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Hockey Canada grilled on alleged sexual assaults

Published in Hockey
Tuesday, 04 October 2022 15:19

OTTAWA, Ontario -- Hockey Canada's board chairs, past and present, played defense when questioned Tuesday by the House of Commons about how it handled alleged sexual assaults and how money was paid out in lawsuits.

Former chair Michael Brind'Amour, who resigned Aug. 6, and interim chair Andrea Skinner appeared via video conference before a Canadian Heritage standing committee in Ottawa.

Hockey Canada has been under the national microscope since May, when it was revealed it had settled a lawsuit with a woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight players from the 2018 junior men's hockey team during a June gala event in London, Ontario, that year.

"Toxic behavior exists throughout society," Skinner said. "Suggesting that toxic behavior is somehow a specific hockey problem, or to scapegoat hockey as a centerpiece for toxic culture is, in my opinion, counterproductive to finding solutions, and risks overlooking the change that needs to be made more broadly, to prevent and address toxic behavior, particularly against women."

Skinner and Brind'Amour also were grilled on why Hockey Canada president and chief executive officer Scott Smith had not been fired or why an expensive public relations firm was hired to conduct damage control.

"What we have heard is there is a call for a new perspective. Hockey Canada has secured an outside perspective. We're taking steps to change how we communicate," Skinner said, referring to calls from Canada Sports Minister Pascale St-Onge and victims rights advocate Sheldon Kennedy and others for Hockey Canada leadership to step down. "Our board does not share the view that Hockey Canada should be making more leadership changes at this time. As a board, we continue to support the CEO and management."

Edmonton Oilers chair Bob Nicholson, who was Hockey Canada's president and CEO from 1998 to 2014, did not appear, but has been asked to do so at a future hearing.

Other revelations this year include Hockey Canada's admission it drew on minor hockey membership fees to pay for uninsured liabilities, including sexual abuse claims and that police in Halifax, Nova Scotia, were asked to investigate an alleged sexual assault by members of the 2003 junior men's team.

The feds have frozen Hockey Canada's funding.

It also was revealed in July hearings that Hockey Canada had paid out $7.6 million in nine settlements related to sexual assault and sexual abuse claims since 1989 -- the majority of that money went to those abused by junior hockey coach Graham James and did not include this year's payout of an undisclosed sum to the London plaintiff.

In the face of lost corporate sponsorships and public outcry, Hockey Canada laid out an action plan to address safe sport issues and says it will no longer use the "National Equity Fund" to settle sexual assault claims.

Hockey Canada also appointed former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell to conduct a review of its governance.

An interim report of recommendations is expected before the board's annual general meeting in November.

TAA, Salah help Liverpool ease past Rangers

Published in Soccer
Tuesday, 04 October 2022 15:10

Liverpool bounced back from Saturday's disappointing draw against Brighton and Hove Albion to ease past Rangers with a routine 2-0 victory in Champions League Group A at Anfield on Tuesday.

Goals either side of half-time by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Mohamed Salah sent Liverpool second in the group, below Napoli who thrashed Jurgen Klopp's side 4-1 earlier in the competition.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (U.S.)

A minute silence was held prior to kick-off in tribute of the people that lost their lives during the tragic crowd crush which happened at a football match in Indonesia on Saturday.

It didn't take long for the home side to take the lead, Alexander-Arnold answered his recent critics as he emphatically scored Liverpool's first goal seven minutes in.

Alexander-Arnold has been subject to criticism after being a regular feature in the defence of Liverpool during their slow start to the season, but he struck a perfectly-placed 25-yard free-kick into the top left corner to give Klopp's side the lead against Rangers..

Liverpool made their quality known by forcing several chances in the first half, with Darwin Nunez coming particularly close.

And seven minutes into the second half, the hosts did double their lead when Mohamed Salah scored his fourth goal of the season.

Leon King, 18, hacked down Luis Diaz in the box to award Klopp's side a penalty and Salah converted with ease to provide the two-goal cushion.

Two chances in quick succession relied upon last ditch heroics from the hosts, Kostas Tsimikas cleared off the line before the resulting corner forced a good save from Alisson.

But Liverpool's victory wasn't troubled by Rangers, who have lost all three of their opening Champions League matches.

Barca in UCL danger after 1-0 loss at Inter

Published in Soccer
Tuesday, 04 October 2022 15:10

Barcelona are in danger of failing to make it out of the Champions League group phase after a 1-0 loss to Inter Milan on Tuesday left them with just three points from three matches.

Hakan Calhanoglu scored the only goal of the game at the San Siro in first-half stoppage time to deliver a potentially all-important result in Group C.

- Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, more (U.S.)

Bayern Munich, who beat Barcelona 2-0 last time out, top the group on a perfect nine points, with Inter second on six, ahead of Barca. Viktoria Plzen are still without a point.

