Update on the latest in sports:
Tigers draft Arizona State slugger Torkelson with No. 1 pick
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers selected Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson with the No. 1 pick Wednesday night in the Major League Baseball amateur draft. The baseball-bashing Torkelson played first base in college but was announced as a third baseman by Commissioner Rob Manfred. Detroit opened the draft for the second time in three years. Torkelson hit 54 home runs at Arizona State and finished just two shy of Bob Horner’s school record.
In other MLB news:
— 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.
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 filing references housing for Williamson’s family during his time with the Blue Devils as well as three luxury SUVs registered by his mother and stepfather between December 2017 and April 2019 — the latter being the same month Williamson announced he would go pro before ultimately being picked by the New Orleans Pelicans.
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 USA Swimming, including a former executive director and other top officials along with local associations and clubs were aware of their 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.
Packers’ Kirksey benefits from familiar face in new location
UNDATED (AP) — 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.”
Brown reinstates track, cross country, in diversity move
PROVIDENCE. R.I. (AP) — Brown University has reinstated its men’s varsity track and cross country programs. The school president said dropping the teams to club status would have had a negative effect on efforts to build and maintain diversity on campus, particularly for African Americans.
The reversal came two weeks after the school announced it would reduce its number of varsity sports from 38 to 29 in a move designed to make the Bears more competitive in the Ivy League.
Brown president Christina H. Paxson wrote in a letter to the campus community she had received strong feedback against the original decision.
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.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — 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 said that 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.
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) — The PGA Tour is not simply picking up where it left off.
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.
On the course, players are to make every effort to practice social distancing and show best practices for playing golf.
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.
Rory McIlroy said, “It’s going to be very easy to fall back into old habits” because it’s just what they’ve done. McIlroy said they’re having to figure it out as they go along.
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 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.