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NYPD officers support Colin Kaepernick at rally

Police officers in New York City are throwing their badges behind polarizing figure Colin Kaepernick.

The former football star came under heavy criticism for kneeling during the national anthem last year and remains unsigned by any team.

On Saturday, a group of NYPD officers showed up at an event in support of Kaepernick.

Sgt. Edwin Raymond told the New York Daily News: “What Colin Kaepernick did is try to bring awareness that this nation, unfortunately, has ignored for far too long. ... And that’s the issue of racism in America and policing in America. We decided to gather here today because of the way he’s being railroaded for speaking the obvious truth.”

>> Read more trending news

Officers wore black shirts with #WeStandWithKap scrawled across their chests. Supporters of the quarterback insist that he’s been blackballed for his behavior.

One said, “The fact that Kaepernick is not in the NFL has nothing to do with stats on the football field.”

Even legendary NYPD officer Frank Serpico returned to his old stomping grounds to attend the rally and show his support for the former 49er. He said, “I am here to support anyone who has the courage to stand up against injustice and oppression anywhere in this country and the world.”

In related news, filmmaker Spike Lee made headlines two weeks ago when he tweeted that would be a rally for Kaepernick in New York City called “United We Stand,” taking place on Aug. 23.

Alabama’s Nick Saban on eclipse; ‘I’ll watch it on TV’

Alabama football coach Nick Saban is not impressed with the hype surrounding Monday’s total eclipse, ESPN reported. 

>> Read more trending news

“I watch the Weather Channel every day,” Saban said Saturday after a scrimmage at Bryant-Denny Stadium. “They're already saying what it's going to look like in every city in America. So what's going to be significant? Watch the Weather Channel, and you'll see what it's going to be like in Portland, Oregon.”The solar eclipse peaks in Tuscaloosa around 1:30 p.m. Monday.

Saban said he would accommodate any players who wanted to watch the event.

“We'll set it up so if the players want to go out there and get some sunglasses,” he told ESPN. “I guess they can. That's not something that I'm really that focused on right now."

Saban said he has a lake house in Clayton, Georgia, that is in the path of totality. But he is not planning a road trip for himself or his players.

“Tell them to watch it on TV,” he said. “Maybe we should have a team meeting about how we want to do this. I haven't thought about it.”

Charles Barkley offers brutally honest take on Confederate statue debate

Former basketball star Charles Barkley recently weighed in on an argument that has the entire nation riled up: the removal of Confederate statues.

>> Watch the interview here

“I’m not going to waste my time worrying about these Confederate statues. ... I’m going to keep doing great things, No. 1 in the black community because I’m black,” Barkley said in an interview with Rick Karle of WBRC.

>> Charlie Daniels compares Confederate statue removal to ISIS' actions

He continued: “I’m not going to waste my time worrying about a neo-Nazi who’s going to hate me no matter what.”

>> There are hundreds of Confederate monuments, not just in the South

When asked if the best option is to leave the statues up and ignore them, Barkley answered, “I’ve always ignored them. I’m 54 years old; I’ve never thought about those statues a day in my life. I think if you ask most black people, to be honest, they haven’t thought a day in their life about those stupid statues.”

Barkley has weighed in before on the Confederate statue and flag debate. In 2004, he said he was on his way to a NASCAR race and turned around when he saw 10 Confederate flags.

>> Read more trending news

Barkley was a star player with the Philadelphia 76ers and then with the Phoenix Suns, where he earned the NBA Most Valuable Player award.

Former Yankees star Derek Jeter, wife welcome first child 

Former New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter was called “The Captain” during his major-league career.

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Now he can be called a dad.

Jeter’s wife Hannah gave birth to a girl, Bella Raine Jeter, on Thursday, according to the verified Twitter account of The Players’ Tribune, which was founded by Jeter in 2014.

The Jeters were married in July 2016, and Hannah Jeter announced her pregnancy via a February essay in The Players’ Tribune, Newsday reported.

Jeter, 43, retired from the Yankees in 2014 after a 20-year career. He finished with a franchise-record 3,465 hits and a .310 batting average while leading the Yankees to seven World Series and five titles.

Pitt softball adds Amanda Buchholz to staff

The ex-Husker is known as a defensive and recruiting specialist

Pitt head softball coach Holly Aprile announced on Tuesday that Amanda Buchholz, who most recently served on Ohio State’s coaching staff, will be joining the Panthers as an assistant coach for the 2018 season, according to a press release from the university.

“She brings a wealth of experience in both recruiting and in the day-to-day operations of a Power Five softball program,” Aprile said. “Amanda has a track record for developing top-notch defensive teams and strategies. Without a doubt, she has the experience and expertise to help us continue to build a consistent winning program.”

