Captain Kyle Bekker, who led Forge FC to back-to-back Canadian Premier League titles, has re-signed with the Hamilton team.
The Canadian international midfielder was named the CPL’s most valuable player last year after leading the league in appearances (tied with 11) and minutes played by an attacking player (879). The 30-year-old native of Oakville, Ont., who had three goals and one assist in the league’s truncated 2020 season, was also a finalist for MVP honours in 2019.
“We are extremely happy to have our captain sign his new contract and commit to our club for the foreseeable future,” Costa Smyrniotis, Forge’s director of football, said in a statement. “Kyle has been such a valuable leader for our club since day one, both on the field and in the community. We look forward to continued success together in Hamilton.”
Bekker has made 49 appearances for Forge in all competitions, including 39 in league play.
Bekker played in Major League Soccer from 2013-16 with Toronto FC, FC Dallas and Montreal. He then suited up for North Carolina FC in the United Soccer League and the San Francisco Deltas in the North American Soccer League.
Bekker, who has won 18 caps for Canada, came up through the Sigma FC youth program in Mississauga, Ont., under current Forge head coach Bobby Smyrniotis, Costa’s brother. He played collegiate soccer at Boston College.
Kyle Alexander spent 97 days in the NBA bubble — and didn’t see a single meaningful minute of game action.
A rookie on the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat, Alexander arrived in Disney on July 7, three weeks before the regular season resumed. He left on Oct. 12, one day after the Los Angeles Lakers won the championship.
“It definitely had its moments, but it was awesome,” Alexander said, “to be in that kind of environment with one of the hardest working teams in the league with one of the best cultures, and then go to the Finals, get to experience what it takes to win at that level.”
The NBA’s March shutdown came at an unfortunate time for Alexander. The 24-year-old Canadian suffered a knee injury in January while playing for Miami’s G League team, but was verging on a return when Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.
Alexander finally made his NBA debut in the bubble, playing garbage time in a pair of Heat blowout losses in August.
“I wasn’t in the best state to compete for [playing time]. That part sucked. But as far as jump starting back into my activities and getting healthy and shaking the rust off and getting my touch back on my jump shot, it was the best place to be,” the Milton, Ont., native said.
Now, Alexander starts for Fuenlabrada of Spain’s top league. After the NBA playoffs, he took a month off before moving to Phoenix to ramp up off-season training, under the assumption the NBA might not return until March.
The season began Dec. 22, news of which left Alexander scrambling. He went to a Toronto Raptors minicamp in Los Angeles, but could not secure a deal with his hometown team.
“To have that jersey on my chest and to be representing them, I went in there really motivated. And like I said, I was proud of how I did, but it just didn’t end up working out or making sense at the moment,” Alexander said.
(After waiving Alex Len last week, the Raptors have an open roster spot and a need for a big man. Adding Alexander, a defensively responsible centre with some outside touch, could make some sense.)
When Alexander left Raptors camp without a deal, his agent suggested he look to Europe for an opportunity to get immediate playing time and regain some rhythm. An injury on Fuenlabrada presented such a chance.
Through seven games with the team, he is averaging 7.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in just under 20 minutes per game.
Late start to basketball career
Overseas basketball is something in which Alexander’s sister Kayla has plenty of experience. The eight-year WNBA veteran has also played in Australia, France, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Belgium, where she’s currently stationed.
Kayla, 30, missed Kyle throughout their childhood as they passed through high school and college at different times. With both now in Europe, this is the closest their basketball careers have come to overlapping.
“I would hear about my pops telling me that he was playing now or seeing this [coach] and he’s getting better. He grew, but I wasn’t there to witness much of the growth, to be honest, which kind of sucks,” Kayla said.
Kyle didn’t begin playing basketball until 16, despite both parents and older sister spending lots of time with the game.
Before then, his father, Joseph, would drive him and Kayla to school early because Kayla needed to get shots up and there was no point in making two trips back and forth. Kyle would rebound for Kayla and a friend, with some occasional defence.
One time, Kayla, who had a penchant for flaring her elbows, sent Kyle to class with a bloody nose and lip. One-on-one between the siblings was never particularly close.
