Cavs to make qualifying offer to Rodney Hood
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Wednesday, June 27
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers have some clarity with one of their free agent forwards.
No, not that one.
While waiting to see if they’re in LeBron James’ plans, the Cavaliers intend to extend a $3.4 million qualifying offer to Rodney Hood, making him a restricted free agent and protecting the club if he receives any offers.
The team will make the offer to Hood before Friday’s deadline, said a person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the club is not publicly discussing its plans ahead of free agency starting Sunday.
Cleveland.com first reported the Cavaliers’ intentions with Hood.
Also, the Cavs intend to pick up center Kendrick Perkins’ $2.5 million non-guaranteed contract for next season, the person said. The move with Perkins, who signed at the end of the regular season but did not appear in any playoff games, is so the team can potentially use his salary slot in a trade.
Perkins has had two stints with Cleveland.
Meanwhile, James has until 11:59 p.m. Friday to pick up his $35.6 million contract option for next season or he will become a free agent. The 33-year-old is expected to decline the option, but it’s also possible he could exercise it and be traded if Cleveland works out a deal in order to acquire assets for the three-time champion.
The Cavs have not yet heard from James.
At this point, days away from free agency officially beginning, anything seems possible.
The 25-year-old Hood had an interesting few months with Cleveland, which acquired him from Utah in that flurry of trades executed at the Feb. 8 deadline by general manager Koby Altman. Hood struggled to blend into Cleveland’s rotation, but he’s young and inexpensive and the team believes the 6-foot-8 forward can help it stay competitive — with or without James.
Hood started Cleveland’s first playoff game before losing coach Tyronn Lue’s trust and falling out of the rotation. He re-emerged in the NBA Finals and scored 15 points in the Game 3 loss to Golden State.
He averaged 10.8 points in 21 regular-season games with the Cavs.
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ARCHIVE: FROM NOV. 2016
Browns owners pick up tab to refurbish high school fields
TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam wouldn’t trade the way the club’s new front office handled its first NFL draft.
After dealing away the No. 2 overall pick and dropping down again in the first round, Cleveland’s group of top executives — one of whom cut his teeth in major league baseball — selected 14 players, including a quarterback they hope will challenge for a starting job.
“I thought it was terrific,” Dee Haslam said. “I’m extremely excited.”
“We got a lot of players,” her husband said. “I think what’s equally important is that we positioned ourselves well for the next two drafts, so we’re excited.”
The Haslams spoke Monday following a news conference at which they announced they’re paying to have five Cleveland-area high school fields renovated with synthetic turf. The project will cost nearly $3 million.
It was the couple’s first public appearance since the draft last month when the Browns picked four receivers, three pass rushers, two offensive linemen, two defensive backs, a tight end and an inside linebacker. The club also used a third-round pick on Southern California quarterback Cody Kessler, a choice that sparked some second-guessing and prompted new Browns coach Hue Jackson to ask Cleveland fans to “trust me on this one.”
Jimmy Haslam has faith in Jackson, hired in January after two seasons as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator. Jackson convinced the Browns to sign free agent Robert Griffin III and offered his opinion and support for the club dealing the second overall pick and a chance to select North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, who was taken by Philadelphia.
“His track record’s been pretty good,” Haslam said of Jackson’s influence on the quarterbacking decisions. “You just look at the teams that are really good in the NFL and for the most part they’re really good at that position. I think we have a head coach who understands talent at that position but equally as important how to coach them. He’s coaching the quarterbacks hard every day, and I think that’ll make a difference over a period of time.”
Overall, the Haslams were thrilled with the teamwork shown by executive vice president of football operations Sashi Brown, chief strategy officer Paul DePodesta and executive vice president of player personnel Andrew Berry in their initial draft.
“We all noted just how well everybody worked together,” Jimmy Haslam said. “The chemistry was good. There was lots of debate, vigorous healthy debate but the group worked together extremely well, that’s what made us feel best. They followed the process, they followed the plan and time will tell how good our draft is.”
NFL suspends Bucs QB Jameis Winston for 3 games
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
Friday, June 29
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open the season without quarterback Jameis Winston, who has been suspended three games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
Winston said in a statement released on Facebook that the NFL informed him of their decision on Thursday. The discipline stems from the league’s investigation of an accusation that the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner groped a female Uber driver during a ride the quarterback took in Arizona, where Winston was attending a charity event in March 2016.
The driver did not file a criminal or civil complaint, however she reported the incident to Uber. The NFL learned of the allegation, when it was reported publicly last November.
“The league promptly initiated a comprehensive investigation that included interviews with several persons, including the driver, Winston and others with relevant information,” the NFL said in a statement announcing the suspension. “The league also examined an extensive amount of other evidence, including telephone records, business records, data from electronic devices and other communications.”
The Bucs drafted Winston No. 1 overall in 2015, despite questions about the young quarterback’s behavior during his college career at Florida State.
Winston, 24, was accused of raping a fellow student at FSU, but was never charged. The university settled a Title IX lawsuit over its handling of the allegations with Winston’s accuser, Erica Kinsman, in January 2016 for $1.7 million.
Winston said in his statement Thursday that “in the past 2½ years my life has been filled with experiences, opportunities and events that have helped me grow, mature and learn.” Winston added that he has eliminated alcohol from his life.
Winston, who’s thrown for 11,636 yards and 69 touchdowns in three NFL seasons, has started 45 of the Bucs’ past 48 games. He missed three games last season with a shoulder injury and the Bucs finished 5-11, missing the playoffs for the 10th straight season.
He will miss the Bucs’ season opener at New Orleans on Sept. 9, as well as homes games against defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. He will be eligible to return to the team on Sept. 25, the day after Tampa Bay plays the Steelers.
The league said Winston is also required to have a clinical evaluation and cooperate in any recommended program of therapeutic intervention.
“All members of our organization are expected to conduct themselves in accordance with the personal conduct policy of the NFL,” the Bucs said in a statement. “We are disappointed that Jameis put himself in a position that has been found to violate the policy and accept today’s decision by the commissioner.”
The suspension will cost Winston $124,411 of his base salary of $705,000 for the upcoming season. The quarterback is set to earn $20.9 million in 2019.
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For Kane Patterson, Ohio State commitment came down to Urban Meyer difference
Congratulation to Ken Schnacke being inducted into the International League’s Hall of Fame tonight during the Home Run Derby.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Columbus Blue Jackets have re-signed forward Oliver Bjorkstrand and defenseman Ryan Murray.
The 23-year-old Bjorkstrand, the team’s fifth-leading scorer last season with 11 goals and 29 assists, signed a three-year pact worth $7.5 million.
The 24-year-old Murray accepted the team’s qualifying offer of a one-year contract worth $2.8 million. Both deals were announced over the weekend.
Murray, who had a goal and 11 assists in 44 games last season, could play a larger role next season after the departure of free agents Jack Johnson and Ian Cole.
The Blue Jackets’ top scorer Artemi Panarin tweeted that he and his agent were meeting for contract talks with team general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on Monday (July 16) in France. He is a free agent after next season.
Monday, July 16
Bell, Steelers failed to reach deal on new contract
By The Associated Press
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Le’Veon Bell’s next season with the Pittsburgh Steelers will almost certainly be his last.
The Pro Bowl running back and the defending AFC North champions failed to reach an agreement on a new contract by Monday’s deadline, meaning he will play under the franchise tag for a second straight year and hit the open market next spring.
Bell tweeted that he “both sides worked extremely hard” to try and find common ground but ultimately could not.
“The NFL is a hard business at times … to the fans that had hope, I’m sorry we let you down but trust me, 2018 will be my best season to date,” Bell posted.
The 26-year-old Bell is one of the league’s most versatile players and he has long maintained he wants to be paid accordingly. In addition to serving as a workhorse in the backfield — his 321 rushing attempts last season led the NFL — he also caught 85 passes, good enough for 10th in the league.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said the team will make another attempt to re-sign Bell in the 2019 off-season, but another Pro Bowl-type season by Bell would likely make him too expensive.
Bell will make $14.5 million whenever he signs his franchise tender, which likely won’t be until the end of training camp. It’s the path Bell followed last summer after the Steelers placed the franchise tag on him for the first time.
He arrived the weekend after the end of the exhibition season and got off to a bit of a slow start before finding his footing in October while helping the Steelers to a second straight division title and fourth consecutive playoff appearance.
The depth chart behind Bell is uneven at best. James Conner showed signs during his rookie season last fall before a knee injury. The team drafted Jaylen Samuels — who did a little bit of everything at North Carolina State — in the fifth round this spring. Samuels was an effective receiver for the Wolfpack but he lacks Bell’s unique overall skill set.
One the Steelers — barring an unusual turn of events — will have in the fold for just one more year.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
State gets 5 more sports betting applications
By WAYNE PARRY
Monday, July 16
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey regulators have received five additional applications from gambling companies seeking to start offering sports betting before football season starts in September.
David Rebuck, director of the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, told The Associated Press that his agency received two new applications from brick-and-mortar facilities, and three applications for mobile sports betting by a deadline he set of Monday evening.
He would not identify the applicants, saying it’s up to the companies to identify themselves.
“Everybody wants to be fully functional by the end of August,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Meeting the deadline means state regulators expect to be able to consider their applications in time for the outlets to begin sports betting by the start of football season at the beginning of September, should everything be in order.
Not meeting the deadline, however, does not mean an applicant will be frozen out of the entire NFL season; applications that arrive later will still be considered, although they might not be acted upon before the start of the season, Rebuck said.
Only one of the potential licensees, which include casinos, racetracks or former tracks, immediately responded to requests for comment Monday.
Caesars Entertainment applied for permission to offer sports betting in person at Harrah’s casino, as well as at Bally’s casino, which also would service the adjacent Caesars casino. The company also applied for permission to offer mobile sports betting affiliated with all three of its Atlantic City casinos, according to Kevin Ortzman, the company’s Atlantic City regional president.
There is some crossover in the applications; some of them involve more than one casino, Rebuck said.
So far, two casinos, the Borgata and Ocean Resort, and two horse tracks, Monmouth Park and the Meadowlands, offer sports betting in New Jersey.
Rebuck says the division has not heard from three potential applicants.
There are 14 potential sports betting licensees: the nine Atlantic City casinos, the three functioning racetracks (Monmouth Park in Oceanport, the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, and Freehold Raceway in Freehold), and two former track sites (Atlantic City Race Course in Mays Landing and the former Garden State Park site in Cherry Hill.)
Rebuck said he expects the division will approve additional sports betting operations in the coming weeks.
“I fully expect that by Aug. 1 we will see additional properties up and running,” he said.
Sports betting took in $16.4 million at Monmouth Park, the Borgata and Ocean Resort during the first two weeks it was offered in June.
New Jersey won a U.S. Supreme Court case in May that cleared the way for all 50 states to offer sports betting should they so choose.
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Hulk Hogan reinstated into wrestling Hall of Fame
By TAMARA LUSH
Monday, July 16
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. has reinstated Hulk Hogan to its Hall of Fame, three years after he was found to have used racial slurs in a conversation caught on a sex tape.
The Connecticut-based company made the announcement in a statement Sunday.
“This second chance follows Hogan’s numerous public apologies and volunteering to work with young people, where he is helping them learn from his mistake,” the organization wrote.
Hogan told his 2.2 million followers on Twitter: “I’ve been praying for this day and I finally feel like I made it back home. Only Love 4 the #WWEUNIVERSE brother,” he wrote.
The 64-year-old Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, apologized in 2015 for using “offensive language” in a conversation many years before that. On the recording, he was caught talking about his daughter sleeping with a black man and used the “N” word.
“It was unacceptable for me to have used that offensive language; there is no excuse for it; and I apologize for having done it,” Hogan said at the time.
The comments came to light in a joint report from RadarOnline.com and The National Enquirer, which said Hogan had used racial slurs in a conversation caught on a sex video that was the subject of an invasion of privacy lawsuit.
Hogan, perhaps the biggest star in WWE’s five-decade history, was the main draw for the first WrestleMania in 1985 and was a fixture for years in its signature event, facing everyone from Andre The Giant and Randy Savage to The Rock and even company chairman Vince McMahon. He won six WWE championships and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005 by Sylvester Stallone.
But he was able to transcend his “Hulkamania” fan base to become a celebrity outside the wrestling world, appearing in numerous movies and television shows, including a reality show about his life on VH1, “Hogan Knows Best.”
In 2016, a Florida jury awarded $140 million to Hogan in a privacy case revolving around the sex tape, which was posted on Gawker.com. The site posted a video of Hogan having sex with a friend’s wife. Gawker argued that its footage was newsworthy and protected by the First Amendment.
Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel bankrolled Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker, raising concerns about the power of the wealthy against the media. Only after Hogan won the jury verdict did Thiel’s role come to light.
Gawker settled with Hulk Hogan for $31 million, ending a years-long fight that led to the media company’s bankruptcy, the shutdown of Gawker.com and the sale of Gawker’s other sites to Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.
Jury selection starts for rape trial of ex-Tennessee players
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer
Monday, July 16
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Tennessee football players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams are going on trial to face aggravated rape charges nearly 3 ½ years after both men were indicted.
The jury selection process began Monday afternoon with lawyers for both sides interviewing potential jurors individually. That process will continue Tuesday morning.
Johnson was a linebacker and Williams a defensive back for Tennessee when a woman told police both men raped her in the early morning hours of Nov. 16, 2014. Johnson and Williams were suspended from the team less than 48 hours later and never played again for Tennessee.
Both men were indicted on February 2015.
Their case was delayed by a debate over whether defense attorneys could obtain social media communications from witnesses, including the woman who says Johnson and Williams raped her.
The Associated Press typically doesn’t identify people who say they are victims of sexual abuse.
The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in April 2017 that lawyers for Johnson and Williams could issue subpoenas requesting those social media communications. Four months later, the Tennessee Supreme Court denied the state’s bid to appeal that ruling.
Knox County Criminal Court Judge Bob McGee ruled in January that the 26-year-old Johnson and 25-year-old Williams would be tried together. Prosecutors said they wanted one trial for both men because so much time had passed since the charges were filed, causing witnesses to scatter to various locations and making it difficult to bring them all together.
Prosecutors also said at the time “the state’s proof as to one defendant will be virtually identical to the proof as to the other.”
Johnson’s lawyer, Stephen Ross Johnson, had argued for separate trials and disputed the notion that the state’s cases against both defendants were similar. Johnson, who isn’t related to A.J. Johnson, said his client had been engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with the woman who says she was raped.
A.J. Johnson was a four-year starter for Tennessee’s football team. His 425 career tackles represent Tennessee’s second-highest total since the school started keeping track in 1970. His invitation to the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine was rescinded after his indictment.
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Elevate the Stage, Presented by ProMedica, Podium Gymnastics Meet Features Teams of the Big Ten Conference in Toledo Competition
TOLEDO, OHIO – Elevate the Stage, a youth and women’s collegiate gymnastics meet presented by ProMedica, has announced the participating NCAA teams for the 2019 event. The event, which features a podium competition, will travel to Toledo, Ohio in the upcoming season. The event will host a weekend-long club meet for girls Junior Olympic competitors Levels 2-10, Xcel and an Open competition. A NCAA Division I Women’s Gymnastics meet featuring teams of the Big Ten Conference will headline the meet weekend. The NCAA teams that will come to Toledo to be a part of the 2019 Elevate the Stage, presented by ProMedica, include:
Toledo, Ohio – February 22 & 23
Presented by ProMedica
Featuring teams of the Big Ten Conference
Session 1 – Friday, Feb. 22 at 7:00 p.m.
Session 2 – Saturday, Feb. 23 at 7:00 p.m.
The Elevate the Stage meet is in its fifth year of operation and was created to provide a championship-caliber platform for gymnasts to compete across the country. The meet is staged on the podiums, which are typically only used at top championship meets and the Olympics. Competing on the podiums gives the gymnasts a special experience and provides an enhanced viewing experience for the fans.
“We are thrilled to take part in a championship-caliber event that provides the opportunity to showcase the sport and all Big Ten gymnastics teams,” said Big Ten Associate Commissioner of Sports Administration Wendy Fallen. “Podium competition prepares our student-athletes for the postseason and we very much appreciate the opportunity to participate in Knight Eady’s Elevate the Stage event.”
ProMedica is the presenting sponsor of the 2019 Elevate the Stage meet in Toledo. Elevate the Stage is owned and operated by Knight Eady, a Birmingham-based sports marketing and event management firm. Kayla Williams, Gymnastics Operations Coordinator at Knight Eady, serves as the event director. Williams was an NCAA Women’s Gymnastics champion, two-time Southeastern Conference Gymnastics champion and 2009 World Champion.
“Elevate the Stage is excited to be in Toledo for the second year in a row,” said Williams. “We look forward to providing this unique experience for collegiate and youth gymnasts to compete on the podium and in the same weekend. We hope gymnasts and fans from across the country will join us in Toledo in 2019 to be a part of this meet!”
“We are proud to support this national collegiate competition for our community,” said Randy Oostra, president and CEO at ProMedica. “This will be a great opportunity for people across the region to experience a championship-caliber event, and to see the revitalization of Toledo firsthand.”
Tickets for the college meet will be on sale beginning in fall of 2018. Pre-sale ticket information is available at elevatethestage.com. For additional information or to register for the club meet, visit elevatethestage.com.