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Opinion | I Was the Fastest Girl in America, Until I Joined Nike

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“Equal Play” is an Opinion video series showcasing the insurgent athletes who are dragging women’s sports into the 21st century. The article below is by Lindsay Crouse.

This story has been updated.

On November 7, 2019, Nike responded to the video Op-Ed above in a statement.

“These are deeply troubling allegations which have not been raised by Mary or her parents before. Mary was seeking to rejoin the Oregon Project and Alberto’s team as recently as April of this year and had not raised these concerns as part of that process. We take the allegations extremely seriously and will launch an immediate investigation to hear from former Oregon Project athletes. At Nike we seek to always put the athlete at the center of everything we do, and these allegations are completely inconsistent with our values.”

On November 8, 2019, Mary Cain told New York Times Opinion:

For many years, the only thing I wanted in the world was the approval of Alberto Salazar. I still loved him. Alberto was like a father to me, or even like a god.

Last spring I told Alberto I wanted to work with him again — only him — because when we let people emotionally break us, we crave more than anything their approval.

I was the victim of an abusive system, an abusive man. I was constantly tormented by the conflict of wanting to be free from him and wanting to go back to the way things used to be, when I was his favorite.

Last month, after the doping report dropped that led to his suspension, I felt this quick and sudden release. That helped me understand that this system is not okay. That’s why I decided to speak up now.

People should never have to fear coming forward. I hope this Nike investigation is real and it centers on the culture that created Alberto. Nike has the chance to make a change and protect its athletes going forward.

Our video led to a wave of personal stories and eyewitness accounts by other athletes. Below are some of them.

From Olympic medalist, New York City Marathon Champion, and Nike coach Shalane Flanagan

From Olympian and former Nike athlete Cam Levins

From former Nike athlete and Olympian Amy Begley

From former Nike coach Steve Magness

From former Nike athlete and Olympian Kara Goucher

At 17, Mary Cain was already a record-breaking phenom: the fastest girl in a generation, and the youngest American track and field athlete to make a World Championships team. In 2013, she was signed by the best track team in the world, Nike’s Oregon Project, run by its star coach Alberto Salazar.

Then everything collapsed. Her fall was just as spectacular as her rise, and she shares that story for the first time in the Video Op-Ed above.

Instead of becoming a symbol of girls’ unlimited potential in sports, Cain became yet another standout young athlete who got beaten down by a win-at-all-costs culture. Girls like Cain become damaged goods and fade away. We rarely hear what happened to them. We move on.

Nike has come under fire in recent months for doping charges involving Salazar. He is now banned from the sport for four years, and his elite Nike team has been dismantled. In October, Nike’s chief executive resigned. (In an email, Salazar denied many of Cain’s claims, and said he had supported her health and welfare. Nike did not respond to a request for comment.)

The culture that created Salazar remains.

Kara Goucher, an Olympic distance runner who trained with the same program under Salazar until 2011, said she experienced a similar environment, with teammates weighed in front of one another.

“When you’re training in a program like this, you’re constantly reminded how lucky you are to be there, how anyone would want to be there, and it’s this weird feeling of, ‘Well, then, I can’t leave it. Who am I without it?’” Goucher said. “When someone proposes something you don’t want to do, whether it’s weight loss or drugs, you wonder, ‘Is this what it takes? Maybe it is, and I don’t want to have regrets.’ Your careers are so short. You are desperate. You want to capitalize on your career, but you’re not sure at what cost.”

She said that after being cooked meager meals by an assistant coach, she often had to eat more in the privacy of her condo room, nervous he would hear her open the wrappers of the energy bars she had there.

A big part of this problem is that women and girls are being forced to meet athletic standards that are based on how men and boys develop. If you try to make a girl fit a boy’s development timeline, her body is at risk of breaking down. That is what happened to Cain.



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Politics

E-Trade shares fall on disappointment it’s not the one being bought by Charles Schwab

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Pedestrians walk outside an E*Trade Financial office in New York.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Retail broker E-Trade appears to have just lost the most recent battle in the brokerage wars.

E-Trade shares fell more than 8% on Thursday after sources told CNBC that brokerage giant Charles Schwab is in talks to buy TD Ameritrade, leaving investors worried about E-Trade’s future.

“I think a bit of a surprise this morning in terms of the players,” said Devin Ryan, managing director or equity research at JMP Securities. “The market wasn’t anticipating the Schwab-Ameritrade combination, I think people were more looking at who would be buying E-trade.”

Shares of Schwab are up 6% and shares of TD Ameritrade are up 18%.

While Goldman Sachs, who has been beefing up its retail banking business in recent years, CFO Stephen Scherr said in June that the bank would be active in so-called bolt-on acquisitions, a person with knowledge of Goldman’s situation said it was unlikely they would purchase E-Trade.

“This will certainly put pressure on ETFC to find its own partner,” said Don Bilson of Gordon Haskett research advisers in a note to clients on Thursday.

To be sure, E-Trade still looks like an attractive acquisition target as the company has a large deposits business, said Ryan.

“E-trade still would be attractive to both kind of the obvious firms out there, like Schwab or Ameritrade, or potentially others as well,” said Ryan. “Consolidation makes sense today, I think it will make sense in the future.” But Ryan said Schwab will have its “hands full for while,” with the TD Ameritrade acquisition.

The reportedly $25 billion imminent deal between Schwab and TD Ameritrade will create a “Goliath in Wealth Management” according to Wells Fargo’s Mike Mayo, with more than $5 trillion in combined assets. The industry consolidation came as no surprise to investors, following massive disruption in the space after all of the major brokers dropped commission fees in recent months.

Non-broker?

While Goldman Sachs said it is an unlikely buyer, its not impossible another bank looking to beef up its retail business snatches up E-Trade. Especially as the broker’s stock down nearly 20% in the past 12 months, which would give a buyer a major discount.

“With the obvious candidates now spoken for…ETFC could end up with someone who isn’t necessarily an online broker,” said Bilson.

Ryan of JMP said a bank that is pushing into consumer finance could benefit from E-Trade’s very strong deposit base, which generates about $60 billion in deposits each quarter.

“A bank that is able to leverage that and generate stronger net interest income off of their customers, I think that could be quite attractive,” said Devin Ryan, managing director or equity research at JMP Securities.

Less cost synergies

The downside to an acquisition from a bank is less “expense synergies” than there would be from a merger with a traditional broker, said Ryan. The advantage to the Schwab-TD Ameritrade deal is the brokerage giant will be able to cut costs and stream new revenue opportunities. There will also be an opportunity to improve the platform for clients.

“Given the high amount of overlapping back-office operations and vendor costs, we would expect to see about 60% of AMTD’s costs removed,” said Stephen Biggar, Argus Research Director of Financial Institutions Research. Merging with a giant bank would remove some of those cost-cutting advantages.

What most of Wall Street agrees on is E-Trade needs to make some sort of deal.

“Over time, if firms are left out, it could create some pressure on those stocks, and as the distribution platforms become larger, it could also create a bit more pressure for the asset management industry,” said Bank of America research analyst Michael Carrier in a note to clients on Thursday.

E-Trade did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

—with reporting from CNBC’s Hugh Son, Kate Rooney and Michael Bloom.



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British Airways flights are being delayed due to a ‘technical issue’

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An unknown number of British Airways flights have been delayed in what the airline has blamed on a “technical issue.”

The social media team of the airline took to Twitter late Wednesday in an attempt to reassure passengers that steps were being taken to accommodate passengers affected by delays and cancellations.

On its website, British Airways also warned passengers that while it still planned to operate a full schedule on Thursday “there may be some knock-on delays to flights.”

The U.K. flag carrier has suffered a series of bruising jabs to its reputation in recent months, including at least two computer failures, a pilot strike and a massive data breach.

Shares in British Airways parent company, International Airlines Group, slipped around 1% on Thursday morning. The share price is more than 14% lower on a 12-month basis.

One customer claimed on Twitter that while stuck on the tarmac in San Jose, California, late Thursday, the pilot had warned passengers that the “entire flight planning system is down.”

In an emailed response to CNBC, the airline declined to elaborate on the nature of the problem but firmly rejected any suggestion that any of its systems had been hacked.



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Senate passes funding bill to avoid shutdown sending it to Trump

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The Senate passed a bill Thursday to dodge a government shutdown for another month ahead of a midnight deadline.

The measure now heads to President Donald Trump, who barring a change of heart is set to sign it into law. The Senate approved it in a 74-20 vote. 

The Democratic-held House passed it on Tuesday by a 231-192 margin, seeing considerably more Republican opposition than the GOP-controlled Senate did.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)

Joshua Roberts | Reuters

The legislation holds government funding at current levels through Dec. 20, setting up yet another appropriations showdown. Funding will lapse Friday if the president does not approve the spending bill.

The measure gives the House and Senate a few extra weeks to hash out a long-term spending deal. Lawmakers failed to strike an agreement before funding ran out this week amid another dispute over border security funding.

Earlier this year, Congress passed a two-year deal to set budget levels and suspend the U.S. debt ceiling. The House and Senate have struggled to decide how specifically to allocate the money to federal departments.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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