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MLB spring training begins with changes amid pandemic

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cmannphoto/iStockBy ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — Major League Baseball is back as the league’s summer camp has officially kicked off.

With baseball’s return amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the league is establishing several changes to player conduct and protocol to maintain and monitor the health and safety of the athletes.

Watch the full report from ABC’s Good Morning America:

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WNBA star Maya Moore so 'thankful' for Jonathan Irons' release from prison: 'We made it'

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(NEW YORK) — WNBA star Maya Moore fell to her knees when, after 22 years in prison, Jonathan Irons walked out of Jefferson City Correctional Center a free man on Wednesday.

“In that moment I just — I really felt like I could rest,” Moore told Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. “I mean I’ve been standing and we’ve been standing for so long — it was an unplanned moment where I just felt relief … it was kind of a worshipful moment just dropping to my knees and being so thankful that we made it.”

“I’m absolutely elated and thankful just to be here in this moment right now,” Irons said.

The basketball star, who has won four WNBA championships with the Minnesota Lynx and a WNBA MVP title, stepped away from the game at the height of her career to focus full time on helping Irons overturn his conviction.

“When I stepped away two springs ago, I just really wanted to shift my priorities to be able to be more available and present to show up for things that I felt were mattering more than being a professional athlete,” Moore said.

Moore and Irons formed a close friendship in 2007, before her freshman year at the University of Connecticut, when she met him through a prison ministry in which her extended family in Missouri participated.

When Irons was 16 years old, he was tried and convicted as an adult by an all-white jury for the burglary and shooting at the home of 38-year-old Stanley Stotler. Irons maintained his innocence while he was in prison, saying he was wrongly identified during the lineup.

After years of fighting, a Missouri judge overturned Irons’ conviction in March, saying there were problems with the way the case had been investigated and tried — including a fingerprint report that would’ve proved Irons’ innocence, not being turned over to his defense team.

While Irons, now 40, has spent most of his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, he said he doesn’t feel resentment toward the man who wrongly identified him, and said that Stotler is a “victim” as well.

“I believe at some point if not already, maybe later on, he’s going to be hit with a lot of guilt,” Irons said. “I want to let him know that he has a safe place to rest because I do forgive him. I don’t blame him or fault him in any way.”

Irons wants to help others in the same situation.

“I want to be able to reach back and help other people. I want to advocate for people who are less fortunate. I want to help people with their cases. I want to speak to positive change and be a part of the rebuilding process from where we’re at right now because there’s so much greater coming in the horizon and I see it,” Irons said.

As for Moore, she’s not sure if her future will bring her back to the basketball court, but for now she is going to enjoy some rest.

“For the first time in my adult life I’m trying to live in the moment,” Moore said. ” I haven’t really been able to have the fullness of the rest that I wanted … now is the time to take a break then seeing what the future holds, maybe around sometime next spring.”

For those looking to join the fight for criminal justice reform, Moore offers some advice.

“The first step for anybody is … I would say get to know somebody who isn’t exactly like you and doesn’t come from the same background as you, educate yourself and then just keep showing up,” Moore said. “Finding ways to show up for people and your voice will come out of that relationship and out of your pursuit to seeing people who aren’t exactly like you.”

Irons hopes that his story will serve as inspiration for others to keep fighting.

“We shouldn’t give up. We should keep going,” Irons said. “In this moment I want people to have hope from this story because we’re in dark times. And we got to keep going. We got to keep the faith.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Aspiring driver Rajah Caruth discusses his journey, why Bubba Wallace is a role model

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Factor41/iStockBy ABBY CRUZ, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — At 18, Rajah Caruth already has a trophy case filled with medals and awards from competitive driving, from races all over the country.

He’s just getting started.

The soon-to-be Winston-Salem State University freshman already has his NASCAR license, and he has big dreams to become one of the sport’s top drivers like Bubba Wallace, whom he considers a role model.

But the journey for Caruth, like for most African American drivers, hasn’t been easy. Caruth didn’t grow up in a racing family, had no connections and didn’t know much about how to make his dream a reality. Most of what he knew about racing came from being a fan of cartoon characters like Lighting McQueen and Speed Racer.

Caruth attended his first race in middle school.

“That really flipped the switch,” he said. “That was the point where I realized that this is what I want to do, this is what I want to put my life and my career into.”

NASCAR currently has just one Black driver in the top flight: Wallace.

In recent weeks, he’s emerged as a new face of the franchise because he has “Black Lives Matter” on his car and initial reports of a noose found in his garage, which led to an FBI investigation.

