NFL coronavirus safety needs to be top priority for 2020 season: 49ers star George Kittle

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San Francisco 49ers star George Kittle and his fellow NFL players will return to the practice field later this month to prepare for an upcoming season under the ever-present threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Kittle, 26, is widely regarded as the NFL’s best tight end and was a key cog in a 49ers offense that reached the Super Bowl last February. While COVID-19 has derailed other pro sports leagues and raised questions about the NFL’s outlook, Kittle said he is excited to get back on the field, so long as "the players’ health and safety is at the top of everyone’s priority list."


“The protocols will be ever-changing because we haven’t had 90 to 100 guys in the locker room since this all happened,” said Kittle, who spoke to FOX Business Wednesday on behalf of Gatorade’s “Beat the Heat” campaign. “As long as people are being honest about how they’re feeling and we can stick to the protocol as best we can, or if we need to switch the protocols up so guys can stay safe, I’m looking forward to it.”

NFL players are set to begin training camp on July 28 after a disjointed offseason in which most team facilities were forced to shut down completely. League officials are still working through safety protocols for the upcoming season, including the possibility that some players could opt out because of the health risks.

Like other pro sports leagues, NFL officials are faced with the difficult task of keeping players in a high-risk environment that includes frequent travel and close-quarters conditions in locker rooms.


“It’s hard to be social distanced when I’m playing tight end and I have to block a defensive end that’s 6 inches away from me. So that is definitely something that you think about,” he added. “But like I said, if they can keep the players safe and they think they have the protocols in place to do that, then I’m looking forward to playing football."

Kittle, Houston Texans defensive end JJ Watt and Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram are among several NFL players participating in Gatorade’s “Beat the Heat” campaign. The public service announcement aims to educate young athletes about the importance of staying hydrated while exercising in the summer heat.


With gyms closed around the country and NFL facilities shuttered throughout the summer, outdoor exercise has been a staple for players getting ready for the season.

“The spring football stuff all got canceled, and so it’s more on the athlete to come back to camp in the best shape that they possibly can be, so that’s what I’ve tried to focus on,” Kittle said. “We report on the 28th, and so I’m preparing like my season starts on the 28th. I know there’s a lot of uncertainty with the season ahead, but as an athlete and especially being an NFL player, it’s my job to be prepared."


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World News

Washington Redskins NFL team review controversial name after decades of resistance

The Washington Redskins American football team are reviewing their name after decades of resistance.

The National Football League (NFL) side are carrying out a “thorough review” following discussions the team have been having with the league in recent weeks, a statement said.

Despite experts calling the Redskins a “dictionary-defined racial slur” in reference to Native Americans, owner Dan Snyder had refused to change the team’s name since buying the club in 1999.

The recent conversation on race, motivated by George Floyd‘s killing, coupled with sponsors speaking out against the name, appears to have prompted the review.

Native American advocacy groups have been trying for decades to force a change, and a UC Berkeley study published earlier this year found 67% of those surveyed who strongly identify as Native American agreed or strongly agreed the name was offensive.

The team last month said they had no comment about their name, but this week investors wrote to sponsors hoping they would push for a change.

FedEx, who paid $205m (£165m) in 1999 to be the title sponsor of the team’s stadium in Landover, Maryland, said they had asked for the name to be changed on Wednesday.

On Thursday night, Nike appeared to have removed all Redskins gear from its online store.

PepsiCo, a sponsor since 2017, said it had been talking to the team and the NFL and was pleased to see the review happening as it believed “it is time for a change”.

Mr Snyder said: “This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organisation, sponsors, the NFL and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field.”

Coach Ron Rivera, who said in a recent radio interview now is not the time to discuss the name, called it “an issue of personal importance”.

Mr Rivera, who is of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent and the only Hispanic head coach currently in the NFL, said he worked closely with Mr Snyder during the process.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is “supportive of this important step”.

But they did not mention if the team logo – the head of a Native American man – would also be changed.

Ray Halbritter, leader of the “Change the Mascot” campaign, said: “There is no reason not to immediately announce that the team is changing the mascot, since any real review will lead to the inevitable conclusion that the deeply offensive and racist name of Washington’s NFL team must go now.

“Dan Snyder can stand on the right side of history and create a new, positive legacy for his team, or instead continue embracing a bigoted slur that denigrates Native Americans and people of colour.”

Washington mayor Muriel Bowser recently said the name was an “obstacle” to the team building a stadium in the city.

Last month, the team removed racist founder George Preston Marshall from its Ring of Fame and a monument of him was removed from its old stadium site.

His granddaughter supported the moves and said she has “always felt” if anybody is offended by the Redskins “they should change the name”.

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World News

NFL to play Black anthem before national anthem, AP source says – The Denver Post

“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” will be performed live or played before “The Star-Spangled Banner” prior to each NFL game during Week 1 and the league is considering putting names of victims of police brutality on helmet decals or jersey patches, a person familiar with the discussions told The Associated Press.

The person said the league is working collaboratively with players to recognize victims of systemic racism throughout the season in a variety of ways. The person spoke to the AP on Thursday on condition of anonymity because discussions between the league and the NFL Players Association are ongoing.

Additional plans include the use of educational programs and storytelling about the victims and their families similar to the league’s PSA on Botham Jean released in January and the Super Bowl commercial on Corey Jones featuring his cousin, former NFL star Anquan Boldin.

“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” is traditionally known as the Black anthem. It’ll be played first when the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans to kick off the NFL regular season on Sept. 10.

It’s uncertain whether fans will be in attendance Week 1 or at all this season because of the coronavirus pandemic. The league is considering asking fans to sign a waiver and wear masks, according to a person familiar with those conversations.

The NFL announced last month it is committing $250 million over 10 years to social justice initiatives, targeting what it calls “systemic racism” and supporting “the battle against the ongoing and historic injustices faced by African Americans.”

Following the nationwide protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell denounced racism in a video prompted greatly by a players’ video seeking NFL action.

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World News

NFL awards 4 projects in helmet safety development program – The Denver Post

Four organizations have been awarded a total of $1.37 million by the NFL to support the creation of their helmet prototypes.

As part of the NFL Helmet Challenge, a contest with an additional prize of $1 million, receiving grants will be Impressio Inc. and CU Denver; Xenith Project Orbit; Kollide; and the University of Virginia.

Sponsored by the league and Football Research Inc., the Helmet Challenge aims to stimulate the development by experts, innovators and helmet manufacturers of a new helmet that based on laboratory testing outperforms all helmets currently worn by NFL players.

The challenge ends in July 2021 with applicants submitting helmet prototypes for testing sponsored by the NFL-NFLPA that ranks helmets for performance and safety.

“There has been a dramatic increase in the rate of innovation in safety equipment in the last five to 10 years,” said Dr. Barry Myers, director of innovation at Duke University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, who is chairman of the independent Oversight Committee that selected the winners. “Manufacturers are bringing out new models that outperform prior models almost every year. It is amazing. That wasn’t the case 10 or 20 years ago, when new models were released slowly.”

The awardees:

— Christopher Yakacki , Impressio Inc. and CU Denver, $491,999.

Yakacki’s group is looking to create unprecedented energy-dissipating helmet liners. This project is supported by partners including EOS, nTopology and Schutt helmet manufacturer.

— Xenith Project Orbit, Detroit, $412,000.

Xenith, which manufactures football equipment, seeks to bring together experts in a variety of fields to create a new solution for energy management and a best-in-class on-field experience for the athlete. It’s supported by partners including Rheon Labs, the University of Waterloo and BASF.

— Eric Wagnac and Franck LeNaveaux, Kollide, Montreal, $238,545.

This consortium combines the expertise of academic researchers and four Montreal-based companies (Kupol, Tactix, ShapeShift3D, Numalogics) to use their virtual design and 3D printing approach to create helmets customized to the player’s head, with a custom liner optimized to absorb and redirect impact.

— Dr. Matthew Panzer, Topologica Inc., $223,047.

Panzer and collaborators seek to use their foam meta-material to design a new energy absorbing layer in a football helmet that will minimize risk of concussion.

“I look at it as we are trying to take new technology and science and develop a whole new product,” Yakacki said. “It is more than a hobby; you can’t do this in your spare time. If you are going to make helmets safer, solve the concussion problem, you need time and resources and people.

“This kind of help makes it worth it. It helps attract talent and allows them to do the work.”

The NFL’s HeadHealthTECH Challenge grant funding is one of several resources being applied to improve helmets. It includes the league’s Engineering Roadmap, a $60 million effort into enhancing understanding of the biomechanics of head injuries in professional football. One of its initiatives is to create incentives for helmet manufacturers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, universities and others to develop and commercialize new and improved protective equipment, including helmets.

“I believe the Engineering Roadmap and the stimulus it provides to innovators” should be credited with the upgrades, Myers said. “A lot of people want to see athletes protected and able to do their sport and succeed, and now with a lot of people paying attention and a lot of new industries coming to work on this problem, I think we are at the precipice of even more innovation.”

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