Sports News

fstop123/iStockBy: ERIC MOLLO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- With America in the midst of a reckoning over racial inequality, more athletes are continuing to speak out across the sports world. Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, and star running back Adrian Peterson are just a few of several athletes announcing they plan to kneel during the playing of the National Anthem this upcoming season. They are doing so in solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the playing of the national anthem to protest police brutality and social injustice in America.
 
Over the past week, there has been another reckoning in sports:  whether to change team names or logos that contain Native American emblems and stereotypes.

Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians announced they are considering changing the team’s name. Manager Terry Francona said he feels now is an appropriate moment for change.
 
The announcement comes a little over a year after Cleveland removed its “Chief Wahoo” logo—a cartoonish caricature of a Native American man that has long been considered racist.
 
It also came shortly after the announcement that Washington’s NFL franchise is weighing whether to change its team name, which is widely regarded as a racial slur.
 
Julian Brave Noisecat, who contributes to ESPN’s “The Undefeated," writes that Washington's NFL team's name is a racial slur thought to reference Native Americans’ skin color and the bloody scalps of Indigenous people taken as bounty by white colonists.

The team's owner, Dan Snyder, has vowed for years he would never to change the name, saying the term actually embodies honor and respect.
 
Protesters and advocacy groups have called for change for decades, but only in the face of mounting economic pressure did Snyder finally announce the franchise would consider a name change. Investors with major team sponsors Pepsi, FedEx, and Nike sent letters asking the companies to terminate their relationship with Washington unless it agrees to a name change.
 
Nick Martin is a member of the Sappony Tribe and a staff writer for the New Republic. He spoke with ABC News' "Perspective" podcast this week about Washington’s and Cleveland’s statements.

Martin says Washington and Cleveland are not the only professional sports franchises perpetuating Native American stereotypes:

"It's become a very normalized thing, which I think is commonplace with a lot of systems and forms of institutional oppression. These things... we don't think of them in the moment as being particularly egregious because they've become so normalized in society.  And the idea that we would get rid of the Washington NFL team and keep the Kansas City Chiefs, it speaks to a certain hollowness that I think these kind of corporate social justice campaigns often involve."
 
The Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Braves, and Chicago Blackhawks are among professional franchises that continue to employ Native American imagery on their jerseys, in their team names, and in cheers by fans.
 
They are not following the lead of Washington and Cleveland though. None of them announced they would be changing their team names, but Atlanta is reportedly considering no longer allowing “Tomahawk Chop” chants at games. The Blackhawks released a statement claiming their team name and logo symbolize an important Native American figure, so they do not want to remove any of it.

President Trump even weighed in this past week on Twitter, saying the names of Washington’s and Cleveland’s teams signify “Strength, not weakness” and are merely considering the change to be “politically correct."
 
The president’s statement and the varied decisions of these franchises do raise questions: is it important to distinguish between the offensiveness of each individual team name, and does any of this iconography actually honor or respect Native Americans? And is saying that team names and logos honor native people merely perpetuate cultural appropriation and stereotypical depictions of Native Americans?
 
Martin says it is not that slippery of a slope: "If you're saying our mascot, our team name is not as racist as Washington NFL team, that's still an admission that it is racist."

Washington’s head coach, Ron Rivera, told The Washington Post “it would be awesome” if the team changed its name. The National Congress of American Indians have long opposed the use of Native American stereotypical imagery in professional sports.
 
As professional sports franchises are choosing to re-examine these issues in the midst of America’s reckoning over race relations, they are faced with a new choice: will economic pressures determine what they choose, or will they listen to decades’ long calls from Native American advocacy groups to eliminate the use of these emblems?
 
Martin believes either way, America has already seen a shift in attitudes as this issue gets re-examined:

"What this moment, this kind of larger cultural reckoning has become is just kind of an impetus to say, 'OK, you know, now's the time to finally get rid of these things.'"


Listen to the rest of this past week’s highlights from Perspective here.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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Scott Clarke / ESPN Images(LONDON) -- Along with Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, Duchess Kate surprised tennis fans from Bond Primary School in South London on a video call Friday.

"The former Wimbledon Champion shared his experiences of playing tennis growing up, some vital tips to better their game and how he's managed training over the last few months," Kensington Royal shared in a post along with a video capture from the duo's video call.

Many people commented on the Duchess of Cambridge's radiance with comments such as "She just exudes calm kind vibes. Someone who is very self assured and has a happy content soul." Others chimed in with similar sentiments.

This coming weekend would usually mark the beginning of the popular annual tennis tournament, but it's been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImageBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Valentina Sampaio has become the first transgender model to grace the pages of Sports Illustrated's highly coveted swimsuit issue.

"I was so surprised," Sampaio told Good Morning America. "It means a lot, not just for myself but for all the LGBTQ community."

