WBEZ | Sports http://www.wbez.org/news/sports Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en U.S. Soccer fans look toward the future of the sport http://www.wbez.org/news/us-soccer-fans-look-toward-future-sport-110351 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/USA1_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In Chicago&rsquo;s Logan Square neighborhood, a group of twenty-somethings is playing soccer on artificial turf made slippery by a gentle falling rain. &nbsp;It&rsquo;s just after 9 p.m. as the group takes a break and talks about the U.S. team. The conversation isn&rsquo;t about who&rsquo;s in the starting lineup. It&rsquo;s more about who&rsquo;s not on this year&rsquo;s U.S. World Cup team: star forward Landon Donovan.</p><p>The future of U.S. soccer is a popular talking point. Nine of the roster&rsquo;s 23 players are 25 or younger. Everyone&rsquo;s eyes are on the team&rsquo;s coach, former German striker Jurgen Klinsmann. Depending on how the U.S. performs, he&rsquo;ll either be criticized for cutting the most popular U.S. soccer star or hailed for a genius move.</p><p>At Small Bar on Division, U.S. fans gathered to watch their team play Azerbaijan in a friendly pre World Cup game. Here&rsquo;s where you&rsquo;ll find the Chicago chapter of the American Outlaws. It&rsquo;s</p><p>the biggest booster club for the U.S team, boasting 18,000 members around the country. Super fan Kevin Harris is disappointed Donovan won&rsquo;t be on the team, but says that move won&rsquo;t be a big part of the Klinsmann&rsquo;s legacy.</p><p>&ldquo;He was brought in to help with the youth program, academies, things like that,&rdquo; says Harris. &ldquo;So we have this funnel of young players that are coming in that can then take over and join a squad.&rdquo;</p><p>Major League Baseball has the minors to get new talent. The NFL and NBA get young prospects from colleges. That kind of set up doesn&rsquo;t exist for soccer. Klinsmann wants to develop a system to build &nbsp;stronger learning centers, so-called academies, to improve soccer training.</p><p>Ultimately, Klinsmann wants to create an academy system to create the next team for the World Cup.</p><p>A few would-be soccer stars gather under the hot sun at Toyota Park to watch the Chicago Fire practice. The group of 10 and 11 year olds traveled from New Orleans. They&rsquo;re part of the Fire&rsquo;s youth development league. The Fire has 10 clubs in 7 states. This team, the Louisiana Fire, is not only watching how the MLS players do their thing. The kids are getting a workout of their own, getting drilled by academy coaches. After a sweaty scrimmage, the boy surround Fire players like Victor Pineda.</p><p>&ldquo;I can relate. I still have signed balls and shirts at home,&rdquo; says Pineda as he signs autographs for kids who turn quiet and shy around the Fire player. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s awesome. Something you&rsquo;ll remember forever.&rdquo;</p><p>Pineda is from Chicago and he&rsquo;s one of the Fire&rsquo;s homegrown academy players. &nbsp;He&rsquo;s a 21 year old midfielder with the Fire, but he hasn&rsquo;t seen much playing time yet. Years ago, he tried out for the under 17 World Cup but was cut from the final squad.</p><p>&ldquo;When you don&#39;t&rsquo; make a team like that I think it makes you work harder and want it even more,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>With players his age in the World Cup, reaching the pinnacle of the sport, Pineda says being with the Fire is great because he gets to live out the same dreams kids from Louisiana, Chicago &nbsp;and around the globe hope to experience one day.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been playing since I was five. So I don&rsquo;t have a reason to give up now. So I think I just want to keep working.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a><u>&nbsp;and</u>&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p><p style="margin-left:.5in;">&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 11:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/us-soccer-fans-look-toward-future-sport-110351 Chicago’s German community welcomes World Cup watchers http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-german-community-welcomes-world-cup-watchers-110336 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GERMANY5-horiz.jpg" style="height: 373px; width: 280px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="Dank Haus member Erwin Lickmann stands by the cultural center’s prized painting of Kaiser Wilhelm I, Germany’s first leader (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />At Lincoln Park&rsquo;s Dank Haus, Erwin Lickmann &nbsp;and I slowly walk into a crimson walled room. He whispers as he shows me a giant 19th century portrait of Germany&rsquo;s first leader, Kaiser Wilhelm I. Lickman is dressed in pea green lederhosen and he tells me the Dank is more than a refuge for older Germans who want to engage in their culture</p><p>&ldquo;The Dank Haus is a community of serving people,&rdquo; he says &ldquo;Sports brings people together. And they can have a beer afterwards and be happy, you know. Builds friendships!&rdquo;</p><p>The Dank Haus was founded in 1959 as a haven for Germans, a place where they could celebrate their heritage and their culture. Next week, it&rsquo;ll welcome hundreds who&rsquo;ll pack the place to watch the World Cup. On this day, around two dozen senior citizens listen to Dank member Sara Hartig read a German poem. Many of them, like Gerhard Grieff, came after World War II.</p><p>&ldquo;I emigrated from Germany in 1952 because Germany after the war was bad,&rdquo; says Greiff. &ldquo;Living over there, we didn&rsquo;t have much of a future there when I was young. So I came over here and stayed here.&rdquo;</p><p>It wasn&rsquo;t easy here either, being German in America after the war. That made places like the Dank Haus all the more important for German Americans. &nbsp;Over the years the community assimilated. Sarah Hartig has been with the Dank for decades and wonders about its future. None of her six children are involved in the cultural center.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to be more American. English is spoken at all the meetings,&rdquo; says Hartig. &ldquo;When we started everything was spoken in German. We&rsquo;re getting older, young people came in and they started speaking English.&rdquo;</p><p>I asked how she felt about that. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m going along&rdquo; she sighs.</p><p>Today, German traditions are alive and well, celebrated by Germans and non-Germans alike. There are two main festivals in Chicago each year: Oktoberfest in the fall and Maifest in late spring. This year in addition to the traditional German songs and suds, talk at the festival turned to the World Cup.</p><p>Anna Liese and Rafael Vasquez have a bit of a problem as the games approach. She&rsquo;s German and he&rsquo;s Mexican. Anna Liese was raised with a strong sense of German pride. She&rsquo;s dressed in a dirndl costume, speaks German and Spanish. She met her husband more than 40 years ago in Mexico.</p><p>&ldquo;Of course my father was a little upset. But after many years, he was at peace with it,&rdquo; Liese says.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/GERMANY2.jpg" style="height: 210px; width: 280px; float: left; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px;" title="Ana Leise and Rafael Vasquez have a laugh at Maifest in Lincoln Square, May 30. (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />Her husband Rafael, dressed in lederhosen, passes around shots of apfelkorn better known as apple schnapps.</p><p>&ldquo;She cooks Mexican food. She liked soccer, she drinks beer. What else could I want?,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I won the lottery!&rdquo;</p><p>Vasquez says you don&rsquo;t have to belong to one nationality to enjoy what another one can bring. But he&rsquo;s not planning to root for Germany in the World Cup. He&rsquo;s supporting his home country.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh my god, you&rsquo;re putting me on the spot.&rdquo; says Vasquez &ldquo; Mexico. Hopefully they will make it to the semifinals. I want to say there&rsquo;s a 10 percent chance they will make it past the quarterfinals.&rdquo;</p><p>If Mexico doesn&rsquo;t make it, he may want to latch himself to his wife&rsquo;s team, Germany, which is favored to go much farther in the tournament.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a><u>&nbsp;</u>and <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-german-community-welcomes-world-cup-watchers-110336 Some Mexicans in Chicago not sure about their team's World Cup chances http://www.wbez.org/news/some-mexicans-chicago-not-sure-about-their-teams-world-cup-chances-110319 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Mexico1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Soccer is tough. But those who play it, love it. At a soccer field in Pilsen, a few dozen teens from Cristo Rey High School are sweating it out during a muggy practice session. The artificial turf also doubles as a baseball field.</p><p>The teens switch squads and talk about European soccer during gatorade breaks. I ask four Mexican American teenagers who they&rsquo;re rooting for during the World Cup.</p><p>&ldquo;Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina,&rdquo; the high schoolers say. These are second generation Mexicans who think the national team is on the losing end of the World Cup stick. 14-year-old Analysette Peña predicts Brazil. With an asterisk.