Rain filled the South Florida air on Sunday, threatening to make a mess of The Match: Champions for Charity at the Medalist Golf Club.
Instead, four sporting icons wouldn’t let bad weather dampen what turned out to be an exciting, fun-filled exhibition that raised $20 million for COVID-19 relief efforts while highlighting the ups and downs of competitive golf.
Mickelson trash-talked, as did announcer Charles Barkley. Justin Thomas, the No. 4-ranked player in the world, dished some dirt and offered some barbs while serving as an on-course reporter. Celebrities called in and offered up challenge donations. Ultimately, after $10-million was pledged by the four players and WarnerMedia prior to the match, another $10-million was raised over the course of the afternoon via online and text donations and other pledges.
“Phil said he was nervous, so imagine us,” said Manning, the retired, two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback who is also a member at Augusta National. “To go behind the ropes and get in these guys world and in the arena with them was really an incredible experience.
“I was not comfortable the whole time but raising $20 million as people are going through such tough times, it’s something I’ll always remember and cherish.”
A Tiger-Phil match of some kind had long been in the works, a sequel to The Match that Mickelson won in 2018, capturing a $9-million payday in a winner-take-all Thanksgiving encounter in Las Vegas. Well before the coronavirus pandemic struck put a halt to sports, a Tiger-Phil match that included Manning and Brady was in the works. The concept changed to a fundraiser weeks ago while offering a chance to view live sports.
And all four players had their moments, led notably by Brady, the former New England Patriots quarterback who seemed to be taking grief the entire front nine before holing a wedge shot for a birdie on the seventh hole — while his pants were splitting and his microphone was breaking. That meant a $100,000 donation from Brooks Koepka — who had phoned in his pledge as he saw Brady struggling, saying he’d offer the money if the current Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback to make a par on the front side.
As Brady sprayed it around the course, Woods and Manning took a 2-up lead through 4 holes and were 3-up through six. Although Manning made a nice birdie putt at the fourth hole, it was Woods who was the most impressive golfer. For the first time since Feb. 16, he was viewed by the public hitting golf shots, and he did not disappoint.
Woods, who is tied for the most wins in PGA Tour history with 82, did not miss a fairway on his home course and looked comfortable hitting all manner of shots.
It was the first time he had played since he finished last among those who made the cut at the Genesis Invitational. He then skipped the WGC-Mexico Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. And when he skipped the Players Championship, saying that a stiff back was not right, there was concern about his Masters title defense.
But the pandemic shut down the PGA Tour after one round of the Players Championship and the time away has allowed Woods time to regroup.
“I feel a lot better than I did then,” he told Discovery last month. “I’ve been able to turn a negative into a positive and been able to train a lot and get my body to where I think it should be.”
Things got off to a slow start due to the poor weather, which delayed the start by some 50 minutes. But once the players got going, there was some excellent banter and good golf. All of the players were outfitted with their own custom golf carts, with cameras focused on their faces and microphones available for questions from the announcers.
Even Woods got off a good shot when at Mickelson when he was told to mark his ball on a green and quipped: “Do you want me to mark it with one of my U.S. Open medals?” Woods has won the tournament three times; Mickelson, infamously, has six runner-ups in the championship but no victories.
Manning was the most talkative, and Barkley had no problem dishing out as much abuse as possible.
Mickelson hit a few wayward shots to start, but the 44-time PGA Tour winner settled down and served as a cheerleader to Brady, trying to keep him in the game. The duo rallied on the back nine as the format shifted to modified alternate shot. Mickelson bombed a tee shot onto the short par-4 11th green, and Brady holed the eagle putt to bring them to 2-down.
“This is where it changes,” Mickelson said. He missed a good chance to bring the match close at the 13th, but got within one hole when Manning missed a short par putt at the 14th. But they could get no closer as the players preceded in heavy rain a near darkness.
After Woods hit his tee shot in the fairway at the 18th, with Manning knocking the approach to the front of the green, all that was left was a two-putt par for the victory.
