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Murphy qualifies to defend Olympics backstroke double-gold; Lochte loses final bid

Several swimmers earned Olympic qualifying bids in second events while another overcame personal tragedy to make her first Olympic team.

OMAHA, Neb — Ryan Lochte’s Olympic career is apparently over.

He won’t get a chance for one more swim in Tokyo.

Looking to make it back to the Summer Games for a fifth time, the 36-year-old Lochte didn’t come close. He struggled to a seventh-place finish in the 200-meter individual medley at the U.S. swimming trials Friday night.

Michael Andrew — 14 years younger than Lochte — romped to victory by setting a blistering pace over the first three laps and holding on at the end to win in 1 minute, 55.44 seconds.

Chase Kalisz, who already had won the 400 individual medley at these trials, claimed another Olympic event by touching second in 1:56.97.

Lochte was lagging far behind. He only beat one other swimmer, settling for a time of 1:59.67 that really showed his age.

“This ain’t the end of the road,” Lochte vowed in a poolside interview with NBC. “There’s a lot more I want to accomplish in the sport of swimming, whether it’s in the pool or outside the pool.”

A 12-time Olympic medalist, Lochte was the last swimmer to climb out of the pool. He blew a kiss to the crowd and was greeted by a parade of swimmers who wanted to pay homage to his great career.

Kalisz waited at the edge of the pool to dole out a hug. Andrew did the same. Even Michael Phelps, Lochte’s longtime rival who retired after the 2016 Rio Games, came down the from the stands to embrace Lochte.

“He’s a legend in the water,” Andrew said. “He’s done some incredible things. To share the pool with him is always an honor.”

Lochte went over to greet his wife and two young children, a sign of his different life since he embarrassed himself at the Rio Games by lying about being robbed at gunpoint during a boisterous night on the town.

Proclaiming himself a changed man, Lochte arrived in Omaha saying he not only expected to make the team, he felt he was still capable of winning a medal in Tokyo. He went all in on the 200 IM — the only event where he had a realistic chance of qualifying — and made it through to the final.

That’s where age finally caught up with him.

In other events, Ryan Murphy romped to victory in the 200 backstroke, adding to his triumph in the 100 back, while Abby Weitzel won the 100 freestyle after defending Olympic champion Simone Manuel shockingly failed to advance from the semifinals the previous night.

Lilly King also booked a second event in Tokyo, though she didn’t tough the wall first. The outspoken American settled for the runner-up spot in the 200 breaststroke, touching the wall nearly three-quarters of a second behind Annie Lazor.

King had previously won the 100 breast.

Murphy set himself up to go for another backstroke-double in Japan, leading the entire race to post a winning time of 1 minute, 54.20 seconds.

The 25-year-old Floridian, who trains in California, swept both races at the Rio Games. The American men haven’t lost a backstroke race at the Olympics since 1992 in Barcelona.

“It feels awesome,” Murphy said. “I put in the work. I mean, I worked really hard, better than I have any other year. I’m really excited to get that double going.”

He’s not feeling any pressure to extend the U.S. streak.

“Obviously, I want to go in there and win. I’m as competitive as anyone,” Murphy said. “But it doesn’t make or break my life.”

Bryce Mefford took the likely second Olympic spot behind Murphy in 1:54.79. No one else was within a second of him.

Lazor had just missed out on a spot in the 100 breast, settling for third in an event that King has dominated.

But the 26-year-old Lazor, a native of Michigan, earned her first trip to the Olympics in the longer breaststroke event.

Lazor’s winning time was 2:21.07, a comfortable distance ahead of King at 2:21.75.

While the 100 has always been King’s baby, she’s becoming stronger in the 200.

Not strong enough to beat Lazor.

“She’s pretty fearless in it now,” Lazor said. “I never really knew I had the race in the bag.”

When the race was over, King gave Lazor a big hug.

“This is Team USA,” King said. “It’s not Team Lilly.”

Weitzell’s winning time in the 100 free was 53.53, with Erika Brown taking the second individual spot for Tokyo in 53.59. Olivia Smoliga (53.63) and Natalie Hinds (53.84) finished third and fourth to earn spots on the 4×100 free relay.

Hinds became the first Black swimmer to make the Olympic team, an especially poignant moment in light of Manuel’s struggles with overtraining syndrome.

“I really feel for Simone and hope she’s able to get better,” Hinds said, “because we’d definitely love to see her in Tokyo.”

Author:
This post originally appeared on CBS8 – Sports

History-making American swimmer won't get to defend her title at Tokyo Olympics

Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel explained she first noticed in January that she seemed off. But it wasn’t until two months later that her body “completely crashed.”

OMAHA, Neb — Tears welled in Simone Manuel‘s eyes. Her voice broke as she revealed the heartbreaking reason behind her failure to advance in the 100-meter freestyle at the U.S. Olympic trials.

The first Black woman ever to win an individual swimming gold medal at the Olympics was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome — or burnout — in late March. She’d never heard of it before. Her mother looked up the condition online. At first, Manuel modified her training at Stanford for two weeks.

“I wasn’t seeing any progress with my performance in the pool,” she said Thursday night. “It actually was declining.”

Manuel first noticed in January that she seemed off. But it wasn’t until two months later that “my body completely crashed.” Her symptoms included increased heart rate while at rest and in training, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and muscle soreness.

