Three stories in the sports world have caught my attention:
The San Francisco 49ers (NFL) have traded for Jonathan Martin, who was the central figure of the bullying saga in Miami. Martin will be reunited with his coach from college, Jim Harbaugh. Bill Williamson of ESPN writes:
Harbaugh has been a champion for Martin. He vouched for Martin in the Wells report that examined the bullying case. Harbaugh said in the report he thought Martin could have a successful NFL career. He also said this publicly during the November firestorm: “As far as that situation, there’s only one thing I can intelligently comment on and that’s knowing Jonathan Martin. I know him to be a fine person and his family. [Martin was a] great contributor as a student and an athlete at Stanford, epitomizes the student-athlete model and a personal friend. I support Jonathan.”
Now, Harbaugh will coach him again and I’m sure that will inspire Martin. As part of the Wells report, Martin told friends he wanted to stick with football because he didn’t want to disappoint his former coaches. Now, he is around those men again….
The 49ers boast a stable, veteran-led locker room. Several 49ers players condemned the Miami situation while it was happening. The San Francisco offensive line is a close-knit, easy-going group. I doubt Martin will have trouble fitting in. In fact, 49ers right tackle Anthony Davis welcomed Martin via Twitter on Tuesday night.
Martin himself also tweeted that he is “Beyond Blessed” for the opportunity.
Jason Collins, the first openly gay player in the NBA (and the first in any of North America’s “big 4” men’s sports), will be signed by the Brooklyn Nets for the rest of the season. Collins is finishing his second 10-day contract, and the Nets are pleased. From Ohm Youngmisuk and Marc Stein of ESPN.com:
The Nets and Collins have handled added media attention exceptionally well. Before playing in his first home game in Brooklyn on March 3 against Chicago, Collins was asked about comparisons between him and Jackie Robinson breaking barriers in Brooklyn.
“I’m just trying to be Jason Collins,” Collins said. “What Jackie Robinson did for the sport of baseball and our society [is] tremendous. But I am just trying to be Jason Collins.”
Collins has said repeatedly that he wants the focus to be about basketball and not his sexual orientation. He is grateful for the positive reaction he has received from the Nets, opposing teams and fans and has embraced his role.
Collins’ No. 98 jersey has become a top-seller and he has expressed pleasant surprise and gratitude toward the fan reaction. Collins chose the number to honor Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay college student who was beaten, tortured and killed in 1998.
And from the world of High School sports, comes this story about a wrestle who lost his state finals match, and why he his sportsmanship will be remembered for years to come. ThePostGame tells the story, along with a video account.
After falling to Mitchell McKee in Minnesota’s 120-pound class, Malik Stewart went over and embraced McKee’s father, Steve, who is battling terminal cancer.
“I got a little teary because I lost the match, and I knew the hard times he was going through,” Stewart told KARE 11. “The crowd went wild and I heard a couple people say after I did it — that was pretty classy — but I just did it straight from the heart.”
As it turns out, Stewart can relate to what Mitchell McKee is going through. Stewart’s father suffered a heart attack and died when Stewart was 7.
“It was a big match for him and to be able to hug my dad like that and not be mad and storm off like a lot of kids do,” McKee said. “Really respectful.”