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49ers’ Chris Borland Retiring at 24, Wary of Head Trauma

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In this Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, file photo, San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Chris Borland (50) tackles Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers announced late Monday, March 16, 2015, that Borland is retiring after one season, without offering specifics. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

In this Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014, file photo, San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker Chris Borland (50) tackles Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris (46) during the second half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif. The 49ers announced late Monday, March 16, 2015, that Borland is retiring after one season, without offering specifics. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)

JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Wary of head trauma, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland is leaving football. And not even the promise of NFL stardom and piles of money could change his mind.

So now, after one stellar rookie season, he is retiring at age 24.

The 49ers announced his decision Monday night, without offering specifics. But Borland told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” earlier in the day he wants to do “what’s best for my health.”

Borland had a team-leading 108 tackles as a rookie, emerging as a punishing defender. He also had a sack and two interceptions.

“From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” Borland said in the interview. “I feel largely the same, as sharp as I’ve ever been. For me, it’s wanting to be proactive. I’m concerned that if you wait till you have symptoms, it’s too late.”

49ers general manager Trent Baalke said the team was surprised by his move and called Borland a “consummate professional.”

Borland’s big announcement comes less than a week after five-time All Pro linebacker Patrick Willis walked away from football. Borland replaced Willis in the starting lineup after his October toe injury required surgery.

The NFL, like the 49ers, said it respects Borland’s decision, adding that “playing any sport is a personal decision.” The league stressed that “football has never been safer,” noting progress with rule changes, tackling techniques, equipment, protocols and medical care.

“Concussions in NFL games were down 25 percent last year, continuing a three-year downward trend,” Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice president of health and safety, said in a statement Tuesday.

“We continue to make significant investments in independent research to advance the science and understanding of these issues. We are seeing a growing culture of safety. Everyone involved in the game knows that there is more work to do and player safety will continue to be our top priority.”

The retirements of Willis and Borland are big blows to a team that also lost coach Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio after the season, then watched Frank Gore, Mike Iupati, Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox depart in free agency this past week. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula was promoted to head coach following an 8-8 season, the club’s first time out of the playoffs in four years.

“While unexpected, we certainly respect Chris’ decision,” Baalke said. “From speaking with Chris, it was evident that he had put a great deal of thought into this decision. He was a consummate professional from Day One and a very well-respected member of our team and community.

“Chris is a determined young man that overcame long odds in his journey to the NFL and we are confident he will use the same approach to become very successful in his future endeavors. We will always consider him a 49er and wish him all the best.”

The NFC Defensive Rookie of the Month for November, Borland injured an ankle on the final play of the first half against the Seahawks on Dec. 14 and didn’t play again last season.

The 49ers selected Borland in the third round of the draft out of Wisconsin, where he was an imposing pass rusher.

___

AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Crime

WNBA Star Britney Griner Pleads Guilty to Drug Possession in Russian Court

Her guilty plea came one day after Pres. Joe Biden and Vice Pres. Kamala Harris spoke to Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, who had complained that the president had not been in touch with her or other members of the basketball star’s family. She revealed the contents of a hand-written letter Brittney wrote to the president on national news networks on July 4.

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Photo of Britney Griner by Lorie Shaull / Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Britney Griner by Lorie Shaull / Wikimedia Commons

By Post Staff

WNBA champion Brittney Griner entered a guilty plea for possession of hashish oil cartridges on Thursday as part of what some legal experts assert is a strategy for a lighter sentence.

Accused of large-scale drug transportation, she has been detained since Feb. 17, 2022. She was in possession of .07 grams of hashish oil. The charges carry a 10-year sentence.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner said on the second day of her trial, according to Reuters.

Her guilty plea came one day after Pres. Joe Biden and Vice Pres. Kamala Harris spoke to Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, who had complained that the president had not been in touch with her or other members of the basketball star’s family. She revealed the contents of a hand-written letter Brittney wrote to the president on national news networks on July 4.

“(As) I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” a portion of the 31-year-old’s letter read.