“Just walking up the stairs to the pool, I was gassed,” the 24-year-old sprinter said.

Workouts that once were easy became harder. She’d snap at her mother’s questions over the phone from Texas and eventually isolated herself from her family. She had trouble eating. She talked to sports psychologists.

Finally, Manuel was forced to stop training and stay out of the pool for three weeks as a way to let her body rest.

But the break came at the worst possible time. She didn’t resume training until April 17. Hardly enough time to ramp back up and try to qualify for the postponed Tokyo Games.

“I had moments where I didn’t even want to go to the pool because I knew it was going to be bad,” she said. “It was an uphill climb once I got back into the water. That was hard because I love this sport.”

Manuel, who tied for the gold in Rio five years ago, finished fourth in the first 100 free semifinal at 54.17 seconds. She just missed a spot in Friday night’s final when five swimmers went faster in the second semifinal, with Erika Brown taking the eighth spot in 54.15 — two-hundredths faster than Manuel.

“I am proud of myself,” she said. “I did everything I possibly could have done to set myself up to be my very best at this meet. That 54 was as best as I could be. That’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Manuel has one more chance to make the team in the 50 free preliminaries starting Saturday.

“Things still feel hard,” she said. “The first 50, my speed doesn’t seem to be there with the effort that I’m trying.”

She gave no hint anything was wrong when talking to the media two days before trials. Neither did her coach, Greg Meehan, who will guide the U.S. women in Tokyo.

“I was having a lot of moments where I was just telling myself to believe,” she said. “I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me. I still don’t want them to feel sorry for me now.”

The coronavirus pandemic that delayed the Olympics by a year and the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May 2020 also weighed heavily on Manuel.

“You’re motivated to still go for it because it’s your dream, but you’re trudging along at times,” she said. “Being a Black person in America played a part in it. This last year for the Black community has been brutal.”

Manuel said she’s relying on her religious faith during this time of great doubt.

“That’s what’s giving me peace,” she said. “I know I did everything I possibly could to even be here and that makes me proud. I continue to stay strong during this process even when there were times when I wanted to give up.”

Manuel tried to sound upbeat, saying that depending on whether she makes the Olympic team, she would have to take a couple months off to let her body rest.

“This isn’t the last time you’re going to see me,” she said, her voice choked by tears. “This isn’t the last time I’m going to do something great in the pool. I’m confident in that.”

Author:
This post originally appeared on CBS8 – Sports

When the power went out, Texas oil and gas regulators rushed to defend the industry’s image

When the power went out for Marsha Hendler on Feb. 15, she rushed to her downtown San Antonio office to ride out the winter storm. Thankful to find the electricity and heat still on, she typed out an email to the elected officials who regulate her small, independent oil and gas company.

“I strongly urge you to make public statements, to develop a PR program around our current energy conditions,” Hendler wrote at 2 p.m. that day to the three members of the Texas Railroad Commission, according to an email obtained by The Texas Tribune and ProPublica. “Assure citizens that blending oil and gas production with green [energy] will keep Texas energy strong.”

It’s a sentiment that many in the oil and gas industry echoed during a crisis that forced millions to endure freezing weather for days without electricity and eventually led to the deaths of more than 100 people[1]. And even as Hendler typed, Railroad Commissioners Christi Craddick[2], Wayne Christian[3] and Jim Wright[4], all Republicans, had already begun to do what she had requested.

Emails, tweets and public statements from the state commissioners during the Texas power crisis show that the elected regulators expressed immediate worry about the storm’s impact on the image of the agency and the industry it regulates — the industry that funds much of their political campaigns. At times, commissioners retweeted or emphasized the same talking points published by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, one of the state’s largest trade associations. They testified at public hearings and made public statements pushing back against criticisms of the natural gas industry’s role in the February power outages. And in some cases, they attempted to redirect blame from the fossil fuel industry to wind power — a narrative that quickly gained traction among Texas Republicans on social media.

All sources of energy struggled to produce power during the storm, and the Texas power grid is particularly vulnerable to winter outages if natural gas-fired power plants don’t produce enough. But suddenly, fossil fuel-powered electricity had been labeled “reliables” by Texas politicians.

“Many including myself have warned for years about the dangers of relying too heavily on unreliable, intermittent forms of electric generation like wind and solar to meet the energy needs for 30 million Texans,” Christian[5] wrote in his newsletter to supporters Feb. 17. “The issue isn’t the existence of renewable energy, but that it has displaced reliable generation.”

Defending natural gas

Energy experts during and after the power outages have pointed to how the state’s reliance on natural gas-powered electric generation[6] created a perfect storm: Natural gas and other “thermal” sources of power, like nuclear energy and coal, make up more than 80% of the state’s projected power generation during the winter months, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’s seasonal assessment of power resources[7].

While the raw amount of power generated by natural gas increased during the storm[8] as plants tried to match the rising demand, it was nowhere close to the amount of generation that should have been possible had the plants not experienced freezing components or natural gas fuel shortages.

Power plants initially tripped offline due to freezing conditions that plants were not built to withstand. Then some began to face fuel shortages. In many cases, there wasn’t enough natural gas flowing through the pipes during the storm to power plants, even if they could run. A decadeslong trend of electrifying natural gas fuel facilities meant that when ERCOT implemented power outages to prevent the complete collapse of the grid, the outages inadvertently choked off fuel for plants that could have returned power to homes.

