Johnny Manziel flipped off the Washington Redskins bench. That is a fact. Cameras caught the Cleveland Browns' second-string (for the time being) quarterback throwing up a middle finger on Monday Night Football. Manziel subsequently said he made a "lapse of judgement."

The obvious question is "why?" Why would a young man whose maturity has been questioned put another dent in his résumé?

An easy answer would be it is part of Manziel's act. Dennis Rodman used to frequent Las Vegas to keep up his reputation. Metta World Peace is changing his name for a second time. Chad Johnson trained with an MLS club during the NFL lockout.

Again, that would be the easy answer. But based on this clip, Manziel did not seem to take pride in his decision. Instead, he looks frustrated he yet again had started a fire.

The bearer of the news is Rob McBurnett, the Browns communication coordinator. In other words, he's the man being paid to babysit Johnny Football.

It is certainly not uncommon for NFL players to get heated on the field. However, Manziel will need to learn to either harness that anger toward his own play or release away from the cameras (which could be tough since he is a focal point). This was only Manziel's second NFL preseason game, but he is off to a poor start.

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The Little League World Series is a beautiful event. For 11 days, 11- to 13-year-olds are the focus. Tens of thousands of fans pile into Williamsport, Pa., while millions more watch on television. The spectacle always delivers feel-good stories from the United States and international teams.

The biggest story this year is Mo'ne Davis, a 13-year-old female phenom from Taney Little League in Philadelphia. Davis pitched a two-hit shutout while striking out eight batters in Taney's opening game against Nashville. She played shortstop, third base and pitcher in Taney's second game, a win over Pearland, Texas.

As Davis' story of "girl striking out the boys with blazing fastball" has gained steam, she has picked up widespread media attention as well as support from celebrities on social media.

However, not all of Davis-mania is positive. On Monday, Darren Rovell pointed out a piece of Davis' story that taints the feel-good parts.


Yes, that is right. A user on eBay, "raisethesong" (affiliated with Raise The Song collectibles) is trying to sell a Mo'ne Davis-signed baseball for just under $200 (over $200 when you add the $5.99 shipping). The item is said to be located in the central Pennsylvania town of Bellefonte. The description includes what appears to be a very dimly lit picture of Davis signing the Little League Baseball. The user guarantees "my personal Certificate of Authenticity."

While the baseball Rovell tweeted about has a "buy it now" price of $199.99, Raise The Song also lists a signed Davis baseball for bidding. As of 1:25 p.m. ET, the ball was listed at $31.00 after six bids (also $5.99 shipping).

Another user, "patonyfan," is selling a signed Davis baseball with the supposed signature "Mo'ne #3" inscription. At 1:25 p.m. ET, this ball was also at $31.00, but with a $6.50 shipping fee.

Other Mo'ne memorabilia includes an autographed pink helmet (with picture authenticity) for $26.00 after four bids ($9.99 shipping) put up by Raise The Song. Like the signed baseball from the user, the listing includes a picture of Davis making the signing.

There are also signed pictures of Davis for $21.30 after three bids and $9.99 with zero bids. A Taney team picture signed by the entire Mid-Atlantic squad is up to $61.00 after ten bids.

Of course, this all digs into a dangerous field of play involving Little League Baseball players. Coaches, parents and Little League administrators can only protect the children so much. Davis' innocent autographs, making her feel like a major leaguer, have turned into business pieces. Playing for the love of the game is clouded by shady entrepreneurs.

None of this is Davis' fault. She is a 13-year-old trying to propel her team of middle schoolers to Little League glory. She gets free baseball equipment and clothes, the experience of playing at Williamsport and some face time on ESPN out of the journey. Royalties are not included.

For now. It is impossible to ignore the presence of Davis-related items on eBay as a link to the continuing debate over athletic amateurism. While eBay capitalists are making money off Davis, she gets nothing. While ESPN puts her face on its ads for the Little League World Series, Davis makes nothing. While Little League Baseball sells Mid-Atlantic merchandise to fans across the world, Davis makes nothing.

It sounds ridiculous to argue for Little League players to make money, but when signed baseballs are being sold in triple-figures, it has to be mentioned. Johnny Manziel can oblige.

Mo'ne Baseball has arrived.