The prolonged silence from the U.S. government for much of her imprisonment raised questions in the African American community that perhaps the Black, gay woman was not important enough.

Rev. Al Sharpton had been advocating for a group of Americans go to Russia to offer prayer and solace for the two-time Olympic gold medalist who was there to play with the Russian Premier League during WNBA’s off season.

On learning of her guilty plea, Sharpton said “I still support Brittney Griner and pray that her plea of guilty is met w/ mercy and leniency. (National Action Network) and I will continue to campaign for her return home, our concern for her life and safety remains.”

Tested for the presence of drugs in her system, Griner was clean, giving rise to speculation that her arrest at a Moscow airport one week before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 was politically motivated.

Diplomacy experts agree, asserting that Griner is considered a pawn in a test of wills between Russian Pres. Vladmir Putin and Western powers including and especially the U.S.

Possible next steps after her trial, which will last several more weeks, is the possibility of a prisoner swap where a Russian national detained in the U.S. will be traded for Griner’s release.

Reuters, ESPN, Slate magazine, CNN and USA Today were sources for this story.

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Bay Area

Willie O’Ree, 1st Black Player in NHL, is a Real Ice Man

In 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act. The bill awarded O’Ree a Congressional Gold Medal, the U.S. Congress’ highest honor, for his contributions to “hockey, inclusion and recreational opportunity.”

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Willie O’Ree on the ice in mid-career.
Willie O’Ree on the ice in mid-career.

By Tamara Shiloh

Historically, professional hockey has held fast to its tradition of lacking diversity among its players. But no Black on the ice did not hold Willie O’Ree back. He started playing hockey at age 3 and instantly had a passion for the game.

Born on October 15, 1935, in Frederickton, New Brunswick, Canada, O’Ree at the age of 14 years old, played with his brother Richard in organized hockey. Within a year, he was playing with the Frederickton Falcons in New Brunswick Amateur Hockey team.

O’Ree played in Canada with the Quebec Frontenacts in the 1954-55 Junior League and the Kitchener Canucks of Ontario during the 1955-56 season. It was during this season that he lost 95% of his vision in his right eye after being hit by a puck. He also suffered a broken nose and cheekbone. Knowing that the NHL bylaws would prevent him from playing with the eye injury, he kept it a secret.

After one year in Ontario, O’Ree returned to play in Québec and was eighth in team scoring with the Quebec Aces in the 1956–57 season with 22 goals and 12 assists for 34 points. He would play two more seasons with the Aces in 1957–58 and 1958–59.

As a result of the relationship between the Boston Bruins and the Quebec Aces, O’Ree was called to play with the Bruins making him the first African American to play in the National Hockey League.

That same night the Bruins beat the Montreal Canadiens 3–0, so there was no fanfare in the fact that O’Ree was the first Black player to play in the NHL. Neither The Boston Globe nor The New York Times wrote anything about the historical event.

O’Ree would only play two games for the Bruins in the 1957–58 season. He returned to the team in the 1960–61 season and scored four goals and 10 assists for 14 points in 43 regular-season games. On Jan. 1, 1961, O’Ree also became the first Black player to score a goal in the NHL, in a 3–2 win over the Canadiens.

Racism continued to show its ugly head on and off the ice. On the ice there were always fans throwing things at him and players would make racial remarks and he would suffer body abuse.

However, during one game he returned the favor and broke his stick over a player’s head. During an interview, O’Ree shared that he was treated worse in the United States than in Canada.

He retired in 1979 at age 43. He has spent the past two decades as the NHL’s diversity ambassador, working to expand the sport.

O’Ree has received many accolades since his retirement. In 1998, he became the NHL’s director of Youth Development and an ambassador for the NHL Diversity program. He traveled throughout the United States promoting hockey programs, with a focus on serving economically disadvantaged children.

In 2003, he was named the Lester Patrick trophy winner for his outstanding service to hockey in the United States. O’Ree received the Order of Canada in 2010 for his outstanding service to youth development and promoting hockey within North America.

