AP Sports SummaryBrief at 5:30 p.m. EST


World Cup fans ready to celebrate despite stadium beer ban

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Fans are pouring into Qatar to watch and be part of the first World Cup in the Middle East. A last-minute decision to not serve beer with alcohol at stadiums was largely welcomed by the country’s conservative Muslims and shrugged off by giddy fans. Meanwhile, the country’s vast Asian labor force also enjoyed the celebrations as the end of the tournament likely will see an economic slowdown. Qatar has faced criticism over its treatment of laborers, though Doha has made changes to its employment laws.

Qatar bans sale of beer at World Cup stadiums in about-face

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Qatar has banned the sale of beer at World Cup stadiums. It was a sudden U-turn on the deal the conservative Muslim emirate made to secure the soccer tournament only two days before the opening game. The move was the latest sign of the tension of staging the event in the autocratic country where the sale of alcohol is heavily restricted. It’s also a significant blow to World Cup beer sponsor Budweiser and raised questions about how much control FIFA retains over its tournament. When Qatar launched its bid to host the World Cup, the country agreed to FIFA’s requirements of selling alcohol in stadiums. But the details were only released in September, just 11 weeks before the first kickoff. Friday’s statement from FIFA said non-alcoholic beer will still be sold at stadiums.

Titans offensive coordinator arrested for speeding, DUI

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing is free on bond after being arrested on charges of speeding and driving under the influence early Friday morning. Downing was released from the Williamson County Jail just before 7 a.m. CST on $2,500 bond after being booked in about two hours earlier. The Tennessee Highway Patrol pulled over Downing. The arrest came just hours after the Titans beat the Packers 27-17 in Green Bay on Thursday night. Downing’s offense turned in its best performance this season as Tennessee won for the seventh time in eight games. The Titans say in a statement they are gathering information.

Bills’ McDermott keeps things light amid heavy snow fall

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Bills coach Sean McDermott is trying to keep things light as a major snowstorm hits Buffalo and disrupts the team’s schedule. He says the lake-effect storm that’s already dumped more than a foot of snow in some places can be a bonding experience for his team. The Bills are preparing to dig themselves out and travel on Saturday to Detroit. That’s where they will be the “home” team for a game against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Buffalo is 6-3 and coming off two consecutive losses.

Column: Enjoy a couple of months without Bama and Nick Saban

The Alabama Crimson Tide will play a football game Saturday that means … well, absolutely nothing. Not being cruel. It’s just the way things work in Tuscaloosa. The SEC championship is out of reach. Any hopes of claiming a spot in the College Football Playoff are gone. Which means there’s no chance of Bama winning its seventh national title since Nick Saban arrived. Which means, of course, that the season is effectively over for the Tide. It’s been a dozen years since Alabama was in this spot, playing a regular-season game with no potential impact on the national championship race.

Ko runs out to 5-shot lead at CME Group Tour Championship

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Lydia Ko is in total control at the halfway mark of the CME Group Tour Championship. Total control of the season-long scoring and money races, too. Ko shot a 6-under 66 in Friday’s second round of the LPGA Tour’s season finale, pushing her to 13 under for the tournament and five shots clear of Hyo Joo Kim through 36 holes. Ko made four birdies in a six-hole stretch midway through her round, rolled in a testy 4-footer to save par on the par-4 13th to maintain what was then a four-shot lead, and hasn’t dropped a shot since her opening hole on Thursday.

LPGA purses will top $100M in 2023, a record for tour

NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — More than $100 million will be awarded to LPGA players for the first time in 2023. That’s an increase of about 18% over what was planned for this season and more than doubling what was paid out on the tour just a decade ago. A total of 33 official events next year will have a combined $101.4 million in purses, the tour announced while unveiling the schedule. That slate of tournaments includes two events in China. The LPGA has not played there since October 2019. It has canceled each of its last five planned events in China after the coronavirus pandemic.

Higgs making most of chances and shares lead at Sea Island

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Harry Higgs is part of a three-way tie for the lead in the RSM Classic at Sea Island. That’s a big deal because Higgs lost his full PGA Tour card last season and now only has conditional status. He had a 63 at the tougher Seaside course and shares the lead with recent Texas grad Cole Hammer and Andrew Putnam. Hammer overcame a pair of sloppy bogeys and shot 66 at Seaside. Putnam had a 65 on the Plantation course. The final two round are held at Seaside. Among those one shot behind was Joel Dahmen.

EXPLAINER: What Griner may endure in Russian penal system

LONDON (AP) — WNBA star Brittney Griner this week began serving her nine-year sentence for drug possession at a Russian penal colony. She was transferred to a remote facility in Russian region known for its history of Soviet gulags. Griner was sent to the camp after a Russian court rejected her appeal. Her lawyers say she is at the IK-2 women’s colony in Mordovia, a region 350 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Moscow. Human rights advocates say the camp houses mostly prisoners convicted of violent crimes. Griner’s advocates are hoping that U.S. and Russian negotiators can come up with a prisoner exchange including her.

Analysis: NFL’s appeal to women isn’t about pink jerseys

There used to be a time when the NFL thought appealing to female fans meant pink jerseys and bedazzled apparel. Not anymore. Those stereotypes are long gone. The league has made it a priority to increase opportunities for women in every aspect of the sport from front-office positions to the sidelines. The NFL had the most women in on-field assistant coaching role at the beginning of the 2022 season with 15 than any men’s professional sport.  Sam Rapoport, a former professional quarterback in a women’s tackle football league, has spent two decades working to expand career opportunities for women in the NFL. She points to the stats to prove her point.