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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "football"

Darren Grimes: Why I’m backing this new campaign to defund the BBC

Darren Grimes is a political commentator and is content creator at Reasoned UK.

It’s safe to say that the BBC has had a terrible Coronavirus war.

Allowing itself to become the propaganda wing for Black Lives Matter protestors; dismissing one protest in particular that injured 27 rank and file police officers as ‘largely peaceful‘. The Corporation has decided it can use our own money to tell us what to think further still – removing Little Britain from its increasingly skewed iPlayer content. It then announced it would spend £100 million of our dosh on producing “diverse and inclusive content”, when its only diversity problem is its lack of diversity of thought.

At the weekend, the BBC even went as far as to say gay men who exclusively fancy men are transphobic, placing itself at the very front of the barricades of the culture war that we appear to have imported from the United States. In a BBC News piece on Pride Month, the (since removed) bit of text told us that: “discrimination also extends to what some people describe as transphobic preferences in the dating world: from cisgender gay men not wanting to date trans men”.

A gay man exclusively fancying men? “Bigotry!” says Auntie Beeb.

Readers of this column will be aware many things grind my gears, but having to pay the BBC to watch Newcastle United get thrashed in real-time, via a Now TV subscription, is one thing that I find staggeringly incomprehensible. As if being a NUFC fan isn’t punishment enough? To watch any live telly, I have to pay for the BBC in its entirety, even if I watch none of it. Funding right-on Gary Lineker’s large pay packet with the threat of prison if I do not.

It might well have made sense when my mother was a child to ensure that house number 48 couldn’t pick up the signals from number 47 for nothing, using just a TV set with an aerial or even a coathanger, but the world of broadcasting has changed. Back in my mother’s day, there existed no technological mechanism to charge people based on what they actually wanted to consume.

Choice in television has since exploded. More than 480 channels are available to every UK TV viewer, as well as an abundance of other streaming services: people are now used to paying a subscription for the telly they want. With an understanding that if you don’t pay the fee, the only penalty you face is that those channels are switched off.

That’s not the case with the BBC’s Telly Tax. It’s single mothers like mine that are hardest hit by non-payment of the licence fee. Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that 72 per cent of cases, or 93,319 of 129,446 prosecutions in 2018 were brought against women. If you ask me, that’s too high a price to pay just to keep Strictly Come Dancing on free-to-view telly.

And then there are young people. It was reported in December that around 18,000 people under the age of 20 have been prosecuted in the last five years. Surely the liberal do-gooders advocating decriminalisation for middle-class coke sniffers, to protect young people from a criminal record that they deem to be a minor or harmless activity, must now recognise the human cost to young people and women from criminalisation for non-payment of the telly tax?

The same bunch that opposed Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax must surely be opposed to the BBC’s poll tax. A tax imposed on those who are increasingly likely to watch little or no BBC output, but must pay the £154.50 a year tax, regardless of income, to watch a TV set.

Inevitably, all of those arguing that our courts are overstretched, seized-up and that the justice system must be better funded, will recognise that substantial resources are taken up with thousands of prosecutions for non-payment of the licence fee, right?

If you have read all of these arguments and heard them all before, many have not. That’s why I’ve decided to join the Defund The BBC campaign, which is now managed by the same set of seasoned campaigners behind StandUp4Brexit, who held our parliamentarians’ feet to the fire in ensuring that our voice and our vote for Brexit was listened to. They want to do that again with the BBC.

Defund The BBC want to make the case to the public, lobby our Government and stiffen the resolve of our parliamentarians to do something about the biased, bloated, antiquated and regressive BBC. Anything you can donate to their crowdfunding efforts will boost their campaign to secure the decriminalisation of non-payment of the licence fee by the end of 2020, and to fight for a commitment from the Government to change the Charter, so that its remit covers only BBC channels and content.

Our broadcasting and streaming habits have left the 1970s days of aerials and coathangers behind them, it’s about time that the regressive and antiquated BBC funding model – with its real, present and tragic human cost – was dragged into 2020 with them.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Caroline Nokes: Spare a thought for women. Male ministers have forgotten we exist in their lockdown easing plans.

Caroline Nokes is Member of Parliament for Romsey and Southampton North. 

Covid-19 has taught us many things about the importance of physical and mental wellbeing. We discovered (if we actually needed to be told) that your chances of recovery were greatly improved by being physically fit and in the normal weight range for your height.

We found out that mental resilience was important to cope with long periods of relative isolation, and social contact carried out mainly by Zoom. We were told very firmly that an hour of exercise should be part of our daily routine, and pretty much the only way to escape the house legitimately.

But for women in particular the importance of wellbeing seems to have gone well and truly out of the window as lockdown is relaxed.

Why oh why have we seen the urge to get football back, support for golf and fishing, but a lack of recognition that individual pilates studios can operate in a safe socially-distanced way, rigorously cleaned between clients?

Barbers have been allowed to return from July 4 because guess what – men with hair need it cut. They tend not to think of a pedicure before they brave a pair of sandals, although perhaps the world would be a better place if they did. Dare I say the great gender divide is writ large through all this?

Before anyone gets excited that women enjoy football and men do pilates can we please just look at the stats? Football audiences are (according to 2016 statistics) 67 per cent male and don’t even get me started on the failure of the leading proponents of restarting football to mention the women’s game.

Pilates and yoga (yes I know they are not the same thing) have a client base that is predominantly women and in the region of 80 per cent of yoga instructors are women. These are female-led businesses, employing women, supporting the physical and mental wellbeing of women, and still they are given no clue as to when the end of lockdown will be in sight.

Could it be that the decisions are still being driven by men, for men, ignoring the voices of women round the Cabinet table, precious few of them though there are? I have hassled ministers on this subject, and they tell me they have been pressing the point that relaxation has looked more pro-men than women, but it looks like the message isn’t getting through.

I will declare an interest. Since I first adopted Grapefruit Sparkle as a suitably inoffensive nail colour for an election campaign in 2015, I have been a Shellac addict. The three weekly trip to Unique Nails is one of life’s little pleasures, an hour out, sitting with constituents, chatting, laughing, drinking tea.

