In recent months, politics and American football have been clashing increasingly often. Congress and the Obama administration have found themselves on the opposite side from the NFL over issues ranging from health concerns and doping to a team’s racist name and the league’s nonprofit status.
President Obama is the most recent entrant to the fray. Following a smattering of comments over the course of the two years that hinted at his concern over concussions in football, Obama brought together leaders of national sports leagues at the White House on Thursday for a Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit. At the event, the president announced numerous partnerships with sports organizations, including a $30 million program in conjunction with the NCAA and the Defense Department for concussion education, and a $25 million pledge from the NFL to fund a variety of strategies to reduce concussion rates. While the conference focused on the safety of young people, the NFL could be worried that future generations of pro football players (or their parents) might shy away from the sport in favor of safer pastimes.
Obama has remarked on safety in football before. Last year, he told The New Republic, “I think that those of us who love the sport are going to have to wrestle with the fact that it will probably change gradually to try to reduce some of the violence.” In a conversation with The New Yorker in January of this year, Obama said outright, “I would not let my son play pro football.”
The complaints over safety aren’t coming out of nowhere. In August 2013, under national scrutiny, the NFL settled a lawsuit brought against it by former players for $765 million. The sum will be applied toward medical exams and research, litigation expenses, and compensation for affected players.
Months after the lawsuit settled, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced a bill to strip the NFL of its nonprofit status. Under current law, the league is exempt from taxes because it qualifies as a 501(c)(6) organization along with “business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, and boards of trade,” according to the IRS. A feature in The Atlantic outlined the big-ticket costs that NFL teams pass on to taxpayers.
Most recently, the football team in Washington has been under fire for refusing to change a name that is a racist slur. A band of 50 Democratic senators came together to sign a letter sponsored by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., urging the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, to throw his weight behind a name change for the team.
On Thursday, the NFL tried to strike back with an ill-fated Twitter campaign. The official account of the Washington football team tweeted an attempt to rally support behind its name and send a clear message to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.:
ThinkProgress compiled some of the fallout that the communications team behind the tweet may not have anticipated, made up of replies that ranged from “obstinate ignorance” to “overt racism.”
Once an escape from politics, football — the most popular sport in the U.S. for the 30th year running — is becoming increasingly tangled up with a Congress suffering from record-breaking low approval ratings. The pace only seems to be increasing: The government and the NFL may remain strange bedfellows for some time.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."