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Gay cheer coach fired at Murrieta Valley HS, Team wants him back

Henderson’s sexuality was the basis of his dismissal, his attorney said. He called the investigation into the anonymous letter “improper.”

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Students rally in support of their coach (Photo by Toni McAllister/PATCH)

By Toni McAllister | MURRIETA, CA — Murrieta Valley High School fired Michael Henderson, head coach of cheer and stunt program, after he served three years in that job.

The coach, 31, believes he was fired because he is gay. He filed a wrongful termination lawsuit alleging that the process leading to his dismissal was “flawed.”

Many of his student athletes and their families agreed.

Michael Henderson sued the high school, arguing wrongful termination based on his sexual orientation.

They gathered Wednesday afternoon at a rally at the high school in support of the coach. About two dozen student athletes and family members wearing the MVHS Nighthawks’ red and black colors turned out with signs that read, “Bring Back Coach Mike.” Many passing motorists honked, although it’s unclear if the drivers knew what the hubbub was about.

The coach’s tenure at the high school put the school in the national cheerleading spotlight. Victories include fourth-place finalist in the 2021 National High School Cheerleading Championship and sixth-place finalist the year before, among other titles.

Senior Kendell Winters started on the cheer team her freshman year under a different coach; Henderson came in shortly thereafter. She described “Coach Mike” as a tough leader who “has our best interests at heart.”

“He always wants the best for you,” she said. “I hope we’re able to get him back.”

Henderson described his reaction to the June 16 dismissal as simply “shock.” Just eight days earlier, he received a “glowing” end-of-season review from high school Athletic Director Darin Mott and Principal Ryan Tukua, he said.

“There was no hint that anything was wrong,” Henderson said.

But two days later, on June 10, Mott told the coach that someone sent an anonymous complaint letter against him. Officials told him that an investigation was launched and that he just needed to sit tight.

“I never saw the letter,” Henderson said. “I wasn’t even given a chance to respond. I was never interviewed about any of it.”

Instead, on the day of his dismissal, district officials told him he was being let go because the cheer program “was taking a different direction,” he said.

Murrieta Valley Unified School District declined to comment on Henderson’s firing. “State employment and federal privacy laws prohibit the comment and/or discussion of specific personnel actions,” spokesperson Monica Gutierrez said.

Henderson’s sexuality was the basis of his dismissal, his attorney, Terry Davis, said. He called the investigation into the anonymous letter “improper.”

“The anonymous letter was sent to MVUSD by what is believed to be a couple of disgruntled cheer parents who were angry with their child’s position or participation level in the team,” Davis said.

The investigation into the letter “was spearheaded by devout Mormon MVUSD Board Member Paul Diffley, who made calls to several unnamed sources impeding due process of the investigation,” Davis said. “One question related to his sexual orientation raised red flags, leading many to believe that it was a substantial factor in the district’s decision to terminate Mr. Henderson’s employment.”

Diffley told Patch that the matter was a personnel issue in litigation and declined further comment.

Patch was unable to track down student athletes and/or family members who may have been unhappy with Henderson’s performance.

The new 2021-’22 cheer season has just started, so it’s unclear what changes, if any, will come at the high school.

Kim Altenhofel, a cheer parent and president of the school’s cheer booster club, said Tukua contacted her twice and Diffley spoke with her once as part of the investigation into Henderson.

In all of the conversations, the officials were seeking feedback about the cheer program and the coach, she said. The investigation seemed to center on allegations of verbal and mental abuse by Henderson, she said.

Altenhofel insisted she never witnessed any abusive behavior by the coach.

“The kids loved him. They are heartbroken,” she said.

Rick Winters, Kendell Winters’ father, said he was never contacted by anyone within the district. He said Henderson was wronged.

“My daughter excelled in his program,” Rick Winters said. Student athletes were expected to maintain good grades and participate in team events under Henderson, he added.

“Coach Mike had high expectations, but I want that for my kids. That is real life,” Rick Winters said.

A June 17 MVUSD Board of Trustees meeting was packed with MVHS cheer athletes and their families, who spoke in support of Henderson. Because his dismissal was not on the meeting agenda, the trustees were prohibited from addressing the comments.