It is good for the soul, a chance to recharge and chill out. And for many of the customers it is their chance to not have to bend to get their toenails trimmed, it is a boost to their mood, that can last for a full three weeks until it is time for a change.

And it is a fairly harmless change to go from Waterpark to Tartan Punk in an hour. Natural nails have done very little for my mood since a nice chap from Goldman Sachs told me: “you could go far if only you opted for a neutral nail, perhaps a nice peach.”

At school I was described as a “non-participant” in sport – I hated it, and it has taken decades to find the activities I can tolerate to keep my weight partially under control. Walking the dog is a great way, but nothing is as effective as the individual work-out rooms in a personal training studio – where it is perfectly possible for those of us who do not like to be seen in lycra to exercise in isolation and then have the place cleaned for the next victim.

I am not suggesting it is only women who do not like to exercise in vast gyms, there are men with similar phobias, but what I cannot get over is the lack of recognition that a one-to-one session in a studio is not the same as toddling off to your local treadmill factory.

The Pilates studio owners of Romsey and Southampton North are deeply frustrated at the apparent inability to draw the distinction between their carefully controlled environments and much larger facilities where, to be blunt, there is a lot of sweat in the atmosphere.

I know I get criticised for being obsessed about women – it goes hand in hand with the job description – but I cannot help but feel this relaxation has forgotten we exist. Or just assumed that women will be happy to stay home and do the childcare and home schooling, because the sectors they work in are last to be let out of lockdown, while their husbands go back to work, resume their lives and celebrate by having a pint with their mates.

(And yes I do know women drink beer too, but there is a gender pint gap, with only one in six women drinking beer each week compared to half of men.)

Crucially, women want their careers back and they want their children in school or nursery. Of course home working has been great for some, but much harder if you are also juggling childcare and impossible if your work requires you to be physically present, like in retail, hairdressing, hospitality.

These are sectors where employees are largely women, and which are now opening up while childcare providers are still struggling to open fully – with reduced numbers due to social distancing requirements. It is a massive problem, which I worry has still not been fully recognised or addressed.

Perhaps if the PM needed to sort the childcare, get his nails done and his legs waxed it might be different. But it does seem that the Health Secretary, the Chancellor, the Business Secretary and the Secretary of State for Sport and Culture, who all have a very obvious thing in common, have overlooked the need to help their female constituents get out of lockdown on a par with their male ones.

Am I going to have to turn up to work with hairy legs to persuade them that women’s wellbeing matters?

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

David Davis: Scrapping the two metre rule won’t rescue sport, theatre, concerts – and large-scale live entertainment. Here’s a plan that will.

David Davis is a former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and is MP for Haltemprice and Howden.

Many industries face challenges from the Coronavirus, but few suffer the absolute shut down imposed on live entertainment and sport. ]Even the hospitality industry can see (some) light at the end of the tunnel. From live music, worth £1.1 billion to the economy, through theatreland and concert halls to the giant industries of football and rugby, sustained social distancing means economic collapse.

Everybody is expecting the Prime Minister to announce a reduction of the two metre separation down to one metre. But, in venues where people can move about, they will bunch together regardless; think of the atmosphere at an exciting live gig or in the closing furlongs of a horse race.

Equally, in venues with seats, any model which leaves most of them empty will lead to colossal losses – and does anyone imagine fans will remain socially distanced at a football match when a goal is scored? There was certainly no real social distancing at the Atalanta game in Milan, which was held responsible for a massive spike in Italian infections. There, every one of the home team’s four goals was met with hugging, kissing, and high fives.

At a time when we are still struggling to modify fourteen-day quarantine proposals, it is worth stepping back and asking how many tourists will even want to come to Britain, if the theatres, sporting venues and live events are all gone?

We should not underestimate the damage that closing down our entertainment industry will do to Britain. The West End, our national sporting scene, our cultural brilliance as a nation, are what make London a global city and attract everybody form tourists to students to businessmen to our shores. So get this wrong, and we are doing the whole country serious harm.

Fortunately, a man with a plan has appeared. His solution is not only good for these industries – in fact lifesaving –but also offers hope for the government’s test, and trace programme, at a time when it is in danger of faltering, as the public hesitate to sign up. Testing capacity has grown remarkably, but the actual rate of testing continues to lag well behind capacity.

In outlining his ambitious Full Capacity Plan, Melvin Benn, managing director of Festival Republic, explicitly links attendance at his events (most of Britain’s music festivals) with compulsory Coronavirus testing.

Put simply, a negative Covid-19 test would be the key to getting you into a show. At the moment, if you’re not showing coronavirus symptoms you don’t usually get a test, so government guidelines would have to change to enable his plan. Or perhaps more usefully, the Government could open up testing to the private sector more effectively than it has so far, emulating countries that have actually made a success of testing, tracking and tracing.

Under this plan, everybody attending an event will have been tested for Covid-19 within a limited number of days before the event, whatever length of time the government determines is safest.  The most obvious objection is that tests don’t always pick up the virus in its early stages. There’s also a window between someone being tested and actually going to the festival. They could pick the virus up then as well.

So what is his plan? Music festivals take place between May and September each year, so we have probably lost an entire year’s live music and festivals. The plan to get festivals (and other entertainment and sporting events) up and running again involves:

  • Customers who want to book an event being advised to get a test and download the NHS trace app.
  • The test is registered with the app, so you can continue with your booking.
  • If the test comes back negative, the app notifies you and that allows you to attend the event.
  • You show your app and ticket at the event which allows you entry, subject to an on-the-spot temperature test.
  • Enhanced hygiene measures would be introduced and enforced.

All of this works with the grain of government thinking on everything except social distancing, which it is designed to replace. Working in partnership with the Government, such an approach would allow the public to access to the entertainment and leisure sectors and create a personal incentive for the public to be tested and traced. This is a genuine alternative to social distancing.