Inter and Barcelona will meet again next week, this time at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona have now failed to score in four of their last five Champions League games. And despite Xavi Hernandez's side having almost 70% possession throughout Tuesday's encounter, it was Inter who had the clearer opportunities on goal in the first half.

Calhanoglu delivered a warning shot in the seventh minute when his first-time blast from 30 yards required a diving save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen to tip it over the bar.

Right before half-time, the Turkish midfielder gave Ter Stegen no chance from just outside the box. Barcelona were unable to clear the ball before it was eventually worked to Calhanoglu who drilled a shot into the bottom corner.

Inter had the ball in the net even earlier, too, only for the offside flag to go up and rule out Angel Correa's effort after he broke clear and rounded Ter Stegen.

It took until the 61st minute for the visitors to seriously threaten the Inter goal. A neat Barcelona move saw the ball shifted to Ousmane Dembele on the left of the box but his powerful effort came back off the base of the near post.

As Barcelona continued to push forward, Dembele was prominently involved again minutes later.

The winger's run and cross deflected into the path of Pedri who rolled the ball into the empty net. However, a VAR review showed that the ball struck Ansu Fati's hand before reaching Pedri, meaning Inter retained their narrow advantage.

VAR again frustrated Barcelona in stoppage time at the end of the game.

Play was stopped as officials reviewed a potential handball in the penalty area from Inter's Denzel Dumfries to redirect a cross but no penalty was awarded, leaving Barcelona facing an uphill task in their final three group games.

USA Curling backs CEO Plush after NWSL report

Published in Breaking News
Tuesday, 04 October 2022 14:49

EAGAN, Minn. -- USA Curling says CEO Jeff Plush "acted in accordance with prioritizing the safety of athletes" during his tenure as leader of the National Women's Soccer League, where an investigation uncovered years of systemic emotional abuse and sexual misconduct.

The curling board met Monday after a report on the independent investigation into the abuses in women's soccer.

The soccer investigation found Plush, who was commissioner of the NWSL from 2014 to 2017, was aware of allegations of sexual harassment and coercion against Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, but did not do anything to prevent Riley from continuing to coach in the league. Former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates, who led the soccer investigation, said Plush did not respond to requests for an interview.

In a news release, the curling board said it would "navigate forward in a way that reviews fact and prioritizes safety for all."

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland sent a letter to staff that said the federation was in contact with USA Curling about the investigations.

"We understand they are reviewing the findings of this investigation as well as the findings of their own investigation conducted previously" about Plush's role at NWSL, Hirshland wrote.

The USOPC was forced into sweeping reforms in the wake of sexual abuse scandals, including that former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who sexually abused hundreds of female gymnasts.

"Our resolve to make Olympic and Paralympic sport participation safe for everyone guides our work every day," Hirshland said. "And yet we know, this work is never done."

The report on the soccer investigation said Thorns player Mana Shim informed Plush in 2015 about Riley's advances, as well as his retaliation when she asked him to stop. Plush forwarded Shim's email to U.S. Soccer, but the league took no action against Riley.

Welcome to Week 5 of the NFL regular season.

Our power panel -- a group of more than 80 writers, editors and TV personalities -- evaluated how teams are stacking up through four weeks and named a new No. 1 team for the second week in a row.

The updated rankings reflect that the Dallas Cowboys are surviving without Dak Prescott, who could return in Week 5, as they climb back up the list. It also reflects the Miami Dolphins' loss on Thursday night to the Cincinnati Bengals after quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (concussion) left the game on a stretcher. Tagovailoa already has been ruled out for Week 5. There are also 15 teams this week that have a 2-2 record.

Below, we checked in with NFL Nation reporters across the league and asked what the biggest issue faced by each team's defense is. From injuries to defending the run, every team has something it can improve on. We paired each response with the team's defensive efficiency rating and where that stacks up in the league. Defensive efficiency, powered by ESPN's Football Power Index, is rated on a 0-100 scale, based on the defense's contribution to scoring margin on per-play basis and adjusted for strength of opposing offenses faced.

So, let's get to it. Here's our new No. 1 team:

Jump to a team:
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF

1. Kansas City Chiefs (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 4

Defensive efficiency: 62.7
League rank: 9th

The biggest issue on defense is ... forcing turnovers.

The Chiefs have taken the ball from their opponent just four times. Only four teams have forced fewer turnovers, and all of them have losing records. The Chiefs are doing a nice job of pressuring the quarterback, so it figures the turnovers will come. In the meantime, the Chiefs have made the most of their four turnovers. They converted each into a touchdown. -- Adam Teicher

2. Buffalo Bills (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 2

Defensive efficiency: 69.1
League rank: 5th

The biggest issue on defense is ... injuries.

