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Report: NHL and NHLPA 'Making Progress' on 24-Team Format to Resume Season – Sports Illustrated

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The NHL and NHLPA are “making progress” on a plan that would allow the 2019–20 season to resume with a 24-team format, according to The Athletic‘s Pierre LeBrun

The Return to Play committee, formed of individuals from the league and players’ union, reportedly talked throughout the weekend on next steps with a focus on a 24-team format. While there is “more work to do” in determining details, both sides are seemingly closer to agreeing upon what a resumed season would entail. 

If approved, the 24-team format would not jump straight to the postseason as players have pushed for regular-season games to take place in any return to play plan, per LeBrun. The schedule would reportedly involve “games in some form” before playoff games begin, with locations not yet specified. 

According to LeBrun, not all NHL players are interested in finishing the season, citing health and safety risks, but there seems to be enough motivation among the 24 teams to crown a champion. If a format is agreed upon by the Return to Play committee, the 31 player reps on the NHLPA’s executive board would need to vote to determine if it goes into effect. 

Further discussion on the committee is reportedly expected within the coming days as the plan is not yet “100 percent” agreed upon. The NHL has a Board of Governors meeting scheduled for Monday, May 17 at 3 p.m., but it is not likely that commissioner Gary Bettman would make an announcement on the plan in its current state. 

Bettman has stated that he is not “even contemplating” canceling the 2019–20 season. The league is still determining a timeline to move ahead to “Phase 2” of its Return to Play process and open team facilities for small group workouts. A decision on the NHL draft is reportedly expected in the upcoming week. 

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Former tennis star James Blake still shaken by encounter with cop in 2015 – The Globe and Mail

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Former tennis star James Blake discussing his mistaken arrest by the New York City Police Department during an interview in New York on Sept. 12, 2015.

The Canadian Press

Nearly five years later, former tennis star James Blake says he never suspected the large man running toward him was a plainclothes New York police officer.

Blake was in town that day for the U.S. Open and standing outside a Manhattan hotel.

“I thought someone was running at me that was a fan, someone that was going to say, `Hey I saw you play so and so, I was at this match, my kid plays tennis,’“ Blake recalled. “I’m smiling with my hands down.”

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But Blake, who is black, had been mistakenly identified as a suspect in a credit card fraud scheme. Video showed the undercover officer grabbing him by the arm, throwing him to the sidewalk face down and handcuffing him.

All of which intensified Blake’s reaction to video of George Floyd’s death shortly after being detained by Minneapolis police last week.

“I went to bed very sad and very deflated, seeing this over and over again,” Blake said Tuesday from his home in San Diego. “I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t stop my mind from racing, thinking about the events that took place there, the events that took place with me in 2015. …

“It saddens me to see that kind of policing is still going on, that kind of brutality, particularly how often it is aimed at the black and brown community.”

Blake, a Harvard alum who reached a career-high ranking of No. 4 and is now tournament director of the Miami Open, said the 2015 episode transformed him into an “accidental activist.” He began using his celebrity to speak more openly about racism and police brutality.

Voting is one way forward, he said, including in local elections. He supports peaceful protest, and said it’s possible no arrest in the Floyd case would have been made without the recent demonstrations in Minneapolis and elsewhere.

He also favours police reform, including higher pay, better training and independent bodies to investigate wrongdoing by officers. As punishment in the Blake case, the policeman who tackled him was docked five vacation days.

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“I don’t think someone like that should have a badge,” Blake said.

He said the scars from his experience probably can’t be erased, and he thinks about it often.

“I would love to change this, but for the rest of my life, I’m probably going to be more nervous about any encounter I have with a police officer,” he said.

Blake said Floyd’s death underscored how lucky he was to walk away from his own ordeal. He’s grateful no one was with him at the time, including his daughters, now 6 and 7.

“I haven’t shown them the video of me getting taken down, because I don’t know if they would understand it quite yet,” Blake said. “With what has been on the news the past week, my wife and I have started thinking about when we’re going to start talking with them about a lot of these issues – police brutality and racism and what goes on in this country.”

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Wheeler says players 'can't be silent anymore' about racism – NHL.com

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Blake Wheeler spoke from the heart Tuesday about racism, why more NHL players are sharing their thoughts about it now and how he hopes they can help effect change.

