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Damien Woody burns Bill Simmons on Twitter over cancellation of his HBO talk show 03.09.17 at 2:21 pm ET
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Bill Simmons, like many Patriots fans, seems to be salivating over the prospect of Jay Cutler joining the Jets. The Bears released the embattled quarterback Thursday, and the Gang Green have reportedly emerged as one of his top suitors.

For a multitude of reasons, Cutler and the Jets would be the perfect marriage. Placing perhaps the most polarizing and error-prone quarterback in the league under center for one of the most dysfunctional franchises in sports would likely further turn the Jets into a soap opera. There would almost never be a dull moment.

Simmons tweeted about how “Jetsy” the move would be, only to get shot down by ex-Patriots and Jets offensive lineman, Damien Woody. Apparently, Simmons’ former ESPN colleague doesn’t have a lot of patience for those who take shots at his former team.

This isn’t the first time another media member has insulted Simmons with a reference to his short-lived HBO talk show, which was cancelled last year after just 25 episodes. In November, NBC’s lead NFL analyst Cris Collinsworth brought up Simmons’ failed TV endeavor in a tweet after Simmons had critiqued his on-air performance during a game broadcast.

“Somebody needs to gently break the news to Collinsworth that the Pats have a weak front 7 and that’s why Seattle’s o-line looks so good,” Simmons wrote.

Collinsworth responded by saying, “Thanks Bill, we’ll look for you ‘gently’ breaking it down on that hit show of yours.”

In a matter of hours, Collinsworth deleted the tweet. As of publication, Woody’s diss remains up.

Read More: Bill Simmons, Damien Woody,
Conspiracy theorist says Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen are ‘transgender illuminati’ 03.09.17 at 12:26 pm ET
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Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen have been dating since December 2006. (Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen have been dating since December 2006. (Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

Tom Brady and supermodel Gisele Bündchen are one of the most powerful couples in the world. But one conspiracy theorist says they’re living a lie.

In a YouTube video viewed nearly 33,000 times, a blogger named “MrE3000″ makes an outlandish claim: Brady and Bündchen are ‘transgender illuminati.’ Let’s unpack this declaration step-by-step:

Illuminati (secret organization of the most powerful elite in the world):

At the start of the video, a couple pictures of Brady and Bündchen show up on the screen. In all of them, they’re photographed sticking up their pinky, index finger and thumb. According to Illuminati Rex, this gesture is called the “El Diablo” –– otherwise known as the University of Texas’ ‘Hook ’em Horns’ hand signal. Other notable people who have flashed this supposed Illuminati symbol are President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and Rihanna.

Transgender:

For the duration of the commentary, “MrE3000″ analyzes pictures of Brady’s and Bündchen’s abdomens. On men, he says the belly button should be above the smallest part of the waist. But that’s not the case with Brady.

“Tom Brady has an indentation above the belly button. Is Tom Brady a woman – a female-to-male Illuminati [transgender]?,” he asks.

He says Bündchen, meanwhile, has masculine features.

“She has a little indentation here [below the belly button] – that’s a masculine feature – then it goes straight up from there,” the conspiracy theorist says. “Some photos are Photoshopped and in others she’s bending her back to give the illusion of an hour glass figure – but it’s an illusion.”

“MrE3000″ isn’t just singling out Brady and Bündchen. He’s also recently released videos theorizing Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and Miley Cyrus are transgender as well.

Read More: gisele bundchen, Tom Brady,
Poll shows majority of sportswriters are opposed to Donald Trump 03.09.17 at 10:17 am ET
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Most sportswriters are opposed to Donald Trump. (Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool Photo/USA Today Sports)

Most sportswriters are opposed to Donald Trump. (Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool Photo/USA Today Sports)

In a feature story last month, the Ringer’s Bryan Curtis said sportswriting is now a liberal profession. Now there are numbers that back up his claim.

The Big Lead recently conducted a sports media political survey, polling 51 industry professionals. A whopping 80.4 percent of respondents say they voted for Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election, with only two people expressing support for Donald Trump. Those numbers show how far to the left members of the sports media stand in comparison to the general population, especially considering the vast majority of people polled were male (76.5 percent) and white (82.4 percent). According to exit poll data, 63 percent of white men cast their ballots for Trump in November.

