Thursday’s Sports in Brief

PRO FOOTBALL

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees now realizes he’d fallen out of touch. His contemporaries drove that home when they pilloried him this week for repeating a long-held conviction he’d always felt comfortable expressing.

In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, Brees repeated his opposition to kneeling during the national anthem. And the biting backlash that followed prompted the Saints’ star quarterback to issue a public apology in which he acknowledged he totally “missed the mark.”

When Brees expressed his position on the anthem three years ago, he was one of many voices in a crowded conversation. But when he repeated it Wednesday, he learned in humbling fashion how times have changed. The intensity and frequency of protests stemming from Floyd’s killing less than two weeks ago have signified that wider segments of the U.S. population view police brutality and racial injustice as matters of greater urgency.

“I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening,” Brees wrote in the apology posted on social media. “When the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen.”

NEW YORK (AP) — Patrick Mahomes, Saquon Barkley and Michael Thomas are among more than a dozen NFL stars who united to send a passionate video message to the league about racial inequality.

The 70-second video was released on social media platforms and includes Odell Beckham Jr., Deshaun Watson, Ezekiel Elliott, Jamal Adams, Stephon Gilmore and DeAndre Hopkins, among others.

The video closes with the players insisting they “will not be silenced.” They also demand the NFL state that it condemns “racism and the systemic oppression of black people. … We, the National Football League, admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. … We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback Jake Fromm apologized for using the phrase “elite white people” in a text conversation from more than a year ago, and posted on social media early.

The former Georgia starter posted his apology on his Twitter account, in which he wrote: “I’m truly sorry for my words and actions and humbly ask for forgiveness.” In saying he never meant to imply he was an elite white male, which he noted during the text conversation, Fromm added: “There’s no excuse for that word choice and sentiment. While it was poor, my heart is not.”

Fromm, selected in the fifth round of the draft in April, said he also apologized to his teammates and coaches in a team meeting.

NEW YORK (AP) — Coaches will be allowed to return beginning Friday to NFL team facilities closed because of the coronavirus pandemic as the league continues preparation for training camps and its season.

Commissioner Roger Goodell told the 32 clubs on Thursday in a memo obtained by The Associated Press that coaching staffs may work from team complexes starting Friday. Previously, only up to 75 people per day could be at the facilities, with coaches and players not seeking treatment for injuries barred.

All coaches will count toward the maximum number of club employees in the facility, but that number will be increased to 100 — also subject to governmental regulations and implementation of health protocols developed by the NFL’s medical staff.

PRO BASKETBALL

The NBA took a major step toward getting back on the court, with the league’s Board of Governors approving a 22-team format for restarting the league season next month at the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida.

The vote was 29-1, with Portland casting the dissenting vote, said a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the league did not publicly release voting details. The National Basketball Players Association has scheduled a meeting for Friday to vote on the plan.

Teams would arrive at Disney around July 7 and play an eight-game slate of games starting July 31 at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex.

BASEBALL

NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball players reaffirmed their stance for full prorated pay, leaving a huge gap with teams that could scuttle plans to start the coronavirus-delayed season around the Fourth of July and may leave owners focusing on a schedule as short as 50 games.

More than 100 players, including the union’s executive board, held a two-hour digital meeting with officials of the Major League Baseball Players Association a day after the union’s offer was rejected by Major League Baseball.

Players originally were set to earn about $4 billion in 2020 salaries, exclusive of guaranteed money such as signing bonuses, termination pay and option buyouts. The union’s plan would cut that to around $2.8 billion and management to approximately $1.2 billion plus a $200 million bonus pool if the postseason is completed.

HOCKEY

The NHL cleared the way for players to return to practice rinks next week and firmed up its playoff format even as a ninth player tested positive for the coronavirus.

After unveiling the final details of its 24-team plan if the season is able to resume this summer, the league said teams could reopen facilities and players could take part in limited, voluntary workouts beginning Monday. The NHL and NHL Players’ Association must still iron out health and safety protocols before moving ahead with training camps and games.

Players can skate in groups of up to six at a time under “phase 2,” which includes specific instructions on testing, mask-wearing and temperature checks. It’s another step closer to the ice after the league said every playoff series will be a best-of-seven format after the initial qualifying round and teams will be reseeded throughout.

AUTO RACING

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host the IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader on the July 4 weekend without fans.

Track officials had been optimistic IMS could be the first major sporting venue to have fans back in the stands this summer. Instead, the stands will be empty much like the rest of the tracks since major racing resumed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

IMS officials announced the decision after consulting with local and state officials.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Florida State’s Mike Norvell apologized after a star player accused the coach of lying about personally connecting with every football player to discuss the police killing of George Floyd and ensuing protests against racial injustice.

After a team meeting involving players and coaches, defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, who called out his first-year coach the night before on Twitter, took to social media again to declare the matter settled.

“Took a stand we got what we wanted & we are moving forward,” Wilson wrote on Instagram. He also posted a nearly four-minute video detailing how the team plans to register to vote and raise funds for organizations that help send young black people to college and aid poor children in the Tallahassee, Florida, area.

Wilson, who is black, said Wednesday night on Twitter that he and his teammates were “outraged” by Norvell’s characterization of having individually touched base with every player last weekend. Norvell released a statement saying that was a mistake.

SOCCER

Premier League club Tottenham is borrowing $220 million using the Bank of England’s emergency pandemic loan scheme to cope with the absence of spectators and the cancellation of two NFL games it was to stage this year.

The north London club revealed the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic as the Premier League advanced plans for the competition to end its 100-day shutdown in two weeks with games closed to supporters.

During a conference call, clubs agreed to adopt the temporary change in world football laws and raise the number of substitutes allowed in games from three to five, with the bench increasing from seven to nine players.

RUGBY

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Australia fullback James Tedesco is the first player to miss a game under the National Rugby League’s new health protocols in the coronavirus pandemic because he woke up with a high temperature.

Just a week after the league restarted following a two-month shutdown, Tedesco failed a test that prohibits anyone with a temperature above 37.2 from entering a stadium on game day or for practice.

He was ruled out of the Sydney Roosters’ lineup for Thursday’s 59-0 win over the Broncos in Brisbane.

WRESTLING

DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — An investigation into the International Weightlifting Federation has found doping cover-ups and millions of dollars in missing money, lead investigator Richard McLaren.

McLaren said 40 positive doping tests were “hidden” in IWF records and that athletes whose cases were delayed or covered up went on to win medals at the world championships and other events. The cases will be referred to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The International Olympic Committee said it was studying the report “very carefully,” adding that “the content is deeply concerning.”