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Boris

Lost Season

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First, this is not a political or social statement, but my thoughts as a Saints fan.  I am not inviting a political or social discussion.

I renewed my Saints tickets at a pretty significant expense at a very difficult time financially.   Its strange to think that I have paid for something that I might not even be able to use, or want use.

Whether this season is played in front of an empty stadium, a small amount of fans, or a filled Superdome, I tend to think this season is lost.  There are too many things happening to make football seem relevant, even though it creates an escape.  The Drew Brees controversy for me put the last nail in the coffin.  Regardless of how you feel about that and all the hell that is going on right now, between politics, COVID-19, unemployment, the upcoming election, players making millions of dollars in the face of all of this, protests, riots, the horrible killing of George Floyd or the senseless killings and injuring of police and other innocent people, football just seems irrelevant. 

Over the past several months, I have learned to do without sports, something that I have always loved as an escape.  I think the games will be a source of additional protests,.. it will not be an escape.  I do not intend to attend any games this year.

Its really scary when New Orleanians are yelling, "F- Drew Brees" in the streets... its almost surreal.  And expect to hear it at the games.  Drew is not a quitter, but I wouldn't be surprised if he retires.  Why subject you and your family to hatred both on and off the field?   He is now even being criticized for apologizing by both sides, giving in or disingenuous.   Actions tend to speak stronger than words, and he did contribute $5 million to help people in need before all the protests.   He is being ostracized for a bad choice of words at the wrong time.  Anyone really thinks Drew is a villain as a person? 

I wish everyone well both health-wise and spiritually.  Hopefully our country will come out of this.  Football is the least of our worries.

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I quit on Euro-Football and most likely, I will quit on American Football as well. None of this makes any sense to me, at this point. We (talking about German ynow, but I bet it is worse in the US) dont have money to pay nurses, cops, firemen or any normal worker or business clerk enough money to allow them a decent life. At the same time, ever yidiot, that can run straight for 10 meters is paid millions in the Bundesliga, Premier League, Serie A  or in the Primiera Division. I will not loner support that financially. I have already terminated all pay TV channels and I will not attend the games any longer.

The narative of our capitalist system supporting that kind of dispersion of funds has been exposed during this crisis. This is not healthy business. I'm done with this bulldiddly-poo.

In regards of Brees. Hell, Im terribly disappointed. I like my hero's either morally correct, or smart enough to not say something like what he said. It's terrible. And I fear Tom is right, Brees will not be able to catch this remarks of his and make it go away, any time soon.

I'm very sure, he is mad, he made that statement. And I don't blieve he is a racist in the common meaning of the term. But this is a big stain and it wont go away just like that.

Edited by boricko
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I gave up my NBA tickets last year after the Anthony Davis fiasco.   I’ll give up the Saints next year; I wish I had done so this year.

 I’ll probably still watch the games on tv, but I won’t plan my life around it anymore.  The COVID- sports cold turkey ironically made me break the habit.  

 

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My brother sent me the clip of Brees and we both thought how tone deaf. But I think Brees is smart enough to say the right things and bring the team back together. That looks like it's already happening today. While I agree the whole COVID scare provides context to sports for many, I still think it's a welcome distraction. Just like the first game in the Dome after Katrina or GWB throwing out that first pitch. Yes we have major major problems in our society and culture, but sports offers a lot. Yes it's obscene how much money athletes get paid compared to teachers who can barely feed their families. But many athletes do a lot of good with their money and provide opportunities for underprivileged that they wouldn't have otherwise.

All in all I'm hopeful that Brees can learn from this and see others perspective and the team can rally around him. He's done a lot of good for our city, and those f Brees chants weren't so widespread. Whether or not there will be a normal season because of COVID is another story..

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The Saints return after Katrina was a highlight of my sports life.   It was a victory over a natural disaster, and a sense of reuniting the community.  The Saints have always brought different people of various backgrounds together.

Football would have brought people together after COVID-19, but I think the racial issues will persist and the controversy over the national anthem will continue and be divisive.    I pray that I am wrong. 

 

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My love for the game has slowly been dying over the years, I've made my share of posts regarding it. I will say that it was good to see Brees's apology today. Yesterday I was in a different mindset, I assure you. He made his bed, he spoke his mind, he realized that he hurt people and changed his tone regarding what he said with the release of his statement. He heard from his teammates past and present, he was put on BLAST. I'm glad he clarified his stance and I don't believe Brees meant to hurt but has since realized the gravity of what he was stating. Some will forgive, some will never, some will be mad he went back on what he said whilst others have no issue with what he said. To see the talent we have assembled and to see this blow-up and become what it became was a concern as to how he could fix this. Players on his team unfollowed him on social media, others called him out, it was in the news cycle and dominating it. Not the kind of energy you want going into what is already a questionable season, at best. Today they allowed the coaches to go to their jobs?!? It's June, I still don't see how we have a 'normal' season.

We are on the cusp of the 2nd wave of illness after people have just gathered to protest all around the country. I know multiple people in New Orleans who've died from this. If we locked down completely when this started, there was a chance, now there is no way any of us can put our asses in a stadium seat safely, period. How many of us struggled with even getting our tickets at all, then all this. My business is struggling by day and I'm under siege at night, I've had little time to think about the game much less all the stuff that goes with it. As a society, we have more pressing issues to address as a whole. I hear you fully Boris and unsure how this will be or subside if it will, and how we will be pummeled with it by talking heads. I don't watch anything but the sport I care about, I no longer follow much of the media and only get what I get from twitter. Sports is an escape, hard to escape when you can't even get out, much less mentally escape. Escape to what, a game we can't attend? A game with piped-in noise? I've watched the piped-in noise at the recent Bundesliga games and it rings hollow, very hollow. Laliga starts again next week, will I watch, yes. Do I care about sports right now, no, very little? I've got people struggling all around me, the industry I'm involved in has been destroyed by looters with 40 around me viciously attacked in the last 96 hours alone, myself included. I'm safe and so is my business for now/today, dunno about tomorrow tho. 

The NFL is going to try to put a square peg into a round hole and were going to try to play along with it. It's going to be weird and awkward. The problem is going to be what happens when a player pops positive, not for drugs, but for COVID. How can the NFL continue with that? Are we setting ourselves up for disappointment, methinks so. 

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Talk about a crazy turn of events, Brees hurts teammates with his words, people love it, people hate it, Brees listens to teammates past and preset, addresses team, and then apologizes, people hate it, people love it, President weighs in saying Brees shouldn't have apologized, then the NFL apologizes to players and Black Lives Matter and then Brees schools said President?!? Really?!?

I can honestly say I did NOT see any of this transpiring like this, yet, here we are. 2020 is in a league all its own. 

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7 hours ago, Saint ATN said:

Talk about a crazy turn of events, Brees hurts teammates with his words, people love it, people hate it, Brees listens to teammates past and preset, addresses team, and then apologizes, people hate it, people love it, President weighs in saying Brees shouldn't have apologized, then the NFL apologizes to players and Black Lives Matter and then Brees schools said President?!? Really?!?

I can honestly say I did NOT see any of this transpiring like this, yet, here we are. 2020 is in a league all its own. 

This response is exactly what the country needed. We don't have leadership in the WH right now, but we do have our leaders....and I really believe change is coming this time....

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On 6/4/2020 at 3:51 PM, Saint ATN said:

My love for the game has slowly been dying over the years, I've made my share of posts regarding it. I will say that it was good to see Brees's apology today. Yesterday I was in a different mindset, I assure you. He made his bed, he spoke his mind, he realized that he hurt people and changed his tone regarding what he said with the release of his statement. He heard from his teammates past and present, he was put on BLAST. I'm glad he clarified his stance and I don't believe Brees meant to hurt but has since realized the gravity of what he was stating. Some will forgive, some will never, some will be mad he went back on what he said whilst others have no issue with what he said. To see the talent we have assembled and to see this blow-up and become what it became was a concern as to how he could fix this. Players on his team unfollowed him on social media, others called him out, it was in the news cycle and dominating it. Not the kind of energy you want going into what is already a questionable season, at best. Today they allowed the coaches to go to their jobs?!? It's June, I still don't see how we have a 'normal' season.

We are on the cusp of the 2nd wave of illness after people have just gathered to protest all around the country. I know multiple people in New Orleans who've died from this. If we locked down completely when this started, there was a chance, now there is no way any of us can put our asses in a stadium seat safely, period. How many of us struggled with even getting our tickets at all, then all this. My business is struggling by day and I'm under siege at night, I've had little time to think about the game much less all the stuff that goes with it. As a society, we have more pressing issues to address as a whole. I hear you fully Boris and unsure how this will be or subside if it will, and how we will be pummeled with it by talking heads. I don't watch anything but the sport I care about, I no longer follow much of the media and only get what I get from twitter. Sports is an escape, hard to escape when you can't even get out, much less mentally escape. Escape to what, a game we can't attend? A game with piped-in noise? I've watched the piped-in noise at the recent Bundesliga games and it rings hollow, very hollow. Laliga starts again next week, will I watch, yes. Do I care about sports right now, no, very little? I've got people struggling all around me, the industry I'm involved in has been destroyed by looters with 40 around me viciously attacked in the last 96 hours alone, myself included. I'm safe and so is my business for now/today, dunno about tomorrow tho. 

The NFL is going to try to put a square peg into a round hole and were going to try to play along with it. It's going to be weird and awkward. The problem is going to be what happens when a player pops positive, not for drugs, but for COVID. How can the NFL continue with that? Are we setting ourselves up for disappointment, methinks so. 

Very uneasy time in so many ways.  Wish you the best.  Please stay safe!

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FMIA: Anger, Apologies And Videos Gone Viral—Inside The Three Days That Sparked Major Shift In The NFL

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It’s too early to say that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were Three Days That Changed the NFL. Action has to follow words. But the seeds are there for change.

Those three days produced lots of anger, lots of words, one meaningful F-bomb, lots of vows, one very good video, one incredible cameo by an NBA Hall of Famer, lots of drama, tears from the leading passer in NFL history, a significant act of rebellion by a 27-year-old NFL person no one’s ever heard of, 20 NFL players flexing their collective muscle, a video for the ages produced and posted from a kitchen table in a small apartment in an L.A. neighborhood, an NFL star sticking it to the president of the United States, and the commissioner of the NFL saying for all to hear: “Black lives matter.”

The NFL is always dead in June. The NFL is not dead this June.

Football, like America, is a tinderbox right now.

A couple things first. Last column before vacation here. Over the next five Mondays, you’ll get five fun/interesting guest columns. Today, I’m excited about three things: the weird tick-tock of the cracklingly explosive events in the NFL . . . some prominent black men in and around the NFL looking forward to what’s next in the league and the world. (Houston safety Michael Thomas: “I’ve got to be the change I want to see.”) And in my annual Father’s Day book section, one of my favorite books in recent years, “Know My Name,” by Chanel Miller. Do you think I can get you to read/experience a hugely important book about sexual assault, the book that every incoming freshman at Duke will be required to read this year? “I have wondered how I can get more people, males in general, to sit with the book,” Miller told me. Well, we’ll try.

So, a really different column, in a really different time in our lives.

The Lead: Three Days

 

A timeline of three tumultuous days, all times Eastern:

Wednesday: The Preamble

11:41 a.m. Drew Brees, in an interview with Yahoo Finance, is asked about players kneeling in protest during the national anthem. “I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States,” Brees said. It’s a feeling the patriotic Brees has had for years. He’s said similar things before. But now the inference that Brees would disapprove of a black player kneeling to protest the oppression of black people was a lit match tossed into a bone-dry forest.

