- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 11, 2020

VIRUS OUTBREAK

The Ivy League on Tuesday canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments and two other Division I conferences announced they will restrict fan access to their postseason games because of concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The Ivy League’s four-team tournaments were scheduled to be played Friday through Sunday at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge. The Ivy League instead will award its automatic NCAA Tournament bids to the regular-season champions, the Princeton women and Yale men.

Later Tuesday, the Mid-American Conference said it was implementing a restricted attendance policy at its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in Cleveland this week. That announcement came on the heels of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recommending that all indoor sporting events in the state be played without spectators on site.

The Big West said its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in Southern California will be played without spectators. Most of those game will be played at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.



LONDON (AP) - Members of Arsenal’s playing squad went into self-isolation in a coronavirus precautionary move, forcing the postponement of the Premier League game at Manchester City later Wednesday.

It is the first game to be called off since the outbreak of the virus in the English top division, which has not played games without fans unlike in other parts of Europe. It was also the first time players in a major sports league had gone into isolation because of possible exposure.

The decision was taken due to the low risk of infection after Arsenal players came into contact with a rival team owner who announced Tuesday that he had contracted COVID-19. They met Olympiakos owner Evangelos Marinakis after the Greek team won at Arsenal in the Europa League on Feb. 27.

NEW YORK (AP) - If Major League Baseball can’t play in front of fans at a team’s home ballpark because of the virus outbreak, the sport’s first preference likely would be to switch games to the visiting team’s stadium if possible, a person familiar with the deliberations told The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity Tuesday because no decisions have been made.

MLB starts its season on March 26. Among the games on opening day is Texas at Seattle - the Seattle area has been hit hard by the virus.

MLB anticipates government officials will decide whether it is safe to play in front of fans in each city. If changes to the schedule are necessary, MLB would make determinations at the point when a ballpark has been ruled out.

-By Baseball Writer Ronald Blum.

LONDON (AP) - UEFA is asking governments across the continent to ensure the European Championship goes ahead in three months despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Based on advice received from the World Health Organization, UEFA believes a city can host Euro 2020 games if it has the medical infrastructure to treat COVID-19 patients while still providing the necessary facilities to cope with tens of thousands of fans, a person with knowledge of the planning told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private planning conversations.

UEFA is using 12 stadiums in 12 nations for this unique pan-European tournament, which provides flexibility to give a city additional games if another is prevented from doing so due to the coronavirus. UEFA would remove games from a city if necessary to ensure the 24-team tournament can go ahead, the person said.

-By AP Global Soccer Writer Rob Harris.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) - The Sharks and the NHL were still determining how to proceed Tuesday with three scheduled games in San Jose this month following a local ban put in place on gatherings of more than 1,000 people in response to the spread of the coronavirus.

The Sharks and the league said they will abide by the guidelines put in place by the Santa Clara County public health department and are working together to determine the “appropriate course of action.”

The Sharks have games scheduled for March 19, 21 and 29 at the SAP Center. Among the options being discussed are moving those games to a neutral site outside the affected area, playing the games without fans or postponing them until April. The NHL season is scheduled to end April 4, followed by the playoffs.

NBA

CLEVELAND (AP) - J.B. Bickerstaff’s impressive start with the Cavaliers has been rewarded.

Bickerstaff, who has Cleveland playing its best basketball this season since taking over when John Beilein suddenly resigned last month, agreed to a multi-year contract with the team on Tuesday.

The Cavs announced the deal with Bickerstaff shortly before their game in Chicago, where they started a six-game trip.

Although they still have one of the NBA’s worst records, the Cavs have shown major improvement in a short period under Bickerstaff. They’re 5-5 going into Tuesday’s game against the Bulls and the Cavs have had more energy and exhibited more togetherness than at any time for Beilein.

Bickerstaff was promoted after Beilein stepped down after 54 games in his first season. He had been serving as an associate head coach under the 67-year-old Beilein, who cited personal health issues as one of his reasons for leaving a job he thought he was ready to handle.

NFL

The deadline for applying franchise and transition tags to free agents has been moved from Thursday to Monday by the league and players’ union.

With the NFL Players Association’s members still voting on a new labor agreement the owners already have approved - that deadline was extended by two days to 11:59 p.m. EDT on Saturday - leaving the last time to use the tags at Thursday made little sense.

