Aug 27, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🚨 Bulletin: Hurricane Laura roared ashore over southwestern Louisiana near the Texas border early today, with forecasters warning it could push a massive wall of water 40 miles inland, Reuters reports.

  • With more than 290,000 homes and businesses without power in the two states, near-constant lightning provided the only light for some. The latest.
1 big thing: The day sports stopped

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The most historic day in sports activism history began in an empty gym, Axios Sports editor Kendall Baker writes.

  • The Milwaukee Bucks chose not to take the floor for Game 5 against the Magic, which led to all three NBA games being postponed — and most of the sports world following suit.

The backdrop: The Bucks' landmark decision came three days after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot seven times in the back by police in Kenosha, Wis., 45 minutes south of Milwaukee.

  • The Bucks said in a team statement (video): "Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball."

Why it matters: Many NBA players decided to participate in the "bubble" because it offered a platform to bring awareness to social justice issues. That was enough, in their minds, to offset any concerns about sports being a distraction.

  • But after the Blake shooting video surfaced, players began to question whether the anthem kneeling, "Black Lives Matter" T-shirts and pre-approved jersey causes were making a difference.
  • Now, they've gone off script. And in doing so, they've taken the conversation about sports' role in society to a place it's never quite been before.

The big picture: The NBA's postponement started a chain reaction.

  • 🏀 WNBA: The six teams scheduled to compete yesterday chose not play. "We stand in solidarity with our brothers in the NBA," the players' union said.
  • ⚾️ MLB: The Milwaukee Brewers were the first team to pull the plug on their game. Later, the Seattle Mariners and L.A. Dodgers did the same. While the NBA and WNBA are no strangers to political activism, this type of stance is new in baseball.
  • ⚽️ MLS: Though the night's first game between Orlando and Nashville was played as scheduled, the remaining five games were postponed as the players collectively decided not to take the field.
  • 🎾 Tennis: After Naomi Osaka withdrew from the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open (scheduled for today), tournament organizers suspended all Thursday matches.
  • 🏒 NHL: In a departure from other leagues, the NHL went ahead with both playoff games — one in Toronto and one in Edmonton.
Photo: Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

In Palmetto, Fla., after the WNBA postponed games, the Washington Mystics wore T-shirts with seven bullets on the back, to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake.

2. In roiling America, Trump and Biden refight 1968

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Win McNamee/Getty Images and Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump and Joe Biden are waging 2020 like it’s 1968, when the streets became battlegrounds, the culture was roiling, and Richard Nixon made a fear-based "law and order" appeal to a "silent majority," Axios' Hans Nichols writes.

  • Both presidential campaigns are seizing on searing events to validate their theory of what a majority of Americans believe and want.
  • "In 1968, there were Black leaders and protesters and activists still trying to get white America to understand what was going on in Black America," said Mark Anthony Neal, chair of Duke's Department of African & African American Studies.

Why it matters: Trump, like Nixon, is appealing to his base's instincts — and trying to convince white, suburban voters that their safety is at risk.

  • Biden is trying to convince those same suburban voters that a second Trump term would impede racial progress and encourage violence.
  • "The big question is whether the Republicans can pull together a 'law-and-order' message that actually works in 2020 rather than 1968," says Teddy Goff, Democratic strategist and cofounder of Precisions Strategies.

Trump has focused more on the protests than on the actions of police. In interviews and rallies, Trump accuses Biden and Democrats of letting lawlessness prevail.

  • Trump hasn't mentioned Jacob Blake's name since he was shot by police Sunday.

Biden tweeted a video saying he's spoken with members of Blake's family, and that Blake's shooting "makes me sick. Is this the country we want to be?"

  • Biden released a statement in the hours after Blake's shooting: "These shots pierce the soul of our nation ... [W]e are at an inflection point. We must dismantle systemic racism. It is the urgent task before us."

Flashback: Axios managing David Nather saw back in June that 1968 might be repeating itself. The conventions have deepened the parallels.

The bottom line: Neither campaign can control events driving America’s summer of unrest, so they're trying to control the narrative.

3. Kenosha, Day 5
Courtesy N.Y. Post

Kyle Rittenhouse, 17, who "fancied himself a member of a militia aiming to protect life and property," was charged with the shooting deaths of two protesters in Kenosha yesterday, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Other developments:

  • Rusten Sheskey, a seven-year veteran of the Kenosha Police Department, was named by the Wisconsin Department of Justice as the officer who shot Jacob Blake, a Black man, seven times in the back.
  • "The DOJ also said Blake had a knife in his vehicle, although it did not say whether a determination had been made about whether Blake was going for it as he ignored police orders."
  • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers announced that 500 National Guard troops would be sent to Kenosha, and President Trump tweeted he would be "sending federal law enforcement."
4. RNC Night 3

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Vice President Pence briefly mentioned the Kenosha protests as he accepted his re-nomination: "Let me be clear: the violence must stop — whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha."

  • "President Donald Trump and I will always support the right of Americans to peaceful protest, but rioting and looting is not peaceful protest." Video.
  • Trump made a "surprise" drop-by during Pence's speech.
Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, leaving Trump's West Wing after one of the longest runs of any top official, told the convention that the president has "elevated women to senior positions in business and in government":

  • "He picks the toughest fights and tackles the most complex problems. He has stood by me, and he will stand up for you." Video.
Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany gave one of the most powerful speeches of the convention, sharing the story of her preventative mastectomy in 2018, and the support she received from Trump. Video.

