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New Study Indicates Protests Didn’t Promote Virus Spike

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

New research released Monday indicated that the nationwide anti-police brutality demonstrations which erupted in the U.S. after the killing of George Floyd have not led to widespread transmission of the coronavirus, as some public experts feared they would.

The National Bureau of Economic Research used anonymous cell phone data and local CDC information about Covid-19 infection rates since the protests began in late May, to examine the growth in cases in 315 cities.

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High School Football Players Across The U.S. Join Kaepernick, Refuse To Stand For National Anthem

Published with permission from AlterNet.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick declared last month, explaining why he chose not to stand during the national anthem on August 26. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Since Kaepernick spoke these words, his protest has caught fire across the country, with NFL players from Miami to Seattle to Boston showing solidarity by kneeling or raising their fists in the air during the song. Meanwhile, players from other sports have joined in, with soccer star Megan Rapinoe kneeling during the national anthem, telling American Soccer Now that the gesture was “a little nod to Kaepernick and everything that he’s standing for right now.”

But getting far less attention are the high school football players across the United States, who, inspired by Kaepernick, are refusing to stand during the national anthem to protest racism and inequality. Many of those leading the protests are black and brown students who have grown up with images of young people who look like them being shot and killed by police.

Coaches and most members of the South Jersey Tigers high school football team, Woodrow Wilson, knelt during the national anthem on Saturday. “I am well aware of the third verse of the national anthem which is not usually sung, and I know that the words of the song were not originally meant to include people like me,” Tigers coach Preston Brown told NBC 10 on Saturday.

The third stanza states, “No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.” As the Intercept’s Jon Schwartz pointed out, Francis Scott Key wrote those words during the war of 1812, in direct reference to U.S. slaves who fought for the British, “who accepted everyone and pledged no one would be given back to their ‘owners.’” Schwartz continues: “So when Key penned ‘No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,’ he was taking great satisfaction in the death of slaves who’d freed themselves. His perspective may have been affected by the fact he owned several slaves himself.”

The Tigers’ protest is captured in the following video:

On Friday, numerous players for Watkins Mills High in Montgomery County, Maryland also kneeled during the national anthem. “We just wanted to make a statement that America is not what you think it is,” said junior quarterback Markel Grant.

Players from Maury High in Norfolk, Virginia to Auburn High in Rockford, Illinois have taken similar action. While these young people are certainly not the first to use their roles as athletes to protest racism and injustice in the United States, they are part of a fresh wave of resistance amid the ongoing movement for Black Lives Matter led by young people in cities and towns across the U.S. In some cases, individual players are making the decision to stage small protests of one or two, as in the case of Lincoln, Nebraska player Sterling Smith, highlighted in thisnews report.

Rodney Axson, a high school player at Brunswick High School in Ohio, reportedlydecided to kneel during the national anthem after he witnessed his teammates using racial slurs to degrade opposing players. The 16-year-old says he faced severe backlash as a result, including anti-black racial epithets.

Unfortunately, Axson’s case is not an isolated one. According to a local media report, the announcer for a Friday football game at McKenzie High School in Alabama’s Butler County suggested that those who do not stand for the national anthem deserve to be shot. “If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you since they’re taking shots for you,” said the announcer, Pastor Allen Joyner of Sweet Home Baptist Church.

Mike Oppong, a player for Doherty Memorial High School in Worcester, Mass.,says he was initially suspended for a game for refusing to stand during the national anthem, but this punishment was revoked after public outcry. He told reporters, “We are disrespected and mistreated everywhere we go on a daily basis because of our skin color, and I’m sick of it.”

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Photo: Screenshot.

Watch: Obama Says Kaepernick Is ‘Exercising His Constitutional Right To Make A Statement’

President Obama said San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick was “exercising his right to make a constitutional statement” by refusing to stand up for the national anthem. Kaepernick said last week he would not stand because he didn’t want to show “pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Obama, at a press conference at the G20 Summit Monday, recognized that there was a “long history” of sports figures making statements on political issues, but also referred to meaning the flag and national anthem hold for the nation’s troops. Kaepernick’s statement might be “tough for them to hear,” said Obama.

Despite saying he hadn’t been playing “very close attention” to the controversy, Obama also said he didn’t doubt Kaepernick’s sincerity.

“I think he cares about some real, legitimate issues that have to be talked about,” the president said.

Recognizing that political statements might be “messy” and “controversial,” Obama said, “But I’d rather have young people who are engaged in the argument and trying to think through how they can be part of our democratic process, than people who are just sitting on the sidelines and not paying attention at all.”

