Tokyo Marathon limiting race entry to elites only, citing coronavirus fears

electravk/iStock(TOKYO) -- Tokyo Marathon organizers have closed the March 1 race to all participants other than elite athletes, due to the spread of coronavirus.

"Tokyo Marathon Foundation have been preparing for the Tokyo Marathon 2020 (Sunday, March 1) while implementing preventive safety measures, however, now that case of COVID-19 has been confirmed within Tokyo, we cannot continue to launch the event within the scale we originally anticipated," race organizers announced in a statement Monday.

The foundation has dramatically reduced the number of runners who are eligible to participate to only "marathon elites and the wheelchair elites," will be allowed to compete in what was previously expected to be a 38,000-person event.

Prior to Monday's announcement, the Tokyo Marathon Foundation asked participants from China to defer entry until 2021 due to the country's Hubei province being the epicenter of the virus outbreak, ESPN reports. Now, the foundation is extending the option to defer entry to runners impacted by Monday's announcement. Race participants who defer entry until 2021 will still be required to pay entry fees for that year's event.

As of Monday, China's National Health Commission said it had received 70,548 reports of confirmed cases and 1,770 deaths on the Chinese mainland. Outside of China, there were 683 laboratory-confirmed cases in 25 countries and three reported deaths as of Sunday, according to the WHO, which would bring the global death toll to 1,775.

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President Trump opens the Daytona 500: 'So exciting'

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images(DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.) -- President Donald Trump on Sunday addressed NASCAR fans before the start to the 62nd Daytona 500, calling the race "pure American glory."

“Soon, the cars will take to the track for the start," he said. "Tires will screech, rubber will burn, fans will scream and the great American race will begin.”

In his remarks, the president thanked the military, veterans and “tens of thousands of patriots” gathered at Daytona International Speedway in Florida. He also honored Gold Star families at the race and around the country.

"Gold Star families everywhere throughout our land, your fallen warriors will live in our hearts forever," he said.

The president's motorcade took a lap around the famous track before the green flag. The president also acted as the Grand Marshal, telling drivers to start their engines.

Trump is the second president to make an appearance at the Daytona 500; President George W. Bush was the first in 2004.

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Scoreboard roundup -- 2/16/20

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Sunday's sports events:

Team LeBron 157, Team Giannis 155

Pittsburgh 5, Detroit 1
Boston 3, N.Y. Rangers 1
OT Edmonton 4, Carolina 3
Anaheim 5, Vancouver 1
Nashville 2, St. Louis 1
OT Ottawa 4, Dallas 3
SO New Jersey 4, Columbus 3
Buffalo 5, Toronto 2
Winnipeg 3, Chicago 2

(4)San Diego St. 72, Boise St. 55
(15)Villanova 76, Temple 56
(17)Oregon 80, Utah 62
(21)Iowa 58, Minnesota 55

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Former Miami Heat lawyer claims she was fired for going on maternity leave

iStock(MIAMI) -- A former attorney for the Miami Heat NBA team is suing the basketball organization in federal court, claiming she was fired in retaliation for taking maternity leave.

Vered Yakovee, who was a vice president and associate general counsel for The Heat Group, had been approved to become an adoptive parent in the fall of 2018 and received the news that she was selected to adopt a newborn baby on the evening of July 9, 2019, according to the complaint, filed earlier this month in the Southern District of Florida.

The next morning, Yakovee informed her immediate supervisor, The Heat Group's Executive Vice President and General Counsel Raquel Libman, of her immediate need for parental leave, to which Libman allegedly responded, "now I definitely won't be get to take a vacation," and "what am I going to do with [your Assistant Counsel]?" the lawsuit states.

Yakovee offered "multiple times" to go to the office for a few days for Libman's convenience, "to ensure she had transitioned matters in an organization and effective manner, and to address any other matter of importance," but Libman declined each offer, according to the court documents.

