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Tuesday’s Morning Mashup: Aroldis Chapman trade from Reds to Dodgers on hold after report of domestic violence issue 12.08.15 at 8:15 am ET
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Welcome to Tuesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

NBA: Warriors at Pacers, 7 p.m. (NBATV)
NBA: Jazz at Kings, 10 p.m. (NBATV)
College basketball: Colgate at Syracuse, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College basketball: Florida at Miami, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: West Virginia at Virginia, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Wright State at Xavier, 7 p.m. (FS1)
College basketball: Maryland at UConn, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
College basketball: Michigan at SMU, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
College basketball: Stony Brook at Notre Dame, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)
NHL: Red Wings at Capitals, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: UEFA Champions, Atletico Madrid at Benfice, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Soccer: UEFA Champions, Manchester United at Wolfsburg, 2:30 p.m. (FS1)


Aroldis Chapman

Aroldis Chapman

— The Reds’ trade of closer Aroldis Chapman to the Dodgers apparently is on hold and in danger of falling apart after a report emerged that the pitcher was investigated recently for domestic violence.

According to a Yahoo! Sports report, more than a dozen police officers went to Chapman’s Florida home Oct. 30 after his girlfriend accused Chapman choked and pushed her after an argument. Chapman reportedly acknowledged to police that he later locked himself in his garage and fired eight gunshots. No arrests were made due in part to a lack of cooperation, and Chapman is not facing charges due to insufficient evidence.

While Major League Baseball said it has begun an investigation, Chapman’s lawyer denied the allegations.

Reds manager Bryan Price said it’s difficult to be in a holding pattern as he tries to plan for next season.

“We go through this at the trade deadline at the end of July and now we have a bunch of players with names out there. So it’s uncomfortable enough,” Price said. “So if anything happens with any of our guys, it would be nice if it happened sooner rather than later, but that’s just the nature of the beast.”

The hard-throwing Chapman, an All-Star the last four seasons, is eligible for free agency after the 2016 season. He has spent the past six seasons with he Reds after defecting from Cuba in 2009. The 27-year-old had a 1.63 ERA in 2015 with 116 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings.

— Steve Sarkisian, fired as USC coach during the season, filed a lawsuit against the school, claiming it discriminated against him because his alcoholism is a disability.

Sarkisian’s suit also claims wrongful termination and invasion of privacy, and he insists he is owed at least $12.6 million plus damages for “extreme mental anguish.”

“Instead of honoring the contract it made with Steve Sarkisian, USC kicked him to the curb,” the 31-page lawsuit reads.

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Read More: Aroldis Chapman, Mike Rice, Steve Sarkisian,
Thursday’s Morning Mashup: Dolphins teammates defend Richie Incognito, question Jonathan Martin 11.07.13 at 8:13 am ET
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Welcome to Thursday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

NHL: Panthers at Bruins, 7 p.m. (NESN)
NHL: Rangers at Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. (NHL Network)
NFL: Redskins at Vikings, 8:25 p.m. (NFL Network; WEEI-FM)
NBA: Clippers at Heat, 7 p.m. (TNT)
NBA: Lakers at Rockets, 9:30 p.m. (TNT)
College football: Oklahoma at Baylor, 7:30 p.m. (FS1)
College fotoball: Troy at Louisiana-Lafayette, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
College football: Oregon at Stanford, 9 p.m. (ESPN)
MLS playoffs: Galaxy at Real Salt Lake, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
MLS playoffs: Sounders at Timbers, 11 p.m. (NBCSN)
Soccer: UEFA Europa, Swansea City at Kuban, noon (FS1)
Soccer: UEFA Europa, Sheriff at Tottenham, 3 p.m. (FS1)


‘€¢ Dolphins players rallied around suspended offensive lineman Richie Incognito on Wednesday and questioned Jonathan Martin, who left the team after allegedly being harassed.

“I don’t know why he’s doing this,” offensive tackle Tyson Clabo said of Martin, who reportedly checked into a hospital. “And the only person who knows why, his name is Jonathan Martin.”

Dolphins players insisted Martin and Incognito were friends and that there was no indication Martin, a second-year player from Stanford, felt threatened by the veteran with a long history of behavioral issues.

“It’s tough for me, because you can’t help a situation that you didn’t know existed — that no one on this team knew existed,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. “We have a bunch of good guys in this locker room. To be put in a situation where everyone’s attacking the locker room saying it’s such a bad place, such a bad culture, no leadership to stand up and stop the situation — no one knew there was a situation to be stopped.”

Added Tannehill: “If you had asked Jon Martin a week before who his best friend on the team was, he would have said Richie Incognito. The first guy to stand up for Jonathan when anything went down on the field, any kind of tussle, Richie was the first guy there. When they wanted to hang out outside of football, who was together? Richie and Jonathan.”

Incognito left a voicemail for Martin in the offseason that included racially offensive language and physical threats. Guard John Jerry indicated it was taken out of context and overblown.

“I would have just laughed it off,” Jerry said. “I know the type of person he is, and I know he doesn’t mean it that way. Everybody’s got friends that when you’re out, they say those type of things. It’s never made a big deal.”

Added Tannehill: “Does he like to give guys a hard time? Yes. Does he like to pester guys and have fun? Yes. But he brought a lot of laughter to this locker room, he brought a lot of cohesiveness to this locker room and he was the best teammate that I could ask for.”

‘€¢ Former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice gave his first television interview since losing his job after video surfaced of him abusing players, and he insists that he’s a changed man.

“I won’t be perfect moving forward, but I’ve changed,” he told ABC’s “20/20″ in an interview that’s set to air Friday night. “Having that taken away, your dream job ‘€¦ and having it done in such a visible way ‘€¦ and hurting the people closest to me … it changes a person.”

Added Rice: “That was a hard lesson learned, that’s for sure. There is going to be a different message. There is going to be a different coach Rice.”

Rice, 44, was seen on the video swearing at players, pushing them and throwing balls at their heads.

“My first reaction when I saw the tape was one of embarrassment, of shock, of sadness,” Rice said.

He said he’s reached out to apologize to his former players.

“You know, whether it was texting, whether it was calling, whether it was handwritten letters, whether it’s email, they don’t deserve this, and especially the first year’s team,” he said. “Even though we were out-manned every single night, they really, really fought hard for me ‘€¦ and they’re almost embarrassed about that fact now. They’re embarrassed about being a Rutgers basketball player.”

However, some former players and their families aren’t in a forgiving mood.

Said forward Wally Judge: “I won’t be tuning in.”

‘€¢ The Providence College basketball team, set to open its season Friday night at home against Boston College, will be without highly regarded freshmen Brandon Austin and Rodney Bullock after they were suspended indefinitely from game action for “not upholding their responsibilities at student-athletes.”

“We hold our student-athletes to very high standards,” coach Ed Cooley said in a statement. “We are disappointed in some of the choices that Brandon and Rodney have made.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On Nov. 7, 1950, which Red Sox player beat out Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford to be named American League Rookie of the Year?

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Read More: Jonathan Martin, Kevin Ware, Mike Rice, Richie Incognito
Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Yankees GM Brian Cashman says Alex Rodriguez needs to shut up 06.26.13 at 7:47 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Rockies at Red Sox, 4:05 p.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Reds at Athletics, 3:30 p.m. (MLB Network)
MLB: Rangers at Yankees, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
MLB: Cubs at Brewers, 8 p.m. (WGN)
Tennis: Wimbledon, 7 a.m. (ESPN2)


‘™¦ Yankees general manager Brian Cashman showed outward frustration toward Alex Rodriguez on Tuesday, saying that the injured third baseman should “shut the [expletive] up.”

The GM had denied a report a day earlier that A-Rod was cleared to play in rehab games starting next week, insisting that “he’s getting closer” but refusing to pinpoint a date for his first minor league stint.

Rodriguez, who just joined Twitter, tweeted Tuesday that he had been cleared: Visit from Dr. [Bryan] Kelly over the weekend, who gave me the best news – the green light to play games again!

Cashman responded (via ESPN New York) by saying that Dr. Kelly, who had been approved by the team to perform the surgery and oversee the player’s recovery in New York, did not have jurisdiction over the rehab process in Tampa, which is where Rodriguez has been working out of late.

“You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will],” Cashman said. “Alex should just shut the [expletive] up. That’s it. I’m going to call Alex now.”

The Yankees are on the hook for more than $100 million for the 39-year-old Rodriguez, who is under contract through 2017.

‘™¦ Disgraced former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice spoke to a group of college players at the elite Nike basketball camp at Kean University in Union, N.J., on Tuesday. Rice, who told Yahoo! Sports he was a “viewing guest of John Lucas” at the camp, apparently is trying to work his way back into the college basketball scene.

According to the report, Rice has been undergoing anger management counseling at the John Lucas Wellness and Aftercare Program in Houston. He has worked with players preparing for the NBA draft at Lucas’ gym.

Rice was fired after three seasons at Rutgers, after video surfaced of him demeaning and abusing players during practices.

‘™¦ Legendary Harvard crew coach Harry Parker died Tuesday at the age of 77 following a two-year battle with cancer. In 51 seasons as coach, Parker led the Crimson to 22 undefeated regular seasons, including this spring, and 16 official or unofficial national championships.

“Harry Parker has been one of the nation’s iconic coaches and educators,” Harvard athletic director Bob Scalise said in a statement. “He has touched the lives and has influenced countless Harvard oarsmen over the years. His love of the sport, dedication to the success of his students and devotion to Harvard are evident in all Harry has done. His legacy and impact on our program over the last five decades will remain. We will miss him as a coach, role model, leader and a friend.”

A competitor in the 1960 Olympics (fifth place in single scull), Parker went on to coach six Olympic teams, including the 1972 men’s eight silver medalists.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On June 26, 1998, the NHL held an expansion draft to stock the Predators franchise. Which player was selected from the Bruins but eventually returned to Boston to coach the B’s?

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Read More: alex rodriguez, brian cashman, Harry Parker, Mike Rice
Monday’s Morning Mashup: Ex-Rutgers coach Mike Rice ‘still acting like a mad man’ coaching AAU girls team 04.15.13 at 7:55 am ET
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Welcome to Monday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Rays at Red Sox, 11:05 a.m. (NESN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Phillies at Reds, 7 p.m. (ESPN)
NHL: Senators at Bruins, 7 p.m. (NESN)
NHL: Stars at Blackhawks, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)
NBA: Grizzlies at Mavericks, 8 p.m. (NBATV)
NBA: Spurs at Warriors, 10:30 p.m. (NBATV)
Running: Boston Marathon, 9 a.m. (WBZ-TV, Universal Sports Network)


‘™¦ Mike Rice, recently removed from his position as basketball coach at Rutgers after video of him berating and assaulting players at practice was made public, is back on the sidelines, and his demeanor apparently hasn’t changed much. Rice was spotted coaching his daughter’s seventh-grade AAU team out of Neptune, N.J., and, according to one witness, “he’s still acting like a mad man ‘€¦ yelling at both refs and kids.”

Brian Geltzeiler, founder of the website, sent a series of tweets Sunday expressing his surprise that Rice was coaching — and acting “as nuts as ever.”

Tweeted Geltzeiler: Just this afternoon Rice told a 12 year old girl, “I can’t even look at you” and the ref told my guy he would have T’d him up 2x if it was HS.

Rice reportedly was coaching the AAU team all season, including while he was at Rutgers. Parents of the girls apparently are OK with Rice’s rants. quotes a source close to the team as saying that the depiction of Rice is “a gross misrepresentation of the facts. The team’s parents are fully behind coach Rice and his instruction of their daughters.”

‘™¦ Doug Collins will resign as coach of the 76ers at the end of this season, according to a Yahoo! Sports report. Collins, 62, has one year left on his four-year contract, but he informed owner Josh Harris that he will turn down his $4.5 million salary. There is a possibility Collins could remain with the team in another capacity.

The Sixers, who lost to the Celtics in seven games the Eastern Conference semifinals last year, have been eliminated from playoff contention. They are 33-47 and in ninth place in the East.

‘™¦ The Cubs came to an agreement with the city on plans to improve Wrigley Field, with the team set to invest $500 million in the project. As part of the deal, the team will get more night games, four yearly concerts, a video scoreboard in left field and an advertising sign in right field.

It’s not clear how the physical changes will affect fans who watch the games from rooftops of building next to the park. A team statement said that “the Cubs will work with the city on placement of both ‘€¦ to minimize impact on nearby rooftops to the extent consistent with the team’s needs.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA (answer below): On April 15, 1993, which future Hall of Famer playing for the Red Sox hit his 400th home run during a 4-3, 13-inning victory over the Indians?

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Read More: Doug Collins, Mike Rice,
Rutgers abuse scandal roundup: Former Robert Morris player says Mike Rice used gay slur 04.09.13 at 12:01 pm ET
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A former Robert Morris basketball player told school officials that Mike Rice threw a basketball at a player “once or twice” and used a homophobic slur during his time at the university.

Last week, during an episode of ESPN’s Outside the Lines, Rice’s physical and verbal abuse against his players at Rutgers became public knowledge. The day after the airing, Rice was fired. A former Rutgers staff member alleged that Rice also was involved in “coaches vs. players” brawls while coaching Robert Morris from 2007-10.

Robert Morris athletic director Craig Coleman said that an internal investigation did not reveal any evidence of the alleged fights. Coleman also said that one player, who left the program while Rice was at the helm, told school officials that the coach directed a gay slur at him and was involved in a shoving match with another during halftime of a game. The other player has denied having any improper contact with Rice.


Rutgers president Robert Barchi announced Monday that school officials are reviewing practice videos for all of the school’s sports teams to see if any other coach has engaged in similar behavior to Rice. The school also announced that it plans to hire a consultant to conduct an independent review of the situation.

During a town hall meeting on the school’s campus on Monday, Barchi said that he wants any instances of bullying or homophobic language to be reported immediately. Barchi acknowledged that he should have viewed the video of the abuse back in November, when it first surfaced, and that he would have fired Rice then.

Rice was not the only Rutgers employee to depart following the video’s release, as athletic director Tim Pernetti, an assistant basketball coach and the university’s top lawyer resigned last week.

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Read More: Chris Christie, Mike Rice, Tim Pernetti,
Update: Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti resigns; school president Robert Barchi denies culpability 04.05.13 at 10:21 am ET
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Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti announced his resignation Friday, following the fallout over his handling of the Mike Rice situation.

Rice, whose physical and verbal abuse of players at practice was exposed when ESPN aired a videotape documenting the behavior, was fired, and assistant coach Jimmy Martelli, who also was taped mistreating players, resigned Thursday.

Even in his resignation letter, Pernetti continued to attempt to pass the blame for his failure to fire Rice after seeing the videotape last fall. Earlier this week, Pernetti insisted he preferred to rehabilitate the coach. Rice was suspended for three games in December, fined $50,000 and ordered to attend anger management counseling. On Friday, Pernetti claimed that he wanted to fire Rice but that he did not have the support of the school to do so.

“I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the events which led to today,” Pernetti said. “As you know, my first instincts when I saw the videotape of Coach Rice’s behavior was to fire him immediately. However, Rutgers decided to follow a process involving university lawyers, human resources professionals, and outside counsel. Following review of the independent investigative report, the consensus was that university policy would not justify dismissal. I have admitted my role in, and regret for, that decision, and wish that I had the opportunity to go back and override it for the sake of everyone involved.”

