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Gunman Open Fires on Tennessee Church Killing one, Injuring six; NFL Players Kneel During Nat'l Anthem in Defiance of Trump; Nashville Police Give Update on Church Shooting; Trump: Standing with Locked Arms, OK, Kneeling "Not Acceptable'; NFL Players Kneel During National Anthem In Defiance Of Trump; Trump: Standing With Locked Arms OK, Kneeling "Not Acceptable"; Senator Collins: "Very Difficult" To Vote For GOP Bill; Senator Paul: GOP Bill "Basically Keeps Obamacare". Aired 2-3p ET
Aired September 24, 2017 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All of the wounded have been transported to area hospitals. The majority are older adults.
The shooting happened around 11:15 local time at Burnette's Chapel Church of Christ. The suspect was wounded. The FBI is on the scene offering assistance. And we'll continue to update this story as we learn more.
All right. Hello again, everyone, and thanks so much for being with me, I'm Fredericka Whitfield on this Sunday.
The other big story this hour we're following, the NFL hits back at President Trump. Nine NFL games kicking off in the last hour with a powerful show of solidarity and defiance across the league during the American national anthem.
Players, coaches, staff, kneeling, hands on the shoulder, locked arms, a seemingly direct response to President Trump's blistering condemnation of players who refuse to stand during the anthem. Even the Jacksonville Jaguars team owner, Shahid khan, who donated million dollars trump's inauguration funds was among those who locked arms during the NFL's international games taking place in London.
And then In Chicago, all but one of the Pittsburgh Steelers' athletes during the game against the Bears, choosing to remain in the locker room while the anthem played.
And this morning, the president reigniting his feud with the NFL, tweeting "NFL attendance and ratings are way down, boring games, yes, but many stay away because they love our country, league should back U.S. If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our flag and country, you will see change take place fast, fire or suspend."
Remember, this all started after what the president said Friday night. You might find the words you're about to hear from the president of the United States offensive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So we have a team of correspondents and analysts covering all angles of this story for us. The NFL planning to air a message of unity during some of tonight's games. This as several NFL franchises have spoken out in support of NFL players and its commissioner, Roger Goodell.
CNN sports correspondent, Andy Scholes and CNN host of "Reliable Sources," Brian Stelter, back with me now.
So, Andy, you first. This is already a brief profound statement that we saw in the 1:00 eastern hour of nine NFL games being played. But there's more from the NFL?
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's definitely more to come in the afternoon games. I'm sure of that.
And Fredericka, I would like to say, we've seen players kneel during the anthem, we've seen them sit, we've seen them lock arms before. One of the first -- this is something we've seen for the first time here today. Owners on the field locking arms with their players. And we saw quite a bit during these early games. Shahid Khan led the way for the early game in London with the Jacksonville Jaguars taking on the Ravens. And then Arthur Blank with the Falcons.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES (voice-over): He locked arms with their star player, Julio Jones, Martha Ford with the Lions. She was on the field locking arms with Jim Caldwell, the head coach of the Lions who is an African- American. Stephen Ross, the owner of the Dolphins, down on the field with his team. And Jeffrey Lurie, the owner of the Eagles is also locking arms with his players down on the field. And this is the first time we've seen that from the NFL owners taking part during the national anthem with their players.
And Marcedes Lewis, a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, well, he spoke about what it meant for him to have his owner out there on the field with him and he spoke about what or gave us his take on what the president said leading up to this morning.
MARCEDES LEWIS, AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER: With the situation yesterday and the president calling a lot of the athletes out, you know, I think God put us here for a reason. He put us here to lead from the front. You've got to look at some positives for what he was doing.
And if you look at, you know, a lot of athletes did, said what they said or lash back. I mean, sophisticated responses that you can't really debate those. It's just what it is, it's real. It's a real situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: And you spoke about it moments ago, Fredericka, about how the Pittsburgh Steelers, they were the lone team to do something different as well, not coming out onto the field for the national anthem. The lone player you see there in the tunnel coming out for the anthem is Alejandro Villanueva, and he is a former army ranger. So he felt it important enough to, you know what? I really don't disagree with what we're doing. I'm still going to get out there and participate in the national anthem. You saw him do that, but as for the rest of the Steelers, they did not come out until the anthem was over. And when they did come out, they were booed by the fans there in Chicago.
WHITFIELD: OK. And Brian Stelter also with us. And so this messaging --
WHITFIELD: -- is profound, it's big. And, you know, the president, he tweets, he's at the rally, he had a very strong message, he was engaging NFL owners to take a stand, to penalize players for taking a stand.
BRIAN STELTER,CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Right.
