Kevin Warren, the commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, was at his home near Minneapolis one morning this month when President Trump made a hastily arranged call to him.
Warren’s league had decided in August to postpone fall sports because of the coronavirus pandemic, and Trump had a message as rife with political considerations as athletic ones: He hoped to see football revived in the Big Ten, a Power 5 conference home to schools like Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, fabled parts of a sports footprint that overlaps with many of America’s presidential battleground states.
“He made it very clear that he would help in any way that he possibly could to help us return to competition,” Warren said on Friday evening in an interview, his first about his conversation with the president on Sept. 1.
Taken together, the president’s lobbying campaign, amplified with Twitter blasts, and the advertisements of former vice president Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, blaming Trump for empty stadiums signal the potential potency of college football among some voters in the coming election.
The president has assuredly not forgotten the N.B.A. and the N.F.L., as he has railed against social justice protests by athletes in those leagues to try to galvanize his base of white voters. But the geography of college football’s partial shutdown, a consequence of the decentralized nature of decision-making in the sport, has made gridiron politics irresistible.
The Big Ten, a Midwest-rooted conference that postponed its fall sports seasons on the same day last month as another Power 5 conference, the West Coast-based Pac-12, has not decided when it will play football, enraging some of its most prominent figures. College football’s other leading leagues — the Atlantic Coast (which includes powerhouse schools in the South), Big 12 (substantially in the Plains and South) and Southeastern conferences — have begun playing, or intend to by the end of the month.
Trump has relished attending games during his presidency because he enjoys the sort of warm reception, particularly in the South, he would not necessarily receive at professional sporting events in liberal cities. Convinced he has clout in the game after he was welcomed to two national championship games and last year’s Louisiana State-Alabama showdown, the president has repeatedly interjected himself in the deliberations about whether to play this year.
He and Vice President Mike Pence separately spoke with sports industry leaders in April, and since then Trump has zeroed in on the politically pivotal Big Ten, all but ignoring the Pac-12, whose schools are mostly in reliably Democratic-voting states.
Mark Emmert, the N.C.A.A. president, said he had not talked with the White House since April. And both he and Denis McDonough, a former chief of staff to President Barack Obama who was on the N.C.A.A.’s top board until last month, both said that the association’s decisions in recent months had not been made because of lobbying by any elected officials.
Greg Sankey, the SEC commissioner, said he had been in touch with some public officials during the pandemic but that the conversations amounted to “supportive, how can we be helpful” exchanges, not efforts to pressure him toward a season in a region that reveres football but has been ravaged by the virus.
But since the Big Ten’s chancellors and presidents voted not to proceed with the season as originally planned, Warren has faced swelling pressure from within his league and politicians beyond it.
Trump took interest in the season’s viability the day before the Big Ten’s decision, retweeting a post by Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in support of the athlete-driven #WeWantToPlay movement. Lawrence and Trump spoke later in the week by phone, the president said at a news conference on Aug. 15, when he mentioned the recent postponements by the Big Ten and the Pac-12 and said, “I wish they would come back.” (Clemson, a member of the A.C.C., is playing this season.)
The Big Ten’s move left Trump aides bombarded with requests for White House intervention. Many of the pleas went to Timothy Pataki, a senior official who played lacrosse at Ohio State and remained close to the school, among the most vocal in its opposition to the decision not to play on time this fall.
Late last month, Pataki contacted Warren and asked whether he would be willing to speak with the president. Trump called the next morning.
“The biggest thing I wanted to do during the call with President Trump was to listen, to learn and to reiterate that the most important item that the Big Ten Conference continues to focus on is the health and safety of our student-athletes,” said Warren, who became commissioner in January.
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The Coronavirus Outbreak
Sports and the Virus
Updated Sept. 11, 2020
Here’s what’s happening as the world of sports slowly comes back to life:
- Baseball plans to hold its playoff games at four stadiums in Southern California and Texas, with the World Series held at the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark.
