Report: Kobe Bryant pilot may have been disoriented in fog
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal investigators say the pilot of the helicopter that crashed in thick fog, killing Kobe Bryant and seven other passengers, reported he was climbing when he was actually descending.
The National Transportation Safety Board said Wednesday that Ara Zobayan’s last transmission said he was climbing to 4,000 feet to get above clouds. But he actually was in a rapid descent into a hillside northwest of Los Angeles. The report confirms initial findings that the helicopter was functioning.
The report said he may have “misperceived” the pitch of the aircraft, which can happen when a pilot becomes disoriented in low visibility. Experts have said the path of the flight indicated he was disoriented.
The 1,700 pages of the report do not offer a conclusion of what caused the crash but compile factual reports. A final report on the cause is due later.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and six of their friends were killed, along with the pilot.
Manfred, Clark meet, develop basis for possible agreement
UNDATED (AP) — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred and union head Tony Clark reached a framework that could lead to an agreement that would start the pandemic-delayed season on July 19 or July 20. Manfred flew to meet with Clark and worked out the framework at a Scottsdale hotel.
Each team would play 60 games, and players would get full prorated pay, about 37% of their salary. The wild-card round would expand from two games to eight best-of-three series this year. The designated hitter would be used in all games for the first time.
Zion Williamson gets favorable ruling in lawsuit by ex-agent
MIAMI (AP) — A Florida appeals court has granted Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson’s motion to block his former marketing agent’s effort to have the ex-Duke star answer questions about whether he received improper benefits before playing for the Blue Devils.
Wednesday's order shifts the focus to a separate but related case in federal court in North Carolina. The Florida lawsuit was filed last summer by Prime Sports Marketing and company president Gina Ford.
They accuse Williamson of breach of contract and want $100 million in damages.
That came after Williamson sued in North Carolina to void his Prime Sports contract.
NCAA approves plan for basketball players to access coaches
UNDATED (AP) — The NCAA Division I Council approved a plan to allow college basketball players to start working with their coaches for the first time since the pandemic wiped out March Madness.
The summer access period for men’s and women’s players will begin July 20.
The NCAA also announced the expected approval by the council of an extended preseason model for football teams. And the council introduced a legislative proposal to create a path for schools to transition straight from Division III to Division I, paving the way for St. Thomas (Minn.) to make that jump as soon as next year.
In other NCAA news:
— The University of St. Thomas has NCAA support for the Minnesota school’s bid to move its athletic programs directly from Division III to Division I. The NCAA’s Division I council announced St. Thomas can make a formal request to waive reclassification rules. Currently, a 12-year process with a stop in Division II is required. The NCAA will vote by April on a proposal to alter those rules to allow any Division III school to move directly to Division I. St. Thomas will be ejected from its Division III league after the 2020-21 school year for competitive reasons.
Utah guard Gach transfers to home state team, Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Utah guard Both Gach has decided to transfer to Minnesota to play his last two seasons of college in his home state. The 6-foot-6 native of Austin, Minnesota, was second on the Utes in scoring as a sophomore last season with an average of 10.7 points per game.
He became the third player in Utah program history to post a triple-double, with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists against Mississippi Valley State on Nov. 8.
Gach is one of three transfers who’ve chosen the Gophers this offseason, joining center Liam Robbins (Drake) and forward Brandon Johnson (Western Michigan).
NBA hoping positive trend in Orlando won’t affect their plans
UNDATED (AP) — The rate of positive coronavirus tests in the Orlando, Florida, area has been soaring in recent days.
The NBA hopes that doesn’t matter. After spending weeks putting together an elaborate series of health and safety protocols, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association believe they have done what is necessary to keep the 22 teams and others who will be part of the season restart at the Disney campus near Orlando next month safe and healthy.
In other developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic:
— NHL players won't be expected to wear full face shields if games resume this summer amid the coronavirus pandemic. Negotiations between league and NHL Players' Association have focused on testing and other off-ice safety precautions. Because players are expected to be tested daily, there isn’t expected to be additional on-ice equipment required for practices and games.
