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Saturday Sports: Football Coming Back, Ohio State Scandal


And it's time for sports.


SIMON: The NFL is back - well, preseason anyway - and has some rule changes. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman gets our head in the game. Tom, thanks very much for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Let's start with the national anthem, my friend.


SIMON: The NFL says players have to stand at attention during the song or they face a penalty. The first preseason game we saw - the Chicago Bears versus the Baltimore Ravens - it's getting so you need a scoreboard for how many people stood for the national anthem and how many didn't. But it wasn't even televised, right?

GOLDMAN: Well, yeah. They all stood. And we were told they stood because NBC didn't show the anthem. And maybe, Scott, that's the strategy. No nationwide controversy if a nationwide audience can't see it. The teams stood, but not because of a May directive saying that they had to stand. That currently is on hold as the NFL and the players union hold talks to try to figure out a final policy.

And you would think the two sides would want a resolution before next Thursday. That's when there are 12 preseason games on the schedule - a lot more opportunity for players to protest and, for the NFL, bad optics.

SIMON: New rule levels a penalty on players for using their helmeted heads to tackle. Now that's meant to save players from concussions, but a lot of players don't like the rule.

GOLDMAN: No, they don't. And, you know, there's a lot of confusion about what will be penalized. It's now a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with the helmet. And that applies to offensive and defensive players anywhere on the field.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: Many believe it'll be impossible to enforce this consistently and fairly. You know, there's obvious spearing, Scott, when defensive players use their heads/helmet as a weapon. But there are also so many times when players lower their heads reflexively during a play. So you know, will penalty flags be flying constantly?

And, yes, many players are upset. And they say the league is taking away the physical aspect of pro football. That sentiment captured by hard-hitting Minnesota defensive back Andrew Sendejo - he's been wearing a baseball cap that reads, make football violent again.

SIMON: Oh, what an inspiration for children.


SIMON: Different story. Oh, my word. Ohio State University is dealing with serious allegations that their football coach Urban Meyer knew about charges of domestic abuse against one of his coaches, Zach Smith, did nothing and deceived the press just a few days ago.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Late last month, Urban Meyer, one of the elite head coaches in D1 football - he said publicly he didn't know about a 2015 incident. Yesterday, he released a statement saying he did, but he added he followed proper reporting protocol.

So now the assistant coach also gave an interview yesterday defending Meyer and claiming that he, the assistant coach, didn't physically assault his ex-wife. She says otherwise, and photos of her bruised neck and arms and bloodied hand appear to support what she says. So although Meyer and the assistant coach made attempts to come clean yesterday, it's still murky.

SIMON: Yeah. Finally, and more happily, the Women's Softball World Championship is underway. Team USA - I love this team. Monica Abbott struck out 13 batters in their win over Mexico.

GOLDMAN: You know how hard it is to hit one of those pitched balls? My God.

SIMON: Oh, I can - it's hard to see it. I mean, my gosh.

GOLDMAN: I know. I know. I know. What's exciting beyond this great competition - it's a prelude to softball coming back to the Olympics in 2020. That was a really crummy decision, if I may say so, by the International Olympic Committee to yank the sport from the Games after 2008.

SIMON: A crummy decision by the International Olympic Committee - unthinkable, Tom. But go ahead, yes?


GOLDMAN: Softball's one of the most popular team sports for young girls in the country. And falling out of the Olympics was a real blow for a lot of aspiring female athletes. It's back. No guarantee it'll be included beyond 2020. Here's hoping it is.

SIMON: Yeah. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on