The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: Crouser happy with $50,000 Olympic bonuses; Hill explains USA Basketball picks for Paris; U.S. to pay Nassar survivors $100M?

Olympic and World shot champ Ryan Crouser at the USOPC Media Summit (Photo: USOPC video screen shot)

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. Crouser wants more recognition for track and field
2. More criticism of World Athletics’ Olympic pay plan
3. Hill and Reeve stress player versatility for U.S. hoops teams
4. Fascinating data: Olympics ranks third in U.S. fan interest
5. FBI’s Nassar-case failures could lead to $100 million payout

● At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee Media Summit in New York, shot world-record holder Ryan Crouser said he can’t understand why there is criticism of the World Athletics plan to award prize money to the Paris 2024 winners. He also talked about how to create greater interest in the sport.

● Three international federations, in cycling, rowing and tennis, are not following the World Athletics example regarding Olympic prize money, and the head of the British Olympic Association and the entire Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa all panned the concept.

● Also at the USOPC Media Summit, how the U.S. men’s basketball team roster was put together was discussed by USA Basketball men’s national team Managing Director Grant Hill, and the women’s approach by Paris 2024 head coach Cheryl Reeve.

● Included with a Variety story about NBC’s plans for Olympic coverage was a chart which showed the relative standing of the Olympic Games among fans vis-a-vis other sports. In most, it’s football and the Olympic Games that dominate. Not in the U.S.

● Reports are circulating that the U.S. government could agree to award 100 abuse survivors of former USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar a combined total of $100 million. But the deal is not done yet.

1.
Crouser wants more recognition for track and field

“I think that the key thing that we lack in track & field is conveying the level of sport that we have.”

That’s shot put superstar Ryan Crouser, speaking Wednesday at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Media Summit in New York, asked about how to raise the profile of his sport. He had plenty to say:

“It is the pinnacle of human performance. Like it or not, we’ve run faster, jumped higher and thrown farther than any other sport. And we do a poor job of conveying that to the public.

“When you have the eight fastest people on a track next to each other; eighth place – ‘oh, he’s slow’ – but he’s actually the eighth-fastest man in the world. And so if you can take a way to convey that, I mean, who was it – Bill Murray – famously said, ‘put an average person in every event.’ I think you don’t necessarily have to go that far, but taking the event out of the stadium … if you watch the shot put from 100 meters away, you’ve got eight guys, they’re all over 300 pounds, they all mostly can bench 500, squat 600 pounds, so the level of strength and athleticism is lost over that 100 m distance. But we do street shots, you put them in a public square – wherever it might be – and let people stand right there, pick up a shot and have them try and throw it; 20 feet is really good for the average person.

“And then when they see that 20 feet is good, they realize how far 75 feet is. So, I think the same thing in the long jump, pole vault, all of those things bringing it to the people, getting them to stand right there they can try it if they want, is what really makes the sport shine.

“And then also for the throwing events, I think we are so set on six attempts and farthest throw wins, we miss that feedback. I can tell the average person on the street, I throw the shot put 20 feet and they would say that’s really good. But in pole vault, especially, high jump, you see a bar clearance, you that was a successful attempt. I think we could implement that into the shot and have an increasing line that you throw over, get two or three attempts at each line – 60 feet, 65 feet, 70 feet – something along that , so that the average spectator can understand right away, ‘oh, that’s over the line, it’s good,’ or ‘it’s under the line, they came up short.’

“So I think there’s really a few small changes that we could do within our sport that could really elevate the level, just to the broader public, in terms of understanding and engagement.”

Crouser was also asked for his view on the World Athletics’ announcement that it will pay $50,000 to each Paris 2024 gold medalist – and he is the favorite – the first International Federation to do so:

“I’ve gotten this question a lot, and it’s a bit surprising to me, I’ve read that [there’s] been any opposition to it at all.

“I think there’s a big misconception amongst Olympic athletes – in regards to the public – I think they think you make the Olympics, and if you win a medal, that you’re a millionaire. I know that it doesn’t really work that way.

“You win the Olympics and you get a lot of recognition, but in terms of financial gain, the day you win the Olympics, you have zero dollars added to your bank account, in that aspect. So, any way we can help out athletes, I think, is great. I will never be against athletes being paid more money.

