Friday’s Sports in Brief

PRO BASKETBALL

MIAMI (AP) — The NBA took tiny steps toward a return to normalcy as a small number of practice facilities reopened for workouts and at least one team received permission from the league to test players and staff for the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took part in a teleconference with members of the National Basketball Players Association. Silver, according to a person familiar with the call’s details, told players that the league is still aiming to hold full best-of-seven playoff series should the season resume and that playing without fans is an obvious possibility.

Silver also spoke about the well-known notion of having the season resume in a centralized location, though cautioned that no decisions may be made for another several weeks, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the call were not publicly released.

Cleveland and Portland were open for players who wanted to get voluntary workouts in, with Cavaliers forward Cedi Osman among the first to be back on an NBA practice court since the league ordered those facilities closed seven weeks ago.

BASEBALL

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball will cut its amateur draft from 40 rounds to five this year, a move that figures to save teams about $30 million.

Clubs gained the ability to reduce the draft as part of their March 26 agreement with the players’ association and MLB plans to finalize a decision next week to go with the minimum, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision was announced.

There will be just 160 players drafted, by far the fewest since the annual selection started in 1965, and the combined value of their signing bonus pools is $235,906,800. The amount of signing bonus pool money eliminated is $29,578,100.

OLYMPICS

DENVER (AP) — At least 70 percent of U.S. Olympic sports organizations have applied for government funds during the coronavirus pandemic, a stark financial reality that underscores the frailties within the world’s most dominant Olympic sports system.

The Associated Press surveyed 44 of the country’s national governing bodies (NGBs) — the organizations charged with operating programs from the grassroots through the Olympic levels in sports that run the gamut from badminton to basketball.

All but four of the 36 NGBs that responded said they had applied for assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program. Not all the organizations revealed how much they received, but those who did have been approved for a cumulative total of about $12 million.

COLLEGE ATHLETICS

NCAA President Mark Emmert says the coronavirus is making it unlikely all schools will be ready to begin competing in college sports at the same time.

The goal, he said, is for every team to have an equal amount of preparation time before its season starts, and there could be some competitive inequities caused by schools having varied timelines for re-opening campuses. Emmert appeared with Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, in an interview shown on the NCAA’s official Twitter account.

Major football conference commissioners have stated their goal is for all 130 teams in 10 conferences across 41 states to begin the season at the same time. As states impacted differently by the COVID-19 pandemic re-open on different schedules, the possibility rises that the season will lack a uniform start date and number of games.

PRO FOOTBALL

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is pushing for a change that would allow football players to enter the NFL draft after one year in college.

“My first proposal is that we put this decision to `go or stay’ in the hands of the individual and his family, not in the form of an NFL, NFLPA or NCAA rule while allowing the player to return to college football if he does not sign,” Harbaugh wrote in an open letter to the football community Thursday.

Currently, players are not eligible until three NFL regular seasons have begun and ended following either their graduation from high school or graduation of the class with which they entered high school, whichever is earlier.

A policy in the collective bargaining agreement — which runs through the 2030 season — between the NFL and the players’ union prohibits players who have completed only their first or second years in college to be drafted. That rule has not been challenged for nearly 17 years. The league and the union, meanwhile, have shown no inclination of revising the rule.

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Brett Favre disputed a Mississippi state auditor’s report that said the Hall of Fame quarterback received $1.1 million in welfare money for multiple speaking engagements that he didn’t actually attend.

Favre told ESPN Wisconsin’s “Wilde & Tausch” radio show he instead was being paid for his role in radio public service announcements and advertisements that ran for a few years in Mississippi. Favre reiterated that he is paying back the money.

An audit released Monday said Favre Enterprises received $500,000 in December 2017 and $600,000 in June 2018 from the Mississippi Community Education Center, a nonprofit group whose former leader has been indicted in an alleged welfare embezzlement scheme.

SPORTS & LAW

The Players Coalition and dozens of professional athletes sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting an immediate federal investigation into the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.

The letter was also sent to Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the civil rights division. It was signed by such sports stars as Tom Brady, Steve Kerr and Players Coalition co-founders Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins.

The letter requested that the FBI and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division lead the investigation into the shooting of Arbery, a black man, on Feb. 23. Two white men, Travis and Greg McMichael, were charged this week with murder and aggravated assault after a video of the shooting was leaked.

SOCCER

American women’s soccer players want to delay a trial until after an appellate court reviews last week’s decision to throw out their claim of unequal pay while allowing allegations of discriminatory work conditions to move forward.

Lawyers for the women filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner in Los Angeles to enter a final judgment on his decision to dismiss their pay claim, which would allow them to take the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Players asked Klausner to stay the trial, currently set to start June 16. The U.S. Soccer Federation agreed not to oppose the requests but did not agree with some of the characterizations made by the players’ lawyers. If Klausner signs the order, a trial probably would be delayed until 2021 at the earliest.

AUTO RACING

The resurrection of Kyle Larson’s career began with a 25-hour drive from California to Iowa for a $15,000-to-win World of Outlaws race.

Larson hitched a ride with the team that fielded a car for him at Knoxville Raceway. It’s a total reset for a driver who less than a month ago was the top free agent in NASCAR. His career came to a sudden halt when he was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing for using a racial slur in an iRacing event late Easter Sunday.

Back to his beginnings — and arguably the type of racing he’s always favored — Larson was one of 24 drivers to advance to the main event. He started 18th, one position ahead of brother-in-law and reigning series champion Brad Sweet, and moved to 11th in just five laps.

HOCKEY

ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — The Washington Capitals placed Brendan Leipsic on unconditional waivers to terminate his contract after he made disparaging comments about women and teammates in a private social media chat.

In a conversation involving his brother and Florida Panthers minor leaguer Jack Rodewald, Leipsic commented on the physical appearances of Vancouver forward Tanner Pearson’s wife and Edmonton captain Connor McDavid’s girlfriend. He also called Capitals linemates Garnet Hathaway and Nick Dowd losers.

Screenshots of the conversation were leaked Wednesday, and a team spokesman said the matter would be handled internally. The NHL called it “inexcusable conduct” and said it would address the matter with the Capitals and Panthers. Leipsic apologized, saying a friend’s Instagram account was hacked and taking responsibility for his comments.