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Team Mayweather sends a warning to Conor McGregor ahead of UFC 246 – BJPENN.COM



Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor

Team Mayweather has sent former adversary Conor McGregor a warning ahead of his UFC 246 bout with Donald Cerrone.

McGregor and Mayweather faced off in a blockbuster boxing match back in August of 2016, with ‘Money May’ emerging victorious by tenth round TKO.

With that said, the Irishman did have his moments in the contest, especially early in the fight. Due to that success, ‘Mystic Mac’ is confident that a rematch with Floyd Mayweather would go much differently.

However, the folks at Team Mayweather do not share the same confidence in Conor McGregor. Floyd’s longtime friend and bodyguard Ray Sadeghi, can’t imagine a scenario in which McGregor would ever get his hand raised against Mayweather Jr.

“Conor talks a lot, and one thing we do know is he talks a lot, and he doesn’t back it up,” Sadeghi told MMAJUNKIE. “He can say, ‘Oh, he did this in the beginning and in the third round.’ One thing we know as a fighter is everyone starts off fresh and strong. As the rounds go on and on he’ll show the true colors of who is the better fighter and who is the more skilled fighter.

Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather

Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather

“One thing we do know: Conor McGregor, you can say what you want to say, but you got knocked out, and you got severe head trauma and a concussion that was reported by your doctor. Is the outcome going to be the same? I truly believe that no one can outbox Floyd. No one can outwork Floyd. His offense and his defense and his technique – this man is just made for this.

“His dad, his uncles have been in this for decades, and he’s been doing this since he was a little boy. You can try. If that fight happens and the negotiations go so you guys can put it together and the fight is going to happen, will I love to see that? Absolutely. Is the result going to be the same? I don’t know. It’s going to be a very exciting fight, and I’m sure Conor is going to come out stronger, but you cannot underestimate the best ever.”

Do you think Conor McGregor will try and secure another boxing match with Floyd Mayweather if he proves victorious at UFC 246 this evening? Sound off in the comments section PENN Nation!

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MLB locks out players as collective bargaining agreement expires –



IRVING, Texas — Major League Baseball plunged into its first work stoppage in a quarter-century when the sport’s collective bargaining agreement expired Wednesday night and owners immediately locked out players in a move that threatens spring training and opening day.

The strategy, management’s equivalent of a strike under federal labour law, ended the sport’s labour peace after 9,740 days over 26 1/2 years.

Teams decided to force the long-anticipated confrontation during an offseason rather than risk players walking out during the summer, as they did in 1994. Players and owners had successfully reached four consecutive agreements without a work stoppage, but they have been accelerating toward a clash for more than two years.

Talks ended when management negotiators left the union’s hotel about nine hours before the deal lapsed at 11:59 p.m. EST. Players said MLB did not make any new central economic proposals this week.

Commissioner Rob Manfred confirmed that the league had locked out the players in a letter to fans published shortly after the CBA had expired.

“As we began to emerge from one of the darkest periods in our history, our ballparks were filled with fans; the games were filled with excitement; and millions of families felt the joy of watching baseball together. That is why I am so disappointed about the situation in which our game finds itself today,” the commissioner wrote. “Despite the league’s best efforts to make a deal with the Players Association, we were unable to extend our 26 year-long history of labour peace and come to an agreement with the MLBPA before the current CBA expired. Therefore, we have been forced to commence a lockout of Major League players, effective at 12:01am ET on December 2.”

The MLB Players Association responded to Manfred’s letter with a statement of their own, calling the lockout “dramatic” and unnecessary.

“(The lockout) was the owners’ choice, plain and simple, specifically calculated to pressure players into relinquishing rights and benefits, and abandoning good faith bargaining proposals that will benefit not just players but the game and industry as a whole,” the union’s statement reads in part. “These tactics are not new. We have been here before, and players have risen to the occasion time and again — guided by a solidarity that has been forged over generations. We will do so again.”

The union demanded change following anger over a declining average salary, middle-class players forced out by teams concentrating payroll on the wealthy and veterans jettisoned in favor of lower-paid youth, especially among clubs tearing down their rosters to rebuild.

“As players we see major problems with it,” New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer said of the 2016 agreement. “First and foremost, we see a competition problem and how teams are behaving because of certain rules that are within that, and adjustments have to be made because of that in order to bring out the competition.”

Eleven weeks remain until pitchers and catchers are to report for spring training on Feb. 16, leaving about 70 days to reach a deal allowing for an on-time start. Opening day is set for March 31, and a minimum of three weeks of organized workouts have been required in the past.