WHITFIELD: But will the president potentially perceive this is a real slap in the face? Because it's the owners who -- many owners who have come out with these very strong statements say we back our players and their constitutional rights to express themselves peacefully.
STELTER: Yes. He certainly if the goal was try to divide owners and players, create more tension within the NFL, it doesn't seem to be working. I just spoke with a source inside the league, inside the front office who said to me, quote, "If Trump thought he could divide the NFL, he was wrong."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STELTER (voice-over): It's going into this idea that we've seen a weekend full of controversy, full of media coverage. All of the questions were, what was actually going to happen at these games this afternoon? Executives within the NFL didn't quite know. There were conversations going on among players and coaches about what to do right up until 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time today. And we're going to see more of this later in the day.
But the NFL source said to me just now, look, what we just saw at 1:00 p.m. was a variety of responses, but all united through this idea of unity, right? Through this idea that arms are locked, linked together in solidarity with the players who are choosing to take a knee and are choosing to protest.
Of course some of the -- some of the owners we've seen linking arms today have been supporters of President Trump, so that makes this all the more interesting.
If we can -- if we can pull up in the control room an interesting tweet, I wanted to show our viewers, this is a tweet from President Trump.
WHITFIELD: And that's LeBron says -- by the way. But go ahead.
STELTER: Right. This is a tweet from President Trump from January that I had forgotten about until today. Here's what he said. He said peaceful protests are a hallmark of our democracy, even if I don't always agree, I recognize the right of people to express their views.
Now, that's presidential language. Why did he tweet that on January 22nd? It was because of the Women's March the day before. He was -- he was -- he was trying to say that he heard -- he heard the women and men that were marching, he respected their rights to protest.
Well, this weekend he's done the opposite. He has said he does not respect the Colin Kaepernick's and the Michael Bennett's of the world if they choose to protest. So I think it's telling how different his tone is now about nine months later.
WHITFIELD: So, what has changed? Because the president does say it's a lack of respect that players, demonstrated by Colin Kaepernick and anyone else who follows, and presumably now what he's seeing today is a show of lack of respect for the national anthem for this country. But it's not just the NFL, gentlemen. It is also the NBA.
WHITFIELD (voice-over): Also, you know, while the president had his remarks in Alabama, particularly about the NFL, there also became a message between he and star NBA player of the Golden State Warriors Steph Curry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Steph Curry thinking out loud, I'm not really sure if I want to go to the White House, Andy, and the president tweeted it's an honor for anyone to come to the White House and then said, no longer are you invited. Then the team interpreted that as, well, then, none of us are going to go to the White House.
And Steph Curry was asked about it yesterday after practice, I think we have that clip about Steph -- nope, we don't have it yet, but we're trying to get that.
Steph Curry has not been at all silenced, and in fact other players, such as LeBron James, have also decided to speak out against what the president's language has been.
SCHOLES: You know, LeBron never takes a back seat when it comes to these social issues. He is out there discussing everything when it comes up these days. This really angered LeBron when Steph curry was there for media day, saying I'm not -- I'm not going to visit the White House and celebrate there because he disagrees with some of President Trump's policies and what he says. And then --
WHITFIELD: And he said -- some things he didn't say.
SCHOLES: And some things he didn't say, after Charlottesville. And so then after When President Trump tweeted that Steph Curry was no longer invited, after he already said he didn't want to go, that set off LeBron to send out that tweet. And then LeBron put a video out there also explaining why he sent that tweet. And do we have LeBron's message that --
WHITFIELD: I think what we have ready to go, and this was the president responding essentially to Steph Curry, saying it's usually -- there he goes.
SCHOLES: There's LeBron's response. He tweeted out, "You bum, Steph Curry already said he ain't going, so therefore ain't no invite. Going to the White House was a great honor until you showed up."
WHITFIELD: And now we have Steph Curry yesterday after practice.
SCHOLES: OK. Let's look at this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHEN CURRY, AMERICAN PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER: I don't know why he feels the need to target certain individuals rather than others. I have an idea of why, but it's kind of -- it's just kind of beneath I think a leader of a country to go that route. It's not what leaders do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHOLES: And Steph Curry had said, and so had Kevin Durant, they said, originally when they had one, they were going to discuss this as a team whether or not they're hanging in the White House and wants Steph Curry say he wasn't going, I imagine the team was all onboard for that decision. And that's that the -- it's kind of happened. It's funny how it turned out into this whole back and forth after the fact.
WHITFFIELD: And now, potentially at least one college team now, NCAA's North Carolina, also saying --
SCHOLES: Well, the North Carolina actually said they have a scheduling conflict and we're not going to be able to go. In a statement they put out it said it had nothing to do with what had been going on.
But in the meantime --
WHITFIELD: Won't be going to the White House but a different reason.