3:35 p.m. Today’s sports culture is interesting. Instead of reaching out to Brees and saying, Hey, that’s insulting to us, teammates and foes alike jeered Brees on social media—first wideout Michael Thomas, then safety Malcolm Jenkins, finally LeBron James. Brees got flash-bombed everywhere. “Sometimes you need to shut the f— up,” said teammate and Players Coalition leader Malcolm Jenkins in an Instagram post he later deleted. As one person close to Brees told me, the social-media rip jobs reminded him of “Lord of the Flies.” In that book, normal British boys get stranded on a desert island and have to fend for themselves, and they spiral into savagery to survive. Sounds about right.

5:10 p.m. Meanwhile, Story Two was percolating and about to boil over. As with many NFL employees, NFL social media creative producer, Bryndon Minter, 27, was angry with the NFL’s word-salad response to the George Floyd murder and the ensuing outcry for a firmer message. Early in the week, with the Floyd killing beginning to dominate society, Minter told his bosses he didn’t want to do business as usual. He couldn’t in good conscience post “Five best Jalen Ramsey interceptions,” and he couldn’t sit by while his employer wasn’t out-front with an action plan for the Floyd story. So Minter, who is white, did something that he knew could cost him his job. What if he could get a player, or players, to voice what they were feeling, adamantly? Working virtually from his kitchen table in Mar Vista (in West L.A.), Minter sent a message to Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas, who’d been reacting strongly to the death of Floyd. “Want to help you create content to be heard around the league,” Minter wrote to Thomas. “I’m an NFL social employee and am embarrassed by how the league has been silent this week. The NFL hasn’t condemned racism. The NFL hasn’t said that Black Lives Matter. I want [to] help you put pressure on. And arm you with a video that expresses YOUR voice and what you want from the league. Give me a holler if you’re interested in working together, thanks bro!” Minter said he did not expect a response.

5:33 p.m. He got one, in 23 minutes. Thomas, in New Orleans, answered. He was interested. What could they do? Minter envisioned players telling the NFL they needed to be supported more, and the highest levels of the league needed to come out unambiguously and say peaceful player protest was okay, racism in any form was not, black lives matter, and listen to your players. Thomas okayed the project. “We have the channels—we need the content that can share our voice,” Thomas said.  Minter and co-worker Nick Toney, working from his home in New York, went to work.

11 p.m. Minter pinged Thomas and said he’d have a script ready for him to peruse that night. Minter and Toney, bi-Coastal, worked using a Google Doc to add and subtract copy. At one point, one said, “My God! Michael Thomas is in on this!” They kept trimming. “It needed to be snackable,” Minter said. Because Thomas thought he could engage several players to be in on the video, Minter and Toney wrote lines for multiple players. One of the key lines they wanted multiple players in a Zoom-like checkerboard to say was, “WE, the players of the National Football League.” To show the game IS the players. Thomas would lead the video. Minter and Toney wrote this for the emerging leader and young star whose Twitter feed @Cantguardmike is one of the league’s rising social accounts, as if Thomas was speaking directly to Roger Goodell, and for Thomas and other players to lead the video with::

“It’s been 10 days since George Floyd was brutally murdered. How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players? What will it take? For one of us to be murdered by police brutality? What if I was George Floyd?”

Thursday: The Wheels Are In Motion

2 a.m. Thomas got the script after midnight in New Orleans. Loved it. Meanwhile, he began engaging some of the league’s biggest stars to be involved—at the same time he was dealing with the three-alarm fire of what Brees said, prepping for a major Saints team meeting on Thursday. “I’m in awe of how Michael balanced these two huge things,” said Minter. “While simultaneously dealing with the Drew Brees situation and figuring how to handle that, he’s texting all these guys around the league to be involved in this project. Once he was in, he said, ‘Don’t worry. We’ll get the best of the best for this.”

8:22 a.m. Drew Brees on Twitter: “I am sorry, and I will do better, and I will be part of the solution. I am your ally.” On CNN, Saints linebacker Demario Davis supported Brees, saying the mark of a leader is admitting a mistake.

10 a.m. By the time Minter woke up, he’d been sent files from Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks of the Vikings and Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott. Odell Beckham Jr. sent his files on iCloud. Minter told a supervisor what he was doing, so as not to blindside him, knowing that the supervisor would send the information of this rogue video up the food chain. “I was at peace with whatever happened, at peace with the prospect of losing my job over this,” Minter said. “If I was told I was losing my job in the middle of this, I’d still have put the video out. I was just the vehicle for the players having a voice.”

1:15 p.m. Ordering breakfast in the drive-through lane at Chick Fil-A, Minter got confirmation that Patrick Mahomes was in. Mahomes, the new face of the league; that was big.

1:45 p.m. Jets safety Jamal Adams, via cameraphone from his driver’s seat, sent his “WE, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people,” and raised his right fist in a black power salute. Mahomes’ video, recorded in his shoe closet, said “WE, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter.” This was a kernel of an idea 20 hours ago. Now, Minter knew, it was going to be huge. “When I saw Jamal’s video and his passion, I got goosebumps,” Minter said. “That’s the same emotion my black colleagues working in the league have.”

2 p.m. The Saints team meeting commenced. In a 100-minute meeting via teleconference, Brees emotionally apologized—that much we know, and we’re pretty sure it included tears from Brees. We don’t know a lot, though, because Payton and the Saints threw a news blackout over what happened in the room. I’m guessing the Saints coach is going to channel his inner Parcells over the next couple of months. Noted tough guy/mental-game-player Bill Parcells is a mentor for Payton, who I’d bet will try to find a way to make this this an us-versus-them thing, us against the divisive forces of all media—including the social-media missives from other NFL players and in other leagues.

shaq-sean.jpg?w=900
Saints coach Sean Payton and NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal. (Getty Images/2)

The weird part of the story is there was one non-Saint in the Zoom meeting: Shaquille O’Neal. The team has guests speak to some virtual team meetings (Snoop Dogg did the honors on one meeting in May), and Shaq happened to be on the schedule Thursday. So there he was, watching the most emotional and important Zoom meeting in NFL history—it’s not a very long history—and when Shaq spoke up, he had something to say. Something, it turns out, that made him quite a valuable participant in this Zoom meeting. As one ear-witness said, O’Neal told the coaches and players words approximating these: They’re going to try to divide you, just like they divided us with the Lakers! Me and Kobe [Bryant], we had a great thing going, but the media divided our team. We could have won five more championships! Stay strong. Don’t let the media divide you! Don’t let social media divide you!

