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    Why Brittney Griner and Other W.N.B.A. Stars Play Overseas

    Competing for international teams during the W.N.B.A.’s off-season is common for players. The chance to earn extra money is just one of the draws.Brittney Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury, has been detained in Russia in connection with a drug investigation. She had been there playing for the professional basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the W.N.B.A. off-season. The news of her detention on Saturday prompted questions about safety and politics but also about logistics — namely: Why was one of the W.N.B.A.’s best players competing in Russia anyway?Griner is a seven-time All-Star, and she won a W.N.B.A. championship in 2014 alongside Diana Taurasi, who has also played in Russia. Trading off-season rest for international competition is common among W.N.B.A. players for many personal and professional reasons, but often the most pressing motivation is financial.Here is a quick look at what drives W.N.B.A. players to play internationally.Questions You May HaveWhich players compete overseas?How much money do W.N.B.A. players earn?How much do players make overseas?So, is it just about money?If they play in the season and the off-season, when do they get a break?Which players compete overseas?It could be anyone, from the W.N.B.A.’s best veterans to young players hoping to get extra playing time. About 70 players are believed to be playing for international teams this off-season, with more than a dozen in Russia and Ukraine. There are 144 roster spots across the 12 W.N.B.A. teams. In past years, some W.N.B.A. teams had posted trackers showing players who were competing in China, Israel, Italy, Turkey, Poland, Australia and several other countries.Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones, who won the Most Valuable Player Award last season, had been playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg in Russia but left after Russia invaded Ukraine. Jones posted on Twitter about airspace restrictions on Wednesday as she was flying out of Russia and said: “Just landed in Turkey and all I want to do is cry. That situation was way more stressful than I realized. Thank you God for always watching over and protecting me.”Other big-name stars, like Liz Cambage, Breanna Stewart, A’ja Wilson, Sue Bird and Arike Ogunbowale, have played internationally.How much money do W.N.B.A. players earn?The maximum salary for the 2022 season is $228,094; the minimum is $60,471.It’s hard not to notice how small those numbers are compared with salaries in the N.B.A., where even little-used bench players can earn millions. Top players like Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Kevin Durant earn more than $40 million per year. Their seasons are longer (82 regular-season games compared with 36 in the W.N.B.A.), and the men’s league brings in significantly more revenue than the women’s. But the stark disparity has been a constant source of debate in recent years as gender and pay equity have become hot-button topics.W.N.B.A. players have pushed for higher pay, and in 2020 their union, the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, signed a new collective bargaining agreement that the league said would increase the average salary to six figures — almost $130,000 — for the first time. The year before, in 2019, a player could earn as little as $41,965 and no more than $117,500.The new contract also created opportunities for players to earn additional money through a marketing program and an in-season tournament.How much do players make overseas?It varies among countries, leagues and teams, but players can make several hundred thousand dollars and even more than $1 million. For many players, the bulk of their income is not earned in the W.N.B.A.Cambage, a four-time All-Star who is from Australia, said recently on “NBA Today” that her pay for overseas teams was five to eight times as much as she earned in the W.N.B.A. Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier, who won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2019, said going overseas is essential for many players because of the lower W.N.B.A. salaries.“For a lot of people, it’s not like you make enough to live off that for the rest of the year,” Collier said on her podcast in August, according to the website Just Women’s Sports.In 2015, UMMC Ekaterinburg reportedly paid Taurasi, the Phoenix Mercury guard, $1.5 million to play for it and not to play in that year’s W.N.B.A. season. “It was a very personal choice,” Taurasi told The New York Times at the time. “My agent said it would be financially irresponsible not to do it.”International teams tend to have more government and corporate financial support than those in the W.N.B.A., which helps explain the higher salaries.So, is it just about money?No, not for everyone.Playing time is a key incentive for many players. With just 144 roster spots and easy-to-cut contracts in the W.N.B.A., it can be difficult for even talented players to stay on rosters and in the game. Last month, forward Lauren Manis told The Times about signing with teams in Belgium and Hungary after the Las Vegas Aces waived her in 2020 and again in 2021. She has yet to appear in a W.N.B.A. game — the Aces waived her about a month after drafting her in 2020 — but she recently signed a training camp contract with the Seattle Storm.The W.N.B.A. also draws players from all over the world, so the off-season gives many of them an opportunity to play in their home countries in front of their families and friends. But playing year-round can mean that players are tired when it’s time to return to the W.N.B.A.Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones was one of several W.N.B.A. players who left their international teams in Russia after Russia invaded Ukraine.Ashley Landis/Associated PressIf they play in the season and the off-season, when do they get a break?Sometimes they don’t.This can be a problem for the players — little rest can lead to injuries — and for the W.N.B.A. The league and its teams have been supportive of the players’ international careers, with notes about their accomplishments included in their website bios, but the new collective bargaining agreement signed in 2020 added steep financial penalties to discourage overseas play.Many players are not finished with their international seasons before W.N.B.A. training camp begins in April and the start of the season in May. Last season, 55 players were late to training camp, and about a dozen missed their season-openers, according to The Hartford Courant. Players can be fined up to 20 percent of their salaries for missing regular-season games because they are playing in other leagues, and starting next season, they may not be allowed to play at all if they are not back by the start of the regular season. More

