Football frustration

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By Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

My growing frustration with football is not a secret. I’ve written a handful of pieces now critiquing the industrythe brutal environment, and of course the (mis)behaviors of athletes.  My latest thinking is how it takes so much time away from our families and for that reason, I avoided the entire preseason. But, it’s a big business that spends millions upon millions to advertise and get inside our psyche.  So people, myself included, aren’t simply going to stop watching, cold turkey. But we can start by limiting our consumption. To help cut back, I outline below a few points of focus in the hopes that you (and me) won’t run to the TV for every game, but rather pick and choose strategically.  By the way, I gathered this info by peeking at a few choice sports information websites this past weekend and listening in to my local sports radio shows during the start of the regular season and watching some highlights on the web.

College football is going to be pretty exciting, just don’t get too sucked into the hype and try to focus in on teams you know and love. There will be strong performances by legendary squads and likely a considerable amount of upsets.  Notre Dame, despite losing its star quarterback Malik Zaire (out for the season), won on Saturday.  Alabama, with its 24 SEC championships and 9 perfect, undefeated seasons, is once again off to a strong start. Also in the SEC Ole Miss could be a quiet contender this year. Michigan State looks freakishly good, defeating last year’s Pacific 10 Champions, the Oregon Ducks in a nail-biter.  Along with Ohio State, those are the teams to beat. Just don’t tell that to Texas Christian University (TCU) which has a lot to prove. In the ACC Syracuse is up 3-0, for the first time since 1991 and Pitt has a new coach, Pat Narduzzi,  who recruited me when I was in high school and who I played for at the University of Rhode Island. I will be watching to see if he can turn Pitt into a legit contender.  There, now that you have the basis from the start of the season, just focus on the schools you went to, your kids went to, or the ones in your hometown.

The insanely long NFL season is one big capitalist joke.  The teams that won this past weekend may or may not prevail by the middle, much less the end, of the season.  I suggest waiting until mid-November before getting too involved.  By then, major injuries, behavioral drama, and big competitions will shake things out and the identities of the real contenders will be revealed.  Having said that, I personally appreciated the heroics of Marcus Mariota, the rookie quarterback of the Tennessee Titans and loved the swagger of the Buffalo Bills as they defeated the Indianapolis Colts. If those two teams are competitive, maybe we start paying attention in early November as opposed to mid-month.  Of course age old rivalries like the Packers vs. the Bears, the Steelers vs. the Ravens, and the Eagles vs. the Giants are always good fun. Frankly, you should always root for the Cleveland Browns – that whole city has not won a championship in any sport since 1964.

My final bit of advice is to adopt a local high school or small college football team and go watch games live. Get away from the TV and all the beer commercials and NFL propaganda and organize a family outing. Don’t squander the limited time you have on the weekends glued to the tube.  Good luck!

Editor’s Note: Ibrahim Abdul-Matin has worked in the civic, public, and private sectors and on several issues including sustainability, technology, community engagement, sports, and new media. He is the author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet and contributor to All-American: 45 American Men On Being Muslim. From 2009 to 2011 Ibrahim was the regular Sports Contributor for WNYC’s nationally syndicated show The Takeaway. Follow him on twitter @IbrahimSalih. The views expressed here are his own.

Sports teach lessons on fate and free will

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By Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

I came across this hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) recently, “Conduct yourself in this world as if you are here to stay forever, and yet prepare for eternity as if you are to die tomorrow.” As with most things, I found myself relating it to sports. Even though games and matches are played over a long period of time and sports seasons can seemingly last forever, the outcome can be determined in an instant.

Victory (or loss) usually comes down to one play – the final pitch, an incredible catch, a last second goal, or an untimely fumble. It’s these moments that define sports competitions and these moments that are revered or mourned on front pages and in history reels. The reporting of a championship game often begins with its ending and works backwards to describe other notable events that took place in the 2 hour+ ordeal. It’s similar to life. At the time of someone’s death, there’s much focus on that moment itself – what happened, how did it happen, why did it happen. Then only do we take a look back at the person’s life to see how they lived.
There is one time from my own athletic career that exemplifies this important balance between a spectacular moment and the long haul.

It was my freshman year in college and my coaches, relatively young in their careers as well, noticed my hunger to start. As a special teams player and back up position player I was hungry and took any opportunity to play my hardest. One Saturday I performed quite well in that role and in the next game the following week was given a chance to start. My coaches looked at me and said, “You’ve earned it.”