5 p.m. Working on his NFL-issued MacBook Pro on approximately 100 video files of all different quality from 20 NFL players—including Deshaun Watson, Stephon Gilmore, Odell Beckham Jr., Saquon Barkley, Jarvis Landry, Tyrann Mathieu, DeAndre Hopkins and newcomer Chase Young—there was only one player missing: Giants receiver Sterling Shepard. Thomas very much wanted Shepard, and his “I am Laquan McDonald” line, in the final product. Amazingly, the video was just about ready and captioned less than 24 hours after Minter broached the idea to Thomas.

6:32 p.m. A new and bolstered NFL statement was issued for the @NFL Twitter feed. “We stand with the black community because Black Lives Matter. Through Inspire Change, the NFL, Players and our partners have supported programs and initiatives throughout the country to address systemic racism. We will continue using our platform to challenge the injustice around us. To date we have donated $44 million to support hundreds of worthy organizations. This year, we are committing an additional $20 million to these causes and we will accelerate efforts to highlight their critical work. We know that we can and need to do more.”

The NFL kept hearing from its employees that its previous statement was weak and didn’t clearly state it condemns racism—even though its work with the Players Coalition, including a May 26 meeting with Coalition leader Anquan Boldin, laid out a platform of work it would do this year in police reform. The league had been thinking of bolstering the message since Tuesday, so this new statement wasn’t spur-of-the-moment. But it did end up beating the players video by 2.5 hours. “Hearing the league say ‘Black lives matter’ was a start,” one player said.

8:15 p.m. Minter got the video file from Sterling Shepard. “I am Laquan McDonald.” He shoehorned it into the video, polished it, and sent the final product to Thomas. “This is the most insane thing I’ve done in my life,” Minter said. “Unheard of from a creative standpoint.” Less than 28 hours after virtually meeting Michael Thomas, an iconic video (and it will be) was created and posted, and it will affect how people view players, perhaps for a long time.

8:45 p.m. In a text to Minter after watching the video, Thomas wrote: “Amazing work. You are elite.”

9 p.m. The video posted on Saquon Barkley’s account, and seven minutes later Michael Thomas posted. A hit. What was so compelling about it is the tinge of anger that accompanied messages from such widely respected players. Mathieu, for instance, is one of the best leaders on any team in football; Andy Reid gave him a strong leadership role on the Super Bowl Chiefs last year. He was speaking directly to Goodell when he said: “How many time do we need to ask you to listen to your players?” Neatly woven together are 20 voices, saying this: “We will not be silenced. We assert our right to peacefully protest. It shouldn’t take this long to admit … So on behalf of the National Football League, this is what we the players would like to hear you state: We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systemic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit wrong in silencing our players from peacefully protesting. We, the National Football League, believe black lives matter.”

 

9:30 p.m. Sitting in his home in Washington, D.C., former player Donte’ Stallworth, who was politically active as a player and is even moreso now, watched the video. He pumped his fist. “YES! YES!” Stallworth said. Later, he said, “The players are finally wielding this power they’ve always had. I loved it.”

Friday: Black Employees Matter

10 a.m. “I’m going to make a video,” Goodell announces to his executive team on a regular morning videoconference. (League employees are still working from home.) The video was powerful, as were several emails to Goodell from black employees, who make up about 10 percent of the league’s off-the-field work force. One spoke of “hopelessness,” and that got to Goodell. There was a league town hall, co-hosted by M.J. Acosta and Steve Wyche of NFL Network, scheduled for 1 p.m., with Goodell and three guest speakers to discuss race and the state of the league and the country. On the Zoom invitation were 12 faces of black people killed by police in recent years. On another Zoom meeting during the week, about 200 employees, the majority black members of the league’s chapter of the Black Engagement Network, met virtually. “It was a ‘Let it out’ session,” said Jarick Walker, 31, an influencer and talent marketing manager for the league. Walker is black. “A lot of people [black employees] were feeling frustrated. But we got to the point where we weren’t afraid to voice it anymore.”

1 p.m. The 100-minute virtual Town Hall was emotional from the start. One person in the meeting said it was actually Jarick Walker’s question/plea that was the most riveting. Walker was prepared. He was the first employee to speak. “I was outspoken,” Walker told me. “My point, basically, was this: I am unsure where we stand. The NFL is the American sport that brings us all together when disasters happen. The NFL brought the country together after 9/11, after Karina. Here’s another disaster. The NFL’s not bringing us together. Why? We’re America’s game. We need to hear from the mountaintop that we as a league condemn racism.”

When he finished, Walker said, the Zoom Town Hall, with hundreds on it, was silent. “I was shaking,” Walker said. “I broke down in tears.” If Goodell didn’t know now how his black employees felt, he did now. And though he’d already decided to come out strong with his own video, this was another brick in the wall.

nflinvite.jpg?w=929
Jarick Walker (left) spoke up during the NFL’s in-house town hall meeting. (NBC Sports)

3 p.m. Goodell, in a blue sweater in his home 15 miles north of the league office in Westchester County, recorded his 81-second video for posting that evening. He said:

“We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter.

“I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much-needed change in this country.

“Without black players, there would be no National Football League, and the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff. We are listening. I am listening.”

