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Top takeaway from Donald Trump’s reported involvement in Patriots probe: Spygate will never die and NFL looks worse for it

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Let’s start with this: ESPN’s latest Spygate story is an absolutely delicious, dead-of-the-offseason mystery for NFL fans. It’s both believable and perhaps less so. It features backroom deals, political corruption, football, loyalties (real and perceived), quiet martinis, Mar-a-Lago dinners, hotel confrontations, campaign money, cheating and, well, so much more. You should read it in full.

They could have made it a cable drama — “Arlen of Eastown,” maybe. Or just the next season of “Billions.”

The central question that ESPN investigated is this:

In 2008, did Donald Trump, then a real estate developer and reality television personality, get Arlen Specter, then a United States senator from Pennsylvania, to back off an investigation into the New England Patriots Spygate scandal by promising that Pats owner Robert Kraft would make a political donation and/or payoff?

The answer isn’t 100 percent clear. The question and the reporting is fascinating though — unless you’re one of the many people in modern American society that only want to hear exactly what you want to hear about Trump, Kraft, Bill Belichick, the Pats, the NFL, Roger Goodell or a U.S. senator.

If you are one of those people, if you are too sensitive to handle any examination of impropriety by your hero (whomever that is), then go read something else.

For the rest of us, here’s my deep dive into this rather entertaining plot twist.

The Background
In 2007, the Patriots were caught videotaping the defensive signals of the New York Jets from an unauthorized area of the old Meadowlands Stadium. Three days later the NFL stripped the Pats of a first-round draft pick and fined the team and head coach Bill Belichick.

Within a week, the NFL said it had destroyed all evidence and deemed the case closed. This led to critics arguing the investigation was rushed and didn’t adequately look into any prior acts, including previous Super Bowl triumphs. That group included Specter, a longtime critic of the NFL who by February 2008 began an investigation and threatened to bring NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in front of Congress to testify.

The investigation eventually went nowhere. Specter lost a primary election in 2010 and died two years later due to complications from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Did Trump steer Specter away?
Maybe. In an autobiography published in 2012, Specter wrote that: “On the signal stealing, a mutual friend had told me that ‘if I laid off the Patriots, there’d be a lot of money in Palm Beach.’ And I replied, ‘I couldn’t care less.’”

In the book, Specter didn’t identify the “mutual friend” although records show he had dinner about that time with Trump at Trump’s Palm Beach social club, Mar-a-Lago. Trump was friends with both Specter, whom through the years he donated $11,300 to various campaigns dating back to 1983, and Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, who also maintained a home in Palm Beach.

Specter’s son and the ghost writer of the book say the “mutual friend” was Trump.

“My father told me that Trump was acting as a messenger for Kraft,” Shanin Specter told ESPN. “But I’m equally sure the reference to money in Palm Beach was campaign contributions, not cash. The offer was Kraft assistance with campaign contributions. … My father said it was Kraft’s offer, not someone else’s.”

So Trump was the go-between?

Yeah, but …
There are no records that Kraft or any of the billionaire’s businesses ever donated any money to Specter. The two did meet in 2010 at a hotel suite in Boston where Specter sought campaign donations.

Instead, according to tapes of Specter talking for the 2012 book, Kraft brought up the congressional investigation and deemed it “very unfair” to the Patriots. Specter wound up with no money.

So, if Trump was working to set up campaign donations in exchange for Specter to stop poking around about Spygate, then it doesn’t appear Kraft was down with the plan or even knew about it. He never gave any money and instead aggressively confronted Specter.

Perhaps Trump just tricked Specter, doing a favor for his buddy Kraft, who as a fellow businessman he probably liked more than a politician he needed to be friends with. Maybe Trump just bluffed and made Specter think Kraft would provide a campaign windfall if Specter backed off the Spygate stuff.

Trump certainly knew that politicians are easily, and often unduly, influenced, not just by a campaign donation but by the prospect of future contributions. After all, here was a Pennsylvania senator having dinner in Florida with a New York businessman even though Trump gave him only a little over $11,000 in nearly 30 years of campaigns.

And there was that same Pennsylvania senator traveling to Boston to seek money from a Massachusetts businessman. That’s odd behavior from a senator who supposedly “couldn’t care less” about money.

