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Colin Kaepernick Convinces Nike to Pull ‘Betsy Ross Flag’ Sneaker

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  • Nike announced Monday that it would not release a new sneaker that featured the Betsy Ross flag on the heel, which was designed to celebrate Independence Day.
  • The Wall Street Journal reported that the decision to pull the shoe came after Colin Kaepernick, a Nike spokesman, told the company he and others found the flag offensive because of its connection to an era of slavery.
  • After the report broke, people began debating the situation on social media, with some supporting Nike and Kaepernick and others calling it an overreaction.

The Shoe

Nike canceled the launch of a new sneaker that featured the Betsy Ross flag after Colin Kaepernick told the company he and others found the flag offensive, sparking a viral debate on what the flag symbolizes. 

On June 24, Nike announced plans to release a new sneaker on July 4 to celebrate Independence Day. The heel of the shoe would feature an early American flag often referred to as the “Betsy Ross flag,” which was designed during the American Revolution and includes 13 stars for the original 13 colonies.

People began criticizing the sneaker design, arguing that it was insensitive to use because the flag is a symbol connected to an era of slavery.

On Monday, Nike said they would no longer be launching the shoe and pulled it from their website and apps, the Wall Street Journal reported. 

“Nike has chosen not to release the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July as it featured the old version of the American flag,” a spokesperson for the company explained to the outlet. 

According to the Journal, the company had already sent out shipments of the shoe to retailers when Colin Kaepernick, one of Nike’s most prominent spokesmen, saw the sneaker and asked the company to reconsider. 

“Mr. Kaepernick…reached out to company officials saying that he and others felt the Betsy Ross flag is an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery,” the Journal reported.

Responses

News of Nike canceling the shoe and the reason behind the decision sparked mixed reactions from the public. Some agreed with Kaepernick and also view the flag as an offensive symbol linked to the slavery era and white nationalism.

Others felt like Nike and Kaepernick were overreacting and defended the flag. 

Arizona Governor Takes Action

Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey was among those against the decision. In the early hours of July 2, Ducey tweeted that he had ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw from a financial incentive deal with Nike. 

According to city documents, the deal involved Nike building its next U.S. manufacturing facility in the city of Goodyear, near Phoenix. The company had also agreed to:  

  • Create at least 505 full-time manufacturing jobs.
  • Provide an average salary of around $48,000 a year.
  • Pay a minimum of 65% of health-care premiums.
  • Invest at least $184.5 million in tenant improvements Goodyear and the manufacturing facility.

In exchange, the city of Goodyear had agreed to waive almost $1 million in plan reviews and fees, as well as reimburse Nike $1 million for the jobs created. 

The Goodyear City Council agenda shows they met Monday evening and signed off on the agreement less than 12 hours before the Governor’s decision to withdraw.

Past Controversies

This is not the first time the Betsy Ross flag has created controversy like this. In 2016, a high school in Michigan received backlash after pictures of students waving a Trump flag along with a Betsy Ross flag went viral.  

The school district superintendent condemned the act and later said in a letter, “to wave a historical version of our flag, that to some symbolizes exclusion and hate, injects hostility and confusion to an event where no one intended to do so.” 

The president of the NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch also responded to the situation. In his own letter, he wrote the flag “has been appropriated by the so-called ‘Patriot Movement’ and other militia groups who are responding to America’s increasing diversity with opposition and racial supremacy.” 

While the Betsy Ross flag is not often used, the date it was adopted by Congress has become an American holiday known as Flag Day. 

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The Root) (Forbes)

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Megyn Kelly Accuses NBCUniversal of Double Standard After Robert Downey Jr. Defends Acting in Blackface

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  • In an interview with Joe Rogan, Robert Downey Jr. defended his decision to act wearing blackface in the film Tropic Thunder, arguing that it was satire.
  • Former talk show host Megyn Kelly responded in a tweet, suggesting that NBC Universal gave him a free pass while she was “canceled” by the company for comments previously made defending blackface.
  • Some Twitter users criticized Kelly, pointing out that the movie was a parody while her comments were serious, while, others agreed that she was treated unfairly.

Robert Downey Jr. Interview

Former news anchor Megyn Kelly accused NBC Universal of practicing a double standard regarding discussions of blackface after Robert Downey Jr. defended his decision to play a character who wears blackface in the movie Tropic Thunder.

The 2008 satirical action-comedy centered around four actors who were filming a Vietnam war movie. In the film, Downey plays Kirk Lazarus, a method actor who got “pigmentation alteration” surgery to darken his skin so he could play a black character for the movie.

While the character drew some criticisms, the film was still quite well-received by critics, many of whom felt the movie was a satire of Hollywood and that Downey’s character fit that narrative. Downey was nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, as well as other awards for the role.

The topic was recently rehashed again when podcast host Joe Rogan asked Downey Jr. if he believed Tropic Thunder could be made today. Downey said that he initially thought the role was “a terrible idea.”

“And then I thought, ‘Well hold on dude, get real here, where is your heart?’” he continued. “And my heart is, a) I get to, I get to be black for a summer in my mind, so there’s something in it for me. The other thing is I get to hold up to nature the insane, self-involved hypocrisy of artists and what they think they’re allowed to do on occasion. Just my opinion.”

Downey Jr. went on to praise Ben Stiller, who co-wrote, directed, and acted in the movie.

“He knew exactly what the vision for this was,” he said. “He executed it. It was impossible to not have it be an offensive nightmare of a movie. And 90% of my black friends were like, ‘Dude, that was great.’”

When asked about the other 10% Downey Jr. admitted that he couldn’t disagree with them.

“But I know where my heart was,” he explained. “And I think that it’s never an excuse to do something that is out of place and not of its time, but to me, it was just putting a, it was a blasting cap on.” 

Rogan then circled back to the question of whether or not the movie could be made today.

“There’s a morality clause here on this planet, and it’s a big price to pay,” Downey Jr. said. “And I think having a moral psychology is job one, so sometimes you just got to go, ‘Yeah I effed up.’ Again, not in my defense, but ‘Tropic Thunder’ was about how wrong that is, so I take exception.” 

Megyn Kelly Responds 

After the clip went viral, many people took to Twitter to respond. Some criticized Downey, saying that blackface is never acceptable, while others agreed with the actor that the film was meant to satirize those who actually do blackface.

Kelly, however, had a different take altogether. In October 2018, Kelly drummed up controversy after comments she made on her NBC talk show about wearing blackface on Halloween.

“But what is racist?” she asked in the segment. “Because you do get in trouble if you are a white person who puts on blackface on Halloween, or a black person who puts on whiteface for Halloween. Back when I was a kid that was OK, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”

Kelly publicly apologized for the comments on her show the next day. But three days after making those remarks, NBC canceled her show, and her contract with them was terminated in January 2019.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Kelly went after NBC Universal, which produced Tropic Thunder, accusing them of a double standard.

Response to Kelly

Twitter users responded to Kelly’s post with the expected mixed reactions.

Some argued that the movie was a satire and that Downey was just an actor playing a role, while Kelly was a journalist speaking as herself on her own talk show.

On the other side, some people agreed with Kelly, arguing that she was right and it was and that she was treated unfairly.

See what others are saying: (IndieWire) (Fox News) (Vanity Fair)

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Netflix Numbers to Boost After Changing Its Definition of Views

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  • In its fourth-quarter report, Netflix announced that it is changing its viewing measures. Now, instead of a view counting as 70% of a title being watched, a view will mean as little as two minutes were watched. 
  • This comes as Netflix exceeded expected growth overseas but fell flat in the U.S. and Canada. 
  • The company said that the reason growth may have faltered in these regions could be related to the launches of services like Disney+ and Apple TV+.

Netflix Changes View Counts

Netflix will be changing the way it measures its views, a move that could increase counts by 35%.

In its fourth-quarter earnings letter to shareholders, the streaming giant said its current method of counting household views no longer makes sense given the content on the platform. Per its old method, the platform counted a view if an account watched “70% of a single episode of a series or of an entire film.”

Netflix, however, believes that this is no longer practical because the time lengths of its titles vary so drastically, with shows as short as 15 minutes and films over 130 minutes. Now, the service will count views based on “households (accounts) that chose to watch a given title.” They explain that if an account chose to watch a title for two minutes, this would count as a view. According to their report, those two minutes are “long enough to indicate the choice was intentional.”

They say the model is comparable to the way BBC iPlayer, the “Most Popular” section of the New York Times, and YouTube views are structured. Still, the change is dramatic. There is a significant time difference between watching two minutes of an episode of television or a feature-length film and watching 70% of that same piece of content. Netflix maintained that the change is necessary and noted the increase in views that will result from it.

“This way, short and long titles are treated equally, leveling the playing field for all types of our content including interactive content, which has no fixed length,” their letter said. “The new metric is about 35% higher on average than the prior metric.”

Netflix vs. New Streaming 

This substantial change for Netflix carries even more weight with the ever-growing threat of the streaming wars, which was also noted in their shareholder letter. The platform exceeded expectations for growth overseas, however, they did not hit the mark in the United States and Canada.

In their fourth-quarter, they added 420,000 customers, despite projections anticipating them reaching 600,000. The letter says this is “probably due to our recent price changes and to US competitive launches.”

This quarter lined up with two major events when it comes to streaming: the launches of both Apple TV+ and Disney+. Compared to Apple TV+, Disney+ is seen as the larger competitor. 10 million people subscribed to the service within 24 hours of its debut. The service offered classics from the Disney vault and new content. Their Star Wars-based original series, The Mandalorian, proved to be a massive success because, as it turns out, not even God himself can compete with the magic of Baby Yoda. 

While the numbers from Disney+ are not as clear yet, especially in a way to show a concrete comparison to Netflix, several studies to indicate The Mandalorian was popular to the masses. According to Parrot Analytics, in mid-November, the show was in higher demand than big Netflix hits like Stranger Things and The Crown.

In their report, though, Netflix seemed relatively unafraid of the presence of these platforms. The company was particularly proud of The Witcher, the Henry Cavill-led drama which hit screens on December 20. Their shareholder letter said the series was “tracking to be our biggest season one TV series ever.” Under their new viewer measurement method, it has hit 76 million member households in its first four weeks.

Netflix also compared The Witcher to its competitors via a Google Analytics chart showcasing the search amounts for several shows. Apple TV+’s The Morning Show and Amazon’s Jack Ryan consistently fell below the mark in comparison. The Mandalorian had a consistent amount of searches during its run, but close to The Witcher’s release date, it surges far ahead of it. 

Image via Netflix/Google Analytics.

The graph, however, only represents worldwide searches. Disney+ is only available in a few countries, including the U.S. When taking a look at just searches in the U.S., The Witcher still leaps ahead after its premiere, but the overall differences are less extreme. The Mandalorian ends up being a much more regular and reliable search than The Witcher and came out with a slightly higher average. 

Image via Netflix/Google Analytics.

Netflix acknowledged that these new shows and platforms do pose a threat in their report but ultimately took a strong position that they were at the top of the game. 

“We have a big headstart in streaming and will work to build on that by focusing on the same thing we have focused on for the past 22 years – pleasing members,” the report said. 

See what others are saying: (The Hollywood Reporter) (Variety) (The New York Times)

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Eminem Faces Backlash Over Lyrics About Ariana Grande Concert Bombing

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  • In a song on Eminem’s newly released album, the rapper references the 2017 Manchester bombing that killed 22 Ariana Grande concertgoers. 
  • His lyrics received backlash from many who accused him of being insensitive, including relatives of the victims and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham. 
  • Others defended Eminem, arguing that his lyrics are known to be controversial and pointing to his help in raising over £2 million for those affected by the attack.

Controversial Lyrics

Rapper Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, is facing backlash over lyrics from his new album that reference the 2017 Manchester bombing of an Ariana Grande concert. 

The track “Unaccommodating” is featured on his new album “Music to Be Murdered By,” which was released on Friday. In this song, Eminem raps controversial lyrics that appear to make light of the attack: “I’m contemplating yelling ‘bombs away’ on the game like I’m outside of an Ariana Grande concert waiting.” The line is followed by the sound of an explosion.

In May 2017, a suicide bomber killed 22 other people and injured over 100 more at the end of one of Grande’s performances at Manchester Arena in the United Kingdom.

Backlash for Eminem

For many, Eminem’s lyrics sparked outrage. Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, accused the 47-year-old rapper of being insensitive to the tragedy.  

“This is unnecessarily hurtful and deeply disrespectful to the families and all those affected,” Burnham told BBC News

Figen Murray, whose son Martyn Hett was among the Manchester victims, echoed the mayor’s sentiment. In a tweet that she has since deleted because of “abuse and insults,” Murray called the lyrics “totally pointless.”

Other Twitter users jumped on Eminem, accusing him of exploiting the bombing.

Defense of Eminem

While Eminem’s lyrics offended many people, others jumped to his defense. Some pointed out that in the days following the Manchester bombing, he encouraged his followers to contribute to a crowdfunding page for the British Red Cross and families of the victims, helping raise the donations to over £2 million.

Others pointed out that Eminem is known for his controversial lyrics and argued that people shouldn’t be surprised by his latest. The musician had previously referenced the Manchester bombing in a 2018 song that came out of a “nothing’s off-limits” freestyle rap battle. In his new album, he name-drops Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and serial killer John Wayne Gacy on the new album.

“This is Eminem,” one person wrote. “Slim Shady. Marshall. He’s been doing this for 20+ years and hasn’t apologised yet.”

Other tracks on Eminem’s new album raised eyebrows, including “Darkness,” in which he raps from the perspective of the Las Vegas shooter who murdered over fifty people in October 2017. At the end of the official music video, a PSA about gun control comes on screen, urging people to register to vote to change gun laws.

The video received mixed reviews, with some praising it as a social justice move and others calling gruesome and saying that it missed the mark.

See what others are saying: (Guardian) (New York Times) (BBC

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