Thursday, January 1, 2009
Written statement provided to NPR by the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games on Dec. 1, 2008:
"This is a matter that is currently before the courts and understandably we can provide no new comment.
As we have stated in the past, in advance of the IOC's decision (Dec. 2006) not to include women's ski jumping for 2010, we supported the inclusion of women's ski jumping and communicated to the IOC that if they elected to add the event at that time, we would and could support it from a logistical and operational standpoint. We recognize that efforts are continuing by some to raise the profile and awareness of the issue, however, neither the facts nor our position have changed — it is not our decision to make. The final decision lies with the IOC, and we respect and accept the IOC's decision regarding women's ski jumping.
We encourage the women ski jumpers to focus their efforts on 2014 and we look forward to continuing to host them at Whistler Olympic Park for training."
— Cathy Priestner Allinger, EVP, Sport and Games Operations
Excerpts from a written statement provided to NPR by the International Olympic Committee on Nov. 19, 2008:
With too few athletes competing in this event, and no World Championships until one year before the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games, Women's Ski Jumping does not reach the necessary technical criteria and as such does not yet warrant a place alongside other Olympic events. With the technical merit of the event unchanged, the decision taken in November 2006 stands. ...
The IOC would like to stress again the decision not to include Women's Ski Jumping has been taken purely on technical merit. Any reference to the fact that this is a matter about gender equality is totally inappropriate and misleading.
— Emmanuelle Moreau, Media Relations Manager, International Olympic Committee
But Van and other women contend they are barred from the 2010 games simply because they're women.
Ski jumping is the last Winter Olympics sport closed to women. So Van and nine other women from six countries are suing to get into the 2010 games. They argue that the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games is violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by staging ski jumping competition that excludes women.
"[It's] just pretty painful to watch [men] I grew up training with be able to have that opportunity and me sit there knowing that I don't even have that opportunity because I'm not a male," says Van, of Park City, Utah, who has been ski jumping since she was 7. "It's depressing to tell young girls that you don't have the same opportunities just because they're girls."
The Technical Mark
"If the men are going to jump the women have to jump. And if the women aren't going to jump then the men can't either," says DeeDee Corradini, who served as the mayor of Salt Lake City during its bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics and is president of Women's Ski Jumping USA.
Corradini describes the legal reasoning behind the ski jumpers' lawsuit, which is now before the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
"VANOC is a quasi-governmental entity. If you look at the composition of their board [and] if you look at who's funding all of the venues in the Olympic Games, it's the federal and the provincial and local governments," Corradini contends. "And therefore, under Canadian law, [VANOC] is subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which prohibits discrimination."
VANOC declined interview requests for this story, but its officials have blamed the International Olympic Committee, which voted two years ago to keep women out of the Vancouver ski jumping competition.
"We have, obviously, put the IOC in a position that they could, if they'd made a decision to put this on the program, we would have attempted to accommodate it," said VANOC CEO John Furlong in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in May. "But the frustration is it's not our area of jurisdiction at all."
That is not a credible argument to Margot Young, a professor of law at the University of British Columbia.
"The games have to be run according to Canadian law when they're on Canadian territory," Young asserts. "I don't think VANOC can say 'Well, the International Olympic Committee made us treat women unequally.' So, I think the IOC and what it believes is essentially irrelevant if the event's being held in Canada."
The International Olympic Committee did not respond to interview requests for this story. But IOC President Jacques Rogge spoke to the CBC during a visit to Vancouver in May.
"To become an Olympic sport, a sport must be widely practiced around the world, universal, and have a big appeal," Rogge explained. "This is not the case for women's ski jumping. So there is no discrimination whatsoever. They did not pass the technical mark. That will change in the future. We have no doubt about that. But today they're not ready for it."
Corradini says Rogge and other IOC members are grossly misinformed. She says more than 80 women from 14 countries were competing at the elite ski jumping level when the IOC's executive board voted in 2006 to keep women's ski jumping off the 2010 schedule.
