Thursday, May 15, 2008

Athletes and their charitable causes

Throughout the semester, Galo and I have posted articles that have investigated issues, controversies and high points in sports. For the most part, our articles have been opinionated on topics such as steroids, run-ins with the law and death, to name a few. However, for this final blog of the semester, I wanted to end on a positive note. This blog focuses on the importance of athletes’ involvement in philanthropy, community outreach and charitable causes.

As I began my research, Athletes for Hope, an organization launched in April 2007, popped up prominently. So I began to browse through the Web site. The neat thing that I found out is that this organization was actually founded by a group of well-known athletes including: Lance Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, Andre Agassi, Warrick Dun, Mia Hamm, Jeff Gordon, Tony Hawk, Andrea Jaeger, Jackie Joynor-Kersee, Mario Lemieux, Alonso Mourning and Cal Ripken Jr. What is unique, in my opinion, is that all of these professional athletes come from different sports, including tennis, boxing and auto racing to hockey and skateboarding, to work towards one goal.

The mission of this organization, which is posted on there Web site is: “To educate, encourage and assist athletes in their efforts to contribute to community and charitable causes, to increase public awareness of those efforts, and to inspire others to do the same.” (

Jason Belinkie, manager of athlete relations for the organization said athletes have a variety of reasons for getting involved and help out.

“Some athletes have family members that have been afflicted by a particular disease and want to help in the fight against that disease,” Belinkie said in an e-mail interview. “Other athletes feel compelled to get involved because they have received a lot of support from those around them during the course of their lives, and they want to give back to their community. Many athletes just love being around children (or any other type of people) and want to help them in any way they can.”

A main goal of the organization is to educate athletes on the power they have to help. Once an athlete decides to join the organization, he or she is interviewed, a profile is created and there is a match made with a charity.

“Charity work is important for everyone, not just athletes,” Belinkie said. “However, Professional and Olympic athletes have a unique opportunity to give back because they are in the public eye, and many of them are admired role models in their communities. Every athlete who has achieved professional or Olympic status has worked hard to achieve their goals, and when other people hear their stories, it is often inspirational to them.”

The organization has had many success stories since it was formed, including working with more than 400 athletes, according to Belinkie, the organization has formed partnerships with 10 nationally recognized charitable organizations and Athletes for Hope has presented to members of leagues including Major League Soccer, the PGA tour and the LPGA, just to name some.

“On Monday (May 5), we connected 13 members of the US Women's National Soccer team to Children's Hospital in Washington DC, where they visited beside patients and kids in playrooms,” Belinkie said. “ Many of the Women's players also visited the Boys and Girls club to conduct a soccer clinic with 30 kids in Southeast DC that evening.”

Belikie said some members have been connected to various children’s organizations as well.

“We connected several members of Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo to an organization called KaBoom!, that builds Children's playgrounds around the US, and they helped with the build and gave a speech at the ribbon cutting ceremony,” Belinkie said. “We've connected a few Olympic athletes to an organization called KEEN, which trains individuals to become volunteer coaches and work with children and young adults with mental and physical disabilities through sports.”

Organizations like Athletes for Hope show that most athletes are not just talented professionals who only show up to play their respected sports, but they also do what they can to help out. Along with organizations like this one, there are also “built-in” ways in teams that athletes get involved, and I have seen this first hand through my internship with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes Single A affiliate to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

“You want the community to back you up as an organization,” Cordero said.

Cordero said the fans are the ones who support the athletes, and if the athletes support causes, the fans will, in turn, also support the same causes.

“(The athletes) help guide younger kids to do better,” Cordero said.

At the beginning of my internship, Cordero was preparing for the annual Hot Stove Banquet, which is a dinner that occurs before the season begins to bring awareness and raise money for a cause. The big philanthropy this season is autism. The front office gathered silent auction items, raffle gifts and put together a huge event in the name of the team to support this cause. Along with this, during the off-season and even throughout the season, there are various mascot and player appearances that happen, which I have been able to be a part of.

I have been a huge fan of sports since I was young. I liked the athletes, teams and competition of the games, but it wasn’t until I got older that I realized that there is more to professional sports. As a result of my realization, I have figured out that this is something that I want to pursue as a career. No, I don’t want to be an athlete, but I want to get into a community relations department. I am a firm believer that if an individual has the power to reach out and help, that person should.

Here are some links to other organizations that athletes are involved in:

The David Beckham effect

Becoming one of the most recognizable sports figures in the world was not difficult with a standout talent (and kick) that echoed across the world. Gaining popularity on a social level wasn’t hard either probably due being in a relationship with a former Spice Girl. Standing as a larger than life celebrity in many countries was not an arduous task as well with the international marketing and branding of his name and image. Now, David Beckham is faced perhaps with the toughest test of all: bringing popularity to soccer in the United States, a country where the pigskin and baseball, America’s favorite pastime dominate.

