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WNBA players escalate protest of Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Atlanta Dream co-owner

Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi (3) was one of a number of WNBA players that wore T-shirts endorsing Rachael G. Warnock, the Democratic opponent of the Atlanta Dream’s co-owner Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in a hotly-contest state senate race.
Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi (3) was one of a number of WNBA players that wore T-shirts endorsing Rachael G. Warnock, the Democratic opponent of the Atlanta Dream’s co-owner Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) in a hotly-contest state senate race.Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Players for the Atlanta Dream and other teams across the WNBA have begun a public show of defiance by wearing T-shirts endorsing the Democratic opponent of the Dream’s co-owner Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R.-Ga., who is in a tightly contested race for her seat and has spoken disparagingly of the Black Lives Matter movement. Images of players, including the nine-time All-Star Diana Taurasi, wearing the shirts endorsing Raphael G. Warnock flooded social media Tuesday before a nationally televised matchup between Atlanta and the Phoenix Mercury. Across the chest of the black T-shirts were two words “Vote Warnock,” a reference to the Atlanta pastor who is one of the top Democrats running against Loeffler in a special election in November.

It was the latest escalation in a conflict that has roiled the WNBA. in recent weeks. Loeffler, who owns 49 percent of the team, has publicly and frequently derided the league for dedicating its season to the Black Lives Matter movement, provoking sharp criticism from some of the league’s most high-profile figures. The players’ union has called for her ouster, but WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told CNN in mid-July that Loeffler would not be forced to sell the team. Neither the Loeffler nor the Warnock campaigns immediately returned requests for comment. Elizabeth Williams, who has played for the Dream since 2016, said in an interview Monday that the players plan to “vocally support” Warnock in the coming weeks, and that players have had “several” conversations with him.

On the court in Bradenton, Fla., Taurasi scored 16 of her 20 points in the fourth quarter, had 6 rebounds and 6 assists as the Mercury beat the Dream, 81-74. Also, Azura Stevens had 15 points and 10 rebounds, Courtney Vandersloot added 14 points and 10 assists, and the Chicago Sky beat the Dallas Wings 82-79. Allie Quigley and Cheyenne Parker scored 15 points apiece and Kahleah Copper 11 for Chicago (4-1). Arike Ogunbowale had 26 points and five assists for Dallas (2-3). Kayla Thornton scored 13 points and Allisha Gray added 12. Vandersloot made two free throws with 0.1 seconds remaining.

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Colleges

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TCU coach apologizes for repeating slur

TCU coach Gary Patterson apologized Monday.
TCU coach Gary Patterson apologized Monday.Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

TCU football coach Gary Patterson apologized for repeating a racial slur when telling a player to stop using the slur in team meetings. Patterson’s tweet came a day after school Chancellor Victor Boschini said the nearly 20-year leader of TCU’s program, who is white, had apologized for using the slur during a confrontation with linebacker Dylan Jordan, who is Black, at practice. “I apologize for the use of a word that, in any context, is unacceptable,” Patterson wrote on Twitter. “I have always encouraged our players to do better and be better and I must live by the same standards.” Patterson confirmed what senior center Kellton Hollins had already posted on Twitter: that the coach met with seniors and the team’s leadership council a day after the testy exchange with Jordan . . . LSU head gymnastics coach D-D Breaux is retiring after a 43-season career during which the Tigers finished in the top 10 nationally 31 times. Her gymnasts combined to win 15 individual national titles and 44 Southeastern Conference titles under Breaux, who also galvanizing support among boosters and fans alike, with the Tigers averaging 10,000 in attendance for meets during the past four years . . . Minnesota star wide receiver Rashod Bateman will pass on a 2020 college football season that has been complicated — and threatened — by the pandemic, foregoing his remaining two years of eligibility to enter the 2021 NFL draft. The first prominent player in the Big Ten to slip the 2020 season, he is a projected first-round pick. Another potential first-round pick, Ohio State QB Justin Fields, she he has no plans to opt out . . . Former Michigan State University head gymnastics coach Kathie Klagees was sentenced to 90 days in jail for lying to police during an investigation into former Olympic and university doctor Larry Nassar. Klages, 65, was found guilty in February of a felony and a misdemeanor for denying she knew of Nassar’s abuse prior to 2016 when survivors started to come forward publicly. She also was sentenced to 18 months of probation. At trial, and in a tearful statement Tuesday, she said that she did not remember being told about the abuse. She said she had been seeing a therapist to try to remember the conversations, and she apologized to victims if they occurred.

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Olympics

Senate bill targets USOPC overhaul

Under a bill approved in the Senate, the governance structure of Olympic sports in the United States would see renewed oversight aimed at protecting young athletes from the kind of abuse that roiled the gymnastics world and upended the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee. The Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act passed the Senate by unanimous consent Tuesday, had bipartisan support and lawmakers are hopeful for a quick passage in the House. The bill gives Congress the ability to dissolve the USOPC’s board of directors and to decertify individual sports’ governing bodies for their failures. It also calls for an oversight commission charged with a top-to-bottom examination of the USOPC and the 1978 Amateur Sports Act, aims to increase athlete representation in governing bodies and calls for more funding and independence for U.S. Center for SafeSport, the government-created entity charged with policing and preventing sexual abuse in Olympic sports. “Despite the Olympics being postponed and everything that is going on around the world today, I’m grateful that we’re able to deliver good news and take this step today,” Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who co-sponsored the legislation, said on the Senate floor. “We are not done. We intend to keep that promise and get this bill across the finish line.”

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Miscellany

Concerned Rafael Nadal will skip Open

Rafael Nadal will skip the U.S. Open because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rafael Nadal will skip the U.S. Open because of the coronavirus pandemic. Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Defending US Open tennis champion Rafael Nadal announced on Twitter that he will not compete in this year’s tournament due to concerns that “we still don’t have control” over the Covid-19 virus. Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams are among players that have entered the Open, scheduled for Aug. 31-Sept. 13 in Flushing, N.Y. . . . NASCAR has fined an Xfinity Series team $50,000 because driver Alex Labbe violated the testing policy for the road course at Daytona International Speedway. In an attempted workaround of the rules, Labbe went to an SCCA event last weekend at Daytona to try to learn the circuit. NASCAR officials caught wind of his presence and ordered Labbe off the track . . . Chip Ganassi Racing has made a crew chief change for the No. 42 driven by Matt Kenseth, with engineer Phil Surgen taking over for the remainder of the season. He replaces Chad Johnston, who had been the crew chief for the No. 42 team since 2016 . . . Aidan Emmerich (Kernwood), a rising senior at St. Mary’s of Lynn, fired a 4-under-par 68 to earn medalist honors on the second day of stroke-play qualifying for the 102nd Massachusetts Junior Amateur at Cranberry Valley GC in Harwich. Match play tee off Wednesday . . . The Minnesota State High School League voted to push this fall’s football and volleyball competition to next spring because of coronavirus concerns on Tuesday, creating a fourth sports season for the upcoming school year to accommodate the crunch for student athletes. The league also decided at a virtual board meeting that soccer and individual fall sports — including cross country, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving — can start practice on time on Aug. 17. All seasons will be shortened. Minnesota became the ninth state to delay its high school football season, the Star Tribune reported . . . At least four players and three staff members on Syria’s national soccer team have tested positive for coronavirus and are in isolation. The infections come amid reports of a surge in COVID-19 cases in the divided, war-torn country, where health care facilities and services have been badly hit during the nearly 10-year conflict.

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