The Latest: Brewers GM hopes baseball can be ‘diversion’

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The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:

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Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns says he hopes a potential return of Major League Baseball from a pandemic-imposed hiatus could “provide a diversion” and be “part of the solution to what everyone is going through right now.”

Stearns emphasized that it would need to be done “in a safe and responsible manner.”

“The truth is we don’t know what scenario is coming,” Stearns said Thursday outside a hospital as the Brewers helped donate meals to hospital workers.

“We will be prepared,” he added. “If we get the go-ahead from public health officials, if we get the go-ahead from governmental officials, if the necessary agreements can be reached, we will be prepared and we’ll get it going.”

The Brewers are working with other companies and local firefighters to help provide 1,000 meals to workers at Milwaukee-area hospitals. Stearns spoke after food was given to employees at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center.

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West Virginia University president E. Gordon Gee vows that the Mountaineers will play football this fall “even if I have suit up.”

“I’ve got my ankles taped, I’m ready to go in,” the 76-year-old Gee joked in an interview with WOWK-TV broadcast this week. “But I think again, with everything we’re going to do it based on what is safe, what is healthy for our fans and what is healthy for our student athletes. But I do believe that we will play football.”

Despite uncertainly around the coronavirus pandemic, all Big 12 schools, including West Virginia, plan to open campuses for the fall semester, a key step toward launching fall sports.

It’s not the first time a statement by Gee has turned heads.

The then-Ohio State president was criticized in 2010 for saying TCU and Boise State didn’t belong in the BCS title game even if they ran the table because of weak schedules, referring to lesser opponents generally as “Little Sisters of the Poor.”

In 2012 he took a shot at Notre Dame in a meeting of Ohio State’s athletic counsel, saying that the school was never invited to join the Big Ten because its priests are not good partners. “Those damn Catholics” can’t be trusted, he said.

He later apologized.

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A judge has upheld the Dutch soccer association’s decision to scrap relegation and promotion from or to the top-flight Eredivisie as it cut short the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The top two clubs in the second-tier Keuken Kampioen Division, Cambuur Leeuwarden and De Graafschap Doetinchem, launched a legal challenge to the April 24 decision, seeking to seal promotion in court.

In a ruling streamed live Thursday, Judge Hans Zuurmond rejected their arguments, saying the Dutch association, the KNVB, has the power to make such a decision.

Zuurmond says because of the coronavirus, the KNVB “had to take a decision with its back to the wall. Doing nothing was not an option.”

According to the ruling, the KNVB had to act in the interest of all clubs. Zuurmond says it is “very bitter for Cambuur and De Graafschap, but that is not enough to overturn the decision.”

The decision marked the first time a court has ruled in a legal challenge to a one of the major European leagues’ coronavirus stoppages.

The Netherlands on April 24 became the first top-tier European league to cancel the remainder of the season. But clubs that felt disadvantaged by the terms immediately announced plans to launch legal battles.

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The British government says it is helping the Premier League resume in June but it wants the finances to flow throughout English soccer and more fans to be able to watch games on television.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden held talks on Thursday with soccer authorities as the national coronavirus lockdown starts to be eased. The pandemic will continue to prevent any fans from attending matches if sports events do restart in June after being suspended in March.

Dowden says “the government is opening the door for competitive football to return safely in June. This should include widening access for fans to view live coverage and ensure finances from the game’s resumption supports the wider football family.”

In a statement, Dowden says soccer authorities need to finalize their plans before government approval will be given for leagues to start up again.

Players are still having to maintain social distancing in training, but contact is expected to be allowed if there is no new spike in COVID-19 cases nationally.

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IndyCar officials have announced NBC will air a four-hour program on May 24, the original date of this year’s Indianapolis 500, that will look back at last year’s race.

Mike Tirico will interview race winner Simon Pagenaud and runner-up Alexander Rossi during the broadcast.

This year’s Indy 500 has been rescheduled for Aug. 23.

“While this Memorial Day weekend will certainly be different, we’re pleased to join our partners at NBC Sports in continuing this tradition through this special TV presentation,” Penske Entertainment Corp. CEO Mark Miles said in a statement. “We look forward to recognizing both our military and frontline COVID-19 heroes while providing motorsports fans some intense and behind-the-scenes IndyCar action through the race replay.”

Pre-race coverage will include honoring frontline workers during the pandemic as well as the military traditions associated with the 500. The program also will preview this year’s season opener, which is scheduled for June 6 at Texas.

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The Baltimore Ravens intend to compensate stadium workers if NFL games are played before a limited numbers of fans – or no one at all – due to social distancing requirements during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ravens president Dick Cass says the team is working on a program to provide for the estimated 3,300 people employed a typical game day.

“If we don’t have that kind of staff because we have a reduced crowd at the stadium, we are planning on creating an employees’ assistance fund,” Cass said, noting that “we have not terminated or laid off or furloughed anybody and we don’t intend to.”

