This NFL season was unique in many ways. Throughout the season, COVID-19 threatened to derail the season. Many teams suffered outbreaks causing games to be rescheduled. Nonetheless all 256 games were still able to happen. Another thing that made this season unique was the introduction of a new playoff format. After previously having a six team playoff format with two teams having a first round bye, the NFL expanded its format to seven teams with only one of them having a first round bye. This caused the final weeks of the regular season to be very crucial with a handful of teams playing for a playoff spot, better seeding, or a first round bye. Here are the fourteen teams that are left standing.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: Following their Super Bowl title last February, the Chiefs have looked as good as they are last year if not better. With an offense that was healthier than last year, Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce once again put up ridiculous numbers. In addition, they also have an improved running game led by rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The defense led by Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu has also continued to make life difficult for opponents dating back to the end of last season. For the cherry on top, the Chiefs have home field advantage locked up for the playoffs, making their chance to repeat more likely.
2. Buffalo Bills: After a surprise 10-6 season that put them in the playoffs as a Wild Card, the Bills have only gotten better. The defense, which was a big reason why they got in last year, didn't have the same kind of year, but were still a good unit. It was the offense however, that was their main strength. With career years from third year quarterback Josh Allen as well as the newly acquired Stefon Diggs, the offense was one of the best in football. Under Sean McDermott, he and his coaching staff are hungry for a playoff win after losing in their previous trips.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers: There was a time where the Steelers were undefeated for the first 11 games of the season. Ben Rothlesberger was enjoying a resurgent year. His receivers of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson were wrecking havoc in secondary. The defense, led by sack leader T.J. Watt and Minkah Fitzpatrick was dominating opponents. However, this team is sputtering into the playoffs with a 1-4 record. If there's any time for them to recapture their magic, now is the time.
4. Tennessee Titans: They are another team entering the playoffs riding a potent offense. While the passing game led by Ryan Tannehill along with A.J. Brown has been very effective, it's their running game that has really been stellar. Derrick Henry became the eighth running back in NFL history as well as the second Titan to top the historic mark of 2,000 rushing yards. Like last year, this team is primed for a deep playoff run.
5. Baltimore Ravens: After a 14-2 season, many expected the Ravens to win the Super Bowl. But with five games left, they appeared to have no shot at even getting to the playoffs. After that, they finally started to show shades of last year winning out to get to the playoffs at 11-5. With Lamar Jackson looking like his MVP self, the offense has been very efficent. The defense with a well balanced mix of young players and veterans has had a knack for takeaways all season.
6. Cleveland Browns: After 18 painful years of missing the playoffs, it's only fitting that in 2020, the Browns were finally able to break through. With a strong running game led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt along with a defense led by Myles Garrett, they rode two stretches of four game winning streaks which was enough to earn them a playoff spot. However, there are questions surrounding the passing game with Baker Mayfield, and teams will be willing to led Mayfield beat them.
7. Indianapolis Colts: They are the first AFC team to benefit from the new playoff system. Riding a stingy defense with Darius Leonard and DeForest Buckner, the Colts appeared to have a playoff spot locked in going into their game against the Steelers. But after blowing a 17 point lead, they needed luck to get in the playoffs with a Dolphins loss and a win. Both scenarios happened, allowing the Colts to return to the playoffs. With Philip Rivers likely nearing retirement, this will be a chance to send him into the sunset with a long-awaited championship.
1. Green Bay Packers: This year, Green Bay showed that last season's 13-3 record wasn't a fluke. If anything, they've looked better. Aaron Rodgers put up one of his best seasons yet throwing for an absurd 48 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Davante Adams had his own specular season with 118 receptions, over 1,300 yards, and 18 touchdowns. The run game and defense once again complemented their offense. With the no. 1 seed, the Packers will have their long time home Lambeau Field, as a bonus to their advantage.
2. New Orleans Saints: Just like last year, the resilience of this team was on full display. Despite a 1-2 start with age noticeably catching up to Drew Brees and wide receiver Michael Thomas missing nine games, the Saints were still able to rally with a 12-4 record. Sean Payton deserves a ton of credit for fielding an offense that finished fifth thanks to the skills of running back Alvin Kamara. The defense was also a well balanced unit finishing in the same ranking. With a healthy roster and a chip on their shoulder from previous heartbreaks, this team will be ready.
3. Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks have many reasons to feel confident going into the playoffs. They started off 5-0 due to the amazing play of Russell Wilson. Later on in the season, they did slump going 3-4 in their next seven games, but rallied to close out the season with four straight wins. The catalyst of this team is Russell Wilson without question. Whether it's perfectly placing a ball to D.K. Metcalf or completing a pass to Tyler Lockett scrambling out of the pocket, he has found ways to get it done and that must continue.
4. Washington Football Team: When Washington changed its name from the Redskins to the Football Team, it seemed like it was a sign of how laughable this team was going to be on the field. However, they weren't focused on all the off-field opinions. Rallying around coach Ron Rivera's defeat of cancer and Alex Smith's comeback from a brutal leg injury the Football Team finished 7-9 which was enough to make the playoffs.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady still has Buccanneers fans wondering how they got him, but here they are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007. While the team did have a streaky season, they were more than good enough to make the playoffs. Brady enjoyed the luxury of having big-time weapons at his side once again and the defense make significant strides after a solid finish last year. Whether they can compete against the top teams still remains a question.
6. Los Angeles Rams: After a season in which they missed the playoffs following a Super Bowl appearance, expectations were low for the Rams entering this season. This time, they overachieved going 10-6. The offense enjoyed a resurgent year thanks to Jared Goff along with wide receivers Robert Woods and Cupper Kupp. With Aaron Donald dominating backfields and Jalen Ramsey locking up receivers the defense also enjoyed a bounce back year. The big question is how can the Rams compete against non NFC East teams in which they went 6-6 against in the regular season.
7. Chicago Bears: Out of all the playoff teams, this is probably the worst one. After a 5-1 start, they dropped six straight before reeling off 3 wins in their next four games while receiving help from the Arizona Cardinals losing their last two games. Led by pass rusher Khalil Mack, their defense is a tough unit to play against but questions remain about the offense. Despite having two solid skill players in David Montgomery and Allen Robinson.
Bills over Colts
Steelers over Browns
Titans over Ravens
Chiefs over Titans
Bills over Steelers
Chiefs over Bills
Saints over Bears
Seahawks over Rams
Buccaneers over Football Team
Saints over Seahawks
Packers over Buccaneers
Packers over Saints
Chiefs over Packers
This year was filled with uncertainty that extended to the world of sports. It started during March, when all of sports shut down due to concerns over COVID-19. Then, social unrest began to erupt prompting many athletes to stand up not just for themselves, but in support of others. Sports eventually resumed but that didn't stop notable sports figures from meeting these challenges head on. Here are some notable people who made a big influence in the sports world.
1. LeBron James
On the court, LeBron James made his mark. After being derailed by injuries last year, he put up MVP numbers, led the Los Angeles Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference, and won his fourth NBA championship as well as Finals MVP. When James retires, this will be remembered as one of his most impressive seasons. To maintain the same skills and still have a winning effect on his team in his mid 30s is really amazing. James has almost made as big an impact off the court as he has on the court. He spoke out on police brutality through social media and during press conferences in the bubble. This included a video in which he concludes, "This is why we can't just stick to sports. Do you understand now?" In addition, he launched a website More Than a Vote, which focuses on giving Black people access to voting. By the time of the election, James had successfully prevented many people from having their voices suppressed, Last month, James's efforts of social activism were rewarded with the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, and the Time's Magazine Athlete of the Year.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Throughout his career, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar established himself as one of the most dominant big men in NBA history. His accolades include a record six MVP awards, the most career points at 38,387, and six championships. Along with his success, he is one of the first basketball players to speak out against social issues. Last July, he delivered a powerful message on the fight for social justice in an edition of the NBA on TNT. He reflected on the turning point toward using his voice when he, along with other athletes, supported Muhammed Ali's refusal to fight in Vietnam. During the video, he stated "To witness Ali's unwavering integrity even as the government spent years trying to destroy him was a turning point for me. How could I do any less? How can any American do any less? How can any American athlete do any less?" That same month, Kareem also cited the importance of fighting against other forms of discrimination amid the Black Lives Matter movement such as anti-Semitism. Although his playing days are long passed, his voice is still as important as it was over 50 years ago.
3. Patrick Mahomes
Despite only having three full seasons under his belt, with two as a starter, Patrick Mahomes is already on top of the football world. He has already become the fastest quarterback to reach over 10,000 career passing yards, as well as over 100 touchdown passes which took him only 44 games to surpass that milestone. Earlier in February, Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs to their first Super Bowl championship in 50 years, in a game where he led what turned out to be the game winning drive. After the game, he was announced as the Super Bowl MVP, the youngest to ever win the award. When it has come to social justice, Mahomes has put his accolades to the side and has been an advocate. In June, he participated in a Black Lives Matter video with fellow athletes, pushing the NFL to publicly condemn racism. He was also one of the high-profile athletes to join James' More than a Vote campaign. A month later, Mahomes signed the richest contract extension of any athlete at over $500 million. With the Chiefs currently aiming toward another Super Bowl, Mahomes is slowly becoming an icon.
