All posts tagged: politics

The NFL can’t ignore its players’ activism any more

Image: Getty Images

With the NFL a day away from the kickoff of its 2017 season, a definite question has emerged: Is this the year that the NFL finally embraces athletic activism the way the NBA does?

The examples are adding up on a nearly daily basis. A week of preseason football couldn’t go by without players making statements. Members of the Cleveland Browns knelt during the anthem. Michael Bennett sat out the anthem while his white teammate, Justin Britt, placed his hand on Bennett’s shoulder in a show of solidarity. Bennett’s brother, Martellus, made a political cartoon mocking the “stick to sports” mantra and posted it on Instagram. Following the neo-Nazi riots in Charlottesville, Malcolm Jenkins stood for the national anthem with one fist raised, while his white teammate Chris Long put his arm around his shoulder, in a plea for racial unity. In a similar gesture, Derek Carr placed his hand on Khalil Mack’s back during the national anthem.

These can be considered small gestures, but in the NFL, they speak loudly. 

Just ask Colin Kaepernick. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback kneeled during the national anthem before games last year as an act of protest against institutional racism in the United States in regards to police brutality and mass incarceration. Kaepernick’s actions become a national flashpoint, as athletes in multiple sports, former and current presidents, actors and artists alike chimed in. 

Not everyone was on board. Some fans even started a campaign to boycott the NFL. After opting out of his contract with the 49ers this offseason, Kaepernick has not been able to find work in the NFL. He has been passed over in favor of a retiree, fringe college prospects, even a real estate agent. The situation has led to rumors that Kaepernick is being blackballed in a concerted effort to keep him off the field. At the least, there are allegations that certain owners and general managers would like to make an example out of him.

Kaepernick’s struggle speaks to just how little the NFL has tolerated activism. But if his tribulations have been an effort to keep Kaepernick’s message from spreading within the NFL, they should be considered a failure. Despite the precarious situation Kaepernick finds himself in, activism is now far from the exception.

And with Week 1 of the NFL season about to start, the expectation for more is palpable. For every fan that turns the TV off at the sight of an athlete kneeling before the flag, there is a concerned citizen marching to the NFL’s headquarters in New York and demanding an explanation. Another one buys a Kaepernick jersey, which remain popular even though he’s not in the league. The NFL, it appears, does not wish to cater to this particular demographic but they, like the athletes the NFL employs, have made this much clear: The more the NFL tries to pretend the people who support Kaepernick are irrelevant or simply don’t exist, the louder they’ll get—all the while assuaging concerns that Kaepernick would be a financial liability for ticket sales. 

For two years in a row, despite the league’s best efforts, social activism and racism are going to be the off-field story of the NFL season. And it’s starting to follow what’s happened in the NBA.

In profession basketball, activism isn’t the exception among its starts—it’s now the expectation. Examples are almost too numerous list, but here’s a sampling: Last year, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul donned all black on at the ESPYs aware show to discuss gun violence and racial profiling, and implored other athletes to get educated and involved. Anthony even marched with protesters in Baltimore, where he grew up, following the death of 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray, in the back of a police van. Just this offseason, Kevin Durant said he would not go to the White House if the Golden State Warriors were invited, a long-standing tradition for NBA champions. He also voiced disrespect for the current administration. 

Durant could speak out against Trump and trust that he could have the support of the majority of his fans, the NBA’s commissioner, Adam Silver, and his locker room, headed by coach Steve Kerr, who publicly made his opinions on this administration clear. There is a great deal of organizational unity and progressive political thinking in the NBA, which makes it easier for players to speak up. They’re also more financially secure, with guaranteed contracts and higher salaries. And the NBA’s fanbase skews younger, more diverse, and more progressive. Social activism, for NBA players, might even be more profitable than silence. 

All which is to say that NFL players will likely always face impediments that NBA players won’t, but that hasn’t stopped them from exerting their power like never before. 

2016 was the year that everything converged. Social media collided with the specter of the presidency of Donald Trump, and all the while videos of violent, racist police brutality sprung up alongside protests, alongside an ugly, once-quieter call for white supremacy. There wasn’t a single social media platform in which racists didn’t congregate publicly, espousing retrograde views on their perception of inherent superiority. As a result, race and politics have leaked into every aspect of our culture. Today, to be a modern content consumer is to have an acute understanding of the phrase, “everything is political.” 

For a professional black athlete, with a platform that—at the click of a button—can morph into a formidable pulpit, heeding the old mantra “stick to sports” has become an impossible proposition. This NFL season will be a battle for the life and death of that mantra, for the insistence that black athletes should no longer have to serve as an on-field distraction from the very issues that are vital to their survival off the field—a battle over personal dignity and self-expression, for the right of an athlete to never have to choose between his life and his livelihood, like Kaepernick did, ever again.

Read more: http://mashable.com/

Marissa SafontThe NFL can’t ignore its players’ activism any more
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Theres a Marijuana Frenzy That Could End Very Badly in Canada

There’s one bummer question haunting all the marijuana businesses popping up between British Columbia and Newfoundland.

How much do Canucks like weed, eh?

A year before recreational cannabis is expected to become legal in Canada, there’s an explosion in companies cultivating the stuff. At least 10 marijuana outfits have new listings this year on the TSX Venture Exchange and Canada Securities Exchange. Some 51 enterprises have gotten the green light to grow pot, and 815 applicants are in the queue. All told, it could be enough to raise the country’s raw-weed output more than tenfold.

This is where skeptics see froth. “If you ask people today why they don’t use, it’s a small percentage who say ‘because it’s illegal,”’ said Neil Boyd, a criminologist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. “In many respects there might be an overestimation of demand.”

Long-time users and growers insist he’s wrong, but investors aren’t so sure. Producer MedReleaf Corp. tumbled as much as 28 percent last month in the worst debut for a Canadian IPO in 16 years amid concern pot stocks are overvalued. Shares of Canopy Growth Corp., the country’s first billion dollar marijuana start-up, are down 21 percent in the past three months.

The North American Medical Marijuana Index, which tracks leading cannabis stocks in the U.S. and Canada, has plunged 21 percent since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government in April unveiled its plan to legalize the drug by next July, 16 years after Canada permitted it for medical use.

Of course, some of the decline may be attributed to the situation in the U.S. Many in the Trump administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions in particular, are no friends to the industry. For Canadian companies, the risk isn’t political.

“There seems to be a little bit of investor fatigue,” said PI Financial Corp. analyst Jason Zandberg. He said they’re having trouble differentiating between the producers, new and old, and what might give them competitive advantages.

That’s to be expected, according to marijuana bulls, in a brand-new market that hasn’t even arrived yet. Parliament still has to pass the recreational law (though there’s little question it’ll do so). Then the federal government will have to write rules on taxation, and each province will have to decide how to regulate distribution.

Jon Bent

Photographer: Trevor Hagan/Bloomberg

“Nothing is going to be perfect right off the hop,” said Jon Bent, a licensed medical marijuana grower who has been cultivating plants on his 11-acre farm outside Winnipeg for five years. “It’s baby steps — and the industry is moving quickly.”

The question is whether it’s going too quickly, considering the variety of estimates about how much recreational weed Canadians will end up regularly ingesting. Some educated guesses are that about 15 percent of Canadians partake now, legally and otherwise. That’s around 5.4 million people, roughly the population of Colorado, which gave the nod to recreational marijuana in 2014. Medical and recreational sales there rose 56 percent last year, to nearly $1 billion, according to Cannabase, operator of the state’s largest market.

One projection, from the Canadian Parliamentary Budget Officer, is that 4.6 million people age 15 and over will use cannabis at least once and consume 655,000 kilograms next year, and that 5.2 million will be doing so by 2021. Other reports peg future recreational consumption at 420,000 kilograms a year with sales reaching C$6 billion by 2021, Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. said in November. For its part, the government agency Health Canada anticipates a mature medical marijuana market will be around C$1.3 billion.

That could underestimate the number of Canadians who will refuse to buy from corporate weed growers, said Chad Jackett, 38, who runs a medical marijuana dispensary in Squamish, British Columbia, and uses cannabis oil everyday to treat nerve pain. His concern is that new regulations will sideline the independent farmers who advocated for the plant for years, and grow small amounts. “I will definitely not be using anything” from one of the big outfits, Jackett said. “If I don’t have enough of my own then I’ll be getting it from somebody else whom I trust.”

