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Barbershop: Wrapping Up The Campaign, Wonder Woman And The NFL

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now it's time for the Barbershop. That's where we gather a group of interesting folks to talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shapeup this week, Dru Ealons. She served in the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama. She's founder of The Ealons Group, a consulting firm, now. Next to her is NPR's very own news editor, Ammad Omar. They're both here with me in our D.C. studio. Hello.

DRU EALONS: Hello.

AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: Hello.

MARTIN: And from Madison, Wis., we're joined by Mario Loyola. He's a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a contributing editor at the National Review, a Barbershop regular. Mario, welcome back to you as well.

MARIO LOYOLA: Hey, Michel.

MARTIN: So let's start off today with - OK, still the election year - with the presidential election. We just heard Donald Trump give what was billed as his closing argument. And this past week, the major party nominees met for their final debate in Las Vegas. And also this week, they met in New York for the annual Al Smith Catholic Charities dinner. Here's what - Hillary Clinton saying what's surely on a lot of people's minds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HILLARY CLINTON: Now, some of my critics - and I hear that, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Yeah.

CLINTON: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: They think I only say what people want to hear. Well, tonight, that is true. And here's exactly what you want to hear - this election will be over very, very soon.

(LAUGHTER, APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: Just about two weeks, to be precise. So I just wanted to ask you all - what's on your mind as we head into this home stretch? Dru, why don't you start?

EALONS: There are a couple of things that have been weighing on my mind. The - I'm just really shocked by - I don't want to say shocked - the revelation about how reality TV and social media has shaped this type of election cycle where you have someone who is a reality star that is the - part of a major party.

And it makes me think about, you know, how I'm raising my child in this technology age. And how do I make sure that he really continues to stay in the books and all that stuff, and really reading and expanding his knowledge beyond 140 characters? And I think the other part of that is just the explosion of how do I raise my child in a place where you already knew from essay and all these other things about how racism and race is in our country and how we have so far to go, where there's a lot that has changed, but there's a lot that's the same? And it's a little disheartening.

And I'm wondering how we're going to heal as a country, really, after this because I feel yucky right now. I feel really, really yucky. Like, just stuff is just still left on me. So I just really can't wait till November 9. But then I really want to see how we're going to heal and come together.

MARTIN: Mario, what about you? You know, I was wondering - and obviously, you can talk about whatever you want here, but I was also wondering - as a Republican, do you worry about how the party is going to heal itself after all this is over?

LOYOLA: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

LOYOLA: I mean, I don't know if you've noticed, but we've got some issues in the Republican Party now. It's, like, being - the party's, like, being crushed in this terrifying vise between the forces of Trump and the forces of Never Trump. And - you know, and people are starting - and, you know, the cleanup is going to start after November 9. In some ways, whichever way the election goes, the hard part is really going to start after November 9. I mean, we have people already in the Never Trump camp that are coming up with black lists of, you know, major establishment Republican Party officials and promising not to forgive the fact that they endorsed Trump and so forth.

And that kind of recrimination is, you know, exactly - is exactly how we got Trump in the first place - right? - because it was this kind of recrimination that ends up killing the legitimacy of establishment mainstream politicians to the point where it's, like, not respectable to be a respectable politician anymore. And so that's a problem. And I just hope that we can - Republicans can drop the recrimination and get in a mood of optimism and reconciliation because we're really going to need it.

MARTIN: Well, they're not threatening to put each other in jail at this point, though, are they?

EALONS: (Laughter).

LOYOLA: Well, no. And - but, you know, they're not threatening to send people to the guillotine either. But that's only because we don't have guillotines.

MARTIN: Wow, I hear you. Ammad, what about you? What are you thinking about these last two weeks?

OMAR: Well, similar to kind of what Mario was saying. He talked about the - kind of the gap between the Never Trumpers and the pro-Trump people. I'm kind of watching some of the politicians trying to thread that needle between the Never Trump and the pro-Trump. You know, the Republican Party right now - to me, it seems like it's one party almost in name only. We've got these two separate factions that are equally powerful.