Packers optimistic but wary for fans at Lambeau
The Green Bay Packers are optimistic they will have fans at Lambeau Field this season, but they note that seating capacity would be cut significantly and spectators must wear face coverings.
The NFL club also acknowledges the “possibility that Lambeau Field will be unable to host fans for games this season” because of the pandemic. Training camps across the league are to begin in mid-July.
Reduced seating capacity means the Packers can’t guarantee that ticket holders in the general bowl and club seats will be able to reserve tickets. Season-ticket holders will be asked if they want to be part of a process allowing them a chance to reserve tickets.
Those who opt out can have their 2020 payment refunded in full or credited to 2021. If they opt out, their status as season-ticket holders and their existing seats and ticket packages will remain in place for next season.
Redskins to undergo ‘thorough’ review of nickname
The Washington Redskins on Friday issued a statement that they will “undergo a thorough review of the team’s name” amid renewed pressure.
“In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name. This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.
“… We believe this review can and will be conducted with the best interest of all in mind.”
Team owner Dan Snyder has been under more pressure in recent weeks to change the name given the social climate following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
“This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Snyder said in a statement Friday.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement Friday that the league has had “ongoing discussions” with Snyder and was “supportive of this important step.”
On Thursday, FedEx, which has naming rights to the team’s stadium under a $205 million deal that runs until 2025, requested the team change its name. Sponsors Nike and PepsiCo also reportedly are under pressure to sever ties with the team unless it changes its name, Adweek has reported.
Frederick Smith, the chairman, CEO and president of FedEx Corp., also owns a minority stake in the Redskins.
On Thursday night, Nike appeared to remove all Redskins gear from its online store. The other 31 NFL teams were listed and a search for “Redskins” came up with no results. Nike did not immediately respond to an email message seeking comment.
In 2014, The Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin asked FedEx shareholders to reconsider the naming rights agreement, but shareholders voted to stick with company officials and continue the business relationship, according to the Memphis Business Journal.
Native American leaders want Snyder to change the name, which the franchise has used since 1933. In the past, groups protested the name and tried to win in court. Those efforts failed.
“This issue is of personal importance to me and I look forward to working closely with Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our Military,” coach Ron Rivera said in the statement.
On Thursday, an Ohio school district decided that its high school sports teams should no longer be known as the Redskins.
The Forest Hills Board of Education voted 4-1 to “retire” the name and mascot at Anderson High School, which is in an eastern Cincinnati suburb. A new name has not been chosen, and officials plan to soon announce a timeline and process for how a new name and mascot will be selected. The Redskins logo will be phased out in stages beginning in the 2020-21 school year, officials said.
ESPN’s John Keim and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
‘Something’s got to change’ – How the Vikings are pushing for social justice
Anthony Harris wrestled with the consequences of what he wanted to do versus the potential outcome.
The Minnesota Vikings‘ safety was on his way to the grocery store one evening in early June when he noticed a police car driving through his neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia, his offseason home. He thought about pulling over and putting on his flashers to get the officer’s attention.
Harris wanted to talk. Human to human — Black man to white police officer — about the events taking place across the nation. The unrest and activism began after George Floyd was killed while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25.
Harris’ intentions came from a place of hurt, wanting to bring forth healing. He saw an opportunity to use his voice and platform as a prominent Black athlete to create change and understanding.
But after weighing the risks, Harris decided it was worth it.
“It crossed my mind that I could be potentially shot or viewed as a threat just for what I was trying to do,” said Harris, who talked to the officer for 25 minutes, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I made sure I proceeded with extra caution so I didn’t surprise them or, with everything going on in the world, that I tried to make them feel comfortable. It kind of just kept things in perspective of, no matter where you go or no matter what you’re really doing as an African American man, that’s something that you can’t shake.”
Harris and his Vikings teammates watched the video of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for seven minutes and 48 seconds. It happened in the community where so many Vikings had donated their time and resources.
In 2018, the Vikings launched a social justice committee where players can discuss racial matters openly and support organizations battling systemic issues in the Twin Cities. According to a survey by ESPN’s NFL Nation, Minnesota is one of 17 teams with a social justice committee. Three other franchises have similar programs in the works.