What happened on the first play of my first start was incredible. The ball was snapped. I dropped back into my defensive coverage area and read the quarterback’s eyes – I knew where the ball was going and I reacted. An instant later I wrestled the ball away from its intended receiver – interception! But I was not done. I sprinted towards the end zone, breaking tackles along the way, and scored a touchdown. This play is known as a “pick-6” and it all happened in less than two minutes.

The crowd went wild. My teammates surrounded me and they celebrated with high-fives and helmet slaps. But I was stone cold silent. My only thought was, “it’s going to be a long game.” I glanced at the scoreboard and we still had a lot of game left – four quarters. It turned into a wild back and forth game with an eventual loss for my team.

Ultimately, sports helped me see that I’m not in control. I cannot control the moments or the long hauls. We all can’t get what we want. At the same time you are not a passive bystander. You are an active participant in determining your own fate. The only thing I can control is myself and how I react to every play, or in life, every situation. Life is often defined by moments, but those moments are surrounded by large swaths of time. Sports helped me strike an important balance between finding glory in moments and keeping the big picture in sight.

Editor’s Note: Ibrahim Abdul-Matin has worked in the civic, public, and private sectors and on several issues including sustainability, technology, community engagement, sports, and new media. He is the author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet and contributor to All-American: 45 American Men On Being Muslim. From 2009 to 2011 Ibrahim was the regular Sports Contributor for WNYC’s nationally syndicated show The Takeaway. Follow him on twitter @IbrahimSalih. The views expressed here are his own.

The punch heard across the NFL

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith passing against the Denver Broncos during the first quarter of their NFL game at MetLife Stadium. Adam Hunger / USA TODAY Sports.

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith passing against the Denver Broncos during the first quarter of their NFL game at MetLife Stadium. Adam Hunger / USA TODAY Sports.

By Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

This is for all those parents and kids dreaming of careers in pro sports. This includes my wife who dreams of our sons to be like the Manning Brothers (she used to call them Peyton and Eli until I scared her with enough stories about concussions). This piece is about the story of Geno Smith, the starting Quarterback for the NY Jets, who broke his jaw in a locker room brawl and may have ended his career. You see, the NFL is not all glitz, glamour, game winners, and big checks. The lack of support and intense stress sometimes leads athletes to do crazy things – crazy career ending things.

Geno Smith is a second year quarterback with the Jets. Last year, during his rookie season, he took a considerable amount of blame for the Jets’ underperformance. He’s had brilliant plays, but overall, he disappointed fans and frustrated teammates. This past Tuesday, frustration from one teammate – reserve linebacker IK Enemkpali – ended in what Jets’ head coach Todd Bowls described as a “sucker punch.”  Enemkpali apparently organized a youth football camp in Texas to which Smith was a no-show. Harsh words were exchanged, punches thrown, and Smith taken to the ER with a broken jaw.

Smith’s jaw needs surgery. He will be out for 10 weeks. This is over half of the NFL season. There’s no guarantee of his job with the Jets, or with any team for that matter, post-recovery. Additionally, Enemkpali was fired. In a matter of seconds, two football careers – that parents, kids, families, friends, and coaches dreamed of and cheered for – are likely over.

Professional football is fickle. For a player like Enemkpali, the outcome is likely devastating. As a reserve athlete, his future was already unknown. The average career is 3.5 years and it’s less for reserve players. It’s possible that the stress of his uncertain future and tenuous contract is what led him to break his quarterback’s face. Enemkpali sabotaged his team, himself, and his reputation.

Players typically get paid on three occasions. First, they receive a signing bonus, an amount up front the day they agree to play for a team. Second, they get a roster bonus once they’ve secured the spot on the team. Then, like you and me, they are salaried. But instead of bi-weekly direct deposits, they receive checks after each game. For Enemkpali, there will be no games played, no checks this season, and a vague memory of being the guy who punched his own QB.

The sports world will cover this story from the perspective of the NY Jets. Headlines like “Is Ryan Fitzpatrick the answer for the Jets?” or What’s Next for Geno?” will dominate. FYI, Fitzpatrick is second string veteran quarterback for the team. Frankly, I am more interested in Enemkpali’s story. He went from “making it” to “breaking it,” literally, in an instant. A paltry argument and a forceful punch has him back on the street looking for a job with millions of other Americans. What happened? Could this have been prevented?  These are million dollar questions, dollars that will not be going into Enemkpali’s bank.

