Kicking off: Texans at Chiefs to open season Sept. 10
UNDATAED (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs will open defense of their Super Bowl championship by hosting Houston on Sept. 10 in the NFL's annual kickoff game — pending developments in the coronavirus pandemic, of course.
The Texans won a regular-season game at Arrowhead Stadium in 2019, then blew a 24-0 lead in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Another highlight of the opening weekend will have Tom Brady's regular-season debut with Tampa Bay against Drew Brees at New Orleans on Sept. 13 — the first matchup of 40-plus quarterbacks in NFL history.
The opening of SoFi Stadium in the Los Angeles area that Sunday night has the Rams hosting the Cowboys. Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas will debut on the Monday night, Sept. 21, with the Raiders facing Brady and the Buccaneers.
The NFL schedule, not to mention offseason activities and the preseason, has to be considered tentative given the current prohibition on large gatherings.
In other NFL news:
— The New England Patriots have signed four members of their 2020 draft class. Llinebackers Josh Uche and Cassh Maluia, kicker Justin Rohrwasser and offensive lineman Justin Herron have all agreed to terms on rookie contracts. The Patriots entered last month's draft with 12 picks and after making several trades over three days, wound up selecting 10 players.
— The lawyer for the wife of Baltimore Ravens safety Earl Thomas said she is being subjected to an “unfounded ongoing investigation" by Texas police after she allegedly pointed a gun at her husband's head upon finding him in bed with another woman last month. According to a police affidavit, Nina Thomas tracked down her husband at a short-term rental home in Austin in the early morning hours of April 13 and found him and his brother, Seth, in bed with two women.
— Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is pushing for a change that would allow football players to enter the NFL draft after their freshman or sophomore seasons in college. Currently, players are not eligible for the NFL draft until they have been out of high school for at least three years. It is a policy in the collective bargaining agreement that runs through the 2030 season.
Senators send letters to NCAA leaders with NIL questions
UNDATED (AP) — The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee has sent a letter to NCAA leaders, conferences and schools requesting details about how college athletes can be compensated for their names, images and likenesses.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., sent 20 questions to each Power Five conference, dozens of colleges and universities and committees at each of the NCAA’s three divisions.
Wicker's letter comes a day after Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Cory Booker, D-N.J., released a letter to NCAA President Mark Emmert urging the association to take further action on name, image and likeness compensation for college athletes.
IndyCar to open delayed season in Texas
UNDATED (AP) — IndyCar has gotten the green flag to finally start its season in Texas.
The race will be run June 6 without spectators at Texas Motor Speedway.
IndyCar President Jay Frye says IndyCar worked closely with track and public health officials on a plan to “ensure the safety of our event participants."
The June season opener will be on a condensed schedule with practice, qualifying and the race taking place on the same day. There will be strict access guidelines limiting the number of personnel on site, with health screening system administered to all participants and personal protection equipment provided to everyone entering the facility. Social distancing protocols will be in place.
In other developments related to the coronavirus pandemic:
— The head of China’s football association says teams will implement temporary player pay cuts of 30% to 50% to help teams manage losses from the coronavirus outbreak. The official -- Chen Xuyuan -- also told state broadcaster CCTV that matches would be resumed on a staggered schedule but gave no specific dates.
— Sporting events in Oregon are likely to be without large crowds likely through at least the end of September because of the new coronavirus. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced steps the state is taking in its reopening next week. Brown asked those planning large gatherings to cancel or significantly modify plans for anything scheduled in September.
— The NFL has set protocols for reopening team facilities and has told the 32 teams to have them in place by May 15. Commissioner Roger Goodell mapped out several phases of protocols in a memo obtained by The Associated Press. The first phase to deal with the coronavirus pandemic would involve a limited number of non-player personnel. The individual clubs would decide which employees could return to the facility and when, once the buildings reopen. No players would be permitted in the facility except to continue therapy and rehabilitation for injuries that were underway when facilities were ordered closed in late March.
— The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of a handful of NBA teams planning to reopen their training facilities Friday for individual player workouts. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the team has worked with health officials to ensure players and coaches are safe.
