April 29, 2021

By ARNIE STAPLETON

Associated Press

 

Drew Lock didn’t have to wait around for the NFL draft to get the serious competition for his starting job that new general manager George Paton has been promising for months.

Paton traded a sixth-round pick in this weekend’s draft to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for veteran QB Teddy Bridgewater on Wednesday.

“Acquiring Teddy Bridgewater adds competition, experience and a strong veteran presence to our quarterback room,” Paton said. “He’s a talented player and leader who’s had success in this league in a number of different situations. Being familiar with Teddy from Minnesota, he’s going to compete and do everything he can to help us win.”

Paton might not be done, either.

The Broncos own the ninth overall selection Thursday night and have had their eyes on several of the quarterback prospects rated a notch or two below Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and BYU’s Zach Wilson, who are expected to go 1-2 to the Jaguars and Jets, respectively.

 “We’re really high on Drew,” Paton said at his pre-draft news conference last week. “I like seeing Drew here every morning when I come in. He’s working hard and trending in the right direction. As you know, he has a lot of talent. I think he’s becoming a better pro, but we’re still going to look at the quarterback position. I’ve said since I’ve gotten here that we want to bring in competition. That’s the goal, and we plan on doing that.”

Bridgewater became available when the Panthers traded for former Jets QB Sam Darnold three weeks ago.

Bridgewater went 4-11 as the Panthers’ starter last year and struggled to win close games down the stretch. He completed 69.1% of his passes, throwing 15 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.

Those numbers are better than Lock’s.

The third-year pro from Missouri tied for the league lead with 15 interceptions in 13 starts and his passer rating ranked 32nd in the NFL last season. He was 4-9 overall with 16 touchdown throws and is 8-10 in two years as Denver’s starter.

After missing most of his rookie season with a thumb injury on his throwing hand, Lock missed 2 1-2 games with a rotator cuff injury to his throwing shoulder and another for COVID-19 tracing in 2020.

Bridgewater has a 26-23 career record as a starter over his six seasons in Minnesota, New Orleans and Carolina.

The Broncos have struggled for years to find a suitable replacement for Peyton Manning, who retired a month after Denver’s 24-10 win over Carolina in Super Bowl 50 and is headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.

Manning’s induction in Canton, Ohio, further highlights the franchise’s serpentine search for a competent successor.

The Broncos are the first team in NFL history to go five years without a playoff appearance following a championship parade, and they’ve had four consecutive losing seasons for the first time since ending a decade-long stretch of sub-.500 records in 1973.

Among the washouts were first-round bust Paxton Lynch, the worst pick in former GM John Elway’s tenure, trade dud Joe Flacco, and free agent flop Case Keenum.

It was widely believed Bridgewater wouldn’t become available until after the draft and maybe wouldn’t join a new team until June. But, according to the NFL Network, the Panthers agreed to pay a portion of Bridgewater’s salary in 2021.

Bridgewater’s three-year, $63 million contract signed last year calls for him to make $10 million guaranteed and up to $7 million more in 2021.

The Panthers have the eighth overall pick in the draft and with Darnold in the fold can target other areas of need including offensive tackle, linebacker, tight end or cornerback.

Category: Sports

April 29, 2021

By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

 

Renee Montgomery, a two-time WNBA champion and vice president of the Atlanta Dream, has purchased a stake in the franchise and is now co-owner.

Montgomery is the first retired player to own and serve as an executive of a WNBA team.

The superstar and her two partners, Larry Gottesdiener and Suzanne Abair of Northland Investment Corp. take over the team that was once co-owned by former U.S. Sen. Kelley Loeffler (D-Ga.).

"With the unanimous WNBA and NBA [board] votes, marks a new beginning for the Atlanta Dream organization, and we are very pleased to welcome Larry Gottesdiener and Suzanne Abair to the WNBA," Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.

"I am also thrilled that former WNBA star Renee Montgomery will be joining the ownership group as an investor and executive for the team. Renee is a trailblazer who has made a major impact both in the game and beyond," Englebert added.

Selected fourth overall in the 2009 WNBA draft, Montgomery appeared in 364 games. She played in 37 playoff games and twice won the WNBA title as a Minnesota Lynx member.

