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THE SITUATION ROOM

Oklahoma Health Dept. Urges Trump Rally Attendees To "Seek Out Testing" Ahead Of Event; Trump Forcefully Defends Police While Ordering Modest Reforms; Blatant Lack Of Mask, Social Distancing At Trump Event; De Blasio: NYC Can Begin Phase Two Reopening Next Week; Rate Of New Coronavirus Cases Trending Up In 18 States; Key Model Projects Over 200,000 U.S. Deaths By October. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 16, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage on CNN continues right now. I'll see you here tomorrow. Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM where we're following the 22nd day, straight day of protest demanding police reform as President Trump unveils a modest executive order on police training and use of force. It's unclear what immediate effect it will have, and it falls far short of what the protesters and the advocates have been calling for.

We're also following breaking news, Vice President Pence denying there's a second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Even as the death toll now tops 116,000 people and cases continue to arise right now in 18 states.

Despite the rising numbers, President Trump and his congressional allies did not wear masks or follow our social distancing guidelines at today's White House event, ignoring the precautions recommended by the President's own Coronavirus Task Force.

Let's begin this hour over at the White House. Our Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us.

Jim, in the face of the national outcry demanding major police reform. The President is putting out relatively modest plans while strongly defending law enforcement.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump met with family members of victims of police brutality behind closed doors today. But those families did not appear with the president in the Rose Garden where Mr. Trump signed an executive order aimed at reforming police practices.

But the President turned the event into a campaign speech pointing to the stock market and attacking former President Barack Obama. The President's event was also notable and that few officials on hand for this speech were wearing a mask despite growing concerns about new cases of the Coronavirus. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Offering up little more than new guidelines aimed at ending police brutality, President Trump let loose on the protesters who have marched in the streets across the U.S. since the brutal killing of George Floyd.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defend, dismantle and dissolve our police departments.

Americans want law and order they demand law and order. They may not say it. They may not be talking about it, but that's what they want.

ACOSTA: President downplay the problem of police misconduct, insisting only a small number of rogue officers are to blame.

TRUMP: They're very tiny. I use the word tiny. It's a very small percentage, but you have them.

ACOSTA: The executive order signed by the president urges police departments to improve their practices on the controversial use of police chokeholds. The executive order recommends that the state or local law enforcement agencies use of force policies prohibit the use of chokeholds except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law.

Despite the fact that his own administration violently cleared Lafayette Square earlier this month, gassing and beating protesters, the President argue the country should be more unified.

TRUMP: What's needed now is not more stoking of fear and division. We need to bring law enforcement and communities closer together, not to drive them apart.

ACOSTA: Civil Rights Advocates were disappointed in what they heard.

DAVID HENDERSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I haven't had the chance to take a look at the executive order on paper yet, but based on what I heard, I am disappointed. I think it is a slap in the face of everyone who's been out protesting around the world for the past several weeks.

ACOSTA: The President also use the speech to tout the latest numbers on Wall Street.

TRUMP: The stock market went through the roof.

We're getting very close to the level we were before the pandemic and before all of the things that you've seen happen happened.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump also falsely said former President Barack Obama did not attempt to reform police practices. But that's not true. Obama released his own proposals more than five years ago.

TRUMP: President Obama and Vice President Biden never even tried to fix this during their eight year period. The reason they didn't try is because they had no idea how to do it. And it is a complex situation.

ACOSTA: Presidents event was notable for another reason as few officials wore masks despite the current pandemic.

Traveling in Iowa Vice President Mike Pence also decided to forego a mask as he sat down for lunch inside a restaurant and toward a factory.

On a phone call with governor's this week, Pence tried to dismiss the latest rising Coronavirus cases as a result of more testing, even though public health officials caution infections are increasing as well.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would just encourage you all, as we talk about these things, make sure and continue to explain to your citizens the magnitude of increase in testing in most of the cases where we are seeing some marginal rising number that's more a result of the extraordinary work you're doing. Expand and testing.

ACOSTA: Pence was sticking to the President's talking points.

[17:05:04]

TRUMP: That we step testing right now would have very few cases, if any.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And the Vice President has just posted an op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal" just in the last couple of hours, declaring that there will not be a second wave of the coronavirus. There's a headline right there from Vice President Mike Pence. Even though public health officials are warning it is way too early to say that in this pandemic.

