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NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS closing locker rooms amid virus scare

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MIAMI (AP) The NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer are closing access to locker rooms and clubhouses to all nonessential personnel, including media, in response to the coronavirus crisis, the leagues announced in a joint statement Monday night.

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They said they made the decision “after consultation with infectious disease and public health experts.” The NBA, in a call with teams earlier Monday, stressed that the move is not to ban reporters but to ensure the safety of players and staff in those areas.

The statement, in part, read: “Given the issues that can be associated with close contact in pre- and post-game settings, all team locker rooms and clubhouses will be open only to players and essential employees of teams and team facilities until further notice. Media access will be maintained in designated locations outside of the locker room and clubhouse setting.”

The changes, which the leagues say are temporary, will begin Tuesday – though some NHL teams began putting them into use this past weekend and the Buffalo Sabres did the same on Monday night. The NBA said interviews with players would continue in different settings, stressing a gap of 6-to-8 feet between reporters and interview subjects.

“I don’t know that we have our arms around how significant of an issue this is at this point, so if the league is recommending or their policy is we want to take step by step type precautions, then we want to go along with that,” Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said.

It is unclear how long the new policies will last.

“No disrespect, but that’s the last thing I’m worried about,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said prior to Denver’s NBA game against Milwaukee on Monday night.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

“Roses are red, Violets are blue, Wash your hands! WASH YOUR HANDS!” Enes Kanter of the Boston Celtics wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, there is already a clear sense of the new normal in the U.S.

The Miami Heat held their annual gala at a theater in Miami Beach on Monday night, albeit a bit differently than usual. The team’s three NBA championship trophies were near the entrance – with someone standing by with a bottle of hand sanitizer. And guests, when they arrived, were offered champagne by some attendants, more hand sanitizer by others.

“Until the league says something else, we are business as usual with a tremendous amount of caution and prevention to make sure everybody’s safe,” Heat President Pat Riley said Monday night. “But also, educating them that they’ve got to do the same thing.”

The NBA held a call with team medical staffs later Monday night and scheduled a Wednesday call between league officials and team owners to discuss next steps. The NBA told teams last week to prepare for the possibility of playing games in empty arenas, something the game’s biggest star – Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James – insists he does not want to see.

“I doubt that that’s going to happen,” Riley said. “But you have to be prepared.”

MLB officials, like the NBA, held a conference call with all 30 of its franchises on Monday to discuss the new policies. All four leagues – and the NFL, which has been involved in the talks but isn’t part of this policy since no teams are currently holding practices – are collecting information from the CDC and Canadian health officials, even as the situation changes almost on an hour-by-hour basis.

“We are regularly conveying the guidance from these experts to clubs, players, and staff regarding prevention, good hygiene practices and the latest recommendations related to travel,” MLB said in a statement. “We are continuing to monitor developments and will adjust as necessary. While MLB recognizes the fluidity of this rapidly evolving situation, our current intention is to play Spring Training and regular season games as scheduled.”

More than 113,000 people worldwide have tested positive for the disease and over 3,900 people with the virus have died, most of them in China. More than 62,000 people have already recovered. The virus has infected 600 people in the United States – including the director of the agency that runs the airports in New York and New Jersey – and at least 26 have died, most in Washington state.

The Pro Basketball Writers Association quickly responded to the leagues’ announcement by saying its membership “believes the safety of fans, players, team employees, arena workers and the media who cover the league must be protected. Our thoughts are with all people who already have been adversely impacted by the virus.

“Therefore, we understand the NBA’s decision to temporarily close locker rooms to everyone but players and essential team personnel with the NBA’s promise that once the coronavirus crisis abates, the league will restore full access to the journalists who cover the league.”

Some NCAA Division III men’s basketball games this past weekend were played without crowds because of concerns over the virus. At least one college hockey playoff series this coming weekend in Troy, New York, between RPI and Harvard also will be played without fans.

AP Baseball Walker Ben Walker in New York; AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow in Buffalo, New York; and AP Sports Writers Arnie Stapleton in Denver and Jake Seiner in Surprise, Arizona, contributed.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Bayern Munich win streak stopped short of Guinness World Record

Bayern Munich streak
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The Guinness World Record people can cancel their midweek trip to Munich, unless they want to go for pleasure in place of business.

