MLB-OUTBREAK

Baseball players say talks futile, tell MLB to order return

NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball players told Major League Baseball additional talks to start the season during the coronavirus pandemic are futile and said owners should order a return to work, which likely would spark lengthy litigation and the sport’s return to labor wars. The union’s action could lead to a season of about 50 games rather than the 82 initially proposed by MLB. The Major League Baseball Players Association could respond by filing a grievance that would be heard by arbitrator Mark Irvings.

Players and MLB agreed to a deal March 26 calling for prorated salaries. That deal gave baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred the right to start the season provided there were no travel restrictions and games could be played before fans in regular-season ballparks. It called for "good faith” negotiations to play in empty ballparks or neutral sites.

MLB made three economic offers, the last Friday, and the union proposed two. The sides remain far apart on how much players should get of the $4 billion in salaries they originally were set to earn: MLB has offered to guarantee $1.27 billion and increase the total to $1.45 billion if the postseason is completed. Players want $2.25 billion.

NFL-BROWN-MAYFIELD

Mayfield "absolutely" will kneel during national anthem

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield plans to kneel during the national anthem this upcoming season to support protests of social injustice, police brutality and racism. In answering a post from a fan on his Instagram account Saturday that pleaded with him not to kneel, Mayfield responded: “Pull your head out. I absolutely am.″ Mayfield has been outspoken recently about the need for more understanding and justice in the nation following the killing of George Floyd, a black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis.

On Friday, Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien said he would kneel with his players if they chose to do so during the anthem.

Earlier this week, while not going as far as O'Brien, new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski made it clear he would back his players in any peaceful demonstrations.

US-SOCCER-NATIONAL ANTHEM

U.S. Soccer president addresses repeal of anthem policy

UNDATED (AP) — U.S. Soccer President City Parlow Cone has apologized for the federation’s lack of leadership in the fight against racism. Parlow Cone on Saturday discussed the federation's decision to repeal a policy that required players to stand during the national anthem.

The rule had been adopted by U.S. Soccer in 2017 when national team player Megan Rapinoe kneeled during the anthem in support of Colin Kaepernick's protests of police brutality and racial injustice.

It was repealed this week during a special meeting called by Parlow Cone. On Saturday, she apologized to African Americans and other minorities “for us not being leaders in this fight.”

NASCAR-BUSCH

Kyle Busch wins trucks race at Homestead

MIAMI (AP) — Kyle Busch’s slump wasn’t much of a slump. And it’s over now anyway. Busch won the NASCAR Trucks Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday night, his 58th career win on the circuit and his eighth victory in his last 10 series starts.

Busch had to start at the back of the field, then serve a pass-through penalty on top of that, after failing pre-race inspection. But he managed to stay on the lead lap, then worked his way to the front and made it all seem easy.

The race was red flagged for 16 minutes with 26 laps to go after Sheldon Creed crashed into the yellow protective barrels at the entrance to pit road and caused a huge mess. Once things resumed, it didn’t take long for Busch to reclaim the top spot.

And then a late caution sent the field into a high-pressure restart with seven laps left, but Busch just pulled away — this time, for good.

NASCAR-HOMESTEAD-Xfinity

Earnhardt returns; Burton wins Xfinity race at Homestead

MIAMI (AP) — A late caution flag gave Harrison Burton new life, and he took advantage.

Burton took the inside line on the way to the lead in the final lap and held on to win the Xfinity Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway — denying, among others, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Noah Gragson, who seemed to be in full command with seven laps remaining.

Burton, Gragson and Austin Cindric were three-wide going into that last lap, and it was Burton — the 19-year-old son of former Cup star Jeff Burton, who wound up in front in a wild finish.

GOLF-COLONIAL

Colonial spectators in bushes and temporary tents off course

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The PGA Tour has returned after three months because of the pandemic, and it hasn't taken long for fans to see what they were missing. Xander Schauffele (ZAN'-dur SHAWF'-lee) made a 12-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 66 and a one-shot lead over an All-Star cast at the Charles Schwab Challenge. Among those one shot behind were Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland. Among the 14 players separated by three shots were Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose.

That sets up what should by a dynamic Sunday with no spectators allowed on the course.

But there were unofficial spectators watching at Colonial even though none are allowed on the course. There weren't even tickets for Colonial members.

But some of them had obstructed views from one of three temporary party tents and grandstands set up in the yards of nearby homes.

The cheers from there could be heard at the far end of the course.

NHL-VIRUS OUTBREAK

Cayotes staff member tests positive

PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) — An Arizona Coyotes staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolated at home in the Phoenix area. The teams say the staffer is asymptomatic and feeling well.

The team says all other staff members or players involved in phase 2 of the NHL’s testing protocol have tested negative as teams prepare to start voluntary small-group workouts on Monday.

NHL mandatory training camps can open July 10, pending an agreement to returning to play later this summer.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-SPORTS

TV money gives NFL leg up if fans can't fill team's coffers

UNDATED (AP) — Timing favors the NFL over other major pro sports leagues in trying to figure out how to keep the coronavirus pandemic from wrecking the 2020 season. America's most popular sport has another big advantage if the games are played: TV money.

While NFL owners could lose billions collectively with limited capacities in stadiums or no fans at all, the league is well positioned financially because of lucrative media contracts approaching $10 billion in a full 2020 season.