Management, intent on preserving salary restraints gained in recent decades, rejected the union’s requests for what teams regarded as significant alterations to the sport’s economic structure, including lowering service time needed for free agency and salary arbitration.

Many clubs scrambled to add players ahead of a lockout and an expected signing freeze, committing to more than $1.9 billion in new contracts — including a one-day record of more than $1.4 billion Wednesday.

“It did feel like at least certain groups of free agents were moving more quickly the last few days,” Pittsburgh general manager Ben Cherington said.

Two of the eight members of the union’s executive subcommittee signed big deals: Texas infielder Marcus Semien ($175 million) and Scherzer ($130 million).

“This is actually kind of fun,” Scherzer said. “I’m a fan of the game, and to watch everybody sign right now, to actually see teams competing in this kind of timely fashion, it’s been refreshing because we’ve seen freezes for the past several offseasons.”

Much has changed since the 232-day strike that cut short the 1994 season, led to the first cancellation of the World Series in 90 years and caused the 1995 season to start late. That stoppage ended only when a federal judge — future Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor — issued an injunction forcing owners to restore the work rules of the expired labor contract.

The average salary dropped from $1.17 million before the strike to $1.11 million but then resumed its seemingly inexorable rise. It peaked at just under $4.1 million in 2017, the first season of the latest CBA, but likely will fall to about $3.7 million when this year’s final figures are calculated.

That money is concentrated heavily at the top of the salary structure. Among approximately 1,955 players who signed major league contracts at any point going into the regular season’s final month, 112 had earned $10 million or more this year as of Aug. 31, of which 40 made at least $20 million, including prorated shares of signing bonuses.

There were 1,397 earning under $1 million, of which 1,271 were at $600,000 or less and 332 under $100,000, a group of younger players who shuttle back and forth to the minors.

“Simply put, we believe that an offseason lockout is the best mechanism to protect the 2022 season. We hope that the lockout will jumpstart the negotiations and get us to an agreement that will allow the season to start on time,” Manfred wrote. “This defensive lockout was necessary because the Players Association’s vision for Major League Baseball would threaten the ability of most teams to be competitive. It’s simply not a viable option. From the beginning, the MLBPA has been unwilling to move from their starting position, compromise, or collaborate on solutions.”

Union head Tony Clark, a former All-Star first baseman who became executive director following Michael Weiner’s death in 2013, said players are united and understand the need to stick together to achieve common goals. The sides are still litigating over the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, sniping over how to long the season could have been and taking their positions before a neutral arbitrator.

The union has withheld licensing money, as it usually does going into bargaining; cash, U.S. Treasury securities and investments totaled $178.5 million last Dec. 31, according to a financial disclosure form filed with the U.S. Department of Labor.

“We have a pretty big war chest behind us of money that we can allocate to players,” Scherzer said.

Some player agents have speculated that management’s credit lines already may be pressured following income deprivation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but the clubs’ finances are more opaque publicly than that of the union, making it difficult to ascertain comparative financial strength to withstand a lengthy work stoppage.

Rob Manfred, who succeeded Bud Selig as commissioner in 2015 following a quarter-century as an MLB labor negotiator, made clear last month that management preferred an offseason lockout to a midseason strike.

“We’ve been down this path. We locked out in ’89-’90,” he said. “I don’t think ’94 worked out too great for anybody. I think when you look at other sports, the pattern has become to control the timing of the labor dispute and try to minimize the prospect of actual disruption of the season. That’s what it’s about. It’s avoiding doing damage to the season.”

Scott Boras, who negotiated Scherzer’s deal and shortstop Corey Seager’s $325 million contract with Texas, has pushed for the union to insist on change to decrease the incentive for lowering payrolls during rebuilding.

“Sometimes the rules of the game require them to do things that are not in the best interest of the game,” Boras said, “for them to be a better competitor for next year, they have to do things that the rules direct them to do.”

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Why the Women’s Tennis Association rallied for Peng Shuai –



A prominent Chinese citizen associated with a major international organisation disappears, then a letter is sent stating all is well. The organisation appears to accept the letter at face value although questions remain before the citizen emerges months later under duress.

The circumstances are different but there is a similar thread to the disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who last month accused former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual misconduct, and Meng Hongwei, the former head of Interpol, who disappeared on a trip to China in 2018 and 18 months later pleaded guilty to corruption. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Following Meng’s disappearance, Interpol largely appeared to accept his resignation letter and Secretary-General Jurgen Stock told the Associated Press news agency that the international police body was forbidden by internal rules to investigate.

Things could have turned out the same for Peng, a world-class athlete and Olympian, after a social media post about her ordeal with Zhang was deleted, except that the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) immediately began to push back. Prominent tennis players also followed suit, including Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.

