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🏆A little louder for the people in the back

May 07, 2020
MATT SLOCUM/AP
MATT SLOCUM/AP

The GIST: On Monday, we said we were so sick of the holier-than-thou student athlete culture, after seven women sued the NCAA for failing to protect them from alleged sexual assaults by male athletes. Turns out the NCAA is finally sick of it, too. That, or they’re also GISTers.

Good! Okay, start from the beginning: About five months ago — thanks to some excellent investigative journalism — a report known as the “Predator Pipeline” was released. The exposé revealed that college athletes are implicated in an outsized share of campus sexual assaults. And that at the time, nothing in the NCAA’s 440-page rulebook stopped those found responsible for sexual or violent misconduct from competing. SMDH.

  • But it gets worse. The piece also revealed that even when an athlete was expelled or criminally convicted of sexual offenses, athletes easily transferred to other NCAA schools, often recruited by other coaches, and returned to their sport within a year or less.

Got it — hence the “Predator Pipeline”: Exactly. These athletes could go from school to school to school and repeatedly offend along the way, as the NCAA had no personal conduct policy and no specific penalties for those who committed sexual assault. And apparently, despite being well aware of the issue for years, the NCAA Board of Governors even resisted pressure from US senators to fix it.

So what is the NCAA going to do about this?: Now, the NCAA is saying that athletes must annually disclose acts of violence that resulted in an investigation, discipline through a Title IX proceeding or criminal conviction. And if you’re thinking, “How wasn’t this a rule before?” we had the same response.

Jeez. So it’s all fixed now?: Well, not quite. To us, this new policy is missing one glaring thing: there are still no rules that restrict the eligibility of athletes who have committed these acts. So, technically, even if a student does disclose an act, a school, in theory, could turn a blind eye and allow them to play.

  • The new policy puts a big onus on the schools and the athletes themselves, and the NCAA, as the all-seeing regulator, needs to figure out how they’ll deal with the rulebreakers. Regardless, this is definitely a step in the right direction.

🏆Squad up

May 07, 2020
ALLISON FARRAND/NBAE
ALLISON FARRAND/NBAE

The GIST: Because we all need something to make us smile right now, here’s some good news about athletes working together amidst COVID-19.

Graduate Together: In honor of the high school seniors missing their graduations this year, the LeBron James Family Foundation is producing a TV special called Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020, which will air May 16th. The special will feature athletes like LeBron and Megan Rapinoe, and former president Barack Obama will deliver the commencement speech. Oh, our hearts!

The Real Heroes Project: Fourteen pro sports leagues are joining together to honor the real heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic: healthcare workers. The collaborative initiative has players from around the world replacing their own names on their jerseys and uniforms with those on the frontline. They’re the real MVPs.

🏀🏒🏈

Not so fast

May 07, 2020
GERALD HERBERT/AP
GERALD HERBERT/AP

The GIST: It’s a good thing the NWSL is leading the charge, because other major leagues in North America still have a lot of work to do before they can get back on the court/ice/field/our screens.

NBA: Earlier this week, the NBA gave the all-clear for teams to reopen their practice facilities to allow for individual workouts starting tomorrow...which sounded great in theory. But when the rules of the workouts were announced yesterday, it seems very unlikely league-wide practices will begin anytime soon.

  • Only teams in cities with laxed restrictions can take part, and even then, teams will need to adhere to safety and distancing rules. Based on state guidelines and individual team decisions, as few as three teams plan to open their facilities tomorrow. Like we’ve mentioned before, this could lead to a v. unfair advantage for some teams once the season eventually restarts.

NHL: The NHL has been pretty tight-lipped lately, but this “bubble city” idea might actually work to restart the season. The plan has four North American cities acting as host cities for (maybe) the rest of the regular season and the playoffs (of which the format has yet to be announced) which would take place over the summer.

  • Up to 14 cities submitted a bid to host before last Friday’s deadline, and each had to show that they had enough empty hotels to safely house between 600 and 1,000 people (you know, to avoid popping the bubble), and a nearby practice facility.

NFL: Although there’s still a ton of time before the NFL regular season starts in September, they’re not exempt from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The league is currently estimating a possible loss of $3.2 billion if the season has to be played without spectators. And the international series has been canceled, which would have seen one game take place in Mexico City and four games in London. Bloody hell.

  • Speaking of football in Europe, at least fútbol is on its way back. The German pro league Bundesliga got the official okay from Chancellor Angela Merkel to resume the season on May 15th, and Spain’s La Liga has opened training camps, so between these leagues and the NWSL, it looks like we’re all going to be big soccer fans this spring.

Now back to the good part

May 07, 2020
ANDY MEAD/ISIPHOTOS.COM
ANDY MEAD/ISIPHOTOS.COM

The GIST: The COVID-19 pandemic has proven what we’ve already known for a long time: women are damn good world leaders. Now the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is looking to prove that point in the sports world, too.

Awesome! How?: By making the NWSL the first North American league to safely start up again since the whole world basically stopped back in March. The 2020 NWSL season was supposed to start on April 18th before being pushed back indefinitely. But yesterday, the league began the first phase of its “Return to Play Phased Protocol,” allowing players to take part in voluntary, individual workouts in team practice facilities.

  • The league is still holding off on team practices, but plans to start training camps on May 16th. If all goes well, we could see games start back up (without fans in the stands, of course) by the last week of June. Thank goodness.

So great. Why aren’t all the leagues doing this?: While other major leagues are mostly made up of 20-plus teams, field international players and hold games across the US-Canada border, the NWSL has only nine teams with mostly American rosters, all located in the US, making it a good starting point to get the sports world turning again.

  • And because we’re all about silver linings, we can’t help but think of what a great opportunity this could be for women's sports. With other pro leagues in North America still working on contingency plans, the NWSL has the chance to fill the gaping hole in sports networks’ broadcast schedules and sports fans’ hearts. We’re so here for this.
🏒

Does that make me crazy?

May 04, 2020
 BILL SMITH/NHL VIA GETTY IMAGES
BILL SMITH/NHL VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The COVID-19 pandemic is making the hockey world do some crazy things. San Jose Shark Joe Thornton shaved off his iconic beard. Montreal Canadien Brendan Gallagher is speaking French. And now the league wants to go ahead with the 2020 Draft before the regular season is even over. Weird.

How does the draft normally work?: The NHL Draft, which allows the league’s teams to select from a pool of eligible players to add to their rosters, is usually held in late June, not long after the Stanley Cup is awarded.

  • The selection order is based on a combination of regular and postseason records, as well as a draft lottery. So in theory, the 2019–20 season would need to end before the draft order can be set.

But the regular season isn’t over…: Exactly. The NHL suspended the season on March 12th and has yet to decide if it will resume the season this summer (yes, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but cancelation is still on the table), meaning draft order can’t really be determined yet.

  • But in an attempt to “execute a major fan-friendly hockey event during a time where there is likely to be no (or very limited) live sports competition,” the league sent out a memo on Friday to outline how the unusual draft would work, ranking teams by points percentage.

Is this a good idea?: Just like most team general managers, we’re on the fence. While this could really make things wonky, we appreciate the NHL trying to give us the sports fix we so desperately need.

Any other COVID-19 news?: Unfortunately, yes. The Little League World Series, which brings together youth baseball teams from around the world to compete for ultimate glory, has been canceled for the first time in its 73-year history. Guess we’ll just have to watch reruns of Big Al’s dingers to get us through.