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Backlash As Trump Slams NFL Players' Protests; Shooter Kills One, Wounds Six At Tennessee Church; New Push To Replace Obamacare Reflects High Stakes For Republicans. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired September 24, 2017 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[13:00:15] FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone. Thanks for joining in this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. Happening right now at this hour kick off for nine NFL football games across the nation as President Trump feeds the flame to this fiery and offensive rhetoric about the NFL, the NBA, the right to protest and firing players who do so at the international steward game in London between the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars.

A powerful show of solidarity and the deviance during the American National anthem players, coaches, staff kneeling, hands on shoulders and locked arms, a seemingly direct response to President Trump's blistering condemnation of players who refuse to stand during the anthem.

Even Jaguars team owner Shahid Khan who donated $1 million to Trump's inauguration fund was among those who locked arms.

And right now in Chicago, the Pittsburgh Steelers during its game against the Bears are remaining in the locker room while the anthem plays today. This morning the president of the United States, reigniting his feud with the NFL tweeting, NFL attendance and ratings are way down boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S. if NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our flag and country. You will see change take place fast fire or suspend," from the president.

Remember this all started, or particulate got even more heated after what the president said Friday night. You might find the words you are about to hear from him while in Alabama offensive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, "Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He's fired. He's fired!"

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: All right. We have a team of correspondent and analyst covering the story for us. And we understand new pictures coming in right now with the Cleveland Browns game against the Colts there. And you're looking at the national anthem being played, of course, the flag displayed out there on the field. Live pictures right now and what you are saying is again a very similar image than what you saw out of London. Some with their hands on their heart. Some putting your hand, touching other players and some players actually kneeling. We'll talk about all of that and what we're seeing in this display at NFL games across the country, and even across the pond today.

All right. Now, let's start with our team coverage. We've got a host of people who are joining us today to talk about politics, sports, culture, all coming together, or in some cases colliding. Let's start with CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez.

So Boris, we've already heard from a number of Trump's cabinet on the issue earlier today, Steve Mnuchin. What else is being said representing the White House point of view?

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey Fred, several people coming to the president's defense with these statements. I do want to point out the timing of this spread is certainly unusual. If you recall, Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem in August of last year.

So, it's curious why the president would bring this controversy up now, especially in light of so much already on his plate tensions at an all-time high with North Korea and Obamacare repeal and replacement that is again on the verge of collapse and this potential tax reform rollout being put out there next week.

As you said, though several officials of the White House or defending of the president, including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who was on state of the union this morning and the Director of Legislative Affairs, Marc Short, who also defended the president. Listen what they had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The owners should meet and they should decide on this rule the way they decide on any other rule. Again, you now, for as long as I can remember people had stood and honor of the country. This isn't about politics. If people want to talk politics off the field when they're not working for the NFL, they have the absolute right to that.

MARC SHORT, DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: I think that the president is standing with the vast majority of Americans who believe that our flag should be respected. The president believes it is his role to improve race relations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Certainly a lot of NBA and NFL players don't feel the president is improving race relations, nor do some owners, including of the owner of the New England Patriots. A friend of the president. And Robert Kraft, he put out a statement saying that he was disappointed in the tone of the president's speech on Friday. He went on to write, quote, I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and to support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful."

[13:05:20] Now Fred, as you mentioned, we've already seen several statements made on the field today. We'll see how the president might be responding on Twitter soon, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez, key associate from the White House. Thank you so much. Appreciate that. All right. And as we are talking, you are seeing a variety of pictures of live images coming in at a number of the nine NFL games that have started at 1:00 Eastern Time. We've been looking Denver Broncos and the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins and New York, and a variety of things from the players on their knees to some touching fellow players. You even saw a couple of hands raised in the air. So let's talk about that all of this. This incredible dynamic today on -- would be -- what would be football Sunday. CNN's sport correspondent Andy Scholes with me now.

So Andy, this has evolved from a year ago, Colin Kaepernick, 49ers, kneeling. He was making a statement about social injustices. He hasn't been on a team as a result. And now as a Friday night, the president injecting his comments on what should happen to players who, in his view, do not show respect has now evolved into a show of defiance, a show solidarity. But is there a collective, you know, residence behind what is getting so many players, coaches, owners to make a statement in this way?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORT CORRESPONDENT: You know, Fred, I -- teams have meetings Saturday night before the Sunday games and reports were that nearly every single team in the NFL discussed this very issue Saturday night collectively.

Now, was their collective decision with each team about what to do this morning for the national anthem? It doesn't look like it. It looked like it was still left up to what you wanted to go out there and you on the field as we say. We saw many people locking arms out there. Majority of the teams did lock on. There were players that were kneeling during the national, some like you said raise their fist.

The one thing that did something different that we had not seen done at all before with the Pittsburgh Steelers where they decided they were not able to go out there on the field before the game for the national anthem. Mike Tomlin announced that the team was going to do before the game and we actually have (INAUDIBLE) where he explained that decision. Let's take a listen.

