<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Sports]]>Copyright 2016http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.comen-usSun, 29 May 2016 20:40:02 -0500Sun, 29 May 2016 20:40:02 -0500NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[NBA Star Dejean-Jones Fatally Shot]]> Sun, 29 May 2016 04:41:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/052816+Bryce+Dejean+Jones.jpg

Bryce Dejean-Jones, a guard for the New Orleans Pelicans, was fatally shot after he kicked down the door of a Dallas apartment early Saturday morning, police said.

According to police, officers were called to the Camden Belmont apartment complex on the 2500 block of Bennett Avenue at 3:20 a.m. regarding a shooting.

The resident of the apartment, whose identity was not released, was sleeping when he heard a man, identified as 23-year-old Bryce Dejean-Jones, breaking down the front door, police said.

The resident, armed with a handgun, called out and heard no response. As Dejean-Jones kicked open the bedroom door, the resident fired his gun, police said.

Dejean-Jones left the apartment and collapsed. He was later brought to a hospital and pronounced dead from a gunshot wound, according to the police statement.

Agent Scott W. Nichols said Dejean-Jones was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Bryce was visiting his girlfriend in Dallas for his daughter’s 1st birthday. This was the first time Bryce visited her new apartment," Nichols said in a statement. "Later that night, Bryce came back to the apartment. Incidentally he went to the wrong apartment on the third floor just below his girlfriends fourth-floor apartment. He was attempting to enter the apartment which led to him ultimately being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bryce was then shot and killed."

The New Orleans Pelicans, in a press release, said the team is "devastated" over the loss of Dejean-Jones.

“It is with deep sadness that the Pelicans organization acknowledges the sudden passing of Bryce Dejean-Jones. We are devastated at the loss of this young man’s life who had such a promising future ahead of him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bryce’s family during this difficult time.”

Dejean-Jones signed a three-year contract with the Pelicans in February after joining the team in January on consecutive 10-day contracts.

In Dejean-Jones' only NBA season, which ended in February because of a broken right wrist, the 6-foot-6 guard started 11 of 14 games and averaged 5.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

Nichols said Dejean-Jones had nearly completed his rehab and was set to begin shooting with his right hand again next week.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called it a "tragic loss."

"Bryce inspired countless people with his hard work and perseverance on his journey to the NBA, and he had a bright future in our league," Silver said in a statement issued Saturday.

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts, who had posted a link to the story of Dejean-Jones' death on Twitter and wrote that it was "The news I pray every day I never have to hear," said "Bryce's dedication and hard work on his journey to the NBA will forever serve as an inspiration to us all."

Dejean-Jones was a part of the 2014-15 Iowa State team that went 25-9, captured a Big 12 title and made a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. He was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 10.5 points in 33 games. He shot a career-best 47.6 percent in his lone season as a Cyclone.

"This is a very, very sad and tragic day for everyone that's a part of the Cyclone basketball family," Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said.

Former Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg, now the coach of the NBA's Chicago Bulls, added in a statement that Dejean-Jones was a "passionate and talented player that lived out his dream of playing in the NBA through hard work and perseverance."

He also played college ball at the University of Southern California and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Dejean-Jones was suspended late in the 2013-14 season from UNLV for conduct detrimental to the team, and announced that he was leaving USC midway through the 2010-11 season.

Several NBA players reacted to news of Dejean-Jones' death on Twitter Saturday.

"Crazy how life is man," wrote Brooklyn Nets guard Shane Larkin. "Prayers out to Bryce Dejean Jones and his family."

Quincy Pondexter, one of Dejean-Jones' teammates with the Pelicans, said "This Can't be real life... Rest easy lil bro."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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<![CDATA[13 Blackhawks Set to Play in World Cup of Hockey This Summer]]> Fri, 27 May 2016 18:02:58 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Blackhawks1.png

The Chicago Blackhawks already knew that they were going to be well-represented at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, but on Friday fans found out just how many Hawks players will suit up for their countries in Toronto.

In total, 13 Blackhawks players will participate in the event, which will take place before the 2016-17 season at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

The United States team will be led by Patrick Kane, who led the NHL in scoring this season and is considered to be a favorite for the Hart Trophy. Other notable players for the squad include Zach Parise, John Carlson, and Jonathan Quick as the Americans look to make some noise in the tournament.

Team Canada will feature three Blackhawks, as Corey Crawford was added to the team after being left off of the initial roster earlier this spring. Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith will also suit up for the Canadians, who will look to defend home turf in the event.

Team Sweden will feature a pair of Blackhawks, as Marcus Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson will both play for the squad that is going to be considered a serious contender for the championship.

Team Finland will also feature two Blackhawks players, with Teuvo Teravainen and Ville Pokka (who already represented Finland in this year’s IIHF World Championships in Russia) both playing for the blue and white.

Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov were both on Russia’s initial roster for the tournament, and both players will play for their country in the World Cup. The Czech Republic team will also feature a Blackhawks player, as new acquisition Michal Kempny will man the blue line for the Czechs.

Finally, Team Europe will be represented by a pair of Blackhawks, as Christian Ehrhoff and Marian Hossa will play for the team that collects players from all nations in Europe not represented by their respective national teams.

The tournament will get underway with pool play starting on Sept. 17, with the championship game set for Oct. 1 in Toronto. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Sign First Round Pick Leonard Floyd to Contract]]> Fri, 27 May 2016 16:52:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/GettyImages-498224708.jpg

The Chicago Bears are hoping that linebacker Leonard Floyd can make a big impact for the team in his rookie season in the Windy City, and their first round pick is now under contract with the organization, the team announced Friday.

Floyd, who was drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft by the Bears, signed a four-year contract, with a fifth year option, according to the team.

The Bears now have eight of their draft picks under contract, with only Florida defensive end Jonathan Bullard, a third-round pick of the team, serving as the only hold-out.

The Bears traded up two spots in the first round to get Floyd, jumping ahead of the New York Giants in the draft order. Floyd had 184 tackles during his career with the Georgia Bulldogs, including 17 sacks. He had four and a half sacks and 10 and a half tackles for loss during his final season with the Bulldogs. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Which Current Blackhawks Deserve Jersey Retirement?]]> Thu, 26 May 2016 16:27:44 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blackhawks+jersey+retire+0526.jpg

Whenever a fan walks into the United Center, they can’t help but look up to the roof and see the plethora of banners that hang down from the rafters of the iconic building.

Whether it’s the six championship banners for the Chicago Bulls, or the six that hang in honor of the Chicago Blackhawks, there’s plenty of memories contained within the fabric of the massive pennants.

Those memories are also embodied in the banners honoring the retired numbers of the two franchises. Currently, the Blackhawks have honored seven players, retiring six different numbers from their franchise history. Glenn Hall’s number “1” hangs in the corner of the arena, and he’s been joined by Keith Magnuson, Pierre Pilote, Bobby Hull, Denis Savard, Stan Mikita, and Tony Esposito in that hallowed club.

The question that fans nowadays can ask themselves is this: what Blackhawks players from the current era will have their numbers hoisted to the rafters when they retire?

There are at least three players who are virtual locks to have the honor bestowed upon them when they hang up their skates. Patrick Kane’s “88” jersey and Jonathan Toews’ “19” will certainly take their place among the other immortals in Blackhawks’ team history, and Duncan Keith’s “2” will likely reside next to Hall’s banner someday.

Outside of those three, there are plenty of other players who could potentially make it up into the rafters of the United Center.

Brent Seabrook - #7

Seabrook, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, has spent his entire 11-season career with the team, and he will likely be here a lot longer after signing an eight-year contract extension. In 844 career games, he has scored 85 goals and dished out 282 assists, and he has been a key contributor to all three of the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup championships in the modern era.

His games-played and goals scored totals are similar to Pilote’s (who had 890 games played and 80 goals scored in his career), but he’s well behind the Hall of Fame defenseman in assists. His three Cups will certainly help, and he will only continue to pad his totals as he goes further in his career.

If the Blackhawks retire Seabrook’s jersey, would they do what they did with Pilote and Magnuson and retire the jersey in honor of Chris Chelios too?

Our Verdict: Yes

Patrick Sharp - #10

During his career with the Blackhawks, Sharp scored 239 regular season goals, and he was one of the most important wingers on a squad that won three Stanley Cup championships in six seasons.

Acquired in a trade from the Flyers, Sharp was a player that served as a veteran influence when guys like Kane and Toews were drafted into the organization, and he continued to play that role throughout his tenure. Whether it was playing on the penalty-kill early in his time in Chicago, or serving as a first and a third line left winger at various times, Sharp was versatile and did whatever was required of him, making him an indispensable part of the team’s core.

Despite those accomplishments, it’s unclear whether Sharp will meet the threshold required to have his number retired by the team. He’s probably a player that would fit into the “Hall of Very Good” camp rather than the “Hall of Fame” club, but he’s still an important figure in the team’s modern era, and he could be honored by the franchise in some way.

Verdict: No

Corey Crawford - #50

Another player taken by the Blackhawks in the 2003 draft, Crawford has backstopped the team to two Stanley Cup championships and has arguably been their most important player in several seasons, including the 2015-16 campaign.

Largely viewed by outsiders as a “system goaltender” that benefits from his team’s excellent defense, Crawford really had to shoulder the load during the 2015-16 season, going 35-18-5 with a .924 save percentage despite facing more shots than he ever had in his career up to that point.

Despite these accomplishments, it does feel like there is still more that Crawford would need to do to ensure his place among the banners at the United Center. Another Stanley Cup would likely do the trick, or perhaps a Vezina Trophy or two, but his career with the team, while spectacular, still has a little ways to go before it reaches the level of a Hall or an Esposito.

Verdict: Not Yet

Marian Hossa - #81

If Hossa plays in seven regular season games for the Blackhawks this season, he will have spent more time in the Windy City than in any of his other NHL stops, exceeding the 467 games he spent with the Ottawa Senators to kick off his career.

Even though his statistics aren’t exactly eye-popping with the Hawks (160 goals and 210 assists in 461 games), his impact on the team cannot be understated. He is arguably the best defensive winger in the NHL, and his influence has helped players like Brandon Saad to thrive as two-way skaters, and has helped Toews to become a perennial Selke Trophy candidate at the center position.

Add to that the three Stanley Cups that he’s won, and Hossa has a really solid resume for jersey retirement, but there is one question that has to be answered: has he played with the team for long enough to warrant inclusion?

Ultimately that will be the deciding factor, but with a likely spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame waiting for him when he retires, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that Hossa will find his jersey hoisted to the rafters at the United Center.

Verdict: Yes 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[US Women's Soccer Team Heads to Court Over Potential Strike]]> Thu, 26 May 2016 16:45:03 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Womens-Soccer-GettyImages-506466114.jpg

With the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio just months away, the World Cup-winning U.S. Women’s Soccer team is looking into the possibility of a strike as they fight for equal pay.

The players’ union, which says the women’s team isn’t being paid as much as the U.S. men’s team, took the Chicago-based U.S. Soccer Federation to federal court Thursday to determine whether or not a strike is legal.

“This case is about a very narrow issue,” said anti-trust attorney Jeffery Kessler. “Whether the women have the right to strike or not. And we will find out.”

There’s concern, however, that the potential strike could mean the women’s team may not play in the Summer Games.

“If this case continues, if the dispute continues, then there is a probability that the greatest women’s soccer team in the world will not be participating in the Olympics in Brazil,” said Lester Munson, a legal affairs writer for ESPN.

U.S. Soccer maintains that the players union is still covered by a “no-strike” clause under its current memorandum of understanding. The union says that clause expired with its old contract.

On their way out of court today, the federation declined to comment on pending litigation, but in the past has said: ”We remain committed to negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the [Players Association], to take effect when the current one expires at the end of this year." 

In a separate lawsuit, five of the team’s top players claim they are the victims of wage discrimination.

“We have proven our worth over the years, you know, just coming off a World Cup win,” star midfielder Carli Lloyd said. “The pay disparity between the men and the women is just too large.”

Still, the union says it, too, is open to negotiation.

