ESPN will lay off 100 on-air personalities and writers, source says

ESPN plans to lay off 100 on-air personalities and writers, a source familiar with the matter told CNNMoney on Wednesday.

The job cuts, including television, radio and online personalities, will be announced Wednesday, and most will take effect immediately, the source said. ESPN also plans to cut what the source described as a limited number of additional off-air jobs.

ESPN is shifting its focus toward digital as it faces cable subscriber losses and increased pressure on costs. The network has spent billions of dollars in recent years on rights deals with major sports leagues and college conferences.

It was not immediately clear who was losing their jobs. But Ed Werder, a prominent NFL reporter, said on Twitter that he was among those laid off. “I have no plans to retire,” he said.

ESPN declined to comment on the job cuts. In a note to employees, however, ESPN president John Skipper mentioned the changing habits of viewers.

“These decisions impact talented people who have done great work for our company,” he wrote. “I would like to thank all of them for their efforts and their many contributions to ESPN.”

Many of the people who were laid off were coming to the end of their contracts and did not want to accept large pay cuts, the source said. For others, ESPN offered to buy them out of their contracts.

ESPN employs about 8,000 people around the world.

Jim Miller, the co-author of “Those Guys Have All The Fun: Inside The World of ESPN,” told CNNMoney that ESPN believed the moves were necessary “to not only stay competitive, but to help transition their content strategy for the future.”

“SportsCenter,” ESPN’s flagship show, will become more of a digital presence and move away from “a show with many, many, highly paid anchors,” Miller said.

“ESPN is arguably one of the greatest success stories in the history of modern media,” Miller added. “But now even it can’t escape some of the harsh realities of an ever changing technological landscape.”

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Muslim teen boxer inspires others to never give up

For this teen passionate about boxing, her fight to go toe-to-toe with an opponent goes far beyond the ring. She’s fighting for the right to compete in her hijab.

Amaiya Zafar, 16, started boxing three years ago and is already making waves in the boxing community. Not only is the Minnesota teen competing in a male-dominated sport, but she’s also a devout Muslim.

“When I walked into a real boxing gym for the first time, I knew this was it for the rest of my life,” she said.

In the ring, Zafar wears a hijab, long sleeves and leggings under her uniform. She was disqualified at a bout in November for wearing her hijab; it violated USA Boxing uniform regulations.

“Why should I have to compromise the sport that I love? This is my life.” Zafar told CNN affiliate WCCO. “I go to the gym every single day, why should I have to compromise that for my religion?”

She continued to train several days a week and study matches, just waiting for the chance to compete in the ring.

Zafar, her family, gym (Circle of Discipline) and The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, have been petitioning the USA Boxing Association to add a religious exemption to its policies.

“You know, the battle is not given to the swift but to he who can endure it to the end,” Zafar said. “At the end of the day, if I never get to compete but get the rule changed so other Muslim girls in the US can compete, then I have won.”

The amateur boxer just won a victory last week that will allow her to compete in her religious attire. The USA Boxing Association granted Zafar a wavier to compete at local matches.

“USA Boxing is excited that our youth boxing programs attract stellar athletes from diverse walks of life, and we are in the process of amending our domestic competition rules specifically to accommodate the clothing and grooming mandates of our boxers’ religions,” USA Boxing spokesperson Mike McAtee said in a statement to CNN.

“These rules will provide exemptions so that athletes can box without running afoul of their beliefs.”

Years in the making, this weekend will be Zafar’s first official match where she is allowed to wear her hijab. And she’s also making boxing history.

She will be the first boxer allowed to fight in a USA Boxing-sanctioned event while wearing hijab, according to CAIR.

“It starts with one person and it doesn’t matter how small you are. It takes one person to spark change,” she said.

Zafar has her eyes set on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. She has already started petitioning the International Boxing Association to have a religious exemption added to the rulebook.

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Man faces manslaughter charge in fatal shooting of former FSU football star’s father

A man faces a manslaughter charge in the shooting death of the father of former Florida State University football star Travis Rudolph at a South Florida adult nightclub, authorities said.

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Teri Barbera said Paul Senat, 36, of Lantana, was arrested Tuesday in what was initially deemed to be an accidental shooting.

Barbera said Darryl Rudolph, 55, was found with a gunshot wound early Saturday in a back storage room at Sugar Daddy’s Cabaret in West Palm Beach.

He was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he died.

Barbera said detectives determined that Rudolph was at the club repairing items when Senat, who works at the club, moved a firearm off a shelf in an adjacent room.

The gun discharged, striking Rudolph in the back of the neck, Barbera said.

Travis Rudolph, who played football at Cardinal Newman High School, left FSU after his junior season to declare for the upcoming NFL draft. The wide receiver made headlines last summer after he ate with an autistic boy who was sitting alone while the Seminoles were visiting a Tallahassee middle school.

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College student killed at track and field event

An Illinois college student is dead after being hit during a hammer throw event, officials said.

Wheaton College identified the victim as Ethan Roser, 19, a freshman transfer student from Cincinnati, Ohio. Roser died after being accidentally struck with a hammer Saturday, according to a Wheaton statement. He had been volunteering at a track and field competition on the campus in suburban Chicago.

Roser was treated by paramedics at the scene and transported to a local hospital, where he died, the statement said.

In the track and field hammer event, athletes throw a metal ball that’s attached to a steel wire, according to International Association of Athletics Federation. The thrower usually makes several spins before releasing the ball — which can weigh between 16 and 8 pounds.

It’s not known whether Roser was volunteering at the hammer throw or at a nearby event.

“We ask people to pray for Ethan’s family, his friends, and our campus community,” Wheaton College President Philip Ryken said.

Students gathered Saturday night for a memorial and vigil for Roser.

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Kiffin’s first spring at FAU comes to close

Lane Kiffin had his trademark windbreaker on for Florida Atlantic’s spring game, replete with the omnipresent visor underneath the headset.

The look for FAU’s coach hasn’t changed.

Just about everything else has, of course.

He’s 750 miles from Alabama now, head coach at a school coming off three consecutive 3-9 seasons instead of being with a Crimson Tide program that will almost certainly find its way into the national-title conversation again this year. And while Alabama was having its spring game before 74,326 people Saturday afternoon, Kiffin’s Owls played simultaneously before barely anyone.

None of that mattered to Kiffin. His first spring with the Owls is over, and he called it a success — plus had plenty of light-hearted perspective on the crowd, or lack thereof.

“There’s the good with the bad,” Kiffin said. “Yeah, the stadium’s not going to be filled 30 minutes before kickoff no matter what, whether you’re the Dolphins or whether you’re the L.A. Lakers. The good part of that is you’re in a city where there’s a lot to do, so there’s a lot of things going on … a great place to live. Now we’ve got to start winning some games, so that we get more people to come to the games.”

The final score, for the record, was defense 62, offense 33. That seemed irrelevant.

This spring was about Kiffin getting a real feel for what’s realistic for FAU in 2017, and installing a system that he expects will give the Owls a chance to get better right away.

“I feel really good about it,” Kiffin said.

Kiffin is a national brand at a place that struggles to even get local attention. That would in part explain the dichotomy between having empty stands — there were no more than 2,000 people inside the stadium — and school officials being thrilled that it was the largest spring game crowd anyone at FAU could remember.

Progress comes slowly sometimes.

“Like anything, we’re just looking to get better every day as an organization, as a football program, as an athletic department,” FAU athletic director Pat Chun said. “So anything that shows improvement, we’ll take. It’s another healthy sign. I’d rather have this than the opposite, where only a couple hundred people were here. There’s definitely more eyeballs on FAU football than there’s ever been.”

People in Boca Raton might not be watching yet.

But people around the SEC, and probably plenty of other places in the country, clamor for all things Kiffin.

FAU’s opener was moved up a day to Sept. 1 at ESPN’s request, so Kiffin’s debut with the Owls will be shown nationally in prime time on a Friday night. Showtime expressed interest in chronicling FAU this coming season, as it did with Florida State last fall.

“Bringing in a guy like Coach Kiffin, who has the name in the sport, creates excitement around here that we really haven’t had,” quarterback Jason Driskel said. “I think it’s exciting for everybody.”

Not everything has gone smoothly to start Kiffin’s tenure.

Eyebrows raised when he hired Kendal Briles — the former offensive coordinator at Baylor, a program rocked by sexual assault allegations — to run his offense at FAU. He was trolled by everyone from random tweeters to a Tennessee state agency after making a notoriously awful promotional video for FAU, which Kiffin insists was intentional to get people talking. And anytime he and Alabama coach Nick Saban speak about one another, schism talk begins again.

He has seemed undeterred by it all.

“Correct. He is undeterred by it. That is a great way to categorize it,” Chun said. “He doesn’t pay attention, really doesn’t pay attention to what social media says about him or things that are going on. He has a belief system that he’s firm with. There is a Kiffin Effect, there’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. It’s been nice to see.”

Kiffin spent the game on the field, standing behind the quarterbacks and switching his headset between what the defensive and offensive coaches were saying.

He was asked what it was like to not call plays anymore.

“Boring,” Kiffin said. “I would have left too, to go to the beach.”

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Man who killed NFL star Will Smith sentenced to 25 years

The man who shot and killed former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith in a road rage incident was sentenced Thursday in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, according to court documents.

Cardell Hayes was sentenced to 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole for manslaughter in the death of Smith, and 15 years for attempted manslaughter in the shooting of his wife, Racquel Smith.

Judge Camille Buras ordered the sentences be served concurrently.

Hayes had faced a maximum of 60 years in prison, 40 years for manslaughter and 20 years for attempted manslaughter, according to Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro.

Racquel Smith was not happy with the sentence. A statement provided to CNN affiliate WVUE said in part:

“My family and I are extremely disappointed with today’s sentencing and the leniency showed by Judge Buras for the defendant. While we know nothing will ever bring Will back, we were hopeful that Judge Buras would have issued a stronger sentence to more justly reflect both the nature of the crimes and the tremendous loss and pain that my family has suffered as a result of Mr. Hayes’ violent actions on the night of April 9, 2016.

“This ordeal has been a nightmare for me and my family. There are no winners here today. Today’s sentencing does not bring back Will and leaves another child to grow up without a father. I pray for the other families of New Orleans that are dealing with the same tragedy that comes with the loss of life at the hands of senseless violence. Will loved this city and we must do better together to enact serious change so that Will’s unnecessary murder is not in vain.”

Smith, as well as her late husband’s aunt, sister and sister-in-law, among others, testified Wednesday, each giving victim impact statements, court documents show.

Hayes’ mother and others spoke to his character on Thursday, and WVUE reported that a weeping Hayes took the stand and addressed the victim’s children, saying, “To not have a father around, I know what you’re going through. I wish that night had never happened.”

Hayes was originally also charged with second-degree murder, but the jury returned a guilty verdict on the lesser charge of manslaughter in December 2016.

The district attorney said several things probably led to that decision: Testimony that a hit-and-run involving the two men happened before the shooting, that Smith got out of his vehicle in an aggressive manner and that Smith had a blood-alcohol content well above the legal level.

Both Hayes and Racquel Smith testified in the high-profile case, which drew national attention and cast a harsh spotlight on violence in New Orleans.

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