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President Trump seeks to make sports central part of economic revival

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President Donald Trump spoke with sports leaders Wednesday, expressing his desire to make sports a central part America’s economic revival, according to a press pool report.

The report sates that Lesa France Kennedy, executive vice chair, represented NASCAR on the call. Others on the call included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred.

According to the press pool report: “The President expressed optimism to the major sports organizations that are eager to get their athletes back on courts, courses, and fields of play, and for the millions of sports fans who are missing their favorite teams and players. Leaders of the sports organizations expressed appreciation for the President’s attention to their industry and offered innovative input on social distancing guidelines.

“President Trump acknowledged the important role that sports play in American life and expressed his desire to make sports a central part of the great American economic revival.”

MORE: Dr. Anthony Fauci on how sports can return: Regular testing, no fans

MORE: N.C. Gov: “Our new normal” may have no in-person crowds for awhile

President Trump held a call with sports league executives April 4. That call included NASCAR President Steve Phelps. President Trump later said in a press briefing that day:

I want fans back in the arenas. Whenever we’re ready and as soon as we can, obviously. The fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out on the golf courses and breath nice clean beautiful air.

“I can’t tell you a date, but I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later. We’re not going to have to have separation for the rest of our times on the planet. We need it for this period of time. Eventually, people are going to be able to occupy those seats in arenas next to each other like we have for all of my life and all of your life.”

NASCAR has postponed seven races through May 3 at Dover International Speedway. NASCAR’s next scheduled race is May 9 at Martinsville Speedway, but Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order from March 30 to June 10. The next scheduled events after that would be All-Star weekend (May 14-16) and Coca-Cola 600 weekend (May 22-24) at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina.

According to the press pool report, these were the individuals on Wednesday’s call with President Trump:

* Todd Ricketts—Chicago Cubs
* Jerry Jones—Dallas Cowboys
* Mark Cuban—Dallas Mavericks
* Ari Emanuel— Endeavor
* Robert Kraft—The Kraft Group
* Mike Whan—LPGA
* Robert Manfred— MLB
* Don Garber—MLS
* Adam Silver—NBA
* Lesa Kennedy—NASCAR
* Mark Emmert—NCAA
* Roger Goodell—NFL
* Gary Bettman—NHL
* Lisa Baird—NWSL
* Jay Monahan—PGA TOUR
* Dana White—UFC
* Sarah Hirshland—U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee
* Patrick Galbraith—USTA
* Cathy Engelbert—WNBA
* Vince McMahon—WWE

Kevin Harvick raises questions about NASCAR penalty

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Kevin Harvick was ready for the questions about his team’s penalty Friday at ISM Raceway.

As NASCAR’s moderator asked the driver about his success at the track, Harvick said: “Nobody wants to talk about that, let’s just go to the first question.’’

So began a press conference where Harvick set the tone. He questioned NASCAR’s penalty, said NASCAR’s reaction was done to “appease” social media, and raised issue with a penalty coming out days after the event.

MORE: Is social media influencing NASCAR penalties?

MORE: Stewart-Haas Racing evaluating if to appeal penalty

The car was built to tolerance,’’ Harvick said. “The scary part for me is the fact that we went far enough to find something on the car at the NASCAR R&D center. They could find something wrong with every car if they took it apart for a whole day at the R&D center.’’

NASCAR ruled Wednesday that the rear window bracing had not kept the rear window glass rigid in all directions at all times during Sunday’s race — an issue raised shortly after the race on social media via pictures of Harvick’s car. NASCAR also stated that car’s side skirts were not aluminum.

NASCAR docked Harvick the seven playoff points he earned in his Las Vegas victory (race win and two stage wins), took 20 driver points from him, fined crew chief Rodney Childers $50,000, suspended the team’s car chief two races and docked the team 20 owner points

“Rodney is a key player in that but the confusing part about it is you have this huge penalty but your crew chief doesn’t get suspended,” Harvick said. “A lot of confusion in my mind.”

Asked if he would he would have won without those issues at Las Vegas, Harvick said: “Absolutely. Hands down.’’

Harvick said it was the team’s fault for having steel side skirts, noting the team overlooked a recent bulletin noting the change. Harvick said a window brace failed. 

You could have called the window attached to the brace penalty on 20 cars last week, easy,’’ he said.

Harvick said that finding penalties via pictures on social media was going down a “slippery slope.’’

“If we want to officiate it with fan pictures – if you want to officiate it with pictures during the race and call people to pit road and do those types of things, from a NASCAR standpoint I am fine with that,” he said. “As long as it is consistent. As you can see, from a lot of the pictures roaming around on the internet this week, it is not consistent.”

Harvick suggested that social media helping officials with rules only will repeat what happened in golf.

“I compare it to golf,’’ he said. “It failed miserably when you look at Lexi Thompson and the outrage of the players and things that have happened the last couple years.’’

LPGA officials — after being alerted via email from a television viewer— assessed a four-stroke penalty to Thompson during one of the tour’s major championship events last April. The infraction happened in the third round and wasn’t discovered until the next day when Thompson had six holes to play in the final round. She went from being three strokes ahead to down by one. She lost in a playoff.

That’s why Harvick suggest officials are the best to handle penalties.

“The officials in the garage do a great job,’’ he said. “It just feels like it is a micromanaged situation from above what these guys do in the garage, to appease people sitting on social media and trying to officiate a sporting event instead of letting these guys in the garage do what they do and do a great job with it week in and week out. That is the frustrating part.

Harvick also raised questions about penalties coming out well after an event.

“The root of the problem is that my friends that don’t follow racing are very confused on a penalty that comes out on Wednesday,’’ he said. “That is the part we need to fix.’’

Until then, he has a plan for what he’ll do the next time he wins.

I can’t wait to win another race,” he said, and jump up and down in victory lane on the back of my car.”

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