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Raptors fans fall short of NBA’s Top 5 in latest rankings – Sportsnet.ca

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The Toronto Raptors have seen a surge in popularity in the Masai Ujiri era, but the team’s fan base still isn’t among the Top 5 in the NBA, according to the latest Forbes rankings.

Toronto supporters came in sixth league-wide, based on Forbes’ methodology, which included local television ratings, arena attendance based on capacity reached, secondary ticket demand (per StubHub), merchandise sales (per Fanatics) and social media reach (Facebook and Twitter followers based on the team’s metro area population).

Coming off a dynastic run with five consecutive NBA Finals appearances, the Golden State Warriors topped the list. Rounding out the Top 5 were the Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers.

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After failing to crack the Top 10 in Forbes’ 2015 instalment, the Raptors climbed the rankings thanks to the successful “We the North” campaign that began in 2014. The team focused on branding itself throughout all of Canada, and the decision paid huge dividends.

“We did our own research, and just as you saw in the early part of the last decade, we found complete apathy and total lack of fan engagement,” Shannon Hosford, chief marketing officer of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, told Forbes. “We knew we needed to take big steps and make them national in scope.”

Bringing superstar rapper Drake on board as the team’s global ambassador certainly didn’t hurt either.

“Hockey is part of the fabric of our culture, but basketball is really resonating with a diverse young and up-and-coming fan base,” Hosford said. “In part because of Drake, we have the cool factor, which really comes into play when you’re reaching a multi-ethnic young audience like ours. As a result, we have been able to transcend sports and become a lifestyle brand.”

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Of course, the biggest factor in bolstering the fan base came on the court, as the team has enjoyed the most successful period in franchise history over the past seven years, capped by a championship in 2019.

With the team showing no signs of slowing down, it’s a very real possibility that the Raptors will continue to rise in popularity, especially if a certain Greek Freak signs north of the border in 2021.

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Astros’ Francis Martes suspended for 2020 season following drug test – Sportsnet.ca

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NEW YORK — Houston Astros pitcher Francis Martes was suspended for the 2020 season following his second positive test for a performance-enhancing substance under baseball’s major league drug program.

Martes tested positive for Boldenone, the commissioner’s office said Monday. Boldenone is sold under the brand name Equipose and is used commonly on horses.

A 24-year-old right-hander, Martes is on the Astros’ 40-man major league roster but hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2017.

He was suspended last March 12 for 80 games following a positive test for Clomiphene, a women’s fertility drug that has been used by some athletes to counter side effects of steroids use. Martes returned Aug. 21 and made two starts for the rookie level Gulf Coast Astros and one for Quad Cities of the Class A Midwest League. He was 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in 5 1/3 innings.

Martes’ ban isn’t quite the Houston-related cheating punishment fans and players have clamoured for around baseball. The Astros have been pummeled via the press by opposing teams since opening spring training, with many expressing disappointment that no players were suspended for their sign-stealing scam.

Martes did not have a statement, the players’ association said.

“Throughout our system, players are educated through MLB’s drug prevention and treatment programs,” the Astros said in a statement. “We hope that Francis will learn from this experience moving forward.”

He is the second player suspended this year under the big league program. Colorado pitcher Justin Lawrence was suspended for 80 games following a positive test for the performance-enhancing substance Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone (DHCMT). Lawrence also has yet to make his big league debut.

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Ryan Newman hospitalized after fiery crash at Daytona 500 – CBC.ca

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Ryan Newman flipped across the finish line, his Ford planted upside down and engulfed in flames, a grim reminder of a sport steeped in danger that has stretched nearly two decades without a fatality.

At the finish line, Denny Hamlin made history with a second straight Daytona 500 victory in an an overtime photo-finish over Ryan Blaney, a celebration that quickly became muted as word of Newman’s wreck spread.

“I think we take for granted sometimes how safe the cars are,” Hamlin said. “But number one, we are praying for Ryan.”

Roughly two hours after the crash, NASCAR read a statement from Roush Fenway Racing that said Newman is in “serious condition, but doctors have indicated his injuries are not life threatening.”

WATCH | Ryan Newman involved in terrifying crash at Daytona 500:

Ryan Newman was leading the race when he was involved in a crash that sent his car spinning before it caught on fire. 2:08

NASCAR scrapped the traditional victory lane party for Hamlin’s third Daytona 500 victory, rocked by Newman’s accident 19 years after Dale Earnhardt was killed on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Earnhardt was the last driver killed in a NASCAR Cup Series race.

Newman had surged into the lead on the final lap when Blaney’s bumper caught the back of his Ford and sent Newman hard right into the wall. His car flipped, rolled, was hit on the driver’s side by another car, and finally skidded across the finish line in flames.

It took several minutes for his car to be rolled back onto its wheels. The 2008 Daytona 500 winner was placed in a waiting ambulance and taken directly to a hospital, and the damage to his Mustang was extensive. It appeared the entire roll cage designed to protect his head had caved.

Drivers were stricken with concern, including a rattled Corey LaJoie, the driver who hit Newman’s car as it was flipping.

“Dang, I hope Newman is ok,” he posted on Twitter. “That is [the] worst case scenario and I had nowhere to go but [into the] smoke.”

Hamlin is the first driver since Sterling Marlin in 1995 to win consecutive Daytona 500s, but his celebration in victory lane was subdued.

Hamlin said he was unaware of Newman’s situation when he initially began his celebration. It wasn’t until Fox Sports told him they would not interview him on the frontstretch after his burnouts that Hamlin learned Newman’s incident was bad.

“It’s a weird balance of excitement and happiness for yourself, but someone’s health and their family is bigger than any win in any sport,” he said. “We are just hoping for the best.”

Team owner Joe Gibbs apologized after the race for the winning team celebration.

“We didn’t know until victory lane,” Gibbs said. “I know that for a lot of us, participating in sports and being in things where there are some risks, in a way, that’s what they get excited about. Racing, we know what can happen, we just dream it doesn’t happen. We are all just praying now for the outcome on this.”

Runner-up Blaney said the way the final lap shook out, with Newman surging ahead of Hamlin, that Blaney got a push from Hamlin that locked him in behind Newman in a move of brand alliance for Ford.

“We pushed Newman there to the lead and then we got a push from the 11 … I was committed to just pushing him to the win and having a Ford win it and got the bumpers hooked up wrong,” he said. “It looked bad.”

Track workers attend to Ryan Newman, driver of the #6 Koch Industries Ford, following a crash during the NASCAR Cup Series 62nd Annual Daytona 500. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Hamlin had eight Ford drivers lined up behind him as the leader on the second overtime shootout without a single fellow Toyota driver in the vicinity to help him. It allowed Newman to get past him for the lead, but the bumping in the pack led to Newman’s hard turn right into the wall, followed by multiple rolls and a long skid across the finish line.

Hamlin’s win last year was a 1-2-3 sweep for Joe Gibbs Racing and kicked off a yearlong company celebration in which Gibbs drivers won a record 19 races and the Cup championship. Now his third Daytona 500 win puts him alongside six Hall of Fame drivers as winners of three or more Daytona 500s. He tied Dale Jarrett — who gave JGR its first Daytona 500 win in 1993 — Jeff Gordon and Bobby Allison. Hamlin trails Cale Yarborough’s four wins and the record seven by Richard Petty.

This victory came after just the second rain postponement in 62 years, a visit from President Donald Trump, a pair of red flag stoppages and two overtimes. The 0.014 margin of victory was the second closest in race history, and Hamlin’s win over Martin Truex Jr. in 2016 was the closest finish in race history.

That margin of victory was 0.01 seconds. The win in “The Great American Race” is the third for Toyota, all won by Hamlin. Gibbs has four Daytona 500 victories as an owner.

“I just feel like I’m a student to the game. I never stop learning and trying to figure out where I need to put myself at the right time,” Hamlin said. “It doesn’t always work. We’ve defied odds here in the last eight years or so in the Daytona 500, but just trust my instincts, and so far they’ve been good for me.”

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Carey coach tells official to ‘shut up’ at curling championship – Sportsnet.ca

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MOOSE JAW, Sask. — An exchange between Chelsea Carey’s coach and father Dan and an umpire at the Canadian women’s curling championship became tense Monday when he told the official to “shut up.”

Carey, the defending champion, called a timeout in the ninth end of a 6-5 extra-end loss to Manitoba’s Kerry Einarson.

Dan walked to the away end of the ice to discuss strategy with the Calgary foursome.

He was approached by an umpire and became annoyed when told he was running out of time.

“I just got here. There’s no way. Then let me talk. Shut up,” he was heard to say on the television broadcast.

A Curling Canada spokesperson said following the game that the incident was under review.

Each team is allowed to call two 90-second timeouts per game.

“She told me I had 10 seconds left. I just got there,” Dan Carey explained later. “They start the clock as soon as they said time out.

“I said ‘that can’t be.’ She said ‘five seconds’ and then started talking to me.

“I’m trying to talk the team and she’s still talking at me. If I’ve got five seconds left, let me talk.

“I probably shouldn’t have said shut up, but I did.”

Dan Carey, 65, is a former Canadian men’s champion playing third for Manitoba’s Vic Peters in 1992.

He didn’t know how long it took for him to walk from the coach’s bench at the home end of the ice to the away end.

“I didn’t have a stopwatch from when it was called,” he said. “They tell you not to run. I’ll tell you this. The next time the timeout is at the far end, I’m running.”

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