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An Inside Look At How San Francisco’s Elite Spend Super Bowl Weekend

While Levi’s Stadium only has capacity for 68,500 fans, over one million people are expected to converge on the Bay Area for Super Bowl weekend. Outside of attending the big game, I reached out to influential San Franciscans to find out what the weekend’s must-see attractions and events are outside of Levi’s Stadium.

Golden State Warriors president, Rick Welts, says that when it comes to enjoying the Bay Area, “You have to get down to the water. Walk to the Embarcadero, head to the Ferry Building and take a ferry to Sausalito.”

You’ll likely be hungry after all of that activity, so Welts says the other important component to visiting San Francisco is to “Eat, eat, and eat some more. If you’re a fan of seafood, there is no better place in the world to enjoy it. San Francisco’s restaurants are unmatched.” If you need a tip on where to head for great cuisine, Welts says to try Ristorante Umbria, a family-owned Italian restaurant named after the region its dishes are inspired by and located in San Francisco’s SOMA district.

Like Welts, San Francisco celebrity chef, Michael Mina’s, Super Bowl weekend itinerary largely centers around food. Mina’s RN74 restaurant partnered with the NFL to host, “On the Fifty,” a charitable dining experience benefiting the NFL Foundation.

“We had a lot of fun with the menu for ‘On the Fifty,’ creating a menu featuring high-end versions of sports food,” Mina told the Huffington Post.

For Mina, the weekend’s cooking doesn’t end with “On the Fifty.” That’s because, on Super Bowl Sunday, he’ll cook for 800 people during a private party at his Michael Mina’s Tailgate at Levi’s Stadium. Mina notes that the Tailgate’s staple of creating dishes inspired by the host cities of teams playing at Levi’s Stadium will be upheld for Sunday’s big event. In that regard, NBA MVP, Steph Curry’s wife, Ayesha, will join Mina as a celebrity guest chef. In that role, Ayesha Curry will cook a Carolina pulled-pork brunch dish, featuring buttermilk biscuits, eggs, cheddar cheese, and of course, Carolina barbecue sauce. While Ayesha’s dish is sure to be a hit, Denver Broncos fans will also get a taste of home, as Mina is flying in Colorado bison and lamb for the event.

If you can’t make it to one of Mina’s restaurants during Super Bowl weekend, the 49ers fan has a few other ideas on how you can enjoy his beloved city. “San Francisco is all about neighborhoods. You need to go into the different neighborhoods. They are all so different, but I enjoy North Beach and Telegraph Hill, which is right by the Financial District. The Mission is always fun, too.” For eating, Mina says he turns to Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, a Naples inspired pizzeria in San Francisco’s Little Italy. “The owner of Tony’s, Tony Gemignani, has won the World Pizza Championship in Naples, Italy eleven times. He’s the only American to do that. The restaurant has a very San Francisco feel to it,” Mina told The Huffington Post.

Beyond fabulous restaurants, anyone familiar with the Bay Area knows that the region is renowned for its wine. What’s less known, though, is that California wine making didn’t begin in Napa or Sonoma. Rather, the now bustling California wine industry was born in San Francisco’s SOMA district. To return to California’s original wine making roots, those not heading to Levi’s Stadium for the game may want to visit Bluxome Street Winery, an urban winery with locations in SOMA and the famed Ghirardelli Square.

“We are not sourdough or Ghirardelli chocolate, but we believe Super Bowl visitors would truly enjoy broadening their visit to include some of our wine while in our backyard,” said Bluxome Street Winery operating partner, Peter Chouinard. After enjoying wine, Chouinard suggest taking in views of the Golden Gate Bridge, riding on cable cars and even visiting Pier 39 or Alcatraz.

Wine and fine dining aside, the Bay Area has also bred many incredible musicians and bands, including Train. While Train has its own wine company, Save Me San Francisco Wine Co., the band’s lead singer, Pat Monahan, has some non-wine country ideas for Super Bowl weekend visitors. “I always recommend eating breakfast at Dotty’s True Blue Cafe and Scoma’s for dinner so you can catch a great view of seals and water wild life while enjoying a great dinner,” Monahan told The Huffington Post.

Engaging in all of these activities will likely leave you tired, but luckily, there is a clear solution to that problem in San Francisco: Good coffee. Coffee shops grace nearly every corner of the Bay Area, and arguably, none is as beloved amongst Bay Area residents as Philz Coffee. With stores scattered across the Bay Area, Philz Coffee’s director of marketing, Young Han, told The Huffington Post, “When you’re in San Francisco, you should obviously visit Philz Coffee, as we’re proud to be from here,” However, Philz isn’t the only cup of coffee Han recommends. “There is so much beauty, culture, diversity and of course, food, in San Francisco! When you’re in San Francisco you should be sure to seek out those unique experiences, like taking a night tour of Alcatraz or getting an Irish Coffee at Buena Vista,” he said.