— The Southern Heritage Classic has canceled the Sept. 12 game scheduled between Tennessee State and Jackson State in the first known Division I cancellation because of the coronavirus pandemic. This is the second cancellation in three years for the Southern Heritage Classic, which is played at the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis. The 2018 game was called due to weather.
— Major league players have committed $1 million to support minor leaguers whose leagues appear unlikely to start this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. MLB and the union are trying to reach an agreement to start the big-league season in empty ballparks, but minor leagues don’t have large broadcast contracts and have not announced any plans to take the field.
— Manchester City has beaten Arsenal 3-0 as the Premier League's 100-day shutdown ended. The 55,000 seats that would usually be filled for the visit of Arsenal were instead empty. The only supporters seen celebrating goals were streamed onto big screens. There was a minute's silence before the game to remember coronavirus victims. And a display of solidarity remembered George Floyd, with both sets of players taking a knee around the center circle.
— Brazilian soccer will make its return on Thursday after a three-month suspension. The governing body of soccer in Rio de Janeiro says Flamengo and Bangu will play in an empty Stadium in the local league. More than 45,000 people have died with the virus in the South American country and health specialists say the peak of the crisis is yet to come.
— The women’s and men’s professional tennis tours have issued what they are calling “provisional” calendars that would resume sanctioned competition in August. Tour play has been suspended since early March because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The WTA said its first event would be the Palermo Ladies Open in Italy the week of Aug. 3. The ATP said its players would return to action at the Citi Open in Washington beginning Aug. 14 where Women will also compete.
23-time major champ Serena Williams says she'll play US Open
UNDATED (AP) — Serena Williams is planning to play in the 2020 U.S. Open.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion said in a video shown during the U.S. Tennis Association's tournament presentation Wednesday that she “cannot wait to return” to New York for the major championship she has won six times.
The 38-year-old American was the runner-up in Flushing Meadows each of the past two years.
Meanwhile, two-time major champion and former No. 1 Simona Halep (HAL'-ehp) says she does not “currently plan to play” at the 2020 U.S. Open. Halep adds in a statement emailed by her representative to the AP on Wednesday that her stance “is not set in stone.” The 28-year-old Romanian is currently ranked No. 2 and is the reigning champion at Wimbledon. She also won the French Open in 2018.
The U.S. Open will be held without spectators from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13. It’s normally the fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of each season, but it will be the second major of 2020, following the Australian Open, which concluded in early February.
The French Open was postponed from May because of the coronavirus pandemic and currently is scheduled to start a week after the U.S. Open ends. Wimbledon was canceled altogether for the first time since World War II in 1945.
In other Open news:
— Electronic line-calling will be used instead of line judges for U.S. Open tennis matches at all courts except the two largest arenas. Singles qualifying, mixed doubles, junior and wheelchair competition are being eliminated entirely. There also will be three ball people instead of six at courts other than Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium. Those are among the changes announced by the U.S. Tennis Association as it outlined plans for running its Grand Slam tournament in New York City amid the coronavirus pandemic. The tournament received the go-ahead from the New York state government to be held in its usual Flushing Meadows location from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 but without spectators.
Lynn: Kaepernick fits Chargers style but no workouts planned
COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers could explore bringing in Colin Kaepernick (KAP'-ur-nihk) for a workout depending on what happens during the preseason, but right now nothing is scheduled.
Coach Anthony Lynn says Kaepernick is on the team’s workout list because he fits the style the Chargers are looking for. Lynn added that he hasn’t spoken to Kaepernick.
Los Angeles was 5-11 last season and has moved on at quarterback after 14 seasons with Philip Rivers under center.
Debate on racism renews calls for Redskins to change name
UNDATED (AP) — The recent national debate over racism has renewed calls for the NFL's Washington Redskins to change their name. Mayor Muriel Bowser believes a change is overdue and called the name an “obstacle” to the team building its next stadium and headquarters inside the District of Columbia.
