Colton Underwood Comes Out

By Terrance Turner

April 14, 2021

Former “Bachelor” star Colton Underwood revealed that he is gay in an exclusive interview with Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America” today.

“Obviously, thgis year’s been a lot, for a lot of people. And it’s probalby made a lot fo people look themselves in the mirror and figure out who they are and what they’ve been running fro or what they’ve been putting off in their lives,” he began. “For me, I’ve ran from myself for a long time and hated myself for a long time…and I’m gay. I came to terms with that this year and have been processing it,” Underwood said. “The next step in all this was sort of letting people know. I’m still nervous, but it’s been a journey, for sure.”

“Through the nerves, I can see the joy,” Roberts noted.

Underwood smiled. “I’m emotional, but I’m emotional in such a good, happy, positive way,” he continued. “I’m, like, the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been in my life. That means the world to me.”

That happiness was a long time coming. Underwood was named “The Bachelor” in 2019, after appearing on “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise” previously. He became known as the “Virgin Bachelor” because, as he says, “I fully was a virgin before that, and I could never give anybody a good enough answer about why I was a virgin. The truth is, I was the ‘Virgin Bachelor’ because I was gay, and I didn’t know how to handle it.”

Instead, he pretended. “The Bachelor” essentially requires a bevy of young women to compete for the affections of the titular character. So Colton Underwood dated a slew of eligible bachelorettes, none of whom knew the truth.

Roberts addressed the fact that both the contestants and fans of the show might feel deceived by Underwood’s behavior. “I thought a lot about this… Do I regret being ‘The Bachelor’? And handling it the way that I did?” he said. “I do think I could have handled it better, I’ll say that. I just wish I wouldn’t have dragged people into my own mess of figuring out who I was. I genuinely mean that, but also at the same time I can say ‘I’m sorry’ to all of those women, I can also say ‘thank you,’ because without them and without the ‘Bachelor’ franchise, I don’t know if this would have ever come out.”

For Colton Underwood, the franchise gave him a chance to have the life he’d prayed for. “I literally remember praying to God the morning I found out that I was ‘The Bachelor’ and thanking Him for making me straight,” he said. “I remember that vividly, of saying, ‘Finally, you’re letting me be straight. Finally, you’re giving me a wife, a fiancée, and then I’m going to have the kids, then I’m going to have the house, and then I’m going to have all this’.”

But that’s not what happened. Colton eventually chose Cassie Randolph for the “final rose”; the two were in a relationship for a year and a half. They broke up in 2020, and the aftermath got very messy, amid accusations of stalking and harassment. Randolph filed a restraining order against Underwood in September, alleging that he placed a tracking device on her car. According to People magazine, she also charged that he’d showed up unannounced at both her L.A. apartment and her parents’ house.

Underwood apologized to Randolph during the interview. “I would like to say sorry for how things ended,” he said. “I messed up. I made a lot of bad choices.”

Confirming to Roberts that he was indeed in love with Randolph, he continued, saying, “That only made it harder and more confusing for me. if I’m being very honest, I loved everything about her. And it’s hard for me to articulate exactly what my emotions were, and going through that relationship with her was, because I obviously had an internal fight going on. I would just say that I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. I’m sorry for any pain and emotional stress I caused. I wish it wouldn’t have happened the way it did. I wish that I would have been courageous enough to fix myself before I broke anybody else.”

It took years for Underwood to develop that courage, even though he’d known he was “different” since childhood. I’ve known that I’ve been different since the age of six, and I couldn’t process it and put my finger on it until high school, my freshman year, when I knew I was gay. And by that time I had already grown up in the Catholic church, I have gone to Catholic grade school, I learned in the Bible that gay is a sin. I had made mistakes in my sports and in my athletic career, and when you make mistakes, ‘that play was gay’ or that was a bad… gay was always affiliated with a connotation of negativity, and I think there’s a lot of things when I look back, like, ‘No wonder I held it in.’”

When Roberts asked what gave him the courage to come out, Underwood said, “I got into a place in my personal life that was dark and bad. I can list a bunch of different things, but they’d all be excuses. I think overall the reason why now is because I got to a place where I didn’t think I was ever going to share this. I would rather have died than say ‘I’m gay,’ and I think that was sort of my wake up call.”

Roberts then asked if Underwood ever thought about harming himself. He answered yes.

“There was a moment in L.A. that I woke up and I didn’t think I was going to wake up,” he said. “I didn’t have the intentions of waking up, and I did. And I think for me that was my wake up call, that, ‘This is your life. Take back control.’ I think looking back even beyond that is… even just suicidal thoughts and driving my car close to a cliff, like, ‘Oh, if this goes off the cliff, it’s not that big of a deal.’ I don’t feel that anymore.”

Having come out to his parents, family and friends, Underwood says that he couldn’t have come out publicly without their support. “I’m still the same Colton everybody met on TV. I’m still the same Colton to my friends and family. I just happen to be able to share with people now all of me. And I am proud of that. I am proud to be gay.”

Sen. Ted Cruz Flies To Cancun As Texas Freezes (UPDATED)

Photo courtesy of Reuters.

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 18, 2021

On Monday, a historic winter storm blanketed the state of Texas. A mix of rain, snow and sleet fell on the ground in Texas as temperatures reached historic lows. By Tuesday morning, the temperature was 9 degrees, as opposed to the normal low of 47 degrees. Texas had 4.3 million power outages that morning — more than any other state, according to ABC 13. (By 12:15 pm Tuesday, 4.5 million Texans — 35% of state residents — had lost power, according to the New York Times.)

The extreme weather disrupted water service for more than 12 million residents, per MSN, forcing many of the more than 680 water systems in Texas to issue boil water notices. Pipes began to burst, flooding the homes of Texas residents. That further exacerbated the situation for Texans, already without wifi, lights or heating. Without power or heat, some Texans posted videos on social media of them burning old furniture to stay warm. Others shared images of flooding caused by burst pipes and collapsed ceilings.

The New York Times revealed that burst pipes even extended to a Dallas domestic violence center. “The power had been out for two days when the waterlogged ceiling caved in at the Family Place, a domestic violence shelter in Dallas, unleashing a freezing waterfall onto the 120 women and children seeking refuge there on Tuesday,” the Times reported. The clothes of vulnerable women and children were soaked, their important legal documents ruined.

“They lost basically everything,” said Shelbi Driver, a resident advocate at the shelter. The Times added that three other shelters in the area had to be evacuated due to burst pipes. Here in Houston, pipe-bursting cold was a problem for residents, too. I know this problem all too well.

On Tuesday morning, I noticed dripping water coming from a light fixture in my laundry room. The dripping rapidly intensified into a heavy downpour. Though I tried to absorb the water by placing laundry baskets under the leak, the leak became a deluge. Within minutes, the roof had collapsed, destroying the layers of sheet rock that used to be my roof.

My pipes burst. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

While water flooded the homes of Texas residents, the drinking water remained unsafe to drink or even cook with. According to the Associated Press, “Texas officials ordered 7 million people — one-quarter of the population of the nation’s second-largest state — to boil tap water before drinking the water, after days of record low temperatures that damaged infrastructure and froze pipes.”

While his city froze, Texas Senator Ted Cruz hopped on a flight to Cancun.

