#SportsReport: NFL Cancels Hall Of Fame Game, Delays 2020 Induction
The NFL has canceled the Hall of Fame game that traditionally opens the preseason and is delaying the 2020 induction ceremonies for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Aug. 6 exhibition game in Canton, Ohio, between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers is the first on-field event the league has canceled during the pandemic. It will now be played on Aug. 5, 2021. Enshrinements for 20 men scheduled for this year now will occur on Aug. 7, 2021. The 2021 inductees will go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the next day. NFL owners are conducting a virtual meeting Thursday in which the preseason schedule will be discussed. It's possible the league will reduce the number of exhibition games to two per team from the usual four. Dallas and Pittsburgh would have played five, including the game in Canton.
In other virus-related sports news:
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott says he is feeling "normal" after testing positive for the coronavirus earlier this month. Speaking on a Twitch chat this week, Elliott said he had shortness of breath and a cough for a couple of days. He said he now feels good but hasn't resumed working out yet. He said he could have been re-tested this week, but decided that it wouldn't hurt to wait and get more rest first. Elliott's mother has said the running back had been around someone who had no symptoms, but then tested positive for the coronavirus three days later.
A person with knowledge of the situation says Miami Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. has tested positive for the coronavirus, a result that came in shortly after the Heat and other NBA teams began mandatory testing in preparation for next month's resumption of the season. Jones, the reigning NBA slam dunk contest champion, still plans to play when the Heat get back on the floor at the Disney complex near Orlando next month.
Some people in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins organizations have tested positive for COVID-19. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said on a video conference call that it's "a delicate subject" and he declined to identify those with positive tests.Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said Minnesota had "a few" players in the organization recently test positive. He said each player is "doing well" in self-isolation at home.
Churchill Downs says the rescheduled Kentucky Derby and Oaks will run this fall with spectators under strict guidelines to limit crowd density for the race that annually attracts more than 100,000. The 146th runnings of the Oaks for fillies and the Derby were postponed from May 1-2 to Sept. 4-5. It marked the first time since 1945 that horse racing's marquee event was not run on the first Saturday in May. Churchill Downs has run its delayed spring meet without spectators.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway will allow fans in the grandstands and suites for the Aug. 2 NASCAR Cup Series race. Fans will be subject to social distancing requirements and additional health and safety protocols. The race was originally scheduled for July 19.
The USGA has announced its exemption categories for a U.S. Open that won't have open qualifying for the first time in nearly a century. That includes taking the top 70 in the world ranking from March 15, the last one before the ranking was frozen because of COVID-19. The U.S. Open usually takes the top 60. The exemption categories announced Thursday include a spot for Phil Mickelson, who was at No. 61 in March. The U.S. Open is the only major Mickelson hasn't won. The U.S. Open is scheduled for Sept. 17-20 at Winged Foot, just north of New York City, the scene of Mickelson's toughest loss in 2006.
World Team Tennis says Venus Williams has committed to play in its three-week season that starts July 12. Williams will be a member of the Washington Kastles. That is one of nine teams that will gather at a resort in West Virginia. Matches normally are played at various sites around the country. Up to 500 spectators will be allowed for each match at a 2,500-seat outdoor court.
Third-ranked tennis player Dominic Thiem has apologized for taking part in an exhibition series hosted by Novak Djokovic where four players have tested positive for the coronavirus. Thiem says "our behaviour was a mistake" and adds he is "extremely sorry." Thiem is an Austrian who lost to the top-ranked Djokovic in this year's Australian Open final.
Soccer's governing body FIFA is using almost $900 million of its cash reserves to help member federations get through the coronavirus pandemic. All of FIFA's 211 national members will each get a $1-million payment and $500,000 more to spend specifically on women's soccer. Each of the six continental governing bodies gets $2 million from FIFA's reserve fund, which held $2.7 billion after the 2018 World Cup in Russia. FIFA says a further $565 million is available for interest-free loans to federations of between $500,000 and $5 million, depending on their audited annual revenue. Continental confederations can access $4 million.
Mackenzie Hughes shot a career-low 60 to take the early lead at the Travelers Championship. The 29-year-old Canadian flirted with 59 Thursday as the PGA Tour tried to switch its focus back to golf amid growing concerns about the coronavirus. TPC River Highlands is no stranger to low scores — Jim Furyk shot a tour-record 58 there four years ago. Hughes was bogey-free and made a 30-foot putt on his second-to-last hole to get to 10 under. But he left his 40-foot birdie try short on the last hole. It was good enough for a three-shot lead over Rory McIlroy among the early starters.
Authorities in the Dominican Republic are opening an investigation into allegations Minnesota Twins slugger Miguel Sanó participated in the kidnapping and assault of a man. The Twins, however, said they were told Sanó was cleared of the accusations. Sanó, who signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Twins in January, denies the allegations and has said he is being blackmailed. The player appeared Thursday at a hearing in the Prosecutor's Office in his hometown of San Pedro de Macorís. The hearing was called so the sides could present their versions of events and seek a conciliation, but none was reached. No charges have been filed against Sanó.
