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8-year-old football players kneel during national anthem in protest

Every player from an 8-and-under football team in Belleville, Illinois, took a knee in protest during the national anthem before their game on Saturday, according to KTVI.

>> Watch the news report here

“One of the kids asked me if I saw (people) protesting and rioting in St. Louis. I said yes; I said, ‘Do you know why they are doing it?'” said Coach Orlando Gooden during a phone interview with the news station on Tuesday.

>> See a photo of the protest here

Gooden told the news station that one of the players responded, “Because black people are getting killed and nobody’s going to jail.”

Gooden, a former football player at the University of Missouri, said his players were aware of the recent Jason Stockley decision, which saw an ex-St. Louis officer acquitted in a fatal shooting of a black driver and led to numerous protests.

>> Elderly woman knocked to ground by police during St. Louis protest

“I felt like it was a good teaching moment for me to circle the team and have a meeting,” he said.

Gooden said he spoke with his team about that and other situations that have taken place recently in the United States and explained why free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others have knelt during the anthem in protest.

>> Read more trending news

“One of the kids asked, ‘Can we do that?’ I said, ‘As long as we know why we’re doing it, I don’t have a problem with any of it,'” he said.

According to the coach, the third-graders immediately took a knee as the anthem began, with their backs — unintentionally — away from the flag.

“What I teach my kids is love, integrity, honesty, fairness, respect and boundaries,” he said.

The players’ parents reportedly supported the coach’s decision to allow the team to take a knee; however, a Facebook post from his wife reveals that there has been some backlash from other residents in the area.

“As long as I have support of my parents and team, I’m perfectly fine, and I’m covered under the First Amendment to peacefully protest and assemble,” Gooden said.

Football players under 12 at high risk of brain injury, study finds

A new Boston University study published Tuesday found a single season of youth football can change a child's brain.

>> Watch the news report here

The findings focused on children 12 and under and, according to the study, those first 12 years of a child's life are critical to brain development.

That’s why any damage – no matter how small – could mean health concerns years later.

Youth football is a family tradition for many, but this new study out of BU has found the longer a child waits to play football, the better it is for their brain.

“There's really something specific about hitting your head over and over again at a young age and it is disrupting normal brain development,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Michael Alosco, said. 

>> On Boston25News.com: One youth football game results in five concussions

Researchers examined 214 amateur and professional football players and found those who started playing football before they were 12 years old were at higher risk for behavioral and cognitive problems.

“That's a critical period of brain development, especially in males,” said Alosco. 

According to the study, the risks for behavioral problems doubled and the risk for elevated depression tripled.

>> Read more trending news

Alosco told WFXT that their findings revealed any injury to a child's brain could result in permanent damage.

“We're talking about those tiny hits to the head, over and over repeatedly that don't necessarily result in symptoms, but we think are enough to cause injury to the brain,” he explained. 

Just earlier this summer, WFXT investigated the growing trend of youth flag football as many are families opting out of regular football because of health concerns.

“I just think it's a little too dangerous at their young age. They're so fragile,” parent Jeanine Hetzel said. 

>> On Boston25News.com: Despite new helmets, doctors warn of concussion risk for football players

WFXT asked Alosco whether he would recommend parents not let their child play youth football. He said more research needs to be done, but he did say one thing. 

“You just have to ask yourself: Do you really want your young kid to go out there and start hitting their head at such a young age – not even just football – in anything?” said Alosco. 

Woman claims Delta paid her $4,000 to give up seat on overbooked flight

How much money is a single football game worth to you?

For a plane full of University of Georgia fans heading to South Bend, Indiana, to watch their team play Notre Dame last weekend, that number is pretty high.

>> Read more trending news

WSB-TV sports director Zach Klein was on a full Delta Air Lines flight Friday morning leaving from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

The plane was overbooked and when the crew realized it was overbooked, they started offering money for someone to give up their seat.

“Offers started at $2,200. Then it was $2,800. Later it got to $3,000,” Klein said.

Tracy Jarvis Smith eventually took the offer when the crew bumped the amount to $4,000.

“$4,000 was my magic number,” Smith later tweeted.

According to Klein, Smith was bumped for a 7 p.m. flight that day.

“Not one fan wanted to get in late,” Klein said.

Klein posted a photo with the Georgia fan who took Smith’s seat.

Smith also tweeted later that day. She said she got in about eight hours later than she had planned, making it worth the money.

The Georgia Bulldogs went on to beat the Fighting Irish 20-19.

>> Related: Delta will now pay passengers up to $9,950 to give up seats

 

Hurricane Irma: Tim Tebow works with Florida Gov. Rick Scott in preparing for storm

Tim Tebow is doing charitable things once again.

