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Inside the Dramatic Showdown to Get Showtime’s Politically Explosive ‘The Comey Rule’ on the Air – Hollywood Reporter

Why the James Comey miniseries both wowed and terrified buyers, wooed and then infuriated star Jeff Daniels, and now has its showrunner bracing for big blowback from Trump: “I’m almost certainly going to get audited, and that’s the best-case scenario.”

Billy Ray spent the final weeks of 2016 castigating James Comey.

Like every other Hollywood liberal, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter had been devastated by Donald Trump’s win and faulted the former FBI director for throwing the election his way. It had been Comey, after all, who reopened the probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails just 11 days before the 2016 election, only to announce he’d be clearing her (again) two days before voters hit the polls. Even Clinton herself blamed Comey for her loss.

But less than two years later, Ray was on the phone from Los Angeles, trying to convince the man himself and a coterie of agents that he was the guy to adapt Comey’s 2018 memoir, A Higher Loyalty — or at least its portion about this period, which ended with Comey’s unceremonious firing. The pitch was going exceedingly well, too, up until when Ray was asked how he planned to address the Clinton email saga.

Head-on, he said. “Dramatically, it’s Frankenstein,” Ray explained. “You created the monster, and the monster destroyed you.”

“How did I create the monster?” he recalls Comey asking.

“Well, sir, you got him elected,” said Ray.

The line went silent.

What Ray wouldn’t see until later was a flurry of furious emails from producer Shane Salerno, who had painstakingly convinced Comey to let his book be adapted for television, and then put Ray up for the job. The screenwriter, best known for penning Captain Phillips and The Hunger Games, had been prepped within an inch of his life for the call. Telling Comey he’d lost the election sat high on Salerno’s list of what not to do.

“I was just like, ‘Oh, God, no, no, no, no, no, no,’ ” says Salerno, recounting his horror. “And then I thought, ‘Well, that was going to be a really cool project.’ “

The conversation didn’t end there, however. Ray continued to challenge the former FBI director, who said he liked to think there were additional factors in the election results — and then he agreed to let Ray tell his story anyway.

When The Comey Rule premieres on Showtime as a two-part event Sept. 27 and Sept. 28, it will attempt to shed light on the consequences of Comey’s decision to publicly reveal the Clinton email probe while staying quiet about the investigation into Trump’s Russia ties. Its path to air has itself been a major source of controversy as parent company ViacomCBS initially announced that it would be releasing the $40 million miniseries after the 2020 election — only to reverse course in the wake of actor outcry and a leaked letter from Ray. Now he and his cast are bracing for blowback from the White House. “I’m almost certainly going to get audited,” says Ray, “and that’s probably best-case scenario.”

***

James Comey’s Hollywood journey began on a late January evening in 2018, when Salerno, a seven-figure screenwriter who moonlights as a top literary rep, received an email from a book agent on the East Coast. The subject line: “Would you be interested in representing James Comey?”

But like most things in Hollywood, it wasn’t that simple. Convincing Comey to sign off on any kind of adaptation would prove a Herculean task, as he had a litany of concerns, not the least of which was, What if the show wasn’t any good? Ultimately, Salerno sold him on the power of the medium — “[He] convinced me it was the best way to reach young people,” Comey says via email — and then Salerno agreed to give the former FBI director approval over the title, writer and script, though he insists Comey abused none of them.

Comey’s wife, Patrice Failor, would require coaxing, too. Ray worked every angle he had, even enlisting his own wife at one point in the wooing process. He stressed his track record, too, citing his collection of true-story adaptations, from Captain Phillips to Shattered Glass, and the relationships he’d managed to maintain with the subjects of each. And then Ray told Failor what he’d told Comey: “I want people to understand in a visceral way what happened in 2016 so that they can make an informed decision about 2020.”

Once the pair was on board, Ray set off for Washington, D.C., where he interviewed anyone and everyone he could, filling a prep document 144 pages long. He connected with the White House, too, but it quickly became clear that any access to Trump himself would be granted only in exchange for showing his team the script, which was a nonstarter as far as Ray was concerned. So he returned to L.A. to write, and then to sell Hollywood on what would be the first scripted dramatization of Trump’s rise to the presidency.

There was a feverish rush to hear the top-secret pitch, which required that buyers come to a CAA conference room over a matter of days in late summer 2018. But most of them, or at least their corporate overlords, ultimately would be scared off by the potential repercussions of adapting a controversial story about a sitting president, particularly one with a penchant for punching back. Still, for a select and brave few, the Comey tale was simply too juicy and powerful to pass up, though even they would need assurances.

“The thing I was concerned about is [whether this is] just going to be a diatribe, an apology, a love letter to James Comey,” says CBS chief creative officer David Nevins, a political junkie who was running only Showtime back then. And while it was Ray who drove the pitch — a masterful 43 minutes, according to several who heard it — he’d cede the floor to Comey at the end of every presentation to field questions like Nevins’. To that, the former FBI director made clear that he wouldn’t be the author of this story — that fell exclusively to Ray, who also directed all four hours. Rather, Comey’s presence in that room was to make apparent that he’d be a resource and, just as important, not an obstacle.

Plus, being able to look the former FBI director in the eye and pepper him with questions would be valuable, particularly for those “who felt, ‘I raised money for Hillary, I donated to Hillary, I had a bumper sticker for Hillary, how can I possibly do this?’ ” says Salerno, who’s gotten some version of the “how could you” question a few dozen times himself. He responds the same way every time: “All you know is what you saw on CNN and C-SPAN. You have no idea what was really going on. So just watch — it’s not what you think.”

In the end, a consortium at what was then just CBS, led by Nevins and Julie McNamara, scored the project on the basis of its passion, to say nothing of its willingness to write the eight-figure check. What wouldn’t be clear for some time, however, was where, when and, per a few involved, if it would ever air.

***

For many months, the series’ green light flickered on and off and on again.

On its face, the contention was often over the ballooning budget of the project, which very likely would have aired on CBS proper had it been ready a year earlier. But not lost on anyone involved was the vindictiveness of the president, who not only touted a cozy relationship with the company’s chairman, Shari Redstone, but also was actively trying to interfere with the Time Warner/AT&T merger at the time and could just as easily have done the same with CBS and Viacom. Too many times, there would be meetings or conversations about the project that would come on the heels of Trump behavior so ghastly, it left many involved wondering, “Is this what we’re in for?”

