Category Archives: sports

Patches provide compromise on ‘Lady Vols’ legislation

A bill forcing the University of Tennessee to reinstate the “Lady Vols” nickname for all of its women’s sports teams has been shelved in return for a Lady Vols commemorative patch on all women’s sports uniforms for the 2016-17 school year, reports the News Sentinel.

After the 2016-17 year, individual women athletes would be allowed to have the commemorative patch on their uniforms at their discretion.

UT Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek released a statement Monday in anticipation of the announcement:

“We have worked diligently with members of our Knox County legislative delegation to reach a compromise that is in the best interest of all parties to continue to honor the Lady Vols.

“All Tennessee women’s athletics teams will wear a commemorative patch on their uniform, honoring the legacy of the Lady Vols during the 2016–2017 season. The patch will include the Lady Vol logo. Women’s basketball will not wear the patch because they have maintained the name Lady Vols as a tribute to Coach Pat Summitt. After that season, each student-athlete will have the option of wearing the patch on her uniform.

“We realize there have been differences of opinion with the choice to use the Power T for all of our women’s athletics teams, except for basketball. A new branding effort and a combined athletics department, however, will never erase history and tradition. We want to focus on being stronger financially, improving facilities, and training and supporting all of our student-athletes and their programs.”

…In Nashville, state Rep. Roger Kane and Sen. Becky Duncan Massey described the agreement as a compromise. Kane (R-Knoxville) said he will take the bill filed forcing reinstatement of the name “off notice” in House subcommittee where it ran into difficulty last week — effectively placing the bill on hold. Sen. Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), the bill’s Senate sponsor, had not advanced the bill and joined with Kane and Massey at their State Capitol press conference.

“My goal always was to keep the brand alive for decades to come, to continue honoring the legacy of Coach Pat Summitt and the women she inspired as a coach, as a mentor and as a lifelong friend,” Kane said. He said he believes UT’s agreement to maintain intellectual-property rights in the Lady Vols name and logo, achieves that goal.

Massey (R-Knoxville) said the compromise “is not the perfect solution” but is “the compromise we agreed to. It resolves most of it. Obviously with any compromise, there’s some give and take. We would like for the logo to have come back but it will have a presence. The Lady Vol logo will be present on every female athlete at UT next year,” through the commemorative patch, she said.

Seven legislators have bought pro sports tickets with campaign funds

State Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, has spent more than $12,000 to buy ticket to professional football and basketball games with campaign funds, reports The Tennessean. That puts him atop a list of seven current or former legislators who used their political accounts to buy tickets to Tennessee Titans or Memphis Grizzlies games — legal under state law, though illegal under the rules for campaigns for the U.S. House and Senate.

Miller and another lawmaker argued they purchased the tickets so they could give them away to constituents. They provide those tickets to constituents as a way to give back to their local communities and supporters, never to influence an election or otherwise curry favor, they said. They were quick to point out they never broke the law.

“It’s within the rules,” Miller said.

…State laws vary on whether candidates can use campaign funds for sporting events. A 2014 analysis from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that many, if not most, states don’t allow candidates to use campaign funds for personal use. But when it comes to campaign or political activity, most states either allow or don’t clearly address spending excess campaign funds on tickets to games.

…From 2003 to 2015, seven state lawmakers combined to spend more than $30,000 on tickets to Tennessee Titans and Memphis Grizzlies games. Here are the top five:

Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis: $12,836.50 ($8,378 on Titans tickets, $4,458.50 on Grizzlies tickets)
Former Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis: $6,475 on Titans tickets
Former Rep. Ulysses Jones, Jr., D-Memphis: $4,832.60 ($4,557.60 on Grizzlies tickets, $275 on Titans tickets)
(Former) Rep. Mike Turner, D-Nashville: $3,354 on Titans tickets
Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville: $1,685 on Titans tickets

Note: Two others mentioned in the article with no ticket totals are former Sen. Steve Cohen of Memphis, now a U.S. congressman, and state Sen. Reggie Tate, D-Memphis. DeBerry and Jones are deceased, both having died in office.

Armstrong, who is facing a trial on federal tax evasion charges, also reported buying $1,515 worth of University of Tennessee football game tickets in 2013 — not mentioned in the newspaper’s roundup of pro game ticket purchases. Armstrong’s campaign disclosure in 2012 describes the Titans expenditure as “ticket giveaways.”

Regardless of how they get their Titans tickets, legislators attending Nashville home games can attend “tailgate parties” hosted for years by the lobbying firm McMahan Winstead and its clients. In 2014, the firm reported to the Tennessee Ethics Commission hosting seven such events at a cost of about $1,300 each.

ACLU protests TN school’s refusal to let girl play football

News release from American Civil Liberties Union, Tennessee
TREZEVANT, Tenn. – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee today sent a letter to the West Carroll Special School District urging it to allow a female student to join the junior high football team. The school district had refused the student’s request to join the team solely because of her gender.