WHITFIELD: Great.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE TOMLIN, HEAD COACH, PITTSBURGH STEELERS: We're not participating in the anthem today. Not to be disrespectful to the anthem, but to remove ourselves from this circumstance. People shouldn't have to choose. If a guy wants to go about his normal business and participate in the anthem, he shouldn't have to be forced to choose sides. If a guy feels the need to do something, he shouldn't be separated from his teammate who chooses not to. So we're not participating today. That's our decision. We're going to be 100%. We came here to play a football game. That's our intentions and we're going to play and play to win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To be clear that means your team won't be on the field?

TOMLIN: We will not be on the field.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: So, Fredricka, Mike Tomlin make sound like, you know, he doesn't want to put his players in the position to where they have to make a decision to kneel or not kneel. So that's seems to be why the Steelers decided to do what they're doing today. I want Pittsburgh Steelers actually did come out for the anthem. Alejandro Villanueva, he served in the Army. So apparently he felt important enough to go stand, at least in the tunnel and be there for the national anthem.

Now, it's -- I guarantee we're going to see much more of this today as the games continue. The Seattle Seahawks are team that have definitely always been outspoken when it comes to social issues. They have Richard Sherman. They have Michael Bennett and of course Michael Bennett has kind of taken up where Colin Kaepernick left off in terms of protesting the national anthem. He is set on the bench during the anthem so far this season as well taking a knee.

And I would expect the Seahawks do have a show of unity and their coach Pete Carroll hinted that earlier this morning than speaking with CBS. And here's what he had to say about what the team is planning for their game later on today in Nashville.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETE CARROLL, COACH, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: It's a new day right now. This is a time for change. Our players are ready to activate. They're ready to be the messengers of the change that is necessary for us.

This is so crucial that we take this opportunity and make the most of it. Inequality, treating people unfairly, treating people uniquely because of their background and where they come from is no longer OK. And with that thought, I think you'll see that activation. Our players are the messengers. They're the ones that can reach the young people. They're the ones that can spread the word that will no longer allow these things that have lasted for so long to stay the same.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCHOLES: And Fred, I'll tell you, it's interesting to hear that from Pete Carroll because, you know, he had been asked what -- from the first time one of his players (INAUDIBLE) anthem. His thought about it. He said he thought that every single player should stand for the anthem but he believed in the players right to not stand for the anthem. And he said that that was their right if they wanted to not do so. So it will be interesting to see what the Seahawks do as a team today especially hearing with Pete Carroll had to say right there about what's going on right now.

[13:10:11] WHITFIELD: And again those pictures right now that we're seeing the Chicago Bears, I'm sorry the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts right there. So, you know, if I'm Colin Kaepernick, and I am seeing this transpire. Am I thinking that this show of solidarity, the messages that we just heard from Pete Carroll. Is that message in response to what he did and ignited a year ago or is this a direct response to the president sentiments on the actions of a Kaepernick and anyone else who follows suits (ph)?

SCHOLES: Well, I think there's no question what were seeing here today is a direct result to what President Trump said earlier this week and what he said on Twitter. That being said, there have been players this season that have definitely, you know, continued what Colin Kaepernick started and continued to spotlight and bring attention to issues of social injustice in the country.

So I would say is a little both and I will say that it is definitely much more prevalent. Obviously, today, in what we're seeing and I would expect that the NFL as it is -- is always stance towards all that unity. We will continue to see this. And if we see -- you see the Pittsburgh Steelers there. There you see Alejandra Villanueva who I mentioned Fredricka, the lone Steeler who did come out for the national anthem as he served in the Army, so he felt even though his team is staying behind it that he was going to come out and stand for the anthem.

Mike Tomlin, the coach who said his team was not going to be coming out. He did go out there and stand on the sidelines myself as well. So, just some examples of what we're seeing and we said earlier, you know, here is a Steelers coming out in the field and they were booed heavily by the fans there in Chicago --

WHITFIELD: For that decision for staying in?

SCHOLES: You have to assume. I mean, obviously visiting teams are booed whenever they come under the field

(CROSSTALK)

SCHOLES: But according to some reporters who I know on Twitter they are both saying that the boos were a little louder than they normally would be for a visiting team running out the field. So, you're seeing a reaction there. Some Denver Broncos kneeling. Many of them kneeling, lock in arms before their game today against the Buffalo Bills. There's the Bills standing there locked in arm and arm together.

The Dolphins they were locked arm and arm and their owner Stephen Ross was on the sidelines with them locking arms and arms. Just as Shad Khan did with his Jacksonville Jaguars team. And the Jaguars had a big win over the Ravens in London earlier today and some of the players actually spoke about their owner standing side-by-side with them before the game. And I think we had some of that sound that we can play for you. Or maybe we might not.