4. Laurent Duvernay-Tardif
For his first six seasons, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was a regular starter for the Kansas City Chiefs. Like Mahomes, he won his first Super Bowl with the Chiefs in February. However, it was off the field where Duvernay-Tardif wanted to make an impact. During July, he became the first NFL player to opt out of the season because of COVID-19. Duvernay-Tardif wanted to join the front lines in the fight against the virus. He did this by working long term at a healthcare facility in his native hometown of Montreal. Weeks ago, Duvernay-Tardif's impact was recognized by Sports Illustrated who named him as one of their Sportspeople of the Year. In addition, he was awarded the Lou Marsh trophy, which is given to the top Canadian athlete every year. This is well deserved for Duvernay-Tardif, who decided to give up football for a year to help prevent COVID-19 off the field.
This was a year that presented different challenges beyond sports. From COVID-19, to the fight for social justice for Blacks, there has been a lot of uncertainty and unrest in the world. Everyone has taken on these challenges in their respective ways. These current and former athletes not only faced these problems, but have done so in a way that should continue to inspire people into the new year.
This year, the NBA will be starting its 2020-21 season during Christmas week, on December 22 specifically. The late start is a result of the last year's unusual stretch known as the NBA bubble, dating back from July to October with the L.A. Lakers winning the championship. While the NBA on Christmas has always been one of the most popular events of the season, it might not be the best idea to start basketball during that week.
In the past, the NBA on Christmas is one of the season's most popular events. Usually, the matchups consist of the top teams and players with high expectations coming into the season. These games are highly anticipated with both teams battling for a statement win. Most of the time, they live up to the hype with highlight plays and fantastic endings. Additionally, this wouldn't be the first time the NBA began on Christmas, as they began following the conclusion of the 2011 lockout.
However, this doesn't change the fact that the NBA shouldn't start during this time of year. For one, the resting period for the teams who weren't in the bubble will be significantly longer than teams who did. To be specific, teams not in the bubble will have over 200 days of rest by the time the season begins, whereas the Finals participants - the Lakers and Miami Heat - will have under 70 days of rest. Even teams that bowed out of the playoffs early will have less than 100 days of rest compared to teams who weren't invited to the bubble. Players such as LeBron James used social media as a source to show their unhappiness when the schedule announcement was made. In particular, he pointed out this offseason, consisting of 71 days, will be the shortest in any sport.
Another reason why the season shouldn't start around Christmas is that it will be occurring shortly after the offseason. NBA trades along with the draft occurred just about a week ago, and free agency is still going on even though most teams have probably moved past it at this point. This will make it difficult for teams to prepare for the season following their recent offseason moves. As for the players, they probably have to adjust to their new teams, along with their life off the court. Currently, this schedule will consist of a 72 game season, with the finals concluding in August. Its announcement coming three weeks before the season is a far cry from other years, where teams had a lot more notice.
One way to solve the flaws within this year's schedule would be to have all offseason transactions occur earlier than their actual time. That would usually be about two to three weeks after the Finals, which should've been the case for this year, rather than over a month following the season's conclusion. This could've allowed players who were drafted, or have signed with a new team, to get comfortable in their new situation. Another possible way of fixing the schedule would be to start the season one or two weeks later. That method can satisfy the players who stayed in the bubble until late September or October, giving them more time to rest. Both solutions could have been options for the NBA to smoothly move forward into next season.
The NBA bubble was a period that we won't forget. It was a cool experience to watch, but the NBA should have done its best to get back on schedule where all players can have an adequate amount of rest before the season starts. Starting the season only two months after the Finals isn't the way to go.
While this year has been unusual in many ways, it isn't an excuse for another abysmal year of New York Sports. With basketball not starting until December, the Jets and Giants - both at the bottom of the standings - are the only option for fans to watch. Here are all the teams we'll be looking at: the Jets, Giants, Knicks, Nets Yankees, and Mets.
New York Jets - The Jets have been so bad this season that fans are just hoping for the team to tank for a higher draft pick. Head coach Adam Gase is at the center of this storm, not only for how terribly the team is playing, but for Sam Darnold's regression. In addition, Gase's lack of adjustments during halftime and failure to take responsibility after losses hasn't sat well with players. The team is currently in line to select Clemson's phenom quarterback Trevor Lawrence, but they have many more improvements to make, starting with a new coaching staff.