Sen. Cruz flew to Cancun, Mexico for a family vacation on Wednesday, as thousands of his constituents were literally freezing in their homes. Photos emerged of Cruz at Bush Intercontinental Airport (which canceled flights earlier this week, due to ice on the roads. The airport was also under a boil water notice, per ABC 13). Then cameras caught him on board a flight to Mexico. (The CDC has advised that individuals “should avoid all travel to Mexico” due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

Yet there Cruz was, on a flight to Mexico. His staff reached out to the Houston Police Department to confirm the senator’s arrival at the airport, according to HPD spokeswoman Jodi Silva. She said that the officers were present to “monitor” Cruz’s movements as he prepared to fly away. (By the time pictures of Cruz surfaced on Wednesday night, blackouts in Texas had affected 1.8 million customers Wednesday night, according to tracking website poweroutage.us. That number was down to just over 511,000 as of 11:28 a.m. local time, the site said.)

In Houston, more than 1 million people remained without power Wednesday, Mayor Sylvester Turner said, adding that service would not be restored fully for another couple of days. The city has been under a boil water notice since Wednesday morning. It is not clear whether Cruz knew (or cared) about any of this when he jet-setted to Cancun.

As Microsoft News noted, “Mr. Cruz had been acutely aware of the possible crisis in advance. In a radio interview on Monday, he said the state could see 100 or more deaths this week. ‘So don’t risk it. Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids,’ he said. More recently, in December, Mr. Cruz had attacked a Democrat, Mayor Stephen Adler of Austin, for taking a trip to Cabo while telling constituents to “stay home” during the pandemic.

“Hypocrites,” Mr. Cruz wrote on Twitter. “Complete and utter hypocrites.”

As one might expect, Cruz’s actions were met with opprobrium:

Sen. Cruz issued a statement in response to the reports, claiming that he took the trip per a request from his daughters. The statement reads, in part:

With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon. My staff and I are in constant communication with state and local leaders to get to the bottom of what happened in Texas. We want our power back, our water on, and our homes warm. My team and I will continue using all our resources to keep Texans informed and safe.

Sen. Ted Cruz

UPDATE (4:11 pm): Sen. Cruz has now returned to Houston. He was spotted in Bush IAH just minutes ago:

Meanwhile, part of Texas is still under a boil water notice. ABC reporter Steve Campion noted that it is not safe to drink, eat with or cook with the water at this point. The Houston Chronicle noted: “A boil water notice is still in effect for the city of Houston, which means that all water consumed by residents and pets should be boiled to kill potential bacteria. This includes water used for cooking, brushing your teeth, preparing baby formula, preparing food or given to pets for drinking. Even water used for hot beverages, like coffee made with a coffee maker, should be boiled beforehand. It’s also a good idea to throw away any ice that may have been contaminated.”

The Chronicle added: “Once boil water notices are lifted, flush home plumbing systems by running cold water through all faucets for at least five minutes. Residents should also flush out all appliances connected to the water line, such as refrigerators and dishwaters.” 

According to the New York Times, the boil water notices aren’t just limited to Houston. “About 13 million Texans remain under a boil-water advisory, and 797 water providers are reporting problems, Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said at a news briefing on Thursday.” The Times added that the state capital of Austin is also under a “boil water” notice.

Houston and Galveston remain under a “hard freeze” warning from midnight through 9 am on Friday. Lows are broadcast in the mid-20s for at least the next two days, KTRK says.

At least 25 deaths have been attributed to the storm. 11 of the victims were from Texas, according to CBS News. Widespread outages left over 3 million without power this week, although most had been restored. More than 500,000 residents were still without power as of Thursday afternoon. As the sun goes down and the struggles continue, Cruz tried to do damage control today with some inelegant spin.

“I certainly regret that this has become a distraction,” Cruz said today, about a distraction that he created. “I started having second thoughts almost the moment I sat down on the plane.” He stressed that “leaving when so many Texans were hurting didn’t feel right,” which prompted his return to Houston today.

In his statement issued earlier today, Cruz said his daughters wanted to take a trip; he said he and his wife flew to Cancun, dropped them off, and flew back to Texas. In an interview with KTRK, he admitted that he had, in fact, planned to stay through the weekend. Beyond that obvious contradiction lay a seamy report. Cruz said his intention wasn’t to abandon constituents: “My intention was to take care of my family,” he insisted. But that explanation rang especially hollow after some bombshell reporting by the Times.

“Text messages sent from Ms. Cruz to friends and Houston neighbors on Wednesday revealed a hastily planned trip. Their house was ‘FREEZING,’ as Ms. Cruz put it — and she proposed a getaway until Sunday,” wrote Times reporters Shane Goldmacher and Nicholas Fandos. “Ms. Cruz invited others to join them at the Ritz-Carlton in Cancún, where they had stayed ‘many times,’ noting the room price this week ($309 per night) and its good security. The text messages were provided to The New York Times and confirmed by a second person on the thread, who declined to be identified because of the private nature of the texts.”

Goldmacher appeared on CNN’s AC360 to detail the report further. He claimed that Mrs. Cruz’s texts did not mention their daughters’ wishes. “This is a multilayered issue for Ted Cruz,” Goldmacher said, noting the obvious issue with Cruz leaving in the middle of this crisis in Texas and the additional issue that we are still in a pandemic. He echoed Cooper’s sentiment about the CDC’s warning against travel to Mexico.

UPDATE (Feb, 19, 2021): There are now 22 confirmed deaths from the winter storm in Texas. One of them was a local Vietnam War vet with COPD. He relied on an electric oxygen tank to live. But the lack of electricity — then a water main break — led to Mr. Anderson going to his truck in search of power. He died from hypothermia. “He’s gonna be missed terribly,” sobbed his widow in an interview with KTRK.

UPDATE (Feb. 26): While President Joe Biden is heading to Houston to survey the damage, Ted Cruz is in Orlando, Florida, speaking at the CPAC conference. Cruz made light of his trip to Cancun before the crowd. “I gotta say, Orlando is awesome. It’s not as nice as Cancun, but it’s nice,” Cruz quipped in his speech, titled “Bill of Rights, Liberty, and Cancel Culture.”

Cruz also criticized physicians who recommend mask-wearing: “This is just dumb,” Cruz said, downplaying the importance of wearing a mask to curtail the spread of COVID-19. “We’re gonna wear masks for the next 300 years. And by the way, not just one mask—two, three, four—you can’t have too many masks! How much virtue do you wanna signal?”

As if that weren’t enough, Cruz also took aim at Black Lives Matter, a favorite target of conservatives: “In Houston where I live, I have to tell you: there weren’t any rioters because let’s be very clear, if there had been, they would discover what the state of Texas thinks about the 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms.” Cruz appeared not to remember the 60,000 protesters who gathered in Houston (peacefully) to march for George Floyd.

He also conveniently forgot to mention that 93% of Black Lives Matter demonstrations were peaceful — yet Black people were still assailed as “violent thugs” on the right and met with tear gas and hand-to-hand combat by police officers. A report by the Armed Conflict Location and Data Project found that police “disproportionately used force while intervening in demonstrations associated with the BLM movement, relative to other types of demonstrations.” That seems not to matter to Cruz or Rand Paul or Jim Jordan — all of whom took special care to cast aspersions on Black Lives Matter during (and after) the impeachment trial.

Trump Acquitted in Impeachment Trial

Photo courtesy of NowThis.

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 9, 2021 (Updated Feb. 13)

The impeachment trial is over. The Senate has voted to acquit Donald Trump of incitement of insurrection charges for his role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. The Senate voted 57-43 in favor of acquittal. Seven Republicans joined Democrats in voting to acquit. They are: Sens. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) and Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania). But the Senate ultimately fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for acquittal.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke after the verdict. “The former president inspired, directed and propelled a mob to violently prevent the peaceful transfer of power, subvert the will of the people and illegally keep that president in power,” Schumer said. He declared that Jan. 6 would live on as “a day of infamy”.

