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20 min ago A flawed Ryder Cup system for Americans

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) Paul Azinger is not ruling out a return as Captain America in the Ryder Cup.

But that's not what America needs.

And neither does Azinger.

His reputation only grows each time the Americans fail. Why would he want to risk that when there is no guarantee of reward? With so much focus on a dysfunctional U.S. team, it's easy to overlook that Europe might have been the stronger side, anyway.

Azinger was in a Harley-Davidson bar in Florida on Sunday when the Ryder Cup ended. He answered his phone and said, "Dude, why is my Twitter blowing up?"

The reaction to such a resounding loss and embarrassing exit in the Ryder Cup was to bring back Azinger in 2016 at Hazeltine. So when Derek Sprague takes over as president of the PGA of America the weekend before Thanksgiving, Azinger should be the first person he calls.

Not to hire him. To listen to him.

Azinger might be the one person responsible for giving the Americans their best chance in a game that has gone global.

His greatest contribution had nothing to do with pods, rather how the team was chosen. He refused to take the captain's job for 2008 unless the PGA of America agreed to toss out its outdated qualifying system in which points were rewarded only to the top 10 at PGA Tour events. That stopped working as the tour became populated with the best players from around the world.

And he somehow persuaded the PGA of America to copy the PGA Tour. The new qualifying system is just like the one used for the U.S. Presidents Cup team - based strictly on money dressed up as points. He also asked that the number of captain's picks be doubled to four players.

That prompted Azinger to say, "If we win, I'll go down as having the lowest I.Q. of any genius who ever lived."

He sure looked like one. His system of "pods" was genius. Three groups of three qualifiers told Azinger whom they wanted as a captain's pick (Steve Stricker was a

20 min ago NFL has laundry list of verboten celebrations

Dancing Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, shuffling Ickey Woods and the group high-fiving Fun Bunch? Their entertaining touchdown celebrations would be illegal in today's NFL.

Though the league rulebook has some very specific examples of what constitutes a penalty, the gray area is as wide as ever.

Take, for example, Husain Abdullah's drop to his knees after returning an interception for a touchdown Monday night. It threw the referees for a loop - and caused them to throw a flag. In their eyes, the Chiefs defensive back violated the language in Rule 12, Section 3(d) that states "Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground."

But Abdullah is a devout Muslim, who had always vowed he'd fall to his knees if he ever reached the end zone. Critics pointed out that many players have knelt in Christian player and weren't penalized, most notably Tim Tebow, who's one-knee genuflection became a meme. After further review, the NFL said since it was part of a religious expression, and Abdullah should not have been flagged.

Highlights from the NFL's forbidden list, who may have caused it and who might get nailed today.

-PROLONGED, CHOREOGRAPHED, EXCESSIVE CELEBRATION: It could be said that the "Fun Bunch" - aka Art Monk, Alvin Garrett and the rest of the Washington Redskins receivers in the early 1980s - took the fun out of the NFL. After touchdowns, they would form a circle and time a group high-five. In a 1983 game at Texas Stadium, Cowboys defenders tried to break up a Fun Bunch celebration by standing in the middle of it. A year later, the league passed a rule banning "excessive celebration." Just last week, Antonio Brown of the Steelers broke this rule, and about three others, when he spun the ball on the ground, pretended he was spinning like the ball, then fell to the ground. He was penalized 15 yards and a scolding from coach Mike Tomlin. Victor Cruz of the Giants says he's planning a new Salsa dance to celeb

20 min ago Raiders make Tony Sparano interim coach

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) Reggie McKenzie believes he put together a roster capable of competing for a playoff spot. When that roster got off to an 0-4 start and wasn't even competitive in two games, the Oakland Raiders general manager decided he needed to fire coach Dennis Allen.

McKenzie replaced his hand-picked coach by promoting offensive line coach Tony Sparano on an interim basis Tuesday with the hopes that can spark a turnaround for a team that has lost 10 straight games dating to last season.

"Yes, I do believe what we put together this offseason was a roster that could win," McKenzie said. "I'm not going to get into all the particulars of why it didn't work for Dennis. But the bottom line is it didn't work. For whatever reason, not only the 0-4 start but our play did not represent what we were capable of. That's the bottom line."

Allen was the first head coach hired by Oakland after Al Davis' death in October 2011. His 8-28 record is the worst for the franchise since before Davis arrived in 1963. His contract was set to run through next season.

McKenzie made the decision to fire Allen and then let owner Mark Davis know his plans. Davis supported McKenzie's call but now pressure turns to the general manager whose additions have not led to a better record.

Allen is the third coach fired during the season by Oakland since Al Davis arrived. Mike Shanahan was fired after four games in 1989 and Lane Kiffin was let go four games into the 2008 season.

"In my analysis, I think we do have players that can play in this game," Davis said. "I just think that there may be some changes in how the schemes are utilized."

Sparano becomes Oakland's eighth coach in the past 12 seasons. The Raiders have not made the playoffs or had a winning record since winning the 2002 AFC championship.

Sparano had a 29-32 record as head coach in Miami from 2008-11. He took over a one-win team in 2008 and led the Dolphins to an 11-5 recor

20 min ago FCC will consider petition to ban 'Redskins'

WASHINGTON -- The head of the Federal Communications Commission says the agency will consider a petition to ban the Washington Redskins nickname from the public airwaves.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says Tuesday that the commission "will be dealing with that issue on the merits, and we'll be responding accordingly."

A law professor has challenged the use of the name on broadcast television, saying it violates FCC rules against indecent content. Native American and other groups have demanded the name be changed, calling it a racial slur.

Wheeler did not offer a timetable for a ruling on the matter. He has previously said he finds the name "offensive and derogatory," but that he hoped Redskins owner Dan Snyder would change it without any formal action.

