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Trump’s Racist Attack On NFL Players Is A Losing Game

For normal people, sports often serve as a refuge from politics. The President of the United States is not among them. Donald Trump’s idea of a spectator sport, it can’t be emphasized too often, is WWE professional wrestling: a phony, pre-scripted spectacle most often on racial and ethnic themes, mainly featuring steroid abusers insufficiently athletic for real pro competition.
 Not for nothing was Trump voted into the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame years before he was elected to anything else. Swaggering, boasting, name-calling and throwing laughably fake punches at antagonists who topple like bowling pins—those are Trump’s skills.
Along the way, he appears to have learned how gullible and easily-manipulated millions of Americans can be, how distracted by publicity stunts, how eager to boo cartoon villains and cheer make-believe heroes such as himself. But who’d have thought that even Trump would attempt to govern the country that way?
His attacks on professional athletes are basically Big Brother’s “Two Minutes Hate” in football cleats.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag,” Trump told an Alabama audience “to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s FIRED!’”
Listening to crowd reaction, I suspect they’d have cheered even louder if he’d shouted “Send those darkies back to Africa!”
Because that’s what it was all about.
About precisely this, as seen in a Facebook post: “Most NFL fans are white Patriots that are not going to pay $300 to $1000 to go see a bunch of entitled blacks take a big [bleep] on the nation! One of the biggest things that makes millionaires out of poor lower IQ blacks is football and they are too stupid not to kill the goose that laid the golden egg for some dumbass reason like sitting through the national anthem.”
Actually, they knelt. Colin Kaepernick’s teammate Eric Reid wrote a New York Times column explaining why: “We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.”
“It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.”
Reid, an LSU All-American, wanted to make a statement about a police killing of a black man in Baton Rouge. He also pointed out that the much-criticized Kaepernick has donated and raised millions to feed the hungry in Somalia and the USA. He finds it puzzling that President Trump calls people like him “sons of bitches” while defending Charlottesville neo-Nazis as “very fine people.”
I’m not always a big fan of his prose style, but The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates may have put it most succinctly: “His ideology is white supremacy, in all its truculent and sanctimonious power.”
Ultimately, it’s a loser’s game.
How things will shake out politically remains to be seen. In the short run, few politicians have suffered from wrapping themselves in the flag. But the reaction of NFL owners and, frankly, white football stars has not gone Trump’s way. Even New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, his sometime golfing partner, has defended players’ right to protest.
Interesting that Brady’s no-show at the White House last year passed without comment, don’t you think? Meanwhile Trump made a personal attack on Golden State’s brilliant point guard Steph Curry for expressing his own reluctance to go. The president may have failed to take into account that sports stars have constituencies of their own. My view is that somebody who’s got a grudge against Steph Curry has serious problems. Basketball’s a quintessentially American game, and few athletes compete with his kind of open-hearted joy.
 On the other hand, far better that Trump should pick fights with the likes of Curry and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell than continue his angry-toddler dispute with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. You know, the one where two insecure braggarts threaten to exterminate millions with nuclear weapons.
Surrounded by bodyguards all his life, Trump has no idea what can go wrong when one blowhard confronts somebody even crazier. There’s no sign the Korean demagogue has a clue either. North Korea has been making absurd threats against the United States for three generations now, largely to keep its own population in thrall.
 It’s in King Lear: “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.”
 Meanwhile, come evening, I’ll be tuned in to the Boston Red Sox game. Three blessed hours, give or take, where the name “Trump” will not be mentioned.
IMAGE: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick talks to media after the game against the San Diego Chargers in San Diego, September 1, 2016. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo 

U.S. Judge Questions NFL’s ‘Deflategate’ Case Against Brady

By Joseph Ax and Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A federal judge on Wednesday fired tough questions at a National Football League lawyer about whether New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s four-game “Deflategate” suspension is supported by the evidence.

The hearing in New York before U.S. District Judge Richard Berman, who is overseeing the players union’s challenge to the suspension, was followed by several hours of private settlement discussions with the judge that included Brady and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Neither Brady nor Goodell would comment on whether any progress had been made when they left the courthouse separately around 5:30 p.m. (2130 GMT), more than five hours after the open hearing ended.

