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Saturday Sports: Simone Biles, Racehorses


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: New calls for an independent investigation of USA Gymnastics after they apparently let down their biggest star. Also, a coalition calls to improve safety for racehorses. And Thanksgiving week football highlights, if that's what they are - Pats vs. Cowboys. NPR's Tom Goldman.

Hi there, Tom. How are you?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: I'm good, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Fine, thanks. Let's start with this really kind of shocking story broken by The Wall Street Journal. It says USA Gymnastics hid their investigation of Dr. Larry Nassar from Simone Biles, the biggest gymnastics star in America, who was one of the first to raise questions about the doctor and potential sexual abuse.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. And you can tell how troubling this story is, Scott, when you read Simone Biles' reaction on Twitter, where she says the pain is real and doesn't just go away, especially when new facts are still coming out. This journal story says although she was one of the first gymnasts to raise concerns about Nassar back in 2015, she didn't find out about the USA Gymnastics or FBI investigations until she came back from the 2016 Olympics with a huge medal haul, including four gold medals. The implication here is that USA Gymnastics kept her out of the loop, ignored the possibility that she'd been abused - and she publicly revealed in 2018 that she had been abused - because the organization was focused on making her the enormous star that she's become, which, of course, hugely benefited USA Gymnastics.

And, Scott, one other thing - a related story yesterday. The Orange County Register reported that champion gymnasts who were Nassar victims and their parents are demanding the Department of Justice release a report looking into the FBI's investigation of the Nassar case. There are allegations that parts of the investigation were slow, incomplete, and that could have allowed Nassar more time to abuse victims.

SIMON: Another jarring story, of course, has been the number of racehorses that have died at the track over the past couple of years. A new group has been created, the Thoroughbred Safety Coalition. What are the odds that they can bring about some change in the industry that the industry will take?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, critics of what's been happening in horse racing are cautiously optimistic. And the caution is because there have been years of talk about reform and coalitions, but nothing really changes. The one thing that has changed is public opinion. There's a lot of anger about horse deaths. And it did help prompt the creation of this new coalition. It includes several famous racing entities, including Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. And this coalition says they want to have a common and comprehensive set of standards on issues like drugs and the whipping of horses with riding crops during races. And, Scott, it's considered significant that Churchill Downs has joined. It has lagged behind on reform. So we'll see what happens.

SIMON: Thanksgiving week, which is big for the NFL, Patriots and Cowboys face off. This is Tom Brady vs. Dak Prescott, the Cowboys quarterback, who's been leading the league in passing.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. And, you know, during their reign, Scott, the Patriots have loved games like these - at home versus a good opponent and a hot quarterback, as you mentioned, in Dak. The Pats love reminding fans about the order of things, right?

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: So for much of this season, the Pats have had the NFL's best defense, especially pass defense. So it'll be a challenge for Dak Prescott. The offense hasn't been very good. New England quarterback Tom Brady's passing stats are down. He is 42, remember. But if the wind and the rain...

SIMON: I'd still, you know, bet on him in any big game.

GOLDMAN: I know. And if the wind and the rain in the forecast aren't too bad, I think he's going to make a statement.

SIMON: Finally, on Thanksgiving, a holiday classic. There's a slate of Thanksgiving football games on Thursday. The midday game, the first one, is between the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

SIMON: Tom, has there ever been an NFL game in which neither team scores a single point because I think we could be on the verge of history here?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) You know, there has. The last time was in 1943. The Lions and the Giants had a scoreless tie. But, Scott...

SIMON: How could the Bears be cut out of that? Yes?

GOLDMAN: Have you no faith?

SIMON: I think, maybe - I don't know, two-point touchback? Maybe that's what the defense will get them.

NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF GINGER BAKER'S "INTERLOCK") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.