Lace them up: Boxing set for June 9 return in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Add boxing to the list of sports on the comeback trail.

Promoter Bob Arum said Thursday he plans to stage a card of five fights on June 9 at the MGM Grand, the first of a series of fights over the next two months at the Las Vegas hotel. A second fight card will be held two nights later, with ESPN televising both cards, kicking off twice weekly shows at the hotel in June and July.

No fans will be allowed, and Arum said fighters and everyone else will be tested at least twice during fight week for the new coronavirus. The fights are pending approval of the Nevada Athletic Commission, which meets next week to consider the events, along with two cards that the UFC plans to stage at its facility in Las Vegas.

They are also pending the reopening of the MGM and other Las Vegas hotels, something that is widely expected to happen the first week of June, though no dates for a second phase of easing virus restrictions have been announced by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak.

“Once we get those fights in and UFC gets its initial fights in, both of us will ask for additional dates,” Arum told The Associated Press. “The key was getting enough testing, and we’ve got plenty of testing in Nevada to hold our events.”

In addition to Arum’s fights, British promoter Eddie Hearn said this week he plans to hold fights beginning sometime in July from the backyard garden of the family mansion outside London where he was raised. Hearn told The Athletic that the first fight card is tentatively set for July 15.

Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya has also talked about returning with a July 4 card, though he has offered no details. UFC returned to action earlier this month with cards in Florida, including a pay-per-view event, that took place without fans.

IndyCar revises schedule

IndyCar has made more revisions to its schedule because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The open-wheel series, which is slated to finally begin June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, said Thursday the June 27 race in Richmond, Virginia, and the street course race in Toronto on July 12 have been canceled.

IndyCar will not race after Texas until an event July 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race scheduled for June 21 at Road America in Wisconsin has been changed to a doubleheader on July 11-12.

The season finale had already been changed to Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, which was scheduled as the season opener before the series was suspended March 13.

The current IndyCar schedule is now 14 events that includes three doubleheaders and three trips to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Sept. 13 race in Portland is in jeopardy because Oregon has banned large gatherings through the end of September.

Game on? Little League offers ‘best practices’ for return

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Little League is offering youth baseball organizations a pathway forward as they eye a restart amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization released a series of “best practices” guidelines this week that highlight how to create a safe playing environment whenever state and local authorities give youth sports in a given area the the all clear to restart. Little League canceled the 2020 Little League World Series and other championships because of the pandemic last month but remains hopeful a regular season may still be possible.

Little League president Stephen Keener said during a roundtable discussion hosted by Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on Thursday that it compiled the outline after consulting with medical professionals and receiving guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, among others.

While Keener stressed the decision will ultimately be made by each family, he believes it was important to show parents that playing “can be done, we think as safely as possible ... if you follow these guidelines.”

The recommendations include eliminating all non-essential contact and banning the postgame handshake line in favor of lining up along the respective baselines and tipping caps to opponents.

Youth sports can start in South Carolina on May 30

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says youth sports in the state can begin practicing on May 30, with games to start no earlier than June 15.

McMaster says proper social distancing guidelines and health practices must been in effect at practices, warmups and games. The sports involved include American Legion baseball, Little League baseball, Dixie Youth baseball, travel baseball, youth and adult softball, kickball, soccer, lacrosse and flag football.

Guidance by state leaders says coaches and players on the bench should be encouraged to wear face coverings; players, coaches and officials should bring their own water bottles; and there should be no handshakes, high-fives or fist bumps before, during or after games.

NFL looks at adding “booth umpire” and tech adviser for refs

The NFL is considering adding a “booth umpire” and a senior technology adviser to the referee to assist the officiating crew.

The league also is looking at other rules changes, including an alternative to the onside kick.

NFL clubs received a list of potential rules changes on Thursday. Owners will vote on the proposals at the upcoming league meeting to be held by video conference on May 28.

The league’s competition committee told teams last month it supports studying ways to determine how officiating personnel who have access to a video feed could help on-field officials. A booth umpire would serve as an eighth game official.

If owners don’t approve adding a booth umpire and/or a senior technology adviser, the league could test a version of both rules in the preseason for possible future implementation.

The proposal that would give teams another option instead of an onside kick permits a team to maintain possession of the ball after a score by substituting one offensive play. The kicking team would attempt a fourth-and-15 from its 25-yard line. This could be done a maximum of two times per game.

Baseball players respond to MLB on virus protocols

NEW YORK — The baseball players’ association gave management a wide-ranging response Thursday to a 67-page proposed set of protocols for a season to be played during the coronavirus pandemic.

Management had presented the union and the 30 teams the proposed draft last Friday.

The union said Thursday it addressed: protections for high-risk players, access to pre- and postgame therapies, testing frequency, protocols for positive tests, in-stadium medical personnel and sanitization procedures.

Players viewed many of the concepts in the original draft as over-the-top, such as arriving in uniform at the ballparks, a prohibition on them leaving without team permission and a ban on guests other than immediate family members. Players also objected to a ban on the use of showers and hydrotherapy.