Henderson continued to coach several of his student athletes off campus at Corona-based Prime Cheer and Stunt.

Toni McAllister has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has been on editorial staffs with a number of national and local media outlets. She is a graduate of Cal State Long Beach with bachelor’s degree in journalism. Reach her at [email protected]

The preceding article was previously published at PATCH and is republished by permission.

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The voice of Los Angeles Dodgers baseball, legendary Vin Scully has died

“The game is the thing, not me,” he told The LA Times in 1998. “I am just a conduit for the game. I am the guy between the expert & the fan. I am not the expert”

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Courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers

LOS ANGELES – The iconic phrase “It’s time for Dodgers baseball” voiced by Vin Scully, ringing out at the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers for over 60 years was termed  “the heartbeat of the Dodgers,” by the team as it sadly announced the legendary broadcaster’s passing at age 94 Tuesday.

“We have lost an icon,” said Dodger President & CEO Stan Kasten. “The Dodgers’ Vin Scully was one of the greatest voices in all of sports. He was a giant of a man, not only as a broadcaster, but as a humanitarian. He loved people. He loved life. He loved baseball and the Dodgers. And he loved his family. His voice will always be heard and etched in all of our minds forever. I know he was looking forward to joining the love of his life, Sandi. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family during this very difficult time. Vin will be truly missed.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom expressed his condolences Tuesday evening after the news broke of Scully’s death. In a statement the Governor said:

“Vin Scully was a master of his craft. A native son of New York, his unmistakable voice will forever be synonymous with Los Angeles.

When the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn in 1958, Vin came with them. For more than six decades, he provided the soundtrack for generations of baseball fans. He was a master storyteller whose calls had an unparalleled musical quality that was a source of comfort for millions.

Over his remarkable career, Vin consistently demonstrated the remarkable ability to improvise poetry, a true artist whose love for the game rang through every Dodgers broadcast. He was quite simply the greatest of all time, and will be sorely missed not just by his family and friends but by millions of baseball fans.”

Courtesy of the Los Angeles Dodgers

LA’s hometown station KTLA 5 reported that Vincent Edward Scully was born on Nov. 29, 1927, in Bronx, New York. He began his legendary career at Fordham University, where he worked on the school paper and for the college radio station.

He latched onto the then-Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s and followed the team to the West Coast where he would become synonymous with Dodgers baseball for the next 67 season.

Scully retired from calling Dodgers games after the 2016 season, eight years after announcing his original plans to step away from the game he loved.

He was a MLB Hall of Fame inductee in the 1980s, becoming one of only a handful of announcers to receive the honor. In 2016 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Earlier this year, he was awarded the Baseball Digest lifetime achievement award.

California U.S. Senator Alex Padilla remembered the Dodger broadcaster in a statement:

“Angela and I join Los Angeles—and baseball fans around the world—in mourning the passing of Vin Scully. From Opening Day to the World Series and every inning in between, for generations of fans, Vin Scully’s voice meant it was time for Dodger baseball. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley in the 1980s, I spent many evenings dreaming of playing baseball in the major leagues while Vin’s voice narrated the action.

“Vin’s unparalleled storytelling and love of sports allowed him to transcend baseball. Many fans recall Vin’s unique calls on some of the most memorable football games and golf tournaments of the 20th Century.

“While he became a legend for his talents behind the microphone, he will be remembered best for his decency beyond the broadcast booth. A few years ago, as California’s Secretary of State, I had the opportunity to introduce Angela and our boys to Vin at a voter registration event before the game. He was incredibly gracious to my family, as he was to all fans. He always made time for fans—regardless of age or occupation—whenever and wherever he met them. Vin Scully was truly an ambassador for the Dodgers, Los Angeles, and the entire sport of baseball. Our hearts go out to the entire Scully family.”

In a Facebook post, Out Dodgers executive Erik Braverman expressed his sadness at the passage of the team’s legendary broadcaster:

From KTLA:

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The LA Sparks donate shoes to homeless youth honoring Brittney Griner

The shoe drive was originally an initiative by Griner to help those in need in the Phoenix metropolitan area

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Los Angeles Sparks guard Brittney Sykes (Photo Credit: WNBA/LA Sparks)

HOLLYWOOD – Led by Los Angeles Sparks guard Brittney Sykes, the WNBA championship team’s executive staff donated dozens of pairs of shoes to Covenant House California for children experiencing homelessness this past Monday.