With so much to enjoy in a city rich with culture and experiences, Super Bowl 50 is certain to leave every tourist happy with their Bay Area visit. While tourists expect much from the city, San Francisco Travel also expects to leave tourists with a lasting, positive impression.

“Hosting the Super Bowl is a tremendous opportunity for the region,” said San Francisco Travel President and CEO, Joe D’Alessandro. “We are expecting hundreds of thousands of people, both residents and visitors from around the world, to celebrate the game in San Francisco. Their spending will support jobs at hotels, restaurants, cultural attractions, shops, event venues, caterers, transportation companies and a wide variety of other businesses.”

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The USOC Turns To Secret Santa’s To Fund Team USA’s 2016 Olympic Journey

For Olympic athletes, the road to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is paved with many expenses.

The USOC estimates that the cost of sending a Team USA athlete to and from the games and covering their training and expenses while there will average $40,000. This dollar amount does not include the costs athletes incur training and preparing for the Olympic Games.

According to the USOC, most Team USA athletes earn less than $20,000 in income annually. Thus, without the support of their national governing bodies and the USOC, most athletes would be financially unable to compete in the Olympic Games.

With the cost of participation in the Olympic Games skyrocketing, national Olympic committees, like the USOC, are seeking out new revenue streams. Recently, the USOC launched a new philanthropic endeavor, the Team USA Registry, to drum up national support for Team USA athletes, while also raising funds.

Much like a wedding gift registry, the Team USA Registry allows Team USA fans to visit the website and pick out a particular registry item that has an associated dollar amount. Registry items range from $5 athletic tape to $25 airline baggage fees and $500 for two weeks’ worth of meals and $1,000 for childcare expenses. Overall, the USOC hopes for sponsors to contribute 2,750 items from the registry.

“Unlike most national Olympic committees, the USOC doesn’t receive government funding. We are being outspent by our competitors at an increasing rate. That’s part of the emphasis in creating philanthropic support of our athletes to raise the resources that we need to provide our athletes with the support they deserve to compete at high levels on the international stage,” said Jon Denney, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation’s chief development officer.

Recently, an anonymous donor matched all donations to the Team USA Registry up to $75,000. It was the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation’s goal to fundraise $150,000 to support Team USA athletes during the first week of December, in an effort to drive significant support into the holiday season.

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“Most of our Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls live at the poverty line or below. What they earn is far less than what they need to pay for their training and competitive expenses. By enabling Americans to participate in this effort, it allows them to help our athletes’ dreams come to reality,” Denney noted.

According to Denney, over 80 Team USA athletes have put their support behind the Team USA Registry. To support the efforts surrounding Giving Tuesday and the first week of December, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation shot a photo campaign for social media, wherein the athletes will be asking fans to be their “Secret Santas,” and donate items to them from the registry.

One key Team USA athlete that has put her support behind the Team USA Registry is three-time Olympian and twelve-time Olympic Games medal winner, swimmer Natalie Coughlin. Coughlin notes that because of training regimens, most Olympic hopefuls do not have the time to work full-time jobs in an attempt to fund their own Olympic dreams.

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“Speaking for myself, it takes me about six hours per day of actual training to prepare for the Olympic Games. On top of that, I have to take care of myself away from training. So, you add onto that time the recovery, nutrition and other activities, and it becomes a full-time job,” Coughlin explained.

Recognizing the time effort versus the income earning ability of Team USA athletes, Coughlin is a vocal supporter of the Team USA Registry. “The registry is really cool. It costs so much to send athletes to the Olympic Games. It’s really special that they came up with these noteworthy presents to give meaning to monetary donations,” she said.

The success of the USOC’s fundraising efforts, like the Team USA Registry, is critical for the financial success and ability of Team USA athletes. Yet, for top-level American athletes, like Coughlin, another source of funding exists: Sponsors.

During the 2012 London Olympic Games, a number of high-profile Olympians took to social media to voice their displeasure over their inability to publicly thank their non-official IOC sponsors on social media. Rule 40 of the IOC Charter precludes their doing so. Ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, there has been some discussion amongst the IOC about relaxing Rule 40’s provisions to allow Olympians to thank non-official IOC sponsors on social media. Coughlin, who notes that she has “been really fortunate to have some amazing sponsors,” argues this would be a step in the right direction for the IOC.

