Thursday’s Sports in Brief

PRO FOOTBALL

WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump praised an NFL policy banning kneeling during the ”The Star-Spangled Banner,” saying that ”maybe you shouldn’t be in the country” if you don’t stand for the anthem.

Trump spoke to ”Fox & Friends” in an interview that aired Thursday. The policy forbids players from sitting or taking a knee on the field during the anthem but allows them to stay in the locker room. Any violations of the new rules would result in fines against teams.

”I think that’s good,” Trump said in the interview that taped Wednesday. ”I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin had harsh words for Trump as players began to process the new mandate from the league’s owners. Baldwin has been a leading voice from the players’ perspective for why there were protests last season even though Baldwin never participated in kneeling or sitting on the sidelines.

”He’s an idiot. Plain and simple,” Baldwin said of the president. ”I respect the man because he’s a human being first and foremost, but he’s just being divisive, which is not surprising.”

BOXING

WASHINGTON (AP) – President Donald Trump has granted a rare posthumous pardon to boxing’s first black heavyweight champion, clearing Jack Johnson’s name more than 100 years after what many see as his racially charged conviction.

”I am taking this very righteous step, I believe, to correct a wrong that occurred in our history and to honor a truly legendary boxing champion,” Trump said Thursday during an Oval Office ceremony. He was joined by WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, retired heavyweight titleholder Lennox Lewis and actor Sylvester Stallone, whom Trump credited with championing the pardon.

Trump said Johnson had served 10 months in prison ”for what many view as a racially-motivated injustice.”

”It’s my honor to do it. It’s about time,” the president said.

Johnson, a prominent athlete who crossed over into popular culture decades ago with biographies, dramas and documentaries, was convicted in 1913 by an all-white jury for violating the Mann Act for traveling with his white girlfriend. That law made it illegal to transport women across state lines for ”immoral” purposes.”

SPORTS BETTING

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – A New Jersey horse racing association filed a legal action against the four major pro sports leagues and the NCAA Thursday, claiming the leagues cost one of the state’s racetracks more than $130 million in lost revenue by blocking legal sports betting.

The action filed by the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association claims the leagues acted in bad faith when they sought a restraining order in 2014 to block Monmouth Park Racetrack from offering sports betting, because the pro leagues were actively promoting and endorsing businesses that made millions from fantasy sports games that rely on individual player performances.

The leagues and the NCAA sued then-Republican Gov. Chris Christie after Christie signed a law lifting bans on sports betting at casinos and racetracks.

ATHLETE ABUSE

LANSING, Mich. (AP) – More than two dozen proposed laws sparked by the sexual abuse scandal involving Larry Nassar sailed through the Michigan House on Thursday, including bills that would grant childhood sex assault victims more time to sue and require athletic trainers to report suspected abuse.

Gov. Rick Snyder supports the 27-bill bipartisan package, which received some criticism for enabling people abused by the former sports doctor to retroactively seek damages through the courts but not other victims of sexual abuse. Others wanted coaches to be added to Michigan’s list of people mandated to report suspected abuse.

Still, the legislation won wide support in the wake of hundreds of girls and women – including Olympic gymnasts – accusing Nassar of molesting them under the guide of medical treatment, including while he worked for Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians. Nassar was sentenced to prison this year after pleading guilty to sexual assaults and possessing child pornography.

BASEBALL

NEW YORK (AP) – Baseballs really are getting extra lift, and it’s not from the exaggerated upper cuts batters are taking, according to a 10-person committee of researchers hired by the commissioner’s office.

But a panel that includes professors specializing in physics, mechanical engineering, statistics and mathematics struck out trying to pinpoint the cause.

Committee chairman Alan Nathan, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says ”the aerodynamic properties of the ball have changed, allowing it to carry farther.”

The committee’s 84-page report was released Wednesday by Major League Baseball. There was no evidence of meaningful change in the bounciness of the balls, formally called coefficient of restitution, or alteration in batters’ swings, such as upper-cutting.

As for what caused of the change in aerodynamic properties, it remains baseball’s great mystery, the sport’s equivalent of the search for the Loch Ness Monster.