Instead of watching from the sideline at a minicamp practice, Cass was in his home Thursday morning, speaking in a teleconference arranged by The United Way. He noted that in a normal year on this date, there would be 90 players having breakfast at the team headquarters.

Cass said the team sill plans to open training camp and start the season on time, but it “may have to make adjustments.”

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The IOC says it is setting aside $800 million for loans and payments arising from the pandemic that forced the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to be postponed.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach says $150 million will be available for loans to sports governing bodies and national Olympic committees. They were due payments this year for the Tokyo Games, which are now scheduled to open in July 2021.

IOC chief operating officer Lana Haddad says a breakdown of how the $650 million could be allocated will be formulated in the months ahead. It was unclear how much of the money would go to Tokyo organizers.

The Swiss government announced Wednesday that Olympic sports federations based in the country can apply for federal loans. The IOC will put up half the money for those loans, with federal and state authorities providing 25% each.

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The Southeastern Conference has formed a task force to advise the league and member schools on decisions about resuming sports amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force represents the league’s 14 universities.

The group of medical professionals began meeting by video conference in April, the SEC said Thursday. They provide regular updates to SEC presidents, chancellors and athletic directors.

Conference members will have to approve any policy changes related to a return to practices, workouts, meetings and competition.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said the task force “has begun to provide the guidance necessary to make decisions related to the return to athletics activities for SEC student-athletes and to assist in our collaboration with colleague conferences in determining a safe return to athletics competition.”

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Orlando became the latest NBA team to reopen its practice facility since the coronavirus shutdown, with Nikola Vucevic among the first Magic players to arrive back for voluntary workouts Thursday.

The Magic released video of Vucevic working with assistant coach Lionel Chalmers, who was in a mask and gloves for the session. The NBA requires anyone who is present for the workouts, except for the player while he is working out, to be wearing personal protective equipment.

“It felt good to be back here and get some work in,” Vucevic said afterward in a message distributed by the team. “But I still want you guys to stay safe, be smart, listen to the experts. It’s still a dangerous time for everybody. But be safe, listen to the experts and I’ll see you soon.”

Vucevic was averaging 19.5 points and 11 rebounds per game for the Magic when the NBA season was suspended March 11.

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The PGA Tour Champions, which already has canceled eight tournaments because of the COVID-19 pandemic, has decided to combine 2020 and 2021 into one season.

Tour president Miller Brady says combining two seasons into one is the best solution.

The 50-and-older circuit is scheduled to resume with the Ally Challenge in Michigan on July 31. That would be the first of 13 events remaining this year, barring any delays. The PGA Tour Champions already has lost two majors, the U.S. Senior Open and the Senior PGA Championship, and is waiting to hear the fate of the Senior British Open.

Because of the combined seasons, the postseason events will have 81-player fields and a Charles Schwab Cup champion will not be decided until 2021.

The tour will announce the 2021 schedule later this year.

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Spanish second-division club Elche says its players have agreed to return to training after it reinstated their full-time work contracts.

Club CEO Patricia Rodríguez told Spanish news agency EFE Thursday that after negotiating with the squad, the club had agreed to end the work furlough it had been on for two months since the coronavirus pandemic put all league activity on hold.

The players did not return to practice on Wednesday as a protest against salary reductions of 70% imposed under the furlough. Many Spanish clubs have put their players on furlough.

Spanish clubs have returned to training individually at club facilities as they wait for the league to resume play, possibly this summer.

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The Southern Conference will cut back on schools qualifying for several championships, cut its league baseball series from three games to two and hold virtual media days for football and basketball.

Those are among several cost-cutting moves announced by the conference because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Division I conference will reduce qualifiers to four for men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, men’s and women’s tennis, softball and baseball.

Conference commissioner Jim Schaus said league presidents had approved a cost-savings plan for the 2020-21 academic year. Schaus said staff at the conference office will have reduced travel going forward and their salaries will be frozen.

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Akron is dropping men’s golf and cross country and women’s tennis in cost-cutting moves due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school said the reduction will take effect at the end of the 2019-20 academic year. Akron will now have seven men’s sports and 10 women’s sports. The school will remain a member of the Mid-American Conference, which announced changes to several conference championships earlier this week.

“These decisions are very difficult but they are important and necessary at this time,” athletic director Larry Williams said. “This action aligns us with our Mid-American Conference peers in the total number of sports and is part of the ongoing effort to redesign the University to ensure that UA continues to invest in high-demand, high-quality academic programs.”

In a news release, the school said it considered factors including program cost, facilities, community impact and future funding.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

FILE – This Jan, 18, 2020 file photo shows a general view of the club crest on the side of the AMEX Stadium, home to Brighton & Hove Albion, Brighton, England. A Brighton player tested positive for the coronavirus as Premier League clubs prepare for talks on Monday, May 11 about how to resume the competition during the pandemic. The southern England club told The Associated Press there is no need for other members of the squad or coaches to self-isolate because players have only worked in isolation when at the training base. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP, file)
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