New York Giants - Despite Head Coach Joe Judge making a solid impression, it hasn't translated to wins, as the Giants are in the midst of another rough year at 2-7. Their franchise cornerstone Saquon Barkley is out for the season with a torn ACL, which hasn't helped Daniel Jones in what has been a disappointing sophomore season. General Manager Dave Gettleman will likely get axed at the end of the year, leading the Giants to find a new GM to pair with their rookie coach.
New York Knicks - This upcoming season will likely be another rebuilding year, as the Knicks are still far away from contention. They do have some bright spots such as R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, who are both building blocks for this franchise. To become a playoff team, they must trade for a proven leader such as Chris Paul to really give some of their young players a boost of confidence. However, their owner James Dolan, who's responsible for the team's dysfunction over the years, has most recently been blamed for his refusal to condemn systematic racism which could make players reluctant to join.
Brooklyn Nets - This team and its fans have many reasons to be excited for next season. With Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving poised to share the court for the first time following injuries, hopes for a possible championship are high. They also have a new coach in Hall of Fame point guard (and Durant's friend) Steve Nash, who knows a thing or two about winning dating back to his playing career. Brooklyn's only issues, are Durant's sensitivity and Irving's occasional criticism towards teammates, which could lead to a tumultuous season.
New York Yankees - As of now, there is still a sour taste of disappointment stemming from the team's loss against the Rays in the divisional series. In what was another season filled with injuries, they weren't able to adapt this time compared to last year, leading to a roller coaster season. There's no question that it would've helped if the team adjusted better to baseball's new environment this season, like other teams with high expectations such as the Dodgers. Fortunately with the strong possibility of MVP candidate DJ Lemahieu resigning, they will likely have a chance to run it back next season.
New York Mets - For the Mets, this season was very disappointing. With optimism heading into the season, they never came close to sniffing the playoffs. They do have talented players such as Jacob DeGrom, Pete Alonso, and a couple of impressive rookies in David Peterson and Andres Gimenez, who could have important future roles. Their biggest and most recent change is Steve Cohen's purchase of the team, which may be the fresh start this team needs.
Although there are some reasons for fans to be positive, most New York sports teams still have ways to go before a championship is on the horizon. When the Yankees, who are the city's best team, exit early in the playoffs, that just doesn't add up to a good year. Whether these teams are losing because of their ownership, coaching, or players, disappointment is the perfect term to sum up New York sports.
The New York Jets have been abysmal in their first two games. They look unprepared, make no adjustments, and should be embarrassed at this point. At the center of this atrocity, is head coach Adam Gase. Dubbed a "brilliant offensive mind", he hasn't lived up to that title and should be fired at some point between now or the end of the season.
1. Development of Sam Darnold
Gase was hired in the 2019 offseason to groom Sam Darnold into a franchise quarterback. It was an odd move at the time given his back to back non-playoff seasons with the Miami Dolphins. But after he was recommended by Peyton Manning and approved by Sam Darnold, there was hope that this was the coaching change the Jets needed. The team also added pieces around Darnold such as Le'Veon Bell, and there was lots of optimism for next season. Instead, Darnold got mono, which affected him in the first game and sidelined him for the next three games. The Jets got off to an 0-4 start, which had some people calling for Gase to be fired. But with a healthy Darnold, he showed promise, going 6-2 in the second half of the season while throwing for 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. There was still room for Darnold to improve, but Gase hasn't been using Darnold to his strengths. He never has him throw to reliable targets or roll outside of the pocket which is something that Darnold is good at. For us to see how Darnold really is, Gase has to go.
2. Doing things his way
In addition, Gase only tries to win games his way. He's never willing to make adjustments on offense even if his game plan is failing. He also doesn't like to use his weapons. Bell came to the Jets as one of the league's best all-purpose running backs, but Gase always does basic and predictable run plays with Bell. He's also a good receiver out of the backfield, but Gase never has Darnold throw to him. When Bell does get targets, the Jets offense is clearly better, but that's very rare. Other notable weapons for Darnold are tight ends Chris Herndon IV and Ryan Griffin. Both players have established chemistry with Darnold during his first two seasons and there was optimism that Gase would call the offensive plays with both of them on the field. They've instead had limited action with both of them not even combining for 10 receptions yet. The worst thing is that Gase has boasted about these players during training camp.