The Bills' defense is ranked in the top five of almost every major category -- with third-down defense (41.3%, 19th) being one of a few concerns. But what has also stood out is how many injuries the Bills have accumulated, especially in the secondary. Cornerback Dane Jackson and safety Jordan Poyer have returned, but CB Christian Benford is still dealing with a right hand injury, S Micah Hyde (neck) is out for the season, DT Ed Oliver is recovering from a right ankle injury and CB Tre'Davious White continues to rehab a torn ACL in his left knee. -- Alaina Getzenberg

3. Philadelphia Eagles (4-0)

Week 4 ranking: 3

Defensive efficiency: 85.7
League rank: 1st

The biggest issue on defense is ... injuries to the secondary.

Even that's a reach, as corners Darius Slay (forearm) and Avonte Maddox (right ankle) are expected back soon. But there's little to pick apart. The Eagles are first in sacks (16), tied for first in takeaways (10), third in yards allowed (277.3 per game) and 10th in points allowed (17.8). They look really solid from front to back, even with safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, acclimating to a new position and team. -- Tim McManus

4. Green Bay Packers (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 7

Defensive efficiency: 57.9
League rank: 13th

The biggest issue on defense is ... getting gouged on the ground, again.

Not only are the Packers allowing nearly 5 yards per rush, but they're having troubling bringing runners down. There are only three teams allowing more rushing yards after contact than the Packers. This was an issue last year, and it continues to be one this season. -- Rob Demovsky

5. Miami Dolphins (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 1

Defensive efficiency: 46.2
League rank: 22nd

The biggest issue on defense is ... defending the pass.

Miami currently has the second-worst pass defense in the NFL through its first four games, although that hasn't translated to the scoreboard. The Dolphins have been stout against the run, and the numbers they've given up are a bit skewed considering Josh Allen's 63 pass attempts in Week 3 and Lamar Jackson's prolific first half in Week 2. Presumably, they'll return to form once Byron Jones returns from the physically unable to perform list -- which he's eligible to do this week. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

6. Los Angeles Rams (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 5

Defensive efficiency: 58.2
League rank: 12th

The biggest issue on defense is ... injuries to the secondary.

The Rams have their best cornerback healthy (Jalen Ramsey) but have been dealing with several injuries in the secondary early in the season. The Rams were without cornerbacks Troy Hill (IR), David Long Jr. and Cobie Durant on Monday night against the 49ers, although they did get safety Jordan Fuller back. Los Angeles' defense, which ranked second in Football Outsiders' rush DVOA going into the Week 4 matchup, ranks significantly worse against the pass (23rd in the NFL). The Rams do have four interceptions this season. -- Sarah Barshop

7. Minnesota Vikings (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 9

Defensive efficiency: 39.6
League rank: 27th

The biggest issue on defense is ... soft coverage.

Vikings opponents are catching 75% of their targeted passes, the second-highest rate in the NFL. Of the 97 pass completions against them, 69 have come by receivers who have at least three yards of separation at the time of the throw, the fourth-highest total in the league. -- Kevin Seifert

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 8

Defensive efficiency: 76.1
League rank: 2nd

The biggest issue on defense is ... sluggish starts.

The Bucs have given up 27 total points in the first quarter through four weeks -- fourth most in the league -- yet their 68 total points given up would be fifth fewest. Players and coaches have talked about the need to communicate more from the get-go, and not just as the game progresses. It didn't help that they spotted the Chiefs 14 points with two lost fumbles in Week 4. -- Jenna Laine

9. Baltimore Ravens (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 6

Defensive efficiency: 52.3
League rank: 16th

The biggest issue on defense is ... finishing the game.

The Ravens have lost two games this season in which they have led by 17 points or more because they can't stop teams late in games. In the second half, Baltimore has given up an NFL-worst 1,019 yards while allowing 67 points. The Ravens used to get offenses off the field when they had Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs forcing clutch turnovers. This season, Baltimore defenders are making it too easy with missed assignments and no consistent pass rush. In the fourth quarter, opposing quarterbacks have posted an NFL-best 88.6 QBR against the Ravens, throwing five touchdowns and getting sacked twice. -- Jamison Hensley

10. Cincinnati Bengals (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 10

Defensive efficiency: 68.2
League rank: 7th

The biggest issue on defense is ... the pass rush.

Honestly, there's very little to nitpick the Bengals' defense about. Cincinnati has one of the best defenses in the NFL. It ranks first in touchdowns allowed per drive and second in points allowed per drive. If there's one thing Cincinnati could improve, it's the pass rush. The Bengals are 26th in sacks per dropback, according to ESPN Stats & Information research, and are tied for 22nd in total sacks. But that could also be a function of how much teams are throwing against Cincinnati. Its defense has faced the third-most pass attempts in the NFL this season. -- Ben Baby

11. Dallas Cowboys (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 16

Defensive efficiency: 60.8
League rank: 10th

The biggest issue on defense is ... stopping the run.

