Sports are fun and important. But mostly fun.

Sorry Heat Fans, LeBron And Pat Riley Did Not Meet In Secret Last Week

Despite a Twitter storm and rumors circulating around the interwebs, LeBron James did not have a secret meeting with Miami Heat President Pat Riley last week.

One news website even ran with the rumors, using photoshopped Tweets from Sun-Sentinel reporter Omar Kelly as a source.

Kelly quickly came out and set the record straight about the Tweets:

James had been in Miami for a few day mini-vacation last week to workout with his former Heat teammate Dwyane Wade and enjoy the warm weather.

Many people started speculating that the visit meant something a little more serious and that James could perhaps be planning on returning to play in South Florida.

“What do I go there for? Go there ’cause I want to,” James said in an interview last week according to ESPN. “I would love to go to L.A., but I’ll take 2½ [hour flight] over 4½. I’ve got a house in L.A., but it makes more sense for me to go south than go west. But I go because I want to.”

But the moral to this story yet again is to not believe everything that you read online.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Here’s How The Warriors Turned Steph Curry Into A Well Rested Bionic Superhuman

Before blossoming into the greatest shooter the sport has ever known, Steph Curry was defined by his fragile ankles.

Over the course of his first 3 NBA seasons, Curry missed 66 games, most of that coming after his initial operation, as he sprained his ankle five times while playing in 26 games the following year.

If his 2012 surgery failed, he was faced with the bleak prospect of inserting tendons from a cadaver into his ankle in the hopes that they would function better than the ones nature provided for him.

Luckily for Curry, the NBA, and anyone who ever wished that Steve Nash and Pete Maravich would have an And1 basketball baby, his last surgery is looking like it could be his last ankle surgery.

Steph’s problems were actually a pretty easy fix, as they were due to a mess of scar tissue, bone spurs, chips, and cartilage filling his joints “like crab meat.”

Dr. Richard Ferkel essentially vacuumed it all out, and the next face of the NBA was reborn.

“I feel like I’ve been doing nothing but rehabbing for two years. I feel like I’m never going to be able to play again. This ankle thing is not gonna be my life.”


Photo Credit: Golden State Warriors/ Facebook

Curry took advantage of as many resources as he could to fuel his 2nd chance in the NBA. Before every game now, Curry straps on his Zamst ankle braces (designed for post-sprain activity) and a pair of Under Armour sneakers created specifically for his feet.

Every team is looking for an edge somewhere in keeping players healthy and consistent. It is an accepted fact that this is the new market inefficiency in sports. But few organizations pursue this avenue with the vigor and resources of the Warriors.

They hired Australian sports science guru Lachland Penfold this offseason, and according to owner Joe Lacob, the goal is to “have like, a video game fatigue meter. A guy like Lachland will be able to go up to Bob and Steve [Kerr] and say, ‘Guys, he’s at a 77, and our threshold is 75 for Safe to Play.'”

The NBA’s new SportVU cameras that track and measure almost any movement on the court have combined with the GPS trackers the team wears in practice to give the Warriors unprecedented insight into their players’ health and its relation to their game.

The Warriors place a premium on their players’ mental acuity as well. Steve Kerr has made it a team goal to reduce personal stress, and the Warriors run complex drills to test their nervous system, as Curry described in an interview with Tech Insider:

“We overload our sensory system, nervous system, in our training with different lights. There are little beams that we have on the wall, and I’ll be doing dribble moves and reading the lights that are associated with different moves. Different colors mean to do a different move, and you have to make that decision in a split second and still have control of the ball.”

What do Steve Kerr, Chip Kelly, the Vancouver Canucks, and Jason Bourne all agree on? As the line from Robert Ludlum’s famous 1990 book goes: “Rest is a weapon.”


Photo Credit: Golden State Warriors/ Facebook

Before Kelly even arrived in Philadelphia three years ago, the Vancouver Canucks signed a deal in 2009 with Fatigue Science.

No professional squad has a more brutal travel schedule than the northwesternmost team in North America; the Canucks traveled one third of the distance to the moon en route to their 2011 Stanley Cup Finals loss, so it’s only natural that they would be interested in the effects of sleep, or the lack thereof, on the body.

A 2012 Harvard Study placed Fatigue Science’s armbands on orthopedic surgical residents and found that they averaged 5.3 hours of sleep per week, and because of this, the risk of medical error increased by 22%. Significant fatigue basically has the same effect on the body as being drunk.

Kelly has said that he believes that “an elite athlete needs between 10-12 hours [of sleep] a night.”

He was a college football pioneer in so many ways at Oregon, and he was practically the only college coach who was seriously investing in sport science.

As Chris Brown wrote for Grantland in 2014 about the basis of Kelly’s research (which was conducted on Australian-rules football):

“Many of those studies used heart rate, GPS, accelerometers, and gyroscope monitors worn by players in practice to determine how to train for peak game-day performance and how to prevent injuries. These studies also tracked the movements that players made in games so teams could mold practices and training to what players did on an individualized and position-by-position basis.”

