Roberto Luongo gave a powerful speech before Thursday’s game against the Washington Capitals, the first Florida Panthers home game since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland, Fla.

Luongo began by emphasizing his deep ties to Parkland, where he’s lived for the last 12 years, and said he wants to spend the rest of his life there when his hockey career ends.

He then issued a call to the community to act.

“Last week, it was Valentine’s Day, I was in Vancouver, and obviously, we all know what happened,” he said. “It was hard for me to be on the West Coast and not be able to get back home and protect my family, so no child should ever have to go through that. It’s terrible. It’s time for us as a community to take action. It’s enough. Enough is enough. We’ve gotta take action.”

The veteran goaltender addressed the families of the victims, saying the players’ hearts are broken for them, and that they’ve been in their thoughts since the tragedy.

He referred to the teachers at the school as heroes, particularly the ones who died protecting the students, and then said he’s “very, very proud” of how the students have rallied and demanded action themselves.

Seventeen people died in the shooting last Wednesday.

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One of the most memorable matches from Shawn Michaels’ storied career was Ric Flair’s retirement match at WrestleMania 24. As a recent guest on the In This Corner podcast, Michaels discussed the match and said he choreographed the match himself to pay homage to his childhood hero.

“Truth be told, when it came to that kind of stuff, I am a bit of a control freak. Emotionally, I just knew where I wanted–especially with that match, that might quite honestly it was my ‘love letter’ to Ric Flair,” Michaels said. “My way of trying to show him, not only the friendship that we have, but also the impact that he had on a 15 year old me, and trying to convey that to him through a wrestling match, and knowing that I couldn’t be the only guy that he had that effect on. You hope that the other 80,000 fans out there get that; clearly everyone did, and the millions at home did.”

Michaels said it was important to him to take creative control on that match because it was more than just a match to him. He had a lot of feelings and emotions about sending Flair into retirement and he wanted to make sure that those emotions were conveyed in the match.

“It’s sort of making that decision as a performer to say, look, this is something I want to do, please let me do it. It’s not because you don’t want them to do anything to mess it up, it’s your feelings and emotion, so you have to be the one that is driving that match if it makes any sense,” he said. “That is why I was so adamant about that match. Honestly, that is how most of my matches were. I probably wrestled only one way too much from my heart than to my head, but honestly for me that is what made the difference in those matches, which was for me to do it in more from a 15 year old fan in me.”

Michaels has been working with NXT superstars in an advisory role. He said the biggest advice he can give them is to enjoy the pro-wrestling business. There is nothing easy about the business, especially early in their careers, so he wants them to find a way to enjoy the hardships as well. Michaels wants them to learn to appreciate the business, because when their careers are over they will miss it greatly.

“Believe it or not, I want to pass on to them about whenever everything is set and done, even if they are mentioned in the conversation, take that and be happy with it; be content and have peace with that. Enjoy this job; do it, and enjoy it,” he said. “It’s hard enough already as it is, you don’t need to make it harder by complaining about this and that, I don’t mean to make it sound bad, but everything is social media now, and my goodness, whenever everything is set and done, and when you are in your casket, do you know how many people from social media are going to be there? Not many. So, take the important things in life, make the most of those, enjoy the job, and have the opportunity to live out your dream. This is what I want to do with these guys; I want to instill in them and appreciate the opportunity that they have to be paid to travel the world and perform around people doing what we love to do. That is a great gig; just let the chips fall where they may because ultimately, if it’s between you, LeBron James, Bill Russell, Michael Jordan; does it really matter?”

Hockey fans in the Northwest will soon be able to secure a chance to witness an inaugural season in Seattle.

The group leading the charge to bring an expansion franchise to the city will begin taking deposits on season tickets March 1, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan announced Tuesday.

Prices range from $500 to $1,000, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

After receiving approval from the NHL Board of Governors in December, the Oak View Group, who spearheaded plans to redevelop KeyArena, officially submitted an expansion bid that included a $10-million down payment earlier this month.

There has yet to be a verdict on the application.

The Big Baller Brand’s LaVar Ball is making a big proclamation.

Despite all of the roster changes the Cleveland Cavaliers recently underwent in an attempt to turn their season around and possibly sway LeBron James to re-sign, LaVar remains in the mindset that the four-time league Most Valuable Player will ultimately end up playing with Lonzo Ball and the Los Angeles Lakers next season.

“Who said it was a rumor? Didn’t I tell you he was coming in? Trust me when I tell you,” LaVar said to TMZ Sports upon entering his pop-up shop in Los Angeles.

LaVar even feels a player with James’ credentials and ability will benefit from suiting up next to someone like his son.

“Lonzo will make him a better player,” he added.

Should they join forces, LaVar already has a nickname worked out for a potential LeBron-Lonzo pairing: “Ball Stars.”

The Cavaliers shipped Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye to Los Angeles prior to the trade deadline, which will clear an added $13.6 million in cap space for the Lakers this summer. This means the organization can potentially sign two max-contract free agents, and that could entice James to ultimately make the jump to the Western Conference.

Lonzo, meanwhile, has been sidelined with a sprained MCL in his left knee since Jan. 15. He’s averaging 10.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 7.1 assists on 35.6 percent shooting from the field his rookie year.

Brett Favre is the NFL’s iron man, having started a record 321 games in a row during his 20-year career.

But, with the concern surrounding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and concussions growing, Favre admitted in a recent CNN interview that he’s worried by what the future holds for his health after a career of physical punishment.

“I’m able to function the way I so choose, at least up to this point,” Favre said, according to Tully Corcoran of thebiglead.com. “I stay active. … Tomorrow may be totally different. Tomorrow I may not remember who I am, I may not know where I live, and that’s the frightening thing for us football players.”

Favre also said he won’t push for his grandchildren to following his sporting footsteps.

“I’m not going to encourage him to play football,” Favre said regarding the oldest grandchild, who is eight. “I’m not saying I would discourage him, but I would be cringing every time I saw my grandson get tackled, because I know, physically, what’s at stake.”

LeBron James once again wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion on President Donald Trump.

In a new “Uninterrupted” video in which Cari Champion serves as an Uber driver for LeBron and Kevin Durant, James chimed in again on today’s increasingly divisive political environment and the polarizing commander-in-chief.

“The climate is hot,” James said. “The No. 1 job in America … is someone who doesn’t understand the people. And really don’t give a f— about the people. When I was growing up, there was like three jobs that you looked (up to) for inspiration. It was the President of the United States, it was whoever was the best in sports, and then it was like the greatest musician at the time. You never thought you could be them, but you can grab inspiration from them.”

James added that Trump’s penchant for unrestrained talk is both comical and frightening.

“It’s at a bad time,” James said. “While we cannot change what comes out of that man’s mouth, we can continue to alert the people that watch us, that listen to us: ‘This is not the way.’ It’s not even a surprise when he says something. It’s like laughable. It’s laughable and it’s scary.”

Durant didn’t hold back either.

“When we’re talking about leadership, and what’s going on in our country, it’s all about leadership,” Durant said. “You need to empower people, you need to encourage people. And that’s what builds a great team. And I feel like our team as a country is not ran by a great coach.”

Peyton Manning could be at the center of a bidding war between ESPN and FOX this offseason, as the two networks are reportedly looking to hire a marquee name as a game analyst for their respective prime-time football properties.