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    The WNBA’s $20 Million Debate Over Charter Flights

    Secret charter flights cost the Liberty a big fine, but players say they deserve them — and need them to be healthy. The league says they’re too expensive for now.The W.N.B.A. said charter flights were too expensive. The players said they did not have to be. The W.N.B.A. commissioner said she wanted them more than anyone. The players said that when they asked for them just two years ago, it felt like the answer was “a hard no.”Now, charter flights for players seem to be closer to a maybe. But that movement has come at a cost — a $500,000 fine for the Liberty, and a bruising of the league’s public image as fans, players and those attuned to drama question whether the W.N.B.A. is doing right by its players.And the cost for the flights? W.N.B.A. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league had estimated that it would cost more than $20 million for all 12 teams to fly by charter instead of commercial airlines for a full season, not accounting for the recent surge in fuel costs and variables such as routes. She has maintained that the league does not have enough revenue to cover the costs. Teams typically play more than 30 games, with half on the road.The players’ union said that it did not have a cost estimate, but that a change in travel accommodations was long overdue.“The league is young, but it’s old enough,” said Terri Jackson, the union’s executive director. “We can figure this out.”An article in Sports Illustrated on Tuesday revealed that the W.N.B.A. had fined the Liberty $500,000 in the fall for secretly using charter flights to travel to some games during the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union allows for premium economy seats, such as Comfort Plus from Delta, but charter flights are not allowed and their provision is considered an unfair competitive advantage. The league confirmed to The New York Times that the Liberty had been fined $500,000 for “multiple violations of league rules,” including taking eight charter flights toward the end of the regular season, sending players on a trip to Napa, Calif., and making unspecified “public comments about items that are collectively bargained.”The Liberty declined to comment. In October, Joe Tsai, who owns the Liberty with his wife, Clara Wu Tsai, tweeted about charter flights as an issue of “equity for women athletes.”The Liberty, owned by Joe Tsai, were fined $500,000 for eight charter flights and a trip to Napa, Calif., during the 2021 season.Corey Sipkin/Associated PressEngelbert said that she wanted players to have charter flights, but that until that was possible, the collective bargaining agreement had to be enforced and the fine “had to be big enough” to serve as a deterrent. She said Sports Illustrated’s report that the league had suggested a $1 million fine was “inaccurate,” but a spokesman for the magazine said it stood behind its reporting.The sentiment on social media this week has been largely against the league, including from players who are not on the Liberty.“We deserve nice things,” guard Lexie Brown, who won a championship with the Chicago Sky last season, posted on Twitter on Wednesday. A week earlier, Brown tweeted “the wnba” in response to a question about what was holding the league back.“What a joke,” Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu posted on Twitter with three crying-laughing emojis, in response to a tweet about the Sports Illustrated article.Josh Hart, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers of the N.B.A., tweeted “This is trash and @WNBA yall got to get better.”Part of the blowback came in response to the assertion by Sports Illustrated that in September, team owners did not support an “unofficial proposal” from the Liberty to make charter flights the default. According to the article, “the Liberty said they’d found a way to get it comped for everyone in the league for three years,” but some owners were worried the players would get used to the flights and want them permanently.But the league was quoted in the article as saying that the Liberty did not make a proposal for the owners to consider, and, in an interview with The Times, Engelbert said a formal proposal “never happened.” She added that if such a proposal were to come, “it would be supported.”“This is a good thing that we have ownership groups that really care, that are investing and are having really good debates,” she said.Whether or not the team owners want charters, the players do. And, in a twist from even five or 10 years ago, they appear to have broad public support as female athletes speak up for themselves and women’s sports get more media attention. For some, the push for charters is about offering accommodations befitting professional athletes — “nice things,” as Brown said. But Jackson said it was mainly about players’ health and safety.“Their bodies are their craft,” Jackson said. They need time to rest, leg room because they are tall and access to nutritious meals to perform at a high level, she said. All of that is compromised by spending hours in airports traveling commercially, sitting in cramped seats and not having proper snacks, she said.It was worse just a few years ago, before the 2020 collective bargaining agreement went into effect with an allotment for upgraded seats. Liz Cambage, a four-time All-Star who is listed at 6-foot-8, tweeted last month that she had paid “out of my own pocket” to upgrade her seats. And yet, even now, players can find themselves stuck in coach.Jackson said teams and the league had blamed overwhelmed staff members struggling to arrange travel and airlines that won’t allow large groups to book upgraded or exit row seats. Bringing the complaints to the league has helped — “Some teams got it together,” Jackson said — but she said the next step would be to file a grievance. The union did not do so last season, but upgraded travel will be a “point of emphasis” this coming season, she said. The league said it was “made aware” of complaints last season and will be auditing teams this season “to assure full compliance.”How soon players can upgrade to charter flights — without teams incurring fines — is unclear because of the players’ and league’s conflicting views on how to pay for them, and when. Engelbert said the $20 million-plus price tag for full-season charters makes it unlikely that a sponsor will pick up the tab, though the league is open to that and the Liberty and other teams are exploring options.