Given those findings, it’s unsurprising most sportswriters identify as Democrats (58 percent). More than one-third said they’re political independents and only three people called themselves Republicans (six percent).

Ever since Trump took office, an increasing number of sports media members have used their Twitter feeds to condemn his policies, lashing out against the travel ban and other controversial initiatives. It doesn’t seem like this trend will stop any time soon.

Read More: Donald Trump,
TMZ founder reportedly asked Donald Trump to help him book Tom Brady for an interview 03.08.17 at 4:38 pm ET
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Tom Brady hasn't said whether he's visiting the White House with the Patriots this year. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady hasn’t said whether he’s visiting the White House with the Patriots this year. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)

President Donald Trump often boasts about his friendship with Tom Brady. TMZ founder Harvey Levin is reportedly looking to parlay that into an interview with the Patriots’ quarterback.

According to the New York Times, Trump granted an unannounced White House meeting to Levin last week. Sources say the topic of their conversation largely focused on securing Trump’s participation for Levin’s new Fox News series, “Objectified.” The President sat down with Levin for a softball Fox News interview last fall.

But apparently, the tabloid tycoon’s guest wish list extends beyond Trump. The Times reports Levin wants Brady to appear on the show, and planned to ask Trump if he could help the two connect with each other.

Though the extent of Trump and Brady’s friendship remains uncertain, they do seem to keep in touch. At a celebratory dinner before the inauguration, Trump said Brady called him to send his well wishes. In an interview with Kirk & Callahan last November, Brady declined to say whether he had voted for his pal.

Read More: Donald Trump, Tom Brady,
Don’t mock Tim Tebow for playing baseball 03.08.17 at 1:07 pm ET
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Don’t mock Tim Tebow for pursuing a career in baseball.

Tebow will make his Spring Training debut against the Red Sox Wednesday, starting at DH for the Mets in a split-squad game in Port St. Lucia, Fla. It’s the most relevant game of the Grapefruit League calendar, but yet, some of the beat writers seem less than enthused about all of the hoopla at the ballpark.

Ten years after Tebowmania first entered our lives, ridiculing the former Heisman trophy winner is passé and stale. While Tebow’s pious public persona may first come across as self-indulgent, it’s apparent his charitable efforts are genuine. This year, his foundation is planning 375 proms across the country for special needs kids. He also says he wants to adopt at least one child from every continent, in order to embrace diversity.

“I think when you look at God’s family, it’s not about color,” he said, via PEOPLE. “Love knows no color. I want my kids to grow up with an appreciation for every single person, no matter what they look like. That’s what unity looks like to me: knowing that you can love people who aren’t the same as you are. I want to teach that message to my kids; I want them to live it.”

Does that sound like a phony to you?

Tebow never asked for all of this attention. When he held a workout last year, not a single MLB team was obligated to show up. But almost all of them did, sending nearly 40 scouts in total. The Mets eventually signed Tebow to a minor league contract and dispatched him to the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .194 in 71 plate appearances with 20 strikeouts. But apparently, they thought highly enough of his performance to invite him to Major League camp.

Make no mistake: there’s probably a marketing component here as well. But that’s not Tebow’s problem. After flaming out in the NFL, he wants to try his hand at baseball. He’s not responsible for the circus he attracts.

Assuming Tebow makes it out of Spring Training, he’ll probably start the season in the lower levels of the minor leagues. That means there’s a chance he’ll be sent to either Kingsport, Tenn. (Rookie League Mets) or Columbia, South Carolina (Low-A Columbia Fireflies). If Tebow is just looking for publicity, there are easier ways to attain it than riding buses throughout the Southeast during the hot summer months.