"If you look at the facts of ski jumping versus other sports that we should be compared to, which are luge, skeleton, bobsleigh and ski cross, in particular, we have more women and more nations competing at the elite level than any of those sports did when they were admitted," Corradini adds.
'They're Not Good Enough'
The IOC's rejection angers Anita DeFrantz, one of the few women on the IOC and chairwoman of the committee's Women and Sports Commission. She's an African-American and former Olympian herself who has tried to open more Olympic sports to women. And she doesn't understand why her fellow IOC members won't include women in the Olympic ski jumping competition.
"The words I heard were, 'They're not good enough,' " DeFrantz recalls. "I've heard that before. I understand discrimination very well. And this is a nearly textbook case of discrimination."
Some believe the IOC chose the new Olympic sport of ski cross for the 2010 games, and passed over women's ski jumping, because ski cross will attract younger television viewers enticed by so-called extreme sports. Television is the biggest generator of revenue for the Olympics, and young people immersed in extreme sports are coveted by television sponsors and Olympic organizers.
Ski jumpers consider their sport one of the original extreme sports. And it's long been part of the Olympics. Men have been jumping in the games since the first Winter Olympics at Chamonix-Mont Blanc in 1924.
DeFrantz notes that some women used to jump disguised as men, and some have dominated the sport, sometimes jumping farther than men. In fact, American women do so well in international competition that the U.S. Ski Jumping Team does not include any men.
None of that may matter to the judge at the Supreme Court of British Columbia, who will hear arguments in the lawsuit in April. The case will come down to interpretations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and whether it applies to VANOC and the 2010 Olympics, says law professor Margot Young.
"When it comes to organizations like VANOC, it's just not clear," Young says, despite government funding, government control and the staging of the Olympics as government policy. "The case law is contradictory and unpredictable. … It's not a slam-dunk. It's a complex argument. … I wouldn't bet on the result myself."
DeFrantz is usually reserved when she speaks of the IOC, where she has represented the United States since 1986. "It makes me feel embarrassed that our organization, which is built on mutual respect and fair play, is doing this to a group of women," DeFrantz admits. "It's just wrong."
Ski jumper Van is hoping the IOC or the Supreme Court of British Columbia will still open the 2010 competition to women, so she can fly into history as one of the first women to break the final gender barrier in the Winter Olympics. Van is 24 now, and 2010 is her last chance at the Olympics.
"I grew up expecting to be in [the] '98 [Olympics]," Van recalls. "And then 2002. And then 2006. So, the expectation's always been there. The dream's always been there. But there's no reality to that dream at this point."Original here
NEW YORK -- Chad Pennington has mastered NFL quarterbacking. And personal comebacks.
Al Bello/Getty Images
Chad Pennington put being released by the Jets behind him and led the Dolphins to the AFC East title.
Kerry Collins of Tennessee and Jake Delhomme of Carolina. Another quarterback, Arizona's Kurt Warner, received four votes, as did his teammate, wide receiver Anquan Boldin. So did Tampa Bay wideout Antonio Bryant. Two of Pennington's teammates also received votes: linebacker Joey Porter (three) and running back Ronnie Brown (one). Also with one vote were San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark and Baltimore tackle Willie Anderson. Porter was among Pennington's biggest supporters for the award. "He was our savior," Porter said. "He changed this whole team. He's not the one that's going to brag about it. He's just an old, humble country boy. So I'm going to brag for him."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
There will be no Cowher Power for the Jets. Bill Cowher informed the team last night he is not interested in their head-coaching job, and it could be because he doesn't want to coach Brett Favre. The former Steeler coach was the clear-cut favorite to replace Eric Mangini among Jets fans, and the team's ownership. Now, Woody Johnson must move on to Plan B. Talks between the Jets and Cowher never advanced past the preliminary stage. Sources close to Cowher said he did not want to have Favre as his quarterback, and that he also wanted to bring in people he was familiar with to handle personnel. A source familiar with Cowher's thinking said before last night's decision came down that the former Steeler boss would have to receive assurances from the Jets that the 39-year-old Favre no longer was in the picture before agreeing to take control.
