Removing Masks Becomes the First Bipartisan Activity of Biden’s Washington
After the C.D.C. updated its mask guidance for vaccinated people, President Biden urged Americans to get along as things maybe, possibly start to return to normal.
Florida Governor Says He Will Pardon Those Who Violated Mask Mandates
Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said the enforcement of a county mask mandate was “total overreach.”
No Evidence of Voting Fraud? For the G.O.P., It’s No Problem.
Having fueled mistrust in elections, Republicans are pointing to voters’ fears to justify new voting laws.
Shelley Moore Capito is set to meet with Biden on infrastructure amid resistance from her G.O.P. peers.
Pac-12 picks MGM executive Kliavkoff as next commissioner
The Pac-12 hired George Kliavkoff to be the conference’s next commissioner on Thursday, replacing Larry Scott with another college sports outsider and charging him with rebuilding the league’s football brand.
Kliavkoff has been the president of MGM Sports & Entertainment in Las Vegas since 2018.
Michael H. Schill, the University of Oregon president and chairman of the five-member search committee, called Kliavkoff “a highly experienced and pioneering sports, entertainment and digital media executive.”
Kliavkoff has previously worked with Major League Baseball Advance Media and Hearst Entertainment & Syndication, and was also the chief digital officer with NBC Universal Cable.
“He is very much a new prototype for sports commissioner,” Schill said. “He is the sort of person we need for this decade and the decades beyond. Even without serving a day in the job, George has thoughtfully challenged us to envision what is possible for the Pac-12. What is possible for the coming era of new technologies and media.”
The Pac-12 university presidents conducted a secretive nearly four-month search with the executive search firm, TurnkeyZRG.
Some familiar names in college sports were among those speculated to be up for consideration by the Pac-12: former NCAA executive and NFL quarterback Oliver Luck, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Texas AD Chris Del Conte to name a few.
Instead, the Pac-12’s next commissioner — much like its last —- comes to the conference with no previous experience as an administrator in college sports.
“With today’s announcement, I believe that I am transitioning from the best job in entertainment to the best job in sports,” Kliavkoff said in a video conference with reporters. “I made this jump because I’m passionate about the mission of the Pac-12 Conference, to drive financial results, to protect and expand scholarships and support the other educational goals of our member institutions.”
The Pac-12 has been building a foothold in Las Vegas as it becomes a hot spot for sports, with two relatively new professional teams (the Golden Knights of the NHL and Raiders of the NFL) and a brand new football stadium.
The Pac-12 has already been staging its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in Las Vegas, and its football championship is set to be held at Allegiant Stadium for the first time this season.
Kliavkoff said he has three priorities when he formally takes over as commissioner in July.
“First, we will protect and support our student-athletes. Second, we will make decisions to optimize revenue for our member institutions, including renegotiating our media distribution deals. And third, we will do everything we can at the conference level to make our teams more competitive in revenue-generating sports, especially football,” he said.
Kliavkoff said he supports expansion of the College Football Playoff and the implementation of consistent name, image and likeness guidelines across NCAA sports.
“We think that both CFP expansion and NIL legislation are good for college sports fans, good for our student-athletes, and can be a significant competitive advantage for the Pac-12,” he said.
Kliavkoff, a former Boston University rower, has also served on the Board of Governors of the WNBA.
Scott announced in January he would be stepping down at the end of June. The Pac-12 said the change in leadership was mutually agreed upon by Scott and the university presidents, but it had become apparent that his term was likely to end before his contract expired in June 2022.
Scott’s 11-year tenure as commissioner began with the conference landing a transformational billion-dollar television deal, but the Pac-12 struggled to keep up with some of its Power Five conference peers when it came to revenue and exposure.
The Pac-12 launched a television network under Scott, but it never became a cash cow like those in the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference.
Scott, who came to the Pac-12 from the Women’s Tennis Association, was often criticized for being out of touch with campus-level decision makers in college sports and overspending on the conference office.
Kliavkoff takes over as commissioner with Pac-12 football struggling to assert itself nationally.
The conference has only placed a team in the College Football Playoff twice since the CFP began in 2014. Scott began pushing for playoff expansion late in his tenure, and now it seems to be heading in that direction.
“My work on football will begin with meetings with athletic directors and coaches and with my new colleagues at the conference offices,” Kliavkoff said. “I believe personally the solution to elevating Pac-12 football is a combination of addressing the structural issues and a more focused approach on recruiting.”
AP Sports Writer Anne M. Peterson contributed.
Kraken still plan to hire coach before NHL expansion draft
SEATTLE — Now that the Seattle Kraken are full-fledged members of the NHL, general manager Ron Francis can start his wheeling and dealing.
Signing players? That started this week with the addition of 21-year-old Luke Henman. Trades and some of those side deals that Vegas negotiated during the last NHL expansion draft? Absolutely.
But along with wondering when the opening date will be for its training center and its new arena, and who Seattle may take in the expansion draft, there is one major question still hanging over Francis.
Who’s going to be the coach?
“As we get closer to the second quarter of this year we should be pretty set in what we want to do,” Francis said this week.
The framework for the Kraken’s first season will take shape over the next two months as the NHL goes through the Stanley Cup playoffs and moves toward the July 21 expansion draft, when the bulk of Seattle’s roster will be established.
Meantime, Francis is being methodical about picking a coach, even as rumors swirl about the likely candidates.
All Francis has offered is the “second quarter,” which likely means June. It’s just in time for the new boss to get acquainted with the franchise before the expansion draft.
But waiting also allows Francis time to survey the fallout from the NHL season and most of the playoffs to see if any unlikely candidates suddenly become available.
Francis noted last month he’s been keeping a spreadsheet of names.
“You look at guys who are currently out there without jobs, you look at guys who are currently working and maybe have expiring contracts, you look at other situations that maybe are looking to make a change,” Francis said in April. “You’re not really going to know all that until the next month or two.”
Most speculation has centered on Gerard Gallant since he was fired by Vegas halfway through the 2019-20 season. His experience with the Golden Knights through their expansion season in 2017-18 and in leading them to the Stanley Cup Finals made him an obvious candidate the longer he went without another NHL gig.
There could be a complication with him, however. Gallant will be the head coach for Canada at the IIHF World Championships that start this month in Latvia.
There are plenty of other names floating about, like Bruce Boudreau, Claude Julien, Todd Nelson and John Stevens.
There’s also the possibility of a current coach leaving his team in the coming weeks and providing an option for Seattle.
In that vein, Rod Brind’Amour in Carolina has long been rumored because of his history with Francis, though he appears to be near a contract extension with the Hurricanes. Travis Green in Vancouver is another name regularly mentioned should his time with the Canucks be coming to an end.
John Tortorella, Rick Tocchet and David Quinn also recently became available.
Whoever ends up getting the job will be in a rush to get ready for the start of the 2021-22 season, expected to begin in mid-October. Between putting together a staff, the expansion draft, free agency and training camp, it will be a jampacked 2½ months before play begins.
“We’re patient. We think we’re prepared,” Francis said. “When we get to that point to zero in and talk to the people we want to talk to we’ll make that decision.”
New Washington law makes drug possession a misdemeanor
OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday signed a measure overhauling the state’s approach to drug possession, after the Washington Supreme Court struck down its previous law as unconstitutional.
The new law reclassifies possession of controlled substances, including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, as a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail. The previous law, before being struck down by the court, had made it a felony.
Before signing the bill, Inslee said the measure will “help reduce the disparate impact of the previous drug possession statute on people of color.”
“It moves the system from responding to possession as a felony to focusing on the behavioral health response, which is a much more appropriate and successful way to address the needs that underlie drug abuse,” Inslee said.
In addition to changing the classification, under the new law, police would divert a defendant’s first two offenses to treatment before the case even made it to a prosecutor, and if a defendant’s case ever reached a prosecutor, the prosecutor would be able to divert as well.
The provisions making drug possession a misdemeanor expire in two years — reverting to current law. The provision gives lawmakers time to re-evaluate how the state’s new policies are working and potentially figure out a long-term strategy for drug policy.
Oregon this year became the only other state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all types of drugs and increase access to treatment. Washington’s measure likewise aims to greatly expand treatment services and outreach, including to homeless people with severe behavioral health issues.
It says regional “recovery navigator” teams, similar to the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program developed in Seattle and now operating in several counties, will be set up to help provide “continual, rapid, and widespread access to a comprehensive continuum of care” to “all persons with substance abuse disorder.”
The state Supreme Court’s decision came in the case of Shannon Blake, a Spokane woman who had received a pair of jeans from a friend that had a small bag of methamphetamine in a pocket. A 5-4 majority said the state’s drug possession law was unconstitutional because it did not require prosecutors to prove that a defendant knowingly possessed drugs.