Mental Health in Sports

As May comes to a close, so does Mental Health Awareness month. But, the work doesn’t stop here. After two years of a pandemic, this year’s mental health awareness month was more important than ever, and we saw that demonstrated numerous times in professional sports.

Resources, support, and education are becoming more widespread each and every day. Whether it is your brother, neighbor, or your favorite professional athlete, everyone is finally starting to share the importance of taking care of your mental health. As May concludes, let’s look at mental health in sports.

Mental Health in the NBA

The NBA was one of the first major sports to be transparent about the mental health of its athletes. Mental health in basketball has been talked about since 2018, thanks to Kevin Love’s vulnerability.

Love bravely shared about his struggles with anxiety and depression after he suffered a panic attack during a game four years ago.

“For 29 years, I thought about mental health as someone else’s problem. Sure, I knew on some level that some people benefited from asking for help or opening up. I just never thought it was for me. To me, it was a form of weakness that could derail my success in sports or make me seem weird or different,” Love wrote in a letter for the Player’s Tribune.

He continued on in his letter to share how this mindset was incredibly toxic. It hindered his ability to truly be at peace with his success until he turned for help. For Love, “help” came in the form of talk therapy. Therapy helped him work through his thoughts and emotions and gave him the tools he needed to be his best self. His letter touched fans, coaches, and players alike. He gave others the outside validation they hoped for to seek help, and even inspired other professional athletes to share their stories as well.

In 2020, Jaylen Brown followed in Kevin Love’s footsteps and spoke out in support of mental health awareness. He expressed the importance of being open and honest about how you are feeling.

Love and Brown inspired athletes of many other sports to share their mental health struggles, reminding everyone they’re not alone, no matter how it may feel.

Changing the Way the NFL Approaches Mental Health

In 2019, the NFLPA and NFL created a Comprehensive Mental Health and Wellness Committee intended to encourage players to look after their mental well-being. These support systems have already benefited so many players, encouraging them to find the help they deserve.

In the last year, numerous “big name” players have opened up about their mental health. Last season, Atlanta Falcons wide receiver, Calvin Ridley, pulled himself out of the remainder of the season in order to seek treatment for his mental health. Ridley’s courageous acts impacted so many as people saw their favorite player take time to focus on himself.

Ridley’s bravery is complemented by many other star players. Athletes like AJ Brown, DJ Chark, Solomon Thomas, Dak Prescott, and Hayden Hurst are among the NFL players sharing their stories. We would be remiss to not acknowledge the impact this has on destigmatizing mental health in America. When children, teenagers, and young adults see their role models advocating for themselves, it inspires the next generation to do the same.

Well-Being Awareness in Other Athletics

Perhaps the biggest demonstration of mental health in sports over the last year came during the summer Olympics. Gymnastics powerhouse, Simone Biles, forfeited her place in the competition for her mental well-being. She was projected to bring home another gold medal, or many more gold medals, but her mind wasn’t in it. When she decided to withdraw from the competition for her mental well-being, it changed the way people look at the Olympics forever. They’re not just athletes, they’re people too. And they have bad days just like everyone else. The support she received stood tall above any criticism.

Many other athletes from many other sports have begun to stand tall in the face of mental health. Swimmer Michael Phelps, NHL goaltender Corey Hirsch, MLB pitcher Ryan Sherriff, and numerous other athletes have stepped away from their respective sports to get mental health assistance.

When professional athletes speak out about their mental health, it humanizes them in a way that many people often stray far from. Some get caught in a rhythm of picturing them as “figures” and “celebrities” instead of humans with lives that ebb and flow just like yours.  

Looking back a few years, it’s important to note the progress that we have made toward destigmatizing mental health, but there is still a long way to go. We must continue to support those going through tough times and encourage them to seek help. No job, no exam, and no game are as important as your mental well-being. Everyone deserves to feel like they are the best version of themselves. As Mental Health Awareness month comes to a close, check in on your mental health. How are you doing, truly? If you find yourself needing a listening ear or a little more help, there is no shame in reaching out.

Resources for Mental Health Assistance:

National Suicide Prevention: 1-800-273-8255

Veterans: 1-800-273-8255

The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386

Substance Abuse Hotline: 1-800-662-4357

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-7233

Washington Commanders Scandal: Could Dan Snyder be Removed?

The Washington Commanders scandal has continued to evolve over the course of the offseason. Washington scandals have been abundant over the last year and somehow, owner Dan Snyder has been the center of nearly all of them. After sexual harassment allegations, financial improprieties, and numerous volatile emails being released, Snyder’s time as owner in Washington may finally be coming to an end.

Dan Snyder has been on the hot seat for a while

Since Snyder became an owner of the Commanders in 1999, he has made multiple questionable choices. He repeatedly fired coaches over personnel and draft disagreements, leading many to be frustrated with his leadership style. Until 2020, most of Snyder’s downfalls seemed to be manageable and clearly football-oriented. That is, until a Washington Post investigative report surfaced, detailing the true events inside Snyder’s organization.

In 2020, Will Hobson and Liz Clarke interviewed several former female employees of Dan Snyder. They detailed the frequent verbal abuse and sexual harassment they endured as part of their everyday duties. Their openness brought forward more and more victims. Now, there are more than 15 former female employees who have spoken out about the abuse they went through while on staff.

Since the Washington Post article was released, there have been more and more reasons emerging as to why Snyder should be removed from his position. In October of 2021, emails were released detailing explicitly the abuse that Washington’s cheerleaders have also endured during their time with the team. Snyder has paid many of these women for their silence.

The misogyny and mistreatment of women was followed closely by financial misconduct, we learned in 2021. The NFL’s investigation was handed over to Congress as some of Snyder’s actions could be considered unlawful.

Congress spent much time investigating the allegations and found that Snyder’s financial improprieties affected everyone from fans to players to the commissioner himself. It has been revealed that Washington misreported ticket-sale numbers and kept “two sets of books”. One book was the accurate numbers, for Snyder only. The other book housed the falsified numbers sent to the NFL upon request.

The results of Snyder’s actions

Unfortunately for many, Snyder’s actions affected way more than just himself. When he misreports numbers, it demonstrates to the NFL that earnings are down. If earnings are down, the salary cap number isn’t adjusted appropriately. When the salary cap isn’t appropriate, the players don’t get paid what they deserve. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

“This new information on potential financial misconduct suggests that the rot under Dan Snyder’s leadership is much deeper than imagined. It further reinforces the concern that this organization has been allowed to operate with impunity for far too long. This new information suggests that in addition to fostering a hostile workplace culture, Mr. Snyder also may have cheated the team’s fans and the NFL,” said Representative Carolyn Maloney.

On top of the financial burden, he has placed on the NFL, he has also left a permanent impression on the lives of too many women. Women who have been pushed into silence regarding their experiences but will be unable to ever forget them.

Washington Commanders scandal may be nearing an end

For the most part, leaks on the happenings of NFL owners are unheard of. Not often do we hear about what they are doing behind the scenes, which makes the latest news even more shocking. Last week it was reported that owners are starting to “count votes” to get Snyder removed from his position as owner of the Washington Commanders.

It would take two-thirds of NFL owners (24 total) voting to remove Snyder for action to be taken. This will be done behind closed doors, but it seems likely it may have already begun. This latest Washington Commanders’ scandal may be the one that finally does Dan Snyder in.

Can Jimmy Butler and the Heat go all the way?

The Eastern Conference Finals began last night with Game 1 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. What started as a close game and the Celtics ahead, ended with complete second-half domination by Jimmy Butler and the Heat.

Butler led Miami to a 118-107 victory thanks to his massive stat line. The Miami superstar ended Game 1 with 41 minutes played, 41 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. His offensive command was met with an equally paramount defensive showing. Butler recorded five steals and four blocks on Tuesday. The dominant play by Butler was complimented by the Celtics missing two of their most important players and Miami playing exceptional defense.

Looking back

Miami entered the third quarter down by eight points after Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown refused to get down in the first half. It was a somewhat surprising effort by Boston, as they were without defensive player of the year, Marcus Smart (foot), and Al Horford (health and safety protocols).

Being down at the half sparked some crucial changes for Miami at halftime. The player-led adjustments in the locker room inspired an entirely new approach to the game in the third quarter. Miami’s defense stole the show, allowing their team to go on a 22-2 run to start the second half.  The Heat went on to score 39 third-quarter points, allowing Boston just 14.

Butler’s dominance continued into the fourth quarter when he blocked a huge three-point shot for Tatum, elevating the energy, and nearly sealing the game for the Heat.

The Celtics almost came back in the fourth quarter. But in the end, Butler couldn’t be stopped, and Miami’s defense wasn’t going to back down.

Looking ahead

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals will take place on Thursday on Miami’s home court. Miami is at a huge advantage due to the fact they have yet to lose at home in the playoffs. Bam Adebayo and the rest of the Heat’s core players have already shown they can contain Tatum and Brown. What will happen when the Celtics’ defensive star comes back?

Marcus Smart is rumored to be returning to the lineup for Game 2. This will provide another challenge for Miami’s defense, and another limit for Miami’s offense at the hands of Smart’s unbelievable defensive abilities. Al Horford will likely not return for Game 2.

If the Celtics want to keep their chances of advancement alive, they will have to win on Thursday to ensure they don’t get too far behind. One thing is for sure, Jimmy Butler and the Heat don’t make it easy to come back.

Brett Favre at the center of Mississippi’s biggest scandal in 20 years

Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre is embroiled in a massive welfare scandal in his home state of Mississippi
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Favre is one of the most well-known quarterbacks of this generation. He had a Hall of Fame career capped off with one Super Bowl Championship, three MVP awards, and one golden jacket. Twelve years after Favre’s career came to an end, he is now in the limelight for a much different reason. Favre is at the center of one of the biggest fraud cases in Mississippi history.

How it started

Brett Favre’s scandal is recorded as far back as 2019. Then, he met with various members of the Mississippi state government including then-governor, Phil Bryant and official John Davis. The meeting also included former WWE legend, Ted DiBiase Jr. Favre’s goal in meeting with them was to encourage their involvement in a new Florida-based drug company, Prevacus.

The former NFL star connected himself to Prevacus due to their mission to further concussion research and create a “concussion drug”. Favre felt drawn to their goal and wanted them to relocate to Mississippi, hence the meeting with state officials. The meeting did not end the way Favre hoped. What came next started to raise red flags.

Shortly after the meeting took place, Davis and two others, Nancy New and Zach New, were accused of taking $2.15 million in welfare money to personally invest in Prevacus and a sister company. Brett Favre’s involvement with Nancy New extends further than just Prevacus, however.

Aside from trying to invest in the pharmaceutical company, Favre was also lobbying for donations for a new volleyball court at the University of Southern Mississippi, a school Favre’s daughter happened to attend. The new court eventually came to fruition thanks to $5 million provided by none other than Nancy New’s organization, the Mississippi Education Center.

If that wasn’t enough, Brett Favre also benefited from an additional $8 million dollars of welfare money dedicated to his other professional pursuits, and received $1.1 million dollars for appearances he did not attend. Favre has since paid back nearly all the $1.1 million, leaving the remainder unaccounted for.

Brett Favre pleads ignorance

Phil Bryant, the former governor, was the whistleblower in this case, bringing to light the malfeasance occurring between New, Favre, and others. Favre has claimed time and time again that he was unaware of where the money was coming from. However, he sent the following text to the founder of Prevacus, Jake Vanlandingham.  

“Text Nancy (New) and include me if you want and basically ask her if she can help with investors, grants or any other way possible. She has strong connections and gave me 5 million for Vball facility via grant money. Offer her whatever you feel like.”

It’s not looking great for you, Brett.

When John Davis, the Mississippi official who participated in the original meeting, was eventually replaced with another official, Favre touched base with Vanlandingham again, stating that New told him Davis’ replacement “wasn’t their type”.

“Well we may need the governor to make him our type”, the Prevacus founder responded.

A ripple effect

It goes without saying that welfare money awarded to any state should be dedicated to those struggling, not those living in the top 1%. In 2018, Mississippi received $135 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding. Of that, just $7.3 million went directly toward assisting the families that needed it.

The remainder of the funding went partially towards the entrepreneurial pursuits of those that received millions of dollars a year to play professional sports. What Brett Favre encouraged and allowed was wrong, and people suffered because of it.

What happens now

Since it came to light, Brett Favre’s scandal has continued to progress. Last month, Nancy and Zach New both plead guilty to misusing public money intended to help alleviate the strain of poverty on the Mississippi population. They have also agreed to testify against the other people involved. John Davis is also among the names facing charges.

