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MLB and WNBA Support Black Lives Matter Movement and Honor Breonna Taylor

July 27, 2020
MINNESOTA LYNX/TWITTER
MINNESOTA LYNX/TWITTER

The GIST: Baseball and basketball regular seasons began this weekend, and while the season starts were fun to watch, it was the leagues’ calls for social justice that really blew us away.

What happened?: The MLB had been relatively quiet during the recent Black Lives Matter protests, but support for the movement was abundant this weekend. “BLM” has been stamped into pitchers' mounds, players can choose to wear a “Black Lives Matter” patch on their jerseys and many players knelt before games after messages of unity played on the loudspeaker. Unprecedented, and long overdue.

  • After Dr. Fauci’s cringeworthy pitch started the season off, Thursday’s Opening Day matchup between the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees saw all players kneel for the national anthem as they each held a single black ribbon stretched between the two teams.

Awesome. Any other MLB news?: Elsewhere in the league, the Miami Marlins had to find a new pitcher for yesterday’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, after starter Jose Urena was one of four players to test positive for COVID-19. They still won 11–6.

  • The Boston Red Sox are down a pitcher, too. Ahead of summer training, Eduardo Rodriguez tested positive for COVID-19 but was cleared to play on July 18th. Unfortunately, during a recent routine medical check, doctors found a heart issue that’s likely linked to the virus. Scary.

And in basketball?: The WNBA season started Saturday, and ahead of the opening matchup between the Seattle Storm and the New York Liberty, all players returned to their locker rooms for the anthem. Upon returning, the players stood for 26 seconds of silence in honor of Breonna Taylor, who was killed at age 26.

  • Storm’s Breanna Stewart and Liberty’s Layshia Clarendon also spoke about Taylor before the game and assured fans that her name, along with Sandra Bland, Vanessa Guillén and other victims of police brutality and racial violence, will not be forgotten.
     
  • Players will wear the names of these women on their jerseys throughout the season and will wear “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Her Name” t-shirts during pregame warm-ups. Some players even have customized “Say Her Name” shoes. Powerful.

Love it. And how were the games?: Most notably, Seattle won the season-opener 87–71 over the Liberty, which wasn’t a shock based on last season’s standings. And unsurprisingly, superstar Stewart led the Storm with 18 points while veteran point guard Clarendon led the Liberty with 20 points. What was surprising, though, was rookie Sabrina Ionescu’s (pronounced YOH-NESS-COO) relatively quiet Liberty debut.

  • Ionescu, a bonafide superstar after an unprecedented college career, put up just 12 points on Saturday, which is average by her standards. Regardless, it was so fun to see her back in action.
🤸🎾🏈🏆

Australian Gymnastics Addresses Abuse in the Sport, Halep Opts Out of Palermo Open, Tyson to Return the the Ring In Exhibition Match

July 27, 2020
GETTY IMAGES
GETTY IMAGES

Gymnastics: Following the lead of their British and American counterparts, several Australian gymnasts recently publicized their personal accounts of abuse and harassment during their time with Gymnastics Australia.

  • Former gymnast and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Chloe Gilliland released a series of Facebook messages describing some of the abuse she faced and revealing that it led to bulimia, anxiety and suicidal ideations. Horrible.
     
  • In response, Gymnastics Australia CEO Kitty Chiller released an open letter, saying the organization applauds its athletes for speaking out and acknowledging that it has plenty of work to do. Damn right.

Tennis: World No. 2 Simona Halep is caught in a sticky situation. The 2019 Wimbledon champ was supposed to headline the Palermo Open, the first WTA International series tournament scheduled since the pandemic began, but pulled out after Italy’s health ministry announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone entering the country from Romania (where Halep lives).

  • The Open’s organizers are v. upset, arguing Halep could skip the mandatory quarantine as a pro athlete. But citing “the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Romania and [her] anxieties around international air travel at this time,” Halep withdrew anyway. We were excited to see her play, but we’re much happier to see her stay healthy. Safety first!

Boxing: In this week’s “but why though?” news, Mike Tyson is getting back in the ring. The former heavyweight world champion, who just turned 54, will take on another former world champ, 51-year-old Roy Jones Jr., in an exhibition match on September 12th.

  • Tyson, who’s best known for his appearance in The Hangover films and for biting a part of Evander Holyfield’s ear off during a 1997 fight (yes, that actually happened), hasn’t boxed professionally in 15 years, but is still favored to win. TBH, we’re not really sure what to make of this. Just protect your ears, Roy.

NFL: In our continuing quest to “look for the helpers,” we’ve found our first opt-out of the upcoming NFL season. Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who last year became the first M.D. to ever win a Super Bowl, has decided to forgo the 2020 season so he can continue helping those in need. Good guys do exist!

MLB Starts Off 2020 Season with Rule Changes and Covid-19 Precautions

July 23, 2020
MARK BLINCH/GETTY IMAGES
MARK BLINCH/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Baseball is back, baby! It’s Opening Day in the MLB, and even though the Toronto Blue Jays don’t have anywhere to play, we’re still pumped that baseball’s finally back.

Wait, what?: While every other team will be playing their home games at their home stadium, the Jays still don’t have a place to play. After their request to play at the Rogers Centre in Toronto was denied by the federal government, the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are part of the National League (NL), kindly offered to share their home stadium, PNC Park, with their American League (AL) rivals. But the Pennsylvania Department of Health said, “How about no.”

  • The department said that because of the alarming increase in COVID-19 cases in the region, they just couldn’t approve allowing additional travelers in and out of the city. Fair play.

