Sep 17, 2020
With Big Ten Reversal, Trump Aims to Score in Battlegrounds
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By AAMER MADHANI, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump was quick to spike the ball in celebration when the Big Ten announced the return of fall football at colleges clustered in some of the Midwest battleground states critical to his reelection effort, declaring, “I'm the one who got football back.”
But his efforts to reverse last month's decision to postpone fall sports in the conference because of the novel coronavirus were far from the only factor that led officials to change course.
The Big Ten — one of the power conferences that drives the big business of college sports — was under enormous pressure to restart the season from athletes, parents, coaches and college towns that rely on football Saturdays to fill restaurants and hotels and provide much-needed tax revenue.
For weeks, Trump allied himself with the effort. He publicly and privately prodded the conference to reverse its Aug. 11 decision to play football next spring. When the conference announced Wednesday it would begin play Oct. 23 under strict coronavirus prevention protocols, Trump was eager to capitalize politically.
“I called the commissioner a couple of weeks ago and we started really putting a lot of pressure on, frankly,” Trump said at a news conference.
Trump's advisers said the episode underscores how the president’s unconventional style — his Twitter rebukes and rhetorical bluster — gets things done.
It is a moment that could help Trump on the margins in key states such as Pennsylvania, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin where schools are now scheduled to play their first games less than two weeks before Election Day, said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist.
“There are voters who voted for him 2016 who don’t want to vote for him this time — mostly because they don’t like him personally,” Conant said. “Those voters need to be reminded why they supported him in the first place. It’s issues like this where he takes a controversial position they agree with and delivers.”
The Big Ten reversal also syncs with Trump's efforts to suggest the nation is on the glidepath to normalcy under his stewardship. The president had criticized Democrats who “don’t want football back for political reasons” and accused Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of keeping Michigan and Michigan State off the field.
Left unsaid is that the 14 schools in the Big Ten all have opted to scale back in-person learning and pleaded with students to stop parties and congregating in large groups as the U.S. death toll from the virus nears 200,000.
And while Trump repeatedly decried the Big Ten, until Wednesday he had far less to say about the postponement of fall sports by the Pac-12, which includes universities in Democratic-leaning California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington as well as battleground Arizona. On Wednesday, Trump called on the Pac-12 to “get going" and resume play.
Whitmer said the Big Ten decision to reverse course was made by members of the conference. She said she had spoken with other governors about the prospect of allowing spectators to attend games but cautioned that COVID-19 "is still a very real threat.”
“If we want to preserve that as an option, we’ve got to be serious about masking up,” she said.
Big Ten officials cited improvement in same-day coronavirus testing capabilities as a key factor in their reversal. Asked about Trump’s role in bringing about the about-face, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez said Trump made clear “the Big Ten was important to him.”’
“I think he drew attention to Big Ten football and had a solution,” Alvarez said. “So how much that had to do with us being back on the field, I don’t know that answer.”
Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, was unequivocal: Americans in Big Ten country have Trump to thank.
“College football is an enormous part of fall Saturdays for millions of Americans, and it is coming back, thanks in no small part to the leadership of President Trump,” Stepien said. “We know that Joe Biden would not have pushed for this, since he has looked for every reason to keep our country closed for as long as possible, because he believes it would help him politically.”
After calling Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren on Sept. 1, Trump expressed confidence that players would be back on the field soon, tweeting that a return to play was “On the one-yard line.” He later suggested Whitmer, as well as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois, were holding things up.
Biden, for his part, tried to lay the blame for canceled sports events squarely at Trump's feet with an ad that aired days before Trump’s call to the Big Ten commissioner.
“Trump put America on the sidelines. Let’s get back in the game,” flashes on the screen amid images of empty stadiums at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and elsewhere. Trump on Wednesday slammed the ad as “totally fake."
Karen Kedrowski, a political scientist at Iowa State University, said the return of the Big Ten is good politics for Trump, if the conference is able to carry out the season with minimal further disruptions and if relatively few athletes get sick with the virus.
“It is the sort of thing that will excite Trump’s base to donate or harangue their friends to go out and vote for Trump or remind them to send in their absentee ballots," she said. “In some of these states where the races are expected to be very tight, you might not have to move the needle much to help make a difference.”
Associated Press writer David Eggert in Lansing, Mich., and AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Snacks Harrison Talks Seahawks Visit: Report
Getty Damon "Snacks" Harrison is expected to visit the Seahawks ahead of Week 5.
After rumors the Seahawks would visit this week with Damon “Snacks” Harrison, it appears the defensive tackle will not meet with Seattle until after their upcoming matchup with the Dolphins. NFL insider Josina Anderson reported that Harrison is undergoing COVID-19 protocol in anticipation of a visit with the Seahawks next week.
“Free agent DT Damon Harrison tells me this morning he is going into the CoVID protocol into and over the weekend, so he can presumably be clear for a scheduled visit with the Seahawks actually not until next week,” Anderson noted on Twitter. “So the actual visit is *not this week.”
ESPN’s Adam Schefter previously reported Harrison would meet with the Seahawks prior to Week 4. Schefter added the Seahawks face competition from at least three teams with the Bears, Packers and Bengals also showing an interest in Harrison.The Seahawks Added 2 Players With Upside to Their Practice Squad
As the Seahawks continue to talk with Harrison, the team made additional roster moves as Seattle has been hit particularly hard with injuries to start the season. The Seahawks signed safety Damrious Randall along with linebacker Tim Williams and both players will start their Seattle tenure on the practice squad. Randall spent the last two seasons as a starting safety for the Browns, while Williams played with both the Ravens and Packers.
The defense has been hit particularly hard with Bruce Irvin and Marquise Blair both sustaining season-ending injuries against the Patriots in Week 2. The team is also dealing with injuries to a number of key players including Jamal Adams, Quinton Dunbar and Jordyn Brooks. Seattle has found themselves in a shootout in each of their three games with the team leaning heavily on their offense to win. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll admitted the defense still has a lot of work to do.
“I really think that overall, just the lack of time working out on the field and missing the offseason and all of that really seems to have affected the defense more so,” Carroll noted, per Seahawks.com. “I think also the lack of opportunity to play full speed football in camp, which is a real benefit as you’re developing your game, that being absent, there’s a factor there. So I think the offenses are taking advantage of it a little bit, and they’re just they’ve started faster. In our case, we have not balanced out running and passing as much as we normally do, but it’s because we’ve been so effective throwing the football we’ve gone with it.”Pete Carroll: ‘Snacks Has Been a Big-Timer for a Long Time’
Carroll has praised Harrison throughout his career calling the defensive tackle a “big-timer” back in 2018. Harrison was initially on the fence about playing this season so the big question is how many meaningful snaps the defensive tackle will be ready to play if he does sign with the Seahawks.
“‘Snacks’ has been a big-timer for a long time,” Carroll told the Detroit Free Press in 2018. “We caught him back in the Jets days when he kind of was unheralded and he kind of came to the surface as a playmaker. And of course he went to the Giants and he carries his own there. He’s a good football player, big presence. Really good in the run game, disruptive in pass rush, too, so it’s a great get for them.”
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