Consider, for a moment, the alternative. Already, in the warm weather we saw people – especially young people – flouting the ban on social distancing in parks and on beaches. If we really are going to persist in a policy which wipes out all their opportunities for amusement, they will devise alternatives – and those won’t involve social distancing, but may well be risky and anti-social.

Instead of properly organised festivals, we will see a rash of illegal raves, with all the misery and mess they bring rural areas. As famous football and rugby venues moulder, angry crowds will look for other forms of amusement. As we have seen already this could lead to serious increases in infection rates, and maybe another lockdown.

Benn’s plan aims to stimulate the debate about getting back to normal opening rather than partial opening because partial opening is ‘financial disaster opening’. It is simple and easy, inexpensive in comparison to the subsidies that the government is currently paying and very achievable with the organisation that good companies can deliver.

It is not the only thing we should be doing, of course. There are a range of matters we need to fix, from looking after the host of self-employed artists and entertainers who have slipped through the cracks of the furlough scheme, to ensuring that our insurance industry meets their obligations to theatreland. In summary, we need a plan for our world beating culture and sports, or we will lose it.

If the Government does not like this approach, it needs to come up with an alternative which is economically viable. The entertainment industries are a substantial part of the economy and our place in the world. Equally important, young people are barely at risk from the corona virus and don’t see it as their problem. If, on top of reduced employment prospects and damaged education, they see us ruining their fun, it will corrode respect for law and authority in general. We take that respect for granted at our peril.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

For Johnson and the Conservatives, the power of patriotism is a plus

At the end of April, when the Conservative poll ratings were higher, Labour’s were lower and his leadership had only recently begun, Keir Starmer went to marginal Bury, and sought to fix his party’s biggest weakness.

“I’m really proud of my country,” he told local voters, adding that “we love the country we live in” – and that the Labour movement and British patriotism were “two sides of the same coin”.

In his methodical, deliberate way, Starmer was moving early to start fixing his party’s biggest vulnerability under his predecessor.

Voters may not have known much about Hamas, Hezbollah and even, in the case of younger ones, the IRA, and not all them can remember the Soviet Union or the Falklands War.

But they sniffed out that Jeremy Corbyn was uneasy with today’s Britain.  Perhaps the poisonings in Salisbury, after which he refused to acknowledge Russian culpability, marked a turning-point.

His successor is set on correcting his party’s mistake, and this offers a way into thinking about Black Lives Matter and Britain’s present troubles.

The first point to make about the organisation is that it is very different from Labour – or even a far-left body like the Socialis Workers’ Party.  Because it is not a party at all.

Nor is it a campaign – in the sense that Marcus Rashford’s push for children’s meals was, for example.  In other words, an enterprise with a clear aim, led by an identifiable person (or persons).

Black Lives Matter has no visible leader or leaders.  As irony has it, it is delivering a white supremacist tactic: “leaderless resistance”.

Consequently, it is a kind of rainbow movement in which no-one has any more authority than anyone else.  There is a moderate end, represented by the newly toned-down and front-benched David Lammy.

The Shadow Justice Secretary does have policy changes that he wants made, not all of which are very different from those of his opponents, and Andrew Gimson pointed out on this site last week.

Then there is the extreme end – UK Black Lives Matter, for example, with its “commitment to dismantle imperialism, capitalism, white-supremacy, patriarchy”.

This wing may have no spokesman with even a smidgeon of Lammy’s media profile, but it doesn’t need one to force itself on more voters than he will ever reach.

Defacing Churchill’s statue, overthrowing Edward Colston’s, targeting Cecil Rhodes: all this has what the managers of focus groups call “cut through”.

So does the censoring of Gone With The Wind by HBO Max, or the pulling of Little Britain from BBCIPlayer or Netflix, or the RFU reviewing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.

Now, younger people are unlikely to see Tara, the slave-owning plantation the film, in the same way as older generations.  Most people wouldn’t champion Edward Colston.  Or laugh now at Desiree DeVere: taste changes.

Nor will your average punter in the provinces believe that Britain’s imperial history was all good with no bad.  But this is beside the point.

Which is that people need a basic self-esteem to keep going – the conviction that they and their home and their country are worth valuing, as is its history and culture.  This is lowest common denominator patriotism.

Starmer understands this – which is why, when he “took the knee”, he did so in as low-profile a way as possible, for a single photo in the insulated space of his Westminster office, as far away from the streets as he could manage.

He will also appreciate the root cause of the panic that seized a mass of Labour’s front bench MPs in the wake of Priti Patel’s eviscaration of the party in the Commons.

It has got used to treating ethnic minority Britons as though it owned their votes. Conservative politicians like Patel, Kemi Badenoch, and Rishi Sunak are a challenge to its sense of entitlement.

Hence their flustered letter to Patel, seeking to delegitimise her life story.  And the Left’s alarm at the emergence of clever, purposeful ethnic minority thinkers and actors who don’t take its line, such as Munira Mirza.

Starmer may also be alert to the risks that the corporates are running by taking up Black Lives Matter, powered by a mix of fear, guilt, shame, decency, greed and that most insidious moral danger of all: following the crowd.

For example, Premiership football may feel today that, by putting the slogan on the back of players’ shirts, it is in tune with the zeitgeist.  But what will it do when asked: why so many black players, and so few black managers?

The Labour leader is trying to run with the protesters’ hare while hunting with Bury’s hounds.  But political leadership means taking decisions, and his was to take that knee.

We doubt very much whether most voters, especially in the mass of Red Wall seats that the Conservatives swept last December, would be happy doing likewise.

The site wouldn’t quite go so far as to claim that majority opinion would see the gesture as unpatriotic (though we would like to see some polling).

But we know that the vast majority of Britons are proud of their country, and taking the knee suggests to many of them that they shoudn’t be.

However slow Boris Johnson may have been to respond alertly to the defacing of Churchill’s statue, or its boarding-up, he at least has more or less got there, and has had the elemental cunning not to follow Starmer.

Sunak, Patel, Badenoch have all been flinty.  So has Dominic Raab.  And in the response to his words last week, we saw yet again the cultural divisions that wracked Britain during Brexit.

