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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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College football: Notre Dame-Wake Forest postponed due to COVID-19

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Sept. 22 (UPI) — Saturday’s game between Notre Dame and Wake Forest has been postponed after the Fighting Irish announced 13 players are currently in isolation.

Notre Dame said in a statement Tuesday that seven student-athletes tested positive for the coronavirus out of 94 tests administered Monday. Combined with testing results from last week, 13 players are isolated — with 10 in quarantine.

Due to the positive results over the past two weeks, Notre Dame has paused all football-related activities until further testing is completed. Both schools are working on rescheduling the matchup.

“With student-athlete health and safety our primary focus, we will continue to follow our prevention protocols and ongoing testing procedures,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said in a statement. “We managed an increase in positivity rates in August, and the players handled it wonderfully.

“We knew COVID-19 would present challenges throughout the season, and we’ll always put student-athlete health and safety at the forefront of our decision making. We look forward to resuming team activities and getting back on the playing field.”

Wake Forest athletic director John Currie said the programs are attempting to reschedule the game for Oct. 3 — an open date that both schools share.

“I know everyone involved is saddened to be unable to play this weekend, but based on the circumstances it is the right decision,” Currie said in a statement Tuesday. “We are already discussing options for rescheduling with the ACC and our future opponents, including the possibility of playing on the October 3rd weekend.”

Notre Dame beat South Florida 52-0 at home last week and opened the 2020 season with a victory over Duke.

Wake Forest began the season with a blowout loss to top-ranked Clemson in Week 1 and a 45-42 setback to North Carolina State in Week 2.

This is now the fourth ACC contest impacted because of coronavirus issues.



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Atlanta Falcons to allow limited number of fans at games starting Oct. 11

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Sept. 22 (UPI) — The Atlanta Falcons will allow a limited number of fans to attend games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium beginning Oct. 11 against the Carolina Panthers, the team announced Tuesday.

The team said in August that no fans would be allowed at the stadium through the month of September due to the coronavirus pandemic. The latest decision to welcome fans back was based on the decline in COVID-19 cases in Georgia.

MLS club Atlanta United, who shares Mercedes-Benz Stadium with the Falcons, also will compete in front of a small number of fans. All fans will be required to wear masks.

“We are thrilled to invite fans of both the Falcons and Atlanta United back to Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” Steve Cannon, CEO of AMB Sports and Entertainment, said in a statement Tuesday. “Having fans watch from alternative locations was a difficult, but important, decision.

“It’s been challenging for both teams to play without fans, but their well-being as well as the safety of our associates and fans was paramount.”

The Falcons said they will host about 500 friends, family and associates for their Week 3 home game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday to test stadium operations and protocols.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium initially planned to host between 10,000 and 20,000 fans at the 71,000-seat stadium until the coronavirus disrupted those plans. Officials haven’t determined how many fans will be allowed to attend games come Oct. 11.

This week in the National Football League

The Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff celebrates after a first down in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in Philadelphia on Sunday. The Rams defeated the Eagles 37-19. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo



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Ex-Falcons RB Devonta Freeman signing 1-year deal with Giants

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Sept. 22 (UPI) — The New York Giants are signing former Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman to a short-term contract after losing Saquon Barkley to a season-ending knee injury.

League sources told ESPN and NFL Media on Tuesday that Freeman agreed to a one-year deal worth up to $3 million with the Giants. According to ESPN, the two-time Pro Bowl tailback is expected to officially sign the pact Wednesday morning and could play as soon as Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

“Devonta turned down more money from other teams because he likes the opportunity with the Giants best,” Freeman’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN.

Barkley tore the ACL in his right knee during Sunday’s 17-13 loss to the Chicago Bears. In his absence, veteran running back Dion Lewis saw a larger workload in the game.

Freeman, 28, will become the top candidate to replace Barkley on early downs, with Lewis serving as a pass-catching back. The Giants also have Wayne Gallman on the active roster, and veteran Rod Smith is on the practice squad.

The Falcons selected Freeman in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Florida State. He spent his first six seasons with the Falcons before the team let him walk in free agency this past off-season in favor of All-Pro tailback Todd Gurley.

In 77 career games with the Falcons, Freeman recorded 3,977 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns on 950 carries. He added 257 receptions for 2,015 yards and 11 receiving scores on 323 targets.

Earlier Tuesday, the Giants placed Barkley on injured reserve. Cornerback Ryan Lewis was added to the active roster in his place.

This week in the National Football League

The Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff celebrates after a first down in the final minutes of the fourth quarter in Philadelphia on Sunday. The Rams defeated the Eagles 37-19. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo



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