WHITFIELD: Well, you know what, what does that mean for player, any number of these players who at first thought they were taking a stand whether they were kneeling or they were, you know, touching their teammates, particularly after Colin Kaepernick, you know, got as much attention as he has for doing that a year ago.

If these players felt like they were doing it as an individual statement but does it mean something different now to these players when you have a team owner, when you have coaches who are also showing solidarity, whatever statement is that they are trying to make. How this further empowers the athlete about what can come from their celebrity from their status as an elite athletes?

SCHOLES: I mean that's exactly what's going on here I think. I think everyone wants to show that they are unified in and their message. I mean they don't want to be, you know, they don't want, no one want their job threatened. And I think that's what the NFL players, like we've heard many time they say, it's a brotherhood. Those guys are in it together.

And when one of their players or their teammates is being, you know, threatened that you should have your job taken away for you. Just going out there and standing up for what you believe in. I think that's what, you know, sets off and displayed of unity like we see right now. And even, you know, the New England Patriots, their owner Robert Kraft. He's friends with Donald Trump

WHITFIELD: Right.

SCHOLES: And he sent out the statement, you know, saying there's no greater unifying this country than sports and unfortunately nothing more divisive than politics. I think our political leaders can learn a lot the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal.

And you see Tom Brady right there. He is locking arms with his teammates with his other arm across his chest. So, you know, and Tom Brady is the best player in the NFL and he felt it necessary to go out there on the sideline and make a statement like this his teammates.

I think that's what it's all about. They're showing that were in this together and, you know, we support our team -- our teammates that decide if they need to take a knee, if they need to sit, if they need to send a message, if they think is important we're going to stand by them.

[13:15:13] WHITFIELD: OK. Let me bring in to this conversation CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. So Brian, messaging. This is a powerful collective message coming from these athletes, celebrities, owners, coaches, et cetera. And we know the president of the United States is big on messaging too by way of his tweeting, by way of his rallies. And so Brian, when the president is met with this kind of messaging across the country at America's, you know, football and then across the ponds where American players are playing an international NFL game in London might this be something that provokes a different message coming from this President of the United States. We know he doesn't like to apologize, but, you know, this seems like this is reached a certain peak that is unlike others.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: History tells us he is a double down triple down president, but he must be watching some of the pictures this afternoon if it's not (INAUDIBLE) to the game. He's at least gong to see the news coverage right there about these protests. And he recognized that's about him. This was a movement that was originally about kneeling to raise awareness of police brutality and oppression and racism.

As of today, it's a movement about President Trump. This is been a message about President Trump and a message to President Trump directly through these television broadcasts. And I want to stands out to me Fred and Andy is the linked arms less so the kneeling of the many players are kneeling but more so the linked arms. The signal of solidarity you've been describing, including from team owners. You've seen the owner of the Miami Dolphins Stephen Ross linking arms of these players, the owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, Jeffrey Lori linking arms with his players, and we see that in the pictures here that some of the team owners, and head coaches are joining with their players.

You know, part of what Friday night was about was dividing the players and the owners saying, hey, the team owners should go down there and tell those sons of bees to get off the field, you're fired. Well here we've seen some prominent team owners standing visually and also rhetorically with their players. I think that's going to stand out.

One other notable what were seen on these pictures players not just kneeling or standing up but also in some cases raising their fists in the air. They've chosen a wide variety of ways to make statements today. And this will influence what players do later this afternoon. The players do Saturday night football and Monday night football. This certainly has a viral effect is its spreads and potentially to major-league baseball as well since we saw one baseball player yesterday. Go ahead and take a knee. That was Bruce Maxwell, an African-American player. He is a military family.

He was seeking to show respect for the flag by putting his hand over his heart, even while he was kneeling. So we're seeing players different leagues come up with new ways to make statements and it is a statement against President Trump.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it is a powerful statement. But, you know, there were statements being made before this moment, whether it be from Kaepernick, whether it be from fellow players.

STELTER: Right. Right.

WHITFIELD: You know, other individuals but I wonder Brian, you know, was the impetuous for owners and coaches to get involved when President Trump started talking about and this became less than a social awareness issue and now a financial awareness. Because you had the president saying, fire them. Fire players who take a stand where --

STELTER: Right.

WHITFIELD: -- they kneel or make a statement as it pertains to the national anthem or the flag. And was this a wake-up call for owners and coaches, you know, that now you're talking about the financial, you know, the pocketbook that potentially could be hit as opposed to a certain social awareness or awakening of coaches for owners, et cetera.

STELTER: Yes, sure there is business subtext to this, it's really complicated one. We're having the president of the United States, sort of kind of urge folks to walk out of football games not attend because --

WHITFIELD: Talking about boycott. He encouraged the NFL boycott.

STELTER: You know, as you have the one hand, on the other hand, he is not especially popular president. The polls have him at 39, 40% approval right now. He has very loyal fans President Trump, a very loyal base, but he has the majority of the country opposed to them.