>> Click here for complete Hurricane Irma coverage from the Palm Beach Post

Per "The Paul Finebaum Show," the former Florida Gators quarterback is working alongside Gov. Rick Scott in helping the Sunshine State prepare for Hurricane Irma, which is supposed to arrive this weekend.

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

Irma already has caused the cancellation of several college football games, including the Gators hosting Northern Colorado on Saturday. Miami decided not to travel to Arkansas State, and South Florida vs. Connecticut also was postponed.

>> PHOTOS: Hurricane Irma approaches Florida

Scott has been asking Florida citizens to volunteer to assist those who are in need as the disastrous storm heads their way.

>> Read more trending news

People willing to volunteer can go to VolunteerFlorida.org to sign up.

Michael Bennett speaks out about Las Vegas police ‘excessive use of force’

UPDATE Sept. 6 7:12 PM:  NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement on Michael Bennett’s letter about Las Vegas police.

According to the statement, the Las Vegas police will respond to the letter later Wednesday evening.

“Our foremost concern is the welfare of Michael and his family...,” the statement said. “We will support Micahel and all NFL players in promoting mutual respect between law enforcement and the communities they loyally serve and fair and equal treatment under the law.”

ORIGINAL STORY:

In an open letter posted on Twitter, Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett says Las Vegas police ordered him to the ground at gunpoint, put a gun near his head and threatened to shoot him after hearing gunshots were fired nearby.

Bennett detailed the incident that was captured in a brief video posted by TMZ Sports on Aug. 26 when he was in Las Vegas to watch the Mayweather-McGregor fight.

Bennett said after the match, while he was heading back to the hotel that night, people heard gunshots fired and he, like others, tried to flee. 

>> Read more trending news

According to Bennett's statement, police ordered him to the ground at gunpoint, jammed a knee into his back and handcuffed him so tightly that his fingers went numb.

The video, which is reportedly shot outside of Drai’s Nightclub on the Las Vegas Strip, shows Bennett asking why he was being detained. 

“I wasn’t doing nothing, man,” Bennett is heard saying in the video. “They told us to get out and everybody ran.”

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, parts of Drai’s Nightclub were evacuated early Sunday for shooting reports that turned out to be false. The police department found that large statues were knocked down onto the tile floor during a fight, which caused panic and prompted reports of a shooting. 

In his letter, Bennett called it an excessive use of force, simply because he was a “black man in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He said one officer placed a gun near his head and warned him if he moved he would “blow his (expletive) head off.”

Bennett said officers refused to answer him when he asked, “What did I do?” He said he feared for his life.

According to TMZ Sports, citing unnamed sources it says are connected to the investigation, police ordered everyone to get down and not move. When Bennett ran, an officer stopped him at gunpoint and ordered him to get on the ground.

Eventually, after sitting in the back of a police car “for what felt like an eternity,” he was released after they realized he “was not a thug, common criminal or ordinary black man, but Michael Bennett, a famous professional football player.”

Bennett, who has been sitting in protest during the national anthem in recent games, gave his reasoning for the protest in the letter.

“(E)quality doesn’t live in this country, and no matter how much money you make, what job title you have or have much you give, when you are seen as a ‘(racial slur)’ you will be treated that way.”

Bennett spoke more about the letter at a news conference Wednesday, calling the police confrontation a “traumatic experience.”

“Do I think every police officer is bad? No,” Bennett said. “Do I believe some people judge people on the color of their skin? I do believe that.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the same news conference he and the team “stand in support of him and anyone facing inequalities.”

“May this incident inspire all of us to respond with compassion when inequalities are brought to light. And allow us to stand up for change, because we can do better than this,” Carroll said.

ESPN reported that Bennett said he was considering filing a civil rights lawsuit. His letter said he has hired Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris.

The full letter can be read on Bennett’s Twitter page.

NFL moves Miami Dolphins’ game vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers to Nov. 19

The Dolphins-Buccaneers season opener won’t be an opener after all. The NFL decided Wednesday morning to move the game at Hard Rock Stadium to Nov. 19, the bye week for both teams, because of Hurricane Irma.

>> Read more trending news 

The decision was reached after the league, in consultation with officials from both teams and government agencies, had deliberated since Monday on the best course of action.

The Dolphins canceled practice Wednesday.

The Dolphins’ new season-opener will be at 4:05 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Bucs game originally was scheduled for Hard Rock Stadium at 1 p.m. Sunday, when Irma would be too close to South Florida for anyone to be outside. The league finally admitted as much Tuesday afternoon, when it issued a statement saying the game would not be played in South Florida this week.

“In the interest of public safety in light of the current state of emergency, the NFL, in consultation with state and local officials as well as both clubs, has decided that playing an NFL game in South Florida this week is not appropriate,” the league said in a statement.

Among the options considered were moving to a neutral site or playing it later in the season. Both teams had a bye Nov. 19, but this now means the Dolphins will play 16 consecutive weeks, something Dolphins players were reluctant to do.

But there were no options that would please everybody. Scheduling it upstate this weekend, perhaps Orlando or Jacksonville, was risky because Irma could affect those cities, too. Moving it out of state would mean taking the players away from their families when some may be experiencing a hurricane for the first time.

“I’m definitely concerned about the community in South Florida, really the whole state, especially with our State of Emergency,” defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “Luckily my family doesn’t like me, so they’re up in Portland, Ore., and Detroit and up north. They’re safe for the most part. Myself, we’ll figure something out.”

Quaterback Jay Cutler, who arrived a month ago from Nashville, said, “I’m in a different situation than most of these guys because my family’s not here. A lot of these guys have a lot on their plate, moving their families and your house and your cars.

“I’m one of the few lucky ones that I’ve got a car here and a bag full of clothes, and that’s kind of it. You’ve got a lot of guys in that locker room that are going through a lot of things in their head, and we’ve got to be mindful of that and kind of help them in any way possible.”

Moving the Bucs game out of Hard Rock would have meant only six true home games this season, since the game against New Orleans will be in London.

This is the second time in recent history that weather affected a Dolphins opener. In September 2004, the opener vs. Tennessee was shifted from Sunday to Saturday because of concerns about Hurricane Ivan.

J.J. Watt’s Harvey fundraising pushes past $20 million

J.J. Watt’s rush to continue raising money for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and the historic flooding in and around Houston that followed the Aug. 25-30 storm broke the $20 million mark, as his online crowdfunding site pushed past that threshold about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to USA Today.

>> George Strait, Beyonce, others to hold Hurricane Harvey relief concert

Watt pledged $100,000 to the Red Cross fund when he started it with the goal of raising $200,000.

>> Read more trending news

“It’s such a testament to the people out there," Watt said Sunday after donations of $1 million from Tennessee Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk, $1 million from Walmart, $200,000 from hip-hop artist Drake and $50,000 from NBA star Chris Paul.

Watt, an all-pro defensive end for the Houston Texans, said Sunday when the total raised was at $17 million. “It’s such a testament to how much good there is in the world.’’

>> Complete Harvey coverage from the Austin American-Statesman

Many NFL owners and players have pledged money to Harvey victims, including Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who has committed $1 million.

Hurricane Irma threatens Miami Dolphins’ season opener

One of the chief requests the Miami Dolphins made when the NFL was assembling their schedule this year was to open the season at home. They got their wish, but suddenly it’s in jeopardy as Hurricane Irma threatens South Florida.

>> Read more trending news

The team and the league are monitoring the storm, but there’s been no official word about contingency plans. If Irma hits Florida, it likely would be Sunday. The Dolphins are scheduled to host Tampa Bay at 1 p.m.

>> Hurricane Irma: Live updates

“You’re definitely following it, but it doesn’t affect your preparation,” cornerback Bobby McCain said. “You go out and prepare every day like the game is tomorrow. Unfortunately, with the hurricane looming over the waters, we may have to play earlier or later. But we have to get the job done regardless of when we play.”

Dolphins cornerback Byron Maxwell plans to get his job done but said if Irma gets too close to South Florida, he’ll leave, then catch up to the team for the game.

“It’s your life,” said Maxwell, who has been closely following news coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

A Dolphins spokesman said there’s no update from the organization other than that management is “closely monitoring the situation.” Hosting an NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium requires police staffing and more than 1,000 workers.

The University of Miami does not play at Hard Rock Stadium this week. The Hurricanes are at Arkansas State on Saturday.

There is flexibility to move the Dolphins up as early as Thursday or push it back to Monday, and another option would be playing it in Tampa. There are also open neutral-site venues in Orlando, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Atlanta and New Orleans. None of the teams that use the major football stadiums in those cities is playing at home Sunday.

“That’s a little bit out of my department,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said of the logistics. “I’m being updated when I need to be updated about certain things. But that’s kind of out of my hands right now. I’m just kind of going along with what I’m being advised with. We’ll be ready to go. We always kind of have an idea of what we can do and what we can’t do. Things like that are kind of out of our control. We just kind of wait and see.”

The Associated Press reported Monday afternoon that the NFL is considering having Miami and Tampa Bay play Thursday or Friday night, and alternate sites are being evaluated.

“I could speak for everybody on this team,” defensive back Michael Thomas said. “We’re going to be ready. Whenever we’ve got to play, we’re going to be ready.”

