Category Archives: Sports

Usman vs Masvidal agree to UFC 251

It will still take clearing some legitimate hurdles to reach the finish line, but according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal have completed negotiations and agreed to terms for a last-minute bout to serve as the main event of Saturday’s UFC 251 card in Abu Dhabi. 

With the new UFC 251 main event now essentially being cleared on paper, both warriors will undergo COVID-19 testing in Las Vegas and immediately enter quarantine while awaiting the results. Should Usman and Masvidal both test negative, then they will be en route to Abu Dhabi as soon as possible from there. With 48 career fights under his belt, Masvidal would serve as the fighter with the most MMA appearances before receiving his first title shot. 

Shortly after the news of the agreement broke, UFC president Dana White posted a hype video to Twitter which seemingly confirmed that he was able to secure the new blockbuster main event. 

The inaugural Fight Island card saw its original headliner fall apart Saturday when top contender Gilbert Burns pulled out of a shot at Usman’s title after testing positive for COVID-19.

Masvidal, the ceremonial BMF champion, was the opponent UFC initially targeted for Usman before negotiations went sideways and Masvidal started a public protest over fighter pay. 

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Masvidal (35-13) spent his July 4th holiday undergoing the first of what would be multiple coronavirus tests while negotiating the fight, per photos released on social media by his manager, Malki Kawa.

The 35-year-old brawler rose from journeyman status in 2019 with a trio of stoppage victories which earned him global fame and Fighter of the Year honors. 

Among the major hurdles facing the proposed fight are the logistics of how the fighters would safely arrive in the United Arab Emirates amid quarantine protocols in such a last-minute scenario.

Usman (16-1) did not board a chartered UFC flight which carried fighters, trainers, media and promotional personnel upon hearing the news of Burns (19-3) pulling out. 

In the event the fight does not take place, the original co-main event of featherweight champion Alexaner Volkanovski taking on former titleholder Max Holloway in a rematch would take top billing. The card also contains a vacant bantamweight title fight between Petr Yan and former featherweight king Jose Aldo. 

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Pacers’ Oladipo to sit out restart of NBA season

Indiana Pacers star Victor Oladipo has decided not to play when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes at Disney World in Orlando later this month. Oladipo tore his quad tendon last season, and made his return in late January, just about six weeks before play was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a result of his health situation, Oladipo told The Athletic in an interview that he just doesn’t feel comfortable returning to play under these circumstances. However, he will still travel with the team. 

The good news is that this isn’t the result of any sort of setback during the quarantine. Both Oladipo and the Pacers consider he is healthy and progressing well, they just think returning to play under these stressful and unique conditions is not worth the risk. Especially considering that players who suffer the same injury as Oladipo are more susceptible to soft tissue injuries in the ensuing years. 

“This kind of injury takes a while to get back from,” Oladipo’s physical therapist said. “This is a very rare injury. He’s playing this smart and we look at it as: He came back, he got into rotation, he got a feel for the game and his knee really responded well — and we had to shut this whole thing down from the pandemic. We haven’t been able to play five-on-five yet due to circumstances. Now we’re asking guys to ramp up in 21 days. That’s just a real short time window for a person with his kind of injury.”

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Heading into Orlando, there are all sorts of health concerns, mostly related to the coronavirus pandemic — and for good reason, as cases are surging, and we still don’t fully understand the long-term effects of the illness. However, the potential for augmented risk of injuries is a serious issue as well. 

Most players were not able to train like they normally do over the past few months, and will now be required to ramp up into a training camp situation, then high-intensity games in a rather short amount of time. For guys like Oladipo who are already dealing with the effects of a serious injury, it makes sense to take the long-term approach. 

From a basketball perspective, this is obviously a big hit to the Pacers’ probabilities of making some noise in the East.

They were actually a bit worse with Oladipo on the court (minus-2.6 net rating differential) in the 13 games since he returned, and he hadn’t quite found his rhythm. But that was a small sample size after he just returned from a year off, and he’s by far their most talented player. 

