Jerry Sandusky’s son Jeffrey charged with child sexual abuse

One of Jerry Sandusky’s sons was charged Monday with sex crimes involving two girls, more than five years after the former Penn State assistant coach was himself first arrested on child molestation charges.

Jeffrey S. Sandusky, 41, was charged by state police and arraigned by a district judge in Bellefonte on 14 counts. He was jailed on $200,000 bail.

Sandusky was a stalwart supporter of his father and accompanied his mother, Dottie, to many of his court proceedings. On Monday, Dottie accompanied Jeffrey Sandusky to his.

Police accused him of soliciting nude photos from a then-16-year-old girl last year and seeking oral sex in 2013 from her then-15-year-old sister.

His defense lawyer, Lance Marshall, declined to comment on the allegations.

“All children have a right to be safe,” said Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller. “We will prosecute this case as aggressively as we do all child abuse cases.”

Miller said Sandusky talked to investigators. “He made statements,” Miller said. “I wouldn’t classify them necessarily as directly inculpatory, but I don’t think they helped him much.”

Sandusky was charged with solicitation of statutory sexual assault, solicitation of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, six counts of unlawful contact with a minor and two counts each of solicitation to photograph or depict sexual acts, sexual abuse of children and corruption of minors.

A state trooper said in the arrest affidavit that on Nov. 21, the alleged victims’ father turned over to investigators text messages from Sandusky in which he asked one of the girls for nude photographs.

The affidavit said Sandusky told the alleged victim in texts in March that “it’s not weird because he studied medicine” and instructed her “to not show these texts to anyone.”

The girl’s mother told investigators that when she confronted Sandusky, he told her “he knows it was wrong and inappropriate,” police said.

“The victims’ mother advised that Jeffrey Sandusky had advised her that he was trying to help her daughter by getting naked pictures of her off the internet and needed naked pictures of her to do it and to ‘role play,” the affidavit said.

The girl, called “Victim 1” in the affidavit, told police the texts made her uncomfortable and that “he kept pressuring me and asked me multiple times not to show the texts to anyone,” police said.

Prosecutors allege Jeffrey Sandusky sought oral sex from a second girl, “Victim 2,” in 2013. She was 15 years old at the time.

“Victim 2” told investigators that Jeffrey Sandusky told her in March: “I can’t even say anything except I’m sorry.”

Jerry Sandusky, who adopted Jeffrey Sandusky and five other children, is serving a lengthy prison sentence for sexual abuse of 10 boys.

Jeffrey Sandusky has not made any public allegations of abuse by Jerry Sandusky, but one of his siblings, Matt Sandusky, alleged during their father’s 2012 criminal trial that he had been abused by him. Matt Sandusky was not called as a witness, and Jerry Sandusky has never been charged with those allegations.

The state Corrections Department said that because of the charges, Jeffrey Sandusky was suspended without pay Monday from employment as a corrections officer at Rockview State Prison, near State College. He had been hired in August 2015.

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GROUP OF NFL PLAYERS (NIGGERS) STILL EN ROUTE TO ISRAEL DESPITE SOME WITHDRAWALS

The Israel tour arranged for a group of NFL players will go ahead as planned starting from Monday despite the publicized pull-outs of several of its original participants.

Three of the NFL players who were scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday as part of a campaign to showcase the country’s “true face” to the world pulled out of the trip, explaining that they do not want to be “used” by the Israeli government.

 

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett led the boycott, being joined by brother Martellus, who won the Super Bowl with New England last week, and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy, which arranged the trip in cooperation with the Tourism Ministry, is going ahead with the tour, which includes visits to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and Christian sites.

Bennett’s decision came on the heels of an open letter by renowned musicians, artists and social justice advocates released Thursday asking the NFL players “to consider withdrawing from the delegation given Israel’s track record of human rights abuses.”

Bennett wrote the following via Twitter and Instagram on Friday night: “I was excited to see this remarkable and historic part of the world with my own eyes. I was not aware until reading this article about the trip in the Times of Israel that my itinerary was being constructed by the Israeli government for the purposes of making me, in the words of a government official, an ‘influencer and opinion-former’ who would then be ‘an ambassador of good will.’ I will not be used in such a manner. When I do go to Israel – and I do plan to go – it will be to see not only Israel but also the West Bank and Gaza so I can see how the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives.”

Bennett further cited boxing legend Muhammad Ali and that Ali “stood strongly with the Palestinian people” and wrote “I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel” and that he was making the decision “to be in accord with my own values and my own conscience.”

The letter to NFL players Thursday urged them “to consider the political ramifications of attending the trip, drawing connections between the struggles faced by Black and Brown communities in the US, and Palestinian, Eritrean and Sudanese communities in Israel and the Palestinian territories.”

The letter was signed by entertainer and activists Harry Belafonte, activist Angela Davis, actor Danny Glover and former sprinter John Carlos, among others, and co-signed by organizations that included the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

Other players listed as part of the delegation are Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker, Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Michael Kendricks, New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell, San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde, Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Dan Williams, Denver Broncos running back Justin Forsett and former linebacker Kirk Morrison.

The trip is also scheduled to include a meet-and-greet event on February 18th in Jerusalem (NOT an exhibition game, as had initially been reported) featuring the NFL delegation and players from the American Football in Israel federation and the Kraft Family Israel Football League.

Italian judge: Soccer chants about Jews not hate speech

ROME (JTA) – An Italian judge ruled that soccer fans chanting a slogan featuring the word “Jews” was not hate speech, sparking an angry response from the Jewish community.

In a letter to Italy’s justice minister, Andrea Orlando, the president of the Rome Jewish community, Ruth Dureghello called the ruling earlier this month “undoubtedly an alarming precedent for justice” in Italy that “in essence legitimizes the use of the adjective Jew in a derogatory and racist form and in any case a tool of derision during sporting events.”

Orlando was quoted by the news media as saying he would look into the matter.

The president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, Noemi Di Segni, issued a separate protest to soccer authorities.

The case dates back to March 2013, when two fans of the Lazio soccer team were caught on camera during a match between Lazio and Catania chanting “giallorosso ebreo,” Italian for “yellow-red Jew” — apparently directed against the Catania team. The chant refers to Lazio’s archrival, Roma, whose team colors are yellow and red.

In his ruling, Judge Ezio Damizia acquitted the pair of incitement and racial hatred, saying the term “giallorosso ebreo” was aimed simply at “ridiculing the opposing team” and fell within the scope of the long “sporting rivalry” between Lazio and Roma.

Militant Lazio fans are notorious for anti-Semitic and racist behavior. Just weeks before the March 2013 chanting incident, European soccer authorities sanctioned Lazio for earlier anti-Semitic behavior by fans with a suspended one-game stadium ban.

Kushner family (Kikes) in talks to buy Miami Marlins

(JTA) — The family of presidential adviser Jared Kushner is in talks to purchase the Miami Marlins baseball team, The New York Times reported.

The Kushners, a New York area real estate family, regard the team’s $1.6 billion price tag as too high, the Times reported Thursday.

The negotiations, which have been ongoing for several months, are being led by Joshua Kushner, a venture capitalist and Jared’s younger brother, and Joseph Meyer, his brother-in-law and key lieutenant for the family’s investments.

The talks include a complicated financial arrangement that would include bringing in partners later, unnamed sources told the Times.

Jared Kushner is a senior adviser to President Donald Trump and the husband of his eldest daughter, Ivanka. The couple married in 2009 following her conversion to Judaism.

Neither Jared Kushner nor his father, Charles, the family patriarch who spent over a year in prison for illegal campaign donations, tax evasion and witness tampering, is participating in the effort, the sources added.

Any deal would have to be approved by Major League Baseball, which would closely scrutinize the buyer’s financing and probably seek to ensure that Charles Kushner had no role in operations, according to the Times report.

Jared Kushner, who has pledged to refrain from any involvement in transactions tied to his family to avoid the possibility of conflict of interests, had previously bid for the Los Angeles Dodgers with his brother. They eventually withdrew from the bidding in 2012. The winning group paid over $2 billion.

Representatives for the Kushners, the Marlins and the LionTree investment bank declined to comment when approached by the Times.

The Marlins are currently owned by Jeffrey Loria, a Jewish businessman from New York. He paid $158 million for the team in 2002 after selling the Montreal Expos back to Major League Baseball.

The Marlins won the World Series in 2003, defeating the New York Yankees, but since then have not returned to the playoffs.

JEWS GOING TO BAT FOR ISRAEL

They call it Team Israel, but really, it’s Team Jew. And there’s never been anything like it.

Next month in South Korea, 16 countries will play in the quadrennial baseball tournament known as the World Baseball Classic (WBC), a “World Cup” for baseball. One of them is Israel, which advanced to the tournament by winning its qualifier in Brooklyn in September.

 

Almost all the players on this team are Jewish Americans, representing a mix of the American-Jewish community. Some have an integrated Jewish background – two Jewish parents, extensive participation in Jewish holidays, and involvement in the Jewish community – while others have a Jewish parent but grew up with the other parent after divorce, or have only one Jewish grandparent, and barely know they are Jewish. Yet somehow, they all bought in on being a Jew representing Israel.

“I always found it amazing that so many of these guys who had virtually no [Jewish] identity growing up, never celebrated Jewish holidays, embraced being known as a Jewish baseball player,” says Jonathan Mayo, 46, a reporter for MLB.com since 1999; “and understanding that the Jewish community in the United States loves them unconditionally.”

The guys not only embraced their identity as Jewish players, they embraced each other. The weekend before the Brooklyn qualifier, the team gathered for the first time in Wappingers Falls, New York. It was a threeday mini-camp to get them ready to play Great Britain and Brazil. Repeatedly, veterans spoke of their amazement at the team comradery that so quickly came together.

“I don’t know what the reason was behind it, but everybody got super comfortable with everybody on the first day of the workouts,” says Nick Rickles, 27, a catcher with the Washington Nationals organization. “The next day, it was like we’d played together six months – everybody was on the same page immediately. That was very impressive to me. I can feel something special that I don’t know that I felt with a team before, especially this soon.”

Rickles is one of a handful of returning veterans who played in the WBC in 2012, the first qualifying round in which Israel competed. “It’s been four years since we’ve seen each other, but coming back, we hadn’t missed a beat in four years,” he says. “That was also very impressive to me.”

Nate Freiman, 30, a free agent first baseman, is another of the five or six players who will be playing on the third Team Israel roster next month ‒ 2012 and September being the first two. He was the star at the first qualifier in Jupiter, Florida, when he hit four home runs, knocked in seven and slugged 1.417.