And, you know, election season, politicians usually are kind of clamoring to talk to the media, get on the air as much as possible. You're seeing a lot of Republicans in these swing states are kind of between a rock and a hard place. You know, if they come on and we ask them about Trump, you know, if they say something against Trump, that's going to get them in trouble with one part of their party. If they come out for Trump, that's going to get them in trouble with some other folks. So it's interesting to see that kind of threading of the needle. I kind - I think Mario is in that sort of space as well right now, maybe more free to talk about his feelings than some of these elected officials.

And then after the election - you know, we've seen this kind of developing since 2010, since the Tea Party movement really started. Now it's kind of manifested itself in this - the - from the local level to the national level. And kind of seeing, again, is there going to be a reconciliation of this Republican Party? Or are we going to see a more out-and-out split? And that's kind of what I'm watching right now.

MARTIN: I can't wait to see what happens when this is over. In fact, I'm really interested if there will be people who will emerge as playing that role, who will see themselves as leadership in forging that kind of reconciliation, whether it's racially like you talked about, Dru, or whether it's just the idea of how, as a society, we talk to each other, whether we talk to each other politically. I really want to sort of see that.

OMAR: And even on the issues there are some major gaps. You know, we look at - Donald Trump today just kind of came out and said he wants to pull us out of NAFTA. You know, this was a policy that mainstream Republicans backed up for a long time, and now there's this...

EALONS: Right.

OMAR: ...Populist part of the party that says this is not for us. So I think beyond that, there's more, too.

MARTIN: Well, let's go on to - you know what? I want to skip one - I'm going to go right to football just in the time that we have left. And if we have time, we'll talk about, you know, one other sort of controversy that's brewing because where would it be - would it be fall without a football controversy? And I know this is not as serious as the election, but, you know, I think, you know, it's still...

OMAR: It depends on who you ask.

EALONS: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Important. It depends on who you ask, right? So we're talking about the increasingly tough penalties that have been doled out in recent weeks by the NFL against players for engaging in excessive celebration, things like end zone dances and, quote unquote, "choreographed demonstrations." And I just want to play a breakdown of unsportsmanlike conduct as described by Dean Blandino, the senior vice president of officiating at the NFL.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEAN BLANDINO: The ruling on the field here is a touchdown. And you'll watch number 85. He's going to shoot the football over the goalpost, mimicking a basketball action. That's using the ball and the goalpost as a prop. That's a violation of the rule. You can't dunk the ball over the goal post, shoot the ball, finger-roll. All of that is illegal.

MARTIN: Illegal, Ammad. Did you hear (laughter) me with that? Which is why they call it the No Fun League, all right? Well, so - anyway, Ammad, the people who say that they think that they're cracking down on this, they're not making it up, right?

OMAR: No. No, no, no.

MARTIN: They are. So what's this about?

OMAR: Yeah, the commissioner kind of acknowledged it. The Players Association acknowledged as well. The commissioner kind of has the - I guess the authority to kind of talk about which rules they want to emphasize, and that's a rule that they're really emphasizing this year. The Players Association is not happy about it because there are fines being doled out. And, you know, I think this is one thing maybe Republicans and Democrats and, no matter what wing you're with, can agree that, you know, people are having fun. I think generally speaking, people think the NFL is going too far on this one. Let the guys have some fun.

MARTIN: Well, let's ask Mario. Mario, what do you think?

LOYOLA: Well, you know, just in general I sometimes worry that this civilization is going to collapse under the weight of 20 million pointless rules. But, you know - and here we have an attempt to, like, legislate and regulate sportsmanlike conduct, which I kind of understand because, you know, this is a time of vulgarization of our society. And, you know, you've got Colin Kaepernick and people doing things that would have been considered unsportsmanlike before. And, you know, as a Green Bay Packers fan, obviously we don't have any issues with sportsmanlike conduct between the...

OMAR: ...Lambeau Leap (unintelligible) religion...

EALONS: Right. Right.

MARTIN: ...Never.

