AP NEWS

Friday Sports in Brief

December 21, 2019 GMT

NBA

MIAMI (AP) — The NBA has sent a proposal to teams calling for a 78-game regular season, along with an in-season tournament for all teams and a reseeding of the playoffs when the field is cut to the final four clubs.

A copy of the proposal was obtained by The Associated Press on Friday. The plan laid out for teams calls for a play-in tournament to decide the seventh and eighth seeds in both conferences — the top 10 finishers in both the East and West would therefore have a chance at the playoffs — as well as a $1 million per player prize for the in-season tournament.

The league would make the changes for the 2021-22 season on a trial basis, with an option to continue the next season. The league’s board of governors is expected to discuss and likely decide whether to go forward or not with the plan in April.

MLB

NEW YORK (AP) — The average salary in the major leagues has dropped in consecutive years for the first time since the players’ association started keeping records more than a half-century ago.

The 988 players on Aug. 31 rosters and injured lists averaged $4,051,490, the union said Friday, down 1.1% from $4,095,686 last year. The average peaked at $4,097,122 in 2017.

This was just the fifth decline since records started in 1967, when the average was $19,000. There also were drops in 1987, when clubs were found guilty of collusion; in 1995, after the end of a 7 1/2-month strike; and in 2004.

This year’s drop followed two slow free-agent markets and new contracts with large signing bonuses for Mike Trout, Alex Bregman, Manny Machado and A.J. Pollock. Those four players received $62 million in signing bonuses during 2019 that are prorated over the length of each contract in the calculation of the average. If the entire amounts had been counted for 2019. the average would have been about $54,000 higher — more than the $44,196 drop.

CHICAGO (AP) — The White Sox boosted their starting rotation, finalizing a $5 million, one-year contract with two-time All-Star Gio González that includes a 2021 club option.

The deal announced Friday calls for a $4.5 million salary in 2020 and gives the White Sox a $7 million option for 2021 with a $500,000 buyout. He can earn an additional $1 million in performance bonuses in 2020 based on starts: $250,000 each for 15, 20, 25 and 30.

The 34-year-old left-hander finally will get a chance to pitch for the team that took him with the No. 38 overall pick in the 2004 amateur draft. Chicago dealt González to Philadelphia following the 2005 season as part of the trade that sent Aaron Rowand to the Phillies for Jim Thome, then reacquired González a year later along with Gavin Floyd for Freddy García. The White Sox traded González to Oakland for Nick Swisher in January 2008.

González debuted with the Athletics in 2008 and is 130-99 with a 3.68 ERA over 12 years with Oakland (2008-11), Washington (2012-18) and Milwaukee (2018-19). He was an All-Star in 2011 and 2012, when he won a career-high 21 games and had a 2.89 ERA.

González was 3-2 with a 3.50 ERA in 17 starts and 19 appearances last season.

MINOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

NEW YORK (AP) — Pittsburgh pitcher Andy Maldonado and free agent pitcher Daniel De Leon were each suspended for 72 games under baseball’s minor league drug program on Friday following positive tests for the anabolic steroid Stanozolol.

Boston catcher Elih Marrero and free agent pitcher Cole Watts were each suspended for 50 games following positive tests for Amphetamine, a banned stimulant.

NFL

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Josh Shaw has dropped his appeal of a one-year NFL suspension for gambling on league games, a person with knowledge of the move told The Associated Press on Friday.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because Shaw’s decision to drop the appeal has not been made public.

Late last month, Shaw was suspended through at least the end of the 2020 season for betting on NFL games on multiple occasions this season, the first time in more than 35 years an NFL player has been banned for gambling. The little-known Shaw hasn’t played for the Cardinals this season after being placed on injured reserve following an injury during the preseason. He was signed by the Cardinals in the offseason to a one-year deal.

His suspension comes as the NFL — and other U.S. sports leagues — enters an era when legal sports gambling is spreading across the country and gaining mainstream acceptance.

—By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner.

