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NFL’s lack of diverse leadership raises questions about commissioner’s video message

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Kohjiro Kinno/ESPN ImagesBy ERIC MOLLO, ABC News

On June 10, several NFL stars posted a video on social media in response to the league’s written statement in the wake of George Floyd’s death, calling on the NFL to condemn racial injustice and support peaceful protests.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responded with a surprising statement of his own, marking a shift in tone from the league’s initial reaction.

Goodell’s message to players: an apology and a pledge the league wants to be a part of fighting systemic racism in America.

Goodell’s statement raises important questions for players, fans, and league executives: what changes is the NFL willing to make, and what actions will the league take to improve equality?

For a sports league in which close to three quarters of its players are black, the NFL lacks representation in leadership roles. Of the 32 NFL head coaches, just four are minorities, down from a record-high of eight at the start of the 2018 season. The league has just two minority offensive coordinators, a coaching position that has proved to be a prerequisite to becoming an NFL head coach in recent years. Just two of the NFL’s 32 teams have minority general managers, a top front office role often in charge of hiring head coaches and making transactions. Nearly all of the league’s owners are white.

The league also earned its lowest grade in 15 years on the 2019 Racial and Gender Report Card, issued each year by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida.

The NFL has taken initiatives to hire more minority candidates to leadership roles with the Rooney Rule policy, adopted in 2003. The policy originally required teams to interview one minority candidate for every head coaching vacancy, and it has expanded since its implementation. Owners even voted on new proposals to the rule just last month.

Louis Riddick is a NFL former player and current football analyst with our partners at ESPN. He has interviewed for general manager positions with the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants. Riddick told ABC’s Perspective podcast that the Rooney Rule has not done enough to create equal opportunity for minority candidates to be hired into positions of leadership:

“The results are what they are as far as minority representation in positions of influence: it’s not there the way it needs to be… The NFL owners, I mean, really, what is their incentive to change? The only way that you can really, ultimately change their way of thinking in the decisions that they arrive at is to get us, the candidates, exposed to them [owners] outside of just formal interview settings so they are more comfortable, more apt to hire people like myself.”

Following the owners’ vote in May, teams are now required to interview two external minority head coaching candidates, at least one minority candidate for coordinator vacancies, and one external candidate for front-office positions.
 
League officials wanted to incentivize team owners to hire minority candidates by offering draft pick compensation, but the measure was not approved. Riddick felt draft compensation would undermine a candidate’s chances to succeed:
 
“What it does is it automatically casts doubt on whether or not that minority head coach or general manager actually got the job based off of his competency or got it based off of the incentive program. That’s not something you want to saddle a new GM or coach with when he’s already responsible for gaining the respect of his peers.”
 
Mary Jo Kane, a professor of sports sociology at the University of Minnesota, believes improving hiring practices would be an important step for the NFL to take to show they are serious about addressing racial inequities across the league:
 
“Once he [a candidate] walks into that building, and that’s already hard enough when you are a minority and you are hired into a position of authority, whether one likes it or not, and it’s not fair, you end up being the representative of that entire group. When an African-American coach fails, does that sort of unconscious discrimination creep in where you say, ‘Yeah, we took a chance and it just didn’t work out?’”
 
Kane points to white privilege and unconscious bias playing a role in the league’s lack of diversity in leadership:

“We have seen, historically, white men being hired, failing, and being rehired, even if not as a head coach, certainly as an offensive or defensive coordinator.  It’s always, to me, about power and who’s in the room when it happens. And until there is a critical mass, not just a token presence of African-Americans being in the room, we’re just not going to see, in my view, any sort of structural, and therefore, lasting change.”

One name that Goodell did not mention in his video message: Colin Kaepernick, who has remained out of the league since he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest brutality. A team taking a chance on Kaepernick would signal a change in attitude for Goodell and league owners, according to Kane. However, signing Kaepernick may not be the path owners choose to take:

“Signing him would be both a symbolic and tangible manifestation of how much things have shifted… My sense is that they, they meaning the owners, are trying to perhaps ride out this tsunami, if you will, in hopes that America will be so desperate for the return of football, and I think that that’s what they want the focus to be, not the return of Colin Kaepernick.”

Since Goodell’s video message was published, no owner has spoken out to support player protests during the national anthem, despite players saying they plan to kneel during the playing of the national anthem this season.