Snyder has vowed never to change the name.

Yesterday Twins fire manager Ron Gardenhire after 13 seasons

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) He was the third base coach who gave Kirby Puckett a high-five to punctuate his winning homer in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series.

He was the trusting candidate who took Minnesota's managing job when many thought the Twins were about to be contracted in 2002.

He was the affable everyman who presided over the team's turn-of-the-century renaissance and turned the AL doormat into a six-time division champion.

Ron Gardenhire was just about everything in the 27 years he spent in the Twins organization. But even he couldn't survive the worst four-year stretch in franchise history.

The Twins fired Gardenhire on Monday, saying it was time for a new voice after his 13-year tenure concluded with 383 losses over the last four seasons.

"The reason for this change, I think it's safe to say, the last couple years we have not won enough games," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said. "That's what it comes down to. It's nothing more, nothing less than that."

The move was made with one season left on Gardenhire's contract, ending the second-longest active tenure in the major leagues behind Mike Scioscia of the Angels.

Gardenhire played an integral role in the franchise's turnaround, guiding the Twins to the playoffs six times in nine seasons from 2002-10. But Gardenhire's teams only got out of the first round once, and his postseason record was 6-21 with the last win coming in 2004.

The Twins have long been the model of stability in not only baseball but major professional sports, with only two managers over the last 28 years and two general managers over the last 20 seasons.

But all the losing of late became too much to overcome. Over the last four years, the Twins went 78-148 from Aug. 1 on for an abysmal .345 winning percentage.

"I'm gone, I'm outta here because we didn't win," Gardenhire said. "That's what it gets down to in baseball. That's what it should get down to. You have to win on the

Yesterday Cardinals running back facing 9 charges for hitting wife

PHOENIX (AP) Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer has been formally charged with assaulting his wife during two arguments in July at their Phoenix apartment.

An indictment publicly released late Friday charges Dwyer with felony aggravated assault and eight misdemeanors, including assault, criminal damage and disorderly conduct.

Investigators say Dwyer broke his wife's nose with a head-butt during a July 21 argument and engaged in a dispute the following day in which he punched his wife and threw a shoe at his 17-month-old son, who wasn't injured.

Dwyer had been booked on Sept. 17 on suspicion of aggravated assault against his son, but the indictment doesn't charge him with any crimes related to the child.

Prosecutors say it's not unusual for grand juries to return slightly different charges than those initially brought in a case.

A message left for Jared Allen, an attorney representing Dwyer, wasn't immediately returned Monday.

Police say the first dispute between the couple erupted after Dwyer's wife learned about his recent phone contact with another woman and came to believe her husband was cheating.

The arrest came at a time when the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell are under fire over a series of violent off-the-field encounters involving some marquee players, including Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy.

The NFL has said the Dwyer case will be reviewed under the league's personal-conduct policy. The day after his arrest, the Cardinals placed Dwyer on the reserve/non-football illness list, meaning he can't play for Arizona again this season.

An Oct. 6 status conference has been scheduled for Dwyer.

Yesterday Bills bench quarterback Manuel, to start Orton

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) EJ Manuel is out as the Buffalo Bills' starting quarterback, and veteran Kyle Orton is in.

Coach Doug Marrone's patience ran out following two straight losses that exposed 2013 first-round draft pick Manuel's lack of development. Marrone benched Manuel on Monday, one day after he completed less than half his passes and threw two interceptions in a loss to Houston.

Orton will start Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. The Bills signed Orton on Aug. 30 to back up Manuel.

"It's not all EJ's fault," Marrone said, "but we need to get better production, obviously, out of that position.

"We have to make adjustments. We've got to make some changes because we can't keep going in the direction that we're going."

Manuel started 14 games over the past two seasons.

The Bills (2-2) have sputtered on offense during two straight losses. Manuel had a season-low quarterback rating of 59.4 and threw an interception to J.J. Watt that was returned for a momentum-changing touchdown Sunday during the 23-17 loss.

Manuel has completed just 58 percent of his passes through four games this year.

"We've got to get better in a lot of situations," Marrone said. "Just the overall offense in itself. You can start on first downs, which we're not doing a good job of. Third downs, red zone touchdowns, I think all those things that you see, again, it's not pinning it just on one player, but we all have to do a better job in those areas."

Marrone had previously said he wanted to be patient with Manuel's development.

Orton, a nine-year NFL veteran, spent the past two seasons in Dallas before being cut by the Cowboys in mid-July after he skipped the team's offseason workouts amid reports he was considering retirement. Orton has a 35-35 career record split among four teams since being selected by Chicago in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. He has been a starter with every team he has joined, as well as

Yesterday Michigan AD apologizes for mistakes with QB injury

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Roughly 12 hours after embattled Michigan coach Brady Hoke said he'd been given no indication that quarterback Shane Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion, athletic director Dave Brandon revealed in a post-midnight statement that the sophomore did appear to have sustained one.

That capped a bizarre day in which Michigan tried to address questions about the coaching staff's handling of Morris, who took a violent hit in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to Minnesota.

"In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline. Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes," Brandon said in a statement released shortly before 1 a.m. Tuesday. "I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made.

"We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first."

Morris took a crunching hit from Theiren Cockran on Saturday and briefly looked as if he was having trouble standing, but he remained in for the next play and threw an incompletion before coming out of the game.

Devin Gardner replaced him, but later on that drive, his helmet came off at the end of a play. While Gardner sat out for a play, as required, Morris went back in and handed the ball off to a running back.

Asked Monday if Morris had been diagnosed with a concussion, Hoke said: "Everything that I know of, no." Hoke said Morris would have practiced Sunday night if not for a high ankle sprain.