Sampaio wears a gold bikini and natural makeup in the magazine.

"The team at SI has created yet another groundbreaking issue by bringing together a diverse set of multi-talented, beautiful women in a creative and dignified way," she wrote in an Instagram post sharing the news.

Being featured in the magazine's iconic swimsuit issue is one of the most sought after modeling gigs in the world, and to see Sampaio on the cover is a joy to many of her fans. "Keep breaking grounds you powerful luminous Goddess," one person commented on her post.

Growing up transgendered in a family of fishermen and one of seven children she struggled to find her place and faced a mountain of obstacles.

"It hasn't been easy," said the model and actress. "Early on I had a high-profile modeling job where once they realized I was trans on set I was suddenly fired."

Support from Sampaio's family and loved ones have played a key role in helping her propel into the pinnacle of her modeling career.

When asked about her message to others in the trans community, she said to "keep strong and believe in yourself."

On Instagram, Sampaio also shared, "Being trans usually means facing closed doors to peoples’ hearts and minds. We face snickers, insults, fearful reactions and physical violations just for existing. Our options for growing up in a loving and accepting family, having a fruitful experience at school, or finding dignified work are unimaginably limited and challenging."

"We are all human, and I love to see people, friends and companies more open to fearlessly embracing the trans community with compassion and respect," Sampaio said in a statement.

This isn't the first time the magazine has broken barriers. Last year, model Halima Aden became the first woman to appear in a birkini and traditional hijab to be featured.

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cmannphoto/iStockBy ABC News

(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- On the same day the Orlando Magic arrived at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex to prepare for the upcoming NBA season restart, officials said one of their players will be temporally benched by the coronavirus.

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman made the announcement during a videoconference with reporters on Tuesday. The unidentified player had previously tested positive during the NBA's last round of testing that began on June 23.

"That player is following protocol and and we're hoping that he can join us shortly," Weltman said.

The team did not say which player had a confirmed COVID-19 case.

The league told players that it will not suspend play in the event of several positive cases, but would look into stoppage if an outbreak did occur.

The Magic, along with 21 other teams, are scheduled to resume play later this month after the NBA season was put on hold in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. On June 4, the league's Board of Governors approved games to resume on July 30 in Orlando, Florida.

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iStock/olcaytoibili(NEW YORK) -- BY: MEREDITH DELISO

The WNBA and WNBPA announced on Monday that they will be putting work into social justice and honoring the Black Lives Matter movement in the 2020 season.

This includes a new platform, The Justice Movement, and a social justice council, as players have been increasing their efforts to support social justice on and off the courts.

When the season kicks off in late July at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, teams will wear special uniforms to call for justice for women and girls including Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers in March, and Vanessa Guillen, a Fort Hood soldier.

During the season, players will also wear warm-up jerseys that display social justice messages, with "Black Lives Matter" on the front and "Say Her Name" on the back. "Black Lives Matter" will also be prominently displayed on courts during games.

The NBA will also display social justice messages on the backs of jerseys when the league resumes play on July 30, according to ESPN.

Through its social justice council, the WNBA and its players' union, the WNBPA, plan to host conversations on race, inequality and other social issues through virtual roundtables, podcasts and more. Programming will be announced at a later date.

Council members will include players like New York Liberty point guard Layshia Clarendon and Seattle Storm MVP Breanna Stewart, who both have advocated for adding "Black Lives Matter" to the league's courts. Advisers also include Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, Rock the Vote CEO Carolyn DeWitt and Black Girls Rock! founder Beverly Bond.

"We are incredibly proud of WNBA players who continue to lead with their inspiring voices and effective actions in the league's dedicated fight against systemic racism and violence," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. "Systemic change can't happen overnight, but it is our shared responsibility to do everything we can to raise awareness and promote the justice we hope to see in society."

The announcement comes as several WNBA players, including Atlanta guard Renee Montgomery and the Washington Mystics' Natasha Cloud, have opted out of the 2020 season to focus on social justice reform.

Other players have said they will be not be playing this season due to health concerns amid COVID-19. The season will be played without fans in attendance due to the pandemic.

On Monday, the league announced that seven WNBA players tested positive for COVID-19 out of 137 players tested between June 28 and July 5.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- BY: OLIVIA EUBANKS

President Donald Trump on Monday weighed in on the Washington Redskins football team and Cleveland Indians baseball team considering changing their names -- names Native Americans have long complained are racially offensive.

While he didn't flat-out say he’s opposed to a change in their names, he tweeted that the franchises are trying to be "politically correct" and his views seemed clear. He took a swipe as well at Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who he repeatedly calls "Pocahontas," claiming she misrepresented her Native American ancestry.

"They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!" he tweeted.

They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct. Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020


The Washington Redskins announced on Friday that the team would undergo a "thorough review" of the teams's name, saying the decision was made "in light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community."

"This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field," owner Dan Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, has previously said the team would "never" change the name, arguing it actually honored Native Americans.

In the last few days, though, the team has come under heavy public pressure from corporate sponsors to change its name, including from FedEx, which owns the naming rights to the stadium where the Washington team plays in Landover, Maryland.

ABC News' Ben Gittleson and Lauren Lantry contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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Official White House Photo by Tia DufourBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump lashed out at NASCAR's only full-time Black driver on Twitter Monday morning, demanding he apologize for an investigation into an apparent noose found in the driver's garage.

In the same tweet, the president also blasted NASCAR for banning Confederate flags from all raceways.

A Richard Petty Motorsports crew person saw and reported an apparent noose on June 21 in a Talladega Superspeedway garage that was assigned to driver Bubba Wallace and his team.

Wallace has been vocal about his support for the Black Lives Matter movement and pushed NASCAR to remove Confederate flags from all sanctioned events, a decision the company announced shortly before the crew member found the rope.

NASCAR alerted the FBI and the agency conducted an investigation. Investigators determined it was a pull rope fashioned like a noose and had been there since October, before Wallace was assigned to the garage.

Wallace said he stood by the FBI's conclusion and NASCAR's statement of support, but Trump on Monday tweeted that the driver should apologize to everyone involved and called the incident "a hoax." He added that the noose investigation and the decision to remove Confederate flags from raceways "caused the lowest ratings EVER," without any citation.

Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 6, 2020

Wallace and NASCAR didn't have an immediate response to the president's tweet.

Wallace and NASCAR didn't have an immediate response to the president's tweet, but over the last few weeks, other NASCAR drivers and NASCAR President Steve Phelps have shown Wallace their support. Before the start of the race following the apparent noose's discovery, various drivers helped push Wallace's car to the starting line in a symbolic gesture.

On Monday, NASCAR driver Tyler Reddick fired back at the president with a tweet saying drivers didn't need an apology.

"We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support," he tweeted, along with a gif that showed footage from a play where a character portrayed by Denzel Washington closes the door on a white character.

 

We don’t need an apology. We did what was right and we will do just fine without your support. https://t.co/1iboOu4vTk pic.twitter.com/Dj5dz01VR2

— Tyler Reddick (@TylerReddick) July 6, 2020

 

When asked about the tweet during an appearance on Fox News later in the morning, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the president. She brought up examples of questionable hate crime reports such as the case of Jussie Smollett, who has been accused of staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself.

"The president is making a broader point that judging before the facts are out is not acceptable," McEnany contended.

NASCAR'S Phelps said the company would continue to investigate the incident, and Wallace tweeted on June 24 that he was grateful the community and investigators took the situation seriously.

"Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday and the progress we've made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all," he tweeted.

pic.twitter.com/5noPid5zqO

— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 24, 2020

Wallace told The View on June 23 he wasn't shocked that some people contend the incident was a hoax.

"It's simple-minded people like that, the ones afraid of change, they use everything in their power to defend what they stand up for instead of trying to listen and understand what's going on," he said.

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33ft/iStockBy JEANETTE TORRES-PEREZ, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The minority owners of the Washington Redskins are reportedly looking to get rid of their shares in the NFL team.

The Washington Post reports Robert Rothman, Dwight Schar and Frederick W. Smith have enlisted the help of an investment banking firm  to search for possible buyers.

The three businessmen, who altogether own approximately 40% of the Redskins, are "not happy being a partner" with team owner Daniel Snyder, sources told The Post.

The news comes after the team announced last week that it would begin a “thorough review” of its controversial name that Native Americans have long objected to as racially offensive.

In a statement Friday, the team said the decision was made “in light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community" and it comes after a month of protests calling for racial justice and equality.

“This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, has previously said the team would "never" change the name, arguing it actually honored Native Americans.

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francisblack/iStockBy ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The NHL and NHLPA have finalized the protocols for the season to resume this summer in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.

As of Sunday night, the sides still were finalizing the details of a memorandum of understanding for a collective bargaining agreement extension.

The Phase 3 (training camp) and Phase 4 (24-team tournament) return-to-play protocols will need to be approved by the NHLPA's executive committee, which is composed of one representative from each of the 31 teams. Once that is done, the entire package -- both the return-to-play protocol and the CBA extension -- will go to a full membership vote of all NHL players. The NHL's board of governors also must ratify the package.

The NHL is now targeting a July 13 start date for training camps, sources told ESPN. If all goes according to plan, teams would travel to the hub cities on July 25 or July 26, and games will begin by Aug. 1. The Eastern Conference teams will play in Toronto, and the Western Conference teams will be in Edmonton.

The 24-team tournament will conclude with a Stanley Cup Final in Edmonton, likely in early October.

The protocols include an agreement that no player will be penalized if he chooses to opt out, and he does not have to give a reason for wanting to opt out. Players have until 5 p.m. ET on Tuesday to notify their teams if they are opting out.

Family members will not be able to join players until the conference finals.

According to the document, "all individuals shall maintain physical distancing (a minimum of 6-foot distance) at all times throughout Phase 4, to the extent possible" -- which includes being on planes and buses, at restaurants and in any social circumstances. The league will provide face coverings, though individuals may bring their own, and they must be worn at all times in the secure zones. Players do not need to wear face coverings while exercising, and coaches do not need to wear them while on the bench.

If teams do not comply with the protocols, it could lead to "significant financial penalties" and potential loss of draft picks.

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Phil Ellsworth / ESPN ImagesBy LAUREN LANTRY, ABC News

(ASHBURN, Va.) -- The Washington Redskins, the NFL football team representing the nation’s capital, announced Friday it would begin a “thorough review” of its controversial name that Native Americans have long objected to as racially offensive.

In a statement the team said the decision was made “in light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community" and it comes after a month of protests calling for racial justice and equality.

“This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field,” owner Dan Snyder said in a statement.

Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, has previously said the team would "never" change the name, arguing it actually honored Native Americans.

In the last few days, though, the team has come under heavy public pressure from corporate sponsors to change its name, including from FedEx, which owns the naming rights to the stadium where the Washington team plays in Landover, Maryland.

On Thursday, FedEx announced that it had communicated with the team “our request that they change the team name.”

It wasn’t just FedEx calling for the change. Investors and shareholders of the team's other corporate sponsors, Nike and PepsiCo, had called on the team to act. According to Adweek, on Wednesday 87 investment firms and shareholders wrote to the three major companies, requesting they terminate their relationship with the team unless it changed the name.

“We have been in conversations with the NFL and Washington management for a few weeks about this issue,” a PepsiCo spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “We believe it is time for a change. We are pleased to see the steps the team announced today, and we look forward to continued partnership.”

And on Thursday, Nike appeared to have removed all of the Washington team’s merchandise from its online store.

With the national conversation about race dominating headlines, the National Football League was quick to support Snyder's review.

“In the last few weeks, we have had ongoing discussions with Dan, and we are supportive of this important step,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said, according to the AP.

The team’s statement said the announcement “formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks.”

For many, changing the name is long overdue.

“This is a broader movement now that’s happening that Indigenous peoples are part of,” Carla Fredericks, director of First Peoples Worldwide, told Adweek. “Indigenous peoples were sort of left out of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s in many respects, because our conditions were so dire on reservations and our ability to engage publicly was very limited because of that. With social media now, obviously everything is very different.”

There is a long history of opposition. In 1972, a delegation of Native American leaders met with then-team president Edward Bennett Williams, urging him to change the name. Instead, the team changed lyrics in its trademark Indian-themed fight song – replacing "scalp 'um" with "beat 'em."

The team has also faced trademark protection lawsuits over its name -- one of the latest ending in 2018. The lawsuit was dropped because the Supreme Court ruled in a separate case, Matal v. Tam, that under the First Amendment, the U.S. government cannot deny trademark protection over potentially offensive speech.

Amanda Blackhorse, one of the plaintiffs at the center of that lawsuit, says she's not going to thank the team for something that should have been done decades ago.

"I'm happy that there's talk about changing," Blackhorse told ABC News. "It feels like a half-step in the right direction. But I do hope that it does change."

Blackhorse said she's calling on the team to completely rebrand, saying it needs need to remove all images and logos relating to Native Americans. She said she also hopes the team will continue donating to Native American schools, if it does change the name.

Blackhorse said she never thought this day would come, thinking it would be "up to the next generation." She credits the Black Lives Matter movement for igniting the change, and for investors pressuring the team.

"Native people have been calling for this for decades," Blackhorse said. "And FedEx calls for it one day, and the next day it's almost done. So, who really has the power here? Whose voice is really respected? I know it's not us."

“This issue is of personal importance to me and I look forward to working closely with Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our Military,” Ron Rivera, the team's new head coach, was quoted as saying in the team statement. He is of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent and the only Hispanic coach in the NFL.

A monument to team founder George Preston Marshall was removed last month from the site of RFK Stadium where the team used to play in the District of Columbia.

According to the Associated Press, Marshall’s granddaughter supported the team's review of its name.

“I think if anybody’s offended that they should change the name,” Wright said. “I’ve always felt that way.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has said that if the team wants to relocate to the city, it could face strong opposition because of the name controversy.

"We believe this review can and will be conducted with the best interest of all in mind," the team statement concluded.

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