Both networks have Manning at the top of their lists, sources told Andrew Marchand of the New York Post.

ESPN needs a replacement for Jon Gruden on Monday Night Football after he left the booth to become head coach of the Oakland Raiders, and FOX recently picked up the rights to Thursday Night Football in a multibillion-dollar deal.

Manning has reportedly been approached multiple times by different networks in regard to a TV analyst role, but he’s been reluctant thus far.

One source told Marchand that ESPN is willing to “back up the truck” for Manning’s services. Gruden was reportedly ESPN’s highest-paid personality at more than $6.5 million per year.

It’s unclear whether the network would retain Sean McDonough as the play-by-play announcer partnered with Manning.

ESPN reportedly views Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss, Charles Woodson, and Kurt Warner as fallback options. Hasselbeck and McDonough recently called the Pro Bowl as a broadcast team.

Paul Pierce was enshrined into Boston Celtics folklore after the team retired his No. 34 on Sunday, but he’s apparently not the only member of the team’s 2008 championship-winning side who will receive the honor.

Kevin Garnett, a key figure in their last conquest who averaged 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds over six seasons in Boston is supposedly next in line to have his jersey retired, Pierce told ESPN’s Chris Forsberg. Although Garnett first emerged as one of the greatest power forwards in the league during his first 12 seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Pierce says he would prefer to be eternally honored by the Celtics.

“(Garnett would) rather have his jersey retired in Boston than in Minnesota,” Pierce said. “He’ll eventually have his number retired with the Timberwolves, too, but he’ll have to wait until management sells the team.”

Garnett was a powerhouse during his opening stint with the Timberwolves. He averaged a double-double of 20.5 points and 11.4 rebounds and was a 10-time All-Star before being traded to Boston on July 31, 2007. With him in the fold, the Celtics developed their Big Three of Pierce, Garnett, and Ray Allen.

Despite waiving a no-trade clause to return to Minnesota in the twilight of his career, Garnett has long been critical of the Timberwolves’ front office, specifically owner Glen Taylor. In December, Garnett admitted he one day hopes to buy the Timberwolves in order to remove Taylor from his post.

Vince McMahon’s assertion that the XFL’s relaunch would have no impact on his day-to-day WWE role was one of the biggest talking points to emerge from January 25th’s press conference, but the Chairman is already going back on his word.

According to this week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Vince is currently undergoing the process of transferring certain WWE powers to others, with Triple H the main benefactor.

‘The Game’ has already taken over 205 Live’s operations, with McMahon stepping aside. On top of this, Vince is currently assembling a team to assist Triple H in running NXT, which is why Impact Wrestling’s Jeremy Borash was recently brought into the company. Dave Meltzer notes that Vince has also spoken to other individuals with a view to taking a bigger role, but doesn’t mention any specifics.

This doesn’t mean that McMahon is stepping away entirely, but he is looking to ensure key positions are covered when the XFL’s rebirth finally comes to fruition.

The only surprise here is the timescale, as while Triple H was pinpointed as Vince’s preferred heir a long time ago, the Chairman had shown no signs of ceding power. McMahon will still hold authority going forward, but it sounds like big changes are on the way.

Berlin – Bayern Munich announced on Tuesday a partnership deal with Major League Soccer team FC Dallas in their bid to expand into North America.

Bayern, who already have an office in New York, say twinning with Dallas is to help both clubs develop players and coaching methods.

“As part of our international strategy, we opened an office in the US in 2014,” said Bayern’s head of international strategy, Joerg Wacker, in a statement.

“Right from the beginning, we wanted to be more in touch with our fans while supporting the development of football in the United States.

“The promotion of young players is the focus here.

“FC Dallas stands for excellent youth work and is the ideal partner for us.”

A group of FC Dallas players visited Bayern’s academy in Munich last December.

“The primary goal is to build a youth academy and club of world-class excellence,” said Dallas’ CEO Clark Hunt.

“A partnership with one of the world’s most successful clubs is a significant step in that direction.”

Ronda Rousey hasn’t been seen in WWE since surprising the crowd in January at Royal Rumble in Philadelphia, but fans won’t have to wait too much longer for her next appearance.

On Monday night, Raw general manager Kurt Angle announced that the former UFC women’s bantamweight champion will sign her contract with the brand during WWE’s Elimination Chamber pay-per-view on Feb. 25.

The pay-per-view could also set up Rousey’s storyline for WrestleMania 34 on April 8. MMA Fighting’s Dave Meltzer reported WWE is trying to put together a tag-team match that would pit Rousey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson against Stephanie McMahon and Triple H.

Despite sitting fifth in league scoring and remaining on pace to shatter his previous career-high points total, Phil Kessel isn’t caught up in the hoopla of individual accolades.

The Pittsburgh Penguins star winger has 66 points in 59 games and an outside chance at catching Nikita Kucherov (76 points) in the race for the Art Ross Trophy, but the self-proclaimed hard-working, hockey-loving nice guy has his focus set elsewhere.

“I don’t care. I’ve got two Cups,” Kessel said when asked about the pursuit of the scoring title, per Pens Inside Scoop.

Kessel has been one of the league’s hottest players in the New Year, recording 24 points in 19 games since the calendar flipped to 2018. The 30-year-old’s surge is one of the main reasons the Pens have been unstoppable of late, going 14-4-1 in that span.

Coming off the first Super Bowl win in franchise history, the Philadelphia Eagles are not short on confidence.

First-team All-Pro offensive tackle Lane Johnson, who’s under contract with the Eagles for the next four seasons, did his part to fuel what could become the league’s newest rivalry against the back-to-back AFC Champion New England Patriots.

“The Patriot Way is a fear-based organization,” Johnson said on the “Pardon My Take” podcast. “Obviously, do they win? Hell yes, they win. They’ve won for a long time. Do I think people enjoy and can say, ‘I had a lot of fun playing there?’ No, I don’t.”

Johnson played the 2017 season with running back LeGarrette Blount and defensive end Chris Long, two castoffs from the Super Bowl LI-winning Patriots team.

The outspoken offensive lineman doesn’t see himself choosing to blend into what the Patriots demand of their players.

“They’re successful, but when they go to interviews, they act like f—ing robots,” he said. “Hey, stop being a d—head. We can be cordial for a little bit. You only get to do this job one time, so let’s have fun while we’re doing it. Not to be reckless, but I’d much rather have fun and win a Super Bowl than be miserable and win five Super Bowls.”

It’s not the first shot Johnson has taken at the Patriots and five-time Super Bowl-champ Tom Brady, calling the quarterback a “pretty boy” he’d like to dethrone prior to Super Bowl LII.

Now that he’s back with the Miami HeatDwyane Wade says there will be no other stops in his NBA career.

“This is it for me, guys. I’m going to stay here until I decide to hang it up,” Wade told NBA TV’s Grant Hill on Friday night. “This is home, and I’m so happy to be back.”

After a season-and-a-half detour through the city of his birth with the Chicago Bulls, and 46 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wade was traded back to the Heat on Thursday for a future second-round pick. He received a thunderous ovation upon his return to American Airlines Arena on Friday, scoring three points in a Miami win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Wade is as synonymous with the Heat as any player in franchise history, and judging by he and his wife Gabrielle Union’s happiness at the return, it’s clear they never wanted to leave South Florida.

Wade is currently on a one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum of $2.3 million. The 36-year-old has slowed over the last few seasons, but can still be productive offensively. An impasse with team president Pat Riley over a new deal drove Wade away from the Heat in 2016.

Super agent Scott Boras is no stranger to putting Major League Baseball on blast, and his battle against tanking clubs has a new proposal.

Based on the premise that MLB teams charge extra for tickets to high-profile matchups, Boras suggested fans should demand lower ticket prices for games featuring two tanking clubs.

“It will be like military day,” Boras told Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. “Come see the two tanks.”

Throughout the offseason, there has been growing concern over clubs intentionally trying to lose and increasing conjecture over collusion, leading to a slow free-agent market. With pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training early next week, a number of free agents remain unemployed including Boras’ clients J.D. MartinezEric Hosmer, and Jake Arrieta.

Earlier in February, it was reported that the Detroit Tigers, in the midst of a rebuild, were having trouble selling their Opening Day tickets. “Hundreds, if not thousands, of tickets” remained available, according to The Detroit News’ Tony Paul.

Not coincidentally, the Tigers will host the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day, another club rumored to be tanking after trading away franchise cornerstones Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole.

There are rumors going around WWE that say Jeff Jarrett could be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame during WrestleMania 34 Week in New Orleans this year, according to PWInsider.

No word yet on if there is any truth to the rumors but the potential induction would come after Jarrett recently wrapped a stint in WWE-sponsored rehab. The TNA co-founder is no longer affiliated with the company that he tried to go up against WWE with but he does have a controversial past with WWE.

Jarrett is a six-time WWE Intercontinental Champion, a one-time WWE Tag Team Champion and a one-time WWE European Champion. He is also a three-time WCW United States Champion and a four-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion.

WWE has confirmed headliner Bill Goldberg, The Dudley Boyz and Ivory for the 2018 Class as of this writing. Other names rumored but unconfirmed for this year include Mark Henry, the late Bam Bam Bigelow and Kid Rock for the Celebrity Wing.

 

Seattle appears to be one step closer to housing the next NHL expansion team.

Oak View Group Seattle submitted its application for an NHL expansion franchise, Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan announced on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the NHL also confirmed it had received the application, according to Chris Daniels of K5 News.

The application includes a down payment of $10 million, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Seattle has been under serious consideration for expansion by the NHL ever since it was announced that OVG plans to redevelop KeyArena back in December.

The next steps for the group will be a review of the application, a submission of additional information, league due diligence, review with the Executive Committee, and a recommendation to the Board, according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun.

It looks like WWE may be using Ronda Rousey to help make Stephanie McMahon a bigger star, according to Dave Meltzer of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

It was noted that one of the more significant reasons WWE hired Rousey was to help boost Stephanie’s mainstream status and that the questions surrounding her financial value to the company are secondary.

Boosting Stephanie’s image is why they want the super high-profile match at WrestleMania 34 for Rousey, rumored to be Stephanie and Triple H vs. Rousey and an unknown male star, rumored to be The Rock or WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle. It was noted that while Stephanie is a big name in wrestling, she’s not a mainstream star. One of the keys in bringing Rousey in goes back to what made Vince McMahon a star – the program with WWE Hall of Famer Steve Austin, and what made Austin a big mainstream star – the feud with Mike Tyson.

While it was believed that Rousey’s Royal Rumble handshake with Stephanie was to squash their beef, the idea for their feud is to make Stephanie a star outside of the pro wrestling world.

Coming off a Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in which he caught 9 of 15 targets for 116 yards and two touchdowns, Rob Gronkowski may be weighing a career change.

The oft-injured Patriots tight end is reportedly considering retirement from football in order to pursue an acting career, a source told Bill Burt of the Eagle Tribune. He suffered a concussion in the AFC Championship Game, though returned in time for the Super Bowl, and apparently told friends that his injuries have taken a toll.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Sylvester Stallone have told Gronkowski he could make millions as an action star, reports Burt, which is apparently another draw because of his contract.

The four-time first-team All-Pro is due a base salary of $8 million in 2018 and $9 million in 2019 – the final years remaining on his six-year, $54-million extension.

He’ll be 30 when that contract is set to expire.

The UFC is currently discussing a welterweight bout between former WWE star CM Punk and Mike Jackson, targeted for June 9 when the promotion goes to Chicago for UFC 225, reports MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani.

Discussions are still in preliminary stages with no final decision made yet, though Dana White made it clear before UFC 220 that he was hoping to see Punk back in the Octagon soon.

Punk, also known as Phil Brooks, is a native of Chicago and has not fought since being dismantled by Mickey Gall in his UFC debut September 2016.

Jackson is also 0-1 in the UFC with Gall as his only opponent and has been prodding Punk for the last year with the hope of landing a fight with the big-name draw.

Amid another excellent season, Patrik Laine is embracing his status as Winnipeg’s favorite son.

Laine submitted a standout rookie campaign in 2016-2017, scoring 36 goals and 64 points, taking the league by storm with his devastating release.

The 19-year-old is following up his debut season by featuring as a key component of a Jets team that’s battling for top spot in the Central Division.

In an essay titled “Winnipeg Is Good” for The Players’ Tribune, Laine expressed gratitude to his adopted city.

“Other than destroying Nik Ehlers in Call of Duty, I think the best thing to happen to me last year was falling in love with Winnipeg,” Laine wrote.

“I mean, I heard some guys talking bad about the city and that Winnipeg was not a good place. What do they know? I love Winnipeg. This is my home. These are my people now. I play for them. It’s a great, great city. Everyone who lives here really cares about one another, that’s what stands out to me. We are one group, all of us. Everybody is your neighbor.”

Selected second overall in the 2016 NHL Draft, Laine was considered a vital piece of the Jets’ future and he’s exceeded some of the loftiest projections during the early stages of his promising career.

After missing the playoffs last season, Laine is clearly embracing the challenge of leading a sleeping contender into battle with the playoffs speeding toward the horizon.

“Yeah, things are good in Winnipeg right now. People are happy around the rink and the season is going well so far. Last year was tough. Everyone was saying I should be happy with how I played and stuff. But, like, I don’t care about that. I want to win. That’s is the only reason I play hockey – or even CoD. I want to beat you. We didn’t do that enough last year. Now we’re winning, and I’m loving it and so is the city.”

Laine was destined for stardom in Winnipeg and has been embraced by the city from the minute he was drafted. After starring for the Jets before his 20th birthday, it’s clear Laine knows he’s on his way to cementing his status in city lore.

Prior to Terrell Owens’ inclusion in the NFL Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018, the wide receiver’s candidacy was largely clouded with questions about his attitude and behavior, despite putting up undeniably impressive career numbers.

His third year on the ballot proved to be the one that sealed the deal, and the testimony of one former teammate in particular may have had a lot to do with that.

As this year’s candidates were being considered, Hall of Fame voters were given an 11-page document including nearly 30 testimonials from former teammates of Owens in order to vouch for him as deserving of induction, according to Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports, who is also a member of the Hall of Fame selection committee.

One endorsement in particular came from former San Francisco 49ersquarterback Jeff Garcia, who at times seemed to have as rocky a relationship with Owens as any other teammate.

