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Utah women’s basketball team forced to change hotels over ‘racial hate crimes’

SPOKANE, WASHINGTON - MARCH 25: Head coach Lynne Roberts of the Utah Utes speaks to the media following a loss against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the second round of the 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament held at McCarthey Athletic Center on March 25, 2024 in Spokane, Washington. (Photo by Myk Crawford/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The Utah women’s basketball team was forced to change hotels last Friday after experiencing what coach Lynne Roberts said was a series of “racial hate crimes” ahead of their first-round NCAA tournament game. 

Following the team’s second-round loss to Gonzaga, Roberts told reporters about the incidents but did not go into detail. 

Early on Tuesday, reported that the N-word was yelled at members of the basketball team, as well as those part of the traveling party, which included cheerleaders and the school band. This reportedly happened multiple times as they were walking to and from a restaurant near their hotel. 

Originally, the team was located in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – more than 30 miles east of the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane. Both the NCAA and Gonzaga, the host school, helped the team relocate to a hotel in Spokane for the remainder of their stay. 

"We all just were in shock, and we looked at each other like, did we just hear that? ... Everybody was in shock — our cheerleaders, our students that were in that area that heard it clearly were just frozen," Utah deputy athletics director Charmelle Green, who is Black, told of the initial incident. "We kept walking, just shaking our heads, like I can't believe that."

While the team continued on, they were met with a similar situation as they left the restaurant. 

"I got emotional and started to cry," Green said, adding that she was “numb” for the rest of the night. "I will never forget the sound that I heard, the intimidation of the noise that came from that engine, and the word (N-word). I go to bed and I hear it every night since I've been here. ... I couldn't imagine us having to stay there and relive those moments."

The team coordinated a way to walk back to the hotel together to ensure their safety.

"Incredibly upsetting for all of us," Roberts said Monday night. "You think in our world, in athletics and the university settings, it's shocking. There's so much diversity on a college campus and so you're just not exposed to that very often. And so when you are, it's like, you have people say, 'Man, I can't believe that happened.' But racism is real and it happens, and it's awful.

"So for our players, whether they are white, black, green, whatever, no one knew how to handle it and it was really upsetting. And for our players and staff to not feel safe in an NCAA Tournament environment, that's messed up."

The team’s police escort was unable to do anything as they were from Washington and outside of their jurisdiction.

"We were actually rather taken aback by our accommodations, because when we were planning to host we were having similar issues in which we were seeking hotels either in Provo or Park City or Ogden, and the NCAA said no to that, so the fact that we were sent to a place that wasn't even the state that the university who's hosting resides was incredibly problematic," Green said.

Following Roberts’ press conference, Gonzaga issued a statement saying that the first priority is the safety and welfare of everyone competing.

"We are frustrated and deeply saddened to know what should always be an amazing visitor and championship experience was in any way compromised by this situation for it in no way reflects the values, standards and beliefs to which we at Gonzaga University hold ourselves accountable," the statement said.

Several years ago, Spokane was host to the first and second rounds of the men’s NCAA tournament. At the time, a large regional youth volleyball tournament was also set to take place. Gonzaga received a waiver from the NCAA to allow teams to be housed in Coeur d’Alene.

Utah AD Mark Harlan told the team “should not have been" in Coeur d’Alene.

"I do appreciate the NCAA and Gonzaga moving us from that situation, but we should never have been there in the first place. So a lot of folks need to get home and heal from the whole matter.

"But for Charmelle Green and what she's done in terms of being the director of this group, being the victim of this, along with so many others, is something that is going to take a long time for us all to process. It's not the experience that our student-athletes and our students overall should have experienced."

As of 2018, in the region of Spokane and northern Idaho, at least nine hate groups operate in the region, including Identity Evropa, Proud Boys, ACT for America and America's Promise Ministries, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Utah has since filed a police report on the racial hate crimes, but there have been no updates since the report was filed.

"It was a distraction and upsetting and unfortunate," Roberts said. "This should be a positive for everybody involved. This should be a joyous time for our program and to have kind of a black eye on the experience is unfortunate."

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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