After all, Beckham, 33, has finished a runner up for the FIFA World Player twice in his career in addition to leading his club teams to seven league titles and three European championships. All of these accolades have been accomplished after making his professional debut with Manchester United in England at the age of 17. Not to mention, Beckham had been captain of the England national team for more than six years before stepping down after the 2006 World Cup Finals.

While Beckham has made his living playing soccer in Europe, he began his ascent IN America after problems with his previous club, Real Madrid, with many on the club questioning his desire and work ethic. He left Madrid for Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Galaxy on January 11, 2007, which launched a frenzy of media and tabloid coverage. His contract alone deserved serious interest. Beckham signed one of the most unique contracts in sports history, a five-year, $250 million contract laden with incentives, which only really guarantees $50 million in salary paid by the Galaxy and other MLS teams.
And the other $200 million? Most of the money will have to be earned by Beckham with his exclusive endorsement deals and jersey sales. Not to mention after confirmation of the addition of Beckham to the Galaxy roster, marketing plans were already in tact for the star including pre-orders for Beckham’s coveted Galaxy jersey. Shortly after signing with L.A., Beckham held his first press conference where he addressed the issues of not trying to be the messiah of soccer in the United States but did intend to make a difference with his play on the field.

In his first season, Beckham made his debut in a friendly match on July 21, 2007, against English club Chelsea but later he re-aggravated a knee injury from earlier in the year and WAS forced to miss much of the season. He finished the season with only eight appearances including one goal and three assists.

“It was a disaster in a lot of ways,” said Grant Wahl, senior writer for Sports Illustrated.

Wahl alluded to the fact that on the field the Galaxy faced challenges as even with Beckham, the team missed the playoffs and Beckham faced injury that put him on the sidelines.

Still, Beckham’s effect has already taken hold. Galaxy jersey sales alone were rocketing over the course of announcing his signing in addition to the boost in ticket sales and sponsorships with major companies. His arrival has also brought international attention to the MLS and the Galaxy.

Wahl said Beckham’s play has had a huge impact abroad and in the U.S.

“The clip (of Beckham’s first free kick) was the most watched YouTube clip in that week,” Wahl said.

Playing now in his second season with the Galaxy, Beckham’s impact has been a bit more lukewarm but this process is not going to happen overnight. The important thing for the MLS and the Galaxy is that they have a budding international star playing in the United States for the first time in their history. Whether or not Beckham will have that lasting effect on America and make soccer one of the more popular sports in the future still remains to be seen.

“You have to play well, and the team has to win,” Wahl said. “Beckham can’t make soccer bigger without being on a winning team.”

According to several soccer experts and sports writers, Beckham has already made a splash with the MLS and improved its stature as one of the many professional sports leagues in America.

Martin Rogers, a soccer writer for Yahoo! Sports, who wrote his column “Vend it like Beckham,” on August 6, 2007, proclaims that Beckham has already been able to transcend the image of the MLS on domestic and global levels.

“With his arrival in MLS, Beckham drastically increased the profile of the league. Bigger sponsorship and television deals were negotiated on the back of him signing, to the benefit of all MLS clubs,” Rogers said in an e-mailed interview. “Now, MLS is spoken about around the world - not yet as a top level league like the English Premiership, but as a product that is growing and more significantly, trying to better itself.”

Rogers thinks that Beckham does have that star quality about him, which makes him worth every penny he was paid to come play for the Galaxy.

“Clearly, Beckham's limited playing time due to injury in his first season was disappointing, but events like the Galaxy's visit to New York to take on the Red Bulls (watched by 66,000) gave some indication of the kind of pulling power Beckham has,” Rogers aid. “So is he worth the money? For that we have to look at what his employers get out of it. Since signing Beckham the Galaxy has become an international brand, generated millions in revenues from sponsorship deals, exhibition games and shirt sales. So in my opinion, yes, he provides value for money.”

Steven Goff, a writer for the Washington Post, who wrote his article, “MLS Finds Growth by Reaching for Shining Star,” on April 6, 2007, expresses similar feelings.

“He has had a major impact on the league’s visibility,” Goff said in an e-mailed interview. “Before Beckham, few non-soccer fans could name the team in Los Angeles. Now everyone knows it. From a marketing standpoint, his arrival has already paid off.”

Goff also believes that Beckham needs to continue to play better and consistently if he wishes to maintain the rise of the MLS.

