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NBA postpones 3 playoff games as Raptors consider boycott as well

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Thursday, Aug 27th, 2020

All three NBA playoff games scheduled for Wednesday have been postponed, with players around the league choosing to boycott in their strongest statement yet against racial injustice.

Called off: Games between Milwaukee and Orlando, Houston and Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland. The NBA said all three games would be rescheduled, yet did not say when.

The dramatic series of moves began when the Bucks – the NBA’s team from Wisconsin, a state rocked in recent days by the shooting by police officers of Jacob Blake, a Black man – didn’t take the floor for their playoff game against the Magic. The teams were set to begin Game 5 of their series shortly after 4 p.m., with the Bucks needing a win to advance to the second round.

Players had been discussing boycotting games in the bubble after the shooting of Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The NBA’s board of governors have called a meeting on Thursday to discuss the new developments, said a person with knowledge of the situation.

The NBA did not say if Thursday’s schedule of three more games involving six other teams would be affected. NBA players and coaches met for nearly three hours Wednesday night to determine next steps, including whether the season should continue. They did not come to a consensus, a person with knowledge of the meeting told AP.

Hours before the Bucks refused to take the floor in a historic NBA boycott, the Toronto Raptors were considering a similar protest.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse said the idea of a boycott “is on the table” after players from his team and the Boston Celtics met Tuesday night in advance of their second-round playoff series that is scheduled to tip off Thursday evening.

“They want to be part of a solution, they want to help, they want justice . . . Boycotting the game has come up for them as a way to demand a little more action, and I think that’s really what they want,” Nurse told reporters a couple of hours before the Bucks were scheduled to play Orlando in Game 5 of their opening-round series.

“I think there’s enough attention, and there’s not quite enough action.”

Nurse said he’s heard a couple of his players discussing leaving the NBA campus and going home, though he doesn’t know if that is a team-wide belief.

“It just feels like we’re stuck. It feels like things are not changing. It feels like we’re not doing anything productive, basically. That’s how it feels,” said Raptors forward Pascal Siakam. “Those things hurt. I don’t care where you’re from . . . just seeing that and just knowing that every day it happens and it feels normal, just seeing Black men being shot every day, that hurts, man.”

The 26-year-old Siakam said he wouldn’t watch the video of Blake being shot multiple times in the back by police in Wisconsin.

The Raptors’ all-star said watching the death of George Floyd on video – Floyd died after a white police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck on May 25 – had traumatized him.

The Raptors have been at the forefront of the NBA’s social justice initiatives, arriving to the league’s Walt Disney World campus earlier this summer in buses with “Black Lives Matter” written in huge block letters, and asking for justice for Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black people who have been killed by police. They’ve knelt for both the American and Canadian anthems before games.

Nurse, who was recently named NBA coach of the year, said he can only listen to his players, and supports whatever decision they make.

“I’m trying to give them a forum to talk as much and often as I can. I’m trying to respect their priorities, and also give them some of my own personal thoughts,” Nurse, wearing an orange WNBA hoodie, said on his Zoom media availability.

“I’ve had couple very deep, personal discussions with these guys here this morning about playing, not playing, being in the bubble, leaving the bubble, coming to the bubble. All these things and I just give them my own personal opinion on it.”

He has heard of his players discussing going home, but doesn’t know if “that’s a team-wide thing.”

The day before the Raptors tip off what is expected to be a much tougher series than their 4-0 opening-round sweep of Brooklyn, Siakam was asked if it’s difficult to focus on playing basketball amidst the dark cloud of racial injustice.

“There’s really a lot of things that are way bigger than basketball going on,” he said. “You want to be able to play, you want to be able to, because at the end of the day, we know that basketball brings something to people. But at the same time, just seeing that happening every day, man, it’s tough. It hurts. . . yeah, it hurts.”

The Celtics, who swept their first-round series with Philadelphia, echoed the Raptors’ thoughts of frustration.

“We’re over here, guys are crying, guys are hurting right now because of what’s going on,” said Boston forward Grant Williams. “You never know if that’s your brother. What if that was my cousin? What if that was my family member? That’s something that weighs down on you.”

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said the discussion to boycott started with the Raptors, but that players on other teams are also talking about it. The Celtics forward knows people will ask: What is sitting out going to do?

“Obviously if we sit out a game or the rest of the playoffs, we understand how big of an impact that will have,” he said. “Everybody’s going to have to talk about it, continue to raise awareness. We don’t want to just keep playing and forget about what’s going on in the outside world, because it’s affecting us. We’re more than just basketball players, we’re people. And we have these raw emotions and feelings.”

Before gathering in Florida for the NBA’s restart, Tatum pointed out that players were able to be on the front lines to protest, and many of them did, including Raptors’ point guard Kyle Lowry. Now there’s a feeling of being trapped in the bubble.

“We’re in this bubble and we’re isolated from everyone else and that’s frustrating,” the Celtics forward said. “I know some guys have talked about going home.”

Being a Black man in America, Tatum said, is “more important than what I do on the basketball court. . .When you think of a man getting shot seven times in the back with his kids in the car, that’s way more important.”

Boston coach Brad Stevens said he hasn’t heard much talk from his team on potentially boycotting games. He said the Celtics have met to allow players to speak about their feelings.

“I just simply said, each individual, we support 110 per cent,” Stevens said. “This is not easy. From the standpoint of being down here and feeling like you’re in this place that you can’t leave. . . totally understand anybody’s reaction to what’s going on outside of here and the desire to do more. Or the desire to not play. Or the desire to leave.”

The postponed NBA games came on the fourth anniversary of Colin Kaepernick’s very first protest of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before an NFL preseason game. Kaepernick sat through the anthem for his first protest, which he said was to protest racial inequality and police mistreatment of minorities. then famously kneeled during the anthem going forward.

WNBA

The WNBA will not play its three games Wednesday night following the shooting of Jacob Blake over the weekend.

In Bradenton, Florida, on Wednesday, Washington was set to play Atlanta, Minnesota was going to face Los Angeles, and Connecticut was going to meet Phoenix. Players from the Mystics, Dream, Sparks and Lynx were talking on the court for about an hour deciding whether to play or not. The decision was announced shortly before the expected 7 pm. EDT tip for the Mystics and Dream.

All four teams took a knee at centre court right before leaving the court.

Atlanta Dream player Elizabeth Williams read a statement on ESPN saying that the “consensus is not to play in tonight’s games. We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA.”

The Mystics came into the arena wearing shirts that spelled out Blake’s name on the front and had holes in the back to signify the seven bullets that he was hit with by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The WNBA and its players have dedicated this season to social justice. Players have been wearing the name of Breonna Taylor on the back of the uniforms all season long.

MLB

Three Major League Baseball games were postponed Wednesday.

Games between the Cincinnati Reds and Brewers in Milwaukee, Seattle Mariners and Padres in San Diego and the Los Angeles Dodgers and Giants in San Francisco were called off hours before they were set to begin.

Dodgers star Mookie Betts, who is Black, told his teammates he was sitting out and they backed him.

“For me, I think no matter what, I wasn’t going to play tonight,” Betts said.

Other MLB games had finished, were in progress or just about to start as the announcements were made.

“The players from the Brewers and Reds have decided to not play tonight’s baseball game. With our community and our nation in such pain, we wanted to draw as much attention to the issues that really matter, especially racial injustice and systemic oppression,” players from both teams said in a joint statement.

Mariners infielder/outfielder Dee Gordon said the team decided unanimously to skip Wednesday’s game.

“There are serious issues in this country,” Gordon tweeted. “For me, and for many of my teammates, the injustices, violence, death and systemic racism is deeply personal. This is impacting not only my community, but very directly my family and friends. Our team voted unanimously not to play tonight.”

“Instead of watching us, we hope people will focus on the things more important than sports that are happening,” he said.

Mariners pitcher Justin Dunn tweeted: “Enough is enough.”

Dunn included a Black Lives Matter hashtag and a cartoon image of he and his Black teammates in Black Lives Matter shirts.

Colorado outfielder Matt Kemp, who is Black, announced on social media he would skip the Rockies’ game in Arizona “in protest of the injustices my people continue to suffer.”

