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WWE: Gronk must defend 24/7 title "anytime, anywhere" – TSN

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Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement on Tuesday and will join former teammate and good buddy Tom Brady in Tampa Bay after the New England Patriots traded him to the Buccaneers.

Gronkowski, a three-time Super Bowl champion with Brady in New England, kept himself plenty busy during his one-year away from football, including hosting WWE’s WrestleMania 36 last month.

In fact, during the event, the 30-year-old pinned Mojo Rawley to win the 24/7 championship belt. An unique stipulation to the belt is that the champion has to be ready to defend the title at all times as he can be pinned and lose the belt at any moment by anybody.

The WWE reminded Gronkowski of that rule in a statement on Tuesday following the trade.

“Congratulations to Rob Gronkowski, the current WWE 24/7 Champion, on his return to football,” the statement read. “Per the rules of the 24/7 title, Gronk must defend his championship at all times in any location. He could be celebrating a touchdown pass from Tom Brady…anytime, anywhere.”

We’ll just have to wait and see if any opponents on the gridiron decide to go after Gronkowski’s coveted belt.

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Toronto FC captain says Donald Trump doesn't have 'a moral bone in his body' – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley pulled no punches Thursday, lamenting the “zero leadership” south of the border as the U.S. is ravaged by racial unrest.

The longtime U.S. skipper took square aim at president Donald Trump.

“We have a president who is completely empty. There isn’t a moral bone in his body,” Bradley told a media conference call.

“There’s no leadership. There’s no leadership from the president, there’s no leadership from the Republican senators who have sat back and been totally complicit in everything he’s done for the last 3 1/2 years.”

Bradley urged his fellow Americans to speak with their ballot in November, saying it was “impossible to overstate” the importance of the coming election.

“I just hope that people are able to go to the polls in November and think about more than just what is good for them, more than what is good for their own status, their own business, their own tax return. I hope that people can go to the polls and understand that in so many ways, the future of our country and the future of our democracy is at stake.

“We need as many people as possible to understand that at a real level, to think about what four more years with Trump as president, what that would mean, how terrible that would be for so many people.”

Referencing racial inequality and social injustice, Bradley added: “If we want any chance to start to fix those things, then Trump can’t be president, it’s as simple as that.”

The 32-year-old Bradley has run through the gamut of emotions while watching the violence and unrest unfold in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while three police officers restrained him — one with his knee on Floyd’s neck.

“I’m angry, I’m horrified, I’m sad and I’m determined to do anything and everything I can to try to be a part of the fix,” he said. “Because it has to end. And we all have to be part of that fix.”

He acknowledged that while he has much to learn on the issues, politicians, policy-makers and businesses have to be held accountable.

Bradley has criticized Trump before. In January 2017, he said he was “sad and embarrassed” by Trump’s travel ban aimed at citizens of predominantly Muslim countries.

The TFC captain, while happy to see the MLS labour impasse over, noted there had been “some real difficult moments along the way.” That included a threat of a lockout from the league.

Such tactics “did not sit well with the players,” he said.

He also said there had been a frustrating absence of dialogue right from the beginning of talks, which he acknowledged played out against an unprecedented global threat.

“This, at a certain point for me, was about what’s right and what’s wrong in the middle of the pandemic. And the way to treat people and the way that you look after people. I kept coming back to that idea. That we have all put so much into growing the game in North America, at all levels — ownership, league office, executives coaches, players, fans.

“Everybody is important to what we’re trying to do. To try to dismiss any of the entities that I just named would be short-sighted and disrespectful because the game is about everybody.”

He said he would have loved to have seen everyone get on the same page early on and find a way “to cut through the (bull).”

“To just say ‘This is where we are right now. Nobody has a playbook. Nobody has any answers but how are we going to come out better and stronger from all of this? … I think conversations would have carried so much more weight and I think we would have been able to avoid so much of the way certain things played out.”

Bradley underwent ankle surgery in January to repair an injury suffered in the MLS Cup final loss in Seattle on Nov 10. His rehab over, he was part of a small group training session Thursday.

“I’m doing well,” he said. “I’m continuing to make progress … At this point physically I feel really good. My ankle feels really good. And now it’s just about training. Getting back into real training in a way that now prepares me for games.”

Still, he said injuries are an issue in the league’s return to play given the time that has passed since the league suspended play March 12.

“That is a big concern,” he said. “And it’s not a big concern only amongst players. I know that has been a real topic amongst coaches and sports science staff and medical staff.”

While teams will do everything possible to get the players ready, a compressed schedule at the Florida tournament that awaits teams won’t help injury fears, he said.

“That certainly is a big question. Maybe the biggest question when you get past the initial health and safety stuff of COVID, among players and coaches and technical staff,” he said.