4:08 p.m. President Trump, who had once urged NFL owners to fire any “son of a bitch” NFL player for kneeling during the national anthem, criticized Brees for apologizing to his teammates and to the country. NO KNEELING, Trump said. All caps. Now the ball was in Brees’ court.

6:31 p.m. The NFL released Goodell’s statement on Twitter.

 

7:10 p.m. Drew Brees rebutted Donald Trump’s criticism for apologizing by tweeting: “We must stop talking about the flag and shift our attention to the real issues of systemic racial injustice, economic oppression, police brutality, and judicial & prison reform. We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s history! If not now, then when? We as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities.”

7:18 p.m.: Michael Thomas retweeted Goodell’s statement with this line: “Well said Roger.”

10:14 p.m.: Thomas retweeted Brees’ response to Trump with this line: “MY QB” with the flex emoji.


At 5:44 p.m. Saturday, Minter got an email from Goodell. Goodell thanked him for the “powerful and impactful” video. Goodell told Minter he’d love to get him more involved in the league’s social initiatives.

Where the NFL goes from here is a lot like where the country goes from here. Will the push continue? Will the 32 owners in the league, who have the real power, back their commissioner’s words when 15 players on some team choose to kneel during the anthem this year? And make no mistake—that’s coming. How will hardliner Jerry Jones react to a cadre of players kneeling? The threat of the NFL sanctioning players if they kneeled during games in 2018 (a bylaw was passed but never enforced that allowed players to stay in the locker room but not kneel during the anthem) is fresh in players’ heads.

One of the most vocal pro-protest players, Houston safety Michael Thomas, said in a text to me: “It [Goodell’s words and the league’s admission of holding player protests back] is definitely a step in the right direction. However, I personally believe that people are going to call for the league to address what happened to the players who originally protested police brutality and systemic racism and oppression. They will ask that the league not only admit they were wrong for suppressing the voices of the players protesting, but also say their names, just like it’s important to say the names of the countless black people who have been murdered due to police brutality so they don’t die in vain. It’s important that the league says the names Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid, Kenny Stills. It will allow the players to fully believe them and we could then all move forward together.”

Employees seemed more hopeful.

Maurice Johnson, who is black, is a senior director of influence and brand partnerships at the NFL. From Maplewood, N.J., he said: “I believe in the brand as a unifying force, and this week rejuvenated me. This week has been powerful and historic, because I feel like black voices helped lead the change. I think it’s the beginning of some change in the league. No one was going to settle for ‘not good enough.’ “

From Hollywood, Jarick Walker said: “What really struck me from Roger’s statement was, ‘Without black people, the NFL wouldn’t exist.’ That’s powerful, coming from him. After the town hall, I got so many messages, some from people I didn’t even know. One person emailed me, ‘Thank you for being so brave.’ You know, for the first time, I felt like I wasn’t on an island.” Walker paused for a minute, then said: “You can’t help feeling you changed the system.”

What Do We Do Now?

10
 

This is normally the last week or two before players and coaches and staff think of going somewhere, anywhere, to get far away from football, to vacation before training camp. Nothing normal about these days, though. The other day, when Patriot defensive backs and twins Devin and Jason McCourty sat down to record their podcast, “There was no way we could talk football,” Devin McCourty said. “You couldn’t even talk the pandemic. Everything was about equality, about George Floyd, about the protests. It was overwhelming.”

Team meetings via Zoom, overtaken league-wide by listening sessions—black players and coaches took the floor, for days on several teams, and the air got very heavy with stories of American inequities from black players. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who is black, said to his mates. Some high-profile players angry with the NFL for issuing only a tepid statement on the explosive death of Floyd put out a PSA. “How many times do we need to ask you to listen to your players?” Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu said. Club facilities were opened to coaching staffs on Friday after 13 weeks of coronavirus-enforced absence, but it was almost an afterthought. Think of how desperate coaches must be to get back to some degree of normal after not having a single workout for the entire spring. And coach after coach last week—football was an afterthought. Never do you hear all-football-all-the-time coaches like Houston’s Bill O’Brien talk like this:

“As a white head football coach in the National Football League, it’s important to speak out. There is real pain and statements can’t really take the pain away, I understand that. It’s so much deeper. It’s 400-years-ago slavery, it’s segregation, it’s police brutality, it’s not equal opportunities. It’s so much deeper, it’s deeper. We have to stand with the black community and we have to heed the call to action and challenge each other to live out the change that we want to see. I’m emotional, I’m sad, I’m frustrated because I’m questioning what can I do. I’ve got to do more.”

With the nation so fraught, I thought I would ask African-American people close to the game to answer this: What do we do now? What should we do next?

Michael Thomas, Houston safety

“It is different, 2016 to now, to see the response. So many people protesting, so many players getting active. But after the protests, what do we do?

“The biggest thing is taking the energy and momentum of this moment and using it for real change. Hold our elected officials responsible. In your local community, what bills are on the floor for things like police reform and reduction of police use of force? Support #8CantWait [eight policing policies, such as elimination of chokeholds and strangleholds of suspects] to fight systemic oppression of black people. Stop settling for paid leave for guilty officers. We want convictions, we want justice. Call your mayor, your elected officials, and say you want better policing policies. If they don’t want to make these changes, vote ‘em out. We have to emphasize elections, and not just for president. So much happens on the local level that impacts local lives.

“For so often, demands like this were met with deaf ears, or with anger. ‘You’re crying wolf.’ Not now. Now, with more cameraphones, people can see it. People can hear it. We understand the police are heavily protected because of the system. We are going after that.

“The attitude has to be, I’ve got to be the change I want to see.

Demario Davis, New Orleans linebacker

“The solution has to start with the conviction of four people. Then we have to address police brutality and how black communities are policed in America. It is costing lives. How do we do that? The best way is to empower the good cops. We don’t talk about the good cops enough. So many of those good cops are not in position to control the bad cops because of the way policing is done in America. There were lots of signs along the way that the killer of George Floyd had issues, and he should have been weeded out. That means empowering the good cops to police the bad cops. Prosecutors need to have more strength. The police unions—I am all for labor unions—but when you have unions that protect injustice, we’ve got a problem. Those police unions have contracts that protect them and allow police to operate with immunity.

“A lot of things in our core of America will have to be rebuilt from the ground up. The forefathers basically kidnapped black people to be labor for landowners. Somewhere along the line we didn’t level out the playing field. Before you build anything, you have to level the ground. After 400 years of oppression, this can’t be done by blacks alone. It has to be all of us collectively.

“These demonstrations have been incredible. They’ve been some of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in my life. It’s in the millions now, all around the world. It’s an amazing thing to see, not just because I am black—shows the power of people when we are united. Gives me hope that we can bring change.”

Steve Wyche, NFL Network reporter

“There is no right answer. Do what you’re comfortable doing. If you’re talking to people and all they’re talking about is the rioting, ask them, ‘Why do you think people are doing that?’ Get people to pause. Overall, I am more in the macro. The big picture is to try and correct what’s going on with law enforcement, with the lack of prosecution of bad officers, with the influence of police unions in getting certain DAs in office. Those are important issues.

“But the micro is important too. Sometimes I find that, when I read books about certain cultures, I say, ‘I didn’t know that.’ So instead of reading Lee Child this summer, read ‘A Song Yet Sung’ by James McBride. It’s fiction, but it’s an incredible ride through the underground railroad on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Read the book ‘Just Mercy’ by Bryan Stevenson, who runs the Innocence Project. And learn. Maybe you’ll realize, wow, the deck is really stacked against people of color. Take the time to read about the struggles of another culture. It is amazing what education, and listening, can do.”

Emmanuel Acho, ESPN NFL analyst and former NFL player

Acho did a widely shared nine-minute video called “Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man” last week.

“Pardon my excitement, my pain, my tears, whatever. The fact that so many people watched and are interested says my hunch was accurate: White people are finally are ready to listen. That is vitally important. This is the perfect time for people to listen. Normally this time of year, people might be watching sports, glued to the LeBron highlights. But right now, there is nothing to do but sit in the stench of America’s greatest sin.

“People ask, ‘What can we do now?’ Action doesn’t have to look active. The biggest thing white people can do now is listen. Fully educate yourself on the black experience, so you can know what you’re standing for. Have a conversation with a black person you know. Open yourself up. When I chose to do ‘Uncomfortable Conversations,’ I just wanted to people to ask anything and consider it a safe space. Will it lead to action? Yes! Because you can’t fully empathize with me until you understand me.

“Let’s get to the cause of the problem rather than create some laws to fix the problem. The law is the band-aid. Let’s keep the problem from happening in the first place.”

Ricardo Allen, Atlanta safety

“What can we do right now? Keep the narrative the truth. Systemic injustice. The country is not set up for a black man to win in America. Don’t let people take the story away. I have always worked to press for change. Growing up [in Florida], I don’t think my mom voted. We need to educate ourselves on how important it is to vote not just for the president but for the governors and the mayors and the local elections.

“Fill out the census. Why is the census taken? It can help our communities. Participate.

“I’m happy the conversation is opening up about how unequal things are. This can’t just be about police brutality. It’s the wealth gap too. I’m not only the first one in my family to go to college, I was the first to graduate high school. The slave masters were businessmen; they taught their children business. Slaves were the workers; they were teaching their kids how to work. I believe, Don’t just give people a fish. TEACH them how to fish.

“Sometimes we talk about ideas of how to help in the DB [defensive backs] room. We’ve been talking about starting a fund to help black people who graduate from college—maybe help cut down the student loans. These young people have so many pressures. Maybe they have a kid, maybe they have to help support their family. We’re thinking creative.”

Deion Sanders, Hall of Fame player, NFL Network analyst

“In this crisis, there is only one thing we can do: confront the truth about ourselves and about our nation. The consistent racism against black men runs deep and must be stopped! We must all continue to say the name George Floyd—until as a nation we catch our breath. Let’s take the unity and momentum that we just witnessed as a first step to true reconciliation. It’s not time for the hurry-up offense. It’s time we huddle and not break until the play is truly understood. Let’s exercise unconditional love. Let’s stop judging by color or class, and let’s remember, as the pandemic has taught us tearfully, we’re all in this game of life together.

“Let’s do better one day at a time!”

Isaac Rochell, defensive end, Los Angeles Chargers

“There are a lot of things that need to be done in the country to make it equal for all. This issue is a monster with a lot of different heads. There are so many systemic issues that have to be focused on. Dealing with police brutality is an important thing, a very important thing, but it’s not the only thing. I’ve become passionate about, How do we get minorities fed? I’ve read that by the summer, one in four minorities will be hungry [in the United States]. I started a clothing company called Local Humans. For every shirt bought, we donate a shirt to a foster-children center, we give five burgers to the L.A. food bank through our partnership with Impossible Food, and donate $10 to No Kid Hungry [a children’s hunger organization].

“Sometimes, people are overwhelmed with what to do. Collectively, as long as we’re all heading to the same place but using a different path, human beings can do a lot.

“I am optimistic now. For a while Americans were getting desensitized to it all. Maybe this is the straw that broke the camel’s back. Last night, I went to a protest in Newport Beach [Calif.], and I was one of the only black guys there. It probably represented the true demographics of America—most of the crowd white. But it was mind-blowing to see families, little kids holding up ‘Black Lives Matter’ signs. Super-moving. Honestly, it restored my faith in humanity.”

Devin McCourty, New England safety

“What we’ve heard and seen in the last week or so is that more people care, more people are interested. I would encourage people to listen. Learn the problems. Really learn them. Let’s listen. Let’s correct and handle situations that don’t need to happen. We know how important the police officers are in our society. But there have to be consequences when they do wrong.

