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June 27, 2016

Saints Secondary Hit With Injuries Before Training Camp

By bryanflynn

If the New Orleans Saints are going to fix a historically bad defense, they will need to stay healthy. That was one of the many reasons the Saints struggled in pass defense last season.

New Orleans saw safety Jairus Byrd, cornerback Damian Swann, cornerback Keenan Lewis, cornerback P.J. Williams and others miss time because of injuries. Add the injuries to lack of a pass rushing, and it is easy to see why the Saints were so dreadful on defense.

How dreadful was the 2015 New Orleans defense?

The unit ranked 31st in pass defense and total defense, and tied for 25th in sacks. New Orleans was also tied for 26th in interceptions with just nine.

No matter what the issues were with the Saints defense, former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan got the ax during the season. New Orleans promoted Dennis Allen as the new defensive coordinator for the final six games.

Allen is now the full-time defensive coordinator, and it will be his job to get this defense off the bottom of the statistical categories. It would be easier for him to do that if his secondary can stay healthy this season.

That already looks like a challenge.

Byrd is going to be limited until training camp as he recovers from a torn meniscus that has plagued him since his first season in New Orleans. Swann is back on the field but suffered three concussions during his rookie season.

Williams is coming back from a hamstring tear that ended his 2015 season. Lewis spent most of last season injured before a sports hernia shut him down completely late in the season.

The injuries to Swann and Williams ended their rookie seasons early.

New Orleans added safeties Erik Harris and Roman Harper, and drafted Von Bell. Those players, along with Kenny Vaccaro and a hopefully healthy Byrd, will make the Saints deep at safety.

Some of that depth was lost when Jamarca Sanford went on the injured reserve. Sanford has been with the Saints since 2014 and recently re-signed with the club.

Cornerback depth took a hit after the Saints put Kyle Wilson on injured reserve due to a torn labrum in his shoulder. New Orleans now has to hope that Lewis, Williams and Swan will stay healthy and that Delvin Breaux will continue his rise as a top cornerback.

New Orleans signed defensive tackle Lawrence Virgil after the injury to Sanford and defensive tackle C.J. Wilson to take over Kyle Wilson’s spot.

The Saints might also be looking for a new training camp spot. New Orleans was set to return to the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia until flooding closed it down.

The PGA has already cancelled the Greenbrier Classic because of the flooding. The Saints are set to start training camp on July 27, and the team is monitoring the situation.

This team can’t afford to have injuries in training camp this offseason or ...

June 27, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Texas' Anti-Abortion Laws; Mississippi Leaders Respond

By adreher

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Texas’ admitting privileges and surgical-center requirement anti-abortion laws by a vote of 5-3 today. The court found both laws unconstitutional because they do place “undue burden” on women seeking abortion access in the state.

"The record contains sufficient evidence that the admitting-privileges requirement led to the closure of half of Texas’ clinics, or thereabouts," the majority opinion says. "Those closures meant fewer doctors, longer waiting times, and increased crowding. Record evidence also supports the finding that after the admitting-privileges provision went into effect, the 'number of women of reproductive age living in a county . . . more than 150 miles from a provider...'"

In her concurring opinion Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, "When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners, faute de mieux, at great risk to their health and safety."

In his dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas criticized the court for tinkering with levels of scrutiny in their ruling.

"If our recent cases illustrate anything, it is how easily the Court tinkers with levels of scrutiny to achieve its desired result," he wrote. "This Term, it is easier for a State to survive strict scrutiny despite discriminating on the basis of race in college admissions than it is for the same State to regulate how abortion doctors and clinics operate under the putatively less stringent undue-burden test."

Mississippi's admitting privileges law, which is still tied up in the Supreme Court could be affected by the ruling. The Center for Reproductive Rights said in a press release that similar laws in Mississippi and Louisiana will be found 'likely unconstitutional.'

"Today’s ruling is entirely consistent with lower court rulings in challenges to similar laws in Mississippi and Louisiana which found the measures likely unconstitutional," the press release states. "The clinics in those states will remain open while the litigation continues."

Mississippi state leaders, who supported a Planned Parenthood Medicaid defunding law this session, voiced their outcry to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision.

"I am disappointed in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today," Gov. Phil Bryant said on Twitter. "This measure is designed to protect the health and safety of women who undergo this potentially dangerous procedure, and physicians who provide abortions should be held to the same standards as physicians who perform other outpatient procedures."

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn agreed with the governor's remarks.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today endangers the lives of women and their unborn children in Mississippi and all across America,” Reeves said in a statement. “States should have the ability to protect their citizens through proper regulation of medical care.”

"I'm disappointed with the decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court," said Gunn in a statement. "The legislation struck down today is designed to protect women and their unborn children. For those of us who believe in the sanctity of human life, this ruling is a major setback."

...

June 24, 2016

Plenty of Underdogs to Root for in Euro’s Knockout stage

By bryanflynn

It is a tale of two vastly different brackets in the UEFA Euro 2016 knockout stage. One side is stacked with historic European soccer powers, and the other side has a mix of powers who haven’t broken through and upstart teams.