The scramble to restore the fuel supply[9] was one of the major problems during the February crisis, and it caused some energy experts to call for reforms. James Robb, president and CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corp., which has some authority to regulate power generators in the U.S., warned lawmakers[10] in March that the natural gas system “was not built or operated with electric reliability first in mind.”

But in their defense of natural gas, many Texas politicians cast blame elsewhere. Their most common target: wind-generated power, which also suffered serious failures due to frozen turbines but made up a significantly smaller share of the projected power for winter. Christian was among the loudest pushing that narrative: During a meeting Feb. 17[11], while the lights were still off across large parts of the state, he said that the storm showed the “dangers of subsidizing intermittent, unreliable energy” — an apparent reference to renewable energy like wind power.

After one Texan emailed each commissioner Feb. 17 asking what regulations the agency implemented leading up to the storm to ensure natural gas supply was reliable, Christian responded by again blaming renewable sources of energy. The storm would not have been so devastating had it not been for “decades of poor policy decisions prioritizing unreliable renewable energy sources at the expense of reliable electricity — something Texans now know is essential to our everyday lives,” he wrote, according to the email provided to the Tribune.

Connie Koval, the retiree who asked the question, said in an interview with the Tribune that the response made her upset. “It made me angry that they are continuing to spread false narratives,” Koval said. “He seemed to blame wind and solar.”

But it’s clear the commissioners saw a potential public relations crisis looming. After receiving the same inquiring email from Koval, Wright[12], who was elected to the Railroad Commission in November, forwarded the email to agency staff, saying the concerns would be “the greatest issue we will face from this event.”

“We need to be ready to respond with a good plan of action,” Wright wrote the morning of Feb. 18, the fourth day Texans were experiencing the power crisis. “I will provide the hurdles that are beyond our control in these regards when I am in the office next week as there are many.”

Kate Zaykowski, who received that email from Wright and works for him as his director of public affairs, said in an interview with the Tribune that Wright was referring to his concern about the public image of the agency. But she said he was also worried that the public would not understand what requiring the industry to prepare for extreme weather would entail, and was worried about the industry’s image as well.

“He believes, personally, that the oil and gas industry is important to Texas, and he wants the general public to understand why,” Zaykowski said. “He also believes that it’s important to regulate the industry.”

There are signs that the campaign to blame wind power might not have worked: A poll of registered voters in Texas conducted by the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Politics Project and its Energy Institute[13], published Thursday, found that they cite the lack of winterization of power plants and the unprecedented nature of the storm as the top two factors in the power crisis. Only 35% of Texans surveyed pointed to an over-reliance on renewable energy as a major factor, compared with 64% of those surveyed who listed a lack of winterization of gas facilities.

Only 12% of those surveyed said they approved of the Railroad Commission’s response to the storm.

Hendler, the independent oil operator in San Antonio, acknowledged that using wind and solar energy is necessary to slow and mitigate the effects of climate change. But she said she believes the economy still depends on burning oil, gas and its derivatives for transportation, energy and other products, such as plastic. She said she’s concerned about an aggressive shift toward renewable energy that jeopardizes her industry and the larger state economy.

“Part of the job of the commission is a PR job, and I don’t think they do that well,” Hendler said. “I think that’s one of the reasons that the [oil] industry takes the hits that it does.”

Industry influence

The commissioners made their case far beyond emails and social media. In the days and weeks after the February power crisis, Christian published an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal defending[14] the use of fossil fuels and created a website dedicated to the talking points that he emailed to Koval and others. The site, Reliable Grid Now[15], says it seeks to “educate the general public and lawmakers about the importance of reliable energy” and urges the public to send letters against renewable energy subsidies to lawmakers signed, “Make Texas energy reliable again!”

In a statement, Christian told the Tribune that Reliable Grid Now is a project paid for by his campaign and is unrelated to his duties as a state regulator. He said when he ran for office, he made a promise to govern conservatively, support free markets and stand up for consumers.

“I don’t see myself as a spokesman for oil and gas, but I do have a responsibility to ensure our state’s natural resources are produced responsibly for the economic benefit of the citizens I represent,” Christian said.

Little more than a week after power was restored to most Texans, Craddick went to testify at the state Capitol, where she assured lawmakers that oil and gas did not need to be further regulated and pointed to power outages[16] for natural gas shortages during the storm. And testifying before a U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce in late March, she said the oil and gas industry helped Texas during the winter storm.

“I sit before you today to state that these operators were not the problem,” Craddick said. “The oil and gas industry was the solution.”

The industry was simultaneously making the same case. In a tweet Feb. 24, The Texas Oil and Gas Association wrote[17] that natural gas was “essential and indispensable” in heating and powering homes during the winter storm. The Texas Alliance of Energy Producers wrote in an opinion article for World Oil[18] that natural gas did the “heavy lifting” during the February storm, because it was needed to both heat homes and generate electricity. The group also blamed wind generation: “It wasn’t enough to meet the huge upward spike in demand, largely because electric power from wind generation was nowhere to be found.”

Craddick also retweeted and posted images by the Texas Oil and Gas Association.

