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Saturday Sports: U.S. Open Ending, NFL Beginning


Now it's time for sports.


SIMON: There will be a first-time winner of the women's final at the U.S. Open tennis tournament today. Only time will tell, but we know this much - the winner will be American. And tomorrow, the first full Sunday slate of games for the new NFL season. We'll get to that later. What a pleasure. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us now live in the studio. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It is an honor. And the balloons and champagne are a beautiful touch.

SIMON: (Laughter) We have a little more set up when you leave the studio.

GOLDMAN: Thank you.

SIMON: And it's embarrassing because you can see how ridiculously easy my part of this partnership is right? I just - OK, Tom, tell me about this. Listen. Four American women made it to the semifinals. One of them was not Serena Williams, although just because she had a baby. Tell us about the finalists, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.

GOLDMAN: Well, you mentioned no Serena. In fact, this is the first time since 1998 there's an American woman in the U.S. Open final, let alone two, not named Williams. Twenty-four-year-old Sloane Stephens, 22-year-old Madison Keys, both playing in their first Grand Slam singles final. Guaranteed not the last time, Scott. For those who've said the future of American women's tennis looks bleak beyond Serena and Venus Williams, that doesn't seem to be the case.

SIMON: And to add a note of poetry - this U.S. Open mark 60 years since Althea Gibson won the U.S. Open. Of course, she was the first African-American woman to do that.

GOLDMAN: Absolutely. Two African-American young women are playing in this final. And coming on the heels of the Williams sisters' dominance, you know, it's just not a big deal anymore. And I think that's the ultimate tribute to Althea Gibson.

SIMON: Football. We're one game out of the gate.

GOLDMAN: Football.

SIMON: Oh, yeah - football. One game out of the gates, but this board is beset with a lot of issues. Yesterday, for example, a judge temporarily blocked the six-game suspension of Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys for alleged domestic abuse. That case could linger over much of the season. And, of course, Colin Kaepernick is not on any roster. But what began last year with him taking a knee has become a whole chorus of players undertaking various signs of protest and/or support during the national anthem.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, that's very true. And, you know, there's an interesting situation planned in Cleveland tomorrow, where the protests appear to have gone to the next level. Now, the Browns had staged the biggest protest during an anthem to date. About a dozen of them knelt in a circle before a preseason game. And this angered some local police, who threatened to stage their own protest before tomorrow's game.

But the sides appear to have come together. Tomorrow, Browns players and police, firefighters, military members are apparently all going to run on the field together. They're going to stand together for the national anthem. And beyond that, there have reportedly been discussions between players and law enforcement officials about players doing ride-alongs with police and putting together town hall meetings to discuss these social issues.

SIMON: Finally, a stat I noticed this week and brought to your attention. Last month, the National Federation of State High School Associations released its annual sports participation survey, shows participation in high school football was down in 2016. Does this suggest interest in the sport is going to go down over this next generation?

GOLDMAN: Some say it might, but it's still the, you know, the overall number of participants is still the most in any high school sport. And people still love and watch football. So is it seriously threatened? Not for the foreseeable future.

SIMON: Tom Goldman, NPR sports correspondent. Always a pleasure to have you here, my friend. Thanks for being with us.

GOLDMAN: Thank you. 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.