Editor’s Note: Since the completion of this article, the Buffalo Bills, decided to sign Ik Enemkpali. This is no real surprise, It was Rex Ryan, who now leads the Bills, who drafted Enemkpali out of college. He still has to make the roster but again, this development is an example of the uncertainty in pro sports – one day, the media swears your career is over. The next day, you’re given a second chance.

Ibrahim Abdul-Matin has worked in the civic, public, and private sectors and on several issues including sustainability, technology, community engagement, sports, and new media. He is the author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet and contributor to All-American: 45 American Men On Being Muslim. From 2009 to 2011 Ibrahim was the regular Sports Contributor for WNYC’s nationally syndicated show The Takeaway. Follow him on twitter @IbrahimSalih. The views expressed here are his own.

A critical look at football

Disgraced New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters.

Disgraced New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters.

By Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

Every day as I scan the sports headlines, I am frequently disgusted by football news. It’s so often stories about violence against women, child abuse, even murder. It makes me sick and it is personal – remember, I played football for twelve years. I am starting to think more and more that it’s time to boycott football altogether. It’s time to pressure the institution to make some much needed cultural changes.

When college programs recruit high school football players, they start by visiting parents and making a promise, “I am here to give your child an opportunity.”   They fail to mention that their young athlete will soon be surrounded by misogyny, violence, alcohol abuse, and people that do not have their best interests in mind.

In recent football news, the Kansas City Chiefs released cornerback Justin Cox on Tuesday after his arrest on charges of burglary of a residence, aggravated domestic assault and trespassing. Another Kansas City starter, A.J. Johnson from the University of Tennessee, was charged with rape. Then there’s San Jose State’s Kanya Bell Jr., a wide receiver, who has been dismissed from the team after his on-campus arrest for domestic battery. Finally, New Orleans Saint Darren Sharper is back in the news. His sentencing for drugging and assaulting women in four states has been rescheduled.

Literally every young athlete who enters the world of college and pro-football is at risk for becoming a headline like those above. I think back to when my parents allowed me to play – it was out of necessity. Without the scholarship, I could not have attended college. This is case for many young ballers. It is unacceptable that young people seeking an education and needing to use football as a route must also be inculcated into a culture that’s more detrimental than helpful in the long run.

There is a context to the violent nature of football as a sport. Baseball and golf come out of agrarian societies. There are no clocks and the games are played outside in large open fields. Basketball comes from the urban context exemplified by its sense of urgency. Football is uniquely “American” because of its relationship to factory and mill towns. Small cities in Pennsylvania and the Midwest pumped out football players that often played games after leaving their line jobs where it was common to see people severely hurt in factory accidents. But this violent history does not need to translate into modern day off-the-field violence. Football can be a healthy container for anger and aggression. It can be a non-criminal, non-oppressive outlet.

As football season nears, let’s begin to think critically about our relationship with this sport. We may enjoy the competition, the tailgating, the excitement, but are we considering what our unquestioned support is doing to the athletes? Are we asking the NCAA and the NFL about support services that athletes might need? Are college athletes being treated as whole humans or as money makers? Are pro-athletes recognized for bad behavior? Are they appropriately punished? Rehabilitated? As someone who believes in conscious consumerism, I believe we need to extend our conscience to the world of sports.

Editor’s Note: Ibrahim Abdul-Matin has worked in the civic, public, and private sectors and on several issues including sustainability, technology, community engagement, sports, and new media. He is the author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet and contributor to All-American: 45 American Men On Being Muslim. From 2009 to 2011 Ibrahim was the regular Sports Contributor for WNYC’s nationally syndicated show The Takeaway. Follow him on twitter @IbrahimSalih. The views expressed here are his own.


Shahid Khan to Purchase NFL’s Jaguars

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of,

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver fired longtime coach Jack Del Rio on Tuesday after a 3-8 start and agreed to sell the National Football League’s Jaguars to Pakistani-American businessman Shahid Khan of Illinois. League sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that the sale is estimated to be between $750 and $800 million.

“It’s a little bittersweet, honestly, that it came as soon as it did,” Weaver announced. “But the main motivation for the exit strategy was to find someone that has the same passion about the NFL, had the same passion about football in Jacksonville as we do, and I found that person.”

