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Politics has seeped into every corner of sports. As a generation of pro athletes is discovering, politics is often complicated – The Globe and Mail



Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins is not vaccinated. In order to play home games in California for the Golden State Warriors, he must be.

Jeff Chiu/The Associated Press

This week, Draymond Green tried in real time to build a logical scaffolding strong enough to support a teammate’s anti-vaccine stance.

The teammate – Canadian Andrew Wiggins – tried to do it for himself, but ended up buried in a pile of steel beams. Wiggins is not vaccinated. In order to play home games in California for the Golden State Warriors, he must be. He tried to get a religious exemption (despite an unwillingness to publicly explain his religious objection) and failed. Now it’s a battle of wills.

Green is one of the most thoughtful guys playing in a thoughtful league. But his thoughtfulness didn’t help him much here.

As per the usual script, it came down to an argument about individual freedom and the sanctity of choice.

“That would be like me telling him, ‘Yo, your wife is going into labour. How dare you leave this team and go tend to your wife,’” Green said.

Uh, all right. I’m not … what’s his wife got to do with … okay, never mind.

This has become characteristic of all arguments between people on opposite sides of the vaccine divide. It starts out apples and oranges, and becomes one guy trying to hand the other a pineapple.

Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins’ vaccination exemption request denied by the NBA

Green was smart enough to understand how little headway he was making. So he ended like this: “I think it’s become very political.”

Yes, politics will do that.

With three weeks to go until opening night, the NBA’s player-vaccination rate stands at 95 per cent. The Toronto Raptors said this week they are one second shot away from total vaccination.

Unless you’ve got a job at Consolidated Syringe Manufacturers LLC, that’s probably a better rate than your work place.

The NBA’s managed this among a cohort of people who should be the least vaccine compliant – young, rich, remarkably fit, leery of anything that might diminish them physically, even for a short time, and American. Ninety-five per cent is a triumph of labour/management co-operation and public-health awareness.

But it’s become a story about the other five per cent. In particular, a couple of ding-dongs who think God’s plan is that we all take our chances, or that Big Tech wants to surveil you via microchip (something it already does via the tracking device that is never more than five feet from your grasp).

This has led to a generalized irritation among the vaccinated players, few of whom want to hold their colleagues to the same standard they apply to themselves. It’s an understandable impulse. Here, let me hand you a microphone. Now, why did you get Medical Procedure X or take Drug Y? Most of us would agree the correct answer is, “None of your business.”

But this has become politics, and sports recently declared itself a political free-fire zone. This is what happens when everything isn’t just up for debate, but must be debated.

Today’s players have no experience of what sports was in the 1990s. It must seem an arid place to them – cynical, brazenly capitalistic, detached from the wider world. Charles Barkley wrapped an entire Nike ad campaign around refusing to be a role model to children.

Imagine a player being asked today about this or that ongoing social ill and saying, “None of my business.” You cannot.

After 9/11, like most of the culture, sports drifted toward jingoism. Flags unfurled during the anthem, fighter jets overhead, politicians squeezing themselves into team jerseys.

That drift became an ooze. Politics began seeping into every corner of our most popular games, prompting athletes to pick sides. That emboldened a few to speak up, and the rest to robotically repeat the most popular talking points. A combo of the means (social media) and the cause (the summer of 2020) put that tendency on turbo.

Every pro is now a spokesperson for some corner of the culture war. Non-participation is not an option. As in all wars, conscientious objectors will not be tolerated. You don’t want to take a knee in the pregame? Then that must mean you’re one of them.

The NBA took the boldest stands, which now means the bulk of the ongoing political work falls on it. And while the players were anxious to talk about race and social justice, they are not so keen to talk about their private choices as regards public health.

But the Great Hive Mind is not discerning. It doesn’t understand how you could be so right on some things (as long as you agree with it) and so wrong about others (because you now disagree). After bravely speaking your truth, suddenly putting up a “Privacy, Please” sign only enrages both sides of the argument.