In other MLB news:
First-round draft pick Pete Crow-Armstrong and the New York Mets have agreed to a minor league contract with a $3,359,000 signing bonus, the slot value for the 19th overall selection in the amateur draft. The 18-year-old center fielder from California hit .514 in 10 games for Harvard-Westlake High School before his senior season was stopped due to the coronavirus. Crow-Armstrong has elite defensive skills in center with Gold Glove potential, according to scouts and evaluators, and a top-of-the-order profile as a hitter. Both his parents are accomplished actors. His mother, Ashley Crow, played young Billy Heywood's mom in the 1994 film "Little Big League." The Mets also announced a deal with speedy outfielder Isaiah Greene, the 69th overall pick.
The Seattle Mariners signed three of their draft picks Thursday, including first-round selection Emerson Hancock. Along with Hancock, the Mariners signed second-round pick Zach DeLoach and fifth-rounder Taylor Dollard. Hancock, who was taken with the No. 6 overall pick, was one of the top collegiate pitchers in the country at Georgia. He was 8-3 with a 1.99 ERA during his sophomore season with the Bulldogs and made four starts during his abbreviated junior season. DeLoach, an outfielder from Texas A&M, led the Cape Cod League in hitting last summer with a .353 batting average. Dollard, a right-handed pitcher from Cal Poly, was 1-0 in four starts this season. As a sophomore last year, Dollard was 5-0 with a 2.89 ERA. Dollard never suffered a loss in 42 career appearance at Cal Poly.
Vince Carter made his retirement official by announcing on his podcast Thursday that his 22-year NBA career has come to an end. The announcement was largely a formality because the 43-year-old Carter had said many times over the course of the season that this would be his last in the NBA. His 22 seasons are the most in league history. He became the first NBA player to appear in four different decades. Carter started his career with Toronto, then played for New Jersey, Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento and spent his final two seasons with Atlanta. Carter appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league's all-time list. He started his career with Toronto, then played for New Jersey, Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento and spent his final two seasons with Atlanta.
The Tennessee Titans have lured Adolpho Birch away from the NFL office to join their front office and hired two other new executives. The Titans announced Thursday that Birch is their new senior vice president for business affairs and chief legal officer. Birch spent the past 24 years with the NFL with his last role senior vice president for labor policy and league affairs. He had been involved with labor negotiations, managing the NFL's drug testing program, government relations, sports betting and the league's critical response team. His late father was the first Black on the Tennessee Supreme Court, and Birch earned his law degree at Vanderbilt.The Titans also hired Surf Melendez for a new position as creative director, and Dan Werly is their new general counsel. Melendez has worked for the Miami Dolphins and Adidas. Werly had been general counsel for Nashville Soccer Club the past year.
The University of Alabama football team released an emotional video on Thursday speaking out against racism and ending with the message that "all lives can't matter until Black lives matter." Head Coach Nick Saban and many prominent players, both Black and white, appear in the video that was written by Alabama left tackle Alex Leatherwood. The video begins with the players saying, "We are a team, Black, white, brown. Together, we are a family. We are brothers who represent ourselves, our families, our hometowns, our university and our country." The video ends with the message, "all lives can't matter until Black lives matter."' Some commenters offered to "happily take" season tickets from anyone who was offended by the video.
Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford is retiring after the 2020-21 academic year, ending his tenure after 24 years. The 71-year-old Swofford has been commissioner of the ACC since 1997, the longest run in that position in the history of the 67-year-old conference. The former North Carolina athletic director took over as commissioner of a nine-team league. In the years that followed, Swofford directed the league through multiple waves of expansion that first turned the ACC into a 12-team league by 2005 and ultimately reach 15 teams by 2013. The conference also launched its own network last August.
Australia and New Zealand will co-host the 2023 Women's World Cup. The island neighbors beat Colombia 22-13 in a vote Thursday by FIFA's ruling council, which judged them as having the best commercial prospects for women's soccer. The vote was split along continental lines, with Europe joining South America in voting for Colombia. A third candidate, Japan, withdrew on Monday. The expanded 32-team tournament — eight more than the 2019 edition in France — is expected to open in July 2023. The winning bid proposed 12 cities, with seven in Australia and five in New Zealand. It includes the main stadium used for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The 2023 tournament will be the first time a World Cup for men or women will be shared across two continental bodies, and the first co-hosted women's edition. Both Australia, the No. 7-ranked team in women's soccer, and No. 23 New Zealand will qualify automatically for the tournament.
In other soccer news, the 30-year wait is over. Liverpool is champion of England again. Liverpool clinched its first league title since 1990 on Thursday, ending an agonizing title drought without the players even having to take the field. Instead, the Premier League crown was secured when Chelsea beat second-place Manchester City 2-1, a result that means City can no longer catch Liverpool with seven games remaining. For the city of Liverpool, this has been a party three decades in the making, but the ongoing restrictions caused by the coronavirus meant fans were unable to celebrate in large crowds. Only a few dozen fans were outside Anfield as the final whistle blew at Stamford Bridge, setting off fireworks and chanting.
The once-proud Detroit Red Wings hope to win the NHL draft lottery, giving them a shot to select Canadian Alexis Lafreniere. Detroit desperately needs a boost after easily being the worst team in the league during the pandemic-shortened season that was put on ice in March.Lafreniere, an 18-year-old winger, is the consensus top prospect available and appears to be talented enough to potentially help next season and for years to come. The Red Wings and the rest the league will find out Friday night which team will be fortunate enough to have an opportunity to take him. Detroit has an 18.5% chance of having the No. 1 pick overall in the draft, on a day to be determined, after trailing every NHL team by at least 23 points and finishing 61 points behind the league-leading Boston Bruins.
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