Washington to retire Redskins name and logo

By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) – The NFL’s Washington team announced on Monday it will retire its Redskins name and logo in a decision made after sponsors stepped up pressure to scrap a name that the franchise has used since 1933 but long has been criticized as racist by Native American rights groups.

Team owner Dan Snyder, who bought the franchise in 1999, had previously said he would never change the name but softened his stance after FedEx Corp, which owns the naming rights to the team’s suburban stadium in Landover, Maryland, urged the NFL club to re-brand.

The team said on July 3 it would conduct a thorough review of the club’s name.

“Today, we are announcing we will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review,” the team said in a statement.

The team did not provide a time line for when the review would be completed. Its statement did not specify a reason for the name change.

Critics have ramped up pressure on the team to change its name, which is widely seen as a racial slur against Native Americans, amid the nationwide reckoning on racism and police brutality triggered by the May 25 death of a Black man named George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

In June, a group of more than 80 socially minded investment firms, collectively with more than $620 billion in assets under management, urged FedEx, Nike Inc and PepsiCo Inc to terminate relationships with the team unless it changed its name.

PepsiCo and Nike both followed FedEx’s lead and said they welcomed the call for a review of the team’s name.

The team that became the Washington Redskins was founded in 1932 as the Boston Braves. Its name was changed to the Redskins the following year and it moved to Washington in 1937. Many American professional and collegiate sports teams have nicknames on Native American themes.

Snyder and Ron Rivera, the team’s new head coach, “are working closely to develop a new name and design approach that will enhance the standing of our proud, tradition rich franchise and inspire our sponsors, fans and community for the next 100 years,” the team said.

The team has won three Super Bowls and is one of the NFL’s marquee franchises, ranked by Forbes last September as the league’s seventh most valuable franchise at $3.4 billion.

In June, a memorial to the team’s founding owner, George Preston Marshall, who fought against the racial integration of the National Football League, was removed from RFK Stadium, the team’s former home in Washington.

The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the team’s announcement.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue and Steve Keating in Toronto, Editing by Franklin Paul and Will Dunham)

Sport could resume in empty stadiums says top U.S. disease expert

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The NFL campaign and an abbreviated baseball season may be possible if games are played without fans and players are kept in lockdown, U.S. President Donald Trump’s leading infectious disease adviser said on Wednesday.

It has been a little over a month since the NBA season was abruptly halted amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, with most professional sports following suit, leaving arenas and stadiums empty amid speculation over when live sport can return.

“There’s a way of doing that: Nobody comes to the stadium, put them (the players) in big hotels, wherever you want to play, keep them very well surveilled,” Anthony Fauci, the leading U.S. health expert said in a Snapchat interview.

“Make sure they don’t wind up infecting each other or their family and just let them play the season out.”

Fauci, who appeared last month in an Instagram live interview with Golden State Warriors sharp-shooter Steph Curry, said he would recommend that athletes should be tested roughly once a week after resuming play.

The prospect of sports going ahead without fans has met with some criticism. Major League Baseball recently damped down talk it would return as soon as May with players competing in an isolation bubble.

Last month, before professional sport was suspended, 16-time NBA All-Star LeBron James called the notion of playing without fans impossible.

“People say, ‘Well, you know, you can’t play without spectators,’” said Fauci. “Well, I think you probably get enough buy-in from people who are dying to see a baseball game – particularly me.

“I’m living in Washington, we have the World Champion Washington Nationals, I want to see them play again.”

The NFL regular season is due to kick off on Sept. 10, but there is no date for the MLB to start or for the NBA and NHL to resume. Major League Soccer said on Tuesday its projection to return in mid-May was “extremely unlikely.”

(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris)

NBC plans to show player protests if they occur at Super Bowl

Some members of the Cleveland Browns team kneel, while others stand, during the National Anthem before the start of their game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, U.S., September 24, 2017. USA TODAY

By Lisa Richwine

PASADENA, California (Reuters) – U.S. television network NBC, broadcaster of this year’s Super Bowl, will show any players who kneel during the pre-game national anthem to protest racial inequality, the game’s executive producer said on Tuesday.

Several dozen National Football League players kneeled, sat or locked arms during “The Star-Spangled Banner” in the regular season, drawing rebukes from President Donald Trump who called it unpatriotic. Game broadcasters showed the protests during the initial weeks but reduced coverage of them later.

The anthem is typically shown live before the Super Bowl and this year will be performed by pop singer Pink at the Feb. 4 championship.

If any players decide to kneel at the Super Bowl, NBC will cover it, executive producer Fred Gaudelli said at a Television Critics Association event in Pasadena, California.

“When you are covering a live event, you are covering what’s happening,” Gaudelli said. “If there are players who choose to kneel, they will be shown live.”

Announcers likely will identify the players, explain the reasons behind the actions, “and then get on with the game,” Gaudelli said.

He also noted that the number of protests had waned since Thanksgiving.

The players who kneeled during the regular season said they were protesting the killing by police of unarmed black men and boys across the United States, as well as racial disparities in the criminal justice system. More than half of all NFL players are black.

The Super Bowl is the year’s most-watched U.S. television broadcast, attracting an audience of more than 100 million people. NBC is a unit of Comcast Corp.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

NFL: League not seeking mandate for players to stand during anthem

FILE PHOTO: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell smiles as he walks around StubHub Center before the game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers, Carson, CA, USA Oct 1, 2017. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

By Frank Pingue

(Reuters) – The NFL said on Friday it has no plans to mandate players stand for the U.S. national anthem, but will rather present a possible solution on how to end the controversial protests when it meets with team owners next week.

Commissioner Roger Goodell, along with the head of the NFL Players Association, will meet with the owners from Oct. 17-18 in New York where the issue of player protests during the U.S. national anthem is expected to command much attention.

“(Goodell) has a plan that he is going to present to owners about how to use our platform to both raise awareness and make progress on issues of social justice and equality in this country,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said on a conference call.

“What we don’t have is a proposal that changes our policy, we don’t have something that mandates anything. That’s clear. If that was the case I doubt the head of the NFLPA would have put a joint statement out with us.”

The statement released on Wednesday said Goodell invited NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith to the meetings and that the agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized.

The protests, in a league where African-Americans make up the majority of players, have continued through the current season, with some players kneeling and others standing arm-in-arm in solidarity.

The gesture is intended to call attention to what protesting players see as a pattern of racism in the treatment of African-Americans by U.S. police.

The issue has been exacerbated after U.S. President Donald Trump said last month that players who did not stand during the anthem should be fired.

Lockhart said the discussions will focus on how to use the broad platforms of the NFL, players and clubs to try and make progress on issues of equality, social justice and criminal justice reform.

“These are issues that are important to our clubs, issues that are important to our players, issues that are important to the communities in which we play,” said Lockhart.

“That’s what we are discussing. So for everyone who has speculated over the last few days that somehow there is a proposal that is set for a vote on Tuesday or Wednesday you are speculating.

“Those who are reporting it as fact are reporting it incorrectly.”

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

NFL owners to mull anthem rules as Trump ups protest criticism

Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills players kneel in protest during the National Anthem before a game against the Denver Broncos at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – NFL team owners will consider requiring players to stand for the U.S. national anthem after President Donald Trump on Tuesday stepped up his criticism of silent player protests against racial injustice by targeting the league on taxes.

Trump, a Republican, escalated his feud with the National Football League in a Twitter post asking if the league should get tax breaks while players kneel in protest when the “Star-Spangled Banner” is played at the start of each game.

The world’s top-grossing sports league gave up its controversial tax-free status two years ago. Its owners are preparing to address the anthem issue at their fall meeting in New York Oct. 17-18, NFL chief spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters on a conference call on Tuesday.

“Everyone at this point is frustrated by the situation,” Lockhart said. “The commissioner and the owners do want the players to stand. We think it is an important part of the game.”

The protests in a league where African Americans make up the majority of players have continued through the season, with some players taking a knee when the anthem is played and others standing arm-in-arm in solidarity.

