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🏒🏀🤸 NHL and LPGA Release Restart Dates, Duke University Hires New Basketball Coach, Gymnasts Speak Out on Abuse in the Sport

July 13, 2020
 GETTY IMAGES
GETTY IMAGES

NHL: It’s officially official: the NHL’s restart will take place in Canada starting on August 1st, with the Eastern Conference playing in Toronto and the Western Conference in Edmonton. Now we just need to know which players are in and which are out.

  • Players have until 5 p.m. ET today to opt out of the season restart, and at least seven players have already taken that route. The Montreal Canadiens, however, are giving forward Max Domi — who has Type 1 diabetes, which increases the risks associated with COVID-19 — an extra 10 days to make his decision. Fair play, especially since three of his teammates tested positive in recent days.

Golf: The first LPGA major of the season is a go! The AIG Women’s British Open is scheduled for August 20–23rd, albeit without fans, at the Royal Troon Golf Club in Scotland. Heid doon arse up!

Basketball: One of college basketball’s highest-profile teams has a new coach. After Joanne McCallie announced that she would not be returning to coach Duke University's women’s basketball team next season, the Blue Devils hired Kara Lawson, who’s currently an assistant coach for the NBA’s Boston Celtics, as her replacement.

  • Lawson is a 12 season WNBA vet, a WNBA champion and All-Star and an Olympic gold medalist. Lawson also played four seasons of college ball under legend Pat Summitt, so it’s safe to say the Blue Devils are in great hands.

Gymnastics: Unfortunately, two very disturbing stories came out from the world of gymnastics this week. After the release of Athlete A, a Netflix documentary that highlights the USA Gymnastics (USAG) sex abuse scandal involving Larry Nassar, gymnasts in the UK have begun speaking out on the abuse they’ve encountered across the pond.

  • On Thursday, two of Britain’s most decorated gymnasts, sisters Becky and Ellie Downie, released a joint statement on their sport’s toxic culture, calling it “abusive” and “dangerous,” and showing that what happened with USAG is not isolated, but a pervasive issue in the sport. As a result, British Gymnastics has launched an independent investigation.
  • And speaking of USAG, former USAG coach Terry Gray — who was suspended for two years by USAG and the US Center for SafeSport back in October — was arrested in Las Vegas on Friday and now faces up to 14 counts of lewdness with a child under age 14. Just disgusting. This has to stop.

🏈🎾🏀 Around and around and around we go

June 18, 2020
 TOM PENNINGTON/GETTY IMAGES
TOM PENNINGTON/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Sports are coming back. But, unfortunately, so are some athletes’ positive COVID-19 test results.

Oh no. Who?: Most recently, several players from the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys have tested positive, including Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott is the third NFL player, and arguably one of the biggest stars in sports, to be publicly named.

  • Despite this, the NFL still seems to be planning for a normal regular season with fans (!!!) and for training camps to start in late July. Does this seem dangerously (in a literal sense) optimistic to you or is it just us?

Yikes. What about college football?: Many of the most prolific NCAA football teams — including Auburn, Mississippi State, Texas A&M and Alabama — have reported coronavirus cases among their players recently as well. Not good. Oklahoma State linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga said he tested positive after attending a protest in Tulsa.

  • The NCAA is continuing to monitor the situation before making any drastic decisions, but yesterday, the Southern Heritage Classic — an annual matchup between Tennessee State and Jackson State played in Memphis in September — became the first NCAA football event to be canceled because of coronavirus. And we’re thinking it won’t be the last.

Wow. Can you give me some good news?: For sure! The PGA Tour tested all players, caddies and staff ahead of today’s RBC Heritage tournament (the second event since the season restart), and for the second week in a row, there wasn’t a single positive test. Let’s polite golf clap to that.

  • Speaking of golf, the LPGA is returning on July 31st. The women’s tour has added a new tournament called the LPGA Drive On Championship, which will kick off the season with back-to-back events in Ohio. Mark your calendars.

Amazing! Keep it rolling: Despite rumors that the WTA and ATP’s US Open would be canceled, it’s now officially scheduled to start on August 31st, thanks to New York governor Andrew Cuomo giving it the go ahead. Thanks, man! While not everyone is happy about the announcement, Serena Williams is stoked so we’re stoked too.

  • And on Monday, the WNBA officially confirmed that the regular season will start in late July and will feature 22 games followed by a traditional postseason. Untraditionally, there won’t be any fans, and all teams will play, practice and live at the IMG Academy in Florida. Quite the destination these days.

And...I’m afraid to ask...what’s up with the MLB?: Don’t be afraid — we have progress! The MLB and the players union are talking again, and they seem to have come to an agreement on a “jointly developed framework.” The new plan would have the season start on July 19th with players receiving their full salaries for the amount of games played (as they wished).

  • The number of games is a sticking point, though. The suggested number was 60, but there seems to be some flip flopping on that. The league and union still have work to do (someone call these guys a couples’ counselor), but one thing’s for sure: the players are ready.

🎾🏀🏒🏉 A gong show

June 15, 2020
SHAUN BOTTERILL/GETTY IMAGES
SHAUN BOTTERILL/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The NBA season isn’t the only one in doubt. Due to COVID-19, the tennis season is hanging on by a thread, while the MLB situation is the literal definition of a gong show. The WNBA and NHL are looking good, though...well, kind of.

WTA & ATP: The good news is that the US Open will not move from its forever home in NYC to Florida as previously reported. The bad news is that the tournament might not happen at all. The US Tennis Association (USTA), which hosts the tournament, is currently considering three options, one of which is canceling the event altogether. Say it ain’t so.

  • Another option includes holding the event with a ton of previously announced restrictions, even though many top players have said they will opt out if the restrictions are enforced.
  • The USTA stands to lose a lot of money regardless of what they decide to do, as the event doesn’t have cancelation insurance. Rookie mistake.

MLB: Take a deep breath (or have a strong drink) before getting into this one. Quick refresher: the MLB and MLB Players Association (MLBPA) can’t agree on the season restart. They’ve been punting proposals back and forth to no avail, mostly because the players want their full earned salary, while the MLB wants to pay them on a sliding scale.

  • On Saturday, the MLBPA rejected the MLB’s latest offer, and now they’re asking the MLB to just order them back to work for however many games the league wants (which might work out to around 50). Sorry, what TF?
  • While this seems very counterproductive to what the players have been fighting for, it might actually make sense. Here’s why: if the players are ordered back to work, they can then file a grievance against the league for their equivalent salaries and monetary damages...which means the players could end up with more money than they asked for. Cheeky.

WNBA: The WNBA is also still negotiating their season restart, but it looks like the league wants to pay players their full salaries (up from the 60% they initially proposed) for 22 games (the 2020 regular season was set to be 36 games). The girls are getting paid!

  • This is great news, especially in light of what’s happening in the MLB. WNBA players voted on this proposal over the weekend and results should be announced today. If the proposal’s approved, we’ll have basketball back on July 24th. Fingers (and toes and eyes) crossed!

NHL: Don’t look now, but it looks like Las Vegas is going to be one of the two hub cities hosting the NHL’s super weird postseason. Cue: “Waking Up in Vegas.” The league has also decided that training camps will begin July 10th. So soon!

  • The NHL hasn’t decided, however, what they’re going to do if a player, coach or other essential team staff gets COVID-19 during the playoffs. This weekend, a Boston Bruin tested positive for the virus, so the league better make some quick decisions.

Everything else: The PGA returned this weekend, with Daniel Berger winning the Charles Schwab Challenge after going to a playoff with Collin Morikawa. The tournament was played without fans, which was a little strange without the polite golf claps, but still — live sports!

  • And New Zealand hosted their nation’s first Super Rugby match since March, with over 20,000 fans (!!!) in attendance after the country declared themselves virus-free last week. See, this is the reward you get for wearing a mask and washing your hands!

