Taking a Stand
Outside the Lines (Sunday, 10 a.m. ET, ESPN2)
Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell. These are some of the athletes who were not afraid to champion issues that were important to the African-American community. Critics say activism among athletes has taken a back seat to commercialism in recent decades. But some — like Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo — are taking a stand and showing that athletes do care about social and political issues. Michael Smith reports that today’s athlete activists say it’s unfair to compare them to their predecessors.
“The big difference is we had to struggle for our dignity, for our right as a citizen. And the athlete of today struggles to make more money, in my opinion. There’s so much power being wasted because the agent doesn’t make his money by recommending athletes become activists.” — Jim Brown, an activist throughout his career and in retirement
“It’s unfair because we all have different causes. We’re not trying to integrate football, that’s been done. I think most athletes, they do their civic duty, in some way, shape, or form. Some do it more, some do it less.” — Brendon Ayanbadejo, Baltimore Ravens linebacker, on African-American athletes being more active than they’re given credit for
From Russia with Topspin
In the last 20 years, a single indoor court in Moscow, the Spartak tennis facility, has produced more female tennis talent than the entirety of the United States. That court, tucked away in Moscow’s Sokolniki Park, is run by coaches who teach a distinct brand of tennis, focusing on fundamentals. In fact, most young players aren’t allowed to compete against an opponent until they’ve spent a minimum of three years practicing. This story explains how, and why, Spartak has managed to produce such an inordinate amount of tennis talent, while also examining the role of Russian culture in the equation. Just as basketball provides an escape route for young men growing up in the inner city, so too does tennis offer opportunity for the young women of Moscow. Kate Fagan reports.
Lee Evans’ Lingering Image
NFL Countdown (Sunday, 10 a.m. ESPN)
For a moment, it appeared Lee Evans caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the final seconds of last season’s AFC Championship game. But, Evans could not hang onto the ball, and the Ravens missed a game-tying field goal attempt two plays later, propelling the Patriots to Super Bowl XLVI. Adam Schefter reports on why seeing this image daily is so important to Evans — he keeps a photo of it in his home.
Elizabeth Merrill writes; “Here’s the thing you need to know about Lee Evans: He’s fine. One year after a potential winning touchdown catch was slapped out of his hands in the waning seconds of the AFC Championship Game, Evans sat in front of a television in his house last weekend, hoping for the second chance he never got. A few minutes earlier, Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones had dropped a third-and-5 pass in a playoff game at Denver. The Ravens trailed by seven and were running out of time in the frigid mountain air. Joe Flacco heaved up a 70-yard prayer, and Jones wrapped his arms around it and found the end zone.”
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