$790M settlement in lawsuit over Rams’ St. Louis departure

ST. LOUIS — The NFL and Rams owner Stan Kroenke will pay $790 million to settle a lawsuit filed by St. Louis interests over the team’s relocation to Los Angeles, a joint statement from St. Louis city and county said Wednesday.

No details of the settlement were released, and it wasn’t immediately clear how much would be paid by Kroenke and how much would be covered by owners of the league’s 31 other teams.

“This historic agreement closes a long chapter for our region, securing hundreds of millions of dollars for our communities while avoiding the uncertainty of the trial and appellate process,” read a statement from St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis County Executive Sam Page.

St. Louis-area officials haven’t determined yet how the settlement funds will be used, the statement said.

An NFL spokesman, in a brief statement, said the league and the St. Louis interests “have been able to fully resolve the dispute.”

The settlement, reached in mediation, ends a 4 1/2-year-old lawsuit filed in the wake of the Rams’ 2016 departure. Kroenke and the NFL had failed in bids to have the lawsuit dismissed or at least moved out of St. Louis, and courts were sympathetic to the St. Louis side’s effort to disclose financial information of team owners — rulings that hastened the push for a settlement.

Bob Bradley to coach Toronto after leaving Los Angeles

TORONTO — Bob Bradley was hired Wednesday as Toronto FC’s head coach and sporting director, six days after he left as coach of Los Angeles FC.

Bradley, 63, is the father of Toronto captain Michael Bradley.

Toronto fired coach Chris Armas in July after one win, eight losses and two draws. Javier Perez took over as interim coach, and the team finished 13th among 14 teams in the Eastern Conference this year, winning six, losing 18 and drawing 10.

General manager Ali Curtis’ departure was announced Monday.

Bradley is the second-winningest coach in MLS history. He had 58 wins, 34 losses and 32 draws in Los Angeles’ first four seasons.

He has an MLS record of 182 wins, 127 losses and 86 draws, third in victories behind Bruce Arena and Sigi Schmid.

After coaching the Chicago Fire and MetroStars, Bradley led the U.S. from 2006-11, Egypt (2011-13), Norway’s Stabaek (2014-16), France’s Le Havre (2015–16), the English Premier League’s Swansea (2016) and Los Angeles.

Frozen fields: Columbus, St Paul host next 2 US qualifiers

CHICAGO — The United States figures to be playing its next three World Cup qualifiers in frigid weather.

The Americans said Wednesday they will return to Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio, for their World Cup qualifier against El Salvador on Jan. 27 and will host Honduras on Feb. 2 in the first qualifier at Allianz Field in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Canada is expected to locate its Jan. 30 qualifier against the U.S. at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario, a decision that caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to opt for cold-weather venues for all three matches in the January window.

Honduras will be traveling to Minnesota from a home game three days earlier against El Salvador.

January highs in Columbus average 53 degrees Fahrenheit (12 Celsius) and lows average 35 degrees (2), while the average Feb. 2 high in the Twin Cities is 25 (minus-4) and the average low is 9 (minus-13).

Andre Johnson, Steve Smith among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Seven first-time eligible former players, including wide receivers Andre Johnson, Steve Smith and Anquan Boldin, are among 26 modern day semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2022.

Joining them as candidates for induction next year are outstanding kick returner Devin Hester; pass-rushing standouts Robert Mathis and DeMarcus Ware; and run-stuffing defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. Each last played in the 2016 season.

Other semifinalists include 17 former players who made it that far this year, plus running backs Eddie George, who retired following the 2004 season, and Ricky Watters, who retired in 2001, and made the list for a second time.

Repeaters from the ‘21 semifinals are cornerback Eric Allen, defensive end Jared Allen, offensive tackle Willie Anderson, CB Ronde Barber, OT Tony Boselli, safety LeRoy Butler, receiver Torry Holt, linebacker Sam Mills, DT Richard Seymour, WR-special teamer Steve Tasker, running back Fred Taylor, LB Zach Thomas, WRs Hines Ward and Reggie Wayne, LB Patrick Willis, S Darren Woodson, and DT Bryant Young.

