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Mystics’ Delle Donne to receive salary despite being denied medical exemption

By Demetrius Dillard/ The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy photo/Washington Mystics

WASHINGTON — As the Washington Mystics prepare to compete in a shortened season at IMG Academy in Florida, the status of its star player Elena Delle Donne remains unknown.

Delle Donne requested to be medically excused from playing in the upcoming season due to medical concerns dealing with chronic Lyme disease. However, a panel of doctors hired by the league denied her request.  Delle Donne faced a tough decision: Either play to be paid her salary but possibly exposing her compromised immune system or sitting out the season.

The Mystics elected to help their superstar, announcing that they will pay Delle Donne her full salary (reportedly $215,000), even if she does not play due to coronavirus concerns.

Washington head coach and general manager Mike Thibault said during a media conference call that the organization plans to pay her regardless if she enters the WNBA bubble in Florida, calling her deal a “guaranteed contract.” He also said that the Mystics would support Delle Donne in whatever decision she makes for her health.

“The fact of the matter is that the Mystics organization will never put Elena’s or any of our other players’ health and well-being in jeopardy at any time,” Thibault said.

Delle Donne shared the letter of her request denial with the Mystics, but the team couldn’t release an announcement regarding the situation unless she made a public statement first, Thibault said.

The two-time MVP did go public, writing an article published on The Players’ Tribune about dealing with chronic Lyme disease for more than a decade, claiming she takes 64 pills a day to keep playing basketball.  

As the league began to review her case, Delle Donne said she thought she would be granted an exemption. It would allow her to keep her salary despite not playing this season. After talking to her doctor about her history of flare-ups, Delle Donne was told she was “at high-risk” at contracting and recovering from COVID-19.  

“I didn’t need a panel of league doctors to tell me that my immune system was high-risk — I’ve played my entire career with an immune system that’s high-risk,” Delle Donne said. 

Washington plans to work with Delle Donne in raising awareness about the effects of Lyme disease, Thibault said. She will have access to continue rehabbing her back injury at the team training facility in Washington. 

“As in the past, both with her Lyme disease history and her on-court injuries, all decisions about her ability to play will be made jointly with Elena,” Thibault said. “She is part of our roster, she’s being paid, and is continuing to rehab from her off-season back surgery.

“If at some point later in the season we are all comfortable – I mean all comfortable enough – with both her physical progress and the safety of joining the team in Florida, then we will make those arrangements.”

Forward Tina Charles to miss 2020 WNBA season

Meanwhile, teammate Tina Charles opted out of the season and decided not to travel with the Mystics due to medical concerns stemming from extrinsic asthma. 

According to a team statement released Friday, the forward has been medically excused by the league’s independent panel of physicians from participating in the 2020 season.

“While we are disappointed that Tina will not be with us this summer, we fully understand the reason for her medical exemption and look forward to having her with us next season,” Thibault said. 

“The health of our players takes precedence. There hasn’t been anything normal about playing this season, but we are prepared and excited to play with the group that is here in Florida.”

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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Courtesy photo.

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Mystics Delle Donne, Charles placed in medical protocol

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy photos/Washington Mystics

WASHINGTON – Washington Mystics stars Elena Delle Donne and Tina Charles did not travel with their teammates to start The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) preseason as they await a decision from the league’s medical panel to be medically excused from playing, the team announced Wednesday.

Both players were scheduled to travel with Washington to Bradenton, Florida, to start the shortened season. An independent panel of doctors selected players based on past health-related concerns and will go over their conditions to determine if they can receive a medical excuse to compete this season.

Last season’s MVP, Delle Donne has battled with chronic Lyme Disease, a tick-borne illness, throughout her career since being diagnosed during her college days with UConn in 2008. 

She has dealt with multiple setbacks caused by the disease, compromising her immune system, which could put her at risk if she contracts the coronavirus.

During a 2016 interview with ESPN The Magazine, Delle Donne said she takes “around 50 supplements a day” and manages her diet to handle possible future flareups.

In a statement released on her Twitter account, Delle Donne said she is waiting for a risk assessment from the league to determine if she will be allowed to play.

“Missing my teammates but health and safety are the priority,” Delle Donne said.