Coritiba’s 2011 world record for wins (24) is safe after Bayern Munich failed to match it in a 4-1 loss to Hoffenheim on Sunday at PreZero Arena, also ending a 32-match unbeaten run for Hansi Flick’s Bavarians.

[ MORE: Schalke fires Wagner ]

Maybe a slightly-weakened Bayern was weary from Thursday’s UEFA Super Cup defeat of Sevilla in Hungary.

Maybe Bayern men overlooked Hoffenheim with Wednesday’s German Super Cup date with rivals Borussia Dortmund on the docket

Or maybe it was just inevitable given the quality of football teams in the world and the fact that Hoffenheim played pretty well.

Regardless, Bayern made it five big German teams to drop points this week when Andrej Kramaric scored twice to join Munas Dabbur and Ermin Bicakcic in sending Hoffenheim to all three points (Borussia Dortmund lost Saturday, while Leipzig, Gladbach, and Bayer Leverkusen all drew).

Joshua Kimmich was good as usual for Bayern and brought the score to 2-1 by halftime, but Kramaric’s goals came in the 77th minute and deep in stoppage time as Hoffenheim overcame 28 percent possession to win.

Robert Lewandowski and Leon Goretzka started on the bench in favor of Joshua Zirkzee and Corentin Tolisso, but entered the match in the 57th minute and could not produce an equalizer.

Hoffenheim joins Augsburg as the lone 2-0 teams in the Bundesliga, though Freiburg can join them Sunday with a win over Wolfsburg. All the burgs.

Newcastle’s Bruce: Handball rule ‘nonsense’ hurting the game

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Given most of the words coming out of Steve Bruce’s mouth, you would’ve thought the penalty given late in a 1-1 draw between Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United hurt his side.

But Bruce did not mince words when asked about VAR awarding Newcastle a stoppage-time penalty for Andy Carroll’s late header onto the back of Eric Dier’s arm that allowed Callum Wilson to take a point for the Magpies at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

[ MORE: Match recap | Mourinho reacts ]

In fact, toss in the penalty given against Crystal Palace’s Joel Ward on Saturday and Bruce thinks the managers should approach the Premier League and demand change.

“I can understand why Spurs are going to go berserk and the way Roy Hodgson reacted yesterday,” Bruce said after the game. “It’s a total nonsense. Look we got one today and we should be jumping for joy and through hoops but I’d be devastated if it was against us. The handball rule has been around for years but the decisions are, for me, ruining the spectacles. It’s great for me today but I think we have to get together as the managers, coaches and go to the Premier League and say it must stop.”‘

What will the Premier League do about the rule and how VAR interprets it? Stay tuned…

Newcastle moves to 1-1-1 on the season to match Spurs but the Magpies did little to deserve the point aside from Karl Darlow’s 11-save day between the sticks.

It was Newcastle’s first penalty conversion after missing the only one awarded to them in 2019-20 and two of three in 2018-19.

Mourinho: Spurs’ Son out ‘a while’; Comments on VAR controversy

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Tottenham boss Jose Mourinho was enraged as VAR and FIFA’s odd handball rule conspired with a magnificent performance from Newcastle’s backup goalkeeper to take points away from Spurs in stoppage time on Sunday.

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce wasn’t too happy either, calling it “a total nonsense” despite the decision helping his Magpies to a point.

[ RECAP: Spurs 1-1 Newcastle ]

Spurs dominated but only Lucas Moura found a way past Newcastle’s Karl Darlow on an 11-save day at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

That looked like it would be enough until Newcastle’s Andy Carroll nodded a free kick onto the arm of Eric Dier, who was not facing the play, and Callum Wilson smashed home the spot kick.

“I can understand why Spurs are going to go berserk and the way Roy Hodgson reacted yesterday,” Bruce said after the game. “It’s a total nonsense.”

Mourinho tried not to comment too much on the incident except to imply that Spurs get worse calls in their 18 than other teams.

