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Aspiring driver Rajah Caruth discusses his journey, why Bubba Wallace is a role model

Factor41/iStockBy ABBY CRUZ, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- At 18, Rajah Caruth already has a trophy case filled with medals and awards from competitive driving, from races all over the country.

He's just getting started.

The soon-to-be Winston-Salem State University freshman already has his NASCAR license, and he has big dreams to become one of the sport's top drivers like Bubba Wallace, whom he considers a role model.

But the journey for Caruth, like for most African American drivers, hasn't been easy. Caruth didn't grow up in a racing family, had no connections and didn't know much about how to make his dream a reality. Most of what he knew about racing came from being a fan of cartoon characters like Lighting McQueen and Speed Racer.

Caruth attended his first race in middle school.

"That really flipped the switch," he said. "That was the point where I realized that this is what I want to do, this is what I want to put my life and my career into."

NASCAR currently has just one Black driver in the top flight: Wallace.

In recent weeks, he's emerged as a new face of the franchise because he has "Black Lives Matter" on his car and initial reports of a noose found in his garage, which led to an FBI investigation.

In the wake of that story, many in the NASCAR community stepped up and supported Wallace, embracing Black Lives Matter and giving young drivers like Caruth hope for the future.

"He's been a good role model, a really good role model, and an ambassador for the sport," Caruth said of Wallace. "He's been a really good person for me to look up to, just in terms of how to carry myself, online and at the racetrack, how to treat people, how to deal with criticism and just mean people."

During the Honor QuikTrip 500 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR President Steve Phelps had drivers shut down their cars so he could read the following message over the public address system:

"The Black community and all people of color have suffered in our country, and it has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change. Our sport must do better. Our country must do better. The time is now to listen, to understand and to stand against racism and racial injustice."

Caruth said that while he's personally faced issues regarding his race, it's been on a "much smaller" scale than Wallace's battles with online trolls and attacks via social media.

"I'm definitely not going to act like, you know, I had the worst time possible, but I definitely had my fair share of interactions that were not of the positive sort," Caruth added.

Seeing more people who look like him in and around racing, even if not behind the wheel, has been encouraging, he said.

"There aren't really many of us drivers, but there are a lot of us behind the scenes," said Caruth. "It's good to be on pit road and see Mike Metcalf and Tigger and everybody on pit road, you know, people of color that you know got my back. And it's cool to see them whenever I go to a cup race."

In 2010, NASCAR launched its Drive for Diversity Development Program, which includes Caruth now and, previously, Wallace. And in 2017, the program hired Jusan Hamilton, the first Black race director.

Caruth said he knows how to become a champion driver: "You can't take 'no' for an answer."

"People will say, 'Oh, you don't have experience, or, you know, you're this, that, and the other,'" he continued. "You really just have to stay focused. If you know you can drive, then go show it. If you stay true to yourself and make sure you surround yourself with your family, with good people, you'll be able to do great things."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Appeals judges to hear arguments over video evidence in Patriots owner prostitution case

Maddie Meyer/Getty ImagesBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.) -- Prosecutors will appeal to a Florida judge via a video conference Tuesday morning to allow key evidence in the solicitation case against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

Kraft, 79, was hit with misdemeanor charges last year after investigators say he was recorded twice paying for sex acts with workers at a Orchids of Asia spa in Jupiter, Florida. Two dozen other clients were also charged as part of an investigation into the spa over alleged sex trafficking.

In May 2019, Palm Beach County Judge Leonard Hanser ruled that prosecutors could not use undercover police videos taken from inside the spa as evidence during the trial. He said police did not do enough to protect the privacy of all the spa's customers.

Prosecutors contend Hanser erred in his decision and the warrant was issued legitimately after detectives spent days collecting evidence that the spa was a front for an illegal sex trafficking and prosecution ring.

“That the spa was regularly used as a brothel is confirmed by the small percentage of recorded massages that ultimately appeared lawful,” Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey DeSousa wrote in court papers.

