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GOP Florida lawmaker criticized for politicized Jose Fernandez tweet

   

A Republican Florida lawmaker was criticized Sunday for politicizing the death of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez.

Matt Gaetz, who represents District 4 in the Florida House of Representatives and is running for Congress, tweeted shortly after it was confirmed that the 24-year-old Fernandez had died in a boating wreck early Sunday off Miami Beach.

>> Read more trending stories   

“To all who will kneel during the anthem today — just remember how Jose Fernandez risked his life just for the chance to stand for it,” Gaetz tweeted Sunday morning,referring to the Cuban native’s efforts to reach the United States from the communist island country. The tweet referenced the trend of professional athletes — following the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — who kneel in protest during the national anthem. 

To all who will kneel during the anthem today - just remember how Jose Fernandez risked his life just for the chance to stand for it— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) September 25, 2016<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Fernandez escaped Cuba in 2007 after serving jail time for three failed attempts to leave the country. On his fourth try, he jumped into the water and rescued his mother after she fell out of their boat.

Lorenzo Veloz, a spokesman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said Fernandez was one of three men who died in the boating accident.

Twitter users reacted swiftly to Gaetz’s tweet, with sports commentator Keith Olbermann calling the candidate a “cheap exploitative humanoid scumbag.”

.@mattgaetz Delete your account, you cheap exploitative humanoid scumbag.— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) September 25, 2016<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Gaetz responded later to other posts, tweeting that “My point is that while America remains imperfect, so many do so much to enjoy our freedoms. Seems ungrateful to kneel. Just my opinion.”

He later tweeted that he wished “the national discussion was more productive on this stuff.”

In his first tweet after hearing the news of Fernandez’s death, Gaetz said he was “crushed” by the news.

I just saw the news on Jose Fernandez. As a Marlin fan, a Floridian and an admirer of the Cuban-American experience I am crushed.— Matt Gaetz (@mattgaetz) September 25, 2016<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Fernandez was finishing his best major league season, going 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA. He was an all-star for the second time.

He was set to start Monday's Marlins game against the Atlanta Braves.

Gaetz won the GOP primary for his district Aug. 30.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez shared baby news just before his death

Just five days ago, Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez posted a picture of his girlfriend, Carla Mendoza, on Instagram, announcing that they would be having a baby together. 

The black and white photo shows Mendoza holding her growing stomach while in a bikini on the beach. 

Related: Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez has died

"I'm so glad you came into my life. I'm ready for where this journey is gonna take us together. #familyfirst."

I'm so glad you came into my life. I'm ready for where this journey is gonna take us together. #familyfirst A photo posted by Jose Fernandez (@jofez16) on Sep 19, 2016 at 8:23pm PDT

Authorities in Florida say Fernandez was not wearing a life vest when he was killed in a boating crash off Miami Beach early Sunday.

An official from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told reporters that Fernandez was with two friends when the 32-foot SeaVee that they were traveling in hit rocks and capsized during a boating trip.

Related: Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez death: 5 things to know

Lorenzo Veloz of the fish commission said the boat was found upside down. Two bodies were found under the vessel and one was found in the water by divers.

The boat was traveling full speed and was demolished. There was no evidence of alcohol or illegal substances being a factor in the crash.

The Miami Marlins released a statement about Fernandez's death saying that they are "devastated by the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez."

"Our thoughts and prayer are with his family at this very difficult time,” the statement read.

Photos: Remembering Jose Fernandez

Panther of the Game: Offensive Line

The offensive line paved the way for Pitt and gave them a real shot at winning a big conference road game.

Before we get to the Panther of the Game, I have to tell you that this was a very difficult decision yesterday. For a good while, I actually wanted to go with Nathan Peterman, but the last couple of series made me rethink that one. Quadree Henderson had another amazing game with over 100 yards rushing. Ejuan Price was a monster, but I feel like if I picked a defensive player, I would have to change all of my contact information and move. I think today we’ll go with a group; and that group was Pitt’s offensive line.

They had the bad snap and I believe one holding penalty on the day, but other than that, they played a pretty dominant game. Pitt kept the ball for over 40 minutes yesterday. They gave up two sacks and one was after the bad snap. The other was a one-yard loss on a Peterman scramble. Take away the snap, which lost 28 yards, and Pitt rushed for over 300 yards on the day.

It didn’t matter who carried the ball for Pitt yesterday. They simply churned out yardage. Henderson finished with over 100 yards. Conner knocked out 66 yards, while Moss had a nice 47 yards. Peterman and Hall recorded 19 yards each, and positive yardage from everyone on the day. 10 players, in all, carried the rock on the day. I think you also have to remember, that for the third week in a row, Pitt was facing a defense that dared them to throw the ball. Peterman also had plenty of time to throw the ball.

We can nitpick all day long about the bad snap, and maybe not opening holes on the last two series, but I feel like no matter who we picked yesterday, you could find something that wasn’t good on the day for them. It was one of those games, where it would have looked a lot better had Pitt held on for the win.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez death: 5 things to know

The death of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez has rocked the world of Major League Baseball. The 24-year-old died in a boating accident off the coast of Miami Beach, Florida, early Sunday.

>> Read more trending stories

Here are 5 things to know about the death of Jose Fernandez:

Speed may have been a factor in the accident

"It does appear that speed was involved due to the impact and the severity of it," Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokesman Lorenzo Veloz said in a press conference Sunday morning, The Palm Beach Post reported. The boat was travelling at a high rate of speed when it hit the jetty.

Veloz said the jetty was not visible.

The time the crash occurred is not clear

Officials said the boat, a 32-foot Sea Vee Center Console, was seen overturned on a rock jetty off the coast of Miami Beach. It was found by a Coast Guard crew.

Video surfaced Sunday on social media showing the aftermath of the fatal crash.

JUST FOUND OUT THIS WAS A FATAL ACCIDENT LAST NIGHT THAT KILLED MARLINS PITCHER JOSE FERNANDEZ AND 2 OTHERS ! RIP AND CONDOLENCES TO THEIR FAMILIES! A video posted by THE SHARK HUNTER (@marktheshark) on Sep 25, 2016 at 5:39am PDT <script async defer src="//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js"></script>

"At 3:40, 3:50, approximately, a.m. this morning, the Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue fire boat received a call about a capsized vessel in the vicinity of government cut," said Capt. Leonel Reyes, of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue's Marine Services Bureau.

"The vessel has traveled several times in this area, so that person was obviously very aware of where they were," Veloz said, adding that there are no lights in the area.

"I have stopped that boat before for safety inspections with other Marlins players on board, so we know that this boat knows this area," Veloz said. "We just can't answer why this happened."

Related: Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez has died

Fernandez was not driving the boat

Fernandez was a passenger on the boat. He never drove it, Veloz said. The person who drove the boat was a friend of Fernandez, whom Veloz said is "very well connected with several Marlins players." Reyes said two bodies were found underneath the vessel and another was found in the water on the southside of the jettys.

Family members identified the two other people killed as Eduardo Rivero and Emilio Macias, WSVN reported. Macias' father works for the Miami-Dade Police Department, according to the news station. Both Rivero and Macias graduated in 2009 from G. Holmes Braddock Senior High School in Miami.

Fernandez was not wearing a life jacket

Veloz said none of the three men on the boat were wearing life jackets, including Fernandez, The Palm Beach Post reported. The other two men on the boat, whose ages ranged from 24 to 27, were "personal friends" of the pitcher.

Alcohol and drugs do not appear to have been involved

"Alcohol, as of right now, was not involved, or no other illicit drugs were found on the vessel," Veloz said. An autopsy will determine if any drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident.

Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez has died

The Turning Point: Peterman’s Miss

There were many twists and turns in this game, but not many would have been necessary had Peterman not missed a big fourth down conversion.

Under nine minutes separated Pitt from a huge road win against North Carolina yesterday. They were up 13 points with about 8:45 remaining in the game. To that point, the defense had turned things around and were frustrating the Tar Heels. Now, we can debate whether North Carolina’s own play calling got in their own way or not, but some big sacks gave Pitt a chance to cement the game.

For the third straight possession, North Carolina came away with zero points and Pitt’s offense was tough to stop. Add to that the fact that the Heel’s defense had to be exhausted and it seemed like Pitt needed to just keep doing what they were doing, which was methodically drive down the field.

Matt Canada did what he had done all game to start the drive. He called Moss’ number for a gain of two and then used a jet sweep to Henderson for two more yards. Not ideal results, but those were the same calls they used before. Now, it was time for fifth-year senior, Nate Peterman to step up and make a play from his own 24-yard line. Peterman dropped back and had Tre Tipton open for the first and overshot him. Tipton was open, he had the first down, and Peterman just missed the throw.

