Misbehaving owners hardly unheard of in pro sports
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
Saturday, February 23
Misbehaving owners of sports teams have drawn headlines pretty much since sports have been around.
Now, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft faces misdemeanor charges of soliciting a prostitute after police said he was twice videotaped paying for a sex act at a massage parlor in Florida amid a crackdown on sex trafficking.
He joins a list of current and former NFL owners accused of crimes or social misconduct.
Last year, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson sold the team after allegations surfaced of sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. Following a six-month investigation by the league, he was fined $2.7 million. Richardson, the team’s founder, then sold the franchise to David Tepper for $2.2 billion.
Cleveland Browns owner Jim Haslam had legal troubles while CEO of Pilot Flying J, one of the nation’s largest truck-stop chains. Company executives either pleaded guilty or were convicted in a fraud scheme worth more than $50 million. Haslam claimed he didn’t know about the scheme in which customers were underpaid on promised rebates for fuel purchases, and he was not charged.
Haslam bought the Browns in October 2012, six months before the FBI and IRS raided company headquarters. The NFL never disciplined him.
Jim Irsay, whose Indianapolis Colts won a Super Bowl for the 2006 season under his leadership, had acknowledged having a painkiller addiction in 2002 and sought treatment. The DEA investigated the case, but local prosecutors did not file charges.
Then, in March 2014, Irsay was arrested near his home in suburban Carmel and was held overnight after he failed sobriety tests and police found prescription medications in his car. The police said the drugs in Irsay’s vehicle were not associated with any of the prescription bottles found inside. He was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, along with four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance; police also found $29,009 in cash.
He again sought treatment and in September 2014 pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated, agreeing to undergo drug testing for a year. Irsay also admitted he was under the influence of the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone when he was arrested.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Irsay for six games and fined him $500,000.
Ed DeBartolo Jr., who built the San Francisco 49ers’ 1980s-90s dynasty with Bill Walsh as coach, was involved in one of the biggest owners’ scandals in the sport’s history. In 1998, he pleaded guilty to failing to report a felony when he paid $400,000 to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards in exchange for a riverboat gambling license.
DeBartolo was suspended from the NFL for one year in 1999 for his role in the gambling fraud scandal. He also handed over control of the team to his sister, Denise DeBartolo York, and never returned to the 49ers.
Former Philadelphia Eagles owner Leonard Tose had to sell the team in 1985 to pay off more than $25 million in debts to Atlantic City casinos.
Football hardly stands alone in the owners’ misbehavior market.
Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott was sued by former employees during the days of the Big Red Machine for being a racist and, at one point, was quoted in The New York Times as saying Adolf Hitler initially was good for Germany; that her use of racially inappropriate words was in jest; and that she didn’t understand why certain ethnically insulting words were offensive.
In 1993, Schott was suspended for one year by Major League Baseball and fined $25,000 for language that MLB’s executive council deemed “racially and ethnically offensive.”
Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was fined $2.5 million and banned from the NBA for life in 2014 for racist comments he made to a friend. Sterling scolded her for posting pictures on Instagram in which she was accompanied by Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, both black.
“Why are you taking pictures with minorities, why?” Sterling was recorded as saying. “Don’t put him on an Instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me. . And don’t bring him to my games, OK? … Yeah, it bothers me a lot that you want to promo, broadcast that you’re associating with black people. Do you have to?”
The Rigas family owned the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres in the late 1990s and early 2000s. It was forced to relinquish control of the team after indictments on bank and security fraud charges for raiding the coffers of their cable company, Adelphia. The Sabres played the 2003-04 season under NHL operation before being purchased out of bankruptcy by Thomas Golisano.
Last year, NASCAR’s Brian France, whose family owns the stock car racing circuit and many of the tracks where it competes, was arrested in New York on charges of aggravated driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of a controlled substance. He immediately took a leave of absence and his uncle, Jim France, stepped in as chairman and CEO.
Perhaps the most documented misbehavior by a franchise owner occurred with George Steinbrenner of the New York Yankees.
A 15-count indictment was handed up in 1974 in Cleveland federal court for violations of election laws. Steinbrenner pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to make illegal campaign contributions, then was suspended by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn for two years. That suspension was lifted after 15 months for good behavior.
Steinbrenner frequently was fined for publicly criticizing umpires and for tampering. He was forced to resign as the team’s managing general partner in 1990 for dealings with and a $40,000 payment to self-described gambler Howard Spira. Steinbrenner returned to his position on March 1, 1993.
AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi, Baseball Writer Ronald Blum, Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney and Hockey Writer John Wawrow, and Sports Writers Tom Withers and Mike Marot contributed to this report.
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Goodell has wide-ranging powers to fine or suspend Kraft
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has wide-ranging powers to discipline teams, coaches, players, and, yes, owners.
Pending the completion of police investigations in Florida — and likely a league inquiry as well — Goodell could punish New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft for being charged with two counts of soliciting a prostitute.
The 77-year-old Kraft was twice videotaped in a sex act at a shopping-center massage parlor in Florida, police said Friday. The charges come amid a crackdown on sex trafficking in which hundreds of arrest warrants have been issued.
Under the NFL’s personal conduct policy that states “ownership and club or league management have traditionally been held to a higher standard and will be subject to more significant discipline,” Goodell could fine and/or suspend Kraft from any activities involving the Super Bowl champions.
“It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime,” the policy says. “We are all held to a higher standard and must conduct ourselves in a way that is responsible, promotes the values of the NFL, and is lawful.”
Kraft has been accused of misdemeanor charges and might not be required to perform more than community service and attend a course on the harmful effects of prostitution and sex trafficking. Goodell will be judging whether this was “conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in” the NFL.
He’s made many such judgments before — including fining Kraft and the Patriots $250,000 in 2007 for filming other teams’ signals, and $1 million in 2014 for deflating footballs during the AFC title game. The “Deflategate” case damaged Goodell’s close relationship with Kraft, one of his trusted advisers on many NFL matters, including labor and broadcast rights.
Even though Goodell is employed by the owners, at a cost of about $40 million annually in salary and bonuses, he views the commissioner’s role as one protective of the game and the league. If you embarrass “the shield,” you are punished.
So he doesn’t often hesitate to discipline wayward owners, basically penalizing his bosses.
Only one of them, the Indianapolis Colts’ Jim Irsay, has been suspended by Goodell, who replaced Paul Tagliabue as commissioner in 2006. Irsay acknowledged having a painkiller addiction in 2002 and sought treatment. The DEA investigated, but local prosecutors did not file charges.
Then, in March 2014, Irsay was arrested near his home in suburban Carmel and was held overnight after he failed sobriety tests and police found prescription medications in his car. The police said the drugs were not associated with any of the prescription bottles found inside.
He was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, along with four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance; police also found $29,009 in cash. He again sought treatment and in September 2014 pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated, agreeing to undergo drug testing for a year. Irsay also acknowledged he was under the influence of the painkillers oxycodone and hydrocodone when he was arrested.
Irsay drew a six-game suspension and $500,000 fine from Goodell.
Last year, Jerry Richardson essentially was forced to sell the Carolina Panthers after allegations surfaced of his sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace. Following a six-month investigation by the league, he was fined $2.7 million by Goodell. Richardson, like Kraft, was a confidant of Goodell’s on league business matters.
In 2012, following a long investigation into the New Orleans Saints’ bounties system, Goodell fined Saints owner Tom Benson $500,000 and stripped the team of second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013. But that was for an on-field issue — as was Kraft’s fine for deflated footballs.
The current Kraft case, of course, has nothing to do with NFL play. It has plenty to do with Goodell’s use of his disciplinary powers, and there will be a spotlight shining brightly on whatever decisions he makes.
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Police: Patriots owner Robert Kraft solicited prostitute
Friday, February 22
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — Police in Florida have charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with misdemeanor solicitation of prostitution, saying they have videotape of him paying for a sex act inside an illicit massage parlor.
Jupiter police told reporters Friday that the 77-year-old Kraft hasn’t been arrested. A warrant will be issued and his attorneys will be notified.
The charge comes amid a widespread crackdown on sex trafficking in the area surrounding Palm Beach County. About 200 arrest warrants have been issued in recent days and more are expected.
The Patriots won the Super Bowl earlier this month in Atlanta. The team did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Kraft said they “categorically deny that Mr. Kraft engaged in any illegal activity. Because it is a judicial matter, we will not be commenting further.”
Syracuse coach Boeheim strikes, kills pedestrian on highway
By JOHN KEKIS and MICHAEL HILL
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Longtime Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim struck and killed a man along an interstate late Wednesday night (Feb. 20) as he tried to avoid hitting the man’s disabled vehicle, police say.
Syracuse police say Jorge Jimenez, 51, was an occupant in a black Dodge Charger with three others when they apparently lost control on a patch of ice and hit a guardrail before midnight Wednesday on I-690 in Syracuse.
