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Tuesday July 14th, 2020 1:49AM

The Latest: SEC pushing Mississippi to change flag

By The Associated Press
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The Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:

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The Southeastern Conference is considering barring league championship events in Mississippi until the state changes its flag.

“It is past time for change to be made to the flag of the State of Mississippi,” Commissioner Greg Sankey said Thursday in a statement. “Our students deserve an opportunity to learn and compete in environments that are inclusive and welcoming to all. In the event there is no change, there will be consideration of precluding Southeastern Conference championship events from being conducted in the State of Mississippi until the flag is changed.”

The NCAA already said it would not schedule postseason events in Mississippi because of the flag that features the Confederate Battle Flag in the upper left corner.

Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum released a statement after Sankey’s comments.

“Clearly, the current national climate is such that this debate may produce unintended consequences for our student athletes here at Mississippi State University and those at the University of Mississippi,” Keenum said. “In addition, there may be similar unintended consequences for academic pursuits at our all our state’s public universities and negative economic impacts on the state’s communities as well.

“Since 2015, our Student Association, Robert Holland Faculty Senate and university administration have been firmly on record in support of changing the state flag. I have reiterated that view to our state’s leaders on multiple occasions, including during face-to-face discussions in recent days and hours. On June 12, I wrote to the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the Mississippi House reaffirming that support. The letter said, in part, that our flag should be unifying, not a symbol that divides us. I emphasized that it is time for a renewed, respectful debate on this issue.”

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An Atlanta United player has tested positive for COVID 19, becoming the fourth Major League Soccer Player to contract the virus.

The player, who was asymptomatic, was not identified because of privacy laws. The test result was confirmed Thursday, the team said, and the player is in isolation.

Atlanta will test players on Friday before resuming practice. The team has returned to full group training in anticipation of the league’s MLS is Back Tournament, set to start July 8 in Florida.

Players from FC Dallas, the Philadelphia Union and D.C. United also have contracted the virus.

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Kentucky’s proposed athletics budget includes a 17% reduction in adjusted operating expenses to account for projected decreases in ticket revenue.

The proposed budget of $148.5 million is down from nearly $156.5 million for 2019-20. That total includes a $7.5 million reduction in the adjusted operating budget to $37.1 million. The program will cut nearly $1.5 million for team travel and anticipates about $4.3 million less in K Fund donations.

The department says in a release that the self-sufficient program anticipates hosting events as scheduled. But it’s monitoring COVID-19 and adds that it will work with partners if developments force budget adjustments.

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The Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx are cutting pay and staff due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both teams are owned by Glen Taylor. The organization said it has temporarily reduced salaries for employees earning $70,000 or more annually and laid off an unspecified amount of its full-time workforce.

The virus outbreak prompted the NBA to halt play on March 11. The WNBA has yet to begin the 2020 season.

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A limited number of spectators will be allowed at Iowa Speedway each night for IndyCar races July 17-18.

About 5,000-6,000 tickets will be available each night at the facility, which has more than 25,000 permanent seats. Groups of fans will be separated by at least 6 feet in order to align with state guidelines for COVID-19 at the oval track, which is just under a mile long.

All tickets previously purchased for the Iowa races will be honored, including season tickets. But seating will be reassigned for all existent ticketholders in order to follow safe social distancing guidelines. A limited number of tickets are still available for purchase.

IndyCar didn’t allow fans for its first race of this season June 6 at Texas, and no spectators will be at the next race July 4 on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Tickets are already on sale for the two races July 11-12 at Road America in Wisconsin, on the 4-mile, 14-turn road course.

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Michigan State’s athletic department says it conducted COVID-19 testing on 124 athletes on Monday, and one tested positive and will be isolated for 10 to 14 days.

Michigan also disclosed results from its testing. Sami Rifat, a physician with the athletic department, says the school has had two positive tests on athletes, out of 221 tests.

“Both of those individuals were completely asymptomatic at the time of the testing. None of our staff have tested positive,” Rifat said in a video conference Thursday.

Michigan State also said no athletic department staff members tested positive. One Michigan State athlete did not report to campus after testing positive at home last week.

Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said if sports are played this fall, it would not be a normal season with capacity crowds at Michigan Stadium.

