Horse

Kentucky Derby Winner Medina Spirit Fails Drug Test, Trainer Suspended 

Bob Baffert is the trainer currently suspended from entering any horses at the Churchill Downs racetrack, additionally, the track is debating invalidating his horse, Medina Spirit’s, win at this year’s Kentucky Derby if the horse’s failed post race drug test is upheld. 

Baffert announced that his horse failed the drug test in a statement where he claimed he would be fighting the results “tooth and nail” to disprove their accuracy. 

The track said in a statement released this week that “failure to comply with the rules and medication protocols jeopardizes the safety of horses and jockeys, the sport’s integrity and the Derby’s reputation.”

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“Churchill Downs will not tolerate this. Given the seriousness of the alleged offense, Churchill Downs will immediately suspend Bob Baffert, the trainer of Medina Spirit, from entering any horses at Churchill Downs Racetrack.”

The statement continued to read: “To be clear, if the findings are upheld, Medina Spirit’s results in the Kentucky Derby will be invalidated and Mandaloun will be declared the winner.” 

The only horse to ever be disqualified for medication use after winning the Derby is 1968’s Dancer’s Image. According to Baffert’s lawyer Craig Robertson, Baffert was told by his barn that Medina Spirit was found with 21 picograms of the steroid betamethasone; which is double the legal threshold for racing horses in the Kentucky Derby. 

This marks one of the most recent and largest horse steroid-use scandals for one of the sports biggest trainers. Baffert claimed that this whole experience feels like the “biggest gut-punch in racing.” 

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Medina Spirit, however, is not the first horse to fail a drug test under Bafferts eye. In fact, this marks the fifth incident this year in which one of Baffert’s horses failed a drug test. He claims no wrongdoing and is adamant that he has no idea how the horse could have tested positive when Medina Spirit has never been treated with betamethasone.

“I don’t feel embarrassed, I feel like I was wronged. We’re going to show them everything. One thing about it in California, everything is documented every day what the horse gets. This horse was never treated with that. He’s a great horse, he doesn’t deserve this. He ran a gallant race,” said Baffert, adding that he was going to be “transparent” with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Baffert also continued on to discuss how horse racing in general should be doing a better job at preventing doping scandals in the first place.

“I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I know everybody is not out to get me, but there’s definitely something wrong. Why is it happening? You know, there’s problems in racing, but it’s not Bob Baffert. I’m worried about our sport. Our sport, we’ve taken a lot of hits as a sport. These are pretty serious accusations here, but we’re going to get to the bottom of it and find out. We know we didn’t do it.”

The New York Times published in November 2020 that during Bafferts 40 year career as a trainer his horses have failed a total of 29 drug tests.

Green Bay Packers General Manager Claims Team Is ‘Committed’ To Aaron Rodgers 

The Green Bay Packers have no plans to trade Aaron Rodgers, and believe the star player will be playing for the team for 2021 and beyond. General Manager Brian Gutekunst spoke about Rodgers after ESPN reported that Rodgers was disgruntled with his team and apparently told some members of the organization that he doesn’t want to return to the Packers. 

“We’ve been working through this for a little while now, and I just think it may take some time. But he’s a guy that kind of makes this thing go. He gives us the best chance to win, and we’re going to work towards that end.”

Rodgers is under contract until 2023, however, he doesn’t have guaranteed money left on his deal. Gutekunst said the lines of communication between Rodgers and the Packers has been open throughout the offseason, and claimed that the Packers never told Rodgers they would trade him, and emphasized the opposite. 

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“We’re not going to trade Aaron Rodgers.” 

Part of Rodgers’ unhappiness reportedly stems from last year’s draft when the Packers didn’t inform him of their decision to trade up and draft his potential replacement, Jordan Love. 

“I certainly look back to last year’s draft and just kind of maybe some of the communication issues we could have done better. There’s no doubt about it. The draft’s an interesting thing. It can kind of unfold differently than you think it’s going to unfold, and it happens pretty fast. But certainly, I think, looking back on it sitting where we sit today there could have been some communication things we did better,” Gutekunst said. 