Boeheim struck Jimenez with his GMC Acadia while trying to avoid the disabled car, which was resting perpendicular on the darkened highway. The group had been heading toward the median for safety. Jimenez was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Another man in the group suffered minor injuries in the accident, police said.
“I am heartbroken that a member of our community died as the result of last night’s accident,” Boeheim said in a prepared statement. The 74-year-old Basketball Hall of Fame coach said he and his wife Juli “extend our deepest sympathies to the Jimenez family.”
He said he would not comment further “out of respect for those involved.”
Police said Boeheim has been cooperating with the investigation. He even used his cell phone light to warn other drivers of the disabled car after the accident, police said.
“At this time we have no reason to believe that there are criminal charges that will be coming for anyone,” Syracuse Police Chief Kenton T. Buckner said at a news conference.
Police said sobriety tests administered to Boeheim and the unidentified driver of the other vehicle were negative for any signs of impairment. Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said he has known Boeheim for 40 years and that the coach does not drink.
No tickets have been issued to Boeheim at this time and the investigation is continuing.
“This story obviously is newsworthy because of the notoriety of the coach,” Fitzpatrick said. “But this is the loss of a human being. It was an accident in the purest sense of the word.”
Jimenez’s daughter told the Post-Standard he was with friends buying cigarettes when he was killed. Yurisandy Jimenez Arrastre described her father — a native of Cuba who lived in the United States for 20 years — as a family man who loved to cook and tell jokes.
“My father was a man who was very sociable, very happy. He loved to help everybody without question,” Arrastre told the newspaper in Spanish. “He loved having friends.”
Just hours before, Boeheim’s team defeated 18th-ranked Louisville 69-49 at the Carrier Dome.
He met his wife, his daughter and some friends for a dinner out after the game and was driving alone from the restaurant, Fitzpatrick said. The scene of the accident is between the dome and Boeheim’s suburban home.
Syracuse University athletic director John Wildhack said in a statement the university sent its condolences to “all impacted by this tragic accident.” Wildhack echoed police, saying Boeheim “is in contact with local authorities and cooperating fully.” Wildhack said Boeheim met briefly with his team Thursday but did not attend or participate in practice.
Boeheim has coached at Syracuse, his alma mater, since 1976 and is one of the most accomplished coaches in the country. He ranks second all-time in wins in Division I with 944, behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Over his 43 years at Syracuse, Boeheim has led the team to a national title in 2003 and five Final Four appearances.
Associated Press writer Hill contributed from Albany, N.Y.
‘Black Panther’ and its science role models inspire more than just movie awards
February 21, 2019
Author: Clifford Johnson, Professor of Physics and Astronomy, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Disclosure statement: MIT Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Partners: University of Southern California — Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
It has been said many times that the Marvel movie “Black Panther” is an important landmark. I’m not referring to its deserved critical and box office success worldwide, the many awards it has won, or the fact that it is the first film in the superhero genre to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards.
Instead, I’m focusing on a key aspect of its cultural impact that is less frequently discussed. Finally a feature film starring a black superhero character became part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a successful run of intertwined movies that began with “Iron Man” in 2008. While there have been other superhero movies with a black lead character – “Hancock” (2008), “Blade” (1998), “Spawn” (1997) or even “The Meteor Man” (1993) – this film is significant because of the recent remarkable rise of the superhero film from the nerdish fringe to part of mainstream culture.
Huge audiences saw a black lead character – not a sidekick or part of a team – in a superhero movie by a major studio, with a black director (Ryan Coogler), black writers and a majority black cast. This is a significant step toward diversifying our culture by improving the lackluster representation of minorities in our major media. It’s also a filmmaking landmark because black creators have been given access to the resources and platforms needed to bring different storytelling perspectives into our mainstream culture.
2017’s “Wonder Woman” forged a similar path. In that case, a major studio finally decided to commit resources to a superhero film headlined by a female character and directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. Female directors are a minority in the movie industry. Jenkins brought a new perspective to this kind of action movie, and there was a huge positive response from audiences in theaters worldwide.
And beyond all this, “Black Panther” also broke additional ground in a way most people may not realize: In the comics, the character is actually a scientist and engineer. Moreover, in the inevitable (and somewhat ridiculous) ranking of scientific prowess that happens in the comic book world, he’s been portrayed as at least the equal of the two most famous “top scientists” in the Marvel universe: Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic). A black headlining superhero character written and directed by black artists is rare enough from a major studio. But making him – and his sister Shuri – successful scientists and engineers as well is another level of rarity.
