Games are back on, but sports leagues still have a lot of problems to solve
The impact of the Bucks' walkout has stretched far and wide
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Here's what you need to know right now from the world of sports:
It's been a wild week
And the news kept coming today. As we head into the weekend, here's the latest with the various sports leagues whose players compelled them to postpone games in the wake of the Milwaukee Bucks' walkout on Wednesday:
The league and the National Basketball Players' Association made a joint announcement today that the playoffs will resume Saturday. As part of the deal for the players to return from their three-day walkout, the NBA agreed to partner with them on three initiatives:
- The immediate establishment of a "social justice coalition" that includes players, coaches and governors (the NBA uses that term instead of owners). The group's focus will be on "increasing access to voting, promoting civic engagement and advocating for meaningful police and criminal justice reform."
- For teams that own the arena they play in, their governors will work with local officials to have the building serve as a voting location for the upcoming U.S. election.
- TV ads "dedicated to promoting greater civic engagement in national and local elections and raising awareness around voter access and opportunity" will be created and shown during playoff games.
At our publish time, the NBA had yet to release a revised schedule. So we don't know when the Toronto Raptors will open their second-round series against the Boston Celtics.
Better late than never? After receiving a lot of criticism for being the only league to press forward with all of its scheduled games on Wednesday, the NHL and its players' association announced Thursday evening that the playoffs would be paused until Saturday. The official word came just an hour before the scheduled start of that night's games. In a joint statement, the NHL and the players made it clear that, like in the NBA, this was a player-initiated move that the league agreed to support.
The NHL released its revised second-round schedule today. There will be a triple-header on Saturday: Tampa Bay vs. Boston at noon ET (the Lightning lead the series 2-1), Philadelphia vs. the New York Islanders at 7 p.m. ET (tied 1-1) and Vegas vs. Vancouver at 9:45 p.m. ET (tied 1-1). On Sunday, Colorado and Dallas resume their series at 6 p.m. ET (the Stars are up 2-1), followed by Philly-Islanders at 8 p.m. ET and Vegas-Vancouver at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Also today, deputy commissioner Bill Daly confirmed to The Associated Press that the NHL is investigating whether former Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon made racially insensitive comments during the team's brief stay in the Toronto bubble. Tallon was let go on Aug. 10 after Florida lost its qualifying-round series against the Islanders. Read more about the investigation here.
Major League Baseball
After seven of the 15 games scheduled for Thursday were postponed (plus three the day before), it appeared the full slate would go ahead today. A day/night doubleheader between Minnesota and Detroit was postponed, but that was due to rain. The Toronto Blue Jays were set to host Baltimore in Buffalo after last night's game against Boston was called off because of a players' walkout.
Baseball is celebrating Jackie Robinson Day. It's usually April 15 (the date on which he broke the colour barrier in 1947) but was moved to today because of the season being delayed by the pandemic. Aug. 28 has significance too: it's the anniversary of Martin Luther King's famed "I Have a Dream" speech during the massive 1963 civil-rights demonstration in Washington, D.C. To mark the occasion, the Black major leaguers belonging to The Players Alliance have pledged to donate their salaries from Aug. 27 and 28 to help the group "combat racial inequality and aid Black families and communities deeply affected in the wake of recent events."
A powerful tribute to Robinson was carried out last night by the Mets' and Marlins' players. They took the field for their scheduled game in New York, observed a 42-second moment of silence (Robinson's uniform number) and then walked off, leaving a Black Lives Matter shirt over home plate.
Meanwhile, the guys running the Mets (as usual) couldn't stay out of their own way. A video caught general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, unaware that a nearby mic was open, complaining about MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Under the impression that Manfred had proposed the Mets and Marlins leave the field for an hour last night and then come back and play, Van Wagenen told someone off camera that Manfred "just doesn't get it." Turns out, the (lame) idea came from Mets owner Jeff Wilpon (or at the very least, he took the blame for it) and Van Wagenen had to issue an apology to the embattled commish. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Mets!
The league announced that games will resume tonight, following a two-day pause that featured some strong messages from players in reaction to the Jacob Blake shooting.
Fittingly, one of the teams in action tonight is the Atlanta Dream. Their name is a reference to the aforementioned Martin Luther King speech delivered on this date in 1963. But the team is also co-owned by Kelly Loeffler, a Republican U.S. Senator who has spoken out against the WNBA's embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement. Dream players have shown up to games wearing "Vote Warnock" shirts in support of the Black pastor running against Loeffler in the upcoming election. This prompted Loeffler to complain about "out-of-control cancel culture" and the WNBA being "more concerned with playing politics than basketball."
Major League Soccer
Five of the six MLS games on Wednesday were postponed in the wake of the Milwaukee Bucks' walkout. None were scheduled for yesterday, but it appears tonight's lone match — Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC — will go ahead.
The owner of Real Salt Lake came under fire yesterday after he criticized his team's players for walking out on their most recent match. Dell Loy Hansen, who also owns the Utah Royals of the National Women's Soccer League, likened it to being "stabbed" and also complained about "the disrespect" during an interview on a radio station he owns. Both MLS and the NWSL issued statements distancing themselves from his comments. Also, a report by The Athletic contained allegations by former employees and others who said Hansen had made racially insensitive comments and used a racial slur. The MLS players' union called for the league to suspend Hansen and conduct an investigation.
After a one-day pause, the Western & Southern Open resumed today in New York. Unseeded Canadian Milos Raonic upset No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas to reach the final. He'll face either top-ranked Novak Djokovic or No. 8 Roberto Bautista Agut tomorrow.
Women's star Naomi Osaka, who vowed not to play her semifinal before the tournament was suspended, won the match today. Osaka, seeded fourth, will meet unseeded Victoria Azarenka in the final.
The U.S. Open starts Monday. With defending champ Bianca Andreescu out and Genie Bouchard not making the cut for the scaled-down Grand Slam, the lone Canadian in the women's singles draw is unseeded Leylah Annie Fernandez. Four Canadian men are playing: Denis Shapovalov (seeded 12th), Felix Auger-Aliassime (15), Raonic (25) and Vasek Pospisil (unseeded).
WATCH | Sporting world unifies in battle against racial injustice:
Canada's Kadeisha Buchanan is going for her fourth consecutive Women's Champions League title
Alphonso Davies got a lot of (well deserved) attention last week for becoming the first Canadian national-team player ever to capture a men's Champions League crown. But he's got nothing on Buchanan when it comes to winning the top prize in European club soccer. The 24-year-old defender from Brampton, Ont., has done it every year since joining the French team Lyon in 2017.
She can make it a four-peat (and five in a row for Lyon) on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET vs. Wolfsburg. The German club, which doesn't have any Canadians on its roster, is in the final for the fifth time in eight years. Wolfsburg won it in 2013 and '14 and lost to Lyon in '16 and '18.
Buchanan will be in the starting lineup on Sunday. She played every minute of Lyon's 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain in Wednesday's semifinal. PSG has two Canadians — Ashley Lawrence started and played the entire match, but Jordyn Huitema didn't get off the bench.
Lawrence and Buchanan were both members of the Canadian women's national team that won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics. Buchanan made a name for herself the summer before, at the 2015 Women's World Cup hosted by Canada. She won the Best Young Player award and was named to the tournament all-star team after helping Canada reach the quarter-finals.
Megan Rapinoe opted out of the National Women's Soccer League again. The biggest star in women's soccer decided not to play in the NWSL's Challenge Cup tournament earlier summer. Now Rapinoe has opted out of the recently announced "fall series," according to her team, the Washington State-based OL Reign. No reason was given, and Rapinoe was the only Reign player to bail. The 35-year-old is famous for her work both on and off the field. She helped the U.S. win the last two Women's World Cups and was named the best player of the 2019 tournament, where she was also the top goal-scorer. Rapinoe is also known for her activism around social-justice causes and for being an outspoken critic of Donald Trump. The NWSL resumes Sept. 5 and each team will play four matches. The nine teams have been divided into three regional "pods" to minimize travel, but they'll play out of their home stadiums — not in a bubble like they did for the Challenge Cup. Read more about Rapinoe's decision to skip the games here.
A new women's softball league is doing things differently. The idea behind Athletes Unlimited is to put more of the focus on players. There are no team owners, and not even any permanent teams. Once the inaugural season opens this weekend, players will be drafted into new teams every week. During the course of games, they'll also earn individual points based on their contributions — singles are worth 10 points, for example, while getting caught stealing loses you 10 points. That way, even in a blowout, there's something to play for. Players and fans vote for the MVP of the day and the week, and the four highest-scoring players become team captains for the next week. Canadian national softball team captain Victoria Hayward is among the 56 players who will compete in Illinois over the next six weeks. After that, Athletes Unlimited plans to add an indoor volleyball league. Read more about the new sports startup in this story by CBC Sports' Myles Dichter.
This weekend on CBC Sports
Canadian Premier League: We're just over halfway through the opening round-robin stage of the Island Games — a tournament on P.E.I. that's replacing the regular season and the playoffs this year for the CPL's eight teams. Watch a double-header Saturday as Valour FC faces FC Edmonton at 1 p.m. ET and HFX Wanderers FC plays York9 FC at 3 p.m. ET. Both matches can be seen live on the CBC TV network, the CBC Gem streaming service, the CBC Sports app and CBCSports.ca.
Paralympic Super Series Rewind: If not for the pandemic, the Tokyo Paralympic Games would be happening right now. To fill the void, CBC Sports and the Canadian Paralympic Committee are bringing back some of the best moments from past Paralympics. Saturday's show features track and field, swimming and boccia. Sunday's is the women's wheelchair basketball final from the 2000 Games. Both start at 2 p.m. ET and you can watch them here or on CBC Gem or the CBC Sports app.
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