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AP Interview: Heat’s Leonard Stands for Anthem, Explains Why | Sports News

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By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Meyers Leonard has a brother who served two tours in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marines. He carries a military-themed backpack, wears combat boots and has a phone loaded with Navy SEALs who are his friends.

He also makes this clear: “I absolutely believe Black Lives Matter,” he said.

Still, Leonard simply could not bring himself to kneel for the national anthem.

Wearing a Black Lives Matter T-shirt over a jersey that he ordered to say “Equality,” and as all other coaches and players around him knelt, Leonard stood for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Saturday before the Heat re-opened their season by facing the Denver Nuggets at Walt Disney World.

“Some of the conversations I’ve had over the past three days, quite literally, have been the most difficult,” Leonard told The Associated Press prior to the game. “I am with the Black Lives Matter movement and I love and support the military and my brother and the people who have fought to defend our rights in this country.”

Leonard dealt with anxiety and sleeplessness for several days as he agonized over the decision. He explained his reasoning before Saturday to current teammates and several former ones, almost all of them Black — then stood near midcourt, hand over his heart, as the song blared.

“I am a compassionate human being and I truly love all people,” Leonard said. “I can’t fully comprehend how our world, literally and figuratively, has turned into Black and white. There’s a line in the sand, so to speak: ‘If you’re not kneeling, you’re not with us.’ And that’s not true.

“I will continue to use my platform, my voice and my actions to show how much I care about the African American culture and for everyone,” he added. “I live my life to serve and impact others in a positive way.”

The focus of this restarted NBA season, interrupted for more than 4-1/2 months by the coronavirus pandemic, has been to continue shining light on the need for racial justice and an end to police brutality. NBA teams are kneeling, often linking arms, for the pre-recorded national anthem along a sideline where “Black Lives Matter” is painted.

Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, who is Black, stood for the anthem before his team’s game Friday and opted not to wear the ‘Black Lives Matter’ shirt that players and coaches have donned at Disney for the pregame ceremony.

Later Friday, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich and Spurs assistant Becky Hammon both stood for the anthem. Popovich, a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, stood with arms at his side. Hammon draped her arms over the shoulders of fellow assistant Will Hardy and Spurs guard Patty Mills.

“I did feel a little bit of a load lifted off my shoulders when they did that,” Leonard said. “Each of those individuals had their own personal reasons, just as I do.”

Heat forward Andre Iguodala, a member of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee, said he respected Leonard’s choice.

“On the one hand, we’re saying, ‘We want you to see things from our perspective,’” Iguodala said. “But by saying that, I also have to see things from his perspective. And I can see where he’s coming from.”

Heat captain Udonis Haslem had multiple conversations with Leonard in recent days about his decision. Haslem has made several things clear; he originally wished to see Leonard kneel, but after those talks he came away with understanding — and vowed the Heat would support their teammate.

As the song ended, Haslem was the first to tap fists with Leonard.

“His being out there with us, as our brother, it’s still showing strength, it’s still showing unity, it’s still showing that we’re coming together for a common cause,” Haslem said. “People will question, ‘Why isn’t he doing it their way?’ Well, he’s standing by us. He’s supporting us. He’s with us.”

Haslem has seen Leonard’s commitment to helping others. Leonard raised $180,000 in April by streaming himself playing video games online; that money went to causes such as Feeding South Florida, a group with which Haslem and the Heat worked closely.

And Saturday, Leonard said he and his wife will donate $100,000 to a fund that helps pay the fees Floridians leaving jails or prisons must settle before they can have their voting rights restored.

“Because I’ve listened to Udonis and am constantly inspired by him, every single one of those dollars will go to Overtown and Liberty City, where he grew up,” Leonard said, referring to two of Miami’s historic Black neighborhoods. “Those two parts of Miami were most heavily impacted by COVID-19 and voter suppression.”