“Natural gas stepped up to power the vast majority of electricity generation in Texas,” Craddick wrote in one tweet on Feb. 28[19], alongside a photo of a graph from the Texas Oil and Gas Association that showed power generation from natural gas increased during the February storm, without a comparison to the shortage of power the grid experienced.

In a statement to the Tribune, Craddick said she consumes information from a variety of sources, including TXOGA, and shares relevant and accurate information regardless of the source. She also wrote that the oil and gas industry is the most influential industry in Texas, and much of the state relies on its vitality.

“I support the industry’s continued success not only because of my role as a public servant at the Railroad Commission, but also as a Texan who appreciated the overwhelming economic vibrancy of our state,” Craddick said in a statement.

The industry supports Craddick and the other commissioners, too. Records show the commissioners’ campaigns received hundreds of thousands of dollars in 2020 from industry groups and people who work in oil and gas. Craddick alone received more than $ 200,000 from people specifically identified in campaign finance reports as involved in natural gas or oil and gas work.

Craddick and her father, state Rep. Tom Craddick[20], R-Midland, have long been financially tied to the industry in Texas, a relationship recently highlighted by The Washington Post[21], which reported that the two own and manage land across the state that generated more than $ 100,000 from Texas’ largest natural gas producers in 2019, according to state Ethics Commission records. In a statement, Christi Craddick said the Texas Ethics Commission laws ensure transparency of public officials and that she takes those laws seriously.

Virginia Palacios, executive director of Commission Shift, a newly formed nonprofit organization in Texas focused on environmental and consumer issues at the Railroad Commission, said the outsized influence of industry on the commission is hurting its ability to regulate, causing it instead to want to deflect blame for the power crisis.

“This is resulting in these industries buying the elections of the agencies that regulate them,” Palacios said. “It would have been nice if we had a regulator who looked at the data, looked at the recommendations and made sound management decisions based on that analysis. But what we have are [commissioners] who are elected trying to look good so that they can get reelected.”

Governor changes tune

The message has resonated with other state leaders and lawmakers. Gov. Greg Abbott[22], early in the storm, appeared to attempt to tamp down the narrative that renewable energy was solely to blame for the crisis.

In a tweet describing the situation[23] Feb. 15, Abbott wrote that “the ability of some companies that generate the power has been frozen. This includes the natural gas & coal generators.”

But he changed his tune by the time he appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show[24] two days later. By then, a tweet by an energy author who promotes the use of fossil fuels had garnered significant attention[25] by claiming the “root cause” of the Texas power crisis was national and state policies that prioritize wind and solar energy over other sources. Alex Epstein, the author, had emailed those same talking points to Abbott’s office, email records first reported by NBC News show[26].

“Our wind and solar got shut down,” Abbott said on the show. “And that thrust Texas into a situation where it was lacking power on a statewide basis. … As a result, it shows fossil fuels are necessary for the state of Texas as well as other states.”

Weeks later, an Abbott spokesperson told the Tribune[27] that the governor is treating all power sources equally as he pushes for reform of the electricity grid that covers much of the state.

Some bills identified by lawmakers as high priorities seek to place new costs on renewable power[28] or take preventive strikes at climate action plans by cities.

At the annual Energy Day at the Capitol on March 24, state leaders and regulators touted the state’s oil and gas production and largely ignored the February power outages. They also criticized renewable energy. Christian again reiterated his concern about the country’s investments in renewable energy, which he called “undependable.”

“We’re putting most of our tax dollars into the ‘undependables’ at the cost and risk to lives and to the ‘dependables’ — oil, gas and coal,” Christian told Todd Staples, president of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, during a discussion moderated and hosted by the industry group.

Abbott promoted a bill that would stop cities from banning natural gas[29] as a fuel source for heating homes and other buildings. Staples claimed that the oil and gas industry would lead the U.S. to a “cleaner” future. Both Christian and Abbott hammered Democrats and the Biden administration during the event.

“With regard to the energy sector in Texas, and across the United States, it’s changed because of the new administration that’s seeking to impose these Green New Deal policies, Green New Deal policies that threaten fossil fuel production in the state of Texas like what we are accustomed to,” Abbott said.

“But something else that we are accustomed to is fighting back, and protecting the fossil fuel industry in Texas,” he said.

Lexi Churchill, a research reporter for the Texas Tribune/ProPublica investigative unit, contributed reporting.

Disclosure: The Texas Oil and Gas Association, Texas Alliance of Energy Producers and University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribunes journalism. Find a complete list of them here[30].

