Update on the latest sports
AP sources: NFL cancels Hall of Fame game, delays inductions
UNDATED (AP) – The NFL has canceled the Hall of Fame game that traditionally opens the preseason and is delaying the 2020 induction ceremonies due to the coronvirus pandemic, according to two people with direct knowledge of the decision. The people told The Associated Press that an announcement is expected later Thursday.
The Aug. 6 exhibition game between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers is the first on-field event the league has canceled during the pandemic. The league was able to conduct free agency, the draft and several owners meetings remotely, and it recently began reopening team facilities that were shut in late March, albeit on a limited basis.
Ten men were scheduled to be enshrined in the Canton, Ohio, hall on Aug. 8; the hall has an increased class of 20 this year in commemoration of the NFL’s centennial. No date has been set for when any inductions will occur.
In other developments related to the coronavirus pandemic:
– A person with knowledge of the situation says Miami forward Derrick Jones Jr. has tested positive for the coronavirus, a result that came in shortly after the Heat and other NBA teams began mandatory testing in preparation for next month’s resumption of the season. Jones, the reigning NBA slam dunk contest champion, still plans to play when the Heat get back on the floor at the Disney complex near Orlando next month, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because neither the Heat nor the player revealed the result publicly.
– Churchill Downs says the rescheduled Kentucky Derby and Oaks will run this fall with spectators under strict guidelines to limit crowd density for the race that annually attracts more than 100,000. The 146th runnings of the Oaks for fillies and the Derby were postponed from May 1-2 to Sept. 4-5 because of the coronavirus pandemic. It marked the first time since 1945 that horse racing’s marquee event was not run on the first Saturday in May. Churchill Downs has run its delayed spring meet without spectators. After consulting with Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and local health officials, Churchill Downs will reduce capacity in general admission, outdoor reserved seating, premium dining and suites. Fans will be “consistently and frequently” encouraged to wear masks at all times unless seated, to practice social distancing when possible and to wash or sanitize hands frequently.
– The USGA has announced its exemption categories for a U.S. Open that won’t have open qualifying for the first time in nearly a century. That includes taking the top 70 in the world ranking from March 15, the last one before the ranking was frozen because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Open usually takes the top 60. The exemption categories announced Thursday include a spot for Phil Mickelson, who was at No. 61 in March. The U.S. Open is the only major Mickelson hasn’t won. The U.S. Open is scheduled for Sept. 17-20 at Winged Foot, just north of New York City, the scene of Mickelson’s toughest loss in 2006.
– The Phillie Phanatic, Mr. Met and Mariner Moose mascots are getting a reprieve. Major League Baseball has reversed a policy it issued last month that banned mascots from ballparks while trying to restrict access and limit contact exposure. MLB now says mascots are welcome, but they’re not permitted on the field. Dave Raymond, the first person to portray the Phanatic in Philadelphia in the late 1970s, says mascots can still pull off plenty of routines to entertain fans watching at home. MLB will start the virus-delayed season next month in stadiums without fans.
– Third-ranked tennis player Dominic Thiem (teem) has apologized for taking part in an exhibition series hosted by Novak Djokovic (NOH’-vak JOH’-kuh-vich) where four players have tested positive for the coronavirus. Thiem says “our behaviour was a mistake” and adds he is “extremely sorry.” Thiem is an Austrian who lost to the top-ranked Djokovic in this year’s Australian Open final. He won the opening Adria Tour event in Belgrade on June 14. Djokovic tested positive for the virus on Tuesday. Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki have also said they tested positive after taking part in the exhibition series in Serbia and Croatia.
– Local Japanese sponsors have chipped in a record $3.3 billion to support the postponed Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. That’s almost 60% of the income for the privately funded operating budget. Sponsors will be asked to sign up again with the games delayed for a year. A poll published earlier this month by Japanese broadcasters NHK said two-thirds are undecided about extending for another year. Organizers say they will begin the negotiation process in earnest next month.
Vince Carter, 43, retires after record 22 NBA seasons
UNDATED (AP) – Vince Carter made his retirement official by announcing on his podcast Thursday that his 22-year NBA career has come to an end. The announcement was largely a formality because the 43-year-old Carter had said many times over the course of the season that this would be his last in the NBA.
His 22 seasons are the most in league history. He became the first NBA player to appear in four different decades. Carter started his career with Toronto, then played for New Jersey, Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento and spent his final two seasons with Atlanta.
Carter appeared in 1,541 NBA games, behind only Robert Parish (1,611) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,560) on the league’s all-time list. He started his career with Toronto, then played for New Jersey, Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento and spent his final two seasons with Atlanta.
Carter’s first season was the 1998-99 campaign, which was shortened to 50 games because of labor strife. His final season was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, and the Hawks will not be part of the 22 teams headed to the Disney complex near Orlando, Florida, next month for the planned resumption of NBA play.
ACC Commissioner Swofford to retire in June
UNDATED (AP) – Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner John Swofford is retiring after the 2020-21 academic year, ending his tenure after 24 years.
The 71-year-old Swofford has been commissioner of the ACC since 1997, the longest run in that position in the history of the 67-year-old conference.
The former North Carolina athletic director took over as commissioner of a nine-team league. In the years that followed, Swofford directed the league through multiple waves of expansion that first turned the ACC into a 12-team league by 2005 and ultimately reach 15 teams by 2013. The conference also launched its own network last August.
Titans lure Birch from NFL office, add 2 other executives
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – The Tennessee Titans have lured Adolpho Birch away from the NFL office to join their front office and hired two other new executives. The Titans announced Thursday that Birch is their new senior vice president for business affairs and chief legal officer.
Birch spent the past 24 years with the NFL with his last role senior vice president for labor policy and league affairs. He had been involved with labor negotiations, managing the NFL’s drug testing program, government relations, sports betting and the league’s critical response team. His late father was the first Black on the Tennessee Supreme Court, and Birch earned his law degree at Vanderbilt.
The Titans also hired Surf Melendez for a new position as creative director, and Dan Werly is their new general counsel. Melendez has worked for the Miami Dolphins and Adidas. Werly had been general counsel for Nashville Soccer Club the past year.