h/t: fox2now.com


Four men. Zero hits. A historic day for the Phillies in Atlanta. 


Four men. Zero hits. A historic day for the Phillies in Atlanta. 

(via mlb)


I personally favor changing the name of DC’s NFL Team. 

h/t: ESPN.com

h/t: Darin Gantt at PFT.NBCSports.com

h/t: Travis Waldron at Think Progress Sports



The National Football League sent a letter to the owners of league teams Thursday, outlining strict penalties for domestic violence, according to Jane McManus.

The news comes after Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended for just two games after he was caught on video punching his girlfriend (now wife) in the face and dragging her out of a hotel elevator in a Atlantic City.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was criticized for the lenient suspension, including by three U.S. Senators, who sent Goodell a letter, writing that the punishment “…reflects a disturbingly lenient, even cavalier attitude towards violence against women.” The criticism grew louder this week when Cleveland wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended an entire season for a non-violent drug offense.

In the letter, Goodell acknowledged that the new rules are in large part a response to the Ray Rice incident, and expressed deep regret over his handling of the incident.

"A first offense will be subject to a suspension of six weeks without pay," Goodell said. A second will result in "banishment." The rules to apply to all NFL personnel, not just players.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter obtained the letter and we’ve published it below:

Since becoming Commissioner, my focus has been on ensuring that the NFL is held in the highest regard by our fans, players, business partners, and public authorities. My commitment has always been to do what is right and to protect the integrity of the game, both now and long into the future.

Recently, we have addressed issues of respect¬ – respect for co-workers, opponents, fans, game officials, and others. Whether in the context of workplace conduct, advancing policies of diversity and inclusion, or promoting professionalism in all we do, our mission has been to create and sustain model workplaces filled with people of character. Although the NFL is celebrated for what happens on the field, we must be equally vigilant in what we do off the field.

At times, however, and despite our best efforts, we fall short of our goals. We clearly did so in response to a recent incident of domestic violence. We allowed our standards to fall below where they should be and lost an important opportunity to emphasize our strong stance on a critical issue and the effective programs we have in place. My disciplinary decision led the public to question our sincerity, our commitment, and whether we understood the toll that domestic violence inflicts on so many families. I take responsibility both for the decision and for ensuring that our actions in the future properly reflect our values. I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will. 

The public response reinforced my belief that the NFL is held to a higher standard, and properly so. Much of the criticism stemmed from a fundamental recognition that the NFL is a leader, that we do stand for important values, and that we can project those values in ways that have a positive impact beyond professional football. We embrace this role and the responsibility that comes with it. We will listen openly, engage our critics constructively, and seek continuous improvement in everything we do. We will use this opportunity to create a positive outcome by promoting policies of respect for women both within and outside of the workplace. We will work with nationally recognized experts to ensure that the NFL has a model policy on domestic violence and sexual assault. We will invest time and resources in training, programs and services that will become part of our culture. And we will increase the sanctions imposed on NFL personnel who violate our policies.

In the past few weeks, I have reviewed all aspects of our Personal Conduct Policy and met with a wide range of experts (several of whom we have been working with for some time), as well as with the NFLPA and many of you. Those discussions will continue. They have helped us to identify a number of steps that will better communicate our position and strengthen our policies on domestic violence and sexual assault. 

These steps are based on a clear, simple principle: domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They have no place in the NFL and are unacceptable in any way, under any circumstances. That has been and remains our policy.

Many of you have done excellent work in this field, both personally and through the efforts of concerned players and your community relations and player engagement departments. Our goals are to prevent violence, impose appropriate discipline, provide professional support resources when appropriate, and publicly embrace a leadership role on this issue. 

Consistent with that view, I have directed the following actions to reinforce and enhance our policies:

First, we will continue our work with leading experts to expand the scope of our education on domestic violence and sexual assault for all NFL personnel – players and non-players. This will include enhanced training for entering players through the Rookie Symposium and Rookie Success Program, as well as new programs designed for veteran players and other NFL personnel. All NFL personnel – players and non-players – will receive information about available league resources and local support and advocacy groups in their community.

Second, our club Player Engagement Directors, Human Resource Executives, and other appropriate team personnel will undergo comprehensive training to help them understand and identify risk factors associated with domestic violence and sexual assault. Any person identified as being at risk will be afforded private, confidential assistance. Persons who decline this assistance will be held accountable for that decision in determining discipline for any subsequent act of domestic violence or sexual assault. This is a complicated matter and must be approached with care. We will work with experts to identify strategies based on the most reliable research, recognizing that violence can and does take different forms but generally involves a pattern of coercive behavior. 

