May 09, 2013

The Associated Press

 

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman is tapping his friendship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to ask for the release of a Korean-American man sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in the North.

“I’m calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him ‘Kim’, to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose,” Rodman said on Twitter. He later called the tweet a direct response to a Seattle Times editorial that dared him to ask Kim for the release if the two are really buddies.

Rodman visited North Korea in February and sat next to Kim as they watched an exhibition basketball game. His trip came at a time of high tension between Pyongyang and Washington and was not en­dorsed by the U.S. State Depart­ment.

Bae is a tour operator who was arrested in North Korea in November. The North’s Supreme Court sentenced him last week for unspecified “hostile acts” against the state. In a Foreign Ministry statement on Sunday, North Korea said the 44-year-old Washington state man entered the country with a disguised identity.

Bae is at least the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The others eventually were deported or released, some after trips to Pyongyang by prominent Americans, including former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry rejected speculation that it was seeking a U.S. envoy to negotiate Bae’s release, saying he is not a political bargaining chip.

Analysts have said North Korea may be using Bae as bait to open direct negotiations with the United States over its nuclear arms programs. Bae’s sentencing came during a lull after weeks of threats of war from Pyongyang against the U.S. and South Korea.

The U.S. has called for the North to immediately release Bae. It relies on Swedish diplomats in Pyongyang to deal with Bae’s case because the North and the U.S. have no formal diplomatic relations after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce instead of a peace treaty.

North Korea has not described the exact nature of Bae’s alleged crimes. Friends say Bae is a devout Christian and tour operator based in China who traveled frequently to North Korea to feed orphans.

Rodman said after his trip to North Korea that he planned to return in August to vacation with Kim, a diehard basketball fan.

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Category: Sports

May 09, 2013

By JIMMY GOLEN (AP Sports Writer)

 

BOSTON (AP) -- The Boston Athletic Association sold out its first event since last month's marathon bombings in 13 hours Wednesday as 6,500 runners filled the field to support the organization and the victims of the attack on its flagship race.

''Thank you for all of the support, especially those who ran on April 15 and are coming back for this event (the 10k) on June 23,'' the B.A.A. posted on its Facebook page shortly after closing registration at 11:15 p.m. ''We are grateful to the running community and locals who entered today. Boston Strong! Boston Stands As One!''

The B.A.A. 10K, which began in 2011, had not sold out in either of its first two years. B.A.A. executive director Tom Grilk said the popularity of this year's race was consistent with the support he'd seen from runners and non-runners alike after two bombs killed three people and wounded hundreds more on Boylston Street on April 15.

''We're not going to give in to terror. They're going to stand up, show up and run,'' Grilk said Wednesday afternoon, when a few hundred spots in the 10K remained. ''I'm pleased to be part of a community that reacts that way.''

The B.A.A. has received what Grilk called overwhelming support following the bombing - actor Kevin Spacey stopped by the office last week - and runners have been among the most visible backers. Already-scheduled events dedicated their races to Boston, and new runs sprouted up to show support and raise money for the victims.

Grilk would not say yet what would be done at the B.A.A.'s own race. He also declined to comment on security measures for a course that travels two blocks from the Boylston Street bombing site.

''Everyone will have a heightened sense of security,'' Grilk said. ''In terms of what public safety officials will do, I can't say, and wouldn't.''

A 125-year-old organization that remains best known for its signature, 26.2-mile race, the B.A.A. expanded its calendar in 2001 to include a half-marathon and then added a 5K five years ago and a 10K in 2011. The three shorter races are combined into a distance medley, and those who run all three are eligible for prize money based on the combined times.

The inaugural B.A.A. 10K had a field of 3,656. There were 5,503 runners last year.

Organizers decided last fall to expand the field to 6,500 runners.

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May 09, 2013

(AP) — Jason Collins, the NBA veteran who last week announced he was gay, is seeking a book deal, The Associated Press has learned.

Officials at three publishing houses said Monday that they had been contacted about a planned memoir by Collins, the first active player in any of four major U.S. professional sports leagues to come out as gay. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the proceedings.

The officials said Collins was working on the book with Sports Illustrated's Franz Lidz, to whom he broke the news that he was gay, and was being represented by Kristine Dahl of International Creative Management. Dahl did not immediately respond to phone and email messages left by the AP.

At least one publisher turned down the book, said one official, who noted the extensive media coverage of Collins and expressed concern that his story already has been told.

Earlier Monday, the Democratic National Committee announced Collins would headline its annual lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender gala, on May 29. President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has phoned the 34-year-old athlete to praise him for his courage.

Collins, who has played for six teams during 12 seasons, was most recently a center for the Washington Wizards. He becomes a free agent on July 1.

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May 09, 2013

By JOSEPH WHITE

AP Sports Writer

 

Robert Griffin III’s knee is still feeling fine. His ability to turn a room upside down is better than ever.

The Washington Redskins quarterback made an appearance - and quite an impact - Wednesday at a luncheon for the American Cancer Society. He raised $33,000 in a matter of minutes, more than half of the $60,000 tallied during the auction portion of the fundraiser.

The crowning moment came when a man from Texas paid $15,000 for a pair of pink cleats worn by Griffin in a game last season.

“You don't think that a pair of cleats can make that kind of difference,” Griffin said. “But I guess they were highly sought-after.”

Eighteen people then paid $1,000 each to pose with Griffin for a photograph that the quarterback will sign. He flashed his charismatic smile for each and every flash of the camera.