🎾 Baby come back

June 11, 2020
TIM CLAYTON/GETTY IMAGES
TIM CLAYTON/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Like we said, sports are coming back...but not all sports...yet! This week has seen some positive steps forward, a few setbacks and yet another proposal to salvage the baseball season (spoiler alert: it’s not looking promising).

Start with the good news: Will do. The MLS confirmed their plans for a tournament to start the season. The month-long “MLS Is Back” tournament, clearly inspired by the Backstreet Boys, will begin on July 8th in Orlando, Florida, and will feature all 26 teams. The winning team will earn a 2021 CONCACAF Champions League berth, and the regular season will continue with a revised schedule that is TBA.

And the setbacks?: Speaking of golf, the LPGA has lost one of its five majors. The Evian Championship, held annually in France and originally set to start on August 6th, has been canceled, with officials citing travel concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic as the main reason.

  • The US Open (the tennis one, not golf) is considering moving the tournament from NYC to California or Florida (even though Florida’s COVID-19 numbers are rising) and most Canadian fall semester varsity sports have been canceled. Meanwhile, the NCAA is trying to adapt.

Okay, I’m ready. Tell me about the MLB: Oh boy. In an attempt to start the 2020 season, the MLB and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) have been lobbing proposals and counter-proposals back and forth for the last month with little success.

  • While back in the MLBPA’s court (sorry for the mixed sports metaphors), on Tuesday they proposed an 89-game regular season, an expanded 16-team postseason and “broadcast enhancements,” including having players mic’d up during games. Are you not entertained?
     
  • But the issue is, and always has been, the players’ salaries. The players are proposing prorated salaries, but the teams say they don’t have the money (each game without fans can lose a team about $640,000). Moral of the story: we don't feel good about this counter-counter-counter-proposal’s chances.

🏀🏒 It's all comin' back to me now

June 08, 2020
RICK BOWMER/AP
RICK BOWMER/AP

The GIST: If you made plans for the summer (audacious move), cancel them now. With the NBA finally making their return-to-play Facebook official, our summer lineup is set.

When will the NBA return?: Thanks to the NBA players association approving the NBA’s restart plan, Friday, July 31st is the magic date. The final schedule is still TBD, but 22 of the league’s 30 teams will take part in the restart.

  • To prep for the big day (TBH, not that different from a wedding day), one-week training camps will begin on June 30th at each team’s home facility before everyone travels to Disney World on July 7th.
     
  • Then the 22 teams will play eight “seeding games,” with postseason entry determined by winning percentage and tiebreakers. Let the 53-day countdown begin!

Any WNBA news?: Rumor has it they’re hoping for a July 24th start date. The league has apparently proposed a shortened regular season with just 22 games (instead of 36), which would all likely take place in Florida (although Vegas is still an option).

  • Now it’s up to the players union to decide if the proposal is financially and logistically feasible. Keep your ears to the ground.

What about the NHL?: They’re gunning for a late July or early August start date, and to help make that possible, the league is transitioning to Phase 2 of their Return To Play plan today. This phase will allow players to return to their home facility and take part in voluntary on- and off-ice practices in groups of up to six. A stride in the right direction.

  • Phase 3 of the plan involves opening training camps and Phase 4 includes finishing the regular season, a seeding tournament and ensuring the Stanley Cup Playoffs go off without a hitch.
     
  • Speaking of hitches, there are two: the league and the players association still have to figure out roster sizes and pick two “hub” cities.

What else can I watch this summer?: Lots of soccer. The NWSL’s month-long return-to-play tournament, the Challenge Cup, starts on June 27th in Salt Lake City, Utah. And players are praising their league for consulting with players who are also mothers to learn how to best accommodate their children while the teams live in nearby hotels. About it.

  • But much to the chagrin of the league, her team and her coach, there is one key player who won’t be participating: superstar Megan Rapinoe. All the power to her.
  • Meanwhile, the MLS is looking at an early July start date, Spain’s La Liga begins this Thursday and the English Premier League starts next Wednesday. The PGA Tour also returns Thursday with the Charles Schwab Challenge.