Update on the latest sports

VIRUS OUTBREAK-SPORTS

Some players self-quarantine after NBA suspends its season

UNDATED (AP) — News that a Utah Jazz player has tested positive for the new corona virus has led to the suspension of the NBA season, and prompted members of other teams to go into quarantine.

The Washington Wizards say their players, coaches and basketball operations personnel will self-quarantine for the next three to four days. The Wizards played at the Utah Jazz on Feb. 29. Washington also played Tuesday against the New York Knicks, another recent opponent of the Jazz.

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The Wizards say any players, coaches and staff who have flu-like symptoms will be tested for the virus COVID-19.

The Toronto Raptors say their players, coaches and traveling staff have been advised to isolate themselves for 14 days because they recently played the Jazz. The team says all members of the Raptors traveling party have been tested for the virus and await the results.

Toronto is one of five teams that have played the Jazz since the start of March. The others are Boston, Detroit, New York and Cleveland.

The NBA announced its decision to suspend the season until further notice on Wednesday night after learning that a player had tested positive for the virus. The NBA said the test result was reported shortly before the scheduled tip-off for Utah’s game at Oklahoma City. The game was called off and fans sent home.

In other virus-related developments:

— The Players Championship is keeping fans out for the final three days at the TPC Sawgrass. A person involved in the discussions over how to handle the new coronavirus tells The Associated Press that only key personnel will be allowed at the course. The tour is expected to announce an update later Thursday. The source says the policy will be in place at PGA Tour events for the next several weeks starting with the Valspar Championship next week in the Tampa Bay area. The only other times the tour has kept fans from the course were for safety issues related to weather.

— The National Hockey League says it is aware of the NBA’s decision to suspend its season and is continuing to consult with medical experts and evaluate options. The NHL says it expects to provide another update Thursday. So far, the NHL has not made any declarations about even holding games without fans in the stands. The Columbus Blue Jackets became the first team to announce that, beginning with their game tonight against Pittsburgh. The San Jose Sharks said they would hold their three home games in March in an empty arena.

— Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford says the league men’s basketball tournament is ready to hold games as scheduled Thursday without fans in Greensboro, North Carolina. Swofford held a news conference Thursday morning, a few hours before the first of four quarterfinal games. The league had announced Wednesday that it wouldn’t allow the general public into tournament games amid concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus that has become a global pandemic. Swofford called it “a very fluid situation” that “changes daily now, and may well be changing hourly.” The NCAA announced yesterday it planned to conduct its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments next week with only essential staff and some family members of teams in the building.

— The ATP has suspended all men’s professional tennis tournaments for six weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak. No ATP Tour or ATP Challenger Tour events will take place through the week of April 20. The tournament at Indian Wells, California, scheduled to begin main-draw play Wednesday already had been called off. The affected events are the Miami Open, the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech, the Monte Carlo Masters, the Barcelona Open and the Hungarian Open. The next Grand Slam tournament, the French Open, is still scheduled to be held in Paris

— McLaren has withdrawn from the Australian Grand Prix, hours after six-time champion Lewis Hamilton questioned the wisdom of staging the season-opening Formula One race while other sports are canceling events because of the spreading coronavirus. A McLaren team member tested positive for the coronavirus after going into self-isolation in Australia. More than 300,000 fans regularly attend the Albert Park circuit over the first four days of the season.

— The International Basketball Federation says it is suspending all competitions indefinitely from Friday. The suspension includes games in the Basketball Champions League, which is a rival competition to the better known Euroleague, and the second-tier FIBA Europe Cup. The Champions League is part-way through its playoffs.

— Real (ray-AL’) Madrid says its soccer and basketball teams have been put in quarantine after a basketball play for the club tested positive for the coronavirus. The Spanish club says the soccer team was also affected because it shares training facilities with the basketball team.

GREECE-OLYMPIC FLAME

Amid virus precautions, Tokyo Olympic flame is lit in Greece

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The flame for the Tokyo Olympics was lit Thursday at the birthplace of the ancient games in a pared-down ceremony because of the coronavirus.

Standing in front of the ruined Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia, a Greek actress playing the part of a pagan priestess used a concave mirror to focus the sun’s rays on a silver torch, causing fire to spurt forth.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach noted the “difficult circumstances” created by the virus outbreak, but stressed the IOC’s commitment to the success of the Tokyo Games.

The IOC has maintained that the July 24-Aug. 9 games will go ahead as planned — even as sports events in various countries are being curtailed or held without spectators — and urged all athletes to continue to prepare for the Olympics.

Fears of the coronavirus forced Greek officials to ban members of the public from attending the ceremony and severely curtail the number of invited officials and journalists. Normally, several thousand people from many countries gather on the earthen banks of Olympia’s ancient stadium to watch the ceremony.

RUSSIAN DOPING

Russia restricted to 10 athletes in track at Tokyo Olympics

MONACO (AP) — Russia’s track team was limited to 10 athletes for the Tokyo Olympics and the country’s federation was fined $10 million by the sport’s governing body on Thursday.

World Athletics passed the latest package of sanctions after the Russian track federation’s new president accepted charges that fake documents were used under the previous management to give a top athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said, “Clearly the previous measures were not enough to change the culture in Russian athletics.”

World Athletics will restart a system to vet Russian competitors and allow them to compete as neutral athletes. They will be limited to 10 athletes at major events, but that limit can be raised later if World Athletics feels Russia is making progress on reforms.

Russia must pay $5 million of its fine by July 1, with the remainder suspended for two years, to be paid if the federation commits another anti-doping offense or fails to make what World Athletics considers “meaningful progress.”

Russia was allowed to field only one athlete in track and field at the 2016 Olympics, U.S.-based long jumper Darya Klishina.

US SOCCER-EQUAL PAY

US Soccer apologizes for arguments in equal pay case

UNDATED (AP) The U.S. Soccer Federation apologized Wednesday night after it contended in court documents that women on its national team had lesser responsibilities and physical abilities than their male counterparts, an assertion that drew widespread criticism and sparked a player protest.

The statement from USSF President Carlos Cordeiro came hours after The Coca-Cola Co. denounced the federation for its stance. Cordeiro also announced a shake-up of the USSF legal team.

“On behalf of U.S. Soccer, I sincerely apologize for the offense and pain caused by language in this week’s court filing, which did not reflect the values of our federation or our tremendous admiration of our women’s national team,” the statement said. “Our WNT players are incredibly talented and work tirelessly, as they have demonstrated time and again from their Olympic gold medals to their World Cup titles.”

American players wore their warmup jerseys inside out for the national anthems and team photo before a 3-1 win over Japan in an Olympic prep match. Players hid the USSF crest on the jerseys but allowed the four stars — one for each World Cup title — to be visible.

“I think it just was a powerful message,” said forward Carli Lloyd, a two-time FIFA Player of the Year.

The players issued a group statement that was released by Molly Levinson, a spokeswoman for the players in their lawsuit: “We wanted to stand together as a team and make a statement on behalf of all women and girls that the federation‘s comments are unacceptable. We love this sport and this country, and we cannot stand for this misogynistic treatment.”

Coca-Cola had called the federation’s assertion in documents filed earlier this week “unacceptable and offensive.”

“We have asked to meet with them immediately to express our concerns. The Coca-Cola Co. is firm in its commitment to gender equality, fairness and women’s empowerment in the United States and around the world and we expect the same from our partners,” Coca-Cola said in a statement, first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

Coca-Cola has been a long-term partner with the USSF as well as a global sponsor of the World Cup since 1974.

In court documents filed Monday in response to the players’ motion for a summary judgment, the USSF said the women claimed their ability level is the same as the men “by ignoring the materially higher level of speed and strength required to perform the job of an MNT player.”

“A reasonable juror could conclude that the job of MNT player requires materially different skill and more responsibility than plaintiffs’ job does, while also taking place under materially different working conditions,” USSF lawyers wrote. “The job of MNT player (competing against senior men’s national teams) requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength than does the job of WNT player (competing against senior women’s national teams).”

Said Levinson: “This ‘argument’ belongs in the Paleolithic Era.”

“It sounds as if it has been made by a caveman,” she said in a statement. “Literally everyone in the world understands that an argument that male players ‘have more responsibility’ is just plain simple sexism and illustrates the very gender discrimination that caused us to file this lawsuit to begin with.”

In addition to apologizing, Cordeiro said the USSF had retained the law firm of Latham & Watkins, the firm where former USSF president Alan Rothenberg is a retired partner. Seyfarth Shaw had been representing the federation.

“I have made it clear to our legal team that even as we debate facts and figures in the course of this case, we must do so with the utmost respect not only for our women’s national team players but for all female athletes around the world,” Cordeiro said.

Players filed the gender discrimination lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles last year, claiming they are paid less than their counterparts on the men’s national team. The women are seeking more than $66 million in damages under the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and a trial is scheduled for May 5.

Both sides have moved for summary judgments, asking U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner to decide in their favor without a trial.

The USSF says disparities in pay between the men and women are the result of separate collective bargaining agreements with different terms. The women’s team receives salaries and benefits the men don’t.

In addition, the USSF cites FIFA’s World Cup prize money — $38 million awarded to the French Football Federation for the men’s title in 2018 and $4 million to the USSF for last year’s women’s title. The USSF claims it bases bonuses for the women in the tournament on the prize money the federation receives.

Procter & Gamble, which supports the USSF through its Secret deodorant brand, last year donated $529,000 to help close the gender pay gap: $23,000 for each of the 23 players on the U.S. World Cup roster.

Secret took out a full page ad in The New York Times that said: “We urge the US Soccer Federation to be a beacon of strength and end gender pay inequality once and for all.”

LUNA Bar said last year it was awarding each of the 23 women on the U.S. roster $31,250, the amount it said was how much more players on the men’s team earn for making a World Cup roster.

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