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WNBA Players Walk Out During Anthem While MLB Players Weigh in on the Kneeling Debate

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  • Several MLB players from teams like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers have knelt during the national anthem.
  • Even more players have chosen to kneel before the anthem plays for a moment of unity, where a recorded message calling for equality plays while athletes hold a black ribbon together.
  • Some, like San Francisco Giants player Sam Coonrod, have been vocal against kneeling. Coonrod was the only Giants player to not kneel during the moment of unity, saying he “can’t kneel before anything but God, Jesus Christ.
  • Meanwhile, the WNBA has dedicated their entire season to Breonna Taylor and the Say Her Name campaign. In a unified move, all the players on the New York Liberty and Seattle Storm walked off the court during the anthem.

Standing Vs. Kneeling in the MLB

Showing support for social movements on court or field during the national anthem has become a contentious subject in sports. During their opening games, many Major League Baseball players weighed in on the kneeling debate, while players for the Women’s National Basketball Associate chose to walk off the court entirely as the anthem played.

Since the MLB kicked its season off on Thursday, several players have opted to kneel during the national anthem, the same form of protest that got Colin Kaepernick booted from the NFL in 2016. Even more have knelt before the anthem during a moment of unity. That moment kicks off with a recorded message from Morgan Freeman about the importance of togetherness and equality. While it plays, the athletes join together by holding a long black ribbon. 

When the message ends, the stadium observes a brief moment of silence. During this moment, many teams have taken a knee, including the entirety of the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, Washington Nationals, and Los Angeles Dodgers. A handful of players on the Boston Red Sox did as well. Once the anthem begins, most rise. However, players from the Yankees, Los Angeles Angels, Chicago White Sox, Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants have knelt for the duration of the song, along with coaches from the Tampa Bay Rays. Other players on the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics raised their fists during the song.

“We have to keep the movement moving forward,” Yankees star Giancarlo Stanton told reporters. “For basic human rights in America. For equality. For all of us to have a fair shake.”

He was joined by teammate Aaron Hicks who said he knelt “because I’m a Black man living in America. I should be judged by my character not by my skin tone.” 

“And growing up, that’s kinda what’s happened. It felt right to do,” Hicks added. “It’s kind of a hard thing to talk about especially when it’s my life.”

Still, some baseball players have been vocal about their opposition to kneeling. When the Giants faced off against the Dodgers, every single player took a knee during the moment of unity except for Giants pitcher Sam Coonrod. 

“I meant no ill will by it. I don’t think I’m better than anybody,” he told reporters. “I’m just a Christian. I believe I can’t kneel before anything but God, Jesus Christ. I chose not to kneel. I feel if I did kneel I’d be a hypocrite. I don’t want to be a hypocrite.”

In addition to citing his religion, Coonrod also said he “can’t get on board” with a few things he has read about Black Lives Matter. The message played before the moment of sielnce, however, does not mention the Black Lives Matter movement specifically. It plays to a pretty down the middle call for equality and unity.

WNBA Teams Walk Off Court

Meanwhile, in the WNBA, the players stand on a more unified front when it comes to taking a stand against injustice. In addition to dedicating their season to Breonna Taylor and the Say Her Name Campaign, the New York Liberty and Seattle Storm walked off the court during the national anthem. 

Liberty player Layshia Clarendon told ESPN that many in the league found kneeling to be performative at this point. Several players in the WNBA knelt back in 2016 in solidarity with Kaepernick. The league has been known for standing for social justice.

“Kneeling doesn’t even feel like enough to protest,” she said. “I don’t want to hear the anthem, I don’t want to stand out there. I don’t want to be anywhere near it, because it’s ridiculous that justice and freedom are just not offered to everybody equally.”

The WNBA has worked with Breonna Taylor’s mother, politician Stacey Abrams, as well as other activists and organizers, to make sure their season is focused on fighting for social justice in a meaningful way. Before their Saturday game, the Liberty and Storm observed a 26 second moment of silence in honor of the age Taylor was when she was shot and killed by police officers in Louisville. None have been arrested yet. 

