Cowboys star shrugs off Jerry Jones' silence

At least one Dallas Cowboys star doesn’t need to hear a message from team owner Jerry Jones when it comes to the civil rights and social justice statements that have swept across the NFL and America since the homicide of George Floyd last month in Minneapolis.

In an interesting twist, the man who is shrugging off Jones’ silence also happens to be one of the Cowboys’ most outspoken players: defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence.

Lawrence said he was indifferent to Jones’ silence over the last month, telling the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he didn’t see how a statement from the Cowboys owner or NFL protests could effect change in the country. It was a notable sentiment, given that fellow Dallas defensive lineman Gerald McCoy recently criticized Jones’ silence since the death of Floyd and ensuing social unrest that swept the country.

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Those events prompted an unprecedented show of support from both the NFL league office and every team in the league — which included a statement from the Cowboys, but not Jones specifically.

It’s that latter point — the lack of Jones’ specific voice — that has drawn criticism. Not only because he’s considered the most powerful team owner in the NFL, but also because Jones has historically demanded that his players refrain from kneeling in protest during the national anthem. While Lawrence didn’t endorse Jones’ views on kneeling, the star defensive lineman suggested to the Star-Telegram that protests were divisive.

Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, right, said he is indifferent to team owner Jerry Jones' silence in the wake of George Floyd's death that sparked protests and social unrest around the country. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)

“Protests ain’t gonna help change anything,” Lawrence told the Star-Telegram on Saturday, while attending a rally to support establishing Juneteenth as a national holiday. “It ain’t gonna do nothing but start more riots between different ethnicities and different backgrounds. The real thing to do is focus on our youth. If our youth understands our struggles — our history — if our youth understand that they can be more than the position that they was placed in, then that’s how we thinking.”

Asked if he expected to hear from Jones at some point, Lawrence replied: “This whole situation has nothing to do with Jerry or anybody in Jerry’s position.”

“This is about us coming together, focusing on how we can make a change, focusing on how we can come together and be united,” Lawrence said. “I don’t feel like one man in Jerry’s position or any of those types of positions can really make a change. The only thing they can do is give us money to make a change. What kind of help do we need from Jerry? We need to stand on our own two feet, be the men that we’re supposed to be, and build foundations and build these centers to help.”

Where it concerned Jones’ silence, Lawrence was clearly apart from McCoy, who made several pointed statements about the Cowboys owner last week — in hopes that the franchise would get behind the effort to make Juneteenth a national holiday.

“You have the players, who have their own brand, but we’re all under the umbrella of the Dallas Cowboys,” McCoy told ESPN. “The Dallas Cowboys are the most recognized franchise in the world. They can get behind it, whether it’s the players or just being in the movement, period, and showing their support. It would be great to hear a statement from the Cowboys, great to hear a statement from Jerry Jones in support of everything that’s going on. Will that get me in trouble saying that? I don’t know, but the truth is it needs to be said. The problem is people are afraid to have the conversations.”

McCoy later sharpened his criticism of Jones’ silence during an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take.”

“It don’t look good, I’ll say that,” McCoy said. “It doesn’t look good, and you can’t be silent at a time like this. I’m new to the Cowboys organization, and I’m blessed to be part of this organization. … But when things are not going well for the team, you can hear him screaming. Well, this is life. This is bigger than just football, it’s bigger than money, it’s bigger than winning a Super Bowl. And something needs to be said.”

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985,000 NO-SHOWS: TRUMP RALLY TANKS

The event in Tulsa was the first Trump rally to take place in months. The upper stands were empty, and there was plenty of room in front of the stage.

President Donald Trump addressed an enthusiastic — though smaller than expected — crowd of supporters at a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday night as some protesters gathered outside to call for an end to systemic racism and police brutality.

“You are warriors, thank you. We had some very bad people outside,” Trump told the crowd inside the BOK Center, later referring to protesters as “thugs.”

The Tulsa event, the first Trump rally to take place in months, was held against the advice of Trump’s own coronavirus task force, which had urged White House officials to nix the event amid fears it might spread coronavirus.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, advised in an interview earlier this month that large events of any kind, including Trump’s rally, remain “risky,” and he urged people to avoid such gatherings.  

The Trump campaign warned potential rallygoers that they would participate in the event at their own risk. The registration page for the rally included a legal disclaimer that said attendees could not sue Trump or his campaign if they found themselves infected with COVID-19.

On Saturday afternoon, the Trump campaign confirmed that at least six rally staffers tested positive for the coronavirus. The staffers were immediately quarantined, the campaign said.

Trump did not mention the sick staffers during his address, but he repeatedly downplayed the threat of the coronavirus and referred to it as the “Chinese virus” and “kung flu.” 

At one point, Trump suggested he wanted COVID-19 testing to be slowed down, as more testing uncovers more cases. (A White House official later told The Wall Street Journal that Trump was “clearly joking” about slowing down testing.)

“Testing is a double-edged sword,” Trump told the crowd in Oklahoma. “Here’s the bad part: When you do testing to that extent, you’re gonna find more people, you’re gonna find more cases.”

“I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please,’” he said.  

Rally attendees were given face coverings when they entered the venue but many chose not to wear them, The Washington Post reported. Most police officers and National Guard soldiers who were on site also chose not to cover their faces, according to the publication. 

Joe Biden released a statement after the rally responding to Trump’s remarks on COVID-19: “This virus has killed nearly 120,000 Americans and cost tens of millions their jobs, in large part because this president could not and would not mobilize testing as quickly as we needed it. To hear him say tonight that he has ordered testing slowed — a transparent attempt to make the numbers look better — is appalling.”

Trump’s aides previously claimed that more than 1 million people wanted tickets to the main rally inside the BOK Center. But the actual turnout fell short of expectations.   

The president was initially scheduled to address supporters outside the arena, which has a capacity of 19,000 people, earlier in the evening before heading inside. But Trump’s campaign canceled the outdoor remarks at the last minute.

At the time the cancellation was announced, only a few dozen people were reportedly gathered in the overflow area outside the venue. Inside, the upper stands were empty, and there was plenty of room in the standing-only area in front of the stage. 

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh blamed protesters for the low turnout, saying demonstrators blocked access to metal detectors, which prevented participants from entering the venue. 

“Radical protesters, coupled with a relentless onslaught from the media, attempted to frighten off the President’s supporters,” Murtaugh said. 

Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, echoed a similar sentiment.

There were some minor clashes between Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters gathered outside the BOK Center, but there were no major violent confrontations in the lead-up to the event.

Black city leaders had urged people to stay away from Trump’s event, The New York Times reported. Instead, hundreds of people gathered at Veterans Park, about a 30-minute walk away, to participate in the “Rally Against Hate.”

“Our biggest thing was to make sure people felt safe tonight,” rally organizer Tykebrean Cheshire told the Post. “Going to the BOK Center didn’t feel like a safe option. I wanted to do the old-school [Martin Luther King] thing. We’re able to connect with each other, and that’s the most important thing today.”

There had been concerns before the rally that violence might erupt after Trump tweeted what appeared to be a veiled threat aimed at potential protesters. 

“Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis,” the president tweeted Friday. “It will be a much different scene!”

Bracing for potential violence at the Trump event, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum issued an executive order on Thursday declaring a civil emergency ahead of the rally. Bynum said the city expected tens of thousands of people to flock to the vicinity of the event, including “individuals from organized groups who have been involved in destructive and violent behavior in other States” and who were planning on traveling to Tulsa “for purposes of causing unrest in and around the city.”

On Saturday afternoon, a peaceful protester wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt was arrested by Tulsa police outside the BOK Center at the behest of Trump’s campaign staff. “I Can’t Breathe” has become a rallying cry for protesters calling for the end of racism and police brutality following the death last month of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who uttered those words as a white police officer knelt on his neck, leading to his death.

The protester — identified by police as Tulsa resident Sheila Buck — was accused of trespassing in a secure area accessible only to ticket holders, though Buck said she had a ticket for the event. A video of the arrest shows officers grabbing Buck by her armpits and dragging her away.

Trump lambasted protesters, calling them “thugs” and “bad people,” but did not respond their calls to end racial injustice or police brutality in the wake of Floyd’s death. 

The president spoke for more than an hour and a half but did not mention Floyd’s name at all. He also did not mention Juneteenth, which fell on Friday and commemorates the end of slavery in America.

Trump had previously been criticized for planning the Tulsa rally on Juneteenth. He postponed the rally by one day after facing backlash. 

Near the end of his address, Trump said only that he’d “done more for the Black community in four years than Joe Biden has done in 47 years,” referring to the former vice president and the presumptive Democratic nominee for president. 

“Racial justice begins with Joe Biden’s retirement from public life,” Trump said.

The president did spend about 10 minutes of his speech defending his awkward walk down a ramp after a speech at West Point last week. 

“It was like an ice-skating rink,” Trump said of the ramp.

Senior State Department Official Resigns Over Trump’s Response To Racial Injustice

File:Mary Elizabeth Taylor in 2018.jpg

Mary Elizabeth Taylor, one of the highest-ranking Black officials in the administration, said Trump’s actions “cut sharply against my core values.

Mary Elizabeth Taylor, one of the highest-ranking African American officials in the Trump administration, resigned on Thursday over President Donald Trump’s response to racial tensions across the nation, The Washington Post reported.

Taylor, 30, was the youngest person and first Black woman to serve as assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs in the State Department.

In her resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, obtained by the Post, Taylor said the president’s “comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans” had “cut sharply against my core values and convictions.” 

Mary Elizabeth Taylor, right, observes as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) swears in Neil Gorsuch
Mary Elizabeth Taylor, right, observes as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) swears in Neil Gorsuch during the first day of his Supreme Court confirmation hearing on March 20, 2017.

“Moments of upheaval can change you, shift the trajectory of your life, and mold your character,” wrote Taylor, who has served with the Trump administration since its first day in January 2017. “I must follow the dictates of my conscience and resign as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.” 

Trump has come under scrutiny for his response to anti-racism protests across the country since the police killing last month of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man.

As protesters took to the streets in Minneapolis, Trump called demonstrators “thugs” and tweeted that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

He was later skewered for ordering police to clear protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets so he could walk to the front of a Washington, D.C., church for a photo-op; and on Wednesday, he told The Wall Street Journal that he’d made Juneteenth, the day celebrating the end of slavery in America, “very famous” after his controversial decision to hold a campaign rally that day in Tulsa, Oklahoma ― where a racist massacre took place in 1921. Trump has since postponed the rally by one day.

A double match: Black mother and daughter graduate together from medical school, placed at the same hospital

Image: Kudji family

“I’m glad I’ll get to do something that people need now more than ever with my daughter,” Dr. Cynthia Kudji said.

When new physicians Cynthia Kudji and her daughter Jasmine Kudji checked their emails March 20, Match Day, they didn’t expect to set two records. That morning, the duo had both been placed at Louisiana State University Health to complete their residency training — one of the first times a mother and daughter matched with the same hospital after graduating from medical school at the same time.

“We were so excited,” Jasmine, 26, said. “Our life has never been planned, and you never know what’s going to happen. It was one of the best moments of my life.”

A native of Ghana, Cynthia immigrated to the United States with her family when she was two years old. It was during a family trip back to Ghana where Cynthia, 17 at the time, was inspired to become a doctor. There, she saw how egregious health conditions were when a woman she didn’t know asked her to treat her ill child.

“It jolted me because her only form of health care was a complete stranger,” said Cynthia, 49. “I thought, ‘You know what? What can I possibly do to change that, leave an impact, and make a difference?’”

Image: Kudji family
Dr. Cynthia Kudji, left, and her daughter Dr. Jasmine Kudji proudly display their residency placements at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center New Orleans.Courtesy of Dr. Jasmine Kudji

Her dreams were put on the backburner when she became pregnant with Jasmine as a senior at Tulane University, where she received a B.S. in biology as an undergraduate. Instead, Cynthia attended William Carey University for nursing school and completed her master’s of science in nursing at Loyola University in 2006. She worked as a nurse for nearly a decade before eventually deciding that she still wanted to become a physician.

Witnessing Cynthia constantly putting herself before others led Jasmine to follow in her mother’s footsteps. “Growing up, I saw that being a physician was a position of service, and I really valued that,” Jasmine said. “I could see myself doing that from a young age.” In 2014, Jasmine graduated from Louisiana State University majoring in English while taking pre-med classes.

While Cynthia went to the University of Medicine and Health Sciences in the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, her daughter attended Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans.

Being apart was difficult at first for both of them.

“We really are each other’s best friends and we constantly rely on each other,” Jasmine said. “Medical school is not set up to work by yourself.”

Image: Kudji family
Dr. Cynthia Kudji, pictured 22, holding her daughter, Jasmine, a few days after she was born.Courtesy of Dr. Jasmine Kudji

Their mother-daughter bond was only strengthened while simultaneously attending different medical schools — whether it was staying up late together studying for a test over Skype, calling each other with questions about a patient’s diagnosis, or crying about the compounding stress of the program.

Now, moving forward, they’re excited to be reunited for their residency programs at Louisiana State University Health -- Cynthia is planning to train in family medicine while Jasmine will pursue general surgery.

The coronavirus pandemic is a reminder for Cynthia and Jasmine of why they wanted to become doctors in the first place. “This is a time when physicians can be leaders, show that we contribute, we make a difference in people’s lives. This is where we get the opportunity to serve,” Cynthia said.

“I’m glad I’ll get to do something that people need now more than ever with my daughter.”

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Black teen shares the rules his mom makes him follow when leaving the house

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By the age of 11, Cameron Welch had memorized the list of warnings his mom had given to him through the years whenever he was walking out the door: Don’t put your hands in your pockets. Don’t put your hoodie on. Don’t be outside without a shirt on. Check in with your people, even if you’re down the street.

A week ago, the 18-year-old from Houston shared the list in a powerful TikTok video that now has over 10.4 million views. “Jus some unwritten rules my mom makes me follow as a young black man #blacklivesmatter,” Welch wrote in the caption.

The checklist Welch recites is extensive, covering everything from how to behave in a store so a shop clerk won’t accuse you of stealing to clothes you shouldn’t wear while driving if you don’t want to be pulled over by the police:

– Don’t put your hands in your pockets.

– Don’t put your hoodie on.

– Don’t be outside without a shirt on.

– Check in with your people, even if you’re down the street.

– Don’t be out too late.

– Don’t touch anything you’re not buying.

– Never leave the store without a receipt or a bag, even if it’s just a pack of gum.

– Never make it look like there’s an altercation between you and someone else.

– Never leave the house without your ID.

– Don’t drive with a wifebeater on.

– Don’t drive with a du-rag on.

– Don’t go out in public with a wifebeater or a du-rag.

– Don’t ride with the music too loud.

– Don’t stare at a Caucasian woman.

– If a cop stops you randomly and starts questioning you, don’t talk back, just compromise.

– If you ever get pulled over, put your hands on the dashboard and ask if you can get your license and registration out.

Welch said that hearing about George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police last week pushed him to speak out and share what it’s like to live with such a heightened awareness of the police.

“In this moment in our country, it was necessary for me to use my voice, so I put out the video,” he told HuffPost. “I wanted people to hear and understand the real truth of a Black man’s daily experience.” 

In the comments under the TikTok post, many Black and Latino teens said they’d memorized similar checklists from years of being lectured by their parents. 

Parents raising Black children commented, too. 

“Saving this video for my future son,” one TikTok user told Welch.

“His future shouldn’t be like this,” Welch wrote back. 

In another recent video, Welch talks about how his friends don’t say “I’ll see you later” after hanging out at each other’s houses and heading home. Instead, they say, “Stay safe.” 

“Every Black man has that feeling of, ’Am I gonna come home today?” he says in the clip. 

Welch said he hopes the viral videos open more people’s eyes to the unfair reality of everyday life for so many Black Americans. 

“I want people to see that we need change and that no one should have to live like this,” he said. 

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