So, the NFL find itself as began stuck right in the middle between those two groups of Americans. And what the NFL is trying to do is say, we're the bridge. We're the uniters. No matter who you voted for, whether you care about politics or not, we're the uniters.

[13:20:05] They're going to be to be running an ad tonight Fred on for Saturday night football. One minute commercial promoting the idea football as a game to unite the country. This was actually an ad that run during the Super Bowl and it was never supposed air again. But this morning league officials decided to dust it off, bring it back out and they're going to air that one minute commercial.

One way the NFL is trying to make a statement here and say that they are not trying to choose side as an organization. But these pictures, linking arms and solidarity will certainly come across a lot of folks as if the teams and other players are choosing sides. And it is a very delicate business issues for the NFL, even as there are, I would argue more important cultural and freedom issues here at stake. It's not as if players have a First Amendment to kneel.

The First Amendment is about your relationship to your government not your relationship to your employer, a team theoretically could tell him, tell a player to stand or sit or do whatever they tell the player to do. However, there are First Amendment values at stake in this conversation, and the president rather than upholding First Amendment values of free expression and the right to protest. He's discouraging it trying to stamp it down to have a chilling effect.

I would suggest looking at these pictures now, he has not had a chilling effect. He's at the opposite. He's at the opposite of that. WHITFIELD: And just moments ago, also Andy Scholes, we just saw Arthur Blank owner of the Atlanta Falcons. They are standing on the field now. That is something that he had been seen too. He gets on the field in a fairly regularly for, you know, an owner. But today, it strikes differently with the Atlanta and Detroit game. What you observations on that? We just saw the pictures --

SCHOLES: You know, and Corey Wire told me that he had heard from players on the Falcons that Arthur Blank had land be on the field with this team in that moment. And, you know, his statement that he sent out yesterday, he said himself, "Creating division or demonizing viewpoints that are different than our own accomplishes nothing positive and undermines our collective ability to achieve the ideals of our democracy." So he says right there. He felt about what's going on right there.

And I imagine that, you know, that was the common sentiment amongst the owners as we got all the statements in yesterday after -- after what President Trump said.

So, Frederick, I can imagine that it's nice for the players to know that the owner had to back in the situation.

WHITFIELD: Right. I wonder if this helps create an opening for the former 49er Colin Kaepernick.

SCHOLES: You know, you would think it might just because the whole narrative had been this off-season that no one wants the distraction. No one wants to, you know, 10 extra cameras in their locker rooms, at their practices being a distraction to your football team.

That being said maybe that would still happen if you bring Colin Kaepernick just because of how polarizing figure is. You know, you know you want to compare the two, but Tim Tebow had a hard time getting a job late in his career just because of what he brought and how do, you know, circus was around at all times. And I think that's at least what teams and players try to say, like LeSean McCoy, the running back for the Buffalo Bills had a unique take on Colin Kaepernick. He said he's not worth the trouble he bring because of all the extra cameras and all the extra attentions.

WHITFIELD: And we're talking that because of the statement he was making by kneeling.

SCHOLES: Yes. Because he was the first --

WHITFIELD: And what's what you said. When you say a player taking about their trouble or the attention --

SCHOLES: I'm not saying there's any trouble or whatsoever. I'm just saying --

WHITFIELD: You know, according to the other players --

SCHOLES: They're saying -- his skills and ability on the field, what LeSean McCoy was saying his ability on the field and what he brings as a quarterback would not be greater than a distraction, he would bring with the media and all the extra attention he would get as supposedly or, you know, theoretically just being a backup quarterback.

WHITFIELD: So let me bring in two other voices here because I wonder if the argument now on that would be different as a result of what we are seeing. Let's bring in CNN political commentator Marc Lamont Hill and Paris Dennard, glad you could both be with us because it is not an issue of similarly politics. It's not just singerly (ph) sports. It's not singerly (ph) culture but it's all of this kind of wrapped up in one. It is raise as well.

And so Mark as you -- we're just hearing Andy Scholes talk about, let's go back to where this really kind of starts, at least within, you know, recently -- recent year with Colin Kaepernick taking the knee during the anthem and making a statement about social injustices and inequities. And you heard Andy talked about how some in the NFL world would say we want the problem that comes with, we don't want the attention, even if he is, you know, dynamic player.

But now that you have collectively this moment on NFL fields across the country today owners, coaches, players making statements here. Do you believe Marc that the argument is different now about whether this is about social injustices, whether this is about First Amendment rights, freedom of speech, whether this is about solidarity inequities unity. What do you see?

[13:25: 15] MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It's about all of those things. You know, initially this was an act of resistance by Colin Kaepernick against state violence, against structural racism. And because America often does haven't have an appetite for that kind of resistance, he was isolated and marginalized. Over the last 40 hours it is very much become a conversation about Donald Trump and his just ridiculous in attacks and insults toward the NFL players.

