanship Moments list shines a light on the type of behaviors we never want to see in sports or anywhere else.

Why would the Sports Commission create such a list? Why accentuate the negative? To be honest, some of us have to touch the hot stove. We have to be aware of what can happen to our kids and our communities when we behave irresponsibly.

Granted, negativity for its own sake is a very poor teaching tool. People can only be shocked so many times before they become numb to the behavior . However, negativity is a very effective attention-getting technique. If I told you a referee died after getting punched in the head by a player, you'd probably give the story a second look.

Be mindful that what we do after we read the list and watch the videos is more important than merely being aware. How do we keep parents and coaches from getting into all-out brawls that involve brass knuckles and guns on the practice field? How should we behave so that we don't embarrass ourselves and our city on national television? How do we teach our kids that fighting never solves anything -- even if the people fighting are police officers and firefighters?

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Worst Sportsmanship Moments of 2014. View. Share. Discuss. Then, go to and get involved in the programs so you and yours never make this list.

10. Classless Saints fan steals football meant for Bengals fan:
When Cincinnati Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham scored a touchdown earlier this season against the New Orleans Saints, he tossed the souvenir in the direction of a Bengals fan with outstretched arms. It was obvious to everyone who Gresham wanted the ball to go to -- except for the Grinch-like Saints fan who snatched it out of mid-air.

9. 'Friday Night Tykes' coaches suspended:
The Esquire Network show gave us an unfiltered look into the sometimes overly-competitive world of youth football. Two of the show's featured coaches were suspended for negative behavior. One coach led his kids in a profanity-laced chant against a rival team. Another suggested his players go out and hurt other kids.

8. NBA bans Donald Sterling for life:
The NBA banned former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling after he made disparaging remarks toward African-Americans and other minorities.

7. Adults allow Missouri powder puff team to play in blackface:
The parents, coaches and administrators at Sullivan (Mo.) High School allowed a powder puff team to take the field wearing blackface makeup.

6. New York City police and firefighters brawl in charity hockey game:
New York's Finest and New York's Bravest became New York's most embarrassing when police officers and firefighters began brawling with each other during a charity hockey game.

5. Dad attacks son's hockey coach after benching:
A Buffalo area hockey coach benched his goalie after the team fell behind. The goalie's dad didn't like it. The coach wound up with a broken bone in his shoulder. Dad wound up in jail.

4. Football player chokes opponent during game:
An Aussie Rules football player was suspended after choking an opponent during a game -- literally two hands around the throat.

3. Parents attack coach with brass knuckles, coach's wife repels attack with gun, coach then pulls his own gun, all in front of kids:
Some Wichita (Ks.) area youth football parents didn't agree with the coach on playing time, tactics, etc., so they attacked him with brass knuckles. Guns were involved and the whole sordid mess happened with kids present.

2. Soccer ref dies after being punched in the head by player:
A Michigan soccer referee died as a result of being punched in the head by a player after the official ejected him from the game for unsportsmanlike behavior.

1. Sayreville (N.J.) High School hazing and sexual assault:
Seven members of the football team stand accused of hazing and sexually assaulting four freshmen teammates. The season was canceled and the future of the program is in jeopardy.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cleveland Police Union demands apology from Browns

Should the Browns apologize to Cleveland Police for wide receiver Andrew Hawkins wearing a t-shirt in support of Tamir Rice and John Crawford -- an African-American boy and young man who were killed by officers in Cleveland and Dayton under controversial circumstances. Here is the WEWS video (email subscribers click here).

What do you think? Should the Browns apologize? Is the police union representative right? Should athletes just stick to sports?

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Sayreville Bombers and the destruction of innocence

The title of this post is not hyperbole. For 11 students at Sayreville (N.J.) War Memorial High School, their innocence is gone. In September of this year, over a period of 10 days, four freshman football players from Sayreville were allegedly sexually assaulted by seven members of the varsity team. Maybe you've glanced at a headline or two about hazing relative to this case. This story is not about hazing.

What happened in Sayreville was about sexual assault and more to the point --rape.

Hazing involves freshmen being stuffed in a locker or shaving cream being put in their helmets. On the pro level, rookies carry the veterans' pads or pay for an expensive dinner. This is going to sound strange to some, but traditional hazing basically says we want you in our club. We just want to have a little fun with you first.

Again, that's not what reportedly happened in Sayreville. Watch the CNN video below (email subscribers click here to view media) to get a clearer understanding.

