Kyrie Irving is the NBA’s Broken Clock

“Even a stopped clock is right twice a day”. That quote from Marie von Ebner sticks out as much of the conversation about returning has centered around Brooklyn Nets mercurial point guard, Kyrie Irving. Some peers have responded, but are they even disagreeing? That’s what you would think if you only saw it through the lens of social media.

Tweets get crafted to maximize the impact (see: likes and retweets) all the time. But in this instance, leaving out an entire part of Irving’s comments has led to a backlash that seems fueled more by his reputation than the actual content.

Kyrie Irving, a Broken Clock in the NBA

First, what exactly did Kyrie say?

“I don’t support going into Orlando,” Irving told the players. “I’m not with the systematic racism and the bullshit. … Something smells a little fishy. Whether we want to admit it or not, we are targeted as black men every day we wake up.” – per Shams Charania

His reported words prompted responses from several other players including Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, who said “Hoopers say what y’all want. If @King James said he hooping. We all hooping. Not personal only BUSINESS.” His reference to LeBron James is fair because he regularly practices his activism while playing. But Irving’s comments weren’t really speaking to the ability to do both.

Former players-turned-analysts Jay Williams and Kendrick Perkins also spoke against Irving, with the latter going so far to say “He’s not a powerful voice; he’s a popular voice” and that “All he’s doing is ruffling the feathers for no reason. The NBA is going to continue.” That’s tough coming from a retired player and still misses Irving’s message.

All of this is in addition to some prominent commentators like Stephen A. Smith. But it has been Houston Rockets guard (and coach’s son) Austin Rivers’ reply via a lengthy Instagram post that has gotten the most publicity. The well-stated rebuttal spoke of being able to both play and affect social change. It also said that for the majority of the players in the league, sitting out isn’t feasible as “99% of the NBA hasn’t made the money” Kyrie has.

Rivers wasn’t wrong in anything that he said.

But there is a problem: Irving AGREES with him. And any other player that wants to return, for that matter. It’s just that his reputation has preceded him.

The former Cleveland Cavalier and Boston Celtic earlier opined about the freedoms players would have when in the NBA’s “bubble”. Those concerns included spa treatments and were roundly met with virtual side-eyes.

This time was different, though. Yes, Irving said that he would rather focus on social justice reform. But he also said something else that has gone underreported.

“If it’s worth the risk, then let’s go and do it,” Irving said on the call, sources said. “But if you’re not with it, it’s OK, too. We’ve got options for both ways. Let’s just come to a middle ground as a family.” – per Chris Haynes

In Regards to the Money

Irving said, “There’s only 20 guys actually getting paid, and I’m part of that. Let’s not pretend there’s not a tiered system purposely to divide all of us.” Some say Irving has is backward and that the max contract system keeps the disparity in check, but again they are missing the point. Players who have yet to land that contract would logically be less inclined to rock the boat.

See, an important bit of information to remember is that Irving was voted as vice president of the NBPA. That means raising the concerns of the many, no matter how trivial, to the attention of the few most powerful is quite literally his job. So while you may think some of the points were silly, that doesn’t mean they weren’t brought up in private.

That’s the other part that seems be getting swept away. With all the talk of what the stars want (we already know the likes of LeBron, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Paul, and Anthony Davis want to return), the dissenting voices have already been drowned out.

Lakers big Dwight Howard, well-traveled and mercurial in his own right, has voiced support for Irving. He went even further suggesting the NBA needn’t return until “we get things resolved.” Lakers guard Avery Bradley also spoke up on the call in which Irving aired his grievances.

Other Players Spoke Out Too

Donovan Mitchell spoke about the dangers of returning after a layoff and is pushing for insurance for players. CJ McCollum voted ‘no’ to returning but also warned players of potentially contentious negotiations when the CBA expires should players sit out. Kyle Kuzma is also seeking insurance but flat out said, “Some of us want to hoop and compete don’t get that twisted.” He too seems to have only heard part of Irving’s argument.

