Deshaun Watson and the NFL’s Stance on Sexual Assault

Wynton Jackson | Staff Writer

Photo Credit: KA Sports Photos (Flickr)


In a move that shocked the sports realm, Houston lawyer Tony Buzbee filed a lawsuit against Houston Texans superstar quarterback Deshaun Watson on March 16, 2021.  Buzbee alleged that Watson had assaulted four former massage therapists, according to Buzbee’s Instagram page. By April 5, that number grew to 22 separate civil lawsuits with claims of sexual misconduct, indecent exposure, and sexual assault. 

A year later, on March 11, NFL Insider Adam Schefter broke the news that Watson would not face criminal charges. The announcement caused a cascade of support and disappointment across social media and sports talk shows. 

In a USA Today article on Watson’s situation, Kenneth Williams, a law professor, stated that the lack of indictment “simply means that the prosecutor and grand jury did not believe there was sufficient evidence to move forward.” After hearing this statement, some believed that Watson should be exonerated and allowed to return to the field of play. Others, however, pointed out that in cases involving sexual assault, an overwhelming amount of them do not result in conviction or incarceration. 

After the initial report about Watson not facing criminal charges, a race to acquire the quarterback quickly ensued. Before the first accusation last year, the Texans’ quarterback had requested a trade after years of losing and mismanagement. The Houston organization decided to hold off on trading him this season due to the legal situation. 

Of the teams vying for the star player, the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints finished as his top choices. Due to a no-trade clause, Watson could pick his destination. Though he initially declined the Browns, Watson made a stunning turnaround and agreed to a five-year, $230 million offer to go to Cleveland, according to Adam Schefter. 

Deals in the National Football League are usually structured so that a player is guaranteed a certain amount of money upfront, but they have to earn the other portion of it. For example, superstar wide receiver Davante Adams signed a five-year, $141.25 million contract with the Raiders, but only the first $67.5 million is guaranteed. 

Watson’s contract is so interesting because all of the money is guaranteed. Although he is not the highest-paid player in NFL history, his contract has the most guaranteed money in the league’s history. 

The Browns also structured his contract to receive a $45 million signing bonus, but in the first year of his deal, his base salary is only $1 million. This way, should Watson get suspended by the NFL, he loses much less money for the games missed. 

Should the NFL fix their overtime rules?

Wynton Jackson | Staff Writer

The National Football League won. Following the disappointment of their first “Super Wild Card Weekend” was likely the most incredible weekend in football, or maybe even American sports history. The 2022 Divisional Round games ended either on a walk-off field goal or touchdown.

The games did not only just have close finishes, but they were incredible in their entirety. The Bengals and Titans were stuck in a defensive showdown with Cincinnati kicker Evan McPherson sending Tennessee home; the 49ers and Green Bay played a similar game but in temperatures close to 0 degrees, though San Francisco pulled off the upset. The L.A. Rams were crushing the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, but critical mistakes led to yet another Tom Brady comeback, although the Bucs fell short.

Finally, to end this already crazy weekend, the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills played what might be the greatest NFL game I’ve ever seen. 

This year, both teams had rough starts and lots of question marks. The game had the perfect set-up: the Chiefs walked all over the Bills in the AFC Championship last year, ending with the iconic shot of Buffalo receiver Stefon Diggs staying on the field to watch the celebration, hands on his helmet in disbelief. They similarly demolished their Wild Card opponents, as the Chiefs beat the Steelers 42-21 and the Bills beat the Patriots 47-17. 

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is and has been the best quarterback in the NFL for the last three years or so. Bills QB Josh Allen proved he’s not far behind, if at all. 

Of the 28 combined points scored in the fourth quarter, 17 came in the game’s last two minutes. Mahomes and Allen traded game-winning drives until Allen threw a touchdown strike to receiver Gabriel Davis, seemingly ending the game with 13 seconds left. Mahomes needed only ten to cover nearly 50 yards and set up a field goal kick that sent the game to overtime. 

And there lies the problem: the overtime. In the NFL, the referee flips a coin at the start of games and overtime, of which the winner can choose to receive the ball or kick it to the other team. In overtime, if the winner gets the ball and scores a touchdown, they win the game. The other team doesn’t get a chance to respond; the game is over. 

If the first team kicks a field goal, the other gets a chance to score a touchdown. If they also kick a field goal, it keeps going until someone scores a touchdown, or the defense gets a turnover, and the offense kicks a field goal. Confusing, I know. 

The Chiefs won the toss, and, unsurprisingly, Mahomes continued his dominance and won the game with a walk-off touchdown to tight end Travis Kelce. Josh Allen, who just had two incredible touchdown drives and thought he sealed the game, didn’t get an opportunity to go at the porous Kansas City defense again. 

Kansas City has been on the opposite side of this situation before; in the 2019 AFC Championship Game, the Patriots won the overtime coin toss and eventually won the game, keeping Mahomes on the sideline.

The situation caused a divide on social media between those who want the rule changed and those who think it’s okay. While the arguments were emotionally charged immediately after the game, both sides made reasonable statements.

While overtime exists in case of emergency, the point of the game is to finish within regulation. It isn’t the 5th quarter; the 13-second miracle drive-by Mahomes wouldn’t have happened if he knew that there was more time until the end of the game.  

The Bills also had multiple chances to stop the Chiefs during the game. During the final drive in regulation, they rushed four defenders at the line instead of three to add another player in coverage. They tried to cover the sidelines even though the Chiefs had all their timeouts, leaving the middle of the field wide open for exploitation.

Though Josh Allen and the Bills wouldn’t care, the overtime rules try to keep the game as short as possible in concern for the safety of the players. Both defenses were visibly gassed, and if they had to keep trotting onto the field for more eight-to-twelve play drives, the risk of injury would increase drastically. 

Against a generational quarterback like Patrick Mahomes, there isn’t much a defense can do, but Buffalo finished with the top defense in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. At some point, the best defense has to get a stop, or at least make Kansas City kick a field goal in overtime, aka OT, to give Allen another chance. 

In support of changing the rules, the coin toss in the playoffs is unfair. There have been 11 OT games in the playoffs with these rules, and the toss winner has won 10 of those games. The evidence shows that the offense is overwhelmingly favored no matter how good a defense is.

Although the rules are in place to protect the players, the players are still the ones who decide to put themselves in harm’s way in the first place. On the entire 53-man roster, I highly doubt that any of those players would’ve been fine with going home without a chance to respond. No matter the risk, the post-season is win or go home, and with the Chiefs being their biggest rival, the Bills would have gladly suited up for the remaining 10:45 in the overtime period for a chance to win. 

There’s also an entertainment aspect to this argument. For a league that just added a 17th game as a cash grab, it’s weird that they wouldn’t want another ten minutes of the Mahomes-Allen showdown. The NFL has consistently shown that it doesn’t care about player safety. Why would they start here? 

Whether or not the OT regulations should be changed, it’ll likely take a while before anything changes. Stephen Holder of The Athletic wrote the day after the game: 

“That’s a long way of saying the NFL does not approach these matters rashly. So, the idea that Sunday night’s events will inevitably lead to change is probably premature. Even when the league does implement new rules, it often starts slowly.”

The NFL may look at the rules again, but I wouldn’t expect anything drastic either this season or next. As unfortunate as that is for Buffalo, Josh Allen has established himself as one of the best three quarterbacks in the league. They’ll be back next year, hungrier than ever.

Review: “Colin in Black & White”

Wynton Jackson | Staff Writer

Netflix has released “Colin in Black & White,” a six-part drama series about the life of civil rights activist and former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“Colin in Black & White,” directed by Ava DuVernay, focuses on Kaepernick’s high school life, encompassing his journey as an aspiring quarterback, rejection of baseball and other typical high school drama through the lens of a Black child adopted by white parents. 

However, the series is not solely fixated on his teenage life, as the adult Kaepernick appears in every episode. He is shown either watching the show about his own story, narrating his past self’s thoughts or relating the issue addressed in the episode to a broader one today. 