The Eagles were 18th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted games lost to injury metric the year before Kelly arrived.

They invested a ton of money in his programs, placed trackers on their players’ wrists in practice, and finished 1st and 2nd in his subsequent seasons. Kelly has since been fired from the Eagles and is now the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan used to show up for work before sunrise. But things have changed for him.

“I thought that showed dedication and work ethic. I don’t do that anymore, because I realized it is more important to be rested and ready than it is to beat everybody to work.”

Pete Carroll has long embraced the importance of sleep, and the Seahawks now schedule their travel and training schedules to maximize their players’ sleep efficiency.

Richard Sherman has become one of Carroll’s acolytes on this issue, emphasizing how the head coach’s focus on good sleep was central to their Championship season of 2014 in an open letter for Sports Illustrated.

The pace of innovation in sports is accelerating. The Moneyball Era opened the floodgates for a reevaluation of everything.

Once available only to elite athletes, this technology that monitors players’ health and performance and helps explain their inextricably linked relationship is becoming more widespread and affordable.

If these advances could help alter the course of Steph Curry’s career, and thus, the history of the NBA, imagine the possibilities they could create in neighborhoods across the country.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

This Former NFL Great Called Cam Newton “Boy” In A Truly Disgusting Tweet

After walking out of a post game press conference in the aftermath of losing the Super Bowl, Cam Newton was attacked on Twitter by a former NFL player in a fashion that many believe was racially driven.

Bill Romanowski, a longtime NFL linebacker who played for four team and won the Super Bowl four times over the course of a 15 year career called Newton a “boy” after bashing his behavior in the post game press conference.

Newton refused to answer some questions and answered others in one word.

Here’s the tweet in full: (as saved by someone before Romanowski deleted it)

It is not the first time that Romanowski has shown hostility towards Newton.

In an interview with Bleacher Report, Romanowski said that if he were still in the league that he would try to hurt the Carolina Panthers quarterback.

“Are you kidding me?,” Romanowski said in the interview. “I’d hit him as hard as I possibly could, and probably at the bottom of the pile I’d try to get him by the neck and choke him. Hopefully he can’t breathe for a long time.”

After facing a storm of backlash on Twitter, Romanowski deleted the tweet where he called Newton “boy” and sort of apologized for it.

Newton and his Panthers were defeated by the Denver Broncos 24-10 in Super Bowl 50.

WATCH: Cam Newton walks out of Super Bowl post game press conference. 

Cover Photo Credit: Screengrab/Twitter

Celebrating An American Addiction Fifty Years In The Making

Nick Hickman

The decorations are up and the festivities are well in the works, for this Sunday, our Nation’s baby turns fifty.

Her roots can be traced back to the beautiful union between the AFL and the NFL in 1966. What soon came to be known as the Super Bowl was born out of a desire to crown a single champion between two unaffiliated leagues both competing for the spotlight.

Now, she owns an unofficial annual holiday at the beginning of every February. She is unmatched and untouchable. She is achievement personified, but is just as prosperous as she is cultural. In only fifty years time, she has infiltrated America’s bloodstream, pulsing and ripping through our veins as often as the air we breath.

Admit it, we’re hooked. We’re all addicted. Last year, a record 114.4 million people tuned in to watch Brady and the Patriots capture Super Bowl XLIX. There are approximately 111.1 million people living in Spain and the U.K. combined.

Aside from Super Bowl Sunday, only Thanksgiving can boast a higher statistical consumption of food.

The Super Bowl of two seasons ago between the Denver Broncos—who will compete again this year—and the Seattle Seahawks drew a record $119 million bet in Las Vegas casinos. It’s a sport played and adored by only one country in the world, but as American’s, we’re obsessed.

And part of the absurdity is that we’re all obsessed for different reasons. Sure, it’s likely that the large majority of viewers will watch for the sheer competition of the game, but many will be enticed by the halftime show and even Grandma and great-aunt Alice will tune in just to watch the commercials.

Usually we pay for clever tools to help us avoid commercials, but on Super Bowl Sunday, advertising brands will be competing nearly as hard as the athletes to capture your attention.

Though who can fault them? The rationale is simple. Say, for example, that just 5% of all viewers are motivated by an advertisement, spurring them to vote with their dollar. The resulting translation is an additional 5,720,000 customers to the responsible company.

Consequently, advertising companies will be willing to pay substantially for the privileged platform that is the Super Bowl. Thirty seconds during last year’s game sold for a record $4.5 million. According to Business Insider, that number has since grown 11% to a new average of $5 million per for this years game.

Money surrounds the Super Bowl in every corner and every aspect. Last year’s contest commanded more than $330 million in advertising revenue. This year, tens of thousands of passionate fans will pack Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, a venue that cost $1.3 billion to build.

Coldplay will headline this year’s Halftime Show after being selected as one of three finalists for last year’s game. Wall Street Journal reported that—along with Katy Perry and Rihanna—the three candidates were initially asked to pay the NFL for their performance in Super Bowl XLIX.

