Tigers draft Arizona State slugger Torkelson with No. 1 pick
UNDATED (AP) — Major League Baseball’s amateur draft began with the first of a pandemic-shortened five rounds. Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson was taken with the No. 1 overall pick by the Detroit Tigers. The Baltimore Orioles selected Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad at No. 2. Minnesota right-hander Max Meyer was third and went to Miami. Texas A&M lefty Asa Lacy was No. 4 to Kansas City. Vanderbilt shortstop Austin Martin went to Toronto to round out the first five picks.
Before the first pick was made at the amateur draft, Major League Baseball delivered a message: The sport stands fully behind the Black Lives Matter movement.
At the outset of the broadcast Wednesday night, Commissioner Rob Manfred said “this moment is a call to action” and baseball “can do more as an institution” to combat systemic racism and inequality.
Executives from all 30 teams working remotely held up signs that read: “Black Lives Matter. United For Change.” The baseball operations officials were joined by MLB and club owners in announcing donations to several organizations that support and fight for racial justice.
In other MLB news:
— The Chicago Cubs selected hometown shortstop Ed Howard in the first round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft. The 18-year-old Howard was a prep star at Mount Carmel High School on Chicago’s South Side. He also started for the 2014 Jackie Robinson West Little League team that advanced to the finals of the Little League World Series. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Howard went No. 16 overall, becoming the first Illinois high school position player to go in the first round since Jayson Werth in 1997.
— Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred says there is a “100%” chance of big league ball this year. Major League Baseball will make another proposal to start the pandemic-delayed season in empty ballparks, but Manfred vowed to unilaterally order opening day if an agreement is not reached. The players’ association made its second proposal Tuesday, asking for an 89-game regular season and 100% of prorated salaries. MLB’s plan a day earlier was for a 76-game season, would guarantee 50% of prorated salaries and hinge 25% in additional money on the postseason’s completion.
— The Coca-Cola Co. has ended its sponsorship of Major League Baseball after three seasons but will continue to support 16 MLB teams at the local level. PepsiCo Inc. sponsored MLB from 1997-2016.
NASCAR-CONFEDERATE FLAG BANNED
NASCAR bans Confederate flag from its races and properties
UNDATED (AP) — NASCAR has banned the Confederate flag from all events and properties. NASCAR says the Confederate flag runs contrary to their commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, competitors and the industry.
NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from its races and properties on Wednesday, formally distancing itself from what for many is a symbol of slavery and racism that had been a familiar sight at stock car events for more than 70 years.
The move comes amid social unrest around the globe following the death in police custody of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis. Protests have roiled the nation for days and Confederate monuments are being taken down across the South — the traditional fan base for NASCAR.
Bubba Wallace, NASCAR's lone black driver, called this week for the banishment of the Confederate flag and said there was “no place” for them in the sport. At long last, NASCAR obliged.
Former chairman Brian France tired in 2015 to ban the flying of Confederate flags at race tracks, a proposal too broad to enforce and one that angered NASCAR’s core Southern-based fan base.
Truex ends 2020 winless skid with victory at Martinsville
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. cruised down the stretch and won his first NASCAR Cup race of the season on Wednesday night in the first race under the lights at Martinsville Speedway.
Truex, the 2017 Cup champion, has been one of NASCAR’s biggest winners over the last three years, but failed to find victory lane for Joe Gibbs Racing over the first 10 races of this season.
Tick tock. The time ran out on the losing streak.
Truex won the Martinsville grandfather clock on the paperclip-shaped track at just 0.526 miles. He won for the first time with new crew chief Jason Small.
Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, who has two wins this season, and Joey Logano made it a 2-3-4 finish for Team Penske.
US Soccer repeals rule that banned kneeling during anthem
UNDATED (AP) — U.S. Soccer’s board of directors has voted to repeal a 2017 policy that required national team players to stand during the national anthem, a rule adopted after Megan Rapinoe kneeled in support of Colin Kaepernick. The board made the decision during a conference call. Rapinoe took a knee during the anthem at a pair of national team matches in 2016. She said she wanted to express solidarity with Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who silently took a knee during the national anthem before NFL games to raise awareness of police brutality and racial injustice.
The U.S. Soccer Athletes' Council, which includes current national team players Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger, as well as former players like Landon Donovan, called on U.S. Soccer to also apologize for the policy to foster a "positive relationship to exist going forward."
The U.S. Women's National Team Players Association also called for an apology from U.S. Soccer and a plan to substantively address racial inequality.
