Monday Sports in Brief

NFL

The NFL is amending the Rooney Rule to require more interviews of minority candidates for head coaching and coordinator positions, two people familiar with the decision tell The Associated Press.

Reacting to a lack of diversity progress in hirings for those jobs, the league will require teams to interview at least two minority candidates from outside the organization for head coach openings. At least one minority candidate must be interviewed for a coordinator’s spot, the people said Monday on condition of anonymity because the NFL has not announced the additions.

The rule, named after the late Dan Rooney, who owned the Pittsburgh Steelers, was adopted in 2003. It has had some impact, but in the recent spate of coach hirings, few have gone to minority candidates.

NBA

LeBron James reiterated Monday that he is hopeful the NBA season can resume, with the caveat that the health and well-being of players won’t be jeopardized by a return to play.

The Los Angeles Lakers star, speaking on the Uninterrupted platform’s “WRTS: After Party” show that was released Monday, said it remains his wish that the season comes back “sooner than later.”

“Definitely not giving up on the season,” James said. “Not only myself and my teammates, the Lakers organization, we want to play. There’s a lot of players that I know personally that want to play. And obviously, we don’t ever want to jeopardize the health of any of our players or any of the players’ families and so on and so on.

“This is a pandemic that we have no idea (about). We can’t control it,” James added.

BASEBALL

MIAMI (AP) — The Miami Marlins will allow players on their 40-man roster access to their spring training complex to pitch off a mound or hit in batting cages beginning Tuesday, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press.

The person confirmed the decision to the AP on condition of anonymity Monday because the Marlins made no announcement. The rest of the complex in Jupiter, Florida, will remain closed, the person said.

The optional workouts will be individual, with a staff member present, and those involved will abide by social distancing guidelines, the person said.

—By AP Sports Writer Steven Wine.

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Starling Marte announced on social media that his wife Noelia has died of a heart attack.

“Today I go through the great pain of making public the unfortunate death of my wife Noelia, due to a heart attack,” Marte wrote on Instagram on Monday. “It is a moment of indescribable pain.”

The 31-year-old Marte has played his entire eight-year big league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates before being traded to the Diamondbacks during the offseason.

GOLF

The U.S. Open might feel more like a closed shop this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which already has postponed the U.S. Open from June to September, has forced the USGA to do away with qualifying for the first time since 1924.

Open qualifying is the hallmark of golf’s second-oldest championship. The USGA often points out that typically half of the 156-man field has to go through either 36-hole qualifying or 18-hole and 36-hole qualifying.

The USGA did not announce Monday how other players would become exempt.

CORONAVIRUS

Governors around the country are warming to the idea of the return of professional sports to their states, with two caveats: continued progress against the coronavirus and no spectators in the stands.

The heads of California, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania spoke Monday of the return of professional sports to their states, possibly as soon as next month. Florida and Arizona earlier this month gave the go ahead for professional sports.

Major League Baseball and its players association are in negotiations about starting the season around July 1, with spring training to resume either in a team’s ballpark or in Florida or Arizona.

The NBA and MLS have allowed practice facilities to reopen for limited workouts. The NFL announced its schedule two weeks ago and intends on having a complete season. The National Hockey League is still assessing its plans.

SOCCER

Celtic won its ninth straight Scottish title on Monday after the country’s top soccer league was cut short because there was no immediate prospect of play restarting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Scotland joined France, the Netherlands and Belgium in calling off the season early, with Scottish soccer at all levels suspended until June 10 at the earliest. There have been no games in the Scottish league since March 13.

Celtic dedicated the club’s latest league title — its 51st, only three behind the national record held by Glasgow rival Rangers — to “key workers who are saving lives, cleaning hospitals, stacking shelves and shielding loved ones at home.”

ROME (AP) — The Serie A is suspended until June 14 unless the Italian government gives it the green light to resume a day earlier as planned.

The league announced last week that its 20 teams agreed to resume competition on June 13 in empty stadiums.

However, the Italian soccer federation announced on Monday, a day after a government decree banning sports until June 14, that it was complying.

BULL RIDING

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Professional Bull Riders has announced a new competition that will culminate in South Dakota on July 10-12 with live crowds. As people itch for a return to daily activity, it’s all a part of an effort by professional sports organizations around the world to give bored fans at least a taste of what once was.

Organizers of the bull riding event said they would provide face coverings to fans, space seats 4 to 6 feet apart and control the flow of people in and out of the arena to accommodate social distancing.

CHEERLEADING

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky has fired its cheerleading coaches after an internal investigation determined they failed to oversee off-campus events that included hazing, alcohol use and public nudity by the championship squad.

The school announced Monday that head coach Jomo Thompson and assistants Ben Head, Spencer Clan and Kelsey LaCroix were fired from the program, which has won 24 national titles the past 35 years.

The three-month investigation also found “lax oversight and poor judgment” by longtime primary advisor T. Lynn Williamson, Kentucky’s principal deputy general counsel. Williamson retired days after learning of the investigation and being told to have no contact with the squad.

OBITUARY

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Robert Jerry “Ben” Williams Jr., former Buffalo Bills defensive end and the first African- American player to appear in a game at Mississippi, has died. He was 65.

Ole Miss announced in a release that Williams died Monday from natural causes at a Jackson, Mississippi, hospital. Affectionately known as “Gentle Ben,” he was the Rebels’ first black player to earn All-America honors as a first-team selection in 1975, and was also a three-time first team All-Southeastern Conference selection.

Williams is the Ole Miss career sacks leader with 37, including a single-season record of 18 in 1973, and a member of its Team of the Century.

Williams was drafted by Buffalo in the third round in 1976 and went on to spend his entire 10-year NFL career with the Bills, with 140 starts in 147 games.

He retired as the Bills’ career sacks leader with 45 1/2 before his record was shattered by Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Smith,