“I’m not going to speak for Aaron, but I think obviously we have a really good team and I do think he’ll play for us again.”

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“Like I said, we’re going to work towards that and we’ve been working towards that on a number of different fronts. The value that he adds to our football is really immeasurable, you know what I mean? He brings so much to the table not only as a player but as a leader. He’s so important to his teammates, to his coaches, so yeah, that’s the goal,” Gutekunst explained. 

“I think we obviously have a very good football team here, we have a great organization, we’re very committed to him and I think as the lines of communication have been open, I’m just optimistic that that’s what’s best for the Green Bay Packers and I truly believe that’s what’s best for Aaron Rodgers, as well.”

Former Packers coach and current Cowboys coach, Mike McCarthy, spoke to the press this week about Rodgers and the draft in general: “I think it’s like everything in this business. Look, I don’t think anything ever surprises you, and things like that go on. Conversations, I think, are always going on when it comes to player acquisition. Obviously no one knows the impact that Aaron Rodgers has made on the Green Bay Packers but, yeah, I haven’t given it much thought. Obviously I didn’t see anything happen today, so … good news story.”

“It’s kind of a hypothetical and it’s kind of, like I said, our desire is to have Aaron as our quarterback leading this team and competing for championships. So, it’s a little bit hypothetical, so we’ll get to that. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Gutekunst concluded.

Soccer Stadium

European Soccer Rocked By New League Proposal

The world of soccer in Europe was placed into disarray for a few days after 12 of its elite clubs announced plans to form a breakaway competition, the European Super League. Angry backlash from fans and media was instant, resulting in most participating teams announcing their removal from the league.

Outcry from former players, fan protests and campaigns on social media followed in the hours after the announcement of the breakaway European Super League, the nature of which is unprecedented in European sport. Following the backlash, most clubs withdrew from the proposed tournament and even issued apologies to fans.

However, Real Madrid president and chairman of the new league, Florentino Perez, continues to insist the league is not cancelled, rather just placed on ‘standby’.

“The project is on standby,” Perez said, talking on Spanish radio station El Larguero on Wednesday night. “I’d say the body exists, but if half the group goes because they’re tired after what they heard over the last 24 hours, I don’t want to stick around. No, Juventus has not left. Why do [you] say they’ve left? Milan hasn’t left either. Why do you [you] say that? These things you’re saying, that people say.”

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“I’ve never seen such aggressiveness, by the president of UEFA [Aleksander Ceferin] and from some presidents within the Spanish leagues,” he said. “It was like something orchestrated. We were all surprised by it. Because after we revealed the format, we told the UEFA president and the UEFA president hadn’t even responded.

“And from then on, this aggressiveness started like I’ve never seen before and I’ve been in football for 20 years. I’ve never seen this in my life. Never. There were threats, insults as if we had killed someone. As if we had killed football.”

On Tuesday it seemed the Super League had effectively collapsed, with ten of the 12 teams withdrawing from the competition just 48 hours after it was announced. The six English Premier League clubs involved (Man United, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool) were first to distance themselves from the project, followed by Italian teams Inter Milan, Juventus and AC Milan and Atletico Madrid of Spain. Only Real Madrid and Barcelona remain.

Soon after the Super League announcement, soccer governing bodies UEFA and FIFA and the respective domestic leagues suggested that teams involved in the new competition would be banned from competing in their tournaments, including the World Cup, Champions League and European Championships.

Fan anger was instantly rife across Europe with the competition’s founding members, dubbed the ‘dirty dozen’, having failed to consult with other club officials and fans before delving deep into breakaway league plans.

UK politicians even stepped into the matter, revealing that measures could be brought in to prevent the formation of the Super League.

“I thought the clubs that signed up to it should be deducted points, that includes this club [Manchester United] – the club that I love and I’ve supported all my life. But I’m ashamed of them, absolutely ashamed – for two reasons,” former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville said.