Repeat finalists from 2021 who were not elected for that class include Barber, Boselli, Butler, Holt, Wayne, Jared Allen, Seymour, Thomas and Mills.

Titans place backup QB on COVID-19 list before visiting Pats

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans have placed backup quarterback Logan Woodside on the reserve/COVID-19 list, their second player put on that list in three days.

The Titans also put linebacker Joe Jones on the COVID-19 reserve list Monday.

This leaves starter Ryan Tannehill as the only quarterback on the roster as the Titans (8-3) prepare to visit New England (7-4) on Sunday. Woodside, who has not been seen wearing a mask, could test negative twice over 48 hours to be cleared before kickoff if vaccinated.

Kevin Hogan is on Tennessee’s practice squad and would be promoted to the active roster Saturday if Woodside doesn’t clear the COVID-19 protocols. Hogan walked out to practice Wednesday wearing a mask.

Vikings praise police for peaceful ending to Griffen crisis

EAGAN, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings said defensive end Everson Griffen emerged from his home without incident and was receiving care for his mental health after he called 911 fearing an intruder and spent most of Wednesday refusing to leave while law enforcement and team representatives tried to diffuse the situation.

The Vikings sent psychologists to Griffen’s house to work with police on guiding him through another alarming mental health situation. The team released a statement in the afternoon, about 12 hours after Griffen’s initial 911 call, confirming they’d been notified by authorities that the situation “ended peacefully” with Griffen coming out.

The Vikings cited the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, the Carver County Sheriff’s Office, the Minnetrista Police Department and the Orono Police Department for their “quick response and dedication” to ensuring Griffen stayed safe.

“Our focus remains on Everson’s health and safety and providing the proper resources for him and his family,” the Vikings said.

Griffen, who took a leave from the team in 2018 for mental health treatment, had posted on Instagram screenshots of middle-of-the-night text messages to his agent, Brian Murphy, that were pleas for help because he said people were trying to kill him. Griffen also posted a video depicting him with a gun that he said was purchased legally. Those posts have since been deleted.

The Vikings said they sent representatives to Griffen’s home along with the team’s mental health professionals, who were coordinating with law enforcement in Minnetrista, the Minneapolis suburb where Griffen and his family live.

The 12th-year player initially refused to come out of his house because he feared intruders. Police said they were confident Griffen was alone in the home as they worked to resolve the situation.

Former youth football coach gets 45 years in sex abuse case

BOSTON — A former youth football coach from Massachusetts who authorities say was filmed sexually abusing 11- and 12-year-old children has been sentenced to 45 years in prison, federal prosecutors said.

Derek Sheehan, 51, of Norwell was sentenced Tuesday after pleading guilty in July to three counts of sexual exploitation of children, according to a statement from the office of acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Nathaniel R. Mendell.

“Adults who use their access to children for their own sexual gratification, like former football coach Derek Sheehan did, are both a danger and a disgrace,” Joseph Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Boston office said in a statement. “What Derek Sheehan did is absolutely horrific, and the impact on his victims is immeasurable.”

The investigation started in June 2018 when a minor went to local police to report sexual abuse by Sheehan.

A court-authorized search of his home in August 2018 resulted in the seizure of electronic devices that contained child pornography, prosecutors said. Video evidence showed Sheehan sexually abusing three victims who were either 11 or 12 years old at the time while they slept at his home on various dates.

European powers joined by Sporting in Champs League last 16

The parade of European powers advancing to the Champions League knockout stage Wednesday was disrupted by Sporting Lisbon completing a stunning turnaround to join them.

Manchester City and Real Madrid are back in the round of 16 after beating teams they lost to in September. Paris Saint-Germain also goes through despite its 2-1 loss at City after leading when Kylian Mbappé scored early in the second half.

Madrid’s 3-0 win at Sheriff — avenging a 2-1 home defeat to the champion of Moldova two months ago — included a goal for Karim Benzema on a day of legal trouble for the forward and ensured Inter Milan also advanced from Group D by beating Shakhtar Donetsk 2-0.

Three-time European champion Inter returns to the round of 16 after a 10-year absence, though Sporting ended a 13-year wait by beating Borussia Dortmund 3-1. Pedro Gonçalves scored twice.

Sporting seemed overmatched in September when routed at home by Ajax then beaten in Dortmund, but three straight wins lifted the surprise Portuguese title-winner to advance with a game to spare.

“Teams grow,” Sporting coach Rúben Amorim said. “It’s great, good for the project, but we still have a lot to do.”

Ajax and Liverpool extended their dominating group-stage campaigns with fifth straight wins.

Ajax’s 2-1 win at Beşiktaş came thanks to two goals from record-setting forward Sébastien Haller, who came on as a substitute. Haller has now scored in his first five career Champions League games and is the fastest player to get to nine goals in the competition.

Liverpool cruised to a 2-0 win over Porto and moved an astonishing 10 points clear of the Portuguese team in second place in Group B that promises a tense final round on Dec. 7.

Ezra Hendrickson hired as coach of Chicago Fire

CHICAGO — Ezra Hendrickson was hired Wednesday as coach of Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire.

Hendrickson had spent three seasons with the Columbus Crew, which won last year’s MLS title.

He succeeds Frank Klopas, who became interim coach in September when coach Raphaël Wicky was fired after seven wins, 15 losses and six draws. The Fire finished with nine wins, 18 losses and seven draws, missing the playoffs for the fourth straught season.

Hendrickson, 49, was a defender in MLS with the New York MetroStars (1997), LA Galaxy (1997-2003), Dallas Burn (2003), D.C. United (2004), Chivas USA (2005-06) and Columbus (2006-08).

He was a Seattle assistant from 2009-14, then coached Seattle Sounders 2 of the third tier in 2015-16 and second tier in 2017.

World Rugby to allow players to switch national teams

DUBLIN — World Rugby has relaxed its eligibility rules to allow national team players to switch countries as of January, the governing body announced Wednesday in what it described as a “landmark” change.

Players can change allegiances if they were born in the country they want to represent or have a parent or grandparent born there. They can switch only once and there’s a stand-down period of three years from international rugby.

The “birthright amendment” was approved by the World Rugby Council and stands to benefit Pacific island countries in particular.

International players such as England’s Billy and Mako Vunipola could represent Tonga, as could New Zealand’s Charles Piutau, who won the last of his 17 caps for the All Blacks in 2015, making him eligible to switch allegiance next year.

World Rugby said the amendment “follows requests by emerging nations” and consultation with member unions and players about changing the rule that permanently locked a player to a country once they had played test rugby — except for specific circumstances related to the Olympics.

ATP Cup kicks off Australian Open tune-up events Down Under

MELBOURNE, Australia — The ATP Cup team event will kick off the slate of tune-up tournaments ahead of the Australian Open in January.

Tennis Australia on Thursday said the Jan. 1-9 ATP Cup will be held in Sydney and will be followed by the new Sydney Tennis Classic, a combined men’s and women’s event.

Team Serbia won the inaugural edition of the ATP Cup in 2020 and Team Russia won the 2021 event in February, when COVID-19 restrictions meant the number of teams was reduced to 12 in Melbourne.

The Memorial Drive Tennis Centre in Adelaide will host two weeks of combined men’s and women’s competitions.

Melbourne Park will host three events — two WTA 250 tournaments and one ATP 250 — from Jan. 3-9 before the Australian Open qualifying tournament begins.

The first major of 2022 will be held Jan. 17-30 at Melbourne Park, which will be allowed to host capacity crowds on the condition that all players, fans and staff are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said it was vital to provide competition opportunities for players after the end-of-year break. Continuing domestic border restrictions within Australia for the coronavirus pandemic ended the prospects of staging top-level tournaments in the states of Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.

Michigan State gives Mel Tucker a $95 million, 10-year deal

Michigan State is giving Mel Tucker a $95 million, 10-year contract, making an aggressive move to keep a football coach who potentially could leave for LSU or the NFL.

“I am honored to be a part of the Spartan process today, and for years to come,” Tucker wrote Wednesday in a post on Twitter.

The 12th-ranked Spartans (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) close the regular season against Penn State (7-4, 4-4) on Saturday at home.

Tucker’s contract establishes him one of the riches coaches in college football.