While current policy says players should stand for the anthem and face the flag, no player has been disciplined for a protest, Lockhart said.

“Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

What Trump was demanding was unclear since the NFL has given up its tax-exempt status. The White House did not reply to requests for comment.

“There is nothing really here to give up,” said Lockhart.

Trump last month called on NFL team owners to fire players who kneel during the anthem to protest police violence against black Americans.

Critics contend Trump is fanning the controversy to distract from issues including devastation in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, tensions with North Korea and difficulties in pushing healthcare and tax overhauls through U.S. Congress.

Vice President Mike Pence walked out of a NFL game on Sunday after some players knelt, a move some critics called a publicity stunt.

Trump won the presidency with less support from black and Hispanic voters than any president in at least four decades.

Trump has squared off against the NFL before, having owned a team in the upstart United States Football League in the 1980s. That league folded in 1985 after an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL failed.

The NFL was granted nonprofit tax-exempt status in 1942, but gave it up in 2015 amid criticism from members of the U.S. Congress.

Trump has refused to disclose his own tax history, departing from a practice of U.S. presidents going back more than 40 years. Trump has said nobody cares about his tax returns, but critics say they could show conflicts of interest.


(Additional reporting by Daniel Bases in New York and Steve Keating amd Frank Pingue in Toronto; Writing by Susan Heavey and Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Scott Malone and Meredith Mazzilli)


Trump ramps up NFL fight, calls for ban on kneeling during anthem

Bruce Maxwell of the Oakland Athletics kneels during the singing of the National Anthem before his MLB American League baseball game against the Seattle Mariners at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California, U.S., September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump ramped up with his fight with the National Football League on Tuesday, calling on the popular league to ban players from kneeling in protest at games while the U.S. national anthem is played.

“The NFL has all sorts of rules and regulations. The only way out for them is to set a rule that you can’t kneel during our National Anthem!” Trump wrote on Twitter, fuelling his war of words with the multibillion-dollar NFL in his fifth straight day of public comments on the issue.

Representatives for the league and its players union could not be reached immediately for comment.

Trump earlier Tuesday praised two NFL teams that had largely steered clear of the controversy Monday night. The Arizona Cardinals linked arms and stood for the playing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” along with the Dallas Cowboys, who knelt before the song.

“But while Dallas dropped to its knees as a team, they all stood up for our National Anthem. Big progress being made-we all love our country!” Trump wrote, adding that “ratings for NFL football are way down.”

Television networks reported a mixed impact on viewership for Sunday’s games.

It was the latest salvo from Trump, a former reality television show host and political neophyte who took office in January, after he ignited the fight with the players in the biggest-grossing U.S. pro sports league last week.

On Friday, he told a political rally that any protesting player was a “son of a b****” who should be fired, and urged a boycott of NFL games, touching off protests by dozens of players, coaches and some owners before games on Sunday.

Trump’s verbal assault may play well with his conservative base at a time when the Republican president is grappling with North Korea’s nuclear threats, a humanitarian crisis in hurricane-struck Puerto Rico, an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and a healthcare struggle in Congress.

Hillary Clinton, Trump’s ex-rival in the 2016 presidential contest, blasted Trump for targeting black players and stoking racial tensions.

“He’s very strategic about who he attacks, and he is sending a message. It’s a huge loud dog whistle to his supporters,” she said in an interview on the “CBS This Morning” program.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first kneeled during the national anthem last year, refusing to stand to protest police shootings of unarmed African-Americans.

Several players have made similar gestures in what they said is a call for social justice, not a slight against the country or its flag.

Critics, including Trump, have said it is disrespectful. Supporters have said the protests embody the American right to free speech.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Jonathan Allen and Makini Brice; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Signs of brain disease in 99 percent of former NFL players: study

FILE PHOTO - New England Patriots linebacker Junior Seau celebrates sacking San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in first quarter of the NFL's AFC championship football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts, U.S. on January 20, 2008. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

By Scott Malone

BOSTON (Reuters) – The brains of 99 percent of former National Football League players showed signs of a disease linked to repeated hits to the head that can lead to aggression and dementia, according to research published in a leading medical journal on Tuesday.

The findings were based on the broadest review yet of the brains of former football players for signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The condition, also known as CTE, is linked to the sort of head-to-head hits that were long a part of the sport, though the NFL and school leagues have been tweaking the game in recent years to limit blows to the head.

“The data suggest that there is very likely a relationship between exposure to football and risk of developing the disease,” said Jesse Mez, a Boston University School of Medicine assistant professor of neurology, who was lead author of the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers studied the brains of 202 former athletes who had played football in the NFL, the Canadian Football League or at the college or high school level and found signs of CTE in the brains of 110 of the former 111 NFL players.

The condition, which currently can be diagnosed only by taking brain tissue from a dead subject, has been diagnosed in former players including Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau and Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson, who both committed suicide.

The researchers noted that the study had limitations including that the subjects’ brains were donated by their families, and that families are more likely to opt into the study if the players had showed symptoms of CTE.

“We do not know what proportion of football players, or any group, for that matter, develop CTE,” said Dr. Munro Cullum, a neuropsychologist with the O’Donnell Brain Institute at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

The NFL, which last year pledged $100 million for neuromedical research, said the study would help the league and players to understand the condition.

“The NFL is committed to supporting scientific research into CTE and advancing progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, in an e-mail.

The study found signs of CTE in the brains of 91 percent of the 53 former college players whose brains were studied and 21 percent of the former high school players.

(Reporting by Scott Malone, additional reporting by Lisa Rapaport in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay)

Charlotte police brace for NFL game after release of shooting video

The National Guard arrives as people gather outside the football stadium as the NFL's Carolina Panthers host the Minnesota Vikings, to protest the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina

By Robert MacMillan and Mike Blake

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) – Officials in Charlotte, North Carolina on Sunday geared up for further protests over the police killing of a black man, a day after police released videos of the confrontation that did not show whether the victim had a gun when he was shot.

After nearly a week of protests, city officials were preparing for extra security at a National Football League game between the Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon, bracing for more demonstrations over the killing of Keith Scott, 43, who police said was armed when officers shot him on Tuesday.

Small groups of police in riot gear stood around Bank of America Stadium as fans arrived about two hours before kick-off in a jovial mood. Officers shook hands with some of them and posed for pictures as a group of about 30 protesters gathered with signs.

“Black lives matter,” the demonstrators chanted. “We don’t need no riot gear. Why are you in riot gear?”

Scott’s death has made Charlotte, the state’s largest city and one of the U.S. Southeast’s most vibrant urban centers, the latest flashpoint in two years of tense protests over U.S. police killings of black men, most of them unarmed.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney said his department expects to “expend significant public safety resources” at the arena, which can hold more than 70,000 people.

Charlotte declared the game an “extraordinary event” under its municipal code, giving police the power to stop people from carrying blades, projectiles and other objects into a certain area.

The previous night, hundreds of people marched through the city center on a fifth night of demonstrations that stretched into Sunday morning, including white and black families protesting police violence.

A Panthers fan sympathized with the protesters but did not think they would succeed in changing policing.

“I get the message the protesters are trying to send,” Joe Mader, 24, said. “I think it’s smart that they’re out here. I’m happy to have them here.”

A football fan takes a selfie with police, who are part of a large security presence, outside the football stadium as the NFL's Carolina Panthers host the Minnesota Vikings amid protesting of the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., September 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

A football fan takes a selfie with police, who are part of a large security presence, outside the football stadium as the NFL’s Carolina Panthers host the Minnesota Vikings amid protesting of the police shooting of Keith Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., September 25, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

On Saturday, police released videos showing Scott’s shooting in the parking lot of a Charlotte apartment complex.

Putney acknowledged that the videos themselves were “insufficient” to prove Scott held a gun but said other evidence completed the picture.

Police said officers trying to serve an arrest warrant for a different person caught sight of Scott with marijuana and a gun, sitting in a car in a parking lot.