“We are also dedicating this season to Say Her Name Campaign, a campaign committed to saying the names and fighting for justice for Black women,” Clarendon said before the game. “Black women who are so often forgotten in this fight for justice, who do not have people marching in the streets for them.” 

“Black Lives Matter” was written on the floor of the court. Both the Liberty and Storm had Taylor’s name inscribed on the backs of their shirts. 

“Black women are so often forgotten in this world and in a league where we have 70% and plus black women, this is our reality,” Los Angeles Sparks star Nneka Ogwumike told reporters.

See what others are saying: (ESPN) (Sports Illustrated) (Seattle Times)

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Derek Chauvin and 3 Others Ex-Officers Indicted on Civil Rights Charges Over George Floyd’s Death

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  • The Justice Department filed federal criminal charges Friday against Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers after a grand jury indicted them for violating the civil rights of George Floyd.
  • The indictment charges Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, and Tou Thao for violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force. All three, as well as Thomas Lane, were also charged with failing to provide medical care to Floyd. 
  • Chauvin was additionally hit with two counts in a separate indictment, which claims he violated the civil rights of a 14-year-old boy who he allegedly held by the neck and repeatedly beat with a flashlight during a 2017 arrest.
  • Chauvin was already convicted last month of murder and manslaughter over Floyd’s death, which Kueng, Lane, and Thao were previously charged for allegedly aiding and abetting.

Former Minneapolis Officers Hit With Federal Charges

A federal grand jury indicted Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers for violating George Floyd’s civil rights during the arrest that lead to his death last summer, the Justice Department announced Friday.

Chauvin, specifically, was charged with violating Floyd’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and unreasonable force by a police officer. Ex-officers J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao were indicted for willfully failing to intervene in Chauvin’s unreasonable use of force.

All three men, as well as former officer Thomas Lane, face charges for failing to provide medical care to Floyd, “thereby acting with deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm to Floyd,” according to the indictment.

In a second, separate indictment, Chauvin was hit with two counts of civil rights violations related to the arrest of a 14-year-old boy in September 2017. During that incident, Chauvin allegedly held the boy by the neck and hit him with a flashlight repeatedly.

The announcement, which follows a months-long investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, comes just over two weeks after Chauvin was found guilty of three state charges of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death.

He is currently awaiting his June 25 sentencing in a maximum-security prison.

State-Level Charges

Kueng, Lane, and Thao all face state charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Kueng and Lane were the first officers to responded to a call from a convenience store employee who claimed that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill. Body camera footage showed Floyd sitting in the car and Lane drawing his gun as the officers ordered him out and handcuffed him. 

Floyd can be heard pleading with the officers not to shoot him.

Shortly after, Chauvin and Thao arrived, and the footage shows Chauvin joining the other officers in their attempt to put Floyd into the back of a police car. In the struggle, the officers forced Floyd to the ground, with Chauvin kneeling on his neck while Kueng and Lane held his back and legs. 

Meanwhile, in cellphone footage taken at the scene, Thao can be seen ordering bystanders to stay away, and later preventing a Minneapolis firefighter from giving Floyd medical aid.

Their trial is set to begin in late August, and all three are free on bond. The new federal charges, however, will likely be more difficult to prove.

According to legal experts, prosecutors will have to show beyond reasonable doubt that the officers knew that they were depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights but continued to do so anyway.

The high legal standard is also hard to establish, as officers can easily claim they acted out of fear or even poor judgment.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Associated Press)

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Caitlyn Jenner Says Her Friends Are Fleeing California Because of the Homeless Population

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  • California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner sparked outrage after an interview with Sean Hannity on Wednesday that was filmed from her Malibu airplane hangar. 
  • “My friends are leaving California,” she said. “My hangar, the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said, ‘Where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’”
  • Many criticized Jenner for sounding out of touch and unsympathetic to real issues in California and suggested that she prioritize helping the homeless population rather than incredibly wealthy state residents.