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m from Mexico so would I like to see them win? But we gotta face it,&rdquo; says Peña. &ldquo;There are other teams that put more effort than them and try not to make mistakes. So I&rsquo;m going to root for the ones that actually deserve to win.&rdquo;</p><p>These kids are not alone. Earlier this month at Soldier Field, the team showed why it may not make it far in the World Cup. Mexico disappointed its fans again, losing to Bosnia 1-0.</p><p>Herrasamo Sanchez is from Kenosha, Wisconsin. Like the other tens of thousands of Mexican fans at the game, he&rsquo;s cheering for Mexico, but loyal to a certain point.</p><p>&ldquo;Obviously I&rsquo;m going to support my nation. But Brazil is going to take the World Cup,&quot; says Sanchez. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re going to win it.&rdquo;</p><p>Mexico&rsquo;s lackluster performance is being blamed on everything from multiple coaching changes in recent months to the loss of star midfielder Luis Montes Jimenez to an injury. Mexico&rsquo;s poor play is impacting fans and sports vendors in the Chicago area.</p><p>In Melrose Park, the store La Cancha sport is preparing to close for the night. The co-owner says they&rsquo;ve only sold only one Mexican national jersey all day. Jose Martinez came from Hammond, Indiana, to get shirts for a neighborhood league. Looking down as he speaks, he makes no attempt to hide his disappointment. Both as a Mexican national and as a businessman who lost money trying to sell Mexican shirts at the Soldier Field game.</p><p>&ldquo;When they do well, people buy. When they don&rsquo;t play well, they don&rsquo;t sell,&quot; says Martinez. &ldquo;Of course it hurts. They should be playing better.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s when Carolina Reyes interrupts him. She drove from DuPage County to buy little league uniforms.</p><p>&ldquo;When the team is losing, everyone&rsquo;s a critic. But when they&rsquo;re winning, everyone loves them,&rdquo; says Reyes. &quot;Win or lose, I&rsquo;m Mexican and I&rsquo;m rooting for Mexico!&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s when Martinez looks up and confesses: He plans to root for Mexico.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a>&nbsp;and <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 09:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/some-mexicans-chicago-not-sure-about-their-teams-world-cup-chances-110319 Chicago's Nigerians watch World Cup with optimism and resolve http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-nigerians-watch-world-cup-optimism-and-resolve-110311 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/NIGERIA2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Immigrant communities throughout Chicago are excited about seeing the World Cup. Thirty-two nations will compete to win the ultimate soccer championship. Nigeria is one of three African countries that qualified for the World Cup.</p><p>Nigerians in Chicago are looking forward to seeing their team, but some are concerned over an unresolved conflict in their homeland. WBEZ&rsquo;s Yolanda Perdomo talked with several Nigerians in Chicago about soccer and the crisis affecting a group of schoolgirls kidnapped in April.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a>&nbsp;and <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Tue, 10 Jun 2014 09:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicagos-nigerians-watch-world-cup-optimism-and-resolve-110311 World Cup stirs mixed feelings for Chicago’s Brazilian community http://www.wbez.org/news/world-cup-stirs-mixed-feelings-chicago%E2%80%99s-brazilian-community-110305 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/BRAZILIANS_140609.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, a small crowd gathers under a white street festival tent to watch Chicago Samba. The eight piece group features musicians and two women dancing in large fruit covered Carmen Miranda inspired headdresses.</p><p>Mo Marchini is the group&rsquo;s founder. He says he&rsquo;d love to be in his hometown of Sao Paulo to watch the World Cup. But says he&rsquo;ll settle playing Brazilian music in Chicago. Marchini started the samba group 20 years ago because he wanted to showcase Brazilian culture.</p><p>&ldquo;We came from 30 years of a military (dictatorship) over there. We had a coup d&#39;etat in 1964 and it devastated the country culturally,&rdquo; says Marchini.</p><p>&ldquo;We were prohibited to think, pretty much. To vote. To do anything. We started voting 20 years ago. The country&rsquo;s really back. It has to catch up with the whole world.