“How are we going to give ourselves the best chance to win, but also do it in a way where guys are at their highest level both technically and physically”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 4, 2020.

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NFL stars ask league to ‘admit wrong’ in silencing on-field protests – Sportsnet.ca

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More than 15 NFL stars say they are asserting their right to peacefully protest and are asking the league to “admit wrong” in silencing its players from peacefully protesting.

In a video posted on Twitter by New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley, players addressed the recent death of George Floyd, which has prompted protests across the world regarding racial injustices.

Others featured in the video include Patrick Mahomes, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Deshaun Watson and Ezekiel Elliott.

Some players posed a hypothetical: “What if I was George Floyd?”

They proceeded to answer, “I am George Floyd,” followed by similar “I am” statements recognizing other African Americans who’ve died unjustly in recent years: Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Michael Brown Jr., Samuel DuBose, Frank Smart, Phillip White and Jordan Baker.

“We will not be silenced,” the players said in the video. “We assert our right to peacefully protest. It shouldn’t take this long to admit.”

Then, the players asked the NFL to “condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” “admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting” and to state that black lives matter.

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick sparked a wave of demonstrations across the league after he kneeled during the national anthem to call attention to police brutality and racial inequality. Kaepernick has not played in the NFL since that season and settled a collusion case saying he was blacklisted because of the protests with the league last year.

The NFL released a statement five days after Floyd’s death that makes no mention of player protests. It also does not mention racism.

But the league’s statement closes this way: “We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners.”

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NHL teams get ready to reopen rinks as part of Phase 2 – NHL.com

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NHL teams are preparing to begin limited workouts with small groups at their team facilities next week, the start of Phase 2 of the Return to Play Plan.

“Having access to the rink and the ice and being around teammates again is a big deal,” Tampa Bay Lightning forward Blake Coleman said Friday. “Talking to the guys, everybody is excited to get back out there. … I’m itching to get back. I’m sure a lot of guys are. I know that when you have that extra motivation to come back, there’s a lot more energy in the room and a lot more excitement around the games as well.”

The NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus and facilities were closed. The League announced Thursday that beginning June 8, teams will be permitted to reopen their training facilities in their city to allow players to participate in individualized training activities (off-ice and on-ice). Players will be participating on a voluntary basis, and workouts will be limited to a maximum of six players at any time, plus a limited number of staff.

“Every bit of homework has been done including provinces, governments, states, counties, so that the comfort of going into it from my perspective is positive because we’re not going into something quickly,” New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “The date was not put down as a target. It was only going to be done when everybody was comfortable doing it. So I’m comfortable.”

Video: Bettman on Return to Play: Full Q and A

All teams must adhere to the Phase 2 Protocol that was released by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association on May 25. The 21-page document is intended to provide players with a safe and controlled environment to resume their conditioning.

Phase 3, which would be the opening of training camps, will not start before July 10, the NHL has said. A date for Phase 4, which would be the start of the Qualifying Round and Seeding Round Robin leading into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, has not been determined.

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas said Wednesday teams have “no playbook” from the past to refer to entering Phase 2 because of the unique issues related to the pandemic in Canada, the United States and Europe.

“I agree with Kyle, we’re going into certainly something different,” Lamoriello said. “But what the League and the [NHLPA] have done is done as much preparation and as much research as possible and have consulted with the professionals, whether it be the infectious disease people, the medical people, the testing people.”

Dubas said about 13 Maple Leafs players remained in Toronto during the pandemic and four or five have returned to the city and are undergoing their 14-day quarantine. Lamoriello, who said the Islanders should have a better idea by Sunday how many of their players might take part, said that there is no pressure for anyone to participate if they have anxieties or concerns about coming back right away.

“We have approximately, I’d say, a third of the players in the area,” Lamoriello said. “But once again, it’s a very voluntary situation. I’ll be speaking to each and every one of them over the weekend. Everything has been satisfied for the players of what they had to do in preparation for it as far as the testing (for COVID-19).

“When they’re comfortable to come back, that’s when we’ll be ready for them. If they decide that it’s a little later, so be it.”

The decision when to open a facility will be made by the individual teams. The Islanders will start Phase 2 on Monday; the Washington Capitals, among others, haven’t announced when they will begin.

“I think the biggest challenge is going to be the limited amount that you’re able to stay at the rink or coaching and that kind of thing,” Capitals goalie Braden Holtby said. “That’s going to be something we’re going to have to play by ear. To be honest, I’m just kind of rolling with the punches right now. Whenever they tell me I can go on the ice, I’ll do the best to be safe and everything to get back on and go from there.”

NHL.com deputy managing editor Brian Compton and staff writers Tom Gulitti and Amalie Benjamin contributed to this report

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