Third, we will ensure that the NFL LifeLine and NFL Total Wellness Program are staffed with personnel trained to provide prompt and confidential assistance to anyone at risk of domestic violence or sexual assault – whether as a victim or potential aggressor. Information regarding these resources will be furnished to all NFL personnel and their families. Our Player Engagement Directors and Human Resource Executives will meet with team spouses and significant others to ensure that they are aware of the resources available to them as NFL family members, including the ability to seek confidential assistance through independent local resources, as well as through the club or the NFL Total Wellness Program. In this respect, we will utilize our existing, established telephone and on-line programs, and will communicate the full range of available services to all NFL personnel and their families.

Fourth, the outside groups we met with have emphasized that the NFL can play an important role in communities throughout the nation. Consistent with that advice, we will expand the educational components in our college, high school and youth football programs that address domestic violence and sexual assault. We will seek to create and promote programs that develop the character of the young men who play, coach or manage our game, emphasizing respect for women and appropriate ways to resolve conflicts. Outreach efforts embodied in these programs will help young people recognize, establish and maintain healthy relationships. In our earliest contact with young men, we can communicate our expectations, establish NFL standards of conduct, and stress the responsibility that all men have to adhere to those standards.

Fifth, we recognize that domestic violence and sexual assault are broad social issues, affecting millions of people. We want our public role to be both constructive and effective. In the coming months, we will explore meaningful ways to incorporate domestic violence and sexual assault awareness and prevention into our public service work. We will do this with the assistance of responsible outside organizations and the potential participation of current and former players, coaches and families who have been affected and are willing to speak out. Actions we take in this respect will be sensitive, thoughtful and will recognize the positive role models and high character presented by so many men in the NFL. 

Finally, and consistent with our Personal Conduct Policy, our own response to domestic violence or sexual assault incidents by NFL personnel will include new elements of evaluation, treatment and family support, as well as enhanced discipline. We will address these issues fairly and thoughtfully, respecting the rights of all involved and giving proper deference to law enforcement and the courts. If someone is charged with domestic violence or sexual assault, there will be a mandatory evaluation and, where professionally indicated, counseling or other specialized services. Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant. Among the circumstances that would merit a more severe penalty would be a prior incident before joining the NFL, or violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child. A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL; while an individual may petition for reinstatement after one year, there will be no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted. These disciplinary standards will apply to all NFL personnel. 

With very few exceptions, NFL personnel conduct themselves in an exemplary way. But even one case of domestic violence or sexual assault is unacceptable. The reality is that domestic violence and sexual assault are often hidden crimes, ones that are under-reported and under-acknowledged. The steps we are taking will reinforce our commitment to address this issue constructively.

In addition to focusing on domestic violence and sexual assault, we will continue to maintain strong policies regarding weapons offenses. We are similarly working to strengthen our response to impaired driving. We have sought – unsuccessfully – for several years to obtain the NFLPA’s agreement to more stringent discipline for DUI, including mandatory deactivation for the game immediately following an arrest and a minimum two-game suspension for a first violation of law. We will continue to press our position on this issue in the hope of securing the union’s agreement.

There are three steps that each club should take promptly: first, post and distribute the attached “Memorandum to All NFL Personnel” to every player under contract to your club; second, ensure that your head coach reviews the information in that notice with his staff and with all your players; and third, share this letter and the attached Memorandum with all members of your organization, including your team president, General Manager, Human Resources Executive, Security Director, and Player Engagement Director.

In the coming weeks, we will contact all clubs on further steps to be taken in support of these initiatives. I am grateful for the thoughtful advice received from so many of you and for the support that I know you will give to this important work.


Domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal. They are never acceptable and have no place in the NFL under any circumstances. 

Our Personal Conduct Policy has long made clear that domestic violence and sexual assault are unacceptable. We clearly must do a better job of addressing these incidents in the NFL. And we will.
Earlier today, I sent NFL owners a letter that identified specific actions we will take to improve our response to domestic violence and sexual assault. Those actions include the following:
All NFL Personnel will participate in new and enhanced educational programs on domestic violence and sexual assault. We will also increase our outreach to college and youth football programs.

Families will receive detailed information about available services and resources, both through the club and independent of the club. These resources and services will be available to employees and their families on a confidential basis.

Violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence and sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to enhanced discipline. A first offense will be subject to a suspension of six weeks without pay. Mitigating circumstances will be considered, and more severe discipline will be imposed if there are aggravating circumstances such as the presence or use of a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child. A second offense will result in banishment from the league; an offender may petition for reinstatement after one year but there is no assurance that the petition will be granted. These disciplinary consequences apply to all NFL personnel.
* * * * *
If you believe that you or someone you know may be at risk of domestic violence or other misconduct, we strongly encourage you to seek assistance through your club’s director of player engagement, human resources department, the NFL LifeLine or an independent local domestic violence resource. Help is available and can prevent potentially tragic incidents.


Source: David Ludwig for The Wire

SB Nation:

Michael Sam is going to be a talking point this season by virtue of being the NFL’s first openly homosexual player, but his Rams teammates were asked some unusual questions in how Sam fits into the locker room.

ESPN reporter Josina Anderson appeared on SportsCenter to discuss the rookie defensive end, and following a series of complimentary points she began to talk about the showering habits of Rams players. There were no salacious details, but in order to find out who on the team had showered at the same time as Sam means the question was asked in the first place, by somebody. It’s unclear whether Anderson asked herself, or simply heard players’ answers.

h/t: Travis Waldron at Think Progress Sports

h/t: Joseph Zucker at Beacher Report

In May, University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam became the most highly publicized and intensely scrutinized seventh-round draft pick in NFL history with his selection by the St. Louis Rams. The brightness of the spotlight had little to do with how Sam plays football. It had everything to do with his status as the league’s first openly gay player.

The questions already were being asked, even before Sam was drafted, about how he would fit into a locker room environment in the most violent, stereotypically macho of all professional sports.

Amid all of the attention, Sam’s story is now approaching the next watershed moment, one that surfaces questions that will resonate far beyond the St. Louis locker room: What if Sam doesn’t make the Rams roster? What happens if he is cut?

Like any seventh-round draft pick, Sam is far from a lock to start the season as one of the 53 names on the Rams’ active roster. His attempt to survive cut-down day is further complicated by the Rams’ talent-rich corps of defensive linemen, led by Robert Quinn and Chris Long. But while he may fall short of securing a roster spot when rosters are trimmed for the final time Aug. 30, from a certain perspective, Sam may have already succeeded. By turning a media frenzy into business-as-usual, by fixing the preseason narrative solely on Michael Sam the football player, both Sam and the Rams have already earned an important victory for sporting social rights.

Coming out and breaking in

Sam’s pre-draft announcement in February about his sexuality generated an avalanche of media coverage. He was a center of attention soon thereafter at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. The issue of whether he would be drafted or not was examined exhaustively. The Rams’ decision to make him the 249th of the 256 players chosen in May’s draft created another coverage flashpoint.

Since being drafted, Sam has kept a fairly low profile. After his representatives met with the Rams following the draft, a planned documentary series with The Oprah Winfrey Network was postponed. His public comments during training camp and the preseason have been relatively infrequent.

The Rams, who declined to make members of the team’s front office available for this story, faced dealing with the Sam situation at a time when the NFL is particularly attentive to locker room conduct in the wake of last season’s bullying scandal involving Miami Dolphins players. The Rams made sure to educate their players. Wade Davis, a former NFL defensive back whose announcement that he is gay came after his playing career ended, addressed Rams players and others in the organization at the invitation of Coach Jeff Fisher, once Davis’s coach in Tennessee.

“He brought me in and said, ‘I want you to have a very honest conversation with our guys,’ ” Davis said in a telephone interview last week. “He was ahead of it. He was proactive and not reactive. I told Coach Fisher, ‘You may have a player or two who’s uncomfortable with this. That player or two deserves to have a voice.’ ”

Davis had NFL stints with the Washington Redskins, Titans and Seattle Seahawks. He is now executive director of the You Can Play Project, which promotes equality in sports regardless of sexual orientation.

“The very first question I got [from a player] was, ‘How do we make Michael Sam comfortable here?’ There are some players who don’t know how to interact with a gay person,” said Davis, who was also among those who advised Sam prior to his public announcement. “My message was to treat him like you would anyone else. I said, ‘You can call him an a—— if he’s being an a——.’ With any athlete, as soon as you can joke with him or tease him, that makes him comfortable. This is not Michael Sam’s first time in a team setting. He’s not looking to run to the principal’s office and tell on anyone who says the wrong thing around him.”

In fact, he hasn’t been prone to say much at all, despite his recent prominent status as a social rights pioneer. Midway through the NFL’s preseason, Sam and the Rams have managed to turn down the volume on his amplified profile. His transition into the culture of pro football has been, by all accounts, seamless to this point. The story has become about a young player trying to make a team’s season-opening roster.