“His performance, good or bad, will reflect on the league, no doubt,” Goff said. “Beckham needs to play well. Last year, he did not. This year he is.”

It will also be interesting to see if Beckham can lead a soccer revival similar to that of Brazilian soccer star Pele in the 1970’s. After coming out of retirement, he starred for the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League beginning in 1975, which included a championship in 1977. During that time, Pele greatly increased the awareness for soccer on a national level and brought it to center stage in his final match on Oct. 1 1977, a match against Santos which was transmitted worldwide on ABC Wide World of Sports and played to a capacity crowd in New York Giants stadium. Perhaps, it is unfair to compare Beckham to a legend like Pele, but the attempts to duplicate the success are there.

However there are reasons TO believe that because of circumstances now, the two cannot be compared because of the different time periods and other surrounding circumstances.

“Not so much a revival, but an increase in popularity to levels never before seen in this country. Beckham will not be the only factor, but he will have a part to play. I can see soccer overtaking hockey in terms of popularity within 5-10 years and then challenging the other sports with the exception of football after that,” Rogers said. “This time it is different to Pele in the 1970s because MLS is built upon much sounder business principles than the old NASL.”

The most important thing to remember is that one person, including Beckham, cannot make something popular overnight.
Wahl said he doesn’t think soccer will contend with other popular sports for a while and that it cannot be put on one person’s shoulders to put the sport in the spotlight.

“The lesson is (from the folding of the NASL) is one person can’t be a savior for an entire league,” Wahl said. “There is no lightning in a bottle that’s going to make soccer big. As time goes on, you’re going to see the MLS grow.”

Along with talent, a well-known and respected work ethic and popular image, Beckham’s wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Adams, and their children have also been brought into the spotlight. Prior to the Beckham family’s arrival to the United States, a short-lived reality show based on the Beckhams’ life including the rest of the family was already in the works.

Wahl said those who watched those shows and see the family in the entertainment media and constantly in the social spotlight has brought awareness to the MLS and is a big start in the development of fans; however, whether these people are in the for the long-term is up in the air.

At this point, the ultimate Beckham effect is still unknown. We do believe Beckham will have a prominent effect on soccer but will take him and serious effort from him. He will have to dedicate these next four seasons on putting out some amazing performances and hope that his name and image do the rest. For the most part though, Beckham has done much already in bringing prominence to the beautiful game on the home front. As for the social aspect, the Beckhams have definitely grabbed attention and have gone Hollywood.

Athletes aren't the only ones in danger

Athletes often face injury as each season goes by whether they be lingering wounds, recurring injuries to a weakened joint or ligament or freak accidents that occur during a game. But athletes are not the only ones who face injury during these times. Fans, coaches, media and anyone who is in attendance is subject to being hit by a foul ball, a broken bat, flying puck or even an athlete who loses control of their body during a play. Unfortunately, injury is not the worst case scenario. On occasion such freak accidents have caused death to such observers not directly involved in the game.

“Spectators are a catch-22,” Paul Alvarez, Ph. D, Movement and Sports Science Department Chair and Athletic Training Clinical Supervisor at the University of La Verne said in an e-mail interview. “If you put up nets or other screens, you block the view. If you don't, they can get hit. Fans like to be close to the game, but the closer, the shorter the distance and the less time to react to an object heading in their direction.”

Alcohol may also play a factor in injuries as well since it is readily available, and fans often indulge in drinking while watching a game.

Alvarez said that alcohol obviously may contribute as it slows reactions.

“ Players expect to get hit, and for the most part, wear protective equipment. Again, their focus is on the action, which is the best defense. Same for coaches,” Alvarez said.

Last season, Minor League Baseball coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed after being struck in the head by a line drive foul ball. Coolbaugh was the hitting coach of MiLB team, the Tulsa Drillers, the Colorado Rockies’ Double-A affiliate. He was standing in as first base coach and was hit while standing in foul ball territory. Coolbaugh died an hour after being hit after being knocked unconscious and transported to the hospital.

As result of past incidents, mostly because of the death of Coolbaugh, the base coaches, are now required to wear helmets while on the field, which is now mandatory per a rule that was adopted by general managers of the MLB and MiLB at a meeting in November 2007, according to an article, “Coaches divided over helmet rule,” posted on posted by Barry M. Bloom on Feb. 25.

Coaches are divided on this new rule, and some have decided to be defiant against it, according to the article. It was reported by the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 29 that the Los Angeles Dodgers’ base coach, Larry Bowa did not wear a helmet during an exhibition opener game and would continue to refuse wearing a helmet for the season.

