Virtually picked: 2020 NFL draft to be held remotely

New York: The NFL has announced the 2020 draft will be conducted in a virtual format, with team personnel working from their homes.

In a memo sent to the 32 teams on Monday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell outlined procedures for the April 23-25 draft. The guidelines include no group gatherings.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has announced this year’s NFL draft will be held remotely.Credit:AP

"We have reviewed this matter in the past few days with both the competition committee and CEC [a group of league executives]," Goodell wrote, "and this will confirm that clubs will conduct their draft operations remotely, with club personnel separately located in their homes."

All team facilities were closed on March 26 and Goodell has ordered them to remain shut indefinitely.

"We will reopen facilities when it is safe to do so based on medical and public health advice, and in compliance with government mandates," he wrote.

The draft originally was scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, but the NFL cancelled all public events last month as a safeguard against the coronavirus. On Monday, Goodell instructed the teams on how they should plan to make their selections.

"We have made this decision for several reasons," he wrote. "All clubs will not have access to their facilities, which is contrary to the fundamental equity principle that all clubs operate in a consistent and fair way.

"Moreover, we want all NFL personnel to comply with government directives and to model safe and appropriate health practices.

"Our staff will carry out their responsibilities in the same way, operating in separate locations outside of our offices.

"After consulting with medical advisers, we cannot identify an alternative that is preferable from a medical or public health perspective, given the varying needs of clubs, the need properly to screen participants, and the unique risk factors that individual club employees may face."

Several team general managers had sought a delay in the draft, basically citing an unfair playing field.

But the owners pushed for the draft, the NFL's biggest off-season event, to take place as scheduled.

"We are operating in an environment unlike anything we have experienced before," Goodell added, "one that requires flexibility, patience, and cooperation."

Plans for televising the draft have not been finalised, though it is expected that ESPN and NFL Network will do so, perhaps in a joint effort.

AP

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Two former Cornhuskers expelled from Nebraska

  • Data analyst and reporter for ESPN’s Enterprise and Investigative Unit.
  • Winner, 2014 Alfred I. duPont Columbia University Award; finalist, 2012 IRE broadcast award; winner, 2011 Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism; Emmy nominated, 2009.

The University of Nebraska expelled two former football players after a school investigator last year found them responsible for violating the school’s sexual misconduct policy, according to a document obtained by ESPN.

In a letter obtained by ESPN, the university conduct board said the expulsion of two unnamed respondents was effective April 3. A university spokeswoman confirmed Monday that the players involved were redshirt freshmen Katerian LeGrone and Andre Hunt.

The March 25 letter also states that the board “considered the seriousness of this incident and modified the previously proposed sanction.” The school’s investigator had previously recommended a 2½-year suspension when she issued her finding in December. Expulsion means the two men are not allowed on campus and are permanently terminated as students, according to the letter.

The university investigation found evidence to support that Hunt touched and digitally penetrated a female student and made her have oral sex without her consent, and that both men had sex with her without her consent, according to the report. The report states that the woman provided text messages with others, sent immediately following the actions, in which she alleged that she had been raped.

LeGrone and Hunt also have been charged with first-degree sexual assault after the woman reported the alleged Aug. 25 incident to the Lincoln Police Department. Both men were suspended indefinitely from the football team on Aug. 26, and as of December were no longer on the roster. Both men had entered the NCAA transfer portal, signaling their desire to transfer and allowing for other programs to contact them.

Hunt’s attorney, Carlos Monzon, said Monday that Hunt was “already at a different university and he’s playing,” but he would not say where. Hunt did not respond to a social media message asking about his status, and an online search did not find Hunt on any university’s roster. As of Monday, Hunt was still listed as active in the NCAA transfer portal, which would typically indicate he has not been picked up by a school.

LeGrone is still listed as available in the portal and his attorneys, Mallory Hughes and John S. Berry, said he has been living with family, working out and “exploring his options.”

Attorneys for both men previously have said their clients will plead not guilty. Hunt has a hearing scheduled for this month and LeGrone has one scheduled for June, although it’s uncertain if those dates will change due to delays caused by the coronavirus.

LeGrone’s attorneys said Monday that the school’s decision should have no bearing on what happens in the criminal case, saying that such school investigations fall short, deny due process and often don’t include access to all available evidence.

Two prosecutors in Lancaster County, Nebraska, did not immediately respond Monday to an email.

Findings of sexual misconduct at Nebraska, and at many universities, are based on a preponderance of evidence, meaning the weight of the evidence favors one side over the other. It is a lower burden of proof than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” needed to convict someone in a criminal case.

Hunt and LeGrone have been named in several additional police reports of alleged sex offenses filed with Lincoln police since news of the university’s findings in the August case became public, according to records obtained by ESPN and a source familiar with those records. The alleged offenses occurred between August 2018 and April 2019. Charges have not been filed in any of them, according to the records.

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Brian Hughes crowned champion jumps jockey for the first time

Brian Hughes has officially been crowned the champion jumps jockey for the first time.

The 34-year-old Northern Irishman was leading Richard Johnson by 19 winners on 141 victories before the season was brought to an unscheduled end on March 17, when the British Horseracing Authority announced the suspension of racing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Peter Schmeichel urges Man Utd board to stick with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Manchester United do not need a big-name manager – because they already have one in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

United great Peter Schmeichel believes Solskjaer has done everything required since taking over from Jose Mourinho and deserves time to continue his overhaul of the squad.

When the season was suspended, United were on an 11-match unbeaten run in all competitions and up to fifth spot in the Premier League, on the cusp of a Champions League place.

Although big names including Mauricio Pochettino and Massimiliano Allegri have been linked with the United job, Schmeichel said that the Reds already have a big enough boss in Solskajer.

“I think Ole has been absolutely fantastic,” said Schmeichel.

“Fingers crossed that everyone in the boardroom and the ownership circle see the same thing, that they're happy with what got and don't see the need to change to yet another big-name manager.

“We have a big-name manager. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is one of the biggest names in Manchester United's history, so we don't need anybody else.

“Ole had them going really well. It was 11 games undefeated, before everything was closed down. It was a big shame, because the job that Ole's done, it really is an amazing job.


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Brian Hughes crowned champion jump jockey for the first time

Brian Hughes crowned champion jump jockey for first time with 141 wins after season is brought to a standstill by coronavirus pandemic

  • Brian Hughes has become champion jump jockey after early end to the season
  • Hughes had earned 141 victories in 2019-20, leading Richard Johnson by 19 wins
  • The BHA made the decision to award titles based on standings from March 17

Brian Hughes has officially been crowned champion jump jockey for the first time.

The season should not have officially ended until April 25 but with the sport shut down until the end of the month and the BHA having stated that jump racing will not return until July at the earliest, the Professional Jockeys Association, National Trainers Federation and Racehorse Owner Association decided the 2019-20 titles should be awarded on the standings when the sport was shut down on March 17.

The other winners are Nicky Henderson (Trainer), Jonjo O’Neill jr (Conditional Jockey) and JP McManus (Owner).

Brian Hughes has officially been crowned champion jump jockey for the first time

Hughes, 34, whose 141 wins put him 19 wins in front of defending champion Richard Johnson, said: ‘It has always been a dream of mine to become Champion Jockey, so to have finally achieved it is fantastic.

‘It is obviously a little disappointing that we haven’t been able to see out the season as we were all looking forward to doing so and there were some big race days to look forward to, but current circumstances are out of all our hands.

‘I’ve had another great season with 141 winners and I cannot thank all the trainers, owners, stable staff and my family who have continued to support me and I hope everyone is staying safe at this time.

‘Like everyone else, I can’t wait to get back out there riding and will be doing everything I can to keep hold of the title next season.’

Former champion jump jockey Richard Johnson praised Hughes as decision was announced

Johnson has been champion for the last four seasons since inheriting the crown from Sir Anthony McCoy.

Johnson said: ‘Brian has been in terrific form all season and was really able to open up a gap between himself and the rest of us chasing him.

‘It is a huge moment for any rider to become champion jockey and I know that all of us in the weighing room will look forward to formally congratulating Brian when the presentation is made to him later in the year.’

O’Neill jr, 22, claimed the Conditional Jockeys crown with 61 wins, a tally which placed him 10th in the overall jockeys’ championship.

He finished the season 20 wins clear of second-placed Ben Jones.

Nicky Henderson is now a six-time champion trainer, earning £2.5m in prize money in 2020

It is the sixth time Henderson has been champion trainer. He secured £2,533,862 in prize money, – £192,550 ahead of 11-time champion Paul Nicholls.

Henderson’s big wins were headed by his eighth Champion Hurdle success at the Cheltenham Festival with Epatante.

Nicky Henderson said: ‘It’s a great pity that we haven’t been able to see the season out and it looked like the race was going down to the wire.

‘But all of us know that the current situation is bigger than racing and something that everyone in the country is having to deal with and face.’ The Champion Jumps Owners[http://www.greatbritishracing.com/championships/owners]’ title is also decided by prize money.

The tally of McManus – £2,137,844 – was a huge £1,390,508 ahead of second-placed owners, Simon Munir & Isaac Souede.




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Sky Sports will not seek rebate if The Hundred is put on ice

ECB set to delay launch of The Hundred as Sky Sports will not seek rebate if new tournament is put on ice due to coronavirus

  • The ECB will not make a final decision on The Hundred until next month
  • The new competition is vital to the £1.1billion television deal with Sky Sports
  • Sky would rather delay launch than televise without crowds and overseas stars

Broadcaster Sky Sports have given their blessing to the ECB postponing The Hundred for 12 months — despite the new competition’s importance to their £1.1billion television deal. 

Sky executives have told the ECB that they would rather delay the launch of the new format than broadcast a pale imitation this summer without crowds and overseas stars. The ECB will not make a final decision on The Hundred until next month but are coming to the view it will be postponed. 

The support of Sky Sports is likely to harden that thinking with the governing body, heartened that the broadcaster are not planning to demand a rebate on TV rights fees paid given the lack of live cricket. 

Sky would rather delay the Hundred than broadcast without crowds and overseas stars

In a further indication of ECB thinking, it is understood that staff working on the new competition are among those at Lord’s who have been furloughed. 

Sky Sports’ launch of their roster of Hundred commentators and pundits, which was scheduled for tomorrow, has also been cancelled. 

There are several other factors which are leading the ECB to conclude that The Hundred — scheduled to start in mid-July — should be postponed for this summer. Given its aim is to attract a new audience to cricket, the ECB have assigned a huge marketing budget to a competition which has annual running costs of £40million. 

That spending will be hard to justify when the majority of players and administrative staff are taking pay cuts or facing job losses. 

ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said cricket faces the ‘biggest challenge in its history’

There are also serious doubts over the availability of the three overseas players who have signed for each of the eight franchises, due to uncertainty over the resumption of international travel. The situation is complicated further by a potential clash with a rescheduled Indian Premier League or Caribbean Player League. 

As a result, ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said last week that the priority would be pleasing cricket’s ‘core audience’. 

This is likely to mean the focus will be on internationals, the Twenty20 Blast and some red-ball county cricket in a shortened season. 

Yorkshire on Monday became the first county to furlough their players and coaches in response to the crisis. The majority of club staff had already been put on the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme last month. 




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NHL and New Hampshire: What to know about the league’s possible return

This week, the NHL has begun brainstorming possible neutral site locations to finish the 2019-20 season and Stanley Cup playoffs. The league has been on pause since March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Sunday night, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that North Dakota was discussed as a possible neutral site location. Another site that’s been tossed around is Manchester, N.H., according to reporter John Shannon.

SNHU Arena could be a likely venue to stage NHL games should the season resume.

Why New Hampshire?

As of April 1, 2019, New Hampshire has a population of 1,359,711 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Manchester is the highest populated city in the state and is the only city in New Hampshire with over 100,000 residents.

New Hampshire ranks 42nd in population among the 50 states. According to CNN, as of April 6, the state has 669 coronavirus cases with 49 cases per 100,000 residents. The number of COVID-19 cases is the 11th-lowest state total in the United States.

What is the potential venue?

SNHU Arena would be the likely venue of choice should the NHL schedule games in Manchester. The arena capacity for hockey is 10,019 and served as the home of the now-defunct Manchester Monarchs, who played in the American Hockey League (2001-15) and the East Coast Hockey League (2015-19), and a few Boston Bruins preseason games.

Opened in 2001, the arena has also hosted the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey tournament as a regional site eight times, most recently in 2019. They are slated to host a regional again in 2021.

Reaction to the news

According to the New Hampshire Union Leader’s Michael Cousineau, a source close to SNHU Arena shut down rumors of the NHL staging games there.

“Zero conversations with anyone,” the source told the paper. “Never heard of it before you called. Not happening here, makes zero sense.”

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Kiya Tomlin sewing masks used against COVID-19

Kiya Tomlin said in times of stress, she has always sewn.

As a college student, during exams. As a new wife, having to move. Now, as the nation grips with a devastating pandemic — COVID-19.

"I haven’t sewn on this machine this much in a long time," Tomlin said with a little laugh, speaking of the Baby Lock model sitting at her kitchen table.

There is great seriousness to Tomlin’s efforts, though, as the fashion designer and CEO of an eponymous clothing line is sewing perhaps the most valuable thing she ever has: masks. Masks to protect faces, and masks to hopefully help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Tomlin is like most of us these days, confined to her home, her workspace shuttered as the country tries to flatten the curve of the new coronavirus that has ripped across the world. Her older son, Dino, is home prematurely from his freshman year at Maryland, taking classes via the internet. Her second son, Mason, is finishing his senior year of high school from their house, too — also online. Her 13-year old daughter, Harlyn, is a competitive gymnast and seasoned cyberschooler, but she’s turned the Tomlin house into her gym. And then there’s Kiya Tomlin’s husband, Mike, the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, suddenly home all day, too, preparing for the 2020 NFL Draft and making all sorts of noise. (Yes, Mrs. Tomlin says, her husband’s voice booms just as loudly at home as it does in his weekly press conferences.)

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Almost as soon as non-essential businesses were closed in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny County, in mid-March, a friend sent her an article calling on home sewers in Indiana to make masks.

Tomlin’s children, all good students, were largely self-sufficient. She kept cleaning her house and cooking ("The eating! They want to eat all day," she said, putting voice to what nearly every mother is saying right about now), and so that call-out obviously intrigued her.

"I wondered, ‘Do we need these here? Does anyone want these,’ " she said, as this was just before it became so public that America had such a dire shortage of masks.

She eventually connected with some folks at the Allegheny Health Network and began working with her own staff on designing a washable, reusable cloth mask.

Tomlin knew these cloth masks could not block all the minuscule particles transmitted through coughs or sneezes, but her hope was that they could leave the increasingly hard-to-find N95 masks — that do do that — to the frontline healthcare workers who absolutely need them.

Tomlin said her initial goal was to have the masks she and her team are making go to hospital support staff: the receptionists, janitors and cafeteria staff and all those who are still vital and desperate for some sort of personal protective equipment. Since then, though, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has officially recommended that everyone wear a cloth face covering of some sort where standard social distancing measures — at a grocery store or gas station, for example — may be difficult. Asymptomatic people still can spread the virus, and the CDC has said slowing the spread of the coronavirus is a "national effort."

"Something is better than nothing," Tomlin said, even as she is continually working to improve the design of her masks.

The morning we spoke, she had figured out a way to sew the masks with a little open pocket, one in which someone could place a piece of a HEPA filter vacuum bag, or a blue shop towel or whatever other material is being found to better filter the particles that could carry the virus.

Tomlin has so far delivered 300 masks to hospitals in Pittsburgh. Her team, which numbers "four and a half" (the "half" being her daughter, Harlyn), can each make a mask in about 8 minutes. (Save for Harlyn, who Tomlin said maybe takes 9 minutes.) They sewed another 500 last week and, as word spreads of what they’re doing, are starting to net requests from hospitals around the country. Tomlin is cutting the fabric in her workshop (yes, she wields the power saw herself), but everyone is sewing by themselves, at home, and then dropping the masks to her for delivery (yes, she goes to the post office herself), at a specially designated time.

"We are practicing social distancing," she promised.

The NFL community has responded in multiple ways to the crisis at hand. Patriots owner Robert Kraft spent $2 million and used his team plane to transport 1.2 million N95 masks from China. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has donated $1 million to the COVID-19 Immunology Defense Fund at the University of Pennsylvania.

Tomlin’s effort is very personal, however, of her own hands and own execution.

When asked why this project so spoke to her, Tomlin said it wasn’t necessarily this crisis, but "just who I am."

When Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in the Houston era back in 2017, she called Colleen O’Brien, whose husband Bill is the Texans’ head coach. She asked how she could help. O’Brien talked about families who’d lost everything but the clothes they were wearing and Tomlin didn’t hesitate. She sent three enormous pallets amounting to about 60 boxes of brand-new clothing from her collection. She outfitted a badly hit neighborhood with new wardrobes, but she modestly shrugged it off with a line about that being better than putting the clothes on clearance in her store.

It is not the ethos of either of the Tomlins to want credit for what they do, in coaching an injury-ravaged squad to within a game of the playoffs (as her husband did this past year) or in building from scratch a successful clothing line while raising three whip-smart children (as Kiya Tomlin has done).

"Fashion does feel so frivolous," she said. "It does not feel important, and so I feel grateful to be able to use it in an important way."

Now, while there was a lot of creative energy expended in figuring out the exact best design for the mask, she laughed that the masks themselves are not haute couture, but rather, the fabric that was on sale, in bulk, and eligible for her 30 percent off coupon at her local JOANN Fabrics. She did not buy any black-and-yellow print (one of her employees, apparently, did), and she jokingly said, "We’re not taking custom orders."

To some degree, though, she is.

A surgeon asked her if she could make a few bigger sizes, ones that could fit over the elusive N95 masks, with the idea being that doctors could ration those vital pieces of protective gear by instead changing an outer mask for each patient. Tomlin and her team are doing that, and they also changed up their pattern, creating a little pocket in each mask for a filter that could be placed inside.

And so that’s where Tomlin asks for help. She just last week bought 1,500 yards of elastic and 400 yards of fabric, and so while she’ll happily take fabric donations, she doesn’t necessarily need that. She doesn’t want monetary donations. If home sewers want to drop off masks they’ve made outside her store, she’s happy to package them with the ones her team is making and send them along to places of need. But what she really, truly, ultimately does long for is someone to develop and produce the appropriate filter to slide into the washable masks she’s making.

"That’s what I really want," she said. "Someone should be able to do that, right?"

We can all hope.

Kiya Tomlin is proprietor of the Kiya Tomlin Work/Shop, located at 388 Butler Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15223. The label’s website is kiyatomlin.us

Follow Aditi Kinkhabwala on Twitter at @AKinkhabwala

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Dutch clubs sent Uefa warning over cancelling season in lesson to Premier League

Leading Dutch clubs last week called for a halt to football in Holland, with table topping Ajax, AZ Alkmaar and PSV Eindhoven three of the sides in favour of the proposal. But the Dutch FA have now been sent a ‘threatening’ letter by Uefa warning them of the possible consequences of such a decision. The Eredivisie clubs and players are set to discuss the issue today, with the warning from Uefa hanging over their heads.

Belgium, whose clubs called a halt to the Jupiler Pro League have already had a warning from Uefa that their clubs could be penalised as well.

Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin, who wants all leagues completed before the Champions and Europa Leagues are settled, said: “This is not the time. If it is not possible to return to play, the Executive Committee may not take into consideration the champions and qualified teams of the countries that make these decisions.”

Currently in Holland Ajax lead the league, but only on goal difference from AZ, with nine matches to go.

In Belgium, Club Brugge were 15 points clear of the next club Gent and were already qualified for the Champions League.

Premier League action will not return to action until April 30 at the very earliest due to the coronavirus outbreak.

However, suspension on Premier League football could be extended until the summer.

Last week, the Premier League issued a statement about restarting the season, which read: “It was acknowledged that the Premier League will not resume at the beginning of May – and that the 2019/20 season will only return when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

“The restart date is under constant review with all stakeholders, as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic develops and we work together through this very challenging time.

“The Premier League is working closely with the whole of professional football in this country, as well as with the Government, public agencies and other relevant stakeholders to ensure the game achieves a collaborative solution.

“With this, there is a combined objective for all remaining domestic league and cup matches to be played, enabling us to maintain the integrity of each competition.

“However, any return to play will only be with the full support of the Government and when medical guidance allows.”

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Hamilton's Mercedes contract extension in limbo due to coronavirus

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes contract extension in limbo as team chief Toto Wolff’s future is also put on the back-burner due to coronavirus crisis: ‘We all have bigger problems to solve now’

  • Lewis Hamilton is still waiting to agree terms over a new contract with Mercedes
  • Hamilton, along with Toto Wolff, have contracts that run until December 31
  • Team principal Wolff has since been speaking about his future with Mercedes 

Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes future remains up in the air due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has gripped sport globally.

The reigning Formula One champion is waiting to agree terms over a new contract with Mercedes, with his current £40million-a-year deal expiring at the end of this season.

Meanwhile, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has admitted his own contract negotiations have been put on hold because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Lewis Hamilton is still waiting to agree terms over a new contract with Mercedes

The pair’s Mercedes’ contracts run up until December 31 but no definite breakthroughs have been made due to the deadly virus stopping all activity – but Wolff has given an encouraging update on his own situation.  

He told the Sun: ‘In most stories that could be read about it, people added up one plus one and turned it into three.

‘What is my current status? My participation in Mercedes is solid, my contract runs until the end of 2020, and we are still in good discussions about what we want to do together.

‘We are discussing but all of this has been pushed into the background by the coronavirus. We all have bigger problems to solve now – human problems in our companies.’

Toto Wolff, along with Hamilton, has a contract with Mercedes that expires on December 31

Wolff’s future was thrown up into the air after businessman Lawrence Stroll brought the former Force India team, plus a controlling stake in Aston Martin.

Stroll will rebrand the team as Aston Martin for the 2021 season and it led to reports that Wolff could partner up with Stroll.

But Wolff has denied he will be joining the project before claiming he remains fully committed to Mercedes.

The Austrian said: ‘I’m not going to become CEO of Aston Martin, and I’m not going to make a strategic investment there either.’

He then finished off by adding: ‘But I am and will remain the head of Mercedes Motorsport and F1 boss, and nothing will change in the short-term.’ 




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