&rdquo;</p><p>That&rsquo;s why Marchini thinks Brazil hosting the month-long soccer tournament is going to be an amazing thing for his country. He says it&rsquo;ll show to the rest of the world that they&rsquo;ve arrived. &nbsp;</p><p>Sergio Barreto agrees. He &nbsp;runs Chicagoano, a bilingual blog and website for Chicago&rsquo;s Brazilian community. He started the website because he wanted to get past the stereotypical images people may have.</p><p>&ldquo;Every Brazilian event that you go, even if it&rsquo;s a professional event, will end the mulatas dancing,&rdquo; says Barreto. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re scantily clad and it perpetuates this image that we&rsquo;re shallow people.&rdquo;</p><p>Barreto thinks the mixed race women who dance the samba can&rsquo;t be the only image people have of Brazilians. Like Mo, he says there&rsquo;s been unrest accompanying the progress Brazilians have enjoyed.</p><p>Over the last year, police departments, teachers, homeless workers and indigenous tribes, among others, have rallied against the government for spending billions on the games. Barreto is upset the daily protests may skew opinion on his country.</p><p>&ldquo;If the whole world is watching and you&rsquo;re going to basically tell the world &lsquo;you don&rsquo;t want to come here. You don&rsquo;t want to invest here. This place is a mess. Take it from us, we live here.&rsquo; I mean how is that going to benefit the country in the long run?&rdquo;</p><p>This is the first time Brazil has hosted the World Cup since 1950. With five championships, Brazil has the most World Cup wins in the history of the games. As a country that&rsquo;s favored to win the tournament, Barreto&rsquo;s eyes well up as he explains what soccer means to him.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s an emotional topic for all of us. Not to sound like a cliche but soccer is in the blood,&rdquo; says Barreto. &ldquo;Every four years when the World Cup arrives and you&rsquo;re watching the games, it stirs you up inside.&rdquo;</p><p>College student Carolina Mendes says despite some mixed feelings, she&rsquo;ll watch the games. She&rsquo;s eating at the Brazilian Bowl restaurant in Lakeview. There, you&rsquo;ll find traditional items like feijoada, coxinha and maracuja juice. Brazilian groceries are on shelves stacked floor to ceiling. The game&rsquo;s armadillo mascot, a little Fuleco doll, sits on a cash register. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;The World Cup is for all the world. Not for Brazilian people,&rdquo; says Mendes. &ldquo;They cannot afford these tickets. People think it&rsquo;s a good thing for Brazil. It&rsquo;s not. We need to spend money on other things.&rdquo;</p><p>How Brazil will do in the World Cup is a huge test for the country as it prepares to host another international event: the Olympic games in 2016.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter </em><em><a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a><u>&nbsp;</u></em><em>&amp; <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 09 Jun 2014 10:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/world-cup-stirs-mixed-feelings-chicago%E2%80%99s-brazilian-community-110305 Open tryouts and 'indie ball blues' in Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/open-tryouts-and-indie-ball-blues-indiana-110216 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/bball.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>On a cold, gray morning in Gary, Ind., about 40 baseball hopefuls sat in the Gary Railcats&rsquo; home dugout, looking up at Manager Greg Tagert.</p><p>It was a bleak day, and Tagert&rsquo;s speech to them was equally bleak.</p><p>The men in the dugout had plunked down $40 for a chance to try out for the &lsquo;Cats - an independent-league team that is about as low on the hierarchy as you can get and still be considered pro ball.</p><p>The players trying out were minor-league washouts trying to hold on, or college stars looking for their big break.</p><p>Tagert told them that only a handful of them would make the cut today - five or less. And even those lucky few couldn&rsquo;t count on making the roster.</p><p>Whether or not you&rsquo;re a fan - baseball means American summer as much as barbecues, fireworks and the beach.</p><p>But for the men in that dugout it means something more -- it&rsquo;s an obsession, a dream job.</p><p>WBEZ spent the day at the open tryouts for the Gary Railcats.</p><p>The Railcats were last season&rsquo;s American Association champions - but the team&rsquo;s players are still looking for a way to move up.</p><p>Even though the small-time, Single A Durham Bulls--remember the movie Bull Durham?-- would be a dream come true for many of them, they are all really good at baseball.</p><p>Just about all the guys who tried out starred on their high school baseball teams. They&rsquo;re not good enough for the big leagues, but they are still way better than you.</p><p>The team&rsquo;s home opener is at 7 Thursday evening against the Wichita Wingnuts.