Labor Day Links

1) retired tennis start Andy Roddick weighed in last week on media treatment of Serena Williams. Roddick and Serena have been friends since they were both child tennis prodigies. Roddick is a white male who never quite reached the heights predicted for him. He won one grand slam title, at the age of 21, in 2003 and finished that season as the number one player in the world, the last American male to be so ranked. But that year was essentially his career peak.

He was also ill-tempered. In Roddick, this was often described as fiery and Roddick managed to maintain his popularity even as his play declined. Comparing his own more or less teflon image to Serena’s, Roddick noted, “I was a [jerk] a lot of the time, and I didn’t get a quarter of the criticism that she ever got.”

As she closes in on tennis immortality – Williams is three matches away from winning a calendar year grand slam – she’s been receiving near hagiograhic attention since the start of the US Open last week.

It’s long overdue.

(for a couple of my previous posts on Serena, go here and here).

2) ESPN’s Israel Gutierrez posted a moving essay this weekend about his life as a formerly closeted gay man. He’s now about to marry his long-time boyfriend and reflects on his struggles with his sexuality. In the past two to three years, there has been so much focus on high profile gay athletes – especially males in team sports – publicly affirming their sexuality. But it’s interesting how little of that has spilled over into sports media itself. Many ESPNers are themselves now media superstars, so their decision to come forward, even if doing so doesn’t have quite the same cultural impact as that of a star athlete, is still significant. And off the top of my head, anyway, I can’t think of a male at the World Wide Leader as prominent as Gutierrez to have told his personal story.

3) During a bout of insomnia this weekend, I read Judge Richard Berman’s opinion tossing the NFL’s suspension of Tom Brady. It’s evident that Berman is somewhat skeptical of the conclusions of the Wells report. But that was clearly not relevant to his ruling. In a nutshell, Berman carefully laid out the reasons for his finding that, at every step in this process, the NFL just made shit up as it went along (that’s a direct quote from the ruling). It’s an embarrassment. Berman clearly accepted the principle of the legal deference normally shown to disciplinary processes in collectively bargained shops. But he made it equally clear that the NFL’s conduct on the issues of 1) reasonable prior notice of possible punishments for the infraction in question and 2) minimally fair standards for sanctioned employees to review and scrutinize the evidence against them, was so far below any acceptable legal norm that he had no choice.

It’s hard to know whether anyone in Roger Goodell’s inner circle had warned him of how egregiously the league was flouting such minimal norms. But you’d think that, after having already been overruled in a string of such disciplinary cases in recent years, league officials would be something other than this arrogant about how they proceed.

As critical as the reporting has been of Goodell and the league, I was not quite prepared for how easy it was to show how badly they conducted themselves.

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