Sayreville's superintendent canceled the season and forfeited all games. It is unclear at this point if Sayreville officials will even field a team next season. The coaching staff has been suspended indefinitely. Four kids are likely traumatized for life. Seven more are likely to do some sort of jail time.

Many have and will continue to blame the adults here. Consider the setting and the ages of the kids involved, though. High school coaches do not hang out in the locker room while the kids are getting dressed or showering. They get a little leeway to do pre and postgame speeches, but it's an occupational and legal hazard for coaches to stand guard in a locker room.

One could blame the parents too. I'm sure there are whispers of what the alleged assailants were being taught at home. I'll go out on a limb and say most parents don't teach their kids to pin other kids down on the ground and sexually assault them. This one's on the kids themselves if proven true.

The alleged assailants range in from 15-17 -- roughly sophomores to seniors. Kids that age know it's wrong to restrain another person and assault them. They don't need mom, dad or coach holding their hands to keep them from committing felonies.

In a school setting, however, adults are ultimately responsible for everything that happens and the coaches will pay the price this time. Conversely, the Sayreville superintendent is sending a clear message to the kids by canceling the football season and leaving the program's future in limbo: If you can't play well with others, you won't play at all.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pro athletes take a stand in national debate

In the last couple of weeks, professional athletes in the NBA and NFL have taken a stand relative to the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in New York and Tamir Rice in Cleveland. Their public stances have added fuel to an already intense debate surrounding police departments and the communities they serve. I have written in this space many times that sports is not life -- sports is a part of life. And we can no longer sit idly by as the world around us (literally and figuratively) burns.

Athletes from the NBA and NFL have made their feelings known. Here are some of the pictures if you haven't seen them:

Let me start by saying I know all police officers aren't bad. Most are doing the very best they can to protect and serve the community. That's not a patronizing statement, either. When I was about eight or nine, my mom and I were walking home one night when a guy ran by and snatched her purse.

He knocked her down and I ran after him. Yeah, I know it probably would've ended badly for me, but he hurt my mom. What's a son supposed to do? She yelled for me to come back and I did. A police cruiser drove up a few moments later.

The officer asked us if we could give him a description of the guy who robbed my mom. We got in his cruiser and another officer followed. We drove around about 15 minutes looking for the robber based on my description. The robber knocked mom's glasses off, so she didn't get a good look at him.

I told the officer everything I remembered. I was steaming mad. I asked the officer when he caught the guy if would he please shoot him. The officer said, "No, son. I'm going to arrest him for hurting your mom and get her stuff back."

The officer took us to a local hospital to get my mom checked out. He bought me something to eat and took us home. We never heard from him again. I don't even remember his name. However, I do remember that the officer was white and the guy who robbed my mom was black.

That was 30 years ago. Today, our nation is in crisis. We must understand that police officers do a very dangerous, often thankless job. The pay is relatively low and the risk is about as high as there is. Police officers also have tremendous power and should use it responsibly. Sadly, some don't and our justice system too often enables that irresponsible behavior.

Please do not dismiss the very real fear, pain and despair people feel. The athletes shown above come from communities that do not trust the police. You may not agree with their opinions, but don't disregard their point of view.

This is about more than emotion. For example, Ferguson, Mo. is a municipality in St. Louis County. Ferguson, along with many police departments in St. Louis County actively engage in racial profiling as reported by the Missouri Attorney General's office.

Some people will criticize this post by saying there are far more dangerous things that can happen to an African-American than encountering the police. That's true, but the issue shouldn't be discounted. Heart disease kills more people than just about anything, but we still address cancer, AIDS and other deadly ailments.

It's time to elevate the conversation. Safety is a necessity for every human being. Let's find a way to address the issues of race and policing in our communities so we all feel protected and served. Our athletes have our attenton. It's now up to us to find solutions.

Please take time and offer your comments below. What can we say to our kids about what is going on? What can we do for them so they don't repeat our mistakes? Even if you didn't plan on talking with the kids about this, the pros have forced the issue.

A couple of things to be mindful of:

This is a safe space and the comments section will remain open as long as the conversation is civil and respectful. For some, the subject connecting race, policing and sports will be very tough, but tough just means we have to think a little harder about what we say and say it in a way that allows others to hear us clearly.

Racial epithets, memes, profanity and threats will not be tolerated here. If you cannot adhere to these ground rules, I ask that you refrain from commenting and just read the comments of others. As a community, we will heal. As a nation we will get better.