Eight-time English Premier League champion Neville spoke regularly and passionately on the Super League proposals, becoming a strong voice in the world of football against the owners who chose to purposefully ignore fans.

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“Firstly, that they would want to sign up to a competition that is franchise football essentially, with no promotion or relegation, almost like that right to play the biggest games all the time – that’s not the ethic and ethos Manchester United was built on.

“Forget [the owners]. They have nothing to do with this football club. They’re just custodians. The fans that come into this ground that supported this club for 100 years are the people that matter and we want competition and the ethos of the club. Now some might say that’s gone already, but forget [the owners] – they have nothing to do with this football club, in terms of the actual history of the club and the long-term future, they’ll be gone. They’re just passengers in the night, as far as I’m concerned.

“I’m fuming, that Manchester United Football Club, that have been pioneers, that should be leading from the front, that should be looking after everyone in this country. National League, North and South clubs are in disarray, National League cubs are going bust and furloughing players, there are League Two clubs on the edge. The whole system and pyramid at this moment is struggling.

“And the timing is my second point. So Man Utd as a football club to vote for this is disgusting. The timing of it, the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of an economic crisis, not just in football but in this world, to demonstrate greed rather than compassion is an absolute shocker as far as I’m concerned.”

Sports Team

Olympic Athletes Promised Legal Support If They Protest After IOC Reinforces Ban 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently confirmed their long-standing ban on “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” on the field of play, medal podiums, or official ceremonies. A global union and activist group based in Germany responded by promising legal support to any athlete who makes a political or social justice statement at the Tokyo Olympics this summer. 

Simply raising a fist or taking a knee on the field could lead to immediate punishment from the IOC. The Olympic bodys legal team, however, still hasn’t clarified what kind of punishment an athlete would experience should they defy this rule.

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“The IOC also said that slogans such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ will not be allowed on athlete apparel at Olympic venues, though it approved using the words ‘peace,’ ‘respect,’ ‘solidarity,’ ‘inclusion’ and ‘equality’ on T-shirts. The IOC’s athletes’ commission cited support to uphold Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter from more than two-thirds of about 3,500 replies from consulting athlete groups,” according to reports from ESPN. 

“This is precisely the outcome we expected, the Olympic movement doesn’t understand its own history better than the athletes. Any athlete sanctioned at the Tokyo Olympics will have the full backing of World Players.”

“Should German athletes decide to peacefully stand up for fundamental values such as fighting racism during the Olympic Games, they can rely on the legal support of Athleten Deutschland,” Johannes Herber, the chief executive of the independent group representing German athletes, said in a statement.

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In a statement, another athlete group, Global Athlete, encouraged athletes to “not allow outdated ‘sports rules’ to supersede your basic human rights. These types of surveys only empower the majority when it is the minority that want and need to be heard.” 

The IOC claimed cases would each be judged based on merits, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, on Thursday, released a statement saying it “plans to update our recently released policy over protests in response to the IOC’s decision have not changed. We’re disappointed to see no meaningful or impactful change to Rule 50.Until the IOC changes its approach of feeding the myth of the neutrality of sport or protecting the status quo, the voices of marginalized athletes will continue to be silenced.”

Actors who break Rule 50 will be sanctioned by one to three bodies: the IOC, their sports governing body, and their national Olympic Committee. 

It’s still unclear what the punishment would look like for athletes who choose to protest. After Tommie Smith and John Carlos were recently inducted into the Olympic Hall Of Fame after being banned from the games for protesting on the podium during the 1968 Games, IOC officials claimed they would never ban an athlete to the same extent again.

Football

Julian Edelman Retires From NFL

Julian Edelman has announced that he is retiring from the NFL after 11 seasons. The wide receiver, who played his entire career with the New England Patriots, was cut by the franchise last week after he failed a medical.

Remarkably, 2009 seventh-round pick Edelman transformed from converted college quarterback to one of the NFL’s greatest possession receivers over his 11-year career, winning three Super Bowls along the way.

