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MLB

Opinion: As FedEx joins opposition to Washington NFL team’s nickname, it’s time for Daniel Snyder to do the right thing

A big shoe might have just dropped on Daniel Snyder’s all-caps stance that he will “NEVER” change the name of his football team, the Washington Redskins. 

For years, Snyder — who grew up cheering for the team and purchased it in 1999 — has remained unswayed. By anything. 

Not outcries from Native Americans who deem the term “Redskins” offensive and on par with the N-word. 

Not courtroom battle attempts of foes to strip him of his trademark.  

Not critical assessments from pundits. 

Not urging by then-President Barack Obama in 2015. 

None of it caused Snyder to bat an eye. 

But now, Snyder may have no choice but to relent. 

It should have never come to this, but the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have finally shaken many to the point where they’re beginning to re-evaluate the severity of racism and racial insensitivities that plague our country.     

The climate appears to be progressing to a place of greater awareness for individuals and corporations alike. 

And that means a blow for Snyder. FedEx, the company whose name is plastered across his stadium, on Thursday issued the following statement:

“We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.”

Snyder can turn a deaf ear to media arguments. He can even dismiss the requests of Native Americans opposed to the name. He and members of his camp smugly point to the tribes that say they don’t care. 

But when FedEx — the company that pays close to $8 million per year to have its name on the stadium, and whose CEO/president/chairman Frederick Smith owns a minority stake in the team — joins the fight, stuff gets real.

Now Snyder’s stubbornness could prove costly. 

It’ll be interesting to see if other corporate sponsors like Pepsi and Nike follow suit. Thursday night, it appeared that Nike had pulled all Redskins gear from its site.

But regardless, it’s time for Snyder to do some soul-searching, humble himself and place himself on the right side of history. 

With or without financial ramifications, he should welcome this opportunity to change the unflattering narrative that has long accompanied him. 

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Look, I get that the name carries great sentimental value to Snyder, whose father took him to games at RFK Stadium during the Joe Gibbs-led glory years. 

I get that the sight of those colors bring him a great sense of pride every time he sees them. 

Having grown up in the D.C. area, where I spent most every Sunday afternoon watching Washington’s games with my grandfather and father, I get the tradition.  

But when that tradition offends others, when it causes pain to those whose ancestors heard that name slung their way in a derogatory nature, what does it matter?

Sure, it’s just a name. But now more than ever, because of Snyder’s stand, that name represents arrogance and insensitivity more than it does winning football. 

I never thought about the name as a kid. Not until adulthood, once I got outside of my small-town bubble and began hearing of how the name bothered some, did my uneasiness over the use of it start to grow. 

And now, as people of color have passionately demanded that this country take us seriously — in deed and not just lip service — how can we justify continuing to caricaturize a group of people just because the memories are great and the logo and the colors are cool?

I recently had a conversation with my brother, Stephen, about this very topic. We’d never talked about the name before this week, but he noted how it didn’t feel right supporting the team while simultaneously feeling a sense of relief as Confederate statues and flag — reminders for Black people everywhere of slavery and symbols of ongoing racism — finally were being done away with. 

And he’s right. 

I probably lost half of you right there. People are starting to get it, but plenty of Americans still want to argue that it’s heritage, not hate. They feel like the world has become oversensitive. But how can you tell someone not to feel something? How can you say their point of reference is wrong?

It’s the same thing with Washington’s name. It doesn’t matter if a football team is all that comes to mind for some. It doesn’t matter that some Native Americans are cool with it. The fact that others are not should be enough. 

The only way that our country is ever going to heal and make true strides toward racial equality and harmony is for people of all races and backgrounds to develop empathy and truly respect our fellow man. 

Clinging to a divisive name represents none of those needed qualities. 

Sure, Snyder can accomplish plenty good while still rocking the Redskins name. He donates to many charities on American and foreign soil. 

Back in 2016, his team gave just less than $4 million to more than 20 Native American reservations after many who had been asked about the nickname said they had many more concerning issues to worry about. Snyder tried to help solve some of those poverty-related matters. 

Washington has honored World War II Navajo Code Talkers during pregame ceremonies. 

But none of that absolves Snyder and fans who still love the name of racial insensitivity. 

It shouldn’t take FedEx speaking out, the risk of other sponsors backing out of deals or the District of Columbia threatening the denial of a stadium deal without a name change to get Snyder to do the right thing.

He can understand that it’s time to remove the name of avowed segregationist team founder George Preston Marshall — who was the last owner to integrate — from the ring of honor, as the team recently announced. 

