AP source: MLB spring training sites close amid virus worry
UNDATED (AP) — Every team in Major League Baseball will shut its spring training camp over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, according to a person familiar with the decision. The move follows an announcement by the Philadelphia Phillies that five players had tested positive for COVID-19.
The person told The Associated Press the spring complexes in Florida and Arizona will close temporarily and undergo a deep cleaning and disinfecting. No one will be permitted back inside without a negative test for the virus.
Soon after the Phillies became the first known team to be affected by the outbreak, Toronto shuttered its site in Dunedin, Florida, about five miles from Philadelphia's camp in Clearwater. The Blue Jays said one player showed symptoms consistent with the virus.
The San Francisco Giants' facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, was shut after one person who had been to the site and one family member exhibited symptoms Thursday. Texas closed its camp about 30 miles away in Surprise, saying no one had tested positive but that it wanted to expand testing protocols.
The closures come while MLB owners and players try to negotiate a deal to begin the season, and raise the possibility the virus outbreak could scuttle all attempts at starting up this year.
In other developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic:
— A shortened baseball season would result in some temporary rules changes. Extra innings that start with runners on second base, games ending in ties and re-entry are among the possibilities. And the season may be limited to a maximum 60 games by teams that claim they can't afford more due to the coronavirus pandemic. MLB included the controversial extra-inning runner rule in its proposal Wednesday for a 60-game season, down from an initial 82, and also wants it for 2021. The players' association accepted the rule Thursday for 2020 only in its counterproposal for 70 games, down from an initial 114.
— Five-time PGA Tour winner Nick Watney tested positive Friday for the coronavirus, the first player with a confirmed infection since golf resumed its schedule last week. Watney withdrew immediately from the RBC Heritage and must self-isolate for at least 10 days under the PGA Tour's protocols. Watney played the opening round with Vaughn Taylor and Luke List. As part of the contact tracing plan, Taylor, List and their caddies were to be tested immediately.
— Clemson says 23 football players have tested positive for the coronavirus since the athletes returned to campus this month. There have been 28 positive tests for COVID-19 at the school, including two football staffers and three athletes from other sports. None of those contracting the virus have been hospitalized. Those testing positive are isolated for at least 10 days. The uptick at Clemson is similar to one in the state of South Carolina, which reported a single-day high of 1,081 cases on Friday.
— An unidentified San Francisco 49ers player has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 after an informal workout with teammates in Tennessee. The NFL Network reported that one player who took part in the workouts this week in Nashville has tested positive. All the players who were there will now get tested to see if there is any spread. The team declined to comment, citing federal and state privacy laws about the personal health of employees.
— The NASCAR Cup race at Texas will have thousands of spectators in the stands. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has approved a comprehensive action plan submitted by the track to allow fans for the July 19 race. While the state allows 50% capacity for outdoor sporting events, track president Eddie Gossage says it's too early to know how many fans will be able to attend. With social distancing protocols in place, the speedway first must reassign seating for people who had already purchased tickets for the race that was originally scheduled for March 29. The track capacity is about 135,000.
— The Tampa Bay Lightning closed their facilities Thursday after five team employees tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person tells The Associated Press the team and the NHL haven’t announced the closure. The NHL is also no longer announcing which teams’ individual players tested positive. The developments come some two weeks after players could return to their respective facilities to take part in voluntary on- and off-ice workouts.
— Canada has approved a National Hockey League plan to play in Canada amid the coronavirus pandemic. The plan required an exemption as the U.S.-Canada border is currently closed to all non-essential travel until at least July 21 and those who enter Canada must self-isolate for 14 days. The league plans to have training camps open in July and to play games without spectators in a couple of cities in late July or August. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada’s top public health officer as well as the top health officers of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Toronto worked closely with the NHL to approve the plan.