Kaepernick has received both criticism and support for his decision not to stand for the national anthem. His latest outspoken supporter in sports is Megan Rapinoe, a member of the US women’s soccer team, who kneeled during the national anthem before a match Sunday to show her solidarity with Kaepernick.

Rapinoe discussed that she identifies with Kaepernick’s efforts, and underscored the need for white Americans to join the movement:

Being a gay American, I know what it means to look at the flag and not have it protect all of your liberties. It was something small that I could do and something that I plan to keep doing in the future and hopefully spark some meaningful conversation around it. It’s important to have white people stand in support of people of color on this. We don’t need to be the leading voice, of course, but standing in support of them is something that’s really powerful.

Watch Obama’s remarks below:

Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Summer-Ender Of 2016: Political Hurricanes And A Quarterback Tempest

Summer’s lease hath all too short a date, Shakespeare says. But the Bard died 400 years ago and never saw the burning summer of 2016.

I’m not even talking about the weather yet.

As August exits, two political hurricanes, named Hillary and Donald, will hit landfall to slam a thousand towns. It’s not clear which gale force is strongest. What’s clear is, the electorate is cut apart along bright lines of gender, race and class, never more polarized.

Donald Trump, new to the Republican Party, knows their dirty games like he’s been running all his life. Richard Nixon would be proud. Mocking Hillary Clinton as a “bigot” is a bit much from the man who trash-talked Mexicans and Muslims.

Yet the unforgettable presidential campaign of 2016 is young. The worst is yet to come. Elections get underway on Labor Day. That’s the tradition in American politics, with state fairs across the Midwest and pig roasts in the South. (I’ve covered one in Virginia.) Those running for office once stood on tree stumps to speak, making Abraham Lincoln loom even larger. That was a “stump speech.”

This prospect is remarkable — a politically poised woman running against a crude, obstreperous man on his first election, who gives no clue what he’ll say next. It seems more out of season because we Americans like to like presidents.

Both Clinton and Trump have severe negative ratings. Fewer than half of those polled liked either one, with Trump’s 63 percent several points worse than Clinton’s. Some say she’s lucky to have Trump, but her score is nothing to celebrate. Fervent supporters are great — which both candidates have — but it’s hard to win over people that hate you, before and after Election Day. Governing will be a challenge for either one.

It’s worth remembering the media covering the candidates — the chattering class — doesn’t like either of them. Clinton and Trump return the favor and keep the press distant and disrespected. (Reporters covering George W. Bush found him genial, which helped him win against Al Gore.) Neither likes to be questioned. It’s bad flying inside the eyes of the hurricanes.

The fall will bring a new president. But what else?

We long for autumn air and light, apples and cider instead of lemonade, ready to pick the garden’s last cosmos and zinnias. Soccer in our future. Baseball and football dramas. Weather turning.

Speaking of that, quarterback Colin Kaepernick unleashed a tempest by refusing to stand with San Francisco 49ers for the national anthem. That’s a controversy worth a real conversation. Having lived in San Francisco and Baltimore, where “The Star-Spangled Banner” lyrics were written, I felt it hit home.

Francis Scott Key, the lawyer-poet who witnessed the British bombardment of Baltimore from the water and wrote the stirring verses the next day, was handsome, rich and clever. By rich, I mean one of the wealthiest landowners in Maryland – with land worked by enslaved people. He later advised President Andrew Jackson, a ruthless slaveowner at Hermitage plantation. And his brother-in-law, Chief Justice Roger Taney, was considered the most racist chief justice in antebellum America.

First, it takes a quarterback to command the attention of white folks. It takes a quarterback with a black identity to think of such a thing — a nonviolent public protest against police brutality by not standing for the flag and the awkward anthem Baltimore ladies fought to name the national anthem. Back in 1931, Congress surrendered.

Let it be gone. I sit with Kaepernick in spirit, past and present.

Key embodies the “Slave Power” that lost a civil war for “the land of the free.” He’s on the wrong side of the work ahead to further race relations on troubled city streets, just like Baltimore’s.

Sure, let’s honor the flag and the seamstress, Mary Pickersgill, who made it in her house by the harbor. There’s always “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” or “America the Beautiful” as a new anthem superior to Key’s. Did I mention the writers were women?

Lest I forget, burning barometers, near 100 degrees for days straight on the East Coast and Florida, oppressed our puckish spirits.

So, if the Bard asked me, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

I’d say: “Only if it’s a hurricane.”

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit Creators.com.