Much of London and most of provincial Britain are different worlds, and it doesn’t follow that because the Foreign Secretary’s dismissal of taking the knee was slated in the first, it went down badly in the second.

Talking of which, we believe that Ben Bradley, whose 2017 win in Mansfield was a precursor of last year’s sweep through the North and Midlands, has his finger on the pulse.

Bradley resigned from the front bench recently and now has the freedom to speak his mind.  He’s been tweeting about everything from Churchill’s statue through white working class education to premiership football.

Are memories really so short?  It’s scarcely six months since a general election, for the first time in a modern election in Britain, delivered a result in which culture trumped economics, like the 2016 referendum before it.

It proved that patriotism is a potent electoral force.  Britain won’t have changed that much in little more than 24 weeks.  To be sure, the Conservatives have work to do when it comes to Covid-19, the economy and “levelling-up”.

As well as in building real diversity in Britain – by which we mean a diversity of views as well as people.  For which Mirza is becoming a bit of a poster woman.

The challenges and problems are legion.  But at least Johnson hasn’t got to grapple with one that Starmer can’t shake off: the sense that his party doesn’t feel at home in the country that it seeks to govern.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Sunder Katwala: Race and age. To older Britons, the pace of progress seems swift. To younger ones, frustratingly slow.

Sunder Katwala is the Director of British Future.

What do we talk about when we talk about race? Policing and crime. Coronavirus and health. Education and Jobs. Discrimination and racism. Immigration and Integration. National identity. History – and statues.

Statues, mostly, is where the wheel of fortune has landed for now. So I fully support both Boris Johnson and David Lammy in wanting to keep Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square. The sole difficulty has been tracking down anybody to argue that against. My own anecdotal twitter experiment, canvassing non-white views specifically, got two tweets in favour of removing it among about a hundred against. As the Prime Minister said, announcing his new Commission on inequalities, it is time to move from symbols to substance.

The story of race in Britain can be very subjective. Eight million of us have different experiences of being not white in Britain. Half of us were born here, the children or now grandchildren of those who came as migrants, with markedly different experiences – by generation and gender, by geography, social class and ethnic group.

We are each shaped by our own lives. My parents came here from India and Ireland. Growing up Irish Catholic, with an Indian name, in 1980s Merseyside, I was quite likely to take some interest in history, and to follow football as well as cricket, but to be sceptical of a “community of communities” multiculturalism which hoped to slot us all into neat and tidy federated boxes.

So my lived experience is mostly of the retreat of racism and how opportunities opened up. My 14-year-old self, an Everton season ticket holder introduced to anti-racist causes by monkey chants in the stadium, would be glad to hear that racist incidents at big matches today are rare enough to merit shocked analysis on Match of the Day. When I left university, there were very few black or Asian faces in public life, outside sport and a few popular newsreaders. I cast my first vote, in 1992, for a parliament with six ethnic minority MPs out of 650 – so the shift from one in 100 non-white MPs to one in 10 seems a big deal to me.

There had never been an ethnic minority Cabinet minister in Britain before this century began. How surprising it now seems that there had not yet been a single Asian woman in the Commons, nor any Asian Cabinet minister, until 2010 now that British Asian Chancellors and Home Secretaries seem as frequent as London buses.

Yet I also experience direct racist abuse more often now – on social media – as the Internet takes the effort out of being a racist troll.

Experiences vary, however. If I felt less defined by my surname at work in this century than in the school playground in the last, British Muslim friends often felt the opposite: that 9/11 or 7/7 saw them viewed predominantly through the lens of their faith. The Black Lives Matter protests put the specific black British experience under the spotlight, reflecting distinct patterns of opportunity and disadvantage across different minority groups.

A striking generational paradox emerges in British Future’s research, talking to people about race. Young adults, aged 18-24, undoubtedly hold the strongest norms against prejudice or discrimination that this country has ever seen. Yet younger black and Asian participants, and their white peers too, were much less likely than older generations to think that any progress was being made.

That there has been progress over time, and that Britain has a comparatively good record on race, are the mainstream right’s two favourite arguments about race. Those are broadly accurate arguments. The blind spot can be in understanding when they may not seem relevant.

Britain certainly has the strongest framework on race policy in western Europe. Yet it would be hard to set a lower bar. The overwhelmingly white EU institutions seem allergic to discussing race. Britain and Ireland are unusual in western Europe in even collecting ethnicity data. Emmanuel Macron has pledged to act on racial inequality – but would need to change the law to investigate it properly. Britain’s race disparity audit would be illegal in France.

But these comparative arguments can be especially tone deaf if used to contest lived experience.  If I am a young graduate in Manchester, wondering if I will get a similar number of job interviews as my classmates, despite my ethnic surname or headscarf, the hypothesis that I might face more discrimination in Marseilles or Budapest would seem especially irrelevant.

Twenty-somethings have little interest in history lessons about the “bad old days” before they were even born. Who would expect the Stormzy generation to express gratitude at being less likely to get beaten up by NF thugs? Their birthright expectation is that the equal opportunities of which every Prime Minister speaks should have become a reality by now.

Evidence should matter in policy-making – but politics is always about identity and emotions too. David Goodhart sets out how there has been significant, though incomplete, progress for a growing black middle-class. But the framing of “facts versus feelings” won’t work for the liberal right on race any better than it has for the liberal-left on immigration.

It is because race is about feelings and facts that our public conversation about race often struggles to bridge the divide between those – particularly older, white Britons – for whom the pace of rising diversity has felt pretty fast, and the young black perspective that our journey to equal opportunities remains frustratingly slow.

Even the labels we use to talk about race shift across generations too. I never called myself black. I might have done, if I had gone to university in the 1970s rather than the 1990s. Black voices of an earlier generation would sometimes still tell me that I should. “Mixed race, mixed race, what’s all this mixed race nonsense, boy? If you’re not white, you’re black”, the late Darcus Howe told me in 2012, as we prepared to talk about some race Twitterstorm on Newsnight. Had I belatedly taken his advice then, I might be asked to drop that label now.

