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Titans owner fires GM Jon Robinson in his 7th season

Titans owner fires GM Jon Robinson in his 7th season

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk has very high standards for her Titans. Combined with the millions she’s investing, she also isn’t afraid of making big moves chasing the Lombardi Trophy that eluded her late father.Strunk fired general manager Jon Robinson on Tuesday in the midst of his seventh season with the Titans off to a 7-5 start and Tennessee second only to the Kansas City Chiefs for the NFL’s longest active streak of consecutive winning seasons in his tenure.The Titans announced Strunk’s decision in a statement. Ryan Cowden, the vice president of player personnel, will handle player personnel for the rest of this season. The Titans plan to start searching for a new general manager soon with a full search at the end of the season. Strunk said her goal since replacing her brother-in-law as controlling owner in March 2015 has been to raise the standard for every part of the NFL franchise founded by her late father, Bud. Strunk said she believes the Titans have made “significant progress” on and off the field.“This progress includes the core of our business, the football team itself, which is regularly evaluated both by results (wins and losses) and team construction/roster building,” Strunk said. “I am proud of what we have accomplished in my eight seasons of ownership, but I believe there is more to be done and higher aspirations to be met.”Strunk paid to renovate the Titans’ headquarters, essentially doubling the size of the facility to both update the building and hold all the new employees hired. The Titans also are finalizing the last piece of financing for a new enclosed stadium they want to open for the 2026 season. Strunk and the rest of ownership, with some help from the NFL and the sale of personal seat licenses, are expected to contribute $840 million toward the stadium estimated to cost $2.1 billion.Strunk fired coach Ken Whisenhunt after a 1-6 start to his second season in November 2015 and a 3-20 record overall. She fired general manager Ruston Webster at the end of that season.She hired Robinson, a native of Union City in West Tennessee who grew up cheering for the Titans, in January 2016 after the franchise went a combined 5-27 in 2014 and 2015. When coach Mike Mularkey balked at making changes, Strunk fired him in January 2018 after a loss in the divisional round of the playoffs and quickly hired Mike Vrabel as his replacement.The Titans never went worse than 9-7 in Robinson’s tenure. That includes earning the AFC’s No. 1 seed in 2021 with a 12-5 record despite setting an NFL record by using 91 players in a non-strike season. That earned coach Vrabel, whom Robinson helped hire in January 2018, the AP NFL Coach of the Year award. Both Robinson and Vrabel had their contracts extended in February. The Titans currently sit atop the AFC South with a chance to win the division for a third straight year, something that this franchise hasn’t done since its beginning in the original AFL. Of their final five games, only one is against a team with a winning record. The Titans host the Jaguars (4-8) on Sunday.But they just were routed 35-10 in Philadelphia, a loss that featured a big performance by the wide receiver Robinson traded to the Eagles during the first round of the NFL draft. A.J. Brown wanted a new contract and got it from Philadelphia in the deal Tennessee used to draft rookie Treylon Burks at No. 18. Vrabel said on a national show before the draft that Brown wouldn’t be traded as long as he was the head coach. Brown had eight catches for 119 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans. He has 61 catches and ranks seventh in the NFL with 950 yards along with nine touchdowns for the season. Burks leads the Titans with 369 yards receiving despite spending four games on injured reserve, while veteran Robert Woods has a team-high 33 catches.Running back Dontrell Hilliard leads Tennessee with four TD receptions on an offense tied for 29th in total yards, 30th in averaging 171.4 yards passing per game and 26th with 18.3 points scored per game. The Titans allowed a season-high six sacks in that loss behind an offensive line that featured three new starters due to a combination of salary cap moves during the offseason and a season-ending injury to left tackle Taylor Lewan. In his first draft, Robinson selected two-time NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry, the eighth man in league history to run for at least 2,000 yards in a season in 2020, and a two-time All-Pro in safety Kevin Byard. His gamble taking defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons in the first round of the 2019 draft paid off with the lineman becoming a starter as a rookie. Robinson also had several draft and other trade mistakes costing the Titans now. He drafted offensive lineman Isaiah Wilson out of Georgia in 2020 at No. 29 overall, a player who only took four snaps in garbage time before the Titans suspended the rookie in December of that season. The Titans traded Wilson away after the season ended. Robinson also selected cornerback Caleb Farley at No. 22 in 2021 despite questions over a second back surgery the month before the draft. Farley, who opted out of the 2020 college football season, has started two of 12 games played with both of his first two seasons ending with him on injured reserve. Another draft pick that has turned out to be more of a bust is offensive lineman Dillon Radunz, the 53rd pick overall in 2021. Radunz came out of North Dakota State, a Football Championship Subdivision power, but he played only one game in 2020 because of the pandemic. Radunz lost the right tackle job to rookie Nicholas Petit-Frere this season. His five career starts all have come because of injuries. Robinson traded for seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones in June 2021, reworking quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s contract to create cap space. The Titans cut Jones in March, and Robinson traded for Woods as a replacement with the veteran coming off a torn ACL in his left knee last November.———Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker———AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP—NFL