He had one simple message for the players:

“I said this is going to be a new experience for almost all of you, playing on the international stage. And the type of baseball, and the type of feeling surrounding this tournament, is something that is difficult to replicate in minor league baseball. But buy into this, bring everything you have to this, and this will be an experience you won’t ever forget.”

TEAM ISRAEL is like no team the players have ever played on. As professionals, they are used to shuffling from one franchise to another, making friends and then moving on, as they have all done in their careers. Here, it is a permanent team. No one’s traded or released: if you can still play, you’ll keep playing, and if you retire, you remain part of the family. In the world of professional baseball, that’s a very small family.

“I grew up as a Jewish kid in Santa Monica playing baseball with other Jewish kids,” says Cody Decker, a 30-year-old catcher with the Milwaukee Brewers organization. “But the higher you get in the ranks, there’s less and less Jewish baseball players to the point where other than on this team, I’ve been teammates with only two Jewish players in professional baseball over the last eight seasons.”

The result, he says, is something unique, “this thing we have in common and no one else gets to experience that. That’s why this is pretty special.”

Is it a good baseball team? Yes. Can the total be greater than the sum of its parts? Absolutely. And the parts are pretty impressive.

Israel’s 28-man roster was put together by the team’s 73-year-old manager, Jerry Weinstein, a toothpick-chewing baseball lifer with 40 years of experience coaching professional and college baseball. A studious and well-prepared leader, he was just named manager of the Colorado Rockies’ Hartford Yard Goats in the Double AA Eastern League.

The team Weinstein put together resulted in a group of 28 extremely talented professional baseball players, among the minuscule number of the very best in the world.

A dozen of them have Major League experience (final rosters were not available at press time). These include Craig Breslow, Ike Davis, Decker, Freiman, Ty Kelly, Ryan Lavarnway, Jason Marquis, Josh Satin and Josh Zeid. Other possibilities include Ian Kinsler, Kevin Pillar and Danny Valencia. Another dozen or so players have played in Triple AAA, one level below the Major League. This is an able and capable team.

The level of Major League experience varies. Marquis, 39, who retired in 2015 after 15 years in the big leagues, can still pitch, as demonstrated by his outstanding performance in September – starting two of the three games, pitching seven innings, giving up one run, two hits, walking one and striking out six.

Marquis is the most accomplished major leaguer on this team – third on the all-time Jewish list in wins and strikeouts, and fourth in innings pitched. He’s likely to start the first game, and, if he can duplicate what he did in Brooklyn, the third as well.

Another atypical characteristic of Weinstein’s roster is how smart a team it is.

“The level of conversation is at a much higher level, one not usually associated with a baseball clubhouse,” says Dan Rootenberg, 44, the team’s strength and conditioning coach and physical therapist, who played for the Netanya Tigers in 2007 in the one-season Israel Baseball League (IBL). “You’ve got guys who have deferred medical school, who’ve been to Yale, Duke, Stanford, you name it. There is this extremely high level of intelligence and depth of conversation that’s not typical.”

Nate Fish, 37, Team Israel’s first-base coach who played in the IBL for the Tel Aviv Lightning, says, “Every team has that one smart guy everyone considers weird, but also kind of looks up to because they suspect he is smart. We were that guy, all of us… It’s not only the best Jewish baseball team ever; it’s the most educated baseball team ever.”

To be eligible to play in the WBC, Major League Baseball (MLB) instituted rules different from all other international sporting events such as the World Cup, Maccabiah and Olympics. Those require participants to be passport-holding citizens of the country for which they play. However, to help spread baseball around the world, eligibility requirements in the WBC were changed ‒ players do not need to hold passports of the country they are representing, but only be eligible to hold passports of the country they are representing.

The Israeli parameter for citizenship is called Hok Hashvut, The Law of Return: any Jew anywhere in the world has the fundamental right to move to Israel and become an Israeli citizen. That’s how Team Israel’s players are American Jews who are playing in an international competition on behalf of the State of Israel. And that’s a first.

Identifying who is a Jew starts with lists of Jewish players compiled by Shel Wallman and Ephraim Moxson at Jewish Sports Review, and Scott Barancik of Jewishbaseballnews.com.

Finding proof that the players are in fact Jewish then falls on Peter Kurz, 59, president of the Israel Association of Baseball (IAB), the governing body of baseball in Israel and the sponsor of Team Israel.

“Some parents are both Jewish, so the player has a bar mitzva certificate, a bris certificate, a ketuba from the parents,” says Kurz. “MLB accepts that. Then I have to prove that the player is related to the parents, so I have to bring his birth certificate in addition to the ketuba. What if the parents are not Jewish? Or only one parent is Jewish? Then I have to go back – did his father have a bar mitzva? He didn’t have a bar mitzva? What about his grandfather? Maybe his grandfather had something.”

Every ketuba Kurz received was in English, except for one in Hebrew. Not to worry, MLB has someone in the office who can read the Hebrew. If there are no documents, Kurz gets a letter from their rabbi. One player had an army certificate of his grandfather from World War II that said he was Jewish. MLB accepted that, too.

THE TEAM bonding continued into the qualifying tournament in Brooklyn. Pitcher Alon Leichman, 27, one of three Israelis on the 2012 team who now serves as the bullpen coach, printed out Hebrew phrases to learn, posting them in everyone’s lockers. The team also practiced in the clubhouse singing “Hatikva,” Israel’s national anthem, “so everyone could at least pretend they knew the words,” says Fish.

