By Richard Valdmanis BOSTON (Reuters) - Former National Football League star Aaron Hernandez was charged on Thursday with assaulting and threatening another inmate while in a Massachusetts prison awaiting his murder trial. Hernandez, who played tight end for the New England Patriots, was jailed in June after being accused of gunning down another man in an industrial park near his house. A grand jury in Bristol County indicted Hernandez on Thursday on charges of assault and battery and threats to do bodily harm stemming from an incident at the Bristol County House of Corrections in February, according to the district attorney's office. Hernandez is accused of repeatedly punching fellow inmate Andrew Booker after the two got into an argument in a hallway of the prison, Booker's attorney said in March.
The National Football League's Ray Rice, a Pro Bowl running back with the Baltimore Ravens, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to a charge of assaulting his fiancée at a New Jersey casino. Police arrested Rice, known for his advocacy against bullying, together with his fiancée, Janay Palmer, outside the Revel Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City in February. At his hearing in Atlantic County Superior Court in New Jersey on Thursday, Rice applied for a discretionary program for first-time offenders, according to the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office.
By Kevin Gray MIAMI (Reuters) - Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston, the 2013 winner of college football's prestigious Heisman Trophy, was issued a civil citation for shoplifting $32.72 worth of crab legs and crawfish from a Florida grocery store, police said on Wednesday. Winston, 20, who is also on the university's baseball team, was suspended indefinitely after the incident, team officials said. The star athlete walked into a Publix supermarket near the university campus in Tallahassee on Tuesday night, ordered the food and left the store without paying, said Mike Wood of the Leon County Sheriff's Office.
Recent actions by a billionaire owner of a National Basketball Association team and a supporter of a Spanish soccer club have offered the sporting world a stark reminder that racism knows no borders. From the Staples Center hardwood in Los Angeles to La Liga's manicured pitches, and everywhere sport is played at the highest level, the murky undercurrents of racism flow from the stands and suites to the field of play. On the same weekend a secretly-recorded racist diatribe by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling sparked a firestorm of outrage across the United States, a Villarreal fan tossed a banana at Barcelona's Dani Alves as he lined up a corner kick. The 80-year-old Sterling was also banned for life after his shocking remarks showed there were elements of bigotry even among owners of North American professional sports teams.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on the NFL on Wednesday to follow the NBA's lead and crack down on racism by forcing the Washington Redskins to change a name considered racially offensive by many. A day after the National Basketball Association imposed a lifetime ban on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling for bigoted remarks, Reid called on the NFL to make Redskins owner Daniel Snyder relent to decades of criticism and come up with a new team moniker.
The Washington Redskins name is a racist relic that has no place in today's multi-cultural NFL and must be changed, the leader of the US Senate said Wednesday. The American football team in the US capital has faced a backlash for decades, particularly from Native American groups that see the name as a racial slur, but the prickly issue of racism in US sports is back in the spotlight after the NBA banned the Los Angeles Clippers owner. Weighing in with the most forceful case against the Redskins name in years, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the NFL should take a leaf out of the National Basketball Association (NBA) playbook and confront racism head on.
The Seattle Seahawks officially signed safety Earl Thomas to a contract extension on Tuesday, reportedly making him the highest-paid NFL player at his position. The defensive star had a career-high 105 tackles, five interceptions and nine passes defended in 16 games last season, leading the Seahawks "Legion of Boom" defensive secondary in the team's run to a first Super Bowl title. Since he was selected by the Seahawks with the 14th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, Thomas has started 64 consecutive regular-season games and all seven of the Seahawks' post-season games.
Earl Morrall, who was arguably the greatest backup quarterback in NFL history, passed away on Friday, the Miami Dolphins said. Morrall came off the bench to start the final nine regular season games of the Dolphins' 1972 perfect season after starting quarterback Bob Griese got injured. Griese returned in the playoffs and led Miami to a Super Bowl victory.
By David DeKok HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach" is set to begin two years after his image was removed from Penn State University because of a child sex abuse scandal involving a long-time assistant coach. The Kickstarter.com campaign to raise $300,000 for a new sculpture of the late legendary coach that would be placed on private land in downtown State College, Pennsylvania, was set to begin on July 7, organizer Ted Sebastianelli, a Penn State alumnus, said on Thursday. Two years ago, on July 22, 2012, a statue of Paterno outside the football stadium on the State College campus was pulled down by the university after former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's conviction for sexually abusing boys.
(Reuters) - The Seattle Seahawks open the defense of their Super Bowl crown and kick off the 2014-15 season at home against the Green Bay Packers, the National Football League (NFL) announced on Wednesday. The September 4 league opener will mark the Packers' first visit back to CenturyLink Field since the infamous 'Fail Mary' game in 2012 when replacement officials bungled a touchdown call in the endzone that led to an unlikely Seattle win. "Kickoff Weekend" will also feature a Monday Night doubleheader with the Detroit Lions hosting the New York Giants and the San Diego Chargers traveling to Arizona to face the Cardinals.
By Joseph J. Kolb ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (Reuters) - A University of New Mexico football player has been arrested on suspicion of raping and kidnapping a fellow student, officials said on Tuesday. Crusoe Gongbay, 20, surrendered to university police on Monday and faces two counts of second-degree criminal sexual penetration and one count of kidnapping. He is being held on $50,000 bond, Lieutenant Tim Stump of the university police said. Head Football Coach Bob Davies suspended Gongbay, a 5-feet 11-inch (1.8-meter), 205-lb (93-kg) running back from Rockville, Maryland.
(Reuters) - A former U.S. Army Ranger who was in the same platoon as ex-NFL player Pat Tillman has stated in a television interview that he believes he might have fired the shots that killed Tillman in a 2004 friendly-fire incident in Afghanistan. Steven Elliott, 33, told ESPN program "Outside the Lines" in an interview scheduled to air on Sunday that he regrets joining other soldiers in firing on the spot where Tillman had taken position during a chaotic incident in a mountainous area. Tillman gave up a multimillion dollar career as a defensive back with the Arizona Cardinals football team to enlist in the military in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks and served in the U.S. Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, becoming one of the U.S. military's most high-profile service members.
A man in Florida has been charged with witness tampering and obstruction of justice in a gun-trafficking case linked to the murder trial of ex-National Football League star Aaron Hernandez, authorities said on Thursday. Oscar Hernandez, who is not related to former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, was arrested on Wednesday and will be brought to Massachusetts to face the charges, the U.S. attorney's office in Boston said in a statement. Aaron Hernandez has been in jail since June on charges he and two associates fatally shot semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd near his home in North Attleboro, Massachusetts. Authorities investigating Lloyd's murder found three guns that they determined were bought in Florida in April 2013.
By David Beasley ATLANTA (Reuters) - Atlanta has landed a Major League Soccer expansion team that will play beginning in 2017 in the city's new open-air stadium downtown, officials announced on Wednesday. Arthur Blank, owner of the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons team and a co-founder of Home Depot Inc. purchased the new franchise, which will be the league's 22nd team, he told reporters. "This is an exciting day for Atlanta," Blank said. It's been a dream of ours." The Georgia Dome, Atlanta's current downtown football stadium, is scheduled to be torn down and replaced in 2017 with a $1 billion open-air facility with a retractable roof.
San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has been detained at a Los Angles airport after he allegedly told police he had a bomb, the US media reported. Police said in a statement Sunday that Smith was "being uncooperative with security personnel and stating he had a bomb." The 24-year-old was apparently then transported to the booking area of the airport, the San Jose Mercury News reported. The Mercury News said Smith was going through security screening when he was randomly chosen for a more thorough search which caused him to become "belligerent" with the airport officials.