By moving it to 11:59 a.m. EDT on Monday, both sides hope to know whether they are operating under a new collective bargaining agreement or the current deal, which expires in March 2021. That contract has different parameters for franchise and transition players than does the current one.

The period in which player agents can negotiate with teams remains set to begin at noon EDT Monday. The league’s business year starts March 18, when free-agent deals and trades can officially take place.

On Tuesday, in the midst of some 2,500 union members voting on the CBA, Browns center JC Tretter was elected the organization’s president, replacing Eric Winston, who no longer is eligible for the position.

NEW YORK (AP) - Two NFL teams have suggested changes to game officiating, including a “sky judge” utilized by colleges, among seven rules proposals that will be presented to team owners later this month.

Also proposed is revamping overtime to minimize the coin toss impact and returning OT to its original 15-minute length, and providing alternatives to the onside kick - which is considered a dangerous play - for a scoring team to attempt to keep the ball.

The Ravens and Chargers are seeking what they call a booth umpire as an eighth game official, as well as adding a senior technology adviser to the referee to assist the officiating

SOCCER

NEW YORK (AP) - The U.S. Soccer Federation says facing hostile crowds in Mexico and Central America makes playing for the U.S. men’s team a different job than competing for the American women and claims the men have more responsibility.

Those statements prompted a spokeswoman for the women to say the claims are from “the Paleolithic Era” as if “made by a caveman.”

The USSF made the claims in documents filed Tuesday night in federal court in Los Angeles, where a lawsuit by American women accusing the federation of gender discrimination is scheduled for trial starting May 5. The U.S. women are seeking more than $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

HORSE RACING

Owner Gary West is removing all of his horses from Jason Servis’ barn after the trainer was indicted on multiple accounts of administering illegal substances and performance-enhancing drugs.

That includes 3-year-old champion Maximum Security, who crossed the finish line first at the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being disqualified for interference. Now 4, he has won four of his five high-profile races, including the Feb. 29 Saudi Cup, which at $10 million is the world’s richest horse race.

“This news is extremely disturbing and disappointing,” West said Tuesday in a statement. “Therefore we will be moving all our horses from Jason Servis as soon as arrangements can be made with other trainers.”

Maximum Security will be transferred to two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert. West already has two 3-year-old Triple Crown candidates with Baffert: Game Winner and High Velocity.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A report released Tuesday by the California Horse Racing Board on a spate of horse deaths at Santa Anita found that no illegal medications were used on the animals and 39% percent of the 23 fatalities occurred on surfaces affected by wet weather.

The long-awaited report focused on 23 deaths as a result of racing or training between Dec. 30, 2018, and March 31, 2019. The fatalities roiled the industry and led track owner The Stronach Group to institute several reforms involving safety and medication.

The report found that 19 of 22 horses’ catastrophic musculoskeletal injuries (CMI) included proximal sesamoid bone fractures, which are related to racing and training intensity. Twenty-one of those 22 cases showed “evidence of pre-existing pathology” that is presumed to be associated with high exercise intensity, which predisposes horses with CMI to catastrophic injury.

Other key findings in the report were that several trainers said they felt pressured to run their horses, although “none blamed the track itself for any fatality,” and there was no evidence of animal welfare violations.

COURTS

Former Los Angeles Sparks general manager Penny Toler is suing the WNBA team saying she was fired for raising complaints about inappropriate sexual relationships involving the team president and a managing partner, not for using a racial slur.

The Sparks say Toler was fired on Oct. 4 following a profanity-laced postgame tirade that included using a racial slur a few days earlier following a playoff game. In the suit filed Tuesday for gender discrimination, Toler said if she were a man, she would still be employed by the team.

Toler said her termination had more to do with retaliation “after raising complaints about the workplace conduct” of former team president Christine Simmons and team managing partner and governor Eric Holoman, “who were engaged in an extra-marital affair” during Simmons’ tenure as team president - a relationship Toler said made doing her job difficult.

Toler also states in the suit there was a double-standard for male employees, including the team’s former coach from 2015-18 - who was Brian Agler, though the suit doesn’t mention Agler by name.

When contacted Tuesday, Holoman said he was not aware of a lawsuit being filed. Neither Simmons nor Agler could immediately be reached Tuesday for comment.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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