A union representative declined to comment. The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier in court, Berman pressed NFL lawyer Daniel Nash to cite direct evidence linking Brady to an alleged scheme to deflate footballs in a January playoff game.

Nash acknowledged that there was no “smoking gun” but said there was plenty of circumstantial evidence – including a series of texts between Brady and the Patriots employees accused of letting air out of the balls – that Brady was aware of the deflation.

Brady, 38, sat stone-faced throughout the proceeding, even when a few light remarks from Berman drew laughs from the rest of the courtroom.

Berman also met briefly with each side before the hearing to gauge whether a settlement could be reached before the Patriots’ season begins on Sept. 10.

Unless there is a deal, the two sides are scheduled to appear before Berman again on Aug. 19 for oral arguments on whether he should uphold or vacate the suspension.

Goodell suspended Brady, one of the NFL’s biggest stars, following an investigation into the footballs used in the Patriots’ 45-7 playoff victory over the Indianapolis Colts. That win took the Patriots to the Super Bowl, where they defeated the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, giving Brady his fourth championship title.

Brady has denied knowing about any plan to deflate footballs, which can make them easier to grip.

At the hearing, Berman asked Brady lawyer Jeffrey Kessler why the quarterback refused to turn over any texts or emails to NFL investigator Ted Wells, whose report was the basis for Goodell’s suspension. Brady also had his phone replaced and destroyed, a point Goodell emphasized in rejecting Brady’s appeal.

Kessler, however, said Brady had followed the advice of his lawyer in declining to hand over his communications, and added that the quarterback routinely destroys his old phones to avoid unwanted leaks to the media.

“This is the most overblown issue in the history of my over 40 years of litigation,” Kessler said.

Brady’s presence drew a throng of reporters and photographers outside the courthouse in downtown Manhattan, as well as a handful of fans wearing Brady’s No. 12 jersey.

Some called Goodell a “liar” as he walked in. As Brady entered, another fan yelled, “Give ’em hell, Tom!”

Trevor Schramn, 20, was wearing a “Free Tom Brady” T-shirt and said he had come to “support our boy.”

“The Patriots are winners, and people are always going to hate the team on top,” he said.

The NFL has already fined the Patriots $1 million and stripped the team of its first-round draft pick in 2016 and fourth-round selection in 2017. The litigation in New York only concerns Brady’s suspension.

New England opens its preseason on Thursday night at home against the Green Bay Packers. While Brady’s suspension does not take effect until the regular season, the team has not announced whether he will play on Thursday.

If the suspension is upheld, second-year backup Jimmy Garoppolo, who played sparingly last year, would likely start at quarterback in Brady’s place. In a twist, Brady would be eligible to return on Oct. 18 against the Colts in a nationally televised game.

(Additional reporting by Steve Ginsburg)

Photo: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady exits the Manhattan Federal Courthouse in New York August 12, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Tom Brady Should Sue Goodell’s Pants Off

By Gil Lebreton, Fort Worth Star-Telegram (TNS)

Considering that he has amassed career earnings of $150 million and that his supermodel wife Gisele banked $47 million herself just this past year, it’s probably ludicrous to think that Tom Brady lies awake these nights, worrying about Roger Goodell.

But it’s a good thing that his lawyers are, at least.

Sue Goodell. Sue his pants off, Tom.

Please spare me your righteous indignation about NFL integrity and the New England Patriots’ rap sheet and coach Bill Belichick’s tendency to fondle the loopholes.

We are talking about the air in footballs here, not knocking out spouses or switching a child until he bleeds. Did you even know there was a rule about air pressure before Deflategate?

When we were growing up, the kid down the street always liked to use his ball — the one he got for Christmas with the stripes on it, college style — when he quarterbacked our touch football games.

We preferred our old scuffed football. No problem. Both sides could use what they want.

How the Patriots’ interpretation of this time-honored sandlot protocol grew into a national scandal would be funny, if Goodell hadn’t gone all medieval on the thing.

An original two-game suspension for Ray Rice, but a four-game suspension for Brady?

Sue Goodell’s pants off, Tom.

Clearly the commissioner, emboldened by hoodwinking the players’ union into handing him deity-like powers, is making up punishments as he goes along. His handling of the New Orleans Saints’ imaginary Bountygate scandal was only the first hint.

This time he waited for “independent” investigator Ted Wells’ 243-page report, which concluded that the Patriots’ deflating was “more probable than not.”

Goodell’s sword was swift. Brady was suspended four games without pay for the 2015 season — which will include a road game against the Dallas Cowboys on October 11. The Patriots were also fined one million dollars, plus ordered to forfeit their No. 1 draft pick in 2016 and No. 4 in 2017.

Brady’s lawyer filed an immediate appeal on his behalf. Cowboys fans may want to follow the progress of that appeal.

The NFL Players Association, meanwhile, is trying to get Goodell dismissed from hearing the appeal of the case since the Patriots intend to call him as a witness.

Director DeMaurice Smith and the players’ union brought this upon themselves by treating Goodell’s magic-wand powers as a bargaining chip in the last contract negotiations.

Now the union finds itself pulling the rope, trying to drag ashore lost leverage while unpopularly defending the likes of Rice, Greg Hardy, and Adrian Peterson.

Brady? Oh, he’ll be fine. He remains adored by many, even beyond New England. And he still gets to keep the $47 million girl.

His legacy tarnished? Oh, please. For using a football that felt slightly more comfortable in his hand?

And if his suspension isn’t reduced on appeal, consider the trade-off. There isn’t a coach in the league who wouldn’t trade a four-game suspension for four Lombardi trophies.

In the end, despite his arrogant facade and $44 million annual salary, Goodell will take the biggest hit. It’s one thing for a rogue owner like Jerry Jones to profess his loyalty for the commissioner. It’s quite another that Goodell has angered Bob Kraft, the powerful Patriots owner who was once his ally.

Despite what Goodell says, Deflategate has never been about integrity and fairness. Nobody hacked into any Seattle Seahawks computers here.

From the beginning, this has been much ado about nothing. It’s been about NFL fans’ disdain for Belichick and their jealousy of Brady, the luckiest football player alive.

Goodell had to do something, and now he’s got half of America again questioning his integrity and job performance.

No objections here, your honor.

Sue his pants off.

Photo: Keith Allison via Flickr

Senator Presses NFL On Domestic Violence Ahead Of Super Bowl

By Niels Lesniewski, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

Sen. Richard Blumenthal isn’t convinced the National Football League is doing everything possible to address domestic violence.

The Connecticut Democrat is particularly skeptical of the way the NFL plans to allocate $25 million over five years to back groups that fight domestic violence. Some of that money will come in the form of “promotional support” to entities such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline, according to a letter to Blumenthal and Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) from Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Aside from the dollar value seeming small compared to the NFL’s multibillion-dollar revenues, Blumenthal sounds dubious of the promotional elements, and he fired off a response letter to Goodell on Friday.

“Even at the current level of commitment, when it comes to clear terms for timing and action, the NFL has hedged and dodged. The letter implies that some of the $25 million would be used for promotional support, which may include public service announcements,” Blumenthal said. “These supposed ‘public service’ ads may also be self-serving — promoting the NFL’s public image as much as raising awareness. Insofar as they raise public awareness, they are likely to substantially increase call volume to the hotline as well as requests for service without actually bolstering resources for local service providers that struggle every day to help survivors rebuild their lives.”

There is a significant additional commitment for public service announcements from the League, Goodell wrote in his letter.

“During the past regular season, the NFL donated its institutional media time during game broadcasts to run PSAs featuring celebrities, as well as current and former NFL players, that were produced in conjunction with the advocacy group NO MORE,” Goodell wrote, valuing the commitment at about $50 million, running through the Super Bowl.

Blumenthal’s response also highlights the potential for a legislative response.

“Regardless of financial commitment, the NFL so far has not articulated how it will ensure that its athletes are genuinely good role models to fans – a step that only the NFL can take towards truly shifting the culture,” he wrote. “Taken in totality, I believe that the NFL’s handling of its response to public outcry over the league’s role in domestic violence is a clear indication of why additional oversight of professional sports leagues is necessary. I plan to reintroduce the SPORTS Act to make sure that Congress and the public have the ability to periodically and formally review the appropriateness of the antitrust exemptions.”

AFP Photo