- N.F.L. teams have spent years trying to create over-the-top entertainment for fans inside stadiums. This year, they’ll just be trying to cover up echoes from empty seats.
- September Saturdays at Penn State are usually the apex of a week of hype. Now, as at other college football destinations, the approach of autumn has been unusually quiet there.
Warren would not describe any assistance that Trump offered, but some college sports executives across the country have been wary of accepting federal aid. Warren said that Trump refrained from explicit pressure during the call, which he said lasted about 15 minutes and was “a very professional, respectful conversation.”
“It’s fair to say that he has a desire to have Big Ten sports return to competition,” said Warren, who recalled describing to the president the web of considerations that the league must resolve before holding games.
Trump took to Twitter within hours and declared that the league was “on the one yard line.” Almost two weeks later, the conference’s public posture is unchanged.
Clay Travis, a sports commentator who recently interviewed the president and has long sowed doubts about the risks of the virus, said he believed Trump’s interest in the Big Ten could be linked to the dissent within the conference, including protests and litigation, that had been absent after other leagues canceled football.
“The Big Ten wants to play and not playing has provoked a great deal of rancor,” he said. “I’d be far more concerned about the Pac-12 being canceled and no one caring than I would be about the Big Ten canceling and politicians getting involved.”
The Biden campaign has sought to fault Trump with an internet video tailored to four battleground states where college football has been postponed, each featuring an empty stadium shot at a flagship school, and concluding with the claim that Trump “put America on the sidelines.” The campaign has also deployed prominent athletes to attack Trump for his response to the virus and the cancellation of sports.
Asked whether he was comfortable with this year’s mixing of partisan politics and sports, Warren replied, “There are certain words that I have probably had to eliminate from my vocabulary in 2020, and ‘being comfortable’ is probably one of them.”
Although the N.C.A.A. has limited authority over football, leaving decisions on games to the schools and conferences, the overall political consequences of playing or not are not lost on its leadership.
Emmert, a political scientist by training, noted that many Big Ten schools are in swing states and wryly added that he “can count to 270,” the number of electoral votes required to win the presidency.
But he said he believed most of the angst among people around fall sports could be traced to tradition and pride in college athletics.
“People care deeply about it, and when you see the communications from the fan base and from parents and from others about we want to play or we don’t want to play, most of that’s not driven by the presidential campaign,” he said.
Still, a rising number of Republican officials have begun to follow Trump’s lead. Ohio’s attorney general floated the idea of Ohio State suing the conference, and some officials believe that people in the region will grow angrier about the absence of Big Ten football as other leagues begin playing this month.
“It will make the inconsistencies more dramatic and Big Ten fans and student-athletes more frustrated, and rightfully so,” said Lee Chatfield, the Michigan state House speaker, who spearheaded a letter from Republican legislative leaders across six states who urged the conference to reconsider.
While there is clear frustration over the lack of football, it’s less clear who is getting the blame.
Republican and Democratic political strategists suggested most of it would fall on university presidents and chancellors instead of politicians.
“People realize it was the universities’ decision,” said Representative Haley Stevens of Michigan, a Democrat who represents a suburban Detroit district. “It was not anybody in government.”
And in the Midwest, as in the rest of the country, many voters long ago decided who they would support in November — and if they are upset about the decision, they are likely to pin the blame on the other (political) team.
College sports officials insist they are largely unbothered by what they see as a temporary encroachment of presidential politics, and longtime observers of the industry said they doubted it would significantly affect how fans view the intercollegiate athletics they regard as an escape.
“Not only is it a place where people connect, it’s one of the few sane places left,” said Donna A. Lopiano, a senior athletics official at Texas for nearly two decades and now the president of the Drake Group, a nonprofit that urges changes in college sports.
Trump’s advisers privately believe that the president’s efforts offer a political upside. If they fail, he can at least tell Midwestern audiences that he tried. If the conference opts to play sometime in 2020, he will surely claim a share of the credit.
