Colin Kaepernick teams up with RFK Human Rights to support community bail funds

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Jails present a heightened risk of infection during the ongoing pandemic. Plenty of Americans who have yet to be convicted but who can’t afford bail remain stuck in jail pending the resolution of their charges.

Colin Kaepernick and his Know Your Rights camp have teamed up with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights to help. The groups announced on Thursday morning that $1 million will be donated to community bail funds.

Dubbed the Funds for Freedom partnership, the effort expands on the RFK group’s Emergency Bail Out Action from earlier in the year. Initially, they’ll focus on 10 cities: Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Detroit, Durham, Fort Worth, Memphis, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, and San Antonio. (For more information and/or to donate to the efforts in any of these ten cities, just click on the city name.)

“Our legal system unjustly criminalizes our Black and Brown communities, penalizing poverty under the guise of keeping our communities safe,” Kaepernick said in a press release. “We must reimagine the current system and abolish wealth-based detention, freeing our brothers, sisters, and siblings from a racist system.”

Jails and prisons currently entail the five largest clusters of COVID-19. Seventy percent of the people in local jails are simply waiting for their day in court, because they can’t afford bail.

“Predatory cash bail is part and parcel of the institutionalized anti-Black racism that has plagued our country,” added Kerry Kennedy, the president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “This $1 million commitment from Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp will empower community-led bail funds and accelerate their crucial work freeing people caged in our local jails, but our funding alone will never be enough. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights’ team of lawyers and advocates will work with local organizers to stop the aggressive policing and endless cycle of mass incarceration that have targeted poor and Black communities and move to end cash bail now.”

Remember, these incarcerated individuals haven’t been found guilty of anything. Under the Constitution, they’re still presumed innocent. And yet they languish behind bars because they can’t afford the payment necessary to secure their freedom pending trial.

“There is an urgency that I feel when it comes to getting people out of a cage,” Rahim Buford, manager of the Nashville Community Bail Fund said. “One hour, or two, or three in a jail cell — it can traumatize you for life, and the risks are even greater now with COVID-19 in jails across the nation. Of the 1,000 people we’ve freed since 2016, over half of those cases were ultimately not prosecuted. Had they stayed in jail, they would’ve more than likely pled guilty.”

Think about that. More than half who were jailed and then freed on bail were never even prosecuted.

So, yes, this is a problem that needs to be addressed. Again, to help in any of the 10 cities where current efforts are being focused — Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Detroit, Durham, Fort Worth, Memphis, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, and San Antonio — just click on the city name.

Pandemic will likely push teams toward cashless transactions

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The headline from Wednesday’s item from Daniel Kaplan of TheAthletic.com focused on the possibility that team’s will ask fans who attend games (if any attend games) to sign a waiver. But there was more to Kaplan’s story regarding pro football in a pandemic.

For example, the ongoing public-health crisis likely will push teams even more aggressively toward a post-cash existence.

“In some of the guidelines we encourage cashless transactions,” an unnamed source familiar with the league office’s coming COVID-19 guidelines to teams told Kaplan. “And so you’ll see that it gives you recommendations, yes to have prepackaged, pre-ordered food if you can, as much as you can. And I think you’ll see that was a trend, in some cases, prior to COVID. But now it’s just kind of in overdrive.”

The Falcons, as Kaplan notes, are the only cash-free team. More are expected to follow. The biggest hurdle includes installing the hardware to allow cards to be swiped or inserted at concessions locations. One necessary item of machinery will be “reverse ATMs,” which allow customers to instantly goose their accounts by making cash deposits.

It also helps if customers are fully aware of the shift, so that they can leave their paper money at home, with their change.

Trent Brown sees “special times” ahead for the Raiders

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Right tackle Trent Brown was one of the Raiders’ free agent acquisitions during the 2019 offseason and the team went from 4-12 to 7-9 with the help of their new additions.

Another offseason has come and gone and the Raiders added another handful of players as they try to continue progressing toward a winning record this time around. Brown’s assessment of this offseason’s moves is a positive one and he thinks that it sets the stage for a good run in Las Vegas.

“I feel like we definitely got better this year,” Brown said, via the Fresno Bee. “We took strides last year and we’re going to continue to take strides and just put one foot in front of the other. Even with the additions last year, me being one of them, you can look at those guys and trust the organization . . . to put the right players in place for us to win some games and win championships. With Henry Ruggs, and we still got one of the best backs in the league and we got the best offensive line in the league. I mean, it’s about to be scary. I’m excited. I definitely think it’s going to be special times in silver and black for years to come.”

Brown has company when it comes to high expectations for the Raiders in 2020 and meeting them would make for an enjoyable first year in their new home.

Report: 49ers have discussed extensions with Raheem Mostert, Kendrick Bourne

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The period between the end of offseason programs and the start of training camp is often a time for teams to work on contract extensions for their own players and a report indicates the 49ers are considering deals with a couple of their players.

Matt Barrows of TheAthletic.com reports that the team has discussed extensions with wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and running back Raheem Mostert. There’s no word on how far those discussions have progressed.

Bourne was tendered as a restricted free agent this offseason and would be an unrestricted free agent next offseason if he doesn’t sign another deal with the team. He’s spent the last three years with the team and caught 30 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns last season.

Mostert signed a three-year deal with the team last year, so there’s not much pressure on the time front. After leading the team in rushing in the regular season and scoring five touchdowns in the postseason, Barrows suggests that he could be in line for a salary bump.

Current NY guidelines preclude fans, and tailgating

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If the season started today, the Bills would have to play in front of an empty stadium, with no tailgaters.

(Also, a lot of people would be saying “Why is the season starting on July 2?”)

According to the Buffalo News, the current guidelines issued by the state of New York detail the procedures pro sports teams have to go through to resume any kind of business. As with all things, they’re subject to change based on the spread of COVID-19.

The guidelines say: “No live audience, fans, or spectators will be authorized to attend any professional sporting competition or training program at the time of publication.”

At the time of publication” is doing the heavy lifting, as we’re months from any potential preseason game, or the Sept. 13 regular season opener.

The document also says sports teams must: “Prohibit fans from congregating outside the venue and implement a security plan to safely disperse any individuals that gather outside of the venue.”

The Bills are already offering their season ticket holders the right to opt out of this season, and it appears likely that playing to reduced crowds — if any — will be part of the reality for the return of pro sports.

Penn State AD: Football in the spring “would be a last resort”

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College football has plowed ahead of its professional brethren, with players returning to campuses — and many of them quickly catching COVID-19.

So the decision-makers at that level are a bit ahead of the NFL, and have recently been forced to consider some drastic alternatives.

Via Heather Dinich of ESPN.com, Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour said that playing in the spring “would be a last resort.

“One of the biggest challenges [of a spring season] — and it’s probably the biggest one in my mind — is the proximity to next season, and frankly a second lost spring ball,” Barbour said. “Overcomeable, if perhaps we’re willing to have a shortened season — again in the category of ‘something is better than nothing,’ that may not be a problem at all.”

Barbour presides over a 107,000-seat stadium, and has said that if fans were allowed in at all, it would likely come from the season ticket holders only (which is less than half the capacity).

But that question can only be answered if there are games at all, and Barbour admitted the conversations have taken a more ominous tone lately.

“There’s no doubt there’s been a little bit of pessimism here in the last couple of weeks that we really hadn’t had for probably about four to six weeks,” Barbour said. “I think that’s part of the ebb and flow of the virus here. Obviously my hope is that, maybe, as people start looking at the masking and social distancing again and all of the precautions and recommitting to the seriousness of this, we’ll see it flatten out.

“What we’re doing is we’re planning. Obviously, given the uncertainty, we’re having to work on a lot of different plans, a lot of different scenarios. And when the time comes, if it’s healthy and safe to do it, we’ll obviously do it. And if it’s not, we won’t.”

Putting the onus on society at large — things like asking people to wear a mask — underscores that getting back to normal will take a collective effort, along with scientific progress.