The feedback would mirror that uncertainty. “Someone would call and go, ‘Oh my God, I read the scripts, they’re amazing,’ and then someone else would call and say, ‘I don’t know how we could possibly make something this politically charged with a sitting president,’ and they’d come on the same day,” says Salerno. “Or someone would call and go, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be big,’ and you’d go, ‘Oh, thanks,’ and then they’d say, ‘But geez, I mean, you think we’ll really make it?’ “

Desperate to keep the project alive, Salerno advised Ray to just keep hiring actors. “There’s going to be a [budget] number that they can’t come back from,” he’d say, “because that’s how it works.” Of course, moving quickly wasn’t always as easy as it sounded. In fact, Ray came dangerously close to decamping to Toronto, where they filmed the series last winter, without an actor to play Trump.

Brendan Gleeson had turned down the offer initially, and, according to multiple sources, Anthony Hopkins was attached for a time before dropping out. At least a few others said no without so much as reading the script. “The truth is, from an actor’s point of view, who needs it?” says Ray, who acknowledges that “it was hard to make an argument to an American actor, ‘No, this is going to be great for your private life, great for your family.’ You can’t really say that in a truthful way, so we were scrambling.”

In the end, Ray and his team wore Gleeson down, convincing the Irish Emmy winner that the project was powerful enough to make it worth his while. He was also assured that his iteration of Trump wouldn’t be cartoonlike in any way. “I told him, ‘I’m not going to ask you to do something that makes you a target,’ ” says Ray, who himself was ordered to dial back his anti-Trump tweets. “I said, ‘Our makeup is going to be more real-life than his, our hair is going to be more real-life than his and our suits are going to fit you better than his [fit him].’ ” Gleeson said yes on the condition that he wouldn’t need to do any press around the series’ airing.

They wouldn’t get so lucky with their Barack Obama, at least as far as a star. “We literally went through, like, 80 people — big actors, too,” says Salerno, recounting their collective naivete in the casting process. “We were so excited, like, ‘We can get anybody. Who’s not going to want to play President Obama?’ And then we’d call people, and they’d be like, ‘Are you insane? No thanks.’ ” The role ultimately went to Kingsley Ben-Adir, a talented British actor best known stateside for his work on Hulu’s High Fidelity.

Comey himself would prove an easier sell, though first choice Jeff Daniels wasn’t immediately available because of his Broadway commitment to To Kill a Mockingbird. Other names, from Kyle Chandler to Liev Schreiber, were bandied about; but as production plans dragged on, Ray circled back. As he saw it, Daniels was ideally suited, and not simply because he’s only a few inches shy of Comey’s 6-foot-8. “You wanted someone who has instant, solid, Midwestern credibility — and you can’t bring that if you don’t have it, and Jeff had it,” says Ray. “And he’s a marvelous actor.” So he flew to New York, where he met Daniels backstage in his Mockingbird dressing room and convinced him that The Comey Rule was going to matter.

Daniels spent whatever time he had between Mockingbird performances reading and listening to Comey’s memoir and devouring as much as he could on YouTube. But he wouldn’t actually meet the man he was portraying until production was well underway. The former FBI director visited the set with his daughter the day that Daniels shot the scene featuring the infamous private dinner that Comey shared with Trump in early 2017. Once Daniels had gotten in a few reps with Gleeson, Ray brought Comey over for a proper introduction. “He goes, ‘I want you to meet somebody,’ ” says Daniels, who then stood up in his 2-inch heels and shook Comey’s hand. “And he says to me, ‘You brought back the emotional nausea that I felt having to deal with what I was dealing with — you brought it all back. I’m nauseous.’ “

***

Early this Spring, with the series almost entirely in the can, rumblings of trouble began. First it was just hints, then came official word. A decision had been made at the highest levels of the newly merged ViacomCBS: The Comey Rule would debut in late November, several weeks after the election.

The simple explanation provided to its producers was that the company didn’t want to air something so politically charged in the lead-up to the election.

“But we knew it was Viacom,” says Daniels, “that they were supportive of Trump in the past.” So the series’ star said he looked forward to seeing the completed show but he wouldn’t be promoting it. He’d been around long enough to know it was the only card he had, and he was pissed off enough to play it.

“Listen, if Billy had sat in my dressing room that day and said, ‘You get to play Jim Comey and, good news, we’re going to release it after the election, when it’s irrelevant,’ I would’ve passed. Everyone I worked with would’ve passed,” says Daniels. “And it’s not like, ‘Let’s get Trump.’ It’s, ‘Let’s be part of the conversation, let’s matter,’ so that people who are out there voting — in particular, the ones in the middle, if they still exist — might see this and go, ‘Now wait a minute.’ “

Ray and his fellow producers tried to plead their case for a reversal but were told in no uncertain terms that any such discussion was a “nonstarter” — as was getting the project back to try to sell it elsewhere. Then Ray played the card he had: He wrote and circulated an impassioned letter, explaining to his entire cast and crew what had happened. “When you direct something like this, where anyone who signs up to do it is risking something, you are asking for their trust. You’re saying, ‘See that mountaintop over there? I know how to get there, follow me, we’re going to succeed,’ ” he says now. “And everybody on that production placed their trust in me and I felt I had let them all down, and so I wrote them a letter to apologize.”

Inevitably, that letter leaked to the media, infuriating Nevins, one of the project’s biggest champions, who was said to already be fighting that same battle internally and was now embarrassed externally. What happened next was a shock to Ray and everyone else. One day after his letter made the rounds, the company announced that it had reconsidered and would now air the series in late September.

“It’s flattering that people would think I had any kind of sway,” says Ray. “If anything, I think what I did gave them cover to make a decision that they wanted to make anyway.”

Nevins isn’t particularly interested in rehashing the saga, except to say that there had been plenty of conversations along the way about premiering the series in January, too, just ahead of the inauguration. And no matter who ultimately wins the upcoming election, he believes the story would have been relevant then — though, he acknowledges, “not as relevant” — just as it will continue to be as it’s told again and told again for years to come. Still, he’s pleased it landed where it did, giving Showtime a real shot at “entering the fray” and not appearing to avoid it.

***

Now, with only a few days to go, Ray and his cast are out banging the drum for people to watch. The talking points will almost certainly include a popular Ray line about how he’s made plenty of movies about his country before but never, until now, one that’s for it.