The bottom half of the bracket features teams that have won 21 major titles. It features nations with 11 World Cups and 10 European Championships. The other half of the bracket features teams with zero major titles.

That would be like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots being on one side of the playoffs and the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars and Houston Texans being on the other side.

If you are a neutral fan, there are plenty of underdogs to root for left in the tournament.

The biggest underdog will be Iceland against England. The smallest nation to ever qualify for this tournament is the feel-good story.

Iceland’s last-second goal against Austria has thus far been one of memorable moments of the tournament. About 8 percent of the 330,000 population of Iceland has bought tickets for this event.

Just making the second round is a major accomplishment, but beating England would be even bigger. While England will be rooting for the Three Lions, the rest of them will be backing the Ice Men.

Host nation France also plays an underdog as it takes on Ireland in the next round. The Irish beat Italy on a late goal, sending them into the second round.

Italy also sat several important players, having advanced to the next stage. Ireland’s win over Italy reminded fans of their upset win over the Azzurri in the 1994 World Cup.

Last time these two teams played in a non-friendly saw France advance to the World Cup after a handball goal in Dublin from Thierry Henry gave Les Bleus a 2-1 in a playoff. Ireland would love revenge on French soil.

Slovakia was the top third-place team to advance, and for their accomplishment, they get Germany. It would be a great win for Slovakia to beat World Champion Germany. Both teams have struggled at times, but the Germans are the stronger side.

The last matchup in the bottom of the bracket is between two soccer heavyweights. Italy against Spain will be like getting a championship game-caliber match in the second round. These two teams have met 34 previous times with both sides earning 10 wins and 14 draws. One team will get the upper hand after this match.

One underdog is going to advance. That is because Northern Ireland plays Wales in the second round.

Gareth Bale provides Wales with the star power, but Northern Ireland has defended well and advanced as a third-place team with 1-0 losses to Poland and Germany. Wales won a group that also included England, Russia and Slovakia.

Croatia against Portugal is an interesting match in the second round. Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo has ...

June 23, 2016

Mississippi Players in the CFL

By bryanflynn

If you are missing football and wishing for NFL training camps to open, there is something you can do for your football fix. The Canadian Football League will be on ESPN networks the next three nights.

Two of those three games feature players with ties to Mississippi.

Tonight, June 23, at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN News, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats hit the road to take on the Toronto Argonauts. The Tiger-Cats have former University of Mississippi player Jeremiah Masoli as their starting quarterback. This is also the opening of the 2016 Canadian Football League season.

The Montreal Alouettes take on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Friday, June 24, at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2, but neither team features a player from Mississippi. The Blue Bombers have held a tryout in Jackson the last two years, though.

On Saturday night, the British Columbia Lions host the Calgary Stampeders at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. The Lions have former Alcorn State University wide receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux, and the Stampeders have former University of Southern Mississippi running back Tory Harrison.

Those aren’t the only players with Mississippi ties on CFL rosters.

The Tiger-Cats have former University of Mississippi defensive tackle Ted Laurent. Currently, Laurent is on the British Columbia one-game injury list. He is a national player since he was born in Montreal, Quebec. Players born outside of Canada are listed as international players.

Former Jackson State University defensive back Marcell Young is an Edmonton Eskimos defensive player. He also played at Hinds Community College before heading to JSU to finish his college career.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders signed former Mississippi State University defensive back Justin Cox this spring. He not only played at MSU but also at East Mississippi Community College.

Joining Cox on the Roughriders is former Pearl River Community College defensive back Johnnie Dixon. He also signed with Saskatchewan with spring.

The CFL offers a chance for players who don’t latch on with an NFL team to continue their football careers. Some players head north if they don’t sign an undrafted free agent contract with an NFL team.

However, playing in the CFL doesn’t mean an athlete won’t get a shot at the NFL. There have been several players who have made an impact on the league who NFL teams signed out of the CFL.

It would seem unlikely that any of the players on this list will sign with the NFL. Most are in their late 20s, except for former MSU player Cox who is 23 years old, and the NFL has trended in the direction of younger players in recent years.

June 23, 2016

Supreme Court Upholds Race-Aware Admissions

By Todd Stauffer

In a 4-3 vote today the Supreme Court upheld the University of Texas' admissions policy that takes into account the race or ethnicity of applicants who aren't automatically admitted under the school's "10 Percent" rule. (The top percentage of all Texas high school graduates are automatically qualified for admittance; it's not always 10 percent, but that's that's the name it's given.)

The case was brought by Abigail Fischer a white woman who claimed that, although she wasn't in the top 10 percent of her college class, she was denied admissions because she is white. She has since graduated from Louisiana State University.

Read more here.

June 22, 2016

Watermelon Classic Turns 20 Years Old

By bryanflynn

The Farm Bureau Watermelon Classic has become a Fourth of July tradition. For the last 20 years, Jacksonians have spent their mornings running the 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) race before setting off fireworks and lighting the grill.