References

  1. ^ more than 100 people (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ Christi Craddick (www.texastribune.org)
  3. ^ Wayne Christian (www.texastribune.org)
  4. ^ Jim Wright (www.texastribune.org)
  5. ^ Christian (www.texastribune.org)
  6. ^ on natural gas-powered electric generation (www.texastribune.org)
  7. ^ seasonal assessment of power resources (www.ercot.com)
  8. ^ increased during the storm (www.eia.gov)
  9. ^ scramble to restore the fuel supply (www.texastribune.org)
  10. ^ warned lawmakers (www.texastribune.org)
  11. ^ During a meeting Feb. 17 (www.texastribune.org)
  12. ^ Wright (www.texastribune.org)
  13. ^ poll of registered voters in Texas conducted by the University of Texas at Austin’s Texas Politics Project and its Energy Institute (texaspolitics.utexas.edu)
  14. ^ The Wall Street Journal defending (www.wsj.com)
  15. ^ Reliable Grid Now (www.reliablegridnow.com)
  16. ^ pointed to power outages (www.texastribune.org)
  17. ^ Texas Oil and Gas Association wrote (twitter.com)
  18. ^ wrote in an opinion article for World Oil (www.worldoil.com)
  19. ^ one tweet on Feb. 28 (twitter.com)
  20. ^ Tom Craddick (www.texastribune.org)
  21. ^ recently highlighted by The Washington Post (www.texastribune.org)
  22. ^ Greg Abbott (www.texastribune.org)
  23. ^ tweet describing the situation (twitter.com)
  24. ^ on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show (video.foxnews.com)
  25. ^ had garnered significant attention (twitter.com)
  26. ^ email records first reported by NBC News show (www.nbcnews.com)
  27. ^ told the Tribune (www.texastribune.org)
  28. ^ place new costs on renewable power (www.texastribune.org)
  29. ^ stop cities from banning natural gas (www.texastribune.org)
  30. ^ list of them here (www.texastribune.org)

Erin Douglas and Mitchell Ferman

Chargers owner, siblings defend team's ownership in face of sister's challenge

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Chargers owner Dean Spanos and two of his siblings said Thursday they are prepared to buy out their sister’s stake in the team following her filing of court papers looking to compel a sale of the franchise.

“Our parents, Alex and Faye, wanted the Chargers to be part of the Spanos family for generations to come,” according to a joint statement from Dean Spanos, Michael Spanos and Alexis Spanos Ruhl. “For the three of us the Chargers is one of our family’s most important legacies, just as it was for our parents.

“Unfortunately, our sister Dea seems to have a different and misguided personal agenda. If Dea no longer wishes to be part of this family legacy, the three of us stand ready to purchase her share of the franchise, as our agreements give us the right to do.

“In the meanwhile, the operations of the Chargers will be entirely unaffected by this matter, which relates only to the 36 percent share of the team that was owned by our parents. The three of us are entitled to three- fourths of that 36 percent share in any event, and under no circumstances will this situation impact control of the franchise. The three of us will remain firmly united as we seek to fulfill our parents’ wishes to make every decision in the best interests of the Los Angeles Chargers.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the fourth sibling, Dea Spanos Berberian, filed papers in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday contending that the family’s trust — which controls 36% of the team — is riddled with so much debt that a sale of the NFL franchise is the only way to resolve the financial morass.

Berberian contends the trust has debts and expenses exceeding $ 353 million and has no plan for how it will pay $ 22 million it has pledged to charities, The Times reported. The court filing contends “the Spanos family legacy” is in danger of suffering “irreparable financial and reputational damage.”

“Dean refuses to consider a sale of the Trust’s Interest of the Chargers, insisting that the Co-Trustees continue to borrow more and more, and to force the charities and beneficiaries to wait for years and to `hope’ while Dean speculates further on a football team,” the petition states, according to The Times. “Dean has failed to present any plan to address the Trust’s bleak financial picture, because there is no other plan than the one urged by (Berberian). Dean simply refuses to discuss it. … His plan is hope.”

Alex Spanos, a real estate developer, purchased a majority stake in the Chargers in 1984, and the family has controlled the team ever since.

According to the Times, while the family trust now controls 36% of the team, each of the four Spanos siblings owns a 15% share, with the remaining 4% controlled by various other investors. Dean Spanos and Berberian are co- trustees of the family trust. Dean Spanos controls the team’s day-to-day management.

Saving their soles: After suing over ‘Satan Shoes’, here are 5 other times Nike was forced to defend its reputation

As a multinational sportswear giant that takes a stance on social issues, while also sponsoring athletes and politically-squabbling countries, Nike has often been embroiled in controversy and forced to defend its reputation.

The latest scandal threatening to bring its name into ill-repute involves Brooklyn-based streetwear company MSCHF, which has released a limited edition run of 666 pairs of Nike Air Max ‘97 sneakers dubbed ‘Satan Shoes’, whose air bubbles are filled with red ink and “one drop of human blood” and are adorned with diabolical symbols. 

Nike has stressed it has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the controversial footwear, and is taking MSCHF to court for potentially harming its reputation as well as copyright infringement. 
Also on rt.com Nike SUES Brooklyn company over ‘Satan Shoes’ in bid to salvage brand from critics
After the scramble to save their souls – or should be that ‘soles’ – here are five other occasions when Nike was forced to come out swinging.  

Pakistan Sweatshop Scandal

In 1996, Nike faced a backlash when Life magazine published a photo of a young boy sewing together its footballs in the Asian country. 

Its then chairman Phil Knight made a list of promises, including the minimum age to be raised to 18 for workers in shoe factories and 16 in their clothing factories. 

But an independent report in 2001, Still Waiting For Nike To Do It, found that workers were still doing excessive hours in high-pressure environments and failing to meet their children’s basic needs. 

“I think we’ve made significant strides, and I’m proud of what the company has done over the last three years,” Knight said at the time, as boycott movements raged.

“It may take a while longer, but I do think that it will be understood that Nike is a good citizen in all the countries that it operates in.”

Nike is accused of costing Brazil the 1998 World Cup

That they have still won the most World Cups of any nation is a source of immeasurable pride for Brazilians. 

