The fallout continues after Cleveland Indians pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac violated Major League Baseball’s COVID-19 protocols last weekend in Chicago. Only now, we’re starting to hear how other Indians’ players feel about the situation.
Speaking to the media following Tuesday’s 7-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs, fellow pitcher Adam Plutko didn’t mince his words when detailing the sentiment toward Clevinger and Plesac in the Indians clubhouse. Most notably, Plutko says many players felt hurt after being lied to.
Adam Plutko on Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac: « They hurt us bad. They lied to us. They sat here…and publicly said things they didn’t follow through on. … I’ll let them sit here and tell you how they’re gonna earn our trust back. I don’t need to put words in their mouths.
Plesac was sent home Sunday after the team learned he left the hotel in Chicago to celebrate his victory on Saturday. Cleveland didn’t know it then, but learned Monday that Clevinger broke the same protocols. Both players will be required to quarantine for 72 hours. Both have also since issued apologies for their actions.
“I would like to apologize to my teammates, the entire Cleveland organization and all of our fans for my actions on Sunday evening,” Plesac said, via The Athletic. “I realize I made a poor choice to leave the hotel, which broke protocols and could have endangered other people. I understand that in these times of uncertainty, I need to be more vigilant and responsible and I am determined to earn my teammates’ forgiveness and get back to work.”
“There is an implicit trust that each of my teammates share as we navigate a season during this pandemic, and I broke that trust. In Chicago, I made the mistake of violating the protocols but the biggest mistake of all was not immediately coming clean to my teammates. I owe them better. I now realize that by even exposing myself to just one person more than necessary, I am putting myself, my teammates, the guys I compete against, the umpires, the staff, the Indians organization as well as the Game that I love at risk. There is no excuse for my actions, and I can only take responsibility and learn from my mistakes. Moving forward, I promise my actions will reflect a full understanding of the protocols set in place while I continue my passion for competing for the incredible Indians’ fans and the City that I adore.”
Clevinger was originally scheduled to start Tuesday’s game against the Cubs. Plutko stepped in but took the loss after allowing one run on four hits over four innings.
Plutko’s comments weren’t the first directed at Plesac and Clevinger by an Indians’ player. Though they are the harshest words on record.
Shortstop Francisco Lindor released a strong statement earlier on Tuesday that focused on their decisions and the need for players to be selfless while playing through these unique circumstances.
Francisco Lindor delivers a strong message after teammates Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac broke team protocols. pic.twitter.com/TDj1FvV44C
Entering play on Tuesday, Cleveland’s pitching staff had posted a league-best 2.04 ERA. Both Plesac and Clevinger are a big part of that, which is why there is so much frustration over their actions.
Assuming both return soon, Cleveland’s rotation should remain one of the best in baseball. But both men will have more important work to do to earn back their teammates’ trust.
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Former Ohio State Urban Meyer said what many are thinking after the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced the postponement of fall sports: The conferences might as well have used the word « canceled » at least for football. In an interview with the Big Ten Network, Meyer gives college football « no chance » of playing in the spring. [more]
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Two of the biggest conferences in college sports cancelled their fall seasons on Tuesday. The move is about a fear of player power rather than Covid-19On the night of Sunday 9 August, in the birth of an alliance between WeAreUnited, a faction of players threatening to withdraw their labor without improved working conditions, and WeWantToPlay, a group lobbying to be allowed to play, college football players across the US declared that they want to play this season, but they want to play on the condition that they “ultimately create a college football players association.”As Hunter Reynolds of the University of Michigan and College Athlete Unity (CAU) told us: “We all want to play the sports that we have been practicing our whole lives, we simply want to do it in an environment that is as safe as possible. And I think the union talks are something that has been discussed since Northwesterners tried unionizing years ago.” Within 12 hours, reports swirled that the Big Ten was cancelling its fall season and most of the other Power Five conferences – the largest and richest in college sports – were considering following suit.What happened?Let’s rewind. College sports’ governing body, the NCAA, and the members of the Power Five have had since March to cancel the college football season. Instead, they compelled thousands of players back on to campus for workouts over the spring and summer, exposing them to the threat of Covid-19, a virus that has to date killed more than 160,000 Americans and 730,000 people worldwide. Yet, despite numerous outbreaks of Covid-19 in football programs across the US, by early August, much of the Power Five remained committed to preserving the season. Until, this week, when suddenly they didn’t. While our understanding of the