Source: Sky Sports
- In an interview with Yahoo Finance, New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees said he would never agree with anyone “disrespecting” the United States flag.
- Brees’ comment was in response to a question of how he thinks the NFL should respond to players kneeling in the upcoming season.
- Brees’ interview went viral, and he was met with a torrent of backlash from major athletes including LeBron James, Aaron Rodgers, and even his own teammates.
- Brees originally doubled down on his comments Wednesday before ultimately issuing an apology on Thursday morning, where he said that he should do more listening and less talking.
Brees Condemns Kneeling as “Disrespectful”
New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees apologized Thursday morning for saying that he disagrees with kneeling during the national anthem as a form of protest.
Brees’ apology came a day after he made his initial comments to editor Daniel Roberts with Yahoo Finance. In an interview, Robert asked Brees how he thinks the NFL will and should respond to players kneeling in the upcoming season.
“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said. “Let me just tell you what I see or what I feel when the national anthem is played and when I look at the flag of the United States.
“I envision my two grandfathers, who fought for this country during World War 2, one in the army and one in the marine corps. Both risking their lives to protect our country and to try to make our country and this world a better place. So everytime I stand with my hand over my heart, looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about.”
Brees continued by saying that the flag symbolizes sacrifices made not only by those in the military but also by those who’ve fought for civil rights.
“Is everything right with our country right now?” he said. “No, we still have a long way to go. But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect for the flag with your hand over your heart is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together, we can all do better, and we are all part of the solution.”
As of Thursday morning, the clip of that portion of the interview has received over 11 millions views.
Brees Faces Massive Backlash
Brees was hit with a torrent of backlash as his comments spread across social media. Many notable athletes accused Brees of being tone-deaf. Others asked how he could make such comments given the highly emotional nature of the current protests around the death of George Floyd.
“WOW MAN!!,” NBA star LeBron James said. “Is it still surprising at this point. Sure isn’t! You literally still don’t understand why Kap was kneeling on one knee?? Has absolute nothing to do with the disrespect of 🇺🇸 and our soldiers(men and women) who keep our land free.”
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers also joined in on the criticism, posting an Instagram photo of himself locking arms with his teammates.
“It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag,” Rodgers said. “Not then, Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action.”
Wednesday night, protesters in New Orleans were heard chanting, “Fuck Drew Brees.”
One of the most emotional responses came from Brees’ teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who held back tears while explaining what has become common criticism black Americans face when deciding to kneel.
“Our communities are under siege and we need help,” Jenkins said on Instagram “And what you’re telling us is don’t ask for help that way. Ask for a different way. ‘I can’t listen to it when you ask that way.’ We’re done asking for you.”
“People who share your sentiments, who express those, and push them throughout the world—the airwaves—are the problem. And it’s unfortunate because I considered you a friend. I looked up to you. You’re somebody who I had a great deal of respect for. But sometimes you should shut the fuck up.”
Jenkins later deleted that video, then posted another where he continued to call out Brees. In that second video, he said Brees is blinded by privilege and that even though they’re teammates, he can’t let Brees’ comments slide.
“When we step off this field, and I take my helmet off, I’m a black man walking around America, and I’m telling you that I’m dealing with these things, I’m telling my communities are dealing with these things, and your response to me is, ‘Don’t talk about that here. This is not the place.’ Drew, where is the place, Drew?”
Brees Doubles Down Before Apologizing
As many continued to call for Brees to realize that his words had hurt so many people, he decided to double down in a statement to ESPN Wednesday.
“I believe we should all stand for the national anthem and respect our country and all those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms,” he said. “That includes all those who marched for women’s suffrage in the 1920s and all those who marched in the civil rights movements and continue to march for racial equality. All of us… EVERYONE… represent that flag.”
“And I would ask anyone who has a problem with what I said to look at the way I live my life. Do I come across as someone who is not doing my absolute best to make this world a better place, to bring justice and equality to others, and hope & opportunity to those who don’t have it?”
Brees criticizing kneeling is nothing new. In fact, he’s been critical of the movement since then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first refused to stand for the national anthem in 2016.
Though Brees has time and again condemned kneeling, he has also shown some level of support for the George Floyd protests, participating in movements like #BlackoutTuesday on Instagram. Still, that post was later flooded by people critical of Brees’ Wednesday comments.
That pressure continued to build overnight until Thursday morning when Brees issued a lengthy apology on Instagram.
“In an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag and the national anthem, I made comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark on the issues we are facing right now as a country,” he said. “They lacked awareness and any type of compassion or empathy.”
“I am sick about the way my comments were perceived yesterday, but I take full responsibility and accountability. I recognize that I should do less talking and more listening…and when the black community is talking about their pain, we all need to listen. For that, I am very sorry and I ask your forgiveness.”
NFL’s Alleged Hypocrisy
Adjacent to Brees’ initial remarks, many have accused the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell of hypocrisy for its response to Kaepernick’s protests during the national anthem.
“The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country,” Goodall said in a statement on Saturday. “The protesters’ reactions to these incidents reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.”
“We recognize the power of our platform in communities and as a part of the fabric of American society. We embrace that responsibility and are committed to continuing the important work to address these systemic issues together with our players, clubs and partners.”
The statement was then condemned by a number of black activists, including Texans wide receiver Kenny Stills who said, “Save the bullshit.”
“Shame on you,” Director Ava Duvernay said. “This is beyond hollow + disingenuous. This is a lie. Your actions show who you are. You’ve done nothing but the exact opposite of what you describe here.”
“Colin Kaepernick asked the NFL to care about the lives of black people and they banned him from their platform,” The Athletic reporter Michael-Shawn Dugar tweeted.
See what others are saying: (ESPN) (CNN) (NBC Sports)
College Board Changes AP African American Studies After Backlash From DeSantis Amid Education Culture War
As requested by DeSantis, the College Board removed lessons on contemporary topics including Black Lives Matter, queer studies, and reparations.
College Board Rolls Out Curriculum
The College Board, which oversees Advanced Placement high school courses, announced an official curriculum framework for its new, landmark Advanced Placement African American studies on Wednesday.
The announcement, made on the first day of Black History Month, has faced scrutiny for seeming to scale back a number of relevant subjects that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other state education officials had criticized.
In January, DeSantis said that the new course would be banned in Florida unless changes were made, arguing that a draft version of the course was “woke.”
Education officials claimed that the class, which had been in the making for nearly a decade, violated a recent state law dubbed the Stop WOKE Act. The legislation regulates public school instruction on race by banning critical race theory and any education that describes some groups as oppressed and others as privileged based on race or sex.
Democrats denounced DeSantis’ action as a political stunt and urged the College Board to maintain its principles.
According to reports, many historical topics like slavery largely remain intact from the previous draft. However, important contemporary issues like Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer studies, reparations, and intersectionality — all of which Florida leaders objected to — were removed from curriculum requirements and are no longer part of the AP exam.
Instead, those areas of study have been downgraded to be part of a list of options students can pursue for a mandatory research project. The College Board also added a new research project idea to that list that will certainly please the right: “Black conservatism.”
It has additionally been reported that the organization pulled names of multiple Black authors the state education officials had flagged as problematic, including many famous and pioneering Black scholars who wrote about critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism.
The College Board defended itself against criticism in a press release announcing the changes, claiming that the process of developing the framework “has operated independently from political pressure.”
DeSantis’ Ongoing Culture War
DeSantis’ attempts to influence the national curriculum of an AP course are just his latest in a much broader effort to control what is and is not taught in public schools.
Just one day before the College Board announced the revised course, the governor outlined what The New York Times described as “his most aggressive swing yet at the education establishment.”
Specifically, he proposed a massive overhaul to higher education in the state that would defund and eliminate diversity and equity programs, mandate courses on Western civilization, and reduce tenure protections that are essential to ensure professors have freedom of expression.
Furthermore, the effects of another law DeSantis signed last year are now just beginning to materialize. The policy, which went into effect this July, requires every school book to be age-appropriate, “free of pornography,” and “suited to student needs.”
To follow those guidelines, school books have to be approved by a certified media specialist who has undergone specific training.
Notably, the law also states that teachers can be charged with third-degree felonies if they “knowingly or unknowingly” give students access to a book that the specialists say is harmful — meaning that they could face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Last month, the state education department clarified that the rule does not just apply to school libraries, but also to any books a teacher keeps in their classroom too.
Multiple outlets reported this week that records they obtained show at least two school districts have now directed teachers to either remove their books or hide them until review to avoid the possibility of going to jail.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Biden Announces Plan to End COVID Emergency in May
The decision would drastically change the government’s long-standing pandemic response and shift Americans’ access to COVID-related services.
Emergency Declarations at an End
In a statement Monday, The White House announced that it would be ending the COVID national emergency and public health emergency declarations on May 11.
The move will entirely restructure the federal government’s response to the pandemic to treat it as endemic and upend policies that have been in place for the last three years. Although more than 500 people in the U.S. are still dying from COVID on average each day — which is around two times the number of daily deaths during a bad flu season — life has largely returned to normal.
Most Americans are vaccinated, and even President Joe Biden himself said the pandemic was “over” back in September. The new announcement comes in part as a response to resolutions Republicans brought to the House floor last week that would end the declarations immediately.
“An abrupt end to the emergency declarations would create wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the health care system — for states, for hospitals and doctors’ offices, and, most importantly, for tens of millions of Americans,” the White House argued.
Lapses in Coverage and Care
Federal officials decided that a phase-out would make more sense because the U.S. has come to rely on several systems and benefits under the emergencies.
One of the most significant changes that will have the biggest impact on Americans in their day-to-day lives is access to COVID tests, treatments, and vaccines that have been free throughout the pandemic.
Once the emergencies end, a very complex wave of changes will take place that differs from person to person depending on their insurance — or lack thereof — and even possibly what state they live in.