The Winnipeg Jets captain grew up 20 minutes outside Minneapolis, where a white police officer has been charged with third-degree murder after George Floyd, a black man, died in custody May 25, sparking protests in cities across the United States. 

“Clearly, it’s hit home,” Wheeler said.

Calling the destruction caused by some heartbreaking, Wheeler said for the most part he’s proud of his hometown “for the people standing up and not tolerating this anymore and helping each other clean up the mess.”

Wheeler was one of the first NHL players to share his thoughts publicly when he wrote a post on his Twitter account Saturday. More NHL players and teams have made statements via social media since.

Why now? Especially for white players like Wheeler, when a black player like San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane, who played with Wheeler in Winnipeg, has been speaking about it for a long time?

Wheeler cited the graphic video of the death of Floyd and the pause of the NHL the season since March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

“I think putting a visual to what’s being talked about, I think it’s changed for a lot of people,” the forward said. “I think you read about it and you hear about it and you know it’s injustice and you know how horrible it is, but then once you see it, you’re able to … It puts it in a new light.

“Being in a pandemic right now where people … You know, there’s no other distraction. We’re not preparing for a game tomorrow. Our minds don’t go elsewhere right now. Like, we’re able to really digest this, and I think that that has made it to the point where guys just … You can’t be silent anymore.”

[RELATED: Players comment on calls for racial justice | NHL statement]

Wheeler and his wife, Sam, have been showing news reports to their children: Louie, 7; Leni, 5; and Mase, almost 3.

“They watched George Floyd die on TV,” Wheeler said.

Though things don’t register as much for the younger children, they are challenging to explain to the 7-year-old.

“I mean, he’s asking, ‘Why won’t he get off his neck? Why won’t he get off his neck?'” Wheeler said.

The Wheelers have not been in Minnesota, self-quarantining at their offseason home in Florida.

“We would have loved to take our family out to the protest to show [the children] how powerful it can be and really what a beautiful thing it was, all the people coming together in our hometown,” Wheeler said. “So we’ve talked about it a lot and showed them as much as we can to just try to continue that education and try to show them and really have it be imprinted in their mind that this is what it should look like.”

Wheeler said white athletes have to be as involved as black athletes.

“It can’t just be their fight,” he said. “… I want to be real clear here: I look in the mirror about this before I look out at everyone else. I wish that I was more involved sooner than I was. I wish that it didn’t take me this long to get behind it in a meaningful way. But I guess what you can do is try to be better going forward. …

“As pro athletes, we have a platform. I think that in and of itself is a big step to put yourself out there and talk about it. It’s not an easy thing to do. … I think it’s something that over time we need to be more comfortable doing, but we need to be OK voicing our opinion on this.”

Wheeler, who has represented the United States in international competition, said he feels strongly this is has nothing to do with politics.

“I think we can all agree this is a problem, and human rights should apply to everyone,” he said. “Whether I’m voting Democrat or I’m voting Republican, I think I can find a candidate on either side that this is important to and agrees with the fact that this needs to stop.”

Asked if he was worried about his country, Wheeler said, “Yeah, terribly, honestly.” He talked about how he was a worrier by nature and the list of problems that seems never-ending.

“To have a country be going through this economically, socially, everything, and then we’re still, we’re still, treating each other like this, yeah, it’s worrisome,” he said. “But being American, growing up, though, I truly believe that better days are ahead, and through that anxiety and through that fear and through kind of that worry about the country, I’m optimistic and hopeful about the future.”

Wheeler’s father, Jim, grew up in Detroit, which went through racial unrest in the late 1960s.

“He just said, ‘My generation didn’t get it right, and hopefully yours does,'” Wheeler said. “So I’m hopeful my generation and my kids’ generation fix this and get this country so that there’s better days ahead.”

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Khari Jones received death threats as CFL player in Winnipeg – CBC.ca

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Khari Jones doesn’t have to look far for a reminder that racism exists in Canada.

The Montreal Alouettes head coach divulged during a teleconference Tuesday he received death threats while he was the quarterback of the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers because of his interracial marriage. Jones is black and his wife, Justine, is white.

An emotional Jones — speaking just over a week after a white policeman kneeled on the neck of a black man, resulting in a tragic death in Minneapolis — said the threats came in the form of letters that remain in his possession.

“It’s just a reminder you always have to be on alert a little bit,” Jones said. “It could’ve been one person but one is still too many and to do that on the basis of a person’s skin colour is horrible.