But a then-fifth or sixth overall title slipped out of their reach at France ’98 when a headed brace by Zinedine Zidane handed the host nation the trophy. 

As the reigning Ballon d’Or holder, Ronaldo was on top of Planet Football. But a seizure meant he could not perform at his mercurial best. 

Edmundo would have been a better punt up front, yet instead Ronaldo was picked and it effectively meant Brazil played the French with 10 men while claims have also been made he was meant to mark Zidane. 

Gutted at being unable to retain the title, as seen in 1962 in the Pele era, conspiracy theories spread among the population in South American’s largest country that kit and Ronaldo sponsor Nike made him play.

At a congressional inquiry commission, R9 was forced to debunk them. “I only played after medical tests showed I was clinically and physically fit to do so. If the tests had showed otherwise, I would not have played,” he said. 

“The only thing Nike have asked of me is that I wear their boots.”

Colin Kaepernick takes a knee

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first began making political statements on social media against police brutality, then started taking the knee during the American national anthem from the preseason through to the NFL 2016 regular season.

Supposedly blackballed by prospective teams as a consequence, once he and the 49ers parted ways, Nike stood by the ousted controversial figure and even had him star in an award-winning advertisement. 

Nike shares took a nosedive and products were burned in counter-protests by patriots and Trump supporters.

The company tried to release a Betsy Ross-flag pair of Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July to make amends, but Kaepernick also kicked a stink by declaring he associated the symbol with slavery.

With Kaepernick now retired to focus on activism, the row has died down. But with race relations more strained than ever in the US, and the Black Lives Matter movement still going, it could flare up at any moment once more. 
Also on rt.com Is it still about the shoes? Nike’s latest ad builds on the company’s tradition of slickly-edited propaganda & hypocrisy

Nike boots prohibited for Iran players at Russia World Cup

Again at FIFA’s flagship international football tournament, Iran’s players were barred from wearing boots in Russia. 

The action came as part of US sanctions on the Middle Eastern Country, with Nike fearful of hefty fines if it didn’t toe the line on Donald Trump’s watch. 
Also on rt.com Iran hits back after Nike refuses to supply players with boots due to US sanctions
“US sanctions mean that, as a US company, Nike cannot supply shoes to players in the Iranian national team at this time,” it said in an EPSN-published statement.

“Sanctions applicable to Nike have been in place for many years and are enforceable by law.”

The furor caused outrage among Iranians, who launched the No to Nike boycott movement as a response. 

Nike shuts down scandal-hit Oregon Project

Born in the US west coast city in 1964, Nike once ran the Oregon Project for elite long distance running but was forced to shut it down when a doping scandal involving head coach Alberto Salazar came to light.

“Nike has always tried to put the athlete and their needs at the front of all of our decisions,” began a statement, when Salazar was handed a four-year ban.

Though pointing out that there had been no discovery PEDs were used, it continued that “this situation including uninformed innuendo and unsubstantiated assertions has become an unfair burden for current OP athletes. That is exactly counter to the purpose of the team.

“We have therefore made the decision to wind down the Oregon Project to allow the athletes to focus on their training and competition needs. We will help all of our athletes in this transition as they choose the coaching set up that is right for them.”
Also on rt.com Mo Farah’s reputation is unravelling, so let’s stop tiptoeing around and hear the full story of his ties with disgraced Salazar

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JPMorgan Chase CEO speaks out to defend voting rights in response to Georgia law

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, on Tuesday voiced his support for voting to be “accessible and equitable,” less than a week after the GOP-controlled Georgia legislature passed a swath of new voting laws that limit some voter access.

In a statement provided to CNN[1], Dimon said that JPMorgan Chase employees “span the United States.”

“And as state capitals debate election laws, we believe voting must be accessible and equitable,” he added.

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“We regularly encourage our employees to exercise their fundamental right to vote, and we stand against efforts that may prevent them from being able to do so,” Dimon said.

CNN noted that Dimon did not specifically mention Georgia in his statement.

“Voting is fundamental to the health and future of our democracy,” Dimon added. “We are a stronger country when every citizen has a voice and a vote.”

Georgia Gov. Brian KempBrian KempThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden officials brace for worst despite vaccine data Democrats seize on voting rights; GOP cries foul Georgia GOP governor in quarantine after COVID-19 exposure MORE[3][4][5][6][7][2] (R) signed the far-reaching election bill last Thursday. The bill limits the use of ballot box drop boxes and sets a voter ID requirement in place among other restrictions.

The bill has been criticized by voting advocates as being racist as initial drafts included barring early voting on Sundays, which Black churches have historically used as a day to get churchgoers to the polls. The Sunday ban was later dropped by lawmakers.

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Voting activists have called on several major companies to come out against Georgia’s new voting laws, mainly focusing on companies headquartered in Georgia, such as Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines and Home Depot. Though several have voiced support for voter access, none have come out against the voting laws in Georgia so far.

Coca-Cola’s apparent inaction has led to calls for boycotting its products[8] by voting rights activists. AME Sixth Episcopal District said last week that it would be calling for a statewide boycott of Coca-Cola products in Georgia.