ZION WILLIAMSON-LEGAL WOES CONTINUE
Williamson attorney: allegations of ineligibility 'baseless'
UNDATED (AP) — Attorneys for NBA rookie Zion Williamson’s former marketing agent are continuing their legal push to examine whether the former Duke All-American accepted improper benefits before playing for the Blue Devils. In a court filing Tuesday in the North Carolina case, Prime Sports-Ford attorneys continued to argue that last summer’s No. 1 overall NBA draft pick didn’t meet the definition of a student-athlete because he was “ineligible/permanently ineligible” to play college sports.
The argument about Williamson's eligibility is center of the legal fight over Williamson's endorsement potential.
Williamson’s lawsuit stated that Prime Sports violated the state’s sports agent law, both by failing to include disclaimers about the loss of eligibility when signing a contract and the fact neither Prime Sports nor Ford were registered with the state.
Women sue USA Swimming over sexual abuse by coaches
UNDATED (AP) — Six women have filed civil lawsuits against USA Swimming, its local associations in California and three now-banned coaches claiming the national governing body failed to protect them from abuse by those coaches. Debra Grodensky, Suzette Moran and Tracy Palmero, along with three other women who remain anonymous, filed three lawsuits this month. Among individuals named in the suits are former U.S. Olympic and national team coach Mitch Ivey, former U.S. national team director Everett Uchiyama and former coach Andrew King.
The suits allege that USA Swimming was aware of the predatory behavior but refused to address it, creating a culture of abuse that exposed dozens of underage swimmers to sexual abuse and harassment.
The lawsuits are believed to be the first major filings under a new California law that allows sexual abuse victims to confront in court their abusers and the organizations that protected predators. Assembly Bill 218, which went into effect on Jan. 1, created a three-year window to file past claims that had expired under the statute of limitations.
Jets' Mosley 'cleared for everything' after core injury
UNDATED (AP) — New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley says he is cleared for all physical activity after missing most of last season with a groin and core muscle injury. Mosley says during a video conference call that he is confident he will be good to go when training camp begin. Mosley was one of the Jets' biggest offseason additions last year when he signed a five-year, $85 million deal. He had a strong debut with New York in the regular-season opener but injured his groin late in the game. Mosley ended up missing all but two games with the injury.
In other NFL news:
— A statue of former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson has been removed from the spot where it stood outside the team's stadium for nearly 25 years. A team statement says it was concerned about possible attempts to take it down. The team didn't say where the statue would be relocated. Richardson announced in 2017 that he was putting the team up for sale after a Sports Illustrated report, citing unidentified sources, said he made sexually suggestive comments to women and directed a racial slur at an African American team scout. Aerial video showed a huge crane lifting the statue from its pedestal to a flatbed tractor-trailer.
— Green Bay’s Christian Kirksey believes his history with his new defensive coordinator will help the veteran linebacker make a smooth transition as he switches teams for the first time. Kirksey signed with the Packers in March after spending his first six NFL seasons in Cleveland. Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was the Browns’ head coach in 2014-15. Kirksey is counting on his comfort level with Pettine to help as the 27-year-old enters a critical stage of his career. Injuries have caused Kirksey to play a total of nine games over the last two seasons.
IOC could allow stronger protests by athletes at Olympics
GENEVA (AP) — During a global wave of demonstrations against racism, the IOC says it's opening talks that could let athletes make stronger protests at the Olympic Games.
Only five months ago the Olympic body strengthened its ban on political statements by specifying that gestures such as taking a knee or raising a fist on a medal podium remain prohibited.
The Olympic body’s public stance eased slightly Wednesday when its president Thomas Bach said the in-house athlete committee would “explore different ways” how opinions could be expressed. Bach says he opposes what he calls "potentially divisive demonstrations.”
Rights groups, athletes ask NCAA to move tourney from Idaho
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Groups that advocate for civil rights and women’s rights have joined notable athletes in asking the NCAA to move the first and second rounds of the 2021 men’s basketball tournament out of Idaho after the state passed a law banning transgender women from competing in women’s sports.
A letter sent and signed by a list of professional athletes including Megan Rapinoe, Billie Jean King, Jason Collins and Sue Bird calls for the NCAA to move the games set to be held next March at Boise State University.
The Idaho law applies to all sports teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. A girls’ or women’s team will not be open to transgender students who identify as female.
MLS to resume with tournament
UNDATED (AP) — Major League Soccer is set to resume its season with a tournament starting July 8 in Florida.
The league suspended play on March 12 because of the coronavirus outbreak after its teams had played just two games.