During the sleepy months of Spring Training, there are few stories more intriguing than a former Heisman trophy winner and first-round NFL pick trying his hand at baseball. Anybody who doesn’t recognize that is being obtuse.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Tim Tebow,
#GaysForTrump president explains why the LGBT community should vote Republican 03.07.17 at 1:58 pm ET
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Peter Boykin, president of #GaysForTrump, says Donald Trump's administration is pro-LGBT. (Photo provided)

Peter Boykin, president of #GaysForTrump, says Donald Trump’s administration is pro-LGBT. (Photo provided)

The concept of being a gay Republican seems contradictory. While I understand people are more than one-issue voters, it’s impossible for me to embrace a political party that doesn’t recognize my right to marry and thinks parents should be able to send their kids to conversion therapy, which is nothing more than medical quackery. Perhaps that makes me small-minded, but I prefer to support people who aren’t hostile towards my way of life.

It’s no secret the overwhelming majority of the gay community also stands on the left side of the aisle. According to a 2016 Pew poll, 82 percent of LGB voters identify as Democrats, whereas only 18 percent say they lean right. In last year’s election, 78 percent of voters who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender pulled the lever for Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, despite his relatively liberal stance on gay rights, drew just 14 percent of the LGBT vote. (In 2012, Mitt Romney pulled in 22 percent of the gay vote.)

One of Trump’s most prominent LGB supporters is Peter Boykin, president of #GaysforTrump. The group, which Boykin says has up to 10,000 names in its database, played a central role in organizing the pro-Trump rallies across the country last weekend.

For the most part, Boykin sounds like a typical Trump supporter. He boasts about Trump’s plans to build a wall on the Mexican border and invest heavily in infrastructure.

“[Trump] sees what I see: lots of crappy roads and poor people everywhere, really huge debts,” Boykin says. “And what do we have? A failing economy, no jobs, bad military. America has gone in very bad disrepair, yet we owe ‘craptons’ of money.”

When the topic turns to gay issues, Boykin is quick to point out Trump’s support for same-sex marriage and pledge to protect LGBT people from radical Islamic terror. He also makes sure to tell me President Barack Obama, who’s beloved in the gay community, didn’t support marriage equality when he first took office.

Though those statements are factually accurate, it’s difficult for me to consider Trump a genuine ally. He filled up his administration with a swath of social conservatives, including Vice President Mike Pence. As a congressman, Pence voted against the Employment Non-Discirmination Act and said gay couples signaled “societal collapse.” He continued his anti-LGBT streak as governor of Indiana, when he signed a religious freedom bill that would’ve allowed business to refuse to serve gay people. (He eventually changed the law’s language after immense outcry from social advocacy groups and the business community.)

Boykin recognizes Pence’s history, but says the Vice President is a changed man. He also says factions of Democrats are just as opposed to gay rights as conservatives, despite the party’s LGBT-friendly platform.

In my conversation with Boykin, we further explored the rationalization behind his Trump support. Answers are edited for brevity.

Alex Reimer: Do you think Donald Trump is an ally to the LGBT movement more so than Hillary Clinton and other Democrats?

Peter Boykin: I believe Donald Trump is the first Republican to take office that is pro-LGBT rights –– and particularly our safety. He is still going to be a little bit of the legalese and make sure things are legal. But you’re comparing him to somebody like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who in their past, especially Barack Obama when he took office, he was not for gay rights. He grew into that.

AR: But you would agree that gay rights improved dramatically under Obama’s presidency, right?

PB: Only because it was coming. Not because of him. We had very good Supreme Court decisions coming through. You had many, many court cases that went through. These things have been going on for a long time. It was because of groups like Log Cabin Republicans and stuff that worked towards those. Not because Barack Obama signed a bill. People think that the president just signs a bill and then all of a sudden he’s the one doing it all –– just like they tried to say that Trump has taken away [transgender] kids rights or whatever, just because they sent back a guideline that already a year ago was struck down, because it was already in the courts struck down while Barack Obama was in office. … All of the guidelines were already null and void. So Donald Trump said that, ‘Well, instead of just continuing on with something that was already broken anyway,’ he said, ‘We’re going to send it back to the courts and let them and states decide and continue and work towards what’s needed and to make it legal.’ The only way to do that is through the court system and state’s rights. You can’t just make things legal. It wasn’t a law.