The first installment shows Kaepernick’s cornrow situation. Inspired by former National Basketball Association star Allen Iverson, the then-eighth-grader seeks out an amateur stylist to braid his hair, which is too tight. Kaepernick takes that experience to talk about the NBA’s stringent 2005 dress code rules, the evolution of rap music and what the term “thug” really means. 

Perhaps the most interesting dynamic in the series is the obliviousness of Kaepernick’s white parents. Besides being a boy going through high school and puberty, Kaepernick seemed

to cry or get emotional in every episode and nearly every time. His parents could have soothed his emotions if they understood his situation. 

The viewer learns how woefully unprepared Kaepernick’s parents were in raising a Black child. After getting his hair done, Kaepernick went to baseball practice, where his white coaches noticed his cornrows and notified his parents that his hair was “breaking the rules.” 

Instead of supporting their son, his parents give him an ultimatum: Quit baseball or get rid of the cornrows. The scene then cuts to a dejected Kaepernick getting his hair cut by a white woman in a Supercuts. 

Kaepernick’s mother gets slightly more attention than his father because of her unconscious biases. She is visibly upset when her son refuses to add any seasoning to his plate of soul food, despite previously pouring heaps of salt and pepper onto his mother’s cooking. 

She also tried to hide Kaepernick’s Homecoming photos, as he went with a Black girl named Crystal. She even said to her husband that she hoped the relationship with Crystal was “just a phase.” However, she hung up the Winter Formal pictures with the other family photos, where certain circumstances forced him to take a white girl to the dance.

The series also goes in depth about Kaepernick’s road to becoming a college quarterback. The University of Nevada was the only school to give him an offer. It took a basketball game, in which Kaepernick had a Jordan-esque flu game, for the Nevada scouts to understand his true athleticism. 

Contrary to his lack of success in football recruitment, Kaepernick had every school begging for him on the baseball field. There was even a montage in the show which showed schools such as Stanford, Southern Cal, Wisconsin and Harvard pitching their programs. 

However, because he only wanted to be a quarterback, Kaepernick turned down all of his baseball offers, leading to more discrimination from his classmates, their parents and his coaches. 

The decision to stick to what he loved turned out to be a shrewd one. The San Francisco 49ers drafted Kaepernick in the 2011 NFL Draft. He led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance in just his second season and then appeared in a conference championship game the following year. 

Kaepernick was thrust into the national spotlight in 2016 when he began to kneel during the national anthem before games to protest police brutality. Since that season,

Kaepernick has remained a free agent, though he has stated that he is still prepared for a comeback to the NFL if a team reached out.

NBA Rule Changes Take the League by Storm 

Chance Williams | Staff Writer

James Harden. Luka Dončić. Trae Young. All three of these athletes in the National Basketball Association are not only tremendous basketball players, but they also have one other thing in common: a reputation for drawing fouls through unnatural movements. 

These unnatural movements include: launching their bodies into defenders, moving off of their path suddenly, blocking the defender’s path and using their unoccupied arm to hook defenders. 

Harden, Dončić, and Young aren’t the only players to have resorted to these tactics. Players throughout the NBA use these same movements to draw fouls. For those unfamiliar with basketball, drawing fouls is a tactic that often results in free throws. 

How NBA referees officiated games before gave an advantage to players on offense, often leaving defenders helpless and at the ballhandler’s mercy. After a decline in the quality of play and negative feedback from fans, the NBA decided to create new rules and guidelines for how referees officiate games, effective this season. 

If the contact during an unnatural movement is considered marginal, there won’t be a foul called on either player, according to sports reporter Shams Charania of The Athletic. If the ballhandler’s movement affects the defender’s quickness, speed, balance or rhythm, offensive fouls may be called, according to Charania. 

Throughout the first few weeks of the NBA season, there’s been a noticeable difference in the fluidity of games. Fewer foul calls resulted in “better” defense, which fans have been pleading for, for the past few years. 

