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Sports

#SportsReport: New MLB Plan Calls For 76-Game Season

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Major League Baseball is making another try to start the coronavirus-delayed season in early July. The proposal calls for a 76-game regular season, expanding the playoffs from 10 teams to as many as 16 and allowing players to earn about 75% of their prorated salaries.

Players have refused cuts beyond what they agreed to in March shortly after the pandemic began, part of baseball's again acrimonious labor relations. The arduous negotiations have jeopardized plans to hold opening day around the Fourth of July in ballparks without fans and provide entertainment to a public still emerging from months of quarantine. MLB says it can't afford to play in ballparks without fans, and in May the owners proposed an 82-game schedule. The union countered with a 114-game schedule at prorated pay that would extend the regular season by a month through October.

In other virus-related sports news: 

The NFL and the players' union have sent a planner to the 32 teams outlining procedures for the full reopening of their practice facilities. A memo written by Commissioner Roger Goodell and approved by the NFL Players Association describes protocols focusing on screening, testing, and infection prevention and treatment for COVID-19, including response for new infections. Also included are instructions on proper facility access, cleaning and disinfecting; physical distancing; hygiene, health education and medical services. There are instructions on food preparation; supplies; and team travel. No timetable has been set for the return of most players to team complexes. Only players rehabilitating injuries have been allowed to enter the buildings.

The group that runs the U.S. Open tennis tournament is eliminating 110 national positions and reducing travel costs over the next few years to deal with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Tennis Association also announced Monday that it will close its headquarters in White Plains, New York, and shift remaining staff to an as-yet-undetermined location in the state. 

English soccer club Brighton is offering fans the chance to have cardboard cutouts of themselves in the stadium when the Premier League resumes. Games in the league will be closed to spectators for the remainder of the season because of the coronavirus pandemic. Five of Brighton's nine remaining games are at home. The first is on June 20 against Arsenal. Fans need to send in a photo wearing a Brighton jersey and pay $25.

Brazil has withdrawn its bid to host the 2023 Women's World Cup, arguing it cannot offer FIFA the financial assurances it needs because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The Brazilian Football Confederation also says it will support Colombia's bid against Japan and the joint candidacy of Australia and New Zealand. South America has never hosted the tournament. A final decision is expected on June 25.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

The NCAA is considering a six-week plan for football teams to prepare for the start of their seasons that includes two weeks when teams can hold walk-throughs before full practices start. A copy of the Football Oversight Committee's plan, which still needs to be approved by the Division I Council, was obtained by The Associated Press. Sports Illustrated first reported on the one-page document. The oversight committee has been working on a six-week model to lead into the season for weeks. It calls for two weeks preceding the start of a typical preseason practice schedule during which time teams can do up 20 hours per week or weight training, conditioning, film study, meetings and walk-throughs with coaches. Players would not be permitted to wear helmets and pads during walk-throughs, but a ball could be used for instruction. NCAA rules state teams can begin preseason practice 29 days before the date of their first game. The walk-through period would begin 14 days before preseason practice, according to the proposal. The plan has not been finalized but could be approved within two weeks.

Iowa football players returned to campus to prepare for voluntary workouts amid an uproar. Former players over the past several days alleged systemic racism and other mistreatment in the program. The team's strength coach, Chris Doyle, has been placed on administrative leave and coach Kirk Ferentz's leadership was called into question. About two dozen current players took to social media to voice messages of unity. None complained directly about his treatment.

MLB

The Chicago Cubs are creating a diversity committee to help improve the organization's standards and practices. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein says team owner Tom Ricketts and President of Business Operations Crane Kenney are leading the plans. On a conference call ahead of baseball's amateur draft, Epstein said the team stands "in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the protesters who are doing their best to make this a real inflection point in our history." Epstein said the committee "set better standards" for the club and holds it accountable. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have sparked protests across the country. Floyd, a black man, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck while Floyd was handcuffed, pleading that he couldn't breathe.

NHL 

Seven current or former black NHL players have formed the Hockey Diversity Alliance to fight racism and intolerance in the sport. Akim Aliu and San Jose's Evander Kane will lead the group, which also includes Trevor Daley, Matt Dumba, Wayne Simmonds, Chris Stewart and recently retired Joel Ward. The alliance will be independent of the NHL but hopes to work in tandem with the league to promote diversity and inclusion. One goal of the group is to inspire future players to be able to "express their culture, identity, values and personality without fear of retribution."

The Arizona Coyotes have made Xavier Gutierrez the first Latino team president and CEO in NHL history. Gutierrez's hiring was announced by Alex Meruelo, who became the NHL's first Latino controlling owner when he bought a majority stake in the Coyotes last year. Gutierrez previously served as managing director at Clearlake Capital Group and was chief investment officer of Meruelo Group, which is owned by Alex Meruelo.

NBA

LaMarcus Aldridge will miss the remainder of San Antonio's season while he recovers from surgery on his right shoulder. It's a blow to the Spurs' hopes of extending their streak of playoff appearances. Aldridge had surgery on April 24, stemming from an injury the Spurs said the seven-time All-Star suffered in a game at Utah on Feb. 21. He played in two more games after getting hurt, including one in which he scored 24 points in San Antonio's win over Dallas. The Spurs have been to the playoffs in 22 consecutive seasons, matching the longest streak in NBA history.

SOCCER

The U.S. women's national team wants the U.S. Soccer Federation to repeal the anthem policy it instituted after Megan Rapinoe started kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner." The U.S. women's team also wants the federation to state publicly that the policy was wrong and issue an apology to the team's black players and supporters. Rapinoe took a knee during the anthem at a pair of national team matches in 2016. She said she wanted to express solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, 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 Federation then approved a policy in February 2017 that stated players "shall stand respectfully" during national anthems. The policy remains in place, though the unions for the men's and women's teams believe it doesn't apply to their players because of their collective bargaining agreements.

COLLEGE SOCCER

 A federal judge has ruled that UConn did nothing wrong by taking away the scholarship of a soccer player who gave the middle finger to a television camera.  Noriana Radwan had argued that her punishment for the 2014 incident was excessive and not in line with discipline meted out to male athletes who violated school policies.  Radwan made the obscene gesture to an ESPNU camera while celebrating with teammates after the Huskies won the 2014 American Athletic Conference championship game. U.S. District Judge Victor Bolden, in a decision released Monday, agreed with UConn’s argument that Radwan’s offense was not similar to other violations.

© The Associated Press 2020. All Rights Reserved.