GOODELL HEARS APPEALS FROM SAINTS' PAYTON, LOOMIS: NEW YORK (AP) — Sean Payton slipped out a back entrance from NFL headquarters and directly into to a waiting car.
The New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl-winning coach now must wait for Commissioner Roger Goodell to decide whether he will reduce any of the penalties in the team's bounty scandal.
Payton declined comment Thursday after meeting with Goodell to discuss the season-long suspension he received for his role in the bounty system. Earlier, the commissioner heard appeals from general manager Mickey Loomis and assistant coach Joe Vitt.
Goodell suspended Payton for all of next season, while Loomis was suspended for eight games and Vitt for six. The Saints were fined $500,000 and docked second-round draft picks this year and next.
Goodell spent six hours Thursday hearing appeals, meeting separately with team representatives, Loomis, Vitt and finally Payton. Goodell plans to make a decision quickly but has not specified a timetable.
MAGIC COACH SAYS HOWARD HAS ASKED HE BE FIRED: ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Magic coach Stan Van Gundy says that he has been told by high-ranking team officials that center Dwight Howard has previously asked that he be fired.
Van Gundy told reporters following the team's morning shoot around Thursday that he isn't bothered by what he's been told and attributed it to part of the job.
The Magic host the New York Knicks on Thursday night.
Howard denied reports Wednesday that he had made Van Gundy's dismissal a condition of him signing a long-term contract with Orlando. Howard terminated an opt-out clause in his contract last month and will be with the Magic to begin next season.
Van Gundy also said last month that he wasn't concerned about the reports surrounding his job status.
OBAMA, ROMNEY SAY ADMIT WOMEN TO AUGUSTA GOLF CLUB: WASHINGTON (AP) — A White House spokesman said Thursday that President Barack Obama believes women should be admitted as members to the all-male Augusta National, home of the Masters golf tournament.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that Obama's "personal opinion is that women should be admitted" to the golf club. Carney said it was "up to the club to decide" but Obama told him he personally thinks women should be welcome.
"We're kind of long past the time when women should be excluded from anything," Carney said.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Obama's likely challenger in the fall, said "of course" he would allow women in "if I could run Augusta."
One of the club's longtime sponsors, IBM, has a new female CEO, Virginia Rometty. The last four CEOs at IBM, all male, have been invited to be members.
The chairman of Augusta National this week has said the club will decide for itself whom to allow into its ranks.
DONALD'S CARD RECHECKED AFTER KEYSTROKE ERROR: AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Luke Donald's card had to be rechecked after a keystroke error left him with the wrong score during the first round of the Masters.
The world's top-ranked player signed for a 3-over 75, including a three-putt bogey on No. 5 Thursday, and the card was verified. But the person entering scores into the computer put him down for a 3, giving him a 73. Once the error was spotted, Donald's score had to be re-verified.
Had Donald signed for the wrong score, he would have been disqualified.
VENUS JOINS SERENA IN FAMILY CIRCLE QUARTERFINALS: CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Venus Williams kept up with sister Serena by winning a third-round match at the Family Circle Cup, moving one step closer to an all-Williams semifinal.
Venus Williams defeated Anastasia Rodionova 7-5, 6-2 Thursday, continuing her strong comeback from an autoimmune disease that kept her sidelined for more than six months.
Serena Williams also advanced to the quarterfinals, ousting Marina Erakovic 6-2, 6-2.
Venus Williams reached the final eight for the second straight tournament. She returned to action at the Sony Ericsson Open last week, winning four times before falling to eventual champion Agnieszka Radwanska.
Venus won her third match at her first clay-court tournament since 2010. She will take on second-seeded Samantha Stosur or Galina Voskoboeva on Friday. Stosur and Voskoboeva play Thursday night.
ISNER VS SIMON FOR DAVIS CUP SINGLES IN MONACO: MONACO (AP) — France captain Guy Forget has chosen Gilles Simon to play singles against the United States in their Davis Cup quarterfinal Friday on clay.
Even though the 13th-ranked Simon is nursing a sore back and practiced little, Forget selected him Thursday ahead of lower-ranked Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra.
Sixth-ranked Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will open against 19-year-old American Ryan Harrison at the Monte Carlo Country Club. Simon, who replaced the injured Gael Monfils, will play No. 11 John Isner.
American captain Jim Courier is without Mardy Fish, who pulled out with fatigue this week.
Brothers Bob and Mike Bryan will play Benneteau and Llodra in the doubles on Saturday. In reverse singles on Sunday, Isner opens against Tsonga and Harrison faces Simon.
Isner recently beat Simon at Indian Wells, but feels that win will count for little.
MIXED MARTIAL ARTS
UFC: MAY EVENT WILL HAPPEN WITH OR WITHOUT OVEREEM: LAS VEGAS (AP) — UFC President Dana White says a heavyweight championship fight will take place as scheduled on May 26 with or without Alistair Overeem.
White said Thursday that Junior dos Santos will defend his title in the UFC 146 main event but that it's up to the Nevada Athletic Commission to determine whether Overeem will be the challenger.
Commission executive Keith Kizer says the Dutch kickboxing champion can seek analysis of a second sample from his March 27 urine test.
Kizer said Wednesday that Overeem's first sample tested unacceptably high for testosterone and Overeem will need commission approval to fight Dos Santos as scheduled.
His representatives haven't responded to messages left through his Las Vegas lawyer, David Chesnoff.
Overeem knocked out Brock Lesnar in the first round of UFC 141 on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas.