Full capacity MetLife Stadium releases health protocols for 2021 season

New York Giants and New York Jets fans will be welcomed back to MetLife Stadium on a full-time basis next season.

This summer’s Snoopy Bowl is going to mean just a little more this time around.

MetLife Stadium, the East Rutherford home of the New York Giants and New York Jets, will welcome back fans on a full-time basis, as the venue announced gameday health protocols for the upcoming NFL season. Of note, masks, proof of vaccination, or a negative COVID-19 test will not be required for entry. Tailgaiting will be permitted.

The biggest change to gameday operations will be the transition to full-on cash-free transactions, an effort to reduce touchpoints. Reverse ATM machines will allow fans to put cash on debit cards.

East Rutherford has not hosted fans since February 2020, when just over 12,000 spectators witness the New York Guardians triumph over the Los Angeles Wildcats in an XFL showdown. The Giants and Jets are set to resume their annual preseason series on August 14 after last year’s exhibition was canceled along with the rest of the NFL summer slate.

Giants fans will flock back with an interconference showdown against the Denver Broncos on September 12, while the Jets open their home portion a week later against their divisional rivals from New England. MetLife Stadium was one of a dozen NFL venues that played the entire regular season without fans last season The Jets will also get to play nine regular season home games for the first time in regular season history, as it will come against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 5.

“I think it’s going to be great to get back and to go to the full stadium,” Jets Chairman Woody Johnson said in a statement to team reporter Eric Allen. “(To) go out in the parking lot and talk to fans and see what they’re cooking and do all that stuff.”

“We walked out of the tunnel and they blared it on the speakers, the J-E-T-S chant,” new Jets head coach Robert Saleh added in Allen’s report, having stepped into the stadium for the first time. “I’m not going to lie to you, I got a little bit of goosebumps. I’m really excited to get it going and get that stadium to where it becomes live again, like it’s been in the past.”

Will you be returning to MetLife Stadium next season? Continue to the conversation on Twitter @GeoffJMags

There’s a “pretty good” chance that MetLife Stadium is fully open in 2021

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy was optimistic about capacity crowds returning to MetLife Stadium for New York Jets and Giants games.

New Jersey’s woebegone NFL squads have made some improvements this offseason and spectators may be able to witness the transformation in person.

In video provided by NJ.com, Garden State Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Tuesday that the “prospects are pretty good” when it comes to fans filling MetLife Stadium for the 2021 NFL season. The East Rutherford home of the New York Giants and Jets was one of 11 NFL stadiums that did not admit fans at any point last season.

“I’d say the prospects are pretty good,” Murphy said about the possibility in a briefing in Trenton, declaring that filling all 82,500 seats will be dependent on the promising declining numbers in regards to the ongoing health crisis. COVID-19 hospitalizations in New Jersey are at their lowest point since October. Social distancing at such games would by recommendations from the Center for Disease Control.

MetLife Stadium has not hosted a sporting event with fans since February 2020, when just over 12,000 attendees watched the XFL tilt between the New York Guardians and Los Angeles Wildcats. Its next scheduled event is a Guns N’ Roses concert on August 5. New Jersey’s outdoor venues can open to 50 percent capacity on Friday.

“If we blow through our objectives, there’s a lot higher likelihood the Jets and Giants can sell more tickets,” Murphy said.

The 2021 NFL schedule will be released on Wednesday night, with the season expected to begin on Thursday, September 9 with a game presumably hosted by the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Tom Brady and Bucs will make a stop at MetLife to play the Jets later this season, as will the Jacksonville Jaguars, the latter game presumably setting up a matchup between Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, the first players chosen in the 2021 NFL Draft. Among the Giants’ most anticipated home matchups is their yearly divisional tilt with the Philadelphia Eagles, who visit MetLife Stadium twice this year (taking on the Jets as part of the NFL’s addition of a new game to the schedule).

