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Aaron Hernandez’s attorneys accuse judge of racist jury selection 04.10.17 at 2:35 pm ET
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Aaron Hernandez (left) is facing a double-murder conviction. (The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA Today Sports)

Aaron Hernandez (left) is facing a double-murder conviction. (The Sun Chronicle/Pool Photo via USA Today Sports)

Aaron Hernandez’s lawyers are introducing the element of race into his double-murder trial.

Last week, defense attorney Ronald Sullivan took issue with Suffolk County Judge Jeffrey Locke’s decision to select what he called a “white woman” as the foreperson of the jury, says Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel. Since 15 people sit on a jury, that means 14 spots were left, 11 of which were filled via blind draw. According to the court, the jury is comprised of three Hispanic women, two white women, two white men, two black women, one black man, one Hispanic man and one Asian man. Hernandez is Puerto Rican and Italian, while the victims, Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado, immigrated from Cape Verde. Alexander Bradley, the prosecution’s star witness who says Hernandez shot him in the face months after the murders in a fit of rage, is also from Cape Verde.

Sullivan, who’s African-American, continued his argument Monday against Judge Locke, who’s white, as jurors entered their second day of deliberation. He said picking a white person as the leader of an ethnically diverse panel was inappropriate.

“We find it offensive that with this jury, predominantly filled with people of color, that these people can’t self-govern, they can not self-regulate,” he said. “That this court, immunized by effect one white juror and makes that juror the leader of the group. We find that offensive.”

Locke denounced the accusations of racism in a curt rebuttal.

“Accusing any court of being racist is not only offensive to the individual judge but extraordinarily offensive to the tribunal and the integrity of the tribunal,” he said.

Hernandez is accused of murdering de Abreu and Furtado in Boston’s Theatre District on July 12, 2012 after a drink was spilled on him at the Cure Lounge. Bradley, who was with Hernandez that night, testified that the former Patriots’ tight end killed the two men in a drive-by shooting after they had left the club. Video shows Hernandez and Bradley getting into a silver SUV that was used during the shooting, and cell towers place Hernandez at the scene of the crime when the slaying occurred.

Defense attorney Jose Baez, who successfully defended Casey Anthony in 2011, said in his closing argument Bradley is a liar who’s pinning the killings on Hernandez because the prosecution offered him immunity. Bradley is currently serving a four-year sentence in Connecticut for shooting up a Hartford bar in 2014.

Regardless of the case’s outcome, Hernandez will remain behind bars. He was sentenced to life in prison three years ago for the June 2013 shooting of Odin Lloyd.

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Two hip-hop stars say they were accused of defecating near pool on Rob Gronkowski Party Cruise 04.10.17 at 12:14 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski didn't host another party cruise this winter. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Rob Gronkowski didn’t host another party cruise this winter. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

The fallout from Rob Gronkowski’s Party Cruise is still being felt one year later.

In a recent interview with TMZ, hip-hop artists DJ Whoo Kid and Wacka Flacka Flame said they’re banned from Norwegian Cruise Lines after being blamed for a prank that unfolded on the Gronk Ship. It stinks for all involved –– literally.

“Somebody pooped behind the pool and put a $20 bill on the poop,” DJ Whoo Kid said. “Whoever did it knew where the cameras where, because security couldn’t find out who did it. They did leave the $20 bill out of respect for the person who was cleaning.”

Despite a successful trip to the Bahamas last year, the Gronkowski Cruise didn’t take off this winter. Rob Gronkowski’s brother, Glenn, implied last year there were too many shenanigans on-board to host another one again.

The NFL also investigated the S.S. Gronk to see if the league gambling policy was violated. It found no wrongdoing.

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ESPN’s Ryen Russillo takes shot at colleague for tweet about Augusta Golf Club’s racist history 04.10.17 at 10:41 am ET
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Thanks to a pair of missed putts on the 18th green, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose took part in a one-hole playoff Sunday to decide the winner of The Masters. It was a drama-filled event, but not everybody watching could enjoy the moment.

Minutes before Garcia locked up the tournament with a birdie putt, ESPN columnist Pablo S. Torre shared a two-year-old tweet about his feelings on Augusta National Golf Club, which didn’t admit African-American members until 1990. While the point is valid, the timing was a bit odd.