“We assure you that all organisers of BLM UK are Black (not politically black)”, says a statement of the Black Lives Matter (UK) organisers.  So the new Black movement politics also brings an era of the old black politics to a close.  Yet those who have turned up to Black Lives Matter events in both the US and the UK capture that these are also distinctively more cross-racial protests.

They come from a generation impatient if the story of incremental progress does not focus mostly on what still needs to change. Rishi Sunak’s response, making the case for patient gradualism, exemplifies the challenges of navigating that.

This moment is undoubtedly a challenge to the significant racial disparities that remain in our society. It is a product, too, of ethnic minorities having more presence, more voice and potentially more power in British society than ever before.  Things did change for the better on race in Britain. The next challenge is that expectations rose faster still.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Kneeling at George Floyd Protests Recalls the Colin Kaepernick Controversy

It is a simple gesture, swaddled in outrage and long-endured grief, that gained powerful currency through the protest against police brutality and racial injustice led by quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the fields of the National Football League.

Taking a knee.

Across the nation these last hard, uncertain days, demonstrators have turned to the gesture on city streets. At a nighttime march in Minneapolis on Wednesday, a crowd of 400 knelt for nearly five somber minutes. On the same day, George Floyd’s son, Quincy Mason, walked through a crowd at the site where a white police officer had pinned his father to the ground by a knee to the neck. There, before a makeshift memorial, Mason dropped to a knee.

The gesture has even been made sporadically by law enforcement officers, members of the National Guard and by prominent politicians as an act of solidarity or effort to pacify.

In New York, an N.Y.P.D. commander knelt with activists outside Washington Square Park. In Portland, Ore., police in riot gear knelt before cheering demonstrators, some of whom responded by walking toward the officers to shake their hands. Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles walked amid a demonstration and knelt. And the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joseph R. Biden Jr., took a knee at a campaign visit to a black church in Delaware.

Kaepernick has not played in the N.F.L. since Jan. 1, 2017, his career cut short when no team would sign him following a season of player protest he led with the help of a teammate, Eric Reid.

But his kneeling objection during the playing of the national anthem has boomeranged through the choppy slipstream of the American consciousness, and is again at the center of a turbulent moment with newfound force, and for the N.F.L., renewed debate.

“It’s a powerful, peaceful way to say you’re not OK with what’s been happening,” said Hibes Galeano, 32, a Latina who attended a protest in Minneapolis this week. Others who knelt spoke of Kaepernick with reverence. “He did what a lot of other athletes wouldn’t have done,” said Dorien Harris, a black, 19-year-old marcher who wore a face mask inscribed with the words “I Can’t Breathe” as he knelt.

“It took a lot of guts for him to do that, a lot of heart,” he added. “He knows what the community needs. It needs that strength. He was saying to stand up for what you believe in, no matter your position.”

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_173115486_24c245e8-04b5-4e9f-a803-2ae12d3f4175-articleLarge Kneeling at George Floyd Protests Recalls the Colin Kaepernick Controversy United States National Anthem Protests (2016- ) Reid, Eric (1991- ) Race and Ethnicity Police Brutality, Misconduct and Shootings Kaepernick, Colin George Floyd Protests (2020) football Floyd, George (d 2020) Demonstrations, Protests and Riots Black People
Credit…Demetrius Freeman for The New York Times

While some demonstrators say they have had Kaepernick and his campaign in mind when kneeling, the gesture is also — intended or not — an echo to the manner of Floyd’s death.

“Kneeling is both an act of defiance and resistance, but also of reverence, of mourning, but also honoring lives lost,” said Chad Williams, the chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University. “It is also simple and clear. Its simplicity gave it symbolic power, and as we see now, its power persists.”

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Updated 10m ago

So does the controversy surrounding it.

Starting in 2016, despite Kaepernick’s explanation that his kneeling during the national anthem was a call to end racial injustice and police brutality toward people of color, a backlash fomented, spurred largely by President Trump, who tried to recast Kaepernick and the predominantly African-American group of players who followed his lead as unpatriotic. That viewpoint persists, expressed this week by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who publicly apologized after saying in an interview that he views taking a knee during the anthem as an insult to the country.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America or our country,” Brees said, linking such defiance to condemnation of the military.

Taking a knee might be a simple gesture, but the fraught, contentious opinions about it are a mirror into the complexity of race in America.

Consider its N.F.L. origin story.

Kaepernick and Reid came up with the idea after consulting a former Green Beret, Nate Boyer, who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan before playing college football at Texas and then getting a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks. “Colin straight up asked me what I thought he should do,” said Boyer, speaking recently over the phone from Oregon.

Boyer said he did some research and came across a photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. kneeling in prayer and protest in Selma, Ala. during the 1960s. Boyer also remembered taking a knee at Arlington National Cemetery, in reverence of fallen friends.

Credit…BH/Associated Press

“If you’re not going to stand,” Boyer told Kaepernick and Reid, as they sat in a hotel lobby hours before the 49ers’ final preseason game, against the San Diego Chargers. “I’d say your only other option is to take a knee.”

Boyer said he would never do such a thing during the anthem. But he had fought for the right of free expression, and though he said he was apolitical, he empathized with the drive to end racism and police brutality.

At the game that evening, he stood next to Kaepernick as he knelt, and felt the sting of an angry, booing crowd rain onto the field. “Maybe that was my little taste of what it is like to be black. It helped me understand,” he said.

The players’ kneeling reached a peak in the 2017 season — when Trump demanded that team owners “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now!” for kneeling — but has since petered out.

In early 2019, the NFL handed over a payout believed to be roughly $6 million to settle a legal fight with Kaepernick and Reid, who argued they had been denied jobs because of their actions during the national anthem.

The league agreed to donate millions of dollars to community groups and causes chosen by players. It joined with Jay-Z, the hip-hop empresario, to consult on entertainment and contribute to the league’s activism campaign, Inspire Change. It also updated a policy, so far not enforced, requiring players to stand for the national anthem or remain in the locker room while it is played.

Within a week of Floyd’s death, kneeling became a common gesture. And its complexity carries on.