As vaccines continue to be distributed across the country, fans are returning to outdoor venues in larger numbers. MLB’s Atlanta Braves opened to full capacity on May 7 in Georgia, while NASCAR events at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Darlington Raceway, Daytona International Speedway, and Kansas Speedway will likewise be run in front of full crowds.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

BREAKING: New York Jets opt out of in-person voluntary workouts

New York Jets

The New York Jets are the latest team to opt-out of in-person voluntary workouts, becoming the 13th NFL team to do so.

The New York Jets became the 13th NFL team to opt-out of voluntary offseason workouts, submitting a statement through the Players Association’s social media accounts. Teams have begun opting out of in-person activities in the wake of the ongoing health crisis. The Denver Broncos were the first team to do so, making their announcement on Tuesday.

“Football is a labor of love for our men, who work year-round to stay in shape on prepare ourselves to perform at the highest level,” the statement read. “Given that we are still in a pandemic and based on the facts provided to our membership by our union about the health and safety benefits of a virtual offseason, many of us will exercise our CBA right and not attend in-person voluntary workouts.”

“We respect that every player has a right to make a decision about what is best for him and his family, and we stand in solidarity with other players across the NFL who are making informed choices about this offseason.”

Despite ongoing vaccinations across the country, COVID-19 continues to make an impact on the sports world. Two NHL teams (the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks) are currently on pause in the wake of positive tests while the New York Mets’ opening series with the Washington Nationals was delayed due to issues in the latter’s organization.

In their notes distributed by the NFLPA, some teams have stated a preference for virtual workouts, especially with COVID-19 still prevalent in some areas. Others have noted that they emerged from last season with fewer injuries when virtual workouts were conducted last season in the height of the pandemic.

“Injury data and game performance from last year show that a virtual offseason is beneficial to health and safety,” the Atlanta Falcons’ statement reads. The Cleveland Browns noted in theirs that “missed time injuries” decreased by 23 percent.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Jets LB C.J. Mosley speaks after vaccination

New York Jets, C.J. Mosley

The New York Jets linebacker, who sat out last season due to health concerns, shared a message on Instagram after receiving his vaccination.

New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley announced through Instagram that he has been administered the first of two COVID-19 vaccinations. According to his post, Mosley has received the Janssen vaccine and is due for a second shot at a date to be determined.

In his message announcing the news, he encouraged others, including his critics to seek out their own shots.

“Let’s get back to normal, let’s be happy, let’s feel the love from our family and friends…LETS GET VACCINATED! [sic]” Mosley wrote in his caption. “ps if you got time throw in a football joke, you have enough time to type in your info to register to get vaccinated.”

The former Baltimore Raven opted out of his second season in green citing concerns about the NFL season proceeding in the midst of the ongoing health crisis. A four-time All-Pro nominee, Mosley signed a five-year, $85 million contract with the Jets in March 2019, but injuries and last season’s opt-out have limited him to two games in a New York uniform.

Upset fans inevitably filled Mosley’s post, facetiously hoping that Mosley’s vaccination means he’ll be able to partake in the upcoming season. Mosley responded to his detractors in stride.

“I’ve never said check my stats…. but check my stats!” Mosley said told one. “I’ve missed two years and my stats still up there with the best. This post is about the health and well being of myself and others. If you disagree, then all good brotha. BUT pleaseeeeeee spare me talking about some career games. [sic]”

Because I’m part of the 1% in this profession, not you. So just 🤫 until them gates open up at METLIFE! Then it’s go time.” [sic]

Mosley won’t be the only vaccinated one returning to MetLife Stadium this season. With vaccinations well underway across the nation, it’s highly anticipated that fans will be welcomed back to Jets and Giants games. The pair were two of 19 teams whose home games remained closed to fans.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Knicks’ Derrick Rose clears NBA protocols, shares COVID-19 battle

The New York Knicks announced on Monday that Derrick Rose has already been cleared from the league’s health and safety protocols after three weeks and eight-game absence.

Rose then proceeded to address the elephant in the room.

“Oh man, I was away because I actually had [COVID-19] it. I felt all the symptoms, sick and everything, but I’m happy to be back, and that’s in the past,” Rose told reporters in his first public interview since contracting the virus.

Rose and his whole family, along with the mother of his girlfriend, got infected. He quarantined with them in their home until getting the clearance to rejoin the team in their last two games, watching from the sidelines in street clothes.

“You know it sucked, but I was just with my family. My girl, my kids, her mom, all of us had it, so we were in the house for 10-14 days taking the test and, of course, taking all the meds and everything. I was with my family, and that’s the best thing about it, but like I said, it’s in the past. Thank God, I don’t have to worry about that anymore,” Rose said of the ordeal.

Rose revealed he tested positive for the virus the day after getting inconclusive results before the Knicks game in San Antonio last March. He was thankful his kids didn’t feel worse than he did.

“It just sucks, man! You feel every pain— the body is sore, headaches and all that. The kids weren’t too bad. They had fevers and running noses, and that was pretty much it and a bad cough. But it’s real, the COVID thing. I know a lot of people overlook it, but it’s very serious. It’s real,” Rose said.

He described COVID-19 as 10 times the regular flu.

“It’s completely different. I mean, they say everybody is different, but for me, I’ve never felt anything like that before. I’ve had the flu. It wasn’t any like the flu. My sense, the flu, your stomach or like your joints and everything gives you bad [feeling] times 10. Like I said, slowly, I’m getting back. I’m progressing every day and just trying to get back in the swing of things,” Rose said.

While he was already cleared by the league, New York coach Tom Thibodeau was non-committal on the former MVP’s exact return on the court. The Knicks will play the Washington Wizards at home on Tuesday and Thursday.

“He has to go through conditioning, and once he’s ready to go, we’ll move forward with it. But he’s been out for a while now, and we’re just starting to ramp it up again, and we’ll see how it goes,” Thibodeau said.

Acquired from Detroit this season, Rose immediately made an impact on the Knicks teaming up with rookie spitfire Immanuel Quickley off the bench and later on started when Elfrid Payton went down with an injury. The Knicks have struggled without him, losing five of the eight games he missed. The Knicks were 7-3 with Rose in the lineup. He is averaging 12.5 points, 4.9 assists, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.1 steals with shooting splits of 43/46/83 for the Knicks this season.

“It sucks, especially when you get traded and I had the chance to play again,” Rose said. “The game has just been taken away from me for something like that. Getting back and playing in rhythm and trying to get myself back to where I was, it’s gonna take some time, but every day I am getting the most out of my days, so that’s all I can do.”

Rose is just happy to be out of quarantine and be back on the court practicing with the team. Besides dealing with the COVID-19, Rose also grieved the death of a close friend Langston Hampton– the younger brother of his best friend and personal assistant Randall Hampton, Empire Sports Media has learned from a source with knowledge of the situation.

“My appreciation for the game and while I was going through quarantine, I tried to take all the information and try to better myself,” Rose said. “I couldn’t exercise. I couldn’t do anything but just be around my family and read. Just leaving the house, it’s something we take for granted. Just breathing. Just everything. I went through a lot in quarantine. I’m just thankful, very thankful.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

NASCAR: Kevin Harvick reflects on the past, present, and future

As the NASCAR Cup Series rolls in the Phoenix, Kevin Harvick took some time to reflect on his lauded racing career.

Kevin Harvick has spent his NASCAR Cup Series career partaking, even creating, a different brand of March Madness. Thursday, for example, will mark the 20th anniversary of his first Cup victory, earned in just his third start. Harvick had taken over the Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet left behind by the late Dale Earnhardt and held off Jeff Gordon in a photo finish to win the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store 500 by a .006-second margin.

“It feels like a lifetime ago,” Harvick said of that emotion afternoon in reflection on Tuesday morning. Brought into the Cup Series through the most tragic of circumstances, Harvick looked back at the safety innovations made over the last 20 years.

