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O'Leary: 5 Takeaways from the commissioner's town hall – CFL.ca

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In the opening minutes of his town hall with season ticket holders, commissioner Randy Ambrosie confirmed what many have had in the back of their minds over the last two months.

The CFL’s 18-game schedule will not be played in 2020. With provincial governments across the country saying that large public gatherings can’t be held through to at least Sept. 1, the CFL is now looking at the possibilities of an abbreviated season for its teams with a September start date.

“We’ve announced three things today,” Ambrosie told CFL.ca’s Brodie Lawson over the course of a 30-minute town hall held on this site.

“The strategy for our season, the cancellation of our Touchdown Atlantic game…and a change to our 2020 Grey Cup strategy.

“I think we’ve learned three things trying to run a pro sports league during a pandemic. The first is that certainty is really hard to come by. There are lots of scenarios to consider but in the end, public safety and the safety of our players is the most important consideration. All of that has gone into the announcements that we’ve made today.”

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Commissioner Randy Ambrosie addressed the complications that COVID-19 has posed for the CFL and its hopes of having a 2020 season (Photo: CFL.ca)

Given the restrictions on large public gatherings that are in place through provinces across the country and the ongoing closure of the Canadian/U.S. border, the 2020 season won’t be able to start until September at earliest.

The Touchdown Atlantic game, scheduled for July 25 in Halifax, N.S., has been cancelled.

The third item, the shift away from Regina hosting the 2020 Grey Cup and taking on the game and its festivities in 2022, may hit fans in the heartland of Canadian Football the hardest of all. If the league is able to have a season this year, the Grey Cup host in 2020 would be determined by a win-and-host model. The Grey Cup participant with the best regular-season record would be the host team for the game.

With possible schedule adjustments ahead, there is a chance that the Grey Cup game could take place in December. The 2021 Grey Cup in Hamilton is still scheduled to take place as planned.

The commissioner covered a lot of ground in the town hall. Here are some of the main takeaways.

1. GIVING RIDERVILLE A PROPER GREY CUP FESTIVAL

Ambrosie said that despite there still being a chance that we could get a season in 2020, the Grey Cup festival wouldn’t be the same this year. The league wanted to give fans the full Grey Cup experience that they’ve come to know.

“The Grey Cup is more than a football game. If all we were doing was planning to play a game in Regina in November we may have been able to wait (on moving Regina to 2022),” Ambrosie said.

“But the Grey Cup as you all know is so much more than that. The festival and the atmosphere is such a part of what has made the CFL such a legendary event. What we know today, it is virtually impossible to host an event the way that CFL fans and Canadians have become accustomed to.

“Working with (Riders president and CEO) Craig Reynolds and the board of the Riders, it was very clear we weren’t going to have a traditional Grey Cup this year, regardless of where we might want to play it. So the idea was it was better to shift the RIders to 2022 where they can show us that remarkable Saskatchewan and prairie hospitality that we’re so looking forward to.

“We really believe that the win-and-host model was better for this year, given these very unique circumstances. We’re looking forward to coming back to Regina, back to Saskatchewan in 2022.”

The Argos and Alouettes gave fans a classic at the Touchdown Atlantic game last summer in Moncton, N.B. (Ron Ward/CFL.ca)

2. MISSING A CHANCE TO BE IN NOVA SCOTIA

Ambrosie was very excited about bringing the Touchdown Atlantic game to Halifax this summer. The event was sold out and would have given Haligonians a taste of what having the CFL in their city would be like.

The commissioner also lamented the chance to spend some time with football fans from Nova Scotia, a province that’s been riddled with tragedy recently.

“One of the great disappointments in all of the news is that we’re not going to be able to go to Halfiax this year, to Atlantic Canada and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all of the people that make up that great region of Canada,” he said.

“Of course, (it would have been) an even more significant visit to Halifax this year because of the tragedy that they underwent. We wanted to be there, we wanted to show them CFL support for that great part of this country but unfortunately with the COVID virus we had to make that decision.