SCHOLES: Correct. WHITFIELD: OK. All right. So Brian Stelter, how compelled must the president be to respond? This may not be the scene that he likes right now, but this is a big moment. And for the president to ignore responding to it in some fashions is a big glaring mistake, wouldn't it be?
STELTER: Well, we've seen in the past, for example when some CEOs have quit his councils, he has chosen to speak out, he spoke out about Ken Frazier, the head of Merck. When a bunch of people quit the councils. We saw the White House weigh in when there were some celebrities that were going to skip the Kennedy Center Honors.
So this is an issue for Trump throughout various industries, various parts of our society, whether it's business leaders, athletes, celebrities. A lot of folks have had to make these choices whether to be associated with President Trump or not and many of them are choosing not to.
And I'm struck by -- you all just showed the tweets from LeBron James and that's a lot more retweets and faves and responses than the president's own words to.
We're talking about the a-list of the a-list here in Steph Curry and LeBron James and Tom Brady who was on the field just a few minutes ago.
I mean, these are world-famous stars who are distancing themselves from the president. We've just seen LeBron, who's watching the games at home this afternoon, posting on Instagram saying, "United we stand. I salute all these NFL players. They are locking their arms in solidarity. It is a -- it is a sports worldwide message right now to the president.
WHITFIELD: It's big. Sports, culture. I mean, you know, it's part of the tapestry of this nation.
Brian, Andy, I'm going to ask you to hold tight for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD (voice-over): I want to go straight to Tennessee, Antioch, Tennessee, and listen to the police department there update us on a church shooting. One dead, at least six injured.
DON AARON, PUBLIC AFFAIRS MANAGER, METRO NASHVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT: He went to his vehicle, got his gun, came back inside. And according to him, it was then that the gunman shot himself. It is our belief that the gunman's condition is not life-threatening. He is under police guard right now at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
This investigation is going to be continuing obviously throughout the day and into the coming week. The persons who were wounded, the innocents, the fire department is telling me that one person appears to be more serious than others. Again, all those individuals have now been taken to hospitals. I have three female gunshot victims who were taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Three male gunshot victims taken to Vanderbilt. That includes the shooter. The man who was pistol whipped has been taken to Skyline Medical Center. And there is one additional gunshot wound victim who was taken to Skyline.
A reunification area for family members who had persons at the church today who were concerned about their loves ones, a reunification area has been set up at beautiful gate church at 12316 Old Hickory Boulevard.
That is the extent of the information that I have for you at the moment. The gunman has been identified. Certain investigative steps are being taken in regard to that identification. And we will be releasing his identity in the short term.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the minister get shot?
AARON: I don't know. I don't have the names and the relationships at this point of the persons who were shot. We have police officers at the hospital interviewing them and gleaning information --
AARON: -- the best that they can from the gunshot victims as they're being medically treated.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it true the gunman wore a mask?
AARON: That is not true to my understanding. The gunman was wearing a type of neoprene mask, perhaps that you might see on a skier, a snow skier, one of those half masks.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is there any relationship that we know of between him and this congregation?
AARON: Not to my knowledge. We believe that the gunman is out of Rutherford County. I am not aware at this moment of any relationship between this man and the congregation.
Again, it is very early in the investigation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many doors are there to the church?
AARON: Again, we'll have to process the scene. The scene has been locked down. All of the victims were taken out by ambulance personnel, by fire department personnel. The scene is locked down. There were a number of witnesses in the church who saw what happened. They have been taken to another building, uninvolved building on the church campus and they are now being interviewed by our detectives.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So no one's going home yet, from the congregation?
AARON: Unless they left before we got here. The call to the emergency communications center came in at 11:15. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right now they have dogs that are just checking it out?
AARON: He arrived here in a blue SUV, one of the dogs did hit on the vehicle. So the hazardous devices unit did check the vehicle. To the best of my knowledge, there are no explosives there. It could well have been that the dogs hit on the vehicle due to the ammunition that had been either in their prior to the dog sniffing it, or that remains in the vehicle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did anyone describe the weapon? Handgun, long gun?
AARON: All of the witnesses now are being interviewed. We have early information that we need to corroborate. We need to make sure what's fact and what's not. So all of that -- we'll update you with all of that in the next -- in the next little while.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don, can you clarify the church member who was pistol-whipped, after being pistol whipped, went out to his car to get his own gun or that happens after he went to get his gun --
AARON: No, it is my understanding that he confronted the gunman. And keep in mind that he gave us this story with significant injuries around his head. So he gave us this account just before leaving for the hospital, that he confronted the guy, was pistol whipped, and went out to his car, retrieved a weapon, came back inside, and then the gunman, according to him, shot himself in the head area
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did that took him to firing shots?