Attorneys representing Kraft, who apologized for being caught up in the spa’s investigation, argue that the use of the footage would hurt the civil liberties of Florida residents.

The appeal will be livestreamed on the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal's site.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Ava DuVernay to direct 6-part series on Colin Kaepernick's early life

Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty ImagesBy CANDICE WILLIAMS, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Colin Kaepernick's adolescent years will be made into a six-part series on Netflix thanks to Ava DuVernay.

Netflix announced on Monday that the Oscar nominee will direct and produce the forthcoming scripted drama titled Colin in Black & White. The limited series will focus on Kaepernick's teenage life and high school experience growing up as a Black child adopted by a white family.

Kaepernick will narrate the series, which is expected to cast an actor to play a younger version of the quarterback. The series will also take a look at Kaepernick's early journey to become the activist he is today.

In 2016, Kaepernick became the face of protests against police brutality when he knelt during the national anthem.

"Too often we see race and Black stories portrayed through a white lens," Kaepernick said in a statement. "We seek to give new perspective to the differing realities that Black people face. We explore the racial conflicts I faced as an adopted Black man in a white community, during my high school years. It's an honor to bring these stories to life in collaboration with Ava for the world to see."

"With his act of protest, Colin Kaepernick ignited a national conversation about race and justice with far-reaching consequences for football, culture and for him, personally," added DuVernay. "Colin's story has much to say about identity, sports and the enduring spirit of protest and resilience. I couldn't be happier than to tell this story with the team at Netflix."

Emmy nominee Michael Starrbury, who previously worked with DuVernay on Netflix's Peabody-winning limited series "When They See Us, will write the script and serve as executive producer alongside DuVernay and Kaepernick.

There is no set release date for the series.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Shawn Johnson details her severe body image struggle

Ian MacNicol/Getty ImagesBy GOOD MORNING AMERICA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- For former Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, learning to love her body has been a years-long struggle.

In a new video shared to her YouTube channel, Johnson told her fans that as a gymnast in the 2008 Olympic Games, she restricted her calories to 700 per day and as a result, she "would pass out during practice or after," and never had a menstrual cycle.

Being in the "limelight" on Dancing With the Stars the next year only heightened her self-consciousness.

Additionally, she felt lost without her sport, and without a purpose.

"I had to deal with not being an elite athlete, not training 50 hours a week, eating more than 700 calories a day, which naturally would let my body to adjust and gain weight which was healthy at the time but I didn't know how to handle it," she said, noting that she gained about 15 pounds. "When I went on 'Dancing With the Stars' and I had my period for the first time and I had to deal with going through puberty on national television, I hit a very low spot."

"I started taking weight loss pills. I started taking Ephedrine. I started taking Adderall. I started doing any and everything that I possibly could to lose the weight and to look like I did at the Olympics," she added. "Because in my mind, everybody praised me for what I did at the Olympics. They praised who I was as a human being when I was there and in my mind, if I could look like that, not necessarily compete or do gymnastics, but if I could be that person again, then the world would say that I was enough and I was accepted."

Johnson, 28, explained that although she did lose the weight and eventually returned to gymnastics, she quit after realizing how unhappy she was. Immediately, she hired a nutritionist and a therapist, and within a few years, she was "feeling more comfortable in my body," and eating about 1,500 calories per day. In 2016, she married former professional football player Andrew East, and the next year, they were shocked to learn that Johnson was pregnant. However, that pregnancy ended in miscarriage.

"I had this gut-wrenching feeling that it was because of my past -- because of the pills, the diuretics, because of starving myself and the weight fluctuations and the binging and purging," she said. "I thought it was because of all those bad choices that I had made."

Miscarriage, or early pregnancy loss, occurs in about 10 to 20% of known pregnancies, according to the Mayo Clinic. In most cases, miscarriages occur "because the fetus isn't developing normally," the organization reported.

