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The Sports Report: Keynan Middleton talks about kneeling during the national anthem

Angels reliever Keynan Middleton wears a "Black Lives Matter" T-shirt during practice at Angel Stadium on July 16.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Maria Torres on the Angels: Fox Sports West didn’t air footage of Angels reliever Keynan Middleton kneeling with his fist in the air during the national anthem at Petco Park on Monday until the 10th inning when Middleton entered the game to pitch.

The delay was intentional on the part of the production crew. A person familiar with the operation who was unable to comment publicly said Tuesday the network wanted to give broadcasters Victor Rojas and Mark Gubicza an opportunity to frame it within the narrative of the game.

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Fox Sports West intends to continue airing national anthem demonstrations that occur during the season because it is the network’s “obligation” to viewers, the person said.

Middleton, whose demonstration preceded an exhibition game against the San Diego Padres, joined several other players and coaches around the league in protest of racial injustice and police brutality.

Middleton was unavailable to comment but addressed his decision to kneel during the anthem in a social media post. He wrote that everyone “should take this fight against racial injustice seriously” and he wanted to use his platform as a major league player to effect change.

“Racism is something I’ve dealt with my whole life,” he said in part of the statement. “As a Black man in this country, it is my obligation to want to better the future for generations to come. Over the past few months, I’ve been out in the community taking part in peaceful protests and having the difficult conversations that are needed for change.

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“Before, pioneers like Jackie Robinson, a Black man, didn’t have a voice in the game of baseball. The foundation laid down and sacrifices made by Jackie and others is the reason why I have the platform I do. I will not allow that to go to waste.”

He concluded the post with the words, “Through this, I strive to be a voice for unity.”

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NWSL

After a 12-year break women’s professional soccer is coming back to Southern California, with a star-studded ownership group led by actress Natalie Portman announcing Tuesday it has secured the rights to bring an NWSL team to the market for the 2022 season.

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“L.A. is a city that has a fanatical sports fan base. And obviously, we’ve shown that we have the ability to support multiple teams and multiple different leagues,” said media and gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, another of the principal partners in one of the few majority-women ownership groups in professional sports.

“By bringing together this unique group of people, we actually have this ability to engage and promote and not only support the best players, but also grow the league by putting a spotlight on it and hopefully igniting a fire here that will touch other places,” Uhrman said.

Others in that 30-member group include World Cup and Olympic champions Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Rachel Buehler, Tisha Venturini-Hoch and Abby Wambach; actresses Eva Longoria, Uzo Aduba, Jennifer Garner and Jessica Chastain, venture capitalist Kara Nortman and Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian.

Read what Times columnist Helene Elliott has to say about the new L.A. team by clicking here.

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DODGERS

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: The Dodgers optioned top prospect Gavin Lux on Tuesday, ensuring the organization’s top prospect won’t be on their 30-man roster when they open the season Thursday against the San Francisco Giants.

The decision turned heads. Lux is widely regarded as one of the five best prospects in baseball. He demolished double-A and triple-A pitching last season before making his major league debut in September. He started three of the Dodgers’ five postseason games. He was Baseball America’s 2019 minor league player of the year.

But the Dodgers didn’t plan on putting the 22-year-old Lux on their opening day roster out of spring training before the COVID-19 pandemic suspended the Major League Baseball season. Four months later, his case to make the club when the team convened for training camp was hurt because he reported a week late. Lux declined to disclose the reason for his late arrival.

“I just think it’s more of there’s a lot that goes into his swing and, at this point in time, he just wasn’t synced up,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “And so nothing against him.”

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CLIPPERS

Andrew Greif on the Clippers: On the same day the Clippers added one starter to practice, the team also lost another when Patrick Beverley departed the NBA’s campus at Walt Disney World to take care of what was described as an “emergency family matter,” according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Anyone who leaves the NBA’s campus can reenter only after spending between four and 10 days in quarantine. The timing not only rules out Beverley for the team’s first two scrimmages, against Orlando on Wednesday and Washington on Saturday, but also puts into question Beverley’s availability for the team’s first seeding game on July 30, against the Western Conference-leading Lakers.

The playoffs begin Aug. 17.

Beverley is the second key Clipper to leave the NBA’s so-called bubble since Friday, when reserve Montrezl Harrell departed to be with his grandmother.
Section copy.

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USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on USC: Just seven months after his long-awaited return, tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe is leaving USC.

Imatorbhebhe entered the NCAA transfer portal as a graduate transfer this week, closing the door on a frustrating, injury-prone tenure with the Trojans.

Imatorbhebhe began his career at Florida, but soon transferred to USC, where he burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman during USC’s 2016 run to the Rose Bowl. The tight end caught four touchdown passes over the season’s final eight games, emerging as a favorite red-zone target of quarterback Sam Darnold.

But nagging groin and hip injuries followed him from there, sapping him of his effectiveness as a sophomore, before robbing him of an entire season in 2018. The following summer, USC listed him as a “squadman lost,” and coach Clay Helton announced that Imatorbhebhe would leave the team to “focus on finalizing his master’s degree.”

