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Celebration Bowl gets a title sponsor: The Air Force Reserve

The Dec. 15 game will open the college bowl season on ABC

12:24 PMThe premier historically black college football game of the season has gotten a title sponsor, with the Air Force Reserve renewing its sponsorship of the Celebration Bowl.

The fourth annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl is the championship game between champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC). Operated by ESPN Events, the game will be played on Dec. 15 from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and will be televised on ABC. The game will be the first game of college football bowl season.

“We are thrilled to have the Air Force Reserve join us again as the title sponsor of the Celebration Bowl,” said John Grant, Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl executive director. “The theme of this year’s Celebration Bowl is all about the celebration of service. Partnering with the Air Force Reserve allows us to truly honor and commemorate those who volunteer and serve to protect both for the community and the country.”

It’s the fourth consecutive year that the conference champions will play. The MEAC leads the series 2-1, with both wins coming from North Carolina A&T, whose last-minute 21-14 win over Grambling State in 2017 capped the first unbeaten season in MEAC history. Grambling won the SWAC’s first title in 2016 with a 10-9 victory over North Carolina Central.

“We are excited to be the title sponsor of the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl,” said Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Michael Johnson, AFRCRS. “This year’s bowl game celebrating service lines up perfectly with what the Air Force Reserve does every day serving our nation at home and abroad as part of this nation’s national defense. We are looking forward to telling the great story of the Air Force Reserve, its mission and the benefits of serving to a national audience.”

ESPN will televise 35 bowl games, including all 14 of ESPN Events’ owned and operated contests, over 17 days, beginning Dec. 15 and concluding on New Year’s Day. The games will set the table for the college football national championship, which will conclude the season on Jan. 7, 2019, from Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Now hockey faces the dilemma of a White House visit

Washington Capitals owner struggles as two of team’s stars say they won’t go

5:48 PMThe tradition in hockey is for the winner of the Stanley Cup to visit the White House to celebrate the title. But if two of your team’s best players have said they won’t go, what do you do?

This is an especially wrenching question in a sport often extolled as the ultimate team game. Is it truly all for one and one for all? This conundrum now confronts Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, whose team ended decades of frustration by capturing its first Stanley Cup last season.

Normally, winning the Cup touches off a long celebration capped by a White House visit. But the once-routine championship visits to the White House have become anything but routine since Donald Trump took office nearly two years ago.

Many athletes, citing what they see as the president’s divisive politics and racially charged rhetoric, have refused to go. Entire teams, including the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, have been disinvited. In June, the White House nixed a planned visit by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles after a large number of players said they would not attend. Instead of honoring the champions, the White House hosted what it called “A Celebration of America.” The entire exercise is seen by many as a litmus test of how a team and its owner view the president.

None of this seems to be lost on Leonsis, who has the look of a man caught in the middle. Two of his team’s forwards, Devante Smith-Pelly, a Canadian and one of a handful of black players in the NHL, and Brett Connolly, who is also Canadian, said they won’t be attending.

“I don’t think it’s the right thing to do,” Connolly has told reporters. Asked about his intentions in June, Smith-Pelly was even more pointed. “The things that he spews are straight-up racist and sexist,” Canada’s Postmedia quoted Smith-Pelly as saying.

At the same time, news reports have suggested that most Capitals players would be willing to go to the White House if the team were invited.

The competing opinions of his players have left Leonsis ducking for cover. “What I have said is, we’re in Washington, D.C., and the players and the coaching staff have to decide. I’m not going to influence, and if we go to the White House, I will go to the White House,” he told The Washington Post this week. “But they haven’t made it to that conversation and a vote yet — and appropriately so. It’s like, why have to address that and get deep into that discussion when we’re putting up the banner? I’m sure at some point, as the season gets started, there’ll be a team meeting and they’ll talk about it and come out and tell us what to do.”

So far, the Capitals have yet to be officially invited to the White House. Their biggest star, Alex Ovechkin, is Russian, and the president has made a point of trying for more friendly relations with the Putin government. Could that mean a warm welcome at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., even if a couple of stars elect not to attend?

Severe head injury hospitalizes Tennessee State football player

Linebacker Christion Abercrombie remains in critical condition after suffering injury Sept. 29

3:31 PMIt was a routine play.

