Sports Newshttps://rock947.com/news/sections/sports/Get the latest news, scores and highlights for college, professional and Olympic sports.en-usMon, 22 Jun 2020 22:50:46 +0000MLB players vote against 60-game season proposalhttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/mlb-players-vote-against-60-game-season-proposal/1032064/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 22:50:46 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/mlb-players-vote-against-60-game-season-proposal/1032064/(Reuters) - Major League Baseball players on Monday voted overwhelmingly against a proposal to play a shortened 60-game season amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to multiple reports, the MLB Players Association sub-committee voted 33-5 to reject the proposal.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred can now intervene and set a schedule for the 2020 season as per an agreement that was reached in late March.

"Earlier this evening the full Board reaffirmed the players' eagerness to return to work as soon and as safely as possible," MLBPA said in a statement.

"To that end, we anticipate finalizing a comprehensive set of health and safety protocols with Major League Baseball in the coming days, and we await word from the league on the resumption of spring training camps and a proposed 2020 schedule.

"While we had hoped to reach a revised back to work agreement with the league, the players remain fully committed to proceeding under our current agreement and getting back on the field for the fans, for the game and for each other."

Other aspects of the proposal that were denied included a call for an expanded post-season and no additional salary guarantees should the season be canceled due to COVID-19.

MLB and the players' union have been trying to find common ground on a return-to-play plan for the 2020 season but have been unable to reach agreement in areas like player compensation and the number of games played.

Manfred said two weeks ago he was "100%" sure there would be a 2020 season but dramatically shifted his tone last Monday and said he was "not confident" a campaign would happen after the union broke off talks.

Manfred then said he met with MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark last Tuesday where the two put together the framework of a deal to salvage a 2020 season during a meeting in Phoenix that lasted several hours.

MLB was scheduled to open its 162-game regular season in late March but delayed the campaign due to the pandemic.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Ken Ferris)

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Golf: Koepka to be joined by brother Chase in Travelers fieldhttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/golf-koepka-to-be-joined-by-brother-chase-in-travelers-field/1032052/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 21:56:40 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/golf-koepka-to-be-joined-by-brother-chase-in-travelers-field/1032052/(Reuters) - World number four Brooks Koepka will have a familiar face in the field at this week's PGA Tour event in Cromwell, Connecticut as his younger brother Chase grabbed one of two qualifying spots that were up for grabs on Monday.

The younger Koepka, who was cheered on by his four-times major-winning brother, shot a five-under-par 67 at Ellington Ridge Country Club in Connecticut and then made it through a playoff to gain entry the Travelers Championship.

The tournament at TPC River Highlands, which has a stacked field featuring the top five golfers in the world rankings, is the PGA Tour's third event back from a three-month COVID-19 break and will be closed to the general public.

The elder Koepka is coming off a seventh-place finish at last week's RBC Heritage in South Carolina where he shot a six-under 65 in the final round to finish four shots back of winner Webb Simpson. He will play the opening two rounds this week with fellow Americans Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Orlando Pride pull out of NWSL tournament after positive COVID-19 testshttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/orlando-pride-pull-out-of-nwsl-tournament-after-positive-covid-19-tests/1032026/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 20:40:24 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/orlando-pride-pull-out-of-nwsl-tournament-after-positive-covid-19-tests/1032026/By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Orlando Pride will not play in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) Challenge Cup, which is set to kick off on Saturday, after players and staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

All those who tested positive were asymptomatic, the team said, and will be isolated for at least 14 days in accordance with health and safety guidelines.

"This was obviously a difficult and disappointing outcome for our players, our staff and fans, however this is a decision that was made in order to protect the health of all involved in the Challenge Cup,” said Orlando Pride Executive Vice President Amanda Duffy.

The NWSL aims to be the first team-sport league in the U.S. to resume competition since the coronavirus outbreak prompted widespread lockdowns in March, with the month-long, 25-match Challenge Cup to kick off in suburban Salt Lake City, Utah.

"Our thoughts are with those players and staff fighting this infection,” said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird. “We’re all obviously disappointed, but in the current environment, this is a situation that we have prepared for and we will now adjust our plans."

The club's newly renovated Sylvan Lake Park practice facility in suburban Orlando has also been closed.