During his time with the Patriots, Edelman amassed 620 receptions for 6,822 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also contributed 2,612 total return yards and four more touchdowns on returns. Although he was never voted to the Pro Bowl for his performances during the regular season, Edelman is the subject of Hall of Fame debate due to his consistent impact in the offseason.

The 34-year-old ranks second all-time in the NFL in postseason receptions (118) and receiving yards (1,442).

“Nothing in my career has ever come easy and no surprise, this isn’t going to be easy either,” Edelman said on a video posted to social media. “I’ve always said, ‘I’ll go until the wheels come off.’ And they finally have fallen off. Due to an injury last year, I’ll be making my official announcement of my retirement from football.”

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“It was a hard decision, but the right decision for me and my family,” Edelman said, visibly upset as he delivered his message. “And I’m honored and so proud to be retiring a Patriot. … It’s been the best 12 years of my life.”

Edelman, affectionately known as ‘the squirrel’ by fans and teammates, was named MVP of Super Bowl LIII, in which he made 10 receptions for 141 yards as the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams in a low-scoring game.

Despite this, Edelman will perhaps be most remembered by Patriots fans and the rest of the league for a spectacular diving catch as the Patriots came back from 28-3 down to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, a play regarded as one of the best of all time in one of the greatest comebacks of all time.

He also made the decisive touchdown reception against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 49, a game the Patriots won by a score of 28-24.

“Julian Edelman is one of the great success stories in our franchise’s history. There aren’t many players who earn an NFL roster spot at a position they have never played before,” Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement.

“Julian not only did that as a seventh-round draft selection, but he is retiring with the second-most career receptions in franchise history and as a three-time Super Bowl Champion, including his last as Super Bowl MVP. No one was more committed to his craft and honing his skills than Jules. His explosiveness off the line, quickness in his cuts and elusiveness after the catch made him one of the hardest players to defend throughout his career.”

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Edelman finishes his career in second place on the all-time Patriots chart for receptions with 620, behind only Wes Welker, who had 52 more. The former seventh-round pick is fourth on the team’s career receiving yards list with his figure of 6,822, behind Stanley Morgan (10,352), Rob Gronkowski (7,861) and Welker (7,459).

 “By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career – wins, championships, production – Julian has it all,” Patriots head coach and GM Bill Belichick said in a team statement.

“Few players can match Julian’s achievements, period, but considering his professional trajectory and longevity, the group is even more select. It is historic. This is a tribute to his legendary competitiveness, mental and physical toughness and will to excel. Day in and day out, Julian was always the same: all out. Then, in the biggest games and moments, with championships at stake, he reached even greater heights and delivered some of his best, most thrilling performances.

“For all Julian did for our team, what I may appreciate the most is he was the quintessential throwback player. He could, and did, do everything – catch, run, throw, block, return, cover and tackle – all with an edge and attitude that would not allow him to fail under any circumstance. Julian Edelman is the ultimate competitor and it was a privilege to coach him.”

Because he had his contract terminated by the New England Patriots for failing his physical, Edelman has become eligible for the injury protection benefit. The 34-year-old can collect up to $2 million through this benefit, per the CBA. Edelman missed the entire 2017 season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament.

“On the biggest stage and in the biggest moments, you always came through,” Tom Brady tweeted. “You never lost that chip on your shoulder and you never let anyone define you as a person or player. I’m proud of you Jules. Love you.”

Kendrick Carmouche Is The First Black Jockey In The Kentucky Derby Since 2013 

Kendrick Carmouche is set to become the first Black jockey to participate in the Kentucky Derby in eight years, however, that’s only part of his story, and he’s ready to tell the rest of it. 

Carmouche grew up the son of a jockey in Louisiana, so he was exposed early on in his life to the culture and lifestyle. He would wake up at 4:30 in the morning and follow his father into the area bush tracks where he would watch and help him practice. 

When he was 16-years-old, back in 2000, he began riding professionally himself. Ever since he’s enjoyed a long 21-year-long career that moved him from Louisiana to Texas to Philadelphia, and now he’s positioned as one of the best jockeys in New York. Back in September 2018, Carmouche suffered a painful leg injury that forced him to endure a lengthy six-month recovery. However, his return to the tracks has given him some of the greatest achievements in his career. 