The union wants more frequent testing than management’s proposed “multiple times per week.”

MLB is expected to make an economic proposal to the union within a few days. MLB hopes to start the season by early July.

Vanderbilt’s Lee becomes SEC’s 1st woman athletic director

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt has removed the interim title, making Candice Storey Lee the first woman to become an athletic director in the Southeastern Conference.

With Vanderbilt’s announcement Wednesday, Lee now is among only five women and the second black woman in charge of a Power Five program. Daniel Diermeier, who takes over as Vanderbilt’s chancellor on July 1, said Lee is the “living embodiment” of the university’s values and aspirations.

“Candice is perfectly positioned to lead our athletics program to new heights of success on and off the field of play,” Diermeier said. “She has the drive, creativity, and perseverance to help elevate our student-athletes, and the entire Vanderbilt Athletics program.

The 41-year-old Lee, a former Commodores basketball captain, was named interim athletic director Feb. 4 when Malcolm Turner resigned after one year on the job for the former NBA G League president.

Premier League may lose $24 million in refunds to broadcasters

Manchester United says it believes it will miss out on $24 million because the Premier League will have to make refunds to broadcasters even if the pandemic-disrupted season is completed.

The league is in talks with its rights holders about rebates because of delays and changes to the broadcasting schedule. The season was suspended in March.

Empty stadiums will also change the TV product.

US Soccer Federation chief legal officer Lydia Wahlke quits

CHICAGO — Lydia Wahlke has resigned as chief legal officer of the U.S. Soccer Federation, two months after she was placed on administrative leave.

The federation announced her departure in a note to staff Thursday and said she will be a consultant through Sept. 15.

Wahlke was put on leave after USSF president Carlos Cordeiro resigned March 12 and was replaced by former national team player Cindy Parlow Cone, who had been vice president. Parlow Cone said the USSF legal process will be reviewed.

The shakeup occurred after the law firm representing the USSF in a lawsuit by women’s national team playersfiled papers in federal court claiming the women’s team didn’t have the physical abilities or the same responsibilities as the men’s team. That sparked a furor that included an on-field protest by players wearing their warm-up jerseys inside out to hide the USSF crest. The federation then changed its law firm in the case.

Brady’s Super Bowl journeys to be part of 2021 ESPN series

Tom Brady’s journey to each of his nine Super Bowls with the New England Patriots will be the subject of an ESPN series released next year.

Entitled “The Man in the Arena: Tom Brady,” the nine-episode series will include a look from Brady’s perspective at the six NFL titles and three Super Bowl defeats he was a part of. It should be a rare opportunity for up-close revelations from the usually private quarterback who left New England this year after 20 seasons and now is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The series will be produced by ESPN, 199 Productions (Brady’s production company) and Gotham Chopra of Religion of Sports.

East Carolina eliminating four sports

East Carolina is eliminating its men’s and women’s tennis and swimming and diving programs to help reduce a $4.9 million budget deficit.

The move affects 68 student-athletes and nine coaches and reduces ECU’s sponsored sports from 20 to 16, including nine for women. The NCAA requires Division I FBS schools to carry minimums of 16 sports, eight for women.

4th Dynamo Dresden soccer player tests positive for virus

DRESDEN, Germany — A fourth player at German soccer club Dynamo Dresden tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday.

The already quarantined second-division club said on its website that the latest case of COVID-19 was found in a fifth wave of testing that was conducted on Wednesday. Another “category one” close contact of its coaching staff also tested positive.

The player, staff member and staff member’s contact person were to go into quarantine at home for 14 days.

Dresden’s entire team was ordered by local health authorities into 14 days of quarantine on May 9 after two players tested positive for the virus, bringing its total to three.

Report: European Tour hopes to resume in UK ‘bubble’

The European Tour hopes to resume its season the first weekend in August in England as part of a four-tournament “bubble” in England and Wales, Golf Digest reported Thursday.

The magazine cited sources with knowledge of the plans in saying the British Masters, scheduled for July 30 to Aug. 2, would be followed by three tournaments offering 1 million euros ($1.1 million) in prize money at Forest of Arden and Hanbury Manor in England, and Celtic Manor in Wales.

Pennsylvania working on guidelines for sporting events

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania is working on guidelines to allow sporting events and exhibitions to get back to “some semblance of normalcy” after practically everything shut down to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday.

On a conference call with reporters, Wolf said he’s been in touch with major professional organizations including NASCAR, the NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball and others to figure out how they can resume competition in the state.

He said he expected his administration will, in the coming days, decide on guidelines for various venues, sports and activities going forward. But, he said, the ultimate success of events and leagues will rest on whether people feel safe enough to attend and participate.

Men’s tennis offering mental health support

The men’s professional tennis tour is offering mental health support to players by partnering with a group founded by former England and Arsenal soccer player Tony Adams.

The ATP says it will be working with Adams’ Sporting Chance to provide a 24-7 helpline with therapists.

The tour is also offering players and employees free subscriptions to Headspace, which offers content about mindfulness and meditation.

ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi says this sort of help is important during the current coronavirus outbreak.

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