The NFL’s shown a willingness to speak out against social injustices in the past, but has taken few risks. The league partnered with hip-hop icon Jay-Z in 2019 to address social justice issues, for example, but some considered the move vague and it was criticized by some as a public relations stunt.

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, America’s dialogue about racial inequality has shifted. The tone of the NFL’s commissioner has shifted. Now, the league has an opportunity to prove its players’ impassioned response will be a catalyst for the league to take proactive, tangible steps in addressing racial inequality.

Kane says it will be important to exmaine the actions of NFL owners following Goodell’s comments:

“What will the response of Goodell specifically and the owners generally be? That will be the true test of what Goodell’s video actually meant.”

Riddick is cautiously hopeful that, in coordination with the league, players and coaches will continue to try to equalize opportunity and create more leadership positions in the NFL for minority candidates:

“How do we normalize equality? How is that possible? I don’t know. With every passing day, it becomes more and more discouraging that we are going to ever be able to normalize equality. But, the fight goes on.”
 
Listen to the report and the rest of this past week’s highlights from Perspective here.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigns in wake of fatal shooting

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kali9/iStockBy MARK OSBORNE and JOSH HOYOS, ABC NEWS

(ATLANTA) — Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields has resigned, according to city Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Shields had served in the position since December 2016. Shields will continue with the department in a role to be determined.

“It has become abundantly clear that over the last couple weeks in Atlanta is that while we have a police force full of men and women who work alongside our communities with honor respect and dignity,” Bottoms said in a statement. “There has been a disconnect with what our expectations are, and should be as it relates to interactions with our officers and the communities in which they are entrusted to protect.

“Chief Erica Shields has been a solid member of APD for over two decades, and has a deep and abiding love for the people of Atlanta,” she continued. “And because of her desire that Atlanta be a model of what meaningful reform should look like across this country Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as Police Chief so that the city may move forward with urgency and rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities.”

Former Assistant Police Chief Rodney Bryant will serve as interim police chief as the city immediately launches a national search for new leadership to repair trust within the community.

The move comes just hours after a man, identified as Rayshard Brooks, was shot and killed by police at a Wendy’s drive-thru after police said he pointed a Taser at an officer while running away from law enforcement.

“I firmly believe that there is a clear distinction between what you can do and what you should do,” Bottoms said in a press conference regarding the officer’s actions. “I do not believe this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer.”

Shields had also called for the officer’s immediate termination and said the other officer involved has been placed on administrative duty.

Bottoms expressed condolences to the family of Brooks.

“There are no words strong enough to express how sincerely sorry I am for your loss,” the mayor said. “I do hope that you will find some comfort in the swift actions that have been taken today and the meaningful reforms that our city will implement on behalf of the countless men and women who have lost their lives across this country.”

Calls for a change at the top of the department grew Saturday in the wake of Brooks’ shooting.

“The Atlanta Police Department continues to terrorize protestors and murder unarmed Black bodies,” the NAACP said in a statement. “It’s time for new leadership and a change of policing culture. Stand with us and call for her immediate resignation.”

The shooting comes less than two weeks after six Atlanta police officers were charged for the forceful arrests of two college students sitting in their car on June 2. The two were shocked with stun guns and physically pulled out of the car though they did not appear to be involved in protests in the area.

Among the charges for the officers were aggravated assault, pointing or aiming a gun, simple battery and criminal damage to property.

ABC News’ J. Gabriel Ware contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Human remains found on Chad Daybell's property were of missing Idaho kids: Police

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Rexburg Police DepartmentBy ELLA TORRES, ABC NEWS

(REXBURG, Idaho) — The months-long search for Joshua “JJ” Vallow and Tylee Ryan, two Idaho children last seen in 2019, officially ended Saturday after authorities confirmed the human remains found earlier this week belonged to the children.

“It is with heavy hearts that we now confirm that those remains have now been officially identified as those of JJ Vallow and Tylee Ryan,” Rexburg police said in a statement Saturday.

JJ and Tylee were last seen in September and were reported missing by extended family members to police in November.

Their mother, Lori Vallow, and her husband, Chad Daybell, have been charged in the case.

Vallow, 46, was arrested in February and is facing two felony counts of desertion and nonsupport of dependent children and one misdemeanor count each of resisting and obstructing an officer, solicitation of a crime and contempt.

Daybell, 51, was taken into custody Tuesday on two felony counts of destruction, alteration or concealment of evidence after the remains were found on his property.

Each is being held on a $1 million bond.

The case received national attention as it’s been shrouded in mystery, and after rumors of a cult and other deaths in the family surfaced.

The mysteriousness around the children’s deaths still remains. Authorities did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment as to how the children died or if charges for Vallow or Daybell will upgraded.

Vallow was lambasted by police throughout the search for the children, including in the early days when police said she “completely refused” to help.

“It is astonishing that rather than work with law enforcement to help us locate her own children, Lori Vallow has chosen instead to leave the state with her new husband,” police said, referring to Vallow’s sudden move to Hawaii with Daybell.

She also was condemned by officials while in Hawaii, when she failed to produce her children after she was ordered to do so by an Idaho court. She spent about a month in Hawaii with Daybell before she was arrested by police there on a warrant issued by authorities from Madison County, Idaho. Vallow was extradited to Idaho.

Vallow, through a statement from her attorney, has maintained her innocence and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Daybell has not yet entered a plea.

Concerns about Vallow began well before the children went missing.

Charles Vallow, the adopted father of JJ, filed for divorce from Lori Vallow in February 2019, court records from Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona show.

His attorney in the proceedings, Steven Ellsworth, said Charles Vallow expressed “genuine fear for his life and under our advice obtained an Order of Protection against Lori Vallow,” according to a statement Ellsworth sent ABC News.

His “fear for his life” appeared to stem from statements that Lori Vallow made after meeting Daybell.

She had at one point claimed she was “a god assigned to carry out the work of the 144,000 at Christ’s second coming in July 2020” and didn’t want anything to do with her family “because she had a more important mission to carry out,” according to court documents obtained by ABC News.

Daybell is the author of several religion-themed fiction books and spoke at some Preparing a People events.

Preparing a People issued a lengthy statement in December on its website, which appears to have since been deleted, explaining that the multimedia company has been providing services to a variety of clients over the past seven years.

“It is not a ‘group’ and is not a ‘Cult’ or something people join, but has educational lecture events that can be attended or watched on video,” the statement reads. “We also do not share any of Chad Daybell’s or Lori Vallow’s beliefs if they are contrary to Christian principles of honesty, integrity and truth.”

Beyond rumors of a cult, the case made headlines because of numerous family deaths.

Charles Vallow was shot and killed by Lori Vallow’s brother, Alex Cox, in her Chandler, Arizona, home on July 11, 2019, police said. Cox was never charged, and the case was being looked at as self-defense.

Cox ended up being found unresponsive about six months after that shooting, on Dec. 11, 2019. He was found in his Gilbert, Arizona, home and later pronounced dead. An autopsy was performed and it was discovered that Cox died of natural cases.

In between Vallow and Cox’s death, Chad Daybell’s wife, Tammy Daybell, also died under circumstances that are now believed to be suspicious. Her autopsy results have not yet been released.

After the remains were discovered this week, the grandparents of JJ and eldest son of Lori Vallow issued a joint statement. They confirmed the remains were those of the children before authorities publicly said so.

“We are filled with unfathomable sadness that these two bright stars were stolen from us, and only hope that they died without pain or suffering,” the family said. “We have only just been told of the loss of our loved ones and need time to process.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Black police officers on their experience during protests

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Michael Ciaglo/Getty ImagesBY: LIONEL MOISE AND LEIGHTON SCHNEIDER, ABC NEWS

(DENVER) — For the past few weeks Sergeant Carla Havard of the Denver Police Department has been on the frontlines of protests and demonstrations, but her experience differs from the white officers she works with.

“When I take off this uniform, I am Sandra Bland. When I take off this uniform, I am Breonna Taylor,” said Sergeant Havard, who spoke with ABC News’ Lionel Moise on ABC News’ “Perspective” Podcast.

Badge aside as a black woman, she stands in solidarity with the demonstrators.

“The same issues that they’re fighting [for], we’re along those same lines. The devaluing of black lives, the abuse of power, systemic racism. We’re still having to march. We’re still having to encourage someone to open up their eyes to see the black perspective or things from the black lense. When I’m out there, I’m like, ‘wow, we’re still having to do this in 2020,’ and that’s a shame and that’s disappointing,” said Sergeant Havard.