Even hours after the game, upon further review of the play that sent Tennessee State middle linebacker Christion Abercrombie out of the matchup against Vanderbilt University on Sept. 29, coaches determined there was nothing foul about the hit that took place shortly before halftime.

“It was just a football play,” TSU coach Rod Reed said Sunday morning on a radio show, according to The Tennessean. “He was taking on a block and it wasn’t anything malicious or dirty or anything like that. Just an unfortunate situation.”

Yet, after the play, Abercrombie made his way to the sidelines and complained to trainers about a headache. While being assisted to the locker room, Abercrombie collapsed. Medics took over to help him, and Abercrombie was soon rushed to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he underwent emergency surgery for the head injury suffered during the play.

Christion Abercrombie played linebacker for the University of Illinois walks before transferring to Tennessee State.

Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire

Abercrombie remained in critical condition Wednesday but is said to be showing signs of improvement daily, according to his uncle, Kevin Richardson.

“It’s been a hard time, but we’re going to get through it,” Richardson told The Tennessean. “God is here with us and Christion. He knows it, and he’s going to be just fine. He is improving daily, and we’re looking forward to seeing more from him.”

Since Sept. 29, the Tennessee State community has rallied around Abercrombie. On Tuesday, hundreds of supporters gathered at a vigil organized by student leaders to pray for him. There, TSU president Glenda Glover also added information about Abercrombie’s improving condition.

“First [Abercrombie] made it through the surgery,” Glover said, according to The Tennessean. “And then he made it through Saturday night. Then he made it through the 24 hours. And then through 48 hours. So as each day [goes by] he continues to show just small signs of improvement. He’s fighting. Christion is a fighter and each day when we see him raise his hand or do any little thing that shows a sign of improvement, we’re grateful.”

A second prayer vigil has already been scheduled for Monday at Abercrombie’s alma mater, Westlake High School, in his native Atlanta. A GoFundMe page has also been set up for the injured player with a goal of $250,000. As of Wednesday afternoon, the account had raised $34,212.

Before transferring to Tennessee State his sophomore year, Abercrombie played in 11 games and made 11 tackles as a redshirt freshman at the University of Illinois in 2017. This season, Abercrombie had established himself as the second-leading tackler on the Tigers’ roster.

Knicks sign another HBCU player, Morgan State’s Phillip Carr

But Morehouse’s Tyrius Walker was waived to make room on roster

10:29 AMThese days the New York Knicks are doing things differently in the front office, and it’s showing in how they are building the team. They signed former Morgan State star Phillip Carr to a deal, showing once again they can recognize NBA talent from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The Brooklyn, New York, native was a standout playing at Morgan, averaging nearly a double-double in his career besides being the team’s best defensive player.

Earlier in the summer, Carr landed a workout from the Washington Wizards along with his former teammate Tiwian Kendley, but only Kendley was chosen to play for their summer league team and eventually was signed to a deal.

Carr continued to train and look at other opportunities, such as playing overseas, before another chance at the NBA opened up.

Last month the Knicks contacted Carr for workouts, and after a couple of weeks the team saw what they needed to make an offer.

“First of all, it’s just an honor to play for the New York Knicks,” said Carr. “To be from New York and play for New York is crazy.”

The Knicks signed the undrafted rookie to a deal that will most likely move him to the team’s G League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks, as the regular season is right around the corner.

“Even them considering me just to be on the team affiliate is crazy to think about,” said Carr.

In the same day, the Knicks waived another former HBCU player, Morehouse guard Tyrius Walker, who signed to the Knicks in July. That move made room for Carr.

The Knicks have shown love to HBCU players in the past, and Carr now has the chance to become the next standout HBCU player whose game translated to the next level.

Marvin Webster, for example, played with the Knicks from 1979-84, and like Carr he played at Morgan State. Webster also helped Morgan State win an NCAA Division II national championship along with a national Player of the Year award. Charles Oakley played 10 years with the Knicks and played college ball at Virginia Union University.

More recently, Norfolk State alum Kyle O’Quinn played for the Knicks from 2015-17 and also like Carr was a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Going into the season, the Knicks have one of the NBA’s most diverse front offices. They have six African-Americans in leadership positions, including president Steve Mills, general manager Scott Perry and head coach David Fizdale.