Dolphins still optimistic about having “some” fans in the stands

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Although the NFL is still planning to open the season on time with fans in stadiums, the COVID-19 situation in some states is trending in the wrong direction.

One of those states is Florida, and Miami Dolphins chief executive officer Tom Garfinkel acknowledged that for some fans, it simply won’t be safe to be in large crowds when the season starts. But Garfinkel believes that the stadium won’t be completely empty.

“We will be going to our fans saying if you are in any way at risk we don’t think you should come, assuming we are going to be playing with some level of fans — which at this point may or may not happen,” he said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. “It’s very uncertain. I am optimistic we will play with some fans and am hopeful about that. Assuming that’s the case, we will recommend to fans who are any way at risk not to come. Our season-ticket holders can roll over money into next year. They will be able to roll over and keep their tenure.”

Garfinkel said the Dolphins have “a no-fans scenario, a socially distanced stadium scenario, which would be roughly 15,000 to 20,000 fans and then maybe half-capacity scenario. We have all of those scenarios with a lot of details for each, different budgets for each. Things are changing daily. A few weeks ago, things were looking great and [the] last few weeks things have changed.”

No NFL teams will be playing at full capacity, as every team is going to block off the front few rows to keep players and fans from getting too close. But whether stadiums will otherwise be mostly full, mostly empty or totally empty remains to be seen. At this point, teams are still hoping they can make it happen with fans in attendance.

Jonathan Taylor: “Different level of focus” needed to prepare for upcoming training camp

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Coming into the NFL for your rookie season without any offseason on-field work with your team and a shortened preseason to prepare for the season presents numerous challenges for the newest crop of NFL athletes.

New Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor says it will take a greater focus than usual for players such as himself to be ready both mentally and physically for their rookie campaigns in the NFL.

“You know you’ve got to be ready,” Taylor said in an interview with Sirius XM NFL Radio. “You’ve got to do all these things to ensure you’re prepared and you understand you don’t have that time with the strength and conditioning coaches and your teammates to kind of get ready together. Now more than ever it’s kind of that period where you know you’ve got to be ready but now it’s just a different level of focus. You got to do everything in your power to make sure you’re ready on your own.”

This year’s rookie class faces the biggest challenge to begin their careers as any since at least the 2011 lockout season that also wiped out offseason work. That year provided additional challenges in that NFL personnel were forbidden from talking to any players while the labor dispute ensued. However, players could get together on their own and run their own workouts. This year’s circumstances are like the inverse of 2011. Contact with coaches and support staff remain in place but there have been restrictions on players being able to work out together.

It puts the onus on players to be as prepared as they can be for the start of training camp without the usual structures in place to add newcomers to the league.

“You’re not with your coaches. You’re not with your teammates. You’re just single-handedly trying to, number one, stay safe. Make sure anything and everything you do you’re staying safe and follow protocol,” Taylor said. “But you’re still trying to make sure you’re ready in a different way without those opponents around you to help you with the process. I think the biggest thing is trying to collect as much information as possible from people in the past who have been in the situation that I’m in now currently as far as going into the NFL.and you’re prepared and trying to do those things on your own without that supporting cast.”

Name change necessary for RFK site to be option for new Washington stadium

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If Dan Snyder wants a new stadium for his football team within the confines of the District of Columbia, he must first change the name of the team.

According to Liz Clarke of the Washington Post, a name change is a prerequisite to any discussion about using the site where RFK Stadium currently sits for the construction of a new NFL stadium for the Washington franchise.

“There is no viable path, locally or federally, for the Washington football team to return to Washington, D.C., without first changing the team name,” Washington D.C. Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio said.

The land RFK Stadium sits on is federally owned by the National Park Service and controlled by the city through 2038.

FedEx Field is the current home of the team and has been since 1997. It sits approximately eight miles east of RFK Stadium in Landover, Maryland. Meanwhile, RFK Stadium sits in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol in the heart of Washington D.C. Snyder is seeking a new stadium for the team as he views it as part of the reason for sagging attendance for the franchise.