That’s what is so telling about the backlash Kyrie has received. It is disproportionate to what he said.

He rightfully expressed issues that, as we see, aren’t necessarily his own. This is especially true with the increase in the number of cases in the host-state of Florida. But even more than that, he left the door wide open to continue the season if that is what the majority want.

But because of his history of being me-first and that whole flat-earth thing, people readily dismissed what he said. The best part is that they are all agreeing with Rivers even though he said the exact reason why Irving was speaking out against returning amid all the civil unrest in the country.

“Not saying that basketball is a cure for that but basketball can maybe provide a distraction.”

Bingo

The distraction is the part Irving (and Howard) are trying to avoid. And it’s already happening as we see the push to return ramp up even amid continuing concern over COVID-19 and protests. But all the other stuff is true too and that’s the issue. We are so busy trying to pick a side, that we forgot we are all on the same side. No person has embodied that more than Kyrie, the NBA’s broken clock

MLB Draft: Sox Take College Pitcher, Cubs Take Local High-Schooler

With no games being played, and the 2020 baseball season in doubt, Major League Baseball took a pause from contentious negotiations with its players to look to the future, as the 2020 MLB Draft took center stage in an otherwise empty sports landscape on Wednesday night.

Both Chicago baseball teams looked to infuse new talent into their organizations during the first round of the MLB Draft, hoping that the players chosen could make an impact on their respective big clubs in the not so distant future.

White Sox Take LHP Crochet, Cubs Take SS Howard With Top Picks

The White Sox, with the 11th overall pick, selected University of Tennessee left-handed pitcher, Garrett Crochet, adding talent and depth to the organization’s already strong pitching ranks.

Five picks later, at number 16, the Cubs created the buzz of the evening in Chicagoland by choosing shortstop Ed Howard, the local kid made good out of Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago.

“I’m excited to be a hometown guy, I think it’s special, it’s unique,” said Howard during his introductory conference call with Cubs beat reporters. “I’m ready to take on that challenge, have fun, and play my game” Howard continued.

Cubs Pick of Ed Howard Brings a Jolt of Excitement to the Northside Fan Base

The pick of Howard is sure to generate excitement with Cubs fans, who have been looking for some positivity after back-to-back disappointing seasons on the field and off.

The Cubs blew a late division lead in 2018 and wound up losing to the Colorado Rockies at home during the National League Wild Card game. 2019 saw the Cubs miss the playoffs for the first time since 2014, ending a five-year post-season run.

Off the field, the Cubs have had their issues as well. Most notably with the Kris Bryant years of service grievance, and the rollout of the Cubs new team-owned regional sports network, The Marquee Network. The network was roundly booed during the Cubs Convention in January when team owner Tom Ricketts mentioned it by name. Many fans were unsure if their television providers would even carry the fledgling network, or if they did, how much extra would it cost. More recently, Ricketts has come under fire for comments stating 70% of team revenue is derived from day-of-game receipts, a figure many are questioning.

The selection of Howard, however, gives the Cubs a chance to ride some positive buzz about their team, at least in the near future.

Howard grew up in Chicago, and was a member of the Jackie Robinson West Little League team that captured the hearts of Chicagoans and the nation when they won the 2014 Little League World Series. Their title was eventually revoked due to roster eligibility issues, but the team still remained popular locally.

He went on to play baseball at Mt. Carmel High School, where he starred as the team’s shortstop. Even without playing a single game for the Caravan during the 2020 season, Howard was viewed by scouts and draft experts as one of the top shortstop prospects in the country. His selection with the 16th pick confirms that.

Howard was also a product of the Chicago White Sox Amateur City Elite program, or ACE, an arm of White Sox charities that provides inner-city kids with opportunities for education and to develop in the game of baseball, providing avenues for advancement to college or professional baseball. Another goal of ACE is to reverse the decline of African-American players in baseball, something that was probably not lost on Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, who recently stated he needs to build more diversity in the Cubs organization overall.