“Will it be 50% or 30% or 20% or 10, or zero? I’m not sure,” Manuel said. “That’ll be a combination of listening to our public health officials, knowing what our stadium capacity can handle, given the direction that is put out by the governor’s office or the university.”

Manuel also stood by comments he made previously that he couldn’t envision sports at Michigan without students being on campus.

“If it’s declared that … our students can’t come back to campus for class, why would I ask a student-athlete to come back and participate in sports?” Manuel said. “It’s against how I think about our student-athletes. They are students first.”

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Nebraska football coach Scott Frost and men’s basketball coach Fred Hoiberg will donate a portion of their salaries to the athletic department’s general operating fund to help offset revenue shortfalls because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The athletic department said in a statement Thursday the amount of the donations would be determined when the 2021 budget is closer to being finalized.

Frost’s salary is $5 million this year. Hoiberg is set to earn $3 million.

Frost is in his third year as head coach. He grew up in Wood River and was Cornhuskers quarterback in 1996-97. His father played football for the Huskers, and his mother was a standout on the track team and is in the school’s athletic hall of fame.

Hoiberg is entering his second season at Nebraska. His parents are Nebraska graduates and his grandfather, Jerry Bush, was the Huskers’ men’s basketball coach from 1954-63.

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The University of Texas announced that 13 football players tested positive for COVID-19 or are presumed positive, and contact tracing has 10 more in isolation.

Texas started bringing football players back to campus for workouts on June 8. The school has also identified four other players who tested positive for the COVID-19 antibody.

Kansas State officials reported Wednesday night that eight Wildcats athletes have tested positive for COVID-19 out of 130 tested.

The NCAA on Wednesday approved plans for an extended preseason to give teams more time to hold walk-throughs. With the coronavirus pandemic wiping out spring practice for most teams, along with the usual required summer activities for players such as weight training and film study, schools want to make up for lost preparation time.

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Club rugby in Europe is set to resume on Aug. 22 after a five-month suspension because of the coronavirus outbreak with matches in the PRO14 league that contains teams Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Italy and South Africa.

A truncated regular season will be concluded by two rounds of matches where teams from the same nation play each other home and away to avoid cross-border travel.

Semifinal matches will take place on Sept. 5 and the final on Sept. 12.

PRO14 tournament director David Jordan says “we are very fortunate to be in a position where everyone involved is confident that we can conclude the season on the field of play.”

The league has two conferences. Leinster and Ulster are the current top two in Conference A while Edinburgh and Munster are the top two in Conference B.

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The Atlantic Coast Conference is moving its football media days online because of concerns about COVID-19.

The ACC Football Kickoff was originally scheduled to be held at The Westin in Charlotte, North Carolina. It has been rescheduled for July 21-23 with coverage on the ACC Network. Commissioner John Swofford, each of the conference’s 14 head coaches and selected players will be featured.

All 10 FBS conferences have now announced that their media days will be altered because of the pandemic, with most going virtual. The Big Ten has not made a final decision on its media days.

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Norwich midfielder Marco Stiepermann has returned to training after self-isolating at home following a positive test for COVID-19.

The English club was informed of the positive test on Friday. That was the same day Norwich played Tottenham in a friendly ahead of the resumption of the Premier League.

Norwich says Stiepermann has remained asymptomatic and has since taken two further tests that returned negative results.

Norwich is in last place in the league and hosts Southampton on Friday in their first Premier League game back after the three-month suspension.

One person has tested positive for the coronavirus in the latest round of checks. The Premier League announced that 1,541 tests had been conducted on players and club staff on June 15 and 16.

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The Swiss Indoors tennis tournament in Basel wants to cancel its 50th anniversary edition in October because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Organizers say they told tour officials they would “prefer to cancel this year’s edition of the tournament in light of the current situation.”

Tournament head Roger Brennwald says playing the event with no fans or with social distancing “have to be ruled out for us in Basel on economic grounds.”

The ATP is expected to decide on its end-of-season indoor schedule in mid-July.

Brennwald says “it looks like coronavirus is on match point and is set for victory.”

Hometown great Roger Federer was already set to miss the tournament where he worked as a ballboy and is the record 10-time champion. He ended his season this month to recover from knee surgery.

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