“He went to exactly the right place,” said Bill Polian, a prominent former NFL front office executive with the Indianapolis Colts, Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills. “He’s not a novelty there. He was drafted onto a team with a stellar defensive line. He’s an afterthought. He’s not Johnny [Manziel, the closely-watched Cleveland Browns rookie quarterback], where every move he makes is all over every media outlet in sight. He’s just a guy fighting to make the team.”

‘If he doesn’t play well, I know Coach Fisher will do what he has to do.’

Sam faces the typical numbers crunch at the end of the preseason as he tries to secure one of the final spots on the roster. Some accounts have portrayed him as possibly vying with fellow young defensive linemen Ethan Westbrooks and Sammy Brown for a single roster spot. Polian said if the Rams use Sam extensively on special teams in Saturday’s third of four preseason games at Cleveland, it could be a sign that he’s well positioned to make the roster.

“What I’ve seen so far is about what I saw in college,” Polian said. “He’s got great effort. He’s pretty tough. He has a pretty good bull rush. He’s got pretty good quickness. I think whether he makes the team or not depends on how he does on special teams. One indicator this weekend will be how much you see him playing on special teams. That will tell you what they’re thinking. But we’re not there yet. You’ve got two more games to see.”

Sam, who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 261 pounds, recorded a fourth-quarter sack of Green Bay backup quarterback Matt Flynn in the Rams’ second preseason game last Saturday, long after Packers starter Aaron Rodgers and other first-team players had exited.

“I watched the game last weekend,” former Redskins and Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly said. “To me, he looked exactly like he looked in college. Now, it’s too early to tell, really. He’s playing against backups. But he’s a high-motor guy. He hustles. He makes plays on effort. He’s an undersized guy for the position. He doesn’t have counter-moves.

“In college, when he played against [offensive] tackles who were NFL prospects, they generally shut him out. His production came against other guys. To me, he looks exactly like a sixth- or seventh-round pick in the draft should look. It’s just too early to say anything definitive.”

Davis said he is fully confident that the Rams’ decision about Sam making the team will be based solely on football considerations and Sam’s merits as a player.

“There are very few things I am certain of,” Davis said. “But I am certain Coach Fisher is a man of high integrity, and [Rams General Manager] Les Snead also. I don’t believe they brought him in as a political statement. I believe they brought him in because they believe he deserves a chance.

“If you watch the tape from that first [preseason] game, you saw him make some good plays, and you saw him make some rookie mistakes. But you saw he can play on this level. You couldn’t look at that tape and say he didn’t belong on the field. If he doesn’t play well, I know Coach Fisher will do what he has to do because he has a responsibility to the team and to the other players. He doesn’t just have a responsibility to Michael Sam. And Michael Sam doesn’t want to be a charity case.”

While the amount by which Sam’s social importance exceeds his NFL playing stature is unusually large, teams fairly regularly deal with situations in which a player’s popularity with fans or other considerations complicate decisions. Casserly said it happens routinely with players selected early in the draft.

“The problem comes if a guy makes the team and the sense is he didn’t make it because he earned it,” Casserly said. “You’re undercutting your credibility in the locker room if that happens.

“When you make the decision, you just have to weigh what’s right for your team. A lot of times when you get down to the last couple roster spots, it’s so close anyway and you just ask yourself: Did the guy earn it? In the game Saturday, [Sam] hustled and he looked like a late-round pick should look. So let’s see some more.”

The next chapter

The attention is certain to intensify once more when the Rams decide before the NFL regular season begins next month whether to keep Sam on their 53-man roster or release him. That won’t be the final word on Sam’s NFL future. Players who make the roster can be cut at any time. And even if he’s released before the season, he could be signed by another team or re-signed to the Rams’ practice squad, which would leave him eligible to practice but not play in games. He also could be signed to another team’s practice squad if cut by the Rams.

The league and the NFL Players Association announced Monday that they’d agreed to expand practice squads from eight to 10 players per team over the next two seasons. That created 64 additional jobs league-wide and potentially could help someone in Sam’s position. But if Sam ultimately doesn’t stick with the Rams, his impact has already been felt.

“There are so many myths being debunked along the way,” Davis said. “There haven’t been any issues. If there were, we would have heard about them.

“From my own individual experience with the players there, it’s been a learning experience and a deconstruction of what their expectations were about playing with an openly gay player,” Davis added. “They have found that he’s no different than anyone else, other than they know he’s gay. His personal life is his personal life, and he’s a football player who’s there to try to make the team.” 

H/T: Mark Maske at The Washington Post