Sport-Off-field drama takes focus away from top displays

Fri Dec 19, 2014 3:34pm EST
 
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By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - The stadiums and arenas where fans go to escape were invaded like never before in 2014 as the reality of racism, domestic violence and equality turned the Fields of Dreams into gloomy landscapes.

LeBron James's homecoming, a Super Bowl blowout, a throwback World Series pitching performance and a Stanley Cup comeback for the ages all provided enough drama, suspense and awe to keep the turnstiles twirling and television ratings soaring.

But the cheers were occasionally drowned out by outrage over domestic abuse and chants of "Hands Up Don't Shoot" as fans and athletes joined protests over the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

Internationally there was plenty of glory as the United States won 28 medals at the Sochi Games and claimed the world basketball crown while Canada enjoyed a sweep of the Olympic ice hockey gold medals.

But there was less to be proud of on the homefront as the ever-present undercurrent of racism surfaced, forcing National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver to come down hard on Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

With players on the brink of revolt and sponsors ready to flee, Sterling was run out of the league, both cashing in and paying the price for his racist rant, loathed and humiliated but $2 billion richer after a forced sale of his team to Microsoft co-founder Steve Ballmer.

James, the face of NBA, grabbed headlines when he turned his back on the glitz of Miami for the grit of Cleveland, the city he famously jilted four years early in free agency.

After winning two NBA titles with the Heat but humbled in last season's final by the San Antonio Spurs, James returned to the Cavaliers determined to deliver the championship he failed to in his first stint with the team.   Continued...

 
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addresses the media at a press conference at New York Hilton. Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports