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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}


Tom Brady Should Sue Goodell’s Pants Off

By Gil Lebreton, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)

Considering that he has amassed career earnings of $150 million and that his supermodel wife Gisele banked $47 million herself just this past year, it’s probably ludicrous to think that Tom Brady lies awake these nights, worrying about Roger Goodell.

But it’s a good thing that his lawyers are, at least.

Sue Goodell. Sue his pants off, Tom.

Please spare me your righteous indignation about NFL integrity and the New England Patriots’ rap sheet and coach Bill Belichick’s tendency to fondle the loopholes.

We are talking about the air in footballs here, not knocking out spouses or switching a child until he bleeds. Did you even know there was a rule about air pressure before Deflategate?

When we were growing up, the kid down the street always liked to use his ball — the one he got for Christmas with the stripes on it, college style — when he quarterbacked our touch football games.

We preferred our old scuffed football. No problem. Both sides could use what they want.

How the Patriots’ interpretation of this time-honored sandlot protocol grew into a national scandal would be funny, if Goodell hadn’t gone all medieval on the thing.

An original two-game suspension for Ray Rice, but a four-game suspension for Brady?

Sue Goodell’s pants off, Tom.

Clearly the commissioner, emboldened by hoodwinking the players’ union into handing him deity-like powers, is making up punishments as he goes along. His handling of the New Orleans Saints’ imaginary Bountygate scandal was only the first hint.

This time he waited for “independent” investigator Ted Wells’ 243-page report, which concluded that the Patriots’ deflating was “more probable than not.”

Goodell’s sword was swift. Brady was suspended four games without pay for the 2015 season — which will include a road game against the Dallas Cowboys on October 11. The Patriots were also fined one million dollars, plus ordered to forfeit their No. 1 draft pick in 2016 and No. 4 in 2017.

Brady’s lawyer filed an immediate appeal on his behalf. Cowboys fans may want to follow the progress of that appeal.

The NFL Players Association, meanwhile, is trying to get Goodell dismissed from hearing the appeal of the case since the Patriots intend to call him as a witness.

Director DeMaurice Smith and the players’ union brought this upon themselves by treating Goodell’s magic-wand powers as a bargaining chip in the last contract negotiations.

Now the union finds itself pulling the rope, trying to drag ashore lost leverage while unpopularly defending the likes of Rice, Greg Hardy, and Adrian Peterson.

Brady? Oh, he’ll be fine. He remains adored by many, even beyond New England. And he still gets to keep the $47 million girl.

His legacy tarnished? Oh, please. For using a football that felt slightly more comfortable in his hand?

And if his suspension isn’t reduced on appeal, consider the trade-off. There isn’t a coach in the league who wouldn’t trade a four-game suspension for four Lombardi trophies.

In the end, despite his arrogant facade and $44 million annual salary, Goodell will take the biggest hit. It’s one thing for a rogue owner like Jerry Jones to profess his loyalty for the commissioner. It’s quite another that Goodell has angered Bob Kraft, the powerful Patriots owner who was once his ally.

Despite what Goodell says, Deflategate has never been about integrity and fairness. Nobody hacked into any Seattle Seahawks computers here.

From the beginning, this has been much ado about nothing. It’s been about NFL fans’ disdain for Belichick and their jealousy of Brady, the luckiest football player alive.

Goodell had to do something, and now he’s got half of America again questioning his integrity and job performance.

No objections here, your honor.

Sue his pants off.

Photo: Keith Allison via Flickr

Q & A: How The Great Recession Affected Children

By Teresa Wiltz, (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Five years after the Great Recession ended, many Americans are still reeling from its effects. Perhaps no group was harmed more by the downturn than children.

Roughly two million more children live in poverty today than at the start of the recession, according to a new study by First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy group, and PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The study analyzes four areas affecting children’s well-being: health, hunger, housing, abuse, and neglect. In most ways, children are worse off than they were in 2007, the beginning of the economic contraction. As of 2013, for example, 14.7 million children were living in poverty, compared with 12.8 million at the start of the recession.

Q: In which area were children hit hardest by the recession?

A: Food security. As of 2013, 15.7 million children lived in households where at least one family member didn’t get enough to eat on a regular basis. That’s 3.3 million more than at the onset of the recession. But the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the federal government’s largest anti-hunger program (commonly known as food stamps), helped ease the situation. The number of SNAP beneficiaries rose by 21 million between 2007 and 2013 to 46.5 million, resulting in about one in three kids receiving some form of nutrition assistance.

Still, it’s difficult to tell if SNAP and other food assistance programs are meeting the needs of impoverished families. The study also found that many states tightened eligibility standards for food assistance. During the recession, SNAP was enhanced with federal stimulus funding, but that money has dried up.

“Food insecurity increased dramatically,” said Rachel Meadows, a communications and policy associate with PolicyLab. “It showed us a lot of families were really struggling even technically after the Great Recession had ended.”

Q: How did foreclosures affect children?

A: More than two million children lost their homes as a result of foreclosures, and up to six million children continue to be at risk of losing them. According to the latest data, 46 percent of all households with children in 2011 faced issues of housing affordability, physically inadequate housing, or overcrowding. In 2012, 40.9 million households — more than a third of U.S. households — were considered “cost burdened” because they spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing.

The study found that more than 1.6 million children were homeless during each year of the recession, and 40 percent of those kids were under age six. The report also found that the supply of affordable housing is inadequate to meet demand. But federal data are conflicting. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that rates of homelessness are going down. But the U.S. Department of Education reports that for kids, particularly students, the number is increasing.

Q: Did children experience more abuse and neglect during the recession?

A: The data are mixed. Federal statistics suggests overall rates of child abuse decreased during the recession. But rates of reported neglect increased 21.6 percent between 2007 and 2009, from 436,944 cases to 543,035 cases. Between 2009 and 2012, reported neglect cases decreased two percent, to 531,241 cases. (Abuse, which can be physical, mental, emotional, or sexual, requires intent on the part of the abuser to do harm, while neglect occurs when a parent or caretaker fails to attend to a child’s needs.)

Meanwhile, during the downturn hospitals reported an increase in injuries consistent with abuse, including an increase in the number of reported brain and head traumas.

Federal spending on child abuse prevention programs remained about the same during the recession while spending at the state level varied widely. About half the states spent more, and half spent less.

Overall, state and local spending declined by $349 per child between 2008 and 2011, as states slashed spending on social services to close budget gaps.

“Recovery takes several years,” Meadows said. “Strong safety net programs worked. But if you cut the safety nets too quickly or too much, you could stall or reverse the recovery that’s still going on.”

Q: Is there any area in which children’s lives improved during the recession?

A: Millions of jobs were lost during the recession, and millions of children lost health insurance through their parents’ employer-covered plans. Despite this, the uninsured rate among children is lower today than when the recession began, according to Ed Walz, vice president of communications for First Focus.

Investments in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), along with CHIP eligibility expansions, played a big role in lowering the rates of uninsured children.

During the depths of the recession, 2007 to 2009, the number of uninsured children shrank by 600,000 while the number of adults without health insurance increased by 6.3 million.

CHIP, which provides free or low-cost insurance to families that make too much to qualify for Medicaid, is a federal-state partnership. States are required by federal law to provide CHIP coverage, but they have the flexibility to determine the extent of benefits and can tailor their programs to meet the needs of their populations. BadgerCare in Wisconsin, for example, looks different from PeachCare in Georgia.

The federal government didn’t require states to expand coverage during the recession, but states weren’t allowed to shrink it — and they didn’t. Between 2008 and 2012, 12 states loosened eligibility requirements to include children from slightly higher-income households. The report found that states tried to limit out-of-pocket health care costs for low-income families.

“Kids didn’t lose any ground. It was success and continues to be a success,” said Kathleen Noonan, co-director of PolicyLab.

After the recession, the number of uninsured children continued to drop each year. But under the Affordable Care Act, federal funding for CHIP will expire in October unless Congress extends it.

Photo: U.S. Department Of Agriculture via Flickr

Senator Wants To Strip NFL Of Tax-Exempt Status In Light Of Abuse Cases

By James Queally, Los Angeles Times

As the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson controversies continue to consume NFL news, a U.S. senator has introduced legislation that would remove the league’s tax-exempt status and redirect that money to benefit victims of domestic violence.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said Tuesday he wants to remove the status enjoyed by 10 professional sports leagues, including the NHL, NFL, and PGA Tour, that allows them to avoid paying taxes on dues collected from participants.

“This legislation will help ensure that victims of domestic violence have the resources they need to break away from abusers and begin rebuilding their lives,” he said in a statement.

The legislation would take effect in 2015 and redirect the taxed funds as an appropriation for the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, according to a copy of the bill. Booker is up for re-election in November and has a double-digit lead in polls over his Republican opponent.

It was unclear what support, if any, the bill had, and it marked the second time Tuesday that a sitting legislator threatened to take away the NFL’s tax-exempt status.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), also claimed she wanted to attack the NFL’s bottom line over its refusal to force the Washington Redskins to change the team’s nickname, which many find offensive to Native Americans, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Booker’s announcement came hours before the Minnesota Vikings decided to bar Peterson from all team activities, reversing course from the one-game suspension they handed down after his indictment on child abuse charges in Texas.

The team had initially decided to deactivate him for just one game but was met with a wave of corporate backlash including the loss of several sponsorships on Tuesday.