“I don’t want to do things that jeopardize the financial health of the league,” she said, adding, “We are trying to build revenue and financial models that support better things for the players in the long term, but this is not something that we can afford today.”Engelbert would not disclose the W.N.B.A.’s revenue or if any teams were profitable, but she said the league was valued at $475 million and at more than $1 billion with the 12 teams included. Last month, the league announced that it had raised $75 million from a group of investors, including Condoleezza Rice and Joe and Clara Wu Tsai. The league had been owned in a 50-50 split with the N.B.A., which founded the W.N.B.A. in 1996. Now the ownership split is 42.1 percent each for the W.N.B.A. and N.B.A. and 15.8 percent for the new investors, who do not have voting rights, as first reported by Sports Illustrated and confirmed by The Times.W.N.B.A. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said she hoped the league would be able to have full-season charters eventually, but that was “not something that we can afford today.”Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesIn an interview with The Times last month, Engelbert said that the new money would not be used for charter flights but for marketing and upgrading the league’s digital products, such as its website and streaming service. The marketing efforts could generate additional revenue that might then enable the league to pay for flights in the future, she said.Jackson said even small changes to the flight rules now could have a big impact. When the union was negotiating travel accommodations for its contract, it didn’t start by asking for full-season charters, she said.“We didn’t go into negotiations to break the bank,” she said. “We care too much about this league. But we want to be supported. The players want to be supported and valued, not taken advantage of.”In addition to having sponsors cover some, if not all, of the cost of charters, Jackson said the union was open to discussing using charters for back-to-back games and the postseason — which Engelbert has permitted under special circumstances — and setting a maximum number of flights that teams could use per season and letting them decide when and whether to use them.“There are ways to do this,” Jackson said. “This is not an all-or-nothing.” More

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    What the Ben Simmons Standoff Means for the Sixers and the N.B.A.

    Simmons is the latest N.B.A. star to ask for a trade then try to force his way off a team, but Philadelphia is holding firm so far.Over the summer, Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons requested a trade, initiating a standoff that has dragged into the regular season.The organization fined Simmons repeatedly for missing practices, meetings and preseason games, according to ESPN. Simmons did not report to the team until near the end of the preseason and was suspended for the regular-season opener for conduct detrimental to the team. Simmons likely will not play for the 76ers again for a long while, if ever. Philadelphia hosts the Nets on Friday.In response to a report from The Athletic on Friday that Simmons had said he was mentally unprepared to play, 76ers forward Tobias Harris wrote in a tweet: “And we’ll respect his privacy and space during this time. When he’s ready, we will embrace our brother with love and handle our business on the court. That’s it, that’s all.”Here’s how the situation evolved, where it stands and what it could mean for the N.B.A.Here’s what you need to know:Why is Simmons so unhappy in Philadelphia?What is Daryl Morey’s trade history?How does Simmons fit into the larger theme of player empowerment in the N.B.A.?Could N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver intervene at some point?What does the absence of Simmons mean for the rest of the Eastern Conference?What are the larger implications of Simmons’s actions?Why is Simmons so unhappy in Philadelphia?Technically, we don’t know. Simmons hasn’t said anything publicly. Much of this has played out through anonymous reports in the media. There have been some signals from Simmons’s Instagram page, such as when he liked a post detailing how much the Sixers could fine him for missing games and practices.The tension between Simmons and the Sixers has been festering for years, despite Simmons’s signing an extension in 2019. Now in his sixth season, he hasn’t really changed much as a player (he missed his first season with a foot injury). He is one of the most versatile playmakers in the N.B.A. and an excellent defender, but he has not developed a jump shot, which has made him a liability on the offensive end in multiple playoff runs. He’s also a career 59.7 percent free-throw shooter, which means teams often foul him on purpose at the end of games.In December 2019, Brett Brown, the former 76ers coach, publicly begged Simmons to take more 3s. One month later, Brown told reporters that he had “failed” in his mission.Even though Doc Rivers replaced Brown before last season, there hasn’t been much difference. Rivers was Simmons’s steadfast defender last year, but after the Atlanta Hawks eliminated the Sixers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Rivers told reporters that he didn’t know whether Simmons could be a point guard for a championship team. It’s highly unusual to see a coach publicly criticize his own player minutes after a tough playoff loss.On Thursday, Daryl Morey, the team’s president of basketball operations, said on a local Philadelphia radio station: “Doc Rivers defended Ben Simmons more than any human on Earth, maybe ever. If someone wants to interpret one comment out of 10,000, I don’t think that’s very fair to the organization or Doc Rivers.”He added, “To me, it’s all some sort of like, you know, pretext to do something larger by his agent.”What is Daryl Morey’s trade history?Morey recognizes the value of an All-Star, even if that player’s game is limited. He has never been shy about wheeling and dealing, typically swings big and often ends up on the right side of trades.Morey made an eye-popping 70-plus trades during his 13 seasons as general manager of the Houston Rockets and has already made several deals since joining Philadelphia in 2020. His most noteworthy deal helped shape the modern N.B.A.: Morey plucked James Harden from his reserve role with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012 for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin and draft picks. In Houston, Harden became the focal point of an offensive scheme that centered 3-pointers and high-percentage shots like layups and dunks.Two of Morey’s most memorable other deals involved Chris Paul. Morey landed Paul in Houston in 2017 for a package that sent several players, including Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams to the Clippers. In 2019, Morey acquired Russell Westbrook for Paul and a package of draft picks.How does Simmons fit into the larger theme of player empowerment in the N.B.A.?In recent years, some prominent players have leveraged their looming free agency to force trades to where they want to go. Anthony Davis, for example, got to the Los Angeles Lakers from the New Orleans Pelicans this way.What’s happening with Simmons, though, is unprecedented because of how much time is left on his contract. Simmons is not a free agent until after the 2024-25 season. Even when James Harden, then with the Houston Rockets, forced his way to the Nets, he had just two years left on his deal. In theory, Simmons shouldn’t have much leverage. The closest comparison is Paul George, who had just signed an extension in Oklahoma City before engineering a trade to team up in Los Angeles with Kawhi Leonard. The difference is that the Thunder quickly acquiesced to George’s request, while the Sixers have been unwilling to do so with Simmons.“Player empowerment” is also difficult to gauge in this situation because it’s not clear what Simmons’s value is. While he has made multiple All-Star teams and is one of the best defensive players in the N.B.A., his unwillingness to shoot and his shrinking in playoff games have hurt his trade value. At least so far, teams are unwilling to throw in the kitchen sink and more to obtain Simmons. So is it player empowerment if the player is currently not empowered?Could N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver intervene at some point?The league has rarely publicly intervened in standoffs between a player and a team, and it is uncertain what, if anything, Silver can do to move the situation along under the N.B.A.’s collective bargaining agreement.The N.B.A. stepped in when the New Orleans Pelicans attempted to bench Anthony Davis in 2019 following his agent’s public request for a trade. Davis and Simmons share the same agent in Rich Paul, but the two scenarios are otherwise vastly different. Paul made the trade request for Davis in early 2019 with Davis set to become a free agent in the summer of 2020. The N.B.A. fined Davis $50,000 for the public trade request. Simmons has four years and $147 million left on his contract.“It’s something you never like to see as a league,” Silver recently told ESPN of Philadelphia’s situation.What does the absence of Simmons mean for the rest of the Eastern Conference?We’ve spent a few seasons watching The Process come tantalizingly close to fruition.Remember, Simmons and the 76ers were only a cruel bounce away from qualifying for the Eastern Conference finals in 2019 when they were eliminated in the semifinals by Kawhi Leonard’s soft touch on a buzzer beater for the Toronto Raptors in Game 7.An engaged Simmons, the one who is a three-time All-Star, fantastic distributor and a disruptive force on defense, lifts Philadelphia to among the top of the Eastern Conference contenders.Philadelphia earned the Eastern Conference’s top seed last season with a record of 49-23, and Joel Embiid is talented enough to strike fear in any playoff opponent. But expect Philadelphia to regress without Simmons or some type of a return in a trade for him and for teams like the Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat to finish atop the Eastern Conference standings.What are the larger implications of Simmons’s actions?Daryl Morey and Doc Rivers have said publicly that they want Simmons back and playing, though Morey is still trying to trade Simmons but said he doesn’t want role players in return.If the Sixers are successful in getting Simmons back on the court, then the dispute becomes a moot point. However, it would signal that teams might be less willing to give in to trade demands going forward.But if Simmons still doesn’t return, both sides will enter treacherous terrain. For Simmons, he likely will lose significant money during his athletic prime to fines and unpaid salary. Morey has said that this saga could drag on for the rest of Simmons’s contract. This would mean that the Sixers would spend Joel Embiid’s prime with a gaping hole in their roster that would limit their ceiling.As for the league, if Simmons becomes the latest star player, after James Harden, Anthony Davis and Paul George, to engineer his own path independent of the organization’s wishes, it could affect the new collective bargaining agreement, which could come into effect in 2024. League owners might want harsher penalties for players who try to force their way off teams. (Conversely, there likely would be significant pushback from the players’ union on this. After all, teams trade players all the time despite signing them to play for their particular franchise.) More

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    N.F.L. to Crack Down on Taunting This Season

    The league’s competition committee said that acts of baiting had gotten out of hand.The N.F.L. announced on Tuesday that as part of its stated commitment to “protecting players from unnecessary risk, while keeping the game fair, competitive and exciting,” it would implement new rules and emphasize others for the betterment of the game.Chief among its priorities for the coming season: disciplining players for hits targeting an opponent’s head, a Covid-19-related relaxing of rules around how long injured players are ineligible and making sure that players do not tease each other too much.Making it a point of emphasis, the league told officials to strictly enforce taunting rules, which include automatic ejection of players who accrue two taunting penalties in a game. The player may also be fined or suspended, or both, depending on the severity of his transgression.“The N.F.L. Players Association, coaches and competition committee have all made a strong statement regarding respect among everyone on the field,” the league said on Tuesday in its annual rule changes and points of emphasis video. “We saw an increase in actions that clearly are not within the spirit and intent of this rule and not representative of the respect to opponents and others on the field.”The renewed effort to enforce taunting rules will target “baiting or taunting acts or words” and “abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures” toward players, coaches and game officials, as defined by the N.F.L.’s unsportsmanlike conduct rules.Taunting between Bears receiver Javon Wims and Saints cornerback Chauncey Gardner-Johnson led to a skirmish between the teams last season.Nam Y. Huh/Associated PressBut the broad and subjective definition of taunting could mean a crackdown on some of the game’s most spontaneous and entertaining displays of personality, which could include gestures that have become trademarks for some players.In one of the most memorable moments of the last Super Bowl, Tampa Bay safety Antoine Winfield Jr. thrust a peace sign into the face of Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill, mocking Hill’s usual touchdown celebration. Winfield was flagged for taunting and fined $7,815 for the gesture, a fraction of the maximum, $15,450, that can be levied against a player by the league, depending on the severity of his action.Hill was not penalized for having flashed the peace sign at Winfield on the way to the end zone in a Week 12 game, the play that prompted his Super Bowl revenge.Some notable instances of taunting last season, however, spilled beyond a play or two. The Ravens were flagged for taunting in their wild-card playoff win against the Titans after members of the defense celebrated a fourth-quarter interception by stamping on the Titans’ logo. Baltimore cornerback Marcus Peters, who pulled in the interception, was fined $15,000.Peters and the Ravens were retaliating for an incident before a game in Week 11 in which Malcolm Butler and other Titans players gathered on the Ravens’ logo, sparking a confrontation with Baltimore players and Coach John Harbaugh. Tennessee was not penalized for taunting.In Week 8, Bears receiver Javon Wims was ejected from a game, and later suspended, for punching Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, leading to a midfield scuffle between the teams that was broken up by officials. Wims said Gardner-Johnson had provoked the fight by spitting on him and ripping out his mouthpiece. No one was flagged for taunting.Tennessee Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler yelled at Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh before a game in November.Nick Wass/Associated PressTaunting calls result in a 15-yard penalty for the offending team, though flags for gestures like stare-downs or first-down celebrations have dwindled alongside the N.F.L.’s scaling back of rules against excessively celebrating touchdowns, which began in 2017. The league issued 10 penalties for taunting last season and eight in 2019, down from an average of 24 flags each season from 2013 to 2018.This spring, the competition committee sent to all 32 teams its report recommending that the officiating department pay more attention to taunting, reportedly because coaches on the committee felt enforcement had become lax.“Any flagrant acts or remarks that deride, mock, bait or embarrass an opponent are considered taunting,” the report said.Under the league’s new plan, that means no spiking or spinning the ball, pointing the ball or a finger, verbal taunting, or standing or stepping over an opponent for too long or in a way that provokes them. Gestures that simulate handcuffs would be considered taunting, as outlined in the report.In the video announcement of the change, released on Tuesday, the N.F.L. used as an example a clip of Colts receiver Parris Campbell flexing in Myles Jack’s face after taking a hit from the Jaguars linebacker in a game last season, for which Campbell was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. It also included Browns receiver Jarvis Landry spiking the ball near a Texans defender after a first down in a 2020 game. Landry was called for taunting. More

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    N.F.L. Fines Washington Football Team $10 Million

    The penalty of a $10 million fine follows an investigation into sexual harassment and abuse in the team’s front office.The N.F.L. on Thursday announced that the Washington Football Team would pay a $10 million fine to the league after a yearlong investigation into reports of the club’s rampant culture of sexual harassment perpetuated by managers and executives under the ownership of Daniel Snyder. The team also must reimburse the league for the cost of the investigation.Snyder will remove himself from day-to-day business operations of the club through at least mid-October, ceding that control to his wife and new co-chief executive, Tanya Snyder. Daniel Snyder, though, will attend games and continue to work on searching for a new team name and a new stadium. Vestry Laight, a firm that works with companies to address misconduct, which was already retained by the team, will provide the league with updates on the team’s human resources practices for the next two years.Roger Goodell, the league’s commissioner, “concluded that for many years the workplace environment at the Washington Football Team, both generally and particularly for women, was highly unprofessional,” the N.F.L. said in a statement. “Bullying and intimidation frequently took place and many described the culture as one of fear, and numerous female employees reported having experienced sexual harassment and a general lack of respect in the workplace.”The penalties are some of the harshest levied against an N.F.L. team and conclude an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by men in the team’s front office dating to 2004. Beth Wilkinson, a lawyer based in Washington who led the investigation, shared her findings in an oral presentation that formed the basis of the league’s decision to penalize the team.“We are incredibly remorseful and incredibly sorry, and we want everyone to be treated with dignity and respect and professionalism,” Daniel Snyder said in an interview on Wednesday.“I’m mortified to think that’s happening in our building and our business,” Tanya Snyder added.Nearly 150 current and former employees of the football club were interviewed as part of Wilkinson’s investigation into reports of misdeeds that were detailed in several Washington Post articles last year, as well as reports in The New York Times in 2018 about abuse of cheerleaders. In addition to several incidents of inappropriate treatment of female office workers and cheerleaders by men employed by the franchise, The Post reported that two women had accused Snyder, 56, in separate episodes of harassment dating to 2004. He has denied those allegations.Snyder also reached a financial settlement in 2009 with a female former executive who had accused him of sexual misconduct during a trip on a private jet. He has denied any wrongdoing.The N.F.L. released only a brief summary of the team’s toxic internal culture, not a full accounting of allegations, so it is unclear how deep the dysfunction went.Lisa Friel, the N.F.L. Special Counsel for Investigations, said that Wilkinson was not asked to verify the accuracy of any allegations, or produce a written report of her findings to preserve the anonymity of the witnesses.