Should the Big Ten ultimately decide to resume play before Election Day, virtually no one would be surprised to see the president at a Big Ten stadium — and on television screens throughout the Midwest — to welcome a season that seemed lost.
Source:- The New York Times
Vote to review Liberals response to COVID-19 highlights showdown between politics and science – National Post
Article content continued
“In a pandemic, borders, since the Middle Ages, have been part of a stop of spreading of the virus and that was a failure of elected officials to put the health of Canadians first,” O’Toole told reporters last week.
“There has been conflicting information on masks and other things. My concern is that the Trudeau government relies more on open source data from China than our own science and intelligence experts.”
The relationship between a nation’s scientists and their senior politicians is a challenging one, said Ian Culbert, executive director of the Canadian Public Health Association.
And nothing could be further from the truth
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides the scientific evidence there is, but at the end of the day, it is the politicians who make the call, he said.
A decision on whether or not to close the borders is a good example, he said.
In the early days of the pandemic, the World Health Organization cautioned against widespread border closures. Scientific research has suggested there’s little medical benefit to them and the economic impacts can be severe and wide-ranging.
But the optics of border closures, the idea that if countries can keep out a virus out they will be immune, creates political pressure to act, Culbert said .
“The tension between what is in the public’s good, as opposed to all of the varying political considerations the politicians have to take into consideration — there’s always a tension there,” Culbert said.
Students learn provincial politics in mock vote at Saskatchewan schools – Global News
They are too young to vote in Monday’s provincial election, but Saskatchewan elementary and high school students have learned how to cast a ballot when the time comes.
A total of 420 schools across all 61 provincial ridings took part in Student Vote Saskatchewan 2020 ahead of election day on Oct. 26.
Non-partisan Canadian charity, CIVIX, provides teachers with the necessary materials for its civic education program, which has been running since 2003.
“The purpose of our project is to get engaged now, so that when they turn 18, we hope that they not only vote then, but that they will always vote,” said Dan Allan, CIVIX director of content.
Grade 12 student Brenna Metz said before the program, her class did not know much about who was running for election in their local riding.
“Realizing we need to be informed when making these decisions because they are really big decisions about our lives,” Metz said, adding her biggest takeaway was learning how the provincial government relates to important issues.
“I know mental health was a huge thing that we discussed in our classes because it definitely affects everyone in the school and for many students it is a large problem in Saskatchewan.”
After learning the ins and outs of provincial politics, students from as early as Grade 4 cast mock ballots on Oct. 22 and Oct. 23.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools were offered the option of online voting. CIVIX noted, however, the majority still chose to use paper ballots with added precautions.
Teacher Lyle Morley said classes at Dr. Martin LeBoldus High School in Regina voted at their desks using paper ballots sealed in envelopes — akin to mail-in ballots.
“In past years we’d have them bring ID and go to the library and vote like you would usually vote,” Morley said, adding students are looking forward to seeing the provincewide results.
“They want to know what the schools did and they’re definitely interested to see who won,” he said.
CIVIX will release the final student vote results, broken down by riding and school, on election night Monday at 8 p.m. CT.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Politics Chat: Trump And Biden Reach Final Stretch Of Their Presidential Campaigns – NPR
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
We are almost there, people. Just over a week until Election Day and a new reminder of just how unprecedented and unpredictable this campaign is. Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff is now in quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus. That’s on a weekend where a record number of Americans have also been confirmed positive. Let’s check in now with our own Mara Liasson, NPR national political correspondent.
Good morning to you, Mara.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Good morning, Lulu.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Marc Short is considered a close contact of the vice president’s.
