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Kyrie Irving replaces Pau Gasol as a VP of players’ union

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Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has been elected as a vice president of the National Basketball Players Association.

Irving replaces Pau Gasol on the NBPA executive committee. Gasol’s three-year term expired.

“This was the right time for me to run for a leadership position in the NBPA,” Irving said. “I have been an observer and a participant in union affairs for a while, but for the most part, I was off on the sidelines, supporting our Executive Committee as they made important decisions. At this point in my career, I wanted to join forces with those guys and take a bigger role outside of the basketball court and within our union.”

Irving joins the NBPA’s executive committee, which also features Chris Paul (president), Andre Iguodala (first VP), Anthony Tolliver (secretary-treasurer), and vice presidents Bismack Biyombo, Malcolm Brogdon, Jaylen Brown, CJ McCollum and Garrett Temple.

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Shaquille O’Neal addresses appearance on Netflix’s ‘Tiger King,’ says ‘he had no idea’ what went on behind scenes at zoo

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Shaquille O’Neal is playing some defense while the NBA season remains suspended.

The Hall of Fame center attempted to clarify his brief appearance on the hit Netflix documentary “Tiger King,” saying that while he loves big cats “he had no idea” what was going on at the Oklahoma ranch owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, the now-imprisoned title character known as “Joe Exotic.”

O’Neal appeared on the opening episode of the seven-part series. Video showed him touring the zoo and taking pictures with the animals, and then cut to him referencing the visit the next night while on TNT, saying “Shoutout to Exotic Joe” and “I got two more tigers.”

Joe Exotic was ultimately sentenced to 22 years in prison in January after being found guilty of multiple charges, including murder-plot-for-hire and illegally selling tiger cubs.

O’Neal, during a recent episode of “The Big Podcast With Shaq,” explained his appearance.

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe,” O’Neal said. “We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with (the) tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

O’Neal noted that while he does often donate to help tigers, he never bought any of the animals from Joe Exotic, nor is he friends with him.

“I don’t harm tigers,” he said. “I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but, again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”

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Simone Biles, Stephen Curry, other top sports figures join auction for coronavirus relief

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More than 115 different athletes, coaches and sports personalities from 13 different countries have joined together to raise money for a COVID-19 response fund aimed at providing assistance for individuals fighting the global pandemic.

Simone Biles, Mark Cuban, Stephen Curry, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Hawk, Rose LaVelle, Jack Nicklaus, Michael Phelps, David Ortiz and Michael Strahan are just some of the athletes from more than 20 different sports who have donated items that will be raffled off to donors who make a minimum $25 donation.

David Schwab, the Executive Vice President for the sports agency Octagon, helped come up with the idea of “Athletes for Relief” following the postponement of the NBA and NHL seasons and the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament March 12. The program, which runs through May 1, has already raised more than $63,000.

“Right away so many athletes were asking how could they help. What could they do?” Schwab said. “This was a way for them to do something together. Our goal is simple: to provide as much relief as we can for COVID-19. Every day we all wake up thinking about the people who are sick and the spread of this disease. And this will help those people.”

Donors can visit https://athletesrelief.org/, where a minimum $25 donation under the name of the athlete of their choice will enter them to win everything from a pair of signed race-worn shoes from Jimmie Johnson and an autographed Masters flag from Nick Faldo to a signed snowboard from Shawn White. Winners will be selected at the conclusion of the fundraiser May 1.

All of the proceeds raised will go to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund, where it will be pooled with other donations to help organizations like Meals on Wheels, Feeding America, Heathcare Ready and the National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics.

The CDP works regularly in all disasters to help the philanthropic community donate as efficiently as possible, vetting the programs it works with to ensure the greatest impact on effected communities.

“Usually our work is mostly in recovery and resiliency but with this disaster, you can’t wait for the recovery,” said CDP President and CEO Patty McIlreavy. “This is everyone in right now. Get off the bench and get in there. We need all hands.”

Also included in the group is a signed bat and ball from former Pakistani cricket star Wasim Akram, widely considered one of the greatest bowlers in history, and a signed tennis racket from 20-year-old Brazilian Thiago Seyboth Wild, who announced on Instagram March 24 he had tested positive for COVID-19.

“This is bigger than one agency or athlete or country,” Schwab said. “This is global.”

ESPN personalities Matthew Berry, Field Yates, Dick Vitale and Trey Wingo have also donated items.

As much as McIllreavy is optimistic about the financial impact Athletes for Relief could have in helping COVID relief, she also said she sees an important psychological and social impact that will come from such a large group of influential sports personalities coming together.

“People are scared, so scared. It’s just a really complicated time,” she said. “To have so many athletes put their name to this sort of program and use their platform to be part of a collective campaign to bring attention to this really important cause, it’s just incredibly valuable.”

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Celtics’ Marcus Smart says he’s been cleared after coronavirus diagnosis

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago, has been cleared by the Massachusetts Department of Health, he announced on social media Sunday night.

Smart and the Celtics were in Milwaukee on March 11, preparing to play the Bucks the next night — in front of no fans — when the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus before that night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Boston, having played Utah the week before, wound up coming home from Milwaukee the next day and self-isolating, before Smart eventually tested positive for the virus.

“Corona Free as of two days ago. Cleared by Mass Dept of Health,” Smart said on Twitter. “Thanks for everyone’s thoughts and prayers and I’m doing the same for everyone that’s been effected by this. Stay safe and stay together- apart! Much love!”

In a media conference call last week, Boston coach Brad Stevens was enthused with Smart’s progress, saying he was doing “great.”

“Great spirits. Joking as always,” Stevens said last Friday. “We had a Zoom with the team, told the team we were going to give them their own space to hang out and have fun — and he told us to get off. So he’s great.”

Stevens also spoke about Smart’s courage to speak out, once the prognosis came back.

“I’m proud of how he kinda took the initiative to tell people that he had it and that he felt good and that he got online and just continued to ask people to practice social distancing and self-isolation right now,” the coach said. “It’s a really unique, unsettling time for everyone.”

Smart, 26, is averaging 13.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists this season. If and when the league resumes the regular season, Boston will take the floor in third place in the Eastern Conference, at 43-21.



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