The way it has been adopted by members of law enforcement and politicians, for example, is best viewed with an eye that is both skeptical and hopeful, said Mark Anthony Neal, chairman of the African and African-American Studies Department at Duke.

“It’s an important gesture, showing maybe they get it now,’’ he said. “But if those same officers and politicians are not willing to hold their own accountable going forward, or look at their own actions and examine them closely, this is at best empty rhetoric.”

Kaepernick has remained publicly silent aside from recent postings about the protest on social media.

His latest on Twitter? A retweet that sarcastically jabs at Brees and shows a 2017 photo of the Saints quarterback during the playing of the national anthem, taking a knee.

Kim Barker, Dionne Searcey, John Eligon, Ken Belson and Matt Furber contributed reporting. Jack Begg contributed research.

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Here are the latest updates on professional sports in the District

Westlake Legal Group soccer Here are the latest updates on professional sports in the District Things to Do Sports soccer NWSL nhl News & Updates News NBA mlb ice hockey football COVID-19 coronavirus basketball
Photo by Tevarak Phanduang

The sports world came to a halt on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, all professional sport playoffs and regular seasons have been put into limbo. With states around the country slowly starting to reopen, many leagues and player associations have started to agree on new formats to get players back on the field, court and ice. Here are the latest updates from around the leagues.

NBA

On June 4, the NBA board of governors approved to resume the 2019-2020 season at Orlando’s Walt Disney World Resort with the proposed start date of Friday, July 31. This approved plan calls for a new 22-team format to complete the remaining regular season games. 

According to the NBA press release, 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams will play eight seeding games and the seven teams in each conference with the best record will qualify for the playoffs, with a possible play-in tournament for the final eight seed. From there, fans can expect the traditional best-of-seven playoff series throughout the playoffs.

So, what does that mean for the Washington Wizards? Right now, the Wizards have the ninth overall record in the Eastern Conference, making them the last team to qualify in the new format and continue their playoff hopes. The NBA players association plans to approve the new format on Friday, June 5. 

NHL 

The NHL is also making steps to return to the ice after announcing its Return To Play Plan to finish the 2019-2020 season on May 26. Approved by both the owners and players, this plan cancels the rest of the regular season and expands the playoffs to the top 24 teams (based on points percentage).

The playoff expansion also means a new format to crown the 2020 Stanley Cup Winner. In each conference, the top four teams will play a round robin tournament to decide seeding for the first round of the playoffs while the other eight teams play in a best-of-five series to determine who advances to the next round. After the qualifying round, all series will be a best-of-seven and each team will be reseeded after every round. 

This means the Washington Capitals will enter the playoffs as the Metropolitan Division champions and hold the third overall seed going into round robin play.

Unlike the NBA, the NHL has not announced a proposed start date for when play will resume, but has stated that training camps won’t resume earlier than the first half of July.

MLB

When it comes to the 2020 MLB season, a lot more is up in the air. Owners and players are still at a standstill trying to negotiate the number of games and player salaries for the postponed season. 

While proposals have been made by both sides, including an 82-game season with expanded playoffs proposed by owners and a 114-game season with no additional pay cuts proposed by players, neither has come close to passing.

There has been a lot of pushback from players to the proposal made by MLB owners. Washington Nationals pitchers Max Scherzer and Sean Doolittle have both spoken out on Twitter about their issues regarding the proposed season. Doolittle posted a whole thread about his worries and the problems he sees regarding player health and safety if the season resumes. While Scherzer focused on proposed salary cuts, tweeting, “There’s no justification to accept a second pay cut based upon the current information the union has received.”

As the clock keeps ticking and uncertainty surrounds Major League Baseball this season, this is definitely unfortunate for baseball fans who want a little normalcy in their lives. 

NWSL

The NWSL will be the first professional sports team in the country to resume play as all nine teams will travel to Utah and play in a month-long tournament starting Saturday, June 27. 

The preliminary round of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, will feature 18 games over two weeks of play with the top eight teams heading to the quarterfinals on Friday, July 17 and Saturday, July 18. The semifinals and finals will be held on Wednesday, July 22 and Sunday, July 26 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.

The Washington Spirit are set to play four games in the preliminary round. Those include the Tuesday, June 30 game vs. Utah Royals FC, and the matchup on Saturday, July 4 against Megan Rapinoe and the OL Reign. Other games include one held on Wednesday, July 8 vs. Portland Thorns FC and another set for Monday, July 13 against the Houston Dash.

Fans can catch the tournament on CBS, CBS All Access and Twitch.

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Andy Street: Let the West Midlands be the test bed for reopening tourism and culture

Andy Street is Mayor of the West Midlands, and is a former Managing Director of John Lewis.

Step by step, the nation is cautiously beginning to ease out of lockdown. Primary teachers are set to welcome children. Retailers are preparing to put out the ‘open’ sign. As scientists monitor infection rates, communities are starting to venture outside, under the Government’s revised guidelines.

Now, as footballers prepare to take to the field, thoughts are also turning to how the cultural sector can raise the curtain on a new post-Covid era.

In the West Midlands, the region’s tourism and cultural businesses have been among the hardest hit by the lockdown and, with little revenue generated, they have been almost entirely reliant on Government support to avoid redundancies and closures.

However, we believe we now have a unique opportunity to re-establish cultural life as a key economic driver in the region’s post-Coronavirus recovery. Last week, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden received a letter jointly signed by myself, Fiona Allan, chair of the West Midlands Tourism Board and Martin Sutherland, CEO of Coventry City of Culture 2021, asking for our region to be the national pilot area to reopen for tourism and the arts.

By becoming a test bed, we want to help strike the right balance between safety concerns and cultural activity, setting the stage for other regions to follow. As pace-setters for tourism, our ambitious creative and cultural industries are well placed to lead the way.

A record 131 million people visited the West Midlands in 2018, a 2.6 per cent increase in visitors compared with the previous year. Behind this success lies improved facilities, attractions, transport links and, above all, a concerted effort by a united cultural sector to change perceptions of our region as a place to visit.