She matched the WNBA regular-season record with eight made three-pointers in 2018 and notched her 500th career trey in 2019 – making her just the 13th player in league history to accomplish that feat.

Last November, Montgomery proved a champion in another venue: political activism. She joined Stacey Abrams and other women of color to push voter participation and inclusion, ultimately helping President Joe Biden win Georgia and the White House.

Those efforts also led to Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff winning the Senate and grabbing the majority in the upper chamber.

"My dream has come true," Montgomery declared. "Breaking barriers for minorities and women by being the first former WNBA player to have both an ownership stake and a leadership role with the team is an opportunity that I take very seriously."

Van Brooks, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit SAFE Alternative Foundation for Education, also praised Montgomery.

"Back in March, at the beginning of the pandemic, we reached out to Renee Montgomery to join our Together, We Can virtual program as a host," Brooks wrote in an email. (You can watch her class here.)

"She was ecstatic to help because the Virtual Program was created to help people. It provided people of all ages with a fun and educational, social outlet to combat the isolation brought on by nationwide quarantine," Brooks continued.

"Renee Montgomery's amazing work ethic, WNBA accomplishments, and passion for helping people have positively impacted the lives of many. "From a star player on the team to co-owner, she is a woman making history that serves as an inspiration for many, and that includes our students.

"Many of our students love sports and have an aspiration to become professional sports players. Renee Montgomery's path has started a conversation around other career options associated with their favorite sport by focusing on their academics.

"Thank you, Renee Montgomery, for serving as an amazing role model for our students and many more."

Category: Sports

April 22, 2021

LAWT News Service

 

In celebration of Jackie Robinson Day, the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation (LADF), in partnership with the City of Compton, Kershaw’s Challenge and the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation (MLB-MLBPA), unveiled the Phase One completion of a multi-million-dollar Dodgers Dreamfields complex at Gonzales Park in Compton. Held on the 74th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier, the ribbon-cutting highlighted this year’s return to youth sports after the COVID-19 quarantine and emphasized the need for continued opportunities and places to play for Black and Brown communities.

“The weight of a pandemic and calls for social justice magnify the importance of an already impactful Jackie Robinson Day,” said Nichol Whiteman, CEO of LADF. “In celebration of a legacy rooted in service, LADF has amplified its efforts to serve LA’s most vulnerable populations. With a history of dwindling resources and support, Compton deserves exceptional recreation spaces and comprehensive tools to thrive.”

 

“As we celebrate the legacy of Jackie Robinson, Kershaw’s Challenge is proud to partner with LADF to restore Gonzales Park to its baseball glory and create a welcoming environment for all ages,” said Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw. “What was once baseball heaven became a challenging place to play, making the sport inaccessible to kids in the neighborhood. With these hurdles in mind, Ellen and I are honored to help make a difference.”

Designed to support youth baseball and softball, from T-ball to college athletics, the Dodgers Dreamfields at Gonzales Park feature three fields with new playing surfaces, fencing, dugouts, irrigation upgrades, lighting, paint, and scoreboards. The project includes:

-Field 42- designed for baseball and softball players ages 5-8.

-Rachel Robinson Field- designed for baseball players ages 9-12 and softball players ages 9-18.

-Jackie Robinson Stadium- designed for baseball players ages 13+ and collegiate play, including new safety netting from Dodger Stadium and refurbished grandstand area with new railings, foundation and walkways.

-Kershaw’s Challenge Training and Fitness Zone, named for Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s charity, features two batting cages, two bullpens, a practice infield and outdoor fitness equipment.

In partnership with Science of Sport and Edison International, LADF’s Science of Baseball outdoor classroom will introduce the science, math, and physics of the game to everyone that uses the facility.

 “The upgrades to Gonzales Park will positively impact the Compton community, especially our youth, for years to come,” said Mayor Aja Brown. “We thank the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation for their commitment and investment to restore Jackie Robinson Stadium and we look forward to their continued partnership as we collectively invest in Compton youth and families.”

In addition to lead partners, the City of Compton and Kershaw’s Challenge, the construction is funded by generous donations from sponsors including MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation, FivePoint, Security Benefit, Office of Supervisor Holly Mitchell, LA84 Foundation, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, LA2050, Edison International, Helen and Will Webster Foundation, Water Buffalo Club, Leon Lowenstein Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, Climate Resolve, and Science of Sport.