“I think as you look at the sport the one thing that sticks out to me is just the massive amount of effort that NASCAR has put into putting our sport where it is today from a safety standpoint, and I think from Dale’s death and to where we are today and the things that accident taught us about our race cars and safety equipment and seats and walls and chassis,” he said. “The way that our sport operates and the way that sports operate in general is much different than it was in 2001, but the safety side is the side from a driving standpoint that sticks out the most to me.”

More recent history weighed on Harvick’s mind as well. The NASCAR circuit returns to Phoenix Raceway this weekend, with the Cup Series race coming on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, Fox). Phoenix is the current site of NASCAR’s championship weekend, supplanting Homestead-Miami Speedway last season. But, at least this weekend, Phoenix might better known for hosting the last “normal” race weekend, one rife with the typical trappings of a NASCAR race weekend: practice, qualifying, the seating and garage areas packed to the gills. That afternoon, fans watched Joey Logano hold off Harvick to win the Phoenix spring event now known as the Instacart 500.

Days later, the ongoing health crisis served as the ultimate red flag pushing back the circuit’s return to Atlanta. NASCAR held out as long as it could, but it eventually joined its fellow professional leagues in hiatus before returning two months later.

Harvick would become one of the most prominent faces of NASCAR’s triumphant return. Adhering to social distancing mandates limited on-site personnel and often had drivers go right from their streetcars to their racecars. Qualifying and practice were eliminated to confine race weekends into a single day of action. Already bound for the Hall of Fame in Charlotte prior to the pause, Harvick, the 2014 Cup Series champion, made his case to be included amongst the immortals.

The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford won the first race back at Darlington in May, the first of a series-best nine wins. It allowed him to move into seventh place on the premier circuit’s all-time wins list. Bad luck in the postseason prevented Harvick from competing for a title in the regularly scheduled return to Phoenix in November. But it allowed a national audience, some of whom were enjoying their first racing experience, to witness his greatness and seal his spot amongst the essential names in NASCAR history through dominant efforts unaided by practice or qualifying runs.

Harvick, however, was more pleased with the changes NASCAR was able to make as a whole, reasoning that a hidden benefit of the forced changes was that the sport took full advantage of a chance to try new things.

“As a sport, we’ve done a really good job of navigating and adapting to our environment and doing the things that we need to do to put on a race and a show and obviously you’re seeing fans back in the stands,” Harvick noted. “I think our sport has been a leader on a lot of those types of things. I think, from a team standpoint and a sport, we’ve definitely been able to try a lot of things we probably wouldn’t have tried if it wasn’t for COVID.

“I think when you step back from it COVID will have forever changed our sport in many different areas,” he continued. “I think we’ve realized a lot of inefficiencies we’ve had as a sport from how many people we take to the track to how we function, how many days we need to be at the track. There are just so many little things that will make us more efficient, whether it’s how we bring guests to the racetrack, how we sign in, the sheer number of people, the days we’re at the racetrack.  I think there are just a lot of things that happened that probably wouldn’t have happened as rapidly if we weren’t in this environment, so in a really, really bad scenario, I think we’re gonna come out of this with a lot of ideas and tried a lot of things we might have not necessarily tried if it was a normal year.”

On a personal level in dealing with the pandemic, Harvick was far more pleased to speak about his off-track exploits. He has spent extended time with his family, noting he has sat down to more homecooked meals and doesn’t even leave to go grocery shopping. He and his wife DeLana continue to homeschool their children Keelan and Piper, even with schools open in the local area.

“There’s a lot of things that have changed personally in the way that our household functions in a very good way,” the patriarch Harvick said. “I think that’s probably something that I would tell you is how racing used to be.”

