Canucks say 25 players and coaches have tested positive
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Vancouver Canucks said 25 players and coaches have tested positive in a COVID-19 outbreak involving a variant of the virus.
The team said Wednesday that 21 players, including three from the taxi squad, and four members of the coaching staff have tested positive, and one other player is considered a close contact.
“This is a stark reminder of how quickly the virus can spread and its serious impact, even among healthy, young athletes,” the team said in a statement.
All players and staff are in quarantine, and 19 of the 22 players on Vancouver’s active roster were listed on the NHL’s COVID protocol list Wednesday.
The Canucks say the team has confirmed that a variant is involved in the outbreak, and full genome sequencing is being conducted by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control to determine which specific variant.
Arizona parts ways with Sean Miller amid NCAA investigation
Arizona had stuck by men’s basketball coach Sean Miller through an NCAA infractions investigation that stretched nearly four years.
When the school didn’t extend his contract beyond next season, it became clear a decision would need to be made.
The wait came to an end Wednesday when the school announced Miller was leaving after 12 seasons and associate head coach Jack Murphy will serve as interim head coach.
“We appreciate Sean’s commitment to our basketball program and to the university,” Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke said in a statement. “After taking the many factors involved into account, we simply believe that we need a fresh start and now is the time. I want to thank Sean, Amy and their sons for their service to the university and wish them the very best in the future.”
Miller and the Wildcats have been in the NCAA’s crosshairs since being ensnared in a 2017 FBI investigation into shady recruiting practices.
The NCAA issued a Notice of Allegations last year and the case is currently going through the Independent Accountability Resolution Process. Arizona issued a self-imposed postseason ban this year and finished 17-9, 11-9 in the Pac-12.
Miller became the third Wildcats coach to reach 300 wins with the program and went 302-109 in 12 seasons. Arizona reached the Elite Eight three times, won five Pac-12 regular-season titles and three Pac-12 Tournament titles under Miller.
Nike suspends sponsorship of Deshaun Watson amid allegations
Nike has suspended its endorsement contract with Deshaun Watson amid allegations of sexual assault and harassment against the Houston Texans quarterback.
“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and have suspended Deshaun Watson,” Nike said in a statement released Wednesday. “We will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
Watson has been accused of sexual assault or harassment in lawsuits filed by 22 women. One of those women, Ashley Solis, said Tuesday during a news conference that she was assaulted and traumatized when she tried to give Watson a massage in March 2020.
The Associated Press usually does not name victims of sexual assault, but Solis has chosen to publicly identify herself.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, has called the allegations “meritless” and questioned the claims against Watson, alleging they were made following a failed attempt to blackmail his client.
The Houston Police Department said last week it was investigating Watson after someone had filed a report with the agency about Watson. Tony Buzbee, who represents the 22 women, said it was not Solis but another of his clients who filed the first report with police.
Mets-Nats series rescheduled for June 19, June 28, Sept. 4
WASHINGTON — The postponed season-opening series between the Washington Nationals and New York Mets was rescheduled Wednesday, with two of the games moved to June and the other to September.
A coronavirus outbreak on the Nationals prompted Major League Baseball to scrap the games originally slated to be played in Washington on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday of last week.
Instead, MLB announced Wednesday, one game will be part of a split doubleheader at 1:05 p.m. and 6:05 p.m. on June 19; another will be at 7:05 p.m. on June 28, which had been an off day for both teams; and the last will be Sept. 4 as part of a doubleheader at 1:05 p.m. and 6:05 p.m.
Alabama’s Smith headlines players attending NFL draft
Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith of Alabama is scheduled to appear in person in Cleveland at the NFL draft later this month.
Smith, the wide receiver projected to be a high first-round pick, is among a group of players who have accepted their invitations to attend the draft.
The NFL announced last month that some of the top prospects were being invited to Cleveland. The league is hoping to incorporate some of the city’s best-known locations along Lake Erie: FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Browns; and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
The draft will be held April 29 to May 1.
Last year’s draft was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic as Commissioner Roger Goodell hosted the 2020 event from his New York-area home, but he will be in attendance this time in Ohio.
Smith won’t be the only member of the national champions in attendance. Quarterback Mac Jones, defensive lineman Christian Barmore and cornerback Patrick Surtain II will be there as well.