Better defense shown by teams likely will increase the quality of the NBA’s product. 

From an entertainment perspective, all appears to be going well this season. Some of the players, however, see things differently. Athletes and coaches who have gotten used to benefiting from questionable foul calls have responded negatively to how referees have officiated games this season. 

James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets has used unnatural body movements in the past to draw fouls. So far this season, officials have made it a point to force Harden to play through contact. 

During the first five games of this season, Harden only tallied 15 free-throw attempts, according to Tom Haberstroh, analyst and reporter at Meadowlark Media. This was the first time since 2011 Harden attempted fewer than five free throws in five straight games, according to Haberstroh.

Harden then recorded 22 free-throw attempts over the next two games, according to the league website. 

Another situation involving free throws happens when a player on defense will intentionally grab a ballhandler during a fast break to prevent him from scoring. From a player’s perspective, it is an intelligent play. From a fan’s perspective, this action prevents in-game highlights. 

The NBA is looking into preventing this in future games. 

“The NBA Competition Committee discussed the uptick in transition fouls this season and encouraged the league office to develop a rule change that would eliminate the incentive to utilize the tactic in the future,” Charania reported.

The NBA is committed to improving the quality of play and entertainment value of its games. With how people consume sports constantly changing, the NBA is doing its best to maintain control of its fan demographic.

Raiders coach Jon Gruden resigns after ‘disturbing’ comments are made public

Wynton Jackson | Staff Writer

Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden announced his resignation Oct. 11 after a probe through the Washington Football Team’s emails for a legal inquiry found he sent numerous racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments within the organization, The New York Times reported.

The first wave of messages emerged Oct. 8, headlined by Gruden’s comments about National Football League Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. A particular assertion from Gruden to then-Washington GM Bruce Allen in 2011 stated that Smith “has lips the size of Michelin tires,” according to The Wall Street Journal

Raiders owner Mark Davis called his coach’s comments “disturbing,” ProFootballTalk reported, yet Gruden still coached in a losing effort to the Chicago Bears that Sunday. 

The following day, more emails came out where Gruden was caught using homophobic slurs toward NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, according to The New York Times. The Times added that there were also numerous pictures of women wearing only bikinis bottoms exchanged between Gruden and Allen, including women on the Washington cheerleading squad. 

More than 650,000 emails were uncovered in an unrelated investigation into the Washington Football Team. The Times reported that the pattern of derogatory comments between Gruden and Allen lasted from 2011 to 2018.

The Raiders did not fire Gruden, and he stepped down from his position because what he said became public. Gruden even had some supporters within the media, including journalist Jason Whitlock on Twitter.

“[Gruden] said something in a private email that was intended for one person to read/know. Anybody insulted is someone who spends their life looking to be insulted,” Whitlock tweeted.

The Raiders named special teams coach Rich Bisaccia as the interim head coach, according to the New York Times.

COVID-19 Versus the Sports World 

Chance Williams | Staff Writer

For close to 20 months, the sports world has undergone unprecedented changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspensions of professional sports leagues in early 2020 began a long period of uncharted territory for athletes, including those at Hampton University. 

On March 11, 2020, the National Basketball Association suspended its 2019-2020 season. After a hiatus that lasted longer than the average NBA offseason, Commissioner Adam Silver formulated a plan to resume play. The remainder of the 2019-2020 season was played in the Walt Disney World Resort, located in Orlando, Florida. 

The NBA spent approximately $180 million to hold games. League revenue dropped 10 percent to $8.3 billion due to the pandemic, according to Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Besides the 10 percent drop in revenue, there was a $400 million loss in merchandise and sponsorships, according to Lowe and Wojnarowski. 

In addition to professional sports leagues, the NCAA also has been affected by the pandemic. On March 12, 2020, the NCAA announced that the remaining men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would be canceled. This led to the NCAA falling victim to a $600 million decline in its total revenue, according to Jenna West of Sports Illustrated.

The NCAA was supposed to receive more than $800 million from CBS and Turner for the 2020 NCAA Tournament, according to West. However, the entity only received $113.1 million. 