ESPN Radio host Ryen Russillo pointed this out in a tweet directed back at Torre, who also appears as panelist on “Around the Horn.”

Russillo has spoken out in the past about his distaste for sports media personalities who regularly intertwine politics and sports. In an interview with Kirk & Callahan from Radio Row, he said he thinks some talk show hosts spend too much time focusing on social issues –– such as Tom Brady’s support for President Donald Trump.

“I don’t know why sports talk radio has become –– at least in the last year-plus –– social awareness,” he said. “I’m surprised that people look at [Brady’s friendship with Trump] and say, ‘[Brady] needs to answer for it.’ Answer for what? You know he probably voted for him. So why does it have to be confirmed? I think everybody has been so upset about the hat in a locker. I just don’t get it. I just can’t do that segment.”

Torre often talks about race and sports. Last year, he said it was “damaging” for Cam Newton to say he doesn’t think the criticism he faces is racially motivated.

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Amidst bombshell Bill O’Reilly accusations, conservative Fox News viewers show themselves to be giant hypocrites 04.06.17 at 4:28 pm ET
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Donald Trump (left) and Bill O'Reilly (right) have both been accused of making unwanted sexual advances towards several women. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Donald Trump (left) and Bill O’Reilly (right) have both been accused of making unwanted sexual advances towards several women. (Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

Every day, millions of bible-thumping conservatives tune into Fox News, the network that’s enabled alleged serial sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly for roughly two decades. They’re all incredible hypocrites.

It’s been nearly nine months since disgraced CEO Roger Ailes was forced to step down after more than a dozen women said he made unwanted sexual advances towards them. But that was apparently just the start. Earlier this week, the New York Times published a bombshell exposé, detailing five women who accuse O’Reilly of equally crude behavior. They’ve settled for a combined $13 million, with three of the five agreements being struck in secret. Two additional women, former Fox personalities Wendy Walsh and Andrea Tantaros, also say O’Reilly acted inappropriately towards them. (Tantaros mentioned O’Reilly in her suit against Ailes.)

The stories are sickening. Andrea Mackris, a former producer on O’Reilly’s program, says the 67-year-old anchor told her to buy a vibrator and called her when it sounded as if he was masturbating. Others, such as former Fox personality Juliet Huddy, say O’Reilly attempted to impede their career prospects when they rebuffed his advances. Huddy was transferred to WNWY, an affiliate station, after she says she pulled away from O’Reilly when he tried to kiss her.

Fox News is currently under federal investigation over the possibility it failed to notify shareholders about settlement payments made to employees who accused Ailes of wrongdoing. It appears as if the network worked to protect O’Reilly, too. Since 2004, O’Reilly and Fox have settled three suits in private. Attorneys for 21st Century Fox, the station’s parent company, also took part in aggressive offensives in apparent attempts to silence O’Reilly’s accusers.

Before Mackris sued the company, Fox News and O’Reilly filed a pre-emptive lawsuit, claiming she was seeking to shake them down for $60 million. A public relations firm was also hired to slander Mackris, and leak unfavorable stories about her to the tabloids.

In a statement, 21st Century Fox, which had been aware of O’Reilly’s behavior since at least 2002, said it’s addressed the issue with the star anchor. For his part, O’Reilly denies the allegations.

“Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity,” his statement reads. “In my more than 20 years at Fox News Channel, no one has ever filed a complaint about me with the Human Resources Department, even on the anonymous hotline. But most importantly, I’m a father who cares deeply for my children and who would do anything to avoid hurting them in any way. And so I have put to rest any controversies to spare my children.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Report: NFL players say Rob Gronkowski is held to double-standard 04.06.17 at 12:22 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski guzzled down Bud Lights at the Patriots' parade this year. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

Rob Gronkowski guzzled down Bud Lights at the Patriots’ parade this year. (Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)

While Rob Gronkowski enjoys another shenanigans-filled offseason, some NFL players are reportedly wondering why he doesn’t face more heat.

Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman writes four anonymous players told him recently they think Gronkowski benefits from a double-standard. Each one of them reportedly brought up Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, saying they think he would face public backlash if he acted similarly to Gronkowski. Two years ago, a mother chastised Newton for his flamboyant on-field celebrations in a letter to the Charlotte Observer.

Earlier this year, a columnist in the Orlando Sentinel questioned whether Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was unjustly criticized for pulling down a woman’s bra at Dallas’ St. Patrick’s Day parade, citing Gronkoski’s ability to get away with promiscuous acts. The NFL is currently investigating Elliott for domestic violence, which may explain why his behavior is scrutinized more heavily.

Gronkowski’s recent appearances at WWE’s WrestleMania and Red Sox Opening Day have appeared to reignite this debate. He faced some criticism for throwing a shoulder block at the wrestling event, because he’s just four months removed from back surgery. The Patriots reportedly approved Gronkowski’s cameo beforehand.

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Washington Post publishes nauseating Jim Nantz profile 04.05.17 at 3:50 pm ET
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Jim Nantz called Monday's championship game between UNC and Gonzaga.  (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Jim Nantz called Monday’s championship game between UNC and Gonzaga. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Jim Nantz is a fine broadcaster who’s called lots of major sporting events. But according to the Washington Post, he’s a Christlike figure who walks on water –– or rather, an empty golf course at the Augusta National Golf Club on the Wednesday before the Masters. Nantz does this every year, because he’s a man of tradition. In an increasingly decadent world, this sports announcer is perhaps our last remaining bedrock of morality.

That’s the way WaPo writer Rick Maese portrays Nantz in a recent feature story, save for multiple references to the play-by-play man’s close friendship with former President George H.W. Bush. Nantz proposed to his second wife at the Bush compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, if you didn’t know. The couple married at Pebble Beach, exchanging their vows at the seventh hole. No word on whether Nantz was satisfied with the resort’s catering: he’s such a finicky eater, he carries around a picture of burnt toast in his wallet so waiters can get his breakfast order right.

Throughout the piece, Maese props up Nantz as the only good guy left in professional sports:

“In the middle of a week that is the envy of every sportscaster and most sports fans — Final Four, followed immediately by the Masters — Nantz remains a relic of sorts as broadcasting has turned into a showcase of provocateurs who are rewarded for being loud, edgy and contrarian,” Maese writes. “Even as the world around him — in sports, in media, in politics, in general — is becoming increasingly cynical, one of its signature voices and storytellers is a hopeless romantic. He is a man coated in permanent varnish.

“A generation of sports fandom has been soiled by cheats, by Lance and by Bonds, by the billions of dollars fueling both amateur and professional sports, by the distance that’s grown between the kid in the stands and the one on the playing field. Nantz’s work doesn’t always hint at this, but he’s not naïve to it.” 

Nantz, 57, appears more than happy to play along:

“The sentimentality that people see and hear in my commentary and sometimes ridicule, parody or just don’t like — that’s okay,” he says. “We’re all wired differently. I think about that a lot. I can’t explain it. That’s just what runs through my blood. It’s just the way I look at the world. It’s not any kind of attempt to create synthetic drama. It’s just what’s really in my heart.”

At one point in the story, Nantz says he views the world through a “very positive prism.” But it only takes one Google search to show that isn’t the case. Last year, Nantz was caught on a hot mic deriding NFL players who protest during the national anthem.

“They’re gonna keep kneeling as long as they have cameras right in their face,” he said.

Wow, that sounds awfully cynical. Suggesting players were just protesting for attention, and not to raise attention for social injustice, doesn’t sound like a very positive way to look at the world.

Maese even puts a flowery spin on Nantz’s divorce in 2009. Citing a story from the Connecticut Post, he recites how Nantz and his ex-wife stood together after the proceedings, sobbing with their arms wrapped around each other. There’s no mention of Nantz’s younger lover, whom he met while his wife was still attending marriage counseling.

That’s not meant to describe Nantz as some promiscuous miscreant. In the trial, he testified his wife stopped taking an interest in him 10 years before their breakup. It shows every person, no matter how smoothly they call a putt on the 18th green at the Masters, has shades of gray.