“I think it would be a really great thing. There are a handful of really generous official Olympic sponsors out there, but not all of us get those Olympic sponsors. We want to be able to show appreciation to the people and companies that get us to the Olympic Games. I have some incredibly generous sponsors that I’ve worked with for many years and I want to be able to thank them, even though they’re not official IOC sponsors,” Coughlin said.

For Team USA athletes with few or no sponsors, the importance of the USOC’s fundraising campaign becomes even more important.

“The USOC is able to support thousands of athletes in the Olympic pipeline through our national governing bodies. The resources that are raised from the registry and other sources of revenue flow through the national governing bodies to help support their high performance programs. We help support those athletes who are at elite levels, even prior to them becoming Olympians or Paralympians,” the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation’s, Denney said.

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Seeds Sown and Expectations Set for Success at L.E.A.D.’s Annual Celebrity Baseball Clinic

The post below is a guest post from my friend, CJ Stewart. CJ and his wife, Kelli, are the founders of L.E.A.D., which stands for Launch, Expose, Advise and Direct. L.E.A.D. works to empower at-risk Atlanta male youth to lead and empower their city. 

“Today you are the primary celebrities out here…”

That is the message that Kelli Stewart will deliver to hundreds of at-risk Atlanta Public School students anxiously awaiting in the stands early morning November 20th at Turner Field.  They will be there to participate in L.E.A.D.’s 9th Annual Celebrity Baseball Clinic.  For the past 8 years in our capacity as L.E.A.D. co-founders, Kelli and I have counted on this message to get the attention of the young people attending our annual baseball clinic.  We know from years of experience that if the message gets through and we can get our young people excited about the game of baseball, then we will have a better chance to plant seeds of success in those young fertile minds. Consequently, this will allow us to set much needed expectations regarding how much we need them to not become successful, but most importantly significant.

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The proof is in the pudding as this year’s clinic will be facilitated by past participants who have gotten the message and have gone on to become L.E.A.D. Ambassadors.  They are now becoming celebrities in their communities, as more and more Atlantans become familiar with L.E.A.D. and our work.  The Ambassadors’ celebrity is valuable because it creates credibility with the new clinic participants.  Credibility is key for the Ambassadors to pull off an unforgettable experience for their young charges.

Through L.E.A.D., we currently serve 31 high school Ambassadors – the program runs from November through July of the next year. These are 31 young black males who attend Atlanta Public Schools and who are being groomed to lead Atlanta and the world.  By 2020, L.E.A.D. hopes to serve 100 Ambassadors annually.  The goal has always been to have L.E.A.D. Ambassadors set a good example for, and lead, their peers within APS high schools. They are being specifically trained to be influencers within their schools and inner city Atlanta communities, and for good reasons – the Ambassadors know their schools and communities better than any adult mentor could.  With 100 Ambassadors, L.E.A.D. will be able to provide peer leadership in 11 APS high schools, and continue to assist APS to realize its mission of creating “… a caring culture of trust and collaboration, [where] every student will graduate ready for college and career.

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Not only are the young black males that L.E.A.D. serves being positioned as leaders in their communities, they are being groomed to be career ready when they graduate from college.  They will need three things along the way from their Atlanta community to guarantee their success in this regard:

  1. Access to other influencers and decision makers;
  2. Constant encouragement (time and prayers); and
  3. Financial investment

They will also need:

  1. Internships and shadow opportunities while they are in high school and college;
  2. Interview opportunities for open, and newly created, positions upon graduating from college; and
  3. A yes after the interview.  If L.E.A.D. does its job right, and the Ambassadors do what they are charged with, a “yes” will be inevitable.

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Access to these necessities for success should be a no brainer, and L.E.A.D. should not have a difficult time finding opportunities for its Ambassadors.  After all, Atlanta is the home of Coca-Cola, Delta, UPS and Chick-fil-A.  Additionally, the world’s newest athletic venue is being built in Atlanta and will bear the name of Atlanta’s newest corporate resident, Mercedes Benz.  Porsche has recently acquired an Atlanta address for its North American headquarters connecting its proximity to the world’s busiest passenger airport – Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

But . . . here’s why you must help:

  • ON THE DOWNSIDE:Youth from inner city Atlanta zip codes 30310, 30315 and 30318 grow up to represent 80% of Georgia’s State Prison population. About 60% of black males either will not graduate on time or at all from Atlanta Public Schools while the state of Georgia ranks 31st in education in America.  It takes an investment of $3,500 per young man annually for L.E.A.D. to develop an Ambassador, and it costs Georgia tax payers $100,000 per year to incarcerate one of them. Do the math!  And if the numbers don’t motivate you, maybe your sense of humanity will.  Did you know that Georgia is number one in America in incarceration and America leads the world in incarceration?
  • ON THE UPSIDE: According to the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), if xx% of blacks graduate from college, there will be a $xxx economic return to the city of Atlanta.  Additionally, it follows that the higher the graduation and employment rate, the lower the incarceration rate.