Underscoring how confusing it all is, a few alarms are being sounded that there won’t be enough to pass around on Day One. In fact, Colorado faced some shortages of legal supplies in the first year. A similar rush emptied shelves in Nevada, where sales started on July 1.

By 2015, Colorado had the opposite problem, according to Denver-based researcher Marijuana Policy Group, with supplies approximately 51 percent larger than demand. The average price sought by wholesalers for recreational flower has fallen 52 percent since lawful sales began, according to Cannabase.

None of this has dampened enthusiasm in some quarters in Canada. MedReleaf has raised C$100 million, all of which is going toward expanding capacity, said Chief Executive Officer Neil Closner. He said the disappointing IPO was due to a general market slowdown and “not a reflection of demand for our product.” Likes others in the business, he is confident Canadians will be keen enough to lawfully imbibe that the blossoming industry will be supported.

Bent, the pot farmer outside Winnipeg, is just as upbeat. Surveying part of his crop, in a room brimming with 30 bushy plants ripening under the glow of hot lamps, he said the oft-misunderstood reefer is definitely going mainstream. Even his cousin, a “religious librarian,” became a convert after experimenting in Denver, he said. “These are people who would never, ever try it” if it were illegal.

“It’s really gaining popularity and really starting to lose that stigma,” Bent said. “I see a lot of money being spent.”

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-17/there-s-a-marijuana-frenzy-that-could-end-very-badly-in-canada

    Marissa SafontTheres a Marijuana Frenzy That Could End Very Badly in Canada
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    The NFL can’t ignore its players’ activism any more

    Image: Getty Images

    With the NFL a day away from the kickoff of its 2017 season, a definite question has emerged: Is this the year that the NFL finally embraces athletic activism the way the NBA does?

    The examples are adding up on a nearly daily basis. A week of preseason football couldn’t go by without players making statements. Members of the Cleveland Browns knelt during the anthem. Michael Bennett sat out the anthem while his white teammate, Justin Britt, placed his hand on Bennett’s shoulder in a show of solidarity. Bennett’s brother, Martellus, made a political cartoon mocking the “stick to sports” mantra and posted it on Instagram. Following the neo-Nazi riots in Charlottesville, Malcolm Jenkins stood for the national anthem with one fist raised, while his white teammate Chris Long put his arm around his shoulder, in a plea for racial unity. In a similar gesture, Derek Carr placed his hand on Khalil Mack’s back during the national anthem.

    These can be considered small gestures, but in the NFL, they speak loudly. 

    Just ask Colin Kaepernick. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback kneeled during the national anthem before games last year as an act of protest against institutional racism in the United States in regards to police brutality and mass incarceration. Kaepernick’s actions become a national flashpoint, as athletes in multiple sports, former and current presidents, actors and artists alike chimed in. 

    Not everyone was on board. Some fans even started a campaign to boycott the NFL. After opting out of his contract with the 49ers this offseason, Kaepernick has not been able to find work in the NFL. He has been passed over in favor of a retiree, fringe college prospects, even a real estate agent. The situation has led to rumors that Kaepernick is being blackballed in a concerted effort to keep him off the field. At the least, there are allegations that certain owners and general managers would like to make an example out of him.

    Kaepernick’s struggle speaks to just how little the NFL has tolerated activism. But if his tribulations have been an effort to keep Kaepernick’s message from spreading within the NFL, they should be considered a failure. Despite the precarious situation Kaepernick finds himself in, activism is now far from the exception.

    And with Week 1 of the NFL season about to start, the expectation for more is palpable. For every fan that turns the TV off at the sight of an athlete kneeling before the flag, there is a concerned citizen marching to the NFL’s headquarters in New York and demanding an explanation. Another one buys a Kaepernick jersey, which remain popular even though he’s not in the league. The NFL, it appears, does not wish to cater to this particular demographic but they, like the athletes the NFL employs, have made this much clear: The more the NFL tries to pretend the people who support Kaepernick are irrelevant or simply don’t exist, the louder they’ll get—all the while assuaging concerns that Kaepernick would be a financial liability for ticket sales. 

    For two years in a row, despite the league’s best efforts, social activism and racism are going to be the off-field story of the NFL season. And it’s starting to follow what’s happened in the NBA.

    In profession basketball, activism isn’t the exception among its starts—it’s now the expectation. Examples are almost too numerous list, but here’s a sampling: Last year, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul donned all black on at the ESPYs aware show to discuss gun violence and racial profiling, and implored other athletes to get educated and involved. Anthony even marched with protesters in Baltimore, where he grew up, following the death of 25-year-old black man Freddie Gray, in the back of a police van. Just this offseason, Kevin Durant said he would not go to the White House if the Golden State Warriors were invited, a long-standing tradition for NBA champions. He also voiced disrespect for the current administration. 

    Durant could speak out against Trump and trust that he could have the support of the majority of his fans, the NBA’s commissioner, Adam Silver, and his locker room, headed by coach Steve Kerr, who publicly made his opinions on this administration clear. There is a great deal of organizational unity and progressive political thinking in the NBA, which makes it easier for players to speak up. They’re also more financially secure, with guaranteed contracts and higher salaries. And the NBA’s fanbase skews younger, more diverse, and more progressive. Social activism, for NBA players, might even be more profitable than silence. 

    All which is to say that NFL players will likely always face impediments that NBA players won’t, but that hasn’t stopped them from exerting their power like never before. 

    2016 was the year that everything converged. Social media collided with the specter of the presidency of Donald Trump, and all the while videos of violent, racist police brutality sprung up alongside protests, alongside an ugly, once-quieter call for white supremacy. There wasn’t a single social media platform in which racists didn’t congregate publicly, espousing retrograde views on their perception of inherent superiority. As a result, race and politics have leaked into every aspect of our culture. Today, to be a modern content consumer is to have an acute understanding of the phrase, “everything is political.” 

    For a professional black athlete, with a platform that—at the click of a button—can morph into a formidable pulpit, heeding the old mantra “stick to sports” has become an impossible proposition. This NFL season will be a battle for the life and death of that mantra, for the insistence that black athletes should no longer have to serve as an on-field distraction from the very issues that are vital to their survival off the field—a battle over personal dignity and self-expression, for the right of an athlete to never have to choose between his life and his livelihood, like Kaepernick did, ever again.

    Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/09/07/nfl-social-media-nba/

    Marissa SafontThe NFL can’t ignore its players’ activism any more
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    If Jeff Sessions revives D.A.R.E., he’d better steer clear of those old anti-drug ads, too

    Don't do it, Jeff. Just say no.
    Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

    Hello, it is I, your trusty *two-time* graduate of the Reagan-era anti-drug school campaign D.A.R.E. (short for Drug Abuse Resistance Education) here with a look at what could be done if Attorney General Jeff Sessions gets his wish of reviving the program on a national level.

    Besides, not only am I a two-time D.A.R.E. graduate (once in elementary school, once in junior high), but I also share a home state Alabama with Mr. Sessions. So, Alabamian to Alabamian, I’d love to give Sessions a few pointers on mostly what not to do if he really sticks to his guns and revives the program.

    Ch-ch-ch-changes

    The landscape is far different than it was 30-plus years ago when D.A.R.E. launched, though. For instance, marijuana, a huge target of both the 1980’s anti-drug campaign and Sessions, is now recreationally legal in a handful of states with more weighing legalization, not to mention states with legal medical marijuana.

    Meanwhile, parts of the nation are continuing to fight meth addiction use while others are faced with a crippling opioid epidemic that is killing people faster than coroners can keep up with.

    So the handbook is going to need an update for Sessions, who, speaking at D.A.R.E.’s conference in Texas this week (yes, it still exists, albeit without federal funding), called D.A.R.E. “the best remembered anti-drug program today.”

    Best remembered, yes. Go to any Warped Tour stop and you’ll see a dozen teens ironically wearing D.A.R.E. shirts they found at a thrift store. But that doesn’t mean “most successful”; studies in recent years have claimed that D.A.R.E. has been a pretty big failure overall.

    It wasn’t just D.A.R.E., though.

    There was the “Just Say No” campaign led by then-First Lady Nancy Reagan and, most memorably, the ongoing round of ads from groups like the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. All of these campaigns have become intertwined in our collective memory.

    Those ads made a huge impression to kids who grew up during that era and those impressions aren’t exactly positive. Over-the-top, overly dramatic, tone deaf, and unintentionally funny, those ads, though separate from D.A.R.E., have, like that program, become emblematic of the “war on drugs” from the 1980s and 1990s.