Rutgers president Robert Barchi also has come under fire for not insisting that Rice be fired last fall, although Barchi denied seeing the videotape before this week. Barchi hosted a press conference Friday afternoon and was widely criticized for attempting to deflect responsibility in the matter.

“This was a failure of process. I regret that I did not ask to see this video when Tim first told me of its existence,” Barchi said. “I want to apologize to the entire Rutgers community for the negative impact that this situation has had on Rutgers.”

Added Barchi: “It was not until Tuesday evening of this week, when I watched the video, that I had the opportunity to witness personally for the first time what Tim had seen last fall. I was deeply disturbed by the behavior that the video revealed, which was much more abusive and pervasive than I had understood it to be. As Tim acknowledged on Wednesday, his decision to rehabilitate, rather than fire, coach Rice was wrong.”

Read More: Mike Rice, Tim Pernetti,
Rutgers player defends fired coach Mike Rice; faculty members call for president to resign 04.04.13 at 11:43 am ET
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With the Rutgers basketball team in a state of disarray following the dismissal of coach Mike Rice, the school reportedly told its players to avoid the media.

However, departing senior Austin Johnson, who played three seasons for Rice, spoke to the New York Post and said “everybody’s upset and shocked” by the coach’s dismissal, despite the video evidence of Rice physically and verbally abusing players in practice.

Johnson insisted that Rice had good intentions.

“He wanted to change the culture of Rutgers so bad and he wanted to get us practicing harder,” Johnson said. “He wanted us to follow his lead. He wanted to let us know how hard we needed to work. Maybe, sometimes, yeah [he went over the line], but then other times players stepped over the line as well. It was a two-way street in that matter.

“I never felt threatened. I never felt in harm’€™s way. I just thought it was really high-intense situations in a really high-intense environment. A lot of my teammates can attest to that.”

Sandra Mack, the mother of sophomore star Myles Mack, was less empathetic.

“From what I saw on the video, it was warranted on him being fired. It’€™s not right to put your hands on someone else’€™s kid,” Mack said. “I feel bad for him, but in the meantime I think it was warranted.”

Meanwhile, a group of 13 faculty members demanded that university president Robert Barchi resign for his “inexcusable handling” of the situation. Alumni, lawmakers and a gay-rights group are calling for an investigation.

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Rutgers fires basketball coach Mike Rice after video exposes abuse of players 04.03.13 at 10:34 am ET
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One day after a videotape of Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice abusing his players in practices was made public, the school dismissed the coach Wednesday, citing “recently revealed information and a review of previously discovered issues.”

Athletic director Tim Pernetti, who also has come under fire for only suspending Rice three game last fall after viewing the tape of Rice throwing basketballs at players and pushing them, announced the decision in a press release.

“I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of coach Rice,” Pernetti said. “Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong. Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community.”

Rice did a TV interview outside his house Wednesday morning before the announcement and was contrite.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “There will never be a time where I’m going to use any of that as any excuse, or would there be any excuse. I’ve let so many people down — my players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans. My family, who’s sitting in their house huddled around because of the fact that their father was an embarrassment to them.

“It’s troubling. At some time maybe I’ll try to explain it. But right now there’s no explanation for what’s on those films, because there is no excuse for it. I was wrong. I want to tell everybody who believed in me that I’m deeply sorry for the pain and the hardship that I’ve caused.”

Rice, 44, went 44-51 in two seasons at Rutgers.

Read More: Mike Rice, Tim Pernetti,
Wednesday’s Morning Mashup: Video exposes Rutgers coach Mike Rice’s abuse of players at 7:47 am ET
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

MLB: Red Sox at Yankees, 7 p.m. (NESN, ESPN; WEEI-FM)
MLB: Royals at White Sox, 2 p.m. (WGN)
MLB: Giants at Dodgers, 10 p.m. (ESPN)
NBA: Pistons at Celtics, 7:30 p.m. (CSNNE; WEEI-AM)
NBA: Grizzlies at Trail Blazers, 10 p.m. (NBATV)
NHL: Penguins at Rangers, 7:30 p.m. (NBCSN)
NHL: Wild at Sharks, 10:30 p.m. (NBCSN)


‘™¦ An interesting week in college basketball got a lot more interesting on Tuesday when tapes of Rutgers coach Mike Rice abusing players in practice was made public. Rice can be seen throwing basketballs at players, pushing them and berating them.

The school’s athletic director, Tim Pernetti, took to the airwaves in an attempt to defend his decision last year to not fire Rice (the coach received a three-game suspension, a $50,000 fine and an order to anger management classes).

“I spent more time with that option on whether we should fire Mike or not than any other option,” Pernetti said in an interview with New York sports radio station WFAN. “At the same the results of the investigation where we ended up, the determination was made to suspend him. My biggest concern as the AD is that I am always trying to protect the interests and reputation of the university and that’s what makes this one so difficult. There is a lot of hindsight, 20-20 …. that there will be no other option than to terminate Mike. I made that decision. I am accountable for it. I have to live with it.”

Condemnation of Rice poured in Tuesday, including criticism from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Heat stars LeBron James and Ray Allen.

Tweeted James: If my son played for Rutgers or a coach like that he would have some real explaining to do and I’m still gone whoop on him afterwards! C’mon.

Said Allen to “It was despicable. Throwing the ball at them — it made me want to fight [Rice]. It made me want to fight this guy. Because that was me — wanting to learn, making mistakes.

“You’re not doing it on purpose. You’re trying to learn. And that’s what coaches should do — you teach. Yelling at kids and throwing the ball at them, there’s no place to that.”

‘™¦ Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said Tuesday that he doesn’t feel the league’s coordinator of officials deserves more than a reprimand for saying that he would reward an official who gave Arizona coach Sean Miller a technical foul during the conference tournament.

Scott insisted that Ed Rush was trying to explain the need to crack down on coaches’ misconduct when he made the comment about offering $5,000 for a trip to Cancun if someone T’d up Miller, which Scott said was an “inappropriate joke.” Miller was hit with a technical late in the Wildcats’ two-point loss to UCLA in the semifinals, and Miller was highly critical of the call in his postgame press conference, saying he did not deserve it.

“I didn’t view that as a fireable offense. An ethical code was not breached,” Scott said. “Was there very poor judgment used in the language? Absolutely.”

‘™¦ Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Tuesday that he would consider drafting Baylor women’s star Brittney Griner, who this week finished her college career with the most blocks and second-most points in NCAA women’s history.

“Right now I’d lean towards yes, just to see if she can do it,” Cuban said of the 6-foot-8 Griner. “You never know unless you give somebody a chance.”

Responded Griner via Twitter: I would hold my own! Let’s do it.

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On April 3, 1996, which Bruins goaltender recorded his 200th career NHL victory with a 4-1 win over the Canadiens in Montreal?

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Read More: Brittney Griner, Ed Rush, Larry Scott, Mark Cuban
Friday’s Morning Mashup: ESPN’s Rob Parker questions Robert Griffin III’s blackness 12.14.12 at 8:02 am ET
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Welcome to Friday’s Morning Mashup. For the latest news, start at our home page or click here for the top stories from our news wire.

NBA: Celtics at Rockets, 8 p.m. (ESPN; WEEI-FM)
NBA: Grizzlies at Nuggets, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
College football: Div. 3 championship, St. Thomas vs. Mount Union, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
College football: FCS semifinal, Georgia Southern at North Dakota State, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)


‘™¦ ESPN host Rob Parker is the talk of the Internet following his analysis of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III as it pertains to the black community.

