UFC president Dana White does not expect punishment for domestic violence incident | CNN

CNN  — 

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White said he does not expect punishment after a video emerged of him in a physical altercation with his wife earlier this month. White made the comments Wednesday at a media day for UFC Fight Night 217.

Asked whether he expects there to be repercussions from the company, White said: “What should the repercussions be? You tell me. I take 30 days off? How does that hurt me?

“Me leaving hurts the company, hurts my employees, hurts the fighters. It doesn’t hurt me.

“What is my punishment? Here’s my punishment: I have to walk around for however long I live … and this is how I’m labeled now.

“The punishment is that I did it, and now I have to deal with it.”

In the video, obtained by TMZ, White and his wife, Anne, are seen arguing before exchanging slaps in a nightclub in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, on New Year’s Eve. Neither White nor his wife are facing legal charges over the incident.

White claims that conversations had been held between himself, Endeavor chief executive and UFC owner, Ari Emanuel, and broadcaster ESPN over what action was appropriate.

“We’ve had plenty of discussions internally – with Ari, with ESPN – nobody’s happy,” the 53-year-old said. “Nobody’s happy about this. Neither am I. But it happened.”

White waits to place the UFC lightweight championship belt on Charles Oliveira after the Brazilian's victory against Michael Chandler in 2021.

White also said he was not looking to make excuses for his behavior and reiterated his stance on domestic violence.

“There’s never an excuse … There’s no defense for this and people should not be defending me over this thing, no matter what.”

On Monday, the California Legislative Women’s Caucus wrote an open letter to Emanuel and Endeavor calling for White to be replaced as UFC president.

“Given Mr White’s previous remarks against domestic partner violence, we believed that Endeavor and the UFC shared this commitment to safety, respect and accountability,” the letter reads.

“And yet, we have seen the video of UFC president Dana White, where he strikes his wife at a New Year’s Eve celebration … We were appalled. It was alarming to say the least. In the days since the video was released, you have remained silent.

“We are calling for the immediate removal of Mr White as president of UFC.”

CNN reached out to Endeavor for comment but did not immediately get a response.

When contacted for comment, ESPN gave only a short statement saying: “We have been covering the story on our platforms since it broke and will continue to do so.”

TBS has delayed the premiere of a reality series from Dana White – Power Slap: Road to the Title – by one week to January 18. TBS and CNN are part of the Warner Bros. Discovery network.

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Zach Johnson isn’t discounting Tiger Woods for the Ryder Cup | CNN

CNN  — 

Tiger Woods could form part of the US Ryder Cup team – or at least, Zach Johnson isn’t ruling it out.

Ahead of the Sony Open in Hawaii, US captain Johnson said he wouldn’t discount selecting Woods to compete in the tournament if the 47-year-old didn’t qualify for the team automatically.

“I would only contemplate having him on the team if he felt – if he was putting up some numbers and some scores, No. 1, where he’s showing some sign of being competitive, “Johnson said at a media conference on Wednesday.

“And then No. 2, that discussion would be had with the other guys that are a part of that team, and specifically him. If there is anything I trust in Tiger Woods, is that he’s extremely invested in this team and the future Cups. Extremely invested. I can’t speak that enough,” added Johnson.

“And then I think you would do anything and everything for the betterment of the team. I assume he would say … I don’t like basing on assumptions … but I’m confident that he would say, ‘Yeah, I can play, or no, I can’t.’”

Last year, Johnson confirmed Woods would be part of the US Ryder Cup “in some capacity,” adding that Woods had made it a “priority.”

“Given who he is and what he’s all about, I can’t tell you right now: I don’t know if he will be here next year, but he will be a part of this team in some capacity,” Johnson said.

However, Woods’ health could complicate this, Johnson conceded.

“He’s gone through some things as of late that make it difficult, whether it’s travel or what-have-you,” said the US Ryder Cup captain.

Injury has hampered Woods’ recent career, his playing time decimated since he suffered serious leg injuries in a car accident in February 2021.