Garcia gave permission for part of his statement to be made public, according to Maiocco, and in it he says while Owens’ energy was sometimes viewed in a negative manner, his on-field production spoke the loudest.

My response to your question about Terrell Owens is that I believe he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

Personality and off-the-field reputation put aside, he was one of the most feared players at his position and was highly productive despite all of the extra attention and defensive game-planning that came his way in order to disrupt his performance.

He was one of the hardest workers on the practice field, and come game day, he always gave all that he could give, despite at times dealing with personal injury.

He was a physical beast on the field and created matchup problems in favor of our offense. The combination of size, speed, and physicality that he brought into a game made him difficult to defend.

He wore his emotions on his sleeve and sometimes that was taken in a negative way, but there’s no taking away from the fact that he wanted to win badly and is near the top of every important receiving category in the history of the NFL. No matter who his QB was or what team he played for, his production was consistent and raised the standard of the position from a performance aspect.

The proof is in what he did on the field.

We’re less than 65 days until WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans and just one match has been confirmed by WWE for the biggest show of the year – Shinsuke Nakamura vs. WWE Champion AJ Styles.

We do have a handful of rumored matches and matches that have been planned for some time. The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reports this week that RAW Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss is set to defend her title against Nia Jax, which leaves Asuka to cash in her Royal Rumble title shot against SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair.

Below is the current rumored card for WrestleMania 34, which takes place on April 8th from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. It should be noted that this is the rumored card based on what has been reported. No word yet on who RAW Tag Team Champions The Bar or SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Usos may defend against but there could be multi-team matches. There’s also no word yet on who WWE United States Champion Bobby Roode might defend against.

WWE Universal Title Match

Roman Reigns vs. Brock Lesnar

WWE Title Match

Shinsuke Nakamura vs. AJ Styles

RAW Women’s Title Match

Nia Jax vs. Alexa Bliss

SmackDown Women’s Title Match

Asuka vs. Charlotte Flair

WWE Intercontinental Title Match

Braun Strowman vs. The Miz

Ronda Rousey and a partner (The Rock & WWE Hall of Famer Kurt Angle have been rumored) vs. Triple H and Stephanie McMahon

John Cena vs. The Undertaker

Finals of the WWE Cruiserweight Title Tournament

The 5th Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal

The baggage within the Cleveland Cavaliers organization is nearing a critical mass.

As the Cavs approach a trade deadline that could permanently alter the course of the franchise, there is reportedly no communication between the front office and the man who effectively holds the fate of the team in his hands.

LeBron James has “no relationship” with either owner Dan Gilbert or general manager Koby Altman, sources told The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd. And while previous GM David Griffin reportedly used to communicate regularly with James and keep him in the loop regarding personnel decisions, the new front office headed up by Altman makes no such concession, and makes major decisions without seeking James’ input.

Specifically, a source told Lloyd that the Kyrie Irving trade last summer was made against James’ wishes and negotiated without consulting him. (To the first point, James reportedly told the Cavs to ignore Irving’s trade demand and bring him to camp, but Irving “made clear to Gilbert and the Cavaliers he wanted out of Cleveland because he did not want to play another minute with James,” a source told Lloyd.) James, who wanted the Cavs to retain Griffin, now reportedly believes he’s in the dark about the current front office’s plans.

The relationship between James and management apparently has grown so fractious and mistrustful that during the Cavs’ disastrous team meeting last month, James was “yelling and cursing” at “at least two team executives,” sources told Lloyd.

Meanwhile, “the belief is unanimous” throughout the organization that Gilbert is pulling all the strings behind the scenes, Altman’s title be damned.

Add it all up, and you have an organization that appears to be in complete disarray with the deadline less than 48 hours away and James just five months from unrestricted free agency. It feels like something’s gotta give.

Last week, a change was made to the Raw announce team with Jonathan Coachman coming in and WWE Hall of Famer Booker T being moved out. WWE said Booker T would remain with the company to work Kickoff panels, as well as making occasional Raw appearances and serving as a WWE Ambassador. On his podcast, Heated Conversations, Booker T spoke about why he was moved off the team and blamed Corey Graves and the jabs that have been thrown by both announcers.

“If I got Corey Graves into a fisticuffs, I would beat him down like he stole something,” Booker T said. “I would be whoopin’ his ass all day long. My thing is this, I’m a nice guy, until you get on my bad side. Corey Graves, I wouldn’t necessarily say he’s on my bad side right now, but he’s the reason that I’m not on Monday Night Raw right now. Lot of people in the company thought I was going to jump on him. I was gonna do something bad to him. I was gonna drag him. I was gonna take him out to the woodshed. I was gonna beat that man so bad that he was going to say ‘Please, please, just don’t beat me anymore.’ That’s how hot I was getting, that’s how close I was getting.”

According to Booker, WWE wanted him to cool off and did that by moving him back to the Kickoff panels and away from Graves.

“So, they said ‘Hey, Book, step back a second, alright? We’re gonna regroup, press the rewind button. We’re gonna send you back to the Kickoff show, SmackDownand Monday Night Raw PPVs and cool ya down for a second. Because we don’t want you to do anything to Corey Graves.'”

Booker T continued that if he catches Graves out and about, he’s going to “do something” to the Raw Announcer.

“If I catch Corey Graves on the street, I’m gonna do something to him,” Booker T said. “I ain’t gonna do it at the office or the airport, but if I catch Corey Graves on the street, you see that little bouffant hairdo he got? I’m gonna rearrange it for him.”

Wrapping up, Booker said he didn’t like his money being messed with and outright challenged Graves to a fight.

“Everybody knows my reputation, I get mean, if you mess with my ‘green,'” Booker responded. “And right now, my ‘green’ is being messed with. Is WrestleManiacoming up, right? There’s room for one more match at WrestleMania. Right now on my show, I’m calling Corey Graves out to a fight. Not a match. Not a pre-show pose down or anything like that. I’m calling Corey Graves out to a fight. I’m talking man-to-man. Mano-a-mano. You and I.”

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles was named Super Bowl LII MVP after leading his team to a 41-33 victory over the New England Patriots.

Foles completed 28 of 43 passes for 373 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. He also caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Trey Burton on a trick play.

The veteran quarterback was thrust into the starting role when Carson Wentzsuffered a torn ACL in December, and he went on to outperform even the loftiest of expectations.

Foles has certainly experienced one of the oddest career paths in recent memory. The 29-year-old was named to the Pro Bowl in 2013 during his first stint with the Eagles and also tied the NFL record by throwing seven touchdowns in a single game that year. Now, after starting this season as the backup quarterback, he’s the Super Bowl MVP.

Justin Timberlake denied he’ll be bringing out old bandmates *NSYNC or Janet Jackson during his Super Bowl LII halftime performance, but it appears he does have something special up his sleeve.

Citing sources from inside Timberlake’s rehearsal, TMZ reports the show will feature a hologram of Prince to honor the late musician in his hometown of Minneapolis.

Prince’s Super Bowl XLI halftime performance is widely considered one of the best ever.

When asked Thursday at a press conference if he was planning an *NSYNC reunion, Timberlake responded, “Well … no.”

The pop star was also asked about Prince’s influence, and called him “the greatest all-around musician I could think of in popular culture.”

The man who guaranteed he would be playing in Super Bowl LII before even joining the Philadelphia Eagles is at it again.

Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery was asked Thursday what his team needs to do to beat the New England Patriots in the big game and wasn’t too pleased with the way he was questioned.

“Ain’t no ‘if,’ man,” said Jeffery, according to Martin Frank of The News Journal. “When we win on Sunday, ain’t no telling what we’re going to do. But we’re probably going to celebrate, have some fun …

“We’re bringing that trophy back to Philly.”

Jeffery, who scored two touchdowns in the NFC Championship, is at all intimidated by the Patriots’ experience winning big games either.

“Man, I don’t give a damn about all of that,” said Jeffery. “That’s in the past. We’re in the present. It’s 2018. It’s a new year… It’s time for new things.”

Chase Field, home of baseball franchise the Arizona Diamondbacks, has been selected to host WWE’s Royal Rumble on January 27, 2019 (via PWMania).

The stadium, which has a maximum capacity of just shy of 50,000 for its primary function, will become the first Major League Baseball ground to broadcast a WWE pay-per-view in more than 15 years. Safeco Field, whose most famous tenants are the Seattle Mariners, is currently the last to date, having hosted WrestleMania XIX in March 2003.

According to reports, the oft-used Talking Stick Resort Arena – a neighbouring venue – will host NXT TakeOver, Raw and SmakDown events in the same week. The site of last year’s Elimination Chamber, and the 2013 Royal Rumble, this arena typically seats a modest 15,000 fans.

Magic Johnson sees a lot of himself when he watches the Greek Freak, and that’s good news for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Much like Giannis Antetokounmpo today, Johnson’s rare combination of size and ball-handling skills allowed the point guard to thrive during the Showtime era of the 1980s, when he helped deliver five NBA championships to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now the Lakers’ president of basketball operations, Johnson believes the 23-year-old has the potential to do for Milwaukee what Magic did for Los Angeles.

“Oh yeah,” Johnson recently told ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “With his ball-handling skills and his passing ability. He plays above the rim, I never could do that. But in his understanding of the game, his basketball IQ, his creativity of shots for his teammates. That’s where we (have the) same thing. Can bring it down, make a pass, make a play.

“I’m just happy he’s starting in the All-Star Game because he deserves that. And he’s going to be like an MVP, a champion, this dude he’s going to put Milwaukee on the map. And I think he’s going to bring them a championship one day.”

Currently ranked second in league scoring (his 28.4 points per game trail only James Harden‘s 30.9), Antetokounmpo’s all-around performance this season has even placed the Bucks superstar in the MVP conversation. According to Basketball Reference’s MVP tracker, Antetokounmpo is fifth with a 5.5 percent chance of earning the honor, trailing four-time winner LeBron James by just 0.3 percentage points (though they’re both well behind the favorite in Harden, who sits at 43.3 percent).

When told about Johnson’s flattering remarks, Anteokounmpo didn’t shy away from the spotlight, noting they simply reinforced what he had already believed.

“The craziest thing is that I believe that,” Antetokounmpo said. “But it’s even more believable when other guys see that, like Magic. Especially Magic seeing that, that’s big. Because it’s almost like, ‘OK, he sees that.’ So I’m on the right path, I’ve got to do what I’m doing.”

If Chris Long is able to win a second Super Bowl in as many seasons, he’ll continue with his stance to skip the team trip to the White House.

The defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles spoke on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” on Monday and revealed his intentions to pass on the championship team’s annual trip to the White House if the Eagles prevail on Sunday.

“No, I’m not going to the White House. Are you kidding me?” Long said, according to Chris Chavez of Sports Illustrated.

Long skipped the team trip last year when he was a member of the Super Bowl LI winning New England Patriots.

WWE this afternoon announced that former 10-time tag-team champions The Dudley Boyz are to be inducted into their hallowed Hall of Fame at the 2018 edition.

‘Brothers’ Bubba Ray and D-Von join Bill Goldberg as the names already confirmed to receive the special ring come 6 April at New Orleans Smoothie King Center.

The reveals so far correspond with those touted a few months back, meaning we can probably expect a few more names from the list to be announced in the coming weeks.

After establishing themselves in the business as part of Paul Heyman’s renegade ECW troupe, the Dudleys – just two of the Philadelphia promotion’s extended family – made the jump to Stamford in 1999. The story goes that the pair asked Heyman for a raise of one single dollar to stay with his company, but as the ECW honcho was already in cahoots with Vince McMahon as a supplier of talent, it was denied.

The Dudleys had gained some considerable momentum with their furniture-shattering antics back in Pennsylvania, and their innovative violence proved the perfect seasoning to add to WWE’s increasingly spicy product. It was through their extreme encounters with The Hardy Boyz and Edge & Christian that tag-team wrestling saw a huge revival in the company, with the trio of trios arguably as fundamental to WWE’s late-’90s success as anyone on the roster.

Then there was the time Bubba planted octogenarian Mae Young through a table. Who could forget that?

In 2005, the two left for pastures new, with Bubba eventually reinventing himself as top heel Bully Ray in TNA. When the so-called siblings reunited in WWE in 2015, that whole chapter was erased, and fans were treated to a straight nostalgia trip.

Just this past week, the brothers-from-another-mother joined in the Raw 25 celebrations, with Heath Slater taking the brunt of their traditional wood-splitting honours.

There have been a lot of raised eyebrows at some Hall of Fame inductees of recent years, but few would vigorously argue against the Dudleys’ inclusion.

Marc-Andre Fleury can thank his daughters for their instrumental part in helping their dad become the first-ever winner of the Save Streak competition at this year’s NHL All-Star Skills Competition.

The Vegas Golden Knights netminder put together a run of 14 consecutive saves to top Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne. The kicker in it all was each goalie got to select the music to be played during their session between the pipes, and for Fleury, his pick caught some off guard: “Let it Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.”

 

“I thought the title “Let It Go” was very soothing for goalies,” Fleury said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “It’s the All-Star Game. You just have to let it go. I thought I was going to get lit up, so I just had to let it go.”

Fleury admitted he’s a fan of the movie thanks to his daughters and now hopes the Golden Knights will consider playing the tune during shootouts after Saturday’s success.

“I’m going to ask Vegas to put it on when we do shootouts,” Fleury said. “Just be relaxed.”

This sounds like good news for Oklahoma City Thunder fans.

Paul George is thrilled with the support he received from teammate Russell Westbrook after his All-Star snub and hinted his impending free agency decision may lead him to stay in Oklahoma City as a result.

“Russ is the reason why this decision is becoming even more easier to make,” George told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “A stand-up guy, and he has his teammate’s back.”

On Tuesday, Westbrook told reporters it was “outrageous” that George wasn’t selected as a Western Conference All-Star reserve.

“It was awesome for a teammate to have your back and to stand up. And to be honest, he should be a starter,” George added of Westbrook. “But the fact Russ had my back, that’s my guy forever, and it’s more apparent what this decision needs to be made when it comes down to it.”

These are fairly strong words from a player widely expected to depart Oklahoma City – perhaps for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers – this summer. George was traded to the Thunder by the Pacers last June so Indiana could recoup assets under the belief he intended to leave.

George could still pass on free agency and opt for the final year of his current deal with OKC at $20.7 million for 2018-19. Westbrook’s supermax contract extension kicks in this summer and keeps him with the Thunder until 2023.