RGIII responded to a reporter’s question Wednesday by saying:

‘€œI am [aware] of how race is relevant to [some fans]. I don’€™t ignore it,. I try not to be defined by it, but I understand different perspectives and how people view different things. So I understand they’€™re excited their quarterback is an African-American. I play with a lot of pride, a lot of character, a lot of heart. So I understand that, and I appreciate them for being fans.’€

Speaking on ESPN’s “First Take,” Parker — who also is African-American — said Thursday:

“This is an interesting topic. For me, personally, just me, this throws up a red flag, what I keep hearing. And I don’€™t know who’€™s asking the questions, but we’€™ve heard a couple of times now of a black guy kind of distancing himself away from black people.”

Added Parker: “My question which is just a straight honest question: Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?”

Asked to elaborate, Parker said: “I want to find out about him. I don’t know, because I keep hearing these things. We all know he has a white fiancée. Then there was all this talk about him being a Republican, which there’s no information [about that] at all. I’m just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue.”

Stephen A. Smith, who was part of the discussion, tried to distance himself from Parker’s words.

“Well first of all let me say this: I’€™m uncomfortable with where we just went,’€ Smith said. ‘€œRG III, the ethnicity, the color of his fiancée is none of our business. It’€™s irrelevant. He can live his life any way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, that’€™s his business, that’€™s his life. I don’€™t judge someone’€™s blackness based on those kind of things. I just don’€™t do that. I’€™m not that kind of guy.”

ESPN spokesman Mike Soltys responded to media requests Thursday night by tweeting: “The comments were inappropriate and we are evaluating our next steps.”

‘™¦ The Packers and Bears have been chirping at each other this week in advance of Sunday’s matchup in Chicago. Packers tight end Jermichael Finley started the latest round when he implied that the Bears are better off without injured linebacker Brian Urlacher.

“Urlacher is at the end of his career right now; he’s playing a little slow out there,” Finley said Wednesday. “I don’t think they’re losing too much if he’s out. Putting another guy in there might help them a little.”

Responded Bears linebacker Lance Briggs: “[Finley’s] an idiot. Just suit up and play ball. His comments aren’t going to change the outcome of the game, they’re not going to help him or anybody else play better. Doesn’t really matter.”

Finley tried to play down the controversy on Thursday, tweeting: Urlacher is a hall of fame player and person. I meant no disrespect to him in previous comments, I was simply trying to explain that his replacement in the lineup is a good player as well.

Meanwhile, Urlacher might have gotten in the last word, noting that the Packers played pretty well without Finley when they won the Super Bowl in February 2011.

“Just like a couple of years ago, I think, [Finley] tore his ACL and the Packers were actually better without him. You know, they won the Super Bowl,” Urlacher told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I hope we can duplicate that as well because it won’t hurt my feelings if we go on and win the Super Bowl without me like they did without him.

“People can say what they want. It feels like I deal with something like this every year. Someone’s always saying something about me.”

‘™¦ Rutgers suspended basketball coach Mike Rice three games and fined him $50,00 for a violation of department policy, specifically a pattern of “inappropriate behavior and language.”

Rice, known for his intensity, apologized for his actions, the specifics of which were not revealed.

“Since becoming a coach at the age of 21, I have taken great pride in not only helping young men learn the game of basketball but also in teaching them about character, respect and hard work,” Rice said. “To the extent that my conduct has ever been in contrast with those principles, I have failed my players — and myself — and I take full responsibility for my actions and accept the terms of my suspension.

“I will learn from my mistakes and I will become a better coach, teacher and role model.”

Reportedly, former Providence College star Eric Murdock — fired over the summer as the team’s director of player development — threatened to release taps of Rice mistreating players.

Said Murdock to the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger: “There is some concern for these players — that’€™s the biggest thing — as far as how they’€™re being treated. Eventually a lot of stuff will come to light and it’€™s not going to shed a good light on Rutgers University.”

ON THIS DAY TRIVIA: On Dec. 14, 1960, the first expansion draft in baseball history was held. The Red Sox lost four players each to the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Senators. One of the players they lost to the Angels went on to a long career as a manager of four major league teams. Who is he?

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Read More: Brian Urlacher, Mike Rice, Rob Parker, Robert Griffin III