There have been as many as 1,800 runners in past events, and this year, race officials expect 1,500 runners to take part in the fundraiser for the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

While the 5K run is the main event this Independence Day, participants can also walk the 5K or enjoy a one-mile fitness/fun run for all ages or the Tot Trot for children under 3 years of age.

Registration for the event is now open, and there is a week to register before the prices go up on June 30. Currently, the cost is $25 to run or walk in the 5K race, and the mile run is $15.

After June 29, the price for the 5K run/walk goes up to $30, and the mile run goes up to $20 until registration ends on July 3 for individuals and July 2 for teams. The Tot Trot, which follows the 5K race, requires no registration and is free.

There is no registration on race day. Race packets will be available for pick up starting on June 29, and race officials encourage participants to pick the packets up before race day.

The race starts at the intersection of Lakeland Drive and the Interstate 55 Frontage Road to Eastover Drive and then moves on to Ridgewood Drive and Lakeland Drive before the finish line at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. Strollers are allowed but must stay in the back of the pack. No pets or roller blades are allowed.

There are three water stations on the race route. The top three overall runners—Master, Grand Master and Senior Master—will receive cash prizes. Last year’s overall winners were Joseph Chebet and Kristi Hall.

The 5K race begins at 7:30 a.m., and the mile run begins at 8:50 a.m. Fresh watermelon will be awaiting all the runners at the finish line.

Runners can also wear costumes for the race, with race participants voting on who will receive the prize for best costume. To win, the runner must wear the costume during the race.

Former “world’s fastest man” and two-time Olympic medal winner Calvin Smith, will serve as the race’s official starter for the second year in a row.

For more information, call 601-982-8264 or visit the registration page.

June 21, 2016

Verbatim: Settlement Ends “Debtors’ Prison” System in Jackson, Mississippi

By Tim Summers Jr.

JACKSON, Miss. – The landmark settlement of a federal class action against the City of Jackson, Mississippi, has brought an end to that city’s self-described “pay or stay” system alleged to have sent hundreds of people to jail each year because they could not pay fines and fees in misdemeanor cases.

The City has agreed to give indigent defendants the choice of paying off their fines at the rate of $25 per month or performing community service and receiving credit toward their unpaid fines at the rate of $9 per hour.

In addition, Jackson no longer will require people arrested for misdemeanors to post a money bond in order to avoid pre-trial detention. Rather than releasing only those people who can afford to pay a bond and detaining those people who – although presumptively innocent – are too poor to pay their way out of jail, the city will release all people arrested for misdemeanors upon their written promise to appear in court on a specified date for a trial or other hearing. As an alternative to money bond, the city’s judges will have the option to place non-monetary pre-trial conditions on people arrested for misdemeanor offenses. For example, a judge might order a person accused of shoplifting to stay away from the location of the alleged misdemeanor until after the resolution of that person’s case.

The agreement is part of a settlement reached in the lawsuit filed by Equal Justice Under Law, a non-profit civil rights organization in Washington, D.C., and the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law. The case was filed on behalf of seven Jackson residents who were ordered to jail by Jackson municipal judges for periods ranging from 26-90 days due to their inability to pay court debts imposed in misdemeanor cases.

The lawsuit challenged Jackson’s practice of sending impoverished people to jail when they failed to pay their court debts without regard for whether they actually had the financial ability to pay. Persons sent to jail under this system received credit toward their unpaid debts at a rate of $25 per day of incarceration at the Hinds County Jail, or $58 per day if they participated in the mandatory work program at the Hinds County Penal Farm.

As a result of this practice, some people spent several months in jail while working off their debts.

The lawsuit alleged that this practice was carried out for more than a decade and resulted in the incarceration of hundreds of indigent defendants each year.

U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee of the Southern District of Mississippi entered a declaratory judgment in Bell v. City of Jackson setting forth the limitations on incarcerating defendants for failure to pay fines. The judgment states: “It violates the Constitution to incarcerate an individual, either before or after trial, solely because an individual does not have the ability to make a monetary payment…. Based upon this constitutional principle, no individual may be held in jail ...

June 21, 2016

ESPN Doc on O.J. Worth Watching

By bryanflynn

Anytime there is a new ESPN “30 for 30” documentary, it is normally worth taking time to watch. But the latest entry, a five-part, almost-eight-hour-long series called “O.J.: Made In America” from director Ezra Edelman, might be the best documentary the network has done. If you haven’t watched “O.J.: Made In America,” don’t read any further, as this post contains spoilers.

Even 22 years after the murders of Nicole Brown-Simpson and Ron Goldman, this case still lives in infamy. The O.J. Simpson murder trial also brought up issues that we continue to struggle with as a society today, such as race and domestic violence.

Race and racism are where Edelman begins in parts one and two. He does a great job of showing the treatment of black people in Los Angeles as Simpson began his journey to fame on the gridiron and the Rodney King beating and trial spurred riots on the streets.

This look back at the rise and fall of Simpson provides some interesting tidbits in all five parts.

Simpson’s friend Joe Bell says the now infamous football player’s father was gay and tells how Simpson stole best friend Al Cowlings’ girlfriend, Marguerite Whitley. Simpson later married Whitley at age 19, and as the two stayed friends, Cowlings later drove the white bronco in the famous slow-speed chase.