Schumer also pointed out that today’s impeachment vote was the most bipartisan vote for an impeachment trial in American history. Schumer added: “I pray that while Justice was not done in this trial. It will be carried forward by the American people who above any of us in this chamber determine the destiny of our great nation.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also spoke.

“Jan. 6 was a disgrace,” McConnell began. “Fellow Americans beat and bloodied our own police. They stormed the Senate floor. They tried to hunt down the Speaker of the House. They built a gallows and chanted about murdering the vice president. They did this because they had been fed wild falsehoods by the most powerful man on Earth because he was angry he’d lost an election.”

McConnell squarely blamed Trump for the events of Jan. 6: “There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day. No question about it. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their president,” he said. These criminals were carrying his banners, hanging his flags, and screaming their loyalty—to him. It was obvious that only Pres. Trump could end this.” But he still insisted that there was no constitutional basis to convict Trump because he is now a private citizen. But he added a telling caveat:

The impeachment trial of Donald John Trump commenced earlier this week. Led by Senate president pro tempore Patrick Leahy, the trial began with a warning. The Acting Sergeant of Arms proclaimed that all senators are required to remain silent “on pain of imprisonment” during the trial.

Rep. Jamie Raskin began by noting that there would not be a lengthy civics-class explanation about the Federalist Papers. “I know there are a lot of people who are dreading endless lectures about the Federalist Papers here. Please breathe easy, OK? I remember well W.H. Auden’s line that a professor is someone who speaks while other people are sleeping,” Raskin wryly noted. “Our case is based on cold, hard facts.”

As noted by New York Times correspondent Paul Hulse, “The fundamental argument of the House managers is that if trying a president or any official once they are out of office is unconstitutional, a person could act with impunity in the last stages of their tenure and not be held accountable.” Accordingly, Raskin argued that excusing Trump from impeachment simply because he left office on Jan. 20 would create a “January exception”. Raskin called that move dangerous: “It’s an invitation to the President to take his best shot at anything he may want to do on his way out the door, including using violent means to lock that door, to hold on to the Oval Office at all costs,” Raskin said.

What came next was video evidence. The House managers played an exhibit: scenes from the violent uprising on the Capitol on January 6, intercut with scenes of the orderly Electoral College vote inside. There’s footage of the crowd reacting to Trump’s speech in real time. There’s a clip of Sen. James Langford (R-Oklahoma) being interrupted by the clearing of the House floor. There’s a moment where one insurrectionist says they need “30,000 guns up here”. There’s footage of the mob storming the Capitol, chanting “Traitor Pence!” and fighting the police. “Fuck these pigs,” one of the rioters says.

“If that’s not an impeachable offense, then there is no such thing,” said House manager Jamie Raskin. “The Senate has the power — the sole power — to try all impeachments.” He further stated that the vast majority of constitutional scholars — including Reagan’s solicitor general and the president of the Federalist Society — agree that this impeachment is legitimate.

Rep. Joe Neguse took the stage next. Elected to the House in 2018, he was once a litigator in private practice. He, too, noted the broad consensus among scholars about the legitimacy of the impeachment trial. Over 150 constitutional scholars — conservative and liberal — agree that the Senate can try, convict, and remove, Neguse said. He then presented historical precedent: the case of former Secretary of War William Belknap.

“In 1876, the House discovered that he was involved in a massive kickback scheme,” Rep. Neguse said. Belknap literally rushed to the White House to resign to avoid being impeached. But that was unavoidable. “The House moved forward and immediately impeached him,” Neguse noted. And when they did? Belknap “made the exact same argument that President Trump is makign today: that you all lack jurisdiction any power to try him because he’s a former official.” Belknap was ultimately not convicted, but only after a full trial. “The trial served important constitutional purposes,” Neguse said.

Rep. Neguse displayed an excerpt of the Constitution” “Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor,” the Constitution says. Disqualification obviously applies to both former and current officers. Neguse countered the Republican argument that disqualification must follow removal from office (which is now impossible, since Donald Trump has left office). Sen. George Edmunds said, “A prohibition against doing more than two things cannot be turned into a command to do both or neither.”

Sen. David Cicilline (D-RI) said that the argument about impeaching a former official was “a purely fictional loophole, designed to allow the former president to escape accountability for conduct that is truly indefensible.” He noted that the rioters “could have killed all of us” and chided Trump for inciting them to riot. “This was a disaster of historic proportion,” Rep. Cicilline said. “It was also an unforgivable betrayal of the oath of office by President Trump, the oath he swore, an oath he sullied and dishonored to advance his own personal interest…”

Rep. Cicilline countered the Trump team’s deflection: playing videos of incendiary language by Democrats like Rep. Maxine Waters or Rep. Cory Booker. “Let me be crystal clear: President Trump was not impeached because the words he used, viewed in isolation without context, were beyond the pale. Plenty of other politicians have used strong language, but Donald J Trump was president of the United States,” Rep. Cicilline said. “President Trump was not impeached because he used words that the House decided are forbidden or unpopular. He was impeached for inciting armed violence against the government of the United States of America.”

“After a betrayal like this, there cannot be unity without accountability,” Rep. Cicilline said.

Rep. Raskin returned to the mic. He grew emotional as he remembered having his son-in-law and daughter at the Capitol with him on Jan. 6. (Raskin had just buried his son the day before. His son Tommy committed suicide on New Year’s Eve.) He’d invited his daughter Tabitha and her husband to join him. They asked him whether it would be safe to do so. “They asked me directly, ‘Would it be safe?’ Would it be safe? I said, ‘Of course it should be safe. This is the Capitol,” Raskin recalled.

He had no idea that an angry mob would descend on the Capitol. But they did. While rioters besieged the Capitol and stormed the halls, the congressman and his family took shelter, fearing the worst. A day after burying his son in a graveside service, Raskin huddled under a desk with one of his two daughters and his son-in-law.

“They thought they were going to die,” Raskin said. “My son-in-law had never even been to the Capitol before. And when they were finally rescued, over an hour later by Capitol officers, and we were together, I hugged them and I apologized and I told my daughter Tabitha — who’s 24 and a brilliant algebra teacher in Teach for America now — I told her how sorry I was, and I promised her it would not be like this again the next time she came back to the Capitol with me. You know what she said? She said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to come back to the Capitol.’ Of all of the terrible, brutal things that I saw and that I heard on that day, and since then, that one hit me the hardest.”

Raskin reminded his colleagues of the toll from a day in which five people died and one was nearly crushed to death by the mob. “People died that day. Officers ended up with head damage and brain damage. People’s eyes were gouged. An officer had a heart attack. An officer lost three fingers that day. Two officers have taken their own lives. Senators: This cannot be our future. This cannot be the future of the America. We cannot have presidents inciting and mobilizing mob violence against our government and our institutions because they refuse to accept the will of the people,” Raskin concluded.

Super Bowl LV

By Terrance Turner

Feb. 7, 2021

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers stand before the national anthem. (Kim Klement -USA TODAY Sports)

My television froze one minute before kickoff.

I tried turning it off and on. It came back on, but somehow CBS was the only channel my TV couldn’t tune to. I could watch the Australian Open on ESPN. I could watch Isaac Mizrahi discussing jewelry on QVC. But I couldn’t watch the Super Bowl.

I turned off my TV, reset my Xfinity cable box, and waited. An hour later, there was still no signal. So I missed the entire first half. I missed every first down and scoring drive. I missed the halftime show by The Weeknd. I missed the start of the second half. I missed 27 points worth of offense.

Xfinity ruined my Super Bowl.