Heat forward Jimmy Butler also tried to make a statement Saturday, walking onto the court with a jersey without any name on the back. He unsuccessfully lobbied the NBA to play in a jersey with just a number, and had to switch into a jersey with his name before the game could begin.

Former teammates have warned Leonard that he may deal with criticism, possibly from fellow NBA players. His eyes welled with tears many times in recent days as he worked through the decision, his reaction so strong that he was shaking when he explained his choice to Heat teammates.

It was not an easy decision. It may not be popular.

But Saturday morning, a few hours before the anthem, Bailey Leonard, the former Marine, texted his brother and said “Stay true to you. Stay the course. I love you. Your family loves you. Your community loves you.”

If Leonard had any doubt, it evaporated there.

“I know he’s proud of me,” Leonard said. “And if he’s proud of me, and if my brothers on this team are with me, then I know this is what I have to do.”

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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UK Sport chief Sally Munday optimistic for future of women’s sport | News

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Watch The Women’s Sport Debate, live on Sky Sports Action on Wednesday at 8pm and Women’s Sport Debate: The Reaction at 9pm

Last Updated: 12/08/20 6:09am

The CEO believes that momentum around women's sport will return and continue

The CEO believes that momentum around women’s sport will return and continue

Sally Munday MBE, UK Sport chief executive, is optimistic that the disruption to women’s sport will just be a short-term “blip”.

A year on from 11.7 million people tuning in to watch England play the USA in football’s Women’s World Cup semi-finals, women’s sport is struggling to return from the coronavirus shutdown.

Whilst several men’s team sports have resumed, the same can’t be said of women’s sport.

“I don’t want us to talk ourselves into there being a backwards step,” Munday said to Sky Sports.

“I want us to talk ourselves into the fact that we’ve got to use this situation. Every challenging situation is an opportunity.”

  • The show will take a detailed look at why and how women’s sport has been affected in recent months.
  • The panel will discuss what has led women’s sport to this point and what needs to happen next.
  • Ebony Rainford-Brent, Will Greenwood and Tamsin Greenway form part of the panel of experts.
  • ‘Women’s Sport Debate: Live Reaction’ will follow at 9pm with both shows streamed live on YouTube.

In football, the Premier League and Championship resumed, but Chelsea were named WSL champions on June 5 after the league was curtailed and the final standings were decided using a basic points-per-game basis.

In rugby union, the men’s Gallagher Premiership plans to return on August 15, long after the women’s Premier 15s season was declared null and void. And, England’s male cricketers have played the West Indies, Ireland and Pakistan, but England’s women are not set to play until September 1 at the earliest.

“I can see why some people would feel like [the momentum] it’s been lost, but I really believe that it’s just a blip,” Munday said.

“People do want to watch women’s sport and I don’t think just because we’ve paused that it will stop,” she added.

“I think people have had a taste for how brilliant women’s sport is, live and on TV, and I really am optimistic that this is a moment in time, and that we’ve got to get past and that we will then rebuild to gain the momentum we’ve seen before.”

1:33
Join us on Wednesday night on Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Action and our YouTube channel for a special debate show on the impact of Covid-19 on women’s sport #WomensSportDebate

Join us on Wednesday night on Sky Sports Main Event, Sky Sports Action and our YouTube channel for a special debate show on the impact of Covid-19 on women’s sport #WomensSportDebate

The gender disparity doesn’t appear to be as stark when it comes to Olympic and Paralympic athletes though, as Munday pointed out.

“Olympic and Paralympic sport has very much paved the way in terms of equal gender,” she said.

“The vast majority of Olympic and Paralympic sports treat men’s and women’s sports exactly the same way. That’s what we’ve seen during COVId-19 in terms of getting back to training.

“There’s been no difference in approach from Olympic and Paralympic sport – they want to get their sports back and that is women and men.

Mavs’ Ratnapala: Netball will ‘fly’ again

Saracens Mavericks’ Kat Ratnapala has no doubt that netball can “fly again” but admits that it will be a struggle for the franchise to secure their future.

“I think women’s sport is ripe for incredible growth, I think that the period ahead to Tokyo next year will give us an opportunity to showcase women’s sport again.

“Not only do we have the Olympic and Paralympic Games, where there’s likely to be more female than male athletes in Team GB, we’ve then got the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and that’s still on course to be the first multi-sport major that has more women than men’s events.

“Many of the current stars, that we’ve been seeing in the Olympic movement from Dina [Asher-Smith] and Hannah [Cockroft], through to Sarah [Storey] and Alice Tai, they are female and are showcasing the very best of Olympic and Paralympic sport.”

Watch The Women’s Sport Debate, live on Sky Sports at 8pm and Women’s Sport Debate: The Reaction at 9pm, plus stream both shows via the Sky Sports YouTube channel.



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Celtics Keep Grizzlies From Clinching Spot in Play-In Series | Sports News

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LAKE BUENA VISTA (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 29 points and the Boston Celtics ran past Memphis 122-107 on Tuesday, putting the Grizzlies in further danger of missing the playoffs.

The Grizzlies missed another chance to guarantee themselves a spot in the Western Conference play-in series, and could fall out of eighth place if Portland beats Dallas later Tuesday.

Boston (48-23), which has already locked up the Eastern Conference’s third seed, won its fourth straight.

Gordon Hayward added 19 points and five assists.

Memphis (33-39) lost for the sixth time in seven games since the restart. Ja Morant finished with 26 points and 13 assists.

The Grizzlies arrived in Florida with 3 1/2-game cushion over their nearest competitor for the eighth seed in the West. But their struggles have guaranteed the need for a play-in game for that final spot with Portland, San Antonio and Phoenix all still in contention.

Memphis will head into its final seeding game against Milwaukee on Thursday needing a win to earn a place in the play-in game. The team that finishes ninth would have to beat the eighth-place team twice.

Boston didn’t look like a team coasting into the postseason. Celtics coach Brad Stevens played his regular starters and they were active on both ends of the floor

Tatum paced the offensive attack, scoring 17 points in just 15 minutes of action in the first half.

Tied at 13 in the first quarter, the Celtics went a 33-11 run and led by as many as 22 in the second quarter.

Boston held the Grizzlies to 33% (17 of 51) shooting in the half, including 1 of 13 (7.7%) from the 3-point line.

Celtics: Closed first quarter on 11-4 run. Shot 51% from the field (44 of 86) for the game.

Grizzlies: Finished 24% (7 of 29) from beyond the arc.

Celtics: Play Wizards on Thursday.

Grizzlies: Play Bucks on Thursday

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg: Tottenham complete signing of Southampton midfielder | Football News

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Denmark midfielder joins Tottenham for around £15m on five-year deal; Kyle Walker-Peters leaves Spurs to join Saints in separate deal

Last Updated: 11/08/20 7:13pm

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is Tottenham's first signing of the summer transfer window

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is Tottenham’s first signing of the summer transfer window

Tottenham have completed the signing of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton.

The Denmark midfielder has signed a five-year contract after completing a medical on Monday and becomes Jose Mourinho’s first summer signing, joining for a fee of around £15m plus bonuses.

In a separate deal, 23-year-old full-back Kyle Walker-Peters has gone in the opposite direction – leaving Spurs to join Southampton – signing a five-year deal at St Mary’s after spending the second half of last season on loan with the club.

Kyle Walker-Peters has signed a five-year deal with Southampton

Kyle Walker-Peters has signed a five-year deal with Southampton

Hojbjerg made 134 appearances for Southampton after joining from Bayern Munich in 2016, with the Dane going on to become Saints skipper before being stripped of the captaincy in June when he confirmed his desire to leave the club.

“What was very important for me was that I wanted to play at a club where I could see myself for many years, and Tottenham was just the one,” Hojbjerg told the club’s website.

“I’m very proud, very happy, excited. I think there is a fantastic future ahead for the club, and I wanted so much to be a part of that.