As is customary, the national anthem of each country is played before every game in the tournament. At the opening strains of “Hatikva,” all the players pulled out a blue kippa with the IAB insignia and put it on their heads ‒ some for the first time in their lives. “We had to remember to keep our hats on, not off, when ‘Hatikva’ was played,” laughs Fish, the self-proclaimed @ kingofjbaseball.

The players also identified with the team mascot: The Mensch on the Bench, a stuffed toy rabbi and Jewish knockoff of Elf on the Shelf, the Christmas doll toy. It was brought by Decker, the team’s practical joker, its merry prankster.

Decker is the Jewish “Crash” Davis, with 173 home runs over eight seasons in the minor leagues, and only 12 plate appearances in the majors, with no hits and one RBI on a sac fly. (The answer to the trivia question is Melvin Upton Jr.)

Decker borrowed a real tallit from a reporter, wrapped it around the little Mensch, and gave the tiny Hasid a prominent seat on the dugout bench and its own locker in the clubhouse. “That brought a whole ’nother level of cohesion to this group,” says Rootenberg. “And it’s been in our clubhouse this whole time bringing us luck. It’s special.” The photograph that accompanied a New York Times feature on the team was of the toy.

Identification as a player for Israel was not only exhibited at the tournament itself; some of the players carry it with pride affiliated with an organization receive travel bags for carrying equipment with the team’s logo on the side. Those who have played for multiple organizations – and almost all of these players have – collect many travel bags over the years.

Which one they use is their choice.

“One of the things that we’re very proud of is showing off that we were part of the team,” says Rickles. “So, we get these travel bags – I’m with the Nationals, I was previously with the Oakland A’s – but instead of using those bags, I would use my Team Israel bag. So not only does that show that I’m proud to be part of the team, it brings awareness to other guys – ‘What is that? What did you guys do? When do you guys play again?’ Seeing the bag and being able to talk about it makes other people aware and want to be part of the team.”

Each of the players has a personal reason for wanting to represent Israel: their religion, a love of competition, a grandparent who survived the Holocaust, their careers, a chance to play for a country on the biggest international stage baseball has to offer, for the friendship and comradery.

“Baseball has been my career,” says Adam Gladstone, 44, head of baseball operations for the team. “If I have the ability to give back to Israel and to my religion through baseball, it’s probably the best way for me to do that; my way of giving back to the religion, the community and my heritage.”

Freiman calls it “an extreme honor” to play for Team Israel, a sentiment voiced by many of the players. “I’ve been fortunate to represent towns and schools and cities, and I’m always proud and honored to represent my team,” he says. “But this is different. In international baseball, you’re representing an entire country, an entire people, an entire heritage and culture. And we are here to make them proud.”

Being on Team Israel also helps the players get in touch with their own Jewishness.

For 28-year-old infielder Kelly, whose mother is Jewish but who was raised Catholic, his father’s religion, this team is the most connected he’s ever been. “I identify with it much more now,” he says of his Judaism.

As for the team, Kelly says, “I don’t want to say I feel like an outsider, but I feel like I have to be more appreciative because it’s not something that I’ve been practicing my whole life, and that it’s just a natural thing that I’m playing for Team Israel. It’s been sort of an afterthought.”

Whatever their individual motives, the common theme for all is helping to grow the sport in Israel, putting Israel on the baseball map, and knowing that they are playing for something way beyond themselves.

“The team comradery is us understanding what we’re representing and what we’re here to do,” says R.C. Orlan, 26, a pitcher with the Nationals franchise. “There’s a certain purpose other than just winning ‒ it’s always been about going as far as you can and winning, but we’re trying to represent something bigger than that.”

They are not in competition for stats, fighting the guy sitting next to them on the bench to get to the Major Leagues or to stay there, perusing whose numbers are better. These teammates are competing for one goal: Help Israel. Help Israeli baseball.

“None of this is for us,” says Decker. “That’s why this tournament is so great for us, especially for this team. We know we’re playing for something a lot bigger. This is not about our stats, this is not about our careers – it doesn’t necessarily do much for our careers. This is for Israel. This is something that’s bigger.”

THE PLAYERS also have come to understand how deeply it touches Jews in the US, and how they’re playing both for Israel and for baseball-loving Jewish Americans who root for Israel. But they only discovered just how much impact they had after playing in Jupiter, where they were defeated 9-7 in 10 innings by Spain.

“It didn’t sink in until we lost,” says Rickles. “You don’t realize how many people have your back, how many people want you to succeed. Coming into this year, four years later, it means a lot to me to play for a country and the people that are behind us.”

Freiman calls that loss “a crushing disappointment, one of the biggest disappointments of my baseball career. In the intervening four years, we’ve seen how much this has meant to people all across the country, and abroad.”

Decker says he and Freiman, who have played together on a couple of teams since 2012, including last summer, “brought it up once a week how crushing a night that was. It was crushing. We thought we had it. That line drive to right – we were jumping out of the dugout, running onto the field. And the guy made a good catch. I’ll remember that Joc [Pederson] hit to right forever.”

Wherever he’s gone the last four years, Decker says, people referenced Team Israel over and over.

“A shocking amount of people,” he says. “When mail came to the clubhouse with requests to sign cards, I’d say 50 percent of them mention Team Israel. Honest to God truth. It’s an outrageous amount of people. When I sign [autographs] on the field, there’s always one guy saying, ‘Remember when you played on Team Israel?’”