Ultimately, however, Howard’s talent and potential as a baseball player is the reason the team made him their first-round pick. Cubs new Vice President of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz, told reporters that Howard being available “was literally our best-case scenario.” Kantrovitz added: “He’s got an electric skill set. He’s a plus shortstop. He’s got pop in his bat. He can run. He can impact the game in so many ways. We think he has a chance to be a star.”

The Cubs stated that Howard would remain at shortstop in the organization. Most experts believe 2023 would be the soonest Howard might make his Major League debut. However, the timeline for all prospects could be delayed due to the absence of minor league baseball in 2020.

White Sox Bypass One of Their ACE Program Graduates in Howard, Draft University of Tennessee LHP Garret Crochet

With Howard, a Southsider, available when the White Sox pick came around at number 11, many people were wondering if the team would select one of their home-grown talents from their ACE program. However, when MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stepped up to present the team’s pick, the name of a large college left-handed pitcher was announced instead.

Crochet comes to the White Sox as one of the top left-handed college pitchers in the draft. He struck out 149 batters and walked 48 over 132 innings pitched during his three years at Tennessee. He is known for a plus fastball that can reach triple digits, as well as a good slider and change-up. Control has been an issue for the lefty, who only pitched one game for the Vols in 2020 while dealing with shoulder soreness.

“I told Garrett … it’s an outstanding piece of your life to be compared to Chris Sale” Shirley told reporters. “But please proceed as being Garrett Crochet” he said. – White Sox Director of Amateur Scouting, Mike Shirley

Crochet has been receiving many comparisons to another tall left-handed hurler, former White Sox starter Chris Sale. And while he acknowledged to reporters during his post-selection conference call that some parts of his game were modeled after Sale, he doesn’t want people to just assume the same outcome. “I feel like it’s kind of tough to make on me(the Sale comparison), as I have not achieved anything as close as Chris Sale has achieved” Crochet told reporters.

5 Storylines to Watch for the Return of the Premier League

It has been three months since the last match was played and even the most loyal of Premier League fans may have forgotten some of the main plot points of this season. Here are the top five reasons to watch the remaining fixtures of the 2019-2020 season.

5 Storylines to Watch When the Premier League Returns

1. Does the season finish?

While the first three weeks of action between clubs have been announced, there is no guarantee all 92 lingering matches will be played. Every indication is the players, owners and the fans desire a season completed with no asterisks. The first three weeks of action have been all but guaranteed, with dates, times, and venues all announced. After that, everything will have to be played by ear.

If players, managers, and training staff remain healthy the Premier League should wrap up without issue. It’s unknown the status of the remaining fixtures if there is a secondary spike in cases in the UK or worse infections happen to members of clubs. The worst-case scenarios must be playing out in everyone’s heads. Let’s hope this becomes a very under the radar story-line, one forgotten after a couple of weeks.

2. Liverpool Finally Receives Their Trophy

Despite nearly two full years of dominance, Liverpool still has one goal to check off their nearly immaculate squad resume. During the 2018-2019 campaign, they accrued 97 points suffering only one defeat to the eventual victors, Manchester City. Since that time Liverpool has shockingly upped its form, winning all but two games in this year’s elongated season. Their lead in the table is an awe-inspiring 25 points. For reference, Aston Villa is sitting in 19th place with 25 points total. In 29 matches Liverpool has allowed only 21 goals, thanks in large part to Virgil van Dijk’s presence and the native Brazilian Allison’s 10 clean sheets.

3. Who is the Last Team to Escape Relegation?

In most years with a runaway champion, the next most competitive race is the fight at the bottom. West Ham, Watford, and Bournemouth all sit at 27 points and are tied for the final relegation spot with Aston Villa and Brighton just above or below that mark. All teams will have to play with the utmost form to secure their position in next season’s premiership. Most matches will be featuring top-half opponents. Brighton has the inside track to escape, with only a minus eight-goal differential despite only winning six of their 29 matches.