"I'm willing to write out a check for whatever the fine is for every game," Bowa said. "Whatever 162 games is, I'll write out a check for it." (Taken from “Dodgers’ Bowa says he will ignore helmet rule for coaches” posted at on Feb. 29, 2008).

“Unfortunately, accidents will happen,” Alvarez said. “Helmets or other protective gear may help, if worn properly. Too often, players and coaches will not wear protection if seen as weak. Witness the number of NHL players who still will not wear face shields on their helmets. Plus the straps on the helmets are barely tight enough to keep them on.”

Also in the article, Bowa said he reasoning for not wanting to wear a helmet is because of the discomfort they cause, the decision should be made by “veteran coaches, and he argued that broken bats are more dangerous and umpires should also be forced to wear helmets while officiating games.

“As noted earlier, players will wear minimal equipment if they do not see the need,” Alvarez said. “Coaches who are now obligated to wear helmets will try to get by with the bare minimum. While rules may encourage the use of protective equipment, people tend to try and get away with less.”

Alvarez said that student-athletes may manipulate their protective equipment to alter them by cutting pads, not wearing the proper shin guards or wear the equipment properly.

“Until you see someone get seriously hurt, most folk do not follow the intent of the rules,” Alvarez said.

While the MLB has taken precautions, other professional leagues like the National Hockey League have imposed rules for safety measures. Bloom also reported that after a 13-year-old girl was struck and killed by a puck in March 2002 in Ohio, the NHL mandated a rule that nets must be installed around the rink’s goals, according to the article posted on

As a clinical supervisor, Alvarez said he tells his students to always be alert.

“When in or near the field of play, focus on the action and unexpected movements,” Alvarez said. “If you need to focus on tending to an student-athlete, move away from the field if possible to avoid getting "blindsided". Do not allow yourself to get screened from the action by the student-athletes.”

Alvarez said that alertness is important so that they do not get hit by an incoming player or by the ball, which is something that he said happened to him during his first road trip as an athletic training student.

Spectators, coaches, athletes, athletic trainers and others on or near the playing field, courts and rinks are subject to injury during games. However, when safety equipment is available for those on the field, on the court or in the rink, they should be utilized.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Advancement of women in sports

Danica Patrick made history as it was reported on April 19, 2008 IN he Associated Press that she won the Indy Japan 300. Patrick, at 26-years-old became the first female winner in IndyCar history in her 50th IndyCar race. In 2005, Patrick almost won the Indy 500 but took fourth place. This fourth-place finish was the best finish by a woman prior to Patrick’s 2008 win. That same year, Patrick was named rookie of the year.

"It's a long time coming. Finally," Patrick said. "It was a fuel strategy race, but my team called it perfectly for me. I knew I was on the same strategy as Helio and when I passed him for the lead, I couldn't believe it. This is fabulous." (Taken from the Associated Press article “Danica Patrick wins Indy 300 in Japan” posted by on April 19, 2008).

After hearing about Patrick’s huge victory, I scoured the Internet searching for more information. However, I was disappointed to find only the AP published article. In a sport that is dominated by men, I honestly wasn’t too surprised.

In his article “Payback time for Danica Patrick and women’s sports?” posted on, Greg Johnson said female athletes do not get as much exposure in the media like male athletes in the NBA and NFL.

In an e-mailed interview, Johnson said both the Ladies Professional Golf Association and the Indy Racing League may, however, be getting more attention as a result of Loren Ochoa’s and Patrick’s winning weekend.

“Both athletes won considerable coverage in news stories and on sports-related blogs. And if fans are talking about Ochoa and Patrick, they're also talking about IRL and LPGA,” Johnson said.

Johnson said that the Indy race in Japan doesn’t usually get a lot of coverage, but because of Patrick’s win, it has been in the spotlight as well.

“The IRL race in Japan doesn't usually drive a lot of interest in this country outside of motor sports circles. So Patrick's win certainly gave the league a boost. IRL probably would have gotten a bigger bump in this country had Patrick's first win occurred in the U.S.,” Johnson said.

In an e-mailed statement, writer Dave Rodman said Patrick has stated that she is not necessarily interested in the discipline of NASCAR racing right now, but there are many women who are trying to succeed in the sport of auto racing.

“On the other hand, there are plenty of women who ARE attempting to make inroads into NASCAR racing who consequently are much further along that road than Danica would ever be if she decided to pursue it,” Rodman said in his statement in our e-mail correspondence.

After also speaking with Maia Kinsinger, assistant professor of communications, at the University of La Verne another issue came up. With women in what we would typically call “a man’s world,” if she was injured or even worse, killed, there is a good chance that women would be banned from participating and it may be said that she should have never been there, which is something we probably wouldn’t really hear if a man is involved.

The Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 was enacted in the United States on June 23, 1972. Title IX basically prevents discrimination based on sex for activities or benefits of these activities in any education program that is federally funded, which includes and is prominent in high school and college athletics.

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (U.S. Department of Labor:

Title IX is crucial for equality for women and men and especially to me, as a woman who wants to work in sports.

As a woman who is hoping to break into the world of working in sports as media and athletes, I am happy to see women already breaking down barriers. But I also know that it is something that is hard to do. In my experience at my internships, I have been told that there are not as many women in the field, and some that are have bad reputations. There are many women who are advancing in sports, which makes me hopeful for my own pursuit.

One woman in particular is Helene Elliott, sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Elliott has been a source for many of my recent blog entries. As published in her biography, which can be found at, Elliott has been with the L.A. Times sports department since 1989. She first covered the then Anaheim Angels and took over the Los Angeles Lakers beat. Most notably, Elliott covered the NHL and Olympics. She became the first female journalist to receive a plaque in the Hall of Fame of a professional sport in 2005 after receiving the Elmer Ferguson Award, which is given "in recognition of distinguished members of the newspaper profession whose words have brought honor to journalism and to hockey."

“It hasn't always been easy being a woman in this profession,” Elliott said in an e-mailed interview. “I've always tried to be professional in my behavior and in my work and allow that to speak for me. It is much easier than it used to be for women in journalism.”

Elliott also mentioned that there are other women working in sports and media.

“Look at the staff directories in the NBA and at Kim Ng, the assistant general manager of the Dodgers, and at the two women who are vice presidents of Major League Baseball, Phyllis Merhige and Katey Feeney,” Elliott said.

As for participating in sports, Elliott said it’s a different ball game.

“Look at the numbers of women who particiapte in high school and college sports---it's staggering compared to 25 years ago,” Elliott said. “Playing sports is a wonderful experience not only in terms of fitness but learning teamwork and other bonding issues that men have always been able to learn but are relatively new for women.”

So while women are continuing to advance in the sports world, I become more hopeful. I have had some experience with my two internships at Fox Sports and with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes Minor League Baseball team. I have learned that many women are trying to break through in these areas. I hope to get more than just my foot n the door, but to have a career in sports public relations. More women are emerging in front offices, as sports journalists and on big sports networks. It is not just a man’s world after all.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

College athletes deal with MySpace, Facebook

Facebook and MySpace are two social networking sites that almost every college student is familiar with. We both have accounts with the sites and actively use them. The reasons why we have profiles are to keep us connected with friends and most importantly, it’s fun. The sites allow us to see personalities of our friends and get to know more about them. Today, with the help of these sites, we are also able to hear news about people and events, updates on friends, get information about the current political race and hear about new movies and music all on these sites. As students, and Galo, as an athlete, have to be cautious with what is posted and what the information on each site is revealed because you never know who could be reading it.

Anything that can be written, indirectly said or visually understood could be taken the wrong way or be shown in a negative light. Albums posted that display pictures last weekend’s party or a message that discriminates against pupils or even personal moods can all give a sense of student-athlete that is fine for most but it could object others. The way someone is perceived online today is what people take you for many times in real life, especially for college student-athletes.

They have to be cautious not only for there own appearance and for the reputation of the school, but they have to be aware of the repercussions of having fans and what they may do as a result of athletes having a social networking site profile.

In his article “Vulgarity and taunting by college fans. How much is too much?” published on Feb. 26 in Sports Illustrated, writer Grant Wahl touches on the subject of college basketball athletes and the negative interaction with fans through Facebook.

“It seemed like this year had been on of the ugliest years with fan behavior,” Wahl said.

In his article he mentions an incident with an Indiana player who changed his commitment from playing at Illinois and choosing Indiana instead which sparked threatening messages not only through e-mail, but on the athlete’s Facebook profile.

“What's more, the popularity of social-networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace has made college athletes and their personal information far more accessible to the public, especially if the athletes are naive when it comes to, say, posting compromising photos of themselves or accepting friend requests from strangers,” Wahl said in his article.

Wahl said in our interview that through these social networking sites, the athletes are opening themselves up on a personal level to strangers and the unruly fans.

As for fixing the problem, Wahl said a solution is the education of the student-athletes by their schools, which some schools have done.

“Athletes will get smarter,” Wahl said.

As for regulating the use of these sites, it seems like each school will make their own policies rather than the NCAA creating a policy, Wahl said.

“In this case, I think they (NCAA) will leave it up to the individual schools," Wahl said.

The use of these social networking sites is widespread among most, maybe even all universities and colleges throughout the nation, and even internationally. They are popular, and students use them for various reasons.

“I think this is just a part of life with college students,” Wahl said.

So why has something that is a part of college life become negative? For us, we have concluded that it is up to the discretion of the users. Putting information about your life is up to the author, but there also has to be a realization that for anyone, not just college athletes, the information is opening a door for potential negativity and danger.

These possible dangers are what has many schools across the nation worried and what San Diego Union Tribune writer Brent Schrotenboer explains is part of the reason why these athletes get in trouble with these networking Web sites. Schrotenboer has covered this story in his own article, “College Athletes Caught in Tangled Web,” which was published May 24, 2006.

“(College) athletes are in the public eye more in the average student,” Schrotenboer said in an e-mail interview. “Universities also want to protect them from unwanted advances from strangers or would-be agents, which are easier to do in the digital with these social networking sites.”

He also believes that universities and colleges will continue to track the situation with their athletes to ensure some kind of control over what is exposed online.

“Schools that want to avoid being reactive to a potentially embarrassing situation try to be proactive by setting a policy that either limits or bans student-athlete use of these sites,” Schrotenboer said.

Marco Pineda, a former Division I student-athlete at Gonzaga University, said that he was always told to be aware of what he posts and writes on his online profiles.

“There were a lot of times I was told to not post things that are related to alcohol or drug use,” Pineda said, who played tennis and now coaches at Gonzaga. “Just being pictured at parties and things go on behind you could make a connection to you.”

Pineda believes athletes need to be conscious of what they allow to be visible on their profiles for their own safety and peace of mind.

“If there is something out there you don’t want anyone to see, don’t post it,” Pineda said, who also has both a Facebook and MySpace account. “College athletes are held to such higher standards by many so they are always being watched because they are in the spotlight.”

To remedy this situation, both Pineda and Schrotenboer offer ways for student-athletes and schools to protect themselves.

“I’d say the safest and fairest way is to set a policy warning student-athletes that if certain team policy violations are evidenced online, then they will be held accountable,” Schrotenboer said.

“There should be some restrictions and guidelines but every student-athlete should be able to have these accounts,” Pineda said.

From a legal perspective, experts believe that schools have every right to restrict their athletes from their involvement with social networking sites. Because of their pledge to be part of the team, they are not granted the same rights as other college students.

“As a general rule, (colleges and universities) are allowed to do restrict their student-athletes,” said Deborah Zexter, an attorney and part time instructor at the University of La Verne. “To be on the team and play for the school, they are allowed to give these types of restrictions.”

“It’s basic contract law,” said Justin Janzen, an attorney and also a part time instructor at La Verne. “When student-athletes sign the contract to be part of the team, it overrules the basic amendment laws.”

In the end, the best way these institutions can protect themselves and their student-athletes is to set a policy that is strict but still allows them to use these networking sites. It will be very difficult to get them to stop using it all together. With a signed contract or agreement, schools and athletes can both get what they want, which is decreasing the chance of embarrassment while still being accessible on these Web sites. Yet, every school and student-athlete is different, so the way cases may be handled will vary. However there is no doubt that is problem will continue to arise for colleges and universities and its athletes if there is nothing done to contain potential trouble for both parties involved.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sport salaries- Are they too much?

In February 2008, it was reported that Alexander Ovechkin signed the National Hockey League’s first nine-figure deal in January 2008. That’s right, Ovechkin got himself a 13-year, $124 million contract to play for the Washington Capitals. Sure he leads the Capitals and NHL as of this season with 112 points, 65 goals, 22 power-play goals, 11 game-winning goals and 441 shots, according to his stats on Washington’s Web site, but what is a 21-year-old going to do with $124 million?

Contracts like these are being signed across most major professional sports. These athletes do have a talent, that is why they are in the “big leagues,” but the amount of money that these contracts are reaching is getting ridiculous. Salaries are based mostly on the talent and skill levels of these athletes, but I am beginning to wonder if that is all they need in order to receive these sky-high paychecks.

“Salary levels are set based upon supply of, and demand for, talent,” said David Carter, University of Southern California expert executive director of the USC sports business group and principal of the Sports Business Group. “Provided team owners believe they can generate incremental revenue greater than the costs incurred as part of the player contract, they will be willing to pay the price.”

Fans look forward to each season’s sport, and there are certain expectations that they have. Everyone wants to see exciting games full of home runs, slam dunks, last minute goals and touchdowns to win the game. These high-paid, talented athletes are the ones to make it happen, which could be a reason as to why their salaries are high: They are wanted, and more importantly, needed to enhance their sports. Teams pay high salaries to their athletes because they expect to generate money through getting more fans to come to games and to buy merchandise.

Taking a look at Major League Baseball, this is true as many of these athletes are paid very high to compete and entertain. A perfect example is the New York Yankees. Third baseman Alex Rodriguez leads the team in salaries with a whopping $27, 708, 525. The Yankees have an all-star line up complete with all-star salaries. Yet, Yankees’ games are a hot ticket during baseball season, even selling out stadiums on the West Coast by fans, who just want to catch a game with these highly talented athletes.

Carter said owners pay athletes the amount depending on relative to what they think they will see they will be getting in return.

“This return can come from increased ticket sales, additional corporate sponsorships, improved TV ratings, or elsewhere,” he said.

Athletes do have to uphold their contracts and stipulations of behavior on and off the field, but it can vary among sports, Carter said.

“In a sport like baseball, where most of the salaries are guaranteed, the athlete merely has to avoid breaking team or league rules tied to gambling, drug use, etc. So -- generally -- even if they get cut, they receive the money,” Carter said. “In other sports, such as the NFL, players actually have to make the team in order to get paid because their contracts are not guaranteed. Of course, the same types of rules and regulations relating to player behavior on and off the field apply.”

It doesn’t seem like these outrageous salaries will be decreasing anytime soon either.

“As long as money continues to flow into sports, you can bet athletes will get their share of it so, yes, salaries should continue to climb,” Carter said. “With emerging revenue streams from international markets and technology, this is very likely to be the case.”

Professional athletes are paid to entertain their fans. However, the amount they are paid can sometimes be a little ridiculous when you think of what they are doing.

Yes, they have to play a certain number of games in hopes of taking their teams all the way, they have to sign autographs and be nice to their fans and also participate in various charitable events outside of the playing field, but those are things that they should want to do as part of being a professional athlete, in my opinion. My worry is that the people who really make a difference and impact in society, like teachers who interact with children – who, as cheesy as it sounds, are the future, do not get paid enough. Shouldn’t these influential people receive paychecks close to these athletes? And most importantly, athletes are playing for the love of the game, or so I thought, so payment shouldn’t be the biggest issue with contracts.

Politics should have no place in the Olympics

The 2008 summer Olympics Games in Beijing are coming whether some people like it or not. It seems like some people are pushing to get their voices heard while others are simply trying to make a statement. The biggest concerns being raised by those who are trying to insert politics into the upcoming Games. Though the Olympics have been a forum for political exhibitions throughout the course of history.

Back in 1936, African American athlete Jesse Owens put to rest Hitler’s vision of Aryan rule over the world by winning four gold medals when Germany hosted the Games. American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos made their own stance when they gave a black power salute at the 1968 Games in Mexico. Boycotts began to take a place in the Olympics when in 1980, the United States decided to not participate in the Games after the host nation Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan while the Communist nation followed suit in the 1984 when Los Angeles held them.

Demonstrations are now taking place for the upcoming Games in August, most notably those in London, Paris and San Francisco. In the Bay Area, there were many concerns for the torch, which included previous demonstrations atop the Golden Gate Bridge. Protestors posted large flags and banners with the words, “Free Tibet” in reference to China’s strict human rights policy in their country.

These political outrage and demonstrations are beginning to take the spotlight away from the Games with the opening ceremony not even due to start for another four months. Many countries have been able to adopt their policies and change laws because of demonstrations and protests in the past. However at some point there must be some restraint and realization that the point of the Olympics is to showcase the best athletes in the world and not put political agendas on display.

Most journalists and others who have investigated the situation of politics in the Olympics are somewhat split on the sentiment that politics are continuingly taking away from the true nature of the Games.

“In democratic countries, people have a right to voice their opinion,” Helene Elliott, Los Angeles Times columnist said in an e-mailed interview. “Human-rights organizations and other groups want the maximum publicity for their causes, and they know that the Olympics are watched by billions of people, so these groups latch onto the Olympics to achieve widespread dissemination of their message.”

Scott Herhold, a writer for the San Jose Mercury News, who wrote his opinion piece, “Olympic Games always have been about the Politics” on April 10, offers that political involvement in the Gamges is almost unavoidable at this point.

“As they're set up now, it's inescapable,” said Herhold in an e-mailed interview. “I could see a different kind of Games -- a much less nationalistic kind -- which might be less given to politics. But that would be a much different event.”

Herhold insists that the Games site is also a major draw for the host country to show their power and stature in the world.

“Athens organized the ’04 games to show the world its abilities,” Herhold said. “And it's particularly important to the Chinese, who have emerged as a world power to rival the U.S. and Europe.”