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In the fall of 2020 he earned the riding title at Aqueduct and his first Grade 1 victory back in December 2020. Now, on May 1st of this year, he will be riding in the Kentucky Derby for the first time. 

“If you don’t dream it, it’s never going to happen. I dreamed it. To be here at this point and how long it took and the hard work that I put in to get to this point, going to the Kentucky Derby, this is icing and everything on the cake.”

When asked about advice that he would give to young jockeys who will be watching him compete in May, Carmouche claimed that “You have to polish yourself. You have to ride smart. You have to do all the correct things and grind it out until that happens. This is where I want to be.”

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Carmouche is the first Black jockey to compete in the Kentucky Derby since Kevin Krigger, who finished in 17th back in 2013. Originally, Black jockeys were the majority of competitors in the derby, winning 15 out of the first 28 races in the beginning of the Derby’s history. Now, Carmouche marks one of the very few Black jockeys in the United States, and he says he hopes to inspire many others to follow in his footsteps. 

“I think people just need to open their eyes and realize it doesn’t matter what color you are. You work hard. You’re an honest person. You want the best for you and your family and the team you’re putting together at the track so you can win races. It’s no black or white. It’s just purple or green, whatever you want to call it. We all bleed the same.”

Carmouche said his confident attitude comes from his father, who pushed him to leave home and pursue this career when he was younger. “My parents told me to get the hell out of Louisiana. They told me, ‘Go make yourself your own home.’ People get it twisted. They try to make their home where they’ve been at all their life. You can’t do that. You’ve got to go make your own home with your own family, your own kids.”

Sylvester Carmouche, his father, and several other family members are planning to make it to Louisville on Derby Day to watch Kendrick ride.

Football on grass

Tom Brady Rookie Card Sells For Record $2.25 Million

A signed card from Tom Brady’s rookie season, brandished by experts as the ‘Holy Grail’ of football cards, has sold for $2.25 million at an online auction. The sale comes two months after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback picked up his seventh Super Bowl title.

The signed card from Brady’s rookie season in 2000 is one of ‘only a handful ever offered for sale’, according to the auctioneer Lelands, which claimed it was the best Tom Brady card available to the public.

The online sale smashed the previous price paid for a football card at auction. It was another rookie Brady card that already held the record, selling for over $1.3 million in a similar online auction.

“Tom Brady continues to shatter records both on and off the football field. The GOAT, Brady now holds the distinction of having the most expensive football card ever sold,” Lelands President Mike Heffner said in a written statement, brandishing the card “one for the ages.”

Brady picked up his fifth Super Bowl MVP award in February, a feat closest to by Joe Montana’s three between 1982 and 1990. The Bucs’ victory over 2020 champions Kansas City also signaled Brady’s seventh Super Bowl victory, another reason why he is widely considered the greatest to ever play football.

While the Buccaneers made all the headlines for the on-field performances last year, they have been working diligently behind the scenes over the off-season to become the first ever Super Bowl winning team to retain all 22 starters on offense and defense.

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Seven key players were due to leave in free agency this spring but the Buccaneers brought everyone back in a move that is usually difficult after winning a Super Bowl, due to increased interest from elsewhere and higher contract demands.

Head coach Bruce Arians has cited the winning culture fostered by Brady and his highly regarded coaching team as perhaps the biggest factor contributing to the Bucs being able to retain the services of those they wanted to.

“I can’t really point to a single factor, but I think everybody wanted to be back,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. “Everybody’s getting paid fairly, but everybody’s very excited to try to (win) it again.

“We’re going to be in good shape if we continue to make sure we make smart decisions and do things right.”

First, the franchise tag was placed on wide receiver Chris Godwin, who undoubtedly would have received a huge contract on the open market. From there, multi-year contracts were worked out with linebackers Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David, as well as kicker Ryan Succop.