Most of us at a certain age remember Simpson as the bumbling Nordberg from “The Naked Gun” film series, but in parts one and two of the documentary, you see the moves on the football field that made Simpson a Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Hall of Fame player.

One of the most interesting things in part one is that Simpson wanted nothing to do with the Civil Rights Movement. At one point, he told activist Harry Edwards, when approached about boycotting the 1968 Olympics, “I’m not black; I’m O.J.”

The documentary’s first episode touches on Simpson’s early struggles in Buffalo, as well as his first meeting with an 18-year-old Nicole, who was working at private L.A. nightclub The Daisy, and telling a friend that he would marry her.

The former NFL running back began dating Nicole while still married to Whitley.

Part two devotes some time to Simpson’s cheating on the golf course and his daughter drowning, but mainly, the focus is on his treatment of women. The documentary shows him as a womanizer and delves into how he mentally abused a pregnant Nicole by telling her his affairs were a result of her getting “fat.”

Domestic violence plays a major part in the second episode, as Simpson gets away with abuse because of his charm and celebrity. Even ESPN had a hand in the way the public viewed him.

In an ESPN show called “Sports Look,”host Roy Firestone makes excuses for Simpson’s 1988 attack on Nicole, who needed medical treatment as a result. Firestone was just one of the many people who made excuses for Simpson’s domestic violence. After one ...

June 21, 2016

U.S. District Judge Dismisses ACLU HB1523 Lawsuit

By adreher

U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves dismissed the ACLU's lawsuit that tried to dismantle House Bill 1523 before it becomes law next week. In his order, Reeves wrote that the ACLU's complaint did not satisfy the criteria for him to issue a preliminary injunction to block HB1523 from becoming law. Reeves wrote that the plaintiffs needed to prove that injury was "imminent" in order for a preliminary injunction to be considered. The plaintiffs, Nykolas Alford and Stephen Thomas are engaged to be married but do not plan to do so for a few years. Reeves said for a threat to be imminent, it "threatens to occur immediately."

"Alford and Thomas’s injury, if one exists, would arise when they apply for a marriage license. But they declare that they will apply for their license sometime within the next three years," Reeves wrote. "That is not imminent. The ACLU has the same problem. If a member of the ACLU intends to enter into a same-sex marriage in 2017, any injury is at least six months away."

Human Rights Campaign state director Rob Hill reiterated that HB1523 is dangerous and hateful legislation, in response to the order.

“H.B. 1523 represents the worst of Mississippi. If allowed to go into effect next week, it will lead to widespread discrimination against LGBTQ Mississippians at work, school and in family life. The business community -- including local and national companies and organizations such as Nissan, General Electric, the Mississippi Economic Council, the Mississippi Manufacturing Association and more -- has roundly condemned this dangerous bill," Hill said in a statement. "It will do harm to our community, our families and our economy and we must not allow it to stand. In the coming weeks, HRC will continue our ongoing efforts to ensure this bill is ultimately struck down or repealed.”

Judge Reeves will hold hearings for the two other lawsuits filed against House Bill 1523 together on Thursday this week. HB1523 will go into effect on July 1 if Reeves does not issue a preliminary injunction blocking it from becoming law.

June 20, 2016

Cavs' Win Cements LeBron's Legacy

By bryanflynn

The city of Cleveland had endured 52 years of sport agony. Sports defeats so gut-punching that they were given names, so most sports fans could recognize the moment of disappointment.

Red Right 88 was the play call that ended the Cleveland Browns' 1980-'81 season with an interception from the Oakland Raiders. The Drive was the Denver Broncos' 98-yard march to a win over the Browns in the 1986 AFC Championship Game.

The Fumble was the costly turnover from Browns running back Earnest Byner as the Broncos won the 1987 AFC Championship Game. But it wasn’t just football that broke Cleveland hearts.

Baseball moments include The Catch by Willie Mays in game one of the 1954 World Series between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians and Off Nagy’s Glove, a blown save from Indians closer Charles Nagy that gave the Atlanta Braves their only World Series win of the 1990s.

Basketball in Cleveland saw The Shot by Michael Jordan, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 1989 Eastern Conference Playoffs. The Shot ushered in the era of Jordan, as he victimized the Cavaliers including the 1993 Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Cleveland sports also suffered through The Move that saw the Browns move the Baltimore, Md. by owner Art Modell. The former Browns would become the Ravens and win two Super Bowls as the last Browns' title came in 1964 in the NFL Championship before the invention of the Super Bowl.

Of course there was also The Decision, when native son LeBron James left Cleveland for the Miami Heat. James won two titles with the Heat, as the Cavaliers became the worst franchise in the NBA after he left.

There were other moments in Cleveland history that didn’t earn names but left a mark—events like the 1994 MLB strike that ended one of the best Indians seasons in team history.

Even the NBA Finals last season saw the Cavaliers lose stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving before and during the finals. The Golden State Warriors ended up winning the NBA Championship.