Now, they’ll have to play in Orlando without him. Heading into the restart they are tied with the Philadelphia 76ers for fifth place in the Eastern Conference at 39-26, and while they are still within striking distance of the Miami Heat for the fourth seed, getting there doesn’t matter as much with no homecourt advantage anymore. 

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Investors call on Nike, FedEx, PepsiCo to cut ties with Redskins over name

In order to get Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to pay attention to the ongoing calls for him to change the name of his NFL team, investors in major companies that have relationships with the franchise want to hit him in the wallet.

According to Adweek, letters signed by 87 investment firms and shareholders worth a collective $620 billion were distributed to Nike, FedEx and PepsiCo last week. Each of the three separate letters asked the companies to end their business relationships with Washington’s football franchise unless it changes its team name.

PepsiCo recently made the decision to sunset the Aunt Jemima brand, so there is some precedent for the company taking meaningful steps toward making real change.

Carla Fredericks, the director of First Peoples Worldwide and head of the University of Colorado Law School’s American Indian Law Clinic, told Adweek she was pleased to see shareholders in Fortune 500 companies like FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo realize the potential power they wield to shape change.

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“I’m very encouraged by the rising awareness of how every dollar you spend is a vote you cast on your values,” Fredericks said. “And that applies to money you have in investments as well as any brands you support. Anyone that has a simple stock portfolio with an index fund owns a share of these companies.”

Former NFL coach and current NBC broadcaster Tony Dungy also newly shared his method of encouraging Washington’s team name to be changed.

“When I’m on the air, I try to just refer to them as Washington. I think it’s appropriate,” Dungy said. “If the team doesn’t want to change, the least I can do is try not to use it. You can say, ‘This has been a historic name and we’ve used it for this team for X number of years, but in this day and age, it’s offensive to some people, so we’re going to change it.’ I don’t think that’s hard.” Snyder, Washington’s owner since 1999, said as recently as 2013 that he does not plan to ever alter the team’s name.

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76ers Ben Simmons ‘effective 100%’ for restart of season

Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown said Ben Simmons’ back is “effectively 100 percent” as they prepare to head to Florida for the NBA restart at Disney World.

“He’s good to go. He’s put in a tremendous volume of work for me to be able to confidently say that,” Brown said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon.

“As you search for silver linings with this pandemic and the way things have shaped up, it would be hard-pressed for me to find something more obvious than this: It’s enabled Ben to reclaim his health. He’s good to go, and we look forward to watching him with what I’m told is effectively 100 percent health.”

Simmons hasn’t played in an NBA match since Feb. 22, when he suffered a back injury early in the first quarter versus the Milwaukee Bucks. However, after months of speculation, it appears the Sixers can expect to have Simmons available when they resume their season on Aug. 1 versus the Indiana Pacers.

In addition to the positive report about Simmons’ health, Brown said none of the Sixers have tested positive for the coronavirus and none have opted out of going with the team to Orlando for the restart.

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He said he’s also very pleased with the shape that Joel Embiid is in.

“Let’s start with the respect and applause I give him for putting in time. There is nobody on our team that has put in more time than Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “Forget what he has actually done in the gym for a minute, just go to the man hours and consecutive days and the amount of days he has put in over the past few months. I’m proud of him, I respect him. He needed to do it. We understand the impact he can have on our team.”

After he unintentionally collided with Markelle Fultz and suffered a facial fracture two years ago and then dealt with illness and flu-like symptoms throughout a second-round loss to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors last year, the Sixers are hoping Embiid will be fully healthy and ready to go for the playoffs.

Brown said the team has a plan in place to ramp up Embiid’s activity. “We’ve got a three-week runway to deliver him to the regular season,” Brown said. “I’m looking for Joel to come in in as good of shape as he’s been in since I have coached him. I think the three weeks we have together is an inverted sort of luxury we haven’t had. I’m excited for Jo to get back into this and show what he has been doing the last few months.”