Freiman says he had the same experience.

“All over the country ‒ California, Texas, Iowa, Florida, New York – everywhere in the country [Jews] follow this.”

STILL, FOR all their feelings about connecting to their fellow Jew, their own Jewishness and to each other, there was one piece missing: Israel. With only a couple of the players having been there, the teammates had little idea what it was about. They were representing the country in the abstract.

So to create a bond with the country on their uniforms, a group of 10 players – past, present and future – flew to Israel in January (on a plane borrowed from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson) to see and learn about the country and the baseball scene there.

Jeff Aeder, 55, who started the jewishbaseballmuseum.com website, co-sponsored and organized the journey, bringing the group to Israel for a six-day trip much like the Birthright experience.

“There’s nothing more exciting to me than bringing people who have never been here before, who don’t have the same background, and the same inherent love of this country,” says Aeder, a Chicago businessman and owner of Milt’s BBQ for the Perplexed, a profit-free kosher restaurant. “My job was to expose them to enough different aspects of it so that they get a feel for the country, so that when they go back they’re absolutely amazed by the vitality of the country, the spirit of the people, by the hope, the optimism, and also understanding the risks and concerns ‒ the press doesn’t portray Israel the way we see it. For them to do this, and to turn them on to what we know as the beauty of Israel is just phenomenal, just great.”

The entire trip was caught on camera by filmmaker Jeremy Newberger, who together with MLB.com’s Mayo is producing a documentary called “Heading Home,” which chronicles the players getting a taste of Israel and then playing in the 2017 Classic.

The group was filmed eating shawarma and falafel in the Mahane Yehuda market; visiting Yad Vashem; listening to a recording of David Ben-Gurion’s declaration of independence in Tel Aviv; attending a groundbreaking ceremony for a new baseball field to be built in Beit Shemesh; visiting the Western Wall on Friday night; swimming in the Dead Sea; climbing Masada; taking in an air force base; and dedicating a medical motorcycle for the volunteer emergency medical service, Hatzalah.

“The purpose of the film is to document this trip beyond the goodwill tour,” says Mayo, “to show these players exploring what it means to be a Jewish ballplayer, and this momentous occasion of having an Israeli national team competing in a major international competition for the first time.”

A highlight for all was a meet-and-greet event at the Baptist Village field in Petah Tikva. Dozens of Israeli kids who play in one of the IAB’s five age-group leagues watched the stars take a little batting practice, before getting autographs and selfies.

For the IAB, it was about connecting the Israeli kids to baseball, which is not easy in a country where passion for sports centers on soccer and basketball. But what better way to get them jazzed than to meet professional baseball players?

“Stars make leagues, in every sport,” says Fish, who just completed three years as the inaugural executive director of the IAB, the organization’s first paid professional. “Without stars, no one cares about baseball. Especially little kids. Little kids don’t care about the nuances of baseball as much as they think Ken Griffey is a really cool dude. So a team like that gives Israel a team to look up to ‒ that’s the spark that little kids need to play baseball.”

As much as the players may have sparked interest in the kids, it was Israel that sparkled for the players. They tweeted throughout the trip and after returning to the States.

“From the Mediterranean to the Dead, the Western Wall to graffiti wall, Masada to sabbaba, what a trip,” tweeted Sam Fuld, a 35-year-old free agent outfielder.

Jon Moscot, 25, a pitcher with the Reds, who was forced out of this tournament because of Tommy John surgery but is already committed for 2021, tweeted: “The trip to Israel is nothing short of spectacular.”

“After being home for two days and letting our incredible trip sink in, my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude,” tweeted A’s franchise catcher Ryan Lavarnway, 29, one of two Yale graduates on the team. “I learned so much about history and religion and the State of Israel. Everybody was so kind and we felt totally at home. Thank you so much!”

Zeid, a 29-year-old free agent pitcher and another veteran from 2012, ended his visit with a strong recommendation: “One of the best weeks ever. Doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, Israel is an incredible, must-see experience.”

When the players put on their uniforms in Seoul with the Star of David patch on their right arm, not all of the best Jewish professionals in the US will be playing for Team Israel. Some couldn’t join due to injury, or because they had to be in spring training with their organization, or because of family commitments. One, 22-year-old top rookie Alex Bregman, is playing for team USA.

“Everybody who has bought into this ‒ from a player’s standpoint, from a coaching standpoint, from a front-office IAB standpoint ‒ everybody is proud to put that jersey on, for whatever reason it is,” says Gladstone. “This is their way of giving back. If they didn’t want to do it, they wouldn’t be here, they would have declined. There were some guys we would have liked to have on the club, offered the opportunity to see if they had interest, and they didn’t relate to it. So, if they didn’t relate to it ‒ great. We found the 28 best guys that can represent us.”

THEN THERE’S the bonus: not only do these players get to play in the biggest international baseball tournament, play to represent world Jewry, and play for the State of Israel – they also get paid. For winning in Brooklyn, the players and the IAB split $400,000. Each game they win next month earns another round of money. When the Dominican Republic took home the trophy in 2013, the players and the country’s baseball federation split $3.5 million.

Las Vegas has the Dominicans favored next month at 5-2 odds, with Japan and the US at 3-1. The four lowest odds are Australia, China, Colombia and Israel, at 100-1.

The world rankings are worse. China and Colombia are 18th and 19th, respectively, the lowest among the 16 teams playing next month ‒ except Israel, that is, which is ranked 41st. In the opening round, Israel will play No. 3-ranked South Korea, No. 4 Chinese Taipei and No. 9 Netherlands.

But rankings and odds can be misleading. For one, these numbers were on the board before the rosters came out. Moreover, with two teams less talented than this one – and this is the best Jewish baseball team ever ‒ Israel played six games against four countries in the 2012 and 2016 qualifiers and won five of them.

For the IAB, the World Baseball Classic is about the excitement of being represented on the world baseball stage; Jewish pride watching this warm and embracing family of American Jewish jocks play baseball with the best in the world; and of course, the bottom line: the chance to really grow the sport in Israel.

There are already IAB teams in cities with large Anglo communities, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ra’anana, Beit Shemesh, Modi’in, Beersheba and Hashmonaim, as well as in smaller towns such as Tel Mond, where the majority of players are Israeli- born. A lot of the games they play, however, are on makeshift diamonds carved out of soccer field corners.

“Our primary need for Israel baseball is field development,” says Jordy Alter, 53, vice president of the IAB. “Without proper facilities for kids to play, it is impossible to expand from our current number of players. Advancing in this competition will help provide us with funding we would use for field development and to improve current facilities. We would also benefit from hiring a professional coach to help our kids and train our many volunteers.”

FOR ALL the Jewish focus on Team Israel, in the end it comes down to balls and strikes, yada yada yada. It’s about baseball.

“On a given night, anything can happen in baseball,” manager Weinstein said at the Winter Meetings, echoing one of the sport’s time-honored axioms. “You get the right guys pitching and executing their pitches, you never can tell what’s going to happen.”

The WBC has been played three times, with Japan winning in 2006 and 2009, and the Dominicans in 2013. Next month’s classic begins with Israel playing the opener against Korea on March 6 at noon Israel time/5:00 a.m. Eastern. Israel plays Chinese Taipei 17½ hours later, and The Netherlands 48 hours after that. Two of the four teams in this Group A advance to the next round to play against the top two teams from Group B. The top two teams from that round in Tokyo will advance to the semifinals and finals, booked for Dodger Stadium, March 20 to 22.

Could Israel be one of them?

“It’s a talented enough team, I think, to get to Japan,” says Mayo, the top evaluator of minor leaguers at MLB.com. “And then? Who knows. They’ll have to play Japan and Cuba in all likelihood. Cuba is not what it used to be… Could it happen? I think it could happen…yeah…yeah.”

Everyone’s dreaming big. Asked what it would mean for Israel to win it all in Los Angeles, Mayo paused.

“Mashiach [the Messiah] would come?”

2 NFL stars pull out of Israel government publicity trip

Two top US National Football League players have pulled out of publicity trip to Israel, saying that they do not want to be “used” by the Israeli government.

Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett was the first to pull out of the trip planned for 12 football stars to tour Israel, including stops at Rambam hospital, Yad Vashem, and Jordan River’s Yardenit baptismal site.

Bennett first tweeted a picture of Martin Luther King Jr., saying “Im not going to Israel.” He then followed it with a long letter late Friday explaining his motivation.

“I was excited to see this remarkable and historic part of the world with my own eyes. I was not aware until reading this article about the trip in The Times of Israel that my itinerary was being constructed by the Israeli government for the purposes of making me, in the words of a government official, an ‘influencer and opinion-former’ who would then be ‘an ambassador of good will.’”

“I will not be used in such a manner,” Bennett said. “When I go to Israel — and I do plan to go — it will be to see not only Israel but also the West Bank and Gaza so I can see how the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives.”

After he published the letter, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills retweeted Bennett, saying “Couldn’t have said it any better. I’m in!”

Bennett noted in his letter that one of his heroes was Muhammad Ali, who ” always stood strongly with the Palestinian people,” and said that he wants to be a “voice for the voiceless.”

“I cannot do that by going on this kind of a trip to Israel,” he said.

The original delegation of 12 — Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Martellus Bennett, Delanie Walker, Michael Kendricks, Cameron Jordan, Kenny Stills, Calais Campbell, Carlos Hyde, Dan Williams, Justin Forsett, and ESPN commentator and former linebacker Kirk Morrison — were to visit Rambam hospital in Haifa, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem and the Black Hebrew community in the southern city of Dimona, according to a statement announcing the trip from Israel’s tourism and public diplomacy ministries.

During the visit, the players will hold an exhibition game together with players from the Israeli Football Association on February 18 in Jerusalem.

Players will also visit Christian sites in Israel, including the Jordan River site of Yardenit, where some of the players will be baptized.

Martellus Bennett #88 of the New England Patriots works out during a practice session ahead of Super Bowl LI on February 1, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Bob Levey/Getty Images/AFP)

Martellus Bennett #88 of the New England Patriots works out during a practice session ahead of Super Bowl LI on February 1, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Bob Levey/Getty Images/AFP)

Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan expressed hope the visit would offer the players “a balanced picture of Israel, the opposite from the false incitement campaign that is being waged against Israel around the world.”

“The ministry which I lead is spearheading an intensive fight against the delegitimization and BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanction] campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields, including sport,” Erdan said.

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin echoed the sentiment.

“Football stars are a source of inspiration for all American citizens. I am sure that, after the experiences that the players will enjoy in Israel and after they have seen the unique tourist sites and the special atmosphere here, they will become ambassadors of good will for Israel,” he said.

It was not immediately clear who was funding the trip. A February 5 press release by Israel’s Tourism Ministry said the visit “was initiated in cooperation with America’s Voices in Israel.”

Ravens reportedly tried to trade entire draft class to get Matt Ryan in 2008

In 2007, the Ravens went 5-11 and that, coupled with the lack of development from 2003 first-round pick Kyle Boller, had a lot to do with the team’s decision to fire Brian Billick. In Atlanta, first-year coach Bobby Petrino quit after 13 games and the Falconslimped to a 4-12 record. Joey Harrington, Chris Redman and Byron Leftwich all started games that season.

Both teams headed into the 2008 NFL Draft desperately in search of a franchise quarterback. The Falcons had the No. 3 pick while the Ravens were No. 8. It was no great secret that Atlanta had designs on Matt Ryan, who had starred at Boston College, but Baltimore wasn’t going to let him go without a fight.

According to NFL.com‘s Ian Rapoport, the Ravens talked with the Rams, who had the second-overall pick, about swapping places so they could leapfrog the Falcons in the race to Ryan. So what was on the table?

Rapoport says the Ravens offered their entire draft class to the Rams, adding that “The trade nearly happened, but the Rams asked for more — they also wanted Baltimore’s second-round pick from 2009 to clinch the deal.”

That was the deal-breaker, apparently, and instead the Ravens traded down to the No. 26 pick (with the Jaguars) and then back up to No. 18 (with the Texans) where they selected Joe Flacco.

As BaltimoreBeatdown.com points out, the Ravens ended up with a strong class:

Rd. 1 Pick 18: QB Joe Flacco
Rd. 2 Pick 55: RB Ray Rice
Rd. 3 Pick 71: LB Tavares Gooden
Rd. 3 Pick 86: S Tom Zbikowski
Rd. 4 Pick 106: WR Marcus Smith

And that 2009 second-rounder turned into another good player, pass rusher Paul Kruger.

Plus, it’s not like Flacco has been a stiff; he caught fire in the playoffs following the 2012 season and had everything to do with the Ravens’ win over the 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII (Flacco was named Super Bowl MVP).

Ryan has been more efficient over the course of his regular-season career, according to Football Outsiders’ metrics. Here’s how the two quarterbacks ranked in value per play in each of their first nine seasons:

Year Ryan Flacco
2008 4th 22nd
2009 15th 7th
2010 7th 15th
2011 7th 18th
2012 8th 17th
2013 9th 35th
2014 9th 8th
2015 18th 26th
2016 1st 29th

Ryan’s numbers are also better in the postseason — in seven games he’s completed 68 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions, and a QB rating of 98.8. But the Falcons are 3-4 in those games. Flacco, meanwhile, sports a 10-5 record in the postseason — including the aforementioned Lombardi Trophy — where he’s thrown 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, but completed just 57 percent of his throws with a QB rating of 88.6.

The takeaway: Quarterback wins are overrated. But you already knew that. The bigger story is that the Ravens have been successful for much of Flacco’s nine-year career because they were able to surround him with really good players. Ryan might be the better quarterback but there’s no guarantee he would have had Flacco’s success in Baltimore without inferior talent around him.

Wiesenthal Center urges Germany to stop funding Palestinian sports

The Simon Wiesenthal Center anti-Semitism watchdog called on the German government to end its funding of Palestinian sports agencies over their practice of naming teams and tournaments after Palestinian terrorists, saying that Germany should not support the “blatant sanctification of Jew-killers.”

A statement Tuesday from the organization’s director for international relations Shimon Samuels came in response to an agreement signed last week between the head of Germany’s representative office in Ramallah, Peter Beerwerth, and Palestinian Football Association chief Jibril Rajoub. Under the agreement, Germany agreed to pay “all expenses and fees” for a German soccer expert to help the association improve the quality of Palestinian soccer, according to the Palestinian Media Watch monitoring group.

Rajoub has previously said that he “won’t allow and won’t agree to any joint game between Arabs and Israel,” and has called on soccer’s main governing body, FIFA, to suspend Israel’s membership.

In its statement, the Simon Wiesenthal Center provided a list of teams and tournaments sponsored by the Palestinian Football Association named after Palestinians who killed Jews and Israelis, such as a team named after Salah Khalaf, who helped plan the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics in which 11 Israeli athletes were taken hostage and murdered by the Palestinian terrorist organization Black September.

Samuels said that by funding an organization that glorifies terrorists such as Khalaf, Germany was associating itself “with the blatant sanctification of Jew-killers” and “thereby evoking the shadows of the 1936 Nazi Olympics and the 1972 Munich Olympics atrocity.”

Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Palestinian Football Association (PFA) head Jibril Rajoub holds a press conference on October 12, 2016 in the West Bank city of Ramallah. (Abbas Momani/AFP)

Samuels called on German Chancellor Angela Merkel “to suspend this unthinkable agreement until the Palestinian Authority removes all names of terrorists from all sectors of Palestinian sport and their acts of terror be publicly condemned by Ramallah.”

He added that “if Berlin wishes to reignite the spirit of peace, it should perhaps invite Israeli and Palestinian football teams for a ‘friendly’ match, despite Sports Minister Rajoub’s definition of sports encounters of young Palestinians with their Israeli peers as a ‘crime against humanity.’”