Cleveland fans had to think that this finals would be just another moment of "almost," as the Cavaliers fell behind the Warriors 3-1 in the series. The Cavaliers got back in the series with Draymond Green being suspended in game five and a bit of a Warriors meltdown at the end of game six, as reigning MVP Steph Curry was ejected for the first time in his career.

Wins in game five and six allowed Cleveland to tie the series and force a game seven. Everything seemed in place for another sports moment that would rip the hearts out of Cleveland fans.

With the game tied 89-89 in the fourth quarter, every Cavaliers fan had to be thinking, "How would the sports gods gut-punch Cleveland?" But this time things were different, as what looked to be sure layup from Andre Iguodala turned into a game-changing block ...

June 17, 2016

Russian Track and Field Team Banned From Rio

By bryanflynn

The International Association of Athletics Federations announced today that the Russian track and field team will be banned from the Rio Olympics, which is a historic move from the organization and might finally turn the tide against doping.

The IAAF voted unanimously to ban the Russian team, but individual athletes will still have a way to reach Rio as neutral athletes. Russia was first suspended back in November when a report from the World Anti-Doping Agency alleged state-sponsored cheating.

Today’s move was to confirm that Russia hadn’t done enough to earn reinstatement. The country claimed to have cleaned up its testing program, but a report from WADA showed that Russia was still working to obstruct proper drug-testing and violations of drug-testing policies.

In the WADA report, it claimed that Russian athletes tried to evade testing from February and May. The report also claimed that one female athlete had a fake clean sample hidden “inside her body.”

Russia said it would appeal the decision to the International Olympic Committee. The IOC has scheduled a summit of sports leaders for Tuesday to look at the anti-doping responsibility of the Russian team as a whole but will still allow clean athletes to compete.

Legal challenges to the ban are on the way after the ruling. Two-time Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva told Russian news source TASS that she would file a suit in the Court of Human Rights on the grounds of discrimination.

Some of the cases from Russian athletes could be heard in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

There are grounds for Russian athletes to compete in the games. Those who have helped lead the fight against doping and athletes like whistleblower Yuliya Stepanova would get strong consideration to enter the games.

Other athletes who can show a strong case that they have been subject to rigorous testing and haven't been tainted by the Russian testing system could also be reinstated for the games. Athletes who entered the games couldn’t compete as Russian but as neutral athletes.

Many sport officials and athletes outside of Russia urged the IAAF to take a strong stance against the Russian team. The USA track and field team supported its ban.

The suspension of the Russian team might finally start to get athletes and the team to strongly consider the cost of doping to win major competitions. This is the strongest rebuke of athletes doping in any sports history.

The 2016 Olympics, or the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, are scheduled to begin on Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro.

June 16, 2016

Deuce McAllister Joins Saints Radio Team

By bryanflynn

The New Orleans Saints have had several popular players through the years. You could name ones such as Drew Brees, Archie Manning, Rickey Jackson, Pat Swilling, Sam Mills and a few others.

But no Saints fan would forget about Dulymus McAllister, better known as Deuce, one of the Saints' all-time most popular players.

Even before coming to New Orleans, McAllister was already a legend at the University of Mississippi, where he won the 1999 Conerly Trophy as the best college football player in the state of Mississippi.

As a Rebel he is the school’s all-time leading rusher with 3,060 yards with 41 touchdowns and all-purpose yards with 4,889.

New Orleans drafted Deuce with the 23rd overall pick in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft. McAllister went on to become the Saints' all-time career leader in rushing yards with 6,059 yards and rushing touchdowns with 49 before injuries forced him to call it quits.

As the Saints went on their lone Super Bowl run, McAllister was on the roster. When New Orleans defeated the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in Super Bowl XLIV, Deuce got a Super Bowl ring.

McAllister is now joining the Saints Radio Network as the new color analyst for the team broadcast in announcement from WWL 870-AM. The former running back is replacing Howard “Hokie” Gajan, who passed away from cancer this April.

Gajan was a former Louisiana State University football player who the Saints drafted in the 10th round of the 1981 NFL Draft. He played for New Orleans until 1985 and spent the last 15 years as the color analyst for the Saints.

While Gajan received chemotherapy, McAllister filled in for him in the booth during the final four games last season. McAllister was widely praised for his work and knowledge of the game during his short stint on the job.

Deuce joins a long line of former Saints players who have taken the color analyst job over the years such as Manning, Jim Taylor, Stan Brock, Danny Abramowicz, Steve Stonebreaker and Gajan.

McAllister will work with long-time play-by-play announcer Jim Henderson and sideline reporter Kristian Garic. He will make his official debut on Aug. 11 during the Saints' preseason game against the New England Patriots.

The former running back will also make appearances for WWL’s coverage during the Saints' training camp in July and August. It seems likely that Deuce will be just as loved in the booth as he was on the field.

June 15, 2016

TNT, ESPN Bring Sager to NBA Finals

By bryanflynn

Draymond Green’s suspension from game five of the NBA Finals not only helped the Cleveland Cavaliers extend the series, but it will also bring some extreme color to game six. In a deal between Turner Sports and ESPN, TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager will work the sidelines on the NBA Finals for the first time.

Sager, known for his outrageously colorful suits while reporting, thought he was done with the NBA this season after the Western Conference Finals, which TNT broadcasts. But ESPN reached out to Turner Sports about bringing on Sager, who had never worked a NBA Finals game in his long distinguished career.

The 64-year-old reporter needed the finals to reach game six if he was going to be able to work the sidelines. Sager is currently undergoing treatment for leukemia, and after the Western Conference Finals ended he underwent eight days of chemotherapy.

That left only game six as an option for him to work his first finals game. He will join ESPN’s normal sideline reporter, Doris Burke, during the broadcast. Also working game six will be play-by-play commentator Mike Breen and analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson.

Sager, diagnosed in 2014, missed 11 months of work while fighting leukemia and having a bone marrow transplant from his son before returning to TNT’s NBA coverage in March. He revealed in an interview with HBO in April that his cancer is no longer in remission.

In his 34-year career with Turner Sports, Sager has worked on NFL and college coverage for TNT and TBS, MLB Postseason coverage for TBS, Olympic coverage with NBC during the London Olympics, the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament, which CBS broadcasts and other sporting events during his career.

Sager just finished his 26th season as sideline reporter for TNT’s Thursday Night NBA double-headers. It is this role that Sager is probably best known for in his career, as he tried to glean any information out of NBA coaches while standing out in his colorful suits.

It is not unusual for networks to share on-air talent, as Sager has worked for NBC and done golf for CBS. ESPN is also honoring Sager during the 2016 ESPY Awards on July 13 with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award.

The award is named after former North Carolina State University basketball coach and ESPN analyst Jim Valvano, who is known for his “Don’t Give Up” speech. He gave the speech during in 1993, the first ESPY Awards, when he received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Valvano passed away eight weeks after giving his memorable speech.

Sager joins the likes of ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott, NFL player Devon Still and his daughter Leah Still, NBA coach George Karl and former college football player Eric LeGrand among others.

Game six could also see the Golden State Warriors win the NBA Championship if they can defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the Warriors can’t win in Cleveland, the series goes to ...

June 15, 2016

Southern Baptist Convention: 'Discontinue the Display of the Confederate Battle Flag'

By adreher

On Flag Day at its annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution that calls on all Southern Baptist churches and 'brothers and sisters in Christ' to not display the Confederate battle flag.

The convention passed a resolution that said, "we call our brothers and sisters in Christ to discontinue the display of the Confederate battle flag as a sign of solidarity of the whole Body of Christ, including our African-American brothers and sisters."

"We recognize that the Confederate battle flag is used by some and perceived by many as a symbol of hatred, bigotry, and racism, offending millions of people..." the resolution says. "We recognize that, while the removal of the Confederate battle flag from public display is not going to solve the most severe racial tensions that plague our nation and churches, those professing Christ are called to extend grace and put the consciences of others ahead of their own interests and actions."

Russell Moore, president of the convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and a native Mississippian, has spoken out against Mississippi's state flag previously and reiterated his stance in a blog post this week.

"As I’ve said before, the Cross and the Confederate flag cannot co-exist without one setting the other on fire," Moore wrote. "Today, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, including many white Anglo southerners, decided the cross was more important than the flag. They decided our African-American brothers and sisters are more important than family heritage. We decided that we are defined not by a Lost Cause but by amazing grace. Let’s pray for wisdom, work for justice, love our neighbors.

And let’s take down that flag."

June 14, 2016

Jackson City Council Approves Landmark LGBTQ-Inclusive Non-Discrimination, Hate Crimes Ordinance

By Donna Ladd

The Human Rights Campaign just released this verbatim statement:

JACKSON, Miss. -- Today, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Mississippi hailed the Jackson, Mississippi City Council for voting to advance city-wide non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, public accommodations and employment. Passed by a 7-0 vote, the measure also expands the city’s hate crimes statute to include tougher penalties for perpetrators who commit crimes motivated by the victim's real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

“As the LGBTQ community grapples with the horrific massacre in Orlando, it is truly encouraging to see the Jackson City Council taking decisive action to protect and affirm the rights of all their citizens,” said HRC Mississippi State Director Rob Hill. “Discrimination and hate have no place in Jackson, and everyone, regardless of who they are, should have the legal right to feel safe in their community. We thank Councilman Tyrone Hendrix for his continued leadership on issues of equality, and are confident that the Council’s actions will serve as an example to communities across the country.”

Today’s vote comes just days after a tragic shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, claimed the lives of 49 people and injured more than 50 others. While that crime has not yet been labeled a hate crime, according to the most recent FBI statistics available, more than 20 percent of hate crimes reported nationally in 2014 targeted people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. As a recent investigation by the Associated Press uncovered, this reporting dramatically undercounts LGBTQ data, as it is based on local, non-mandatory reporting. Strong, fully-inclusive hate crimes legislation at the local level plays an important role in improving data collection and ultimately saving lives.