Bengals show another veteran the door, release RB Bernard
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals continued to part with veterans when they released running back Giovani Bernard on Wednesday.
Bernard, a fan favorite who had a year left on a two-year contract that would have paid him $4.1 million in 2021, played his entire eight-year NFL career in Cincinnati and established himself as a reliable blocking back and receiver. The 29-year-old Bernard became a starter for the last 10 games of 2020 after Joe Mixon suffered a foot injury.
A 2013 second-round draft pick by the Bengals, he played in 115 games with 30 starts, rushing for 3,697 yards and 22 touchdowns. His 342 receptions are the most by a running back in Bengals history, and his 2,867 receiving yards are the second most.
The Bengals had already traded defensive end Carlos Dunlap in midseason last year and released defensive tackle Geno Atkins last month. Both had been with the Bengals for 11 seasons. Receiver A.J. Green, who’d spent his entire 10-year career with the team, signed with Arizona as a free agent.
Mariners’ Paxton leaves after 24 pitches due to elbow injury
SEATTLE — Left-hander James Paxton exited the first start of his second stint with Seattle due to a forearm strain in his pitching arm after throwing just 24 pitches against the White Sox on Tuesday night.
The Mariners initially said Paxton had elbow discomfort but after the 10-4 loss to Chicago both manager Scott Servais and Paxton described it as a forearm injury.
Paxton, who remained in the dugout to watch after he left the mound, will undergo an MRI on Wednesday.
“It’s just frustrating. I feel like for me it’s kind of been one thing after another,” Paxton said. “I work really hard and doing everything I can to be out there and I’ll continue to do so. And hopefully I can catch a break and stay healthy.”
Paxton grimaced after throwing a 92 mph fastball to Chicago’s Andrew Vaughn with one out in the second inning. Mariners manager Scott Servais and a trainer immediately came to the mound while Paxton bent over with his hands on his knees. After some discussion, Paxton walked off and was replaced by Nick Margevicius.
Blue Jays GM Atkins gets 5-year contract extension
TORONTO — Toronto general manager Ross Atkins has agreed to a five-year contract extension through the 2026 season.
Ross’ deal was announced Wednesday. The Blue Jays hired him in December 2015 after 15 seasons in the front office with the Cleveland Indians.
Olympic gold: Clemson men’s track tries to save its program
Middle-distance runner Kameron Jones’ lasting mark on the Clemson track and field program may not have anything to do with the times he turns in or the medals he brings home.
It will be a win, for sure — just not on the track but through lobbying efforts or, possibly, should it come to that, the legal system.
Jones has a gold-medal mindset when it comes to saving the men’s track and field program — along with cross country — from being cut by the school for budgetary reasons.
The graduate transfer and his teammates were informed in November that a program sponsored more than 67 years ago — and has produced 22 Olympians and 16 NCAA individual champions — would be shuttered after this spring season. They’ve lobbied, petitioned, marched and hired outside counsel in an effort to be heard.
Clemson’s men’s track and cross country teams are part of the at least 85 Division I sports programs to be shuttered since the coronavirus pandemic started a year ago because of financial strains. Olympic and college-sports leaders fear it will only continue as changes in the college system take hold. Congress and the NCAA are considering allowing athletes to benefit from their name, image and likeness (NIL). There are also proposals in Congress that would allow schools to pay players beyond the scholarship and stipends they already receive.
At stake is an Olympic feeder system that props up Team USA. Nearly 80% of U.S. athletes at the Rio Games came from an American college program.
Virus pandemic slows renovations to Superdome in New Orleans
BATON ROUGE, La. — Plans for $450 million in upgrades to New Orleans’ iconic Superdome have been disrupted because of financial troubles caused by the pandemic, the stadium’s manager told state lawmakers during a budget hearing Wednesday.
The coronavirus outbreak temporarily ended concerts, monster truck shows and many other events at the domed stadium and the neighboring arena. Local hotel tax collections that help fund the facilities’ management district plummeted as the virus obliterated tourist travel. Crowds at the Superdome weren’t allowed or were greatly limited for New Orleans Saints’ games in the 2020 football season.