Last year, Johnson and East, 28, learned they were expecting again, and the former Olympian said one of her first calls was to her nutritionist.

"I said, 'My biggest fear is that I won't eat enough,'" she said. "It was just an iconic moment for me."

During her pregnancy, Johnson took vitamins every day and made sure to have two cheat meals each week. She also set a workout goal of 30 minutes of walking five times a week -- a huge change for someone who used to plan four workout classes in a single day. Now a mom to her 8-month-old daughter, Drew, Johnson said she's grown to accept her body.

"It was very hard, and I don't wish it on anyone, but I've had these tough experiences that make me a stronger mom and will allow me to teach Drew how to be strong as well," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Seattle's new NHL venue will be completely carbon neutral

ronniechua/iStockBy CARMEN COX, ABC News

(SEATTLE) -- Seattle's new NHL expansion team will have a completely carbon-neutral venue to play in beginning in the 2021-22 season.

Amazon purchased the building's naming rights, according to an announcement Thursday, and will call it Climate Pledge Arena. The company is modeling the hockey venue on The Climate Pledge, created by Amazon and Global Optimism, which calls on those who sign to be net zero carbon across businesses by 2040, NHL.com reports.

Watch the report from ABC News below:


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


NBA says 16 players tested positive for COVID-19

cmannphoto/iStock

By EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The NBA has tested 302 players for the coronavirus and 16 players have tested positive, the organization said Friday.

"Any player who tested positive will remain in self-isolation until he satisfies public health protocols for discontinuing isolation and has been cleared by a physician," the NBA said in a statement.  

The NBA plans to resume its season with 22 teams on July 31 at the Disney complex in Florida.

Disney is the parent company of ABC News.


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sacramento Kings' Jabari Parker, Alex Len test positive for COVID-19

cmannphoto/iStockBy ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) -- Two professional basketball players on the Sacramento Kings revealed Wednesday that they have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Kings forward Jabari Parker, 25, said he had received the positive results "several days ago" and "immediately" isolated himself in Chicago.

"I am progressing in my recovery and feeling well," Parker said in a statement released by the team. "I look forward to joining my teammates in Orlando as we return to the court for the resumption of the NBA season."

Statement from Jabari Parker: pic.twitter.com/fn0WncpLi8

— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) June 24, 2020

Kings center Alex Len, 27, said he was tested Tuesday in Sacramento.

"I want to thank the Sacramento Kings for their great care and the NBA for putting the protocols in place to allow me to catch this early," Len said in a statement posted on Instagram. "I have immediately entered isolation and look forward to being cleared and rejoining my teammates for our playoff push."

The Kings, along with 21 other teams, are scheduled to resume play next month after the NBA season was put on hold in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. On June 4, the league's Board of Governors approved games to resume on July 30 in Orlando, Florida.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Why NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace says he’ll take embarrassment over the alternative

Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesBY: Kelly McCarthy, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — After "an emotional few days," NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace addressed his followers on Twitter Wednesday after the FBI investigation concluded that he was not the direct target of a hate crime.

"First off, I want to say how relieved I am that the investigation revealed that this wasn’t what we feared it was," Wallace said after NASCAR initially reported a noose was found in his team's garage at the Talladega Superspeedway on Sunday. "I want to thank my team, NASCAR and the FBI for acting swiftly and treating this as a racial threat. I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been.”

pic.twitter.com/5noPid5zqO

— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 24, 2020

"Make no mistake, though some will try, this should not detract from the show of unity we had on Monday and the progress we’ve made as a sport to be a more welcoming environment for all," Wallace added.

The FBI completed its investigation Tuesday and announced it is not filing any federal charges.

Integrity..something nobody will ever be able to take away from me.

God will always test us to show how strong we truly are.

Still standing proud and still smiling.

— Bubba Wallace (@BubbaWallace) June 24, 2020

The noose in question from the incident had been in the garage since as early as last fall, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp.