Only Alabama’s Nick Saban, one of his mentors, who makes $9,753,221 a year, is paid more on an annual basis, according to the USA Today coaches’ salaries database.

Tucker’s 10-year deal puts him in select company with two coaches with the same term: Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher.

Swinney’s contract is worth $92 million and Fisher’s deal will pay him more than $9 plus million a year, starting in 2022.

Liberty, Freeze agree to contract extension through 2028

Liberty and football coach Hugh Freeze have agreed to a contract extension that will keep him with the Flames through 2028.

The school announced the extension Wednesday. A person familiar with the deal says Freeze will be paid an average of more than $4 million a year over the life of the contract, making him one of the highest paid coaches at the Group of Five level.

With the early signing period in December, Freeze said it certainly makes the extension more pertinent. He said it takes him out of the conversations about other coaching openings and the potential that schools would target him.

“It’s certainly something our recruiting department would get out prior to me leaving Sunday to go recruit to make sure that everyone that we’re after knows where we stand,” Freeze said. “And so I do think it’s helpful for sure, and I’m excited to get that in our recruits hands.”

Freeze said when his name surfaces in coaching searches, it is a compliment.

“What matters to me is just that I’m being as transparent with our kids and our administration and what we’re trying to do here. So I don’t really think I can ever control that,” he said. “And again, I think it’s a compliment to this place and to our commitment to being successful and to what our kids and staff have done here.”

The Flames (7-4) have compiled a 25-10 record since Freeze took over three years ago. They were 10-1 last season, capping the year with a victory against No. 9 Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl and finished No. 17 in the Top 25.

Reliever Wade Davis retires after 13 major league seasons

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Free agent pitcher Wade Davis, a three-time All-Star, is retiring after 13 major league seasons at age 36.

His retirement was announced by his agency, Jet Sports, the Kansas City Royals said Wednesday. Davis played for the Royals in 2021 and helped Kansas City win the 2015 World Series title.

“Wade will forever be remembered by our fans, his teammates and our organization as an elite competitor and a very classy person,” Royals president of baseball operations Dayton Moore said in a statement.

Davis was 63-55 with a 3.94 ERA and 141 saves in 161 chances over 88 starts and 469 relief appearances for Tampa Bay (2009-12), Kansas City (2013-16, 2021), the Chicago Cubs (2017) and Colorado (2018-20). He was an All-Star from 2015-17.

The right-hander was 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA and eight saves in the postseason, including 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA and four saves for the Royals in 2014 and ‘15.

Cumbie will remain Texas Tech OC for new coach McGuire

LUBBOCK, Texas — Sonny Cumbie will remain on Texas Tech’s staff as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach after finishing this season as interim head coach for the bowl-bound Red Raiders.

New coach Joey McGuire said Wednesday that Cumbie will be part of his staff. The first on-field assistant named by McGuire, Cumbie is a former Texas Tech quarterback in his first season as his alma mater’s offensive coordinator after seven years at TCU.

“Sonny Cumbie is one of the top offensive minds in the country, and we are fortunate to have him remain on our staff here at Texas Tech,” McGuire said. “Like I said in my opening press conference, I want to build a staff here that will deeply invest in our players. That’s who Sonny Cumbie is to his core, and that’s been evident in the play of this team the past three weeks.”

Cumbie became interim coach after third-year coach Matt Wells was fired Oct. 25. The school said Cumbie would remain in that role through the season, even after fifth-year Baylor assistant coach McGuire was hired Nov. 8 and immediately went to work at Texas Tech.

Bayern’s Kimmich, Choupo-Moting positive for coronavirus

MUNICH — Bayern Munich players Joshua Kimmich and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting have tested positive for the coronavirus, the club said Wednesday.

Both players were already in isolation over close contact with people suspected of having the virus. Bayern said both were “doing well.”

Kimmich said last month in a TV interview that he had not yet made a decision about whether to be vaccinated and voiced reservations about vaccines. The midfielder’s comments caused concern among public health experts at a time when vaccine take-up in Germany had slowed.

Kimmich co-founded a fundraising campaign last year with teammate Leon Goretzka which donated money to social and charitable organizations to continue working during the pandemic and which also sent some money to UNICEF to help make vaccines more easily available in poorer nations.


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