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President Trump opens the Daytona 500: 'So exciting'

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SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images(DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.) — President Donald Trump on Sunday addressed NASCAR fans before the start to the 62nd Daytona 500, calling the race “pure American glory.”

“Soon, the cars will take to the track for the start,” he said. “Tires will screech, rubber will burn, fans will scream and the great American race will begin.”

In his remarks, the president thanked the military, veterans and “tens of thousands of patriots” gathered at Daytona International Speedway in Florida. He also honored Gold Star families at the race and around the country.

“Gold Star families everywhere throughout our land, your fallen warriors will live in our hearts forever,” he said.

The president’s motorcade took a lap around the famous track before the green flag. The president also acted as the Grand Marshal, telling drivers to start their engines.

Trump is the second president to make an appearance at the Daytona 500; President George W. Bush was the first in 2004.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Scoreboard roundup — 2/16/20

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

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
Team LeBron 157, Team Giannis 155

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
Pittsburgh 5, Detroit 1
Boston 3, N.Y. Rangers 1
OT Edmonton 4, Carolina 3
Anaheim 5, Vancouver 1
Nashville 2, St. Louis 1
OT Ottawa 4, Dallas 3
SO New Jersey 4, Columbus 3
Buffalo 5, Toronto 2
Winnipeg 3, Chicago 2

TOP-25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL
(4)San Diego St. 72, Boise St. 55
(15)Villanova 76, Temple 56
(17)Oregon 80, Utah 62
(21)Iowa 58, Minnesota 55

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Former Miami Heat lawyer claims she was fired for going on maternity leave

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iStock(MIAMI) — A former attorney for the Miami Heat NBA team is suing the basketball organization in federal court, claiming she was fired in retaliation for taking maternity leave.

Vered Yakovee, who was a vice president and associate general counsel for The Heat Group, had been approved to become an adoptive parent in the fall of 2018 and received the news that she was selected to adopt a newborn baby on the evening of July 9, 2019, according to the complaint, filed earlier this month in the Southern District of Florida.

The next morning, Yakovee informed her immediate supervisor, The Heat Group’s Executive Vice President and General Counsel Raquel Libman, of her immediate need for parental leave, to which Libman allegedly responded, “now I definitely won’t be get to take a vacation,” and “what am I going to do with [your Assistant Counsel]?” the lawsuit states.

Yakovee offered “multiple times” to go to the office for a few days for Libman’s convenience, “to ensure she had transitioned matters in an organization and effective manner, and to address any other matter of importance,” but Libman declined each offer, according to the court documents.

Yakovee then took formal leave beginning on July 11 and returned to work 12 weeks later on Oct. 3, as permitted by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

FMLA, a labor law, states that eligible employees can have up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for childbirth and adoption or to care for a close relative in poor health, which includes care for a new child, whether for birth, adoption or placement into foster care. FMLA requires 30 days’ notice to the employer for “foreseeable” leave, “except that if the date of the birth or placement requires leave to begin in less than 30 days,” in which the employee “shall provide notice as is practicable.”

On the morning of Yakovee’s first day back to work, she was “immediately confronted with a lengthy email” from Libman that reportedly accused her of missing deadlines during her leave and misrepresented a project that Yakovee worked on before her leave, according to the lawsuit.

Yakovee says in the suit she was told via email by The Heat Group’s president of business operations, Eric Woolworth, that Libman was “upset” about discussions Yakovee had with him about her leave. But, the complaint states, Libman had not talked to Yakovee about that until she got back to work. On Oct. 14 — a week and a half after she returned to work — Yakovee was told by Libman’s executive assistant that Libman was upset about her maternity leave and that she should “tread lightly,” according to the complaint.

From Oct. 3 to her “forced departure” on Dec. 19, Libman treated Yakovee with “disdain and hostility,” according to the lawsuit, which also accuses Libman of berating her and making complaints about her FMLA leave both privately and in group meetings and emails.

Yakovee was a valued employee prior to taking parental leave, according to the complaint. In January 2019, Yakovee received her last performance review prior to taking her leave, during which Libman gave her “the highest rating possible” in all categories, the complaint states.