In the wake of that story, many in the NASCAR community stepped up and supported Wallace, embracing Black Lives Matter and giving young drivers like Caruth hope for the future.

“He’s been a good role model, a really good role model, and an ambassador for the sport,” Caruth said of Wallace. “He’s been a really good person for me to look up to, just in terms of how to carry myself, online and at the racetrack, how to treat people, how to deal with criticism and just mean people.”

During the Honor QuikTrip 500 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR President Steve Phelps had drivers shut down their cars so he could read the following message over the public address system:

“The Black community and all people of color have suffered in our country, and it has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better. The time is now to listen, to understand and to stand against racism and racial injustice.”

Caruth said that while he’s personally faced issues regarding his race, it’s been on a “much smaller” scale than Wallace’s battles with online trolls and attacks via social media.

“I’m definitely not going to act like, you know, I had the worst time possible, but I definitely had my fair share of interactions that were not of the positive sort,” Caruth added.

Seeing more people who look like him in and around racing, even if not behind the wheel, has been encouraging, he said.

“There aren’t really many of us drivers, but there are a lot of us behind the scenes,” said Caruth. “It’s good to be on pit road and see Mike Metcalf and Tigger and everybody on pit road, you know, people of color that you know got my back. And it’s cool to see them whenever I go to a cup race.”

In 2010, NASCAR launched its Drive for Diversity Development Program, which includes Caruth now and, previously, Wallace. And in 2017, the program hired Jusan Hamilton, the first Black race director.

Caruth said he knows how to become a champion driver: “You can’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

“People will say, ‘Oh, you don’t have experience, or, you know, you’re this, that, and the other,'” he continued. “You really just have to stay focused. If you know you can drive, then go show it. If you stay true to yourself and make sure you surround yourself with your family, with good people, you’ll be able to do great things.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Appeals judges to hear arguments over video evidence in Patriots owner prostitution case

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Maddie Meyer/Getty ImagesBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) — Prosecutors will appeal to a Florida judge via a video conference Tuesday morning to allow key evidence in the solicitation case against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Kraft, 79, was hit with misdemeanor charges last year after investigators say he was recorded twice paying for sex acts with workers at a Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter, Florida. Two dozen other clients were also charged as part of an investigation into the spa over alleged sex trafficking.

In May 2019, Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser ruled that prosecutors could not use undercover police videos taken from inside the spa as evidence during the trial. He said police did not do enough to protect the privacy of all the spa’s customers.

Prosecutors contend Hanser erred in his decision and the warrant was issued legitimately after detectives spent days collecting evidence that the spa was a front for an illegal sex trafficking and prosecution ring.

“That the spa was regularly used as a brothel is confirmed by the small percentage of recorded massages that ultimately appeared lawful,” Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey DeSousa wrote in court papers.

Attorneys representing Kraft, who apologized for being caught up in the spa’s investigation, argue that the use of the footage would hurt the civil liberties of Florida residents.

The appeal will be livestreamed on the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal’s site.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ava DuVernay to direct 6-part series on Colin Kaepernick's early life

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Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty ImagesBy CANDICE WILLIAMS, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Colin Kaepernick’s adolescent years will be made into a six-part series on Netflix thanks to Ava DuVernay.

Netflix announced on Monday that the Oscar nominee will direct and produce the forthcoming scripted drama titled Colin in Black & White. The limited series will focus on Kaepernick’s teenage life and high school experience growing up as a Black child adopted by a white family.

Kaepernick will narrate the series, which is expected to cast an actor to play a younger version of the quarterback. The series will also take a look at Kaepernick’s early journey to become the activist he is today.

In 2016, Kaepernick became the face of protests against police brutality when he knelt during the national anthem.

“Too often we see race and Black stories portrayed through a white lens,” Kaepernick said in a statement. “We seek to give new perspective to the differing realities that Black people face. We explore the racial conflicts I faced as an adopted Black man in a white community, during my high school years. It’s an honor to bring these stories to life in collaboration with Ava for the world to see.”

“With his act of protest, Colin Kaepernick ignited a national conversation about race and justice with far-reaching consequences for football, culture and for him, personally,” added DuVernay. “Colin’s story has much to say about identity, sports and the enduring spirit of protest and resilience. I couldn’t be happier than to tell this story with the team at Netflix.”

Emmy nominee Michael Starrbury, who previously worked with DuVernay on Netflix’s Peabody-winning limited series “When They See Us, will write the script and serve as executive producer alongside DuVernay and Kaepernick.

There is no set release date for the series.

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