IOC warns Afghanistan over women’s sports and Olympics

IOC warns Afghanistan over women’s sports and Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday warned that it could stop working with Afghanistan ahead of the next Olympics in 2024 if women are not allowed to play sports under Taliban rule.The IOC said its support for Afghanistan’s National Olympic Committee will depend on conditions including women being allowed to play sports with “safe and inclusive access” and to take part in sports administration. Afghanistan’s teams for international events must include female athletes who live in the country and not only those based abroad.The IOC board said it “expressed its serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.”Afghanistan’s participation and “the representation, or not, of the country” in the next Summer Olympics in Paris in 2024 “will depend on the progress made in relation to the fundamental issue of safe access to sport for women and young girls in the country,” the IOC said.It was not immediately clear how soon the IOC might implement the measures.The IOC said it will continue direct support for individual athletes from Afghanistan who aim to compete at the Olympics.Afghanistan had a team of four men and one woman at the last Summer Olympics in Tokyo.Human Rights Watch called on the IOC on Monday to suspend Afghanistan from taking part in sports events immediately and to halt its funding. The IOC suspended the Afghanistan NOC in 1999 during the previous period of Taliban rule.Also at the IOC executive board meeting Tuesday, a long-running standoff between the IOC and the International Boxing Association continued. The IOC said the boxing body had not achieved the “drastic change of culture” that the IOC had demanded.The IOC has long criticized how IBA is run, its finances and a history of disputes over refereeing and judging Olympic fights.The IOC suspended the IBA, then known as AIBA, in 2019 and excluded its officials from running the boxing tournament at the Tokyo Olympics last year. The IOC is already planning to stage the qualifying competitions for boxing in Paris in 2024 without the IBA. The dispute means boxing is not yet on the program for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, though it could be added at a later date, with or without the IBA in charge.———More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Fired GM Jon Robinson couldn’t take Titans from good to great

Fired GM Jon Robinson couldn’t take Titans from good to great

Ben Arthur AFC South Reporter

France forward Giroud expects Mbappé to beat scoring records

France forward Giroud expects Mbappé to beat scoring records

DOHA, Qatar — Two days after Olivier Giroud broke the France national team’s goal-scoring record, he’s already looking behind his back at Kylian Mbappé.That’s fine with the 36-year-old veteran, who said Tuesday he is having fun with the man he described as the best striker he has ever played with.“I think we still have not seen the best of Kylian,” Giroud said of the 23-year-old Mbappé, who has scored a tournament-leading five World Cup goals in Qatar.Mbappé scored four goals to help France win the 2018 title. His career tally of nine is moving quickly toward Germany striker Miroslav Klose’s record of 16.“I hope (his best) is going to come soon and he will beat all the records,” Giroud said. “He is amazing and he is still young, which is scary because he still can improve his game.”Giroud has scored three goals at this year’s World Cup, including the opening strike in the 3-1 win over Poland in the round of 16 on Sunday. That was his 52nd for France, lifting him out of a tie with Thierry Henry for the national team’s scoring record.That record is only 19 goals ahead of Mbappé.“So, I know that, you know (that), also,” Giroud said at the France training camp before turning his attention to Saturday’s quarterfinal match against England.“It will be a nice game to watch, I think. They have so many great players, the young generation, like us,” the former Arsenal and Chelsea forward said. “I think they have quality but quantity also in the squad, so they have different options.”The match has a strong flavor of the Premier League, with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris set to make a record 143rd appearance for France.“We were talking with Hugo and each other, regarding this game and we said, ‘Yeah, we do not want to lose against England,’” said Giroud, who now plays for Italian champion AC Milan. “That is a special game for us.”———AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Jerry Jones: Cowboys will only sign OBJ if ‘it will improve this team now’