“The state of track & field is in a difficult time right now. I know athletes that have won medals at World Championships are still working multiple part-time jobs to make rent, and so I will always support athletes getting paid in that instance.

“Yeah, I think the biggest issue with that is the public not realizing that a lot of these athletes are winning Olympic medals and financially struggling.”

In terms of his forthcoming schedule, he’s planning to return to the spot where he set the current world mark of 23.56 m (77-3 3/4) last year:

“I’m planning on opening my outdoor season at UCLA [at the L.A. Grand Prix on 18 May]. World record would be nice, but I’m planning on going and then a pretty quick turnaround, L.A. to Eugene for the Prefontaine Diamond League and then a little bit of break before Trials.

“It is a slightly limited outdoor season for me, before the Olympics. That’s the main goal and at this point in my career, I have to limit myself. I can’t compete the same number of times when I was 21, so I’m a little limited; I like to say that on the day, I can still have as much as ever, but I can’t tap that well quite as often as I could when I was younger. So, I have to train smarter now [at 31].”

2.
More criticism of World Athletics’ Olympic pay plan

The critics of the World Athletics plan to pay each of its Paris gold medalists $50,000 continue to surface. The head of some of the other International Federations – who are not giving prizes – are making their disagreement known:

● Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) President David Lappartient (FRA), said that World Athletics made the announcement without any discussions with other International Federations:

“If we concentrate money on top athletes, a lot of opportunities will disappear for athletes all over the world. We really believe that this is not the Olympic spirit. The proposal was not discussed. …

“The Olympic spirit is to share revenues and have more athletes compete worldwide. Not only put all the money on the top athletes but spread the money.”

● World Rowing chief Jean-Christophe Rolland (FRA) added: “Obviously, we need the athletes. But we also need to ensure that we will have athletes tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.”

● Agence France Presse reported, “[t]he International Tennis Federation said it had no plans to follow suit and pay prize money and any change in the future ‘would be made in consultation with the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations and the International Olympic Committee’.”

And the World Athletics plan from President Sebastian Coe (GBR) was criticized by the head of the National Olympic Committee of his home country, Andy Anson, the chief executive of the British Olympic Committee (BOA). In an interview with Sky Sports, he explained:

“I think what was wrong with last week’s announcement was is that a sport does something on its own, without including others, the IOC or the National Olympic Committees. This creates a real problem, because now other sports will be observed, and we can expect pressure from athletes who will say: how can this sport do it and not us?

“This is a debate we can have, but we must have it at the right time, in the right place and together. With this announcement, there is today the risk of a two-speed sport, even if the number of athletes concerned [winners of the 48 athletics events] is ultimately quite small. Nobody wants this to happen.”

The Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) issued a statement from its President, Algeria’s Mustapha Berraf:

“This goes against the principles of solidarity advocated by the Olympic Movement and related substantial programmes, he said.

“Solidarity must be the order of the day within countries and sports organisations in order to bridge the gulf between athletes from the most affluent countries and those from the developing world, and not the other way round.

“The proposal by World Athletics goes against the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement and is aimed simply at bolstering the bank accounts of athletes who are not in need, rather than helping the most needy.

“Suffice it to note that athletics is an incomparable social asset and has enabled entire populations on the African continent to distinguish themselves and participate in the socio-economic development of their countries and nations.

“It is for this very reason that ANOCA believes it would be more useful to make the most of this income to meet the needs of young African talents, who only aspire to have the necessary infrastructural and material resources for their development.”

3.
Hill and Reeve stress player versatility for U.S. hoops teams

A leaked story that appeared on Tuesday named 11 of the 12 members of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team and Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers was reported on Wednesday as the 12th and final member of the team.

Later that day at the Media Summit, USA Basketball’s Grant Hill, a member of the 1996 Olympic gold-medal team and now the Men’s National Team Managing Director, explained how the 2024 Paris team was assembled:

“First of all, I want to clarify – I know things were reported [this week] and things of that nature – but the roster was finalized three weeks ago and [Leonard] was included in that. As things got out, they didn’t know who that last person was. …

“We’re excited, we’re honored to have him on board. He wasn’t the last guy at all; he was one of the top guys in terms of priority. So we’re grateful to have him and we’re grateful to have everyone. I mean, everyone is on this team for a reason, because they provide something that’s needed on the FIBA stage, or provide multiple things that are needed.

“We like the versatility of our team. You’re going to get a lot of different styles, playing styles that you’re going to go against. We feel like we’ve checked the boxes for everything we’ll see as we go on this journey, so we’re feeling good.”

He underlined that the U.S. men are hardly a shoo-in to win in Paris:

“We know we have a collection of incredible talent for this summer and a lot of guys are experienced . We have seven guys who have won Olympic gold medals for USA Basketball, and they know. They know very well just how difficult this is.

“We can’t just show up. We have to come, we have to play, we have to compete. We have to have a great deal of respect for our opponents and for the FIBA game. And because of the experience, I think 10 guys have participated in FIBA basketball, I think we’ll have that appropriate fear, that respect and we’ll come out and compete.”

Asked for more depth on how the team was assembled, Hill explained:

“It’s not always the best player per se, but maybe the best fit, and whose game really translates and resonates on the FIBA stage, and there’s a difference, a difference between the two games, the FIBA game and the NBA game.

“A lot of thought went into that … to be able to defend, to be able to maintain our identity offensively, the size and strength of some of the teams we will face. There’s certain things that you’re looking for. …

“It’s not just in terms of talent, too, but personalities. You’re blending personalities together. It’s like a puzzle, you know, and you’re trying to put the puzzle together. It’s an interesting, and certainly – at times – exhausting exercise but a very fulfilling one nonetheless.”

Women’s U.S. Olympic coach Cheryl Reeve, head coach of four WNBA championship teams with the Minnesota Lynx, is working on her roster selections now, which are not yet finalized:

“We’re working long and hard on roster formulation and making sure that, like Grant mentioned, we’re checking boxes and I think the identity of this team, you can look at the WNBA and say ‘what are the strengths of the league,’ making sure that we’re understanding how to position the players; [Breanna Stewart] Stewie’s multi-positional when she plays, gives us a lot of flexibility, along with some of the other players.”

Reeve was not asked directly about star guard Caitlin Clark, but about building on the culture of women’s basketball, so much in the headlines now:

“Now we’re in a movement, and I think it’s a direct correlation to the WNBA being existence for 28 years and so what you have is … all the kids know now is having the WNBA. So that has increased the overall talent, the natural evolution of the athlete – bigger, faster, stronger – we’ve seen all that and by the way, it’s exactly the same path for men’s basketball with the NBA. It’s not a surprise to us that this would be the trajectory of the WNBA.”

She also noted that “Media has played a role in that. Media’s played a big role in finding games and the time: you know it’s going to be on, what network it’s going to be on.”

Stewart, a two-time Olympic gold winner already, said that despite her success, her game keeps changing to keep up with the times:

“You’re going from positions to position-less, and having people being able to do multiple things. Your biggest player on the floor is shooting threes… As a player, I feel like how can I continue to get better, and that’s how can I continue to evolve, and that means, what else can I do?”

4.
Fascinating data: Olympics ranks third in U.S. fan interest

A very interesting table was inserted into a long story in Variety about how NBC is going to try and engage its Olympic audiences with a steady stream of celebrities during its Paris 2024 telecasts: the “fan popularity” of the Olympic Games vis-a-vis other sports in multiple countries. Check out these numbers:

United States:
1. 85%: NFL
2. 72%: Major League Baseball
3. 66%: Olympic Games
4. 63%: Olympic Winter Games
5. 50%: NBA and NHL

Mexico:
1. 86%: Liga MX football
2. 86%: FIFA World Cup
3. 80%: UEFA Champions League
4. 78%: Olympic Games
5. 74%: UEFA Europa League

Great Britain:
1. 88%: FIFA World Cup
2. 87%: English Premier League
3. 74%: UEFA Champions League
4. 71%: Olympic Games
5. 62%: UEFA Europa League

France:
1. 84%: FIFA World Cup
1. 84%: Olympic Games
3. 77%: UEFA Champions League
4. 75%: Ligue 1
5. 74%: Rugby World Cup

China:
1. 88%: Olympic Games
2. 82%: FIFA World Cup
3. 80%: NBA
4. 78%: Olympic Winter Games
5. 77%: English Premier League

Outside of the U.S., it’s football and the Olympics, with a few others thrown in here and there. Also included were charts for Spain, Germany and Italy. The numbers were derived from polling in a Cawi Consumer Survey, with 2,500 total respondents.