But in his statement, Brandon said: "As of Sunday, Shane was diagnosed with a probable, mild concussion, and a high ankle sprain. That probable concussion diagnosis was not at all clear on the field on Saturday or in the examination that was conducted postgame. Unfortunately, there was inadequate communication between our

Yesterday Chiefs offense hums in 41-14 rout of Patriots

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Perhaps the Kansas City Chiefs gave their neighbors across the parking lot a little bit of inspiration with their impassioned performance against New England.

Jamaal Charles returned from an ankle injury to score three touchdowns, Alex Smith threw for 248 yards and three scores, and the Chiefs routed the Patriots 41-14 on Monday night, getting the sports week off to a smashing start in Kansas City with the Royals preparing to open the baseball playoffs on Tuesday.

"To have back-to-back events like this, Monday night football and a home playoff game, yeah, it's special," Smith said. "Right next door to each other."

Arrowhead Stadium, which was packed to the brim in red-clad Chiefs fans, is just a short walk from Kauffman Stadium, which will surely be packed with blue when the Royals end a 29-year playoff drought against the Oakland Athletics in the AL wild-card game.

Several members of the Royals even showed up for the Chiefs-Patriots game, including starting pitcher James Shields, drawing huge roars when they were shown on the big screens. And some of the Chiefs said they were thinking about returning the favor, including wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.

Regardless, the Chiefs will be able to spend Tuesday in a celebratory mood.

They held the Patriots' Tom Brady to 159 yards passing and a touchdown, picking him off twice and returning one for a touchdown. Brady was also strip-sacked by Tamba Hali to set up a Chiefs field goal, capping off a miserable night for the two-time NFL MVP.

"It was just a bad performance by everybody," Brady said. "We need to make sure we never have this feeling again. We've got to figure out what we have to do better."

The Chiefs forced the Patriots to air it out by stuffing Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. And when Brady dropped back, their front seven ran roughshod over New England's suspect offensive line.

It hardly helped the Patriots offense that it was tr

Sep 29, 2014 Zimmermann's no-hitter for Nats ends on great grab

WASHINGTON (AP) One out away from pitching the Washington Nationals' first no-hitter, Jordan Zimmermann watched his 104th pitch on a crisp, clear Sunday afternoon get smacked toward deep left-center.

Zimmermann leaned his head back and winced. His first thought: "Double. No-doubt double."

"And then," the right-hander said later, "he comes out of nowhere and makes that catch."

Thanks to a dramatic, diving grab by little-used rookie Steven Souza Jr., who came on as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning, Zimmermann completed his gem, a 1-0 victory for the NL East champion Nationals over the Miami Marlins.

"I thought there was no way this would ever happen. My career numbers are something like one hit per inning, so I figure if I can make it out of the first, the hit's coming in the second," said the 28-year-old Zimmermann, a quiet guy who was a second-round draft pick in 2007 out of Division III University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. "But today was one of those special days."

Almost morphed into a one-hitter, though. With two outs in the ninth and a 2-1 count, Marlins leadoff man Christian Yelich turned on a 94 mph fastball over the plate.

Souza was shaded well over toward the left-field line at a coach's prompting.

"He probably couldn't have been more out of position," said right fielder Jayson Werth, who watched it all unfold from what became a nearly silent home dugout.

"I was just thinking to myself, `It is not optimal to be Steven Souza right now, because as soon as you come into the game, every time, the ball's going to find you,'" Werth said. "I had a feeling something crazy would happen. But not that crazy, that's for sure."

Souza sprinted, extended his glove and leaped for the sensational catch, using his bare hand to squeeze the ball in his mitt as he fell.

"The one thing on my mind is, no matter how I'm going to get there, I'm going to get there," Souza said. "Getting there, I kin

Sep 29, 2014 A's, Tigers, Cards win playoff races on final day

Sonny Gray pitched Oakland into baseball's last playoff spot, shutting out King Felix this October.

David Price delivered the AL Central crown to Detroit, St. Louis scratched ace Adam Wainwright after wrapping up the NL Central.

And on a final day that featured Derek Jeter's farewell, Jordan Zimmermann injected even more drama by throwing a no-hitter preserved when Washington rookie Steven Souza Jr. made a catch for the ages.

"Just an epic day for an epic season," Nationals outfielder Denard Span said.

Going into Sunday's first pitch, not a single postseason matchup was set - plus the possibility of three tiebreakers loomed. Hours later, the brackets were all settled in Game 162.

Gray blanked Texas 4-0, helping the shaky Athletics hold off Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners for the second AL wild-card slot. The A's will open this year's postseason at Kansas City on Tuesday night, with Jon Lester facing the Royals' James Shields.

The Royals went 5-2 against the A's this season - both losses were to Lester.

For Oakland slugger Adam Dunn, it will be his first playoff appearance. He's been in 2,001 games, the most by any active major leaguer without reaching the postseason.

"I played scenarios of this day out in my head probably a thousand times," Dunn said.

On Wednesday night, Madison Bumgarner and San Francisco visit Edinson Volquez and Pittsburgh in the NL wild-card game.

The Pirates lost their chance to catch the Cardinals with a 4-1 loss to Cincinnati. No matter, they'll be back home at PNC Park, where they won the wild-card game last season.

"I expect it to be like last year: So loud you can't hear the ball off the bat," said Josh Harrison, who almost won the NL batting title.

Both of the best-of-five AL division series begin Thursday. It'll be the wild-card winner at the Los Angeles Angels and the Tigers at Baltimore.

In NL openers Friday, the wild card plays at Wa

Sep 29, 2014 Gore powers 49ers past Eagles to avoid 3-game skid

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers got Frank Gore involved in the offense again, and it returned them to their winning ways.