“Every once in a while, every blue moon I take a look at them. They never found the person who wrote the letters — he used a fake name — but he’s still out there, people like him are still out there. That was 20-something years ago and it’s still happening.”

WATCH | Eskimos lineman Justin Renfrow says he feels safer living in Canada:

After experiencing a violent incident of racial profiling in his home city of Philadelphia, Edmonton Eskimos offensive linesman Justin Renfrow made a decision to spend as much time in Canada as possible. 14:25

Jones, 49, played parts of five seasons with Winnipeg (2000-04). The soft-spoken and amiable Jones was named the CFL’s outstanding player in 2001 after leading the Bombers to a 14-4 regular-season record and Grey Cup appearance.

The five-foot-11, 195-pound Jones played for B.C., Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Hamilton from 1997-07. He rejoined the Bombers in October 2007 and retired as a member of the franchise. Jones began his CFL coaching career in 2009 as Hamilton’s quarterback coach.

Sadly, the threatening letters weren’t Jones’s first exposure to racism.

Wrongly arrested at gunpoint

In the early 1990s during Jones’s college days at UC Davis, Jones said himself, his brother, and some friends were wrongly arrested at gunpoint, forced to the ground and handcuffed by white policemen in Sacramento, Calif.

“It was a case of mistaken identity but we called it, at the time, being black while walking,” Jones said. “That’s just something that had happened with people you knew and it happened to me, four or five of my friends, my brother was there.

“It’s a horrible feeling to be pointed out for something like that.”

Jones’s eyes welled up discussing the tragic death last week of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in Minneapolis while in police custody. With Floyd handcuffed and lying face down, Derek Chauvin, a white policeman, kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes, the final two minutes 53 seconds after Floyd became unresponsive.

Video of the incident was readily available on television and social media. After watching, Jones took to Twitter on Monday — a rarity for the Alouettes coach — to express his pain, anger and sadness over Floyd’s death.

“I can’t stop thinking about George Floyd,” Jones tweeted. “He is me.

“Breonna Taylor [a black woman fatally shot March 13 by Louisville police officers] is my daughter. I’m angry, hurt, and sad.”

WATCH | Canadian athletes speak out against racism:

Canadian athletes have been speaking out against racism and for change, including tennis youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime, basketball legend Steve Nash, and Olympians Kia Nurse, Karina LeBlanc and Perdita Felicien 2:38

Jones, entering his second season as Alouettes head coach, said he posted the tweet after talking with Montreal starting quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. Following the Floyd incident, Jones wrote his players about what he’d experienced in his life.

“That’s just what I felt when I saw the video,” Jones said. “The inhumanity of it was something that struck a chord in me, for sure, and I think in a lot of the world.

“I won’t watch it again. It’s in there now.”

Jones said he hasn’t spoken to his two teenage daughters about Floyd’s death. But he doesn’t feel he really has to.

“I just couldn’t stop crying [after watching the video] so they knew how it affected me and I think it affected them as well,” he said. “I’ve spoken to them a little bit over the years … fortunately we’ve moved quite a bit in Canada and for the most part, every place we’ve lived has treated my girls well and treated us well.

“I think fortunately for them they haven’t had to deal with [racism] on a first-hand basis all that much, if at all. I’ve often discussed with them what it can be like in the States, in certain places in particular, just to be aware and to be careful out there. “

But Jones said it is always a challenge.

“When you’re black, you know some things might happen to you,” he said. “I knew what to do and how to try to behave when I was stopped for a traffic ticket or something.

“There’s just a different way you have to respond to things when tensions are heightened. Canada is, believe me, much better and I feel much better about the social climate but there are still issues.”

CFL clubs, players speak out

Last weekend, the CFL and its nine teams all issued statements condemning racism. Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Solomon Eliminian, the president of the CFL Players’ Association, also outlined his experiences in a letter to union members.

Montreal running back James Wilder Jr. has been a vocal advocate as well. The former Florida State star has participated in peaceful protests in Houston, where he’s currently training, and been active denouncing racism on social media.

“I think James is a smart person, I’m going to talk with him,” Jones said. “I never want to push the players one way or the other.

“I think these are smart men, they see what I see and they have brains too. I want them to do what they feel is necessary and some things go beyond your job. I’m proud of the players for their responses. I want to go protest too, I want to be out there too. I understand his [Wilder’s] pain and frustration with everything.”

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