Peterson has been accused of striking his 4-year-old son with a switch or tree branch, causing deep cuts and bruises. He faces up to two years in prison if convicted.

Photo: TechCrunch via Flickr

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Vikings Place Peterson On Exempt List, Keeping Him Off Team

By Matt Vensel, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

The Vikings announced early Wednesday morning they have placed Vikings running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list, which will keep him away from the team while the legal process involving his child abuse case plays out.

Pressure on the Vikings to bench Adrian Peterson mounted Tuesday, and early Wednesday morning the team gave in.

The Vikings announced shortly after midnight they have placed the star running back on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list, which will keep him away from the team while the legal process involving his child abuse case plays out.

The team’s statement indicated it consulted with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The decision was rendered after a flurry of statements — some literal and others figurative — from sponsors of Peterson, the Vikings and the NFL expressing disappointment that the team had reinstated the running back Monday morning.

Peterson’s first court appearance on a felony charge in Texas of injuring one of his children while disciplining the child, is set for Oct. 8, but that’s a preliminary hearing. A trial, if there is one, would be in early 2015, a prosecutor has said.

It now seems, if Peterson can’t play until the case is settled, that a plea agreement is likely.

The 2012 NFL MVP issued a long statement on Monday defending his discipline of children while also admitting he regretted the extent of the use of a switch on the 4-year-old.

Peterson was deactivated by the Vikings on Friday, hours after a warrant was issued in his home state. Peterson was not at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday as the Vikings lost their home opener 30-7 to the New England Patriots. The team’s top decisionmakers decided a day later to welcome Peterson back to the team.

“We believe he deserves to play while the legal process plays out,” General Manager Rick Spielman said at a news conference Monday, which was not attended by Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf.

By early Wednesday morning, however, the Vikings had reconsidered and issued a statement from the Wilfs, which read in part:

“This has been an ongoing and deliberate process since last Friday’s news. In conversations with the NFL over the last two days, the Vikings advised the League of the team’s decision to revisit the situation regarding Adrian Peterson. In response, the League informed the team of the option to place Adrian on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, which will require that Adrian remain away from all team activities while allowing him to take care of his personal situation until the legal proceedings are resolved. After giving the situation additional thought, we have decided this is the appropriate course of action for the organization and for Adrian.”

Peterson was back at Winter Park on Tuesday, an off day for players, and was reportedly tailed by a TMZ cameraman as he departed the facility. Also Tuesday, Nike pulled Peterson jerseys off the shelves at its area stories, sponsors distanced themselves from Peterson and Anheuser Busch publicly called for the NFL to get its house in order.

In the short term, the 1-1 Vikings will carry on without their career leading rusher, which did not go so well against the Patriots. With Peterson deactivated, his replacement, Matt Asiata, and the Vikings averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in the loss, though quarterback Matt Cassel’s career-high four interceptions were probably a bigger reason for the lopsided outcome.

“(Peterson’s absence) didn’t affect the team,” head coach Mike Zimmer said after Sunday’s loss. “You know what affected the team? Throwing interceptions, getting a field goal blocked, not tackling well enough, having penalties on defense. That’s what affected the team. The team was fine.”

When pressed, though, Zimmer did acknowledge it’s hard to overcome the loss of your best player.

In the long term, it is fair to wonder if this will be Peterson’s final season with the Vikings.

The six-time Pro Bowler is under contract through 2017, but the salary-cap ramifications of cutting him now would not be debilitating. The Vikings would actually save $12 million on this year’s salary cap and $2.4 million in dead money would carry over to next year’s cap.

If they decided to release Peterson, who is scheduled to make $13 million in salary and workout bonuses in 2015, after the season, they would have no future cap penalties beyond 2015.

For now, Peterson’s suspension leaves the Vikings with three inexperienced running backs in Asiata, Joe Banyard, and rookie Jerick McKinnon. They have 65 career carries combined.

Among the notable free agents at the position are Daniel Thomas, Bernard Scott, Evan Royster, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Rice is also a free agent — though still suspended — but it seems unlikely that the Vikings would swap out one public-relations headache for another.

The organization will get no relief today, when both local and national media will surely swarm Winter Park following Peterson’s suspension. Amid the pounding, Zimmer must figure out how to replace one of the NFL’s best running backs while keeping his Vikings team focused on the 0-2 New Orleans Saints, who are still formidable with quarterback Drew Brees, especially at the Superdome.

The Mike Zimmer era that is still in its infancy, but Sunday’s game could produce a defining moment.

“My dad, when he was coaching me when I was growing up, he said, ‘Tough times don’t last but tough people do,'” Zimmer said Monday. “It’s time to get back to work, put our nose to the grindstone, get on the tape, start focusing on the New Orleans Saints. That’s what we do, we get back to work.”

AFP Photo/Dilip Vishwanat

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