Buchholz’s defensive prowess goes back to her days as a standout shortstop at Nebraska, during which she led the Cornhuskers to a College World Series appearance in 2002 and earned first-team All-Big 12 honors. She eventually became an assistant coach at Miami (Ohio), where her team set a program record with a .975 fielding percentage in 2010.

She achieved similar results at Ohio State, as her Buckeyes put up a .969 fielding percentage in 2017 and a .974 fielding percentage in 2016. For comparison, Pitt’s fielding percentage was .975 in 2017, which ranked 16th in the nation. So this addition should allow the Panthers to stay the course in that respect.

With that said, this move doesn’t address two of the more glaring areas of need for the Panthers, such as their .261 team batting average, which ranked an abysmal 201st in the NCAA in 2017, and their 4.11 ERA, which ranked 191st.

If the goal is to catch up to ACC rivals like Florida State (which batted .329 in 2017 with a 1.47 ERA) or even Syracuse (.307 batting average, 3.07 ERA), then the Panthers are going to have to do more to step up their performance at the plate and on the mound.

However, as Aprile noted, where Buchholz could really make a difference is on the recruiting trail, and that’s of vital importance to Pitt.

The Panthers attracted a solid recruiting class after a stellar 37-21 season in 2015, but they quickly regressed. While that 2016 class ranked 14th in the nation, according to FloSoftball, Pitt followed that up with a class that didn’t rank among the top 70 in 2017.

Since then, Aprile has shown improvement by assembling a 51st-ranked 2018 class and a 42nd-ranked 2019 class. But considering conference rivals like Notre Dame, Florida State and Boston College have consistently ranked above Pitt in recruiting, the program still needs to strive for better results.

During Buchholz’s tenure, Ohio State regularly reeled in impressive recruiting classes that ranked among the best in the nation. Its 2018 class is currently ranked 29th by FloSoftball, and 2017’s ranked 33rd.

While recruiting student-athletes at Pitt is traditionally more difficult than it is at Ohio State, if Buchholz can provide the Panthers with even a modest boost in their recruiting efforts, it could give them a leg up on teams like Syracuse and Louisville that haven’t excelled in recruiting lately but have bested Pitt in conference play over the past two seasons.

And with Pitt finishing 10th out of 11 ACC teams in 2017 despite having the seventh-best overall record in the conference, gaining ground on beatable conference opponents should be the goal heading into 2018.

That alone could be the difference between finishing one game above .500 and posting a 30-win season — which is another thing teams coached by Buchholz have a knack for.

UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast w/ Corey Cohen (S3 Ep1)

Corey and Jim wrap up the entire summer of Pitt news before football season starts

In this episode of UnScripted: The Cardiac Hill Podcast, Corey Cohen and Jim Hammett wrap up the entire summer of Pitt news including the NFL Draft, Pitt Football suspensions, the Cam Johnson transfer saga, the NBA Draft, and Heather Lyke's tenure.

We apologize for some brief technical glitches in the opening.

Report: LeBron James ‘100 percent’ leaving Cavaliers in 2018

The idea of LeBron James departing Cleveland again is slowly resembling a possible reality.

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NBA reporter Chris Sheridan, who said James was returning to the Cavaliers two days before the announcement, reports James will wear a new uniform for the 2018-19 NBA season.

Kevin O’Connor and Bill Simmons of The Ringer first reported James’ interest in joining the Los Angeles Lakers next summer as a free agent. Speculation has taken off since.

James referred to Los Angeles as “home” in a recent tweet, further tossing fuel on the fire. James’ business is based in Burbank.

The consensus best player in the NBA isn’t a stranger to using social media as a medium to convey his feelings. The firing of general manager David Griffin and Kyrie Irving trade request have made the Cavaliers organization look in disarray, correctly or not.

Owner Dan Gilbert and James have reportedly not seen eye-to-eye. Since Gilbert’s letter criticizing James for joining the Heat in 2010, despite James’ return, there’s been a lack of trust between the two, reportedly.

James delivered his promised title to Ohio, but perhaps that gives him an avenue to close out his career elsewhere. But there’s another NBA season to be played, and a lot can change in a year. 

Pitt’s receiving corps begins to take shape

A pecking order appears to be forming among Pitt’s wide receivers

On Wednesday, Pitt head football coach Pat Narduzzi was asked which wide receivers stood out behind presumed starters Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson, and his answer provided some long-awaited clarity on the situation.

Earlier in camp, freshman Dontavius Butler-Jenkins was a player that was standing out. Only two weeks ago he was being heralded as a player that was ‘going to really help’ the team this year, according to Narduzzi. But now, others have risen to the top, it seems.

“You look at (Rafael) Araujo-Lopes, he has done a great job. He works his tail off. He’s been very consistent, maybe the most consistent of all,” Narduzzi said, according to a press release from the university. “Maurice Ffrench has done a nice job. Those are the guys that stand out to me and are probably the top four at this point.”

This section of the depth chart has been something of a question mark since Tre Tipton went down with a season-ending knee injury in July. Until then, Tipton, who amassed 142 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches last season, was presumed to be Pitt’s No. 3 receiver, leaving only the No. 4 spot in question at that point.

Ffrench seemed to be in the mix for one of the jobs as of last Friday. That day, Narduzzi was asked if the receiver would play a bigger role in the offense with Tipton out, and his answer was fairly unambiguous.

“No question about it,” he said. “Maurice is a great player offensively and defensively, and anytime a guy goes down, it’s that next-guy-up mentality. Whether Maurice beats out Tre Tipton in camp or Tre is not there and the job is there for the taking, Maurice is going to hopefully have a major part in this offense.”

Ffrench also earned himself some praise from Henderson, who described him as “electric” and “another explosive player that you should watch out for this year.”

With that said, it was somewhat surprising that Araujo-Lopes’ name was the first one out of Narduzzi’s mouth Wednesday, since so little had been mentioned about him to that point.

Araujo-Lopes was only involved in nine plays on offense last season in addition to three kick returns. Of course, he also happened to excel in everything he did, averaging 32.7 yards per return, 12 yards per reception and 5.3 yards per carry, so it’s unsurprising that one of his many talents caught Narduzzi’s eye.

Still, considering Narduzzi said on Tuesday that the depth chart had yet to be finalized and this revelation came after the 14th day of training camp, there may be more movement to come. But for now, it’s good to see a few receivers pulling away from the pack with the season opener less than three weeks away.

Ric Flair’s fiancee Wendy Barlow says he is still in critical condition, report says

WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair is in critical condition at an Atlanta-area hospital and has “multiple organ problems,” according to his fiancee, Wendy Barlow.

TMZ Sports reported that Barlow made a post on her personal Facebook page Wednesday saying she took Flair to the hospital Friday and that he had “severe abdominal pain.”

>> Read more trending news

“From that moment on it all seems like a nightmare ... multiple organ problems. Not to go into too many details (but) I want everyone to know he still needs prayers as he is still in critical condition.”

Barlow said she has been by Flair’s side since Friday and will “continue to make sure he is getting the best care possible,” according to a screenshot of the post obtained by TMZ.

Related: WWE legend Ric Flair in medically induced coma

ESPN picked up the report, adding that the update comes after a WWE rep confirmed Tuesday that Flair was in a medically-induced coma as he awaited surgery.

Melinda Morris Zanoni, CEO of Legacy Talent and Entertainment, has not posted any other updates on Flair since tweeting that he underwent successful surgery Monday.

BET founder’s daughter suspended from equestrian competition after Walmart gaffe

A man’s mistake at a Florida Walmart has resulted in a one-year suspension from an equestrian competition for Paige Johnson, the daughter of billionaire BET co-founder Robert L. Johnson.

>> Read more trending news

Johnson will miss the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington because of a failed drug test for her horse. A talented rider, Johnson became the first black American to win a major grand prix in 2015.

Johnson’s horse, Luke Skywalker 46, tested positive for Pramoxine in January at the Winter Equestrian Festival. The International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI) announced the positive test result for the banned substance in April and Johnson was suspended indefinitely until a final verdict, which was this month.

READ: Johnson first black American to win major grand prix

Sergio Molinero, Johnson’s long-time groom -- the word used to describe a person employed to take care of horses -- went to the store to grab an antibiotic cream to treat small cuts on the horse but accidentally grabbed the one that contained the banned substance, according to an FEI report.

Johnson’s competition includes Jessica Springsteen, the daughter of singer Bruce Springsteen; Georgina Bloomberg, whose father is former New York major Michael R. Bloomberg; Bill Gates’ daughter Jennifer; Destry Spielberg, the daughter of director Steven Spielberg; and Eve Jobs, daughter of the late Steve Jobs.

Molinero said he has been Johnson’s groom for the past 15 years and has been working with the horse since they bought it in 2015.

“I was buying the same triple antibiotic we always buy, which is OK under the anti-doping rules,” he said in the report. “I now realize after Paige was able to find my receipt for the purchase that I made a mistake and pulled the wrong tube off the shelf because it looked so much like the one we always use.”

Pramoxine is an anesthetic that is designed to relieve pain and itching and is on the FEI’s banned substances list.

READ: The stunning Jessica Springsteen attends a Wellington fundraiser

Veterinarian John Nolan told the FEI that Johnson is very careful about the treatment of her horses. He said Johnson is “the most careful and ethical rider with whom he had ever worked,” the report said.

Johnson, 31, must also pay a fine of 2,000 Swiss Francs and an additional 3,000 Swiss Francs to cover legal costs. A Swiss Franc is worth just a bit more than one American dollar.

Her suspension will be up in April 2018.

Johnson has been a competitive equestrian rider since she was a child, competing all over the world.

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