3. Lack of preparation
There have only been two games of the regular season so far, but there are times where Jets haven't looked prepared before games. Even though last year was promising, their lack of preparation was sometimes apparent dating back to last season when they gave the Dolphins and Bengals their first wins. This year, their unpreparedness is evident. In their opening game against the Buffalo Bills, the offense's first five possessions went nowhere, which included three straight 3 and outs along with an interception. Against the San Fransisco 49ers, they let Raheem Mostert score a touchdown on the opening play. At halftime in both games, they were down 21-3: not a good trend. Gase's own players are starting to note the team's lack of preparation in practices.
4. No accountability
After games in press conferences, Gase never holds himself accountable. He never regrets his horrible play calling, which has usually featured a bunch of dive plays on the ground and screen passes to backup wide receivers in the air. During halftime of the 49ers game, he blamed the entire first half on the defense. They didn't play a good first half without question, but Gase also should've held his play calling accountable as well. His press conferences were no different, stating "That s--t is no fun getting your ass beat." Shortly after he said, "If we execute the play called we'll be fine." That is simply not a good recipe for winning. Head coaches have to take responsibility just like the players, and Gase hasn't done that nor is there a reason to believe he will hold himself accountable at some point.
Last year, Gase showed a little promise going 6-2 in the second half of the season despite injuries to players such as C.J. Mosley and Darnold. This year's team has also been plagued with injuries as well as the departure of their best player Jamal Adams, but there are still no excuses. The 49ers didn't have any of their core players either, but they didn't use that as an excuse last Sunday. Gase on the other hand calls a soft game plan every week and then doesn't hold himself accountable. That's not a way to win games and for that, Gase has to go.
Football is in a weird spot. Without a bubble for players and coaches to quarantine, there are expected to be a lot of bumps in this upcoming season. Teams have to be trusted by the NFL to follow the health and safety guidelines to avoid COVID related setbacks.
Given these unprecedented times, the playoffs will be more difficult to predict than ever. Especially with one of the notable changes during the offseason being the addition of one more playoff team to each conference. This not only leaves the door open for teams that have playoff ambitions, but only one team from each conference will get a first round bye among other ripple effects. Here are my playoff predictions, which will hopefully be more accurate than last year.
#2 Ravens over #7 Texans
#3 Titans over #6 Colts
#5 Steelers over #4 Bills
#1 Chiefs over #4 Steelers
#2 Ravens over #3 Titans
#1 Chiefs over #2 Ravens
#2 49ers over #7 Falcons
#3 Eagles over #6 Seahawks
#4 Packers over #5 Buccaneers
#1 Saints over #4 Packers
#2 49ers over #3 Eagles
#1 Saints over #2 49ers
Super Bowl: Saints over Chiefs
As a Jets fan, it's hard to see another likable player leave. I was disappointed in Jamal Adams for wanting out just so he could get paid, despite two years remaining on his contract. However, I can't pretend that the Jets front office doesn't deserve some blame for not communicating with him. During his time in green and white, Adams gave the Jets an impressive three seasons, and general manager Joe Douglas wanted to keep him as a long term piece. That was until the Seattle Seahawks gave them an offer that was too good to pass up. Let's go over what each team is getting.
From day one, it was clear Adams was going to be a star. After a strong rookie season, Adams broke out in his second year recording 115 tackles, one pick, and three forced fumbles. He was awarded a pro bowl selection, where he won defensive MVP, and second team all pro. Last season was his best, as he recorded 75 tackles, two touchdowns, and an amazing 6.5 sacks. He was a big reason why the Jets went 6-2 in the second half of the season, which granted him another pro bowl selection and a first team all pro nod. He went into the offseason confident he'd get a contract extension, but when that wasn't gonna happen immediately, he started to criticize the front office for lying to him. Eventually he wanted out in June, but the Jets wanted to keep him unless they received a big offer. That came from the Seahawks, who offered them two first round picks in 2021 and 2022, a third round pick in 2021, and a fourth round pick in 2022. Safety Bradley McDougald was also included in the trade. While the Jets did give up their best player, this trade gives them the chance to fill in other position needs.
As for the Seahawks, they have been one of the best teams since drafting Russell Wilson, and trading for Adams gives them a chance to make another Super Bowl run. Adams could be the missing piece to a secondary that's slowly re-emerging as one of the Seahawk's best units. In addition, he can also help their pass rush production, as the closest player on the Seahawks behind his 6.5 sacks is Quinton Jefferson with 3.5. Seattle also invested a lot for guy who doesn't play a valuable position, so they must have a plan to give him a long term extension, especially with a possible salary cap drop looming in 2021.