The WaPo doesn’t present Nantz in a complete fashion. As a result, the piece does him a grave disservice. Its righteous tone does nothing but invite the searing cynicism that he supposedly stands against.

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New ESPN guidelines appear to give talent more freedom to express political views 04.05.17 at 1:01 pm ET
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Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, who host "SC: 6," often talk about social issues in relation to sports. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

Jemele Hill and Michael Smith, who host “SC: 6,” often talk about social issues in relation to sports. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

ESPN isn’t acquiescing to critics who think the network has become too political. In fact, the WorldWide Leader appears to be giving its on-air talent more freedom to express views on current events.

Public editor Jim Brady published new political guidelines Tuesday from the Disney-owned company. Previously, ESPN has only released these kinds of edicts before a presidential election. But due to today’s politically charged climate, the network is changing its approach.

“Given the intense interest in the most recent presidential election and the fact subsequent political and social discussions often intersected with the sports world, we found it to be an appropriate time to review our guidelines,” said Patrick Stiegman, ESPN’s vice president of global digital content.

The policies make it clear that news reporters are barred from opining on political topics in any “public-facing forum,” such as Twitter and other social media networks.

“Writers, reporters, producers and editors directly involved in ‘hard’ news reporting, investigative or enterprise assignments and related coverage should refrain in any public-facing forum from taking positions on political or social issues, candidates or office holders,” the memo reads.

Commentators are granted more leeway to talk about polarizing social issues. During the election last year, ESPN’s guidelines said all employees should “refrain from political editorializing, personal attacks or ‘drive-by’ comments regarding the candidates and their campaigns.” But now, the instructions seem less stringent.

“Outside of ‘hard’ news reporting, commentary related to political or social issues, candidates or office holders is appropriate on ESPN platforms consistent with these guidelines,” the policy says. “The topic should be related to a current issue impacting sports. This condition may vary for content appearing on platforms with broader editorial missions — such as The Undefeated, FiveThirtyEight and espnW. Other exceptions must be approved in advance by senior editorial management.”

ESPN’s request to use sports as an entryway into discussing political issues is nothing new. Earlier this year, ESPN Radio host Dan Le Batard ripped the network for a memo that instructed on-air talent to only talk about President Donald Trump’s now-overturned travel ban in a sports context.

Given the newfound propensity of sports figures to speak out about current events, especially NBA players and coaches, ESPN commentators will likely be able to find some wiggle room if they want to address a contentious social issue. In recent months, several pundits, including Bomani Jones, Israel Gutierrez and Le Batard, have strongly implied they think Boston is a racist city.

Interestingly enough, ESPN recently reassigned one of its most politically outspoken anchors. Sage Steele, who came under fire in January for saying those protesting Trump’s travel ban were “disruptive,” is being removed from “NBA Countdown” to focus on other assignments, such as “SportsCenter on the Road.” Steele also sparked controversy in November, when she criticized Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans for kneeling during the national anthem.

Michelle Beadle, who’s replacing Steele as the full-time “Countdown” host, is no stranger to political commentary herself. During President’s Trump’s joint congressional address, she tweeted she was drinking after “each of his nasally inhales.”

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Tom Brady is reportedly demanding to live on the 12th floor of an apartment building in New York City 04.05.17 at 10:51 am ET
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Tom Brady reportedly has specific demands about where he wants to live.  (Stew Milne/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady reportedly has specific demands about where he wants to live. (Stew Milne/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady doesn’t wish to live in a building’s penthouse. Instead, he wants to be on a floor number that’s familiar to him.

The New York Post reports Brady and Gisele Bündchen recently toured their new $20 million luxury apartment in Manhattan. Though the couple’s unit is on the 11th-floor of the building, a source tells the Post Brady wants to be on floor 12 instead. It makes sense, considering all of the success Brady has enjoyed with No. 12 in his life.

Brady and Bündchen currently own a lofty apartment in the Flatiron District, but are expected to move once their new unit is complete in 2018. The 12th-floor residence they’re coveting features five bedrooms, 5½-baths and a 1,900-square foot terrace. It’s listed at a cool $32 million.

In addition to their New York City residence, the power couple also owns a 14,000-square foot estate in Chestnut Hill.