LOYOLA: I mean, right. The Lambeau Leap is a hallowed - is the whole point of football.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Yeah, we heard. Yeah. Well, so - but - well, Dru, I don't know what about this because there are a few - you know, I was looking at some of the comment boards about this...

EALONS: Right.

MARTIN: ....Which I generally don't do because so many times they just devolve into just the kind of vulgarity that we're talking about. But there are people who've said, well, you know what? I'm an athlete and I do think it invites retaliation. I think people should just, you know, play the game and leave it on the field. And what about the kids? So I don't know. What about you? What do you think?

EALONS: I'm thinking, are the football players that sensitive that if somebody scored and they decided to do a dance...

LOYOLA: Or throw a football through a goalpost?

EALONS: ...Or throw a football, that that would require retaliation? I mean, it must mean that there's some growing up that needs to be done, right? I mean, if you're crying over this - really? You're making millions of dollars. You're mad because somebody scored on you? Get back in the game and take the ball the next time.

LOYOLA: But Dru...

EALONS: ...It's not about retaliating, right? I mean, I feel like sometimes we get so worked up over things that if someone's dancing, they're celebrating - what's wrong with celebrating that you made it, right? What's wrong with that? I mean, maybe because my child only plays flag football, so there's no really - no real contact, but he's excited when he's made a touchdown. He's not...

MARTIN: ...But hopefully he's not twerking...

EALONS: He's not twerking.

MARTIN: ...In the end zone.

EALONS: You know, he's just like, yes.

MARTIN: Apparently twerking is something else that has been...

EALONS: Right.

MARTIN: ...That has been banned. I don't know, Mario...

EALONS: Right.

MARTIN: ...What were you going to say?

LOYOLA: Yeah, I was going to say that this is, like, also the age of victimism, right? I mean, this is...

MARTIN: ...Right.

LOYOLA: Everyone's got - we teach in our university - students go to Yale University to learn how they can have theories of how they were victimized in order to control other people and silence them, right? I mean, so this victimism as a tool of control...

MARTIN: ...I think our friends at Yale would disagree with you on this...

LOYOLA: All right, well...

MARTIN: ...That that's what they're learning. But...

OMAR: ...I don't know...

LOYOLA: That's what makes it to the videos.

OMAR: ...I'm about to spike my headphones. That's all I know.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

EALONS: Exactly.

MARTIN: Ammad says he's going to spike his headphones. All right, do I have time for one more question really briefly? This is a - there's a debate happening at the U.N. It's not about climate change or the refugee crisis. This is about Wonder Woman. It seems that the comic book heroine was named an honorary U.N. ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls for gender equality. And Ammad, I understand that some folks at the U.N. are not pleased.

OMAR: Yeah. I mean, the official U.N. folks say this is to spread awareness and raise the profile for this program they have going on. Some of the rank-and-file people at the U.N. I spoke with said there were a lot of raised eyebrows. There was a lot of water cooler chatter, especially among the women, who said that they can do better and this, you know, over-sexualized cartoon image is not really what they're looking for, so...

MARTIN: ...I understand there was even, like, a demonstration, though, wasn't there?

OMAR: There was a demonstration during the official kind of presentation. And there was a petition that's been signed by a lot of people there.

MARTIN: Dru?

EALONS: I just - I didn't - I never thought Wonder Woman was over-sexualized, and I grew up knowing her. So I was like, it's honorary. I'm not even understanding what kind of weight she would have as an honorary U.N. ambassador other than...

OMAR: ...Oh, she's got powers.

MARTIN: You got - she's got...

EALONS: ...She's got powers, right?

MARTIN: So, Dru, basically, Wonder Woman is your Halloween costume. Is that what you're telling us?

EALONS: Uh-huh (ph).

MARTIN: You're OK with it.

EALONS: I'm OK with that.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: OK, all right. That's Ammad Omar, Mario Loyola and Dru Ealons, all with us in the Barbershop. Thanks, everybody.

OMAR: Thank you.

EALONS: Thank you.

LOYOLA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.