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MSNBC Sports
News provided by MSNBC.com
Players officially file lawsuit against FIFA, CSA over artificial turf at World Cup

A lawsuit has officially been filed by a group of women's international soccer players against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association regarding the use of artificial turf at the 2015 Women's World Cup. The players say that it is gender discrimination to not be playing on natural grass and that men would never have to play a World Cup on artificial turf.

The lawsuit was filed in an Ontario tribunal court on Wednesday. "This differential treatment constitutes a violation of section 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code," the lawsuit reads.

NBC Sports obtained a copy of the lawsuit, which can be read here, along with the letter to the registrar. Attorney's also requested to expedite the proceedings due to the short amount of time until the World Cup.

FIFA Deputy Director for Women's Competitions Tatjana Haenni said on Tuesday that the 2015 World Cup will be played on turf and that "there's no Plan B." She is in Canada along with an independent group assessing the turf of all six venues to be used next year.

[MORE: Complete coverage of the 2015 Women's World Cup Turf War]

Players first threatened FIFA and Canada Soccer with a lawsuit in late July, but wanted to give the organizations time to respond. The group says that playing a World Cup on artificial turf -- what they say is an "inferior surface" is discriminatory. Every senior men's World Cup has been played on natural grass. Recent youth World Cups, including the 2014 U-20 Women's World Cup in Canada last month, have been staged on artificial surfaces. All six venues for next year's World Cup are slated to have artificial turf.

Among the players on the list are past and present FIFA World Players of the Year Germany goalkeeper Nadine Angerer (current title holder), U.S. forward Abby Wambach and Brazil's five-time World Player of the Year Marta. Also named in the lawsuit are U.S. internationals Alex Morgan and Heather O'Reilly, Spain captain Veronica Boquete and France's Camille Abily.

“It’s very disappointing that FIFA hasn’t really even acknowledged or given us any response to our statement,” Morgan told NBC Sports in September. “It seems like CSA and FIFA are kind of playing the blaming game. So we would like some sort of response and some sort of explanation, because I feel like it is taking a step backwards so hopefully we get the explanation sooner rather than later.”

Players have said that they will not boycott the World Cup.

A FIFA distributed survey from 2013 showed that 77 percent of players prefer the World Cup to be on natural grass.

Every men's World Cup since 1930 has been played on natural grass. Youth World Cups, including the 2014 U-20 Women's World Cup in August in Canada. The lawsuit points out that FIFA spent $2 million to install natural grass over artificial turf in Detroit and New Jersey for the 1994 men's World Cup.

Hampton Dellinger, an attorney representing the players, released the following statement on Wednesday afternoon:

"Two months ago, attorneys for a coalition of leading players informed officials from the Canadian Soccer Association (CSA) and FIFA that forcing the 2015 women’s World Cup to take place on artificial turf rather than grass was not only wrong but also constituted illegal sex discrimination. Men’s World Cup tournament matches are played on natural grass while CSA and FIFA are relegating female players to artificial turf. The difference matters: plastic pitches alter how the game is played, pose unique safety risks and are considered inferior for international competition.

Through public statements and private communications the players and their lawyers have clearly signaled to CSA and FIFA that we want to resolve the ‘turf war’ through good faith negotiations rather than litigation. CSA and FIFA have ignored these overtures. As a result, the players have no choice but to initiate the legal action filed today. Whatever happens in court, CSA and FIFA have lost any claim to being good stewards of the women’s game -- until they correct their mistake.

After the spectacular success of World Cup 2011 and the 2012 Olympics, CSA and FIFA could help women’s soccer reach even greater heights. Instead, the leaders of CSA and FIFA are embarrassing the game and, even more, themselves. The gifted athletes we represent are determined not to have the sport they love be belittled on their watch. Getting an equal playing field at the World Cup is a fight female players should not have to wage but one from which they do not shrink. In the end, we trust that fairness and equality will prevail over sexism and stubbornness."

Wed, 01 Oct 2014 04:16:41 +0000
Michigan QB Gardner to start vs Rutgers

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) After leaving sophomore quarterback Shane Morris on the field following a hit to the head last weekend, Michigan coach Brady Hoke took responsibility for the program's breakdown in communication Wednesday and said Devin Gardner will start against Rutgers.

Hoke did not elaborate on discrepancies between his news conference Monday and athletic director Dave Brandon's statement on Morris' injuries early Tuesday. Brandon said Morris suffered a high-ankle sprain and "probable, mild concussion."

"From the start, when you're a leader, you always have to take responsibility," Hoke said. "I take responsibility for our student-athletes, and I would take it for their health and welfare. But I'll also make it clear I don't make decisions on the health and welfare, and that shouldn't be the coach's decision."

Fifth-year senior Gardner will start on the road in New Jersey for the Wolverines.