The Super Bowl is our baby and our addiction, and this year, both will turn fifty. It’s a small milestone in the scope of historical significance, though it’s a progression that shows no signs of slowing down.

Super Bowl Fifty will have its seats packed and its commercials rolling. It’ll have a remarkable halftime performance with brilliant effects and aesthetics, all this can be expected.

And too, you should expect the same next year, and the year after that. The NFL doesn’t need a headline like a fiftieth-anniversary to command our attention on Super Bowl Sunday.

In fact, it’s likely that they don’t even need to make any additional improvements or changes to the event at all. Barring nuclear annihilation, the NFL will be gifted next year with another energetic audience of hundreds of millions of fans.

As long as the money keeps coming, the fans will continue to be provided with a product that stimulates the deepest competitive trigger in all of us. And as long as the NFL’s product is in place, our cherished addiction will never cease.

 Cover Photo Credit: Kathy Drasky/Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Auburn Just Sent Out The Best Response To Crazy Fans Who Stalk Recruits On Twitter

For most people, the first Wednesday in February doesn’t really have any major significance – other than being a major let down after their massive Groundhog Day parties the night prior. (Do people do Groundhog Day parties? They should.)

But for College Football fans, the first Wednesday in February takes on a different meaning altogether thanks to National Signing Day.

For the uninitiated, National Signing Day is the first day where a high school senior can sign a “National Letter Of Intent”, which basically locks them into attending a certain college for the next year.

For the crazed, National Signing Day is a legit holiday. Thousands of people on Twitter actually spend large chunks of their lives tweeting at high school students in the hopes that they will attend the team the nut roots for. (Of course, most do not engage in this type of activity.)

It has become a real problem and some schools have tried to rein in their fan-bases as a result.

But Auburn University may have the best response to this social media problem.

Just take a look at this handy flowchart that the folks in the Auburn Compliance Department tweeted out:

Seems pretty straightforward.

When in doubt, don’t tweet at random teenagers! It is creepy and not helpful to your team at all.

Cover Photo Credit: Auburn Alumni Association/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)


Why The AFC Championship Might Be Peyton Manning’s Last Game Ever

If the Denver Broncos lose in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, it could very well be Peyton Manning’s last game.

It would almost certainly be his last game in Denver, given that both he and Brock Osweiler are free agents. Neither would probably accept a backup position next year, and Denver would be foolish to hang on to another year of Manning while losing out on a potential decade-plus of Osweiler.

Peyton’s Legacy in Denver

Even though it seems like it was just yesterday that us Broncos fans stopped Tebowing and embraced our inner Manning, this is Papa John’s fourth year in blue and orange. Looking back, he’s done quite a bit.

Year 1: I’m still not ready to talk about this.

Year 2: For Bronco fans, there are few things better than beating the San Diego Chargers and Phillip Rivers, exponentially more so in the playoffs, but winning our first Brady-Manning playoff game and going to the Super Bowl afterwards was probably better. As fun as those were, what happened next was equally disheartening as they ended up on the wrong side of the only 43-8 game in NFL history.

Year 3:

Always a good sign when a prominent and trusted journalist with a good relationship with your team’s head coach reports that he’ll leave “if” they lose their playoff game later that day. That was a hostage situation that robbed us of another Brady-Manning AFC Championship.

Year 4: If Bronco fans had to list the 5 teams they hate the most, the consensus would form around Pittsburgh, New England, Kansas City, Oaklandlangeles, and San Diegolangeles. In four years, Manning secured playoff wins over three of them, with the potential to clinch the Brady-Manning playoff rivalry in favor of the Broncos this weekend.

Regardless of what happens on Sunday, it’s been a good run.

Bronco fans have a unique perspective on the Manning-Brady rivalry, because as a Colt, Peyton routinely eviscerated the Broncos to the point where they traded for Champ Bailey after Manning threw for over 800 yards and 9 TD’s in back to back playoff games against Denver. We’re not fans of Brady, but Peyton wasn’t exactly our favorite guy either.

Even in the face of recent HGH allegations, Peyton’s legacy is mostly secured in Denver. The debate about PED’s has certainly waned from its peak in the previous decade, as many people don’t really know what to make of doping in sports anymore due to its complexity, and because it seems to be so widespread.

Plus, the NFL has little interest in finding out whether Peyton Manning is taking PED’s, because if he is, so is a gigantic chunk of the league. This is a story that will most likely never be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

Fans care about wins, and Peyton provided plenty of those for Bronco fans to go along with a laughable amount of NFL and franchise records. With two more wins, he would become a Denver legend. Without them, this was merely a fun, yet mildly disappointing episode in an otherwise long term relationship with our city’s favorite sports team.

Peyton’s legacy vs Brady

Far too many words have been committed to a debate that no one can really ever win, so I won’t waste any more space here, but given that I live in Boston and have to deal with the noise, I just want to remind my compatriots that a handful of field goals and a couple other plays not involving Peyton Manning or Tom Brady have swung this rivalry in favor of Brady in the Win-Loss column. Assigning the efforts of 46 men (not to mention the coaching staff) to 1 man is an inefficient way to compare two players. Such is the nature of a game that is decided by inches.