    And looking back through those ads and other promotions in the 1980s and 1990s, it’s easy to see why those are best commended to the past, an absurd lesson in how not to educate kids about drugs.

    Forget the past

    This is, really, the only lesson anyone needs. For the reasons I stated above regarding a new landscape, sure, but mostly because of the uphill PR battle they’d be fighting after the horrendously dated and unintentionally hilarious anti-drug campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s.

    Cartoons were part of a huge push to get kids to say no to drugs. But the cartoons were also aimed at the under-12 set and, maybe I was naive, but I don’t recall anyone at my school lunch table pushing weed on me when I was 9.

    It’s surreal stuff, rattling kids about weed and crack just before the hit puberty because early adolescence didn’t have enough anxiety to go with it, apparently.

    And that says nothing of the cynicism that kids these days well, the whole world, really attaches to everything. Only in 1990 could Garfield, Alf, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Slimer from Ghostbusters join forces to get a kid off dope.

    But that’s nothing compared to the cognitive dissonance associated with hearing Pee-Wee Herman say, “This… is crack.”

    Also, be wary of using tween/teen stars. Addressing drugs in Saved By The Bell might have seemed like a good idea at the time but all anyone remembers is that infamous scene and not for the emotional impact.

    Another reason so many of the ads of that era just didn’t work (and seem even more insane by comparison) is the hyperbole injected into them. Trying to scare kids off drugs is one thing; just plain scaring the shit out of them is another.

    Also, don’t try to improve on the classics. Those results never turn out good. Like the alt-rock mid-90s update to the grandaddy of all anti-drug ads, not only is it eye-rolling-level derivative, it’s just… inane.

    Thanks a lot, Trainspotting.

    Anyway, there’s reason to hope. D.A.R.E. has been using a program called “Keeping it REAL” in more recent years and are seeing far more effective results. So maybe a bigger, nation-wide revival could work.

    Whether or not Sessions, who isn’t exactly progressive, keeps that intact remains to be seen and could make or break the program’s revival.

    And resurrecting these style of PSAs as part of a new “war on drugs,” which Sessions apparently wants to do, is a way to guarantee that everything associated with this effort would fail.

    Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/12/jeff-session-dare-anti-drug-ads/

    Marissa SafontIf Jeff Sessions revives D.A.R.E., he’d better steer clear of those old anti-drug ads, too
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    White House: Feds will step up marijuana law enforcement

    Washington (CNN)The White House said Thursday it expects law enforcement agents to enforce federal marijuana laws when they come into conflict with states where recreational use of the drug is permitted.

    “I do believe you will see greater enforcement of it,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said regarding federal drug laws, which still list marijuana as an illegal substance.
    That’s a reversal from the Obama administration’s stance, which laid out in an official memo that the federal government wouldn’t interfere in states where nonmedical use of marijuana is allowed.
      That guidance was issued after two states — Colorado and Washington — voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Obama said in the immediate aftermath of those votes that the federal government had “bigger fish to fry” than cracking down on marijuana use in states where it’s considered legal.
      Most drug enforcement operations are carried out by state and local authorities, with little involvement by the federal government. Enforcing marijuana laws has been considered a lower priority for federal drug agents, who have remained focused on curbing narcotics trafficking and combating a nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse.
      Spicer on Thursday, however, linked marijuana use with the widespread abuse of painkillers, suggesting that allowing recreational use of marijuana could be interpreted as condoning drug use more widely.
      “When you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people,” Spicer said. “There is still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and drugs of that nature.”
      He was careful to distinguish between use of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. President Donald Trump, he said, understood that marijuana could help ease suffering for patients with terminal illnesses.
      Trump took varying positions on marijuana during his campaign for president. He said during remarks in June 2015 that legal recreational use was “bad,” adding he felt “strongly about it.”
      But later that year he suggested the issue should be decided by individual states and not by the federal government.
      “In terms of marijuana and legalization, I think that should be a state issue, state-by-state,” he said in Nevada in October 2015.
      He’s remained staunchly supportive of medical marijuana, telling Fox News host Bill O’Reilly he was “in favor of medical marijuana 100%.”
      “I know people that have serious problems and they did that they really — it really does help them,” he said.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/politics/white-house-marijuana-donald-trump-pot/index.html

      Marissa SafontWhite House: Feds will step up marijuana law enforcement
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