This might be a minor quibble given how well the unit is playing as a whole. The Cowboys have not allowed 20 points in a game yet and have allowed just one touchdown in each game. But when the players say they still need to get better, slowing the run is their biggest must. They are allowing 5 yards per carry and have given up 20 runs of 10 yards or more in four games, including two runs of at least 33 yards in the past two games. With an Eagles team that runs the ball effectively in their division, the Cowboys have to get better. -- Todd Archer

12. San Francisco 49ers (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 14

Defensive efficiency: 74.5
League rank: 3rd

The biggest issue on defense is ... the 49ers' offense.

The Niners' defense has been mostly dominant for the season's first month, but the win column doesn't reflect just how good it has been. San Francisco ranks near the top of the NFL in nearly every major defensive category, but the offense has been near the bottom of the league in a number of areas, most notably points scored. If the 49ers' defense can stay reasonably healthy, they don't need an offensive juggernaut to be a contender. But they do need much more than what they've gotten thus far. -- Nick Wagoner

13. Los Angeles Chargers (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 15

Defensive efficiency: 51.0
League rank: 18th

The biggest issue on defense is ... injuries.

The Chargers' defense appeared dominant -- on paper -- entering the season. But injuries to key players have made it difficult for the unit to develop an identity through four games. Pro Bowl cornerback J.C. Jackson missed Weeks 1 and 3 after undergoing ankle surgery in August, and when he did give it a go in Week 2, he said he was playing at less than 100 percent. The Bolts are also having to adjust without Pro Bowl edge rusher Joey Bosa, who was placed on injured reserve after tearing his groin in Week 3. -- Lindsey Thiry

14. New York Giants (3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 17

Defensive efficiency: 53.6
League rank: 15th

The biggest issue on defense is ... effectively rushing the passer.

The Giants have a top-10 pass defense at the moment. But they're going to have to rush the passer more effectively if that is going to continue. The Giants are 19th in the NFL with a pass rush win rate of 41.2%. They don't have an edge rusher with more than one sack and have called the third-most blitzes (57) so far this season. It might work against the quarterbacks they faced, but life is about to get much more difficult with Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, Trevor Lawrence and Geno Smith on deck. -- Jordan Raanan

15. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 13

Defensive efficiency: 68.3
League rank: 6th

The biggest issue on defense is ... the run defense.

The Jaguars had allowed just 55 yards per game on the ground through the first three games, but gave up 210 yards and four touchdowns rushing to the Eagles on Sunday. DT Folorunso Fatukasi had been a key part of the success, but he went down with a quad injury against the Eagles and his status going forward is unclear. The Jaguars have to figure out what went wrong because they face Dameon Pierce, Jonathan Taylor and Saquon Barkley the next three weeks. -- Michael DiRocco

16. Tennessee Titans (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 18

Defensive efficiency: 47.3
League rank: 21st

The biggest issue on defense is ... allowing explosive plays.

Through four games, Tennessee has given up five plays of 40 yards or more. Four of them came through the air, which has sparked questions about the secondary. Outside of rookie Roger McCreary, all of the Titans' primary cornerbacks have been beat for explosive plays. The nickel package has struggled with veteran Terrance Mitchell and second-year player Caleb Farley finding their way as they rotate opposite of Kristian Fulton. Reinforcements could be on the way if Ugo Amadi recovers from an ankle injury that held him out of the past two games and Elijah Molden eventually returns from injured reserve. -- Turron Davenport


Derrick Henry showed why he's 'king' in Week 4

Liz Loza gives Derrick Henry his props on his stellar performance in the Titans' victory over the Colts. (edited)

17. Denver Broncos (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 12

Defensive efficiency: 65.8
League rank: 8th

The biggest issue on defense is ... the nickel package.

The Broncos had surrendered only six points in the second half of their first three games combined, so they were rolling. However, in the Week 4 loss to the Raiders, the Broncos were pushed off the ball far too often in run defense. This was especially so when Denver was forced into its nickel package on defense and the Raiders then pounded away at it. They had a pile of big gains against the nickel, including a 43-yard run by Josh Jacobs in the third quarter. Jacobs finished with 144 yards rushing with two touchdowns as the Raiders rushed for 212 yards overall. This is something that needs to be corrected for Week 5. -- Jeff Legwold

18. Cleveland Browns (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 11

Defensive efficiency: 39.5
League rank: 28

The biggest issue on defense is ... a banged-up defensive line.

Cleveland was missing three of its four starters along the defensive line in Sunday's loss to the Falcons, including star pass-rusher Myles Garrett. Coach Kevin Stefanski said Garrett could return next Sunday following last week's single-car crash. But Garrett is going to have to play through left shoulder and right biceps injuries, at least in the short term. DE Jadeveon Clowney has missed the past two games with an ankle injury. Without either, the Browns couldn't get pressure, while the Falcons ran the ball at will. With explosive offenses coming up, the D-line better healthy fast. -- Jake Trotter

19. Arizona Cardinals (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 19

Defensive efficiency: 51.0
League rank: 19th

The biggest issue on defense is ... getting home.

