'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, February 3rd, 2013
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
February 3, 2013
Guests: Dave Zirin, Roman Oben, Grry Small, Cyrus Mehri, Richard Aborn, Kai Wright, Patrick Egan, Cathy Cohen, Rebecca Traister
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, hasn`t
Hillary done enough?
Plus, Gabby Giffords plea to Congress to do something.
And they run, they path, they block, but is the NFL ready to let racial
But first, the game that can bring glory or ruin on any given Sunday.
Good morning, I`m MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY.
And today, I have one question for you: Are you ready for some football? I
know that I am. Not that there`s much of a choice in my home city of New
Orleans because there`s no ignoring it. Super Bowl XLVII has come to town.
Today, in New Orleans, the Superdome is the place to be as football fans
prepare to watch the Baltimore Ravens face off against the San Francisco
49ers. It is the best I can do if it`s not the New Orleans saints.
OK. Those lucky ticket holders inside the Superdome will be joined by
estimated 110 million people watching the game on television. Between the
plays, those millions will be a captive audience for side show for Super
Bowl ads which this year a causing upward of $4 million for each 30-seconds
spot. And they will take it all in while consuming and estimated 1.2
billion chicken wings, four million pizzas and 50 million cases of beer.
On Super Bowl Sunday, there`s no denying our national love affair with the
game. But alongside those numbers, this year`s Super Bowl comes with
another set of numbers that made that love much more complicated than ever.
These new numbers could make the letter CTE as synonymous with football as
the letters NFL.
CTE is the acronym for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive
generative brain disease caused by trauma to the head and the mounting
scientific evidence points to undeniable connection between this long-term
brain disease and the concussions and collisions that are integral part of
our beloved sport.
Last year, a Boston University study that examines the brain tissue of
deceased players found the total of 50 confirmed cases of CTE. Of 34
former pro-players whose brains were examined, 33 of them had the disease.
Last week, researchers at UCLA announced there`s also the study that was
the first of its kind to study living players. They found that the protein
that causes CTE seen here in the brains on the right column in all five of
the former players who were studied.
And then there are the lives behind the science and the studies. That is
what life looks like for players after the game ends and the symptoms of
CTE begins. Young men, grown old before their time suffering with
headaches and short term memory loss, depression, full blown dementia,
uncontrollable aggression paranoia, difficulties with walking and talking
and sometimes, worst of all, suicide.
We all witness the most tragic of the diseases consequences last may when
star linebacker junior Seau took his life. Just last month, researches at
the national institute of health confirmed the discovery of science
consistent with CTE in Seau`s brain. In fact, Seau was one of several
players, including Dave Duerson, Shane Dronett and Ray Esterling who
committed suicide and were later diagnosed with CTE after their deaths.
So, football is not the only sport associated with CTE. But as the most
watched programming on television during the season and with more than $9
billion in revenue, football is, by far, the most profitable and popular
American sport. The ongoing research inevitably will continue to uncover
more and more cases of football related CTE. And the difficult work of
grappling with our love for the game and its potential dangers falls to all
of us. All the fans who consume and contribute to it to league the profit
from the athletes who play in it.
And I`m not the only one talking about the relatively tiny sliver of the --
I`m not only talking about this relatively tiny sliver of the population
who are well paid and played professionally. I`m also talking about the
3.5 million children under high school age who account for 70 percent of
all football players in the country.
Youth tackle football players are exposed to head collisions like the pros,
only they are still developing brains can make them more susceptible to
concussions. And unlike adult players, as minors, they may not understand
all the risks of playing the game. They are not necessarily capable of
giving informed consent which poses for thorny questions for parents. Even
President Obama felt the need to weigh in with a parent`s perspective
recently when he told the New Republic quote "I`m a big football fan. But
I have to tell you, if I had a son, I would have to think long and hard
before I let him play football."
For the parents who really do have to make that call, the decision may not
be so cut and dry because they are weighing the risks of playing the game
against the evidence of benefits, the lessons of team work and tenacity,
the weight of culture, tradition and community, a faith supervised space
for kids after school. And the thing that makes all football fans say hell
yes, we`re ready for football, our long and enduring love of the game.
At the table, sports editor for "The Nation" Dave Zirin, former NFL player
Roman Oben who won the Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, managing
editor of "The Grio", Joy Reid, and Dr. Gary Small, director of UCLA
Longevity Center and author of the Alzheimer`s Prevention Program.
It`s nice to have you all here on Super Bowl Sunday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: I know, right? All that.
All right. So, I want to start with you, doctor because I want to think a
little bit about if we can now diagnose CTE in the brains of living
individuals, does that create a moral imperative for the NFL to in fact
test all of its players for signs?
DR. GARY SMALL, UCLA LONGEVITY CENTER: We don`t know how much this new
test is going to apply to the NFL players until we look at it more. We
have to follow people over time. This is a preliminary study. But we
published it because there was the results were so striking. We saw in the
brains of these living players a pattern that was identical to what was
seen at autopsy. And what we are tagging for the first time onward is
called tal-proteins. The same protein you see in Alzheimer`s disease. So,
it is not surprising that NFL players have a four times greater likelihood
of dying from Alzheimer`s than people in the general public.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, just a little bit with this because you are saying a
protein which sounds to me potentially like a blood test of some kind, but
then, I looked like to the images I was looking at were FMRIS. What is it
specifically that is allowing this diagnosis?
SMALL: So, these are pet scans. I mean, a pet scanners like a gigot
counter. It measures radioactivity. We what we have done in UCLA is
invent a new chemical marker we inject in a players that is taken up by the
brain and it has a little radioactive tag. So, the scanner is measuring
radioactivity. So, when you see a lot a red in the scan, that means
there`s a lot of abnormal deposit.
HARRIS-PERRY: Doctor, that is really - so, let`s say that we can, as we
move forward in science make some clear distinctions. So, we can say, all
right, there is evidence not only just sort of the correlation that those
who play in the NFL are more likely to die with Alzheimer`s or even what we
know with autopsies after death. But that in fact, it looks like we can
diagnoses some living players. How much does that change the game for us
in our lifetimes?
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION: Dramatically. I think it changes
the game. I think 20, 30 years you might see a situation where football is
outlawed for children under 14 where it`s viewed as the same as operating
heavy machinery or driving a car, like something that it is just not -- it
also would cost too much to ensure the ability for children to play.
You know, there was once a Boxer named Buster Mathis. And his son, Buster
Mathis Junior, came to him and said daddy, should I box or play football.
And Buster Mathis Senior said son, please play football because nobody
plays boxing. We might have to update that to say, you might want to look
at boxing again because nobody really plays football because the risks are
HARRIS-PERRY: So Roman, you and I were talking in the green room about
your decision. You are not only a former player, but also the father of
sons and the decisions you are making for your sons.
ROMAN OBEN, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Well, my -- our boys are born -- when my
wife was pregnant I said no football until 7th grade. And because I think
kids have to learn, have to have a fundamental base so that one of the
building for playing different sports what cross soccer, basketball,
wrestling. And then, when he starts through puberty, at 12, 13-years-old,
then you can take the lows associated with football. And this is 11 years
before all these tests and concussion scares came out, so.
But I think as parents, we have to understand why we are putting our kids
in sports. Is it because of team work, the things you said in the opening,
not because an end results because 80 percent of kids won`t play after high
school. So, you have to standardize the way it`s coached at the youth
level. Three days of week of practice, only one day pass. The things that
they have done in the NFL, you have to do it on the youth level as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, for me Joy, I grew up in Virginia, in a town where
football was the center of our social - I mean in fact, it`s a little
transgressive (ph) for me to get a wear a jersey because I was a
cheerleader for a football team. But it is the center of our social life.
It`s what drew people together. It was how we integrated ourselves. I
mean, it`s hard for me to imagine my town without football.
And on the other hand, the vast majority of these kids never went on that
one day the vast majority never went on to play professional football. And
I think now, are those young men who when they were boys we were rooting
for them, cheering for them, bringing our town together, are they now
living with the physical and brain consequences of that?
JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. No, I`m just like you,
Melissa. I grew up in Denver, Colorado where like during Sunday services,
when a Bronco game was on, everyone was looking at their watches.
REID: You really want to preach because we need to go.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the priest just give it out (INAUDIBLE).
REID: Exactly. We got home in time for the games. And then, I also lived
in Miami, where literally, you have families putting -- everything is
riding on this kid. And there are families that, you know, see this child
as their way out of poverty. I mean, there are kids playing Peewee
football way before 7th grade in Miami. And it`s almost a religion down
there. And people are so dedicated to it, I mean. And our two boys, you
know, I grew up a football fanatic. Our boys played soccer. And we were
very much against them going into football just because that, because of
the head injuries. I mean, the difference between soccer and football in
Miami, for instance, is two days a week practice versus five days practice.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I was going to say and two days in the summer, right?
