Category Archives: Sports

Utah Jazz undergo layoffs amid coronavirus pandemic

The first organization in the NBA has formally made layoffs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A small percentage” of the Utah Jazz workforce — as part of larger overall layoffs within the Larry H. Miller Group — lost their jobs on Friday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The layoffs, per the report, were limited to non-basketball staff members, though it’s unclear how many lost their jobs. Some employees will also start taking pay reductions.

“Due to the impact on our customer-facing businesses from this unprecedented pandemic, the [Miller Group] …. unfortunately had to make difficult decisions to reduce a small percentage of our workforce,” the organization said in a statement, via Andy Larsen of the Salt Lake Tribune. “Over the past several weeks, we have worked to manage and reduce costs, including executive compensation, and have reached a point where we have had to say farewell to a limited number of our valued employees.

“We have connected with our associates with outplacement services and aligned them with employers who have immediate hiring needs. We remain focused on helping our communities stay healthy.”

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The NBA suspended operations on March 11, just moments after Jazz veteran Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus.

Several others across the league have since tested positive, including Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, Knicks owner James Dolan and others. There is still no plan in place for a return this campaign, though plenty of ideas have been floated should the league be able to return at all.

Many teams have created plans and funds to help displaced arena and staff workers amid the league hiatus in recent weeks, led by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who announced he was setting up a plan the same night the league shut down. 

The Philadelphia 76ers briefly announced that it was planning to reduce employee salaries, however quickly shut that down after immense public backlash. 

The Jazz are the first organization to officially introduce layoffs, however several others are looking into that option, according to ESPN.

The NBA reportedly asked players to take a 50 percent pay cut starting on April 15 on Friday, though the NBPA countered with a 25 percent pay cut starting in mid-May.

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MLB cancels Cubs-Cardinals London series in June

Major League Baseball has canceled its London Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The teams were set to play two matches at West Ham’s Olympic Stadium, on June 13 and 14.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred made the statement in a memorandum sent to MLB employees last Wednesday.

“We made the decision because it was unlikely the events would go forward, and timely cancellation allowed us to preserve important financial resources,” Manfred wrote. “We also have canceled agreements with service providers and delayed projects that involve large capital expenditures.”

MLB played in Europe for the first time last June 29-30, when the New York Yankees swept a pair of matches from the Boston Red Sox in London.

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The Cardinals won the National League Central last season. The Cubs made a push late but then faded to conclude third.

Opening Day was to have been March 26, but MLB has delayed the start of its campaign until mid-May at the earliest. The NBA, NHL and all other major sports leagues are presently on hold. Like the United States, Great Britain has been hard hit by the virus.

MLB had already canceled two series programmed for this season, in Mexico City and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The San Diego Padres had been scheduled to play the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 18-19 in Mexico City, and the New York Mets were supposed to play the Miami Marlins on April 28-30 in San Juan. The games will be reprogrammed for the home teams’ sites in Arizona and Miami, MLB said.

Manfred also referenced last week’s agreement with the players’ association in which teams agreed to provide $170 million in advance pay and the union agreed not to make claims for additional pay. As part of the deal, if the season is scrapped, players would receive service time for 2020 matching what they received in 2019.

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California cancels all combat sports through May

The California State Athletic Commission, as first reported by ESPN, has canceled all combat sports events in its state through the end of May.

Under main directions of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the move was a proactive measure to help inhibit the spread of the covid-19 virus that has the world dealing with a global pandemic.

“The Commission didn’t take this decision lightly and understands the potential economic loss to promoters and the industry of combative sports. We had to weigh the best interest of our fighters and the community around us,” the CSAC statement said.

The UFC has already postponed at least three events, though company president Dana White has insisted on trying to move forward with UFC 249 on April 18. He has yet to name a location or a new main event now that UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is set to stay in place in his home country of Russia.

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The UFC had one date slated for California in May. UFC on ESPN+ 33 was slated for May 16 at Pechanga Arena with a main event featuring lightweights Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker. That event, at minimum, will have to move locations or be reprogrammed for a later date.

