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STANDING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY: ‘Like, Is America Ready For The Big Gay Super Bowl?’

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STANDING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY examines ideas, events, places and people standing on the wrong as well as the right side of history.

I come from a family of sports fans. My dad, and mom and sister, our uncles and our aunts, most everyone but me, loved football. When they weren’t freezing in the stands, they were huddled around the TV watching “the  game.” Holidays were marked with a succession of games blaring at full volume. My mother could name every quarterback in the NFL and most of the coaches; when she died at 87 we had to cancel her subscription to Sports Illustrated. From her hospital bed, two days before her death, she reminded us to collect the $387 that Glenn — her bookie — still owed her. Glenn paid up and even sent flowers to the funeral home. At the funeral I spotted him in the back row.

I learned late in life to like the game; to appreciate the elegance of a well thrown pass; the athleticism of a spectacular catch and the thrill of watching someone kick a 63 yard field goal. Twenty-two hot men in spandex, huddling, hugging and patting each other on the butt only added to the allure. My new husband, my companion of 35 years, and I even went to a Sports Bar in Puerto Vallarta while on our honeymoon to root for the Seahawks who narrowly lost their exciting playoff game. And we’ll be watching Super Bowl XLVII with the other 100 million fans.

So Thursday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, when I heard The Edge of Sports’ Dave Zirin say, “From the political perspective, this is like the LGBT super bowl in some respects. Like, is America ready for the big gay super bowl?” I almost dropped the cup of coffee I was holding and gave him my full attention.

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Zirin went on to contrast Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, a supporter of gay rights, and San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, whose homophobic comments resulted in the 49ers’ management hurriedly issuing a formal statement rejecting his remarks and an unconvincing apology from Culliver  which had obviously been crafted by a 49ers’ public relations person. The 49ers, Zirin reminded viewers, was the first NFL team to produce a video for the It Gets Better campaign, an anti-bullying project aimed mostly at LGBTQ youth.

Adding fuel to this public relations fire in San Francisco, at the same time a proposal to rename San Francisco International Airport in honor of gay rights activist Harvey Milk was being discussed, two of Culliver’s team mates, Ahmad Brooks and Isaac Sopoaga, denied having participated in the video in which they can clearly be viewed, and when confronted with the evidence exacerbated the kerfuffle by saying if they had known the video was aimed at LGBTQ youth, they wouldn’t have participated. Dan Savage has since yanked the video from the It Gets Better website.

The week got curiouser and curiouser for the 49ers when it was revealed that former teammate, 30-year-old Kwame Harris, may face criminal charges after allegedly assaulting his ex-boyfriend last year. Outed by the news of his arrest, Harris took time out from his own problems to opine, “It’s surprising that in 2013 Chris Culliver would use his 15 minutes to spread vitriol and hate. I recognize that these are comments that he may come to regret and that he may come to see that gay people are not so different than straight people.”

Not everyone on the team shares Colliver’s, Brooks’, and Sopoaga’s attitude. Harris, who played for the 49ers from 2003 to 2007, had never revealed he was gay in public nor to his fellow players. Upon learning his former friend is gay, tight end Delanie Walker, who played alongside Harris for two seasons, said he didn’t see his former teammate any differently. “It probably wouldn’t affect me, but other guys might feel different,” Walker told USA Today. “If that’s what he’s into, that’s what he’s into. I can’t judge a person for how he feels. Things happen. He was a great player. And long snapper Brian Jennings observed, “We’re all there for the common purpose of winning football games. I don’t know if it mattered or if anyone was aware of his sexual orientation.”

In Baltimore, the Ravens’ Ayanbajedo sees the upcoming game as a platform to talk about marriage equality and anti-bullying. “It’s a message of positivity. It’s a message of equality. And it’s a chance to get it out. It’s not going to affect the way I play football, but it’s going to affect a lot of people’s lives off the field.”

His teammate, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, when asked if he would have a problem with a gay teammate answered, “Absolutely not.” Suggs observed that the rest of the team would also welcome a gay teammate. “We wouldn’t have a problem with it,” he said. “We don’t care. Our biggest thing in the locker room is to just have fun and stay loose. We don’t really care too much about that. We’re a football team. I said it yesterday; everybody deserves a certain amount of privacy. Who cares? Whatever a person’s choice is, it’s their choice. On this team, with so many different personalities, we just accept people for who they are and we don’t really care too much about a player’s sexuality,” added Suggs. “To each their own. You know who you are, and we accept you for it.”