However painful the chapter has been for Comey to relive — first as a spectator for a day of filming and, more recently, as a viewer of a Showtime promo featuring the viral folk song “Fuck You, James Comey” — he, too, is eager for people to tune in. “I wrote a book about leadership and institutional values because I thought Americans, especially young people, would benefit from those lessons at a time when we are poorly led and our institutions are under attack,” he says, without citing Trump by name. Then, he adds: “In September 2020, the lessons about the need for ethical leadership and support for the rule of law and our institutions couldn’t be more relevant.”

It’s hard to envision Trump not watching The Comey Rule — or at least watching the feedback to it. And at this point, Ray would welcome a few fiery Trump tweets. “I can’t imagine better free media,” he says, “than Donald Trump unloading on this series.”

As for Daniels, he’s prepared a response if it comes to that. “You have to,” he says. “If he’s going to take a swing, I’ll swing back.”

This story first appeared in the Sept. 23 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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Inside Israel's

Inside the Hell of Israel’s Second Lockdown – The Daily Beast

Israelis just want to fly away.

The atmosphere was so grim as the nation entered a coronavirus lockdown on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, that there appeared to be no escape.

One meme making the rounds showed desperate hands reaching out of the sea towards a far-off airplane flying high in a deep blue sky, accompanied only by the traditional greeting of “Shana Tova,” a good year.

The greeting felt hollow as Israel entered into the year 5781 as the first country on earth to impose a second national lockdown.

Alone in small home-bound pods, unable to gather or to pray in synagogues, and confused by the government’s constantly evolving, often contradictory guidelines, Israelis feel alienated, angry, and appalled.

    They did not feel this way in early March, when Israel went into its first lockdown. The nation, which began to closing its borders in late January, appeared to have the health crisis under firm control. The quarantined Passover and Easter season was greeted with hardiness and even some good humor.

    In late May, after the third inconclusive Israeli election in under a year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu established an uncomfortable team-of-rivals coalition keeping him in power for a further 18 months, which he called a “corona emergency coalition.”

    His government’s handling of COVID-19 resulted in only 250 deaths and was so admired that even countries with no diplomatic ties to Israel tried to emulate its success.

    Three months later, tiny Israel—with a population of 9.2 million people—holds a world record no country wishes for: the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 per million.

    I’d fly to Abu Dhabi. If we already had direct flights, I’d go there to escape the lockdown.

    During the weeks in which Israel precipitously tumbled from best to worst in its handing of the novel coronavirus, Netanyahu blamed the spiraling fiasco on the public, on his rival-turned-political-partner Benny Gantz, on the opposition, and on Ronny Gamzu, his recently appointed corona czar, whose advice has generally been ignored by a government hobbled by rivalries and by sectarian coalition considerations.

    The national angst was summed up by Hiba Abu Much, a laboratory scientist interviewed by Israeli radio.

    With barely disguised exasperation, Abu Much, a graduate of the Technion, one of the most prestigious academic institutions in Israel, said, “I have two degrees in medical science, ten years of experience in the field, I barely get to see home, all for an hourly wage of $12.50.”

    “No new positions are opening up,” she continued, “operations are being canceled, patients are not being discharged from hospital, the coronavirus is raging, and the Ministry of Health’s director general flew to Abu Dhabi.”

    Instead of bringing the COVID-19 crisis under control, Netanyahu has presided over a head-turning series of diplomatic coups, culminating with the establishment of diplomatic ties with the United Arab Emirates, which was celebrated earlier this week at the White House.

    But plush, inviting Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital, which Israelis have never before been able to visit, feels farther away than ever for hardworking parents who sent their kids back to school on September 1 for what turned out to be a two-week term.

      The shambolic reopening of schools in early summer is considered the trigger that set off Israel’s deadly second wave.  Israel is now seeing astronomic growth of new COVID-19 infections, which currently stand at about 6,000 new cases a day.  

      Amid sniping between ministers who are supposed to define policy, no one knows how the school year will resume after the month of Jewish High Holy days, which end in mid-October.

      “I’d fly to Abu Dhabi,” Fares Fahhan, the owner of a hardware store on Hebron Road, a major Jerusalem artery, said wistfully on Friday as a police officer walking by glared at his unmasked face. “If we already had direct flights, I’d go there to escape the lockdown.”

      Netanyahu and Trump have trumpeted a new era of direct flights between Tel Aviv and previously unattainable Arab capitals, but as airlines struggle to survive and COVID-19 rages, they have not yet been put into place.

      The new lockdown imposes stay-at-home orders on all Israel, allowing citizens to distance themselves from their residences by about half a mile if they need essentials such as food or medicine.

      Fahhan’s losses are significant. His income in the summer of 2020 is 53 percent less than it was in the summer of 2019, his landlord refuses to reduce the rent, he hasn’t qualified for any of the meager national schemes intended to help save small businesses, and City Hall has only given him a 25 percent reduction on Jerusalem’s hefty municipal tax.  

      “It is very hard,” he says. His location in Abu Tor—a well-to-do neighborhood about evenly divided between Jewish and Arab residents who enjoy DIY home improvements—used to be an advantage, but now he’s hobbled with high rent and expenses and “people just don’t leave their houses, and when they do, they have no money. They buy a battery.”

      Meanwhile, Netanyahu has been increasingly preoccupied by an economy buckling under the pressure of coronavirus-related layoffs and slowdowns, and a swelling protest movement demanding his resignation, often under the banner “Crime Minister.”

      Netanyahu calls the protesters “left-wing anarchists.” On Friday, The Black Flag movement, which has been driving the protests, flew a drone over Tel Aviv’s grand—and now empty—Rabin Square, where they had painted the words, “The lockdown is Bibi’s fault” in huge letters.

      The police also took to the air, posting a video showing Israeli highways swirling below, almost completely empty.

      Retired General Yaakov Amidror, Netanyahu’s former National Security Adviser and a pillar of Israel’s right-wing security establishment, hailed the accord with the UAE as “something unequivocally good for Israel,” but acknowledged that if the political instability persists, “Netanyahu’s problem will not be the Middle East, it’ll be the middle class.”

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      Inside NHL's

      Inside the NHL’s decision to postpone two days of playoff games – ESPN

      8:38 AM ET

      • Emily Kaplan

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        ESPN

          Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.
      • Greg Wyshynski

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        ESPN

          Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.