Charles, a seven-time WNBA All-Star center, was traded from the New York Liberty to Washington after averaging 16.9 points and 7.5 rebounds in 33 games.

Washington Mystics center Tina Charles.

“Having coached Tina before in Connecticut, I know what a huge impact she can have on the game every single night,” Washington Mystics Head Coach Mike Thibault said. “Her ability to score inside and out will make our offense even more dangerous than in the past.”

It is unknown at this time why the medical panel called Charles. Charles has not released a statement on her status.

If cleared, both players will receive their full salaries for the upcoming season and join their teammates in the WNBA “bubble” in the IMG Academy to start preparing for the season, which is scheduled to be in late July. They can still opt out before a decision is made or if the panel does not grant medical waivers. If they opt-out, they will not be paid, according to the league’s policy.

If Della Donne and Charles cannot gain clearance, Washington will be down to 10 players. They were already missing Natasha Cloud and LaToya Sanders, who opted out of playing in the abbreviated season.

Point guard Kristi Toliver elected to sign as a free agent with the Los Angeles Sparks during the offseason, leaving Washington with only two remaining starters from last season’s championship run: forward Emma Meesseman, the 2019 Finals MVP, and guard Ariel Atkins.

Replacing both players will not be easy either. Last season, Della Donna became the first WNBA player to shoot over 50% (51.5%), 40% from the 3-point line (43%), and 90% at the free-throw line (97.4%) in rout to leading Washington to its first WNBA Championship.

Together with Charles and Meesseman in the frontcourt would have made the Mystics one of the favorites to win the title this season. The WNBA has not announced when the panel will look at each player’s case or when a decision will be made.

Nationals cancel workouts amid delayed test results

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – As Major League Baseball (MLB) sets to become the first of the four major North American sports leagues to return to regular-season action, hiccups are expected. 

And about three weeks away from Opening Day, those concerns have emerged.

Just five days since the opening of MLB summer camp, the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros canceled workouts scheduled for Monday due to a delay in COVID-19 test results.

“Per MLB’s protocol, all players and staff were tested for Covid-19 on Friday, July 3rd. Seventy-two hours later, we have yet to receive the results of those tests. We cannot have our players and staff work at risk,” said Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo.

“We will not sacrifice the health and safety of our players, staff and their families. Without accurate and timely testing, it is simply not safe for us to continue with Summer Camp. Major League Baseball needs to work quickly to resolve issues with their process and their lab. Otherwise, Summer Camp and the 2020 Season are at risk.”

The league has since responded with a statement, attributing the holiday weekend to the delayed test results.

“Our plan required extensive delivery and shipping services, including proactive special accommodations to account for the holiday weekend. The vast majority of those deliveries occurred without incident and allowed the protocols to function as planned. Unfortunately, several situations included unforeseen delays. We have addressed the delays caused by the holiday weekend and do not expect a recurrence.”

Along with the 29 other MLB teams, the Nationals returned to action last week as players and staff reported to camp on July 1 and began workouts on July 3. As previously reported, Ryan Zimmerman and Joe Ross opted out of playing the 2020 season for the Nationals.

Additionally, manager Dave Martinez revealed that two Nationals players, who remain unidentified, tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday. Those results came from tests conducted on Wednesday.

Reliever Sean Doolittle, who is still unsure about playing in 2020, shared his concerns and skepticism about MLB’s handling of returning to action.

“We’re trying to bring baseball back during a pandemic that’s killed 130,000 people [in the U.S.] We’re way worse off as a country than where we were in March when we shut this thing down,” said Doolittle. “Sports are like the reward of a functional society.”

Doolittle also expressed his concern about fans’ potential in the stands once the MLB regular season begins. 

The league has not entirely ruled out fans’ idea in attendance at ballparks; officials of the Miami Marlins, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, all teams on the Nationals schedule in 2020, have expressed optimism about spectators returning to their respective ballparks.

Still, the number of cases of COVID-19 is surging throughout the country, and instances of MLB players testing positive continue to rise.

While the United States has struggled with lowering cases, other countries are enjoying the prospers of the return of sports. In Korea and Japan, fans reap the rewards of controlling the virus as professional baseball has returned with their leagues amid the regular season without stoppages. 