She says it is a difficult position to be in with calls nationwide to defund the police or abolish departments altogether.  

“There’s two ways that you can fix something. You can fix it from the outside and then you can choose to fix it from the inside, like myself and hundreds of other minority officers have decided to do. This system of policing, this policing machine, wasn’t designed for us. We have to be honest about that,” said Sergeant Havard.

After the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others, concern about systemic racism in law enforcement have come to the forefront.

“Race is inextricably linked to the American policing system. We have to look at, and I have to look, at the history of policing and the role that it’s played, particularly in our African-American communities,” said Chief Medaria Arradondo of the Minneapolis Police Department.  

Arradondo has been outspoken over the years about injustices within his department.

In 2007, he and four other black officers successfully sued the department for discrimination in pay, promotions, and discipline.

He recently announced changes, including using artificial intelligence and real-time data to monitor officer behavior.

Ridge Graham, a detective with Miami Police, told the “Perspective” Podcast ending racism in law enforcement begins with calling out fellow officers.

“I think a lot of officer’s patience has run out. We’ve got to hold each other accountable. Whether that’s going to cost me my job, whether that’s going to cost me losing a couple of friends, or colleagues within the department, then so be it,” said Graham.

Alonzo Hall, an officer in Broward County, Florida, says community outreach needs to be a core part of the reform, not just for optics

“I feel like we’re fighting two battles. If we’re growing up in our communities and we want to make a change, we think we should do it from the inside. You think you become a police officer, [if] you want to make a change. You want to do all these things, but then you get a bad perception from your own community. It’s like you get a backlash. You get called Uncle Tom, you get called a sellout,” Hall told the “Perspective” podcast.

In Denver, Sergeant Havard says her voice inside the department matters now more than ever, and change starts with the courage to speak up.  

“I can tell you that those things will not happen in front of me and we need more people saying that, not only just minority officers. We need more officers period saying that. We’re talking about changing a culture that has allowed the devaluing of black lives to occur,” said Sergeant Havard.

Even after the protests in Denver, and across the country end, Havard says the difficult work begins when law enforcement and the community must come together to demand change.  

“I want to challenge everyone to look within and return to a sense of humanity for all and for everyone. Black Lives Matter, they should have been mattering a long time ago. They should have mattered a long time ago. Let’s just make sure it’s not a tag line. Let’s look at every aspect, because that video, what happened in Minnesota is a nationwide problem.  And that is the callous disregard and devaluing of the black life,” said Sergeant Havard.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Human toll of COVID-19 touches every corner of the jazz world

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Peter Van Breukelen/Redferns via Getty ImagesBy KYRA PHILLIPS and DEENA ZARU, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — Jazz, a genre with deep roots in the African American community, has always told the stories of pain and reckoning in America. As the death toll from novel coronavirus surpasses 110,000 in the U.S., the ache of the pandemic has touched every corner of the jazz world.

More than a dozen influential jazz and blues musicians have died after a battle with the coronavirus, according to the Jazz Foundation of America.

The disproportionate impact that the virus has had on older people and African Americans “certainly is apparent in the jazz world,” Jazz Foundation of America Executive Director Joseph Petrucelli told ABC News.

“The human toll has been devastating and heartbreaking,” Petrucelli said, adding that several other greats have died due to suspected cases of COVID-19.

For Grammy-winning trumpeter Sean Jones, who has known or shared the stage with a number of legends who died, the loss is deeply personal.

“We’ve lost a lot of heroes, and I heard a quote the other day that every time you lose a legend, you lose a library,” Jones, who is also a jazz educator at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore, told ABC News’ Kyra Phillips. “Just speaking to those folks, just hearing the stories, what’s gone down over the years — we can never get that back.”

There was another deadly virus that struck the jazz community more than 100 years ago — the 1918 influenza pandemic. It tore through New Orleans, and by some small miracle, 17-year-old Louis Armstrong — one of the most legendary musicians in the world and one of the most influential jazz musicians ever — survived.

Armstrong reflected on the Spanish flu pandemic and his experience nursing others back to health as a teenager in his book, “Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans,” an excerpt of which was shared by the Louis Armstrong House Museum in April.

Asked what would have happened if Armstrong did not survive the pandemic, Jones said, “Wow. What would happen if salt was never part of the equation of food? You wouldn’t know food that way that you know it now without that element, without salt.”