There has been speculation on Daniel Bryan possibly returning to the ring as a surprise entrant in the WWE Royal Rumble match on Sunday but The Wrestling Observer Newsletter reports that Bryan has not been cleared to wrestle as of earlier this week and that is not expected to change this week.

There has also been speculation on Bryan somehow being involved in the Rumble and winning without taking a bump, but there’s no word yet on if that will be the direction they go in.

Bryan recently appeared on Peter Rosenberg’s podcast and revealed that he will not continue working as SmackDown GM when his contract expires later this year if WWE doctors do not clear him.

“If I get a bad test somewhere along the line, I won’t wrestle,” Bryan said. “But I also, will probably, when my contract is up, I’d probably, if I’m still General Manager at that point, I’d probably step away from that part of it because just being around it, I love it a little too much and I need to transition. I need to get this focused because I’m very good at focusing on one thing, right? But then, I need to switch that laser focus to something else like saving the starving polar bears. So yeah, assuming everything continues as it has been going, when my [WWE] contract is up I would wrestle elsewhere if WWE would not clear me.”

Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter

As noted, rumors continue to swirl about former UFC Champion Ronda Rouseyjoining WWE imminently and potentially making her debut at the Royal Rumble, this Sunday. Betting sites currently have her listed with the best odds of winning Sunday’s Rumble match. Today, TMZ Sports caught up with Ronda Rousey at the airport and asked about her making an appearance in the Women’s Royal Rumble Match this Sunday. Rousey responded that she wouldn’t even be in the country, as she’s headed to Columbia to finish shooting the movie, Mile 22.

“I appreciate everyone’s confidence, but I’m actually leaving to Colombia right now to finish shooting Mile 22 and won’t be back until mid February,” Rousey said. “I appreciate you saying that and it’s a real honor to hear it.”

Rousey was also asked what it felt like to already have a target on her back in the WWE, noting the recent comments from WWE Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss, who scoffed at the idea of someone taking her title and saying “good luck” to Rousey. Rousey didn’t seemed phased, responding that she’s working on other projects at the moment, while also noting that she hasn’t signed with WWE.

“That’s really sweet of her to say, but yeah, I’ve got other stuff to do right now,” Rousey replied. “No, I haven’t signed anything – regardless to what anyone said – no pen-to-paper for me.”

Move over, Jaromir. Next up, Mario.

Sidney Crosby moved past Jaromir Jagr and into sole possession of second place on the Pittsburgh Penguins‘ all-time points list when he set up Dominik Simon‘s first-period goal against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night.

It was Crosby’s 1,080th career point in his 833rd game with the Penguins. Jagr racked up 1,079 in 806 contests in Pittsburgh.

Mario Lemieux is the Penguins’ all-time points leader, having amassed 1,723 in 915 games.

Crosby is also on the verge of another milestone, currently sitting on 399 career goals.

He added two more assists after his milestone helper as the Penguins doubled up the Wild 6-3 on Thursday.

Tom Brady has been open about wife Gisele Bundchen’s wish for him to retire, but according to former kicker Jay Feely, she also tried to enlist his help in convincing the New England Patriots quarterback to hang up his spikes.

In his latest feature on the New England PatriotsSports Illustrated’s Greg Bishop shared an interesting detail about a trip Feely took with Bundchen and Brady after Super Bowl LI:

Last spring Brady and his family vacationed with retired kicker Jay Feely, a close friend from their college days at Michigan. This being Brady, Feely prefers not to disclose the locale, but he does share that Brady’s wife, the supermodel Gisele Bundchen, spent time on that trip “trying to get me to convince (Tom) to stop playing.” And, Feely adds, “she was dead serious.”

Feely says he looked at his friend and told him, “Play as long as you can.” Brady smiled back and winked.

Brady admitted during an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio last February that Bundchen “would have (him) retire today” if it was up to her.

A television series based on the “The Mighty Ducks” franchise is reportedly in the works.

ABC Signature Studios put the project in early development after being approached by the screenwriter and producer of the original trilogy, Steven Brill and Jordan Kerner, according to Lesley Goldberg of The Hollywood Reporter. Brill will reportedly write the script in-house for ABC Signature, and if it’s well received, it will be shopped to cable networks and streaming platforms later this year.

Goldberg notes that it’s unclear whether the series would be a sequel or a reboot.

Released in 1992, “The Mighty Ducks” grossed $50.7 million domestically at the box office and spawned two sequels – 1994’s “D2: The Mighty Ducks” and 1996’s “D3: The Mighty Ducks” – along with a 26-episode animated TV series that originally aired on ABC.

WWE have suspended current Cruiserweight champion Enzo Amore over an accusation of rape.

F4Wonline.com reports that an official accusation was filed with the Phoenix Police Department over an alleged incident that was said to have happened on Thursday October 19th, 2017 and is still under police investigsation.

The accusation filed against the WWE superstar comes from @MissGucciWitch on Twitter, who also named designer Tyler Grosso and a woman named Layla Shapiro (twitter user @toopoor_) as being involved in the alledged crime.

WWE released the following official statement via their website on Monday afternoon;

“WWE has zero tolerance for matters involving sexual harassment or sexual assault. Until this matter is resolved, Eric Arndt (aka Enzo Amore) has been suspended.

Lordsofpain.net have a through account of the social media exchanges and allegations that have been made against Enzo Amore.

Enzo had been scheduled to defend his title at next Sunday’s WWE Royal Rumble pay-per-view against Cedric Alexander but that match will no longer be taking place.

The situation regarding the immediate future of the WWE Cruiserweight title is now up in the air.

Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge was forced to pick between Isaiah Thomas and Paul Pierce, and it was an easy choice.

Pierce wanted Feb. 11 all to himself, and didn’t want to split any of the spotlight with Thomas, who was to have his video tribute shown before the Celtics played host to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Ainge tried to sell Pierce on a compromise, but The Truth declined on the basis of Thomas passing up the first tribute they planned in his January homecoming. Thomas was just coming off injury at the time, and he didn’t want to make a hobbled return, especially without his family present.

Pierce says Thomas missed his chance and that’s that.

“He had a shot to be honored,” Pierce told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan and Chris Forsberg. “You came to Boston. Whether you are playing or not, you should have had your tribute then. I just don’t see how, if someone is having a jersey retirement, they’re going to be running other tributes for other players.

“Danny tried to sell me on it, but I told him, ‘He had a shot, Danny, and he punked you on it. He pretty much dictated everything.’ They let it happen because they felt sorry how (the trade to Cleveland) went down. It’s guilt. That’s what it is.”

In the end, Ainge had to side with Pierce, who won a title while playing 15 seasons in Boston, which easily trumps anything Thomas did. It was Pierce’s day so it was his call.

“We owe Paul a lot,” Ainge said. “I feel indebted to him. The whole organization feels that way. We will have a great night for him. Argument over.”

Despite his disastrous debut in the real-life fighting scene, it sounds like former WWE star CM Punk will get a chance at redemption in the UFC.

Ahead of Saturday’s PPV card in Boston, UFC president Dana White said he didn’t have a date in mind to get Punk back in the Octagon, but revealed he is hoping to give the 39-year-old another fight.

