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Saturday sports: Elite Eight begins; top player retires from women's tennis


And now it's time for sports.


ELLIOTT: March Madness is in full swing with a Cinderella story. Controversy in Cleveland over Deshaun Watson. And the top-ranked women's tennis player retires at age 25. Joining us now is Howard Bryant from Meadowlark Media. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning. How are you?

ELLIOTT: I am great. So nothing quite like the end of March. This is a really exciting Sweet 16 in the men's tournament. Saint Peter's University continues an amazing and unexpected run. The Duke Blue Devils and Coach K are still alive, and this his last season. And top-seeded Gonzaga is now out. What do you make of how things are going so far?

BRYANT: Well, all the top seeds are out except for one, except for Kansas. They're the last one standing. And that's on top end of the tournament. And on the back end of the tournament, you've got a 15 seed, St Peter's, a little school in New Jersey. This has never happened before.

ELLIOTT: The Peacocks (laughter).

BRYANT: Exactly - on National Peacock Day, so of course that was appropriate that they were going to win. For them to do what they've done, to come out and beat Kentucky and to beat Purdue - and that's why you play. That's why this tournament is always so exciting, that - it's not the same as it used to be, where you had these dominant No. 1 teams. Now everyone's a little vulnerable. And a team like St. Peters - they get on the court, and they look and go, you know what? These guys have big names, and they're the nationally ranked teams, but we're right here. We can beat them. And you start feeling like you can win, and then anything's possible.

ELLIOTT: Let's talk now about the Cleveland Browns getting a lot of criticism for acquiring Deshaun Watson as their new quarterback. Watson, of course, faces multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. He was introduced to the Browns yesterday in a press conference. That was quite a spectacle. Explain to us what happened there.

BRYANT: Well, it's very cynical - very cynical to me. No. 1, you had the owner and the GM who weren't even present. They're the ones who gave this man a $230 million contract, even though he's got 22 sexual assault allegations against him. And not only did they give him $230 million, but anticipating a suspension from the league, they structured the contract so the first year is the least amount of money that Watson will receive. So even if he does get suspended, he's not going to lose any money - a really bad look by the NFL. And this is not the way - the last couple of years, you have these different slogans on the field about everything from racism to, you know, social justice mattering, and then you do this - a real slap in the face and an insult to a lot of people who care about these issues.

ELLIOTT: Finally, 25-year-old Ashleigh Barty, the world's top-ranked women's tennis player, announcing that she's calling it a career. She's a three-time major champion, retiring at the top of her game at such a young age. What does this say about the longevity of sports careers?

BRYANT: Well, it says that the Serena Williamses of the world, who started out in 1995 at age 15 and are still going - they may be the rarities, but I think what it says mostly about someone like Ash Barty is that she felt like she accomplished what she needed to accomplish. In the old days, you played because you needed to make money. Today, the money is so huge that you don't have to break your back and break your mind and give everything of your life to these games. It's a business, and it's a shame because she just wins the Australian Open, and she is the top of the world right now. She is a great, great player. But she said she had other interests. And so she seemed very content with the decision, and I think we should all be pretty happy for her. But, boy, what a player.

ELLIOTT: That's Meadowlark Media's Howard Bryant. Thanks so much, Howard.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.