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9:20AM

Harry Edwards: ‘NFL owners own the franchise, they don’t own the players’

By Art Spander

So there are people in the NFL hierarchy who confuse praying with protesting. But of course. In the modern world, it’s perception that counts, instead of actuality.

Get off your knees, guys, or Papa John’s sales will never rebound.

The league deals with the actual game, banning certain tactics on kicks, wedge blocking or running starts by the kicking team, with the idea of improving safety.

Then it turns to political football, trying to placate the demands of a one-time wannabe NFL owner named Donald Trump

Trump is president of the United States. He wishes he were commissioner of the NFL, which on Sundays from September to February may be a more important position, if not a more enviable one.

Yes, the commish, Roger Goodell, earns something around $40 million a year, but many of his employers are deeper-pocketed, short-sighted individuals more worried about first downs than the First Amendment.

That particular item states that Congress will make no law prohibiting free speech or press or the right of people to assemble peaceably. Presumably that includes those in uniform on the sidelines.

But because Trump contends that certain maneuvers, such as kneeling during the National Anthem, displease him, and because the owners are his wealthy pals, the league recently voted that players either must stand during the anthem or stay hidden, in the locker room.

Not very intelligent, says our old friend Harry Edwards, the Cal professor emeritus in sociology who helped lead the revolt of the black athlete in the 1960s.

“Some of the owners, including Jerry Jones (of the Cowboys), are confused,” said Edwards. “They own the franchise. They don’t own the players.”

And the players, in a league that is mostly African-American, have taken it upon themselves to use their status to call attention to what they feel are injustices against blacks in America.   

Colin Kaepernick, then with the 49ers, took a stand by not standing for the Star Spangled Banner. Other players followed, Trump screamed and the owners caved, in a typically incongruous manner.

Either you stand or you stay out of sight.  

“We want to honor the flag,” Edwards said, speaking for the protestors. “We just want to show we’re better than the 147 black men being shot down.”

Edwards doesn’t blame Goodell, who he says is more observer — ever try to tell a billionaire anything? — than director. Some in charge are wiser than others. When Bill Walsh coached the 49ers to their championships, he brought in Edwards to ease problems, racial or otherwise, between players and management.

Edwards looks at the NBA as a league far ahead of the NFL. “The Warriors,” he said, “that’s the way to run a team.”

The Warriors, certainly, made it clear after winning the 2017 NBA title that they didn’t want to go to the White House and meet Trump. Now it’s the Philadelphia Eagles, as Super Bowl champions, who made it clear that they similarly did not feel comfortable visiting with the president.

Trump then withdrew the invitation.

“They disagree with their President,” said Trump of his dis-invite to the Eagles, “because he insists they proudly stand for the national anthem.”

After that, Trump added a tweet: “Honoring America, no escaping to Locker Rooms.” 

Interestingly, no Eagles player last season went to his knees during the anthem. And receiver Torrey Smith, denying that the Philly players wouldn’t show at the White House, tweeted: “So many lies. Here are the facts. No one refused to go simply because Trump insists folks stand for the anthem.”

The players, he said, countering a misconception, are not anti-military. They are just opposed to those who restrict their rights and ignore law enforcement brutality.

“The league handled the issues very poorly,” said Edwards. “To players, little things matter where the differences among teams is so slim. One player stays in the locker room, another doesn’t — that could split a team.

“Athletes now have a bigger stage than ever.”

And more to say from that stage.

8:48AM

The Sports Xchange: Foles ascends from backup to Super Bowl MVP

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange

MINNEAPOLIS — A few months ago he was a backup, again, waiting for the chance that as someone who had been with other teams knew might never come along. But come along it did, and Sunday night, still in his uniform pants, still unpretentious, there stood Nick Foles, the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl LII.

Foles became the Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback when Carson Wentz went down with a torn-up knee. Oh well, said the critics, the Eagles are doomed. 

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2018 The Sports Xchange

7:06AM

The Sports Xchange: SBLII Opening Night: 'That's Entertainment'

By Art Spander
The Sports Xchange

SAINT PAUL, Minn. -- It was just a few hours for the other town, the one usually tacked on the end of the dateline, was now able to stand alone, and be mentioned by itself for the lunacy that is the runup to America's-maybe, the free world's-national holiday, the Super Bowl. 

The contestants, the journalists, the public, paying for the experience, crossed the river, the mighty Mississippi, so on Monday, Saint Paul would have its few moments of fame, detached in effect from Minneapolis for what used to be known as Media Day and is now called "Opening Night." 