“I could not play this game I love so much tonight knowing the hurt and anguish my people continue to feel,” he wrote. “In a world where we are the ones who need to remain calm while a trained professional points a gun in our face; a world where the people in uniforms who took an oath to protect us are the same ones killing us; a world where we become hashtags before we even reach our potential; we must stand together, speak out, protest, and be the change we demand, require, and need so bad.”

MLS

Five of six Major League Soccer games Wednesday have been postponed in the wake of the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

The only match that kicked off prior to the postponements was Nashville vs. Orlando City.

Following the news of the NBA’s postponements, Toronto FC striker Jozy Altidore tweeted at MLS asking “what are you going to do?”

Altidore has since responded positively to MLS and the sporting world’s response, tweeting “Proud of sports tonight and all of my guys in MLS.”

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

 

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Campus coalition urging U of T to’listen to its own scientists’ in back-to-school plans

OSOBE WABERI THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Aug 26th, 2020

A campus coalition at Canada’s largest university is urging the school to listen to its own expert research on COVID-19 and roll back its plan to reopen doors to students and staff in the fall.

In an online panel held earlier this week, the University of Toronto Faculty Association discussed what it described as the administration’s refusal to address health and safety concerns raised by staff and students despite the school’s high-profile health-care advocacy work during the global pandemic.

Association President Terezia Zoric said she disagrees with the administrations decision to hold in-person classes, arguing the move carries unnecessary risks for the entire university community.

“It is a complete lost opportunity for the university’s senior administration not to consult with their own in-house experts who are also being consulted by the World Health Organization and federal provincial governments,” Zoric said.

“They have developed a plan with very little input from the most expert people who work for them. It is beyond disappointing.”

Heather Boon, vice-provost of faculty and academic life, rejected the Association’s contention.

“We are following the public health guidelines which are in fact being informed by a wide variety of experts from many universities, including our own,” she said. “We are taking our own advice and are really proud that our scientists are a big part of that process.”

Faculty members also raised the issue of classroom ventilation, saying inadequate measures on that front risk turning faculty buildings into new breeding grounds for the virus.

“What will happen when the weather gets too cold to open windows? Does the ventilation in the room exchange the air or not? You can be in a very large room with poor ventilation and it could be very dangerous as the virus hangs in the air for hours,” Zoric said.

Boon said the University of Toronto is following guidelines for ventilation and will determine what activities will transpire in each room to limit the spread on school grounds.

“The ventilation system is designed to have far more people in the room than what we are putting in and they will be wearing masks while being physically distanced,” she said.

A petition launched last month by CUPE 3902, a union representing some of the university’s faculty members, previously called on the school to re-think its plans for on-campus classes.

Academic workers, library staff, graduate assistants and administrative employees were among the more than 6,600 people who had signed the petition as of Wednesday morning.

CUPE 3902 Chair Amy Conwell said her organization wants to see the return to school done right and in good faith.

“We want to see resumed academic activity in the fall that considers the safety of everyone,” she said.

Conwell said her union believes the reason the school is insisting on in-person learning is because it will be hard to justify full tuition fees while delivering classes primarily online.

“We have raised so many safety concerns with them its hard to understand that this is anything other than profit over people.”

Boon contends this is not the case.

“There are reasons to bring people to campus,” Boon said. “There are some things that can only be taught in-person and we also have students that don’t have access to reliable Internet or a suitable place to study. We are very conscious of the inequity that can be created if we only have online classes.”

 

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Pedestrian dies after being struck by car in Mississauga

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Aug 26th, 2020

A pedestrian has died after being struck by a car in Mississauga on Tuesday night.

Peel police responded to a call for a collision shortly before 11 p.m. at Mavis Road and Eglinton Avenue.

The pedestrian was taken to a trauma centre in life-threatening condition, where they later died.

The driver of the vehicle involved remained on scene.

2 dead in Wisconsin protests over police shooting of Jacob Blake

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Wednesday, Aug 26th, 2020

Two people died and one person was injured as shots were fired late Tuesday in Kenosha during the third night of unrest in Wisconsin following the shooting of a Black man by police, Kenosha police said.

The shooting was reported at about 11:45 p.m. in an area where protests have taken place, Kenosha police Lt. Joseph Nosalik said in a news release. The injured person was in serious condition at a local hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries, he said.

