Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

NFL scrambles to restart disability benefits after AP reporting

Eddie Pells, Denver-based national sports writer, reported exclusively that a fund jointly run by the NFL and the players union had given out $127 million in health benefits to disabled retired players in 2019, but had gone completely dormant since March, approving no applications and not reimbursing any medical bills. The source for the story, a former player, contacted AP because he was familiar with Pells’ previous reporting and wanted the story to have as wide an audience as possible. Within a day of getting questions from Pells, the NFL scrambled to send a letter to all applicants saying approvals would restart soon. AP was alone with the story, which played on ESPN’s SportsCenter and was used on the crawls of all the major sports networks. https://bit.ly/3c4yFr2

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Feb. 09, 2017

Best of the Week — First Winner

A Super Bowl week scoop: Emails detailing Falcons' reliance on painkillers

It was just a coincidence: Emails from 2010, showing that the Atlanta Falcons were worried about the team’s reliance on painkillers, were quietly entered into the court record as the Falcons were making just their second Super Bowl appearance. But AP sports columnist Jim Litke was prepared, and the result was a Super Bowl week scoop.

Litke's story is the Beat of the Week.

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June 19, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

After AP’s analysis, a FIFA softens policy on activist protest

studied how soccer has applied rules against activist protest without considering the impact of major issues outside of sports. Harris wrote his analysis after a player for Borussia Dortmund, Jason Sancho, received a yellow card for showing his undershirt with a handwritten message of support for the George Floyd protests, contrary to the rule for players not to lift their jerseys in celebration. “Rarely has a rule looked so out of touch,” Harris wrote, noting that the killing of Floyd had resonated far beyond the United States. After the piece, FIFA reconsidered its policy and urged organizers to show common sense. The AP story was widely cited in other media.https://bit.ly/30VeCI4https://bit.ly/30VeQ1S

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Feb. 08, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Exclusive AP analysis: The NFL keeps getting younger and cheaper

The unusually short careers of NFL players have long been a thorny issue among the players, the league and even fans of one of the most injury-prone leagues in sports. A pair of high-profile contract disputes during the 2018 season placed the topic front-and-center yet again.

But what more was there to say?

Denver-based national sports writer Eddie Pells and Global Sports Editor Michael Giarrusso came up with the idea of mining data to illustrate how average experience on NFL rosters has changed since 2011, when the league and players agreed to a contract designed in part to help veterans get a bigger share of revenue.

Pells was joined by New York-based data journalist Larry Fenn who started digging. After scouring season-opening rosters from the last 14 years, Pells and Fenn had the data: Average experience in the league was going down consistently as every team chose younger players over veterans who would earn more – even if the veterans were better players.

Pells then asked more than a dozen AP writers in the field for reaction from key players on the teams they covered, while Fenn worked with Top Stories designer Phil Holm, who produced insightful illustrations of the data. Pells also collaborated on videos that were used on social media and embedded in the story.

Other stories in the package included a profile of a typical 4-year player who is cut just as he became eligible for a larger contract, a piece on shortened careers at the center position, and a column foreshadowing collective-bargaining hurdles. Pells also did a story looking at how Super Bowl champions shed expensive players after winning the title.

The package was released in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, commanding attention across the football landscape and getting about double the usage of typical top sports stories. Senior Vice President and Executive Editor Sally Buzbee called it a blueprint for how to plan coverage around big events by timing enterprise and breaking news when attention is high.

For using data and creative storytelling to quantify one of the NFL’s central issues and break news during the biggest sports week of the year, Pells, Fenn and Holm share AP’s Best of the Week award.

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Aug. 07, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Preparation pays off as NBA player chooses to stand for anthem

used access and anticipation to set up and deliver an exclusive multiformat package from inside the NBA bubble. When Miami Heat forward Meyers Leonard stood during the national anthem while his teammates knelt before their season’s reopening game, Reynolds had his full story on the wire within five minutes of the end of the anthem, and his interview package, including video, was hours ahead of other outlets, who credited AP.https://bit.ly/2DuUNxThttps://bit.ly/2Psz7oA

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Dec. 27, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: Federer reflects on twilight of his career

for scoring a rare, lengthy and exclusive all-formats interview with 38-year-old tennis great Roger Federer in which Federer – who repeatedly faces questions about how long he will continue on tour – said he does not consider it important to walk away at the top of his game and the top of his sport. The sit-down in Dubai during Federer’s pre-season training resulted in numerous text stories and an 8-minute video package. Fendrich has been covering tennis for AP for nearly two decades and Federer thought of Fendrich when he decided to do an exclusive interview with a U.S. or British outlet. https://bit.ly/2PUBUbe

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March 06, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP Exclusive: IOC member says 3 months to decide on Tokyo Olympics

landed an exclusive interview with Dick Pound, the senior member of the International Olympic Committee, changed the conversation around the Tokyo Olympics. After organizers had been saying for months that the Games would not be affected by the coronavirus, Pound spoke frankly about the risks facing the Olympics, estimating there is a three-month window to decide the fate of the Tokyo Games, which open July 24. The comments were picked up and analyzed by thousands of outlets, all of whom had to credit AP. https://bit.ly/2wwaQrs

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July 12, 2019

Best of the Week — First Winner

Decisive win at Women’s World Cup – for AP Photos team

We all want to perform well on the big stage, and AP’s photo team did exactly that at the recent Women’s World Cup in France, a tournament that is being called the greatest edition yet of the sport’s most prestigious event.

AP’s photo coverage was strong from the outset of the 52-match marathon, but it was the crew’s performance in the championship final that really stood out. Intelligent planning from Paris and London, and brilliant execution by specialist photographers and remote editors saw AP photos dominate play with their coverage of the 2-0 victory by the U.S.

A five-strong team of photographers – staffers Alessandra Tarantino, based in Rome; Francisco Seco, Brussels; and Francois Mori, Paris; joined by freelancers Vincent Michel and Claude Paris – won the day in a manner arguably even more decisive than the U.S. women.

The list of front pages is long and includes prestigious titles like The New York Times, L’Equipe, The Guardian, The Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.

For a performance that befitted the biggest stage in the world on July 7, the team of Tarantino, Seco, Mori, Michel and Paris – with international AP support – shares AP’s Best of the Week.

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Aug. 07, 2020

Best of the States

Players open up to AP, describe coach’s abusive practices at Oregon State

National sports writer Eddie Pells was first approached in February by the mom of a player who said she had some concerns about abuses going on in the volleyball program at Oregon State. 

Over the next five months, Pells conducted dozens of interviews both in and out of the program, and checked with experts to learn if volleyball coach Mark Barnard was over the line. Several athletes spoke to Pells, including a former OSU player who described how the coach’s abusive practices contributed to a suicide attempt. 

Pells’ exclusive led to immediate calls for the coach’s firing and questions about the university officials who didn’t take action after hearing complaints. 

For months of persistent and sensitive reporting despite uncertain prospects, resulting in an impressive story with impact, Pells wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 16, 2020

Best of the States

11 weeks in the bubble: AP writer’s exhaustive NBA report goes well beyond the games

Through 78 days at Walt Disney World, basketball writer Tim Reynolds proved himself virtually unstoppable, turning out game stories on deadline while also spinning insightful pieces that examined the major topics of 2020, from coronavirus concerns to racial injustice issues and the presidential election – not to mention the league’s work stoppage. The so-called bubble may have confined him to an arena in central Florida, but Reynolds’ relentless NBA coverage reminded readers that sports illuminate our lives in ways big and small.

In all, Reynolds wrote an eye-popping 200-plus stories, collecting exclusives along the way. He capped his efforts with his insightful analysis of LeBron James’ legacy after James led the Lakers to their record-tying 17th NBA title. 

For his exhaustive, and exhausting, work that went well beyond the games in the NBA bubble, Reynolds wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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April 02, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP reveals lack of coaching diversity in women’s college hoops

took a deep look into a diversity issue in women’s college basketball that has been mostly overlooked — of the 65 Power Five head coaches, only 13 are Black women.Walker, who is helping cover the tournament remotely, stepped away from the action on the court to highlight the low number of Black women in the top coaching jobs. She interviewed coaches and administrators to get answers as to why so few and what needs to happen for that to change. And she led off the story with a telling anecdote -- when Dawn Staley and Joni Taylor met up in the Southeastern Conference Championship, it was the first time in 41 years that teams led by Black women had faced off in a tournament championship. After the story was published, a Vanderbilt official summed up the responses to the article in a note to Teresa saying, “Crushed it!” https://bit.ly/3wfqMc3

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