The effects of COVID-19 on the NCAA have been seen on a business level and a personal level. 

During the 2020-2021 basketball season, the Hampton University women’s basketball team faced tough challenges. 

“We were all thrown into [the season],” HU point guard Tori Davis said. “There were a lot of freshmen and transfers, and we didn’t know each other. We were learning not only what our coach wanted but also how each other played,” 

HU forward Nas Nigatu echoed Davis.

“We had nine new players,” Nigatu said. “We had under a week to prepare for our first game, which wasn’t an easy thing to do because we had to learn a new system.” 

Having a sports season start with only one week to prepare is a recipe for complications that extend further than having to learn a new system. 

“We hit the ball rolling, so we had a lot of injuries at first,” Nigatu said. “It was very hard… just coming in as a freshman into college that soon.” 

In addition to typical injuries, COVID-19 also had a direct effect on the women’s basketball team. 

“Our season had to end early [due to COVID-19 complications],” Nigatu said. “We had to quarantine for about three weeks.”

The Lady Pirates also missed the fans that attend games and fill the Convocation Center with energy. 

“Not having the fans that fuel your energy… we were always in an empty gym and had to bring our own,” Nigatu said.” If we didn’t have that [energy], the gyms weren’t the best environments to play in.”

While it’s easy to look at the negatives, some good things came from the pandemic. A significant aspect of the positives that came from COVID-19 was the NCAA’s decision to grant an extra year of eligibility for its athletes. NCAA athletes all over the country, and at Hampton specifically, plan on taking full advantage of that. 

“I was able to get a college experience without taking a year [of eligibility],” Davis said. “I’m coming in now as a freshman, technically, knowing the speed of the game, how it’s played, and how other people play. It was definitely a plus.” 

College athletics and most other things have been returning to how they were before the pandemic started. This leads to increased excitement in athletes. 

“Definitely having fans… it’s going to be great being able to see people that I know come to my games,” Davis said. “It’ll be nice to get hype from the crowds.”

Nigatu felt similarly.

“I’m excited to see our fans show up and support and to win… win, win, win, win.” 

The Lady Pirates’ first home game will be Nov. 13 against the Richmond Spiders. 

As NBA Season Begins, Vaccination Issue Looms in New York and San Francisco

Wynton Jackson | Staff Writer

Despite having the first in-person NBA Media Day since 2019, not all teams felt the cheer and optimism the event normally brings.

This year, the usual superstar gossip was headlined by Ben Simmons’ refusal to return to the 76ers – but there was also a more severe issue: COVID-19 vaccination. 

Though there is no mandate, the league has a 95 percent vaccination rate, according to NBA.com. While the unvaccinated in most cities are still cleared to play, New York City and San Francisco passed laws stating that they cannot participate in home games. 

Two teams affected, the Golden State Warriors and the Brooklyn Nets, both had high-profile players resisting the shot. 

The NBA also said players would not be paid for games missed due to the vaccine. For unvaccinated players in Brooklyn or San Francisco, that would be 41 games without pay, plus any postseason appearances. 

Among the slew of players who announced their stance on Media Day, Golden State forward Andrew Wiggins surprised audiences. Wiggins, known for his carefree attitude, gave a no-nonsense news conference.

“I’m gonna keep that all private right now,” Wiggins told NBA media members about his vaccination status.

He proceeded to answer each question concerning the vaccine with a similar response. 

The forward’s calm demeanor may have thrown reporters off as they kept pressing him about the shot. One journalist mentioned the potential monetary consequences he would suffer, to which Wiggins responded, “It’s my problem, not yours,” in a matter-of-fact tone that quieted the room. 

Oct. 5, before the Warriors’ first preseason game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Wiggins announced that he had received the COVID-19 vaccine. 

“The only options were to get vaccinated or not play in the NBA,” Wiggins told reporters after their 121-107 victory. 

Whereas Wiggins is rarely in the news, Nets superstar Kyrie Irving is no stranger to public scrutiny. Irving shook the NBA when he arrived late and on a Zoom call to Media Day. 

Irving refused to expand on his stance against the vaccine, citing privacy as the main reason. He confirmed that he had not taken the vaccine and was not allowed into the building. However, even with questions not directly tied to his vaccination status, he remained guarded.

When ESPN’s Malika Andrews asked if he expected to play in home games, Irving said: “Again, I would like to keep all of that private. Please, just respect my privacy.” 

Irving’s defiance could have devastating consequences for the Nets’ postseason aspirations. Without Irving, they would be limited to the big two: James Harden and Kevin Durant. Although they are both top 10 players in the league, losing Irving for home games will significantly lower their chances of winning the title. 

The annual general manager survey revealed that the Nets received 72 percent of the votes for winning the NBA Finals this year, followed by the Los Angeles Lakers at 17 percent, according to NBA.com. 

The media has come to expect stances like this from Irving. He pledged his loyalty to the Boston Celtics before demanding a trade. He recently tried to convince players not to enter the NBA Bubble in the wake of the George Floyd murder, even though he wasn’t playing. 

“I expect us to have our whole team, at some point,” Durant told NBA reporters in response to questions surrounding Irving’s status. However, if he refuses the vaccine, the Nets may be forced to trade him to another team.

That move would have to be approved by Durant, as the two friends joined Brooklyn together in the summer of 2019. 

Students around the Hampton University campus have mixed feelings about the situation. First-year student Donovin Cooper, an aspiring sports agent, believes athletes should be vaccinated but not forced to take it.

“The United States is built on freedom, and when you’re forcing somebody to do something, you are forcing them against their will,” Cooper said. “And you are holding their money hostage in the process.”

Avid basketball consumer and prospective sports journalist Raymond Beasley had this to say about vaccinations.

“I don’t think they should be forced, but assuming that everybody is vaccinated, then [docking pay] is appropriate,” Beasley said. “In order to play and not jeopardize a team, player, season, or game, you have to get vaccinated, although the decision is up to them.” 

From an athlete’s perspective, Hampton soccer player Ryan Lynch supported the NBA’s decision to pressure non-vaccinated performers.

“As an athlete, I think athletes should get vaccinated,” Lynch said. “It helps to protect themselves, and they are role models to many people. NBA players carry a lot of influence, so I believe they should get the vaccine so their followers can be encouraged to get it.”

When asked whether players need to take the vaccine even though they are not at significant risk of death, Lynch argued that “it’s better to be safe than sorry, no matter how healthy you are.” 

With cities considering following New York and San Francisco’s lead, the NBA may be without some of its premier talents for the October 19 tipoff.

A Midseason Look at Hampton Football 

Chance Williams | Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of HBCU Sports 

The Hampton University football team has seen it all through their first five games of the 2021 season. 

The Pirates have two wins against Virginia Union and Howard … and three losses against Old Dominion, Norfolk State and Kennesaw State.

A big reason for those wins is the team’s high-powered offense. As of Oct. 7, the Pirates are second in the Big South with 35.3 points per game, according to the conference website. That’s something that not only fans but also players hope will continue. 

“As an offensive unit, we’ve been averaging 35.3 points per game, and what’s good is that we can still improve on a lot of things,” HU quarterback Christofer Zellous said. “So we’re just continuing to try and get better every week, finding something we can get better at each day in practice.”

Pirates offensive lineman Zach Jean-Louis agreed.

“Our offense has been clicking. We’re putting up all these points each game. If we can keep that up, continue executing, and staying together, we’ll be in good shape.”

As of Oct. 7, the Pirates ranked fourth in the conference in passing yards per game at 248.8 and second in rushing yards per game at 217.3, according to the Big South.

An unknown aspect of this football season is how quickly the team has come together. “We’re starting to learn from each other,” Zellous said. “Coming off a short offseason and having about 10 weeks to get ready for this season, I think we’re doing a great job of playing together. It’s big-time what we’ve been able to do and create here.”