Read hte full story here.

Copyright 2018 The Sports Xchange

7:16PM

Raiders' defense reverts to terrible past

By Art Spander

OAKLAND, Calif. — This was the regression game, the reminder that the Raiders haven’t moved that far from their recent, terrible past.

This was the game where the defense couldn’t have covered a hole in a ground, much less a Philadelphia receiver.

This was the game that made Eagles quarterback Nick Foles part of history.

“It’s time for us,” Dennis Allen, the Raiders' coach said on Friday. “If we’re going to do something, we need to start making some sort of move.” 

He didn’t mean backwards, which is where Oakland went.

All those glowing words about the Raiders’ improved defense? All those thoughts the Raiders might reach .500 as the calendar reached November? Worthless.

Which in the 49-20 rout Sunday by the Eagles at O.co Coliseum is what the Oakland defense proved to be.

This was why the Eagles brought in Chip Kelly from the University of Oregon, to leave the opposition breathless as well as bewildered.

Philly didn’t dominate the clock or the statistics. Oakland had the ball 37 minutes 54 seconds, compared with 22:06 for the Eagles. Oakland had 560 yards, compared with 542 for the Eagles.

But Philly averaged 9.5 yards each play. Philly scored and scored. And scored.

Foles is the backup to the injured Michael Vick. He tied an NFL single-game record with seven touchdown passes. And of his 28 passes, only six were incomplete.

Seven touchdowns, six incompletions. What a replacement. What a nightmare for the Raiders, who are 3-5.

“We were out of place,” said Raider cornerback Tracy Porter. “We missed tackles. What NFL quarterbacks do is look for holes.”

In the Raiders, Foles found as many as in a hunk of Swiss cheese.

“They played their style, up-tempo,” said Porter. “And we weren’t able to match that. They came ready to play.”

What were the Raiders ready for? Or more accurately, were they ready for anything?

Rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden, Oakland’s first-round pick in the 2013 draft, wasn’t, including requests for a postgame interview, which he sloughed off with, “No, I’m good.”

In reality he was bad. Riley Cooper beat him for 17 yards 43 seconds into the second quarter to make it 14-3, then for 63 yards exactly three minutes later to make it 21-3.

“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for D.J.,” said Charles Woodson, the longtime all-pro defensive back who rejoined the Raiders again this season at age 37.

“He was the 12th pick in the draft. He was right there on those pass plays. I don’t think he located the receiver one time. Another time he slipped.”

That word, slipped, seemed appropriate for the entire Raider defense.

“I don’t know what to say,” added Woodson. “They executed their game plan from the word go. We never had an answer. You can read the press clippings. There were a lot of great things said about the defense. We took a beating, and we’ve got to stand up to it.”

Allen, in his second season as head coach, is not quick with the one-liners. No responses in the style of John McKay, who when being queried about his team’s execution said that he’d be in favor of it.

Allen remains wary of management, careful in his assessments, protective of his athletes.

“Obviously we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain,” he said. “We also realize we’re a better football team than what we displayed out there today, and we have to be better than that. Listen, I still have a lot of confidence in this defense. I think this defense is a good defense. We had a bad day. That happens.”

That happens to a team that either doesn’t completely extend the relentless demands of the NFL season or is not equipped physically or mentally to cope with those demands. Teams that tease, then buckle under pressure.

Everyone understood Nick Foles has a strong arm, yet he wasn’t even the starter. And now he’s in the books with people such as Sid Luckman, George Blanda and Peyton Manning.

“Their quarterback had seven touchdowns,” said Porter, “and we have to take that personally. We can’t give a guy seven touchdowns in a game, let alone let them put up 49 points. We couldn’t match their tempo.”

Philly, in the season’s and Kelly’s first game, beat Washington, 33-27, and the thinking was they were going to do to the NFL what Oregon has been doing to college football.

But the Eagles didn’t score an offensive touchdown in either of the two games preceding this one against Oakland, and the cynics said the Kelly system wouldn’t work in the pros. It worked against the Raiders.

“It’s an embarrassing loss,” said Oakland quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who came out of the game in the fourth quarter with a knee bruise.

“We just have to get better.”

Much, much better.

9:37AM

RealClearSports: Vick Not Wasting His Second Chance

By Art Spander
For RealClearSports.com


We find satisfaction in realizing what Michael Vick can do. After finding revulsion in learning what he did.

He moves forward, with remarkable skill, a brilliant talent. We move on. And yet ...

Read the full story here.

© RealClearSports 2010