Sports News

iStock/olcaytoibili(NEW YORK) -- BY: MEREDITH DELISO

The WNBA and WNBPA announced on Monday that they will be putting work into social justice and honoring the Black Lives Matter movement in the 2020 season.

This includes a new platform, The Justice Movement, and a social justice council, as players have been increasing their efforts to support social justice on and off the courts.

When the season kicks off in late July at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, teams will wear special uniforms to call for justice for women and girls including Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers in March, and Vanessa Guillen, a Fort Hood soldier.

During the season, players will also wear warm-up jerseys that display social justice messages, with "Black Lives Matter" on the front and "Say Her Name" on the back. "Black Lives Matter" will also be prominently displayed on courts during games.

The NBA will also display social justice messages on the backs of jerseys when the league resumes play on July 30, according to ESPN.

Through its social justice council, the WNBA and its players' union, the WNBPA, plan to host conversations on race, inequality and other social issues through virtual roundtables, podcasts and more. Programming will be announced at a later date.

Council members will include players like New York Liberty point guard Layshia Clarendon and Seattle Storm MVP Breanna Stewart, who both have advocated for adding "Black Lives Matter" to the league's courts. Advisers also include Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, Rock the Vote CEO Carolyn DeWitt and Black Girls Rock! founder Beverly Bond.

"We are incredibly proud of WNBA players who continue to lead with their inspiring voices and effective actions in the league's dedicated fight against systemic racism and violence," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. "Systemic change can't happen overnight, but it is our shared responsibility to do everything we can to raise awareness and promote the justice we hope to see in society."

The announcement comes as several WNBA players, including Atlanta guard Renee Montgomery and the Washington Mystics' Natasha Cloud, have opted out of the 2020 season to focus on social justice reform.

Other players have said they will be not be playing this season due to health concerns amid COVID-19. The season will be played without fans in attendance due to the pandemic.

On Monday, the league announced that seven WNBA players tested positive for COVID-19 out of 137 players tested between June 28 and July 5.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- BY: OLIVIA EUBANKS

President Donald Trump on Monday weighed in on the Washington Redskins football team and Cleveland Indians baseball team considering changing their names -- names Native Americans have long complained are racially offensive.

While he didn't flat-out say he’s opposed to a change in their names, he tweeted that the franchises are trying to be "politically correct" and his views seemed clear. He took a swipe as well at Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who he repeatedly calls "Pocahontas," claiming she misrepresented her Native American ancestry.

"They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!" he tweeted.

They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020


The Washington Redskins announced on Friday that the team would undergo a "thorough review" of the teams's name, saying the decision was made "in light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community."

"This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field," owner Dan Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, has previously said the team would "never" change the name, arguing it actually honored Native Americans.

In the last few days, though, the team has come under heavy public pressure from corporate sponsors to change its name, including from FedEx, which owns the naming rights to the stadium where the Washington team plays in Landover, Maryland.

ABC News' Ben Gittleson and Lauren Lantry contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Official White House Photo by Tia DufourBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump lashed out at NASCAR's only full-time Black driver on Twitter Monday morning, demanding he apologize for an investigation into an apparent noose found in the driver's garage.

In the same tweet, the president also blasted NASCAR for banning Confederate flags from all raceways.

A Richard Petty Motorsports crew person saw and reported an apparent noose on June 21 in a Talladega Superspeedway garage that was assigned to driver Bubba Wallace and his team.

Wallace has been vocal about his support for the Black Lives Matter movement and pushed NASCAR to remove Confederate flags from all sanctioned events, a decision the company announced shortly before the crew member found the rope.

NASCAR alerted the FBI and the agency conducted an investigation. Investigators determined it was a pull rope fashioned like a noose and had been there since October, before Wallace was assigned to the garage.

Wallace said he stood by the FBI's conclusion and NASCAR's statement of support, but Trump on Monday tweeted that the driver should apologize to everyone involved and called the incident "a hoax." He added that the noose investigation and the decision to remove Confederate flags from raceways "caused the lowest ratings EVER," without any citation.

Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020

Wallace and NASCAR didn't have an immediate response to the president's tweet.

Wallace and NASCAR didn't have an immediate response to the president's tweet, but over the last few weeks, other NASCAR drivers and NASCAR President Steve Phelps have shown Wallace their support. Before the start of the race following the apparent noose's discovery, various drivers helped push Wallace's car to the starting line in a symbolic gesture.

On Monday, NASCAR driver Tyler Reddick fired back at the president with a tweet saying drivers didn't need an apology.

"We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support," he tweeted, along with a gif that showed footage from a play where a character portrayed by Denzel Washington closes the door on a white character.

 

We don’t need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support. https://t.co/1iboOu4vTk pic.twitter.com/Dj5dz01VR2

— Tyler Reddick (@TylerReddick) July 6, 2020

 

When asked about the tweet during an appearance on Fox News later in the morning, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president. She brought up examples of questionable hate crime reports such as the case of Jussie Smollett, who has been accused of staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself.

"The president is making a broader point that judging before the facts are out is not acceptable," McEnany contended.

NASCAR'S Phelps said the company would continue to investigate the incident, and Wallace tweeted on June 24 that he was grateful the community and investigators took the situation seriously.

"Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday and the progress we've made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all," he tweeted.

pic.twitter.com/5noPid5zqO

— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 24, 2020

Wallace told The View on June 23 he wasn't shocked that some people contend the incident was a hoax.

"It's simple-minded people like that, the ones afraid of change, they use everything in their power to defend what they stand up for instead of trying to listen and understand what's going on," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



33ft/iStockBy JEANETTE TORRES-PEREZ, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The minority owners of the Washington Redskins are reportedly looking to get rid of their shares in the NFL team.

The Washington Post reports Robert Rothman, Dwight Schar and Frederick W. Smith have enlisted the help of an investment banking firm  to search for possible buyers.

The three businessmen, who altogether own approximately 40% of the Redskins, are "not happy being a partner" with team owner Daniel Snyder, sources told The Post.

The news comes after the team announced last week that it would begin a “thorough review” of its controversial name that Native Americans have long objected to as racially offensive.

In a statement Friday, the team said the decision was made “in light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community" and it comes after a month of protests calling for racial justice and equality.

“This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, has previously said the team would "never" change the name, arguing it actually honored Native Americans.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



francisblack/iStockBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The NHL and NHLPA have finalized the protocols for the season to resume this summer in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.

As of Sunday night, the sides still were finalizing the details of a memorandum of understanding for a collective bargaining agreement extension.

The Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (24-team tournament) return-to-play protocols will need to be approved by the NHLPA's executive committee, which is composed of one representative from each of the 31 teams. Once that is done, the entire package -- both the return-to-play protocol and the CBA extension -- will go to a full membership vote of all NHL players. The NHL's board of governors also must ratify the package.

The NHL is now targeting a July 13 start date for training camps, sources told ESPN. If all goes according to plan, teams would travel to the hub cities on July 25 or July 26, and games will begin by Aug. 1. The Eastern Conference teams will play in Toronto, and the Western Conference teams will be in Edmonton.

The 24-team tournament will conclude with a Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton, likely in early October.

The protocols include an agreement that no player will be penalized if he chooses to opt out, and he does not have to give a reason for wanting to opt out. Players have until 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday to notify their teams if they are opting out.

Family members will not be able to join players until the conference finals.

According to the document, "all individuals shall maintain physical distancing (a minimum of 6-foot distance) at all times throughout Phase 4, to the extent possible" -- which includes being on planes and buses, at restaurants and in any social circumstances. The league will provide face coverings, though individuals may bring their own, and they must be worn at all times in the secure zones. Players do not need to wear face coverings while exercising, and coaches do not need to wear them while on the bench.