The 47-year-old withdrew from the Hero World Challenge in December citing his foot pain, and at various points had looked to be struggling with movement during the seventh edition of The Match that month.

“I think something that is realistic is playing the tour one day, never full time, ever again, but pick and choose, just like Mr. (Ben) Hogan did,” Woods told Golf Digest after his accident in 2021.

“Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that. You practice around that, and you gear yourself up for that. And you play. I think that’s how I’m going to have to play it from now on.

“It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s my reality. And I understand it, and I accept it.”

A biennial competition which alternates between Europe and the US, the Ryder Cup is being played in Italy for the first time later this year – September 25 to October 1 – at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club, which is 10 miles from the center of Rome.

Team US regained the Ryder Cup in 2021 following a historically dominant performance over Europe at Whistling Straits.

CNN’s Jack Bantock contributed reporting.

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Australia pulls out of Afghanistan cricket series over Taliban’s restrictions on women | CNN

Sydney CNN  — 

Australia’s men’s cricket team has withdrawn from a series of upcoming matches against Afghanistan in protest over the ruling Taliban’s restrictions on women and girls’ education and employment, Cricket Australia (CA) said in a statement Thursday.

The teams were scheduled to play three One Day International (ODI) games in the United Arab Emirates in March, but CA decided to cancel the series after “extensive consultation” with “several stakeholders including the Australian government,” the statement said.

“CA is committed to supporting [and] growing the game for women and men around the world, including in Afghanistan, and will continue to engage with the Afghanistan Cricket Board in anticipation of improved conditions for women and girls in the country,” it added.

In December, the Taliban announced the suspension of university education for all female students. The move followed a decision in March to bar girls from returning to secondary schools, coming after months-long closures that had been in place since the hardline Islamist group took over Afghanistan in August 2021.

Later that month, the Taliban ordered all local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to stop their female employees from coming to work, warning that non-compliance would result in the revocation of their licenses.

The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) responded to CA’s decision on Thursday, describing it as “pathetic” and “an attempt to enter the realm of politics and politicize the sport.”

“By prioritizing political interests over the principles of fair play and sportsmanship, Cricket Australia is undermining the integrity of the game and damaging the relationship between the two nations,” the statement added.

“The decision to withdraw from playing the upcoming ODI series against Afghanistan is unfair and unexpected and will have a negative impact on the development and growth of cricket in Afghanistan, as well as affect[ing] the love and passion of the Afghan nation for the game.”

The ACB said it was considering what action to take on the matter, including the possibility of writing to the International Cricket Council (ICC) and “rethinking the participation of Afghan players” in Australia’s domestic Twenty20 competition, the Big Bash League (BBL).

The ACB statement followed comments from prominent Afghan player Rashid Khan.

Khan, who played for the Adelaide Strikers in this year’s BBL, accompanied a statement on Twitter with the words: “Keep politics out of it.”

“I am really disappointed to hear that Australia have pulled out of the series to play us in March,” Khan wrote.

“I take great pride in representing my country and we have made great progress on the world stage. This decision from CA sets us back in that journey.

“If playing vs Afghanistan is so uncomfortable for Australia then I wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable with my presence in the BBL. Therefore I will be strongly considering my future in that competition.”

CA had previously backed out of a proposed Test match against Afghanistan due to be hosted in Tasmania in November 2021 over the Taliban’s ban on women participating in sports.

“Driving the growth of women’s cricket globally is incredibly important to Cricket Australia. Our vision for cricket is that it is a sport for all, and we support the game unequivocally for women at every level,” CA said at the time.

Australia’s sports minister Anika Wells on Thursday said Canberra supports Cricket Australia’s move.

“The Australian government welcomes Cricket Australia’s decision to withdraw from the upcoming men’s One Day International series against Afghanistan, following the Taliban’s increased suppression of women and girls’ rights,” she tweeted.

Although the Taliban repeatedly claimed it would protect the rights of girls and women, the group has done the opposite, stripping away the hard-won freedoms for which women have fought tirelessly over the past two decades.

The United Nations and at least half a dozen major foreign aid groups have said they are temporarily suspending their operations in Afghanistan following the ban on female NGO employees.

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Australian Open draw: Rafael Nadal begins title defense with tough test in opening round | CNN

CNN  — 

Defending champion Rafael Nadal will face English youngster Jack Draper in the opening round of the Australian Open in a bid to retain his 2022 crown and extend his grand slam tally.

World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz may be missing the tournament through injury, but with the return of Novak Djokovic to the competition, Nadal will be hard pushed to defend his title.

Thursday’s draw was not kind to the 22-time major winner: if he defeats the world No. 40 Draper, he potentially faces current Next Gen ATP Finals champion Brandon Nakashima.

Potentially awaiting the Spaniard later would be a quarterfinal against Daniil Medvedev, who was Nadal’s opponent in last year’s epic five-set final. Medvedev will be looking to make it a third consecutive finals appearance after losing to Djokovic in 2021 and to Nadal in 2022.

A rematch of the 2021 final is on the cards, with Djokovic in the opposite half from Nadal and Medvedev. The nine-time Australian Open champion faces another Spaniard, Roberto Carballes Baena, in the opening round and is on track to face home favorite Nick Kyrgios in the last eight.

The tournament comes 12 months after Djokovic was deported from Australia on the eve of the 2022 edition after former immigration minister Alex Hawke found the tennis star posed a risk to public health and order because, as a celebrity sportsman who had previously expressed opposition to people being compelled to get the Covid-19 vaccine, he could be seen as an “icon” for anti-vaxxers.

The minister’s decision to deport the former world No. 1 meant he was initially banned from reentry for three years.

Nineteenth-seeded Kyrgios is part of a thrilling section of the draw which includes Holger Rune, Dan Evans and Andrey Rublev.

Russian Rublev comes into the Australian Open as the fifth seed, but on Wednesday suffered a shock defeat to world No. 110 Thanasi Kokkinakis in the Adelaide 2. Rublev faces a blockbuster opening round match against former world No. 3 and 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem.

Andy Murray features in the other pick of the round as he faces 13th-seeded Matteo Berrettini. The Italian beat the three-time grand slam winner in four sets at the 2022 US Open and has beaten the Scotsman three out of their four ATP meetings.

Świątek is the first person representing Poland to win a major singles title and was voted Polish Sports Personality of the Year in 2022.

All to play for with no Barty

Following reigning champion Ashleigh Barty’s retirement from tennis last year, Iga Światek has dominated the sport and comes into the tournament as the top seed. The Pole opens against German Jule Niemeier but faces a tasty potential quarterfinal clash with American hot prospect Coco Gauff.

The 18-year-old superstar comes into the tournament in fine form, having won the ASB Classic without dropping a set and is looking to build on her excellent 2022 which saw her reach the Roland Garros final where she was beaten by Światek.

Ahead of any quarterfinal clash with the favorite though, Gauff faces a second round match against 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu who is in a race against time to recover from an ankle injury.

In the other half of the draw, second seed Ons Jabeur starts her 2023 trying to go one better than last year and win a grand slam. The Tunisian made both the Wimbledon and US Open finals but fell at the final hurdle in her pursuit to become the first Arab and North African woman to win a grand slam.

After missing the 2022 Open, Jabeur opens her 2023 account against Tamara Zidanšek and could face Aryna Sabalenka who is coming off the back of winning at Adelaide 1, her 11th career title and first in 19 months.

Elsewhere, American Jessica Pegula has been drawn in the same part of the draw as Maria Sakkari. Pegula recently led Team USA to victory in the inaugural United Cup, which featured a brilliant straight-set win over Światek. Having reached back-to-back quarterfinals in Melbourne and at the top of her game, she will be looking to set up a thrilling semifinal with her United Cup opponent.