— A person with knowledge of the decision tells The Associated Press that Albert Pujols (POO'-hohlz) will pay the salaries of the Los Angeles Angels’ furloughed employees in his native Dominican Republic for five months. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Pujols didn’t publicly announce his commitment to pay roughly $180,000 to cover the salaries. The strict budget cuts made by Angels’ owner Arte Moreno during the coronavirus pandemic have included extensive furloughs for scouts, player development staff and minor league employees.
— The Chinese basketball league has restarted after an almost five-month shutdown for the coronavirus pandemic but is going ahead in empty stadiums and with fewer foreign players. The CBA was suspended on Jan. 24 after the virus outbreak in Wuhan. The semifinals stage has started with 20 teams divided into two divisions and limited venues to reduce travel. All stadiums are closed to fans. League chairman and former NBA star Yao Ming praised the work of the clubs and health authorities for helping get the season restarted. He says as the first national large-scale sports event to be restarted in China the CBA is of “strategic significance."
— French soccer authorities will allow fans back into stadiums starting July 10, with an initial limit of 5,000. The president of the French Football Federation says it is possible more spectators will be allowed into the French Cup final at the end of July and for the resumption of top-tier Ligue 1 play at the end of August. The French government called off the country's 2019-20 soccer season on April 28 as part of efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Simpson has the lead at RBC
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. — Webb Simpson has the lead at Hilton Head. Bryson DeChambeau is one shot behind. And the biggest move of the day was a player who made it to the course, but not the tee. That was Nick Watney, who withdrew after becoming the first player to test positive for the coronavirus. Watney tested negative when he arrived Tuesday. He experienced symptoms Friday, took another test and it returned positive. He will be in self-isolation for at least 10 days.
Around sports world, Juneteenth celebrated like never before
UNDATED (AP) — Bradley Beal grabbed a microphone and asked the crowd that joined the Washington Wizards and WNBA's Washington Mystics on a march to collectively raise a fist into the air and join together in saying “Together we stand." And they did.
Such was the sentiment across sports on Friday, as many teams from the major U.S. pro leagues stopped to commemorate Juneteenth — the celebration of what occurred June 19, 1865, the day that all enslaved Black people in the U.S. learned they had been freed from bondage.
The day carried particular importance this year, with teams recognizing the day as important enough to declare it a paid holiday for workers — acknowledging the problems the country is facing after several weeks of protests demanding the elimination of police brutality and racial inequality.
Many pro athletes, Black and white, have taken part in those protests.
The NBA gave its employees paid time off on Juneteenth for the first time and Commissioner Adam Silver urged league personnel to take the day and think about race relations.
Twins remove ex-owner Griffith statue over racist remarks
UNDATED (AP) — The Minnesota Twins have removed a statue of former owner Calvin Griffith at Target Field, citing racist remarks he made in 1978.
Griffith’s statue was one of several installed when the team opened its ballpark in 2010. Griffith moved the Washington Senators to Minnesota for the 1961 season, and the team was renamed the Twins. During a 1978 speech to a Waseca Lions club, Griffith said he decided to make the move when he found out there only had 15,000 blacks there. The team says it “cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca."
Spokesman Dustin Morse said the removal was an internal decision, but the team had “certainly heard from outside fans and the community over the years” about Griffith's remarks.
Griffith sold the Twins to banker Carl Pohlad in 1984.
In other developments related to the national protests against racial injustice:
—The Washington Post editorial board is calling on Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change his football club’s name. Under the headline, “Change the name of the Washington NFL team. Now,” the newspaper says in an editorial posted online Friday that if Snyder won’t switch the nickname, the professional football league itself ought to do so. The Post says, “This should be an easy call" and urges Snyder or the NFL to "get on the right side of history.” Snyder has owned the team since 1999 and steadfastly refused to consider a change to the nickname.
— The agency that manages RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., removed a statue of George Preston Marshall, who moved the team from Boston to Washington. Marshall resisted integrating the team with Black players until “forced to do so” in 1962, according to his biography on the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. Marshall was inducted into the Hall in 1963; he died in 1969. Events DC officials called the removal on Friday “a small and overdue step on the road to lasting equality and justice.” A Redskins spokesman did not immediately comment.