Personally, I think that the Seahawks are in a good position to win now, but they are under pressure to make a deep playoff run having given up a lot for Adams. For the Jets to get two first round picks and Bradley McDougald, for a guy who doesn't play a valued position, is a win for the Jets. There have been three other recent trades involving two first round picks for a player. Those guys were edge rusher Khalil Mack to the Bears, offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Texans, and cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Rams, all guys that play important positions. It is true that even with a possible change in the salary cap, the Seahawks will still be able to sign Adams. But as I mentioned before, the Jets will be able to use their draft picks to fill in position needs. The picks will probably be late in the first round, but lots of good players in today's game such as MVP Lamar Jackson, have been selected late in the first round. For Joe Douglas to prove himself to this franchise, it will be by making the right drafting decisions with those picks, which previous general managers haven't done well in the past.
This was definitely late timing for a trade to happen. Whether it was to get paid or not, Adams definitely tried to force Douglas to extend or trade him. While Douglas traded him, he did it on his own terms, which isn't easy for a general manager who is not even through his first full offseason. Both teams invested a lot, and while it's not the kind of trade you typically see for a strong safety, time will tell who won.
Events of the past several weeks have shown that there is profound social unrest in our country. Over centuries, African Americans have been discriminated against in many different ways, recently escalating with incidents of police brutality and violence. At least three African Americans - Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd - were killed by either the police or white civilians earlier this year. Thousands of protests are happening all over America as a way of responding to the injustice. As a result, many athletes have been using their social platform to create change, take a stand, and call for action.
Notable athletes have been vocal for change, using their platform to speak out. One of those players has been none other than LeBron James. He has made many social media posts expressing the difficulties of being an African American, letting people know the reasons for his activism, and stating that white people always command African Americans what to do. He made an emotional video with the sound of a basketball hitting the floor and as the ball hit the floor, a new white command would pop up. The captions went from "Shut up and dribble", which Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham told him back in 2018, to "Shut up and lay still." James concluded the video saying, "This is why we can't just stick to sports. Do you understand now?" Colin Kaepernick has probably earned the most praise from other athletes and coaches since he kneeled for the national anthem during the 2016 NFL season. His purpose was to draw attention to all of the racism and police brutality against African-Americans. He's now became a symbol of resistance to the unfair treatment of African Americans. Recently, he created a legal defense initiative called Know Your Rights Camp "for victims of excessive force by police terrorism and civil rights violations."
NFL and MLB players have created group videos for their own respective leagues condemning racism. The NFL video featured Patrick Mahomes, Michael Thomas, Deshaun Watson, and others. All of the players pushed the NFL to make a statement condemning racism, saying "What will it take? For one of us to be brutally murdered by the police?" They named numerous African Americans who were killed, that could've been them. The video concludes with all of them stating, "On behalf of the National Football League this is what we, the players would like to hear you state: We the National Football League condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We the National Football League admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We the National Football League believe Black Lives Matter." www.instagram.com/p/CBN8b4Kn4S0/
As for baseball, Giancarlo Stanton tweeted a video which included him and other players such as Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts. They used #Players4BLM while vowing to make their voices louder toward creating change. Their message was, "We've been told that our peaceful pleas were not made at the right time, at the right place, in the right way. We've been told to 'wait.' But we remember when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. warned us that the word 'wait' has almost always meant never. We will wait no longer. We will make our voices louder for all of us who can and for all of those who could not." www.instagram.com/p/CBeefY6lNeu/
Former NBA player Stephen Jackson was a longtime friend of George Floyd. After hearing the news of his death, he flew to Minneapolis, where he's spoken at rallies about Floyd's story to bring attention to the police brutality that still occurs. Soon, he became an unforeseen spokesman for the family and the Black Lives Matter movement which has gained momentum around the world. He also gave a passionate speech on May 29 during a news conference at Minneapolis City Hall. At Floyd's funeral in Houston, he sat next to Floyd's daughter Gianna and later held her up on her shoulders at a rally. Jackson not only promises to take care of Gianna, but to bring justice for the family. His work earned lots of praise from many players, commissioner Adam Silver, former teammates, and coaches.
Despite the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, there is still controversy over some methods of protesting. Drew Brees said in an interview that he will never agree with anyone who kneels during the National Anthem. Many people such as James and even Brees's teammates spoke out against Brees. Even though Brees is well-liked within the football community, his comments show the lack of understanding he and many other Americans still have about racism. The responses from many fans and players who were upset by his comments shows the increase in their support toward protests against discrimination. Shortly after the interview, Brees issued an apology pledging to be an ally for the African-American community in fighting for racial equality and social justice.