Hard-nosed defense helped, too.

Gore caught a career-best 55-yard touchdown and ran for 119 yards in his first 100-yard game of 2014, leading the San Francisco 49ers past Philadelphia 26-21 on Sunday to hand the Eagles their first loss.

The 49ers (2-2) avoided their first three-game losing streak under fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh, containing the league's top passer. Nick Foles threw two incomplete passes from the 1 in the waning moments after gaining six first downs a lengthy drive, more than the five the Eagles managed before that.

Foles completed a 22-yard pass to Jeremy Maclin on the right sideline on that late drive. The 49ers challenged whether he had possession, but the play stood, costing the 49ers their final timeout.

The Eagles couldn't pull off the second-half magic that had carried them in their three wins.

On a day the 49ers gave up big plays on special teams, Gore delivered. Colin Kaepernick also threw a touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson and Phil Dawson kicked three field goals - two of at least 46 yards. Kaepernick finished 17 for 30 for 218 yards, two TDs and four sacks.

Darren Sproles had a career-best 82-yard punt return for a touchdown, Malcolm Jenkins ran an interception 53 yards for a score for the Eagles (3-1). Brad Smith recovered Trey Burton's blocked punt against Andy Lee for a TD.

The 49ers produced in the second half for the first time this season to give Harbaugh a win against former Pac-10 foe Chip Kelly.

Antoine Bethea intercepted his first pass with the 49ers and forced a fumble, then the secondary kept the pressure on in the red zone. Perrish Cox made an interception with 41 seconds left to seal it.

Gore's long scored from an off-balance throw by Kaepernick on the first play of the second quarter was the longest TD catch by a

Sep 29, 2014 Europe defeats U.S. to win Ryder Cup once again

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) The tone was set by Rory McIlroy, the best player in the world. The winning shot came from Jamie Donaldson, a Ryder Cup rookie.

Europe added another layer to its Ryder Cup dominance on Sunday by leaving no doubt who had the best team, if not the best players. Behind two early comebacks that showed its resolve, Europe clinched the cup with four matches still on the course.

With a 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory, Europe kept that gold trophy for the eighth time in the last 10 tries.

McIlroy played some of his best golf this year - even for a guy who won the last two majors - by trouncing Rickie Fowler to put the first point on the board. Donaldson finished off the Americans with a 9-iron that settled 18 inches from the cup on the 15th hole at Gleneagles and set off the celebration.

"It came down to me to close it out," Donaldson said. "But it's all about the team."

That concept appeared lost on the Americans.

Not long after the closing ceremony, Phil Mickelson said the Americans have strayed from the winning formula at Valhalla in 2008 under Paul Azinger - their only victory in these matches dating to 1999. Even with U.S. captain Tom Watson sitting six seats away, Mickelson said that American team was invested in each other, which was different from Watson's style of doing it his way.

It was an awkward way to end another bad week for the Americans in the Ryder Cup.

Watson defended his philosophy, though he conceded he might have erred in using some players who were too tired, leading to a 10-6 deficit going into Sunday singles.

"The bottom line is they kicked our butts," Watson said. "They were better players this week."

Watson said he had a pit in his stomach watching the Americans blow a 10-6 lead two years ago at Medinah. The PGA of America brought him back as captain - at age 65, the oldest in Ryder Cup history - hopeful he could repeat some history. Watson was the last captai

Sep 29, 2014 Romo, Murray lead Cowboys past Saints 38-17

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Tony Romo wasn't trying to look like DeMarco Murray.

The 34-year-old Dallas quarterback instead showed everyone that his surgically repaired back is coming along just fine.

Romo threw three touchdown passes and Murray ran for a pair of scores in another 100-yard game - one of them after the longest scramble of Romo's career - in the Cowboys' 38-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday night.

The Cowboys went up 31-3 when Romo broke free on third down and slid for the first down a play before Murray ran loose in the secondary, juked Jairus Byrd at the 10 and was pushed across the goal line by Corey White.

"It makes me feel old and the fact that I haven't gotten more than 21 yards is pretty pathetic," said Romo, whose previous long run was 17 yards despite a career known for scrambles that keep plays alive. "But other than that, it feels pretty great."

The Cowboys kept Drew Brees and the Saints scoreless in the first half after giving up an NFL-record 40 first downs in a 49-17 blowout loss in New Orleans last year.

Brees had touchdown passes to Josh Hill and Jimmy Graham early in the fourth quarter to get the Saints to 31-17 before the Cowboys regained control.

The former Texas high school star threw for 340 yards, but had just 84 yards with an interception while Dallas was building a 24-0 halftime lead after he had 838 yards with seven touchdowns and no picks in his previous two games against Dallas, both wins.

"I think we're a different team than we were last year," Romo said. "What you find is you forget it's the Saints and Drew Brees and just go play."

Dallas reached 3-1 for the first time under coach Jason Garrett after also starting 2-1 the three previous seasons. The Cowboys are tied with Philadelphia for the NFC East lead.

The Saints (1-3) couldn't sustain the momentum from their win over Minnesota and lost to the Cowboys in Texas for the first time since 199

Sep 27, 2014 Blatter: World Cup corruption probe to stay secret

ZURICH (AP) Under pressure from FIFA's independent prosecutor to unlock the secrecy that surrounds a World Cup bidding corruption probe, Sepp Blatter shut down that populist move Friday.

In doing so, the longtime president showed he remains as influential as ever - even as he moves closer to a fifth term leading football's governing body.

Blatter was in combative form at a news conference after a two-day executive committee meeting, and used his chance to seize back control of an agenda dominated for a week by ethics prosecutor Michael Garcia.

Still, even on a day when Blatter told his executive committee he intends to run for re-election next year, he had to spend more time talking about a corruption investigation when addressing the media.

Responding to public pressure on FIFA to publish a report into alleged corruption surrounding the bids for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup, Blatter said his body is bound by its ethics code to keep it secret. He also chided the chief investigator, former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia, for issuing a press release Wednesday calling for FIFA's executive committee to publish his report, rather than contacting Blatter personally.

"The FIFA president or secretary general have not had any demands or requests from Mr. Garcia to speak with us," Blatter said Friday. "The only contact that we have had ... was his press releases."

The probe centers on alleged corruption in the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests won by Russia and Qatar, and several executive committee members who joined since the December 2010 votes had backed Garcia's views this week. However, those voices apparently fell silent during Friday's meeting.

"Most of the requests coming for the publication of this report were from people (that) were not there on the second of December (2010) when the decision was taken," Blatter said. "Today there was not any longer any requests from any of these members in the FIFA to publi

Sep 27, 2014 Luol Deng forgives Danny Ferry for racist comments

MIAMI (AP) Luol Deng said Friday that he forgives Atlanta Hawks general manager Danny Ferry for making racially charged remarks about him, and hopes the two will work together to draw some sort of positive solution to the matter.

"I don't think Danny's racist," Deng said.

Deng signed with the Miami Heat this summer after strongly considering an offer from the Hawks, who are reeling from a pair of racially insensitive incidents. Hawks co-owner Bruce Levenson said he would sell his controlling share of the team over comments made in email in 2012, and then came the revelation that Ferry referred to Deng as someone who "has a little African in him" on a conference call with team officials this summer.

Ferry was repeating comments that were made in a scouting report, the author of which remains unclear.

"It's not something I want to hold onto for the rest of my career or the rest of my life," Deng said. "I had a chance to speak to Danny. I really believe that he's really sorry for what he said. Whether it came from him or wherever it came from, I think the main focus really should be how we move on forward."

Ferry is taking an indefinite leave from the Hawks. He and Deng both played for Duke, though Deng - who is 18 years younger than Ferry - said he does not know him well.

Deng said he would like to see he and Ferry work together with an organization to advocate change, or find some other benefit.

"There's a lot of things we could do to turn it into a positive," Deng said.

The Hawks have said Ferry was disciplined internally for his comments, though the sanctions have not been released.

Heat forward Udonis Haslem said he was "shocked" that something like what was said about Deng would be said, especially so soon after the league since much of last season dealing with a racial issue involving former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

"There's certain mistakes that shouldn't be made," Hasl

Sep 27, 2014 Stewart comforted by support of NASCAR family

DOVER, Del. (AP) Tony Stewart's walk back to his motorhome was halted by a pair of old friends. Two longtime NASCAR participants stopped Stewart not far from his car for a lengthy chat in the Dover garage.

His firesuit stripped down to his waist, a freshly shaven Stewart smiled and laughed as the trio caught up shortly after the first Sprint Cup practice on Friday.

Kenny Wallace, a close friend and TV analyst, put his hand on Stewart's right shoulder as they spoke and gave him a big hug when they finished.

Stewart's loyal friends have stood by his side in his toughest time.

So have the fans who roar for him during driver introductions and crowd his car, snapping pictures and shouting for autographs.

They've all stuck up for Smoke - and empathized with him in the bleakest moments following the fatal sprint car crash that killed Kevin Ward Jr.

"There is sort of a sickness or something in the pit of your stomach for what Tony is going through," Dale Earnhardt Jr. said Friday.

Stewart seemed in good spirits at Dover International Speedway in his first race weekend since a grand jury decided he would not be charged in Ward's death.

"I'm sure there's some type of relief that it's kind of done," six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said.

There could be some legal woes ahead. Ward's family has said "the matter is not at rest," and Stewart may still face a civil lawsuit.

For Stewart, the driver who inspired the (hash)StandWithSmoke movement on Twitter, the support has been appreciated, if not totally unexpected, from a racing community that always cares for its own.

"Racers have always taken care of racers," Stewart told AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer in his first interview since the crash. "You don't have to know `em for him to be a part of your family. That's what's so different about what we do versus other sports. It's just always been that way. But the support from the NASCAR comm

Sep 27, 2014 Jeter sits out Game 1 of final series in Boston

BOSTON (AP) Nineteen years into his Hall of Fame career, Derek Jeter may have produced his final "first."

The New York Yankees shortstop asked out of the lineup for Friday night's 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox - something neither Jeter nor manager Joe Girardi could remember him ever doing before.

Jeter watched the opener of his final major league series from the dugout, taking it easy a day after his walk-off single finished off an emotional farewell to Yankee Stadium.

"I don't think I really slept - maybe a couple of hours," Jeter told reporters. "I don't know if I could play tonight if I was playing tonight. Last night was as special as it gets."

Since announcing in spring training that this would be his final season, Jeter has been celebrated across the major leagues, collecting gifts at each stop and applause from former opponents and their fans. Then came his final home game, when the pregame cheers were surpassed by the postgame celebration after he led the Yankees to another win.

"I was thinking how fitting it was, what a great night it was," Girardi said before Friday's game. "I'm sure he's emotionally drained, probably physically drained."

With both the Yankees and Red Sox eliminated from playoff contention, Girardi compiled a lineup missing many of his regulars and joked that it looked more like spring training roster. Eury Perez batted in Jeter's familiar No. 2 spot - and collected his first major league hit - and Brendan Ryan played shortstop.

Jeter said he would be back in the lineup on Saturday and Sunday - but as designated hitter, so his final memories as a shortstop would be in Yankee Stadium. Girardi told Jeter he could play any position but pitcher or catcher this weekend if he had the urge - including manager.