Since 2003, LADF has refurbished 51 Dodgers Dreamfields and invested over $10.6 million throughout the Greater Los Angeles area, providing 360,000 kids access to playable baseball and softball fields. In 2019, LADF partnered with the City of Compton to revive youth baseball and softball through its Dodgers RBI program. Dodgers RBI, local high schools with baseball and softball programs, as well as other sports-based leagues, such as C-BATS and ESI, will benefit from the new fields.

Gonzales Park, named after Ramon Gonzales, a local business owner who raised money to build ballfields, has been known for the large amount of Major League caliber talent that it nurtured, such as Eddie Murray, John Young, Hubie Brooks, Ozzie Smith, Eric Davis, Darryl Strawberry, Duke Snider, Kenny Landreaux, and more. Phase 2 of the project will be unveiled in the Fall of 2021 and include solar arrays, PV carports, EV charging stations, locker rooms, concession stands, press box, ADA paths, and restrooms.

Category: Sports

April 22, 2021

By Kyle Hightower

AP Sports Writer

 

During Marshawn Lynch's 12 NFL seasons he earned a reputation for his fearless style on the field, while remaining one of the league's most reclusive figures off the field.

Now the retired running back is lending his voice to try to help members of Black and Hispanic communities make more informed decisions about receiving COVID-19 vaccines.

And he's enlisted the assistance of the nation's top infectious disease specialist to do it.

Lynch released a 30-minute interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci on his YouTube channel Friday, becoming the latest prominent athlete to sit down with him to discuss the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines as the U.S. continues to combat the pandemic.

 

Since hanging up his cleats following the 2019 season, the 34-year-old Lynch has stayed entrenched in his native Oakland, California, community through his Fam 1st Family Foundation, which has spearheaded several educational and philanthropic initiatives to assist residents.

Lynch himself hasn't been vaccinated and he pointed out to Fauci that distrust in his community remains high regarding vaccine safety.

“When it comes to the government giving back to communities that look like me, we don't seem to be on the well-received end of those situations,'' Lynch told Fauci during the interview, which was recorded late last month. “It gets to the point where it's almost like a gamble.''

Campaigns aimed at Black communities across the U.S. are making headway in the effort to persuade people the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

The efforts have gotten a boost from millions of dollars via President Joe Biden's administration and though local groups who have urged Black Americans to get vaccinated and set aside what for some is a shared historical distrust of science and government.

A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in March found that about 24% of Black American adults said they will probably or definitely not get vaccinated. That's down from 41% in January. The latest number shows Black Americans leaning against getting shots in almost the same proportion as white Americans at 26% and Hispanic Americans at 22%.

Fauci said it's a reluctance he understands well in the Black and Hispanic community.

“The reluctance you express is a reluctance that's founded in historical reality,'' Fauci said. “So how do we get past that? And the reason why we've got to get past that is because we don't want African-Americans in the community to not have the advantage of the protection of something that really works because of history.''

And he said he wants to tap every outlet available to get information out.

“That's why we're talking to you, Marshawn,'' Fauci said.

Like he's done in other interviews Fauci addressed common concerns people have expressed regarding the coronavirus vaccines, such as the speed of their development. He also pointed out that minority communities were well-represented during clinical trials.

“Even though it was developed in less than a year to put into people, it took decades of work to get to that point,” Fauci said.

Lynch's interview with Fauci also comes as multiple NFL players issued statements through the NFL Players Association stating their intentions not to participate in in-person voluntary workouts at team facilities this offseason. The list includes two of Lynch's former teams: the Seattle Seahawks and Las Vegas Raiders.

In a memo sent to all 32 teams Tuesday which was obtained by The Associated Press, Commissioner Roger Goodell said COVID-19 safety protocols will start to be relaxed as players and other team members get vaccinated.

Lynch said he hopes the efforts to have more dialogue with minority communities continues after the pandemic is brought under control.

“It's all educational for me,'' Lynch said. ``Hopefully, this gets across to the individuals that need the information, that need the education. Hopefully, it makes an impact.''

Category: Sports

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