Any suggestion that this was a bribe and not a possible campaign donation makes little sense. There is almost no way that Kraft would risk imprisonment, not to mention the loss of his franchise, to bribe an adversarial U.S. senator over a matter this trivial. Besides, per ESPN, Specter never reported an illegal bribe offer to Senate ethics officials.

What we do know is that Specter’s congressional investigation essentially ended. Maybe it was because lacking subpoena power, the concept was doomed. Or maybe it was because he thought he’d get that “Palm Beach money.”

Whatever it was, Specter did what Kraft wanted and didn’t get a dime for it. That’s embarrassing and just one reason Specter looks far, far worse in this than Trump or Kraft, who don’t seem to have done much of anything wrong here.

As for the NFL …
The ESPN report looks terrible for the league. It reminds that Goodell’s office, in an effort to squash criticism of Spygate, “persuaded the Eagles and Steelers to release statements insisting the league had done its due diligence, even though executives with both teams were convinced the NFL investigation was flawed and deliberately incurious.”

It also notes that Goodell personally called Mike Martz, the head coach of the 2001 St. Louis Rams who lost to New England in the Super Bowl that season, and asked him to release a similar statement. Martz told ESPN that the statement that was eventually released “had been significantly altered by the league.”

This also may explain some of Goodell and the NFL’s actions on the Patriots second famous scandal — 2015’s Deflategate.

In that one, the league went scorched earth and operated beyond ethical norms to label the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady as cheats for playing with allegedly underinflated footballs. The league never proved the footballs in the 2015 AFC championship game were deflated, and most of the case stemmed from its initial lack of understanding of the science behind Ideal Gas Law.

This is speculative, but you can see why Goodell, who had minimized Spygate and then had to fend off a powerful U.S. senator who was threatening the league’s coveted antitrust exemption, would be particularly angered, and even vengeful, when the same team came up in a cheating scandal a few years later.

It’s a hell of a way to run a business.

The Conclusion
First off, Spygate may never end. It’s been nearly 14 years and now it’s dragging a former president into its retelling.

As for this story, no one knows for sure but we’re going with Trump fooled Specter into thinking he’d get big money out of Kraft if he backed off, only for Specter to go seek out that money and have Kraft stiff him.

In all likelihood, Kraft didn’t even know what Trump was up to. If there is one thing we’ve learned about Donald Trump, he has a way of outmaneuvering Washington politicians in ways they never saw coming.

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Nick Kyrgios showman masterclass — He Explains

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Nick Kyrgios’ second-round match against Russian superstar Daniil Medvedev was everything fans were expecting from the Australian entertainer.

Kyrgios went down in four sets to Medvedev at Rod Laver Arena.

Whether it was doing a lap of pure joy halfway around the court on break point with the Rod Laver Arena fans behind him, blowing up at the chair umpire over a time violation, or even having a mid-match conversation with tennis legend Dylan Alcott, Kyrgios displayed it all.

The performance left US tennis legend Jim Courier with a simple question for viewers at home.

 

Twitter was sent into a frenzy, with AFL stars like Mitch Robinson and Tom Papley, along with pundits and media identities from around the world, all watching closely.

Kyrgios fires up over violation

Kyrgios during the third set was seeing red with the chair umpire after he was given a time violation for not being ready to receive a Medvedev serve.

A furious Kyrgios approached Bernardes in his chair and the pair exchanged a few words.

Here’s how the exchange went:

Kyrgios: All I did was walk to my towel. I walked to my towel! Usually the ballkids give me my towel.

Bernardes: You are receiving, you’re not serving.

Kyrgios: Listen! I don’t want to talk to you, listen to me.

Bernardes: So don’t scream, stop yelling.

Kyrgios: Usually the ballkids give me the towel – yes or no? Usually, yes, they do right? All I did was walk to my towel. That’s all I did.

Kyrgios early in the match casually stopped by to chat with Alcott courtside. Here’s what was said:

“He’s up and about,” Alcott said.

“He’s right in it, but he said, ‘It’s so tough to play this bloke’ because unless he makes his first serve every time, the guy is like a robot and he doesn’t miss a shot.

“He also said he wants to go the underarm serve every time and I said, ‘Go for it, why not if you’re standing that far back’.

“He’s right in it and he’s engaged. Even though it’s a tough one out here, I think he feels like he’s got a good shot.”

Kyrgios’ glorious celebration of stunning volley

Kyrgios’ glorious celebration of stunning volley

Bringing up two crucial break points while trying to survive in the third set, Kyrgios celebrated the moment in a way only he could.