“I think the most important thing is to tell Atlantic Canadians that they have been and they are a part of the CFL family. It is our intention to come back once this crisis passes and continue to embrace Atlantic Canada as a critical part of the CFL’s future.”

While the pandemic has been all-consuming in the news cycle and in Canadians day-to-day lives, Ambrosie said that he’d still love to one day see Halifax become the 10th team in the CFL. “Ideas come and go. Dreams don’t die,” he said, adding that the league will continue to work at securing a franchise there in the future.

3. FEDERAL FUNDING REQUEST 

After meeting with a House of Commons standing committee on finance earlier this month, Ambrosie said that those conversations are ongoing, with one having taken place on Friday afternoon last week. Federal government funding is one of a number of avenues that the league is exploring.

“Our strategy was always going to look at a number of different ways to see ourselves through this crisis,” he said.

“One of those conversations was with the federal government. We’ve been talking to the provincial governments because we have so many great friends among the provinces and of course there are things we’re working on on our own.

“I have the pleasure of working with a remarkable group of governors and a remarkable group of presidents. There is no quit in any of those people and we’re looking at all possible ways to make sure we survive this crisis and that we come back bigger, stronger and better than ever in 2021 and beyond.

“Right now it’s survive the crisis. That’s our strategy and then set ourselves up to thrive into the future.”

4. MESSAGE FOR SEASON TICKET HOLDERS

A season ticket holder in Calgary wrote in a question for Ambrosie about what options he might have this year. He and his wife are in their 60s and he has health issues. He said that if the season started and COVID-19 still posed a risk, he would not be attending any games this year. Asking what could become of his four season tickets, he wanted to know if he’d have the option of a full refund and have the option to keep his seats, or if his payment would go toward the 2021 season.

“What I’m asking all of our CFL season seat holder fans to do in the days ahead is reach out to your teams. They all have a strategy that they’re going to be holding with their season ticket holders,” Ambrosie said.

“What we want to do is make sure we’re sensitive to the situations you’re all going through. Everyone’s dealing with this pandemic differently and the circumstances are unique to everyone’s family and we want to be sensitive to that.

“I think the teams are prepared to have a conversation with you about how we manage this, what we do with your season seats, what we do with your season seat money. Do you want a refund, do you want to leave it in place, do you want to lave it in place for a future season? Are there other options? The teams are going to be ready to talk to all of you in the days ahead.

“All I can say is that the most important thing to us is the health and safety of our fans because it is what has driven this league for decades and decades. I know our board of governors and our presidents and our teams would want me to say that nothing is more important to us that the CFL fans get through this safely and in good health.”

The league has looked into the idea of hub cities hosting teams and games, while fans have kicked around the idea of an all-Canadian CFL season

5. HUB CITIES, AN ALL-CANADIAN CFL AND OTHER POSSIBILITIES 

Ambrosie also addressed some of the creative ideas that have been kicked around both internally at the league office and from fans that are holding out hope to see some type of football played this year.

Hub cities — where teams are brought to one stadium and multiple games are carried out without fans watching to play a season — have come up in numerous scenarios for North American sports teams. While the CFL has spoken much of it being a gate-driven league, it has looked at this as a possible option as well.

“It is one of the scenarios that we have been investigating,” Ambrosie said.

“We’ve got a committee looking at this very scenario. It is complicated and it is not an easy decision. It won’t be an easy decision to make. It’s complicated by all the moving parts and of course central to that are the health issues that relate to our players and our coaches and football operations, to our medical staff and all the people that would interact with our players.

“The notion is you would bring everybody essentially into isolation and try to keep them isolated as they play the games. There is a lot of complexity to that. For the time, I’m happy to report that is a scenario that we are investigating and the work on that will continue in the days ahead.