Even in lockdown, that ambition has been obvious. In Solihull, the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) has just set out a £45million investment plan to increase capacity of its Resorts World arena by 6,000 – to 21,000 – making it bigger than the O2 in London and Manchester Arena.

Our heritage continues to play an important part in our cultural future too. The remarkable Black Country Living Museum – one of the filming locations for Peaky Blinders – has unveiled its ‘Forging Ahead’ project, with plans to build a new attraction that will allow visitors to step back in time to the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

In Digbeth, one of Birmingham’s creative hubs, Steven Knight – the man behind Peaky Blinders – is aiming to open a film and TV studio that has already been dubbed ‘Brummiewood’.

Despite lockdown, even now in Wolverhampton, Wolves are adding another 500 seats to their Molineux stadium – a step towards their long-term transformational vision for the stadium.

The sports sector continues to drive a raft of improvements to our tourist and cultural offer – which will be supercharged by Coventry City of Culture next year and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022.

This kind of ambition has made the cultural and tourism sectors vital parts of the West Midlands economy. They support 135,000 jobs in the region, contributing around £12.6bn a year to the local economy.

But they now face the daunting prospect of being one of the last sectors to be released from lockdown, and even then having to operate at a much-reduced capacity. The figures are stark. 95% of businesses in the sector here report a fall in revenue. Over 50% are struggling with cashflow. More than 40% have closed or ceased trading with a further 35% forecast to join them by August.

The Government has moved to support the arts, freeing cash for Arts Council England’s £160m fund to help deal with the pandemic’s immediate impact. Self-employed people in the arts world have also been able to benefit from the self-employed income support scheme, with cash grants of up to £2,500 per month.

We need to work with Government to identify how to safely and carefully reopen parts of these sectors, as part of the wider recovery programme for the economy. Regional leaders are keen to see staff in the sector allowed to return on a reduced, part-time basis until it is safe for normal activity to resume.

Safety, of course, must remain the number one concern, with the Government’s newly-instituted Entertainment and Events Working Group leading the way. Combining the expertise of medics and scientists with 30 organisations including the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Really Useful Group, they will help formulate how the sector reopens.

The West Midlands stands ready to act as a pilot area to help. That means developing plans that would diligently plot the routes visitors take through attractions and adjusting the lay-out of facilities for social distancing. It would mean thinking through the best methods of arrival and departure for visitors, and how to organise intermissions in events. Venues must also consider how to organise parking and how to connect safely with public transport points that deliver audiences. A pilot would provide valuable insights for UK venues preparing for life after lockdown.

The economic benefits for our region of an earlier-than-planned reopening are obvious. The West Midlands is a leader in business tourism, with a huge market share in conferencing and exhibitions, meaning the NEC group would be a key part of our pilot plans. It would provide a much-needed boost for visitor destinations such as Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick. It would also inject confidence into the region’s theatres, which are currently considering whether to cancel Christmas productions, one of their biggest annual money-spinners.

But the terrible human tragedy of those we have lost to Covid-19, and the hardships endured by so many in lockdown, make it doubly important that the reopening of our cultural sector is monitored and led by science. We cannot risk another wave of this terrible disease.

Yet we cannot underestimate the economic value of culture to the nation – Britain is a world leader in the arts – nor its ability to boost morale as we seek to find a ‘new normal’ for society.

Now is the time to start carefully considering the next act for the arts in the UK. Culture, like sport, is a shared experience that defines society. By taking onboard the advice of scientific experts and tapping into the expertise of our cultural industries, we can plot a course for its safe return. After so many months of lockdown, only then can we say that collective society is back.

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Karl McCartney: Come on, Dowden – it’s time to take action to protect British football

Karl McCartney MP is the recently elected Chairman of the UKPFC APPG, and the first ever Conservative Captain of the Parliamentary Football Club.

We are now faced with a true football travesty – and I say this as a Tranmere Rovers, Liverpool, and Lincoln City fan.

Newcastle United (NUFC) – the club of England football legends, such as Alan Shearer, John Barnes, Paul Gascoigne, Kevin Keegan, Sir Bobby Robson and many others – is set to have 80 per cent of its finances supplied by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.

Given the country’s levels of personal prosecution, rules and regulations regarding individual freedoms, sentencing for law breakers, and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 – whose death was allegedly ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this news will make many people shudder.

Yet despite the legitimate concerns put forth from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Khashoggi’s fiancé, the deal seems to be going ahead.

For me, the most insidious fact about this purchase is profit. Not that profit is a bad thing – but it shouldn’t come at the expense of everything else. Yet that is the core aim of the buyers: Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the nominated Chairman, is on record as saying the most important thing for him with any investment is a double-digit return for Saudi Arabia – not English football. 

A mass investment in the club, part of our national game, akin to the likes of the Manchester City FC purchase, this is not.

Of course, Saudi Arabia, or its operatives, has for years been undermining British football by operating the now-notorious pirate broadcaster “beoutQ”. Indeed the Saudis are in the enviable position of currently not paying anything to watch world-class football – unlike every other country in the free world.  

Now, if this purchase goes through, not only will they receive their UK football on TV for free, they will also reap the rewards from legitimate rights-payers like Sky, BT and beIN Sports, who all pay huge sums for broadcast rights and whose money goes directly to grassroots British sport.

That, to me – as the Chairman of the UKPFC APPG – is mightily important and should not be overlooked.  

All the while, the rule of law – for which this country, our country, prides itself – is ridden over roughshod by the Saudis. Not for the first time, some might rightfully point out. It is an outrage. 

Two weeks ago now, my colleague, Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State, refused to be drawn on this issue when he appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. Understandable, perhaps. No-one wants to confront a country which has historically been one of our biggest export markets, and so I have some limited sympathy with him. 

But frankly, the Premier League, Wimbledon, Horse Racing and Formula One are some of our country’s greatest sporting exports. And football fans across the UK, and there are many of us, deserve better from their Government than Dowden’s dodging. 

