Wednesday’s Sports in Brief

GOLF

BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) The USGA insists its focus is going to be on golf and not politics when it conducts the U.S. Women’s Open at a golf course owned by President Donald Trump in less than two months.

Some fans and politicians criticized golf’s governing body for not moving the marquee women’s tournament from Trump National after lewd comments by Trump about women from 2005 surfaced during the presidential campaign.

USGA executive director and chief executive Mike Davis skirted questions about the issue, saying the golf association will not cross into politics even though some fans consider the tournament being staged at the course political.

The USGA selected Trump National for the tournament in 2012. The course was built with hosting majors in mind and is a few miles from the USGA’s Far Hills headquarters.

Davis said the USGA makes contingency plans for demonstrations, but local authorities will manage any protesters.

SOCCER

CHICAGO (AP) – David Beckham, the English midfielder who brought increased visibility to American soccer and won a pair of Major League Soccer titles while playing for the LA Galaxy from 2007-12, is among 12 first-time candidates on the 33-player ballot for the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Defender Steve Cherundolo, midfielder Pablo Mastroeni and forward Brian Ching, key parts of the U.S. national team, also are new candidates on the ballot announced Wednesday. Other first-timers include defenders Chris Albright, Danny Califf and Tina Frimpong Ellertson; goalkeepers Joe Cannon and Kevin Hartman, and midfielders Amado Guevara, Eddie Gaven and Leslie Osborne.

Defender Chris Armas and midfielder Jason Kreis, currently Orlando’s coach, are in their final year of eligibility. Former midfielder Ben Olsen, now D.C. United’s coach, is among the holdovers.

Other men on the ballot include goalkeeper Pat Onstad; defenders Gregg Berhalter, Frankie Hejduk and Tony Sanneh; midfielders Chris Klein, Eddie Lewis and Steve Ralston; and forwards Jeff Cunningham, Clint Mathis, Jaime Moreno, Ante Razov, Taylor Twellman and Josh Wolff.

Women on the ballot include goalkeeper Briana Scurry; defenders Kate Sobrero Markgraf and Heather Mitts; midfielder Aly Wagner; and forward Tiffeny Milbrett.

MADRID (AP) – Lionel Messi has lost his Supreme Court appeal over a tax-fraud conviction in Spain.

The court confirmed the 21-month prison sentence handed to Messi for defrauding tax authorities of 4.1 million euros ($4.6 million) from 2007-09. He is not expected to go to prison because sentences of less than two years for first offenses are usually suspended in Spain.

The court maintained the 2 million euro ($2.24 million) fine handed to the Argentina player in last year’s trial.

Messi’s father, Jorge Horacio Messi, also had been convicted of tax fraud, but the court reduced his sentence from 21 months to 15 months because he cooperated by returning the defrauded money to the tax authorities. He also is not expected to face prison time.

IDITAROD

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) – The world’s most famous sled dog race has lost a major backer, and Alaska race officials are blaming animal rights organizations for pressuring corporate sponsors outside the state like Wells Fargo with ”manipulative information” about the treatment of the dogs.

Wells Fargo spokesman David Kennedy said the banking institution’s investment in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has declined since 2010. He said he could not discuss specific reasons for the San Francisco-based bank dropping the sponsorship altogether.

PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, lauded the decision. The organization has been a longtime critic of the race and said it alerted the bank that five dogs connected to this year’s race died. Those deaths bring the total dog deaths to more than 150 in the Iditarod’s history, the group said.

Iditarod CEO Stan Hooley said there’s no doubt the decision is related to activists like PETA wrongly implying the Iditarod condones cruel treatment of the dogs.

Three of the deaths in this year’s Iditarod occurred during the race. Two other dogs died when they finished racing. One was hit by a car after it was flown to Anchorage and another died as it was flown to Anchorage.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) – The Air Force Academy says wide receiver Jalen Robinette didn’t graduate with his class after the cadet’s qualifications were called into question.

The ceremony took place Wednesday, but Robinette’s graduation and commissioning were held up for further evaluation, the academy said in a statement. The academy said the decision didn’t involve criminal wrongdoing and was unrelated to Robinette’s pro football pursuits.

Robinette was the NCAA’s leader in yards per catch last season and was expected to be a mid-round selection in the recent NFL draft. But the Defense Department rescinded its 2016 policy allowing military service academy athletes to go straight to the pros upon graduation.

The change began with this year’s class and affected Robinette, who went undrafted after the policy reversal.