Looking back at some of the more emotional, yet triumphant, moments of his Cup career allowed Harvick to step away from his 2021 endeavors hitting a bit of a wall last week in Las Vegas. The No. 4 Ford started on the pole, earned through strong finishes over the first three events. Harvick and reigning Daytona 500 champion Michael McDowell were the only drivers to earn top ten finishes in each leg of the opening trio.

Alas for Harvick, he struggled with an ill-handling racecar all day and eventually finished a lap down in 20th. Somehow, that was the best part of the afternoon for SHR, as Harvick’s No. 4 was their best-finish vehicle. Rookie Chase Briscoe finished immediately behind him while last season’s Rookie of the Year and Harvick’s fellow 2020 playoff contender Cole Custer rounded out the top 25. Aric Almirola, another playoff man in the No. 10 Ford, continued a brutal start to the season through a wreck that pushed him back to dead last in 38th.

Asked to describe his No. 4 Ford last weekend, Harvick merely replied “not fun”. But Harvick insists he’s not angry, and that the affair has already been forgotten. He says he would have the same mindset had he reached victory lane on Sunday.

“(Being) angry takes too much time and it’s hard to carry that all the way through the week,” he said. “I think when you look back at the first race last year and you have a chance to win the race and have the best car and then you go back to the second race and things don’t go your way just because it’s not what you expected, that’s just part of what we do.  You guys sometimes see the results and look at it and say, ‘He’s gonna be this or that,’ and, really, it’s just the same.  It’s really no different as you get into the meetings on Monday.  The conversations may be different, but it’s the same routine week after week for me.”

Phoenix would be a perfect place for Harvick to get his 2021 campaign back on the right track. He is by far the winningest driver in the history of the mile-long oval in the desert with nine visits to the winner’s circle. No other driver has earned more than four wins at the track.

The closest Harvick came to displaying any form of vanity was when he addressed an inquiry over whether he was a threat at Phoenix as a “silly question” in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

“I think you should go back and look at the first race from last year that we led the most laps and had the fastest car. We wound up finishing second,” Harvick said of last spring’s visit. “I would consider us a challenger at just about any racetrack that you go to, but you’re not gonna be that way all the time, so, I think as we go to Phoenix you expect to go there and perform well.”

As Harvick hits up Phoenix, his past and present will take center stage. But his future is slowly taking shape as well.

With the road ahead reserved for his extracurricular time, Harvick’s focus lies not on the interesting Cup schedule ahead…he did leave the door open to running a similar race or even the Camping World Truck Series event prior to the Cup cars dirt excursion at Bristol later this month…but on the piloting antics of Keelan, who embarked on a racing journey of his own. The junior Harvick is often seen hitching rides with his dad on NASCAR race days, but the eight-year-old picked up his first go-kart victory last July…less than a week after Kevin won at Indianapolis.

Showcasing talents through four wheels has never been a hidden talent in the Harvick family. After all, DeLana has dabbled in racing herself and served as the co-owner of Kevin’s eponymous race team that won 53 races at the NASCAR Truck and Xfinity levels during a decade of competition (2002-11) before merging with his former cohorts at Richard Childress Racing. The elder Harvick hinted that Microsoft Excel might be one of his best teammates in this day and age, especially when it comes to helping Keelan fulfill his racing dreams.

“It just takes a lot of planning because in order to properly teach somebody how to race they have to race a lot,” he said. “I think this is kind of the first time that we’ve jumped into trying to plan two racing schedules and where everybody is going to be and keeping mom happy with where we’re at with school and her having to load up and take everybody to the go-kart track is new for her, so it’s a lot of spreadsheets.”

But while Harvick might be making plans to conquer some of his own racing challenges, one challenge that isn’t coming anytime soon is the construction of a trophy case for his son.

“I have to remind him periodically that he’s still just a go-kart racer and until he gets a real job that he’s still under control of mom and dad,” Harvick said with a laugh. “So he can have a little bit of space in his little room downstairs with his iRacing simulator and all the things that he has down there, but he’s gonna have to go find his own place if he wants to be in charge of where they all go.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Knicks fall to Spurs as Rose enters COVID-19 protocols

A last-minute shelving of Derrick Rose and a last-second three by Patty Mills in the first half doomed the New York Knicks in San Antonio.

The Knicks went back to .500 after a lethargic 119-93 loss at the hands of the Spurs Tuesday night in their penultimate game before the All-Star break.

Late scratch

Already without their starting point guard Elfrid Payton (sore hamstring), Mitchell Robinson (broken hand), and Taj Gibson (ankle injury), the Knicks were hit with another setback.

Rose entered the league’s health and safety protocols just an hour before tip-off that threw the Knicks off their rhythm.

With Rose and Payton out, fourth-stringer Frank Ntilikina, who has only played seven games before facing the Spurs, made his first start of the season.

Ntilikina did an admirable job finishing with 13 points in 25 minutes but failed to register a single assist.

Out of rhythm

The Knicks’ starting unit got buried at the start of the first and third quarters, which hastened their downfall.

Reggie Bullock only had three attempts after averaging eight in their last three wins with Rose at the helm. Nerlens Noel was brilliant on defense but could not handle the ball on offense.

Julius Randle and RJ Barrett had an additional burden of playmaking on top of shotmaking. It didn’t work as they failed to keep up with the Spurs’ more cohesive lineup.

Immanuel Quickley, Kevin Knox, and Obi Toppin knocked down a three-pointer each that brought the Knicks within two, 25-23, in the opening period.

‘You get what you deserve’

It was a tight game from there until the Spurs caught the Knicks’ defense napping right before the halftime buzzer. Mills drilled a well-executed corner three-pointer that gave San Antonio a four-point halftime lead and the momentum.

The Spurs got it going in the third quarter, with Mills hitting three of the Spurs’ seven triples that broke the game wide open. San Antonio outscored New York, 37-21, in that pivotal quarter. The Knicks never knew what hit them.

“Obviously, we didn’t play our best. When you’re on the road, you have to play well for 48 minutes. We didn’t do that. [We] didn’t close out the second quarter well. We didn’t start the third (quarter) well,” Tom Thibodeau said after the rout. “You get what you deserve.”

The Knicks deserved to lose the game as they let the Spurs shot 48.3 percent from the field and 18-of-32 from the outside. They were thoroughly outplayed, with the Spurs issuing 31 assists against the Knicks’ 18.

Reality check

Their top-two defense was nowhere to be found as they looked more tired than the Spurs, who were coming off an overtime loss to Brooklyn last Monday night.

The loss should serve as a reality check for the Knicks, who will face more tough teams like the Spurs after the All-Star break. They will play 26 of their 35 games against playoff-caliber teams in the second half of the season.

The Knicks didn’t specify if Rose tested positive for COVID-19 or he was only under contact tracing. But either way, the Knicks will have to play out their last game in the first half without him.

Ntilikina over Quickley

Ntilikina will likely remain as the starter in their rematch against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday.

“I was just trying to keep the second unit together as much as I could. And the size of their point guard also factored in as they have a very good offensive rebounding guard,” said Thibodeau explaining his decision to start Ntilikina.

The 6-foot-4 Dejounte Murray scattered 17 points, six rebounds, six assists, and three steals, while Kentucky product Trey Lyles, who started for LaMarcus Aldridge (stomach ailment), had a season-high 18 points with four triples for the Spurs.

Immanuel Quickley paced the Knicks with 26 points, his fifth 25-plus scoring in the season, which leads all rookies. He hit six three-pointers and added four rebounds and four assists off the bench.

Both Randle and Barrett sat out the entire fourth quarter. Randle wound up with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists, while Barrett scored 15 on another efficient night, going 5-for-9 from the field.

The loss snapped the Knicks’ three-game winning streak and shoved them down to the sixth spot in the East, just half-game ahead of the Miami Heat.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Liberty’s Han Xu speaks out against anti-Asian racism

Han, a New York Liberty fan favorite and native of Hebei, spoke out against attacks against Asian-Americans.

