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Volume 25 No. 107
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Ballmer Notes NBA Pleased Athletes Feel Comfortable To Speak Out

Clippers Owner Steve Ballmer said the NBA is "pleased to see our players express themselves" about current social issues. During an appearance on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," Ballmer said, "I can’t speak for the NFL, but I’ll speak for the NBA. We believe our players should express themselves. ... Our players have found very constructive ways to express themselves. I encourage our players -- use your platform, speak.” Maher noted that author Mark Leibovich's new book "Big Game" concludes that the NFL is the "most conservative sport," which is one reason there has been so much attention toward players' pregame protests. Ballmer noted part of that is because the NFL "looks very different" than the NBA. He said, "The fan base is much more diverse. Our player base is at least as heavy a percentage of African-Americans and Europeans. To be fair, we have both in the league. And, we have a younger audience. We appeal to what’s going on, going forward. I’m happy people stand. We do the national anthem, it’s right to honor our country." 

KEEP IT SEPARATE, WHEN CONVENIENT: Leibovich also was on the show as part of a panel with Ballmer, CNN's S.E. Cupp and former national security advisor Richard Clarke. Leibovich noted many people object to the NFL protests during the national anthem because there should be an effort to "take politics out of sports." Leibovich: "Many NFL owners give money to Republican candidates. Seven have given money to Donald Trump's inauguration. The owner of the Arizona Cardinals recently came out in full support of Brett Kavanaugh. So basically they're saying no politics in sports unless the owners want to do it." Clarke brought up the $5.4M the U.S. government paid to numerous NFL teams as part of the "paid patriotism" campaign earlier this decade and said, "It's making it compulsory for us to stand and say, 'Thank you for your service.' Every veteran knows that's crap." Cupp replied, "Who's making you?" Clarke: "The stadium says, 'Thank you for your service.' Everyone stands. Everybody applauds." Cupp: "No one's making you. You're free to sit down. Who's going to arrest you for not standing?" ("Real Time with Bill Maher," HBO, 9/14).