Minnesota Senate approves financing for Vikings stadium
The Minnesota Vikings moved to within a governor's signature of getting a new $975 million stadium on Thursday after the state Senate approved a plan that relies heavily on public financing. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he'll sign the measure, meaning the Senate's 36-30 vote was effectively the final barrier for the stadium. The House passed it overnight.
After the Senate vote, jubilant Vikings vice president Lester Bagley hugged another team official and shouted, "Let's build it!" Vikings fans broke out singing the "Skol Vikings" fight song and the Senate president admonished them to take it outside the chamber.
The team chased a new stadium for more than a decade but had little leverage until its lease expired this past year on the 30-year-old Metrodome. Dayton led a newly urgent charge for the team, arguing that without a new building the state could lose its most beloved franchise.
The deal guarantees the Vikings' future in Minnesota for three decades.
The team would pay 49 percent of construction costs: $477 million, which is $50 million more than owners initially committed. But the public expense is still high: $348 million for the state and $150 million for the city of Minneapolis.
■ Buccaneers defensive end Da'Quan Bowers tore his right Achilles tendon during an off-season workout and will undergo surgery. The second-year pro out of Clemson was a second-round pick in the 2011 draft. He started six of his 16 games as a rookie, finishing with 25 tackles.
■ Browns defensive tackle Phil Taylor's season could be in jeopardy after he injured a chest muscle lifting weights on Thursday. The team said the massive Taylor, Cleveland's first-round draft pick in 2011, hurt his left pectoral muscle while working out during the team's off-season conditioning program.
■ More than 60 former NFL players have filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles, joining hundreds of others who claim pro football didn't properly protect its players from concussions. Lead plaintiff Art Monk played wide receiver for the Redskins from 1980 to 1993, and says in the lawsuit that he suffered multiple concussions in that time.
Messi accused of racial taunts
Barcelona staunchly defended Lionel Messi over a claim he racially abused a black Real Madrid player several seasons ago, calling it "well wide of the mark." Dutch midfielder Royston Drenthe, on loan to Everton, was quoted in a Dutch magazine as saying he was taunted by the three-time FIFA player of the year during several of their Spanish league encounters. "The player has always shown a maximum respect and sportsmanship towards his rivals," Barcelona said in a statement Thursday. "His behavior throughout his career has always been exemplary." Drenthe claims Messi used the word "negro" in a negative tone.
■ Manchester United says Javier Hernandez will not play for Mexico at the London Olympics because the forward needs to rest for the Premier League season.
■ With the Premier League title and relegation races coming down to the final games Sunday, all 10 matches will be televised simultaneously in the United States for the first time. Manchester City almost certainly would win its first league title since 1968 with a victory over visiting Queens Park Rangers. It's tied on points with 19-time champion Manchester United, which trails on goal difference, plus-63 to plus-55. All 10 matches start at 10 a.m. EDT.
FCS to expand playoffs to 24 teams
The Football Championship Subdivision is on the verge of expanding its playoff system from 20 to 24 teams by 2013. The proposal would give an automatic bid to all FCS leagues that want one, seeds the top eight teams and gives them first-round byes and home games in the following round. "The concern has been we haven't had a full tournament with automatic qualifiers for all the existing conferences. That's a big part of making sure everybody has an opportunity for their champion to participate," said Appalachian State athletic director Charlie Cobb, the new chairman of the Division I Football Championship Committee. The proposal goes before an NCAA championships cabinet next month and will be subject to final approval by an executive committee on Aug. 2.
West Virginia players face theft charge
West Virginia starting safeties Darwin Cook and Terence Garvin face misdemeanor shoplifting charges stemming from the alleged theft of snacks from a Morgantown convenience store. A criminal complaint says a Monongalia County sheriff's deputy arrested Cook and Garvin on Tuesday. A store manager says two men entered the store and took several items without paying for them, including bottled drinks, pretzels and other snacks. The theft occurred last month. West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen told The Dominion Post he's aware of the incident and will take appropriate action.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee hires ex-OSU A.D.
Hoping to secure some stability at the top of its athletic department, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee hired former Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger on Thursday. Geiger, who oversaw winning programs and major construction projects but also weathered scandals during his time at Ohio State, takes over a program that has gone through two full-time athletic directors since 2009.
Flame for London Games lit in Greece
The flame that will burn during the London Games was lit at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics on Thursday, heralding the start of a torch relay that will culminate with the opening ceremony on July 27. Actress Ino Menegaki, dressed as a high priestess, stood before the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera, and after an invocation to Apollo, the ancient Greeks' Sun God, used a mirror to focus the sun's rays and light the torch in Greece. The triangular torch is designed to highlight the fact that London is hosting the Olympics for the third time. It also staged the games in 1908 and 1948.
Angry Nadal upset at Madrid
Rafael Nadal lost to Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 Thursday at the Madrid Open, then threatened not to return if the new blue clay-court wasn't discarded. Defending champion Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, meanwhile, eased into the quarterfinals with straight-set wins. Nadal blew a 5-2 lead in the third set en route to the loss, his first to Verdasco in 14 matches. The Spaniard blamed his first loss on clay in almost a year on the blue clay, calling it soft and slippery earlier in the week. "Being able to move is very important for me and if I can't move well, I can't hit the ball well either," said Nadal, a two-time Madrid champion. "If things don't change, this will be one less tournament on the calendar for me." On the women's side, Serena Williams overcame a sluggish start to beat former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 and reach the quarterfinals. Williams will play No. 2 Maria Sharapova.
The last word
Texas Rangers star Josh Hamilton this week became the 16th player in major-league history to hit four home runs in a game. He has no plans to showcase the record-tying ball in his house, however.
"It will probably end up in a closet or rolling down a slide in the backyard, the girls playing with it."