Caitlyn Jenner’s Remarks

California gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner sparked outrage on Wednesday after suggesting that wealthy people are fleeing the state because of its homeless population.

Jenner sat down for an interview in her Malibu airplane hangar with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Jenner is one of the handful of Republicans aiming to unseat current Governor Gavin Newsom in a recall election in the fall. While polls show that most Californians do not support recalling Newsom, the conservative-led movement to do so gained enough signatures to land on the ballot.

“My friends are leaving California,” Jenner claimed during the interview. “My hangar, the guy right across, he was packing up his hangar and I said, ‘where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona, I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’” 

“I don’t want to leave,” she continued. “Either I stay and fight, or I get out of here.”

Jenner’s Remarks Prompt Backlash

Her remarks were criticized online by people who thought Jenner sounded unsympathetic and out of touch to the real issues in the state. Many found it hypocritical that Jenner has slammed Newsom for being elite but was so concerned for wealthy people who don’t like having to see unhoused residents on the street.

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Ca.) called Jenner out on Twitter for seemingly fighting for a small percentage of Californians. 

Unlike you, Dems are focused on the 99% of people who don’t own planes or hangars,” he wrote. “And you know what’s going to help reduce homelessness? The #AmericanRescuePlan, which your party opposed.”

Others suggested she prioritize directly addressing the homeless situation.

“If you don’t like the homeless situation, instead of hiding in your PRIVATE PLANE HANGAR, your campaign should be about helping them,” actress Merrin Dungey said. “They don’t like their situation either. Your lifelong privilege is showing. It’s not a good color.”

Jenner, an Olympic gold medalist and reality star, is one of the most prominent transgender Americans. Because homelessness is such a common issue within the trans community, some were frustrated she was not using her campaign to fix the situation, and rather used it to complain about how it impacted her wealthy friends. 

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Politico) (Washington Post)

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Derek Chauvin Seeks New Trial In George Floyd Murder Case

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  • A lawyer for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd, filed a motion Tuesday for a new trial.
  • Among other complaints about Chauvin’s conviction, the attorney cited “prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law.”
  • He also claimed the court “abused its discretion” by not granting a change of venue or sequestering the jury for the duration of the trial, arguing that publicity before and during it threatened its fairness. 
  • John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, told CNN, “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them.”

Derek Chauvin’s Attorney Files Motion for New Trial

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is officially asking for a new trial, hoping to overturn his conviction for the murder of George Floyd.

His attorney, Eric Nelson, filed court paperwork Tuesday laying out a number of errors he believes were made during Chauvin’s legal proceedings that violated his constitutional rights to due process and a fair trial. Nelson cited alleged issues, including, “prosecutorial and jury misconduct; errors of law at trial; and a verdict that is contrary to law.”

The filing did not cite any specific examples of jury misconduct, but Nelson also argued that the court “abused its discretion” by not granting a change of venue or sequestering the jury for the duration of the trial.

The court proceedings took place in the same city where Floyd was killed and where protesters drew national attention by calling for justice in his name. As a result, Nelson claimed that publicity before and during the trial threatened its fairness. He also argued that a defense expert witness was intimidated after he testified, but before the jury deliberated.

His filing asks for a hearing to impeach the guilty verdict, in part, on the grounds that the 12 jurors “felt threatened or intimidated, felt race-based pressure during the proceedings, and/or failed to adhere to instructions during deliberations.”

It’s unclear exactly what will come of this request, but John Stiles, deputy chief of staff for Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, told CNN, “The court has already rejected many of these arguments and the State will vigorously oppose them.”

For instance, a judge previously denied Chauvin’s request to move the trial in March, saying, “I don’t think there’s any place in the state of Minnesota that has not been subjected to extreme amounts of publicity on this case.”

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NPR) (CBS)

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