Other examples of Palestinian sports teams and tournaments named after terrorists, according to PMW, include a soccer tournament named after Khalid al-Wazir, also known as Abu Jihad, who masterminded a number of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis for the Palestinian Liberation Organization prior to being killed in Tunisia 1988 by Israeli commandos; and a soccer team named after “the engineer” Yahya Ayyash, who was Hamas’s chief bomb-maker and was responsible for the deaths of dozens of Israelis before Israel assassinated him in 1996 with an explosives-rigged phone.

Baylor strength coach arrested in prostitution sting

A member of the Baylor University coaching staff was arrested Saturday morning as part of a prostitution sting, according to a report from The Waco Tribune.

Brandon Washington, an assistant with the football program, was arrested at a local hotel on a solicitation of prostitution charge, McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara told the Tribune.

Authorities identified Washington as strength coach at Baylor. The school later confirmed that Washington was part of the football program when the incident occurred, but was immediately terminated when the school learned of the arrest.

https://art19.com/shows/the-audible/episodes/ccf13cd8-34c4-45d0-bc82-f811223ca900/embed?theme=dark-blue

Washington came to Baylor shortly after new head coach Matt Rhule was hired. In 2016, Washington worked on the strength training staff at Temple University, where Rhule was head coach until he was hired away by Baylor in December.

“When we arrived at Baylor we made a commitment to character and integrity in our program,” Rhule said in a statement. “Brandon’s actions are completely unacceptable. We will not tolerate conduct that is contradictory to these values.”

The news is the latest stain on a Baylor program that has been trying to restore its image since the revelations of multiple sexual assault allegations during former head coach Art Briles’ tenure. Just three days ago, documents were released showing text messages purportedly sent by Briles that seemed to encourage assistants to keep some of those matters quiet.

Baylor coach Matt Rhule lands nearly 30 recruits amid scandal-scarred times

Report: Emails Show Atlanta Falcons Were Giving Players Incredible Amounts Of Painkillers

Emails first published by the Associated Press show that members of the Atlanta Falcons’ front office were worried about the team’s excessive use of painkillers when treating injured players.

The emails were sent in 2010, and the discussion was started by Marty Lauzon, who was the team’s head athletic trainer at the time and is currently the organization’s director of sports medicine.

In May of 2010, shortly after he was hired, Lauzon sent an email to GM Tom Dimitroff and strength coach Jeff Fish in which he detailed the findings of a review conducted by a firm called SportPharm, which the NFL contracted to examine how teams were purchasing, dispensing, and tracking medications. Lauzon’s email read:

Within the first two days on the job, I was informed that we barely missed a DEA investigation because of improper billing issues.

SportPharm informed us after their visit, of their major concerns with the Falcons in-house pharmacy:

1. High inventory of medication on-site which can lead to high return of unused medication, poor control, excessive dispensation, unnecessary increase in budget.

2. High dispensation of narcotics and regular medication compared to other clubs; this creates culture of dependency and goes against healthy lifestyles and care, even for an NFL player. My concern is also with these players at the end of their careers going through medical issues, and also with the ease of access to media outlets that can provide them the opportunity to say they abused or are now addicted to a number of medications.

3. After Mary Anne Fleming [Director of Player Benefits at League Office] reviewed our issues with SportPharm, her recommendations were to start clean on all levels including new team physician, new head trainer, and new pharmacy account number.

4. Overspending in regards to medication. We were informed on average an NFL team spends about 30k per year on player prescriptions. We spent 81k in 2009 between two pharmacies. In comparing our new medication process to 2009, we spent $700 on players prescriptions in April in 2010, compared to $8,700 in 2009 while improving our quality of care for the players.

Please review, as with all of our meetings so far, another productive one. Our goal is to strive to provide the highest standard of care to our players. Please let me know if you need further information.

After receiving Lauzon’s email, Dimitroff forwarded it to team owner Arthur Blank. “I thought it important for you to be aware of a rather sensitive subject and one we need to discuss before include others on this topic matter,” he wrote. “In my mind and I’m sure yours, this is very important and needs to be handled in a correct and expeditious manner.”

Blank responded, and suggested that team president Rich McKay be looped in on the discussion. After being looped in on the email thread, McKay reached out to notorious league concussion quack Elliot Pellman and expressed concern over Fleming’s recommendation that the Falcons replace their team doctors. McKay’s email read:

Here is an exchange that I am not happy about—this is Jeff Fish trying to get after Scott G. My question is Mary Anne Fleming recommending the replacement of our Drs. I need to know—is this really true and does she realize the on-site trainer is really in control??? I need to keep this confidential…

Pellman replied to the email by offering to call McKay on the phone.

These emails were entered into court record last week as part of a proposed class-action lawsuit brought by 1,800 former NFL players who claim they were encouraged to abuse painkillers by team doctors. A similar suit was filed by eight former NFL players in 2014, but that case was dismissed by a federal judge who ruled that the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement offered better avenues for settling their grievances. That ruling is currently being appealed, and this new suit attempts to skirt it by suing individual NFL teams rather than the league as a whole.

According to the Associated Press, the emails sent by Lauzon and Dimitroff are just a small sample of the thousands of pages of evidence that the players’ attorneys have gathered in discovery.

You can read the full emails here.