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Star tennis player gives up US citizenship for Olympics

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Scott Clarke / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) — Tennis phemon Naomi Osaka will give up her U.S. citizenship to compete for Japan at her Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Osaka, who was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian father but raised in the U.S., told NHK World in an interview that she began the process of becoming a Japanese citizen.

“It’s definitely going to be very special. I think there’s no other place that I’d rather play my first Olympics,” Osaka told NHK. “I think that will be one of the most memorable things that ever happens to me.”

Under Japanese law, after Osaka turns 22 on Oct. 16, she will be required as a dual-nationality citizen to choose one.

 

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Osaka won the China Open on Sunday and is currently the No. 3-ranked women’s singles player in the WTA.

 

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Osaka notched a historic U.S. Open win against Serena Williams at Flushing Meadows in 2018, which made her the first Japanese player to ever win a Grand Slam title.

Since then, she notched a second Grand Slam title after defeating Petra Kvitova in the 2019 Australian Open, which she called one of the “happiest moments” of her life.

Tennis at the 2020 Summer Olympics will begin July 24, 2020.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Scoreboard roundup — 10/9/19

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iStock(NEW YORK) — Here are the scores from Wednesday’s sports events:

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
St. Louis 13, Atlanta 1
Washington 7, LA Dodgers 3 — 10 innings

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
Buffalo 5, Montreal 4
Philadelphia 4, New Jersey 0
Vancouver 8, Los Angeles 2

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

NBA events canceled in China as fallout over Hong Kong tweet continues

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iStock(SHANGHAI) — As the fallout over a since-deleted tweet voicing support for Hong Kong by the general manager of an American basketball team continues in China, several NBA Cares events were abruptly canceled this week in Shanghai.

Meanwhile, the world of esports is navigating a controversy of its own, after a high-profile gamer from Hong Kong was banned from the platform Blizzard for voicing support for protesters in Hong Kong during a post-game interview. In a statement announcing his removal, Blizzard said they were banning player Blitzchung for violating its competition rules by engaging in an act that “offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”

Both cases have illustrated the difficulty of navigating China’s lucrative market.

Before the controversial tweet, the Rockets were one of the most beloved teams in China. On Oct 4., its general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. While the tweet was quickly deleted, the backlash was swift. Within a few days, China’s state-run broadcasting network ordered a blackout of NBA coverage. China’s internet giant Tencent, which inked a five-year, $1.5 billion deal in August to stream NBA games in China, also announced that they will not play Rockets games.

Morey has apologized, and the Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said that Morey does not speak for them. Rockets players James Harden and Russell Westbrook apologized at a news conference, with Harden adding, “We love China, we love playing there.”

Nonetheless, the fallout from the tweet continues in China. On Wednesday, video spread on social media of an NBA banner being ripped off the side of a building in Shanghai.

The NBA said that it was not its decision to call off Wednesday’s NBA Cares event with the Lakers, which was supposed to benefit the Special Olympics. On Tuesday, a separate NBA Cares event with the Brooklyn Nets at a school in Shanghai was also called off by the Chinese government. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that they would still donate computers to the education center as planned, according to ESPN.

In a statement announcing their decision to suspend plans to broadcast a series of NBA preseason games, China’s state-owned broadcasting network CCTV said it is “strongly dissatisfied and opposed” to Silver’s “claim to support Morey’s free expression of rights.”

“We believe that any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech,” the statement added. “To this end, CCTV Sports Channel of the Central Radio and Television General Administration decided to immediately suspend the current broadcast arrangements of the NBA preseason [China Games] and immediately investigate all cooperation and exchanges involving the NBA.”

As the NBA is still reeling from the fallout, the world of esports was rocked by a separate scandal after a high-profile gamer from Hong Kong spoke out in support of the anti-government demonstrations in an interview — and then was abruptly banned from the competition.

Ng Wai Chung, known by his gaming handle “Blitzchung,” was banned from the platform Blizzard, where he was competing in a Hearthstone tournament, after a post-game interview supporting protesters in Hong Kong. In a statement announcing his removal, Blizzard said they were banning Blitzchung for violating its competition rules by engaging in an act that “offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image.”