“Wayne’s legacy will be lasting, and I will always be grateful for Wayne’s trust and confidence in my commitment to the Jaguars, the NFL and the people of the Jacksonville community,” the 61-year-old Khan said in a statement.

Born in Pakistan, Khan left home at age 16 to attend the University of Illinois. He graduated in 1971, a year after he started working for Flex-N-Gate Corp. in Urbana, Ill. He purchased the company in 1980. Today, Flex-N-Gate is a major manufacturer of bumper systems for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles built in North America.

“He’s going to buy a home here in Jacksonville. He’s going to spend time here in Jacksonville,” Weaver said of Khan. “He’s going to keep the Jaguars management group intact. He’s keeping the Jaguars staff intact. He has a great admiration for what we’ve been able to accomplish here and the way we run our business here so he’s keeping all that intact.”

While Weaver is confident Khan will keep the team in Jacksonville, there is nothing written in the deal which obligates Khan to do that. Weaver’s confidence stems from assurances Khan has made to him personally and the fact that the Jaguars’ lease to play at EverBank Field runs through the 2029 season. If the Jaguars wanted to leave before the end of the deal, the lease requires the team to prove they had lost money in three consecutive seasons or to convince a local judge that the city was failing to properly maintain the stadium.

“It’s pretty hard to put something in writing saying you have to do something but you have to trust individuals’ integrity and I have no doubt that Shahid is going to do what he plans to do,” Weaver said. “I had to be comfortable that his plan was to keep the team in Jacksonville. There’s not a doubt in my mind that this team will be in Jacksonville.”

Khan tried to purchase controlling interest in the NFL’s St. Louis Rams last year. But minority owner Stan Kroenke pulled an end-around and exercised his right to purchase full control of the franchise. Khan’s purchase of the Jaguars is subject to NFL approval. League owners will vote to ratify the deal December 14th, and if it passes it would become official on January 4th.


Nicolas Anelka Says He Is Happy at Chelsea

Compiled by Parvez Fatteh, Founder of,

ANELKA_N_20020824_NF_LReports surfaced again this week that French Muslim footballer Nicolas Anelka was close to signing with a Major League Soccer (MLS) team in the United States this past summer and is still interested in joining the league. His current club, Chelsea Football Club of the English Premier League, published quotes from the Anelka on its website stating his desire to remain with the Premier League team.
“I am linked everywhere but – when you are linked – it doesn’t mean you want to leave,” Anelka told the website. “I like Chelsea and first of all wanted to stay that’s why I am still here.”

The 32-year-old striker’s contract runs out next summer and current manager Andre Villas-Boas has hinted that this may indeed be Anelka’s last year with the club. “I am happy here, I like the club, everyone here, and, after, I will see what happens. It is not only down to me,” Anelka told the club’s website regarding a possible transfer in either the winter or summer transfer windows. “I have been here almost four years now, and I am pleased with the way it has been. It could have been even better but I am still happy.”

Anelka was reportedly close to signing with an MLS franchise located on the West Coast, according to one of his agents. Although a deal never materialized, Anelka’s camp confirmed to the website that their client is still interested in moving to the North American league. “I can confirm that Nicolas is still possibly interested in pursuing an MLS career,” said Michael Wiesenfeld, who is part of European Football Group, an organization which will represent Anelka’s marketing rights should he join MLS. “He got very close to landing a nice contract with a team on the West Coast in August. He also has opportunities elsewhere in the world.”

Anelka originally joined  Chelsea from Bolton inn January of 2008 for 15 million pounds. He has made 344 appearances in the Premier League and scored 123 goals to date for Arsenal, Liverpool, Bolton and Chelsea. But Chelsea’s abundance of scoring forwards, and Anelka’s advancing age, make him more expendable than ever. And with his career with the French national team likely over, a period with MLS would likely be Anelka’s swan song.


Mohammed Bin Hammam Withdraws from FIFA Election

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of,


President of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Mohamed bin Hammam speaks during an interview in Doha in this January 5, 2011 file photograph. Mohamed bin Hammam will appeal against his provisional suspension from FIFA in the hope of taking part in the governing body’s congress this week.

Picture taken January 5, 2011. REUTERS/Fadi Al-Assaad/Files

Qatari soccer official Mohammed Bin Hammam withdrew from the race for presidency of international soccer’s top post of president of FIFA in the midst of corruption charges. The withdrawal of the only challenger paved the way for the re-election of a man who has been swimming in controversy since he set foot in office, current FIFA president Sepp Blatter. And that re-election is now official. Bin Hammam was subsequently suspended even before any investigation was undertaken. It has been alleged that he offered $1 million in bribes to Caribbean football officials.

Bin Hammam released a statement regarding his suspension. “I was punished before I was found guilty,” he said. “In a letter to Fifa sent this morning, Mohamed Bin Hammam protested against the unfair way he is treated by the Fifa Ethics Committee and the Fifa administration. Despite his explicit written request, he was not provided with the motivated decision of his suspension in due course and he was not able to file his appeal and was denied his last opportunity to get access to the Fifa congress.

“In his letter, Mohamed Bin Hammam stated 10 points which demonstrate very clearly that he is not getting a fair proceeding. “Most importantly, there is absolutely no justification for a suspension. The suspension is not necessary to conduct the investigation but constituted a grave violation of his reputation and created substantial damage without any necessity. Mohamed Bin Hammam repeated: “I was punished before I was found guilty. There are reasons to believe that the suspension was a solitary decision of the Chairman and not the Ethics Committee. A solitary decision of the Chairman is only possible in emergency situations, which was absolutely not the case here. The panel of the Ethics Committee was fully present.

“Mohamed Bin Hammam does not understand why the Ethics Committee found the statements of the sole eyewitness truthful when it came to the allegations made against him but disregarded the written statements of 12 CFU officials in his favour. The behaviour of the Fifa General Secretary at the media conference on Sunday evening was absolutely unacceptable and against all principles of justice. Sitting next to the Chairman of the independent Ethics Committee, he abused the event to voice his personal opinions and to comment on the results.”

“Because of this very unfair treatment, Mohamed Bin Hammam reserves all his rights, against this unprofessional and one-sided attitude, with the judicial bodies of Fifa and beyond. I am very sad and disappointed over what has happened in the last days. I will never accept how my name and my reputation have been damaged. I will fight for my rights. I thank all the people who have supported me during the last weeks and will support me further. Good days bring you happiness, bad days bring you experience.’”


US Football Player Targeted for Criticizing Celebration of Killing

By Jerry White

Following the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the news media and virtually every avenue of American popular culture was activated to manufacture an atmosphere of jingoism and celebration over the dirty killing of the Al Qaeda leader.

As has so often been the case, in particular since September 11, 2001, professional sports has been used to create a false aura of “national unity” and intimidate anyone critical of the criminal actions of the US government.

The backward chants of “USA! USA!” by a section of the crowd at the Philadelphia Phillies vs. the New York Mets baseball game Sunday night—following the announcement of the bin Laden killing—was followed by a week of sporting events where soldiers threw out the ceremonial first pitches and the routine singing of the national anthem at the National Basketball playoffs became the occasion for even more crude displays of flag-waving patriotism and militarism.

Sportscasters from the ESPN cable network were immediately dispatched to solicit pro-government comments from prominent athletes in an effort to demonstrate the supposed unanimity of public opinion. In an interview with Minnesota Vikings football coach Mike Priefer, a former Navy helicopter pilot, ESPN commentator Jay Crawford urged the coach that defensive players who tackle ball carriers on kickoff returns were a “well-trained team, working in precision,” just like the Navy Seal assassination squad.

Whether they shared the right-wing political conceptions or were naïve and taken in by the propaganda blitz, several prominent athletes issued statements praising the military and President Obama. There were, however, notable and, in the present circumstances, courageous exceptions. Since sports cable channels and news media would not broadcast such statements, the athletes making criticisms used their Twitter accounts.

The day after Obama’s announcement of the killing, Rashard Mendenhall, the 23-year-old star running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, tweeted: “What kind of man celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side.”

Mendenhall’s comments—which were bound up with his religious convictions and skepticism in the government’s version of the 9/11 events—were immediately seized upon for a rabid campaign accusing the football player of being disloyal and contemptuous of the 3,000 Americans killed by the terrorist attacks. The fraternity of cable television sportscasters—who, with few exceptions, generally appeal only to the base instincts of sports fans—demanded that the National Football League block athletes from having access to Twitter and social networking sites.

On Tuesday, Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II released a statement regarding Mendenhall, saying it “is hard to explain or even comprehend what he meant with his recent Twitter comments.” He added, “The entire Steelers organization is very proud of the job our military personnel have done.”

In the face of the torrent of criticism, Mendenhall issued a clarification on his blog, which, while expressing religious conceptions and some conciliation to pro-war propaganda, nevertheless upheld his initial comments and the right to the express them.

“This controversial statement was something I said in response to the amount of joy I saw in the event of a murder. I don’t believe that this is an issue of politics or American pride; but one of religion, morality, and human ethics. I wasn’t questioning Bin Laden’s evil acts. I believe that he will have to face God for what he has done. I was reflecting on our own hypocrisy. During 9/11 we watched in horror as parts of the world celebrated death on our soil. Earlier this week, parts of the world watched us in horror celebrating a man’s death.”

On Friday, sports apparel maker Champion fired Mendenhall, who recently signed a four-year contract and had been a sponsor with the company since his NFL career started in 2008. While hypocritically claiming to respect his right to express such views, the company said, “We no longer believe that Mr. Mendenhall can appropriately represent Champion and we have notified Mr. Mendenhall that we are ending our business relationship.”

The statement added, “Champion is a strong supporter of the government’s efforts to fight terrorism and is very appreciative of the dedication and commitment of the US Armed Forces” and said Mendenhall’s comments and opinions “were inconsistent with the values of the Champion brand.”

Despite the witch-hunt atmosphere, other athletes also spoke out. Milwaukee Bucks basketball player Chris Douglas-Roberts tweeted after hearing of Bin Laden’s death, “Is this a celebration??”

Responding to several hostile tweets he went on to express his anti-war position in the regards to the killing of bin Laden.

“It took 919,967 deaths to kill that one guy.

“It took 10 years & 2 Wars to kill that…guy.

“It cost us (USA) roughly $1,188,263,000,000 to kill hat guy. But we’re winning though. Haaaa. (Sarcasm).”

With more negative reaction being tweeted at Douglas-Roberts, he went on to clarify his position.

“What I’m sayin’ has nothing to do with 9/11 or that guy (Bin Laden). I still feel bad for the 9/11 families but I feel EQUALLY bad for the war families. …

“People are telling me to get out of America now b/c I’m against MORE INNOCENT people dying every day? B/c I’m against a 10-year WAR?

“Whatever happened to our freedom of speech? That’s the problem. We don’t want to hear anything that isn’t our perspective.”

The effort to stampede public opinion, of course, has an effect. But the overwhelming sentiment of the population is one of suspicion towards the government and its official explanations and a concern over the erosion of deeply felt democratic rights in the name of the “war on terrorism.”

The American population—including athletes—have had ample experience with the lies of the US government and their exploitation of 9/11. Eight months after the terrorist attacks, Arizona Cardinal football player Patrick Tillman left a lucrative career to join the military. His death in Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border, was used by the Bush administration and Pentagon to promote support for the war, even as they concealed the fact from the American public and his family that he had been killed by friendly fire from US troops.

In 2007 testimony before a US congressional hearing, Tillman’s brother Kevin Tillman testified: “The deception surrounding this case was an insult to the family: but more importantly, its primary purpose was to deceive a whole nation. We say these things with disappointment and sadness for our country. Once again, we have been used as props in a Pentagon public relations exercise.”

While the military presented Tillman as a pro-war sports icon, his family and friends later made public that the young man developed anti-war and left-wing views while in the military and was preparing to write an anti-war book when he returned from Afghanistan.


Iranian Girls Soccer Team No Longer Banned

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of,

iran_1610091c It was a happy day for a gaggle of young girls in Iran who were finally being allowed to play ball. The Iranian girls soccer team, who had been banned last month from participating in August’s inaugural Youth Olympics, was now being allowed to compete in the six-nation tournament in Singapore. There was a disagreement between FIFA, the governing body of soccer, and the Iran Football Federation, over what headwear the Iranian girls could don. And on April 5th, FIFA took the step of banning the girls from the upcoming tournament. Thankfully, further discussion ensued, and an agreement was reached the first week of May. “We sent FIFA a sample of our new Islamic dress and fortunately they accepted it,” said Abbas Torabian, director of the International Relations Committee of Iran’s soccer federation. “They announced that there was no objection if the players covered their hair with hats,” he told the Tehran Times. Alas, an accord was reached, but the road traveled to reach the agreement speaks volumes about the state of Islamophobia in this world.