The next day, I watched MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts interview Wade Davis, a former NFL cornerback who came out as gay last year after playing with the Tennessee Titans, and later with the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins, from 2000-2004. On the show which aired February 1, the former NFL player said, “We need more straight allies [in sports] to speak up for the LGBT community.” His interview included reflections on why homophobia is so rampant in the sports world.  “I think that the real issue is the idea that a gay man can play sports is an attack to a straight guy’s masculinity.”

When asked about Chris Culliver’s remarks,  Davis, who has said, “at least three NFL players are ‘semi-openly’ gay,” which means they’re only open to their teammates, responded, “I was very hurt by it,  I thought, wow, this is going to help us have this conversation during the biggest game of the year, but then I also thought that, wow, there’s a lot of players who are closeted in the NFL that are going to go deeper into the closet  because of these comments.”

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And just this very Super Bowl morning, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry asked, “Is this going to be the gayest ever Super Bowl in history?”

Lest fans think that the NFL was embracing Ayanbajedo’s “positivity” and his teammates’ welcoming acceptance, on Friday the league-sanctioned Fourteenth Annual Super Bowl Gospel Celebration featured a lineup of homophobic religious singers and preachers who have said things so extreme they make Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum appear reasonable by comparison.

Why does any of this matter? Dave Zirin’s article in The Nation, “Is It Getting Better? Homophobia Rocks Super Bowl,” explains:

Well, it matters for a multitude of reasons. First, whether we like it or not, athletes are role models. Complaining about this fact of American life is like complaining that the sky is blue or John Boehner is orange. Therefore it makes a difference if they are modeling inclusion and respect for our LGBT friends and family. As Hudson Taylor, founder of the organization Athlete Ally said in a statement, “Chris Culliver’s comments are disrespectful, discriminatory and dangerous, particularly for the young people who look up to him.” It also matters because as long as there has been football, from its inception when Teddy Roosevelt would lash out at “sissies” who refused to play, it has been one of the ways manhood has been defined in the United States. Being a “real man” means playing through pain, harming others and limping away when the game is done. To be gay means, as Culliver said in a modern incarnation of Teddy Roosevelt, you are bringing “that sweet stuff in the locker room.” When NFL players like Ayanbadejo, Chris Kluwe, and Scott Fujita speak out for gay rights, they are also implicitly speaking out against these rigid, crushing, social constructions that are long overdue to be thrown in the dustbin of history.

Of course I have no idea what the outcome of the game will be. As I write this, odds-makers in Las Vegas are calling the 49ers the favorite by 3½ points. (They also give a 36% chance Beyonce’s hair will be straight, not curly – $100 wins $150.) If they were still alive, Glenn would be telling my mother, “Sylvia, the Ravens are the underdogs.” But I don’t see it that way. Regardless of the final score, the Ravens are clearly the winners. And Brendon Ayanbadejo and Terrell Suggs are standing on the right side of history.

Image, top, by Joe Brokken

 

Stuart Wilber believes that living life openly as a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Allied person is the most powerful kind of activism. Shortly after meeting his partner in Chicago in 1977, he opened a gallery named In a Plain Brown Wrapper, where he exhibited cutting edge work by leading artists; art that dealt with sexuality and gender identification. In the late 1980’s when they moved to San Clemente, CA in Orange County, life as an openly gay couple became a political act. They moved to Seattle 16 years ago and married in Canada a few weeks after British Columbia legalized same-​sex marriage. When Marriage Equality became the law in Washington State, they married on the first possible day permitted which was the first day of their 36th year together. Although legally married in some states and some countries, they are still treated as second class citizens by the federal government. Equality continues to elude him. (Photo by Mathew Ryan Williams)

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BREAKING NEWS

Trump Lawyer’s ‘Critical Evidence’ Will Help DOJ Make Decision to Charge ‘Without Significant Delay’: Former Prosecutor

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Donald Trump‘s attorney Evan Corcoran, who allegedly directed another Trump attorney to draft the false statement claiming all classified and sensitive documents had been returned, has been ordered to testify before a grand jury and hand over documents and records to Special Counsel Jack Smith in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents criminal investigation.

Trump appealed U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell’s decision ordering Corcoran to testify and hand over documents, including handwritten notes. The Appeals Court in light speed mode, rejected Trump’s appeal.

Corcoran will be testifying before the grand jury on Friday, CNN reports.

RELATED: ‘National Security Implications’: Former DOJ Official Speculates on Ruling Ordering Trump Attorney to Hand Over Docs

One former top DOJ official, Brandon Van Grack, says the “Special Counsel is about to get access to the most critical evidence in the case. Should allow DOJ to make a charging decision without significant delay.”