And so many of the people who were standing up in solidarity now are resisting Donald Trump and resisting Donald Trump's ostensible assault on free speech. But it's important for us to not choose either or but stays both end. On the one hand we should be resisting Donald Trump's words and actions.

On the other hand, we have to keep the stoplight where it belongs, which is on the suffering of vulnerable black and brown bodies every single day which is what Colin Kaepernick is standing for. And finally, we have to make sure that we don't sanitize or domesticate the resistance. Standing up and locking arms is nice, it's warm and fuzzy, but it's not the same active resistance as kneeling down while the national anthem is playing. As I said before --

WHITFIELD: How do see this different? What do you mean?

HILL: Because people are outraged. The whole point of a protest is the spectacle. It is attention where there is none and it is to resist something that is unjust. Colin Kaepernick was resisting the national anthem. He was resisting our sort of taken for granted assumptions about (INAUDIBLE) this country is, and that's he doesn't. As I say, we put a flag at half-mast when someone has died. Colin Kaepernick is putting his body at half-mast when he kneels down and says, until America is truly democratic and truly free and truly safe for black and brown people, I can't fully stand up. That's what the message is and having a bunch of people standing locking arms is not the same thing. I appreciate the resistance but I appreciate it more when they what's intended.

WHITFIELD: So, Paris, the president has said translation, he sees and Colin Kaepernick and anyone like him who kneels, he sees that as a lack of respect for the country, lack of respect for the national anthem. But seeing this today on these football fields, well he see a differently in your view? Should he see it differently?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. The president is correct, it is a lack of respect, it's a lack of respect for the country, it's a lack of respect for the flag, it's a lack of respect to the people, black, white, brown who fought and died for all of their rights to protest, all of our rights to protest.

But the thing that gets me most is in -- and this is why the president might be so correct, you go back to September 9th when Tyler Eifert with the Cincinnati Bengals tweeted about why he was going to stand for the national anthem, stand for the flag and put Pat Tillman's name on his shoe in memory of him and he said in a long message on medium. He said, I believe that my fellow players have the right to protest in whatever they want -- whatever way that they choose to do so. However, I believe when you do something so disrespectful, you cause people to lose sight of the message and this is what we see right now. All of these NFL players in these teams, team owners left Colin Kaepernick in the dust kneeling by himself.

WHITFIELD: So do you see --

DENNARD: And so now what this is Frederick, is an act of defiance not a bit -- not against and not against racial, white supremacy or racial adjusted but against President Donald Trump. They're making it political.

HILL: Same thing.

WHITFIELD: What that interpretation though, so Paris, I want to put about interpretation. You're talking about, you know, the disrespect for the flag and that's that way the presidency, is it or many, you know, others may see it that way. But when you see the statements from the various owners, when you see the statements coming in various forms from players who say about social injustice, this is a representation of what that American as apple pie, the right to protest.

Why is it the president won't see it that way?

DENNARD: I'm sorry. I didn't hear those words when it came from the statement that came from the NFL owners or when it came from the head of the Commissioner of the NFL. They didn't talk about racial injustice. They didn't talk about police brutality. They didn't talk about plight of African American communities. They didn't can talk about that.

They talked about their standing with their players. And you know what, any good CEO, any good owner should be on the side of their players. It's a business decision. But at the end of the day. I think Marc Lamont Hill is absolutely correct. Your are muffling -- modeling this issue.

A year ago the issue was about racial injustice. Today this issue is purely political and it's against President Donald Trump is disrespectful.

WHITFIELD: I think it reminds you what Roger Goodell said, he said The NFL and our players are at our best when we help create a sense of unity in our country and our culture. There is no better example than the amazing response from our clubs and players to the terrible natural disasters that we have experienced over the last month. Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL are great game and all of our players and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good. Our clubs and players represent in our communities.

[13:30:03] And when you look at some of the statements coming from other team, from team owners, you know, Buffalo Bills, Terry and Kim Pegula saying several of (INAUDIBLE) tonight players, coaches, staff and ownership. Our goal was to provide open dialogue and communication. We listen to one another. We believe it's the best way to work through any issue we are facing on and off the field.

President Trump's remarks were divisive and disrespectful to the entire NFL community. But we try to use them as an opportunity to further unify our team and organization. Our players have the freedom to express themselves in a respectful and thoughtful manner and we all agree that our soul messages to provide and promoting environment that is focused on love and equality.

DENNARD: It has nothing to do with Colin Kaepernick was talking about. This is anti-Trump and this unfortunate.

HILL: Well first of all a couple of things. One, we wouldn't be talking police brutality. The word police brutality would not have been said today if not for the protesting from the player and more importantly, Colin Kaepernick. Second of all, to protest Donald Trump is to protest white supremacy. To protest with Donald Trump is the protest state violence.

I don't want to outreach to Paris but I'm sorry its --

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: It's just the false.

HILL: OK. We can agree to this. Let me just let me finish the point though. Every -- at every moment where Donald Trump has challenged the players with their freedom of speech, challenge the players for the arguments that they've made to call them SOB at the same time that you don't have similar critique for Al-Qaeda or the white supremacist in Charlottesville is to reinforce logic of white supremacy, to say the Judge Curiel doesn't have the capacity to be reasonable or object because he's Mexican. It's a reinforced white supremacy to hire white supremacist is to reinforced white supremacy, to hang with white nationalist just to reinforce white supremacy.

And so to challenge Donald Trump is certainly to challenge white supremacies. I'm very happy at the conversation that we're actually having right now on a national platform that has to happen today. But it also has t happen every single day. And I think that's the beauty of this moment. But again, we can't stop here.

And we also have to have a sense of history. You know to say is disrespectful and counterproductive and divisive is simply dishonest.

Challenging white supremacy is not divisive, being white supremacist is divisive. Naming is not the problem. Being that thing is the actual problem. They say Martin Luther King was un-American for protesting Vietnam. They say that's civil rights activist were disrespectful but not respecting the laws of the land.

Is it not who makes this disrespectful for saying the ballot or the bullet. They have always challenged our authority. They've always challenge our patriotism. They've always challenge our ability to be full citizens in this country whenever we have the audacity to resist. But when Trump stands up and says, you know what, America is going in the wrong direction, I want to make a great again.

No one says he's an American. When a T-party says we're moving in the wrong physical direction. Nobody says leave -- if you won't love America leave.

No one says like they do for Colin Kaepernick, he has a ton of money, he should be happy. No one says Donald Trump has a billion dollars, he should be quiet and just thank America. He has a critic, he has narrative, he has ideology these players too do too and we have to honor it.

WHITFIELD: And, you know, Paris I know you had mentioned that you didn't think this have anything to do with racism, et cetera. But just another statement this coming from Seattle Seahawks President, Peter McLoughlin. There are many statements that came from various owners and leaders of these franchises. And from McLoughlin says, "We fully support our player's use of their freedom of speech and peaceful action to highlight the existing racial and other divide in our country. Our players completely respect the military and veterans of our country. However, they believe these issues need to come to the forefront."

So Paris, you know, may of these athletes are feeling like this is the power that they have in a platform of being celebrities, of being in the spotlight and this is a demonstration of many of these in this arena using the power they have to elicit a response, to make a statement to ultimately provoke some change.

DENNARD: I just think it is false rage. I missed all of this outrage. I miss all this protest when Colin Kaepernick did it a year ago. They let him kneel and he -- and a lot of people say it cost him his job. And look --

WHITFIELD: There may be -- this may be a good point some hypocrisy in that indeed. But now you have a collective demonstration.

DENNARD: Against President Donald Trump. Not against the things that Colin Kaepernick was standing for. And another point is this that the NFL needs to get their policies together because I think when NFL fines and punishes players for standing up for things like breast cancer and been -- and then, you know, and finding that -- everyone can get around and support breast cancer. But they have a problem with that. But then when you -- when it comes to this the NFL wants to say, well --

WHITFIELD: OK. Well at the challenge are looking to that because I don't know anything about the research behind that.

DENNARD: Well DeAngelo Williams is very clear. DeAngelo Williams was fine for wanting to wear pink in honor of his mother who died of breast cancer, its fact. And they fined him for doing instead of against the NFL policy.

So now you fast-forward and the NFL is going to be silent as relates to people protesting against the flag and the national anthem.

(CROSSTALK)

[13:35:03] WHITFIELD: Do you haven't see Colin Kaepernick hasn't got a job since.

HILL: Yes. He's been blacklisted.

WHITFIELD: So --

DENNARD: What I'm talking about is right now present day. And that --

WHITFIELD: Well is it right now. And you still unemployed and not working.

DENNARD: The -- I'm talking about the risk -- Colin Kaepernick was not resisting or standing up against President Donald J. Trump. These players in his owners today are standing at -- or kneeling in disrespect to the flag into the national anthem in response to the president. It is about the president. And if NFL needs to be consistent on the way -- what and how they come down these rulings.

They can say on the one hand, you can't wear pink in honor of breast cancer, but you can be disrespectful to America, the flag of the national anthem into our troops.

HILL: OK. Donald --

WHITFIELD: The researchers have worked really fast on that by the way. And my sports colleagues correct on the fine. So move forward.

DENNARD: Of course. HILL: Donald Trump is not America. I can honor a nation and not honored Donald Trump. I can criticize America. I can criticize America and Donald Trump and still be patriot. I can still be an American citizen. You know as far what this is about.

And the argument should be, hey, if there's this different dispensations of fines and suspension, then let all players exercise free speech. Let them do breast cancer awareness but also let them challenged the United States, let them challenge our policy. That is part of what it means to be a free citizen.

And again, I want to run Americans right now. Yes, there are many people who are against this but there were many Americans who are against Muhammad Ali protest in the Vietnam War. There are many Americans who supported slavery. Almost every moment will we take a stand most people are against it until they're for it. So that's why this moment is important.

So the point of the fact that somebody was by themselves a year ago and now they're not by themselves is absolutely true, but it's beside the point. Martin Luther King was by himself with '58. And by '68 was a whole different conversation.

We were against gay marriage before we were for it as a nation. There's always a moment when we change our minds. Let's not punish people for not knowing the truth before. Let's honor the moment that we're in and move forward. That's what's so special about this possibility in seeing all these players come together. And that's why I'm a little confused my parent's position here.

WHITFIELD: All right. We'll not leave it right here.

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: Not leave it right there she don't have (INAUDIBLE) to the flag about country and our soldiers. Don't be disrespect to them. You can have the point --

HILL: And --

DENNARD: -- that prove their message in a respectful manner. This is not respectful and dishonoring our country.

HILL: In my final point is you -- the ultimate respect for America is to criticize it incessantly as James Baldwin (ph) say we affirm America by -- and getting it -- by forcing it live up to its highest ideals. That's high as ideals, our freedom, justice, and equality. Problem is America's never been that and these players are on the field demonstrating that China and America to be as good as it's promised. You should be excited about that. Especially you, Paris, you should be excited by that.

DENNARD: I'm not excited about disrespect in the flag.

WHITFIELD: And many are arguing (INAUDIBLE) of respect for a nation that is exercising your constitutional rights. So Marc Lamont Hill, let's leave it here. Paris Dennard, Brian Stelter, Andy Scholes, we're going to pick up this conversation. We'll take a short break for now. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:42:13] WHITFIELD: An incredible show of solidarity at least nine NFL games being played today all kicking off in the 1:00 p.m. hour showing solidarity day after the President use some very harsh and offensive language when challenging NFL owners to fire or punish players who kneel to the national anthem.

And what you are seeing today, nine NFL games being played today kicking off in the 1:00 hour. You're seeing a variety of games right now. This is New England Patriots and the Texans game, you see some with hands on heart, some kneeling some touching each other arms locked in other cases, an incredible display of both solidarity.

Tom Brady there hand on heart solidarity as well as arms locked there as well as defiant as a result of what is transpired this weekend.

Joining us now, a former Minnesota Vikings player Chris Kluwe. Chris good to see. Many are kind of forgetting perhaps that this sentiment of this display of kneeling at the national anthem on a football field started a year ago with 49ers' Kaepernick. And now had evolved into something else or perhaps has blossomed into the same thing but in a bigger way. Chris, what statement do you see NFL teams, owners, coaches making when they kneel, touch lock arms on display like this?

CHRIS KLUWE, FORMER MINNESOTA VIKING PLAYER: Well, I think that the players and the teams are saying that they are not going to be dictated to by a racist, fascist white springiest who currently occupies the highest position in our government.

I mean, when you look at the things that Donald Trump has said when it comes to speaking out against Neo-Nazis versus speaking out against African-Americans it's is very clear where his sympathies lie and this is been consistent throughout the entirety of his life.

And so I think it's fantastic that players and owners are now taking a stand in using that platform to speak out against this because this is not what America is. America is not a fascist military state where it is sluggish devotion to the flag above all.

America is about questioning the things don't work properly about trying to change those things and to make the nation better. And right now our nation is not holding up its end of the social contract, especially with communities of color.

It should be a baseline right you can walk down the street and not get shot by a police officer for carrying a toy gun or for selling cigarettes on a street corner or for writing the back of the police van. These are all things that it should not be out of the ordinary to expect that, yet here we are so I'm glad to see these player is now taking a stand.

[13:45:02] WHITFIELD: Is it your feeling that what we're seeing on this play today whether be in London at the international NFLs, international games or even hear across the country, is it your feeling that this is a statement more directed at the president of the United States as you, you know, so clearly explained at the beginning of your remark or do you believe it is a continuation of a message to Colin Kaepernick was making about social injustices across the country.

KLUWE: I think it's a mixture of both on because Kaepernick's original protest was against police brutality. It was against the idea that communities of color within our nation are not receiving similar justice that white communities are. And that's very clear if you go but statistical data.

You know, black members of our society are far more likely to be put in prison for crimes that white numbers can escape on. So in that sense, I think, yes, this is definitely part of what is going on.

But then in a bigger sense, I think the discussion is also morphed into the fact that we have a person in charge of our society who does not understand what it means to wield the power of the American Empire. And it has no official, no willingness to work with communities of color, with minorities, with immigrants, with anyone who is not white. And that is, again, against the heart of what America stands for. America is a country of immigrants. We are all immigrants, and we've done terrible things in our past.

I mean, we built this country off of killing another race of people, of the genocide of Native Americans. And so, we have a lot of things that we need to make up for. And saying that we have flaws and that we need to fix them is not un-American, that's trying to make ourselves better.

WHITFIELD: And as you were talking we're also looking at pictures from moments ago within the hour after kick off during the national anthem. The Broncos at Buffalo there. And moments ago we also saw your Minnesota Vikings team and members who were taking a stand. What is your thought when you look at your former team and you see, you know collectively athletes, coaches, staff making a statement?

KLUWE: Well, I think it is a good start. I think it needs to continue until we as a country finally decide to grapple with the deep seeded roots of white supremacy and racism within this country. And it's going to take all of us to try to fix that.

And unfortunately, with the current president in office and with the GOP led Congress that's enabling him, we're not going to be able to make those changes unless than itself changes.

WHITFIELD: And when you say continue --

KLUWE: So we have to demand (ph) the accountability.

WHITFIELD: What would be an example? What would you -- what would exemplify, you know, a continuation from this movement interview?

KLUWE: I would actually -- WHITFIELD: What measure of progress?

KLUWE: A measure of progress would be to actually hold police forces accountable. I think that would be a good start where if you have over a thousands police homicides and only four to five officers convicted. That is something that needs to change because if you are a servant of justice, then you need to apply justice equally to every citizen of this country. You don't get to pick and choose. That is not how it works. So, seeing that change would be a very good first step.

WHITFIELD: Former Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe, thanks so much for your time ans perspective, appreciate it.

KLUWE: Yes, thank you.

WHITFIELD: And will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:52:52] WHITFIELD: All right, welcome back. We're following breaking news right now out of Tennessee where one person was killed, six others wounded after a gunman opened fire in a church service in the town of Antioch just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. The National Fire Department tweeted "This is a mass casualty situation all the wounded had been transported to area hospitals. The majority are older adults." That tweet from the police -- Fire Department.

The shooting happened around 11:15, local time at Burnett's Chapel Church of Christ. The suspect was also wounded. We'll continue to update this story as we learn more.

All right, let's talk about healthcare and the battle for healthcare. The GOP healthcare bill is facing a new threat today at the deadline to replace Obamacare nears as it stands right now. This latest plan is just one vote shy of failure. And this morning on CNN, Republican Senator Susan Collins indicated she is leaning toward voting no.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLINS (R), MAINE: It's very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill. I have a number of serious reservations about it. I am concerned about the impact on the Medicaid program, which has been on the books for more than 50 years and provide healthcare to our most vulnerable citizens including disabled children and low-income seniors.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

WHITFIELD: Here's a look at Senate Republicans to watch right now. Rand Paul and John McCain are the two no votes right now. And there are now six Republican senators who are also expressing concerns. Senator Ted Cruz joined this group today saying the bill does not yet has his support.

Let's bring in White House correspondent Athena Jones in New Jersey. So, Athena, Senator Collins comment sending out shock waves today if the White House ready or poising itself to accept defeat on this latest effort.

ATHENA JONES, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi Fred. I don't think they are ready to accept defeat just yet. We were told by the official win-win John McCain made his announcement on Friday that the President was going to be working over the weekend to try to push senators to support this bill in the end. And we have about readout of the calls he has made today. But the effort isn't over until -- until it is over.

[13:55:16] We also heard Senator Collins though talked about how she is concerned about the impact of this bill could have on cost, on coverage, and on what she called the erosion of protections when it comes to pre-existing conditions. That's anything from asthma, to arthritis, to diabetes and to cancer. A whole lot of people know someone who has one of those pre-existing conditions.

What's interesting about this is that these are some -- some of the same concerns we heard from Senator Collins with regard to that previous effort over the summer that failed effort to repeal Obamacare over the summer. And as you mentioned Rand Paul the senator from Kentucky has already said he is a no. But in speaking to meet the Press today, he reiterated that he is a no but he talked about what sort of changes might be able to get in, so yes, listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: This is a bad idea its not repeal. However, all that being said, is a narrow the focus to the things we all agree on expanding health savings accounts, giving governors more freedom through waivers, slowing down the rate of growth of an outrageous or out-of-control entitlement spending, sure, I be for that, but I'm just not this block writing concept because to me that is an affirmative art that I have agreed to keep Obamacare.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: So Paul is against it because he doesn't believe it goes far enough in undoing Obamacare. Here's the deal. Any changes that might be made to win over the vote of someone like Senator Paul would likely lead to more concerns on the part of Senator Collins that is sort of the same problems that they have been facing all along, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right, Athena Jones thanks so much. All right, don't miss the CNN Special tomorrow night. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy debate their healthcare bill live against two of the fiercest critics Senators Ray Sanders and Amy Klobuchar. Jake Tapper and Dana Bash moderate the fight over Obamacare at 9:00 Eastern time only on in CNN. And we will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, we're following this breaking news out of Tennessee, one person killed, six others wounded after a gunman open fire on a church service in the town of Antioch just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. The Nashville Fire Department tweeting," This is a mass casualty situation. All of the wounded have been transported to area hospitals. The majority are older adults."

The shooting happened around 11:15 local time at Burnett Chapel Church of Christ.