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Zlatan’s statue to stay in Malmo

The much-vandalized statue of Zlatan Ibrahimovic is staying in Malmo. Where, exactly, remains to be seen. Committee members from the Swedish city’s council met Monday to discuss proposals from local citizens about where to move the statue of the soccer player from its current location outside the stadium. The 1,100-pound, 9-foot-10 bronze statue has been repeatedly attacked since Ibrahimovic become a part-owner in Hammarby, a Stockholm-based team and a rival of the striker’s boyhood club of Malmo. The most recent act of vandalism saw the statue cut off at the ankles, leading to it being removed in early January for repairs and put in a secret location. “The sculpture stays in Malmo,” said Frida Trollmyr, the city’s deputy mayor for culture and sports. “Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a son of Malmo, this is where he belongs.” Trollmyr said there would now be a process to determine the specific location where the statue will be placed. Among the 29 proposals from local citizens was one, supported by nearly 250 people, that suggested the statue be moved to the Tele2 Arena, Hammarby’s home stadium in Stockholm. Another, supported by a petition that had nearly 8,700 signatures, called for the statue to be moved away from the local stadium because “to have the owner of a rival club there is provocative and outrageous.” Ibrahimovic, one of Sweden’s greatest ever players, currently plays for Italian club AC Milan.

Darner out as Green Bay coach

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Linc Darner is out as the men’s basketball coach at Green Bay after posting winning records in four of his five seasons on the job. Chancellor Michael Alexander confirmed the move Monday, saying in a statement that the university and coach “have decided to part ways.” Darner owned a 92-80 record at Green Bay. The Phoenix went 17-16 this past season and lost to Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals. In Darner’s debut season at Green Bay in 2015-2016, the Phoenix went 23-13 and earned the school’s first NCAA Tournament bid in 20 years. The Phoenix lost to Texas A&M in the first round — Green Bay’s only NCAA Tournament win came in 1994, under coach Dick Bennett over California. The 49-year-old Darner has an overall head coaching record of 384-197 that also includes 13 seasons at Division II programs — four at Saint Joseph’s (Indiana) and nine at Florida Southern. He led Florida Southern to a Division II national title.

US Open eliminates qualifying

The U.S. Open might feel more like a closed shop this year. The COVID-19 pandemic, which already has postponed the U.S. Open at Winged Foot from June to September, has forced the USGA to do away with qualifying for the first time since 1924. Open qualifying is the hallmark of golf’s second-oldest championship. The USGA often points out that typically half of the 156-man field has to go through either 36-hole qualifying or 18-hole and 36-hole qualifying. It even invested in a marketing campaign that was rolled out in February titled, “From Many, One,” to illustrate that more than 9,000 people apply to play in the U.S. Open, eventually yielding to one winner. The USGA did not announce Monday how other players would become exempt. Among those who have yet to qualify is Phil Mickelson, a runner-up six times in the only major he hasn’t won. Mickelson said in February he would not ask the USGA for an exemption, and that if he didn’t qualify or become exempt, he wouldn’t play. Winged Foot is where Mickelson made double bogey on the final hole in 2006 to lose by one.

KU fires cheerleading staff

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky has fired its cheerleading coaches after an internal investigation determined they failed to oversee off-campus events that included hazing, alcohol use and public nudity by the championship squad. The school announced Monday that head coach Jomo Thompson and assistants Ben Head, Spencer Clan and Kelsey LaCroix were fired from the program, which has won 24 national titles the past 35 years. The three-month investigation also found “lax oversight and poor judgment” by longtime primary advisor T. Lynn Williamson, Kentucky’s principal deputy general counsel. Williamson retired days after learning of the investigation and being told to have no contact with the squad. The review, which involved interviews with more than 60 squad members, coaches and administrators, found that the activities occurred last summer during a retreat at a Kentucky lake and a cheerleading camp in Tennessee. It stated that some cheerleaders at the retreat performed gymnastics routines that included hurling teammates into the water, known as “basket tosses, while either topless or bottomless within view of some of the coaches. Coaches also didn’t confiscate alcohol brought to the retreat by some team members, the report added, with some members requiring medical treatment for intoxication. Some cheerleaders at the camp were directed to perform lewd chants and wear outfits sans underwear. The report found no sexual assault or sexual misconduct during the trips.

Indiana adds another top guard

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Khristian Lander, one of the nation’s top point guards, has signed a national letter of intent to play basketball next season at Indiana. Coach Archie Miller announced Monday that Lander has decided to reclassify from the 2021 recruiting class so he can play this fall. “I knew when I first saw Khristian at 15 years old, that he was a special player,” Miller said in a statement released by the athletic department. “He has great feel for the point guard position. His competitive drive has pushed him to elevate his game rapidly and his family has done a great job of keeping him grounded and humble.” Lander had already verbally committed to play for the Hoosiers. He scored 1,314 points in three seasons at Evansville Reitz, and th Indiana now has three of the top in-state players in this year’s recruiting class. Shooting guard Anthony Leal will be the third consecutive IndyStar Mr. Basketball Award winner to play for the Hoosiers. Shooting guard Trey Galloway and Lander were both second-team selections on the AP all-state team.

Spit banned but sweat OK

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The use of saliva to polish cricket balls is set to be prohibited as part of changes to regulations recommended by the sport’s world governing body during the coronavirus pandemic. The International Cricket Council said, however, that sweat can still be used to polish the ball because medical advice shows “it is highly unlikely that the virus can be transmitted” that way. An ICC committee also recommended that local match officials be appointed in the short term “given the challenges of international travel with borders being closed, limited commercial flights and mandatory quarantine periods.” If there are no local match officials available from the “elite panel,” the best local officials from the international panel will be chosen. Officials appointed by the ICC haven’t come from the same country as the participating teams since 2002.

Bull riding may welcome fans

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — One of the first professional athletic sports to allow spectators to attend as states gradually lift restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus is known for its wild, dangerous action: bull riding. Professional Bull Riders has announced a new competition that will culminate in South Dakota on July 10-12 with live crowds. As people itch for a return to daily activity, it’s all a part of an effort by professional sports organizations around the world to give bored fans at least a taste of what once was. Organizers of the bull riding event said they would provide face coverings to fans, space seats 4 to 6 feet apart and control the flow of people in and out of the arena to accommodate social distancing. Germany’s soccer Bundesliga returned this weekend with live soccer, albeit without supporters in the stands. The games were played with sanitized balls, celebrated with fist bumps rather than hugs, and cheered by masked substitute players rather than thousands of bellowing fans. American professional sports organizations — keen to hear the roar of fans accompanying a photo finish or a 20-foot putt — are working out how they can ease back into live events without exposing spectators to the virus.

Vanderbilt adds Kansas transfer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt has signed guard Isaac McBride as a transfer from Kansas. Coach Jerry Stackhouse announced Monday that McBride will join the roster for the 2020-21 season. “He is a quick and explosive athlete who can play both guard positions, and is a young man who can really score the basketball,” Stackhouse said. “He is a tremendous leader, both on and off the court, and we look forward to having him as a Commodore.” The 6-foot-1 guard from Little Rock was the 2019 Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year out of Baptist Preparatory School and rated a four-star player by Rivals.com for the 2019 class. McBride signed with Kansas but left school last September. He reportedly committed to Vanderbilt last December. Stackhouse just finished his first season with Vanderbilt, going 11-21.

Dream Team sneakers at auction

NEW YORK — Sneakers worn by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen while they played for the Dream Team are being auctioned. The sneakers, each signed by the Hall of Fame wearer, are part of the Lelands 2020 Spring Classic Auction that runs through June 19. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the sneakers will benefit COVID-19 relief efforts. Jordan, Johnson and Pippen wore the sneakers during the Tournament of Americas, which the U.S. team won to qualify for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The Americans won gold there in the first Olympics to feature NBA players. The sneakers were given to a team staff member in the locker room after the tournament championship game in Portland, Oregon. More information and items available in the auction can be found on Lelands’ website.

— The Associated Press

Marlins will allow players access

MIAMI — The Miami Marlins will allow players on their 40-man roster access to their spring training complex to pitch off a mound or hit in batting cages beginning Tuesday, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. The person confirmed the decision to the AP on condition of anonymity Monday because the Marlins made no announcement. The rest of the complex in Jupiter, Florida, will remain closed, the person said. The optional workouts will be individual, with a staff member present, and those involved will abide by social distancing guidelines, the person said.

Independent panel will rule

The NCAA said Monday a case involving alleged recruiting infractions at North Carolina State will go through an independent investigation process created for complex cases. The case involves the recruitment of former Wolfpack one-and-done star Dennis Smith Jr. The NCAA has charged N.C. State with four violations, including former head coach Mark Gottfried being charged individually under the provision of head coach responsibility for violations within his program. Specifically, the NCAA has alleged ex-assistant Orlando Early provided Smith and his associates approximately $46,700 in impermissible benefits – including $40,000 that a government witness testified he delivered to Early intended for Smith’s family in 2015. The school agreed to have the case referred to the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP), which the NCAA developed last year. The panel is a product of proposals from the commission led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2018 to reform college basketball amid a federal corruption investigation into the sport. The process includes independent investigators and decision makers with no direct ties to NCAA member schools, and rulings cannot be appealed.

Spanish teams start group training

MADRID — The Spanish league took another step toward restarting the soccer season by allowing teams to resume group training on Monday. Practices were closer to routine for the first time since the league was suspended in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. Keep-aways, exchanges of passes and player interaction were back at the training camps. Up to 10 players are allowed to practice together in what is expected to be the second-to-last phase before the competition can resume. The move by Spain came after the Bundesliga in Germany became the first top soccer league to resume on Saturday. Full squad training is expected to begin in the coming weeks, with the Liga hoping to restart on the second weekend of June. Players had been training individually since last week. The league said the start of group training represented “a significant step forward on the road towards restarting professional football in Spain.”

EPLers face year of restrictions

MANCHESTER, England — The Premier League has been told by government experts that coronavirus restrictions could endure for at least a year in English football, with players allowed to resume only non-contact training from Tuesday. The Bundesliga is already back underway but the aspiration to restart England’s top division on June 12 now looks hard to meet. “We have to be flexible about it,” Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said in a media call on Monday. Allowing players to eventually take part in contact training in England still depends on government approval if there is no new spike in COVID-19 cases after an easing of lockdown restrictions. “(Once) we have had a proper discussion with clubs about how much is required to create the fitness levels before they can start playing, we are then in a position to be able to confirm when the season start is,” Masters said. The clubs on Monday agreed to training protocols for small groups of players while maintaining social distancing that exists in wider society. Coronavirus testing is due to take place twice weekly at clubs on up to 40 players, coaches and support staff. The first set of results are expected on Tuesday.

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