We are going to stay on this. We have much more to talk about including
our complicity as viewers, as lovers of the game in this question. So,
And up next, football`s toughest call. Why some players are willing to
risk their health for what feels like the possibility of big money and a
HARRIS-PERRY: The median salary for an NFL player is $770,000 and reflects
the premium of the risky job of subjecting one`s body to injury and even
possibly shortening a life span, all in the interest of our entertainment.
In essence, players are paid a lot of money in the short term in exchange
for sacrificing their health down the road. That seems like a fair trade,
and consider this. The career of the average player, not a first round
draft pick or that turn cobalt, but the average player is 3 1/2 years. For
those players, when that time is up, so is the money. But it is enough
time for them to have been exposed to mild brain injuries that is result
from the routine hits that can lead to a lifetime of chronic health
So Roman, I want to start with you on this. How should we think about
compensation? Should we think of it as you make nearly $1 million, that`s
a lot of money. You just put up with it?
HARRIS-PERRY: Or look at the life span in saying, well, you make nearly
million dollars, but only four years, and so, therefore over a lifetime,
it`s not that much money.
OBEN: Well, I think it`s always hard to live in retrospect. And at 40
years old, you look at it differently with your children than you did at
25. Because at 25, 23, you said, well, I will deal with it when I`m 40.
Because you don`t know if you are going to play one year, three years. I
played 12 years. Ray Lewis, 17 years. He is the last guy in our `96 draft
class. So, you don`t really know how long you are going to last.
And you look at the trade off. You want to keep the guy behind you on the
bench. So, injuries, current injuries, there is two different things,
obviously so. I had nine surgeries, two of them were foot surgeries. I
spent two years of my life in crutches, not being able to walk. And I
don`t think I change anything, I wouldn`t. But again, I don`t want to be a
liability to my family in ten to 15 years when somebody things you talk
about -- spoke about earlier happen to the most players.
SMALL: You know, I think what happens, people are thinking of the moment.
This is human nature. We are not thinking ten, 20, 40 years down the line.
It`s recently we have learned that when your brain is rattling around for
tackles, not even going unconscious, if that`s going to affect you in 40 to
Well, let me also suggest that even if we are thinking in the long term,
that not everybody is facing the same time horizon. So, Michael Denzel
Smith writing for "the Nation" publication, both you and I for, Dave, was
writing about what is facing a particularly young boys in circumstances
where they don`t have a lot of economic sort of viability and where what
they may be looking at is a different injury, the possibility of gun
violence or a lifetime of poverty.
And he writes, you know, even if you are in the circumstances, the reason
there are over a million boys in this country of all different ages playing
this violent game, is that there are millions of dollars on the table in
guaranteed contracts and endorsement deals available to those who prove
themselves capable of strapping on the pads and play America`s favorite
sports at the highest level. And who is more willing to play the lottery
basically than those who are most economically disadvantaged?
So, does it leave us in the circumstance that OK, President Obama`s
mythical son could opt out, but not other kids.
ZIRIN: Yes. And this question of class, I think, is very important. And
I think it is going to define the future of who plays in the NFL. Look at
the three most dynamic rookies in the NFL this year, Robert Griffin III,
Andrew Lock and Russell Wilson, three quarterbacks, two African-American,
one Caucasian. But what they all have in common is that they all come from
stable, middle class homes. And that`s exactly the kind of player that I
don`t think you are going to see in the NFL in 20 to 30 years. It`s going
to become more and more.
It is now, but even more so, it`s going to be a sport for the poor trying
to figure out a way for leverage the fact that they are willing to risk the
kinds of injuries that we are talking about because middle class families,
they are not going to have their kids do it. A million less kids - not a
million less kids, I`m sorry. It`s eight percent less kids. That`s almost
a million. The numbers I have are larger than Michael Smith. But our
opted out this playing youth football than the previous year. And that`s
rooted in the fact of actually middle class suburban communities not
wanting their kids to play.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Doctor, does it make a difference if we just play later,
if we start playing in high school and before that you are playing touch
football or something else and you just wait for the contact until an older
SMALL: The problem is that young brain is developing. And it`s more
vulnerable than an older brain in many ways. But we don`t really know the
cut off. We don`t have the science here to tell us exactly when to take
people out of the play. That`s why, we are excited that now we can see
these tal-proteins in living people. We might be able to develop a task
that will tell us hey, you got to rest your brain. You got to get out of
the game for awhile. And we will know exactly how long we have to rest it.
You know, if you sprain an ankle, you go back in the game. You know that
injury is going to get lot worse unless you rest it. You have to rest your
OBEN: Well, I think, Doc, you are saying also, you know, that on the high
school and youth level you have to be cleared by a doctor to go on the
field. That is not, I can check on our check and go back in. So, you are
starting to see it at all three levels especially NFL and college.
But going back to Obama`s comments, his kids will have opportunities most
wouldn`t have. So, it`s easy to say if I had a son, he wouldn`t play and I
understand speaking as a parent.
But on the youth level, in urban communities, if you are playing - and I
read that article this week. And I had some issues with it. But you are
playing football for an end result. Again, it goes back to your parents,
your communities, why are you playing the game? You are playing for a
chance, of 98 percent chance that you won`t play beyond high school. So,
you are starting to fake dream to begin with.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that`s just another reason. And this goes back, I
think maybe to the fan piece. The other reason you are playing that is in
the moment, not a future, it is a manhood prover, right? There`s nothing
quite like football. Particularly if you say you are a single mom, and you
are raising sons and you want to make sure you are manning them up and you
are getting them out there and they are going to have coaches who are men,
who are role models for them. And so, I want to listen just quickly to
Kansas city chief offensive tackle, Eric Winston, who in kind of thinking
of this manhood thing suggesting all of us as viewers are doing something
horrible when we cheer for the injuries. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC WINSTON, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: When somebody gets hurt, there are long
lasting ramifications to the game we play. Long lasting ramifications to
the game we play. All right? I have already kind of come to the
understanding I probably won`t live as long because I play this game. And
that`s OK. That`s the choice I have made. When you cheer somebody getting
knocked out, it`s sickening. It`s 100 percent sickening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, it`s part of watching the game, Joy. I mean,
people cheer - you know, I`m a Saints fan. We cheer for the big hits which
turn out to be related to the bounty system.
REID: I was just going to say, people are getting paid to do them, right?
Because it is sort of our modern day gladiator sport. And you know, going
back, we are talking inner city discussion. It`s also how a lot of
families prove their bona fides. Like being the parent of a football star,
it is more important than being a parent of an academic star. You look at
northwestern high school, which is the top football school in Miami which
is also the bottom school in terms of graduating actual children from high
school. Terrible reading scores.
Whenever an administrator tried to pull back the football program saying we
are going to put a grade requirement in there, we`re going make it harder
to play. You want to see not just the parents, but the alumni go
ballistic? You can touch this program. It`s a big problem because there
have been several attempts try to reel it in to put more standard then.
And the parents and alumni shut it down because they want it to--.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s part of how you prove yourself.
Up next, we are going to talk more about this. But also, really the
economic question, who really wins when a city, like mine, gets a chance to
host a Super Bowl?
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Regardless of who emerges victorious from
today`s game, one thing that city officials want you to believe is the
Super Bowl is a win for the city of New Orleans. An estimated 150,000
people are expected to descend on the city hoping to pump more than $430
million into New Orleans` economy. Now, those are welcome dollars in the
city like New Orleans where the tourism industry accounts for 40 percent of
the tax revenues.
But somewhat less than impressive when you consider that the city has spent
five years and $1.2 billion making improvements to roads, airports, hotels
and restaurants in preparation for the Super Bowl. And once the Super Bowl
is over, and New Orleans gets back to business as usual, all those changes
to the city don`t necessarily equate to changes in the lives of the
resident who is remain behind.
So, they exist. I have to tell you, like for those of us living in Super
Bowl crazy town right now, just the traffic snarls, trying to get my kids
to school, that kind of thing. But much more importantly, you know, you
look at millions of dollars in profits coming to the hotels, but they don`t
raise the income for the workers, the front line workers, right? That
money ends up actually back here in Manhattan, you know, benefiting the
ZIRIN: No. Event economics are like new-liberal Trojan horses. They are
brought to a city and sold with the idea of all sort the party aspect.
Like your city is going to host a party, and that, you should have pride in
that, it means something to the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that`s me. I`m New Orleans.
ZIRIN: But that`s not reflected all over the world anytime a city hosts
the Olympics or host world cup. But what it also does is it imposes a neo-
liberal economic structure on the city that says we are going to base this
around a service economy, no benefits, seasonal work. It`s like 21st
century migrant work where you go in with very low money, not somebody
could support a family on it, even worse, the rug is then pulled out from
under you as soon as the event is over creating a dependence on this kind
of seasonal work and therefore dependence by voters on the idea of what do
we have to do to lure the big events back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And Doctor, in addition to being some of the talks
about the neuroscience of the brain, you are also psychiatrist,
psychiatrist can talk about the attachment that we have. So, on the one
hand, like everyone is irritated by the economics of this, by building a
streetcar line that only runs around downtown, and not to the parts of the
city where poor people actually live and need public transportation.
On the other hand, people in the city are excited to host the party to be
hosting the party that is the Super Bowl. How are we so attached to
something that is sometime is not so good for us?
SMALL: Our brains are hard wired to enjoy the moment. It actually has an
evolutionary advantage if you feed yourself, you are no longer hungry. You
are going to survive. So, that`s our background. We are not thinking
about the future. We are thinking at the now. You talk to football
players, hockey players, they are in the moment. They enjoy it. The fans
are vicariously in the moment. And we are not thinking about the future.
We are not thinking about when everybody leaves the town and there`s an
HARRIS-PERRY: So, how do we get to a longer term horizon? I mean, right
now in the city of New Orleans, Tulane University, where I work and you
know, support, I love Tulane and all of that. But we just built -- we
forced through a football stadium right, because football is more important
than all of these other questions in the city.
We said, the right wing is going to hate this answer to this question. But
to me, it is not a right-wing or a left-wing answer. To me, it`s an
economic reality answer. If you want these events to actually create
stable economies, then public investment needs to go hand in hand with
public ownership. If public money is going to refurbish the Superdome, for
example, then, the public should have a stake in super dome. That means
the profits from the Superdome get immediately funneled back into schools,
roads and the kind of longer term jobs that build the kind of steady, good
income infrastructure that can create the basis of a middle class in a
REID: But you know what? You just hit on exactly the issue because what
is happening is these teens are luring cities to pay for the stadiums, put
all the public money and it really in that benefits the team. The Miami
Dolphins just did this in Miami. I mean, they are literally getting all
these tax dollars to basically prop up the profits of a one family that
owns the teams or these privately owned teams.
And there`s nothing going back. The states to go live in there, the people
who live in the community surrounding this lavish new stadium with domes,
with pool, with all these great box seats, they can`t afford a ticket. And
the teams are not interested in making it more democratic. They are like,
give us the money, give our city or we will leave your city. It`s a threat
that is basically just propping up their profit.
HARRIS-PERRY: Could you imagine a space in which NFL players actually
became in relationship to their communities - I mean, because we see lots
of good work by players in their communities. But actually, part of a
political movement in the communities which they play.
OBEN: Well, I think there was an error where players were more political.
And I grew up respecting, you know, there was Muhammad Ali choosing not to
go to war, Jim Brown. You know, people like that. But this era is a lot
different. I don`t think you are going to have, you know, your
quarterbacks, your franchise leaves with the teams stepping out, that
taking that leap of faith against the owners and for the communities. I
don`t think so. Because the next year, you get traded. You start to
realize, this is a job. I need to worry about keeping my job as opposed to
taking on this bigger picture and think about what`s best for the team.
REID: And they are a part of it, too, because I hate to do it. Not to
take sides, but, you know, the team called Baltimore Ravens used, they to
Up next, when it comes to minorities in the league`s power positions. They
have a flag on the field.
HARRIS-PERRY: Super Bowl week in the NFL is the biggest showcase for the
sport. But in the end, it`s only two teams, the Baltimore Ravens and the
San Francisco 49ers who are in the spotlight.
For the other 30 teams, it`s time to join the rest of us on the couch
tonight and watch another team win the championship. And focus on changes
for next season.
After the regular season ended in December, seven teams fired their general
managers, the team executives in charge of picking the players. And eight
of them fired their head coaches. Of those eight newly unemployed coaches,
two Romeo Crennel in Kansas City and Lovie Smith in Chicago are African-
That left only four active head coaches of color in the league, three black
and one Latino, and five active minority general managers. In 2011 season,
there were 11 minority head coaches including interim coaches for the
leagues` 23 teams. In 2003, the league institutes the Rooney Rule, which
required the teams` interview a minority candidate for any head coach
Before then, since the`20s there were only seven head coaches of color,
ever, in the NFL history. Now, that`s total has increased to 20. Twenty
black and Latino head coaches are permanent or interim. And they are doing
quite well, thank you.
Since Super Bowl XLI when Indianapolis coach, head coach Tony Dungy, became
the first black head coach to win a Super Bowl. For seven straight seasons
there`s been either a black coach or black general manager leading a Super
Bowl competitor including tonight`s Super Bowl with Baltimore general
manager, Ozzie Newsome.
But despite that success, this off season, exactly zero men of color were
hire d as NFL coaches. As for the seven general manager openings precisely
zero minorities candidates got a job.
To recap, that mean the NFL, this off season, went 15 for 15 when it came
to hiring white people to lead their teams. Now, why might that be?
Seven of the eight head coaches hired specialize in offense, not defense, a
sign of where the league is headed. In all of the NFL, only one NFL team,
the Baltimore Ravens, have a black man, Jim Caldwell, calling the plays.
And he only got the job in December.
Caldwell, you may recall, coached three seasons as the head coach of the
Colts, taking them to an appearance in Super Bowl XLIV where, of course,
they lost to my New Orleans Saints, not that I`m paying.
But despite his helping lead the Ravens to tonight`s Super Bowl, you know
how many interviews he got from the teams looking for a head coach? Yes,
zero. Something is not quite right here folks.
Next, I`ll talk to a man behind the drive to have NFL interview minority
coaching candidates to see if he thinks more change needs to happen. Stay
HARRIS-PERRY: Twenty five years ago, we first saw a black man calling the
plays on a Super Bowl team. Doug Williams was the starting quarterback of
the Washington Redskins when they rolled over the Denver Broncos, 42-10 in
Super Bowl XXII.
In Super Bowl XLVII later today, Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco
49ers will attempt to have a second back quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
Williams paved the way for dozens of quarterbacks will follow making the
question of whether black players can play can make the most important
position in football a moot point for anyone but the haters.
Now, whether or not black folks can coach the team; that, after all these
years still seems to be an open question. Two African-American head
coaches were in the Super Bowl six years ago. And one of them, Lovie Smith
of the Chicago Bears was fired this December after his team barely made the
Smith, along with every other coach of color who interviewed with the eight
NFL teams that had head coach opening, was not hired. The stat is
specially curious given that 10 years ago, the Rooney Rule was born
mandating that every NFL is looking for head coach interview with candidate
of color. Is the rule broken?
Joining our panel to answer that is one of the attorneys who fought for its
creation. Cyrus Mehri is co-founder and council to the Fritz-Pollard
Alliance and co-author of the 2002 report, "Black Coaches in the National
Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities." Back in the
table is still "The Nation`s" Dave Zirin, former NFL player Roman Oben,
"The Herald`s" Joy Reid and Dr. Gary Small.
Cyrus, I want to come to you first.
CYRUS MEHRI, HELPED DEVELOP THE ROONEY RULE: Sure.
HARRIS-PERRY: First, explain what the Rooney Rule is. It`s actually one of
my favorite examples of what I think is the kind of affirmative action that
works and ought to be implemented in a lot of different systems.
MEHRI: I very much appreciate being here, Melissa. I like the jersey. We
are proud of the success of the last ten years. We started this effort
with the late Johnny Cochran. And we challenged the NFL to do better, to
have a diverse slate of of candidates for head coach and now general
manager, and over a dozen African-American coaches or people of color have
been selected over the last ten years, a half a dozen general managers.
So, there`s been quite a bit of success. As you noted, the success on the
field is something we are tremendously proud of. The last seven years
starting with Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy being head coaches in the Super
Bowl in Miami. Followed every year since then, there`s been at least one
African-American head coach or GM. And ultimately with today`s game with
Ozzie Newsome who`s one of the most respected GMs leading the way with the
HARRIE-PERRY: Does the success of these coaches or general managers of
color suggest that perhaps they are being held to a higher standard because
once they are in there, they are clearly performing at such a high level?
MEHRI: Absolutely. There`s always been a double standard. There`s a double
standard in corporate America. If you look at Madison avenue, financial
services, big law firms, there`s a double standard. That was the point of
the report the Johnny and I released 10 years ago. That doesn`t mean there
aren`t solutions. The reason why we remain optimistic, we are
disappointed, but not discouraged. And as we gathered the other night in
New Orleans, we were saying we are going to stay on the battlefield. We
are going to regroup, redesign our game plan and come back stronger going
into next year. We have some new ideas we think are going to make it
better going forwards.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you about that. We have been spending the past
half hour talking about the problems in the game for players on the field,
particularly about head injuries. Now I`m saying what I would like to do
is incorporate more people of color into the game that we may be seeing
declining, if in fact, we have these medical circumstances. How do we
balance those two things?
MEHRI: I mean it`s a great game. Everyone, this is America`s game. It`s a
game that we are all passionate about. One of the reasons we are fighting
so hard to create equal opportunity in this game, is because is has an
influence on America`s young people. CEOs come and go with IBM, Dell, to
mention a company (ph).
But what happens for a head coach in this country affects millions of
people, their fans and particularly has an impact on young people. It`s
one of the reasons we have been so motivated to bring about change here,
because we want them to feel if they work hard and are determined the sky
is the limit on what they do. They can go in any field they want to
pursue. Whether they`re are in this sport or a former player in the sport.
We want fair competition and equal opportunity in the sport because it has
such an influence on society.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to take a moment and listen to the commissioner on
this issue. I`m interested to find out from you how responsive you think
Commissioner Goodell has been. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: We will take steps to ensure more
diversity in hiring practices. The results this year were simply not
acceptable. The Rooney Rule has been effective over the last decade. But
we have to look to see what the next generation of the Rooney Rule is.
What is going to take us to another level? We are committed to finding an
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Respond to that for me.
MEHRI: Sure. Well, I have to say that the commissioner could not be more
fantastic in how open he`s been with us. How he`s actually met with us in
New Orleans a few days ago. He`s committed. That`s one of the reasons why
we feel excited about the possibility that this is going to be successful
down the road as we have been in the last 10 years. We think it will be
more successful going forward because there`s leadership from the top of
the NFL. They are eager to hear from us, they are open to our ideas and we
feel we have a strong partnership with them that is going to continue to
bring success going forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Cyrus Mehri. I really appreciate -- I both
appreciate the Rooney Rule, which I think is a real standard of how we
ought to be making policy in general, but also you staying on the
implementation of it over the years. Thank you.
MEHRI: Thank you very much.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I want to ask the question is this the
biggest, gayest super bowl ever? Can the Super Bowl score a victory for
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICKY JEAN FRANCOIS, NFL PLAYER: There`s nothing easy about being young.
ISAAC SOPOAGA, NFL PLAYER: About being yourself.
FRANCOIS: About being an individual.
DONTE WHITNER, NFL PLAYER: Every day brings different changes and
AHMAD BROOKS, NFL PLAYER: That help define who you are, but something you
should never experience is being bullied, intimidated, or being pressured
into being someone or something you are not.
WHITNER: The San Francisco 49ers are proud to join itgetsbetter.org to let
all LGBT teens know that it gets better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was a bit of the It Gets Better video that the San
Francisco 49ers released last August before they started their current
Super Bowl run. And they`re not the only NFL team to do so. I`m sorry --
they were, in fact, the only NFL team to do so.
But this week, 49ers` nose tackle, Osaac Sopoaga, and linebacker Ahmad
Brooks denied that they were ever in it.
Said Brooks, "I didn`t make a video. This is America and if somebody wants
to be gay, they can be gay. It`s their right. But I didn`t make any
Both players later realized the errors of their ways, but not before the
damage was done. Same for 49ers` cornerback Chris Culliver, who had to
walk back homophobic remarks about potential gay teammates that he made
earlier in the week.
So when it comes to rights and acceptance for LGBT Americans, is it
actually getting better in pro football? And if not, does that make it
harder to love the game?
Back to my panel. So, look, I mean, it is possible that they just weren`t
quite sure what was going on, but it also feels to me like maybe there`s a
set of pressures that these kids are facing, or maybe they`re just
homophobic. How should we understand this?
OBEN: Well, I can`t expect a 23-year-old kid -- I`m 40 years old, I can`t
expect a 23-year-old kid to have the same responsibility about what comes
out of his mouth during Super Bowl press week when you`re getting hit and
left right with all these different questions. But again, he rescinded his
comment and took it back.
But I think, at that age, at 23, I don`t think I would`ve felt any
differently because I just had this fear, we all had this fear, that
football and the gladiator mentality, that`s the opposite of being gay.
And I think that in the locker room culture is what the fear is. It`s not
the lifestyle, but the fear of what that does in a locker room.
HARRIS-PERRY: Which makes the Baltimore Raven Brendon Ayanbadejo -- I have
been working on that all day. Well, Brendon did something really
exceptional. I want to listen quickly to what Brendon said, which I think
is a particularly brave statement given this point about locker room
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRENDON AYANBADEJO, BALITMORE RAVENS LINEBACKER: I`m Brendon Ayanbadejo, a
linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. I believe we should be doing
everything that we can to make Maryland families stronger, which is why I
support marriage for gay and lesbian couples who want to make a lifetime
commitment to each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Good job, Brendon.
ZIRIN: Yes, and Brendon Ayanbadejo -- I live in Maryland. He actually was
a critical force in passing a pro-LGBT marriage equality referendum.
Brendon Ayanbadejo helped make that happen. And Chris Kluwe, a punter for
the Minnesota Vikings, helped pass similar legislation in the state of
Minnesota, actually traveled across the state, doing it. Scott Fujita as
well for the Kansas City Chiefs.
So what you`re seeing are more and more players actually stepping up and
saying, you know what? We challenge this idea that manhood is defined,
first of all, by heterosexuality and, second of all, by the violence of the
National Football League. And we want to actually expand the definition of
what this means to be strong, to expand the definition of manhood. And
this is, I think, incredibly transgressive and incredibly, frankly,
revolutionary. Because you have to go back to Teddy Roosevelt.
ZIRIN: The word "sissy" in this country was popularized by Teddy Roosevelt
as a way to define people who didn`t play football.
ZIRIN: So what you`re seeing a total turning on its head the idea of what
it is to be a man. And that strikes, I think, a tremendous blow at
HARRIS-PERRY: And we were just talking about can we imagine a space where
NFL players get engaged in politics? And here you see it.
REID: Right, but what happened immediately to Brendon Ayanbadejo after he
did that? There was a long "New York Times" article that talked about the
blowback that he got in the locker room and out, where he was accused of
being gay, where he was belittled, and people went after him. And so it is
still, I think, in football -- and soccer`s facing some of the same issues
-- where people try to step out a little bit for gay rights and they
immediately get the pushback from the culture.
ZIRIN: A state delegate actually sent a letter to the owner of the Ravens,
a Democratic, African-American state delegate, sent a letter to the owner
saying that he should shut his player up.
HARRIS-PERRY: And look, I want to just be careful. On the one hand, you
made the point about press week, right? So it occurs to me, on the one
hand, we`re asking these young players themselves to take a particular kind
of stance. But the other place where we see pretty horrifying homophobia
on Super Bowl Sunday is in the commercials. There`s a way in which it
becomes - in all of these commercials that they`re spending millions of
dollars on -- highly sexist commercials, often, and often also those that
So we get this sense of linking manhood to anti-gay positions, right? And
Madison Avenue profiting from all of it. And the kids are just sort of -
and they really are kids, they`re in their 20s - and is just sort of one
part of it.
OBEN: And let`s make sure -- I`m from the school of thought that one thing
we don`t want -- I don`t want a high school kid, you know, a kicker,
punter, receiver, getting jumped or beaten to death because of his
lifestyle or perceived lifestyle from the macho football guys in the locker
room, because that`s really a bad mark on society as a whole. You don`t
want that to happen in a high school or youth football situation.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, there is the other wonderfully sort of queer space
in the Super Bowl, and it is, of course, halftime. Right? There is this -
- we were just sort of spending time thinking about the Super Bowl is all
these things, right? It`s the game, but it`s also the food we are eating
beforehand; it`s also the commercials and it`s also the halftime, which,
you know, has this kind of performative aspect that is different.
ZIRIN: Historically, what you`re saying is absolutely correct. Jonathan
Mahler, who`s a terrific writer for "Bloomberg", wrote an article this week
about the original halftime shows were done by "Up with People", which is
organized by the LGBT people. The concrete roots of the halftime show are
about LGBT performance.
REID: And last year, it was Madonna. And now this year it`s Beyonce.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s Beyonce!
REID: It`s all these gay icons performing at halftime. So is this not the
gayest sport in America? Yes, it is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes it is! Never mind that also every play begins with a
snap, which some people could also -
REID: -- the touching of the behind.
REID: We are having a good time today.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the women love it, too.
ZIRIN: I`m sure the same discussion is happening on ESPN.
HARRIS-PERRY: I really hope I didn`t just lose my GLAAD award nomination
as a result of that segment. Thank you to Dave and Roman, Gary, Joy of
course for sticking around. She knows all things, football and everything
When we come back, we are going switch gears and get to something real
serious, which is the issue of guns and our gun crisis. We`re also going
to talk about Hillary Clinton: Why her legacy is important, whether she
runs or not.
There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. This week, few of
us could turn our eyes away from the Senate hearing on gun violence and the
testimony by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABBY GIFFORDS (D-AZ), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Speaking is difficult,
but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many
children are dying, too many children. We must do something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: She is right. We must do something.
But the question I am asking today: what? What is that something that will
make a difference?
To help answer that question, I have with me today: Kai Wright, editorial
director of colorlines.com and fellow at the Nation`s Institute. Patrick
Egan is professor of politics and policy at New York University. He`s also
the author of the upcoming book, "Partisan Priorities". Managing editor of
"The Grio", Joy Reid, who is also an MSNBC contributor. And the former
president of the Brady Campaign, Richard Aborn, who is now the president of
the Citizens of Crime Commission of New York City.
Thank you all for being here.
RICHARD ABORN, CITIZENS CRIME COMMISSIO OF NYC: Happy to be here.
HARRY-PERRY: I want to start with you.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are at a point where we are willing to say something must
be done. What is that something?
ABORN: So, something needs to be a lot. I think the big difference in the
discussion now is for the first time, we are having an honest discussion
about the complexities of gun violence and the need to do something
comprehensive. We can no longer pursue this sort of piecemeal approach,
one bill at a time.
And I think the president is making that point repeatedly and eloquently
frankly. He`s proposing a large series of executive actions, many of which
will help, much of which he can do on his own. And then, three or four,
depending on how you count them, legislative pieces, each one is very
important. Each one of which is very important.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what can the president actually do on his own? Because
I think part of -- when I hear someone say we need comprehensive big
reform, have you noticed what`s going on in America right now?
So, what can he do on his own?
ABORN: So, he can -- he can charge the executive branch so that each
agency comes up with an approach to gun violence. The health people can do
a lot of research, a lot of public servicing messages about the dangers of
guns not being kept locked up. The executive branch can force -- excuse me
-- encourage the Department of Justice to step up their law enforcement
There`s an enormous amount we can do from the law enforcement`s
perspective. Don`t forget, we are living in a country that violent crimes
that was at record highs in the `90s, and that have driven it down to a
record low now in the 20th century. So, we can do that again.
We can have lots of research done. We need research to understand the
relationships in the gun violence area.
These are all things the president can do.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, there are nearly 300 million firearms in the
United States, basically how many people there are. We are a heavily armed
But it feels to me like there are different kinds of gun violence and that
different sort of policies will impact them. So, there`s the individual on
the rampage, which is the Newtown story. It`s the thing that gets us
There`s the persistent daily violence in cities like Chicago and New
Orleans and others.
There`s issue of suicide, which one is more effective and efficiently able
to do when one has a firearm.
And then, of course, there`s domestic violence and the extent to which
domestic violence turns into murder when you have someone who is armed in
So, those feel like very different policies. What are our ideas around
JOY REID, THEGRIO.COM: Well, I think that as you said, it`s very
different, right? So, if you talk about inner city violence, it`s being
done with assault weapons and with illegal weapons. They are sort of drive
by shootings that are being done not with, you know, not the AR-15, which
is seems to be weapons of choice for mass murderers -- but in a lot of
cases with ak-47s.
I mean, there was a big problem in Miami for a while with people actually
had AKs, in some cases goldplated AKs, because it was a signature of gang.
So, that kind of gang violence, you really have to clamp down on straw
purchasers, people who can pass the background check themselves and turn
around and sell them to people who couldn`t.
So, that`s something that is an enforcement issue.
But then, as you said, a lot of day-to-day violence is handguns, people who
have handguns in the home. And there`s really no way to regulate that
because the Supreme Court, the Heller said you have a right to have those.
So, there`s a range of things that can be done. But it seems like
background checks is the thing that everyone agrees on and that would at
least do something to dent the sort of spree killing and the drive-bys.
KAI WRIGHT, COLORLINES.COM: I think even in the urban violence, it`s also
WRIGHT: It`s the ease of which inner state gun trade takes place, right?
So, if you look at a place like New York and you look at the neighborhoods
where it remains gun violence in spite our rapid decline in violent crime,
the guns were purchased legally in Virginia.
WRIGHT: And we have enormous, we have very good gun laws in New York City
and New York state. But the guns were purchased legally in Virginia. If
you go to a community center in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and talk to 16-year-
olds about guns, they will tell you very casually, yes, you just -- you
know, so and so goes to Virginia, buys a whole bunch of them, brings them
back and buys them legally in the state of Virginia.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And then you are able to transport them across the
state line on I-95.
WRIGHT: They are illegal once they are here. But they were perfectly
legal in the state of Virginia. And, you know, you see the same
relationship between places that have big cities with gun problems that
have good gun laws and surrounding are nearby states that aggressively
defend their ability to initiate an inner state gun trade.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And this is part of the idea of the challenge we
face in federalism, right? That the kind of decisions made at the national
level, if they are not supported by 50-state solutions, right, as sort of
ridiculous as that sounds to say, but really, when talking states that are
abutting each other, that are so close to each other, then the choices
impact the crime in New York City.
PATRICK EGAN, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: They do. That`s federalism. We are
both political scientists.
EGAN: We both know a whole lot about federalism.
So, what you have is a sort of strange situation where a city like New York
or, especially, Chicago, which is experiencing gun violence, you`ve got all
of those residents who are adamantly in favor of all kinds of gun control
but they are at the mercy of constituents both down state and out of state
who are less supportive of the idea.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, here is my worry, though -- we are at this moment we`re
saying let`s do something, right? But sometimes when Americans get to a
moment when we are saying, OK, you know, 9/11 has happened, we are
terrified. Newtown has happened, we are terrified.
The kinds of policy that we make behind that can be exactly the wrong kind
of policy. How do we guard against terror-based policy?
ABORN: I think it`s very different this time. Just a couple observations
-- when you say there are 300 million guns in America, that number can
scare people can say, well, if there are 300 million there, there`s nothing
we can do.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I better have one.
ABORN: I better have one, so 301 million in America.
ABORN: The reality is the vast number of people that own guns in this
country do so lawfully -- they do it safely, they do it responsibly. They
have nothing to do with the criminal problem.
We have a two-part issue with gun violence. Illegal gun trafficking which
is described and mental health issues, people who are prone to suicide,
teens and adults, or one that engaged in these mass crimes. We have that
issue as well. That`s where we need to drive our focus.
And I think the big thing that`s changing now is that for the first time,
you see responsible gun owners starting to say, hey, the NRA leadership is
not in touch with what we want to do. We have to do something. We gun
owners have a responsibility just like non-gun owners and we intend to be
part of the conversation.
That`s a very important step. We are going establish the principle that
you can respect the Second Amendment, but still pass laws that keep
criminals and the mentally infirm from having guns. That`s the goal.
HARRIS-PERRY: At its best, that feels right to me. But I just think about
stop and frisk, I think about the war on drugs, I think about even our
anti-terrorism measures. And the fact is we tend to move towards a
profiling of certain kind of people, right?
And so, I worry, do we end up in our terror actually creating more of a
police state for our young people, you know, in these cities that are
wracked by gun violence?
REID: At the same time -- I mean, I totally agree with you. I think stop
and frisk is one of sort of big things that African-Americans in New York
have against Michael Bloomberg. It`s an issue.
But at the same time, you go into a community that`s facing gun violence,
right, and there`s a lot of this gang violence. And the residents there
would like police to be kicking in doors and taking down those gangs. But
if police do it, you will have police they say if we start doing that, then
the community is going to come at us and say we are profiling that
neighborhood. So, it`s a catch-22 for law enforcement, too.
WRIGHT: Also, the war on drugs grew out of black leaders in the besieged
neighborhoods saying help.
KAI: After Len Bias` death, we passed all these mandatory minimums and all
the things that have been a rallying cry in the civil rights community
since then. But it`s also how you do it, let`s be clear.
WRIGHT: Nobody asked NYPD to show up and stop people at bus stops and
everybody who comes in and out of public housing and searching them for ID.
So, there is the how you do it question. But backing up on your initial
question is that I think that there are some basics we all do agree on. We
do all agree on background checks, right?
WRIGHT: So, that we can -- even that alone, if we have universal
background checks, that doesn`t -- if you couldn`t walk into a gun show in
Virginia and buy a gun in five minutes with no background check, that slows
it down right there. That right there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay right there. We are going to talk more on it. We have
more on this. It is a complicated question.
But we are going to go to Chicago when we get back, because the Chicago
teen who was gunned down one week after performing at the president`s
inauguration leads us to ask, will her death finally change things in that
HARRIS-PERRY: There are a few cities in America suffering an epidemic of
gun violence like Chicago. If the overwhelming number of gun crimes wasn`t
enough, in January, the city saw the worst rate of homicide in 10 years,
bringing the number to 42 in just the first four weeks of the year.
One of those killed was a 15-year-old honor student who was shot on
Tuesday. Hadiya Pendleton had just returned from the nation`s capital
after performing with her high school band at the president`s inauguration.
Back at school, fresh off such a high of participating in such an
important, historic event, Hadiya was in a park near her school and she was
hit by a gunman who opened fire in the middle of the day.
And this happened in a city where you cannot find a single gunshot because
they are banned, the only state in the Union that doesn`t allow private
citizens to carry guns in public.
In addition, Chicago has banned assault weapons and high capacity
If there`s hope for national reform where one of the places with the
toughest gun laws in the country is still reeling from this level of gun
Joining us now from Chicago is Cathy Cohen, founder of The Black Youth
Project, a political science professor at the University of Chicago.
CATHY COHEN, FOUNDER, THE BLACK YOUTH PROJECT: Hi, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I feel like the hardest thing to comprehend about this,
for those of us who think gun control and common sense gun control has to
happen is that Chicago has such tough gun laws. What in the world can be
COHEN: Well, I think -- you know, first of all, we have to say this is a
very difficult time for the city of Chicago. People are incredibly sad and
incredibly frustrated because it feels like there is no end to the kind of
this endless killing of our young people.
And I think as your guest noted already, you know, we do have some of the
strictest gun laws in the country. But the question is that those gun laws
aren`t comprehensive. We know that folks can go a few miles outside the
city limits and buy guns. We know that individuals can bring guns from out
And so, in fact, last year, I think the police department confiscated about
7,500 guns, and that`s compared, for example, to 3,200 guns that were
confiscated illegally in New York, right? So, even with our strict gun
laws, the guns are flowing in.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Cathy, I know that The Black Youth Project just launched
a petition --
COHEN: Yes, we did.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- requesting President Obama come to Chicago to make a
major speech addressing gun violence.
Tell me what do you think that initiative can accomplish or what a speech
by the president can accomplish?
COHEN: Well, you know, we have been clear that we want to president, as we
call it, Obama to come home. We want the president to stand on the soil
where young people from the South Side and the West Side kind of take their
lives into their own hands as they kind of venture into the things we asked
them to do like walk to school, you know, play in parks. They take their
kind of lives into their own hands.
We want the president to do a number of things. And this is why we think a
speech from the president is important.
First, we know that the president -- you know this as a political scientist
-- can use the bully pulpit. He can kind of rally the country to
understand this issue. We know, for example, that lots of people who have
heard about what`s going on in Chicago, it`s not clear they understand
what`s going on in Chicago. And he can provide a kind of comprehensive
understanding of what, in fact, our young people are facing.
Two, as your guests talked, the executive branch has resources that it can
lend to this effort. And there`s, I think, a needed kind of coordination
at the national level at this point. I think people are trying to do
whatever they can from community groups and NGOs to faith-based
communities. But there`s a leadership and coordination that`s needed I
think from the national level.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Cathy, let me ask you --
COHEN: Can I just one last thing?
COHEN: One and maybe the most important reason for him to come here, which
is I think people have seen him rightly go to Newtown, they have seen him
go to Aurora. And there needs to be a sense, I think, from folks in
Chicago that our children are worthy, also.
COHEN: So, symbolically, for the equality of our young people, we need to
see him here in Chicago.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I hear you. And I particularly like the point that you
are making about sort of what a president can do.
But I also want you to ask, I want you to listen for a moment to the
Chicago mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who just visited with the Pendleton family.
And I want to listen to what he had to say, then ask you about Mayor
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL (D), CHICAGO: Having spent time last night with the
Pendletons, and -- the family, when any young person in our city is gunned
down without reason, their death makes an impression on all of us. It
demands action from all of us.
As we grieve for Hadiya, we need to work together to protect our greatest
resource, the children of the city of Chicago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Cathy, we know the president has certain kinds of power.
Mayors also have it. What is the pressure that needs to be brought on this
mayor for this city?
COHEN: Well, you know, I think -- I don`t doubt the mayor cares about the
young people of the city. I think when folks look at the record, though,
over the last year or two years, what we have seen is a record number of
deaths in 2012. We have seen the highest homicide rate in January of 2013
than we have seen in 10 years, in a decade.
So, it is not about the mayor`s sincerity. It is about holding the mayor
accountable. So, for example, we have seen a shift in policing strategies
that kind of saturation units that were utilized in the past when the new
police commissioner came on. And now, it seems that the city is now going
back to a saturation unit strategy.
So I think there needs to be some consistency. There needs to be a message
about the immediate sense of ending the violence, but also the long-term
This is all about young people who don`t have jobs and who don`t see a
future. This is about young people who don`t, in fact, have quality
education. Almost 50 percent of young African-American men not graduating
from high school, right?
These are immediate issues that have to be dealt with and then there are
broader, longer, structural issues. And we have to hold the mayor
accountable, but we also have to hold the president accountable.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Cathy.
I know you are raising a child in Chicago. You know my daughter spends the
summers in Chicago.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, in addition to our research, and our political
commitments, I know that this is personal for both of us.
COHEN: Yes. Yes, it is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much.
COHEN: Thanks so much.
Please go to our petition, for Obama come home.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that you got that in.
COHEN: I have to. Thanks, Melissa.
Up next, the picture that says a lot more than 1,000 words in the gun
HARRIS-PERRY: Did everyone see the photo that the White House tweeted
yesterday? This one proving that President Obama has, in fact, been skeet-
shooting, and more importantly, to show you the obligatory picture of the
president with a gun, because it seems like the only way to get a word into
the gun control debate is by being around guns.
We also heard Mark Kelly, Gabby Giffords husband, prefaced his testimony
this week by saying --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK KELLY, GABBY GIFFORDS HUSBAND: We are a lot like many of our fellow
citizens following this debate about gun violence. We`re moderates, Gabby
was a Republican long before she was a Democrat. We are both gun owners,
and we take that right and the responsibilities that come with it very
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This time around, the gun control debate simply hasn`t faded
from public view as quickly as it did after Virginia Tech, or Aurora or
Tucson. And in part, it is because of the way the story line has been
crafted. An important aspect is this kind of photo-op, like you have to
say I`m a gun owner or show yourself with a gun to get a chance to be part
of the conversation.
ABORN: But there`s a very important reason, and the reason is this is not
about banning guns. And we have got to send a message to gun owners that
this is about gun safety. This is about gun reform. This is not about
breaking down their door and taking away their guns.
This is about keeping guns, as I said before, from criminals and those with
mental health issues. That`s all it is. It`s about reducing the death
associated with guns. It`s about changing the culture of guns. It`s about
changing the culture of violence.
It is not about banning guns.
The reason the NRA maintained so much power is that they have scared their
members and gun owners into believing we want to ban all guns. Why?
Because they know if they want to maintain a social movement, they`ve got
to tell their membership they have something to gain or something to lose.
And they are scaring them away from necessary forms.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting -- your language about NRA scaring. I want
to listen to Wayne LaPierre just this morning on FOX News using some pretty
scary language to talk about guns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: We are all obsessed with the Taliban and we ought to
be. What about these gangs that are ruining neighborhoods all over the
country? We need a federal task force, if it takes 500 agents, if it takes
1,000 agents, go into Chicago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now Chicago is the Taliban, right? This feels like fear.
HARRIS-PERRY: Go ahead.
EGAN: You know, it`s an interesting thing, which is that, actually, I
wouldn`t be surprised if a lot of low income residents agreed with that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, we feel like that.
EGAN: Which is, look, we want more law enforcement, we want this to be
treated as a national emergency, perhaps not with the same incendiary
language. But certainly put 1,000 agents on the street of Chicago, a lot
of people might be in favor of that.
REID: Isn`t the NRA and Wayne LaPierre against like the international
treaty that were prevent like guns being sold on the international market?
I mean, you have to realize whenever he`s talking, this is a guy whose main
directive is to make more gun sales, right? And, right now, "Slate" had
this really great article talk about, yes, there are 300 million guns, most
of their shotguns than hand guns for sporting.
But there`s a diminishing return of sales in that market. People aren`t
buying a third or a fourth shotgun. With now, the big market is in the
sort of vicarious fake military guy. That is where the market is growing.
So, people buying assault weapons like AR-15s to pretend they are in the
military and doing those like fake war games. That`s where the growth in
the market is.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it`s a profit-driven aspect of this?
REID: Exactly. That`s all they care about.