“I like that guy. He’s a good dude,” White told the Associated Press’ Dan Gelston. “He wants one more. He wants to get another shot. I’m going to give it to him.”

Punk, also known as Phil Brooks, jumped to the UFC in 2014, but did not get his first pro fight until September 2016. He lost to welterweight Mickey Gall by submission two minutes and 14 seconds into the first round.

“He’s a completely different case than most normal human beings, so I’m going to give him another shot,” White said.

Paul Pierce doesn’t want the Boston Celtics to show Isaiah Thomas‘ tribute video on the same day the team planned retire his jersey.

Rajon Rondo is taking it a step further, and he’s making it clear he doesn’t want the Celtics to give tribute to Thomas whatsoever.

Rondo, fresh off a win over his former club, asked difficult questions of his former franchise by wondering aloud why exactly Thomas was being honored.

“What has he done?” Rondo asked Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. When told that Thomas led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals, Rondo answered, “Oh, that’s what we celebrate around here?”

“This is the Boston Celtics,” Rondo added. “This isn’t the Phoenix Suns, no disrespect to any other organization, but you don’t hang conference titles. Do we hang going to the conference finals? What do we hang here?”

Thomas played three seasons in Boston and helped revive the franchise following the dissolution of the Big Three era. He finished fourth in scoring last season and played through both great injury and grief in order to push the Celtics to the third round of the playoffs.

But Rondo does have a point, however crass it may be. The Celtics have championship standards, and Thomas, for everything he achieved, did not deliver.

Having watched the Pittsburgh Pirates trade away Gerrit Cole and franchise cornerstone Andrew McCutchen in the span of three days, one frustrated fan recently started an online petition urging Major League Baseball to force principal owner Bob Nutting to sell the team.

“Pittsburgh is a baseball town that is being destroyed by a greedy owner,” the petition reads. “There are so many loyal fans who truly care and support this team through thick and thin. We deserve better. I, like many others, endured so much pain watching a losing franchise from 1993 until 2013 when we saw playoff baseball return to Pittsburgh. You could see and hear the pain we kept inside all those years being released that October night. If you have had a chance to witness that glorious night, you know Pittsburgh is a baseball town. We’ve had enough! There needs to be change from the top of the organization down.”

As of Wednesday morning, the petition – hosted on Change.org – had received more than 22,000 signatures.

“Bob Nutting needs to sell this team, so that we can see a competitive baseball team year in and year out,” it continues. “It is obvious that he doesn’t want to spend the money to make that happen. We need an owner who has a competitive spirit and loves the game of baseball!”

At this point, a change in ownership appears highly unlikely. Though the Pirates’ attendance declined for a second straight season in 2017 – they haven’t finished better than ninth in the National League in attendance since 1992 – Nutting made it clear in December that he’s not thinking about selling the club.

“No one has approached us (about selling),” Nutting told Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune. “I haven’t heard any rumor. I haven’t had any discussion. I’m not aware of any buyer. And I have no interest in selling the team.”

Meanwhile, the Pirates’ roster will probably be purged further. On Tuesday, Josh Harrison – now the club’s longest-tenured player – foreshadowed an imminent end to his own time in Pittsburgh, saying that “if indeed the team does not expect to contend this year or next, perhaps it would be better for all involved that I also am traded.”

The name of WWE star Roman Reigns has been included in a list of alleged clients by jailed steroid dealer Richard Rodriguez.

A video uploaded to YouTube purports to feature Rodriguez, whose Miami gym was raided last year by US federal agents, speaking via telephone to documentary filmmaker Jonny Bravo. At the four-minute mark, he begins to list celebrities he claims are associated with the racket, the first of them being Reigns.

No evidence to support the claim is cited, neither has the 32-year-old been linked to the scandal in any local news sources. As such, there is little reason at present for WWE, which enforces a strict drugs policy among its full-time workforce, to make any official comment in rebuttal.

Roman, a three-time WWE Champion, is widely regarded as one of the company’s biggest assets, having headlined each of the last three WrestleManias. He is expected to play a similarly important role at The Grandest Stage of Them All this year in New Orleans.

The former aspiring football player was suspended for a first violation of WWE’s wellness policy in June 2016, leading to a sharp (though short-lived) demotion from the top of the card. He issued a statement at the time via Twitterapologising to fans.

Paige VanZant could be making the jump to the wrestling ring in the future.

The UFC fighter expressed interest in working with WWE “when the time is right” while speaking to TMZ Sports.

“That is definitely something that I’m interested in. I love the WWE,” VanZant said. “I think that I would for sure be a good WWE Diva. For sure. We’ll see if that opportunity comes – I would definitely go for it. If the knock comes on my door, I’m taking it.”

VanZant also sounds open to the idea of squaring off against former UFC women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey in the WWE.

“That would be interesting,” she said. “I think they might have to allow some real shots – really real shots fired. You know, because why not?”

Rousey has yet to finalize a deal with WWE, though she and her agent were spotted dining with Triple H last week.

Gregg Popovich continues to use his platform to call out injustice and racism.

The San Antonio Spurs head coach started on a positive note Monday by praising the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ahead of his team’s MLK Day matchup with the Atlanta Hawks.

“Dr. King, he was truly a person who was interested in making America great for everyone,” Popovich told New York Daily News’ Carron J. Phillips.

“He understood that racism was our national sin, and if everybody didn’t come together it would bring everybody down, including white people. That promise that he basically demanded for America to fill from way back then is what put us on the road to make America great.”

The former U.S. Air Force officer noted the country has made progress, but not enough.

“We all know the situation now,” Popovich continued. “And I think (King would) be a very, very sad man to see that a lot of his efforts have been held up and torn down. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking at the Voting Rights Act or the ridiculous number of people of color who are incarcerated. …

“(Racism) is insidious and it’s still our national sin that we have to work on.”

Popovich has long been critical of President Donald Trump, and it was no different Monday. The future Hall of Fame coach took issue with Trump reportedly referring to Haiti and some African nations as “shithole countries” and then dubbing himself “the least racist” person.

“You can argue that he is or he isn’t (racist), but … he certainly is willing to wield race like a weapon and use it for his own purposes, whether it’s Charlottesville, or whether it’s the comment he just made, or that you can’t believe what they’re finding in Hawaii about Obama’s birth certificate,” Popovich said.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri also spoke out against Trump’s crude immigration remarks. Golden State Warriorscoach Steve Kerr said earlier in the day that Dr. King would be “less than inspired” by the nation’s current leadership.

Paige’s WWE career could be over.

PWInsider reports that WWE informed Paige that she will not be cleared to wrestle as an in-ring performer after the serious injury she suffered at the December 28th house show.

Paige, still only 25 years old, was reportedly told the devastating news at this Monday’s Raw. She joins a depressing list of superstars recently forced to retire early due to medical disqualification, such as Edge (with whom her neck injury has been likened to) and Daniel Bryan, though at just 25-years-old, Paige has come at an even younger age.

Not long into her high-profile WWE comeback, Paige suffered the blow during a match with Sasha Banks at the Dec 28th WWE house show. Reportedly, she was kicked in the back by Sasha and wasn’t ready for the bump when she fell to the floor. WWE trainers knew it was a serious situation when she failed to get straight back up, falling down again and eventually needing guidance to walk to the back.