AARON: We do not believe so. He indicated that he did not. Again, we haven't checked his weapon. The weapons that were left in the sanctuary are still there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there security cameras?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you know the age of the suspect?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there security cameras inside or outside the church?
AARON: I don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any idea how many parishioners were inside when he went in?
AARON: Not yet. OK. We'll be back. It's 1:20 now. I'll make a commitment to come back with you at 1:45, OK? Thank you.
WHITFIELD (voice-over): All right. An update there from Antioch police. Six injured, including the alleged shooter, walking into that Burnette Chapel there in Antioch, Tennessee, and opening fire. One was killed, six injured, including the alleged shooter. We'll get more information on the circumstances of the shooting. We're going to take a short break for now. We'll be right back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. This was the scene one hour ago at the Houston Texans and New England Patriots' game, a show of unity and solidarity, hands on heart during the national anthem, kneeling, arms locked, all of that. A real statement now coming in the same weekend when the president of the United States used fiery and some cases offensive language, challenging NFL team owners to fire athletes who kneel during the national anthem.
Let's talk about all of this. We've had some very, you know, emotion, passion-filled conversations for the past hour and a half. Let's continue it now with Donte Stallworth. He is a former NFL player who played 10 seasons in the National Football League.
And I wonder, Donte, you used to play with the Patriots and you saw the team there standing in solidarity. What are your thoughts about this show today?
DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER: Not only with the New England Patriots, but throughout the whole NFL today, and those games, those 430 games are yet to come. And then you have games tonight and you have another games --
WHITFIELD: So there were nine NFL games in the 1:00 -- you know, 1:00 kickoff. Yes, there are more later on. But how did this move you, how did this, you know, get you thinking about anything new about this direction?
STALLWORTH: I think that the president --
STALLWORTH: -- what he said on Friday in Alabama, I think that was a disgusting display of arrogance, of this nationalistic fervor that he has been promoting since the day he decided to run for the candidacy of the highest office in the land.
He has not been one to speak to the country as nothing other than giving his base red meat and telling them things that just obviously aren't true, saying that equaling the players to people who are not patriots, people who do not love this country, by expressing their first amendment rights. To me, that just doesn't make any sense. And he's shown, you know, again, from the very beginning, that he is -- his ideology at the very least, the people that he has shown an affinity towards, he's shown an affinity towards Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, he has shown an affinity for Vladimir Putin, he's shown an affinity even before in the past for Kim Jong un, saying he would love to meet or he would be honored to meet him.
These are the people that he look -- I wouldn't say he looks up to, but these are the -- these are the type of authoritarian figures that he looks up to and he appreciates people that are considered strong men. He hangs out with mafia guys in New York City or at least he used to as a real estate mogul.
He wants to quell dissent in this country and then he wants to compare NFL players to being anti-American or not patriotic because they're expressing their first amendment rights. To me, that's just despicable and ridiculous.
WHITFIELD: Donte, there is a new response coming from the president via tweet in response to what we have watched in the last hour and a half and he says, great solidarity for our national anthem and of our country, standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable, bad ratings.
So in your view, this show of unity or solidarity, is this a message about the right to protest against social injustice, which is what Colin Kaepernick was kneeling about at the very beginning, or is the statement today on display about a message toward President Trump and his admonishment of those who kneel, and right now we're looking at the Bronco-Bills images, from their national anthem being played in the last hour.
Who was this statement in your view, you know, targeting? Is it the president or is it about social injustices in this nation or both?
STALLWORTH: First of all, I think the president's tweet is nonsense. They're standing in solidarity against the words that you said on Friday evening in Alabama and against your double-down tweets. It's not standing in solidarity for anything other than that. Standing in solidarity against your words.
So the fact that he is trying to hijack not -- he's trying to hijack this whole conversation. And I was glad to see that Marcedes Lewis of the Jacksonville Jaguars came out initially or at the end of the game, in his post-game press conference, he came out and said, listen, we've got to find something that's good about this whole situation and move forward.
And that to me that's very important. We can't allow the president to hijack this conversation. It started off with being -- trying to raise awareness for criminal justice issues in this country, which anyone who has studied this, anyone who is paying any attention to what's going on in this country and what's been going on in this country for decades knows there's a problem there that needs fixing. We can't continue to ignore that.
STALLWORTH: And you're making reference to the Jaguars-Ravens game that was on the NFL's international series game taking place in London, that we saw that very strong message coming from the players while the national anthem is being played there.
So in your view, that you have NFL team owners with very strong statements supporting their players who protest peacefully, that you have locked arms, kneeling, hands on shoulders, et cetera, today, do you believe this now creates an opening for a Colin Kaepernick getting back on to a team or being resigned with the team?
