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MLB stands up for basic right to vote in pulling All-Star Game from Atlanta – Sportsnet.ca

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TORONTO – The discourse is too easily hijacked in these disquieting culture-war days, distilling complicated issues into a rhetorical jingoism that prevents rational conversation and nuanced arguments.

Predictably, Major League Baseball landed in the woke-versus-MAGA fray with its decision Friday to pull the all-star game from Atlanta, in protest of Georgia’s new election bill that places several restrictions around the state’s voting process. Media proxies spent Saturday dutifully howling into the echo chambers of their respective audiences, the usual bluster replacing anything that might resemble productive debate.

Rather than falling down the rabbit hole, let’s emphasize that any election reform that wins approval on a strict party-line vote, rather than bi-partisan support, is designed to give someone the shaft. In the wake of Stacey Abrams’ loss to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018 by less than 55,000 seats, after Democrats flipped a pair of senate seats in last year’s election, with former U.S. President Donald Trump’s claims of widescale voting fraud debunked, the Georgia law is a blatant attack on the voters – often Black – who fuelled those gains.

None of this is comfortable territory for Major League Baseball, which despite cloaking itself in the legacy of Jackie Robinson, was the last of the major North American sports leagues to respond to the killing of George Floyd last year. That commissioner Rob Manfred reacted so quickly this time, consulting only with his executive council rather than all 30 team owners, is a clear indication he felt the sport couldn’t duck this and wait for things to blow over.

Tony Clark, head of the players union, may have helped set events in motion when he told Michael Silverman of the Boston Globe on March 26 that players “would look forward to having that conversation” about whether the all-star game should remain in Atlanta. U.S. President Joe Biden said he’d support pulling the game from Atlanta while several companies, Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines among them, criticized the law.

The possibility of at least some players boycotting and tarnishing the event carried risk, and some corporate sponsors were surely wary of the association. But Manfred also met with The Players Alliance’s leadership in recent days, and MLB needed to prove its statements on social justice over the past year weren’t just lip-service.

“I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s all-star game and MLB draft,” Manfred said in the release announcing the decision. “Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. … Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”

Even if pragmatism factored into Manfred’s calculus as much as altruism, Major League Baseball in effect calling out the Republican sponsors and supporters of the Georgia bill represented a break from its carefully cultivated political protections.

Clearly rattled, Republican lawmakers threatened retaliation, with South Carolina Rep. Jeff Duncan going after baseball’s prized federal anti-trust exemption.

How Manfred reacts if Texas and Florida pass legislation currently under consideration that is similar to Georgia’s bears watching, but it’s going to be hard for the sport to walk things back after picking a side, and pulling millions of dollars in economic activity from the state.

“I support the decision,” said Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semien, a member of both The Players Alliance and the union’s influential executive subcommittee. “It’s kind of a tough situation there where I personally, and I’m sure I speak for the Alliance, we want to support Georgia and the people who are affected by this bill by encouraging people to vote, doing everything you can to vote on Election Day.

“I know as a kid growing up, my mom went to work and it was hard just to get off work and go and go vote that day. Hopefully other states can make things easier for working class people, especially in Georgia, in those communities. I’m sure The Players Alliance will help that community and support them.”

Semien credited the Alliance leadership of Curtis Granderson, CC Sabathia and Edwin Jackson for leading discussions with Manfred, but added that the issue had been a topic of discussion in the Blue Jays clubhouse over the past week “just to make sure everybody knew what’s going on.”

“We were just waiting to see what happened,” said Semien. “I got the notification on my phone that they made that decision and I thought it was pretty quick, so that’s good. I support it and we’ll move on from there.”

Added Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk: “Any time there’s voter suppression, it needs to be called out and obviously MLB stepped up and made the decision to move it. I definitely support MLB with their call.”

Such drastic action isn’t unprecedented for North American sports, as the NFL stripped Phoenix of the 1993 Super Bowl when Arizona voters declined to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a state holiday, and the NBA stripped Charlotte of the 2017 all-star game in response to a law scaling back anti-discrimination protections for members of the LGBTQ community.

Major League Baseball responded eight days after the bill was signed into law.

“It’s not the first time sports is trying to make a difference with situations like this,” said Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, who added later: “I don’t know all the specifics of those new laws in Georgia – I have an idea – but I supported the MLB decision to move the all-star game. I think every citizen should have the right to vote with ease.”

Unfathomable as it may be that saying this is necessary, let’s be clear that advocating for the right to vote isn’t politics, it’s a foundational right. All Major League Baseball did was stand up for a basic ideal, no matter how much the diversionary what-aboutism attempts to distract from that.