As for the NBC shows from Paris, the story summarized the NBC approach this way:

“Making events available live, as they hap-pen in France, means that NBC will need to have different Olympics programming during prime- time — a curated show that will combine event highlights with entertainment and stars commenting on the Games in the hopes of luring sports fans and channel surfers. In short, NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage may at times feel more like a variety show filmed in Paris.”

Look for Jimmy Fallon, Kelly Clarkson, Peyton Manning, podcast star Alex Cooper and Snoop Dogg – among others – to feature different aspects of the Games, along with the actual competitions.

5.
FBI’s Nassar-case failures could lead to $100 million payout

It was widely reported Thursday that the U.S. government is nearing a deal with about 100 plaintiffs who were sexually abused by infamous former sports doctor Larry Nassar, with the total payout at about $100 million.

The potential payouts concern the botched work of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation field offices in Indianapolis and Los Angeles, both of whom separately knew of Nassar’s activities, but failed to follow up properly.

In a 2021 appearance before the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee, U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in his statement:

“Larry Nassar’s abuses very well could and should have been stopped sooner, if appropriate action had been taken by the FBI in response to the courageous actions of these athletes. Not only did that not occur, but after the FBI agents’ inadequate and incompetent response came to light, FBI records were created that falsely summarized the testimony of an athlete who had spent hours detailing the abuses she endured, and inaccurately described the FBI’s handling of the matter. Further, when called to account for their actions, two of the agents lied to our OIG investigators.”

Horowitz noted that the Indianapolis Field Office learned of the Nassar issue in July 2015 and the Los Angeles Field Office was informed in May 2016. But:

● “The OIG found that, despite the extraordinarily serious nature of the allegations and the possibility that Nassar’s conduct could be continuing, senior officials in the FBI Indianapolis Field Office failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required, made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and violated multiple FBI policies. The Indianapolis Field Office did not undertake any investigative activity until September 2—5 weeks after the meeting with USA Gymnastics—when they telephonically interviewed one of the three athletes. Further, FBI Indianapolis never interviewed the other two gymnasts who they were told were available to meet with FBI investigators.”

“The OIG also found that, while the FBI Los Angeles Field Office appreciated the utmost seriousness of the Nassar allegations and took numerous investigative steps upon learning of them in May 2016, the office also did not expeditiously notify local law enforcement or the FBI Lansing Resident Agency of the information that it had learned or take other action to mitigate the ongoing danger that Nassar posed. Indeed, precisely because of its investigative activity, the Los Angeles Field Office was aware from interviewing multiple witnesses that Nassar’s abuse was potentially widespread and that there were specific allegations of sexual assault against him for his actions while at the Karolyi Training Camp (also known as the Karolyi Ranch) in Huntsville, Texas. Yet, the Los Angeles Field Office did not contact the Sheriff’s Office in Walker County, Texas, to provide it with the information that it had developed until after the MSUPD had taken action against Nassar in September 2016. Nor did it have any contact with the FBI Lansing Resident Agency until after the Lansing Resident Agency first learned about the Nassar allegations from the MSUPD and public news reporting. Given the continuing threat posed by Nassar, the uncertainty over whether the Los Angeles Field Office had venue over the allegations, and the doubt that there was even federal jurisdiction to charge the sexual tourism crime that the Los Angeles Field Office was seeking to pursue, we found that prudence and sound judgment dictated that the Los Angeles Field Office should have notified local authorities upon developing the serious evidence of sexual assault against Nassar that its investigative actions were uncovering.”

An agreement between the government and the complaintants has not been finalized, but if completed, would be separate and apart from the $339.5 million pool of insurance funds for the survivors approved in 2021, in actions principally against USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

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