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Saturday Sports: Venus Williams And Tennis, Tour De France



And it's time for sports.


SIMON: Wimbledon is in full swing. Whap (ph). Venus Williams faces challenges off and on the court. And the Tour de France is marred by a nasty crash and questionable call. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Good morning, Tom.


SIMON: Venus Williams has been playing some terrific tennis. But she's been playing under stress and a cloud. Has that been lifted?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, well, a little bit. You know, she was involved in a car crash a month ago. And a passenger in the car that hit Williams' car died a couple of weeks later. Now, initially, police said Williams was at fault. But just yesterday police released a video that showed the accident. And because of the video, police retracted that initial statement that she was at fault. But the crash is still under investigation.

The family of the victim has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Williams. So she's carrying all that while playing and, as you say, playing well. She appears able to compartmentalize. Although, she did break down earlier in the week when asked about the accident at a press conference.

SIMON: She plays a fourth round match on Monday. So does Nadal on the men's side. And he seems to be staging a comeback.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Oh, a great one. Before this season, his last gold - glam - sorry - grand slam title...

SIMON: It's early. It's early where you are, Tom.

GOLDMAN: It really is. His last Grand Slam title was in 2014. And it looked like illness and injuries were going to derail his career only in his 20s. But here he is 31. He got to the finals of the Australian Open early this year. He won the French Open last month. And he's playing great. And he's only three Grand Slam singles titles behind another fantastic geezer, 35-year-old Roger Federer.

SIMON: Yeah. Let's cross the channel and ask about the Tour de France. This week, Peter Sagan - not to be confused with Peter Segal, whose program follows ours in many markets. We're talking about the great Slovak cyclist. He was disqualified - accused of causing a crash on the sprint to the finish the other day. Mark Cavendish was injured and sent to the hospital. You've seen the video. I've seen the video. Did that look like an intentional elbow to you?

GOLDMAN: Before I answer that, if it were Peter Segal instead of Sagan, the video would have shown him leaning over and cracking a joke sending Cavendish to the pavement or one of those...

SIMON: But no - but no beer - no, you know, beer company is going to pay to see that, yeah.

GOLDMAN: I will defer to the experts who fairly unanimously say Sagan shouldn't have been disqualified. Those final wild sprints can be rough and physical. And slow motion does seem to show Cavendish trying to squeeze through too small an opening and Sagan moving his elbow out after Cavendish starts to go down almost as a steadying move. But the race organizers are serious about cyclists safety. And they made their decision.

SIMON: Back here to the United States, and NBA players have just been going back and forth between trades and free agency. By the way, anybody sign BJ Leiderman yet, who writes our theme music?

GOLDMAN: Not yet. But stay by the wires.

SIMON: All right. Boy, there's a lot of money being passed around. Where is it come from in basketball?

GOLDMAN: You and me because we like to watch and talk about the NBA. And multiply our interest by tens of millions of people and that's made networks willing to pay billions of dollars to the NBA to broadcast games. The current TV contract is 24 billion over a number of years. And that ends up - that money ends up going to players partly because, remember, if you are put off by Steph Curry's 40 million a year or Gordon Hayward's 30 million plus a year, I talked to two sports economists - Andrew Zimbalist, David Barry - who pointed out, A...

SIMON: And you have Andrew Zimbalist on your speed dial, don't you? So do I.

GOLDMAN: Absolutely, yeah. These players generate as much, if not more, value as their contracts are worth. And, B, the salaries are only about half of what those players should make because players and owners split revenues about 50/50. Barry points out the players generate most, if not all, of the NBA revenue but only get half.

SIMON: And what's your cut of that, Tom?

GOLDMAN: Not much.

SIMON: (Laughter) Well, that's not fair. NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much for being with us.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Scott. 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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