We can debate Pitt’s play-calling on the next drive and then the fourth down plays on UNC’s last drive, but this one could have prevented a lot of that, considering the Heels won with two ticks left on the clock. Believe me, I vented a lot about the 4th and nine play that North Carolina converted, where a blitzing Avonte Maddox was yanked down by his facemask without any call, but if Peterman connects there, Pitt stands a great chance at being 3-1.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author@BrunoPittsburgh

Panthers-Vikings game declared 'extraordinary event,' allowing for extra security

Sunday's NFL matchup between the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings has been declared an "extraordinary event," which gives police more manpower, officials in Charlotte, North Carolina, said Saturday.

>> Read the press release here

According to a news release, Charlotte's interim city manager, Ron Kimble, made the declaration "to enhance public safety."

"An Extraordinary Event is defined as a large-scale​ event or an event of national or international significance which might attract a significant number of people to a certain geographic area of the city," the release said, adding that the designation "allows the city to modify its permitting process for activities such as parades and specifies particular items that are prohibited from being brought into certain boundaries of the event."

The game comes just one day after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department released dashcam and body camera videos of the encounter in which an officer fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott. Scott's death Tuesday sparked protests throughout the week. 

>> Dashcam and body camera footage released in shooting of Keith Scott

Before the start of the 2016 season, the Panthers announced increased security changes.

There are now metal detectors and walk-through scanners, and surveillance has been doubled.

The team said earlier this week that they’ve been in contact with government officials and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department to prepare for Sunday’s game.

>> Police provide explanation of video footage in shooting of Keith Scott

This week, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said that he's confident the department has the resources to keep the city safe.

Fans should also expect to see highly trained bomb-sniffing dogs around Bank of America stadium Sunday afternoon when the Panthers take on the Minnesota Vikings.

Panther’s fans said they aren’t overly concerned about game security.

>> Read more trending stories

“[I’m] a little nervous, but not too worried," one fan said. "I know they got a handle on things pretty well down here. There’s a lot of police and stuff uptown. You see the guys in uniform. I think it'll go pretty smoothly tomorrow."

A spokesman said the National Guard is still expected to be in Charlotte on Sunday, but could not say whether guardsmen would be on hand at Bank of America Stadium for the game.

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Pitt blows fourth quarter lead against North Carolina, loses 37-36

The Panthers defense gave up late points. Again.

Sort of becoming a theme, right?

Pitt’s defense again had a chance to close the door on an opponent for the second consecutive week and came up short again. This time, it was North Carolina defeating the Panthers, 37-36 on a last-second touchdown pass in a jumbled mess where the Tar Heels barely got the play off in time.

This one isn’t all on the defense, of course. Sure, they gave up an unreal three fourth down conversions on the final drive. Sure, they allowed more than 35 points for the second straight week. And, well, sure, they gave up two touchdowns in the final five and a half minutes. They deserve a lot of the blame. But they had help in this one as, after a brilliant game offensively, the Panthers again struggled on that side of the ball late.

Pitt’s offense had a chance to seal the game. A few of them, actually. But they could only muster a measly three points on their final four drives.

Not scoring was only one of the team’s sins. When you look back at how little time they ate off the clock, it was borderline criminal. The first of those was a three-and-out that took only 1:22 off the clock. Next, they scored a field goal, but at only 2:42. The last two were three-and-outs that both lasted less than 1:50. None of that will cut it, folks.

What I didn’t understand as well was the uber-conservative playcalling on that last drive, too. On that final drive, Pitt basically ran two straight forward runs with Conner before tossing a screen his way. It made little sense in reality given all of the success they had with the innovative plays earlier in the game.

Henderson, for the record, was running ragged over the Tar Heels. He had a whopping 107 yards on only nine carries. Conner did a nice two-way act again with 66 rushing yards and 64 passing yards. But if you’re pinning this all on Canada for not going to Henderson on that last drive, I’d encourage you to think again.

Now, I think Canada should have done more, but let’s look at those drives. This wasn’t merely a case of abandoning Henderson. They involved him on two plays on the first drive but couldn’t move the chains. They tried to get the ball to Henderson and Chawntez Moss on the next one resulting in a punt and they were shut down. The fact is that they used Henderson on those other two drives and they couldn’t pick up a first down. Going to Conner was fine by me, but I think the plays should have been a little less standard.

A big goat on those drives was quarterback Nathan Peterman. Peterman to that point had played a fine game but he badly missed on two big short third down passes. It’s frustrating because Pitt doesn’t need the world from him - just to convert on the short throws, avoid mistakes, and make one or two plays. He mostly did that all day except on those drives.

Fact is, there’s plenty of blame to go around offensively.

Defensively, I’m at a loss where Pitt goes from here. The book is clearly out that they can’t cover and I thought it was sort of ironic that, on the game’s final play from scrimmage, Ryan Lewis blatantly held the North Carolina receiver before giving up a touchdown, anyway. It’s sort of like the old adage in basketball - if you’re going to foul, at least stop the opponent from scoring.

The defense did its part earlier that half by limiting the Tar Heels to only seven points until the final six minutes but folded when you really needed them.

There were all sorts of problems in pass coverage. In particular, I called out several times on Twitter when Oluwaseun Idowu was exposed at linebacker. He couldn’t keep up with North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer and while you don’t necessarily expect him to be able to, he really didn’t do a good job on him. He wasn’t only beaten, but on at least one occasion, he completely missed the assignment and on another play with a clean shot at the quarterback, whiffed on a wide open sack.

Losing Elijah Zeise for the season looks like an even more significant loss at this point. Idowu has had some nice moments at other times in the season, so I don’t want to be too harsh on him. And it’s easy to forget that he was just a walk-on before earning a scholarship this year. But he had a really, really tough day today.

Also in my doghouse was Terrish Webb, who struggled mightily. Several times Webb was beaten and a few more, he looked completely lost out there in which way to go, opting to leave a few guys uncovered. If there’s a reason to not give Reggie Mitchell a shot, I’m missing what that is. The Webb-Mitchell battle went right down to the last second at training camp and Webb has really had a tough time this year.

One guy that should be devoid of criticism is Ejuan Price. That guy was superhuman today, recording a safety, adding a sack or two, and he was constantly in the backfield despite being held. I know we’ve propped up Aaron Donald quite a bit since his senior year at Pitt, as we should have. But while Price might not quite be on that level, he’s really close, folks. I also thought he was held a few times today and he’s a very, very good player.

I wrote this during the game, but at some point, this becomes less about the talent you have and more about needing to have guys knowing what they need to do. And if they know what they need to do and are not capable of doing it, maybe you need to change how you’re doing them.

Anthony Dorsett, Jr., former Pitt player and obviously the son of Tony Dorsett, had a lot of pointed comments on Twitter today. You can go check out his account, but one thing he said is something we’ve heard before that was pretty significant:

RT @Hail_Pitt: Narduzzi' defense challenges you to pass on them. A great scheme when you have talent throughout the secondary #Pitt— ANTHONY DORSETT, JR. (@DORSETTJR) September 24, 2016

Pitt seems to be forcing their corners to try to stretch themselves and cover one on one. It’s clear they are unable to do that on a regular basis. That’s not a knock on those guys but we’re seeing time and again the struggles they’re having. Pitt’s system, as even Pat Narduzzi said earlier this week in his press conference, requires that those guys play one on one at times. Based on the number of times you’re seeing them out there on their own, it’s clear that either one of two things is happening.

Perhaps the safeties are missing assignments entirely. In that case, it’s something that needs to be coached better to know where they need to be. The other option is that Pitt’s coaching staff insists on playing that much one-on-one coverage and their corners simply aren’t talented enough to keep up. In that case, it’s a bit of stubbornness to not change the defense to give them more help.

It’s clear that in watching the past two games that they are going to struggle against any capable quarterback. Perhaps the way they’ve been playing will be enough to beat the weaker teams on the schedule. And sure, the counter argument could be that Pitt nearly won both games, anyway. But the fact is that they are giving up big chunks of yardage on a routine basis. And even against North Carolina, part of the reason they were able to slow the Tar Heels’ offense down earlier was because they were still trying to run the ball. If I’m any defense with any kind of a quarterback, I don’t know why you wouldn’t look at game film of the past two games and throw the ball 50 times.

I always hate trying to oversimplify things, but that’s where we’re at. Pitt’s offense has shown they can score points and Pitt’s defense has shown that they can’t stop teams from scoring. Sure, there are variances - the offense will struggle sometimes and the defense will shine. But overall, that’s where we are.

And if that’s where we are, we’re looking at another team very similar to the ones we’ve seen in the past.

Not great, not terrible, just sort of ... there.

Be sure to join Cardiac Hill's Facebook page and follow us on Twitter@PittPantherBlog for our regular updates on Pitt athletics. Follow the author and founder/editor @AnsonWhaley.
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