“He made it… he’s doing a lap of honour!” said former Australian tennis star Todd Woodbridge in commentary.

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Medvedev — I used the changeroom visit to halt momentum of Nick Kyrgios’

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Reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev says his short trip back to the locker room after losing the third set to Nick Kyrgios helped him eventually prevail.

Despite being up against an amped-up Rod Laver Arena crowd, Medvedev was able to steady after dropping the third set to run out a 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 4-6 6-2 winner to advance to the third round of the Australian Open.

The Russian disappeared to the locker room after losing the third set before returning to the court in an entirely new outfit and explained why he took the break.

“They were trying to cheer him up,” Medvedev said. “They managed to do it.”

 

“He was playing pretty strong in the third set when he actually could’ve gone down mentally because it was two sets to love for me, I was playing pretty well.”

“The crowd tried to help him so I just went out to change and changed all my clothes to feel a little bit more fresh because I felt like I was missing this in the third set.

 

“I just went out [in the fourth set] and was like, ‘Okay, I have to serve even better and try to return even better’, even if it was not so bad.”

Despite being visibly irritated by the fans during his on-court interview with Jim Courier after the match, Medvedev praised the crowd and the atmosphere inside Rod Laver Arena.

 

“I actually wrote ‘siuu’ in the camera afterwards because when Jim started talking about this, I was like, ‘Well, okay I’m going to write it then because everyone is doing it’,” he said.

“The only thing, between first and second serves, that’s where it’s tough. It’s not good for the game to do it because, people probably don’t know, but when you’re getting ready for the second serve, it’s a tough moment.

 

“I think people should respect both players and just don’t talk in these moments.

“During the match it’s not easy to be there when the whole stadium is against you, but if you look at it on TV, I will after the tournament, I’m going to be like, ‘Wow that’s a great atmosphere for a tennis match’.”

 

 

After prevailing during a tougher-than-usual second-round opponent, Medvedev said the gruelling encounter would stand him in good stead moving forward.

“I think it’s really important because I can definitely say it’s an unlucky draw, a tough draw,” he said of the Kyrgios match-up.

“These kinds of matches in a first, second or third round of a slam, it’s a big challenge where if you make it through you feel like you can go far.

“It’s a big challenge where you can fail it and go home the next day, but I’m happy I passed this challenge.”

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Why Emma Raducanu was defeated — See The Truth

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Reigning US Open Champion Emma Raducanu says members of her team did not want her to take the court for her second-round clash due to the blisters on her right hand.

The British teen’s maiden Australian Open campaign was brought to an end when she succumbed to Montenegrin world No.98 Danka Kovinic, 6-4 4-6 4-2.

The upset began brewing from the first game of the match as Raducanu battled blisters on her right hand. After the loss, Raducanu revealed that she had brought the blisters into the match

 

“I was struggling with my hand before the match,” she said.

“There were some people in my team that maybe didn’t want me to play, but I wanted to go out there and fight through it, to see how far I could go.

“I thought it was a pretty good learning experience for me. I discovered tools about myself and my game that I didn’t know I had before.”

 

Wincing in pain after striking the ball, the 17th seed struggled to maintain her service games as her serve dropped off in pace.

Raducanu revealed after the match that the blisters had become an issue since her arrival in Australia.

“I’ve been struggling with blisters since I started playing in Australia because 21 days with no tennis, my hands got pretty soft,” she said.

“From day one, day two, I was getting blisters pop up here and there. This particular one has been with me for about five days, and I have been trying to take it for every practice and it would harden and dry out, but then once I would play again, another layer would rip off.

“It ended up being pretty deep. It’s a bit annoying because I know it’s something that will heal in a few days, but it’s just unfortunate timing.”

 

After calling a medical timeout where she received taping from the physio, Raducanu repeatedly sort extra bandages at each break in play.

 

Despite pleas from her team to pull out of the tournament, the 19-year-old was determined to play after enduring quarantine.

“I fought so hard just to come to Australia and I didn’t want to go out like that,” she said.

“So I just left it all out on the court, after everything I went through.”

Raducanu explained how the blisters caused her to struggle gripping the racquet.

“Every time I hit and make contact with the ball, it would create an impact,” she said.

“Say I hit one slightly off-centre and the racquet moves a bit in my hand, it’s like even more friction and it just rips again. So it’s very painful, like every single shot you hit.”

 

 

 

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