In response, ASM Global — the company that oversees the Superdome, arena and other facilities in the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District — slowed the stadium improvements and may not complete the full project plans as originally envisioned.
Former Florida State star charged in double shooting
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former Florida State star football player Travis Rudolph was arrested early Wednesday morning in South Florida for a shooting that left one man dead and another wounded, authorities said.
Rudolph, 25, was charged with first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder, according to a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office news release.
Deputies responded shortly after midnight to a double shooting in the Lake Park area, officials said. One man was transported to a local hospital for treatment, while the other was found dead a short distance to the south in West Palm Beach, authorities said.
Investigators identified Rudolph as a suspect in the shooting and arrested him a short time later. Officials didn’t say what led to the shooting or why Rudolph was a suspect.
Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver in 2015 and 2016 and left the team early to enter the NFL draft in 2017. He went undrafted but eventually signed with the New York Giants and then the Miami Dolphins. He also spent time with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. The team released him Wednesday.
Rudolph gained national attention in 2016 when a video of him eating lunch with an autistic student during a team visit at a Tallahassee middle school went viral. Rudolph’s father died a year later after a gun accidentally discharged at a West Palm Beach strip club.
Springer has another issue while awaiting Blue Jays debut
ARLINGTON, Texas — George Springer is now dealing with another issue while waiting to make his debut with the Toronto Blue Jays, after starting the season on the injured list with a strained left oblique muscle.
Springer was on track to play Thursday for the Blue Jays in their first home game before feeling tightness in his right quad while running the bases.
Manager Charlie Montoyo said before Wednesday’s series finale at Texas that Springer ran the bases after taking live batting practice before Tuesday’s game. Montoyo said there were no issues with the oblique.
The 2017 World Series MVP with Houston signed a $150 million, six-year contract during the offseason.
Montoyo said the Blue Jays were still gathering information on Springer’s quad and waiting for the results of an MRI exam. He didn’t know the severity of the additional soft-tissue issue.
Blue Jackets’ Jenner out for the season after finger surgery
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets center Boone Jenner had surgery Wednesday for a broken finger and is expected to miss the rest of the season.
Jenner was hit in the hand with a hard shot from teammate Patrik Laine in the third period of Tuesday night’s win over Tampa Bay. He’ll be sidelined about six weeks, the team said.
The 27-year-old veteran has eight goals and nine assists, while playing in all 41 games for the Blue Jackets this season.
Titans hire Jim Schwartz as senior defensive assistant
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans have hired veteran defensive coordinator and former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz as a senior defensive assistant.
The Titans announced the move Wednesday.
“He has a deep level of football knowledge and has overseen a great deal of success on the defensive side of the ball, so it always good to add a quality coach to our staff,” coach Mike Vrabel said. “This role will provide our defensive staff with Jim’s experience and perspective in the staff meetings and on the practice field.”
Vrabel announced in late January that Shane Bowen, who ran the defense last season without the title, as the Titans’ defensive coordinator. The Titans were last in the NFL allowing teams to convert 51.8% of third downs and 28th giving up 398.3 yards a game.
Schwartz has been defensive coordinator for 14 NFL seasons, the last five with Philadelphia. The Eagles ranked third in the NFL last season with 49 sacks, a category the Titans ranked ahead of only Jacksonville and Cincinnati in last season. The Eagles ranked seventh in sacks through his five seasons.
Schwartz was on the Philadelphia staff that won the 2017 NFL championship.
Solid Chelsea beats Porto 2-0 in 1st leg of CL quarterfinals
SEVILLE, Spain — Solid defensively and precise in attack, Chelsea took a big step toward returning to the last four of the Champions League by defeating Porto 2-0 in the first leg of the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell scored their first Champions League goals to give Chelsea a great chance of making it to the semifinals for the first time in seven years.
Mount scored after a nice turn past a defender at the edge of the area in the 32nd minute and Chilwell added the second following a blunder by Porto’s Jesús Corona in the 85th. The goals came off the only three attempts on target by Chelsea in Seville, where the game was played because of travel restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Mbappé stars as PSG beats Bayern 3-2 in CL quarterfinal
MUNICH — Kylian Mbappé scored twice to lead Paris Saint-Germain to a 3-2 win at defending champion Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Mbappé was a constant threat while Neymar had two assists as the French champion responded to its 1-0 loss to Bayern in last year’s final by seizing the advantage going into the second leg in Paris next week.