Wallace spoke to ESPN's "First Take" on Wednesday to discuss the findings as well as his perspective of how things have unfolded.

"Are we hypersensitive to everything that's going on in the world now? Absolutely," Wallace told ESPN. "But if you were in my shoes -- and I doubt anybody could walk in my shoes, especially at this moment -- you would go down that route time and time again."

"Yes, it was a garage pull for our stall at Talladega, but that was in the solid shape of a noose," Wallace continued. "And when my guys seen that, when my crew member had seen that -- who happened to be African American -- he did his research first, and I was very proud of that. David Cropps -- a guy I'll stand by in any trenches, any day -- walked up and down the garages to make sure he wasn't overreacting. And when he seen that the other garage pulls were basically just a solid piece of rope, no knots in them, and we had a knot that was in the shape of a noose -- yeah, that calls [for an investigation]."

Since the incident was reported and investigated, Wallace, who is the sport's only top full-time Black driver, received an abundance of support from his team, competitors and the racing community, as well as on social media.

In a press call with media on Tuesday, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said the result of the investigation was "fantastic" news.

"There is no place in our sport for this type of racism and hatred," Phelps said. "It's not who we are as a sport."

Phelps said that NASCAR will be continuing its own investigation to determine "why there was a rope fashioned into a noose." He said the noose was present in the garage during a race in October. On Sunday, a member of Wallace's crew found and reported it to his crew chief, who then brought it to the attention of NASCAR Cup Series Director Jay Fabian, he said.

"To be clear, we would do this again," Phelps said. "The evidence that we had, it was clear that we needed to look into this."

Some people have criticized NASCAR's handling of the incident after the FBI concluded that the rope was a garage door pull rope, which some racing fans have said is common in the garages.

Others, including Wallace's team, Richard Petty Motorsports, have responded that it was better to treat the incident as a threat and deal with the backlash.

 

pic.twitter.com/zol88naj6D

— Richard Petty Motorsports (@RPMotorsports) June 23, 2020

 

The team behind Wallace and his 43 Chevrolet have been supportive of his efforts to stand up for social change in the sport.

He has been a leading voice in the sport amid calls for justice following the death of George Floyd and ran a Black Lives Matter paint scheme on his own car at the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia two weeks ago.

Wallace also helped push NASCAR to ban the Confederate Flag from all events and races and celebrated the sport for enacting real change.

"I said a couple weeks ago, that something changed inside me to be an activist. My mother said, 'Did you ever believe you would be an activist?' I said, 'No, not really.' But I just felt in my heart that I needed to step up and be a leader in the forefront," Wallace said Tuesday on "The View." "These times kind of bring back that positive light of love and passion and solidarity and unity, to unite together and show that love is way stronger than hate."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


WNBA stars say they're skipping 2020 season to fight for social justice, avoid COVID-19 spread

iStock/Gearstd(BRADENTON, Fla.) -- BY: CHRISTINA CARREGA

At least five WNBA players, citing battles for social justice reform or concerns over the novel coronavirus, have said they plan to sit out this season.

Days after the league announced plans to launch the 2020 season in July at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, players from the Washington Mystics, Atlanta Dream and Connecticut Sun said they won't be playing.

Atlanta guard Renee Montgomery took to Twitter to make announcement on June 18.

"After much thought, I've decided to opt out of the 2020 WNBA season," she wrote. "There's work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community. Social justice reform isn't going to happen overnight but I do feel that now is the time and Moments equal Momentum. Lets keep it going!"

After much thought, I’ve decided to opt out of the 2020 WNBA season. There’s work to be done off the court in so many areas in our community. Social justice reform isn’t going to happen overnight but I do feel that now is the time and Moments equal Momentum. Lets keep it going!

— Renee Montgomery (@itsreneem_) June 18, 2020


Tiffany Hayes, Montgomery's teammate, announced on Tuesday she's also opting out.

"This was not an easy decision but I believe it is in my best interest with everything going on right now. Although I love playing this game, I believe there are much more important things to be thinking about in this moment," Hayes said in a statement.

While Hayes did not explicitly mention her reasons for sitting out like Montgomery, their head coach, Nicki Collen, supported both players' decisions.

The WNBA on Wednesday tweeted: "We support our players who continue to be at the forefront of long overdue social change."

We support our players who continue to be at the forefront of long overdue social change. #WCW pic.twitter.com/o6PdrlgVUr

— WNBA (@WNBA) June 24, 2020


Two players from the 2019 WNBA champion Washington Mystics also made the "toughest decisions" of their careers, to not return to the court.

Natasha Cloud's comments were similar to Montgomery's in that she's decided to take a stand and is "more than an athlete."

"I have a responsibility to myself, to my community, and to my future children to fight for something that is much bigger than myself and the game of basketball. I will instead, continue the fight on the front lines for social reform, because until black lives matter, all lives can't matter," Cloud wrote on Instagram.

Cloud marched at the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, D.C., last week to support Black Lives Matter and to celebrate Juneteenth.
 
Cloud's teammate LaToya Sanders also said she would be skipping this season.

"This was not an easy choice to make, but after much thought and conversation I do believe it is what's best for my health and family," said Sanders.

The Connecticut Sun's Jonquel Jones also said she wouldn't play because of health concerns.

"This was one of the toughest decisions I've made but the resurgence and unknown aspects of COVID-19 have raised serious health concerns that I do not feel comfortable competing in," Jones said in a statement.

Jones signed a multiyear contract with the team in February, but she's decided to "forgo the upcoming WNBA season and use this time to focus on personal, social and familial growth."

The WNBA said in a statement issued June 15: "The top priority continues to be the health and safety of players and staff, and the league is working with medical specialists, public health experts, and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place."





Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

NASCAR's Bubba Wallace was not target of hate crime, FBI finds

Chris Graythen/Getty ImagesBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) -- The FBI has completed its investigation into a noose found in Bubba Wallace's garage at Talladega Superspeedway earlier this week and is not filing any federal charges, the organization announced Tuesday.

According to a statement from U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, the noose had been in the garage since as early as last fall.

Wallace, the league's only full-time Black driver, "was not the target of a hate crime," NASCAR said in a statement.

The FBI investigation concluded through video and photographic evidence that a garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned in that garage number 4 since at least October 2019, and thus was not directed at Wallace.

"Although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week," Town and Sharp's statement said.

In a press call with media on Tuesday, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said this was "fantastic" news.

"There is no place in our sport for this type of racism and hatred," Phelps said. "It's not who we are as a sport."

Phelps said that NASCAR will be continuing its own investigation to determine "why there was a rope fashioned into a noose." He said the rope was present in the garage during a race in October. On Sunday, a member of Wallace's crew found and reported it to his crew chief, who then brought it to the attention of NASCAR Cup Series Director Jay Fabian, he said.

"To be clear, we would do this again," Phelps said. "The evidence that we had, it was clear that we needed to look into this."

Phelps said the show of support around Wallace at Monday's race was a "very powerful image" and "one of the most important days that we had."

Wallace was met with a huge show of support from all 39 other drivers and their crews with a march down pit road as they pushed his car to the front of the field.

"These times kind of bring back that positive light of love and passion and solidarity and unity, to unite together and show that love is way stronger than hate," Wallace said on ABC's "The View" Tuesday.

On Sunday, NASCAR had said it was launching an investigation after a noose was found in the garage stall for Wallace's 43 team.

On Monday, the Department of Justice announced its Civil Rights Division was also investigating to determine if any federal laws were violated.

Wallace had pushed for NASCAR to ban the display of the Confederate flag amid calls for racial justice following George Floyd's death last month at the hands of Minneapolis police. NASCAR subsequently announced earlier this month that it was banning the presence of the controversial flag at all events.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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