And ask for police reform, one of the victims family cited by the President in the Rose Garden, the family of Antwon Rose, we should note, has released a statement saying they were not in attendance for that speech. Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting. What are you learning right now about some new guidance coming in for those thousands, potentially thousands of people who will attend the President's rally in Oklahoma this coming weekend?

ACOSTA: That's right, Wolf. As you know, the President decided to hold this rally this weekend. It is raising all sorts of controversy because it is raising the prospect of cramming thousands of people into an arena during this pandemic.

Well, the Oklahoma Department of Health has just issued guidance to Trump supporters who may be going to that rally. It has some pretty stunning recommendations. One of those recommendations is that people who are planning to go to the rally, be tested for the coronavirus and be tested for the coronavirus after they go to the rally. So both before and after the rally, the Oklahoma Department of Health is saying those supporters who are going to the rally should be tested for the coronavirus.

And if they fit that criteria of being in an at risk population, 65 years or older with pre-existing conditions that they consider not going to the event, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you very, very much.

Let's get some more in all of this. Our Chief Political Correspondent Danna Bash is joining us. Our Law Enforcement Analyst Charles Ramsey is with us and the former police chief. He's the former police chief for both Washington D.C. and Philadelphia. And CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So Sanjay, the Oklahoma Department of Health as we just heard, issue these new guidelines ahead of the President's rally there weekend Saturday in Tulsa. Among other things, it's urging attendees to wear face coverings, plan and seek out testing both before and after. What does this say about the concern by the Oklahoma health authorities about this huge gathering that's anticipated?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think there's a significant concern obviously, Wolf. And I think they've said earlier that they'd prefer not to have a big rally like this indoors with lots of people who are not going to be able to physically distance a carnival like atmosphere where a lot of people are yelling and putting virus out into the environment.

So I think what you're hearing now from Jim Acosta, and from what you're hearing on the ground there in Oklahoma is that they're trying to do anything they can to try and mitigate what is a worst case scenario by the CDC's own guidelines to think about these types of gatherings. Best case scenario, do it virtually the worst case scenario, a lot of people indoors, I mean, the testing if people abide by that can actually get tested. That would be great.

And then they abide by not going if the test comes back positive. That's going to be helpful. Masks if they're mandated, that would be helpful. But it's still, it's a very difficult scenario, Wolf. This is where you talk about these potential super spreader events. A lot of people get infected, they go back to their communities. That's a real problem, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And the Oklahoma Department of Health Commissioner Lance Frye, he issued this statement among other things, he said, "We appreciate the President and his team of advisors for preparing temperature checks, face coverings, and hand sanitizers for Saturday's event."

And then he goes on to say "We encourage the public to closely follow all public health guidance and procedures established for the event in order to protect yourself and loved ones."

There's more, "As outlined by the CDC individuals looking to attend Saturday's event or any other large scale gathering will face an increased risk," increased risk, "of becoming infected with COVID-19 and becoming a transmitter of this novel virus."

A very strong statement that's going to, Danna, presumably scare a lot of folks from even bothering to attend if the Oklahoma Health Commissioner himself is saying, just be very, very careful.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Maybe. But we'll see. Because there are a lot of people around the country, as you all know, particularly Sanjay, they're in Georgia, and we've seen this in Oklahoma and other places where they're eager to get back to their lives.

And Oklahoma, one of the reasons that the Trump campaign gave in saying that they were going to Oklahoma to begin with, not a swing state at all, that's pretty clearly in the bag for the President, if history is any indication is because they're already in phase three of the opening.

And, you know, the governor there was very reluctant even early on to shut things down. The mayor of Tulsa working hand in hand with the mayor of Oklahoma City. Those are the two biggest cities in that state. They were more restrictive than the statewide rules.

[17:10:11]

And so that just kind of gives you a sense of where the mindset is in Oklahoma. And frankly, we know from polling, and just from anecdotal evidence that people who are Trump supporters feel they're probably not going to be as worried as perhaps they should be.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, they should be worried according to the Oklahoma Health Commissioner, according to the CDC.

Chief Ramsey, let's talk about the efforts to engage in police reform the President's Executive Order part of a series of relatively modest reforms based. Based on what you know, you're a law enforcement authority on these issues, do you think policing reforms need to go further than what the President proposed today?

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, it need to go a lot further. I mean, this is a step in the right direction, a small step. But it needs to go much further than that.

But a national database that would have information on officers who have been fired for a variety of reasons, for example, is a good idea. Banning a chokehold again, something very positive, having some form of certification for police officers. I mean, national standards do matter.

But policing, most policing occurs at the local and state level. And that's where change has to happen. Police Chiefs, shares, communities. That's where the work needs to be done to make the changes necessary to get policing back on track in this country.

The one good thing that I saw in there is the fact that you know, two months ago, we wouldn't even have this conversation with the President. I mean, so at least he's at the table trying to do something, and we'll see where it goes from here, but that's better than nothing, because something has to give, something has to change. And at least he's not going to stand in the way hopefully, of meaningful reform.

BLITZER: Well, we'll see what the Congress comes up with the same time.

You know, Sanjay after the President signed that executive order, as you notice, we saw White House officials, all the guests standing very closely together in the Rose Garden. They were all talking without masks, basically, almost all of them.

The behavior is exactly the opposite of what the White House's own Coronavirus Taskforce, the CDC, other public health officials are advising. How concerned are you when you see these images?

GUPTA: Well, I mean, the evidence is pretty clear. The recommendations are very clear.

I don't even know what to say at this point. It's been five and a half months now.

I mean, masks, you know, they make a difference. There's evidence that we can show you some of the evidence. I think the question often comes up, if I have the virus and you are standing close to me within six feet, what is the likelihood I would spread the virus to you, right? Basic question.

This is early evidence and you know, there's going to be lots of studies to look at this. But just take this for now out of the Lancet 17 and a half percent roughly, if you're not wearing a face mask, if you are, drops to 3 percent. It's not perfect, but that's nearly a six fold decrease in the likelihood of transmission.

I mean, we got to do everything we can, Wolf. I mean, there's going to be probably a middle ground that everyone's going to look for. I think it's going to be very hard to convince people to go back into full stay at home shut down mode.

I think that's becoming increasingly clear, despite the tragic numbers that we keep reporting and the number of infected number of died, but it's also -- so it's not going to be stay at home and it's not going to be open for business as usual as back to normal. So what is the middle ground masks make a huge difference, Wolf. And you know, obviously, we're not seeing that at the White House.

Sanjay Gupta, thank you. Dana Bash, Chief Ramsey, thanks to all of you.

Well, we're going to continue to follow all these developments.

Also coming up, I'll talk about the President's police reform plans with a mayor of New York City. There you see him, Bill de Blasio. He's standing by live. Does he plan to go further with the NYPD? Plus, we'll take a much closer look at the influential model now forecasting more than 200,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths by October.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:18:49]

BLITZER: Three weeks of protests demanding police reform continue tonight hours after President Trump signed an executive order on police training and use of force. These are live pictures coming in from New York City. You can see folks walking down the street there right now.

Let's get some more on all of this. The New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is joining us.

Mayor de Blasio, thank you so much for joining us. We got we got a lot to discuss. But let me get your response, first of all, to the President's newly unveiled executive order that he signed today on police reforms. They're seen as relatively modest reforms. We're showing our viewers some of the details.

What about you? Are you willing to go much further than what the President is now proposing?

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Oh, yes, Wolf.

Wolf, look, it's better he did something than nothing but relatively modest is the right way to look at it. We've got to go a lot farther.

We've got to re-examine the entire relationship between our police and our communities at this point. And what we're doing here in New York is we're taking money out of the police force, putting it into youth programs, social services, going at the root causes, a lot of the challenges that our communities face.

We're still going to keep people safe, but it's important to redistribute some of those resources out of policing and into things that will really address foundational issues and communities.

[17:20:07]

We are investing in the amazing grassroots solution to violence called The Cure Violence Movement, also known here as the Crisis Management System. Its grassroots people, community people, some of them folks who in fact themselves, used to be incarcerated who decided to turn their lives around, stop violence. We're putting a lot of money into that as a grassroots solution.

We're making clear that we're going to be very transparent. I announced today that body worn camera footage in major incidents will be released within 30 days to show that not only do we have the body worn cameras, but we're going to make sure that the information is transparent.

Our police commissioner announced yesterday getting rid of particularly aggressive unit called Anti-crime Unit, which for a lot of people, unfortunately, was exacerbating some of the tensions between police and community. We have to keep people safe, Wolf, but we can do it with different approaches that are more respectful of communities, that listen to community members more.

So there's so much more that we have to do to reform policing. But we've been doing it now for six and a half years. We've got rid and stop and frisk, we've instituted neighborhood policing, reduced arrest, reduced incarceration, it works, Wolf. This is the way of the future.

BLITZER: All right, let's -- we'll continue to follow that. But I want to get into the coronavirus pandemic in New York City. You said your city potentially could move into phase two of reopening on June 22. What benchmarks, Mayor, Do you need to reach to move forward with that kind of reopening?

DE BLASIO: Wolf, so far, we've been cautious. We've been all about the data, and it served us well.

You see that the coronavirus has been receding in New York City, thank God. People have done an amazing job with the face coverings and the social distancing.

We need to see data that convinces both the city and the state that we're ready to go as early as June 22.

I've said I want to keep expectations a little low Wolf. It may take you know another week or more before we're totally confident. But really it is about the numbers. If we continue to see that the tests we're doing all over the city bring back very low rates of positive coronavirus infection. We're watching our hospital admissions carefully.

Were concerned, look, we had a lot of protests here. We're going to know in the next, you know, four or five days what the impact of that was initially in terms of our data. We're watching that carefully, too.

But if we continue to see really good consistent data, then we're going to move to that next phase and that's going to be a big one. That's when many hundreds of thousands of people will come back to work.

BLITZER: Was it a mistake to allow those 10s of thousands of people to be marching in close distance along the streets of New York City?

DE BLASIO: No. Wolf, look, there are moments in history you got to see what's really going on there. There has been an outpouring of frustration, of pain, of anger, demanding change. This is -- A lot of these changes needed have been needed for decades in generation. So no.

That kind of just grassroots outpouring, spontaneous outpouring you can't just ignore it. We tried to obviously keep reminding people to distance and wear masks. But the most important thing here is it was outdoor demonstrations. It was people authentically talking about the changes we need.

We'll know in the next few days if we see any lasting impacts so far, we have not. Thank God. But the real issue going forward is what does the data tell us? If it's like what we've seen now over these last weeks, and we've you know, we've been reopened now for over a week, we like what we see. People are still following the rules in New York City. They're being real smart about the face coverings and the social distancing. And if we can stick to that, we can keep going farther and farther with the reopening.

BLITZER: We've saw those images though, a lot of folks in New York City at bars and restaurants, no face mass, it's concerned -- it's a source of concern. And I know you're getting, if you're following the New York City media, a lot of criticism for keeping for example, the playgrounds in the city closed. Why do you feel it's still unsafe for the kids to go outside and play in the playgrounds as the city takes these steps to reopen?

DE BLASIO: Well, Wolf, it's all about step by step.

Look, we got to phase one, because we were careful, we were cautious. Already we've got a couple hundred thousand people have come back to work, subway, riders ships going up, Staten Island Ferry ridership, buses, it's working. We've tried to be smart and careful. That's why we're not going to declare phase two unless we have the evidence until we have the evidence.

The same with the playgrounds. Once you open up playgrounds, you got a lot of families, a lot of people in close contact. I want to get there as soon as we get to phase two. But we've got to verify over these next days that we're really holding the line. When we do we can take that next step.

The bars, the restaurants are going to take a lot of monitoring. When we have to, we'll do enforcement as well. I think that situation will be improved when we start outdoor dining and that's also going to be part of phase two.

So, I'm going to be optimistic, Wolf, when we've seen problems that need some addressing, some education, some enforcement we focus at resources and that tends to do the job.

[17:25:06]

BLITZER: Yes, we're showing some -- our viewers some pictures from over the past few days of a lot of folks in New York City outside of restaurants and bars. Clearly having a good time.

I got to run, unfortunately, but we'll continue, Mayor, this conversation down the road. Thank you so much for joining.