The WTA has also continued to raise questions even after Chinese state broadcaster CGTN shared an email on Twitter – purportedly from Peng – saying that she was “not missing” or “unsafe” and that reports of her allegations were “not true”. She reemerged in public a few days later and spoke to the International Olympic Committee over a now heavily-criticised video call.

“[It] remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference,” WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said afterwards, stressing that the organisation remained concerned about her wellbeing.

The alleged email from Peng Shuai to Steve Simon that was aired on state broadcaster CGTN last month [CGTN/Twitter via Reuters]
A handout photo made available by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) website shows a video call with Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai on 21 November 2021.After the WTA’s repeated expressions of concern about Peng Shuai’s wellbeing, the IOC said it had held a video call with the player and released a still photo from the call [IOC via EPA]

Late on Wednesday, the WTA announced the “immediate suspension” of all tournaments in China and Hong Kong. China hosted nine WTA events in 2019 and a year earlier signed a 10-year deal to host the WTA finals in Shenzhen, according to Reuters news agency.

“It’s really crazy that the Women’s Tennis Association has more credibility right now than Interpol in pushing back on China’s gross human rights abuses, abduction of members of its organisation, and poking holes in what is just thinly-veiled coercive statements and propaganda,” said Michael Caster, co-founder of the human rights watchdog Safeguard Defenders, which monitors disappearances in China.

‘Not acceptable’

China’s foreign ministry has accused critics and media of “malicious hyping” and politicising Peng’s disappearance from public view.

Meanwhile, Zhang, the high-ranking party member at the centre of Peng’s allegations, has not been seen in public in several weeks, according to Caster.

He described Peng’s situation as part of the same “playbook” used by the Chinese government when concerns are raised about the wellbeing of a citizen or foreigner living in China – from human rights lawyer Wang Yu to Swedish human rights activist Peter Dahlin who went on to become one of the founders of Safeguard Defenders.

“These farcical public presentations from Peng Shuai are clearly scripted as part of a propaganda effort and we say that because we’ve seen this movie before,” Caster told Al Jazeera.

In announcing the suspension of tournaments, the WTA’s Simon stressed that China’s handling of Peng’s case was not acceptable and should not be allowed to become acceptable.

“If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep sexual assault under the rug then the basis on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer an immense setback,” Simon said in a statement. “I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”

Other international sporting bodies have already been targeted by Beijing over positions taken by their players and officials.

China briefly stopped airing NBA games after Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for Hong Kong’s 2019 democracy protests and erased Premier League football player Mesut Ozil from the Chinese internet after he spoke out against China’s treatment of Muslim Uighurs.

More recently, games involving the NBA’s Boston Celtics have been pulled from broadcast in China as Enes Kanter, their centre, continues to make criticisms about President Xi Jinping and China’s treatment of Xinjiang, Hong Kong, and Tibet while also voicing support for Taiwan.

Moment of reckoning

The WTA, however, had political momentum and timing on its side allowing the organisation to take a calculated risk, says Simon Chadwick, a professor of international sports business at Emlyon Business School in France.

Peng’s case and allegations of sexual misconduct also come at a moment of reckoning in the sports world over #MeToo allegations and mental health following the public struggles of athletes like Osaka and American gymnast Simone Biles.

“Number one for the WTA is that women and girls are their core business. It’s what the organisation is founded upon and to not be seen as supporting someone who apparently has gone missing would undermine what the WTA does,” Chadwick said.

“My feeling is that the WTA probably made a calculation and decided that it stood to lose more globally by not saying anything, then it stood to lose by essentially standing up to China.”

Chadwick says that despite considerable investments in the Chinese tennis industry, women’s tennis has not taken off there as quickly as the WTA initially anticipated.

Its deal with China has also struggled as a result of the pandemic. So far, Shenzhen has hosted only one WTA finals event in 2019. The 2020 final was cancelled as a result of the coronavirus, and the 2021 event was moved to Mexico following another Covid-19 outbreak in China.

The NBA came under pressure in China after Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the Hong Kong protesters in 2019 [File: Xihao Jiang/Reuters]

That may give the WTA the kind of latitude unavailable to groups like the IOC, which is due to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing in February. That organisation has also suffered as a result of the pandemic with the Tokyo Olympics, pushed back a year and not attended by the usual number of spectators.

Following Peng’s disappearance, the IOC has said it would “continue our open dialogue on all levels with the Olympic movement in China” following questions about Peng, according to the Associated Press.

Emma Terho, the IOC Athletes Commission Chair, said on Twitter that the organisation prefers a policy of “quiet diplomacy”.