Now, the Vikings are at the epicenter of a social justice movement that has gone international. The team’s presence in the Twin Cities community should help give them a platform to foster a dialogue about racism and remove barriers that hinder the vulnerable and underserved.
“These issues are very real,” Kendricks said. “We need to educate ourselves as much as we can, but we have to do it together. We must continue to combine forces.”
In the days after Floyd’s death, Vikings players, coaches, front office personnel and ownership held a series of meetings in which they expressed anger, sadness and pain. Harris and linebacker Eric Kendricks released videos on the team’s website in which they wrestled with their grief and expressed a desire to help while struggling to determine the best course of action.
“More minds are greater than just one and that’s the attitude we’re taking and we’re all putting our heads together and trying to really create change.”
When Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and co-defensive coordinator Andre Patterson came up with the idea of a team-wide social justice committee in 2018, they got immediate support from ownership.
The Wilf family, which owns the Vikings, donated $250,000 to the committee in 2018 and again in 2019. That money was allocated to scholarships and school supplies for low-income students, legal aid, youth services and programs that aim to improve the relations between law enforcement and the community.
In the wake of Floyd’s death, Vikings ownership announced a $5 million donation to social justice causes across the nation. The social justice committee also created an endowed George Floyd Legacy Scholarship to benefit Black high school seniors in Minneapolis-St. Paul pursuing post-secondary education.
Chief operating officer Andrew Miller called the Vikings’ opportunity to make an impact “both a privilege and an obligation.” Players on the committee, including Harris, Kendricks and running backs Ameer Abdullah and Alexander Mattison, are ready to lead the charge.
A discussion of what reform could look like, featuring Michael Eaves, Domonique Foxworth, Clark Neily of the Cato Institute and Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter
It comes after another African American was killed by police. This time, however, the circumstances feel different.
“Through time, the Black community has been telling the world that this has been going on,” Patterson said. “And a lot of people didn’t want to believe that it was going on, that the person had to do something wrong to either get choked to death, or shot, or whatever.
“But this is the reason why this one’s different: Because the whole world got to see life leave that man’s body. … Not only did they get to see him lose his life — they got to see it from start to finish.”
Almost 30 years ago, Patterson learned progress can be made when you foster communication and understanding. Like many of his African American players at Washington State, where he coached from 1992-93, Patterson often was followed home by police or stopped without reason.
He went to then-head coach Mike Price and asked to be a liaison between the team and police department with the goal of bridging a gap. Patterson met with the police chief regularly. He arranged for players to take part in ride-along programs with officers and held joint softball games and barbecues. Building trust was crucial.
“One of the things that I ended up finding out was the police thought that all of the players we were bringing in from California were Southern California gangbangers,” Patterson said, noting the racial tensions at the time after Rodney King’s assault by the Los Angeles police. “They were already on alert because they heard all the stories about what was going on in L.A. and the gangbangers and how violent they were. That’s how they viewed our players, and because of us being able to spend time around them and us around them, it changed and they started to treat our guys differently. Our guys started to treat them differently.”
He shared that experience during the Vikings’ social justice committee’s first meeting in 2018, and players saw an opportunity to make a similar impact. That winter, members of the social justice committee teamed with police in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to read books to children. They did it again in 2019.
It was the Vikings’ way of building a bridge between children who were brought up fearful of the police and those who were tasked with serving communities hesitant to trust them. It’s an issue the committee continues to discuss as players search for ways to foster change.
“Maybe there is a program where you can have a week of school dedicated to teaching these kids and hearing opinions about how [they] feel about officers,” Mattison said. “What is your perception of a police officer and why? And then a police officer comes in and explains and dives deeper into what exactly their job entails.
“We’ve been talking possibly about having a situation where we can get that uncomfortable dialogue going with a couple police officers so other people can learn from it. Maybe a roundtable of us discussing these issues, our fears and you giving me your perspective and I give you my perspective.”