4. Who Wins the EA Player of the Season?

The Premier League’s version of the MVP award is hotly contested this year. Scoring, as always, is valued very highly in England’s top football division. Jaimie Vardy, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sergio Agüero, and Mohamed Salah round out the most likely strikers to win based on total goals scored. If the voters are split between the deep field of worthy forwards, it’s very likely a Liverpool player snatches up the award right under their noses. Virgil van Dijk is the most likely of the Reds to win from a dark horse position.

5. Can Sheffield United Qualify for the Champions League

Sheffield United has been playing professional football since 1892. They have only been in the Premier League for a total of four seasons, including this year. The Blades returned to the Premier League for the first time since 2007; eager to change their fortunes. Sheffield had unbelievable momentum before COVID forced lock-downs, winning three of their last four matches and drawing the other.

Their team has no true superstar, no player has more than five goals. They are captained by the veteran forward Billy Sharp, featuring a stout defense only allowing 25 goals. That’s less than a handful more than top squad Liverpool. The anchor of the Blades is keeper Dean Henderson. On loan from Manchester United, the 23-year-old is tied for second in the league with 10 clean sheets.

Sheffield is five points from the club’s first-ever Champions League appearance and only two away from the Europa League consolation prize. If Sheffield has any hope of securing international competition, Christopher John Wilder will have to manage the club through a difficult last 11 matches. Seven of the remaining fixtures are against opponents in the top half of the table.

 

Major League Baseball’s Dilemma: Return To Play Or Point Of No Return

On March 10th, the NBA and NHL were entering the home stretch of their respective regular seasons, as teams jockeyed for playoff positioning and qualifying. Major League Baseball teams were in the middle of their Cactus and Grapefruit league Spring Training schedules, with the earliest opening day in league history set to take place later that month on March 26th.

On the morning of March 11th, Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz was the first North American pro athlete to test positive for Covid-19. Later that day, the NBA suspended their season indefinitely for health and safety reasons. The NHL and MLB followed suit the next day, announcing the suspensions of their seasons on March 12th. As the calendar advances to early June, all three leagues have remained sidelined.

Return or No Return: Major League Baseball’s Dilemma

But sidelined has not necessarily meant seasons have been canceled. “Return-to-play” has been the phrase of choice by sports leagues as they each work with their players to negotiate the terms, guidelines, protocol, and logistics for the resumption of their respective seasons.

On May 26th, the NHL became the first of the three leagues to formally announce their return to play plan, ending the regular season but expanding the playoff pool to 24 teams. The NHL will ultimately choose two hub cities that will host each conference’s playoff rounds. The NHL tentative return date is late July.

On Thursday, the NBA announced a different approach for their return to play, eliminating the bottom eight teams from resuming play, while instituting an eight-game seeding schedule to determine the final makeup of the league’s traditional 16-team playoff format. The NBA is looking to finalize an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to utilize Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando as their operating base. The NBA is hoping to restart on July 31st.

And then there’s Major League Baseball.

Will Baseball Return, Or Take Their Ball and Go Home?

MLB owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) have figuratively dropped the ball as they attempt to put together their own return to play plan. The league and the players are nowhere close to an agreement on the specifics for a return, and, as is usually the case with baseball, money is at the forefront of the negotiation hurdles. A tradition like no other, indeed.

MLB had been floating several unofficial return-to-play scenarios throughout the pandemic shutdown to any baseball scribe that would listen, in the hopes certain writers would take them and run with it. This served a dual-purpose for the league. First, it kept baseball in the sports news cycle by having writers post and Tweet various theoretical proposals, allowing the sport to carry the day so to speak from a fan interest standpoint. During a pandemic shutdown, there was not much competition for sports media exposure that the league had to worry about.