“At some point we’re going to have to make a final decision on what’s best. We’ll be guided primarily by health issues but there will of course be financial considerations that we’ll have to account for as well. We’ve got a group of remarkably committed presidents and governors who are helping go through this process and we’ll come out the other end with what we think is best for the CFL, best for our players, best for our fans and ultimately best for the future of our great game.”

With the Canadian/U.S. border remaining closed now through June 21, one fan asked Ambrosie about the possibility of the CFL taking all of its Canadian players and forming a reduced number of teams and having its own season. It’s worth noting that there are a handful of American players that live in Canada during the off-season and could in theory jump into this theoretical situation.

“What we are doing with everything that relates to our players is we’re talking to our Players’ Association,” he said.

“I had a chance to spend time (Tuesday) night with Bryan Ramsay from the P.A. talking about the various scenarios that we are considering. Anything that relates to how we might go forward depending on what happens with borders and health care edicts, all of those things are going to have be decided and worked on with our players, side by side with them and we’ll figure it out.

“It’s an interesting question and I couldn’t possibly answer it without sitting down with the Players’ Association as we go forward and we know more about what might happen with the border and other health care issues.”

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A spy and an armbar: The night ‘India’ welcomed Amanda Nunes to MMA – MMA Fighting

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“Let me rewind the tape here… There’s a drawer we open and memories come back.”

The first and only woman to win multiple UFC belts, Amanda Nunes, returns to the octagon Saturday night at UFC 250 to once again defend her throne when she takes on Felicia Spencer in Las Vegas. Like many other MMA stars, however, her career actually started with a defeat — and the woman responsible for it had a few tricks up her sleeve.

A mixed martial arts pioneer in Brazil, Ana Maria “India” received a call from Prime MMA promoter Luiz Fernando Menezes with an offer to be part of the company’s second show on March 8, 2008. It was scheduled for International Women’s Day, and he wanted women competing on it.

India was training under experienced boxing coach Luiz Carlos Dorea in Salvador and had previous experience in MMA, while Nunes, a 19-year-old protege under Edson Carvalho, was looking to make her debut in a cage. India was coming off a long layoff due to a knee injury and decided to collect as much as information as possible about her upcoming foe.

“I had six knee surgeries throughout my career and I was coming off one of them, just five months before the fight, and I never heard of Amanda before,” Ana Maria says. “A friend of mine trained at Edson Carvalho’s gym and I asked him if he could to the gym and film her a little bit so I could check her out [laughs].”

The experienced fighter received some inside information about Nunes, and only heard great things about her.

“Ana, this girl trains really hard,” the “spy” allegedly told Nunes’ opponent. “She sleeps in the gym and watches fights on computer all day everyday.”

“He told me she was really tough on the feet, with her background in karate, and very good on the ground,” Ana Maria says. “Since I was coming off the knee surgery and one leg was two inches shorter than the other one, I didn’t want to waste any time on the feet. I shouldn’t even be fighting, but I’m a fighter and we always think we can pull it off.”

India’s strategy was to take Nunes to the ground as quick as possible, but “The Lioness” started off with a leg kick followed by a combo of punches. Nunes was “fiery, she wanted to take your head off, but often got too emotional,” Ana Maria recalls.

She took advantage of Nunes’s aggression, pulling guard and snapping a tight armbar that forced the tap.

“35 seconds,” Ana Maria recalls. “A kick, three punches, I shot for a takedown, she sprawled, I pulled guard and got the armbar. We could see how hungry she was back then, her will to fight… You could see she was good.”

Nunes eventually joined Academia Champion in Salvador and trained with India, but saw a chance to move overseas as a way to improve as a mixed martial artist.

Amanda Nunes
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

“She always told me she would go to the United States and only come back with the belt in her hands,” Ana Maria says. “She was the one to beat Ronda (Rousey). She said she would beat Cris (Cyborg) one day. She slept with a computer by her bed to watch videos of their fights. She was always very focused and determined.”

Their careers went different directions. Nunes eventually signed with Strikeforce and then joined the UFC, where she climbed to the top in two different weight classes — and beat both Rousey and Cyborg by first-round knockout.

