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NHL players call for change after death of unarmed black man – Reuters

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(Reuters) – A number of NHL players have voiced a call to stand together for change amid fiery clashes between police and protesters over last week’s death of a black man shown on video gasping for breath as a white policeman knelt on his neck in Minneapolis.

Civil unrest flared and curfews have been imposed in several major U.S. cities as demonstrators took to the streets to vent outrage at the death of George Floyd, whose dying words “I can’t breathe” have turned into a rallying cry.

“My hometown is burning. Businesses where I grew up are being boarded up. America is not OK,” Winnipeg Jets captain Blake Wheeler wrote on Twitter.

“Growing up outside of Minneapolis I always felt sheltered from racism. That’s because I was. Most people I grew up with looked like me. I never had to be scared when I stopped at a traffic light or saw the police in public.

“My kids will never know that fear either. I’m heartbroken that we still treat people this way. We need to stand with the black community and fundamentally change how the leadership in this country has dealt with racism.”

Evander Kane, a forward with the San Jose Sharks, was one of the first NHL players to speak out after the Floyd incident and called on prominent athletes from the NHL and beyond to lend their voices to causes of racial justice.

“We need so many more athletes that don’t look like me speaking out about this, having the same amount of outrage that I have inside, and using that to voice their opinions, voice their frustration,” Kane, who is black, said during a recent appearance on ESPN’s “First Take”.

“It’s time for guys like (NFL quarterback) Tom Brady and (Pittsburgh Penguins captain) Sidney Crosby, those type of figures, to speak up about what is right and, clearly in this case, what is unbelievably wrong. Because that is the only way we’re going to actually create that unified anger to create that necessary change.”

FILE PHOTO: Feb 22, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler (26) looks on in the first period during the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Boyle of the Florida Panthers also showed his support and solidarity with the black community.

“This…I don’t know this pain. I can’t even imagine this pain. I’ve always had the benefit of the doubt,” Boyle, who is white, posted on Twitter.

“But I can’t say I haven’t seen this before. We all have. The footage, the headlines, the media arguments that follow. What we need to see is change. We need to see it stop.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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The Blue Jays hand Austin Martin a record signing bonus — and expect bang for the buck – Toronto Star

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Austin Martin is set to receive the largest signing bonus the Blue Jays have ever handed out to one of their draft picks, after the versatile infielder agreed to terms on Wednesday afternoon. Sportsnet’s Hazel Mae was the first to report the sides were nearing an agreement, and the pending deal has since been confirmed by the Star. According to Jim Callis of MLB Pipeline, Martin will earn $7,000,825 (U.S.) — the 12th-highest bonus in draft history.

THE MONEY

The recommended slot value for Toronto’s fifth overall pick was $6,180,700. Martin, who had been projected by most experts to be taken second by Baltimore, will receive the second-highest signing bonus of any player selected this year. Spencer Torkelson, who went first to Detroit, received the most at $8,416,300.

THE GAME PLAN

The Jays’ immediate plan for Martin remains unknown. He is a seasoned college infielder with a bat many scouts have called big-league ready. Martin is not currently on the Jays’ 60-man roster for the upcoming season, but he could be added. The Minor League Baseball season was recently cancelled because of the coronavirus.

THE POSITION

Martin was listed as a shortstop when the Jays drafted him out of Vanderbilt, but he also has the ability to play third base and possibly centre field. While most reports suggest he will become a versatile infielder, it’s the bat that caused his stock to rise in recent years. Martin led the NCAA’s Southeastern Conference in average (.392), hits per game (1.62), on-base percentage (.486) and runs (87).

FIVE FOR FIVE

The Jays also agreed to terms with their fourth-round pick. College right-hander Nick Frasso signed for $459,000, which means the club has reached agreements with all five picks. Per Callis, the Jays spent exactly five per cent more than their bonus pool, which is the maximum without losing future picks.

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What Washington's name-change deliberations reveal about Dan Snyder – theScore

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For those unfamiliar, all you need to know about Dan Snyder, who’s owned and mismanaged Washington’s football franchise since 1999, can be found right here in a press release the team issued Friday afternoon:

Yep. That’s right. In a statement announcing its intention to “undergo a thorough review of the team’s name” that is a racist slur, the Washington football team proceeded to use that name a total of 10 times. The statement’s gratuitousness even stretched as far as the typeset shorthand at the bottom, which is supposed to signal the conclusion of the dispatch. Right to the end, Dan Snyder remains a shameless, cynical jackass.

Snyder is unquestionably the NFL’s worst owner, a true achievement in a club that also includes the Cleveland Browns’ Jimmy Haslam and the New York Jets’ Woody Johnson. A complete catalog of Snyder’s loathsomeness would fill a game-day program that Snyder would undoubtedly try to sell for an obscene price. Dave McKenna once provided a pretty good primer for the Washington City Paper … 10 years ago.

Snyder’s since had a full decade to add to his collection of worst hits. That he’s at last been forced to reckon with the racist reality of his team’s name – by being dragged to it kicking and screaming – is very much on-brand.

Though he’s never wanted to change the franchise’s name, Snyder’s long prepared for the possibility that he’d have to. As far back as the spring of 2000, he registered a trademark for the name “Warriors,” and while he publicly stated his intention to use “Warriors” for an Arena League team he was trying to launch, he never formally went through with that plan. Snyder’s actions instead were a bulwark against lawsuits related to trademarks associated with the team’s name. Snyder fought these suits with vigor, going so far as to countersue some Native American groups.