      The NHL postponed all playoff games on Thursday and Friday to stand in solidarity with other sports leagues protesting racial injustice, including the recent police shooting of Jacob Blake. This decision came after the league took some criticism for playing all three playoff games on Wednesday as scheduled while games in other sports were postponed.

      Here is the story of how the NHL arrived here, and what comes next.

      Why did the NHL play games on Wednesday?

      Greg Wyshynski: The NHL made it clear on Wednesday that any decision not to play games that day would be up to the players. “I don’t expect the league to initiate a game stoppage. Obviously, our players are free to express themselves in any manner they feel is appropriate,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Sportsnet.

      NHL players who participated in those games said it was a matter of timing. The New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers were in the midst of their afternoon game when the Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic opted not to play in their NBA playoff game, which set off a chain reaction of opt-outs in basketball, baseball and soccer. The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning took the ice in Toronto well after those other sports started to react, but players such as defenseman Zdeno Chara said “it was so close to our game that we were just getting ready” to play when the news was breaking.

      “After our pregame meal, we took naps and then we were on the bus, so I don’t think any of us were watching the TV until we got to the rink. And at that point, obviously, it was too close to the game to start any discussions or try to move the games to different dates. We were basically following the schedule the NHL provided to us,” Chara said.

      The NHL did have a “moment of reflection” before the Bruins vs. Lightning game, with a graphic that read “END RACISM” and an announcer saying the NHL “wishes Jacob Blake and his family well and call out to our fans and communities to stand up for social justice and the effort to end racism.”

      The late game in Edmonton featured the Dallas Stars against the Colorado Avalanche, and again the players said there wasn’t time to determine whether to play or not. “It wasn’t a big serious conversation. Just a couple of us talking. To be honest, I woke up from my nap and I didn’t even realize what the NBA was doing until I got to the rink,” Stars forward Tyler Seguin said. “I support the movement. Hockey needs to do more. But we can all show our actions in different ways.”

      Both coaches in the Western Conference said they were not approached by any players asking to reconsider playing on Wednesday night. “If our players, even one player, had come to me and said, ‘Hey, I don’t think we should play,’ then we would have addressed it as a team. But I never got word from anyone in the room,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said.

      The decision to play received backlash from fans and from members of the players-founded Hockey Diversity Alliance. “Actually it’s incredibly insulting as a Black man in hockey, the lack of action and acknowledgement from the NHL,” said Evander Kane of the Sharks, co-chair of the HDA. “Just straight-up insulting.”

      By Thursday, the HDA had made a formal request to the NHL to postpone games that night.

      What is the Hockey Diversity Alliance?

      Emily Kaplan: The Hockey Diversity Alliance was created in June and is co-headed by Kane and Akim Aliu, a former player who made news in November when he came forward saying Calgary Flames coach Bill Peters used a racial slur toward him while they were in the minors a decade ago. (Peters resigned shortly after).

      The executive committee of the HDA features prominent minority players in the NHL, including Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Trevor Daley, Buffalo Sabres forward Wayne Simmonds, Flyers forward Chris Stewart, Ottawa Senators forward Anthony Duclair and recently retired forward Joel Ward.

      “We will strive to be a force for positive change, not only within our game of hockey but within society,” the players said in a letter announcing the formation of the group in June. “Although we will be independent of the NHL, we are hopeful that we will work productively with the league to accomplish these important changes. We believe in the importance of accountability in developing inclusivity and diversity for all involved in our sport, including fans and the league office.”

      The HDA is the first of its kind in terms of a players coalition, and it is still getting its feet wet as an organization. It has had several meetings with the NHL and has put forward some hefty requests, many of which have not been met. But the fact that the HDA was able to curry influence over its members’ peers — most of whom are white — in a 24-hour span is a significant step forward for the alliance. Expect the HDA to have a big voice in hockey going forward.

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      NHL players explain why they are standing in solidarity to support Black lives and the NBA in their protests of social injustice and their quest for equality and human rights.

      Who got the ball rolling on Thursday?

      Kaplan, Wyshynski: It really began after the games ended Wednesday night. “We were clearly not as informed as we are today about what was going on in the other leagues,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said.

      After players fully digested the landscape, several reached out to members of the HDA for guidance. Flyers players Scott Laughton and James van Riemsdyk, for example, reached out to Stewart, who was their teammate earlier this season before finishing the campaign in the AHL. Several players reached out to Kane and Dumba, as both were vocal on the NHL’s inaction on Wednesday night. Largely the players in the bubble asked the HDA members for guidance. What do you think we should do? What is appropriate?

      Those conversations spilled over to Thursday morning. The Vancouver Canucks‘ leaders met and decided they wanted to have a conversation with the Vegas Golden Knights, their semifinal opponents, and specifically enforcer Ryan Reaves, one of the few Black players still competing in the playoffs, who earlier in the postseason had taken a knee during the national anthems in a display against racism.

      “We talked about it in the room this morning. We realize the impact it’s having on the world and in the sports community, seeing what was going on in basketball and the MLB. We wanted to go over and talk to Ryan and Vegas. We just all thought it was the best course of action,” Canucks center Bo Horvat said. “We have to come together. This stuff can’t stand. We need to educate ourselves and understand what’s going on in the world. There needs to be change. Us, being all together here as one, shows strength in the hockey community and in the world.”

      There was no love lost between the Canucks and Reaves in this series — he had even taunted one of their teammates with chicken noises from the bench in Game 1 — but coach Travis Green said that was all put aside for the greater cause.

      “There’s sports, and then there are things that are bigger than sports. I wasn’t surprised at all this morning when I spoke to our players and they wanted to talk to Ryan. I felt like that was the right thing to do,” Green said. “They’re teammates within the league. A lot of times they play on different teams, they go out on the ice and they compete hard against each other, but they’re family.”

      Meanwhile, Kevin Shattenkirk and the Lightning spoke as a team after their victory against Boston on Wednesday night, trying to figure out what their next steps were. He heard that the Golden Knights and Canucks were considering opting out of Thursday’s games, so he texted Reaves and asked to talk. The two are longtime friends, going back to their days with the St. Louis Blues.

      Reaves had been contemplating what to do for the Golden Knights’ game that day. “I don’t think he slept a lot last night. I think it weighed heavily on him,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said.

