- Associated Press - Thursday, April 27, 2017

SPORTS MEDIA

NEW YORK (AP) - ESPN is laying off about 100 employees, including former athletes-turned-broadcasters Trent Dilfer, Len Elmore and Danny Kanell, in a purge designed to focus the sports network on a more digital future.

The cuts will trim ESPN’s stable of on-air talent and writers by about 10 percent.

The 37-year-old network has been squeezed by rising fees to broadcast live events at the same time hordes of cord-cutting TV viewers have been canceling their ESPN subscriptions. ESPN has lost about 10 million subscribers during the past six years, based on estimates by Nielsen Media Research.

The downturn prompted an even bigger round of layoffs affecting about 300 workers in 2015, but on-air talent was mostly spared from those cuts.

FOOTBALL

CLEVELAND (AP) - Former Ohio State football star Gareon Conley says he plans to skip attending the NFL draft in person on Thursday and decried allegations that he raped a woman as “completely false.”

No charges have been filed as police investigate claims made by a 23-year-old woman that he assaulted her in a Cleveland hotel on April 9. Conley was named in a police report that details the allegations but no information has been forwarded to prosecutors.

Conley said in a statement that he believes the allegations are an attempt to ruin the draft experience for him and his family.

The woman told police Conley raped her in the bathroom of a hotel room after they met in the elevator and she agreed to go back to his room.

Conley’s attorney says the cornerback, projected to be a first-round pick, plans to speak with police about the incident after the draft.

NBA

NEW YORK (AP) - Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has been fined $100,000 by the NBA for confronting a referee during live game action.

Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, announced Alexander’s fine.

The incident occurred Tuesday in the final minute of the first quarter during the Rockets’ 105-99 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Alexander got up out of his courtside seat and walked toward Bill Kennedy. Alexander then says something to Kennedy before turning around and heading back to his seat.

The Rockets eliminated the Thunder in five games and will face either the San Antonio Spurs or Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference semifinals.

SOCCER

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) - FIFA has confirmed that video replays will be used at the World Cup for the first time in 2018.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino had already stated that he wanted the technology to be used in Russia, and now he has ended any doubt.

Speaking in Santiago, Infantino said “at the 2018 World Cup we will have video referees, because so far the results are very positive.”

The International Football Association Board, the game’s lawmaking body, is in its second year of trials with various versions of video assistant referees (VAR).

Infantino says “we are going to help the referee to not make any mistake, or commit less mistakes, and we are going to give a bit more of justice to football.”

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The Portland Timbers have unveiled plans for a privately funded addition to Providence Park that would add 4,000 seats.

The estimated cost of the expansion project is $50 million, paid for by the Timbers. It would add four levels to the east side of Providence Park.

The Timbers are popular in Portland with 112 straight sellouts of their downtown stadium that seats 21,144. There are some 13,000 fans on the waiting list for season tickets.

The MLS club will have its first meeting with the city’s Design Commission on May 11. The commission must approve the plan before it can move forward.

HOCKEY

NEW YORK (AP) - Toronto’s Mike Babcock, Edmonton’s Todd McLellan and Columbus’ John Tortorella are the finalists for the Jack Adams Award as the NHL coach of the year.

Members of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association voted at the end of the regular season, with the top three designated finalists Wednesday. The winner will be announced June 21 at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas.

Babcock led Toronto to a fourth-place finish in the Atlantic Division and the second wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Maple Leafs were 30th in the NHL the previous season.

Tortorella’s Blue Jackets set franchise records for wins, points, home wins and road points. Tortorella won the award with Tampa Bay in 2003-04. McLellan guided Edmonton to its first playoff berth since 2005-06.

The award honors the late Jack Adams, the longtime coach and general manager of the Detroit Red Wings.

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