Fitch Ratings recently affirmed its “A-plus” credit mark for the NFL and its properties in part because of the league’s media deals. Fitch says the NFL estimates each team's media revenue at $250 million per season. The number gets bigger later in the contract, and each deal is set to expire in the next two years.

So, it's safe to say more than half of the league's $15 billion in annual revenue comes from the TV deals shared equally among all 32 teams — unlike Major League Baseball, the NBA and NHL.

MLB's attempts to get the baseball season started are being held up in part by a disagreement over how to compensate players in the likelihood that owners will have no fan-related revenue.

In other developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic:

— Major League Baseball wants an answer by the end of the weekend on its latest pay proposal. According to details obtained by The Associated Press, MLB is offering players 80% of their prorated salaries and a 72-game schedule beginning July 14 in an effort to start the pandemic-delayed season. Players would get 70% of their prorated salaries during the regular season and the rest for completion of the postseason under MLB’s plan.

— There will be a small crowd in the stands for NASCAR’s Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday. Some 1,000 fans, mostly members of the military, have been invited to watch the third Cup race in eight days. It will be the 22nd time that NASCAR will run at Homestead, but the first time in any month other than November. The weather is expected to be hot and humid.

— Major League Baseball and the affiliated minor leagues are shut down but an independent circuit is set to open on July 3 with some fans in the seats. The American Association says six teams will play in three hubs, at least at the start of the season. Minnesota’s St. Paul Saints will play home games at Sioux Falls Stadium along with South Dakota’s Sioux Falls Canaries. Manitoba’s Winnipeg Goldeyes will be based at Newman Outdoor Field with North Dakota’s Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. The Chicago Dogs will play home games at the Ballpark Commons with the Milwaukee Milkmen.

— New Zealand has become one of the first nations in the world to welcome hordes of fans back into a packed sports stadium. More than 20,000 fans poured into a stadium in Dunedin to watch a rugby match Saturday, with no masks or social distancing required. New Zealand removed almost every remaining virus restriction this week after no new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the country for more than three weeks, and all those who contracted the disease were determined to have recovered. The only major restriction that wasn’t lifted was the shutdown of the country’s border.

— A Norwich player has tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of the English Premier League resuming next week. The unidentified player featured in a practice game at Tottenham on Friday. He was one of two new COVID-19 cases detected after 1,200 people were tested at the 20 clubs on Thursday and Friday. Players and club staff are being tested twice a week across the league, which ends its pandemic-enforced 100-day shutdown on Wednesday with matches played in empty stadiums.

— At a Spanish league match in which spectators were banned, a man ran on to the pitch and briefly delayed Mallorca (mah-YOHR'-kah) vs. Barcelona. Televised images showed the man walk on to the field and take a photo of himself with his mobile phone a few meters in front of Barcelona defender Jordi Alba. It is unclear if the young man, who was wearing an Argentina soccer shirt approached other players before he was escorted off by security. Play quickly resumed.

USOPC-PROTEST PROBLEMS

US Olympic leaders eye change on protests amid wary athletes

DENVER (AP) — U.S. Olympic leaders are open to changing a longstanding rule restricting protests at the Olympics. But the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is also facing backlash from some of its own athletes who feel they've been kept out of the loop.

The USOPC is forming an athletes' group to look into racial issues that have been exposed across the country in the aftermath of George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis. But the committee made the move before consulting with the group that is supposed to represent athletes on the U.S. team. That upset some athletes.

Both the athletes and the USOPC are working out their differences. And both agree that attacking the problem of racism and social injustice is more important than internal squabbling.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL-MURPHY-SHOOTING LAWSUIT

Lawsuit: Coach told Drake player to lie after shooting

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Drake University student who was accidentally shot in the head by a basketball player alleges in a lawsuit that a coach instructed the player to lie to police.

The Des Moines Register reports that Nathaniel Miller Jr. filed the lawsuit this week against the university, Bulldogs forward Tremell Murphy and the managers of the off-campus property near the university where the shooting happened during a party last August. It alleges that an unidentified coach showed up before officers arrived and told Murphy to deny any involvement. The lawsuit also alleges that proper medical care for the victim was delayed because of the misdirection from witnesses

The university disputed the lawsuit's claims in a statement Friday.

According to police reports, Murphy initially told officers that Miller, a Texas resident who was 19 at the time of the shooting, had fallen on a wet floor and hit his head.

Murphy pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of making false reports to law enforcement and discharging a firearm within city limits. He was fined, given a suspended 30-day jail sentence and placed on probation. The senior forward was also suspended from the basketball team for five games following the charges.

FIFA INVESTIGATION-BLATTER

Fresh Swiss investigation targets ex-FIFA president Blatter

GENEVA (AP) — Former FIFA (FEE'-fuh) president Sepp Blatter is the target of a criminal investigation in Switzerland for suspected mismanagement of a $1 million payment from soccer funds.

Blatter has been notified by Swiss federal prosecutors he is an “accused person” over a loan FIFA gave in 2010 to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association, according to a document seen by The Associated Press. The payment came from a FIFA account on April 13, 2010, and was interest-free, unsecured and later waived as a kind of gift, according to the document.

The 84-year-old Blatter has denied any wrongdoing during decades of financial scandals linked to soccer's world governing body, though he was banned from the presidency and risks being brought to trial in his home country.

It is the latest allegation in Swiss and American federal investigations tying FIFA to irregular payments benefiting Jack Warner, its former vice president from Trinidad who is fighting extradition to the United States.