“She used to kill me. She really used to kill me. Like, it was bad,” Kyle recalled.
Video games were Kyle’s preference until his father finally brought him to a training camp.
“I went there first day smoking layups off the wrong foot against 12-year-old kids and they’re more skilled than me, it’s embarrassing,” Kyle said.
“So I went home that day, set my sister’s net up and just started going at it. And the next day I went in there, I was able to do different things. And that kind of just showed me that I had a work ethic and that I had a drive to want to get better.”
Now, Kayla says the tables have turned.
“Because back then, I was swatting his shots and now he’s swatting mine.”
‘Take care of yourself’
Kayla’s overseas experience has aided Kyle in his transition from the NBA to Europe. She says the advice she had for her brother wasn’t so different from what she tells her teammates on the Canadian national team.
“Have fun, it’s a privilege we get to play and get paid for it, that’s what we love to do. So that’s first and foremost, having fun with it. Advocate for yourself, speak up. If you don’t like something or if you notice anything, it’s good to be vocal. Take care of yourself. Take care of your body as well.”
A self-proclaimed “picky eater,” Kyle says he’s even started to cook — something which Kayla experienced firsthand.
“I didn’t know he was like ‘Chef Kyle.’ That’s amazing,” she said, before adding that he’d made one meal for her — jerk chicken over the summer — which was good, if too spicy.
Kyle’s first couple weeks in Spain even came with a reminder of home, when the country experienced its first snowfall in nearly 50 years.
Still, the goal remains to get back to the NBA. He was recently contacted by Canada Basketball, for whom he’d be able to contribute at the FIBA AmeriCup qualifier — which contains 2024 Olympic ramifications — in Puerto Rico at the end of February.
“It’s a good opportunity to come out here, find yourself play and make money playing the game you love. And then you keep working on it while you’re out here, kind of isolated from your friends and family, you use that as motivation to get better and try and fight your way back,” he said.
A 17-year-old from Illinois who is charged with killing two people during a protest in Wisconsin and whose case has become a rallying cry for some conservatives posted $ 2 million US bail Friday and was released from custody.
Kyle Rittenhouse is accused of fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz during a demonstration on Aug. 25 that followed the police shooting of a Black man named Jacob Blake in Kenosha. He posted bond through his attorney at about 2 p.m., Kenosha County Sheriff’s Sgt. David Wright said.
Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Ill., told police he was attacked while he was guarding a business and that he fired in self-defence.
He faces multiple charges, including intentional homicide, reckless endangerment and being a minor in possession of a firearm. Wisconsin law doesn’t permit minors to carry or possess a gun unless they’re hunting. He is due back in court on Dec. 3 for a preliminary hearing.
His case has taken on political overtones. Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have painted Rittenhouse as a trigger-happy white supremacist. Conservatives upset over property destruction during recent protests have portrayed him as a patriot exercising his right to bear arms during unrest.
WATCH | Rittenhouse becomes poster boy for armed self-defence:
Gun-rights and armed-self-defence advocates have turned Kyle Rittenhouse, charged with intentional homicide in the shooting deaths of two protesters in Kenosha, Wis., into their latest poster boy and are raising money for his defence. 2:38
A legal defence fund for him has attracted millions of dollars in donations, and his mother got a standing ovation from women at a Waukesha County GOP function in September.
Huber’s father, John Huber, asked Kenosha County Circuit Court Commissioner Loren Keating during a hearing Nov. 2 to set Rittenhouse’s bail between $ 4 million and $ 10 million US.
Huber said at the time that Rittenhouse thinks he’s above the law and noted the effort to raise money on his behalf. He also suggested militia groups would hide him from police if he were released.
Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, asked for bail to be set at $ 750,000 US.
Keating ultimately set bail at $ 2 million US, saying Rittenhouse was a flight risk given the seriousness of the charges against him.
An Illinois judge on Friday ordered a 17-year-old accused of killing two demonstrators in Kenosha, Wis., to be extradited across the border to stand trial on homicide charges, saying it wasn’t his role to vet a case brought by Wisconsin protesters and approved by a Wisconsin judge.
In his six-page ruling rejecting Kyle Rittenhouse’s bid to remain in Illinois, Judge Paul Novak noted that defence attorneys had characterized the Wisconsin charges as politically motivated.
“This Illinois court shall not examine any potential political impact a Wisconsin District Attorney potentially considered in his charging decision,” Novak wrote.
He added that, according to Illinois law, it is not for an Illinois judge to “reevaluate probable cause determined by a Wisconsin court.”
The ruling came several hours after a hearing on the matter. It was not immediately clear how soon Rittenhouse might be transferred to Wisconsin or whether he might appeal.
The shootings happened Aug. 25, two days after a white police officer trying to arrest Jacob Blake shot the 29-year-old Black man seven times in the back, paralyzing him from the waist down. Video of the police shooting sparked outrage and helped spur on the protests.
Rittenhouse’s case has become a rallying point for some conservatives who see him as a patriot who was exercising his right to bear arms during unrest. Others portray him as a domestic terrorist who incited protesters by showing up wielding a rifle.
At Friday’s hearing, Rittenhouse’s lawyer said he’d had a change of heart since notifying the court that he planned to call witnesses, including Rittenhouse’s mother. Instead, John Pierce focused on what he called “fatal defects” in extradition papers.
A local prosecutor said the law is unambiguous in requiring Rittenhouse’s extradition, saying that blocking his transfer would undermine the justice system.
“You can imagine the chaos if someone can commit a crime and step over the [state borderline] and get sanctuary,” Lake County Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Scheller said.
Rittenhouse sat at a defence table Friday wearing a dress shirt and tie — mask across his face. He appeared calm and at least once turned to look at his mother, Wendy Rittenhouse, on a spectactors’ bench. Later, as officers led him from the hearing room, she began to cry.
In his ruling, Novak said an extradition to another state can be halted only under several clear conditions, including if the extradition papers aren’t in order, if a suspect hasn’t yet been charged or if the identity of the suspect is in doubt. He said none of that applied.
Without witnesses from either side, the part of the hearing meant for evidence and testimony lasted less than 30 seconds, when Scheller handed the judge Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s signed warrant calling for Rittenhouse’s extradition.
Pierce told Novak that Wisconsin authorities were required by law to present charging documents to a magistrate judge and that their failure to do so rendered their extradition request invalid.
Novak dismissed that argument, saying in his ruling that Rittenhouse’s lawyers had offered no evidence that a magistrate judge did not review the charges.
“Even if this court were to find the complaint [was] not made before a magistrate. Rittenhouse’s argument would still fail,” he wrote.
The warrant signed by Pritzker, he said, “satisfies all the requirements.”
Caught on video
The most serious charge Rittenhouse faces in Wisconsin is first-degree intentional homicide, which carries a life prison sentence. He is also charged with attempted intentional homicide in the wounding of a third protester, as well as a misdemeanor charge of underage firearm possession. His lawyers have argued he was acting in self-defence.
Rittenhouse and the man he allegedly injured are white, as were the two men who were killed.
A day after the shooting, Rittenhouse surrendered to police in his Illinois hometown of Antioch, some 16 kilometres southwest of Kenosha.
According to prosecutors and court documents, Rittenhouse killed 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum, of Kenosha, after Rosenbaum threw a plastic bag at Rittenhouse, missing him, and tried to wrestle his rifle away.
While trying to get away in the immediate aftermath, Rittenhouse was captured on cellphone video saying, “I just killed somebody.” According to a complaint filed by prosecutors, someone in the crowd said, “Beat him up!” and another yelled, “Get him! Get that dude!”
Video shows that Rittenhouse tripped. As he was on the ground, 26-year-old Anthony Huber, of Silver Lake, hit him with a skateboard and tried to take his rifle. Rittenhouse opened fire, killing Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, of West Allis, who was holding a handgun.
As sponsor after sponsor dropped Kyle Larson after he used a racial slur during a live-streamed virtual race, his NASCAR team owner was backed into a corner.
Chip Ganassi could let McDonald’s and Credit One Bank and Chevrolet pull their funding and bankrupt his team or he could cut ties with the driver he had plucked from sprint car racing and groomed into an elite stock car driver.
It was essentially out of Ganassi’s hands.
He fired the 27-year-old Larson on Tuesday in what he described as “an emotional call” — the only move possible to stabilize his organization.
“I told Kyle he can come back from this; he can even come back from this with our team,” Ganassi told The Associated Press. “But there really wasn’t any choice.”
Larson’s stunning downfall took less than 48 hours, unusual in its details and coming with sports everywhere basically shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic. The most coveted upcoming free agent in NASCAR lost almost every sponsor he had in what could ultimately be an eight-figure blunder.
Larson loses his 2020 salary plus the massive payday expected from his next contract. If he eventually lands with another team, it will surely be at a far discounted rate than the value he had built since moving full-time to NASCAR in 2013.
The unraveling began Sunday night when Larson appeared to lose communication on his headset with his spotter while competing in one of the iRacing virtual events that have grown in popularity during the sports hiatus.
During a check of his microphone, he asked his spotter, “You can’t hear me?” That was followed by the N-word. The slur was directed at his spotter, who is white.
He should never be allowed to race again in <a href=”https://twitter.com/NASCAR?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@NASCAR</a>. Said that derogatory word so nonchalantly. Your apology doesn’t matter. Post-career…I’ll fight this man in a <a href=”https://twitter.com/ufc?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@ufc</a> event for charity. He needs his ass beat. Would love to hear him say that word in the octagon! <a href=”https://t.co/lZ4Hg1fxsw”>https://t.co/lZ4Hg1fxsw</a>
He was suspended without pay by Ganassi Monday, then suspended indefinitely by NASCAR and Larson, who is half Japanese, was ordered to complete sensitivity training, but primary sponsors McDonald’s and Credit One Bank pulled their support within hours. Chevrolet suspended its relationship with Larson, and all but one commercial partner indicated they were walking away.
Without funding on the No. 42 Chevrolet as long as Larson was in the car, Ganassi had to act. Ross Chastain, under contract as a development driver for Ganassi, will likely replace Larson whenever racing resumes.
“After much consideration, Chip Ganassi Racing has determined that it will end its relationship with driver Kyle Larson,” Ganassi said in a statement. “As we said before, the comments that Kyle made were both offensive and unacceptable especially given the values of our organization. As we continued to evaluate the situation with all the relevant parties, it became obvious that this was the only appropriate course of action to take.”
Larson’s famed sprint car career could also be in jeopardy: Kyle Larson Racing fields a Chevrolet in the World of Outlaws Series that is sponsored in part by Lucas Oil, which also ended its partnership with Larson.
Larson also late last year added a midget car to his team and drove it to seven wins in eight races to close 2019, then opened 2020 with a victory at the prestigious Chili Bowl in his 13th try.
‘There is no excuse for that’
Larson had been prepping to test free agency for the first time in his short career and Ganassi was expected to find himself in a bidding war for his franchise NASCAR driver.
Larson was thought to be deciding between Ganassi or a move to Tony Stewart’s NASCAR team. He also might have been a long-shot candidate to replace seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson at Hendrick Motorsports, although Rick Hendrick isn’t as generous in allowing his drivers to compete in other series and giving up sprint cars was a deal-breaker for Larson.
But his career imploded when his slur went viral in part because viewers can follow the virtual races on the gaming app Twitch and eavesdrop on the drivers’ typical lighthearted banter. Larson apologized in a video posted on his social media accounts.
“I made a mistake, said the word that should never, ever be said,” Larson said. “There is no excuse for that. I wasn’t raised that way. It is just an awful thing to say. I feel very sorry for my family, my friends, my partners, the NASCAR community and especially the African-American community.
“I understand the damage is probably unrepairable and I own up to that.”
He reached out to many sponsors and friends to apologize. Brent Powell, president of Plan B Sales and Marketing, was the only sponsor to remain behind Larson. He said the driver called him personally to “express his regret about what transpired.”
“We know he is an awesome young man that made a mistake and we are going to stand behind him 100% and help any way we can,” Powell said.
Larson, whose grandparents spent time in an internment camp in California during World War II, climbed from short-track racing into NASCAR through its “Drive for Diversity” program. He is the only driver of Japanese descent to win a major NASCAR race.