He also received the Order of New Brunswick (2005) and was named an honored member of the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 1984. In 2018, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

In 2021, as a celebration of Black History Month, all NHL players wore a commemorative helmet decal honoring O’Ree from January 16 to February 28.

In 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the Willie O’Ree Congressional Gold Medal Act. The bill awarded O’Ree a Congressional Gold Medal, the U.S. Congress’ highest honor, for his contributions to “hockey, inclusion and recreational opportunity.”

O’Ree is the first player in NHL history to receive the honor.

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Black History

OPINION: Warrior Parade Was America’s Juneteenth Celebration

The Warriors are full of talented millionaires, even among the bench warmers. Jonathan Kuminga, 19, is a future all-star on a four-year/$24.8 million deal for an average annual salary of $6.2 million. Former top draft pick James Wiseman has been hurt but is still on a salary that averages $9.9 million a year. Nothing like Curry’s deal, but just wait till their stars shine.

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Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. He does a talk show on www.amok.com
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com.

By Emil Guillermo

This past week we saw the celebration of Juneteenth come alive with coincidence.

On the second year since it became a federal holiday, people began to understand the day for what it was. A delay of the end of slavery, which officially was abolished with the announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862, signed 100 days later, but not practically ended until the U.S. Army brought word to Texas which had continued slavery until 1865.

When it comes to social justice, even when you win, some will slow roll you to the very end. Blame it on the post office? It took an army to deliver the news.

So, Juneteenth is a worthy celebration both to note the real end of slavery and to celebrate the triumph of truth and history.

But, this is why there are still forces out there that don’t want Americans to know even rudimentary aspects in U.S. history that may be critical of whites, or harmful to white self-esteem. Everyone should know of the reluctance to end slavery among those who still valued free labor that masked real racism.

On Juneteenth everyone was back on the same page. It was like America was finally on the same team.

And that’s why the coincidence of the Golden State Warrior parade was somehow fitting. Sure, the parade was in San Francisco, but Oakland is where the soul of the team has been since their days at Oracle.

To see them celebrate a fourth NBA basketball championship in eight years was remarkable. Because who were the stars? There was Stephen Curry holding up his trophies, puffing a cigar like a mogul. The 34-year-old is on a four-year contract worth $215,353,664, that expires in 2026. That’s an average salary of $53.8 million, all according to the website Spotrac.

Curry’s the MVP. But the other stars are all well paid. Andrew Wiggins is at $35+ million a year. And as he and teammate Jordan Poole joked in the locker room after the Game Six win for the championship, both are expecting a “bag.”

Wiggins’ bag will be bigger, and Poole’s bag should shoot up from his current $2.5 million annual salary. The Warriors already have the NBA’s biggest payroll, and the post-season adjustments will push the team to a record luxury tax.

But the Warriors can afford it. They already make a ton of money from the games, from attendance, from merch, from international rights, so the players shouldn’t be shortchanged nor the true beneficiaries of the sport, the fans.

The Warriors’ two owners — Joe Lacob, a former Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and movie producer Peter Guber — were part of a group that paid $450 million for the team in 2010. Forbes Magazine estimates the team is now worth 10 times their investment. That’s $4.5 billion. And that’s probably a low figure.

I think the Warriors can afford the luxury tax.

And it’s significant to note because, in the NBA, we are talking about African American labor being compensated here, richly but fairly.

The Warriors are full of talented millionaires, even among the bench warmers. Jonathan Kuminga, 19, is a future all-star on a four-year/$24.8 million deal for an average annual salary of $6.2 million. Former top draft pick James Wiseman has been hurt but is still on a salary that averages $9.9 million a year. Nothing like Curry’s deal, but just wait till their stars shine.

On parade day, Guber said he wants a “sequel.” And that, like everything else in capitalist America will cost money. It’s good to see them seem willing to pay the price for extraordinary talent in a country where for so many years Black labor was free.

That’s what we celebrated as a country on Juneteenth. The Golden State Warrior Championship parade may as well have been the symbolic national celebration for the entire country. It left us with a feeling that we were all on the same team.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. See him at www.amok.com.

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