“I’m not super-confident a year from now we’ll be past the conversation stage. Right now, the Fortune 500 companies, the big banks, they’re having the conversations. If things improve a little bit, we’ve got to fight that feeling of just being happy with some progress. People need to jump in and jump in for the long haul, to help future generations and not just themselves.”

Kevin Warren, Big Ten commissioner

“I spent 15 years working in Minnesota [as a Vikings VP], and since the death of George Floyd, I’ve had conversations with CEOs, friends and people from our black church in north Minneapolis. Without fail, they’re asking, ‘Kevin, what can we do to make sure this won’t happen again?’ And, ‘What can we do to get better as a society?’

“I believe this is going to be a galvanizing force, because when people are in pain, they want to do something. People want to have a purpose. We are trying to save our world now, and I believe we have an opportunity for significant positive change here. My feeling is we should do what we can, something we’re comfortable with. We’ll never forget what happened with George Floyd. Those things have been happening for hundreds of years. I’ve asked myself, ‘What can we do? What can the Warren family do?’ I am a lawyer by trade. I have been able to understand access to quality representation in all legal matters is critical. Sometimes, it’s the most important item. So our family has donated $100,000 to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and I will build a relationship with this organization. We will combat hate and racial injustice in all ways we can, including legal channels.

“We are going to make a difference with the 10,000 student-athletes in the Big Ten. We’ve just formed the Big Ten Conference Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism Coalition. We will galvanize as a conference and find action items as administrators, coaches and student-athletes.

“My son, Powers, is a student-athlete at Mississippi State, a tight end on the football team. He’ll be going back to school soon, and I’ll urge him to be a force for positive change. That’s what we all need to be.”

Robert Klemko, staff writer, Washington Post

Klemko, who formerly covered the NFL for The MMQB, has been covering the protests and riots in Minnesota for the Post.

“Talk to your kids. While reporting on the protests in Minnesota, I met a white family who had adopted a Honduran child and two Haitian children. The kids are now 15, 11 and 11. They were bringing their children to the Floyd memorial as a teaching moment. When I talked to the parents, they said they had spoken to their children extensively about racial identities and race relations in this country, in part because they didn’t want the kids’ first experiences as targets of racism to floor them. They told me about friends of theirs who hadn’t had a single conversation with their white children of the same age about this moment in history. I don’t have kids, but I don’t imagine the next generation improves upon what transpired here this month by ignoring the topic of race and pretending none of this happened.”

Nate Burleson, former NFL receiver, current “Good Morning Football” co-host

“As a league, there should be even more encouragement to do things that matter in the offseason, and on your off-day. Cities need so much help. Kids need so much help. We need more encouraging voices in our communities. Visit a school. These kids are struggling. Maybe they don’t feel there’s hope. White players should go too—inner-city kids who might only know fear of white police officers, they need to see that there are white people who care about them too. There is no more Charles Barkley ‘we are not role models.’ It should be one of the unwritten parts of every athletes’ contract—If we’re going to make you one of the richest people in the world, we need you in the community.

“As a society, we’ve got to sow the right seeds. There are pockets of society sowing the seeds of hate. We have to teach our teachers, our parents, our children to sow the seeds of love. I see people of all races protesting, people all over the globe protesting. And the young. The young! They’re on the front lines. I saw a video of a young white girl arguing with her parents about why black people are so angry, explaining the oppression that’s gone on for so long. This young girl, almost like she was a professor, taking lines from a Martin Luther King documentary, talking passionately to her parents. A very young girl. Now that’s hope.

“If you can’t march, or just don’t feel like it’s in you to march, that’s okay. If you don’t want to pick up a megaphone and yell, ‘Black lives matter,’ that’s okay. Then just have empathy. Listen to the narratives with compassion, love and facts.”

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My interest in sports has waned over time. Nothing to do about protests or any of that. I have just grown away from the games. Football is really the only sport I follow these days and even that has declined. I don’t watch the pre and post game shows anymore, and I don’t watch as many non-Saints games as I used to. I still enjoy football and will watch the Saints games. And I am looking forward to the upcoming season.
 

I will say that the Rams game from 2018 really shook my faith in the game. To have a call that bad in such a critical moment and have no way to correct it was just unacceptable to me. It was the first year I skipped the Super Bowl in a many years. Another incident like that could be enough to get me to abandon the NFL. 

Saint ATN and faceman like this

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I'm glad that so many are using their "muscle" to speak out and give support to change. I'm not happy about them condemning someone for NOT speaking out and then remaining totally silent themselves about the violence and destruction that many are committing in the name of "protest". We all know that people use these events as an excuse to do what they do, and I think that some of this could be stopped if they would, in the same breath as "we need change", say something to the effect of "we don't need violence and destruction against innocents to get our message across". Just my two cents.

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It is certainly going to be a very different football season in so many ways.  Fans, no fans; protests and more protests; say the right thing, say the wrong thing; play or don’t play the anthem, it will be the source of confrontation as so many people have such strong feelings both ways, certainly won’t be a feeling of unity that it was for many. What happens to the tickets; who decides who goes to the games?  Who wants to risk their life to go to the game? And the media’s coverage will be no doubt be very different.  It will likely be focused on social change, which might actually be more productive than its normal focus on the Cowboys or players like Antonio Brown?  No doubt the media is planning on how to cover it, with a large emphasis an racial injustice both within and outside the league.

It certainly will not be football as we once knew it as an escape from the stress of everyday life. 

 

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21 hours ago, Boris said:

It certainly will not be football as we once knew it as an escape from the stress of everyday life. 

Perfectly stated.  I had been looking for the words to explain why I'm done with the NFL.  Those are it.  I won't watch another game.  Saints or otherwise.

I'd been hanging by a thread for the last few years.  I almost had enough after the NFC Championship Game.  But I gave it another shot.  But now I've had enough.  I'm done.

Over the last 2 weeks, I've visited Saints sites just a few times.  I used to visit several times every day.  I just don't care anymore.  What happened to Brees was despicable.  That was the start.  Then his own teamates, the media, and most of the NFL players vilified him.  Malcolm Jenkins told him to shut the f*ck up.  Brees was forced to apologize and PROVE that he wasn't the racist, anti-black, tone deaf person he was made out to be.  For having a differing opinion, or not stating what some thought he should have, Brees was raked over the coals.   The NFL then embraces BLM, apologizes, and opens the floodgates for league wide protests before every game.  No thanks.  I don't agree with the kneeling.  And I don't have to watch.  Millions of others won't either.  But, this is what the NFL has become - immersed in politics going forward.  Should there be efforts to fight racism and police brutality?  Absolutely.  I despise racism in any form.  Police brutality is despicable.  But there are other forums and platforms available to discuss these important issues, that would be more effective and reach a bigger audience.  

No more escaping into football to ward off the stress and concerns of the day.  That's over.  I'm sad about it.  I feels like a punch to the gut.  But, I'll get over it.  I have other interests to take up my time.  

I don't know if I'll stop by here very often.  I've enjoyed connecting with those here and on chat during games.  If I offend anyone with this post, I don't mean to.  Just expressing my thoughts.  

Edited by louder
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Ezekiel Elliott, Several Cowboys, Texans Players Reportedly Test Positive for COVID-19: NFL Insider

Members of the Houston Texans also reportedly tested positive. Teams do not confirm which players are infected, citing privacy laws

NFL Insider Ian Rapoport says several Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys players have tested positive for COVID-19.

On Twitter Monday, Rapoport said Ezekiel Elliott’s agent Rocky Arceneaux said Elliott is one of the players who tested positive and that the Pro Bowl running back was “feeling good.”

On Twitter Monday afternoon, Elliott said his agent didn't break the story but did confirm the diagnosis when asked about it by reporters.

Rapoport said he initially learned about the infections from a source and that none of the players are believed to have been at team facilities.

Rapoport didn't say how many people on each team have contracted the virus, but sources told The Dallas Morning News’ Michael Gehlken that two Cowboys players are believed to have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Dallas Cowboys told NBC 5 they could not confirm the report.

"Due to federal and local privacy laws, we are unable to provide information regarding the personal health of any of our employees," the team said.

LINK

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If the NFL plays this season it will be in empty stadiums. This covid crisis is far from over. My daughter is a RN at  a hospital here on the Ms. Coast. Their ICU beds are running low. She told me please don't have a heart attack or be involved in a car accident. You might be SOL 

 

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Elliot has a reputation as a guy who enjoys being around the action.  Not sure if he was careless are not, but it should be a signal for Players to be cautious as it would jeopardize both their team and the individual’s ability to play.

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Right now I care very little about sports.  I think many people feel the same way.  I think that Basket Ball and Baseball are losing fans that will never come back.  NASCAR and Gulf had decent viewership to there events, but watching at home isn't the same as spending money on them. 

Football is a long way off, we could be dealing with totally different events by the end of the summer.  I think all sports will lose a good bit of their paying fanbase.  I wonder how quickly that will be felt in new TV / stadium deals?  How long before the salary caps start going back the other way and players start crying about not making enough money.  (which I feel will drive the every day fan away even more)

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I think there will be no NFL-Season at all. It just doesnt make sense. How the hell they want to do it operationally? I understand no fan attendance in the stadium, I understand constant testing for virus. But what I dont understand: If Covid makes it to a team during the season, where it is impossible to keep social distance, and one team has 10 players tested for COVISD on Monday morning, what happens to the rest of this team? Do they quarantine for 15 days? Wouldn't it be logical to ban that team if there is any possibility of them infecting the players of the next team they play against??

None of this makes any sense. I understand the economic pressure  the NFL is exposed to, which makes them desperate to sell their product. But the product is faulty. One of the main ingredients is competition. NFL cant gurantee fair competition under these circumstances. But when I think of the last NFC Championship game in the Superdome, maybe fair competition has become irrelevant to the NFL anyways. 

Edited by boricko

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Oil and Gas workers go to work every day.  Construction teams are working manual labor right next to other co-workers.  People are in stores and going about their everyday life.  Why?  Because most people have to work to make money, to support their family. 

Most NFL players are no different, most can't afford to sit out (and not get paid) for a year.  (not to mention all the supporting jobs)  If the NFL season is lost, many lives will be dramatically changed for the worse.  those players that rank from 35-60+ (including practice squad), many will not get their jobs back in 2021.  (older players hoping for one last payday  or young player just needing a chance) 

NFL players should be giving the same opportunity as our construction workers.  They can go to work, but will  not be punished if they stay home for safety.  If they get sick, then the NFL should pay 100% of their medical bills (something that would not happen to a construction worker).  Teams should put in plenty of safety measures and if that means more players go on IR (and get paid) and thereby allowing many new players to get a chance, so be it. 

Some players and coaches have already had it and fully recovered, some never had any issues with it. 

I look at the NFL as a business, yes it's a game, but it's a business that supports a lot of families.  Plenty of people are working in far worse conditions and more risk.  Football is a game, the NFL is job that many people need

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I want football as much as the next guy, my only problem with this is what happens in week 3 when someone on the team tests positive? Then the whole team is suspect. They sit out for two weeks and don't play? what about the other team that they just finished playing against? Are they suspect? The officials? I just don't see a practical way for this to happen.

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9 hours ago, sailorsaint said:

I want football as much as the next guy, my only problem with this is what happens in week 3 when someone on the team tests positive? Then the whole team is suspect. They sit out for two weeks and don't play? what about the other team that they just finished playing against? Are they suspect? The officials? I just don't see a practical way for this to happen.

Testing. Lots of testing. No need to quarantine if you spherical tested and it’s negative.  

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