Marquinhos scored the other goal as the visitors went 2-0 up inside the first half hour, but the PSG captain went off injured shortly afterward and Bayern responded through headers from Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Thomas Müller.
Mbappé sealed the win with his eight goal of the competition in the 68th. The visitors had four shots on target altogether.
“I think it was efficiency. We managed to score with almost all of our opportunities, and we managed to defend well as a team, even if it’s difficult against Bayern Munich,” Mbappé said. “But there’s a second round at home and we’ll have to win again if we want to qualify for the semifinals.”
Bayern had 31 efforts at goal and clearly missed Robert Lewandowski’s accuracy. The Poland star is the Bundesliga’s top scorer with 35 goals in 25 appearances, but he returned from the international break with a knee injury. Bayern was also without forward Serge Gnabry because of a positive COVID-19 test.
Bremen beats Regensburg for German Cup semifinal vs. Leipzig
REGENSBURG, Germany — Yuya Osako’s second-half goal was enough for Werder Bremen to reach the German Cup semifinals with a 1-0 win over second-division Regensburg on Wednesday.
The Japan forward controlled Marco Friedl’s pass from midfield on his chest and turned to shoot inside the left post in the 52nd minute.
The teams’ quarterfinal was supposed to be played on March 2, but it was postponed due to COVID-19 infections among several Regensburg players a couple of days after coach Mersad Selimbegovic was diagnosed with what the club said was the “highly contagious British mutation of the coronavirus.”
The opening minutes of the second half had more goal-mouth action than the entire first half. Osako then missed a chance to make it 2-0 in the 67th, when Regensburg ’keeper Alexander Meyer blocked his shot out for a corner.
Bremen had to clear off the line as the home side made a late surge for an equalizer, but the Bundesliga team held on to set up a meeting with Leipzig on April 30.
Inter beats Sassuolo 2-1 to go 11 points clear atop Serie A
MILAN — Romelu Lukaku scored one goal and set up another as Inter Milan moved a step closer to its first Serie A title in more than a decade with a 2-1 win over Sassuolo on Wednesday.
Lukaku headed in the opener in the 10th minute and provided the assist for Lautaro Martínez in the 67th as Inter moved 11 points clear of second-place AC Milan with its 10th successive victory.
It was Lukaku’s 21st league goal of the season but he remained four behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the scoring charts as the Juventus forward also netted in his side’s 2-1 win over Napoli in another rearranged match.
Juventus moved into third. The nine-time defending champion is 12 points behind Inter, which hasn’t won the league title since 2010.
The match between Inter and Sassuolo was meant to be played just before the international break but was postponed following a coronavirus outbreak in the Nerazzurri camp.
Inter took an early lead when Ashley Young whipped in a cross from the left for Lukaku’s flicked header into the far corner. It was the Inter forward’s first headed goal this season.
Sassuolo dominated possession as Inter focused on defending and attempting to score on the counter.
Top-ranked Barty cruises in 1st clay event since 2019
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty easily won her first clay-court match in two years, cruising past Japan’s Misaki Doi 6-2, 6-1 on Wednesday in the WTA’s Volvo Car Open.
Barty, fresh off a championship run at the Miami Open the past two weeks, had little trouble moving from hard courts to clay. She won 10 of the last 11 games in her first match on the slower surface since winning the 2019 French Open.
“There was an adjustment period, without a doubt,” Barty said. “It was a very quick turnaround from Miami, just had a couple of hours of practice. I was, honestly, just hoping I didn’t trip and fall over trying to slide. But it came back quite naturally. So really happy to be back her, particularly in Charleston, but back on clay.”
Not all the high seeds made the transition as smoothly as the top-seeded Australian. Second-seeded American Sofia Kenin fell to Lauren Davis of the United States in three sets, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Kenin, ranked fourth in the world and a former Australian Open champion, was tied in the final set before several errors cost her the match. Kenin put two shots long in the final game to send Davis into the next round.
Fritz, Struff reach Sardegna Open quarterfinals
CAGLIARI, Sardinia — Second-seeded Taylor Fritz of the United States beat Andrej Martin 6-2, 7-6 (4) on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals of the Sardegna Open.
Fritz will next face Aljaz Bedene after the Slovenian overcame Egor Gerasimov of Belarus 6-4, 7-6 (5).
Fifth-seeded Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany eased past British qualifier Liam Broady 6-4, 6-2 to book a quarterfinal against Nikoloz Basilashvili.
The fourth-seeded Basilashvili had to save five match points before eventually securing a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Slovakian qualifier Jozef Kovalik.
The ATP 250 tournament at the Cagliari Tennis Club was inserted into the calendar with a one-year license, following a similar event at Forte Village in October.
Golf’s French Open postponed
Golf’s European Tour says the French Open has been postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions the government announced last week. The tour says it will work with the French golf federation to try to reschedule it.
The French Open was scheduled for May 6-9 at Le Golf National, which hosted the 2018 Ryder Cup.
The tour said given the travel of players, caddie and TV production personnel coming from an average of 25 countries, it was best to postpone.
The tour said it would try to fill what is now a vacant spot on the schedule.
LPGA event in Asia canceled
The LPGA Tour says the final event of its three-tournament Asia swing has been canceled. The Blue Bay LPGA on Hainan Island in China was scheduled for May 13-16, following tournaments in Singapore and Thailand.
The LPGA said the the cancellation was due to current health concerns and travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the decision was guided by the China Golf Association, which oversees all golf events in China.
It is expected to return to the schedule in 2022.
Senate approves ban on Native American mascots at schools
OLYMPIA, Wash. — The Washington Senate has approved a measure to ban the use of Native American names, symbols and images as school mascots, logos and team names at most public schools in Washington.
The bill passed the Democratic-led chamber on a bipartisan 40-9 vote Tuesday night and now heads back to the House — which passed the measure in February — for a final vote. The House will need to concur with a change made by a Senate committee that added a grant program to help support schools that incur costs related to the proposed change.
Once the House concurs and the measure is signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, the ban would take effect Jan. 1. Under the measure, school districts would have some time to phase out the mascot, team name or logo, but they would be required to select a new mascot by Dec. 31 to take effect by the end of the 2021-22 school year.
Keon Johnson is 2nd Vols player to declare for NBA draft
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee freshman guard Keon Johnson says he’s declaring for the NBA draft and will sign with an agent, becoming the Vols’ second freshman to leave after one season.
Johnson announced his decision Wednesday on social media, saying he has been thinking, praying and consulting with family and coaches since Tennessee’s season ended in a first-round loss to Oregon State in the NCAA Tournament.
Pessina is 8th player to contract COVID-19 after Italy duty
BERGAMO, Italy — Atalanta midfielder Matteo Pessina has become the eighth Italy player to test positive for the coronavirus since returning from international duty.
Atalanta said Wednesday that Pessina had contracted the virus but was asymptomatic and already in isolation.
The Italian soccer federation announced last week that four members of the Azzurri staff had tested positive for COVID-19.
A day later, Juventus announced that defender Leonardo Bonucci had tested positive after returning from World Cup qualifying matches. Italy players Federico Bernardeschi, Alessandro Florenzi, Marco Verratti, Salvatore Sirigu, Vincenzo Grifo and Alessio Cragno have all since tested positive.
UEFA gets assurances on fans in stadiums but not from Dublin
European Championship organizers received assurances from Spain, Scotland and the Netherlands on Wednesday about plans to allow fans into stadiums in June as coronavirus restrictions are eased.
Irish authorities, though, remain unable to offer the same guarantees to UEFA about the return of spectators, leaving Dublin at risk of being cut from the 12-city tournament hosting across Europe.
England is one of the countries being considered to relocate the four matches that were due to be staged in in Dublin. But with Wembley already the location for seven games across a month, including the semifinals and final, another stadium in the country would be required.
Group E’s fixtures are split between Dublin and Bilbao and Spain had also been at risk of losing games. But authorities in Bilbao have now told UEFA that it will guarantee the 53,000-capacity San Mamés can have up to a quarter of seats filled.
A similar number of fans should be at games in Amsterdam, with the Dutch football federation saying authorities want to allow at least 12,000 spectators who have presented a negative COVID-19 test result into the Johan Cruyff Arena.