The guest of honor was Tanya Snyder, wife of Redskins owner Dan Snyder. A breast cancer survivor, Tanya Snyder received the society's Mother of the Year award. The Snyders’ 17-year-old daughter Tiffanie gave a moving a tearful tribute to her mother and presented a slide show of intimate family photographs, offering a rare display of the media-shy owner’s personal side.

“I was going to cry,” Griffin said. “I think everybody got a little choked up.”

Overall, the event raised some $400,000 for cancer research.

Griffin also showed up his playful side, flashing bunny ears behind his fiancee as they posed with Tanya Snyder. And, of course, there was the inevitable football question: How’s the rehab coming along with his surgically reconstructed right knee?

“I’m doing great. The knee feels fine,” said Griffin, whose stated goal is to return by Week 1 of the regular season. “It’s about taking it slow, and each day is a better day because the knee feels better and you do more things. It’s just a process that I'm going through.”

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May 02, 2013

By KENNETH MILLER

Assistant Managing Editor

 

Los Angeles native Jason Collins has been playing professional basketball for a dozen years with six NBA teams, but few knew who he was until this week when he told the world that he was Gay.

In a watershed moment for same sex relationships, Collins a seven-foot reserve center who starred at Harvard Westlake High School and Stanford crafted an essay that will be published in Sports Illustrated magazine and appeared on its online website revealing that he is Gay. He thus became the first active professional athlete in the NBA, MLB, NFL or NHL to make such a profound declaration.

The revelation of his lifestyle drew praise from President Obama, former President Clinton, First Lady Michelle Obama, NBA Commissioner David Stern, NBA players, advocate organizations of same sex relationships and thousands of others.

"The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?”—Collins told SI.

I first met Collins and his twin brother who also plays in the NBA and is married with children, when they were teens playing AAU basketball and participating in the Slam ‘N Jam National Invitational Tournament more than 20 years ago.

Both he and his brother have always been considered model citizens and good basketball players. Few if any doubted they would eventually become NBA players, but no one saw this bombshell coming.

When I reached out to former local coaches and players they all declined to speak for the record, but voiced their shock.

One prominent former collegian coach who recruited both the Collins twins said; “I’ve pretty much seen it all, but I never thought I would see this coming. There were never any indications that he could be Gay and I have and still do think the world of their family.”

Another former player whose brother played against Collins and his brother expressed his feeling this way; “Wow! I just don’t know what to say. What can you say?”

Current NBA players Brook and Robin Lopez, each seven foot twins followed in the footsteps in the Collins twins to Stanford and looks up to both Jason and his brother Jarron.

Jason Collins said that he reached out to those close to him and informed them before it went public and according to multiple published reports it was a very emotional experience for him, but the support from his family and friends has been overwhelming.

Among those was the woman who thought she would wed Jason. Carolyn Moos, a former Stanford and WNBA center, dated Collins for eight years and was to marry him in 2009 until he suddenly called it off with a month to go. She found out along with most others why just recently.

His twitter account, which had 3,500, skyrocketed to 85,000 after he made his announcement on Monday April 29; by Tuesday April 30th he was on Good Morning America with an audience of millions.

 

Lakers star Kobe Bryant tweeted; Proud of ‪@jasoncollins34. Don't suffocate who u r because of the ignorance of others ‪#courage ‪#support ‪#mambaarmystandup ‪#BYOU

President Clinton tweeted; I'm proud to call Jason Collins a friend.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers added in a tweet; Doc Rivers: "I am extremely happy and proud of Jason Collins. He’s a pro’s pro." Read Doc's full statement:

Former Westchester High and UCLA star and teammate of Jason with the Washington Wizards tweeted; much respect to you.  It takes a strong dude to be the first. Your a hell of a professional and a hell of a teammate.

Another former local star, Baron Davis who grew up playing with and against the Collins twins before going on to star at UCLA and in the NBA for 13 seasons tweeted; I am so proud of my bro ‪@jasoncollins34 for being real.

The subject matter of same sex lifestyle and being gay or lesbian has always sparked a heated debate in the Black and Christian community and ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard put his job on the line vehemently stating his objection of Jason Collins.

Speaking on ESPN's "Outside the Lines," the former New York Times writer was Broussard said, "I'm a Christian. I don't agree with homosexuality." "I think it's a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.”

"If you're openly living in unrepentant sin ... that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ," he added.

He also expressed some irritation that those who disapprove of homosexuality are, he says, labeled as intolerant and bigoted. 

Even the usually outspoken NBA analyst Charles Barkley was tame when it came to Jason Collins.

"I've said this many times, we've all played with gay players," said Barkley.

"People should be able to disagree if they don't like it and not get crucified," he said.

Barkley added, “I didn’t care who Jason Collins slept with last night and I don’t care who he sleeps with tonight.”

NFL players are already pushing back on the idea of an openly gay player playing in their league.

Recently acquired Miami Dolphins receiver tweeted that with all of the beautiful women in the world he doesn’t understand it before the tweet was quickly deleted.

Former Steeler and Super Bowl MVP Hines Ward added; “I don’t think football is ready, there’s too many guys in the locker room and, you know, guys play around too much,” Ward told NBC Sports Radio.

NBA Icon Magic Johnson whose grown son is openly gay stated. “I know Jason and his family well and I support him 100%.”

There are those too who went as far as comparing Collins pioneering effort to the great Jackie Robinson who integrated Major League Baseball, but the comparison is not fair to the legacy of Robinson.

Robinson had no choice in the color of his skin and while carefully selected to become the first Black to play in the majors, it is not likely that Collins would endure the bigotry today as a Gay man as Robinson did a Black man.

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