Pressure continues to mount against the team to change the name that is viewed to be a racial slur. Investment firms are putting pressure on sponsors to pull their support from the team. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser declared it’s time to change the name. So did the granddaughter of the team’s founder, George Preston Marshall, who said last week she was glad to see the monument to her grandfather removed from the RFK Stadium site.

“The time [for the name] has ended,” said U.S. representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), chair of the House Natural Resources Committee. “There is no way to justify it. You either step into this century or you don’t. It’s up to the owner of the team to do that.”

NFL’s proposed timeline has rookies reporting as early as July 19

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Training camps open July 28, giving the league four weeks to strike a deal with the NFL Players Association for putting everyone back to work. Based on the league’s tentative timeline, however, the two sides have fewer than four weeks.

Per a league source, the NFL’s proposed calendar has rookies reporting for a coronavirus test on July 19, with rookie conditioning beginning two days later, on July 21. That same day, injured veterans would have their coronavirus test, with conditioning for injured veterans starting on July 23. Veterans would be tested for the virus on July 26, with veteran conditioning starting along with the launch of camp on July 28.

It’s all subject to negotiation with the union, however, and agreements will need to be made soon if that timeline has any chance of happening. As explained earlier this week, some teams won’t even try to bring anyone in before July 28, giving the work that needs to be done to prepare the facility for camp.

Regardless of how it plays out, it’s time for labor and management to start striking some deals, and there are plenty of issues over which to haggle. As a practical matter, they’re all tied together — no different than the many sticking points that get tossed into the same blender when negotiating a comprehensive labor deal.

Report: NFL firm on decision to move to two preseason games

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As the NFL looks to trim the preseason in half, the NFLPA appears to want the number of preseason games to be cut even further.

Denver Broncos player representative Brandon McManus said in a tweet Wednesday evening to expect either one or zero preseason games to be played. The NFLPA has not signed off on the reduction in games from four to two as of yet and McManus’ statement indicates a desire for even fewer preseason games to be played.

However, the NFL doesn’t need the approval of the Players’ Association to implement the two-game preseason. According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, the NFL is committed to the plan of playing two preseason games after making the decision to cut the schedule in half on Wednesday.

It will be two (games),” a person familiar with the planning told the newspaper.

The loss of two preseason games will make it harder for back-end roster players to make teams in training camp as there will be fewer game opportunities for players to stand out. However, the loss of games will also give the teams two more weeks – if camps go off as scheduled – without playing games to get up to speed after not spending any time together on a field this offseason.

Much like baseball just went through as they had a labor disagreement over how to get their season started, the NFL could see similar issues such as the length of the preseason, and health and safety protocols becoming points of contention. While the NFL doesn’t need the NFLPA’s approval to set the preseason length, they could use the prospect of fewer games as a bargaining chip for other areas of discussion.

For now, the NFL appears set on sticking firm with the decision that it will be two preseason games.

Report: Jets “still talking” to Demaryius Thomas

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The Jets acquired receiver Demaryius Thomas from the Patriots in early September. He could return for another season.

The Jets are “still talking” with the free agent, Connor Hughes of TheAthletic.com reports.

It might be Thomas’ only chance to continue his career.

The Jets could use him if Thomas has anything left. Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims likely start on the outside with Jamison Crowder in the slot. Braxton Berrios and Vyncint Smith are the main backups.

Thomas, 32, played 11 games for the Jets last season, making 36 catches for 433 yards and a touchdown.

In 10 seasons, Thomas has 9,763 receiving yards and 63 touchdowns.

Shaq Thompson: Cam Newton “still has it”

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The Panthers have a new quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, but their former quarterback is the talk of the NFL. Cam Newton signed a one-year deal with the Patriots on Sunday.

At least one of Newton’s former teammates seems genuinely happy to see Newton get a shot to replace Tom Brady.

Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson declared Wednesday that Newton “still has it.”