Currently, people with private health insurance or Medicare coverage have been allowed eight free COVID tests a month and insurers had to cover those tests, even if they were administered out of network.
Once the emergency ends, some Americans will have to pay out of pocket, as well as for antiviral COVID treatments like Paxlovid.
Notably, it has been reported that vaccines will still be included for all those people covered by both private and public insurance. That, however, may not be the case for those without insurance — a group that is also more likely to be the most affected by rising costs for tests and treatments.
Jen Kates, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told The Washington Post that when the emergency declarations end, states that opted to provide Medicaid coverage for tests, treatments, and shots will lose the federal funds that matched costs at 100%.
“To me, that’s the biggest issue for the general public to think about,” she said. “The uninsured and underinsured have no guaranteed access to covid vaccines, tests or treatments.”
When it comes to vaccines, those costs could be significant. Moderna and Pfizer have both said they might charge as much as $130 per dose of vaccine once the federal government stops paying and the shots are transitioned to the private market. That figure is nearly quadruple what federal offices have paid for the doses.
The shift to the private market could happen fairly soon, especially because Republicans have refused Biden’s request that they put billions of dollars towards additional free COVID testing and shots to extend those efforts.
There could also be a spike in the number of uninsured or underinsured Americans because the $1.7 trillion spending bill passed last year ends a rule that banned states from kicking people off Medicaid, leaving millions at risk of losing coverage.
Other Possible Outcomes
Ending the declarations could also set up a battle around immigration because the Biden administration has said the move will bring an end to Title 42 — the Trump-era public health measure that placed restrictions on border crossings and other migrant policies.
Biden has previously tried to cut the program, but the Supreme Court kept it in place. House Republicans rejected the White House’s claim that the program would be terminated, arguing it is not tied to the public health emergency.
Beyond that, the termination of the declarations would require health providers to make numerous adjustments because many of the flexibilities they were allowed in a number of areas would be cut.
As a result, the administration says a phase-out of those policies over the next few months is necessary, arguing that hospitals and nursing homes “will be plunged into chaos” if they are cut immediately. House Republicans, however, are insistent on moving forward their legislation that would do just that, though the Democratic-controlled Senate could block their proposals.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Associated Press)
Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates
The fury comes after Xbox announced it was slightly altering existing consoles to better utilize and save energy.
Same War, New Battlefield
Mere days after M&M canceled their “spokescandies” due to backlash from the right, led largely by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, conservatives have found a new front for their ongoing culture war: Xbox.
Carlson spent months complaining that small character redesigns were “woke” because they made the animated anthropomorphized M&M’s — in his own words — “less sexy.” His campaign finally proved successful on Monday when the company announced it would be doing away with the spokescandies and replacing them with actress Maya Rudolph.
Conservatives, now facing a sudden dearth of non-issues to complain about, quickly found a new issue to rage against. Xbox announced in a blog post earlier this month that it is making minor updates to lower its environmental impact as part of an effort to reach Microsoft’s goal of being carbon-negative by 2030.
Now, instead of having an Xbox wake up to update games, apps, and software during random times of the night, it will do that at a time of night when a user’s local energy grid is generating the most power it can from renewable sources.
Xbox also said it would automatically update some older consoles to a power-saving mode that aims to reduce electricity consumption when it is turned off — a feature that is already the default on newer consoles.
According to The Verge, the only difference for users is that an Xbox in power-saving mode takes around 15 seconds to boot up instead of doing so immediately as the console does in “sleep” mode. The change is a small price to pay for what the outlet described as “significant” energy savings.
Xbox Under Fire
To many leading conservative voices, the minimal shifts were just another example of “woke” culture.
While discussing M&M’s spokescandies Tuesday morning, “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up Xbox’s new changes with Fox radio host Jimmy Failla.
“So Xbox has also announced that they’re going woke too, you know, because of climate change,” Earhardt said.
“I mean, it’s crazy what they’re doing, but we understand what this is. It’s not that it’s actually going to offset emissions, okay — the level of reduction is infinitesimal,” Failla claimed, without evidence. “But they’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age; make them climate conscious now.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think of that — you’re right, they’re going after the children,” Earhardt agreed, despite the fact that internal data from Microsoft shows just around 10% of Xbox owners are under the age of 18.
Other prominent conservatives also did their part to bait Americans into anger on social media, including America’s Foundation, which posted a tweet stating that “the woke brigade is after video games.”
The post linked an article from the right-wing website TheBlaze, which asserted that “Xbox will force gamers to power down to fight climate change.” That, however, is false — Xbox has said users can switch back and change the settings any time they want
Still, top lawmakers continued to share the article and spread its false claims, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).
“First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they’re gunning for your Xbox,” he wrote in the post, which was flagged by Twitter and given an “added context” warning.
The same warning, however, was not placed in a very similar post by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tx.), who also shared the article.
“They want to take your guns. They want to take your gas stoves. And now they want to take your Xbox. What’s next?” he wrote.