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Wednesday
Oct092019

Penn State football coach blasts alumni letter that criticized player's hair

Allen Kee / ESPN Images(UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.) -- After a Penn State football player received a critical letter from a Nittany Lion alum, the team's coach denounced the remarks and took the opportunity to boast about the player's character as a student, athlete and person.

"Jonathan Sutherland is one of the most respected players in our program," Franklin said at his weekly news conference, according to ESPN. "He's the ultimate example of what our program is all about. He's a captain, he's a dean's list honor student, he's confident, he's articulate, he's intelligent, he's thoughtful, he's caring and he's committed."

Franklin continued, "He's got two of the most supportive parents, and I would be so blessed if my daughters would marry someone with his character and integrity one day."

Sutherland shared a photo on Twitter Tuesday of the letter he received from Dave Petersen, who critiqued his dreadlocks, appearance and demeanor.

In the letter, Petersen wrote, "Though the athletes of today are certainly superior to those in my days; we miss the clean cut young men and women from those days. Watching the Idaho game on TV we couldn't help but notice your -- well -- awful hair."

"Surely there must be mirrors in the locker room! Don't you have parents or [a] girlfriend who've told you those shoulder length dreadlocks look disgusting and are certainly not attractive," the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, resident wrote.

In the same tweet, Sutherland penned his own response to Petersen that took the high road and encouraged others to embrace what makes them different.

"Although the message was indeed rude, ignorant, and judging, I've taken no personal offense to it because personally, I must respect you as a person before I respect your opinion," the sophomore safety said. "At the end of the day without an apology needed, I forgive this individual because I'm nowhere close to being perfect and I expect God to forgive me for all the wrong I've done in my life."

Sutherland, 21, cited Colossians 3:13 -- "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone" -- to further point to forgiveness and thanked everyone who reached out to show him support.

"Let this be one of the many examples to us that in the year 2019, people of different cultures, religions and ethnicities are still being discriminated against and it needs to stop," he wrote.

One of Sutherland's teammates, C.J. Holmes, 21, shared a photo of the letter and said "these messages cannot be tolerated" calling it "extremely inappropriate, racially biased and selfish."

Since the national public attention and backlash to his letter, Petersen spoke with The Tribune-Democrat and said that a racist message "was not the intent at all."

"I would just like to see the coaches get the guys cleaned up and not looking like Florida State and Miami guys," he told the Tribune-Democrat.

He added that his letter, "wasn't threatening or anything. I was just disgruntled about some of the hairdos that we're seeing. You think of Penn State as a bunch of clean-cut guys. And you do see so many who are clean cut. But the tattoos and the hair -- there are a lot of guys with hair coming down their backs and it just looks awful. And it's the same for the NFL and NBA, too."

The university strongly condemned the letter's message in a reply on Twitter and a university spokesperson told ESPN that school officials stand behind their student-athletes.

"At Penn State we strive to create an atmosphere that promotes inclusivity and respect," the spokesperson said. "The well-being of students, faculty and staff members is the university's priority. As part of this, Penn State provides a range of assistance and resources for students and employees, and we encourage any community member who needs support to reach out."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct092019

Simone Biles carries US women's gymnastics team to record-tying fifth world championship

CristiNistor/iStock(NEW YORK) -- If you look up "fierce" in the dictionary, you're likely to find the U.S. women’s gymnastics team. Same goes for five-peat.

For the fifth consecutive time, the team came out on top at the world championships -- finishing almost six full points ahead of second-place Russia.

Despite some setbacks -- like 16-year-old Sunisa Lee’s fall off the balance beam and 16-year-old Grace McCallum’s pirouette error on the uneven bars -- Team USA was led to gold by 22-year-old Simone Biles.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist proved to still be unstoppable with her athleticism and skill.

Over the weekend, Biles stuck not one but two signature jaw-dropping moves: the double-double dismount on the balance beam and triple-double on the floor.

Both are performances that people are still buzzing about and that the International Gymnast Federation even found controversial for the added safety risk.

Nevertheless, the now most-decorated female gymnast in history will have one of the two moves named after her. She holds an astounding 15 world championship gold medals, and 21 world championship medals total.

The fifth consecutive world championship win ties a record set by Romania from 1994 to 2001.

Biles will defend her women’s individual all-around title on Thursday.

And the Tokyo Olympics are now just 10 months away.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Oct092019

Scoreboard roundup -- 10/8/19

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Tuesday's sports events:

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS

Tampa Bay 4, Houston 1

WOMEN'S NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION PLAYOFFS
Connecticut 90, Washington 86

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
Carolina 6, Florida 3
Dallas 4, Washington 3
Anaheim 3, Detroit 1
Nashville 5, San Jose 2
Los Angeles 4, Calgary 3
Boston 4, Vegas 3

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct082019

China hits NBA with broadcast blackout after Adam Silver discusses Hong Kong controversy

mphillips007/iStock(BEIJING) -- China's state-run broadcasting network ordered a blackout Tuesday of all NBA preseason games set to be played in the country in response to league commissioner Adam Silver voicing support for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's right to exercise his freedom of expression on the Hong Kong protests.