Democrats have also condemned the bill, painting the legislation as a direct reaction the GOP’s recent losses in the Peach State. President BidenJoe BidenThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden officials brace for worst despite vaccine data Congress looks to rein in Biden’s war powers Democrats seize on voting rights; GOP cries foul MORE[10][11][12][13][14][9] became the first Democratic candidate to win the state in nearly 30 years when he won in November. Democratic Sens. Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockSunday shows: Biden’s border woes, gun control dominate SNL’s Kamala Harris hosts Ted Cruz for ‘Unity Seder’ Senator scolds Georgia governor: ‘He knows better’ MORE[16][17][18][19][20][15] and Jon OssoffJon OssoffJuan Williams: The GOP’s big lie on voting rights Georgia law makes it a crime to give food, water to people waiting to vote Biden: Georgia law is ‘Jim Crow in the 21st century’ MORE[22][23][24][25][26][21] also won in their respective run-off elections in January against former GOP senators Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerGeorgia voting overhaul provokes fury from Democrats Five big takeaways on Georgia’s new election law Schumer blasts Georgia voting measure: ‘Despicable! We will act’ MORE[28][29][30][31][32][27] and David PerdueDavid PerdueFive big takeaways on Georgia’s new election law Schumer blasts Georgia voting measure: ‘Despicable! We will act’ Georgia passes far-reaching voting measure MORE[34][35][36][37][38][33].

References

  1. ^ CNN (www.cnn.com)
  2. ^ Brian Kemp (thehill.com)
  3. ^ Brian Kemp (thehill.com)
  4. ^ The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden officials brace for worst despite vaccine data (thehill.com)
  5. ^ Democrats seize on voting rights; GOP cries foul (thehill.com)
  6. ^ Georgia GOP governor in quarantine after COVID-19 exposure (thehill.com)
  7. ^ MORE (thehill.com)
  8. ^ boycotting its products (thehill.com)
  9. ^ President Biden (thehill.com)
  10. ^ Joe Biden (thehill.com)
  11. ^ The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden officials brace for worst despite vaccine data (thehill.com)
  12. ^ Congress looks to rein in Biden’s war powers (thehill.com)
  13. ^ Democrats seize on voting rights; GOP cries foul (thehill.com)
  14. ^ MORE (thehill.com)
  15. ^ Raphael Warnock (thehill.com)
  16. ^ Raphael Warnock (thehill.com)
  17. ^ Sunday shows: Biden’s border woes, gun control dominate (thehill.com)
  18. ^ SNL’s Kamala Harris hosts Ted Cruz for ‘Unity Seder’ (thehill.com)
  19. ^ Senator scolds Georgia governor: ‘He knows better’ (thehill.com)
  20. ^ MORE (thehill.com)
  21. ^ Jon Ossoff (thehill.com)
  22. ^ Jon Ossoff (thehill.com)
  23. ^ Juan Williams: The GOP’s big lie on voting rights (thehill.com)
  24. ^ Georgia law makes it a crime to give food, water to people waiting to vote (thehill.com)
  25. ^ Biden: Georgia law is ‘Jim Crow in the 21st century’ (thehill.com)
  26. ^ MORE (thehill.com)
  27. ^ Kelly Loeffler (thehill.com)
  28. ^ Kelly Loeffler (thehill.com)
  29. ^ Georgia voting overhaul provokes fury from Democrats (thehill.com)
  30. ^ Five big takeaways on Georgia’s new election law (thehill.com)
  31. ^ Schumer blasts Georgia voting measure: ‘Despicable! We will act’ (thehill.com)
  32. ^ MORE (thehill.com)
  33. ^ David Perdue (thehill.com)
  34. ^ David Perdue (thehill.com)
  35. ^ Five big takeaways on Georgia’s new election law (thehill.com)
  36. ^ Schumer blasts Georgia voting measure: ‘Despicable! We will act’ (thehill.com)
  37. ^ Georgia passes far-reaching voting measure (thehill.com)
  38. ^ MORE (thehill.com)

[email protected] (Joseph Choi)

‘Manipulative and blind’: Ronaldo’s sister goes on spectacular rant to defend Portugal star after strop over disallowed goal

Cristiano Ronaldo’s sister Katia Aveiro has attacked Portugal’s media in the fallout from Saturday’s goal-line World Cup qualifier scandal.

The Juventus star thought he had scored a late goal against Serbia, which shockingly wasn’t given. 

With replay footage showing the ball to have been a good distance in the back of the net, the incident has become a national scandal with the lack of goal-line technology and VAR blasted by fans and pundits.

READ MORE: Emotional Cristiano Ronaldo says ‘entire nation has been wronged’ by shocking goal decision as Portugal boss claims ref apologized

As always with controversies involving her brother, Katia Aveiro has jumped to CR7’s defense after some analysts remarked on his attitude. 

Disgusted by the officials’ poor judgement, he threw the captain’s armband on the floor and stormed off – something Aveiro addressed in a lengthy Instagram rant on Sunday. 

Reminding her followers that Ronaldo has always fought “tooth and nail” for their country, she moved on to the TV “analysts” – in mock quotes – who “dare to criticize Cristiano’s attitude.”

She called Portugal a “Sad Country”, “which continues to have a manipulative and blind media where some will be allowed [to do what they want] and others… [for them] nothing is allowed!”