It stands to reason that if we don’t participate in the lives of young black males and empower them to live a sustainable life of significance, then Atlanta will never truly become a world class city.  I recently stated this very sentiment to several of my Leadership Atlanta 2015 classmates at a CEO Roundtable discussion.  Woodruff Foundation chairman, Russ Harden, was there and he agreed with me.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Maynard Jackson, Ceasar Mitchell, Courtney English, Byron Amos, Vernon Jones, Herman Russell and Andre Dickens all achieved a high level of celebrity in their own right.  We have every reason to believe that given the right opportunities our young black men can hold similar careers, with the potential for even greater successes.  We fully expect by 2020, our Ambassadors will lead in positions such as Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education, Atlanta Police Chief, Atlanta Fire Chief, Georgia College and University Deans and Director of Athletics, Atlanta Mayor, Atlanta based Fortune 500 Company Executives, L.E.A.D. CEO, Clergymen and Atlanta Public Schools Teachers and Principals, to name a few; and, we believe that it all starts with Kelli’s message to the eager young baseball clinic participants each year.

With that said, let’s raise the profile of over 50,000 Atlanta Public School students to celebrity status by sharing this blog, and come out on Friday, November 20 to Turner Field between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, to meet L.E.A.D. Ambassadors and join in the excitement with 300 new young celebrities.  You are also welcome to worship with the Ambassadors on Sunday, November 22nd at 12:00 PM at Elizabeth Baptist Church , 4245 Cascade Rd SW, Atlanta, GA  30331-7245 ElizabethBaptist.org.

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Isiah Thomas’ Hiring: Women Don’t Even Deserve Respect In The WNBA

By:  Ashleigh Mattox, Ruling Sports contributor

It has been widely reported that James Dolan, Executive Chairman of the Madison Square Garden Company (MSG), which owns and operates the New York Knicks and the WNBA’s New York Liberty, has hired Isiah Thomas as President of the Liberty.  This has sparked controversy because, in 2007, a jury awarded a former New York Knicks female executive, Anucha Browne Sanders, $6 million in punitive damages due to Thomas’ creation of a hostile work environment, which resulted in sexual harassment.  (An additional $5.6 million in punitive damages was awarded for retaliation against Browne Sanders.)  Despite proclamations of innocence and threats to appeal, MSG eventually agreed to settle the lawsuit for $11.5 million.  While MSG issued a statement on May 5, 2015 that it “did not believe the allegations [against Thomas] then and [it] do[es]n’t believe them now,” Browne Sanders’ allegations may have had a little something to them if MSG was willing to settle for over $11 million to make the case go away.

Dolan has put the WNBA in an impossible position in light of efforts made by the NBA, the NFL and even historically slow-to-evolve Major League Baseball to include women.  The NBA has partnered with Sheryl Sandberg for the “Lean In Together” campaign, which encourages men to become involved in order to achieve gender equality.  The NFL supports “A Crucial Catch” to raise awareness for breast cancer and “No More,” an organization focused on domestic violence and sexual assault.  Major League Baseball is getting into the mix with its Mother’s Day initiative “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer” and Mo’ne Davis throwing out the first pitch before Game 4 of last year’s World Series.  While many may question the sincerity and effectiveness of these efforts, they all reflect some level of awareness by the major sports leagues that women are important to them in some way.  In this climate, how can the WNBA have a team lead by someone with Thomas’ history and keep a straight face?

Hiring someone found to have sexually harassed a woman to the tune of $6 million to run a women’s organization like the Liberty is embarrassing for MSG, Dolan, the Liberty and the WNBA.  The WNBA serves an important function by providing young girls with role models and encouraging girls to become involved with sports.  In the wake of the NFL’s initial two game suspension of Ray Rice for entering an elevator with a conscious woman and leaving it dragging an unconscious woman, shouldn’t sports welcome and encourage the involvement of women, whether as fans, players or executives?  Shouldn’t leagues send a unified message that women are wanted, respected and safe?  This is the opposite of the message sent by James Dolan with his obtuse hiring of Isiah Thomas to lead the Liberty.  Dolan’s message is that it is not important to treat women with respect even in our own league.