STALLWORTH: I don't know if it has any bearing on what happens with Colin. I can't say -- sadly, in my opinion, in my view, from my 10 years of experience in the NFL and even as a coach, the longer any players, not just Colin Kaepernick, but the longer a player is out --
STALLWORTH: -- the harder it is for them to get back in.
And the longer that Colin Kaepernick is out, even though he's a great talent and he deserves from a talent standpoint, he deserves to be on the field, if we're talking about talent, and no one can refute that.
But as far as maybe having some momentum of Colin maybe getting back on a team, I think there's a possibility that it could happen, but I'm not 100 percent sure.
I hope the best for my brother, but I am glad to see that throughout this whole process, he has said what he would do by donating a million dollars, he said this initially right off the bat and he is closing in on that. He is not only talked the talk but is walking the walk, and I'm proud of him for that, no matter what anyone else says.
WHITFIELD: I ask that because all of this did not begin Friday night with the president in Alabama and some people need reminding that it was a year ago that Colin Kaepernick kneeled for the first time. And this momentum now has reached a very different peak. And it's easy to not separate -- I mean, to just separate the two. But one has to wonder if it collectively is part of the same movement.
All right. Donte Stallworth, thanks so much. I appreciate it.
STALLWORTH: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: All right. Next, as President Trump goes on the offensive against these players, what are the political risks for him?
Plus, another fight is taking shape across the nation today. The battle over repealing and replacing Obamacare. Details on why some key republicans are coming out against the GOP's bill. Stay with us.
WHITFIELD: All right. Not the typical Sunday matchup today. Politics and sports, all colliding, as members of the White House defend the president.
CNN correspondent, Boris Sanchez, joining me now from the White House. So, Boris, we just heard from the president via tweet on the image of a show of solidarity or unity at nine NFL games played across the country that kicked off at 1:00. What more does the president have to say on all of this? [14:35:08] BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Fred. Yes, it is a bit of a confusing tweet. Let's put it up on the screen right now. The president writing, quote, "Great solidarity for our national anthem and our country. Standing with locked arms is good. Kneeling is not acceptable. Bad ratings."
It's unclear exactly what the president means by this, in part, because you imagine that some of these players that are locking arms are doing so in solidarity with players that are kneeling. It's still unclear if the president believes that perhaps one form of protest is more acceptable than the other.
He then went on to tweet the following, quote, "Pleased to inform that the champion Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL will be joining me at the White House for ceremony, great team."
The president obviously differentiating between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Golden State Warriors which opted or at least voiced hesitation about coming to a ceremony here at the White House.
The president catching a lot of heat for his stance on not only players kneeling but for this invitation of the Golden State Warriors from NBA and NFL players as well as several owners who have said that the president's comments are inappropriate.
However, several figures within the White House including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and the director of Legislative Affairs, Mark Short, have come out defending the president. Here is some of what they had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The owners should meet and decide on this rule the way they decide on any other rule. Again, you know, for as long as I can remember, people have stood in honor of the country. This isn't about politics. If people want to talk politics off the field when they're not working for the NFL, they have the absolute right to do that.
MARC SHORT, WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: I think that the president is standing with the vast majority of Americans who believe that our flag should be respected. The pretty believes it is his role to improve race relations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: So a lot of passions, Fred, on both sides of this argument. What we do have to point out is how unexpected this controversy is, right? Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling during the national anthem last August, more than a year ago.
Yet the president felt it was important to bring this up Friday night at a rally in Alabama, with everything else that he has on his agenda, tensions at an all-time high with North Korea, replacement and repeal of Obamacare that is on the verge of collapse, and this tax reform rollout that he is expected to present to the country later this week. So, it certainly is curious that the president would focus on this in spite of everything else that's going on -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right, Boris Sanchez at the White House, thanks so much. Let's talk about all of this with CNN political commentator and Republican strategist, Shermichael Singleton, CNN political commentator, Ben Ferguson, and sports business analyst and former ESPN sports editor, Keith Reed.
Good to see you, Gentlemen. Shermichael, the president tweets, he applauds some of the show of solidarity but is this show of unity more of a message, you know, a response to him? And if so, is the president receiving it?
SHERMICHAEL SINGLETON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think the president's tweet surely is -- clearly is an indication that he's walking back his statement of Friday night. With everything that the president has on his plate, again, with the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, tax reform coming up soon.
You have North Korea, you have major natural disasters that have impacted Houston, Florida, a great majority of Puerto Ricans still remain without power. There are so many issues that the president should be focused on, yet for some reason he decided to bring this up.
And again, Colin Kaepernick first kneeled over a year ago. This isn't relevant when there are so many more critical issues that really impact Americans' lives day to day that the president should be focused on. He was elected to do a job. He wasn't elected to be a social critic.
WHITFIELD: Ben, does it appear the president is not thinking of that? I mean, he had been applauded about his response to Irma particularly, and of course, he's coming up on possible defeat of this latest effort for health care. Is he doing this as a means in which to distract?
BEN FERGUSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, I don't think so at all. I think he actually believes that the American flag and this country is a country that should be celebrated and that when the national anthem is played, you should show respect to this country which allows football players to play a game and make 10, 20, 30, $40 million a year and do it in a safe way.
WHITFIELD: But how -- he's engaged in this now, how is it to his benefit, then?
FERGUSON: I don't know if you look at it as a benefit or a positive or a negative. It's issue of right or wrong. You stand up when you see people that are taking the freedoms of this country for granted. What people have given the ultimate sacrifice for, for granted.
Let's not forget the American flag is draped over every coffin of every man or woman who serves country of all races, who gives the ultimate sacrifice. If there's any time to not disrespect the flag, that's how we honor it. That's how big of a deal the flag is.
[14:40:08] WHITFIELD: I wonder, Ben, I wonder if this underscores the interpretation of respect, spitting, burning the flag, universally people would think that's disrespectful. But you are hearing the word respect as it pertains to this argument.
And some are saying respect is honoring the Constitution, the right to protest peacefully, which is one display that we're seeing. But then the president is saying, by making a statement and kneeling or protesting, he says it's being less than patriotic, it's being disrespectful to the country.
FERGUSON: To be clear, no one is saying that you don't have the right to protest. I think a lot of people have confused this. You do have the right to protest. The president is not trying to take that away.
What he's saying to the NFL owners is you need to actually have some respect for the American people, your league, their rules. Let's talk about how crazy the NFL is. This is a league where not one single player came out and protested when there have been multiple players who have beaten their girlfriends or wives.
They didn't stand up for women in solidarity. They didn't say they weren't going to play next to an individual --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fredricka?
FERGUSON: -- that beat somebody in a hotel room or beat somebody in an elevator. How many of the players that played with some of these players that literally caught on tape, they didn't even -- and then the NFL stood behind those players.
So, for them to come out today and act like we're this great kumbaya, look at how the NFL polices its own players. You have women and girlfriends and wives who have been beaten by these players and they keep them employed and they help cover it up. That's a fact.
WHITFIELD: OK. Separately, but when you bring that up, I cannot help but think about the videotape of the president of the United States, before he was president, talking about, in a joking manner, groping, grabbing women.
FERGUSON: I said it was wrong then. I say it's wrong now.
WHITFIELD: Keith, go ahead on this topic.
KEITH REED, FORMER ESPN SENIOR EDITOR: So, A, that's factually wrong. The NFL Players Association has done a lot of work --
FERGUSON: They covered it up!
REED: I did not interrupt you, don't interrupt me.
FERGUSON: You can't put out misinformation.
SINGLETON: Ben, allow the guy to speak, please, so we can have a discourse.
WHITFIELD: Go ahead, Keith.
REED: Thank you. Number one, there have been any number of players in the NFL, and I'm not here to defend the NFL, especially not in the area of domestic violence, but it's not accurate to say that there were not players who have not taken a stand on the issue of domestic violence, because there have been many players in the NFL, who have taken a stand on that issue.
There have been players in the NFL who have done volunteer work and community work around the area of domestic violence. The NFL has gotten a lot wrong. They got a lot wrong in terms of domestic violence, but to bring that up in the conversation that we're having as a means to deflect away from --
FERGUSON: I'm not deflecting. I'm saying the NFL is a messed-up organization.
WHITFIELD: OK, but we're talking about peaceful protest. Go ahead.
REED: We're talking about peaceful protest. We're not talking about domestic violence. You can come on CNN, I was on a few years ago when we talked about Ray Rice. I didn't see you here on that panel. So, I'm wondering where you were.
REED: Today is not the day to deflect from that. Secondarily, it's interesting to me that when we have conversations about athletes, particularly African-American athletes exercising their rights to free speech, the thing that comes up is always, well, look at how much money they make as if you forfeit your --
FERGUSON: White guys that were protesting today, don't turn this into a racial thing.
REED: I am not done.
FERGUSON: There's plenty of white guys on the field today that were protesting.
REED: You always bring up that the thing that always comes up --
FERGUSON: There's white guys that were protesting.
REED: -- is how much money they make. What does that have to do with their right to protest things that impact them socially?
SINGLETON: Fredricka, if I could chime in.
WHITFIELD: OK. Yes, hold on -- go, Ben.