“Spurs has fantastic players, fantastic manager, a fantastic setup.

“I feel lucky and proud to be a part of it, and I want to give my everything, but I also want to learn a lot, to push for the next step, but still keeping that consistency.”

After failing to break into Tottenham’s first team, Walker-Peters impressed on loan at Southampton as Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side produced a strong finish to the Premier League season following its June restart.

Walker-Peters played in all nine of Southampton’s games after the restart as they lost just once to climb to an 11th-placed finish.

“I’m delighted to have signed here,” Walker-Peters told Southampton’s website. “The last few months on loan have been great for me and a lot of fun too. I’ve really enjoyed my football, the atmosphere here and also the style of play.

“The club definitely fits the way I like to play, and I hope that people were able to see that during the last month or so of the season.

“I feel like I’ve already developed in the time I’ve been here, and that’s a big part of wanting to stay too. Obviously, it’s a club with a great reputation for improving young players and, personally, I’ve found it really valuable working under the manager, with his ideas on the game and what he expects from you as an individual.

“I think the way we finished the season gives us real optimism about where we’re heading too, and it just feels like a really good place for me to keep developing as a player and make the best out of what I have.”

Analysis: Why Tottenham are signing Hojbjerg

Sky Sports’ Lyall Thomas:

Jose Mourinho has been in the market for a new – what he calls – ‘positional’ midfielder since attempts to adapt Eric Dier to the position proved unsuccessful and he was moved to centre-back.

Mourinho likes to play a single ‘pivot’ in midfield – think back to the likes of Claude Makelele at Chelsea – who will protect the back four dependably and consistently. It’s a key role in his system, and although Moussa Sissoko has done reasonably at it, they need someone more specialist at this position.

As the stats illustrate, Hojbjerg is that specialist; ideal for the role and both young yet still very experienced at big clubs and at international level. For £15m, he could present a shrewd bit of business by Spurs and Mourinho.

Analysis: The progressive box-to-box destroyer

The Denmark international is a box-to-box destroyer

The Denmark international is a box-to-box destroyer

Sky Sports’ Adam Smith:

In total, 37 per cent of Hojbjerg’s passes were directed upfield this season, which is something Spurs have struggled to achieve for some time – particularly since another Dane, Christian Eriksen, left the club.

Hojbjerg attempted 289 passes into the final third – a total surpassed by only 10 other players this season. Those risky passes reduce his accuracy, but Spurs needed an injection of forward momentum in their midfield.

Spurs have typically passed backwards or sideways and struggled to penetrate opposition lines, but Hojbjerg ranked 26th in the league this season with 672 forward passes attempted.

Spurs have typically passed backwards or sideways and struggled to penetrate opposition lines, but Hojbjerg ranked 26th in the league this season with 672 forward passes attempted.

The Denmark international also reclaimed possession a league-topping 326 times for Southampton during the campaign – epitomising the pressing style deployed under Ralph Hasenhuttl.

The graphic below reveals he primarily snuffs out dangerous flank attacks and is the complete box-to-box destroyer, dismantling opposition possession and causing a nuisance all over the pitch.

The 25-year-old has the mettle and mentality to drive Spurs forward and, at just £15m, he could prove to be this summer’s bargain deal.

Transfer Centre LIVE!

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Jose Mourinho says Harry Kane will not be as special at a different club and can be even better next season

Jose Mourinho says Harry Kane will not be as special at a different club and can be even better next season

All the latest news, analysis and rumours from the window in one place.

The summer transfer window will run for 10 weeks from July 27 and close at 11pm on October 5.

A domestic-only window for trades between the Premier League and EFL then runs from October 5 and closes on Friday October 16 at 5pm. Follow all the news and analysis on Sky Sports News and across Sky Sports’ digital platforms, including with our dedicated Transfer Centre blog.

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Opt in and bet £25 or more before 23:59 on Sunday to earn a free £5. Free bets will credited by 7pm on Monday.



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