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NFL

With a surge of COVID-19 cases threatening to disrupt the NFL season last week, the league discussed canceling games for the first time since the pandemic began.

In talks with the NFL Players Association, canceling games involving Washington, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Rams was considered because of coronavirus outbreaks on each team. Instead, the games were moved from the weekend to Monday and Tuesday.

NFLPA President JC Tretter, a center for the Browns, said the NFL wanted to cancel those games – players would not have been paid in that scenario, according to the league’s COVID-19 protocols agreement with the union last season. But two player reps with knowledge of the discussions told The Associated Press canceling the games was never the No. 1 plan. Both reps spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the conversations.

– By Pro Football Writers Rob Maaddi and Barry Wilner.

NBA

Dallas star Luka Doncic entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Wednesday, adding his name to the list of top players who might be sidelined for games on Christmas because of coronavirus-related concerns.

That news came not long after the NBA called off the next game for both the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets due to COVID-19 issues, after determining that neither team has the minimum eight players necessary to start a contest.

Toronto’s game at Chicago scheduled for Wednesday was postponed, as was Brooklyn’s game at Portland on Thursday.

NHL

NEW YORK (AP)NHL players will not be allowed to participate in the Beijing Olympics after the league pulled the plug amid a rash of postponements caused by positive COVID-19 test results.

Commissioner Gary Bettman made the announcement Wednesday, making official what seemed inevitable in recent days when the list of postponed games quickly grew to 50. The league will use the previously scheduled Feb. 6-22 Olympic break to make up those games and others that need to be rescheduled.

In a separate statement, Players’ Association executive director Don Fehr said that while there was a clear path to Beijing before COVID-19 intervened, the Olympic break is now needed to make up games.

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) – The Calgary Flames have pulled out of a deal with the city for a new arena because of increased costs.

John Bean, president and chief executive officer of Calgary Sports and Entertainment, said Wednesday that there is is no viable path forward to complete the 19,000-seat Event Centre. The Flames have played in the Saddledome for 38 years.

The city and the Flames agreed on an arena deal over two years ago with the initial estimate of $550 million split between the two. The estimate has risen to $634 million according to the Flames, with the team paying for more of it than the city and taking on the risk of rising costs in the future.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

If a team is unavailable to play in College Football Playoff semifinals on New Year’s Eve because of COVID-19 issues, the game will be forfeited and the available team will advance to the championship.

With COVID-19 cases spiking across the country due to the omicron variant, the CFP announced Wednesday contingency plans for the semifinals and national championship game, which is scheduled for Jan. 10 in Indianapolis but could be delayed as much as four days.

No. 1 Alabama is scheduled to face No. 4 Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl in one Dec. 31 semifinal and No. 2 Michigan is set to play No. 3 Georgia in the Orange Bowl in the nightcap of the CFP doubleheader.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) – No. 23 Texas A&M won’t play in the Gator Bowl against No. 20 Wake Forest on Dec. 31 because of COVID-19 issues and season-ending injuries, but the Demon Deacons might still get a game.

Two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday night the NCAA Football Oversight Committee will meet Thursday morning to discuss allowing another team to take Texas A&M’s place.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because neither was authorized to speak publicly about options that would be considered.

Among the possibilities are allowing a 5-7 team to take the spot, which is the normal procedure to fill bowl games when there are not enough teams with six victories.

The NCAA uses Academic Progress Rate to rank 5-7 teams for bowl eligibility. Rutgers has the highest APR among the 5-7 teams. The school has informed decision-makers the team could be ready to play on a week’s notice, the people said.

The oversight committee could also consider allowing a team that has already played in a bowl, one of the people said, because that team might be better prepared to take a game on short notice.

There is also a possibility the oversight committee will recommend not filling the spot and calling off the game instead of setting a precedent, knowing there could be more teams knocked out of the bowls by COVID-19 like Texas A&M.

– By College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo and AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken.

GOLF

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) – Phil Mickelson is headed back to Hawaii for golf, not a vacation, committing to play the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua for the first time in 21 years.

Mickelson won the winners-only tournament at La Costa Resort in 1998, and then played only twice since it moved to the Plantation Course at Kapalua in 1999, most recently in 2001 when he tied for 28th against a 33-man field.

He qualified by winning the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island at age 50, making him the oldest major champion in history.

COLLEGE ATHLETICS

The Atlantic Coast and Pac-12 conferences are changing rescheduling policy to avoid assigning automatic forfeits for teams unable to play due to COVID-19 protocols.

ACC athletic directors unanimously supported the change in Wednesday’s first such announcement. The Pac-12 followed in the afternoon amid the rise in COVID-19 cases and the increase in cancellations and postponements of basketball games nationally.

For the ACC, games that cannot be played will be rescheduled if possible. If those games can’t be rescheduled, they will be considered a ”no contest” that doesn’t affect a team’s record. The change is retroactive dating to the beginning of the winter-sports schedule, meaning it will remove recent forfeits for the Boston College men’s basketball team against Wake Forest and the Miami women’s basketball team against Duke.

OLYMPICS

The Tokyo Olympics cost $1.8 billion less than anticipated, local organizers said Wednesday, 4 1/2 months after the Games ended.

Organizers said the estimated official costs were $13.6 billion. Officials said part of the reduction was because there were no fans – forced by the pandemic – and therefore vastly reduced labor costs. They also said other outlays were lower than expected.

Official estimates over the last year said the costs would be $15.4 billion. However, government audits over several years suggested the real costs were much higher – perhaps twice the official estimates.

TRACK AND FIELD

DENVER (AP) – Track coach Alberto Salazar’s appeal of his lifetime ban for sexual misconduct was rejected by the U.S. Center for SafeSport in the latest, and likely final, defeat of his once-storied career.

The 63-year-old Salazar was handed the lifetime ban in July, but appealed the case. His entry in the SafeSport database was updated this week to ”permanent ineligibility,” signaling the appeal had been rejected.

The SafeSport center does not reveal details of its investigations.

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