Yakovee then took formal leave beginning on July 11 and returned to work 12 weeks later on Oct. 3, as permitted by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

FMLA, a labor law, states that eligible employees can have up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for childbirth and adoption or to care for a close relative in poor health, which includes care for a new child, whether for birth, adoption or placement into foster care. FMLA requires 30 days' notice to the employer for "foreseeable" leave, "except that if the date of the birth or placement requires leave to begin in less than 30 days," in which the employee "shall provide notice as is practicable."

On the morning of Yakovee's first day back to work, she was "immediately confronted with a lengthy email" from Libman that reportedly accused her of missing deadlines during her leave and misrepresented a project that Yakovee worked on before her leave, according to the lawsuit.

Yakovee says in the suit she was told via email by The Heat Group's president of business operations, Eric Woolworth, that Libman was "upset" about discussions Yakovee had with him about her leave. But, the complaint states, Libman had not talked to Yakovee about that until she got back to work. On Oct. 14 -- a week and a half after she returned to work -- Yakovee was told by Libman's executive assistant that Libman was upset about her maternity leave and that she should "tread lightly," according to the complaint.

From Oct. 3 to her "forced departure" on Dec. 19, Libman treated Yakovee with "disdain and hostility," according to the lawsuit, which also accuses Libman of berating her and making complaints about her FMLA leave both privately and in group meetings and emails.

Yakovee was a valued employee prior to taking parental leave, according to the complaint. In January 2019, Yakovee received her last performance review prior to taking her leave, during which Libman gave her "the highest rating possible" in all categories, the complaint states.

Yakovee received a bonus as a result of that review, and she had received an annual pay increase as well as merit-based bonuses twice a year during each year of her employment since 2015.

Libman handed Yakovee her first critical performance review on Nov. 27 (although reviews are typically given in January), according to the lawsuit. When Yakovee attempted to ask questions about "erroneous and unfounded critiques," Libman said "she could not discuss it without Human Resources present because there was an ongoing 'investigation,' and that Ms. Yakovee did 'not understand' the consequences of her actions," the complaint states.

On Dec. 4, the director of human resources emailed Yakovee to criticize her for not having provided "enough advance notice" for her maternity leave. She was fired on Dec. 19, one day after taking a sick day to take her baby to the doctor, according to the lawsuit. Before that, she had claims in the lawsuit to have never taken a sick day during her tenure with The Heat Group.

The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages in excess of $75,000 as well as attorney's fees, interests and costs. It also seeks for Yakovee to be reinstatement to a position comparable to her prior position with back pay plus interest, pension rights and all benefits. The Heat Group is listed as the sole defendant.

A representative for the Miami Heat did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment. ABC News could not immediately reach Libman for comment.

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Ticket information released for Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant memorial

iStock(LOS ANGELES) -- Ticket information for the public memorial service of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna "Gigi" Bryant has been released.

Tickets for the Feb. 24 memorial start at $24.02 or can be purchased for $224 each or two for $224, according to the NBA.

Similar to the date of the service, the prices have significance. Bryant wore No. 24 on his basketball jersey, while Gianna wore No. 2.

All proceeds will go to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation.

Bryant and his daughter, along with seven others, were killed in a helicopter crash in Southern California on Jan. 26. The two were heading to Gianna's basketball game, officials said.

Mourners and fans will have to register using Ticketmaster Verified Fan before purchasing tickets, according to the NBA. They will be notified on Tuesday if they've been verified and invited to participate in the ticket release, which will open on Wednesday at 10 a.m. pacific time.

If demand for tickets exceeds supply, fans will be selected at random to participate in the public sale.

The memorial, called "The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant," will be shown live on most local Los Angeles television stations, according to the NBA statement.

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California track defends safety record after horse is euthanized

winhorse/iStock(ARCADIA, Calif.) -- Santa Anita Park is touting a high rate of safety for the horses that train and race at the facility in the wake of the latest death on its main track.

A 3-year-old horse named Miss Romania was euthanized Wednesday after she suffered a suspected fracture on her left humerus, according to the park. She was euthanized at the recommendation from an attending veterinarian.

The death was the seventh since the winter/spring season began on Dec. 28 but the 44th since December 2018, ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV reported. However, it was the first death on the main track, where the majority of the deaths in 2019 occurred, according to the park.

Despite the highly publicized deaths, the facility boasts a high rate of safety and considers itself the largest training facility in the U.S.

In 2019, horses raced or trained at the facility more than 420,000 times at a safety rate of 99.99%, according to the park.

Since Jan. 3, when the only other horse in 2020 died on the main track, 9,245 horses have had a timed workout or raced on the main track without a single incident until Miss Romania's death on Wednesday, which highlights that recent safety measures are working, according to the park.

Santa Anita Park has been under intense scrutiny since the number of horse deaths began to rise last year.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom called for Santa Anita to be shut down after it did not heed the California Horse Racing Board's recommendation to suspend racing. At the time, the death toll stood at 29.

Santa Anita decided to continue racing because it believed that the reforms enacted earlier in the year -- which included the elimination of drugs and whips on race day -- were working, a spokesman for The Stronach Group, a company that owns the park, told ABC News in June.

Last month, following the deaths of three horses in three days at the park, a spokesman for the California Horse Racing Board said in a statement to ABC News that the board "is committed to reducing the number of racing and training fatalities."

"We already have introduced many safety measures and still others are going through the regulatory process," the spokesman said.

Those three deaths did not occur on the main track, according to the park, which will continue to consider new safety reforms in the future alongside the California Horse Racing Board.

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Soccer star Alex Morgan shares hopes for her unborn daughter

Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) -- Soccer star Alex Morgan has won big both on and off the field.

Morgan, a member of the World Cup-winning U.S. Women's National Team, is expecting her first child -- a daughter -- this year, and said that while she's enjoyed her pregnancy, "I am ready for her to come out soon!"

Morgan's due date is in April.

"Taking a step back from soccer is a little different for me, but I am enjoying it," Morgan told ABC Nes' Good Morning America. "I hope that she's born into a world that she can accomplish much bigger and better things that I'm ever capable of."

Morgan, 30, and her husband, fellow soccer player Servando Carrasco, 32, married in 2014 and announced last October that they were expecting a baby girl. In her interview with GMA, which took place at the Polka Dot Summit -- an event in Burbank, California, focused on positivity, presented by Create and Cultivate and Disney -- Morgan said that family has always been important to her.

"I think I have a pretty positive mindset because of my family. I just have a huge support system, which keeps me going. It keeps me motivated and, in turn, keeps me positive," she said.

It also doesn't hurt that professionally, she's living out a dream she's had since childhood, she added.

However, Morgan and her teammates are also looking to improve the working conditions for themselves and for the women who will follow in their footsteps. Last year, 28 members of the U.S. Women's National Team filed a lawsuit against The United States Soccer Federation for gender discrimination, citing unequal pay.

A trial has been set for May 5, just weeks before the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo begin. At the time of Morgan's pregnancy announcement last October, a source told GMA that she planned to participate in the Games.

"I think it's important just to stand up for yourself and stand up for the people around you that are in similar situations," Morgan said of the class action lawsuit. "We're stronger in numbers and so just having an entire team together fighting for something that we've been discriminated against for so long is just kind of a story that I want to share with people."

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Scoreboard roundup -- 2/13/20

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Thursday's sports events:

Boston 141, L.A. Clippers 133 -- OT
Oklahoma 123, New Orleans 118

Dallas 3, Toronto 2
New Jersey 4, Detroit 1
Philadelphia 6, Florida 2
Tampa Bay 3, Edmonton 1
Buffalo 4, Columbus 3 -- OT
Ottawa 3, Arizona 2
Nashville 5, NY Islanders 0
NY Rangers 4, Minnesota 3 -- SO
Washington 3, Colorado 2
Calgary 6, Anaheim 0
Vegas 6, St. Louis 5 -- OT


Oregon 68, Colorado 60
Indiana 89, Iowa 77

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US men's soccer union sounds off on 'false narrative' about equal pay for women

Andy Lyons/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Soccer fans the world over are known for their loud and unwavering support -- just as America's men's team now backs the women's.

Members of the U.S. men's national soccer team again are voicing support for their female counterparts, ahead of the women's national team's gender discrimination trial in May that involves the U.S. Soccer Federation.

How the men are supporting the women

In a lengthy and emphatic statement released Wednesday by the United States National Soccer Team Players Association, the union sounded off about U.S. Soccer's "false narrative" regarding collective bargaining agreements and equal pay.

"The Federation has been working very hard to sell a false narrative to the public and even to members of Congress," the statement read, adding that the federation has used it "as a weapon against current and former members of the United States Women's National Team."

The association said it has long left the women's players and their representatives to pursue any grievances on their own, but decided now to back them due to the "success" of the federation's narrative.

"By coming forward to explain the situation, the USNSTPA hopes to create a better understanding and perhaps help bring about a resolution," the statement continued.

The men's statement further broke down why equal pay in soccer matters now more than ever, particularly in comparing the women's CBA from April 2017 to the men's from 2011 to 2018.

"What we believe should happen is simple," the men's union said. "Pay the women significantly more than our recently expired men's deal. In our estimation, the women were due at least triple what our expired deal was worth in player compensation."

U.S. soccer has not yet responded to the union's statement.

How we got here

U.S. Soccer historically has "resisted any concept of equal pay or basic economic fairness for the USWNT players" and "refused" to include the same provisions in CBAs with the women's team.

"This is systematic gender discrimination that should have never happened," the men's union added.

Historically, the men have negotiated their CBA with U.S. Soccer before the women, setting the stage for those talks.

When the women's team negotiated its most recent CBA, in April 2017, the federation's revenue had grown by more than $33 million since 2011, according to the USNSTPA.

"The expectation was for dramatic increases in their compensation, comparable to the Federation's triple-digit increases in revenue," the USNSTPA said. "The women's 2017-2021 CBA did not bring the women equality in working conditions and the women did not benefit from the dramatic increase in revenue associated with the USWNT."

The men's union also is claiming U.S. Soccer potentially is spending millions on legal expenses that instead could be be used to pay players.

Last March, 28 members of the 2015 Women's World Cup champion team filed a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against the federation, after years of publicly demanding equal pay. A trial is set for May 5.

"The USSF has utterly failed to promote gender equality," the lawsuit reads. "It has stubbornly refused to treat its female employees who are members of the [women's national team] equally to its male employees."

The U.S. Soccer Federation did not immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.

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Colin Kaepernick is writing a memoir to 'inspire others to rise in action'

Scott Clarke / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) -- More than three years after his silent protests rocked the NFL and the nation, Colin Kaepernick is writing a memoir about his activism which he hopes will "inspire others to rise in action."

"My protest was the culmination of years of thought and experiences, of learning and unlearning," Kaepernick said in a statement. "I want to tell the story of my evolution, and the events that led me to protest systemic oppression, in hopes that it will inspire others to rise in action."

The former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers began taking a knee during the national anthem at games in 2016 as a way to protest police brutality against black people in the U.S. His silent protests sparked a national conversation, and even President Donald Trump weighed in.

After playing six seasons with the 49ers, and leading the team to the 2013 Super Bowl, Kaepernick severed his contract in 2017. He has not signed with a new team since.

He is releasing the memoir this year through his newly-formed publishing company, Kaepernick Publishing, to "reinforce the importance of Black ownership," according to a statement.

He is also partnering with Audible, which will exclusively release the audio version, to create additional original audio projects with other authors and influential figures.

Kaepernick added that he hopes to use the partnership between his publishing company and Audible to "elevate Black and Brown voices who can empower future generations."

Rachel Ghiazza, the SVP of content acquisition and development at Audible, said Kaepernick "takes listeners through the pivotal moments and experiences that inspired a national debate and cultural movement."

Kaepernick has previously been vocal about his desire to return to the NFL and filed a grievance against league owners in 2017, alleging they colluded to ensure he remains unsigned. The lawsuit was settled in February 2019.

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