— Former NFL quarterback and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick (KAP'-ur-nihk) is helping to fund the cost of legal representation for some protesters who were arrested during demonstrations in the days after George Floyd’s death. The Star Tribune reports that Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Foundation has donated what’s described as a “substantial” sum to attorneys nationwide. Kaepernick is the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who took a knee in 2016 during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
— A group of Black Major League Soccer players has formed a coalition to address systematic racism in their communities and bring about change within the league. The coalition is the result of an Instagram group that began after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, which spawned a wave of nationwide protests against racism and policy brutality. Started by Toronto FC defender Justin Morrow, the group grew to some 70 MLS players, who decided to act and the Black Players Coalition of MLS was born.
— The NCAA is expanding its policy banning states with prominent Confederate symbols from hosting its sponsored events. The current ban, in place since 2001, prevents states from hosting what the NCAA calls predetermined sites, such as men's basketball tournament games. Mississippi is the only state currently affected by the policy. The expanded policy means that even when sites of games are determined by performance as they are in sports such as baseball and women's basketball, Mississippi schools will not be permitted to host NCAA tournament games.
49ers wide receiver Richie James Jr. breaks right wrist
UNDATED (AP) — San Francisco 49ers receiver Richie James Jr. has broken his right wrist during offseason workouts and won’t be ready to return to the field until after the start of training camp.
The 49ers confirmed a report of the injury by NFL Network on Friday and said they will have a better idea of how long James will be sidelined after he reports to training camp next month. NFL Network said James is expected to miss at least two months.
James is the second receiver lost to injury this week for the defending NFC champion 49ers. No. 1 wideout Deebo Samuel underwent surgery Thursday to repair a fracture in his left foot suffered during informal player workouts in Tennessee.
In other NFL news:
— The New York Jets have agreed to terms with Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims, their second-round draft pick in April, according to a person with knowledge of the deal. Mims fits a major need for a Jets offense that lost its top wideout, Robby Anderson, to Carolina in free agency. Chosen 59th overall, Mims will get a four-year deal worth about $5.5 million.
— NFL Network and NFL RedZone went dark on DISH Network and Sling TV last night as both sides try to reach a new distribution agreement. The lack of an agreement impacts 11.32 million subscribers. DISH has 9.01 million and Sling TV accounts for another 2.31 million. The NFL is still deep into the offseason with preseason games not scheduled to begin for another two months.
Astros sign Correa's brother as undrafted free agent
HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Astros have signed second baseman J.C. Correa (kor-AY-ah), getting the brother of star shortstop Carlos Correa on the third try.
The Astros signed the younger Correa for $20,000, the maximum allowed for an undrafted free agent.
Houston had picked Correa in the later rounds of the last two drafts. This year’s draft was drastically cut to only five rounds because of the coronavirus pandemic. Correa hit .245 in 14 games as a senior for Lamar University this year before the season was shortened by the virus. In 2019, he led the school with a .332 batting average, 10 home runs and 44 RBIs.
The Astros lost their first- and second-round picks this year as part of the penalty issued by Major League Baseball for their sign-stealing scandal.
Trump administration backs Idaho transgender sports ban
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A recently passed Idaho law banning transgender women from competing in women’s sports — the first such law in the nation — received backing on Friday from the administration of President Donald Trump.
The support came in the form of a court filing submitted by the U.S. Department of Justice, saying a federal judge considering a lawsuit challenging the ban should conclude that the law does not violate the U.S. Constitution.
The ban prohibits transgender students who identify as female from playing on female teams sponsored by public schools, colleges and universities. The ban does not apply to men’s teams.
The American Civil Liberties Union and Legal Voice women's rights group that filed the lawsuit in April, contending the law violates the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because it is discriminatory.