&nbsp; They&rsquo;ll be playing at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Video producer<a href="https://vimeo.com/jscott1908"> John Scott</a> is a filmmaker who lives and works in Chicago.</em></p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ Producer and Reporter. Follow him on twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a>.</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/150617705&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 21 May 2014 14:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/open-tryouts-and-indie-ball-blues-indiana-110216 Luol Deng reflects on 10 years with the Bulls and upcoming free agency http://www.wbez.org/news/luol-deng-reflects-10-years-bulls-and-upcoming-free-agency-110016 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP705998648470.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The Chicago Bulls traded Luol Deng in the middle of the night: There&rsquo;s been no closure, no time for Deng or fans to reflect on his 10 years in Chicago. The veteran forward&rsquo;s been in Cleveland since early January, learning to play in a different system--and in a different role--with the Cavaliers.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>When WBEZ sports contributor Cheryl Raye Stout saw the Cavs would be playing the Bucks on Friday, she decided to head to Milwaukee to see how Deng is doing. She first asked him if he was surprised by the trade.</p><p>&ldquo;I wasn&rsquo;t surprised,&rdquo; he began. &ldquo;No, no,&rdquo; Deng clarified, &ldquo;I should say I was surprised but I expected it...I was hoping to be wrong but, I think I was expecting it.&rdquo;</p><p>Deng said it was extremely difficult to leave all the familiarities of Chicago for something completely new. He said it was one of the hardest things he&rsquo;s ever had to do because he&rsquo;s never really had to make that type of transition. He played four years of high school ball, played with all the same guys in the same club growing up in London. He stayed in touch with Coach Mike Krzyzewski, even after leaving Duke University after his freshman year. But for the 10 years that followed--for 82 games a year--he lived and breathed Chicago Bulls basketball.</p><p>Now, at almost 29-years-old, he&rsquo;s learning to take on a new and different leadership role in Cleveland.</p><p>&ldquo;In Chicago,&rdquo; Deng said, &ldquo;it got to a point where I was so comfortable with everything. I just did me.&rdquo;</p><p>And, while he doesn&rsquo;t expect everyone to believe him, Deng said he&rsquo;s grateful for the challenge.</p><p>&ldquo;Through my whole life, nothing has ever come easy. I&rsquo;ve always had a hard road before I do something great, and I&rsquo;m thankful for it,&rdquo; Deng explained.</p><p>Raye Stout asked Deng what he missed most about being a Chicago Bull. He said he misses his teammates and the coaching staff more than anything.</p><p>&ldquo;I felt like I knew them as well as I&rsquo;ve known myself. I knew how to get everyone going, I knew how to make things easy, how to stay positive...that comfort zone. I didn&rsquo;t really see those guys as teammates. Those guys were really my friends.&rdquo;</p><p>Deng said he will probably stay friends with most of them for the rest of his life. In fact, he&rsquo;s joked with some of the guys still on the team that he plans to sit courtside in Chicago during the upcoming playoffs. But, he doesn&rsquo;t want the TV or attention coming his way--he doesn&rsquo;t want to mess up the flow. And he doesn&rsquo;t want any fans to yell, &ldquo;You should be here,&rdquo; or something like that. He&rsquo;d just love to be there to support his former teammates because he knows their struggle and the focus and effort required during a playoff push.</p><p>And Deng said he&rsquo;s not surprised the Bulls--or All-Star center Joakim Noah--are having a successful season. He said Noah&rsquo;s newfound leadership position is deserved and necessary.</p><p>&ldquo;When you play hard all the time, it becomes who you are,&rdquo; Deng explained.</p><p>Deng will become a free agent at the end of the season. He said he knows it will be a tough decision, but he knows what he wants and has learned a great deal from this experience.</p><p>&ldquo;When I&rsquo;m not happy with things, I know how hard I work to change that,&rdquo; Deng said with a slight grin. &ldquo;Also, I&rsquo;m a competitor. I always take things, and I want things to be my way.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Katie O&rsquo;Brien is WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/katieobez">@katieobez</a> and WBEZ sports contributor <a href="https://twitter.com/Crayestout">@crayestout</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/luol-deng-reflects-10-years-bulls-and-upcoming-free-agency-110016 Northwestern appeals NLRB ruling on athletes union http://www.wbez.org/news/northwestern-appeals-nlrb-ruling-athletes-union-109999 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/NU NLRB Kain Colter.