Jerry Jones: Cowboys will only sign OBJ if ‘it will improve this team now’

Ralph Vacchiano NFC East Reporter

Morocco beats Spain on penalties to advance at World Cup

Morocco beats Spain on penalties to advance at World Cup

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — The first World Cup held in an Arab nation has produced the Arab world’s first quarterfinalist.Morocco became only the fourth African country to reach the quarterfinals at the biggest soccer tournament in the world by beating Spain 3-0 in a penalty shootout after a 0-0 draw through extra time.The Moroccans were playing in only their second knockout game at a World Cup, an event which is being held in the Middle East for the first time in its nearly 100-year history.“We felt the support of our fans, be it in Morocco or any other country in the world,” said Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who plays for Spanish club Sevilla and saved two of the three penalties he faced in the shootout.Achraf Hakimi, who was born in Madrid and previously played for Real Madrid, converted the deciding penalty in the shootout. Abdelhamid Sabiri and Hakim Ziyech, who returned to the national team after a dispute with the previous coach, also scored for Morocco.Morocco has been the biggest surprise of the tournament and will next face either Portugal or Switzerland.Morocco, which also reached the round of 16 at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, is also the only team from outside Europe or South America to make it to the last eight in Qatar.Cameroon, Senegal and Ghana are the only other African nations to reach the World Cup quarterfinals. None of the three advanced to the semifinals.Morocco and Spain are close neighbors with a complex geopolitical relationship.Pablo Sarabia, Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets missed their penalties for Spain, with Sarabia hitting the post.Sarabia had entered the match in the final minutes of extra time, apparently for the shootout. He replaced Nico Williams, who had also come in as a substitute earlier in the match.“It’s my responsibility,” said Spain coach Luis Enrique, who before the match said he had asked his players to practice 1,000 penalty kicks while with their clubs. “I picked the first three penalty-takers, and then they could decide themselves. But the first three were my decision, and I would’ve done the same thing again. The only thing I wished I could do was to take Bounou out and put another goalkeeper in there.”Spain goalkeeper Unai Simón stopped the penalty by Badr Banoun.Spain was eliminated by host Russia in a penalty shootout at the 2018 World Cup, and by Italy in the semifinals of last year’s European Championship.“We were unable to score … so no matter how much we say that we deserved to win for the chances we created and for playing more in their area, it is not going to change anything,” Simón said. “The only thing left for us is to accept that we have been eliminated.”It was the fifth straight time Spain played extra time in a knockout round of a major tournament. The team played 120 minutes against Russia and in all three of its knockout games at Euro 2020.Moroccan fans significantly outnumbered — and were louder — than the Spaniards at Education City Stadium.Neither team was able to create many significant scoring chances. Morocco seemed satisfied to keep Spain controlling possession and looked to threaten on counterattacks Both teams had a few opportunities in extra time, with Spain closest to scoring with a last attempt by Sarabia that clipped the post.It was the second last 16 match to go into extra time at this year’s World Cup. Croatia beat Japan on penalties Monday.———Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni ———AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/world-cup and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