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The Boston Celtics become the first team to hit 30 wins this season with victory over the New Orleans Pelicans | CNN

CNN  — 

The Boston Celtics became the first team in the NBA this season to reach 30 wins after beating the New Orleans Pelicans 125-114 at TD Garden in Boston on Wednesday night, largely behind a combined 72 points from the team’s stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Brown scored season-high 41 points and had 12 rebounds while Tatum had 31 points and 10 rebounds as the Celtics won their fourth straight game.

Brown specifically attacked the Pelicans from the mid range, crediting extra muscle added in the offseason for allowing him to handle contact with bigger opponents, as he makes a concerted effort to not settle for attempts from deep.

“I think I can get to the rim at a good rate this year,” Brown told reporters afterwards, per the Celtics website. “I definitely want to keep that up.

“I don’t want to let the defense off the hook, but I feel good about a lot of the shots I took from three. Some of them went down, some of them haven’t. But I definitely still think I’m going to look to get to the basket a lot more for sure just for the remainder of the year.”

Celtics forward Al Horford reiterated the point: “When (Brown) drives, I feel like people feel it.

“When he’s hitting you when he’s driving, that’s real. So it’s good to see him play at that level and have his mind made up that he’s going to attack the paint.”

It was Brown’s sixth 40-point game of his career, moving him past Sam Jones and Isaiah Thomas for the sixth-most in Celtics history.

Together with Tatum, the two wing players have become the driving force behind Boston’s recent success.

The team reached the NBA Finals last season, eventually losing to the Golden State Warriors, and is again one of the best in the league this year.

Tatum dunks against the Pelicans.

In both scoring at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in the same game, Brown and Tatum became the first Celtics players to achieve that stat line since Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker in 2001.

Drafted a year after one another – Brown was drafted with the No. 3 pick in the 2016 draft and Tatum was selected with the No. 3 pick in 2017 – they have built up an understanding together about dissecting defenses.

“They continue to grow in front of our eyes,” Horford said of the star duo after the victory. “They feed off each other, and that’s what really drives our team.”

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Lionel Messi scores for Paris Saint-Germain in first game back since World Cup triumph | CNN

CNN  — 

Lionel Messi celebrated his return to Paris Saint-Germain with a goal in his first game back since lifting the World Cup.

The 35-year-old only returned to training in the new year after taking some time off to celebrate and recuperate after Qatar 2022, where he finally won the trophy that had always eluded him in one of the greatest finals ever.

But the forward didn’t look to be suffering any hangover as he returned to action with a goal from close range in PSG’s 2-0 win against Angers on Wednesday.

Messi also paid tribute to Pelé before the match, joining his teammates in wearing a t-shirt with the Brazilian’s face on it during the warmup.

PSG sits comfortably top of the league despite Christophe Galtier having to switch up his team as he eases players back in after the World Cup.

Kylian Mbappé, a beaten finalist in Qatar, was rested for Wednesday’s match, allowing the likes of youngster Hugo Ekitiké to get some game time.

The 20-year-old forward has impressed when given the chance this season and opened the scoring with a sweeping finish in the first half.

Messi and his teammates wore t-shirts to honor Pelé during the warmup.

Messi, who dovetailed the attack alongside Neymar Jr., then doubled the lead in the 72nd minute after a well timed run and right foot finish.

The linesman had initially flagged for offside, but the Virtual Assistant Referee (VAR) overruled the call and the goal was given.

The win on Messi’s return is some welcome good news for PSG, who lost in the league for the first time this season last week, 3-1 away to Lens.

‘Little by little, everyone is coming back’

“Yes, it was very important to get back to winning ways. We have rivals who are pushing hard,” Galtier told PSGTV after the game.

“We knew that we were going to have a difficult match because Angers is a team that plays good football and poses big problems on a tactical level.

“I also insist on the fact that the situation – post-World Cup – means that we have had a lot of players absent, that the group was very scattered and that, little by little, everyone is coming back and reconnecting.”

PSG, which is six points clear atop the table, plays Rennes in its next game on Sunday.