AR: When I look at Trump, I agree with you. I think personally, Trump is pro-LGBT. He grew up in socially liberal New York, he’s stated support for gay rights personally. But it’s hard for me to consider him an ally when he supported the GOP party platform, which as you know had opposition for [same-sex marriage] …

PB: He went against that platform. When he went on that floor and said he supported LGBT rights and brought Peter Thiel out there, he went against the GOP Platform.

AR: So then what do you make of a guy like Mike Pence, who has opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, says being gay is a choice …

PB: We’ve also got Mike Pence who went on an ABC interview and said that kind of LGBT discrimination will not be happening in the Trump administration. Pence is the same guy who looked at my ‘Gays for Trump’ hashtag ‘Make America Great Again hat,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah we’re for you.’ And he was like, ‘OK,’ and he signed my hat. Regardless of what he did in the past –– people always tell me when I bring up Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s pasts, and they always say, ‘Well that’s in the past.’ I’m going to tell you the same thing. That’s in his past. He is the vice president under Trump and there’s a reason he’s doing this job. And he can change just like anybody else. I can give Hillary the benefit of the doubt, I can give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt, we can definitely give Mike Pence the benefit of the doubt.

AR: So you think Mike Pence, who admittedly has an exceptionally conservative record when it comes to gay rights issues, you think he’s totally changed?

PB: “He has a religious-based record. Liberal LGBT people usually try to put religion with anti-LGBT, and it does not always happen that way. Me and [fashion designer] Andre [Soriano] just went to Catholic mass yesterday and nobody cares. We were two gay guys in a church. They don’t care. Most people don’t care about regular LGBT anymore. Now they’re kind of getting scared about the transgender [issue].

AR: I feel like a lot of what people used to say about gay people –– we’re looking to molest your children, we’re real perverts and deviants. I feel like the stuff they used to say about us, they’re now saying about transgender people. And that’s wrong.

PB: Yeah, like ‘that man in that dress is going to want to mess with my daughter.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, they don’t care about your daughter. They don’t care about your son.’ Frankly, they just want to go use the bathroom.

AR: Exactly. So on that point, you would agree there still are a lot of prominent voices in the Republican Party that do say that kind of stuff about gay people, transgender people. So how do you align yourself with them after knowing their opposition to your personal lifestyle?

PB: Well, to tell you the truth,I can be in the Republican Party just as easily as I could be in the Democratic Party. There’s a ‘crapload’ of voices in the Democratic Party who hate gays as well.

AR: Who?

PB: We’re talking about southern Democrats, southern Christians. We’re talking about a lot of black people that are black Democrats. They cannot stand homosexuality, and they are Democrats. There’s just as many Democrats as there are Republicans that cannot stand gays.

AR: But then why is the Democratic Party platform supportive of LGBT rights and the GOP platform is not?

PB: Because they can get their vote. Then a lot of religious people just kind of stay back and they don’t say anything. They just want the vote. As long as they get their people in, they just use as a vote. That’s all they care [about]. They’re using black people for their votes, too. But people are waking up. Donald Trump was right: They’re using ya’ll as a vote.

AR: What do you think about Neil Gorsuch and other conservative justices who Trump will likely appoint to the federal courts. What do you think they’ll do when they’re faced with cases about LGBT rights? Does that worry you?

PB: No, because people always talked negatively of Justice Scalia, because he didn’t want to try the gay marriage act. But you know what? He was doing his job as a constitutionalist. … So when Donald Trump says he wants to have a justice who will dictate by the Constitution, it’s not anti-LGBT. It’s basically a justice who will do his job and be supportive of what’s in the Constitution. Period.

We can’t just send everything to the Supreme Court. We have to let state’s rights dictate things. That’s one of the reasons why the Civil War was fought –– state’s rights. Not letting the federal government dictate to every state what we’re going to do.

AR: But throughout history, a lot of civil rights progress can’t be left to the states. Look at African-American [segregation] in the 50’s and 60’s. If it weren’t for a lot of federal initiatives, who knows how long it would’ve taken in some southern states.

PB: Well, we got to the point where we got enough states on board, like we did with the gay marriage issue. … It’s just that, any time you change a law like this, it takes time. It takes time to move things. We’re talking about something that’s economic when you talk about the [transgender] bathroom issue. Some people want a separate toilet, some people say they don’t want a separate toilet because it makes them feel bad. … We have that problem. That issue will have to continue. Maybe it will take a number of generations to ease into it, just like generations eased into the gay issue. Now we have a generation where people don’t give a crap if somebody is gay or not. Maybe the next generation will be fine with transgender people. That’s the reason people are born and die. People’s ideas change. 

Read More: Donald Trump,
ESPN will reportedly undergo massive layoffs again 03.06.17 at 10:13 am ET
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ESPN laid off roughly 300 workers in October 2015. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

ESPN laid off roughly 300 workers in October 2015. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

For the second time in three years, it looks like ESPN will undergo significant layoffs. But unlike the purge in 2015, which primarily affected workers behind the scenes, faces that appear in front of the camera will likely be casualties this time around.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch, ESPN management has been ordered to trim tens of millions of salary from its payroll over the next four months. The company will reportedly buyout contracts in order to fulfill the mandate.

In a statement sent to SI, ESPN said these anticipated moves are a part of the network’s evolution.

“We have long been about serving fans and innovating to create the best content for them,” it reads. “Today’s fans consume content in many different ways and we are in a continuous process of adapting to change and improving what we do. Inevitably that has consequences for how we utilize our talent. We are confident that ESPN will continue to have a roster of talent that is unequaled in sports.”

It’s no secret that ESPN has been hemorrhaging subscribers in recent years. In February 2011, the network was available in more than 100 million households. As of December 2016, that number was down to 88.4 million. With soaring rights fees –– ESPN now pays $3.3 billion annually to broadcast the NFL and NBA –– and a decreased customer base, the company’s business model is being challenged. The decreased advertising revenue coming out of Bristol is one of the reasons why Disney, ESPN’s parent company, reported lower-than-anticipated first quarter earnings last month.

ESPN remains the dominant force in sports broadcasting. But in a changing media landscape, the challenges it faces aren’t going away. These expected layoffs are another reminder of this grim reality.

Read More: ESPN,
Colin Kaepernick ends his protest on disingenuous note 03.03.17 at 1:17 pm ET
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Colin Kaepernick says he plans to end his national anthem protest in 2017. (Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports)

Colin Kaepernick says he plans to end his national anthem protest in 2017. (Robert Hanashiro/USA TODAY Sports)

Colin Kaepernick said last year he would keep kneeling during the national anthem until significant progress was made toward social justice reform. But now, after opting out of his contract with the 49ers, he plans to stop his protest. This makes his apparent quest for change seem disingenuous.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Thursday the former San Francisco quarterback will stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner” in 2017. Kaepernick said he arrived at his decision because he doesn’t want his demonstration to distract from the positive impact he’s made on the issue of racial inequality. Apparently, he believes his work is done.

Kaepernick’s protest, which started in the preseason and continued through the entire regular season, was more than a symbolic gesture. His foundation gave $1 million to community organizations, with the 49ers matching his donations. He also organized and spoke at a camp for underprivileged kids in the Bay Area, setting up workshops that covered topics ranging from nutrition health to advice on how to interact with police officers. Kaepernick says he plans to continue those charitable endeavors, but without the accompanying public symbol.

While LeBron James and other NBA stars routinely speak out on social issues, Kaepernick’s protest sparked a national conversation. In addition to other NFL players, kids on high school and youth football teams across the country followed his lead. The Beaumont Bills, a Texas-based club comprised of 11- and 12-year olds, cancelled their season after some players decided to kneel to draw attention towards injustice. But now, without the safety net of a $14.3 million salary, Kaepernick is abandoning them.

With President Donald Trump in office, voices like Kaepernick’s are needed more than ever. Up to 8 million undocumented immigrants are now at risk of being deported under the administration’s new guidelines, including those who use food stamps and other social assistance programs. Trump is also promising to unveil a new travel ban that applies to several predominately Muslim countries, after the last one was overturned by a federal court.

The first hit to Kaepernick’s credibility as a social activist came shortly after Trump was elected to office, when he told reporters he sat out perhaps the most pivotal election in recent history. He made it clear last year he wasn’t a fan of Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, calling them “proven liars” and racists. It was a lazy take that did little to advance the national conversation.

“I’ve been very disconnected from the systematic oppression as a whole,” Kaepernick explained when asked why he didn’t vote. “So, for me, it’s another face that’s going to be the face of that system of oppression. And to me, it didn’t really matter who went in there. The system still remains intact that oppresses people of color.”

While that’s true, the Trump administration poses an unique threat to civil rights. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose federal judgeship appointment in the 1980’s was opposed by Coretta Scott King due to his history of clamping down on voting access, said this week the Justice Department will pull back on police department civil rights suits. The Justice Department under President Barack Obama opened 25 probes into police departments, including Ferguson, Missouri, which was found to have targeted the African-American community in an effort to increase city revenue.

There were also several ballot measures in California that spoke to directly to the issue of criminal justice reform, which Kaepernick says he’s passionate about. Prop 63 tightened the state’s gun laws, and Prop 64 legalized legalized marijuana. That should be a topic of great importance to Kaepernick, considering the ACLU found black people are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people. He spoke a lot about police practices, but did little to change them.

Kaepernick, of course, isn’t obligated to continue kneeling for the rest of his career. But given the nation’s current climate, this seems like a curious time to step aside. That is, unless Kaepernick is worried about hurting his value on the free agent market. With promises to curtail his protesting, he may become more attractive to teams that are leery of taking on a marginal quarterback with such a polarizing personality.

Muhammad Ali and other social justice crusaders weren’t afraid to suffer financially if it meant standing up for what they believe. It appears as if Kaepernick isn’t willing to make that kind of sacrifice.

Read More: Colin Kaepernick,
In a Twitter fight, Curt Schilling tells Rosie O’Donnell she’s spewing ‘poop and lies’ 03.02.17 at 4:35 pm ET
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Curt Schilling has been a steadfast supporter of President Donald Trump. (Howard Smith/USA TODAY Sports)

Curt Schilling has been a steadfast supporter of President Donald Trump. (Howard Smith/USA TODAY Sports)

Curt Schilling and Rosie O’Donnell might be two of the most loudmouthed and opinionated people in the United States. It’s only fitting they’ve been entangled in a Twitter war with each other.

The war of words started when a random user named Mike shared a video with Schilling of O’Donnell calling for Donald Trump’s impeachment at a rally Tuesday. The liberal comedian led an anti-Trump event in front of the White House before the President spoke in front of a joint session of Congress.

“The evidence against Trump and Russia is huge and mounting every day. We see it, he can’t lie about it,” she said. “He is going down and so will all of his administration. The charge is treason.”

The FBI continues to investigate ties between Trump and Russia, after 17 federal intelligence agencies concluded last year the Kremlin interfered in the election on his behalf. Three Trump officials –– former campaign manager Paul Manafort, ex-foreign policy advisor Carter Page and short-lived national security advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn –– have all been forced to step down due to their ties to Vladimir Putin’s autocracy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is now also under scrutiny, after the Washington Post reported he met twice with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. while he was serving on Trump’s campaign. In his confirmation hearing, Sessions denied having any contact with Russian officials.

In response to O’Donnell’s claims, Schilling said she was spewing “poop and lies.”

Schilling then brought up O’Donnell’s disparaging comments about Trump’s 10-year-old son, Barron. The bombastic actress questioned in December whether Barron Trump is autistic, saying it potentially represented an “amazing opportunity” to bring attention to the epidemic. She apologized after Melania Trump threatened legal action.

O’Donnell tweeted “f— u” to Schilling, ending the conversation.

It’s been a busy stretch on Twitter for Schilling, who was smacked down earlier this week by former Missouri Secretary of State and U.S. army veteran, Jason Kander. He also recently defended right-wing troll Milo Yiannopoulos, then retreated after hearing the former Breitbart editor’s rationalization of pederasty.

Add his beef with O’Donnell to the list of greatest hits.

Read More: Curt Schilling,
Teenage transgender wrestling champion Mack Beggs is a living embodiment of courage 03.02.17 at 3:10 pm ET
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The word “courageous” gets tossed around carelessly these days. But in a sports context, it’s difficult to think of somebody who fits the word better than Mack Beggs, the 17-year-old transgender Texas state girls’ wrestling champion.

Beggs, who identifies as male, wasn’t permitted to wrestle boys this year. The University Interscholastic League, which oversees athletics in Texas public schools, says students’ genders must be based off their birth certificates. So Beggs was forced to wrestle girls. He went 56-0 this season and knocked off Chelsea Sanchez for the 110-pound weight class title last weekend. When the Euless Trinity junior’s hand was raised in victory, he was greeted with an impassioned mix of boos and cheers.

“I just heard the boos, but I heard more cheering,” Beggs told ESPN Wednesday. “Honestly, I was like, ‘You know what? Boo all you want, because you’re just hating. You hating ain’t going to get me and you nowhere, and I’m just going to keep on doing what I’ve got to do.’

Many of Beggs’ detractors, including WEEI’s Gerry Callahan, say he shouldn’t have been allowed to compete at all.

“Sometimes you’re not allowed to do what you want to do,” Callahan told me on the radio this week. “It’s totally unfair to ask a boy to make a move –– a lot moves go right to the crotch. You want a boy doing that to a girl?”

It wasn’t Beggs’ choice to wrestle in the girls’ division. His attorney says he wanted to face boys, but was rebuffed. At that moment, he was faced with a choice: stop wrestling because of who he is, or keep pressing forward. Beggs chose the latter, and says he was faced with taunts throughout the entirety of the season. He was called “”f—-t” and “it,” with some opponents declining to step onto the mat with him. One of his friends’ fathers even sued him, saying he will bring “imminent threat of bodily harm” to the girls he’s competing against.

That’s a lot of trouble to go through just to wrestle. People who suggest Beggs, or other student-athletes in his position, change their gender identities to gain a competitive advantage are out of their minds. Beggs just wants to embrace who he is.

“You just have to stay strong,” he said. “There’s going to be sucky days. There is going to be sucky days, believe me. … There’s always going to be another day. There’s always going to be another week. You’ve just got to keep on rolling.”

It’s understandable why some parents are apprehensive about their daughters facing Beggs, who’s been taking testosterone injections in order to expedite his transition from female-to-male. But the fault here lies with the UIL, which prohibits Beggs from competing against other males. Irate parents should take their complaints to the state. It’s not Beggs’ responsibility to worry about the comfort of his opponents. He must do what’s best for him.

Transgender kids are some of the most vulnerable people in the U.S. More than 80 percent of transgender students say they feel threatened at school, and 41 percent of transgender people say they’ve tried to commit suicide at least once in their lives. The suicide attempt rate of the overall U.S. population is 4.6 percent.

In his interview with ESPN, Beggs said he thought about taking his own life when he was in seventh grade. By refusing to cower to social pressure, he may now be a role model to other transgender kids who are entertaining those same dark thoughts. Thanks to the Trump administration’s decision to overturn federal protections for transgender students, a simple act like going to the bathroom could now be a traumatizing experience for some. Imagine living in a world where you’re perceived as such an outcast, that performing even a basic bodily function could invite scorn and ridicule. It’s important for the marginalized to see others who stand up against adversity, and raise their hands high –– just like Beggs.

Today, only 16 states and the District of Columbia permit transgender student-athletes to compete based on their gender identity sans medical intervention. Seven states require an amended birth certificate or proof of medical action, such as surgery or hormones. In Texas, birth certificates can only be changed with a court order. It’s an expensive and arduous process, meant to make it difficult for transgender people to be who they are.

After going through this season, perhaps Beggs will serve as a trailblazer when it comes to transgender rights in the athletic community. It’s his most consequential fight yet.