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Tony Romo will fail as an analyst if he considers NFL return 04.04.17 at 1:54 pm ET
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Tony Romo could return to the NFL after arriving at CBS. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports)

Tony Romo could return to the NFL after arriving at CBS. (Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today Sports)

If Tony Romo is serious about broadcasting, he must be serious about retiring. Good analysts are honest and critical. It will be impossible for Romo to be candid if he intends to continue his playing career.

Hours after ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Tuesday Romo was pursuing a career in sports television, the Sports Business Journal published a bombshell: the ex-Cowboys QB is expected to replace Phil Simms on CBS, taking over the network’s No. 1 analyst chair alongside play-by-play man Jim Nantz. That means Romo will call some of the most high-profile games on the NFL calendar, and will be responsible for critiquing players and coaches in front of tens of millions of people.

Few NFL reporters appear convinced that Romo, 36, is done playing. Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman says almost everyone he’s spoken with around the league thinks the four-time Pro Bowler will return to the field. Schefter also tweeted out a text message from an NFL executive, who says Romo is now every team’s “emergency backup quarterback.”

There’s also the possibility of a wink-wink agreement with the Cowboys. According to NFL Network’s Jane Slater, Romo would consider coming back if his former team ever needed him. CBS carries the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game this year, meaning Romo could be put in a compromising position during one of the most-watched telecasts of the season. It would probably be difficult for him to second-guess head coach Jason Garrett if he thinks he could play for him again one day –– perhaps in the event of a Dak Prescott injury.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports Romo’s contract with CBS may allow him to return to football during the season. If that’s the case, Romo could be flirting with teams while he’s calling their games. That potential conflict of interest would affect him in all facets of the job. In addition to neutering him on the air, head coaches may be unwilling to divulge any information to him, out of fear he’ll be playing for the competition in a couple of months.

As Alex Rodriguez has demonstrated on Fox over the last two years, it can be refreshing when recently retired players step into analyst roles. They possess an intimate knowledge of the current game and most of the players in it. But A-Rod is committed to broadcasting. He habitually sends his producers lengthy late-night emails about segments and other areas of the show. Romo may not dedicate himself to the job if he views it as a temporary endeavor.

In 2014, the last time Romo played a full NFL season, he led the league in completion percentage, yards per attempt and was named to the Pro Bowl. Though injuries have derailed his last two seasons –– broken collarbone in 2015, back fracture in 2016 –– it’s probably hard for him to walk away as a competitor. Despite posting monstrous passing numbers for nearly 10 years, Romo never made it to a conference championship game. There’s still a lot for him to accomplish on the field.

On the surface, Romo possesses all of the traits to be a successful analyst. He’s telegenic, well-spoken and embraces his celebrity. But all of that potential can be squandered with one call from a general manager with a QB opening. Right now, it seems like Romo would be tempted to pick up the phone. That’s a bad sign.

 

Read More: CBS, Dallas Cowboys, phil simms, Tony Romo
Report: Tony Romo expected to replace Phil Simms on CBS next season 04.04.17 at 11:19 am ET
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Tony Romo is expected to replace Phil Simms on CBS next season. (Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports)

Tony Romo is expected to replace Phil Simms on CBS next season. (Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports)

It appears as if Tony Romo has already found a broadcasting home.

Sports Business Daily’s John Ourand reports Romo will be an NFL analyst at CBS next season, where he’s expected to be replace Phil Simms on the network’s No. 1 team. The television novice would be paired with play-by-play veteran Jim Nantz.

According to Ourand, Fox Sports coveted Romo to replace John Lynch, who left the booth this offseason to take over as 49ers general manager. But considering Fox’s No. 1 analyst, Troy Aikman, is only 50 years old, Romo would be likely be blocked at the network for the foreseeable future.

A source told SBJ Romo doesn’t want to call “Thursday Night Football” games, because of his lack of experience in broadcasting. But that could be problematic for the NFL. The league initially balked last year when NBC wanted Mike Tirico to replace Al Michaels on Thursday night telecasts. (Tirico wound up spelling Michaels in the booth for four games.)

ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report Tuesday that Romo was retiring to pursue a career in TV.

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