The second reason for the leaked concept proposals was to serve as a sort of a trial balloon to gauge player feedback and response. In the age of social media, when a writer puts something out there that has implications to players, you can be sure that those associated with the game will respond.

The first official proposal by the owners to the players union did not take place until May 12th. At a high level, the proposal called for an 82-game regular-season schedule starting the first week of July, with teams playing only their division counterparts in both leagues, as a measure to mitigate COVID-19 related health concerns over prolonged travel.

Additionally, the proposal also called for expanding the playoffs from 10 to 14 teams in total, as well as implement a “universal” designated hitter in both leagues. And while the proposal provided comprehensive details regarding protocols for protecting players, team, and stadium personnel from COVID-19 infection and transmission, the financial component was not included in the initial presentation of the MBL proposal. But rumors of a significantly reduced compensation structure were already swirling, and that immediately became a sticking point for the players and the union.

Baseball’s Return To Play Battle – How Did We Get Here?

Back on March 27th, the owners and players agreed to an initial framework that, among other things, guaranteed the players a pro-rated payout of their full 2020 salaries based on the number of regular-season games played. For example, if the league wound up playing half of the normal 162-game regular season, the players would receive a 50% payout of their full 2020 salary. There was also a 50-50 post-season revenue sharing feature included in the original framework. At the time that seemed significant, as baseball has never had a revenue-sharing plan between owners and players, like the NFL, NHL, and NBA all have, in varying formats.

The owners are contending that at the time the initial agreement was reached, there was not enough information available about the rate of expansion of COVID-19 infections, and the subsequent safety measurements and guidelines that were implemented by Federal and State governmental agencies to combat the spread. Key among those measurements were restrictions placed on mass gatherings of 50 or more people at events, including sporting events. That restriction prevented the possibility of fans being able to attend baseball games for the foreseeable future, thus eliminating revenue streams for the teams from gate receipts, parking, concessions, and merchandise sales.

The owners have been referencing an “economic feasibility” clause in the March agreement that, per MLB, was intended to re-open the financial arrangement previously agreed to by players and owners for 2020 return to play if fans were not allowed to attend games. As one might imagine, the players, the union, and their lawyers have a different interpretation of that language, and so far have not been willing to budge off the pro-ration provision of the initial agreement.

When the owners finally presented their amended compensation plan on May 26th, the union and players roundly rejected the proposal publicly. The plan called for a sliding scale of reductions based on player salary, with higher-salaried stars having to bear the brunt of the salary reductions versus players making the league minimum or in-between. Overall player compensation would have been reduced from $4 billion to $1.2 billion.

The players countered with their own proposal on May 31st. In it, they re-affirmed their position on maintaining the original pro-ration formula. They also proposed an increased 114-game schedule. This would have meant the players achieve a 70% pro-ration of their 2020 salaries or $2.8 billion of the initial $4 billion player pool. MLB has since rejected that proposal, and, although not formally providing a counter-offer, it is rumored that the league is discussing implementing a 48-50 game schedule without fans.

Return To Play Or Risk Permanently Harming The Game

Given the state of a national economy ravaged by COVID-19, with millions of Americans losing their jobs, the optics of Major League Baseball owners and players fighting over billions of dollars look bad. The initial optimism that the “boys of summer” would take center-stage and be the first major North American professional sports league to return to action in early July has quickly waned and has left fans wondering if there will be a season at all.

 

If that were to happen, it would be more than bad optics at play for the game. Baseball entered 2020 having already endured a rough off-season, in which two of the league’s premier teams, the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox, were implicated in sign-stealing scandals. Both fans and players alike were angry at how blatant the level of cheating was at its peak. And both were equally frustrated that Astros and Red Sox players were given immunity from punishment, in effect, for their cooperation during the separate investigations.

If baseball were to compound things by not being able to reach an agreement between the league and its players for a return to play for 2020, and have to cancel the entire season, this could have a lasting, negative impact on the growth of the game.