“We felt it was best due to the sensitivity of the allegations and the requests for confidentiality,” Friel said, adding that a written report might have given away the identity of some of the employees.Snyder has conceded that he was too lax in his management of the team over the years, leaving much of the day-to-day running of the club to Bruce Allen, the former team president who was dismissed at the end of 2019 after a decade on the job.“I appreciate the people who came forward and intend fully to implement all of the recommendations coming out of the investigation,” Daniel Snyder said in a statement released Thursday.Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, lawyers who are representing 40 former team employees, said Wilkinson’s investigation “substantiated our clients’ allegations of pervasive harassment, misogyny and abuse.” They said the N.F.L. was protecting Snyder by ignoring their requests to make Wilkinson’s findings public. The $10 million fine, they added, “amounts to pocket change” for the club.“The N.F.L. has effectively told survivors in this country and around the world that it does not care about them or credit their experiences,” they said in a statement. “Female fans, and fans of good will everywhere, take note.”The allegations of widespread harassment within the Washington franchise have been acutely embarrassing for the league, which during the past two decades gained a reputation that it had failed to adequately reprimand players, coaches, staff and team owners who were accused of harassing or assaulting women.The team also decided to drop its nickname and logo last July after years of criticism from people who considered it a racist slur against Native Americans and of threats from major corporations to end sponsorships. The team is reviewing new names and logos.In the past year, Snyder also battled publicly with three longtime shareholders. Their boardroom brawl included dueling lawsuits, accusations of the smear campaigns and bullying.Months before the investigation into the leadership of the team and the conduct of its employees was completed, the league’s owners endorsed Snyder by unanimously voting to allow him to add $450 million of new debt so he could purchase the 40 percent of the team that he and his relatives did not already own.The fine against the Washington franchise for failing to properly manage its staff is the first financial penalty against a team in a sexual harassment case since Jerry Richardson was fined $2.75 million for making racist comments and sexually harassing female members of his staff while he was owner of the Carolina Panthers. The league fined Richardson after he had reached an agreement to sell the team in 2018 for $2.2 billion.The N.F.L.’s penalizing of Snyder fell short of suspending him. Only a handful of owners have been suspended, and typically because they were personally charged with crimes. Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. of the San Francisco 49ers was suspended for a year and fined $1 million after he pleaded guilty to one felony charge of failing to report an alleged extortion attempt by the then-governor of Louisiana, Edwin Edwards.Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, was suspended for six games and fined $500,000 after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated following his arrest after a traffic stop in 2014.After the allegations of sexual harassment became public last summer, Snyder fired nearly every front office executive. He has tried to revive the club’s tattered image by hiring new executives, including Jason Wright, the N.F.L.’s first Black team president, and several women. A coed dance team will perform on game days, replacing the cheerleading program, which had been overseen by one of the since-fired executives who had been accused of sexual harassment.Snyder said he would adopt the recommendations put forth by Wilkinson, which include the detailed development of protocols for “victims to report anonymously and without fear of retaliation” any misconduct and the implementation of regular anti-bullying, discrimination and harassment training seminars.Fatima Goss Graves, chief executive of the National Women’s Law Center, said that none of the recommendations can prompt change without the release the investigation’s findings.“There is no reason to issue a significant fine without giving a full explanation of why,” she said. “It is hard to have meaningful accountability without transparency when the allegations go to the very top of the organization.”Kim Gandy, the former chief executive of the National Network to End Domestic Violence and a one-time adviser to the league, questioned whether $10 million is significant enough.“The fine represents only 2 percent of last year’s revenue, and less than three-tenths of 1 percent of the team’s value,” she said.In the interview this week, Snyder said he and his wife are down to a few dozen options for new names for the team and that a location for a new stadium will be chosen in about six months.Despite its rebuke of the Washington team, the league as a whole continues to be plagued by claims of harassment, not just in ownership circles, but among players and coaches. “We will review our own policies and practices,” the league said Thursday. 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    Naomi Osaka Skips News Conference, Drawing Tennis Officials’ Ire