The Iranian National Olympic Committee had originally urged FIFA and the International Olympic Committee to review the ban on the hijab, worn by girls and women as part of Islamic dress code. Jerome Valcke, FIFA’s secretary general, rejected the request, saying FIFA had no other choice but the reject Iran’s requests. He cited FIFA’s rulebook of conduct, with Law 4 stating “basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements.” So, what this argument attempts to do is to reduce the wearing of the hijib to the level of a political or religious statement, rather than the measure of modesty that it is.

The hijab issue was first examined in 2007 after an 11-year-old girl in Canada was prevented from wearing one for safety reasons. FIFA’s rules-making arm, the International Football Association Board, declined to make an exception for religious clothing. The Quebec Soccer Association said the ban on the hijab is to protect children from being accidentally strangled. This mechanism of strangulation has never been documented in sports, nor has it even been properly explained. And if the covering of the back of the neck is such a violation of sporting principles, then should there not be restrictions also on hair length below the ears?

Faride Shojaee, the vice president of the women’s department of the Iranian Football Federation, said that FIFA officials had previously allowed Iranian athletes to participate in the Olympics with their hijab, “before denying them the right to do so in the letter they sent on Monday.” Several athletes, in fact, competed at the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008 wearing a hijab, including Bahrain sprinter Ruqaya Al-Ghasara, her country’s flag bearer in the Opening Ceremonies.
The hijab has made its way onto the most wanted list around the globe, but particularly in Europe. France, under Nicholas Sarkoczy, has been well publicized in its growing body of rules outlawing the hijab, particularly in school. Now there is a law on the table in Belgium banning the hijab, and a similar law is being considered in the Netherlands as well. With the growing numbers of Muslims in this world, and the corresponding rise in anti-Islamic sentiment, the hijab does seem to be looked upon as more of a symbol or statement. But that is in the eye of the beholder. An eye that is increasingly becoming jaundiced by Islamophobia.

So, finally, a compromise was reached on, ”… a cap that covers their heads to the hairline, but does not extend below the ears to cover the neck.” Now the Iranian girls are back on track to compete from August 12-25 in Singapore, where about 3,600 athletes, ages 14 to 18, will compete in 26 sports. They will represent Asia against Turkey, Equatorial Guinea, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile, and Papua New Guinea. They will have to wear caps instead of hijabs. But, in the end, a happy group of girls will be allowed to play ball. What kind of person would have wanted to prevent that?


Deji Karim Begins NFL Journey

By Parvez Fatteh, founder of,

deji-karim Abdul Deji Karim had spent over two days waiting for the phone to ring. The running back from Southern Illinois University was awaiting his selection in the National Football League Draft, and the call finally came in the 6th round of the selection process. Karim was selected on April 24th by the Jacksonville Jaguars, who hope to have him spell their star running back Maurice Jones-Drew and return kicks.

Karim, ironically, went to high school with the player that was the very first selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, Oklahoma University quarterback Sam Bradford. But Karim’s college football accomplishments at a smaller school proved more difficult to display to scouts. In fact, he was not even invited to the NFL’s national scouting combine in February. So, he instead secured an invitation to perform an individual workout for scouts on the campus of Northwestern University in Chicago. That is where he dazzled scouts with workout numbers that were in the top 5 of all running backs in the draft.

Now Deji Karim awaits mini-camp later this month, followed by training camp this summer. He may be a kitten amongst Jaguars for now, but he will continue to seek out every opportunity to roar.


Omar Khan, Football Executive

3D23 Omar Khan is the Business & Football Administration Coordinator of Pittsburgh’s Steelers. A well respected executive he is currently being interviewed by the Seahawks for the general manager vacancy.

Khan has the title of Business and Football Administration Coordinator and handles the salary cap and negotiations for the Steelers.

Khan, 32, is the child of immigrant parents. His father was born in India and his mother in Honduras.  A keen sports enthusiast from his high school days Khan earned a degree in Sports Management with a minor in Business Administration from Tulane University.

As a student, Khan worked in the Tulane football office filming practices and games and making travel arrangements. He filled a similar capacity during an internship with the New Orleans Saintswhile he was still in school. Once he graduated in 1998, he was brought on in a full-time role by the Saints. He worked his way up the ladder in New Orleans by doing anything that was asked of him.

In 2001 he was hired by the Steelers and has served as their chief contract negotiator and capologist, replacing Dan Ferens.  In that role he has helped to assemble two Super Bowl winners.