“We have to reserve our rights to do whatever we have to do to achieve equal pay, but it would be great if the Soccer Federation today came to the negotiating table,” said Richard Nichols with the U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association. “We would really like to be able to get a deal done before the Olympics so that we don’t have to contemplate any other action.”

But the real threat remains that without an agreement, soccer’s top women’s team may not take to the pitch in Rio.

“This all is on the soccer side of the pitch,” said Kessler, the anti-trust attorney. “They should negotiate a fair agreement with these proud women before the Olympics. And no one even had to talk about the issue. That is what we hope to achieve.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File]]>
<![CDATA[Rizzo vs. Bryant: Cubs Weigh in on Cup Conundrum]]> Wed, 25 May 2016 15:26:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/164*120/rizzo+bryantGettyImages-491744868.jpg

Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are always involved in some type of shenanigans when they’re together, but there is one issue that the pals don’t see eye to eye on: Whether to wear a cup while they play baseball.

According to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago, Bryant does indeed wear a cup when he plays third base for the Chicago Cubs, but Rizzo sits on the other end of the spectrum, as he trusts himself to, well, protect himself.

“I’ve worn it my whole life, so it’s comfortable for me,” Bryant told Rogers. “Most people don’t. I think they take for granted that the infield is going to be perfect and nicely manicured. I’ve seen some bad hops here and there.”

Rizzo and Bryant aren’t the only Cubs that went on the record about the cup issue. Second baseman Ben Zobrist, who has been in baseball seemingly as long as Bryant has been alive, is also on Kris’ side in the debate, while shortstop Addison Russell shockingly sides with Rizzo.

Russell, who says that he has quick enough hands to go cup-free, surprised even teammates with his answer to the question, as Zobrist told ESPN that he “can’t believe” that the shortstop doesn’t use the plastic protection for his prized possessions. 

<![CDATA[Teammate Says Joakim Noah 'Done' With Chicago Bulls: Report]]> Wed, 25 May 2016 13:06:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Joakim+Bird+Lady.jpg

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah has been one of the most popular players on the team since he was drafted, but according to one of his teammates, his time in the Windy City is drawing to a close.  

In a column published by Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, a player has said that Noah has told teammates that he is “done with the organization” once he becomes a free agent this summer.

Here is more from the piece:

“According to a Bulls player, Noah has been telling teammates the last few weeks that he was done with the organization once free agency begins, and 'has no trust in the front office getting this in the right direction.””

The Bulls, who missed the playoffs this season for the first time since 2009, have a lot of other questions to deal with this offseason, including whether to trade Jimmy Butler or Derrick Rose (who will be a free agent at the end of the 2016-17 season), and deciding whether to keep Noah has been a decision up in the air throughout this year.

Noah went through an injury-plagued 2015-16 season, playing in just 29 games for the Bulls before a shoulder injury ended his season. Noah came off the bench during the year, and that could be one of the factors in his reported decision to leave Chicago.

The reputation of Bulls G.M. Gar Forman has been a question mark for some time, as the team has made a slew of questionable moves. One of the biggest moves that Forman made was to fire Tom Thibodeau, who reportedly clashed often with the front office, and to bring in the more malleable Fred Hoiberg before last season.

That move proved to be a disaster, as the Bulls went from being one of the Eastern Conference’s perennial contenders to being an also-ran, struggling in every aspect of the game despite a surging Butler and a healthy Rose through much of the year.

That in-fighting and haggling over decision-making and discipline has led some to question whether or not the team can attract the free agents required to rebuild the mess, and Noah apparently shares that skepticism about the direction of the team. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jason Heyward to Return to Cubs' Lineup Tuesday Night]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 17:24:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Jason+Heyward.png

After missing his team’s last three games, Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward will be back in the lineup on Tuesday night, according to team manager Joe Maddon.

Maddon, during his weekly interview segment with the Spiegel and Goff Show, confirmed that Heyward will return from the hip ailment that he suffered during Friday’s win over the San Francisco Giants. Maddon also said that Heyward will resume batting in the second spot in the order for the Cubs, who are looking to get off the skids as they deal with their first three game losing streak of the season.

Heyward sustained the injury while making a spectacular catch in right field on Friday night. The outfielder tracked down a fly ball before making the catch and crashing into the outfield barrier at AT&T Park, and he was immediately removed from the game.

Both X-rays and an MRI came back clean for Heyward, who was dealing with his second injury of the season after a wrist ailment sidelined him earlier in the year.

On Tuesday night, Heyward will battle his former team, as the Cubs take on the St. Louis Cardinals. He will be looking to improve upon his lackluster statistics at the plate so far this season, where he’s batting just .225 with a home run and 14 RBI in 37 games for the Cubs. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Gwynn's Family Sues Tobacco Ind.]]> Tue, 24 May 2016 16:41:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/102871071.jpg

The tobacco industry used the late Tony Gwynn's addiction to chewing tobacco to turn him into a "walking billboard," his family alleges. 

"He never knew it but they were using him to promote their dip to the next generation of kids and fans who idolized him," Gwynn's daughter, Anisha Gwynn, said Tuesday in San Diego.

Gwynn’s family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the tobacco industry, claiming the San Diego Padres legend was targeted to use the smokeless tobacco that led to the cancer that killed him.

The suit was filed Monday in San Diego Superior Court against Altria Group, Inc. (formerly known as Philip Morris USA) and several other defendants. Altria Group, Inc. makes Skoal chewing tobacco, the brand Tony Gwynn preferred and used extensively. 

The Gwynn family alleges the tobacco industry induced Gwynn to begin using smokeless tobacco when he was a star athlete at San Diego State University in the late 1970’s. 

When asked about the lawsuit, an Altria representative told NBC 7 San Diego, "We have no comment."

In the suit, the Gwynn family says the tobacco company "continued to deluge Tony during his college years with countless free samples of 'dip' tobacco products they purposely adulterated to make more addictive. All the while, they did not mention either the highly addictive nature of their products or their toxicity."

The suit alleges Gwynn used up to two cans of smokeless tobacco per day, claiming that is the equivalent of smoking four to five packs of cigarettes daily. In the suit the Gwynn family alleges the tobacco industry chose Gwynn specifically because it was trying to market its product to African-Americans, and that it intentionally misled Tony to use the product.

"Tony Gwynn was the Defendants' marketing dream come true," says the lawsuit. "They knew youngsters looking up to Tony would hope to one day hit like Tony, and be like Tony, so they would also want to 'dip' like Tony."

On Tuesday, Gwynn's daughter Anisha spoke of her dad's legacy, saying the baseball legend “wouldn’t want to see another player or any other person have to get sick and die."

Gwynn used smokeless tobacco for 31 years, despite seeing signs it may be harming his health as early as the 1990’s. Gwynn admitted an addiction to the substance and when he tried to stop using he reportedly needed prescription drugs to fight the anxiety and cravings he felt in its absence.

In recent years, Gwynn had multiple surgeries on his neck to remove both an abscess and a malignant tumor. He died in 2014 from salivary gland cancer at the age of 54.

Tony Gwynn was an elite athlete who “cared about his body,” his son said Tuesday.

“If he had known how addictive and harmful to his health dip was he would not have started using in college,” Tony Gwynn, Jr said of his dad.

The lawsuit does not ask for specified damages, instead requesting a jury trial to rule on grounds of negligence, fraud and product liability by the tobacco industry.

Gwynn’s death has brought about a change in some part of baseball. Multiple young players have either stopped using smokeless tobacco or simply not picked up the habit because of what happened to Mr. Padre.

Photo Credit: Getty Images for Pepsi MLB Refre]]>
<![CDATA[Nation's Top 12-Year-Old Boxer]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 20:03:00 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/box+GIF_19483400.gif

The highlight of 12-year-old David "Dynamite" Lopez’s life was becoming the country’s No. 1 boxer for his age and weight last year.

But a close second was sparring at his dad’s gym with undefeated super middleweight world champion Andre Ward one day this May. Ward threw a few fast punches. One or two landed on David’s headgear, throwing the boy back.

"It was uncomfortable," said the young boxer from Oakland, California. "But I didn’t cry."

Still, his nose smarted a bit and he got to play hooky from Westlake Middle School, where he is a sixth grader.

"It was awesome," he added, his green eyes twinkling.

Chance to be No. 1 Again
The scrappy pre-teen now has a chance to win No. 1 again. He qualified to attend the Junior Olympics National Championships in Dallas, Texas, next month. This round, he’s 85 pounds — a weight he begrudgingly achieves by following a "no hot chips" and no-soda diet. His father is now trying to raise enough funds to get there, as traveling the world to win boxing championships, especially for a working-class family, will be a feat.

David hasn’t read Malcom Gladwell’s "Outliers," which touts the idea that 10,000 hours of practice are required to excel at something.

But David intrinsically understands the book’s theory. He’s already put in about 7,000 of those hours, having started to box when he was just 5. That work led USA Boxing to dub him the top 70-pound boxer in the country in 2015. He also won the national title in Puerto Rico the same year.

"Practice," David said simply when asked why he’s so good. "Boxing is just what I do."

"Dedicated," chimed in Jasper McCargo, 29, who made the U.S. Olympic boxing team in 2014 and trains alongside David at his father’s gym in Oakland, Lightning’s Boxing Club. "And he has a great father." 

Father and Son Box Together
David’s father, Kris "Lightning" Lopez, 39, was a two-time Golden Glove champion and now runs a respected youth boxing program. Father and son train together for two hours every day after school. They also have an unusually close bond, which is obvious to anyone, even when meeting them for the first time.

The elder Lopez echoed that "repetition" is why his son is so skilled. But Lopez also added: "It’s in our blood." Lopez’s great-grandfather was a bigtime fighter in the Philippines in the 1920s. 

Half the week, David goes home with his mother, Wells Fargo corporate finance administrative assistant Denielle Allen, who can’t bear to watch her son fight in the ring.

"My mom will ask how a fight went, but she doesn’t want to come," David said. He added proudly he’s never suffered a concussion, and only broken his hand once.

He's close with his mom, too. She's the one who cooks him the rare feast of fried chicken and ice cream, no matter if he wins or not.

"I went to one fight," Allen said, "and I got sick for three days to my stomach." While David's boxing, she sits at home and prays with her Acts Full Gospel community for his safe return from the ring.

The other half of the week, he goes home with his father and his wife, who moved to Pittsburg, California, when they were priced out of Oakland.

Of Lopez’s four children, two are boxers, including his 20-year-old son, Daniel, who has also won national championships and now attends Laney College in Oakland.

Michael Jordan-Type Talent
Ever since he was in kindergarten, people could see David had something special. His jabs are blazing quick. His feet are light. When he jumps, the rope whizzes by too fast to see. He makes karate-like exhales when he jabs. He never backs down. He's confident but not a showoff.

"He’s got a talent that you see every 100 years," Lopez said. "Michael Jordan-type talent. He’s better than Andre Ward was at 11. At 5, you could see he was stronger and faster."

Ward met David two years ago at the 30th anniversary of King’s Boxing Gym in Oakland. Ward, who is Oakland born and now lives in Danville, noticed David’s quick feet and expert jabs.

"He said, 'You got skills,'" David recalled of the conversation, adding that the champion boxer then asked, "What’s your Instagram?"

The two have been sparring ever since. And last week, Ward stopped by the club unannounced to work out with David. That’s when Ward threw some fast ones at David’s headgear.

"He had never done that before," David said. It hurt. And tears sprang to his eyes. But David said, "I wasn’t going to back down."

Andre Ward Raves About 'Dynamite'
Colorado-based USA Boxing spokeswoman Julie Goldsticker knew David’s name with no prompting, mostly because she works with Ward, who "just raves about David." She said David walked Ward out for his last two fights.

As for finding sponsors to offset boxing costs for young people and families, Goldsticker acknowledged it’s a challenge. Mostly, she said, that’s because boxing is an individual sport and harder to find companies and wealthy entities to support one athlete, as opposed to a team. David’s father estimates it might cost $4,000 for the two of them to fly to the Junior Olympics June 26 to July 2 in Dallas, and stay at hotels for the week.

When David’s not boxing, he’s getting good grades in the hopes of attending Yale University one day. He still wants to box when he grows up, but said wisely: "I might study business as a fallback."

Hard to Remember He's a Kid
Family friend and mentor Jose Grace said he thinks David will accomplish anything he sets his mind to.

"He’s serious, he’s a scholar, he’s the full package," Grace said. "Sometimes I have to remember that he’s just a kid."

Follow David's achievements on Facebook or help send him to the Junior Olympics by donating to his GoFundMe page.

Photo Credit: Kris Lopez
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<![CDATA[MLB to Review Gay Chorus Incident]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 19:25:50 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/gay+men+chorus+0523.JPG

Major League Baseball will investigate why a recording of a woman singing the national anthem inadvertently played instead of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus at a Saturday Pride Night Padres game.

“We are pleased that MLB will look into this matter and the Padres will cooperate fully,” Padres CEO Mike Dee tweeted on Monday morning. “Based on our own investigation and the decisive action that we took yesterday, we are eager for all the facts to come to light surrounding this unfortunate incident.”

Meanwhile, the DJ implicated in the technical error has been terminated, as the team continues to investigate what led to the mishap, officials said Monday.

Social media erupted shortly after the game between the Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers, when a technical error silenced the chorus. The group was set to sing along to a pre-recorded track of the national anthem when a recording of a woman singing played instead.

The moment was captured on cellphone video by a fan attending the game and posted to Facebook. It went viral shortly thereafter.

On Sunday, the team announced the firing of an outside vendor — the DJ hired to play music — and disciplined a team employee.

NBC 7 has learned through multiple sources that the DJ, known by the moniker DJ ArtForm, failed to upload the pre-recorded music file sent in by the group. Instead, a pre-recorded version used the previous night was played.

The DJ has expressed remorse offering his "sincerest apologies and deepest regret.”


Saturday marked Pride Night at Petco Park, an event hosted in conjunction with the San Diego Pride organization's annual "Out at the Park" event to support the LGBT community. The chorus performed at Pride Night last year without issue.

The chorus sang along with the woman's vocal track out of respect for the national anthem, according to Bob Lehman, executive director of the chorus, who said the incident was humiliating.

The Padres later issued a statement apologizing to the chorus and asking them to come back to perform at a later game.

Dee reiterated this message on Monday.

“We deeply apologize to the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus and anyone else who was offended by our mistake,” he tweeted.


The chorus addressed the incident on its Facebook page Sunday morning in a post titled "You Sing Like a Girl," which questioned the San Diego Padres’ relationship with the LGBT community and called for a "full and transparent investigation" by the Padres, Major League Baseball, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office and the city of San Diego Human Relations Commission.

Lehman tells NBC 7 he believes the music was an accident, but is concerned with how the team immediately reacted to the mistake.

He said the chorus' 100 members were left on the field, with no announcement, apology or explanation of what happened at the time. And to make matters worse, Lehman said, the group was jeered by some people when they walked off the field. He’s concerned over any perceived problems between the LGBT community and the Padres.

“I want to see something good come out of this so that the relationship can be examined, and find out why the community feels that way and how we can fix it,’ Lehman said.

Lehman said he plans to meet with Dee later in the week. But he’s also concerned that the Padres didn’t completely respond or take action until the story took off on social media and publications around the nation, and the world.

“I’m sure they (the Padres) felt like we did on Saturday night. When that happened, we were shocked and didn’t know what to do. That’s what happened to them yesterday. The entire world came after them and said, hey something’s wrong here,” Lehman said.

Lehman said he wants to meet with the team before accepting the offer to return to return to perform at a later date.

Here is DJ ArtForm's full statement on the error:

“My deepest apologies and sincere regret toward the entire San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus & the LGBT community for the incident that occurred during the National Anthem. It was a very unfortunate mistake but it was just that, an error. I in no way, shape or form directed any type of hate, bad intent or discrimination towards the chorus or anyone involved. The incident was not a representation of myself, San Diego, & it’s amazing Baseball fans. I have felt the consequences of my mistake as a dream job has dissolved before my eyes which does not take away that I am extremely sorry for the horrible mistake that occurred. I have family members & friends that are a part of the LGBT community and I have always been a supporter of Equal Human Rights, so it pains me greatly to see that I am being accused of acting intentionally. As a former high school and college baseball player, I understand the importance of ensuring equality for all in sports and am appalled by some of the negative, homophobic comments made by fans related to the National Anthem incident. I have reached out to LGBT leaders in San Diego and am currently in discussion regarding a meeting with the Chorus and LGBT leaders personally in order to be as constructive as possible about the error. I’ve let down my city, my family and everyone who had faith in me. Once again, I’m truly sorry for this entire ordeal.”

Photo Credit: Taylor Forsyth
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<![CDATA[First Quarter Report Card: Chicago White Sox]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 15:20:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Rollins.png

After an offseason full of drama and roster turnover, the Chicago White Sox have gotten off to one of their best starts in recent memory as they sit atop the American League Central Division one quarter of the way through the season.

The roots of that success were planted before the season even started, as the team acquired third baseman Todd Frazier in a trade and made upgrades at several positions, with Austin Jackson taking over as the everyday center fielder and Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro splitting time behind the plate for the Sox.

The biggest asset for the team this season has been, unquestionably, the pitching. Chris Sale is putting up even more ridiculous numbers than he usually does, and Jose Quintana is finally getting some run support from the squad. Even guys like Mat Latos and Carlos Rodon are getting in on the act, as the Sox rotation has been among the best in baseball.

So what else has been going right for the White Sox? What has been going wrong? To answer those questions, we’re going to give our first quarter grades for the team as they look to stay in the playoff hunt in the American League.

Where They Stand:

With a 26-18 record, the White Sox currently sit atop the AL Central, sporting a two and a half game lead over the Cleveland Indians. Despite that status, Fangraphs isn’t bullish on Chicago’s chances of finishing in a playoff spot, giving them just a 48.3 percent chance of winning either the division or the wild card.

After a red-hot start, the White Sox have cooled considerably in recent weeks, losing seven of their last 10 games overall and giving up a big chunk of their divisional lead as teams like Cleveland and Kansas City have started to find their footing.

Offense: B

Chicago’s offense has seen its share of ups and downs so far this season, but there’s little question that the guys at the upper end of the spectrum have been absolutely carrying the squad.

