Nationals

ACLU's suit over Super Bowl 'clean zone' settled

ACLU's suit over Super Bowl 'clean zone' settled

NEW ORLEANS (AP) An agreement Monday has resolved a lawsuit over plans by the city of New Orleans to enforce a ``clean zone'' where the use of banners, signs and flags would be restricted during Super Bowl week.

The agreement, which must be approved by a federal judge, would allow the city to enforce some limits on commercial activity in the French Quarter and surrounding neighborhoods. The filing says the city can prohibit ``off-site and mobile advertising,'' such as signs attached to a vehicle or worn by a person.

However, American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana's Executive Director Marjorie Esman said the city has agreed not to restrict other forms of commercial or non-commercial speech in the ``clean zone.'' She said local businesses, for instance, will be free to hang signs advertising their wares.

The ACLU sued the city last Thursday on behalf of an activist and a street preacher. They claimed the ``clean zone'' limits, spelled out in a new city ordinance and a code enforcement guide, would trample on their free speech rights and limit their activities leading up to the title game between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers.

``The city has essentially eliminated all of the problems with the original drafting'' of the ordinance and guide, Esman said of the settlement Monday.

Last Thursday, U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt issued a temporary restraining order that said the city can only enforce the limits in an area near the Superdome, where the game will be played Feb. 3. The ACLU and city on Monday asked the judge to dissolve that order.

Esman says other Super Bowl host cities have enforced similar rules in recent years at the NFL's request, but they had never been challenged in court before.

The new measures took effect Monday and are scheduled to end on the evening of Feb. 5. The city said the settlement clarifies that the ``clean zone'' is not intended to affect non-commercial speech.

``The clean zone addresses issues such as certain types of signage, outdoor vending and erecting structures and tents that the city already permits,'' the city said in statement. ``It is an additional temporary designation that seeks to protect the quality of life for residents and assists businesses in thriving during the Super Bowl.''

The ordinance, passed last month, said that the content of any temporary signs approved by the city must consist of at least 60 percent Super Bowl or NFL branding. But the settlement bars the city from enforcing that provision.

The city, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas were named as defendants in the suit. The plaintiffs are Tara Jill Ciccarone, an Occupy NOLA member, and Troy Bohn, pastor of a religious congregation that regularly preaches on Bourbon Street.

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Nationals win despite having to turn to little-known pitcher for pivotal start

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals win despite having to turn to little-known pitcher for pivotal start

WASHINGTON -- If any bump was coming from a return home or Mike Rizzo’s public pregame words or simply being out of New York, it was not apparent Friday.

Three errors committed in the first four innings. The first reliever into the game, Joe Ross, allowed three earned runs before recording a second out. Starter Kyle McGowin barely made it through the fourth inning of an eventual and desperately needed 12-10 win.

The rally kept the Nationals from creeping toward of new level of dubiousness in this muck-filled season. They pushed 2 ½ games in front of the Marlins for the National League’s worst record. Juan Soto hit a three-run homer in the eighth. Matt Adams followed with a solo homer. Sean Doolittle had trouble, but closed the game. Those efforts kept this from being another story about the bullpen (five more runs allowed Friday).

So, here’s a different question to ponder (there are a million or none, depending on point of view) after Friday night: How did the Nationals end up with 27-year-old McGowin starting a surprisingly pivotal game?

The nuts-and-bolts version is because of injuries. Both Anibal Sanchez -- who threw a simulation game Friday -- and Jeremy Hellickson are on the injured list. The deeper answer comes from looking at the recent erosion of pitchers in Washington’s minor-league system.

McGowin made his second career start Friday because there is no one else. No hot minor-league prospect, no early-round pick who has been up and down and received another shot, no veteran stashed in the minor leagues for such situations.

Looming behind all of this is the 2016 trade of three pitching prospects to acquire Adam Eaton. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning were all sent to Chicago for Eaton’s advanced-stats and cost-friendly contract. The departure of three starting pitchers in one shot reverberated Friday when the Nationals were forced to use McGowin in a spot start as the seventh starter of the season.

This is more a volume than quality issue. Neither Lopez or Giolito were effective in limited chances at the major-league level with Washington before being traded. Once in Chicago, Giolito became arguably the worst pitcher in baseball in 2018. No one allowed more earned runs or walks that season. Lopez had a quality season, finishing with 3.1 WAR.

The two have reversed outcomes in 2019. Giolito has rediscovered his velocity. After throwing 100 mph in the 2015 Futures Game, his velocity caved. Giolito was down to 92-93 mph with the Nationals and, initially, Chicago. Thursday, he hit 97 mph in the ninth inning of a shutout against Houston. The outing drove his ERA down to 2.77.

Lopez is struggling. His 5.14 ERA is venturing toward Giolito’s status of a year ago. His walk total -- always the concern -- is up, as are his homers allowed.

But what Giolito and Lopez have, at age 24 and 25, respectively, is potential. Giolito, who often fussed with his mechanics in Washington, has discovered a delivery to expedite his fastball and an approach to boost the effectiveness of his changeup. Lopez’s 2018 showed he can be a solid back-end rotation member. They were expected to follow behind Erick Fedde and Joe Ross in establishing a future rotation. But, those two are in Chicago, Ross is in the bullpen, where he gave up three runs Friday, and Fedde just returned to the rotation after being moved to the bullpen.

So, it was McGowin on the mound Friday. Four innings, six hits, five runs, one walk, two strikeouts, two home runs allowed. Why? No better choice is available.

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Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and Nationals grant boys wish to be a player for a day

Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and Nationals grant boys wish to be a player for a day

The Nationals welcomed 10-year-old cancer patient Parker Staples as the newest addition to their team on Friday, in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic Foundation.

While battling lymphoma, Staples learned he would receive a wish and didn’t hesitate about what he wanted to choose. After being sidelined for two years during treatment, Parker couldn’t wait to celebrate his remission by becoming part of his favorite baseball team. 

Staples was introduced to his new teammates and got signed autographs from Matt Adams, Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon, and Yan Gomes. He also got to spend time hitting and playing catch with his new teammates, as well as being interviewed as the newest member of the team. It gets even better than that, Staples threw the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park leading up to the Marlins-Nationals game Staples 

"My favorite moment was throwing the first pitch. It was really cool," Staples said.

"Probably the biggest day of my life."

The Nationals are hosted the Miami Marlins in the series opener Friday.

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