If teams do not comply with the protocols, it could lead to "significant financial penalties" and potential loss of draft picks.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Phil Ellsworth / ESPN ImagesBy LAUREN LANTRY, ABC News

(ASHBURN, Va.) -- The Washington Redskins, the NFL football team representing the nation’s capital, announced Friday it would begin a “thorough review” of its controversial name that Native Americans have long objected to as racially offensive.

In a statement the team said the decision was made “in light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community" and it comes after a month of protests calling for racial justice and equality.

“This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” owner Dan Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, has previously said the team would "never" change the name, arguing it actually honored Native Americans.

In the last few days, though, the team has come under heavy public pressure from corporate sponsors to change its name, including from FedEx, which owns the naming rights to the stadium where the Washington team plays in Landover, Maryland.

On Thursday, FedEx announced that it had communicated with the team “our request that they change the team name.”

It wasn’t just FedEx calling for the change. Investors and shareholders of the team's other corporate sponsors, Nike and PepsiCo, had called on the team to act. According to Adweek, on Wednesday 87 investment firms and shareholders wrote to the three major companies, requesting they terminate their relationship with the team unless it changed the name.

“We have been in conversations with the NFL and Washington management for a few weeks about this issue,” a PepsiCo spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “We believe it is time for a change. We are pleased to see the steps the team announced today, and we look forward to continued partnership.”

And on Thursday, Nike appeared to have removed all of the Washington team’s merchandise from its online store.

With the national conversation about race dominating headlines, the National Football League was quick to support Snyder's review.

“In the last few weeks, we have had ongoing discussions with Dan, and we are supportive of this important step,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said, according to the AP.

The team’s statement said the announcement “formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.”

For many, changing the name is long overdue.

“This is a broader movement now that’s happening that Indigenous peoples are part of,” Carla Fredericks, director of First Peoples Worldwide, told Adweek. “Indigenous peoples were sort of left out of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s in many respects, because our conditions were so dire on reservations and our ability to engage publicly was very limited because of that. With social media now, obviously everything is very different.”

There is a long history of opposition. In 1972, a delegation of Native American leaders met with then-team president Edward Bennett Williams, urging him to change the name. Instead, the team changed lyrics in its trademark Indian-themed fight song – replacing "scalp 'um" with "beat 'em."

The team has also faced trademark protection lawsuits over its name -- one of the latest ending in 2018. The lawsuit was dropped because the Supreme Court ruled in a separate case, Matal v. Tam, that under the First Amendment, the U.S. government cannot deny trademark protection over potentially offensive speech.

Amanda Blackhorse, one of the plaintiffs at the center of that lawsuit, says she's not going to thank the team for something that should have been done decades ago.

"I'm happy that there's talk about changing," Blackhorse told ABC News. "It feels like a half-step in the right direction. But I do hope that it does change."

Blackhorse said she's calling on the team to completely rebrand, saying it needs need to remove all images and logos relating to Native Americans. She said she also hopes the team will continue donating to Native American schools, if it does change the name.

Blackhorse said she never thought this day would come, thinking it would be "up to the next generation." She credits the Black Lives Matter movement for igniting the change, and for investors pressuring the team.

"Native people have been calling for this for decades," Blackhorse said. "And FedEx calls for it one day, and the next day it's almost done. So, who really has the power here? Whose voice is really respected? I know it's not us."

“This issue is of personal importance to me and I look forward to working closely with Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our Military,” Ron Rivera, the team's new head coach, was quoted as saying in the team statement. He is of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent and the only Hispanic coach in the NFL.

A monument to team founder George Preston Marshall was removed last month from the site of RFK Stadium where the team used to play in the District of Columbia.

According to the Associated Press, Marshall’s granddaughter supported the team's review of its name.

“I think if anybody’s offended that they should change the name,” Wright said. “I’ve always felt that way.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said that if the team wants to relocate to the city, it could face strong opposition because of the name controversy.