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In three seasons, Nebraska wide receiver Kenny Bell has 134 recptions, 1,901 receiving yards and 15 receiving touchdowns. He has been selected to first team All-Big Ten, Big Ten All-Freshman Team and the Nebraska Scholar-Athlete Honor Roll.

But for a week and a half, Bell did not have utilities.

"I went without power for like a week and half," Bell told CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd. "I didn't go home. I stayed up at the stadium until I would go to sleep because I couldn't do anything at my house.

Bell, an ethnic studies major, says he got a job to pay for the bills–working as a bartender at "The Bar" in Lincoln. Bell's hours included some double shifts from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., logging 30 hours certain weeks.

"What kind of 22-year old man, is like, 'Hey Mom [I need money]'?" Bell said. "I want to say, 'I'm a man. I take care of myself.'"

The lights in the residence Bell shares with Cornhuskers defensive tackle Tobi Okuyemi have been back on since then thanks to the paychecks from The Bar.

In April, Bell told the Associated Press he was approached by a fellow Big Ten star, former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, about spearheading an effort to bring unionization to Nebraska. Bell and Colter both graduated from Colorado high schools in 2010.

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"A lot of guys don't really know -- not just in our locker room, but across the country -- what a union necessarily entails," Bell told the AP. "I'll tell you one thing: You can't afford to pay dues because we don't have enough money to eat sometimes. I think a lot of research needs to be done on behalf of the players before they just jump into it."

Bell is the son of Ken Bell, Sr., a four-year NFL player with the Denver Broncos. His stepfather, Dan Campbell, is a successful computer software security salesman. Bell admits he has financial backing, but does not think that should cloud his judgment of players' rights.

"I'm from affluence," he said. "They could give me money if I needed it, but that's embarrassing, you know?"

Bell starts the 2014 on the Big Ten writers' preseason All-Big Ten Team and has NFL draft potential. Colter led CAPA to a victory in court, recognizing the right of Northwestern football players to unionize, although reports suggest they voted against it. Bell and Nebraska have taken no steps to replicate Colter's actions.

Dodd's article does not mention a specific time Bell bartended, but tweets from the Lincoln imply Bell may have worked last winter.



One thing that is for certain is Bell is a highly educated college football player of elite talent who takes interest in players' rights. While he has not taken union level actions -- yet -- he continues to voice a loud opinion.

As he told Dodd:

"Let's start with how blessed we are and how lucky we are," Bell said. "We get an opportunity. We get an education. We get more connections than anyone could ever ask for, which is all fantastic.

"But when you talk about capitalism, people use the word 'exploited' because we're athletes. People don't come to the game to watch the coaches on the sideline. They come to watch the players play the game.

"The fact that guys barely have enough money to pay their bills, get gas, can't really take their girlfriends out for a movie very often. It's a tough thing when you talk about multibillion-dollar TV contracts."

Bell's senior campaign starts in Lincoln against Florida Atlantic on Aug. 30. The Cornhuskers travel to Colter's old school, Northwestern, on Oct. 18. Colter is now a member of the Minnesota Vikings as a wide receiver.

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FIFA is (allegedly) a dirty organization. As controversy about having a World Cup in Qatar continues, FIFA finds itself under fire for a plethora of other issues (see: Luis Suarez).

One of those issues is the 2015 Women's World Cup in which Sepp Blatter and his staff appear to be treating females like guinea pigs. FIFA wants to convert the grass fields in Canada, the host, to artificial turf. It is no secret soccer players do not like playing on turf, which makes it telling that this "experiment" is not coming at men's World Cup or men's UEFA Champions League competition.

In a New York Times interview published Wednesday, U.S. Women's National Team all-time leading goal scorer Abby Wambach said:

"It's a gender issue through and through ... This being the pinnacle of our sport, we feel like we should be treated just like the men."

Wambach is one of more than 4,000 people to sign a petition advising FIFA to use grass fields rather than turf. The list includes over 50 national-team players from a dozen nations. The players' lawyers are threatening taking the conflict to court.

Wambach and other players simply do not want to deal with a turf surface. Naturally, grass is softer and safer, although it is more difficult to maintain. Injuries can be considered more likely on turf than grass. Turf also changes the entire strategy of a match.

The female soccer players have support from two big-time American basketball players. Kobe Bryant tweeted this image of USWNT forward Sydney Leroux after playing on turf:


Kevin Durant added a Facebook post:

The 2015 Women's World Cup kicks off June 6 with two matches in Edmonton and ends July 5 in Vancouver. Japan won the previous World Cup in 2011 by beating the United States by shootout in the championship match in Germany.

