ESPN announced Thursday it is eliminating about 500 jobs, including about 300 through layoffs.

The cuts amount to about 10% of the employees at the sports network and are due largely to the impact of the pandemic on its business and the “tremendous disruption in how fans consume sports.”

“In the short term, we enacted various steps like executive and talent salary reductions, furloughs and budget cuts, and we implemented innovative operations and production approaches, all in an effort to weather the COVID storm,” Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN’s chairman, wrote in an email to employees. “We have, however, reached an inflection point.”

In addition to the layoffs, the company is planning to leave about 200 vacant positions unfilled.

ESPN did not say how many of the job cuts would come at its campus in Bristol, Connecticut, but said they would not be concentrated in any one area. On-air talent, the vast majority having personal contracts, is not expected to be heavily affected. But some of those contracts could be allowed to expire.

The company said it has more than 5,000 employees, including about 4,000 in Bristol. The layoffs come three years after ESPN cut about 250 jobs, including journalists and on-air talent.

TENNIS

PARIS MASTERS: Top-seeded Rafael Nadal stayed on course for an elusive first title at the Paris Masters after beating Jordan Thompson 6-1, 7-6 (3) on to reach the quarterfinals.

Nadal has 86 career titles, including 35 in Masters events, but lost his only final at the Bercy Indoor Arena in Paris 13 years ago.

Nadal, a 20-time Grand Slam champion who on Wednesday became only the fourth man to reach 1,000 match wins, next faces Spanish countryman Pablo Carreno Busta.

Third-seeded Daniil Medvedev overcame a first-set blip where he conceded 11 straight points before rallying to beat 16th-seeded Alex de Minaur 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. The strong-serving Russian concluded with a 13th ace and next plays No. 6 Diego Schwartzman, the French Open semifinalist who routed qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1, 6-1 to take a step closer to reaching the season-ending ATP Finals for the first time.

Schwartzman would qualify for the Nov. 15-22 tournament in London if he beats Medvedev.

Milos Raonic advanced by beating American qualifier Marcos Giron, 7-6 (1), 6-2.

GYMNASTICS

U.S. TEAM IN JAPAN: U.S. gymnasts arrived at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on Wednesday in preparation for the first international event for an Olympic sport to be held in Japan since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The United States, China, Japan and Russia are participating in the Gymnastics Friendship and Solidarity Competition, which will be held Sunday.

Team USA was the first to arrive, and the delegation members took PCR tests at the airport. They were seen wearing masks and exchanging greetings with their hosts before proceeding to a private bus that took the group to a Tokyo hotel. The delegation chartered a flight from Los Angeles comprising only the team and related staff. Members must take a PCR test every day until the end of the competition and are in principle prohibited from engaging in unrelated activities.

According to the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, athletes from each nation and region are exempt from the 14-day self-quarantine only when they submit detailed itineraries regarding their stay. The event is a critical test prior to the Tokyo Games, which have been postponed until next year.

“It is important to show that an international competition can be held,” said Seiko Hashimoto, the minister in charge of the Tokyo Games, at a press conference on Wednesday.

SKIING

TEAM CANADA: Canada is recalling some members of its national ski teams from Europe because of the deteriorating coronavirus pandemic there. Alpine Canada did not identify who was returning, nor would it confirm a CTV report that some of the Canadian ski cross team were ill with the virus.

The ski cross team has been training in Saas Fee, Switzerland, a popular preseason site for many countries. Infections are rising in the Valais region where the resort is located, prompting an increase in gathering restrictions and business regulations.

HOCKEY

NHL: The New York Rangers avoided arbitration with center Ryan Strome, agreeing to terms on a $9 million, two-year contract.

Strome, 27, will count $4.5 million against the salary cap through the 2022 season. He set a career high last season with 59 points on 18 goals and 41 assists.

TRACK AND FIELD

SALAZAR APPEAL POSTPONED: Alberto Salazar’s appeal against a four-year ban in a doping case was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, said it has moved next week’s scheduled hearing for Salazar and endocrinologist Jeffrey Brown to a new slot from March 3-12. The court’s plans to hold in-person hearings have been affected by tighter travel restrictions during a renewed wave of COVID-19 infections.

Salazar and Brown were banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in October 2019 while the coach attended the track world championships in Qatar. USADA acted after a six-year investigation into Salazar’s Nike Oregon Project training group led to charges including possessing and trafficking testosterone.

Salazar denied wrongdoing and said last year “the Oregon Project has never and will never permit doping.”

CYCLING

SPANISH VUELTA: Belgian rider Jasper Philipsen won a long, wet and windy Stage 15, and Primoz Roglic held his overall lead with two more competitive days of racing left.

Philipsen earned his first stage win in a grand tour. He powered ahead of the pack near the end of the race’s longest stage of 142 miles through a winding, wooded terrain in northwest Spain. The 22-year-old rider crossed the finish line in 6 hours, 22 minutes, just ahead of Pascal Ackermann and Jannik Steimle.

Roglic, the defending champion, maintained his 42-second lead over Richard Carapaz as the race closes in on Sunday’s ceremonial arrival in Madrid. John Hugh Carthy is third, 47 seconds behind.


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