Based in the Republican state of Florida, the WTA may have also felt some political pressure beyond Beijing.

Washington is mulling a boycott of the Winter Games protest against human rights abuses in places like Xinjiang and Hong Kong, notes Chadwick.

“I wonder to what extent there may have been some political pressure from within the United States put on the WTA to respond in the way that it did. I think from the perspective of the WTA, they reacted very, very quickly… unusually quickly, within a matter of two or three days, he said. “And that is extremely unusual.”

On Wednesday, Simon expressed regret at having to suspend events in China, but he said he was “greatly concerned” at the risks players and staff could face if events were held in the country in 2022.

He once again urged Beijing to prove Peng was free, and able to speak “without interference or intimidation” and to fully investigate the allegations of assault.

“I remain hopeful that our pleas will be heard and the Chinese authorities will take steps to legitimately address this issue.”

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A Mosaic of a Raptors’ Loss – Raptors Republic



It happened halfway through the third quarter. The Toronto Raptors were on a real offensive run, one of their first of the game, not just a piddling four-zero hiccup that had sufficed as their best efforts to that point of the evening. Scottie Barnes was alone on a fastbreak, nothing but open road in front of him and the wind in his hair. So of course, as is his wont, he decided to look back at Steven Adams to prove his machismo, his youth, his immortality. But he kept looking back and wouldn’t stop, addicted to the bravado. He dropped the ball, fumbled it, reality catching up to him like rain on an open convertible. Adams caught up to Barnes. Eventually he gathered the ball, putting in the hasty and shameful layup.

“I didn’t see that,” said Pascal Siakam after the game.

“Well at least he scored it,” said Nick Nurse. “I guess I wouldn’t care if they bounced it off the top of their head as long as it goes in.”

Barnes’ snatching victory from the jaws of defeat from the jaws of victory wasn’t even a fitting icon of the game, even that too proud a moment to represent Toronto’s 98-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Later, Barnes tried another lookback, again in transition again staring at a defender far behind him, missing the much larger defender much closer to him. Or maybe he stared at the larger defender, slowing down, offering a challenge to the defender, to himself. The no-look dunk attempts may have been the first of its kind, but it ended in outright rejection, Jaren Jackson jr. sending Barnes’ dunk attempt away. Perhaps that allegory was more fitting.

“If it doesn’t go in then we’re probably talking about another situation,” Nick Nurse also said after the game of Barnes’ propensity for lookbacks.

The issues with Toronto’s offense were many. Dillon Brooks did to Fred VanVleet what VanVleet did to Steph Curry during the 2019 NBA FInals; he remained glued to VanVleet’s hip, not giving him any space to catch the ball, let alone dribble it and try to make a play. Playing four on four ought to be an offensive advantage, but the Raptors found themselves unable to find many true advantages on the ensuing possessions. Every possession was a grind, winding down to oblivion like a slinky with bent coils. The rim was off limits. VanVleet finished with 15 points, all hard-fought, each inch requiring a war to win, only to find a hand grenade left in the vacated trenches.

The image fleshed out in miniature, in anecdotes of failure masquerading as success, success masquerading as failure: Barnes erasing a Memphis layup, only for no one to rotate over to clean the glass, the Grizzlies finding an uncontested putback. VanVleet driving, blocked, the ball bouncing off his head out of bounds, Memphis ball. Boucher finally playing again, dunking to beat the halftime buzzer, but dead-eyed, no reaction, Fast Eddie Boucher: sure got character now, picked it up in a hotel room in Louisville. Broken offensive sets with the ball in Precious Achiuwa’s hands, panic, not knowing what to do so shooting, flailing, bailed out by a whistle. Barnes hitting a clutch three, five-point game!, but the full-court press losing Jackson so completely that he dunks uncontested, game over. Barnes hitting another clutch three after, for fun, too late.

“We’re seeing a lot of peaks and valleys all within the same game, almost every game now,” Nick Nurse said after the game about Barnes but as much about the team, the focus.

The crowd filing out, time still remaining in an ostensibly close game, those who didn’t leave at halftime. Desmond Bane missing a free throw with 20 seconds left, the game decided, free pizza, no crowd left to cheer.

Toronto has moments of which it can be proud on a basketball court. Frankly, more than enough of those positives to win. But the team doesn’t do enough to convert on the promise. The defense is elite, but the offensive rebounds kill the momentum. The offense finishes tough plays, but why tough? No connection, no ability to make life a little easier, the road a little smoother. Games are lost, wished away, airy and unserious. The Raptors are Barnes, flying to the rim, all promise, uncontested, looking back too much, too long, lost at sea.

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