When I finally got my signal back, I realized what I had missed — a record number of penalties by one team, a dominant performance by another. When the signal came on and the smoke cleared, the Buccaneers were ahead 21-6. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by quarterback Tom Brady, were incredible. The team’s explosive offense was powered by Brady and Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski.

The Chiefs had 95 yards worth of penalties — a record for any Super Bowl team in the first half. They only managed a field goal before the two-minute warning. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers generated three touchdowns before halftime. Brady and Gronkowski shined, recreating the same chemistry that worked for years in New England. The two combined for two touchdowns, and the Bucs went up 14-3. The Chiefs put up another field goal before halftime. But the Bucs were up 14-6.

Tight end Rob Gronkowski celebrates a touchdown pass from quarterback Tom Brady.

Tampa Bay took advantage of two pass interference calls on the Chiefs to set up Brady’s 1-yard touchdown pass to receiver Antonio Brown with six seconds left in the opening half. That last-minute score gave the Buccaneers a 21-6 lead at the half.

The Chiefs launched an ultimately successful drive that resulted in a field goal. Harrison Butker’s kick was good, narrowing the score. It was 21-9. But the Chiefs had to contend with a red-hot Tampa Bay offense. Gronkowski had another huge gain before running back Leonard Fournette dashed into the end zone. The Bucs went up 28-9.

On the Chiefs’ drive, Mahomes was intercepted — and then there was a holding call on the offense. The Chiefs defense managed to stop the Bucs after another offensive surge. Brady had two incompletions in a row (for the first time all night). Then a snap was too high for Brady, flying over his head. He fell on it, but that made it fourth down. The Bucs settled for a field goal. Ryan Succop drilled a 53-yard field goal to make it 31-9.

The Chiefs were a had a dramatic gain down the field when Mahomes found Kelce. Then, when Mahomes was sandwiched by two Tampa Bay defenders, the Bucs were flagged. A roughing the passer penalty added 15 yards. (Mahomes was visibly shaken up after the play.) They got up to the red zone but were stymied by Tampa Bay’s defense. Chiefs turned the ball over on downs.

Mahomes got injured again on a blitz by Suh and another Tampa Bay defender. Limping even as he ran, Mahomes suffered a number of sacks and knockdowns that hampered his performance. The physical toll became more evident on what would be the Chiefs’ final drive.

As the fourth quarter ticked under two minutes, the Chiefs finally appeared to be putting together a successful drive. It was too late to mount a comeback. But by scoring their first touchdown of the game, the Chiefs could make the scoreboard look more respectable.

For a while, it looked as though they might. The Chiefs closed in, rushing into the red zone with about 1:45 to go. But Mahomes was picked off again, ending the game. The Buccaneers won, 31-9. Tom Brady wins his seventh championship. Gronkowski wins his fourth. Leonard Fournette and wide receiver Mike Evans earn their first Super Bowl rings. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers become the first team to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

UPDATE (Feb. 10): The Buccaneers celebrated their big win with a victory parade, a day after Gronk’s trip to Disney World. The team clearly had a great time, and spirits were high. At one point during the outing, Tom Brady tossed the Lombardi Trophy to Bucs tight end Cameron Brate, who made a perfect catch:

Tom Brady appears to be having a great time. He had to be helped off the party boat in Tampa:

Pro-Trump Mob Storms U.S. Capitol; National Guard Activated

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 6, 2021

A horde of pro-Trump protesters insurrectionists have descended on the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. They breached police lines to gather on the Capitol steps and have now entered the building. Their presence en masse has interrupted Congressional proceedings on certifying President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. Violence has erupted; the Virginia state police and the entire National Guard have been activated.

According to Axios, “Capitol police ordered lawmakers and reporters to shelter in place within the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, as protesters at a “March for Trump” breached the building following Congress beginning to certify Electoral College votes for Joe Biden. Where it stands: The House and Senate are in recess and all the doors are now closed in the House Chambers, per Axios reporters on the ground. Vice President Mike Pence, overseeing the certification of Electoral College votes, left the Senate chamber shortly after 2 p.m.” (All times are in Eastern Standard Time.)

CNN is now reporting (as of approx. 2:50 pm EST) that an armed standoff is occurring at the door of the front door of the House building. That detail has now been confirmed by Bloomberg News reporter Erik Wasson:

Shortly afterward, some of the protesters have begun scuffling with law enforcement:

Video has emerged of police ALLOWING these insurrectionists to breach police blockades and enter the Capitol, which laid the groundwork for them to gather near the Senate chamber:

https://twitter.com/kylenabecker/status/1346938352138903552

UPDATE (2:25 pm): Live on CNN, rioters were shown breaking into the Capitol building, breaking a window and climbing inside:

The incident occurred roughly 40 minutes ago. In the past hour, word broke that shots had been fired inside the Capitol building. A woman is reportedly in critical condition after being shot in the chest while inside the building.

BREAKING (4:13 PM): President-Elect Joe Biden is speaking live on the violent siege at the Capitol: “This is not dissent. It’s disorder, it’s chaos. It borders on sedition, and it must end now. I call on this mob to pull back and allow the work of democracy to go forward,” he says. He calls on President Trump to address the nation on television and call for an end to the violence: “”I call on President trump to go on national television now ,and demand an end to this siege,” he says. “I call on the president to go on national television right now and uphold his oath to defend the constitution.”

Biden continues his remarks by quoting Abraham Lincoln: “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless.” He concludes: “I’m not concerned about my safety, security or the inauguration. The American people are going to stand up now. Enough is enough is enough.”

As he speaks, more is developing. The News Station Managing editor Matt Lasslo tweeted at 3:11 pm: “BREAKING: PROTESTERS JUST BREACHED THE NORTH DOOR OF THE CAPITOL. AGAIN. ‘Really? Again?’ one of the heroic, exhausted and frustrated Capitol Police officers escorting me and a crew of others out of the complex just said to his colleagues.”

The President has spoken — finally. In a recorded video message, he urged supporters to go home — and repeated the lie about his election loss. “This was a fraudulent election,” Trump insisted. “But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law & order.”

It s a cruel irony that the “law and order president” somehow presided over a violent insurrection that endangered scores of elected officials and the officers who were injured trying to control the crowds. “Where are the arrests?” asked CNN commentator Gloria Borger. “When it was Black Lives Matter, they had people in riot gear ringing the Capitol, as if it was gonna be stormed,” Anderson Cooper noted. By contrast, mostly white pro-Trump protesters stormed the Capitol steps and broke into the building, and police were shown on camera observing.

Many are noting the contrast in how these protesters are acting — and have been treated — versus Black Lives Matter protesters. When Black Lives Matter protesters were blocks away from the Capitol, a massive National Guard presence was there on the steps. Police were quick to subdue and arrest them. But when pro-Trump white people stormed the capitol — climbing walls, breaking glass, stealing podiums, acting like beasts of the Southern wild — it took hours for the National Guard to arrive. Police let them in and in some cases stood by, watching, as they ransacked the Capitol.

When BLM protests broke out over the summer in response to the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, pundits (many conservative) assailed the protesters as violent thugs. Arrests, tear-gassing, and even rubber bullets became commonplace. Peaceful protesters were tear-gassed in D.C. so that Trump could pose with a Bible for a photo-op back in June. But it was these pro-Trump protesters who stormed the Capitol and breached barricades in a thuggish display of opposition. And they were allowed to do so. CNN anchor Don Lemon pointed out the dichotomy:

UPDATE (app. 5pm EST): Riot gear police have FINALLY arrived on the scene and are assembling on the Capitol steps. They are walking, slowly, down the stairs and dispersing the crowds from the stairs. This has only occurred after HOURS of mayhem by the MAGA crowd.