The apparent retaliatory move by China came in the aftermath of a controversy that erupted over a tweet by Morey last week supporting pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

"The long-held values of the NBA are to support freedom of expression, and in this case, Daryl Morey as general manager of the Houston Rockets enjoys that right," Silver said during a news conference in Japan, where the Rockets are scheduled to play two preseason games against the Los Angeles Lakers this week. "I understand there are consequences. We will protect our employees' freedom of speech."

Silver said that while he regrets that Morey's tweet upset the Chinese government and millions of NBA fans in that country, "we are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression."

In an earlier statement, Silver said, "It is inevitable that people around the world -- including from America and China -- will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences."

Shortly after Silver's comments, China's state-owned broadcasting network CCTV announced it is immediately suspending plans to broadcast a series of NBA preseason games scheduled to be played in China later this week as part of an effort to use basketball to bridge cultural differences between the United States and China.

"We have noticed that Adam Silver, the NBA president who is participating in the event in Japan, responded to the Houston Rockets general manager Morey's announcement of inappropriate Hong Kong-related remarks," CCTV officials said in a statement. "We [are] strongly dissatisfied and opposed [to] Adam's claim to support Morey's free expression of rights. We believe that any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech.

"To this end, CCTV Sports Channel of the Central Radio and Television General Administration decided to immediately suspend the current broadcast arrangements of the NBA preseason [China Games] and immediately investigate all cooperation and exchanges involving the NBA," the statement said.

The Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers are scheduled to play games this week in Shanghai and Shenzhen, China.

Morey took down a tweet with an image reading, "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong," within hours of posting it as caused an outcry from China.

"I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China," Morey said in a subsequent Twitter post. "I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives."

On Sunday, China's consulate general in Houston urged the Rockets to "clarify and immediately correct the mistakes" made by Morey.

Morey's tweet prompted an angry response from several Chinese companies that sponsor the Rockets, including sporting goods manufacturer Li-Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, which both announced they are suspending their relationships with the Rockets.

CCTV and internet giant Tencent -- who inked a five-year, $1.5 billion deal in August to stream NBA games in China -- both said they will not show Rockets games.

Former Rockets' star Yao Ming, the catalyst behind the team's enormous popularity in China and the current president of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), announced the CBA would be suspending its relationship with the Rockets.

"For those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business," Silver said in his statement Tuesday.

American basketball has a long history in China, dating back to the 1800s when the game was introduced to the country through the YMCA. The NBA is the No. 1 sports league in China and big business for the league with at least 25 marketing partnerships and 200 NBA stores.

The Nets majority owner, Joe Tsai, the co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, posted an open letter to NBA fans on Facebook on Sunday expressing his views on the controversy. Tsai wrote that Morey should have understood he was broaching a "third-rail issue" in China with his tweet, but conceded that the NBA executive has a right to "freely express" his opinion.

"The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable," Tsai wrote.

During his news conference, Silver expressed support for Tsai's "right to respond" to Morey's "right to freedom of expression."

"I can tell you, at least speaking for the United States, I think there's far more understanding of the complexity of the issues in Hong Kong than there was heretofore," Silver said. "Sports often serves that purpose that takes people who might not otherwise pay attention to issues in society and ... shines a light on them."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct082019

NBA commissioner weighs in on China, Hong Kong controversy 

Scott Evans / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) -- NBA commissioner Adam Silver has voiced his support for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, whose pro-Hong Kong tweet set off a firestorm of debate.

At a press conference in Japan Tuesday, Silver said the NBA will protect its employees’ freedom of speech.

“The long-held values of the NBA are to support freedom of expression and certainly freedom of expression by members of the NBA community,” the commissioner said.

Overnight, Silver also released a statement:

I recognize our initial statement left people angered, confused or unclear on who we are or what the NBA stands for. Let me be more clear.

Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China.  We have seen how basketball can be an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties between the United States and China.

At the same time, we recognize that our two countries have different political systems and beliefs.  And like many global brands, we bring our business to places with different political systems around the world.

But for those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.

Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA -- and will continue to do so.  As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.

In fact, one of the enduring strengths of the NBA is our diversity -- of views, backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and religions.  Twenty-five percent of NBA players were born outside of the United States and our colleagues work in league offices around the world, including in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei.

With that diversity comes the belief that whatever our differences, we respect and value each other; and, what we have in common, including a belief in the power of sports to make a difference, remains our bedrock principle.

It is inevitable that people around the world -- including from America and China -- will have different viewpoints over different issues.  It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.

However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues.  We simply could not operate that way.

Basketball runs deep in the hearts and minds of our two peoples.  At a time when divides between nations grow deeper and wider, we believe sports can be a unifying force that focuses on what we have in common as human beings rather than our differences.

The backlash began when Morey tweeted an image that read "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” last week, supporting pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. Morey deleted the tweet but it prompted Chinese state television and internet giant Tencent -- who inked a five-year, $1.5 billion deal in August to stream NBA games in China -- to announce they will not show Rockets games.

Furthermore, former Rockets star Yao Ming announced that the Chinese Basketball Association, which he is president of, is suspending its relationship with the Rockets.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct082019

High school football player's 1-handed catch goes viral

33ft/iStock(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) -- This high school football player just pulled off a pro move that would make Odell Beckham Jr. jealous.

Craig Richardson Jr. from North East High School in St. Petersburg, Florida, pulled off an impressive outstretched one-handed catch during a home game against Dundein on Friday.

His older brother Keith Harrington, who currently plays college football for Washington State University, filmed the play and shared the video on Twitter with the caption, "I swear my lil brother might be the best player in high school football."

Since he posted it, the video has been viewed over 31,000 times and retweeted by athletic film site Hudl and House of Highlights.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct082019

Is Simone Biles’ new beam dismount too risky for others?

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- It was no surprise when Simone Biles landed two new historic gymnastics moves at the 2019 Gymnastics World Championship in Stuttgart, Germany, both of which are set to be named after her.

Biles, who already has two other skills named after her on the vault and floor apparatus, will now add two more to the list: the double-double dismount on the balance beam and triple-double on floor.

"Both elements are set to be named after her in the FIG Code of Points following official review," the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) said in a press release.

The historic triple-double on floor, which is a double salto backward tucked with 3/1 twist, and the double-double dismount, a double salto backwards tucks with 2/1 twist, are both unprecedented in the sport.

But before competition even began, controversy ensued when FIG announced that Biles' beam dismount would be valued as an "H," when it had been widely expected that a skill of such difficulty would be valued higher, as an "I" or a "J."

In gymnastics each skill corresponds to a letter which has a numerical value. For example an "A" is worth a tenth of a point. Each letter thereafter is worth an additional tenth. Had Biles’ beam dismount been awarded a "J," that skill would have been valued as a full point.

When questioned why FIG decided to give the dismount what was considered to be a lower value, the federation released a statement, essentially calling the skill a safety risk for other gymnasts to try.

"In assigning values to the new elements, the WTC takes into consideration many different aspects; the risk, the safety of the gymnasts and the technical direction of the discipline," the statement read.

"There is added risk in landing of double saltos for Beam dismounts (with/without twists), including a potential landing on the neck. Reinforcing, there are many examples in the Code where decisions have been made to protect the gymnasts and preserve the direction of the discipline," the statement continued. "The WTC’s task is to ensure the safety of all athletes around the world and decisions are not based purely on one gymnast."

The backlash from Biles' camp after FIG’s value was announced was swift, with Biles tweeting out that the ruling was "bulls--t." Her coach, Cecile Landi, tweeted the decision was "#totalbs."

"If it were [a gymnast from] another country trying it, it would definitely be a J. But because it’s me, it’s so unfair, because, am I in a league of my own? Yes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t credit me for what I’m doing," Biles said in an interview with NBC Sports. "They keep asking us to do more difficulty and to give more artistry, give more harder skills. So we do, and then they don’t credit it, and I don’t think that’s fair. They keep asking for more, we give them more and they don’t credit it. So what’s the point of even asking? If you’re going to give it an H, nobody’s going to try it. But if you give it a J, not saying people will try it more, but at least it makes sense to try it because it’s something to shoot for."

USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body, also released a statement on Biles’ dismount, saying, "USA Gymnastics respectfully disagrees with the value assigned to the balance beam dismount."

Regardless of the value of the dismount, Biles is consistently beating out every other gymnast in the world by points, not tenths.

Team USA competes in the team finals on Tuesday and individual all-around finals -- where Biles is a massive favorite -- are on Thursday.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Oct082019

Scoreboard roundup -- 10/7/19

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Monday's sports events:

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFFS

Tampa Bay 10, Houston 3
NY Yankees 5, Minnesota 1

NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
St. Louis 5, Atlanta 4 -- 10 Innings
Washington 6, LA Dodgers 1

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
San Francisco 31, Cleveland 3

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
Columbus 4, Buffalo 3
St. Louis 3, Toronto 2

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct072019

Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey ignites firestorm with tweet backing Hong Kong protests

LewisTsePuiLung/iStock(HOUSTON) -- Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's tweet supporting pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong was up for less than a day before he erased it, but it set off a firestorm that one NBA owner said could take years for Morey and his team to rebound from.

