- Mark Cuban, billionaire TV personality and Dallas Mavericks owner, told media outlets Tuesday that in November, he instructed his team not to play the national anthem at the start of home games.
- Cuban initially refused to discuss why he made the decision but reportedly consulted with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver before pulling the plug on “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
- On Wednesday, Cuban said in a statement, “[We] loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them. We feel that their voices need to be respected and heard, because they have not been.“
- While some fans vowed to stop watching Mavericks games, others applauded the move, noting that most other countries do not play their national anthems before sports games.
Update: The NBA has now released a statement saying, “With NBA teams now in the process of welcoming fans back into their arenas, all teams will play the national anthem in keeping with longstanding league policy.”
Cuban Cuts National Anthem
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told multiple media outlets Tuesday that he has instructed the team to stop playing the national anthem before home games.
“It was my decision, and I made it in November,” Cuban, who is also a billionaire investor and “Shark Tank” personality, told The New York Times.
Notably, Cuban’s statement explains why the national anthem was not played in any of the team’s 13 preseason and regular-season games this year.
Cuban initially refused to comment on why he made the decision, but on Wednesday, he released a statement explaining his decision.
“We respect and always have respected the passion people have for the anthem and our country,” he said. “But we also loudly hear the voices of those who feel that the anthem does not represent them. We feel that their voices need to be respected and heard, because they have not been.
Many outlets also have cited his previous support for encouraging players to kneel during the anthem if they choose.
“Whether it’s holding their arm up in the air, whether it’s taking a knee, whatever it is, I don’t think this is an issue of respect or disrespect to the flag or to the anthem or to our country,” Cuban told ESPN last June. “I think this is more a reflection of our players’ commitment to this country and the fact that it’s so important to them that they’re willing to say what’s in their heart and do what they think is right.”
A month later, Cuban said in a now-deleted tweet, “The National Anthem Police in this country are out of control. If you want to complain, complain to your boss and ask why they don’t play the National Anthem every day before you start work.”
While the NBA league book requires players to stand for the national anthem, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that rule would not be enforced this season. Similarly, Cuban said he consulted with Silver on the decision not to play the national anthem.
What Are People Saying?
Reaction to Cuban’s decision has been a bit of a mixed bag.
Some, such as former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R), said they no longer plan to watch Mavericks games.
“The American flag Flag of United States & National Anthem Multiple musical notes were two of the things that united people in this country,” Walker tweeted. “Regardless of sex or race or ethnic background or political party-these were the civic rituals that brought us together. They still should. I will not watch @dallasmavs anymore.”
Others backed the decision, including one U.S. Marine veteran who tweeted that they take “ZERO issue with Mark Cuban’s decision… The National Anthem is not and should not be a requirement for any game to be played — it’s two separate things.”
A number of sports reporters also chimed in.
“The US is an outlier when it comes to the pre-game national anthem,” The New York Times reporter Christopher Clarey said. “Would have more resonance as a rarity instead of being the rule.”
Meanwhile, USA Today columnist Nancy Armour summed up the situation by saying, “There are no doubt some who are deeply moved by The Star-Spangled Banner, and see it as a way to honor those who have and do serve this country.“
“But there are also those for whom it is a reminder of this country’s failings, and the work we still need to do to achieve true equality,” Armour added.
“And then there are those for whom it is simply an extra two minutes to grab a hot dog and beer or make a run for the bathroom. I suspect the majority of Americans fall into that last category. Oh, they might not admit it. But go to any game, and look at the number of people who are talking, texting, taking photos or walking to their seats during the anthem. I have, and it’s a lot. I even saw a guy vaping during the anthem once.”
Like Armour later noted, Yahoo Sports reporter Leander Schaerlaeckens pointed out that the Mavericks’ policy was already in effect for months “before anybody even noticed. So what are we even talking about here?”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ESPN) (The Athletic)
Frito-Lay Workers End Nearly Three-Week Strike After Securing Higher Wages and a Guaranteed Day Off
Employees also negotiated an end to “suicide shifts,” which are two 12-hour shifts that are only eight hours apart.
Hundreds of Frito-Lay workers in Kansas have put an end to their nearly three-week strike over alleged mandatory overtime assignments that resulted in extremely long work weeks and so-called “suicide shifts.”
The term “suicide shift” refers to working two 12-hour shifts with only eight hours of rest in between. That can be especially hard on employees who claim to have worked up to 84 hours in a single week. For context, that’s 12 hours a day without a single day off.
One of the reasons workers have found themselves taking on more hours and days at plants is because consumer snacking has increased during the pandemic — so much so that Frito Lay’s recent net growth has exceeded every single one of its targets. That’s why at one point, the striking workers asked consumers to boycott Frito-Lay products in a show of solidarity.
The strikes began July 5 and concluded on July 23 following an agreement reached by union leaders and PepsiCo., Frito-Lay’s parent company. Under that deal, all employees will see a 4% wage increase over the next two years. They’ll also be guaranteed at least one day off a week, and the company will no longer schedule workers with only eight hours off between shifts.
Following the agreement, Anthony Shelton, the president of the union representing the workers, said that they’ve “shown the world that union working people can stand up against the largest food companies in the world and claim victory for themselves, their families and their communities.”
“We believe our approach to resolving this strike demonstrates how we listen to our employees, and when concerns are raised, they are taken seriously and addressed,” Frito-Lay said in a statement. “Looking ahead, we look forward to continuing to build on what we have accomplished together based on mutual trust and respect.”