Han Xu of the New York Liberty took to Instagram to address anti-Asian racism in the wake of the ongoing health crisis.

A native of the province of Heibei, Han posted a prior statement from the Liberty that condemned an influx of attacks on Asian-Americans in New York City. Hundreds appeared in Lower Manhattan on Saturday to protest for justice when a 36-year-old Asian man was stabbed in Foley’s Square. A 23-year-old man turned himself into the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office three hours later.

“It is frightening and upsetting to see the rising hate crimes and attacks against the Asian American community and in particular in New York, a community I love,” Han wrote in her accompanying caption. “We all need to show solidarity for those being targeted and take action to stop this horrific violence. Please be kind to one another.”

The Liberty released their statement on February 19, which included contact information to both activist groups and law enforcement agencies to report and csuch xenophobic crimes.

While hate crimes and discriminatory behavior against Asian Americans have been on the rise since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, sadly, they are not new,” the Liberty statement reads. “Regardless of the cause of these heinous acts, the New York Liberty organization stands vehemently against racism, xenophobia, hatred, and violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. We will not ignore this issue and will continue to use our platform in the fight for justice and equality for all people.”

Han’s statement comes in the wake of statements from former Knicks and Nets guard Jeremy Lin, an NBA veteran of Chinese descent. Lin, currently competing with the Santa Cruz Warriors of the NBA G League, recently reported that he has faced racist taunts on the court, with unnamed opponents referring to him as “coronavirus”. The NBA is investigating the situation.

Han, 21, joined the Liberty as the 14th overall pick of the 2019 draft. She and Shao Ting were the first Chinese-born players to partake in WNBA regular season action since Chen Nan in 2009. Han was also the second Chinese-born pick in draft history and the first since Zheng Haixia of Los Angeles in 1997.

In her first season, Han put up averages of 7.9 minutes and 3.0 points. She became a fan favorite during her rookie campaign, drawing loud cheers when she entered games at Westchester County Center. Han’s propensity to shoot from three-point range drew the loudest applause, as she sank

Han notably came up big during the Liberty’s first unofficial game at Barclays Center, scoring 19 points in a come-from-behind victory in an exhibition against the Chinese national team. She did not partake in the WNBA’s bubble in Bradenton but has remained active through local league and national team endeavors. Notably, she appeared alongside Ting and New York teammate Rebecca Allen on the all-tournament team at the end of the 2019 Asia Cup in Bangalore, where Han took part in a silver medal effort, China’s best finish since 2015.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

MetLife Stadium set to welcome back limited fans on March 1

Governor Phil Murphy announced on Monday that fans will be welcomed back to football games and concerts at MetLife Stadium starting March 1.

With the NFL’s free agency period set to get underway soon, the New York Jets and New York Giants may have earned some big pickups before the players start to move.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced on Monday that relaxed COVID-19 restrictions will allow MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford to welcome in fans at 15 percent of its capacity starting March 1. With a listed capacity of 82,500, this would bring in 12,375 fans to the stadium.

Murphy made the announcement on WFAN’s “Moose and Maggie” program, also announcing that indoor venues could welcome fans at a 10 percent capacity, which would open Newark’s Prudential Center to just 2,000 fans of the New Jersey Devils and Seton Hall Pirates men’s basketball team.

Though social distancing and face coverings would still be required, pre-admission COVID screenings would not, in contrast to a similar order from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to reopen his state’s venues.

The Giants and Jets released a joint statement with the stadium to acknowledge Murphy’s comments…

As the months go on, we are hopeful that the data will continue to be positive and the number of people allowed into MetLife Stadium will steadily increase. The health and safety of our fans, players, staff, and those in our communities remain our top priority and we will continue to follow the guidance of Governor Murphy and state health officials.”

“We missed seeing our loyal fans at stadium events this past year and are excited to welcome them back in 2021.”