Ashleigh Mattox is a retired attorney living in Orange County, California, with her husband and daughter.  She was born and raised in Southern California and is a proud alumna of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Chapman University School of Law.  She loves all things sports, especially the NFL, and holds a special place in her heart for the New Orleans Saints, the Dodgers and the (currently lowly) Lakers.  

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How The Miami Heat Became The Greenest NBA Team

This Earth Day, it’s important to give credit to the professional sports teams who are making waves in protecting our environment.  One team leading the way is the Miami Heat, who for nearly a decade, has worked tirelessly to bring sustainable efforts to their team’s practices and arena.

The NBA arena with the highest level of LEED certification is the Miami Heat’s AmericanAirlines Arena. Home to All-Stars, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, earlier this year, AmericanAirlines Arena became the world’s first sports and entertainment facility to achieve LEED Gold recertification.

Becoming the first arena in the world to achieve LEED Gold recertification was no easy feat for the Miami Heat. According to the Heat’s operations and sustainability coordinator, Jackie Ventura, the performance of the team on a number of green and sustainability factors was considered over the five-year period between it achieving its initial certification and its recertification. “From becoming certified to the recertification, it was all about keeping up our own standards and maintaining those standards,” Ventura noted.

The impact of the standards that the Heat maintained over the five-year period are notable. For instance, the outfitting of AmericanAirlines Arena with efficient plumbing fixtures allowed for the saving of nearly 4.2 million gallons of water. Landscaping designs added another 190,630 gallons of water saved. Furthermore, recycling efforts during the 2013-14 Heat season alone resulted in 330,810-pounds of waste being diverted from the landfill.

For the Miami Heat, the team’s sustainability measures serve two important purposes: Protecting the environment of the community the team calls home and promoting the team’s business interests. “Our sustainability practices are definitely important to the Heat from a business perspective. I like to say, ‘Green equals green.’ When you are consuming less, you are being fiscally responsible, because it allows you to be able to hold onto money that you maybe otherwise would have spent on other projects and instead, create new initiatives within your organization. It’s also important for us to show our community that we care about the environment. Our economy in Miami is driven by tourism and tourists come here for our beaches, which is the environment. If we are hurting the environment, we are hurting our community,” Ventura explained.

In terms of why leagues should take their All-Star Games green and why teams should turn their arenas green, the National Resource Defense Council provides some guidance. In a 2012 report, “Game Changer: How The Sports Industry Is Saving The Environment,” the NRDC argued that greening is a wise business decision for teams and leagues. To make this argument, the NRDC pointed to examples showing that greening creates financial savings, attracts sponsors, strengthens community relations provides competitive advantages and attracts fans.

While all of the “crown jewel” events in sports, such as the NBA All-Star Game, World Series and Super Bowl, employ greening measures, there is still more that can be done by all teams and leagues in this regard. Teams whose arenas haven’t achieved LEED certification should be motivated to do so. Furthermore, teams and leagues must continue working towards creating zero waste and zero carbon emission footprints. Yet, as teams and leagues work towards those goals, the success they’ve accomplished in creating more sustainable sporting events should be celebrated.

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St. Jude Takes Its Fight Against Childhood Cancer To The Super Bowl

One Sunday morning while sitting at mass, then a struggling entertainer, Danny Thomas, put his livelihood on the line. Hard up for work and with a baby on the way, Thomas found himself sitting in a church pew. Moved by the words spoken at the service that day, he tossed the last $7 to his name into the collection plate.

Years later, after becoming a successful entertainer, that action led Thomas in part to create the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude, which treats over 67,000 patients free of cost annually, hosts the Legends for Charity event each during Super Bowl weekend in the city where the big game is played.

The Super Bowl presents the perfect opportunity to shine a light on St. Jude’s efforts in eradicating childhood cancer and disease. This is because, the NFL family is a second family to St. Jude. Thomas, who once found himself literally without a dollar to his name, would go on to become one of the first owners of the Miami Dolphins NFL team. “St. Jude has been intertwined with football for years. Danny Thomas was actually one of the original owners of the Miami Dolphins, so we have always had a history with football,” St. Jude’s chief marketing officer, Emily Callahan, said.

For the last 10 years, St. Jude has built upon its NFL relationship by hosting the Legends for Charity event. Hosted at the NFL Headquarters Hotel in the city where the Super Bowl is played, the event brings together some of the biggest names in sports broadcasting to celebrate the work of St. Jude and award the Pat Summerall Award for an individual’s significant contributions to the sports world.

This year, Fox Sports’ lead play-by-play announcer, Joe Buck, was honored by St. Jude with the Pat Summerall Award. “If you think about the people who have received this award, they are the biggest names in sports and sports broadcasting. They’re people who have had incredible careers that have spanned multiple sports. They’re also people who have good character. So many of them have a deep passion for kids and the kids of St. Jude,” Callahan remarked.

Although the Legends for Charity event is hosted outside of St. Jude’s partnership with the NFL, St. Jude is grateful for the opportunities the NFL partnership brings its patients. The NFL serves as the “Official Champion of Play” at St. Jude. Through its NFL PLAY 60 initiative, the NFL supports St. Jude’s Child Life program, which provides St. Jude’s patients with therapeutic play and other activities. “St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is very lucky to have a partnership with the NFL and its PLAY 60 initiative. The NFL brand is one of the most powerful brands in the world. It’s incredibly meaningful to associate St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with the NFL brand,” Callahan said.

For the children of St. Jude fighting life-threatening illnesses, the opportunity to play not only presents the chance to be a kid again, but a chance at living. “So many of our kids, when you talk to them, often all they want to do is get well and go back to playing the sports they love. Every day, I see stories about the power of sport, play and activity in helping a child feel vibrant and alive,” Callahan noted.

Callahan and St. Jude have countless stories of the ways in which St. Jude patients have been impacted positively by the ability to play sports. For many, the thought of taking the field again is a driving force in their recovery. “When I think about our partnership with NFL PLAY 60, I think about Shon Coleman. Shon went to play at Auburn and was one of the most talented kids there. Then, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. To get Shon well and back on the field to be part of the incredible season Auburn had was incredible. So many of our kids have been impacted by the NFL PLAY 60 partnership,” Callahan said.

When St. Jude opened in 1962, the survival rate for childhood cancer patients was a mere 20 percent. Today, thanks in large part to the efforts of St. Jude, that number is an impressive 80 percent. Yet, as the doctors, patients and supporters of St. Jude know, the fight against childhood cancer will not end until the survival rate is 100 percent. Until then, St. Jude and the Legends for Charity event will continue championing the cause of ending childhood cancer over Super Bowl weekend.

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The FCC’s Elimination Of The Sports Blackout Rule Isn’t A Touchdown For NFL Fans

News out of Washington, D.C. today may have given NFL fans in San Diego and Buffalo a sigh of relief. NFL teams in those cities were the only two teams during the 2013 season to face local television blackouts of games. Today, the FCC announced the repeal of sports blackout rules that were enacted nearly forty years ago. While the word “repeal” coupled with the words “sports blackout rule” would seemingly signal good news for fans whose teams face television blackouts, such isn’t necessarily the case.

Under the FCC’s sports blackout rules, cable and satellite television providers were forbidden from airing sports events that were blacked out on local television stations. Notably, the rules had no reign over local television stations’ blackouts of sporting events. Rather, individual leagues–not the FCC–instituted rules related to when games for their respective sport would be blacked out on local television.

Arguably, the league with the most stringent and well-known local television blackout policy is the NFL. Under the NFL’s blackout policy, if a home team doesn’t sell out 85-percent of its stadium within 72-hours of kickoff, the game will be blacked out within 75-miles of the stadium’s radius. Notably, the NFL is the only league whose local blackout rule centers around stadium attendance. Under the NHL and MLB’s policies, local broadcasters receive broadcasting priority, unless a national broadcaster has exclusive rights to the game. As for the NBA, if a game is aired on NBATV, it will be blacked out from local broadcasting stations within a 35-mile radius of the home team’s market.

What, then, is the effect of today’s unanimous vote by the FCC to repeal its sports blackout rules? The result is that now, cable and satellite providers may air games blacked out by leagues on local television networks without interference by the FCC. The question becomes, though, what is the likelihood that networks will bite at the chance to do this? Due to current contractual obligations outlined between leagues and local networks and cable and satellite providers, the likelihood is slim. Add to that the fact that the NFL and other leagues’ lawyers are most likely renegotiating their contracts with cable and satellite providers to limit those parties’ abilities to air blacked out games after today’s FCC ruling, and the likelihood is nearly non-existent. Couple both of these factors with the bargaining power that the leagues have in negotiating television contracts and the likelihood evaporates.

So, then, was any victory gained by fans as a result of today’s FCC ruling? Perhaps. The FCC’s decision sent a clear message to the NFL and other leagues that the agency will no longer enforce rules to protect attendance figures at their teams’ stadiums. This is notable, as a consistent rationale the NFL has levied for its blackout rule is that without it, stadium attendance would decrease. The timing of the FCC’s decision may signal why the agency is suddenly unwilling to continue being a silent endorser of the NFL’s blackout rule. It was all the way back in January 2012 that the FCC announced that it was seeking comment on the petition which led to today’s decision. Arguably, the FCC could have issued its ruling much in advance of today. Thus, there perhaps exists an argument that the current climate surrounding the NFL–from the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson suspensions to the Redskins name debate and concussion litigation–finally motivated the FCC to pull the plug on its sports blackout rules.

Whatever the reasoning, though, the effect of today’s decision will be limited. That is, unless a cable or satellite provider is willing to stand in the face of the NFL and air blacked out games regardless of the NFL’s local blackout rule. However, given the high value of the NFL’s broadcasting rights–it’s three years into a $27-million, nine-year deal with Fox , NBC and CBS–and the league’s high viewership numbers–205-million fans tuned in during the 2013 season–the costs of doing so outweigh the benefits. Thus, if fans in San Diego and Buffalo want to guarantee seeing their team’s home games, the best plan of action even after the today’s FCC decision is to buy tickets and head to the stadium.

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Three Years

Three years ago, I woke up and decided to change my life.

I was miserable at work and uninspired with my day-to-day.  I knew that the path I was traveling down wasn’t the path planned or even intended for my life.  I knew that I held the map to take me away from my unhappiness, and so, on July 1, 2011 I woke up and decided to travel somewhere new.  For me, at the time, that somewhere new was creating RulingSports.com.

The last three years have been a journey.  A whirlwind, a trip of amazement, a host of new opportunities.  To sum it up, it’s been amazing.  Really, really amazing.

I started RulingSports.com with the intention of utilizing the platform it gave me to get out of the job situation I found myself in.  And it did just that.  About a year ago, I accepted an offer from the University of Miami to teach sports law and sports governance.  As I sit on campus to write this, overlooking Lake Miami, I know that I wouldn’t be here if not for the decision I made on July 1, 2011 to start RulingSports.com.

RulingSports.com has been so critical to my career success.  It was critical to my success for two important reasons:  First, it allowed me to be heard and second, it allowed me to connect with others.  This little website has served as a launch pad for me to make my opinions heard and relevant.  The website propelled me to new grounds and better opportunities, like at The U, and with Forbes, Sportsdigita and the Huffington Post.  These opportunities, in turn, led me to wonderful people.  Givers, leaders, movers, shakers.  The best of the best.

I tell people this a lot, but when I woke up on July 1, 2011, I had no idea what awaited me on this side of things.  I was so, so, so miserable in the months leading up to that genesis.  I wasn’t myself.  If I knew just how life could be–and would be–here on the other side, I would’ve eased up on myself.  I would’ve cut the universe some slack.  I would’ve relaxed.  I would’ve enjoyed.  Because, I would’ve known that with patience and hard work, anything is possible.

Perhaps what I’m the most grateful for in terms of the experiences I’ve been given over the last three years, is what I’ve learned.  Every day, because of my work with the University of Miami and Forbes, I am able to talk to brilliant people.  From these people, I glean ideas.  I learn tricks.  I see success.

If there’s anything I’ve learned within the last three years, it is this:  To stay relevant, one must continue to grow.  When I launched RulingSports.com in 2011, all I intended it to be was a sports law blog.  Sports law was my bread and butter then.  Staying true to that platform was critical in the website’s infancy, because it allowed me to brand myself.

I’m grateful for that bread and butter, but it’s time for me to adapt and expand my horizons.  There’s more I want to do, and there is much more to me than sports law.  In the coming months, RulingSports.com is going to take on a new look, a look that is more representative of who I am and where I am at now.  Sports law will still be part of the site’s focus, but it will not be its entire focus.  I have so much more that I want to offer the sports world that I am finally ready to share. I hope you will travel along with me!

Three years.  It went by in a blink of an eye.  This has been an amazing journey.  I told someone today, that there is little in life that gives me the thrill like covering a sports story.  I’m at my happiest when I am walking around the concourse leading to a team’s locker room, preparing to get a story.  It’s exhilarating for me.  The rush it gives me is like few other things I’ve experienced in this life.  When I’m on the sidelines or in the press box, life makes sense.  I truly believe I was put on this Earth to be a storyteller.  And I thank God that I realized this and pursued it instead of succumbing to the notion that it was a silly dream or unattainable goal.