Jeter declined.

"I don't pay attention enough," he said. "When I'm not playing, I'm all over the place."

A 14-time All-Star and five-time World Series champion, Jet

Sep 27, 2014 Rondo to miss 6-8 weeks with broken left finger

BOSTON (AP) The Boston Celtics rebuilding project suffered a major setback when four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo underwent surgery Friday for a broken left finger.

The Celtics said the point guard is expected to miss six to eight weeks after breaking his finger in a fall at his home Thursday night. The team gave no further details.

Avery Bradley, a four-year veteran who signed a four-year contract in July to stay with the Celtics, is expected to fill in at point guard.

Bradley played that role last season during Rondo's 40-game absence following major knee surgery in the offseason. The Celtics also have second-year guard Phil Pressey and draft choice Marcus Smart. In 30 games last season, Rondo averaged 11.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 33.3 minutes.

Rondo had been the subject of trade speculation for several years. That continued after the Celtics finished with the third worst record in club history, 25-57, last season under first-year head coach Brad Stevens.

Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, has said he has no intention of trading Rondo but indicated the eight-year veteran can become a free agent after the coming season. Ainge also has said no one is untradeable.

Rondo's surgery came one day after the Celtics continued tinkering with their roster by making a trade that sent guard Keith Bogans and two future Sacramento second-round draft picks to the Cleveland Cavaliers for forwards Dwight Powell, Erik Murphy and Malcolm Thomas, guard John Lucas III, 2016 and 2017 second-round picks and a trade exception.

The Celtics also waived guard Chris Babb and guard-forward Chris Johnson.

Sep 27, 2014 Diamondbacks fire manager Kirk Gibson

PHOENIX (AP) Just days from the end of an awful season, the Arizona Diamondbacks fired manager Kirk Gibson.

The firing was announced Friday, 15 minutes before a news conference to introduce new Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart.

"It was my trigger to pull," Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa said.

Bench coach Alan Trammell also was dismissed, but will stay on to manage the final three games, a weekend series against St. Louis.

"We just decided that being fresh, starting fresh with not just the upstairs leadership team but downstairs, is more consistent with what we are doing as an organization," La Russa said at the news conference.

Gibson took over as interim manager in 2010 when A.J. Hinch was fired, then got the job without the interim title. In 2011, his first full season, he led the Diamondbacks to the NL West title and was named major league manager of the year.

But his next two teams went 81-81, and this year, with a squad riddled with injuries, the Diamondbacks are assured at least a tie for the worst record in baseball. The Diamondbacks were 63-96 entering Friday night's game.

"I am extremely appreciative for this opportunity and I had a great experience with the Diamondbacks," Gibson said in a statement issued through the team. "I know we had a tough year and people will look at this as a negative, but we accomplished a lot of good things here. I told the team that I have nothing but the utmost respect for this organization and the people I've met along the way."

Gibson and Trammell were teammates on the 1984 Detroit Tigers team that won the franchise's most recent World Series.

La Russa called Trammell one of his favorite players and Gibson "one of the great competitors of our time."

"So it is really not a reflection on them," La Russa said. "I know that sounds a little hollow, but I'm always sincere when I am serious. The situation was unfair enough that the losses piled

Sep 27, 2014 Nats clinch NL home-field edge, split with Marlins

WASHINGTON (AP) Kike Hernandez's grand slam, J.T. Realmuto's three-run triple and Adeiny Hechavarria's four hits helped the Miami Marlins beat the NL East champion Washington Nationals 15-7 for a split of a day-night doubleheader Friday.

After clinching home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs by winning the opener 4-0 on Doug Fister's three-hitter, Washington used only two regulars in the nightcap. One, right fielder Jayson Werth, had a single, double and triple and threw out a runner.

Realmuto, a catcher never above Double-A until this year, cleared the bases during Miami's five-run fifth against Washington's Taylor Hill (0-1), who was making his first major league start. Hernandez's first career slam came off Craig Stammen in the ninth. Miami had 22 hits.

A.J. Ramos (7-0) earned the win with a 1-2-3 eighth inning.

Sep 27, 2014 Royals clinch playoff spot with win over White Sox

CHICAGO (AP) Kansas City's long postseason drought is over.

The Royals clinched a playoff spot for the first time in 29 years, beating the Chicago White Sox 3-1 on Friday night behind seven scoreless innings from Jeremy Guthrie.

Kansas City secured at least a wild card and ended the longest active postseason drought among the major North American sports leagues. Not since George Brett led the Royals to a World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985 had they reached the playoffs.

Small-market Kansas City endured more than its share of losing in recent years. But it contended into September last season and kicked down the playoff door on Friday.

Sep 25, 2014 Miami's Tannehill plans to start against Raiders

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) Ryan Tannehill plans to take the first snap on offense Sunday for the Dolphins against the Oakland Raiders, at least temporarily putting an end to questions about Miami's quarterback situation.

Head coach Joe Philbin hasn't said Tannehill would be the starter but the third-year quarterback insisted that where he stands has been made clear to him. He has taken all of the snaps with the first team.

"I've been preparing to play Oakland in London and to go out there and win," said Tannehill, who has completed just 56.5 percent of his passes and ranks 29th in the NFL in passer rating at 74.1. "I'm taking the first snap of the game and playing the game."

Philbin's approach has created a distraction in the locker room, and Tannehill said that was an issue and was not a good feeling for him. But Tannehill said he understood Philbin's handling of the situation, and remains confident in his abilities and the potential of Miami's offense.