One-year deals were also reached with tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and running back Leonard Fournette to keep them with the franchise at least through the 2021 season.

It has not been all good news for the Buccaneers during the off-season, however, as young cornerback Carlton Davis has come under fire this week for sending out a tweet containing an anti-Asian slur.

The 24-year-old has since deleted and apologized for the tweet, claiming he did not realize the term’s hurtful meaning.

“Gotta stop letting g–ks in Miami,” Davis wrote in the tweet.

Davis apologized in subsequent tweets for using the slur and said he thought the term meant “lame.”

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“I would never offend any group of people,” Davis wrote in a tweet accompanied by an image from an undisclosed slang dictionary entry. “You reporters can look for another story to blow up. The term was directed towards a producer claiming he ‘ran Miami’ With that being said I’ll retire that word from my vocabulary giving the hard times our Asian family are enduring.

“I used a term that from where I come from has always meant ‘lame’ but I did not realize it has a much darker, negative connotation. I have learned a valuable lesson and want to apologize to anyone that was offended by seeing that word because we need to focus on helping each other during these tough times.”

Hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen nearly 150% across major US cities over the past year, according to a report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Several incidents have made national and international headlines over the past few weeks.

“We have been in communication with Carlton regarding his social media post from Sunday evening,” general manager Licht said on the matter. “Carlton has been an active member of our Social Justice Player Board over the past two seasons and has played a key role in our organizational support for finding peaceful and productive ways to bring attention to societal issues that have plagued our country for many years. Words carry weight and it is incumbent upon all of us to have a thorough understanding of the words we choose and the effect they may have on others. We look forward to working with Carlton to find appropriate ways to learn from this experience and continue our joint efforts to put an end to all forms of social and racial injustices.”

NFL Football Player

NFL Owners Expand Regular Season to 17 Games

The NFL has announced that its owners have made the decision to extend the regular season from 16 to 17 games, starting this year. The extra game signals the first change to the NFL schedule since 1978.

It was also announced that every team will play at least one international fixture every eight years, with pre-season cut from four to three games to balance out the extra regular season fixture.

“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world.”

An increase to the regular season schedule has been on the cards since the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was agreed upon by the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association last March.

Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL was required to negotiate at least one new media contract before they could make the move to expand to 17 regular season games.

March 18 saw the NFL announce new media deals through 2033, paving the way for the decision of an extra game every year to be made.

With the drop in salary cap across the league for the 2021 season because of the pandemic, the increased schedule is expected to lessen the effects of less money available, as well as creating new revenue.

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NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that the new media deal and subsequent extension of the schedule will trigger the ‘media kicker’ in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, increasing the players’ share of all revenue to greater than 48%.

Each NFL team will now take part in an additional interconference game, with the opponent determined by division standings from the prior season and on a rotating division basis with the AFC teams as the home squad for the extra games in 2021.

With news of the newly structured international format also released this week, the English Football Association (FA) confirmed to Sky Sports News that they were in ongoing discussions with the Jacksonville Jaguars over hosting future games at Wembley Stadium.

The FA said: “We remain in ongoing, positive discussions with the Jacksonville Jaguars about hosting future games at Wembley Stadium, so are not in a position to comment further.

“The FA maintains good relationships with the NFL and the Jacksonville Jaguars having enjoyed over a decade of hosting games at Wembley Stadium.”

The Shahid Kahn-owned Jaguars, who have played one game every year at the UK’s biggest stadium since 2013, had agreed to play two regular season games at Wembley in 2020 before the pandemic forced the NFL to cancel all international obligations last year.

In a statement, the team said: “The Jaguars currently do not have agreements with the NFL or Wembley Stadium to play a home game per season in London.

“Our annual home games in London have strengthened our franchise, helped to forge relationships between Jacksonville and UK businesses, and established the Jaguars as the team to follow and support in London, the UK and throughout Europe.

 

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“For those reasons and many more, we’re hopeful that the Jaguars’ tradition of playing one home game each season in London can continue well into the future. We continue to have discussions with the Football Association and staff at Wembley Stadium, where our experiences have always been excellent.”