UPDATE: 5:13 pm CST: The woman who was shot in the chest during today’s melee has died. That’s according to two officials familiar with the matter who spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Nancy Pelosi says that Congress will proceed with today’s scheduled vote on certification. Congress will certify Joe Biden’s victory, she says. It is unclear whether or not the 13 senators who pledged to object will continue to do so. It remains to be seen whether those senators will commit to the idiotic and futile plan that engendered today’s violence.

In the meantime, Donald Trump faces criticism for encouraging the rebellion: he had, after all, told his supporters at a rally today to march to the Capitol. But instead of apologize for ginning up this melee, Trump sent a tweet that justifies the violence and mayhem this afternoon. “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long,” he tweeted. Twitter removed the tweet due to a violation of its rules. But the damage is done.

The publication Mother Jones is declaring Trump a “terrorist leader“. There is talk of enacting the 25th Amendment, which removes a president from office if he proves to be unfit. But one menber of Congress has other plans for Trump. Rep. Ilhan Omar says she is drafting articles of impeachment. “Donald J. Trump should be impeached by the House of Representatives & removed from office by the United States Senate,” wrote Omar, a Democrat from Minnesota. “We can’t allow him to remain in office, it’s a matter of preserving our Republic and we need to fulfill our oath.”

UPDATE: D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a state of emergency in D.C. for 15 days — extending through the end of Trump’s term.

Rev. Raphael Warnock Wins Senate Runoff; Ossoff Wins

By Terrance Turner

Jan. 5, 2021 (updated Jan. 6)

Rev. Raphael Warnock has won the Georgia runoff election. He will become the first Black senator ever to represent Georgia. Rev. Warnock’s victory, combined with a convincing lead by Democrat Jon Ossoff, all but assures that Democrats will take back control of the Senate.

Warnock maintains a 50.5% lead to Sen. Kelly Loeffner’s 49.5% — a full percentage point, more than twice the 0.5% margin that would trigger a recount. While the other race has still not been called, Ossoff, who leads Republican David Perdue by about 16,000 votes in the Georgia runoff that could give Democrats control of the U.S. Senate. UPDATE: Jon Ossoff has won the Georgia runoff race, according to multiple sources including NPR and the New York Times. The victory became official at approx. 3:20 pm Wednesday.)

He claimed victory Wednesday morning, according to an NPR report at about 8:40 AM ET. The Associated Press, which NPR relies on for its results, has not yet called the contest. However, Ossoff thanked supporters in a message that sounds rather definitive. “It is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve you in the United States Senate,” Ossoff said in remarks Wednesday morning.

This is an updated and developing story. Original content follows below:

Tonight, the ultra-important Senate runoffs take place in Georgia. The races will determine which party — Republican or Democrat — will control the U.S. Senate. If Democrats win both Senate seats, they will control the Senate. The result will be 50-50, but Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be the tie-breaking vote. This election determines how much of President-Elect Joe Biden’s agenda will be enacted. It also determines the fate of the $2000 stimulus checks that Senate Mahority Leader (for now) Mitch McConnell has blocked repeatedly.

Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffner are both up for re-election. Their opponents are Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively. Rev. Warnock (born 1969) is one of twelve children, a man who obtained a B.A. in psychology from Morehouse College and a Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary. He is also a pastor who came to prominence in Atlanta, after becoming pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in 2005. He became the youngest ever called to be senior pastor of Ebenezer, at age 35, according to HeritageHouse.org. It was the same church in which Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached.

In 2014, Warnock gained national attention after he helped lead a sit-in inside the Georgia State Capitol. He initiated the direct action to convince lawmakers to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. (Under the ACA, all U.S. residents up to 133% of the poverty line would qualify for coverage. It will cost Georgia more to cover residents under partial expansion than if it simply expanded Medicaid fully, as the ACA calls for.)

Warnock was among dozens arrested as a result of the sit-in. But he remains a supporter of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and a government-run public option. “Jesus spent a lot of time healing the sick,” he said. “Even those with pre-existing conditions.” Warnock also supports abortion rights and gay marriage, per the New York Times. That makes him a unique candidate: will Georgians endorse a religious progressive? And will they make him the first Black senator ever to represent Georgia?

Thomas Jonathan Ossoff (b. 1987) was born to a Jewish owner of a publishing company and an Australian imnigrant management consultant. While in high school, he interned for legendary civil rights leader and U.S. House Representative John Lewis. “If anyone can do it, you can,” Lewis told Ossoff, encouraging him to run in Georgia’s conservative 6th district. He did.

Ossoff attended Georgetown University and in 2013 became CEO of a documentary film company. The films produced include a feature on ISIS war crimes in Iraq. His background in journalism marks a surprising shift to politics. But Ossoff has a clear platform. “What Ossoff stands for is an economy-first pragmatism buttressed by unqualified support for liberal causes, including Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights,” writes the Daily Beast. Indeed, Ossoff is pro-choice and supports both marriage equality and the Equality Act. Significantly, both Ossoff and Warnock support $2000 stimulus checks for Americans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The races have shifted several times over the course of the night. With 79% of the vote in, Sen. Kelly Loeffner lead Rep. Raphael Warnock, 50.6% to 49.4%. Sen. David Perdue led Jon Ossoff by a 51% to 49% margin. The largest batch of votes, as of 9:05 pm, were in DeKalb County (which only had 37% of the vote in). DeKalb County is a majority-black county. It contains about 10% of the city of Atlanta, It’s the fourth-largest county in the state, per Wolf Blitzer.

CNN reporter Pamela Brown said that 171,000 early in-person votes still had yet to be counted (as of 9:17 pm). Those votes are still being counted. By 10:25 pm, both races were down to the same margin. Warnock led by 50.2% to Loeffner’s 49.8%. Perdue led Ossoff by 50.2% to 49.8%. But the race has since tightened — and expanded.

As it currently stands, Warnock has a slight but solid lead over Loeffner. He currently has 50.4% of the vote, compared with Loeffner’s 49.6%. By contrast, the Perdue-Ossoff race is a virtual dead heat: both maintain roughly 50% of the vote apiece. That race has been a near-tie for over an hour, with Perdue’s lead numbering only 456 votes at one point at 10:43 pm.

As of 12:30 am, there are 19,000 in-person early votes in DeKalb County that are still uncounted. There are technical glitches that are causing a delay with the votes, CNN reports. NBC News adds that there is a problem with the memory cards; thus workers in Decatur are now counting ballots by hand. Results incoming….

UPDATE (1:20 AM): Rev. Raphael Warnock has won the Senate seat in Georgia. NBC News projected Warnock as the winner roughly 10 minutes ago.

With Democratic wins looking increasingly certain, many are thanking former Rep. Stacey Abrams.

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A meme on Twitter has given Abrams credit for vanquishing Donald Trump and his GOP.

Abrams was in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017. She ran for governor of Georgia in 2018. Abrams was running to become Georgia’s first black female governor. Her opponent was Brian Kemp, who was Georgia Secretary of State until two days post-election and was in charge of state voter rolls. According to the New York Times, about 670,000 voters were purged from voter rolls in 2017. The Guardian charged that, of those, 340,134 voters were removed from the rolls improperly — by Kemp. Journalist Greg Palast reported that voters were removed on the basis that they had moved — but they actually still lived at their registration address.

“The registration is cancelled. Not pending, not inactive — cancelled,” Palast said. 53,000 voter registration applications a month before the election. Abrams lost to Kemp by about 53,000 votes, but refused to concede. Instead, Abrams sued state election officials, alleging that they “grossly mismanaged” the election.