Those conversations are already taking place. Before Floyd’s death, the Vikings’ social justice committee had established a relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, including Chief Medaria Arradondo.
On June 6, 10 players, including Kendricks and Barr, met with Arradondo and three officers to discuss how the department can improve its interactions with the African American community.
Arradondo, who declined through a spokesperson to be interviewed for this story, gave the players his perspective on the Floyd killing and the four ex-MPD officers involved. Arradondo expressed his feelings about what happened and the challenges his department faces with the police union, which has come under fire for its role in helping officers who face disciplinary action to return to the force. (Chauvin had 18 formal complaints on his record; ex-officer Tou Thou had six).
Arradondo talked about taking steps to create change for the good of the department and community. Then, he opened up the floor to Vikings players for an honest conversation about how police could do better.
Officer Charles Adams III was in that meeting. He is a police officer and the head football coach at his alma mater, Minneapolis North High School, which produced Tampa Bay Bucs receiver Tyler Johnson. The Polars have a 77-8 record under Adams over seven seasons.
Adams, 39, relayed the challenges he faces as a Black cop in the current climate.
“I honestly believe I’m caught in the middle,” Adams told ESPN. “For one, being a Black male and seeing the divide of the racial injustice and seeing how things are and how Black people are treated. But then again, I wear blue. It’s hard to have people understand that I wear blue but I’m Black. So all I try to do is let each and every one of the kids I mentor and I coach, let them know where my heart’s at.
“And it’s tough for them because now they worry about me. They know the relationships we have and they know what I’ve established in this community and it’s hard for them to see me be associated with the negativity that there is right now with law enforcement.”
He said he believes the root of the department’s problem is “cultural differences” and a lack of education on how to treat people in the Black community.
“It’s hard to have people understand that I wear blue but I’m Black. So all I try to do is let each and every one of the kids I mentor and I coach, let them know where my heart’s at.”
Charles Adams III, Minneapolis police officer and high school football coach
And he asked for Vikings players to help.
“I just told them, straightforward, that we need your guys’ support as an organization in letting people know that you support us, but you identify the problems and are willing to continue to provide to the community to make change,” Adams said. “Publicly, people need to understand that this is an isolated incident that has put a huge black eye on our department, but this is not the characteristic of every single person in this department.
“It’s easy for organizations to be like ‘What do you guys need?’ and I never ask for anything monetary because I know people can give me thousands of dollars and I can never see them again. I always tell people that it’s more important to have the time and showing your face. I think kids and people appreciate that more. The fellowship and the outreach in the community is a big thing.”
The Vikings’ social justice committee wants to be a part of the solution. They want to take action. The big question is how. For many, it starts with the most basic element when seeking change: starting a dialogue.
“How can I get individuals who aren’t affected [by issues of racism and other forms of systemic injustice] to be more aware, and somehow draw them into the issue and the topics that are going on?” Harris asked. “… How can I draw the person who is unaffected, who hasn’t experienced that? How can I draw them closer to this situation?
“Those are the people who I’m trying to reach, to create more of a dialogue and brainstorm, and really just draw behind the rally of acting in the best interests of the country and standing behind what’s right and what this country is supposed to represent and look like.”
Vikings players believe having “uncomfortable” conversations and creating an alliance to help expand the committee’s reach and impact is part of the solution. The Vikings have had a diverse group of players among its membership. Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who organized an essential goods drive in Minneapolis, and receiver Adam Thielen, both white players, have been members of the committee for the past two years.
Members of Minnesota’s social justice committee admit they don’t have the answers to some of the hardest questions — like whether they support defunding the police — and that opens the door for continued dialogue.
“Honestly, I don’t have all the answers,” Kendricks said. “I wish I could sit here and tell you I did. We obviously had communication with [Minneapolis police]. I know the [police] union is incredibly strong. I also know there needs to be systematic reform especially in all areas of the government. For me to sit here and specifically say how and why, it’s a little bit more complicated than that. I’m going to do my research a little bit more. Hopefully we’ll be in better dialogue.
“Something’s got to change.”
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