Amy Spiro, a contributing writer to the and Washington Square News, wrote her article “Olympics never about the politics,” on Monday puts forth the notion that the Games do indeed take away from the athletes.

“When you make the game about politics is most certainly detracts from the pure purpose of the game, which is athletic competition,” Spiro said in an e-mailed interview. “If the 2008 games becomes solely about China's treatment of Tibet (not an unimportant story by any stretch of the imagination) then who is really going to remember the incredible achievements made by athletes in every divisions?”

On the other hand, Kevin Spitz, a writer for the Daily Illini, the college newspaper for University of Illinois at Urbana-Champne, published in his column, “Ditch the politics, champion the athletes,” on April 10, that politics should be ignored but it does not take away from the athletes.

“Politics do not necessarily take that away from happening,” Spitz said in an e-mailed interview. “I think politics can be present, and the spirit of the games can live on.”

With the protests on hand, there has to be some indication on whether this will be a continuing trend into the Games.
Graham Messner, a local columnist for, writes that the boycotts and protests will continue and take away from the spirit of what are the Olympics.

“I do think the Olympics make it easy for protest because there are too many cameras and too many members of the media to record any type of effort to punish such actions by the hosting country,” Messner said in an e-mailed interview. “It’s the perfect environment for a protestor.”

Others like Garrett Cleverly, a writer for the Arizona State Web Devil site, who wrote his piece, “Keep politics out of the Olympics,” on April 8, insists that China will take the precautionary steps to keep the protests at a minimum before the Games begin.

“I think China will do the bare minimum to clean up its act,” Cleverly told me on Tuesday. “They will do what they need to do to look favorable to other countries. But it’s only a temporary solution to a major problem and once the Games are over, it will go back to the way it was before.”

In her column “U.S. athletes grapple with China human-rights issues,” Elliott found that many U.S. athletes are focusing primarily on the training for the athletic competitions rather than getting involved in the political situations including the China’s link to violence in Darfur.

“Any athlete who feels compelled to speak out should be able to do so. Those who don't, should not feel they have to,” Elliott said.

Elliott, in her column said, athletes are being asked to look beyond their events and to look at the political issues at hand which may be hard for the young athletes to understand.

“There are some very young athletes (gymnasts, swimmers, etc., who may be only 16) and are not very aware of the world around them,” Elliott said.

Elliott was able to speak to the U.S. Olympic committee spokesman, Darryl Seibel who said American athletes can comment on the issues, but there are rules that they must follow, referring specifically to Rule 51 in the Olympic charter.

The charter, which can be found online, states that Rule 51 enforces that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious, or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or other sites.”

In her column, Elliott spoke to notable Olympic athletes including swimmer Michael Phelps who said he is mostly focused on preparing for the games.

However, on the other hand, Elliott spoke to U.S. softball player Jessica Mendoza who is a member of Team Darfur.

“There are other athletes whose way of preparing for their events involves becoming very concentrated and narrowly focused so as not to be distracted by outside events,” Elliott said. “Nothing wrong with that. Plus, I think that many athletes right now are still worried about making the Olympic team. Once they have made the team they may feel more relaxed about discussing human-rights issues.”

As for protesting at the games this summer, Elliott said demonstrations will probably be stopped quickly before anything can happen.

“I think that people will try to stage protests but that the Chinese government will have a heavy police presence and will quash anything as soon as it starts,” Elliott said.

To this point, China has still not taken the steps to improve their vows to improve human rights, pollution and press freedom. The government has made vague statements about efforts to help the cause of human rights and has done little to improve relations with foreign media that will be covering the Games. Although, China has spent over $20 billion over the last decade to improve air quality and minimize pollution. Despite the environmental improvements, not enough is being done to address all the other issues.

The current political demonstrations, protests and boycotts are starting to be overdone and disrespectful to the athletes who have trained all their lives for sometimes a once in a lifetime opportunity. Granted, China certainly has many things to consider as the countdown to the start of the Games continues. But, that does not give these other protestors that trying to advocate for human rights or change policies the right to disgrace their country’s athletes for their own personal beliefs. The Olympics have not even started and already there is much more news about the not about the actual sporting events then there should be. The only thing that can change this is China making a clear stance and protestors beginning to back up and letting up a bit because it is needed. Many athletes are focused on the competition that is at hand, rather than focusing on the issues. They cannot be blamed for this because the Olympics is what they train and work for. The political issues have caused a stir for the games, but there is no room for politics on the greatest athletic stage in the world despite all of the incidents in the past because in the end it is all about ultimate athletic achievement.