DE BLASIO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, we'll have more in President Trump's executive order on police reform and why critics say it doesn't go far enough. Plus, we'll have more on the breaking news, the Vice President Mike Pence denying a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the rising death fell and a spike, a spike in cases in 18 states.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:30:37]

BLITZER: New coronavirus cases are climbing right now in at least 18 states with the most troubling trends in the south and the west. But that isn't stopping some governors from pushing ahead with plans to reopen.

CNN's Nick Watt is joining us now from Los Angeles with the very latest. And Nick, tell us more.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Texas just reported its highest new daily case count since all of this began. The governor blames some delays and reporting, a cluster in one assisted living facility. But also he says, in some counties, there are increasing cases amongst the under 30s. And he says maybe that's because bars are being lax. Maybe that was those Memorial Day gatherings. He says that they will crack down.

Florida also, a couple of days ago, the most new cases they have ever seen. But still, the RNC is going to hold their convention in Jacksonville, the NBA, the WNBA hope to play all of their games in Florida. Wolf, it does seem like the south is emerging as the new hotspot.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): Arkansas just upped the number of people allowed inside bars and restaurants and every business in the state is now immune from liability should a customer or employee catch COVID-19.

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: We can't have life on hold for six months to a year until there's a vaccination.

WATT (voice-over): Even though the CDC is now on the ground investigating an outbreak, even though the hospitalization rate in Arkansas is nearly four times what it was in mid-May, even though the average daily case count has doubled in just two weeks.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Certainly where states that did not strictly follow the guidelines that we put out.

WATT (voice-over): And plenty people who just won't follow whatever individual guidelines there are.

FAUCI: That clearly is increasing the risk and likely explaining some of the upticks that you're seeing.

WATT (voice-over): Those University of Washington modelers now predict our daily death toll will spike very steeply in September. And now say more than 200,000 Americans will be killed by COVID-19 by October 1. Why? Because increased mobility and premature relaxation are leading to upticks in states like Florida and also in Arizona where COVID-19 hospitalized are now at an all-time high.

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: These models are not inevitable. Our actions today have a huge effect.

WATT (voice-over): Masks are key. Some airlines now say they'll ban passengers who won't wear one. Nancy Pelosi might make the mandatory at House Committee meetings, but masks apparently aren't mandatory for those close to the President or at Saturday's MAGA rally in Tulsa, where they're now looking to add an overflow venue.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the state of Oklahoma, we've really seen a tremendous amount of progress.

WATT (voice-over): Case counts are actually now climbing sharply in Oklahoma, and despite a similar worrying trend in Arkansas.

HUTCHINSON: The response is not passing a mandate. They need to wear a mask but we're asking for individual social responsibility and to do the right thing. That's what Arkansas is about.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: OK, some good news. Researchers in England say that what they call a boring old steroid in studies reduce the risk of death by about a third in seriously ill patients. Early results, not peer reviewed. But, Wolf, good news is good news. Back to you.

BLITZER: Yes, it is. All right, Nick Watt reporting for us, thank you.

Let's get some more in the pandemic. Joining us now, Dr. Leana Wen, the Former Health Commissioner of Baltimore.

Dr. Wen, this latest model from the University of Washington, as you just heard now projecting more than 201,000 deaths in the United States by October 1st.

In other words, another 75,000 Americans according to this model will die between now and October 1st. You say it's not inevitable. What needs to be done to prevent another 75,000 Americans dying over the next couple of months?

WEN: That's right, Wolf. It's not inevitable because the consequence is actually in our hands. The model is predicting that because people are going to be up and about more and we're not going to take precautions.

[17:35:04]

That's why all these people are going to become infected and die and so the converse is also true. This is not a weather forecast that it looks like a hurricane is coming towards us. There's nothing that we can do. There are things that we can do right now. So policymakers can be really ramping up testing, contact, tracing, isolation, those measures to contain the virus. And individuals too, we have to not let down our guard.

We know that being outdoors, for example, reduces the risk of transmission by 18 to 19 times versus indoors. That washing our hands, wearing masks, also wearing masks will reduce our risk of transmission by 50 percent. Those are all things that we can do right now to protect ourselves and prevent our country from reaching that extremely grim milestone.

BLITZER: Let me ask you about what Nick was just reporting on this new study out of the U.K. that finds a commonly use steroids that can reduce the risk of death by about 35 percent. How promising of the development potentially is this?

WEN: I think it's extremely promising, Wolf, because this is a steroid dexamethasone that's been around for decades. It is cheap, it is widespread. And this is the first study actually that has found anything can reduce the mortality rates for extremely ill patients. Now, of course, there are some caveats that this is not yet peer reviewed. And we are seeing so many of these studies coming out without having gone through that validated process. And so we do want to get that peer review done.

And also, this is for extremely ill patients that this study examined. And so, I do not want for people to be watching right now and going out and buying dexamethasone if they don't have COVID-19, or for wild illness, because that's not what the study exam is.

BLITZER: It's for those who are on the respirators and oxygen, who are in the hospital and desperately need something and potentially this drug could save their lives. There's also, as an announcement today, Dr. Wen, that the U.S. government is now looking at 14 possible vaccines and we'll narrow the list down to about seven before further testing. What does that tell us about a potential timeline for a real vaccine?

WEN: Well, I know that the most optimistic timeline is something by the end of the year. But I think a lot of people are skeptical because we do want to make sure that that vaccine that's finally developed is safe and effective.

And it may well be that there are multiple vaccines that are developed and are shown to be effective, but it will still take time before the science to happen, it will take time for the manufacturing to occur.

And I think for all Americans, we need to know that we're going to be living with this virus for some time. So we need to figure out how to do so safely. And again, take matters into our own hands when it comes to protecting ourselves.

BLITZER Yes. As I keep saying in this pandemic is by no means over hundreds of Americans are dying every single day and it looks like is going to continue for some time, unfortunately. Dr. Wen, thanks so much for joining us.

WEN: Thank you. BLITZER: Coming up, how major sports leagues are playing a pivotal role in the movement for social justice, we've got new information. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:42:43]

BLITZER: We're monitoring today's protests in New York City. You can see a lot of people in the streets of New York right now. They're continuing to protest what's been going on in this country for a long time, way too long. In fact, we'll update you on what's going on in New York shortly.

But there's other developments unfolding right now. His silent protest appear to have cost him his career. But now it seems the times have caught up with the former NFL player Colin Kaepernick as he and other athletes and sports leagues themselves are playing a pivotal role in the sweeping movement for major social and racial justice.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us right now. Brian, a lot of players, teams, league officials they are speaking out.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are, Wolf. And they seem about as fractured as the rest of the country. You know, tonight as America struggles with the issues of racial tension and police brutality, some of the nation's top and most popular sports leagues are also finding that road pretty difficult to navigate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): In a stunning reversal, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is now telling ESPN, he supports the idea of an NFL team signing quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick has essentially been blackballed from the league since becoming the face of the movement to take a knee more than three years ago.

ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: I welcome that support, the club making that decision and encourage them to do that. If his efforts are not on the field but -- and continuing to work in this space, we welcome to that table.

TODD (voice-over): It comes on the heels of Goodell admitting the league has been on the wrong side of some racial issues for years.

GOODELL: We, the National Football League believe Black Lives Matter.

TODD (voice-over): NFL player and activist Michael Bennett called that statement almost like a slap in the face, saying the commissioner's shifts on racial injustice and Kaepernick are simply attempts at being politically correct.

MICHAEL BENNETT, NFL PLAYER AND ACTIVIST: What if we made this stance three years ago, could we stop more police violence? Would there being less definitely (ph) on the streets of America right now? At this point we're trying to play catch up and do what's right. TODD (voice-over): A prominent sports agent who does not represent Colin Kaepernick tell CNN Kaepernick still good enough to play in the NFL. That several teams need a player like him. But that Roger Goodell's word alone won't bring Kaepernick back into the league.

DREW ROSENHAUS, SPORTS AGENT: The NFL is got to lead the way and the commissioner is doing the right thing but the teams and the owners have to follow his lead.

[17:45:07]

TODD (voice-over): But that's, by no means, a certainty. The NBA now planning to resume that season in late July due to the COVID pandemic is also split over how to handle the issues of racial injustice. L.A. Lakers center Dwight Howard is with a faction of players who aren't ready to play yet.

DWIGHT HOWARD, L.A. LAKERS CENTER: I just feel like our people, we need attention. I really feel like our world is hurting right now. You know, I just -- there's so much stuff going on in our world, man. And I just feel like, you know, it's just, we don't need to get distracted by anything.

TODD (voice-over): But other players like the Rockets' Austin Rivers feel the league needs to resume. Rivers saying on Instagram that the forum which playing would provide and the money they earn would allow players to give their time and energy towards the BLM movement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe Jackie Robinson can be the hero.

DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION MAGAZINE: Dr. Martin Luther King called Jackie Robinson a sit-inner before sit-ins and a freedom rider before Freedom Rides. Muhammad Ali was somebody who was against the Vietnam War before the majority of the country joined him. We've seen historically that athletes have played a tremendous role in pushing public consciousness forward. That's just a history.

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TODD: But Dave Zirin says the sports leagues have to get their own houses in order as well. He says, we'll know that they really mean business when we see things like Colin Kaepernick signed by an NFL team, which still hasn't happened. And if we see more black head coaches in the NFL at the moment, there are only three out of 32 teams in a league where 70 percent of the players are African-American, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you. Brian Todd, reporting for us. There's breaking news coming up next. Oklahoma health officials are now urging people planning to attend President Trump's huge Tulsa rally on Saturday to get tested for the coronavirus both before and after the event. They are concerned.

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[17:51:53] BLITZER: There's more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Get this, the mayor of Tulsa Oklahoma says he didn't even know that the invitation for President Trump's campaign rally had been extended for this coming Saturday. Mayor G.T. Bynum, who's a Republican says he would rather have had another city host the event, instead he's worried about what's going on.

CNN's Abby Phillip is on the story for us. She's joining us from Tulsa right now. So what's the latest, Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there is a lot of uncertainty here in Tulsa and a lot of really nervousness as the mayor put it in anger about this upcoming rally. The rally goers are going to be given masks, they're going to be given hand sanitizer, temperature checks, but the masks are not necessarily going to be required.

And we're hearing now from the mayor, as you just said, who said this in a Facebook post, he said, "Was the nation's first largest campaign rally after the arrival of COVID-19 my idea? No, I didn't even know the invitation had been extended until the BOK Center management contacted the city regarding police support for the event.

Do I share the anxiety about having a full house at the BOK Center? Of course. As someone who is cautious by nature, I don't like to be the first to try anything. I would have loved some other city to have proven the safety of such an event already".

But, Wolf, this is still one of those situations where the White House in the campaign they are not backing down on this. They say the rally is going to be held on Saturday as planned. They're even talking about accommodating a massive overflow crowd of tens of thousands of people.

And we're also learning today, Wolf, about a lawsuit that was just filed by two Tulsa based lawyers who are calling on a judge to force the management company for that BOK Center to enforce the CDC guidelines for these types of events. And in essence, forcing mask wearing and social distancing inside that indoor arena.

The lawyers who are bringing the suits basically say what they are hoping is not that the event is canceled, but rather that the event organizers are forced to enforce those rules making attendees actually utilize those masks that are being given out by the campaign.

BLITZER: Yes, and it's interesting the Oklahoma Department of Health, the Commissioner of the Department of Health, last Friday said this, "As outlined by the CDC, individuals looking to attend Saturday's event or any other large scale gathering will face an increased risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and becoming a transmitter of this novel virus". Clearly, they are deeply concerned.

Earlier today, Mike Pence, the Vice President suggested maybe there was a possibility of moving it from indoors to outdoors. What's the latest on that?

PHILLIP: Well, what we're hearing is that the BOK Center event for now is still set to go on. What they do want to do is they want to find another space for all of the thousands of people who are likely to not be able to get in. That center can only hold about 20,000 people. The campaign is saying that they have hundreds of thousands of RSVPs. Now RSVPs are not tickets. It is a first come first served rally.

[17:55:07]

So most of these people will not get in, but they're still planning to hold it there. And I should note, Wolf, the mayor said that even while he's not happy with the fact that it's happening, he does not intend to stop it from happening. The rally, as far as he's concerned, is still going to go on.

BLITZER: And we shall see. All right, Abby, thank you very much. Abby Phillip's in Tulsa for us.

Coming up, a one day record of new coronavirus cases in Texas. And a spike in Florida and more than a dozen other states seeing cases on the rise. Disturbing trends in the pandemic much more when we come back.

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