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Northwestern University is asking the National Labor Relations Board to overturn a regional director&#39;s ruling that the school&#39;s football players are employees under federal law and thus entitled to unionize.</p><p>The university filed a formal appeal Wednesday.</p><p>Northwestern says that it had presented &quot;overwhelming evidence&quot; that its athletic program &quot;is fully integrated with its academic mission, and that it treats its athletes as students first.&quot;</p><p>The players are set to vote by secret ballot April 25 on whether to form a union.</p><p>Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and Ramogi Huma of the College Athletes Players Association met in Washington with members of Congress earlier this month to press their case for unionization.</p></p> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/northwestern-appeals-nlrb-ruling-athletes-union-109999 As Gary charter wins basketball titles, public schools fall farther behind http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/gary-charter-wins-basketball-titles-public-schools-fall-farther-behind-109937 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Bowman 2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hoosier Hysteria will hit a fever pitch this weekend in Indianapolis.<br /><br />Not only is the city hosting the Midwest Regional for the NCAA men&rsquo;s basketball tournament, but the boys state high school basketball title games as well.<br /><br />Northwest Indiana will be well represented in the tournament with three region teams heading downstate looking for a crown in their respective classes. They include traditional programs like Lake Central in St. John and Michigan City Marquette, as well as relative newcomer Bowman Academy in Gary.<br /><br />Bowman is a charter school trying to repeat as state champions and win its third title in four years.&ndash; unheard of even in this basketball-crazed corner of Indiana. This from a school that started competing only six years ago.</p><p>But neither success nor acceptance has come easy for Bowman, a non-religious school named for African-American Roman Catholic nun Thea Bowman.</p><p>&ldquo;A couple of years, didn&rsquo;t nobody know who Bowman was. We couldn&rsquo;t play a good team for nothing,&rdquo; says Bowman&rsquo;s star guard, 6&rsquo;5 Davon Dillard, a junior who is already being pursued by the likes of Purdue, Indiana and Michigan State.</p><p>Dillard and his teammates chowed down on pizza and chicken wings before boarding two white vans early Thursday afternoon to make the two-hour trek south to practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse &ndash; home of the NBA&rsquo;s Indianapolis Pacers.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve gained a lot of respect by proving it on the court, you know. Coming to Bowman, I&rsquo;ve been playing in some of the biggest championship games I&rsquo;ve ever played in,&rdquo; Dillard said. &ldquo;Being able to go down to state every year, that&rsquo;s a good feeling.&rdquo;<br /><br />But Bowman&rsquo;s quick rise also reveals just how far some of the other Gary schools have fallen &ndash; and not just in basketball.<br /><br />&ldquo;We get a lot of criticism but we just stay humble you know. We focus; we play hard, you know, we&rsquo;ve got a good coach in Marvin Rae. He gets the job done,&rdquo; Dillard said.<br /><br />Head coach Marvin Rae agrees.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, when we first started, there was some animosity, actually we didn&rsquo;t play the Gary schools, they opted not to play us,&rdquo; Rae told WBEZ. &ldquo;When we first started, we had to travel to Rushville, Illinois to get games. We had to travel around. Our first year, we literally only had eight games.&rdquo;<br /><br />Suburban schools in Northwest Indiana didn&rsquo;t want to play Bowman because of its small size. And &ndash; rightly or wrongly &ndash; because of Gary&rsquo;s reputation as an unsafe place to visit.<br /><br />But the city schools didn&rsquo;t want to play Bowman either.<br /><br />&ldquo;I was not going to play Bowman because I knew right away what charter schools were built for: They are built to destroy public school systems,&rdquo; said John Boyd, a former teacher and coach at Gary&rsquo;s West Side High School, a basketball powerhouse and state champion in 2003.</p><p>Despite being a much larger school than Bowman, Boyd agreed to play one game against them in 2009.