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NFL shortens preseason to just two weeks as league continues to plot its 2020 strategy

The NFL has taken its next step in adjusting its calendar to prepare for a return to action amid the coronavirus pandemic

The NFL has shortened its 2020 preseason to two games, a source said, part of a larger acclimatization plan for players following an unprecedented virtual offseason program during the coronavirus pandemic.

In essence, the league canceled Weeks 1 and 4 of its original preseason calendar. It had previously canceled its Aug. 8 Hall of Fame game. Most players will still report to training camp on July 28, but the first preseason matches won’t be played until Aug. 20-24. The second week of preseason games are scheduled for Aug. 27-31. Each team will play one home game and one on the road.

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Teams that travel will depart on the day before games.

The primary driver for restructuring the preseason was a consensus between the NFL and NFL Players Association that players will need more time than normal to get in football shape this summer.

No teams were able to practice on the field during the offseason, and many gyms and other conditioning settings have been closed. The NFL’s standard preseason has been four games since it was shortened from six games in 1978. It is expected to be cut further when owners activate a provision in the collective bargaining agreement to extend the regular season to 17 games, which they can do as early as 2021.

When that happens, the preseason would shrink to no more than three games for each team. Of more immediate worry, however, is the health of players during training camp in 2020.

The NFL/NFLPA committee will soon issue a set of guidelines that spells out an acclimatization program for the 23 days of training camp prior to the first preseason game.

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Shohei Ohtani returning to 2-way role with Los Angeles Angels this season

Shohei Ohtani will resume his two-way career with the Los Angeles Angels when baseball returns.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler confirmed Tuesday that his Japanese star will pitch and hit in the majors this campaign. Ohtani was only a designated hitter last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He wasn’t expected to pitch in 2020 until at least May, and Eppler confirmed that the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t altered the Angels’ plans.

“We’ll probably have a little bit more of a governor on him, at least at the outset,” Eppler said. “He’s had a number of live [throwing sessions against hitters], but we want to up that intensity a little bit more and put him into a game situation. Just watching how he responds on a day-to-day basis will help guide us to how much we can push down on the gas pedal on him. We’re expecting him to be on the mound and stay on the mound and roll through spring training.”

Manager Joe Maddon stated last week that he hoped Ohtani would start roughly once a week on the mound while serving as the Halos’ designated hitter in three to four games between starts. The Angels could have a six-man rotation for the short season.

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Ohtani batted .286 last season with 18 homers and 62 RBIs and an .848 OPS in 106 games.

His production at the plate was nearly identical to his work in 2018, when he was the AL Rookie of the Year while making 10 starts on the mound.

Eppler said none of the Angels’ players are currently intending to opt out of playing in the shortened season. That includes three-time AL MVP Mike Trout, whose wife is due with their first child later this summer.

Eppler confirmed that first-round pick Reid Detmers will be on the Angels’ summer roster as the 56th player, although the left-handed starter hasn’t formally been added.

Eppler also went into details on the Angels’ adherence to health and safety protocols at Angel Stadium and at Blair Field in Long Beach, where the Angels also will hold their summer camp. The Angels have removed communal couches and tables from their clubhouses in a bid to remind their players of the new realities.

“Think of the clubhouse as more of a closet,” said Eppler, who has received positive feedback from his players over their safety steps. “It’s where clothes hang. Absent of anything you need to do in the training room or weight room, get outside.”

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Nets DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie say they tested positive for Covid

When the novel coronavirus pandemic first struck the NBA, four members of the Brooklyn Nets tested positive for COVID-19. One of them was Kevin Durant, but he and the other three unnamed members of the team have since been cleared of the virus and are symptom-free.

However, Durant (right Achilles), Kyrie Irving (right shoulder), Nic Claxton (left shoulder) and Wilson Chandler (opting out) will not be available for the Nets when the NBA resumes the 2019-20 campaign at Disney World in Florida at the end of July.

And Brooklyn will now be down more players – potentially even without its leading scorer for the bulk of the season.

DeAndre Jordan announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus and would not be playing during the resumed campaign, and Spencer Dinwiddie told Shams Charania of The Athletic he has tested positive for COVID-19.

d would not be playing during the resumed campaign, and Spencer Dinwiddie told Shams Charania of The Athletic he has tested positive for COVID-19.

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“Over the past few months, I have been diligent about protecting myself and others from COVID-19 by following all designated protocol and quarantining,” Dinwiddie told The Athletic.

“I was ready and prepared to rejoin my teammates as we were to be an early entry team in the resumed season. I flew private to return to New York, passed multiple COVID-19 tests over my first several days in New York and was able to participate in a couple practices within the first week.

“Originally, we were supposed to be one of the teams to enter into the Orlando bubble early, but training camp got switched back to New York and unfortunately I am now positive.”

Dinwiddie has shown symptoms of the illness, “including fever and chest tightness.” As a result, he’s uncertain if he’ll participate in the league’s restart: “… it is unclear on whether or not I’ll be able to participate in Orlando,” he said. 

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Vergil Ortiz on Golden Boy’s first card during coronavirus pandemic

Highly regarded welterweight Vergil Ortiz will face veteran Samuel Vargas on July 24 in Golden Boy’s first fight card since the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to boxing events across the world in mid-March.

The card will take place at the Fantasy Springs Casino Resort in Indio, California.

“We’re just excited, happy to be back with our fighters,” said Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy Promotions. “Especially a guy like Vergil who was scheduled to fight before the shutdown. He was 10 days out from fighting, so I’m just happy he gets to fight again, and we’re back at it.”

For the time being, Golden Boy’s cards in California will be held without an audience.

Ortiz (15-0, 15 KOs) is considered one of boxing’s best young fighters. The 22-year-old native of Grand Prairie, Texas, has stopped everyone he has faced thus far as a professional. In 2019, Ortiz stopped Mauricio Herrera in three rounds, and then Antonio Orozco in six.

Ortiz and Vargas were initially organized to clash on March 28 at The Forum in Inglewood, California, before that card was canceled. “I’m very thankful and excited to be headlining the first Golden Boy event after the quarantine,” said Ortiz, who has been training with Robert Garcia in Riverside for the past few weeks.

“I’m happy that it’s still with the same opponent, so basically we’re picking up where we left off. It’s going to be a tough fight, and it’ll be a great way to kick off the year for me.”

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Ortiz is facing a seasoned veteran in Vargas (31-5-2, 14 KOs), who has faced Amir Khan, Luis Collazo, Danny Garcia and Errol Spence over the course of his career.

“I think that everything happens for a reason,” said Vargas, who has been in Las Vegas in recent weeks, preparing for this fight. “I think this time off benefited me. I’m ready to upset the world. I believe I can come out with the win. The world is a weird place right now. The show will be different. There will be no supporters, but I have no doubt I’m going to win.”

As Golden Boy officials started to put this card together, they found a rather limited pool of options to draw from, in terms of selecting boxers.

“There’s a lot of guys that just weren’t ready,” Gomez said. “They hadn’t been to the gym because [gyms] were closed, they didn’t train, do road work, sparring or anything. Now it’s a little better, but we’re not in the clear yet.”

The co-feature arranged for July 24 is a 10-round lightweight contest between Hector Tanajara (19-0, 5 KOs) and Mercito Gesta (32-3-3, 17 KOs). Other fights include an eight-round middleweight fight between Shane Mosley Jr. (15-3, 9 KOs) and Jeremy Ramos (11-8, 2 KOs), a women’s junior flyweight fight between Seniesa Estrada (18-0, 7 KOs) and Jacky Calvo (12-5-2, 1 KO), and a clash between prospects Hector Valdez and Evan Sanchez.