Of course, all is now subject to a lawsuit.

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That cracking sound you hear is the destruction of NCAA's control over collegiate athletics as we have known it.

The centralized power of this body to dictate rules and standards to universities is being eroded rapidly. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken dealt a major blow to the NCAA and the concept of amateurism by ruling in an antitrust case that barring athletes from the ability to profit off their own likeness, names and images were an "unreasonable restraint of trade."

This blockbuster ruling follows by a day the decision of the NCAA to grant the strongest collegiate conferences the right to create their own rules. The impact of these two events will change collegiate athletics forever.

There has been a dramatic widening of the gap between colleges that run professional-level football and basketball programs, and those who don't. These super-power schools have new stadiums and arenas that have luxury boxes, expanded capacity and sponsorship. These buildings provide amazing levels of revenue. The level of alumni support and donations for the superpowers has reached epic levels.

Texas A&M raised $450 million to revamp its 88,000-seat stadium so that it seats 109,000 fans. They will have 100 new luxury boxes, with prices ranging from $1 million to $15 million to simply reserve. The University of Texas has its own Longhorn television network. The SEC is unveiling its new network, joining the Big Ten and Pac 12. The marketing and memorabilia revenues for the superpowers are huge. These superpowers know they have the ability to cut their own media deals without NCAA aid.

The ability for these schools to create their own systems means that they will have a competitive advantage in attracting blue chip athletes. They can create "attendance incentives" granting their athletes an additional $5,000. They can pay additional stipends for need. They can fully guarantee scholarships for an incoming athlete instead of the year by year right of a college to terminate. We may see bidding wars for elite prospects. The ruling by Judge Wilken in the Ed O'Bannon case means that players can be paid any time their name and license are used in a marketing program. The NCAA may no longer be in a position to make deals that don't include player compensation. What does "amateurism" mean in this environment?

The great majority of colleges lose money in their athletic programs. When coach June Jones suggested that lower revenue schools play football in the spring to be competitive, many pundits scoffed. They are not scoffing now. The lower-revenue universities will have to devise new strategies. If they decide to compete in sports like basketball and football, it may drain funds from other sports.

This shift poses a threat to sports like college wrestling and threatens the continuance of money-losing sports. The role of the university in providing the most students with the most opportunity to learn from sports is threatened. The NCAA decision creates major conflicts with Title IX. Women's sports could be especially hard hit.

The NCAA has been way too slow in reacting to the realities of expanding television revenue, expanding marketing, and new playing facilities. It was unrealistic to think that college players scraping by on scholarship would be content to struggle with their economics. Certainly a scholarship carries major economic value, but many of the athletes are only playing college sports as a way station to professional sports. The playing field of college athletic economics has not been level for quite some time. A new day has come.

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Exhaustion is a legitimate reason for Kevin Durant to withdraw from Team USA in advance of the FIBA World Cup. It just might not be the only reason.

We're not huge conspiracy-theory buffs. We're always careful about trying to avoid the trap of connecting dots that aren't actually there. But when major shoe companies get involved, it is worth taking a harder look.

Durant is reportedly on the verge of signing an endorsement deal with Under Armour worth $30 million a year. In contrast, his deal with Nike, which expired last week, had been $60 million for seven years. Nike also has the contract to outfit Team USA.

Those are the facts. File this conclusion under the category of educated speculation: The impending Under Armour contract might have nudged Durant into leaving Team USA. For $30 million a year, Durant might not have felt quite right about being UnderArmour's marquee NBA client while being seen in Nike gear.

Consider this analogy. A high school student picks a college because it is close to home and he is getting a full scholarship. Two perfectly good reasons to choose that school. But his girlfriend is also going to go to that school. Maybe if she had opted to go elsewhere, he still would've made the same decision. Having her go there as well just made the decision that much easier.

