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Sports & Politics

March 01, 2021
Source: For the Win/Twitter
Source: For the Win/Twitter

⚽️Soccer: The U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) held their annual general meeting (AGM) over the weekend and, with a 71% majority, voted to nix the policy that requires players to stand during the anthem. Most considered that a huge win...except for Seth Jahn.

  • Following the vote, Jahn, a Paralympian and newer member of the USSF Athletes’ Council, was given the chance to deliver a six-minute rascist, inaccurate rantabout the nonexistence of police brutality and slavery. The audacity and ignorance.
  • Fellow USSF athletes were having none of it though, and soccer stars like Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn called Jahn out on Twitter before the USSF finally denounced his speech, with the Athletes’ Council voting to remove him late last night.

🏀Basketball: On the flipside, the WNBA became a little less political on Friday thanks to the departure of former junior senator and co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, Kelly Loeffler. Loeffler, as you may remember, penned an open letter to league commissioner Cathy Engelbert last summer, opposing the WNBA’s involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement.

  • On Friday, the WNBA announced the sale (!!!) of the Dream to a three-person investment group including — wait for it — former Dream star Renee Montgomery, who has been very vocal in her opposition of Loeffler. Oh, how the turntables...

⚽️🏀Soccer and basketball: Both of those stories come on the heels of a war of words between two megastars playing an ocean apart. In an interview last week, soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimović called out LeBron James, saying LeBron should “stay out” of politics because “it doesn’t look good.”

  • LeBron used his Friday night, post-game interview to let the world, and Zlatan, know that he “would never shut up about things that are wrong,” and will continue to “preach about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voter suppression; things that go on in our community.” Amen to that.

🏀Chicago: Cruisin’ with a bruisin’

March 01, 2021
Source: David Berding/USA TODAY Sports
Source: David Berding/USA TODAY Sports

The win: The Big Ten Conference has amazing basketball, and this weekend we saw that on display when the No. 5 Illini took on the No. 23 Wisconsin Badgers. Center Kofi Cockburn led the team with 19 points, alongside André Curbelo with 17 and Da’Monte Williams with 12, in their gritty 74–69 win. Shooters gonna shoot. 

  • This was an important win for the Illini to show they can hold it together without Donusonu, who had a triple-double in the team’s first win over the Badgers this season. 

Looking ahead: After breaking his nose last week, Donusonu is out indefinitely. The junior guard is a critical member of the U of I’s squad, known as both the glue that holds the team together and the player who consistently executes in make-or-break moments. While the Illini have now shown they can beat good teams without Donusonu, the competition is only going to get tougher.

  • To close out the regular season, U of I will take on the No. 3-ranked Michigan Wolverines tomorrow, followed by the No. 4-ranked Ohio State on Saturday, before the championship season begins on March 10. Prayers up for Donusonu’s cartilage. 

🏀Philadelphia: Big girls do cry

March 01, 2021
Source: Thomas J. Russo/USA Today Sports
Source: Thomas J. Russo/USA Today Sports

Nova: The 9-13 Butler Bulldogs topped the Wildcats 73–61 yesterday. The ’Cats couldn’t seem to make a bucket, shooting 37% overall and only 7% from three, compared to averages of 45% and 36% on the season. Those numbers tell us all we need to know. Yikes. 

  • An upset this shocking will hurt Villanova’s seeding heading into the Big East Tournament and March Madness. Let’s hope they can bounce back in time to take down No. 13 Creighton on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. ET. 

Sixers: The 12-21 Cleveland Cavaliers only had nine players when they took the court against the Sixers on Saturday, but (you know where this is going) they still beat Philly 112–109. Joel Embiid led the team with 42 points but missed a critical jump shot at the end of regulation, sending the teams to overtime and giving Cleveland an opportunity to snag the upset. Sigh. 

  • Guard Seth Curry has been in a shooting slump lately, making the absence of Tobias Harris all the more noticeable. With Harris potentially still out with his knee contusion, the rest of the squad needs to rally to beat the Indiana Pacers at 7 p.m. ET tonight. 

🏒New York: Off the ice

March 01, 2021
Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The background: Panarin is originally from Korkino, Russia and began his professional career with the KHL before the star signed with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, then the Rangers in 2019. But this story isn’t about Panarin’s playing history.

  • Back in January, Panarin, who previously criticized Vladimir Putin and his political regime, shared his support for the yRussian opposition leader, Alexei Navalny — who is currently serving jail time — on social media
  • While pro athletes supporting a party is par for the course in most democratic countries, it’s not common in Russia. A few weeks after Panarin’s post, his former KHL coach accused the winger via Russian tabloid of assaulting a woman early in 2011 — and the timing is v. fishy.

The implications: Panarin and the KHL both denied the allegation, and not one of Panarin’s former teammates has corroborated it. When Panarin decided to take his leave of absence, the Rangers released a statement addressing it: "This is clearly an intimidation tactic being used against [Panarin] for being outspoken on recent political events." 

  • This whole situation feels reminiscent of Portland Trail Blazer Enes Kanter’s struggle with his home country of Turkey, and it highlights the personal sacrifices some international players have to make to be professional athletes. 
  • While Panarin is safe in New York, most of his family still lives in Russia. His leave of absence allows him to further investigate the details surrounding the allegations. Our thoughts are with Panarin and his family, and we hope he can safely and comfortably return to the ice soon. 

The GIST's Quick Hits - US

March 01, 2021
Source: LPGA/Twitter
Source: LPGA/Twitter

Golf: Nelly Korda followed up her big sister Jessica’s January LPGA win with one of her own. Nelly won the Gainbridge LPGA event yesterday, marking the first back-to-back sister act since the Sorenstams did it in 2000. 

🥎Softball: Speaking of stellar siblings, former college softball superstar AJ Andrews has some competition for best family outfielder because her sister Aliyah, who plays for LSU, did this over the weekend. Pick your jaw up off the floor.

🏀Basketball: UConn freshman (!!!) Paige Bueckers (pronounced BECKERS) set yet another record this weekend: most single-game assists (14) in UConn women’s basketball history. The No. 1 team in the nation will play their final regular season game tonight against Marquette at 8 p.m. ET. 

🤸‍♀️Gymnastics: Guess who’s back, back again? For the first time since winning gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Laurie Hernandez returned to competition this weekend at the Winter Cup with a new coach, a Hamilton-inspired routine and a Captain Marvel-inspired leotard

🏒PWHPA: Team New Hampshire beat Team Minnesota in the first-ever pro women’s game at Madison Square Garden. But really, didn’t we all win? Check out the highlights and then mark your calendar for the next one: this weekend in Chicago.