Mississippi is one of 20 states that do not have hate crimes laws explicitly protecting sexual orientation and gender identity, and one of 32 without fully-inclusive LGBTQ non-discrimination protections.

Jackson his been leading on the issue of LGBTQ equality. Earlier this year, the Jackson Public School District’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted to extend fully-inclusive sexual orientation and gender identity workplace protections to their employees. With almost 30,000 students, the district is the second largest in the state and one of the first in the Mississippi Public School system o grant employment protections to LGBTQ staff members.

In 2014, HRC launched Project One America, an initiative geared towards advancing social, institutional and legal equality in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas. HRC Mississippi continues to work to advance equality for LGBT Mississippians who have no state level protections in housing, workplace, or public accommodations. Through HRC Mississippi, we are working toward a future of fairness every day—changing hearts, minds and laws toward achieving full equality.

June 14, 2016

Mississippians in the 2016 MLB Draft

By bryanflynn

Major League Baseball held its annual draft last Thursday through Saturday. Teams can select players from high school after graduation or four-year colleges after they have completed their junior season or are 21 years old.

Teams can draft junior- and community-college players at anytime, so long as they’re residents of the United States or U.S. territories.

High-school players don’t have to sign with the team that drafted them and can attend college instead of going pro, but they must sign by July 15. Juniors can return to college as well instead of signing with an MLB club, but they have the same July 15 deadline to sign a contract.

The 2016 MLB Draft consisted of 40 rounds with a lottery round after round one and after round two. There were 1,216 picks in this year’s draft.

Below are the players who teams drafted. If we missed any players, feel free to add them in the comments section.

Mississippi State University Bulldogs

Dakota Hudson,pitcher, first round, 34th pick, St. Louis Cardinals

Reid Humphreys, pitcher, seventh round, 200th pick, Colorado Rockies

Daniel Brown, pitcher, seventh round, 201st pick, Milwaukee Brewers

Jacob Robinson, centerfielder, eighth round, 235th pick, Detroit Tigers

Zachary Houston, pitcher, 11th round, 325th pick, Detroit Tigers

Nathaniel Lowe, first base, 13th round, 390th pick, Tampa Bay Rays

Gavin Collins, catcher, 13th round, 392nd pick, Cleveland Indians

Vance Tatum, pitcher, 18th round, 553rd pick, Kansas City Royals

Austin Sexton, pitcher, 18th round, 556th pick, St. Louis Cardinals

Jack Kruger, catcher, 20th round, 606th pick, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Brent Rooker, rightfielder, 38th round, 1,143rd pick, Minnesota Twins

University of Mississippi Rebels

J.B. Woodman, outfielder, second round, 57th pick, Toronto Blue Jays

Errol Robinson, shortstop, sixth round, 191st pick, Los Angeles Dodgers

Henri Lartigue, catcher, seventh round, 197th pick, Philadelphia Phillies

Chad Smith, pitcher, 11th round, 323rd pick, Miami Marlins

Brady Bramlett, pitcher, 13th round, 388th pick, Boston Red Sox

Wyatt Short, pitcher, 13th round, 404th pick, Chicago Cubs

University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles

Tim Lynch, first base, ninth round, 278th pick, New York Yankees

Jake Winston, pitcher, 17th round, 509th pick, Arizona Diamondbacks

Chuckie Robinson, catcher, 21st round, 637th pick, Houston Astros

Delta State University Statesmen

Dalton Moats, pitcher, 15th round, 450th pick, Tampa Bay Rays

Jacob Howell, pitcher, 21st round, 634th pick, Washington Nationals

Pearl River Community College Wildcats

Zachary Clark, centerfielder, 19th round, 561st pick, Milwaukee Brewers

Itawamba Community College Indians

Delvin Zinn, shortstop, 23rd round, 704th pick, Chicago Cubs

High-school players

Walker Robbins, George County High School, outfielder, fifth round, 166th pick, St. Louis Cardinals

AJ Brown, Starkville High School, centerfielder, 19th round, 564th pick, San Diego Padres

Grae Kessinger, Oxford High School, shortstop, 26th round, 774th pick, San Diego Padres

Dustin Skelton, Magnolia Heights High School, catcher, 36th round, 1,092nd pick, Toronto Blue Jays

Mississippi ties

Nolan Blackwood, University of Memphis Tigers, Southaven High School (Miss.), pitcher, 14th round, 412th pick, Oakland ...

June 14, 2016

Third Lawsuit, Fourth Legal Challenge Filed Against HB1523

By adreher

The Campaign for Southern Equality and Mississippi-native Rev. Susan Hrostowski filed a lawsuit against several state officials, saying that House Bill 1523 is unconstitutional, late last week.

The lawsuit states that House Bill 1523 violates the first and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution and asks the U.S. District Court to enjoin the bill from becoming law on July 1. New York-based attorney Roberta Kaplan, who won same-sex couples the right to marry and adopt in this state, will represent the plaintiffs.

The lawsuit names the governor, attorney general, the executive director of MDHS, and the state registrar for vital records as defendants. Several floor debate comments from the 2016 legislative session about the bill are used in the initial complaint. The complaint draws the distinction between Mississippi's Religious Freedom Restoration Act and The Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act.

"Critically, the Mississippi RFRA does not single out any particular religious belief or creed and privilege it above all others..." the complaint says. "HB 1523, however, starkly departs from this tradition and practice by providing additional rights and benefits and by extending well beyond those available under RFRA, but only to individuals or entities that espouse one of three specific beliefs: (a) that '[m]arriage is or should be recognized as union of one man and one woman,' (b) that '[s]exual relations are properly reserved to' a marriage between one man and one woman, or (c) male and female 'refer to an individual's immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at the time of birth.'"

The ACLU and the Mississippi Center for Justice have both filed lawsuits, asking the courts to rule House Bill 1523 unconstitutional, and Kaplan filed a motion to re-open the case that legalized same-sex marriage in Mississippi, due to HB1523's passage. The Campaign for Southern Equality's lawsuit is the third lawsuit filed against House Bill 1523 and the fourth legal challenge.

June 14, 2016

JFP Wins 'Best in Division' in 66th Annual Green Eyeshade Awards

By Todd Stauffer

Members of the JFP's editorial and design staff have won numerous honors in the 66th Annual Green Eyeshade award, including our first ever "Best in Division" award, receiving the top honor among all non-daily print publications in the contest.

June 13, 2016

MSU Gets Swept in Super Regionals

By bryanflynn

Mississippi State University saw its historic baseball season come to a close on Saturday night in a 6-5 loss to the University of Arizona in 11 innings. The Bulldogs won the SEC regular season championship and was named a national seed for the first time in school history.

MSU had little trouble in the four-team regional, which the Bulldogs hosted last weekend. The team was a perfect 3-0 as it cruised to the Super Regionals. Arizona had to battle through the loser's bracket in the Lafayette Regional just to reach this Super Regional.

The Wildcats' pitching was the story in game one of the Super Regional. MSU could only muster five hits in a sensational performance by Arizona pitcher Bobby Dalbec. Arizona got eight and 2/3 innings out of Dolbec, who needed just a run in the sixth inning to secure the win.

Game one saw a 37-minute delay due to a power outage all over the MSU campus. But the stoppage didn’t have any effect on Dolbec, who came out to pitch once power was restored.

The power outage seemed like an exact metaphor for the MSU bats, but maybe it was really just foreshadowing the end of the Bulldogs' season.

MSU had a chance in the ninth inning with two men on and two outs. The Bulldogs' superstar freshman Jake Mangum struck out on three straight pitches, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 win in game one.

In game two, both teams put up a run in the second inning after a scoreless first inning. MSU jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the third inning as the Bulldogs got a run off two errors.

The Bulldogs added to their lead in the top of the fourth when right fielder Brent Rooker hit a solo homerun, giving MSU a 3-1 lead. In the seventh inning, MSU was able to manufacture a run to up the lead to 4-1 over the Wildcats.

Rooker went deep once again in the top of the eighth inning, giving the Bulldogs a huge 5-1 lead and needing only six outs for the win. The bottom of the eighth inning is when things fell apart for MSU.

Arizona quickly got two men on first and second when first baseman Ryan Aguilar blasted a three-run home run, cutting the MSU lead to 5-4. The Bulldogs got out of the eight, but the damage was done, and the momentum had shifted to the Wildcats.

MSU went down in order at the top of the ninth inning. Arizona got a double by Cody Ramer to start off the inning. The Bulldogs got a strikeout by pitcher Reid Humphreys before Alfonso Rivas singled to score Ramer to tie the game at 5-5 to force extra innings.

Neither team was able to muster any offense in the 10th inning, as the score stayed 5-5 heading to the 11th inning. MSU went down in order at the top of the ...

June 10, 2016

UPDATED: MDOC Will Close Walnut Grove Correctional Facility by September

By adreher

The Mississippi Department of Corrections plans to close the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility by September due to "budget constraints and the prison population," a press release from MDOC says.

“MDOC’s budget is lower than what we anticipated,” Commissioner Marshall Fisher said in a press release. “Pursuant to an intensive budget review and evaluation, we have determined this is the most prudent action. We have the space in our state-run prisons to house the 900 inmates at Walnut Grove.”

Management and Training Corporation, which ran Walnut Grove, manages three other privately-operated prisons in the state (Marshall County Correctional Facility, East Mississippi Correctional Facility and Wilkinson County Correctional Facility), and Fisher said in a release that he is pleased with MTC.

“We look forward to continuing to work with MTC,” Fisher said in a release. “Ending our contract for Walnut Grove is about being fiscally responsible.”

MTC has operated the Walnut Grove Correctional Facility since 2012, and the current contract cost is $14.6 million annually.

“We are disappointed by the news but also understand the state must do what’s in the best interest of the taxpayers,” said MTC Senior Vice President of Corrections Bernie Warner said in a press release from the company. “Our hearts go out to the excellent staff at the facility. We have some of the best corrections professionals in the business at the facility, and we know this will be very difficult for them. We will do our best to help make the transition as smooth as possible.”

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