The Cardinals' four sacks are the fewest in the NFL, and their sacks per pass attempt rate is a league-low 2.88%. Losing Chandler Jones has taken a greater toll on Arizona's pass rush than expected. The Cardinals have been able to get to the quarterback and get their hands on him at times, as was the case against Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes, but getting opposing quarterbacks down has been a struggle. -- Josh Weinfuss

20. Seattle Seahawks (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 27

Defensive efficiency: 29.6
League rank: 31st

The biggest issue on defense is ... Jamal Adams' absence.

That's not to oversimplify what's gone wrong for Seattle's defense, which has had all sorts of issues during another awful start. The Seahawks are getting gashed against the run, in part because they're struggling in their transition to a 3-4 but also because they're missing tackles. They haven't gotten a consistent pass-rush from anyone other than linebacker Uchenna Nwosu. They're losing one-on-one matchups and committing too many penalties on the back end, where they're playing three young corners plus a backup at safety in Josh Jones because of the serious knee injury Adams suffered in the opener. A healthy Adams would be making a difference as a run defender and a pass-rusher. -- Brady Henderson

21. Atlanta Falcons (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 28

Defensive efficiency: 37.6
League rank: 29th

The biggest issue on defense is ... getting off the field on third down.

The Falcons are allowing opponents to convert 44% of third-down chances, ranking 24th out of the 32 teams. The defense has been much improved from a season ago, but this is the next step toward being the type of unit that defensive coordinator Dean Pees wants to have in Atlanta. -- Michael Rothstein

22. Las Vegas Raiders (1-3)

Week 4 ranking: 30

Defensive efficiency: 42.4
League rank: 25th

The biggest issue on defense is ... getting pass rush from someone other than Maxx Crosby.

Crosby has four of the Raiders' five sacks -- cornerback Nate Hobbs has the other -- and while that's a good early return on Las Vegas' four-year, $98.98 million investment via the extension Crosby got this offseason, the Raiders need more from the defensive line in general, Chandler Jones in particular. Jones has occupied double-teams and affected the passer, but for Crosby to remain effective, the Raiders would love for Jones, who signed a three-year, $51 million free agent deal with Las Vegas this spring, to start getting home, too. -- Paul Gutierrez

23. New York Jets (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 31

Defensive efficiency: 42.7
League rank: 24th

The biggest issue on defense is ... third-down conversions.

The Jets are allowing opponents to convert 51% of the time on third down, which ranks 31st out of 32 teams. Here's the weird part: It's not because of the pass rush. They're actually getting decent pressure on the quarterback, with a 35% pressure rate (19th) on third down. The problem is the coverage, specifically the safeties and linebackers. Cornerbacks D.J. Reed and rookie Sauce Gardner are holding up nicely on the outside, but they're giving up too many chunk plays in the middle of the field. Safety Lamarcus Joyner is coming off his best game (two interceptions), but the Jets need better coverage from S Jordan Whitehead and MLB C.J. Mosley. -- Rich Cimini

24. New Orleans Saints (1-3)

Week 4 ranking: 21

Defensive efficiency: 59.0
League rank: 11th

The biggest issue on defense is ... a consistent pass rush.

The Saints didn't have much of a pass rush to speak of to start the season, but they did get after Kirk Cousins on Sunday, finishing with three sacks. The Saints need Marcus Davenport and Cam Jordan to consistently step up, while getting production out of 2021 first-round pick Payton Turner, to have success moving forward. -- Katherine Terrell

25. Detroit Lions (1-3)

Week 4 ranking: 25

Defensive efficiency: 21.8
League rank: 32nd

The biggest issue on defense is ... points allowed.

Detroit currently leads the league in scoring but also allows the most points in the league. The defense struggles in yards per rush, red zone efficiency and third-down conversions -- ranking last in all categories. Through four games this season, Detroit has allowed 141 points (35.3 points per game), which is the second most in franchise history -- trailing only the 0-16 squad from 2008. The Lions need to make some changes immediately, and head coach Dan Campbell knows it. -- Eric Woodyard


Why Jared Goff's Week 4 fantasy performance is impressive

Liza Loza highlights how Jared Goff's completion percentage continues to improve each week.

26. Indianapolis Colts (1-2-1)

Week 4 ranking: 20

Defensive efficiency: 41.1
League rank: 26th

The biggest issue on defense is ... forcing takeaways.

The Colts' defense thrived on takeaways last season, producing 33 turnovers. But the unit ranks among the worst in the league this season in this regard, forcing just three turnovers through four games. A big reason for this is the absence of linebacker Shaquille Leonard, who made his short-lived season debut on Sunday, only to leave with a concussion in the second half. Leonard has been ruled out for Thursday night's game at Denver. -- Stephen Holder

27. New England Patriots (1-3)

Week 4 ranking: 23

Defensive efficiency: 46.0
League rank: 23rd

The biggest issue on defense is ... defending the run.