At a time when the whole country is hurting from the coronavirus crisis, early last week it emerged in another DCMS Committee inquiry session that broadcast revenues for the Premier League (totalling £3 billion) barely cover total player wages (£2.9 billion). 

Anything that undermines the value of UK football risks driving down the value of broadcast revenues, putting at risk clubs’ financial sustainability. This means that British football could struggle to attract the kind of talent we have come to expect and admire.

We know this risk is very real. beIN Media Group, one of the broadcasters most affected by Saudi piracy, has already had to shed a third of jobs and discontinued broadcasting Formula One as a direct result of beoutQ’s piracy, I am informed. That decision cost the sport seven per cent of its revenue, totalling around £30 million a year. 

Given the hit UK sport has already taken as a result of Covid-19, clubs could find themselves teetering on the brink of survival if they suffer that kind of a financial loss unilaterally.

For now, Sky, BT and beIN have said they are committed to continuing their support of the Premier League through rights purchases. But as beIN’s CEO Yousef Al-Obaidly said to the LEADERS in Sport Conference at Twickenham just last year, beoutQ represents an existential threat to the whole industry. Sky has also tried to take legal action against Saudi Arabia, to no avail. 

The BBC, one of our most cherished national institutions (if you believe the BBC and its Labour friends in and outside of the corporation), has been raising this as a grave concern with the Government and with the European Commission for years, and yet the state-sanctioned piracy continues.  

What is to be done? Last year the Government said it was committed to tackling what they recognised was an immediate threat, as a matter of urgency, yet very little has happened since. 

That is a disgrace. It’s time we took this seriously. The stakes could not be higher for UK football as an entity. It’s time to stop gambling with its future; it’s time to stop Saudi piracy. The best way to start is to block, at the very least delay, the Saudi purchase of Newcastle United – and at least impose some sanctions before allowing it to progress.

Otherwise this will lead to wage reductions (perhaps overdue), less taxes paid, and more clubs under financial pressure and vulnerable to takeover.

I believe in free markets, but I also believe in a level playing field and not trying to ‘pull a fast one’. It is time we sent them, and others around the world, a message loud and clear: hands off our football, stop stealing our national assets and play by the rules – or suffer the consequences.

For more information about the UK Parliamentary Football Club, visit www.parliamentary.soccer.

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Loudoun United FC’s second season will kick off in early March

Westlake Legal Group loudoun-united-fc-feature Loudoun United FC’s second season will kick off in early March Washington Spirit Things to Do Features Things to Do Sports soccer loudoun united fc loudoun united loudoun county local sports leesburg football Events DC United
Photo by Jonathan Timmes

Loudoun United FC’s first season was groundbreaking. The DC United affiliate team brought professional men’s soccer to Northern Virginia for the first time ever at the new state-of-the-art stadium, Segra Field, in Leesburg. And, the team finished its first season in ninth place in the USL Championships power ranking. 

Now Loudoun United is back for 2020, looking to kick off the season with an away game on Sunday, March 1 against Philadelphia Union II (formerly Bethlehem Steel FC). The team will host its second home opener in franchise history on Wednesday, May 6 at Segra Field against the Charlotte Independence. They’ll look to fill the stands too, since last year’s home opener drew the team’s biggest crowd with more than 5,000 attendees. 

The team will host 17 home games this season, up from 12 last year. Segra Field is also set to host Washington Spirit for four games in the 2020 season, bringing professional women’s soccer to NoVA for the first time. Below, find Loudoun United’s 2020 schedule.

Away vs. Philadelphia Union II
Saturday, March 7, 7 p.m. 

Away vs. Atlanta United 2
Saturday, March 21, 5:30 p.m. 

Away vs. Miami FC
Friday, March 27, 7:30 p.m. 

Away vs. Indy Eleven
Wednesday, April 15, 7 p.m. 

Away vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Saturday, April 18, 7 p.m. 

Away vs. New York Red Bulls II
Friday, May 1, 7 p.m. 

Home vs. Charlotte Independence
Wednesday, May 6, 7 p.m. 

Away vs. Louisville City
Saturday, May 9, 7 p.m. 

Home vs. North Carolina FC
Wednesday, May 13, 7 p.m. 

Away vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Saturday, May 16, 7:30 p.m. 

Away vs. Sporting Kansas City II
Sunday, May 24, 4 p.m. 

Home vs. Charleston Battery
Saturday, June 6, 6:30 p.m. 

Home vs. Memphis 901 FC
Sunday, June 14, 4 p.m. 

Home vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Saturday, June 20, 6:30 p.m. 

Away vs. North Carolina FC
Saturday, June 27, 7 p.m. 

Home vs. Atlanta United 2
Saturday, July 4, TBD

Home vs. Hartford Athletic
Wednesday, July 8, 7 p.m. 

Away vs. Saint Louis FC
Saturday, July 11, 7 p.m. 

Home vs. Sporting Kansas City II
Friday, July 17, 7 p.m. 

Home vs. Birmingham Legion FC
Saturday, July 25, 6:30 p.m. 

Home vs. New York Red Bulls II
Wednesday, July 29, 7 p.m. 

Away vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds
Saturday Aug. 1, 7 p.m. 

Away vs. Charleston Battery
Saturday, Aug. 8, 7 p.m. 

Home vs. Saint Louis FC
Saturday, Aug. 15, 6:30 p.m. 

Home vs. Philadelphia Union II
Wednesday, Aug. 19, 7 p.m. 

Away vs. Memphis 901 FC
Saturday, Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m. 

Home vs. North Carolina FC
Sunday, Aug. 30, 1 p.m. 

Home vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Saturday, Sept. 5, 6:30 p.m. 

Away vs. Charlotte Independence
Saturday, Sept. 12, 7 p.m. 

Home vs. Louisville City FC
Saturday, Sept. 19, 6:30 p.m. 

Away vs. Hartford Athletic
Saturday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m. 

Away vs. Birmingham Legion FC
Sunday, Oct. 4, 4 p.m. 

Home vs. Indy Eleven
Wednesday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m. 

Home vs. Miami FC
Saturday, Oct. 17, 7 p.m. 

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