Hockey’s history shows handful of non-white pioneers

Hockey’s history shows handful of non-white pioneers

Taffy Abel carried the American flag at the 1924 Olympics, where his team won silver in hockey. Henry Elmer “Buddy” Maracle played 11 games in the early-1930s NHL. Paul Jacobs may have played in the league’s second season in 1918-19.But in the commonly known history of hockey, a predominantly white sport in North America and Europe, these three men and others have been late to receive credit as Indigenous pioneers. Now, as part of a worldwide reckoning with prejudice, hockey historians are delving deeper into the role of some of the first non-white professional hockey players.Historians agree that there were Indigenous players on the ice well before Willie O’Ree became the first Black player to skate in an NHL game in January 1958. O’Ree, who endured years of racism, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2018 and had his No. 22 retired this year. There are no detailed demographical records from the NHL’s earliest years, the league and historians say. Because of that — and because some players hid or downplayed their own Indigenous or Asian heritage to avoid racist treatment — defining the sport’s trailblazers and who broke the so-called “color barrier” in the NHL is difficult at best and likely impossible to prove.“It’s really hard to identify who was the first because if you go back into everyone’s certain ancestry, a lot of people will have Indigenous or other minority groups in them, so it’s hard to pinpoint,” hockey historian and author Ty Di Lello said. “There might be the first publicly known, but it’s probably near impossible just because so many people that had Indigenous or other minority backgrounds maybe didn’t look like it.”Larry Kwong became the first player of Asian descent to appear in an NHL game — in 1948, a decade before O’Ree. And Di Lello and others wonder if there were Asian Americans or fellow Asian Canadians before Kwong, the son of two Chinese parents who was born in British Columbia.“Willie O’Ree couldn’t hide it,” historian Eric Zweig said. “There’s no stories of any Black players passing as white before Willie O’Ree.”Fred Sasakamoose, who played 11 games in the mid-1950s, has long been recognized as the NHL’s first Native Canadian player and became well known in the First Nations community. But historians and the Hall of Fame would give that distinction to Mohawk player Paul Jacobs — if he played in a game during the 1918-19 season, as may be the case.Historical records are unclear and experts disagree on whether Paul Jacobs ever actually touched the ice. He was on the Toronto Arenas roster and, as the Hall of Fame notes, could have played in up to five games, which would make him the first nonwhite player in the NHL, which was formed in November 1917.George Jones does not believe Jacobs played in a game and is adamant that Abel, his late uncle, deserves credit for breaking the league’s color barrier in 1926. Jones has ramped up his effort to bring attention to Abel, a big defenseman who “passed” as white during his career before revealing his Native American heritage upon the death of his mother in 1939, five years after retiring.“The reason he had to pass was not one of choice — it was one of survival,” Jones said. “I’m proud of him, what he did — very proud. I know what he had to go through and the internal torment that he had to go through as part of this ‘passing’ thing. He had depression, he had drinking problems, but he survived.”The NHL in a recent tweet heralded Abel as “a two-time Stanley Cup champion, ice hockey silver medalist at the 1924 Winter Olympics and one of the first known Native American players.” Jones, who has taken his argument to Commissioner Gary Bettman and other league officials, said that’s not enough. He wants acknowledgment from the NHL that Abel broke the league’s color barrier as its first nonwhite player, saying in an email: “Native American Taffy Abel was the first professional hockey player to break the NHL Color Barrier in 1926.”League executives and researchers say they have looked into cases like Abel’s and Maracle’s and are not comfortable declaring a “first” among Native or Indigenous players because there’s no way of proving it. Most NHL publications refer to O’Ree as the first Black player and Sasakamoose as the first Indigenous or First Nations player with treaty status.It was more than a decade before Mike Marson became the NHL’s second Black player. More than 95% of current NHL players and nearly 84% employees are white.“The National Hockey League is determined to identify and celebrate the trailblazers on and off the ice who diversified our game — whether by being ‘first’ or by doing exemplary work,” a league spokesperson said in an email to The Associated Press. “Understandably, record-keeping from the earliest days of the league — particularly as it pertained to the race and ethnicity of our players — was not what it is today. This complicates efforts to definitively identify individuals as the first of any particular group, but it does not diminish the contributions of these pioneers.”The NHL has been reckoning with matters of race in recent years and it has become increasingly clear how much people of color shaped the history of hockey.That includes Native American and First Nations players. Beyond Jacobs, Abel, Maracle and Sasakamoose, there are almost certainly many more whose tales are still unknown. Dan Ninham started the North American Indigenous Athletics Hall of Fame in the hopes of finding more.”There are so many Indigenous athletes and hockey players out there,” Ninham said. “They’re out there, and this is one of the ways we want to get their names and who they are out there and to continue their legacies.”Those legacies are complicated. Sam McKegney of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and one of the creators of the Indigenous Hockey Research Network, argues national policies specifically in Canada discouraged members of the Indigenous peoples from embracing their heritage and used hockey in boarding schools as a way of pushing children from the First Nations to assimilate to white culture. Avoiding boarding school and making it to the NHL, Jones said, is why Abel and his family kept being Native American a secret. He’s almost certainly not alone.More than 150,000 Native children in Canada were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s in an effort to isolate them from their homes and culture. The aim was to Christianize and assimilate them into mainstream society, which previous Canadian governments considered superior.“We’re at a moment of Indigenous resurgence,” McKegney said. “Reclamation of history is going to illuminate people whose stories haven’t yet been told or haven’t been understood in the public light. I do think that we’re going to hear more of these stories.”———AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports