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NFL Apologizes for Not Listening to Black Players, Then Gets Blasted by Trump

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Source: LM Otero/Associated Press

  • NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell condemned racism, apologized for not listening to black players in the past, and said “black lives matter” in a video released Friday.
  • The apology came after an NFL producer reached out to several players before putting out a now-viral video asking the NFL to make such a statement.
  • President Trump joined the conversation, first criticizing New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees for apologizing after saying it is ”disrespectful” to kneel in front of the American flag.
  • Trump then targeted Goodell specifically on Sunday.

NFL Players Release “I am George Floyd” Video

For the first time, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has condemned racism, apologized for not listening to black players’ concerns about racial injustice, and said, “black lives matter.”

Goodell’s statement, made in a video Friday, represents a massive change in stance for the league, which has largely opposed kneeling during the national anthem since then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first did it in 2016. 

Goodell reportedly recorded his video after watching a now-viral video from multiple black NFL players, who themselves were responding to comments made by New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees. 

In an interview with Yahoo Finance Wednesday, Brees said he believed kneeling was “disrespectful” to the American flag. Soon afterward, his comments went viral, and he became the subject of intense criticism.

That same day,  Bryndon Minter—a creative producer at the NFL—messaged Michael Thomas, a teammate of Brees on the Saints. Minter said he reached out because he was embarrassed by how the league had been silent and not condemned racism or said “black lives matter.” 

Minter then pitched working together with Thomas to help make players’ voices heard. Thursday evening, joined by a number of NFL players, they released a video now known as “I am George Floyd.”

In it, the players ask, “What if I was George Floyd?” before ultimately saying that because racial injustice could just as easily happen to them as it did Floyd, “I am George Floyd.” The players then followed that “I am” statement with the names of about a dozen more black people killed by police or others, including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin. 

Those players also urged the NFL to condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people, to admit it was wrong in silencing players from peacefully protesting, and to say, “black lives matter.”

Goodell Condemns Racism, Says “Black Lives Matter”

For many, that video was a powerful moment of black players standing in solidarity to hold their organization accountable. It was also one that seemed to pay off as it was later reported that Goodell himself was also moved by the video. 

In fact, according to an executive close to Goodell, “Roger felt like they were speaking directly to him. There’s been a lot of self reflection going on across the league.”

The next day, Goodell released a video statement where he answered many of the requests made in the players’ video and 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.” 

Notably, that is is the first time Goodell has publicly said “black lives matter.” It’s also the first time the NFL has apologized for how it’s responded to black players.

In the past, Goodell condemned kneeling, saying that players should stand for the national anthem. At one point, he even endorsed a short-lived policy that would have forced them to stand.

Still, Goodell’s response did not fully satisfy many because while he apologized for how the NFL responded to black players, he did not apologize for the NFL’s stance on kneeling. In fact, Goodell never makes a specific mention to kneeling. He also never mentions Kaepernick.

“The NFL should explicitly say Colin Kaepernick’s name,” sports journalist Taylor Rooks said. “Can’t acknowledge the right to protest & not have his actions stated.”

Rooks also noted how much power those players in the “I am George Floyd” video have, saying, “SO much more to be done, but a lot can be accomplished when players speak as one.”

Goodell’s statement comes after a May 30 tweet where he said, “The NFL family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country. 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.”

That tweet also received heavy criticism for not making any mention of racial injustice and for not addressing the NFL’s history with Kaepernick, who at one point, sued the NFL for allegedly colluding to blacklist him. 

“@NFL what actual steps are you taking to support the fight for justice and system reform?,” NFL players like Vikings Linebacker Anthony Barr said. “Your statement said nothing. Your league is built on black athletes. Vague answers do nothing. Let the players know what you’re ACTUALLY doing. And we know what silence means.”

Trump Blasts Brees and Goodell for Apologizing

President Donald Trump was among those criticizing Brees and Goodell for changing or seemingly changing their stances on kneeling during the national anthem.

“I am a big fan of Drew Brees,” the president said on Friday. “I think he’s truly one of the greatest quarterbacks, but he should not have taken back his original stance on honoring our magnificent American Flag.” 

“NO KNEELING,” he followed up.

Sunday night, Trump then took aim at Goodell. 

On Instagram, Brees directly responded to the president’s criticism, saying, “…this is not an issue about the American flag. It has never been. We can no longer use the flag to turn people away or distract them from the real issues that face our black communities.”

“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 as a white community need to listen and learn from the pain and suffering of our black communities. We must acknowledge the problems, identify the solutions, and then put this into action. The black community cannot do it alone. This will require all of us.”

Whether Goodell’s comments signify a serious change for the NFL remains to be seen as it won’t just require changes to executives and policies; rather, it will need to address whole teams, their players, sponsors, and even fans. 

For example, last week, the Washington Redskins supported the protests by tweeting #BlackOutTuesday. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) then responded by calling the team out for the controversy around its name and mascot, saying: “Want to really stand for racial justice? Change your name.”

See what others are saying: (Yahoo Sports) (The Wall Street Journal) (ESPN)

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Katy Perry and Portia de Rossi Share Support for Ellen

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  • Ellen DeGeneres received words of support from her wife Portia de Rossi, singer Katy Perry, and others following accusations that her the workplace behind the scenes of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is toxic.
  • Several reports indicated that DeGeneres might be departing from her show, but NBC News confirmed Tuesday that she is staying for an 18th season.
  • The allegations against top staffers on the show include bullying, racism, and sexual harassment.
  • WarnerMedia is conducting an investigation into the workplace, and DeGeneres said she is committed to making changes going forward.

Stars Defend Ellen

Rumors have been swirling that Ellen DeGeneres might be leaving her post as the host of her own talk show following allegations of a toxic workplace behind the scenes. However, those rumors were quelled on Tuesday morning, and celebrities began to speak up in support of the daytime host. 

Pop star Katy Perry tweeted support for DeGeneres, saying she has “only ever had positive takeaways” from her encounters with her. Perry also praised DeGeneres for the strides she has made when it comes to representation and equality on television and elsewhere. 

On Monday, DeGeneres’ wife, actress Portia de Rossi, shared an Instagram photo that said “I Stand By Ellen.”

Country singer Brandi Carlile responded to the post, calling the attacks against DeGeneres “unprecedented.”

“Ellen has made my life so much easier for me and other LGBTQ people,” she commented. “I’ll never stop being grateful for that.”

Some Speak Out Against Ellen

Other stars have been quicker to condemn Degeneres. Brad Garrett, best known for his role on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” said these issues are well known and start at the top. 

“Know more than one who were treated horribly by her.⁩ Common knowledge,” he tweeted.

“Back to the Future” actress Lea Thompson replied to an article sharing Garrett’s statement and said it was true. 

Twitter has also been quick to punish DeGeneres. Several reports indicated that she was leaving and speculated that James Corden might be her replacement. On Monday, #ReplaceEllen was a trending topic where users suggested personalities that they believe should step into DeGeneres’ shoes. 

The reports suggesting she is leaving the show have been disproven. On Tuesday, NBC News confirmed that DeGeneres would be staying on for an 18th season.

What Are the Accusations?

The accusations against DeGeneres and her staff are serious. Some former staffers say that producers use intimidation and fear tactics on set every day. Others say they have faced racism. WarnerMedia is conducting an investigation into the matter. DeGeneres herself released a statement on Thursday addressing her staff. 

“On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect,” she wrote. “Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that.”

Following her response, more allegations were shot at leaders of the show. BuzzFeed News published a scathing piece accusing three of the show’s top staffers of sexual assault and harassment, including head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman. One ex-employee said Leman asked him if he could give him a handjob or perform oral sex while at a company party. Another said they saw Leman grab a production assistant’s penis. 

Almost a dozen also said it was common for him to make inappropriate sexual comments and jokes. Leman told BuzzFeed that these allegations and their article were malicious and misleading.

Executive producer Ed Glavin was also accused of inappropriately touching women, and allegedly “had a reputation for being handsy with women.” 47 former employees also told BuzzFeed that he led with intimidation and fear on a daily basis. Prior to BuzzFeed‘s publication, several reports indicated that as a result of WarnerMedia’s investigation, Glavin could be departing the show. 

Co-executive producer Jonathan Norman was accused of grooming a former employee by taking him to concerts and giving him other perks. That employee alleges that one night, Norman attempted to perform oral sex on them. This was corroborated by three former employees. Norman also denied this to BuzzFeed, claiming that the accusations come from someone with ulterior motives.

It is not clear what other actions will be taken as a result of these accusations. 

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Washington Post) (People)

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Emmys Preparing Remote Telecast for September Show

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  • As has long been assumed, officials with the Emmys confirmed that the awards show will be conducting a remote telecast on Sept. 20.
  • A letter sent to nominees by host Jimmy Kimmel and several other producers said that aspects of the show will be coming to nominees’ homes to create a virtual show.
  • According to that letter, technicians, producers, and writers will work with the nominees and with Kimmel to create the show. Nominees will be filmed from their homes or other remote locations of nominees.
  • No further details about the show, including if segments will be pre-taped or if winners will be announced in advance, have been released. 

Emmys Go Remote

Instead of its traditional dazzling red carpet and Los Angeles backdrop, the 2020 Emmy Awards will be coming to you from the homes of television’s biggest stars. 

It has long been assumed that the show would not go forward in the Microsoft Theater, as coronavirus lockdowns, social distancing protocols, travel restrictions, and case increases in L.A. make that a seemingly impossible concept. Host Jimmy Kimmel, along with some of the show’s producers, confirmed this in a letter addressed to nominees, obtained by Variety on Wednesday. 

“At a time like this, we’re taking the opportunity to create a moment that is more relaxed, more entertaining, more enjoyable not only for you, but for the millions watching at home,” that letter stated. “It’s still television’s highest honor, and we never want to lose the significance of being nominated for, and maybe winning, an Emmy, but we’re going to do in a way that is appropriate to the moment (and guarantees you a memorable night).”

“But we cannot ignore the circumstances, and aside from NOT being able to come together in one place, we also acknowledge that our world is going through a challenging moment in many ways,” the letter continued. “We’ll be producing an event that is filled with warmth and humanity, which celebrates the power of television to bring us together and to help us shape our world.”

What to Expect

As for how this works come show night on Sept. 20, the letter further explains that a team of technicians, producers, and writers will work with Kimmel and the nominees to capture essential awards show moments from the homes of nominees or another remote location of their choice. 

Fashion wise, the letter said that the theme of the night is “come as you are, but make an effort!” So, if people want to suit up or throw on a ballgown, great. If they’d rather chill in their bed in PJs, that’s fine too, but powder those cheeks and make sure those pajamas are designer. 

While this COVID-19-era set-up now potentially gives Americans the unprecedented chance to get a peak at A-lister’s living rooms, it also leaves a few major questions unanswered. For example, it is still not known if the whole show will run live or if portions will be pre-taped. 

Likewise, we also don’t know if winners will be hearing of their victory for the first time during the broadcast or if they will be told in advance of the show. Setting up live cameras, audio, lighting and other logistics for every single nominee in the event they win is a difficult feat. 

While the letter states the intent for nominees to work with the show for some technical aspect like this, it is unknown if every single nominee will appear on screen and participate the way they would during a normal show. 

The Emmys will air on Sept. 20 on ABC. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Hollywood Reporter) (Vanity Fair)

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#ChallengeAccepted Trend Faces Criticisms for Alleged False Activism

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  • 5.5 million people, including many A-list celebrities, have participated in the #ChallengeAccepted trend, where women post black and white photos of themselves to promote female empowerment.
  • However, the trend has been heavily criticized by people like The New York Times writer Taylor Lorenz and actress Emmy Rossum who both said it actually doesn’t do anything to actively help women.
  • Others have claimed the trend has lost focus and meaning, thinking it originated in Turkey, where people are sharing black and white photos of women to raise awareness for high rates of violence against women in the country. 
  • Instagram has stated that the trend in the U.S. is not tied to the trend in Turkey, but many are now using the hashtag to call attention to it and to encourage their followers to support the Istanbul Convention, which is meant to protect victims of domestic violence. 

#ChallengeAccepted Goes Viral

As black and white photos of women flood Instagram feeds for the #ChallengeAccepted trend, the campaign has become a contentious subject. What started as a simple photo challenge is now under fire for not actually empowering women as it claims to do. Many are also concerned that these glamour shots are clogging up space where information about important subjects like femicide in Turkey could be shared. 