— NBA teams have been asked to help the Mayo Clinic with a study that could help researchers come closer to finding a solution to the coronavirus problem. Mayo Clinic officials need volunteers for a study largely centered around antibodies. Teams were told that the study would help doctors understand the prevalence of COVID-19 among infected individuals who were asymptomatic or experienced only mild symptoms.
— Fans will be allowed to enter baseball stadiums Friday for games in Taiwan for the first time this season. It is part of a gradual easing of restrictions amid the pandemic. The China Professional Baseball League said up to 1,000 people would be permitted to enter ballparks after an agreement between the league and Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center.
— New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio doesn’t see games returning to Yankee Stadium or Citi Field very quickly, at least not with fans. De Blasio says bigger events are going to be one of the last things that will really fit the equation as the country restarts. He says the perfect time to reopen big events is when the new coronavirus has been “beaten back to next to nothing.”
— WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman expects professional boxing to return without spectators and with judges officiating by video from home. Sulaiman said the World Boxing Council has produced a protocol for fights during the coronavirus pandemic that limit, for instance, a four-fight card to about 40-50 people at a venue.
— More than 30 workers have accepted voluntary severance packages from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. It's part of the organization's attempt to trim up to 20% of its expenses in response to shortfalls caused by COVID-19. Furloughs and involuntary layoffs are expected to begin next week.
— The televised match involving Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and two of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks is raising $10 million for COVID-19 relief. Turner Sports is producing the May 24 event that will be simulcast on its networks, including TNT and TBS. Woods and Peyton Manning will take on Mickelson and Tom Brady at Medalist Golf Club.
CFL commissioner: Canceling season most likely scenario
OTTAWA (AP) — Canadian Football League Commissioner Randy Ambrosie said the most likely scenario is to cancel the season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ambrosie made the admission for the first time while testifying Thursday to a House of Commons standing committee on finance.
Nnews broke last week that the CFL had requested up to $150 million Canadian in assistance from the federal government. During his testimony, Ambrosie said the league’s future is “very much in jeopardy.”
NCAA calls alleged Kansas basketball violations "egregious"
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The NCAA struck back at the University of Kansas and its men's basketball program Thursday, calling five Level I violations that are alleged to have occurred “egregious” and arguing that they undermine and threaten" college athletics.
In the latest in a series of back-and-forth filings, the NCAA reiterated in a 92-page response its claim that Adidas representatives were acting as boosters when two of them — T.J. Gassnolo and Jim Gatto — helped to arrange payments to prospective recruits. Those transactions became a central point in a wide-ranging FBI probe into college basketball that has ensnared Kansas, Louisville and several other high-profile programs.
Officials from Kansas have said coach Bill Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend said they were unaware of the transactions, backing up a statement Gassnola made during sworn testimony.
Bucks, relatives say Antetokounmpo's social media was hacked
MILWAUKEE (AP) — Giannis Antetokounmpo's social media accounts were hacked on Thursday afternoon and several bizarre and offensive tweets were posted, according to the Milwaukee Bucks, Antetokounmpo's brother and the player's representatives.
More than a dozen tweets popped up in Antetokounmpo's feed in the span of about five minutes, and they appeared to clearly be the work of someone other than the reigning MVP. The tweets included racial slurs, profane attacks on other players and a claim that Antetokounmpo had the coronavirus.
The tweets weren’t up for long before disappearing from Antetokounmpo’s account. The Bucks said in a statement that an investigation is underway.
Ex-ABA commish Mike Storen, dad of Hannah Storm, dies at 84
Mike Storen, a former ABA commissioner and multisport marketing whiz and the father of ESPN broadcaster Hannah Storm, has died. He was 84. Storm said her father died Thursday at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta of complications from cancer. Known for his hearty laugh and creative mind, Storen rose to executive spots in basketball, football, baseball and tennis during a four-decade career in sports. Storen was general manager of the Indiana Pacers and Kentucky Colonels and president of the Atlanta Hawks. He owned the ABA’s Memphis Sounds, worked for the Cincinnati Royals of the NBA and the Houston Astros.