“Louis Armstrong is the salt of jazz, he’s the foundation. So imagine something that important not existing. Would you have elements of the music? Sure you would. But that spirit wouldn’t be there,” he added.

Among those who died from complications due the coronavirus are New Orleans jazz legend Ellis Marsalis — a renowned pianist, educator and patriarch of one of New Orleans’ most prominent jazz families. Marsalis died on April 1 in New Orleans at the age of 85.

Four of Marsalis’ sons — Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo and Jason, also became jazz musicians.

“My dad was a giant of a musician and teacher, but an even greater father. He poured everything he had into making us the best of what we could be,” wrote Branford Marsalis in a statement.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell lauded Ellis Marsalis as a “legend.”

“He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz. … He was a teacher, a father, and an icon — and words aren’t sufficient to describe the art, the joy and the wonder he showed the world,” she said. “This loss cuts us deeply.”

Wallace Roney, a Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter who studied with jazz legends Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, died on March 31 in Paterson, New Jersey. He was 59.

Bucky Pizzarelli, a celebrated jazz guitarist who collaborated with stars like Paul McCartney and Benny Goodman, died on April 1 in Saddle River, New Jersey. He was 94.

Henry Grimes, a renowned jazz bassist who played with greats like Benny Goodman, Sonny Rollins and Lee Konitz, died on April 15 at the Northern Manhattan Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Harlem, New York. He was 84.

The jazz world took notice of a 22-year-old Grimes when he played at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival. After falling on hard times, he dropped off the music scene in the 1970s before being discovered again by a social worker while he lived in Los Angeles. With the help of the community, he made a memorable comeback over the past two decades.

Konitz, a jazz saxophonist and composer whose storied career dates back to the 1940s, also died on April 15 in New York City. He was 92.

Manu Dibango, a Cameroonian jazz saxophonist and songwriter, who was known for fusing elements of jazz and funk with African beats, died on March 24 at age 86.

Dibango’s track “Soul Makossa” has been sampled by artists like Kanye West and Michael Jackson.

Onaje Allan Gumbs, a renowned jazz pianist, arranger and composer, who was known for fusing elements of R&B and jazz, died in a nursing home in Yonkers, New York, on April 6 at the age of 70. According to JFA, his wife Sandra Gumbs later died in the same nursing due to compilations with the virus.

Todd Barkan, a Grammy-winning jazz producer and “Jazz Master” as named by the National Endowment for the Arts, has seen it all, but said that nothing has been like COVID-19.

“They were great teachers and reachers and preachers in our music and their message is always with us. We have to live what they imparted to us. We have to live their lesson or we’re not doing our job,” the owner of the legendary jazz club The Keystone Korner told Phillips.

In an emotional moment, Jones read a list of those who died and reflected on his memories with each.

“I’m seeing stories. I’m saying Bootsie Barnes in Philadelphia when I was a grad student, and I would go up trying to play ‘Cherokee’ and he would tell me how sad I was,” he said with a laugh. “I hear Onaje’s voice on the phone when I recorded a song called ‘Allison,’ telling me that I have integrity because I didn’t play a solo until the very end. And I see Lee Konitz walking into Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, just to hang out and eat a cheeseburger. And gosh, Ellis Marsalis. I see myself with a group of young musicians in San Francisco after we just left the stage and him telling us stories.”

Petrucelli said that the loss has been so “painful” in the jazz community, as the human toll of the virus has been felt across the entire jazz and blues “ecosystem.”

“In terms of the broader community associated with the music and with the foundation, you know, it’s even more harrowing where we lost a beloved board member, for instance, named Steve Edwards. We’ve lost a club owner in Harlem. … Sandra Gumbs, the wife of Onaje Allan Gumbs, passed away in the same nursing home that Onaje did. … [We know] a promoter in Harlem who passed, we know regulars from clubs who have passed,” he said.

And for musicians like Jones, who is teaching this music tradition to new generations, it is now up to him and others to keep the contributions of those legends alive.

“Jazz has gone through everything we’ve gone through as people. All of our highs, all of our lows. It expresses it with the note B flat, with the note E … it’s an honor to perform it, it’s an honor to tell that story,” he said.

ABC News’ Becky Perlow and Patrick O’gara contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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