Abrams also launched Fair Fight 2018, a voting rights organization to promote fair elections around the country. Fair Fight encourages voter participation and educates voters about their rights. Also, the organization raised $34.5 million in just 39 days from late October to the last week of November, funneling a large chunk of the money into helping Democratic candidates, per the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

It was Abrams’ efforts that helped re-enfranchise Georgia voters. Vox credited her with helping a record surge of Georgia voters to the polls in November. “Abrams’s group Fair Fight and other voting rights groups like the New Georgia Project have been putting a ton of effort into registering and turning out Black voters at high rates this year. And those efforts have been successful. The state has already hit record registration levels, with about 7.6 million voters registered. And since early voting started, more than 2.7 million voters have cast ballots — at least 1 million of whom were Black.”

UPDATE: Ossoff has won the Georgia runoff. Multiple sources including NPR have confirmed that Ossoff has won, sealing control of the Senate for the Democratic Party. Ossoff is the youngest man elected to the Senate since Joe Biden in 1973.

Titans Blow 16-Point Lead, But Hold Off Texans For Incredible Win

Photo by the author.

By Terrance Turner

Today, the Tennessee Titans made the playoffs with a loss by Miami. They slugged it out with the Houston Texans today in an edge-of-your-seat match that went right down to the wire. Today’s match started off slow, with a field goal apiece by both teams. But at the start of the second quarter, the offense lit up. Titans running back Derrick Henry took off, breaking tackles — including one by defensive end J.J. Watt — to streak down the field for the touchdow. Henry scored the game’s first touchdown, putting the Titans ahead 10-3.

After another field goal by the Texans, Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill found receiver A.J. Brown for the touchdown. That extended the Titans’ lead, making it 17-6. A touchdown on the Texans’ drive was overturned; receiver Brandin Cooks stepped just outside the lines as he caught the ball. The Texans settled for a field goal, which Fairbairn kicked through. It was 17-9 at halftime.

As the second half began, the Titans put together a drive that included a 29-yard catch-and-run by Brown (?) and a crucial catch by tight end Anthony Firkser. The Firkser catch took the team into the end zone. Then Tannehill handed the ball to Henry, who jogged untouched into the end zone for the touchdown. That made it 24-9.

But the Texans put together a winning drive of their own. Watson found Cooks for the TD. But kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn missed the extra point. That made it a nine-point game. Tennessee padded the lead again on their next drive. The key, again, was Henry, who broke three tackles and slammed into another Texans defender as he ran. Then, as a fifth Texans defender tried to tackle him, Henry spun and landed on the ground, near the five-yard line. Tannehill kept the ball and dashed into the end zone to make it 31-15.

Watson found Cooks for another TD. But the two-point conversion failed, making it 31-21. The Texans caught a break, however, on the Titans’ next drive. Henry fumbled the ball. The Texans recovered and rapidly made it to the goal line. David Johnson ran in for the touchdown. That made it a three-point game: 31-28.

A.J. Brown made a crucial catch for the first down. Texans’ Charles Omenihu hit Tannehill in the face just after he threw the ball. Omenihu was flagged for roughing the passer, which added 15 yards to the end of the play. Automatic first down. The Texans later scored. Pharoah Brown caught the touchdown, to give the Texans the lead. They led for the first time — 35-31 — after scoring 20 unanswered points.

With time ticking away, the Titans mounted a drive. A rushing touchdown by Henry was wiped out by a holding call from the refs — which even the announcers disagreed with. But no challenge flag was thrown. The clock ran down even further, hitting the two-minute warning.

As the clock ran under 2:00, Tannehill made a run for it, getting all the way to the half-yard line. The Texans defense kept him from crossing the goal line. Tannehill eventually scored. But the refs again took the touchdown away, alleging illegal formation by the Titans. But with just 1:42 left, Tannehill tried again. This time, it worked: running diagonally towards the sideline, Tannehill finally scored. That gave the Titans a tenuous 38-35 lead.

The Texans were flagged on the extra-point try (for illegal formation) and then again on their punt return (for holding). The latter penalty cost the Texans 10 yards. Then — in an eerie example of history repeating itself — Titans cornerback Malcolm Butler got another joint catch. In a play similar to that of the Titans-Colts game, Butler caught the ball at the same time as Cooks. The refs upheld the original call of a completed catch by Cooks. That gave the Texans a chance.

After a heart-stopping last-chance drive, the Texans were forced to kick a field goal. Ka’imi Fairbairn nailed a 51-yard field goal to tie the game!

With the game tied at 38, the Titans had 18 seconds to put together a drive. Just when he needed to, Tannehill reared back and hurled a 54-yard pass, which was caught by A.J. Brown. That incredible catch put the Titans in field-goal range; Henry ran a few more yards to put the Titans closer. With four seconds left, the Titans attempted a field goal. Their kicker Stephen Gostkowski was out; a rookie was taking his place.

Somehow, the rookie made good. Samuel Sloman’s 37-yard field goal was a showstopper: the ball veered to the right, bounced off the upright and somehow went through. The result shocked everyone, but Henry’s reaction was one for the books:

The Titans win, 41-38. With this win (their 11th), they have won the AFC South for the first time since 2008. Not only have they made the playoffs, they have won their division. As usual, their strong running game was a key to their success. (The Titans are now the only franchise to have TWO running backs both achieve over 2,000 yards in a season.) And as usual, the motor for their high-powered offense was Derrick Henry.

Henry has won the rushing title for the second straight year. Henry’s 2,027 yards are the fifth-most ever in one season, per NBC Sports. He is only the eighth player in NFL history to have 2,000 rushing yards in a single season. And according to Yahoo! Sports writer Frank Schwab, he’s the first to achieve that since Adrian Peterson in 2012. Henry, according to Fifth Quarter Stats, has now rushed for 200+ yards and multiple touchdowns for the 3rd time this season. He is the 1st player in NFL history to accomplish this feat.

But it was the climactic, heart-stopping field goal by Titans kicker Samuel Sloman that sealed the game. Players on both teams reacted with shock and awe. But for the Titans, that surprise quickly gave way to jubilation — and celebration.

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Titans celebrate their unforgettable win today. Photo from Twitter (@Titans).

WE HAVE A DEAL!

By Terrance Turner

As a government shutdown looms, President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill. Axios reports (and CNN confirms) that the president will sign the current bill, which provides $600 checks for most Americans. The bill also includes $300 per week in enhanced unemployment insurance for 11 weeks. Further additions include $25 billion in rental assistance and an extension of the eviction moratorium.

Also included are $319 billion for small businesses, including $284 billion for loans given through the Paycheck Protection Program and $15 billion for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions. Other features are $13 billion in increased SNAP and child nutrition benefits, $82 billion in education, and billions for vaccine distribution and COVID-19 testing.

The bill is attached to a $1.4 trillion omnibus bill, which provides funding to keep the government open. That makes it a legislative behemoth: a $2.3 trillion, 5,593-page bill with a host of objectives and goals. After eight months of deadlock and negotiation, the bill was finally agreed upon last week. It passed with overwhelming (and rare) bipartisan support.

But on Tuesday, the president blindsided lawmakers by attacking the bill, calling it “a disgrace”. In a video posted online, Trump complained that the bill had alnost nothig to do with COVID-19. “Congress found plenty of money for foreign countries, lobbyists and special interests while sending the bare minimum to the American people,” he said.

“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000,” he added. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi agreed. “At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week,” she wrote on Twitter. “Let’s do it!”

