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Saturday Sports: Griner sentenced in Russia; Deshaun Watson suspended for 6 games


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: What a busy and full week. The sentencing of Brittney Griner - will there now be a prisoner swap with Russia? Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns suspended for just six games. And two giants of sports and of life, Bill Russell and Vin Scully, left us. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Fine, thank you. So many stories. So let me ask you to lead by talking about two big stories or just mentioning two big stories. We won't know the implications until later.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, sorry to start with bad news, but it is bad news in women's college basketball. UConn's Paige Bueckers, the best player on one of the best teams, tore the ACL in her knee during a pickup game. She's out for next season. And in baseball, even though baseball's San Diego Padres got thumped last night by their division rival LA Dodgers, the Padres are now relevant after trading for 23-year-old Juan Soto. He's projected to be a generational player and a welcome addition to a team that's finished with a winning record once in the last 11 seasons.

SIMON: Yeah. Brittney Griner's sentenced to nine years in Russia. In the meantime, there are reports that she could figure into a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia, which would be, in itself, controversial.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Russia has said it's open to it, but Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says it's a problem when the U.S. makes loud statements about the process. Now, a lot of Griner's supporters have been speaking out, pressuring the administration to make a deal. A person close to those efforts who asked not to be identified told me they understand if the administration goes quiet, it doesn't mean officials aren't working to figure this out. But the person also said if they feel the government is, quote, "taking its eye off the ball," it'll be time again to ring the bell. It's a scary situation for Griner, obviously. No idea how long this may take. And while she waits, life in a Russian penal colony is not going to be easy.

SIMON: Yeah. In the NFL Browns, Deshaun Watson received a six-game suspension from a judge after two dozen women - two dozen women - accused him of sexual misconduct. The NPR - the NFL is appealing even that suspension. What does this say about the NFL's vow to take seriously allegations of crimes against women?

GOLDMAN: Well, the six-game suspension says in many people's minds that the league's fumbling another personal conduct case. Seems like that's been a constant for a number of years. But the decision on Watson actually was not handed down by the NFL. It was by an independent arbitrator who decided while Watson's pattern of behavior during massage sessions was egregious, it wasn't - it was non-violent sexual misconduct, and six games were appropriate.

Now, the NFL, aware of public outcry on the case, is expected to appeal for at least a yearlong ban. Now, Watson has all along said he's innocent, and he's never expressed remorse. But, Scott, while the arbitrator said his conduct was non-violent, the women who came forward feel any sexual misconduct is a form of violence. And in response to the six-game sentence, they reacted with words like disheartened, defeated. One said, it's not even a slap on the wrist; it's a kiss on the cheek.

SIMON: Bill Russell, the great center Celtic and champion for civil rights, died on Sunday - and then, in the middle of this week, the peerless Vin Scully, voice of the Dodgers for 67 years.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Wow. What a pair. I mean, the greatest winner in NBA history, Bill Russell, the most important player on 11 championship-winning Celtics teams in the 1950s and '60s, tirelessly fought and spoke out against social and racial injustice, some of it in his beloved team's town of Boston - and, of course, his larger-than-life persona humanized by one of the greatest laughs ever. Vin Scully called games wonderfully...

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: ...Knew how to get out of the way of big moments. But when he talked, it was so warm and funny and informative. Listeners felt he was talking to them. He called them his friends, and when he retired six years ago, said to them, I needed you more than you needed me.

SIMON: Oh, my gosh. NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. 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 NPR.org.

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