The Pro Bowl will be played one week before the Super Bowl in 2010 and both games will be staged in Dolphin Stadium. The Pro Bowl will be televised on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, 2010.
"We are looking at alternatives to strengthen the Pro Bowl," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Tuesday. "We will evaluate this concept after the 2010 Pro Bowl."
It's not a new notion to have the game moved up to take place between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The NFL has discussed it multiple times in recent years, and Goodell told The Associated Press last month that having the game precede the Super Bowl would avoid a "somewhat anticlimactic" ending to the season.
"ESPN presents year-round coverage of the NFL and will work together with the league to promote the 2010 Pro Bowl as one of the kickoff events to Super Bowl XLIV week in South Florida," John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president, program acquisitions and strategy, said in a statement Tuesday.
The Pro Bowl has been held in Honolulu since 1980, and it's probable that the game will return to Hawaii after 2010, although not on the permanent basis as has been the case over the past three decades. Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said she was hopeful a deal could be struck in time for the 2011 game to return to Honolulu, and the city's mayor, Mufi Hannemann, told The Associated Press that he also is optimistic for eventual Pro Bowls.
"It's not that this comes as a surprise," Hannemann said. "The NFL has made it known for some time now that they were looking for some sort of rotational basis. We just need to get a new agreement with the NFL, whether it's every year or every two years or every three years. The ball's in our court to get that done."
It won't be South Florida's first Pro Bowl: the 1975 game took place in Miami's Orange Bowl, during a period when the site rotated annually.
It is anticipated that the league's plan is for players on the AFC and NFC championship squads not to take part in the Pro Bowl.
Miami was awarded the 2010 Super Bowl three years ago, a record 10th time the game will come to the Dolphins' home city. The notion of adding the Pro Bowl to the lineup in South Florida was first discussed several months ago. It's not clear when the final decision was made to move the game.
Hawaii tourism officials have lobbied in recent months to extend the game's current contract, which expires after this season's Pro Bowl, pointing to the fact that it's been sold out every year since moving to Honolulu and generates about $30.5 million in visitor spending and tax revenues.
Earlier this year, Hawaii's state government released $11 million for lighting and roofing improvements at Aloha Stadium, part of ongoing upgrades designed to refurbish and modernize the aging stadium. State officials have also considered demolishing the facility and building a new stadium.
Losing the Pro Bowl, combined with slowdowns in tourism because of the sluggish economy, is a double-dose of bad news for Honolulu, which estimates that 25,000 people came from out-of-state for Pro Bowls.
"It's not a shock because in talking with the NFL last year and this year, you realize the potential was there that it wouldn't stay in Honolulu forever and ever," Hannemann said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
DENVER (AP) -- He was known as a genius, a mastermind and, yes, a Super Bowl champion. Shockingly, though, Mike Shanahan has a new title: Unemployed coach.
Shanahan became the latest and most stunning victim of the NFL coaching purge, fired Tuesday by the Denver Broncos after a late-season collapse knocked the team out of the playoffs for the third straight year.
Shanahan became the fourth coach to be fired this week, joining Eric Mangini, Rod Marinelli and Romeo Crennel, after going 24-24 over the last three seasons. That included three straight losses this year that turned a three-game division lead to an 8-8 record.
"After giving this careful consideration, I have concluded that a change in our football operations is in the best interests of the Denver Broncos," owner Pat Bowlen said.
Bowlen had been steadfastly loyal to Shanahan, rewarding the coach who brought the long-awaited Super Bowl title to Denver with what seemed like carte blanche for life.
But Denver remained stuck on only one postseason victory since John Elway retired in 1999 following back-to-back championships. Shanahan finishes at 146-91 over 14 seasons in Denver, including playoffs; his final game was an unseemly 52-21 loss to San Diego with the division title on the line.
"I'm very shocked, extremely shocked," said rookie Spencer Larsen, who played fullback and linebacker this year. "I don't think any of us saw this coming."
Quarterback Jay Cutler certainly didn't.
"I was talking to Mike yesterday about personnel moves," he said in an interview on KCNC-TV in Denver. "I'm as shocked as anybody else. I think it's the wrong move."
For any other coach, on any other team, this kind of thing wouldn't have come as such a surprise, considering the season that just ended.
It included a historic collapse with Denver becoming the first team since divisional play started in 1967 to blow a three-game lead with three games left.
The Broncos' defense gave up 448 points, third worst in the NFL, including 112 during the three-game collapse at the end. It was ranked 29th in yards allowed and tied for last in the NFL with a minus-17 turnover margin.
Who might be able to turn it around?
Because Shanahan's job had seemed so secure, there hasn't been much speculation. Now, all the usual suspects will surely surface, both on the coaching and personnel sides: Bill Cowher, Scott Pioli, Jim Fassel. Shanahan's best assistant over the years, Gary Kubiak, is under contract with the Texans.
"I don't know if necessarily they'll find a better football coach," said linebacker Bill Romanowski, a key player on the Super Bowl teams. "Mike is an outstanding football coach, one of the better coaches I had, if not the best. But players start to get tired of the same routines, the same kind of play calling. A new fresh coat of paint sometimes does a whole lot of good."
Messages left on Elway's cell phone by The Associated Press were not immediately returned.
Bowlen and Shanahan were scheduled to hold news conferences Wednesday. Shanahan had three years left on his contract, worth about $20 million.
It will be interesting to see if Bowlen wants a change in the way the organization is run. Over the past several years, the most successful teams have moved away from the once-popular structure of having a coach-slash-GM in charge of everything.
In Denver, Shanahan ran everything and as things went downhill, he relieved defensive coordinators -- Greg Robinson, Ray Rhodes, Larry Coyer and Jim Bates -- in almost revolving-door fashion.
This year, as the defense floundered, it became obvious it wasn't just a coaching problem. It was an issue of talent on the field, and in Denver, the buck stopped with Shanahan.
He focused on defense in 2007, using two of his four picks for defensive linemen Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder, neither of whom have been much of a factor. Also of late, he wasted a third-round pick on Maurice Clarett (2005), spent millions on running back bust Travis Henry (2007), hardly got anything from Boss Bailey, Niko Koutouvides and Dewayne Robertson (2008).
Yet even when the talent wasn't there, he usually fielded a competitive team. Decades of solid sellouts and the full confidence of his owner made him almost impervious to criticism. Even after blowout losses, he was wont to acknowledge, at least publicly, deficiencies in his coaching or management style.
He was known -- first affectionately, then more derisively -- as "The Mastermind" during his tenure with the Broncos. And despite his poor finish in Denver, Shanahan shouldn't have much trouble getting another job if he's interested -- and willing to part with the 35,000-square-foot house he's building in a fancy part of Denver.
He earned the reputation honestly, returning to lead the Broncos a few years after a short, unsuccessful stint with the Oakland Raiders, where he was fired by Al Davis in a contentious parting that still isn't fully resolved. (Shanahan claims he's owed $250,000).
Shanahan became a coaching star as a coordinator and confidant of Elway's while the Broncos were being coached by Dan Reeves. But Reeves ended up firing Shanahan, accusing him of insubordination for supposedly conspiring with Elway to hatch game plans behind the head coach's back.
That made for a great subplot for the Super Bowl 10 years ago, when Denver met Reeves and the Falcons, for what turned out to be the last great moment for a franchise that Shanahan took to the top.
Denver's two Super Bowl victories came behind the running of Terrell Davis and the brilliance of Elway, but Shanahan pulled the strings and finally helped deliver the title to a city that had been through four painful Super Bowl losses, three with Elway at the helm.
Shanahan was regarded as a coaching genius when it came to creating mismatches on the field, confusing defenses by using different personnel groupings to run the same set of plays, series after series and game after game.
But after Elway retired, it was never quite the same.
His replacement, Brian Griese, never panned out. Jake Plummer got the Broncos to the AFC title game in 2005, but Denver was blown out by Pittsburgh. Shanahan drafted Cutler the next year -- an indication he was blowing up a team that had come so close a year before.
Cutler, along with receivers Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, make up the core of what could be a very promising offense in years to come. But the defense Shanahan assembled was wretched -- allowing more than 400 points over the past two seasons -- and the Broncos hardly looked like contenders.
STOCKTON, Calif. -- Billionaire developer and San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos has announced in a letter that he suffers from dementia.
The 85-year-old Stockton resident was in the owner's box for the Chargers' division-clinching win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday, but family members wanted to tell the public that his infrequent appearances lately have been because of his declining health.
Spanos wrote in a letter published in the San Diego Union Tribune that his memory is fading, but that physically he feels strong.
Spanos was one of the largest contributors to the 2004 campaign of George W. Bush, who then appointed him to the Kennedy Center Board. Spanos bought an interest in the Chargers in 1980 and acquired the team outright in 1984.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
This may be the very best police report of 2008. When Charles Barkley was busted in Arizona early this morning for DUI, he told cops he ran a stop sign because he was in a hurry to get some oral sex.
According to the officer who wrote the report, "He told me that he ran the stop sign because he was in a hurry to pick up the girl I saw get in the passenger seat."
The officer continues: "He asked me to admit that she was 'hot.' He asked me, 'You want the truth?' When I told him I did he said, 'I was gonna drive around the corner and get a b**w job. He then explained that she had given him a 'b**w job' one week earlier and said it was the best one he had ever had in his life."
The report says when Barkley was taken to the station, he told one of the employees, "I'll tattoo my name on your ass" if he helped "get him out of the DUI." According to the report, "He laughed and then quickly corrected himself and said, 'I'll tattoo your name on my ass' and then laughed again."
The report also says officers "found a handgun in the vehicle" which was immediately impounded. The report doesn't say if the handgun was legal or not, and the only thing that we know for sure was loaded...
By Marc Stein
Glenn James/Getty Images
The Dallas Mavericks don't have a regular courtside customer from the Jack Nicholson/Spike Lee/Eva Longoria universe.
The front-row folks at American Airlines Center are known for something else.
They're known for an annual (and powerful) act of charity during the Christmas season that, if not exactly glamorous, has the capacity to move a crowd of thousands.
"There isn't a more goose-bump-raising moment in sports than watching 150 soldiers stand up in the front row and react to 20,000 Mavs fans giving them a three-minute standing ovation," Mavs owner Mark Cuban says.
Cuban makes that claim based on what he's seen year after year at an event called Seats for Soldiers. For one night every December, Mavs season-ticket holders with the best seats in the house turn in their tickets to allow soldiers injured in combat from the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio -- most of whom have suffered some sort of catastrophic injury -- to see what it's like to live life like Jack, Spike and Eva.
The concept, which dates back to the spring of 2004, is the brainchild of serial Mavs fan Neil Hawks. The local real estate developer read a newspaper story about the burns, loss of limbs and general severity of the injuries regularly seen at BAMC -- which treats wounded soldiers from numerous states -- and felt as though he needed to give something more personal than a monetary donation. So he organized trips to Dallas for a group of eight recovering soldiers to sit in and around his baseline seats at three separate Mavs games.
It wasn't called Seats for Soldiers back then. It had no official title and wasn't a formally scheduled event held in conjunction with the team. But those first few outings were a hit. The folks in the floor seats dressed in military camouflage attracted lots of attention and prompted several fellow front-row patrons to approach Hawks with questions ... as well as the offer of more tickets.
The concept quickly grew to the point that Hawks found himself combining with fellow season-ticket holder Jamie Stewart, Cuban and the Mavericks' ticket-selling team, led by George Prokos, on an ambitious idea. The goal every December is to pick one game and fill every front-row seat with a wounded soldier in hopes of ringing the court with camouflage.
One example of how people react to the concept: Hawks delights in telling the story of when veteran referee Joey Crawford spotted the soldiers during a timeout a few years back and insisted on flagging down a courtside server to buy them a round of beers.
"It made it so I can't really yell at Joey anymore," Hawks said.
"The focus is obviously on the soldiers and what they've done for their country," he continued. "But I'd like to say something about our fans, too. I think people look at the front-row [occupants] as this hoity-toity crowd, but I'm amazed by how many of our season-ticket holders are ready, willing and able to offer up their seats. I never expected it to get this big. I thought we might have 50 or 60 someday. Now we're up to about 140."
Tim Heitman/NBAE/Getty Images
Soldiers with combat injuries get the best seats in the house at Dallas Mavericks games.
Sizable donations also come from the likes of American Airlines and local restaurateur Kent Rathbun, one of the country's leading celebrity chefs. American chartered one of its three yellow-ribbon jets -- the ribbon honors veterans and active military personnel -- and filled it with a volunteer flight crew and members of the Mavs' dance team to pick up the soldiers in San Antonio and fly them in on game day. Upon landing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, they were bused to Rathbun's Abacus restaurant for a pregame meal.
A five-star pregame meal.
"They'll be on the phone calling their friends between bites to say, 'You won't believe where I'm eating,'" Hawks said, laughing.
The soldiers proceeded from dinner to the arena for one hoops fantasy after another. Besides the privilege of experiencing what might be the best vantage point in pro sports and all the free food from the concession stands -- as if they needed more food after the restaurant trip -- they were asked by Mavs public address announcer "Humble" Billy Hayes to rise during a break in play so they could receive their standing-O salute, while Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" was piped in as background music.
All that was followed by the postgame treat of a private audience with the likes of Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry for pictures and autographs before the late-night return flight to San Antonio. Visiting players usually don't partake in these meet-and-greets, but Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant joined in this time when he heard that some of the soldiers were asking for him.
"A lot of them were from Texas and had seen me play in college," said Durant, taken No. 2 overall in the 2007 draft after one memorable year with the Longhorns. "They were giving me a lot of feedback. For a lot of them, it's the first NBA game they've ever been to, but some of those guys know a lot about the game.
"But I wanted to pick their brains, too, [and] try to find out how it feels to go through what they've gone through. It was just a humbling experience."
Former U.S. Army corporal J.R. Martinez hears those questions a lot. He was dispatched to Iraq in April 2003 and a little more than a month later suffered severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body, including his face and ears, when the Humvee he was driving hit a land mine and trapped Martinez inside.
Martinez was one of Hawks' first guests in 2004, while still in the midst of the 32 -- yes, 32 -- surgeries he would undergo during a lengthy recovery. The 25-year-old has since rebounded to the point that he can loosely (but amazingly) describe himself as a show-business colleague of Jack, Spike and Eva, having landed a recurring soap opera role on ABC's "All My Children" as a badly burned veteran of the Iraq war.
Yet Martinez, to this day, speaks of his first exposure to the roaring, tearful appreciation of Mavs fans as "the night of a lifetime."
"Celebrities get that kind of attention every time they walk into a building," Martinez said. "For that one night, you get to feel like a celebrity. You really feel like you're on top of the world. For that night, we were the superstars.
"You get these tickets, courtside seats, but on top of that, you've got all these people coming up to you all night long, thanking you for protecting them. All these people are so appreciative and almost worshipping the ground you walk on.
"I always tell them that you don't understand what a night like this does for us. It's worth more than you can imagine. These are things that a lot of these soldiers would never get to do [otherwise], and it's happening to [soldiers] that had lost all hope."
Cuban posted video highlights of the 2008 edition of Seats for Soldiers on his personal blog under the heading "Why owning the Mavs can be amazing."
"It's been a great tradition that the Mavs and the entire Dallas-Fort Worth community is proud of," Cuban said. "I don't think anyone who gives up tickets considers it a sacrifice. It's a reward to those who give everything and then some to serve our country."