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Monday’s Morning Mashup: John Cena proposes to Nikki Bella during Wrestlemania 33; Grayson Allen ‘Why you trippin?’ t-shirt company facing legal trouble

04.03.17 at 8:43 am ET
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Good morning! Here is your Monday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

MONDAY’S BROADCAST HIGHLIGHTS: 
MLB: Atlanta at NY Mets, 1:10 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB: Pittsburgh at Boston, 2:05 p.m. (NESN)
MLB: San Diego at LA Dodgers, 4:10 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB: Cleveland at Texas, 7:05 p.m. (ESPN)
MLB: LA Angels at Oakland, 10:05 p.m. (ESPN2)
NHL: Toronto at Buffalo, 7 p.m. (NHL Network)
College basketball: Gonzaga vs. North Carolina, 9:20 p.m. (CBS)

AROUND THE WEB: 

— John Cena popped the question to longtime girlfriend and fellow WWE star Nikki Bella Sunday night during WrestleMania 33.

The native of West Newbury got down on one knee and presented Bella with a ring in the ring after the two defeated The Miz and his wife, Maryse.  

“I have been waiting so long to ask you this,” Cena said. “Stephanie Nicole Garcia-Colace, will you marry me?”

She said yes. 

Cena thanked WWE on Twitter for helping him pull off the proposal. 

This will be the second marriage for both Cena and Bella. Both were married to and divorced their respective high school sweethearts.

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Read More: Grayson Allen, John Cena,

Nothing wrong with Rob Gronkowski’s WrestleMania cameo

04.02.17 at 8:25 pm ET
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Four months after undergoing back surgery, Rob Gronkowski ran roughly 20 feet and delivered a shoulder block. When phrased like that, his appearance at WWE’s WrestleMania Sunday doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Gronkowski, who was seated ringside for the event at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, interfered during a match on behalf of his real-life friend, WWE wrestler Mojo Rawley.

Given Gronkowski’s injury history –– nine surgeries and three back operations since 2009 –– it’s tempting to chastise him for stepping into the squared circle. His rehab from a forearm injury was stalled in 2013 after he body-slammed a friend on the stage of a Las Vegas nightclub. Gronkowski didn’t return until Week 7, and then missed the postseason with a torn ACL.

But these two situations are different. The night club incident took place in February, less than one month after he reinjured his forearm during a Divisional Round bout with the Texans. This time around, Gronkowski underwent back surgery in early December, meaning he’s had several months to recover.

Most importantly, though, Gronkowski didn’t appear to exert all that much energy Sunday. He ran across the ring, threw out his shoulder and then performed a couple of stomps. Running two miles would likely be more physically strenuous.

Of course, there’s a chance Gronkowski could’ve gotten hurt. But according to that logic, players shouldn’t be allowed to partake in any non-football related athletic activities over the offseason. The line between what’s acceptable and unacceptable appears to be arbitrary. For example, it’s unlikely anybody would be in a tizzy if Gronkowski was spotted playing pickup basketball, even though former Yankees third baseman Aaron Boone suffered a season-ending knee injury on the hardwood 14 years ago.

The video of Tom Brady wiping out on a ski jump earlier this year is far more alarming than Gronkowski’s WrestleMania cameo. If anything, it’s encouraging to see him move so well.

Read More: New England Patriots, rob gronkowski, WWE,

How HBO ruined the UConn women’s basketball team’s historic streak for me

04.01.17 at 10:20 am ET
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Geno Auriemma (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Geno Auriemma (Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports)

Aren’t so many things usually defined by gut reactions, the kind that don’t have time to be measured or thought out?

When I found out the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team’s historic 111-game win streak had been brought to an end by Mississippi State (who had the Bulldogs in the pool?) my first thought was, “Good!” (For details of the loss, click here.)

That’s too bad. We should want to appreciate historic accomplishments.

But here’s the thing: I can’t get past those the images of Geno Auriemma offering tours of his wine cellar, hitting golf balls, and insinuating to the HBO audience he had uncovered the secrets to winning basketball games and living life. And that is totally unfair.

I don’t know Auriemma at all. I know Jackie MacMullan, and she seemed to like him when penning the coach’s autobiography. His players, both past and present, don’t appear to have a problem with him. But, once again, the usually fascinating behind-the-scenes construct HBO rolled out has made me really root against its featured team.

UConn: The March to Madness 2017 Episodic #2

Rex Ryan. Joe Philbin. Marvin Lewis. Mike Smith. Jeff Fisher. And now Auriemma.

The series “The March to Madness” following around the Huskies this season did exactly what every “Hard Knocks” accomplished, put those running these teams in an awkward light.

The series actually made me like the UConn players. It personalized them and did help chip away at the perception it was Geno and the Robots. But as gracious as Auriemma was after the loss, the perception had already been cemented.

I just couldn’t get by my feeling throughout the weekly television series that HBO was allowing one big Geno Auriemma ego stroke. That didn’t sit well, all the way until that final shot by the Bulldogs.

It’s not fair. It’s probably not a popular opinion on a day we should be appreciating UConn’s mind-blowing win streak. But it’s also the world we live in, one where are perceptions are often defined on heavily-produced television shows and 140 characters.

Oh well.

Marty Walsh wants to meet with SNL’s Michael Che about his experiences with racism in Boston

03.31.17 at 3:40 pm ET
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Mayor Marty Walsh says he wants to speak with SNL cast member Michael Che about his experiences in Boston. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Network)

Mayor Marty Walsh says he wants to speak with SNL cast member Michael Che about his experiences in Boston. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Network)

Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” anchor Michael Che keeps saying Boston is the most racist city he’s ever been to. His remarks have apparently earned him a meeting with the mayor.

In an interview Friday on Boston Public Radio, Mayor Marty Walsh said he wants to sit down with the comedian to talk about his experiences in the city.

“Clearly it is something that is still inside of him and still bothers him or he wouldn’t have made that statement,” he said.

In a skit earlier this year, Che called the Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl matchup a battle between “the blackest city in America” and “the most racist city.” He doubled-down on those remarks during an appearance last week at Boston University.

Walsh said his administration has tried to get in touch with Che to further discuss his grievances.

“He’s clearly had some bad experiences in this city, in this state, because I think it’s more than Boston,” he said. “But, hopefully, I’d love to sit down and talk to him about it and express what we’ve done in the city and the things that we’ve done over the last three years with the race dialogues and diversity office. That won’t erase his experience but what it will do is help us understand better.”

Read More: Marty Walsh,

Red Sox seem to be copying Donald Trump’s ‘fake news’ approach to media relations

03.31.17 at 3:18 pm ET
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John Farrell denied this week the Red Sox's shoulder program was a factor in Tyler Thornburg's DL stint, even though he once said otherwise. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

John Farrell denied this week the Red Sox’s shoulder program was a factor in Tyler Thornburg’s DL stint, even though he once said otherwise. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

When Donald Trump wants to discredit the media, he’ll often reprimand outlets for reporting his words verbatim, claiming he never said what he did. The latest example of this phenomenon came last week, when he told Time Magazine his tweets about President Barack Obama wiretapping him weren’t meant to be taken literally.

As the 2017 season nears, it seems as if the Red Sox are developing a similar approach to media relations.

Earlier this month, reliever Tyler Thornburg told WEEI.com and the Boston Herald the team’s strenuous shoulder program played a role in his shoulder injury. After two Spring Training outings, he was shut down so he could acclimate himself to the regimen.

“Once we started working those muscles in the back that in depth and that much they really started to tire,” he said March 11. “I was doing a shoulder program on a certain day and all of a sudden I would pitch in the game and they would already be fatigued. It was one of those things where we decided to shut it down and let them relax as well as strengthen it at the same time. It was really hard to do it all at the same time. It’s a lot more than I was used to, for sure.”

When Thornburg was placed on the disabled list this week, he brought up the shoulder program again.

“If anything, it might have fatigued my arm a little bit before the first outing,” he said, via the Herald. “Or it possibly could’ve pointed out some weaknesses in my shoulder or something that wasn’t working properly. That’s all stuff we were figuring out in the last couple days.”

That sounds pretty cut-and-dried, apparently except to the Red Sox. They deny Thornburg ever mentioned the shoulder program. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday it was never part of the conversation.

“I’m not getting into that particular. It’s not the throwing program, OK? I wish you would just lay off of that, OK? We talked about that part of it,” he said, via the Herald.

Dombrowski lashed out when he was told Thornburg was the person who had originally mentioned it.

“No, it’s you pushing it,” he said.

Manager John Farrell, who also referenced the shoulder program March 10 when asked about Thornburg’s status, essentially called the reports fake news.

“There’s a lot been written targeting our shoulder program here,” he said. “I would discount that completely. He came into camp, he was throwing the ball extremely well, makes two appearances. They were two lengthy innings in which the inflammation flared up to the point of shutting him down. But in the early work in spring training, he was throwing the ball outstanding. So to suggest that his situation or his symptoms now are the result of our shoulder program, that’s false.”

As Trump has shown, if you repeat a lie often enough, your followers are likely going to believe it. A recent poll shows 74 percent of Republicans believe he was wiretapped, even though FBI Director James Comey says that wasn’t the case. A February poll from Politico found that 25 percent of voters believe Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about widespread voter fraud as well.

Despite lying 69 percent of the time, Trump was able to ascend to the presidency. His success in the political arena shows truthfulness may not be all that important when it comes to public perception. It wouldn’t be surprising to see sports teams, which are private businesses and have no obligation to be transparent with the press, copy some of those tactics.

Instead of acknowledging reality, the Trump administration habitually presents “alternative facts.” The Red Sox followed a similar blueprint with Thornburg this week, denying the words that came out of his mouth.

Presidents affect culture in addition to policy. This week, the phrase “fake news” carried down from the White House all the way to Fort Myers. Maybe it will make its way to Fenway Park this season as well.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Dave Dombrowski, Donald Trump, john farrell

Thinking out Loud: Don’t expect Ed Cooley to leave Providence

03.31.17 at 3:01 pm ET
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Rooke_JohnThinking out loud…while wondering what kind of fools are April Fools?

— Kevin McNamara wrote about it in the Providence Journal this week – Ed Cooley’s name being thrown around like a rag doll in a play pen amongst college basketball program openings. Two words – “ain’t happening.”

— And two more. Just sayin’.

— Here’s one of the reasons why, unbeknownst to fretting Friar fans or the URI trolls who have tried to call me out on Twitter for being “biased.” Ha. Like they’re not? There’s been a long-held, unwritten rule in the Big East since the early days of the league under Dave Gavitt – coaches don’t jump ship within the conference.

— I had this conversation with Dave years ago – one of the basic tenets of the conference had to be loyalty to your school, sure. But also, loyalty to the league was important during its initial growth period.

— Gavitt wouldn’t allow coaches to entertain the thought of moving to a neighbor or a rival school, feeling a change like that could stir up too much emotion, bad blood, back-fighting and ill will. Rick Barnes had a possible chance, years ago, to pull a switch like this. Gavitt blocked it.

— Yes, I realize Gavitt isn’t around any longer to police these things. But the result of his wisdom and foresight is still in play today. It’s why you see (and feel) some of the comradery that still exists today among Big East membership – outside of the rock ‘em, sock ‘em conference games of course.

— Those are still wars, as hard-fought as any basketball seen over the past 35 years. But the programs pull for and support each other outside of league play as well as any conference possibly can. It’s one of the secret ingredients in Big East success through the years – collegiality.

— That’s a long, lost art in intercollegiate athletics. Conferences today are merely over-stuffed, media-driven conglomerates. True collegiality has long since disappeared. College athletics should try it again. Dave Gavitt proved it could actually work.

— Oh, and another reason why Ed Cooley wouldn’t appear on Georgetown’s front door step – loyalty. Not just loyalty to his family in Providence, or to his employers at PC, but also to his friends in the business. He’s fiercely loyal to his friends in the business. He considers ousted coach John Thompson III a friend; therefore, he simply wouldn’t step into a job vacated by a friend.

— And for those cynics already thinking “sure he would, if the money were too good to pass up?” You don’t know Ed Cooley. Now, he did tell the Journal this week that you never say “never,” citing family as one overriding issue, but Cooley-to-Georgetown is about as close to “never” as I am to winning the lottery, buying an island and disappearing from public view.