</p><p>&ldquo;I had gotten sick of people telling me I was afraid to play Bowman when I had some of the best talent in the state of Indiana,&rdquo; Body said. &ldquo;So, we ended up playing them and there was a situation that occurred.&rdquo;<br /><br />What occurred, according to Boyd, was a fight that ended any further games between Bowman and Gary schools.</p><p>But now, because of dwindling finances and declining enrollment &ndash; Gary public education struggling to keep its public high schools open. Of its five public high schools, only two still have basketball teams.<br /><br />Bowman&rsquo;s success &ndash; in the classroom and on the court &ndash; is now luring most of Gary&rsquo;s top talent in basketball and academics.<br /><br />And with other charter schools having varying success in Gary, Boyd says it&rsquo;s only going to get tougher for the Steel City.<br /><br />&ldquo;These charter schools are taking away students from the Gary public schools. Gary is actually a case study in how charter schools can come in and absolutely take over a school corporation which means that yes, Gary will have to close schools until they only have one high school,&rdquo; Boyd said.<br /><br />Gary&rsquo;s charter schools are often criticized for shifting resources away from public schools. Bowman&rsquo;s Rae says while he understands that criticism, &ldquo;we just kind of keep to ourselves and do what we do best and focus on each other,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Bowman&rsquo;s success now attracts top teams from all over the region that flock to Gary to play them, with most games attracting the attention of college recruiters. Because of their packed scheduled, Marvin Rae says there&rsquo;s no room to play Gary schools now even if they wanted to.<br /><br />&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a matter of do we want to play, at this point our schedule is full,&rdquo; Rae said.<br /><br />Rae insists he&rsquo;s not gloating. As someone who used to play at Gary Roosevelt High School &ndash; a one time powerhouse &ndash; he knows Gary&rsquo;s public schools are stressed.<br />&nbsp;<br />&ldquo;If we can sit down and help the Gary community schools and anyone else, we&rsquo;re always open to help anyone with suggestions and ideas,&rdquo; Rae said.</p><p>Even rival coach John Boyd has come to terms with Bowman&rsquo;s unmatched success and called Rae recently to wish him luck in Indy this weekend.<br /><br />&ldquo;They are probably the premier basketball program in Northwest Indiana right now. When you are winning championships you have to be revered,&rdquo; Boyd said. &ldquo;The Bowmans of the world bring attention to Gary, Indiana. We need to want Bowman to be successful.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 15:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/gary-charter-wins-basketball-titles-public-schools-fall-farther-behind-109937 Northwestern athletes can unionize, federal agency says http://www.wbez.org/news/northwestern-athletes-can-unionize-federal-agency-says-109919 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/nu_0.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>In a stunning ruling that could revolutionize college sports, a federal agency said Wednesday that football players at Northwestern University can create the nation&#39;s first union of college athletes.</p><p>The decision by a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board answered the question at the heart of the debate over the unionization bid: Do football players who receive full scholarships to the Big Ten school qualify as employees under federal law and therefore can legally unionize?</p><p>Peter Sung Ohr, the NLRB regional director, said in a 24-page decision that the players &quot;fall squarely&quot; within the broad definition of employee.</p><p>Pro-union activists cheered as they learned of the ruling.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s like preparing so long for a big game and then when you win &mdash; it is pure joy,&quot; said former UCLA linebacker Ramogi Huma, the designated president of Northwestern&#39;s would-be football players&#39; union.</p><p>An employee is regarded by law as someone who, among other things, receives compensation for a service and is under the strict, direct control of managers. In the case of the Northwestern players, coaches are the managers and scholarships are a form of compensation, Ohr concluded.</p><p>The Evanston, Ill., university argued that college athletes, as students, do not fit in the same category as factory workers, truck drivers and other unionized workers. The school announced plans to appeal to labor authorities in Washington, D.C.</p><p>Supporters of the union bid argued that the university ultimately treats football as more important than academics for scholarship players. Ohr sided with the players on that issue.