Athletes often speak about how behind-the-scenes bonds between players are vital in building and sustaining teammate chemistry that leads to wins. At Hampton, players are firm believers in that. 

“I want to see us continue to uplift each other when things are both good and bad,” HU defensive back Robinson Davis said. “Just keeping our brothers’ heads up, because not everything is going to be perfect. If we continue to do that, I feel that we’ll be all right.”

Several other players, including wide receivers Armand Vinson and Brycen Thomas, and quarterback Jayden Birchfield, echoed Davis’ comments.

The crowds are a seemingly underrated aspect of football games to those who attend contests at HU’s Armstrong Stadium. Noise created by crowds is a significant help to those playing on the defensive side of the ball, and the Pirates are aware of this. 

“During third-down situations, making some noise really throws the offense off,” Davis said. “As a collective defense, we’d appreciate more fans coming out and making noise to help us get off the field, so we can get our offense back on the field to make some more plays.” 

HU defensive back Stanley Garner reiterated that.

“When we’re on defense, we want all the fans to get loud so the opposing team doesn’t hear their cadence,” Garner said. “It’s helpful towards us defensive players as well.” 

Even with the typical ups and downs of every sports season, the Pirates remain confident, with their heads held high. 

“Team morale is great,” Davis said. “We’re family. We preach it every day. It’s about trusting your brother next to you. We’re positive going forward, and we look forward to doing big things. While enduring the highs and lows of a season, it’s important to keep a good head on your shoulders.” 

The Pirates have been doing just that while looking to build consistency as they get more games under their belts. 

“It’s really all about executing,” HU receiver Romon Copeland Jr. said. “It’s about doing what’s best for the team and holding your brothers accountable.” 

The next home game will be against North Carolina A&T on Oct. 23. The entire Hampton University family welcomes any support for the team every time they lace up their cleats.

The ManningCast: ESPN’s rebound 

Wynton Jackson | Staff Writer

ESPN on Sept. 13 stumbled on its most popular program since First Take: The Peyton and Eli Monday night NFL broadcast, ManningCast. The sports media conglomerate signed a deal with the NFL to air Monday night games on their networks, then brought in the Manning brothers to commentate about 10 of the 17 games on ESPN2. 

After their retirements, both Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks were looking to get more involved in football, with Peyton hosting Peyton’s Places and Eli starting the new show Eli’s Places this fall, both on ESPN+. 

The ManningCast has been nothing short of excellent. Instead of the traditional announcer-color commentator format, the Mannings have created a new approach to watching football. 

The two have a more relaxed feel and aren’t pressed with hyper-analyzing each play; the broadcast resembles a night at a sports bar with the Manning brothers. The two switch seamlessly from jokes, glimpses in the huddle, anecdotes from their careers and thorough breakdowns of major plays. 

Not only do Peyton and Eli run the show, but they also bring in celebrity guests to interview each quarter. Athletes such as Rob Gronkowski, Travis Kelce, Russell Wilson and Brett Favre appeared on the telecast and made fun of Peyton’s forehead. 

The show has also brought in Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis and Hall of Fame nominee Patrick Willis. Both did a great job breaking down the defenses in the game and how they would mess with the quarterback’s head when they played. 

The mechanics of the show itself haven’t been perfect, but it only adds to its charm. The week one broadcast started with Peyton putting on a helmet that was way too small and then immediately acting like Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden. 

There have been production workers tiptoeing in the background, Eli’s mic has been cut off a few times and they cut to commercials during conversations with guests. 

What would detract from a more formal production are what make this show feel more authentic. Nobody minds awkward silence after Peyton and Eli try to talk over one another on the Zoom call because the public has been dealing with the same issues the past year and a half. 

It’s early, but there’s a sense of community fostered through this broadcast. This may be why there was a 132 percent ManningCast viewership increase from Week 1 to Week 2, according to Yahoo Sports.

The broadcast’s success comes as a much-needed relief for “The Worldwide Leader in Sports,” considering their fiasco earlier this year. 

The New York Times on July 4 published an exposé on the brewing racial issue between two of the company’s biggest talents, Maria Taylor and Rachel Nichols. 