"We have great belief in what he has done," Hoke said. "I think the leadership that he has demonstrated with a lot of adversity, I think he's done a tremendous job."

The decision came two days after offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier opted not to commit to a quarterback, saying coaches would "evaluate the position."

Gardner played the remainder of the fourth quarter Saturday after Morris was ultimately removed. He finished 3 for 6 for 39 yards with a rushing touchdown in Michigan's 30-14 loss to Minnesota.

Both Brandon and school President Mark Schlissel issued statements in the aftermath of Morris' injuries, citing a "serious lack of communication" on the field. Hoke said he still would not wear a headset on the sideline.

"That's something I've explained a lot," Hoke said. "It allows me to coach guys on the sideline. I've got a guy right behind me who is telling me everything that I need to know. I think it helps when you want to be hands-on."

Brandon described plans for more medical personnel in the press box area and examination of sideline policies regarding communication. Brandon's statement acknowledged Morris' likely concussion - after Hoke had said about 12 hours earlier that as far as he knew, the quarterback had not been diagnosed with one.

"(We) worked very hard getting it right in the statement," Hoke said. "When you talk about evaluating all the things we needed to evaluate, that was all handled in the statement."

Hoke says his relationship with Brandon remains "a relationship that's built on trust, that's built on integrity and built on character." There have been calls from students on campus for both Hoke and Brandon to be removed.

Wed, 01 Oct 2014 22:28:00 +0000
LeBron warmly welcomed "home" by Cleveland fans

CLEVELAND (AP) The crowd's deafening roar was so loud LeBron James couldn't hear his name announced.

Unsure of whether to walk out onto the floor, he looked around and realized he was the last one left on the bench.

Seconds later, James knew he was home.

Cleveland fans welcomed the NBA superstar back with open arms and ear-splitting screams on Tuesday night as nearly 17,000 fans showed up to watch the Cavaliers hold their annual scrimmage, a glorified practice that provided a preview of what could become a spectacular season.

Wearing the familiar No. 23 wine and gold jersey, the one he swapped for a No. 6 in Miami four years ago, James returned to the court where he took his first steps as a pro.

As he waited on the bench to be introduced, James couldn't hear the announcer say, "From Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, No. 23 ... "

So James began walking out.

"I really couldn't hear it," he said. "The fans were really loud and the PA was a little down, so I really couldn't hear it. I was the last person sitting on the bench, so I guess it had to be my time. But the roar was very well received and I'm grateful to be able to be in this position where the fans welcomed me back like that."

This ovation was in stark contrast to the one he got following the last game James in played for Cleveland in 2010. Following a 27-point loss to Boston in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, a game in which he was oddly passive, James was targeted with boos and later questioned about his effort.

Two months later, he announced he was signing with the Heat.

But all has been forgiven, if not forgotten.

For Cleveland fans, the sight of James once again on the Cavs' home floor, soaring to the basket for a dunk or catching an outlet pass from new teammate Kevin Love, was something to behold.

"I can't believe this," said 19-year-old Alex Krocker from Bolivar, Ohio. "I've waited my whole life for a Cavs team like this, for a Cleveland team like this. It's crazy."

Moments after the opening tip, James, who in a heartfelt letter declared he was re-signing with the Cavs on July 11, reminded Cleveland fans what they've been missing. He was short with his first shot, a fade-away baseline jumper. But he grabbed his own rebound and calmly sank a 3-pointer.

He followed that with a two-handed dunk and later drove the lane for one his signature slams, the kind of play that has elevated him to the world's best player.

The Cavs gave away 20,000 free tickets for the event and the team announced 16,723 showed up to watch the Wine squad beat the Gold 66-52. James scored 13 points, Kyrie Irving added 10 and Love had nine, but the numbers didn't matter.

This was another first in a season of homecoming events for James.

Before the Cavs took the court for pregame warmups, James gathered his teammates in a hallway outside the locker room and led them in prayer. He told them to "play hard and play smart. Let's get better today."

As they were about to exit the tunnel, James pulled a prank on unsuspecting rookies Joe Harris and Alex Kirk. James told the two youngsters to lead the team out, and when they started toward the court, the superstar held the rest of the Cavs back, leading to an embarrassing moment for Harris and Kirk.

"It was a good laugh," Harris said.

While the Cavs were on the floor, first-year Cavs coach David Blatt was encouraged by the team's ball movement but knows the defense has a long way to go before it's at a championship level.

"Overall the impression was positive," said Blatt, who started James, Irving and Love along with Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters but hasn't committed to his first five. "For me, you have starters and second starters, that's what makes teams good."

Blatt has James, and that's all that matters.