A recent study found that 49% of respondents considered the name Redskins offensive. The team had no comment about a possible name change.
Owner Dan Snyder over the years has shown no indication that he'd change the name.
Advocates call the name a dictionary-defined racial slur and hope this is the movement that finally invokes change.
Cavs' Love honored with Arthur Ashe Courage Award
CLEVELAND (AP) — Cavaliers forward Kevin Love will receive the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for his efforts in raising awareness about mental health.
Love, whose openness about his life-long battles with anxiety triggered a nationwide discussion and helped spur the NBA to do more to help players deal with emotional issues, will receive the award at Sunday's ESPYs in Los Angeles.
Love said it was an absolute honor to receive the award and that he was humbled by it. Love added that if telling his story can help just one child then he’ll know his efforts were worth it and that he hopes on day that are able to erase the stigma around mental illness.
ARTHUR ASHE STATUE
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A statue of African American tennis legend Arthur Ashe on Richmond, Virginia’s, Monument Avenue has been vandalized with the words “White Lives Matter.” Photos show the monument base tagged with white spray paint and the words “white lives matter” as well as the initials “WLM.”
Those initials were then later painted over with “BLM.” Police said they have information on possible suspects.
The Arthur Ashe monument was dedicated in 1996 to memorialize the Richmond native and counterbalance the string of statues on Memorial Avenue dedicated to Confederate leaders.
Tiz the Law draws No. 8 post as early 6-5 Belmont favorite
ELMONT, N.Y. (AP) — It wasn’t quite the post position trainer Barclay Tagg wanted for Tiz the Law. Still, it wasn’t far off for the colt who on Wednesday was made the early 6-5 favorite for the Belmont Stakes.
Tagg was hoping the Florida Derby winner would land anywhere between spots 5 to 7 in the starting gate for Saturday’s beginning of the reconfigured Triple Crown series. Tiz the Law drew the No. 8 post in the 10-horse field and will be ridden by Manny Franco.
Instead of concluding the Triple Crown, the Belmont is kicking off the series. It will be run at 1 1/8 miles — shorter than its usual grueling 1 1/2 miles — without spectators or owners at Belmont Park in New York.
World's fastest man suspended for missing doping tests
DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — The fastest man in the world has been sidelined for a string of missed doping tests.
Christian Coleman, an American sprinter who won the 100-meter title at last year's world championships and had been the early favorite for the Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games, was temporarily banned from competition by the Athletics Integrity Unit on Wednesday.
The suspension will last until a final decision is reached at a hearing conducted under World Athletics Anti-Doping rules or the Integrity Code of Conduct.
Coleman had a previous whereabouts charge dropped last year ahead of the world championships. But his current charge could lead to a two-year ban, ruling him out of next year's postponed Olympics.
Coleman wrote on Twitter that drug testers were unable to find him Dec. 9 when he was at a mall shopping for Christmas presents. That was his third infraction in a 12-month period.
Call to cancel Tokyo Olympics enters race for Tokyo governor
TOKYO (AP) — The contentious issue of the billions being spent on the postponed Tokyo Olympics has entered the debate in the race for governor of Japan’s capital.
Incumbent Yuriko Koike is a strong favorite to be reelected — and a strong supporter of the Olympics — in a field of more than a dozen candidates.
In the field is Taro Yamamoto. He is a popular actor turned politician. He said in a debate this week that the Olympics should be called off and the billions redirected to help people struggling with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
2022 EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
4 sports join 2022 European Championships; still no swimming
MUNICH, Germany (AP) — Organizers of the 2022 European Championships have added four sports to the program for the games in Munich.
The nine-sport line-up now includes the Olympic events of beach volleyball, canoe sprint, sport climbing and table tennis. Swimming remains absent from what organizers say is a finalized program.
The European aquatics body will hold its own championships in Rome at the same time as Munich also hosts track and field, cycling, gymnastics, rowing and triathlon.