Two years after this embezzlement case came to light, Favre, DiBiase and two other former professional wrestlers are now among 38 defendants accused of using welfare funds for their own personal gain. Favre is now required to repay more than $3 million in welfare money used over the last four years. Neither have been charged with any criminal wrongdoing at this point.

The case has now been turned over to the Mississippi attorney general’s office. They are expected to seek the repayment of more than $77 million misused funds.

“I applaud the team the team filing this suit and am grateful the state is taking another step toward justice for the taxpayers. We will continue to work alongside our federal partners – who have been given access to all our evidence for more than two years – to make sure the case is fully investigated” state auditor Shad White told the media.

Brett Favre’s scandal is continuing to develop as it moves through the justice system in an effort to right many wrongs. Check back here for updates as they become available.

The biggest story lines from the Raiders schedule in 2022

Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times

The 2022 NFL schedule was released this week. With that comes record predictions, ticket-purchasing, and more storylines than anyone can keep track of.  The Raiders schedule is no different. It showcases a matchup against the reigning Super Bowl champions, a revenge game 50 years in the making, and more AFC West matchups than your heart can handle. So, let’s look at three of the biggest storylines to keep track of in 2022.

Week 1: Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers

It’s the game you’ve been waiting all offseason for. The Raiders will head to SoFi Stadium for their first game of the season to try and take down Justin Herbert and a revamped Charger’s defense.

As you may remember, the Raiders beat the Chargers in the last regular season game of the 2021 season, sending the Silver and Black to the playoffs, and ending the Bolts season without a second thought. Los Angeles has spent the duration of the offseason trying to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Since the two teams last met, they have added numerous Pro-Bowlers to their defense including J.C. Jackson, Kyle Van Noy, and former Raider, Khalil Mack.

Mack, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Raiders, was traded to Los Angeles this offseason. He is infamously known for being a player Raider Nation saw leading the team to their next Super Bowl win. That is, until the former regime sent him off to Chicago. Since leaving Oakland, Mack’s statistics have declined. However, his game-changing talent and sure-fire want for revenge is still cause for concern in Las Vegas.

On top of being a revenge game for many reasons, the Raiders second home is in Los Angeles. It’s not uncommon for Raider Nation to take over SoFi stadium and make it their own, adding fuel to the fire.

Week 15: New England Patriots @ Las Vegas Raiders

While there are numerous storylines in between Week 1 and Week 15, the Patriots vs. Raiders game is what everyone will be looking forward to. Head coach Josh McDaniels will lead his new team out proudly (we hope), as he takes on the man that taught him everything he knows.

Before being hired as the Raiders head coach in January, McDaniels spent 13 seasons with the Patriots. He served as everything from their offensive assistant to their offensive coordinator, learning the ins and outs of coaching from one of the best in the business, Bill Belichick.

McDaniels was joined in Las Vegas by new general manager, Dave Ziegler, who also spent the previous seasons in New England. McDaniels and Ziegler wasted no time in bringing their favorite former Patriots to Sin City, making Week 15 even more meaningful.

Las Vegas has added six players this offseason who played for the New England Patriots including running back Brandon Bolden, tight end Jacob Hollister, fullback Jakob Johnson, and quarterback Jarett Stidham, among others. Along with players, McDaniels also hired several former New England coaches to his staff.

The sheer volume of Raiders that have played or coached for the Patriots is something that doesn’t go unnoticed, making Week 15 a must win game for the Silver and Black.

Week 16: Las Vegas Raiders @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Fifty years in the making, the Raiders will return to the scene of the “Immaculate Reception” one day after its half-century anniversary. If you’ve been a Raiders fan for a while, or have ever known a Raiders fan, its likely you know exactly what play we’re talking about. If not, you can read up on the controversial play, here.

No matter how much time passes, it will never be clear what happened that day. You’ll get a different story from every player, and every referee working that game. The Raiders are three Lombardi trophies better off than they were that day in Pittsburgh, but they’ll never forget. And they’ll be sure to remind the Steelers of that in December.

The Raiders schedule is tough, with a lot valuable storylines in 2022. If they want to return to the playoffs for a second consecutive year, they’ll have to prove each and every week why they deserve to be there.