"We believe this review can and will be conducted with the best interest of all in mind," the team statement concluded.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



cmannphoto/iStockBy ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) -- Major League Baseball is back as the league's summer camp has officially kicked off.

With baseball's return amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the league is establishing several changes to player conduct and protocol to maintain and monitor the health and safety of the athletes.

Watch the full report from ABC's Good Morning America:

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



ABC NewsBy SHANNON MCLELLAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- WNBA star Maya Moore fell to her knees when, after 22 years in prison, Jonathan Irons walked out of Jefferson City Correctional Center a free man on Wednesday.

"In that moment I just -- I really felt like I could rest," Moore told Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. "I mean I've been standing and we've been standing for so long -- it was an unplanned moment where I just felt relief ... it was kind of a worshipful moment just dropping to my knees and being so thankful that we made it."

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: @WNBA star @MooreMaya put her basketball career on hold to help free Jonathan Irons, who was wrongly convicted of burglary and assault more than two decades ago. @RobinRobertshttps://t.co/r7NiWSW2Bh pic.twitter.com/uyIqLLNUS2

— Good Morning America (@GMA) July 2, 2020

"I'm absolutely elated and thankful just to be here in this moment right now," Irons said.

The basketball star, who has won four WNBA championships with the Minnesota Lynx and a WNBA MVP title, stepped away from the game at the height of her career to focus full time on helping Irons overturn his conviction.

"When I stepped away two springs ago, I just really wanted to shift my priorities to be able to be more available and present to show up for things that I felt were mattering more than being a professional athlete," Moore said.

Moore and Irons formed a close friendship in 2007, before her freshman year at the University of Connecticut, when she met him through a prison ministry in which her extended family in Missouri participated.

When Irons was 16 years old, he was tried and convicted as an adult by an all-white jury for the burglary and shooting at the home of 38-year-old Stanley Stotler. Irons maintained his innocence while he was in prison, saying he was wrongly identified during the lineup.

After years of fighting, a Missouri judge overturned Irons' conviction in March, saying there were problems with the way the case had been investigated and tried -- including a fingerprint report that would've proved Irons' innocence, not being turned over to his defense team.

While Irons, now 40, has spent most of his life in prison for a crime he didn't commit, he said he doesn't feel resentment toward the man who wrongly identified him, and said that Stotler is a "victim" as well.

"I believe at some point if not already, maybe later on, he's going to be hit with a lot of guilt," Irons said. "I want to let him know that he has a safe place to rest because I do forgive him. I don't blame him or fault him in any way."

Irons wants to help others in the same situation.

"I want to be able to reach back and help other people. I want to advocate for people who are less fortunate. I want to help people with their cases. I want to speak to positive change and be a part of the rebuilding process from where we're at right now because there's so much greater coming in the horizon and I see it," Irons said.

As for Moore, she's not sure if her future will bring her back to the basketball court, but for now she is going to enjoy some rest.

An incredible moment....Jonathan Irons is freed from prison! @MooreMaya dropped to her knees in gratitude. She, her family and others fought tirelessly for his release. Tomorrow morning Jonathan and Maya will join us LIVE on @GMA 🙏🏾❤️ https://t.co/LGrmKT9xJH

— Robin Roberts (@RobinRoberts) July 2, 2020

"For the first time in my adult life I'm trying to live in the moment," Moore said. " I haven't really been able to have the fullness of the rest that I wanted ... now is the time to take a break then seeing what the future holds, maybe around sometime next spring."

For those looking to join the fight for criminal justice reform, Moore offers some advice.

"The first step for anybody is ... I would say get to know somebody who isn't exactly like you and doesn't come from the same background as you, educate yourself and then just keep showing up," Moore said. "Finding ways to show up for people and your voice will come out of that relationship and out of your pursuit to seeing people who aren't exactly like you."

Irons hopes that his story will serve as inspiration for others to keep fighting.