FERGUSON: We live in a country, and please listen clearly what my point is here on this. There are plenty of white guys that have been protesting and standing next to Colin Kaepernick and others, OK? Let's be clear about that. It has nothing to do with race.
What I'm criticizing is the fact that you have people that are privileged, one, live in a free country, two. They have police that protect them while they're playing the game and even escort them to the game. You have men and women in uniform that go around the world to keep them safe so they play a game. They make tens of millions of dollars.
They don't understand the fabric of this country or why we respect the flag, that men and women of all races have died in this country, giving them the freedom to play a game for a living for tens of millions of dollars. That's how great the American flag is. That's how great this country is.
They actually are able to do this. Give me another country in the world where you can go make millions of dollars like this, tens of millions of dollars, playing a game. It's an incredible gift that they have and they take it for granted.
SINGLETON: Fredricka, can I chime in? A couple of things as it pertains to what Ben stated that are completely erroneous as it pertains to this conversation.
[14:45:04] Number one, wealth has nothing to do about one's ability or inability to protest something that they believe -- Ben, Ben, allow me to finish because I allowed you to talk a very long time, number one.
Number two, there are other countries where athletes do make millions of dollars, Spain, United Kingdom, soccer players, et cetera --
FERGUSON: Not at the same level --
SINGLETON: -- that make a lot of money. Number three, my point, as it relates to the constitutionality of this, I don't think anyone has any issue or fault with recognizing the First Amendment Right to peacefully assemble.
I think for the president however, this is not in his purview. Again, of all the issues the president should be focused on, why is he focused on this? The president has been in office for nine months now, I believe, we have not had any major legislative success.
He was given a mandate by the individuals who voted for him. I would be more than happy to see the president focus on health care, focus on the economy. The president has the ability to bring a lot of people together at his rallies.
If he's having a difficult time getting senators to support the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, at his rallies talk about why reforming Obamacare would be more beneficial to the American people.
Ben, allow me to finish. So, my point, Fredricka is, again, the plethora of things that we should focus on, this is not under the president's purview. Stay away from these single cultural wedge issues, because again, they're only self-inflicting wounds that the president does not have to deal with.
WHITFIELD: OK, so I wonder, Ben, you know, the president has created a new roadblock for him as he's trying to get that big legislative win, and clearly, we've seen and heard sentiments from so many who have said, even Roger Goodell with the NFL said this is divisive, this is divisive talk.
You talked about patriotism and you know, the flag representing honor to military, et cetera. Congressman Ted Liu is a U.S. Air Force veteran, and he said America is a confident democracy that's why we let folks take a knee. We don't force people to stand during the anthem or bow to dear leader. So, you know --
FERGUSON: I don't think the government should force anybody to do anything when it comes to taking a knee. I think the point the president was making is, these owners, they do have the ability to decide what they expect when it comes to respect for this country from their players slash the people they pay to do a job.
WHITFIELD: Yes, you have the president said --
WHITFIELD: Wait, Ben. You have the president who said, this is my guidance to NFL owners out there, he said if they do that, fire them. He used choice, some would say --
SINGLETON: The president should not --
FERGUSON: The president makes comments all the time about people --
SINGLETON: And they shouldn't, Ben, that's a part of the problem. Ben, Ben, are you -- Ben.
FERGUSON: Let me finish.
WHITFIELD: OK, finish, Ben.
FERGUSON: Presidents always talk about guidance and their opinion on the private sector. That is very normal. Obama, for goodness sakes, criticized police officers when they arrested somebody in Harvard when he knew nothing about it then had it covered up with a beer summit. Don't tell me that they don't say things about private sector individuals or anything else.
Here is one other thing that I need to say that's important about this. The president of the United States of America was spot on and the fans I think are going to back him up on this. If you are going to be so disrespectful as a player, in my opinion, I don't think you should have the privilege to play in the NFL. I think the owners should fire them. They're obviously not going to, Roger Goodell --
WHITFIELD: That's part of it, it's the interpretation of the moment, is it disrespect, is it respect for your constitutional rights to do so -- go ahead, Shermichael.
SINGLETON: Fredricka, the consumers will determine whether or not they find this tolerable or not. If they don't like it, they will not watch the games, they will not attend the football games, and you will see viewership decrease, you will see the economics hurt by the NFL.
The president doesn't have to get involved in this. Ben, you're right, you reference President Obama. As a conservative, I remember how upset many of us were that he did make remarks about a situation that he was not familiar with.
I think it is extremely problematic to have any branch of government stepping into the private sector, dictating or insinuating what the private sector should or should not do. Leave that to the left, Ben. Give me a break.