This is the first time that athletes of all sports are using their social platform to create change. LeBron James recently created an initiative called More Than a Vote with the goal of standing up against racist voter suppression by educating, energizing, and protecting communities. Other athletes and entertainers have teamed up together to reach out to communities. Within one month, the organization has already identified major cities in key states in hopes of having an impact.
During this month, NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace spoke out against the Confederate flag, saying it was a symbol of hate, not heritage. He successfully used his platform as the the only full-time African American driver at the top level to call for Confederate flags to be banned at NASCAR events. His viewpoints have caused him to give up sponsorships, but he has always put his beliefs over money. Shortly after he took this stand, a rope was found in his garage which was thought to be a noose. After investigations, it turned out not to be a hate crime, but the support he received was encouraging. This included an emotional procession of other drivers following Wallace who was driving his car to the front of the pit road.
This is a unique time for our country. It's important that athletes contribute to society in other ways besides just playing sports. Those ways may be varied, but recently many have come together with the purpose of working toward racial equality. It's time for the rest of the world to not just approve the work that athletes are doing, but rather make our own effort to make a difference in some way.
Here are some links to organizations founded by and supported by athletes:
Joe Douglas, the general manager of the New York Jets, was hired two months after last year's draft in June. Since it was at a late time in the offseason, Douglas didn't make a lot of big moves up until this year's draft. Douglas previously helped the Baltimore Ravens win 2 Super Bowl champions as a scout, and the Philadelphia Eagles win their first as Vice President of Player Personnel, but this was the first time he was actually making selections. By filling in position needs and gaining more picks, he had a strong class. Here's what to know about the Jets did in this year's draft.
The Jets entered the draft having offensive tackle and wide receiver as their biggest position needs. With the 11th pick, Douglas used his first draft pick on the 6' 7", 364 pound, mammoth tackle, Mekhi Becton. He did get into trouble by failing his drug test, but has stated that he's learned from it. On the field however, he's trouble for his opponents since he's a pancake machine. In addition, he recorded an impressive 5.10 seconds in the 40 yard dash at the scouting Combine. With these attributes, Sam Darnold has someone to protect his blindside for the future. In the next round, they filled in their need for receiver with the selection of Denzel Mims. It looked like the Jets were going to take him at no. 48, but then they traded down with the Seattle Seahawks for the 59th pick in the second and 101st pick in the fourth. Despite waiting 11 spots, Mims still fell into their lap when they were on the clock. He has the ability to stretch the field and make contested catches, two of Robby Anderson's best abilities when he was with the team. Letting Anderson walk was a questionable decision, but if Mims surpasses Anderson as Darnold's new reliable receiver, it could make up for that decision.
In this draft Douglas wasn't afraid to select players who's draft stock might've fell because of injuries. He used the pick he acquired from trading defensive lineman Leonard Williams to select safety Ashtyn Davis in the third round. Although he went through surgical procedure after injuring his groin in November, he was an athletic player who could also return kicks. Eleven picks later they picked edge rusher Jabari Zuniga. While he did deal with ankle injuries toward the end of his tenure at Florida, he recorded 18.5 sacks and 34.5 tackles for loss when healthy. In the fifth round, Douglas selected Bryce Hall. He's one of the draft's most intriguing players because he was emerging as one of the top cornerback prospects before a dislocated ankle caused his status to fall. If he can recover from the injury, the Jets will have a huge steal.
When Joe Douglas was hired, the Jets only had seven picks. By the time the draft concluded, he had turned those seven picks into 13 players. Toward the end of last offseason up to the trade deadline, Douglas traded conditional draft picks for contributors such as Demaryius Thomas, Alex Lewis, and Nate Hairston. When he traded Williams to the New York Giants at the deadline, he received a third round pick for this year's draft and a fifth in 2021. In the draft, he traded down with the Seattle Seahawks in the second round to get the 58th pick, which became Mims, and a fourth round pick. He traded that fourth round pick to the New England Patriots for two fourth round picks later in the round and got back the sixth round pick that they traded to get Thomas. With little money spent in free agency, this year's draft will be essential for how this roster performs.
Having gone through three general managers in their nine year playoff drought, the Jets are hoping that Douglas can finally be the answer to their problems. His desire to fill in the roster's flaws through the draft over free agency is evident. If this draft can not only meet expectations, but overachieve, it could be a turning point for the franchise.
During the first week of no sporting events, the NFL offseason provided something that sports fans could focus on during this quarantine period. With lots of stunning trades and free agents signings, fans weren't let down. With that being said, let's go over the biggest moves.