After Baltimore totaled 126 yards in the second half in Week 3, and Green Bay totaled 199 yards on 35 carries overall in Week 4, it has exposed a vulnerability for the Patriots. Losing sturdy DT Lawrence Guy to a shoulder injury is a contributing factor, but that alone doesn't fully explain the alarming past six quarters the defense has played against the run. The linebacker play has struggled too, leading to veteran Jamie Collins' return to the team on Monday. -- Mike Reiss

28. Chicago Bears (2-2)

Week 4 ranking: 22

Defensive efficiency: 51.9
League rank: 17th

The biggest issue on defense is ... run defense.

The Bears are the NFL's worst team against the run, having allowed 733 rushing yards through four games (183.3 yards per game), and are on pace to reach historically low marks. As if getting gashed by Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon wasn't enough to have the Bears licking their wounds after a Week 2 loss at Green Bay, Giants running back Saquon Barkley totaled 145 yards on 31 carries and earned 94 of his rushing yards after first contact in Week 4. -- Courtney Cronin

29. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3)

Week 4 ranking: 24

Defensive efficiency: 54.3
League rank: 14th

The biggest issue on defense is ... no T.J. Watt.

After dropping three straight, there are plenty of issues to point to on the defensive side, but the root of it stems from Watt's absence. Since the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year tore his pectoral at the end of regulation in Week 1, the Steelers have given up an average of 23 points per game and recorded just three total sacks. Watt is the cog in the defense that makes everything go, and without a formidable pass rush, the rest of the defense isn't succeeding in picking up the slack. -- Brooke Pryor

30. Washington Commanders (1-3)

Week 4 ranking: 26

Defensive efficiency: 36.3
League rank: 30

The biggest issue on defense is ... allowing big plays.

Washington has surrendered an NFL-best 12 plays of 30 yards or more -- 10 of those have been pass plays -- often because of blown coverages. Dallas' struggling offense managed three pass plays of at least that length. On the Cowboys' opening drive, one pass went for 31 yards while the other five plays managed a combined 9 yards. Sometimes inexperience has led to the big plays, but other times it's just corners getting beat, whether outright or because they anticipated help that didn't arrive. The concerning part for Washington is that it lacks corner depth and its starters are both established vets -- Kendall Fuller and William Jackson III. -- John Keim

31. Carolina Panthers (1-3)

Week 4 ranking: 29

Defensive efficiency: 69.3
League rank: 4th

The biggest issue on defense is ... the fourth quarter.

The Panthers are allowing 10.5 points a game in the final quarter to rank among the worst in the league. That's been costly for a team that continues to lose close games, and fatigue might be a problem. The offense has been so bad with three-and-outs and turnovers that the defense continues to be forced back on the field. Sunday's 26-16 loss to Arizona was a prime example as the Cardinals had the ball for just over 38 minutes to 21:25 for Carolina. -- David Newton

32. Houston Texans (0-3-1)

Week 4 ranking: 32

Defensive efficiency: 47.6
League rank: 20th

The biggest issue on defense is ... defending the run.

The Texans are allowing 5.1 yards per carry and have allowed 688 total rushing yards, the second most in the NFL. They've allowed 34 first downs on the ground, the third most in the NFL. It's one of the many reasons they're winless, and it has made them vulnerable in the play-action game, too. They've allowed 415 yards off play-action, which is the fourth most in the NFL. -- DJ Bien-Aime

Suns likely to fetch record sale price, bankers say

Published in Basketball
Tuesday, 04 October 2022 15:32

As Robert Sarver prepares to sell the NBA's Phoenix Suns and WNBA's Phoenix Mercury, investment bank officials who have managed the sales of professional sports franchises told ESPN that they expect the transaction's final price to set a record.

"It'll be the highest price ever paid for an NBA team," one investment bank official said.

Joe Tsai bought the Brooklyn Nets for an NBA-record $2.35 billion in 2019. Prior to that sale, Tilman Fertitta purchased the Houston Rockets for $2.2 billion in 2017, with Steve Ballmer buying the LA Clippers for $2 billion in 2014.

Factors playing into a potential record bid could be the Suns' warm-weather climate, the team's proximity to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Bay Area, as well as a new practice facility and renovated arena. Additional factors include a new television rights deal and CBA on the horizon, plus the NBA's young and growing global audience and the potential for new expansion teams in Seattle and Las Vegas.

"There's going to be a tremendous amount of interest," an investment bank official said.

Sarver has chosen the investment bank Moelis and Co. to oversee the sale, a source close to the situation confirmed to ESPN. Sportico reported Monday that Sarver had chosen the bank. A spokesperson for Moelis and Co. declined to comment.