ABORN: Don`t forget their tactic is to distract and scare. And by
distracting they are saying this is a law enforcement issue.
Yes, there are law enforcement aspects about this for sure. But this is
not only a law enforcement aspect. And there`s a reason why law enforcers
stand shoulder-to-shoulder with gun control advocates.
ABORN: Because they understand we have to get the guns off the street, the
criminal guns off the street.
LaPierre knows he can`t take them on, he knows he can`t take on the
reasonableness of the laws they are proposing. So, what does he say?
Well, just treat as a law enforcement issue and watch out, they are out
there taking away all your guns. Both of which are false.
WRIGHT: Scared of these black people.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask you a little bit about the fact that this
time, Kai, attention seems to have sustained longer than ever before.
Therefore, maybe there`s room.
We saw in "The Washington Post", this interesting graphic that looks at the
difference between the amount of attention, news stories mentioning gun
control. That bottom line, is that after the Giffords` shooting, the next
one up is the Aurora shooting, the next pick, that red one, is Virginia
But that tall one that you see up there, that`s Newtown, a week before all
the way to five weeks after, right?
So Newtown seems to be creating for us an ability to have a sustained
conversation. Is this the moment where finally we will -- you know, the
LaPierre can`t maintain this control of it?
WRIGHT: Well, I mean, in the midst of it. First off, let`s be clear,
Newtown was visually and culturally something that was just universally
shocking of a scale that we hadn`t seen. Now, absolutely, we see that
scale of violence in urban neighbors and have for many, many years. But to
see that many young people killed in one setting was shocking.
And to the White House`s credit, they leapt on the moment and have kept it
in the news.
So, part of the sustainability is good political strategy. And, you know,
NRA has done a good job of making itself look ridiculous.
ABORN: Keeping it in the news.
WRIGHT: And keeping it in the news by doing ridiculous things like calling
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Although it is Afghanistan in the sense that there
were more deaths by gun in Chicago last year than in Afghanistan last year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
WRIGHT: But there were other thing that went on in Chicago that we need to
talk about also. I mean, yes, there are simple policy solutions around
guns and we need to focus on that. Universal background checks, you
shouldn`t be able to buy weapons of mass destruction.
But at the same time, Chicago has had, black Chicago has had 20 percent
unemployment for a minute. If, say the person who shot Hadiya was a 16-
year-old, which is in all likelihood. He has spent the majority of his
life living -- potentially living in near crisis.
HARRIS-PERRY: And with no likelihood of having another job.
WRIGHT: We had double digit unemployment rates in black America since
2001. The poverty, hunger, all of it, historic levels.
WRIGHT: And some of the violence we see is about is fraying. You can only
sustain crisis for so long before you start to see fraying. I mean, in
neighborhoods in New York, you are starting to see random acts of violence.
They are intimate and frightening.
And so, that`s aside from gun policy, but also something we need to talk
about while we have this sustained intention.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Let me give you the word on our gun conversation.
ABORN: Your earlier point is exactly right and you are exactly right.
Every year, we lose more Americans to gun violence than we`ve lost American
soldiers in all of the years of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, this is about
Newtown, but this is also about those Americans being killed every day.
They cannot be unforgotten faces.
That`s what this debate is about. Those are the people we owe
responsibilities to and those are the people that we stand up for.
Those deaths can be prevented. We have that power, we have that
obligation, we can do it. Let`s finally do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Richard, I thank you so much for being here today.
The rest are back for more, because up next, Hillary Clinton, my counter-
HARRIS-PERRY: Friday marked Hillary Clinton`s last day as the U.S.
Secretary of State. And as she bid adieu to the State Department, the
speculation over the next stop on her political trajectory fired up once
Already, two PACs are formed, one of them with the Web site that you see
here, prepare to support her undeclared candidacy for 2016.
People, let the woman breathe or maybe take a nap. I mean, in one sense,
the speculation is fair because HRC has been a boss. I mean, "Newsweek`s"
latest cover goes further with that notion, calling Clinton the most
powerful woman in American history.
She has been much more than Bubba`s wife, lawyer, political organizer,
professor, first lady, health care advocate, senator and, of course,
Secretary of State. So, it`s only natural to think adding president that
already formidable list of accomplishments would be icing on the cake,
Wrong. People, please, stop acting as though her legacy is only complete
if she becomes president. If we are so worried about the possibility of an
end of the era for Hillary, then maybe we should broaden the focus to
increasing the overall representation of women in elected office.
More worrisome than what Hillary will do or won`t do is the closing of the
White House project, a group founded in 1998 to promote women in politics
and possibly the presidency. The reason for closing? Lack of financial
Back at the table: Colorline.com`s Kai Wright, NYU`s Patrick Egan, "The
Grio`s" Joy Reid and joining us now is Rebecca Traister, author of "Big
Girls Don`t Cry." And she is the Hillary fan I like to bring to balance
out the Hillary hate that will emerge from me if I am not very careful.
And, of course, I don`t hate Hillary. I just really hate the discourse
that she`s going to be president in 2016.
REBECCA TRAISTER, AUTHOR, "BIG GIRLS DON`T CRY": And I`m not an ambivalent
HARRIS-PERRY: You`re my favorite Hillary Clinton.
TRAISTER: It`s interesting that on Friday, her last day at State, in that
Mike Tomasky "Newsweek" article about Hillary, he brings us up, too.
I woke up and I was 17 when Bill Clinton won the presidency. My entire
adult political consciousness had Hillary Clinton, even more than Bill, had
Hillary Clinton in a position of public power in one way or another. It`s
been 20 years.
And that 20 years for me has been my adulthood. And I have felt not warmly
towards her for a lot of those years and then very warmly towards another
But the idea she was going to leave, I did wake up on Friday morning and
think, well, hey!
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s the end of an era.
TRAISTER: It`s the end of something, you know? It`s a shift, you know?
HARRIS-PERRY: And maybe that`s a better way to think about it, right?
That is a shift that she -- the Clintons represent a moment that for many
of us was a coming of age. But Hillary Clinton is an important part of it.
It does feel to me also like by the push -- the thing I hate about the
conversation is the push to have her run in 2016 as though if she doesn`t
she is a failure. All the rest of everything she`s done and been doesn`t
matter if she`s never president. And that seems wrong to me.
REID: In a lot of ways, the desire to have Hillary be president,
Hillaryland, if you go into that world of people who are obsessed with her
and really want her to be president and who are extremely disappointed,
really didn`t want to support Barack Obama, it took a lot for them to get
over her not being the one.
REID: The intensity of that desire is a lot I think about women`s pent-up
desire for a woman president.
REID: They felt like it was woman president`s time and then sort of the
black president being kind of overstepped it. And I think there`s a
feeling around them. They want it. Hillaryland wants it almost more than
-- maybe not Bill Clinton.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t think Bill wants her to be president. I don`t think
Bill Clinton wants --
TRAISTER: I think the fight is in Bill Clinton`s head. I think Bill
Clinton wants her, doesn`t want her.
I would argue that it`s broader than just Hillaryland, because he does
represent a lot. And I am not saying she should run for president.
TRAISTER: But I do think what she represents and she is this one figure
and she came from a generation that enacted so much change, she always,
since long before the presidency was in question as a first lady candidate
in 1992, was this lightning rod because she reflected something women had
never seen before, which was a new version of themselves.
So, people attached so much meaning to her. She continues to have and
she`s built more and more and more.
EGAN: We also know that, you know, from political science research that
it`s actually much more difficult for them to run for office and win. And
so, when you have somebody who appears to be on the threshold of winning,
or taking office, you understand the enthusiasm because it`s just that`s
HARRIS-PERRY: But I will say is, so you are right. And what we know is
that trajectory for women is tough. We also know, of course, in political
science research and just from observation that people we elect to the
presidency, our senators, governors and vice presidents, right? We don`t
really elect first ladies.
And on the one hand, maybe that`s bad, because some of our first ladies
would have been better presidents than their husbands. But I always feel a
little creepy about the fact that despite that she is an exceptionally
accomplished woman, that pathway was her husband.
TRAISTER: I`m not -- you are right. The anxiety we feel is right, the
dynastic privilege and going to her husband is right. But it`s also very
tied to her role as history maker. That is how women got in from the
earliest mayors, congresswomen, all the wives of, widows of, daughters of,
So, in fact, she is as a ground breaker representative of a pattern --
HARRIS-PERRY: Of white women.
TRAISTER: Yes. That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think this is part of why it never quite -- as a black
woman, I`m supposed to have angst about whether or not to support president
or then Senator-Obama because he was black or Senator Clinton because she
was a woman. I kept thinking, well, you know, my mom was Mormon, so maybe
I just vote for Mitt Romney. It was for easy kind of identity politics.