Following Morey's Twitter post, the Rockets went from most beloved NBA team in China to most despised, and the backlash left Morey, Rockets' ownership, players and NBA brass scrambling to repair the damage.

The international backlash also prompted criticism from U.S. politicians, including two Democratic presidential candidates, who slammed the NBA as hypocritical and more concerned about its bottom line than with free speech and human rights.

On Friday, Morey tweeted an image that read, "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."

The message was in response to the anti-government protests that have erupted in the semi-autonomous territory of China over the last four months and have become increasingly violent with police clubbing demonstrators and shooting two teenage protesters last week.

"I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China," Morey tweeted Monday from Japan, where the Rockets are scheduled to play two pre-season games against the Los Angeles Lakers this week.

x

"I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event," Morey added. "I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives."

One of those other perspectives came from Morey's boss, Rockets' owner Tilman Fertitta, who took to Twitter on Friday night writing that Morey "does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets."

"Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization," Fertitta wrote.

x

Mike Bass, the NBA's chief communications officer, released a statement saying that while the NBA encourages individuals to share "views on matters important to them," the league recognized that Morey's tweet "deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable."

"We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together," Bass said.

The fallout from Morey's tweet was swift and widespread in China, where the country is set to host two preseason games between the Brooklyn Nets and the Lakers later this week in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

On Sunday, China's consulate general in Houston urged the Rockets to "clarify and immediately correct the mistakes" made by Morey.

Morey's tweet prompted an angry response from several Chinese companies that sponsor the Rockets, including sporting goods manufacturers Li-Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, which both announced they are suspending their relationship with the Rockets.

Chinese state television and internet giant Tencent -- who inked a five-year, $1.5 billion deal in August to stream NBA games in China -- both said they will not show Rockets games.

Perhaps the biggest blowback came from former Rockets' star Yao Ming, the catalyst behind the team's enormous popularity in China. Ming announced that the Chinese Basketball Association, which he is president of, is suspending its relationship with the Rockets.

Even current Rockets players were put in the awkward position of attempting to distance themselves from Morey's tweet.

"We apologize. You know, we love China, we love playing there," James Harden, a seven-time All-Star player for the Rockets, said on Monday during the team's practice in Japan as he stood next to new teammate Russell Westbrook. "For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love. We appreciate them as a fan base. We love everything there about them and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as an organization."

Brooklyn Nets majority owner Joe Tsai, the co-founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, posted an open letter to NBA fans on Facebook, calling Morey's Twitter comment a "third-rail issue" that will take years to repair.

"When I bought controlling interest in the Brooklyn Nets in September, I didn't expect my first public communication with our fans would be to comment on something as politically charged and grossly misunderstood as the way hundreds of millions of Chinese NBA fans feel about what just happened," Tsai wrote.

He went on to write, "The one thing that is terribly misunderstood, and often ignored, by the western press and those critical of China is that 1.4 billion Chinese citizens stand united when it comes to the territorial integrity of China and the country’s sovereignty over her homeland. This issue is non-negotiable."

Still, several American politicians, both Republican and Democrat, defended Morey's freedom of expression.

"As a lifelong @HoustonRockets fan, I was proud to see @dmorey call out the Chinese Communist Party's repressive treatment of protestors in Hong Kong," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, wrote on Twitter Sunday night. "Now, in pursuit of big $$, the @nba is shamefully retreating."

Julian Castro, a Democrat from Texas running for president, also spoke out on Twitter in support of Morey.

"China is using its economic power to silence critics—even those in the U.S.," Castro tweeted. "The United States must lead with our values and speak out for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, and not allow American citizens to be bullied by an authoritarian government.

Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rouke, another Democratic candidate for president, echoed Castro's sentiment, writing on Twitter, "The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights. What an embarrassment."

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Oct072019

Broken ankle ends season for Colts' Kemoko Turay

Allen Kee / ESPN Image(INDIANAPOLIS) -- For Colts defensive end Kemoko Turay, the NFL season has come to an early end. Turay suffered a broken ankle during the second half of Sunday's win over Kansas City, a source told ESPN.

Late in the fourth quarter, Turay injured his ankle while in pursuit of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, according to ESPN. His teammates showed their support by taking a knee as a cart removed Turay from the field.

Turay, who has often served in backup roles and on special teams, has worked extensively with Justin Houston and former Colts defensive end Robert Mathis, ESPN reports.  Last week he talked about "one of the best things" Houston had taught him -- to "keep studying."

"Study the opponent. Put it on film that you play both sides and then you're giving O-linemen more to study instead of just one thing to study. You're playing chess with them," he said of Houston's advice.

Turay is ending his second season with 1.5 sacks.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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