Yakovee received a bonus as a result of that review, and she had received an annual pay increase as well as merit-based bonuses twice a year during each year of her employment since 2015.

Libman handed Yakovee her first critical performance review on Nov. 27 (although reviews are typically given in January), according to the lawsuit. When Yakovee attempted to ask questions about “erroneous and unfounded critiques,” Libman said “she could not discuss it without Human Resources present because there was an ongoing ‘investigation,’ and that Ms. Yakovee did ‘not understand’ the consequences of her actions,” the complaint states.

On Dec. 4, the director of human resources emailed Yakovee to criticize her for not having provided “enough advance notice” for her maternity leave. She was fired on Dec. 19, one day after taking a sick day to take her baby to the doctor, according to the lawsuit. Before that, she had claims in the lawsuit to have never taken a sick day during her tenure with The Heat Group.

The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $75,000 as well as attorney’s fees, interests and costs. It also seeks for Yakovee to be reinstatement to a position comparable to her prior position with back pay plus interest, pension rights and all benefits. The Heat Group is listed as the sole defendant.

A representative for the Miami Heat did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment. ABC News could not immediately reach Libman for comment.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Ticket information released for Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant memorial

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iStock(LOS ANGELES) — Ticket information for the public memorial service of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant has been released.

Tickets for the Feb. 24 memorial start at $24.02 or can be purchased for $224 each or two for $224, according to the NBA.

Similar to the date of the service, the prices have significance. Bryant wore No. 24 on his basketball jersey, while Gianna wore No. 2.

All proceeds will go to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.

Bryant and his daughter, along with seven others, were killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Jan. 26. The two were heading to Gianna’s basketball game, officials said.

Mourners and fans will have to register using Ticketmaster Verified Fan before purchasing tickets, according to the NBA. They will be notified on Tuesday if they’ve been verified and invited to participate in the ticket release, which will open on Wednesday at 10 a.m. pacific time.

If demand for tickets exceeds supply, fans will be selected at random to participate in the public sale.

The memorial, called “The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant,” will be shown live on most local Los Angeles television stations, according to the NBA statement.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

California track defends safety record after horse is euthanized

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winhorse/iStock(ARCADIA, Calif.) — Santa Anita Park is touting a high rate of safety for the horses that train and race at the facility in the wake of the latest death on its main track.

A 3-year-old horse named Miss Romania was euthanized Wednesday after she suffered a suspected fracture on her left humerus, according to the park. She was euthanized at the recommendation from an attending veterinarian.

The death was the seventh since the winter/spring season began on Dec. 28 but the 44th since December 2018, ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV reported. However, it was the first death on the main track, where the majority of the deaths in 2019 occurred, according to the park.

Despite the highly publicized deaths, the facility boasts a high rate of safety and considers itself the largest training facility in the U.S.

In 2019, horses raced or trained at the facility more than 420,000 times at a safety rate of 99.99%, according to the park.

Since Jan. 3, when the only other horse in 2020 died on the main track, 9,245 horses have had a timed workout or raced on the main track without a single incident until Miss Romania’s death on Wednesday, which highlights that recent safety measures are working, according to the park.

Santa Anita Park has been under intense scrutiny since the number of horse deaths began to rise last year.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom called for Santa Anita to be shut down after it did not heed the California Horse Racing Board’s recommendation to suspend racing. At the time, the death toll stood at 29.

Santa Anita decided to continue racing because it believed that the reforms enacted earlier in the year — which included the elimination of drugs and whips on race day — were working, a spokesman for The Stronach Group, a company that owns the park, told ABC News in June.

Last month, following the deaths of three horses in three days at the park, a spokesman for the California Horse Racing Board said in a statement to ABC News that the board “is committed to reducing the number of racing and training fatalities.”

“We already have introduced many safety measures and still others are going through the regulatory process,” the spokesman said.

Those three deaths did not occur on the main track, according to the park, which will continue to consider new safety reforms in the future alongside the California Horse Racing Board.

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