U.S. women’s hockey stars plan to boycott world championship

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U.S. women’s hockey stars plan to boycott the world championship tournament that starts in two weeks over wages and support.

A social-media statement read that team members will not play at worlds in Plymouth, Mich., “unless significant progress has been made on the year-long negotiations with USA Hockey over fair wages and equitable support.”

USA Hockey responded five hours later by noting its previously planned increased “level of direct support” to the women’s national team, that could result in up to $85,000 per player over the Olympic period, and saying it looked forward to continued discussions. It plans to field a team for worlds.

The players’ representatives called USA Hockey’s response “misleading.”

“It suggests that USA Hockey is prepared to pay the players $85,000 during the Olympic year,” a statement read. “That is simply not true, and no such offer was ever extended. In its public statement, USA Hockey has coupled their contributions with payments made by the U.S. Olympic Committee, which pays gold medal-winning athletes more than $60,000. Further, it covers only the Olympic period and does not offer anything for each of the other three years during which a World Championship is played. Lastly, it does nothing to address the marketing and training support that is not on par with what it provides to the mens’ and boys’ teams.”

The world championship tournament runs from March 31-April 7. The U.S. team is due to have a pre-worlds camp starting next Wednesday in Traverse City, Mich., but players are not planning to attend without meaningful progress.

“We are asking for a living wage and for USA Hockey to fully support its programs for women and girls and stop treating us like an afterthought,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said in a press release from the players’ law firm. “We have represented our country with dignity and deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.”

USA Hockey president Jim Smith said in a press release that it is not the organization’s job to employ athletes.

“While USA Hockey is disappointed that players from the women’s national team program have said today they do not intend to participate in the upcoming IIHF Women’s World Championship unless their financial demands are met, USA Hockey remains committed to continuing dialogue and will field a competitive team for the upcoming 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship,” USA Hockey said.

Olympic medalists including Hilary KnightAmanda Kessel and Duggan were among the players on the already-named worlds team to post the statement on their social-media accounts.

Knight and Duggan both said Wednesday that the entire national-team player pool is on board with sitting out. Duggan said the under-18 team is, too. They said players had not considered sitting out previous tournaments since hiring lawyers in 2015, hoping that negotiations would net significant change. Until now.

Knight said if it was an Olympic year rather than a worlds year, the players would sit out the Olympics unless significant progress is made. The U.S. Olympic Committee pays bonuses to Olympic medalists, including $37,500 to gold medalists and $22,500 to silver medalists.

“I think that speaks volumes, really, to the unity of our group, but also how passionate we are about standing up for equitable support,” Knight said.

Duggan wasn’t sure if players would sit out the Olympics under the current conditions.

“I mean it’s difficult to say,” Duggan said. “Obviously, that’s a bridge you cross if you get there. We’re prepared to fight for what’s right.”

Knight said she didn’t know U.S. coach Robb Stauber‘s stance. Stauber replaced Ken Klee as the U.S. coach starting with games in December.

The players’ release noted a lack of pay during non-Olympic years.

“The women seek a contract with USA Hockey that includes appropriate compensation,” the release said. “Nearly all of the players’ compensation outside of the Olympic period comes from the U.S. Olympic Committee, and for that, the players are thankful. In the past, USA Hockey has provided the players with only $1,000 per month during the six-month Olympic residency period. During the remainder of the four-year period, USA Hockey pays virtually nothing, despite its expectation that in each of the non-Olympic years, the players train full time and compete throughout the year, including in the World Championships. Approximately half of the players on the Women’s National Team hold second or third jobs, and many others rely on financial support from family members.”

USA Hockey detailed its already planned support leading up to the 2018 Olympics, including “a six-month training camp, additional support stipends and incentives for medals that could result in each player receiving nearly $85,000 in cash over the Olympic training and performance period. The sum is in addition to a housing allowance, travel allowances, meal expenses, medical and disability insurance and the infrastructure that includes elite-level support staff to train and prepare the players.”

The U.S. women’s hockey team has won three straight world titles. In Plymouth, it could go for its first-ever streak of four world titles and its first world title on home ice.

The U.S. took gold in women’s hockey’s debut at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games, then silver in 2002, bronze in 2006 and silver in 2010 and 2014.

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MORE: Kessel becomes highest-paid player in NWHL

Genzebe Dibaba, 1500m world record holder, to miss world championships

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Genzebe Dibaba, the 1500m world record holder, will miss the world track and field championships that start next week due to a right foot injury, according to her agency.

The Ethiopian Dibaba lowered the 1500m world record to 3:50.07 in 2015, then won the world title a month later. Kenyan Faith Kipyegon relegated her to silver at the Rio Olympics. Dibaba was last in the 12-woman final at the 2017 Worlds, then withdrew from the 5000m at that meet, citing illness.

Dibaba’s absence further opens the door for Americans Shelby Houlihan (second-fastest in the world last year) and Jenny Simpson, the Olympic bronze medalist and 2017 World silver medalist.

Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan is fastest in the world this year and broke the mile world record on July 12. Hassan has range from 800m through 10,000m, and it’s not guaranteed she will contest the 1500m in Doha starting with the first round Oct. 2.

The event is already lacking Caster Semenya, the two-time Olympic 800m champion who took bronze in her world 1500m debut in 2017. Semenya is excluded from races from 400m through the mile under the IAAF’s new rule capping testosterone in those events.

MORE: U.S. roster for track and field worlds

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How to watch, stream U.S. International Classic on NBC Sports Gold

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The U.S. International Figure Skating Classic gets underway in Salt Lake City, Utah this weekend and NBC Sports Gold’s “Figure Skating Pass” will be live streaming all of the action.

The event is the third stop of the ISU’s Challenger Series and often serves as a warm-up for Grand Prix events for skaters, which start in October.

The men’s field is headlined by world bronze medalist and 2018 Olympian Vincent Zhou, joined by the 2019 world junior bronze medalist in the ladies’ event, Ting Cui. Reigning U.S. pairs champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc will make their season debut in Salt Lake. And in ice dance, Four Continents gold medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates are slated to compete.

Check out the schedule below (all times Eastern):

Friday, Sept. 19

8:30 p.m.: Pairs’ short program (LINK)

10 p.m.: Men’s short program (LINK)

Saturday, Sept. 20

4:30 p.m.: Rhythm dance (LINK)

6:15 p.m.: Ladies’ short program (LINK)

8:35 p.m.: Pairs’ short program (LINK)

10:30 p.m.: Men’s free skate (LINK)

Sunday, Sept. 21

6:25 p.m.: Free dance (LINK)

8:15 p.m.: Ladies’ free skate (LINK)

MORE: Vincent Zhou to attend Brown University, details new skating situation

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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