MetLife Stadium’s next scheduled event is slated for August 5, a Guns N’ Roses concert rescheduled from last July. Lady Gaga’s Chromatica Ball is set to visit two weeks later, as is Kenny Chesney and his Chillaxification Tour two nights later.

The last sporting event held at the stadium came last February when the New York Guardians hosted the Los Angeles Wildcats for an XFL tilt. NFL schedules for 2021 have yet to be released, but the Jets’ home slate will feature a visit from the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Giants fans will no doubt await the Philadelphia Eagles’ annual visit after their Week 17 passiveness played a role in costing Big Blue a playoff spot.

As for the indoor venues, the first Devils game that would welcome fans would be a March 2 visit from the New York Islanders. Seton Hall has only one March home game on its schedule and that March 3 matchup against Connecticut would mark the team’s Senior Day festivities. Meanwhile, in Piscataway, Rutgers women’s basketball has a March home game schedule for March 5 or 6 against Ohio State, but the school has shown no signs of deviating from current Big Ten policies that allow a maximum of four family members to attend games in person.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Liberty: Asia Durr tells her COVID story on HBO’s Real Sports

The New York Liberty’s first-round choice from the 2019 draft spoke about her bout with COVID-19 and her experience as a “long hauler”.

New York Liberty guard Asia Durr appeared on Tuesday night’s season premiere of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel to discuss her bout with the novel coronavirus, one that has carried on far beyond her recovery. Durr, the second overall pick of the 2019 WNBA Draft, opted out of the Liberty’s 2020 efforts in the Bradenton bubble due to her diagnosis.

Speaking with Real Sports correspondent Mary Carillo, Durr was showcased as one of several athletes who are still feeling the aftershocks of their battle with COVID-19. Such patients experience damage caused by the disease for months after their diagnosis. Symptoms of long-haulers include fatigue and shortness of breath, and spiked heart rate. According to Baltimore-based pulmonologist Dr. Emily P. Brigham, MD, who is also interviewed in Carillo’s piece, the condition is more present in women, including athletes.

Carillo presents Durr’s story as a “cautionary tale” in the story of long-haulers. Speaking through a video conference, Durr admits that a good day consists of going to the store or cleaning her home, a stark contrast to the heavy workload demanded from a professional athlete. Other days, she can’t get out of bed, an experience she compares to “get(ting) hit by a bus”.

“My life has completely changed since June 8,” Durr told Carillo, referring to the date of her initial diagnosis. “I was back-and-forth, seeing doctors, hospitals…I couldn’t breathe, I was spitting up blood…lung pain that was so severe, it felt like somebody took a long knife and was just stabbing you in your lungs each second. I woke up, 2:00 in the morning, vomiting, going back-and-forth to the bathroom. I couldn’t keep anything down.”

Durr confirmed to Carillo that she had lost 32 pounds as a result of her ordeal. The question of if she’ll ever play basketball again “has definitely crossed (her) mind plenty of times”.

Other affected athletes interviewed came from the collegiate level, including Concordia University runner Natalie Hakala and University of St. Thomas (MN) hockey player Nicole Knudson.

Following her appearance, Durr took to Twitter to thank well-wishers for their support and to encourage them to take the ongoing health crisis seriously.

“My hope is that in sharing my struggle, it will help others,” Durr said on her account, @A_Hooper25. “PLEASE take COVID seriously folks. It’s very real. Wear a mask! Protect each other. Young people, athletes, you too. We are not invincible.

She also assured Liberty fans that she was doing everything in her power to be ready for the 2021 season.

I am working every day to be back for this WNBA season!” Durr wrote. “My progress is slow and incremental, but I’m striving to gain momentum. Thankful for (the Liberty) for their patience & resources. This entire struggle has been a powerful reminder of all my blessings too.”

Durr’s full appearance on the monthly newsmagazine program can be viewed in its entirety on HBO Max (subscription required).

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags