May 15, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Source work yields exclusive: $6M aid for tennis players

worked sources to score a 24-hour beat on all competition, reporting that a $6 million fund was being set up to help more than 800 lower-ranked players who are going broke during the pandemic. Fendrich’s story went unmatched until the official announcement, getting wide play, including ESPN.com and Tennis.com, and was the subject of a panel discussion on Tennis Channel.https://bit.ly/35UvPBQhttps://bit.ly/2YZwoJl

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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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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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May 21, 2021

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Deep AP reporting on NFL’s race-adjusted brain injury settlements

reported that thousands of retired Black professional football players, their families and supporters are demanding an end to the use of “race-norming,” a practice the NFL has insisted on using in the league’s $1 billion brain injury settlement. Black NFL players delivered some 50,000 petitions to a federal court to end the practice.The algorithm used by the NFL assumes Black men start with lower cognitive skills. They must therefore score much lower than whites to show enough mental decline to win an award. The practice went unnoticed until 2018.Dale and Smith recognized that the story extends far beyond sports and money, to discrimination and racial injustice. Their deeply reported story quotes neurology experts who said the practice, sometimes used in medicine as a rough proxy for socioeconomic factors that can affect a person’s health, should not be used in the settlement because it has the effect of systematically discriminating against Black players. The story played widely; CBSN devoted eight minutes to the piece, calling it “a damning report.” https://aplink.news/rcp

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May 22, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Delay of game: Source work yields exclusives on baseball season

used longtime sources for a series of scoops that kept AP ahead of the field as MLB’s owners and players clashed over the economic terms of a delayed start to the baseball season. Blum’s biggest beat came when a source sent him the 12-page presentation from the commissioner’s office to the players’s union, showing that teams would lose $640,000 per game if the players made their full salaries. Blum was the only journalist to receive the classified document and major outlets ran with his story.https://bit.ly/3cRJuwlhttps://bit.ly/36uyWB3https://bit.ly/36l1PQ4

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Jan. 25, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Europeans unravel massive tennis-fixing ring

for getting exclusive details from the French police on a growing tennis match-fixing scandal in Europe. Leicester revealed the names of four players being held and details of the investigation into the “Maestro,” an Armenian based in Belgium who is the alleged ringleader of a gambling syndicate suspected of fixing hundreds of matches and paying off more than 100 players from around Europe.https://bit.ly/2WiPfuShttps://bit.ly/2FNlJbV

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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