NBA

The Latest: NBA program aimed at raising more cash for virus

(AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

By The Associated Press

The Latest on the effect of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:

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The NBA says it has launched a program called "NBA Together," in which it expects to see more than $50 million raised and distributed by the NBA family "to support people impacted by the coronavirus and community and healthcare organizations providing vital services around the world."

More than half of that money, about $30 million, has already been pledged by teams and players for various things related to the shutdown such as paying displaced arena workers.

The NBA says the program is built around four pillars that will focus on the latest global health and safety information, sharing guidelines and resources, working on mental and physical health, and keeping people socially connected during the pandemic.

The league is also asking fans to combine for "1 million big and small acts of kindness" and wants fans to share those stories by posting photos and videos with the hashtag NBATogether on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

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Live horse racing at Laurel Park in Maryland is being put on hold.

The Maryland Jockey Club said Friday that it made the decision following the executive orders of Gov. Larry Hogan, who has banned large gatherings among other things during the coronavirus pandemic.

MJC said it looks forward to resuming live thoroughbred racing at Laurel and harness racing at Rosecroft Raceway when state and federal political and health leaders say it's appropriate to do so.

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Badminton's Thomas and Uber Cup Finals being staged in Aarhus, Denmark, have been postponed from May 16-24 to Aug. 15-23 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The world federation also suspended five more tournaments in April.

The tournaments were the Croatian International, Peru International, European Championships, Asia Championships, and Pan Am Individual Championships.

The three continental championships were one of the last chances for athletes to gain qualification for the Tokyo Olympics before the April 26 deadline.

The BWF has yet to say how the suspended circuit will impact on Olympic qualification.

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Leaders of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee say it's still too soon to decide about whether the Tokyo Games should go on as scheduled.

Uncertainties caused by the coronavirus have pushed many athletes to call for a postponement of the Games. But the USOPC leaders sounded a lot like their colleagues at the IOC. They call for patience and say they need more information from world health experts before doing anything drastic. They also acknowledged the uncertainty is taking its toll.

The USOPC is increasing the availability of mental and emotional counseling for athletes who have seen their Olympic hopes thrown into limbo.

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Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and star guard Luka Doncic are joining with forward Dwight Powell and the club's foundation to pledge $500,000 to a Dallas hospital to help pay for day care for the children of health care workers amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

The donation is being made to the UT Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital. Cuban says the Mavericks "can't thank our health care workers enough for putting their patients' well-being before their own."

The money is intended for doctors, nurses and a wide range of other workers, including support and janitorial staff. Doncic says the workers "are sacrificing so much to care for others, and I am honored to help."

The Mavericks were in the middle of a game against Denver on March 11 when the NBA announced the season was being suspended because of the spread of the coronavirus. The 113-97 Dallas victory was the last game to be completed before the suspension went into effect.

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The parent company that owns the NFL Buffalo Bills and NHL Sabres has laid off a majority of its food services and hospitality staff as result of the new coronavirus pandemic.

Pegula Sports and Entertainment vice president of hospitality Domnic Verni announced the layoffs in a statement released Thursday. Verni says the company is termporarily closing a majority of its hospitality operations.

The Athletic first reported the layoffs being announced.

PSE oversees the vast holdings of Bills and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, which include several restaurants and bars, including a downtown Buffalo sports, entertainment and hotel complex.

The layoffs come at a time when local and state governments have ordered restaurants and bars be closed indefinitely to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

-- John Wawrow reporting from Buffalo, New York.

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World Rugby has postponed its remaining world sevens series tournaments and canceled the world under-20 championship which was to be hosted in northern Italy.

The sevens tournaments were to be played in May: The London men's, Langford women's in Canada, and Paris combined. They were postponed provisionally to September.

The Hong Kong and Singapore tournaments in April have already been moved to October.

The Olympic Games repechage qualifying tournament in June is under review, as World Rugby talks with the IOC about the qualifying process.

