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All-Star SS Ian Desmond to skip MLB season, cites social injustice, COVID-19

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June 30 (UPI) — Colorado Rockies shortstop Ian Desmond will sit out Major League Baseball’s season restart. The two-time All-Star cited concern about the coronavirus risk to his family and social injustice as his reasons.

Desmond announced his decision Monday on social media. The 11-year veteran hit .255 with 20 home runs and 65 RBIs in 140 games last season for the Rockies. He spent his first seven seasons with the Washington Nationals. He is signed through 2022.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made this baseball season one that is a risk I am not comfortable taking,” Desmond wrote.

The 2020 MLB season was suspended during spring training in mid-March. The resumed campaign is scheduled to start on July 23 or 24.

“With a pregnant wife and four young children who have lots of questions about what’s going on in the world, home is where I need to be right now,” Desmond wrote.

“Home for my wife, Chelsey. Home to help. Home to guide. Home to answer my older three boys’ questions about coronavirus and civil rights and life. Home to be their dad.”

Desmond, 34, began his message with an explanation for why he has recently opened up about his “thoughts and experiences as a biracial man in America.” He also cited the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody and discussed growing up in Sarasota, Fla.

He said he recently visited Little League fields in the area and found them to be in bad shape. Desmond wrote about how important youth baseball was for him as a child and how access to the game is limited for underprivileged children.

“Why can’t we support teaching the game to all kids — but especially those in underprivileged communities?” Desmond wrote. “Why aren’t accessible, affordable youth sports viewed as an essential opportunity to affect kids’ development, as opposed to money-making propositions and recruiting chances? It’s hard to wrap your head around it.”


Desmond said he will use some of his time off to help Sarasota Youth Baseball rebound so it can help more children. He will forfeit more than $400,000 of prorated salary by not playing in 2020. Desmond has an $8 million salary in 2021.

The star shortstop joined Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake, Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and pitcher Joe Ross in opting out of the resumed MLB season.



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Stanford to cut 11 varsity teams, Ivy League cancels fall sports due to pandemic

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July 8 (UPI) — As coronavirus cases continue to spike around the country, Stanford University is cutting 11 of its varsity programs and the Ivy League has ruled out playing sports this fall.

Stanford is discontinuing men’s and women’s fencing, field hockey, lightweight rowing, men’s rowing, co-ed and women’s sailing, squash, synchronized swimming, men’s volleyball and wrestling, according to the school. The programs will end at the conclusion of the 2020-21 academic year.

“As you can imagine, this has been a heartbreaking day for all of us, especially those student-athletes and coaches involved,” Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir said Wednesday. “We came to this decision only [after] exhausting all other viable alternatives.

“It recently became painfully clear we would not remain financially stable and support 36 varsity sports at a nationally competitive level, which is what we desire.”

The school announced the decision and the reasoning behind it in an open letter to the Stanford community on behalf of Muir, president Marc Tessier-Lavigne and provost Persis Drell. The letter said that funding the school’s 36 athletic programs was “not sustainable” and that alternatives such as budget cuts and fundraising were “insufficient.”

“These 11 programs consist of more than 240 incredible student-athletes and 22 dedicated coaches,” the letter read. “They were built by more than 4,000 alumni whose contributions led to 20 national championships, 27 Olympic medals, and an untold number of academic and professional achievements.

“Each of the individuals associated with these programs will forever have a place in Stanford’s history.”

Stanford will honor all of its scholarship commitments and provide assistance to any athletes who attempt to continue their careers elsewhere. Coaches’ contracts also will be honored.

Meanwhile, the Ivy League became the first Division I conference to cancel fall sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

No decision has been reached about winter or spring Ivy League sports or whether fall sports could be pushed back to spring 2021.

“As a leadership group, we have a responsibility to make decisions that are in the best interest of the students who attend our institutions, as well as the faculty and staff who work at our schools,” the Ivy League Council of Presidents said in a joint statement Wednesday. “These decisions are extremely difficult, particularly when they impact meaningful student-athlete experiences that so many value and cherish.

“With the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus, we simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk, consistent with the policies that each of our schools is adopting as part of its reopening plans this fall.”

Student-athletes in fall sports within the conference will be allowed to practice — in modified form — on campuses.



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San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert demanding trade

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July 8 (UPI) — San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert has requested a trade from the team, his agent announced Wednesday on social media.

Mostert’s agent, Brett Tessler, wrote on Twitter that his client’s demand comes after “months of unproductive talks” with the 49ers on adjusting his current contract.

“After months of unproductive talks with the 49ers about fairly adjusting Raheem Mostert’s contract (which paid him for special teams) we have requested a trade,” Tessler wrote. “Disappointing that it would come to this for a guy who led all NFL RBs in YPC & helped lead them to the Super Bowl.”

Mostert is scheduled to earn a base salary of about $2.6 million this season and is due about $2.9 million in 2021 as part of a three-year deal he signed with the 49ers last year, according to Spotrac. Based on average annual value, Mostert is the team’s fourth-highest-paid tailback.

Earlier this off-season, the 49ers traded running back Matt Breida to the Miami Dolphins. The other options in the team’s backfield include Tevin Coleman, Jeff Wilson, Kyle Juszczyk and Jerick McKinnon, who hasn’t played in two seasons due to knee injuries.

Mostert led the 49ers with 772 rushing yards on 137 carries last season and scored 10 total touchdowns (eight rushing, two receiving). In three postseason games, he recorded 336 rushing yards — including a franchise-record 220 yards in the 49ers’ NFC Championship Game win over the Green Bay Packers — and five touchdowns.



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Los Angeles Clippers traveling to Orlando without star Kawhi Leonard

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July 8 (UPI) — Superstar forward Kawhi Leonard didn’t fly with the Los Angeles Clippers to Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday because of a family matter.

League sources told ESPN and Yahoo Sports that Leonard was granted permission by the organization to tend to the family matter. According to the outlets, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time NBA Finals MVP is expected to join the Clippers in a few days.

The team is scheduled to arrive in Orlando for the NBA’s 22-team restart Wednesday night.

The Clippers — considered one of the top contenders for the NBA title — enter the league’s restart 5 1/2 games behind the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers. The Clips posted a 44-20 record before the NBA suspended play in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In 51 games this season, Leonard has averaged career highs in points (26.9) and assists (five) and matched his career-best mark in rebounds (7.3).

Leonard is in his first season with the Clippers after signing a three-year, $103 million contract with the franchise last July. He has averaged 18.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 518 career games (491 starts) with the San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors and Clippers.

Leonard — a four-time All-Star selection — has won two NBA championships in his career.



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