  • Why it matters, from Axios' Alayna Treene: McEnany's very personal speech was one of the few that spoke to Trump's character.
  • The Trump family has mostly talked about what he does for America, without sharing deeply personal anecdotes of the man behind the office.
Photo: Republican National Committee via Getty Images

The speaking slot for Richard Grenell, the former U.S. ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence — prime time, right before Pence — highlights his stature in Trumpworld.

  • Aides expect that if Trump is re-elected, Grenell will be at the front of the line for top jobs, perhaps even Secretary of State or national security adviser.
Photo: Republican National Convention/Handout via Reuters

In the night's most dramatic moment, Madison Cawthorn, a 25-year-old candidate in North Carolina who'd be the youngest member of Congress, told of the car accident at age 19 that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

  • "Be a radical for freedom," said Cawthorn, who was seated. "Be a radical for liberty," he said, hoisting himself up. "And be a radical for our republic, for which I stand," he said, straightening himself, "one nation under God." Video.
5. Our weekly map: Virus cases fell 15% this week
Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments. Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

New coronavirus infections fell by almost 15% over the past week, continuing a steady downward trend, Axios' Sam Baker and Andrew Witherspoon write.

  • Why it matters: The standard caveats still apply. Progress can always fall apart, the U.S. is climbing down from a very high number of cases, and this is far from over. But this is undeniably good news. Things are getting better.

Where it stands: The U.S. is averaging roughly 41,700 new confirmed cases per day, down from about 49,000 per day last week and 65,000 per day at the height of the summer outbreak.

  • The pace of new infections fell in 20 states, including the summer hotspots of Arizona, Florida and Texas. California, which has been a stubborn holdout, finally saw a significant drop (31%) this week.

What we're watching: Any number of things could undermine this progress, from widespread outbreaks on college campuses to complacency about the need to maintain social distancing.

  • And the U.S. is continuing to pull back on testing. We averaged about 690,000 tests per day last week, down roughly 5% from the week before.
  • Scaling back the number of tests has helped people get test results faster, which is important. And the drop in cases is significantly bigger than the drop in testing, suggesting that it’s real improvement and not just a function of testing.
  • Still, as fewer asymptomatic people are able to get tested, there’s always a risk they’ll spread the virus.

Share this map.

6. TikTok head quits

Photo: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Kevin Mayer resigned last night as CEO of TikTok, which has been ordered by President Trump to sell its U.S. operations to a domestic buyer amid China tensions, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.

  • In a note to colleagues, Mayer explains that the eventual changes from the sale won't leave the role with the same global focus as it had when he took the job.
  • His position as COO of Chinese-owned TikTok parent ByteDance also complicated matters.

The big picture: Mayer took the job just three months ago after 27 years on-and-off at Disney, and was long considered a potential successor to former CEO Bob Iger.

7. Nasdaq may double in 20 months

Tuesday's close. Screenshot via CNBC

The tech-driven Nasdaq 100, amid a raging recession and plunge in profits, is on the brink of doubling in 20 months, Bloomberg points out.

  • The index set another record yesterday, led by gains in media and software stocks.
  • Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and Alphabet each rose to an all-time high. Netflix had its best day in three years.

Why it matters: It's a vivid sign of how disconnected the markets are from America's economic reality.

💰 P.S. Jeff Bezos became the first human worth $200 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

  • Elon Musk became a "centibillionaire," Bloomberg writes, as Tesla gains propelled his net worth to $101 billion.
8. Merger creates biggest Black-owned bank

The merger of L.A.'s Broadway Federal Bank and Washington's City First Bank, announced yesterday, "will create the nation’s largest Black-controlled bank and the first with assets of more than $1 billion," reports the N.Y. Times' Stacy Cowley.

  • Why it matters: Both banks "are Community Development Financial Institutions, which are lenders that focus on low- and moderate-income areas and typically serve minority borrowers and entrepreneurs who lack the assets to get traditional loans."
9. 19th Amendment turns 100

Photo: Eric Barabat/AFP via Getty Images

The White House was lit in gold and purple last night to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the certification of the 19th Amendment's ratification, giving women the constitutional right to vote.

Tory Burch — the fashion founder, designer and executive chair — writes in USA Today that for American women, "casting a vote is as much about equal power ... as it is about politics":

History is prologue, and the long and arduous struggle for equality, freedom, and justice for all in the United States of America continues. This Aug. 26, in the year 2020, Americans are still petitioning, protesting, marching, braving violence and facing arrest. Again and still, we are fighting for the dream of an equal and free America. This summer, more than any other in my lifetime, I can feel the energy of women and people of color and all ages fighting for equality and demanding a place at the table. 

Keep reading.

10. New Girl Scout uniform has cellphone pocket
Photo: Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts of the USA announced an update to the classic uniform that's designed "to better reflect the young female changemakers of today and tomorrow":

The redesigned official uniform includes a new khaki utility vest ($34) and pocket sash ($14) option made exclusively for Girl Scouts in sixth grade through high school. These pieces are a fresh take on the classic Girl Scout uniform. ...
The sash, in four-way stretch woven twill, also has built-in hidden cellphone pockets for easy storage.
Mike Allen

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