Moelis served as a financial adviser in the May 2022 sale of Chelsea Football Club to a consortium led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, which bought the team for $5.3 billion. Moelis also acted as a financial adviser in the 2015 sale of the Atlanta Hawks to a group led by Tony Ressler for $850 million.

In recent days, Suns executive vice president and CFO Jim Pitman relayed to team employees that a fully executed sale of the team could take six to nine months, team sources said. That timeline would stretch through the 2022-23 season.

The Suns did not respond to a request for comment. The NBA declined comment.

Investment bank officials have been in contact with Sarver on behalf of potential bidders, team sources said, including reaching out on the day that Sarver announced his intent to sell.

Once a final bidder is chosen, that person -- or group -- must be approved by the NBA, which will conduct financial, personal and criminal background checks. For any transfer of ownership to be complete, the NBA Board of Governors will vote, with approval requiring a three-fourths majority.

Sarver, the majority owner of both the Suns and Mercury, announced Sept. 21 that he was seeking buyers for both franchises. That came in the wake of an NBA investigation into allegations of misconduct by Sarver, who had been suspended one year and fined $10 million.

The NBA commissioned that investigation in the wake of an ESPN story in November 2021 detailing allegations of racism and misogyny during Sarver's 17 years as owner.

Suns vice chairman and minority owner Sam Garvin is the team's interim governor. Sarver owns about a third of the franchise, but he has the authority as the team's managing partner to sell the team in full.

Jerry Colangelo, who sold the team to a group led by Sarver in 2004 for a then-record $401 million, told ESPN that he's optimistic about the franchise's path ahead.

"I believe this -- it's one of the great markets in the country as it relates to the future," Colangelo said. "It was a great free agent destination at one time. There's no reason why it can't be going forward."

Nats GM calls Strasburg's 2023 status 'a mystery'

Published in Baseball
Tuesday, 04 October 2022 14:51

NEW YORK -- Stephen Strasburg's status for 2023 is up in the air after a series of injuries that limited him to one start this season, Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said Tuesday.

"It's still a little bit of a mystery," Rizzo said about the 2019 World Series MVP before the Nationals were scheduled to play a doubleheader at the New York Mets. "I know that he's working hard strengthening his core and the other parts of his body. We're just going to have to see. With the type of surgery and rehab that he's had, it's unfamiliar to us. It's unfamiliar to a lot of people. We're going to have to take it day by day."

The 34-year-old right-hander has thrown a total of 31 1/3 innings across just eight starts over the past three seasons combined. He had carpal tunnel surgery in 2020, then needed an operation to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in 2021.

After his only start of 2022, he went back on the injured list with a stress reaction of the ribs.

"We'll have to see where the rehab process takes us later on in the winter," Rizzo said. "We're going to monitor him. He's local, so we'll see him all the time and we'll see where he's at going into spring training mode."

Strasburg is a three-time All-Star who signed a $245 million contract after helping Washington win a championship in 2019.

He is 113-62 with a 3.24 ERA for his career.

Meeting with reporters toward the end of a rough season -- Washington entered Tuesday with a majors-worst and Nationals-worst record of 55-104 and shipped away the team's best player, outfielder Juan Soto, at the trade deadline -- Rizzo talked about doing "an autopsy of the organization."

"I look at the season as a disappointment. I've always said that you are what your record says you are, and our record says we're the worst team in the league right now. It's hard to argue with that," Rizzo said. "The flip side of that is we're in a process."

Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez were given contract extensions during the season. Martinez said Tuesday his entire coaching staff will return next year.

Mets could start deGrom with shot at first place

Published in Baseball
Tuesday, 04 October 2022 14:51

NEW YORK -- If the Mets have a shot at finishing in first place in the National League East on Wednesday, manager Buck Showalter said that ace Jacob deGrom could start the season finale.

"He's available to pitch [Wednesday]. Potentially could," Showalter said. "It's one of many options that have been communicated with him and Max and all the guys."

If the Mets choose to start deGrom, they would forgo the opportunity to give their ace extra time to rest for one of the first two games of a potential wild-card series.

"We'll make the adjustment. I'm OK with that," Showalter said. "Just keep trying to stay organized for any pivots you have to make. There are lot of potential scenarios."

Showalter said he was fine with the possibility of playing the season finale on Thursday -- potentially a day before the wild-card series is supposed to kick off -- because it would mean the division is still at play.

"It's a good thing, right?" Showalter said. "What's the downside of that? Right, so just win. I think we would all sign up for that."

The Mets would need some good fortune if they hope to win the division. If the Mets lose or the Braves win, Atlanta will take first place in the division. But if the Marlins sweep the Braves, the Mets could win the division by sweeping the Nationals.

In deGrom's appearance on Friday, the future Hall of Famer went six innings against the Braves, allowing three runs on three home runs and five hits while striking out 11 and walking none in a 5-2 loss. The Braves went on to sweep New York in three games, taking control of the NL East in the final week of the season.