Adam Eaton has had an excellent start to the season for the White Sox, collecting 73 total bases and sporting an on-base percentage of nearly .400 so far on the year. He’s also striking out less, which has been a huge boost to the team at the top of the order.

Frazier has provided a ton of pop for the White Sox, hitting 13 home runs and driving in 33 RBI so far this season. Those 13 home runs tie the team’s total from the third base position last year, and although he’s hitting just .228, it’s been critical for Frazier to succeed in big spots because of some of the players that aren’t necessarily thriving.

One of those players is Jose Abreu, who’s hitting just .243 on the year. That average is down nearly 50 points from his .290 mark last season, and his slugging percentage has dropped by over 100 points as well. Add to that the fact he’s hitting into more double plays (he’s already halfway to his season total from last year in just one-quarter of the plate appearances), and you have a player who needs to step up for the team.

Another player who started out the season well and has trailed off is Brett Lawrie, who has seen his batting average plummet by 32 points in his last 10 games. During that span he has just seven hits in 40 at-bats, with one home run and two RBI to his credit. He’s also struck out 17 times in that stretch, and he’ll have to figure things out quickly if he’s going to start helping this lineup again.

Defense: A-

Over the last two seasons, the White Sox have been comically awful on defense, but this season, that narrative has completely changed. Frazier has brought a much-needed amount of stability at third base, and Lawrie and Jimmy Rollins are playing excellent baseball up the middle of the field too.

The big story this season has been the emergence of Eaton as a defensive stalwart in right field. Limited by a lackluster arm and a surprisingly low amount of range in center, Eaton has thrived since moving over to make room for Austin Jackson, and he has put up some simply staggering numbers in that position.

Perhaps more importantly for the White Sox than who they gained is who they lost. Guys like Alexei Ramirez, Tyler Flowers, and Gordon Beckham were all defensive liabilities for the club, and replacing them with solid veterans has made this team markedly better with the leather than they were before.

Pitching: A-

When it was revealed that Chris Sale was going to make some changes to his approach to pitch deeper into games, skepticism and fear from White Sox fans would have been legitimate emotions to have. After all, Sale, a perennial Cy Young contender, was already highly successful, so why mess with a formula that was working?

Naturally, all of that worry has proven to be for naught, as Sale is off to a simply ludicrous start this season. Sporting a 1.58 ERA, Sale has won his first nine starts of the season, striking out 8.17 batters per nine innings and compiling an eye-popping 3.0 WAR so far on the young season.

Of course, Sale isn’t the only one that has been dominant for the White Sox. Jose Quintana is also off to a rollicking start, and despite a 5-3 record, he’s been almost as impressive as Sale has been. He currently has a 1.98 ERA, giving up just 13 earned runs in 59 innings of work. He’s also got a gaudy WAR number, earning a 2.2 in that category, and his WHIP of 1.02 is solid for a starter as well.

Sure, there are some weak spots, as Mat Latos has hit the skids a bit recently and John Danks was an unmitigated disaster in the fifth spot in the rotation, but for the most part, this team’s rotation and bullpen have been the cornerstones of their successes on the field.

<![CDATA[First Quarter Report Card: Chicago Cubs]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 15:07:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/chicago+cubs+weekend.jpg

To say that the first quarter of the Chicago Cubs’ march through the regular season has been eventful would be an understatement.

They started out the year as the hottest team in baseball, getting off to their best start since 1907 and jumping out to a significant lead in the National League Central. That hot start, buoyed by players like Dexter Fowler and Jake Arrieta, also had some serious speedbumps, as injuries to Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward have tested the team’s depth and mettle during the opening stretch of the campaign.

Now, with the second quarter set to begin in earnest, we’re taking a look back at how the Cubs have fared thus far, and what strengths and weaknesses fans should keep an eye on as the team moves forward.

Where They Stand:

The Cubs currently have a 29-13 record, which is the best mark in baseball. They have a six game lead in the division over the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Fangraphs is projecting the team to be the lone 100-game winner in baseball this year, with a 98.5 percent chance of making the postseason.

Despite recent struggles, the Cubs have the league’s best run differential by a wide margin, as they’ve outscored their opponents by 110 runs so far this season.

Offense: A-

The Cubs made some big moves in the offseason, bringing aboard Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist to bolster their offense, and while Heyward has been hit or miss thus far, Zobrist has been a huge catalyst for the team’s offense. Currently in the top 10 in baseball for Offensive Wins Above Replacement, Zobrist’s penchant for clutch hitting and solid contact has made the Cubs’ lineup scarier than initially anticipated.

Dexter Fowler has also played a huge role in the team’s success at the plate. So far this season he’s sporting a .316 batting average and a .435 on-base percentage, with 21 RBI and 81 total bases to his credit. He’s also tied for the team lead in runs scored, having touched home plate 30 times in 41 games played.

The Cubs’ power bats are also beginning to come to life, as Kris Bryant has recently found his power stroke and Anthony Rizzo continues to drive the ball with authority despite his .240 batting average.

The team could really use more production out of Heyward, who’s hitting just .225, but at least part of that can be blamed on bad luck, as his BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is just .284, 45 points lower than the number he had last year with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Defense: B+

The Cubs’ defense, which was a question mark last season, is rounding into form nicely. Fowler continues to play a solid center field, while Heyward has certainly brought his glove to the party for the Cubs, as he has continued to be one of the best defensive right fielders in all of baseball.

On the infield, the Cubs have continued to get solid production out of Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo, and things have been interesting at third base. Bryant has done a nice job of working on his game, although he still does have errant throws at times and isn’t the surest handed defender. Javier Baez has proven to be a jack of all trades in the infield, making several spectacular plays and showing why Joe Maddon views him as this team’s Swiss Army Knife.

Even the catcher’s position has been solid, with David Ross having an incredible year in terms of throwing out baserunners and controlling the running game of opposing teams. Miguel Montero is decent behind the dish, but Ross has been off to a really good start.

The big question mark for this team remains left field. Bryant is a capable defender, and Matt Szczur can play out there as well, but when Jorge Soler is in that position, all bets are off, and the Cubs do have one weak spot in their lineup to worry about there.

Pitching: A

The Cubs’ starting rotation has been, in a word, spectacular so far this season. The team had their starting pitcher go at least five innings in the first 40 games of the regular season (that streak ended on Saturday when Jon Lester was unable to get to that mark), and their statistics certainly illustrate that dominance.

Arrieta has been off to a ludicrous start, sporting a 1.29 ERA and racking up an 8-0 record in his first nine starts. He’s allowed just nine earned runs in 63 innings of work, continuing the dominance that he displayed during the second half of last season.

The Cubs have two more starters who are in the top 10 in the National League in terms of ERA, with Lester ranked ninth at 2.60, and Jason Hammel, who is off to an excellent start with a 2.31 ERA in eight starts for the Cubs.

John Lackey got off to a bit of a sluggish start for the Cubs, but as he’s regained command of his fastball, his numbers have been steadily rising. He now has a 3.31 ERA for the Cubs this season, and his WHIP is down to an impressive 0.98 on the campaign.

In terms of the team’s bullpen, there’s been plenty to be impressed by from this team. Hector Rondon has 24 strikeouts and just two walks in 14 innings of work this season, and his 1.26 ERA is actually .03 runs better than Arrieta’s.

Adam Warren has also been a revelation for the Cubs, with a 1.72 ERA and 14 strikeouts thus far. He does have 10 walks, but for the most part his control has been solid and he has gotten the job done when necessary.

There are a few pitchers that could stand to improve a bit, however. Trevor Cahill has been solid for the most part, but his 1.38 WHIP and 14 walks in 21 innings will have to be addressed. Clayton Richard is in a similar boat, as he’s the only player on the Cubs’ pitching staff to have a negative WAR so far this season. His 5.40 ERA has to improve if he’s going to continue to be a key part of their bullpen. 

<![CDATA[Gay Men’s Chorus Silenced at Game]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 09:58:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/CLIP-SDGMC_Padres_1200x675_690991171985.jpg

Controversy brewed at Saturday's San Diego Padres game when a recording of a woman singing the national anthem played instead of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, which had just taken the field to sing on Pride Night at Petco Park.

A technical error silenced the chorus, which was scheduled to perform the Star Spangled Banner at the game between the Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers. The chorus was set to sing along to a pre-recorded track of the national anthem.

Saturday marked Pride Night at Petco Park, an event hosted in conjunction with the San Diego Pride organization's annual "Out at the Park" event to support the LGBT community. The chorus performed at Pride Night last year without issue.

In a statement posted on Facebook, the chorus said 100 volunteer singers took to the field for the ballpark performance, but an audio recording of a woman singing the anthem played over the loudspeaker — not the track the chorus had expected.

The chorus stood quietly on the field as the song played. The mix-up meant the chorus did not get to perform along with its own track, as scheduled.

"There was a really long pause — it took longer than normal. Then, all of a sudden, the music started but it was a young woman singing instead of the chorus and it just didn’t stop," Bob Lehman, executive director of the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus, told NBC 7 on Sunday.

Lehman said the chorus thought the audio mistake would be fixed on the spot, but the wrong track continued to play.

"They just played the entire song and we just stood there," he recounted.

He said the group didn't know what to do next. Out of respect for the national anthem, the chorus sang along with the woman's voice track.

"Nobody could hear us," Lehman lamented.

He said the chorus was humiliated. Many of them had invited loved ones to the game to watch the Pride Night performance.

The moment was captured on cellphone video by a fan attending the game and posted to Facebook.

The SDGMC addressed the incident on its Facebook page Sunday morning in a post titled "You Sing Like a Girl," which questioned the San Diego Padres’ relationship with the LGBT community and called for a "full and transparent investigation" by the Padres, Major League Baseball, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office and the city of San Diego Human Relations Commission.

According to a statement released by the San Diego Padres on Saturday night, the incident was the result of a technical glitch in the control room.

"This evening, during the pregame ceremony, a mistake was made in the Petco Park control room that prevented the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus from performing the National Anthem as scheduled. We apologize to anyone in the ballpark who this may have offended, and have reached out to the Chorus to express our deep regret for the error," the statement said.

A Padres spokesperson at Petco Park told NBC 7 the error was an "unfortunate and regrettable mistake." Once the wrong track started, the control room made a "heat of the moment" decision to let the song continue playing so as not to cut off the national anthem for the crowd, the spokesperson said.

The Padres followed up with a statement Sunday night saying an internal investigation "found no evidence of malicious intent" but that "we have terminated our relationship with the third-party contractor who was responsible for the error, and taken disciplinary action against our employee who was responsible for the game production on Saturday."

The team apologized and has invited the chorus back to Petco Park to perform again. The chorus, for its part, responded to the Padres' statement saying it was "pleased" and looking forward to "a constructive resolution to this issue."

"Our hope is to positively improve the relationship between the Padres and San Diego's LGBT community," the chorus said.

The San Diego Padres is the first MLB organization to hold a "Pride Night" in support of the LGBT community.

Former San Diego Padres player Billy Bean, who is openly gay and serves as MLB’s first Ambassador for Inclusion, released a statement Sunday addressing the incident, saying he does not think the Padres purposely meant to embarrass the chorus:

"This past Saturday night, it was very unfortunate that there was a technical error during the National Anthem at Petco Park. However, I want to convey that my former team, the San Diego Padres, have supported our inclusion message at MLB without hesitation even before my return to baseball in 2014. They have led by example by inviting me, numerous times, to speak with their players and employees. I have also worked very closely with their owner Ron Fowler and team CEO Mike Dee, and I can assure you that they have made every effort to include the LGBT community, and champion equality in MLB for each and every one of us. I’m so proud of the Padres organization for hosting an LGBT Pride event during the season, and I would hope that the community recognizes that error and intent are not related."

According to the SDGMC website, the group is one of the 10 largest GALA choruses in the U.S. and features more than 130 singers.

The original chorus was first founded in San Diego in 1992 and presented its first concert one year later. In December 2009, the original SDGMC and the Gay Men’s Chorus of San Diego merged to create the new San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus.

The group’s mission statement is "to create a positive musical experience through exciting performances which engage our audiences, build community support and provide a dynamic force for social change."

Photo Credit: Taylor Forsyth
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<![CDATA[PHOTOS: Preakness Day 2016]]> Mon, 23 May 2016 05:28:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/thumb-GettyImages-533294116.jpg Take a look at photos from the 141st annual Preakness Stakes. Known as the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the race takes places two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jersey From Harper Fight for Sale]]> Sat, 21 May 2016 11:55:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/490330798.jpg

It was a fight that, at the time, was indicative of a season slipping away from the Washington Nationals.

Nats outfielder Bryce Harper and relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon got into a scuffle on Sept. 27 after Harper flied out and returned to the dugout. The two players had exchanged words before Papelbon grabbed Harper by the throat and manhandled him towards the bench. Teammates scrambled to break them apart.

The fight came one day after the team had officially been eliminated from postseason play. Papelbon was suspended by the team for four days, and Harper was held out one day.

Now, Harper's #34 Jersey worn on the day described as "the snapshot that best defined the dysfunction and disappointment of the Washington Nationals' 2015 season" is up for sale by online auction site Lelands.

The highest bid has reached nearly $5,000, as of 8:30 a.m. Saturday.

According to the auction description, there is dirt on the back of the size 48 shirt and is signed by Harper, who also wrote "Luke 1:37" under his signature, on the number 4.

"Whether or not you classify Harper as a model Christian, the scripture in question reads: 'For with God nothing shall be impossible,'" the posting reads.

The jersey will remain on the auction block until June 17.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[ Barrett-Pierzynski Kerfuffle Turns 10 Years Old]]> Fri, 20 May 2016 13:07:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Sox-Cubs.png

It’s been nearly 20 years since the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox began playing each other in regular season games, and arguably the most memorable moment of their rivalry took place on this date 10 years ago.

In that game, which took place at U.S. Cellular Field, White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski tagged up on a fly ball to left field. As Matt Murton’s throw flew toward the plate, Cubs catcher Michael Barrett blocked Pierzynski’s path, and after the ensuing collision, the Sox scored a run.

Obviously, that’s not where the story ends. Barrett, taking exception to the collision and Pierzynski slamming his hand on the plate, took matters into his own hands, and incited one of the most memorable melees in Chicago baseball history:

As a result of the fracas, Barrett, Pierzynski, White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson, and Cubs infielder John Mabry were all ejected. Barrett was suspended for 10 games for punching Pierzynski, and Anderson was also suspended for his role in the fight.

In the intervening years, there have been plenty of heated moments, memorable games, and good baseball between the teams, but things have never quite hit the fever pitch that they did on that sunny day on the South Side. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
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<![CDATA[YouTubers Land 11 Trick Shot Records: Guinness]]> Thu, 19 May 2016 18:42:10 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/471564022-Dude-Perfect.jpg

The basketball-lobbing viral video stars of Dude Perfect have taken 11 new records with their exceedingly high-difficulty trick shots, according to Guinness World Records, even taking one from a Harlem Globetrotter.

Among the records they smashed were "Farthest basketball shot made while sitting on the court" (55 feet, 1 inch), "Farthest trampette basketball shot performing a forward flip" (72 feet) and "Greatest height from which a basketball is shot" (533 feet), Guinness World Records said on its website. Big Easy Lofton of The Harlem Globetrotters used to hold the record for "Farthest blindfolded basketball hook shot," but Garrett Hilbert's 55-foot, no-look basket pipped his mark.

The group from Frisco, Texas, smashed the records March 30 and 31st, with an official adjudicator on hand to verify, the organization announced Tuesday. The Greatest Height record was broken on April 28, from atop the 36-story Cotter Ranch Tower in Oklahoma City.

Naturally, the records were filmed. The "World Record Edition" of Dude Perfect was featured Monday on their YouTube channel, which has nearly 10 million subscribers to its name.

Photo Credit: FilmMagic for YouTube
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<![CDATA[NFL to Reimburse Taxpayers $720K for 'Paid Patriotism']]> Thu, 19 May 2016 16:43:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/paid-AP_84226305861.jpg

The NFL is reimbursing U.S. taxpayers more than $720,000 in so-called "paid patriotism" money that the teams took from the military to allow things like color guard displays at football games, NBC News reports.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in a letter to two U.S. senators, said an audit uncovered that, over four years, $723,734 "may have been mistakenly applied to appreciation activities rather than recruitment efforts."

"This amount will be promptly returned in full to the taxpayers," he wrote Wednesday to Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, who have led the charge against the practice.

"These recruitment efforts are intended to be separate and apart from the NFL's longstanding support of the service members and families who have dedicated their lives to serving this great country," Goodell wrote.

Flake and McCain, both Republicans, revealed in November that up to $6.8 million had been paid "inappropriately" to professional and college sports teams to allow patriotic displays at games.

Photo Credit: AP, File]]>
<![CDATA[MLB Mascot 'Arrests' Pticher]]> Thu, 19 May 2016 13:03:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Phillies+Phanatic+ATV+Theif.jpg

Is the Phillie Phanatic authorized to arrest ATV key thieves?

The beloved Phillies mascot gave an assist to Philadelphia police Wednesday when an officer gave him handcuffs to put on Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. The star pitcher had grabbed the Phanatic’s keys before the Phillies win.

"For anyone who asks - yes, this was a legal arrest," joked the Philadelphia Police Department on its Facebook feed. "Philadelphia icon and national - nay - WORLD treasure, The Phillie Phanatic, was deputized before the start of today's game. Thanks, Philadelphia Phillies - we greatly appreciate the assist!"

The Phanatic appeared to let Fernandez go with just a warning after leading the Marlin into his dugout. Police commented on Facebook on why the Phanatic may have been distracted from pressing charges.

"We're waiting for him to finish his PARS report. He keeps getting sidetracked by an insatiable desire to rub the heads of our bald officers," the department wrote.

Fernandez got lucky, considering the Phanatic could have also nabbed him for assault after the mascot appeared to be pushed (or flopped) off his beloved four-wheeler while trying to keep hold of his keys.

Stealing the ATV's keys is something of a tradition for visiting teams, and Fernandez has stolen them before. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images, File
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