On Wednesday, #BoycottBlizard was trending on Twitter in the U.S. Chung has not publicly responded to the news, but his Twitter bio was updated to read that he was “banned” as a grandmaster and states: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

The move drew bipartisan criticism from lawmakers on Twitter.

“Blizzard shows it is willing to humiliate itself to please the Chinese Communist Party,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said in a tweet. “No American company should censor calls for freedom to make a quick buck.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., shared the Blizzard news on Twitter, writing, “Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self-censor or face dismissal & suspensions.”

“China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone,” he added.

Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

NFL player stuns with 1-handed catch at MLB playoff game

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Scott Clarke / ESPN Images(TAMPA, Fla.) — Great catch, wrong sport.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard flaunted his skills off the gridiron at Tropicana Field during the Tampa Bay Rays’ playoff game Tuesday night.

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The NFL player stretched out his bare hand and snagged a line drive foul ball to right field during the eighth inning of Game 4 of the ALDS between the Rays and Houston Astros.

The Bucs tweeted a congratulatory message to the Rays who went on to win the game 4-1.

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Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Penn State football coach blasts alumni letter that criticized player's hair

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Allen Kee / ESPN Images(UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.) — After a Penn State football player received a critical letter from a Nittany Lion alum, the team’s coach denounced the remarks and took the opportunity to boast about the player’s character as a student, athlete and person.

“Jonathan Sutherland is one of the most respected players in our program,” Franklin said at his weekly news conference, according to ESPN. “He’s the ultimate example of what our program is all about. He’s a captain, he’s a dean’s list honor student, he’s confident, he’s articulate, he’s intelligent, he’s thoughtful, he’s caring and he’s committed.”

Franklin continued, “He’s got two of the most supportive parents, and I would be so blessed if my daughters would marry someone with his character and integrity one day.”

Sutherland shared a photo on Twitter Tuesday of the letter he received from Dave Petersen, who critiqued his dreadlocks, appearance and demeanor.

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In the letter, Petersen wrote, “Though the athletes of today are certainly superior to those in my days; we miss the clean cut young men and women from those days. Watching the Idaho game on TV we couldn’t help but notice your — well — awful hair.”

“Surely there must be mirrors in the locker room! Don’t you have parents or [a] girlfriend who’ve told you those shoulder length dreadlocks look disgusting and are certainly not attractive,” the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, resident wrote.

In the same tweet, Sutherland penned his own response to Petersen that took the high road and encouraged others to embrace what makes them different.

“Although the message was indeed rude, ignorant, and judging, I’ve taken no personal offense to it because personally, I must respect you as a person before I respect your opinion,” the sophomore safety said. “At the end of the day without an apology needed, I forgive this individual because I’m nowhere close to being perfect and I expect God to forgive me for all the wrong I’ve done in my life.”

Sutherland, 21, cited Colossians 3:13 — “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone” — to further point to forgiveness and thanked everyone who reached out to show him support.

“Let this be one of the many examples to us that in the year 2019, people of different cultures, religions and ethnicities are still being discriminated against and it needs to stop,” he wrote.

One of Sutherland’s teammates, C.J. Holmes, 21, shared a photo of the letter and said “these messages cannot be tolerated” calling it “extremely inappropriate, racially biased and selfish.”

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Since the national public attention and backlash to his letter, Petersen spoke with The Tribune-Democrat and said that a racist message “was not the intent at all.”

“I would just like to see the coaches get the guys cleaned up and not looking like Florida State and Miami guys,” he told the Tribune-Democrat.

He added that his letter, “wasn’t threatening or anything. I was just disgruntled about some of the hairdos that we’re seeing. You think of Penn State as a bunch of clean-cut guys. And you do see so many who are clean cut. But the tattoos and the hair — there are a lot of guys with hair coming down their backs and it just looks awful. And it’s the same for the NFL and NBA, too.”

The university strongly condemned the letter’s message in a reply on Twitter and a university spokesperson told ESPN that school officials stand behind their student-athletes.

“At Penn State we strive to create an atmosphere that promotes inclusivity and respect,” the spokesperson said. “The well-being of students, faculty and staff members is the university’s priority. As part of this, Penn State provides a range of assistance and resources for students and employees, and we encourage any community member who needs support to reach out.”

Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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