Baseball Needs To Find Its Next Generation Of Fans

Baseball has made it clear it wants to capture the interest of the younger generation to help expand their market share and ensure a replacement demographic for baby boomers is in place to carry the sport moving forward. To that end, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has been working almost maniacally to find creative ways to speed up the game through pace-of-play initiatives. Reducing the average length of games to zero through the cancellation of the season was probably not what he was intending. You cannot capture the imagination of the younger generation by giving them a bag of air.

Assuming the league could resume from a health and safety standpoint – and that’s a big if – the owners and players are blowing a tremendous opportunity to capture the interest of both hard-core and casual sports fans alike who are starving for live sports. How perfect would it be for baseball to return to play Fourth of July weekend? A nation reeling from the impact of COVID-19, and now boiling over with the uprising and protests regarding the murder of George Floyd, racism, and police brutality might welcome a three-hour distraction in their lives.

Sadly, it does not look like a resolution to the negotiations is anywhere in sight. The rhetoric between the owners and players is as off-putting as it has ever been. The mighty dollar is once again the anchor that weighs down and submerges both sides.

In the short-term, baseball is facing an 18-month hiatus between seasons if the 2020 season gets scrubbed. If that were not depressing enough, consider that the current labor agreement expires in December 2021. That opens up possible scenarios of a lockout by the owners, or a strike by the players if the current discord between the two sides cannot get resolved by next year.

There is so much at stake for both sides. Unfortunately, they both seem content to stand their ground, ultimately taking themselves and the game of baseball with them off the cliff and out of sight, out of mind.

But do not worry, the boys of summer will hopefully be returning this year, to a sheet of ice or a hardwood court near you.

Sports Can’t Breathe

What a start to the turn of a new decade, 2020 has been relentless. First, the sports world gets shook with a tragic helicopter accident killing nine people including Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter.  Shortly thereafter the world is hit with a Coronavirus pandemic deemed Covid-19.  An invisible menace that’s had us quarantined for the last three months and has claimed thousands of lives.

Then on Monday, May 25th, 2020 on Memorial Day, a day to celebrate our fallen servicemen and women, a police officer took the life of yet another unarmed black man named George Floyd.  You can say my community’s collective breath was taken away in eight minutes and 46 seconds.  Going into the sixth month of 2020, the second half of this year I’m sure we’re all wondering when will the director say cut!

Sports Can’t Breathe

This Is Supposed to Be About Sports

It took me a week to construct this piece because I was angry, upset, and didn’t want my emotions to completely take over my writing. You see, I’m a black man in my 40s, same as Mr. Floyd, and that could’ve easily been me.   I’ve had my experiences with racial profiling from police and civilians.

To see a video of officers of the law who took an oath to protect and serve the community hold down a human being and kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes watching him die is one of the worse crimes to witness.  The disturbing part is this was the third such incident in a month where a black individual was murdered.  What those cops didn’t know is that George Floyd was good friends with former NBA player Stephen Jackson and he would be the catalyst in leading a global protest for justice.

I understand that this is supposed to be a sports column and I can assure it is.  It will just be a little different approach on this one. Almost four years ago it was in a football stadium, 2016, that former San Francisco 49ers   quarterback Colin Kaepernick exercised his American right to protest.  His peaceful protest was to sit during the national anthem to bring awareness to police brutality of black people.

Even after people saw this as disrespectful to our military, he consulted with a serviceman and changed to more appropriate kneeling.  Players began following Kaepernick in this protest and the message was interrupted by President Trump making this issue about respecting the American flag.  The president even went to the lengths of insulting the players and the mothers of these exceptional athletes by calling them sons of b*****s.

NFL Had a Chance to Take a Stand

The NFL and owners had the opportunity to support its diverse players but instead decided it valued its bottom line more than human life.  In the process exiling Kaepernick from the league who never received another contract offer.  One of the most outspoken owners, Jerry Jones, had plenty to say about that protest in 2016. Fast forward to today, crickets.  Countless mothers and fathers being taken away leaving children without parents with no repercussions just doesn’t seem American.