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For Oilers, Archibald’s selfish anti-vaccine stance is not worth the risk – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — One is a player who opted to honour his commitment to his new team in Edmonton. The other, just another selfish anti-vaxxer who is betting on himself, somewhat foolishly.

One is a player the general manager staked his reputation on, with much pedigree and a handful of Stanley Cup rings. A guy who came to town billed as a leader, and then backed it up when he rolled up his sleeve despite obvious misgivings about being vaccinated.

Sure, Duncan Keith should have gotten vaccinated a month sooner. But give him some credit for putting the team — society and the Oilers — ahead of himself. Even if he waited until the 11th hour to do it.

Then there is depth winger Josh Archibald, who will be replaced by Game 1 of the regular season if he doesn’t give his head a shake. He is from that young, conspiracy-oriented demographic that has been suckered in by far-right disinformation, and tweets about idiocy like “the plandemic.”

“I’m happy that he’s going to be part of our team this year, fully vaccinated,” Oilers general manager Ken Holland said of Keith, a player Holland had seriously dug in on to convince him to get vaccinated. Mike Smith took some work, too, we are told, but now both are vaccinated and ready to do what they were brought in to accomplish.

The other player is more selfish than that.

Archibald is a nice, fourth-line penalty killer in a normal season. He’ll get you 10 goals a year. But for this, the third COVID-affected NHL campaign, an unvaccinated Archibald just isn’t worth it.

Holland and head coach Dave Tippett sat down with Archibald on Tuesday and spelled out how many games he would miss and what it would mean to be Canada’s only unvaccinated NHL player. It would cost him up to 40 per cent of his $1.5 million salary. Maybe more.

Now Holland sits, and hopes that Archibald changes his mind before the GM has to send him to AHL Bakersfield. He is virtually untradeable, as Archibald could not play games in Canada for a U.S.-based team, and poses a risk that no fourth-liner can justify.

“There are a team or two out there that have made the decision that unvaccinated players are not welcome at training camp. I have not made that decision as of this time,” Holland said on Wednesday. “I think the player is going through the process to decide. It’s a difficult decision. I’ll give [Archibald] the appropriate time, and I’ll see where I’m at in a week, 10 days from now. We’ll see.”


Editor’s note: With overwhelming consistency, research has shown vaccinations against COVID-19 are safe and effective. Residents of Alberta who are looking to learn more about vaccines can find up-to-date information here. Further details on COVID-19 and the country’s pandemic response are available on Canada’s public health website.


In a strange twist of fate, Keith — who received his vaccination in the United States only this week — is in quarantine until next Friday, while the unvaccinated Archibald is undergoing daily testing while attending Edmonton Oilers training camp.

But here’s the reality of all this: A Canadian team simply can not have an unvaccinated player on its roster.

By Holland’s math, an unvaccinated player who must serve a 14-day quarantine every time he comes over the U.S. border and into Canada, would miss “30-plus games” this season. He’d also miss a ton of practice time, and would lose one-200th of his pay for every day missed due to the federally mandated quarantine.

It would be impossible to hold his place on an NHL roster.

“After you quarantine for 14 days, if we’re playing well you’re not just taking someone out to put that person in,” Holland said. “The number of times we cross the border, it’s going to be very difficult.”

Had Keith and Smith not relented, the Oilers’ season would have been derailed.


Related reading: Edmonton Oilers goaltender Alex Stalock contracted COVID-19 before the shortened 56-game season. Now, the 34-year-old is likely going to miss the 2021-22 season due to a heart condition.


Now that Holland has his starting goalie and No. 3 defenceman in the fold, why on earth would you want an unvaccinated, 13:33-minutes per game player flying on the same charter and inhabiting the same dressing rooms as Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl?

Between the peer pressure, the risk of lost salary, and the ridiculous nature of his stance, I expect Archibald to relent and get the jab. Let’s face it: It’s a business, and there is no moral high ground in sport.

“In July I heard talk that there were 80, 90 unvaccinated players,” Holland recounted. “We had a Board of Governors meeting (Tuesday), and Bill Daly said we’ll be in single digits of players unvaccinated going into the season. So, basically, 70, 80, 90 players eventually made the decision to get vaccinated.”

Some because they didn’t want to lose the salary, and some because they put their team and others before themselves.

There is one player left on a Canadian team who puts himself before everything else, and his name is Josh Archibald.