The league’s 26 teams will be divided into six groups for the opening round of the tournament played without fans at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. Sixteen teams will advance to the knockout round, with the winner earning a spot in the 2021 CONCACAF Champions League.
Following the tournament, teams will resume the season in their home markets.
Qualifying extended for Ryder Cup
UNDATED (AP) — Brooks Koepka feels so strongly against a Ryder Cup without fans that he could see a scenario where some players protested by not playing. Would he be one of them? Koepka says that's possible. Rory McIlroy is convinced it won't come to that. McIlroy says he's fairly certain the Sept. 25-27 matches at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin will have fans. The PGA of America is proceeding with an adjusted qualifying system for the U.S. team. Because golf was shut down for three months, the qualifying will be extended by one week. Steve Stricker now gets six captain's picks for his U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Those three months wiped out three majors from the qualifying period. It all depends on whether the Ryder Cup is played as scheduled. A decision is expected by the end of the month.
Players lost nine events that offered qualifying points.
The change also means Justin Thomas and Tiger Woods are now outside the automatic qualifiers although qualifying is just over 60% completed.
Golf passes initial test with no positive results from virus
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Very little about the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial resembles the opening round of The Players Championship on March 12, the last professional golf played before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down golf and most everything else.
Players return to a new set of rules, starting with mandatory tests for the coronavirus when they first arrive and having their temperatures taken before they can get to the parking lot.
But Wednesday’s activity was not a good start. Players and caddies exchanged clubs (players are supposed to handle the clubs themselves). Caddies were not wiping down the flagsticks or bunker rakes after use. Social distancing felt more like a guideline.
Players and caddies were among the essential personnel who were tested for the virus when they arrived, and Commissioner Jay Monahan said no one has tested positive.
Federer won’t return this year
LONDON (AP) — Roger Federer will miss whatever remains of the coronavirus-impacted 2020 tennis season because of a setback in his recovery from surgery on his right knee.
The 20-time major champion had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in February. Federer posted a statement on Twitter to say he needed an “additional quick arthroscopic procedure" and will take his time to return to 100% fitness.
The 38-year-old Federer had initially planned to be sidelined for at least four months but has barely missed any elite tennis since his surgery because the tour has been suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Two-time Wimbledon champ added to exhibition lineup
UNDATED (AP) — Petra Kvitova (kuh-VIHT'-oh-vuh) will play at a tennis exhibition event next month in Berlin and Tommy Haas will come out of retirement to join in.
Organizers added the two-time Wimbledon champion to play against a women’s lineup of Elina Svitolina, Kiki Bertens, Julia Goerges and Andrea Petkovic.
Haas hasn’t played since 2017 and is tournament director of the Indian Wells event. He was added to a men’s tournament alongside Dominic 8, Alexander Zverev, Nick Kyrgios and Jannik Sinner.
One more player is still to be announced for each of the men’s and women’s events.
Organizers plan to play on grass from July 13-15 and then on hard courts from July 17-19. No fans are expected to be able to attend amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Stacey Allaster US Open's 1st female tournament director
NEW YORK (AP) — Stacey Allaster is taking over as the U.S. Open’s tournament director. Allaster is the first woman to hold that job at the American Grand Slam tennis tournament. She is a former CEO of the WTA women’s tour and has worked at the U.S. Tennis Association since 2016. Allaster pushed for changes at the Open such as the serve clock and warmup clock and lobbied for coaching to be allowed during matches. The USTA announced this week it had eliminated 110 positions from its national staff and is expected to decide as soon as next week whether to hold the U.S. Open.
All-Star outfielder Claudell Washington dies at age 65
UNDATED (AP) — Two-time All-Star outfielder Claudell Washington has died at age 65. Washington had been battling prostate cancer. He played with seven teams in a major league career that started as a 19-year-old in Oakland with the Athletics. He finished with 1,884 hits, 164 home runs and 312 stolen bases. Washington made the All-Star Game in 1975 with the A’s and in 1984 with the Atlanta Braves during his 17-year career.
Portland Trail Blazers founder Harry Glickman dead at 96
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Harry Glickman, the founder of the Portland Trail Blazers and general manager of the franchise’s only NBA title-winning team in 1977, has died. He was 96. The team announced Glickman’s death; no cause was given. Portland was granted an expansion franchise in 1970. Glickman was part of the original ownership team that paid the league’s $3.7 million expansion fee. Glickman held several positions with the franchise, including general manager, before he retired in 1994.