Both Scott’s family and protesters have disputed the police statements that Scott was carrying a gun.

Police released photos of a marijuana cigarette, an ankle holster they said Scott was wearing, and a handgun, which they said was loaded and had Scott’s fingerprints and DNA.

But Scott’s family, which released its own video of the encounter on Friday, said the police footage showed the father of seven was not acting aggressively and that the police shooting made no sense, with no attempt to de-escalate the situation. The family video, shot by Scott’s wife, was also inconclusive on the question of a gun.

In one of the police videos, a dashboard-mounted camera from a squad car showed Scott exiting his vehicle and then backing away from it. Police shout to him to drop a gun, but it is not clear that Scott is holding anything. Four shots then ring out and Scott drops to the ground.

A second video, taken with an officer’s body camera, fails to capture the shooting. It briefly shows Scott standing outside his vehicle before he is shot, but it is not clear whether he has something in his hand. The officer then moves and Scott is out of view until he is seen lying on the ground.

At least five people who appear to be police officers are seen in the bodycam video. Both videos show Scott moving at a measured pace with his hands at his sides.

Another lawyer for the Scott family, Charles Monnett, said, the family did not know enough of the facts to know whether the officer who killed Scott should face charges.

The two-minute video recorded by Scott’s wife on a cell phone showed the scene of the shooting, but not the shooting itself. In the video, Mrs. Scott can be heard telling officers that her husband has TBI, a traumatic brain injury.

“Don’t shoot him! He has no weapon” she cries as police yell at Scott, “Drop the gun!” Then shots sound.

(Writing by Peter Henderson and Jonathan Allen; Editing by Michael Perry and Andrea Ricci)

Carolina Panthers Hire Six-Year-Old Coach

He barely reaches the waist of most of the players, but the Carolina Panthers were listening to the orders of their new coach.

Braylon Beam, 6, has been battling cancer since February.  He signed a one-day contract to be the head coach of the team for the annual Fan Festpractice August 7th at Bank of America stadium in Charlotte.

Braylon is a big fan of Carolina quarterback Cam Newton.  The first-grader wore a Newton jersey during an appearance on the Ellen TV show where he talked about his #JustKeepDancing movement to raise money for pediatric cancer.

“He’s a real energetic young man who has got a real good sense for being around people. He showed that,” Panthers regular head coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s got a great fight about him and I hope our guys got the message and understand who this young man is.

Beam held a team meeting, telling the Panthers: “Be brave, be positive, never give up, have a heart, go Cats.

Beam told ESPN after the event that it was the best day ever.

Cleveland Browns Sign Youngest Player in NFL History

The average age of an NFL player took a huge dip on Tuesday when the Cleveland Browns signed 9-year-old Dylan Sutcliffe to a one-day contract.

“We’re excited to add another quality player to our roster as we prepare for the 2015 season,” said General Manager Ray Farmer. “When we first connected with Dylan, it was clear he was a competitor who had all of the right attributes to be a contributor to our team.”

“Dylan is definitely a young man who has all of the ‘Play Like a Brown’ traits, particularly through his passion, toughness and relentlessness.” said Head Coach Mike Pettine. “We look forward to seeing him bring that energy to practice this afternoon.”

Dylan was receiving a gift from the Make-A-Wish foundation.  Dylan has ataxia telangiectasia (A-T), a immunodeficiency disease that impacts a number of different organs.  His brother Sean also has the disease.

“Day-to-day, they just require a lot more attention,” said Dylan’s father, Derek. “Helping them eat, helping them get dressed, helping them go to the bathroom. Anytime they have to get up out of a chair and walk somewhere.”

The team brought Dylan to their practice complex in a limo, gave him a tour of the facility and a locker with his own #7 jersey.  No player on the team this season wears #7 so he’ll be a unique member of the club.

Dylan’s favorite player is defensive lineman Phil Taylor, who took Dylan under his wing during practice.  At the end of the day, Taylor lifted Dylan from his wheelchair and held him in the air while the team gathered around and did the Browns cheer.