Denver Broncos vs New England Patriots

Believe it or not, but there are people other than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning playing in this game.

While everyone has been trying to push their way to the front of the line to pour more dirt on Peyton Manning’s career, few have talked about the real reason why the Broncos are hosting the AFC Championship Game: the best defense in the NFL.

Debating Manning has commanded so much of the conversation that it’s given many the impression that the offense is still the one we’ve become familiar with over the last decade-plus. It’s not. They’re not even running the same offense they were running when I wrote my column on the QB controversy a month ago.

Since then, Osweiler lead multiple comebacks in the biggest game of the season, jolting the Broncos out of their doldrums by running the Manning/Tom Moore offense to near-perfection. The entire offense fell apart the following week, turning the ball over 5 times before Manning came in relief of Osweiler. Peyton lead comebacks against the Chargers in week 17 and the Steelers in the Divisional Round while hopping in between Kubiak’s West Coast scheme, and Moore’s spread attack.

Denver will win this game if they can run the ball effectively, contain Gronk to simply a good game instead of an extraordinary one, and consistently pressure Brady and knock balls down at the line.

New England will win this game if they can take away deep passes and throws outside the numbers from Manning. That will free them up to put extra players close to the line to stop the Broncos best threat: their rushing attack. Offensively, so long as the Pats protect the ball they should be fine. Josh McDaniels’ offense is great, and even though the Denver defense is more than up to the task, it’s hard to see how Brady won’t get his points.

This game will most likely come down to the Denver offense and the New England defense. One thing to keep an eye on is the Patriots Achilles heel: their nearly non-existent running game. They trust their run game so little that they abandoned it while running out the clock with a one score lead last week, and Brady nearly threw one of the costliest interceptions in recent playoff history.

Denver’s Achilles heel this season has been Peyton Manning.

His arm strength has been a major issue since his neck surgery, but it was his decision-making earlier this season is what made him look like the worst quarterback in the league. If the Peyton Manning from fall 2015 shows up, Sports Illustrated’s prediction will prove to be prescient.

If the Peyton of the last two games shows up, then this has all the makings of a classic.

Cover Photo Credit: Jeffrey Beall/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

What’s Old Is New Again: How The Rams Moved Back To LA And What It Really Means For NFL Fans

Los Angeles, the home of Hollywood, Universal Studios and Chaz Bono, now has its own professional football team once again.

A vote last week among NFL owners rendered the final nail in the coffin for St. Louis fans; their Rams will relocate to Los Angeles for the immediate 2016 season.

For owner Stan Kroenke, the 30-2 decision serves as a victory to return his team to their previous home. It’s been 21 years since the Rams played their last game in Los Angeles, in which time Kroenke has repeatedly criticized the economic and fan support put forward by St. Louis and will now cough up $550 million in order to leave the city.

Waiting for him, however, is one of the largest entertainment markets in the country and enticing plans for an alluring new $1.8 billion dollar stadium located in Inglewood, 10 miles from downtown L.A. Until the completion of the stadium in 2019, the Rams will make their home in the L.A. Coliseum.

The narrative is thrilling and nostalgic for former Los Angeles Rams fans—who claimed the team for the majority of its existence—but is far more somber for St. Louis fans, victims of yet another NFL team to jumped ship on the city.

In 1988, the St. Louis Cardinals (yes there was an NFL team called that too) left and relocated in Arizona. Now, despite the city’s proposal for a new $1.1 billion dollar stadium along the Mississippi River, St. Louis fans are left in the same position as they were almost thirty-years ago.

The city has long been at odds with Kroenke and the NFL. Last Wednesday, Mayor Francis Slay spoke out saying, “At this point I’m so frustrated and disappointed with the NFL.”

Slay went on to call the league “dishonest” and added that he has no desires to re-involve himself with the NFL.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will serve as the temporary home of the LA Rams until they open a new stadium in 2019. Photo Credit: InSapphoWeTrustFlickr (CC By 2.0)

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will serve as the temporary home of the LA Rams until they open a new stadium in 2019. Photo Credit: InSapphoWeTrustFlickr (CC By 2.0)

Kroenke’s feud with the city and its fans has continued despite the team’s departure. In an interview with the LA Times Kroenke stated that he wasn’t going to, “sit there and be a victim.”

However the move is not unlike many before it, leaving fans and taxpayers as the true victims.

The city and county will be forced to pay off bonds used to fund the stadium until 2021, but will do so without a team to cheer for. Instead, they’re left only with the memory of four winning seasons and one Super Bowl in the team’s tenure in St. Louis.

Fans in San Diego and Oakland may have reason to fear the same fate. Although the state of California will undoubtedly welcome its fourth NFL franchise in the near future, Commissioner Roger Goodell also gave the San Diego Chargers the option to jointly join the Rams in L.A.

The team has one year to accept the offer, which would then be passed to the Raiders should San Diego decline. Both teams were additionally granted a $100 million dollar incentive to build new stadiums in their current locations.

Only the coming months however, will prove whether or not the incentive money is enough to draw owner’s eyes away from the glamorous Los Angeles market. The league is about dollars and cents, and they will do anything to further their product.

The near future will also indicate whether the Rams’ move is a good one. Los Angeles undeniably offers economic opportunities, but it also carries its fair share of baggage. The results had in St. Louis will far from satisfy Los Angeles fans who have been spoiled over the years with the success of teams like the Lakers and Kings.

The fans, after all, they are the true life-blood of the league (whether they be in the seats or on the couch).

It’s time now for Stan Kroenke to deliver his new fans with a product that will succeed beyond the balance sheet.

Cover Photo Credit: Emmanuel_D Photography/Flickr (CC by 2.0).

Why LeBron Needs To Fight For Tamir Rice: A History Of Athletes As Social Justice Warriors

Athletes play an outsized role in our society. Their exploits dominate large portions of many lives and have a dramatic impact on our emotional security. In a sense, they’re family.

LeBron James grew up in Akron, was drafted by Cleveland, left to chase titles in Miami, only to return to Ohio to try to end one of the saddest streaks in sports (the 1964 Browns were the last team to win a title for the rock n roll capital of the world).

LeBron embraces being a pillar of the community, and in recent weeks, part of the community challenged that pledge, calling for him to sit out games in order to protest a tragic case.

The Tamir Rice incident can be described by a myriad of terrible adjectives, but the case follows a familiar script: a young unarmed black man was killed by the police.

Watch: Shooting of Tamir Rice video. (CNN Report): 

What makes this version of it so horrifying is that you can replace “man” with “child” and “killed” with “assassinated.” The video shows the act in all of its ugliness, clear as day.

However, a grand jury ultimately ruled that officer Tim Lohemann was not guilty. Lohemann was described by his previous police station as someone who “could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal.”

Policing is a difficult job with plenty of shades of gray, but given the words of other police officers and the video evidence, this particular incident seemed to be much more black and white.

The community called on LeBron to fight back against a force that has been operating since the dawn of humanity, and James’ response was underwhelming to many.

“To be honest, I haven’t really been on top of this issue,” LeBron James on the Tamir Rice case.

James said that he wasn’t really paying attention to the case:

“To be honest, I haven’t really been on top of this issue. So it’s hard for me to comment. I understand that any lives that [are] lost, what we want more than anything is prayer and the best for the family, for anyone. But for me to comment on the situation, I don’t have enough knowledge about it.”

Is it his responsibility to carry this burden? What could he even do?

We are entering a new era of athletic activism with the expansion of social media. Athletes have usurped the power of journalists to distribute and shape their message. LeBron has already taken advantage of this infrastructure to show solidarity with another young, black, innocent victim.

Photo Credit: LeBron James

The 2012 Miami HEAT protest the Trayvon Martin killing. Photo Credit: LeBron James

To determine what LeBron’s responsibility might be, a look back at the last century of this issue would be instructive.

Due to America’s history with slavery and its struggle with the ensuing fallout of a botched reconstruction and the Jim Crow era that followed, much of activism in sports has been centered on the fight for racial equality.

Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Althea Gibson, and many many many others went through literal and metaphorical trials throughout the Jim Crow era, as their natural resistance to oppression served as models of what the next generation of athletes could come to expect from those in control.

Even if the power structure didn’t change, the next generation of activists increased their share of power with the expansion of TV.

The 1964 NBA All Star Game was the first to be televised, and it almost never happened. Bill Russell helped to organize a walkout unless the owners agreed to recognize the players’ union. They proved to everyone in sports that it was possible to fight back against injustice, win, and keep their job.

Tommy Smith and John Carlos painted perhaps the most famous image of athletic activism, wearing black gloves, and raising their right fist in a show of solidarity while standing on the 1968 Olympic podium.

A grafitti version of the famous "black power" salute from the 1968 Olympic Games. Photo Credit: Newtown grafitti

A grafitti version of the famous “black power” salute from the 1968 Olympic Games.
Photo Credit: Newtown grafitti

As powerful as Smith and Carlos’ gesture was, its impact on society could not compare to the ordeal of The Greatest, or as he put it:

“Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”

“Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”

Muhammad Ali nearly sacrificed the greatest boxing career of all time in order to protest the Vietnam War after being drafted in 1966; refusing to fight by citing his devotion to Islam and its firm stance against wars of all kind. Ali minced no words on his view of the United States government:

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No, I am not going ten thousand miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slavemasters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end…I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail. We’ve been in jail for four hundred years. “

Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title, boxing license, and his passport so he could not fight overseas, unable to box again until 1971.

His case would eventually go to the Supreme Court, and this battle against the government was the first thing that many came to learn about the Vietnam War. The man formerly known as Cassius Clay was a major influence on an era that irrevocably changed the American public’s relationship with our government.

It’s difficult to find another athlete from any era exercising their conscience at the risk of so much while having as large of an impact as he did.

The energy and frequency of high-profile protest decreased in the next era as more money flowed into sports, and everyone’s attitude could be summed up by the famous (reportedly true) Michael Jordan quote: “Republicans buy shoes too” and Charles Barkley’s line of “I am not a role model. Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”

There were occasional bouts of activism, including one that serves as a cautionary tale for all players.

In 1992, Craig Hodges, Jordan’s championship teammate, wore a dashiki to the White House, presenting a letter to President George H. W. Bush pushing for the government to begin to seriously invest in the black community.

That season, Hodges shot 37.5% from deep (3.9% higher than league average), 94.1% from the free throw line, and committed just 22 turnovers in 56 games, yet he never played again as 27 teams all felt they had no room for the efficient 31-year-old shooting guard.

Fast forward to today’s conversation where people openly snicker at the thought of anyone hand writing a letter, and activism seems to be on the rise.

In this decade alone, Derrick Rose and countless other NBA players wore I Can’t Breathe shirts in the wake of the Eric Garner tragedy. The Clippers covered up their logo in protest of Donald Sterling.

The Phoenix Suns wore jerseys that said “Los Suns” in response to a draconian immigration bill passed by the state of Arizona.

The St. Louis Rams exited the pregame tunnel with their hands up in a show of solidarity with the Michael Brown protestors in Ferguson.

Andrew Hawkins wears a shirt in warm ups calling for justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford.

All of these players used the power of images and their celebrity to make a statement about the injustices they see in our society.

It’s not just symbolism that characterizes today’s protests either. Outspoken players like Chris Kluwe and Brendon Ayanbadejo have campaigned fervently in support of LGBT rights, the former claiming that it cost him his job in the NFL, and the latter even getting into a spat with a congressman over the topic.

All-World QB Aaron Rodgers aggressively raises awareness to try to end the decades long war in the Congo, and will even go out of his way to denounce discrimination in his home stadium.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell can see some parallels between today and Muhammad Ali’s era of activism:

“I grew up in the ’60s, where everybody was socially conscious. I believe in it. I’d be a hypocrite if I stood up here and told you any differently, because more than likely, some of those protests that Dr. King and some of the others that took a part in non-violent protests, is the reason why I’m standing here in front of you today.”

Athletes live privileged lives that are funded entirely by our adulation. Their celebrity exists only because the community deems it so.

Athletes live privileged lives that are funded entirely by our adulation. Their celebrity exists only because the community deems it so.

They have a moral obligation to give back to the rest of us, but because of the contentious nature of social change and existing power structures, activism is bad for business.

This balance is difficult to achieve, with athletes like Muhammad Ali and Craig Hodges serving as cautionary tales of how one’s career can be ripped away from them in an instant.

However, with the emergence of this new era of activism and the ability for athletes to control their own message, there is plenty of room for LeBron to advance his involvement in the Tamir Rice case, especially since so many of his contemporaries seem ready and eager to lead us into a new world.

Do you think LeBron should be more than just a player? Tell us in the comments below: 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Here’s The Top 5 Players At Each Position Right Now In The NBA

By Jay Rumph

Out with the old, and in with the new. The NBA has been fueled by some of the best rising stars this year, which is good news for the league.

There’s a new era of basketball in the NBA.

We’re just a couple of games into 2016, but we can already see who contributes the most to their respective teams.

Evaluating players from the beginning of the season until now, these rankings are based on players’ total contribution so far this NBA season. We bring you our favorite players at each position entering the NBA’s New Year.

We live for these types of discussions. Here’s the best of the best. Let the debating begin.

Point Guard: Stephen Curry

Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Curry is single handling changing the game of basketball. Leading the Golden State Warriors to the best record in the NBA at 35-2. The reigning MVP, Curry is doing everything for the Warriors. He’s playing so well this season, people are making comparisons between him, and Michael Jordan. Although I think the comparisons are coming a bit too early, we can’t help but admire his overall greatness.

He has the ability to make an impact on any game at any moment. Besides his terrific shooting ability, Curry is also a great finisher around the basket. A prolific passer, he is able to get all his teammates involved on the court.

Putting up historic numbers, Curry is averaging 31.8, 5.4 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. He’s doing all of that, while shooting 52.0% from the field, and 45% from the three-point line. Not only is he the best point guard in the league, there’s no doubt that he is also the best player in the NBA. The favorite to win the MVP again this year is Stephen Curry. Curry would join a list of great NBA players that has won the MVP award in consecutive years.

Shooting Guard: Jimmy Butler

Photo Credit: Shinya Suzuki/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Shinya Suzuki/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Discussion of who the NBA’s best shooting guard has become the new topic in 2015-16 season. Klay Thompson recently said he was the best shooting guard in the league, but James Harden quickly dismissed that claim. There’s no doubt that Jimmy Butler is in the conversation. A versatile player, Butler is a lockdown defender on defense, and Jimmy “Buckets” on offense.

He’s averaging 28.5 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.5 rebounds since the beginning of 2016. The Chicago Bulls are now second in the Eastern Conference, because of Jimmy’s two-way game. Bulls’ have finally found their offense, from their best player, Jimmy Butler.

Small Forward: Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard, reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has become one of the best small forwards in the league. Another two-way player, Leonard can guard the opponents best player, and score on their best player. He has become the Spurs’ best player, and most important player. Let’s not forget how good the San Antonio Spurs actually are, but they are much better when he’s on the basketball court.

Leonard is averaging 20.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.0 steals per game this season. That’s not including what he does to opponents on the defensive end. He has the NBA’s best defensive rating at 90.2. He has proven that he is one of the NBA’s great players, this season is just another example of his humble dominance.

Power Forward: Draymond Green

Photo Credit:  Lpdrew/ Wikimedia commons

Photo Credit: Lpdrew/ Wikimedia commons

A major part of the Warriors’ success, Green is playing on another level this season. There’s nothing Green can’t do this year. This season, he is averaging 15.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game. He’s the league leader in trouble doubles this season with a total of eight. Green posted triple-doubles in two of the last four games this week.

The options are unlimited when the ball is in his hands. His ability to get his teammates involved helps contribute to the Warriors play style. Yes, Green is another one of those versatile players. He can play the point forward, and then slide up to the center position, when Golden State wants to play small ball. Draymond Green’s ability to contribute in all aspects of the game is one of a kind.

Center: Demarcus Cousins

Photo Credit: Ytoyoda/ Wikimedia Commons (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Ytoyoda/ Wikimedia Commons (CC By 2.0)

Bad attitude or not, Demarcus Cousins ability on the basketball court speaks for itself. Cousins has the most talent out of all the centers in the NBA today. He can score the basketball from the inside or outside. He’s a huge threat from three-point line, currently shooting 32% from behind the arc. He ranks fifth in NBA scoring averaging 25.2 points per game. Also he is averaging 10.8 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game.

His abilities at the center position puts him above any other player at the position. He can put the ball on the floor and create opportunities for his teammates. Improving his offensive game will only make him a major threat for opponents. Look for Cousins to continue his hot start entering the New Year. There’s still a lot of basketball games left, but hopefully Cousins and Rajon Rondo can lead the Sacramento Kings into the NBA playoffs.

These players make our list as the top players at their position. Do you agree or Disagree? Who’s in your top 5? Let us know in the comments below.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for you us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

NFL Playoffs Kicks Off With Four Exciting Matchups That Could Each Come Down To The Wire

The NFL playoffs kick off with a bang this weekend with a slate of four games that are expected to be fiercely competitive.

Here’s a rundown of what to expect in each of those games:

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) vs. Houston Texans (9-7) (Saturday 4:35pm ET, ABC)

After both enduring exceptionally odd seasons, it’s only fitting that these two teams would now meet in the playoffs. This game is a rematch of a Week one matchup where Kansas City took the game 27-20. That would be the last time that the Chiefs would win for over a month.

The Chiefs proceeded to lose their following five games and saw franchise running back Jamaal Charles go out in the midst of a 1-5 start.

That Week One matchup also propelled the Texans into a world of chaos, largely centered around the quarterback position. In their loss against the Chiefs, quarterback Brian Hoyer was pulled and replaced with Ryan Mallet. In total the Texans tried four different players under center this season before finally surrendering the position back to Brian Hoyer, who is expected to start on Saturday.

Both teams, however, were able to engineer turnarounds.

The Texans finished 8-3 over their last eleven games and secured the dreary AFC South with a 9-7 record.

The Chiefs closed their season in impressive fashion, winning ten straight and outscoring opponents 278 to 128 in the process.

Still without Charles, the Chiefs have found structure in the efficiency of quarterback Alex Smith and the consistency of their run game, which is sixth best in the league. On the contrary, Houston’s success this season has been predominantly anchored by JJ Watt and their defense. Though, while the Texan’s boast the third best defense, they are far better at defending against the pass.

The dynamics between these two teams should make for a hard-fought game.

The dynamics between these two teams should make for a hard-fought game. Although they carry a formidable rushing attack, the Chiefs supplement it well with their passing game.

New addition Jeremy Maclin adds an additional threat and is coming off a 1088 yard regular season. Although Smith doesn’t make a lot of eye popping plays, he’s exceptionally efficient and has the ability to escape pressure with his legs. The key for Houston will lie in disrupting the Kansas City offense, though they will also need a noteworthy performance from star wide out Deandre Hopkins if they’re going to capture the win.

Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (12-4) (Saturday 8:15 pm ET, CBS)


Photo Credit: SteelCityHobbies/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0).

In the playoffs, it’s hard to ask for anything better than a bitter and brutal rivalry game. The 12-4 Bengals, who were only one Denver loss away from a first round bye, now have to host their division counterparts and the third best offense in the league, the Steelers.

