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Saturday Sports: NFL Anthem Protest Policy Update


The NFL is still trying to figure out how to deal with player protests, the ESPYs celebrate women who stood up against sexual abuse and a day to admire Brittany Lincicome standing up on the links. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning and welcome back.

SIMON: Thank you very much. I was in France, as you know, which - what was the score of the World Cup? All right. You and I had a friendly wager because of our wives. Team Engerland (ph) and team France - who won? I'm trying to remember.

GOLDMAN: I can't remember. You did, Scott. Forget the French. You won. You won the bet. Congratulations. The Cadbury chocolate rolls are coming. Please tell your daughters to be patient. But the exciting thing is, you got to be there.

SIMON: You know, it was wonderful, although, you know, no sleep, to say the least - (imitating car horns) - car horns, even the seagulls got into it. This French team that won the World Cup is filled with players born in or whose families emigrated from Africa. And I got to say, being there, it seemed at once a great victory - certainly for French football - but a victory over bigots who have reviled immigration. It was a great moment, I must say.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, well, congratulations.

SIMON: The NFL and its players have agreed to a standstill, essentially, over players' rights to protest police brutality while the national anthem is being played. It seemed like the NFL's recent policy to fine players who knelt during the anthem hasn't really worked.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, it was certainly hasn't put the focus on football, Scott, which is what the NFL wanted when it approved the new anthem policy in May. The controversy started heating up again. And as you say, the league and the players union agreed to put the policy on hold, for now, while they continue to discuss ways to resolve the issue. But late yesterday, President Trump did what he's often done on the anthem issue. He poured gas on the fire with a provocative tweet. He challenged the NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, to punish players who protest with suspensions and no pay. You know, it's not surprising he did this, considering the anthem issue has really been a political winner for him with his base. And his tweet comes at the end of a very rough week politically for him.

SIMON: British Open is underway this weekend. I'm happy for those guys. But tell us about Brittany Lincicome.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, the sixth woman to play an event on the PGA Tour. Heading into today, a rain-delayed second round, Lincicome was way behind the leaders, unfortunately. There wasn't much hope of her becoming only the second woman ever to make the cut in a PGA event and qualify for the final two rounds. But the first day, she was followed around by a number of young girls who got a heck of a lot of inspiration seeing Lincicome play and, at times, outperform the men.

SIMON: ESPY Awards this week, celebrating achievement in sports. One hundred forty women filled the stage. It was quite a moment. And these were 140 women who'd all been abused by Larry Nassar, the former gymnastics doctor. And the system let him continue those abuses for so long. Those women stood onstage that night, and they stood up in real life.

GOLDMAN: A very impressive moment at the ESPYs, as you say, seeing the survivors of Larry Nassar up onstage. But, you know, watching that scene, I couldn't help think about the news, also from the week, about allegations involving another Olympic sport, diving. A lawsuit alleges USA Diving failed to protect athletes from a coach who allegedly forced young women to have sex after telling them they owed it to him in exchange for getting his expertise. So while extreme, the Larry Nassar case wasn't the end of this, Scott. The U.S. Olympic Committee, which oversees the national governing bodies like USA Diving, USA Gymnastics, has a new CEO, a woman, who says athlete safety and protection from abuse is a priority. There's going to be - actually already is - a tremendous amount of scrutiny on the organization, and all those governing bodies under it, to see if they'll keep the promises of safety in the future.

SIMON: Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
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