Going off on a tangent on Portuguese history, Aveiro finished by saying “Congratulations Cristiano for yesterday’s indignation in the defense of Portugal! Continue, [people who wish to make] comments”

Aveiro’s outburst is undoubtedly a response to the likes of former Portugal forward Fernando Meira, who told national broadcaster Record, “It’s clearly a goal, but Ronaldo can’t throw the armband on the ground like that.

Cristiano’s reaction is natural, but it’s not acceptable from the national team captain. You can’t throw the armbandon the ground and head into the dressing room while the game is still going on,” he added.
Also on rt.com Portugal and Serbia could have AVOIDED disallowed goal drama with raging Ronaldo, says UEFA
“It’s not acceptable behavior for a player of his stature. I understand his frustration and I agree with him because his goal should have counted, but the referees need to make a decision without VAR and he has to set an example. The example he set last night wasn’t good enough.”

But this is not the first time Katia has flown off the handle to fight her little brother’s corner. 

Recently trolling Lionel Messi, when Juventus thumped Barcelona in the Champions League back in December, Aveiro has also branded the football legend’s positive coronavirus test and the pandemic the “biggest fraud” she’s ever seen. 
Also on rt.com ‘Biggest fraud I’ve seen’: Cristiano Ronaldo’s sister says Covid-19 pandemic is FAKE in rant after star tests positive

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Texas politicians jockey for air time to criticize — President Joe Biden

Texas’ Republican and Democratic elected officials battled for camera time Friday on the state’s southern border as the Biden administration continues to come under fire as an ever-increasing number of undocumented immigrants are being apprehended.

Leading the charge was U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz[2], R-Texas, who in a late-night video Thursday from the banks of the Rio Grande said he witnessed cartel members and human traffickers taunting American officials from the Mexican side of the river.

That was followed up by a press conference Friday with 18 other senators, including U.S. Sen. John Cornyn[3], R-Texas, who, clad in khakis and bullet-proof vests, toured the Rio Grande in Texas Department of Public Safety gunboats at Anzalduas Park.

“We saw traffickers on the Mexican side of the river preparing to cross, and then today we visited detention facilities,” he told Fox News in an interview.

Cruz tweeted images[4] earlier from a detention center in nearby Donna, which showed the overcrowding of migrant teens in holding cells similar to facilities former President Donald Trump was often assailed for.

“They are packed in there,” Cruz said.

Earlier Friday, a group of congressional Democrats led by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro[5], D-San Antonio, also visited the Texas-Mexico border area to tour an “influx care facility” operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Carrizo Springs, north of Laredo.

The facility, which opened briefly in 2019 and was recently reactivated to handle the current influx, took in its first unaccompanied minor in late February and held more than 800 unaccompanied minors as of Tuesday, HHS reported[6] on its website. The facility has a capacity of 952.

Castro said President Joe Biden “inherited a situation where the previous administration had sought to dismantle the infrastructure for processing asylum seekers and settling asylum seekers in the United States,” and cast blame at Stephen Miller, the architect of Trump’s immigration policy.

The San Antonio congressman applauded the current administration for beefing up capacity to handle a rising number of migrant children who have arrived at the border seeking asylum, with new temporary facilities in Dallas, San Antonio and California.

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who was among the Democrats in Carrizo Springs, said she was a child refugee who fled danger in Somalia to come to the United States.

“What I want to remind people is that when my father was making a decision for me at the age of 8 to flee conflict, he was making a decision for me to live. That was the most reasonable and responsible thing a parent could have done,” Omar said.

She said the migrant children in the Carrizo Springs facility told the members of Congress that they want to be treated with dignity and that they don’t know who the U.S. president is. Republicans have blamed Biden’s less stringent immigration stance for a sharp increase in migrants coming to the border seeking entry into the U.S.

“The majority of the people are not political animals like we are,” Omar said. “They are looking for an opportunity to survive and to thrive.”

U.S. Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said lawmakers will use what they learned on the Carrizo Springs tour to help them try to fix a “broken immigration system” that he blamed the Trump administration for making worse through misguided policies.

“What we saw, and the conversations that we had, will help inform the decisions that we are going to make, to ensure that this system becomes better,” Aguilar said.

References

  1. ^ Sign up for The Brief (www.texastribune.org)
  2. ^ Ted Cruz (www.texastribune.org)
  3. ^ John Cornyn (www.texastribune.org)
  4. ^ tweeted images (twitter.com)
  5. ^ Joaquin Castro (www.texastribune.org)
  6. ^ reported (www.hhs.gov)

Julián Aguilar and Bryan Mena

Naga Munchetty’s BBC Breakfast co-star rushes to defend her amid Saturday Kitchen backlash

Naga then interrupted and quipped that guest chef Yotam Ottolenghi would make a better host than Matt.

She said: “For everyone who wants to turn off the news and might want a bit of relaxation, don’t tune into Saturday Kitchen, it’s not worth it! Yotam’s going to take over and then it’s going to be loads better.” 

However, some viewers disagreed with the complaints about Naga and Charlie.

One person tweeted: “Can’t help but laugh at the Twitter rage on #SaturdayKitchen at Naga & Charlie. I think @matt_tebbutt has handled the banter with bashful good grace.” 

Another viewer said: “I think the teasing that Matt usually courts is what makes the show fresh and entertaining… Best TV I’ve seen in ages. Laughed so much. Well done Naga and Charlie. Don’t listen to the negative comments. X.” 

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