    The heads of the Grand Slam events warned Osaka of escalating penalties, including default, if she continued to not “do press,” as she vowed she would not last week.PARIS — Naomi Osaka’s return to the French Open was triumphant as she won her first-round match over Patricia Maria Tig on Sunday in straight sets. But Osaka did not emerge unscathed from the tournament’s opening day.She was fined $15,000 by Rémy Azémar, the French Open tournament referee, for declining to appear at a mandatory postmatch news conference and warned that she risked stronger penalties, including default from the tournament, if she continued not to fulfill her media obligations.That surprisingly stern warning was delivered in a statement signed by the leaders of the four Grand Slam tournaments: Gilles Moretton, the new president of the French Tennis Federation; Mike McNulty, the new head of the United States Tennis Association; Jayne Hrdlicka, the head of Tennis Australia; and Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club, which runs Wimbledon.The Grand Slam events’ leaders also emphasized that repeat violations by Osaka could lead to “more substantial fines and future Grand Slam suspensions.”Osaka, a four-time major singles champion who is one of the sport’s biggest stars, is now faced with a choice. Before the French Open began, she announced that she would not do “any press” during the tournament, citing the need to preserve her “mental health” by avoiding repetitive and potentially negative questions from journalists.But if the intent was to limit distractions and find inner calm, she now faces a potentially bigger concern in Paris if she continues to abstain from news conferences.“It’s developed into a power struggle,” said Chris Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam singles champion who is covering the French Open as an analyst for Eurosport. “Press conferences are crucial to Grand Slams to get the players’ perspective of their match, and it’s a collective responsibility for players to continue to grow the sport. I think we’ve lost sight of the early days, the ’70s, when there was no women’s tour, and that generation talked endlessly to the press to promote the sport and themselves. The players today are making a tremendous amount of money, and there are trade-offs.”The Grand Slam leaders expressed frustration with Osaka’s lack of engagement with tennis officials, explaining in their statement that the French Open management team had “tried unsuccessfully to speak with her to check on her well-being, understand the specifics of her issue and what might be done to address it on site.”The Grand Slam leaders said they had written jointly to Osaka to remind her of her obligations and of the consequences she faced for not complying with the rules. The leaders also emphasized the importance of equal treatment.“We want to underline that rules are in place to ensure all players are treated exactly the same, no matter their stature, beliefs or achievement,” the statement said. “As a sport there is nothing more important than ensuring no player has an unfair advantage over another, which unfortunately is the case in this situation if one player refuses to dedicate time to participate in media commitments while the others all honour their commitments.”Leading players such as Andre Agassi, Novak Djokovic and Venus and Serena Williams have skipped news conferences after defeats and been fined. But this is the first instance of a top player making it clear in advance that she did not intend to speak with the news media during a Grand Slam tournament.Osaka, who is based in the United States and represents Japan, is the world’s highest-paid female athlete, with the bulk of her earnings coming from sponsorships. She has raised her profile not simply by winning major titles but by advocating social justice; she wore masks that honored Black victims of violence, including police violence, after matches at last year’s United States Open.Fabrice Santoro, an on-court interviewer at the French Open, asked to talk to Osaka after she won her first-round match on Sunday.Julian Finney/Getty Images“Naomi certainly makes us think and examine the status quo,” Evert said on Sunday. “I respect Naomi and what she’s done for social issues and for the game but everyone needs to communicate and come up with a solution.”Tennis leaders followed Osaka’s lead last August when she withdrew from the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open to protest racial injustice, tournament organizers called off all play that day in a show of solidarity. She played her semifinal, but there is clearly less consensus this time, suggesting that Osaka may have misread the room. The Grand Slam tournaments even brandished the possibility of a “major offense” investigation if she continued to break the rules, which could lead to further fines or suspension from future Grand Slam tournaments. The grounds for such sanctions would be the rule that defines a major offense as “a series of two or more” violations of the code of conduct within a 12-month period, which “when viewed together establish a pattern of conduct that is collectively egregious and is detrimental or injurious to the Grand Slam tournaments.”Repeatedly skipping news conferences could be considered a pattern of conduct. Evert said tennis leaders and Osaka should meet and work through the issues before “this blows up anymore.”Osaka has had, in general, a positive relationship with the news media. But in her announcement on social media ahead of the French Open, she said, “I have often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health, and this rings very true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.” She focused in particular on players being required to speak after defeats.Osaka, whose decision caught some members of her own support team by surprise, did not say whether she was experiencing a specific mental-health issue, but she made it clear in her social media posts that she felt strongly about taking a stand. “If the organizations think that they can just keep saying, ‘do press or you’re gonna be fined’ and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centerpiece of their cooperation then I just gotta laugh.”The Grand Slam leadership said on Sunday that players’ mental health was “of the utmost importance to the Grand Slams.”“We individually and collectively have significant resources dedicated to player well-being,” the statement said. “In order to continue to improve, however, we need engagement from the players to understand their perspective and find ways to improve their experiences.No leading player has yet expressed publicly a desire to follow Osaka’s lead by skipping news conferences. The main draws of the previous generation — Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Serena Williams — have regularly answered questions after each match despite becoming global stars.There is concern among tennis leaders that Osaka could set a precedent at a time when social media has given stars a broad platform to reach the public directly. But the Grand Slam leaders emphasized that the news media still played an important role.