Scientists on screen
I’m a scientist who cares about increased engagement with science by the general public. I’ve worked as a science adviser on many film and TV projects (though not “Black Panther”). When the opportunity arises, I’ve helped broaden the diversity of scientist characters portrayed onscreen.
I’ve also recently published a nonfiction graphic book for general audiences called “The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe.” Its characters include male and female black scientists, discussing aspects of my own field of theoretical physics – where black scientists are unfortunately very rare. So the opportunity that the “Black Panther” movie presents to inform and inspire vast audiences is of great interest to me.
The history and evolution of the Black Panther character and his scientific back story is a fascinating example of turning a problematic past into a positive opportunity.
Created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, he’s the first black superhero character in mainstream comics, originally appearing as a guest in a “Fantastic Four” Marvel comic. As a black character created and initially written by nonblack authors, guest-starring in the pages of a book headlined by white characters, he had many of the classic attributes of what is now sometimes controversially known as the “magical negro” in American cultural criticism: He ranked extremely highly in every sphere that mattered, to the point of being almost too unreal even for the comics of the time.
Black Panther is T’Challa, king of the fictional African country Wakanda, which is fathomlessly wealthy and remarkably advanced, scientifically and technologically. Even Marvel’s legendary master scientist – Reed Richards of the superhero team Fantastic Four – is befuddled by and full of admiration for Wakanda’s scientific capabilities. T’Challa himself is portrayed as an extraordinary “genius” in physics and other scientific fields, a peerless tactician, a remarkable athlete and a master of numerous forms of martial arts. And he is noble to a fault. Of course, he grows to become a powerful ally of the Fantastic Four and other Marvel superheroes over many adventures.
The key point here is that the superlative scientific ability of our hero, and that of his country, has its origins in the well-meaning, but problematic, practice of inventing near or beyond perfect black characters to support stories starring primarily white protagonists. But this is a lemons-to-lemonade story.
Black Panther eventually got to star in his own series of comics. He was turned into a nuanced and complex character, moving well away from the tropes of his beginnings. Writer Don McGregor’s work started this development as early as 1973, but Black Panther’s journey to the multilayered character you see on screen was greatly advanced by the efforts of several writers with diverse perspectives. Perhaps most notably, in the context of the film, these include Christopher Priest (late 1990s) and Ta-Nehisi Coates (starting in 2016), along with Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey, writing in “World of Wakanda” (2016). Coates and Gay, already best-selling literary writers before coming to the character, helped bring him to wider attention beyond normal comic book fandom, partly paving the way for the movie.
Through all of the improved writing of T’Challa and his world, his spectacular scientific ability has remained prominent. Wakanda continues to be a successful African nation with astonishing science and technology. Furthermore, and very importantly, T’Challa is not portrayed as an anomaly among his people in this regard. There are many great scientists and engineers in the Wakanda of the comics, including his sister Shuri. In some accounts, she (in the continued scientist-ranking business of comics) is an even greater intellect than he is. In the movie, T’Challa’s science and engineering abilities are referred to, but it is his sister Shuri who takes center stage in this role, having taken over to design the new tools and weapons he uses in the field. She also uses Wakandan science to heal wounds that would have been fatal elsewhere in the world.
If they can do it, then why not me?
As a scientist who cares about inspiring more people – including underrepresented minorities and women – to engage with science, I think that showing a little of this scientific landscape in “Black Panther” potentially amplifies the movie’s cultural impact.
Vast audiences see black heroes – both men and women – using their scientific ability to solve problems and make their way in the world, at an unrivaled level. Research has shown that such representation can have a positive effect on the interests, outlook and career trajectories of viewers.
Improving science education for all is a core endeavor in a nation’s competitiveness and overall health, but outcomes are limited if people aren’t inspired to take an interest in science in the first place. There simply are not enough images of black scientists – male or female – in our media and entertainment to help inspire. Many people from underrepresented groups end up genuinely believing that scientific investigation is not a career path open to them.
Moreover, many people still see the dedication and study needed to excel in science as “nerdy.” A cultural injection of Black Panther heroics helps continue to erode the crumbling tropes that science is only for white men or reserved for people with a special “science gene.”
The huge widespread success of the “Black Panther” movie, showcasing T’Challa, Shuri and other Wakandans as highly accomplished scientists, remains one of the most significant boosts for science engagement in recent times.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on Feb. 8, 2018.
Clifford V. Johnson is the author of: The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe. MIT Press provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.