Now the NFL wants to make statements of support for the black community when it’s convenient and is the right thing to do.  It comes off as disingenuous because it took protesting and rioting on a global scale to finally be heard as a community.  The league and its owners could’ve done like their NBA counterparts and given support when it was uncomfortable to the very people that make this a billion-dollar industry.  We’ve all heard the saying “get out of your comfort zone”.  This is supposed to represent growth within one’s self.  Time to get out of your comfort zones.

How Can Sports Make an Impact

One thing we’ve learned since March 11th, 2020 is how important sports are to our way of life.  We can see that from the most-watched documentary in history, “The Last Dance”.  In this instance, though this issue shouldn’t just be blanketed by the restart of the NBA or any sporting event for that matter.  Instead whenever the NBA starts all the players should refuse to play, same for when the NFL starts.

This stance may not happen but a more feasible impactful statement could.  The NFL taking accountability for the lack of understanding of what Kaepernick’s kneeling protest was bringing attention to.  Second, rectify this by teams offering Colin a contract giving him the opportunity, if he chooses, to exit the game his way.  Lastly, at the start of any sporting event letting the clock run for eight minutes and 46 seconds with no movement and displaying the statement, “I can’t breathe”.

This would serve as a reminder that our country as a whole has a lot of work to do eradicating systemic racism and ensuring equality for all Americans.

Cody Rhodes’ Heel Turn is Coming, and It’s Inevitable

On the first Dynamite following his TNT championship win over Lance Archer at Double or Nothing, Cody Rhodes addressed the AEW fans and gave subtle clues on a darker alter ego on the horizon, one not seen since his time in WWE. AEW has proved its dedication to long term storytelling. There was a slow burn between Jon Moxley and Chris Jehrico. The all-out war that happened to feature the Young Bucks, Adam “Hangman” Page, and Kenny Omega, both had tremendous build-up and rewarded fans for paying attention to details. Cody has been dropping clues about a possible heel turn for months and in his coronation speech on dynamite he finally revealed the reason he will renounce his baby-face persona.

An Inevitable Heel Turn is Coming for Cody Rhodes

The Clues

Rhodes has been a heel for a large portion of his career and with good reason, he is an exceptional talker and worker for that role. We have not seen him be a true heel since he left WWE either in the indies, New Japan or inside of AEW. Cody Rhodes will become a heel again and the evidence is already there.

Cody has been careful to leave hints right out in the open, but there are also examples where fans have to look deeper into his past to find the foreshadowing of the coming turn. Let’s have a look at the things Rhodes has said, the actions and inaction he has taken on pay-per-views, dynamite, and his run in the pro wrestling indies this past couple of years.

MJF

No one on the AEW roster has been more outspoken against Cody Rhodes’ character than Maxwell Jacob Freeman. MJF betrayed his mentor and made it his mission to besmirch the Rhodes family name ever since. It has drawn him nuclear heat at times and erupted when the former protege pinned Cody earlier this year at Revolution in Chicago. Most heels say disgusting things to get over as a villain in front of the crowd, but some of what MJF says about Cody has an air of truth in it.

MJF has always maintained that the reason for his betrayal was Rhodes was not who he appeared to be. The people that associate themselves with Cody are there to be used to advance his career. Interestingly, MJF chooses these words to describe how Cody treats his friends and family. Has Rhodes reciprocated the support Brandi, Dustin, QT Marshal, and Arn Anderson have given him without fail? Or was MJF’s heel turn a stand-alone event with no bearing on Cody’s storyline?

Brandi

Easily the person closest to Cody, Brandi has been alongside her husband for nearly every match since the nightmare collective folded last year. In those matches along with segments interspersed through dynamite, we have seen where Brandi has been put in harm’s way, both accidentally and other times with a bit more intent. When Cody is in championship fight mode Brandi comes second, that’s not conjecture, that’s Brandi’s experience before Cody’s pay-per-view fight with Chris Jericho at Full Gear last November.