“Schools cannot exclude girls from the sport of their choice based solely on their gender. The Fourteenth Amendment protects girls from such unequal treatment,” said Thomas H. Castelli, ACLU-TN legal director. “For over forty years, courts have made it clear that if a girl wants to play football and there is not an equivalent football team for girls, she must be allowed equal access to the boys’ team.”

The letter was sent on behalf of Thalia Townsend and her family. Townsend, a rising seventh grader at West Carroll Junior/Senior High School, has played left tackle in a community football league for two years. On May 11, 2015, Townsend was turned away from the initial meeting of the West Carroll junior high football team by the coach, who stated that girls are not allowed to play football at the school. Every boy at the meeting was allowed to join the team. When Townsend’s mother, Michelle Larsen, contacted the coach and, subsequently, Director of Schools Eric Williams, she too was told that the school had a policy against allowing girls to play football.

“I’ve never had a problem on the field because I’m a girl. Most of the time the boys don’t even realize I’m a girl until I take my helmet off,” Townsend said. “I just want a chance to play for my school because I love the game.”
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Judge dismisses lawsuit based on TN ‘right to hunt and fish’

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit contending that commercial fishermen’s rights under a 2010 amendment to the Tennessee constitution were violated by restrictions imposed on catching paddlefish in state lakes and streams.

The May 14 ruling by Davidson County Chancellor Russell T. Perkins is apparently the first judicial opinion interpreting Article XI, Section 13, of the state constitution, which declares Tennesseans have a “personal right to hunt and fish.”

The Tennessee Commercial Fishermen’s Association and the Tennessee Roe Fishermen’s Association had also challenged on other grounds paddlefish restrictions — including a complete ban in some areas — that were adopted in 2008 by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission, now known as the Tennessee Game and Fish Commission.

Perkins ruled for the commission and against the associations on each of the other claims as well. They included assertions that the Legislature had wrongfully delegated its authority to the commission, that the regulations were adopted contrary to requirements of the state’s Open Meetings Act and that one commission member had a conflict of interest.

Paddlefish, native to Tennessee, are commercially valuable both for their flesh and their eggs, which are processed as caviar. State fishery biologists say populations have been substantially reduced by overfishing in some areas.
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Legislature poised to pass enhanced penalties for cockfighting

After decades of repeated rejection, legislation that would increase penalties for cockfighting in Tennessee seems poised for passage in the Tennessee General Assembly.

But some advocates for animal protection have again lost an attempt to reinstate state regulation of what they call “puppy mills,” large-scale operations for breeding dogs.

The bill to enhance penalties for animal fighting (SB1024) has already passed the Senate, as has similar legislation in the past. But this year the companion House bill has also cleared the House Agriculture Committee, which has historically been the roadblock to enactment despite the repeated efforts of sponsor Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, in recent years.

Counting that key committee, the measure now has been blessed by five House committees and subcommittees and is on the Finance Committee agenda Tuesday. Approval there would set the stage for a final vote later this week or early next week as the General Assembly moves toward adjournment of the 2015 session.

In pushing passage this year, Lundberg focused in his presentations to committees on a provision that was not part of prior efforts — one declaring that those bringing a child under age 18 to an animal fight will be subject to a minimum penalty of $1,000.

As Tennessee law stands now, a spectator at a cockfight only can be convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, which has a minimum fine of $50. Other provisions of this year’s bill would increase the penalty for general spectators at an animal fight to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 — though no minimum is set unless a child is involved.
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Senate OKs bill to block drones taking pictures at football games and such

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The state Senate has voted to ban drones from recording images above ticketed events with more than 100 people in attendance.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Jack Johnson of Franklin (SB509) passed on a 33-0 vote on Thursday. Johnson said the measure had been requested by the NFL’s Tennessee Titans to prevent drones from flying over the team’s Nashville stadium during games.

The Senate bill also includes a ban on drones flying over correctional facilities or through fireworks displays. Those elements requested by the state sheriffs’ association and fire marshal’s office are not in the House version of the bill that passed on a 93-2 vote on Monday.

That means the two chambers will have to reconcile their difference before the measure can head for the governor’s consideration.

Haslam bets with Maryland gov on Lady Vols game (TN ribs vs. MD crabs)

News release from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, distributed to TN media by Gov. Bill Haslam:
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam today challenged each other to a friendly wager, ahead of tonight’s “Elite 8” women’s basketball matchup between the #1 ranked University of Maryland Terrapins and the #2 University of Tennessee Volunteers.

Confident that the Terrapins will win, Governor Hogan called Governor Haslam, and they agreed to place the wager over a bushel of Maryland blue crabs and ribs from the world-famous Charles Vergos’ Rendezvous restaurant in Memphis.

“The Lady Terps are going to the Final 4; it’s that simple,” said Governor Hogan. “Don’t forget the barbecue sauce, Governor Haslam!”

The game airs tonight at 9 PM EST on ESPN.