REED: It's very disingenuous to say that the president of the United States is merely speaking up for the rights of the owners because the owners clearly have not -- except for their blackballing, and I do believe that's what's happening with Colin Kaepernick, the owners haven't had a problem.
The entire Pittsburgh Steelers team didn't come out of the locker room this afternoon for the national anthem and I have not heard one word from the Rudy family. Every owner that we've heard from in the last 24 to 48 hours has made a statement, when they've made statements, they've made statements against the sentiments of the president of the United States and for their players' rights.
[14:50:03] So if your feeling is that, as you said, that the owners should have the right to tell their employees what they should do, the owners are saying we have no problem with the employees, what they're doing. We have no problem with --
FERGUSON: Right, and let me tell you, mark my word, the ratings are going to be down.
REED: Ben, again, the market dictates that, not the president of the United States of America. That's simple.
FERGUSON: The president of the United States of America has a right to an opinion just like those players on the field do.
SINGLETON: Leave it to the private sector, simple as that.
WHITFIELD: We'll leave it right there, Gentlemen. Thank you so much. Just for now, though. Shermichael Singleton, Ben Ferguson, Keith Reed, thank you so much. Appreciate it. We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right. Welcome back. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The Republican push to repeal and replace Obamacare could be hitting a major new snag. Right now, the Republican health care bill is one vote shy of failure. This morning here on CNN, Senator Susan Collins indicated she may vote no. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: It's very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill. I have a number of serious reservations about it. I'm concerned about the effect on the Medicaid program, which has been on the books for more than 50 years and provides health care to our most vulnerable citizens, including disabled children and low-income seniors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Take a look at which Senate Republicans you need to watch. Rand Paul, John McCain, are the two no votes right now. There are now six Republican senators who are expressing concerns. Senator Ted Cruz joined this group today, saying the bill does not yet have his support.
Let's bring in White House correspondent, Athena Jones. So, with Collins leaning no, six senators expressing concerns, is this latest Republican attempt to get rid of Obamacare and replace it dead?
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fred. Well, I think the supporters of this bill will say it's not dead yet. We've heard from Senator Collins say she's leaning now, but she's waiting to hear the score from the Congressional Budget Office.
She went on to say during that interview that she is concerned about the impact on costs and on coverage levels of this bill. She talked about being concerned about the erosion of what she called the erosion of protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Now a lot of people know someone who has some sort of preexisting condition. We're talking about everything from asthma to arthritis, cancer to diabetes. She's expressing a lot of the same concerns we heard her express over the summer, during the previous failed effort to repeal Obamacare.
We also heard from Senator Paul on "Meet The Press" earlier today explaining why he is opposed this this bill, which he says doesn't go far enough in dismantling Obamacare. Take a listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[14:55:04] SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: So, I don't think block granting Obamacare makes it go away. It just means you're keeping all the money we've been spending on Obamacare, most of it, reshuffling it, taking the money from Democrat states and giving it to Republican states. I think what it sets up is a perpetual food fight over the formula.
If they narrow the focus to the things we all agree on, expanding health savings accounts, giving the governors more freedom through waivers, slowing down the rate of growth of an outrageous or out of control entitlement spending, sure, I would be for that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: So, he's laying out what kind of changes would have to happen before he would support the bill. As you mentioned, Ted Cruz is also now saying that he wants to see some changes or he would like to get to yes, he's not there yet, he would like to see more consumer choice.
The issue here, Fred, is the same issue that they've had all along, which is that if you try to make changes that will win over someone like Senator Paul or Senator Cruz, you're more likely to push further away Senator Collins and those who agree with her and have similar concerns -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: All right. Athena Jones, thanks so much.
All right. Still so much more straight ahead in the next hour of the NEWSROOM. But first, here is this week's "Turning Points."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tony Melendez's mother was given a medication for morning sickness while she was pregnant which may have affected his development.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I came into this world missing two arms and the left foot was clubbed. In my eyes, it was normal. It's not like, oh, I lost them. It was, I never had them. I was able to with my toes reach out and do things, people would say, how is he doing that? I wanted to be a priest when I was younger.
GUPTA: At the time a person was generally required to have a thumb and index finger to become a priest in order to give communion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, I had to find something else. At 16, someone showed me how to tune the guitar different. That opened the door to be able to do the toe-picking. I was able to sing for John Paul II in 1987.
That moment led to a lot of things. I've recorded now six different albums. If I could go back and have two arms, I would say the only reason I would do that would be to wrap my arms around my wife and hold her.
GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. There has been a shooting in Antioch, Tennessee, at a place of worship, inside a church. Investigators are on the scene right now.
Last we heard from officials, one killed, six injured, including the alleged gunman. Let's go now to Antioch, Tennessee to listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- there was one gunshot victim being treated --