Also, when Cody faced off with Darby Allin in the semi-finals it appeared as though he threw Allin into Brandi despite knowing his wife was behind him. Finally, possibly the most damning moment where Cody’s ego showed through was his inaction after Jake Roberts covered his wife with his trademark snake and mimed heinous motions over her unconscious body. Rhodes never delivered a promo, he let Anderson talk for him on the go-home show before Double or Nothing.

Dustin

The eldest member of the Rhodes family is a strong veteran wrestler who has worked without his half-brother most of his career. However, after a heartfelt plea by Cody after their match at the very first Double or Nothing, the two have teamed together and have stood up for each other much more. However, during the other semi-final of the TNT championship tournament, Cody had an opportunity to stop the contest between Lance Archer and the Natural, Dustin Rhodes.

QT Marshall held the towel in his hands asking, almost begging Dustin to let him end the fight before he made his decision Cody ripped it from his hands and refused to throw it in. This may have been a matter of pride, but the match was over from a realistic standpoint. Cody could have saved his brother from taking even more unnecessary damage. In the lead up to his match with Archer, Rhodes only acknowledged his “need” for the title, he never talked about the match as a way of vengeance for his family.

Kenny Omega

One of the people who battled for power with the second generation pro wrestler and fellow member of the bullet club was Kenny Omega. Many people were speculating back in the tandem’s NJPW days that Cody was jealous of Kenny’s popularity, and talent and that it would lead the nightmare family patriarch to launch a hostile takeover of the bullet club and leave Omega on the outside looking in. The payoff to their tension was never to be, but to this day both Rhodes and Omega still acknowledge they don’t always see eye to eye.

If Kenny becomes a threat in the eyes of Rhodes what will Cody do to maintain his place in AEW?

The TNT Championship Title

On the May 27th edition of Wednesday night dynamite, Rhodes cut a promo as the very first TNT champion and it didn’t start like anyone expected. “Tony (Schivone) do you know why Tom Brady is my favorite quarterback?” He explained that both he and Brady were passed over multiple times by organizations and despite that fact have legacies that speak for themselves. The analogy being made hinges on the fact that Rhodes was the fourth phone call made by Tony Khan when making a merit-based pro wrestling promotion.

“It (being called 4th) doesn’t bother me, and if there is a tinge of bother it is absolved by the fact that in my right hand is the TNT Championship, and I am the very first champion of America’s greatest network,” Rhodes admits to having a sore spot or a chip on his shoulder for being snubbed for the first couple draft picks as it were when selecting the greatest free agents to start AEW. If Rhodes were ever to lose the title, these old feelings would resurface. In the press conference immediately following Double or Nothing Cody talked at length about what the title meant to him, it is important to him personally as it is professionally.

How Does it Happen?

Dropping the championship for Cody will be extremely difficult considering how attached he is to it. Losing the TNT championship would be the most likely opportunity for a change in personality. While a when is difficult to predict, the person to take the title is much less in doubt. While Jon Moxley is a fan favorite it’s very hard to characterize him as a pure babyface. Mox is the ultimate badass, a lone wolf who oozes charisma. While fans root for Moxley his persona will never be a replacement for Rhodes if he does indeed fall.

Who Triggers the Turn?

AEW has many likable wrestlers who could hold the title and perform at a serviceable level. There is only one wrestler, however, who has an unmatched rivalry with Cody Rhodes and always gets the best out of him when they square off. Darby Allin has had three matches with Rhodes each time getting closer to beating him. As mentioned before, Allin collided with Brandi Rhodes and appeared to be redirected into her by Cody. When listening to the promo by Cody leading up to that contest it’s clear he perceives Allin as a threat. A title win by Allin would not only elevate the profile of the Seattle native but would force a new chapter in the Cody Rhodes story.

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