"Obviously, it doesn't feel good. It creates a bunch of stir and a bunch of distraction in the locker room, mostly from the outside coming in," Tannehill said. "Just guys having to deal with the distraction of it, it's not a good feeling but he's been clear with me and I know where I stand. I don't know how it first came to me. I think I received some texts from basically everyone I've ever known offering me support, which is a good thing I guess, and then coach came to me."

Backup quarterback Matt Moore confirmed that nothing has changed with his role and that he has not taken a snap with the first team since training camp.

"I've taken zero reps. Ryan's prepared the same way he always does and I've prepared the same way I always do," said Moore, who is the highest paid backup quarterback in the league and won six games as a starter for Miami in 2011. "We showed up on Tuesday and everything was the same. Obviously, I did get a couple of text messages from friends who read things an

Sep 25, 2014 Suns, Bledsoe agree to 5-year, $70 million deal

PHOENIX (AP) The Phoenix Suns and point guard Eric Bledsoe have reached agreement on a five-year, $70 million contract, capping a long, sometimes-tense negotiation to keep him in the desert.

The deal Wednesday is considerably more than the four-year, $48 million the Suns initially offered but well below the five-year, $80 million-plus maximum contract Bledsoe's agent, Rich Paul, sought for the restricted free agent.

The sides didn't budge in the negotiations until talks finally progressed in the last few days.

"All summer, I knew that I really would be most comfortable coming back to Phoenix because of the great fans, my Suns teammates and our coaches," Bledsoe said in a statement released by the team. "I am very happy it was able to work out this way."

Bledsoe faced an Oct. 1 deadline to sign a $3.7 million qualifying offer to play for the Suns this season, then become an unrestricted free agent.

"I learned long ago that it doesn't matter how stormy the sea is as long as the ship comes in, and today we are thrilled that the ship has come in and Eric will remain a Sun for a long time," Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby said in a statement. "He will be an integral part not only of our basketball team, but our Phoenix community."

The Suns see Bledsoe as a critical part of their double point-guard system. He missed much of last season after undergoing his second surgery to repair a meniscus in his right knee.

When Bledsoe teamed with fellow point guard Goran Dragic last year, the Suns won two-thirds of their games. But injuries kept the duo apart, most significantly the knee surgery.

While the Suns coveted Bledsoe's skills - particularly his drives to the basket and defense - as well as his obvious upside, they balked at giving the 24-year-old guard a max contract but felt highly enough of him to give a rich deal.

"We are thrilled Eric Bledsoe will be in a Phoenix Suns uniform for years t

Sep 25, 2014 NFLPA to investigate handling of Rice case

WASHINGTON (AP) The NFL players' union has hired former federal prosecutor Richard Craig Smith to oversee its investigation into the Ray Rice domestic violence case.

Smith will look at how the league and the Baltimore Ravens handled issues of due process and discipline, as well as look at the conduct of the league office and the Ravens that led to the indefinite suspension Commissioner Roger Goodell gave to Ray Rice.

The Ravens also cut Rice after video of him punching his then-fiancee in a hotel elevator went public. Originally, Goodell had given Rice a two-game suspension.

Rice and the NFL Players Association have appealed his suspension.

A former federal prosecutor, Smith is the head of regulatory and governmental investigation for the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.

The union said in a statement Wednesday it "will request that the NFL and the Baltimore Ravens cooperate in the interest of transparency."

Sep 25, 2014 Kershaw, Dodgers beat Giants 9-1 to win West title

LOS ANGELES (AP) Clayton Kershaw tied a career high with his 21st victory, Yasiel Puig homered to highlight a four-run sixth inning and the Los Angeles Dodgers won the NL West title with a 9-1 victory over the second-place San Francisco Giants on Wednesday night.

Fittingly, the Dodgers claimed their second straight division title behind Kershaw (21-3), the probable NL Cy Young Award winner and MVP candidate who has been the catalyst behind their success this season.

He didn't pitch lights out - getting called for a balk and wild pitch - and he committed a throwing error in the seventh but he did a little bit of everything, including hitting and fielding to ensure the Dodgers' celebrated in front of their longtime rivals.

Kershaw allowed one run and eight hits in eight innings, struck out 11 and walked none in his last start of the regular season, having won his final seven starts. He became the first player to lead the major leagues in ERA (1.77) in four consecutive seasons.

Kershaw tied his career high in wins from 2011. The Dodgers are 23-4 in his 27 starts this season.

"MVP" chants directed at Kershaw from the sellout crowd of 53,387 broke out throughout the game, but grew loudest after he retired the side in the eighth, striking out two.

Juan Uribe went 2 for 4 and drove in three runs, and Carl Crawford was 2 for 2 with three runs scored and two RBI for Los Angeles.

The Dodgers snapped a 1-1 tie in the sixth, with Puig hitting a leadoff homer off Tim Hudson (9-13) to get things started. Crawford's two-run double off Javier Lopez made it 4-1 and Uribe followed with a RBI single off Jean Machi for a 5-1 lead.

Puig showed off his arm in the top of the seventh. Pinch-hitter Matt Duffy singled to center, where Puig grabbed the ball, spun around and fired to third, nailing Gregor Blanco as he slid in.

The Dodgers tacked on four more runs in the eighth, when Giants pitchers walked four batters and hit an

Sep 25, 2014 Tony Stewart will not face charges in deadly crash

CANANDAIGUA, N.Y. (AP) After more than six weeks in limbo, NASCAR star Tony Stewart finally got the news he had been hoping for.

A grand jury that heard testimony from more than two dozen witnesses, including accident reconstruction experts and drivers, and looked at photographs and video decided against bringing criminal charges against Stewart for the death of 20-year-old sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. during an Aug. 9 race.

That doesn't mean it's over.

A few hours after Ontario County District Attorney Michael Tantillo announced the grand jury's decision in this upstate New York hamlet, the Ward family indicated in a statement read over the telephone by sister Kayla Herring that they will seek civil damages in the young driver's death.