There’s no indication when spectators will be allowed back into any sporting events, and from Golden Boy’s perspective, the hope at this point is just to try to get the first few cards off the ground smoothly.

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Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman, Joe Ross opt out of 2020 season

Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross are opting out of the 2020 campaign delayed by the coronavirus pandemic “for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones,” the team informed Monday.

Zimmerman, 35, was the Nationals’ first draft pick when the franchise moved out of Montreal and has played for the team since making his debut on Sept. 1, 2005.

“After a great deal of thought and given my family circumstances — three young children including a newborn, and a mother at high risk — I have decided not to participate in the 2020 season,” Zimmerman said in a statement.

Zimmerman has been writing a diary for The Associated Press since the coronavirus shut down sports this spring. In the 10th installment last week, he expressed concerns about playing in 2020. “I have a 3-week-old baby,” Zimmerman wrote.

“My mother has multiple sclerosis and is super high-risk; if I end up playing, I can pretty much throw out the idea of seeing her until weeks after the season is over. There’s a lot of factors that I and others have to consider. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer; it’s everybody’s individual choice.”

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Zimmerman batted .257 with six home runs and 27 RBIs in 171 at-bats last season and had a dramatic home run in Game 1 of the World Series.

“Everyone knows how much it means to me to be a part of a team, and I will miss that camaraderie dearly this year,” he said in Monday’s statement. “Of course I would love to pursue back-to-back titles. I cannot speak for anyone else, but given the unusual nature of the season, this is the best decision for me and my family, and I truly appreciate the organization’s understanding and support.”

He had been booked to play on a one-year, $2 million contract this season after the Nationals declined to exercise an $18 million club option.

“To be clear, I am not retiring at this time,” he said in the statement. “I have not decided on my future in baseball past 2020. But this year I’ll be staying safe at home and pulling as hard as anyone for our guys to defend their championship.”

Ross, 27, has five seasons of major league experience and underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2017. He appeared in 27 matches last season, going 4-4 with a 5.48 ERA, and was in line to compete to be the Nationals’ fifth starter.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo issued a statement of support Monday.

“Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross have decided not to participate in the 2020 season for the personal health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. We are 100 percent supportive of their decision to not play this year.

We will miss their presence in the clubhouse and their contributions on the field.” Zimmerman and Ross became the second and third players known to opt out of the 2020 season on Monday, following Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jason Pierre-Paul undergoes knee surgery

Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul published on Snapchat that he underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Friday, describing the procedure as a “tune-up.”

Pierre-Paul posted video of himself waiting for surgery at the hospital, getting into his car afterwards and walking on crutches with his knee bandaged.

“Get this surgery. You feel me? But I’m Gucci though. You feel me?” Pierre-Paul said in the video. “Because your boy just had to do it. He just had to do it.”

… Your boy good. I just had a little tune-up. But to be honest, if I’m going to break that sack record this year, I needed to do the surgery. So I did it.” A source told ESPN that there are no concerns about him missing the start of training camp.

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After suffering two fractured vertebrae in his neck last offseason, Pierre-Paul went on to record 8.5 sacks in 10 matches in 2019, while teammate Shaq Barrett led the NFL with 19.5 sacks.

Throughout the season last year, Pierre-Paul was listed on the injury report with a knee injury but continued to play.

Earlier this offseason, he signed a new two-year deal worth $25 million. The surgery was performed to alleviate some discomfort he was feeling.

“Your boy good. I just had a little tune-up,” Pierre-Paul said. “You feel me? But to be honest, if I’m gonna break that sack record this year, I needed to do the surgery. So I did it.”

The two-time Pro Bowl selection was traded from the New York Giants to the Buccaneers before the 2018 season. Earlier this off-season, Pierre-Paul signed a two-year, $25 million deal with the Buccaneers.

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