The shooting was under investigation and no other information was released. The victims have not been identified.

Jacob Blake, who was shot shot multiple times by police in Wisconsin, is paralyzed, and it would “take a miracle” for him to walk again, his family’s attorney said Tuesday, while calling for the officer who opened fire to be arrested and others involved to lose their jobs.

The shooting of Blake on Sunday in Kenosha — apparently in the back while three of his children looked on — was captured on cellphone video and ignited new protests over racial injustice in several cities, coming just three months after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police touched off a wider reckoning on race.

Earlier Tuesday, Blake’s father spoke alongside other family members and lawyers, telling reporters that police shot his son “seven times, seven times, like he didn’t matter.”

“But my son matters. He’s a human being and he matters,” said Blake’s father, who is also named Jacob Blake.

The 29-year-old was in surgery Tuesday, said attorney Ben Crump, adding that the bullets severed Blake’s spinal cord and shattered his vertebrae. Another attorney said there was also severe damage to organs.

“It’s going to take a miracle for Jacob Blake Jr. to ever walk again,” Crump said.

The legal team plans to file a civil lawsuit against the police department over the shooting. Police have said little about what happened, other than that they were responding to a domestic dispute. The officers involved have not been named. The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating.

Police fired tear gas for a third night Tuesday to disperse protesters who had gathered outside Kenosha’s courthouse, where some shook a protective fence and threw water bottles and fireworks at officers lined up behind it. Police then used armoured vehicles and officers with shields pushed back the crowd when protesters ignored warnings to leave a nearby park.

Feds to give provinces $2B to bolster safe reopening of schools this fall

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Aug 26th, 2020

OTTAWA — The federal government is giving $2 billion more to provinces and territories to help them ensure kids can safely go back to school next month.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is to make the announcement Wednesday at a school in Toronto.

The money is on top of the $19 billion Trudeau has already promised provinces and territories to help them cope with the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their economies and health care systems.

He informed the premiers of his plan during a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

Sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details before the announcement, confirmed some details to The Canadian Press.

The funding is to be allocated based on each province and territory’s number of students.

Education is a provincial jurisdiction and the sources said Trudeau will fully respect that. Provinces and territories will be able to spend the money as they see fit to bolster their efforts to ensure schools can reopen this fall as safely as possible.

Schools have been shut down across the country since COVID-19 started sweeping across the country in mid-March.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2020.

 

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Pedestrian struck by vehicle on Westney Road in Ajax

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 25th, 2020

A pedestrian is in hospital after being struck by a vehicle in Ajax on Monday night.

Emergency crews were called to the scene on Westney Road near Highway 401 around 9:30 p.m.

Police say it appears the pedestrian was trying to cross the street on a red light, when he was struck by the vehicle.

The pedestrian suffered life-threatening injuries.

Police said the driver remained at the scene.

There has been no word on charges.

 

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Durham school board to hold special meeting Tuesday for back-to-school plans

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 25th, 2020

With September just around the corner, the Durham District School Board will meet Tuesday night for a special meeting to go over its back-to-school plans.

Heading into the meeting, the board said a high number of parents have signed their children up for the virtual learning option.

Because of that, the board will be hiring additional school administrators.

The board said it hopes to have a schedule finalized by the end of August.

Durham’s medical officer of health will be among those expected to take part in the board meeting.

The meeting is being livestreamed and it gets underway at 6:30 p.m.

 

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School bus drivers ask for COVID-19 safety protocols ahead of start of new year

BT Toronto | posted Tuesday, Aug 25th, 2020

Some school bus drivers say they have not received COVID-19 safety protocols with just weeks to go before the start of class.

The drivers, who are represented by Unifor, will hold a press conference Tuesday morning to discuss their request for information on safety measures on their vehicles.

The union says many of its drivers are senior citizens and are more vulnerable to the virus.

Ontario released a school reopening plan weeks ago which will see students return to class in early September.

School boards have been given permission to stagger the start of classes over the first two weeks of the academic year if they need more time to prepare.

Teachers’ unions and parents have expressed concern that the Ontario government’s approach has not done enough to lower class sizes and encourage physical distancing.

 

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