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Damar Hamlin discharged after spending more than a week hospitalized due to a cardiac arrest | CNN

CNN  — 

Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin has been discharged from a Buffalo medical center, his club said Wednesday, after more than a week of hospitalization due to a cardiac arrest he suffered during a “Monday Night Football” game this month.

The 24-year-old Bills safety had been showing signs of accelerated improvement in the days leading up to his release from Buffalo General Medical Center in New York, hospital officials had said.

“We have completed a series of tests and evaluations, and in consultation with the team physicians, we are confident that Damar can be safely discharged to continue his rehabilitation at home and with the Bills,” a physician leading Hamlin’s care in Buffalo, Dr. Jamie Nadler, said in a statement the Bills released Wednesday on Twitter.

Hamlin initially was hospitalized in Cincinnati when his heart suddenly stopped after a tackle during a game against the host Cincinnati Bengals on January 2, but was transferred to the Buffalo facility Monday after doctors determined his critical condition had improved enough for the move.

Doctors at the Buffalo hospital were trying to determine why Hamlin suffered the cardiac arrest, Kaleida Health, the group of hospitals that includes the Buffalo medical center, said before his discharge. That included whether pre-existing conditions played a role in the event, which shocked many around the country and prompted a huge outpouring of support for the second-year NFL player.

On Tuesday, Hamlin went through “a comprehensive medical evaluation as well as a series of cardiac, neurological and vascular testing,” the Bills said on Twitter.

No cause of Hamlin’s cardiac arrest has been publicly announced.

“Special thank-you to Buffalo General it’s been nothing but love since arrival! Keep me in y’all prayers please!” Hamlin tweeted Tuesday.

It will be up to Hamlin to decide when he will be around the team again while recovering, Bills coach Sean McDermott said Wednesday.

“Grateful first and foremost that he is home with his parents and his brother, which is great,” McDermott told reporters Wednesday, as the Bills prepared to host the Miami Dolphins for a playoff game Sunday. No timetable for Hamlin’s return to professional football has been announced.

“We’ll leave (when he’ll be around the team) up to him. His health is first and foremost in our mind as far as his situation goes and when he feels ready, we will welcome him back,” McDermott said.

While in critical condition in Cincinnati, Hamlin was sedated and on a ventilator for days. On Friday morning the breathing tube was removed, and Hamlin began walking with some help by that afternoon, his doctors said Monday.

The health care team focused on stabilizing Hamlin and upgraded his condition Monday because his organ systems were stable and he no longer needed intensive nursing or respiratory therapy, doctors said.

“He’s certainly on what we consider a very normal to even accelerated trajectory from the life-threatening event that he underwent,” Dr. Timothy Pritts, chief of surgery at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, said earlier this week. “He’s making great progress.”

Normal recovery from a cardiac arrest can be measured in weeks to months, Pritts said Monday. Hamlin had been beating that timeline at each stage and is neurologically intact.

Swift response was key to saving Hamlin

When Hamlin collapsed seconds after an open-field tackle against a Bengals wide receiver, medical personnel rushed onto the field and administered CPR quickly – which helped save his life.

Hamlin’s heart had stopped, and medical responders revived it twice before putting him into an ambulance and taking him to the hospital. The immediate actions of medical personnel were vital to “not just saving his life, but his neurological function,” said Pritts.

The horrifying scene of Hamlin suddenly falling on his back after standing up following the tackle unsettled his teammates, the other players and millions of watching fans.

The game was initially postponed and later cancelled by the NFL – a decision several former football players said was a sign of a shift in prioritizing players’ mental and physical health.

Now, the Bills organization is encouraging people to learn the critical, life-saving skill of administering CPR.

The team has pledged support for resources including CPR certifications, automated external defibrillator units and guidance for developing cardiac emergency response plans within the Buffalo community, according to the statement. “We encourage all our fans to continue showing your support and take the next step by obtaining CPR certification,” the Bills said.

CNN’s Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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