What I would tell you, is to pursue your passion.  Believe in yourself more than anybody else.  Let go of the naysayers.  Remove the jealous people from your life.  Give something, just one thing, your all.  Whether it’s love, an education or a job.  Do something with the full belief that you will succeed in it.  Do not take “no” for an answer.  Don’t quit until you get there.

Because once you get there–which you will–it’s great.  So, so great.

Thank you all for an amazing three years.  Each of you has played a very special role in making this dream of mine–as crazy as it may be–come true.

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David Stern’s Last Christmas Gift As NBA Commissioner Comes In The Form Of Sleeved Jerseys

By:  Kris Colley, Ruling Sports Contributor (Twitter:  @KCMasterpiece52)

Christmas time is the season of giving, and the NBA has given us something to talk about for years and years to come. Many believe Christmas day is the day in which the sport begins to emerge from the shadow of the NFL and college football into the national spotlight.

Commissioner David Stern has made Christmas Day a super spectacle for his league. The biggest names across the league will clash on Christmas making for an excellent day of entertainment and basketball.

Since Christmas Day is so special, the teams often unveil unique and innovative alternate jerseys. This Christmas day it will be no different.  The Bulls, Nets, Thunder, Knicks, Rockets, Spurs, Clippers, Warriors, Lakers, and Heat will all be wearing new sleeved jerseys.

This fashion trend started in the NBA last season when the Golden State Warriors wore their pin stripped sleeved alternates. Although it is something new and increasingly more common for teams to wear the sleeved shirt, they are unsightly, odd, and veer from the traditional look. The traditional “no sleeves” look has been a hallmark of the league since its inception. 

These alternates make the players look like they are in a track meet rather than an NBA game. The elastic polyester fabric is tight fitting and the look of the league will definitely be modified, for at least one day.

 Website Ballislife voted the Golden State Warriors alternates the 6th ugliest uniform in league history.  So far this season the Warriors are 2-1 in the uniforms, but performance is not the issue; the sleeved shirt is just a startling eyesore. 

This will be David Stern’s last Christmas as NBA commissioner.  His 30 years as commissioner were possibly the best ever by a commissioner in any sport.  He took the sport to great new heights and opened the game to international markets like no other league.  But, he will have the final laugh, leaving the NBA World with this terrifically tacky “shirt-jersey”.

Commissioner Stern will leave putting on his jolly ole St. Nicholas suit and checking his list twice. With the unveiling of these new uniforms it is obvious that the NBA was naughty, and not nice.

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Analyzing The End Of The Dwight Howard Saga

By:  Kris Colley, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter:  @KCMasterpiece52)

And the saga ends. No more: Where will Dwight Howard go? Will Dwight leave the Lakers? Does Mark Cuban have enough money to entice Howard? Will he go to the Warriors? Will the Rockets be a championship contender with Dwight next season? The saga has finally concluded.

Superstar center Howard has chosen to leave the overwhelmingly bright lights of Los Angeles and decided to join the dynamic James Harden in Houston. The Rockets immediately become a contending team out West with this acquisition. Landing the biggest free agent and adding him to an already young and explosive team, things look exciting.

Howard, while with the Lakers, averaged 17.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game. Meaning his numbers didn’t show a decline, so why would he leave the place that is known for their legacy of great big men. Howard was upset for a majority of the season, and the chemistry was never there. Los Angeles Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo system was not an ideal fit for the big man. Although the Lakers made the playoffs as an 8th seed, the season was considered an epic failure. The “nightmare” season for Howard is over and he did what many believe is blasphemous, and that is leaving the Lakers.

Next season will be the start of a new rebuilding stage in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant will be coming off of an Achilles’ heel injury and there is no timetable on his return. The Lakers will more than likely be a bottom dweller this season, but a frontrunner in the race to acquire stud college prospect Andrew Wiggins.  Houston will drastically get better, and hopefully Howard will finally be happy and satisfied with a team.

Now that the drama has ceased, the NBA universe can get back to business. Many teams have improved and many have abandoned ship and have started sailing to greener pastures. The irony of Friday’s events is that the Orlando Magic are in the best shape after 2012’s summer blockbuster trade that sent Howard to Los Angeles, former Lakers center Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia, and the 76ers’ superstar Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets; because Iguodala also signed elsewhere leaving the Nuggets to join the Golden State Warriors.  Although the Magic had the worst record out of the 4, they are the only team that has players from the trade on their current roster.

The saga has finally concluded. No one player’s indecisiveness has been the center of the sports world quite like Howard’s since Brett Favre. Now that this will no longer be an issue everyone can refocus on the sport and not the sideline antics of one of its biggest stars. 

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