Update on the latest sports


Union rejects late start

UNDATED (AP) — The Major League Baseball Players Association has won a scheduling battle with owners.

MLB will proceed with an on-time start to spring training and the season after players rejected a plan Monday night to delay reporting by a more than a month. The proposal was aimed at allowing more time for the virus situation to improve.

Management proposed to the players’ association on Friday that the start of spring training be pushed back from Feb. 17 to March 22, that opening day be delayed from April 1 to April 28 and that each team’s schedule be cut from 162 games to 154.

Under the proposal, each team would have been allowed to be scheduled up to 12 split doubleheaders. Experimental rules for seven-inning doubleheaders and beginning extra innings with a runner on second base would have continued for a second season. The proposal also called for the expansion of the playoffs from 10 teams to 14 and extending the designated hitter to the National League for the second straight season, a plan the union rejected Jan. 6.

Bruce Meyer, the union’s director of collective bargaining, said the union did not believe MLB’s plan was designed to protect health and safety.


FIBA holds draws for Olympic basketball tournaments

UNDATED (AP) — USA Basketball won’t have to wait long for intrigue at the Tokyo Olympics. The U.S. men will face France in its group opener and the U.S. women were placed in the same group as host Japan when the draw for the rescheduled Tokyo Games was held Tuesday.

The U.S. men will also face Iran and the winner of the qualifying tournament in Canada as its other Group A rivals.

The last time the Americans played France was in 2019 in the quarterfinals of the Basketball World Cup in China. France prevailed to end the U.S. medal hopes.

The U.S. men are seeking a fourth consecutive gold medal.

The Tokyo Games open July 23, one day after the NBA says is the last possible date for this season’s NBA Finals. USA Basketball’s roster won’t likely be finalized until June at the earliest and will undoubtedly hinge on how deep some players like LeBron James go into the postseason.

The games were rescheduled from last year and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has prompted some to suggest they will not — or should not — happen this summer either.


Tokyo Olympic organizers reiterate ‘we will hold the games’

TOKYO (AP) — The president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee has a simple message for fellow members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party: The games will happen.

Yoshiro Mori, who is also a former Japanese prime minister, told lawmakers Tuesday that “No matter what situation would be with the coronavirus, we will hold the games.” He said “We should pass on the discussion of whether we will hold the games or not, but instead discuss how we should hold it.”

Mori has been the main cheerleader for several weeks in Japan, backed in Switzerland by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach as reports have swirled that the Olympics might be canceled.

The IOC has aggressively pushed back and says the Olympics will open on July 23 with 11,000 athletes and tens of thousands of judges, officials, media, broadcasters, sponsors and VIPs. The Paralympics follow on Aug. 24 with 4,400 athletes.

A decision about fans at venues is to be made in the spring, but it seems likely that fans from abroad will be excluded.

Recent polls show about 80% of the Japanese public believe the games should be — or will be — canceled or postponed again. Organizers must convince them that the Olympics will happen and will be safe in a country that has controlled COVID-19 better than most.


Federer targets tournament comeback in Qatar next month

BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — Roger Federer is aiming to play his first tournament after two knee surgeries and more than one year away next month in Qatar (KUH’-tur).

Federer told Swiss radio station SRF on Tuesday he has targeted the Doha Open from March 8-13. The 20-time Grand Slam champion said he preferred a smaller tournament where he “wouldn’t be in the spotlight too much and the stress is also a little less.”

Now 39, Federer last played in January 2020 at the Australian Open, losing in the semifinals to Novak Djokovic while clearly struggling with injury.

Federer said he could play one more event after Doha and then focus on the clay-court season.

His main targets are Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and, after he turns 40, the U.S. Open.


Latvia to host men’s ice hockey worlds alone in May

ZURICH (AP) — Latvia was picked to stage the men’s world championship alone by the International Ice Hockey Federation on Tuesday after Belarus (behl-uh-ROOS’) was removed as co-host last month amid political turmoil there.

The tournament in May will be played at two nearby venues in Riga (REE’-guh) with all 16 teams staying in the same hotel.

Belarus and Latvia were selected as co-hosts in 2017. The IIHF pulled the tournament from Belarus, citing security concerns related to protests against President Alexander Lukashenko’s disputed re-election last year and the former Soviet nation’s management of the pandemic.

Opposition leaders called for the tournament to be moved, saying it would amount to a propaganda coup for Lukashenko, who often takes part in exhibition games. Prominent IIHF sponsors said they would not back the tournament unless a new host was found.

Belarus previously hosted the worlds in 2014.