Assuming MLB manages to maintain the virus cases, the league plans to open on July 23 against the Yankees at 7:00 p.m.

Nationals announce Player Pool, Zimmerman will not join team for 2020 season

Zimmerman and Ross will not join team in 2020 season

By Arthur Cribbs/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON – Last October, in what now feels like a millennia ago, the Washington Nationals brought the first World Series trophy back to the nation’s capital since 1924 after defeating the Houston Astros. 

Two hundred forty-five days since that historic Game 7 victory, the Nationals are finally back in town in the Navy Yards neighborhood, although under seemingly unprecedented circumstances. 

As we enter July, in what is typically the midway point of the Major League Baseball (MLB) season, players, coaches and staff throughout the league are reporting to their respective ballclubs. 

In an agreement made last week between MLB and the league’s players association, teams will report to an abbreviated “spring” training at their home facilities by July 1, start workouts on July 3 and begin the 60-game regular season on July 23 and 24. 

Before this hiatus from baseball, major league teams had begun spring training in Florida and Arizona before play came to an abrupt halt in the middle of March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the abbreviated training period in July, teams are limited to a 60-player pool competing for 30 spots on the Opening Day roster.

The Nationals unveiled their 60-man pool on Sunday, which featured 36 pitchers, six catchers, 11 infielders and seven outfielders.

While the Nationals will open the regular season with up to 30 players, each team must cut the active roster down to 28 players two weeks into the season. After another two weeks, rosters will be cut again to 26 players for the remainder of the season.

Players who are removed from the active roster may stay in game shape at the Alternate Training Site, which will likely be the closest minor league facility; Fredericksburg (High-A) will likely serve as the Nationals’ alternate site.

Among roster changes and a shortened season, MLB is also adding a universal designated hitter, a player automatically at second base during extra innings during the regular season and an August 31 trade deadline before the regular season concludes on September 27. 

Of the 60 games, 40 will be divisional, and 20 will be interleague. Additionally, to limit any semblance of contact, spitting on the field will be prohibited.

Unlike the NBA, where players will be secluded in a central location, MLB teams are expected to travel. In the event that a player contracts the novel coronavirus, he will be placed on the COVID-19 injured list, which does not have a specific time length. The player must test negative twice and show no fever for 72 hours before returning to the ballclub.

Players can opt-out of the season, but only those who are medically certified as “high risk” can receive full prorated salaries.

Since the announcement of the player pool, at least two notable Nationals players have chosen to forgo commitments to the upcoming season.

Ryan Zimmerman announced on Monday that he would opt out of playing the 2020 season, citing family circumstances as the deciding factors. Zimmerman, 35, will forgo his $6.25 million salary (which would have been about $2.3 million in prorated pay for 60 games) but says he has no plans on retiring from the sport.

Pitcher Joe Ross, who was in line to be the Nationals fifth starter, is also opting out of the 2020 season.

Despite the loss of Zimmerman and Ross for the season, many of the spots on Nationals Opening Day roster are all but certain, barring injury or unforeseen circumstances.

Starting Pitchers

  • Max Scherzer
  • Stephen Strasburg
  • Patrick Corbin
  • Anibal Sanchez

Relief Pitchers

  • Sean Doolittle
  • Will Harris
  • Daniel Hudson
  • Tanner Rainey

Catchers

  • Kurt Suzuki
  • Yan Gomes

Infielders

  • Eric Thames
  • Howie Kendrick
  • Trea Turner
  • Starlin Castro
  • Asdrúbal Cabrera 

Outfielders

  • Juan Soto
  • Victor Robles
  • Adam Eaton
  • Michael A. Taylor

Bulk in starting and relief pitching will likely make up more than half of Manager Davey Martinez’s roster. With the addition of the designated hitter to the National League in 2020, the Nationals will also likely add an additional bat or a third catcher to the mix.

A notable invitee for the Nationals is pitching prospect and last year’s first-round pick Jackson Rutledge. He is unlikely to make the final roster but posted a 3.13 ERA in 37.1 minor league innings in his first season as a professional. 