The Long, Bitter Road to an Agreement
When the workers went on strike, they lobbed several very disturbing accusations against Frito-Lay.
In fact, the workers were pushed so hard that according to one employee who wrote in the Topeka Capital-Journal, “When a co-worker collapsed and died, you had us move the body and put in another co-worker to keep the line going.”
While Frito-Lay dismissed this account as “entirely false,” other employees continued to protest conditions in the plants. Many even argued the 90-degree temperatures they had to stand in to protest outside were preferable to the 100-degree-plus temperatures and smokey conditions in the factories.
During the strikes, PepsiCo. actively disputed that its employees are overworked, describing their claims as “grossly exaggerated” and saying, “Our records indicate 19 employees worked 84 hours in a given work week in 2021, with 16 of those as a result of employees volunteering for overtime and only 3 being required to work.”
It also said an initial concession more than met the striking employees’ terms, but the union backing those workers disagreed, and further negotiations were held until the final deal was reached.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Business Insider)
Friendship Is on the Decline in America Compared to 30 Years Ago
While the COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for increased isolation Americans have experienced over the past year, other factors for the drop in friendships include political differences, couples marrying later, and parents spending more time with kids.
Americans Have Fewer Friends Today
A new study released by the Survey Center on American Life has essentially found that friends are in short supply in America — or rather, that “despite renewed interest in the topic of friendship in popular culture and the news media, signs suggest that the role of friends in American social life is experiencing a pronounced decline.”
Out of more than 2,019 respondents made up of U.S. adults, only 13% said they had more than 10 close friends. That’s a big drop compared to a 1990 Gallup poll, which reported that a third of U.S. adults said they had more than 10 close friends.
The poll also found that fewer Americans now say they have a “best” friend: 59% today compared to 75% in 1990.
Friendship Breakers: the Pandemic, Politics, and Work
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has very likely been the most direct cause of isolation over the past year.
As the poll also notes, women ages 18-29 appear to be the most affected demographic, with 43% having lost touch with at least a few friends and 16% indicating that they’re no longer in regular contact with most of their friends.
In addition to the pandemic, former President Donald Trump seems to be driving more broken friendships than perhaps most presidents. In fact, 22% of the respondents who said they ended a friendship cited Trump specifically.
According to the poll, 20% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans have ended friendships over political disagreements, with 28% of political liberals saying they would end a friendship over political differences as opposed to 10% of conservatives.
Other factors for Americans’ lost friendships include couples marrying later, parents spending more time with kids, as well as people working longer hours and being more geographically mobile.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. While “best friends” are in shorter supply than in 1990, more than half of U.S. adults still say they have one. Another 46% of Americans have also reported making at least one new friend over the last year.
See what others are saying: (Insider) (Independent) (Axios)
NFL Says Teams Could Be Forced To Forfeit Games If Unvaccinated Players Cause COVID-19 Outbreaks
Neither team will be paid for any forfeited games, and the team that faces the outbreak must also cover all expenses for the opposing team.
NFL Issues Strong Warning to the Unvaccinated
The National Football League announced Thursday that if a game is canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players on a certain team, that team will be forced to forfeit the match.
Additionally, the league said players on both teams will not be paid for any forfeited games, and the team that causes the game to be canceled will also be forced to cover all expenses for the opposing team. It could also face disciplinary action from the Commissioner’s Office.
As NFL.com writer Kevin Patra noted, this is “the clearest line the NFL has drawn to date and the most substantial incentive yet for owners, teams and coaches to pressure players to get vaccinated.”
While the league has not mandated that its players and staff get vaccinated, in its Thursday memo, it said that “nearly all clubs have vaccinated 100 percent of their Tier 1 and 2 staffs.” It also noted that 75% of players “are in the process of being vaccinated, and more than half the clubs have vaccination rates greater than 80 percent of their players.”
The NFL added that vaccinated players or staff who test positive and are asymptomatic will be allowed to return to work following two negative tests 24 hours apart. For unvaccinated players and staff who test positive, the NFL is deferring to its 2020 rules: 10-day isolation.
Rescheduling Vs. Canceling
Unvaccinated players — regardless of whether they test positive or not — will also be subject to more stringent protocols, including daily testing, mask-wearing, and travel restrictions.
That said, there is one potential loophole for teams that find themselves subject to outbreaks, though it could still be a longshot. The NFL will allow games to be rescheduled as long as they fit within the timeframe of its regular season.
“We do not anticipate adding a ‘19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season,” the NFL made clear in its memo.
Still, the NFL may not be as flexible as it was during 2020. For example, while it was able to reschedule all of its postponed games during that season, it did so by moving some to Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
What Players Are Saying
Currently-unvaccinated players were quick to speak out against the memo on Thursday.
“Never thought I would say this, But being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @NFL,” Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said in a now-deleted tweet.
Those advocating for players to get vaccinated have argued that not vaccinating yourself while engaging in a high-contact sport could still result in hurting teammates. In fact, several athletes have reported lingering effects following COVID-19 diagnoses, and some worry that long-term lung issues could cut their careers short.
Similar to Hopkins, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle DJ Reader tweeted, “Talk about getting your hand forced smh.”
Las Vegas Raiders running back even compared this year’s season to “playing in jail” in a now-deleted tweet, saying, “read the rules-know em like you know your plays.”
Meanwhile, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said he hopes his team is “headed toward 100%” vaccination following the memo.