"We are unfortunately facing a decision that is necessary and in the best interest for the health of our players and staff," Orlando Pride team doctor Daryl Osbahr said.

Some teams from MLB and the NHL closed their Florida facilities last week after players tested positive for COVID-19, as new cases in the state surge.

The Pride team was scheduled to depart for Utah on Wednesday, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Men's Major League Soccer, along with the NBA, is expected to resume its 2020 season at Orlando's Walt Disney World this summer, while the WNBA plans to carry out its season at a single site in Florida.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Decision on MLB season could occur soonhttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/decision-on-mlb-season-could-occur-monday/1032005/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 19:28:10 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/decision-on-mlb-season-could-occur-monday/1032005/NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A Major League Baseball season could be on the verge of becoming a reality.

Either by vote or because it was implemented by commissioner Rob Manfred.

Last-ditch attempts for MLB and the MLB Players Association to reach an agreement were sought on Monday as the window to hold a season continues to close.

"Everything appears to be coming to a head today: #MLB and the #MLBPA are trying to see if they can reach a last-minute agreement on a 60-game season this afternoon or Commissioner Rob Manfred will implement a 54-60 game season," USA Today's Bob Nightengale tweeted.

ESPN's Buster Olney was of a similar opinion.

"We are down to the last hours before possible implementation of a short season by MLB/Manfred, and behind the scenes, there are efforts being made to circumvent implementation. Last-minute attempt at haggling," Olney tweeted.

MLB analyst Jim Bowden, a former major league general manager, said an MLBPA vote will take place at 5 p.m. ET.

Tweeted Bowden: "38-member exec board will vote on MLB latest proposal of a 60 game season. Players union should do right thing and accept and get baseball back on the field for a late July opening day. If they reject, owners don't have to implement. They can keep negotiating w less (games)."

According to Bowden, the proposal being voted on will not guarantee salaries if the games aren't played.

The vote was initially reported to be held Sunday but a large number of positive COVID-19 tests was the main reason for the delay.

Citing two sources close to the situation, Nightengale reported that 40 MLB players and staff members tested positive in the last week. Nightengale added that Manfred and MLBPA executive director Tony Clark exchanged emails with "tweaks" to their proposals.

According to Nightengale, the recent uptick in COVID-19 infections will push the start of the season back to July 26 at the earliest, with spring training resuming no earlier than June 29.

On Sunday, ESPN's Jeff Passan reported Manfred wrote a letter to Clark offering to cancel expanded playoffs and the universal designated hitter for 2021 (the owners' latest proposal had those elements in place for 2020 and '21). But, Passan added, "Players are concerned about giving up leverage of playoffs for naught."

Nightengale reported Manfred also promised that players on non-guaranteed contracts who were arbitration-eligible in 2019 but released during spring training would receive full termination pay.

The season was scheduled to start March 26, but the coronavirus pandemic led to the delay that has lasted nearly three months so far.

--Field Level Media

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Tennis: Djokovic should feel responsible after COVID positives, says Evanshttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/tennis-djokovic-should-feel-responsible-after-covid-positives-says-evans/1031987/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 18:48:44 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/tennis-djokovic-should-feel-responsible-after-covid-positives-says-evans/1031987/LONDON (Reuters) - World number one Novak Djokovic should put his hand up and accept responsibility after Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric tested positive for COVID-19 while participating in his Adria Tour exhibition tournament, Briton Dan Evans said on Monday.

The tournament, which also had top names such as Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev, was held in Belgrade and Zadar and the players were also pictured playing basketball and dancing together without following social distancing protocols.

"I don't think he should be having a players' party and dancing all over each other," Evans told reporters ahead of Jamie Murray's behind-closed-doors 'Battle of the Brits' tournament that begins on Tuesday.

"Two very good tennis players have tested positive. He should feel some responsibility in his event and how it's transpired, really.

"It's very unfortunate that Grigor has it and Coric has it but you strip it back, is it a surprise? I think that's the question we should all ask."

Djokovic's own coronavirus test results will be announced at 1745 CET/1545 GMT on Tuesday, after which he will address the public, Serbian media reported on Monday quoting his PR team.

The ATP and WTA Tours, which were suspended in March due to the pandemic, are set to resume in August with the U.S. Open and French Open beginning on Aug. 31 and Sept. 27, respectively.

"I think we could definitely learn from that and hopefully that event doesn't take away from the U.S. Open," Evans added of the Adria Tour exhibition tournament.

"I hope there's no second guessing on the U.S. Open now because of some unfortunate events."

Murray said the spotlight will now be on the tournament in London but that they were taking all precautions to ensure nobody contracts the virus.

"All the guys got tested this morning, that was mandatory for everyone competing in the event," Murray said.

"If someone is to fall ill during the week then they will obviously drop out, but then everyone will be basically getting tested daily from that point on to the end of the tournament."

(Reporting by Tim Hart in London; Additional reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Writing by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Colombian FA accuses FIFA of bias for raising security fearshttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/colombian-fa-accuses-fifa-of-bias-for-raising-security-fears/1031980/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 18:29:09 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/colombian-fa-accuses-fifa-of-bias-for-raising-security-fears/1031980/BOGOTA (Reuters) - The FIFA evaluation report which highlighted that security could be an issue if Colombia hosted the 2023 women’s World Cup were based on a preconceived bias rather than reality, the head of the Colombian Football Federation told Reuters on Monday.

The Colombian proposal to become the first South American country to stage the tournament received the lowest score in reports prepared by FIFA's evaluation team of the three bids.

A joint bid from Australia and New Zealand was rated 4.1 out of five in the report, Japan was awarded 3.9 but Colombia scored only 2.8 ahead of next Thursday’s vote. Japan withdrew from the process on Monday and threw their support behind the Australia/New Zealand bid.

"Today, fortunately, we believe we’ve got over this problem and the peace process is being implemented very well," Colombia's football chief Ramon Jesurun told Reuters.

"Those who know Colombia and have come to Colombia have been really surprised by what is reflected in this report.

"In the last few hours we have told FIFA that this was not right and that I think there is a bit of bias in these comments. But I repeat, Colombia is absolutely and totally prepared for this."

Jesurun said Colombia had sporting, health and tourism infrastructure ready in eight or nine cities, although he acknowledged that improvements would be made if they won the bid.

(Writing by Andrew Downie in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Jonquel Jones to skip WNBA season, citing COVID-19 concernshttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/jonquel-jones-to-skip-wnba-season-citing-covid-19-concerns/1031961/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 17:37:45 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/jonquel-jones-to-skip-wnba-season-citing-covid-19-concerns/1031961/By Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Twice WNBA All-Star Jonquel Jones has decided to opt out of the upcoming season, citing concerns over the novel coronavirus.

The WNBA is set to hold its 2020 season at a single site in Florida in a fanless setting with health and safety protocols in place, holding 22 regular season games followed by a traditional playoff format and best-of-five series for the semis and finals.

Florida is among the U.S. states that saw a record spike in new COVID-19 cases last week, and positive tests among players prompted the closure of some MLB and NHL facilities in the state, denting hopes for the return of professional sports in North America.

"This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made," said 26-year-old center Jones, who last season helped take the Connecticut Sun to its first Finals since 2005. "The resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in."

The Sun said it supported Jones, who led the league in total rebounds and blocks last year.

Atlanta Dream guard Renee Montgomery had already said she would sit out the season to focus on social justice reform after the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Murray says priority is to play at U.S. Open and French Openhttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/murray-says-priority-is-to-play-at-us-open-and-french-open/1031960/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 17:33:04 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/murray-says-priority-is-to-play-at-us-open-and-french-open/1031960/(Reuters) - Former world number one Andy Murray says he is looking forward to competing at the U.S. Open and French Open later this year but only if it is safe enough amid the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the sport in March.

The U.S. Open will be staged without fans as scheduled from Aug. 31-Sept. 13 in New York while the postponed French Open will be held from Sept. 27-Oct. 11.

Earlier this month, world number one Novak Djokovic said strict health protocols at the U.S. Open would prevent players from bringing more than one person on their support team to the venue but Murray said that was an arrangement he was fine with.

"Playing the Grand Slams would be my priority," Murray was quoted as saying by British media on Monday. "I think the schedule is tricky and I understand the reason why it is like that.

"I don't mind what the situation is, providing it is safe. If I was told I could take one person with me... you can make that work. I'd probably go with a physio and some coaching could be done remotely."

The ATP and WTA Tours are set to resume in August but the spotlight is on the sport after Grigor Dimitrov and Borna Coric tested positive following their participation in Djokovic's Adria Tour exhibition tournament.

Murray, 33, has not competed since playing in the Davis Cup in November due to complications with his hip but is set to return on Tuesday at a behind-closed-doors tournament in London, the 'Battle of the Brits', organised by his brother Jamie.

"My hip has been feeling better for probably the past three or four weeks. It feels better than it did in March," he added.

"Right now, I feel a little bit more confident because I've had more training under my belt, more practice. In March time, I'd only been practising for four or five weeks since I'd had the issues."

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Jets S Adams: 'Trying' to get to Dallashttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/jets-s-adams-trying-to-get-to-dallas/1031936/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 16:56:02 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/jets-s-adams-trying-to-get-to-dallas/1031936/Dallas native Jamal Adams, who formally requested a trade last week, appeared to express his motives with a fan who shared a cellphone video of the All-Pro saying he's "trying" to get home.

Adams has not been granted permission to discuss a trade with other teams and has two years remaining on his contract, but he's seeking a deal that would make him one of the highest-paid defensive players in the NFL.

A fan saw Adams in the Dallas area in his Mercedes SUV and asked, "You coming to Dallas?"

Adams replied, "I'm trying, bro."

The Cowboys were one of the teams the Jets had contact with about Adams in October 2019 before the NFL trade deadline. But reports at the time indicated the Jets were asking for multiple draft picks.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said before the draft that a deal for a player like Adams was unlikely.

A critical hurdle would be fitting Adams on the books under the terms of a new deal with quarterback Dak Prescott, who will play on the $31.4 million exclusive franchise tender in 2020 unless a deal is worked out in the next three weeks. But ESPN reported Adams, who grew up in Carrollton, Texas, a half-hour from AT&T Stadium, wants to play for Dallas so desperately that he is willing to table contract talks for a year.

That would give the Cowboys time to work out a long-term extension with Prescott that would lower his cap charge.

Jets general manager Joe Douglas said in May that he's not shopping Adams but always listens if someone wants to discuss a trade.

--Field Level Media

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NASCAR steps up security around Wallace after noose found in garagehttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/wallace-ready-to-race-as-nascar-investigates-racial-attack/1031922/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 16:20:29 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/wallace-ready-to-race-as-nascar-investigates-racial-attack/1031922/By Steve Keating

(Reuters) - NASCAR has stepped up security around Bubba Wallace for the rain-delayed Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on Monday after a noose was found in the driver's garage.

The only Black driver in NASCAR's top series and a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter, Wallace was the target of a racial attack on Sunday when a noose, a symbol connected to lynching and America's slave history, was left in his team stall.

NASCAR president Steve Phelps vowed to use all available resources to uncover the identity of the person responsible for the racist attack and have them banned from the sport for life.

Earlier on Monday the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Alabama said the FBI is reviewing the situation surrounding the noose to determine whether there are violations of federal law.

"We are going to use every effort we can to determine who has done this, whether it's a single person or multiple people," Phelps said during a conference call on Monday.

"I know that the director of the FBI has informed the Birmingham office to use all their resources to find it as well.

"Unequivocally, they will be banned from this sport for life. There is no room for this at all and we won't tolerate it.

"I don't care who they are, they will not be here."

The incident has put NASCAR on high alert for Monday's race which was already operating under tight security due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. Only 5000 fans were allowed into the sprawling superspeedway and access to the infield and pit areas was also restricted.

CONFEDERATE FLAGS

"We want to make sure that Bubba is safe and we have stepped up security," confirmed Phelps, adding he had personally told Wallace about the noose on Sunday.

"This is a family that needs to take care of one of its family members whose been attacked.

"We will firmly support as an industry, as a family and a community to make sure Bubba and everyone else in this sport is safe."

Wallace was also one of the loudest voices in the push to have NASCAR remove the Confederate flag from its tracks.

Since the May 25 death of George Floyd, an Africa-American man who died after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, there have been calls to remove objects honoring the Confederacy, which defended slavery.

While some in the South see the flag as a source of pride and a remembrance of its soldiers who died in the Civil War, many Americans see it as a symbol of oppression and of a dark chapter in American history.

In the wake of the nationwide protests against racism, NASCAR announced earlier this month that Confederate flags would be prohibited from all events and properties.

Despite NASCAR's ruling, outside the Alabama track on Sunday there were still plenty of Confederate flags flying and merchandise for sale.

Prior to the race, a small plane flew above the superspeedway with a banner of the Confederate flag trailing another that read "DEFUND NASCAR."

Alabama governor Kay Ivey on Monday condemned the act and apologized to Wallace, a native of Mobile, calling the 26-year-old "one of us".

"Racism and threats of this nature will not be condoned nor tolerated, and I commit to assisting in any way possible to ensure that the person responsible for this is caught and punished," said Ivey in a statement.

NASCAR was among the top-three trending topics on Twitter in the U.S. on Monday, with supporters of Wallace using the hashtag #IStandWithBubba.

In a show of unity, the hashtag was painted on the infield at Talladega ahead of Monday's race.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, additional reporting Frank Pingue. Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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Report: NFL mandates teams set up tiered facility accesshttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/report-nfl-mandates-teams-set-up-tiered-facility-access/1031918/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 16:16:08 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/report-nfl-mandates-teams-set-up-tiered-facility-access/1031918/A memo obtained by ESPN from the NFL outlines the league's mandate that all 32 teams set up tiered access for all employees.

Adam Schefter reported Monday that each team must submit their list of all employees and their access approval before training camp begins, the latest step designed to promote health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

All NFL teams are due to report to training camp in five weeks, with 26 scheduled for a uniform report date of July 28.

NFL teams were told to designate their Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 employees and turn the plans into the league office seven days before the first mandatory reporting date for players.

The "tiers" differentiate which employees can access which areas of a team's facility, including the dining hall, practice fields, locker room, training room, meeting rooms, press area and beyond. Each tier must have different entrances and wear credentials with photo identification and their formal title with the team.

Per Schefter, the tiers are divided as such:

** Tier 1: Players, coaches, trainers, physicians and necessary personnel requiring direct access to the players.

** Tier 2: General managers, team presidents, football operations employees, other assistant coaches, video personnel, security and other essential personnel who may need to be in close proximity to the players and other Tier 1 individuals who may need to access restricted areas. Only individuals assigned to Tiers 1 and 2 will be permitted access to restricted areas, and there will be limits on the number of individuals from each team that can be assigned Tier 1 and Tier 2 access at any given time.

** Tier 3: Operational personnel, in-house media and broadcast personnel, field managers, transportation providers and individuals who perform essential facility, stadium or event services but do not require close contact with Tier 1 individuals. Team and other personnel who work exclusively in areas of team facilities that are cordoned off from the rest of the facility do not need to be credentialed in one of the three access tiers.

Field Level Media

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FIFA and EA Sports launch eChallenger series in Asiahttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/fifa-and-ea-sports-launch-echallenger-series-in-asia/1031907/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 15:51:35 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/fifa-and-ea-sports-launch-echallenger-series-in-asia/1031907/(Reuters) - Real-life professional soccer players will team up with esport gamers and social media influencers to compete in a new four-nation eChallenger series for Asia, organisers EA Sports and FIFA said on Monday.

South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and China will look to crown national champions in the four rounds of 'EA Sports FIFA Online 4' series from June 25-30, and the matches will be streamed live.

"For the first time, EA Sports FIFA Online 4 fans across Asia will have the chance to watch and engage directly with their favourite football stars, influencers and esports professionals," Simon Thomas, FIFA Chief Commercial Officer, said.

Four teams of three players from each country will compete in an online tournament set up on EA Sports' FIFA 20 game, with matchups including single and multiplayer formats.

(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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PGA Championship to go ahead without fans in San Franciscohttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/pga-championship-to-go-ahead-without-fans/1031904/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 15:42:48 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/pga-championship-to-go-ahead-without-fans/1031904/NEW YORK (Reuters) - This year's PGA Championship, scheduled to be played in early August at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, will be conducted without fans because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the PGA of America said on Monday.

The Aug. 6-9 event, one of golf's four majors, was previously postponed from its originally scheduled May date because of the scale of the outbreak in San Francisco.

The par-72 Tournament Players Club layout, a municipal course owned by the city and county of San Francisco, has never hosted a major championship and grandstand construction had begun at the course earlier this year.

The PGA Tour, a separate body which runs the game's biggest weekly circuit, resumed competition two weeks ago after a three-month COVID-19 hiatus with the first of five tournaments that are closed to the general public.

Brooks Koepka, whose four major titles include victories at the PGA Championship in the last two years, said he would obviously have liked to have fans on site to cheer on his chase for a three-peat but respects the decision.

"We got to do whatever we got to do to make us safe, keep the fans safe," Koepka said last week in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina where he played in the PGA Tour's RBC Heritage.

"Whatever it's going to be, it's going to be. Obviously, you'd like to have fans, but I understand with what's going on, it might not be possible."

(Reporting by Amy Tennery in New York and Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris)

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Japan ad agency Dentsu teams up to promote esportshttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/japan-ad-agency-dentsu-teams-up-to-promote-esports/1031847/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 13:14:56 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/japan-ad-agency-dentsu-teams-up-to-promote-esports/1031847/By Sam Nussey

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's largest advertising agency Dentsu Group Inc said on Monday it was partnering with the newly established Global Esports Federation, bringing its heft in sports marketing to the fast-growing sector.

The popularity and prize money in esports already rivals that of traditional sport and has taken on many of its hallmarks including packed-out stadiums, star athletes and big name sponsors.

Esports, or competitive video gaming, has also received a boost from the coronavirus outbreak, as stuck at home gamers turn to streaming platforms like Amazon's Twitch - although its real world elements mean it is not immune from the pandemic's disruptive impact.

Dentsu will work with gaming companies, commercial partners and international bodies in conjunction with the federation to further the "credibility, legitimacy and prestige" of esports, it said in statement.

The Singapore-based Global Esports Federation was established in late 2019 with the backing of China's top gaming firm Tencent Holdings in an attempt to bring structure to the growing but fragmented global esports scene.

Dentsu is pushing into esports after being at the forefront of helping to develop a market for sports sponsorship and marketing for decades, using its dominant position in its home market and leverage with blue chip clients to funnel money into global sport.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the culmination of years of behind the scenes work by Dentsu, have been delayed until next year due to the virus, punching a hole in its earnings.

Esports remains underpowered in Japan, where PC gaming lags consoles and mobile gaming and there are restrictions on prize money, although local firms are making efforts to increase its popularity.

(Reporting by Sam Nussey; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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Japan withdrawing 2023 Women's World Cup bid: Kyodohttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/japan-withdrawing-2023-womens-world-cup-bid-kyodo/1031734/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 08:13:11 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/japan-withdrawing-2023-womens-world-cup-bid-kyodo/1031734/By Jack Tarrant

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan is withdrawing its bid to host the 2023 Women's World Cup, Kyodo news agency quoted a source as saying on Monday, just days before football's world governing body holds a vote to determine the successful candidate.

The Japanese bid is one of three, along with Colombia and a joint bid from Australia and New Zealand. Earlier this month, FIFA rated the joint Australia/New Zealand bid as the best to host the tournament, with Japan in second place.

The Japanese Football Association (JFA) was not immediately able to comment. Australia's FA said it was aware of the report but would not comment on another nation's bid.

Japan has never staged the Women's World Cup but co-hosted the men's event in 2002 with neighbours South Korea.

The Japanese women's team won the World Cup in 2011, shocking favourites the United States in the final.

The 2019 tournament in France broke records in terms of television audiences and was seen as the most high-profile edition so far.

(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; additional reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Toby Chopra/Peter Rutherford)

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Tennis: Coric, Troicki test positive for COVID-19, poses questions for sport's returnhttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/coric-joins-dimitrov-in-testing-positive-for-covid-19/1031733/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 08:06:57 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/coric-joins-dimitrov-in-testing-positive-for-covid-19/1031733/By Sudipto Ganguly

(Reuters) - Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki tested positive for COVID-19 after playing in Novak Djokovic's Adria Tour exhibition event, raising serious concerns for tennis governing bodies in their bid to restart the sport after a lengthy shutdown.

The professional circuit was halted in early March as nations closed borders and imposed lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus.

Last week the men's ATP and the WTA, which runs women's events, issued revised calendars for the resumption of the circuit from August while organisers of the U.S. Open said the Grand Slam will be staged without fans as scheduled from Aug. 31 to Sept. 13 in New York.

Those plans, however, could need to be redrawn after three players who had featured in the Adria Tour event tested positive for the coronavirus. On Sunday Grigor Dimitrov said he had contracted the novel coronavirus.

While the players did not break any Serbian or Croatian government protocols, as neither country required the athletes to maintain any social distancing, the fact that three players and some support staff caught the virus highlights the risks of athletes from different countries being in close proximity to each other.

"I want to make sure anyone who has been in contact with me during the last few days gets tested," Coric, ranked No.33 in the world, said on Twitter. "I am really sorry for any harm I might have caused. I'm feeling well and don't have any symptoms."

Troicki played in the first leg staged at Djokovic's tennis complex in central Belgrade from June 13-14, before Dimitrov and Coric tested positive at the second leg in Zadar held from June 20-21.

Troicki, 34, entered Janko Tipsarevic's Eastern European Championship tournament which started in Belgrade last Monday and pulled out after learning that he and his wife tested positive.

"My wife took the test on Friday and I took it on Sunday after she tested positive," Troicki told Serbia's Telegraf website. "Our daughter tested negative."

The ATP wished players and staff who tested positive at the event a speedy recovery and urged "strict adherence to responsible social distancing" to limit the spread of the virus.

The governing body added that it will implement a variety of precautions and protocols that would be adjusted as and when dictated by the latest medical information to ensure safety at events when the tour resumes on Aug. 14.

The WTA did not respond to a request for comment. Organisers of the Adria Tour could not be reached for comment.

Bulgarian Dimitrov flew in to play in Djokovic's event in Belgrade and the second leg, as did other top names like Dominic Thiem of Austria and Germany's Alexander Zverev.

Organisers of other sports looking to resume from the coronavirus shutdown will be watching developments with some trepidation as they try to find the safest way of getting competition back under way.

NO SOCIAL DISTANCING

The tournament witnessed packed stands during the opening leg in Belgrade, players hugging at the net, playing basketball, posing for pictures and attending press conferences together.

Djokovic organised nights out in Belgrade for the players and pictures and videos of him dancing with the other participants at his event were posted on social media.

With both Serbia and Croatia easing lockdown measures weeks before the event, players were not obliged to observe social distancing rules in either country.

"It is recommended that anyone who has been in close contact for more than 10 minutes with the tennis player be advised to self-isolate for 14 days and to contact their doctor," the event organisers said in a statement on Monday.

With international tennis suspended, Djokovic organised the Adria Tour as a charity event to be contested over four legs across the former Yugoslavia.

Djokovic's fitness coach Marco Panichi also tested positive, Serbian daily Sportski Zurnal reported, quoting Croatia's health institute.

The men's world number one took the test on Monday after returning to Belgrade in the morning and his test results will be announced on Tuesday, after which he is set to address the public, Serbian media reported.

Zverev, Croatia's Marin Cilic and Russian Andrey Rublev - who all played at the Adria Tour - said they tested negative for the virus but will follow self-isolation guidelines.

"Boneheaded decision to go ahead with the 'exhibition' speedy recovery fellas, but that's what happens when you disregard all protocols. This IS NOT A JOKE," Australian player Nick Kyrgios said in a scathing social media post.

American tennis great Chris Evert also criticised the organisers for the lack of social-distancing, saying "... total physical contact, no face masks, even the fans were without masks.. I don't get it."

Thiem, the men's number three, is currently playing in France in the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), which is co-owned by Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

Organisers of the UTS, which also features men's top-10 players like Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and Italian Matteo Berrettini, posted pictures on Friday of Thiem undergoing a test after arriving at the Mouratoglou academy in Nice.

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai and Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; additional reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar and Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Chopra, Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar)

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Australia striker Juric tests positive for COVID-19https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/australia-striker-juric-tests-positive-for-covid-19/1031725/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 07:46:48 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/australia-striker-juric-tests-positive-for-covid-19/1031725/SOFIA (Reuters) - CSKA Sofia's Australian striker Tomi Juric has tested positive for COVID-19, the 31-times Bulgarian champions said in a statement late on Sunday.

The 28-year-old forward, who has played 41 times for his country, has been isolated. Other CSKA players and staff members have given negative results in testing for the coronavirus.

Juric, who joined CSKA in August after his contract with Swiss club Luzern expired, was in Australia's squad at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Two other players from Bulgaria’s top division were quarantined last month with suspected coronavirus infections. [L8N2CW6TQ] Bulgaria Under-21 coach Aleksandar Dimitrov tested positive for the virus last week.

(Reporting by Angel Krasimirov, editing by Ed Osmond)

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Manchester City will be fighting for title next season: Guardiolahttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/manchester-city-will-be-fighting-for-title-next-season-guardiola/1031700/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 04:37:26 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/manchester-city-will-be-fighting-for-title-next-season-guardiola/1031700/(Reuters) - Manager Pep Guardiola says Manchester City "have ideas" for improving the side in the transfer market and will be ready to halt Liverpool's bid for back-to-back Premier League titles.

Liverpool need five points to be sure of their first English league crown in three decades and dethrone City, who have won the title in the last two seasons.

"Liverpool will remain the strong team they are but when we retained the title we were the first to do it for 10 years, so you know how difficult it is to do that," Guardiola was quoted as saying by the BBC.

"Out of the last nine (domestic) trophies we've fought for, we've won eight. That is not bad and I think next season we'll do it again.

"There's not been much wrong with what we've done in terms of points and performances. We have ideas for the transfer market, then next season we will prepare to fight again."

City take on Burnley later on Monday and defeat for Guardiola's side would mean Liverpool can seal the title with a win over Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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NASCAR to investigate after noose found in Bubba Wallace's garagehttps://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/nascar-to-investigate-after-noose-found-in-wallaces-garage/1031695/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 03:36:59 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/nascar-to-investigate-after-noose-found-in-wallaces-garage/1031695/(Reuters) - NASCAR has launched an investigation after a noose was found in a garage stall at Talladega belonging to Bubba Wallace, the only Black driver competing in its top Cup series.

"Late this afternoon, NASCAR was made aware that a noose was found in the garage stall of the 43 team," NASCAR said in a statement on Sunday. "We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act.

"We have launched an immediate investigation, and will do everything we can to identify the person(s) responsible and eliminate them from the sport.

"As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all."

Wallace slammed the "despicable act of racism and hatred".

"... (It) leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and how persistent we must be in the fight against racism," the 26-year-old said in an Instagram post.

"Together, our sport has made a real commitment to driving real change ... Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate."

Earlier this month, NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from all races as the sport moved to distance itself from a checkered past on race amid global protests against the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.

However, before Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega in Alabama, a plane flew above the track with the flag and a second banner that said "DEFUND NASCAR."

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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Wallabies coach Rennie cautious about scrapping 'Giteau Law'https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/wallabies-coach-rennie-cautious-about-scrapping-giteau-law/1031691/reuters@null.com (Thomson Reuters)Mon, 22 Jun 2020 02:32:36 +0000https://rock947.com/news/articles/2020/jun/22/wallabies-coach-rennie-cautious-about-scrapping-giteau-law/1031691/By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Incoming Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is cautious about scrapping Australia's 'Giteau Law', which limits selection of overseas-based players to those with 60 test caps or more, fearing it may lead to an exodus of talent and harm the domestic game.

Media pundits have been calling on Australia to shelve the restriction after South Africa ditched a similar policy and went on to win World Cup in Japan with a squad laden with foreign-based players.

Rennie, however, said the priority should remain on rewarding home-based players.

"My feeling is that the ideal scenarios are that we’re picking from within," he told reporters by video call on Monday.

"If we do like South Africa did at the World Cup and you allow all your players to go overseas and you pick from anybody in the world, clearly you end up with a pretty good side in a World Cup year.

"But it’s going to encourage a lot of players to leave and chase the big money, knowing that they can still play for their country, which I think will have a detrimental effect on the quality of our Super Rugby and the development of players within that."

However, Australia could look at extending eligibility to players based in New Zealand or Japan, he added, so long as they were playing in teams that faced Australian sides in whatever version of Super Rugby emerges post-COVID-19.

Super Rugby was abandoned last month after being suspended in March and there is uncertainty whether it will resume next year due to the pandemic.

"My view is if we had a Wallaby playing for the (Auckland) Blues for example, we get to see him playing against the best Aussies," said Rennie.

"From a selection point of view that makes sense that you’d be able to do that."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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