Top prospect and former first-round pick Carter Kieboom will also be a player to watch as he looks to fill the void at third base with the team’s loss of Anthony Rendon to the Los Angeles Angels. He spent parts of 2019 on the Major League club and is expected to begin the season on the active roster.

Although much of the scheduling details for the season have yet to be announced, the Nationals are slated to open the season with an interleague matchup against the New York Yankees.

Coronavirus has shut down local boxing gyms

By Ron Harris/The Sports Pulse Boxing Writer

WASHINGTON – COVID-19 has shut down sports from middle school to the pro game. The major competitions are just beginning to put together schedule proposals for consideration between owners and the players.
Nothing has been decided as of this report for many leagues such as MLB, but those are team sports.

Individual sports, like boxing, have also been hit hard, no pun intended.
Several local, DMV gyms are ghost towns. All have been stopped in their tracks by this deadly virus.

Old School Gym run by Buddy Harrison in Prince George’s County may have been hit the hardest.

“My gym closed down,” Harrison said. “Several family members were laid off from their jobs. It’s been hard,” said Harrison, who trains his son Dusty an up and coming contender. “I have a roof over my head, and I am luckier than most.”

Harrison uses his gym for more than just getting boxers ready to fight.

“My gym is more of a shelter than a boxing gym. I have a lot of kids from broken families and foster homes, and they feel much safer in my gym than they do at home, so when it closed, I worry about them. I keep in touch with some of them.”

Championship trainer Barry Hunter runs the Headbangers Gym in Southwest, Washington, D.C. Hunter is well known as the trainer of the Peterson brothers, Lamont and Anthony.

Lamont is a former world champion fighter.

Lamont Peterson (pictured above). Courtesy photo.

“Covid has been disruptive,” We were supposed to fight on the MGM card on March 14. We got a call on the 12th that the card was canceled, and it has been downhill since then.”

Hunter trains pro fighters as well as young amateur boxers.

“Our whole program is structured.” The typical day pre-virus was thrown off. “We now open the gym around 10 am and stay until 2 or 3, and then the kids would come in and stay to around 9 or 9:30. It was a big void. We had been doing it a certain way for many years.”

“We are following the Districts’ opening schedules. I think we are in phase one of the opening. Once we open, we are going to have the gym disinfected every day before and after the classes,” Hunter said.

Barry Hunter (pictured above). Courtesy photo.

We will limit the number of people in the gym to 10 and below.” Safety will be their top priority. “We will have hand sanitizers, and the fighters must have their own gear. We cannot have any sparring yet. We are following the CDC guidelines.”

The Russell family is in a different category.

“Our gym is a private gym. It is just like my own home. It is in PG County, but it is private”, says Gary Russell, Sr., who trains his sons Antonio, Antuanne, and current world champion, Gary Russell, Jr. “I am allowing my family to train. None of them have the virus, but we are not allowing the many others that use the gym to come in.”

Gary Sr. has left several messages with Al Heyman, the boxing promoter that schedules all the Russell brothers fights. “I don’t know why I have not heard from Al. He has my number. We are trying to find out what is going on with the future.”

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Four-star guard commits to the Terrapins

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Courtesy photo

BALTIMORE – University of Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon and his coaching staff have added yet another talented basketball player to their 2021 recruit class.

Baltimore native and 6-foot-6 guard Ike Cornish announced his commitment to the Terrapins on Twitter, Tuesday afternoon (June 9).

Before transferring to Legacy Early College in Greenville, South Carolina, Cornish, who spent his first two prep seasons at Dulaney High School, hopes to stand out while playing a national schedule. 

Despite his junior season being cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cornish averaged 13.3 points per game and hit 35% of his 3-pointers, according to MaxPreps.

He was rated as a four-star prospect and the no. 77 overall player in the country according to his 247 sports composite ranking. Cornish picked Maryland over offers from Rutgers, Virginia Tech, St. John’s University, Xavier, and Georgetown. 

Cornish joins Julian Reese, a forward out St. Francis Academy in Baltimore City who committed to the Terps in early May. The commitment by the two prep stars continues a Baltimore pipeline that Turgeon has forged after his successful recruitment of Darryl Morsell and Jalen Smith, two Mount Saint Joseph products.