Ana Maria became a popular name in Brazil after being on the cast of a Survivor-esque reality TV competition in 2009, but never made it to the big leagues in the sport. India often wonders if she was just born in the wrong era, where women simply didn’t get the same opportunity as men.

“I’ve asked myself a lot,” she says. “People didn’t understand why I was fighting, they said there was no event for women. I said it would be big one day and they called me crazy. PRIDE was the biggest promotion in the world, then Dana White said there would never be women fighting in the UFC, and I’ve always said they had nowhere to run.

“I wanted to fight, and I believed it would be big. I didn’t have someone to look up to, but I was doing it because I thought it was cool. If it wasn’t for me, Vanessa Porto, Michelle Tavares and others, these girls wouldn’t have the space they have today. That’s why I won’t complain. Someone has to be first, someone has to open the way for others.”

At 41 with a record of seven wins and five defeats (she says two victories are missing from online databases), India is open to the idea of taking a farewell bout if the terms are good. In 2018, back when she was training at Demian Maia’s team in Sao Paulo, Ana Maria says she received a “laughable” offer to fight for the first time since 2014.

“If there’s someone out there willing to pay, I’ll fight,” Ana Maria says. “I’ve had arguments with promoters for treating us like clowns. They set the circus up with a bunch of clowns. Everyone gets paid except for the fighters. It’s absurd. What’s the point of being part of a show if I’m getting paid nothing?”

Even if she doesn’t get her shot at a proper goodbye to the sport she helped build, Ana Maria India knows she was one of the pillars to get it where it is today.

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Donald Trump says Drew Brees shouldn't have backed off flag comments – CBC.ca

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President Donald Trump on Friday criticized Drew Brees’ decision to publicly apologize and walk back his comments about “disrespecting the flag.”

The New Orleans Saints quarterback apologized Thursday for comments he made one day earlier that he described as “insensitive and completely missed the mark.” He said Wednesday that he “will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country” while reiterating his objection to NFL players who kneel during the national anthem.

Numerous black athletes, including NBA star LeBron James, expressed outrage at Brees. Several of Brees’ New Orleans teammates were among the NFL players who were irate.

Trump, though, said on his Twitter account that he doesn’t think Brees needed to issue an apology.

“I am a big fan of Drew Brees. I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag. OLD GLORY is to be revered, cherished, and flown high. …

“We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag — NO KNEELING!”

Brees posted an open-letter reply to Trump on his Instagram account on Friday night.

“Through my ongoing conversations with friends, teammates, and leaders in the black community, I realize this is not an issue about the American flag,” Brees wrote. “It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.

“We did this back in 2017, and regretfully I brought it back with my comments this week. We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform.

“We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when?

“We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”

Trump’s comments came hours before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell apologized and said that the league was wrong for not listening to players and their concerns about social justice and racism.

Social injustice has been a major source of tension in the NFL since former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling before games during the 2016 season to bring attention to police brutality. Kaepernick hasn’t played in an NFL game since that year.

The NFL’s relationship with black players is under scrutiny in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. A group of players requested the NFL take strong action on Thursday in a video directed at Goodell and other NFL officials.

Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes in an incident caught on cell phones. Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Three other officers — Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — were arrested and charged with aiding and abetting both a second-degree murder and a second-degree manslaughter.

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Goodell says NFL was wrong for not listening to players – CTV News

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NEW YORK —
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was wrong for not listening to players fighting for racial equality and encouraged them to peacefully protest.

One day after 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and several of his peers released a video demanding the league condemn racism, Goodell made his strongest statement on the issues many players passionately support.

George Floyd’s death has ignited nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality, issues former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began speaking out against in 2016 when he started taking a knee during the national anthem.

“It has been a difficult time for our country. In particular, black people in our country,” Goodell said in a video released Friday. “First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all the families who have endured police brutality. We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much needed change in this country.

“Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff. We are listening. I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”

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