The Democrats did indeed bring a bill with $2000 payments to the congressional floor, but House Republicans rejected it. Instead of working with Congress on a new bill, the president departed the White House with First lady Melania Trump to begin his end-of-year vacation at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. He has spent much of the weekend golfing in West Palm Beach. Lawmakers delivered the legislation to him in Florida, per the Times.

Meanwhile, unemployment benefits expired at midnight, leaving millions in jeopardy of losing benefits. As the New York Times explained: “States cannot pay out benefits for weeks that begin before the bill is signed, meaning that if the president does not sign the bill by Saturday [Dec. 26], benefits will not restart until the first week of January. But they will still end in mid-March, effectively trimming the extension to 10 weeks from 11.”

As of Nov. 28, there were 14 million people receiving unemployment benefits through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs, an increase of 958,000 from the previous week, Axios’ Dion Rabouin reports. The Associated Press says that about 9.5 million people rely on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program alone (including the author). That program made unemployment insurance available to freelancers, gig workers and others who are normally not eligible. After receiving their last checks, those recipients will not be able to file for more aid after Saturday.

  • 1.4 million Americans filed unemployment claims for the first time earlier this month, with 935,000 filing for traditional unemployment benefits and 455,000 filing claims for the PUA program.
  • The current bill would extend the period that unemployment can be collected until March, per the New York Times.

This sudden decision came as a shutdown loomed. Per the AP, the government was scheduled to shut down at 12:01 am Tuesday when funding ran out. That placed pressure on everyone, Trump included. As the weekend progressed, lawmakers — both Democratic and Republican — urged the president to sign the current bill now and push for the $2,000 payments later. “I think the best thing to do is sign this and then make the case for subsequent legislation,” said Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. He warned that the president’s legacy would be adversely affected.

“I understand he wants to be remembered for advocating for big checks,” Toomey said on Fox News Sunday. “But the danger is he’ll be remembered for chaos and misery and erratic behavior, if he allows this to expire.” (If Trump had merely sat on the bill, it would expire after 10 days, forcing lawmakers on Capitol Hill to start all over with new legislation.)

On ABC’s “This Week” this morning, Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the president’s obstruction: “What the president is doing right now is unbelievably cruel,” said Sanders. “Many millions of people are losing their extended unemployment benefits. They’re going to be evicted from their apartments because the eviction moratorium is ending. We are looking at a way to get the vaccine distributed to tens of millions of people. There’s money in that bill.”

Sen. Sanders is correct in asserting that renters will face eviction if the bill is not signed. But there are other pressing problems affecting many out-of-work Americans — problems that will be exacerbated if no deal is reached:

  • Nearly 12 million renters will owe an average of $5,850 in back rent and utilities by January, per WaPo — showing that people are running out of money for basic needs.
  • The U.S. poverty rate jumped to 11.7% in November, up 2.4 percentage points since June — making this the biggest jump in a single year since the government began tracking poverty 60 years ago, the Washington Post reports.

J.J. Watt Delivers Epic Rant After Latest Texans Loss; Watson Seeks Trade (UPDATED)

By Terrance Turner

Dec. 27, 2020 (Updated Dec. 30, Jan. 7)

Photo from Getty Images.

The Texans lost. Again.

It’s not the first time that’s happened this season. Two weeks ago, the Texans lost in a blowout: 36-7, to the Chicago Bears. That loss officially eliminated them from playoff contention.

Last week, the Texans lost to the Indianapolis Colts. With less than 30 seconds left, Texans wide receiver Keke Coutee fumbled at the two-yard line. It was the second time this season the team has lost to Indianapolis after a goal-line fumble. The Texans lost to the Colts, 27-20.

Today, they lost again, to the Cincinnati Bengals. Quarterback Deshaun Watson had his shoulder grabbed by Bengal Sam Hubbard, causing a strip-sack with 1:28 left. Cincinnati sealed their historic road win with a field goal. Despite Watson’s three touchdowns, the Texans lost, 37-31.

It’s their fourth straight loss. After a season in which their coach was fired, their best receiver was traded, and their offense stifled, the Texans have lost 73% of their games. They are now 4-11.

Defensive end J.J. Watt was visibly frustrated after the loss. In a postgame press conference, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year delivered an angry, emotional rant peppered with curses. He expressed recognition of his privileged position and sympathy for Texans fans. But Watt also called out his teammates for a lack of professionalism.

“We’re professional athletes getting paid a whole lot of money,” Watt said. “If you can’t come in, put in work in the building, go out to the practice field, work hard, do your lifts and do what you’re supposed to do, you should not  be here. This is a job. We’re getting paid a whole lot of money. There are a whole lot of people that watch us and invest their time and money into buying our jerseys and buying a whole bunch of s–t. And they care about it; they care every single week. We’re in Week 16, and we’re 4-11, and there’s fans that watch this game, that show up to the stadium, that put in time and energy and effort and care about this. So if you can’t go out there and you can’t work out, you can’t show up on time, you can’t practice, you can’t want to go out there to win, you shouldn’t be here.

Because this is a privilege. It’s the greatest job in the world. You get to go out and play a game. If you can’t care enough, even when you’re in week 17 — even when you’re trash, when you’re 4-11 — if you can’t go out there and give it everything you have and try your hardest, that’s bulls–t,” he said. “There are people every week that still Tweet you, that still come up to you and say, ‘Hey, we’re still rooting for you, we’re still behind you.’ They have no reason whatsoever to. We stink. But they care, and they still want to win and they still want you to be great. That’s why. Those people aren’t getting paid. We’re being paid handsomely. That’s why. That’s who I feel the most bad for, are our fans, the people who care so deeply in this city, and love it and who truly want it to be great. And it’s not. And that sucks as a player, to know we’re not giving them what they deserve.”

Watch the now-viral moment below.

UPDATE (Dec. 30): The Texans have closed their facility today after two players (safety Eric Murray and linebacker Whitney Mercilus) tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend. According to the Houston Chronicle, players were not allowed to enter the team facility. Instead, they did a walk-through on the practice field and then met virtually.

“Because we have had some positives, we are basically not letting the players into the facility,” Texans interim coach Romeo Crennel said on Zoom from NRG Stadium. “But we are having a walkthrough where we’ll work for about an hour and then they’ll leave. They are not using the facility. They come in. We walk through and they leave. We are hoping to cut down on the interaction with players when you’re not on the football field. Everybody is wearing masks and we’ll get some fundamental work done we need to get done.”

UPDATE: The Texans lost their final game of the season to the Tennessee Titans (who win the AFC South). After the Texans’ 41-38 loss on Sunday, Watt and quarterback Deshaun Watson shared a poignant moment. A video has surfaced of the two walking back to the locker room after the loss. “I’m sorry,” Watt tells Watson. “We wasted one of your years.”

UPDATE (Jan. 7, 2021): Rumors are swirling that Watson may be seeking a trade. NBC Sports’ ProFootballTalk intimates that “Watson has quietly broached with teammates the possibility of requesting a trade.” Trading him would result in a cap charge of $21.6 million. 

Veteran Houston Chronicle sportswriter John McClain seems convinced that Watson’s not going anywhere, and a KHOU sports reporter tonight snarkily remarked that the trade story “was written for some clicks on a website.” But just moments ago, NFL reporter Ian Rapoport revealed that Watson is unhappy with the Texans organization (who isn’t?) after being left out of crucial personnel decisions:

“Watson offered his input on potential general manager candidates, but the Texans neither considered nor consulted with those endorsed by their franchise quarterback, league sources told ESPN. “Additionally, the Texans did not inform Watson that they intended to hire Caserio, and he found out about the hire Tuesday on social media. That contributed to Watson taking to Twitter that night to post “some things never change….”