      “Last night I struggled with what I wanted to do. Am I really going to walk out on my team and be the only guy? Will there be a couple guys?” Reaves recalled. “But I woke up to a text from Kevin Shattenkirk, and he had a bunch of guys out East said they wanted to talk. Then I got a text saying Vancouver wanted to talk. That, I think, was really more powerful. The conversation started with white players on other teams wanting to talk. And that’s the most powerful thing that happened today.”

      At one point, Dumba and Kane got on a call with more than 100 players who were inside the bubble. The Hockey Diversity Alliance was a major force in gathering support from the players to postpone the games.

      “I’ve got so much more respect for every single player in this league for doing something like this,” said Avalanche center Kadri, the only HDA board member who is still playing in the postseason. “On systemic racism, we can use these next couple of days to further educate ourselves, for the betterment of society. It’s something that needed to be done. Hockey’s a team sport. Every single guy here is on the same page.”

      Said Lee, of the Islanders: “We came to understand and to really have that opportunity to support our fellow Black players in this league. We weren’t comfortable playing. We were right behind them.”

      All the while, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had been in contact, with the league reiterating that it would take action only if there was a strong push from players. The NHLPA arranged a call for all the players in the bubbles on Thursday afternoon, and by then it was apparent: Everyone was on the same page.

      “I think the message coming from a predominantly white league has a very strong impact when it’s coming from players like this,” Reaves said. “Most of these guys have never lived through some of this stuff that Black athletes have. They don’t go through those day-to-day things where they’ve seen the racism or their families have gone through it. But for them to say that they see what’s going on in society and we disagree with it and something has to change right now … that was my message. I said that standing together, here, is more powerful than anything you can do. We’re in a bubble. There’s nothing outside of the bubble you can do right now. We can’t change anything because we’re stuck in here. But together, in here, right now, that’s what we can do.”

      When was the decision made to postpone the games on Thursday and Friday, and why?

      Kaplan: On the NHLPA call, all eight teams in the bubble expressed interest in taking a stand in solidarity. That is why they decided to postpone games both Thursday and Friday, so that all eight teams would have the opportunity to sit out. There was also a belief among some players that going dark for just one night wasn’t sufficient. Two consecutive nights sent a stronger message.

      Set the table for me on how the resumption will work.

      Kaplan: As of Thursday night, the NHL had yet to release an updated schedule. However, games are expected to resume on Saturday, and the NHL will pick up with the series where they left off. Expect three games on Saturday, and possibly Sunday, to make up for the lost time.

      This is a pretty momentous (although delayed) step. What else is the league going to do?

      Wyshynski: The past eight months have seen the NHL take on systemic racism, in hockey and in society, with a thoroughness that it never had before. Player Aliu’s accusation that then-Calgary coach Peters had used a racial slur toward him when both were in the minor leagues a decade ago served as the catalyst.

      “Inclusion and diversity are not simply buzzwords. They are foundational principles of the NHL,” Bettman said at the board of governors meeting in December 2019, while announcing that the league would create a “multidisciplinary council to suggest initiatives, monitor progress and coordinate efforts with all levels of hockey.”

      In June 2020, the league and the players reacted to the police killing of George Floyd, a 43-year-old Black man in Minneapolis, with an outpouring of social media messages. More than 100 NHL players, all 32 teams — including expansion Seattle — and the NHL and NHLPA made strong statements against racial inequality and systemic racism. Some tagged their posts with “Black Lives Matter,” and some turned words into actions with donations to Black causes and appearances at local protests.

      Soon after this unprecedented moment of solidarity against racism, the NHL announced the formation of four committees born out of Bettman’s proclamation at the board meeting. They were founded by Kim Davis, NHL executive vice president for social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs.

      The working groups include:

      • The executive inclusion council, made up of five NHL owners, five team presidents and two general managers

      • The player inclusion committee, composed of current and former NHL players, as well as a group of women’s players from the U.S. and Canada

      • The fan inclusion committee, made up of chief marketing officers from NHL teams, as well as different partners the league has worked with in the multicultural space

      • The youth inclusion committee, made up of leaders from USA Hockey and Hockey Canada, parents and those who are running youth hockey organizations in communities

      Before the playoffs, only the executive inclusion council had any members publicly named: Bettman and Sabres owner and team president Kim Pegula, who are the co-chairs.

      Upon arrival at the bubble for the postseason, the NHL followed through on continuing the momentum its teams and players had earlier in the summer. The league put “We Skate For Black Lives” ads around its bubble rinks in Toronto and Edmonton, and held pregame ceremonies before opening games to recognize the fight against racial injustice and violence. Dumba was invited to represent the HDA and give a speech before the first Western Conference qualification round game.

      “You know, these days need to be used in the right manner,” the Bruins’ Chara said. “Obviously, we need to step back, reflect a little bit, just to take a little moment to realize what’s going on. Obviously, there is a problem in the States, and there is obviously the right reason for why all the major sports are doing what they’re doing right now, to kind of make sure that we all realize that there needs to be change. And obviously it starts with the conversations and acts that are going to be very important to follow.”

      As for next steps, the league is relying on its new committees to generate ideas and help plan a path forward. But it’s working with the HDA on that as well.

      What else is the HDA going to do?

      Wyshynski: Over the past few months, the HDA has asked the NHL to support and fund a series of proposals.

      “We have certain initiatives and policies that we’d like the NHL to act on. We feel that it’s very reasonable. We want the NHL to understand that this is a collaborative effort to create sustainable change,” Kadri said. “Moving forward, it’s going to have to be the whole league. It has to be collectively. Not just one or two guys. Strength in numbers is key. In order to make serious change, that’s what needs to happen.”

      Some of the initiatives concern what’s on the ice. The HDA asked for a logo on the ice at playoff games. It suggested the blue line be temporarily changed to a black line. It proposed “black out” warm-up jerseys — ones devoid of traditional team colors — that could also be sold to help raise money for grassroots hockey and social justice initiatives.

      The HDA has also proposed “Black out” warm up jerseys to help build awareness of the alliance and its agenda.

      Such jerseys could be sold through Fanatics to help raise money for its initiatives.

      Again, HDA members say no response from the NHL on this. pic.twitter.com/MPbeevPQup

      — Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) August 27, 2020

      According to Rick Westhead of TSN, the HDA has asked for the NHL to diversify its supply chain, with 10% of NHL procurement expenditure going to Black-owned supply companies. It also has asked the NHL to reach some hiring targets:

      • That 3.5% of NHL executives are Black before the end of the 2024-25 season

      • That 8% of hockey-related personnel are Black before the end of the 2022-23 season

      • That 10% of non-hockey-related personnel are Black before the end of the 2022-23 season

      There hasn’t been any agreement on these proposals, nor on the biggest ask: The HDA wants $100 million in funding from the NHL, to be paid over a 10-year term.

      “We’ve been talking with the NHL for just over two months now. We made it very clear in our first statement that we sought to work with the National Hockey League, and we haven’t wavered from that yet. It’s definitely been a little more difficult than anticipated because of the importance of these issues, thinking there’d be a better understanding of these issues,” Kane said on NBCSN on Thursday night. “But we’re continuing to work with them to hopefully to create that awareness and have them understand the importance of these issues in growing our game.”

      Were there any perspectives out there that were notable?

      Kaplan, Wyshynski: The NHL Coaches Association chimed in:

      Statement from the NHL Coaches’ Association: pic.twitter.com/DziqrY5nn0

      — NHL Coaches’ Association (@NHLCoachesAssoc) August 27, 2020

      Kurtis Gabriel, a winger with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL, released this impassioned video.

      pic.twitter.com/5r7QbdOHlN

      — Kurtis Gabriel (@kurtisgabriel) August 28, 2020

      Pierre-Edouard Bellemare of the Avalanche and Jason Dickinson of the Stars were both asked how to sustain this momentum, rather than have white allyship arrive in occasional waves. Dickinson said the HDA will be a key to that.

      “They’re getting the ball rolling to bring the white allyship in and to get us on board and help them out. I can’t say we’ve got a definitive plan today. We’re working on things, and this is why we need a couple of days to figure things out, get organized and hash out a plan. We can talk all we want, but until we do something, it’s all just words,” Dickinson said.

      Bellemare agreed.

      “These two days, we know that they’re not going to change everything right now. But the main point is that we are all here and we’re aware of what’s going on and it has to stop. And it’s the message that we’re sending to our organization that we want to work together, to take a better step, a different step to make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” he said. “The HDA has a plan, and it’s up to us, after the bubble — every player and organization — to make sure we work together with our communities. The reason we’re here right now is because there’s nobody in this room who’s happy about what’s happening.”





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      Inside look at Milwaukee Bucks’ decision to not play game vs. Magic – USA TODAY

      CLOSE

      What I’m Hearing: USA TODAY Sports’ Mark Medina was on site when the Milwaukee Bucks made the decision to boycott their Game 5 matchup against the Magic and details the experience.

      USA TODAY

      LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The gym looked, sounded and felt emptier. Even more so than in the past few weeks when the NBA hosted games without any fans.

      This time, there weren’t any teams on the court, either. Neither were there any coaches patrolling the sideline. Neither were there any scouts and executives sitting on the socially distanced seats across from the court.

      The courts still remained illuminated with broadway stage lights from above. But the 17-foot video boards did not have any team montages or ads flashing on the screen, anymore. No longer was there an arena DJ playing hip hop that featured either a current, early 2000s or 90s playlist.  

      The reason? The Milwaukee Bucks had just decided to not play Wednesday’s Game 5 of their first-round playoff series against the Orlando Magic at AdventHealth Arena scheduled for a 4:10 p.m. ET tip-off. The details remained so tightly lipped that some Bucks, Magic and league officials remained unaware of the team’s plans until the countdown clock read zero. Nonetheless, the NBA, the Bucks’ and Magic’s owners, as well as all other NBA teams, expressed public support for the Bucks’ stance.

      Anger, frustration and sadness emerged as the NBA’s players processed Kenosha, Wisconsin, police officers shooting Jacob Blake seven times. Blake is currently paralyzed from the waist down and may never walk again, family and lawyers said. The incident has ignited more protests of law enforcement killing unarmed Black people. Heck, the NBA restarted its season on a Disney campus site here partly because the players union received assurances the league would support with words and actions they hoped to use during this season restart as a platform to bring change to racial injustices.

      “We shouldn’t even have came to this damn place to be honest,” Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill said earlier this week. “Coming here just took all the focal points off what the issues are.” 

      So on Wednesday, the Bucks redirected their focus toward the focal points.

      The Bucks arrived to the arena. Coach Mike Budenholzer conducted a pregame press conference via Zoom. The team had participated in pregame warmups. Once they did not appear on the court when the clock sounded, the NBA became fully aware of what happened. The Magic quickly left the arena, while the team spent the next 45 minutes transporting their luggage. A venue that mostly featured usually just two NBA teams, a handful of security guards, media members and public relations officials suddenly became even more eerily quiet.

      OPINION: Bucks’ decision not to play NBA playoff game will alter the course of history

      BUCKS PLAYERS: ‘Our focus today cannot be on basketball’

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      At 5:05 p.m. ET, the NBA announced they would postpone all three playoff games between the Bucks-Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder-Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers-Portland Trail Blazers. Lakers star LeBron James became one of the most vocal, making clear that the players opted for a boycott as opposed to the league postponing games. Either way, both sides were bracing for a long night to figure out the next step.

      The Bucks spent the next three hours in the locker room to determine their next step. While equipment managers and staff members transported their luggage, the Bucks talked with Wisconsin’s attorney general (Josh Kaul) and Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes about how the state would enact law enforcement reforms, according to reports. The Bucks’ players and coaches stayed in the locker room that whole time, with exception of a few leaving for a bathroom break. Then around 7:20 p.m. ET, the Bucks emerged out of the locker room.

      Bucks players, coaches and staff members stood in front of a handful of reporters. They stood behind Hill and Sterling Brown. Hill wore a black T-shirt that quoted former President Barack Obama saying, “change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time.” The shirt added, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Brown had sued the City of Milwaukee, its police chief and officers in 2018 after he was taken to the ground, tased and arrested after getting stopped for a parking violation. On Wednesday, Brown wore a black T-shirt that read, “Black All the Time.”

      Hill spoke first.

      “Thank you guys for taking the time to stay here with us,” Hill told a handful of reporters. “We’re sorry it took a little bit more time. But we thought it would be best for us as a team to brainstorm a little bit, educate ourselves and not rushing into having raw emotion. On behalf of ourselves and team, we’re going to place a statement as a team today and go back and educate ourselves and have better awareness of what’s going on and then speak to you guys later.”

      Brown then began reading from the Bucks’ statement.

      “The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African-American communities. Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings,” Sterling said. “Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protesters. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”

      Sterling stopped speaking. Then he passed the statement to Hill for him to finish.  

      “When we take the court and represent Milwaukee and Wisconsin, we are expected to play at a high level, give maximum effort and hold each other accountable,” Hill said. “We hold ourselves to that standard, and in this moment, we are demanding the same from our lawmakers and law enforcement. We are calling for justice for Jacob Blake and demand the officers be held accountable. For this to occur, it is imperative for the Wisconsin State Legislature to reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform. We encourage all citizens to educate themselves, take peaceful and responsible action, and remember to vote on Nov. 3 on behalf of the Milwaukee Bucks.”

      CLOSE

      SportsPulse: Following their boycott of Game 5, the Milwaukee Bucks stood united in front of the media and explained why, in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting, now is not the time for basketball.

      USA TODAY

      The Bucks players, coaches and staff members then walked away toward their bus. A reporter asked, “Do you intend to finish the season?” No one on the Bucks answered the question.

      NBA players and coaches then met at around 8 p.m. ET Wednesday night to discuss that topic for more than two hours. As reported by USA TODAY Sports and other outlets, the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers were against finishing the NBA restart. But the NBA’s Board of Governors plans to have their own meeting on Thursday at 11 a.m. ET. Players were expected to talk again around the same time.

      Before those talks took place, reporters were asked to leave the arena immediately to catch the shuttle bus back to the Coronado Springs hotel. For the first time in six weeks, there was no longer an NBA scrimmage, seed-in game or playoff matchup to watch. It remains unclear when the next NBA playoff game will take place, if at all.

      Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

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      Inside the detective-style hunt for missed COVID-19 cases – NBC News

      Dr. Matija Snuderl has spent the last couple of months poring over tissue samples collected from the bodies of the recently departed.

      As a neuropathologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, he’s usually diagnosing brain tumors and other brain diseases. But this effort goes beyond his typical duties: Snuderl is among a group of medical experts around the country on a detective-style hunt for missed cases of COVID-19.

      “At this point, it is critical to better understand the silent spread that was happening before the outbreak officially began [in New York],” Snuderl said.

      As cases surge in some parts of the country, doctors like Snuderl are working to better understand the early trajectory of the virus in hopes of discovering unseen patterns that could help inform future public health policies.

      “I think if we better understand how the disease was spreading early on, when the next thing like this happens, we’re going to be better prepared, and we’re going to be able to act hopefully faster,” Snuderl said.

      Pathologist and scientists at inside the molecular laboratory of NYU’s Langone Medical Center test tissue samples of potentially missed Covid-19 cases, on July 10, 2020.NBC News

      Currently, there is no coordinated national effort to understand how early and how widely the virus may have been spreading, but this patchwork approach has begun in at least seven other states. Initiatives vary greatly and few teams are working at the directive of state governments. Some have told NBC News they lack staffing or funding to conduct this type of research, which requires special materials to preserve samples for retesting days after an autopsy.

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      City and county medical examiners and coroners are taking up the bulk of this retrospective work, retesting blood and tissue samples preserved from autopsies to potentially uncover cases that may have gone undetected when testing was less available.

      Not only could newly revealed positive results upend the timeline of when COVID-19 took hold throughout the U.S., their efforts could help prevent future deaths by identifying communities that contact tracers and containment strategies should target. Medical examiners like Dr. Thomas Gilson say their insights are a crucial part of the long-term public health surveillance mechanism.

      “If all I had for information was how many health care workers tested positive and how many people who were really sick test positive, I really have the potential to miss a lot of people out in the community who either aren’t that sick or are sick and don’t access the health care system,” said Gilson, who oversees the efforts in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the county with the second-highest number of infections in the state.

      Thanks to funding from the county, Gilson and his team have been able to perform antibody testing on 350 deceased people. About 3% came back positive, but additional testing on tissue samples pulled from the same bodies came back negative. He believes the antibody tests were false positives and cautions against relying on antibody testing for retrospective research.

      “These results indicate that the number of people infected in our community is still relatively low,” Gilson said.

      A similar effort is underway in California, which is the only state to have requested that all of its medical examiner offices re-examine past cases.

      “People are dying at home without any medical diagnosis — we’re the last chance to catch those people and make sure that steps are taken to help contain the virus and spread,” said Dr. Christopher Young, the Ventura County chief medical examiner, who has started reviewing files as far back as December.

      Dr. Christopher Young, the Ventura County chief medical examiner.Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office

      The initial look-back request was issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Department of Health in late April and asked teams to reconsider cases dating back to December 2019, before China announced the identification of the virus.

      The effort was triggered by Santa Clara County’s identification of two deaths on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 as positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 — predating the first established death in the country by weeks.

      “As a physician and a forensic pathologist, I definitely would like to make sure we have accurate causes and that’s why we do all the tests that we do on any case: to try to come to the right conclusion,” Young said.

      Some medical examiners have access to facilities that can test autopsy tissue samples. California health officials send their specimens to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing, but certain criteria must be met and results can take up to eight weeks, the officials said.

      The effort has been slow to bear results — diminished in part by the state’s recent record daily numbers, as teams work to keep up with the flood of new cases.

      “We are still very, very much in the thick of things,” said Andrea Bowers, spokeswoman for the Imperial County Public Health Department. “So, we’ve had to bring in additional contact tracers, case investigators and epidemiology staff, and so they really have not had a moment to kind of look backwards.”

      As caseloads swell across the U.S., teams in Washington, Nevada, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Illinois are also re-examining blood and tissue samples to identify any potential COVID-19 cases that were overlooked.

      Snuderl, of NYU Langone, is convinced the virus was spreading in New York well before the first official case was announced on March 1. His theory was bolstered by a recent finding by Mount Sinai Hospital researchers that some New Yorkers had COVID-19 antibodies present in their blood more than a week before the first case was announced in New York City.

      “We cannot go back in time, we can’t turn the clock back and we cannot change what happened,” Snuderl said, “but I think it will definitely help us to prepare for the next pandemic.”

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      Inside Lakers Practice: LeBron James & Anthony Davis Prepare For NBA Return – Lakers Nation

      Inside Lakers Practice: LeBron James & Anthony Davis Prepare For NBA Return – Lakers Nation
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      ‘The Bachelor’: Inside Matt James’ Selection as the First Black Star in Series History (EXCLUSIVE) – Variety

      “The Bachelor” is one of the biggest franchises in television history. It has also faced enormous criticism over the years for its lack of diversity.

      After much pushback for never having a lead of color on the franchise’s flagship show, “The Bachelor” will finally have its first Black lead with star Matt James.

      James is known to Bachelor Nation for his friendship with fan-favorite alum Tyler Cameron, who competed on Hannah Brown’s season of “The Bachelorette.” James was initially cast to be a suitor on the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette” with Clare Crawley, which was supposed to begin airing this past May, but when production on “Bachelorette” was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, ABC began to think of a bigger role for James.

      Last weekend, a former “Bachelorette” Rachel Lindsay — the first Black lead of the entire franchise in its nearly two decades on air — said she would cut ties with the ABC reality show if a Black bachelor was not cast. “The Bachelor” debuted in 2002, has numerous spinoffs, and is one of television’s highest-rated and most sustainable franchises. Through 24 seasons of “The Bachelor” and 15 seasons of “The Bachelorette,” Lindsay has been the only Black star.

      Despite mounting pressure on “The Bachelor” for its lack of diversity, as pointed out by Lindsay, especially over the past week in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and amid Black Lives Matter movement protests, the network had its eye on James prior to the recently-heightened criticism, ever since he came in for casting early this past winter.

      “He would have been on Clare’s season if it started in March. When we realized the shutdown was going to extend through the summer, we started thinking about how we were going to choose our Bachelor,” says ABC’s top unscripted executive, Rob Mills, who oversees “The Bachelor” franchise at the network. “Matt was somebody who was on our radar and we were thinking about him. We were thinking do we announce him early, or do we put him on Clare’s season and then announce him later, if it doesn’t work out with Clare? We didn’t make a final decision until recently, but this has been talked about for quite some time.”

      The ABC executive maintains that casting James was not in response to Lindsay’s recent criticism.

      “It wasn’t a response to that. We could have made this announcement earlier or later,” Mills says. “Certainly no one is blind to what is happening in the world, so hopefully this announcement serves as a bit of optimism during a time that we can really use this. But I don’t want this to look like we’re patting ourselves on the back or taking a victory lap. We don’t want this, in any way, to seem like a cure-all and seem like, ‘Hey! Look what we did here!’ We know this is a few grains of sand in a very big hourglass. It’s taken a while to get where we are and we will continue to go further, and I acknowledge it may not be enough. In the last few years, I believe it’s gotten better and with the announcement of Matt, I hope it keeps getting better. We are very excited about Matt.”

      James has already garnered a large fanbase among the reality show’s audience because he is friends with Cameron, who was a runner-up on Brown’s season of “The Bachelorette.” Before his announcement as the next “Bachelor” on “Good Morning America” on Friday, James had nearly 190,000 Instagram followers, and he was on the shortlist of fans’ wish lists for a possible a Black star for the next season.

      Mike Johnson, another fan-favorite alum, was nearly cast as “The Bachelor” last season, which ended up selecting Peter Weber. Many viewers have considered that move a snub, one that ended up further highlighting the show’s diversity problem.

      “We had a very close race between three people — Tyler, Peter and Mike — and at the end of the day, there were the same reasons we had for anyone else,” Mills explains. “At that time, we just thought that Peter was the best guy for the job.”

      When James came in for conversations about possibly becoming the next star of “The Bachelor,” the network made it clear that he was not being chosen for the color of his skin.

      “There is that mantle that you are the first, and it’s been a long time coming, so there are additional pressures. Matt knows that he’s going to be asked about this and he’s ready,” Mills admits. “But what you never want is for somebody to feel like they are ‘The Bachelor’ because they are checking off a box. The same way with Mike, there were so other things that would have made him a great Bachelor, and it was the same thing with Rachel. Yes, she was the first Black ‘Bachelorette,’ and there has been a lot of weight that’s been put on her shoulders, but she was ‘The Bachelorette’ because, first and foremost, she was a great Bachelorette.”

      Mills does admit its unfair that Lindsay, who met her husband on her season of “Bachelorette,” has taken on the role of unofficial spokesperson for diversity within the franchise.

      “It is hard not to feel bad because everybody within the show and at the network loves Rachel. We don’t want her to be upset or to feel like more can be done. The best thing to do is listen to her, and take this seriously,” Mills says. “As she said in Women Tell All [last season], she looks around and she’s the only person that looks like her. She is the one that everybody goes to for comment and she is the one teaching everyone. I certainly I thought her comments after the Hannah situation were really insightful and informative to me. We’re so lucky to have her. But I don’t think it’s fair that the burden has been solely on her shoulders, and we’re going to do everything to make sure that it doesn’t stay that way.”

      Over the years, the franchise has focused more on diversity, specifically by widening the pool of contestants, who often filter into the next season to become the lead. But while the contestants have diversified, the stars of the show have not.

      ABC is not making up any excuses for why it took so long to cast a Black lead.

      “There are a lot of different ways I can answer that, but it always rings false because honestly, I think we should have, and everyone agrees we should have had a Bachelor of color before this time,” Mills says.

      In announcing James as the lead for Season 25, Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, addressed the franchise’s duty to diversify. “We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in and we are proudly in service to our audience,” Burke said in a statement. “This is just the beginning and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”

      One benefit of announcing James early as “The Bachelor” — which the network hopes will premiere in Jan. 2021, pending on the ongoing pandemic — is that casting for James’ suitors can begin early.

      And as for Crawley’s season of “The Bachelorette,” which should head into production this summer? “I think where this is really great for Clare is that every guy who will be on her season will know there is no chance of becoming ‘The Bachelor,’ so they should really all be there only for Clare,” Mills points out.

      After James’ season, the franchise’s diversity efforts will continue, and the executive assures that the network will not fall short in its commitment to representation on-screen. “Everyone agrees we can be doing better and we will work to do that,” Mills says. “I do think there have been some strides made — small and maybe not enough, but there has been a commitment and that will continue.”

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      Inside Khloe Kardashian’s Quarantine: Tristan Thompson, Toilet Paper Pranks and INSANE Workouts – Entertainment Tonight




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