In addition to the UFC, Bellator MMA had also been slated for two events in California in May. 

Bellator 242 was set to feature dual-division champion Ryan Bader defend his light heavyweight strap versus Vadim Nemkov on May 9 in San Jose. Former UFC contender Liz Carmouche was expected to make her promotion debut opposite Mandy Böhm in the Bellator 243 headliner on May 29, at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula.

Bellator had already reported that it was cancelling its May events prior to the release from the California State Athletic Commission.

Most other fight promotions around the globe have canceled all events through at least April, if not May.

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Eli Apple remains free agent after deal with Riders falls through

Eli Apple is back on the open market. Apple, who reportedly came to terms on a contract with the Raiders back on March 18, is once again a free agent after the two sides were “unable to finalize a contract,” according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

Before coming to terms with Apple, the Raiders reportedly had a two-year contract offer for former Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., but ultimately determined to instead sign Apple, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Harris, a four-time Pro Bowler, has signed a two-year contract with the Chargers. 

The 10th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Apple, a boundary cornerback, began his career with the Giants before being traded to the Saints midway through the 2018 campaign.

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Apple has logged 48 career regular season starts in 55 games.

He has 233 career tackles, three interceptions, 33 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. Last season, his only full season with the Saints, Apple tallied 53 tackles along with one forced fumble and four passes defensed in 15 games. 

Apple was set to join a Raiders team that had already signed former Bears linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, former Rams linebacker Cory Littleton, former Cowboys defensive tackle Maliek Collins, former Cowboys safety Jeff Heath, and former Buccaneers defensive end Carl Nassib during the first two weeks of free agency. 

With Apple off the table, the Raiders may decide to look into signing Dre Kirkpatrick, a veteran cornerback who was released by the Bengals earlier this week.

In 99 regular season matches with the Bengals, Kirkpatrick received 67 starts while recording 302 tackles, 10 interceptions, two interceptions returns for touchdowns, and 65 passes defensed. His play helped the Bengals move forward to the playoffs four consecutive years from 2012-15.

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Senior PGA Championship in May canceled

The Senior PGA, set to be the season’s second major on the 50-and-older Champions Tour, has been canceled outright because of coronavirus, tournament officials reported Thursday.

The Senior PGA was intended for May 21-24 at the Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor.

“This was not an easy decision, we know how much this Championship means to our Southwest Michigan community, and the positive impact it has on our local economy, however the health and safety of our community is our priority” Jeff Fettig, chairman of the Senior PGA Championship, said in a statement. 

“We will miss the players and fans, who have all become welcomed extensions of our community over the years. While we are incredibly disappointed that the championship will not return to Benton Harbor in 2020, we know that this is the right thing to do.”

Tournament officials stated they explored the option of reprogramming, but said that cancellation was “the only option,” in the face of the coronavirus crisis. 

The season’s first major, the Tradition, was set for the week before in Alabama, and has been rescheduled for September. The tour has five majors per season.

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On the PGA Tour, the season’s first three majors, the Masters, PGA Championship and U.S. Open, have been postponed, with reports saying the final one, the British Open, is set to be canceled.

The Senior PGA has been held at Harbor Shores, a Jack Nicklaus-designed resort, every year since 2012, with champions like Colin Montgomerie, Rocco Mediate, Roger Chapman and Paul Broadhurst.

The tournament is signed on to return to Benton Harbor again in 2022 and 2024.

“We completely support the PGA … in their decision to cancel the championship, and we appreciate the diligent and thoughtful way in which they have handled this situation,” said Marcus Muhammad, the mayor of Benton Harbor, in a statement. “We take great pride in our city, and are looking forward to hosting the championship and showcasing all that Benton Harbor has to offer when the time is right.”

The cancellation will cost the Benton Harbor tens of thousands of charitable dollars. In 2018, the tournament raised about $175,000 for local organizations, including the Benton Harbor High School athletic department, as well as the First Tee of Benton Harbor, among several others.

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Ravens’ Lamar Jackson working out with Antonio Brown

Last year, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson drew attention for his offseason work with teammates Willie Snead IV and Chris Moore.

On Wednesday, his company was a little more famous.

In an afternoon session in Fort Lauderdale, Florida — county seat of his native Broward County — the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player worked out alongside Ravens wide receiver and close pal Marquise “Hollywood” Brown; Alabama wide receiver and future first-round pick Jerry Jeudy, another Broward County native; and, most notably, former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, a cousin of the Ravens’ Brown.

Responding to a tweet Wednesday showing Antonio Brown catching passes from Jackson, the Ravens star tagged the six-time All-Pro wide receiver and stated that they would do it again.

Brown, 31, a free agent, missed most of last campaign after two ugly departures.

The Oakland Raiders, who voided the guaranteed money in his contract after Brown missed nearly all of training camp, cut him in early September when he requested to be released.

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After quickly signing with the New England Patriots, Brown was named in a lawsuit by his former trainer, who alleged that he had sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions. Less than a week later, another woman accused him of sexual misconduct.

The Patriots cut Brown after just one game, and the NFL started an investigation into the allegations against him.

Even amid the coronavirus pandemic, Brown and Jackson have been active this week. On Tuesday, Brown appeared in social media posts alongside former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson and Antonio Brown at his cousin’s Florida gym. On Wednesday, both Brown cousins and Jackson worked out on a football field in what Jeudy told “The Rich Eisen Show” was Fort Lauderdale.

It could be their last public workout for a while. On Wednesday afternoon, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order to help curb the spread of COVID-19. The order will go into effect at midnight Thursday and last for at least 30 days.

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Nets now free from coronavirus symptoms after testing positive

Fifteen days after the Brooklyn Nets announced that four players had tested positive for COVID-19, general manager Sean Marks stated that Brooklyn’s roster is free from coronavirus symptoms.

Speaking to reporters during a conference call on Wednesday morning, Marks said that the Nets’ traveling party has completed a two-week quarantine and will continue to adhere to the government issued social distancing guidelines.

“As it pertains to the team,” Marks said, “I sense like all of us, like the rest of New York and really the rest of the globe, we’re trying to deal with this as best we can.”

The symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, chills and extreme exhaustion.

Many people who have coronavirus do not have any symptoms at all. Three of the four Nets players to test positive were asymptomatic. Still, Marks said as of right now there is no plan for players to be retested.

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Marks said that he only foresees players being retested if it is something the government or NBA requires in order to return to playing.

The NBA campaign has been on pause since March 11 and since then, more than a dozen players and at least one team owner, the Knicks’ James Dolan, have tested positive for coronavirus. During the three week hiatus, many teams have distributed workout equipment to their players’ homes in order to keep them in shape. For the Nets, that has also meant that their injured players have had more time to heal.

Nets star Kyrie Irving had shoulder surgery in February and was expected to be out for the remainder of the 2019-20 season. Kevin Durant, who sustained an Achilles injury in the 2019 NBA Finals, had been ruled out for the entire campaign.

Marks did not definitively say how the extended postponement of the season could affect whether Durant — who tested positive for coronavirus — or Irving returns to the court this season. Marks stated that while both players are continuing their rehabilitation, the process could be slowed due to the practice facility being closed.

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Buccaneers’ Chris Godwin gives No. 12 to Tom Brady

Chris Godwin wore No. 12 in high school, college and his first campaign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His social media accounts, and ones owned by his girlfriend, reference the No. 12.

But, Tom Brady wears No. 12. And he will again.

According to the Buccaneers’ site, Godwin offered No. 12 to his new teammate Brady, who “gratefully accepted.” Godwin will wear No. 14.

Let the Brady jersey sales start, at least whenever the Bucs unveil their new uniforms.

Brady wore No. 10 in college at Michigan, but became well known for No. 12 while winning six Super Bowls with the Patriots. His nutrition company is called TB12. It’s a big deal for him.

It’s also a big deal for Godwin. Most players do get attached to their numbers. Godwin let it be known in an interview with “Bucs Beat” on the team’s Twitter page earlier this month that he wanted the number but would defer to Brady.

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“Obviously if he doesn’t want it, if he doesn’t make a big deal about it, I’m definitely going to keep it,” Godwin said. “We’ll see how that goes. Out of respect for what he’s done, what he’s accomplished and just the career he’s built for himself, you have to lean into that respect. We’ll see how that goes.”

In the end, Godwin wants the ball, and he endeared himself to his new quarterback.

There was no word if Brady gave Godwin anything for the number change, though that’s typical when a veteran asks for a younger player to change numbers.

In the story on the Buccaneers’ site, it says Godwin told team reporter Casey Phillips “there was no transaction between him and Brady as part of the switch,” though it’s unclear if that information was from the Godwin interview weeks ago before the two players had talked about the number.

Either way, Godwin wasn’t going to battle his new quarterback over a jersey number. Brady gets No. 12 and if Godwin gets plenty of catches, everyone will be happy.

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WTA considering extending Tour

The Women’s Tennis Association is working on boosting players’ earnings when the sport resumes after the coronavirus.

The WTA is also taking into account extending the 2020 season to help players in the lower tiers who have had no opportunity to earn money on the tour since the season was suspended in early March.

“The WTA is diligently working with our tournaments to maximize earning possibilities when the professional tennis circuit is able to resume and is considering an extension to the current 44-week season to enable more tournaments to take place,” the association told Reuters in a statement.

“It is our sincere hope to return to the court as soon as possible – when the health and safety or our players, fans and staff can be guaranteed, we will be back competing.”

The men’s ATP Tour and the WTA suspended all tournaments until June 7th once several countries started to close borders in an attempt to control the spread of COVID-19.

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The International Tennis Federation (ITF), the sport’s governing body, also postponed its lower-tier World Tennis Tour until June 8th.

The WTA season ending finals are scheduled from November 1-8 before the season heads into a break of eight to 10 weeks.

The WTA is well aware that without tournaments and prize money on offer, it leaves several players with financial concerns.

“We wish there was a way everyone, especially those in need the most, could be compensated at the level they were expecting, but the needs are so great and the WTA unfortunately is not in a financial position to do that,” the WTA stated.

“Professional tennis players are independent contractors and not employees of the WTA.  As a result, a player’s compensation is based on on-court competition and when tournaments are not held this puts a pause on their principal revenue flow.

“The WTA fully recognises the challenges these athletes are facing as well as those similar challenges being dealt with from millions of people around the world during this unprecedented situation.”

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Stephon Marbury trying to get masks from China for New York

Former NBA star Stephon Marbury is using his connections in China to seek to supply New York hospitals with 10 million N95 masks at a discount, according to Rich Calder of the New York Post.

Thanks to Marbury, the mask supplier in China will sell the state masks “at cost” for $2.75 each to help supply medical workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had said suppliers were trying to sell masks for $7.50 each amid the current crisis, according to Bob Ivry and Brandon Kochkodin of Bloomberg.

After learning of the shortage within New York City, Marbury reached out to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams while helping broker the deal with the new supplier.

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“At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn,” he stated. “This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York. I have family there in Coney Island, a lot of family … who are affected by this, so I know how important it is for people to have masks during this time.”

Julia Arredondo, spokeswoman for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, confirmed that Adams reached out to City Hall about the masks supplier, per the Post. 

But they have yet to iron out details, which means no purchases have been made. 

New York has been hit notably hard by COVID-19, with over 52,000 cases as of Sunday, per CNN.com. There are more than 120,000 cases nationwide.

Marbury was able to see the damage from the global pandemic even earlier from his home in Beijing, where he has been a coach in the China Basketball Association. He was a player in the CBA from 2010 to ’18 after a 13-year career in the NBA.

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