But that notion of this generation of women and who they are, I always want
to say, whoa. Which women are you talking about?
REID: Right, right. But how sad is it if you think of an American life,
she is the only female figure that seems to have the stature to be a
potential president, because the only other woman who sort of being on the
cusp was Sarah freaking Palin. And we and a lot of people were saying my
god, if that`s going to be the first American president --
TRAISTER: More coming up now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Republican Party has Nikki Haley, Susan Martinez, which for
me like if I pause, if I take some of my emotions about Hillary and put
them here, which, of course, voters won`t do. But if I do, but, look,
Nikki Haley, as a young woman of color, as a Southern governor with her
own track, is one strong candidate. Susana Martinez, who was a bit fire
and light at the GOP and apparently carries a gun into bingo -- these are
candidates which I got to tell you, a 70-year-old Hillary Clinton would
have a real challenge with.
REID: The attorney general in California, don`t forget her as well.
TRAISTER: Kamala Harris is incredible. Within her own party, you have
people coming up.
Now, who knows where they are going to be in four years. But who knew
where Barack Obama was four years before 2008.
TRAISTER: You have people. You have Elizabeth Warren. You have Tulsi
Gabbard in Hawaii. You have Tammy Baldwin. You have --
TRAISTER: I don`t know if he`s going to come for her.
REID: But none of those people has what Hillary has, which is one word,
universal name ID. You know how expensive it is to buy name ID to run for
president? It`s hellified (pp) expensive. Barack Obama raised like a
hundred gazillion dollars.
HARRIS-PERRY: Granted. But I am going to just say that Hillary Clinton
had a lot of name recognition when she got beat by a guy who`s middle name
So, up next, is Hillary Clinton asleep right now? If so, she certainly has
earned it -- when we come back.
PERRY: On Tuesday at a global town hall, former Secretary Clinton had a
specific answer as to why 2016 is not on her mind, at least not right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I am not thinking about
anything like that right now. I am looking forward to finishing up my
tenure as Secretary of State and then catching up on, about 20 years of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I know that`s right. HRC is telling everyone to just slow
her roll to get some sleep.
All right, look, there`s Hillary on the one hand. But on the other hand,
there are all of the women for whom I think she`s felt she wanted to blaze
a trail. So, I just want to read this from the White House Project, which
did shut its doors.
And they said, "We are sorry to inform you that due to the challenging
economic climate, the White House Project had to close its doors. But our
work will continue as it transitions to other organizations."
This is a big deal. This is the end of an era I`m more worried about.
TRAISTER: It is an end of an era, although it speaks to a very specific
thing -- it`s a bad climate for organizations that need to raise money from
people, right? And the White House project had a challenge, it was not a
So, especially in very divided partisan times, raising money to train women
in both parties wasn`t going to necessarily draw the kind of fund that
perhaps -- you know, there are lots of partisan organizations.
But I want to speak a little bit about what it means to be a trail blazer
like Hillary. Actually, directly after her primary run in Denver, when she
gave the second concession speech in support of Obama, I talked to Marie
Wilson, who is the founder of the White House Project. And she told me
then that after that run by Hillary, where lots of people said she was beat
up so bad it`s going to discourage other women from getting into politics.
The White House Project participation was up 60 percent, because even just
watching a woman in there in politics inspired so many women to begin with.
But the converse of that is powerful figures like Hillary, where we can
tell ourselves and even the number of women elected to the Senate, so we
can tell ourselves, oh, we are good, we are at 20 percent.
HARRIS-PERRY: Twenty percent in the Senate, 17 percent -- so 77 of seats
in the House. It`s a record year for women.
TRAISTER: Right, which is terrific at 20 percent.
TRAISTER: But headlines about how terrific it is without the asterisk
saying 20 percent. You know, given -- representing 51 percent of the
HARRIS-PERRY: It kind of lulls us.
TRAISTER: Right. It tells us, Hillary Clinton, the most powerful woman in
history, terrific, without the asterisk does not say did not win her
party`s nomination, let alone the White House.
TRAISTER: So, we are lulled and we don`t -- why do we want to give our
money to organizations when we say, look, at these powerful organizations
out there. Why? Ladies are doing fine and that`s a big, you know --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s interesting. To the extent there`s moderate success,
it moves public opinion in a way that doesn`t lead to that sense of the
critical need to bring more women into the system.
EGAN: You know, I mean, it`s interesting, too, to think about Hillary
Clinton and the pantheon of potential Democrats who might run for
EGAN: And I think one of the interesting things is how similar she is in
terms of her policy views to Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo, Marty O`Malley. I
mean, they all -- you know, if you put the four of them on a stage to
debate, they don`t have anything to disagree about.
HARRIS-PERRY: What does that primary look like?
EGAN: Yes, exactly. You know, there`s such homogeneity in the Democrats
right now which I actually think really helps them in a lot of electoral
competition. You really are looking at a difference that is more symbolic
in terms of which --
REID: It`s not symbolic, though, in the sense that if you name those four
figures, the only one who acquired her power the same way that the two
black senators, right, that are going to be here, which is by appointed,
right, three of those four acquired power by election. We still do have
that barrier, that we have women and African-Americans, acquiring sort of
maximum power by.
HARRIS-PERRY: Through appointment, right. And that has not gone away.
And it doesn`t mean their power isn`t well-deserved and that isn`t real,
but it does still suggest a kind of, sort of reluctance on the part of
I will say that, you know, as long as we are calling 2016, I`m going to say
to Nerdland, I have a joy thing that I sleep on at night where I imagine
Joe Biden running with Nina Turner from Ohio, because that would be fun.
HARRIS-PERRY: Forget t-shirts.
More in just a moment, but first, it`s time for a preview with "WEEKENDS
WITH ALEX WITT."
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hello to you. All right. Well, thank you so
An unfolding mystery in Texas. The most lethal sniper in U.S. military
history is now dead. Someone shot him, but why?
Not again. When leading politicians are drawing the line in sand on the
issue that could hit all Americans hard in just a matter of weeks.
In office politics, this teen plays a prominent role. We`ll explain that.
And how far is too far? Super Bowl ads are selling something. It doesn`t
seem like the product that is highlighted.
What looks best in this day and age? Gee. What do you think? Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t know if I can stand that.
WITT: It is what it is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Alex.
Up next, I am here in New York and football and Beyonce are in my hometown
in New Orleans. I`m sad but I`m going to talk about what hosting the Super
Bowl means to me.
HARRIS-PERRY: In three minutes, the moment our show wraps, I will run out
of the studio, grab my bag, which is waiting by the door, and rush to the
airport in hopes to make it home to New Orleans before Super Bowl kick off.
Loving football is complicated now that we have a clear understanding of
the physical costs that our beloved players bear.
And for me, being excited about the Super Bowl is complicated when it is
played in New Orleans. I am talking about more than my disappointment that
the Saints are not in the big game. Atlanta is not there, either. But I`m
talking how it feels to watch the Super Bowl being played in the Superdome.
For many of us, the Superdome is both a symbol of resilience and rebirth,
but also a reminder of loss and abandonment.
In August of 2005, the Superdome was shelter of last resort for more than
20,000 New Orleanians. Good people without the resources to flee Katrina,
who believed the Superdome would be a safe place for themselves and their
families to ride out the storm.
But the facility lost power. There was no air-conditioning or running
water. And without sanitation, citizens found themselves trapped in
unimaginable and uninhabitable conditions.
More than seven years later, the Superdome was the site of America`s
biggest party, hosting more than 75,000 people in a space that has seen
more than $300 million in renovations. The city used money from FEMA and
NFL to rebuild the Dome and downtown.
In order to ensure that the Saints wouldn`t leave town and deliver a hit
from which we might not recover. We love our Saints. But some of us
wonder if the money would have been better spent on homes, schools and
So the Saints stayed and they played and they even won bringing us home the
Lombardi in 2010. But the pain lingers. There`s no monument, marker or
physical reminder of what was suffered and lost there.
Now, controversy over the Dome is not new. In 1971, when the sight was
initially excavated, back hoes uncovered skeletal remains of the victims of
the yellow fever epidemic in the 1850s, and the cholera from the 1930s,
buried in mass graves on the site. And many believed that the team was
cursed because our stadium was built on burial grounds. Our success in the
years after the storm belied the idea that Katrina left her own curse.
So, we welcome the eyes of the world on our city. We want you to witness
our rebirth. We are proud of what we`ve rebuilt. But I`m going to reserve
a moment on this day to remember that this place is sacred ground and that
those who were lost there were our neighbors and our friends, and that
football and renovation and profits alone cannot bring justice.
That`s our show for today.
Thank you to Kai and Patrick, Joy and Rebecca.
Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you again next
Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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