Olivia Munn, Kristen Bell, Reese Witherspoon, Florence Pugh, Jennifer Lopez, and Kerry Washington are among the over 5.5 million people who have shared black and white photos of themselves using the hashtag #ChallengeAccepted. In addition to these photos, those who partake also often share messages about female empowerment and the importance of women supporting other women. 

But the trend’s purposes and murky roots have led many to criticize the movement, and it’s unclear if any one moment served as a specific catalyst for the trend. Many now claim that it was inspired by black and white photos being shared in Turkey to raise awareness for the high rates of violence against women in the country. This has led to a lot of frustration and outrage because most of the big name celebrities sharing these photos do not mention this aspect at all, leaving their posts to just a flattering photo and brief caption.

Though, in all likelihood, this trend probably has nothing to do with what is happening in Turkey. Instagram told The New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz that the resurgence of this challenge in the United States is actually unrelated to the trend in Turkey. Versions of this trend in the U.S. have actually existed since 2016. It has been used to spread awareness for serious diseases like cancer, as well as just to share general positivity online. 

Criticism of the Online Challenge

Lorenz further discussed #ChallengeAccepted on TMZ Live, where she criticized the campaign for masquerading as a form of female empowerment while doing nothing to actually empower women. 

“Just posting, you know, ‘I’m posting this beautiful photo of myself to support other women,’ that doesn’t actually do anything to, you know, move women forward or actually advocate [for] women,” she said. “It’s not highlighting impressive women, it’s not helping your company hire more women, so it’s ultimately pretty meaningless.” 

Lorenz was far from the only critic of the trend. Actress Emmy Rossum asked her Twitter followers: “How is it empowering to other women to post a selfie?”

Though, Lorenz did think that in some cases, #ChallengeAccepted has been used for good. Stars like Rashida Jones used it to call for justice for Breonna Taylor. Also, because many are under the impression that women in Turkey are the root of the trend, many more have been using it to spread awareness about that. 

Violence Against Women in Turkey

Various infographics have been created and shared on Instagram to educate users on the platform about femicide in Turkey. Some have been liked tens, if not hundreds of thousands of times. People all over are sharing these graphics to their Instagram stories so their followers can read up on the topic.

Violence against women in Turkey has been an issue for a long time, but it is facing renewed attention because a 27-year-old woman was recently murdered by her ex-boyfriend. This has prompted protests and calls for action when it comes to the common threats women face in the country. 

According to The Guardian, 42% of Turkish women between the ages of 15-60 have suffered some form of physical or sexual violence by their husbands or partners. In 2019 alone, 474 women were murdered, mainly by partners or relatives, which was the highest rate in a decade. This number has been increasing every year for the past ten years. It is expected to climb even higher this year because of coronavirus lockdowns leading to increases in domestic violence. 

Those using the challenge to discuss Turkey on Instagram are also pointing to efforts to protect the Istanbul Convention, which is a Council of Europe treaty designed to protect victims of domestic violence and other forms of violence against women. While Turkey was among the first countries to sign it, the convention is facing a new wave of threats against it. 

Legislation that provides basic human rights for women in Turkey is in jeopardy under the country’s conservative leadership. According to The Guardian, lobbyists are working to change the Istanbul Convention, leaving its future in question. 

Celebrities Refocus #ChallengeAccepted

With all this information going around, some celebrities have opted to refocus their role in this online challenge. Actress Florence Pugh, who shared a goofy black and white selfie, discussed the Istanbul Convention in her caption. She encouraged others to do the same. 

“Women are being subjected to violence and this convention is to end forgiveness for the attacker/murderers,” the “Little Women” star wrote. “With that in mind, adjust your hashtags if you didn’t already do so.”

Pugh is also sharing information about violence against women in Turkey on her Instagram stories. Likewise, Academy Award-winning actress Natalie Portman is also sharing articles about femicide in hers, while singer Demi Lovato is raising awareness on her page, as well. 

With celebrities changing the angles of their involvement in this, what initially appeared to be a surface-level girl power challenge has now started to highlight an international issue that many may have previously been unaware of. While its initial direct ties to the #ChallengeAccepted campaign have been disproven by Instagram, this issue has become a driving force behind the trend’s spread. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (The Cut) (Elle)

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