To justify keeping the name, Snyder’s trotted out Native American supporters of it whose backgrounds are suspect. In 2016, The Washington Post published a poll indicating that nine out of 10 Native Americans were not offended by the team’s name. But the poll, which was shared widely, was based on responses from those who’d self-identified as Indigenous; Nick Martin of The New Republic can better explain why this methodological flaw has proved to be so misleading. None of that stopped Snyder and other save-the-name types from trumpeting the poll results as a vindication.

Fast forward to 2020, where “recent events around our country and feedback from our community” have compelled Washington to “undergo a thorough review of the team’s name,” as its statement asserts. This framing winks at the conversation the country is now having around issues affecting Black and Indigenous people and suggests Snyder is now suddenly motivated by a genuine concern for their plight.

It’s bullshit, of course, since none of this would be happening if Snyder weren’t boxed in by threats from sponsors and by the city of Washington, D.C., where he hopes to build a new stadium with public money. The weekend also brought forth additional reports about Snyder’s other investors being ready to jump ship, in addition to the increasing isolation of Snyder’s inner circle. The league office got in on the act, too, issuing its own statement of support for a name change.

Patrick McDermott / Getty Images

To be clear: Washington’s sponsors and the NFL haven’t been inspired by any sort of altruism here; the name is no less racist today than it was before, but for all involved, disassociating from it now functions much better for brand positioning. All of this financial pressure is clearly the only language Snyder understands.

Washington’s team name has been changed before, way back in 1933, to what it is today. In a 2013 letter to season-ticket holders, Snyder claimed that switch was made because “four players and our head coach were Native Americans” and that “the name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor.”

But a contemporary newspaper account reveals that George Preston Marshall, the team’s owner when the club was located in Boston, changed the name when he switched home fields. The team was originally named the Braves because it played on the same field as baseball’s Boston Braves, but when Marshall moved to Fenway Park, he wanted a name that kept the “Indian motif” and was more closely aligned with the American League’s Red Sox. It never had anything to do with suddenly honoring the coach and players.

Marshall was also the last NFL owner to integrate. He finally did so in 1962, seven years after the rest of the league. It took a threat from Stewart Udall, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President John F. Kennedy, to prevent the franchise from using the new D.C. stadium, to make it happen. The stadium was on land leased from the National Park Service.

History’s about to come full circle. There’s no way Dan Snyder’s “review” is going to turn back now, which is fitting. In the end, his attempt to protect the team’s name shows him to be living down to Marshall’s ideals. He’ll go down as every bit the Washington football team traditionalist he fashioned himself to be, just not for any of the reasons he imagined.

Dom Cosentino is a senior features writer at theScore.

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Uncle Toni After Seeing Djokovic At 18: 'Rafael, We Have A Problem' – ATP Tour

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Some players have a special aura. They have magic in their hands. At Wimbledon in 2005, an 18-year-old Serbian was introduced to the world as one of the biggest talents of the future. Making his tournament debut, he was still yet to break into the Top 100 of the FedEx ATP Rankings.

It only took a few points for Toni Nadal to appreciate his talent from the stands. The coach of the reigning Roland Garros champion, crowned a few weeks earlier in Paris, was sidetracked en route to the locker room from Aorangi Park, the training area at the All England Club. He decided to pay a quick visit to Court 18, where Argentine player Juan Monaco — his nephew’s habitual sparring partner and friend — was playing against a player he had never seen before.

“Who’s that kid?,” Toni asked.

“He’s 18 years old and he’s 100 and a bit in the world,” came the answer.

“What’s his name?” Toni responded.

Novak Djokovic.”

Toni Nadal burned the name into his memory. After watching the match for a few minutes he continued his walk to the locker room, where Nadal, who was just a year older than the kid who had just stunned him with his game, was waiting. When they met, Toni Nadal made a famous statement that would prove prophetic: “Rafael, we have a problem. I’ve just seen a really good kid,” said Toni.

Later, they heard the news that the Serbian, still unknown to the public, had beaten Monaco 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3. It was just his second victory in a Grand Slam (2-2), after making his major debut earlier in the year at the Australian Open. But in London he was starting to show signs that, sooner rather than later, he could become a player to keep an eye on. In the second round on the London grass, Guillermo Garcia Lopez awaited Djokovic.

The Spaniard produced faultless tennis at the start of a match and seemed to be in complete control with a 6-3, 6-3, 5-3 lead.

“It was incredible because I had it practically won. At 5-4 and 40/30 in the third set, I hit a great serve into the ‘T’ and I was left with a mid-court forehand onto his forehand to win the point. I looked at the line judge and he called it in and I celebrated victory,” said García López.

However, his elation was fleeting. As the players approached the net to shake hands, the umpire overruled the call and said that the ball was out.

“The match continued. I lost my concentration in that game and we got to 5-5. I broke back and went 6-5 up, 40/0 on my serve. I had three more match points,” said Garcia Lopez.

But the Serbian saved each one and made it through the third and fourth sets 7-6(5), 7-6(3). Djokovic claimed the deciding set 6-4 to seal his first comeback win in a Grand Slam after four hours and eight minutes.

That 18-year-old boy, who had surprised Toni Nadal a few days earlier, was competing like a veteran.

“He was a player that never ever gave up, he had huge potential,” said Garcia Lopez. “His baseline shots were so solid on both sides. Maybe another player wouldn’t have come back against me. With that scoreline, coming out on top of that match means he is a born competitor.

“You could see he had the potential to make it, of course. Djokovic has so much belief in himself. He is a winner with a lot of qualities in terms of agility, mobility and shotmaking.”

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