The junior worlds were to be held in June and July.

Also, the World Rugby Hall of Fame in Rugby, England, has been closed to the end of May.

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Soccer clubs in the top two divisions in Sweden have been given advance payment of sponsorship money to help them survive following a decision to delay the start of the league.

The season was scheduled to start on the first weekend of April but has been postponed until late in May or the beginning of June, at the earliest, because of the coronavirus outbreak.

It has left some clubs in a fragile situation. Stockholm-based AIK, for example, has said it needs to raise 5 million kronor ($500,000) by May 31 to "make it through this situation."

Swedish Elite Football, the body which oversees the top divisions in the country, has decided to pay part of April's sponsorship money in advance to ease some of the burden in what it says is an "extraordinary and difficult situation."

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Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says he, manager Dave Martinez and 13 players on the team's 40-man roster are still in West Palm Beach, Florida, where the team's spring training facility is.

Members of the medical and strength and conditioning staffs also remained in Florida, where camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Three players are in the Washington area. Other are wherever their homes are.

Rizzo said on a conference call with reporters Friday that none of the team's players has shown any symptoms of the illness and so none has been tested so far.

The GM said the World Series champions are formulating contingency plans based on when Major League Baseball might decide to start the regular season, which already has been delayed from next week until at least May.

"We're going to be fully ready when we're asked to be ready," Rizzo said. "Obviously, the ramping up of pitchers and players in a safe manner is of the utmost importance to us."

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The chief medical officer for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee says four winter athletes have recently been exposed to the coronavirus and are under quarantine. Only one has shown symptoms and tests on all four are pending. Another winter athlete who returned from Europe developed respiratory symptoms but tested negative. There have been no reports of positive tests among summer athletes, many of whom have curtailed training with only four months left before the Tokyo Games. The USOPC leaders said they were expanding access to mental and emotional counseling as athletes deal with the uncertainties surrounding the Olympics. The USOPC is following the IOC's lead, in saying it's too soon to make a decision about whether the Games will start as scheduled on July 24.

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The Miami Dolphins and owner Stephen Ross have pledged $500,000 toward critical needs for elderly and youth in South Florida as a result of the coronavirus.

The money will support public school meal programs, other food programs and church relief efforts.

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The LPGA Tour has found a date for its first major championship. It is moving the ANA Inspiration to Sept. 10-13, and moving its Portland tournament a week later.

The ANA Inspiration was scheduled for April 2-5 in Rancho Mirage, California. It was among what now are six domestic LPGA Tour events that have been postponed because of the new coronavirus. LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan added three more on Friday - Hawaii, Los Angeles and San Francisco over the final three weeks of April.

Whan says the tour is working with its various partners on how to deal with postponed events.

The LPGA Tour's last event was the Women's Australian Open that ended Feb. 16.

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German soccer players Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich have donated 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to start a campaign called "We kick Corona" to help social workers and health services cope with the new virus.

In a Twitter post, Goretzka thanks health professionals, doctors and social workers for "giving their all to master the situation" and says he hopes fans will follow his and his Bayern Munich teammate's example.

"On the pitch we can beat anyone. But we can only beat corona together," the 25-year-old Goretzka writes.

The money raised is to be used to help those affected by the virus and hospital equipment.

"As professional soccer players we have been leading healthy and professional lives," Goretzka says. "So we see an obligation to accept responsibility in these difficult times. Giving and helping each other is the order of the day at this time."

People can donate at the www.wekickcorona.com website, where others who need support can also ask for help.

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Formula One is setting up a series of virtual races to replace postponed or canceled Grand Prix events.

The series says a "number of current F1 drivers" will take part in the races, with the first set for Sunday. That's the day when the Bahrain Grand Prix was supposed to take place.

None of the drivers taking part have been named.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen and McLaren's Lando Norris are among drivers from various competitions who have already been taking part in various online races not organized by F1.

The Australian Grand Prix last weekend was canceled at short notice and the Monaco Grand Prix was canceled from its May 24 date on Thursday. Races in Bahrain, Vietnam, China, Spain and the Netherlands have been postponed.

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Hockey fans will have a chance to relive some of NBC's best NHL and Olympic games for the past 12 years next week during Hockey Week in America.

NBCSN will air 12 hours of hockey programming each day Monday through Thursday (3 p.m.-3 a.m. EDT) and then seven hours each day from Friday through Sunday (8 p.m.-3 a.m. EDT).

Each day will have a theme, beginning Monday with Game 7 overtime thrillers. The other days will include notable playoff rivalry games, NHL outdoor games, Stanley Cup Final clinching games, top Olympic moments and best of the Sidney Crosby-Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

Each of the games will be shown in two-hour windows, meaning they are edited down slightly.

While NHL replays are common, re-airs of Olympic games are rare. NBC is allowed to use archival footage as part of its agreement with the International Olympic Committee as the U.S. rights holder through 2032.

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A German virologist says he doesn't think professional soccer in the country will be able to resume this year.

Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, tells broadcaster NDR: "I firmly believe it will only be possible for it to take place again next year."

The German soccer league has already suspended play in the county's top two divisions through April 2, though most expect play to resume without spectators in May at the earliest.

Schmidt-Chanasit says the so-called "ghost games" without fans are also unlikely to take place as fans would gather elsewhere to watch them if they are not allowed in the stadiums.

"I believe it's not realistic that the season will be able to be played to the end," he tells NDR. "We can see what the situation is like in Europe and what's ahead of us."

Schmidt-Chanasit says that even if Germany isn't hit as badly as Italy by the new coronavirus, it shouldn't mean that soccer restarts as "that means the situation would worsen again significantly."

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The European Swimming Federation says it has decided to postpone the European aquatics championships, which were to be held in May in Budapest, because of travel restrictions and other effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

The federation, or LEN, said Friday in a statement that it has proposed new dates in August, "though this might be confirmed only in May or early June."

LEN's elective congress and the European Masters Championships, planned to be held alongside the main championship, have also been postponed.

LEN President Paolo Barelli said a tentative date of Aug. 17-30 has been set, "however, at this stage it's difficult if not impossible to plan with a definite time frame, so we agreed with the Hungarian organizers to reassess the situation in late May or early June."

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All rugby in England below the top-flight Premiership has been canceled for the season.

Bill Sweeney, chief executive of the Rugby Football Union, says the decision was taken "to assist with long-term planning and provide clarity to the game at a time of continuous change" during the virus outbreak.

Sweeney says the RFU is in "active discussions" with Premiership teams about managing the end of the season, which had been scheduled to finish at the end of May.

Several Premiership teams have asked players to take a pay cut during the outbreak.

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England manager Gareth Southgate has urged people to "work together to combat" the coronavirus during the global outbreak with the same spirit they have shown in supporting his team during its improvement over the last two years.

In an open letter to fans, Southgate encouraged them to "follow the guidelines for hygiene and also the sensible precautions put in place to control the spread of the virus in order to protect those most vulnerable to its impact. That responsibility lies with us all."

Southgate also warned of "challenges to our mental wellbeing" during a period of widespread economic uncertainty and self-isolation amid the coronavirus outbreak, and said: "Look out for each other. Please don't suffer alone."

With soccer virtually in a global lockdown, England will not be playing upcoming friendly matches against Italy and Denmark. This summer's European Championship has also been postponed until 2021, meaning England will have to wait for its opportunity to win a first major international title since the World Cup in 1966 - having reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 against the odds under Southgate.

Southgate says "now is clearly not the moment for us to take centre stage. The heroes will be the men and women who continue working tirelessly in our hospitals and medical centers to look after our friends and families."

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Updated March 20, 2020


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