“Every box is 18-yard box but we know that the Tottenham box is a special box so we managed to keep them a-ways away,” he said. “And we had that situation where we lost two points but I’m not going to comment.”

Mourinho refused to be drawn into the handball discussion on television after the game, giving praise to his team and wishing not earn a fine.

“I don’t want to speak about it. If I want to give some money away, I give to charities. I don’t want to give to the FA,” he said.

“I think about my team performance. Very good. First half, amazing. Should be three-, four-nil easy but Darlow was fantastic. We hit the post and they managed to survive. In the second half we kept control and kept them from the box.”

Mourinho also said that star forward Heung-min Son will miss “a while” with a hamstring injury, as the rain is pouring down on North London.

Son has been wonderful this season and was in a particularly rich vein of form after scoring four times last weekend and starring in Thursday’s Europa League win in Macedonia.

Gareth Bale will hope to heal even quicker now.

Newcastle backup GK Darlow, VAR steal point from wasteful Spurs

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Tottenham – Newcastle United: Karl Darlow helped Newcastle United stick around and VAR helped them go level as the Magpies committed larceny in a 1-1 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in North London on Sunday.

Darlow made 11 saves, seven of which came from shots inside the box as Spurs out-attempted Newcastle 23-6.

[ MORE: Mourinho livid | Bruce, too! ]

The visitors got a penalty off an unknowing Eric Dier handball and Callum Wilson beat Hugo Lloris deep in stoppage time to earn a point and move Newcastle and Spurs to 1-1-1 on the season.

Lucas Moura put Spurs ahead but they could not find a second goal following a 10-day span which saw them play in Bulgaria and Macedonia.

Tottenham lost Heung-min Son to a hamstring injury and Jose Mourinho said the South Korean will be “out a while.”

Newcastle beat Spurs 1-0 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last season, as Steve Bruce has now taken points from Mauricio Pochettino and Mourinho.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  


Three things we learned: Tottenham – Newcastle United

1. What travel? Spurs have played matches in England, Bulgaria, and Macedonia over the last 10 days, so a sluggish start might’ve been expected in North London. Instead, Jose Mourinho’s men raged out of the gates and could’ve been up 4-0 inside of a half-hour if not for Karl Darlow’s success in limiting the damage to one.

2. Oh, that travel: Spurs’ second half was significantly lackluster and Newcastle stuck around albeit with a distinct lack of threat. Introductions of Jamal Lewis, Jacob Murphy, and Andy Carroll ultimately did affect the game as the big Geordie’s header went off Dier’s arm for the equalizing penalty.

3. VAR has its new storyline: If you thought changes to the handball rule had straightened-out any controversy with VAR, you were sorely mistaken. Eric Dier had an Andy Carroll header hit the back of his splayed arm. VAR asked the head referee to go to the television screen after the play was ruled onside despite challenging visual evidence, and he gave the penalty to Newcastle for 1-1.

Man of the Match

Darlow. Spurs were credited with four big chances (SofaScore) and scored once to go with 11 saves for Martin Dubravka’s backup.


Tottenham – Newcastle United recap

Karl Darlow made two quick stops in a solid defiance of a Tottenham free kick from Giovani Lo Celso and a rebound effort from Harry Kane, then stymying a point-blank Harry Kane header.

Moura gave Spurs a deserved lead in the 25th as Kane slid a cross through the six and Newcastle’s backs were nowhere to be found.

Matt Ritchie was at the back post for that Spurs goal and was slow to react on what became a 2v1 chance broken up by Jamaal Lascelles.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Son that rattled the bar in the 42nd as Tottenham seemed well on its way to a blowout win but could not find the second marker.

Newcastle’s only real danger came on a Jonjo Shelvey volley that missed the far post in first-half stoppage. Would it be a cakewalk? Kinda-sorta.

Newcastle was wrongly-awarded a corner kick that ended with Joelinton ripping wide of the far post but the Magpies mostly struggled to manufacture danger despite Spurs growing weary in the second 45.

That’s when the late penalty call came via VAR. Dier dodged one late handball in the box but not a second in a call that will increase the attention paid to the handball.