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Kiermaier on getting hit by pitch by Blue Jays' Borucki: 'Oh yeah, it was intentional' – Yahoo Canada Sports

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The Tampa Bay Rays clinched a spot in the postseason on Wednesday, but that was the secondary story against the Toronto Blue Jays.

During the game prior, Rays centrefielder Kevin Kiermaier was the centre of attention as he snatched a dropped data card from Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk, which the Rays refused to hand back to the visiting club. Less than 24 hours later during the series finale between the two AL East teams, Kiermaier re-entered the spotlight as he was struck by a pitch thrown by Blue Jays reliever Ryan Borucki in the eighth inning.

Borucki was ejected after the umpires met to review the struck batter, which then caused Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo and a very red-faced pitching coach Pete Walker to storm onto the field.

Walker was also tossed from the game for his outburst.

Kiermaier didn’t let up after the 7-1 victory, focusing on the late-game dramatics.

“Oh yeah, it was intentional,” Kiermaier said of the incident. “Pretty much almost went behind me. I thought it was a weak move, to be quite honest. It’s over. It didn’t hurt by any means, so I don’t care. Whatever. We move on. We got a series win, and I hope we play those guys, I really do.”

When Kiermaier was asked why he wants to face the Blue Jays again, it was mysterious to say the least. “The motivation is there,” he said. “That’s all that needs to be said.”

Despite Kiermaier being so sure it was intentional, Montoyo had a different idea of what happened, but was certainly sympathetic to the Rays’ reaction.

“Pete’s reaction told me everything about it,” the Blue Jays manager said. “He missed. He hit him, but I understand what it looks like. I understood how the Rays got upset about it. That thing was on for two days.”

With just 10 games remaining in the regular season, Toronto is on a hot Wild Card race with fellow divisional rivals Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The two clubs involved in the ruckus will not face each other again unless the Blue Jays earn a spot in the postseason and are able to beat their opposition in that single-game playoff matchup.

As if the MLB postseason wasn’t dramatic enough, now there’s an underlying narrative ready to boil over at any moment if the two face each other in a series.

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Eichel stripped of Sabres captaincy, placed on LTIR – TSN

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Jack Eichel is no longer captain of the Buffalo Sabres.

Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams said Thursday morning Eichel has been stripped of the ‘C’ after three seasons in the role.

“I spoke to Jack two days ago, I spoke to the team yesterday and addressed this, Jack Eichel is no longer the captain of the Buffalo Sabres,” Adams said. “From our perspective, the captain is your heartbeat of your team, and we are in a situation where we felt we needed to make that decision.”

Adams added the Sabres will not have a captain this season.

Adams also confirmed that Eichel will start the season on long-term injured reserve as he remains in a holding pattern with the team on how to best treat his neck injury.

“I think we would all agree that we were hoping to avoid surgery…unfortunately, yesterday Jack did not pass his physical. At this point, Jack is not willing to move forward with what our doctors are suggesting…we will continue to work toward a solution,” Adams said.

TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger reported Wednesday that there is nothing close on the trade front for Eichel, who has been looking for a trade throughout the off-season.

“Well, it’s tough to pinpoint a timeline but we do know there is ongoing discussions with Jack Eichel’s agent Pat Brisson and Kevyn Adams, the general manager of the Buffalo Sabres. They’re on good terms, they have an excellent relationship,” Dreger said on Insider Trading. “We also know that Jack Eichel will start the regular season on LTIR. Now, he saw a team of specialists over the course of the off-season. Some encouraged the artificial disc replacement surgery; however, the Buffalo Sabres remain adamant that the fusion surgery is the best option.

“It’s possible that Eichel gets traded and has the disc replacement surgery under the blessing of a new club, but there’s no guarantee and it doesn’t seem like anything is real close on that front.”

Eichel was limited to 21 games last season due to the neck injury and there has been a long-standing dispute with the team this summer over how to treat the injury.  

The 24-year-old centre has been the subject of trade talk since the end of last season and his former agents released a statement in July trying to spur a trade. He switched agents to Pat Brisson in August.

“What’s critically important to make sure is clear is that we’re in control of this process,” Adams said in July, prior to the statement from Eichel’s then-agents. “We have a player under contract. We don’t feel any pressure.

“If there’s a deal out there that we feel is the right thing for the Buffalo Sabres, that’s going to help us improve – whether that’s improve right away or improve down the road, those are all the things weigh – we’d be open to it. But we’re not in a position where we feel we’re just going to do something to do it. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Eichel had two goals and 18 points in 21 games last season and has five years remaining in the eight-year, $80 million contract he signed with the Sabres in 2017.

He had served as captain of the Sabres since 2018.

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