Although early reports suggested she may have just suffered a stinger, Paige began to lose feeling in her extremities and underwent further tests last week.

Obviously, she has now been pulled from this month’s Royal Rumble.

PWInsider notes that Paige is well thought of among WWE officials and that they will likely take care of her with a non-physical role in the company.

Sammy Sosa hit 609 home runs during a career spanning 18 seasons. He smashed 545 of them as a member of the Chicago Cubs, surpassing 60 homers three times and hitting 50 or more in four consecutive seasons from 1998 through 2001.

No Cubs batter has hit more home runs while donning the uniform. Despite that, Sosa remains on the outside looking in at Cooperstown and the franchise he called home for 13 seasons due to the shroud of the steroid era.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts says Sosa, and other players from his playing time, need to come clean to be brought back into the fold, according to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers.

“Players from that era owe us a little bit of honesty,” Ricketts said. “The only way to turn that page is to put everything on the table.”

While the likes of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens have seen their chances at being elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame rise in recent years, they would have been enshrined in their first year of eligibility if it weren’t for being linked to PEDs, whether justly or not.

“I think we have to be sympathetic to that era … but the players owe us some honesty, too,” Ricketts said.

Sosa, 49, has not been invited to join the team in an official capacity since he retired after 2007, when he played 114 games as a member of the Texas Rangers.

Mark Cuban says he messed up.

The Dallas Mavericks owner took sole responsibility for retaining former Mavs.com writer Earl K. Sneed after two separate domestic violence incidents, adding that he wasn’t aware of the “gruesome details.”

“I want to be clear, I’m not putting the blame on anybody else,” Cuban told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon on Wednesday. “It came down to my final decision that I made.”

In the first incident, Sneed got into an altercation with his then-girlfriend that left her with a fractured wrist and bruises on her body. He was arrested two months later at the Mavericks’ office, and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of family violence assault in June 2012. Sneed paid a $750 fine and completed both community service and an anger management program, which resulted in the charges being dismissed.

Cuban allowed the writer to return to the Mavericks after some counseling. Looking back, the billionaire businessman said he regrets not following up with police for more details.

“So we got it mostly from Earl’s perspective, and because we didn’t dig in with the details – and obviously it was a horrible mistake in hindsight – we kind of, I don’t want to say took his word for it, but we didn’t see all the gruesome details until just recently,” Cuban said. “I didn’t read the police report on that until just (Tuesday), and that was a huge mistake obviously.”

Sneed was involved in another domestic dispute in 2014, that time with a co-worker whom he was living with and dating, and rendered her face swollen. The woman informed her supervisor as well as HR director Buddy Pittman of the incident, but Cuban let Sneed keep his job.

The team owner indicated his rationale was wanting to control Sneed’s problem through counseling rather than setting him loose to find another job and continue to act violently toward women.

“I made the decision that we would make him go to domestic abuse counseling as a requirement to continued employment, that he was not allowed to be alone without a chaperone in the presence of any other women in the organization or any other women in a business setting at all, and he was not allowed to date anybody (who works for the Mavericks),” Cuban said.

Cuban added that he’d handle the situation differently if he had the chance. He expressed the most regret about not realizing the message his decision sent to the rest of his employees and the toxic environment it ultimately enabled.

It wasn’t until Tuesday when Sports Illustrated published findings from an investigation into the Mavericks’ misogynistic and predatory culture that Cuban ostensibly fired Sneed and Pittman.

Comments made by Stephanie McMahon – seemingly relating to a possible sale of WWE – have caught the headlines this week.

The company’s Chief Brand Officer is quoted as saying in Bloomberg Businessweek that her family – who have dominated the wrestling industry for decades – have “certainly thought about” interest from media giants like Walt Disney, 21st Century Fox and Verizon.

Several outlets have taken her remarks as a sign her father, the current Chief Executive Officer, is now open to offers. The 72-year-old has recently began diversifying his own business interests with the proposed relaunch of XFL, a football league whose original run ended in 2001.

But it seems more likely that Stephanie was referring to the potential for collaboration with different content providers. WWE has been slowly moving away from traditional platforms over recent years, having scrapped one-off pay-per-views in favour of a subscription-based online streaming service.

And the company is clearly eager to explore new ways to reach its fanbase, a large (though dwindling) section of whom are drawn from the tech-savvy 18 to 34 demographic. Last month, for example, saw the launch of the intergender tag team tournament Mixed Match Challenge, an event streamed exclusively on Facebook.

The Pittsburgh Penguins reportedly traded for Derick Brassard on Friday, landing the centerman from the Ottawa Senators, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger.

Heading Ottawa’s way in the deal are defenseman Ian Cole, goaltending prospect Filip Gustavsson, and a first-round pick in 2018.

Brassard is an experienced centerman with legit goal-scoring ability. His playoff point production – 55 points in 78 games – and toughness will be a solid addition up the middle for the Penguins. Through 58 games this campaign, he’s notched 18 goals and 20 assists.

As for Cole, the 29-year-old Michigan native is a 2007 first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Blues who has three goals and 10 assists in 17:37 of ice time per night this season.

However, don’t expect him to remain with the Senators long, as TSN’s Pierre LeBrun is reporting the team intends to flip Cole before Monday’s trade deadline.

The New Jersey Devils acquired forward Michael Grabner from the New York Rangers on Thursday in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick and defenseman Yegor Rykov, the Rangers announced.

The deal comes after Grabner and Rick Nash were both held out of the Rangers’ lineup Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens as trade talks involving the two players intensified.

In Grabner, the Devils add a forward with 25 goals and 31 points in 59 games this season. He also comes with a team-friendly cap hit of just $1.65 million.

In Rykov, the Rangers get a 20-year-old defenseman who was drafted in the fifth round in 2016 by the Devils. In 51 games with St. Petersburg SKA of the KHL, Rykov has two goals and 14 points.

The deal marks the first-ever trade between the Devils and Rangers and the first between the two franchises since the Rangers and Colorado Rockies completed a six-player deal in 1979, according to The Athletic’s Seth Rorabaugh.

The Tim Tebow show hasn’t been canceled, in fact, the New York Mets envision a future where the former NFL quarterback plays in the majors.

“The person that he is, the worker he is, those are the kind of people you want around,” manager Mickey Callaway told reporters on Sunday. “We’re going to evaluate Tim Tebow just as we would anybody else. Tim Tebow is here because he can potentially help us at the major-league level at some point. He wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

Callaway isn’t alone in his assertion, either.

“I think he will play in the major leagues,” general manager Sandy Alderson told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo.

The 30-year-old told reporters that while playing in the majors is the goal, he’s not putting the cart before the horse.

“One of the important things of being an athlete is being able to lock in and have tunnel vision,” Tebow said. “Because I can’t worry about one day if I’m going to play in the bigs or not.”

Through 126 games across two levels of Single-A in 2017, Tebow hit .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs, 24 doubles, and 52 RBIs while striking out once per game.

New Orleans Pelicans guard Rajon Rondo went back to his hometown of Louisville during the All-Star break to give back to his community.

“I was happy to put a smile on kids’ faces,” Rondo told Kentucky Sports Radio.

Rondo treated 320 students from Central High School to two free screenings of “Black Panther” as he covered the price of the ticket along with drinks and popcorn.

His only ask in return was for students to write an essay for Black History Month.