virus has not changed significantly over the past few weeks, one important variable has: football players across the nation have boldly mobilized for increased control over their working conditions.Cancelling the season has less to do with athletes’ safety and more to do with anxieties over the organization of collegiate athletes en masse. As UCLA defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia, a leading member of WeAreUnited and signatory of a recent letter to PAC-12 commissioner Larry Scott told us, “It’s hard to guess what someone else is thinking, but it seems like the conferences basically decided to succumb to all the challenges of the virus and now they are faced with the threat of a union or players association.”It has long been clear that the cancellation of the football season is a crucial and necessary decision. As one SEC player who asked to remain anonymous told us, “Most everyone I know seems to be playing a game of chicken. Everyone is too scared to actually say it isn’t safe or doesn’t make sense to play, and I feel like those that think football continuing on is safer for them are just falling into a false narrative set up by the schools.” He added, “you want us to go into an all SEC schedule? You’ve got to be high. Whether that be of narcotics, power, or greed … you’re telling us to invest in a season that’s a house of cards that comes with even more risk to us personally.”Despite this, the mostly white NCAA, college athletics directors and coaches have required the majority Black workforce to soldier on for the last several months. As a result we have seen a series of inspiring movements of player leadership and organization. Take, for example, the Big Ten’s College Athlete Unity group, who have more than 1,000 members fighting for changes in the working conditions of athletes within a system that continues to exploit them. Or there is the even more radical PAC-12 WeAreUnited group, who courageously set out a series of demands to protect scholarship and walk-on athletes – effectively laying the foundation for a labor strike in college football. By working together to collectively generate demands, and by consistently arguing for a seat at the table, BigTenUnited and WeAreUnited both gesture towards the promise of a union in college football.This is not the first time unionization has arisen in college football. Between 2013 and 2015 the Northwestern University football team attempted to unionize led by then-quarterback Kain Colter. Yet, the scale this time is profoundly different: thousands of athletes across the country are demanding the basic rights long denied them. That even has Colter himself excited, “College athletes throughout the nation have empowered themselves to demand proper protections and workplace conditions amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said on Tuesday night. “They have stood up to powerful money interests who seem determined to have college football continue without regard to the health of the athletes. These actions have taken a tremendous amount of strength, courage, and solidarity; I greatly admire them for it.”Moreover, CAU, BigTenUnited and WeAreUnited are eliciting support from media, academics, and even contingent faculty unions at large universities such as Duke and UCLA. Rather than go it alone, a challenge that Colter himself has suggested was fatal in Northwestern’s drive, we are seeing college players call for massive reform in the NCAA – beginning with the right to fair representation. As UCLA player Ogbonnia explained to us, “It’s not easy to get everyone on the same page, but we have a responsibility to come together as a labor movement to make things better for each other and the players who will come after us. We are only asking for the most basic rights that every person in this country deserves.”In response to demands from BigTenUnited, WeAreUnited and WeWantToPlay, and as news broke that the PAC-12 and Big Ten conferences are cancelling sports this fall, what was a week ago improbable suddenly seems inevitable. The college football season is likely to be cancelled. But why now?Rumblings suggest that the real motivation behind the impending decision to cancel is a fear of athlete organization. This is confirmed by PAC-12 Commissioner Larry Scott’s unwillingness to negotiate with student organizers over their admittedly “eye opening” health concerns. For Power Five schools accustomed to having their pockets lined with unpaid athletic labor, the threat of the virus pales next to the specter of a labor movement.But, the cancellation of the season is also a serious blow to player organization since it eliminates the leverage of a potential labor action (for now). Power Five athletic directors know this and any cancellation of the season at this point – after months of living with Covid-19 and just weeks before the season is set to begin – cannot and should not be confused with a concern for players’ health. Football programs have made it abundantly clear this summer that they view the lives of college football players with callous disregard. Although clearly there are other factors schools are weighing such as liability issues, the sudden urgency suggests a union-busting imperative has tilted the scales towards cancelling.What we are witnessing is a shift in tactics that varies across conferences. The thought for each likely goes something like this: if the season is preserved, athletes will undoubtedly get sick (the SEC confirmed as much in a leaked call with player reps). When that inevitably occurs it gives players more leverage to push back, thus simultaneously gaining momentum as a union and ensuring athletic departments cede on important issues. Is it