While the NBA is dealing with the consequences of entering the political fighting pit, the NHL is doing its usual – saying nothing and hoping no one notices.

The NHL is the oatmeal of the four major sporting food groups – mushy and tasteless. Like Charles Barkley back in the day, but not interesting.

By virtue of overwhelming blandness, the NHL has largely avoided the health-and-safety debate. The league has suggested 98 per cent of its players will be vaxxed by opening night. As the Toronto Maple Leafs won’t tell you, the best defence is a good offence.

That defensive posture is now under attack by the Olympics.

This week, China announced that everyone going to Beijing 2022 has one of two choices – be fully vaxxed or undergo a totally isolated 21-day, in situ quarantine before participating.

That’s a lot further than any global sports league has been willing to go. If everyone’s favourite player suddenly discovers that he has a pressing family engagement a week into the Winter Olympics and, gosh, just can’t make it over there, even though he’d do anything to represent the flag, but, y’know, he promised grandma and pop-pop that he’d be there, then you’ll know what’s going on.

All of a sudden, the gears of the Outrage Machine will begin clicking and whirring and chewing up the news cycle. It’s not about the 99 guys who will, but the one guy who won’t.

What is he thinking? Doesn’t he care? Which side is he on (don’t bother answering – we already know)?

What should the powers that be do? Why isn’t he talking? What’s he hiding?

It’s complicated. As a generation of pro athletes is beginning to discover, politics often is.

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Biden says United States would come to Taiwan’s defense



The United States would come to Taiwan‘s defense and has a commitment to defend the island China claims as its own, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Thursday, though the White House said later there was no change in policy towards the island.

“Yes, we have a commitment to do that,” Biden said at a CNN town hall when asked if the United States would come to the defense of Taiwan, which has complained of mounting military and political pressure from Beijing to accept Chinese sovereignty.

While Washington is required by law to provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself, it has long followed a policy of “strategic ambiguity” on whether it would intervene militarily to protect Taiwan in the event of a Chinese attack.

In August, a Biden administration official said U.S. policy on Taiwan had not changed after the president appeared to suggest the United States would defend the island if it were attacked.

A White House spokesperson said Biden at his town hall was not announcing any change in U.S. policy and “there is no change in our policy”.

“The U.S. defense relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defense, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” the spokesperson said.

Biden said people should not worry about Washington’s military strength because “China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world,”

“What you do have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities that would put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake,” Biden said.

“I don’t want a cold war with China. I just want China to understand that we’re not going to step back, that we’re not going to change any of our views.”

Military tensions between Taiwan and China are at their worst in more than 40 years, Taiwan’s Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said this month, adding that China will be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.

Taiwan says it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.

China says Taiwan is the most sensitive and important issue in its ties with the United States and has denounced what it calls “collusion” between Washington and Taipei.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Thursday, China’s United Nations Ambassador Zhang Jun said they are pursuing “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan and responding to “separatist attempts” by its ruling Democratic Progressive Party.

“We are not the troublemaker. On the contrary, some countries – the U.S. in particular – is taking dangerous actions, leading the situation in Taiwan Strait into a dangerous direction,” he said.

“I think at this moment what we should call is that the United States to stop such practice. Dragging Taiwan into a war definitely is in nobody’s interest. I don’t see that the United States will gain anything from that.”

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington, Michelle Nichols in New York and Ben Blanchard in Taipei; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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Do climate politics really matter at the local level? A Seattle professor thinks so –



The changing climate is a topic you’d think would be front and center in local elections – especially after the heat wave that killed hundreds of people in the Northwest this summer.

A professor of politics at the University of Washington noted a lack of attention to the issue – until he and a colleague pushed for a debate about it in Seattle.

Aseem Prakash

Aseem Prakash directs the school’s Center for Environmental Politics. In July, he wrote about his amazement that none of the candidates seemed to care about the climate. Instead, their focus – as with candidates in New York City – is on crime, policing and, lately, homelessness.