Now, it’s time for Snyder to admit that sticking with the name that Marshall picked makes him no better. 

Fans will still come to games. They’ll buy jerseys and hats of whatever rebrand the team would select. They’ll still come to games and celebrate every touchdown. 

So Snyder really has nothing to lose. Instead, he can gain something that extends beyond dollars and cents. 

He can send a message and do his part to help inspire the respect and progressiveness that our country badly needs. 

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones and listen to the Football Jones podcast on iTunes.

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Basketball

Brooklyn Nets’ Wilson Chandler opts out of NBA restart

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been among the group of NBA players skeptical of the league's planned restart in Orlando next month. While he won't be participating due to a shoulder injury, one of his teammates won't be making the trip, either. 

Wilson Chandler told ESPN on Sunday that he is opting out of the restart. 

“As difficult as it will be to not be with my teammates, the health and well-being of my family has to come first,” he told ESPN. “Thank you to the Nets organization for understanding and supporting me in this decision, and I will be watching and rooting for our team in Orlando.”

Chandler, 33, was suspended for the first 25 games of the season for violating the terms of the NBA's Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for Ipamorelin.

“As difficult as it will be to not be with my teammates, the health and well-being of my family has to come first,” Wilson said. “Thank you to the Nets organization for understanding and supporting me in this decision, and I will be watching and rooting for our team in Orlando.” https://t.co/bN37YdF9zX

A handful of NBA players across the league have announced they are opting out for various reasons, including the Wizards' Davis Bertans, the Los Angeles Lakers' Avery Bradley and the Portland Trail Blazer's Trevor Ariza. Dwight Howard of the Lakers and the Clippers' Lou Williams have publicly indicated they may sit out as well. 

At 30-34, the Nets are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They will battle the Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic for the bottom two playoff spots over the final eight games. 

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Basketball

Chris Paul on NBA addressing racial issues: ‘It’s never a shut up and dribble situation’

In just over a month, 22 of the NBA's 30 teams will step onto a court and do something they have not done since mid-March. They will play in a basketball game.

With the NBA resuming the season in the middle of a novel coronavirus pandemic and protests on racial inequality, the league plans to do much more than determine its champion.

"It's never a shut up and dribble situation," Chris Paul, the Oklahoma City Thunder guard and NBA players union president, said Friday in a conference call. "You're going to continue to hear us."

How will the NBA and its players ensure that their voices are heard? NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NBPA executive director Michele Roberts, Paul and NBPA first vice president Andre Iguodala did not share definitive plans. Yet, they offered a few clues.

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Silver said the NBA has created a foundation "to expand educational and economic opportunities across the Black community." Silver and Paul vowed that the league will improve its hiring practice for Black people, women and other minorities for front-office and coaching positions. The NBA and the NBPA announced this week that they are "both committed to fostering an environment that encourages candid conversations between players and league and team leadership and finding tangible and sustainable ways to address racial inequality across the country."

It is not immediately clear if the NBA will allow players, coaches and staff members to protest during the national anthem. Or if NBA teams will wear Black Lives Matters slogans on their jersey as the English Premier League. Or which guest speakers the NBA will invite to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex.

"I won’t tell you much specifically, but there is such an opportunity for our players both to learn and to teach and to promote and advance," Roberts said. "This is truly once in a lifetime opportunity."

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Nearly two weeks ago, some NBA players expressed concern if this was the right opportunity to pursue.

Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who is also on the NBPA’s executive committee, led a conference call expressing concern on whether a resumed NBA season would distract from efforts to address racial inequality and police brutality. Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, Lakers guard Avery Bradley and Clippers guard Lou Williams expressed similar sentiments.

This week, a handful of players opted not to participate in the resumed season, including Washington Wizards forward Davis Bertans, Portland Trail Blazers forward Trevor Ariza and Bradley. Bertans opted out for injury prevention entering his free agency. Ariza wants to take advantage of his month-long custody with his 12-year-old son. And Bradley expressed concern about his six-year-old son’s respiratory issues.

"You show me a league where everybody has the same views," Paul said. "We have 450 players. It’s always hard to be on the same page. But one thing about it is we learned to communicate better. None of us are perfect. But what we’re learning is when we communicate with each other. The guys that choose to go play, we support those. And we support those that don’t go play."

Either way, the majority of NBA players have opted to participate in the resumed season. During the league’s hiatus, players have taken varying efforts to address racial injustice.

They have posted various social media messages decrying law enforcement for killing unarmed Black people, including George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain. Plenty of NBA players have participated in peaceful protests, including Indiana’s Malcolm Brogdon, Boston’s Jaylen Brown, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell and Josh Okogie, the Lakers’ Danny Green, Atlanta’s Trae Young and Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris. LeBron James formed a group to address voter suppression and increase voter turnout in the Black community. The Timberwolves and the Lakers have added various programs to address racial justice programs among their players and staff.

"I can’t imagine anything healthier than that," Roberts said. "I would’ve been ashamed had there been a conversation that the players have said about getting back to play and nothing else. Frankly as an African American woman, I would’ve been disappointed. I know these men. There was a great conversation and we are continuing the conversation."

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Basketball

Adam Silver, Chris Paul call on NBA to improve its diversity in front office, coaching hiring

The moment made the NBA feel proud. The moment also made the NBA admit its shortcomings.

While the NBA halted its season during the novel coronavirus, the Chicago Bulls (Marc Eversley), the Denver Nuggets (Calvin Booth) and Detroit Pistons (Troy Weaver) all hired Black men to fill their general manager spots. But in a league that has a predominant amount of Black players, there are only nine Black general managers among the league’s 30 teams.

“There is no doubt there is more we can do internally, the league and our teams and in terms of our hiring practices,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday on a conference call. “The league needs to do a good job, in particular, when it comes to hiring African Americans at every level in the league. It’s something we have been focused on with our teams.”

The issue does not just involve the amount of Black people working in the NBA’s front offices. It involves the league’s overall diversity. There are only 11 Black head coaches. There are only 11 women assistant coaches, and zero in the head-coaching ranks. There is only one Latino general manager. There is only one Black NBA owner.

When the NBA and its players union discussed how to resume the season for the past three months, they did not just talk about the health and safety measures. They talked about how the league and the players union can launch various initiatives addressing racial injustice issues. One of those issues involved the league’s hiring practices. The NBA extended those conversations in its most recent Board of Governors’ meetings with the league’s 30 owners.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul is the current president of the National Basketball Players Association. (Photo: Noah K. Murray, USA TODAY Sports)

“It’s something we’d both like for Adam and for the league will continue to have discussions about that,” said Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul, the NBPA’s president. “The league is predominantly African American players. So you’d like to see more people higher in executive positions. The league has told us, and it’s up to us and the players and union to hold them to that to make sure more people of color and women continue to keep being in these executive roles all throughout the league.”

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How will that happen?

Silver said NBA officials has talked with the G-League to create more opportunities for women and people of color so that they can develop into entry-level roles that will prepare them for the NBA. Those in NBA circles have often talked about the need for aspiring coaches and front-office members to enthusiastically pursue entry-level jobs (video coordinator, scouting) and networking events so they can sharpen their skills, increase their exposure and improve their job-interviewing presentations. But they also have often stressed that team owners need to proactively get to know and pursue candidates outside of their familiar work and social circle.

“We have to look internally. We have to make that commitment ourselves,” NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said. “I am encouraged the last three GM’s that have been hired have been African Americans. But we have more work to do.”

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Basketball

Kings’ Jabari Parker tests positive for coronavirus ahead of NBA return

Sacramento Kings forward Jabari Parker said in a statement Wednesday that he tested positive for the coronavirus "several days ago" and "has immediately self-isolated in Chicago."

"I am progressing in my recovery and feeling well," Parker said in a statement released by the Kings. "I look forward to joining my teammates in Orlando as we return to the court for the resumption of the NBA season."

NBA teams began testing their players for COVID-19 on Tuesday, which could give players time to self-quarantine before they travel to Orlando to resume the season on July 30. Teams will leave for Orlando on a staggered basis between July 7 and 9 after hosting individual workouts that are both voluntary (this week) and mandatory (next week). Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic has also tested positive for COVID-19.

Statement from Jabari Parker: pic.twitter.com/fn0WncpLi8

The Kings signed free-agent forward Corey Brewer earlier this week, which would serve as a reinforcement for Parker’s possible absence. Brewer has averaged of 8.6 points per game on 42.5% shooting during his career in stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Philadelphia 76ers and the Kings. Parker has averaged 15 points on 49.2% shooting in Milwaukee, Chicago, Washington, Atlanta and Sacramento.

The Kings (28-36) will compete with the Dallas Mavericks (40-27), Memphis Grizzlies (32-33), Portland Trail Blazers (29-37), New Orleans Pelicans (28-36), San Antonio Spurs (27-36) and Phoenix Suns (26-39) for the seventh and eighth playoff spots in the Western Conference. The NBA will have eight regular season games before jumping into the traditional best-of seven postseason format.

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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