Washington’s football team, Manchester City, Elena Delle Donne and much more in Five Things From the Week.
1. For Washington’s football team, improvement starts with holding itself accountable
In both its announcement that it will change nicknames and its response to the Washington Post’s story detailing a toxic workplace environment and sexual misconduct by team officials, Washington’s football team failed to acknowledge the role it played in disparaging Native Americans and allowing women to be harassed by employees of the organization. The statement announcing the name change didn’t reference Native Americans or native people once. Owner Daniel Snyder said the Post story “strengthened his commitment to setting a new culture.”
Guess what the first step to creating a better culture is? Taking responsibility for the practices that led to a poor one in the first place and learning from them. There was no apology in either statement, no admission the organization perpetuated racism by keeping a name that should’ve been gone decades ago and miserably failed to protect and respect its employees. Washington’s reaction to the events of the past week has only made it harder to believe Snyder is going to make any kind of meaningful change. If he was, sincere apologies and genuine remorse would’ve been the place to start. One can always hope though.
2. Manchester City’s legacy is still in question despite winning its appeal
The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s announcement on July 13 overturning Manchester City’s two-year Champions League ban was unquestionably an emphatic victory for the club. Paying a reduced fine is a small price to pay to avoid throwing the futures of the team’s manager and top players into question. World-class players aren’t interested in sitting around for two years without the allure of the Champions League. What the ruling hasn’t done, however, is prove City’s innocence with regard to violating Financial Fair Play rules.
The CAS determined “most of the alleged breaches” were “either not established or time-barred.” That means there is still a question as to exactly why City won its appeal. If it turns out the ruling was mostly due to the alleged violations falling outside the statute of limitations, City will be viewed as cheaters who got off on a technicality. Pep Guardiola’s team will be playing in the Champions League next season, but the decision did little to silence its critics.
3. The WNBA’s treatment of Elena Delle Donne is appalling
Elena Delle Donne scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds in Game 5 of the 2019 WNBA Finals as the Washington Mystics won their first title in franchise history. Delle Donne played 37 minutes in that game — and 132 minutes in the Finals — with three herniated disks in her back. She takes 64 pills a day to keep the effects of Lyme disease under control. It’s not like she became the best female basketball player in the world by taking the easy way out, which makes the WNBA’s refusal to grant her a medical exemption downright insulting.
Delle Donne said in a piece for the Players’ Tribune she had no doubt she would be exempt. After all, she is the definition of high-risk. That’s what Lyme disease is. Yet somehow the league’s panel of medical experts denied her request for an exemption. The implication — as Delle Donne correctly pointed out — is that she’s trying to get out of playing while still getting her money. While the Mystics have since announced Delle Donne will be paid her full salary, that decision should have been made by the league claiming to make the health and safety of its players the top priority, not by her team.
4. Leeds United are finally home
There has not been a more interesting project in soccer over the past two seasons than Marcelo Bielsa’s quest to return Leeds United to the Premier League. He took a team that finished 13th in the EFL Championship in 2017-18 and immediately made it as good as any in the league. A late-season collapse sent Leeds to the promotion playoff, where a 1-0 advantage over Derby County after the first leg was squandered. This season had a different ending, as Leeds are champions of England’s second division and will play in the top flight for the first time since 2004.
The storylines surrounding this team next season are endless. Can the three-time English champions lay the foundation for a lengthy stay in the Premier League? Will Bielsa’s uncompromising and punishing style of play prove too costly against better competition? What kind of reinforcements will the club bring in? There’s also the reunion with Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, who was in charge of Derby County when Leeds were caught spying on Derby, resulting in one of the stranger and more amusing controversies in sports history. At long last, Leeds United are back where they belong and English soccer is better because of it.
5. The bubble doesn’t remove NBA players from the rest of society
So far, life in the NBA bubble has been characterized by J.R. Smith getting kicked off Instagram for complaining too much and Dwight Howard receiving a warning for not wearing a mask. Howard told reporters reporting the violation of the NBA’s safety protocol to the league’s hotline was “pointless.” Following P.J. Tucker voicing his frustration about being required to wear jerseys to the arena for games, the policy was altered to allow players to change after they arrive.
While these incidents are certainly not representative of the views of every NBA player, they demonstrate a loss of perspective. People are going to have a hard time sympathizing with the complaints from the bubble when every day is filled with so much fear and uncertainty. There’s also the legitimate safety concerns raised as the NBA planned its returns. All of these policies drawing the ire of guys like Howard are there to protect them, making his reaction come across as extremely hypocritical. It makes it seem like some players have forgotten about the world outside the bubble where all the fans who are going to watch these games live.
The NFL’s training camps are a go for the time being, but that doesn’t mean games will be played. It’s becoming more difficult to justify taking resources away from medical facilities now than it was in April, and nobody was talking about playing sports then. Why should it be any different now? And that’s assuming the league and players can come to an agreement on safety measures so everyone asking for clarity and guidance from the NFL right now is willing to participate.
Photo by Lorie Shaull / Flickr