1. DeAndre Hopkins
In the most stunning move, DeAndre Hopkins was traded to the Arizona Cardinals. Throughout his seven seasons in the league, wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has established himself as one of the most valuable non-QBs in the NFL. His tenure with the Houston Texans included four pro bowl appearances, three straight first-team all pro selections, and one second team all pro. He is one of the youngest receivers to record 600 receptions and 8000 receiving yards. Though his route running, size, and speed are amazing, his hands are a different story. He's always guaranteed to make tough catches in crucial situations that not a lot of other receivers could make. With franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson, Hopkins' production finally resulted in more wins with the two winning their first playoff game together. But on the first day of the legal tampering period, rumors started to pile up about Houston shopping Hopkins for draft picks. Those rumors became true shortly after when they sent him to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson, a second and fourth round pick this year, and a fourth round pick next year. It's a big win for the Cardinals, as they didn't give up much to get quarterback and Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray, a reliable long term weapon. He and the Cardinals' offense will be heading into next season with a lot of momentum.
2. Tom Brady
After 20 years, Tom Brady announced that he would be leaving the New England Patriots before signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers later that day. In his 20 seasons playing football's most important position, Brady's reign with the Patriots may be one of the best tenures an athlete has had. He won MVP three times, holds the record for career touchdown passes in the regular season and postseason with 614, and made both the 2000s and 2010s all decade team. His best ability is winning: something he's often done a record 249 times. Six of those wins came in the Super Bowl where he won MVP in four of those. However, things started to change when longtime coach Bill Belichick made him available at the 2017 trade deadline causing their friendship to take a hit. Although their success in the regular and postseason continued, Brady was plotting his exit, which became more of a reality when their season ended. On the second day of the legal tampering period, he announced his farewell to New England before signing with the Buccaneers hours after the announcement. Brady's age and decline in the second half of last season do bring some concerns to the signing. But with an offense featuring the best wide receiver duo in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Brady has the chance to change the culture by making one last playoff run.
3. Darius Slay Jr.
In what was an expected move to eventually happen, the Philadelphia Eagles traded for cornerback Darius Slay Jr. of the Detroit Lions. Though he didn't make an immediate impact as a rookie, Slay has since emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL despite the losses piling up for the Lions in recent years. His ball skills are probably his best quality which is seen from his 19 career interceptions. Eight of those came in 2017: his breakout season that earned him an all pro appearance and the first of three straight pro bowl appearances. But that's not his only attribute. He has the ability to not only travel with the best receivers in the league, but hold them in check. This is demonstrated by the opponent's passer rating he's allowed in the last three years, which has never been higher than 81.6. Slay was happy for the his first five seasons as a Lion, but things changed when coach Matt Patricia was hired in 2018. He told Slay that he "wasn't elite" and later insulted him for previously applauding a teammate during a team meeting. Slay didn't fight back, but eventually requested a fresh start which he was granted in a trade to the Eagles for a third and fifth round pick. This is a major boast for an Eagles' secondary that hasn't been the same unit since winning the Super Bowl three years ago. Philly should be able to rely on Slay's cover skills to fill in their defense's biggest need.
4. Stefon Diggs
After tweeting that he wanted out of Minnesota, wide receiver Stefon Diggs got his wish in a trade to the Buffalo Bills. Despite being drafted in the fifth round by the Minnesota Vikings, wide receiver Diggs has had a productive five seasons. Since leading the team in receiving yards as a rookie, his role on the offense has increased. In his last three seasons, he never caught less than 94 passes and his receiving yards total has gone up. In addition, he helped the Vikings make the playoffs twice in that span with one play sticking out. Facing elimination with 10 seconds left in the divisional round against the New Orleans Saints, Diggs caught a pass and stayed inbounds en route to a time expiring touchdown dubbed the Minneapolis Miracle. But despite the fact that Diggs' role with the team has increased, he felt like he should treated as the man. Rumors came out about Diggs' frustration in which he expressed at various times of the season. Although the team ended up advancing to the divisional round, Diggs still felt unhappy about his situation and demanded a trade. Later that day, he was sent to the Bills for a first and sixth round pick this year, and a fourth next year. Out of all the trades I mentioned, his was probably the most even trade. Minnesota got a strong return from Buffalo, and Diggs will be relied upon to provide young quarterback Josh Allen with another weapon after making the playoffs.
It's unfortunate that we have to wait until the NFL draft for some sporting events to occur, but this period of trades and free agent signings has kept us in tabs with sports. With all of the player transactions I mentioned, it'll be intriguing to see which move will make the biggest impact next season.