Coincidentally, the Dolphins and Buccaneers both have their bye in Week 11, though it’d be highly unusual for the NFL to ask teams to play 16 straight weeks without a break. Tight end Julius Thomas said he would be completely against that idea because players count on that break to heal from nagging injuries.

“Without that bye week, you’re going to put the bodies through a lot,” he said. “I’d rather play Thursday than do that.”

If Maxwell evacuated, he likely would head for his hometown of Charleston, S.C., and fly to join the team for its game if it ends up being played.

“If it comes, I’m going to try to get out, to be honest with you,” he said. “I mean, it’s your life. You’ve seen what it’s done to New Orleans and Houston, so it definitely could happen to Miami and I don’t want to be in that situation.

“Yeah, I’m gone. That’s life and death right there. … That’s just what it is. You’ve seen what happens. I’m not sitting around waiting for that.”

Many Dolphins players were discussing the hurricane in the locker room Monday, with many saying they heard speculation the game would be moved to Friday.

“I’ve never been involved in a hurricane,” Dolphins linebacker Rey Maualuga said. “Earthquakes are the thing in California. I live on the 18th floor, so hopefully, the building doesn’t sway side to side or my windows don’t cave in.”

Defensive end Andre Branch said he’d be ready to play at a moment’s notice. If the league had asked the teams to meet up Monday night for a game, that sounded fine to him. “Line us up, put the ball down and we’re gonna play regardless of what’s going on.”

Hurricane Matthew threatened South Florida last year, though it ultimately hit farther north and had minimal impact on this area. The Dolphins closed their facility the Thursday of that week, but were able to play at home against the Titans with no issues.

Irma was classified as a Category 4 storm Monday night. The canopy at Hard Rock Stadium is designed to withstand Category 4-force winds.

“We don’t have to do anything to prepare the roof for a major windstorm event,” Bill Senn, senior vice president of stadium renovations, said while the facility was being upgraded.

Senn said the canopy is anchored by 5 1/2-inch cables embedded 90 feet down.

The Dolphins were forced to keep a close eye on forecasts during the 2004 season, when a game against Pittsburgh was moved back a day because of Hurricane Jeanne. In the interim, the Steelers were at a Fort Lauderdale hotel that lost power. They still won 13-3.

Jeanne was the third hurricane within a month that threatened South Florida. The Dolphins’ opener vs. Tennessee was moved up one day, to a Saturday, because of Ivan. The Dolphins also had to travel to New Orleans for a preseason game while Frances approached.

In addition, a Monday night road game against the Chargers was forced out of San Diego because of fires. It was moved to Tempe, Ariz.

If the Dolphins are in one of those types of situations again this week, they’d prefer to know as soon as possible.

“You can prepare your body and prepare your mind for what’s coming, but it’d definitely be nice to know,” McCain said. “Unfortunately, this is just the way it falls, and we’re waiting just like everyone else.”

Unions won’t hold flag in Cleveland Browns’ opening game ceremony

Members of unions representing Cleveland policemen and paramedics said they will not participate in the Browns’ opening game ceremonies and hold a large U.S. flag on Sept. 10, WKYC reported.

>> Read more trending news

Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association president Steve Loomis said that union members had been scheduled to help hold the American flag before the Browns’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, along with other law enforcement officials and military personnel. However, the union decided to back out of the ceremony after 11 members of the Browns decided to kneel in prayer during the national anthem before the team’s preseason game against the New York Giants on Aug. 21.

Loomis said union members were angered when they learned that Browns management knew about the protest before the game but did not stop it.

“As a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and the United States Navy, and a 24-year veteran of the Cleveland Police Department, I am not going to participate or work with management that allows their players to disrespect the flag and the national anthem,” Loomis told WKYC.

Loomis said the Browns are aware of the union’s plans and sent him a statement saying they were “disappointed” the officers were not “honoring their commitment” to help hold the flag.

“I find that completely hypocritical," Loomis told WKYC.

Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell applied at Dairy Queen before ending holdout

Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell wasn’t taking any chances during his contract dispute. 

>> Read more trending news

The 25-year-old ended his holdout and reported to camp on Friday, but he was apparently willing to find another job if he could not hammer out an agreement with the team. 

The running back joked as he filled out an application for a position at Dairy Queen, according to Bleacher Report.

"I'm jobless right now," Bell said in a video that was tweeted Thursday. "I've got to get a job." 

Bell, who averaged 157 yards from scrimmage per game last season, stayed out of camp during August while he was not under contract.The Steelers failed to sign Bell to a long-term deal before the July 17 deadline for franchise-tagged players, ESPN reported.

Bell explained his actions via Twitter: 

But Bell had his sights set on returning to the Steelers’ camp on Sept. 1 and said as much on Twitter:

There was no word, however, as to whether Bell ever received a call from Dairy Queen for an interview.

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