</p><p>&quot;The record makes clear that the employer&#39;s scholarship players are identified and recruited in the first instance because of their football prowess and not because of their academic achievement in high school,&quot; Ohr wrote. He also noted that among the evidence presented by Northwestern, &quot;no examples were provided of scholarship players being permitted to miss entire practices and/or games to attend their studies.&quot;</p><p>The ruling also described how the life of a football player at Northwestern is far more regimented than that of a typical student, down to requirements about what they can and can&#39;t eat and whether they can live off campus or purchase a car. At times, players put 50 or 60 hours a week into football, he added.</p><p>Alan Cubbage, Northwestern&#39;s vice president for university relations, said in a statement that while the school respects &quot;the NLRB process and the regional director&#39;s opinion, we disagree with it.&quot;</p><p>The next step would be for scholarship players to vote on whether to formally authorize the College Athletes Players Association, or CAPA, to represent them, according to the NLRB decision.</p><p>The specific goals of CAPA include guaranteeing coverage of sports-related medical expenses for current and former players, reducing head injuries and potentially letting players pursue commercial sponsorships.</p><p>But critics have argued that giving college athletes employee status and allowing them to unionize could hurt college sports in numerous ways, including raising the prospect of strikes by disgruntled players or lockouts by athletic departments.</p><p>For now, the push is to unionize athletes at private schools, such as Northwestern, because the federal labor agency does not have jurisdiction over public universities.</p><p>Outgoing Wildcats quarterback Kain Colter took a leading role in establishing CAPA. The United Steelworkers union has been footing the legal bills.</p><p>Colter, who has entered the NFL draft, said nearly all of the 85 scholarship players on the Wildcats roster backed the union bid, though only he expressed his support publicly.</p><p>He said the No. 1 reason to unionize was to ensure injured players have their medical needs met.</p><p>&quot;With the sacrifices we make athletically, medically and with our bodies, we need to be taken care of,&quot; Colter told ESPN.</p><p>The NCAA has been under increasing scrutiny over its amateurism rules and is fighting a class-action federal lawsuit by former players seeking a cut of the billions of dollars earned from live broadcasts, memorabilia sales and video games. Other lawsuits allege the NCAA failed to protect players from debilitating head injuries.</p><p>NCAA President Mark Emmert has pushed for a $2,000-per-player stipend to help athletes defray some expenses. Critics say that is not nearly enough, considering players help bring in millions of dollars to their schools and conferences.</p><p>In a written statement, the NCAA said it disagreed with the notion that student-athletes are employees.</p><p>&quot;We frequently hear from student-athletes, across all sports, that they participate to enhance their overall college experience and for the love of their sport, not to be paid,&quot; the NCAA said.</p><p>The developments are coming to a head at a time when major college programs are awash in cash generated by new television deals that include separate networks for the big conferences. The NCAA tournament generates an average of $771 million a year in television rights itself, much of which is distributed back to member schools by the NCAA.</p><p>Attorneys for CAPA argued that college football is, for all practical purposes, a commercial enterprise that relies on players&#39; labor to generate billions of dollars in profits. The NLRB ruling noted that from 2003 to 2013 the Northwestern program generated $235 million in revenue &mdash; profits the university says went to subsidize other sports.</p><p>During the NLRB&#39;s five days of hearings in February, Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald took the stand for union opponents, and his testimony sometimes was at odds with Colter&#39;s.</p><p>Colter told the hearing that players&#39; performance on the field was more important to Northwestern than their in-class performance, saying, &quot;You fulfill the football requirement and, if you can, you fit in academics.&quot; Asked why Northwestern gave him a scholarship of $75,000 a year, he responded: &quot;To play football. To perform an athletic service.&quot;</p><p>But Fitzgerald said he tells players academics come first, saying, &quot;We want them to be the best they can be ... to be a champion in life.&quot;</p></p> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 15:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/northwestern-athletes-can-unionize-federal-agency-says-109919