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers cut reserve safety Kameron Kelly on Friday hours after the rookie was arrested following an alleged altercation with police at a bar.

The 23-year-old Kelly was charged with two counts of making terroristic threats and one count of resisting arrest after authorities said he became combative after refusing to leave Mario’s South Side Saloon early Friday. He was arraigned at about 4:30 a.m. and released on nonmonetary bail.

According to the criminal complaint, police were called to the bar after an employee reported Kelly for becoming disorderly. Police say the employee told them Kelly had threatened to punch him for skipping Kelly’s selection on the jukebox.

Police say an officer accidentally stepped on the foot of a woman outside the bar while confronting Kelly. Kelly told police the woman was with him and became aggressive with officers, according to the complaint. Police say Kelly resisted arrest and was punched multiple times by an officer, who said in the complaint that he struck Kelly in an effort to defuse the situation. Kelly was treated at a hospital for a busted lip.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Rookie Daniel Jones is returning as the New York Giants starting quarterback after missing two weeks with an ankle injury.

Jones again replaces two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning, who had returned to the starting lineup with Jones sidelined.

Manning is in the final year of his contract, so the decision to start Jones Sunday against the Washington Redskins might signal the end of his 16-year career with the Giants.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

SHENENDOAH, Texas (AP) — Ethan Greenfield ran for 138 yards and three touchdowns, Broc Rutter threw for 263 yards and two scores and North Central of Illinois routed Wisconsin-Whitewater 41-14 on Friday night for its first NCAA Division III championship.

North Central was making its first appearance in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. The Cardinals’ previous best finish in the Division III playoffs was a semifinal loss in 2013.

Rutter was 17 of 26 passing and ran for another touchdown. He broke the Division III record for career passing yards with his final touchdown pass, which gave him 14,265 yards and moved him past Alex Tanney, who played at Monmouth College in Illinois and is now a member of the New York Giants. Tanney threw for 14,249 yards.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hand gestures flashed by West Point cadets and Naval Academy midshipmen during the televised Army-Navy football game were not racist signals, military investigations have concluded.

A Navy probe of the event found that the students were participating in a “sophomoric game” on Saturday and had no racist intent. An Army statement Friday also rejected any racist overtones, saying the hand gestures were “not associated with ideologies or movements that are contrary to the Army values.”

The Navy said officials are, however, disappointed in the immature behavior of the students and “their actions will be appropriately addressed.” There were no details about their exact punishment, but a Navy report on the investigation said the two midshipmen should face “administrative action” for “failure to use good judgment.”

Clips of the hand gestures by the students went viral on social media and immediately raised questions about whether they were using a “white power” sign. But others suggested it was part of what’s called the “circle game,” in which someone flashes an upside-down OK sign below the waist and punches anyone who looks at it.

NCAA

The NCAA placed TCU on probation for one year after the school self-reported 33 athletes in football and basketball being paid for work they didn’t do.

The NCAA released the decision of the committee on infractions Friday.

TCU was also punished for practice violations in men’s and women’s swimming and diving, and a former coach in those sports was given a show-cause order.

TCU reported the violations in 2018 when it discovered athletes were not clocking out of their summer jobs with the school’s physical plant. The payments totaled about $20,000 over four years and 22 athletes competed while ineligible.

OBITUARY

Robert Glenn “Junior” Johnson, the moonshine runner turned NASCAR driver described as “The Last American Hero” by author Tom Wolfe in a 1965 article for Esquire, died Friday. He was 88.

NASCAR announced the death of Johnson, the winner of 50 races as a driver and 132 as an owner. He was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.

From North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Johnson was named one of NASCAR’s greatest drivers in 1998 after a 14-year career that ended in 1966 and included a win in the 1960 Daytona 500. He honed his driving skills running moonshine through the North Carolina hills, a crime for which he received a federal conviction in 1956 and a full presidential pardon in 1986 from President Ronald Reagan.

His was first immortalized by Wolfe in 1965 and later in a 1973 movie adaptation starring Jeff Bridges.

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