So, where does that leave the Jays?: Now the Jays will have to explore one of their three other contingency plans. If they can’t find a major league home, they’ll likely have to play at their minor league affiliate stadium in Buffalo, NY, or at their Spring Training park in Dunedin, FL. The Jays’ first “home” game is July 29th, so they better make it snappy.

Okay, now tell me about the season: You got it, but first, some basics. There are 30 teams in the MLB, and the league is divided into the National League (NL) and the American League (AL), which are further divided into three divisions: Central, East and West.

  • This MLB regular season will be a little weird, but still perfectly good (just like a two-headed carrot). Instead of the usual 162 games, they’re playing only 60 (which we’re actually fine with, TBH), and the league has introduced a few new COVID-19–inspired rule changes (including no finger licking...seriously).

Speaking of COVID-19, what’s the travel plan?: Of the 60 games, 40 will be against divisional opponents (each division has five teams) and the other 20 will be against opponents from the other league’s geographic counterpart (AL East vs. NL East, etc.), to cut down on travel.

  • And it all kicks off today with the defending champion Washington Nationals taking on the New York Yankees in D.C. (after America’s favorite doc, Dr. Fauci, throws the ceremonial opening pitch) and runs until the end of September. From there, the best 10 teams will move on to the postseason in October.

Who should I watch out for?: There are two heavy favorites to win the World Series: the Yankees and their cross-country rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

  • Both teams stacked their rosters in the offseason, with the Yankees signing star pitcher (and new dad!) Gerrit Cole, and the Dodgers signing star right fielder Mookie Betts (who, just yesterday, agreed to a jaw-dropping $365 million, 12-season extension).

Tell me straight: do the Jays have a chance?: Honestly, not really. But with a young roster, who really knows? New pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu, who the Jays picked up in the offseason, was the earned run average (ERA) leader last season and should be exactly who the Jays need on the mound.

Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars to Face Off in Challenge Cup Final

July 23, 2020
HOUSTON DASH/TWITTER
HOUSTON DASH/TWITTER

The GIST: The NWSL season has just one game left — the Challenge Cup final! — but dang, we miss it already. After an exciting month of amazing soccer, it all comes down to the Houston Dash and the Chicago Red Stars.

How’d they get here?: The Dash earned a hard fought 1–0 win against Portland Thorns FC in the first of yesterday’s two semifinals. Rachel Daly scored her third goal of the tournament to give the Dash the W and move herself into a tie for most goals scored. One more in the final could win her the Golden Boot.

  • In the second semi, the Red Stars came out v. strong, scoring three straight goals. Still, Sky Blue FC tried to claw their way back and ended up making it a 3–2 game. A for effort.

Who’s going to win the Cup?: This Cup has been nothing if not unpredictable, so we’re hesitant to pick a winner. Also, confession time: we have a soft spot for both teams. Despite having a strong roster, the Dash have never finished better than fifth place in a season and have never even made the playoffs before. Who doesn’t love an underdog?

  • The Red Stars, on the other hand, have been here before. They almost tasted victory last season, when they found themselves in the final against the North Carolina Courage. The Courage ended up with the win then, so we’d love to see the Red Stars finally get their championship.

Any other NWSL news?: Oh heck yeah! A new Los-Angeles expansion team was announced on Tuesday: Angel City will officially join the NWSL in 2022. And get this: the megastar ownership group includes former U.S. women’s national team stars Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach and celebs such as Eva Longoria, Jennifer Garner, Uzo Aduba and founder Natalie Portman.

  • Power couple Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian are part of the group too, and even their two-year-old daughter, Olympia, is listed as an investor. For more on this awesome addition to the NWSL, take a listen to this week’s episode of our podcast, The GIST of It.

🏀WNBA 2020 Season Begins July 25th

July 23, 2020
NED DISHMAN/NBAE VIA GETTY IMAGES
NED DISHMAN/NBAE VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Basketball is back too, baby! We are just two days away from the WNBA’s opening tip-off, so here’s #thegist of what to expect during this v. unconventional season.

What’s the structure?: All 12 teams will play in this regular season revamp, which is taking place in a “Wubble” environment at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, and the season has been shortened from 36 games to 22.

  • The league is skipping preseason and jumping right into the regular season, which will run from this Saturday until mid-September. Then it’s time for the playoffs, when the Washington Mystics will look to become the first back-to-back WNBA champs since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2002.
     
  • All eyes will be on No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu (pronounced YOH-NESS-COO) at noon ET on Saturday, when her New York Liberty take on the Seattle Storm. She’s already the college GOAT, so we expect big things from her rookie WNBA season. For a full breakdown on the favorites, the stars and the can’t-miss matchups, check out our 2020 WNBA Season Guide.

What else is going on in the W?: Senator Kelly Loeffler is back on her sh!t. Loeffler is a part owner of the Atlanta Dream, and earlier this month she wrote a letter to WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, asking her to reconsider the league’s promotion and involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement (which Engelbert did not do).

  • Despite intense backlash from players, Loeffler is continuing her push, now saying that she’s worried the league’s support of BLM (which she says is a political organization...) will drive fans away, and that “American values aren’t at the core of what we’re doing here.” We literally can’t even.

Ugh. Tell me something good: In contrast to whatever Senator Loeffler is after, the league’s players association, the WNBPA, has partnered with the family of Breonna Taylor to create t-shirts and hoodies in her honor, calling it The Breonna Taylor Collection.

  • All proceeds from the sales of the shirts will go to The Breonna Taylor Foundation, which aims to seek justice in her memory. BRB, have to go buy a sweet T and #SayHerName.