Editorial Roundup: Mississippi

Greenwood Commonwealth. September 27, 2022.

Editorial: Sports Reporters Down On Favre

Stories about NFL legend Brett Favre and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant have been dismal in recent weeks as text messages and other revelations about misspent welfare money continue to pile up.

Without one of Favre’s miracle comebacks, it’s going to get worse. The national sports media is on the case, and one of Favre’s biggest fans, Peter King of NBC Sports, has joined the criticism of the Super Bowl champ.

This is significant because King, especially during his many years as Sports Illustrated’s pro football writer, was one of Favre’s greatest admirers.

As Mississippi sports fans know, there was so much to like. But King’s “Football Morning in America” column, which landed on the NBCsports.com website Monday, laid out the world of trouble Favre has created for himself by actively pushing for state money for a volleyball facility at his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi.

“Favre’s reputation among his NFL peers has taken a major hit,” King wrote. “Sage Rosenfels, the former quarterback, backed up Favre in Minnesota in 2009. They were close enough that, on the sidelines in the 2009 NFC title game, after Favre threw the incredible across-his-body interception that led to the winning New Orleans field goal, Rosenfels says Favre told him, ‘I choked.’

“Last Thursday, Rosenfels tweeted: ‘Since retirement, I have been lucky to avoid stealing millions of dollars from the poorest people in my state.’ Ouch. Imagine a teammate who got along famously with a big star (and vice versa), sharing a quarterback room and a season, sending a dagger of a tweet like that. It shows the outrage of so many at Favre.”

The Mississippi Today website, which broke the story and has covered it closely for some time, now has the attention of King, ESPN and other national news organizations.

On King’s podcast that was scheduled for release Tuesday, Mississippi Today reporter Anna Wolfe said she believes that many of the people working on Favre’s behalf — such as education nonprofit operator Nancy New and Department of Human Services director John Davis — behaved more like wide-eyed fans of a Mississippi celebrity than stewards of public money.

She also noted that lax federal regulations about the use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families money encouraged state officials to spend it on things such as the volleyball facility — because almost all of the poor people who applied for direct cash assistance got rejected.

Various news outlets reported over the weekend that, according to court documents filed by the former governor, in 2019 Favre continued to ask Bryant, who was still in office, for more money for the volleyball facility. Favre also floated the idea of using welfare money for an indoor practice facility for the USM football team.

A story by ESPN included messages between Bryant and then-USM President Rodney Bennett, who messaged the governor, “The bottom line is he personally guaranteed the (volleyball) project, and on his word and handshake we proceeded. It’s time for him to pay up — it really is just that simple.”

The governor responded, “He is a legend but he has to understand what a pledge means.”

Mississippi Today has its critics in the state who say the website is too liberal. But it’s hard to make the same allegations about the sports world, where Favre was greatly respected for his achievements and his down-to-earth personality — before this story came out.

With Peter King and ESPN on the case, things look grim indeed for Favre.

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Columbus Dispatch. September 23, 2022.

Editorial: Attempts to ban books often target the marginalized

The debate over whether certain books can be banned because of their controversial subject matter is hardly new. Almost as long as there have been books, there have been those who sought to suppress ideas expressed in books they find objectionable. In the United States, that practice predates the founding of the country. In 1637, the Puritans who dominated New England banned a book by an English businessman critical of the Puritan movements.

Over the ensuing years, some of what is now recognized as the great works of literature have, from time to time, been banned. Works by Mark Twain, Shakespeare, Harper Lee, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, James Joyce, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison and countless others were at one time or another deemed too dangerous, subversive or vulgar for consumption. Also on that list was Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” ironically a book about banning/burning books.

Since the 1980s, the American Library Association has held a Banned Book Week each year to call attention to the issue and the often absurd justifications used to ban even some of the most innocuous, innocent books in circulation.

As this year’s Banned Book Week concludes, we note the impulse to take books off the shelves of school libraries and reading lists have seen a surge. Book bans accelerated across the United States during the 2021-2022 school year, largely because of advocacy groups that called on public schools to remove more than 1,600 titles, the writers’ group PEN America said on Monday.

There were 2,532 separate book bans affecting 1,648 titles at 5,000 schools with 4 million students, according to the report. The research found 1,000 more book bans than were documented in the group’s initial April report.

Books dealing with LGBT make up five of the top 10 most targeted books according to the ALA.

It is our position that parents should have the primary responsibility to determine what ideas their children are exposed to, not special interest groups.

History shows us that when books are banned, the target is almost always an attack on the marginalized, the demonized, the underserved and misunderstood of our society.

When people do not see themselves, their realities, their humanity in literature, movies and TV, it enhances their sense of isolation and creates a false sense of reality. It subjugates the subjugated.

That is the argument the great Black author James Baldwin made in his famous debate with conservative writer William F. Buckley in a 1965 debate at Cambridge University in London.

“It comes as a great shock when at the age of 5 or 6 or 7 when Gary Cooper is killing off the Indians, and you’re rooting for Gary Cooper, to learn that the Indians are you,” Baldwin said.

What we should value most in our nation is an idea not common throughout the world, that access to the world of ideas and the liberty to say what we want, read what we want, believe what we want is a personal freedom not to be abridged.

Banning books is a violation of that idea.

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