This Thursday night, history will be made on ESPN: A woman will referee an NFL game for the first time. Shannon Eastin has been calling games since 1996 on the high school and college level, and thanks to an ongoing labor dispute with the referees' union, the league has enlisted a small army of replacements, including Eastin, who will officiate the upcoming Packers- Chargers pre-season game.
An artist's rendering of the Warriors' proposed new arena on a San Francisco pier
Last night I watched my hometown baseball team, the Oakland Athletics, get shut out by their most hated rival in front of a crowd of barely 11,000 people while simultaneously reading news reports about Oakland's basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, moving across the Bay to San Francisco. I'm not sure I've ever felt so personally betrayed by sports.
When the Toronto Raptors hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers last week, television audiences may have noticed what appeared to be a huge sandwich board resting at each baseline. It looked like a 7-footer would miss a layup and go crashing through one of the signs at any moment.
David Stern presenting the championship trophy to the Dallas Mavericks in happier times
Greedy bosses want to cut employees' pay. The union tries to fight back. So the CEO, a longtime bully to organized labor, pats the workers on their heads with an admonition: You can't possibly understand such complex negotiations. Let the grownups decide what's best for you.
If this were Walmart, we'd all be outraged, but not when it's millionaires fighting against billionaires in the NBA. Yet the paternalism is no less ugly because of the amount of money involved. And it gets uglier when you consider the racial undertones that necessarily lurk in an industry where every owner but one is white and 83 percent of the workers are black [PDF]. Lately, those tensions have been bubbling to the surface—most egregiously in the acidic condescension of Commissioner David Stern.