"Our son got out of his car during caution when the race was suspended. All the other vehicles were reducing speed and not accelerating except for Stewart, who intentionally tried to intimidate Kevin by accelerating and sliding his car toward him, causing the tragedy," the family said Wednesday. "The focus should be on the actions of Mr. Stewart. This matter is not at rest and we will pursue all remedies in fairness to Kevin."

The family might have a difficult task: Tantillo disclosed that Ward was under the influence of marijuana the night he died and said two different videos were enhanced, frames were isolated and viewed at at least three different speeds and finally overlaid with grids and data. Both showed Stewart had done nothing wrong.

"The videos did not demonstrate any aberrational driving by Tony Stewart until the point of impact with Kevin Ward, at which point his vehicle veered to the right up the track as a result of the collision. Prior to that, his course was pretty straight," said Tantillo. He added that toxicology evidence from Ward's autopsy "indicates that at the time of operation he was under the influence of marijuana. The levels determined were enough to impair ju

Sep 24, 2014 Could Jeter be the first with perfect Hall vote?

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter has had as close to perfect a career as a major leaguer can have. Still, five years from now, don't expect the New York Yankees' captain to be a unanimous selection to baseball's Hall of Fame.

That's not a knock. He'd be in pretty impressive company.

Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Cal Ripken Jr. all dominated the game, and all came up short. Tom Seaver, the top vote-getter by percentage, was left off five ballots.

If there's anyone worthy of 100 percent approval from the voters in the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Jeter could be it.

MORE: Ominous forecast for home finale  |  Selig honors Jeter

"He's so revered," Hall spokesman Brad Horn said. "He's reached iconic status probably at a more national standard of any player of his lifetime."

The 40-year-old shortstop's model career for the major's most storied franchise will come to an end Sunday after two decades, save a baseball miracle. Five World Series championships, sixth on the career hits list, 14 All-Star selections. He's the face of baseball, idolized by a generation of young stars from Troy Tulowitzki to Yoenis Cespedes to Mike Trout. And he played through the Steroids Era without the slightest tarnish.

What then could possibly prevent No. 2 from receiving affirmation from all 500-plus voters on the class of 2020 ballot?

Plenty, it turns out.

Election to the Hall of Fame requires 75 percent of the vote from writers with 10 consecutive years in the BBWAA at any point, a rigorous standard that produced no player electees in 2013. Writers c

Sep 24, 2014 Bettman says NHL has no immediate plans to expand

TORONTO (AP) NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says the league has no immediate plans to expand and adjust its unbalanced conference alignment.

"What most people say to me is, well, there's 16 teams in the East, 14 in the West. What's wrong with you? Can't you count?" Bettman said at a Canadian Club luncheon. "And I say, `Yes, I can count, but I also can tell time and we finally have all 16 teams in the Eastern Time Zone in the right place.'

"But you don't expand just to fulfill somebody's notion of symmetry. It's a very important business decision to make, and you do it for the right reasons at the right time."

The league listens to expressions of interest from markets, but Bettman reiterates there no plans in the works to take on more clubs. A recent Twitter report by Howard Bloom of Sports Business News said the NHL would expand by four teams - Quebec City, Seattle, Las Vegas and Toronto - by 2017.

"I know people think I have this list tucked away in a vault with cities lined up," Bettman said. "We don't."

"This is an important business decision if you're going to expand," he added. "In addition to being one involving a lot of money, it's a fundamentally important decision if you're going to do that."

The issue of expansion has particular resonance in Ontario. A second team in Toronto, even in the Eastern Time Zone, could theoretically play in the Western Conference for the sake of balance. The Leafs played in the West until the 1998-99 season.

Speaking in a hypothetical sense of such an addition, Bettman said: "If we decided that we were putting a second team in Ontario, and the year the team was supposed to start, the Leafs won the Cup, that second team wouldn't exist."

Expansion teams face challenges even when they have the market to themselves. Joining a market that already has a team poses an even bigger hurdle.

"That's part of the dynamic because the attention gets diluted, either two ways or th

Sep 24, 2014 Mets extend GM Sandy Alderson through 2017

NEW YORK (AP) Sandy Alderson is sticking with the New York Mets - and he might have some more money to spend.

The team announced a contract extension Tuesday for Alderson that runs through 2017 and gives the general manager a chance to finish the rebuilding project he started four years ago.

"Obviously, we're not at the point we'd like to be in terms of our won-loss record and the overall success of the team," Alderson said on a conference call. "I don't think we're that far away. I really don't believe it is going to take a giant leap to get to a playoff-competitive level."

Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon said the club exercised Alderson's option for next season and added two years to his deal. Wilpon said ownership is pleased with the job Alderson has done, and he has payroll flexibility to continue to improve the team through free agency or trades.

"I don't know whether there will be a dramatic spike or not. I don't feel that we will necessarily be constrained by the payroll next year," Alderson said.

He did confirm that manager Terry Collins will return. Collins is under contract through next season, with an option for 2016.

"He's done an exceptional job for us, I believe. He's energetic. He's passionate; his work ethic is second to none," Alderson said. "It's been a pleasure to watch how the team has responded to Terry."

New York (76-81) needs to win its final five games to avoid a sixth consecutive losing season since moving into Citi Field. Before the season, Alderson challenged the Mets to win 90 games, a number even hard-core fans found overly optimistic.

The Mets are 301-342 under Alderson and Collins.

"We finally have gone through some of these rougher years, where the expectations that we have on ourselves moving into next year should be pretty high," captain David Wright said. "I'm very optimistic and excited about what the very near future holds, and I'm glad those two guys wil