And when you ask them how we’re truly adapting to climate change, the candidates either pass the buck and say some other jurisdiction is ultimately responsible, Prakash says. Or they talk about pilot programs for this and that.

And there are lots of pilot programs, he says. But he doesn’t see any Seattle mayoral candidates — or past mayors — following up with data that would help keep them accountable. Instead, he says, most seem to use a local office, like mayor or city councilmember, as a stepping stone at the beginning of a career in politics — or toward something else more lucrative.

“At some point, all of us, we have to call out the B.S. You have to call out the B.S. and force politicians to confront the issues that affect us,” he says.

“Because there’s a program for everything, right? … Is it really helping?” Prakash wonders.

“Do we have data that the heat island effect in Seattle has improved over the years because there are programs? Have we evaluated how effective these programs are? No. … So then what’s the point? This is what you call ‘virtue signaling.’” 

Prakash says there are too many pledges and not enough action. Accountability is missing. Most people aren’t getting help with things like cooling their homes during heat waves or getting electric cars that are affordable and reliable.

Everybody wants to be a global leader, (to) talk about the future generation. It’s a moral responsibility,“ Prakash says, with a note of frustrated sarcasm in his voice.

“But you ask them, ‘OK, can you please translate it in the context of my humble census tract, my ZIP code? What does climate change mean for my ZIP code? Why should I care?’ ”

These are issues that students and professors from departments all over the University of Washington want to come together to discuss and attempt to solve, as they relate to climate change.

This interdisciplinary approach is why Prakash founded the Center for Environmental Politics seven years ago. The debate is co-hosted by the UW’s EarthLab.

“A Climate Conversation with Seattle Mayoral Candidates” is free and open to the public via Zoom. It takes place Friday evening from 5 to 6 p.m. You can register here.

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Factbox-Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch



Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, spent a night in hospital but returned to Windsor Castle on Thursday.

Here are some facts about the 95-year-old queen:


Elizabeth Alexandra Mary was born at 17 Bruton St, London W1, on April 21, 1926, and christened on May 29, 1926, in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace.

After her uncle, Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 for the love of a divorced American woman, the queen’s father, George VI, inherited the throne.

Two years after World War Two, she married navy Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, a Greek prince, whom she had fallen for during a visit to a naval college when she was just 13.


She was just 25 when she became Queen Elizabeth II on Feb. 6, 1952, on the death of her father, while she was on tour in Kenya with Prince Philip.

She was crowned monarch on June 2, 1953, in a ceremony at London’s Westminster Abbey that was televised live.


Philip was said to be shattered when his wife became queen so soon.

Her marriage to Philip, whom she wed when she was 21, stayed solid for 74 years until his death in April 2021.

Their children are Charles, born in 1948, Anne, born in 1950, Andrew in 1960 and Edward in 1964.


Winston Churchill was the first of her 14 British prime ministers.

As head of state, the queen remains neutral on political matters. The queen does not vote.


Elizabeth, who acceded to the throne as Britain was shedding its imperial power, has symbolised stability. Her nearly 70-year reign is the longest of any British monarch.

A quiet and uncomplaining dedication to the duty of queenship, even in old age, has earned her widespread respect both in Britain and abroad, even from republicans who are eager for abolition of the monarchy.


Her Majesty Elizabeth II, By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her Other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.


The Queen is head of state of 15 Commonwealth countries in addition to the United Kingdom. She is also head of the Commonwealth itself, a voluntary association of 54 independent countries.


The 40th anniversary of her accession, in 1992, was a year she famously described as an “annus horribilis” after three of her four children’s marriages failed and there was a fire at her Windsor Castle royal residence.

The death of Princess Diana, the divorced wife of Elizabeth’s son and heir-to-the-throne Prince Charles, in 1997, damaged the family’s public prestige.

Charles’ younger son, Harry, and wife Meghan said in an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year that one unidentified royal had made a racist remark about their first-born child. The couple had stepped back from royal duties in early 2020 and moved to the United States.


(Writing by Michael Holden and Kate Holton; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Peter Cooney)

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