Albert Breer says that Watson advocated for Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy to be head coach — but the Texans refused to even interview him, further irking Watson. Over the weekend, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Watson is still angry about the Texans’ “insensitivity to social justices, including hiring practices,” alluding to the team failing to interview Eric Bieniemy. (UPDATE: the Texans finally did request to interview Bieniemy today, Jan, 12. But the window to contact him has closed.)

Rapoport adds that Watson has not spoken to Texans brass in days — though they have tried to call him. This gives new grist to the rumor mill that Watson may be looking for greener pastures. At least one former Texans player is suggesting that some teams may be interested in Watson:

UPDATE: A Texans legend has weighed in on the situation. Legendary Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson set tongues wagging with a tweet today: “If I’m @deshaunwatson I will stand my ground,” Johnson wrote. “The Texans organization is known for wasting players careers. Since Jack Easterby has walk into the building nothing good has happened in/for the organization and for some reason someone can’t seem to see what’s going on. Pathetic!!!”

Johnson’s tweet took a shot at Texans VP of football operations Jack Easterby, which generated lots of online chatter. But former Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins backed Johnson up, quoting Johnson’s original tweet and adding: “When Dre speak listen.”

UPDATE: Former Texans tight end Joel Dreessen also backed Johnson. Asked for comment, Dreessen tweeted: “All I know is when Dre would speak, he was always worth listening to. I don’t know Easterby at all, but it pains me to see how badly the Texans have been put in reverse. Whether it was him or BOB [former head coach Bill O’Brien] who chased off players like Duane, Clowney, Hopkins…& gave up 1st round picks.”

UPDATE (Jan. 29, 2021): Deshaun Watson formally requested a trade from the Texans yesterday, just hours after the team announced they’d hired David Culley as the team’s new head coach. But when Culley was introduced as coach during a Zoom teleconference today, Texans general manager Nick Caserio was clear in his objection.

“I just want to reiterate our commitment to Deshaun Watson,” he said. “We have zero interest in trading the player. We have a great plan and vision for him. We look forward to spending more time with him.” Culley added: “The reason I’m in this position today is because I know he’s going to be a Houston Texan.”

UPDATE (Feb. 2): There are now reports swirling that multiple teams are interested in trading for Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Las Begas Review-Journal reporter Vincent Bonsignore is reporting that the Raiders may pursue Deshaun Watson in exchange for Carr: “Increased demand for his services, insiders say, could create a scenario in which a three-team trade allows the Raiders to acquire Watson.”

The Raiders’ moves are not clear yet. But a potential deal could involve the team receiving two first-round draft picks and then pairing them with their own 2021-22 draft picks. They could then present all these picks as a package for the Texans.

UPDATE (March 2, 2021): J.J. Watt has signed a two-year, $31 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals. News of the signing broke yesterday, reported by outlets including ESPN and the NFL Network. This move reunites him with former teammate DeAndre Hopkins, who was a wide receiver for the Texans before a controversial trade last year. Today, in an introductory press conference, Watt was asked about Texans QB Deshaun Watson, who remains in a standoff with the team after informing them he no longer wants to play for them.

“The one thing I want for Deshaun Watson is for him to be happy,” Watt said. “He deserves it, and I want him to be happy. Whatever that looks like for him, that’s what I want for him.”

Check back for more updates.

Alvin Kamara Explodes For SIX Touchdowns; Saints Beat Vikings In Shootout On Christmas

By Terrance Turner

Dec. 25, 2020

In an unusual move, the NFL gave football fans the gift of football this Christmas. It would prove to be a memorable matchup. One team was battling to win the NFC South; the other was merely fighting to stay alive and get to the playoffs. But only one team would prove victorious.

This afternoon, the New Orleans Saints battled the Minnesota Vikings in a NFC showdown. The Saints scored right out of the gate: running back Alvin Kamara ran right through the Minnesota defense to score a touchdown. His 40-yard TD run put the Saints ahead 7-0. (No wonder he’s been named to his fourth straight Pro Bowl.)

The Vikings answered back right away with a running play of their own. Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook raced into the end zone for a touchdown, tying the game. New Orleans quickly put together a drive of their own: Jared Cook made a big catch, and RB Latavius Murray’s subsequent catch made it 1st and goal. After a pass interference call on the Vikings, the ball was moved to the one-yard line. Kamara scored again, pulling past defenders to cross the goal line. It was 14-7.

After the Vikings went three-and-out, the Saints took over again. This time, the Vikings defense prevented them from scoring a touchdown. But New Orleans tacked on a field goal to add three points. #23 for Minnesota found the end zone, cutting the Saints’ lead. It was 17-14. But then, Alvin Kamara scored again, rushing to the end zone for his third touchdown of the game. That put the Saints ahead 24-14 at the half.

In the second half, the Saints weren’t as dominant. A costly interception by Brees led to paydirt for Minnesota. The Vikings cashed in on the turnover. Irvin Smith, Jr. caught a TD pass from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. They missed the extra point kick, though. So it was 24-20 with about 9:40 left in the third quarter.

But then…

With 4:38 left in the third quarter, Alvin Kamara scored his fourth touchdown of the day (!!!). Alvin Kamara is the first Saints player EVER to have four rushing touchdowns in a game, according to Bleacher Report. His historic achievement gave the Saints a 31-20 lead. But the Vikings clapped back with another TD, adding seven points before the third quarter ended.

The fourth quarter commenced, and it was all Saints. New Orleans’ already-explosive offense combusted in the final quarter. Kamara having yet another rushing touchdown. Kamara celebrated in the end zone, holding up his white-gloved hand and counting on his fingers: one, two, three, four, five.

The Saints powered down the field, deftly employing running plays and hurtling towards another 1st and goal. A catch by Burton took New Orleans all the way to the one-yard line. Kamara could’ve run in for another score, but coach Sean Payton elected to keep him out, drawing boos from the crowd. It was Taysom Hill who ended up scoring, with a 1-yard TD rush that made it 45-27.

The Vikings wasted no time getting into the red zone. A series of successful plays took them to 1st and goal. But the Saints defense broke up three consecutive plays. On 4th and goal, the Vikings went for it. Adam Thielen caught the ball in the end zone for a touchdown, but a Saints defender pushed him out of bounds from behind. A shoving match broke out between the Saints and the Vikings, and referees had to physically separate the players. In the end, the ruling on the field was for a touchdown, and two of the Saints defenders were flagged for unnecessary roughness. Those rulings drew boos from the crowd.

The referee ordered a two-point conversion from the one-yard line, but Cousins’ throw to Justin Jefferson was unsuccessful. The score was 45-33…but not for long. Saints Adam Trautman had a dramatic catch-and-run, evading Vikings defenders to reach the one-yard line. And then….the unthinkable happened. Alvin Kamara pushed past defenders to (barely) break the plane, scoring his SIXTH rushing touchdown. In doing so, Kamara ties an all-time record: That is the most rushing touchdowns by an NFL player in one game since 1929.

The Saints won, 52-33. With this win, they clinch their division. Their 52 points are the most that the Minnesota Vikings have allowed since 1963. The Vikings are eliminated from playoff contention with this game. The Saints win the NFC South for the fourth season in a row. They improve to 11-4.

So what was the key to Kamara’s sensational performance? “The O-line, kudos to them. They get the game ball, for sure. They did everything they had to do,” Kamara told Erin Andrews after the game. When asked about that Taysom Hill TD that could’ve gone to him, Kamara smiled. “I wasn’t worried about it,” he said. “Taysom was like, ‘Man, my bad.’ I was like, ‘Nah, it’s all good. We can spread the wealth.” And spread the wealth they did, for a phenomenal win.