A successful international coach, Blatt will face his former team, Maccabi Tel Aviv on Sunday in the Cavs' first official exhibition game. It's sure to be an emotional night for Blatt, who has witnessed Cleveland warmly wrap its arms around James again.

"It's a very special group of people who live here that appreciate things about people and about life that are admirable," he said. "I'm not surprised at all at how he has been received."

Thu, 02 Oct 2014 05:45:00 +0000
FCC will consider petition to ban 'Redskins'

WASHINGTON -- The head of the Federal Communications Commission says the agency will consider a petition to ban the Washington Redskins nickname from the public airwaves.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says Tuesday that the commission "will be dealing with that issue on the merits, and we'll be responding accordingly."

A law professor has challenged the use of the name on broadcast television, saying it violates FCC rules against indecent content. Native American and other groups have demanded the name be changed, calling it a racial slur.

Wheeler did not offer a timetable for a ruling on the matter. He has previously said he finds the name "offensive and derogatory," but that he hoped Redskins owner Dan Snyder would change it without any formal action.

Snyder has vowed never to change the name.

Tue, 30 Sep 2014 22:27:00 +0000
Raiders make Tony Sparano interim coach

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Reggie McKenzie believes he put together a roster capable of competing for a playoff spot. When that roster got off to an 0-4 start and wasn't even competitive in two games, the Oakland Raiders general manager decided he needed to fire coach Dennis Allen.

McKenzie replaced his hand-picked coach by promoting offensive line coach Tony Sparano on an interim basis Tuesday with the hopes that can spark a turnaround for a team that has lost 10 straight games dating to last season.

"Yes, I do believe what we put together this offseason was a roster that could win," McKenzie said. "I'm not going to get into all the particulars of why it didn't work for Dennis. But the bottom line is it didn't work. For whatever reason, not only the 0-4 start but our play did not represent what we were capable of. That's the bottom line."

Allen was the first head coach hired by Oakland after Al Davis' death in October 2011. His 8-28 record is the worst for the franchise since before Davis arrived in 1963. His contract was set to run through next season.

McKenzie made the decision to fire Allen and then let owner Mark Davis know his plans. Davis supported McKenzie's call but now pressure turns to the general manager whose additions have not led to a better record.

Allen is the third coach fired during the season by Oakland since Al Davis arrived. Mike Shanahan was fired after four games in 1989 and Lane Kiffin was let go four games into the 2008 season.

"In my analysis, I think we do have players that can play in this game," Davis said. "I just think that there may be some changes in how the schemes are utilized."

Sparano becomes Oakland's eighth coach in the past 12 seasons. The Raiders have not made the playoffs or had a winning record since winning the 2002 AFC championship.

Sparano had a 29-32 record as head coach in Miami from 2008-11. He took over a one-win team in 2008 and led the Dolphins to an 11-5 record and an AFC East title. That was his only winning season and he was fired with three games remaining in 2011.

Sparano said he was still working out particulars about play-calling and other details and would talk to his players on Wednesday about what changes he planned to make.

While he was not ready to offer specifics on Tuesday, he did say there would be a philosophy change when the team returns from the bye week to play its next game at home against San Diego on Oct. 12.

"We need to make sure we're asking our football players here as coaches to do the things that they do best," Sparano said. "We have some good football players here, a lot of them. They do a lot of good things. We need to let them do what they do best."

Allen and McKenzie were hired after the team finished 8-8 under coach Hue Jackson in 2011, falling one game short of a playoff bid.

They were expected to steady a franchise that fell into disarray during Al Davis' final years as owner. Instead, the team has only gotten worse, posting back-to-back four-win seasons before getting off to the 0-4 start this year despite adding players like Justin Tuck, LaMarr Woodley, Maurice Jones-Drew, Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, James Jones, Antonio Smith and Matt Schaub in the offseason.

Even worse, the Raiders have looked overmatched at times. They fell behind 27-0 after three quarters of their only home game against Houston and trailed by 31 points after three quarters against the Dolphins.

In all, Allen had more losses by at least 20 points (nine) than wins. It was performances like those that Mark Davis said he no longer wanted to see in Allen's third season and that ultimately led to his downfall.

"To me, that's not what the Raiders are," Davis said. "And we're still trying to get to be what the Raiders are."

Davis cited this year's draft class led by linebacker Khalil Mack, quarterback Derek Carr and guard Gabe Jackson as players who could form the foundation.

But he was not willing to commit long-term to McKenzie, who has two years remaining on his contract, or Sparano. Davis said he would have more involvement in the hiring of the new coach than last time when he let McKenzie pick Allen.

He also said he might reach out to former coach Jon Gruden about a possible return.

"That's the future and I'm not going to talk about future coaches," Davis said.

Sparano has 12 games to show that he should be that guy.

---

AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Wed, 01 Oct 2014 00:21:00 +0000

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