Last year, Taylor, a Black woman, was hired to host the pregame and halftime shows during the NBA Finals. Nichols, who is white and who was moved initially to the sideline reporting job, was caught on tape complaining about the situation. 

“If you need to give her more things to do because you’re feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity… go for it, just find it somewhere else. Like, you’re not going to find it with me, and taking my thing away,” Nichols said on the tape, according to The New York Times

According to the article, ESPN knew about the tape, yet instead of punishing Nichols, they decided to keep quiet. The woman who showed Taylor the clip (and who happened to be Black) was punished, and the Black employees came to her defense. 

Nichols has since left the company, and Taylor accepted an offer from NBC Sports in August to cover the Olympics.

In the past few weeks, ESPN also had another, smaller issue with the company’s face, Stephen A. Smith, strong-arming former co-host Max Kellerman off of First Take. The show has taken a different approach, electing a rotating cast of debaters to challenge Smith. 

Again, the timing and popularity of the ManningCast could not be more perfect. Each Monday night, social media buzzes with quotes from the Mannings or their guests, ranging from silly jokes to Gronkowski admitting he never watches film and relying on Tom Brady to tell him what to do. 

There have been calls for ESPN to put the show on its main channel considering its sudden success, but for now, let’s enjoy the wackiness that is Peyton and Eli’s Monday night NFL broadcast.

A look at Hampton lacrosse and their upcoming season 

Chance Williams | Staff Writer

Nelson Cheesman | Hampton University Athletics file photo

As the 2022 men’s lacrosse season approaches, the Hampton Pirates are getting into gear. In February, the Southern Conference announced that the Hampton University lacrosse team would be joining as an associate member. 

After previously making history as the first HBCU with a Division I lacrosse program, the Pirates will again make history as the first male HBCU program to join the Southern Conference, according to Watch the Yard. 

The Southern Conference is home to schools such as the University of Richmond and High Point University. After being an independent team since its creation, joining an athletic conference is big news for the program. 

“It means that we’re stepping in the right direction,” HU lacrosse player Aris Brown said. “We’re playing really good and competitive teams, programs that have been good for a long time. As we’re a new program, it’s good to start playing at the level of those teams.”

Hampton is looking to dethrone the previous champions, the High Point Panthers, this spring. In addition to being newly inducted members of the Southern Conference, the Hampton Pirates also will be playing their first game under new head coach Chazz Woodson, a former two-time All-Ivy League selection and Major League Lacrosse player.

“I think he’s a great coach,” HU lacrosse player Steele Downing. “He keeps us humble. He tells us what we need to work on, and compares us to the top schools in the country to show us how we need to grow. He keeps it 100 with you and tells you how he sees it.”

The Pirates also recently started practicing for the upcoming 2022 season.

“Starting day one, we all started with the mile, and we’re doing breakout sessions at certain times,” HU player Demarieh Wesley said. “It is going pretty well so far, and I just can’t wait for the season.”

HU players said they are excited to be back after the pandemic prevented them from playing last year. 

“What I missed the most was the crowds,” Downing said. “When you’d score, they’d cheer for you. I missed the competition, too. It makes the game fun.”

Due to the shutdown caused by the pandemic, this will be the first time a lot of players will take the field for the Pirates. A significant aspect of every sports team is team chemistry, and the team has had no trouble building their own. 

“I think COVID did affect us,” Brown said. “However, I also think that it made us closer. Before we even got to campus, we were already talking every day, playing video games together. So I’d say we’re a close group.”

Although players bonded before coming to campus, the work didn’t stop there. 

“When we got to campus, we bonded very quickly because we already knew each other,” Downing said. “We’ve learned more about each other as we’ve gone along, and it helps us play better.”

After missing out on their chance to compete last year, players are ready for the opportunity to play again. 

“I’m excited to play our first game in the Southern Conference and hopefully compete for a championship,” Wesley said. 

Every team member is working hard, day in and day out, so fans can look forward to seeing all of their hard work pay off this season.