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WNBA star Natasha Cloud to skip season to fight for social reform



June 23 (UPI) — Washington Mystics star Natasha Cloud said she will skip the 2020 WNBA season so she can continue to fight for social reform.

Cloud, 28, announced her decision Monday on social media. She said it was “one of the toughest decisions” of her career.

The Mystics also announced that LaToya Sanders has opted out of the 2020 WNBA season due to health concerns, as has Connecticut Sun star Jonquel Jones.

“There’s a lot of factors that led to this decision, but the biggest being that I am more than an athlete,” Cloud wrote on social media. “I have a responsibility to myself, to my community and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball.

“I will instead, continue the fight on the front lines for social reform, because until black lives matter, all lives can’t matter.”

Cloud’s decision follows last week’s news that Atlanta Dream star Renee Montgomery also opted to skip the season to focus on social reform. Former WNBA MVP Maya Moore has skipped the last two seasons to fight for social reform.

Cloud joined Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal in a march from Capital One Arena to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Friday in Washington, D.C. The march was a part of the string of protests in the United States and in Europe after the death of George Floyd.

“We respect and support Natasha’s decision to prioritize her life and goals,” Mystics general manager Mike Thibault said in a news release. “Her commitment to social justice issues is of utmost importance to her and, therefore, to the Mystics organization.

“We will continue to be partners with her and all of our players on their commitment to social justice reform as we go forward into this season and beyond.”

The 2020 WNBA season was scheduled to begin May 15 before it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The league now plans to have a 22-game regular season starting in late July at IMG Academy, a preparatory boarding school and athletic training center in Bradenton, Fla. Players have until Thursday to notify their teams if they plan to play.

Cloud averaged 9.0 points and 5.6 assists per game last season and helped the Mystics win their first WNBA title in franchise history. She has spent her entire five-year career with the Mystics.

Sanders, 33, averaged 6.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season for the Mystics.

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Celtics coach Brad Stevens meets with team leaders after locker room incident



Sept. 18 (UPI) — Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens on Thursday held a late-night meeting with team leaders to clear the air after a Game 2 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

League sources told ESPN and The Athletic on Friday that Celtics guards Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown needed to be separated by teammates after a heated confrontation inside the locker room following the Game 2 loss. According to ESPN, Stevens met with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker, Brown and Smart to talk through the issues that led to the incident.

During the locker room spat and the late meeting between Stevens and the players, Smart’s focus had been on increasing the urgency among the team, according to the outlets. Boston has blown double-digit leads in both games of the East finals and trail the Heat 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.

Another part of the discussion in the late-night meeting was about making sure the team smoothly integrated All-Star forward Gordon Hayward back into the lineup, according to ESPN. The Celtics upgraded Hayward — who has been dealing with an ankle injury — to questionable Friday and are hopeful he can play a role off the bench in Saturday’s Game 3.

After the meeting, the coaching staff and players believed the issues were resolved and preparations could begin for the next game, according to ESPN.

Game 3 of the series is set for 8:30 p.m. EST inside the NBA bubble near Orlando, Fla.

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Patrick Reed takes 1-shot lead at U.S. Open; Tiger Woods misses cut



Sept. 18 (UPI) — Patrick Reed surged to the lead in a challenging second round at the 2020 U.S. Open in Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Reed, who had a hole-in-one Thursday and opened with a 66, shot an even-par 70 in Friday’s second round at Winged Foot to grab a one-stroke lead over Bryson DeChambeau.

Reed started on hole No. 10 and had two birdies and three bogeys over his first nine. He opened his last nine with a birdie on hole No. 1 and offset two bogeys with two birdies the rest of the way.

The second round of the tournament proved to be much different than the surprisingly soft first day, as only Hideki Matsuyama (69), Bubba Watson (69) and DeChambeau (68) shot below 70 on Friday. Nine other players shot an even-par 70, while the rest of the field struggled.

On Thursday, 21 players finished under par — the most in an opening round of a U.S. Open at Winged Foot — and 32 golfers were at least even.

Rafael Cabrera Bello and Harris English both shot 70s to enter the weekend in a third-place tie with Justin Thomas at 2-under par. Thomas, who led after the first round, carded a 3-over 73 to slip two spots.

Jason Kokrak (71) was a shot back of that group at 1-under par. Thomas Pieters (74), Xander Schauffele (72), Matthew Wolff (74), Brendon Todd (72) and Matsuyama were tied for seventh at even-par 140.

Dustin Johnson — the top-ranked player in the world — and Rory McIlroy were at 3-over par going into the third round. Rickie Fowler was at 6-over but managed to make the cut line.

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods failed to make the cut at Winged Foot after another disappointing day. He followed up his first-round 73 with a 7-over 77 and will miss the third and fourth rounds at the U.S. Open for only the fourth time in his career.

“On this golf course it’s imperative that you hit fairways, and I did not do that,” Woods said. “The whole goal of entering an event is to win, and when I don’t give myself that opportunity over the weekend, it doesn’t feel good.

“… It was frustrating that I didn’t drive the ball as well as I needed to. It’s frustrating that I’m not going to be here for the weekend and be able to compete for this great championship. It feels like the way the golf course is changing — is turning — that anybody who makes the cut has the opportunity to win this championship. I didn’t get myself that opportunity.”

Collin Morikawa (71), Phil Mickelson (74), Jordan Spieth (81), Sergio Garcia (81), Tommy Fleetwood (74), Gary Woodland (74) and Justin Rose (77) also didn’t make the cut.

Moments from Tiger Wood’s career

Tiger Woods swings during the second round of the U.S. Open in Bethesda, Md., on June 13, 1997. The following April, Woods became the youngest Masters Tournament winner. Photo by Jay Clark/UPI | License Photo

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Houston-Baylor, FAU-Georgia Southern games postponed due to COVID-19



Sept. 18 (UPI) — The Houston-Baylor and Florida Atlantic-Georgia Southern football games scheduled for Saturday have been postponed because of the coronavirus, the schools announced Friday.

Baylor said that one of its position groups didn’t meet the Big 12 Conference COVID-19 thresholds for competition, forcing the game’s cancellation.

Houston and Baylor agreed to honor their home-and-home agreement and will monitor dates for future scheduling opportunities.

“The loss of this game is a devastating blow, but in the interest of the health and safety of our student-athletes, we believe we made the necessary decision,” Baylor athletic director Mack B. Rhoades said in a statement Friday.

“We are incredibly disappointed with the continued delay to the start of our season and empathize with our student-athletes, fans, coaches and administrative staff. We are grateful for the support and understanding of the University of Houston, athletic director Chris Pezman and Chancellor [Renu] Khator. We look forward to a future home-and-home matchup.”

Both schools worked quickly to schedule the game last week after previous postponements. Houston was set to face Memphis on Friday night, but the contest was scrapped due to a rise in positive coronavirus tests at Memphis. Baylor’s initial opener — a Sept. 12 meeting against Louisiana Tech — was postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak at Louisiana Tech.

Earlier Friday, FAU’s opener against Georgia Southern was postponed following the results of the Owls’ coronavirus testing Thursday.

An FAU spokesperson told the Sun Sentinel that 18 members of the football program — 12 student-athletes, four staff members and two student-staff members — tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

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