The two teams put forward an interesting regular season, splitting their series 1-1 with both teams winning on the other’s home field. The Steelers are victors of the most recent matchup, winning in Cincinnati 33-20 on December 13th.

The loss, however, handed the Bengals more than just a mark on their record as quarterback Andy Dalton left the game with a broken thumb.

Dalton has yet to return this season and will not start on Saturday.

Since that Week 14 game, quarterback A.J. McCarron has commanded the huddle and has thrown six touchdowns with two interceptions.

Preparing for the young quarterback is a Steelers defense that ranks third worst against the pass. Thus entails the opportunity for McCarron to hook up early and often with wide receiver A.J. Green. The wide out is capable of breaking big plays with 19 catches of 20+ yards this season and will terrorize Pittsburgh’s secondary all game.

Saturday will provide an interesting test for McCarron who won multiple BCS National Championships in his time at Alabama.

Saturday will provide an interesting test for McCarron who won multiple BCS National Championships in his time at Alabama. The quarterback has certainly proven himself proficient on a big stage, but will have to lead a Bengal team that has never won a playoff game in Marvin Lewis’ twelve-year tenure.

Even more capable of explosive plays is the Steeler offense led by Ben Roethlisberger and their passing attack.

The Bengals defense is one of the most consistently tough in the league, with a secondary that nabbed 21 interceptions this season, which ranks third in the NFL.

Seattle Seahawks (10-6) vs. Minnesota Vikings (11-5) (Sunday 1:05 pm ET CBS)


Seahawks at Ravens 12/13/15

Cover Photo Credit: Keith Allison/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0).

It’s been an interesting season for the Seattle Seahawks, who initially looked hung-over off of a heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl 49 last year. Now, though, every indicator hints that the team has regained perhaps a supreme level of confidence.

At the head of the Seahawks recovery has been nothing short of a phenomenal effort put forth by quarterback Russell Wilson. In the last seven games Wilson has an astonishing 24 touchdowns with only one interception.

Although they lost running back Marshawn Lynch with an abdominal injury early in the season, the Seahawks offense has rallied around their quarterback and now ranks fourth best in total offense.

Sunday’s game will take place in Minnesota with a temperature forecasted at 2°F. The circumstances are courtesy of the Vikings season finale, a win in Green Bay where they firmly clinched the NFC North for the first time since 2009.

Although both teams have running backs that have been battling injuries, both Adrian Peterson and Lynch will likely play on Sunday.

Although both teams have running backs that have been battling injuries, both Adrian Peterson and Lynch will likely play on Sunday.

The two teams squared off fairly recently on December 6th, a brutally one sided 38-7 victory for the Seahawks. The Seattle defense held Adrian Peterson to only 18 rushing yards in the contest. The same defense now enters the playoffs ranked first in defending against the run and will look to have a repeat performance against the best running back in the league.

The bitter weather conditions may impact young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater- a Miami native, which will only help the infamous Legion of Boom.

Still, Vikings and Seahawks fans alike should be excited for a good game.

The Vikings seem to be following the blueprint that Seattle laid out two years ago in their Super Bowl pursuit; a heavy run game anchored by defense. Now, however, they must face a Seahawks team that looks equally as dominant and determined to recapture another Lombardi Trophy.

Green Bay Packers (10-6) vs. Washington Redskins (9-7) (Sunday 4:40 pm ET FOX)

Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

These two teams have perhaps been the two most surprising teams all year, but for very different reasons.

Entering the season the Redskins were almost entirely written off from the playoffs and Green Bay was a Super Bowl favorite, but you’ve got to love the beautiful unpredictability of the NFL.

As we sit now, Washington –although at a 9-7 record— has the higher seed and will host Green Bay in Sunday’s wildcard matchup. After years of the RGIII soap opera, this was the first season that quarterback Kirk Cousins was given full control of the starting job. Consequently, Cousins responded with a really solid season.

The quarterback has 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the year, but by far his best play has come as of late.

Since Week 10, Cousins has thrown 19 touchdowns and only two interceptions, a good sign for Redskins fans heading into the post season. He’s completing nearly 70% of his passes to a particularly deep and skilled receiving core.

The Packers, on the other hand, have widely disappointed this season. Their offense ranks 23rd in the league, an especially shocking statistic from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

The simple fact is that Rodgers has been regularly beat up while dropping back this season.

While still putting up 31 touchdowns, Rodgers has been sacked 46 times this year, which is second only to Blake Bortles.

While still putting up 31 touchdowns, Rodgers has been sacked 46 times this year, which is second only to Blake Bortles.

This game has a good chance to be just as surprising and unpredictable as the two teams playing in it. Despite Green Bay’s offensive struggles, they will face one of the worst defenses in the league, an opportunity that may just open the doors for someone as great as Rodgers.

No doubt the Redskins are the hotter team entering this matchup, but Sunday’s contest presents opportunities for both teams.

Cover Photo Credit: Mike Morbeck/Flickr (CC by-SA 2.0).

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