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NFL teams reportedly don’t want to sign Colin Kaepernick because of his vegan diet

03.31.17 at 1:01 pm ET
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Colin Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers prior to the start of free agency. (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

Colin Kaepernick donated $1 million to community organizations last year. (Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

NFL teams continue to come up with reasons to explain Colin Kaepernick’s prolonged unemployment. The latest excuse is the wackiest of all.

According to CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco, clubs are leery of bringing Kaepernick aboard because of his vegan diet. The quarterback’s weight was down at the beginning of last season, but he’s reportedly back to his full weight now. Given that information, it appears as if this is a convenient cover for organizations that may be concerned about being accused of collusion. Last offseason, a number of teams, including the Broncos, were reportedly looking into acquiring Kaepernick. But now, after he kneeled during the national anthem, the interest doesn’t appear to be there. It’s easy to connect the dots, especially considering Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman’s story from earlier this month that says 70 percent of NFL teams “genuinely hate” Kaepernick because of his protest.

Kaepernick is flawed as a quarterback. He only completed 59.2 percent of his passes in 2016 and went 1-10 in his starts. But he also played well down the stretch, posting a quarterback rating north of 100 over the final month of the season. If Kaepernick wasn’t a divisive figure, he likely would have found a job already.

As Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann notes, it would be difficult for Kaepernick to actually prove collusion against him occurred. He would have to produce hard evidence, either in the form of written communication –– such as an email or memo –– or admittance from a league official.

While it’s unlikely there’s a coordinated effort between multiple teams to keep Kaepernick from playing in the NFL, it seems as if he’s been blackballed to an extent. He played better last season than he did in 2015, but yet, teams that once pursued him are now backing off.

The story about Kaepernick’s veganism is the latest curious report about him to emerge from NFL circles. Last week, ESPN’s Dan Graziano said the former 49ers QB seeking $9 or $10 million per season, which would price him out of nearly every potential backup job. But a source told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio the story is bogus.

It’s apparent teams are refusing to sign Kaepernick, because they don’t think he’s worth the backlash. Blaming his diet or contractual demands seem to be nothing more than cheap excuses.

Read More: Colin Kaepernick,

Friday’s Morning Mashup: Penn State trustee ‘running out of sympathy’ for ‘so-called’ abuse victims; Geno Auriemma: ‘Not as many women want to coach’

03.31.17 at 9:32 am ET
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Good morning! Here is your Friday Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our WEEI.com home page or click here for the top stories and scores from our news wire.

FRIDAY’S MORNING MASHUP:
MLB: Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia, 1 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Boston at Washington, 4 p.m. (NESN Plus, WEEI-AM 850)
MLB: NY Yankees at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m. (MLB Network)
NBA: Orlando at Boston, 7:30 p.m. (CSN)
NBA: San Antonio at Oklahoma City, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Houston at Golden State, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
NHL: US vs. Canada, 7:30 p.m. (NHL Network)

AROUND THE WEB:

— In an email sent on Saturday to “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” Penn State trustee Albert L. Lord said he “is running out of sympathy” for the “so-called” victims of sexual abuse at the hands of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

Lord also defended former Penn State president Graham Spanier in the email. Spanier was convicted last week of one count of child endangerment for his mishandling of complaints against Sandusky. He was found not guilty of conspiracy and a second count of child endangerment. He has stated he was never informed of Sandusky’s abuse.

“Running out of sympathy for 35 yr old, so-called victims with 7 digit net worth,” Lord wrote in the email. “Do not understand why they were so prominent in trial. As you learned, Graham Spanier never knew Sandusky abused anyone.”

“Al Lord’s comments are personal and do not represent the opinions of the board or the university,” Ira M. Lubert, the chairman of Penn State’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “The sentiments of the board and university leadership were expressed in the very first line of the statement released by Penn State: First and foremost, our thoughts remain with the victims of Jerry Sandusky.”

Lord, an alumni-elected trustee member, is a former CEO of Sallie Mae and is currently seeking re-election to the board of trustees. The election will conclude on May 4.

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Read More: Geno Auriemma, Penn State,

Report: Few ESPN on-air personalities will be safe during upcoming layoffs

03.31.17 at 9:06 am ET
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ESPN has been hemorrhaging subscribers in recent years. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

ESPN has been hemorrhaging subscribers in recent years. (Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

ESPN is reportedly going to undergo massive layoffs this year. And according to one of the most prominent media reporters in the business, few on-air personalities are safe.

In an appearance on Sports Illustrated’s media podcast with Richard Deitsch, James Andrew Miller, who authored “Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN,” said the network will likely cut 40-50 employees in order to trim tens of millions of dollars from its payroll. He then mapped out what he thinks will be ESPN’s new weekday lineup, including a re-airing of Neil Everett and Stan Verrett’s west coast “SportsCenter” at 6:00 a.m. EST followed by a variety show with Mike Greenberg from 7-10 a.m. Miller said he expects Bomani Jones and Pablo Torres to get their own program as well.

Under this scenario, Miller says “First Take,” “SC6 with Jemele Hill and Michael Smith” and the station’s block of afternoon shows will stay in place. He also expects Scott Van Pelt’s solo “SportsCenter” to still air at midnight following live sports coverage.

“If you’re ESPN talent and you’re looking at a schedule that’s something like that, based on the commitments they’ve made, if you’re not on that, then you’re starting to feel a little shaky,” Miller said. “That’s not to say everyone else is gone, but I think those are the people that should take a deep breath, and those are the people that should feel immune.”

Deitsch, citing his own sources at ESPN, said “SportsCenter” anchors who haven’t been pegged as faces of the franchise –– such as Van Pelt, Everett and Verrett –– should start figuring out where they stand in the station’s hierarchy.

“If you are part of the SportsCenter unit right now but not one of the special talents where management has tapped on the shoulder and given the golden ticket, if I were one of those people I would be talking to my agent and my representation about how management thinks of me,” he said.

One notable ESPN personality who could be on his way out is anchor John Buccigross, whose contract expires later this year. The 20-year network veteran told Sporting News recently he wants to stay at the WorldWide Leader, but is realistic about the current business climate. Disney, ESPN’s parent company, reported lower-than-anticipated first quarter earnings last month –– partially due to the network’s decreased revenue base. ESPN has lost roughly 12 million subscribers since 2011.

With ESPN now paying $3.3 billion annually to broadcast the NFL and NBA alone, it looks like the network is going to have to prioritize retaining big-ticketed sports rights over keeping some of its most prominent personalities. The days of being able to do both appear to be over.

Read More: ESPN,

Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee took his surname after Odin Lloyd killing

03.30.17 at 2:10 pm ET
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Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez (right) testified against Aaron Hernandez Thursday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez (right) testified against Aaron Hernandez Thursday. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Aaron Hernandez’s fiancee took the stand Thursday in his double murder trial. Perhaps the most surprising revelation from her testimony wasn’t anything she said, but rather what she now calls herself.

Shayanna Jenkins Hernandez says she took on her childhood sweetheart’s surname in 2015, one year after he was convicted of first-degree murder for killing his friend and former semi-professional football player, Odin Lloyd. It was the first time she used Hernandez’s last name in a criminal court.

The prosecution peppered Jenkins Hernandez with questions about a call she received from Hernandez at 2:37 a.m. on July 16, 2012, minutes after the former Patriots tight end allegedly killed Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado in a drive-by shooting. Much to Suffolk First Assistant District Attorney Patrick Haggan’s apparent frustration, Jenkins Hernandez claimed she doesn’t remember what she discussed with Hernandez after the 2012 slayings or after he shot his confidante, Alexander Bradley, in the eye in 2013.

Bradley, who testified against Hernandez last week, said the ex-football standout fired a gun at the two victims after Abreu spilled a drink on him at a nightclub. In February 2013, Hernandez shot Bradley in Florida in an apparent effort to silence him.

Jenkins Hernandez said she learned about the Bradley shooting “from another source,” while claiming ignorance about the evening of the double murder. She said Hernandez and Bradley would frequently go out to bars while she stayed home.

This is the second time she’s testified against Hernandez, as she also took the stand in the Lloyd trial. Hernandez is currently serving a life sentence for his conviction in that case.