LIASSON: Yes, he is, and the White House said that the vice president and Mrs. Pence both tested negative. They’re in good health. Pence – even though he is considered a close contact of Marc Short’s, he’s also classified as an essential employee, and the White House says he’s going to keep on traveling, maintain his campaign schedule. Per the CDC guidelines, essential workers who have been exposed to COVID can continue to work if they monitor for symptoms and wear a mask at all times. We know that Short himself is quarantining.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: OK. As we know, it can take some time, though, for there to be enough virus to show up on a test, so obviously, we’re going to keep a close eye on this. But let’s zoom out a little bit now and look at both campaigns. Where are the candidates going in these final days, and what does that tell us about the state of the race?
LIASSON: Well, it tells us a lot. Donald Trump was in North Carolina and Ohio and Wisconsin yesterday. North Carolina and Ohio aren’t states that are usually considered battleground states. They’re states that Republicans should be able to take for granted. Wisconsin – obviously a big, important swing state.
Joe Biden was in Pennsylvania, so it shows you that he’s not taking his birth state for granted. That’s a state that Donald Trump won last time. The Democrats want to get it back. And the Democrats are sending Barack Obama to campaign in Miami. They sent him there. That – he is the most popular person in the Democratic Party, and Florida is a state that Donald Trump has to win to get to 270 votes. So it shows you that Democrats are trying to at least force the Trump campaign to spend a lot more time and money in Florida.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. And there are a lot of statistics being passed around about how many votes have been cast already and by whom and how all that compares to 2016 and other elections, so I’m going to put this to you. What’s your take on all those numbers?
LIASSON: The numbers are really interesting. Right now, 50 million votes have been cast so far. That’s early voting and by-mail voting. That is a third of the total votes cast in 2016, so I would say we are on our way to a historically high turnout election. In Florida and in Texas, the votes cast so far are greater than the number of total votes cast for Donald Trump in those two states in 2016. We don’t know by whom.
We also do know that a Tufts University study of young voters aged 18 to 29 in Florida, North Carolina and Michigan show that they are voting early by – in multiples of the numbers they voted four years ago. And, of course, we do know that young voters tend to split for Democrats 2-to-1. So it’s hard to say what early voting means.
There was an early advantage for Democrats in the states that do report party ID, but now we’re hearing from Florida that Republicans are turning out to vote early in numbers that could offset that advantage. And it’s hard to draw conclusions about early voting because we don’t know if it’s a sign of greater turnout advantage or is a party just banking votes early that they would get anyway on Election Day?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And speaking of big numbers, let’s talk about money. I mean, we’ve seen just huge sums of money being paid out during this election. Is a cash advantage that – like the Democrats have as important as it used to be? And where are the candidates spending all that money?
LIASSON: A cash advantage is important. Money doesn’t equal votes, but it really helps. And what’s interesting about this year is that it is very unusual that an incumbent president, especially a Republican incumbent who – there are just more deep pockets on the Republican side – is being outraised and outspent by the Democrats.
Now, plenty of rich people are also giving to Joe Biden, but his average donation is $44. That’s a sign of enthusiasm. He also has much more cash on hand right now than the Trump campaign. It shows you how much money the Trump campaign has kind of blown through. And we also know that big donors are now – on the Republican side are now sending their money to Senate races, not to Donald Trump. They’re trying to build that firewall, and that’s going to be – he’s not going to be able to raise a lot of money in the last couple of days.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. You mentioned Senate races. There’s a big race in South Carolina between Senator Lindsey Graham and his Democratic challenger, Jaime Harrison. Just briefly, what other big races are you watching?
LIASSON: Well, watching Maine and Colorado. Those are the two blue states won by Hillary Clinton where there’s a Republican Senate incumbent up for reelection. In both those states, the Republican has been trailing. The next state I’m watching is Arizona – again, a Republican incumbent who’s been polling behind the Democratic challenger. And then there are all sorts of sleeper races. South Carolina is one of them, as you mentioned – Alaska, Kansas. There’s a lot of – I would say the Senate is a jump ball right now.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That’s NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
Thank you so much.
LIASSON: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.
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