He did not define what “without significant delay” means in terms of days, weeks, or months.

Van Grack served at Main Justice for eleven years, including as a lead prosecutor in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and later, as the Chief of the DOJ’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit.

“The announcement from a panel of three judges in the appeals court – less than a day after Trump sought to put Corcoran’s testimony on hold – adds momentum to the special counsel investigation as it seeks to secure evidence that could make or break a federal criminal case against Trump,” CNN explains. “The Justice Department has successfully argued in court that prosecutors have enough evidence that Trump’s interactions with the lawyer were part of a possible crime that they can pierce the confidentiality of the conversations between the two.”

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BREAKING NEWS

‘National Security Implications’: Former DOJ Official Speculates on Ruling Ordering Trump Attorney to Hand Over Docs

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A former top Dept. of Justice official says a federal judge’s expedited ruling ordering an attorney for Donald Trump to testify against his client before a grand jury and hand over documents very well may be related to “national security.”

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled that DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith had successfully made the case Donald Trump may have committed a crime, via his attorneys, in his classified documents case. That finding allowed her to invoke the crime-fraud exception, and order Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to testify before the grand jury investigating the ex-president’s unlawful retention and refusal to return hundreds of classified documents.

Former FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann, who also worked for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and headed the DOJ’s Criminal Fraud Section, Wednesday afternoon on MSNBC said it’s possible Judge Howell’s expedited decisions were related to national security.

Tuesday night Judge Howell ordered DOJ to provide information by 6:00 AM Wednesday.

READ MORE: Jim Jordan’s Attack on Manhattan DA Will ‘Backfire’ and Allow Democrats to Expose Coordination With Trump: Columnist

Trump appealed Howell’s ruling, and Wednesday afternoon the Appeals Court denied his appeal related to the documents, Politico reports.

“I’ve never seen anything that quick. It’s very hard to know why. I have to say, to me, when I think about what can be a plausible reason– and this is pure speculation – is that there must be something in the papers that gave the judges concern about national security implications, because it’s such a short timeframe.”

“The reason this is a bombshell is you could end up with Evan Corcoran as a key, fundamental witness against Donald Trump in an obstruction of justice case and a false statements case,” Weissmann adds.

According to Politico, Wednesday’s appeals court ruling “effectively permits the Justice Department to circumvent Trump’s attorney-client privilege after a lower-court judge found that the documents likely contain evidence of a crime.”

NEW: Trump Lawyer’s ‘Critical Evidence’ Will Help DOJ Make Decision to Charge ‘Without Significant Delay’: Former Prosecutor

 

This article was updated to correctly spell Andrew Weissmann’s last name.

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Trump Appeals After Judge Agrees With Special Counsel on Crime-Fraud Exception and Requires His Attorney to Testify

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Donald Trump’s attorneys have appealed a ruling that requires one of his lawyers to testify before a grand jury investigating his unlawful removal, retention, and refusal to return classified documents from the White House.

Attorneys for the Special Counsel “said there is evidence of a deliberate effort not to turn over all the material covered by the subpoena,” The Washington Post reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell had reportedly agreed with Special Counsel Smith that there is sufficient evidence proving Donald Trump may have committed a crime via his attorneys, and ruled his attorney must testify before a grand jury. The ruling, which was not made public, was handed down Friday night, NBC News reported Wednesday afternoon.

Judge Howell “ruled in favor of applying the ‘crime fraud’ exception to Trump’s attorney-client privilege and ordered Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran to testify before the federal grand jury.”

READ MORE: ‘On Standby’: Experts Say Manhattan Hush Money Grand Jury Delay ‘Not All That Surprising’

Trump’s attorneys have already appealed the ruling.

“People familiar with the matter said an appeals panel has already begun reviewing the decision, after Trump’s lawyers appealed,” The Washington Post adds. “The extraordinarily quick timeline suggests that the judges — all nominated by Democratic presidents — intend to rule swiftly.”

Trump could take his case all the way to the Supreme Court, but The Post says it’s “not clear he would have a much better chance of success there.”

According to an NBC News report from October, Corcoran directed another Trump attorney, Christina Bobb, to sign the letter claiming a thorough search of Mar-a-Lago had been made and all classified or “sensitive” documents had been returned. That was proven untrue after federal agents, executing a search warrant, recovered hundreds of documents with classified markings.

NEW: ‘National Security Implications’: Former DOJ Official Speculates on Ruling Ordering Trump Attorney to Hand Over Docs

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