Durant's burnout is real. Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman has detailed breakdown of just how much ball Durant has played:

Durant has been going non-stop for the past five seasons, playing in 388 of a possible 394 regular season games. He's logged 15,064 minutes over that span, or 930 more than the next closest player.
With another 73 playoff games since 2010, including three conference finals appearances in the past four seasons, Durant has played an additional 3,090 postseason minutes, third most in that stretch behind LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Durant also has been a fixture on the USA Men's National Team since 2010, leading the team in minutes played in each of the past two international events. Toss in off-court commitments with sponsors such as meetings, commercial shoots, promotional tours and trips to Asia, his annual youth camp in Oklahoma, his skills academy in Washington, appearing at legendary playground leagues from New York to Los Angeles for pickup ball, attending award shows, filming a movie and actually working out and it becomes clear why Durant is finally drawing a line.

Mayberry also wrote that Durant's expected transition from Nike to Under Armour could be a factor in the decision. But he didn't suggest that it was done as a way to sticking it to Nike on his way out.

Another serious consideration for Durant was likely understanding his window of opportunity to win an NBA championship, particularly when put in context with the season-ending injury Paul George sustained at a Team USA scrimmage. Here is the analysis from ESPN's J.A. Adande:

Although he didn't cite George's injury, the timing of this move is telling. It's not as if he just looked at the schedule and saw there'd be up to five more weeks of work. He knew the level of commitment going in. And this is from a guy who seems indefatigable in the summers, showing up to play anywhere there's a rim and a net.

Durant has already logged two runs with the national team, competing in the 2010 world championships and the 2012 Olympics. He won a gold medal both times. His account is paid up. And all of that time in the casino during Team USA training camps in Las Vegas has taught him the wisdom of leaving the table when the chips are stacked in your favor. He has missed a total of only five games the past five seasons; no need to add unnecessary risk to that run of durability.

Durant doesn't want what happened to Paul George -- or even worse, what could happen to Paul George -- to happen to him.

Like our hypothetical high school student, Durant doesn't need any more reasons to make his call. But Under Armour's denying Nike one last chance to feature KD on Team USA becomes the girlfriend's choosing the same school.

If all this conjecture about an ulterior/secondary motive seems outrageous, egregious and preposterous, we still remember the flag flap from the 1992 Olympics -- involving Nike. The Dream Team's gear was Reebok. On the victory stand, Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley -- both Nike guys -- covered up the Reebok logo by draping themselves with an American flag. Magic Johnson, a Converse guy, did the same.

You don't have to be Oliver Stone to view Durant's decision as Under Armour covering up Nike's logo at the World Cup.

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Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice held a press conference Thursday morning in which he made an apology for brutalizing his wife earlier this year. The two-game suspension that he received for the incident from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been criticized all week for its leniency. Compared to the much harsher suspensions for players smoking marijuana, it seems disproportionately light.

Rice had issued an earlier apology that used metaphors of violence and seemed to show a lack of responsibility. He made it clear Thursday that he was the responsible party and that his wife was the victim. He pledged that he would be active in the future in the fight against domestic violence.

It is unclear what the real levels of this abuse were in earlier eras because it was rarely reported. Woman who reported it were often scoffed at by police. District attorneys generally declined to prosecute, and the rare case that went it to trial, the victim was subjected to a defense attorney’s assault on her character. The cases were trivialized with an undercurrent of inference that the woman must have done something to deserve it. Women stuck in poverty or traumatized by threat were reticent to report or prosecute. Much of this has now changed and society judges domestic violence in a harsher way.

Athletes have a unique role to play in triggering attitudinal change regarding violence against woman. They are idolized and have a high public profile. When they are instigators of this behavior, it sends a message that it is somehow acceptable to do it because our heroes are involved.

I helped heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis deliver a public service announcement that proclaimed "Real Men Don't Hit Women." When a clearly macho star like Lennox tells young teens that such behavior is not acceptable, it can do more to trigger attitudinal change than a thousand other authority figures. Athletes can lead the way.

Athletes can also make clear that this is not just a "women's issue." For too long domestic violence has been seen as another plank in the feminist movement and their responsibility alone. It is a male issue too. My daughter Katie and I co-hosted a luncheon of men who signed a pledge against domestic violence to benefit an Orange County, California, shelter charity, Human Options. We all have mothers, sisters, relatives, wives, and daughters who need our help and protection from abuse. Nor do we want to live in a society where any woman feels threatened or brutalized.

Ray Rice took a step away from the dark side of human behavior, and we can hope that other athletes will follow.

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Check out why Brown receiver Josh Gordon is bringing aboard a high-powered lawyer, whom the Lakers finally hire as their new head coach and what the NCAA has agreed to in a legal case involving player injuries:

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Gale Sayers made the Pro Football Hall of Fame even though injuries limited him to essentially six seasons with the Bears. So if any running back has an appreciation how short of an NFL career can last, it's Sayers. That's why it is particularly telling when Sayers says he cannot comprehend today's running backs that turn down millions.

Sayers made $25,000 a year in the NFL. To put that in perspective, Marshawn Lynch, who is holding out with Seattle, is going to be fined $30,000 a day for as long as he continues to miss training camp.

Yes, Lynch -- who has already collected $17 million of the four-year, $30 million contract he signed two years ago -- is willing to be fined more in one day that Hall of Famer Gale Sayers made in one year.

Sayers didn't talk about Lynch specifically, but in general terms, he didn't seem thrilled with some of today's players.

"We made the game for those kids that are turning away millions of dollars," Sayers said. Here are more of his thoughts:

Sayers was participating in the Eric Dickerson Hall of Fame Golf Invitational that benefits The Young Warriors Foundation, a mentoring program for boys who are growing up without fathers, living in poverty or have dealt with other traumatic experiences at a young age.

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In its August issue, The Hockey News published a picture of Thomas Vanek throwing out the first pitch at a Minnesota Twins game. On the surface, the picture, placed in the table of contents, seemed innocent. Vanek signed with the Minnesota Wild on July 1, and he excited Twin Cities sports fans with his appearance.

However, some fans took a closer look at it and questioned the magazine's photo selection of the former Minnesota Golden Gopher's baseball appearance. Here is a Getty Images photo of Vanek throwing out the pitch:

There is a clear bulge in Vanek's left pocket, which appears to outline a tin. Such a shape, notably among hockey players, is usually a tin of smokeless tobacco. In the wake of former baseball star Tony Gwynn's death due to salivary gland cancer at age 54, such a photo triggered backlash.

Ironically, columnist Adam Proteau bashed the use of chewing tobacco among hockey players in the same issue. Although the photo and column were unrelated, readers made the connection. Here are two of the letters published by the magazine:

The article about chewing tobacco in the August, 2014 issue carried a strong message. It really is a shame that so many young men are being drawn into taking up the filthy habit. It’s really disappointing though that the same issue features a photo of Thomas Vanek throwing out the first pitch at the Twins game, with a tin of tobacco clearly visible in his pocket. Using this photo is counterproductive when you run an anti-chewing tobacco article six pages later.

Mike MacLean
Cole Harbour, N.S.

I love the idea of kicking tobacco out of hockey. Obviously it is a health risk and a nasty habit; growing up there was nothing more disgusting than falling into a pile of it (that was spit by my coach). However, something immediately caught my eye in your August edition; on the inside cover Thomas Vanek is throwing the first pitch at a Twins game with what appears to be a tin of dip in his left pocket. Let’s hope it’s gum, right?

Michael Weinstock
Blue Bell, P.A.

Editor-in-Chief Jason Kay addressed the issue on The Hockey News Blog on Tuesday. He also asked readers some questions:

Our editors noticed the bulge and discussed it briefly. We thought it was likely dip, but could also be gum, mints or candy that come in a similarly shaped container. One reader wondered if it might be a puck.

We concluded regardless of the contents of the container, we'd run the photo. If it indeed was chewing tobacco, so be it. It's reality and could be a stimulant for more debate (like this one). Some of our editors simply thought it was a non-issue.

Our question to you: did we make the right call by publishing it? What would you have done? Are you 100 percent convinced it’s chewing tobacco?

Kay brings up important points about the media's portrayal of smokeless tobacco. It may be time such an issue is taken more delicately, and publications keep an eye out for it. If Gwynn were still around, he might condemn Vanek's image.

Then again he might have more of an issue with Vanek, considering the location: A baseball stadium with thousands of budding child-athletes.

On the flip side, this could be used as a teaching moment.

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Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin was given many chances when he had off-the-field trouble in the NFL and believes Ray Rice deserves that same opportunity.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games, a decision that was widely panned for being too lenient, after the Ravens running back was charged with third-degree aggravated assault on his fiancee.

Irvin was participating in the Eric Dickerson Hall of Fame Golf Invitational that benefits The Young Warriors Foundation, a mentoring program for boys who are growing up without fathers, living in poverty or have dealt with other traumatic experiences at a young age.

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