“A core element of the Grand Slam regulations is the responsibility of the players to engage with the media, whatever the result of their match, a responsibility which players take for the benefit of the sport, the fans and for themselves,” their statement said. “These interactions allow both the players and the media to share their perspective and for the players to tell their story. The facilitation of media to a broad array of channels, both traditional and digital, is a major contributor to the development and growth of our sport and the fan base of individual players.”Osaka’s next match is on Wednesday against Ana Bogdan of Romania.Pete Kiehart for The New York TimesOsaka was not silent after her 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory over Tig on the main Philippe Chatrier Court on Sunday. She answered three questions from the on-court interviewer, Fabrice Santoro, after the match and a few more queries on her way off the court from Wowow, the Japanese broadcaster with whom she is under contract.But she declined all other television requests and skipped the news conference. After earning more than $55 million in the last year, she can afford the $15,000 fine and other fines that might come her way. The bigger question is whether she wants to risk jeopardizing her participation in the French Open. She has struggled on clay and never advanced past the third round in Paris, but the tournament remains one of the pillars of the sport.The next chance to escalate or defuse the tension comes in the second round on Wednesday against Ana Bogdan of Romania. More

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    Daniel Snyder to Buy Out Other Owners of Washington NFL Team

    The league is expected to approve a measure that will allow Daniel Snyder to buy total control of the team.Seeking to move past a year of tumult over the team’s former name and a sexual harassment investigation of its front office, the owner of the Washington Football Team is close to a deal with fellow league owners that will give him greater control over the organization while he pays a fine for executives’ misconduct.The arrangement effectively resolves two pressing issues: a protracted boardroom fight over ownership that spilled out into the open and an investigation by the N.F.L. into allegations that women who worked for the team were sexually harassed by staff members, a number of whom have already been dismissed.The league owners next week are expected to approve a special waiver that would allow the owner, Daniel Snyder, to take on an additional $450 million in debt in order to buy out minority partners he has been battling, according to a copy of the resolution reviewed by The New York Times. The N.F.L.’s finance committee last week unanimously recommended that the full cohort of owners waive the limit of debt a buyer can take on to buy into a team. Snyder will have to repay the money by March 2028.Support for Snyder’s purchase comes as the N.F.L.’s investigation into sexual harassment claims made against former Washington Football Team executives concludes. In the coming days, Commissioner Roger Goodell may address the findings collected by Beth Wilkinson, a Washington-based lawyer whom Snyder hired last summer to investigate after several Washington Post articles reported widespread sexual harassment of women who worked for the team over a 15-year span. The N.F.L. took over her investigation from Snyder.Snyder’s pending purchase of his partners’ shares and the end of Wilkinson’s investigation into the team’s internal culture come after a chaotic year for the franchise. The team decided to drop its nickname and logo last July after years of criticism from some Native American activists who considered it a racist slur and threats from major corporations that they would end sponsorships if the name stayed. The Washington Football Team is still reviewing possible new names and logos.Since then, Washington sought to rectify its 3-13 record from the 2019 season by firing numerous front office executives and hiring a new coach, Ron Rivera, at the beginning of 2020. In August, Rivera learned he had cancer and began treatments for it, but he coached the full season, leading the team back to the playoffs for the first time in five years.To try to revive the club’s tattered image, Snyder has hired several new executives, including Jason Wright, the N.F.L.’s first Black team president. A coed dance team will perform on game days, replacing the cheerleading program, which had been overseen by one of the since-fired executives who had been accused of sexual harassment.Snyder will pay $875 million for the 40.5 percent of the team owned by Dwight Schar, Robert Rothman and Frederick Smith, ensuring his total control of the franchise he bought a majority stake of in 1999.When the purchase is completed, which is expected shortly, Snyder and his family will hold 100 percent of the club and end a very public fight with Rothman, Schar and Smith, who bought into the team in 2003. Last spring, the three men banded together to try to sell their stakes after Snyder declined to pay them annual dividends as a way to conserve the team’s cash with the 2020 N.F.L. season still in doubt because of the coronavirus pandemic.In August, the private disagreement over distributed dividends turned into corporate warfare that spilled into public view. Snyder all but accused Schar of orchestrating a smear campaign against him by contending in court documents that Schar facilitated the spread of negative information about him to the media with the hope that bad press would ultimately force Snyder to sell his majority stake. In that situation, the trio’s shares would have garnered a higher price if the team was sold as a whole.The three minority owners — Schar, a real estate developer; Rothman, an asset manager; and Smith, the chairman of FedEx — turned against Snyder, accusing him in federal court of bad-faith dealing and malfeasance.Even as Wilkinson was brought in last July to conduct an investigation into team executives’ conduct toward female employees, the N.F.L. had hired in late June former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to untangle the squabble among the Washington Football Team’s owners.The Washington Post reported that two women had accused Snyder, 56, in separate episodes of harassment dating to 2004 — which he denied — and that he reached a financial settlement in 2009 with a female former executive who had accused him of sexual misconduct during a trip on a private jet.Now, with the investigation into his and other team employees’ conduct wrapping up and the conclusion of his boardroom battle in sight, Snyder can focus on another major task: deciding how to rebrand the football team whose future is entirely under his control. 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