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WNBA postpones start of training camps and regular season due to COVID-19

WNBA postpones start of training camps and regular season due to COVID-19

In an expected move, the WNBA is postponing the start of its training camp and regular season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leaguewide training camps had originally been scheduled to begin on April 26, with the regular season tipping off on May 15. The league offered no concrete timetable for return.

"While the league continues to use this time to conduct scenario-planning regarding new start dates and innovative formats, our guiding principle will continue to be the health and safety of the players, fans and employees," WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.

Engelbert also cited country-wide social distancing recommendations through April 30 as cause for the league to postpone play. Illinois Governor JB Pritzker recently extended a state-wide stay-at-home order through that April 30 date, at least.

The good news for WNBA fans is that the league's draft is still on for April 17, and is set to be broadcast on ESPN. In keeping with social distancing protocols, the WNBA announced the draft will be held entirely virtually without players, guests or media. Top prospects will take part remotely with Engelbert announcing the picks live.

The WNBA will also carve out time during the draft broadcast to honor Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant, Payton Chester and Kobe Bryant, all of whom perished in a tragic helicopter accident on Jan. 26. 

The Chicago Sky hold the eighth pick in the 2020 WNBA draft, and are coming off a 20-14 2019 season that ended in a gut-wrenching defeat to the Las Vegas Aces in the second round of the playoffs.

Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich, Anquan Boldin offer solutions to US racial inequity

Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich, Anquan Boldin offer solutions to US racial inequity

Steve Kerr joined Gregg Popovich, Anquan Boldin, Demario Davis and Andrew McCutchen to co-author an op-ed offering concrete solutions to address some of the problems raised by protesters across the country.

To achieve a more equitable justice system for people of color, the op-ed says police need to be held accountable for their actions.

“When these killings occur, we tweet, we write letters, we make videos demanding accountability,” Kerr et al. said. “We protest and we vow to change hearts and minds so that our young men can run through the streets without fear.

“And soon after, we see another officer kill a black person, usually a man, and usually without consequence. Where, we wonder, is the ‘accountability’ allegedly so important when it comes to arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating young people of color?”

The problem, Kerr et al. say, is that police supervisors simply don’t have the power to take away a bad officer’s badge.

“Among the greatest obstacles to cleaning up our police departments are police union contracts, which hamstring officials’ ability to fire officers who engage in bad and even deadly behavior,” Kerr et al. said. “Those contracts, nearly always negotiated behind closed doors, have clauses that determine how misbehavior may be disciplined. Many contracts prevent departments from investigating reports made by anonymous civilians. They allow officers accused of serious misconduct to review the complaint and the evidence before making statements to investigators, ensuring that they can craft their story to best explain whatever the evidence will show...

“In the rare case that a department pursues disciplinary action, many contracts require arbitration, which almost always results in reduced sanctions. In a survey of data compiled from 37 police departments in 2017, The Washington Post found that of 1,881 officers fired since 2006, 451 appealed and received their jobs back — nearly 25%.”

RELATED: Mitchell Trubisky breaks social media silence to support George Floyd protests

The op-ed says these contracts are renegotiated every few years, so if you’d like them to change it’s not hopeless.

“In Philadelphia, for example, the mayor renegotiates the police union contract next year. In Minneapolis, it is renegotiated every three years and is in negotiations now. We must demand that our elected officials remove terms explicitly designed to protect officers from investigation and discipline if we are going to have accountability and safety.”

The second suggestion the op-ed makes is doing away with “qualified immunity” for cops, which protects them “from legal liability for even the most outrageous conduct,” unless a legal precedent has been set with “basically identical facts.”

They elaborate by saying “qualified immunity” can be used to protect cops from wide-ranging accusations.

“One court, for example, found an officer had qualified immunity after he let his dog maul a homeless man,” Kerr et al. said. “In another case, officers who tried to steal $225,000 while on the job received immunity.”

Again, the heart of the matter for Kerr, Popovich, Boldin, Davis and McCutchen is accountability.

“Citizens face consequences for breaking the law and harming others; our government should make sure officers are no different.”

RELATED: Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts calls black leaders 'you people,' apologizes

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NBCA, Adam Silver speak out following George Floyd’s death and recent protests

NBCA, Adam Silver speak out following George Floyd’s death and recent protests

The National Basketball Coaches Association (NBCA hereafter) and commissioner Adam Silver recently joined the chorus of voices speaking out in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

A statement from the NBCA, signed by 33 coaches and almost 180 assistant coaches, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports:

 

The statement pinpoints “police brutality, racial profiling and the weaponization of racism” as “shameful, inhuman and intolerable.”

And their call for “positive change” will reportedly be followed by some action. The NBCA has also formed a “committee on racial injustice and reform to pursue solutions within NBA cities”  Wojnarowski reports, which will be comprised of at least Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce, David Fizdale, Stan Van Gundy, Doc Rivers, JB Bickerstaff and Quin Snyder.

Already, many in the NBA community have acted to protest systemic racism and police brutality in the wake of Floyd’s death. Stephen Jackson, Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie demonstrated with many in Minneapolis. Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to lead a peaceful march in Atlanta that also featured Malcolm Brogdon. Lonnie Walker aided in clean-up efforts after a night of protests in San Antonio. The list goes on from there.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver wrote in an internal memo to NBA employees obtained by ESPN that he was “heartened” by those “speaking out to demand justice, urging peaceful protest and working for meaningful change.” Silver also called for introspection and promised the NBA will “continue its efforts to promote inclusion and bridge divides through collective action, civic engagement, candid dialogue and support for organizations working towards justice and equality.” He expressed condolences to the Floyd family, outrage over the wrongful deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and an obligation to not ignore the issues of “racism, police brutality and racial injustice.”

As of this writing, 26 of 30 NBA teams have issued statements on Floyd’s passing, either as entities or through organization spokespeople, ranging from executives to coaches. Hopefully, the words of many lead to action — and that action to appreciable change.

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