any surprise that the SEC, the conference with the fewest labor rumblings, is also reportedly the least inclined to cancel despite “sobering” medical advice from doctors? As the Big 12, ACC, and SEC plow forward, it appears their calculation is that the risks of labor uprising are outweighed by the revenue to be reaped. In the PAC-12 and Big Ten, on the other hand, where WeAreUnited and BigTenUnited were born, the analysis seems to have tilted in the other direction. It’s pretty clear what is happening: in the latter two conferences, the very health and safety concerns that catalyzed this movement are now being deployed to dismantle it.Cancellation is not a union-busting tactic unique to college football. Indeed, Walmart has reportedly shuttered stores in California to prevent workers from unionizing. Kumho Tire threatened closure to prevent employees from forming a union in 2017. Vacation company Sandals was accused of the tactic in 2016. There also exists a long history of companies that have also used the threat of closure or termination of operations to bulldoze unionization efforts. The PAC-12 and Big Ten are taking a page out of this union-busting playbook.In response, the WeAreUnited and WeWantToPlay alliance is a strategy to counter by building strength in the court of public opinion. Reynolds told us that “after seeing the public perception of the different movements,” they decided to “come together and let people know that all the messages were the same, they were just being conveyed in different ways.”The challenges of sustaining solidarity in the face of cancellation will be immense. College football is an exceptional labor environment in part because of the inherent attrition in the enterprise. Players do not play long enough to develop the kinds of deep solidarity often necessary for labor organizing. There is pressure to maximize performances while they can in order to catch the eyes of professional scouts. These structural dynamics militate against labor activism and solidarity and the cancellation of the season will only attenuate the rare spirit of collective action that has formed.Counterintuitive as it feels, then, it is now more than ever that CAU, WeAreUnited, and the nascent movement of players across the US need to double down on organizing, deepening the ties that will bind them for the next confrontation. Like Kain Colter before them, the current generation of leaders like Jevon Holland, Andrew Cooper, Treyjohn Butler, Hunter Reynolds, Benjamin St-Juste, Jake Curhan and countless others need to focus on building the solidarity required to challenge their union-busting employers.Now is also the time for the rest of us to have their backs. They’re going to need help, and they deserve it. * Nathan Kalman-Lamb, Derek Silva, and Johanna Mellis are co-hosts of The End of Sport podcast
Membership has its limitations. The University of Nebraska strenuously objects to the Big Ten’s decision not to play football this fall. Nebraska still wants to play. The Big Ten won’t allow it. Via Sports Business Daily, Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren said that Nebraska can’t pursue a fall 2020 schedule after the Big Ten decided [more]
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Former UFC fighter Paige VanZant made a surprise move on Wednesday when she inked a deal with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship instead of Bellator MMA, as many had expected. The news was first reported by ESPN.She said her new contract with BKF is a four-fight exclusive deal.VanZant fought the final bout of her UFC contract on July 123, losing via a first-round armbar to Amanda Ribas at UFC 251 in Abu Dhabi. The bout was VanZant’s first fight in a year and a half because she had been dealing with several injuries.Though VanZant was one of the UFC’s brightest stars when she first entered the Octagon, winning her first three bouts, she managed just a 2-4 record over the final six bouts of her tenure.Moving over to BKFC, VanZant will forego mixed martial arts to focus on her boxing, which includes a move to American Top Team in Florida. She hopes to fight for BKFC as soon as November. »It was an amazing contract, an amazing opportunity, » VanZant told ESPN. « I also feel like it’s not a move backwards for me. It’s a lateral move to a new opportunity, a new challenge, a brand new sport. I really have sparked a brand new passion for it and especially for striking in general. »And, on top of that, I feel like I still have this stigma in MMA that I’m just a pretty face, and what a way to prove to be people that’s not the way I see myself at all. »VanZant, however, insists that she hasn’t necessarily made a permanent move away from MMA. »I don’t know that I am done with MMA, » VanZant said. « I know momentarily I am. I still have a huge passion for MMA, and I just recently relocated to Florida to train with American Top Team. Obviously, they are one of the best MMA gyms in the world. Right now, my sole focus is boxing, but in a few years I could go back to MMA or I could just be making so much doing this bare knuckle boxing that I don’t do anything else. »* * *TRENDING > Check out Sean O’Malley’s blistering knockout of Eddie Wineland (UFC 252 free fight)* * *https://www.instagram.com/p/CDzNrMtHURd/
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The Big Ten will not have a fall football season, but one Big Ten team might. Nebraska released a statement shortly after the Big Ten’s announcement making clear that the Cornhuskers are still hoping to play football in the fall. « We are very disappointed in the decision by the Big Ten Conference to postpone the [more]
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