Soccer

Why outspoken USWNT star Megan Rapinoe thinks she's 'deeply American'

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USATSI

Why outspoken USWNT star Megan Rapinoe thinks she's 'deeply American'

In the face of criticism for comments made off the field, United States Women’s National Team winger Megan Rapinoe has delivered on it at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. 

The 33-year-old became a cable-news talking point a week ago Wednesday, when, in a series of tweets, President Donald Trump scolded Rapinoe for her pre-tournament comments saying she’s “not going to the f---king White House.” 

Rapinoe, who is openly gay and became the first white athlete to kneel in solidarity during the national anthem with Colin Kaepernick’s protest in 2016, stood by the rebuke a day later. Two days after the President's tweets, she scored a brace in the USWNT’s 2-1 win over the host nation in the quarterfinals.

She has remained a political target in part because of those comments, and because she doesn’t hold her hand over heart or sing during the playing of the national anthem. When Rapinoe was asked in Lyon on Wednesday about critics who consider her anti-American, she disagreed in a thoughtful response.

Although her critics have argued she has been a distraction to the team, her teammates and coaches continue to insist otherwise. The USWNT is by no means a sociocultural monolith, as Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel noted in a Wednesday column, yet they have had Rapinoe’s back throughout the tournament.

[RELATED: Rapinoe roasts critics of Morgan's goal celebration]

"We all support Megan," Ellis said last week (via ESPN). "She knows that. We know we have each other's backs in there. I think for our players, there is only one purpose, one mission that we're here. Comments, media, whatever, it's always been something that I think we can block out pretty easily."

Rapinoe is second on the USWNT -- and tied for third in the tournament -- with five goals. She did not play in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over England in the semifinals, telling reporters after the match that she had a minor hamstring injury. She said she expects to be fit for Sunday’s final in Lyon. 

What Premier League's latest coronavirus tests mean for season restart

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What Premier League's latest coronavirus tests mean for season restart

The Premier League reached a pair of milestones Tuesday in an effort to resume the season, but they aren't out of the woods yet.

Clubs began small-group training sessions Tuesday, with groups of no more than five players practicing together while following social-distancing guidelines aimed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Six of the 748 players and club staff tested over the weekend tested positive for COVID-19, and the Premier League said those six (from three different clubs) will self-isolate for the next week. 

"[The] general consensus from what I can gather is that [the results are] actually about as positive news as you can get," NBC Sports' Premier League host Rebecca Lowe told Mike Tirico on "Lunch Talk Live" on Tuesday.

The Premier League's rate of initial positive tests (0.8 percent) is slightly higher than the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga's initial rate (0.5 percent) when Germany's top two divisions ramped up their efforts to restart their seasons earlier this month. Nearly 1,000 more players and club staff (across 36 teams) were tested in Germany compared to the 19 Premier League teams tested in England. Germany's protocol required two weeks of isolation for those who tested positive.

Another round of tests is set for this week, as each Premier League club will be tested twice a week as part of "Project Restart." The Premier League's initial June 12 target is more of "a staging post," CEO Richard Masters said last week. Restarting the season will require approval from the clubs, players, medical staff and the British government.

[RELATED: Man City's Champions League ban appeal set for next month]

Next week arguably is the Premier League's most critical. The Premier League must submit a proposal to restart the season to UEFA by next Monday. Clubs will determine next Tuesday whether or not teams can return to contact training, and they will vote a day later on whether or not they will resume the season. A minimum of 14 clubs must vote in favor of restarting in order for games to be played. 

Leicester City's 4-0 win over Aston Villa on March 9 was the Premier League's last match before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus. By the end of next week, we very well could know when the next one will be played.

Manchester City Champions League ban appeal hearing set for early June

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AP

Manchester City Champions League ban appeal hearing set for early June

The reigning Premier League winners will learn their UEFA Champions League fate early next month. 

Manchester City's appeal of a two-year ban from European competition is set to be heard June 8 through 10, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced Tuesday. 

UEFA banned City from the Champions League and Europa League for two years, beginning with the 2020-21 season, and fined the club €30 million for "serious breaches" of the European governing body's financial fair play (FFP) regulations. The organization's investigation determined City deliberately inflated a sponsorship value in order to break even under the regulations, with e-mails leaked to German outlet Der Spiegel revealing that club owner Sheikh Mansour's private-equity company covered nearly £60 million of a £67.5 million deal.

City appealed the ruling in February, claiming they have a “comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence in support of its innocence." The CAS told AFP it's not clear whether the hearing will be held in person, as City requested, or by video due to restrictions as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

The hearing dates are good news for clubs awaiting clarity on the Champions League race with the Premier League aiming to end its coronavirus suspension next month as teams began small-group training Tuesday. Should City's ban be upheld, an extra qualification spot would open up outside of the traditional top four. Manchester United, City's cross-town rivals, would stand to benefit as the table currently stands. Five clubs are within six points of United, with at least nine matches to play. 

A ruling also would provide clarity on some of City's stars and, potentially, add extra importance to their current Champions League campaign. Kevin De Bruyne, the Premier League's assists leader, told Belgian outlet HLN this month that two seasons outside of Europe would be “a long time.” City led La Liga leaders Real Madrid 2-1 -- with the away goals tiebreaker -- after the first leg of the Champions League Round of 16 prior to the season's suspension, and an upheld ban would mean this is the club's last chance to lift the one trophy they've not won under manager Pep Guardiola.