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THIS DATE IN SPORTS

Compiled by John Scheibe:

Greg LeMond won his second straight and third Tour de France in five years on this date in 1990 when he cruised along the 113.5-mile final stage from Bretigny-sur-Orge to Paris wearing the leader’s yellow jersey with a 2-minute 16-second lead, which was the winning margin over Claudio Chiappucci of Italy.

LeMond, of the United States, did not win an individual race in the 21-stage, 2,112-mile event, but he wrested away the yellow jersey from Chiappucci two days earlier when he beat the Italian who had held a five-second lead for the previous four stages.

LeMond received valuable assistance earlier in the final mountain stage from his French Z teammates, who stopped to help him fix a flat tire.

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“We stopped, got off our bikes and gave Greg a hand,” said Eric Boyer, who with Jerome Simon helped LeMond regroup and eventually close on Chiappucci without losing a second.

Other memorable games and outstanding sports performances on this date:

1962 — Gary Player of South Africa wins the first of his two PGA Championships when he beats Bob Goalby by a stroke at the Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pa. Player, who had missed the 36-hole cut at the British Open at Royal Troon, Scotland, the week before, sees a seven-stroke lead in the final round shrivel to one before he makes a spectacular save out of the trees on the 72nd hole. Player and Goalby are the only players to finish under par.

1963 — In a rematch of their first fight nearly a year earlier, Charles “Sonny” Liston knocks out Floyd Patterson again at 2 minutes 10 seconds of the first round to retain his world heavyweight title at the Convention Center in Las Vegas. Liston is dominant as he decks the challenger three times before the bout is stopped. The victory also gives him the inaugural World Boxing Council title. Liston had won the championship from Patterson with a first-round knockout Sept. 25, 1962, in Chicago.

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1984 — Kathy Whitworth, 44, of Texas is the all-time winner in professional golf tournaments when she beats Rosie Jones on the first-extra hole of a playoff at the Rochester International at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsfield, N.Y. Whitworth makes a par, while Jones just misses a putt that would have kept the playoff going. Whitworth, with 85 career women’s tournament wins, passes Sam Snead’s total of 84 PGA victories.

1996 — Naim Suleymanoglu of Turkey is the first weightlifter in Olympic history to win three gold medals when he sets world records in the clean and jerk in the 141-pound division, hoisting 413¼ pounds as well as a total weight at 738½ pounds at the Summer Games in Atlanta. Suleymanoglu, who stood 4 feet 11 and was known as “Pocket Hercules,” lifts 325 pounds in the snatch. Suleymanoglu had previously won Olympic gold medals at Seoul in 1988 and Barcelona in 1992.

1998 — At the Goodwill Games in Uniondale, N.Y., Jackie Joyner-Kersee ends her brilliant heptathlon career when she wins her fourth consecutive gold medal in the event, scoring 6,502 points to finish ahead of DeDee Nathan of the U.S. at 6,479. Earlier, in the men’s 1,600-meter relay, the United States, led by anchor Michael Johnson, lowers its world record of 2 minutes 54.29 seconds set at the 1993 world track and field championships in Stuttgart, Germany, with a gold-medal finish of 2:54.20. The time is later discounted when Antonio Pettigrew, the team’s second-leg runner, tests positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

ANGELSAngels’ Keynan Middleton kneels during national anthem, wants to be a ‘voice for unity’
2001 — David Duval, wearing his familiar wraparound sunglasses, shoots a four-under-par 67 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England to win the British Open, his only major championship. Duval finishes at 10-under 274 for a three-stroke victory over Sweden’s Niclas Fasth. He is the sixth American player in seven years to win golf’s oldest championship.

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2013 — Ryan Braun, the National League’s most valuable player in 2011, is suspended without pay for 65 games, which includes the rest of the season and potential postseason, after he and other players are found to have ties to Biogenesis, an anti-aging clinic in Florida accused of distributing performance-enhancing drugs. The Milwaukee Brewers star accepts the ban, which is 15 games more than the one he avoided the previous season when an arbitrator ruled his positive urine test was mishandled.

2017 — Clint Dempsey passes to Jozy Altidore for the go-ahead goal in the 72nd minute, then scores on a free kick 10 minutes later to match Landon Donovan’s American record of 57 international goals, to lead the United States past Costa Rica 2-0 in Arlington, Texas, and into the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship. Dempsey’s free kick goes around a four-man defensive wall from 27 yards out and past goalkeeper Patrick Pemberton on two bounces. The U.S. would go on to beat Jamaica 2-1 in the final at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara.

2018 — Francesco Molinari of Italy wins the British Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, for his first major tournament victory after he breaks away from a pack in the final round that includes Tiger Woods. Molinari shoots a bogey-free, two-under 69 to finish at eight-under 276. He makes birdies at Nos. 14 and 18 to finish two shots ahead of Xander Schauffele, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Kevin Kisner. Molinari is the first Italian to win a major golf tournament.

Sources: The Times, Associated Press

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And finally

Danny Kaye sings The Dodgers Song. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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