Kahn has previously told Sky Sports that he would only allow the Jaguars to play games in the UK at Wembley, and that he had an offer to buy the 90,000-capacity stadium accepted in 2018 before the deal eventually fell through.

The NFL currently has an agreement in place with Tottenham Hotspur to stage at least two regular season games per year at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium through 2025. This week, it was reported that any games the Jaguars volunteered to play in the UK would be in addition to the announcement that the NFL will play four international games per season from 2022.

Elsewhere in the NFL, wide receiver Tyler Lockett has signed a four-year $69 million extension with the Seattle Seahawks in a deal that includes $37 million in guarantees. The 2015 third-round pick had signed a three-year deal ahead of the 2018 season that keeps him with the team until the end of this season, and he is now set to stay with Seattle until 2026

Seahawks selected Lockett in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and he impressed enough as a returner to be named to the Pro Bowl that season.

Despite two fairly quiet seasons in 2016 and 2017, Lockett broke out as a receiver in 2018, amassing 965 yards and 10 touchdowns on 57 catches. That year, quarterback Russell Wilson achieved a perfect 158.3 passer when targeting Lockett – the first time that has ever happened in an NFL season.

Football on grass

Lawyer Of Deshaun Watson’s Accusers Speaks Out Against ‘Hush Money’ Claims 

Tony Buzbee is the lawyer representing the women who accused Deshaun Watson of sexual misconduct. Buzbee recently fired back at the NFL player’s attorney who recently claimed that Ashley Solis, one of the accusers, demanded “hush money” before filing a civil lawsuit against Watson. Buzbee posted an email that he wrote to Scott Gaffield, the General Counsel at the Athletes First agency in California, onto his Instagram to express his distaste in these claims. 

“The latest and ever-changing Watson defense is that our legal team is somehow compromised because we tried to settle or resolve issues with one client before putting all of these women through the current media circus we knew would result, because the alleged perpetrator is a famous quarterback. I can and have confirmed we tried to resolve these issues without a lawsuit. That fact was public knowledge almost three weeks ago. We attempted to settle without fanfare or press,” Buzbee wrote.

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“In fact, I’ve attached the last email we had with the Watson team before we filed the first lawsuit. This email was sent when we represented only one victim, before we represented what is now 23 women, alleging the same thing.”

Buzbee continued on to discuss how “the current back and forth reporting about the ego of the lawyers involved is not appropriate, or helpful. These cases are about those who were subject to the conduct alleged. Please review the video of Ashley Solis today, from the press conference; she had the courage to go in front of national media to tell her story. STRONG!! Now, that’s a hero! That’s who we should be talking about!”

The excerpts above are also taken from an email sent from Buzbee to Gaffield on February 19th, 2021. The first sexual misconduct claim against Watson surfaced on March 16th, nearly one month after. 

“We made a legit demand. You rejected it. We won’t be making another or bid against ourselves. We also won’t be having an extended dialogue about why you think your client did nothing wrong or how you want this to be a ‘learning’ experience for your ‘high-profile athlete,’ as you refer to him. This is Houston, Texas. Perhaps you should find him a lawyer here so you can apprise both you and your client of the landscape here and who you are dealing with. Talk soon.”

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Solis revealed herself as one of the Jane Does making a claim against Watson in a press conference this week, in which she claimed that Watson exposed himself during a massage session back in March 2020. Rusty Hardin, Watson’s attorney, claims he has emails to prove Solis was looking to get money out of Watson. 

Buzbee currently represents nearly two dozen women who have come out against Watson, however, Gaffield responded to the email by claiming that the NFL “doesn’t believe that the alleged facts show that Deshaun did anything wrong. We believed then – and fully believe now- that Deshaun learned a lesson about putting himself in this type of situation by interacting with people he does not know.”

“As the emails show, we were willing to continue discussions on Deshaun’s behalf to explore ways to prevent a lawsuit and a public spectacle. But Mr. Buzbee informed us that he was unwilling to do so. We expect that this matter will be resolved in court.”