Showalter said he spoke to outfielder Starling Marte, who's unable to grip a bat or a baseball, and said the finger that landed the outfielder on the injured list is improving "little by little."

"Still got some discomfort there," Showalter said. "It's very frustrating for him."

Despite the lack of progress, Showalter would not rule out Marte for a potential wild-card series.

Showalter said that reliever Mychal Givens is available to be activated off the injured list, but the Mets have not yet made the move.

Emma Raducanu is out of the Ostrava Open after losing to fifth seed Daria Kasatkina in the first round.

The 19-year-old lost 7-5 6-4 against Russian world number 11 Kasatkina.

The defeat comes after British number one Raducanu retired injured from her Korea Open semi-final against Jelena Ostapenko on 24 September.

Raducanu has struggled with injuries during her first full year on the WTA tour as she seeks to build on her 2021 US Open victory.

Kasatkina will play fellow Russian Ekaterina Alexandrova in the next round.

But there was British success elsewhere for Dan Evans and Harriet Dart.

Evans beat Moldova's Radu Albot 6-7 (3-7) 6-1 6-4 at the Rakuten Open in Tokyo while Dart beat Spain's Nuria Parrizas-Dias 6-2 6-4 at the Jasmin Open in Tunisia.

There was also a shock defeat for world number one Carlos Alcaraz at the Astana Open in Kazakhstan.

Belgian David Goffin won 7-5 6-3 to hand 19-year-old Alcaraz his first straight-set defeat of the season.

"I always believe that I have the level to cause some trouble against those guys," said Goffin, whose world ranking is 66.

"When you play against the world number one on a big stage, big crowd, the fire inside gives you so much power to play your best tennis because you don't have any choice.

"You have to fight and give your best and that was the case today."

Group Stage Completed in Chengdu

Published in Table Tennis
Tuesday, 04 October 2022 09:45

Four years since the World Team Championships was most recently staged, times have changed.

On Tuesday 4th October, as the main draw was conducted for the 2022 ITTF World Team Championships Finals Chengdu presented by China Telecom, eyes focused very much on the teams, who in that period of time, have risen in status.

In the men’s event, Slovenia who finished in second place in their men’s team group, behind China, face Portugal in the opening round; for Slovenia, Darko Jorgic, winner of the Europe Top 16 Cup earlier in the year, may well prove pivotal in a fixture too close to call.

“I’m really happy with our performance here. We lost only against China; this is normal. We gave everything we could, they were just much better than us”, said Jorgic. “In other matches, we were favourites. We gave it all from the beginning till the end. I’m really happy with our performance here, and I’m really happy that we qualified in the round 16 for the first time.”

Likewise, it was group runners up spot for Brazil who confront Japan; in their concluding group contest they overcame Slovakia. Hugo Calderano remained unbeaten in the group stage, Vitor Ishiy and Eric Jouti provided valuable support.

“We were fighting for the second place in this match”, reflected Ishiy. “It’s nice to go to the last 16 with the victory.”

Similarly, it was second group spot for Egypt behind the Republic of Korea; they oppose Hong Kong, China, a contest Mohamed El-Beiali relishes. “We’re very happy to be in such a big stage, we’re looking forward to the knockout stage. No matter who we meet, we’ll try our best and win.”

Delighted to be breaking new ground, in the women’s team event it is no different; pride of place going the small Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico, second in their group behind China. In round one they face Germany.

Daniely Rios, who against both Malaysia and the United States had been the heroine, on each occasion winning the vital fifth match of the fixture, reflected the mood of Puerto Rico.

“We are in the best 16 in the World Championships, I am so happy for that. I’m really happy that we made it for first time ever; this is history for my team. If my kids see this in the future, they will say ‘she made it!’”

New horizons for Puerto Rico but even if your team has been there before; progress to the last 16 of a World Championships is still very special.

Soo Wai Yam Minnie underlined the importance for Hong Kong, China, in the women’s event; a team bolstered by their bronze medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

“It’s my second time participating a World Championships”, said Soo who four years ago in Halmstad beat the redoubtable Ding Ning, at time Olympic champion, in the semi-final encounter against China. “I really enjoy working together with my teammates,” she added. “We will try our best no matter what opponents we play against in the future.”

Hong Kong, China, faces Romania in round one, a nation who excellence in the sport dates back to the very beginnings of the sport.

Buoyant players, but the example is set by China, in the men’s event India provides the opening round adversary; in the women’s it is Hungary. They are the clear favourites to retain their titles but as Wang Manyu explained there is no complacency.

“We believe that we will face many difficulties in the second stage, and we will be fully prepared”, explained Wang. “Most importantly, all the team members will stay united and play even better.”

Play the opening round of both the men’s and women’s events commences on Wednesday 5th October.

The schedule for round of 16 for both the men’s and women’s events is available here. Follow all the action here, access key info in the media guide here, and obtain free photos for editorial use here.


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