"We shouldn't give up. We should keep going," Irons said. "In this moment I want people to have hope from this story because we're in dark times. And we got to keep going. We got to keep the faith."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Factor41/iStockBy ABBY CRUZ, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- At 18, Rajah Caruth already has a trophy case filled with medals and awards from competitive driving, from races all over the country.

He's just getting started.

The soon-to-be Winston-Salem State University freshman already has his NASCAR license, and he has big dreams to become one of the sport's top drivers like Bubba Wallace, whom he considers a role model.

But the journey for Caruth, like for most African American drivers, hasn't been easy. Caruth didn't grow up in a racing family, had no connections and didn't know much about how to make his dream a reality. Most of what he knew about racing came from being a fan of cartoon characters like Lighting McQueen and Speed Racer.

Caruth attended his first race in middle school.

"That really flipped the switch," he said. "That was the point where I realized that this is what I want to do, this is what I want to put my life and my career into."

NASCAR currently has just one Black driver in the top flight: Wallace.

In recent weeks, he's emerged as a new face of the franchise because he has "Black Lives Matter" on his car and initial reports of a noose found in his garage, which led to an FBI investigation.

In the wake of that story, many in the NASCAR community stepped up and supported Wallace, embracing Black Lives Matter and giving young drivers like Caruth hope for the future.

"He's been a good role model, a really good role model, and an ambassador for the sport," Caruth said of Wallace. "He's been a really good person for me to look up to, just in terms of how to carry myself, online and at the racetrack, how to treat people, how to deal with criticism and just mean people."

During the Honor QuikTrip 500 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR President Steve Phelps had drivers shut down their cars so he could read the following message over the public address system:

"The Black community and all people of color have suffered in our country, and it has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better. The time is now to listen, to understand and to stand against racism and racial injustice."

Caruth said that while he's personally faced issues regarding his race, it's been on a "much smaller" scale than Wallace's battles with online trolls and attacks via social media.

"I'm definitely not going to act like, you know, I had the worst time possible, but I definitely had my fair share of interactions that were not of the positive sort," Caruth added.

Seeing more people who look like him in and around racing, even if not behind the wheel, has been encouraging, he said.

"There aren't really many of us drivers, but there are a lot of us behind the scenes," said Caruth. "It's good to be on pit road and see Mike Metcalf and Tigger and everybody on pit road, you know, people of color that you know got my back. And it's cool to see them whenever I go to a cup race."

In 2010, NASCAR launched its Drive for Diversity Development Program, which includes Caruth now and, previously, Wallace. And in 2017, the program hired Jusan Hamilton, the first Black race director.

Caruth said he knows how to become a champion driver: "You can't take 'no' for an answer."

"People will say, 'Oh, you don't have experience, or, you know, you're this, that, and the other,'" he continued. "You really just have to stay focused. If you know you can drive, then go show it. If you stay true to yourself and make sure you surround yourself with your family, with good people, you'll be able to do great things."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Maddie Meyer/Getty ImagesBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- Prosecutors will appeal to a Florida judge via a video conference Tuesday morning to allow key evidence in the solicitation case against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Kraft, 79, was hit with misdemeanor charges last year after investigators say he was recorded twice paying for sex acts with workers at a Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter, Florida. Two dozen other clients were also charged as part of an investigation into the spa over alleged sex trafficking.

In May 2019, Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser ruled that prosecutors could not use undercover police videos taken from inside the spa as evidence during the trial. He said police did not do enough to protect the privacy of all the spa's customers.

Prosecutors contend Hanser erred in his decision and the warrant was issued legitimately after detectives spent days collecting evidence that the spa was a front for an illegal sex trafficking and prosecution ring.

“That the spa was regularly used as a brothel is confirmed by the small percentage of recorded massages that ultimately appeared lawful,” Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey DeSousa wrote in court papers.

Attorneys representing Kraft, who apologized for being caught up in the spa’s investigation, argue that the use of the footage would hurt the civil liberties of Florida residents.

The appeal will be livestreamed on the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal's site.

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