“Man, I was happy for Cam,” Thompson told Colleen Wolfe of NFL Media. “I hated that it took so long for him to get signed. He’s an MVP quarterback. Cam still has it. And I’m happy for him, I’m glad the Patriots invested in him and I can’t wait to see Cam Newton come out there and play.”

Thompson, a first-round choice in 2015, has never been on an NFL roster without Newton, whom the Panthers released this offseason.

“I think Teddy’s definitely going to come in and change the offense. He has great weapons,” Thompson said. “His start with the Saints, 5-0, was just incredible. It just shows you that the Teddy that Minnesota had drafted back then is back. I’m happy to see that. I’ve always been a fan of Teddy, especially when he was at Louisville. So, I’m happy to have him as a teammate. I know that he has a lot of tremendous weapons around him and we built that offensive line so he could feel comfortable in the pocket.”

87 investment firms ask Nike, FedEx, Pepsi to stop doing business with Washington franchise

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As the NFL fails and refuses to pressure Washington owner Daniel Snyder to change the dictionary-defined slur that has been the team’s name for decades, NFL sponsors are being lobbied to do what the NFL won’t do.

Via Mary Emily O’Hara of AdWeek, 87 investment firms representing $620 billion in assets sent letters last week to Nike, FedEx, and Pepsi, asking the companies to refuse to do business with the Washington franchise until it changes its name.

“Many of us have raised this issue with Nike for years to little avail,” said the letter sent to the NFL’s official apparel provider. “But in light of the Black Lives Matter movement that has focused the world’s attention on centuries of systemic racism, we are witnessing a fresh outpouring of opposition to the team name. Therefore, it is time for Nike to meet the magnitude of this moment, to make their opposition to the racist team name clear, and to take tangible and meaningful steps to exert pressure on the team to cease using it.”

FedEx holds the naming rights to the stadium where Washington plays, and CEO Fred Smith holds a minority ownership interest in the team. Pepsi is the NFL’s official soft drink of the NFL, and it presents the halftime show at every Super Bowl.

“This is a broader movement now that’s happening that Indigenous peoples are part of,” Carla Fredericks, director of First Peoples Worldwide and director of the University of Colorado Law School’s American Indian Law Clinic, told AdWeek. “Indigenous peoples were sort of left out of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s in many respects, because our conditions were so dire on reservations and our ability to engage publicly was very limited because of that. With social media now, obviously everything is very different.”

It remains to be seen whether pressure on these companies will create pressure on the team. Again, at a time when the NFL is doing nothing to nudge Snyder toward doing the right thing, the pressure will need to come from other places. It will be interesting to see whether any of these companies will do anything other than issue a “no comment” and join the league and the team in a fairly obvious effort to run out the clock until everyone starts paying attention to something else.

NFLPA may want no preseason at all

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The NFL has decided to cut the preseason in half. NFL Media reports that the NFL Players Association has yet to sign off on this. Which makes sense, because the NFLPA hasn’t signed off on anything, including the league’s protocol for facility and locker-room virus safety.

The NFLPA doesn’t have to sign off on the length of the preseason, however. The 2020 labor deal states only that the league may, in a season with 16 regular-season games, hold no more than four preseason games. If the NFL wants to cut the preseason from four to two, it can.

The broader point is that everything currently is on the table, as the NFL and NFLPA continue to hash out the details for training camp, the preseason, and the regular season. The NFLPA has the ability to push for no preseason games; the NFL would want some other concession for that.

Basically, only a few months after labor and management worked out a comprehensive labor deal that covers the next 11 years, they’ll be back at the table, hammering out an agreement that will cover all procedures and protocols for 2020, including the number of preseason games, the possibility of game-day travel, adjustments if any to the salary cap and player salaries, a player’s ability to opt out, and many, many more. The agreement also may spill into 2021 and beyond, with salary-cap ramifications arising from the pandemic being handled now, not later.

As NFLPA president JC Tretter has said, every question leads to an answer that gives rise to three more questions. And the NFL and NFLPA currently are trying to resolve all of these issues with the clock pounding toward the launch of training camp.