Watson is currently not facing any criminal charges, but Houston police have launched an investigation into the allegations after another complaint was filed this Friday.

Football 2

Giants Sign Golladay to $72 Million Deal as Free Agency Continues

The New York Giants have agreed to sign former Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay to a four-year, $72 million deal as teams continue to bolster their roster via free agency.

NFL Network reported that the deal includes $40 million guaranteed with a total maximum value of $76 million.

It seemed as though Golladay confirmed the news on social media following the report by retweeting an NFL post that read: “Big plays coming to the Big (apple emoji).”

2017 third-round pick Golladay has 183 receptions for 3,068 yards and 21 touchdowns in 47 games (39 starts) over his NFL career. The former Lion made the Pro Bowl in 2019, leading the NFL with 11 TD catches that year.

He caught 20 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns in five starts last season.

AFC East side Miami Dolphins also strengthened at the wide receiver position, reportedly agreeing a one-year deal in excess of $10 million with former Houston Texan Will Fuller.

26-year-old Fuller set career highs across the board with 53 receptions, 879 yards and eight touchdowns in just 11 games in 2020.

He missed the final portion of the season after receiving a six-game suspension for violating league policy on performance-enhancing substances, meaning he will also miss Week One of the 2021 season.

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The wide receiver news continued with the Steelers announcing that JuJu Smith-Schuster is returning to Pittsburgh after signing a new one-year deal with the team.

No financial terms of the deal were revealed, but reports suggest that Smith-Schuster gave the Steelers, struggling with salary cap space, a hometown deal, turning down bigger offers from other franchises to stay with the team he has been at since being selected in the second round of the 2017 NFL draft.

NFL Network reported that the USC wide-out will receive a $7 million signing bonus, a $1 million base salary and four voidable years that lower the 2021 cap hit of the deal to just $1.6 million. It was also reported that the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens offered more money.

“Can’t say it enough, I love you Pittsburgh,” Smith-Schuster tweeted on Friday afternoon. “Came in here a young 20 year old and you guys embraced me from the moment I got here. So much love. Had my back thru everything, all the struggles and success. So hard to leave. See you this Fall in Heinz WE’RE GOIN CRAZY!!!”

Rob Gronkowski also re-signed with his franchise on a one-year deal, agreeing terms with the Buccaneers exactly a month after winning a Super Bowl with the team. The extension keeps Gronkowski with long-time team-mate Tom Brady, who recently signed one of his own.

Starting every game in the regular season, Gronkowski played three quarters of the Bucs’ offensive stats as he tied for third on the team with 45 receptions, producing figures of 623 yards and seven touchdowns.

The postseason mainly saw him take a blocking role as the Bucs rediscovered their run game, but the tight end exploded in the Super Bowl, making six receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ 31-9 win over Kansas City.

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“In addition to his contributions on the field, Gronk has quickly become one of the most beloved guys in our locker room,” said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht. “His ability to perform at a championship-calibre level week after week, while also uplifting everyone around him, makes him an invaluable presence in our building. Rob’s accomplishments speak for themselves and make him one of the greatest to ever play the game at his position. We are thrilled to have him back with us as we pursue another title in Tampa.”

“I feel like I can play another full season right now if we started,” said Gronkowski himself after signing the deal.

“So I feel really good. Everything that I’ve changed throughout my career is definitely paying off and it feels great. It’s great to see everything pay off. I feel really good right now. I feel light, I feel flexible, I feel like I can go out and just play some football. Just go out and not be thinking and just play football and run routes and do what I’ve got to do out there on the field. I definitely feel like I’m ready to go, play another full season coming up this year and just take it a year at a time like that.

“I would say about halfway through the season I felt like I was very comfortable,” said Gronkowski. “Just throughout the whole entire process of knowing the plays, feeling good out there on the field – it just all came together, I would say, about halfway through. It just felt good, too, when everything starts clicking like that, when I break the huddle and I don’t even have to think about the play. I just go out there and do it.”