The shoes were donated, in part, to honor WNBA Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner who currently remains detained in Russia.

The shoes were collected throughout the WNBA season in collaboration with Griner’s team, the Phoenix Mercury, and her annual Heart and Sole Shoe Drive. As the Mercury visited all 12 cities with WNBA teams, people were encouraged to bring new or lightly used shoes to be donated to local causes. The nonprofit HavASole also contributed to the shoe drive.

The shoe drive was originally an initiative by Griner to help those in need in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Los Angeles Sparks guard Brittney Sykes (Photo Credit: WNBA/LA Sparks)

As Griner remains detained in Russia, the drive was expanded throughout the league in her honor. The local shoe drive was held in Los Angeles on July 4 when the Sparks and Mercury faced off in the Crypto.com arena, KTLA reported.

Covenant House California (CHC) is a non-profit youth shelter that provides sanctuary and support for youth experiencing homelessness, ages 18-24. In their mission statement the organization notes: “We believe that no young person deserves to be homeless; that every young person in California deserves shelter, food, clothing, education … and most importantly, to be loved.”

CHC provides a full continuum of services to meet the physical, emotional, educational, vocational, and spiritual well-being of young people, in order to provide them with the best chance for success in independence.

(Photo Credit: WNBA/LA Sparks)

Officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February detained Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist after customs inspectors allegedly found hashish oil in her luggage. The State Department has determined that Russia “wrongfully detained” her.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor, but there was no intent,” Griner told a Moscow judge during the second hearing in her trial, according to the New York Times. “I didn’t want to break the law.”

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Cherelle Griner earlier this month and U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood delivered a letter from the president to the WNBA star in answer to a letter Griner had written to Biden pleading for his assistance in gaining her freedom.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken after Brittney Griner’s guilty plea reiterated the Biden administration remains committed to securing her release.

“We will not relent until Brittney, Paul Whelan, and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones,” tweeted Blinken.

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Los Angeles to host 2028 Olympic Summer Games July 14 through 30th

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Courtesy of The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission (Photo by Bryan Pugh)

LOS ANGELES – In a news conference Monday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach alongside IOC member Nicole Hoevertsz, the Los Angeles Olympic coordination commission chair, announced that the City will play host to the Summer Games in 2028.

The Games will begin with a dual opening ceremony at the Coliseum and SoFi Stadium on July 14, 2028, and continue through July 30. The Paralympics will follow, starting on Aug. 15. There will be venues across Southern California for the various international sporting events and completions.

“With set dates in hand, Los Angeles is ready and excited to host the Olympics for the third time and the Paralympics for the first time in history,” said Mayor Garcetti. “The Games represent a once in a lifetime opportunity for LA — a bold investment throughout our communities with equity and progress as the main focus. This will bring vast opportunity into every corner of the city ensuring a lasting legacy for future generations of Angelenos.”

“Los Angeles is a special place for sport,” Hoevertsz remarked. She had competed in the 1984 Summer Olympic Games, which were also held in Los Angeles, as athlete in the synchronized swimming competition for Aruba.

“It’s wonderful to see the continued progress of the LA28 Games and especially terrific to witness the positive impact the Games can have on the community well before the Olympic flame ever reaches American soil. We have much to continue to plan and celebrate as we prepare to deliver the beauty and excitement of sport to the world. The confirmation of the Games dates now gives LA a firm deadline when it will need to be ready to welcome the world.”

The Orange County Register reported that LA 2028 will receive at least $2 billion from the IOC, up from $1.7 billion had the city hosted the 2024 Games and the largest payout ever to an Olympic host city. Los Angeles also will receive the IOC’s 20 percent share of the 2028 Games surplus. With the deal, LA 2028 will receive 80 percent of those Olympics’ surplus. LA 2028 initially projected a $166.1 million surplus in 2015 documents, an estimate considered conservative by several longtime Olympic bid analysts.

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